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BOOK REVIEW: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

BOOK REVIEW: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-BrokaIf I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberley
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.

In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…

But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.

It’s hardly an uncommon thought here. Cameron Bright is a bitch … If every glare I earned, or didn’t earn but received nonetheless, bother me, I’d drown in the judgment.

If I’m Being Honest, the second book from Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, is a very loose retelling of The Taming of the Shrew/10 Things I Hate About You. Cameron is a mix of the Bianca and Kat characters and I suppose Brendan is somewhat like Patrick, but really, it is very loosely related. This retelling really focuses on a popular girl, a nerdy gaming boy and a whole cast of side characters.

I just want to start off by saying I love Cameron Bright. She is one of my favorite MC in YA books, all genres. She says exactly what she’s thinking to almost everyone (except her dad, but more on that later), and has no problem with people seeing her as a bitch. She has several close friends and is well-known around school. However, being from a lower social economic family than many of her classmates, Cameron strives to be the best at anything she does and controls what she can, as not everything in her life, especially her family life, does she even have an ounce of control.

After an unfortunate incident at a party involving Andrew and Paige, Cameron is desperate to show the school, and Andrew, that she is indeed not a bitch and goes out of her way to make up for past incidents. This starts with Paige, the girl who was part of the incident at the party, and her brother, Brendan.

As you can probably guess, as Cameron begins to hang out with Paige’s friends (and Brendan), her priorities in life start to shift. She begins to see other possibilities for her future, which she struggles to accept. She also struggles to balance her old life and this new one she is creating, and it ends up creating more conflict in life, even as she’s trying so hard to help and be nicer to everyone. Of course, she stumbles and reverts back to her natural tendencies, but Cameron never apologizes for being herself or realizing there are areas she could improve.

I don’t remove my hand. I follow him into the market, wondering for the second time what this is to him. He was just talking about going over to another girl’s house, I remind myself. But the way my hand feels in his, I’m having a really, really hard time convincing myself this isn’t a date.

I’m really happy how slowly Brendan and Cameron’s relationship came together. There were a lot of wonderful small moments that built into something beautiful. I especially loved their bonding after his father speaking to him about his grades. It really showed how both of them felt compelled to go a certain way in life due to family expectations, even if it wasn’t what they wanted at all. And speaking of families, my heart broke for Cameron regarding the relationship with her parents. Cameron is so desperate for any scrap of attention for her father, who knowingly and cruelly denies her. In her anger, Cameron often takes it out on her mother, who is battling her own issues. It’s heartbreaking all around and I was happy to see the seriousness of it juxtaposed with the rest of this happy book.


Overall, I really enjoyed this book and definitely liked it more than Always Never Yours. As I said before, I absolutely adored Cameron and liked so many of the other side characters. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a lot of resolution with Cameron and her “popular” friends at the end, but sometimes that’s how life is I guess. If you are looking for a funny and cute YA contemporary with not-quite-enemies-but-not-friends to lovers theme, this is a book for you.

“I’ve been trying this week not to pressure you into anything you didn’t want. But I’ve known what I want for a long time. Don’t ever doubt this, Cameron. I’m crazy about you. You, with your fierce intelligence and extraordinary talent. You, with your uncompromising opinions. And I want you to know it. I’m desperate for you to know it.”

BLOG TOUR + REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: She’s the Worst by Lauren Spieller

BLOG TOUR + REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: She's the Worst by Lauren Spieller

BLOG TOUR + REVIEW + GIVEAWAY: She’s the Worst by Lauren SpiellerShe's the Worst Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Sisters April and Jenn haven’t been close in years. Jenn’s toobusy with school, the family antique shop, and her boyfriend, and April would rather play soccer and hang out with the boy next door.But when April notices her older sister is sad about staying home for college, she decides to do something about it. The girls set off to revive a pact they made as kids: spend an epic day exploring the greatest hits of their childhood and all that Los Angeles has to offer.Then April learns that Jenn has been keeping a secret that could rip their family—and their feuding parents—apart. With only one day to set things right, the sisters must decide if their relationship is worth saving, or if the truth will tear them apart for good.

Review:

Thank you to the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who has just one younger brother (who I get along with great, just FYI), I have always wondered what life would have been like if I had a sister. I had friends who had various levels of closeness with their sisters and have always been fascinated by the sisterly dynamic. I guess that’s why I also enjoy reading books/watching shows (or movies) that also focus on this unique sibling bond and was really excited for She’s the Worst.

