Review: Crystal Kingdom by Amanda Hocking

Title: Crystal Kingdom (Kanin Chronicles #3)
Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Date of Publication: August 1, 2015
Cast out by her kingdom and far from home, she is the Kanin people’s only hope. But Bryn Aven, unjustly charged with murder and treason, is on the run.
 
The one person who can help is her greatest enemy, the gorgeous and enigmatic Konstantin Black. Konstantin is her only ally against those who have infiltrated her kingdom and threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. But can she trust him?
 
As Bryn fights to clear her name, the Kanin rulers’ darkest secrets are coming to light — and now the entire troll world is on the brink of war.
 
Will it tear Bryn from Ridley Dresden, the only guy she’s ever loved? And can she join forces with Finn Holmes and the Trylle kingdom?
 
Nothing is as it seems, but one thing is certain: an epic battle is underway—and when it’s complete, nothing will ever be the same.
Purchase from Amazon | Amazon (UK) | B&N | The Book Depository

Review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for the review copy. Having received one did not affect my views of the novel.

And that is how you end a series! I am mighty pleased to tell you that I enjoyed every single moment of Crystal Kingdom. While the ending to Ice Kissed made me want to read the finale right away, the size of the book didn’t. It was longer than the previous installments and I am known to shy away from those. But then I couldn’t not read it, after what happened in Ice Kissed.

So with Bryn on the run, she doesn’t have allies, or even an ally. Ridley is home, as well as Ember, and now, she’s at the mercy of her archenemy, Konstantin Black. I, for one, loved how we FINALLY got to know Konstantin in all his evasive and elusive glory. We get to know his motivations and the real story behind EVERYTHING. ANSWERS! WE HAVE ANSWERS!

I loved how easy it was with Bryn and Konstantin and you could totally see WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN but then we all know our girl is in love with another man. Ridley was tortured back at home and when he comes for Bryn, he’s distant and cold. Oh, poor bb, when he finally opened up to Bryn. I just want him to be better and with Bryn at his side, he did. And yoohoo, SEXY TIMES ARE AHEAD~

I didn’t even notice that the book was 400+ pages because DAMN, THAT PLOT. Basically, Amanda Hocking leaves us at the precipice of excitement FOREVER. She moves the plot this way and you think everything will happen now but NOPE, some other thing happens and you’re yet again on the edge of a cliff. I just gobbled up page after page after page of this book and I couldn’t get enough. Whether it was Bryn and Konstantin teaming up together, fighting off their enemies, getting help from the ogres and the other tribes, I’m always at the edge of my seat.

Like Ice Kissed, we get to see more tribes in Crystal Kingdom. While I haven’t read the Trylle series, it seems like characters from there made an appearance in here such as Queen Wendy. While I didn’t feel the need to read the Trylle series as the Kanin Chronicles stands well on its own, I am curious though about the Trylle and Wendy.

Amanda Hocking employed a new storytelling trick with Crystal Kingdom where we get to know what happens with the Kanin kingdom with Ember writing letters to Bryn that she never sends out. I like those reprieve from the actual conflict although it also brings in more tension because things were getting worse and there were deaths.

As all finales do, some characters you’d rather not die died and *wails in a corner*. I felt that it would happen and I’m not saying I’m surprised but when you invested ~emotions~ on a series and its characters, it’s never easy to see someone go.

What a fantastic end to a fantastic series! Action-packed, intriguing, and thrilling, Crystal Kingdom closed the story of the Kanin tribe in the eyes of our kickass heroine, Bryn. I know for sure that I will be reading more of Amanda Hocking’s books!

About Amanda Hocking
Amanda Hocking is the USA Today bestselling author of the Trylle trilogy and six additional self-published novels. After selling over a million copies of her books, primarily in eBook format, she is widely considered the exemplar of self-publishing success in the digital age.
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Review: Ice Kissed by Amanda Hocking

Two days from now, I’m concluding the blog tour for the finale, Crystal Kingdom! Having read the whole trilogy by now, I am beyond excited for y’all to read this series. Check out my review for the second book below!

