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Summer Contemporary Fling – 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

22836575Title: 99 Days

Author: Katie Cotugno

Rating:  ★★ / ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I… did not like this book. I found it incredibly frustrating and almost put it down a couple of times. I did like how it tackled double standards though, and for that I gave it two stars.

Molly Barlow is a selfish girl who keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. I HATED how every time she would do something that she KNEW was wrong she’d always brush it off as ‘I couldn’t help myself’ or ‘I couldn’t stop myself’. Uh, yes, you can. Nobody was FORCING you, EVER.

This book is about a girl who broke her boyfriend’s heart by sleeping with his brother. Molly was dating Patrick forEVER, but when they broke up (the DAY they broke up, wtf) she slept with his older brother. And then kept it a secret for a year until Molly’s mother (who’s a best selling novelist) wrote a book using Molly’s secret (wtf at her mom!) and then did an interview for People Magazine (again WTF!!! I’d be SO PISSED if that was my mom). Everyone in town found out about it and Molly ran away to boarding school. When she comes back for the summer she’s ostracized and slut shamed for what she did.

And that’s where I got super annoyed. I don’t understand how sleeping with Gabe, the older brother, ONCE = being a dirty whore. I could have understood that reaction a bit more (not agreed with, but understood) if she’d been sleeping with him for THE ENTIRE YEAR while still dating Patrick, but it was ONE time and they were BROKEN UP. So yes, I can see how the family would be hurt (Molly has been very close with the two brothers and their sister), and the brother’s pissed off, but I don’t know why the entire fucking TOWN decided that she was a dirty slut.

I also didn’t care for any of the characters. Tess and Imogen were really good friends and I felt so bad for them both when Molly kept treating them like crap and in the end really hurt Tess. I was a bit upset with Imogen at first when Molly came back to town, but when we find out what kind of stuff Imogen had been dealing with and how Molly had just dropped her, then I felt bad for her.

I really disliked Patrick and Gabe. They were both douhebags and while I did like that Gabe was willing to take a chance and befriend Molly at the beginning of the summer, and how he kept trying to include her, I didn’t really care for either brother and in the end when we find out more about why they both were going after her, well, that was just really shitty of them both. And ugh, Patrick pissed me off so much. And as much as everyone wants to point at Molly for being a cheater, she technically wasn’t until much later in the book. And she wasn’t the only one.

Like I said though, I did applaud this book for challenging the double standard. So often the female in the relationship is condemned and shunned for cheating and the male’s involvement is shrugged off as ‘well, men!’. Gabe often pointed out that it took the two of them to do what they’d done, and same goes for Patrick later on in the book. I did cheer for Molly when she addressed the issue, but it was hard to cheer for her beyond much else.

Overall I just didn’t connect with anyone in this book, and while I usually enjoy messy stories where ugly pretty people get their just deserts, I never really found anyone who I felt got what they deserved, and I hated not having anyone to cheer for at all in this entire book.

Sam’s Review:

While a lot of the reviews say this book will either be a love or hate affair, I found myself somewhat indifferent. I adored Cotugno’s debut, How to Love, so of course 99 Days shot up to be an anticipated read. I don’t think this book is bad, but it’s quite middling and somewhat problematic.

I really didn’t enjoy how Molly being a cheater automatically made her “slut” in the eyes of everyone in the community. It seemed a little ridiculous at times, and I mean I can’t blame her feeling like a “slut” if that’s how people are portraying her, but it gets to be a little suffocating at times. I had a hard time with Molly, because sometimes I found I was able to empathize with her, especially when she was trying to make her life more positive, but she repeatedly makes the same mistake over and over again, and it takes her so long to learn from those mistakes, and that can be frustrating for a reader who wants to cheer her on.

Molly is selfish, and her lack of regret is problematic for me. Especially in how she hurts both Tess and Imogen, and yet her character and personality — it felt very real to me in the way that Cotugno knows how to flesh out her characters. Some people, like Molly, just don’t get it, and I think there are parts of that novel where Cotugno is trying to portray this idea that not everyone figures stuff out or sometimes even tries. They aren’t good people, but when I think of where Molly comes from, having her dirty laundry aired in her mother’s best-selling novel, I sort of see why she behaves like she’s stuck.

