Review: Before I Fall

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: October 25, 2010
GoodReads

Synopsis:

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

I wrote this review for a media class, and I figured I’d post it since a) I already wrote it, and b) the movie just released recently. Let me know if you want more reviews like this in the future. Here it is:

I turned the last page of Before I Fall expecting one more line, a funny quip, or even an epilogue. All I got were the Acknowledgements, and I sat there for a moment stunned. How could it just end like that?

Originally published in 2010, the novel Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is gaining worldwide attention due to the upcoming release of its movie adaption by the same name. The movie stars Vampire Academy actress Zoey Deutch as Samantha Kingston. According to the synopsis, Sam is popular, has the perfect boyfriend, and dies on Friday, February 12, only to wake up the next morning and relive the day of her death six more times.

I decided to take a chance on the book before watching the movie. As they say, the book is always better.

Without spoiling anything, I have to say that Samantha’s character undergoes a huge transformation throughout the story. Although we only see seven days of her life, her character develops exponentially. Sam plays by the rules of her friend group without really questioning why they do the things they do. As the book progresses, we see Sam become herself, living her life authentically and being more accountable for her actions.

Each relived day is spent differently – the first two are slightly similar, then she spends a couple full of angst, and then another day is spent solely with her family. Each day is a testament to how multifaceted our lives are, and how easily we neglect different aspects of them.

Something I often didn’t think about during high school was that my friends were basically my family. I saw them eight to nine hours a day, spoke to them when I was home, and hung out with them during the weekend. My family was on the backburner. This is true in Sam’s story as well. Her friends have become such a large part of her life that her family is neglected as a result.

That being said, there is more to it than that. With friends, there is the potential for judgment and shame for saying or doing the wrong things. There is also a certain amount of scrutiny that you are under when you are popular. Sam reflects on this as she watches her friends bully people, her boyfriend belittle her, and people’s reactions to her being nice. It is fascinating how much is missed when focusing on oneself.

Before I Fall encourages readers to examine their everyday choices. A couple changes here and there lead Sam to learn things about her friends, family, teachers, and classmates that she would never have known otherwise. Her relationships were superficial, and she drifted through life with ease. When push came to shove, however, she began to see people for who they were and began to challenge the status quo.

Before I Fall is a very easy book to lose yourself in – the plot is well developed, the characters are thoroughly fleshed out, and the story feels real, relevant, and heartbreaking. In the end, I gave Before I Fall four and a half stars of five.

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.92/5

Becky Banks’ Holiday Blog Tour

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Welcome to Becky Banks’ Holiday Blog Tour, hosted by Roger Charlie!~

author-becky-banks-serendipity-of-fateTitle: Serendipity of Fate
Author: Becky Banks
Genre: Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

It’s been two years since Cason McPherson watched his best friend die in his arms. With shrapnel in his hip and a war behind him, he keeps focused on building a civilian life and not on what he wants most: the woman of his dreams, Savannah. If only she’d stop bringing up topics he has to keep secrets about.

Savannah Sparling has no time for baggage, and Cason McPherson brought home a matching set in scathing green—with a carry-on duffel bag full of lies. He’s the childhood friend who enlisted with her brother. He came home, and her brother didn’t.

Balancing work with demanding clients while fulfilling a personal vendetta against Cason consumes Savannah’s already full schedule—until a series of unstoppable events leads to a collision between Savannah’s work and personal lives. Her carefully structured path in the world is crushed, her own blood is spilled, and passion between her and an unlikely bedfellow ignite.

Cason and Savannah find the only the people strong enough to save them from themselves is each other. But will either one of them accept the help—and the love—that’s offered?

Buy Links:
Amazon

Playlist:

Take a peak into the music behind the book- checkout Serendipity of Fate‘s playlist here!

  1. Bad Mood Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  2. Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  3. I Need A Dollar – Aloe Blacc
  4. Glitter & Gold – Rebecca Ferguson
  5. Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene – Hozier
  6. Push It – Garbage
  7. Feel Invincible – Skillet
  8. Little Black Submarines – The Black Keys
  9. Faded [Odesza Remix] – Zhu Odesza
  10. Be Together ft. Wild Belle – Major Lazer
  11. Powerful ft. Ellie Goulding and Tarrus Riley- Major Lazer

Excerpt:

Interested in the book? Checkout the first few chapters here!

