Stereotypical Contemporary Melodrama: After the Game by Abi Glines

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To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, way-too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god who led Lawton High to the state championships. But while West may be Big Man on Campus on the outside, on the inside he’s battling the grief that comes with watching his father slowly die of cancer.

Two years ago, Maggie Carleton’s life fell apart when her father murdered her mother. And after she told the police what happened, she stopped speaking and hasn’t spoken since. Even the move to Lawton, Alabama, couldn’t draw Maggie back out. So she stayed quiet, keeping her sorrow and her fractured heart hidden away.

As West’s pain becomes too much to handle, he knows he needs to talk to someone about his father—so in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he opens up to the one girl who he knows won’t tell anyone else.

West expected that talking about his dad would bring some relief, or at least a flood of emotions he couldn’t control. But he never expected the quiet new girl to reply, to reveal a pain even deeper than his own—or for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn’t ever let her go…

Source: GoodReads

I feel like there’s a sub category of YA contemporary that should be called YA melodrama.   Usually, these are books that are guilty pleasures like Katy McGarry or Miranda Kennealy.  Pretty much most of the plots in said books involve having a dual point of view with two teens who have problems that are usually only seen on daytime soap operas and they are only able to get through these issues through the power of love.

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Yes, the plot can vary from book to book, but this is pretty much the standard fare for these sorts of books.  They’re enjoyable but they’re formulaic and there are a lot of them out there.  And I’ll admit it, on a rare occasion I crave these sorts of books.

They’re like bad fast food.  You know it’s not going to be the best meal ever (in taste or in health purposes), but for those few minutes you’re eating it, it is enjoyable.

Abi Glines Field Party series was advertised at my local book store.  Where I live is a pretty big football town (full disclosure, I don’t know shit about football) and they were advertising the series as a deal.  I was interested in a gushy melodramatic romance so I purchased the lot of them.

Originally, I was planning on doing a back to back reading binge.  But after the first book, I was like I need a break from this shit.

It wasn’t God awful-or least God awful in terms of the books that I read-but it was bad.  First of all, I don’t feel like Glines did her research on selective mutism or hospice care.  I don’t know how anyone would NOT know that West’s father had cancer.  If he was as big of a deal as he was made out to be, surely someone would notice.  Or at the very least if he was working a job, you’d think that his boss and fellow employees would notice when he went to get chemo or whatever.

What bothered me more than the handling of West’s disease was Maggie’s selective mutism.  It was merely there to present Maggie and West with an obstacle.  She’s able to talk again with no therapy and other than a quick info dump about what happened to her mom, we never really see how her death impacted Maggie.

I also did care one bit about the ship.

The first interaction between these two characters involves West forcing himself on Maggie.  It’s just gross.  And you might be saying, it was just a kiss, MJ.

It might’ve been just a kiss, but he still kissed her without her fucking consent, thinking she was mute and thinking she didn’t want to be kissed.  It was fucking messed up, sick daddy or not.  And it sort of made the relationship gross before it even beyond.

It probably also didn’t help the ship that West was extremely possessive and creepy throughout the entire damn book too.

I get it, possessive boyfriends in YA are an unfortunate main stay, but it really annoyed me how nonchalant West’s actions were.  And yeah, there is a part of the book where Maggie tells him off for being a stalker, but it’s only for like five pages.

I think what really bothered me about the handling of all of this, was Maggie’s background.   Her backstory had a lot of domestic violence involved, to the point where you would think that West’s actions would alarm her more than they did.

But it’s never really mentioned, or comparisons are never really made.  Instead, West apologizes and they go on with things together even though you know they’ll inevitably blow up again and…

Yeah, I’m cynical about this sort of stuff.  I’ve also seen it too much in real life, so that’s probably why I hated West/Maggie.  And to be fair, I have seen way, way, worse ships in YA.

