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Monday, June 12, 2017

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

Publisher: Redhook
Release Date: October 20th, 2015

If it were up to me this book would be called Hilarious Things That Happened That Were Not At All Dahlia's Fault -- or HTTHTWNAADF, for short.

OK, I probably shouldn't have taken money from a mysterious eccentric to solve a theft, given that I'm not a detective, and that I am sometimes outwitted by puzzles in children's video games. I probably shouldn't have stolen bags of trash from a potential murder suspect. Arguably-- just arguably, mind you-- it may have been unwise to cos-play at an event where I was likely to be shot at.

But sometimes you just have to take some chances, right? And maybe things do get a little unfortunate. What of it? If you ask me, an unfortunate decision here or there can change your life. In a positive way, just so long you don't killed in the process. Admittedly, that's the tricky bit.

I picked this one up on a whim. I've been taken with mysteries as of late and this one had the added draw of geekiness and laughs, so I decided to give it a go and I loved it. Dahlia Moss is hilarious. I genuinely laughed out loud throughout the story and was thoroughly charmed by Dahlia and the other characters that popped up all over her world. 

I don't personally have any experience playing an MMORPG,because of this, and the fact that a large part of this story revolves around such a game, I was a little concerned it would affect my enjoyment of the story. It did not. In fact, I particularly enjoyed hearing about the world of Zoth and how these games unfold. Dahlia comes across a lot of people during her time playing detective and they were all so darn entertaining. I was especially charmed by Dahlia's roommate Charice. I never knew what she was going to come up with next, but it was always hilarious and oftentimes very helpful. And she had some of the best lines. 

I don't know if I'm completely sold on the romantic direction this series seems to be taking, but that may also have something to do with the fact that I was hoping for an endlessly awkward law enforcement office to get his moment in the sun. I refuse to give up hope. There is still time!

I actually listened to this one on audio book and it was a phenomenal listen. The narrator did a fantastic job with all of the characters and I'm sure her delivery contributed in large part to all of those times I laughed out loud. I haven't decided if I'm going listen to book two or read it, but I did order physical copies of both books, because I need to have them around for subsequent re-reads. 

Go forth and follow along as Dahlia tries to uncover the 'Bejeweled Spear of Inifinite Piercing'!

*Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017

*I received an e-copy via Netgalley for an honest opinion

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves

I loved that this book was, at it's heart, about family and what it means. Anise could be completely bratty and self-centered at times, but when it really came down to it she was there for her family. She came to learn that everything isn't just about her, but that there are other people whose feelings and needs matter. Since she has always lived in the same place, I think it was really great to see her plopped in the middle of somewhere completely foreign to her and watch her figure out a little more about herself and about life. I also really appreciated the fact that her mom never showed up in the book. I think that would have been too cliché and unrealistic, but even though she never came, I like that we got to see Anise sort out her relationship with her mother and come to terms with it in some ways. I loved the attention shown to the importance of friendships and being there for people, even when it's not the easiest choice to make. There were definitely times that Anise didn't always make the right choice, at least initially, but she did a lot of growing up during this story and it was an awesome thing to read.

The romance in this was absolutely adorable and Lincoln is one of the best characters I have read in a contemporary YA novel. I loved his attitude and the way he took on life despite the curve balls it has thrown him along the way. He is just an all around nice guy, but not in that boring way nice guys can sometimes be portrayed in books and movies. He is funny and spontaneous and here to take on life. Anise definitely grew from the short time she knew him in this novel, and I feel like she will grow to become an even better person for having him in her life.

Contemporaries are a favorite of mine, but even so, I can still get pretty critical. Especially when stories just start sounding like different shades of the same basic premise. That was not a problem with Girl Out of Water. It felt new and exciting, and I had so much fun reading it. Definitely recommend!

*Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads

Friday, June 2, 2017

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein

Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: May 3rd, 2016

*I was sent a copy of the book by the author for review*

June wants high school to end and real life to begin. Oliver is soaking up senior year’s glory days. They could have coasted through high school, knowing about—but not really knowing—each other.

Except that their moms have arranged for Oliver to drive June to school. Every. Single. Day.

Suddenly these two opposites are fighting about music, life . . . pretty much everything. But love is unpredictable. When promises—and hearts—get broken, Oliver and June must figure out what really matters. And then fight for it.

I adored this book. I was hooked by the synopsis and then heard countless people raving over how great of a contemporary it was, so when I got the chance to pick it up and give it a go I was so excited. One of the things that stood out to me right away was Oliver. From things we get from June, we think Oliver is going to be a high school jock stereotype, but right from the beginning he shows that there is definitely more to him than that. I guess for me, it made him seem like more of a real person. He had substance. Of course, June wasn't exactly her stereotype, either. It took a little longer to get that out of her, but the more time Oliver and June spent together, riding to school or otherwise, the more we got to see their common ground.

I loved how Oliver would keep bringing his ideas for a senior prank to June, and how she would keep explaining to him how it wasn't a good idea because it could harm someone or something. The two of them had the cutest banter and conversations on their rides to school. Oh man, the prank that the senior class finally decided on, so damn cool! I don't even remember if my senior class pulled a prank, but if we didn't it was nowhere near as awesome as this one, because something this cool I would have remembered.

Sure, it could be considered cliche, and sure, it's a pivotal moment in a lot of teen stories, but I love that everything kind of came to a head at prom. I am a sucker for proms. If it was socially acceptable to crash them as an adult, I might do it. I love the cheesy decorations, requesting favorite songs from the DJ, and putting on the pretty clothes. So the fact that we got to see prom and a little prom drama, I was all over that. 

