Review: Meet Cute by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies, Nina LaCour, Emery Lord, Katharine McGee, Kass Morgan, Meredith Russo, Sara Shepard, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi, Julie Murphy

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Published: 2 January 2018

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

Rating: 3 Stars

The lineup for this collection sounded impressive and was what made me want to pick it up. Some of the stories lived up to expectations and others, well, simply didn’t.

 

Siege Etiquette by Katie Cotugno: 1 Star

That was a horrible way to start the collection. The story was boring and the main character, Hailey, was not a good person. I’m sorry her parents died, but that doesn’t give her a pass for being a bitch beforehand or since. The method of storytelling was rough, too. The entire time the reader is being told about the action rather than showing it and letting us experience it.
Print Shop by Nina LeCour: 3 Stars

I wanted to like this stort because it had a lot of potential. it sounded like it could be really good, but happening in roughly 12 hours made it suffer. How much the MC knew about her employers at the print shop, the quickness of the LI inviting her to follow her inside an empty place…it all felt super rushed and a bit creepy.
Hourglass by Izo Zoboi: 2.5 Stars

This one more than any of the previous stories felt like it wasn’t a short story so much as some pages ripped out of a longer work. The meet cute couldn’t really be called that as there was minimal contact between the supposed parties of the meet cute. In fact, give it another minute and it wouldn’t have existed at all. Hourglass was disappointing because there was a lot of potential, but with the abrupt ending, the feeling of being part of something bigger, I couldn’t really like it as much as I wanted to based on the content.

There is some racist commentary from a side character and some borderline comments from the MC toward the owners of African dress shop she visits.

 

Click by Katharine McGee: 3 Stars

The concept of the Click program was interesting, familiar in a way because a lot of dating sites use that sort of things. Click, however, is way more intense and in-depth, possibly even a bit invasive; people give up a lot of electronic freedoms/privacy for services. Alexa and Raden were the first meet cute couple that I actually liked and thought, hey they deserve this story. It actually felt like a complete story and while it could have gone on, it didn’t need to.

 

The Intern by Sara Shepard: 3 Stars

Clara was a developed character, with her good parts and her flaws going together to create someone that I actually enjoyed reading about. Phineas wasn’t someone I was totally into as someone to read about, but he was extremely nice to Clara and helped her focus.

 

Somewhere That’s Green by Meredith Russo:  5 Stars

Easily my favorite of the collection, Meredith Russo’s story about a transgender girl, a school production of Little Shop of Horrors, and a conflicted love interest felt in-depth and intensely interesting. Her voice remains, from If I Was Your Girl, a strong one with well thought out prose that brings you in.

 There is a lot of discussion and points brought up in the course of Somewhere That’s Green from Nia about what it’s like to be transgender and Lexie about her inner turmoil, her own beliefs vs those being shoved upon her by her parents/small town thinking. Having a view point shoved on you all your life and the strength it takes to stand up to that, to years of something and make your own stand. I would love to read more about Nia and Lexie.

 

The Way We Love Here by Dhonielle Clayton:  2 Stars

There were wonderful visuals within this story, from the beach to the moonlight to candles and the people the light reflects upon. However, the predestined loves, the lack of freewill, and the disrespect for ace/aro characters was upsetting and made The Way We Love Here a lot sadder and distasteful than I was expecting.

The whole coils-on-your-ring-finger-until-you-meet-your-beloved is an interesting concept, but it is extremely restrictive, not to mention the motto of the island: A life without love is impossible. Sebastien’s mother is said to believe that people are doomed without love. It felt like a constant yet almost subtle hounding that aro people are doomed, which is so far from the truth.

Viola, or Vio, has questions about the way things work on her island, about how she’s never given thought to boys or girls or loving them, but believes that there must be more. Places where people can choose their own loves or can choose not to love at all. She could have a future where her possible aro identity is comfortable, she’s a painter like she wants, but by the end of the story she’s been shoved into conformity with the rest of the island, including Sebastien.

Visually Dhonielle’s story is nice, but content wise I was very disappointed.

 

Oomph by Emery Lord:  5 Stars

THIS is the story that I was waiting for. While there are others I liked and even another 5 star read, Oomph is the one that really fulfills the idea I have of a meet cute.

