Book Review

ARC Book Review: Again, but Better by Christine Riccio

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary (+romance)
Length: 384 pages
Author: Christine Riccio
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Expected Release Date: September 18th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From one of the most followed booktubers today, comes Again, but Better, a story about second chances, discovering yourself, and being brave enough to try again.

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal—but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? 

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change—there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! 

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. 

Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic—the possibilities are endless.

Note: Thank you to the publisher, Wednesday Books, and Netgalley for the e-ARC and opportunity to read Again, but Better. All opinions are my own.

I HAVE A LOT OF THOUGHTS.

I was really nervous going into this book. I had heard time and again that Shane is essentially a fictionalized version of Christine. I have only seen a few videos of hers and honestly, you can’t miss the similarities. I tried my best to keep my bias about this at bay (which is why I have maintained a 4* rating), but it did sway me on the character originality. I luckily don’t know her channel that well which helped me to overall enjoy this book.

This is what I consider a book version of a TV Hallmark movie. We have the girl trying to find herself, a cute boy, some traveling and a hint of magic. I thought this worked well for this debut rom-com. I loved the wanderlust aspect and about packed my bags while reading because it gave me the travel bug (and we’ve established, I hate flying).

Shane is definitely…quirky. She struggles with social anxiety (my life). I was able to connect with most of her inner dialogue about deciding what to do in a given situation. Putting yourself out there is hard. I liked that this was in a college-aged setting because a lot of self-discovery happens in this part of our lives.

Now, while I understood her inner dialogue most of the time, it got annoying at other times. It was extremely repetitive and a little sporadic. It was too much inside her mind. I like when a book generally cuts some of that rambling down so we get what we need for being in their thoughts. This felt as if every single thought was put to the page.

I adored Pilot (hate his name though *shrugs*). He was cute and sensitive. I loved most of the banter between he and Shane. They were simple and sweet and reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss. The one real iffy thing I didn’t appreciate was this gray area cheating. He’s definitely in a relationship when things fire up with Shane (that even lead to a kiss at one point).

This book had its struggles. It’s a booktuber turned debut author. Again, but Better reads that way. At times it was naive and I think over time her future books will have a more mature sound. There were absolutely way too many pop culture references. I got so tired of reading about HP, Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball, Angry Birds, etc. We don’t need all of that to understand the change in time periods.

I wasn’t expecting the magic element. It was peculiar, but once I’ve considered the entire novel, makes sense. The novel needed this change of pace, and I enjoyed seeing the characters in a new light. I thought they had grown a bit and were more understanding of the situation. I can’t imagine we all, at one time or another, haven’t considered starting something over.

Is it funny that I liked that the parents were alive and present? I feel in a lot of YA they aren’t often represented (or they are already killed off). While this can add some character complexity, I think there was plenty present by having Shane’s parents alive and in her life. I really found this a quick and easy read. I flipped the pages continually and realized I liked the story at its core. I really appreciated watching Shane find what her passion is and seeking out how to have that continually in her life.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fiction with romance
  • Language: some, not heavily present
  • Romance: some kisses and make-outs, an almost love scene, a skipped over night spent together
  • Violence: a slap
  • Trigger warnings: gray area cheating (which does lead to a kiss), assault (forced and unwanted kiss)

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Book Review

Book Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Adult contemporary, fiction, romance
Length: 309 pages
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right? 

SO STINKIN’ PRECIOUS.

I thought this was the cutest contemporary romance book I’ve read in a long time. It has become one of top favorites.

This book had me laughing out loud within the first few pages and I continued to smile the entire time I read. Watching Hazel and Josh crash into each other over and over was utterly adorable. And I fear I may use many more cute based adjectives before this review is over. You’ve been warned.

One of my favorite parts was the minimal “drama” between the two. In a lot of books there’s a big break-up scene or something of the sorts before the couple officially gets together. I loved that Josh and Hazel continually moved towards each other and both were realizing their feelings had changed over the months of being friends. This drama was more between the two and allowed for the relationship to change much more organically.

I loved that Hazel owned who she is. Because, boy, that is not easy to do. She was a force to be reckoned with and marched to the beat over her own drum. I loved her attitude and zaniness. She never settled until Josh showed her that she can be loved for all of who she is, not just the pieces someone prefers. Josh discovering his feelings for Hazel had me mentally saying aww over and over. His protectiveness for Hazel made me want to clap and I was so happy with the ending. These two were both so relatable. In their own ways I connected with both of them on so many levels and it made me love them all the more.

A quick, enjoyable read that was exactly what I was looking for. And having an epilogue? Even better! I loved the look into the future and seeing what they were up to.

