ARC Review: Belzhar

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Title/Author: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Publication Date/Publisher: September 30, 2014/Dutton Juvenile
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book as part of an ARC tour from Gals on the Same Page

Rating: 4 stars

From Goodreads:

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

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Belzhar is a perfect example of how you can like a book or story while disliking the main character. Usually I need to feel a deep connection to the MC or something in the story in order to enjoy it, but that was not the case here.


Jam is mostly inoffensive…until the end. At that point I had no real sympathy for her and anything good I thought about her was retroactively replaced with my current feelings. Also, WHY IS THIS GIRL’S NAME JAMAICA?
 


I haven’t read The Bell Jar, so I can’t say how much more one might get out of Belzhar if they are familiar with it. I only ever read the first 80% of book descriptions, so I had no idea this was about journals as sort of portals to another reality where the diarist exists in a time before their most traumatic moment. Jam gets to spend time with her dead boyfriend and they’re in love.


We need to talk about the boyfriend and the relationship. As a Certified Old Person, I had major eye rolls at their 41 day relationship, and Jam’s subsequent breakdown at his death. I feel like her extended wallowing is a bit much for a person she knew less than two months, no matter how much she “loved” him.
 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book I Need Physical Copies of

toptentuesday2This week, The Broke and the Bookish is asking us the top ten books we really want to read but don’t own yet. I’m going in a bit of a different direction and doing the Top Ten Books I Need to Be Able To See on My Shelves. These might be books I bought on kindle or got e-ARCs of or borrowed from the library and now want to own for real (because crying onto a kindle just isn’t the same).

  1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  2. The Raven Cycle Series (when it’s finished probably) by Maggie Stiefvater
  3. The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series by Maggie Stiefvater – do we see a pattern here?
  4. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  5. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  6. Far From You by Tess Sharpe – with the original cover, I don’t like the new pink one
  7. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  8. Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
  9. Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick
  10. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

ARC Review: Rites of Passage

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Title/Author: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Publication Date/Publisher: September 9, 2014/Harper Teen
Series: Not currently
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Rating: 4 stars

From Goodreads:

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

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Rites of Passage is super hard for me to review and super hard to pinpoint why I liked it so much – especially since all my thought about it are kind of complain-y. Like…everything I like about it also has a negative.
Some examples:

 

FINALLY a girl that is strong for real and actually does some weight lifting (although extremely briefly)…and she does it all wrong. Like, I’m so glad you impressed the guys with your knowledge of the jargon (“working in”), but you wouldn’t start with a weight you’ve never attempted before for 8 reps without warming up at all.

 

Secret societies! This is so unexpected and interesting because I didn’t read that far into the description! Set in a military school and Sam is from a military family JUST LIKE ME! Oh, yeah, that’s not how my family is and this secret society stuff is going on a little too long. This book could be 100 pages shorter and I would be fine with it.

 

What I really like about Rites of Passage is not the will-it-or-won’t-it-be-a-sequel ending, but that it’s so unlike other books right now. I like what I like and I want to read what I like, and I was worried that Rites of Passage was going to be a bit of a clunker for me because military school is not boarding school, but it was so interesting (I want to say “refreshing” but I feel like a book with this much violence towards women can not be deemed refreshing because that is not like a strawberry lemonade AT ALL) to read a book that goes so many different places than most YA.
Part of me is even hoping for this to be a secret series, despite how much I hate a secret series. I wouldn’t mind spending some more time with Mac and the rest of the Alphas.

ARC Review: Falling Into Place

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Title/Author: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Publication Date/Publisher: September 9, 2014/Greenwillow Books
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.
Rating: 4 stars
From Goodreads:
On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect?

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“By the end, she was just another girl stuffed full of forgotten dreams, until she crashed her car and she wasn’t even that.”


Falling Into Place is the events leading to the decision Liz Emerson makes to crash her car, the moment of impact, and everything that comes after. The story jumps around in time – the moment of the crash is somewhere in the middle, but the end is the end, and everything else is moments at different points in time. Told by a mystery narrator that I enjoyed during the telling, I hoped for something different in the reveal.