The sad thing is, I didn’t hate this though.  I have read way worst things in YA and as far as rage inducing books go, it only caused my eye to twitch just a little.  It should’ve made me a lot more angrier than I was, but at the end of it I was apathetic and just sort of shrugged.  I just decided not to do a binge read because I think the twitch could develop into something a lot more dangerous for my sanity.

Anyway, if you can get by with the shitty relationship (which is debatable) this book isn’t outright terrible wast of time, but if you have something better on your shelf read that first.

Overall Rating: A C.

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If That’s the Case then I REALLY Regret Today’s Reading Choice: If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L Armentrout

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Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic—one of opportunities and chances.

Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.

Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.

For what she let happen.

With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when her and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?

Source: GoodReads

If you’ve looked at the contents of this blog lately, you’ll know except for rereads I have been on a bit of a dry spell.  When trying to chose a book to read this weekend, I wanted something that I could sort of guarantee to myself that I’d enjoy, so I picked up Jennifer L Armentrout’s latest release.  With Armentrout, I might not get a great read but I usually will get something that I enjoy.  However, I really did not like If There’s No Tomorrow, in fact I would say I outright hated it.

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To be fair though, I went back and forth at first of whether or not to give it one or two stars on GoodReads.  Ultimately, I decided one star because I didn’t like it AT ALL..

The book focuses on the making one bad choice, but honestly I feel like the MC really didn’t make a bad choice so much as was just stupid.  It wasn’t like she could stop the events that happened from happening, and there really wasn’t much she could do.

But God knows, the sanctimonious characters in this book constantly blame the character for not stopping the drunk douche who drove the car in the tree from driving.  Literally, like after she woke up.  And for that matter they equated her not being able to grab the keys, not having enough common ass sense to get into the car with drunk people, to grown ass grownups providing their teen and his friends with alcohol…I have no fucking words.

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So yeah, pretty much this book is about the MC having a guilt trip for the duration of the book.  It’s not very good.

It reminded me a lot of a preachy PSA-a bad preachy PSA.  Look, I don’t think you have to be too smart to realize that drinking and driving is wrong AND that the idiotic MC should’ve been smart enough not to go in that car.  But to be fair, the MC had drank a beer  which could’ve affected her judgment(which, leads me to another diatribe how one or two drinks is completely brushed off even though the MC is freaking underage).   But for real, this book reminded me of that one episode of Full House (yes, I admit that at one point in my life I did watch that show) where Stephanie and Gia were going to ride with the guys who were on something-but it being Full House they just said they were just drunk-and DJ threw this hissy fit that kept Stephanie from getting in the car, but Gia of course got in and there was a wreck-but she didn’t die because it was Full House and only the un-named dead mother died and….

You get where I’m going here with this.

It’s cheesy.  It’s is preachy.  And to add crap on to this book, there is some ass kissing to some of Armentrout’s friends by referencing their YA books in her story.

It was sort of cute and original in the Lux series where the character had a blog and pandering wasn’t done by every YA authors in the world.  But on this one the pandering is so laughable its not even funny.  If you look at anyone who blurbed this book, their book is pretty much referenced in said book.

Not lying about that.

And when I see the ACOTR referenced  multiple times especially now after the third book  I cringe.

It’s not that I don’t think characters who love to read should be featured, but when it clearly plays no part of the story-like in this case-it just makes me roll my eyes.  All I have to say is at least she’s not a Booktuber.

Anyways, the romance that is heavily featured in the blurb was kind of pointless.  Yes, Sebastian and Lena do have some decent moments BUT I didn’t really even care about them since the book was mostly focused on guilt.

And yes, Sebastian played a huge role in why Lena got in that car, BUT all of their melodrama was really pointless.

I’ll be blunt about it, I read Armentrout for the cheese in the relationships that she creates.  The cheese was here, but the darkness and preachiness of the story made it too much for me to enjoy the book.

Funny, I didn’t have problems with Armentrout’s other books that had darker themes- The Problem With Forever and Don’t Look Back-but this book.

Blargh.

