ARC Book Review: North of Happy

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Synopsis:

His whole life has been mapped out for him… 

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the United States, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.

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Review

*I won a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Harlequin Teen. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on April 25, 2017.*

Honestly, I’d never read a book by Adi Alsaid before but I love giveaways so I entered without a second thought and was happily surprised when I won. The book then sat on my shelves for a while but after reading two Ellen Hopkins books back to back I wanted to read something happier. Obviously, I forgot what this book was about.

The story follows Carlos, after his older brother Felix was tragically killed. Felix was the “wild child” of the family, meaning instead of going the traditional route and go to college like his parents wanted him to, he decided to travel the world instead. Carlos, did the very opposite, and planned to intern at his father’s company after graduating high school and then go to the University of Chicago, even though he loved to cook. However, after Felix’s death, Carlos, at the advice of Felix, who he keeps seeing everywhere and in everything, decides to head to an island by Seattle instead.

There, he goes to a restaurant his brother wanted to visit and finds himself meeting Emma, a girl who helps him feel less crazy about seeing his dead brother, and he also finds his way into the kitchen at the restaurant. However, Carlos unfortunately can’t have both the girl and the job. At least, he’s not supposed to, but being the new reckless teen that he is, he dates Emma anyway, which I loved. Forbidden romance is my jam.

Of course complications arise, and there’s some drama, both romantic and familial for Carlos, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I really liked that Carlos seeing Felix everywhere isn’t really explained so you can take it as you want to. I personally like to think Felix was indeed a ghost and Carlos wasn’t tripping, but that could just me. Additionally, I really liked Emma and Carlos’ relationship. I thought they were cute and funny but it was also realistic and didn’t feel forced.

Chef, Emma’s mom, annoyed me to no end but by the end of the novel I at least felt like I understood where she was coming from. I still didn’t like her but I respect her. I also really liked the side characters, especially Carlos’ roommates on the island; even Matt, who is kind of a jerk.

Although I was satisfied with the ending, I do think some people won’t be. It’s one of those endings where you can kind of decide for yourself what happens next, which I love but I know some people don’t. Still, I think this is definitely a must read. The way Alsaid handles grief, familial obligations, and just family in general, was great. I also enjoyed that every chapter started with a recipe, which was a constant reminder of Carlos’ love for food (and made me very hungry).

If you’ve never read Alsaid’s books like I hadn’t, I highly recommend this one. It was a quick read and I couldn’t put it down. Now I want to read his other novels. If you’ve read any of his books, which one should I read next? Let me know in the comments below.

Stars:

4 stars

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Book Review: Smoke

burned ellen hopkins review

Synopsis:

Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that fatal night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated.

Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life as a migrant worker on a California ranch. But is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?

Bestselling author Ellen Hopkins continues the riveting story of Pattyn Von Stratten she began in Burned to explore what it takes to rise from the ashes, put ghosts to rest, and step into a future.

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Review

*Warning: There will be spoilers from Burned by Ellen Hopkins. Read at your own risk!*

After reading Burned, I had very low expectations for Smoke. Not that I expected Smoke to be bad, just that I didn’t want to get my hopes high that Pattyn would actually get a happy ending. That just didn’t seem like Hopkins style. That being said, I was surprisingly satisfied with how this book ended and I’m so glad she gave us a sequel to Burned because I needed that closure.

Smoke is actually told in alternating POVs of Pattyn and her younger sister Jackie. The novel begins with Pattyn on the run after the death of her father and Jackie dealing with the repercussions (or lack there of) of what happened prior to her father’s death. Both Pattyn and Jackie’s stories are heartbreaking to say the least. They’ve gone through a lot, beginning with their father’s physical abuse and then dealing with death and in Jackie’s case rape (this happens at the start of the novel so you’re not being spoiled).

I truly liked nothing about Pattyn and Jackie’s mother. I wanted to be sympathetic because her husband was abusive but I believe there’s a difference between being a victim of abuse and than using that as an excuse for not taking care of your kids. Especially in the case of Jackie, her mother was not there for her at all and it was painful to read just how much her mother threw Jackie under the bus in order to satisfy her own needs.

