One Paragraph Reviews: The Books & Movies Edition

The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

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While I saw there were mixed reviews of The Shadow Queen, I really wanted to check it out, and was thankfully able to do so through my library rather than having to commit to buying it. Now that I’ve read it I am left to wonder why any YA fantasy fan wouldn’t enjoy it! I really enjoyed the characters, the pacing was mostly good, and while it was a retelling there were some pretty interesting and unique concepts. It’s not my new favorite ever, but I did really like it and look forward to the next book in this series!

The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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Oh Jennifer Lynn Barnes, why do you torture me so?! So I loved this book just as much as its predecessor The Long Game, and it was filled with just as many twists and turns that really floored me. And though I did like Tess, Asher, and Henry in the first book, I grew even more fond of them in this book. And then… ugh, I won’t go there! Major spoiler! Let’s just say I simply need another book for more resolution, yet I don’t see one listed on Goodreads?! I NEED MORE.

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Finding Dory

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I love the way Honest Trailers said it best when referring to this movie: the sequel you hope will be more like Toy Story 3 and less like Cars 2. Finding Dory was cute, fun, and yes, emotional. It didn’t have the same magic for me as Finding Nemo, but it was still a good, solid story about Dory where we learn a lot about her and meet a few more fun characters. I will say that there were moments of this movie that felt a little outrageous for Pixar fare and almost more in Dreamworks’ territory (which is not a dis on Dreamworks, they just have a different philosophy for their animated movies), but again, these were minor quibbles I can forgive for the overall enjoyment of the movie.

Independence Day: Resurgence

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I didn’t watch Independence Day in 1996, but at the point where enough years had passed where it seemed more cheesy in our modern age of movies. I have seen it again a few more times since then, and in that time, and especially in this last time I saw it in preparation for the sequel, I have grown fonder of it. In Resurgence, we see Earth has progressed in the 20 years since the aliens attacked, and we get to see many of the same characters and/or their children. There were a few different storylines that were eventually intertwined, much like its predecessor, and several new characters introduced, but I feel this was all well-developed. I especially enjoyed the President’s daughter and her fiance’s good friend Charlie (her fiance was Liam Hemsworth so he was… OK, actually, considering my natural prejudice towards Liam), and the other young, new characters. Overall, it’s not going to win Oscars and I did have a few issues with it, but it was a fun summer flick, and ultimately that was all I wanted from it.

If you’ve read either of these books or seen either of these movies, let me know what you thought of them! What’s been your favorite summer movie so far?

One Paragraph Book Reviews

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Vicious has gotten a lot of praise, but I was a little nervous about reading a anti-hero story, because that’s not my usual thing. This story is darker than what I normally read as well. The chapters alternating between the past and the present put together the story in such a way that helped you see what made Eli the way he was, even if he made some wrong choices. It was compelling, but not for everyone as it was dark and violent. I’m also not sure if I feel the need to continue reading on. The story does end a little openly, but I was satisfied with it.

Rating: 4 stars//Content advisory: Moderate language, high violence, some off-screen sex but nothing graphic

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Easily my favorite book this year so far, Salt to the Sea was beautiful and heartbreaking, much like Between Shades of Gray and yet different. The story follows four POV’s, all who meet up by the time they reach the Wilhelm Gustloff, where a maritime disaster worse than the Titanic yet lesser-known strikes. The story was a little confusing at first because we are thrown into the middle of these people’s lives, but you catch up and become wrapped-up the stories.

Rating: 4.75 stars? I’m still waffling between 4.5 and 5//Content advisory: All sexual content/language/violence is mild, though some themes might be a little mature for some younger readers.

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After enjoying Loop and feeling the need for more answers, I quickly turned to the follow-up, Twist. However, I ended up disappointed. The plotting felt more convoluted and confusing, and instead of things making more sense at the very end, we get *spoilers in white* a reset button that felt like Fringe all over again, except worse. I didn’t dislike it enough to give it a real low rating, but I would say if you’ve read Loop but not Twist, keep it that way.

Rating: 3 stars//Content advisory: All language, sexual content, and violence is mild.

