Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano // The Best Book I've Read This Year

Monday, 18 June 2018 0 comments
Summer in the Invisible City, by Juliana Romano
Publication: June 21, 2016, by Dial Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

Seventeen-year-old Sadie Bell has this summer all figured out: She’s going to befriend the cool girls at her school. She’s going to bond with her absentee father, a famous artist, and impress him with her photography skills. And she’s finally going to get over Noah, the swoony older guy who was her very first mistake.
Sadie wasn’t counting on meeting Sam, a funny and free-thinking boy who makes her question all of her goals. But even after a summer of talking, touching, and sharing secrets, Sam says he just wants to be friends. And when those Sadie cares about most hurt her, Sam’s friendship may not be enough. Sadie can see the world through her camera, but can she see the people who have loved and supported her all along?

My Thoughts:

SO. I was the biggest fan of Juliana Romano's First There Was Forever. After completing it and closing the book's spine, I wanted more. I then went onto Goodreads and saw that this pretty, Summer in the Invisible City, would be releasing. I COULDN'T WAIT to fall back into the world of Romano's contemporary romance writing, and I knew that these kinds of books only come around once in a lifetime. Two days ago, I picked up this book, hoping that it would be as good as it appeared to be, and I was not disappointed. This is absolutely the best book I've read this year (so far, at least, but it'll be difficult to beat). It's a book that's both light and easy to read (based on the fact that it is so addicting that you can even read it in the loudest setting possible without losing concentration), but dark and meaningful, as it focuses a lot on family, friendship, and love, in an absolute realistic manner. I absolutely feel as if this story was real, and that Sadie's character exists in New York City.

Summer in the Invisible City evidently takes place in New York City, where we have our kickass protagonist, Sadie, who is dealing with a bunch of conflicts in her life. For one, she has been in a state of heartbreak for a while after a guy named Noah took advantage of her while she thought that they had 'something.' Her father, a famous photographer, is also out of the picture, occasionally visiting Sadie, but the situation itself is quite awkward. She is also trying to fit in with the cooler kids at her school, and is attempting to decide what her future holds for her after high school. Things get more complicated when she meets Sam, who is from New Hampshire, and is beginning to learn about NYC life. However, he just states that he and Sadie are 'friends,' giving her mixed feelings as she sees something more in their relationship.

THE FEELS. THE EMOTIONS. THE LOVE. I am just so obsessed with the romance in this novel that I feel that I can tell you that I haven't seen anything like it. Romano just takes such a real approach to her writing that many other chick-lit writers should look to. Sam and Sadie just had that SPECIAL SOMETHING that I will never forget about. I'm obsessed! 

Let's cut to the chase: there wasn't anything wrong with this book! IT WAS JUST AMAZING. I'm telling you that you must pick it up when you can; do not listen to the negative reviews.

What is the best book you've read this year?

Elektra's Adventures in Tragedy by Douglas Rees // An Interesting Take on a Coming-of-Age Story

Thursday, 14 June 2018 0 comments
Elektra's Adventures in Tragedy, by Douglas Rees
Publication: May 8, 2018, by Running Press Kids
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Sixteen-year-old Elektra Kamenides is well on her way to becoming a proper southern belle in the small Mississippi college town she calls home. That is, until her mother decides to uproot her and her kid sister Thalia and start over in California. They leave behind Elektra's father—a professor and leading expert on Greek mythology, and Elektra can't understand why. For her, life is tragedy, and all signs point to her family being cursed.
Their journey ends in Guadalupe Slough, a community of old Chicano families and oddball drifters sandwiched between San José and the southern shores of San Francisco Bay. The houseboat that her mother has bought, sight unseen, is really just an ancient trailer parked on a barge and sunk into a mudflat.
What would Odysseus do? Elektra asks herself. Determined to get back to Mississippi at all costs, she'll beg, cheat, and steal to get there. But things are not always what they seem, and home is wherever you decide to make it.

My Thoughts:

Elektra's Adventures in Tragedy was goone of the most interesting contemporary YA fiction stories I've read this year. The story literally screams out "summer," and appears to be a story that is about revival and coming-of-age. Of course, the protagonist, Elektra, is the one who is "coming of age" and is learning about who she is and what she can do to change the flaws in her personality. Because, let's face it: there are tons of flaws in this character's personality, which is one of the reasons why I was disappointed with this story. While it initially turned out to be promising and interesting, the story plummeted into disappointment, especially in the ending where I felt that there was no kind of purpose or closure to Elektra's story except for audiences to witness her growth. Honestly, we can all witness growth and development in any protagonist in any story. Why should we read a story about this basic angsty teenage development if some other books actually have some kind of purpose?

