Category Archives: contemporary

Nice Try, Jane Sinner – Book Review

Title: Nice Try, Jane Sinner 

Author: Lianne Oelke

Pages: 432

Genre: YA, contemporary

Publisher: Clarion Books

Release Date: January 9, 2018

Summary:

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Review:

Jane Sinner is not your typical main character. She is sassy, and a smart ass, and unapologetically herself. She’s been through some tough experiences in her life, but they’ve helped shape her into the person that she is. I think one of the things that I love most about Jane is that she sticks to what she believes in, and she doesn’t let others try to sway her. In the beginning of the book, Jane is faced with the decision of what to do after being kicked out of high school months before graduation. She knows that living at home isn’t the best environment for her, because she doesn’t have the same views as her parents and doesn’t want them to constantly judge her and her actions. So she agrees to go to community college to finish her high school diploma, as long as she can move out of the house. I admire Jane’s strength and tenacity.

Jane’s story is told through the perspective of her diary, which is such a great format for this book. Seeing as though Jane is a contestant on a student-run reality show similar to Big Brother, being able to know Jane’s deepest inner thoughts really allows the reader to get to know her. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality competition shows, but Big Brother has always been my guilty pleasure, and I loved that Jane Sinner took it’s own spin on the show.

Jane’s family is extremely religious, and the irony that their last name is Sinner is not lost on me. Being from a family that has religious values that I don’t agree with, I was able to understand Jane’s struggles with the issue. Jane can’t really figure out a way to let her parents know that she doesn’t believe in God without them thinking that there’s something wrong with her.

Jane is so snarky, and I love it! For most of the novel, I felt like Jane’s thoughts mirrored many of my own internal thoughts that I tend to keep to myself. She, however, has no qualms about speaking her mind and letting her thoughts be known. She is blunt and doesn’t beat around the bush. I really think that more people should be like Jane Sinner, because the world would be so much less confusing.

The supporting cast of characters is so varied and lively. They are all so well developed, and you can tell that they each have their own motivations behind their actions. I really believe that none of the characters in Nice Try, Jane Sinner are like any others that I’ve seen before.

I really don’t think I could have asked for any more in this book. I devoured it so fast, and was immensely satisfied. It surprised me in the best ways, and took turns that were entirely unexpected. Jane Sinner is refreshingly unique, and should be at the top of every YA lover’s 2018 TBR. I give it 5/5 stars.

I received an e-ARC of this from HMH Teen in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Lucky in Love – Book Review

Title: Lucky in Love

Author: Kasie West

Pages: 333 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: July 25, 2017

Summary:

Maddie doesn’t believe in luck. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment —

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun… until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now, Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

With tons of humor and heart, Kasie West delivers a million-dollar tale of winning, losing, and falling in love.

Review:

 

I was so excited for this book when I heard about it. I’ve read a few of Kasie’s books and I absolutely loved them. So when I got a chance to read Lucky in Love, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to fall in love with this book. I liked it okay, but I have quite a few problems with this book.

Maddie, our main character, is likable. She’s smart. She works hard for what she wants, and has a close group of friends. But once she wins the lottery and has $30+ million at her disposal, she makes a lot of bad decisions. She says she’ll go see a financial advisor as soon as the money comes through, yet she puts it off over and over again. She lets people talk her into giving them money for the stupidest things. The more bad decisions Maddie made, the slower I found myself reading. I have very little patience for stupidity, and Maddie is just so darn trusting and gullible. When I had about 50 pages left, I seriously considered not finishing because I just couldn’t deal with Maddie any more.

The crazy thing is, though Maddie’s instincts when it comes to giving people money absolutely suck, her instincts about people in general are pretty spot on. Which makes it so much more difficult to believe that she’s making such bad choices. I fully believe that she has the best intentions, and that she just needs a little help. Nevertheless, it was still tough to read. A contemporary that’s as long as Lucky in Love takes me less than a day to read usually. This, however, took me three whole days to get through.