Frostfire (Kanin Chronicles, #1)
Title: Ice Kissed (Kanin Chronicles #2)
Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Date of Publication: May 7, 2015

Bryn Aven is still struggling with her burgeoning relationship with Ridley. She’s also set on completing her mission to find the missing Skojare Queen. But when they do finally discover what happened, Bryn finds out that things are much more complicated than she’d originally thought.

And as she gets closer to the truth, Bryn is framed for the murder of the Kanin King himself. She ends up on the run, as home holds too few answers and no solutions.


Review

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for the review copy! Having received one did not affect my views of the novel.

Okay, so first things first. This series completely amazes me with its fantastic covers! I prefer the Australian covers too so I’m so glad I have them!

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. The good stuff. While I completely enjoyed reading Frostfire, I had qualms about the worldbuilding. But with the second novel, I couldn’t even think about those issues because I was so deeply entrenched into the world of the Kanin and Bryn at the forefront of it all. We continue right were we left off from Frostfire and the plot just thickens.

There is one hot Bryn-Ridley scene and YAYAYAYAY! And while I just want these two to get together and it’s bringing me pain when they’re apart and when they unintentionally make things harder for each other, I appreciate how Ridley isn’t a love interest that pushes himself to Bryn. He understands how career-driven Bryn is and how she puts career first and EEEEEKKK. I mean, he ~understands~  her. I do wish we got more of him though since we rarely saw him. 

Romance remains not the focus of it and we get a thrilling plot at our hands, not knowing who to trust with the whole slew of new characters we get to know. Bryn herself doesn’t know who to trust and we’re right along with her.

More importantly, we get to see Skojare tribe and get a feel for them. Bryn is half-Skojare and I’m just glad she stayed with the Kanin because the Skojare was cold, both literally and in the sense that it isn’t ~home~.

But really, I just want to talk about the ending because THAT IS ONE EXPLOSIVE ENDING. I am so glad to have Crystal Kingdom ready because I immediately had to get to it.

CRYSTAL KINGDOM, HERE I COME!

About Amanda Hocking

Amanda Hocking is the USA Today bestselling author of the Trylle trilogy and six additional self-published novels. After selling over a million copies of her books, primarily in eBook format, she is widely considered the exemplar of self-publishing success in the digital age.

Review: Frostfire by Amanda Hocking

I recently got the whole trilogy for review so I’m practically binging this series. Keep an eye out for my review of Ice Kissed the day after tomorrow and on August 31, I will be closing off the tour for the finale Crystal Kingdom!

Frostfire (Kanin Chronicles, #1)
Title: Frostfire (Kanin Chronicles #1)
Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Date of Publication: January 15, 2015

Will she give up her dream to follow her heart?

Bryn Aven is determined to gain status amongst the Kanin, the most powerful of the hidden tribes. But as a half-blood, winning respect is a huge challenge. Bryn’s almost-human community distrusts people, and those from other tribes are almost as suspect.

She has just one goal to get ahead: to join the elite guard protecting the Kanin royal family. And Bryn’s vowed that nothing will stand in her way, not even a forbidden romance with her boss, Ridley Dresden.

But her plans are put on hold when fallen hero Konstantin starts acting dangerously. Bryn loved him once, but now he’s kidnapping Kanin children – stealing them from hidden placements within human families. She’s sent to help stop him, but will she lose her heart in the process?


Review

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for the review copy! Having received one did not affect my views of the novel.

I’m not much of a fantasy reader but I got interested in this series because it’s about TROLLS. And I don’t think I’ve read a book that centered on these creatures. So I threw caution to the wind and dived into this world by Amanda Hocking.

However, upon introduction that trolls are almost like humans, I was a bit disappointed. I was looking forward to reading something unique and fresh and all I got is human-like trolls. They even listen to Imagine Dragons, which, while I approve because trolls have great music tastes!, it was a bit disorienting. I mean, I’m reading a ~fantasy~ book and then they listen to bands I actually listen to. It just created a bit of cognitive dissonance in my mind.

However, I did like how the information regarding the different tribes were explained and told in the narrative. Bryn, being a tracker, extracted a changeling back to their kingdom. With it, she has to explain their origin, their history, their basic government structure, and everything. So it didn’t feel like OH, INFO DUMP but more like I was learning alongside a character, albeit a minor one, about the world. I also appreciated how, while trolls were human-like in essence, each tribe looked quite different from each other and had their own powers/skills.

