Friday, 16 June 2017

Firsts - Laurie Elizabeth Flynn; Review


Book Details:
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250130042
ISBN-13: 978-1250130044

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.


Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.


Links To Buy:



Rating:
Review:

I did not know how I would feel about this book, even as I kept reading it, I was like hmmmm, HMMMM and turns out, after all my hmmm-ing and ah-ing, I don’t like this book. Nope. My expectations were of a smart, witty, insightful book, which to be fair, in some parts, it was – but the tropes played out in this book, and the main character, just really didn’t sit well with me.

The idea behind this really pulled me in, especially after seeing so many of my fellow GoodReads all reading it, so of course I jumped on the bandwagon. 17 year old Mercedes, who never got her perfect first time, takes it upon herself to sleep with boys, teach them to do it “right” so that their girlfriends will have a better first experience than she did. Crikey, right?

I went in with expectations of a story which repels slut-shaming and promotes body positivity – and it did; something I came to understand through Mercedes character was that she uses sex as a control mechanism – she’s got seduction and the lead up to it down to an art form. But outside of that realm, outside of her predicating which guys like which outfit, she doesn’t quite know how to form and maintain relationships. Of any sort, whether that be with her there-but-absentee-mother, her friend-but-more-than-a-friend Zach, or even her best friend Angela, from whom she keeps her endless secrets and a betrayal.

I feel like the purpose of this book was meant to divide the majority, to make people question “why can’t she sleep with loads of guys and feel good about it, without being shamed by it?” and the answer to that lies very simply in whether you think the reasons why she does it, is justified or not. For me. It was clearly not. NOPE. Mercedes is a somewhat messed up character, craving love and affection but simultaneously pushing people away. Wanting to provoke a reaction from her ever chirpy mother, but then pushing back when she gets what she wanted. She’s a bit of a mess, which is totally fine, because characters are meant to be flawed and broken especially when their experiences have shaped them so.

But this whole sex initiation thing she does with guys, is just plain wrong. She sleeps with other girls boyfriends on purpose, and then lets them go on their merry way, back to their girlfriends, thinking she’s done them a favour, and she’s actually proud of what she’s done. Imagine the roles were reversed okay; a guy sleeps with girls and takes their virginity, so that their boyfriends would have a good first time with them. YEP. IMAGINE THAT.

Imagine how many guys could have traipsed their way into her bedroom, claiming to have a girlfriend they love, they sleep with Mercedes, only to then reveal they don’t have a girlfriend, they were just looking for an easy way to sleep with someone – and all they had to do is say they want to make their “girlfriend’s” first time memorable, and bam. She agrees. Yeah, not great.

In a twisted way, it does bring to light how a guys first time is a big deal too, and there is a lot of pressure on them to perform and for there to be fireworks and a huge deal made about it. It works that way for both parties, girls and boys and this book does a good job in highlighting the issue through both genders, whether through Toby or through Angela. But in the case of Mercedes, her reasoning about why she did what she did, felt so wrong to me. After what she went through, I would have expected her character to have more of an awareness of what intimacy means and the vulnerability for a girl – but all this went down the drain with the clear example of Angela. They’re meant to be best friends – when Angela’s boyfriend approaches her, in a weird manner which sets alarm bells ringing in her own head – even if its just suspicions at this point – the first thing you think she would do is tell the best friend – and not hide it from her and instead enable the boyfriend’s behaviour?! LIKE. WOT. Let that sink in.

Also. Okay, come on, Faye’s solution to Mercedes problem was ridiculous. She wanted to take attention off Mercedes, so she goes and makes a supposed sex tape and broadcasts it to the whole school on purpose? Sure it grabs their attention and makes them momentarily forget about the previous scandal – but is that meant to erase the heartbreak of all the other girls, whose boyfriends slept with someone else for their first time, essentially cheating on them? No sir it does not. As a female character, I felt like if Mercedes can think about these girls and want their first times to be great, she should have also had the capacity and depth to think about how those very girls would feel when they found out their boyfriends had cheated on them, with her, on purpose. Not placing the blame solely on her shoulders, it takes two to tango as they say *eyeroll* but she created this whole thing to start with.

On the other hand, I liked Angela’s character, definitely more so than Mercedes, because that tape stunt aside, Faye, to me, was a strong female character, who was aware of her sexuality and was not apologetic for who she was, even with the series of unfortunate event *pun intended* that led her to a new school. Despite being describe as some major hottie, she was kind and honest and not some hated competition character, only featured to make the main character look better in contrast to her horrible nature. I’m glad she was instead made to be a friend, an honest one at that.

Overall though, I was quite disappointed in this book, I had expectations of the kind of story that could have evolved from the topics introduced in this, but instead the potential was left untapped. I am hoping for other authors to pick up on this kinda storyline though and write strong stories about something along the same lines. 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index - Julie Israel; Review

 

Book Details:
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Penguin (1st Jun 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0141376422
ISBN-13: 978-0141376424

It's hard to keep close a person everyone keeps telling you is gone.

It's been sixty-five painful days since the death of Juniper's big sister, Camilla. On her first day back at school, bracing herself for the stares and whispers, Juniper borrows Camie's handbag for luck - and discovers an unsent break-up letter inside. It's mysteriously addressed to 'You' and dated July 4th - the day of Camie's accident. Desperate to learn the identity of Camie's secret love, Juniper starts to investigate.

But then she loses something herself. A card from her daily ritual, The Happiness Index: little notecards on which she rates the day. The Index has been holding Juniper together since Camie's death - but without this card, there's a hole. And this particular card contains Juniper's own secret: a memory that she can't let anyone else find out.

