Friday, January 29, 2016

Book Review: I Was Here

Title I Was Here
Author Gayle Forman
Release Date January 27, 2015

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

This is another one of those books that I was pretty excited to read when I first discovered it. Then, after waiting around for a while and reading some less than stellar reviews, became less excited to read it. Ultimately, I get around to reading the book and am less than impressed. Sometimes, I wonder if I should avoid reviews for books I'm really looking forward to, but then I remember that the review doesn't determine whether or not I actually enjoy a book.

Meg and Cody were supposed to be best friends, but it certainly didn't feel like that to me. Cody seems completely surprised to find that Meg has committed suicide and was suffering from depression. Really? Your best friend is depressed and suicidal and you have NO idea? Not believable. Then again, Cody seemed really selfish, so maybe she was, in fact, that clueless.

I didn't feel anything towards the characters. These people just lost someone very dear to them and, yet, I felt nothing. I didn't feel the overwhelming grief that you'd experience from losing someone to suicide. No confusion on why she killed herself, no sadness, no anger. Nothing. It felt too emotionless for a book about dealing with someone's death.

And then there's Ben McAllister. I could have done without him and Cody. It just felt gross. And selfish.


2 out 5 stars

Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: What We Left Behind

Title What We Left Behind
Author Robin Talley
Release Date October 27, 2015

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, theirs is bound to stay rock-solid.

The reality of being apart, though, is very different than they expected. Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen won’t understand Toni’s new world, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni’s shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

I've wanted to read this book for a while now. It was one of my Waiting on Wednesday picks in May of last year. It was in my top ten books I wanted to get to (but didn't a chance to read) a couple of weeks ago.

First, I want to say that I really loved Lies We Tell Ourselves. There was an interesting story with diverse characters and the writing was fantastic. It set the bar for Robin Talley's next book very high for me. Then, I saw the blurb for What We Left Behind and I was so excited! It called to me. I wanted this wonderful sounding book with a genderqueer character.

Secondly, is this book a solid representation of what it means to be genderqueer? As a side note, I am cisgender. I have no personal knowledge of what it means to be transgender (or even genderqueer). I am very open to learn about being transgender/genderqueer. I've watched videos on YouTube. I've read things. However, I am not claiming to understand these struggles. I don't. That being said, I've read numerous reviews on Goodreads that state What We Left Behind isn't a good representation of what it means to be genderqueer. Again, I can't speak personally, but I believe I can form an educated opinion. And it feels to me like this isn't a solid representation of being genderqueer. It feels like being genderqueer is treated as a transitional period from cisgender to transgender in this book rather than a legitimate identity.

I feel like the story was weaker in What We Left Behind than it was in Lies We Tell Ourselves. I was perfectly fine with the story focusing on Toni and figuring out their identity while the relationship took more of a backseat, but it just... ugh! I wasn't sure if I was reading a novel or a text book half of the time.

To top it all off, I didn't really like any of the characters. They all kind of sucked. And can someone tell me why, after some of the outrageous things he said, Gretchen was friends with Carroll?


2 out 5 stars

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stacking the Shelves (#10)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks.

Here's what I've added to my shelves (Kindle, really) since last time...

For Review - Netgalley

- My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul
- Don't Get Caught by Kurt Dinan
- Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira
- In Real Life by Jessica Love
- You Were Here by Cori McCarthy
- Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
- Dear Nobody by Gillian McCain & Legs McNeil

For Review - From Author

- Sam's Story: Book Two by Amy D. Crusan-Kramer
- Sam's Story: Book Three by Amy D. Crusan-Kramer


- The First for Noelle by Deanna Dee
- The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
- F*ck Love by Tarryn Fisher
- Kissing in America by Margo Rabb
- The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
- Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
- Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
- The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
- For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

What have you added to your shelves recently? Leave your Stacking the Shelves link in the comments and I'll be sure to visit!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Book Review: This Song is (Not) for You

Title This Song is (Not) for You

Author Laura Nowlin

Release Date January 5, 2016

Bandmate, best friend or boyfriend? For Ramona, one choice could mean losing them all.

Ramona and Sam are best friends. She fell for him the moment they met, but their friendship is just too important for her to mess up. Sam loves April, but he would never expect her to feel the same way--she's too quirky and cool for someone like him. Together, they have a band, and put all of their feelings for each other into music.

