Stab Me In the Eye: Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney

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Scandal, secrets, and heartbreak abound in this juicy, modern girl-meets-prince story—perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer E. Smith. “Maybe sisters aren’t supposed to fall for the same guy, but who can mess with chemistry? A divine romantic comedy” (Brightly.com).

For the first time ever, the Weston sisters are at the same boarding school. After an administration scandal at Libby’s all-girls school threatens her chances at a top university, she decides to join Charlotte at posh and picturesque Sussex Park. Social-climbing Charlotte considers it her sisterly duty to bring Libby into her circle: Britain’s young elites, glamorous teens who vacation in Hong Kong and the South of France and are just as comfortable at a polo match as they are at a party.

It’s a social circle that just so happens to include handsome seventeen-year-old Prince Edward, heir to Britain’s throne.

If there are any rules of sisterhood, “Don’t fall for the same guy” should be one of them. But sometimes chemistry—even love—grows where you least expect it. In the end, there may be a price to pay for romancing the throne…and more than one path to happily ever after.

Source: GoodReads

Oh, boy.

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I knew going into this one, I probably wasn’t going to like it.  The reviews have been blah at best and most people I know (and trust) have hated this one and sad to say with good reason.  When I read the original premises to this book, I thought it was going to be the YA version of The Royal We but with more focus on the relationship between the two sisters in the book.

It’s not.

The Royal We is charming.  It doesn’t pretend what it isn’t.  For example, the main character is American probably in part because the writers of that book were American.  Here the protagonist in English, but doesn’t sound remotely English save for using the occasional “Mummy”.

Seriously.  There were so many Downton Abbey-see, I’m British! references here I ended up rolling my eyes way fucking too much.

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Look, you want to have a book set in the UK with a British character fine.  But do your research, I’m American and I could even tell that the author was Americanizing the shit out of these characters. That’s saying something.

Besides being what I call faux British, the book suffered from having a horrible lead whose main concern was about what outfit she was going to wear and being a prince’s girlfriend because he’s a prince.

Number one thing of having a plot dealing with a prince or a princess is that you have to make royalty approachable and relatable.  And God knows, you don’t make the main character attracted to the lead just because he’s royalty.

See, Josh Ritcher if you want to understand why this can never happen.

But apparently, Courtney  has never read The Princess Diaries-the grandaddy of all YA princess things.  Hell, even the bastardization that is the Disney version of said book even uses this principle.

But nope, this book pretty much features a social climber female version of Josh Ritcher as the lead.

Can you say ew?

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I can.

Ew.

What I really hated was how much this book enforced stereotypes.  Is it so wrong I want a girly girl main character to not be a villain like Charlotte so obviously is.  Or not shallow for that matter.

You can like pink and have a brain I know.

There’s a little movie called Legally Blonde that’s proof of that, just saying.

Anyway, I only made it through like 70 pages of this before I called it a day.  I’m telling you guys, this is the year I’m giving no fucks to DNFs.  If you suck, I’m just not going to try to force myself to read you.  It’s really a liberating feeling, BTW.

Years ago, I would’ve forced myself to finish this and I would’ve been miserable.  I have to say, I am really glad that I don’t force myself to read shit anymore.  And it makes me a happier person.

Overall Rating: DNF

Better Known as Privilege Teens Make Asses of Themselves in Europe: I see London and I See France by Sarah Mlynowski

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I see London, I see France
I see Sydney’s underpants.

Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and half weeks traveling through Europe with her childhood best friend, Leela. Their plans include Eiffel-Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers. Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug-of-war.

In this hilarious and unforgettable adventure, New York Timesbestselling author Sarah Mlynowski tells the story of a girl learning to navigate secret romances, thorny relationships, and the London Tube. As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera… wearing only her polka dot underpants.

Source: GoodReads

When I was in law school, I spent one summer studying abroad in Ireland.  During one weekend, my friend and I went to Cork’s Fota Wildlife Park.  The park was pretty cool, they let the animals walk around free range.  But unfortunately, there were these bratty tourists who chased around one of the animals to the point  where I complained to one of the employees that I suspected that there was animal cruelty going on and got their asses kicked out of the park.

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Lemurs at the park.  And yeah, no cages.  If you ever get around to going to Ireland you need to visit this place. 

Yeah, I’m that sort of person.

Anyway, why am I talking about this…because those obnoxious teens, they reminded me of Sydney and her friends the stars of this book.

