Saturday, December 3, 2016

REVIEW: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment. The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies. Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before. 

This was such a sad book and it was made even worse by the fact that this stuff really happens. This is the story of Subhi. He was born in a refugee camp and has grown up there. I think he's roughly ten years old and he has no idea what life is like on the Outside. Basically, him and everyone else in the refugee camp are waiting for someone to tell them that they can live on the Outside. All of the families have their own stories and their own heartaches. He soaks up the stories and memories that the adults tell him because he doesn't know anything else. I loved his imagination and his sweet innocence. The conditions that are described are awful, but he really tries to make the best of everything. I loved when he was talking about the "pebbles of happy." It was an interesting choice to make the narrator o such an awful experience the voice of a child. It takes away some of the sadness because the child is just so innocent. 

So why didn't I love this book more? I think it was the character of Jimmie. I didn't feel like her character was developed enough and I thought her chapters were a little flat. I didn't know much about her dad or what he did for a living or anything about her brother. I also didn't really get why she kept sneaking into the refugee camp. I just didn't know enough about her to know her motivations.

This book had its moments of sweetness and its moments of sadness and it really shined a light on a situation that doesn't usually get much attention. It was a good book, just not as good as it could have been.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow this one.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

REVIEW: Bad Boy by Elliot Wake

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is December 6, 2016.

Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity. But Ren has been living a double life. Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence. But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for. Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too. Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.

First of all, I just want to say that I ADORE Elliot Wake's (formerly known as Leah Raeder) books. I was so excited about this one and it's not easy to say this, but I was a little disappointed. So let's start with what I loved: every single thing about Ren. I thought the author did an amazing job of writing about Ren's transition from female to male and all the feelings that went along with it. It broke my heart that his family basically thought of him as dead and that his best friend couldn't accept him as a boy. I know the author drew on his own experience with this one and it shows. Wake did not shy away from writing about his transition; there was so much depth there. Wake also had chapters that described Ren's vlogs over the years where he described his feelings regarding his transition. It was so emotional and thought provoking. Another thing I did like was the romance aspect of it. Ren meets Tamsin, a sexy woman who likes Ren for exactly who he is. I wasn't sure what Tamsin's motives were at first or if she was a good guy or a bad guy, but there was no denying the amount of chemistry between them. 

The part that I didn't really like was the whole vigilante group thing. There were characters from other Wake books in the group and while I enjoyed seeing those characters again, I thought it was a bit over the top. I absolutely loved Laney from Black Iris, but I did not like her in this book. In Black Iris, Laney spent a lot of time trying to get revenge on people who had wronged her and I got that. But in this book, the vigilante group was basically a group of people who set out to hurt men who had wronged women. I didn't understand the point or what they hoped to accomplish. Laney even mentions at one point that getting revenge doesn't help the victim so what was the point? It seemed as if they were getting revenge for revenge's sake and it kind of ruined the Laney character for me. Also, the way they operated and some of the things they did were just way over the top.

This book was still a good one, just not great and not what I was expecting.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow this one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

REVIEW: The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

It's been a year since John lost his girlfriend, Leah, to suicide. Living with his uncle keeps his mind from the tragedy and his screwed up family-until he gets into trouble and a judge sends him back home. With a neglectful mother and abusive brother, John's homecoming is far from happy. As he tries to navigate and repair the relationships he abandoned years ago, Emily, the girl next door, is the only bright spot. She's sweet and smart and makes him think his heart may finally be healing. But tragedy isn't far away, and John must soon face an impossible decision: save his family or save himself. 

There were so many emotional aspects to the synopsis of the book, but unfortunately I felt a bit let down by the story. John's brother was in an accident years ago (I think John was nine or so) and became paralyzed. He also can't really speak or feed himself very much. John acted out after the accident and he was sent away to his uncle's. But he gets in trouble there too, and he comes back to his parent's. He is also still depressed about his girlfriend committing suicide.

Okay, the issue with this book is that I felt like everything was kind of superficial and there were too many unanswered questions. I didn't understand why the parents would send a ten year old away? I also didn't understand the relationship between John and Leah and why she committed suicide or why he suddenly acted out or why he had to leave his uncle's after getting in trouble once. The uncle wasn't even in the book, except for an occasional text. That seemed odd for someone who practically raised him. I didn't realize until after I read it that John's girlfriend, Leah, was the character from Ramey's first book, The Sister Pact. After finding that out, I understood Leah a bit better but I still have questions about her relationship with John. I really enjoyed Ramey's first book, but honestly, I don't remember how much they talked about John in that one. I don't remember it being very much. Emily (John's love interest) also had some issues that were unresolved. She talked a bit about feeling overwhelmed with pressure and a cousin who was on drugs. I get the feeling that the author created this conflict to emphasize John's need to take care of everyone. The problem is that Emily's issues weren't resolved; they were just kind of dropped so I didn't understand the point. I didn't really like Emily either. She was just too bland and too perfect. 

But there were a couple of things I liked about the book: the writing style, for instance. And John's struggle with anger. I kind of liked that he called it his "dragon" and he talked about his anger like it were an actual person. I could empathize with John's struggle to keep his anger in check, but this was just another issue that was too underdeveloped. I didn't really like John's parents, but I could empathize with them and I can imagine that it was somewhat realistic. John's mom felt like she had to take care of her disabled son and her other two children naturally felt neglected. Speaking of which, John's sister Livy was too cute and also too smart for her own good. I loved her and I loved John's relationship with her. I did like the fact that John was in therapy for his issues, but again, they didn't really touch on John's anger very often. 

Sorry, but I just didn't enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed the first one.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Bookish Gift Ideas!

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic is all about giving that booklover in your life the perfect gift.