I do applaud Amanda Hocking because the sheer readability of this one is astounding. I just said that I was a bit iffy on the worldbuilding but I couldn’t stop reading. I was entertained and I found myself enjoying it SO MUCH. I guess it helped that Bryn is a kickass character who I want to know more and see grow as the series progresses. And that I adore and basically am putty with Ridley’s charm. I was also intrigued by everyone else, even Konstantin Black, who’s basically pegged as the villain but I’m sure he isn’t really one. I’m quite afraid that there will be a love triangle though because Bryn had the biggest crush on Konstantin, that is before he tried to kill her father. Team Ridley all the way! What can I say? I love forbidden romance as Ridley is Bryn’s boss. YEEHAW. TENSION.

Oh, oh, oh, I liked how the romance isn’t the focal point of the story and is more of an aside but with that, I’m also now very hungry for more Bryn-Ridley because SHIP SHIP SHIP! The characters in this book are, honestly, new-adult-aged as Bryn is nineteen and Ridley is twenty-four. I DO WISH IT IS AN NA NOVEL THOUGH BECAUSE SEXY TIMES ARE MUCH NEEDED. Haha!

As for the plot, Konstantin Black have been kidnapping changelings (or at least trying to but then Kanin trackers are great and they keep on preventing Konstantin from doing so). Bryn gets embroiled in this of course. Like I said, Amanda Hocking got me hooked and flipping page after page after page with this one.

Frostfire was a decent introduction into the world of the Kanin and I look forward to the next book! More Bryn-Ridley please!

About Amanda Hocking

Amanda Hocking is the USA Today bestselling author of the Trylle trilogy and six additional self-published novels. After selling over a million copies of her books, primarily in eBook format, she is widely considered the exemplar of self-publishing success in the digital age.

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

This time, the hype did not disappoint me. GLORIOUS BOOK IN HERE, YOU GUYS. If you haven’t read it, YOU SHOULD! STAT! Let me convince you so.

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and The Dawn #1)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons BFYR
Date of Publication: May 12, 2015

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

Purchase from Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

Review

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’m so glad the hype made me read this one! Especially when Lyra told me she loved it and I trust her fantasy recs because we’re both not much of fantasy readers. It’s actually pretty weird for me to categorize this a fantasy book because, sure, it has some magical elements (although I expect more magic will happen in the next book) but it was SO grounded in reality and history that it didn’t feel like something imagined. It felt so real and just *applause applause*

My initial review of this book on Goodreads is:

BRB FOR MY REVIEW, STILL SOAKING IN THE FEELS AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Because that’s what happened. I WAS SO AWASHED WITH FEELS THAT I COULDN’T FUNCTION. WHAT IS AIR? WHERE IS THE NEXT BOOK? And while I’ve had some time to compose myself, no time is enough to make me coherent about this book but I’ll try.

First, the setting. The Wrath and the Dawn is set in Persia and it gave it justice. Justice, whatever, IT WAS GLORIOUS. It is well-researched, from the desert setting, the caliphate form of government, the architecture, the food, everything was so on point and perfect. Maybe that’s why I never approached TWATD as if it’s fantasy because it didn’t read to me like one. It was a magnificent historical fiction by all accounts, just with that bit of magic. I particularly appreciated how Renée Ahdieh didn’t try to translate culturally relevant words and phrases. There were not a lot of non-English terms but then the context completely gives you an idea what it is. Whether it’s an insult or a musical instrument resembling a flute, you’ll get it. I LOVE IT.

Of course, with that mentioned, our ensemble of cast is a diverse one. HUZZAH! No white-washing in here, everyone’s Western Asians, except for one Greek slave. But then, let’s just get to these wonderful characters. GUYS, THEY ARE WONDERFUL. Sure, they might be a bit stereotypical — spunky and big-mouthed heroine Shahrzad, the king who everyone sees as a monster but is actually SO FAR FROM THAT Khalid, the snarky handmaiden Despina, the king’s cousin who’s so jolly Jalal, the first love Tariq, the first love’s sidekick Rahim — they’re characters you’ve met a lot of times before. But what makes these set of characters fantastic is how fabulous Renée Ahdieh wrote them. You just can’t help but love them. I AM SERIOUS. I love how much banter goes on between Shahrzad and Despina, how equally arrogantly charming and calculating Jalal is and how much he cares for Khalid who never opens up to anyone, HOW KHALID IS PERFECT (not really because he did order to kill and he’s violent and angry and SUPER ALOOF (HE’S LIKE FORT KNOX WITH HIS THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, SECRETS, EVERYTHING) but HE’S POETIC, GENTLEMANLY, OLD-FASHIONED and so completely in love with Shahrzad), how I profess allegiance to Shahrzad because she is queen and a glorious kickass heroine. THESE CHARACTERS FELT SO REAL AND THAT’S WHY THEY GAVE ME ALL THE FEELS.