Though to be fair, Sydney’s friend, Kat, isn’t obnoxious for most of the book.  Till the end, where its randomly revealed that the guy who had blatantly been hitting on Sydney was really into Kat and Kat ditches her boyfriend for a random hookup but…details.

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Oops, spoiler.  But honestly, Kat is not a major character so its not that much of one.  Just that she goes from being the only decent human in the book to sort of being a douche herself.

The major characters in this book Sydney and Leela are both fucking annoying though.  Especially Leela.  Oh God, this bitch needed to be ditched so many times by Sydney I can’t even count.

She is the epitome of bad friend.  And yeah, Sydney loses her cool with this bitch at one point, but it’s quickly white washed over like…oh, I was mad at you will you forgive me.

No.

Leela isn’t the sort of person you want to be friends with.  Sydney should’ve just said screw you and left her way back in Paris when she was being a bitch to Kat and dictating everything they do.

Sydney though isn’t much better.  She is the epitome of a dumb tourist.  Doing dumb touristy things that make Americans looks bad.

Case in point, she doesn’t make reservations and wants accommodations.  Instead of trying local cuisine in freaking Italy, she eats pink slime.  Seriously, authors..why do you always act like Mickey D’s is the best thing ever.

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It fucking is not.

She also suffers from major insta love/lust in this book.  While a part of me is glad that this book is some ways kept it so casual with the relationships, on the other hand I got majority annoyed when those causal flings started going for the more generic YA twue love trope when the book started winding down.

Seriously, the relationship went from just being mostly physical to I can have a long distance relationship that’s three thousand miles apart shit.

I wouldn’t have mind it so much if there was more development than the relationship mostly being the two characters trying to hook up with each other while hiding it from their besties.  Also, had Jackson’s history also been explored more.  Leela keeps making references that he’s a man whore and there was some evidence that he was hooking up when he and Sydney were involved but it’s quickly smoothed over with the main character believing that “nothing happened” with the Kardashian model look alike.

Yeah, and collusion didn’t happen in the 2016  presidential election…

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Anyways, besides having really bad case in guys and thinking she should get a break because she was too stupid to watch watch Rick Steves’ Europe, Sidney also suffers from being a completely shitty friend herself.

She lets Leela treat Kat like crap for example.  And her behavior is Amsterdam was pretty obnoxious.

Sorry if this makes me a prude, but the scenes in Amsterdam were entirely inappropriate for a younger YA audience.  Yes, I know that smoking pot and prostitution is legal in Amsterdam.  And yes, I did expect the characters to at least go into one of the pot shops in Amsterdam when they went there, it’s sort of like the elephant in the room.  BUT having them go into a sex club in a YA book where people are having coitus in front of them.

Yeah, I get that shit happens.  But this is a YA book.  And Mlynowski’s books up to this point have generally ran on the young side of YA.  Hell, she has a younger age series that she’s been heavily focused on lately AND further more the cartoon-y like cover of the book is going to make it seem like harmless fun.  But the scenes in Amsterdam went beyond get shit faced on pot.  And the one character who didn’t partake in the antics was looked at as being prude like and a bitch for getting mad that her boyfriend had decided to volunteer at the sex club.

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Yeah…

I’m sort of surprise the editor didn’t raise issue with that scene.  Like I said, as an adult it didn’t bother me but a thirteen year old reading this shit it would be too fucking much.  I know if I had a kid that age I wouldn’t want them reading that sort of shit.  And TBH it wasn’t so much the drug use or sex club that bothered me as was the characters reactions to the so called prude like character.

I mean, God forbid you didn’t want your boyfriend to take off some other woman’s bra.

Besides the obnoxious characters, I got annoyed with the fact that I couldn’t get absorbed into any of the settings.  This book does visit a fair amount of countries and honestly I didn’t feel any of them.

Sure we’ll get some touristy attractions thrown out there, but for the most part the characters could be vacationing anywhere and it would’ve been the same story.  And for fuck’s sake, how do these kids have money?  When I was in Ireland, I didn’t have time to hop on a plane fly to some random country not the continent and spend thousands of Euros on stupid shit.   Grant it, I was in school and these yahoos were backpacking but still.

And then there was Kat’s internship.  Must be some nice fucking internship that allows you to randomly take off long periods of time to just hang out with your idiot friends.

