We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

19401576_977403645109_55861277_oI have been wanting to E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars book for a while, and finally I did because I am going to an author signing with E. Lockhart tomorrow evening! I am so glad I finally came up with an excuse to finally pick it up and read it because its actually REALLY GOOD!! Well, I thought so at least.

I started out listening to the audiobook and wasn’t digging it. There are several parts throughout the book where Lockart exaggerates her writing and its hard to tell that its an exaggeration until the story really moves on. As an example, in the second chapter, Cady’s father is walking out on her and her mother and Cady tells the story as “Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened up wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed….” The scene goes on for a couple more sentences. I’m reading this like ‘what?! How did you survive?!’ Well, that’s only what it felt like. Duh. There are a few more scenes that are similar to this where she describes painful scenes in violent ways, but really they aren’t happening. She just feels like they are. It really makes you reality check yourself and the book and by the time you get to the end it sort of all clicks but as you’re reading it you’re just thinking ‘wait, what?!?!?!’ (yes, all of that punctuation is necessary).

So what else happens in this book? Well “the liars” are four cousins, basically, who visit the family island each summer. I really can’t say very much more without giving away very much. The book actually is much more of a mystery/thriller than I thought that it would be. It involves a lot more beach and summer island sun than I realized as well, plus summer love, and its pretty short–I finished it in just 2 days or so–so I would recommend it if you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat summer read. Like I said, the book really kicked my book and was not what I expected and I really liked that so if you’re up for something a little off the beaten path, give this a go. I think you’ll enjoy it. Happy reading!

Listening to: “Sunset Lover” by Petit Biscuit

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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This is not my image. I borrowed this from @momstimeoutshelf on Instagram.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a book that centers around in-the-closet gay Simon. An email confessing his sexual preference is intercepted by a somewhat jerky classmate named Martin. What does a jerk do with Simon’s news? Blackmail. Make life that much more difficult. Meanwhile, Simon continues his email relationship with this mystery schoolmate who he calls “Blue.” The two grow comfortable with each other as friends, but eventually find that their struggles with homosexuality and coming out are similar with their families and friends as well.

The entire book is relatable and easy-going, even to someone like be (straight and female). The story doesn’t fully revolve around being gay, and it doesn’t have to, but rather it has more to do with Simon’s personal growth and his relationships not just with Blue, but with his parents, siblings, his friends, and his ‘rival’ in Martin. There is that moment towards the end where Simon thinks that there’s a reason Martin was acting so harshly towards him about the email in the beginning. Well, there was and it wasn’t quite what he suspected, and I’m glad we found out in the end. (I tried really hard not to spoil that for anyone!) There is also some other high school friend drama, some literal drama (a high school musical), family drama, and it all gets balanced out with Simon’s wit and pop culture references.

So overall I think that this falls into a good subgenre of YA fiction that needs to be out there right now. The book is never preachy, never boring, never harsh. It is exactly what it needs to be–entertaining, sweet, funny, but still real. Goldilocks, how about that!

Listening to: “Georgia, Georgia” by Elliott Smith

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Moment of truth: When I first read the synopsis for this book, I had zero interest in reading it. Looking at the cover did not make me want to read it and the title did not feed my interest either. I ended up reading this book simply in order to give an honest review of it, and I did so by listening to the audiobook.

Going into the book, I felt like I still didn’t really know what the book was going to be about. I was ready to read it and get it over with. I was not expecting to really enjoy it or engage or relate with the characters in any way. Boy, was I wrong.

320756711The Hate U Give centers around 16 year-old Starr Carter, who is the only witness to her unarmed best friend Khalil’s murder at the hands (gun) of a police officer. This happens within the first few chapters, so the majority of the book focuses on Starr struggling with when, how, and how much to tell her friends, family, the police, and the courts. The book deals with a contrast between Starr and her siblings living in a low-income, violent neighborhood where rival gangs show their colors and riots break out nightly, and them attending a nice suburban prep school over an hour away where diversity is rare. Starr strives to live two lives but the situation escalates as everyone wants to know the truth of what happened that night.

