Saturday, December 30, 2017

Book review: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Book Summary
Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Ava Helmer
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We're still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

Flo's Review
This book was simply adorable. It's composed entirely of emails and text messages. That, plus the ease of Ava and Gen's banter, made it a quick and simple read. I finished it in two sittings. 

Writers are always being coached to, "Show, Don't Tell." Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin did a great job establishing the relationship between their characters through the chosen electronic media. I felt the deep bond and love between the friends from the very beginning and throughout the book. 

I also felt that I Hate Everyone But You did a great job of talking about a variety of timely and important social issues in a way that they would come up for a young adult reader. There was no making a point one way or another, honestly, that I took away -- even though Gen and Ava often had different experiences and points of view on these issues. Instead, it was just these two girls talking about mental health, transphobia, and other things as they came up for them.

My only one thing with the book was that I felt it could have been a little shorter. The email/texting format is a hard one to hold attention for an extended number of pages. I Hate Everyone But You succeeded, but I don't think it would have had it been any longer. 

If you are lucky enough to have a friend who has been with you through many years of your life -- as you have left home, experienced new things, changed and adapted accordingly -- then you are blessed indeed. I am lucky enough to have relationships like this, and this book celebrates them. I love it. Romance is nice, but it's so nice, honest, and refreshing to read a book where the most important relationship is between besties.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

GIVEAWAY: S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett

Book Summary
Seventeen-year-old Greer, a scholarship girl at a prestigious private school, St Aidan the Great School (known as STAGS), soon realizes that the school is full of snobs and spoilt rich brats, many of whom come from aristocratic families who have attended the institute throughout the centuries. She's immediately ignored by her classmates. All the teachers are referred to as Friars (even the female ones), but the real driving force behind the school is a group of prefects known as the Medievals, whose leader, Henry de Warlencourt, Greer finds both strangely intriguing as well as attractive. The Medievals are all good-looking, clever and everyone wants to be among their circle of friends. Greer is therefore surprised when she receives an invitation from Henry to spend a long weekend with him and his friends at his family house in the Lake District, especially when she learns that two other "outsiders" have also been invited: Shafeen and Chanel. As the weekend unfolds, Greer comes to the chilling realization that she and two other "losers" were invited only because they were chosen to become prey in a mad game of manhunt.

The Giveaway!
Please visit our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages to see your 3 chances to win. Good luck! 

Book review: Don't Cosplay With My Heart by Cecil Castellucci

Book Summary
When Edan Kupferman dresses up like her favorite character, Gargantua, she feels tall and powerful. That's important right now, because her family is a mess, her best friend is gone for the summer, her crush is confusing, and Edan's feeling small and not sure which end is up. 

When Edan's cosplaying, she can be angry, loud, and not the good girl everyone thinks she is. And when she's at conventions, she feels like she's found her own Team Tomorrow. But when her personal life starts to spiral out of control, Edan has to figure out whether she needs a sidekick, or if she has the strength to be the hero of her own story.

Flo's Review
I love me some nerdy love! I am a big nerd myself (my hubby and I just went to see Star Wars and he's totally bragging because he got a Barnes and Noble gift card this year but I didn't), so these are my people. I've been on a "love at con" kick this year, especially after reading Geekerella, The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love, and Queens of Geek. So when Scholastic sent this book my way, I was excited to dive in.

It look me awhile to get into this one at first. I wasn't connecting with Edan. Yes, she is going through a hard time, but when we meet her she is still in the "feeling sorry for myself" phase, and that is fun for nobody. However, I kept on going and I'm so glad I did. For the last 100ish pages, I stayed in bed reading because I just didn't want to put this down.

I liked how the story was set up -- there are four sections, each revolving around a con, from small to large (starting with Los Angeles and ending with San Diego.) There was a definite theme here with the idea of "good guys versus bad guys" and how that is clearly not black and white. For example, Edan's dad could technically be seen as the "bad guy" in this scenario. But he's a man who made mistakes and has people who love him. 

There was also a definite "girl power" theme here, from the character of Gargantua -- whom Edan idolizes -- to her relationship with Yuri and his friends. This one felt a little bit forced, so at times it was like, "Yes, girls are powerful, girls can do anything, I get it, I get it..." type thing. But I guess if you are doing to beat an issue to almost death, girl power is a good one to choose.

And finally, Kirk. I adored Kirk and can see why Edan did as well. 

Don't Cosplay With My Heart publishes January 2, 2018.

Thank you to Scholastic for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Audiobook review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Book Summary
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Here's my reppin'' with my Warcross shirt!
Flo's Review
Ooooh man! I finished this audiobook right before I arrived home, and I immediately wanted to sit down and write this review while everything was still churning in my mind. It's now a few hours later (domestic duties called), but I'm pretty much still reeling.

I am the reader who never gets the twist and is always surprised. So I was completely floored with the last few chapters of this book. I was listening to it on audio, so I kept saying to my CD player, "What?!?! Wait a minute!!! What?!?!" 