I know, it’s a book that suspends large parts of reality BUT it still got annoying.

As far as plot is concerned, other than the not so melodrama of the physical turned twue love relationship between Sydney and Jackson there’s really not much plot to this one.  Oh wait, there’s the annoying subplot about the agoraphobic mom that really goes nowhere.

I didn’t even know what the point was of that shit.

Anyway, this one annoyed me.  It wasn’t bad but I didn’t like a single character apart from Kat and like I said she started grating on my nerves at the end.  Apparently, this one is going to have a sequel (I’m betting companion) too.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t take place in that sex club in Amsterdam.

Overall Rating: A C- if you like the characters and are on the older side of YA this one might work better for you than me.

Comfort Food in Book Form: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt comes the addictive contemporary tale of a teen rock star in need of an image makeover and the teen girl hired to be his fake girlfriend.

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

Source: GoodReads

Normal girl falling in love with someone famous (albeit pop star, movie star, or prince) seems to be a typical YA trope these days.  And why not, I mean I’ll admit I enjoy reading these types of books.  They’re a guilty pleasure of mine.

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That aside though, a lot of them are really bad.  I was excited though when I heard that the team behind the Paper Princess series (Erin Watt) was writing a book with this theme since this is the sort of trope that that writing team is made for.

And like I expected, I enjoyed When It’s Real, yes it was watered down from Paper Princess in a lot of ways-this one was way more YA than NA- BUT it still worked.

Only it wasn’t as crack-tastic as Paper Princess.  Instead, When It’s Real is more like comfort food.  The perfect sort of book to read when you have a crap day.

That being said, it’s not that special of a book. You can pretty much figure out everything that’s going to happen in the book on the synopsis alone.

I did enjoy it though for what it’s worth.  While the characters were a bit cliche they were original enough and realistic enough they weren’t totally groan worthy.

Like, Vaughn.  Yeah, she had the sad little back story but the authors fleshed her out enough where she didn’t seem like a cliche.   Same with Oakley he wasn’t your typical burn out self absorbed rock star.

I did get annoyed because I occasionally think the authors were going for a sort of Justin Bieber feel with the character and if you know me I find Bieber to be grossly unattractive so….that sort of made me not feel Oakley.

But you know what as the story progressed it was pretty sure he was not a Biebs impersonator and for that I’m relieved.

Look, not everyone is going to like this book.  If you don’t like this particular trope-girl falling in love with a famous dude- I don’t recommend the book.  However, if you like that trope and don’t want something that will knock you off your socks but is solidly written this is a book for you.

Overall Rating:  I waffled between solid B and a B+.  In the end I settled on B+.  For what it’s worth, I  think the book did a fairly decent job

 

 

This Book is Making Me Think of That Stupid Gordy Movie: The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone

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One good deed will change everything.

Sadie is not excited for the summer before her senior year. It will be her first without her college-bound best friend and (now ex-)boyfriend by her side, so Sadie braces herself for a long, lonely, and boring season working at a farm stand in the Hamptons. But things take an unexpected turn when Sadie steps in to help rescue a baby in peril and footage of her impromptu good deed goes viral.

As she’s recovering from “the incident” and adjusting to her Internet fame, Sadie receives an invitation to a lunch honoring teem homegrown heroes. The five honorees instantly connect and soon decide to spend their time together righting local wrongs. Sadie and her new friends embark on escalating acts of vigilante Good Samaritanism, but might be in over her heads when they try to help a heroin-addicted friend. Are good intentions enough to hold unlikely friendships—and an even unlikelier new romance—together?

Source: GoodReads

I didn’t like Carrie Firestone’s debut for various reasons, but the book had a cute premises AND I thought well, maybe with some experience the books will get better.

They don’t.

This will probably be the last Firestone book that I review.  Based on the two books she has so far released I think her style and mine do not mesh and that’s perfectly fine to admit and move on from.  That being said, if you’re not as cynical as me and can over look some things-like a character thinking that you can literally see the equator and a so called bright eighteen year-old never hearing of molly-then, well, more power to you, but this is where I write my Dear John Letter to the author:

Dear Ms. Firestone,

This is it.  We’re parting ways.  I wish you well in your career, but I am no longer going to be fooled by your bright cotton candy summer covers because your books are anything but bright.

Oh, you might try to fool me with light beachy atmospheres but there are really dark subsets to your books.  I mean, come on, assisted suicide and now heroin dens.