Taking place in an hour or so between two senior girls waiting in an airport, we get glimpses into who they are, what hopes and fears they have regarding life right out of high school, and what might be in their future. Who knows if they’ll end up seeing each other again, but there’s possibility here. Peggy and Natasha (before we find out they’re really Cassidy and Joanna) tease each other, flirt well, and yet still have nerves (at least on Cassidy’s part).

While I want to say that I’d like for there to be a follow-up book to this story, I don’t think it would work out as well as some of the previous entries here. Oomph ties things up nice and neatly, satisfactorily even, and I’m okay with Cassidy and Jo getting on  their respective planes and going home.

 

The Dictionary of You and Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout:  2 Stars

This had elements of being a really cute story, but the beginning just sounded so much like a potential horror film that it distracted me from whatever adorableness was building between Moss and “H. Smith”. The phone calls she had to make on behalf of the library, requesting an overdue book back from H. Smith, had a tone of creepiness that I couldn’t shake.

 

The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love by Jocelyn Davies: 5 Stars

Meet cute plus scientific inquiry plus taking place in NYC? Jocelyn Davies’s short story about statistics, falling in love at first sight, and subway cars was well written, strong with characters, and conclusive in the eventual meeting of Sam and Dev. It wasn’t fun, exactly, but it was enjoyable. Watching Sam work on her AP Statistics project in relation to this random sighting on a morning train was intriguing and a bit sweet.

 

259 Miles by Kass Morgan: 3 Stars

The interaction between the two primary characters, Philip and Blythe, was good and they could have been really cute. There’s a “twist” that I thought was unnecessarily cruel and I didn’t care for that. Because of it and an event prior to the start of the story, I’m not sure how well Philip is going to do after the conclusion.

 

Something Real by Julie Murphy: 4 Stars

Two of the cutest bisexual ladies I’ve read about in recent memory, June and Martha were a bit. Meeting on the set of a reality dating show would be nice enough, but when it’s the two of them competing for a date with a music star and falling for each other instead? That put a smile on my face.

 

Say Everything by Huntley Fiztpatrick: 2 Stars

This had all the dimension and flair of a cardboard cutout Reader’s Digest story. It alternated between telling and showing, neither in particularly successful ways, and even the parts I did “like” were just on. There was no reason to like either Emma or Sean or what could barely be called a cute between them. I didn’t flat out hate it, but it was a story that I knew, as I read it, that I would have no interest in ever reading again.

 

The Department of Dead Love by Nicola Yoon: 2 Stars

The framework of a story about departments of love, helping you to heal or have a do-over, was fairly stable, but the flaws that came up in the telling had me scratching my head more than once. It was almost like a companion to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but with less engaging characters. Thomas rubbed me the wrong way, Samantha (his ex) felt like a doormat, and Gaby…her I might actually have grown to like, but we only saw her through Thomas’s eyes and the story ended before I was really able to get to know her.

 


 

This collection overall was a letdown. A little over a quarter of the stories were outright disappointing letdowns, a few were middle of the road, and the few (4) ones that rated highly are not enough to buy a collection that was at times poorly written, mildly offensive, and dull.



 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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Between the Blade and the Heart Blog Tour

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Ready for an adventure including a fierce Valkyrie amidst a gathering of mythical creatures from around the globe? Today, thanks in part to the Between the Blade and the Heart blog tour, I can give you my thoughts on the book and a Q&A with the author, Amanda Hocking.

 

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Published: 2 January 2018

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult

When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

Rating:  3 Stars

Going into this book and based off the description, I thought the basis for the supernatural creatures would be Norse, given that Valkyrie are one of the most famous facets of that pantheon. However, from the offset the mythology seemed to be a bit of a compilation. I noticed when Malin said the immortals slain by Valkyrie go to Kurnugia. Not familiar with the term I looked it up and it’s not from Norse mythology but rather Sumerian. It does still refer to an underworld but readers should be aware that it’s not Norse the way Odin and the Valkyrie are.

Beings from other religions are also included, such as Samael (Talmudic lore) or creatures like pontianaks (female vampiric beings from Malaysian/Indonesian folklore). It made it a strange reading experience when it seemed like a lot of importance was placed in these women of Norse mythology,  but also throwing in elements of other times and places.

It’s not so much that I mind different pantheons blending; the Percy Jackson universe is an example of it being done well. However, when the book seems unaware of it’s multifaceted nature and absorbs these elements rather than acknowledging them, it interrupts the reading experience because I continually have the feeling that I need to check a reference to see where a new element came from.

