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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock




Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.


ARC provided by Raincoast Books/ Swoon Reads



Hi everyone,

I feel like I haven't blogged in quite some time and that's when I realized I haven't. Life basically got in the way and I haven't actually been reading that much and when I was it was a bunch of non-fiction books I picked up from the library or me trying really hard to work on my re-reading challenge.

One of the few new fiction books I did read was Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock. We all know how much I love a good relationship-starts-off-by-hating-one-another-and-they -eventually -grow -to- stand- each- other- and- maybe- even- end- up- loving- one- another-stories (was that I bit too much, I apologize). These two are initially set up because they are forced to work on a project together and this just brought back so many memories I have of being partnered with someone who I knew wouldn't do any of the work, but because I didn't want to fail, got a solid A while doing nothing. I loved this concept because it really forced Jenny and Chance to be stuck together and forced to have small talk just to get their assignment done, so of course this one was going to be one of my favourite books ever, right?

Not so much, which hurts me to say.

The relationship felt so forced and I didn't buy it or how quickly Jenny and Chance went from not speaking to one another (I got the impression they barely knew the other one existed despite going to the same school together for quite some time. I get not talking, but I knew everyone in my grade back when I was in high school and I didn't talk to everyone), to the entire school believing they were indeed best friends. Um no, that doesn't make sense at all; it felt like overnight everything changed. I mean maybe the entire school was being Punk'd or something: Like surprise, Jenny an Chance were secret friends the entire time! PLOT TWIST! I actually think I would have rather enjoyed that.

I understand that teens are mostly in their own little words and don't care about other people besides themselves and their inner circles, but I feel like somebody would have said something. It didn't really feel like a genuine school setting to me. I mean, wouldn't it make sense that Jenny's actual real best friend say something or even question her about it? Nope, it was like Kasey (I believe that is her name. To be honest she felt like she was added for convenience of Jenny having a friend) was okay with everything that Jenny told her. Robot friend maybe?

There's one thing Jenny does that felt so completely out of character for her, but I'm not going to say what it is; you'll have to read it yourself to find out!

What also really bothered me,  was at times I felt Chance did not act like a 17 year old or that Jenny would randomly use dialogue that wouldn't be said by her. It was almost like the author morphed the two together and took characteristics from each. Chance would go from describing the wallpaper in Jenny's bedroom, to Jenny randomly dropping the F bomb.

What I did enjoy was how the chapters alternated between Jenny and Chance; I thought this brought a great insight into what each was thinking at all times and not just how the main character perceives the other one as.

I also enjoyed how this book was able to bring back so many memories of being back in high school. I can't say I had the same experiences as Jenny at her age, but it brought me back to the somewhat shy but had an attitude teenager I was.

I can see how this book some readers will love and others won't; you gotta enjoy how books can do that to people!

2 out of 5 stars.

Until my next review,

Stefanie

P.S. I hope everyone is having a great summer!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Mini Thoughts: Simon & The Upside by Becky Albertalli

Hi Friends,

If you were here for my June/July wrap up than you know that I listened to both of Becky Albertalli's novels on audiobook at the end of July. I had planned on reading just the Upside of Unrequited (I even checked it out of the library). In the end, I decided I wanted to read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda first. As soon as I finished it, immediately went onto The Upside of Unrequited.

Today, I bring you my mini thoughts on both of them. Cause they were both pretty amazing.





Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

I don't know why I didn't read this book before now... I really don't. Maybe I was leery of all the hype. Maybe I thought I wasn't going to like it. I don't know. In the end I loved this book- plane and simple.

Simon was a lovely little character and I really enjoyed his voice. He was sweet and genuine and an all round nice guy. I really wanted him to be my friend. I loved his inner conflict when it came to him being blackmailed, his desire to protect both his friends. I loved how he owned it (for the most part) when he screwed up or maybe made some bad decisions. I loved how he dealt with his whole coming out. He didn't shy away from it, I really appreciated it.

What also really made Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda so great was the supporting cast. Simon's friends were amazing, and supportive and encouraging. Simon's parents- LOVED them!! His parents are very present in this book. Which is not always in the case in YA- this a HUGE pet peeve of mine, the lack of parents, like seriously. That is not the case in this book, the grownups are there and they have a say. Simon's parents were lovely.

