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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

REVIEW: The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz

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

In one terrifying night, the peaceful community of Creek's Cause turns into a war zone. No one under the age of eighteen is safe. Chance Rain and his older brother, Patrick, have already fended off multiple attacks from infected adults by the time they arrive at the school where other young survivors are hiding. Most of the kids they know have been dragged away by once-trusted adults who are now ferocious, inhuman beings. The parasite that transformed them takes hold after people turn eighteen--and Patrick's birthday is only a few days away. Determined to save Patrick's life and the lives of the remaining kids, the brothers embark on a mission to uncover the truth about the parasites--and what they find is horrifying. Battling an enemy not of this earth, Chance and Patrick become humanity's only hope for salvation.

This book was not at all what I expected, but in a good way. First of all, it can get gory. Second of all, it's totally creepy and third . . . well, you'd have to read it to find out all the things I love about it because I don't want to give away spoilers. The book is told in diary entries and the narrator is Chance, one of the Rain brothers. Chance and Patrick are not just brothers, they're best friends. Their parents died in an accident and they are being raised by their aunt and uncle. 

This book grabbed me by the throat and just did not let up. The action starts right away with weird and messed up things happening to the adults nearby. And when I say messed up, I can't really say much more beyond that because it is MESSED UP. Seriously. There are brain parasites and exploding bellies and kidnapping kids and mappers and empty eyes and it's just all kinds of craziness. I mean, it's like they're zombies but not really. It kind of reminded me of a Stephen King book. But it was slightly more gory than creepy, not that I wasn't creeped out more than once.

What I didn't love was that Patrick and Chance were always taking crazy, insane risks. But I still admired the hell out of them. The kids find out that the parasites or whatever attack on your eighteenth birthday (and not a second later), so they are in a race against time to find a cure before Patrick turns eighteen. In the beginning of this book, Chance is still very reliant on his big brother. He's sixteen so he's basically a kid. But he grows up fast and I love how independent he gets.

Okay, so they do (kind of) discover what's behind the parasites and I just can't even say anything except that it is crazy and intense. Seriously, the action in this book is crazy and it ended with the MOST INTENSE cliffhanger. I knew the cliffhanger was coming and it was everything I thought it would be.

The only real issue I had was that Chance had feelings for Patrick's girlfriend, Alex. The romance between Alex and Patrick was so incredibly sweet and I wish the relationship between Chance and Alex would have been more of a brother/sister one. 

I would highly recommend this one and I really hope there is a sequel.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!

Monday, November 14, 2016

REVIEW: We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun

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

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends their entire lives. Cath would help Scott with his English homework, he would make her mix tapes (it's the 80's after all), and any fight they had would be forgotten over TV and cookies. But now they've graduated high school and Cath is off to college while Scott is at home pursuing his musical dreams. During their first year apart, Scott and Cath's letters help them understand heartache, annoying roommates, family drama and the pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they want to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should be more than friends? The only thing that's clear is that change is an inescapable part of growing up. And the friends who help us navigate it share an unshakable bond.

What a great book!! This was another surprise for me. I don't know if it's because I've been in a reading slump or what, but I have had extremely low expectations for almost every ARC I pick up. But this one was so awesome. I love the letter format, first of all. Cath and Scott have been friends throughout their entire lives and I could feel how much they cared about each other. Letters can be a tricky thing. If they aren't done right, they can prevent you from connecting with the characters. That was not the case with this one. One of the best things about this book was the way each POV was so different and unique. The letters span the length of a year, the year after they graduate high school. Cath is a freshman in college and Scott is working at his dad's clothing store. There were so many issues in this book, like homesickness and divorce and just trying to figure out your life after high school. We can all relate to that, right? I loved their humor and banter and even when they fought, there was just so much respect there. This book also takes place in the 80's and there are a crazy amount of awesome musical references. I was rooting for these two through the whole book and I can't even think of anything I would change. It was such a great contemporary read and though it did have a few moments, most of the book was pretty light and humorous. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Unforgettables by G.L. Thomas

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

Neighbors and best friends Paul and Felicia hoped they'd be friends forever. But as they change, so does their friendship. She shouldn't have kissed him...He shouldn't have liked it. Starting school changed everything.

