Review: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

The Loose Ends List
Author: 
Carrie Firestone
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
Note: I received an ARC of this book from the NOVL Magazine giveaway in exchange for an unbiased review.

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.


  ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


The Loose Ends List is one of those books that I have a hard time deciding how I feel about. For the most part, it was a fun book to read. It drew me in quickly with Maddie’s sassy point of view. It kept my interest throughout the entire story, but were just some things that bugged me.

I’ll start with what I liked. Carrie Firestone’s writing was really good. Her plot was fresh and compelling. I can honestly say death with dignity cruises would never ever have been something I would have thought about had I not read this book.

The cast of characters was wonderful. Maddie was the perfect spoiled little rich girl. Her world revolved around her friends and boyfriend. She was devastated by the news that her favorite grandmother was ill and had a hard time dealing with it. I could completely understand her fear of death. I’ve always been scared of it myself. Not to the extent Maddie was, but I do avoid thinking about it.

The rest of the family was hilarious. They all brought something special to the story. I especially loved Maddie’s Gram. The way she brought her family together to celebrate her life was really touching. I loved that they got a chance to truly get to know Gram and her story.

My favorite character, though, was Paige. She was a young mother on the cruise, and I found her part of the story to be completely heartbreaking. I found myself wanting to know more about her. I wasn’t pleased with where this story left her. I needed more.

What I loved most about The Loose Ends List was the ending. Those last few chapters were perfect. I wish the entire book would have held the same tone. It was pretty cool.

As for the things I didn’t like…The way Maddie and her cousin Janie spoke and thought about the people on the cruise ship. It made sick the way they judged them before getting to know them. I know that young people, teenagers especially, probably see the sick and disabled with less empathy than most adults. Maybe it’s maturity, maybe it’s coming to understand that one is not invincible that changes views. I don’t know. It just rubbed me the wrong way. I know it was a learning experience for Maddie and Janie (and probably some readers), but it made me uncomfortable.

Another thing that bothered me were some of the things Maddie’s relatives said to her. I couldn’t believe her mom was telling her that she needed to wear Spanx. She’s 18 and a size 8! There couldn’t have been anything wrong with her body! Plus, that is bound to scar any teenage girl. And then there were all these comments about Maddie’s sometimes IBS. I just didn’t think that was something to joke about.

Finally, I thought it was strange the way Maddie’s parents and relatives were so supportive of her sleeping arrangements with Enzo. I get that he was a great guy, but they let them get away with stuff I would never let me daughter get away with. And I like to think of myself as pretty understanding.

The Loose Ends List was an enjoyable book to read, even if I didn’t love everything about it. I loved the writing and I’m looking forward to seeing what Carrie Firestone will write next.

 

Review: Shame by Rachel Van Dyken

Shame
Series:
Ruin, #3
Author: Rachel Van Dyken
Publication Date: October 4, 2014
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Everything done in darkness will eventually be brought into the light. I ran, but all it did was keep me one step ahead of my past. I tried to start over; new name, new identity. But you can’t change your soul. A fresh start at college was just what I needed. For a while, it worked. I was the party girl, the one who seemed confident, but it was a lie. When guys kissed me – I felt only pain. When they touched me – nothing but fear. Deep inside, every girl wants to be the beauty in the story, to find someone who will see you as their world. But the truth? I was the beast. And as much as I wanted redemption, I wasn’t fool enough to think I’d ever get it.

Until he walked into my life. I wasn’t prepared to fall for someone. My scars were too deep, the wounds too raw. But he offered me peace, he offered me security. I should have known it was just another lie – I should have known that falling in love with my professor was a bad idea. But I was powerless to stop myself from falling. And he was powerless to catch me. Because the darkness finally caught up to me, and as fate would have it, a cruel twist almost bled me dry. But I’m stronger than I knew. I’m stronger than you think. You think you know my story, but you don’t – after all everyone has Shame in their lives – and I’m no longer afraid to show you mine.


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Wow. Shame was freakin’ crazy. After reading Toxic, the second book in the Ruin series, I knew there was more to party girl Lisa than met the eye. She had a hidden past that I was looking forward to exploring. What I wasn’t expecting was the crazy ride Shame took me on. I feel like I can’t even really tell you much about the book because I would be giving too much away. It’s definitely a book you have to read for yourself.

