Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: Ramona Blue

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Source: ALA Midwinter 2017
Date Read: 8/12/17 to 8/15/17
432 pages


Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Man, I have such mixed feelings about this book. Really mixed feelings. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to accurately express myself in this review, but I’ll try my best.

Also, there may be spoilers, so read at your own discretion.

A couple of months before the release of Ramona Blue, there was controversy centering around the blurb, which has since been changed. Long story short, some people were upset about the main character, a lesbian who discovers that she likes a boy.

I think those feelings are very valid, especially in a time like now. On the other hand, sexuality can be fluid. I personally view sexuality as fluid, as people can change. Having a label, and expecting to stick to it, puts a ton of pressure on that individual. Especially when you’re trying to avoid the whole “told you you weren’t X”.

Obviously some people love labels, and it works for them. And that’s totally fine, I have nothing against that.

But just a heads up, Ramona Blue leans towards being sexually fluid (at least I would say? More on that later). Which is why the main character’s sexuality is never labeled as being bisexual in the end.

But first, let me get to the parts that I liked about the novel:

  • Swimming. Automatically a win right there.
  • The fact that Ramona and her family are economically diverse, if that’s the right word. They aren’t rich, and even since Hurricane Katrina, they have been barely managing. But they make it worse. A big part of the plot is driven by Ramona’s sister, Hattie, and her pregnancy. (And that deadbeat boyfriend Tyler, who I HATE. Or hated I suppose. Just kidding, I still hate him)
  • Freddie. He is cool. And he also swims. And he does really have a great, adorable relationship with Ramona. Oh, and I also loved his grandparents, Agnes and Bart (step-grandparent?). Mostly Agnes though. They are so supportive towards him AND Ramona’s family.

  • Basically, every character is multi-dimensional and fully developed.

BUT HERE COMES MY MIXED FEELINGS. Not because the representation was portrayed inaccurately, but rather because of how accurate it was. The remarks from Ramona’s family and friends weren’t exactly enjoyable, obviously. It reminded me of another book, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit, which didn’t sit well with me.

 This was why, at times, I ended up skimming parts of the novel. For example, when Ramona’s mom kept putting pressure on Ramona with the “I told you it was just a phase” mindset. I felt sad at this point, because these expectations hold people back, as they don’t want to prove their parents or their peers “right”. Which, I get, happens in real life. It just sucks.

Also, Ramona’s friends (mainly Ruth) were upset that Ramona liked Freddie, a boy. Their thought process was that liking both girls and guys took away from her identity as Ramona, the girl with the blue hair. Even though it…doesn’t. The thing about this was that Ramona never really stood up for herself in front of her friends (Ruth, really), so this thought is never challenged. In the end, they kind of accept Ramona liking Freddie. But kind of? Like more of “this is a one-time thing that will happen, I guess” And it seemed like Ramona also believed it was a one-time thing? At least it seemed that way to me.

I could be reading that wrong though. Lastly, I was slightly surprised that Ramona is never labeled as bisexual, as this book was often marketed as having a bisexual main character. She even admits that she’s still trying to figure it out and doesn’t know what to identify as, which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong! (Which is why I viewed her as being sexually fluid, but obviously other readers can think differently) I think I was just misled as to what I would be reading about. Like, seriously misled. It happens.

All in all, I did like Ramona Blue, even though I was cursing out the book every couple pages or so. It’s a book that will leave you with a lot of feelings, as you can see from this review. And ultimately, this just didn’t end up being the book I thought it was going to be.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: Release

Release by Patrick Ness
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 19th, 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 7/23/17 to 7/27/17
288 pages


Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart. At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I’m kind of not sure what I want to rate this. After talking with Shannon, I realized that I didn’t like this as much as I thought I did? For one, I'm not even sure what to say about this since I had no strong feelings about Release. But at the same time, I’m grateful that it was a quick read.

