ARC Review: Frankly In Love

Frankly in Love

This book slayed me. I mean… GUTTED me in the best way possible. Do not let this simple cover fool you – this book has been sent to destroy you. I’m going to do my best to give you a spoiler free review. Enjoy!

Frank Li wanted to find love and not with a girl that his parents pick for him. He had his eyes set on one in particular but she would never have his parents’ approval. So what does a good son like Frank do? He fakes a relationship with a girl his parents do approve of so he can pseudo-date the girl he really wants to date. What could possibly go wrong?

While this seemed like a simple book of “boy who wants to find love”, it is anything but that. The story that lies in between the pages of David Yoon’s debut will leave you in tears. Yoon tackled topics like racial profiling, privilege, culture, and more. He took a hard look at these hard hitting and sensitive topics and presented them with the grace and beauty they deserved. It was nothing short of masterful.

Frank Li, the protagonist in this story, was complex, gritty, real, flawed, and relatable. He was nothing more than an dork with a solid best friend that would help him hide a dead body if necessary who thought he knew what he wanted out of love and life, but life had other plans for him. He had moments where he was serious, others where his wit had me in tears with laughter, and yet more where he couldn’t say something without sticking his foot in his mouth. I wanted nothing more than to be his friend in real life. He was brilliant.

There really is so much I want to say about this book but I cannot because I won’t give anything away. GAH – it is SO DANG GOOD. Please, please get this when it comes out! I need people to gush with! It will leave you a bit spell-bound, wonder struck, and wondering how the hell this could be Yoon’s debut. The author writes like he’s done this a billion times before. This was everything I never knew I needed in a book.

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Review: There’s Something About Sweetie

There's Something About Sweetie (Dimple and Rishi, #2)

It is no secret that I have had a rough relationship with Menon’s books. Either I was not in the right mood to read them or I was just not the right reader. Either way, I adore the author and chose to give her third book a chance. I’m happy to say I did enjoy this more than the first two but I still had some issues with it.

The main thing I want to point out about this novel is that it was a wonderful and important #ownvoices book. The diversity found within the pages was outstanding. The protagonist, Sweetie, was excellent, powerful, and strong. She felt like a motivational leader, one that could inspire young readers to stand fast in their beliefs and know their self worth. While she was strong, she was still very insecure. I don’t know if that was included simply to move the story along and make her come across more relateable but it felt like that was all she did in her own head was comment about her body size. But to her friends and family, she was outspoken and confident about her size… so which was it? I know that may seem minor but it stood out in my head.

As for the rest of the characters, not so much. I did not enjoy Ashish’s character much. He did not feel genuine in my eyes. Everything he did and said felt forced, choppy, unbelievable, and just downright extreme. His POV chapters had me rushing to get through them because I wanted to hear from Sweetie’s POV instead. Ashish and the forced love triangle with his ex was not necessary. I saw everything about that hot mess coming a mile away.

This was a super quick and fluffy read so there was not much slowing the pace down. I already mentioned the unnecessary plot with the ex and I found myself mentally drifting away when that topic came up. I did not care what happened because it had been played out hundreds of times in other books. One part of the book that I would have liked to know more about was Sweetie’s mom’s history. Maybe a little more info on her backstory would have helped explain why she was so incredibly hung up on Sweetie’s weight. I get the, “I want what is best for you!” mentality, but there had to be a deeper reason why her mom was focused on her daughter’s weight in a negative way.

While I enjoyed this more than the first two books, I still could not fall madly in love with it. I tried, I really did. I had my issues, I rolled my eyes a lot, I shook my head. I won’t be highly recommending to anyone but I won’t push someone away from it either. It fell somewhere near the “meh, it was alright” on my lists. I believe I will still continue to read Menon’s books, hoping that the next one I read hits me right in the feels.

Review: How To Make Friends With The Dark

How to Make Friends with the Dark

After reading Girl in Pieces by Glasgow and meeting her in person, I knew I would forever read anything she wrote. This author has the ability to write from a deep place within her soul that speaks directly to my soul. There were times I felt she was talking directly to me or speaking about my life because I had experienced so many of these emotions, thoughts, and feelings. This book left me in tears and am grateful it is out in the world.

This was the story of Tiger and how she learned to navigate the rough waves of emotion, loss, grief, depression and so much more after the loss of her mother. The life before her mother’s passing was all Tiger knew, but now she needed to find a new way to survive. She found a way and it was not all pretty. It was gritty, dirty, gut wrenching, beautiful, powerful, and heart breaking.

