Review: Not The Girls You’re Looking For

Not the Girls You're Looking For

 

Please bear with me during this review. I wanted to like this book so much but in the end it just did not work for me.

Lulu is a biracial Arab-American Muslim teenager going through Ramadan. At the beginning of the book she starts her fasting for the month. While Lulu isn’t a strictly religious Muslim, she does participate in a lot of the customs. She also does like to hook up with boys, party, and drink. The way she did all of those things and how often she did them felt shocking to me. I know it shouldn’t but it did. Maybe things were just different when I was a teenager because I didn’t hook up with boys that often or at all. I did the partying and drinking but it was a rare occurrence for me. And she did all of this while fasting. I’m not a subject matter expert but the drinking did not seem like the best idea since she was only allowed to eat after the sun went down, which equated to one large meal a day. At the same time I’m saying I found some of Lulu’s behavior a bit shocking, I appreciate the author’s candor and honesty. She didn’t shy away from speaking the truth and I appreciate that.

In the same breath, I openly admit that I did not like Lulu as a character. I felt she was a mean, spoiled, ungrateful brat of a girl who was mean for no reason. I get that there was supposed to be a level of unlikeablity to her character but it felt over the top. She was always trash talking, always bullying, always getting away with murder even with her hands covered in blood and the murder weapon in her hand. I had no choice but not like her. And don’t get me started on how she talked to her parents. So disrespectful and they took it! I know that some parents feel their child can do no wrong but come on! She was a bitch to everyone she met. She called them names, slut shammed girls, and talked behind everyone’s back. Not once did Lulu have a moment of self-reflection or a reality check that woke her up to see the error of her ways. She was cruel and rude to everyone simply because people never told her she couldn’t. Nobody told her No.

While I did not like Lulu, one element of this story I did like was the focus on female friendship. I am a huge advocate of females (and everyone, really) having a strong circle of friends. I believe it is very healthy and important. That being said, I don’t understand how Lulu and her group of friends actually stayed friends. They were always calling each other hateful names, talking trash about the other, and they did not feel like they liked each other at all. I was puzzled on that front.

Here is the final point I will make about why I struggled with this book: I failed to figure out the actual plot of the story. This story read like a “Here is what happened during this time in Lulu’s life during Ramadan” narrative. I felt like I was reading a long story where absolutely nothing of importance happened. I kept waiting for some type of controversy or event to take place that put Lulu on a mission-type quest to figure out but it just did not happen. There were many times I would finish well-written lengthy paragraphs that talked about absolutely nothing. So many mundane things were talked about instead – what they ate for lunch, how they picked out their halloween costumes, how they gave each other manicures and braided hair. Not any of this contributed to the overall story.

I’m not sad I read this story but it was absolutely not what I was expecting. When I read that this was supposed to be about friendship and the importance of friendship, I was completely on board. In good faith I cannot say this was a great story. I did like how it gave a little more insight into a Muslim Arab-American family during Ramadan but even that insight was few and far between. I wish it would have focused more on the culture and traditions instead of teenage girls trashing talking everyone and being nasty for no reason.

 

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Review: Orphan Monster Spy

Orphan Monster Spy

 

I was so, so, so excited when I received this book because I’m finally starting to enjoy historical fiction novels. Sadly, there was something missing from this story and I found myself struggling with it.

Short recap: During WWII, Sarah finds herself in a very difficult situation. She is a Jew but has an Aryan appearance. She meets a man, a spy, who recruits Sarah for a mission after her mother is killed. Sarah has never been a spy before but knows this is the only way she can stay alive. Can she successfully infiltrate the Nazi boarding school and learn its secrets?

The characters in this story were very strong. Sarah’s character went through horrific events and how she came out stronger on the other side is still a mystery to me. I’m not sure I could be that brave. But she knew she had no other choice if she wanted to survive. She was clever, sharp witted, and quick on her feet. She adapted to whatever challenge was thrown in front of her. I really enjoyed reading about her. Her connection to the spy that took her in and taught her everything she knew was a special one. She did look up to him like a father-figure and that was endearing. In that day and time, close relationships were very difficult to find.

The setting of the story was masterfully executed. I often felt that I was in the school with Sarah or walking the countryside. It was obvious that the author really did his research. The world building was rich and vibrant.