Release is a story about Adam trying to find “his release” (and there’s the title!), as he has so much pent up angst and overall frustration over…life in general. Because yeah, his life isn't exactly the best. First off, his family is super religious and has "a hard time" loving him as their gay son. Second, his gross supervisor is threatening to fire him, unless Adam agrees to sleep with him. And lastly, Adam doesn’t know if he truly loves his current boyfriend, Linus. This obviously ends up affecting their relationship, as Adam continuously thinks and reflects back on his ex. And of course, as this is the time where high school is about to come to an end and college is just around the corner, people are leaving his life.

So as simple as this all sounds, it's actually not quite that simple.

The chapters in between Adam’s story are a bit...cryptic? And in no direct relation to Adam’s, really. It reminds me of the author's other book, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, where the alternating chapters tell a new story. In this case, I didn't quite fully understand what was going on. It was telling the story of a murdered girl from the same hometown, yet the two stories didn't really connect. However, the overarching theme was definitely still present, and still tied in with the whole "release" theme going on. Though I say this, I found these chapters a bit unnecessary, and as I said before, confusing.

Other than that, I don't have much else to say. I really enjoyed this, yet I feel like I’ve read this same type of story before? I think I just have such high expectations for anything Patrick Ness writes, and this fell a bit below them.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: The Girl with the Red Balloon

The Girl With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Publisher: Albert Whitman Company
Release Date: September 1st, 2017
Source: Netgalley
Date Read: 7/12/17 to 7/15/17
256 pages


When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

It’s a miracle! I’m writing this review one month early! Wow!

Let me get right to it. Overall, I did like this one. Time travel, WWII-themed (though to my surprise, not actually set during WWII), magical red balloons, all of this just screams me. Though to be completely honest, me and this book did not get off on the right start.

1% into my eARC and already I was seriously judging the simple writing style. Meeting our main character, Ellie, felt a bit lackluster, all tell and no show. I was afraid that this writing style, and therefore this book, wouldn’t work for me at all. Fortunately, that didn’t end up being the case as after 2%, the writing changed and started to appeal to me.

I also must admit that my expectations were set really high, even though I have never read any of the author’s older works before. If you don’t know by now, but I try to read anything and everything related to WWII. Even though this didn’t necessarily take place during that setting, it is still set during the time of the Berlin Wall. This came as a shock, as 1989 wasn’t so long ago, and I had thought the Berlin Wall was brought down earlier.

The Girl with the Red Balloon had a solid plot and solid characters. And time travel of course! I was impressed and surprised with Ellie’s actions, despite the fact that she so badly wanted to go back home. Kai and Mitzi were also wonderful additions to the book, though to be honest I’m not sure whether I cared about the romance between Ellie and Kai.

More could have been developed, especially in regards to world-building. I’m a bit fuzzy on the details of the balloon makers. I’m assuming that there will be more in the sequel, or companion book, as this one is only 256 pages. There were also times where I was confused on who was on who’s side. Though perhaps this was due to my lack of knowledge in history or just the terms used.

Either way, I did enjoy this! Not sure if I will pick up the “sequel”, but I’ll think about it!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: The Secret History of Us

The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 8/4/17 to 8/6/17
288 pages


When Olivia awakes in a hospital bed following a car accident that almost took her life, she can’t remember the details about how she got there. She figures the fog is just a symptom of being in a week-long coma, but as time goes on, she realizes she’s lost more than just the last several days of her life—she’s lost her memory of the last four years. Gone is any recollection of starting or graduating high school; the prom; or her steady boyfriend Matt. Trying to figure out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

As Liv tries to block out what her family and friends say about who she used to be, the one person she hasn’t heard enough from is Walker, the guy who saved her the night her car was knocked off that bridge into the bay below. Walker is the hardened boy who’s been keeping his distance—and the only person Olivia inexplicably feels herself with. With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t remember living.
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I’m not surprised that I didn’t end up liking this much. Not so much hating it but rather not finding myself caring after the first 50 pages. To put it simply, this didn’t have the spark, nor really the plot, to keep me engaged.

The beginning of the novel starts off with Olivia, or Liv, waking up from a coma. She slowly comes to realize that wait, she’s not about to start high school, but has already finished her senior year. Basically, 4 years has already gone by, and she remembers none of it. And she definitely doesn’t remember her boyfriend, Matt.

