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February 07, 2016

Review: The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

The Year We Fell ApartTitle: The Year We Fell Apart
Author: Emily Martin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Publication date: January 26, 2016
Genre(s): Young adult, Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.

I have not read an addicting contemporary in so long. The Year We Fell Apart reminded me of why contemporary books are my choice of addiction. I could not put the book down and ended up reading it in one sitting. This is coming from my current state of reading maybe one or two books a month lately. I wanted more more more from this book and when it ended I couldn't stop thinking about it. 

The plot line is on I highly enjoy. Our main protagonist, Harper has a childhood best friend, Declan. However the book starts almost a year later after they have become estranged.. but we don't know what happened. Declan has come back for the summer vacation and Harper's emotions become all over the place. Not only that, but Harper is currently trying to deal with the news of her mother's cancer. I found that so heart wrenching. She really didn't know how to deal with it and wanted to talk about it to Declan since he lost his mother years ago.. but she couldn't because of this huge elephant in the room that the readers don't know about. The book kept on alluding to Harper making some decisions she regrets and that hints to the reason why her and Declan are no longer friends (or something more?). I loved how the author kept us in the dark. It really upped the tension factor as well as the need to continue reading to find out what really happened. 

I think Emily painted a very realistic story. Harper and Declan end up having to hang out due to their mutual childhood friend (no love triangle though!) as well as new friends come in, slight misunderstands happen (though funny and never really lasting for long). I enjoyed the summer, leisure feel, along with the mix of anguish and emotional turmoil Harper is going through. The secondary characters were all fantastic too. I love that just as much as the romance, Emily focused on the old and new found friendships and what you really lose once you step out of the friendship zone to the relationship zone. 

The build up to the last couple of scenes in the book were done so well that my heart was literally beating fast reading those last several pages. I couldn't read fast enough but at the same time I had to backtrack and reread because my emotions were everywhere. I literally would read two pages, then go back and reread those two pages because I was in a state of total "mind blown". Martin seriously knows how to hook you in and not let you go until the book ends (and not even then apparently). I can't wait to see more of Emily Martin's contemporaries. She's honestly on my to watch list from now on. If her sophomore contemporary is close to how good The Year We Fell Apart was.. then she's going to graduate to favourite contemporary authors and the auto-buy and read list. The Year We Fell Apart has become the first (and so far only) book on my "2016 favourites list". 

February 03, 2016

Review: All Lined Up by Cora Cormack

Title: More Than This
Author: Cora Cormack
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: May 13th 2014
Genre(s): New Adult, Sports
Source: Library
Pages: 320
Add to Goodreads | Chapters | Amazon CA | B&N

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack follows up her trio of hits—Losing It, Faking It, and Finding It—with this thrilling first novel in an explosive series bursting with the Texas flavor, edge, and steamy romance of Friday Night Lights.

In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both. Dallas Cole loathes football. That's what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.

But life doesn't always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It's obliterated. Dallas doesn't know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn't know that Dallas is his new coach's daughter. And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

I enjoyed this book. It isn’t an all time favourite, but there’s banter, and some solid romance and friendship. Cormack basically took almost every NA trope, crumpled it up, and chucked it out the window.

Dallas' relationship with the secondary characters, namely her father and best friend, Stella, sold this book for me. I adored the portrayal of Dallas' relationship with her father. It was imperfect, flawed, complicated, and strained, but it was gold. I'm so glad it didn't venture off into cliché territory. I hate it when novels either completely idolize or completely trash parents. Dallas' relation with her dad is a little devoid of any real connection, partly because of their own innate personalities, and partly because her father happens to be the coach's daughter. But despite this, it shows that Dallas and her dad really do love each other, but are just a little clueless as how to deal with it. I loved seeing them navigate the circumstances and bumps in their life, clumsily, but honestly. At the end of the day, Dallas loved her dad, and her dad loved her and that's what mattered.

This book passed the Bedchel test, hands down. I loved how Stella and Dallas were polar in their personalities, but had found this common ground that get could stand on. Stellar as everything Dallas needed her to be. She was the one who pushed Dallas, gave her endless stamps of approval, supported her, but also gave her a shaking down when she needed it.

And then there's Carson QB of my dreams. Cormack knows her shit when it comes to romance, I will say this. I devoured every scene with Carson and Dallas in it. Their relationship was a delicious combination of banter, banter, banter, honesty, trust and support. They perfectly complemented each other, and most of all they helped each other grow throughout the book. The drama didn't veer into Crazyland, there weren't any pointless love triangles, and they each led a very full life that didn't involve each other.