Now, to said feels. GUYS. Once again, concerned mom checked up on me because I was legitimately squealing. And laughing. And keening. KEENING. She went to my room and asked me if I was crying or laughing because she couldn’t tell. I told her I was doing both. ALL THEM FEELS. I cried at some point in the book then squealed and keened to mighty heavens whenever Khalid does his thing of being SO SWEET AND !!!!!!!!!!!!! ACK I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S THE WORD FOR THAT. OF BEING PERFECT. Gah, THE ENDING. THE PROLOGUE TO THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER. EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK IS TORTURE IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY.

The Wrath and the Dawn is said to be a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights and I would like to warn you about this if you expect Shahrzad to have all these stories for Khalid. It is merely inspired by it and while Shazi tells Khalid some stories, it is not the focus of the story. The story takes a life of its own and it is fanfreakintastic. I just can’t ask for more!

Lastly, THE WRITING! Oh heavens, the book is told in multiple third-person POVs, which usually I don’t care for, but I dig it SO SO MUCH. We mostly get the perspectives of Shahrzad and Khalid but sometimes we get Tariq’s (meh, I seriously skipped his parts the first time I read this) and even Jahandar, Shazi’s father.

Yes, did I mention that I read this twice in a row? My first read was just Shazi and Khalid’s parts because SHIP SHIP SHIP SHIP SHIP then the next one was a full read. I know, I’m weird. Shut up.

Once again, the writing. It was beautiful, descriptive (but not overly so), and it brought the events to life. WHAT IS AIR?

I highly recommend The Wrath and the Dawn to EVERYONE. Yes, no exceptions. It is a beautiful piece of YA fantasy that I devoured and YOU WILL TOO. It’s not only beautiful but it’s engaging and ALL THE FEELS and I NEED THE NEXT BOOK NOW. (It’s only a duology too so YAY!) 

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

See, I revert back to incoherency.

About Renée Ahdieh

I live in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with my husband Victor and our dog Mushu. My YA fantasy novel, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, is available wherever books are sold. In my spare time, I like to cook, dance salsa, and wreak havoc on the lives of my characters.

I’m also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, as well as an active member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.


Review: Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker

I finally got to read this! Onwards with the sequel we go!

Wildflower
Title: Wildflower (Wildflower #1)
Author: Alecia Whitaker
Publisher: Poppy
Date of Publication: July 1, 2014

The best songs come from broken hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Bird Barrett has grown up on the road, singing backup in her family’s bluegrass band, and playing everywhere from Nashville, Tennesee to Nowhere, Oklahoma. One fateful night, Bird fills in for her dad by singing lead, and a scout in the audience offers her a spotlight all her own.

Soon Bird is caught up in a whirlwind of songwriting meetings, recording sessions, and music video shoots. Her first single hits the top twenty, and suddenly fans and paparazzi are around every corner. She’s even caught the eye of her longtime crush, fellow roving musician Adam Dean. With Bird’s star on the rise, though, tradition and ambition collide. Can Bird break out while staying true to her roots?

In a world of glamour and gold records, a young country music star finds her voice.


Purchase from Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository


Review

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Hazel for lending me this book! Now I’m excited to read the sequel The Road to You as I got it for review. Thank you, book gods!

I didn’t expect to enjoy this one as much as I did, to be honest. Quite a few people told me that it’s not at par with Open Road Summer by Emery Lord if that’s what I’m expecting. So I guess I totally downplayed my expectations and I ended up enjoying Wildflower!