Overall Rating: For me it was a total fail.  I think objectively I’d give it a D, I finished it and there are (unfortunately) worse things out there in YA land.

Banal: Lucky in Love by Kasie West

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Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

Source: GoodReads

If I ever win the lottery, I am going to start my own publishing company.  This will, of course, be after I pay off my student loans, buy a decent house somewhere that is away from annoying neighbors,  and get myself a Moluccan cockatoo, but details.  The publishing company is totally in the works.  It will be called We Don’t Publish Shitty Books and this book won’t be invited ’cause it sucked.

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Cockatoo and cat gif because I can.

Okay,honestly, Lucky in Love didn’t completely suck but it was utterly predictable and the chemistry between the characters wasn’t even that palatable.  In other words, it completely felt like Kasie West was phoning this one in.  Which is sad, because Kasie West can write some good books.  Some really good books, this just wasn’t one of them.

The set up for this one was cute enough.  Girl wins the lottery and doesn’t tell the guy she’s interested that she won.  But an interesting premises can only go so far, and here it’s only that an interesting set up.

All the characters are poorly sketched and are stereotypical at best.  The main character (whose name I’m already forgetting) has stereotypical parents who always fight.  A stereotypical brother with gambling problems.  Two friends one who stereotypically betrays her.  A love interest who is stereotypically as flat as the paper he is written on and whose only true purpose is to be this big prize that our heroine gets at the end of the novel.

By that paragraph alone, you should see why this book will not be getting published from We Don’t Publish Shitty Books.

As banal as the characters are the plot is even more to the point.  Like I said, it totally seems like West wrote this on autopilot.  Nothing out of the extraordinary happens here. Just that What’s Her Face makes some dumb purchases and trust some people who use her.

I mean, hasn’t anyone seen any news special on lotto winners?  Like I knew when she went for the lump sum that she had made a big mistake.  And also, those parents completely didn’t even try to help her deal with the fact that she was a millionaire overnight.

What losers.

At the very least, I would’ve told my kid to talk to an accountant and get a good lawyer to read over “business contracts” that long lost relatives sent me.

Again, a lot of this is common sense.

Also, if UCLA turns down an acceptance because you spent money to rent a lot, I’m surprised that Stanford wouldn’t deny acceptance either.  But you know, plot point.

Anyway, I really do not recommend this book.  It’s blah at best.  Not specifically annoying, but not memorable by any means.  If you are going to read it, I suggest borrowing it at the library not buying it.  It’s just not worth it.

Overall Rating: A C.  It’s half ass and it shows.

Because Time Travel, I Guess: No Good Deed by Kara Connoly

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Fans of Dorothy Must Die will love this reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood. Girl power rules supreme when a modern girl finds herself in the middle of a medieval mess with only her smart mouth and her Olympic-archer aim to get her home.

Ellie Hudson is the front-runner on the road to gold for the U.S. Olympic archery team. All she has to do is qualify at the trials in jolly old England. When Ellie makes some kind of crazy wrong turn in the caverns under Nottingham Castle—yes, that Nottingham—she ends up in medieval England.

Ellie doesn’t care how she got to the Middle Ages; she just wants to go home before she gets the plague. But people are suffering in Nottingham, and Ellie has the skills to make it better. What’s an ace archer to do while she’s stuck in Sherwood Forest but make like Robin Hood?

Pulled into a past life as an outlaw, Ellie feels her present fading away next to daring do-gooding and a devilishly handsome knight. Only, Ellie is on the brink of rewriting history, and when she picks up her bow and arrow, her next shot could save her past—or doom civilization’s future.

Source: GoodReads

I picked up this book, despite its hideous cover because the author has written some of my favorite books (under a different name-Rosemary Clement Moore).  I didn’t particularly like No Good Deed though.  While there were occasional glimpses of the wit that I loved in the author’s other novels,  it was overall a very meh book for me.

It probably didn’t help that I kept comparing it to all of those medieval Disney movies of the week that aired back in the 90’s.