In Shame, Lisa is trying to out run her past. It’s a past filled with pain and hurt — both her own and that which she caused others. Lisa’s created a new, better version of herself and she’s doing everything she can to make a brighter future at the UW.

Sophomore year of college isn’t starting out very well for Lisa, though. Her past has come back to haunt her through anonymous letters in her mailbox. Lisa’s starting to get scared. Her new psychology professor isn’t helping either. He may be hot as hell, but he seems to have a grudge against Lisa. One minute, Lisa thinks there might be something between them. The next, he’s insulting her. The stress of it all is almost too much to handle.

Student/teacher relationships are one of my least favorite relationship tropes, but it didn’t really bother me in this book. While I was a little worried about Lisa and Tristan getting caught and in trouble, I could also see where the story was going. That helped make their relationship more enjoyable to read.

I loved Lisa’s character. She was just as complex as the storyline. Her past was so interesting. I loved reading about it through Taylor’s journal entries.

Tristan won’t be making my book boyfriend list. I had a love/hate relationship with him, but that’s okay. His character and role made him perfect for Lisa.

The real gem in this story for me was Taylor, or more accurately, his journals. He was such an interesting and dark character! He created some twists and turns I didn’t see coming. His part in the story made this more a thriller than a romance.

Shame was a really cool book. It wasn’t what I expected at all and I loved that. I think other readers will, too.

I would highly suggest reading the first two books in the Ruin series prior to reading Shame, as the stories build upon each other. I would recommend the entire series to New Adult readers. I’ve truly enjoyed reading them.

Review: Carnage: The Story of Us by Leslie Jones

Carnage: The Story of Us
Series:
Carnage, #1
Author:
Leslie Jones
Publication Date:
February 14, 2014
Genre:
New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

I love him, from the instant I set eyes on him when I was just 11 years old I have loved him and nothing will ever change that, he owns me, he owns my heart and he owns my body and no matter how many lies are told, no matter how many people conspire to keep us apart, despite the fame and the distance, we will find a way.

“Georgia Rae, when we made love you used to cry” … He waits for me to sing my bit. I try to swallow down a sob but I just end up singing through it…
“I said I love you like the stars above, I’ll love you till I die”

Carnage is an edgy coming of age love story that breaks all the rules and transcends the decades. Georgia and Sean’s story will stay with you long after you read the final word.
An emotional, smoking hot, gut wrenching read.

NOTE: This is part #1 of a 2 part story but can be read as a stand alone.


  ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


I’ve been buddy reading books off the Huffington Post’s Oh, You Little Heartbreaker! The Ultimate List of Ugly Cry Novels this year with a group on Goodreads. Each month we pick a different book. This month, we picked Carnage: The Story of Us.

Ugh. I don’t even know where to start with Carnage. Guess I’ll just warn everyone that this review will most likely sound more negative than positive. The writing wasn’t bad, it was just disturbing to me. It’s going to be hard to explain without giving away major spoilers, but I’ll do my best.

I absolutely could not stand the beginning of the book. I was constantly cringing. I’m not a prude, but it was much too sexually charged for an 11-year-old character in the 1980’s. I don’t care how mature Georgia’s body was. An 11-year-old shouldn’t be thinking about sex. When I was 11 (in the late 80’s!), I was not thinking sexual thoughts like Georgia. And the way Sean spoke to her was just as bad. I can remember some of the stuff 13-year-old boys said back then it was nowhere near as sexually forward. I forced myself to keep reading because there were so many great reviews for this book. I had high hopes things would get better.

Luckily, they did. As Georgia and Sean got older, things got a little more appropriate. The addition of Tiger was my favorite part of the story. It made me forget about the rough beginning. But, sadly, that didn’t last long. 🙁 By the time I got to the ending, something that should have shattered me didn’t. I should have been crying, but I wasn’t.

I guess the real problem I have with the book is Sean and Georgia’s relationship. The whole thing disturbed and/or disgusted me. Even when he was being super sweet, I just couldn’t love Sean. And I didn’t like Georgia when she was with him. Just…ugh.

