Book Review: A Totally Awkward Love Story by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

The summer before college, Hannah swears she’s finally going to find The One. And for five perfect minutes, Hannah does find him. He’s cute and makes her laugh like crazy. She just wishes she’d caught his name, because Toilet Boy Cinderella really lacks sex appeal.
 
For Sam, the summer is off to a bad start for a million reasons. But for five minutes his luck changes: in a fancy restroom painted purple like it belongs in a Bond villain hideaway, Sam falls head over heels for some strange and hilarious girl. Of course, he doesn’t know her name. With his luck, he’ll never see her again, and he’ll remain a girlfriendless, moony-eyed virgin. Forever.
 
But another chance meeting brings them together, only to have a chance misunderstanding drive them apart . . . and then the cycle starts all over again. Madcap mishaps, raunchy hilarity, and deep romance follow these two wherever they go. For two people so clearly destined for each other, they sure have a hell of a lot of trouble even getting together.

True Fact: I am a giant Anglophile. My best friend is British, my cousin and her husband live there, and my college roommate and friend is British as well.  I grew up in a household that lauded The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Monty Python, and Doctor Who.  My point is that any novel that is set in Britain, imported to the American market from Britain, or has a character vacationing or visiting from Britain is going to capture my attention immediately.

So suffice it to say that when I realized that this was a quintessential British teen novel I was pretty excited.

Side note: Apparently the original title was “Lobsters,” a reference to Ross and Rachel on F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I kind of wish this title had stuck!  Although, it is possible that maybe publicists didn’t think some of the newer teen generation might not understand the reference, but I have faith they would have.

While I do find the whole archaic idea of “needing to find the one,” or “losing your virginity,” before you graduate from high school/secondary school a bit ridiculous.  However, in this case, I feel that the narrative is somewhat aware of this farcical ideal and takes it to a hilarious level.

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Gratuitous shout out to my main Brit, Eve. (She’s the brunette. She looks pretty damn British, right?)

After being close friends with one and best friends with another British woman, I know how different the culture of sex and alcohol is in Britain compared to here in America, specifically in the South, where I grew up.  Sex is much more accepted in teenagers in Britain and it is much less of a taboo subject, so I find the frankness about virginity, hormonal and horny teens to be a breath of fresh air and something that should be more widely accepted in the young adult genre.  Sure, it can be a little polarizing for some readers who are not used to that type of open discussion, but I think it is well done and done in a hilarious way.  But, for parents who are worried about that, then maybe this book should be better suited for your older teens.

The drinking age in England is 18, but it is widely accepted that adults can buy their 16 and 17 year olds a drink.  It isn’t a big deal there like it is in America.  So I found this a completely normal aspect of the British teen novel.

My only real issue with this novel is all of the point of view shifts, because sometimes it really just didn’t create distinguishable voices at points. But overall the book is funny, endearing, blunt, risky, and just plain entertaining.

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One of my favorite parts is probably little noticed by other readers: “I only became aware of how ridiculous I looked when I turned onto the main street.  No one else was walking by themselves, let alone in their pajamas.” –pg 149.  I literally laughed out loud at this part, because the last time I was in England it was winter and my best friend absolutely refused to let me go outside and down the block in my pajamas to just get a bottle of water. It is just NOT DONE, she told me, and INAPPROPRIATE. So this just reminded me of the ridiculous fight we had about whether or not I could go out in my sweats. See?  You’ll learn all kinds of things about British culture.

4.5 Bards.

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Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: June 28, 2016

Modern-day Toronto: Sisters Crystal and Becca Hatcher are reunited after reclaiming the Bronze Codex and narrowly escaping death. They have no one to trust but each other, and the only thing keeping them safe is the book that sent Becca’s spirit to Ancient Mytica–the same book that their enemies would kill them for.

Ancient Mytica: Maddox grapples to keep his newly discovered powers under control, while the ruthless goddess Valoria hunts him down.

Modern-day Toronto: Farrell embraces his dark side as he unwittingly falls further under the spell of Markus, the mastermind leader of the nefarious Hawkspear Society, who will stop at nothing to find Crys and Becca–and the remarkable book in their possession.

Book Review: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

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‘I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.’

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

Wow. I quite literally could not put this down and I read it in one day. I spent the first half of the book just waiting for Shazi and Khalid to be reunited and when they finally were, I was not disappointed. Ahdieh does an amazing job of building up and continuing their relationship, while also adding some depth to Shazi’s other relationships, with her sister and Tariq.

I really enjoyed the extra magical aspect, especially Shazi coming in to her own powers and learning how they work. My favorite thing about Shahrzad is that she never lets other people and their actions decide her fate. She takes her life into her own hands and she will do anything to protect the people that she loves.