Albertalli addressed a satchel full of real "issues" like blackmail and bullying and sexuality, and she makes them accessible to readers. These were realistic situations that I am sure most kids could find themselves in. I loved that while this book was dealing with some pretty serious themes, it was still fun and witty and such a joy to read. It wasn't a heavy read by any means.




Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Immediately after I read Simon I jumped into The Upside of Unrequited, and I am SO glad I did. I wasn't ready to let go of all things Albertalli. I was pretty certain I was going to love this book, and super eager to get it started.

I'll say right off the bat that I didn't love this one AS much as I loved Simon, but, I still found it pretty spectacular. I think a lot of what makes this story so incredible is how easy it is to relate to Molly. I was Molly when I was 17. I was a chubby, self-conscious teen. I was the queen of un-reciprocated crushes, and I never felt confident enough to put myself out there. Molly's story and her journey felt very familiar to me. This is SUCH and important feature of this book. It's very much a "you are not alone" kind of story, particularly since Albertalli is speaking from her own experience.

Again, I really loved the adult presence of this story. They were there and they were real and they had a voice. I adored Molly and Cassie's Mums, I loved how both of them had a very real parental role in the lives of their children (I have read some books where the non biological parent isn't really treated as a parent- this is not okay).  I think this is one thing I really find amazing with Albertalli, she recognizes the importance of parents/adults in her story. She knows what their role is and she uses it.

Overall, both of these books, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited, do an amazing job at engaging in an important conversation about extremely relevant situations. But she still presented them in a fun and interesting way. I loved it, and I hope you all will to.  I certainly have every intention of rereading both of these books often.

~Happy Reading Every One

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Sara's June/July Recap






Hello Reader Friends.

It's that time again- monthly recap.Well two monthly recaps actually. I don't plan on making this a huge long post. I am aiming to keep this brief.

June was kind of a wonky month for me- I took an intensive summer course through the university, which kicked my butt. I essentially spent the majority of my time working and studying.  The whole month is kind of a blur really.

July was better, I was done with the course, I took some time off work  (like one day). I went to a Cirque de Soleil show- Kurios, I attended the Winnipeg Folk Fest and saw my love City and Colour. I binged watched Big Little Lies (what a show), spent a few days on the beach, went to a mini film fest. It was kind of a busy month if I really think of it. But good, really good. 





The Books:

Number of Books Completed:
14

Physical Books:
6

Audiobooks:
8


Physical Books: 

Looking for Group by Rory Harrison (3 Stars) 
Taking Turns by JA Huss (3.5 Stars) 
Nanny With Benefits by London Hale (3.5 Stars) 
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrois (4.5 Stars) 
Until it Fades by KA Tucker (3 Stars) 
Cocky Client by Whitney G (3.5 Stars)

Favourite Read


This is such an important book. Deals with teen dating violence. I go into a lot of detail in my review. This book. It was a lot. 


The Audiobooks: 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (5 Stars)
Dating You Hating You by Christina Lauren (2 Stars) 
The Florentine Bridge by Vanessa Carnevale (2.5 Stars)
Park Avenue Prince by Louise Bay (3.5 Stars) 
The First Taste by Jessica Hawkins (3 Stars) 
Stardust by Neil Gaiman (4 Stars) 
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (4.5 Stars) 
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (4.5 Stars)



This book was AMAZING! Seriously. I read both of Albertalli's books one right after the other and I loved them both. But there was something about Simon that was just SO special. This book is totally worth the hype. 

2017 Resolution Update: 

If you want to see a complete list of my goals check them out here

So, I am little behind- on like everything. I am three books behind on my Goodreads challenge- I am fairly confident I'll catch up. As you can see, I've been totally on the audiobook train these days. I generally am only really "reading" while at work, I am also pretty sure the majority of the audiobooks I listened to were either new buys or from the library (well, one was from the library).  I think the only goal I am succeeding on is the read one 2017 release a month, I've read a bunch of those.

My goal for August is to read more physical books and to catch up on my Goodreads reading challenge. I am not doing great, but I have a plan. 


