arc review: top ten by katie cotugno

***a copy of this book was provided to me via the publisher in exchange for an honest review

top ten

goodreads summary:

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

my thoughts:

As someone who has read and loved all of Katie Cotugno’s previous books, I naturally had a lot of high hopes for this book and expected to love it. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed by this one. The premise of the book seemed promising and right up my alley, but did not at all end up meeting my expectations. While there were some things that I did like about this book, I was ultimately left feeling underwhelmed by it as a whole.

This book tells the story of Ryan and Gabby, two best friends who formed an unlikely friendship after meeting at a party during their freshmen year of high school. The lines of their friendship become blurred when they decide to sleep together one night after leaving a high school graduation party.  This decision leads to a fight between them, as they wonder whether sleeping together meant anything.  The timeline then jumps back and forth between the past and the present, as they count down the top ten moments of their friendship.

While I liked the idea of the whole top ten moments countdown, I still had a hard time connecting with the story and didn’t feel any kind of spark between Ryan and Gabby.  I am a sucker for the whole best friends falling in love with each other trope when done right, but I just wasn’t feeling the connection in this particular story.  I found the relationship between Gabby and Ryan to be very bland, and I had a hard time caring about their relationship in general.

All of that aside, there were some important topics included in this book, as well as diversity, that I really appreciated, and which is what made me give this book more than two stars.  Gabby identifies as bisexual, and suffers from severe social anxiety. While I can’t speak for the sexuality representation, I am someone who suffers from anxiety, and I really struggle with it in social situations, just as Gabby does, and I really appreciate how her anxiety was portrayed in this story, as I could deeply relate to her on that level.

Ryan also dealt with some heavy-handed issues in this story, including struggling with some serious injuries, such as concussions and headaches, as a direct result of playing hockey.  There are many books that include jocks as the lead character, but often times the serious and all too real injuries that come with playing sports are overlooked, and I appreciate that Katie Cotugno included the serious repercussions that can come with playing sports that not many other authors think to write about. Student athletes are risking a lot by participating in sports, and I think that this is something that needs to be talked about a lot more in YA books.

Important topics aside, I thought that this book was just okay.  It definitely wasn’t the worst YA book that I have ever read, but I didn’t find it to be on par with Katie Cotugno’s previous books.  Even though this book was a letdown for me, I am still a big fan of Katie Cotugno’s writing, and I am looking forward to her next release!

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 ‘s



book review: love, life, & the list by kasie west

love life and the list.jpg

goodreads summary:

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

my thoughts:

to say I was highly disappointed by this book is an understatement. while i wasn’t expecting this book to be something phenomenal, i was looking forward to it being a cute, swoon worthy, easy read, and it even failed to meet those expectations. before picking up this book, i had previously only read one book by kasie west (the fill-in boyfriend) and i really enjoyed it, but it pains me to say that i can’t say the same for this one at all. i had initially picked this book up not long after it released, and i expected to fly through it, but i found myself putting it down numerous times because it failed to hold my attention. in fact, i was bored throughout a majority of it, and honestly, i almost dnfed it multiple times. while i love the idea of the main character, abby, completing a list of tasks in which she faces doing things that she fears, that particular aspect of the book wasn’t enough to hold my attention. neither she, nor her best friend/love interest, cooper, resonated with me (in fact, i found pretty much all of the characters to be dull and forgettable with the exception of abby’s grandfather), and i found myself annoyed with their relationship, as i felt it lacked any chemistry whatsoever. their entire relationship felt forced, and definitely didn’t give me the kind of feels that i expect to get from a supposed to be cutesy contemporary novel. i really could not stand cooper and his character is one of the main reasons that i found this book to be so unbearable. despite my overall disappointment with this book, i still plan on reading more books by kasie west, as i do find her style of writing to be charming. unfortunately, this particular book by her just did not work for me whatsoever.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️


book review: a million junes by emily henry

a million junes

goodreads summary:

Romeo and Juliet meets One Hundred Years of Solitude in Emily Henry’s brilliant follow-up to The Love That Split the World, about the daughter and son of two long-feuding families who fall in love while trying to uncover the truth about the strange magic and harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations.