“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.” — T.H.U.G. by Angie Thomas

This book hit me hard. Hopefully it will hit everyone hard. I read on Goodreads that this book sparked a bidding war between 13 publishing houses! That’s how powerful this book is. Its soon to be made into a movie, but don’t wait for that. Read it now.

“That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” — T.H.U.G. by Angie Thomas

Of course, there were times in the book where you want to shake the main character and say “COME OUT AND TELL THE TRUTH!!” But then again, you think of the consequences of telling the truth. Will the gang lord come after her parents? Will she be able to go outside at night? What are the consequences? There are also times when I yelled out “AMEN SISTER!!” in the middle of the book. Literally! I scared the crap out of my dog. T.H.U.G. has laugh out loud moments, cry out loud moments, shout and yell and be shocked and outraged moments….seriously, there is everything here. I always say I know I can give a book a solid 5-star rating (and I don’t normally give “1-5 star ratings”) if a book makes me feel the full spectrum of emotions AND I can tell it is a book I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. This is one of those. I am changed, at least a bit, because of this book. Thanks, Angie Thomas. Power to ya, girl.

Listening to: “Definition of a Thug” by 2Pac

Never Never (1-3) by Colleen Hoover

I didn’t want to write my thoughts down until I finished all three “books.” AND apologies in advance. This is an incredibly disjointed review because I am tired and I think that reading these books back to back also did something to my own brain. Thanks Colleen Hoover.

WARNING: This review contains many spoilers.

So thought #1 – why are they separate books? Why not different sections within the same book? I mean, I get that ((spoiler)) each book is a separate memory reset but the books are so short they could easily just be put into **A** book. This kind of thing always bothers me. Sorry – I’m not an author or publisher so I suppose its all about money and publishing books and whatever things I, the lowly reader know nothing about. But from my end….its annoying.

Thought #2 – I did really enjoy the ‘series’…if that’s what we are calling it. Trilogy? Whatever. Silas was almost one of those too-good-to-be-true guys but the books kind of proved the theory that certain parts of your personality are ingrained within you. This held true for Charlie too. I liked that they really acted on what “felt” right and natural to them and could feel their personalities and it really led them, ultimately ((spoiler)) back to each other as soul mates.

Thought #3 – This is also my above thought continued. I liked all of the mystery surrounding the memory loss and Charlie and Silas having to figure out why they lost their memories. (I was convinced it was some voodoo stuff from the crazy affair fortune teller lady from downtown!) I liked the romance aspects of the story and all of the letters and the journal entries and them falling in love again. However, cheesiest. ending. ever. I threw up a little. Like, really? Wow. So that’s really all I can say about that. Epilogues are a NO-GO.

Listening to: “Never Be Alone” by Shawn Mendes

“Carnivalesque” by Neil Jordan

34432289“Carnivalesque” is a fantasy book about a boy named Andy who enters Burleigh’s Amazing Hall of Mirrors at a travelling circus. He becomes trapped in the mirrors and an identical-looking stranger exits the hall and goes home with his parents. Thus begins the tale of Andy/Dany.

This book is a little difficult to rate. It started off reading like an old classic or fairy tale. Think Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland. “The boy did this and then he went to wherever and the boy was sad. But the boy’s mother held his hand and entered the carnival where the air smelled of caramel and candy.” bla bla bla. We literally do not find out “the boy’s name” until about page 75. Then the writing style completely changes to a more contemporary feel for most of the book and then the last 75 pages or so is back to the classic/fairy tale feel again.

