[ARC] My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul

My Kind of Crazy by Robin ReulTitle: My Kind of Crazy
Author: Robin Reul
Expected Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781492631767
Rating: ★★★★☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble | iBooks
Summary: Despite the best of intentions, seventeen-year old, wisecracking Hank Kirby can’t quite seem to catch a break. It’s not that he means to screw things up all the time, it just happens. A lot. Case in point: his attempt to ask out the girl he likes literally goes up in flames when he spells “Prom” in sparklers on her lawn…and nearly burns down her house.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing. Much to Hank’s dismay, Peyton takes an interest in him—and his “work.” The two are thrust into an unusual friendship, but their boundaries are tested when Hank learns that Peyton is hiding some dark secrets, secrets that may change everything he thought he knew about Peyton.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

The story starts off with a failed promposal; Hank Kirby intended to ask out one of the most popular girls in school but instead ended up almost burning her house down. He flees from the scene and thinks there’s nothing to trace him back there, but to his dread, there’s a witness.

As I was reading this book, I kept picturing it like a movie in my head; something akin to the awesome adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. The characters just come right off the page. Each of them have their own quirks, like the fact that Peyton is a complete pyromaniac and that Nick’s dad may or may not be involved with the mob. But when you look at the big picture, they’re so utterly… normal. And it made the story work. These are kids who go through what normal kids do: high school crushes, obsessing over dances, worrying about what’s going to happen after graduation, getting into college; the list goes on.

Reul also touches on a couple of serious issues in this book, but instead of weighing down the story, she kept it light and spares the readers from feeling down. And though it deals with themes we’ve seen in YA contemporaries time and time again, it somehow manages to stray from being stereotypical.

My Kind of Crazy is unconventional, funny (so, so funny), and witty. At the same time it’s emotional and real. I’m trying really hard to not talk too much about the story without going into too much detail because this is something everyone should experience for themselves. All I can say is that there’s this incredible original quality to the book that definitely makes it one YA contemporary to watch out for this year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robin Reul has been writing since she was in early elementary school, when she used to make her own book club flyers for her classmates and then pen them original stories. Though she grew up on movie sets and worked for many years in the film and television industry both as an actress and in motion picture development, she ultimately decided to focus her attention on writing young adult novels. She likes to write the same kinds of stories she loved as a teen: the ones that give her with butterflies in her stomach and are filled with quirky, memorable characters who stay with the reader long after the story ends. When she’s not writing, Robin can be found singlehandedly driving up the profit margin of her local Starbucks and indulging her love of baked goods, particularly those in the key of pumpkin. She lives in Los Angeles suburbia with her husband, son and daughter. (via Goodreads)

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[ARC] Lucky Me by Saba Kapur

Lucky Me by Saba KapurTitle: Lucky Me
Author: Saba Kapur
Expected Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9780692536391
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: For eighteen year old Gia Winters, having a movie star for a father, a former Playboy bunny as a mother, a Hollywood mansion, and a closet stocked with Chanel is simply another day in the life. But her world is turned upside down when her father mysteriously hires a group of bodyguards to trail the family 24/7 and threatening phone calls from a Dr. D start buzzing daily.

When Gia scores the coveted role of Miss Golden Globe, she is forced to strike a deal with her bodyguard, Jack, who is almost as arrogant as he is attractive. Juggling Gia s romantic failures, fashion faux pas, and celebrity obsessions, the duo investigate a series of clues with the help of a police cadet, who has a special set of skills and an even better set of dimples.

But with the Golden Globes just around the corner, danger levels rise higher than her stilettos as Gia learns that the biggest secrets might be the ones buried in her own home. In a place where the hills have eyes, high school nemeses, bad hair days, raging parties, and stolen kisses, there can only be trouble for a girl who was just starting to consider herself lucky.”

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Amberjack Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

I don’t think I was the right audience for this book. I didn’t completely hate it, but I wasn’t going crazy about it, either. I found Gia incredibly vapid and she got on my nerves about 90% of the time. I get the “rich girl from Cali” stereotype, but Gia seemed to be a very exaggerated version: a little too one-dimensional, lacked an inappropriate amount of common sense and smarts, and had zero priorities. I don’t know if that was intentional on the author’s part to fit the storyline better, but… I just couldn’t deal with her.

The story is about a girl who grew up around the Hollywood lifestyle; a mansion, latest fashions, nice cars, goes to a big fancy school with classmates who feel just as entitled… all thanks to having an accomplished actor for a father and a former Playboy bunny for a mother. The story felt like a clichéd Hollywood movie, too. Packed with over-dramatics, a cast of characters that ranged from being somewhat likable to completely unlikable, and a huge twist towards the end that was predictable and therefore fell a little flat for my tastes.

