The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

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fivestars

Title: The Simple Wild

Author: K.A. Tucker

Pages: 388

Genre: Contemporary romance, new adult

My Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

I just finished reading this book and knew I had to immediately write my review while all my feels are still fresh. Y’all, I don’t read a lot of romance, but I have been so lucky that the romance books I read in 2018 were stellar. The Simple Wild is no exception, and I’m so happy I got to end 2018 with this piece of joy.

This book pretty much had everything I ever wanted: atmospheric wilderness, enemies-to-lovers, found family, small town feels, hot pilots, and AIRPLANES. Like… you don’t understand. I used to fly planes. Having an entire book centered around aviation made my heart so damn happy.

In a nutshell, we follow Calla, a 26 year old woman from Toronto. She and her father never had a relationship after her mother left her father in Alaska. However, one night Calla receives a phone call asking her to come visit because her father is ill. When she arrives she is greeted by a rather moody bush pilot, Jonah — and their strange and kind of wacky relationship blooms from there.

I really loved how K.A. Tucker painted the romance; it wasn’t an insta-love situation, yet the male and female love interests weren’t horrible to each other, either (which is what I dread sometimes going into an enemies-to-lovers plot). I’ve read some romances where the man is just way over the top mean, but he really wasn’t at all! And this book has more witty banter and silly pranks which I thought were so fun. The romance is definitely a slow burn, but it all played out organically and realistically. (And let’s just say there’s a cabin scene and you KNOW that shit makes me weak.)

I also loved how Calla is into fashion blogging and instagramming, because it felt like I was reading about myself. Trying to capture that perfect instagrammable photo, thinking of the perfect captions, and perhaps over packing a little too much for a trip. Yeah, that’s relatable af to me.

And, of course, you can’t have an aviation-centered book without me picking it apart! Sorry! But I can honestly say K.A. Tucker did such an amazing job researching everything from aircraft mechanics, avionics, terminology, and aircraft types. It was fun for me to come across a plane and be like, “Oh! I’ve flown one of those before!” I was living for all of the flying scenes, and they’re abundant but so different from each other. Bangor, AK is a fictional town but it’s based off of Bethel, AK (according to the Acknowledgements) so I creeped the Bethel airport. Sure enough, it’s quite similar to how the Bangor airport is described in the book, and it surprised me they have a control tower, too! (tbh I thought Bangor was much smaller than the real town it’s based off of, but hey, it’s a fictional book so I won’t drag it.)

But I digress. I just simply loved the dynamics between these characters so much. There’s the found family between Jonah, Wren (Calla’s father), Agnes, and Mabel… and just everyone in town and nearby villages who all know and love each other. The sense of community is real in this book. And I loved how Calla and Wren were able to reconnect their father-daughter relationship. The message in this book really resonated with me; how we can’t expect others to change, but it is okay to still love and support the choices they make.

I will say that one thing that bugged me was how much Jonah made Calla feel bad for enjoying things like beauty and fashion, It’s so common for men to believe women put on makeup to please men or for other shallow reasons, when really I personally put on makeup for myself. I like makeup, and I like the way it looks. I’ve grown used to going make-up-free as I’ve gotten older, but I still love buying it and using it. I’m not saying Jonah is in any way a “toxic masculinity” character, but his constant griping about women and makeup got to be annoying. But I can’t let Calla off the hook, either. She refers to Jonah as a “yeti” a lot because of his long hair and beard, and that got pretty old, too.

There’s also the constant reminder that Jonah is the “best damn pilot” out there and it’s like, okay, I get it — let’s stop with the overused shtick from 1980’s action films, please. Being a good pilot is one thing but he does make some unsafe decisions so… [insert KermitSippingTea.jpg]

But seriously, I loved this book so much, and I did not expect it to punch me so hard in the feels. I was worried I was going to be angry with the way Wren’s illness was handled, or how the aviation was going to be portrayed, or that the love interest was going to be horrible — but none of that happened. I wholeheartedly recommend this book especially if you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan. I will definitely be reading more books by K.A. Tucker soon!

