Books

Alex, Approximately, by Jen Bennett

2.5 Stars

The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

This is a book I really wanted to like. And I really mean it when I say that. The blurb sounded cute, the ratings were good, but most of all, Haven thought it was an example of fluff done right. And while I see why people like this book so much, I also think that I’ve read too many almost identical contemporaries to truly enjoy this formulaic type of book anymore. Sorry, Haven. 😦

Alex, Approximately is a retelling of You’ve Got Mail, and the premise is actually very cute. I appreciated that Bennett understood that the fact that Alex being Porter was too obvious to turn into a plot twist, and thus we were told of this in the blurb itself. The book itself started out predictable, but still cute. Bailey is likable, her friend Grace enjoyable, and Porter was the current-asshole-with-a-dark-secret-but-wait-you’re-gonna-love-him kind of guy. After the start, however, I felt there was a pretty significant drop in enjoyability; my irritation was probably increased by the fact that I was on a feminist literature streak, and contemporaries are not known for being amazing in this department.

I don’t want to make this entire review about the bad, since I did enjoy this to a certain extent, but I can’t help it. My first problem with it is how long it took Bailey to figure out the Alex-Porter connection. I don’t generally do well with dramatic devices that involve the audience knowing something the characters don’t, and I quickly lost patience with Bailey. The moment we’re waiting for really only happens in the last 10 pages of the book after huge amounts of stalling, and while I understood why it was written that way, Bailey came off as pretty dense to me.

My second problem is the “villain.” Fluff contemporaries generally have bad guys who are zero-dimensional (typically in a “mean girl” form) and this book was no exception. Because it’s a facet of the genre, I don’t mind this type of villain, but I thought the character of Davy was grossly abused in the writing. He’s portrayed as Porter’s old friend who’s now an all-around idiot and asshole, but he has a chronic injury, is addicted to narcotics as a result, and his parents don’t care about him enough to address it. That sounds like a character who’s desperately in need of reconciliation and help, but he’s just the “bad” guy in this book and is dismissed as such. I think this book would have been stronger if there was less victim blaming, or even if Davy just stayed zero-dimensional without all these cries for help.

My final problem is the incredible amount of guys doing things for girls because females are incapable creatures. Maybe I’ve been on a feminism streak lately (as I mentioned earlier), but I was waiting for Bailey to finally stick up for herself, and was relatively disappointed. Bailey is initially a “serial avoider” (a pushover), and the growth potential was enormous. Although she does come out of her shell and make out with Porter, this book is still filled with: Porter punching people to “defend her honor”, Bailey nursing his wounds and swooning, Bailey obsessing over Porter when he’s mad at her and begging him to stop being mad (even though she knows she did nothing wrong), and much more. Porter’s sister could potentially have been a strong female addition to this book, but we didn’t really get enough of her. I will admit, however, that Grace is a wonderful character and fun to read about.

Despite this in depth analysis of flaws, I did truly enjoy this book – it’s a fluff novel that succeeds in doing its job. Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood for fluff when I read this. Perhaps I was in the mood of something deeper, and this overly harsh review is evidence of that. Regardless, if you’re looking for a fun rainy day read, this review shouldn’t stop you from picking it up.

(Click here to read Haven’s review, which is more positive and does more justice to the genre)
-Aliza

Advertisements
Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

July 2017 Wrap-Up

Summer vacation is going by so fast and I cannot keep up in the least. July was hardly an eventful month, all I did was slave away in my desk taking SAT practice tests and occasionally go outside to the real world. Occasionally. Reading-wise, July was certainly the month of goodbyes. I had read three conclusions to three of my favorite YA series’, and it’s difficult to leave when you still want to go on adventures with the characters you love. It was definitely sad, but I still managed to squeeze some standalone novels in there to ease myself.

33672985

The Lives Of Desperate Girls, by MacKenzie Common (2.25 stars) – I received an ARC of this book in June (it officially comes out in September), but finished it in July, and that should be enough to tell y’all my feelings for this book. While it offers interesting commentary on the blatant racism and sexism in our society, the rest of the book is not so interesting. You can find my review here.