Links To Buy:




Rating:

Review:

I instantly fell in love with the idea of this book, as soon as I read the premise, which included a ritual the main character completes - daily index cards. As a keen journal-er, diary keeper, and general stationary obsessed person, this idea stuck out to me more than anything else in the blurb, and off I went on getting stuck right in, expecting a sweet and exploratory story of love and loss.

What I didn’t expect though, was how deeply moving this very simple story was. Juniper lost her older sister in an accident - she’s been keeping count of how many days it’s been since it happened, and continued on a tradition she started from when her sister was around - keeping a daily index card, to rate her day; the good, the bad, and everything in between. I was touched and saddened by the grief and heartache and loss our main character Juni feels, which was greatly portrayed by the author. The holes in happiness, the loss of feeling, the constant thoughts and echoes of ache, the emptiness. It felt really tangible to me and I feel like the author did a great job in showing how grief can manifest in different ways, through the different characters - whether that be obsessiveness for a ritual, or complete avoidance of a certain place. 

The array of characters, from Juni, her parents, Kody, Angela, Sponge, Nate and Brand. When Juni loses one of the most important index cards she’s written, with what she feels like is her darkest secret, she sets off scavenging in the dumpsters to find it. This loss however, brings her so many gains in the most unexpected way, friends and acquaintances that she comes to cherish. The people she helps along the way, some unintentionally, some intentionally, was one of my fav parts of this story, because in the end, the author brilliantly shows that everyone is dealing with something, everyone has their own struggles and are fighting their own battles - just be nice. 

Another discovery which really drives this story forward, is when she discovered a letter, written on the day of her sister’s death, addressed to someone nicknamed “You”. Juni’s desire to find out who this person was, this missing link in her sisters life which no one knew anything about, inadvertently helps to heal some of Juni’s grief, and though I am totally bummed that we never get to find out who this person is, I am kinda glad that their identity remains undiscovered, because in the end, this was her sister’s secret, a part of her life - and with her gone, I feel like it should go with her. 

This isn’t a love story, despite the call of first love that Juni hears, despite what builds with Brand (so adorable, by the way) and I greatly appreciate that the author didn’t focus so intently on their relationship - but instead it was just a facet of the story, with emphasis on friendships, of loss, of family ties more - the book highlights a lot more important issues and does a great job on keeping focus on that. 

As predictable as some parts were, you really won’t mind, given how intelligently and sensitively this book was written, with a great array of characters and the way it raises key issues, important issues, and all in all, makes this a lovely story for every reader. Thank you to Penguin for an ARC of this book.

Here's a picture I took of the book and my own index card.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

By Your Side - Kasie West; Review


Book Details:
Paperback: 342 pages
Publisher: Harper Teen (31st Jan 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062455869
ISBN-13: 978-0062455864

Summary:

In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side? 

Links To Buy:


Rating:

Review

Kasie West is my go to author when I want a cute, light, fluffy YA contemporary read - and I have loved her previous books, like The Distance Between Us, On The Fence, PS. I Like You. But this one sadly, just didn’t do it for me. I still love you Kasie West *she screams from the rooftops* but I know you can, and have written better.

There wasn’t anything majorly wrong as such with this book, just that I didn’t enjoy it, didn’t really connect with it, like I have with her previous books and ok yeah I had a few issues with things in the book, don’t I always. The writing though, was great, very easy to read, simple and the usual you’ve come to expect from this author. 

Sadly, the characters, the storyline, the execution really fell flat for me. I mean.. girl + (bad)boy trapped in a library.. IN A LIBARY. Like, all booklovers dream right? To be trapped in a library with books .. and hot guy, but more so BOOKS. ENDLESS BOOKS. ENDLESS BROWSING WITHOUT SOMEONE BREATHING DOWN YOUR NECK AND WATCHING YOUR WEIRDLY AS YOU STROKE THE COVERS.. uhm NOT that I’ve done that. Nope nope. *smiles*

But like I said, others have loved this book, I just didn’t connect with it in the same way. I started reading this by the way, after finishing the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why - and whenever the names Jeff and Zach, I instantly thought of the characters from the show. (#JEFFDAVIES DESERVED BETTER) just.. yeah. Anyway.

For me the biggest thing was the kind of.. lack of chemistry and FEEEELZ to this book - there should have been 7 different levels of glorious feelings, guy and girl trapped in a library, he bad boy, she relatively good girl - magic ensues. But as much as I want to like Dax for the character he stands for - and as cute as his moments were, I felt like he didn’t have much of a personality? Like even though it was all there in the description of him, of what he has and does go through - there’s still nothing there to get the angst going for me. Autumn - I just didn’t really like her character either, not that she did anything wrong, but again, there was no connection with 
her. 

Other things I did not like: 
- Her friends - who seem like real a-holes to be honest, in the way they treat her and view her. Like how is it you didn’t even realise she was missing?! The way Jeff’s best friend treats Autumn, wow the hate is unreal - he’s such a little pile of turd. 
- The representation of her anxiety just didn’t sit right with me - it seemed opportunistic and  just not authentic.
- The triangle with Jeff was a plot device but felt so blah. 

I mean there were some good points to the book, like Autumn’s parents who were so caring and conscious of her mental health, checking up on her, making sure she’s okay or if she needs a break. YES PLS KINDA PARENTING. The writing from Kasie West as always is fun to read and there were some really cute moments between Dax and Autumn - but just not the kinda chemistry I’ve come to expect from West and from YA contemporaries in general. 

All in all, there was GREAT potential, this really could have turned out to be one of my faves from Kasie West, but the lack of depth, chemistry, buildup and complexities to the characters just didn’t push the boat out in this one. On the bright side, there’s a new book due out from Kasie West - Lucky In Love, 25th July - can’t wait to get my hands on that one! In the meantime, take your fill from my reviews of the authors other books which I’d totally recommend - The Distance Between Us, On The Fence, and PS. I Like You