Frankly, I hate both the male love interests, which shouldn’t be surprising because I hated the one in How to Love. But again, for me, I hate Gabe and Patrick because it comes from the fact that they feel real, like real people I wouldn’t like even in real life. Gabe is just full of himself and a tool, while Patrick is a firecracker who just can’t see beyond himself. And that’s just it, these characters are selfish, mean, but they are people you may have encountered in your lives. I applaud Cotugno’s writing because I’ve always enjoyed the fact that her characters can be appalling and problematic, but they are real people who just happen to be unlike-able.

And here’s the thing, yes cheating is a taboo subject, but it does happen, and it shouldn’t be the end of someone’s world because they’ve done it. I think what frustrates me at times is this idea that when someone is a cheater, they are always a cheater, and I don’t think that’s entirely true. People make mistakes, they are human, it’s what you learn from the experience. It may take Molly the entire story to learn from her mistakes and even fix some of her relationships, but she’s still a young person learning to be someone. It’s why even when I was angry and frustrated with her, I could still empathize. I’ve met people like her in my life, and yes they are imperfect — but aren’t we all?

At the end of the day, 99 Days is a frustrating read, but I appreciate the kinds of lessons that Cotugno was trying to infuse into the story about some people never getting it. The ending works so perfectly because Molly is called out once more, and yet she knows she’s leaving for college and she gets that chance to potentially have a fresh start. Sometimes you have to let people learn the hard way, which is what I got from this novel. I still would recommend How to Love over this novel any day, but I admit I did want more from 99 Days and I just didn’t get it in the end.

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ARC Review – Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

13132816Title: Emmy & Oliver

Author: Robin Benway

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Huge thank you to Harper Teen for allowing us to read this book!

River’s Review:

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review

I’m not sure I can do this book justice with a review but I will try. First off Robin Benway is one of my favorite authors. I read AKA last year and fell in LOVE with her writing. I love the humor, the dialog, the relationships and the seriousness that she can write and pack all into one book. I love the way she writes friendships and romantic relationships and families.

Emmy & Oliver was one of my most anticipated books of 2015 and it is now one of my favorite books of all time. I was so scared to read it because I had hyped it up so much to MYSELF that I was worried that I wasn’t going to be as in love with it as I WANTED to be (this happened with one of Benway’s other books,The Secrets of April, May, and June. The only book of her’s that I didn’t give 5 stars to) but I was. And this book is more than good. It is literal perfection.

We all know the story of this book. It’s simple really. A boy gets snatched away by his father at the age of seven. Ten years later he is found. And he comes home. Only it is not the homecoming that everyone expects. Because Oliver wasn’t taken against his will. He wasn’t held at gun point every day and told that if he didn’t stay put that he’d die. He was living with his father, growing up. Sure there were a few weird things going on, and he was devastated about some of the lies that his father told him (that he didn’t know were lies until later on), but he had a life, a home, and he was happy.

See, Oliver didn’t even know that he’d been kidnapped until ten years later when he gets found. So when he comes home it’s hard. And he struggles. And Emmy is there to help him. She’s essentially been waiting for him for ten years. And when he comes back it’s not like he expected, nothing like she expected, nothing like anyone expected.

Now I’ve never been kidnapped, but I have ‘left’ and I think anyone who’e ever ‘left’ and then ‘come back’ (for me it was leaving the country for seven years) you can understand just an ounce of how hard it must be to come back from what Oliver had come back from. For me things were different, people were different, but they expected me to be the same. And I expected that of them too. We forget how much we grow and change over time. And Oliver’s family and friends had trouble with that.

Along with Oliver’s story we have Emmy who struggles with her extremely overprotective parents. Emmy and Oliver lived next door to each other and when he was taken her parents were there to support Oliver’s mother. And they then lived through the entire horrible ordeal with her and basically channeled their anger and fear into protecting their only daughter… and thus gave her very strict curfews, controlled her plans for college and always told her what to do. They were really good parents, and I loved Emmy’s relationship with them, but they were a bit overbearing. And this does come to a head because Emmy loves to surf (something her parents would freak out about if they knew she was doing it) and often lies to her parents to do what she loves.