They were very upfront with each other, which was a relief. I have a most burning hate for the Boy keeping things from the Girl for REASONS, or the Girl throwing everything out the windows because she heard something, or freaking out because the Boy didn't reply to her texts. Vice versa, obviously. Oh, and I mentioned there's banter, banter, banter right? Their text messages were to die for.

This was a very light, fun, funny read. I’ve read all the books published so far in the series and I highly recommend (most of) them for some A+ New Adult stuff.

January 28, 2016

Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Title: Yes Please
Author: Amy Poehler
Publisher: Dey St
Publication Date: Oct 28, 2014
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Source: Bought
Pages: 329

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book,Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

I’m going to forgo all coherency and just straight up say I loved this book. I loved it and I even as I type this, I want to go back and lose myself in the warmth and honesty and friendliness and confidence of this book.

I want to preface this by saying two things.

Parks and Recreation (Parks and Rec from now) is my favourite TV show. Lots of others have come close (Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Miss Fisher's), but P&R is top. Leslie Knope is the closet television will ever come to portraying my personality. The show encompasses everything I love: humour, hard work, honesty, earnestness, friendship, goofing off and taking risks. So I guess I love Amy Poehler by proxy. But Parks and Rec and watching occasional clips of her time hosting the Golden Globe awards is all I’ve ever seen of her.

I’m also deeply suspicious of movie stars. Even Amy. I enjoy pop culture and binging television shows, but secretly, I’ve always dismissed Hollywood people as people who have trillions of dollars and who don’t have to worry about college tuition and looking pretty whose troubles are managed by assistants who also bring them coffee just how they like it. On some level, I’ve thought of them as unreal people who exist on my TV screen. On some level, I’ve always scoffed at them. They’ve always been people who will never get it. Get what? You know, IT.

(she said vaguely)

So when I started reading this, I was prepared for
  1. a lot of stories about show biz
  2. some sassy inappropriate humour
  3. inside stories about Parks and Rec. 
Certainly not a voice I could’t get enough of. Certainly not a person I could sympathize with. Certainly not advice that has been profound and funny and real all at one.

I did get all those three things, by the way. I picked up some show biz terminology and got a little peek into how movies and TV shows work. I got my sassy humour. If there’s one thing the book is, it’s funny. Not the laugh-out-loud-till-you-cry kind, the kind that makes you feel empowered and happy and warm and confident on the inside. I also got lots of inside stories about Parks and Rec! There were two whole chapters dedicated to them, to my immense delight, annotated by Mike Schur (who created the series), and I read them twice. (The book contains major spoilers for Parks and Rec, so you might want to watch the entire show before you read it.)

I also loved how she owned up to a lot of mistakes that she made— a disrespectful SNL sketch, texts sent to the wrong person, not speaking up when she meant to, drinking and driving— and spoke very candidly about why she did them and how she dealt with them. Everyone makes mistakes, and I don’t know how many more she wanted to include but her editors wouldn’t let her, or how many she wanted to include but she couldn’t bear to, or how many she decided not to include. But she talked about these, and I’m grateful for the ones that she did share.

She also talks about the feelings and experiences none of us want to admit we have, confidently. unapologetically. She was and is her own boss, and her surety in herself is something I've aspired to for years. Here are my favourite chapters.

plain girl vs demon: her exploration of why and how and should looks matter. I love it because the way she deals with low self esteem is exactly the way I deal with it, except she just explains it better and manages to sound cool and funny while doing it.

every mother needs a wife: I love, love, love this chapter. Poehler talks about kids and careers and should/can they be balanced? The phrase “women-on-women crime” is used more than once, and it’s my favourite new phrase to use.

treat your career like a bad boyfriend: If I’d make anyone read a chapter, it would be this chapter. She talks about success and failures in career and how we can deal with it and stay mentally and physically healthy. The advice in this book is good, solid, and incredibly precious to me, and it’s advice I want to follow.

things they don’t tell you about the biz: an exploration of the various roles people take on to make a movie or TV show successful. I enjoyed this short chapter very much because I’ve always wanted to contrast the positions of actor, writer, director, and producer and understand who did what.