There were some redeeming aspects to Maddie. She does give each of her parents and her brother a million dollars apiece, to help with their financial struggles. She thinks that this will fix all of her problems (i.e. her parents’ marital issues and her brother’s depression over not being able to continue college because of money), and while the money makes things better for a while, it’s only a temporary fix.

I did really like the romance in this book, which is probably why I rated this book as high as I did. I loved that Seth and Maddie didn’t have instalove, and their romance developed throughout the course of the entire novel. Their romance is really cute, and gave me all of the feels.

Overall, I didn’t hate this book, but I wanted to smack some sense into Maddie so many times that it made it a bit difficult to get through at times. I give Lucky in Love 3/5 stars. Definitely not my favorite book of Kasie West’s.

What to Say Next – Book Review

Title: What to Say Next

Author: Julie Buxbaum

Pages: 272 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: July 11, 2017

Summary:

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Review:

 

I was so excited when I got an ARC of this book. If you’ve read my review of Tell Me Three Things, then you know how much I absolutely love Julie Buxbaum’s writing. I went into What to Say Next with pretty high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. I flew through this book so quickly, and instantly fell in love with the characters.

The first thing that I fell in love with about this book was the diversity of the characters. Both of the main characters in this novel are diverse: David is on the Autism spectrum, and Kit is half Indian. While each of these characters are unique, their personalities work extremely well together. Seeing their friendship develop throughout the book made me love these two so much. You know those books where you never want to leave the characters behind, even after the story is long over? This is most definitely one of those books. Kit and David’s story sucks you in and leaves you feeling so many emotions.

I also really loved the alternating perspectives in this book. It helps to show the back and forth between Kit and David, as well as what they are both thinking and feeling as things happen between them. Especially in some scenes, it was so great to see both sides of the story and really understand how things can be meant to come off a certain way, but are completely changed by someone else’s perspective on the matter.

I give What to Say Next 5/5 stars. On a side note, I am absolutely LOVING all of the diverse reads that we have been getting lately, and all I can say is “Give me more, please!”

Tell Me Three Things – Book Review

Title: Tell Me Three Things

Author: Julie Buxbaum

Pages: 328 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: April 5, 2016

Summary:

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Review:

 

I am utterly obsessed with this book. From the very first page, I fell so hard for the story and  the characters. If I’m being completely honest, I really only picked this book up because the cover was adorable, and I thought it would make a great addition to photos on my bookstagram. But Tell Me Three Things is so much more than just a cute cover.

“My voice is smiling. I didn’t even know it could do that.”

-Tell Me Three Things, Julie Buxbaum

Buxbaum’s writing is so incredible. She manages to put words to thoughts and feelings that I’ve felt, but definitely couldn’t have described as eloquently. So many times throughout this book, I related to Jessie on such a deep level. It was almost as if Buxbaum had gone into my head, lived there for a while, and then wrote a character based off of her time there. There is really something special in reading about a character who you relate to so completely. Buxbaum also does a fantastic job of capturing an outsider’s perspective of Los Angeles and all of the weird, “trendy” things that people are into. I’ve lived near LA my entire life and I’m still amazed by some of the things that are considered completely normal here.

The characters in Tell Me Three Things are so lovable. Jessie has a lot of development throughout the book, and grows in so many ways. She is such a strong character who is undeniably herself. She is funny and witty, and I saw so much of myself in her character. There are also some very swoon-worthy guys in this book, and one who stands out above all the rest.

I also really loved the game that Jessie and Somebody/Nobody had where they would tell each other three things that the other didn’t know. It was such a cute way for them to get to know one another. Tell Me Three Things basically turned me into a big ball of feels, and I want to read it over and over until the end of time. I give it 5/5 stars, and recommend it to EVERYONE. Seriously, do yourself a favor and go read this book.

#famous – Book Review

Title: #famous

Author: Jilly Gagnon

Pages: 384 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Published: February 14, 2017

Summary:

In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives—and their hearts—forever. But are fame and love worth the price?

Told in alternating points of view, #famous captures the out-of-control thrill ride of falling for someone in front of everyone.

