Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

25062038Little & Lion is the story of two siblings who go by the nicknames Little and Lion. Little, aka Suzette, comes home for the summer from boarding school after experimenting with her female roommate and is still questioning her own sexuality. Meanwhile her stepbrother Lion, aka Lionel, has been struggling with severe bipolar disorder. As Suzette settles in at home, she finds herself falling for the same girl as Lionel, and Lionel’s bipolar spirals out of control. Suzette has to confront all that she has said and not said to help her brother before it is too late.

In my opinion, Lionel was a fantastic character who, in his illness, was fantastically portrayed. I was not a fan of how Suzette handled it, but honestly, it was probably a realistic reaction to how a sibling or close friend might react to those confessions. Suzette was constantly monitoring and overreacting to Lion’s confessions and it drove me crazy. I hated the back and forth between his issues and her issues. It was all just too much for me. I wish the book had just been about either his troubles with bipolar and summer drama or her struggles with sexuality and summer drama. Having the book be about both just crammed so much drama and emotion into one little book.

All of that being said though, it was still a pretty decent story. I still liked all of the diversity and appreciated Brandy Colbert’s writing. If you’re into diverse books and/or can relate to either of these scenarios, then you’ll probably enjoy this book so give it a shot!

Book soundtrack: American Jesus by Bad Religion

signature

Advertisements

Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

I LOVED this book. I know that not everyone who reads it will love it in the way that I did, mainly because this book hit my two main teenage/college hobbies: camping and singing. Not only that but Ingrid’s journey and trials were told through her experiences in these activities, making her connections with the outdoors and with her life in music even stronger. If you’re thinking about reading this book, let me give you a little bit of a synopsis:

257521542Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is told from Ingrid’s point of view, but through two different timelines: one as she is growing up with her opera star-gone wrong mother, and one in the present on a month long wilderness survival-turned disaster trek she wasn’t quite expecting. Growing up, Ingrid and her mother lived a wonderful life, with Margot-Sophia Lalange performing in the spotlight of the great opera houses until she does exactly what she knows not to do–she over sings and does not take care of her voice thus resulting in vocal nodes and the end of her career. Ingrid’s mother becomes bitter regarding music and theater, and the glamorous life ends. Ingrid struggles to fit in at school and she grows up taking care of her mother. Eventually, a role in the school play and (of course) a boy will change many things for both Ingrid and her mother.

5-star ratings are very difficult to earn from me, but I’m feeling generous today and I will round up a 4.6 rating on this one to a 5 for a few reasons. First of all, the wilderness survival camp is one for at-risk teens and while Ingrid didn’t feel that she wasn’t “at-risk” so she didn’t need to be there, she still toughened up and took it like a champ. I think that a lot of her thought processes were exactly like mine would have been (I won’t really give more information than that because it’s part of the humor and charm [lol…sass?] of Ingrid). Second, the way that passion for music and performing on stage is described. How you get up on stage and more or less don’t always know if you did well or not. Or Margo-Sophia’s phrases like “You did well last night but today you must be better. Always better.” In some ways she often comes across as self-centered but her career and that state of mind was her entire life. It was her state of mind for years. It was hard to see her discourage Ingrid from pursuing music but she was completely horrified for her. The one thing I did NOT like was how Ingrid treated Isaac after the show and the incident with the other girl. I didn’t think that blaming him so strongly was fair at all and I hated that. I thought that was the big chink in the book for me. And the end, of course, is a cryfest and my biggest weakness in books. It could have been more played up but I think it was just the right amount considering the characters so I say it was very well done. Overall, wonderful book. It is one that I highly recommend.

–I was given a copy of this book by Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review–

Book soundtrack: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

signature

First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

20795198_995366038329_2075362817_oThis book has me left with mixed emotions! No, scratch that. This book has left me an emotional wreck! Let me first say that I am a big fan of thrillers and there aren’t too many in the YA genre so when one releases, I am ON IT! I dove into First We Were IV with a fiery fury. Pranks, secrets, a murder mystery…all the yes!!

Here comes the actual synopsis: Izzy (often called “Icky” by the popular kids in school), Viv, Graham, and Harry are best friends. They only have each other and are often pushed around by their peers, some rivalries even stemming back as far as elementary school. NO MORE, they decide. So this, coupled with the fact that the four best friends will soon be parting ways for college, leads them to form the Order of IV, a “secret society” of the four friends created for pranks, fun, and forever memories. All they wanted was to be included in parties and to keep in touch. Of course that’s not how it ends. Of course it escalates….and I’ll let you read all of that for yourself.