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The Rithamitist is hard to explain. It’s alternative history, it’s fantasy, it’s a dash of steampunk. While different than Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy, it would appeal to fans of it, I believe. At first I was a little confused by this world of chalk drawings and soldiers that use them, but ultimately I just fell in love with the characters, as I usually do with Sanderson’s books. Joel feels like a precursor to The Reckoners’ David, but I liked him more, and dramatic Melody is so much fun to read. At the end, I was ready for more and it is simply a tragedy, as Melody would say, that I have to wait so long for the sequel!

Rating: high 4 stars//Content advisory: Mild violence

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It saddens me to say that Calamity is my least favorite of the trilogy AND my least favorite Sanderson book. The first half or so DRAGGED for me. It probably didn’t help that I had awful book amnesia concerning the second book, so I can’t blame that particular confusion on Sanderson, but I expected him to be able to draw me back into the world and characters and care again, but I just couldn’t get into it for the longest time, and even when I did I wasn’t all in. We are given obvious foreshadowing for what is to come, but it ended up being kind of confusing and not feeling like true closure. I thought maybe I missed something but other reviews on Goodreads have echoed sentiments of the weird plot holes. Maybe I shouldn’t have read this one right after The Rithmatist, but this book just failed to have the usual Sanderson magic. The only thing keeping it together is my moderate interest in David and the series as a whole.

Rating: 3 stars//Some violence, mild sexual content, mild language.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?

Mini Reviews: Sci-Fi Edition

Loop by Karen Akins

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Loop is a fun story set in a future where some are known as Shifters, people who are genetically capable of time traveling to the past. Something that really struck me about the book was the rules of shifting (it’s impossible to change the past, you can’t go to the future, etc), the animosity between Shifters and non-Shifters,  and the world in general. Even though the genetic ability to time travel part felt impossible, how things unfolded with it being possible felt realistic, and I felt like the technology was a realistic progression.

There are SO many things going on in the story; I don’t know how Akins kept up with all the plot threads! I think everything tied together pretty well in the end, though there are still some unanswered questions that will clearly be dealt with in the next book.

While I really enjoyed the book overall and was impressed with the story, I never LOVED the characters. I do like them, but they’re not new favorites for me or anything.

The end left me ready to read the sequel, Twist, very soon, and looking forward to more Karen Akins projects in the future!

Rating: 4 stars

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

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Of course, any addition to The Lunar Chronicles is a must in my book (and now there are going to be graphic novels what what!). I had always meant to get around to reading some of the stories in this collection before, like Glitches, The Queen’s Army, and The Little Android, but never did, so I was happy for them to be all together in print format! I enjoyed most of the stories, but was still feeling a little underwhelmed until we got to the wedding story.

I think part of this was because the stories were isolated incidents of each character’s life (except I noticed poor Jacin was the only one of the major 8 who didn’t get his own story) and I really prefer it when they are all together. Also, The Little Android, late in the collection, really brought me down. I don’t know how to explain why, but it really put a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think it’s poorly written, and even though the ending is sad I understand its purpose, but I just couldn’t come to care for it.

And then we had Something Borrowed. I won’t spoil any of the details but it was nice to see everyone come together again. I was enjoying but not loving the story though, but then in the last few pages the feels were strong. For me personally, the culmination of the entire series I had been waiting for actually came down to these last few pages of this short story for me. I know not everyone will agree with this sentiment, just because we are all looking for different things, but I enjoyed it more than the end of Winter, honestly.

Rating: 4 stars

Have you read either of these? What are your thoughts? 

Mini Reviews: Contemporary Edition

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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I’ve read and enjoyed the first two Naturals novels by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, so I was eager to see another contemporary from her, The Fixer. I expected to enjoy it. What I didn’t expect were some of the twists and most of the feels! There was one twist that literally just had me so shell-shocked. And I love that Jennifer was able to do that to me!

I loved the pace of the story and the D.C. setting. And while I liked Tess and other characters, I never completely loved them, but I am looking forward to seeing them again in the next book. If you have any interest in contemporary/thriller stories in the YA format, I’d definitely recommend this one!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Content advisory: I don’t recall any specifics, but I remember it was pretty clean. Some violence and possibly some mild language.