Bird, sixteen, plays the fiddle for her family band, the Barrett Family Band. Together with her dad who plays the banjo, her mom who plays the mandolin, and his two older brothers Dylan and Jacob, who play the guitar and the bass, respectively, they tour the continental US in their RV. To say the Barrett family is close is an understatement. Like what Bird said, you have to be close and to love each other so much that you’ll tolerate them when you live in an RV. While performing in Kansas City, a talent scout discovers Bird. The catch: he only wants to sign Bird and not the whole Barrett Family Band. C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T.

That’s just the first of the many mini-conflicts Wildflower has in its arsenal. And I deeply appreciated how each conflict was not dragged to death. Each conflict was resolved in a timely manner, which just showcased how enviable Bird’s family is. Sure, Dylan got jealous of her success, but in the end, family supports family and it’s always refreshing to read a non-dysfunctional one in YA.

As Bird signs with a label, we get to see her in promotional shoots, in her dressing room, making a music video, recording the songs she wrote herself for her first album, being put in a date for a publicity stunt, and all that fiasco behind the scenes of making the next country star. We get to read about how songs and lyrics are perfected with a seasoned songwriter, how many times you’d be required to sing your song for a recording, everything! We even get to read about a launch party. You know how much I love my behind-the-scenes look into anything with a celebrity so those parts of Wildflower were a blast.

Being home-schooled and on the road, Bird doesn’t have friends but she finds one in Stella, the daughter of the songwriter helping her to polish her songs. Stella’s vivaciousness is a nice contrast to Bird’s quite-timid nature and reading about their bonding moments was nice. It actually reminded me of my own best friend, with her endless support and teasing. Stella cracked me up a lot of times and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her (and probably the brewing romance, at least on Dylan’s side) in the next book.

Lastly, the romance. I’ve been putting off discussing this because I wanted to have at least something coherent in my review. If I started with this, all you’d read is ADAM ADAM ADAM HAVE MY BABIES ADAM. Haha! Anyway, so Adam is this country solo singer who’s friends with Bird’s brother, Jacob. He’s also in the touring circuit and so they see each other quite often in gigs. He’s nineteen years old (YESYESYES HE’S OLDER THAN BIRD AND I AM A PUDDLE) and they have this thing where they drink fountain Coke every time they see each other and they rate which ones are the best and the worst. THEY HAVE A THING. As Bird gets a label, she starts to text Adam and the “flirtexting” was cute. Do note that Wildflower doesn’t really focus on the romance aspect as it takes more time to build Bird’s career. Still, the romance side was such a nice side-arc and I am completely excited to where it will lead in the next book. Bird’s too busy being the next big thing and Adam’s trying to build his own career. It doesn’t help that Adam’s playing the guitar for Bird’s competition. Still, SHIP SHIP SHIP.

For fans of Open Road Summer, Not in the Script, and other celebrity romances, Wildflower has Bird, a down-to-earth girl as its lead, making her way to the top of the country music charts. We get to see her growth both as a musician and as a teen and I’m looking forward to reading about her next endeavors.

About Alecia Whitaker

Alecia Whitaker grew up with a big imagination on a small farm in Kentucky, which was worlds away from where she currently resides in fast-paced New York City. She knows more about cows, tobacco, frog gigging, and carpentry than the average girl, and she applies the work ethic and common sense she learned from her southern upbringing to the way she now navigates her career and family life in the big city.

Now living in New York City with her husband and sons, she is amused at how often her big imagination takes her back to a simpler life in Kentucky.

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I am deeply concerned and totally cringing that the letter ‘S’ in Homo sapiens is capitalized in the title. My science nerd self is totally not cool with it. I knew italicizing the scientific name would be tricky because it’s the title so I ended up being cool with that but THE CAPITALIZED S, I CANNOT. It’s like going everything against what I was taught. Am I overreacting? Maybe. But scientific name syntax is important, you guys! Carl Linnaeus would be so proud of me. I’m completely off-tangent here because I don’t want to talk about how the hype killed this book for me.

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date of Publication: April 7, 2015

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.

Purchase from Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository


Review

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for the review copy. Having received one did not affect my views of the novel.