What I felt was lacking was the actual plot. It felt very thin and stretched for this type of story. Call me selfish but I felt there should have been a little more to it. I know that in real life events like the one in this book happened all of the time and never made news, but it just did not hook me the way it should have. There were still scenes that were almost too brutal and gruesome to read but I pushed through knowing they could have really happened. I won’t shy away from history. However, when the climax of the story happened, I felt slightly let down. I wanted just a little bit more.

Am I upset I read this? Not at all. I’m glad I took a chance. I liked the author’s writing style but it was the thin plot that kept me at arm’s length. Would I recommend? I say yes. Reading more about what happened during this point in history is always fascinating and I encourage that.

 

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Review: My Plain Jane

My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies, #2)

 

It’s official, I am in serious like with this series. I thought My Lady Jane was as good as it was going to get but I take that thought back. My Plain Jane may have been a wee bit better in my eyes. I now need all books like this about all Janes throughout history.

Short recap: Jane Eyre and her best friend, Charlotte Bronte, are students at Lowood School, a deplorable establishment. Jane is keeping a secret – she can see spirits. She has always kept this a secret until someone from the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits realizes what Jane is after she stumbles into a local bar that is rumored to be haunted. Alexander Blackwood comes calling upon Jane to try to persuade her to join SRWS for his own reasons, but the fact she can see ghosts is a huge plus. Jane doesn’t want anything to do with SRWS so she leaves for other employment and things quickly spiral out of control.

I’m not sure how I can properly do this story justice with my meek review. I was a little unsure when the story started out because I wasn’t feeling it until ghosts. I don’t know why that topic always captures my attention but it does. It did not hurt that there was so much wit and one liners that had my busting a gut with laughter. The snark and quick quips had me wishing I could be that quick on my feet.

What did you learn at Lowood school?
Starvation. And the usual maths and history.

This was such a fantastic and clever twist on the original story. How many more descriptive words could I possible use? Brilliant? Marvelous? Delightful? I’m sure I will think of more, give me time. All of the characters, and there were a lot of characters, were so well developed and unique. They all had a flushed backstory and personality.

While I am gushing about this one, I can see where not every reader will jive with it. There were times it seemed a little too much, a little too over the top. Maybe it was for the sake of a chuckle, who is to say. What I can say is that this story worked for me as a reader. I was hooked and had to know what was going to happen. I needed more of the laughs, the snark, the quips, the wit. I loved them. And don’t get me started on the HP references! I nearly lost my shit towards the end when they dropped a HUGE HP reference! Masterful.

No matter what Jane these authors go after next, I’m absolutely there for it.

 

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Review: The Brightsiders

The Brightsiders

 

This was my first Jen Wilde book and I’m here to say that it will not be the last. I cannot say exactly what it was that urged me to use one of my precious Audible credits on this story but I’m ever so glad I did. I went into this blind and I felt that was the best thing.

Short recap: Emmy is a teenage sensation – the drummer for the wildly popular group, The Brightsiders. She is getting used to being in the spotlight but she still struggles with the trashy tabloids and rumors that are always swarming her. Not to mention her toxic relationship with her girlfriend and her even more horrible parents. When an audio is leaked of her breaking up with her girlfriend, Emmy decides she needs to get out of the spotlight for a short time. During this time away, she starts to develop feelings for someone she never knew she had feelings for. Can this fling turn into something more? Can Emmy really pull herself out of her destructive ways and realize that she really is someone worthy of love?

I have nothing but positive and amazing things to say about this story and characters. Everything about this story made me stop and take notice of the author. Not only was the story itself amazing on so many levels, but the writing style was brilliant. I’ll go into more detail on both – let’s start with characters.

Emmy is the protagonist and this poor girl was given one of the crappiest hands of life I have ever witnessed. Her parents completely blame her for their musical careers dying off. Her mother became pregnant and clearly didn’t want a child because that would force her to grow up. Her dad was just as nasty. He was still living in his 15 minutes of fame he had decades ago. In order to still appear youthful and relevant, they threw parties at all times of day regardless of what was going on with their daughter. Those people were horrid and I wish I could have called CPS on them just to have them thrown in jail. They were repulsive. Emmy could have turned out so much worse than she was but thankfully had a somewhat decent head on her shoulders. Not to mention (!!!) she was struggling with how to come out as a bisexual. She struggled because she wanted nothing more than people to like her so she carried fear, guilt, and anxiety that she might let someone down. She was afraid that people would label her as a terrible bi. Could you imagine?! This girl was hiding who she truly was because she was raised to believe that people would always be disappointed in her, always thinking that she wasn’t good enough. My heart shattered for her. I connected with her immediately and on a deep level. I wanted to be friends with her so bad in real life. I wanted to text her, call her, email or Tweet her just to let her know that she was not alone and she was enough… that she would always be enough.