I don't have anything but nice things to say about Shuffle, Repeat. I loved so many characters and loved to hate some others. It felt like real kids in a real high school and I could totally see myself hanging out with any of them. Oliver and June left me with a smile on my face and the urge to hit repeat on this one sometime soon.

*book cover and synopsis from Goodreads

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
*Received advanced copy via Netgalley for review*

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

I love romance and I love spies, so present me with a book about two male spies tasked to win the heart of one very special girl, or die, and I am there. Hint at the possibility of the two males, competing for this one girls love, falling for each other and I am living for that story. The Love Interest had me at the book blurb and getting my hands on it became my top priority and it delivered one heck of a fun story.

Going into the book I knew what I wanted to happen and I knew what the rules of the situation the characters were in dictated, unfortunately, those two things were not interchangeable. So through the entire story I really had no idea what was going to happen in the end. Of course, this made the story that much more enjoyable, because not being able to predict everything that was going to happen made it that much more excited when it finally occurred.

I really liked the way this story poked fun at some of the most common stereotypes and tropes in romance novels. Calling them out, in the way that it did, was so much fun. You could acknowledge that, yes, this is so ridiculous and yet this character is going to fall for it anyway, but at the same time still appreciate that it's what we love about these stories.

I adore Caden. He's so naive sometimes, but he's also pretty self aware. He knows how he feels and he's pretty sure who he is as a person, even though it goes against his very purpose, but he also knows what he has to do to survive. I have to admit, Dylan took me a ride of emotions, because I kept flipping back and forth on whether or not he was trustworthy. This definitely affected how I felt about his character, but ultimately I ended up respecting him and his choices.

I am eagerly awaiting what Cale Dietrich has in store for us next and if you like spies, romance, action, satire, and having your emotions played with, I urge you to check out The Love Interest. I don't think you'll regret it!

*Cover photo and synopsis from Goodreads*

Thursday, January 19, 2017

By Your Side by Kasie West

By Your Side by Kasie West
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: January 31st, 2017
*Galley received from publisher for honest opinion*

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

I don't know about everybody else, but being trapped in a library, for a long weekend, sounds like the a dream come true. I'm pretty sure I'd be perfectly fine all alone in that library, with all of those books, but if you want to throw in a cute and broody boy, I'm good with that, too! I'm fairly new to Kasie West books, but I've had fun reading the few that I have, and this one was another fun one. 

I really liked that even though this was mostly a cute, fluffy read, it also had some real issues woven into the story. Autumn is a go-getter and a rule lover, but she also suffers from pretty serious anxiety. Being trapped anywhere isn't great for a person who suffers from anxiety, and it's made worse for Autumn because she only ran back into the library to use the restroom, so all of her stuff is in her friends trunk on the way to a party. Oh, and it's winter, so a big empty library is not exactly cozy. 

Enter the mysterious Dax, who lives in a foster home and for reasons he isn't really up to sharing, was planning to stay in the library for the weekend. Autumn doesn't know much about Dax, but considering they only have each other for the time they are stuck in there, they do get to know one another a little and start to realize maybe surface judgements don't really mean anything. 

I kind of thought, okay hoped, that the whole book would be them stuck in the library, but I'm glad we got to see Autumn and Dax outside of those walls. We got to see how their lives really were so different and it was no surprise they hadn't really known each other before, but it was also nice to see how their time trapped together played into their lives after. 

This was cute, fun, and fluffy, but also had some substance and I had a great time reading it. My favorite Kasie West book is still P.S. I Like You, but this one is absolutely worth a read :0)

*Cover Photo and Synopsis from Goodreads*

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

*Galley provided by publisher for honest opinion*

"My name is Liv (Not Olivia)... I'm not technically a girl.

I'm Transgender. Which is a bit like being a transformer. Only not quite as cool as cool because I probably won't get to save the world one day."

A Transformer is a robot in disguise. Liv is a boy in disguise. It's that simple. Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school's terrible dress code, he can't even wear pants. Only skirts.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Liv to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn't just a mission to change the policy- it's a mission to change his life. And that's a pretty big deal.

This was fantastic! Liv was charming, flawed, funny, confused, and so full of heart. I think it's really important for kids this age to have books about these types of topics, whether it's something they are going through themselves or not. In my opinion, this book in particular is great because Liv is such a relatable character. He truly is just a regular kid who gets in fights with his little brother, acts bratty toward his parents, and has to deal with immature classmates. Deep down he is just trying to figure out who he is and how to be that person, which I think is true for all of us at one point or another.

I adored all of the scenes with Liv's family and thought it was really great that we got to see how big of a role they played in his life, and how much they just wanted Liv to be happy. Whether you have two moms, two dads, or a mom and a dad, parents are parents and Liv's were really fantastic. They love their kids for exactly who they are and that's really the best any kid can ask for in their lives. And don't get me started on Liv's little brother, Enzo, that kid cracked me up. 

I think my favorite thing in the book, though, was the friendship between Liv and Jacob. At first Jacob seems like your typical popular kid, but that is so far from the truth. Jacob didn't have time for mean kids or their games and he was just so good at letting it all roll off. Once we really get to know him, I don't think there was any point in the story that made me doubt how good of a person Jacob truly is.

This is definitely a worthwhile read. And I'm not going to lie, it made me cry a couple of times, but it was good crying :0)

*Book cover and synopsis from Goodreads


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