May 29, 2017

Review: November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Title: November 9
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: New Adult Romance 
Publisher: Atria Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary: Beloved #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover returns with an unforgettable love story between a writer and his unexpected muse.
Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist. 

When I started this book, I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did. I don't really know why I thought I wasn't going to enjoy it, I just got this feeling. But after I was done with the first part, I was hooked. 

November 9 follows the love story between Ben and Fallon. Right as Fallon is ready to move to New York, she meets Ben the Writer and they're immediately attracted to each other. They spend Fallon's last day in LA together, promising to meet every year on the same day. Ben is able to use this as inspiration for his novel. Over the next few years, they're attraction grows stronger, but Ben is hiding one major secret that can jeopardize everything they've been through together.

This book was simply adorable. The immediate attraction between Ben and Fallon was truly the story book love Fallon hoped for. Ben is able to make Fallon feel more confident in the few hours they spent together that first November 9th, than she has felt in those two years since the fire that almost took her life. For one person to give someone that much confidence, is something I think every girl hopes for in a boy. I loved that every year they were able to pick up right where they started, as if a whole year hasn't gone by with absolutely no communication between the two. I give them props for being able to go an entire year without any communication (I totally wouldn't be able to do that).

As for Ben and his giant secret (I'll wont spoil it, I promise), I feel Fallon acted appropriately but should have let him explain sooner! Poor Ben has been through just as much heart ache as Fallon. Now, I'll let you read the book to find out if they get their happily ever after. 

This book left me wanting so much more after I was finished. It kept me turing every page wondering what plot twist was coming next. Like I said before, Colleen Hoover has done it yet again.

May 28, 2017

Review: Secrets of a Reluctant Princess by Casey Griffin


Title: Secrets of a Reluctant Princess
Author: Casey Griffin
Publisher: Entangled Teen
My Rating: 2/5 Stars
Paperback, 320 Pages
Published March 2017

Summary: At Beverly Hills High, you have to be ruthless to survive… Adrianna Bottom always wanted to be liked. But this wasn’t exactly what she had in mind. Now, she’s in the spotlight…and out of her geeky comfort zone. She’ll do whatever it takes to turn the rumor mill in her favor—even if it means keeping secrets. So far, it’s working.  Wear the right clothes. Say the right things. Be seen with the right people. Kevin, the adorable sketch artist who shares her love of all things nerd, isn’t exactly the right people. But that doesn’t stop Adrianna from crushing on him. The only way she can spend time with him is in disguise, as Princess Andy, the masked girl he’s been LARPing with. If he found out who she really was, though, he’d hate her. The rules have been set. The teams have their players. Game on.

Amber gave me this book after she received it in the mail from Entangled Teen in exchange for an honest review, and she didn't have time to get around to reading it. (And if you haven't been here often lately, this is her resignation post.) I wasn't sure what to think at first, and I hadn't heard anything about this book or this author beforehand, so I was totally going in blind here. After I just finished the book, I have to say that I certainly have some mixed thoughts about it, even though I don't think it was a terrible book. 

As my rating explains, the best way that I could describe this book would be as "it was okay." There were parts of it that I enjoyed and parts of it that I felt were somewhat unrealistic, and thus made it difficult to read. Overall, I'm left unsure how I feel about the book, but I definitely wouldn't say that I hated it, and I definitely wouldn't try to deter anybody from giving it a try.

This book is about a teenage girl whose parents get rich after her father invents a bunch of bathroom accessories that sell very well, and then she moves to Hollywood and has to settle into her skin as a rich girl in a new town, and to make things worse, she's being followed by reality T.V. cameras at every move. And she's in such a rush to erase her geeky past that all she wants is to reinvent herself into someone new...but it just so happens that not everyone is happy with the new Andy. (And at times, sometimes she isn't happy with herself.) It's a bit of a romance, a reality, and a coming-of-age story all rolled into one, with a lot of side plots and friendships and feuds and romances sprinkled in between. There is a lot going on in this book. Most importantly, there's live-action role playing, which Andy quickly finds a liking to even though she knows her Beverly Hills High friends would crucify her if they ever found out. So Andy is torn between being the geeky self that she's comfortable being and doing the things she enjoys, and being the perfect rich princess that her parents and the TV producers and her school friends want her to be. And as expected, Andy quickly learns that she can't have her cake and eat it, too.