Buy Link:
Amazon

About the Author:beckybanks-1-of-1

Becky Banks grew up, like the generations of Bankses before her, in the Hawaiian Islands. With the islands as her roots, Becky was raised within the time-honored tradition of “talking story” before a backdrop of grassy fields, blue waters, and cloud-clad mountains. She moved to the mainland after high school to attend Oregon State University, where she studied forestry, natural resources, and science education. One fateful day she realized that her decades of scribblings promised the makings of a romance writer. Becky’s first novel, The Legend of Lady MacLaoch, achieved the Night Owl Reviews Top Pick Award and Amazon’s Best Seller for Historical Romanc

Becky lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Keith, and their wild toddler, Sammy.

Author Links:
Author Website | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads | Amazon | Virtual Tour Page 

Giveaway:

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Becky Banks has partnered with It’s All In the Dee-Tales to host this amazing giveaway. Up for grabs are:

  1. Ebook + US Flag Bag w/ Lollia No. 25
  2. Ebook + TokyoMilk Dark w/ Red BootPeep Boot Toppers
  3. Ebook + Margot Elena’s Love & Toast Gift Set
  4. Ebook + Dee-Tale’s Prize Pack w/ US Flag Hood Scarf
  5. Ebook + Cupcakes, Champagne & Dreams Prize Pack

Enter by clicking the Rafflecopter image below!

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Cover Reveal: Until It Fades

Welcome to the cover reveal for Until It Fades by K.A. Tucker! Are your eyes ready for this cover’s beauty? ;)

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Tada!

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Title: Unitil it Fades
Author: K.A. Tucker
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

A sexy new romance about a small-town woman who saves the life of a mysterious man, and finds herself unexpectedly thrown into a whirlwind love affair, featuring bestselling author K. A. Tucker’s signature “well-constructed, pulse-pounding suspense” (USA TODAY).

Twenty-four-year-old truck stop waitress and single mother Catherine Wright has simple goals: to give her five-year-old daughter a happy life and to never again be the talk of the town in Balsam, Pennsylvania: population three thousand outside of tourist season.

And then one foggy night, on a lonely road back from another failed attempt at a relationship, Catherine saves a man’s life. It isn’t until after the police have arrived that Catherine realizes exactly who it is she has saved: Brett Madden, hockey icon and media darling.

Catherine has already had her fifteen minutes of fame and the last thing she wants is to have her past dragged back into the spotlight, only this time on a national stage. So she hides her identity. It works.

For a time.

But when she finds the man she saved standing on her doorstep, desperate to thank her, all that changes. What begins as an immediate friendship quickly turns into something neither of them expected. Something that Catherine isn’t sure she can handle; something that Catherine is afraid to trust.

Because how long can an extraordinary man like Brett be interested in an ordinary woman like Catherine…before the spark fades?

Pre-Order Links:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM | Indigo/Chapters | Book Depository

About the Author:_mg_9315-edit-crop-1

K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge.

She is the USA Today bestselling author of 14 books, including Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water, and her latest Adult Suspense novel, He Will Be My Ruin. Her books have been featured in national publications including USA Today, Globe & Mail, Suspense Magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly.

K.A. Tucker currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and a Chug.

Author Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | YouTube | Pinterest | Instagram

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Review: Kisses on a Paper Airplane

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Title: Kisses on a Paper Airplane
Author: Sarah Vance Tompkins
Publication Date: May 14, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Drama student Hannah Evans isn’t kissing any frogs on her path to find Prince Charming. She’s determined to share the perfect first kiss — with the perfect boy — in the perfect place — or she’s not kissing anyone at all. When Hannah meets a cute ginger-haired boy in first class lounge in the London airport, she knows he’s ‘The One.’

Pop star Theo Callahan is on the road to get as far away as possible from his back-stabbing best friend, and his supermodel girlfriend who broke his heart. Until one shy smile from Hannah has him rethinking all of his travel plans.

