Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Publisher: Dey St.
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.
I must admit that I've never really watched Parks and Rec. I only recently began watching and have been told to just skip season one, so I'll probably do just that. But regardless, I've wanted to read Amy Poehler's book for a while now. She seems to be funny, with many stories to tell, and I had heard that it was a pretty feminist book as well. And in a way, it is.

 Amy isn't afraid to show and talk about the tough stuff--about the topics many others don't want to talk about. Part memoir, part essay collection, her book follows her musing on her journey through life thus far. She's able to talk about her experiences with an air of lightness through her use of humor while also balancing that with being grounded and very forward, open, and honest about everything she's done and everything she talks about.

It is so interesting to hear her life story and to hear about how she got to where she is today. It's amazing how she and many of her friends are now big names but how they started out in a similar place. She emphasizes how they struggled, what they sacrificed, and how they really worked hard to get where they are today.

I found her later essays to be much more intersting, with some of them really sticking out to me (I don't have the book on me because I borrowed it from the library, so I don't have the titles of the specific essays). They vary in topic and tone, but I appreciated the way she got her message--about feminism, about hard work, about whatever--across. It was very well done. She's and effective writer whose style will definitely draw in all different types of readers.

As I mentioned, I did find her book subtley feminist, and I loved that. She followed her own dreams, didn't let others get in her way, and owns/is proud of herself, her friends, her journey, her experiences, and all of her decisions and choices. Even if/when she regretted her choices, she was able to reflect on it and how it directly or indirectly helped lead her to where she is. I didn't agree with everything she said, and I don't necessarily agree with all of her choices, but the beautiful and wonderful thing is that that's okay. She accepts and allows for that within her writing, encouraging readers to be proud and open and honest about our own opinions, actions, and choices, regardless of what others might think/say about it, just as she does. She is so grounded and real, which is why so much of this might be relatable even if the circumstances are far from what most of us have experienced. And she does this while keeping her writing entertaining and easy to digest. I loved it!
Yes Please: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (ARC)

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: June 16th, 2015
If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more "normal" than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.
"The book is so, so powerful."

"[The] kind of empowerment [Sam feels by the end] is refreshing and amazing to read about, especially as someone who's still struggling every day."

Disclaimer: I got an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this.

Oh, wow. I had heard that people were loving the book, and I was so hoping I would enjoy it too. And boy did this book deliver. Now, I just want to say that this review might get a tad bit personal at points, so feel free to skip over that if you don't particularly care about those portions. {I also have to admit that I've been putting off this review for a while because it's been so hard for me to get everything I want to say across.}

Every Last Word is so, so raw, and it gives such a deep look into a teen living with OCD. I'm glad Stone didn't choose to use the form of OCD that most of us are familiar with. Instead, Sam has obsessional OCD, and her particular obsession is with the dark thoughts in her head. In so many ways, I could see myself in Sam, though not to her extent. I could relate so well--maybe too well--to all her self-doubt and to all the negative thoughts in her head, especially when it came to thinking about herself. At times, it was a little too close to my own thoughts and experiences, and I had to step back and take a breath, take a moment. But I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. It's so important for this to be talked about and for other people to get a sense of all the attacking thoughts many people struggle with on a daily basis. It's easy to say that we understand, but it's hard to really get a sense of the daily struggle. The struggle to accept and love yourself is one of the toughest battles, in my opinion, because you're the one attacking yourself, and it's hard to stop letting that take over your every thought.

Another aspect I really appreciated was seeing the relationship between Sam and her therapist. Oftentimes, there's a negative feeling associated with therapists; people don't want to see therapists because they feel embarassed or feel that they don't need one. I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't one of those people for a long, long time. It was actually through reading books such as Every Last Word that I've recently seen how much they do and how much they can help. I still don't think I could justify making my parents pay so much for a therapist, but I can't help but think about how different things might have occurred if I had gone to see a therapist. So it was so nice to be able to see Sam's healthy, good relationship with her therapist (whose name I can't remember at the moment oops).