See How They Run by Ally Carter

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I had a couple minor issues with the previous Embassy Row novel, All Fall Down, but was quite excited to read the follow-up. I thought Grace was an interesting character and really enjoyed her new friends and the storyline as well. This book jumps right back into things and amps everything up to an 11. The pacing was fast, the stakes are raised, and the tension between Grace and Alexi along with it. The end left me with a gut punch that was almost as compelling as The Fixer‘s plot twist, and I was not happy to finish and then learn that the next book doesn’t come out until next year (when this book was published last year!). *Shakes first at the injustice of it*

I do have some issues with this one as well though, which will be reflected in the rating. This is my third Ally Carter novel, and she’s published about a dozen or more books, so I was surprised to find the writing, from a technical aspect, lacking a little. The narrative felt extremely disjointed a lot of the time, and I have never experienced that with Carter before. I don’t know how to really explain it, but people would enter or exit scenes or move across a room without clear transitions, which left me confused many times, things like that. I think it could have been because Grace is so out of sorts herself that she isn’t always entirely aware what’s happening, but I feel like there could have been a better way to portray it.

But needless to say, I NEED THE NEXT BOOK.

Rating: 4 stars

Content: Some violence and mild innuendo, no language.

(Also, I still really want to see a Jennifer Lynn Barnes-Ally Carter collaboration.)

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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I decided to do this one last because there are spoilers, so don’t scroll on if you haven’t read it yet, or scroll on quickly to can leave a comment. 😉

A list of everything, everything that didn’t make sense in Everything, Everything:

  • That Carla couldn’t figure out that Madeline didn’t have a real condition a lot sooner. Because seriously, I saw it coming miles away.
  • The fact that Olly reaches out to Madeline by providing his email address. No 16 year old in 2015 would do that ever. It’d be a Snapchat or Instagram or some other username. I understand the author not wanting to be that specific, but she could have found a way to communicate that it was something along those lines. NOT an email address.
  • That Madeline never once gets reprimanded for opening a credit card and spending RIDICULOUS amounts of money on it that her mom will have to pay back. (Sadly I can believe she was able to open said credit card though it shouldn’t be that easy.)
  • That Madeline is able to fly to Hawaii WITH NO PHOTO ID.
  • That after a five hour flight to Hawaii, Madeline and Olly still have the whole day ahead of them. Hawaii is two hours ahead of California in time, so they gained two hours back, but still, it’s not like they left first thing in the morning.
  • They went on a five hour flight to Hawaii and weren’t served a meal. I mean, I’ve never been on a five hour flight before, it’s always been longer or shorter, but I feel like that’s a reasonable time frame to expect a meal.
  • That Madeline and her mom live in LA when her mom is a doctor who can live literally anywhere, their house has these crazy additions to add on to the already ludicrous pricing of LA living (this is somewhat explained by the fact that there was a settlement from the accident, but still), and since Madeline’s mom only seems to go out for work, she gets zero benefit of living in LA in terms of things to do, plus the traffic is horrendous and wouldn’t she be home late like all the time? It would make so much more sense for them to live somewhere more affordable and more low-key.
  • Maybe it’s because by the time everything comes to light Madeline is technically an adult, but I seriously think that doctor at the end should have been calling somebody about Madeline’s mom’s egregious child rearing.

Now here’s the thing – I understood, to a point, why Madeline’s mom did what she did. And maybe at the end I was supposed to be as freaking mad at her as I was. But this book did not carry that tone at the beginning. It was light and fun, and then it ends on a very dark note that did fit the overall tone of the book.

But I didn’t dislike everything about the book. I liked Madeline’s voice and enjoyed the various ways her story was communicated, but the end and the issues listed above left a meh taste in my mouth.

Rating: 3 stars

Content advisory: Some language, mostly mild. A mostly off-screen sex scene.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? 

Also, while not a contemporary book review, be sure to check out my review of Between Shades of Gray on Val’s blog if you haven’t already! 