In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

my thoughts:

this book was absolutely fantastic & is, without a doubt, one of my favorite reads of 2017.  i fell in love with the cover the moment i laid eyes on it, & upon reading the synopsis, i just knew this book was going to be something special.  i have to admit, i wasn’t i huge fan of the author’s first book, but this book took my breath away. this book is so very special that i am having a hard time writing this review, as i’m finding it difficult to convey just how very special & meaningful it is. this story held me captivated from the beginning to end, & with each turn of a page, i was completely swept away by the pure magic of it all.

something that i really love about this book is how refreshingly unique it is. seriously, this book is unlike anything i have ever read before.  it’s a fantasy mixed with contemporary (is that a thing?) & the way in which magical realism was woven throughout the story was truly spectacular. i am a big fan of magical realism, & it was done flawlessly in this book.

emily henry’s writing was spellbindingly beautiful & haunting, & i eagerly breathed in each & every word on each & every page. there were so many passages that i found myself rereading several times, just because they resonated with me so much.

this novel explored so many important topics, such as grief, family, friendship, & love, & it was done in such a vivid & unique way.

the angle in which the author tackled the subject of grief was one of my favorite things about this book.  it was just so very real, & the magical elements interwoven with the storyline only helped to bolster just how powerful & consuming grief can be.

there is so much more i want to say about this book (& i will probably add more at some point) but i really feel that it’s best to just go into this story not knowing too much, & allow yourself to be swept away just as i was.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



book review: follow me back by a.v. geiger

***an eARC of this was provided to me by sourcebooks fire via netgalley in exhange for an honest review

follow me back.jpg

expected release date: june 6th 2017

goodreads summary:

Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

my thoughts:

wow. just wow. i finished this book yesterday, and my mind has been reeling ever since then.  between the super intense police transcripts, & the twists and turns interspersed throughout the story, it didn’t take me long to become completely immersed in what what was happening.  the fact that the beginning did admittedly lag for a little bit was quickly overshadowed by the suspenseful build up of events.

this story is told from the perspectives of two characters, eric thorn & tessa hart. both of these characters are living two very different lives yet they are also very similar in a sense, & their similiarties bring them together in a very compelling way. tessa is a teen suffering from agoraphobia, made worse after suffering a traumatic event in her life, while eric is a pop star who, on the surface, seems to have it all but is suffering from demons of his own. as someone who is an introvert battling severe anxiety & depression, i found myself sympathetic towards these characters, particularly tessa, due to the extreme anxiety she suffers stemming from her agoraphobia.

both of these characters use twitter as an outlet for the stress in their lives, which eventually leads to their paths intertwining.  the story of two these characters is a great testament to the fact that you never know what is going on beneath the surface of a person, & the twitter perspective just goes to to show that you never know who you may be talking to on the other side of a computer screen.

i found eric’s story to be particularly enthralling, as it gives a glimpse into the dark side of fame. although he is a famous pop star that is adored by millions & living the kind of life that most people can only dream of, it’s clear that he is uncomfortable with his lavish lifestyle.  not only does he feel trapped by the image that his label has created for him, as he is unhappy with the fact that his fame seems to center more on his looks than his actual music, he is also haunted by the recent murder of a fellow musician at the hands of an unhinged fan, which causes him a great deal of paranoia and stress. it is all too easy to look at glamorous photos of celebrities on the glossy pages of magazines and forget that they too, have their own insecurities and may be secretly battling demons of their own.

one aspect of this story that i did find to be problematic was the portrayal of fandoms.  pretty much every fangirl within the story was painted in a pretty unflattering light, & depicted as being extremely shallow.

i don’t want to say much more about the story, & how it unwinds, but i will say that i was completely sitting on the edge of my seat the closer i got to the ending.  & THAT ENDING. i was completely blown away by the cliff-hanger to end all cliff-hangers, & i am now left very eagerly anticipating the next book.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

book review: always and forever, lara jean

lara jean.jpg

goodreads summary:

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

my thoughts:

my heart is so very full.