“If she had paid more attention in physics, she would have known that the laws of motion are stronger than any plans she had.”


Liz is not the nicest girl. She wants to better, but she can’t stop herself from saying the not-nice thing, which I can very much relate to. She bullies and torments, she makes out with her best friend’s boyfriend, she gets her other best friend hooked on drugs. She is a life ruiner, and that’s why she’s decided she’s going to kill herself.


I loved the kind of choppy moments we see as we zip around Liz Emerson’s life: a snapshot of her playing in the snow, the minutes leading up to the crash, even the brief looks into the heads of her friends. It makes Falling Into Place a quick read, even if it’s not necessarily “action packed”.


I teared up a little, but never got the tears actually flowing. I didn’t find Falling Into Place to be a super emotional read for me, but I know some other people did. Maybe have some tissues handy, just in case.

Review: Forever, Interrupted

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Title/Author: Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date/Publisher: July 9, 2013/Washington Square Press
Series: No
Source and Format: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 5 stars
 
Form Goodreads:

Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.”

Elsie Porter is an average twenty-something and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.

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Upon finishing Forever, Interrupted I had to almost physically restrain myself from going to twitter and pleading the author to stop everything and write 17 more books RIGHT MEOW because my heart needs to be trampled on a bit more. Like, I was already planning out the Kickstarter.

 

Let’s talk about how the Italian title is You, Me and All the Time in the World and the Dutch title is Supernova and now we can all keep crying forever and ever.

 

Forever, Interrupted is the next stop on my “read all the books about marriage in the hope to perfect my own” train ride I call my life. (I don’t actually call it that.) I feel like this is the closest representation to my own experience that I’ve come across so far…minus the death, of course, which is weird to say since Forever, Interrupted is almost entirely about the death. But from the length of the first date to moving in together after 4 months, from eloping to a weekend trip to Nevada – this is my life.

 

Unlike Ben and Elsie, I waited a full 2 years instead of 6 months. Also unlike them, no one in my marriage has died, though it’s a constant possibility. The raw emotions (grief, anger, and really every horrible thing imaginable) that Elsie goes through is SO HARD and reading the back and forth between her grieving and how she got together with Ben is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s so well done and I just love this book that destroyed me so much.

 

My third biggest fear, after snails and my own death, is my husband dying. Yet every week, I ship him off to work to fight freaking wildfires around California – you know, the state that is constantly burning from like March – November? (My next biggest fears are: every freezer in the world stops working and there is no more ice cream and tortillas become extinct and there no more burritos, in case you were wondering).

 

Between Forever, Interrupted and After I Do, Taylor Jenkins Reid has secured herself a spot on my auto-buy list. So let’s all pester her to write 17 more books immediately (I’m honestly kidding, please don’t bother her) (she she can just keep writing without interruption or twitter distractions).

ARC Review: Sinner

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Title/Author: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date/Publisher: July 1, 2014/Scholastic Press
Series: Yes, The Wolves of Mercy Falls 3.5
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.
Rating: 4 stars
From Goodreads:
Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved
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I did not want to read a werewolf series. I have little to no interest in werewolves, but all of the interest in anything from Maggie Stiefvater. I put it off, I got approved for the last book in a series, and for once it didn’t come back to bit my in the ass because I’ll be damned if I didn’t love this series.


There will be spoilers for other books in the series in this review.


Sinner doesn’t pack the emotional punch that Shiver, Linger, and Forever do. Sinner is brighter and more fun, like Los Angeles and California are brighter and more fun than Mercy Falls or anywhere in Minnesota. We see very small snippets of Grace and Sam, and I’m grateful they didn’t make more of an appearance. I loved them in Shiver, but it was all over as soon as I met Isabel and Cole. Sam and Grace became…older, stodgy, Mom and Dad type characters after meeting these two.


Isabel was instantly my favorite in her icy coolness. The hair and the boots and the eyeliner endeared her to me immediately, and it was easy for me to forget that Cole was supposed to be this mega-rockstar when he was hiding in Mercy Falls. It’s harder to forget in Sinner, since this book is about his comeback to superstardom while “starring” in a reality web series.