Mini Review Roundup

It’s been ages since I’ve written a real book review (November to be exact), so I thought I was overdue to share a few thoughts on some of my reads from December and my first read of the new year.

Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Contemporary/Thriller YA

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I read The Naturals more than a year ago and I was slightly worried about remembering enough about Cassie and company after so much time away (yay book amnesia), but I had no problems getting back into the swing of things! I enjoyed this one even more than the first; I thought the pacing was spot-on and I was engaged the whole time. I hated the love triangle in the first book and I thought I had read in a review that it was even more pronounced in this one, but it actually bothered me less this time. She does choose someone at the end, but since there are at least two more books I’m a little curious if this is her final choice or not. I don’t have a strong preference between the guys but I’d hate for her to go back and forth. Overall though, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one!

4 stars/Content advisory: some violence

My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins

Holiday Young Adult – Some Contemporary, Some Magical Realism

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I finally got to read this anthology this past holiday season and it was definitely a mixed bag for me. You can see my Goodreads review where I broke down my thoughts on each individual story, but I did not finish two of the stories, while a couple of others really stood out to me. My favorite overall turned out to be Stephanie Perkins’ story, which felt appropriate since it’s her anthology, and I was excited to find out that in her upcoming summer anthology, Summer Days and Summer Nights, we’ll get follow-up with the same characters!

3 stars overall/Content varies by story

In Between (Katie Parker Productions #1) by Jenny B. Jones

Contemporary Christian YA

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I had gotten the e-book of this one for cheap or free a while ago and let it sit in my Nook for a long time. I had read one previous book by Jenny B. Jones and liked it but didn’t love it. I was also nervous because I feel that most Christian books are either not as well edited or they’re a little on the cheesy side, but I always want to find good Christian literature so I pick up something from the genre every now and then. I wouldn’t really recommend this book to people who are not familiar with church or Christian culture, even though Katie herself is not familiar with many of the terms used by others in the story either, however, I didn’t think it was cheesy at all.

The main character, Katie, has a great voice, and she made me laugh quite a few times! There were several great, quirky characters who felt natural and made the story fun, even with some serious elements thrown in. There was no romance for Katie in this book, which I missed a little but was OK with under the circumstances, but it looks like there will be in future books. There are three more books in the series and I definitely intend to continue!

4 stars

Quidditch Through the Ages (Hogwarts Library) by Kennilworthy Whisp (J.K. Rowling)

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I love quidditch, but learning about it wasn’t quite as fun as I hoped it would be. There were some interesting tidbits though, and it was a fast read.

3 stars

The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab 

Young Adult

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This was my first Schwab book! And it was very different from what I was expecting. I knew this book wasn’t a typical fantasy, but I thought it was going to be more fantasy rather than the contemporary/urban fantasy?/magical realism?/I have no idea what the heck to call this genre it was. That wasn’t bad though, just very unexpected. I had a hard time really grasping the idea of the Archived and Keepers and all that. I mean, it was explained well enough, but I never felt like I really understood why everything existed and why everything was the way it was. Maybe – probably – I was just supposed to accept it as it was, but it didn’t make sense to me.

I liked Mackenzie well enough but she also drove me crazy with how she would never tell anyone anything. The whole thing with Owen was kind of creepy and I did not like it. I did really like Wes though, and he’s pretty much the main reason I want to read the next book.

4 stars/Content advisory: Some language, violence

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?

To Live in the World of Austen: Thoughts on Mansfield Park and Austenland

When I posted my summer TBR list and included both Masnfield Park and Austenland, I got recommendations to read the two books back to back. I’m so glad I did!