Theo is smitten, but he’s worried she’s just a groupie in search of the ultimate selfie. Can Theo learn to trust Hannah in time to share one perfect first kiss, or will Hannah be forced to kiss a frog?

Kisses on a Paper Airplane is a quick, simple read, but I honestly did not enjoy it.

Hannah Evans is travelling home to attend her mother’s wedding. Her step-father-to-be got her a first class ticket from London, and during her time in the first-class lounge, she catches the interest of a good looking pop star AND FAINTS BECAUSE HE’S SO BEAUTIFUL.

There’s instalove and there’s over dramatics. How many people do you know see a good looking person and pass out. Like, I’m sorry, what?

Once conscious, she captures Theo’s heart and they get massages together, they sit with each other on the plane, and then become besties on the verge of an instalove relationship during the like three days of travel and 5 minutes of her mother’s wedding.

On top of the absolutely unbelievable story line, she talks like a fourteen year old. She’s in college/university now, and she keeps talking about “the one” and saying like “is he my frog prince?” “Maybe I have to kiss a bunch of frogs to get my frog prince.” I don’t know if this book was supposed to be a kind of retelling of the Princess and the Frog, but it was so overplayed and the language was trying way too hard to be “relevant” and “cutesy”.

Overall, probably wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, unless you like fluff language and instalove…

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 1/5
Cover: 3.5/5
Overall: 1/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.71/5

eARC obtained via Inkspell Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Book Tour + Review: A Mortal Song

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Welcome to the reveal for Megan Crewe’s new project – A Mortal Song, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!~

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Title: A Mortal Song
Author: Megan Crewe
Publication date: September 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Sora’s life was full of magic—until she discovered it was all a lie.
Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess. As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.

Buy Link:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Indigo

Review:

Okay, just to get it out of the way – there are characters named Haru and Jun – I actually grow to like Haru, and Jun is just a name mentioned in passing. That’s right, this is a book about Japan where the characters are Japanese (and Japanese spirits) AND they aren’t named Jun. Rare, right?

This story is about Japanese “spirits” called kami, who are trying to save their kind from an evil spirit. In order to do so, Sora and Takeo need to find the true heir to the kami throne to help defeat the evil spirit. On top of this, Sora needs to come to terms with the shocking news that she is in fact human, and what that means in terms of her relationship with Takeo, and her new band of human friends.

I found this to be a fantastic book about adventure, friendship, love, and self-discovery.

Although Sora has to learn how to cope with being a mere human, she doesn’t get too angsty about it – instead she is strong, resourceful, and open to seeing the world from a different point of view, a human point of view. An honestly, even without the powers, she is absolutely kickass throughout the novel.

To be honest, Takeo as a character was meh to me. He was like wallpaper, and I honestly didn’t see what Sora could be attracted to, save for their childhood history. His character could have also been like this because he was kami. Honestly, I loved Haru and Keiji so much more. As humans, they had more personality and more diversity in responses than Takeo, and they stole the show from him. I loved the characters, overall – they all really complimented each other well, both in skill and wit, and that really helped keep the story moving.

This book got a lot of things right – there was no instant love, but a beginning to something; there wasn’t a special snowflake, but an “oh-crap-I’m-not-actually-special-what-do-I-do-now!?” story line; and there was a lot of culture and time put into world building for the book. Granted, I found that the end was very abrupt and cheesy, the story itself is well worth the read.

The overall concept of the book was fascinating to me, as I’ve never heard of kami before. The concept was new to me, but I loved how it was executed and how it was brought back to the human level of understanding. There was a lot of introspection throughout this book, mainly done by Sora, and I found it to be pretty insightful.

Overall, definitely would recommend!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5

eARC obtained via Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Link:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Indigo

About the Author:

Megan

Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives with her husband, son, and three cats in Toronto, Canada (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she can’t look at the night sky without speculating about who else might be out there.

Join her newsletter for book news, recommended reads, and exclusive giveaways: http://eepurl.com/btE8mH

Author Links:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

Giveaway:

Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)
  • Japan Media & Treats Prize Pack

ENTER HERE!~

Review: How Many Letters Are In Goodbye?

26404153Title: How Many Letters Are In Goodbye?
Author: Yvonne Cassidy
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
GoodReads

Synopsis:

It’s been almost eleven years since Rhea Farrell last wrote to her mother.