I'm not really sure how to start this review because I don't really have strong feelings for it one way or the other. It was kind of a forgettable and lackluster read. There was a lot of diversity: Felicia is Haitian-American and Paul is half-Japanese and Buddhist. I liked the whole comic book neediness thing. I am not a huge comic book person myself, but it was a change of pace. The characters were fine and the secondary characters were fine and everything was just . . . fine. I didn't know whether this author wanted to make Paul and Felicia friends or more than friends. I kind of wish they would have just stuck with the friends thing. But stuff happens the summer they meet and their relationship and the timelines just move so quickly. They have this great summer together where they hang out and have fun and it's great. Their friendship turns into something more, but Felicia refuses to have anything to do with Paul, at least in a romantic sense. That's what annoyed me about this book: Felicia's big excuse for not wanting to be with Paul is because her mom didn't want her to date and she was afraid her mom wouldn't let her spend any time with Paul if she knew they had feelings for each other. The problem with that is her mom LOVED Paul and Felicia never, ever, ever tried to talk to her mom about anything. So it was just a bunch of useless drama. But then school starts and everything changes and they fight with each other over nothing. The pacing moved very quickly throughout the school year. It seemed as if weeks would pass by every other chapter and I would have to quickly come to terms with where Paul and Felecia were. That happened way too often. I did like that Paul was able to have such honest conversations with his dad about sex. That scene made me laugh. Unfortunately, this book just didn't do it for me.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

REVIEW: The Movie Version by Emma Wunsch

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

In the movie version of Amelia’s life, the roles have always been clear. Her older brother, Toby: definitely the Star. As popular with the stoners as he is with the cheerleaders, Toby is someone you’d pay ten bucks to watch sweep Battle of the Bands and build a “beach party” in the bathroom. As for Amelia? She’s Toby Anderson’s Younger Sister. She’s perfectly happy to watch Toby’s hijinks from the sidelines, when she’s not engrossed in one of her elaborately themed Netflix movie marathons. But recently Toby’s been acting in a very non-movie-version way. He’s stopped hanging out with his horde of friends and started obsessively journaling and disappearing for days at a time. Amelia doesn’t know what’s happened to her awesome older brother, or who this strange actor is that’s taken his place. And there’s someone else pulling at her attention: a smart, cute new boyfriend who wants to know the real Amelia—not Toby’s Sidekick. Amelia feels adrift without her star, but to best help Toby—and herself—it might be time to cast a new role: Amelia Anderson, leading lady. 

So this book wasn't amazing, but it had its moments. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The premise made it sound like the book would mainly be about the romance with some family issues thrown in. I'm glad that it wasn't really like that. First of all, I loved the fact that Amelia and Toby were so into movies that they would sometimes only speak to each other in movie quotes. That was kind of awesome. The family was great in this book. It was realistic and complicated and you could tell that they all loved each other. Their parents spent a lot of time working at the diner they owned, but they were there when their kids needed them. 

One thing that struck me was the realistic way the author depicted Amelia's relationship with Epstein. It was very juvenile and very fitting to Amelia's age, I thought. She was worried about having the talk with him about whether they were exclusive or not. And the sex scenes were so awkward and clumsy, but also kind of funny because I think we can all relate to them. Let's face it: sex at seventeen years old is NOT what they make it out to be in Hollywood, right? 

I thought the story in general was very realistic. Toby is Amelia's best friend, as well as her brother, and she is devastated when he is diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I thought the author did a great job with describing how mental illness affects the entire family and everyone around them. Amelia was worried about the stigma and about what people would think and she was afraid to even be around Toby because she just wanted him to be the way he used to be. I get that. My problem with Amelia was that she treated people so BADLY. Honestly, I get that she was going through a rough time but that is no excuse for hanging up on her boyfriend or snapping at him or even leaving a party he brought her to without a single word to him. She didn't give a thought to the fact that Epstein would worry about her and freak out. That was so selfish. Epstein wasn't a huge part of the storyline. They were together when the story started and then when Toby got his diagnosis, the only times she spoke to him, she yelled at him or ignored him. I wanted Epstein to get a backbone and just break up with her, but he was very understanding, way more understanding than she deserved. She did not treat her friends any better. She just sucked. 

I thought the family and the mental illness portrayed in this book was great, but I just could not connect with the main character and how she acted as a result of the diagnosis. It was an okay book, but there are better books about schizophrenia out there.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.

Top Ten Tuesday - Recent Additions to TBR

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 top books I have added to TBR recently. 

Because of my whole "not requesting any ARCs that I'm not dying to read thing," I haven't added any new ARCs to my TBR in a while. That feels weird. But I did split this list into two categories: the first list includes books that I have added to my TBR, but haven't purchased yet. And of course, the second part of the list includes books that I recently bought. 

Unpurchased additions to my TBR:
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund and Alex Kesselheim

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr - this is a memoir from the author of All The Light We Cannot See (AMAZING!) and considering the fact that I live two hours from Rome, I have to read it.

Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole - 90% of the reason why I added this one to my TBR was because of the setting. My husband and I are planning a trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland next Summer!

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich 

Purchased Additions to my TBR:
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson - Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight has been raving about this series forever, so when it went on sale with Amazon, I knew I had to get it.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman - This movie trailer made me cry, so of course I HAVE to read the book before I even think of seeing the movie.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskins

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin - This is the only book on this list I paid full price because I absolutely loved the first book. I swear that as soon as I catch up on my ARCs, this one is next on my list!!