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Seriously, what was it?  Did Disney like get a good idea on sets and medieval themed costumes?

Regardless, you can’t deny that they tried to style the MC to look like Kiera Knightly on Princess of Thieves.   Which actually came out in 2001, not the late 90’s but whatever.  It’s odd that they decided to style the book as such since the Ellie in my head looked fairly androgynous.

After all, she’s mistaken for male  for a good chunk of the novel without even trying to hide her gender at the beginning of the book-she’s wearing a sweater and relatively form fitting  jeans.  The chick whose posing on the cover, wouldn’t be mistaken as a guy.  And it is mentioned that Ellie has enough of a chest to later have to masker a makeshift sports bra so…maybe they thought her version of Robin Hood had moobs?

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But digressing…

But seriously, I think it’s one of the worst covers I’ve seen this year.

But this book isn’t about dissecting book covers (well, most of the time).  It’s about talking about the contents of the book and I’m afraid there’s not much to say.  At the beginning of the story, there seemed to be some interesting storylines-Ellie clearly had issues with her father, her brother was missing, and she somehow travels in time.

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Seriously, the time travel itself is never explained it just randomly happens.  ’cause you know, time travel just randomly happens.

I honestly, even wondered why she traveled in time because she kept saying how she wasn’t going to change history.

Trope Rant Time: Why the fuck have a time travel book, if you’re not going to change history.  I’m sorry, I know that some good time traveling adventures where they avoid changing the past (Back to the Future) BUT it just seems like it’s become an unnecessary cliche.

I mean seriously, you traveled through time.  You’re going to change history just by freaking being there.    Besides, how do you know that the history you live in is the right one.  Like, for instance, if I could go back in time before say the election from hell of last year I would be changing history you can bet you ass so that we wouldn’t have the Russian-phile  orange doofus in office and the US wouldn’t currently be the laughing stock of the world right now.

I digress though…it’s just one of those annoying trope that I’ll never get used to. And in this book, when the character is like, “I can’t change history.”

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I’m like, well, you are by pretending to be freaking Robin Hood, dearie.  I mean, think about it.

Anyway, I’ll never get used to that trope especially since the whole point in freaking time travel is to fuck things about.  But I seriously, don’t think much was changed.  Pretty much the only thing that was changed was the character’s clothes at the end.

I wouldn’t say the book was a complete loss though, not if you liked history.  There was some nice use of historical detail here and there.  I can tell that Connolly researched the novel.  But that’s not really that much of a surprise concerning her other books.  However, and I can’t stress this enough, if you are going to write a book about medieval England be aware that they did not speak modern English.

Modern English did not exist until Shakespeare’s day.  While Connolly acknowledges that it’s difficult for the characters to understand Ellie (but ultimately they do end up understanding her) it should be next for impossible for them to understand her.  Don’t believe me, take a semester of early Brit Lit and then we’ll talk.

After reading Chaucer and all that shit (which by the way was written about a hundred and fifty or so years after this book took place give or take a few decades) I can tell you that I’d have a hard time speaking that shit even then.

What bothered me more though was the  the lack of characterization.

It was just pathetic.  I could care less about these characters as the book progressed.  There’s one guy that I sort of think was suppose to be a love interest, but things never really developed that far and at the end we just sort of have the future look alike trope which I absolutely despise.

Trope Rant: Just because there’s a guy in the future that looks eerily similar to a past love interest does NOT mean that they are the same person.  Ever heard of identical twins, authors.  Thought so, considering everyone and their mother uses the evil twin trope.  But I guess a thousand years of time travel doesn’t mean that genetics randomly made a person look alike a long ago dead relative. No, it means they must share the same soul especially if they share the same name…

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And honestly, this trope wouldn’t have bothered me as much if there was an actual relationship.  But there wasn’t a relationship.  There was just a hint of one, and it was so small you had to literally do a squint bend and snap to see it.  In this case, I feel like it would’ve been better for the novel to go sans romance all together.

