Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

Young Adult Genre330 pages
Published in 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Goodreads Summary:

Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s getting all As in his classes at the Natick School. He was just elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a big scholarship for college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg last semester is over now, and he just needs to be a Carver, work hard, and stay focused.

Except…

There’s Hannah, a gorgeous girl who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness he’s noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else…and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.

Review:

I was really excited to read this sequel after reading Openly Straight (my review can be found here: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg). I enjoyed Rafe’s story, but I was really looking forward to finding out more about Ben. He was such a sweet and pure character, and I knew there was so much more to him than meets the eye.

This book is full of ups and downs; basically I felt like I was on a roller coaster. This was a good thing, and kinda a bad thing. I felt like Ben didn’t really know what he wanted, which he admits, but because of that he makes some unwise choices. I was actually disappointed how things turned out with Hannah. That mess could have been avoided.

A lot of other reviewers/readers have expressed some negative feelings with how Ben deals with his sexuality. For me, it wasn’t that big of an issue because there is no guide book to sexuality or discovering your sexuality. There’s no one way. Everyone has their own story. Yes, Ben was super confused, and even at the end he has a lot to figure out. But that’s okay. He needs time to figure it out.

All in all, I enjoyed this second book. In many ways I enjoyed it more than Openly Straight. If you haven’t read that yet, do so before reading Honestly Ben.

Rating: 4/5

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Contemporary/Young Adult336 pages
Published in 2017 by Balzer + Bray

Goodreads Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. 

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Review:

What a great read! Honestly, I needed this after reading so many fantasy/young adult books. I don’t read many contemporary books, but when I do, this is what I look for.

First of all, it was relatable on multiple accounts. Second, the characters were so diverse and realistic. Those two things are important for me when I read a contemporary. For me, I know what it’s like for twins, especially twin sisters, as I have younger twin sisters. They two are fraternal and VERY different. They are basically the embodiment of Cassie and Molly; I was shocked how similar they were to my own sisters.

With that said, I could also relate a lot to Molly as a “fat girl”. I was basically her at 17. Though I did have a brief relationship at 15, but it never went anywhere. I had all the same questions and fears she had. And now, at almost 27, I shake my head at how clueless I was. But that’s part of growing up. I wished many times throughout reading this book that I could jump in and hug her. I wanted to hug and and explain that it’s okay to not have all the answers, it’s okay to be angry, yes sisters suck sometimes, and no you won’t crush him.

So, I absolutely loved seeing all the different characters. We meet a variety of minorities. This is a very LGBT friendly book. And this actually takes place just before and after the Supreme Court legalized Marriage Equality. There is also a Korean-American character, and a interracial coupling/family dynamic.

I liked the humor and sarcasm from the characters, that just made all the more real for me. But there were also some pretty heavy conversations and questions. A lot of them where things brought up in my own family while growing up. Albertalli truly made her story believable. It was like the characters were real people.

BTW- I adore Reid. He was amazing. He was funny, cute, nerdy, kinda awkward, and even a bit sensitive. We need more guys like that in the world.

Rating: 4.8/5

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Young Adult Genre699 pages
Published in 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Goodreads Summary:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places. 

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

Review:

Okay, so I have some major mixed feelings about this lovely book. If you read my reviews for A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury (reviews can be found here:A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas), then you’ll know that I loved both; especially ACoMaF. For some reason though, I had a hard time getting through this book.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like it. But let me explain some things I did not like. The beginning was slow and honestly, I was a bit bored. Eventually it picked up, but if I hadn’t been so invested in the series, I might have stopped reading. (And I’m glad I continued, btw) Though the pace picked up, I still found myself forcing myself to push through the story. That’s my biggest reason for maybe, kinda, just a little bit- not liking it. The end also seemed a bit rushed. Maybe that’s just me. But I felt like maybe there should be… MORE.

In the first book, I was very much into Tamlin and Feyre. The second book I was drooling over Rhys and totally shipped him and Feyre. Yes, they have a couple steamy scenes in this book, but it didn’t do much for me like the previous book. This time, I was hooked on Cassian. I don’t know what it was, but he stole the show for me. I also thought Lucien and Elaine were super cute, despite things being so strained. But really, can I just have Rhys and Cassian for myself? Please, please, please.

