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Samantha hasn’t been out much since the tragic death of her parents. Once a free-spirited stage actress who’d broken too many hearts to count, Samantha now spends all of her free time renovating her childhood home. That is, until she’s dragged to a party and meets Kyle, a high-powered divorce attorney who doesn’t get attached. Samantha and Kyle fall hard and fast, but their dating histories don’t exactly give either of them hope that this will work in the long term.

I really enjoyed the last book in this series, Rule Breaker, so I was pretty excited to see this one go up on Netgalley, and even more excited when I was approved for a free advance copy. But, unfortunately, I just didn’t connect with this book like I did with the last one.

I didn’t particularly like either of the main characters. Kyle had too many “coincidental” or “accidental” douchebag moments, and Samantha constantly contradicted herself by saying she was done with him and then going back to him anyway.

Kyle’s speech patterns actually drove me crazy. Thank goodness this book was under 200 pages, because I don’t think I could have dealt with it for much longer. When Kyle is speaking, he drops the subject of his sentence about 90% of the time. So instead of saying something like, “I’d love to take you to dinner,” he’ll say “Love to take you to dinner.” Or instead of “I had a really great time tonight,” he’ll say “Had a really great time tonight.” It grated on my very last nerve to the point where I wondered if this was a conscious decision by the author, or maybe she just forgot that English sentences typically require a subject and a predicate.

Finally, the last 20% or so came completely out of nowhere and didn’t fit with the rest of the story. If the characters names hadn’t been the same, I would have thought I got 80% of one book and 20% of another. The resolution is not satisfying when it comes to both the weird plot at the end and the book overall. Just as in the last book, this one also suffers from the “sudden engagement syndrome,” in which two people who hardly know each other decide they can’t live without each other and must immediately get married. This is literally my least favorite ending to a romance/new adult book – there are other ways to wrap things up nicely than to default to marriage. It’s a cop-out, really, and one of the things that makes me immediately subtract a star.

Overall, I think Rule Breaker was a much better book than Heart Breaker, although Heart Breaker was a quick, relatively enjoyable read. It may be your cup of tea, but it wasn’t mine.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

How do you get rid of books that you no longer want to keep?

A few years ago, I would have called this a travesty, not keeping every book purchased or gifted or won. But a few moves in, with another move likely around the corner, and hauling around books I don’t plan to re-read is getting too cumbersome. Some of these books haven’t been read since I was in high school, and I just turned 25!

Add to that the fact that, in this picture alone, I count seven ARC’s, which are a little trickier to dispose of than your average book, and I have a bit of a conundrum. I can’t beat the thought of just throwing them out, but who is going to want boxes upon boxes of (mostly) young adult books? I don’t even care about the tax write-off from the donation anymore. I just need to downsize.

Do you have any ideas? Are there any great organizations you know if that might want my piles of used books? I’m in central NJ, if that helps!

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I feel like I can’t rave enough about what an amazing book Beauty Queens is.  Immediately after finishing it, I had all these garbled thought about how great it was, and everything that it represents.  If I’d written my review then, it probably would have gone something along the lines of, “All teenage girls should read this book!  All teenagers in general should read this book!  EVERYBODY SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!”  I will try to be a little more professional in this review.

I think I actually rolled my eyes at the premise of this book.  A bunch of beautiful teenage girls are on their way to a beauty competition when their plane crashes on a remote tropical island.  Armed with only what they were wearing when the plane went down and whatever didn’t catch on fire in the crash, they have to find a way to survive the elements until help comes.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably say that I absolutely adore Libba Bray.  A Great and Terrible Beauty was one of my favorite book series in high school, and The Diviners was one of my top reads of 2013.  (I’m also sitting here, quite impatiently, waiting for Lair of Dreams.)  But for some reason, I just didn’t think I’d like this one.  I was so, so wrong.

The first thing you should understand about this book is that it’s satire.  And the satire is on point.  The book is unapologetic in its satire of our obsession with reality television, our obsession with our appearances, our obsession with being the best.  The author includes the most hilarious footnotes throughout the book, supposedly from The Corporation, in which they recommend various products that would assist the characters in their current dilemma.  The thing is, these absolutely ridiculous products actually seem like something you might find in a department store.

The second thing is the representation, which is so important.  Yes, these girls are all beautiful.  They are all beauty queens, after all.  But they don’t fit a cookie cutter mold of what a beauty queen “should” be.  Among the girls who survive the crash are:

  • an Indian-American girl
  • a pre-pre-med girl
  • a deaf girl
  • a trans girl
  • a girl who loves comics, and even makes her own
  • an unapologetically super girly girl
  • girls of every sexuality imaginable
  • even a girl who wants to dismantle the pageant system from the inside!

And initially, these girls don’t get along.  It’s hard for the girl who’s so focused on the misogyny that’s so inherent in the pageant system to understand that it’s okay for the other girls to really like wearing cute clothes and doing their makeup.  It’s hard for the religious girls to understand that some people are trans, and that’s okay.  But the really, really great thing about this book is that the girls come to the realization that they need to support each other, and it doesn’t matter what their backgrounds are, they’re all working toward the same goal and it does no good to tear each other down.  The really feminist message of this book is that all girls are important, regardless of how they like to spend their free time, who they date, or whether they’re more interested in politics or interior design.

