4.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · mental health · Young Adult

ARC Review | Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu

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Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu

Published: October 23, 2018

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Pages: 384

Genres: young adult, mental health, contemporary fiction, contemporary romance

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: realistic young adult novels, books about mental health, great friendships 

Foodie Vibes: pizza

 

Synopsis:

Stella lives with depression, and her goals for junior year are pretty much limited to surviving her classes, staying out of her parents’ constant fights and staving off unwanted feelings enough to hang out with her friends Lin and Katie.

Until Kevin. A quiet, wry senior who understands Stella and the lows she’s going through like no one else. With him, she feels less lonely, listened to—and hopeful for the first time since ever…

But to keep that feeling, Stella lets her grades go and her friendships slide. And soon she sees just how deep Kevin’s own scars go. Now little arguments are shattering. Major fights are catastrophic. And trying to hold it all together is exhausting Stella past the breaking point. With her life spinning out of control, she’s got to figure out what she truly needs, what’s worth saving—and what to let go.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Harlequin Teen and Jennifer You for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Imagine Us Happy tells the story of two teens who are navigating life, high school, relationships and family life while dealing with depression. Stella and Kevin meet at the beginning of the school year. They end up dating for the whole year. We know its not going to end well, and the book is the story of their lives the past year.

I like that the author portrays depression and therapy in a realistic manner. That it’s a process, not a magical cure that will fix everything in a few sessions. Stella is doing better because of therapy but she has to keep working on herself. It’s not easy. The book portrays the challenges of dating or any extra stress when you’re dealing with mental health issues. No that it can’t be done, but both people have to be taking care of themselves in healthy ways. 

A super realistic look at depression, dating and friendships. I think this is going to be a very popular young adult book for years to come!

 

If you could give advice to characters/people dating with mental health issues, what would you say?

3.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Young Adult

ARC Book Review | The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

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The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas 

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: July 31, 2018

Pages: 384

Genres: young adult, contemporary, mystery, thriller

Rating: 3.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: dark young adult novels

Read with food: iced frap at Starbucks ~ so many clandestine meetings happened there

 

Synopsis: 

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and author for an ARC copy of the book. As always, an honest review.

My rating is actually 3.5 stars, but since there aren’t half stars I always round up.

The Cheerleaders is a fun, yet dark young adult novel that captivated me from beginning to end. In the span of a few weeks, 5 girls from the local high school cheerleading team were dead. Murders, accidents, suicides, but is that what really happened?

The book quickly drew me in and held my attention throughout. I absolutely flew through this quick read. Definitely something you could read and still comprehend while tired or in a noisy place. I also enjoyed that the narrator is one of the dead girls’ younger sisters. Monica and her friend Ginny were likable and smart, making the story work well. I find that if I don’t connect with the main characters or at least understand their motives, I rarely enjoy the book. Not an issue at all in The Cheerleaders.

However the plot trope of teenagers trying to solve a crime that the police can’t or got wrong has been done a lot. It’s easy to overlook in this book, but it’s worth noting. Also, every characters has a distinct role in solving the mystery. Which in theory sounds great, but left me feeling as if certain characters were just being used for what they could bring to the solving the mystery, instead of actual relationships or character development.

Overall, The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas is worth a read in my opinion. Fun, serious, with a mystery that will keep you turning the pages. Perfect for those hot summer days when you want to escape into a book for awhile.

 

Who is looking forward to reading the book?

 

Random question of the post: 

What’s your favorite color? 

4.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Humorous Fiction · Realistic Fiction

Book Review: Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden

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Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden

Published by River Street Books on August 1, 2018

Pages: 319

Genres: realistic fiction, humorous fiction 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: workplace settings, socially relevant novels, realistic fiction 

Read with food: cheetos~ the real thing not that baked stuff 

 

Synopsis: 

From the mundane to the insane, Adequate Yearly Progress captures the teaching experience with insight, humor, and heart.

Each year brings familiar educational challenges to Brae Hill Valley, a struggling urban high school in Texas. But the school’s teachers face plenty of challenges of their own. English teacher Lena Wright, a spoken-word poet with a deep love for her roots, can never seem to satisfy her students that she’s for real. Hernan D. Hernandez is confident in front of his biology classes, yet tongue-tied around the woman he most wants to impress: namely, Lena. Down the hall, math teacher Maybelline Galang focuses on the numbers as she blocks out problems whose solutions aren’t so clear, while Coach Ray hustles his football team toward another winning season, at least on the field. Recording it all is idealistic history teacher Kaytee Mahoney, whose blog gains new readers by the day but drifts ever further from her in-class reality.
And this year, a new celebrity superintendent is determined to leave his own mark on the school—even if that means shutting the whole place down. The fallout will shake up the teachers’ lives both inside and outside the classroom.