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Mansfield Park is my second to last Austen novel to read, in my quest to read all her finished novels. My only exposure to this story before reading was watching the adaptation with Billie Piper once. Despite the fact that almost literally every character is an annoying idiot, I actually enjoyed this one pretty well. As usual, it suffered from Austen’s tendencies to elaborate on what are ultimately minor plot points and water down the main romance (which is what the book is all about, I mean come on), but I really felt for Fanny and that helped me through this book. In fact, never while reading an Austen novel have I felt so inspired to write a modern adaptation. I think it could be really interesting, except Fanny would not be named Fanny, and Edmund would not be her cousin, obviously. It’s not my favorite of her works, but I definitely enjoyed it in its own right.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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It was a GREAT idea to read Austenland after a Jane Austen book, because there are so many references to all the stories (though I think Sense and Sensibility got the least mentions, and main character Jane kinda hated on Mansfield Park a little). I really enjoyed the quick pacing and just all around fun rompness of the book, but the ending felt a smidge convoluted and definitely rushed. Jane gets chased down in the airport not by one, but TWO men from Austenland, and one of those guys really wouldn’t have done that, I feel. The other, yes definitely, which is why… well, I won’t give anything else away. 🙂 Overall though, this is a fun read for all fans of Austen. I thought about watching the movie after, but after seeing the trailer and how many changes they made to the general plot (they make Jane look even more desperate) I decided against it.

Rating: 4 stars

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Are you a Jane Austen fan as well? Have you read Austenland? What are your thoughts on Mansfield Park?

Sherlock Holmes-ish & Late Night Chats

AKA, mini-reviews of Jackaby and On the Fence.

Jackaby by William Ritter

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What I expected: a book inspired by Sherlock Holmes. What I didn’t expect: paranormal. Apparently I didn’t read the synopsis very closely. I spent the first bit of this book adjusting to the paranormal creatures that existed in this world, and once I was able to accept that, I was able to enjoy it for the most part. The narrator, Abigail, is discovering everything about this world along with the the reader, and is a good sidekick for Jackaby, like Watson is for Sherlock. Jackaby was eccentric, as expected from the book’s description, and I enjoyed him.

However, I felt there could have been further character development for Abigail, Jackaby, and Charlie, the latter being one of the more prominent secondary characters and potential love interest for Abigail. She is quickly attracted to him, which was fine for me, but I didn’t get enough interaction between the two of them to properly ship them. And Charlie seemed like a nice guy, so I wish I could have gotten to know him better. Hopefully in the next book there will be a little more of him.

The story moves pretty quickly, which I can appreciate, but the pacing and tone almost felt more young YA or maybe even middle grade. I didn’t have a real problem with this. but it was confusing since I never got a good feel for the characters’ ages, but Abigail can’t be younger than 18 (and she feels more like early 20’s), and Jackaby feels he could be any age between 22 and 35ish.

Overall, this was a fun and quick read for me, and I’m definitely interested in reading more. However, I would have liked an additional 50ish pages to flesh everything out a little more, especially the characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Content Advisory: Pretty clean. Some violence, no sexual content, and I don’t recall any language.

On the Fence by Kasie West

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After enjoying The Distance Between Us, I immediately put On the Fence on hold at my library, ready to enjoy more by this author who is quickly becoming a go-to for me. Out of all of West’s books I’ve read so far (which is everything she’s published except The Fill-In Boyfriend), this one is easily my favorite. I enjoyed Charlie’s relationship with her brothers, her late-night chats with Braden, and her time at work. I also really liked that this book takes place in the same town as The Distance Between Us and we get some cameos from those characters!

I think in comparison with the romances in Kasie West’s other books, this was the romance that felt the most natural. I did like Addie and Trevor, though much better in Pivot Point than in Split Second; Lyla’s romance in Split Second came out of left field for me (I don’t even remember her dude’s name); and Cayman and Xander were cute but it did feel unrealistic for me, or at least I should say it felt unrealistic that it would last. Of course, I do have a deep love for the best-friend-turned-romance trope, and if you do too, I think you’ll enjoy this one as well.

I don’t have any real complaints about the story, it just didn’t blow me away to a 5 star level. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end, and was surprised in the end by the twist of Charlie learning more about her mom.

Rating: 4 or 4.5 stars (I’m indecisive, I know)

Content advisory: Clean – no violence, only a little kissing, and I don’t recall any language.

Have you read Jackaby or On The Fence? What are your thoughts?