I do have to admit that the ending, while it didn’t break me like it should have, it did leave me curious enough to want to read the next book Carnage: The Story of Me. The fact that I was still willing to read the next installment lead me to give the book 3 stars instead of the 2 stars I was planning on.

So…Would I recommend Carnage? I don’t know. There are a ton of 5 star reviews out there. Maybe this one just wasn’t for me. I would advise that you should skip reading it if you can’t handle vulgar language, a plethora of drug use, cheating, or violence.

Review: Jerkbait by Mia Siegert

Title: Jerkbait

Author: Mia Siegert

Publication Date: May 3, 2016

Genre: Young Adult, LGBT, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Fiction

Note: I received an ARC from Mia Siegert through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Even though they’re identical, Tristan isn’t close to his twin Robbie at all—until Robbie tries to kill himself.

Forced to share a room to prevent Robbie from hurting himself, the brothers begin to feel the weight of each other’s lives on the ice, and off. Tristan starts seeing his twin not as a hockey star whose shadow Tristan can’t escape, but a struggling gay teen terrified about coming out in the professional sports world. Robbie’s future in the NHL is plagued by anxiety and the mounting pressure from their dad, coach, and scouts, while Tristan desperately fights to create his own future, not as a hockey player but a musical theatre performer.

As their season progresses and friends turn out to be enemies, Robbie finds solace in an online stranger known only as “Jimmy2416.” Between keeping Robbie’s secret and saving him from taking his life, Tristan is given the final call: sacrifice his dream for a brother he barely knows, or pursue his own path. How far is Robbie willing to go—and more importantly, how far is Tristan willing to go to help him?


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


The minute I picked up Jerkbait, I could tell it was going to be an emotional read. The thoughts and feelings going through Tristan’s head weren’t happy ones. He was a self-absorbed teenager who believed his family didn’t truly see him. I could understand why he would feel this way, even though I was frustrated by his inability to see the whole picture at times. His parents were horrible and didn’t support his dreams. They may just be some of the worst YA parents I’ve ever read.

Tristan’s relationship with Robbie complicated things even more. His resentment of his brother was made even greater by their parents’ reaction to the suicide attempts. They would rather focus on hockey than Robbie’s mental health. They took away what little freedom Tristan had and put him in charge of watching  Robbie.

Meanwhile, Robbie was a mess. It was painful to read what he was going through. He was fearful of what coming out would do to his future hockey career and his friendships with his teammates. I felt so bad that the only place Robbie felt excepted was an online chat room with other gay teens.

Jerkbait was relevant, smart and boldly honest. It touched on so many issues important to today’s society. I was transfixed by the story and read it in one sitting. The only little complaint I had with Jerkbait was the extra paranormal aspect added in at the end. It distracted from the reality of the rest of the story for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: All of It by Kim Holden

Title: All of It

Author: Kim Holden

Publication Date: November 24, 2013

Publisher: Do Epic, LLC

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy

Goodreads Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old VERONICA SMITH has it all: a loving family, a funky car named Jezebel, and a plan to go to college after graduation. On the first day of senior year, she meets DIMITRI GLENN–a mysterious transfer student with gray eyes and a mischievous smile who seems determined to win her heart. But there’s something odd about Dimitri, leading Veronica to wonder if there’s more to him than meets the eye. Before long, she finds herself in a whirlwind romance that seems too good to be true–until a series of devastating events leaves her questioning everything. It’s not until she chooses to think with her heart instead of her mind that she can rise from the ashes to learn the truth of their connection.


 ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


I’m really struggling with my feelings about All of It. It was written by one of my favorite authors, Beth Flynn. Her novel Bright Side is one of my all-time favorite books. I loved the follow up to it, Gus. I wanted to enjoy All of It just as much. I didn’t.

All of It was a struggle for me to read from the beginning. I had a hard time getting into the story. (I even set it aside for a couple of months.) I just didn’t connect with the main characters, Ronnie and Dimitri. Ronnie was annoying. The way she spoke and acted didn’t remind me of a high school senior at all. Dimitri was kind of creepy at first. He was way too forward, and Ronnie was way too accepting of it for having basically no experience with guys. If a guy talked to me the way Dimitri talked to Ronnie after only knowing me for a week, I would be avoiding him. I didn’t get their insta-love. I also didn’t get the way they talked to each other. They sounded way too mature and formal for teenagers.

Somewhere around the sixth or seventh chapter, I began to get into the story. As Ronnie and Dimitri’s relationship progressed, I began to like them more. It lasted like a minute because the story moves forward in time and Ronnie’s making really dumb decisions. Decisions we have take her word on because we didn’t see any of it happen. She just tells us. When she finally comes to her senses and I start liking the story again, not one, not two, not three but FOUR deaths take place. That was pretty crazy. Of course, Ronnie can’t handle it (Who could?) and Dimitri has to save her.

Through all the depressing craziness, the bright light in the story is Dimitri. He has her back. He stands by her when he probably shouldn’t. It was sweet and I loved how he got Ronnie back on track.

But then the story jumps time again. Now, it’s 20 years in the future. Ronnie catches us up on what’s happened and where she is now in her life. This is when the biggest mystery of the book is revealed. It’s also my favorite part of the book. Ronnie and Dimitri’s connection was so cool. I wish the rest of the story would have been as cool. I want to say the journey was worth it to get to the ending, but I’m not sure it was.

Obviously, I didn’t love All of It. I wanted to because, hello, it’s Kim Holden’s. It had a couple of amazing parts, but the rest was just so-so. I had to remind myself that it was her first book. If I put it in that perspective, it’s a pretty good debut novel. It just wasn’t phenomenal like Bright Side. So, it falls somewhere around 3 stars for me.

 

Review: More Happy Than Not

19542841Title: More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam Silvera

Publication Date: June 2, 2015

Publisher: SoHo Teen

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, LGBQT

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?


4.5 / 5 Stars


Adam Silver is a brilliant storyteller. I loved the way the story was set up and flowed in More Happy Than Not. It was creative and not what I was expecting at all. There were twists and turns I never saw coming. It was amazing how seamlessly many different issues were woven into the story.

Not only was the way the story unfolded different and interesting, but so were the characters. The main character, Aaron, could have been very annoying and frustrating to readers because of the way he complained about the hardships and unhappiness in his life. Instead, Aaron was easy to relate to. I could empathize with him and liked him. I wanted him to achieve his ultimate happy ending. I rooted for him the entire time.

The other characters were whipped cream on top of the Aaron sundae. Thomas had a maturity about him, even if he was lost in life. You couldn’t ask for a better girlfriend than Genevieve. She stood by Aaron through it all, no matter what happened. I have to admit my favorite character was Me-Crazy, even if he was a horrible person. The fact that he gave himself that nickname was perfect. He had me laughing most of the time.

 

The only thing missing for me in More Happy Than Not was more information about what came next for Aaron. I kind of felt like I was left hanging a bit. I needed an epilogue or something. I’m dying for more!

More Happy Than Not is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. It’s definitely a book I would recommend.

 

Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

7600924Title: Forbidden

Author: Tabitha Suzuma

Publication Date: May 27, 2010

Publisher: Definitions

Genre:New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Goodreads Synopsis:

She is pretty and talented – sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But… they are brother and sister.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.


Forbidden is probably the hardest book I have ever reviewed. I wish I could say I loved this book, but I can’t. The subject matter was just too disturbing and taboo to be enjoyable to read. What I can say is that it was beautifully written. Only an exceptionally talented writer could deliver a story so brutally wrong and still have you empathizing with its characters.

I felt sympathy for every character in this book. My heart went out to them. Despite their flaws, I loved them. There were so many wrongs committed to each of them on so many levels. I wanted happy endings for them all. Mostly, I wanted to be able to forgive Maya and Lochan their actions, but I couldn’t. It was frustrating and devastating because there could never be a happy ending for them. There could never be an ending that would be completely satisfying to me. What I was left with at the end of Forbidden was a deep sadness. It’s a book that will stick with me for a very long time to come.

You probably noticed there are no stars on this review. I honestly couldn’t come up with a rating. How do you rate a story which makes you super uncomfortable, but love the characters? I haven’t been able to figure it out. Would I suggest reading it? That depends entirely on the reader.