She’s the Worst takes place over the course of a few days, from the perspectives of sisters April and Jenn. April plans a day of touring their hometown (Los Angeles) in hopes of rehabbing their relationship before Jenn leaves for college elsewhere in their state. There’s a few side characters (being a few boys and Jenn’s friends, Katie and Shruthi), but for the most part, the focus is on April and Jenn (and their parents).

This is a really cute and quick read and overall, I really enjoyed it. Both April and Jenn felt real and their struggles were both personal and easily relatable. A lot of both girls’ personalities and decisions are influenced by the toxic relationship between their still married parents. Their parents are constantly arguing, in front of Jenn and April, as well as their antique store customers, which causes April and Jenn to react in different ways. This leads to resentment between the sisters that I feel would have not been between the sisters otherwise.

Unfortunately, their broken relationship is based on a lot of external forces and lack of communication between them. They have separate interests, but as April attempts to pick landmarks throughout LA, she hopes to show Jenn how much they had in common and repair years of damage.

I’m certainly not from LA, but considering I vacation there just a few months ago, I definitely knew a few of the landmarks, which was enjoyable. I’m sure it’s even better for those more local to the area.

The reasons I took away a star are fairly mild: 1.) As much as I liked both girls, I did find both of them to be a bit immature, which was frustrating at various points of the story. There’s a lot miscommunication, which just continues to make things worse. And while I understand the family dynamics were so royally messed up, I still would have liked a bit more growth and maturity from each sister, considering there are some other heavy topics mentioned in the book. And 2.) The romance angle for April felt a bit jammed in. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked the boy April ends up with and enjoyed what he added, but for a book that was very much focused on a sisterly relationship taking place over a very short time frame, I’m just not sure a big romance for April was needed in the book. I would have liked it to take a little more a backburner approach to this plotline.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It has a lot of great themes about the unique bond between sisters, dealing with negative family dynamics, shouldering expectations from those closest to us, and the importance of communicating intentionally and honestly with those you love. It was perfectly wrapped up and I was satisfied with the book overall. This was my first Lauren Spieller novel and I look forward to what she writes next!

To see a full tour schedule, please click on the banner or here!

*******

Favorite Quotes: 

Whatever this moment is, we need to get out of it and back to neutral territory. Because the urge I have to take his and also run in the opposite direction at the same time? It is not working for me.

*

The only thing I never prepared for was the one thing I should have seen coming: that in the end, my parents would do what they always do. They’d put themselves first.

*

“Say it again.”

“I want to be with you,” he says.

My breath catches in my chest. “Again, please.”

He laughs. “April, I want to be with you. I want to be with—”

*

“You can’t just expect people to read your mind. You have to talk to them. You also have to give them a chance to be there for you.”

*

I wanted her to stay because I needed her, and I wanted that to matter. I wanted to be reason enough.

Giveaway:

✮ Enter to win 1 of 2 finished copies of She’s the Worst by Lauren Spieller (US ONLY)

August 28, 2019 – September 16, 2019

A rafflecopter giveaway

About Lauren Spieller:

Lauren Spieller is an author and literary agent who lives in New York with her husband. When she isn’t writing, she can be found drinking lattes, pining for every dog she sees, or visiting her native California. She is the author of Your Destination is on the Left and She’s the Worst. Follow her on Twitter @laurenspieller and Instagram @laurenspieller. You can also visit her website at www.laurenspieller.com

Photo Cred: Dave Cross Photography

 

BOOK REVIEW: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark

BOOK REVIEW: Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia HardstarkStay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The highly anticipated first book by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the #1 hit podcast My Favorite Murder!

Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation.

In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.

Alright, I know we don’t review a lot of non-fiction on this blog, especially true-crime related fiction. But I thought I’d spice things up a little bit with something different from our usual genres, as I occasionally dip my toes into non-fiction.

We barely get any time on this planet. Do not spend it pleasing other people. Fuck politeness. Live life exactly how you want to live it so you can love the life you make for yourself.

I’m joining the other couple of voices in the minority and saying, sadly, this book was a miss for me. Let me also preface this review by also saying I am a long-time listener of the podcast and have seen them live twice.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book, as K&G had said this would be more of memoir than a true crime book. Fine – I don’t mind a good celebrity memoir. But to call it a memoir wouldn’t be quite accurate. It was closer to a set of essays, with some self-help and true crime anecdotes thrown in there. There was a very small structure to the book, but honestly, it jumped all around and felt very random at times (This was especially true with Karen’s latchkey guide essay. That was something…).