Trigger warnings for cancer, talks of cancer treatments, parental separation.

fivestars

xx,

Amy

 

Dragons and Tea Book Club: February Book Announcement!

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Hi, friends! Melanie and I want to thank each and every one of you who joined our book club ever since we announced it in December. I’m amazed at all the discussions we generated on Goodreads and that we were so lucky to have K. Ancrum answer our questions! The Wicker King was such a unique, tragic, and beautiful book that will stick with me forever.

I know you’re all probably curious about our next buddy read book. So without further ado…


Our February book will be:

A GIRL LIKE HER by Talia Hibbert:

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The Dates & Breakdown:

February 4th — Ch. 1-7 (p. 1-68)

February 5th — Ch. 8-15 (p. 69-134)

February 6th — Ch. 16-22 (p. 135-201)

February 7th — Ch. 23-28 (p. 202-256)

February 8th — Ch. 29-end (p. 527-end)

Why we chose this book:

February is Black History Month and we thought it’d be the perfect way to boost this ownvoices, diverse contemporary romance (and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner)! Even if contemporary isn’t your jam, we hope you’ll give this a chance as we’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it. (Also the ebook is only $2.99 on Amazon US!)


Don’t forget to join our Goodreads Group!

And we will also follow discussions/your reading journey on Twitter and Instagram using the (hashtag) #DragonsAndTeaBookClub!


See you then! ❤

🐉☕ Melanie: Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads
🐉☕ Amy: Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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fourstars

Title: One True Loves

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pages: 352

Genre: Contemporary romance

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

I think this is one of those books where you’re either going to end up loving or hating the ending. I fell into the “love it” camp, but I totally understand why others may not agree!

I am also always intrigued by “what would you do?” scenarios. And I know Taylor Jenkins Reid is quite the master at weaving those kind of stories. This book felt very pure and realistic, and I very much fell in love with all the characters.

In a nutshell, this book follows Emma. She marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They both felt trapped and bored in their home town, so once they got married, they vowed to always travel and be on the move. They lived very spontaneous and adventurous lifestyles. Until one day, Jesse is presumed dead from disappearing after a helicopter crash.

Emma moves back to her home town and eventually pieces her life back together. She finds happiness in running her parents’ book shop and then becomes engaged to Sam. After all those years, she finally was able to move on with her life. Then Jesse returns.

This book completely resonated with me because it really does split a life into “before” and “after”. Do you have one of those moments that split your life into two? For me it was falling ill with an incurable illness. One moment I was health and happy, and then “after” I was sickly, bedridden, and unable to achieve the goals I previously wanted. This book really hit me because I really did change as a person between my late 20’s and early 30’s. And after a lot of time grieving that part of me that I “lost”, I am now in a much better head space and happier.

I loved how this book followed not just Emma’s relationship with Jesse but also her relationship with Sam. Each man in her life was not painted in a negative light, so it was difficult to decide who to ‘ship’ her with. But ultimately I’m happy with the decision she made in the end. It all felt very realistic (despite some of the decisions Emma made.) I will warn you that Emma does sleep with both Jesse and Sam, and that cheating is still cheating. So please keep that in mind if that’s something that will bother you.

Overall I truly loved this book and recommend it. I really loved how TJR was able to seamlessly weave together Emma’s “before” and “afters”, and how it is okay and normal to change the paths in our lives.


fourstars

Buddy read with Melanie and Sue!

xx,

Amy

 

One Day in December by Josie Silver

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fourstars

Title: One Day in December

Author: Josie Silver

Pages: 416

Genre: Contemporary Romance

My rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

For some reason I was expecting this to be one of those Serendipity-like stories where a guy and girl miss their first chance at love so they spend the next several years searching for each other. But really this book is so much more than that; it goes beyond “love at first sight” and focuses on life and friendships that spans over the course of ten years. I truly had such a great time reading this book and it was even better that I got to read this while co-hosting TistheSeasonAThon!

