Review: This Is My Brain on Boys by Sarah Strohmeyer

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

This Is My Brain on Boys
Addie Emerson doesn’t believe in love. Not for herself anyway. With one year left of high school, she’s more interested in snagging a full scholarship to Harvard than a full-time boyfriend.

That doesn’t mean she’s oblivious to the ways of the heart. Or, rather, the head. Because after months of research, Addie has discovered how to make anyone fall in love. All you need is the secret formula.

But will her discovery be enough to win the coveted Athenian Award and all its perks? (See above, full scholarship to Harvard.) Or will she be undone by Dexter, her backstabbing lab partner, who is determined to deep-six her experiments at their exclusive private school?

Those are the least of her problems now that she’s survived a death-defying flight with a mysterious, dark-haired boy, who has delicious chocolate-brown eyes and a few secrets of his own.

With an experiment to mastermind, an infatuated exchange student on her hands, and at least one great white shark (more on that later), can Addie’s prefrontal cortex outwit her heart? Or will she have to give in to her amygdala and find out, once and for all, if this thing called love is more than just her brain on drugs?

From the very first sentence in this book I knew it was going to be super cute, super fun read, and I was right.

I loved Addie in this book, she was such a fun character to read about. She was like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory meets Temperance Brennan from Bones. I love both of those characters, so reading about their teenage equivalent was super fun. Yes, Addie was super frustrating at times, but she was still fun and cute in a clueless, highly logical way. I also loved Dex, the love interest. i loved the way he bounced off Addie's literalness and took it in his stride. For the same reason, I also loved her best friend Tess and Tess's boyfriend. I loved how protective they were over Addie despite not quite understanding her most of the time.

As well as that I really enjoyed the background stories, I loved Dex and Kara's story going on in the background, and the way everything escalated between Addie and Dex and the little (predictable) twist at the end.

That being said, I felt that the way everything developed was very unbelievable and zany - I liked it but it still doesn't take away from the fact that Addie pretty much used people. It was a little frustrating and took away from the whole thing.

Overall, This Is My Brain on Boys was a super-cute and fune time-killer, but I didn't feel that it really was that memorable or meaningful. Still, a cute book if you like zany reads like this,

Overall Rating: C

Book released 10th May by Balzer+Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The May Queen Murders

Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night.

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

This was one of my most highly anticipated book of this year and despite the fact that maybe it didn't live up to my rather high expectations I still really enjoyed it.

I loved the setting that Jude wrote, this eerie, creepy southern village where the inhabitants live a traditional life away from the other townspeople. It was original and culty and really made the whole thing work for me. The characters and their relationship dynamics worked so well too - I loved that small village hillfolk feel in people's interactions.

The set up of the story was brilliant too. I love the history and this elusive 'boogeyman' type character that the kids grow up fearing, and the mystery behind the deaths and the kidnappings was so brilliant as well.

I do, however, feel that the ending really let this book down. I feel that in her need to make the story twisty and turny, Jude lost sight of her original plan and everything became a bit comical, with motives and culprits everywhere. It seemed really silly, and took away from the more seriousness of the rest of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the most of The May Queen Murders, but the ending really took away from the rest of the book - to be fair, the ending is a pretty key part of a story,

Overall Rating: C+

Book released 3rd May by HMH Books for Young Readers
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Queen of Hearts
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

I wasn't aware that this was being re-published, I thought it was the first in a brand new series and it isn't. I'm actually surprised that this book is being picked up by a publisher as big as Harper because it wasn't actually all that great. The writing in Queen of Hearts  was at times very stilted and formal and this really made it difficult to be absorbed into the book. The story and the dialogue lacked depth and anything to make this book stand out and Dinah, the possibly slightly crazy and disliked daughter of the King of Hearts, was a very unexciting character. There was nothing about her or Wardley that really gave me any kind of feeling.

The thing is that there was not much plot in this story and things didn't pick up until the very end when Dinah's father makes a bad move and makes Dinah a wanted girl. Until then, it ad been DInah chasing after clues about a secret that frankly I still have no idea what it was - maybe it was the reason Dinah's father hated her, because I still don't know why that was.