Then Ramona and Sam meet Tom. He's their band's missing piece, and before Ramona knows it, she's falling for him. But she hasn't fallen out of love with Sam either.

How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?

This Song is (Not) for You was a bit strange. I was perfectly fine with the elements of the story that make this book unique (polyamorous relationship, asexual character). I think the strangeness comes from lack of direction. I guess This Song is (Not) for You could be a coming of age story and, therefore, could pass without as solid of a plot, but... eh, I don't know. I'm not sure that really works here.

The POV switches so frequently (there's three different POVs), I don't feel like we're given sufficient time to connect with any of the characters. I do believe that each character had a solid and distinct voice, so that was definitely a plus. I just wish we were given an opportunity to really connect with and care about these characters.

Decent book with potential to explore some interesting elements, but lack of plot and disconnection from the characters left me wanting more.


3 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Sourcebooks Fire via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Book Review: Bookishly Ever After

Title Bookishly Ever After

Series Ever After, book 1

Author Isabel Bandeira

Release Date January 12, 2016

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

This sounds incredibly good. It looks really pretty. I've seen it on numerous Waiting on Wednesday posts around the blogging world. When I was approved on Netgalley, I was excited. Reading a book about a girl that loves to read books? I don't know, it just seems like it would be a good time.

Sadly, it felt like this book dragged on and on. And on and on. For a book as long as it is (Amazon says 350 pages), it sure felt like not a whole lot of anything happened. If the story didn't drag on for so freaking long, it could have been more enjoyable. The whole "He likes me. Wait, no he doesn't." got old quickly. We didn't really need the back and forth to be the entire book, did we?

Other than moving at a snail's pace, it was an alright read. There were some enjoyable parts in between the numerous lulls. It was predictable, but I think that's pretty much expected in a cute and fluffy YA romance.


3 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Spencer Hill Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Spotlight/Giveaway: This Song is (Not) for You

Title: This Song is (Not) for You
Author: Laura Nowlin
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publishers: Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 9781492602903

Ramona fell for Sam the moment she met him. It was like she had known him forever. He’s one of the few constants in her life, and their friendship is just too important to risk for a kiss. Though she really wants to kiss him…

Sam loves Ramona, but he would never expect her to feel the same way—she’s too quirky and cool for someone like him. Still, they complement each other perfectly, both as best friends and as a band.

Then they meet Tom. Tom makes music too, and he’s the band’s missing piece. The three quickly become inseparable. Except Ramona’s falling in love with Tom. But she hasn’t fallen out of love with Sam either. How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?

An Excerpt:


Tom was plugging in what looked like a set of guitar pedals without a guitar. He looked up at Ramona and then at me.

“You know that video you guys posted last week?” he said. “I came up with something that I think would sound cool with that, if you wanna mess around with it.”

I shrugged.

“Sure,” Ramona said. She played a drumroll and I headed over to my guitar and put it back on. I turned my back to them and strummed the high E string. Behind me I heard Ramona start to swing into the song’s tempo.

I try as hard as I can to not watch Ramona when she’s playing. I mean, it’s not possible to never look at her, because so much of playing together is about communicating without talking. But I try to look at Ramona as little as I can.

Ramona is really talented. And determined.

She doesn’t care when playing makes her sweaty and messes up her hair.

And she makes these faces.

I was saved from remembering some specific times I’ve seen Ramona during practice by a noise behind me. It was like wind chimes. Alien wind chimes from a robot planet. I looked over my shoulder. Tom was bent over the pedals and the chaos something. He was making this haunting electronic sound. I could hear where my guitar would fit in. I started the opening chords for the song. I closed my eyes and focused on Ramona’s drumming. My body began to move with the time she set. The sound of her stick striking the tom hit my back again and again.



Whenever Ramona eats candy, she arranges it by color first. It’s not like an obsessive--compulsive thing. She just thinks it’s fun. She usually doesn’t like anything orange, so she often gives those to me. Greens are her favorites.

Her sneeze is really weird. She scrunches up her face and makes a noise like a tiny snort. It’s like she’s trying to stop the sneeze from getting away.

Ramona’s mother started giving her piano lessons when she was four. She died when Ramona was nine, and her father hired someone from the academy to give her lessons after that. She still has private lessons, and she never talks about her mother.

We like to watch really bad shows together so we can make fun of the dialogue. Shows about psychics solving crimes are the most fun. Ramona is really good at predicting what the psychics will say next.

