Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday #37: Books I've Read So Far in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish with a different topic for a top-ten list each week. You can find out more about it here.

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015

These are my top books of the year so far, in the order I read them. The links will take you to my reviews.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer 

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby
All the Rage by Courtney Summers
The Devil You Know by Trish Doller 

What are your top books of the year so far?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

Title: The Devil You Know
Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release date: June 2nd 2015
Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult mystery/romance
Source: NetGalley - I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
Add to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon
Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I fangirled about Trish Doller's debut Something Like Normal forever, but then never got around to reading her sophomore novel. Which is why I was beyond excited to get an eGalley of her newest, The Devil You Know. And despite my very high expectations, The Devil You Know did not disappoint!

Even though I knew the novel would take a thriller-esque turn eventually, I absolutely loved the first half of the book, before any of that started. With Trish Doller's writing and these characters, I wouldn't even have cared if nothing had happened with the mystery; the novel wouldn't really have had a point, but I could have kept reading Cadie's story forever without even needing a real plot. 

The main reason I loved this book, and especially the first part, is Cadie. Cadie's not the typical YA MC - she has strong opinions and isn't afraid to tell you about them; she's tough, quick-witted, and snarky, and I loved everything about her. Her voice is strong, and I loved being inside her head for this story. I also loved her family - her mom, who died a couple of years ago, was a badass feminist whose opinions definitely rubbed off on her. Cadie's relationship with her dad is fully-developed, too, and I loved her little brother Danny.

This romance is such a breath of fresh air in YA romances. How Cadie and Noah meet is very un-YA but very realistic. I loved Noah's character - he's older than the typical YA love interest, and he's gone through a lot of stuff with his family. The dark backstory worked perfectly with his character. The two of them have amazing chemistry, and I would have been perfectly happy if the novel consisted of scenes between these two exclusively.

I also loved how figuring out who you are and what you're doing with your life was integrated into the story in such a casual way. It's not the focus of the story, but there's plenty of references to how Cadie wants to get out of the small-town life that she feels is trapping her, without knowing where she would want to go or what she would want to do. Cadie learns a lot and grows over the course of the story, trying to figure out how to balance what she wants and still supporting her family. Casual is really the only way I can describe how this whole storyline is handled, how Cadie finds ways to live her life fully without demonizing where she comes from.

Even though there's a creepy atmosphere throughout the novel, the actual thriller-part doesn't start until pretty far into the book. I did have some issues with the mystery - it's pretty predictable as I knew more or less exactly who the killer would be and what would happen is pretty obvious. The motivations of the killer aren't quite fleshed-out enough to be realistic, and it was strange to me how the other guy didn't know what was going on and didn't do anything to stop it. But I did still enjoy the mystery element: the suspense throughout the novel is expertly done, and the creepy atmosphere kept me on my toes even if I did already see the plot twist coming. Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe the plot twist wasn't even supposed to be surprising: knowing who the killer would be, and how Cadie so willingly trusts him and walks into his trap, made for a very suspenseful and thrilling read.

Trish Doller has impressed me with her writing once again. Her engrossing writing kept me flipping the pages faster and faster, except when I had to stop and marvel at one of her especially poignant and powerful sentences. While the mystery isn't perfect, the memorable characters and impressive writing more than made up for it. I need to get my hands on a copy of Trish Doller's sophomore novel, Where the Stars Still Shine, as soon as possible!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Title: Hold Me Like a Breath (Unce Opon A Crime Family #1)
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release date: May 19th 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.
Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.
And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.
All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Hold Me Like a Breath sounded like such an intriguing read. The title and the cover are gorgeous, and an organ transplant black market is such a unique and fascinating take on the crime family story. But sadly, I didn't end up loving Hold Me Like a Breath as much I was hoping I would - it was a pretty slow and frustrating read for me. 