As for what I enjoyed about the book, I really liked Kevin's character. He displayed a lot of the morals and spoke about a lot of the ideas that I personally stand for, which is probably why he appealed to me so much. I especially liked how he constantly stressed to Andy that it's what you do in private that matters more than what you do when you're in front of a crowd, and if you want to say that you're a kind and accepting person, you have to be one all the time, not only when it best suits you socially. That is an ideal that I stand in very strong agreement with, and I always have. Which is probably why Kevin was my favorite character in the whole thing.

I also enjoyed the revelations Andy seemed to have, when she began to realize that life isn't all about pleasing the people you hate to be respected and to (quite literally) get good ratings from others. The moments where she stood up for herself definitely made me cheer out loud and feel a sense of pride as a fellow geek who embraces my nerdiness and doens't give a damn what anybody else has to say about me. As I'm constantly telling those closest to me, "I like myself. I'm happy with myself. And that's all I need." And eventually, even Andy seems to catch onto that mentality.

As for the parts of the book that I wasn't that keen on, the book just felt overwhelmingly unrealistic to me: especially the bullying part. Maybe things were different for me because I went to a high school where this wasn't a big issue, but I still went to a public high school, and I can tell you that if anyone did things like fling ketchup in people's hair, or throw dead frogs at them, or dump pencil shavings over their head, there would be no way that there wouldn't be any repercussions. Especially because, at least in the context I was reading this book, all of these things seem to have been done in plain sight, with not only other students around as witnesses, but teachers as well. (And sometimes, even reality TV producers.) There is no way that these things would have happened without someone standing up for Andy -- if not an adult, at least another student. I remember taking several moments while reading this book to scoff at how ridiculous some of these situations sounded, because it's just something that -- from my high school experience, at least -- doesn't happen. I don't know much about the author or her age or anything, but it at least felt like this book was written by someone who was a little bit older and hasn't been on the high school scene for awhile now, and maybe thinks these outlandish things happen when they really don't. That part just made this book really difficult for me, because I couldn't get that thought out of my mind the entire time I was reading, and it definitely took away from the book for me.

I also couldn't get past the fact that these reality TV producers were getting away with so much, all with the excuse of a contract. Even some of the things that these people did definitely were contract-violating and it didn't feel really realistic that the kept getting away with it. It just made the whole thing feel off and weird to me.

Random thought: Maybe I'm finding stories like this more unrealistic because I'm older now, and therefore I see this sort of drama as juvenille? I doubt that's it, and I really hope that it isn't, because YA is my favorite genre and I definitely don't like this feeling. :/ However, I don't quite think that's why I had a hard time connecting with this book, because I haven't been feeling this way about every YA book that I read -- so maybe it's more of me just not connecting with the book well, rather than me not liking it because I'm *shudders* old. (But I'm totally not that old. I'm still technically a teenager.) 

Overall, I thought that Secrets of a Reluctant Princess was okay. It certainly wasn't a bad book by any means, but it definitely seemed a bit out of touch and unrealistic for a YA contemporary romance novel. I get that it was supposed to be set in Hollywood and that some pretty out-of-the-ordinary things definitely happen there, but there were some points where this book still felt like a bit too far of a reach. However, just because this book wasn't my cup of tea (or hot chocolate I suppose, since I don't drink tea) doesn't mean that it can't be yours! I still encourage you to give this book a try, because who knows -- maybe it'll be the best YA book about a teen heir to a bathroom industry empire that you've ever read. You never know!

May 26, 2017

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Paperback, 528 Pages
Published May 2017

Summary: Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen. That's what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he's probably right. Half the time, Simon can't even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor's avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there's a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon's face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up. 

I've been a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell since I read Eleanor & Park, and I eventually made my way to Fangirl and that became one of my favorite books of all time. So when I realized that Rowell was actually writing an entire novel based on the fanfiction story she references in her previous book, I was definitely a little bit curious, and totally excited. In Fangirl, Cath is famous for being so obsessed with the story of Simon Snow and his wizardry (similar to Harry Potter), to the point that she goes on to write fanfiction stories about the characters that helps her gain some fame in the geek world (which is, to be entirely honest, one of the best places to be). 