For the most part, I've sounded quite blunt and disappointed with Rees' story. However, it did have its perks. As this story is about a sixteen-year-old girl named Elektra who is forced to move to a grungy little town in California from Mississippi with her mother and sister, it surely did have a cool group of secondary characters. There were many of them (who live in the fictional town of Guadalupe Slough), and each had a distinctive personality that made the book more entertaining. Unlike other reviews, I felt that each of them had depth and were well-described, causing no bookish problems for me. HOWEVER. (There is always a "however") Elektra's character is the definition of angst and bratty. It is always very difficult for me to comprehend why an author decides to create a dislikable character, let alone a dislikable protagonist. A protagonist is the character readers will spend the most time with, and I just cannot understand why some of them have to be so... ew? I can definitely say that the different environment of Guadalupe Slough shaped Elektra into a different person, however, throughout her "development," I couldn't stand her and found her to be a bad influence. She did not appreciate people's sacrifices made for her, and the fact that her younger thirteen-year-old sister was smarter really made me cringe. 

As for the pacing of the story, it was a quick read I completed in a span of two days, and was pretty intriguing for the most part until the uneventful ending came. I expected there to be a big BOOM of surprise and interesting events, but I did not receive anything from the plot that was out of my expectations or that triggered emotions. For myself, that's always a thumbs down for a story.

Elektra's Adventures in Tragedy was a refreshing read, but one that turned out to be a little misleading. I really enjoyed reading about the characters' situations and stories, however, our protagonist, Elektra, caused me to give this book a 3 star rating. Would I recommend this to future readers? If you're desperate for a contemporary summery read, sure. If you're seeking a gorgeous well-written story, maybe not.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Have you read a book recently with a disappointing protagonist?

The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby // YA? More Like Middle-Grade.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 0 comments
The Fashion Committee, by Susan Juby
Publication: May 23, 2017, by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 307
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion.
John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes.
Both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. And whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship.

My Thoughts:

DNF @ 65 pages

Unfortunately, Susan Juby's The Fashion Committee was an extreme disappointment. Perhaps my twelve-year-old self would have enjoyed a story like this, but I rather felt... displeased and sad with its outcome. Given that I had read Juby's work in the past (and felt iffy about it), I wasn't sure what to expect with this one. It's definitely out of my comfort zone as it focuses on the fashion industry and students getting scholarships or whatnot. Once I began reading it, I quickly decided that it was not the kind of book for me and that perhaps middle-grade readers would prefer it. The only good perk about thsi entire story is that it was written in a journal format, which is a fresh way to conquer writing a novel and making your story be heard. 

While the story did focus on some darker themes such as domestic violence, I found it to have too many details and it was just all over the place. I wasn't able to pay attention to the plot (and I have a pretty good attention span). I decided to pick it up because it looked to be a light read, but, in fact, it was just boring and disappointing. After 60 pages, I just decided to put it down because I know I would've given it a low rating even if I continued reading. 

This book was not my cup of tea. I had to DNF it or else I would've gone mad, and unfortunately, this was a bad read for me. *shrugs*

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some BETTER middle-grade reads out there?

Survive the Night by Danielle Vega // A Book That Threw Me Into a Three-Month Reading Slump

Thursday, 7 June 2018 2 comments
Survive the Night, by Danielle Vega
Publication: May 24, 2016, by Razorbill
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Horror
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: ½

Just back from rehab, Casey regrets letting her friends Shana, Julie, and Aya talk her into coming to Survive the Night, an all-night, underground rave in a New York City subway tunnel. Surrounded by frightening drugs and menacing strangers, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse...
...until she comes across Julie’s mutilated body in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Casey thought she was just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music. And by the time they get back to the party, everyone is gone.
Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway tunnels, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.
They’re being hunted.
Trapped underground with someone—or something—out to get them, Casey can’t help but listen to Aya’s terrified refrain: “We’re all gonna die down here.”

My Thoughts:

I am a huge fan of Danielle Vega's debut novel, The Merciless, which is now becoming a series with four books (which I don't really know what to think about) so I ultimately couldn't wait to pick up Survive the Night. A standalone horror story? I was so in. However, when picking this one up in March, I quickly discovered that I was just bored. Eventually, school came in the way, and I lost interest in reading a cliché horror story about a group of reckless teenagers doing drugs and dreaming about having boyfriends. Whoops. *shrugs* But please: don't get me wrong; I love books full of drama as otherwise they wouldn't be entertaining. But when picking up this standalone of Vega's, I had different expectations. I expected to read a story that will scare the jeepers creepers out of me, which The Merciless did. This is a book that's more fantasy-like, with some abnormal creatures making a quick appearance. Emphasize the 'quick' part of the previous sentence. This was not a scary novel whatsoever. 

