ARC review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

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Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

The Way You Make Me Feel has been at the top of my Most Anticipated list for 2018 ever since I saw the cover way back when. I don’t even know what it is about this cover, but it drew me in and I knew that I had to read this book. I can’t say that I really loved the story, but I do still love the cover.

The book turned out to be a much younger YA than I was expecting. You know how in some YA books, the characters act like mini-grown ups? Not the case here. Clara and her gang of friends act like stupid, immature teenagers through most of the book. Clara herself is a little jerk who never thinks of anyone aside from herself. She and her friends live for pranks, always dreaming up something bigger and better for next time. Clara’s nemesis is Rose, also a little jerk, but one who thinks that Clara and her friends are beneath her. The characters fit into very specific molds which reminded me very much of the YA of my youth.

This is billed as a young adult romance, but I think of it more as a coming of age story than anything else. This is a book about Clara learning to think of someone other than herself. It’s a book about consequences. It’s about family and appreciating what your parents have given you. It’s about friendship and analyzing whether the connections you’ve made are really going to benefit you in the long run. The romance is the least important part of this book. In all honesty, it’s pretty forgettable.

Sometimes, a YA book will make me look back on my high school days with rose-colored glasses. Oh, to be young again, I think, as I sit here preparing for my ten-year high school reunion. Other YA books make me very glad to be grown and away from that drama. The Way You Make Me Feel falls firmly into the second category. I have no desire to go back to the petty arguments and stupid feuds of high school. I connected more with Clara’s dad, Adrian, than I did with any of the teenage characters. Adrian is actually one of the best and most present YA parents in recent memory, so bonus points for that!

This was my first book by Maurene Goo. I might not have loved it as much as I’d expected, but I did have fun. I have I Believe in a Thing Called Love on my TBR for later this year.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a free advance copy of The Way You Make Me Feel from the publisher (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest review. The Way You Make Me Feel releases on May 8, 2018.

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The Mystery Blogger Award

the-mystery-blogger-award

I love to be tagged in things, so I was excited to be nominated by Pages and Pugs for the Mystery Blogger Award! (Thank you!) Please go check out her blog!

Here are the rules of the award:

  • Display award logo
  • List the Rules
  • Thank the person that nominated you!!
  • Mention and link the award creator: Okoto Enigma
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 10-20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice

Three things about me:

  • I love babies! It’s a well-known fact in my circle that if you have a baby with you, I will somehow end up with it. I have zero children (and grew up as an only child) but mothers give me their screaming children and somehow I make them happy. I don’t really know how it works. Maybe the babies can just tell how much I love them.
  • I’m also kind of a cat whisperer? I’ve never met a cat that I didn’t like. I’m also pretty good at choosing THE BEST CATS from a shelter. (If I do say so myself.)
  • I’ve lived in nine different places (in two different states and six different cities) in the last sixteen years. I started in Wisconsin and somehow ended up in New Jersey.

More facts about me here & here.

Five questions from Pages and Pugs:

1. Are you usually early or late?

Personally, I like to be early to everything. My mom basically raised me that early is on time, on time is late, and late is terrible so don’t do it. I’m also a really anxious person and I’d rather be three hours early than feel like I’m upsetting people by being five minutes late. In practice, especially in New Jersey (!!!), traffic makes everything horrible so I end up late a lot more often than I’d like.

2. What’s your favorite book genre?

Right now I’m really into YA contemporaries!

3. Where is the most relaxing place you’ve ever been?

Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Take me back!

4. Do you DNF or push through books you aren’t enjoying?

99% of the time I’ll push through. That other 1% is books that I just cannot even bring myself to skim.

5. OTHER THAN all the blogs we follow and your own blog platform, what website do you spend the most time on?

I do a lot of mindless scrolling through Facebook when I’m on hold at work. (I talk to insurance companies all day so this can add up to a lot of scrolling!)

Five questions from me to you:

1. What’s the best thing that happened to you this week?
2. What’s your favorite blog post that you’ve ever written?
3. Is there any song that always puts you in a good mood?
4. What’s your favorite dessert?
5. Do you have any hobbies outside or reading/blogging? If so, what?

My nominations:
(It’s not going to be 10 because I can’t think of 10 people to tag! Also, no pressure!)

