Book review: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Source: Borrowed

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

So, over the last year or so, it seems like everybody in the book blogging world has been talking about Autoboyography. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a negative review of it, and even though I have a documented problem with hyped books, I decided to dive right in. It was available for free on Riveted during Pride Month, but I planned out my library holds and ARCs very poorly and didn’t get around to it until July.

And… I liked it. I actually liked it a lot. The middle 80% or so is amazing. That said, I was a little disappointed by what I felt was a slow start and sort of haphazard ending.

Let me start with the characters and how much I loved them.

Our protagonist is Tanner. He’s eighteen years old, a senior in high school, and he’s just signed up for the infamous “Seminar” in which he’s required to write an entire book in four months. I don’t know that I could write an entire book if you gave me a year or three, so it’s pretty impressive that all these high school kids are doing it. Tanner is bisexual and his parents are super cool with it but won’t let him come out at school. I’m going to talk more about this later. I loved Tanner. He was such a disaster, but I would have totally been friends with him in high school. The thing that I loved most about Tanner was how sincere he was. He didn’t try to act a certain way to appease people, he didn’t play off his emotions as less than what they were. He just existed.

Our love interest is Sebastian. Sebastian is a super religious nineteen-year-old who has just published a fantasy novel. He’s nice, polite, helpful, a splotchy blusher, and totally swoonworthy. His father is the bishop and his home life is the polar opposite of Tanner’s. His parents are definitely not cool with homosexuality and he’s never even entertained the idea that he might not be straight. Tanner falls instantly in love with him and I normally hate instalove, but I totally get it here. I couldn’t fault Tanner one bit for his feelings.

Other important characters:

  • Tanner’s parents: a Jewish physician and a former Mormon programmer who support Tanner so much that they buy things like rainbow flags and aprons that say “I love my queer kid.”
  • Autumn: Tanner’s best friend who’s just a really well-written teenage girl, but boy, does she make a big decision that I am not okay with. (I’ll talk about this more later, too, under a spoiler tag.)
  • Fujita: The teacher/advisor for the Seminar who doesn’t actually seem to do that much teaching or advising, but who is pretty cool.

Basically, the whole middle of this book made me swoon. If you were to look at my Kindle notes, you would just see “I am swooning” and “S W O O N I N G” and “I love him, I’m swooning” over and over and over again. I fully believed the connection between Tanner and Sebastian and I was rooting for them from the moment they first locked eyes.

Some spoilers!
  1. It really bothered me that Tanner’s supposedly progressive parents were so opposed to him (a) dating a Mormon boy, and (b) coming out at school. They actually go so far as to forbid him from coming out, as if something like that is actually their decision? It’s one little thing that ate at my mind the whole time I was reading.
  2. I get that Autumn’s in love with Tanner. I get why she’s in love with him. What I don’t get is (a) why she felt it was okay to take advantage of him when he was in a really bad place emotionally, (b) how she could possibly live with herself, and (c) why I’ve seen so many reviews actually blaming Tanner for what happened. Tanner did nothing wrong, and if the genders were reversed, I’m pretty sure there would be outrage. Tanner went to Autumn’s house for a shoulder to cry on, not for sex.
  3. I didn’t love the ending. It was cute, sure, but after spending 90% of the book in Tanner’s head (or in his book or whatever) the Sebastian POV felt weird. The epilogue was also kind of weird because I’m really supposed to believe that Sebastian has finally come to his senses about being with Tanner? After ending things with him twice?? Sure, he just happens to find Tanner in LA and let him know that he wants them to be together? Excuse me if I don’t believe it.

Anyway, regardless of how I felt about those spoilers, I really loved this book. I read it over the course of 24 hours and had a huge smile on my face for most of it. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a cute M/M romance about two teenagers who are clearly destined to fall in love.


Have you read Autoboyography? Are you a fan of Christina Lauren?
Let’s talk in the comments!


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Book review: Running With Lions by Julian Winters

Running With Lions by Julian Winters
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: June 7, 2018
Source: Purchased at BookCon!
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.