June on the Blog: 


July on the Blog: 
 

Stefanie's been the blog's saving grace these past couple months. I love having her here and I hope you do to. With that being said, I am hoping to pick up my blogger boots.  

~Happy Reading Everyone!


Monday, July 31, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: Public Relations by Katie Heaney & Arianna Rebolini



Young PR star Rose Reed is thrown into the big leagues when her boss leaves town the day of the firm's meeting with Archie Fox, a young, hot, internationally famous British singer-songwriter. The meeting is going badly until Rose suggests a staged romance with up-and-coming, young indie star Raya. He'll do it, but only if Rose becomes his publicist. 

As the faux-mance begins to rehabilitate Archie's faltering career, Rose finds his herself having unexpected, inconvenient and definitely unprofessional feelings for the crooner. But do late night texts and impromptu burrito binges mean he feels the same? In the end, Rose will have to decide whether to let her fantasy crush go, or to risk her reputation to be with the charming, handsome, scoundrel-y but sweet pop star she's grown to love.





If you haven't read Katie Heaney's Never Have I Ever: My Life So Far Without a Date, please stop reading this and go read that because it's the main reason why I've picked up both of her fiction novels. I felt Her memoir was basically written for me; it hit way too close to home, but it made such a strong impression that the two other books she has published I've scooped up instantly. Public Relations being her second on, after Dear Emma. I didn't really enjoy Dear Emma, so I had very high hopes for this one.

The premise was everything I love in books/movies; a celebrity having a fake relationship. I loved that we get a behind the scenes look into all detail that goes into choosing and planning who Archie will pick, because we usually just see the outcome of who is chosen and how the relationship plays out. 

Rose starts off as your typical millennial; has a good job, and she's worked really hard to get where she is. Nobody has really given her a chance because she's so young and nobody really takes her seriously. When she is given the chance to attend a meeting in place of her boss, she's finally given a chance to prove herself, except she is given on instruction: not to speak at the meeting. She breaks that rule, when she mentions to Archie to start a fake relationship with an up-and-coming singer. He agrees and Rose is finally given the chance she needs to prove herself. 

Normally I love these types of stories; the rags to riches/finally proves everyone she's meant to be doing what she's doing stories. I was cheering for Rose the entire time, except that I found her so annoying. She not only bored me, but she almost seemed like a cardboard cutout of all the millennial clich├ęs out there, which I hated because not everyone in their mid-late 20s/early 30s acts like this. This didn't help that at times, the pages were filled with text and not dialogue. This made me resent Rose more, because it was about what she was doing and not actually allowing us to fully see what was going on. 

Than there was Rose's Tinder date/love interest. I can't even with that because if Tinder was filled with surgeons, everybody would be finding love on that. Now I'm not saying surgeons don't actually use Tinder, but it felt just too convenient that he was this perfect man. I've never used Tinder, but I have friends that have and I've seen what's on there and I'm sayin' that none of them were surgeons! 

Archie. Well Archie is basically Harry Styles, from having the same tattoos and dating an older woman, a la Taylor Swift. That really took away from the story.  I get why Archie was modeled after him (I mean who doesn't love One Direction), but creating their own kind of singer would have been more interesting. When Rose and Archie did have dialogue between them, I really enjoyed it because it was filled with sarcasm. 

While I didn't end up loving this book, it was a decent read and I enjoyed it more than Dear Emma. I'm sure I probably won't re-read this, I am excited for Heaney's second memoir that's being released next year. I'm disappointed with this one and happy I requested it from the library. 

2.5 stars out of 5

Until my next review, 

Stefanie

Friday, July 21, 2017

Stefanie's Thoughts: The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari




Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber's pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone's soul mate.

Amber works at her mother's magic shop--Windy City Magic--in downtown Chicago, and she's confident she's seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one--her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor's son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father's missing girlfriend, she's distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can't see her own match, she can see his--and it's not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn't her match?


Since I named this book my favourite book so far of 2017 I figured the best thing I could do after that was review it and let you know why it's my favourite so far!