The book is a very quick read. You could easily finish it in a few sittings. It’s written very informally, in a way that’s meant to emulate their speaking style. Sometimes it would work, but more often that not, I felt it landed pretty flatly. For as much as K&G make me chuckle on the podcast, I don’t recall laughing too much through this. Honestly, I laughed a lot more reading Scrappy Little Nobody than I did this, though this specific line made me chuckle:

The foresty sounds of the forest and the crackle of the bonfire slowly dying lulling us to sleep. The animals and serial killers tucking in for the night nearby.

And for a book based around/inspired by true crime, the true crime was pretty sparse. The strongest chapters, in my opinion, were the ones about Georgia’s family camping escapades and Karen’s advice/recalling Michelle McNamara in chapter 8. I also enjoyed (sorry if that’s not the right word, but that’s what I’m going with) the stories about Georgia’s photoshoot, Karen’s dealings with her mother’s Alzheimer’s and Karen’s thoughts on Scientology and LA.

Overall, I’m glad I read it but also glad I made the decision not to buy it. I certainly can’t see myself re-reading it. And while you certainly don’t need to be a fan of the podcast to read the book, I think it really is for the fans.

I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way, but I feel the book reflects the direction the podcast has taken: it’s more about their lives and social topics, rather than murder stories. The “favorite murders” seem to be almost an after thought some weeks. Which is fine, if that’s what they want to do. But for those of us who started following K&G for their unique perspective on the darkest aspects of life, it’s been a slightly disappointing pivot. I’m going to keep following along, as every time I get close to moving on, they put out an amazing episode and I remember why I loved them in the first place.

Sorry for my slight rambling, but I haven’t had any place to put these thoughts down, so here I am. If you are still with me, thank you.

We’re all crazy and scared and searching. No one gets to use that against you. It’s not proof you’re broken, it’s proof you’re human.

BOOK REVIEW: Coral by Sara Ella

BOOK REVIEW: Coral by Sara EllaCoral by Sara Ella
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

There is more than one way to drown.

Coral has always been different, standing out from her mermaid sisters in a society where blending in is key. Worse yet, she fears she has been afflicted with the dreaded Disease, said to be carried by humans—emotions. Can she face the darkness long enough to surface in the light?

Above the sea, Brooke has nothing left to give. Depression and anxiety have left her feeling isolated. Forgotten. The only thing she can rely on is the numbness she finds within the cool and comforting ocean waves. If only she weren’t stuck at Fathoms—a new group therapy home that promises a second chance at life. But what’s the point of living if her soul is destined to bleed?

Merrick may be San Francisco’s golden boy, but he wants nothing more than to escape his controlling father. When his younger sister’s suicide attempt sends Merrick to his breaking point, escape becomes the only option. If he can find their mom, everything will be made right again—right?

When their worlds collide, all three will do whatever it takes to survive, and Coral might even catch a prince in the process. But what—and who—must they leave behind for life to finally begin?

Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale, Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

“You’re too emotional for your own good. Dramatic. Sensitive. Let those feelings hook you, and you’ll end up just. Like. Her. Sunken and unsalvageable.”

I wanted to like this book so much. I really did. This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. The description made it sound so good: A twist on The Little Mermaid, with the focus on mental health and wellness? Awesome, sign me up.

Unfortunately, it fell flat and ended up reading a little more like an afternoon special, rather than a nuanced look at mental health. For fair warning, there is a lot of discussion around attempting and characters dying by suicide in various manners. If this is a trigger for you, please avoid this book and this review. I’m also doing my best to use the most correct language possible, but if there is something I missed and should be corrected, please let me know!

But first, let me say that the beginning was awesome. We are immediately introduced to Coral, a mermaid living with her family under the sea. She has two sisters, a father and a grandmother. She is especially close to her eldest sister and grandmother, while her middle sister and father are more abrasive. As part of this world, mermaids are taught not to be too emotional, because if they allow their emotions to become too much, then the red tide will come and turn them to sea foam. Coral struggles with her emotions, especially in the wake of her sister’s death from the red tide. Her grandmother then whisks her away to the mortal world, where she wants to hunt down the human boy who made her sister fall in love with him and then broke her heart.

Meanwhile, we meet two humans: Brooke, who is in a mental health facility after attempting suicide and surviving. Here, she meets a great cast of characters, including a younger girl named Hope. We also meet Merrick, a teenage boy who is overwhelmed by his rich father’s expectations and the mental health struggles of his sister, Amaya. After Amaya attempts suicide and Merrick’s mother disappears, Merrick kidnaps his sister away from his father and takes her to stay with a friend in small coastal town south of San Francisco (I believe Monterey, which might be my favorite city in California as a personal side note). Here, Merrick struggles to provide for him and Amaya, as well as track down his mother.