There is little wolfing out, compared to the rest of the series. Cole slips away from time to time, injecting himself with his wolfy serum, but his biggest obstacle will always be himself.


I definitely thought Sinner was a novella, but it’s full length. I was pleasantly surprised for all the extra time with my faves, even if it wasn’t completely necessary to the series. I can’t wait to purchase this full set and I need to know if Sinner was printed in a color, so if anyone knows, please tell me!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Say You HAVE to Read

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This week, The Broke and the Bookish is asking us the top ten books people have told us we HAVE to read, but I feel like I don’t get that many books pushed on me (Lies of Locke Lamora and Mistborn/All B-Sands aside…). So these are the books that I demand others must read. I expect all of these books to make you cry, with the exception of one or two.

  1. After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid: such an amazing portrayal of relationships – a MUST read for everyone, but a MUSTMUST read for anyone who is married or in a long term relationship.
  2. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: tough to get into, but the payoff completely changes everything (like your whole entire life).
  3. Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas: Not optional
  4. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: the apocalypse, according to Gaiman? Marvelous and hysterical.
  5. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord: perfect remedy for your end of summer blues.
  6. Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer: have snacks and tissues handy
  7. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor: the most terrific, gorgeous series.
  8. MAGGIE STIEFVATER: all of it. Read it all. The Scorpio Races is a dreamy masterpiece, The Raven Cycle is the other most terrific gorgeous series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls is, yes, werewolves, but werewolves you actually want to read about.
  9. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: a MUST for fans of the genre, and a MUSTMUST for video game fans.
  10. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: Absolutely stunning tale and beautiful, beautiful writing.

This is only the tip of the iceberg on book I’m prepared to push, so hit me with the books I need to read (like I don’t already have enough haha!).

ARC Review: Don’t Touch

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Title/Author: Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
Publication Date/Publisher: September 2, 2014/Harper Teen
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Edelweiss. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.
Rating: 2 stars
From Goodreads:
Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good.

Caddie can’t stop thinking that if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, her parents might get back together… which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin.

It seems harmless at first, but Caddie’s obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who’s auditioning for the title role—and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall.

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WHY ARE YOU AT ACTING SCHOOL is the thing I thought most while reading Don’t Touch. I didn’t feel Caddie’s connection to acting or performing at all. It seems like the author just wanted Don’t Touch to take place in a setting where it was believable that the MC would be spending a lot of time as Ophelia for all the literary allusions and SHAKESPEARE! Metaphors! ACTING! For someone who is so afraid of everything, it seems like ACTING! would not be something Caddie is comfortable with.


I like books I can connect with, or books that give me something to relate to. I’ve had the odd panic attack, but don’t suffer from anxiety disorder or OCD. So, the actual “no touching” and the rules and everything was a little strange for me to believe – especially when Caddie really wants Peter to touch her. The whole thing of stemming from her parents separating was also weird for me – my parents divorced before I was old enough to make memories and subsequent divorces were not especially hard on me, so this isn’t something I can sympathize with either.


Caddie is short for Cadence, and whenever I remembered that I completely could not figure out how Caddie should be pronounced. At one point a golf joke is made, but I don’t understand how that is a shortened version of Cadence – which is apparently a family name? Her brother, Jordan, really got lucky in the naming department.


Other stray observations:

So, so, so repetitive. “No, I know” is used in what feels like every conversation.


Peter has biceps” cool so does EVERYONE


For a second, I think she means, “pick sides,” like we’re going to have to battle one another to make it to the stage, but no, by “sides,” she means copies of the scenes we’ll be reading: WHY ARE YOU AT ACTING SCHOOL

ARC Review: The Moment of Everything

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Title/Author: The Moment of Everything by Shelly King
Publication Date/Publisher: September 1, 2014/Grand Central Publishing
Series: No
Source and Format: I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.
Rating: 3 stars

From Goodreads:

Maggie Duprès, recently “involuntarily separated from payroll” at a Silicon Valley start-up, is whiling away her days in The Dragonfly’s Used Books, a Mountain View institution, waiting for the Next Big Thing to come along.