So, hey, what’s up? This review is a bit awkward to write for me because EVERYONE I know and look up to and adore and friends with loved this book. Everyone was like THIS IS SO ADORABLE, READ IT, DIANNE. And I’ve been planning to read it way back before it came out, when the first raves trickled in. But then I didn’t get to read it and then the hype just kept getting bigger and bigger and scarier and TOO MUCH PRESSURE. Dianne couldn’t deal.

But I finally did it! I finally read it! And I tried to not have any expectations going in because that’s unfair for the book but it was impossible. Completely impossible. Everyone told me THIS IS CUTE AND ADORABLE AND SUPER SHIPPY AND YOU WILL LOVE IT. And sure, I did enjoy it and it was cute and adorable and shippy but I was also a bit underwhelmed. I liked it, sure, and it’s actually a 3.5-star read but y’all know I don’t do .5s. I guess I was expecting too much and I know it’s my fault.

The book was narrated by the eponymous Simon whose voice was so teen and I’m all over his sentence fragments. His narrative was interspersed with his emails with Blue. Simon’s gay and no one knows about it except this so grammatically correct Blue he corresponds with via email. Blue’s also a junior at Creekside High but aside from that, Simon has no idea who he is. Absolutely no idea. Which just made me so giggly too because their emails were so honest and ADORABLE. Basically, Blue is so adorable and I don’t blame Simon for falling in love with him because he is so darn lovable!

Now, the conflict arises when Martin sees Simon’s emails to Blue (he didn’t log out on the school’s public computer) and blackmails him. Martin leverages the screenshots he took in exchange for Simon putting a word in for Martin to Abby, Simon’s friend.

Simon’s narrative is basically a slice-of-life one and I do admit, I got bored at times. (Don’t brick me!) I’ve always been fine with novels that just chronicle the daily life of its main characters but I don’t know, I’m just not that hooked with Simon’s story. Sure, I badly wanted NEEDED to know who Blue was because like I said, BLUE BLUE BLUE IS A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E. So the email parts of the book were my favorite parts. But Simon’s story? Not quite. I can’t exactly pinpoint what didn’t work for me because I did like it but I guess I was expecting just more that I got disappointed with just the daily happenings in Simon’s world.

Don’t get me wrong, Simon’s daily life was amusing. Simon’s in drama club and he’s in a theater production of Oliver! as part of the ensemble so we get to see that. Simon’s family even plays Facebook scavenger hunt, which was such a great idea, I think I’m playing that with my friends soon. Simon’s a bit introspective too and I like how he’s constantly thinking and evaluating things, like his friendship with different people. How it’s so much harder to admit something to the people you know the longest because they know you so much. How he’s afraid to go out of the box that defines him for these people. I so feel that.

Simon also has a diverse cast of characters and they’re not even stereotypes! It also tackles divorce, bullying, friendships, family, and all that. It’s got all and I get why people loved this so much. Simon’s voice was pitch-perfectly teen as I said and he’s completely relatable.

I read Simon really quick, in just a day. It’s just so damn readable and I really wanted to know who Blue was. And I actually guessed right! BLUE BLUE BLUE BLUE BLUE. The bits near the end when Simon finally knows who Blue is and just BLUE WHY SO SWEET AND WHY DO YOU SAY ALL THE PERFECT THINGS? I was so giddily happy for Simon and Blue and I was smiling like an idiot. THE SHIPPY FEELS.

I guess I just wish Nora and Leah and Allie got more screentime. I want to know more about them and it felt like things were just swept under the rug, especially for the possible-temporary-crack in Simon and Leah’s friendship. But then, this is Simon’s story so I guess that’s understandable.

All in all, a cute read! I enjoyed it but it didn’t go down as a favorite or something I’ll go back again and again (which is totally my own fault AND THE HYPE BECAUSE HYPE KILLS DREAMS). If you’re like me who’ve been afraid of the hype, I know it won’t work but just maybe, if you can, don’t expect anything. Do know that this is still such a fun ride!

P.S. I WANT OREOS RIGHT NOW.

About Becky Albertalli

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as coleader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. She now lives in Atlanta. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is her first novel.

Mini-Review: Between Now & Never by Laura Johnston

I read this one a couple of months ago and had this mini-review done and published at I Heart Daily. I was trying to have a full review but after all those months, I can’t remember it that much anymore. So I just decided to finally publish this mini-review.