This book isn’t the “real Amy Poehler”, nor does it pretend to be. There is a haiku on plastic surgery, a comical list of alternates for Leslie Knope (that I want a poster of tbh), a portfolio of her cast mates at P&R, and a story about a lost laptop. There are sad chapters and funny chapters and happy chapters. It’s a collection of anecdotes and some advice and details about the interesting experiences that she had, and I absolutely loved it. I highly recommend it for a light, interesting read.

January 24, 2016

Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

Title: More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Publication date: May 1, 2014
Genre(s): Young adult, science fiction, dystopia 
Source: Bought

A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.
Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive.
How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?

As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

From multi-award-winning Patrick Ness comes one of the most provocative and moving novels of our time.

We got off to a rocky start, More Than This and I. This book had an air of mystery around it that extended well into the first their of the story, which frustrated me. I very nearly DNF’d this book, but in retrospect, I’m very glad I didn’t. I suspect my low rating is because I’ve been in a reading slump for a while now, and I was really looking for an easy, simple read.

More Than This is anything but.

In a good way, of course. It’s hard to talk about this book without going into even mild spoilers, and I think it’s best to start this book having read only the synopsis (if anything). This is my second and half (I’m currently reading A Monster Calls at present) book by Ness, and I’ve genuinely come to appreciate his unique storytelling style. The lack of directness in the first third of the book that had me ready to give up eventually won me over. He makes every chapter interesting. He makes every scene feel like something more without any flowery prose or metaphors. All along, I felt like he was gently nudging me to search for the answers to questions. What is justice? What is grief? What is pain? What is friendship, loyalty, love?

This book is chock full of grey areas, and Ness leaves judgement completely up to the reader, and that’s ultimately what I came to love about this book (all his books, really).

I was a little bothered by was the antagonist of the book. Subplots involving the antagonist (notice how I’m keeping it gender ambitious muahaha) felt very repetitive to me, and when things got resolved, I was mostly confused and not sure what exactly happened. The book ends beautifully, but there were definitely some loose threads that I wish Ness tied up.

This book is best read with no assumptions or expectations. The first (of four) part of the book had me, and I suspect, many other readers, frustrated and restless, but yearning to know more. On it’s surface, the book spans maybe a week of a few events. But it’s brilliance lies in the questions Ness poses without the reader realizing it and the complexity he deftly weaves into the plot.

The mystery felt unnecessarily contrived during the first third of the book, and I had some issues with the pacing as well. That being said, I highly recommend this book for a unique, roller coaster read. It has Ness’s signature prose, carefully crafted characters, and lessons that will stick with you long after you’ve put the book down.

January 21, 2016

Audris's Five 2015 Recommendations

Hello! I think we can all agree, the year 2015 was a pretty great year for books. It was the year we talked about mental health in books and the year we asked for more diverse reads. It was definitely the year I added quite a few favorites to my bookshelves (who am I kidding, I do this every year). Today I want to share with you some of those favorites.

Every Last Word

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone: I loved everything about this book. It deals with mental issues like OCD and it’s something I could relate to. There was so much emotion throughout this entire story. I can’t wait to read more from Tamara. I have an ebook of her first duology, Time After Time and it feels like it’s going to be just as, if not more emotional.

Finding Audrey

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella: I had never read anything by Sophie Kinsella before this, so I think I didn’t quite believe everyone when they said that her books were hilarious. I mean, how funny can a book possibly be? OMG I WAS SO WRONG. This book had me laughing from the very first page, until the very end, and in between. There were also serious moments, since this book does deal with anxiety. I can honestly say that I’m ready for more Sophie Kinsella in my life.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

The Last Time We Said Goodbye by Cynthia Hand: This is another emotional roller coaster I read this year. There’s so much to say about this one that I don’t even know where to begin. You have to be emotionally ready for this book if you’re going to pick it up. I reviewed it over here if you want my full thoughts.

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: This is the only 4 star book on this list, but I felt it deserved a special spot because it is one of the most original books I’ve ever read. There are spaceships, high speed chases, hot boys, sassy girls, strong relationships, and lots of feels. This wasn’t at all what I was expecting when I picked it up back in June. AT ALL. But since then it’s been on my mind a lot and I’ve been contemplating a reread. I never reread books the same year, so you can see the impact Illuminae left in me. My arc is currently being lent out, but I’ll be buying a finished copy as soon as I can.

The Start of Me and You

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord: This was probably the cutest book I read this year. The friendships in this book were amazing. They’re the kind of friendship group everyone should have in their lives. The slow building relationship was also one of my favorites and as I was reading I found myself wishing I could have my very own Max *swoons*.

What were some of your favorites?