Category Archives: reviews

Book Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C Stevens

Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for a Small Town

Release Date: August 29 2017

4 stars

The year I was seventeen, I had five best friends…and I was in love with all of them for different reasons. Billie McCaffrey is always starting things. Like couches constructed of newspapers and two-by-fours. Like costumes made of aluminum cans and Starburst wrappers. Like trouble. This year, however, trouble comes looking for her. Her best friends, a group she calls the Hexagon, have always been schemers. They scheme for kicks and giggles. What happens when you microwave a sock? They scheme to change their small town of Otters Holt, Kentucky, for the better. Why not campaign to save the annual Harvest Festival we love so much? They scheme because they need to scheme. How can we get the most unlikely candidate elected to the town’s highest honor? But when they start scheming about love, things go sideways. In Otters Holt, love has been defined only one way—girl and boy fall in love, get married, and buy a Buick, and there’s sex in there somewhere. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple. Can the Hexagon, her parents, and the town she calls home handle the real Billie McCaffrey?

I’ve read two previous books by Courtney C Stevens and they were great, some of my favourites. She writes amazing relationships and friendships and since this book seemed like it would focus on a group of friends, I had high hopes for some interesting dynamics between these characters. And they were definitely present, just not completely in the way I was expecting from the synopsis.

The main character was Billie, and we were mostly in her POV during the book. She was just starting to discover who she was, what she wanted, and it didn’t fit into her town’s usual ways. She already had to deal with a lot of judgment for the way she dressed and acted, and being the preacher’s daughter just added more judgment from the townspeople. Her group of friends, called the Hexagon, was her only safe place. We also got a little of Davey’s POV, the newest member of the Hexagon. He was sweet, complex, and it was interesting to see how different he was when he was with the Hexagon compared to his old group of friends.

The plot revolved heavily around self-discovery, the antics of the Hexagon, and the story of an epic summer. The Hexagons did cause some trouble but they also did some good. I could see why some people in the town thought they were a disturbance or delinquents but the kids just wanted to have fun. Their biggest problem was they didn’t always have the foresight to think about the consequences of their actions.

The book had a familiar feel to it, like hanging out with your own friends in the summer, creating adventures and trying to make memories. There wasn’t a whole lot of extra action, the plot was very character-driver, but when it’s Courtney C Stevens characters, that is not a bad thing at all.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross

Warcross

Release date: September 12th 2017

4 stars

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I have never played the kinds of games mentioned in this book, or even anything similar, so I was a little worried going in that it might be hard to lose myself in the story. But it’s Marie Lu and I’m pretty sure she could write any plot and have me get lost in her words and her story. The plot focused a lot on gaming and technology but it didn’t stray off into an area I, as a non-gamer, couldn’t understand. I enjoyed all the action of the game, the saboteur plot, and the dynamics between the team Emika was chosen to be on as a part of her cover in the Warcross Championships.

Emika was an amazing character. I loved how hard she fought even when it seemed like there was no hope. She refused to give up. She was protective, determined, and smart. She was a brilliant hacker, which helped her a lot of the time but also got her into trouble. Turned out glitching her way into the Warcross Championship was a good thing for her since it led to a job offer and we got to see her at her best, tracking down information on a threat to the Games. With the plot being very heavy on the Warcross game and the set-up to the Championships, Emika was really the only character to get a lot of development. We saw her go from someone who barely trusted anyone to opening up to her team and relying on people other than herself.

I’m excited to see how the supporting characters development in this series. I really liked Emika’s teammates in the Warcross Championships and hope we get to see a lot more of them. They didn’t have a whole lot of screentime(pagetime) but still made an impression. I also liked the flirty banter between Emika and Hideo. It should be interesting to see how all the relationships between these characters progress in the series.

The plot had a lot of action, fast-paced, but still detailed enough so that a non-gamer like me could understand the happenings of the game as they were playing it. It sounded like a cool game. The whole book felt like it would look fantastic on the big screen(if they didn’t ruin it). I ended up finishing this in under two days because I just didn’t want to put it down. I had so many theories and I needed to know if they were right. Plus with Marie Lu, I never want to stop reading until the book is finished.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Internet Famous by Danika Stone

Internet Famous

Internet Famous

3.5 stars

High school senior and internet sensation Madison Nakama seems to have it all: a happy family, good grades, and a massive online following for her pop-culture blog. But when her mother suddenly abandons the family, Madi finds herself struggling to keep up with all of her commitments.
Fandom to the rescue! As her online fans band together to help, an online/offline flirtation sparks with Laurent, a French exchange student. Their internet romance—played out in the comments section of her MadLibs blog—attracts the attention of an internet troll who threatens the separation of Madi’s real and online personas. With her carefully constructed life unraveling, Madi must uncover the hacker’s identity before he can do any more damage, or risk losing the people she loves the most… Laurent included.

