Review: What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can…but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson, Marisa Kanter hilariously and poignantly explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.

Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

What I Like About You publishes on April 7, 2020. 

What I Liked

-There is a lot of book community nerdiness in this and I liked it. It’s always fun to read a book about a book blogger.

-I enjoyed reading about Jewish culture. Though Halle is Jewish, she wasn’t really raised with religion, so when she lives with her grandfather who is religious, we get to learn right along with her about traditions and etc. I haven’t read a lot of books that include this, so it helps set it apart a bit from other similar books.

-I loved Halle’s little brother, Ollie. He was wise beyond his years and was always there for Halle. He deserved a little better from her, though, to be honest.

-I liked Le Crew. Though some members of the group weren’t always my cup of tea, I liked their friendship.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-Halle’s parents are famous documentary filmmakers. A little is spoken about the super important topics they cover, but more is said about how they are chasing an Oscar. They came across really shallow to me. I didn’t really respect them.

-One of my biggest pet peeves in books is when all the drama could be resolved with one, honest conversation. I got very, very frustrated with Halle. I can understand being caught off guard the first time she met Nash, but then months go by and their relationship progresses, and it turned more into an uncomfortable catfishing situation. Her brother was the only one who knew the truth of the situation and he continually tried to talk her into telling the truth and she would just get mad at him and storm away to go pout. She was often a hard character to like.

-There’s a lot of YA Book Twitter drama that goes on and it reminded me of why I mostly avoid Twitter. The YA Book Community can be great, but it can also be incredibly toxic and judgmental and promotes “cancel culture”. To be fair, though, the Twitter community in general can be that way. One situation in this story is that the author of a book that means a lot to Halle disses the movie being made about her book saying it’s not just for teens. Halle plans on seeing the movie anyways because it meant a lot to her grandmother (who worked on the book), but she lets other people make her feel guilty about it and it sways her opinion to join the boycott. For a book that celebrates the YA book culture, I just wish that the characters would’ve come across a little better than they did.

Overall

Overall, What I Like About You wasn’t really for me. I almost DNF-ed it several times, but I decided to keep going and did enjoy some parts of it. When needless lying is basically the whole plot, though, I just can’t get behind it. However, this book is obviously a celebration of YA literature and I am well over the age of the target audience, so some of the things that bothered me may not bother them.

Overall Rating (Out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Imagine Me (Shatter Me #6) by Tahereh Mafi

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The explosive finale to the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Shatter Me series.

Juliette Ferrars.

Ella Sommers.

Which is the truth and which is the lie?

Now that Ella knows who Juliette is and what she was created for, things have only become more complicated. As she struggles to understand the past that haunts her and looks to a future more uncertain than ever, the lines between right and wrong—between Ella and Juliette—blur. And with old enemies looming, her destiny may not be her own to control.

The day of reckoning for the Reestablishment is coming. But she may not get to choose what side she fights on.

Sigh. What a let down. Despite not being very impressed with the last couple books, I was really hoping for a great finale. Something to make this continuation of the original series worth it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. *Beware some mild spoilers here on out*

I have to say that I immediately set out on the wrong foot with this book when I realized that the chapters were being divided between Juliette’s and Kenji’s POVs instead of Juliette’s and Warner’s. Warner remains the only consistently good thing about this series, so I was upset that we only got a couple of chapters from him at the end (more on that later). After the first few chapters, I kind of got over it, though. Based on the novellas from Kenji’s POV, I was expecting all of his chapters to be about his feelings and blossoming romance, but thankfully they weren’t that bad. Unfortunately, though, just not a lot happened in either his or Juliette’s chapters. It was a pretty boring story, to be honest.

So, let’s talk about Juliette. She spent most of this book crazy, though it wasn’t really her fault. Her all-powerful sister was messing with her mind in the beginning. Then she gets captured and gets experimented on. When it’s finally time to be “rescued” it’s Warner that brings her back…by going to second base. Seriously. With all hell breaking out around them, they make out topless and that’s enough for Juliette to remember who she is. *Sigh*

So, now let’s talk about Warner. He spent about the first half of the book just being sad and angry about Juliette being gone and not really talking. But once he finally starts to engage, he was the Warner I loved again.

“Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because I’m thinking about all the people I’d like to murder.” – Aaron Warner.

He is absolutely the only reason I continued with this series and, as I said earlier, was the only consistently good thing in the whole series.

So what about the rest of the characters? Who cares? Mafi certainly doesn’t. The epilogue was about one of the most pointless two chapters I’ve ever read. It’s supposed to be Juliette and Warner’s wedding day, but we don’t actually see a wedding. Other than finding out it’s been two weeks since they took down the Reestablishment, there’s not really much said about what happens now or the fates of the rest of the cast. Adam makes a small appearance, but we don’t find out what happened to him before or where he will go from here. Kenji’s relationship that he pined over for two novellas wasn’t given any more mention. A couple characters showed up to talk about a burst pipe and bring a puppy for Juliette and Warner to hold. I mean really? THIS is the ending of the series the author always envisioned?