But the ending wasn't the only engaging part of this story. Warcross started strong and kept the momentum throughout. There was never a lag or a dull point at any part in the story. The world building in this book is incredible! Marie Lu put so much imagination into creating a world where anyone can create worlds. That is the thing about this novel -- it seems so fantastical, but also so realistic at the very same time. The bridges, the steps that it would take to get from our world to the world of Warcross do not seem very far at all. But seriously. I loved seeing Tokyo through the neurolink lenses. I loved the idea that you can save your memories and enter into them -- and that you can bring other people into them with you. I was intrigued with the way that Hideo communicated with Emika by pulling up a screen and showing her things, instead of just describing them with words.

There were a few circumstances that made me go, "Really though?" Emika kept bailing on her teammates and the scene would shift before we, the reader, got to see anything else about it. 

Hideo is such a complex character. Emika makes a comment at the end of the book about how she is still trying to figure him out -- and I am, too! I have some more to say about that and about Sasuke (and Tremaine), but I will do it under a spoiler tag on my Goodreads review, so as not to spoil the book here for anyone who hasn't read it. Side note: I definitely would have been pronouncing Sasuke wrong if it wasn't for the audiobook. The reader, Nancy Yu, read it as SAS-EW-KAY.

Nancy Yu did a great job narrating this audiobook. I felt all of Emika's emotions as she was reading them -- the drive, the nerves, the anger, the disbelief, and everything else on the spectrum. 

I've had several people tell me how good this book is, and I have to agree. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment and will be adding this book to the top of my Recommend Reads list.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Book review: Paris for One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

Book Summary
From the #1 "New York Times" bestselling author of "Me Before You" and "After You," a sensational collection featuring the title novella and eight other stories. Quintessential Jojo Moyes, "Paris for One and Other Stories" is an irresistibly romantic collection filled with humor and heart. 

Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She's never even been on a romantic weekend away to anywhere before. Everyone knows travelling abroad isn't really her thing. But when Nell's boyfriend fails to show up for their romantic mini-vacation, she has the opportunity to prove everyone including herself wrong. Alone and in Paris, Nell uncovers a version of herself she never knew existed: independent and intrepid. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life? Funny, charming, and irresistible, "Paris for One"is vintage Moyes as are the other stories that round out the collection."

Paris for One
Between the Tweets
Love in the Afternoon
A Bird in the Hand
Crocodile Shoes
Last Year's Coat
Thirteen Days with John C.
The Christmas List

Flo's Review
I love to travel. So I was absolutely delighted by the idea of a weekend jaunt to Paris. (Oh, to live in Europe and be able to do that!! But I digress...) As always happens when I read about Paris, I fell in love a little more with the city as I read about it. Moyes descriptions feel alive: Paris is living, breathing, feeling. In a Q&A at the end of the book, JoJo Moyes talks about living there and visiting every few months, and her knowledge of the area shines through in her prose.

Nell was a hard character to relate to at first because she is so timid, structured, and reserved. But it was a delight seeing her come out of her shell as she experienced everything. Her personality made the situations seem all the more risyk and adventurous, which read more powerfully. It was fun rooting for her at the end of the story, as you hoped she would do what you wanted her do, and as everything transpired.

I really enjoyed the Q&A at the end, because it gave me some insight into the short story process for Moyes. She explained how each one took her about a month and how each one had some kind of twist. Also, Moyes talked about how writing short stories is harder for her than novels because you have less time to convey a lot of information; thus, every word counts especially. And though the stories all had similar themes, that wasn't planned. Finally, Moyes said this about travel:

"'s the one thing that allows you step outside your own life. I have the clearest view of may own life when I'm thousands of miles away from it. In certain circumstances, people can always be someone else, too, freed from the constraints of what everyone around you already knows about you."

The short stories were nice, because I could read one really quickly here and there. The aforementioned general theme around the collection was women who had been married awhile and were dissatisfied in their relationships. While I understand that this is inevitable, this was not the best collection of stories for me to read as a newlywed. It was story after story of women who were unhappy with what their lives had become. I'm still in "just married" bliss and want to foolishly believe as long as I can that my entire life will be one "happily ever after." This is saying nothing negative about the stories, but is a reason I tend to fantasy, dsytopian, sci-fi, etc. stories as much as I do: they are more escape than reality.

The twists in all the stories were very creative. The end of Between the Tweets had me going, "Oh my gosh!" Last Year's Coat had a reference to "a resurrected boy band last popular fifteen years ago," which, as a hardcore New Kids on the Block fan, I loved. In Holdups, the main character says, "I realized pretty quickly I couldn't marry a man without a bookshelf," which is my #truth.

My favorite of the short stories was Crocodile Shoes. It reminded me of a song I love, "Red High Heels" by Kellie Pickler. The feeling of putting on a pair of shoes that make you feel more powerful is one I can definitely relate to.

I had fun with Paris for One & Other Stories, and I think that you will as well.

Thank you to Penguin Books for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.