Yet another part that I so deeply appreciated and related to was Sam's struggle to get out of her group of friends. Part of the reason I had such a bad time in middle and high school was because of the group of friends I made in middle school and sort of stuck with. I was like Sam. I wanted to get out of it, but we had so many experiences and memories together, and I wasn't strong enough to remove myself. In some ways, I'm glad I stayed because otherwise I wouldn't have become so close to my best friend, but at the same time, I think I could have been so much happier. It's not that I don't like the people I'm friends with--some of them are wonderful and great, but for many reasons, we've grown apart. However, because I find it hard to make new friends and because I was scared of just letting go of friendships that once meant a lot to me, I found myself stuck, much like Sam was. I don't think I could ever do what she ended up doing at the end, but I really look up to her for it. For all the people who say they don't understand or that it's not realistic or that it's weird or that question why it was such a big deal and why she couldn't just leave them, it's much more complicated than that. Trust me. For some of us, it's easier said than done, and it's especially hard when you have self-esteem issues. And some people have wondered how they didn't notice what was happening with Sam. Sometimes people are caught up in their own problems. Sometimes you just get good at hiding it. It doesn't mean that at some point they were good friends to you. So I'm just glad Stone explored this issue because I think a lot of teens struggle through it but don't talk about it.

But moving on from the tough issues, I really enjoyed seeing Sam come out of her shell and learn to accept and love both herself and others. The book is so, so powerful. Sam uses her writing and the help of those in the Poet's Corner to help her work through her struggles. It's always amazing when you find such a supportive group of people, and I wish something like that had existed for me and that I could have the courage to go look for those opportunities and people. I'm not lying when I say that Every Last Word has inspired me to take more chances in my own life. The entire cast of characters is diverse in so many ways. Each has their own struggles and obstacles, but it's amazing to see them come together to help one another through it. They all have their own distinct personalities. I loved watching all of Sam's relationships--with AJ, Emily, Caroline, Abigail, Sydney, Jessica, etc--change and grow. What I appreciated most of all was how they all helped her throughout the book, especially AJ, but how in the end, it was really her getting through it for herself. With the help of her friends and her therapist, she was able to save herself. It wasn't because of them that she was able to heal so much; it was because of herself. That kind of empowerment is refreshing and amazing to read about, especially as someone who's still struggling every day.

Moving on, the plot moved quickly, and it wasn't hard to just keep reading, getting sucked into the story. But then THAT PLOT TWIST. It's funny because I should have seen it coming. I had actually been questioning why the character was showing up less and less, but I guess I couldn't think so far to have connected it to what it really was. I was blown away and had to put the book down then go back through the book and look at the parts of the story where the character was there. But beyond what it did for the plot, I think it really helped to emphasize the idea that it was Sam who had to help herself and how even though she had help, it came down to herself. But woah.

I didn't find the book perfect, but I think that the above parts definitely made up for the tiny things. This book is so important and means so much to me (and I'm sure many others). It's the kind of book I hope everyone will read at some point.
Every Last Word: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Tamara Ireland Stone: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram | YouTube

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: Last Man: The Royal Cup by Balak, Michael Sanlaville, and Bastien Vives

Last Man: The Royal Cup by Balak, Michael Sanlaville, and Bastien Vives
Publisher: First Second
Release Date:  June 23rd, 2015
Richard Aldana, the mysterious stranger who entered the Games in the first volume of Last Man, continues to defeat all of his competitors, despite his outlandish refusal to use any magic, and to rely solely on martial arts. With young Adrian fighting at his side, he's beginning to look like a likely contender for the Royal Cup.

But in a breathtaking twist, everything changes: this world is not what you thought it was, and Richard Aldana is certainly not who he claimed.
Disclaimer: I received a copy for review from the publisher. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for it.