So in my opinion, the beginning is interesting, and the ending rocked me to my core. The middle 300 pages were filled with 95% eye-rolling drama and 5% interesting plot. For me, the murder mystery with Jane Doe was so disconnected from the central characters….I just didn’t understand why Izzy cared so much to begin with. Maybe if the incident occurred a week ago, or if it was her cousin she was seeking justice for, or if she really had PTSD. I’m not trying to be cold or like I don’t care about missing persons cases but really, there was no real reason why Izzy cared. I don’t get it! Harry had a reason to want to pursue crimes against his father, yet they didn’t pursue those. I get that. But Izzy was selfish. This was hugely unsettling (and mildly boring and even confusing) to me.

While I didn’t like this, it was also an ironic point in the book. Live in the moment. Just be with your friends and loved ones. When friends are so loved and so close like this group is, there shouldn’t be competition of who loves who more; of who was friends first, or of which memories are better or stronger. Just make the most of everything. Bullies and adults will do what they will but you have each other and that is the strongest thing and that is better than anything than they will ever know (haven’t you seen Harry Potter? lol – just kidding). So that’s what I felt was a theme, who knows if that was an actual intent of the author.

MAJOR SPOILER IN WHITE – WARNING – DON’T HIGHLIGHT UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK – FINAL NOTE: HOW DID THEY GET AWAY WITH ALL OF THAT? NO WAY! WHAT?! 

Soundtrack: “Your Song” by Elton John

signature

“The Best Kind of Magic” by Crystal Cestari

There is so much that I loved about this book!! ‘Windy City Magic #1’ felt like a cozy mystery for teens and it was my JAM!!! Or you could look at it as Urban Fantasy/Romance for teens just the same. A couple of my little pet peeves showed up and made my eyeballs twitch a bit, but overall, I can’t wait for the second book! Or third or fourth! Let me first give a brief synopsis, and then I’ll cover my opinions:

25436641The Best Kind of Magic gives us a tour of all kinds of magic in the Windy City of Chicago. We see goblins, fairies, leprechauns, werewolves, vampires, sirens, and of course, witches. Amber Sand is a not a witch. Her mother is, but Amber is a matchmaker, meaning that she can look into people’s eyes and see their true love. One day, the mayor’s son (who is also the most talked-about boy in school) comes in to visit Amber at her mother’s shop, Windy City Magic, and requesting her help in finding his father’s missing girlfriend. Thus begins an adventure with romance, humor, bad guys, a twist and a turn and a to be continued in book 2!! (not a cliffhanger! This book wraps up nicely…..mostly.)

The first thing I liked about this book was the genre feel. I am a sucker for a cozy mystery, I enjoy paranormal romances, and then put those things in a YA format….have I died and gone to heaven?! Almost too good to be true. I loved it. I wish there was more of this writing out there. So with this genre comes the characters. There was a good mix of humans and paranormals. I liked how Amber and her mother, and even their coven, had a certain struggle with Amber’s matchmaking talents. It was a very different and clever spin on the traditional “coming of age story” that you usually get in YA books and I really liked that. Amani (Amber’s best friend) has her own struggles with her magical gifts of being a precog. Their friendship in the book is wonderful, by the way. I just saw a meme the other day that went something like this:

Friend: Oh, I’m so sorry, what can I do?
Best friend: 1/2 price shakes at Sonic. Get your butt in the car, I’m driving!
sonic-milkshakes
That’s the kind of friends Amber and Amani are. Partially because of their mystic powers and partially because they are comfortable and secure in their own selves (which other high school students find “weird” and “different” of course), the two friends are outcasts and have a very close friendship. Back on track. Charlie is a human and he does a great job taking in everything in the PRN world. You almost wonder every once in a while if he and his father have trace amounts of supernatural in their blood somewhere. Of course, the biggest wrench in the story comes when Amber sees that Charlie’s match is not her, but could she be wrong? That’s why we’re eagerly awaiting book 2!

Ok, I will speak of my one biggest pet peeves that occurred in this book: immature language. I hate when authors frequently use immature language. If you want to call it that. To me, its almost Valley Girl…rich snob…Pretty Little Liars…I barely hear kids talking like that and I work in a private high school myself. Granted, not in Chicago, but in Northern Illinois within 60 miles of Chicago. I do not hear students commonly using the words “natch” instead of natural (I’ve never heard that), or “cas” for casual (I have heard this, but not frequently). In the first 100 pages of the book when we are first meeting the characters, this kind of abbreviated language is EVERYWHERE. It DEFINES Amber’s personality and sense of humor. Toward the middle, it fades out and she is more just sarcastic and witty with Charlie but in the beginning, we are NOT talking to a lowly girl. I just didn’t see her as having that much of a consistent attitude. Ivy, the blonde cheerleader mean girl? For sure. But Amber? No. I hated that. I like to read full English words and sentences. Maybe that’s the adult in me reading a YA novel so excuse this paragraph if so. But I’m just saying. I HATE abbreviated teen-speak. Ugh! Not appropriate for books, IMO.