Things seemed to work conveniently in the favor of Dinah and Wardley and I hate it when that happens. They should have been caught at the Black Towers but they got in and out with no harm. Dinah shouldn't have got out of the castle at the end, but conveniently the Hornhoov let her ride it. 

Overall, Queen of Hearts has a great concept and I was so excited to read it, but I was very much let down by the execution.

Overall Rating: D

Book released 3rd May 2016 by HarperCollins
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Down With the Shine

There's a reason they say "be careful what you wish for." Just ask the girl who wished to be thinner and ended up smaller than Thumbelina, or the boy who asked for "balls of steel" and got them-literally. And never wish for your party to go on forever. Not unless you want your guests to be struck down by debilitating pain if they try to leave.

These are things Lennie only learns when it's too late-after she brings some of her uncles' moonshine to a party and toasts to dozens of wishes, including a big wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was abducted and murdered six months ago.

Lennie didn't mean to cause so much chaos. She always thought her uncles' moonshine toast was just a tradition. And when they talked about carrying on their "important family legacy," she thought they meant good old-fashioned bootlegging.

As it turns out, they meant granting wishes. And Lennie has just granted more in one night than her uncles would grant in a year.

Now she has to find a way to undo the damage. But once granted, a wish can't be unmade...

This book threw me - I mean really threw me, It starts out with Lennie telling us about the murder-robbing crime spree, then cut to her finding out that her best friend Dru is dead. Forgive me for thinking that this was going to be a pretty bleak story - especially after I read Quinn's Another Little Piece a couple of years back and that was a very dark book,

Aha, but Quinn managed to completely throw me for a loop when she cuts to the present day where she is gearing up to go to a party. She isn't really invited, but she has her uncles' (her.guardians) illegally brewed moonshine with her. Because a party ain't a part without potato alcohol of course. She managed to get into the party and hands out freebies of the moonshine, asking everyone taking a shot to make a wish first - it's her family tradition - then she wakes up in the morning to find out that everyone's wishes came true.

Including the guy who turns everything he touches into cheetos, or the girl who wished the party would never end, or Lennie, who wishes her dead best friend back to life. She can't just wish their wishes away though, because everyone only gets one wish.

It's an absolutely ridiculous premise and is so unexpectedly funny and lighthearted that I just didn't know how to take it. The mayhem in the never ending party was hilarious and Lennie's uncles were great fodder for laughs. Of course, as funny as it all is, it all takes a turn for the worst. People die (in hilarious ways, but also they die) and people go crazy and mayhem turns into pandemonium and Lennie has to find a way to end it all, even if it means facing down her crime boss father.

As soon as Leonard Cash (Lennie's father) comes into the story, it gets quite dark and thrilling. Once again, curveballs are thrown and I was addicted.

I don't usually give an introduction into the plot in my reviews but but it felt necessary with Down With the Shine. It has such a bizarre tone to it that I felt like I needed some background to it.

I can't really say this book had the most absorbing characters or the world's most original romance, but what it did have was an amazing author, a funny plot and some unexpected depth. This book was 300+ pages long yet I devoured it in two hours, and I will honestly say it's one of the best books I have read recently.

It's just so.... different!

Overall Rating: A+

Book released 26th April by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Cut Both Ways
Will Caynes never has been good with girls. At seventeen, he’s still waiting for his first kiss. He’s certainly not expecting it to happen in a drunken make-out session with his best friend, Angus. But it does and now Will’s conflicted—he knows he likes girls, but he didn’t exactly hate kissing a guy.

Then Will meets Brandy, a cute and easy-to-talk-to sophomore. He’s totally into her too—which proves, for sure, that he’s not gay. So why does he keep hooking up with Angus on the sly?