The other characters were merely there to serve a purpose to the plot.  I hate to say this, but when I read this book, I actually was thinking that Scarlet did a better job at telling the Robin Hood story, and we all know I had issues with that series.  But no, this book made me want to pick up that series again just because you know even though the characterization sucked, the characters actually served more than means to an end.

Really, the only character who had any development at all was Queen Eleanor (and FYI, YA authors I wouldn’t mind a retelling of a young Eleanor story she is bad ass on multiple levels even though her kids and husband ended up kind of sucking).

It pains me to say that I can’t recommend this one.  I love the author’s other books (in fact, I am tempted to do a reread of some of her stuff soon), but this book doesn’t work for me.   Had it spent more time developing the characters actually explaining why the character went back in time and exploring her life with the characters a bit more, I might’ve cared for it more.  As it stood though, it could’ve very easily been the blah Disney movie of the week.

Overall Review: A C.  It’s not horrible, per say, but I hardly recommend it.  At best it is average.

Audrey Hepburn Would Be Ashamed of You: Breakfast at Bloomingdale’s by Kristen Kemp

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What’s it take for a girl to make it in the big city? A sense of humor, a sense of self, and a desire to succeed in fashion. A stylish novel for teen PROJECT RUNWAY and DEVIL WEARS PRADA fans.

Kat’s come to New York City with a dream: to be a big fashion designer and to see her name on a label in Bloomingdale’s. Back in upstate New York, she imagined a city paved in Prada . . . but the reality isn’t quite so fashionable. Still, there are friends to be made, boys to be flirted with, and amazements to be found . . . sometimes when she least expects it. Even when her lame hick boyfriend from back home comes to the city to try to reclaim her, Kat knows she’s found her place . . . now all she has to do is have the place find her back.

Source: GoodReads

There was a period in time a few years ago where there was a mini trend of Audrey Hepburn centric YA books.  This book actually came out a few years before that trend and I had it, and thought…hmm, maybe it’s actually fairly good to have a mini trend inspired by it.

So after sitting on my shelf for almost ten years-yeah, it’s been that long-I decided to give it a whirl and read it.

I only got through about thirty pages in it.  It was that bad.   I almost didn’t even bother writing this brief DNF review over it, that’s how disgusted I was over it.  But since I haven’t had time much to read something that I I’d like to review in the past couple of weeks and this was the closest book I could think of writing a review for…well, it’s getting this brief “Why Audrey Hepburn Would Be Ashamed She’s On the Cover” type of review.

1)  Audrey would not approve of the main character’s nasty attitude:

Seriously, our narrator Junebug/Cat is a POS if there ever was one.  She’s rude and nasty to practically every one.  For example, she calls her mother a heifer (and yes, she’s not exactly a nice person but still HEIFER) and she pretty much gets in a cat fight with your stereotypical “Mean Girl” at her fucking grandmother’s funeral.

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2) Audrey would probably be disgusted that Breakfast at Tiffany’s (the film) is associated with being about Audrey rather than being, you know, a movie.

Yes, I know the movie was one of Audrey’s most iconic roles (though, personally give me SabrinaCharade, My Fair LadyFunny Face, or even Roman Holiday any day over Breakfast at Tiffany’s).  Yes, the fashion in that movie is fantastic, but there are some scenes (like anytime that Mickey Rooney appears) that I just grimace at.  PLUS, it’s completely different than the short story its based on and I think a lot of people forget that when they try to write one of these YA Audrey Hepburn centric books.  Did you know that Capote actually had Marilyn Monroe in mind for the role?

Yeah, probably not.  I get that it’s easy to blend the two things together because it was an iconic role for Audrey-probably because of that Givenchy dress-BUT the movie is NOT about Audrey.  And it seems in all these books pretty much the character is more or less Audrey’s version of Holly Golightly.

3) Audrey would be disgusted with  this character’s problems.