I enjoyed The Royal Cup much more than The Last Stranger (review), but I also found parts of it problematic in my mind. Starting with the positive, this installment was much more action packed. It was so exciting to see Adrian fight and to see him on his own. You never lose the sense that Adrian is just a young boy, but I think it's refreshing to see him on the backdrop of the more experienced, older, and physicially bigger opponents. It keeps the story grounded and interesting in dynamic, setting it apart from similar graphic novels.

A lot more was going on in this book, but it never felt like too much or too rushed. We learn a little bit more about Richard but bearly. There's still the compeition going on. There's still the reation to Richard and to the duo being in the running for the Cup. The illustrations continue to complement the story well, drawing readers in and including just enough detail without showing too much.

What stuck out to me in particular about this installment, however, was the female characters. I still can't decide if I like what they've done with Marianne's character, but I loved that twist at the end. I can't wait to learn more about her and about her past. She's so badass! But at the same time, I didn't like how she sort of gave in to Aldana. I mean, maybe she really does have feelings for him, but gahhh. I didn't get the sense that she felt anything more than gratitude towards him for everything he's done for Adrian.

Then there's Adrian's friend Elorna, who is one of my favorite characters in this series. I am so happy that she stood up against her partner and did what she felt was right. She didn't care about the criticism. She didn't care about what others thought. She knew what she wanted to do, and she did it. She cared more about supporting a friend and being loyal than about winning, unlike Gregorio. She stands up to him and defends both Adrian and herself. And then even once she's done, she pulls a Hermione and punches him, showing him that she's in charge of her own actions and that she won't stand being insulted and being treated the way he was treating her. Yes, girl!

Then there's Alyssa, one of the other contenders for the cup. I was disgusted by this quick story line. I couldn't stand how women were being portrayed--which was only heightened when Marianne got together with Richard. I don't know...maybe there was a reason behind it, but I couldn't find it. It felt completely unnecessary and so undignified for women. It sexualized women without needing to, making us seem like rabid, sex-driven animals. Like no. I refuse to believe that such a tough contender would ever fall to that, even with the mysterious Richard Aldana.

Lastly, there's the mysterious Miss Sakova and the Queen (?), Elfira. I can't figure out which side she's on because at one point, I thought she was working against Richard, but then she was working with him. We don't know almost anything about her, but I'm hoping we'll learn a bit about her in later installments. And I liked how Elfira probably went against the rules to give some help. I don't know how I feel about it being yet another woman helping Richard, but I kind of like that she probably broke the rules to do so.

So mostly, my issue was with the mixed portrayal of female characters. The plot was interesting and engaging, even more so than in the first book. This was a really solid sequel, and I look forward to The Chase.
The Royal Cup: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fiction Friction (#19): I've Been Having a Hard Time Finishing Books

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

I'm not sure if this fits as a Fiction Friction post, but I guess it's a bit of a discussion post, so. I have a confession to make, though if you follow me on Twitter, you might have heard me lamenting about this already (also it's the title of this post). I've been having a very hard time finishing books lately. I keep starting books, then putting them down and starting another. Now, I'm known to be reading a few books at a time, so at first, I didn't find this strange. But for some reason, I haven't been able to just finish a book recently. I've only read two books in June, even though I've had a lot of time more lately. Even after school ended, when I was expecting to read a lot more, I never finished a book. 

I don't know if it's because none of them have been drawing me in or whatever, but it's not like I'm not enjoying the books I'm reading. I just get a little bit bored? Even if they're exciting or even if they're books I really do want to read, I just can't get myself to finish them. Yes Please was easier because they were essays, so I could read one at a time and not feel so bogged down, but even in that case, I had to push through at certain points, knowing I would have to return the book to the library soon. And I read The Broken Hearts' Society because I had to write a review for the blog tour. I really enjoyed that--truly--but even then, there were times when I just wanted to put it down and read something else. Only having that deadline of the blog tour kept me from picking up another book.

But I don't feel that now. Even with books with upcoming release dates or even release dates that have passed me by unintentionally, I'm finding it so hard to stick to a book and read it to the end. I'm also known to read the end of a book, sometimes when I'm still on the first page. It's an impulse I can't help but am now wondering if is hindering me in some way. Like it never used to get in my way, but now that I'm having trouble, I don't know if maybe it's adding to my trouble for some reason?