The middle part of the book has some interesting action. In the middle of the action, there is a ton of written word. Most of it is history, and some of it seems slow, and some of it seems a little irrelevant or maybe just out of order. I enjoyed hearing a new perspective on carney mythology and most of all, this legend of ‘Burleigh’s Amazing Hall of Mirrors,’ which is really how the whole Andy/Dany duology originates to begin with. Some parts of the book are fun and fantastical, while others are freakish and almost scary. I like the polar opposites and think that every fantasy needs some of that. It gave the book depth, whereas the wordiness robbed it right back.

So for these reasons, I had to go with a middle of the road rating for this book. Loved the cover and the concept, but several things fell short. I like a good carnival book but this does not come close to the top for me.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Listening to: “Half Jack” by The Dresden Dolls

“Talking as Fast as I Can” by Lauren Graham

30359022I love Gilmore Girls. I love Lauren Graham. I loved this book!

Let me just say that if you have read the actual book, go out and listen to Lauren read the audiobook. She makes it laugh-out-loud funny. I listened to it and I loved it. However, by listening to it, I missed out on looking at the pictures so I am thinking that I will go out and purchase a hard copy just so I have it, and just because I enjoyed it that much. That’s how I know its a 5* book.

Also, I am glad that I waited until I finished the newest Gilmore Girls episodes before reading the book, as Lauren goes into them, too. She does preface them first by saying something along the lines of “If you haven’t watched “A Year In the Life” yet, you might want to skip this chapter. Its all so good. I just want all of the Gilmore I can get!

Listening to: “Feels Like Summer” by Weezer

“You Were Here” by Gian Sardar

32940733I have unfortunate news. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. It was good, but not mindblowing. Here are my thoughts:

Let me start by stating that the Goodreads description of this book claims that “Readers of Kate Atkinson will delight in this suspenseful debut novel about a woman haunted by nightmares and her grandmother’s role in a doomed love triangle almost seventy years before.” I’m a fan of Kate Atkinson and in my opinion, this is why she doesn’t write suspenseful novels. Pick one genre or another and commit. There was just SO MUCH DESCRIPTIVE WRITING going on that I often found myself confused or bored or indifferent. Especially in the first half of the book. BUT THEN…..

Everything picked up in the second half and everything was magnificent. I was ready to call it quits and apologize to NetGalley and the publisher and then all of a sudden WHOA! Now we’re getting started here! The characters were fascinating. There were twists and turns I did NOT see coming. And the writing remains strong all the way until the end. So ultimately, if you have the patience to wade through at least 120-150 pages of reading before a plot really thickens, then this book will really satisfy you and you will not regret picking this up. However, if you are someone who needs a beginning to end page-turner (i.e. Dan Brown or the likes?)…..move on.

Listening to: “Witness” by Katy Perry

“Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault” by Candace Robinson

c_-w5rluiaaya_eVery late last night, I finished a creepy upper YA book entitled Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault. The book begins in a small town in Texas with two best friends and cousins, Perrie and Maisie. All is not serene in the town, however, because for the past several weeks, people have been going missing. One day on their way home from school, Perrie, Maisie, and their mutual friend (and Perrie’s crush) August, notice a strange sight: a huge, creepy, dark mansion/museum that was never there before but that claims to be hiring. Maisie takes interest and the day after going in for her first day of work work, goes missing. Perrie and August go looking for her and the rest is a horrific history.

I think I would rate this at a really, really high 3.75 stars that I’ll round up to 4 because I LOVE the cover and there are just so many retellings–both classic and fairy tale–that its just so cool. Plus the characters were pretty decent so overall, I dug the book. Plus, its set up for a sequel so…I need to read on!

The biggest thing that ruined the book for me was the ending. ((Spoilers ahead so readers BE WARNED!!!)) Specifically how Perrie ‘gave herself’ to August and then he wasn’t who he thought she was. In my opinion, that is especially awful considering that this is a YA book. Maybe in an adult book it would be a little more acceptable but I would hike up the rating a bit.

Overall, this book is definitely in the horror genre. The cover looks beautiful but it is bloody and there is some gore and graphic descriptions. I like that type of thing though, but just a heads up.