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Seriously, a “mean mother” and a small town full of assholes is nothing to growing up in WW2 Europe and being forced to eat tulip bulbs.  Just saying.

Had I spent more time reading this book, I probably could’ve added more reasons to the list.  It boils down to this though, the book suffers from many problems that late 2000’s Post Mean Girls YA books have.  The tropes are just noxious.  I don’t know why it’s necessary-even these days-to use the Mean Girl trope or for that matter the nasty mother trope.

People are complex.  We have are good days and our bad days. This book just depicts everyone at their worst.  One of the things I like best about Audrey Hepburn movies is that there is a hopeful optimism to them.  This book is devoid of that optimism.  It consists of a sullen, unlikeable character whose only resemblance to Hepburn’s character is Breakfast at Tiffany’s is she has a LBD and uses a fake name.

Overall Rating: DNF.

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.

Emory Good Boy

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.

The Quotes Show Its Stupid: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

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Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Source: GoodReads

I know I’ve ranted about YA fantasy being eerily the same.  Well, YA paranormal also falls under the same rut.  The only thing is, I was hoping since this genre has sort of disappeared in the past five or so years, that when there was a YA paranormal released-like Toward A Secret Sky– it would be something different.

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Only thing is, this book is probably as cliche as the books that were being released in the heyday of this genre.

Usually I’m not one for using quotes in my review, but I think this is one DNF where quotes sill exemplify why I didn’t finish this book.

Exhibit One:

My mother was totally beautiful-a former Miss Springfield-and I  looked nothing like her.  While she had olive skin and shiny black hair.  I got my Scottish father’s pale white coloring, light green eyes, and cray, thick, curly blonde hair.  The kind of hair that once made a hairdresser cry because the haircut came with a free blow-dry, and she counted on the whole process taking three hours.  Of course, it wasn’t California blonde or even all-the-same-color blonde.  It was someone once told me, “dishwater blonde.”  Just what my self-esteem needed: hair that reminded people of dirty water. (9-10)

Of course, this is our description of our MC who is described as being “Plain” because she has dirty blonde hair that’s curly.  I should mention later on when she starts attending school in Scotland, everyone is envious over said hair.  Furthermore, being a dirty blonde myself, I always find it insulting when people talk this way.

Exhibit Two:

I was kissing the hottest guy ever.  He was so hot, even his hair was red.  We were logging in the long grass, kissing deeply, like it was our new way of breathing.

It was hot outside, and the kissing was making me even hotter.  Everywhere he touched me, my skin burned.  I never kissed anyone before, and certainly like this.

(13)

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Do I even need to say anything about this?

Exhibit Three:

Even the “normal” food in Scotland wasn’t normal.  French fries, which were called “chips”, looked like the fries back home, but instead of being crispy and yummy, they were soggy and not.  Chips were called “crisps”, which was a true description, but they didn’t have any fun flavors like ranch or hickory barbecue.  In fact, they didn’t have barbecue anything at all.  They’d never heard of brownies or cornbread (“Why would you put corn in bread?” my grandmother asked).

(14)

Disinterested teen,  who insults the area the area that she’s in.  I’ve been to Ireland-I know different country than Scotland, BUT we the area I was staying at had a Tesco (the same store this ingrate went to) and the store was fairly large, though not Super Walmart size, and they pretty much had anything you wanted.  Also, having had chips/fries in both the US and Ireland, I can tell you there really is not that much different.   So, I’m guessing that Scotland’s version isn’t that different either.

Anyway, a pet peeve of mine in any YA book is when the character will trash the area they just moved to.  Especially if its a foreign country.  America’s reputation has pretty much been shot by Donald Trump, we don’t  need little fictional ingrates like Maren to ruin it further.

Exhibit 4:

Hew as the most breathtaking guy I had ever seen and-thank you, God!-seemed to be about my age.  His wavy chestnut-colored hair fell over his forehoead, but not enough to hide his dark blue eyes.  He was tall and broad shouldered, but had a thin waist.  he carried his bulging frame like he  was wearing football shoulder  pads, but I could see from where his white tunic shirt hung open at his chest that he was all bare skin and muscle.