Between Now & Never

Title: Between Now & Never
Author: Laura Johnston
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Date of Publication: March 31, 2015

Buh boom, buh boom.

My heart thrusts with a force that takes me by surprise. Telling me something I don’t understand. A splitting pain, a longing to slip back under. They tell me I was in a hit-and-run, but I can’t remember what happened that night. All I know is that I woke up with pictures in my pocket, a card from one of those photo booths in the mall. And I’m in the pictures. Cody Rush. Me and…

Julianna.

Her brother was there that night, and my dad, the FBI agent, was the one who put her mom behind bars. What’s the connection? And why won’t Julianna talk to me now? Somehow, she holds the key to it all, and getting close–real close—to her for the answers I need will be no hardship at all…

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Mini-Review

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

If you were expecting a fluffy read because of Between Now & Never’s cover, you are way out of the ballpark. In dual perspectives of Cody and Julianna, readers are treated to a fantastic look into their lives, with so much depth, dimension, and growth. They have their own background histories, motivations, goals, wants, scars, and fears. As obvious as their attraction was, they both felt that it was wrong with Cody’s dad being the FBI agent who indicted Julianna’s mom. Add to that Cody being hit by a car the night they met and him forgetting what happened that day, except for bits and pieces about a drug deal and Julianna’s brother Vic. What I liked best about the book is how it didn’t focus on the romance but delivered it equally with the rest of the plot. The story had an air of mystery, as Cody tries to remember that night, but the reader knows what happened. We just watch it all unfold and unveil itself to its conclusion. I recommend Between Now & Never for fans of Katie McGarry and a bit of angst in their YA.

P.S. Stop using this stock picture for covers! I am sick of it GAH

About Laura Johnston

Laura Johnston is the author of REWIND TO YOU and BETWEEN NOW AND NEVER, contemporary YA novels published by eKensington. She fell in love with the young adult genre both through her experience in high school as well as her job later as a high school teacher. Laura enjoys running, playing tennis, sewing, traveling, writing, and above all, spending time with her husband and kids.

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Review: Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

I’ve been thinking of not posting this review yet because I want to read the series properly first but I now feel like my views of this novel won’t change even though I know the characters from the previous books. But who knows? I’ll let you know when I’ve read the series.

Jesse's Girl (Hundred Oaks)

Title: Jesse’s Girl (Hundred Oaks #6)
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Date of Publication: July 7, 2015

Practice Makes Perfect.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

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Review

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for the review copy. Receiving it for review did not affect my views of the novel.

Okay, so this was super cute and super fun and super adorable. (Stop saying super, Dianne.) It felt like a four-star read, especially with all my favorite tropes apparently in here. Which I didn’t know because I didn’t read the plot. Haha! I mean, a celebrity (country star Jesse Scott), spending a day together doing shenanigans (test driving a GT, riding around a Harley, jumping into a fountain, A LOT OKAY), taking it slow, not labeling a relationship anything, a cool punk-looking girl with a nose ring who loves 80s music, sex positivity, and tackling how hard it is to live somewhere where religion plays such a huge role. I should have loved this one.

However, I felt like it read so fast. Everything was dumped on me and I’m the kind of reader who wants things to unveil slowly, and I want that for my characters too. Which made me realize that Miranda Kenneally wrote this book thinking that the reader already knows Maya. I do not. I don’t know Sam and Jordan too, which is why I probably didn’t enjoy this as much as I should have. Sure, you can read JESSE’S GIRL as a standalone but I think you’d enjoy it moreso if you’ve read the previous books in the series.

Moreover, I guess this is just a personal preference but I like my books with beautiful prose. Miranda Kenneally’s storytelling was addicting (heck, I was so sleepy but I didn’t feel sleepy AT ALL after I started JESSE’S GIRL) and I kept on reading but it was too straight-forward for me. Like I said, I want peeling off layers from my characters and from the story.


So, I have a new plan. I’ll read the series in order first, then read this again. I might appreciate it more. So I guess, this rating is a temporary one. Til then!