And speaking of heroin, I really hated the way you treated addiction.  Having several relatives that are addicts, some that are addicted to opioids, I thought this was a fairly unrealistic account of how an addict behaves.

Seriously, drug dens?  I know they exist, but most addicts will pick up their dope from a friend or in a ditch or something.  Plus, as rich as the character that is addicted is I’m surprised she’s not abusing other opioids since heroin is often seen as a last resort for these addicts.

And I’m not even going to go into the OD bits.

Yes, drugs are bad.  They are dangerous.  But I feel like you should’ve at the very least watched a couple episodes of Intervention to see how a lot of these addicts act and decline.  Because got to tell you, your depiction of drug use seemed pretty unrealistic and these scenes were rather trigger inducing.

Even if it wasn’t for the whole weird drug subplot, I probably wouldn’t have been much of a fan of this book.  For one thing,  you named the love interest Gordy.

Do you know what I think of when I think of Gordy?

That pig movie that Babe ripoff-ed better.  Yeah, a movie starring a pig.  So yeah, I kept thinking of that pig as the love interest. And then I thought about that “Pig Power in the House” music video and you can see where things were going…

But yeah, to get through the book I substituted Gordy’s name with Joe and I still didn’t like the characters relationship.  Also, it didn’t help that there’s this big revelation that Gordy isn’t gay in part because he uses protection.

Because I guess gay people don’t need to use protection….

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Quite honestly, the MC was a bit of a jerk.  I know she saved a baby and that made her a hero, but that still didn’t keep her from being extremely judgmental (cough, cidiots, cough).   Oh, and she’s described to look like a Kardashian.

Pro tip, Firestone, NEVER EVER describe your character being anything like a  Kardashian that will get you instant minus points for me.

By its surface, the cast in this book is fairly diverse.  Sadie is from Iranian and Irish heritage, one of the Unlikelies is Haitian, another comes from hispanic heritage (I don’t think the country was ever named, or if it was I regrettably skimmed over it), Gordy is at one time reported to be gay but really he is a rich farm pig turned CEO turns out to be a rich WASP guy with a father who’s on the Spectrum, Alice is a WASP, and that’s pretty much it.  Honestly though, the diversity feels more or less there for tokenism purposes.  Which is a shame.  Note to Firestone, the reader doesn’t need a translation of what gracias means.  Probably most people, even if they haven’t taken a Spanish class knows that it means thank you.

Sigh.

As for the Unliklies themselves, they were pretty lame.  This book in a lot of ways reminded me of The Cinderella Society a book I tried repetitively to read multiple times and failed to finish.  Pretty much they had similar premises, good doer teens team up to do good, but at least in your case, Ms. Firestone, I finished the book.  I still had to roll my eyes at these teens efforts to do good.

Oh yes, I’m so sure they’d be able to make a website go viral.  I’m soo sure they’d be able to get the police’s attention with a random anonymous note.  I’m soooo sure that their parents’ wouldn’t at the very least get suspicious of what they’re doing when they’re staying up late Batman time.

It’s ridiculous and you even though you tried to maybe address it once with Sadie’s mother forcing her to a see a shrink-even though she’s 18 and could theoretically tell her mom to fuck off-it wasn’t really handled well.  The same reason why we never knew why Sadie had taken a gap year, it’s not like she really had anything planned and you never told us why she was having a hard time making a decision about college in the first place.

So yeah, the book obviously didn’t work for me.  And I honestly am at the point where I know we’re never going to have a great reading relationship.   At first, I wanted to blame your covers.  You know they look so light and fluffy looking, but the thing is, I don’t think it’s the books cover that makes me despise your books.  Its the contents it just doesn’t gel with me and that’s okay.

I’m sure you have a reading audience out there somewhere.  Just probably not a cynical reader who had been exposed to a movie about a stupid pig and that they constantly think about whenever the love interest’s name is written.

Best Regards,

MJ

Blogger at Howdy YAL

Let’s Get Meta: Literally by Lucy Keating

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A girl realizes her life is being written for her in this unique, smart love story that is Stranger Than Fiction for fans of Stephanie Perkins.

Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel—and Annabelle is the heroine.

It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her.

But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story—or will Lucy Keating have the last word?

The real Lucy Keating’s delightful contemporary romance blurs the line between reality and fiction, and is the perfect follow-up for readers who loved her debut Dreamology, which SLJ called, “a sweet, quirky romance with appealing characters.”

