Book review: Big D by Stephanie Brother

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Hardworking, studious, mysterious Hannah is not your average college student.  She doesn’t drink.  She doesn’t party.  She doesn’t date around.  She’s serious about her studies, and really wants nothing more than to graduate with a good degree to better her life.

So, really, she wants nothing to do with a football player nicknamed “Big D.”  But Hannah needs money for school.  She needs money so badly that she works as a stripper.  And when her professor offers her the chance to tutor Big D in exchange for next year’s tuition, she has to say yes.

Dominic isn’t what Hannah expects.  He’s not a dumb jock.  In fact, the only reason he doesn’t do well in school is his dyslexia.  And he’s really thoughtful.  He actually cares about Hannah, which shocks her.  And when a man from Hannah’s other job starts getting a little too close for comfort, she’s glad to have Dominic around to defend her.

So… I got this book for free on Amazon.  Did you know that, even if you don’t pay for Kindle Unlimited, Amazon members get one free KU book each month?  This was my choice in October.  And I’m kind of glad that I didn’t pay for it because I was seriously disappointed.

The plot is honestly infuriating.  Hannah makes stupid decisions, says she’s going to stop making stupid decisions, and then makes more stupid decisions.  We’re supposed to assume that Dominic has a girlfriend since he has to take these mystery calls every night, but it’s so obvious that he doesn’t.  Hannah’s “secret” is painfully obvious from the beginning.

Also, how weird is it for someone to have a nickname based on their penis size?  I mean, really!  Imagine walking around campus with your parents and someone shouts out “Hey, Big D!” and your mom’s like, “Honey, why do they call you Big D?” and you have to say, “Because my dick’s really big, mom, and somehow everyone knows it.”

This one just didn’t do it for me.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

Book review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

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The year is 1553.  King Edward VI has fallen ill, and his trusted advisor has recommended changing the order of succession to ensure that Edward’s cousin, Lady Jane Grey, become queen in the event of his death.  That Lady Jane has been recently engaged to said advisor’s son is, of course, simply a coincidence.

Jane has no desire to be queen.  (No desire to be married, either, but sixteen was a bit spinstery for the day.)  No, Jane would much rather spend time with her books.  She’s rarely found without a book in hand, and can hardly get through a conversation without referencing some sassily titled book:

Poisonous and Nonpoisonous Berries of the WIld: the Joys of Surviving England on a Budget

The Kiss: It’s Not Just About the Lips

The Proper Treatment of Wounds on the Battlefield During the War of the Roses: A History

Jane has a love of reading that rivals even mine.  And that love of reading comes in handy as she’s forced to assume a throne she never wanted.  When she has to thwart a rebellion.  When she finds out that she’s married to a very handsome horse.

Oh, yes, that’s right.  This is a magical retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s story, and while it’s based in truth, our narrators have done a bit of research to uncover the “truth” behind Jane’s life.  It turns out that there was quite a conflict in Jane’s day between the shapeshifters (Eðians) and non-shapeshifters (Verities).  Edward V was an Eðian, able to shift into a lion and devour his opponents.  Edward VI’s grandmother was also an Eðian, able to turn into a skunk and spray those who might try to offend her.  Turns out that Jane’s husband, Gifford Dudley (call him G, please), is rather incapable of controlling his Eðian nature and transforms into a horse every day from dawn until dusk.

Can I just talk about G for a minute here?  Of all the ways this book could have gone, I was so happy that G was a supportive husband for Jane.  While their marriage was arranged, and neither of them were particularly excited about it, they come to care about each other and trust each other and it just made my heart so happy.  The book doesn’t leave out the patriarchal attitudes of the 16th century, but the narrators (and Jane!) often call out the male characters when they insinuate that women are less capable than men.  And, for G’s part, he turns out to be pretty enlightened by the end of the book.

Another thing that I loved about this book was all of the pop culture references.  The French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail shows up as the insult “Your mother was a hamster and your father stank of elderberries” is thrown around willy-nilly.  A character mentions an invitation to “The Red Wedding.”  Jane, at one point, finds the only weapon available to be a heavy frying pan. And, of course, I can’t forget the references to Shakespeare:

Shall I compare thee to a barrel of apples?
Thou art more hairy, but sweeter inside.
Rough winds couldn’t keep me from taking you to chapel,
Where finally a horse could take a bride…

This book isn’t going to be for everyone.  It has a special kind of Monty Python-style humor, so if you aren’t a huge fan of their sketches, you might not enjoy this book.  But while many teenage girls would sneak out to see boys, steal their parents’ alcohol, or, at the very least, marathon something like One Tree Hill, when our parents were out of town, my best friend and I would stay up all night watching old Monty Python skits on PBS.  Such wild children, I know.  But the point of me telling you this is that I have always loved this sort of silly humor, so this book was right up my alley.  And not only is it a silly retelling of the Renaissance era, it’s also delightfully well-written and highly entertaining.