17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen - I absolutely adored her first book, The Revenge Playbook. 

What books have you recently added to your TBR? Have you read any of the ones on my list? Which ones would you recommend that I read immediately?

Monday, November 7, 2016

REVIEW: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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

Ruth, an African-American nurse, has worked at a CT hospital for nearly twenty years as a labor and delivery nurse. So when a young couple, Turk and Brittany, come into the hospital to have their baby, it is business as usual -- until Turk calls in Ruth’s white supervisor after the birth. He says, “I don’t want her or anyone like her to touch my boy,” However, Ruth’s nursing colleague is called away on an emergency C section and Ruth is the only person in the nursery when the baby has cardiac/respiratory failure. After a brief hesitation – she intervenes – and yet, the baby dies. Not long after that, Ruth learns she has been charged with negligent homicide by the state. Ruth’s attorney is a white woman -Kennedy McQuarrie- who would not consider herself a racist by any means. Like Ruth, she has a child. But unlike Ruth, her family has never had to think about race on a daily basis. As the two women form an alliance, and then an unlikely friendship, Kennedy begins to see that racism isn’t just about intent, but power. That even if Skinheads like Turk did not exist, Ruth would still be fighting an uphill battle. And she begins to seek a way to make a predominantly white jury see that they are responsible for the house they did not build…but in which they live.

I haven't read a Jodi Picoult book in a while, mainly because I thought her books had become very predictable and her writing style just didn't appeal to me. I was very interested in the premise of this one so I decided to give it a chance and I am so glad I did. 

There are three POVs: Ruth (the African-American nurse who is fired after a baby dies on her watch), Turk (white skinhead and the father of the baby who died), and Kathleen (the do-good public defender). This is a very tough book to read, especially the chapters with Turk's POV. There were times I felt sorry for Turk because he did lose a baby, but he was filled with so much anger and he lashes out at every single person who is different from him. He made my blood boil many times so it was tough to feel any empathy towards him. I thought this book did a good job of pointing out the differences between the obvious racism of Turk and the subtle racism that Kathleen is guilty of. Kathleen is a typical do-gooder who is trying to save the world, but she is also oblivious to her own white privilege and her own bias. She said things that made me cringe, like asking Ruth's teenage son if he was happy that Obama was elected or saying that she doesn't even see race. But I could see myself in Kathleen. I am sure there have been instances where I showed bias and didn't even realize it. Kathleen also ignored Ruth's experiences and dismissed the notion that her race had anything to do with why she was on trial and no one else. I thought Ruth's chapters were very well done and I liked the developing friendship between Ruth and Kathleen, especially when Kathleen seemed to finally understand that Ruth's experiences were different solely because of her race. 

It's hard to get into everything that happens in this book because I don't want to give away spoilers or anything. I did think the criminal trial was a little unrealistic, especially since there wasn't any evidence that Ruth's actions (or inactions) led to the baby's death and I also thought Turk's character development was a bit too hasty for me. Maybe things just ended too happily for my tastes. Reading the author's notes at the end, it is obvious that she put her heart and soul into this book. She did her research. It's hard to put into words just how this book made me feel and how it made me think, but I think it's such an important one to read. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

October Wrap-Up

I am linking up to both the Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and the Sunday Post @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

Well I have been in such a blogging/reading slump lately that I completely forgot to even do a September wrap-up! Crazy, huh? I didn't blog or even read much in the month of September, so maybe that's why. Things are looking up though. I am reading a pretty interesting ARC right now and I've actually managed to catch up (a little bit) on my ARCs. And the fact that I haven't even requested any new ones in a while has helped a LOT. And the creative juices are flowing with my blog again, so I'm happy!

On the personal front, there isn't too much to report. My parents came to visit us in September and it was a great trip. We walked a lot and saw a lot and ate way too much. Good times.
Family in Florence
My husband and I celebrated our eighth wedding Anniversary and we celebrated in one of our all time favorite places: Ravello! 
View from our hotel in Ravello
We didn't travel at all in October, but that's because we have a lot of travel coming up for the holidays. We will be spending Thanksgiving in Norway and Christmas in Vienna/Salzburg. We are both really looking forward to those trips. And I am SO HAPPY that the weather has FINALLY cooled down!! It feels amazing. I actually had to pull out my fuzzy socks and warm blanket to curl up with on the couch and I am in heaven.

During the month of September, I read 12 books and I read 10 books during the month of October.

These were my favorite books over the past two months:
These were my two most disappointing reads:
FYI: I didn't hate The Midnight Star. I did give it three stars in Goodreads. I just found it a bit slow and not nearly as good as the first two in the series. Am I alone in that opinion?