About Miranda Kenneally

Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Hippo Campus – South Lyrics

three leagues down
the soft side of where you left my
gold rose crown
you broke down and left me with a
chest hum, a black gun, and forty dollars
chest hum, a black gun, and forty dollars

three weeks down
i drowned myself in whiskey
came back round
drowned out and left me with a
chest hum, a black gun, and forty dollars
chest hum, a black gun, and forty dollars

streetlights talk the same way my mother taught me
i walk the same way my father taught me
back straight and chest out just like a soldier
back straight and chest out just like a soldier

wise man talk the same way my mother taught me
i walk the same way my father taught me
back straight and chest out just like a soldier
back straight and chest out just like a soldier

you go down south, south

streetlights talk the same way my mother taught me
i walk the same way my father taught me
back straight and chest out just like a soldier
back straight and chest out just like a soldier

wise man talk the same way my mother taught me
i walk the same way my father taught me
back straight and chest out just like a soldier
back straight and chest out just like a soldier

*I personally transcribed it from this video.

Review: Before & After by Nazarea Andrews

Title: Before & After
Author: Nazarea Andrews
Publisher: A&A Literary
Date of Publication: July 30, 2015
 
Rike and Peyton fell in love in college.
 
A boy from the wrong side of the tracks, covered in ink and crooning in a bar is the last person a straight laced girl with a art major should fall for, but his rough edges made her jagged, alive, shaving away the coddled southern princess and revealing a soul wild and brilliant.
 
They fell in love, despite her family and his past and all the reasons why it wouldn’t work–and with their best friends, they made a life. Everyone was supposed to live happily ever after.
They, more than anyone, knows that life doesn’t go according to plan.
 
Rike and Peyton fell in love in college. A boy with a guitar, and a poet’s heart, and a girl with freckles dusted over her nose, a perfect fucking fairy tale.
 
But what happens when the fairy tale doesn’t fall apart–but is forgotten?
 
Purchase from Amazon | B&N | Kobo
 

 
Review
 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
 
Thank you to Jessica of InkSlinger PR and Nazarea Andrews for the review copy. Receiving one did not affect my views of the novel.

What is it with Nazarea Andrews’ books that just gets me reading? I wasn’t initially planning on reading Before & After because the blurb sounded like your usual NA fare and I’m a bit over my new adult phase. But then that cover just called out to me and I am weak against pretty covers. I went into the book with no expectations, even though I highly enjoyed Girl Lost and Forever Found, Nazarea’s Peter Pan new adult retellings. I don’t know if I liked those because they are Peter Pan-based or because of the writing. With Before & After, I can now attest that Nazarea’s writing just clicks with me.

Like I said, Before & After isn’t something completely fresh and novel and it has the trope I hate the most — amnesia. But surprisingly, as it seems to be the pattern with this book, I didn’t even roll my eyes once with the amnesia. It’s because we’re immediately thrown into the set-up and faced right away with the conflict. This novel is told in two perspectives, Rike’s first POV before Peyton’s amnesia, and Peyton’s after the amnesia. So we get to see how Rike and Peyton fell in love and how they tried to rebuild their relationship when Peyton can’t remember him.

One thing I really appreciated with this novel though is that it touched upon how Rike and his best friend Scott shared a girl during sex. I mean, this is my first one that delved upon it and I am VERY PROUD. I know nothing about this preference but it’s nice that it got exposure in here. In case you’re curious, the steam factor in Before & After is through the roof! Just, prepare your panties!

All in all, Before & After was an entertaining read and one that kept me engaged in its story. Its plot might not be the most novel one out there in the new adult landscape, but it’s still a story I’d recommend contemporary romance fans to read. Nazarea Andrews definitely knows how to write a book I just can’t stop on reading.
 
About Nazarea Andrews
 
Nazarea Andrews (N to almost everyone) is an avid reader and tends to write the stories she wants to read. Which means she writes everything from zombies and dystopia to contemporary love stories. When not writing, she can most often be found driving her kids to practice and burning dinner while she reads, or binging watching TV shows on Netflix. N loves chocolate, wine, and coffee almost as much as she loves books, but not quite as much as she loves her kids. She lives in south Georgia with her husband, daughters, spoiled cat and overgrown dog. She is the author of World Without End series, Neverland Found, Edge of the Falls, and The University of Branton Series. Stop by her twitter (@NazareaAndrews) and tell her what fantastic book she should read next.
 

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