It cannot and will not ever be easy to write grief into a book. Those are incredibly specific emotions that are either done right or done wrong – there is no in between. Glasgow did this book right. I speak from the experience of having lost both of my parents, both were taken too soon. That was why I related and connected to Tiger on a much deeper level than I had imaged possible. While this story brought up some rather painful memories and emotions, it was such a moving story that I could not stop reading. I had to know what happened to Tiger. I wanted so much for her. I wanted to give her a hug, a warm meal, a warm bed, shelter, kind words, whatever she needed.

The main thing that stood out to me about this emotional book was the honesty within the pages. Glasgow did not shy away from true feelings her character was going through. Tiger’s character was battling depression, suicidal thoughts, helplessness, being shuffled from foster home to foster home, and a lot of other mental health issues. None of those are easy topics but again, Glasgow handled them with the care and grace they deserved. She did not add them to the story simply for shock factor. She addressed them and gave them the attention they needed.

You all know me by now – that when I love a book it is difficult for me to write a review. This really is no different. I loved every word and would not trade one tear of what went through (while reading the book and in real life) for something easier. Tiger’s character was supposed to go through trials and tribulations to come out stronger on the other side, as did I. If you have been thinking about reading this one, this is me pushing you over the edge to read it. It won’t be an easy read but my goodness it is worth it.

ARC Review: Hello Girls

Hello Girls

I want to ask for your forgiveness up front. I know this review will be a struggle for me to write as I loved this book with every ounce of my being and will trip over my words. I know I will not be able to properly express my thoughts & feelings in the right way so please have patience with me.

This was the story of two girls from different social circles and backgrounds who found their way to each other and formed the most concrete bond imaginable. Winona was the daughter of the city’s beloved weatherman, Stormy. While he may portray the picture perfect and doting father, what goes on behind closed doors would make skin crawl. Lucille had to grow up too fast. Her mother and brother were basically worthless and if it wasn’t for Lucille, nothing would be taken care of. When both have reached the end of their sanity, they wind up at the same place at the same time and immediately spark a friendship. These two have no idea how important the other will become to them. Determined to break free from the horrors they are individually living, they leave town with nothing more than a few bucks, a boat load of sarcasm, and a Can Do! attitude. What happens to them along the way will only prove that what doesn’t kill them will only make them stronger. Deeper in or dead.

I had no idea I could ship a friendship as hard as I do this one. These were two of the most amazing characters I have read in a very, very long time. While both were from completely different backgrounds and could not be more opposite if they tried, they worked. Hot diggity damn they worked. The were the ying to the other’s yang. I could not get enough of them. Both Winona and Lucille were deeply complex and beautifully flawed. They felt like two girls I would give my left arm to be friends with. While they had gone through hell and back at too young of an age, they still kept a sharp wit about them. They were not afraid to realize nobody was going to save them but themselves.

There are trigger warnings that should be mentioned: abuse (both physical and verbal), manipulation, drug use, murder

That being said, the plot of this story was mind blowing in the best way possible. It was action packed and fast paced. I am not going to give anything away because I want you to read it.

I devoured this book in two days and it pained me to have to stretch it that long. I almost called in sick to work just so I could stay home to read this one. Mother of Pearl I was invested hook, line, and sinker. This book had every ounce of me and never let go. Heck, I’m still thinking about this one!

Please, please, please add this to your TBR now. It releases soon and I urge you to get a copy on release day. You will NOT be disappointed! I need someone to gush with about this iconic duo!

ARC Review: Slay

SLAY

Have you ever come across one of those books that sounds like it will be exactly what you’ve been looking for but once you read it, you feel as if it let you down? That was me with this book. Perhaps it was my fault for putting it on a pedestal but I walked away disappointed with this story.

Seventeen year old Kiera has a huge, HUGE secret: She was the creator and developer of the wildly popular online role-playing computer game, Slay. Slay was her brain child that incorporated anything and everything relating to her African American culture and roots. Kiera escaped into Slay where her identity remains secret and she was able to escape the craziness of the everyday. She had every reason to be proud of her creation, until it became the focus of slander after one of the members of Slay was brutally murdered in his sleep. Suddenly all eyes are on the game, going so far as to say it is “racist” because only African American people are allowed to set up profiles and play. Silently she tried to wrestle with her thoughts/feelings/emotions of how her game could be considered “racist” all while her long time boyfriend, Malcolm, believed video games were “partially responsible for the downfall of the Black man”. How can Kiera keep her two worlds apart when they are violently crashing together?