Obviously in the second book Tamlin is made out to be the crazy, possessive fiance/ex-fiance, but he really redeemed himself in ACoWaR. Which made me super happy, because even though he was a complete douche bag, I was hoping he still had some good in him. Towards the end, I even felt a bit bad for him. Like, I just want him to find some happiness too, ya know?

Overall, this was a decent read. It wasn’t exactly what I expected; I think my expectations were a bit high after reading the second book. I got exceedingly happy when I saw that the series will be continued. Sarah J. Maas confirmed 3 more novels after this one. I’m beyond excited to see what more she has to offer.

Rating: 3.9/5

The Persian Always Meows Twice by Eileen Watkins

Mystery Genre304 pages
Expected publication: September 26th 2017 by Kensington

Goodreads Summary:

Professional cat grooming isn’t all fluff–when the fur starts flying, Cassie McGlone, owner of Cassie’s Comfy Cats, handles her feistiest four-legged clients with a caring touch and nerves of steel. While these qualities certainly help keep her business purring, they also come in handy when she makes a house call to her best client, millionaire George DeLeuw, and discovers his murdered body next to his newly orphaned Persian, Harpo.

To help the local police find the actual killer, Cassie begins her own investigation. But no one, from George’s housekeeper to his vindictive ex-wife, is giving up clues. Not until Cassie is given permission to temporarily board Harpo does anyone show interest in the Persian’s well being. Someone is desperate to get their paws on Harpo before the feline helps untangle a felony. Are there deadly truths that a cat whisperer like Cassie can coax out? She needs to tread lightly and remember she gets one life, not nine.

Review:

I received this book as an ARC from a Goodreads Giveaway.

Honestly, when I saw this book on the giveaway list I laughed. I laughed out loud and startled my boyfriend. He wanted to know what I laughed about, so I read him the summary. He convinced me to enter, and though I doubted I would win, I was secretly hoping I would. It was such an odd summary. I never go for books like these, because I’m always afraid of them being… well, lame. However, that was not the case.

Though the summary sounds kind of silly, the story was actually very well thought out. It had mystery and humor, and it just worked. It actually reminded me a lot of the “Murder, She Wrote” books. For me, that is totally okay; as I enjoy those books.

I liked Cassie’s character because she has a bit of innocence to her which is really pleasant. The fact that she is almost obsessively an animal lover is a huge bonus for me. Another thing I liked is she’s not a groomer that just became one for the hell of it. She truly loves cats and even has a degree in animal behavior. I find that to be so cool, and unfortunately very uncommon.

The story has a good pace, though it is a pretty fast read. It took just a few hours for me to read. I know this review is short, but I can’t think of what more I can say. It’s a decent story, and is quite entertaining for cat lovers.

Rating: 3/5

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Young Adult Genre626 pages
Published in 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Goodreads Summary:

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

Review:

Warning: This book has mature content.

OH MY GOODNESS! OH MY GOODNESS! OH MY GOODNESS!

This book. I can’t even describe how amazing it was. I loved reading the first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses (review can be found here: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas), but this was 100 times more… I don’t even have a word for it. It was just more everything.

Not only has Feyre physically and magically changed by becoming fae, but she has changed as a person. She starts to realize maybe everything she wanted before, as a human, isn’t what she wants now. It’s hard for her to come to terms with those feelings, but eventually she accepts it. I really felt for her, because I know dealing with guilt and betrayal is heartbreaking.

I mentioned in my review for the first book that my two favorite characters were Lucien and Rhys. Reading this book decided it for me. Rhys is the total package and I’m a total sucker for hot males who have been emotionally damaged. I can’t help it. I just wanted to crawl into the book and hold him. Is that crazy? Maybe, but I don’t care. I admit; I am in love with Rhys. There, I said it.

Reading A Court of Mist and Fury was a bit different than reading ACoTaR, mainly because we get to see more of Prythian. I also feel like there was more going on. More than just Feyre being in the Spring Court. There’s definitely more action as well, which was pretty cool.

We also get to meet new characters. I have to be honest, I enjoyed this group of characters over those we meet in the first book. I absolutely loved Cassian. He’s kind of like Lucien, but has a wider sense of humor. Morrigan was also a great addition. It was nice to see another strong female character added to the series.