Malin was hard to feel sympathy for initially, as she was very content to be boxed in by her Valkyrie blood, even stating herself that it takes over at times and makes her crave the kills/”returns” of immortals. Her lack of agency and mannerisms felt stilted.

The romantic aspects of the book were varied. Her love interests/partners were complicated and some were sweet, such as the Cambion Jude (son of an incubus and human) on the sweet side and complicated AF in regards to Quinn, fellow Valkyrie and ex-girlfriend. However, I got this feeling that there were some subtle digs at aromantic people. When Malin and her roommate Oona were discussing Malin’s ex and her current hookup, there was some digging in Oona’s part about how Valkyries could totally fall in love, nothing in the books that said they couldn’t. While not vocalized, Malin said some things internally that led to my thinking she was aromantic/bisexual.

I’m not clear on when or where this book takes place. The feel I get from the writing leads me to believe present day, but then there are things like hover bikes and such that point to the future. Also, how well known are supernatural creatures? Most of the time it seemed like the human populace was unaware, but then Malin visits a bar where she points out that regulars patronize the place whether they’re human or otherwise and no indication is given that the physical differences (horns, etc) are noticed. Also, Oona is apparently a student at the same school as Malin, training in thaumaturgy, and she works at a bodega that sells some talismans and what not. Human awareness seems to fluctuate a lot and it was hard to grasp what kind of world this was for them.

Then there’s the geographical location. Many places are mentioned that are quite a distance from each other, like Shibuya, the Gold Coast, and Tanzania. I think this book takes place in Australia because of the Gold Coast being an hour away from the HQ where Malin gets her assignments, but it’s never really clear.

There were some issues with pacing and fleshing out of the events that I actually did like. The story line was there and I liked it well enough, but there also seemed to be something missing, something to give it that oomph that really sets a book apart. Aside from that, Between the Blade and the Heart was enjoyable enough and was interesting in that it got me to look up the different mythological beings that showed up. A lead to further reading, entertaining, and magical, not bad. I’m not sure I’ll pick up the sequel next year, but I might pick it up at the library.

 

 

About Amanda Hocking

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Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

 

Blog  –  Facebook  –  Twitter  –  Website

 

Q&A with Amanda Hocking

Q: What or who was the inspiration behind Between the Blade and the
Heart?
A: I have already written several books inspired by Scandinavian folklore, and
I was always fascinated by Valkyries. But because I had already done in
Scandinavian fantasy, I wanted to come at this one from a different angle. I
imagined the Valkyries helping to police a gritty, diverse, cyberpunk
metropolis, in a world filled with not just Norse figures but from many
mythologies.

Q: What are the life lessons that you want readers to glean from your book?
A: That love is a strength, not a weakness.

Q: If you were given the chance to go on a date with one of your characters,
who would you choose and what would you do together?
A: Oona. She doesn’t swing that way, but since I’m married anyway, it would
be a friendship date. I think it would be fun to go to an apothecary with her
and have her show me around the magic. Or maybe just veg out and watch
bad movies.

Q: Would the essence of your novel change if the main protagonist were
male?
A: Yes, it would be changed dramatically. For one, Valkyries are women. But I
also think the book explores the relationships between mothers and
daughters, and friendships between young women.

Q: What is your definition of true love in YA literature?
A: There has to be passion and desire – not necessarily anything physical,
but so much of young love is about yearning. But I also think that true love is
based on mutual respect and selflessness.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an author/start
writing?
A: My biggest piece of advice is to just write. It’s so easy to get caught up in
self-doubt or procrastination. There are lot of great books and blogs about the
art of writing, but the most important thing is really to just do it. The best way
to get better at writing is by doing it.

Q: What’s one book you would have no trouble rereading for the rest of your
life?
A: It would be a toss up between Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Cat’s
Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve read both of those books a dozen times
already, at least, and I never get sick of them.

Q: How did you name your characters? Are they based on people you know
in real life?
A: It’s combination of names I like and taking inspiration from the world itself.
With Between the Blade and the Heart, the names were inspired both by the
mythology they come from – many Valkyries have Norse names like Malin,
Teodora, and Freya, for example – and the futuristic setting of the book, so I
wanted names that seemed a bit cooler and just slightly different than the
ones we use now.