Image result for page breaker

17378527

The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater (3.25 stars) – I didn’t hate this book, but I did hate the way certain plot points were left untouched and underdeveloped, as well as the blunt ending. The book’s writing and character development were great as usual, but as an concluding novel, I’m pretty disappointed. I still love this series though, and will definitely miss its characters and overall mystical vibe. You can find my review hereImage result for page breaker

22299763Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo (5 stars) – ASDFGHJKL is the only coherent thing I can say when it comes to this book, or rather, this duology in general. Bless the YA gods for Leigh Bardugo, for Kaz Brekker and the rest of the characters in this too-amazing-to-be-real duology.

 

Image result for page breaker

32164715

Welcome To The Slipstream, by Natalka Burian (3 stars) – I really enjoyed the first half of this book, but disliked the second half, making it a classic 3-star novel. This contemporary combines a number of unique plot points and is by no means typical, but I do wish these plot points were told in a bigger and bolder way. You can find my review here.

 

Image result for page breaker

30312700

Alex, Approximately, by Jenn Bennett (4.25 stars) – This book is the essence of fluffiness done right. It’s a modern retelling of the classic rom-com movie You’ve Got Mail, and is perfectly witty, funny, and adorable. It’s now one of my contemporary/romance favorites. You can find my review here.

Image result for page breaker

13206900

Winter, by Marissa Meyer (4 stars) – Ah, this book was definitely a roller coaster of emotions. I still don’t know why I didn’t read this when it came out two years ago, but it hit me just as hard now. Will certainly miss this series, but I know I’m going to visit it over and over again.

Image result for page breaker

24485589

Hunted, by Megan Spooner (3.25 stars) – I’m having another bout of CONFLICT with this Beauty and the Beast retelling, because while I really liked the haunting vibe of the book, it was hella slow and a little boring. Look out for my review coming soon!

 

Thank you guys for reading! Leave a comment below with your thoughts 🙂

Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Alex, Approximately, by Jenn Bennett | some of the best fluff I’ve had

30312700

4.25 stars

The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

I downloaded this book on somewhat of a whim, because I was slightly bored and disappointed with Hunted and its tiny-ass font (my eyesight is bad as it is), and I wanted a cute, fluffy romance to bring me out of the ‘slump’ I was in (which lasted for like 2 days but still). Fortunately, it did not disappoint in the least and is now actually one of my favorite contemporary novels ever.

First off, I have to say the writing and pacing of the novel are great. Bailey’s narration is so full of life and addicting, and I loved the small amounts of depth injected into it. It is largely a fluff novel, but I thought the discussion on Bailey’s avoidance of confrontation and breaking out of her shell was just enough to add depth, but not take away the sweet vibe of the book. What’s also interesting, is that several of the characters have experienced traumatic events or are experiencing difficulties in a broad number of aspects. They weren’t all addressed in depth, but it was cool how Bennett managed to mix those topics in and still create a happy novel with just the right amount of seriousness. I will admit some of those topics felt like plot devices to simply add to romantic angst (as if there wasn’t enough already), but the book was addicting as hell so I can’t complain.

Despite a few throwaway/unmemorable characters here and there, most of the characters were fairly well-written and thoroughly entertaining. Bailey was incredibly lively, funny, and witty. I could feel her personality dripping off the pages immediately and I liked her methods to avoid confrontation and talking to people (she calls herself the ‘Artful Dodger’, I can relate immensely), as well as her doubts and insecurities concerning love. To sum it up easily, I would say her voice sounded like a mix of Anna and Lola from Anna And The French Kiss and Lola And The Boy Next Door, which really isn’t a bad combination. Porter is pretty swoon-worthy, while there are a few moments in the writing that made me cringe (specifically when describing his physical appearance), it isn’t as bad as some other contemporary novels, and he’s actually a very three-dimensional character.

The book is obviously most focused on the romance and its development, and anyone who’s seen You’ve Got Mail knows that it’s essentially a mess. The reader knows that ‘Mink’ is Bailey and ‘Alex’ is Porter, but the characters themselves don’t know, and we are watching the slow but adorable process of them falling in love and eventually finding out in between all the drama. Bailey and Porter are painfully cute, some might think it’s a bit sugary at parts, but I loved both of their sweet and sarcastic moments. Yeah, their ‘archenemy’ status lasted for about 100 pages approximately, but the pros outweigh the cons in this situation. Witty banter, noticeable chemistry, and utter adorableness, what else does one need in a rom-com?