The first thing that I loved about this book was that Starveil, first mentioned and loved in All the Feels, played a role in this book as well. It wasn’t as big, in All the Feels the main character was a huge fan of Starveil and in Internet Famous the main character was a fan but it didn’t play as big a role in her life as it did with the girl from All the Feels. Where All the Feels showed the more positive side of a fandom coming together, Internet Famous showed the negative side with trolling and bullying.

Madi was a character who had a lot of responsibility, which ended up giving her a lot of freedom. She attended her high school’s online version so she could be available to help with her little sister, who had autism and needed to stick to her routine. It meant Madi was free to run her blog where she would do live watches of shows and movies, having fun blogging about her thoughts on them. She became friends with Laurent and was slowly coming out of her comfort zone when the troll started to attack.

A lot of the supporting cast outside of Madi’s family were her online friends. No one besides Laurents really got a whole lot of development but it made sense to show how supportive online friends can be without having to know a lot of personal information. I would have liked to have seen her family a bit more but it was another thing that made sense with the plot. Madi wasn’t big on sharing her blog with anyone except her sister and even then, she was pulling away from her a little to find out who she was.

I liked the way the troll aspect was handled. It felt very realistic. It started small, easy to ignore but still left Madi a little shaken since the person was invading her safe space. The cyberbullying escalated and the effects on Madi were obvious. It was when the mood shifted from a lighter read to something more serious. It tackled a very real issue with a relatable character and I just wanted the cyberbully to be exposed.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Lucky in Love by Kasie West

lucky-in-love

Lucky in Love

Release date: July 25 2017

4 stars

 

In this new contemporary from YA star Kasie West, a girl who wins the lottery learns that money can cause more problems than it solves, especially when love comes into the picture. Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment — She wins! In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust. Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret? With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

I love Kasie West books and this one fits right in with her other sweet contemporaries. This was the second book I read this year involving a newly eighteen year old winning the lottery but both were different enough so it didn’t feel like I was reading the same book with different characters. I liked the characters, the romance was sweet, and the plot was what I expected from Kasie West.

Maddie was a likeable character and I loved that her favourite animal at the zoo she worked at was the anteater. She was very quirky and she took a lot on herself, like her family problems or college. Buying a lottery ticket was a whim turned out to be a life-changing decision. She thought it would solve all her family’s problems and nothing else would change. She was a little naive and it was interesting to see how the dynamics between her and the people she loved changed as the book went on. Maddie had to learn that money can solve some problems but not all, and create new ones.

Seth was a great counter to Maddie. He just might be my favourite Kasie West boy so far. He definitely is in the running. He was adorable and geeky and so perfect for Maddie. Maddie’s friends were both interesting but I would have liked to have seen a little more of them to make them stand out from each other more.

The plot was character-driven with Maddie navigating what it meant to be thrust into the spotlight with so much money. She had to deal with people judging how she spent her money, assuming she would pay, questioning who she could trust. It definitely showed that winning the lottery isn’t always a guarantee to an easy life.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

Bad Romance

Bad Romance

Release date: June 13th 2017

4.5 stars

Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.
Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.
Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

I absolutely love Heather Demetrios, she’s become an auto-buy author, and as long as books like this one keeps coming out that won’t be changing. I loved the way this book was written, where future Grace was recounting the downfall of her relationship with Gavin. I loved the strong relationship between Grace and her two best friends, Grace and her sister, and Grace and her group of friends. It wasn’t an easy read, it dealt with a lot of issues, and was a very worthwhile read.

Grace was a character I felt an instant connection with due to her quirkiness and her love of Broadway. She had a huge crush on Gavin so when he started paying attention to her, she fell hard and fast. He was an escape from her bad home life and she felt a gratitude toward him for that and for picking her out of all the other girls. Grace was smart, funny, was full of theater references, had big dreams, and it was hard watching her be manipulated by Gavin.

There were some great female friendships in this book and I loved them. Grace’s two closest friends were always there for her, ready to support her, ready to tell her the hard truths she needed to hear, ready for whatever Grace needed. Her sister lived away at college so we saw less of their relationship but her sister was still a great support system. I also loved the addition of Grace’s male friends who showed that there were still good guys left and they all weren’t like Gavin and her stepfather.