This isn’t your typical romance or holiday story. In fact, I found the “Christmassy” vibes to be very minimal. I truly think you could read this during any time of year.

This book follows two POVs: Laurie and Jack. Laurie is a journalist who happens to be on a crowded double-decker bus when she locks eye with a man at a bus stop. They feel an instant attraction but the bus is too crowded for her to get off and for him to get on. Laurie spends the next year trying to find “the bus boy”. She even has her roommate, Sarah, helping to track him down. Then one day Sarah introduces Laurie to her new boyfriend, and… you guessed it. Sarah’s boyfriend, Jack, is “the bus boy.”

Now, if this were normal life, Laurie would tell Sarah that Jack is the bus boy and they’d probably have a good laugh about it. But in true rom-com fashion Laurie keeps it a secret. And so does Jack.. because he recognizes Laurie as “the bus girl.”

All of this is unveiled early on in the book, so I was pleasantly surprised how much depth we got from all the characters as the story progressed. Over the course of several years we follow Laurie’s life as she navigates love, family, and personal growth. She even spends some time in Thailand — so that gets major points from me. It was really refreshing to read a romance that wasn’t solely focused on one main relationship. You follow all the ugliness of friendships and marriages, and how as we get older, we change into different people (or not at all).

I will admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of Jack from the get-go. He’s moody, indecisive, and quite bratty. But I liked that he (and others) are flawed. And it felt like each character’s personalities and actions were portrayed in a realistic way.

This isn’t a “fluffy’ romance, nor is it a sugar-coated “chick-lit” book, either. It’s fun and easy to fly through but it also deals with heart break, loss, and angst. It’s definitely a slow burn but I found it so worth it in the end!

Trigger/content warning: loss of a sibling (not on the page), loss of a parent, cheating (kissing).

fourstars

xx,

Amy

Snow in Love by Kasie West, Nic Stone, Melissa de la Cruz, Aimee Friedman

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Book provided by Scholastic

threestars

Title: Snow in Love

Authors: Kasie West, Aimee Friedman, Melissa de la Cruz, Nic Stone

Pages: 256

Genre: YA Contemporary

My rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

What’s better than one deliciously cozy, swoon-worthy holiday story? Four of them, from some of today’s bestselling authors.

From KASIE WEST, a snowy road trip takes an unexpected detour when secrets and crushes are revealed.

From AIMEE FRIEDMAN, a Hanukkah miracle may just happen when a Jewish girl working as a department store elf finds love.

From MELISSA DE LA CRUZ, Christmas Eve gets a plot twist when a high school couple exchange surprising presents.

From NIC STONE, a scavenger hunt amid the holiday crowds at an airport turns totally romantic.

So grab a mug of hot cocoa, snuggle up, and get ready to fall in love…

I had the privilege of co-hosting a readathon with some amazing ladies this December, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how it turned out! Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart, who read along with us, shared their progress on twitter and instagram, and posted the daily photo challenges. We can’t wait to host TistheSeasonAThon again next year!

The first book I read during TistheSeasoAThon was Snow in Love. Snow in Love is a collection of four short holiday stories. We chose this as our group buddy read and overall we had similar thoughts regarding each story. I’m going to briefly give you my thoughts and ratings about each one!


Snow and Mistletoe by Kasie West ★★★★★

This story is a road trip-lover’s dream. Snow and Mistletoe follows Amalie, an opera student who is stranded at the Denver airport. There she runs into a classmate, Sawyer. Sawyer, his sister Heather, and two friends (Wes and Logan) decide to rent a car back to Fresno and they invite Amalie along. From there it’s the cutest story ever told; from driving through snowy towns, stopping in motels, buying souvenirs at random pit stops, all while watching a romance bloom.

But this story also addresses anxiety and absent parents. There’s so much character development packed into just 70 pages. And while the outcome was predictable, I couldn’t help but feel so soft after reading it!