Maybe I just need a book to blow me away, but it's not like the books I've been trying haven't been great thus far. Maybe I need to take a break from novels and read some of the graphic novels I have to read and review. But I know I can't keep putting this off because I'm running out of books to review and thus posts to post. I'm going to try to push through and finish one book and then switch to one of the two graphic novels I have. Maybe I need to reread a book I love (I'm currently up to CoS in my HP reread, but that's also my least favorite book, so I don't know), but again, I need books to review, so that won't help. We'll see, I guess.

Have you ever been in my predicament? How did you get out of it (naturally wait it out, make yourself sit and finish something, read a comfort/already read book)? Do you have any tips for me?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mini Review: Popular by Maya van Wagenen

Popular by Maya Van Wagenen
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?

The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise—meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humor and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence.
I have never been part of the popular group, nor do I expect to ever be. I'm too awkward, shy, reserved, etc to be. Most of the time, I struggle with liking myself, let alone expecting/thinking other people (to) like me. I had heard about Popular last year, around the time it came out, and I heard that many people loved it, so I finally decided to check it out. I wasn't disappointed!

Maya is quirky and the whole situation she puts herself in for a school year is definitely interesting. I love how she showed that real life can have just as much drama as all the drama written about in books. Oftentimes, what happens in books really does feel very different from my experiences, and sometimes, I wonder why people don't see that you don't need to be in a romantic relationship to have drama. Maya's story is really unique and so new, and I really enjoyed reading the book. Though slow at times, for the most part, it read like real life, and I loved that quality about it.

The writing was a little simplistic for what I was expecting and there were some gaps that I wish had been filled in, but otherwise, I was really satisfied with her story. I loved the connections and some of the modern takes on Betty's advice. I loved her take on popularity, though I don't know that I necessarily agree, at least not from my experience at school and thinking about who the popular kids at my school are. But I've heard popularity is different later in life than it is in high school. Thank goodness. Anyway, I would definitely recommend Popular, especially for those that feel alone, unlikeable, unappreciated, unpopular.
Maya Van Wagenen: Website | Twitter

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.

She ends on a serious note— because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, “He’s trying to kill me!”

This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.
***I have, without any shame, copied this review from my review up on Feminists Talk Books***

I've become very interested in essay collections/personal essay collections, and I've been hoping to read more feminist essays, so Men Explain Things to Me was one of the first ones I came across and decided to check out. I almost wish I had found it and read it sooner.

The book is perfect for someone who's looking to start reading more about feminism, our patriarchal society, and similar topics. As shown in the blurb, the book covers the topic of marriage/marriage equality, domestic violence and gender violence in general, the silencing of women, and more. She uses her experiences to talk about wider topics affecting women, but she's definitely just scratching the surface.

I greatly enjoyed the diversity of topics, issues, presentation styles, etc in the book. I didn't find it dry or over-the-top. I know some people didn't like how in-the-face she was about violence statistics, but I thought it was well done. I didn't find it to be too much. People live that reality every day, and she did it in a classy, professional way without making it dull or slow. All of the essays, in fact, were easy to read, but they made me think about my experiences and form my own opinions. I honestly loved every single one of the pieces and for different reasons. The Virginia Woolf one, as well as the one describing the woman in the picture, particularly stood out to me because they were different, not because they were tons better than the other essays.

Only two small things irked me. There was something that Solnit said about women who wear a hijab/burqa (burka) or a veil that I don't agree with and found to be insensitive to different cultures and to the choices of individual women. Yes, it may be used to silence women and keep them under submission, but many women choose to wear a hijab/burqa/veil and are proud to. Some feel more empowered. For some, it's part of their religion and culture, and they feel comfortable doing it, choosing to wear it. Other than this one thing, she was great about writing with awareness and acknowledging different opinions/experiences/peoples.