It was a Friday night ritual – until Rhea’s father decided it was stupid to write letters to a dead person. That was the summer before the accident. The summer before Rhea began to keep her first secret.

Now about to turn eighteen, Rhea finds herself alone on the streets of New York with nobody to talk to about the future, or the past. So, just like she used to do as a little girl, she begins a letter with the words ‘Dear Mum’ and tells her mother the things she can’t tell anyone else.

In the city where Allison Farrell was born, her daughter begins to delve into her past. And as she uncovers more about who her mother truly was, Rhea starts to figure out exactly who she herself wants to be. And that sometimes it takes longer than you think to say goodbye…

Did I pick this book up because of its intriguing cover? Maybe… But did I stay for the story? Definitely.

I saw this book and thought of 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, and thought I’d give it a shot. To be perfectly honest with you, the beginning of this book took me about two weeks to get through. It was difficult getting into the story – Rhea begins as a curious, but fairly bitter character – she’s an orphan and has been scorned by the only family she has left, it makes sense. However, this is probably where the story loses a few points for me. As it was so hard for me to get into, a fair amount of the first third of the book was something I had to push myself through.

That being said, as time went on – as she met new people, gained better influences, and got back into the world – Rhea really began to grow on me as a character – I actually began to like her!

This book really depicts how people can change people – given the right opportunities and the right support, anyone can come back from the darkness they’ve shrouded themselves in. This book was a roller coaster of emotion. It made me love her family, and then hate them for backstabbing her. Then I loved a few of the other characters, and again trust was broken. Scorned, betray, distrustful – I understood all these emotions through Rhea and I felt for her – as new characters began popping up, I approached them with the same distrust she did. It’s hard to be let down so many times without becoming jaded.

The story unfolds slowly, but very well. While I believe the pacing could have been better (i.e. this book could have been a lot shorter), I liked that I got to know Rhea so well. I liked that they really dug into her history and what made her her, but also put focus on the future – who she was, how she could grow, and who she could become one day.

Of the novel, there was one point in particular that surprised me – mainly because it wasn’t advertised, and it was done so well – it was so subtle that I felt it was natural. Of course that was it, of course that happened – why wouldn’t it?

As a whole, How Many Letters Are In Goodbye was very well crafted and very well done.

Plot: 3.5/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 4/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall: 3.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.46/5

eARC obtained via Flux via NetGalley

Review: Every Last Word

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Title: Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
GoodReads

Synopsis:

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.

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

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

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

First thing’s first. I cannot attest to the legitimacy of the portrayal of OCD or anxiety in this novel. I know nothing about either disorder or its effect on a person’s way of thinking or acting.

That being said, this books spun out a wonderful story about healing and self-discovery. Sam wove a web of secrets for herself, keeping her condition hidden, but also her new friend and locker neighbour Caroline. However, she spent a great amount of time trying to ensure that her acceptance in the popular circle was secure.

That being said, when she discovers the Poet’s Corner, she learns that there are people out there who are having a hard time with life too. She begins writing and finds that it helps her keep her brain in check.

I really liked the poetry aspects of this novel. It reminded me a little bit of Collen Hoover’s Slammed, with a little more camaraderie and a little less teacher x student love haha. As I’ve said in the past, poetry really gets to the heart of things and expresses feelings and aspects of characters that you’d have never known about otherwise. It’s so hard to see into the heads of those around you, but poetry helps lay it all out there for the world to see. The poetry is probably was what sold me on the book, but it wasn’t all perfect.

One thing I didn’t quite understand about this book is how she was able to keep her OCD so hidden. While I’m no expert in it, I’ve read other books where the repetitiveness of a task is clear and overpowering. Sam’s wasn’t quite that. There were just enough scenes to ensure that readers never forgot she had the condition, but it never overpowered her, especially since it sounded like her diagnosis was quite extreme. She just seemed like a normal girl with a couple hangups, like her need for the speedometer to read a certain way. While there were intrusive thoughts and some aspects that showed the difficulties with the condition, it just didn’t seem like a prominent aspect of the book to me, like it was addressed, but then moved away from after a moment.