Q: Alright, Amanda, I know you’re a movie buff. What are some movies your
characters would pick as their all-time favorites?
A: That’s a tough one. Malin – The Crow, Oona – Pan’s Labyrinth, Quinn –
Wonder Woman, Asher – Inception, and Marlow – Twelve Monkeys.

Q: Which mythological character is the most like you?

A: Demeter, because she’s pretty dramatic – she basically kills all the plants
in the world when her daughter goes missing – but she’s also determined,
and will stop at nothing to protect those she cares about.

Q: Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
A: Oona or Bowie. Oona because she’s so practical, supportive, and
determined, and Bowie because he’s adorable.

Q: What is your favorite scene and why?
A: I don’t know if there is one particular scene that I loved more than the
others, but I really enjoyed writing about the city that Malin lives in and all the
creatures that inhabit it.

Q: What cities inspired the urban haven where the Valkyries live?
A: I was really obsessed with this idea of an overpopulated metropolis, and so
I took a lot of inspiration from some of the biggest cities in the world,
particularly Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Manila. The city itself is actually
a sort of futuristic, alternate reality of Chicago (one of my favorite cities in the
world), and I wanted to incorporate that into it as well.

Q: What came first: The world, the mythology, or the characters?
A: I usually say the characters come first, and the world builds around it. But
for this one, it really was the world that drew me into it. I knew I was writing
about a young woman who was a Valkyrie, but that about all when I began
building up the world and the mythology.

Q: I love that these characters are in college. What inspired this choice?
A: Because of the complex relationship Malin has with her mother, I knew I
wanted some distance between them, so I thought putting her in college,
living away from her mom, was a good way to do it. Plus, I thought it would be
fun to explore the all the supernatural training that would be needed to do these specialized jobs that come up in a world where every mythological creature exists.

Q: What songs would you include if you were to make a soundtrack for the
book?
A: This is my favorite question! I love creating soundtracks that I listen to
while writing a book, and here are some of my favorite tracks from my
Between the Blade and the Heart playlist: Annie Lennox – “I Put a Spell on
You,” Daniel Johns – “Preach,” Halsey – “Trouble (stripped),” Meg Myers –
“Sorry (EthniKids Remix),” and MYYRA – “Human Nature.”

Q: Was this book always planned as a series or did that develop afterwards?
A: It was always planned as a duology. I don’t want to go into too much or risk
spoiling the second book, but I had this idea that one book would be above,
and the other below.

Q: Your novels and characters are so layered. How do you stay organized
while plotting/writing? Do you outline, use post-it notes, make charts, or
something else?
A: All of the above! This one was the most intensive as far as research and
note taking goes, and I also had maps, glossaries, and extensive lists of
various mythologies. I think I ended up with thirteen pages of just Places and
Things. I do a lot of typed notes, but I also do handwritten scribbles (which
can sometimes be confusing to me later on when I try to figure out what they
mean. I once left myself a note that just said “What are jelly beans?”) For this
one, I really did have to have lots of print outs on hand that I could look to
when writing.

Q: You’ve said that pop culture and the paranormal both influence your
writing. How do these things intersect for you?

A: In a way, I think they’re both about how humans choose to interpret and
define the world that surrounds us. So many mythologies come from humans
trying to make sense of the seasons and the chaos of existence, and even
though we’ve moved past a lot of the scientific questions, pop culture is still
tackling our existence. Even when looking at shows made for kids, like Pixar,
they handle a lot of difficult concepts, like what it means to love someone
else, how to be a good friend, facing your fears, and overcoming loss. These
are things that mythologies and stories have been going over for centuries.

Q: Did you choose the title first, or write the book then choose the title?
A: It depends on the book, but I will say with this one that it took a very, very
long time to come up with a title. It was already written and edited, and we
were still bouncing around different names.

Q: How many more books can we expect in “Between the Blade and the
Heart” series?
A: One more! From the Earth to the Shadows will be out in April 2018.

Q: What scene from the book are you most proud of (because of how you
handled the atmosphere, characters, dialogue, etc)?
A: I don’t want to say too much or risk spoiling it, but there’s a scene near the
end of the book where a confrontation leaves Malin reeling. I wrote it in an
almost present tense, stream-of- consciousness way because I thought that
was the best way to capture the raw intensity of her emotions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Debut Author Bash: Review of Cheesus Was Here by J.C. Davis & A Giveaway!