When the opportunity arises for her to network at a Bay Area book club, she jumps at the chance — even if it means having to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a book she hasn’t encountered since college, in an evening. But the edition she finds at the bookstore is no Penguin Classics Chatterley — it’s an ancient hardcover with notes in the margins between two besotted lovers of long ago. What Maggie finds in her search for the lovers and their fate, and what she learns about herself in the process, will surprise and move readers.

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A true love story. Not the love between people, though there is a bit of that as well, but the love of books.


I 100% requested The Moment of Everything because the cover is books and cats, which are my favorite things that aren’t edible. Sometimes it’s okay to judge a book by it’s cover!


Every side character was more fleshed out than Maggie, and that led me to not care for her. I didn’t root for her, I wasn’t sad for her. There was nothing about her personality that let me know why she made the decisions she did and I feel like I never got to know her. There’s a wonderfully diverse cast….and Maggie. Gay and lesbian characters! Multiple ethnicities! Characters with disabilities! All different kinds of nerds! And Maggie is not even one of those things.


But the books. Ah, the books. Finding love in books through notes written back and forth between unknown people, finding love around books in The Dragonfly, and just loving books in general.


Shelly King previously published a short story, but for all intents and purposes this is her debut. It shows a little in the repetitiveness of some words/phrases (though there might have been some additional polishing to the finished version), but some passages are lovely. I teared up at a letter from the CIA Bathroom, which is a very weird thing to write, let me tell you. Inspecting the author’s bio on Goodreads tells me that The Moment of Everything is very close to her own life, but different enough: Southern girl moves to Silicon Valley for internet job. “Write what you know” and all, but I always think it’s interesting to actually see the similarities.

 

Mini Reviews

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Title/Author: Fault Line by Christa Destir
Publication Date/Publisher: October 15, 2013/Simon Pulse
Series: No
Source and Format: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 2 stars

1: I always liked this cover, but after reading the book it’s the most fucked up cover ever
2: I didn’t believe any of the characters: not their reactions, not their feelings, not anything
3: I already returned the book so I can’t say for sure, but I feel like the dialogue didn’t work for me
4: Complete non-ending

 

Title/Author: Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
Publication Date/Publisher: October 1, 2012/Sourcebooks Fire
Series: Hundred Oaks #2
Source and Format: Own
Rating: 3 stars

I’m unable to keep my feelings about Parker from influencing how I feel about Stealing Parker. While I mostly enjoyed the actual story, I really hated Parker.

It’s probably my liberal heathen roots, but none of Parker’s decisions made sense to me. She’s obsessed with being a “good Christian” and “not looking like a lesbian” after her mom leaves the family to be with a woman. The whole church and most of the town turns on Parker’s remaining family, including her former best friends. Parker quits softball, starts painting her nails every day (I did not care for these constant color updates), and starts making out with tons of boys…including the new baseball coach.

Any of the things she did would have been fine if she had taken ownership of them. It seemed like she didn’t want to be doing any of the things she was doing – Parker WANTS to play softball but quits and is only punishing herself, Parker doesn’t want to make out with a bunch of boys, she WANTS to be in love with someone.

Her struggle with her faith is not something I could relate to AT ALL. If I was part of a community that turned on me because of something someone related to me did, I would be done with them with the quickness. What I could relate to was the student/coach relationship but my experience with it was so much worse and Stealing Parker mostly handles it well but poor Parker is just too naïve/inexperienced for it to really work for me.

 

Title/Author: This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
Publication Date/Publisher: April 1, 2014/Simon Pulse
Series: No
Source and Format: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 3 stars

Not at all blown away with this one. I enjoyed it more that I thought I would, based on the religiousness of it – though I did expect David to struggle more with his faith. The religious cult aspect was new territory for me and I enjoyed the then/now alternating chapters to tell the story. The real star of This Side of Salvation is the sibling relationship between David and Mara.

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Title/Author: Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Publication Date/Publisher: July 3, 2014/Orion
Series: No
Source and Format: Own
Rating: 4 stars

(I made up that whole little header thing and then NEVER wrote anything about the book but just go read it, okay?)