Review:

#famous is an adorable story about a girl whose crush goes from a secret between her and her friend, to something that the entire internet knows about I’m just a few hours. Rachel is a girl who likes to stay under the radar. She’s quirky, and by no means someone who would be considered popular. So needless to say she’s pretty stunned when her post with a photo of Kyle goes viral. After all, she only has 20-something followers.

Once the photo goes viral, it doesn’t take long for Kyle to figure out who posted it. People, both online and at school, are bullying Rachel for dreaming to believe that someone as weird as she is could possibly get someone like Kyle. Kyle ends up getting a ton of positive attention from the incident, while Rachel gets a ton of crap because she’s not some beautiful, perfect supermodel type. This book does a wonderful job of portraying the different ways that women and men are treated in the media.

One aspect that I really loved about this book was the bits about the story being picked up on a talk show, which is basically the book’s equivalent of the Ellen show, and turned into a recurring segment on the show. As someone who studied broadcast communications and knows how the whole television business works, it is always fun to read about characters appearing on tv shows.

There were so many times throughout this book where I just wanted to yell at the characters. If only they would open their eyes and see what was so clearly right in front of them. But alas, that would be too easy.

I think one of the main things that readers should get from this book is that you never really know what is going to happen once you post something on the internet. After all, Rachel obviously didn’t expect her photo to go viral. I know we hear things like this all the time, but it’s so important to think about what we post on the internet, and the potential consequences that these things may have.

I listened to the audiobook of this, which I rather enjoyed, because there is a narrator for each perspective in the book. It really helped to add to the overall effect, because the story is told by both Rachel and Kyle. I give #famous 3.75/5 stars. It was a fun, quick read that I enjoyed quite a bit.

My June TBR

So far this year, I have read 76 books! That’s just crazy to me, seeing as though last year I read 82 books. So this year I decided to set my Goodreads challenge to 100 books, and I’m on track to almost double that as of now. So I’m pretty impressed with myself.  I am notoriously bad at sticking to my TBR though, so this is really more like a wishlist.  Click through to see what books I’ll be tackling this month. Continue reading My June TBR

I Believe in a Thing Called Love – Book Review

Title: I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Author: Maurene Goo

Pages: 336 (hardcover)

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Published: May 30, 2017

Summary:

Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and never had a B. But in her charmed school life, there’s one thing missing—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a known disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet. When the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides it’s time to tackle her flirting failures. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has watched obsessively for years—in which the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. Armed with her “K Drama Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos. All’s fair in love and Korean dramas, right? But when the fun and games turn to feelings, Desi finds out that real-life love is about way more than just drama.

Review:

This book is one of my new favorite contemporaries! From the moment I picked this book up, I didn’t want to put it down. I Believe in a Thing Called Love is sweet and funny. Desi Lee is great at all things, except when it comes to boys. Her friends have lovingly coined the term “flailing” when it comes to Desi flirting: flirt failing. I could relate so much to Desi, because I, too, excel when there is a set list of “rules” for something. When things are left up to chance, Desi fails miserably, and often embarrassingly.

I’ve never seen a K drama before, but after reading I Believe in a Thing Called Love and seeing all of Desi’s “K Drama Rules for True Love,” I feel like I understand the genre a lot more, and might actually appreciate it if I were to go watch some of them. There’s even a handy guide at the end of the novel for getting into K dramas, based off of what genre you’re looking for, which I found to be really unique and helpful.

Have you ever watched a show or read a book that you knew was going to end in a huge disaster, and were just waiting for the bomb to go off? That’s what this book was for me. I just had this feeling that all of Desi’s ridiculous manipulations to try and snag Luca were going to end terribly! I mean, she makes some horrible decisions throughout the book, that no sane person could possible come up with, but I think that she also learns a lot about herself through the course of the book.

Maurene’s writing style is one that I really like. It’s engaging, funny, and kept me immersed within the story. The friendships that her characters share are absolutely amazing, and they are so supportive of one another. I constantly found myself wishing that I had friends like Fiona and Wes.

I give I Believe in a Thing Called Love 4.5/5 stars. Thanks so much to Maureen Goo for the ARC of this book, I couldn’t have been more pleased with it!