Working in a Winter Wonderland ★★

Okay, yikes. I really, REALLY did not like this story, and that makes me so sad because it’s set in NYC DURING CHRISTMAS TIME. This story follows Maxine, a Jewish college student home from college. She gets a job working as an elf in a department store just so she can save up enough money to buy a pretty dress. She also falls in love with a very cocky guy who is the son of the owner of said department store.

Y’all, I really hated that guy. He was arrogant, self-absorbed, and led Maxine on. And she was so blinded by wanting to buy a pretty dress just so she could go to a NYE party with him? I just can’t. And the rest of the characters were just… there. The other love interest randomly appeared at the end of the story. It was such a mess.

Also, this story is heavily themed around consumerism, which I feel is relevant, but it really did not seem to teach Maxine a lesson at all!

The Magi’s Gift

I originally gave this story 2 stars but… I had to down grade it. The more I think about this story, the more I hated it. I’m not going to delve into this deeply because if you’re familiar with the original story this is based on (The Gift of the Magi) then you’ll know how this ends. And while this is supposed to be a story about sacrificing things you love for others… I just couldn’t deal with how these teens handled their gift-giving dilemmas. Look, there is NOTHING COOL about selling off your family heirlooms to buy your SO a present. Consult an adult. Please.

Grounded ★★★★

This story was just SO FUN. Grounded is a story about being stuck at an airport with your crush. Leigh finds out she’s delayed in ATL but her crush, Harper, is there as well. Leigh hasn’t come out as gay yet to her family, and she’s nervous about Harper finding out, too. But they soon start texting each other and Leigh finds it easy to open up to Harper. They then invent a scavenger hunt throughout the airport — and it is so damn fun. But not only is this book about love and games, but it brings up so many issues about systematic racism (both Leigh and Harper are black). The story is also mostly told in text message format, which made it very quick to fly through!


Overall this puts my average rating around 3 stars, which I feel is right. I just did not love the two middle stories at all, so that makes me quite sad! But I do hope you enjoyed this book, and it’s definitely worth picking up for the first story alone!

threestars

xx,

Amy

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky

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ARC provided by Turner Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

fourstars

Title: Mammoth

Author: Jill Baguchinsky

Pages: 304

Genre: YA Contemporary

My rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

When I heard this book is about boosting women in STEM and is all about paleontology, I knew I had to request this. While the writing and plot was more of a 3-star read for me, I found the subject matter very near and dear to my heart. So, sorry in advance if this gets a little personal!

Natalie is a plus-size fashion blogger with a passion for paleontology. She gets the opportunity to intern at a dig site (museum) in Austin, TX but she soon learns that it’s impossible to wear cute clothes and look “trendy” while digging in the dirt. And to top it off, she gets the chance to meet her idol, world renowned paleontologist, Tom Carver.

But things take a bad turn when Carver takes credit for one of Natalie’s finds, and Natalie tries to find her footing in the paleontology world, while finding balance between her own happiness and self-confidence.

What I loved most about this book was how much it reminded me of my childhood. My dad was a geologist, and he has a huge collection of fossils, books on dinosaurs, and scale-model dinosaurs. It’s what sparked my desire to go into the paleontology field. But my university didn’t have a paleontology program so I went into a different science field. What resonated with me about Natalie’s story is that I, too, went into a male-dominated field. I was 1 of 3 women to graduate in my aviation class, and later worked in aviation where I was the minority. Like, I totally felt for Natalie having to feel the constant need to prove herself that she belonged in paleontology. And I was living for all the educational scenes where we got to follow along on their digs.

But aside from the paleontology, I loved how fashion was woven into the story. Fashion is Natalie’s armor, and it was nice to see her slowly shed that armor and discover herself. I was also loving how Natalie’s “Look of the day” and blog post started a new chapter.