Overall, this book was amazing. I truly have no complaints, except for the fact that Tamlin is scum. I suppose that’s a spoiler in a way; sorry. But anyway, if you haven’t read the first book, do it. I personally don’t think it’s as good as this one, but you definitely need to start with book one.

Rating: 4.8/5

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Young Adult Genre405 pages
Published in 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary:

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Review:

WARNING: This book has details about a school shooting. It’s a sensitive story line and can be triggering for some.

At first, I thought this was just a book about a school shooting. Earlier this year, I read This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp, and it was horrifying, yet a good read. The majority of it took place inside a school and showed different perspectives during an active school shooting. Though Brown does take us through scenes of a school shooting, the book is more than just that; it’s Val’s story.

Val has to deal with so many things after the shooting: her boyfriend died as a murderer; she spent months healing after being shot by said boyfriend; was accused of being an accomplice; had to face the whole school on the first day of her senior year; and had to confront the truth of her involvement in the shooting… just to name a few. Her therapist, Dr. Hieler, helps her through all of this by offering sound logic, an open mind, and humor.

I had a hard time reading this not only because of the tragic subject matter, but because I felt so bad for Val. Not only did she lose the one person she loved, who truly understood her, but many people blamed her for the shooting and didn’t believe in her innocence. She felt completely alone. Unknown to her, she actually did have people who had her back. It took her awhile to figure that out. When she finally came to this realization, she was able to discover the truth about herself.

Despite the highly sensitive topic, I did enjoy Hate List. I felt like I was in the book myself. I think that’s because I was a lot like Val in high school; coincidentally she graduated a year after I did. I too had a journal which featured quite a few hate lists. Like her, I never meant it as a hit list or something to be considered serious. It was a way to release my stress and sadness when someone hurt me, whether it was intentional or not.

If you can get past the details of the shooting, I recommend this book. Val’s story is an important one, and you or someone you know could definitely relate.

Rating: 4.4/5

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Young Adult Genre421 pages
Published in 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Goodreads Summary:

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Review:

Warning: This book has some mature content.

So here’s a little story: I had been seeing A Court of Wings and Ruin EVERYWHERE. It was all over Instagram and book blogs, and it was abundantly stocked on Walmart’s shelves. So I obviously had to see what all the rage was about; which led me to finding out it was the third book of a series. I went to two libraries I frequent, but none of the books in the series were even in their systems. I was bummed. A couple weeks later, my boyfriend and I were looking at the book section in Walmart, and he picked up A Court of Wings and Ruin. He started to read the back. I told him not to even bother, since it was the third book in a series. He frowned and grunted his disappointment. Flash forward two months later and both libraries got the book series. And now we’re here.

Honestly, though I liked the summary, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. By the end, I came to the conclusion that in short, this was about Katniss Everdeen thrown into Beauty and the Beast with faeries. (If any of you have already read the book… am I wrong?)

That comparison may not sound very appealing, but it worked. Maas created intriguing characters and put them in a mysteriously wonderful fantasy world. The characters were complex and I liked seeing their different personalities. My personal favorites were Lucien and Rhys.

What I liked the most was the mystery of the plot. There are so many secrets being kept, and little by little they’re revealed. And it’s like, once one secret is revealed and you think you understand, another secret comes out and you realize maybe you didn’t quite understand everything. There’s always more to learn just around the corner.

I think anyone who is a fan of fantasy/young adult books will want to read this one. I could hardly put it down. I currently have the second and third books in my possession, and will have reviews ready as soon as possible.

Rating: 4.1/5

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Young Adult Genre320 pages
Published in 2013 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Goodreads Summary:

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn’t even know that love is possible.

This witty, smart, coming-out-again story will appeal to gay and straight kids alike as they watch Rafe navigate feeling different, fitting in, and what it means to be himself.

Review:

Honestly, I can’t praise this book enough. It was so raw.

I’m not gay, but I have stood by friends who have gone through the process of coming out, so I have a sliver of an idea how it can be. For a few of them, it was a rough transition to finally let that secret go. A lot of people were not supportive and were major bullies. Their families seemed to be okay with it, but I’ve never experienced parents like Rafe’s parents, Gavin and Opal.

