Friday, June 23, 2017

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Published May 3, 2016
Summary on Goodreads
Review:
I haven’t read a good LGBT novel in a really, really long time and I am so glad that this book fell into my lap.  I had originally picked this book, along with a few others, for a variety of reasons – my Read Harder Challenge or the book bingo challenge that my YouTube channel, Shut Up & Read, came up with.  Then I also realized that my book club’s July pick was also this book so it was pretty much written in the stars for me to read this book.  And I am so glad I did.

This book pretty much had everything I can hope for in a book: a beautifully written novel with relatable and easy-to-fall-in-love-with characters as well as a romance that just tugs at my heartstrings.  Amanda was just a character that I simply adored.  Her struggles as she transitioned from a boy to a girl physically and mentally, her obstacles with her peers especially since she lived in the South where tradition and religion is heavily forced upon you, and her issues with her parents and the straining relationship she had with them.  All of these were so wonderfully crafted and it was so easy for me to simply fall into the book and forget the world around me.  I even got on the wrong train (twice!) while listening to this audiobook and I basically “wasted” 30 minutes getting back to my apartment but it was also 30 minutes extra that I spent listening and I would not take that back.

As some of you well know, I’m a relatively harsh critic these days – maybe it’s because I have simply read too many wonderful books that anything less than that standard has become subpar to me but this book was a gem.  The one and only issue I had with this was the flashbacks because the flashbacks ranged anywhere from a few months ago to 10 years ago so there were times I had to really focus on when exactly this flashback took place and how it was relevant to the overall plot.  However, the flashbacks, while a bit disorganized, played crucial roles in the development of the story.  It really made Amanda’s struggles more realistic.

The relationship between Grant and Amanda was so sweet.  I knew, obviously, that disaster was going to strike once he found out initially (it’s pretty much a given) but I wasn’t sure if this was something he could ultimately look over.  And I loved how even after he found out, he still cared about her to make sure she was safe so he scored some major points in my book.  I also thought that the pace of their relationship was realistic and neither of them fell right into love immediately.  Instead it wasn’t until they learned more about each other and grew closer for their feelings to actually develop.

Overall, this was definitely one of the best books I have read/listened to in a very long while.  I literally finished listening to this 8 hour audiobook in two days.  More like less than two days and that’s a lot of listening!  Definitely highly recommend this novel if you’re interested in learning more about trans people because honestly this was a topic that I didn’t know too much about.  I don’t think I personally know any so not only was this book interesting but I also learned a few things as well.  It also helped that the author herself was trans.  So yes, I would definitely recommend this one!
Rating:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi

Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi
Published May 24, 2011
Summary on Goodreads
Review:
I haven’t read a coming of age novel in a while and now I remember why – because I usually don’t really like them.  It has nothing to do with the character development either because obviously the characters are going to be well-developed and will grow throughout the book hence coming of age but somehow the plot is always a bit dry for me.  I think it’s because other than Donna growing up and realizing what death was, there was no other real story going on.  There was no action, barely any romance and definitely no mystery or deep dark secret.  So for me, it was just blah.

It was actually a little difficult for me to finish the book and if it wasn’t for the fact that I had this book specifically for my lunch hours at work where I just want a quiet read, I would have given this up a long time ago.  I couldn’t connect to Donna at all and her issues with her father and her family wasn’t something I could fully comprehend.  The story also felt that it dragged a lot especially since there weren’t any real action going on.  It was mostly about Donna going through the motions after her father passed away and getting this fascination with death itself and how much it changed her.  There were the occasional issue with Donna and her family but it was all very secondary.

The relationship between Donna and Tim was also very bizarre.  I’m not really sure what the attraction was between the two.  There was literally no spark – it was as if the two of them were simply using the other to kill some time.  Maybe that was it – they just wanted to kill some time and didn’t have anyone else better to be with.  The whole thing with Charlie was also really strange.  The relationship with Charlie was significantly better because one of them actually had feelings for the other but the other…I’m not so sure.  It just felt strange and forced as if the author wanted to add another element to the already dry plot to entice it a little.