As far as the story goes, it was fast-paced and an easy read. I wasn’t a huge fan of the rest of the characters and found Tom Carver to be a non-magical version of Gilderoy Lockhart. There’s also a very gross scene between a male love interest and Natalie that happens rather early on in the book. And I was really cringing at some of the stupid decisions Natalie made in the second half.

However I found that the end was realistic (to a degree) and was glad that not everything was sunshine and rainbows; that it’s realistic for young people to make mistakes and for them to receive the consequences for making those mistakes.

I recommend this book if you’re looking for a cute book that has a badass female in the STEM field. I wish we saw more of this in YA literature and I’m going to keep rooting for stories like this!

Trigger warnings: fat-phobic thoughts and comments, self harm (snapping an elastic on wrist), unwanted sexual kissing/touching, food avoidance.

fourstars

xx,

Amy

Heartstopper: Vol. 1 by Alice Oseman

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fivestars

Graphic Novel: Heartstopper: Volume 1

Chapters: #1-2

Author: Alice Oseman

Pages: 278

Genre: YA contemporary

My rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore, and he’s sort of got a boyfriend, even if he’s kind of mean and only wants to meet up in secret.

Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him. That is, until the start of January, in which Nick and Charlie are placed in the same form group and made to sit together.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

From the author of Solitaire and Radio Silence comes a bind up of the first two chapters of Heartstopper, an ongoing webcomic.

Look no further if you want something heartfelt, cute, pure, emotional, and important, with beautiful art and the most lovable characters! Y’all, this comic melted my heart. I binged the entire webcomic on Tapas and then I ordered Alice Oseman’s self-published edition of Heartstopper: Volume 1 (it will be officially published by Hachette in February 2019!). I honestly love everything about it.

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This comic follows Charlie, an openly gay student at an all-boys British grammar school. His classmate, Nick, is captain of the rugby team, and they become close friends. But then Charlie begins developing feelings for Nick, and Nick starts to question his attraction to Charlie, too.

This comic checked off so many boxes for me:

  • Diverse characters & LGBTQIAP+ rep.
  • A romance you will ship SO HARD.
  • Set in England.
  • Amazing art work.
  • The cutest dog ever.

Not only is this comic a coming-of-age story about young love and friendship, it is also a story that addresses bullying and homophobia. Charlie was outted when he was not ready yet, and the aftermath of that follows him throughout the story.

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I fell in love with both Charlie and Nick. Charlie is such a sweet and supportive friend, while Nick is the most kindhearted soul you will ever meet. And you will be rooting for these two from the very first page as you watch them navigate through their day to day lives playing rugby, studying together, and going to school.

And you will meet some other characters that help shape this story too. There’s Tao, Charlie’s best friend, Tori, Charlie’s cynical sister, and Tara, Nick’s old crush (but she’s now dating Darcy and they’re my faves! Oh, and we have the same birthday!)

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I hope you pick up this book and enjoy it as much as I did! Just a reminder that this webcomic is ongoing, so what you find on Tumblr and Tapas does not have an “end” yet. This copy in my photo is from Alice Oseman’s Kickstarter campaign, and it contains Chapters 1 & 2 of the webcomic. You might be able to still purchase the Kickstarter edition (and other merch) from Alice’s art shop, or pre-order the official publication edition (due to drop in February 2019).

(Photos of Nick, Tara, and Charlie’s bios are from Alice Oseman’s website)

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fivestars

 

xx,

Amy

 

Solitaire by Alice Oseman

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fourstars

Title: Solitaire

Author: Alice Oseman

Pages: 392

Genre: YA Contemporary

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.

I really don’t.

This incredible debut novel by outstanding young author Alice Oseman is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and all unflinchingly honest writers.


I recently fell in love with Alice Oseman’s webcomic, Heartstopper (you can read the entire thing for free on tumblr and Tapas, but Volume 1 will be published in February 2019) and my excitement level skyrocketed when I found out that the main characters from Heartstopper are in Solitaire.