I also loved the more subtle stories woven in with Drew (who struggles with his family not 100% accepting that he’s gay) and Caro (who struggles with not being noticed in her huge family of six kids at all) and their friendship with Emmy and then Oliver when he comes back. I loved the interactions between these four and it made me super nostalgic for high school and parties (siighhhh I really am getting old!).

And the romance. I loved it so much. It was slow build and then explosions and just gave me ALL. THE. FEELS.

I really hope that my review doesn’t overhype this book for others but for real you just need to read this book, especially if you are a Robin Benway fan. This book does not disappoint and now I am really sad that it’s over!!!

Sam’s Review:

So, Emmy & Oliver. I have to admit, I was really nervous going into this one having seen a lot of the reviews be all over the place. However, then I asked myself, “Sam, why are you worried? You know Robin Benway books mean fun, crazy, good times.”

Sadly, that sentiment is not true of Emmy & Oliver, as this is a book that will punch you hard in the feels, and then repeatedly take a few more punches in hopes that it will drill it’s emotional turmoil into your soul. I digress, but I loved this book and am completely reminded of why I think Robin Benway is a strong writer in the young adult world.

If there is something Benway excels in the most, it’s crafting relationships amongst her characters. Especially, friendships. In this story Emmy has two partners-in-crime, both who get an intense amount of development considering they are secondary characters, and their stories are equally as wonderful as that of the main plot that drives the novel. I thought Caroline and Drew’s stories wonderfully tied is, from Drew’s family not accepting that he’s gay, or Caroline feeling invisible because of her large family, it parallels so well to Emmy & Oliver’s stories.

This novel really is about the level of disconnect that parents often have with their children. This idea that they know better, or what is best, and you see this constantly throughout with the four teens that Benway focuses one. Each with their own struggles of identity, desire for approval, or just even trying to get their parents to comprehend their wants and desires, Benway does an amazing job at putting the reader at the forefront of these problems and she doesn’t provide an easy solution for them either.

Oliver by far gets it the hardest, and it’s why he’s such a fascinating character. He’s someone who was kidnapped at a young age, and didn’t entirely understand what was happening around him. His struggles are so real and he tries so hard to assimilate himself into a world where he once belong. Couple that with the fact that his mother confiding in Emmy’s family, and you see that Oliver’s disappearance begins to directly affect Emmy’s life — her parents becoming overprotective, strict and difficult. They are a pair though, and Benway does a great job of showing the reader how life was before the kidnapping and after, and how Emmy and Oliver truly are a part of each other’s lives. They have this intense, symbiotic relationship, and even after ten years though it’s difficult for Oliver, Emmy becomes a pillar of strength, and roles reverse and so forth.

Robin Benway does an amazing job of keep readers engaged withEmmy & Oliver. I may have read it at a slow pace, but it was one of those books I found myself devouring word for word because I was invested in these characters and their hardships. I’ve sadly never dealt with the issues they have faced (I grew up in a fairly open family). I feel like this is Robin Benway’s best novel yet, and if you are a fan or her work or you just want an emotional connection with, this is a perfect read.

ARC Review – Three DC Comic Reviews

25138266Title: Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside

Authors: Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart & Babs Tarr

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Barbara Gordon’s ready for a fresh start. She’s packing her bags, crossing the bridge, and heading to Gotham’s coolest neighborhood: Burnside. And when a freak fire burns up her costume and gear, Babs has the chance to become a whole new Batgirl!

But she barely slips on her new DIY costume before Batgirl starts trending as Gotham’s first viral vigilante — and attracting a new wave of enemies who want her social-media spotlight for themselves. Meanwhile, the girl beneath the gear’s got a whole new crew of friends, college classes that are kicking her Bat-butt and a dating scene that can make anyone want to swipe left on life. This bat’s done living in the shadows. But will the bright lights of Burnside burn her for good?

Huge thank you to DC Comics and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have been a Batgirl nut for as long as I can remember, in fact, I love Babs even more than I do Bruce (and that says a lot considering my love of Batman). In this instalment of the New 52, Babs really has a different transformation from the Gail Simone run that came previously. The changes made are interesting, but I’m not sure if I completely love them.