The other was that I was hoping that she would have at least a small bit of exploration of how feminism also affects/applies to men and thus why we should all be feminists. She briefly thanks the men who support women and the feminist movement, but I think it would have also been effective to discuss how the feminist movement also helps men by breaking down social norms and societal expectations and gender roles. Women are leading the fight to break these down because it more obviously binds them, but it really helps everyone in society. I only wish she could have mentioned that somewhere and was almost expecting her to.

I am very happy to highly recommend Men Explain Things to Me, particularly if you're looking to start reading or building up a collection of books that talk about feminism/feminist topics (non-fiction). I myself will be buying the book sometime soon.
Men Explain Things to Me: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Rebecca Solnit: Website 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Month in Review: May 2015

It sure has been a long month. It's been full of ups and downs, happy moments and disappointments. And I'm writing this on the 28th, knowing that my last dance show with my dance school is this Sunday, and I know I'm going to cry. Between APs, dance, finals, etc, it's been hard to get anything done, so I'm sorry for taking another short break. But anyway, I'm hoping to read more and blog more in June, but I do still have a Physics NYS Regents, and I need to study for my college math placement test because I don't remember anything from Algebra 2/Trig. But let's get to the summary of this month.

Books I Read:

Book Mail:

Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu
Last Man: The Stranger by Bastien Vives, Michael Sanlaville, and Balak
Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

Other Posts:
Waiting on Wednesday (#15): Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
Fiction Friction (#18): Multiple POV Stories
Fiction Friction (#19): On Creativity, Blogging, and Plateauing 
A Month in Review: April 2015

1) APs are finally over! I don't think I did very well, but ehh, it's out of my hands now.
2) Dance is almost over, and I'm so sad! This is my last year with my dance studio. I've been dancing there since I was around 5 or 6, so I've been there almost my whole life. It was there that I came to love dance, and it's now such a big part of my life and who I am.
3) Desperately waiting for school to finally be over. :P
4) My school's Model UN conference was on the 30th. Right now, that hasn't passed yet, so I'm hoping I'll win an award. hehe
5) I got to go to Teen Author Carnival, although I couldn't go to BEA (I'M STILL SO SAD ABOUT THIS D: ). I had a great time, though I didn't really know anyone. I did get to meet two fellow bloggers and got a few books signed. Can I just say how nice it is to be recognized from Twitter? Like I didn't think it would feel so great to get that kind of recognition. I sadly still don't have an ARC of Truthwitch (*tear*), but it was so nice to see Sooz again at least.
6) I FORGOT TO MENTION THIS, BUT I WAS INVITED TO SEE DOCTOR ZHIVAGO ON BROADWAY BEFORE IT CLOSED. I have yet to type up my review (though I guess there's not much good that it will do other than promote the cast recording), but be on the lookout for that! It was so amazing to get the opportunity.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tour: Interview: The Pointless Book 2 by Alfie Deyes (+giveaway)

Hey everyone! Today is a really exciting day because I got the chance to ask Alfie Deyes of YouTube fame (PointlessBlog) some questions, and I'm also giving away a signed copy of The Pointless Book 2 to a lucky winner in the US (sorry international peeps!). I'm really honored to have gotten this opportunity, but without further ado, here's some info on Alfie's books, my short thoughts on them, and then the interview and giveaway.

The Pointless Book 
Release Date: September 4th, 2014
The Pointless Book 2
Release Date: April 7th, 2015
Publisher: Running Press

I follow Alfie and watch his videos every once in a while, and his book was one of the first YouTuber books released. The two books are very similar to Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal and similar books. But there are also little hints of Alfie's individual personality in there, which is a really great touch for fans. I also liked how there was an interactive aspect of it where you could view exclusive content showing Alfie doing some of the challenges and such. It's great for fans of Alfie, but if you're not a fan, I would just go with buying something more along the lines of Wreck This Journal.