Of course, no teenage girl’s story is complete without a few love interests and the inevitable YA love triangle. I continuously mention in my reviews that I’m not the biggest fan of those in this genre. What stumped me in this case was that I was actually invested in this area the most. Getting me to actually give two s#!*s about who the girl will choose in the end can be an impossible task, so that alone definitely warranted a second star, even though the two guys had flaws of their own. Not to mention that both of their relationships with Gia were somewhat problematic that I can’t go into it without spoiling things. I did actually like both of them as characters, which is something I can’t say for our main Mary Sue, Gia, so there’s that.

The ending seems to set itself up for a sequel, so I’m interested to see if Kapur will keep going with this. I just haven’t decided yet if I’m going to read it if that’s the case.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Saba Kapur is a 19 year-old writer based out of Melbourne, Australia. Her passion for storytelling developed at a young age, born from a deep-seated love of books. Lucky Me is her first novel and an ode to her favorite things: fashion, romance, and mystery. Born in India, Saba spent her childhood in Indonesia and Kiev, Ukraine. She is currently in her final year of college, studying International Relations and Criminology at Monash University.

Saba hopes to one day become a fabulous lawyer in New York City, with a closet full of stilettos. In her spare time she enjoys reading, watching anything to do with Ryan Gosling, and pretending she’s Beyoncé. Saba currently lives with her parents, her older sister, and a large supply of chocolate. (via Goodreads)

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[ARC] Finding Hope by Colleen Nelson

Title: Finding Hope
Author: Colleen Nelson
Expected Publication Date: March 19, 2016
Publisher: Dundurn
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781459732452
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Hope leaves her small town for a fresh start, but her plans are derailed by an online romance and the appearance of her brother.

Hope lives in a small town with nothing to do and nowhere to go. With a drug addict for a brother, she focuses on the only thing that keeps her sane, writing poetry. To escape, she jumps at the chance to attend Ravenhurst Academy as a boarding student. She’ll even put up with the clique-ish Ravens if it means making a fresh start.

At first, Ravenhurst is better than Hope could have dreamed. She has a boyfriend and a cool roommate, and she might finally have found a place she can fit in. But can she trust her online boyfriend? And what can she do after her brother shows up at the school gates, desperate for help, and the Ravens turn on her? Trapped and unsure, Hope realizes that if she wants to save her brother, she has to save herself first.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Dundurn and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

The book deals with several taboo subjects, which makes this a different and pretty refreshing read compared to other YA books. Several themes that are touched on include drug use, abuse, and a few others that were uncomfortable to read about, but very much absent in other books of this genre. What I appreciated most about Finding Hope was that it didn’t gloss over or sugarcoat anything. Nelson tackled issues that people tend to turn a blind eye to.

It’s not incredibly lengthy by any means; I finished it in about a day, without factoring in any breaks taken in between chapters. That’s where my biggest problem with this book lies. I felt like it was too short and there were several “quick fixes” to some major real-life matters.

In terms of characterization, I found that Hope was very naive and difficult to feel sorry for; difficult to connect with. But when it came down to it, I realized that this is likely a realistic depiction of what teenagers in her situation might do. There’s an immense amount of peer pressure that occurs with youth today, and in that respect, this just added to the appeal of the book and capped off the overall tone that Nelson was trying to achieve. The book is mostly about family. Her brother, Eric, is another narrator in this story, and though I didn’t have a much differing opinion about him as I did Hope, I kind of wished his story was fleshed out more; that we got more background on what he went through and what made him the way he was. His story has the potential to push the boundaries of YA storytelling, and if Nelson ever decided to write something like a sequel or a standalone with a similar storyline, I would gladly read it.

Her writing is captivating and truthful, and despite the lack of a few stars in my review (I was teetering between giving this a three or a four), I actually really did enjoy reading Finding Hope. There was a lot of promise in the book and it laid a foundation for what could have been a game-changer in current realistic YA fiction. Colleen Nelson is just as lovely a person as she is a writer, and I do believe it’s worth checking this book out if you’re looking for a different kind of read.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colleen Nelson is the author of YA fiction books Finding Hope (2016), 250 Hours (2015), The Fall (2013) and Tori by Design (2011). ‘The Fall’ and ‘Tori by Design’ both won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. ‘The Fall’ was also nominated for the White Pine Award. Currently living in Winnipeg with her husband, two young sons and three grown step-children, Colleen manages to eke out time to write everyday, but usually in the early morning after a strong cup of coffee. A junior high school teacher for ten years before having children, Colleen is familiar and comfortable with the tricky phase of life called ‘adolescence’. Now a Teacher-Librarian in Winnipeg, Canada, Colleen is constantly on the look-out for books that will catch the attention of her reading-reluctant sons. (via Goodreads)

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[ARC] In Real Life by Jessica Love

In Real Life by Jessica LoveTitle: In Real Life
Author: Jessica Love
Expected Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781250064714
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another. There’s just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met. Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him. Hannah’s romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and meets Nick’s girlfriend, whom he failed to mention. And it turns out his relationship status isn’t the only thing he’s been lying to her about. Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has one night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

What drew me to this book was without a doubt the cover; I’m a sucker for good music-themed cover art. But as the old saying goes: never judge a book by its cover. Which is why I went into this book a blank canvas and tried not to expect certain things like I usually do (a habit I really have to break). I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this book. It’s seriously very, very cute, guys; cliché, but in the best way.