For starters, Babs feels much younger here than she did in previous instalments, but she’s penned at times as being both a genius but also incredibly immature, which threw me for a bit as I was reading. Simone’s Batgirl had a sense of maturity that I loved so much, so to see her behave like a child at times didn’t always feel right in my mind.

The ARC itself is quite good (minus the weird anime, ‘kawaii’ bit which was just dreadful and I wish I had not been included — very out of place), as it’s very fluid for the most part. I also loved the portrayal of Dinah and Babs’ relationship, as you can tell they have this mutual respect, but often want to slap the other for some reason, usually pertaining to the other being selfish. There’s some wonderful comedic moments between the two, and their resolution is a good one.

One thing I will absolutely praise is the artwork. It really has a unique and distinctive style that really separates it from other versions of Batgirl. Her new suit is awesome looking, as it is functional, and there’s less emphasis on driving sex appeal, which I appreciated. There’s also these wonderful extra touches in the artwork that quite excellent, especially the attention to detail in someone’s outfit, or how a certain villain is drawn.

Overall, I liked this quite a bit, though sadly not as much as Simone’s stuff. Still, I feel like I will find my groove with this Babs, as she’s really quite spunky and likeable. There’s definitely fun to be had in this instalment, though if you’re a big Gail Simone fan, it may be hard to detach yourself from what you’re already used to.

23395763Title: Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

Authors: Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school is a very weird place. It’s got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping by…like that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange as the students!

Like, what’s up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what’s the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that Freshman Maps is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?!

Review:

Gotham Academy was not what I was expecting from a DC Comics franchise. Quirky, cute and off-the-wall, Becky Cloonan and co. have done an amazing job at creating a school-ish spin-off that really is a joy to read.

Part of what makes Gotham Academy a lot of fun is its overall atmosphere. Those who are fans of many of DC Comics’ capes franchises will be able to point out many of its characters, and even though we have an original cast leading the charge, the balance is done quite well. Olive is darling, Maps is insane, and the antics they get into are funny. I found myself snickering through parts of the comics just because Olive looks like the last kind of person to get into so much trouble.

This comic is so comedic, and it will make you smile. It’s not without its faults — sometimes the characters behave like they know more of what’s going on than the reader, and yes the cliffhanger of this instalment was, well, kind of lame, but I feel like there is a ton of potential with Gotham Academy to go in a fun, or even dark direction. I feel like the hardest part of Gotham Academy was trying to understand the direction it wants to go, and it’s not obvious even towards the end. Still, I want to recommend it, most because I still want to see where it goes next and because at the end of the day, I always love a comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

23505378Title: Grayson, Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral

Authors:  Tim Seeley & Mikel Janin

Rating: ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Dick Grayson. Former Sidekick. Former Superhero. Former dead man. Agent of Spyral?! A thrilling new chapter of Dick Grayson’s life begins here. A super-spy espionage thriller that will shock you and prove one thing: you might think you know Nightwing–but you don’t know Dick.

 

Review:

I have to admit, the idea of Dick Grayson being a spy didn’t win me over in any way. It should have, but I found this whole first instalment quite bland as I was reading it. It tries to overexert personality, but I honestly just didn’t enjoy Dick’s characterization at all. Perhaps it’s because I always adored him as Robin or loved his take over as Batman, but Spy!Dick just didn’t engage me the way he has in his other personas.

I think the other issue I had with this, and it’s more on my fault than it is the comic’s is that I felt like I was missing something when I was reading this. Even though it provides a detailed backstory to how Dick becomes an agent, I felt like I was missing pieces of the puzzle by having not read something that came before this.

I will admit, I did love the art in this. It’s crisp, clean, colourful. I loved the action sequences, which just oozed in detail. But as I’ve said, there’s a lack of spark in Grayon Volume 1, and I don’t think I’ll be continuing this series any time soon, sadly.

Summer Contemporary Fling – Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

23492282Title: Nowhere But Here

Author: Katie McGarry

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

Huge thank you to Harlequin Teen and Edelweiss for this ARC!

 

Sam’s Review:

I am generally a big fan of Katie McGarry’s romance novels — in fact she one of the few romance authors that I enjoy. Part of what I love about McGarry’s writing is that she captures teens very well, especially those coming from rougher situations, be it broken families, abuse, and violent life styles, and does it with a lot of honesty.