Fly to Fiction (Me): I guess I'll start by tackling the biggest question. Many Youtubers have had books and/or book deals recently, and there's been a mix of good and bad reactions. As a Youtuber with now two books out, do you feel like the trend makes getting a book deal seem less special, or do you look at each person's success separately?

Alfie Deyes: I’m so proud and happy that so many of my friends are being offered the opportunity to create something they’ve always wished to do. It’s just amazing!

FtF: When you put a book out there, it often feels like you're putting yourself out there. You're probably pretty used that feeling already anyway, but I can imagine having a book out does feel different. Every author and every book gets a mix of good and bad reviews. What's your take on negative reviews?

AD: I haven’t actually seen any negative reviews. I’m not one to search for stuff like that, I prefer to spend my time interacting with those who support what I do.

FtF: We book bloggers love to book push our favorite books and authors. I usually hate getting asked what my favorite book is--I give the cop out answer of the Harry Potter series--but I love hearing what others choose, so what are some of your favorite books/books that have shaped or influenced you?

AD: I get influenced by so many different things! Books, people, films, quotes & my family and friends.

FtF: And I'll end with a short one: who's your favorite female character of all time?

AD: Hermione Granger!
~Must be 13 or older or have parent permission
~US only
~Winner must respond in 72 hours or a new winner will be chosen
~I am not responsible for lost packages. The book will be sent by the publisher.
~I don't accept entries made from giveaway accounts. Sorry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 5, 2015

Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: March 31st, 2015
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?
"I loved the friendship (and was slightly jealous of it), I enjoyed the sweet romance, I adored the fandom references, etc. I just felt like there was a piece missing, and I still can't place it, but it left me happy with the book but not in the way that I was after Open Road Summer."

Disclaimer: I traded another ARC for this one. I was going to wait for the final copy to arrive, but I've been anticipating this book too much! Thanks Skye @ Skye's Scribblings.

I've been putting off this review for a while because I don't know how I want to organize my thoughts. I went into The Start of Me and You with really high expectations. For the most part, it delivered, but this wasn't better than Open Road Summer for me (I know, I know. I shouldn't compare, but I can't help it).

The three things I love most about Emery Lord's writing is her ability to write flawed but completely relateable characters, amazing friendships I wish I had, and slow burning romances. The Start of Me and You certainly carried all of those. The one that stood out to me the most in the book was the friendship between the girls. Oh man, I wish I had a friend group like theirs. Lord is able to write friendships in which there are certainly conflicts but in which the girls never tear one another down. They're there for one another, and their bond is just so damn strong. It isn't a competition between them, and they all support one another. This is such a refreshing take on friendships because it's so rare to see that, and I think we all need a little more of that in the bookish community. I love books where girls build one another up rather than tear one another down, and as someone who cares more about friendship than romance, I absolutely adore how Lord writes friendship into her books.

Then, there are the relateable characters. Paige was relateable in a way Reagan in Open Road Summer wasn't. I would say Reagan has more of my internal insecurities, but I'm much more like Paige in personality and in other areas. We could really see and feel her pain but also how she just wants to move on. She's quirky and funny in a subtle way, and I really connected to saying she's not as smart as people think/say she is. She goes through such a transformation throughout the book, finally coming to see her true self and embracing it rather than hiding it.

I also loved the fandom references and the little things Lord put into the novel that nerds and geeks like us/me can enjoy. Way to represent! And it wasn't just Paige that was relateable; I could, in some ways, relate to Max, in fewer ways Ryan, etc. Emery Lord just has a way of writing such real, complex characters. These are people, complicated, fascinating people, just like all of us. It's hard not to feel for the different characters because it was so easy to see myself in their shoes.

The plot is a bit more slowly paced, as is the romance, but I actually liked that about the book. Things don't just happen; it takes time for thing, people, relationships to develop, and I really got a sense of that in The Start of Me and You. The romance was predictable (though most romances in most books are too), but I actually liked the slow build. It felt right for the characters and their personalities. It was nice for me because I could see so much of myself in both Paige and Max, and it's so comforting to see people like them getting into a relationship. It gives me such hope. I think the romance and the build would have worked better without it being told in the blurb that Max comes in. It kind of undermines the whole get-Ryan-to-date-her thing because we know the direction the plot/book is going in, even more so than if we had just had the book to read without the blurb.