Monthly Motif: April Update

In March, we traveled the world. April’s theme for Monthly Motif was Read Locally. Specifically, this prompt was to “read a book set in your country, state, town, or village (or with a main character from your hometown, home state, etc).” Originally I planned to read The Quantum Labyrinth by Paul Halpern, but another book snuck in unannounced!

Books read:

  • A Higher Loyalty by James Comey (Comey discusses his childhood in New Jersey)
  • The Quantum Labyrinth by Paul Halpern (about Richard Feynman’s years at Princeton University)

Books not read:

  • Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz – I had planned on reading this but then saw that it has generally terrible reviews and decided not to back up my TBR with a book I probably wouldn’t enjoy

May’s Monthly Motif is Book to Screen. I’m not sure yet what I want to read, so please let me know if you can suggest anything!

Did you participate in this month’s prompt? If so, what did you read? If you didn’t, did you read any books this month set close to home?

Book review: A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

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In this book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.

“We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded.”

Earlier this year, I read both Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and Hillary Clinton’s What Happened. When I heard that the infamous James Comey was releasing a book about his experience as the FBI director under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, I knew I had to read it. When a certain POTUS referred to Comey as an “untruthful slime ball,” the book rocketed up to the top of my TBR. With some furious refreshing and a little bit of luck, I ended up first on the holds list at my library and was rewarded with a copy of this book at exactly midnight on its release date.

Let me tell you, I haven’t always agreed with Comey. I think he handled the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s emails poorly, even after finishing this book. Sure, he followed protocol, but I still think there must have been a better way to go about the investigation that wouldn’t have so strongly influenced the election. That said, I think it’s important to get multiple perspectives in life. In all honesty, he did a great job with this book.

To start off, let me just say that I hadn’t realized Comey had lived such an interesting life. He was heavily involved in both Abu Ghraib (one of the first big political controversies that I remember comprehending) and the prosecution of Martha Stewart for insider trading. He also worked to bring down the mafia, which I didn’t even realize was still a thing, but apparently is. (Yikes.)

This is what I wanted when I read Fire and Fury. Comey pushes back against Trump’s accusations and allegations, but he never gets gossipy. He injects some humor into his writing but it never comes across as frivolous. He draws a lot of comparisons between Trump’s administration and the mafia, which I never would’ve picked up on my own but doesn’t seem too far from the truth. All in all, he has a nice, accessible writing style. I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I would.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mm18: read locally
Comey was raised in New Jersey and discusses his childhood in New Jersey, including a terrifying experience with the Ramsey Rapist. As a bonus, he also discusses his work in Wisconsin, my home state!

Book review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men — thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I’ve had this book forever. Or, at least, it seems like forever. I got it for Christmas in 2016 and then moved shortly after. The book was unceremoniously shoved into a box where I didn’t really think about it until I decided to bring my TBR challenge back. I’m not going to lie. It has a slow start. If I didn’t know that every book blogger I’ve ever seen has hyped this series, I don’t know if I would’ve kept going. Certainly, for the first hundred pages or so, I would’ve put money on forgoing the next book.

Then, all of a sudden, it got interesting. I loved the training montages with Celaena and Chaol. I loved the little conversations and flirtations between Celaena and Dorian. I liked the brief glimpses into the lives of the other characters, even the ones I disliked, like Kaltain. The story took a little while to find its footing, but once it did, I was hooked.

I need to know what happens next with Celaena and Chaol. With Celaena and the king. With Celaena and Nehemia. With Celaena and Dorian… I guess. I don’t own any of the other books in this series, so I guess I’m off to the library.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#killingthetbr: one year, four months on shelf

Book review: Alphas Like Us by Krista & Becca Ritchie

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Maverick, know-it-all bodyguard Farrow Keene knows publicly dating American royalty comes with a great cost. Everyone wants a piece of their relationship. And as a protective boyfriend, he’s not here for the malicious hands that grab at their love life and seek to rip them apart.

But Farrow is confident — he’s confident that he could’ve never prepared for the storm to come.

Keep him safe.

Maximoff Hale isn’t a big fan of change. And to regain the charity CEO position he lost, he agrees to a task that he’s always rejected. One that could uproot his unconventional world.

But Maximoff is afraid — he’s afraid of the consequences that could destroy his boyfriend and his family.

Keep him safe.