Mini Reviews: The Contemporary Edition

I have been reading a lot more YA contemporary lately, and wanted to share my thoughts on my four most recent contemporary reads.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

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I know this will mean nothing to most of you who read through your books much faster than I do, but I read this book in two days. It was just a fun, quick, easy read. It didn’t change my life and I had a couple minor issues with it, but overall I just really enjoyed getting to know Caymen and Xander and watching them interact. It was definitely worth the $1.99 I spent on it!

Rating: 4 stars

Content Advisory: Pretty clean. I don’t recall any language; some kissing.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

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Believe it or not, this is probably actually the first really heavy issue book I’ve read, at least in the YA contemporary genre. I was hooked right away with Alexis’ voice as she wrote in a journal provided to her by her therapist, bemoaning the idea of writing out her feelings and comparing it to bleeding out with leeches. But the book definitely gets heavy, with Alexis constantly wishing she could go back and change the night she found out her brother killed himself, trying to deal with her mom and others in her life, and worrying that she is seeing the ghost of her brother. The ending was very emotionally satisfying, and I’m very glad I read this book to gain more insight about the aftermath of a suicide.

Rating: 4 stars (If I gave quarter stars it would be 4.25. I know that sounds ridiculous but it’s just not quite to 4.5, but almost!)

Content Advisory: Moderate language; some kissing.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13 B by Teresa Toten

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I impulsively borrowed this from the library because I knew it focused on characters with OCD, and there are secondary characters in my WIP with OCD. This was a very interesting read for me; there were many things I liked but many I wasn’t crazy about as well. First, despite the fact that he struggles with OCD at a level I doubt I will ever understand, Adam is the most realistic character in this book, aside from maybe his stepmother and neighbor. His dad, therapist, Father Rick, Ben, and the other OCD kids felt real sometimes, and Sweetie and Adam’s mom NEVER felt real. (Sweetie is for real the strangest 5 year old ever. I don’t think a single kid on the planet talks like that.) Sometimes the characters and the dialogue took me out of the book (Adam and some of the kids constantly say stuff like, “That’s superior!” and other things I have just never heard anyone ever say).

Yet the book is quirky and full of humor, and I really did feel empathy for Adam. I enjoyed Robyn too and enjoyed their friendship-turned-relationship. And also yet again, this book was often awkward and hard to read, which I think was part of the point, because these characters are struggling with very real issues and disorders and it does hurt, but the added layer of Adam’s mom’s craziness was sometimes too much for me to bear. The ending was very unsatisfying as there is very little finality, but I know that doesn’t bother everyone, and it doesn’t always bother me, but I didn’t feel I got the full arc from Adam that I wanted, though we do see it going in that direction.

Rating: 3 or 3.5 stars (I really can’t decide.)

Content advisory: Moderate language; some kissing.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

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I saved my favorite of the bunch for last. I mean, where do I even begin?! I ADORED Max. I loved him so much at first I couldn’t properly ship him and Paige because I didn’t think Paige deserved him. But when she starts to come around and really understand her feelings towards him, I felt for her and definitely got all aboard their ship! The last chapter was such perfection that I can’t even. I LOVED all the nerdy banter and just about everything really. The friendships were so spot-on!

My only complaint about the book really is at Max’s birthday party when they played Spin the Bottle and I was like, really?, but even the characters knew it was juvenile, and it was what gave Paige the push she needed to confront her feelings.

So seriously, READ THIS. I have never loved a YA contemporary to this degree.

[Side note: I’m terrified of Open Road Summer because the characters don’t sound as likable and this book was so perfect for me, but I think I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for future Emery Lord books.]

Rating: 5 stars!!! (I borrowed this from the library and then immediately ordered the hardcover from Amazon because I LOVED IT THAT MUCH.)

Content advisory: Sporadic and mostly mild swearing (though I believe there was one f word).

Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts?