Source: GoodReads

When reading this book, I wondered what if reviewers got trapped in the God awful books that they are trying to read and review accordingly.

I imagine I would want to punch a lot of the characters that I would come upon.  Like Annabelle in Literally,  she and her author got into this battle of sorts in the book and honestly I sort of wanted Lucy Keating to erase AB out of existence, but I never was so lucky instead the ending was a bit of a cop out but…

Back to the review.  If you read the blurb, you’re probably expecting something akin to that Will Farrell movie Stranger Than Fiction where Will finds out he’s a fictional character that’s expected to die.  And yeah, there are vibes of that here.  But I suggest seeing the movie and skipping the book, because honestly the movie’s better.

That’s not something you say every day on a book blog.  But all kidding aside, the movie  was much better done than this book was.  I think in part because it was not near as cliche as the book was, or Farrell’s acting saved the day.

Here, there were no actors to help the story and while the movie had a few moments of ingenuity to it this book didn’t.

And I kept getting creeped out that the author used herself as a character.  I mean seriously, if I was writing a book I would not like depicting myself as a character let alone a villain.

Although, if I did have a death ray to destroy annoying book characters it might be worth it…

Zoey Redbird and Bethany Church, I am coming for you.

But seriously, can you just imagine how annoying that must’ve been writing yourself as a character, constantly referring to yourself in third person.

Keating must have felt like a house elf.

No bueno.

Also, the self grandizing  of the author character was a bit too much.  Lucy Keating made herself seem like JK freaking Rowling and while I get it was to add to the story, it came off as kind of…well, kind of annoying.

If you really are intrigued by this premises I don’t think trying this book out would kill you.  It was dull as shit but it was short too.  I was able to finish it fairly quickly-it’s not even 300 pages long.  The characters aren’t really that well formed out.  In fact, I would say the Will character in a mere caricature.   Really, the most well formed character is the dog and that’s not saying a lot for this book.

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Emory has much more development than the dog in this book.  At the very least he’s been featured on the Daily Corgi and that’s saying a lot for a corgi.

Still though, I really didn’t like this one.

Overall Rating: A C- it’s bad but it’s not like the worst thing I’ve ever read.  If you want this premises and can overlook a lot, it’s worth a try.  However, and I stress the however, you’ll have to be tolerant of paper thing characterization and blatant self inserts.

Cringe Drama: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maureen Goo

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Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

Source: GoodReads

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It’s very cringe worthy, but at the same time I think it’s suppose to be cringe worthy.  Honestly, I probably could’ve read it in one big swoop, but because I didn’t want to throw it against the wall (I didn’t).  Oh, yes, I had great self control.

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Again, it’s not a bad book but the premises is cringe worthy.  And there were things in it that happened that wanted me to shake the main character.

Like that thing with her college interview, I wanted someone to snap at her harder than they did.  And really, it left a real sour taste in my mouth how that plot point played out but I digress…

K-dramas are something I’m always wanting to try out, but never get around to a actually watching for various reasons (I think the main thing is that usually when I want to watch TV I’m too tired to read subtitles, which is a shame because they are they seem to have a crack soap opera  like quality about them that I would like to watch).  That being said, I was excited for this book and while I do think it did a good job exploring the K-Drama angle I did think at times the book was a little formulaic and Desi was more than a little annoying.

If you’re seen Election Reese Witherspoon’s character is pretty much Desi, except Desi isn’t near as psychotic.  Though that thing with the boat and the car comes pretty close.

Sorry, Desi but that was crazy.

Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the ship.  This is one time, I would’ve been happier if Desi would’ve gotten together with her friend.  Luca seemed blasé to me, and I really felt like Desi had to compromise parts of herself to be with him.  Also, again the whole college subplot towards the end really grated under my skin.

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I know it probably wasn’t Goo’s intention, but it really annoyed me that the MC’s dreams were essentially squashed because of a boy.  And yeah I know, Desi still ends up going to a good school and its closure to said boy.

But GMAFB.

Maybe it’s because I’m older than the intended audience who probably found the ending perfect, but I was not satisfied with this ending at all.

Anyway, I can see younger readers and less cynical readers liking this more than me.  If you can’t stand cringe worthy moments, I recommend staying far, far away.  I knew going in that this could be a problem so I took the proper precautions (short reading periods, with lots and lots of breaks).