I did love the organ-transplant element of the novel. It's interesting how the whole business is illegal, but the Family sees themselves as doing something morally right by providing transplants for people the government doesn't deem 'worthy' because of disabilities, etc. But of course, only people with money have access to this, considering how obscenely rich Penny's family is as a result of this business. Different members of the Family have different opinions on the proposed laws that would legalize selling one's organs and how that would affect the Family's business, which was especially interesting within the context of other illegal businesses that are being legalized... It's a complex issue, and Hold Me Like a Breath treats it as such making this a very thought-provoking element of the story. The whole thing didn't even read like contemporary at times; with these made-up laws and a world I know nothing about, Hold Me Like a Breath felt kind of like a sci-fi novel, and I really loved its fascinatingly unique worldbuilding. 

But even though I loved this setup, the rest of the story didn't really work for me. I had some issues with our main character Penny. I loved reading about the details of her autoimmune disorder and how that affects her day-to-day life, but that's about the only unique thing about this character. Penny is ridiculously naive, and I understand that that makes sense, considering her sheltered upbringing, but she also acts like a whiny, spoiled brat for most of the novel. I usually hate when people base their opinion on a book on whether or not they liked the main character, but Penny was just so annoying and frustrating to read about that I could not get myself to care about the outcome of her story. She does undergo a transformation over the course of the novel and learns to fight for herself, but I was just too annoyed at that point to really notice. She still acts pretty naive, trusting and helpless even when she's living by herself, and her failure to do anything other than wait around for someone to save her for 90% of the novel frustrated me to no end.

There's two elements to this story: the thriller side, meaning Penny trying to hide and then protect herself and others from the mysterious bad guys; and the emotional side of Penny processing the tragedy that struck her Family. The thriller element in the beginning is pretty weak, considering that nothing really happens for the first three-quarters of the novel; Penny doesn't do anything, she just sits around waiting for something to happen. And at the end, when we do get more action, it just got kind of unrealistic for me - there are so many elements to this thriller that don't make sense. I can't really go into this without spoiling this, but I'll just say that none of the characters really had any motivations that would justify their actions, and there's some serious plotholes in how Penny got to where she is now. As for the emotional side, the writing and the characters just weren't strong enough to make me feel anything. 

And then there's the romance, which, of course, had to include a love triangle and some insta-love. At first I liked Garrett, the childhood friend Penny has been in love with forever, but I didn't get too strong of a connection between him and Penny, and once Char shows up, Penny just kind of forgets about him. The relationship with Char was too insta-love-y for me - they're both suddenly obsessed with each other, and Penny isn't creeped out when Char follows her and stakes out outside the apartment where she's hiding.  Again, I didn't feel a real connection; for that whole part of the novel, nothing much really happens. When Penny has to choose between Garrett and Char, the resolution is made way too easy, and she doesn't even consider the other side for reasons that didn't make sense to me. 

Hold Me Like a Breath was worth the read only because of the original ideas of the organ-transplant black market and the autoimmune disorder; this was an interesting world to gain insights to. But the execution left much to be desired: with a frustrating main character, a predictable thriller storyline with significant plotholes, a weak emotional element and a predictable romance, none of it really worked for me. I might pick up another book by Tiffany Schmidt because I did enjoy her debut, Send Me a Sign, but I'm not going to be continuing with this series.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil

Title: Get Dirty (Don't Get Mad #2)
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release date: June 16th 2015
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult mystery
Source: Edelweiss - I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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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.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Get Even was such a fun read, but because it was so Pretty Little Liars-esque, I was assuming this series would also go on forever, and I didn't really want to get that invested. So I was happily surprised when I found out that this series was just going to be a duology (for now?), and since I did want to see how this mystery is resolved, I decided to read the sequel. 

Get Dirty was really hard for me to get into. It had been a while since I read Get Even, and I have a horrible memory - I rarely remember what happens in a book, so when I'm reading a series, I'm always dependent on those mini-summaries and hints at the beginning, explaining what happened in the last book. And Get Dirty just didn't have enough of those hints for me, so I spent 75% of the book pretty confused about who was who and what had happened to them. I know that's kind of my own fault for not remembering Get Even, but I would have appreciated some more explanations of the first book in this one. 