Overall, I really can’t imagine recommending this book to anyone.  The characters were quite dull and the plot was most definitely dry and very slow.  I should know myself better now – that I just simply don’t appreciate coming of age novels.  But I had really hoped that this one would be different.
Rating:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Published March 8, 2011
Summary on Goodreads
Review:
Despite my lack of interest in Bria, I still really enjoyed this book mainly because of its travel aspect.  I love traveling and even though I’m not a hardcore backpacker or even someone who travels on a very tight budget, I’m also someone who doesn’t do the whole luxury traveling either.  I’m somewhere in the middle ground where I enjoy staying at airbnb’s or at hostels, meeting new and local people and traveling with a relatively average budget.  So that being said, it was quite fascinating for me to read about how Rowan and the other backpackers travel.  Part of me would love to do that but at the same time, I still prefer clean beds and whatnot.  I don’t think I can handle creepy crawlers in my room at any given time so while I didn’t really like Bria, I still have to give her major props for roughing it out in some of those less than appealing locations.

I think the main reason why I didn’t really like Bria was because I couldn’t fathom some of her decision making skills.  First of all, she just wasted a ton of money to get on a tour and then completely ditched them to rough it out.  I mean, the tour was clearly a waste of her time but financially, it was the stupidest idea ever.  However, in terms of making memories and really seeing Guatemala, it was the best idea.  I just didn’t like how she didn’t even think about it and weighed her options.  Also, I didn’t like her inability to figure things out with art and with her ex-boyfriend.  I felt like it was obvious but she kept going back and forth in her opinions that it really irked me.  Another major reason is that she was such a travel noob in the beginning.  It was as if she was trying extra hard to be a hard-core traveler yet she would make such a silly mistake that I wanted to smack her silly.  Maybe I’m just a travel snob but I really can’t handle people who are so culturally dumb.

Therefore other than Bria, I enjoyed the characters specifically Rowan.  I’m still not entirely sure what he saw in Bria because other than her artistic abilities, she came off as a bit dull to me.  However, he more than made up for her dullness.  I found him quite intriguing and his plethora of adventures were quite enticing to me.  Even with his clearly fishy past, I thought his overall character was charming. 

So like I said earlier, I really enjoyed reading about how other backpackers traveled and how I might be able to incorporate some of their less filthy qualities to my own traveling like being a bit more adventurous by exploring smaller cities rather than always visiting the capitals and taking things at a slower pace.  I definitely recommend this book if you love traveling because this book really made me feel as if I was actually a part of the story rather than as a bystander.
Rating:

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Published January 26, 2016
Summary on Goodreads
Review:
I had picked up this book to fulfill one of my Read Harder Challenge bullet points because I had to read a debut novel.  I wonder if it still counts because this was a debut novel in 2016 and at that time, the author hadn’t written another novel yet but I know for a fact that her second book just came out so…but whatever.  I think it still counts.

The one thing that really bothered me about this book was how confusing it was.  I felt that the author didn’t really do a good job in portraying what was going on and really explaining the whole alternate world and whatnot.  It was confusing to the point that even now, after I had finished the book, I’m still not 100% clear what really happened.  The ending was also a bit vague as well.  It’s good for people who enjoy open-ended conclusions so they can take it upon themselves to finish the ending but it’s bad for people like me who like clear finishes.  It was quite aggravating. 

That being said though, I did enjoy the overall plot and the characters as well as the build up to finding out the reality of the alternate world(s).  There was certainly a lot of mystery involved and that intrigue was also quite prevalent.  Like I said, I just wish things were better explained especially at the end when the climax arrived.  Also, another thing I noticed was that the climax was pretty much at the really, really end and then it just ended.  There were only a few pages of explanations for the aftermath where Natalie goes off and makes her big decision and that was the end.