I loved all the theater references through the whole book. I’m a huge Broadway fan so that was fun plus it made sense since Grace wanted to direct plays. She had dreams and plans on how to achieve them so when she would prioritize Gavin over herself, it was frustrating but also easy to see how she was manipulated into it. This book showed how easy it can be to get into an unhealthy relationship and how hard it is to get out of one. It didn’t pull any punches or sugarcoat anything and is definitely one I will remember.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Who’s That Girl by Blair Thornburgh

Who's that girl

Who’s That Girl

Release date: July 11th 2017

4 stars

Junior Nattie McCullough is totally OK with her place in life: Latin whiz. Member of the school’s gay-straight alliance. Joni Mitchell superfan. Seventeen-year-old who has never been kissed. So when last summer’s crush and her former classmate—Young Lungs lead singer Sebastian Delacroix—comes back to town with his new hit single “Natalie,” she can’t bring herself to believe it could possibly be about her…could it?
As Nattie sorts through the evidence (the lyrics, Sebastian’s elusive text messages, and their brief romantic encounter last year), the song’s popularity skyrockets, and everyone starts speculating about “Natalie’s” identity. If that wasn’t mortifying enough, Nattie runs into another problem: her confusing, flirtation-packed feelings for her good friend Zach. With her once-average life upended, Nattie is determined to figure out once and for all if her short-lived past with Sebastian was something love songs are made of—or just a one-hit wonder.

I went in to this book thinking it would be a cute read with some romance, a growth arc, a little angst, and it had all of that. It also had great friendships, great dialogue between characters, and was a lot of fun to read. I loved the group of friends, the family dynamics, and the plot.

Nattie was an easy character to like, even when she was making bad decisions because I could understand her reasoning behind them. That didn’t mean I agreed with her or that I couldn’t see the bad outcome that was coming from that decision, I could just understand why she came to the conclusion that her way was the best way. It was fun to see her push herself out of her comfort zone as she tried to get answers from Sebastian about the origin of the song “Natalie”.

The dynamics between the two main groups Nattie interacted with, her family and her group of friends, were so great. I loved the quirkiness of her parents, the sibling bond that had developed between her and the family’s exchange student Sam, and just the whole overall family dynamics. Her group of friends were just so much fun any time they were all together. I enjoyed the romance aspect of the plot as well. I was a little worried about it feeling too love triangle-ish, but it felt more like a girl who was ultimately trying to figure out her confusing feelings.

The main plot was mostly Nattie trying to figure out if she was the mysterious ‘Natalie’ in Sebastian’s song and how to deal with it, while also figuring out her feelings for her friend Zach. It made for a light, perfect beginning of Summer read. I could easily see myself re-reading this by the pool on a nice day.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes

this-is-how-it-happened

This Is How It Happened

Release date: July 11th 2017

4 stars

When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.
As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.

Paula Stokes has been on my auto-buy authors list for a while and books like this one is the reason why. Her ability to write characters that are easy to relate to, flawed and lovable, relationships that are sweet and believable, and plots that are addicting to read, is why she has become one of my auto-buy authors and when this book comes out in physical form, I will be buying it.

Gen was a character I found easy to relate to, not because I’d ever been in her situation, but because I could see myself having the same sort of reaction if I were to ever be in her situation. Her whole world had been flipped upside down with the accident and the loss of her boyfriend and with the media and his fans and everyone wanting answers, there was no time for her to really grieve his death. She was grieving and she was scared and the flashes of memories were leading her to a conclusion she had no idea how to deal with. She went through a lot and she grew a lot through the book.

The book dealt with grief but it also dealt with internet shaming and how easily it can destroy a person’s life. The use of online articles and their comments section, the way people happily tore apart the guy accused of the accident even before all the evidence was in, was something to can be found online on most sites on any day. I found it very easy to understand why Gen would be terrified of her memories making her wonder if she was the cause of the accident, to have the online mob turn on her.

I also really appreciated the family dynamics in this book. Her parents were divorced and Gen hadn’t really gotten to know her father’s new wife so going out to stay with them to escape the media circus gave her the chance to warm up to her. Both her parents were doctors so she felt a lot of pressure to be perfect and it made admitted when she had made mistakes very difficult. It was very clear how much they did love each other though. I really loved her friendships with the two teens on her stepmom’s team at the Zion National Park.

Paula Stokes has definitely done it again. Every time I read a new book by her, it’s even better than the last. I didn’t think it would happen this time with how much I loved Girl Against the Universe and those two are very, very close. It’s definitely one of those situations where either could eek out top spot depending on my mood that day.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny Moon

Ginny Moon

4 stars

Meet Ginny. She’s fourteen, autistic, and has a heart-breaking secret…
Ginny Moon is trying to make sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up….
After years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her.
Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape.
Because something happened, a long time ago – something that only Ginny knows – and nothing will stop her going back to put it right…

I love a book with a unique narrator and this one certainly had a very unique narrator in Ginny Moon. This was a book that was so easy to start, thinking I would read a few chapters before going to bed, and then suddenly it was three am and I was turning the last page. Ginny Moon’s unique voice made this a book that was impossible to put down and one that will be memorable.