This book starts out with Tori, a high school student who enjoys blogging, but prefers to be antisocial and doesn’t have a close relationship with her family (except with her brother, Charlie.) One day she discovers a mysterious blog called Solitaire. And then the anonymous creator of Solitaire begins pulling pranks at her school. What even makes it more mysterious is that these pranks seem to have some significance to Tori.

And like the tag line on the cover says, “this is not a love story”; which is kind of true. Yes, there is a very subtle romance, but it doesn’t overpower everything. Michael Holden was the shining light for me in this book and I really hope we get to see more of him in Alice Oseman’s future works.

I think this book may not be for everyone, though, and that is because the main character, Tori, is very pessimistic and cynical. I mean, she’s relatable to me, but I can understand if the “negative teen” character might not be for you. I totally get it. But keep in mind that this book addresses some serious themes; the biggest being depression. Depression is something Tori suffers from on a daily basis and this story follows Tori as she comes to terms with her mental illness and accepts support from her friends and family.

And this story is also about how we change as we grow up, and how it’s normal for our old friends to drift apart and for new people to enter our lives. But that it is also okay to reach out to our friends and to have a support system when we need it the most.

I loved how Alice Oseman was able to tug at my heartstrings with her writing. And the fact that she’s always inclusive with LGBTQIAP+ rep is what we need more of in the world. I truly believe her work deserves more hype and I can’t wait to read her other books!


Trigger warnings: self harm, eating disorders, OCD, suicidal thoughts, bullying, anxiety, depression.


fourstars

xx,

Amy

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

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ARC provided by NOVL in exchange for an honest review

threestars

Title: Dear Evan Hansen

Author: Val Emmich

Pages: 368

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication Date: October 9, 2018

My Rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I’ll be honest with you: I wasn’t totally in love with the this book, and it wasn’t because of the writing. The writing was phenomenal, the characters were well developed, and the overall story was fast paced and easy to read. I loved that it brought so many mental health topics to the table, but there were a few things that made me feel uncomfortable, which I will talk about here in a bit.

First I’ll mention the trigger warnings: suicide, self harm, bullying, anxiety, depression.

Dear Evan Hansen follows Evan, a high school senior who has horrible anxiety. Under the direction of his doctor, he writes a letter to himself each day. But things don’t go so well one day when a letter to himself ends up in the wrong hands. And, unrelated to that letter, a classmate commits suicide. Due to a misunderstanding, the parents of that classmate finds Evan’s letter. What happens next is a series of events that chronicles grief, mental health, and how powerful the role of social media plays in this day and age.

While I truly did enjoy reading this book and getting to understand Evan, I felt uncomfortable with how suicide was used as a tool for Evan’s “fame”. So although I appreciated the message behind this book, and I was totally rooting for Evan to come out of his shell and discover himself, I was disappointed that someone had to die by suicide for his character to develop.

But what bothered me the most was Evan’s constant lying. Just so many lies to a grieving family, to his girlfriend, to his mother. I grew more and more uncomfortable as he fell deeper into those lies and his internet notoriety grew. The grieving family took him in and treated him as their son, and yet he just kept lying to them. Over and over. I just… felt so bad.

So, as you can imagine, I was simply dreading the end of this book, because you just know things are going to totally blow up. Which leads me to this: the ending wrapped up rather abruptly and fast when I was just expecting something more.

But I truly did love the message and themes behind this book, and that certain characters were able to find peace. I also believe the overall awareness this book brought to mental health is so important and cannot be ignored. I know this book (and musical) means so much to so many people, so I still encourage you to pick this up (if you’re in the right head space). I just think this book may have not been 100% for me, and that’s totally okay. I still enjoyed my time reading this and hope you will too.

threestars

xx,

Amy

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review

threestars

Title: Fight or Flight

Author: Samantha Young

Pages: 384

Genre: Contemporary romance

Publication Date: October 9, 2018

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

A series of chance encounters leads to a sizzling new romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the On Dublin Street series.