Ramona can’t stand people who put up a false front. “Poseur” is her darkest insult.

She’s fun, and she’s real.

Ramona’s an assertive girl, and if she was into me as more than a friend, she would have just said so a long time ago. She’s trusted me with her friendship, and I’m not going to ever put that at risk.


I turned around.

From over her kit, Ramona met my eyes. She grinned and bit her lip. We sounded good. Tom filled out the song without drowning either of us out. I could tell the guy knows what he’s doing. Ramona played a fill, closed her eyes, and threw her head back.

I turned away again.

Buy Links:

About the Author:

Laura Nowlin holds a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Missouri State University. When she isn’t at home agonizing over her own novels, Laura works at the public library, where the patrons give her plenty of inspiration for her writing. She lives in St. Louis with her musician husband, neurotic dog, and psychotic cat.



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cover Reveal: Right of First Refusal

Right of First Refusal

by Dahlia Adler

Release Date: March 15, 2015
On the lacrosse field, Cait Johanssen gets what she wants. Off the field is another story. Because what she wants is the school's hot new basketball student-coach, Lawrence Mason, who also happens to be the guy who broke her heart in sports camp two years earlier.

But it's Cait's new roommate who's got him.

Cait and Mase agree it's best to keep their past a secret, but she doesn't expect him to completely ignore their history...or how much it'll hurt when he does. So when a friend on the basketball team asks her to pose as his girlfriend for a night, Cait can't turn down the opportunity for distraction. (Okay, and a little spite.) But what starts as an evening of fun turns into a fake relationship with more lies than the usually drama-free Cait can handle, and it's only keeping her from the one truth that's nagged at her for years: Why did Mase cut her out of his life to begin with?

And is it really too late to get him back?


Pre-Order Links

About the Author

Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teen Blog by night, and writes Contemporary YA and NA at every spare moment in between. She's the author of the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University series, as well as over five billion tweets as @MissDahlELama. She lives in New York City with her husband and their overstuffed bookshelves.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday (#6)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because everyone loves a good list, don't they? We love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Top Ten 2015 Releases I Meant To Get To But Didn't

No matter how much I try, there's always going to be a book or two (or ten) that I miss. One of my goals this year is to read through some of my TBR list from previous years (fingers crossed!). Here's my top ten books that I really wanted to read in 2015, but didn't have an opportunity to read.

Clicking on a cover takes you to the Goodreads page for that particular book

Which 2015 releases did you want to read, but didn't get a chance to? Leave your TTT in the comments below!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Book Review: Underwater

Title Underwater

Author Marisa Reichardt

Release Date January 12, 2016

Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

This was everything I could have wanted.

I loved Morgan. She was a fantastic protagonist. I connected with her and her struggles because I've dealt with panic attacks and fear of just about everything. I think she was so well written, though, that even if you hadn't been through similar things, you'd still be able to connect to her and feel for her.

I'll admit that I found myself slightly frustrated at not knowing what happened in the beginning. There's just enough build up before you find out what happened and Morgan's role. If you can (please try!), go into this blind. Don't seek out spoilers (I almost did). Just let it come to you when the time is right.

Underwater was a great read. Wonderfully realistic characters that you can form attachments to, a well-written and emotional story, and an overall message of hope.


5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Friday, January 8, 2016

Blog Tour: Clean

Title Clean

Author Mia Kerick

Release Date December 1, 2015

Tour Host Sage's Blog Tours

High school senior Lanny Keating has it all. A three-sport athlete at Lauserville High School looking at a college football scholarship, with a supportive family, stellar grades, boy band good looks… until the fateful day when it all falls apart.

Seventeen-year-old Trevor Ladd has always been a publicly declared zero and the high school badboy. Abandoned by his mother and sexually abused by his legal guardian, Trevor sets his sights on mere survival.

Lanny seeks out Trevor’s companionship to avoid his shattered home life. Unwilling to share their personal experiences of pain, the boys explore ways to escape, leading them into sexual experimentation, and the abuse of illegal drugs and alcohol.  Their mutual suffering creates a lasting bond of friendship and love.

When the time finally comes to get clean and sober, or flunk out of high school, only one of the boys will graduate, while the other spirals downward into addiction. Will Lanny and Trevor find the strength to battle their demons of mind-altering substances as well as emotional vulnerability?