So yeah -- not only did Rainbow Rowell write that amazing book, but she went even further and actually wrote the fictional fanfiction that her other fictional character became known for. (Take a second to wrap your head around that one -- it took me a few minutes to explain this to my boyfriend in a way that made sense. Because contrary to popular belief, sometimes I am very, very bad with words.)

So I won this book in a giveaway, and I was excited to start it because I loved Fangirl. However, I was a bit uncertain if I was going to like it, being that I had seen/heard some mixed reviews of the book, and also being that unlike Fangirl, which was a YA contemporary novel, Carry On is entirely fantasy. (For those of you who have been around here for awhile, you'll come to learn that I am not the biggest fantasy fan around. The same goes for sci-fi books -- it's very rare that I find one that I'm 100% invested in and love. But I'm proud to report that this book captivated me from the beginning all the way to the epilogue -- all 500 pages of it! This was the first book I read since I've come back home for the summer, and let me just tell you, it was so nice to be able to sit and relax and focus on a story for hours on end with no interruptions. I couldn't tear myself away from this book and I think it was an excellent choice for the way to kick off summer vacation -- I'm so glad that it started with a book that I really enjoyed!

There were a lot of things that I really liked about this book. Since Carry On is supposed to be a fanfiction story that references previous events, I was worried that I was going to be confused or lost in the beginning, but Rowell does an excellent job of summing up previous events and the backstories of the characters without making everything drag on forever. In no time at all, I felt at home in the world of mages and I wasn't even the slightest bit lost. It was really easy to catch on to all of the backstories!

As for the characters, I really liked Simon and Baz's relationship, even though it was pretty rocky at first. (For those of you who don't know, there are some spoilers ahead if you haven't read Fangirl, so please skip to the next paragraph if you don't want the story ruined for you!) I went into this book knowing that Simon and Baz were both gay and would end up falling for each other, because that was one of Cath's biggest shockers when writing her story in Fangirl. So it was interesting to see how they both interacted with one another in the beginning of the story, when Simon didn't know he was gay, had a girlfriend, and was sworn enemies with Baz. Things certainly change by the end of the story, let me tell you. I recommend sticking around, because it's super adorable (especially the epilogue!) and you'll be glad that you did.

The story itself was really interesting, with a ton of plot twists, mysteries, and moments that made me gasp or laugh. I was particularly fond of one phrase in the book, in which Agatha admits that she spends all of the money that her parents give her on "tuition and tacos" -- AKA, my life story getting the spotlight in a Rainbow Rowell novel. You heard it here first, folks -- Agatha ends up living my life's dream.

However, there were just a couple of things with the story that I wasn't too keen on. One of them is Agatha herself, because (spoilers ahead, skip to the next paragraph!) I didn't like how she just tucked her tail and ran when Simon and Baz and Penny needed her help. Not only did she run away from the situation, but she ran away to America, an entirely different continent, and tried to start her life over. I didn't like her much at all, because I felt that throughout the book she had a tendency to act entitled and pompous and definitely wasn't a good enough friend to any of them, even when she tried to be. So she was a character that I didn't really enjoy that much. 

The only other thing I can think of that I wasn't crazy about in regards to this book was the ending itself -- not the epilogue, but the part before it! (Spoilers incoming -- skip to the next paragraph!) I felt that there was no indication of the Mage being behind everything until it all happened at once. I know that that's how cliffhangers work, and it's supposed to surprise you, but I sort of felt that there was no indication there at all, almost as if the author needed to pin the problems on somebody and just chose the Mage randomly. I can be totally missing the mark here and may have just not noticed some of the earlier clues, but that's just how I felt when I got to that end scene -- I was totally taken aback. I don't even know what ended up happening with Ebb's brother. Where the heck did he go?!

Overall, I really enjoyed Carry On. As someone who isn't a huge fantasy fan, I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did, but I ended up being happily proved wrong. Rainbow Rowell is an excellent author and she blew me away with another great story of hers -- so if you need me, I'll be waiting around for the next one! Even if you aren't a huge fantasy fan, and even if you didn't read Fangirl, I totally recommend giving this book a shot. You'll be glad you did, if you have a geeky little nerd heart like me. (And to be entirely honest, you're currently reading a post on a book blog -- like it or not, you have a geeky little nerd heart, too! <3)