Monday, July 2, 2018

In a Nutshell Reviews


In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

Freshmen
Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
A laugh-out-loud, realistic portrayal of a freshman year in college for fans of Girls and Broad City.

Getting in is just the beginning.

Phoebe can't wait to get to college. On her own, discovering new things, no curfew . . . she'll be free. And she'll be totally different: cooler, prettier, smarter . . . the perfect potential girlfriend. Convenient: the only person from her high school also going to York is her longtime crush, Luke.

Luke didn't set out to redefine himself, but as soon as he arrives on campus, he finds himself dumping his long-term long-distance girlfriend. And the changes don't stop there. In fact, being on a soccer team is the only thing that stays the same.

Just when things start looking up (and Phoebe and Luke start hooking up), drama looms on the horizon. Rumors swirl about the Wall of Shame, a secret text chain run by Luke's soccer team, filled with compromising photos of girls. As the women on campus determine to expose the team and shut down the account, Luke and Phoebe find themselves grappling with confusing feelings and wondering how they'll ever make it through freshman year.
The transition from high school to college can be really difficult. Freshmen follows Phoebe and Luke they attempt to find their way, and themselves, in this new setting.
  • Pro: My favorite thing about this book was probably the humor. I laughed so much! 
  • Pro: We are seeing more and more of these YA-goes-to-college books, and I really appreciated the way Ellen and Ivison explored how difficult the transition can be. The juxtaposition of Phoebe and Luke was perfect, showing one, who was flourishing and one, who was floundering. 
  • Pro: I loved seeing Phoebe break out of her shell in college. She had flown under the radar in high school, but here she was was making friends, excelling academically, and really growing so much. 
  • Con: They Americanized this book for the US release, but I wish they hadn't. It was a little awkward, and I really would have liked to have had an authentic peek into the English college system. 
  • Pro: Though my circumstances weren't exactly like Luke's, I found I connected to his story more than Phoebe's. He felt a little lost. In high school, he had his steady girlfriend, his best friend, and his popularity. He found himself slightly adrift at university, and stayed in situations he was uncomfortable with in order to feel as though he belonged somewhere. 
  • Pro: These two had some awesome friends. Phoebe's squad was definitely the best. D-dorm for the win, but Luke found a few quality people to support him as well. 
  • Con: If this was a series, and I knew I was getting another book, I would have been ok, but since it is NOT a series, I must confess, I was a little let down by the ending. There was something that seemed to be starting, which I would love to have seen explored more. 
  • Pro: I never had this much fun in college (engineering was not a fun major), but at least I got to have some solid experiences via Phoebe and Luke. The parties, kitchen sessions, girl talks, and Quidditch meetings were fantastic, and just added to the overall fun of the book. 
  • Pro: This book has some drama, but it's pretty low-key, which is always something I appreciate. 
Overall: A great addition to the YA-goes-to-college set, which entertainingly captured the ups and downs of that first year of college.


Zen and Gone
Emily France
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Soho Teen
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, Essence McKree feels older than any seventeen-year-old she knows. Ever since weed was legalized, Mom has been working in a pot shop, high more often than not. Lately it’s been up to Essa to care for her nine-year-old sister, Puck.

When Essa meets Oliver—a brainy indoor type, in town for the summer—she is cautious at first, distrustful of the tourist crowd and suspicious of Oliver’s mysterious past in Chicago. But Puck is charmed and pushes Essa toward him. Soon Essa finds herself showing Oliver the Boulder she has forgotten: the mountain parties, the long hikes…and at Oliver’s urging, the exploration of Buddhism at the local zendo.