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Soundtrack: “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas

signature

The Wrapping Up of All the Things

As always, the end of all things came too quickly. More specifically in this case #24in48, the Biannual Bibliothon, and even more significantly, JULY!! How did July get by us? I guess we say that every month. Ah, well. Time to wrap it all up.

o7f2dlnf_400x400To begin the recap, for #24in48, I completed my full 24 hours of reading plus just a little more and I felt so accomplished! In those 24 hours, I finished All Things New, and I came close to finishing Sarah Dessen’s Once and For All. I also made some progress on The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, but for whatever reason, that is a really slow read for me. It just doesn’t hold my interest very strongly.

dcj4gyko_400x400Next up was the weeklong Summer Biannual Bibliothon, which just wrapped up yesterday. My week was busier than I anticipated, unfortunately, but I did get some reading done and some books wrapped up. So during the Bibliothon, I finished Once and For All, I started a new cozy series (because they tend to keep me out of slumps and I am really anticipating fall!) called Curse the Day and I finished that book as well, I started and finished Erin Watt’s When It’s Real, and I have been reading First We Were IV and When I am Through With You. So that’s 3 finished and 2 progressed through. All things considered, I’m pretty happy with that!

And now for the overall July breakdown:

★★★★★ The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

★★★★ Hook’s Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself by John Leonard Pielmeier

★★★★ When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

★★★★ All Things New by Lauren Miller

★★★ Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

★★★★ Curse the Day by Annabel Chase

★★★★ When It’s Real by Erin Watt

So that’s it, folks. 7 books total finished for the month. 3 of them were ARC’s read before their publication dates. Average rating = 4.0

Its so weird for me to be reading so many contemporaries. As I mentioned earlier, I was craving that cozy/witchy mystery with fall coming up because I just felt a slump coming on and I think it is partially because of the genres I’m reading. I tend to read more YA contemporary romance in the summertime. It just feels right to me. I’m glad that I have been because I have been finding some gems and obviously, from the ratings above, I recommend them as well! Until next time, I also highly recommend finding yourself a readathon or two to participate in. It boosted my reading from 4-5 books read per month to 7! Sure it takes a little organization if you are going to commit and there are optional challenges you can participate in but they are all in good fun. Goodluck and as always, happy reading!

Currently watching: “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

signature

 

“When Its Real” by Erin Watt

30731416When It’s Real was my first read by Erin Watt and I didn’t go into it with very high expectations. Having just come out of a let-down contemporary by another author, I was all the more ready to be crushed once again by the genre. To be completely honest, the book started off a little slow, but after about 30-40 pages, I was in love with both the “him” and “her” voices in the story. Hate-love is my trope and this was my type of book! Oak and Vaughn put each other in their places in the best of ways and it was just great. There was humor, sweetness, just the right amount of anger and snap in both characters. Plus every contemporary romance has to have an excellent cast of supporting characters and this book has it. Oak with his bodyguards (hilarious!) and Vaughn and her family…they were all a perfect compliment to the plot. I really enjoyed it.

Let me back up for just a second here and give you a more specific summary of the book. As I mentioned, the “him” is Oakley Ford–a super hot, teen rock star who hit it big when he was young. He is the son of super-star actor parents, so he has pretty much always been in the spotlight. He wants to be taken seriously and write his own music and really make a new and unique sound for himself. Enter: Vaughn Bennett. She hasn’t exactly had it easy growing up either. She lost her parents in a car accident and graduated early in order to help take care of her younger siblings. She and her older sister work hard to care for ‘the twins,’ and when the opportunity to be Oakley Ford’s fake girlfriend presents itself, the money that comes along with it is irresistible.

Then of course the fake relationship begins and Vaughn is repulsed by the arrogant Oak. Also, she has a “real” boyfriend that the publicists have to stage a fake break-up with. Needless to say, the real douche of the story is the boyfriend, but I’ll let you read all of that for yourself. The story really picks up and for me, I could not put the book down. To be honest, it was the first book I stayed up past my bedtime reading in a long time. Especially in this genre!