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Published: 11 April 2017

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/Humor

Sixteen-year-old Delaney Delgado knows miracles aren’t real—if they were, her kid sister wouldn’t be dead. So when the image of baby Jesus appears on a Babybel cheese wheel, she’s not buying the idea that God’s got a dairy obsession. Soon, religious signs begin turning up all over Del’s hometown, tiny Clemency, Texas. Overnight, news vans fill the streets and religious pilgrims start searching for God in the discount aisle of the grocery store.

Hell-bent on proving the so-called miracles are fake, Del convinces her best friend, Gabe, to help her find the truth. While Gabe’s willing to play detective, as a preacher’s son he’s more interested in finding evidence that supports the miracles. But when the whole town becomes caught up in religious fervor and even the late-night talk show hosts have stopped laughing and started to believe, finding the truth might cause more trouble than Del can handle. This novel is neither pro nor anti-religion, and will appeal to fans of contemporary YA novels that explore deep themes with an element of humor. The voice and characters are funny, strong, and full of heart. This is a book for anyone who loved Saved!

Rating: 4 Stars

What starts as a small town with two gas stations and a combined elementary/middle/high school becomes a whole lot more when something miraculous happens in the form of a religious image on a wheel of cheese. Or does it?

More than a book about potential miracles, Cheesus Was Here has underlying themes of grief, acceptance, and belief in multiple forms.

In the beginning, the main character Delaney already has a lot of feeling bottled up: the death of her younger sister, the desertion by her father, and her mother, stuck in her own grief, checking out of her life and the lives of her two remaining children. From this place of stern acceptance in order to live, Delaney is confronted by possible religious events in her small town in Texas, miracle fever growing as time passes since the discovery of Baby Cheesus, a wheel of Babybel with a supposed image of the infant Christ.

She’s of her own mind and believes it’s just a hunk of dairy product and is determined to prove it, along with her best friend Gabe, son of a pastor who believes in miracles. As we watch Delaney and Gabe move throughout their town, experiencing all that happens in the at times painfully small populace, it’s striking to realize how authentic J.C. Davis’s voice in writing is. Living in a rural town myself, albeit in NJ, I felt almost at home a lot of the time; not always a comforting thing, but I thought that I understood Delaney’s overwhelming feelings of suffocation and the people that she met. Their views, their ideas of what life is meant to be, and so on.

The pressure Delaney faces from the congregations in her small town and the people of those churches is fierce. A small town with not much too it finally has something to attract tourists and she’s questioning everything, from Baby Cheesus to the other “miracles” that begin to happen. Is her questioning the right thing to do or is it a reaction to the tragic death of her sister? Is she angry at God or should she be blindly accepting that some things are unexplainable except as acts of an invisible deity?

Within the novel itself there are characters and actions that make one think about not only their situations, but about the events in your own life. What is belief? What is faith? The funny dialogue, the authentic characters, the bigger picture, all combine in Cheesus Was Here to make a fascinating, enjoyable novel.

 


 

J.C. Davis, author of Cheesus Was Here, has graciously offered a signed copy of her novel and a swag pack to one lucky winner. Follow the link below to a Rafflecopter where you’ll have the chance to enter. Open INT through 12/31/17 at midnight EST. Happy New Year!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the author as part of the Debut Author Bash in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

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Published: 5 September 2017

Publisher: Harper Teen

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

Rating: 4 Stars

Is there an author that feels me with more excitement and trepidation in a single novel that Adam Silvera? Not yet. Until that time, sink into a classic Silvera tale where you’ll find yourself loving the characters, even if the title is…somewhat spoilery?

Even knowing what was coming didn’t stop me from having hope for Rufus and Mateo. There were some moments when I was hoping that there would be a way out of their Last Days, but given that it’s called They Both Die at the End, that hope was always quite small and shoved into a corner. Instead I had this feeling in my heart that, while there were moments when they had clarity about their situation, their families, past selves, etc., there was no way out. They were going to die and there was nothing to be done about it. Did that stop me from enjoying their last day alongside them? No, but still, sad the whole time.

The interweaving of the side characters was almost always engaging, putting these people in Mateo and Rufus’s path, some more so than others. There were people that made calls, an enemy of Rufus’s, workers at Make-A-Moment stations that Mateo and Rufus probably didn’t think twice about.