While that exists in the first instalment of her new Thunder Road series, I admit, I struggled a lot with Nowhere But Here. I found the book got off to a very rocky start and it had a hard time picking up its stride, even towards the middle. Normally I am quite the fan of McGarry’s female protagonists, and generally I find I often struggle with her male ones (though they usually in the end win me over). This was not the case with Emily or Oz, sadly.

I didn’t find either protagonist easy to connect with, and I found myself annoyed by their behaviours and mannerisms. While I found Emily got better later on in the story, I never ended up liking Oz. In fact, the majority of the novel I just despised him, and for the life of me I couldn’t see what Emily saw in him. Even when both characters redeemed themselves in the story it was still too late for me. I just didn’t enjoy the romance between them at all.

And yet, what kept me going was the story itself. When the novel was looking at Emily and Oz’s family issues, it was so fascinating and interesting. While a lot of it is nothing new, once again Katie McGarry does this fantastic job of making you feel empathy for those in a rough situation, and learning about Eli, Olivia, Razor, the gang, you get a sense of family, as well as a sense of fear. They don’t know how to function without each other, and as much as I didn’t like Emily or Oz, I found that when the novel focused on family aspects, it was the parts that would win me over.

Nowhere But Here is not a bad novel at all, and I think it will find it’s audience with ease. For me, I just had a hard time with the main characters and the romance, and yet I still found enjoyment with other aspects in the overall story. The book really does get off to a rocky start, but I am interested to see where she goes in book two, since y’know, Razor, is the protagonist this time. Even though I felt disappointed by this book, I am still willing to give the sequel a shot.

Summer Contemporary Fling – Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

23305614Title: Finding Audrey

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

Huge thank you to Delacorte Books for Young Readers/Doubleday Canada and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

THIS BOOK WAS SO CUTE! And quite hilarious. I was actually sitting there smiling and laughing out loud quite a few times! I read this in less than a day and actually finished it while my husband was sleeping (and had to keep my laughing inside, so hard!!!).

For some reason I thought this book took place in NYC and was about Audrey getting lost and having to overcome her anxiety while her brother searched for her. YEAH IDK WHERE THAT PLOT CAME FROM but I was quite surprised (and pleased!) that it took place in England! Thankfully I have enough British friends and have watched enough BBC that I didn’t have any trouble with some of the British English and culture things.

So I really loved the family in this book. I loved how over-the-top the mom was, how the dad was so clueless in such a sweet way, how Frank was so different than his mother thought, and how just down right ridiculous the little brother, Felix, was (he was also my favorite character. POCKET PAPER!)

I also really enjoyed the exploration of Audrey’s anxiety and how everyone handled it. I liked how her doctor was thoughtful and caring but tough at the same time. How it was referred to as an illness and the different perceptions that those around her had about what an anxiety illness is. I liked how Linus learned what to say and not say and how he was wrong and then right and helpful. How he learned and changed his perception. And I really liked that we never actually found out what happened at Audrey’s school. Because really, what triggered her illness doesn’t matter. It was not her fault and she had every right to keep that to herself.

As my co-blogger, who is a gamer, mentions in her review, the aspect of gaming in this book was well done. I’m not a gamer and I don’t really understand it the way that gamers do, but I’ve always been on the side that it is just a hobby and not your life and that it should be done in moderation. I don’t think gaming is bad, but I do think that Frank was in a little too deep. I think his mom was WAY too extreme but could also understand why she thought the way she did. I LOVED that every time she’d try to make Frank do something she didn’t think he could do he was brilliant at it. And that outside of her obsession with his “gaming addiction” she didn’t really know key things about him; like being on the cross-country team or getting A’s in his classes. I loved that she learned these things about him and that in the end gaming became a positive thing. But I also liked that Frank found outside interests that he also probably wouldn’t have if he’d stayed parked in front of the computer all the time.

Over all this book was just so well done and I think everyone should check it out! It very much a quick Summer Contemporary Fling!

Sam’s Review: 

I confess, I haven’t read a Sophie Kinsella book in years. I thought Shopaholic was cute for awhile, and some of her stand-alones were hit and miss with me. Then I read the synopsis for Finding Audrey, and I knew I needed to read this book. It focuses on an anxiety disorder, something I have a close relationship with being a recovering sufferer myself, and wow, Kinsella does an amazing job.