There are frank discussions of how it’s okay for boys to get mad, but when a girl shows any negative emotions, suddenly she’s “hysterical” or “on her period.”  They discuss how girls always feel the need to apologize for everything from having emotions to actually getting hurt.  And, personally, I loved it when they looked inside to find what they’re really good at and could contribute to the group.  These girls, who’ve spent their whole lives being told that they’re of value just because they’re pretty, find that they’re actually talented at building huts, or developing a system to store rainwater, or tending to injuries, or keeping everybody fed.  And they find out that being able to do all these things doesn’t make them any better or worse of a female than they were before, but it does give them a great sense of purpose.

I just can’t say enough great things about this book.  If not for my 2015 reading challenge, I don’t think I ever would have read it.  The relatively low average rating combined with me not thinking I’d really enjoy a book about pageant girls meant that it was sitting at the very bottom of my TBR list, there only because I love Libba Bray.  But my reading challenge told me that I had to read the book at the bottom of my TBR list, so I did.  And I’m so grateful, because this is literally one of the best books I’ve ever read.  It’s 400 pages, but I devoured it in just a few hours.  That’s how good it is.

Pick it up.  You won’t be disappointed.

Final rating: ★★★★★  

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #20: a book at the bottom of your to-read list.

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is 10 books I plan to have in my beach bag this summer.

I feel the need to say that I don’t go to the beach very often.  I actually wouldn’t ever go if I could avoid it, because:

  • I don’t like being hot.
  • I don’t like huge crowds of people.
  • The beaches in New Jersey are super gross.
  • I literally see people getting their faces cut off because of skin cancer every day.

But… I will probably spend time at my boyfriend’s family’s beach house this summer.  On the porch.  In the shade.  (Still doused in sunscreen, though.) Close enough, right?  So here’s what I’ll be bringing with me.  (Hint: It’s a lot of Krista & Becca Ritchie, because I’m so overwhelmed with ARC’s that I haven’t had much time to read for pleasure.)

  1. Kiss the Sky by Krista & Becca Ritchie
  2. Hothouse Flower

    by Krista & Becca Ritchie

  3. Thrive

    by Krista & Becca Ritchie

  4. Addicted After All

    by Krista & Becca Ritchie

  5. Fuel the Fire

    by Krista & Becca Ritchie

  6. Long Way Down

    by Krista & Becca Ritchie

  7. Amour Amour

    by Krista & Becca Ritchie

  8. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  9. The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  10. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

In all actuality, I’ll probably bring a Kindle full of Netgalley approvals.  But a girl can dream…

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To say I was excited about The World on a Plate would be an understatement. It’s a collection of all the things I love in life – talking about food, cooking, and learning about different cultures. So, when I got the email that I’d been approved for an advance copy, I was almost giddy.

The book wasn’t really what I expected. It’s more of separate informational pieces than anything else. This isn’t a bad thing, and I actually learned a lot while reading it. I also got a few ideas for what to do with my CSA vegetables this year, which coincidentally begin on May 26, this book’s official release date.

In general, I find it really hard to review nonfiction. What do you say? I guess the main thing that I noticed was that the facts were all there, but everything felt a little haphazard.

There wasn’t really any flow between one region and the next, and I couldn’t figure out the rationale for the recipes chosen. They’re not the most famous or the most popular. Perhaps they’re just the author’s favorites?

The selection of recipes left a lot to be desired. Take Peru, for example. Ceviche I get, it’s a classically Peruvian, very well-known dish. But Peruvian rice? Really? I’d have preferred to see something like lomo saltado, ají de gallina, or even chicha morada! In the section on Ethiopa, injera is mentioned several times, and the author even goes on to suggest where you might find a recipe, but for some reason didn’t see fit to include it in her book. She did, however, feel the need to include the Korean soondae (blood sausage encased in pig intestine) only to turn her nose up at it.

I also felt that some of the sections dragged as the descriptions of regional variations became tedious and monotonous. Some chapters come across as almost a little pretentious, as if the author feels that she needs to prove that she knows everything there is to know about Moroccan or Japanese or Thai food. Her (multiple) soliloquies on curry felt a little over-the-top as well. In addition, something was wrong with both versions of this book that I received – the Kindle copy was garbled almost beyond understanding starting around 80%, and the PDF I received crashed at Africa and refused to keep going. I hope that the final version for sale doesn’t have these problems, but it caused me to skim the majority of the last 20%.

Of course, there was some good. There are several recipes I would love to try, provided that my advance copy doesn’t expire too quickly. I did also enjoy the realization that cuisine around the world isn’t too different. Sure, the proteins might be different, and a spice or two may have changed, but the building blocks are very similar.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy! This book will be released on May 26, 2015.

Final rating: a low ★★★☆☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #14: a nonfiction book.