The story unfolded in a way that gave the sense that the author has personal experience with autism. Ginny was written in a way that never made her feel less than or like there was something wrong with her. She simply was Ginny Moon. She loved Michael Jackson. She need to have nine grapes with her breakfast. I thought the author did a great job showing Ginny’s frustration at not being able to make the adults understand her, as well as the adults’ frustrations at their inability to make Ginny understand when she was doing something dangerous.

The book also showed the love of a family, that family doesn’t have to be blood-related, and how a family can change with a new addition. The family dynamic was the second most intriguing aspect of the book(with Ginny Moon being the first) and was a huge part of the reason I kept reading until the very last page even when I should have gone to bed. This is a book I can easily see myself recommending to anyone looking for a great read.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Art of Starving by Sam J Miller

Art of starving

The Art of Starving

Release date: July 11th 2017

4 stars

Matt hasn’t eaten in days.
His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs to be as sharp as possible if he’s going to find out just how Tariq and his band of high school bullies drove his sister, Maya, away.
Matt’s hardworking mom keeps the kitchen crammed with food, but Matt can resist the siren call of casseroles and cookies because he has discovered something: the less he eats the more he seems to have . . . powers. The ability to see things he shouldn’t be able to see. The knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of people’s heads. Maybe even the authority to bend time and space.
So what is lunch, really, compared to the secrets of the universe?
Matt decides to infiltrate Tariq’s life, then use his powers to uncover what happened to Maya. All he needs to do is keep the hunger and longing at bay. No problem. But Matt doesn’t realize there are many kinds of hunger… and he isn’t in control of all of them.

This was a book I was a little hesitant going into since it involved a boy thinking that starving himself was giving him superpowers. I’m very glad I gave it a chance because the book was full of quirky characters, an interesting family dynamic, and a plot that would be really interesting to see debated on if it was more magical realism where Matt did have superpowers or if his mind was trying to validate his choice of not eating by making him think he had superpowers.

Matt was a likeable character who could be frustrating in that he was hypocritical at times and sometimes just wasn’t that nice. He was also hurting because his older sister had run off and he had no idea where she was or what had driven her to take off. Part of the plot focused on Matt trying to discover her reasons, blaming a few fellow high schoolers for his sister’s disappearance. I liked how determined Matt was to find out what had happened to his sister and how much he cared about his mom, who worked so hard in an effort to keep their roof over their head and food on their table. I also liked the developing relationship between Matt and Tariq as Matt got closer, trying to figure out if Tariq was responsible for his sister’s disappearance.

I really appreciated that there wasn’t any romanticizing of Matt’s eating disorder. If the powers were real, I would have liked more background on them. Where did they originate? How did they work? Were there a lot of others out there like Matt? But then that would mean knowing for certain if the powers were real or if they were from Matt trying to justify not eating. I like the idea that it could be argued that either theory is valid based on how the reader saw the events. Matt’s powers reminded me a bit of the aliens in We Are All Ants, as I was also questioning if they were real or part of the character’s coping mechanism.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

gentlemans-guide

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Release date: June 27th 2017

4 stars

An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Reading this as an e-arc then seeing the page count listed as over 500 pages was a bit surprising. I knew it was a long book but it didn’t feel like 500 pages. I was really drawn into the story. It was a slower pace but the characters and the banter and their adventure kept me completely engaged through the whole book. The dynamic between the three, Monty, Percy, and Felicity, was amazing and entertaining.

The story was completely Monty’s POV as he and his best friend/crush Percy embark on what was supposed to be their Grand Tour. It was supposed to be one last celebration before Monty took over his father’s estate and became a proper gentleman. With Monty’s track record his father decided to send a chaperone and they would also be escorting his little sister to a boarding school along the way. This ruined Monty’s plans of drinking and partying his way through Europe and his plans of flirting with Percy the whole time. There were times when I could understand everyone’s frustrations with Monty since he was very privileged and took for granted a lot of the opportunities he was afforded that Percy and Felicity were not but there was still sometimes quite charming about him, so it was easy to see why people would still flock to stay by his side.

I honestly would have been more than happy with simply reading about the adventures Monty, Percy, and Felicity got up to on their Grand Tour but I also really enjoyed the addition of them on the run after Monty made a reckless decision that turned their Tour into them being hunted through Europe. It put a strain on friendships, showed them in a new light to each other, and gave them all a chance to confront some issues that desperately needed confronting. And each time the people hunting them got closer, the pacing would pick up and I would find myself reading ever faster.

Between this one and This Monstrous Thing, I am really excited to see what Mackenzi Lee does next.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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