I really did enjoy and love The Start of Me and You, but after putting it down, I felt like there was just something missing. I don't know if it was because I had such high expectations and I was subconsciously comparing the book to Open Road Summer, but I think the slowness of it ended up dragging me down a bit, even though I thought it made perfect sense for the book and the characters. I loved the friendship (and was slightly jealous of it), I enjoyed the sweet romance, I adored the fandom references, etc. I just felt like there was a piece missing, and I still can't place it, but it left me happy with the book but not in the way that I was after Open Road Summer. Either way, I will still definitely be pre-ordering Emery Lord's next book and the book after that and the book after that...I just love her writing, and she does so well with writing friendships, (female) characters, romances, etc. I can't wait for whatever is to come!
 (But so, so close to 5)
The Start of Me and You: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Emery Lord: Website | TwitterTumblr

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tour: Review: The Broken Hearts' Society of Suite 17C by LeighAnn Kopans

The Broken Hearts' Society of Suite 17C by LeighAnn Kopans
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: May 22nd, 2015
Friends don’t let friends make the same horrible relationship mistakes twice.

Rion, Amy, and Arielle, the three occupants of first-year dorm Harrison Tower’s Suite 17C have never met before the first day of school, but they soon discover they have one thing in common – being on the wrong end of an epically awful breakup.

Heartbreak sucks, especially when the girls should have seen the trouble coming from a mile away. But there’s no better time than the beginning of college to take charge of your own love life, and nobody better than a roommate to keep you accountable. Over ice cream and pizza their first week, the girls vow never again to date anyone like the assholes who ripped their hearts out and smeared them across the quad.

And that’s how the Broken Hearts’ Society of Suite 17C is born.

Now, if only Crash, the tattooed, pierced, and probably stoned guy who works at Rion’s newest job, wasn’t so damn sexy and sweet…

If only Matt, the thoughtful and driven pastor’s kid, would quit being so okay with just being Amy’s friend…

If only Lauren, the innocent small-town girl with her own set of issues, would stop finishing Arielle’s sentences and invading her dreams…

it would be a lot easier for the girls to keep their promises to the Society and to themselves.

If only.
Disclaimer: I received an eARC to review as part of this tour. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for it.

I have to start by saying that I am in love with Kopans' writing. I only haven't read One and Two. So when I saw that she was having this tour, I knew I had to be a part of it. And I'm so happy to be able to share my love for this book.

Kopans always does a great job at writing complex and real characters, particularly female characters, and Broken Hearts' Society is no different. The three girls are all very different but are joined together by similar experiences in break ups. They each had their own issues and their own way of dealing with such issues, but I also really liked seeing how much they supported one another and built one another up, while not letting the others necessarily dictate and make their decisions for them. It was like a independent interdependence, if that makes any sense. It was especially effective in Amy's character arc of becoming independent and finding herself.

It was really interesting to see the girls change and grow throughout the story, both on their own and with the help of one another and with some of the other characters in the story. I think Rion's portions always remained my favorite parts, though I can't necessarily pinpoint why, but I started out feeling a bit bored by Amy's story and feeling really awkward about the whole super-ultra-religious aspect (not because I'm against it but it was just too much at times), but then there was one turn in the story that turned that all around. I really came to see and understand her and her struggle, and I could relate, though not to the same extent. I understood how she (and most of the time, Rion) felt, and my heart broke for her. On the other hand, while I started off also really enjoying Arielle's story, after a certain point, I stopped being really interested in her story, not because her conflicts and the plot weren't engaging and interesting but just that I would have rather read the other characters' portions.