Overall Rating: Um, a B-.  I could see it maybe being a B, but honestly Desi had psychotic tendencies and the college subplot drove me insane.

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

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A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

Source: GoodReads

Good news guys, I finished my reading goal for 2017.  Fifty books.  Grant it, I did DNF a few of them but I still technically read fifty books.

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Anyway, Noteworthy was the book that pushed me over the top.  I had mixed feelings about this book.  Overall, I’m giving it a sold B rating but there were some things that didn’t work for me.

What worked.  The setting.  From what I could tell it was pretty spot on.  My sister went to a performing arts boarding school, and it was pretty much like Kensington-Blaine (grant it, her focus was in playing the oboe, not singing or theater, but still same sort of deal).  I also really liked the way that Redgate explored how economically disadvantaged kids fare at such schools.

To be blunt about it, my sister experienced hell when she was at her fancy pants performing arts high school mainly becuase she was a scholarship student.  Grant it, my family was pretty solid middle class-my parents own their home and we never were on any benefits like Jordan and her family-but without a scholarship there would’ve been no way that she could’ve gone to that school and it was the first time she really had to deal with classism.

My mom actually had more of a home life like Jordan-her dad was in a wheelchair and even though her parents worked they survived in part because of Social Security and ate pretty much a staple diet of dried beans for a lot of her childhood.  Reading Jordan’s narrative, reminded me of a lot of the issues my mom described that she faced growing up, so those two parts of the book were very relatable to me even though I had not directly experienced either of them.

So those two parts of the book-the handling of the setting and poverty were at least really well done from what I have experienced.  I also loved how diverse this book is.  There are a variety of different character from different backgrounds and the boarding school really leads to a great setting for them to interact.

Jordan was also an entertaining narrator and sort of atypical.  She is actually one of the few YA character who gender bends who I think realistically could pull it off-at least from a physical perspective.

She’s actually described as looking androgynous, which I know shocking as this may sound doesn’t happen a lot with this trope.

The gender bend storyline didn’t drive me that crazy either.  I did think before reading it, that Jordan would question her gender identity, but really that’s not a factor in this book. I am glad that some discussion was made about the difference between cross dressing and being transgender.

The relationships between the singing group were also nice.  The dynamics make it perfectly acceptable for a companion sequel-just saying-and I felt like there was a lot to explore here.

The romance also didn’t bother me, though I don’t really know if it was needed.  I was satisfied enough with the character development for Jordan and the platonic relationships she developed with the rest of the team.

What didn’t work?

The pacing.

Oh, the pacing.

It dragged so freaking much in parts.  I felt like if the book could’ve cut down a little bit of the page count it would’ve been better off for it.

Also, the sheet ludicrousness of Jordan’s gender bending experience made me roll my eyes.  You would’ve thought that the faculty sponsor would’ve at least looked to see if Julian existed for the pure purpose of checking his eligibility to see if whether or not his grades allowed him to compete in the group.

But…

Stephenie Meyer excuse, it’s fiction.

Still, it’s hard to let something like that go when you’re reading, especially if you are the super neurotic reader like yours truly.

Overall, I do recommend Noteworthy.  It does have some really good bits to it, but there were some issues.  If you can handle the slowish pacing and can suspend logic then you might should give this one a try.

Overall Rating: A solid B.

I Gave Up: The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo

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Chin up, Princess, or the crown will slip.

A theme park princess must put her life back together after her happily ever after falls apart in this contemporary YA romance from Karole Cozzo, author of How to Keep Rolling After a Fall and How to Say I Love You Out Loud.

Everything was supposed to be perfect. Alyssa has a job she loves, working as Cinderella at her favorite theme park; a fantastic group of friends; and a boyfriend who will no longer be long distance. But as the summer progresses, her prince becomes less charming and more distant, and Alyssa’s perfect summer falls apart.

Forced to acknowledge that life is not always a fairy tale, Alyssa starts working to pull her herself back together. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to do it alone. With her friend Miller’s support, she’s determined to prove that she’s more than just a pretty princess. And with his help, maybe she’s finally ready for something better than dreams. Maybe she’s ready for something real.

Source: GoodReads

I will give myself this after nearly five  years of consistent blogging (six if you count the sporadic first year) I know when to DNF something.  I decided that The Truth About Happily Ever After wasn’t for me after thirty pages.