Also, as I alluded to before, the book does end on a big of a cliffhanger. In my opinion, the book is really half of a book. The Kindle edition is only 168 pages and the paperback is 242. For a YA book, that’s pretty short. The author could have just kept writing and finished it out I think. Maybe there is much more to the story and it would have tipped the scales as a door stopper to put 2+2 together? But right now its pretty darn short. Even as it is, I felt there could have been a few more details in the book. It felt pretty thin.

Things I really did like though: I keep raving about the cover art so that’s huge. I love the retellings. We’ve got everything from Sleepy Hollow to Rapunzel so there is literally something for everyone. I think there are five or six total in the book? Plus references to a few more but they travel through five or six worlds so that’s pretty cool. The characters are interesting and no one drove me crazy so that was good.

Listening to: “Sweet Satan” by Beck

Royalty Readathon + “Wires and Nerve” by Marissa Meyer

royalty-readathonSo first off, let me just announce that this week I have been participating in the Royalty Readathon! This readathon is being hosted by Kati (@toberead) and her gang. I applaud Kati’s enthusiasm for getting this up and running and her theme is so unique, its just been super fun to stick with the “royals” theme. I’ve been making some good progress (much better than the last RAT I did….oops….!!) and I’ve finished 2 books already!! So a big shoutout and thanks to Kati for everything she’s doing and I wish her all the success and growth in future reading and readathons!!

wiresThen, of course, I finished Wires and Nerve, which is Marissa Meyer’s graphic novel. It is set right after the the end of the Lunar Chronicles books so yes, you should finish Winter before you pick up this book. I had never read a graphic novel (nor a comic book nor anything of the sort) before this so I was skeptical about whether I would be able to even figure this out but it was fine. I even really enjoyed it!! The story is written from Iko’s point of view and between Iko and Thorne (who gets a lot of book time), this novel had me literally laughing out loud! Of course there is conflict and all of the heroes make their appearances but the humor and adorability factor is high. I absolutely loved seeing these characters come to life!! I was in no way disappointed. And the book is very much set up for book #2 so I am very highly anticipating that. Marissa Meyer, don’t keep us waiting too long!

Listening to: “Colors in Space” by Explosions in the Sky

“The Simplicity of Cider” by Amy E. Reichert

4.5 really great, homely, nostalgic, midwestern, I-would-definitely-recommend-that-you-read-this-this-summer stars!

Not that I am biased or anything, but apple orchards are some of my favorite places in the world. I love apples, I love cider, I love apple cider donuts, I love apple crisp, I love the smell, the taste, the atmosphere, the time of year, the weather….I love it all. Hayrides, animals, (allergies), trees, mums….EVERYTHING!! Another thing that I love is Wisconsin. I am not from Wisconsin, but my family owns a “summer home” on a lake “up north” (not Door County, but I know plenty of fellow Illinois people–where I am from–who travel there and love it) and it is beautiful. Our home in WI is in a very small town that is extremely touristy in the summer months and extremely dead the other 3/4 of the year but still, it is so beautiful and serene up there. Families make so many good memories. AND THERE IS SO MUCH SNOW. So anyway, about the book. Sorry for the personal side track.

CiderThis is the story of an orchard grafting people together (read the book and you’ll see how clever this statement is – winkwink). First we have Sanna and her father who are the orchard owners in the beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. The orchard is in a little bit of trouble financially, however. Then, along come Isaac and his son Bass, who are road tripping around the country since the death of Isaac’s ex-wife. Much hard work happens, a couple little mishaps, some romance, a fair amount of information about tree growth and cider-making (which I, personally, found fascinating), all rolled into a really nice plot that was well-paced and I very much enjoyed.

As I mentioned, if you’re looking for a good summer or fall read, something pretty light and just nice to read, pick this one up. Didn’t take me long to get through at all. There is character growth, its multi-generational, and just an overall great read.

Listening to: “Home” by Phillip Phillips