If I had to complain about something, I would say the ‘film’ parts of the novel were not enough. It’s clear that Bailey and Porter are obsessed with movies, classics specifically, but I do wish there were more references spread out throughout the novel. But, I loved this book, it was perfect for pulling me out of the sheer medieval fantasy of Hunted and putting me in a good mood. Would recommend to anyone looking for a cutesy summer read.

-Haven

Books, New Releases, Original Post, YA Fiction

New Releases in YA for April 2017

comingsoonbanner

Hey dudes. How was your March? I had actually fit in more books than I thought I would, and even reread 2 that I had previously disliked in preparation for the ‘better’ sequels. March was pretty stressful for me, I won’t lie, I had a bunch of things going on at the same time, but I’m glad I still managed to finish 5 new books by the end of the month. April seems to be a great month for contemporary/romance releases. Let’s get into it!

1. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett – Coming April 4th, 2017

30312700In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

I love a witty and cute summer story and Alex, Approximately seems like a great one. The reviews that have been rolling in seem to really love it, and while the synopsis is a tad spoiler-y, I’m highly anticipating it.

2. Gem and Dixie, by Sara Zarr – Coming April 4th, 2017

18484793Gem & Dixie is the new novel from renowned young adult author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr—a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table; and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie, on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr has written her most personal and affecting book yet—an unforgettable story of breaking apart and of coming together again.

Zarr’s past novel How To Save A Life pretty much saved my life, so I’m down for anything and everything she writes. Gem and Dixie definitely sounds like a mysterious and emotional story, and I’m really curious to Zarr’s take on this complicated relationship between sisters.

3. Always And Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – Coming April 4th, 2017

30658022Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Jenny Han’s novels have always been guilty pleasures of mine, and the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series is no exception. While I had my issues with the past two books (which mostly have to do with Lara Jean herslef, can you blame me?), I still have love for these sweet and sugary books and am anticipating the conclusion.

4. The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli – Coming April 11th, 2017

30653853Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

Becky Albertalli’s debut novel Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda definitely made me a fan of her work, and this new contemporary sounds right up my alley. I love books with humor, emotion, and intelligence and I’m pretty sure Albertalli has tons of that packed in this one.

5. Given To The Sea by Mindy McGinnis – Coming April 11th, 2017

25314447Khosa is Given to the Sea, a girl born to be fed to the water, her flesh preventing a wave like the one that destroyed the Kingdom of Stille in days of old. But before she’s allowed to dance – an uncontrollable twitching of the limbs that will carry her to the shore in a frenzy – she must produce an heir. Yet the thought of human touch sends shudders down her spine that not even the sound of the tide can match.

Vincent is third in line to inherit his throne, royalty in a kingdom where the old linger and the young inherit only boredom. When Khosa arrives without an heir he knows his father will ensure she fulfills her duty, at whatever cost. Torn between protecting the throne he will someday fill, and the girl whose fate is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is at odds with his heart.

Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race whose dwindling magic grows weaker as the island country fades. Animals cease to bear young, creatures of the sea take to the land, and the Pietra – fierce fighters who destroyed the Indiri a generation before – are now marching from their stony shores for the twin’s adopted homeland, Stille.

Witt leads the Pietra, their army the only family he has ever known. The stone shores harbor a secret, a growing threat that will envelop the entire land – and he will conquer every speck of soil to ensure the survival of his people.

The tides are turning in Stille, where royals scheme, Pietrans march, and the rising sea calls for its Given.

I hate to add in a fantasy to screw up this happy contemporary party we are having here, but that cover? That synopsis? ASDFGHJK is my response. I’ve read some pretty disappointing fantasy ARCs lately, and with that kind of summary, Given To The Sea could either be a winner or a sore loser. Let’s hope it’s not the latter!

That concludes it, peeps. Let me know what you think and thank you for reading!

-Haven