Thursday, June 1, 2017

June Releases I'm Most Excited For

June 6th:
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee - I have never read a book with an ace main character before, so I look forward to this one.  It also sounds like it has a great friendship and romance in it.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy

June 13th:
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios - Heather Demetrios is a great author, and I look forward to reading this book about a tough subject of an abusive relationship.

Bad Romance

June 27th:
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee - This sounds like a great historical fiction book with a lot of adventure as Monty, Percy, and Felicity embark on a grand tour of Europe.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

Katie

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy A cappella just got a makeover.

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

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

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


My Review: 5 Stars

As someone who loves the Pitch Perfect movies, I knew that I had to read this book about a cappella.  And I had also read Riley Redgate's first book, Seven Ways We Lie, last year and I liked it.  But I definitely liked this book much more than her first book.  While her first book had the perspectives of many characters, this one focused on one main character and developed just Jordan's story as well as the other characters in her life.  There were so many topics that were well handled in this book.

I loved so many facets of Jordan's character.  She is Chinese American, figuring out her sexuality, and also poor.  She struggles with the fact that she has a scholarship to attend Kensington and yet she still isn't cast in any of the main shows because of her voice not fitting the roles.  It really shows her family's struggles and how it makes things like money a big deal to her while so many of the other kids at Kensington don't have any issues with money at all.  And her dad is a paraplegic which also brings up some issues with healthcare and welfare in the US.

I loved how complex the characters were and how well we got to know the guys in the Sharpshooters.  I often try to read books with good female friendships between girls but it was good to read strong friendships between boys in this book (and some between the guys and someone they thought was a guy).  My favorites of the guys were Isaac and Nihal.  Nihal was a super sweet guy who is a Sikh who really gets close with and confides in "Julian" (Jordan's fake name).  Isaac was Japanese and may have things going on in his life that he isn't telling the guys.  Jon Cox and Mama are roommates and close friends with each other.  Marcus is a freshman who really cares about politics and people voting in local elections.  Erik is a freshman who can be a bit annoying and worried about fitting in.  Trav is the music leader and intense and cares a lot about the group and a cappella.

I also really enjoyed the romance in this book.  I don't want to say too much about it but it is sweet and I liked the two characters together.  It is the kind of relationship that Jordan needs after her relationship with previous boyfriend Michael didn't end well.  The new guy is much better for her.  

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.

Katie

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

The Names They Gave Us When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.


My Review: 5 Stars

I finished this amazing book last night and am still thinking about the characters and story today.  And I think for me that is what separates a good book from a great book.  If I finish it and then keep thinking about it, it is a great book.  I think of Emery Lord books this one and The Start of Me and You are tied for my favorite.   This book had such strong friendships and a slow burn friends first romance (which were also things I loved in The Start of Me and You).  I also liked the relationships shown in Lucy's family.  The only thing I didn't like was that I wanted a bit more closure at the ending.

I liked how the book explored Lucy's faith as a Christian.  She was struggling with this because her mom had gotten cancer again after already having been cured of cancer before. She has grown up as a preacher's kid who always prayed and believed in God.  But now she isn't sure if she believes since she thinks God would listen to her prayers and not give her mom cancer again.  I liked how the book dealt with this and showed Lucy's journey with this throughout the book, though it didn't take over the entire story.

I loved the summer camp setting.  I enjoy reading books that take place during the summer, especially when it is the summer and I realized I really like reading books about a camp too, since there are relationships built there that are fun to read about.  This camp was an interesting camp, since it was one for kids who had some kind of emotional trauma reason that allowed them to participate in the camp.  Some of them had been abused or in foster homes or were pregnant or had lost parents or other family members.

I loved the friendships that Lucy formed with the other counselors.  She had never really had a group of friends at her high school and her closest friend there had been her boyfriend Lukas who had put their relationship on pause for the summer.  She meets some other counselors.  But they had all grown up going to this camp and she at first felt like she was on the outside of their tight knit group.  But quickly she was welcomed by them and became friends with Anna, Mohan, Henry, and Keely.  I liked reading about their adventures on Friday nights off and how they would be honest with their feelings in telling their highs and lows of the week.  I liked how each of these characters that she became friends with had their own backstories and issues that they were dealing with and how they weren't just in the book without stories.  

I loved the romance that developed between Lucy and Jones (or Henry) who was another one of the counselors.  It was slow burn and started as a friendship first.  And it was cute, and they were also real about their feelings with each other.  They were able to communicate successfully and not have overdone drama due to not communicating.  Also this romance was interracial since Henry was black.  Lucy definitely had a stronger relationship with Henry than her previous relationship with Lukas.