Not remembering what happened in Get Mad made the mystery hard to follow. There would be references to past suspects and things DGM had found out in the first books that I didn't really understand. It was hard to figure out who to suspect when I didn't really know what had happened before. I still really enjoyed the mystery - the threatening atmosphere is well-done and kept me emotionally invested, but I just think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I remembered all the clues from the first book.

Even though I didn't remember much about them from the first book, I did really like the main characters. The stakes each of them has in this are very personal, and I liked reading about each girl's family dynamic and friend group.

While I'm glad things were resolved in Get Dirty, the resolution was a bit of a letdown for me. The last scene is a bit anticlimactic because there's too much of an info-dump to justify the killer's motivations, and because there's no real showdown between DGM and the killer when they do find him - he just automatically gets arrested and that's it. And despite the info-dump, there were still some things that weren't clear to me - the motivation for the murders made sense, but it didn't really work for the disappearances or for attacking Margo.

Get Dirty was a very mediocre read for me. I remember Get Even being a lot more fun and suspenseful than this one, but I did enjoy some of the same elements that I liked in the first book. If you enjoyed Get Even and want to see how it turns out, I do recommend Get Dirty, just don't have the highest expectations. And maybe, if your memory is as bad as mine, reread Get Even before starting the sequel - I think the story would have made a lot more sense to me that way.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Author Interview with Katie M. Stout (Hello, I Love You Blog Tour)

Today we have Katie M. Stout here for an author interview! This interview is part of the blog tour for her YA debut, Hello, I Love You.

1.Without spoiling anything, could you tell us what was your favorite scene to write in Hello, I Love You?
My favorite scene is definitely spoiler-y! What I can say is that all the scenes with Grace and her mother are my some of my favorites. The interplay between those two was something I really enjoyed exploring. Her mom is just so terrible, even I as the author cringed writing some of her dialogue. But the heart of the story for me is Grace’s relationship with her family, so those scenes flowed really easily for me, and I loved writing them.
2. If you had to pair up your main character Grace from Hello, I Love You with any other character from any other YA book (either romantically or as a friend), who would it be and why?
I’d love to see Grace hang out with Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy. They’re both fierce, opinionated ladies that have a lot of growing up to do. But in their hearts, I think they’re both kind, compassionate people who have been hurt by the world and have reacted in a way that isn’t great - but they have the potential for being strong women.
3. What comes easier for you - dialogue or description?
Oh, description for sure. I could write that for days. I had to be really careful not to weigh down this book with too much.
4. How do you go about naming your characters?
I don’t really have a system for this. The characters in this book all got named in different ways. I researched popular names in Korea for Tae Hwa’s and Yoon Jae’s names. But then Grace’s sort of came to me, and I really love it, because I think it’s exactly what she has to learn through the story: grace.
5. For any aspiring writers out there - what's the best writing advice you've ever received?
Go out and live your life. The best stories come from personal experiences.

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the blog tour, and keep your eye out for Hello, I Love You, which was released June 9th. You can also check out Katie's Spotify playlist for the book hereHere's what the book is all about:

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout
Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.
She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.
Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

Monday, June 01, 2015

New Releases June 2015

New releases:

Joyride by Anna Banks: June 2nd 2015
The Devil You Know by Trish Doller: June 2nd 2015
Like It Never Happened by Emily Adrian: June 2nd 2015

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler: June 2nd 2015
Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn: June 9th 2015
Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott: June 9th 2015

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes: June 9th
After Hours by Claire Kennedy: June 16th 2015
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera: June 16th 2015

Get Dirty (Don't Get Mad #2) by Gretchen McNeil: June 16th 2015
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone: June 16th 2015
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway: June 23rd
Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel: June 30th 2015

New in paperback:

Inland by Kat Rosenfield: June 2nd
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu: June 2nd
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller: June 2nd
Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker: June 9th

The Merciless by Danielle Vega: June 9th
My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal: June 16th
#scandal by Sarah Ockler: June 16th

What June releases are you most excited about?
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