It was also painful to see Pattyn continue to mourn the deaths of Ethan and her unborn child. Going on the run while dealing with that pain and then the confusing feelings about her father’s death was hard to read.

As always though, Hopkins writing was beautiful poetic and even the parts that made me cry sounded beautiful. I love Hopkins writing style and loved it even more in this novel. She handled so many issues in this novel, including hate crimes, with such sensitivity that you know this book was written with care.

Also liked the introduction of new characters like Adriana, Angel, and Gavin. I won’t say where they come in because that would spoil it but I thought they were all great for the Von Stratten sisters and I’m glad Pattyn and Jackie had them, as well as Aunt J, Kevin, and another family member that made a surprise appearance.

Though I’ll probably never read this book again because it was incredibly dark, despite the beautiful ending, I still think you should buy it just because I now what to share with everyone. Go read this book if you haven’t already.

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“Hell is alive in hearts emptied of love.”

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From Page to Screen: Confess

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*Warning: Spoilers from the novel Confess by Colleen Hoover will be in this review. Read at your own risk.*

Confess is my favorite Colleen Hoover book so when I heard it was being turned into show I had my reservations. The book was phenomenal and I just couldn’t believe a show could do it justice. But then I heard Katie Leclerc from Switched at Birth was playing Auburn and I was like, “Okay, now I’m intrigued.” So yesterday I binged watched the whole seven episode season and it was totally worth the watch.

On the show, Auburn moved to L.A. (in the novel it was Dallas, Texas) to be closer to her son A.J. and try to get custody of him from A.J.’s paternal grandmother, Lydia. On the lookout for a job, she stumbled upon a art gallery where she met Owen, who ended up hiring her for the night to help him with an art showing he was having that night. Naturally, there was strong chemistry between them but with Auburn trying to gain custody of her son Owen was the last guy she needed to fall for. He was keeping a big secret and Auburn’s association with him could be the one thing that stopped her from getting her son back.

The show definitely made some changes from the book but nothing too major. The time between A.J.’s father’s death and the present is longer (in the show it’s 10 years). Also, Auburn’s job is different. In the novel she worked at a hair salon but on the show she works in a nursing home. Additionally, her relationship with Trey was way more serious in the show than it was in the novel. Again, these changes were small and didn’t really bother me.

The only change I kind of had an issue with was how they changed Auburn’s back story and the reason why she gave up custody of A.J. to Lydia. I won’t spoil it because it doesn’t really get revealed until later on but the change seemed strange to me. As in, I don’t know why the show writer thought it was necessary. I thought the explanation behind why Auburn gave A.J. up to Lydia was fine in the novel. Still, this wasn’t such a big deal, especially in the grand scheme of things.

A change I really did enjoy was Auburn’s roommate, Emory. In the novel, she and Auburn are more friendly than actually friends. However, in the show they were actually really close. Emory and their other coworker were there for Auburn and that was something Auburn didn’t really have in the novel. She really only had Owen’s support and as much as I love Owen I liked that Auburn had friends to turn to in the show.

Overall, the show stuck to the most important parts of the novel. I loved Owen and Auburn and their chemistry was just as good as it was in the book to me. Also, I hated Lydia and Trey, A.J.’s uncle, even more in the show than I did in the book. I liked that the show proves just how manipulative Trey is because there are scenes that weren’t in the book since the book is only told in Owen and Auburn’s point of views.

The show also handled all the plot twists so well. The flashbacks were set up perfectly and I liked how the end, which is my favorite part, was revealed. Also, my favorite lines were in the show, which made me incredibly happy.

Even knowing how the show would end, I was totally hooked, which is why I watched it all in one sitting. I definitely suggest giving the show a watch, especially if you loved the novel as much as I did.

You can find Confess on go90.

Book Review: Burned (Reread)

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Synopsis:

It all started with a dream. Just a typical fantasy, but for a girl raised in a religious—and abusive—family, a simple dream could be the first step toward eternal damnation. Now Pattyn Von Stratten has questions. Questions about God, and sex, and mostly love. Will she ever find it? Pattyn experiences the first stirrings of passion, but when her father catches her in a compromising position, events spiral out of control.

Pattyn is sent to live with an aunt in the wilds of rural Nevada to find salvation and redemption. What she finds instead is love and acceptance, and for the first time she feels worthy of both—until she realizes that her old demons will not let her go. Those demons lead Pattyn down a path to hell—not to the place she learned about in sacrament meetings, but to an existence every bit as horrifying.

In this gripping and masterful novel told in verse, Ellen Hopkins embarks on an emotional journey that ebbs and flows. From the highs of true love to the lows of loss and despair, Pattyn’s story is utterly compelling. You won’t want this story to end—but when it does, you can find out what’s next for Pattyn in the sequel, Smoke.

Purchase From:

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Review

The first time I read Burned I was in high school and I remember loving it even though it broke my heart. Therefore when I heard there was a sequel I knew I had to read it but since I read Burned so long ago I knew I’d have to do a reread and I’m so glad I did.

The novel follows protagonist Pattyn who grew up in a Mormon family where it was believed that women were only there to provide children and their husband would have to pull them into heaven when the time came. Pattyn’s father was abusive and as Pattyn began to question her religion more and more she also began to act out. Her parents decide to send her to live with her aunt, and it may have been the best thing they ever did for her.

Out there she began to realize there was a different way to live and that there’s more to life than what she had been taught. However, don’t expect this story to have a happy ending. As Pattyn foreshadows often, her sense of freedom doesn’t last forever.

Even though I knew how this novel would end it still broke my heart again. While I love this book I hate how it ends, mainly because I want so much more for Pattyn. I’m currently reading Smoke now, which I like a lot, but I refuse to get my hopes up for Pattyn to have a happy ending. Ellen Hopkins has broken my heart too many times for that.

Overall, I thought this was a great read, even the second time around. If you haven’t read it yet definitely check out it. Just be prepared to cry. Also, while this is one portrayal of Mormon life this isn’t the case for all Mormons so don’t take it as such.

If you have read Burned let me know your thoughts on it below.

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“Live your life right. Love with all your heart. Don’t hurt others, and help those in need. That is all you need to know.”

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From Page to Screen: 13 Reasons Why

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Source: Netflix

When I first heard 13 Reasons Why was being made into a TV show I was not happy. I read this book in high school and I remember loving it and I just felt like a show wasn’t the right way to tell this story. The novel takes place in the course of a day/night and Clay’s literally just walking around listening to the tapes. Yes, he runs into some people but otherwise it’s mostly just Clay and Hannah’s tapes, which to me didn’t sound like an interesting show.

However, I actually really liked how the show was set up. Each episode was one of Hannah’s reasons why and the show jumped between Clay’s present, where he’s listening to the tapes, and flashbacks to the past where viewers get to see what happened to her. Unlike the novel, Clay takes a much longer time listening to the tapes. Also, the show goes into way more detail about the other characters. Like I said, in the novel it’s mainly just about Clay and Hannah. In the show you get to really know every one on the tapes. You also get to see their parents and the school’s faculty because—surprise!—there’s a lawsuit.

The show adds a lot to the story that was not in the novel, the main thing being that Hannah’s parents are suing the school for their daughter’s suicide. This added another level of drama to the show, which I actually really enjoyed. What’s more is the show goes beyond Clay just listening to the tapes. You get to see a bit of what happens after he’s done and passes along the tapes, which I found interesting.

My biggest issue with the show is that the finale definitely felt like a set up for another season, which I don’t want. I was hoping this would be more like a miniseries and once it got to the end of the book that would be it, but that’s clearly not the case. Moreover, I did not like where most of the characters end up at the end of the season. For me, when I read this novel, it was very much a lesson about how the small things we do and say can really affect people. However, the way the show ends it kind of felt like Hannah’s tapes basically just caused more problems and made things worse for her classmates, which could very well me true but then the story becomes less about what happened to Hannah and more about the affect of her tapes.

Moreover, Clay on the show is a bit different. He makes a lot of decisions on the show that he did not make in the book and I didn’t like them. While I think the way he’s portrayed in the show makes the case for no one really being innocent in Hannah’s death I still didn’t like it. I remember loving Clay in the book and it was unfortunate to see his character changed this way.