Overall, Imagine Me, was a complete letdown. Other than the love I will forever have for Warner, continuing this series felt like a waste to me. I know I’m going to be in the minority with this opinion, so if you enjoyed the last couple books, maybe you’ll enjoy this one too.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sharp Objects meets My Lovely Wife in this tightly drawn debut that peels back the layers of the most complicated of mother-daughter relationships…

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Darling Rose Gold publishes March 17, 2020. 

Well, this was underwhelming. I’ve seen so many great review for Darling Rose Gold and I was so hyped to read it, but it ended up falling far short of my expectations.

The story is told through alternate POVs from Patty in the present and Rose Gold in the past. I have to say I found Patty’s chapters much more interesting. I felt like Rose Gold’s were all backstory and really seemed to drag. It covers her life during the years her mother was in prison and I thought it could have been shortened. There were some important things that came back in to play later, but so much of it was just needless detail and I found myself pretty bored. In Patty’s chapters I felt like the story was at least moving forward.

Both characters were kind of crazy and unapologetically awful, which was kind of fun. I was actually hoping for for them to act even more devious than they did, though. I felt that the story followed a very cliched path and anybody who has read this genre before will be able to see what’s going to happen from miles away.

Overall, Darling Rose Gold was not really for me. There was some fun characterization, but for the most part it was really predictable and seemed to drag a lot. I didn’t find out until after I was done reading that this story is apparently very heavily inspired by the real life case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and her mother Dee Dee. I had never heard of the case before, but looked it up and there are a lot of similarities (like, a lot) with this book. While this book wasn’t for me, I have seen a lot of other really great reviews, so it may still be worth checking out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: I Hate You, Fuller James by Kelly Anne Blount

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

I hate you, Fuller James.

I hate your floppy hair and your lopsided grin and those laughing blue eyes that always seem to be laughing at me.

I hate that you’re the most popular guy in school and I’m still the girl who sneezed and spit out her retainer on someone at a middle school dance. It’s just such a cliché.

I hate that I’m being forced to tutor you in English and keep it a secret from everyone. Because otherwise it might put our basketball team’s chances at winning State in jeopardy, and even though I hate you, I love basketball.

I hate that it seems like you’re keeping a secret from me…and that the more time we spend together, the less I feel like I’m on solid ground. Because I’m starting to realize there’s so much more to you than meets the eye. Underneath it all, you’re real.

But what I hate most is that I really don’t hate you at all.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

I Hate You, Fuller James publishes March 2, 2020. 

I was hoping something fun and cute would break me out of my reading rut, but unfortunately I Hate You, Fuller James didn’t end up being that fun or that cute.

The whole tutoring premise started out a little rough for me. The principal of the school straight up blackmails Wren into tutoring the star basketball player. He threatens her with not only multiple days of detention, but suspension because she was caught on video throwing food during a food fight in the cafeteria. The suspension would also mean she would miss out on a prestigious STEM camp. However, if she tutors Fuller, that will be her only punishment. And Fuller’s punishment will be…getting tutored. We later find out that someone else caught on camera throwing food only gets two days of lunch-time detention – which won’t interfere with his spot on the basketball team. So that was all ridiculous enough, but then the basketball coach, who is also Wren’s uncle, asks them both to keep the tutoring a secret. The reasoning is that if the rest of the team finds out their star player may not play in the first game if his grades don’t improve, the team will implode and they’ll never make it to State. That makes perfect sense, right?

So when Fuller is caught by one of his friends going to a the library with Wren for his first tutoring session, he covers for it by making a bet about how he’s hooking up with Wren and will trick her into being his girlfriend and then he’ll dump her. Of course, once he gets to know Wren he realizes she’s the most wonderful girl in all the world and tries to cover his tracks on the bet so she they can be together and she won’t get mad at him.

This book was ridiculous. There were a couple of cute moments here and there, but honestly Fuller just said so many gross things in the beginning of the book that I could never quite like him. Wren was really naive and emotional and very self-involved and I found her a little hard to like, as well. I kept hoping something big would happen later in the story that would make me love it, but it didn’t happen. Even the Big Romantic Gesture, which was based off of two movies I really enjoy, felt very lackluster to me.

Overall, I Hate You, Fuller James left me very underwhelmed. The initial premise with the tutoring didn’t work for me and Fuller’s behavior in the beginning of the book really kept me from rooting for him and Wren later in the story. However, I am definitely not in the target audience age range for this book, so those that are may find this much more enjoyable than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

You probably know someone like Shay Miller.
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is so isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters.
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live the most glamorous life.
They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

You Are Not Alone publishes March 3, 2020. 

Since loving this author duo’s debut, The Wife Between Us, their books have become auto-reads for me. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to think they’re a bit of a one book wonder for me.