I initially saw this book on a Goodreads list for upcoming YA Books of 2017 (and you know I make my to-read lists like a year in advance, because who else loves torturing themselves looking at books you want to read for a solid year+ before they actually get released!) and loved the cover. After reading the synopsis it immediately went on my wish-list and I pre-ordered it a month before it's release. I'll be doing the same for its sequel (which feels like it won't be released for another 8000 years).

I couldn't help but love it for these main reasons:
  • 1) I'm always a sucker for a book involving those with magic 
  • 2) Amber was sarcastic 
  • 3) I tend to enjoy books that have a more gentle tone and that aren't about how the world is ending
  • 4) The best friend Amani

Anything that involves magic will generally get me to check it out. I think because I so wish I had some sort of super power that I can't help but love any book/movie that involves it. The whole atmosphere that Crystal Cestari has created here really made me feel like I was in Chicago myself (never been to the city, except for its airport where I bought a pink shot glass that reads Chicago Princess, because why not?) and I wish I could go to the Navy Pier; I can only imagine what the inside of Windy City Magic looks like.

Our main character Amber truly should be my friend; the amount of sarcasm and snark that come out of her mouth basically destined us as friends. She doesn't put up with crap from anyone and I LOVED that. Yes she has her moments of teen angst and I think as I get older (scariest sentence I've typed in a while, hate the fact that I'm getting older) I need to remember that I was just the same at that age. I'm happy the teen angst didn't draw away from the story line or bog it down like it has in some stories I've read. I loved her being a matchmaker; definitely don't see that in YA lit or much lit for that matter unless its a mortal one. The concept of Amber being able to see your soulmate by looking into your eyes is so cool and I enjoyed that her gift was used and we got to read about just how it works.

Amani her best friend was a great character. She herself had the best sub-plot line of the book, which I won't spoil for you. I always enjoy a good solid female friendship, where they don't put each other down, but act as true friends and are there for one another. She herself had a great magical ability, but you'll have to read the book to find out what hers is.

I'm finding now that YA tends to be filled with a lot more serious themed books and a nice, gentle read is almost hard to find. When I picked this one up it was great to take a break from the serious to just have a fun, magical read. All types of magical types were included throughout and didn't just stick to witches and matchmakers; I love books that include all types of magical beings. Also no major cliffhanger, but it ends with enough that you just want to dive into book 2.

This is recommended for those looking for a fun, quick (I read it in a day and a half because I couldn't put it down) read that has a dash of magic to it.

5 out of 5 stars!

 Until my next review,

Stefanie


P.S. Side note while writing this review: I was watching a Natalie Wood film on TCM; turns out I can't write a review and watch a movie at the same time because I was constantly getting distracted by both.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Thoughts: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrois


Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape. 


**Review copy received from publisher for my honest review**



This book was kind of intense- and I wasn't expecting it to be. I know this may seem strange considering the content, but Bad Romance is the third book I have read by Heather Demetrois- the previous two I didn't particularly enjoy- I think I rated the two books two and three stars I think.  Therefore I was not expecting very much from this one. I was very wrong, Bad Romance kind of blew me away.

When I become aware of a novel that addresses domestic violence, I tend to gravitate towards them, particularly in teen dating relationships. These types of relationships are very real and I believe it is important that they be featured in YA contemporary novels. Especially if teens can use these stories to recognize potential dangers in their own relationships. Bad Romance does a really amazing job of realizing a lot of the major aspects of what can encompass an abusive relationship. I am completely impressed with how well Demetrois addressed this issue in her book.

Bad Romance tells the Story of Grace and Gavin and their relationship from start to finish. Grace hasn't had it easy in life, her mother is distant and her step-father is controlling at best. Grace does not have a lot of control in her life and she is doing the best she can. When she attracts the eyes of Gavin, the most popular boy in the school, she begins to believe things are looking up for her.

It is no secret that Grace's relationship with Gavin is not the golden bright relationship she's expecting. Very early on Gavin's behaviour begins to exhibit the tell tale signs of abuse and control. It starts off small, Gavin makes off the cuff comments and slight criticisms that for the most part went unnoticed.  As the story progressed, Gavin's control and obsession with Grace grew, and was noticed by those close around her. Demetois has either been a victim of domestic violence herself, or she's researched the cycle of violence and how it can present very well, as none of Gavin's actions throughout the story seemed over the top or exaggerated. While I have never been a victim of domestic violence directly, but I have seen it first hand- and I am very familiar with what it looks like. The relationship was a very accurate portrayal of what such a relationship could look like. So are Grace's responses to her relationship. She was constantly making excuses for Gavin and underplaying his over the top reactions. This is something that happens regularly in these kinds of relationships. 