So, basically, I’ve been counting down the minutes until this was released ever since I first saw it pop up on a list of Becky Albertalli’s diverse YA recommendations. I also saw early reviews and was denied for it on Netgalley (still crying, honestly) but it’s all good because I bought it at BookCon! Ahead of publication, even!

While I was at BookCon, I met Julian Winters. He’s the only author I actually interacted with there, and he was so nice. He personalized my book for me, we had a little conversation about how I’m Sara with no H, and he told me to tag him in my review if I love it and just throw away the book if I hate it. I’m not throwing away the book, Julian. It was so cute.

I’ll be honest, it took me a minute to adjust to the writing style. I’m not really used to third person present tense narration, but it’s okay. I got used to it. And, honestly, this is what a YA sports romance should be like. None of the petty arguments and random physical altercations that plagued my last attempt at the genre. I’m not a big sports person (much to the dismay of every elderly man that tries to talk about the Green Bay Packers with me), but I’m like 99% sure this is how a team is supposed to function. These kids make such a great team. Even the conflict (Emir not quite fitting in) feels really realistic and I thought the whole thing was just very well-done.

The romance itself was super cute, and I guess we can safely say that I have a thing for friends-to-enemies-to-lovers romances, because I almost always enjoy them. Sebastian and Emir were so cute together (how many times can I say cute in one review??) and I was rooting for them the whole time. I loved how accepting the whole team was and how much they stood up for each other.

The last thing I want to say is that I loved all the music references! The team is always listening to some kind of good music, be it Fall Out Boy or The 1975 or fun. There are also a couple Taylor Swift references, and if that’s not the way to my heart, I don’t even know what is.

I would definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for a cute (there’s that word again!) M/M YA romance.

Goodreads summer reading challenge: sports-a-holic


Have you read Running With Lions? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!


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ARC review: To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: August 21, 2018
Source: ARC from BookCon!

Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

loved Maggie’s debut, The Big F, when I read it last year. TBH has been at the top of my 2018 TBR ever since it was announced and I was so excited to grab a copy when I was at BookCon! Side note, BookCon was how long ago and I’m just now getting to the ARCs? I’m so sorry.

Anyway, the review.

Savannah is definitely a less likable heroine than Dani was. She’s rude, she’s angry, and she pushes people away. And why shouldn’t she? Her mother is always making snide comments about her weight and trying to get her to tag along with her latest diet scheme. I’d be rude and angry, too. Despite Savannah’s attitude problem, or maybe even because of it, I liked her. I got where she was coming from. She was a refreshing protagonist and reading her story made me so happy.

The family dynamics in this book stressed me out so much, but I also loved them! In addition to her diet-crazed mother, Savannah has a barely-there father who really isn’t that great at parenting… when he even bothers to show up. Her sister Ashley is her saving grace, but since Ashley just left for college, Savannah is more or less on her own with a mother who constantly makes her feel like she isn’t good enough.

Luckily, Savannah’s best friend Grace is a constant positive presence. I loved Grace and the fact that their friendship never took a backseat to the action, regardless of what the action was. There’s a really great side plot about Savannah and Grace doing some investigative journalism, and I loved it!

The last thing I want to talk about is the love interest, George. He was such a cutie pie and I loved him so much. George and Savannah were so cute together, honestly, I was just one big heart eyes emoji while I was reading their scenes together. 😍 The only thing I could’ve wished for was some better communication between the two of them. Savannah jumped to a lot of conclusions and George was pretty closed off about his emotions, but considering that they’re in high school, I’m really not that surprised!

All in all, this is a great contemporary focusing on body shaming and body image that also includes a super cute romance. Highly recommended!

Goodreads summer reading challenge: one and done


Have you read To Be Honest? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!


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ARC review (+ giveaway!): Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

First things first! Somehow, the bookish gods blessed me with TWO ARCs of Bring Me Their Hearts! Click through to the Rafflecopter for your chance to win one of them! (US only, sorry, international shipping is so expensive!!)

Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Source: ARC from publisher

Zera is a Heartless – the immortal, unageing soldier of a witch. Bound to the witch Nightsinger ever since she saved her from the bandits who murdered her family, Zera longs for freedom from the woods they hide in. With her heart in a jar under Nightsinger’s control, she serves the witch unquestioningly.

Until Nightsinger asks Zera for a Prince’s heart in exchange for her own, with one addendum; if she’s discovered infiltrating the court, Nightsinger will destroy her heart rather than see her tortured by the witch-hating nobles.

Crown Prince Lucien d’Malvane hates the royal court as much as it loves him – every tutor too afraid to correct him and every girl jockeying for a place at his darkly handsome side. No one can challenge him – until the arrival of Lady Zera. She’s inelegant, smart-mouthed, carefree, and out for his blood. The Prince’s honor has him quickly aiming for her throat.

So begins a game of cat and mouse between a girl with nothing to lose and a boy who has it all.

Winner takes the loser’s heart.

Literally.

I was so surprised and so excited when an actual physical ARC of Bring Me Their Hearts showed up on my front porch! I never get physical ARCs, so this pretty much made my life. I haven’t been reading a ton of YA fantasy lately, but it sounded really good and let’s be honest, the author’s name is also Sara with no H, so I felt an instant bond with her.

I think that my favorite thing about this book was the characters. I loved Zera, a strong and sassy heroine with a whole lot of opinions. When it comes to heroines, Zera is exactly what I like. I loved the friendships that she made throughout the book! Although she and Fione didn’t necessarily get along at the beginning, I loved how close they got as the book went on. And Malachite! What a great character. I loved Lady Y’shennria’s character development. And Lucien? Is he an actual perfect prince? I think he might be.

But there were also some things I didn’t like. I struggled with the pacing, which kind of felt all over the place to me. I felt like the language was also pretty modern for the time period that this book is supposed to be set in. There was one scene where Zera says something along the lines of, “Of all the garbage things I’ve said since I got here,” and it just felt so modern and so out of place. I also couldn’t get over the internal voice of Zera’s hunger, either, which for some reason TaLkeD liKe a TeEnaGe GirL fRoM 2004??

In the end, I feel kind of conflicted about this book. I liked the concept, I liked the characters, but there was just something in the execution that didn’t do it for me. You’ll probably enjoy it if you’re into light, fluffy YA fantasy. It has a really high average rating on Goodreads (4.22 stars as of the time I finished it), so the fact that I didn’t love it definitely puts me in the minority.


Have you read Bring Me Their Hearts? What did you think?

Book review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: January 16, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Truly Devious has been on my radar forever, it just took me awhile to get around to actually reading it. June’s Monthly Motif (Crack the Case) was just the push I needed to actually dive in. To start off, I guess I should say that this book was completely not what I expected. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not this!

Anyway, I really liked Stevie. She’s a true crime fanatic, she fancies herself a detective, and she’s almost too curious about everything going on around her. She gets herself into some trouble with her snooping. And her parents just don’t understand! I’m definitely not a Young Adult anymore, but I related to Stevie so much.

First of all, I’m 28 and I feel like I’m still having this conversation with my mother:

Her parents had no idea that you could meet people outside of school and it wasn’t freaky and the internet was the way of finding your people.
(I think the next generation of parents will have a totally different outlook on this.)
But also, this quote about anxiety!!!

People say depression lies. Anxiety is just stupid. It’s unable to tell the difference between things that are actually scary (being buried alive, for example) and things that are not scary at all (being in bed under the covers). It hits all the same buttons. Stop. Go. Up. Down. It’s all the same to anxiety.

It’s like Maureen Johnson took the words straight out of my head.
I don’t even know what to say in this review because I feel like I’m going to spoil everything, so let me just say that I liked:
  • the setting! I love boarding school books!
  • the teensy bit of romance that develops between Stevie and one of her classmates!
  • the totally platonic friendship between Stevie and a different classmate!
  • Stevie’s ability to make weird connections in the two different mysteries!

I didn’t really like:

  • That cliffhanger!
I just need The Vanishing Stair right now.

#mm18: crack the case