Emmy had the most amazing supporting group of friends, who also happened to be her band mates. They were her rock when she needed, her Jimmy Cricket as well. While her parents were being steaming piles of shit, her friends were there to pick her up, dust her off, and get her back on her feet. My goodness they were a wonderful breath of fresh air. I loved them for how fiercely they loved Emmy. Now as for Emmy’s ex-girlfriend? That waste of space needed a good hard slap of reality and possibly a high five in the face with a chair. She was abusive and manipulative, so naturally I wanted to drop a house on her.

The characters aside, the story itself was marvelous. A story about a girl who was trying to find her place even though she had everything a girl could want – fame, money, and fans. This was a story to remind people that those three things are not always enough for someone to feel accepted and wanted. Emmy fought tooth and nail to find her footing in a crumbing heap that was supposed to be her life. With the amazing and unwavering support of her friends, she eventually found it. This was a quick read of a story and I was sad to see it end. I loved this world and cast of characters. The story was gut wrenching, heart shattering, tear inducing, and swoon worthy.

I am not going to be able to say enough good things about this story. I’m really sorry I didn’t check it out sooner. This blew me away and now I want everyone to read it. Give it a chance, please.

 

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Review: Gunslinger Girl

Gunslinger Girl

 

Y’all. What in the h*ck was this about. The cover screams one genre while the actual story was something completely different. In the end, this was just not for me.

I’m not giving a short recap because I’m not even sure what this story was truly supposed to be about. I thought it was a Wild West type story but instead it was a badly written steampunk-futuristic-carnival. I did not sign up for that at all. The story did start out in the West with gunslingers, stage coaches, and whatnot, but it did not last more than 30 pages. It quickly – and I do mean quickly – morphed into a futuristic Wild West with robots and a corrupt government. Mind you, it was not explained how or why the world became the way that it did, it just did. Don’t ask questions because you won’t get answers.

The story did continue to get stranger and much more disappointing as it went on. The MC was taken in by a traveling carnival and she was forced to become an act. Apparently options for a young girl in that time were very slim with the main option being a baby-making factory. I am not lying when I say that. It was said so many times that a girl/woman was often sent away to have babies. Again, it was not explained why this was such an ordeal (the inability for couples to have babies and whatnot) so don’t ask questions. You have to just scratch your head an accept it.

Ignoring the fact that very little was explained about the setting of this story, the main character was one of the greatest reasons I did not enjoy this story. Her name alone made me want to punch walls: Pity. That’s right – Pity. It is short for Serendipity. Of all of the possibilities she could have gone with, she chose… Pity. What in the ever loving h*ck. She was so far from what I expected her character to be it made my head spin. The cover clearly shows her being an all around bada$$ and being able to handle herself. In the story that could not have been farther from the truth. She basically was scared of her own shadow. She was painfully immature and was living in the shadow of her mother who was a bada$$. She was always mentally psyching herself up to do a show or whatever, but in real life she was meek and cowardly. She could talk a mean game but she just could not ever back it up. It was maddening.

think there was a a romance within the pages of this book but I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it. I really had no clue what was going on or why I should even care. The plot was not very clear, the world was not developed at all, and the characters were not flushed out. How can I care about a story that isn’t pieced together well?

I am an avid audiobook reader so when I say this, it is because it played a significant factor as to why I did not like the book as much as I hoped. Yes, the points listed above are on that list, but there is one more: the audiobook narrator. The narrator was just not the right voice for this story. I believe I knew what she was trying to convey as a narrator but she clearly hit the mark. She was just not good with an accent and I’m not even sure it was necessary for this story. I don’t know when producers will understand that a narrator can truly make or break an audiobook.

I had such high hopes for this book but walked away absolutely disappointed. This was not the story I wanted nor was it one I cared about. I did give it a shot but it let me down in every way a book could let me down.

 

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Review: Save The Date

Save the Date

 

If there is one thing I love about the contemporary genre – it is Morgan Matson books. This girl knows how to write! Just in time for the wedding season, her latest book is one you don’t want to miss.