So if I “really enjoyed it” so darn much why didn’t I give it 5 stars? Well I’d say a solid 4.5 that I would almost have rounded up to 5 if not for the slow start. Also, there was a lot of underage drinking, drugs (pot, though not mentioned specifically), and sex. Granted its the ‘rockstar lifestyle’ and Oak is an emancipated minor but still…his ease of access to it bothered me. Oh well. Can’t knock a book too bad for that. It was still awesome and I will be checking out more Erin Watt in the future!!

Listening to: “Waiting for Superman” by Daughtry

signature

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

28458598Let me start out by saying that I really enjoyed “When Dimple Met Rishi.” I tend to enjoy contemporary YA fiction much better in audiobook format, and this book was no exception. The alternate points of view were great and the chosen narrators especially helped to depict the diversity.

The book begins with the ambitious Dimple Shah graduating from high school and getting ready to go to college for computer science. She values hard work and intelligence and has no plans to marry like her traditional parents want her to (“that’s what college is for after all,” they think!). When she convinces them to let her attend Insomnia Con, she is shocked by how easy it is, but it is a chance to meet her idol! On campus under….surprising circumstances….she meets Rishi Patel. Rishi is a bit of a romantic and was raised more traditionally, yet humbly. Surprisingly, the two are paired together for the contest. Push comes to shove, circumstances happen, you’ll have to read the book to find out the details, and that’s the gist.

First, characters. I admire a young woman who is career-driven and intelligent. Dimple wears her glasses all the time, despises make-up (though I don’t know think its completely the make-up as much as rebelling against her mother and dating in general), and is entitled to her opinion and her own choices. (almost to a fault) Rishi is the eldest son of the CEO of a large company, but he completely breaks the mold of the phrase “snobby rich kid.” He does, however, fall in line with his family’s traditional Indian values and he is planning to(expected to) follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue engineering and enter into an arranged marriage. In his heart, however, Rishi is an artist. He loves drawing comics and he is a romantic. Also, he is quick, witty, and loyal. (almost to a fault)

There weren’t very many secondary characters, but the ones that were around were pretty good. Celia–Dimple’s roommate–brought the little bit of ‘feminine’ and guidance that Dimple needed every once in a while, and vice versa. They were there for each other to get each other through lots of obstacles and awkward moments. Ashish, Rishi’s brother, brought in another tangle of a relationship and a fresh voice of guidance and opinion. He turned out to be more mature than I expected him to be. Then there were other contestants and Jenny Lindt herself, who seemed to be all the L.A. “hip.”

I have several thoughts on this book, especially after having read and heard a lot of the buzz surrounding Dimple & Rishi. First off, I think that we adults who read YA need to remember that Dimple and Rishi are teenagers and this book is written for teens. WE are the adults here. I didn’t have any feelings about this really until the last 30 or 40 pages, as I mentioned, from what I have read and heard people saying, I think we can give the kids a little bit of a break. There are a few gushy , cheesy parts where they are cuddling and the dialogue is just downright roll-your-eyes “really?!” but come on, we’ve all been there. Its that honeymoon stage in a young relationship! Another note re: the relationship. I loved that the two of them brought out the good in each other. Really, I thought they worked well together. HOWEVER. Dimple says “I don’t want to marry” and “I don’t want to get married” and “No, I won’t be getting married” and then 2 minutes later they are mutually saying “I love you!” and it is a completely serious relationship! So I know what I said…young love and all that…cut them slack, you never really know when you’re young. But I’m just saying. Chill out on the extremes, please. Just a bit. kthanks.

A quick quip about Insomnia Con: was the Talent Show really relevant? Was it really necessary? No? I didn’t think so. Maybe its a cute thing to put in a YA book for couples to do together but man, it does not seem to fit realistically with app building. Sorry, Sandhya Menon.

All right, those are my thoughts on “When Dimple Met Rishi.” Overall, I am super impressed at how well this book has done for a debut! Congratulations and best of luck on your future endeavors, Ms. Menon!

Listening to: “No Man’s Land” – Wonder Woman Soundtrack

signature

Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

32452313So I admit that I was drawn to the beautiful colors on the cover of this one. And its quite fitting because the plot centers around two teens who were raised “in a commune full of hippies and mountain folk.” That being said, just like hippies and mountain folk, the book is very laid back and pretty slow moving so don’t expect much action or quick pacing or even very much angst. Things just happen, and the characters deal with them. Mitchell (athletic, funny, good-looking, ready for college away from the commune) and Josie (sunshine-loving, overall-wearing, community lifestyle proud) grew up together and slowly develop a relationship after Mitchell’s mom admits to having an affair.