I got quite invested in a couple, like Delilah, the woman who got a Death Cast call but thought it was a prank by her ex-fiancee who works with the company. While we get answers for Mateo and Rufus, albeit not the happiest ones, Delilah’s final hours aren’t stated on the page. She passes by our boys, but it’s actually Victor, her ex-fiancee, that has a bigger impact in them. Knowing for sure would’ve been great, but I have to admit that the overall book isn’t her story: she’s just a character in the larger narrative.

I did come up with a lot of questions regarding the whole Death Cast system that were never really answered. Number one would probably be how was such a thing created in the first place? Next, what about people that don’t have a way to communicate with Death Cast? No phone, no email; do they just die without warning or does someone hunt them down? And finally (more or less): how many of these deaths are self fulfilling prophecies? The case with that last question is that of Rufus’s family. His parents and sister all received a call and when their car crashed into a river, they didn’t even try to save themselves. Would things have been different if they had fought for their lives? How much did their trust in this system actually lead to or cause their deaths?

There was definitely a cloud over me as I read, more so near the end because while there were still pages left, Mateo and Rufus were probably still alive. That hope is a pale shadow of what they had in spending their day, hour by hour, with each other. Finding comfort, maybe even love. Reading this book a second time might be hard, but doing so will allow a reader to see just how much these two boys really lived in their last day.

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber

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Published: 3 October 2017

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Category: Holiday/Romance/Fiction

Merry Knight is pretty busy these days. She’s taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book boss at the consulting firm where she temps. Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man. Without her knowledge, Merry’s well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her—minus her photo—and the matches start rolling in. Initially, Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.

Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and an unmistakably kind soul. Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day. But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects—or desires. Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot. In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away.

Rating:  2 Stars

I like easy reads as much as the next person. Sometimes they’re incredible palate cleansers after an intense book, sometimes they’re just what you’re in the mood for. That being said, Merry and Bright turned out to be an example of too easy a read.

There was next to no tension, no build up. Shortly after the book begins, you already know who is going to end up with who. Sure they portray the love interest as a gruff over-worker, but come on, it was incredibly obvious, given that his name is Jayson Bright and the title of the book being what it is, that this would go the way of so many books before.

Not just other romance books either, I mean. Debbie Macomber has some good titles to her name, which is why I try again and again to like her newer books, Merry and Bright among them. Her Cedar Cover series, my personal favorite the Blossom Street books, even her Angel Interventionbooks are fantastic and satisfying, examples of good easy reads. Since she usually does so well at Christmas stories, I thought I’d give this one a try, despite my not liking her more recent works.

Merry was decent enough, though I think she faltered between being slightly flat in which case she was uninteresting, and between being a bit of a doormat. Jayson, even though I know he was supposed to start out a miserable being and end up “good for love”, was a pain. He was not a kindhearted person that I could see, even asking his doorman to roust a homeless person trying to sleep on the side of his apartment building. Either be decent and offer some help or leave the poor person alone!

I didn’t like how Macomber pushed the toxic father forgiveness storyline. Jayson’s father, will all the details we’re given, is not someone deserving of this, but because she’s set on every bump being smoothed over, it had to happen. It was disgusting when you consider what the feelings would be like if these were real people. It was very brief and only occurred in the early parts of the book, for which I’m thankful.

The men in the book were exactly stellar guys, even at the end when they should have had time to become better people. Aside from the earlier comments I made about Jayson, there’s also the fact that both he and Cooper, his best friend/cousin that gave him advice over the course of the story, came off as very shallow. Cooper, when asked by Jayson why he wants to marry his current girlfriend Maddy, could only come up with physical characteristics as reasons. Jayson, at the company Christmas party, thinks that someone more “bombshell gorgeous” is the woman he’s been talking to online, even though he’s attracted to Merry and she’s right in front of him. It left a bad feeling in my head when I realized these two, even though Jayson was not a great person, were still going to end up together.

The ending felt a bit weird, I’m sorry to say. Of course these two end up a couple, despite the “problem” they encountered along the way. The feeling I got was that it was all too simple, too quick, and too generous. Jayson brings loads of presents to Merry’s family home on Christmas Eve, including a laptop for her brother. After chatting online for a month and one, maybe two dates, and he’s showering her with gifts. It felt like he was overcompensating and I didn’t think it a comfortable place to end. Everything in the book was too brief, solved too quickly and too well, and that didn’t sit right with me.