There were a few things that irked me in the way the story was told, however, it's really not important. None of this took away from the story and what it was trying to say. Heather Demetrois really hit it out of the park with Bad Romance and I am SO glad.

This book is triggering. If you have been in a victim of domestic violence, this story has the potential to really hurt you. But I also think this book is so powerful and so important. 

Overall, Bad Romance was an important read for me, and I am glad to have read it. I am grateful to Heather for having the courage to write such a story. I would encourage everyone to read this. This is book that was created for much more than entertainment, so much more. 

~Happy Reading Everyone.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Stefanie's 2017 Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag


Hi everyone,

It's July already, how did that happen so soon? I think it'll take me many more years before I realize and get used to just how fast the year goes when you work in a school. My brain, I think, still believes it's May and exams should be coming up. 

I've got so many books I want to read this summer, but you know how it goes: so many books, too little time. I'll be curious just to see how many books I do get read this year, but I thought for now it would be a fun idea to copy Sara and also do the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag, so here it goes.

Best Book You've Read So Far


The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari


I loved this book from page one; it felt like a Disney Channel Movie and i loved every page and I'm desperately waiting for the sequel!!  

Best Sequel You've Read So Far

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han


Because this made me feel like I was back in high school myself, I couldn't help but love this on

Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year


Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather


This comes out in October, perfect for Halloween, and the first one was too good to not need the sequel right away

Biggest Disappointment

Textrovert by Lindsey Summers

 

I heard such good things about this one and when I finally got my hands on a copy, I thought it was boring and the main character was whiny; it hurt I didn't like this one

Biggest Surprise

The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo


I hadn't read any other of the authors books before reading this one and I just fell in love with it and all the fairytale theme-park references 

Favourite New Author


M. Tara Crowl, author of Eden's Wish


I found this book completely by random at the library and based on the adorable cover, knew I wanted to read it. It was a really fun story about a genie and I know I'll want to read the sequel as soon as I can find it

Newest Fictional Crush


I feel like I fail at this category anytime it's asked. I find that I don't get book crushes, not after Oliver Wood in Harry Potter. I'll like characters but nothing to the extent of a book crush

Newest Favourite Character


Amber Sand from The Best Kind of Magic. Sarcastic, funny, and low down on the magic scale; I LOVED her!

Book That Made You Cry


Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Thanks to some major nostalgia about growing up, this one made me cry like a baby and made me want to go back in time and visit my younger self

Book That Made You Happy


A New Model by Ashley Graham 


This book is what the world needed and I ended it by having a smile on my face. Body positivity is what the world needs more of

Favourite Book to Movie Adaptation

Rise of the Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz

 

I don't know if this counts, but I'm excited for the next Descendants movie and this fits into the movie world

Favourite Post You've Done This Year

I can't say I really have one, since I haven't actually done that many posts yet. I have the most fun with the month end posts, because I love seeing what books I've read that month and trying to find graphics that fit the month and add to the post.

Most Beautiful Book You've Bought This Year

How to be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy


Drawn completely by Katie Daisy by hand, this book is honestly one of the nicest books I have ever seen. It encourages you to get out into the world and go exploring, something I've been really wanting to do for some time.

New Release You Haven't Read Yet, But Want To


Going Viral by Amy Alward


I love this series and I can't wait to see what adventures Sam has in store for her. This one might be cheating since it's not released yet, but will be soon

What Book Do You NEED to Read By the End of the Year?


Lucky in Love by Kasie West


It's Kasie West so naturally I need this book NOW!!!! I'll probably end up reading it the week it comes out because it just sounds so good!

And that's it! I have to say, this post was a lot of fun writing and now I can see some of the priority books I'll need to get my hands on when they are released!

Hope everyone had a great June!!

Until my next review,

Stefanie


"So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall."
— Roald Dahl