For me, this book never took off as much as I hoped. I always appreciate books with diversity and books that have new and different settings, which this certainly did (I mean, an old woman who does naked yoga every morning? Show me another book that has that!). But I found it to stretch far wider than it did deep. I like depth as well. For being so different, Josie and Mitchell actually sounded pretty similar to me in their reactions. And then for liking each other, they were so judgemental of each other. What gives?? Oh well. By the time their romance was in bloom, it was cute and sweet and well written. Which was a huge plus. Not only was the romance writing great, but the writing of the scenery and the community was wonderful as well. I really enjoyed that.

** Thank you to Blaze Publishing for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a honest review **Book release date: July 11, 2018**

Listening to: “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

signature

“The Library of Fates” by Aditi Khorana

I was a little skeptical about this book because the author’s first book, Mirror in the Sky, received ratings that were quite low on Goodreads (3.29 as on 7/9). I decided to give this book a try because I was offered a free ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program, the cover is beautiful, and YA book companies were making quite a buzz about it. I am SO glad I gave it a go. Now I am on the bandwagon and recommending that everyone mark the release date of July 18th on your calendars and go buy it and read it on that day!!

32930680The Library of Fates opens with a really neat story called The Parable of Trees. (I, personally love trees and nature so I was hooked in a second!) Then we get into the rest of the book with our main character Princess Amrita, who lives an easy, sheltered life in the kingdom of Shalingar. Until the day that the Emporer of Macedon–known for being a brutal man–comes to finalize the terms of their arranged marriage and Amrita loses everything. She flees the palace and sets off on a journey that will completely transform not only her, but all those she loves.

What I really loved about this book is that most of the things that I expected would happen did not. I would think to myself “She’s going to abandon the plan to go to X and go to the Library in stead. I mean, that’s the title of the book.” But nope! The plot absolutely did not happen how I thought it would, and I loved that!!

The characters surprised me around every turn, and part of the beauty of it all was how magic and folklore was seamlessly woven into the story. There were so many elements to it and they weren’t so complex that I was bored or confused like in some fantasy books. It was a really good balance so as to make it just mystical enough to be really beautiful and special. Plus everything came out full circle in a really great way. I just loved it.

So overall, I enjoyed it enough to where I was given a free e-copy and I will probably purchase my own hard copy for my shelves. I know it won’t be for everyone, but that’s my take on it. It was a pretty quick read at 354 pages. I devoured it in about 2 days and could have read it faster if I didn’t have a lot of things going on. But this is one I could see myself reading again, and I don’t see myself forgetting anytime soon.

Listening to: “The Gateway” by Ahmad Ebadi

signature

“The Fixer” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Ok, so this book was recommended to me by a friend and when I picked it up I just thought “eh, this will be okay” but I am actually surprised by how much I enjoyed it! Jennifer Lynn Barnes has actually written several books (“26 distinct works, according to Goodreads”) and I have seen them in stores quite frequently but just have never picked them up. The covers and titles don’t really catch my eye, but I wish I would have sooner because the quality of writing is real! It is definitely good YA thriller/mystery writing and I have been missing out! So now onto the book.

25781800The Fixer (see, not too appealing of a title…what are we talking about? A plumber? Carpenter?) is about sixteen year-old Tess who is uprooted from life with her grandfather on a farm to the center of political life in Washington DC with her older sister Ivy. Not only has Tess not seen Ivy in years, Ivy also has a top secret job in DC as a “fixer,” someone who fixes problems for top politicians and officials, such as the President and First Lady. After walking into an incident in a school bathroom where a girl is crying over shared photos, Tess confronts the offending party and soon finds herself being called the school’s “fixer.”

I thought that Jennifer Lynn Barnes did a fantastic job with the overall writing of the book. The plot and the scandals were done so well. Tess got repetitive in her processes sometimes and just a little naggy at her friends, but really the characters were pretty great as well. I was also really surprised at how unpredictable the book was. I thought that, especially for a YA novel, things would be easy to figure out and would resolve quickly, but no. Plus–biggest shocker of all–there is no love story. So there are not pages and pages of mindless flirting and snogging. Its all investigating and sleuthing. Impressive.

The only reason that I gave it 4 stars in stead of 5 is because the book is definitely meant to go on into the second book. Its not a cliffhanger, per se, but it leaves off in a spot where you want to know what will happen next in the character’s lives! And that’s one thing that the author is great at as well is getting you invested in the actual familial lives, backgrounds, and relationships of the characters. You’re pretty invested by the end and you just have to read on into book 2! There is no book 3 and I don’t know if there will be or not in the future, but so far everything has been a hailstorm of action and intrigue so I can’t wait to see where the next book takes us!

Listening to: “Not Afraid Anymore” by Halsey