Wednesday, December 28, 2016

By Your Side by Kasie West

Book Summary
In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

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?

Flo's Review
Aww, this was adorable, of course! The progression of Autumn and Dax's relationship is believable because they don't hate each other at first; they are just working off of what they've heard and what they perceive. But then they get to know each other, the friendship develops, and then the romantic chemistry becomes harder and harder to dismiss. 

I adored Jeff and found myself thinking at one point, "Aww, I love them both!" But don't worry -- this book didn't have the traditional "love triangle" feel to me. But there were several struggles going on: Dax's life situation, Jeff and his situation, Autumn and her anxiety. The odds were almost against the two of them and so that made this that much more poignant. 

I must have skim-read the summary because the plot unfolded differently than I was expecting. This ended up being a good thing, because I don't think a whole book of what I pictured would have been sustainable. This was a fast read; I was able to read it during my travels home from Christmas break.

Kasie West fans will definitely enjoy her latest offering, as will anyone looking for a charming and lovely contemporary YA romance, By Your Side publishes January 31st.

You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando

Book Summary
Fighter, Faker, Student, Spy.
Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never part of the plan.
Now Reagan has to decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she's always wanted? And does she even have a choice at all?
Find out if you are ready to join the Black Angels in the captivating and emotional page-turner, You Don't Know My Name, from debut novelist Kristen Orlando!
Flo's Review
You guys. Let's talk about how much I love this book. I started it on vacation, and I was literally running about an all-inclusive resort in Mexico wishing I could have more time to read! I love Reagan. I was drawn in immediately to her friendly, loving, and adaptable character. She is basically this prodigy, but she doesn't act superior or entitled. Instead she feels trapped. I like that her struggle is one that many people can relate to, even though the exact circumstances are not. There have been many variations of the "this is the life my parents expect me to have, but I feel trapped by it" story, but this one definitely brings a unique spin to it. 
I love Reagan's mom. She's a badass. Reagan knows it, and loves her for it. I love their relationship and I love the strength of these two females. And while we are talking about characters, can we talk about the great, supportive, affectionate, kind super swoon-worthy Luke?! He's also strong and brave and loving and...okay, okay, I'll stop gushing. But he's definitely a new book boyfriend. The Big Bad (to borrow TVD terminology) is super creepy and super evil and I shudder thinking about him, even right now as a I type.
The stakes in the story go up dramatically pretty quickly, and I actually wasn't expecting the turn that the events took. The pacing is amazing -- fast and effortless. I was turning the pages so fast because I wanted to see how she would pull this off/how they would pull this off/what was going to happen. And the ending: I'm still not emotionally recovered from it. I really hope I can get my hands on the next book in The Black Angel Chronicles soon. I'm scared for Reagan and what she will encounter!
This book is fantastic and I cannot recommend it enough! It publishes January 10th so pre-order your copy or get to the bookstore when it's available!
Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with an Advance Reader's Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland by Dave Barry

Book Summary
We never know what will happen next in Florida. We know only that, any minute now, something will. Every few months, Dave Barry gets a call from some media person wanting to know, “What the hell is wrong with Florida?” Somehow, the state’s acquired an image as a subtropical festival of stupid, and as a loyal Floridian, Dave begs to differ. Sure, there was the 2000 election. And people seem to take their pants off for no good reason. And it has flying insects the size of LeBron James. But it is a great state, and Dave is going to tell you why. Join him as he celebrates Florida from Key West at the bottom to whatever it is that’s at the top, from the Sunshine State’s earliest history to the fun-fair of weirdness and gunfire (“Our motto: ‘Come back! We weren’t firing at you!’”) that it is today.

It’s the most hilarious book yet from “the funniest damn writer in the whole country” (Carl Hiaasen, and he should know). By the end, you’ll have to admit that whatever else you might think about Florida—you can never say it’s boring.

Flo's Review
I am the only member of my family to live in Florida, so I can always count on my family to call and text me with comments regarding Florida -- especially around elections. And I can't tell you how many crazy "this actually happened in Florida" type stories I've seen. So as soon as I discovered that this book was a Thing, I knew I had to get it.

The first part was HILARIOUS and exactly what I thought this book would be. It was filled with random, crazy facts about Florida and random, crazy anecdotes about Florida described with Dave Barry's classic dry humor. I literally laughed out loud at many a section. But while these Random Acts of Crazy in Florida can fill a book, I guess they can't really fill a book? So after the Introduction and A Brief History of Florida, the rest of the book is devoted to hearing about Dave's visits to random, crazy attractions in the state. Unfortunately, I did not really enjoy the first one ("The Skunk Ape") and that left me setting aside the book for awhile before picking it back up again. I finally decided to just skip the rest of that chapter and move on. The next 6 were okay: I really enjoyed some, like hearing about Weeki Wachee and Spongeorama, and others were just okay, like hearing about LIV. 

All in all, this is a fast and fun read. If you like hearing about quirky places to add to your bucket list, this will make a good read for you. As for me, I will have to agree with a few of Dave's final words: I love this crazy state.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

Book Summary
Three girls. Three boys. Two rival schools. This could get messy. The Ashbury-Brookfield pen pal program is designed to bring together the two rival schools in a spirit of harmony and "the Joy of the Envelope." But when Cassie, Lydia, and Emily send their first letters to Matthew, Charlie, and Sebastian, things don't go quite as planned. What starts out as a simple letter exchange soon leads to secret missions, false alarms, lock picking, mistaken identities, and an all-out war between the schools--not to mention some really excellent kissing.

Flo's Review
I was introduced to this book by my #otspsecretsister on Twitter. I discovered that my library had the audiobook and decided to give it a listen. Listening to an audiobook of letters has its pros and cons: 

Pros: The different characters were each voiced by different people. At first I didn't really like Lydia's and Emily's voices, but then the more I read the more I thought the voices fit them. Plus, the voices all had accents (this book is Australian) and I really enjoyed that.

Cons: Letters, etc. take longer to read in audio format. The reader has to say the all the email addresses over and over and that can get a little tedious.

But on to the actual story part. I was absolutely loving it for about 70 percent of the book. I didn't like the parts with "The Notebook (TM)", but I loved the letters between the girls and their pen friends. Loved them. The individuality of the characters, the growing and relationships. I especially loved how we never saw a scene with the three girls. We got to know how they were as friends through the stories they told in their letters and diaries about hanging out together. Yet their friendship was still established so solidly. Brilliant, Jaclyn Moriarty. 

Unfortunately, for some reason the author felt like there needed to be a dramatic end scene or something. So this whole situation between the two schools was added to the story, and I really didn't like it. I don't think the book needed it to tell this story. Chapters 29 and 30 basically. But I did like the ending for Cassie and the final reflection from Lydia. 

Overall, I found this very enjoyable and was really happy whenever I was listening to it -- a sign of a good book and audiobook!