(30)

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Do I need to say more?

Exhibit 5:

I could tell by Jo’s flat tone that Elsie was not her favorite person.  I’d have to remember to cheer her up later by letting her know “Elsie” was mainly a name for cows in America.

(44)

Wrong.  Elsie is the name of a very cute diminutive Corgi  (AKA Wonder Corgi) who is upset that she is being compared to a cow.  She says she is going keep barking  into  Maclean’s ear until this is rectified.

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Wonder Corgi not Wonder Woman, but close enough.

These quotes are pretty much why I quit the book.  I could find more, but honestly I don’t want to.  Like I said, usually I avoid doing quote reviews, but I think in this book’s case the quotes exemplify why I didn’t want to continue.

Overall Rating: DNF.  Avoid.

All Unhappy Readers Are Different: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by

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After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Source: GoodReads

I was really excited about this book since it was suppose to feature an asexual protagonist.  And God knows, there’s hardly any rep of that in YA.  The thing is Tash Hearts Tolstoy didn’t really work for me.  And no, it wasn’t a representation issue.

Though, it’s not even mentioned that the character is asexual until about a hundred or so pages in the book, but that’s besides the point.

Why did I quit this book?  Well, to put it bluntly I did not like the main character and more or less the book was another contemporary taking of the trend of 2017 (social media break out star).

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Yeah, yeah, yeah, I knew going in it was going to feature this trope.  But there was something just noxious to me about it, I think because it was more or less the cliche of fame going to your head…or at least that’s what the author was trying to go with, but really from what I saw the MC’s friend was really an asshole a la Lily Moscovitz from The Princess Diaries books,  though to be fair though the MC, Tash, is also annoying.  And not annoying in an endearing way like Mia Thermpolis.

No.  She was just so, so, annoying.

In part, because this book has major shades of pandering in it.  I mentioned pandering in my review of Queen of Geeks a few months.  One thing I will give Tash Hearts Tolstoy is at least the MC’s TV web episodes weren’t immediately successful.  They had to get noticed first, but still the whole going viral bit was a bit unexplained.  And, well, boring.  Getting that many views, you’d think there would be more fall out than there was.

And maybe, if I kept reading the book I could’ve seen more of it.  But again, I read a little over a hundred pages and was completely underwhelmed with the whole thing.

I skimmed through the end to see if things picked up, from what I saw the book took the cliche route and really I did not have enough time to read that sort of shit.  My reading time is tight enough as it is, and with Tash being so obnoxious I didn’t want to waste my time with her or her story.

Which is a shame, because like I said I was interested in reading a book with an asexual main character.

But instead, I got whiney Tash who just seems to go in her room, talk about how she’s going to get into freaking Vanderbilt because she works at Old Navy, and complains about how evil her sister is for looking like Scarlett Johansson and occasionally mentions something interesting about her Czech heritage-alas, there is a lack of kolaches in the part of the book I read.  Being of Czech heritage myself that is so, so wrong.

Man, writing this makes me wish that I could find a good gluten free recipe for kolaches. I miss kolaches. Especially the poppy seed ones.  Poppy seed kolaches are the best.

I’m not kidding you about the character’s activities.  Given the synopsis of the book, I thought that the characters sexuality would play more of a role in the book than it did.  And maybe it did further on in the book, but it really was only merely thrown out there.  And in a way I think that might’ve been how it should be, but given how it was presented even though it was so sudden…you could tell it was going to be a plot that was further developed.

Sigh.

So yeah, me and this book just did not connect.  I wouldn’t say it was exactly a horrible book, but Tash and I just did not get a long and I didn’t see us ever getting along.  Add the fact that the plot was going the cliche route, I really wasn’t interested in staying around and seeing how things played out.

Overall Rating: DNF.