The end of the novel was a real twist. I don’t know if this is supposed to be some kind of paranormal thing, or if this is actually possible, but the end of the book definitely surprised me. Again, I’m not an expert in this subject in any way. This is just what I think, and I thought it was a really interesting end to the novel.

Overall, I think this novel is a good one to read. It has an great story line that had me sobbing at some points, and a lot of insightful poetry and characters that have their own unique voices.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
World Building: 3.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads: 4.18/5

eARC obtained via Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour + Review: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame

TheWayToGameTheWalkOfShameTourBanner

Welcome to The Way to Game the Walk of Shame book tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!~

GameShameTitle: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame
Author: Jenn P. Nguyen
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Taylor Simmons is screwed.

Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip.

Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they’re in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it’s better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.

Buy Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Review:

The Way to Game the Walk of Shame is Jenn P. Nguyen’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s a wonderful story about Taylor Simmons, the class nerd and “ice queen”, finding herself in a bed that’s not hers. To weasel her way out of the labels that often come with a perceived one-night-stand, she sets up a contract (signatures and all) with Evan, the school’s “play boy”, that would be in play until the dust and gossip settles and everyone believes they’re a real couple. But when all is quiet, the two realize that maybe they’re relationship goes beyond the contract.

I grinned like a dufus so much when reading this book. The two of them are so cute together. Though they’re quite different, they fit very well together, challenging one another to always be better. I think my favourite part about this book is that there are so many unique, romantic, and memorable moments that stand out to me. I want to blurt them all out, but that would ruin the fun. The Valentine’s day scene, and the few times he goes over to her house are probably my favourites. Though I read this book about a month ago, these scene still stay vivid in my head (which, to be honest, is pretty rare).

Something else I appreciated about the book was that they didn’t have to get hot and heavy to show their feelings, it was the little things that made a difference. This is actually a “hands-off” book. Maybe a couple kisses here and there, but the romance was purely in their everyday interactions. They didn’t need to go further to figure out that they had feelings for each other, and I really like that about this book.

While there were some areas of the plot that I questioned (particularly the antagonizing teacher, who seemed to have a little too much sway in the whole university acceptance process), as well as some areas that I personally didn’t like (slut-shaming), especially since that was why this whole story came to be in the first place, this book really won me over. While these parts stuck out to me, they didn’t really stay in my mind long, especially  since the rest of the book was quite the opposite (i.e. memorable and sweet), it kind of overpowered all the stuff that didn’t quite gel with me.

The only downside that I can see right now is that I can’t read any other books by her at the moment, because this is her first! Adorkable, sweet, and wonderfully crafted, I’d definitely recommend this book to all contemporary romance lovers out there. You won’t be disappointed!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.98/5

eARC obtained via Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Buy Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the Author:JPN
Jenn Nguyen fell in love with books in third grade and spent the rest of her school years reading through lunchtime and giving up recess to organize the school library. She has a degree in business administration from the University of New Orleans and still lives in the city with her husband. Jenn spends her days reading, dreaming up YA romances, and binge watching Korean dramas all in the name of ‘research’. The Way to Game the Walk of Shame is her debut novel.
Author Links:

Giveaway:

Tour-wide giveaway for a print copy of The Way to Game the Walk of Shame. Open to the US only.

ENTER HERE!~

Review: Uprooted

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Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
GoodReads

Synopsis:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

This whole entire novel was not about what I had expected it to be about. The synopsis is extremely vague and to be honest only reveals what’s in the first 2-3 chapters. This entire novel was like inhaling a trilogy of books, without the painful year long waiting between parts. There are so many sub-plots within the plot and history within these pages. It’s honestly one of my favourite fantasy novels of this year, and maybe ever.

It is honestly so hard to describe how amazing this book was without spoiling anything. Ahh!

The story set up is absolutely perfect. We start in Agnieszka’s village, move to the Dragon’s tower (note, he is not in fact a scaly creature), then into the Wood, then into the Capital city, back to the tower, back to the Wood. There’s so many changes in setting and characters that the book keeps you entertained throughout. While each setting is sectioned out, so are the character introductions – we meet the main character’s family and friends in her village, then history of the Dragon in his tower, then other characters depending on where the story takes us next. The fact that the setting and characters are presented in such digestible tidbits made the whole book more enjoyable as it was easier to follow where people were going and what was happening in the novel.