Overall, I thought all the romances were very well done and led to arcs that complimented each girl's personalities and issues. I particularly liked how each was about a different kind of acceptance and finding your identity. I liked how Kopans subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, showed how strength doesn't mean not crying or not being hurt by something someone says or does. It doesn't mean having control all the time. Strength, and weakness, is so much more than that. A girl can be strong and still cry and break down and have her heart broken and show the world her heart. A female character can be a "strong female character" without fitting into a given mold--being strong doesn't mean being physically strong, it doesn't mean not crying, it doesn't mean not needing anyone else. Strength is about finding yourself, trusting both  yourself and others, and being the best person you can be at that moment in time. It's about being able to know when to ask for help but know when to make your own decisions and stand up for yourself. This showed through so clearly in the book, and I really loved the message of love, friendship, and acceptance Kopans is putting out there.

And the book is certainly diverse--in color, sexual orientation, religion, experiences, interests, conflicts, you name it. The girls were different enough that I could always tell whose perspective I was reading, and as someone who sometimes has trouble with multiple POV books, I was very glad about this fact. But at times, I couldn't tell if it was a little forced too. While I obviously appreciated Lauren being Chinese, it sometimes felt like a bit much for her to always be talking about how she didn't fit in as American but also not as Chinese. I understand her completely because I often feel the same way, but I feel as if this could have been communicated much more subtly. Overall, I really appreciated the diversity presented in the novel, though.

The three character arcs and plots were, for the most part, compelling, keeping me engaged and reading. Even if I wasn't particularly interested or invested in a certain character at one point or another, I was looking forward to reading more about one of the other characters. Kopans crafts the story so well so that the girls' stories are parallel but also vastly different. All the romances move slowly, but it never feels like it's too slow. I love how the ending was open ended for each of the girls, but it was also very easy to imagine where their stories could go beyond that.

There were only a few small things that negatively stuck out to me besides the aforementioned one. Firstly, I felt like Rion's arc with her mother felt incomplete, felt sort of forgotten about after some time. Also, it's not like it's necessarily a fault, but it sometimes felt like the guys were just perfect (not including Lauren). Like a large part of the conflicts between the boys and Rion/Amy felt like it mostly the girl's fault. I don't know if this was because it was from their point of view, but it felt like the guys were close to being flawless. The last thing is that it was strange to me that none of them seemed to have friends outside of one another. I understand the different reservations the girls had, and I appreciated Arielle becoming the exception near the end, but it was difficult to believe that there weren't any other people they would talk to/be around. But again, all of these felt very small in comparison to the things Kopans did well. That's why the book fell somewhere between a 4.5 and 5 for me, but I've decided to round it up to 5 because it's LeighAnn. ;)
The Broken Hearts' Society of Suite 17C: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
LeighAnn Kopans: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Monday, June 1, 2015

Music Monday (#12): Wilder Mind by Mumford and Sons

Every other Monday, I'll share a song/artist/album that I'm either currently listening to or currently obsessed with, though they often go hand-in-hand. Some may have special themes or surprises. This means that I might share a playlist, fan!mix, Top Ten list, etc.

For the longest time, I was feeling really skeptical about Mumford and Son's new sound, but while I still really love their original sound, I don't mind their new direction. I feel like at the heart, they're still the same. Their lyrics are just as deep and insightful. Their style of singing actually isn't all that different. All they've really done is change the instruments they use to get their music and lyrics across. It's certainly new, and I don't know that I can say that I like the new sound better; I think I'm still partial to their original sound, but I don't mind it the way some other fans do. It doesn't sound or feel like Mumford and Sons at the surface, but I think that if fans, new or old, could get past that, they would see that the heart of Mumford and Sons has remained the same. That being said, I do sort of hope that they go back to their original sound. Either way, however they decide to move forward, I recommend their new album and look forward to their next one (already).

1. Tompkins Square Park
2. Believe
3. The Wolf
4. Wilder Mind
5. Just Smoke
6. Monster
7. Snake Eyes
8. Broad-Shouldered Beasts
9. Cold Arms
10. Ditmas
11. Only Love
12. Hot Gates
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...