So after I realized that this book was boring and not my type, life got in the way and I never had time to read anymore. Or maybe this book gave me that illusion, as I realized that if I wanted to read, I would have to read this book to get to read those other anticipated novels on my bookshelf. So, I fell into a reading slump, which totally diminished my opinion of this book. I now decided to get back into it, as I suddenly have the urge to read, and I am still kind of disappointed.

This book is about seventeen-year-old Casey, who is slowly heading back to her old life with her old friends after she spent some time in rehab, recovering from her suspected 'drug abuse.' Her badly-influenced friends suggest the idea for Casey and them to head to an underground rave in New York City called Survive the Night, where they ironically are forced to survive the night as people begin dying and are hunted by an unknown creature.

Eh. *shrugs for the fifteenth time* I didn't find anything special about the premise of the story. I found that I honestly have the potential to come up with this kind of story. You know those books that are so masterfully polished and created, that you start to wonder if the author is a human prodigy for coming up with something like that? Sorry to say this, but Survive the Night wasn't part of this description. It wasn't my cup of tea. I'd probably recommend this to younger teens who are being introduced to the YA genre, and specifically, horror stories. This may frighten them. But it didn't frighten me or leave me traumatized. That's kind of what we always look for, don't we, when we read "scary" stories or even watch horror movies? We always seek the adrenaline and crave more. This was really Disney Channel-like, if that description makes sense.

Danielle Vega's Survive the Night was not terrible and the most outrageous book I've read, but it surely wasn't her best work. I'll soon be picking up the sequel to The Merciless, ready to judge if my tastes have changed, or if this book was the sole problem. 

What are some GREAT YA horror stories?

The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet // Not What I Expected...

Wednesday, 6 June 2018 0 comments
The House Swap, by Rebecca Fleet
Publication: May 22, 2018, by Pamela Dorman Books
Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Drama
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

When Caroline and Francis receive an offer to house swap--from their city flat to a townhouse in a leafy, upscale London suburb--they jump at the chance for a week away from home, their son, and the tensions that have pushed their marriage to the brink.
As the couple settles in, the old problems that permeate their marriage--his unhealthy behaviors, her indiscretions--start bubbling to the surface. But while they attempt to mend their relationship, their neighbor, an intense young woman, is showing a little too much interest in their activities.
Meanwhile, Caroline slowly begins to uncover some signs of life in the stark house--signs of her life. The flowers in the bathroom or the music might seem innocent to anyone else--but to her they are clues. It seems the person they have swapped with is someone who knows her, someone who knows the secrets she's desperate to forget...

My Thoughts:

From the first time I saw this book and when I read its summary, I was intrigued. Intrigued to read a new psychological thriller, part of a genre which is becoming more and more popular to this day. I was also quite intrigued to read about this concept: house-swapping? I've never heard of anything like this, and you know, our world is getting really weird with these new concepts and ideas, such as cuddle buddies? There's literally an app where you can find someone near your location to cuddle with. WHAT? So obviously, house-swapping sounded absurd to me too, and I was so captivated to read a thriller about it. But, honestly? This book was solely about romance. Be warned: if you're seeking a well-written, suspenseful psychological thriller, this ain't it. It was definitely an entertaining story that had potential to become a really good thriller, however, it was lacking. 

The House Swap was about a British couple: Caroline and Francis, who have had serious issues in the past due to Francis' personal issues. The book switches back and forth between 2013, when Caroline had an affair with a man almost a decade younger than she is to compensate for the pain Francis has caused her, and 2015, when the couple decides to head out on a trip to a London suburb. While there, Caroline begins to receive creepy emails from an unknown sender, reminding her of her forgotten past. Additionally, the house she is staying in (house-swapped, remember?) seems oddly weird. 

So, initially, the premise sounds amazing—it really does. House-swapping, creepy messages and a sense of familiarity for the protagonist? I'm in. However, as mentioned earlier, this did not feature any major aspect of a story that can be classified as a crazy, mind-blowing "psychological thriller." It's not the kind of book where the readers have the ability to guess what will happen, or who is the person sending the creepy messages. It's impossible, we don't know anything. I would say that the majority of the novel's content was spent on talking about the marriage problems between Caroline and Francis, which for sure is a major point that should be focused on, but this took away from the mysterious vibe that the book was showed to have. Ugh. That really upset me.