Changes are on the horizon.
Big.
Messy.
Complicated.
Changes.

Maximoff & Farrow will fight for their forever. And with every breath, they promise that their love story won’t end here.

I adore Krista & Becca Ritchie. They make me feel a lot of emotions and I always find myself overly attached to their characters. I’ve given five stars to six of their books. I absolutely devoured Damaged Like Us and Lovers Like Us. I wanted to love Alphas Like Us. I went into it fully expecting it to be another five-star read. But it wasn’t. I feel like the actual worst right now, but this was my least favorite KBR book in recent memory.

I guess it’s inevitable that your favorite authors will put out a book that you just don’t click with every so often. I mean, this was still a solid book. It’s a strong 3.5 from me and I thought the ending was pretty great, so I rounded up to 4. But it’s just not what I expected. I didn’t expect to just like this book. I expected to be floored. Blown away. Speechless.  I have a documented history of this problem when I’m too excited about a book.

I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so I’m not really going to get into any of what happens in the course of this nearly 500-page novel. Strangely, it both feels like a lot happened and absolutely nothing happened, which is another reason that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d expected. The book is very heavy on the attraction between Moffy and Farrow, which made sense at the beginning of the series but felt a little forced here. I’m glad that they’re happy and enamored with each other, but does it really need to be repeated on every other page?

One thing that I did really enjoy was how much we got to see the other Hale, Meadows, and Cobalt children. I don’t know if I really want all the children to end up with their bodyguards (KBR will really have to do some finagling to make that seem natural) but I am really and truly feeling the Lunnelly and Thane vibes! This morning, as I casually sipped my Wawa coffee, I found myself thinking about Donnelly and his rather… unprofessional comments toward Luna. (It’s okay, I loved it.) Then I got to thinking about Jane and Thatcher and how excited I am for Tangled Like Us, and then I told myself to get back to work because I’m unfortunately not paid to think about fictional characters.

Side note: KBR mention in their note at the end that they’re planning on returning to Moffy and Farrow’s story in the future. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that since there are so many other kids to be writing about! I hope that when they decide to release another book, it’ll be more like a novella or a Some Kind of Perfect-style series ender.

Final rating: 3.5, rounded up to ★★★★☆

#mm18: travel the world

Book review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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Henry Denton has spent years being periodically abducted by aliens. Then the aliens give him an ultimatum: The world will end in 144 days, and all Henry has to do to stop it is push a big red button.

Only he isn’t sure he wants to.

After all, life hasn’t been great for Henry. His mom is a struggling waitress held together by a thin layer of cigarette smoke. His brother is a jobless dropout who just knocked someone up. His grandmother is slowly losing herself to Alzheimer’s. And Henry is still dealing with the grief of his boyfriend’s suicide last year.

Wiping the slate clean sounds like a pretty good choice to him.

But Henry is a scientist first, and facing the question thoroughly and logically, he begins to look for pros and cons: in the bully who is his perpetual one-night stand, in the best friend who betrayed him, in the brilliant and mysterious boy who walked into the wrong class. Weighing the pain and the joy that surrounds him, Henry is left with the ultimate choice: push the button and save the planet and everyone on it…or let the world—and his pain—be destroyed forever.

Grief is an ocean, and guilt the undertow that pulls me beneath the waves and drowns me.

The last book I read by Shaun David Hutchinson was The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. It knocked me over with the intense emotions and I could hardly put it down. Let’s just say the same thing happened here. You should see my notes while I was reading this book.

  • “I’m going to start crying. Sobbing. I can’t.”
  • “I just want to hug Henry.”
  • “I hate Marcus. I hate him so much.”
  • “I can’t cope with this.”
  • “I love Shaun David Hutchinson.”

I honestly don’t know how Hutchinson does it. He has this way of writing characters that tear my heart out. First Andrew Brawley and now Henry Denton (and, hey, let’s just include Diego Vega, too) — I just want to protect them with everything that I have. Every character in this book was well-developed. This book is about alien abductions and yet everything felt so realistic.

I don’t give a lot of books five stars. To be honest, I usually don’t go higher than four since I reserve five-star ratings for those few books that absolutely blow me away. But this book absolutely blew me away. I can’t give it anything less than five stars. It was so good.

You can’t live in the past. You can only visit.

Final rating: ★★★★★