Clean takes the reader on a gritty trip into the real and raw world of teenage substance abuse.

Clean provides a raw look at how tragedy can fuel teenage substance abuse. It isn't an easy read, but it is a good one. Trigger warnings: substance abuse, sexual abuse

The book is broken up into two parts. I'd like to think of it as a before and after of sorts. While the first part is gritty and painful, the second part provides a powerful message of hope and redemption for Trevor and Lanny.

I was a bit put off by the writing style in the beginning. At times the internal dialogue didn't feel as genuine and realistic as the rest of the book. However, by the end of the book, I grew to enjoy it.


4 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from the author in exchange for an honest review. *

Excerpt from Clean

Anyway, he picks me up for school at seven sharp. And Trevor may appear like the total bad boy who just doesn’t care—shaggy dark hair hanging in his eyes, a scruffy face that hasn’t seen a razor in way too long, one of those classic black leather jackets that all rebels seem to wear, and the standard worn out Levi’s—but he’s punctual. I mean, the dude’s like clockwork. And if I’m not ready at 7:00 a.m. sharp, he takes off without me and doesn’t even check in his rear view mirror to see if I’m running down the street behind the car. Which I usually am—flailing my arms SOS-style in an effort to flag him down.

So I dart out of the house in the direction of his car, my too-long-for-the-football-team hair dripping wet from the shower, yesterday’s shirt not yet buttoned, and my backpack still unzipped. I shake out my hair to avoid getting droplets of water on his pristine leather-trimmed seats, open the passenger door, slip inside the car, and try to catch my breath.

Trevor doesn’t take his eyes off the road as he says, “Almost left you in my dust, prepster. Thirty more seconds and I’d have been history.”

I want to be mad but then he turns toward me, raises his left eyebrow, and I melt. “Um...thanks for waiting.” I couldn’t come up with a “funny”, or so Joelle says when I crack a joke. But his left eyebrow has that effect on me.

Trevor still doesn’t look at me as he grunts something like, “guess your ass got lucky today” and we head for the Java House drive-thru to grab our mandatory morning coffee. After I got booted off the baseball team last spring for missing too many morning conditioning sessions, Trevor taught me that there’s nothing better for a hangover than a large black coffee and an order of hash browns. He told me that together they have the perfect combination of grease and caffeine necessary to kill off the toxins in our blood. I take his suggestion seriously.

About the Author
Ms Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five non-pedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-three years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it’s a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships. As a teen, Mia filled spiral- bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big- hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping.

She is thankful to CoolDudes Publishing, Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality, which is now the law of the land in the United States—woot! woot! Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Author Links

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Review: The Guest Room

Title The Guest Room

Author Chris Bohjalian

Release Date January 5, 2016

When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. She brings their young daughter to Manhattan for the evening, leaving her Westchester home to the men and their hired entertainment. What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night.

In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare. The police throw them out of their home, now a crime scene, Richard’s investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave, and Kristin is unsure if she can forgive her husband for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.

This is the very first book I've read by Chris Bohjalian (I'll admit that I hadn't heard of him before), but if his others are like this then it won't be my last. This book was impressive.

I was hooked into the story in the very first few pages. Bohjalian has some incredible writing skills. I really enjoyed the alternating points of view within the story as well as the flashbacks into Alexandra's life.

The Guest Room flawlessly shows how a small questionable decision can ultimately change the life of so many people while shining a light on the sex trafficking industry, not only abroad but here in America as well.


5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Doubleday via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *

Monday, January 4, 2016

Book Review: Firsts

Title Firsts

Author Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Release Date January 5, 2016

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

At the time of writing this review (middle of November 2015), there are already mixed reviews for Firsts. I get it. Not everyone is going to like this book. However, I did.

Mercedes is an unlikable main character. She makes some questionable decisions (read: willingly have sex with someone she doesn't want to, lie to her best friend, etc). But I understood her. I understood her reasoning and why she made the choices she did. The why behind what she does was clear to me. That understanding alone allows me to deal with the fact that she is unlikable.

While it wasn't what I went in expecting (something more light-hearted and funny, maybe?), it was definitely a good book. It exceeded my expectations. Complex characters, interesting story, and important real life issues. Of course, I devoured this book. It's exactly my kind of book.

Trigger warning: There is talk of rape by coercion and attempted rape in this book.


4 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. *