If you don’t mind an almost instalove kind of story with practically no complications and everything wrapped up neatly, then perhaps you’ll find more enjoyment in Merry & Bright than I did.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Waiting on Wednesday: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event created by Breaking the Spine in which we highlight a title we’re looking forward to reading. You can find their website here.

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Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Book Depository

Published: 27 March 2018

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance

From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable novel that shows young love in all its awkward glory—perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

I’m not 100% sure what it is that drew me to this book. The cover has a cool feel about it, kind of a sketch drawing quality. The story itself, about an awkward meetup between two main characters that are supposedly unremarkable, wouldn’t find itself in my usual fantasy genre. So, what gives?

I think it’s like the kind of book I’d refer to as a personal palate cleanser. There’s nothing wrong with at all, but when you spend so much time entrenched in worlds of magic, people with powers and talking animals, etc., then a journey in the real world with relatively normal people might be just the ticket.

Also, there’s something about Penny Lee that reminds me of my personal high school experience. There were some years that were non-event-ish, some that were quite a bit different in a horrible bully filled way. Suffice it to say, high school equaled not good. Moving on from that wasn’t the spectacular salvation that I thought it would be, much as I expected Penny Lee will discover in Texas, but who knows? I’ll have to read to find out, won’t I?

That’s nothing to say of what kind of back story Sam will have. The summary doesn’t reveal much about his past, only his present. What kind of effect will that mystery have on his presence in the book? We’ll see.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 2 January 2018

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Category: Young Adult/Fantasy

What if you could ask for anything- and get it?

In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.

Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.

Rating: 1 Star

Some spoilers ahead, be warned!

A town where wishes can actually come true. On the surface it sounds fantastic, but I’ve seen enough Twilight Zone to know that it isn’t going to be as great as all that.

The main character Eldon is struggling with his wish decision because his family has suffered for it. The whole town has some story or other about wishes gone wrong, but for Eldon, it’s to do with his mother wishing his father to fall in love with her, resulting in him never being able to love with someone else. His sister is in a coma in another city and his parents are pressuring him to use his wish to heal her. Tragedy and an insane amount of pressure are no picnic, but while reading I couldn’t figure out whether Eldon was an asshole simply because of these circumstances or because that’s just who he was.

Eldon plays God with his wish, thinking he knows what’s best for everyone when he ends the cycle of wishes with his own. Were there consequences to the wishes, some careless ones made and some even bad? Of course and I can admit that, but Eldon’s pompous attitude that he knew better made me hate him at the end. He had no right to make this decision for everyone. Yes he was under pressure and no his parents shouldn’t have done that to him, but I don’t see it as a reason, just an excuse for him to hide behind.

Given his anger throughout the book, at his parents and the whole wish system, I thought the ending was fairly obvious with regards to his choice and yet I still hoped for more. I thought he might grow, might learn something beyond his own narrow view, but I’m not sure he did.

In the book, there are some chapters that recount the wishes of other citizens. Eldon asks about them so he can make sure his own choice is the right one. One of the stories about a man named Gil disturbed me for the content itself and for the implications. Gil came of age in the 1970’s, not a great time for someone like him. He’s gay and he knows it, but he struggles with it because the people in town are not as open-minded as you’d think, considering the wishes and all.

So what does he wish for? He wishes for all of his homosexual feelings to go away. This backfires when he realizes that wishing away his liking boys doesn’t mean he’ll automatically like girls. This wish, to Gil, backfired and made him lonely and sad and empty. That’s a horrible way to look at it because it makes it sound like people that are asexual are missing something in their lives when that’s not true. It disgusted me, to be honest, and as this occurred around 37%, made me dread the rest of the book. If Eldon is insufferable and the author is making things like this happen to the characters, then what hell can I expect next?

Well, that turned out to be a girl named Penelope, after finding out that a classmate, Fletcher, has tried to commit suicide, wishes for his suicide to fail. In this town, though, that doesn’t mean just the most recent attempt; it means all of them. That was not her decision to make. It reminds me of a quote, oddly enough, from The Incredibles: “You didn’t save my life, you ruined my death.” She took away his free will, which seems to be a real problem with the people in this town. They make wishes that end up affecting others lives and that, maybe, is one of the most horrible facets of the book of all.

With an insufferable narrator, some problematic content, and pacing that was slower than molasses, I didn’t like this book much at all, which was disappointing because the premise had so much possibility.

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.