I have not yet read anything by any of these three authors individually, but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of their work.  And, great news: they’ve announced that they’re releasing more retellings of other Janes!  Personally, I can’t wait.

Final rating: ★★★★★

#mmdreading: a book about books or reading

Book review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

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Real friends are the ones you can count on no matter what.  The ones who go into the forest to find you and bring you home.  And real friends never have to tell you that they’re your friends.

I’ll admit it.  I’m a sucker for a pretty cover.  And, to be perfectly honest with you, the cover is the only reason that I picked this book up.  Sure, I’d heard good things about Morgan Matson.  Yes, the book does have a pretty high average on Goodreads.  And sure, the plot sounded interesting enough.  But the cover was the only reason I got it.  I’m shallow like that sometimes.

Sometimes you can’t judge a book by its cover.  But in this case, you definitely can.  It just looks like a cute, summery read, and it absolutely is.

Sloane and Emily are the kind of best friends that are joined at the hip.  The kind of friends that aren’t really Sloane and Emily, two separate people, but more like sloaneandemily, a joint entity.  Emily almost feels like, if Sloane disappeared, she might cease existing as well.  And honestly, Emily’s okay with that, because Sloane brings out the best in her.  When Sloane’s around, Emily doesn’t have to worry about whether she’s being weird.  About whether people are judging her.  She doesn’t have to rack her brain for appropriate things to say, they just pop out when Sloane’s with her.  And for someone like Emily, who has always lived firmly inside her comfort zone, surrounded by her protective shell, being friends with someone like Sloan is freeing.

Sloane and Emily were supposed to have the most epic summer of their lives.  They’d planned everything out down to the last detail.  And then Sloane disappears.  Vanishes without a trace.  Her house is empty.  She doesn’t answer her phone.  Nobody knows where she went.  It’s almost like she never existed in the first place.  But then Emily receives a list from Sloane.  Thirteen dares designed to pull Emily out of her shell.  And, Emily thinks, maybe by finishing the list, she can find out where Sloane is hiding.

Some of the items on the list are pretty straightforward, like “dance until dawn.”  Others require a little more detective work, like “55 S. Ave. Ask for Mona.”  And some, for sheltered, introverted Emily, are just plain terrifying.  Like “go skinny-dipping.”  But Emily dutifully works all summer long to complete this list, finding help in the form of the cute class president, his wacky friend, and a pizza delivery girl that Emily just met.

Of course, romance ensues along the way, and it turns out to be one of the absolute cutest romances I read in the entirety of 2016.  But the romance isn’t really the focus of the book.  No, the focus of the book is Emily coming to terms with herself without the best friend that she always defined herself by.  And no, Emily doesn’t learn that it’s pointless to be shy and that, in order to live her best life, she must suddenly become extroverted.  (This isn’t another teen movie.)  Emily does learn, though, how to push her boundaries and gain the courage to do the things she’s always wanted to do.

I absolutely adored this book, and it really cemented Morgan Matson as one of my new favorite authors.  Excuse me while I read the rest of her catalog.

Final rating: ★★★★★

Book review: The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

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If Caymen Meyers’ mother has taught her anything, it’s that smooth talking rich boys are not to be trusted. All they’ll do is steal your heart and break it. She should know, after all. It happened to her. Caymen’s father was a rich boy, and he decided that he wanted nothing to do with her or her mother after he’d had his fun. So when Xander Spence walks into the family’s doll store, oozing wealth and privilege, Caymen’s dead-set on hating him. Too bad he’s so likable.

Xander is the first person in a long time that understands Caymen. He gets her dry wit and her sarcastic sense of humor. He knows what it’s like to not know what you want to do with your life, to just know that you want something different from what your parents hope for. And sure, Caymen’s hoping to get out of the doll store before one of them comes to life and murders her, while Xander doesn’t want to take over his family’s 500+ hotels, but it’s the same general idea.