I’m going to say they’re actually my favorite characters in the book. They’re hilarious and vibrant, but the love they have for Rafe is amazing. They go over and beyond to ensure Rafe is safe and knows he is accepted by them after he comes out. The things they did for him to make the process as smooth as possible and as good for him; it was nothing I ever witnessed. It made me wonder if there really were parents like that.

The other characters you meet are all well rounded, and diverse. You have you’re outcasts, nerds, and of course the jocks. You even get to see that just because a character is one thing, doesn’t mean they couldn’t be another.

That is a major theme in the book. Openly Straight is about Rafe’s journey to finding out who he really is; besides being the gay kid. He learns knew things about himself, and it’s eyeopening seeing him build and destroy bits of himself throughout his first semester in a new school.

I often found myself understanding why he decided to leave his label of being gay behind him. It’s hard to shed the casing which we call our identity when we know there’s more to us than just one thing. We don’t want to be categorized. We are people, not books. So, I totally got where he was coming from.

Another interesting thing to watch unfold was his struggle with being in an all boys school as a secretly gay kid. Especially when he ends up falling for his new friend. It’s bad enough being scared and embarrassed when you have a crush; but when you have a crush and can’t tell them because you have a huge secret that could shatter any hope of it working out… that’s rough.

I really liked that the book had the seriousness which comes with being a homosexual in our society, especially as a teenager, but it still had the humor and playfulness that comes with being a youth. Rafe’s story is enlightening. It’s perhaps not an ideal example of what it’s like for the average gay teen, but it was a great perspective, nonetheless.

Rating: 4.8/5

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Young Adult Genre407 pages
Published in 2017 by Flatiron Books

Goodreads Summary:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Review:

I have been seeing Caraval featured on so many blogs and instagram accounts, I couldn’t just not read it. I’ve read, “A MUST READ”, so many times; I knew I had to get my hands on it…

And I loved it! LOVE, LOVES, LOVED IT!

It was everything a book should be: fun, diverse characters; steady plot; twist and turns (let me tell you, there were so many twists- I got dizzy); romance; suspense; adventure! I read this book in one sitting; only stopping to use the bathroom once and another time to grab a quick snack (a handful of pink Starbursts). It was that good.

I enjoyed every character, even the ones you’re supposed to hate. Garber did a great job coming up with such an assorted group of characters. To be honest, I didn’t really care for Scarlett, but that’s okay. She was what was needed for the story. She has a bit of a stiff bland persona, but she is completely dedicated to her sister which I admired.

I think what I liked the most was the misdirection thrown every which way at the reader. You think you understand what’s happening and then “WHAM! Think again!” So you start to unravel a bit more of the truth, but “NOPE!” The end is so far from what I thought it would be, and it left me amazed. It was brilliant and thrilling.

I definitely recommend this book. READ IT! It’s so worth it. From what I’ve been reading, a second book is expected. Which I hope is true. There is so much more I want to know about Legend and Caraval.

Rating: 4.8/5

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Young Adult Genre256 pages
Published in 2016 by Scholastic

Goodreads Summary:

Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.

Review:

This is the third book in the Magisterium series. I loved the first two books (my review for the second book can be found here: The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare), I really did. But I enjoyed The Bronze Key even more. Things are progressing and every new piece of information given has me begging for more.

I mentioned it in my review of The Copper Gauntlet, but I want to do a small reminder: This is geared more towards middle schoolers, but can be enjoyed by all age groups.

Call has always been a complex character, but he keeps getting more interesting as the series progresses. He’s growing up; becoming more bold and every chance he gets he shows how loyal he is. The same can be said about his companions Tamara and Aaron.

I feel like the series is starting to get a little more dark and serious, which is understandable now that they are getting older. It’s something that happened throughout the Harry Potter book series, so I was definitely expecting things to get darker. I won’t giveaway names, but there are two deaths; one in the beginning and one at the end. I certainly wasn’t expecting that, though I shouldn’t be surprised. Black and Clare killed off someone in the very first book. Those SAVAGES!

There was lot that happens and though some parts were somewhat predictable, I couldn’t put the book down. Just as I did with The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet, I read The Bronze Key in one sitting. It’s not long, and it had my interest the entire time.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series to be published. The next book is titled, The Silver Mask, and is set to hit shelves August 29th of this year. ONLY A COUPLE MORE WEEKS! I’m so excited.

Rating: 4.2/5