Finding Audrey is hilarious as it is touching. I found Audrey as a heroine to be quite loveable, sweet, struggling to come out of her shell. She was easy to empathize with, someone I could relate to in a lot of ways. She feels powerless over her anxiety, yet she wants to feel normal, and it’s something she must fight through every day. I loved the level of sensitivity that Kinsella puts forth in the story, she by no means makes anything easy for Audrey, from her overprotective, nutjobby mother, to her very-lost-all-the-time dad, to her attention hogging brother. Audrey has a lot to fight for in the story, and for ali the tougher moments in her life, it’s balanced by a great sense of humour.

I actually snortgiggled a few times through this book. Audrey’s mother is just completely insane, but we all know one like her. Frank was also a barrel of laughs with his sarcasm and “gaming addiction.” To be honest, I loved how Kinsella handled gaming, changing it from a negative to a positive. The documentary bits had some great moments as well, both charming and sweet. The ending had me in stitches, and I loved Audrey’s resolve by the end. There was something so bittersweet in how the story transforms considering the book is less than three hundred pages. I also have to comment on Linus — I actually really enjoyed him as a romantic interest, and I loved the level of patience he had for Audrey. That’s such a rare thing to find in a partner, especially when their loved one suffers from a mental illness.

I adored Finding Audrey. It was sweet, fluffy, and the way Kinsella handles Audrey’s illness was fantastically done. It felt genuine, not forced, which I feel is so important to make a story like this work. If you haven’t been reading Sophie Kinsella, this may be the one that might bring you back. I know it did for me.

ARC Review – Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil

16005224Title: Get Dirty

Author: Gretchen McNeil

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: The members of Don’t Get Mad aren’t just mad anymore . . . they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree stuck in juvie, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.

The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, Bree is under house arrest, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend . . . or die trying.

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I was SO happy when I got this book because I love GET EVEN and the ending of that left me on such a cliffhanger! AH! So I danced a bit when I got this and knew that I had to read it ASAP. And wow, I blew through this in two days (only because I went to a BBQ and then had to sleep). I will admit that it took a little getting into and that I had to give myself a little refresher because there are a lot of characters. But once I got to around page 140 things started to really pick up and I couldn’t put it down!

I feel like I can’t say much about this without getting too spoiler-y, and since I don’t write ARC reviews with spoilers, I’ll keep this short. This is a WONDERFUL continuation of the first book and I’m glad that it’s just two books. I do feel like this was left open for more, but I always hate it when YA books with lots of murder in them keep going because… it just seems odd that a single place would have THAT many murders. Better to keep it short and sweet.

My only problem with this book, and the book before it, is that there are a lot of characters and I feel like not everyone got as fleshed out as they could have. I feel like we’re given each girls problems and issues but we don’t really get to explore those as deeply as I would like. And in this book the side characters come more into the foreground and while I loved this about some characters (my favorite, who was suspected of being the killer at the end, which had me almost in tears but thankfully THAT CHARACTER WASN’T YAAAAAAAY!) it did get a little difficult to keep track of everyone.

I’m usually really bad at figuring out “who dun it” in these types of books, but I took a wild guess AND I WAS RIGHT! I was so pleased that it was NOT my favorite character and that I’d been right! I do wish that we’d gotten a little more info about HOW the killer had pulled everything off because that was A LOT to pull off.

As for the “message” of this book… I liked that the girls began to realize that revenge wasn’t always the answer. That sometimes there’s more going on outside of what they can see that might be causing people to act the horrid ways that they do. While I like the noble idea of righting wrongs and fighting for justice, they didn’t always do it the right way and I’m glad that at the end they decided what they did about DGM and hopefully they can keep moving forward without having to take things into their own hands again.

Overall this is a solid conclusion to this duology and if you liked the first book then you’ll def. want to check this one out!

Summer Contemporary Fling – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Title: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids22840182

Author:  Sarah Ockler

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I fell in love with Sarah Ockler’s writing when I blew through #Scandal last year, and was SO excited when I got approved for this! I was a little worried that #Scandal might have been a one-hit-wonder for me (I wasn’t the biggest fan of Twenty Boy Summer, another one of Ockler’s books) but nope! This book was so good and I flew through it in less than two days.