Review: 

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for a copy of the book. As always, an honest review. 

Adequate Yearly Progress accurately captures what I would imagine it’s like to work in an inner city high school. The story starts out a few days before the beginning of the school year. There’s a new superintendent who is ready to make some changes. Maybe with the students’ best interests at heart, but definitely with an enormous lack of experience in the school setting. It sets up what’s bound to be an eventful school year. 

The chapters are told from different teachers points of view. This choice keeps the book fresh, interesting, and moving along quickly. The reader also gets a well rounded perspective of all the happenings within the high school. We mainly follow Lena, Hernan, Maybelline and the football coach. I like that the characters are diverse regarding gender, age, race, and life experiences. The story is a discussion about life in and out of the classroom. I really appreciated when the story would show the rich complex inner lives of the teachers. A great combination of serious and funny. I also liked the inclusion of one teacher’s blog posts. I found it fun, modern, and added an additional perspective. 

Most of the book was amazing; there were a few aspects that I didn’t enjoy as much. A few of the teachers bothered me, personality wise. It’s in keeping with a realistic perspective of a school, but they could still really annoy me at times. Also, the ending of the school year seemed a little rushed. However the teachers’ personal lives were well paced. 

Overall I really enjoyed getting to know the teachers in Adequate Yearly Progress. A humorous, realistic perspective of teaching with all of its challenges and wonderful moments.

Definitely give this a read when it’s released! 

 

What are you favorite books about school?

 

What do they get right? What could they do better?

4 Star Books · contemporary fiction · Literary Fiction

Book Review: The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

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The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

Published by Picador on February 7, 2017

Pages: 288

Genres: contemporary fiction, literary fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: novels that give older people a true voice

Read with food: Early Grey tea with milk 

 

Synopsis:

Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbours. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers. Both have recently been widowed. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hostility which they prune with a zeal that belies the fact that they are both over eighty.

But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. And gradually the bickering and sniping softens into lively debate, and from there into memories shared. But could these sparks of connection ever transform into friendship? Or is it too late to expect these two to change?

Review:

Rarely do I finish a book and not have something to say about it. However, I’m struggling to find the words to properly sum up this book. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing. 

The Woman Next Door tells the tale of two older women who are neighbors, but have been enemies for a long time. Set in South Africa, the story has a long history of tension and struggle behind it. 

One woman loses her husband, falls, and requires in home care. Another’s house need renovations, and so the two end of temporarily living together. It is the perfect set up for drama and lots of it. However, the writing and the characters are subtle and much more mature than that. Through their current situations, we learn about their lives. The good, bad, difficult, and celebratory. 

The author does the characters justice and gives them a wonderful voice to share their perceptions and experiences. 

The one major downside is that in the paperback version the pages are thick and weirdly textured, which I found annoying. If I left my bookmark fully inside the book, it made it really hard to find. Not that big of a deal, but annoying after it kept happening. 

I definitely recommend this subtle but wonderful novel. 

 

How often do you not have too much to say about a book?

What do you do about it? 

5 Star Books · Book Reviews · Classics · Literary Fiction · Young Adult

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith 

Published by Harper & Row in 1943

Pages: 493

Genres: fiction, classics, young adult, bildungsroman

Rating: 5 stars

Recommend to fans of: life changing books, classic literature that you will actually enjoy, coming of age novels

Read with food: roasted chestnuts and black coffee … treats of the era and enjoyed by France

 

Synopsis:

The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

Review:

I had put the audiobook version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn on hold at my local library … a year ago. I was hoping to read it for the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Obviously that didn’t happen. I read another book to meet that challenge. No big deal. I then figured that if I had waited this long, why not a bit longer to read it, and kept my place on the hold list at the library.

I am so glad that I did! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an amazing novel. A true literary classic that almost everyone can learn something from. 

I was captivated with Francie’s story from age 11 to 17. Her observations, intelligence, progressive nature, and life lessons are still relevant to me as an adult 100 years after the book takes place. I can absolutely see why people would read this multiple times. You could probably pick out a new life lesson with each reread. 

I can’t really say anything bad about this novel. Of course, there are some actions, societal rules, and words of the time that would be unacceptable today. But nothing that detracts from the story. 

I highly recommend this amazing novel! Don’t let the length deter your, it’s worth the time. 

 

Fun fact:

I learned a new word and book genre today, bildungsroman. Definition: a novel dealing with one person’s formative years or spiritual education. A sort of coming of age novel that focuses on psychological and spiritual growth. 

 

Also, bonus!

If you’re participating in the Great American Read, this is one of the books on the list.