I additionally must admit that the start of the story was quite slow. For the first half of the story, I was unable to picture why this would be a 'thriller.' Ultimately, we received hints and answers to everything (which was a twist I highly enjoyed), though, the plot caused me to lose interest for quite a while. However, the best part of the story were Fleet's characters. I felt that each of them: Carl, Caroline, Francis, and Amber, all had depth to them, and after concluding the story, I was able to identify the purpose of each of them and what role they held in the story and how they made this into an interesting domestic drama. That's what it really should be classified, instead of a thriller. 

To put everything straight: this book was not what I expected. DO NOT CALL THIS A THRILLER, it is an adult drama that certainly was entertaining, but not in a mystery/thriller aspect. I'm looking forward to reading more recent 'thrillers' and hoping that they do not follow this same pattern.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Have you read a book that was classified under the wrong genre?

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris // Ms. Paris Does It Again!

Sunday, 3 June 2018 2 comments
The Breakdown, by B.A. Paris
Publication: July 18, 2017, by St. Martin's Press
Genre: Adult Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.
Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

My Thoughts:

I FEEL SO BAD. Because this review would've been a million times better if I had written it around ten months ago. But I DIDN'T. So you're stuck reading a review written by a girl with some faded memory. I'll try my best however, as The Breakdown was amazing and deserves every bit of a positive, well-written review. And I can tell you that I do remember quite a bit, because DUH, it's written by B.A. Paris! 

Although I'm giving this a 5-star rating, it was not as good as Behind Closed Doors. This may not make any sense, but it's still worth giving a 5-star rating. It's right at the mark, while Paris' debut novel exploded and broke the scale. It's quite difficult for me to explain, but if you're a fan of her writing, you'll know what I'm talking about. THIS BOOK WAS JUST SO GOOD — it was fast-paced and everything I could have ever wanted from a psychological thriller. Of course, I base my opinion of psychological thrillers on a B.A. Paris scale. 

This story is basically about a woman named Cass who is traumatized after not helping a woman stuck by the side of the road one rainy night as she was returning home from a party. It turns out that the woman is found killed the next day, and Cass begins to "go crazy" as she receives silent calls, forgets the smallest things, and finds that her life is changing for the worse. Unfortunately, that's all I'm able to tell and explain to you without progressing into full SPOILER mode. And I feel like that's enough for me to tell you to cause you to want to read this book.

The Breakdown left me speechless and dying for more books by B.A. Paris. I was SUPER shocked with the ending and the result to all of the mysteries hidden in between the lines here. I love fetching these kinds of books so that for a couple of hours, I have the chance to play detective and pretend that I'm actually solving some major mystery with all of the hints given to me (even if they're not completely obvious). 


Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstorm // Beautifully Written

Saturday, 2 June 2018 0 comments
Not If I See You First, by Eric Lindstorm
Publication: December 1, 2015, by Poppy
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 310
Format: ARC
Source: BEA/Publisher
Rating: ½

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.
When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react—shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened—both with Scott, and her dad—the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.
Combining a fiercely engaging voice with true heart, debut author Eric Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First illuminates those blind spots that we all have in life, whether visually impaired or not.

My Thoughts:

Okay, let's just make this clear and evident: I LOVED THIS BOOK. SO much. It has been the LONGEST time since I peeked at the cover and even considered writing a review for it (that's how big the reading slump I was in WAS), but to this day, I can still remember me adoring every single moment of the experience. I love good old hearty novels that bring out emotions in me. Sure, you can call this a contemporary romance about a bunch of teenagers experiencing the high-school life and grief, however, it was more than that. Because, the main point and concept which this story surrounded was the fact that its protagonist, Parker, is blind. I can tell you that I do not know of any other YA novels based around a blind character. It's really sad to see that, as the subject is common in society.

In case you were curious about what little thing made me give this a 4.5 star rating instead of a 5 star one, it's Parker, unfortunately. Parker was a very unlikeable character. Obviously, the author's intentions were for her to be like that, however, I felt that she was a little too unlikeable. Parker's life is full of a lot of misfortune, including the fact that her father just died and her blindness, but, I don't know, I didn't see anything amazing about her. She definitely redeemed herself by the end, which did not make me hate her excessively. Let's just say that her love interest, Scott, made everything better.

I LOVED THE ROMANCE IN THIS STORY. It made me feel all gushy and happy, emotions that are absolutely difficult for me to feel when reading every single chick-lit story. This is not your typical chick-lit story, to make things clear. IT WAS MORE. It had purpose, and I was able to speed through it. Those are the kinds of books people remember forever.

Not If I See You First was gorgeous; it has made me become even more excited to pick up Eric Lindstorm's other books. It's a special one that made my insides explode with happiness.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher via BookExpo America in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Are there any other YA books with a blind character?