The universe is conspiring against Ava Breevort. As if flying back to Phoenix to bury a childhood friend wasn’t hell enough, a cloud of volcanic ash traveling from overseas delayed her flight back home to Boston. Her last ditch attempt to salvage the trip was thwarted by an arrogant Scotsman, Caleb Scott, who steals a first class seat out from under her. Then over the course of their journey home, their antagonism somehow lands them in bed for the steamiest layover Ava’s ever had. And that’s all it was–until Caleb shows up on her doorstep.

When pure chance pulls Ava back into Caleb’s orbit, he proposes they enjoy their physical connection while he’s stranded in Boston. Ava agrees, knowing her heart’s in no danger since a) she barely likes Caleb and b) his existence in her life is temporary. Not long thereafter Ava realizes she’s made a terrible error because as it turns out Caleb Scott isn’t quite so unlikeable after all. When his stay in Boston becomes permanent, Ava must decide whether to fight her feelings for him or give into them. But even if she does decide to risk her heart on Caleb, there is no guarantee her stubborn Scot will want to risk his heart on her…

I’ll be honest, this is more of a 3.5 star read for me. There were several scenes that had me grinning ear-to-ear and I couldn’t stop turning the pages, but I still can’t get over how obnoxious the male MC was, and how many problematic things came out of his mouth. I was using color coded tabs to mark the parts I liked and the parts that had me thinking, “WTF? Is this guy seriously going there?” Well, the latter ended up having way more tabs by the time I got done reading. So. There’s that.

But let’s back up a bit to the premise of the story: Ava is having a pretty crappy day and she’s just trying to fly back home to Boston. But she ends up encountering a rude man (Caleb) at the airport, and then again on their flight. They both get stuck in Chicago for a layover for the night and, as you can probably guess, they share a steamy night together with the mutual agreement that it’s just sex; they’re just having fun, and they will never have to see each other again. Of course as most of these romances go, they do see each other again and they end up agreeing to be friends with benefits.

I am such a sucker for an enemies-to-lovers romance. It is my favorite trope when done tastefully. And I truly loved Ava. She is ambitious and fiercely loyal. We also get to learn so much about her past with her parents and her ex-boyfriend (which will make you very angry.) I was also living for her friendship with Harper, who was easily my favorite character in this book. (We are going to need a sequel with Harper, please!) However, Ava does have some faults, especially with her reasons behind excusing some of the things Caleb did.

But what put me off the most, from the very beginning, was just how plain rude Caleb was. He was incredibly rude to wait staff, said mean and hurtful things to Ava, and showed a lack of respect to pretty much everyone. And I can’t gloss over the fact that he did a very gross thing during sex with Ava (he started having sex with her without a condom. Ava proceeded to ask him to put one on, but then he thrusts himself back inside her before he does what she asked. JUST. WHAT. THE. HELL?) There is also a very brief scene where Caleb vilified a woman for having an abortion. I legit put the book down after reading that and had to rant to my buddy read group before moving on. I understand it’s different if said woman lied to the father of the baby, or some other dishonest scenario, but I am so put off by anyone saying what a woman can/cannot do with her own body. By this point I was like, “Wow, we really had to go there, didn’t we?”

There is also a secondary male character who treats women like absolute garbage, and I wanted nothing more than to cancel him out of the book. Boy, bye.

I hope I didn’t come off as too negative here. I really did enjoy it (hence my rating), but I couldn’t ignore the problematic things that happened. And what I liked the most about this book was how important it is to find happiness in yourself and to not let the actions or words of others define you. Our society puts so much pressure on women and yet if we wear nice clothes and makeup, we are judged for being high maintenance and shallow. So, thank you to Samantha Young for bringing up these issues because I could 100% totally relate. This book truly was an enjoyable and very un-put-downable read. I think I would’ve rated this book higher if Caleb wasn’t such a jerk.

threestars

Buddy read during Contemporary-A-Thon with Lilly, Leigh, & Melanie!

xx,

Amy