I read this novel as an ARC, and I’ve found the response interesting. A lot of people rage on and on about the “kidnapping” not really being a kidnapping, because the MC gets to live in a tower and get nice clothes, etc. However, something that they miss is that it is horrifying. Said tribute is taken away from her home, her friends, her family – torn from her community and culture. She is placed with a less than amiable wizard, and honestly, I don’t know how people see becoming refined as a gift and not a ten year long social redevelopment project. The response to this element of the novel has really made me think about it. Sure, the outcome isn’t bad, but there is a large negative aspect to it that nearly mimics real life in some ways… just food for thought for those who have yet to read it (this is all revealed in the first 20 pages, no spoilers, I promise!).

I think my favourite part of the novel was the antagonist. It wasn’t a specific person, per say, but a thing. A terrifying thing that consumes a person from the outside in – first their body, then their soul. The Wood was likely one of the more interesting antagonists as it’s so evil without any conscious thought. Honestly, the scenes set in it freaked me out haha. Further, the story behind it was extremely interesting and actually moving. This aspect of the novel was built well.

One thing I wish had been better is the Dragon’s personality. There’s so much there to pull at, and I feel like we missed a lot of history in his lack of emotional and overall character exposure. Also, the MC was a little dense at times, but otherwise quite a strong female lead for this novel!

Overall, this was an extremely intricate book, and it truly captured my heart. It’s quite long, and the beginning isn’t as interesting as it could be, but in the end I thought the entire experience was well worth the effort. A beautifully constructed novel that really gets you thinking about suffering, revenge, and friendship.

Characters: 4/5
Plot: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Cover: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.2/5

eARC obtained via Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Breakaway

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Title: Breakaway
Author: Kat Spears
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
GoodReads

Synopsis:

When Jason Marshall’s younger sister passes away, he knows he can count on his three best friends and soccer teammates—Mario, Jordie, and Chick—to be there for him. With a grief-crippled mother and a father who’s not in the picture, he needs them more than ever. But when Mario starts hanging out with a rough group of friends and Jordie finally lands the girl of his dreams, Jason is left to fend for himself while maintaining a strained relationship with troubled and quiet Chick. Then Jason meets Raine, a girl he thinks is out of his league but who sees him for everything he wants to be, and he finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his sister, and trying to hold onto the friendships he has always relied on.

This book was a surprise. I’m one of those “judge a book by their cover” type people. I did not expect this book to be as intense or as heartbreaking as it was, based on this cover. Honestly, I kind of wish they would change it a little, simply because I can’t see any of the guys I know, or knew, reading this in public. They probably wouldn’t even pick it up to see what it’s about, let alone purchase it and read it, even though this is a book that needs to be read.

When I first cracked the covers, I didn’t like it. The language at the beginning tried a little too hard to be “gangster” or “slang” filled, and it didn’t work well for me. It gave me the impression that the book would be a mission to read. I didn’t give up though, since I’m stubborn like that, and kept going. As the book went on, you could really see the characters starting to open up and reveal themselves to you.

The main character, Jason, really grows up throughout the novel. He starts out hating everything – the people at school who are “mourning” over his sister, his mother’s withdrawal, this one girl who thinks hooking up is the same as mourning – and it drives his character throughout the first bit of the book. As he slowly gets over his loss, he turns his thoughts to other things – his friends, a girl who’s caught his eye, his mother’s health, his need to distract himself.

While there is romance in this book, there’s also pain and loss, friendship and family, obligation and want. Even though there wasn’t really a climax in this novel, or any revelation that changes the world and the school, and how I look at the world, it was a wonderful read. It was just life, the nitty gritty parts of reality that we often forget about, or wish that we could forget about. It shows us that it’s the little things that change who we are and how we see one another and ourselves. This book is slow to develop, but once it starts the experience is 100% worth it. Honestly, I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I read this novel, but I loved it, and I think that people should give it a shot.

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Cover: 3/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.92/5

eARC obtained via St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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