It was a strange feeling. Longing for something she’d never have again. Hoping for the past, while at once realizing there was nothing she could do to change it.

So now that you know the characters, let’s talk plot. I thought the first 50% was really good. It was a lot of setup, but I liked all three major characters and was invested in each of their struggles. After this halfway point is where things began to fall apart for me. The biggest turning point was when Coral met Merrick on land (they have a brief meeting with her as a mermaid earlier in the book). There was a time jump and very little was explained (at the time) about how/why Coral was in school, when she was only on land to find her sister’s “prince.” And why did Merrick say he would help her find a “prince”? It’s a strange term to use and no character ever questioned it.

While the writing is good, the dialogue didn’t really sound like teenagers and a lot of the actions seemed to not be highly realistic either. There is a bit of insta-love (which I loathe) and some of the characters are deeply in love without a lot build up to it. I wasn’t invested in the love story at all, despite liking each character individually when I first met them. We get a lot of tell, not show, and it was frustrating. There’s also a surprise reveal about 60% of the way through, but if you’re paying attention, it’s fairly obvious. I didn’t have a problem with this reveal, other than I really like the story and world building that had been done with this storyline and was sad to see it mostly go away.

The ending was far from rushed. If anything, it was dragged out longer than it needed to be. And while I absolutely agree on how important mental health is, and I hope this book truly helps others who may be struggling, I felt like I was getting hit in the head over and over with inspirational messages. For example:

“No one would ever tell a cancer patient to ‘just get over it.’ Why people think they can tell those with a mental illness as much is baffling.”

This is such an important message, but it is continually spelled out word for word, over and over again. Nuance is not used here and while I’m inclined to believe this was intentional on the author’s part, I almost felt like I was reading materials from a seminar or class.

Overall, I feel a 3.5/5 rating is fair. I really enjoyed some aspects of this book and found the topic to be quite important, but felt the execution could have been better and less after school special, especially as the book wrapped up.

“You’re not nothing either,” I tell her. “I guess that makes us both something.”

Coral will be released on November 12, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: Mine by Courtney Cole

BOOK REVIEW: Mine by Courtney ColeMine Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Tessa was prepared for the hurricane. Lindsey was the storm she didn’t see coming.

When Tessa Taylor unlocked her husband Ethan’s iPad to discover nude photos from a twenty-six-year-old bombshell named Lindsey, her seemingly perfect life came to a screeching halt.

With a hurricane barreling toward Florida and Ethan stuck on a business trip, Tessa finds herself imprisoned in her own home with a choice to make: Does she ride out the storm until she can confront Ethan in person, or does she take matters into her own hands?

Increasingly restless and desperate for revenge, Tessa resolves to act. And when she lures Lindsey over a few hours later, there’s no turning back.

What ensues is a battle of wills between two well-matched opponents, blinded by love for the same man but driven by demons of their own. Like storm-ravaged Florida, neither woman will be the same when the skies clear.

What have I just done? What am I going to do?

Mine, by Courtney Cole, is such a good quick read. I seriously finished it in a few hours over two sittings. I couldn’t put it down.

Mine is told through alternating perspectives: Tess, Ethan’s wife and mother of his children, and Lindsey, Ethan’s younger mistress. Lindsey is also a mother, but her son is living with her mother while she figures out her life.

As with many thrillers, the timeline jumps around. I believe most of Tess’s chapters are told in the present, while Lindsey’s are told in the past and focus on how she and Ethan began their relationship and how it progressed.

He calls her babe, too. I stand still, and the room swirls around me, the wooden floor, the chandeliers, the lightning, the thunder, the rain. I stand frozen with my husband’s traitorous words in my hands.

In the present day, the book follows the events of one night. Once Tess discovers Ethan has been cheating on her (he is away for work), she invites Lindsey over to confront her over the affair during a hurricane. For the most part, Lindsey is fairly unapologetic about the whole situation. She knew Ethan was married and didn’t care. She blamed Tess for why the marriage fell apart and thought Ethan would be the perfect addition to her and her son.

If you read The Last Mrs. Parrish, you’ll see some similar moments/themes. However, outside of the idea of two women fighting over one man, I don’t think they were that similar.

Everything is fairly wrapped up by the end and I was happy with the conclusion. Mine definitely falls more into the thriller category over a mystery. As I said at the top, this was a quick and thrilling read and I enjoyed it a lot.

Her face is a frozen mask, and my heart is a block of ice. We are at a stalemate, with nowhere to go.

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