When Oliver agrees to accompany Essa on a three-day survival game in the Rocky Mountains, she feels a lightness she hasn’t known in a long time. Then she discovers that Puck has stowed away and followed them into the wilderness. After spending a night stuck in a mountain storm, Essa wakes to find Puck missing. Now Essa must rely on her newfound spiritual strength if she is to save her sister’s life, and ultimately her own.
Essa had to assume the role of grown-up way before her time. She had been able to maintain her sanity via orienteering and Zen Buddhism, but will she be able to keep from cracking under all the pressure, when her sister goes missing?
  • Pro: Justifiably angsty and super deep, Essa had a lot on her plate. At 17, she had to be the parent to both her pot-head mother and her little sister, Puck. I admired her devotion to her little sister, as well as resistance to drugs and alcohol as a means of escape. 
  • Pro: Essa escapes were so much cooler. She utilized Zen Buddhism and wilderness treks to liberate herself, temporarily, from her everyday obligations. I know very little about Buddhism, therefore, all that was really interesting, and it's always great to visit the great outdoors, especially the majestic Rocky Mountains. 
  • Con: I had some small issues with Puck. I thought she was kind of manipulative, and sort of unfair to Essa, but I gave her a little leeway because of her age. 
  • Pro: I am a fan of the writing. France did a fantastic job conveying the complex emotions of both Essa and Oliver. She also lured me further into the story with the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and the whimsy of Boulder. 
  • Pro: He may have been a stoner, but Micah was a solid friend. He had a lot going on at home, but he still was there for Essa each and every time she needed him. 
  • Pro: Although I didn't think the story actually needed Oliver, I enjoyed the friendship that developed between him and Essa. They were both the caretakers of the family. Although their situations were not identical, they both felt a huge responsibility towards their sister, and I was glad they could connect and share the load a little with each other. 
  • Pro: The search for Puck was very intense, and I will admit to getting a little emotional a few times. 
  • Pro: I loved the over-all message of this story. I feel like society as a whole is always thinking about the next move, and we just don't spend enough time being present. Zen and Gone did a good job reminding me how important this is. 
Overall: A book, which reminded me to stay in the moment and "be present", while exposing me to Zen Buddhism, survival skills, and the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.


Love Me, Love Me Not
S.M. Koz
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
When Hailey Brown is removed from her home and put into foster care, all she wants is a safe, comfortable place where she can finish school and move on with her life. It’s not easy adjusting to a new school and a new life, but Mr. and Mrs. Campbell and their teenage son, Brad, welcome Hailey with open arms.

As Hailey begins to adjust to her new life, she and Brad grow closer. For the first time, Hailey feels like she might have a real shot at a future. Soon, however, Hailey realizes her relationship with Brad has crossed the line from friendship into something more. But being with Brad would mean giving up the perfect life that Hailey has waited so long to have.

Can Hailey and Brad resist the feelings that are developing between them—or will they risk it all to be together?
A past she must leave behind. A forbidden romance. An indefinite future. I didn't know it, when I picked it up, but it was exactly what I was looking for at the time, and I just plowed right through this book.
  • Pro: Hailey was a character I found myself frustrated with, but also cheering for. She was in a tough situation, being removed from her home, bouncing from placement to placement, and a whole lot of other dysfunction. She made some decisions I wanted to throttle her for, but she also began to gain some confidence in herself and took control, and that was when I liked her best. 
  • Pro: The Campbells were a picture perfect family, but they sometimes made mistakes. I was glad Koz gave them some flaws, because it made them more real for me. 
  • Pro: We got to spend a little time with Hailey's social worker in the beginning of the book, and I absolutely adored her. I sort of wish she had more time on page. 
  • Pro: Best bestie alert! Brittany was so fabulous and Hailey was extremely lucky that fate brought her into her world. Loved her!
  • Pro: The romance was of the forbidden type, which I don't really have an opinion on, but I will tell you that I could not get enough of Brad and Hailey together. They had a great rapport, chemistry, and a super solid friendship, which only made their romance that much better. 
  • Pro: Getting some peeks into the foster care system was interesting. It was encouraging to see the good parts of it, because all you ever hear about, usually, are the bad parts. 
  • Pro: This story had some drama, and I would say it leans a little towards the soapy-side, but it was never too much. I won't lie, I loved some of those OTT elements. 
  • Pro: Can we talk about the world's most perfect epilogue, because that's what Koz gave me. I could not erase the smile from my face after reading the it, and it made me yearn for a continuation of this story. 
Overall: A fabulous forbidden romance, which delivered an array of feels, and left me, ultimately, in a very happy place. I will definitely read more from S.M. Koz.

** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Have you read any of these books?
Let us know in the comments!

28 comments:

  1. Great reviews! I like the sound of Zen and Gone. It’s set near where I live, so that’s always fun.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. I thought the author used the setting really well too. I am a black sheep on that book. It was really close to 4-stars for me - a solid read, but it has a low GR's rating. I don't know.