I do wish there was more, however. I think the book does wrap up nicely, but there were so many things and characters that were introduced and I wish we had gotten a better glimpse of them. Specifically, Artan and his aunt. Of all the new characters, Artan was my favorite and I just wish there was more of him and Shazi together, and him teaching her how to use and control her magic. I also wish there was more Despina in this book. One of the things I loved the most about The Wrath and the Dawn was her and Shazi’s friendship. I think it highlighted the importance of female friendship, and I wish that would have continued in this book. Because even though Shazi was reunited with her sister, it wasn’t the same dynamic as she felt like she had to keep secrets and sneak away rather than confiding in her.

Overall, I loved the nonstop, fast pace of everything that was going on. It made the book more intense and the surprisingly few scenes between Shazi and Khalid that much more powerful. I wish we had another book coming, but overall, 4.5 bards.

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Blog Tour: Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here

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It is Midsummer’s stop on the Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here blog tour hosted by Penguin Teen!

Be sure to check out the information on the novel, listen to the playlist for Ashley, and order a copy of this unforgettable novel.  My review will be up next week, so stay tuned!

Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.

When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…

 

“Hands To Myself,” Selena Gomez
She’s choreographing a cheer set to this song, so she listens to it like a zillion times a day.

“Fancy,” Iggy Azalea
The song she listens to when she’s driving to school (which her twin sister Avery hates, but too freaking bad).

“In The Night,” The Weeknd
She listens to this when she’s taking an evening drive by herself, just to CVS or something. It’s her time to be alone.

“Story of My Life,” One Direction
She and Avery sing along with this song in the car on the way home (assuming Ave’s not hanging out with that pretentious d-bag Scarlett).

“Hello,” Adele
When she’s sad about Gideon.

“Chichester Psalms,” Leonard Bernstein
She first listened to these to impress this college guy she was dating, but wound up loving them herself. She always cries at the end of III.

“Trap Queen,” Fetty Wap
The summer song that seems to play at all the block parties in the neighborhood that her family goes to.

“How Deep Is Your Love,” Calvin Harris & Disciples
Sexy shower-singing song.

“Let It Go,” Idina Menzel
Empowering shower-singing song.

“Work,” Rihanna
On in the background as she and her friends pregame for a house party.

“Ultralight Beam,” Kanye West
On in the background if she’s pregaming alone for a house party.

“Elastic Heart,” Sia
To remind herself she’s stronger than people think she is.

“All Of Me,” John Legend
She imagines this being her first dance as prom queen.

“Bad Blood,” Taylor Swift
Sometimes, remembering some diss Scarlett shot in her direction, she blasts this in the car and scream-sings it.

Swan Lake, Op.20, Act I: 2. Waltz (Tempo di valse)
She remembers this from ballet class—she quit because she wasn’t the best student there, and misses it sometimes—and listens to it often.

 

Buy the book:

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: October 4, 2016

Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora’s gift could save Tarik’s kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:


Release Date: August 9, 2016

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she wanders a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and its thugs. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the hearth of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: June 7, 2016

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: December 27, 2016

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

Book Review: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She’s been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it’s her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she’ll be a different person. She thinks she’s ready for whatever comes next.

But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:

Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.

Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.

Heartbreaking and empowering, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of transcendent friendship in the face of trauma. 

Here are a few things about this novel that you need to know:  it involves sexual assault, so be aware that it can be triggering to some readers, it involves a teen coming out of the closet, and there is a lot of cheerleading.

Okay, the cheerleading part isn’t nearly as impactful, but I have to mention it because 1. I didn’t think Cheerleading was a thing anywhere other than the United States (the novel is set in Canada) and 2. I AM one of the people, much like Hermione’s therapist, that has never considered cheerleading a sport.  I’ve literally told someone’s mom that I didn’t think it was, and then was embarrassed when I saw the cheerleading nationals on television one year.  It is most definitely a sport.

Johnston’s writing is very straight forward and succinct.  There is little room for flowery phrases or overly descriptive passages, which fits extremely well with the voice developed for the narrator. Unlike some novels (more adult novels than young adult) that give somewhat detailed explanations of the assault, this novel focuses specifically on Hermione’s adaptation to her “new normal,” and the complicated aftermath that comes after a publicly known rape.  This means that Johnston directly mentions the slut-shaming and victim blaming that can happen in situations like this.  The best example is of Hermione’s boyfriend, who embodies the standard view of, “she was asking for it.”

At it’s heart, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is also a tale of incredible friendship and camaraderie.  It reminds me a little bit of Truthwitch in this way, because it showcases friendship and survival as coming hand-in-hand.  Polly, Hermione’s best friend, is a fierce femme lesbian who back-burners her own issues of struggling to come out to her family with her sexuality in order to help her friend through an emotionally tumultuous time.  I really admire Polly as a character, and am totally down for a Polly narrated novel (Did you hear that, Johnston?)

This was a quick and easy read, but it still packed an emotional punch.

4 Bards

fourbards

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: May 24, 2016

We’re here, then we’re gone, and that was true before they came. That’s always been true. The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it. Gave death a face to put back in our face, because they knew that was the only way to crush us. It won’t end on any continent or ocean, no mountain or plain, jungle or desert. It will end where it began, where it had been from the beginning, on the battlefield of the last beating human heart.

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