Top Ten Tuesday – June 6th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten books from any particular genre that you’ve added to your TBR recently. For some reason, I’ve had this major urge to read some contemporary novels. It’s incredibly rare for me to feel this way, so it’s either due to summer coming up or potentially a sign of the coming apocalypse. Whatever the reason, I’ve added a bunch of contemporary novels to my TBR recently, so here are a few that I am most eager to get to. 🙂

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

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Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.
So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.
She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

On the Fence by Kasie West

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For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game. 
To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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Lara Jean’s love life gets complicated in this New York Times bestselling “lovely, lighthearted romance” from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?
Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

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The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.
As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

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Liza Petrov’s entire life has been about skating and winning her sport’s top prize – Olympic gold. She’s stayed sheltered inside her bubble, not daring to stray from her destined path. 
Until she meets Braden Patrick.
He makes her heart flutter with possibility, and for the first time she gets a taste of a normal teenage life. She longs to have both the boy and the gold, but stepping outside her bubble comes with a price. As Liza begins to question both her future and her past, can she stay focused on the present and realize her ultimate dream?

The Butterfly Project by Emma Scott

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At age fourteen, Zelda Rossi witnessed the unthinkable, and has spent the last ten years hardening her heart against the guilt and grief. She channels her pain into her art: a dystopian graphic novel where vigilantes travel back in time to stop heinous crimes—like child abduction—before they happen. Zelda pitches her graphic novel to several big-time comic book publishers in New York City, only to have her hopes crash and burn. Circumstances leave her stranded in an unfamiliar city, and in an embarrassing moment of weakness, she meets a guarded young man with a past he’d do anything to change…
Beckett Copeland spent two years in prison for armed robbery, and is now struggling to keep his head above water. A bike messenger by day, he speeds around New York City, riding fast and hard but going nowhere, his criminal record holding him back almost as much as the guilt of his crime.
Zelda and Beckett form a grudging alliance of survival, and in between their stubborn clash of wills, they slowly begin to provide each other with the warmth of forgiveness, healing, and maybe even love. But when Zelda and Beckett come face to face with their pasts, they must choose to hold on to the guilt and regret that bind them, or let go and open their hearts for a shot at happiness.
The Butterfly Project is a novel that reveals the power of forgiveness, and how even the smallest decisions of the heart can—like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings—create currents that strengthen into gale winds, altering the course of a life forever.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

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Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Sincerely,
Ava Helmer
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)
We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.
G 
So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

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Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner. 
But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support–and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is–and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.

What genre have you been particularly interested in reading lately? What are some of the most recent additions to your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

alittlesomethingdifferentA Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 26th, 2014

Publisher: Swoon Reads

Pages: 272 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The distinctive new crowdsourced publishing imprint Swoon Reads proudly presents its first published novel—an irresistibly sweet romance between two college students told from 14 different viewpoints.

The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out. 

But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.  

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….

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This is a spoiler-free review.

As the title suggests, this novel promises its readers “a little something different”, and it does in fact deliver. However, the end result was not nearly as satisfying as it could have been given the premise. Rather than flowing nicely as one continuous narrative, it felt far too disjointed and cluttered to fully capture my attention. We are pulled in by an idea that sounds delightful and heartwarming, but ends up being more frustrating and tedious than anything. Though the story is unique and innovative in many ways, it fell rather flat for me as a whole.

This novel follows the lives of two college students—Lea and Gabe—as they meet and slowly begin to fall for each other. The catch? Their entire love story is told from the perspectives of other people they encounter in their daily lives. From their best friends to their fellow students and the waitress at the local diner, everyone has something to say about this prospective relationship. Even the park bench they regularly sit on weighs in on the situation. The only question that remains is whether or not Lea and Gabe themselves will realize what everyone else already sees.

Beginning on a personal side note, this is not the typical type of novel I would read—I am not particularly big on contemporary romance. But when I heard the concept for it, coupled with the fact that it was a debut novel, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to step out of my reading comfort zone once again. Given that romance is not my cup of tea when it comes to books, and knowing that this contributed to my feelings overall, I tried to rate and review this as objectively as possible, focusing primarily on stylistic elements.