I was bored for about the first 90% of You Are Not Alone. There was some mild intrigue with Cassandra and Jane, the Moore sisters, and figuring out what exactly they’re up to, but it didn’t really take long to figure things out. I kept hoping there was a lot more to them and their group of friends, but there wasn’t. While I did like reading the multiple perspectives, getting the others just made Shay’s perspective more frustrating. I just wanted to yell at her to stop being so stupid all the time, which isn’t necessarily fair since I was privy to more information than she was. Still, though, for how intelligent she was supposed to be, I felt like it took her way too long to become suspicious.

I found the writing between the two authors to be seamless, as always. They have very compatible writing styles and I do find that impressive. I was just underwhelmed with the story. I thought much of it was very obvious and thought things drug out for too long. There was one surprise towards the end that I hadn’t guessed, but it wasn’t exactly a game changing twist like I have come to expect.

Overall, You Are Not Alone, just wasn’t for me. While there was initially some intrigue, I felt like things become obvious way too early in the story and I kept waiting for things to get really crazy, but they never did. I found myself just trying to get through the story, rather than enjoying it. While I still think these authors are talented, this story missed the mark for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Packed with the electrifying pacing and pulse-pounding suspense of Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner, a thrilling debut about a mother desperate to find the connections between her missing husband and a deadly stalker who knows too much about her own dark family history.

Driving home one rainy night, Cassie Larkin sees a man and woman fighting on the side of the road. After calling 911, the veterinarian makes a split-second decision that will throw her sedate suburban life into chaos. Against all reason and advice, she gets out of her minivan and chases after the violent man, trying to help his victim. When Cassie physically tries to stop him, he suddenly turns on her and spits out an ominous threat: “Let her die, and I’ll let you live.”

A veterinarian trained to heal, Cassie can’t let the woman die. But while she’s examining the unconscious victim, the attacker steals her car. Now he has her name. Her address. And he knows about her children. Though they warn her to be careful, the police assure her that the perpetrator—a criminal named Carver Sweet—won’t get near her. Cassie isn’t so sure.

The next day—Halloween—her husband disappears while trick-or-treating with their six-year-old daughter. Are these disturbing events a coincidence or the beginning of a horrifying nightmare? Her husband has been growing distant—is it possible he’s become involved with another woman? Is Cassie’s confrontation with the road-side attacker connected to her husband’s disappearance? With all these questions swirling in her mind Cassie can trust no one, maybe not even herself. The only thing she knows for sure is that she can’t sit back while the people she loves are in danger.

As she desperately searches for answers, Cassie discovers that nothing is as random as it seems, and that she is more than willing to fight—to go the most terrifying extremes—to save her family and her marriage.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

No Bad Deed will be available February 18, 2020. 

This is a hard one to review without giving too much away, so I’m going to keep it short. I did like that it was pretty fast paced and even when the plot seemed to drag a bit, the pace kept me reading. Small reveals came quickly and frequently and that also helped move the story along. That’s kind of the end of the good things I can say about No Bad Deed, though. Cassie was a confusing character. Nothing she did really made that much sense to me. One of my biggest pet peeves in this type of book is when the main character decides to investigate themselves and everything they do just makes them look guilty. There was a lot of that in this story and I found it frustrating. I also think the actual development of the mystery was kind of ridiculous. By the time we get to the reveal of who is behind everything and why, the only reaction I had was a hard eye roll. It was a promising premise, but I found the ending really underwhelming.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When a woman conceals her sister’s death to claim their joint inheritance, her deception exposes a web of dangerous secrets in this addictive new thriller for fans of Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.

“Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.

When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Better Liar will be available January 14, 2020. 

I had really high hopes for The Better Liar. It sounded intriguing and suspenseful and multiple twists are promised in the synopsis. Unfortunately, none of those things ended up being true for me. Instead of the psychological suspense I was expecting, this book read much more like a Women’s Fiction story, focusing on two sisters with a dysfunctional childhood who turned into two dysfunctional adults. It’s also supposed to shine a light on postpartum depression, but I don’t think that was done all that effectively, even with the condescending Author’s Note about it at the end of the book.

The story is told from three points of view: Leslie, Robin, and Mary. I liked the multiple perspectives, even if they all sounded basically the same. The premise definitely had promise, but I found myself pretty bored for most of the book. I disliked all of the characters and found a lot of their actions a little unrealistic. I kept waiting for the multiple twists and when they finally happened I thought they were kind lackluster. I expected a really explosive, twisted ending and was left pretty disappointed.

Overall, The Better Liar was just not for me. While it had promise, it failed to live up to it. I think if this had been packaged as Women’s Fiction rather than Mystery/Thriller, I could have adjusted my expectations and enjoyed it more. However, I have seen many more favorable reviews on this than mine, so it may still be worth picking up for some.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars