Book Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

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Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Published Date: August 2016
Genre: Contemporary, YA,
Series: Stand Alone
My Source: Own Copy
Links: Goodreads
Review Also On: Goodreads and Amazon

Goodreads Summary:

“Katelyn Ogden was a lot of things, but she wasn’t particularly explosive, in any sense of the word.”

Mara Carlyle’s senior year at Covington High in suburban New Jersey is going on as normally as could be expected, until the day—wa-bam!—fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last senior to spontaneously combust without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason—Terrorism! Drugs! Homosexuality! Government conspiracy!—while the seniors continue to pop like balloons.

Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it with tell-it-like-it-is insight as she tries to make it to graduation in one piece through an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, “Snooze Button™,” Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you’ve ever heard the President of the United States use over Skype.

***Note: I finished this book in January and wrote some key notes about it, but I didn’t sit down and write my review until February. Days after the Parkland tragedy. I contemplated whether I should post this review for this kind of book so soon after this event. And because I was going back and forth, I didn’t publish the review until now. While it’s not about a shooting, it is a story focusing on high school students dying. This book is a comedic coming-of-age piece, but current events can make this book difficult to read. I will leave my original review below because overall I still feel the same way about it. The book while frustrating at first, I really enjoyed. But I do want to take this moment to say that you may wish to wait to read this book if you need more time to process things that have been happening recently. It does get a bit graphic and I just wanted to give a friendly warning.***

Let me start this review by saying I have the most confused feelings about this book.

Mara was definitely a character that I had to get used to. At first, her sarcastic personality was annoying me because she was sarcastic ALL THE TIME. And when I was getting some pretty important exposition, she would make a sarcastic comment and I just wanted to shush her. There are also times when she jumps from one thing to the next. There is a character Dylan who shows up. On one page, he’s barely mentioned. Thirty pages later, he comes back and he’s important. I wish I got the confrontation/conversation between Mara and Dylan that led to him becoming an important character. I was just sort of forced to accept Dylan in the story. Still, even with these issues, I grew to like Mara more. Do I have major love for her? I wouldn’t say that, but she became a better character for me as the story continued.

There’s so much I want to talk about with this book, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I was frustrated with this book, but I’m okay with that. I didn’t get all the explanations I wanted, but I’m also okay with that. I’m still trying to figure out if this book was showing that friendships don’t last forever, or if it’s saying you have to work harder to make them last. Or both?

So, I’ll give this fair warning. Don’t expect to come out of this book with everything solved, explained, and pretty with a little bow on top. It ends with a lot of uncertainty. Maybe that’s to symbolize how life is uncertain. You’re not sure what will happen, so you have to live the best life you can. The last few pages ends on a heart-wrenching scene though. Alone or left behind…I’m not sure which is worse.

I want to give this four stars, but I feel so much and I don’t know what to think. Would I read this again though? Yes.

3.5 or 4 Stars (I don’t know okay!!) ~ A good book that has a nice YES factor to it. / Oh man, this was a great book. Will be recommending.

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Book Review: Roomies by Christina Lauren

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Publisher: Gallery Books
Published Date: December 2017
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, New Adult,
Series: N/A
My Source: Own Copy
Links: Goodreads
Review Also On: Goodreads and Amazon

Goodreads Summary:

Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

(I tried my best to keep this major spoiler free.)

A great way to start the new year is with a good book, and I’m glad Roomies was it for me.

There were a lot of things that drew me to this book: New York, main female is a struggling writer, love interest is an Irish musician, a fake marriage, and beautiful Broadway. What more can you ask for in a contemporary romance?

Holland is a 25 year old struggling writer and post-graduate school. She’s currently being supported by her uncles Robert, a famous Broadway director, and his husband Jeff who is an accountant. They pay for a majority of her rent and got her a job at the theater selling merchandise and being the photographer. I do appreciate that Holland recognizes that she lives a pretty privileged life and she doesn’t wish to take everything for granted. So when her uncle Robert’s show is falling apart, well, she makes a drastic decision to help. Marrying a stranger to save the show.

The stranger being the subway musician that Holland has been crushing on who happens to save her one night, AND who happens to be a Julliard-trained musician that would be perfect for the Broadway show.