The characterization was by far the area that I ended up having the biggest conflict with. It was the most publicized aspect of this particular novel—the unusually large number of perspectives is the primary attraction for the reader. In addition, the fact that the main protagonists of the story do not contribute their viewpoints is another highly intriguing factor. However, though the idea packs the novel with originality and is quite fascinating in theory, it ends up greatly hindering the development of the narrative.

Though the actual concept for the plot is a relatively straightforward one, having so many narrators suddenly transforms it into something that is quite difficult to follow and become immersed in. Having to constantly transition between speakers every few pages breaks up the flow of the plot and gives it a very patchwork, choppy quality, which does not serve it well. It is far too challenging to connect to any of the characters, which subsequently affects the reader’s ability to become invested in the storyline itself.

For a story that relies so heavily on characterization, there is not nearly enough distinctiveness in each of the voices. A few of them were quite original in their depiction, but many sounded almost exactly the same. As there is no time to focus on getting to know any of these characters, they come across as one-dimensional and sometimes painfully stereotypical. The inability to get to know a narrator adds undesired hurdles for any reader.

In terms of the plot itself, I simply came out of it feeling rather underwhelmed. One of the biggest drawbacks of these multiple perspectives is the need for more telling rather than showing. This style makes to so that every aspect of every event has to be related back to the reader, giving the story a very awkward and unnatural quality. I would have much preferred to see the romance unfold naturally—instead, it plays out more like a research paper or case study. It is tricky to get the desired emotional reaction out of readers when they can only hear a formal and impassive version of two people’s love story.

Since we are only ever able to see Lea’s and Gabe’s interactions when it is possible for a third party to be watching, everything quickly becomes very redundant—there is an excessive amount of interpretations of the same or similar encounters. Their entire relationship comes across as two people who feel very indifferent about each other having an improbable series of supposedly romantic and incredibly frustrating near misses. This causes the story to drag on, bringing about a sense that, even by the end, no advancement has really happened.

In addition, the fact that every aspect of this novel focuses on Lea and Gabe with no other developed side plots becomes tiring very quickly. It is hard to believe that so many people would be so intensely and utterly focused and invested in the love lives of these two random kids. And even after all of that, I never truly got the impression that they were meant to be. Despite having insight into so many people’s views, I never saw what any of them saw. Everything was just too implausible, and the ending left me feeling very unsatisfied.

Overall, though the large number of perspectives is an interesting concept, it makes the narrative feel very disorganized and unsettled. The repetitiveness of the events in the plot quickly becomes frustrating, potentially causing the reader to become dissatisfied since it feels that little to no progression is actually taking place. I truly did appreciate the creativity that Hall employed in the construction of this story. In a number of ways, she puts a fresh spin on the typical contemporary romance novel, and I applaud how she stepped out on a limb with her inventive storytelling. Sadly, all the parts did not end up coming together into a cohesive plot.

2.0 TARDISes

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Top 10 Tuesday – February 23rd, 2016

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten books you enjoyed recently (in the last yearish) that weren’t your typical genre/type of book (or that were out of your comfort zone). I’ve been on a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy binge for a while now (a.k.a. my comfort zone), so we’re going to have to go more toward the “ish” side of yearish. Also, to help myself come up with ten, I’ve split the list into two parts—five that I enjoyed and five that I did not. There is a little bit of a theme here, since the majority of this list are romance and contemporary novels.