As you can tell from the blurb, it’s pretty predictable. There’s this other boy, and obviously he comes into the picture later. But other than that, not much really happens besides seeing Liv figure out her life. The whole mystery behind the car accident? Not really that much of a shocker. Such a huge deal was made of the video filming her rescue, but I didn’t really see what made it so important. Probably because I actually need to be in that situation to feel anything, I guess. Also, definitely would have been better as a movie scene, I feel like.

There didn’t really seem to be much of a plot. For one, we don’t actually get much of Walker. The book ends suddenly, and I could have been better with another 100 pages or so (though lucky for me, there wasn’t!) The Secret History of Us is really more about the overall message of letting go of the past, rather than reminiscing on what was lost.

I’m a bit disappointed in this one, as I really liked Things We Know By Heart, but I kind of expected it after seeing a couple of ratings from my friends. Oh well better luck next time! (Thanks to Nick and Shannon for discussing this book with me)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virture

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: June 27th, 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 5/26/17 to 6/28/17
528 pages


An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Woo this book clearly took a long time to get through. And then it's pretty much been a month since I finished it, and here I am, trying to write a review. I haven't written a review in ages it seems like.

Honesty time. When I started Gentleman's Guide, I wasn't quite into it. I wasn't keen on the setting, because for some reason I am not a fan of historical Europe? Or at least France? I mean I keep replaying Assassin's Creed Unity, which takes place during the French Revolution, and I can never seem to finish it. Now I'm having doubts though. Did this book take place in France? Part of it did, I'm pretty sure.

Yet, this clearly grew on me. I came to appreciate the characters, like Monty, his sister Felicity, Percy, and their developments, which really is the best I've read in a while. Maybe this entire year. Though if you do pick up this book, just a warning that the beginning is a bit boring. The pace is a bit slow as we learn that Monty, his sister Felicity, and Percy are all going on tour to France. And I'm like, "great, that's it?" I really judged wrong, guys. Or at least too soon.

But as the novel further progressed, BAM, the plot appeared (thank you Aila for pushing me through via her review). I'm not sure why I didn't expect any adventure, but yes there are pirates, highwaymen, a seemingly impossible quest, ALCHEMY, and all around fun. Looking back from this point, the book was actually very nicely paced. I, as usual, was just being impatient (again).

Overall, very glad I requested this. And read it. I did read This Monstrous Thing last year by the same author, and I can definitely tell that her writing has improved tremendously (or maybe this just interested me more than the story of Frankenstein? Sorry) No, it's definitely the former. The dialogue in Gentleman's Guide is much more fleshed out, and of course, has so much more humor. Yay!

Bottom line. Highly recommend! Even if it does seem a bit daunting.

 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Make Me Read It Readathon 2017


Hello! After multiple readers asking us about the readathon this year, we are back! Apparently, this is our third year doing this? Who knew? But anyways, Ely @ Tea & Titles and I will again be hosting the Make Me Read It Readathon! Basically, this readathon allows your friends and audience to vote for what you'll be reading. This year, the readathon will be from August 6th to the 13th! So that will give you guys about a month to set up voting and polls and all that!

Here's some more information about the readathon, copied and pasted directly from the past year's because I'm lazy.

What Is This Readathon About?
Look at the books you own, either physical, e-book or ones you've borrowed from the library and pick out a few you really want to read, or feel like you should read. It’s up to you how many you pick, personally I'd pick a few more than you expect to be able to read in a week. Example: if you think you’ll only read two, pick out five books or if you think you can read seven, pick out ten.

Make a list of these books on your blog, or make a video, or a Goodreads shelf or post a picture on Instagram—whatever is easiest for you. Then get friends, other bloggers/booktubers/bookstagrammers etc. to vote on which books you HAVE to read.

When the readathon comes along, you read the books in the order of most votes. For example, if one book gets 10 votes—you read that first, then the one that got 7 and so on. If there's a tie, then it's your preference. The goal is to read as many as possible. 