Will knows he can’t keep seeing both of them, but besides his new job in a diner, being with Brandy and Angus are the best parts of his whole messed-up life. His divorced parents just complicate everything. His father, after many half-baked business ventures and endless house renovations, has started drinking again. And his mom is no help—unless loading him up with a bunch of stuff he doesn’t need plus sticking him with his twin half-sisters counts as parenting. He’s been bouncing between both of them for years, and neither one feels like home.

Deciding who to love, who to choose, where to live. Whichever way Will goes, someone will get hurt. Himself, probably the most.

I got about a third into this book before I realised it wasn't working for me and I would have to give up. I tried reading it last summer, but I was in a reading rut. I tried again earlier this week but me and this book still didn't click - maybe the stream of thought writing style didn't click - Will didn't seem like a person to me, he seemed like a robot who was thinking what he thought a teenage boy was meant to think like. 

Honestly, books like this are touchy. There are probably a lot of readers who will appreciate what Mesrobian was trying to do. I am not one of those readers, I think there are books that tackle the sexuality issue this book was meant to to tackle, the other books do it better.

Overall Rating: DNF

Book released 1st September by HarperCollins
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Taming of The Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Taming Of The Drew
Cass McKay has been called stubborn, temperamental, difficult, and that word that rhymes with “witch” more times than she cares to count. But that’s all about to pay off. She has finally landed the role she was born to play—Kate, in The Taming of the Shrew—in the summer apprentice program of a renowned Shakespeare theater company in the forests of Vermont.

But Cass can barely lace up her corset before her troubles begin. Her leading man, Drew, is a complete troll, and he’s going to ruin Cass’s summer. Even worse, Cass’s bunkmate Amy has somehow fallen head over heels for Drew. Cass can’t let Amy throw herself at a total jerk, so she comes up with a genius plan to give Drew the personality makeover he so desperately needs: they’ll tame Drew just as Petruchio tames Kate! But as Shakespeare’s classic plays out offstage, Cass finds it harder and harder to resist falling for Drew herself.

Drew and Cass are quite possibly one of the cutest couples in YA this year, seriously, this was a super-adorable read made so much better because of the two main characters. From their fun first meeting to the last page, this was an entertaining and smooth love story that developed in a believable pace with brilliant supporting characters that help everything fall into place.

This has happened a few times recently - where what looks like a super-cute read lacking substance blows me away. It happened with Holding Court a few weeks ago and The Taming of the Drew was another. The references to pop-culture and Shakespeare make this the perfect read to any teenager or the slightly older readers. Cass and Drew.... just amazing. I love them.

Nobody can deny that Strohm is a highly talented writer as well - she wrote brilliant characters and dialogue that fits with the age group perfectly. There was some drama in there, and characters like Taylor who made the whole thing a little bit better. It was just a combination of many things that made this book stand out to me. Like many contemp reads it probably won't stick in my mind for years and years, but this is still very deserving of an A rating.

Overall Rating: A

Book released 5th April 2016 by Sky Pony Press
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Love & Gelato
Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

This was such a cute little book that warmed me up on a cold winter night. The Italian setting was just so beautiful - it was warm and beautiful and vivid in my brain throughout this book. I so enjoyed the descriptions of the beautiful Tuscany buildings and the food, I could just imagine it in my brain.

I think what really grabbed me in this book was the light-hearted writing style, it kept me giggling and it kept me happy and it kept me reading. The romance was cute as well, I loved Ren, the Italian, english speaking lothario (is lothario Italian or strictly Spanish... was he even a lothario as he was a sweet guy..? I don't even know if this is an apt description). There was another guy, Thomas, I felt that was a little unnecessary though, in the end Thomas was just used and a plot device. Not necessary.

What really kept me absorbed was the mystery behind Lina's mother. I loved reading about her exploration of Tuscany and seeing Lina follow it - as well as that, the mystery behind X and Lina's father and all of that was also exciting to read.

At times, I felt that Love & Gelato was a little inconsistent and over-dramatic, but for the most part it was what it was - a nice little read to get you through a cold night,

Overall Rating: B

Book released 3rd May by Simon Pulse
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review