Caymen isn’t looking for a boyfriend. Xander isn’t looking for a girlfriend. But they find themselves growing closer and closer together. Caymen knows that her mother wouldn’t approve. Secretly, she’s worried that Xander’s family wouldn’t approve of her, either. After all, he’s rich enough to get his face plastered all over tabloids. Her mother can barely pay their bills. But the two of them click, and the slow burn of their building attraction was just enough for me to fall in love.

This book was so cute and fluffy. It was the perfect thing to read after a long, stressful week at work. I started it late on a Friday night and didn’t want to put it down, but eventually, I had to give in and sleep. I did, however, pick it up first thing after I woke up on Saturday morning. I loved it.

I loved that there was no love triangle. Xander is not competing for Caymen’s affection. Caymen is not competing for Xander. They are just two people who unexpectedly become friends, and then unexpectedly become more. I loved Caymen’s friends and how supportive they were. I loved Caymen’s relationship with Mrs. Dalton, a regular at the shop who happens to be Xander’s grandmother. I loved Caymen and Xander’s excursions as they tried to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I think I was in the perfect mood to read this book. I enjoyed it so much.

It seems like everybody and their mother has read a book by Kasie West. When I flip through her titles, there’s a long list of my friends & following who’ve reviewed each of her books. For some reason, I never had much interest. I don’t know what I thought was wrong with them. Maybe just that, like many well-loved authors, I’d fail to catch the spark. I wouldn’t see what everybody else does. That I’d be disappointed. Well, much like 2016 was the first year that I read Morgan Matson, 2017 is the first year that I read Kasie West. And I’m hooked. Watch me check out all of her books from my library over the next week.

(I’m kidding. I have some ARCs to finish first. Maybe in the next two weeks.)

Final rating: ★★★★☆

ARC review: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

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Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to New Jersey.  Seven days to say goodbye to her friends.  Seven days to say goodbye to her life.  Seven days before everything changes. She’s all set to have the time of her life before heading back to the States, but then Jamie comes back and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia used to be friends.  Back in the day, they were kind of inseparable.  Then something awful happened, Jamie went off to boarding school in the States, and Sophia tried her best to forget him. Now he’s back, and he’s the last person she wants to see. But what happens when Sophia’s best friendships start falling apart, and Jamie is surprisingly there for her when nobody else is?

I was really looking forward to this book. If you check back on my anticipated 2017 releases, I am pretty sure this one shows up multiple times. I was shocked when I got an email from Netgalley offering it as a Read Now since this was being hyped up quite a bit on Goodreads and many book blogs. I started reading it right away and was quickly drawn into the colorful, fast-paced atmosphere of Sophia’s Tokyo.

I could easily give this book five stars for the first half. You would never know that this is a debut – Cecilia Vinesse writes beautifully and creates such an atmosphere that you’d think she’s been at it for years.  Sophia and her friends all had such distinct and varied personalities that they could be real people. I’ve never been to Tokyo, but I felt like I was right there with them while reading about their adventures at karaoke, or the train station, or running around the city.  This book has a definite vibe, and I was really impressed.

The thing that made me change my rating was the ending. I don’t want to get into spoilers in this review, especially since this was an ARC, but I thought Sophia’s behavior toward Jamie and her other friend David was really uncalled for.  I understood why she did it, but that didn’t make it okay.  There was also no real discussion of what had happened.  It was just kind of brushed off and then everything was fine again.  (I guess?  I actually don’t know, since the book has no real ending, which also made me mad.)

Again, I don’t want to get into spoilers (and you’re probably mad at me for being so vague, just message me if the suspense is killing you), but what happened toward the end of Seven Days of You is very similar to what happened at the end of You Don’t Know My Name, another YA debut I recently read.  I’m not sure if this is a trend in young adult novels now (I really hope not), but it is kind of baffling.

I also didn’t really like the fight Sophia had with her friend Mika.  I know it set up Sophia’s whole reunion with Jamie, but I thought the whole girl-on-girl drama over a boy was kind of unnecessary and it played into overdone stereotypes about the kinds of things that females fight about.  I mean, I guess this kind of thing probably happens sometimes in female friendships (though it’s never happened in any of mine), but any reasonable friend would never do what Mika did. Ever.

So, some definite positives and definite negatives with this one.  Despite the problems I had, I still enjoyed reading it and would love to see what Cecilia Vinesse comes up with next.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the ARC!

#mmdreading: a book set somewhere you’ve never been but would like to visit