Book Review: Free to Fall

It seems I have a love-hate relationship with Lauren Miller books, and all reviews of her books require GIFs (this time, Gilmore Girls, in honor of Rory). (See my review of Lauren Miller’s Parallel)

Free to Fall takes place in 2030, in a world where most allow their decisions to be guided by the decision-making app Lux.

gr-free-to-fallFirst off, they seriously make the most boring covers for Lauren Miller books. Just faces of girls who don’t look the way I picture the main character (ESPECIALLY in the case of Free to Fall where she has freckles). And these books have a sci-fi twist so they could do fun things with them! But nope, just faces. OK, this is just a rant that has nothing to do with Lauren Miller’s writing, so let’s move on.

Let’s talk characters first. I liked Rory at first, but she got more annoying throughout the book. For someone so smart, she doesn’t have very much common sense. I figured out things before her (not the answers to the Few’s riddles or anything like that, but plot twists) and then there is the whole her and North thing, which I will elaborate on later. Of course, to be fair, I was looking for plot devices because I was reading a book and she wasn’t, but still.

I wanted to briefly mention Beck, Rory’s best friend who is prominent in the first couple of chapters but not so much after when she leaves for Theden. I loved Beck and thought he was definitely the most interesting character in the book. I would have loved more of him.

Now North. First off, his name is North, like North West (you know, Kim Kardashian and Kayne’s baby), except not really, because it’s Norvin. Who names their kid Norvin? (The same people who name their kid Hershey, I guess.) Just as a side note: the main characters were born 2012-2014, so while names like Liam, Beck, Nora, and Rory (Auora, her true full name, maybe a little less so) make total sense, because according to my Facebook news feed, these are today’s baby names (I don’t actually know any babies named Beck, but it sounds in the right vein. I do know of babies named Liam, Nora, and Rory though). Norvin and Hershey? Mmm, not so much. And yes, I get the whole unique names thing, but I kind of have a thing about too many people with too unique of names together in one place conveniently for a book (unless it’s fantasy or further-out-in-the-future-science-fiction).

Second, North is RIDICULOUSLY PRETENTIOUS. OK, to be fair, he’s actually a pretty nice guy, at least to Rory. But he also breaks the law and he acts like a modern-day hipster except he’s shunning his technology and embracing ours. Oh, and he has a Mohawk, tattoos, is hacker and a barista, doesn’t believe in vaccines, and is a high school dropout because school “isn’t for him.” HELLO, STEREOTYPE.

lorelei-coffee-cynicismAlso, SCHOOL IS FOR YOU UNTIL YOU’RE 18. BECAUSE YOU ARE A CHILD. DEAL WITH IT.

Let me explain my thoughts on the world-building to further explain my feelings about North. The technology feels mostly spot-on, though it probably isn’t actually advanced enough. But the general direction feels real. But the clothing trends, the word “hipster” getting thrown out once, felt so incredibly like TODAY. I understand trends come in cycles, but honestly it did not feel like a resurgence of trends to me, because there would have been a variation of the trends. I didn’t really feel there was though, with talk of Toms and Wayfarers and popped collars it just felt like TODAY.

Which leads me back to North. Other than his love of retro tech being today’s tech, he feels so much like a modern-day hipster (except hipsters don’t generally don Mohawks, but seriously, that is the most stereotypical “Oh look at me I’m different” hairstyle ever). Basically, I felt Miller took a stereotype and made him a nice guy and expected me to like him, despite the fact that he makes money off an illegal career and is a high school dropout and basically is going to have a seriously rude awakening when he is about 25 years old. I honestly don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who make poor decisions, unless it’s part of a greater character arc. Not so much here.

gilmore-girls-ughSo now let’s put Rory and North together. This was one of the worst romances I have read in a while. I guess since Abby and Michael in Parallel, actually. The first time Rory sees North, she doesn’t find him all that attractive or interesting. But then afterwards, she’s intrigued because he concocted this great drink for her. After this second meeting with him SHE CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT NORTH. OK, teenage hormones, whateves, it happens. After meeting three when they hang out she is really into him. And then she ignores him for a while because she’s mad at him and blah blah blah and then after that she just rushes way too fast and never once do I understand why she likes him romantically. Maybe as a friend, but Beck was way cooler and their relationship was always just platonic. Honestly, if North and Rory could have just been friends the story would have been so much better. Or if we got to root for them getting together because North ended up being a guy who would be really good with Rory. Instead, any time they got “romantic” I could care less and sometimes felt a little disgusted.

rory-face-eatingAnd North ends up being a bit creepy. He says things that Rory completely glosses over but I did not find them OK. Once, he mentions “playing Doctor.” I don’t care the intent of the joke, that is an automatic creep alert for me. Second, he hacks into Rory’s Lux profile the day he met her. And last, he gives Rory a necklace embedded with a tracking device and camera in it towards the end of the book. It seemed the intent was for in case something went wrong with the initiation, but seriously? What if she goes to the bathroom? And if your intentions were pure, why didn’t you just tell her about it? Not OK.

rory-creeped-outLet me talk about something I did like, because part of this novel I loved, and that was the whole story line of conspiracies and clues left behind and tech companies trying to take over the world. A lot of it actually felt pretty realistic. The heavy Paradise Lost references got a bit old, but overall, everything with this plot was interesting. I also thought the psychology of fabricating the idea of “The Doubt” was really interesting.

But now that I’ve mentioned The Doubt, I can’t ignore another problem I had with the book. The Doubt felt WAY too mystic for me. It did not feel like a conscience or a gut-feeling (it was implied it could be these things), and really, not even like God. Coming from someone who believes anyone can have a personal relationship with God and believing that I do, it just felt off if the intent was that it was God. Especially since Rory was not even pursuing God, I honestly don’t believe she would hear Him that way. I’m sure there are people who think differently though, including quite possibly, Lauren Miller. But if you want to take away the God factor, then you have Rory following this voice that seems to know exactly what is going to happen and is always assuring her in ways she could not possibly do herself. I don’t know. It was just weird to me no matter what angle I looked at it from.

gilmore-girls-emily-lost-mindAnd now I want to talk about the ending (about the last 15%ish of the book, more specifically), without spoiling anything, I am going to say that it was first of all sloppy, and second off too Disney-esque. A lot of bad stuff happened in the story. PEOPLE DIED. But basically we find absolutely no repercussions of everything that happened.

For spoilers, highlight: So apparently after finding out the truth about her mom, her true father, and Taurus, dealing with the latter two dying, not to mention  Hershey sleeping with an adult man (AND NOT PRESSING CHARGES WHAT THE CRAP), not having yet seen face-to-face the man she grew up believing was her father since she found out he wasn’t, it’s totes normal to shack up with your high school dropout boyfriend (I guess she is one now too?) in his NYC apartment that he conveniently has (for reasons that are NEVER explained) and be happy and not at all worried about ALL THE CRAP THAT JUST HAPPENED. The chick needs therapy after this. She cannot be in a good place. Boys do not fix problems. She needs her dad that she knows. She needs friends. She needs anyone whose name isn’t North. And the dove-shaped aurora? Are you kidding me? What sense did that even make?

This book has an incredible amount of potential. I was very engaged with the actual story. But the characters and sloppy ending left me wanting more. But since the plot was so promising and my enjoyment was on par with Parallel, I give it four stars.

4stars2My thoughts on Lauren Miller’s writing in general: Miller is obviously intelligent, because it’s evident in the way she writes, and I really like that. She also has very compelling ideas for stories. But her characters leave something to be desired for me. The teens she writes do not feel like real teens. I feel like she created these characters (in both her books) and tried to make them sound and act like teens. Just because Rory is a teen girl does that mean she has to be so enamored with North’s kisses or that when she thinks she might die the first thing she wants to do is rip off his pants? It didn’t feel true to her. And just because Abby is a teen girl does that mean she has to drink underage when really that just doesn’t go with the rest of her who is? I wish she would create more characters who felt more independent and are actually different from the norm, instead of pretending they are like North. Like Beck in Free to Fall or Caitlin in Parallel (even though Caitlin wasn’t my favorite character, she was actually one of the most well-rounded and interesting characters).

Content advisory: Moderate language, talk of sex but no sex scenes, mild violence, and underage drinking.

What are your thoughts on Free to Fall?