Overall audience notes:

  • Adult contemporary romance
  • Language: quite a bit of strong language and often sexual in nature
  • Romance: a handful of explicit love scenes

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Book Review

Book Review: Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1) by Kevin Kwan

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 527 pages
Author: Kevin Kwan
Publisher: Anchor
Release Date: June 11th, 2013
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor. 

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA.

Do you remember growing up when you were home sick from school and you got to watch The Price is Right? Then after that was over you occasionally would let Days of our Lives play after before realizing you were glued to the TV with the drama?

This. This is how I felt about CRA. The hilarity of the wealth and drama that unfolded kept me turning pages for reasons I can’t explain. It’s not a book to ponder deep thinking. This is purely entertainment.

It takes a little bit to get into because of how many family members are in the story. Once I had a handle on who was who things cleared up.

There were a lot moving parts and I was distracted away from the story between Rachel and Nick constantly. I didn’t care about half of the people the chapters would flip to and was frustrated that the focus really wasn’t on them. The only other character I could bother to care for was Astrid.

Surprisingly, there were footnotes in this book! I actually appreciated them [most of the time] because it defined the language and food better. I now want to travel to Singapore just to eat, because holy cow everything sounded delicious.

I don’t really have much to say for this review. I couldn’t put it down, but I also am not interested in books two and three. I felt this one ended in the RomCom way, I was fine with it, and don’t need a continuation of the story.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary Fiction
  • Language: a lot of f* bombs, very derogatory words and inappropriate conversations
  • Violence: verbal
  • Romance: kisses, some glossed over love scenes
  • Trigger warnings: racism, cheating husband’s, dog fighting scene, verbal child abuse, depression
Book Review

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ .5
Audience: YA contemporary
Length: 320 pages
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 16th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down. 

SO MANY EMOTIONS.

This is a book that is hard to put down. I finished it within hours and was utterly involved in every aspect of this book. I love Mafi’s work and this was fantastic.

I will never understand or be able to comprehend the things Shirin goes through. I could truly feel her anger coming off the page within the first few chapters. This was only the beginning of how well placed the emotions were throughout this book. It’s been awhile since I have felt everything an author was trying to convey through her characters.

Ocean was this precious, sweet soul who I seriously had flutters reading about. All of his interactions with Shirin were immensely heartfelt and was a strong reminder that, yes they’re bad people, but there are a lot more good people in the world. It’s something I personally strive to remember and connected on a deeper level with. I didn’t always love how he was treated by Shirin, but I sought to understand the base reasoning that drove her decisions.

Her big brother, Navid, was the best protector. I loved seeing him throughout the book constantly ensuring that Shirin knew someone had her back (along with his group of break dancing friends). The break dancing did take a back-seat to the overall love story. I personally didn’t mind because Ocean brought out a lot of self-realization for Shirin.

I appreciated that Shirin acknowledged her right to feel angry, but also her right to let it go [within reason]. Her ability to work on giving the world a chance made me love her character even more.

The writing may seem juvenile at times, but upon further thinking it over, it’s highly accurate. There’s a lot of uses of: wow, like, and just and I kept thinking, oh my goodness this is driving me insane — then, wait, I know I used to talk that way as a teenager myself.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary
  • A lot of language
  • Romance: some intense kisses
  • Violence: physical, verbal
  • Trigger warnings: islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, mentions of past assault
Book Review

Review: The Law of Moses (The Law of Moses #1) by Amy Harmon

Law of Moses

 

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult, paranormal contemporary, language, violence, some love scenes, kissing, etc.
Length: 359 pages
Author: Amy Harmon
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: November 27th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.

It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.

And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all…a love story.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I KNEW IT.

If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

WHO DOES THAT? Who tells you the horror that you’re about to read? Amy Harmon does, that’s for sure.

After preparing myself for the worst, I then went on a ride where once again I was loving everything Harmon did. I will not that this is more paranormal as Moses can see dead people (not a spoiler, you know this pretty quickly). Knowing this beforehand would have helped me understand and connect with the story more.

Her stories carry such depth. The characters truly suffer and you feel it all. I don’t have a lot to say for this review, because I simply enjoyed what I read. I was wanting to read a love story and I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Some portions are a little bit of a drag, and the inclusion of the side story didn’t seem necessary, but did add some action and intrigue that literally had me shouting “I KNEW IT!” when I got to the piece of the plot where the puzzle was complete.

Tag is also a great sidekick and he’s the center of the next book WHICH MAKES ME SO HAPPY. I think side characters can make or break a book.

There is language, but wasn’t enough where I started to feel that it needed to back off a bit. The love scenes are tasteful and a little descriptive. Some kissing and make-out scenes. Minor violence, including guns.