My only quip would have to be the two main characters. I would have given it a higher rating if I didn’t feel such a disconnect with both main characters. I feel like a lot (a lot) of problems could have been avoided if they just talked through it. There’s one point in the book where Hannah’s best friend Lo lay a much-needed smack-down on Hannah (with her words; always use your words, folks) and I actually found myself physically nodding in agreement at this book like I was crazy. But then again, these kids are young, I certainly had a similar mindset at their age.

That aside, though, it was an enjoyable read. The overall pace of the story was realistic — everything took place in a matter of days — and didn’t drag one bit. The ending was a bit too cliché for my liking, but that didn’t take away my enjoyment of the whole thing. This is definitely a book for the millennials, with the aspect of online relationships and communication driving the plot; something I’m sure a lot of people can relate to in this day and age. Definitely pick this up if you’re looking for something light-hearted and youthful.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Love is a high school English teacher who lives in Southern California with her husband and their two tiny dogs. She’s working on her Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Spalding University, and her big love is contemporary YA romance. Jessica spends all of her free money on concerts, constantly tries to prove that blondes have more fun, and is pretty much always on the internet. (via Goodreads)

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In Place of Never by Julie Anne Lindsey

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Title: In Place of Never
Author: Julie Anne Lindsey
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Format: ePub
ISBN: 9781601834874
Rating: ★★★★☆
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play
Summary: Can the truth set her free?…

A part of Mercy died the summer her sister tragically drowned. Now Mercy has a chance to discover if Faith’s death was an accident—or murder. Her first step is to confront the lead suspects: a band of traveling gypsies—the last people who saw her sister alive. But Mercy finds an unexpected ally in Cross, the soulful musician in their ranks. He’s a kindred spirit, someone who sees into her heart for the first time in, well, forever. Yet stirring up the past puts Mercy in danger…

Suddenly someone is shadowing Mercy’s every move, making her even more determined to uncover the facts. With Cross by her side, she is ready to face it all, even if that means opening up to him, knowing he may one day leave her. What she discovers is a truth that rocks the foundation of her small river town—and a love worth risking everything for….

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My Thoughts:
First off, I should mention that there are a couple of trigger warnings; the story deals with self-harm, abuse, suicide, and depression. It’s not for the light-hearted, and it’s not something I’m usually the first in line to read, but to say this book surprised me is a bit of an understatement. I mean that in a good way.

I have to admit that it took me a while to get into the book. About a quarter into it, I wanted to drop it and move on to the next, but something about the tone and the way Lindsey writes compelled me to keep moving forward. The story is very much set up as a mystery, taking place after the death of Mercy’s older sister. A few years have passed but the impact still exists in their household. The need to know what happened to Mercy’s sister and the progression of the events after kept me interested ’til the very end.

There are several other themes in this book including religion, music, and culture. I’m not one to usually lean towards books dealing with religion, just because I’ve seen it go totally wrong and get really preachy and/or discriminatory. Now, In Place of Never also deals with Roma and their culture. Mix the two, and again — could go totally wrong. But Lindsey did a good job in keeping the content appropriate.

A lot goes on in the book, but what I enjoyed most about this book was Mercy’s personal growth. In the beginning, Mercy shut herself out from the world, including her family. It’s not until she meets the travelling sideshow made up of the Lovell family — and a boy named Cross — that she starts coming out of her self-contained shell and demands answers and closure from Faith’s death. A huge part of this growth came from her interactions with other characters: her younger sister, her father, Cross, and the rest of the Lovell family. It was also interesting to get to know the other characters, because every single one of them is so different from each other, but they were all tied together by one life-changing event.

In Place of Never gives readers a glimpse of the effects of a tragedy in a small community where it’s easier to make assumptions than it is to find the truth. All in all, the story is about healing and forgiveness, wrapped up in a pretty engrossing tale full of mystery, justice, and a healthy dose of romance.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Mother of three, wife to a sane person and Ring Master at the Lindsey Circus, most days you’ll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book. Julie started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world.

Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

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[ARC] Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley RedgateTitle: Seven Ways We Lie
Author: Riley Redgate
Expected Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: ABRAMS Kids
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781419719448
Rating: ★★★★★
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—whether it’s Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage; or Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.
When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to ABRAMS Kids and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

Seven high school stereotypes as the seven deadly sins. I love any story that has to do with characters alluding to the seven deadly sins. I was kind of hesitant to dive into it after realizing that there’d be seven POV’s in one 300-some page book. Daunting. But in the end, the pieces worked together to make a lovely and perfectly whole heptagon.

The exploration of diverse and often times stigmatized individuals is such a welcome change in this day and age, especially for teens who may be going through similar things as the ones in this book. The characters are unique, yet we see them in ourselves, past or present, or in people we know. The author writes them in a way that’s not in-your-face; she explores these characters and quietly, subtly puts their truths, or “sins”, on display while avoiding turning them into clichés common in YA. It does read like a character study at times as I saw stated in one review, but I feel like that helps to reach into the head space of each individual and understand where they’re coming from instead of exaggerating them over lines and lines of dramatic dialogue.

Instead of just throwing seven random characters together in the middle of a scandal, what happened was an intricate weaving; a connection forming right before the reader’s eyes towards that inevitable blow. It was like watching an ill-fated tragedy, seeing exactly how everything plays out seconds before the wreckage you know is about to happen. And the aftermath is something I’ll just leave for you to experience when this book comes out.

I can’t give enough praise to Redgate and her debut. Seriously, take all 5 stars, take a thousand of them. And sure, what the hell– take my heart, too. I’ll be fine without it (I’m not fine, though. I’m still reeling).

It’s poignant, it’s emotional, and it’s real. This is a book that this generation needs.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Riley Redgate is a senior economics major at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Her expected graduation date is May 21, 2016. Seven Ways We Lie is her first novel. She grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and hopes to work in a bookstore after college. (via Indigo)

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[ARC] These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

These Vicious Masks by  Tarun Shanker & Kelly ZekasTitle: These Vicious Masks
Author: Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas
Series: These Vicious Masks (Book 1)
Expected Publication Date: February 9, 2016
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Format: ARC
ISBN: 9781250073891
Rating: ★★★★☆
Pre-order: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble
Summary: Jane Austen meets X-­Men in this gripping and adventure-­filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London. England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.

My Thoughts:
A huge thank you to Swoon Reads and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for reviewing.

“Jane Austen meets X-Men”. That’s as much as I read of the synopsis before I decided I needed to read this. It’s a thing I never knew I wanted until I read that line. The story centers around Evelyn, a bored society girl whose younger sister suddenly goes missing. She takes it upon herself to find her by any means necessary. Along the way, she enlists the help of the mysterious Mr. Braddock and her friend, Mr. Kent. Through her journey to find her sister, she finds out other things that she probably preferred not to — things about herself and the society she thought she knew so well.

The dialogue, the characters, the settings, the everything — just so, so good. It’s meant to be a period piece and it definitely reads like one. On the flip side of that is the paranormal stuff, which was also very well-written. I don’t know what it is about magic and the paranormal that allows it to mesh so well with the time period. Probably because they lacked the modern technology and were only beginning to discover the science we have today that makes it more believable. There’s room to mould the imagination. What really impressed me, though, was Evelyn. She’s confident, brash, impulsive, and incredibly witty. She can banter with the best of them; her conversations with almost everyone she interacts with are among the best parts of the book. In fact, all the characters are written so well and are incredibly self-aware and contribute their own individual quirks and personalities to the story.

Though it claims to be a romance, there was actually quite a lack of it. What I did see was the beginnings of not one, but two. Ah, love triangles. The bane of my YA-loving existence. But! This one is promising. I haven’t liked all 3 individuals involved in a love triangle since The Infernal Devices. Maybe I just really have a thing for complicated romances set in Victorian London. Who knows? I did wish we got to see more of that side of the story, but this seems like it’s being set up as a series (pretty please?), so I’d imagine that there’s always more time for that to flourish. I won’t say which guy I prefer with Evelyn just yet — I advise you all to pick up this book when it comes out and decide for yourselves.

In short, if you do have enough sense decide to read this book, prepare for a kickass adventure. Because this one definitely delivers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Mild-mannered assistant by day, milder-mannered writer by night, Tarun Shanker is a New York University graduate currently living in Los Angeles. His idea of paradise is a place where kung-fu movies are projected on clouds, David Bowie’s music fills the air and chai tea flows freely from fountains. (via Goodreads)

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Kelly is a writer living in NYC. YA is her absolute favorite thing on earth other than cupcakes and she has spent many hours crying over fictional deaths. She also started reading Harlequin romances at a possibly too early age (12?), and still adores a good historical romance. (via Goodreads)

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