The little mermaid retelling aside (but let me just say that I loved all of TLM references!) this was a solid book about finding you voice. Almost everyone in this book is oppressed somehow. Elyse literally cannot speak because of an accident that damaged her vocal chords. Christian is oppressed by his father. Sebastian is shoved into a box and nobody will listen to him. Lemon is outside of the norm. Even the fathers can’t speak due to their pride. I loved that there WERE characters that could speak though. Vanessa was loud and outspoken, her mother killed me when she took a stand for Sebastian, and Kirby is always talking, about everything and everyone. In one sense Kirby is everyone’s voice.

Elyse is from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. I know very little about these Caribbean islands and their culture, but I never once felt that Ockler was making things up. And she’s an author I trust to do her research. I enjoyed how Elyse was familiar with the USA, but at the same time had her difficulties with the culture and customs. Since I don’t know how different her homeland is, it’s hard for me to judge, but I felt that her situation was very realistic. People often commented about how she was so withdrawn from everyone and not only was she dealing with the loss of her voice, the trouble with her sister, but she was also living in a new country. Her behavior seemed legit.

I loved all of the characters in this. Kirby and Vanessa were perfect friends. Christian was swoony and sweet and sexy. Sebastian stole my heart. Lemon was so unique and quirky. And Elyse was so smart and insightful. I’ve never read a book where the MC literally cannot speak, and it was very interesting to see the ways she communicated. Sure we were in her head, but dialogue is huge for me!

There were so many times this book made me smile too. I was just reading along, smiling and it hit me that there aren’t THAT many books that make me ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY SMILE. And I loved it.

This book is just… perfect. It hits all the right notes and addresses a lot of issues in the current world and in current YA. It’s the perfect blend of diverse and swoony and touches on a lot of subjects that I really feel are important to open up dialogues about. And I hope that this book will get people talking.

Sam’s Review:

Oh my goodness, if this is what reading a Sarah Ockler book is like, sign me up for more. Yes, this is my first Sarah Ockler book, and I can honestly say without a doubt that I am going to be diving into her back cataloguing this summer. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is the perfect beach read. I realize it’s silly to say that since this is a book about mermaids, beaches and summer, but honestly, there was something so relaxing about this novel. It might also be because it’s based off of The Little Mermaid, a tale near and dear to my heart, that I gravitated to this book with such ease.

Elyse is a brilliant heroine, and I absolutely adored her character. She’s clever, curious, and a lot smarter than she initially lets on. This book focuses on the theme of finding your inner voice and having the courage to speak up. Elyse spends a lot of the novel trying to find herself and her strength, though she’s quite unsure of herself throughout the story. This overlaying message that Ockler puts in the novel is very thought provoking throughout. Heck, I generally don’t like playboy characters, but I admittedly adored Christian, if only because his curiosity sometimes borderlined on nosey, and yet there are so many parts of the story where he means so well.

My favourite character, interestingly enough was Kirby. She’s one of those overprotective friends who wants what’s best for everyone yet doesn’t realize that it’s not always the best approach to have when dealing with people. The more I read the book, the more I loved a lot of the secondary characters, which doesn’t always happen with me, but everyone in the story is quite lovable or interesting. It made for a real page turner.

Plus, I want to share the fact that I loved Ockler’s Acknowledgements that were at the back of the book. I loved who this story was for, why she wrote it, and who she in way wanted to represent. Furthermore, I loved her depictions of Trinidad and Tobago, and I felt like when she was description the islands that I felt like I was truly there. Also, can I also just say how much I loved Elyse and Christian’s romance? Because it was totally believable and adorable and I loved it so much.

Let’s be honest here, this book is very emotional to read and it’s the kind of emotions that are hard to hide in public (I was reading this book at a bus station, yeaaaah). Still, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is just one of those stories that is not only emotionally gripping, but it keeps you guessing in unexpected ways. Plus the ending completely wrecked me, and I mean that. It just destroyed me emotionally. I highly recommend this book, not only as a fantastic summer read, but just one that will keep you thinking even after it’s over.