When Will This All Take Place?

The Make Me Read It Readathon will start at August 6th and end at August 13thYou can start once it hits 12am in your time zone. The readathon itself lasts for a week!

Since this is an interactive readathon, there is about a month to get some kind of initial post/photo/video/etc. where your readers can vote for which book you read! You can either have a poll, or just rely on the comments, have votes count more than once, honestly this is all up to you! If you plan to participate, make sure you have all your books ready for August 6th!



And with that being said, time to set up my own poll!


Which Books Should I Read?

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
survey Maker

Do you wanna sign up for the readathon! This is the place to do it! I would recommend linking up with your post/video/photo about the books you are using for the readathon, so that other readers can hop around and vote!





Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Bunch of Reviews All In One

So I have actually finished a bunch of books in the past few months or so, but just wasn't in the mood to write individual reviews for them (or on time, for that matter). I'm just going to blame my lack of motivation. And also, some of these books I just really have nothing to say about them? Like they were good, but that's all I have for you. Haha. But anyways here you go.


Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: May 30th, 2017
Source: Netgalley
Date Read: 5/10/17 to 5/11/17
400 pages


In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community, and has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea's biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I really liked this one. Being a fan of Made You Up, I knew this one would be just as good. I thought that the online community of Monstrous Sea accurately reflected back on our own book community, and also other fandoms.

The only problem I had was that I got extremely impatient (in other words, this was my fault). I wanted to see how and when Eliza's secret would be exposed ASAP, so I skipped to the last 100 pages of the book. Basically, I read the first 150 pages, and the last 100 pages. To this day I have yet to read the middle. Whoops.

We also get to see how Eliza deals with her anxiety, especially with the stress of having to update every single week. And as of right now, it's really relatable! And we also meet her love interest, Wallace, which to be fair, I wasn't too big of a fan of. I think this was another reason why I have no interest in going back to read the middle. [Spoiler] Also once he found out Eliza's secret, he really pressured her into finishing the comic even though she didn't want to. He pretty much said to her "Hey I got this book deal to turn your comic into prose, but it's not official until you finish the series. So my life is in your hands, you have to do it asap." Like stop. Granted he realizes he's been an ass in the end, but boy did I want to smack him. [End spoiler]

I still absolutely loved this, however, and I immediately had to bother my friends once I finished the book.


The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie
The Abyss Surrounds Us #2
Publisher: Flux Books
Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Source: Netgalley
Date Read: 4/17/17 to 5/3/17
281 pages


Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she'd been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it's not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It's being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Boa is not the only a monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against the creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

I finished this such a long time ago, that I don't remember if I had anything I really needed to say about this. As the sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us, I thought this was a solid continuation. I continued to love the characters, however I definitely felt that the first book had this sort of air around it that made it special.

OH there was a surprising death in this however! I really didn't expect it, and when it happened, I was like "wow". Also compared to the previous book, you start to sympathize with the pirates on the ship, like Captain Elena.

Also, I think this is a duology? I'm so used to trilogies, that I was honestly surprised with the very clean ending. But hey I approve haha.


Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: June 13th, 2017
Source: Edelweiss
Date Read: 5/15/17 to 5/17/17
272 pages


Kansas, 2065 Adri has been handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before Launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.

Oklahoma, 1934 Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called The Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire -- and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life -- Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919 In the recovery following World War One, Lenore tries to come to terms with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?

While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined in ways both heartbreaking and hopeful.
I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from ARC may or may not be in the published edition.

Even though I was expecting more of a story from Adri's perspective, because the future is cool and all, I still enjoyed Midnight at the Electric. More so than I thought I would. The premise of having a story within a story within a story, all tied together, was unique in a kind of way. 

“I think that's what you say when you can't have something you want, isn't it? You say you don't want it in the first place.”

But other than that, I don't really have much else to say about this. The plot itself wasn't very engaging, and honestly, I had really high expectations after reading Tiger Lily. I guess it really doesn't help that I love Peter Pan, but not so much the history of the Dust Bowl. Oh well!