This will probably come as no surprise to anyone, but I am and always have been a complete reading addict. I am someone that will read absolutely anything I can get my hands on, and I typically do stray out of my comfort zone a fair amount. In fact, I enjoy doing so, even if I end up not enjoying the novel I choose—it’s always fun to try new things no matter what, and you might end up finding a new favorite! I don’t regret trying any of these novels, I just definitely preferred some over others…

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Liked

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1. Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

Over the past few years, I have been making a point of trying to read a larger number of debut authors, and this is one that I picked up from the library for exactly that reason. This novel was pretty far outside of my comfort zone, but it ended up really taking me by surprise. It was very well written, with a sweet romance and a lovely message about the importance of love, friendship, and literature. Plus, there were tons of references to To Kill a Mockingbird in it! 😀

4.5 TARDISes

2. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

I picked up a copy of this back when it first came out (to be honest, I think this was a bit of a cover buy!), but had let it sit on my shelf for ages. I finally got around to reading it last year when I was looking for something a bit different from my normal type of read—and I actually ended up really enjoying it. This story had much more depth than I was expecting, and I thought the author’s writing style was great. It ended up being a quick and unexpectedly satisfying read, and I’m so glad I gave it a try.

4.0 TARDISes

3. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

This was not all that far out of my comfort zone, but it is still a contemporary romance novel, so it totally counts! I read this at the end of last year and absolutely loved it—this was a perfect way to wrap up my 2015 reads. It was hilarious, adorable, and made me feel all of the warm fuzzies I was hoping to feel. ❤

5.0 TARDISes

4. Falling into Place by Amy Zhang

I found this one while randomly browsing at the bookstore one day, and decided to add it to my debut author TBR. I absolutely did not expect to enjoy this novel as much as I did. This story had a fantastic amount of depth and I thought that the writing was stellar. The characters and all of their storylines were developed and presented well in the context of the plot, and I loved the unique choice of narrator. This was definitely a good impulse purchase!

4.5 TARDISes

5. The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

This was another one that I picked up from the library on a whim—mainly because I love reading novels in verse—and it’s another that ended up taking me completely by surprise. The plot is sort of a common contemporary novel premise, but it is still successfully unique. And when done well, like it is here, I usually really enjoy this type of story. The prose flowed beautifully, and I found the story itself to be quite captivating and thought-provoking. On top of this, I actually quite enjoyed the romance aspect—it was sweet, touching, and well-paced.

4.5 TARDISes

Didn’t Like

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1. Dead Rules by Randy Russell

This book…just…nope. I grabbed this from the library for no particular reason. Couldn’t get into it. Didn’t actually finish it (which is insanely rare for me). In hindsight, that tagline should have told me to maybe skip over this one when I found it.

0.5 TARDIS

2. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Okay, so to be honest, this is probably another book that I maybe shouldn’t have attempted, but I still don’t regret it! I figured I would give it a go after all the incredible things I had heard about it—and I can definitely see why people enjoy this series. But I think I can finally confirm that supernatural romance just really isn’t my thing…

1.0 TARDIS

3. A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

This novel caught my attention due to the creativity when it came to points of view. I figured this would be a really unique take on a typical contemporary romance novel, so I was more than happy to give it a go. Sadly, I just could not feel any connection at all between the romantic interests, and it was difficult to fully immerse myself in the plot due to the constantly changing viewpoints (as well as the quantity). I actually have a full review for this novel that I will be posting pretty soon, so I will go into a bit more detail then!

2.0 TARDISes

4. The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu

This one was slightly closer to my comfort zone than some of these other novels. However, though it is a fantasy story, there is a much larger focus on romance than the typical fantasy novels I read. In fact, the romance ended up being pretty much the main focus of the story, which unfortunately did not serve it well in my opinion. It made sense, given the premise, that love would play a significant role in the plot, but the romance fell quite flat for me. Overall, the story was creative and incredibly unique, but I would have liked to see more attention paid to the fantasy aspect, and a much stronger and more well-developed setting and cast of characters.

2.0 TARDISes

5. Almost by Anne Eliot

I purchased this novel back when it first came out, but it sat on my kindle for a really long time. Honestly, I can’t recall why I bought it—but again, trying new things is always good. This was definitely my favorite from the “disliked” section of this list. I would mainly chalk my dislike of it up to unlikeable characters and slightly repetitive and frustrating plot progression. It was not a bad novel by any means, it was simply just not for me.

2.5 TARDISes

No matter what my feelings were, once again…

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What are some books that you’ve read lately that were out of your comfort zone? How did you feel about them? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

-Ariana

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