Now, I don't know about you, but I hate giving people books as gifts. I can never really be sure of someone's tastes and I would hate to give them a book they will hate. So my list includes things that are book related and that most people should love!

1. Belle's Cafe T-shirt

2. Banned Book accessories . . . I actually have the socks and I love them! 
3. I own this blanket and it is my favorite accessory to winter time. It is so warm and soft. Love it!!
4. Cait @ Paper Fury has an awesome boutique on the Society 6 website. She has lots of amazing things, but I own this pillow. As you can see, my dog has stolen it. If that isn't a glowing recommendation, I don't know what is.
5. Bookstore Candle - I don't own this exact brand, but I do own something similar. I actually received something similar as a gift myself last year and it's one of my favorite things. I love the smell of books!
6. Litographs shirt - This is another item that I own. This company basically prints the ENTIRE book on a shirt, scarf, tote bag or even a poster. I have The Princess Bride one (pictured), but they have quite a few others. The shirts are awesome and so comfortable!
7. Awesome workout shirts - I freaking love the Gatsby one.
 8. Bathtub Caddy with reading rack - This rack is perfect for those who read a lot of physical books. Bonus: it holds a glass of wine too!
9. Jewelry - How beautiful is this necklace?? This is the perfect quote for someone who loves to read and it's from one of my all time favorite books,

10. Hogwarts crest mini satchel - This is yet another item that I own. This is a great bag and is perfect for the Harry Potter fan in your life!

I know that several of the items on this list are ones I own. I promise I'm not getting paid to push these products. I just love them and think they are all great gift ideas. What are some book related gift ideas for the book lover in your life?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

DISCUSSION: Goodreads Shelves

I love lists. I make them for everything. So I am not sure why it took me a while to get on board with the whole Goodreads shelves thing. But when I finally did, I went all out. I recently realized I have seventeen shelves! (That number doesn't include my basic shelves of currently reading, to read and read.)

Here are my different shelves:

 Book series
 Books I have read more than once
 Books that made me laugh
 Books that made me cry
 Debut Novels
 Favorite Romances
 Best Families
 Five Star Reads
 Best Friendships
 Historical Fiction
 LGBTQ Books
 Mental Illness
 One Star Reads
 Ultimate Favorites

How many Goodreads shelves do you have?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Belated Birthday to my Blog!! (Plus a giveaway!)

I can't believe I forgot my blog's second birthday.

I know, I know. I was sad too. How did that happen?
To be fair, I am only three days late so that's not too bad.

I really can't believe that my blog is TWO years old!
I do love writing about books and talking about books and meeting other people who are as obsessed with books as I am. Thank you guys so much for sticking with me and reading my ramblings over the past two years!

Honestly, I feel like my blog is way older than that. I feel like I have been doing it for years . . . three to be exact. For some reason, I accidentally wrote in three instead of two while typing up this post.

In honor of my second birthday, I thought I should give something away. I do love giving.
I am giving away ANY book that I have reviewed over the past two years PLUS a $25 Amazon Gift Card for you to get the book of your choice. Feel free to take a look at my Book Reviews Archive to see which books you would choose. With so many book reviews, I am sure you will have no problem choosing something great.

The giveaway is international, as long as The Book Depository ships there free of charge (find that out here!The giveaway will run until just after the new year, on January 1, 2016. I will randomly choose a winner on January 2, 2016. I will send an email to the winner and if I don't hear from the winner within 48 hours, I will choose another one.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

REVIEW: The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Ultra-high-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has always had a plan—and no room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection comes toa screeching halt when her boyfriend leaks racy pictures of her to the entire school. Making matters worse, her parents are getting divorced and now her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Viv feels like a complete and utter failure. Then she gets a job working at the community pool, where she meets a new group of friends who know nothing about her past. That includes Evan, a gorgeous guy who makes her want to do something she never thought she’d do again: trust. For the first time in her life, Viv realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that? While she tries to figure it out, she learns something they never covered in her AP courses: that it’s okay to be less than perfect, because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.

Ugh, I wanted to like this one. I really did. There were parts that I liked. I could relate to Viviana's need for perfection and all the tension she felt at not getting everything done that she needed to. And I liked the panic attack part of it. But that was about it. First, the story should have just focused on Viviana's need for perfection and her desire to please her father. But alas, there was way too much focus on romance. Viviana meets Evan and OF COURSE, Sammie (her best friend) likes him too. You see where this is going, right? Viviana had a bad experience with a guy so she doesn't want him. She also doesn't want to hurt Sammie. Sammie likes Evan and Evan likes Viviana and Viviana likes Evan, even though she insists way too many times that she wants nothing to do with him. Yeah, that wasn't predictable at all. I thought Sammie just acted like a big drama queen. She has a crush on Evan, but he completely ignores her for Viviana and she gets mad at Viviana for it. Annoying. I wasn't a fan. 

In addition to the romance, there was a LOT of family drama. Let's just say that her father sucked. But I hated the way Viviana treated her mom and her sister because of it. Her sister, Mila, was freaking adorable and only eight years old, but Viviana acted horribly to her. I get that she was mad at her dad, but come on, it wasn't Mila's fault. And Viviana just made these impulsive decisions and she didn't communicate AT ALL. Yeah, yeah, I know what you are going to say: she's a teenager, so it's expected. Sorry, but I think eighteen is old enough to be able to communicate with your jerk of a dad and to refrain from being mean to your eight year old sister. 

I would have LOVED more focus on Viviana's panic attacks, as well as the fact that her plans for the future were a result of wanting to be just like her dad and wanting to please him. But I didn't feel like any of that was resolved. There was some resolution to the family stuff and to the Evan stuff, but as for the stressed out about colleges stuff, there was nothing. And it seemed like her panic attacks went away and she was fine again. Weird. 

Sorry, but this book was just not for me.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.