I was driven to this book for several reasons – I mean the premise alone of a girl gamer had my full attention. What I was not prepared for was the amount of repetitiveness found within the pages of the book. I am willing to bet that 30% or more of this book is nothing but repeating what had already been said just pages before. There was so much reiterated that I found myself skimming HUGE chunks of chapters and never missed anything important. It could have been wildly descriptive paragraphs that did not describe anything important to the story but they took up pages and pages doing nothing more than adding length to an already wordy novel. If you mixed that with Kiera’s constant need to internally rehash arguments with herself, you’ve got a lot of what could be considered wasted space. I get that there was a lot of pondering and wondering and questioning going on with Kiera and her game, but there was no real need to say the same things every couple of pages. Was it to remind the reader of what took place just minutes ago or was there another true reason for it? I may never know but I know skipping did not hinder my ability to follow the story.

That being said, I felt the characters were also lacking substance. I found the side characters, Steph (Kiera’s sister) and Cicada (Kiera’s moderator in Slay), were the most interesting. I really wish they both had larger parts because they seemed the most energetic. There was far too much forced drama between the rest of the characters. It could have been removed because the “tension” was not necessary. The one character I despised the most was Malcolm. That boy reeked of bad news like nobody’s business. He had so much built up aggression that he seemed like he was a reject from a Spike Lee movie. I applauded him for having so much love for his race and culture, but Malcolm took it too far.

The story had moments of being face paced but all of the rehashing and repeating made me quickly lose interest. I did finish but I was not excited about it. The big reveal before the final pages was a surprise but not enough to make me change my mind or feelings about what I read. It was not enough to save this book. The ending felt super rushed, as if Morris had five pages to fit everything into it and make it pretty. It all felt too perfect and not believable. Again, I skimmed and skipped a lot because I really wanted to be done with this. I’m not upset that I read it but I’m disappointed with what I read.

Review: Toffee

Toffee

This will probably be a quick review as this was a super quick yet incredibly powerful read. I have yet to read a Sarah Crossan book that didn’t shatter me on every level.

I have to state that there are TRIGGER WARNINGS within this story: abuse, domestic violence, mental illness. That being said, these topics are tough, raw, and hard to read, but they were handled with the utmost care and delicacy. They were not thrown in to help move the story along, they were necessary and beautifully woven into the story in a way that made the story heart-warming yet gut-wrenching at the same time.

Allison’s character was complex, well developed, and believable. I swear Allison was someone I could have known in real life, someone I could have grown up living down the street from. I want nothing more than to be able to help her with a kind word, a hug, or something more. Either way, she was utterly amazing and I connected with her from page one.

The overall story was so full of emotion that I could not turn the pages fast enough. I just had to know what happened to Allison and the lonely lady, Marla. Their story gripped me and never let me go. While this was a gripping and unafraid story, it was not for the faint of heart. I cannot stress that enough – there were some pages/chapters that were downright horrific to read, but that did not make them any less important. Everything in this story was raw and I loved it. I am upset that I did not read this sooner.

I will forever be a Crossan fan and I will urge everyone to read her books. Nearly all of them are written in verse and will stay with you for a very long time (in the best way possible). Please give this a chance if you have not already.

ARC Review: Heartwood Box

Heartwood Box

**I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.**

This was blurbed to be Stranger Things meets The Lake House. How does a reader say no to something like that?! Sign me up! It was a valid description, however, the overall story itself felt messy, jumbled, and crammed with too many side stories. I was confused as to what the overall focus of the story was supposed to be. I read sci-fi, contemporary, mystery/thriller, and coming of age. Make up your mind! This would have been so much better as either a sci-fi or mystery/thriller, but certainly not all four genres forced into one.

The contemporary side of the story lacked any real emotion or depth. I never felt a romantic connection between Araceli, the protagonist, and the random boy she was writing letters to. It came across as insta-love and we all know how I feel about that topic. If this had been a contemporary by itself, I would have DNFd without giving a second thought.

The mystery/thriller side of the story was lacking as well because I never felt a sense of urgency. I never felt that Araceli and her group of stereotypical friends were ever in any danger. They were disappearing but I was more curious about why but I wasn’t loosing sleep over this question.

This story had potential but the execution was what ruined it for me. The story had no flow whatsoever. The conversations between character felt forced and awkward. I found myself skipping and skimming a lot of the dialogue just so I could get through this. By the time I got to the end of the story, I was so disappointed. The ending felt rushed and unfulfilling.

I was not able to connect to any of the characters as they felt shallow and undeveloped. I didn’t know their likes, dislikes, characteristics, or anything substantial. I only knew the basic information on Araceli so I could not ever get behind her or her actions. Everything that the characters were good at felt convenient. There is a dance team at the new school Araceli attends and it’s the peak of popularity? Oh good! Because Araceli happens to be amazing at dancing. There are a lot of people disappearing in this new town that Araceli moved to? Swell! Her parents happen to be investigative reporters and know their way around war zones so she knows just what to do! Give me a break. Solutions just came too easy and they were not believable at all.

I am not upset that I read this book, I adore this author, but the overall story that I read was not what I expected.