Short recap: The Grant family is a force to be reckoned with and one that nearly everyone knows. The family has been immortalized in comic form as the mom chose to put her family’s antics into syndication and share with the world. The youngest Grant, Charlie, has a hard time letting go and moving on, however. She is the last sibling at home and loves her family time. With her big sister’s wedding just days away, Charlie is thrilled at the idea of the family being together one last time before her childhood house is sold. What could go wrong with everyone in town? Everything, apparently.

Not to sound too cliche but there wasn’t much about this story that I didn’t enjoy. It was a roller coaster of chaos and mishaps that on times felt like too much. There is no way everything within a wedding could go wrong the way it did in this story. Sure, it was probably for the sake of humor and/or moving the story along, but there was a point where it felt like a little too much. What did cause me to give the higher rating to the overall story (4.5 stars) was the fact that this story was presented in all of its wonder with little to no love story involved! How can that happen? It’s a Morgan Matson story! I know it may be hard to believe but it’s true! Sure, Charlie’s character does have a boy she is crushing on and he does have a presence (obviously) but that isn’t the focus of the story. Family and friends stay the focal point and I thought that was brilliant.

This was completely a character driven story and it was done marvelously. Charlie was the youngest and last Grant to leave the family nest. She was having a hard time at the thought of another family living in her home but she doesn’t have a voice in the matter. She will soon be leaving to go to college and move on with her life. It was kind of crappy the way her siblings always expected her to solve their problems. But on the opposite side of that coin, Charlie never did stand up to her siblings to tell them that they would have to take care of themselves at some point. It felt like Charlie over-extended herself and scarified herself to make everyone else happy. That doesn’t ever end well. She does grow and have a great character arc throughout the story so never fear.

Although this is a big book and a long audio, it does fly by quickly. Why? Because it never slows down! There is always, and I do mean always, something happening. Whether it was the house alarm always going off, the neighbor claiming that things were too noisy, the war with the snotty papergirl not delivering papers, or the Journey cover band, it was a non-stop adventure. I know that seems like the wrong way to describe this story but it sort of was. I was addicted and could not wait to see what crazy thing happened next.

Do I recommend this to people? ABSOLUTELY. I loved every minute. This author is an auto-buy for me and always will be. I have yet to read a book of hers that I did not enjoy. This story pulled at my heartstrings and made me say, “AWWWW!” several times. If you have not read this already, please add it to your TBR and read as soon as you can. This was worth the time.

 

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Review: American Panda

American Panda

 

This little gem of a book caught me off guard. I am surprised I haven’t heard more buzz about it. I found it to be utterly delightful, insightful, and hilarious!

Short recap: Mei is a Taiwanese-American teenager trying to live up to the expectations of her Taiwanese parents while being true to her American side as well. It should be no surprise that this is not an easy task for Mei. Her parents skipped her a grade in school and she is attending MIT at the age of 17. Her parents have dreams of her becoming a doctor all the while ignoring the fact that Mei has a thing about germs. She also has a crush on someone her family would not approve of because he is not Taiwanese nor a doctor. How is Mei going to navigate this imperative year of her youth so she can make herself happy and respect her family?

From the first page I knew I was going to fall head over heels for Mei – and I did! She was a brilliant character. She was deeply flawed and wonderfully complex. I immediately felt for her and wanted to be friends with her. I wanted to give her a hug to let her know that at some point things would work out. The poor struggles this girl went through… the guilt and shame! Throughout everything, she still kept her whit and kindness. She always knew what she wanted to do but having the courage to stand up to her parents was something else. I loved reading her development as the story continued. She was just delightful to read.

I hope this does not come across the wrong way but I feel I learned a lot about the Taiwanese culture and some customs from this story. I had no idea so much was required of children! It really helped open my eyes, that’s for sure. Sure, it was fun to laugh at how crazy Mei’s mom came across but I have a strong feeling a lot of Taiwanese children live that daily and they are not laughing. I think the humor was a nice way of helping the story move forward. I’m not making light of anything – please know that. Mei’s mom and her reactions to things really was humorous at times.

I am not going to be able to write enough positive things about this book. In the end, it really is about a girl finding her hidden strength to stand up for herself to her over-bearing parents. Well, most of us would find them over-bearing, Mei and girls like Mei deal with it on the daily. I loved Mei and her story. I loved her path to self discovery. I loved the story of how important family is and how important they are in our lives. I loved reading about the culture. I loved everything about this book. My only regret is that I didn’t read it sooner.

 

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