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  2. Love Me, Love Me Not sounds really good and I bet my daughter would also enjoy it. Freshman sounds good and I love humor in books but it is too bad that the ending was a bit of a let down.

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    1. LMLMN was a great contemporary romance, which are my favorites. I thought Freshmen was hilarious, and there was a ton of great friendship stuff in it. I just wish they had finished something that they started, because I was loving it.

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  3. I looked at Love Me, Love Me Not when it popped up on Edelweiss and I was so tempted. But I’m trying so hard to lay off the ARCs. Hailey sounds like a realistic character - making mistakes but also gaining confidence and growing up. And your comments about the epilogue totally have me wanting to pick it up. I adore a good epilogue.

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    1. I had to read that author, because every time I see her name, I see my own name. My nickname was Koz and SM is like Sam without the A. It was destiny, and I really enjoyed it. It had that Katie McGarry feel to it, which I enjoyed too.

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    2. With all the similarities you were just meant to read that book! And the Katie McGarry comparison has me about to jump out of my skin! :)

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    3. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would

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  4. I've seen another review for Freshmen and it was the first I had heard of it so I'm glad to see another review because I was curious. Disappointing that the ending didn't wrap up things as you hoped though. I'm a fan of forbidden romance so I may need to check out Love Me, Love Me Not too!

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    1. I saw a 1-star rating for Freshmen today, but I liked it. I like English humor and the candor they tend to have as well. It was tremendous fun. The ending did accomplish something, but I was really interested in a relationship they had been teasing me with.

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  5. I hadn't heard of any of these books, but I especially like the sound of Zen and Gone. I don't think I've ever read a book set in Colorado and I'd love to learn a little more about Zen Buddhism.

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    1. I am trying to find books with elements that vary from the norm. This had common things, addict mom, mentally ill sister, but then the author threw in some Buddhism and orienteering. That makes me want to check it out.

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  6. Looks like these were all hits for you. That’s awesome! They look very cute.

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    1. They were all solid reads, with LMLMN leaving me the happiest, because I am all about endings, and that one was so good. I read some reviews of the Wattpad version, and I am so glad Koz got rid of those elements in this release.

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  7. Freshmen sounds so good. I haven't come across enough books set in college, especially the first year, so that's fun. It's definitely a big transition!

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    1. I thought it was a lot of fun, and it even takes on some issues without getting too heavy.

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  8. Love Me, Love Me Not sounds so cute and yeah for besties! The first book has me singing the Red Solo cup song..lol

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    1. I wish I could hear you singing the Red Solo Cup song.

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  9. Thanks for sharing! I'm glad you liked most of these. Freshmen sounds interesting - I do like humor in books! :)

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Lots of humor and fun observations, but there were some really genuine parts about figuring out, who you are in a new setting, with new people.

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  10. I feel very similar to you in some ways with Freshmen! I too wish they hadn't Americanized it- especially with the British setting. And SAME with the ending. I did have trouble with Luke though, and connected more with Phoebe. The other two sound really good too- I love the idea of a forbidden romance with Love Me, Love Me Not too! Great reviews!

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    1. I read a lot of books by English authors, and just found the Americanization awkward, while still keeping the setting. And like, why tease me with such an awesome pairing and then just leave it blowing in the wind like that? Slightly frustrating, but still, I was entertained, and enjoyed the humor a lot.

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  11. Oh Freshman sounds good. I do enjoy all the college books coming out. I am a little bummed that they americanized it though. we don't need that.

    Zen and gone sounds cute too.

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    1. I get why the pub Americanized it, but I feel like it made it a little disjointed, and robbed me of getting that full experience of college in another country

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  12. I like your pro/con format for reviews. It's a fun way to hit a book's highlights without getting too wordy (I'm always too wordy, LOL).

    All three of these books sound good. Thanks for sharing your opinion about them!

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    1. I read a lot, and thought you many long reviews would be overwhelming. So I use both formats each week.

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  13. I have heard of Freshmen before and I kind of want to read that one! Just this year I was a fresher in uni so I feel like I would be able to relate to a lot of the experiences and situations mentioned in it. I hadn't heard of the other two, but the premise for Zen and Gone intrigues me. I'm all for missing siblings and sibling bonds, and the main character sounds so independent.

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    1. Freshmen was released overseas as Freshers. My only complaint was that they Americanized the US release. I feel like we could have handled it left in all its English glory.

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