How has your October been? Are you loving the cooler weather? And for those of you on the other side of the world, are you enjoying the warmer weather?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

REVIEW: Girls Like Me by Lola St.Vil

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

Fifteen-year-old Shay Summers is trying to cope with the death of her father, being overweight, and threats from a girl bully in school.  When she falls in love with Blake, a mysterious boy online, insecure Shay doesn't want to tell him who she is.   But with the help of her two best friends, as well as an assist by Kermit and Miss Piggy, ultimately Shay and Blake’s love prevails. 

Shay is overweight and is dealing with the death of her father while being bullied by some girl named Kelly for no reason at all. She has a friend who is gay and whose dad hates him and she has another friend who is dying of cancer. Shay starts talking with a guy online and she falls for him, but she is too insecure to meet him in person because of her weight. And when she finally does meet him, the securities don't get any better. All caught up? I am sure you can guess the ending of this book as it is very predictable and honestly, not very interesting.

One of the things I did not like about this book was the narrative style. I guess it was supposed to be in verse or something or maybe the lines of text were just broken up to make them seem more poetic. Either way, it really didn't work for me. I am not opposed to books in verse; I have read several that I love. The problem is that if it isn't done right, it can be a bit jarring and it can prevent me from fully connecting with the character. In this case, that's exactly what happened. I spent so much time trying to get used to the narrative style that I couldn't really connect to the story.

I could completely relate to Shay when it came to her insecurities about her weight. The problem was that was ALL the book was about. This guy was crazy about her and even when they met, he kept reassuring her that he wanted her and thought she was beautiful, but she never believed it. At some point, I got as frustrated with her as he did because she just kept picking fights and pushing him away. Again, this is very realistic and I get it. But when her insecurities are the entire story, I just get bored. Can I also talk for a minute about the texting between the two of them? The author tried way too hard to make it seem like young people were texting, but I think the author forgot that these were two intelligent sixteen year olds. They did things like write "u" instead of "you." There were quite a few other examples, but that's the one that comes to mind first. It was just so annoying, especially since even teenagers (most of them anyway) don't really use that shorthand anymore. Even my ten year old niece spells out the word "you" when messaging me on Facebook. 

Another issue with the writing style was that the author would randomly insert sections with the friends' POV and that was so unnecessary. These sections were told in the same style as the rest of the book. There was absolutely nothing to differentiate them from Shay's POV and I would be in the middle of the section before realizing that it was the POV of one of the friends. Also, did both of the friends have to have such serious problems? I mean, come on. Between Shay's insecurities about her weight and her friend being kicked out for being gay and her other friend dying, there was just no lightness or humor or anything. It was just all angst, all the time.

I did like the ending, as predictable as it was and maybe that's why I gave it three stars instead of two. But I would not recommend it. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

REVIEW: My Demon's Name Is Ed by Danah Khalil

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

Danah's eating disorder has a personality – it's a demon she calls Ed, the voice in her head that undermines her self-esteem and her perception of the world. How can she explain that even when she tries to develop healthier eating habits, there is a demon wriggling inside her mind, determining her every step? The eighteen-year-old author of this novel for teens brings her own journal entries to life, revealing the mental anguish of a teen suffering with anorexia and the terrifying grip the disorder holds on her.

I was very interested in this book because I have a personal interest with eating disorders. I have struggled with disordered eating throughout my entire life. I have overexercised and under ate and I have binged. I could relate so well to Danah's struggles and her feelings. It's hard to develop a normal relationship with food when it's everywhere and when some people criticize from all angles. Dana got criticized from her mother when she ate too much and she got criticized when she ate too little. I've been there, so I get it. This book follows the development of her anorexia, as well as her recovery after she decides to check herself into a treatment center. I know it seems to weird to criticize the author for focusing so much on the eating disorder, but that was part of the problem with this book. Dana very rarely talked about other people in her life, except when she was talking about how much they supervised what she ate. She rarely talked about friends and she rarely talked about why she felt such a need to starve herself. Eating disorders typically go far beyond just wanting to be thin. There are usually reasons why a person feels the need to starve themselves and I don't feel like Danah delved into those too much. I was in therapy for a while and we would talk about my bingeing a lot. But we would also talk about my feelings when I wanted to binge and what was going on in my life that day, etc. Danah talked a little about her therapy, but her therapy consisted mainly of food diaries and weigh-ins. I can certainly understand why that would be the primary concern at first since Danah was dangerously underweight. I just don't feel like the therapy ever moved beyond that to something deeper. And because Danah talked about food and nothing but food, I don't feel like I ever really got to know her. This was a book that definitely triggered me in terms of my own issues with eating and I thought it was very realistic. I just don't think it offered anything new in terms of dealing with an eating disorder.

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.