I enjoyed the romance in this story, but I enjoyed the character growth even more. Holland, as her uncle Jeff describes her later in the book, only sees herself as a secondary character in life. She doesn’t take risks, she’s had writer’s block since graduating, and she has tons of doubts. All that changes when she “gathers the courage” to talk to her musical crush and demands answers when he saves her but leaves when the cops arrive. As you can see from the summary, he leaves because he’s not in the United States legally and doesn’t want any trouble. Throughout the story, Holland hides her crush from Calvin, knowing that it’s only a marriage to keep him in the country and to save the show. But as her feelings grow stronger, she has a hard time fighting her desires and has to decide if it’s worth it to take the risk of loving him. Holland’s relationship with Calvin is pretty rocky since their relationship is based on a lie. I was happy with a lot of Holland’s decisions on her relationship with Calvin.

Her relationship with her best friend Lulu also becomes rocky throughout the relationship, as Lulu starts to show a jealous side to her personality. What I love is that Holland’s relationship with her uncles is strong and consistent throughout the book. I love the love they have for one another.

While I did enjoy this book, I did question a few things like the speed of the immigration process and how they were conveniently able to speed it along with knowing people on the inside. Because I’m not familiar with the immigration process, I can’t say for sure if that doesn’t happen to some, but it seems strange that a process that could take months was able to happen in a matter of a couple weeks in this story. Then again, maybe the it’s who you know thing works in this kind of situation as well. Still, I enjoyed the adventure of Holland and Calvin and the shenanigans they went through.

4.5 STARS ~ Fantastic! Like, you don’t understand how fantastic this was. READ IT.

 

Book Review: Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

11389398Publisher: First Second
Published Date: February 2012
Genre: YA, Graphic Novel, Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy
Series: N/A
My Source: Own Copy
Links: Goodreads
Review Also On: Goodreads and Amazon

Goodreads Summary:

After years of homeschooling, Maggie is starting high school. It’s pretty terrifying.

Maggie’s big brothers are there to watch her back, but ever since Mom left it just hasn’t been the same.

Besides her brothers, Maggie’s never had any real friends before. Lucy and Alistair don’t have lots of friends either. But they eat lunch with her at school and bring her along on their small-town adventures.

Missing mothers…distant brothers…high school…new friends… It’s a lot to deal with. But there’s just one more thing.

MAGGIE IS HAUNTED.

Friends with Boys did not turn out the way I thought it would. With the title, I thought it would have a lot of focus on how Maggie’s only friends until going to high school were her brothers and we’d look more into their relationships with her. I also feel like a lot of things are left in the air, so readers don’t get much closure (although going by the Goodreads’ reviews, I may be in the minority with my thinking).

I liked Maggie. I thought she was a nice character, and I wanted to see her get through her first days of high school, make new friends, and hopefully start dealing with her feelings about her mom leaving. She’s nervous about starting high school since she’s been home-schooled, and she feels alone since her brothers have already made themselves at home in the scary place of Sandford High. She meets Lucy and her brother Alistair, and she feels less alone. However, she is also being stalked by a female ghost.

Maggie’s got cool brothers. There is Daniel, the oldest and loves to act, and the twins Lloyd and Zander. In this short story, we get to see that everyone is struggling with something, and while I appreciate learning these things about each of the characters, I don’t feel like we got enough time to explore everything. I feel like the twins, Lucy, Alistair, and Maggie’s issues are all a bit unsolved. And as far as I can see, we won’t be getting a sequel for this graphic novel.

With Maggie, I’m not sure if she’s starting to deal with her mother leaving. I also don’t like how we’re left within a rocky place between Maggie and her father.

And the ghost. The ghost!! Nothing is truly explained about the ghost. We have a potential story about her, but it’s never confirmed if that haunted story is about THIS ghost. Why does she follow Maggie around? Will she continue? She still seems so sad. What’s her story? How come Maggie and certain people can see her and others cannot (or possibly cannot. Again, many things left unanswered)?

I enjoyed the art and I liked the premise of this book, but I just feel so…underwhelmed? Is that the word I’m looking for? I just feel like I have so many questions about the characters and whether they’ve learned/grown that it leaves me feeling like “Eh…This was okay, I guess?”

Rating: 2.5 STARS ~ More okay moments than struggle moments.