The main characters were definitely Natalie and mostly Beau as well.  I would count him because he’s such a main focus even though the story didn’t really circle around him and his family.  I liked the intense attraction between the two and even though their relationship was quickly developed, it didn’t feel forced.  I thought the author did an awesome job in portraying that particular aspect very realistically.  However, other than the two main characters, the side characters were definitely lacking with the sole exception of Matt.  Everyone else could have easily disappeared and I would not even have noticed.  Natalie’s friends and family were there for sure but they were so in the background that they didn’t really play any role other than simply being there.  Matt’s role was only more pronounced because he was Natalie’s ex and they did that whole jealous ex game. 

One aspect that I did appreciate was all the stories that Grandmother told.  I liked how the author incorporated stories from multiple backgrounds and various religion.  It made things more cultural as well which I liked. 

Overall, the book was decent but I don’t think I would read her second book because I heard it’s quite similar with the whole alternate universe theme.  I guess that’s her specialty?  However, if you enjoy these types of books then I definitely recommend it otherwise you can easily skip this one.   
Rating:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

World of Aluvia Series by Amy Bearce

World of Aluvia Series by Amy Bearce
Published between 2015-2017
Summary on Goodreads
Review:
What a cute series!  I absolutely adored everything about these books from the characters to the plot to the writing style.

The first book, Fairy Keeper, is basically an introduction book about the world of Aluvia.  I liked how the world wasn’t super complex to the point that there are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of facts being thrown at you.  Aluvia is basically a world where magic and magical creatures still resides and some relatively evil humans are using fairies for their own personal gain by stealing all the nectar produced and using them to create poisons and elixirs to further gain personal wealth and means.  The first book followed along Sierra, who is a Fairy Keeper, which means that somehow she draws fairies to her and becomes bonded to a fairy queen and is able to essentially control and take care of the fairies in her care.  I thought Sierra was a great character because I enjoyed seeing her mature and develop to a wiser figure.  Another great quality of hers was her loyalty and her love for her sister – those were traits you simply can’t deny her.  The other characters were introduced like Nell, Corbin, Micah, Phoebe, etc. who will also play major roles in the future books.

In the second book, Mer-Charmer, you follow Phoebe’s adventures.  The book takes place a few years later when peace and magic is now more readily available in Aluvia.  Honestly, I think I liked Phoebe’s adventures the most out of all three of the books.  Mainly because I thought there were a lot more adventure and interesting creatures in this one.  I mean, the first book obviously had its fair share of obstacles but Mer-Charmer just seemed more intense with the mystical creature of the deep sea and whatnot.  The one thing I liked more about the first book than this one was the relationship with Micah and Sierra as opposed to Phoebe and Tristan.  For some reason, Micah and Sierra’s relationship seemed more natural whereas Phoebe and Tristan was a little more awkward.  They were still cute but maybe because they were younger so the relationship didn’t seem as mature?  Not entirely sure what the reason was.

For the third book, Dragon Redeemer, it delved into Nell’s story.  In the first book something happened to Nell which propelled her from a regular warrior to someone who had a magical side of things.  She wasn’t really discussed in the second book so I was glad to see her have her own story in this last book.  Out of the three main characters, Sierra, Phoebe and Nell, I liked Nell best.  I thought she had the most character and I was able to relate to her most because I can see myself in her a lot of the times.  I would say that I was a little disappointed in the dragons’ role in this book because I totally thought Nell would become a dragon rider or something but that wasn’t the case.  Apparently she became the rider to something much cooler but I don’t know…dragons are pretty cool in my book.

Anyways, overall I thoroughly enjoyed the series.  I found almost everything (ah, dragons!) to be very delightful and I was able to read through the books very quickly.  It’s definitely not a series where you spend a lot of time on which is awesome for me.  I definitely recommend these books if you’re into fantasy and magic.
Rating:

Holed Up In A Book © 2015