i was thrilled when i found out that there was going to be a new (& unfortunately, final) installment in this series. as i sit here writing this review, i am a bundle of emotions; on one hand, i am happy, because this book was everything i wanted it to be and more, but i’m also sad that this was the end of our journey with lara jean & co. but what a delight ending it was! i am a huge jenny han fan, & the to all the boys i’ve loved before trilogy is by far my favorite of hers.  being reunited with lara jean & all of the characters was so bittersweet, because as overjoyed as i was to be reunited with them, i knew that i was slowly saying goodbye to them with each and every turn of a page.

i have to say that although i love & cherish all three books in this series, this one was probably my favorite.  lara jean experienced so much growth throughout this novel, as she had so many challenges to face, and i was rooting for her each and every step of the way.

i was filled with such a sense of warmth & nostalgia throughout the entirety of this book, & overall, this really was, in my opinion, the perfect conclusion to this series. i don’t want to say to too much, so as not to spoil anyone, but i will say that i was completely satisfied when i finished it, and i could not think of a better way for it to have ended.

i am still holding out hope for a spin-off series featuring kitty (hint hint jenny han!) but even if that never happens (sobs) i just want to end this review by expressing my eternal gratitude to jenny han for gracing us with one last chapter in lara jean’s story.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

book review: you were here by cori mccarthy


goodreads summary:

Grief turned Jaycee into a daredevil, but can she dare to deal with her past?

On the anniversary of her daredevil brother’s death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake’s favorite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother’s exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn’t bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

my thoughts:

you were here was not only my favorite contemporary read of 2016, but it immediately became one of my favorite books ever, period.  it is hard for me to even put into words how much this book means to mean & why.  this was such an emotional and personal read for me, and even just looking at the cover now invokes so much emotion in me.

to put it mildly, this book changed me.  

immediately after reading this book, i reached out to the author & she told me that writing this book was a very cathartic experience for her, & that’s exactly what my reading experience with it was. i have known grief since i was a young girl, & sometimes i am still so consumed by it, to the point where i feel suffocated by it. that’s why books like this, that capture that all encompassing essence of grief so well, speak to me so very loudly.  these type of books bring me so much relief, & i feel like i can breathe again after reading them.

grief is such a strange & unique thing, & this book does an excellent job of showing its many facets, & how all of us an individuals deal with our traumas & losses.  there is no right or wrong way to grieve, just as there is no timeline for how long it is acceptable to grieve for.

this book has multiple characters, all of whom were deeply affected in one way or another by the loss of a daredevil teenager named jake. while it would seem that jaycee, his younger sister, is most traumatized by his death, we learn that the other characters within the story also have deeply rooted emotional scars in relation to his untimely death.  each of these characters had so much depth to them, and to see them all so broken over the loss of one boy really gives such a glimpse into just how much a single loss can change us all in so many different ways.

perhaps one of the best things about this book is the unique & original way in which some of the character’s povs were narrated.  it combines typical storytelling with graphic novel style and art (one of the characters, bishop, is constantly tagging, and his pov is shown through pictures of what he has tagged throughout the story). i have never seen a book written this way, and it was amazing. upon reading the story you will see why it was written this way, and why it makes so much sense. this unique form of storytelling alone is worth picking the book up for.

this is a coming of age story that will shatter you into pieces & stitch you back up little by little just when you’re least expecting it to.  honestly this book is so underrated, & i hope that more people will unearth this hidden gem & find solace in it just as i did.

“that’s what regret does well and grief does better: rips out your energy and leaves you feeling each and every heartbeat.”

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

book review: fireworks by katie cotugno


goodreads synopsis:

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-’90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

my thoughts:

well, first off, Katie Cotugno has done it again-she managed to simultaneously leave me annoyed & frustrated while still wanting more. i just finished reading this book earlier today, and i’m still reeling from the way it ended. it’s not the fact that the ending was left open ended, as this is Katie’s usual fashion & something that i’ve grown to expect (& not totally hate) when it comes to her books, but more so about the conclusion that was actually reached in regards to something major happening in the story. even though i saw it coming from a mile away, it still managed to not only sucker punch me right in the face, but left me shaking because i was so angry at one of the characters. (i actually kind of threw the book off my bed with a bit of force if that tells you anything) but even with all that being said, i didn’t actually hate the overall ending (as far as it being left open) because as much as the event that preceded the overall ending frustrated me, the story was very well crafted to make for an enjoyable read.