To be fair, it’s not horrible if  you like super saccharine books that you can pretty much figure out the entire plot from the blurb.

In a lot of ways this book reminds me of a Hallmark movie, it’s not going to be anything special but it will entertain you if you’re in the right sort of mood.

I wasn’t in the mood.

To be frank about it, it actually reminded me of one of those Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies I read when I was a teen.  Unpredictable fluff that is kind of cornball and cheesy.

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So yeah…I gave up.

To be fair, going in I knew it was either going to be hit or miss.  With books like this, in order to be successful the voice needs to be great or there needs to be some sort of twist that makes the otherwise mundane story interesting.

With this book there was none.  I guess the biggest twist was that the obvious love interest wasn’t classically handsome, BUT honestly that’s not much of a twist if you look at all of the various sitcoms out there where the slightly chubby and average looking guy gets the supermodel wife.

Oh, and the theme park that was pretending it wasn’t Disney World but so obviously was.

But honestly, there are a lot of YA books that take place at various theme parks and I haven’t really found any of them THAT interesting.

Overall Rating: DNF.  I only read thirty pages, so I don’t really feel like giving this one a rating.  Just know that this one was not for me and unless you like cliche, it’s probably not for you either.

When the Exploitation Network is More Classy: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

Source: GoodReads

A few years ago, a coworker recommended that I watch My 600 Lb Life. I was a little dubious about watching it because it was on the exploitation channel (aka TLC) but after some constantly pestering I decided to watch an episode and was pretty much horrified with I saw.  Like I thought, TLC exploited the situation for what it’s worth.  But unfortunately, by watching some of these episodes (mostly, when I was halfway asleep) I did learn a couple things enough that when I read Holding Up the Universe my eyes almost did a complete revolution in rolling  because it was so God offensive and awful on so many levels.

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First of all, if you are easily triggered do NOT read this shit.  It’s probably the most offensive book I’ve read featuring an overweight protagonist after My Big Fat Disaster and that one book I read from the 80’s where the character develops an eating disorder after lots and lots of body shaming (I think the title had “Big Fat Blimp” in it, but I couldn’t find anything when I searched on GoodReads so maybe title forgotten is best).  And the only reason its not as offensive as those books is that the main character does not attempt self harm.

Still though, even there’s no suicide attempt or grotesque depiction of an eating disorder, this book is pretty offensive.  There’s a whole twenty page sequence about how a crane is used to remove then 600 pound something Libby from her home.

Okay.

That is way melodramatic especially considering you can watch a couple of episodes from the exploration show and see plenty of 600 + pounders get out of houses  that aren’t as near as fancy as Libby’s.  PLUS if you watch the expoitation show, or really do any sort of research about morbidly obese people it takes years to get that heavy with a very high caloric intake.  And for that matter, changing someone’s lifestyle like Libby seemingly did is not that easy.

Hell, Libby eats pizza at one point in the novel and I’m just cringing because I know it has to be against her diet but it’s fluffed over.  Also, Niven only says that Libby went to a couple of fat camps to lose weight and leaves it there.  We don’t have the discussion of weight loss surgery, which I’m sure has to be at least a consideration in this case and really other than some bullying and Libby’s mother dying, we aren’t really given any insight in what drove her to over eat or what sort of methods she learned to cope with it. Hell, the excess skin that I’m sure Libby has from losing 200 + pounds isn’t even addressed.  Sure,  I guess there’s a creepy counselor-ish character who comes off more as Libby’s b.f.f. than counselor but come on…that’s the only

Also, I HATED the fact that the father’s role as an enabler was diminished. Libby makes excuses for him, that he didn’t know she was eating all that crap she had hidden in her room but considering the caloric intake that she had to have to maintain and add to that weight, considering she was house bound for six months, Dad was accountable at some level.  I’m sorry…

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Also, in addition to pretty much dramatizing Libby’s weight, Libby is just not a likable protagonist.  She’s prickly, borderline annoyingly mean, and quite honestly she’s one of those people who will not take responsibility for her actions.  Also, she suffers from YA heroines who quote from classical literature way too much and makes me want to deck her in the face.  I know that not being likable is arguably a part of being  a teen, but here’s the thing there could be bits and pieces of her that I liked while still being annoyed with her.  Also, cease with The To Kill a Mockingbird quoting already.  I like that book too, but I don’t go quoting around it even when I was a precocious teen.