Lastly, and I can’t remember if this was said in the book so someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but the show reveals how Hannah killed herself and I personally didn’t think that was essential to the story. Also I was surprised there were no trigger warnings in this show (Note: I watched press screeners, so there may be warnings in the final cut). Not only does the show deal with suicide but it also deals with sexual assault and while I have no experience with either I found these scenes to be incredibly jarring so I can’t imagine what they would feel like for someone who does have experience with them. (Note: If you would like to know the specific episodes this occurs just comment and I’ll let you know.)

Overall though I did enjoy the series. I found it really interesting to get to see all the characters home lives and how their “truth” differed or lined up with Hannah’s. I thought that really added to the story and I also liked that we got to see Hannah’s parents. Though Clay obviously had deep feelings for Hannah, his pain is nothing compared to her parents and I think a big part of discussing suicide is also discussing those who get left behind. The show handled that really well.

13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix. If you’ve already watched, let me know your thoughts about the show below!

Book Review: Eligible

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Synopsis:

This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .

And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

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Review

I love Pride & Prejudice retellings. Mainly because I love Pride & Prejudice (even though the only way I was able to finally read it was by listening to the audiobook). I was so happy to choose Eligible as the book for my book club because I’ve been meaning to read it since it came out and this finally gave me an excuse to finally read it and I’m so glad I did. I absolutely loved it.

At first I was worried I wouldn’t be able to relate to it because Liz is 38 and Jane is almost 40, much older than the original characters, but their age didn’t matter because they were super relatable. I loved their sister bond just as I do in every version of this story but I also loved the other characters. Curtis Sittenfeld did an amazing job of still making these characters feel like the originals but not so much that I just felt like I was reading P&P in the present day.

There were still changes to the story and even a character name change that surprised me a little. I also actually liked how Lydia’s story played out in this version. I never like Lydia, in the original and in most retellings I’ve read/seen, but I will say that this is my favorite version of Lydia thus far. I also really liked what Sittenfeld did with Mary’s character, who definitely gets the short stick in the original novel and also in most retellings.

My biggest issue with this novel was Darcy’s little sister Georgie. I love Georgie and I wanted more for her in this book. I found the way Sittenfeld handled her story line a bit strange and unnecessary and also unresolved. I wish we saw more of her in the novel.

Other than that though I thought Sittenfeld handled this retelling very well. Even the voice of the third person narration reminded me of the original P&P. I heard it in a British accent even though most of this novel takes place in Cincinnati. It just seemed so proper, especially with the use of so many words I needed to look up to understand.

The plot was great, the characters were distinctive, and while you still get the story you expect from P&P, the changes also made this book feel like it’s own story, not just a retelling, which I loved. Definitely give this one a read, especially if you’re a fan of P&P.

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or let someone else take care of you—that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree. There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.”

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Book Review: By Your Side

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Synopsis:

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 at 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?

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Review

I love Kasie West’s novels because they’re quick reads that usually make me swoon, and By Your Side was no different. The novel is told in Autumn’s first person POV and begins with her getting trapped in the library over the holiday weekend. Little does she know she’s not there alone.

Trapped alongside her is resident “bad boy” Dax, who Autumn only kind of knows. Although they don’t get along at first, due to their own presumptions about each other, they quickly find that the other isn’t so bad after all.

I really liked the romance between Dax and Autumn but more than that I really liked Autumn as a character on her own. I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll just say that Autumn has a secret that she’s been keeping from her friends but she’s able to confide the truth to Dax and he’s able to be there for her in a way her friends can’t.

I also liked that although there kind of is a love triangle between Autumn, Dax, and Autumn’s friend Jeff, there really isn’t. Again I don’t want to spoil it but basically Jeff isn’t around that much and when he does come around Autumn’s pretty much already head over heels for Dax.

Still, there is conflict so this book wasn’t boring and despite it’s predictability it still took me by surprise a few times, mainly because unlike so other books the whole plot isn’t given away in the synopsis. In fact, this book was actually more complicated than I expected and I really liked it.

West deals with some heavy issues in this novel, quite possible her heaviest yet, and she did so with care and the same level of romance you expect from her novels. This is definitely a must read.

Stars:

5 stars

Favorite Line:

“You won the best heart in the world, so take care of it.”

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