Family was also an important part of this book.  This part was sad sometimes since Lucy's mom had cancer and Lucy was dealing with what things she would miss about her mom if she didn't make it.  I loved the relationship that she and her mom had though.  And there was also a scene that was great where she realized how great her dad really was.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.

Katie

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Releases I'm Most Excited For

May 2nd:
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate - This book is about a girl who dresses up as a boy to audition for an all-male a cappella group.  Everything about this is amazing, and screams that this is a book that I will adore.  I can't wait to read it.

Noteworthy

May 9th:
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy - Julie Murphy is a great author, and I look forward to reading her next book, which has a cover that I love a lot.

Ramona Blue

May 16th:
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord - This book is by Emery Lord, which is about all I need to know to pick up an Emery Lord book after having already read 3 books by her.  It sounds like it'll be a good book, though, from the premise.  And this cover is beautiful.

The Names They Gave Us

May 30th:
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon  - This book is about two Indian teens at a summer camp whose parents plan on setting the two of them up for an arranged marriage.  And the girl is the one interested in STEM and the boy is the romantic.  Everything about this premise is awesome and I can't wait to read and love this adorable book.

When Dimple Met Rishi

Katie

Monday, April 24, 2017

ARC Review: How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

How to Make a Wish All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn't have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace's mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.


My Review: 5 Stars


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and read it back in September.  This book was amazing, and since I've loved both this and Suffer Love, that's enough books to make Ashley Herring Blake one of my favorite authors.  And I also think her next book sounds amazing too, but it's a 2018 release, and I'm writing this review in September 2016, so...it'll be a while.  But anyway, this book was super great.  All of the character dynamics were done with nuance, and it was both beautiful and painful.  I'm so glad that I got to read this one early, and I think everyone else should read it too.

I loved the way that they portrayed the relationship between the mothers and daughters in this book.  Grace and her mom Maggie had never had a conventional mother-daughter relationship, and it was hurting Grace.  She was forced to grow up too young with an unreliable mother who drank a lot and had an endless string of boyfriends.  She was forced to go to seedy clubs with her mom and fend off older men hitting on her.  Obviously, it wasn't a healthy way for her to grow up.  And it's super interesting to watch the dynamics of Maggie and Eva.  Eva has just lost her mother who was very important to her, and Maggie swoops in as a mother figure.  Eva doesn't realize how much about Maggie she just doesn't know yet.  Grace doesn't really want Eva to know about Maggie, and there is a bit of jealousy in the fact that Maggie is making a necklace for Eva that she's always told Grace she'd make for her, and things like that.  All of these relationships show a lot of nuance.  Maggie isn't necessarily likeable, since I often didn't like her, but she isn't just a completely evil character.  She's a woman who lost the man she loved and didn't know how to deal with her grief, and how to really raise her daughter in his absence.

I also loved the relationship between Grace and Eva and how it developed.  It was a bit of a slow burn, and a bit painful, and also cute.  Eva captivates Grace right away when she comes into her life.  She is intriguing to her.  The two find exactly what they need in each other to help balance their pain and grief with something happy.  They are both a bit broken, but it isn't irreparable.  I loved their connection and the moments that they share on the lighthouse.  

Another part of the story that I loved was Grace's relationship with Luca and Emmy.  Luca was her best friend who was basically a brother to her.  There was never anytime when the two of them were interested in each other as more than friends, and it was great to see a solid, strong friendship between a boy and a girl where the two care about each other deeply but are never anything other than platonic.  Luca had times when he questioned Grace's decisions and wanted her to do things differently than she did.  And they did argue with each other sometimes, but it didn't mean that they didn't care for each other.  And I loved how Emmy was like a second mother to Grace, and probably more of a mother to her than her actual mother, Maggie, is.  I think Emmy has a really great heart.  And also, it was great of her to take in Eva and do the best that she could with suddenly becoming the guardian of a girl who was grieving.

I also liked how even secondary characters were written with nuance.  Maggie makes Grace move in with her boyfriend and his son, and his son happens to be Grace's ex-boyfriend.  It was clear that Jay had been a jerk when they broke up, but he wasn't completely bad.  He was still a bit of a jerk in this book, but he was also supportive of Grace and Eva's relationship, and there were times when he seemed to genuinely care about Grace's life.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.

Katie