The other main lead, Jack, is a big douche.  There’s no other way to describe him.  Niven tries to use his face blindness as an excuse for how he acts and what he does, but it doesn’t work.  Also, I found it laughable throughout the entire thing that no one in his whole family ever picks up on the fact that he has face blindness or that when he fell of that roof which was the cause of his injury that the doctors didn’t run an MRI and pick up on the brain damage.

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I’m just saying.

While the main leads were annoying, I think what bothered me about this one the most was that there was something “after school special” about it.  What I mean by this, is it just seems that the two leads are thrown to teach some big lesson and that the only way that Niven can justify that the two of them are even together is that they both have “issues”.

Personally, I could not find myself getting into this ship.  The fact that the so called hero meets the heroine when he pretty much assaults her just makes the whole ship have nasty feels throughout the entire time.  The fact that they are forced to attend useless counseling sessions that come out of a mid 90’s movie together even further the feeling of this nastiness.  The fact that the narrative constantly goes into questioning whether the Jerkwad lead could fall in love with a heavy set protagonist made me want to clobber someone.

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This book is just not healthy when it comes to relationships in general and like I said I cringe at the thought of a teenager reading this.  It’s NOT good for body image and it does not give a healthy view on what a healthy relationship requires.

Even those flashbacks where Jack creepily goes into Libby’s house after a crane (I am not even going to go into detail again about how ridiculous those fucking scenes were)  that are supposed to humanize him just make him feel like even more like a creeper.

I’m sorry, me no likey.

I can’t find any justifiable reason to recommend this one to anyone.  It’s trigger inducing. The romance is forced.  Sure, the face blindness seems like it would be something interesting to explore, but at the end of the day it really was more or less a justification to get the so called popular guy to like the heavy girl.  And no, it didn’t work it just cheapened this already horrible book.

Overall Rating: F as in fail.

Like TCM Lite : Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

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The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

Source: GoodReads

Okay, the blurb completely ruins the book because it pretty much reveals the entire plot of the book. And that is annoying.

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Sigh.

Also, is it just me or was it annoying that this book got all these You’ve Got Mail comparisons when a good chunk of the book deals with old movies and in turn the comparison should’ve been made to The Shop Around the Corner-which for all you non-classic film buffs, is the movie that You’ve Got Mail based itself on.

In fact, it’s sort of referenced in the movie.

Okay…so I probably watched that movie and too many old movies way too much but oh well.  I’ll have to say reading this book and all its old film references, was exciting to me.  It was like finally meeting with someone who shared your weird old hobby and this book did with its love for old films.  And wasn’t even TCM  snobby about it which was great.

As far as The Shop Around the Corner reduxes go, this one is pretty good.  Both characters are surprisingly well fleshed out and have imperfections.  I also liked the sleepy beach town setting for the novel.  I thought it fit appropriately with the tone of the novel, and the town had enough quirks about it where it was sort of a character of its own.

The romance is so of slow burn, and it really worked for me.  It takes awhile for Porter and Bailey to tolerate each other, let alone like each other and the growth of the relationship is enjoyable to see with its gradual evolution.   On the flip side, we also get to see how their online relationship grows as well.  And I’ll be honest I sort of love the hate to love trope when done right.  Especially when they finally admit that they want to be together despite all the  obstacles.

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One thing that did annoy me, was that the dad character wasn’t at least a little freaked out about the fact his daughter had a quasi boyfriend online.  Given all the shit that happened to Bailey in the past, you would think he’d be at least skeptical.  And for that matter, maybe it’s one too many Lifetime movies (for yours truly) AND being an extremely paranoid person I would really have issues if I had a teenage daughter who randomly met some dude who was trying to get her to fly across the country online.

I mean, that’s reality talking.  And normally, I would sort of give it a pass.  But given the ultra dramatic back story that this book has, it sort of had me raising a couple of eyebrows.

Another problem I had with this book was the random dramatic backstory.  It felt a little bit out of place, and in all honesty I felt like it served no purpose other than to describe why the main character was scared of guns.

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Um, because they’re guns. That’s why.

But really, that and a couple of the dramatic side plots could’ve been cut out and the book may have been better for it.  Honestly, I was sort of on the fence about it.  Which is why I rated this book lower than five stars on GoodReads.  Still though, it was a very enjoyable read.

Overall Rating: An A-