Katie Contugno is a great YA contemporary story-teller, and one of the things that i always admire when it comes to her books is that, despite how frustrating her characters are, (and believe me, they are frustrating) they are also very multi-dimensional and definitely not without flaw, which makes them feel very real.  I even appreciate her open-ended endings, as they too, help to make the story that much more real and authentic.  rarely in life are things tied up neatly with a bow, and i feel that a story doesn’t always have to be either, even if it’s merely a work of fiction.

fireworks, although irksome at times, was a great coming of age novel about first love, the hardships of chasing dreams, and the ups and downs of friendship. set in the 90’s, this story revolves around Dana (who is the narrator of the story) and Olivia, two life-long best friends, who, despite being from the same place, grew up under very different circumstances. Dana grew up in poverty, with an unsupportive mother who cared more about vodka than her own daughter, and because of these bleak circumstances, Dana had very little hope of ever leaving her hometown and making something of herself. Olivia, meanwhile, always dreamed of being a pop star and had a bright future ahead of her no matter if she managed to make her dreams of stardom a reality or not, as she had a more stable home life than her friend, both financially and in the way of supportive parents. both girls have the chance to make their dreams come true when they audition to join an all-girls singing group (Eden’s Crush, anyone?) and are chosen, alongside two other girls. for Olivia, it’s a chance to finally make her lifelong dream of becoming a pop star come true, while it’s a lucky break for Dana, (who accidentally auditioned) to change her circumstances and escape from the nothing town from which she came, and the bleak future thats in store for her there. although it starts off as an exciting new adventure for the two friends, the stress of the competition, along with jealousy and secrets, starts to take its toll on the girls. throw a boy (a cute boy who also happens to be a member of a boy-band) into the mix of it all, and you have a disaster just waiting to happen. it’s not long into the competition that the girls start to go from being the best of friends to near bitter rivals. i found the ups and downs of their friendship to be portrayed in a very realistic manner, especially considering the grueling and competitive circumstances they were put under. this story also gave an interesting insight into the world of fame, both the glamorous and ugly side of it.

despite the fact that both girls’ were flawed in their own way, and each played a role in the unraveling of their friendship, i felt that Olivia was more at fault than Dana, and at times it was really hard to find anything very likable about her and honestly i found myself siding with Dana for the most part.

although this story is very much about friendship, romance also plays a pretty central role. Dana ends up dating a boy named Alex who not only lives in the same apartment complex that she is staying in, but also happens to be a member of a boy-band.  (O-Town, anyone?) not only was their relationship really cute, but also a perfect depiction of what it’s like to fall in love for the first time.

before ending this review, i would like to issue an ed-trigger warning, as one of the characters (Olivia) has eating issues, and it’s heavily implied that she does in fact suffer from an eating disorder.  this is also one of the things that kept me from giving this book a full five stars.  although Olivia’s eating disorder wasn’t exactly portrayed badly, i do feel that it was glossed over a bit too much and i wish that the author had taken the time to go more in depth about it.  as someone who is working through recovery from an eating disorder and has struggled with food related issues for years, i am very critical about how an author handles it in a book, especially a book that is targeted towards teens. also: i personally did not find it to be extremely triggering, but as each and every one of us is different in what we find to be triggering, i gently urge anybody who is currently suffering from an eating disorder to take caution when reading this book.

overall, this was a solid contemporary that i really enjoyed (it was one that i finished within hours because i couldn’t stop reading, if that tells you anything), and i think that anybody who has an interest in ya contemporaries that focus on the power of friendship (with some romance and a lot of drama thrown in) will definitely take a liking to this book, along with the other books that Katie Cotugno has written.  I bought this book on release day and i’ll definitely be doing the same whenever Katie’s next book is released!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️