A Bucket List About Bravery: How to Be Brave By E. Katherine Kottaras

How to Be Brave

E. Katherine Kottaras

Rate: 2.5

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

According to my Goodreads’ status updates, I began reading How to Be Brave on October 30, 2015. I remember this moment clearly because I only got through the first chapter before I closed the eBook and moved onto something else. I didn’t start seriously reading HTBB until December 30th when I jumped to 25% read and then I finished January 9, 2016. One reason it took me so long to finish is school. I just got super busy really fast and pleasure reading had to take a backseat. The other reason is that from the very first chapter I knew that the story Kottaras was giving me wasn’t the story I expected and became disinterested in it. I’m explaining all of this because this is a review of a galley that should’ve been published months ago. I tried to get a copy of the final product from the library, but I’m still waiting for the hold. All I’m trying to say is that what I discuss in this review may not be in the published version so take my views with a grain of salt.

The following quotes make Georgia seem more self-aware than she actually is, but they do a great job of highlighting what I wanted versus what I got so I’m going to use them.

How I expected HTBB to be:

“But being brave isn’t about living every minute exhilarated. It’s about waking up and knowing that despite the worry and the sadness and the deep, dark fear, you’re going to go forth anyway. That you’re going to try anyway. That you have a choice, and you’re going to choose to live, today, bravely.”

What HTBB gave me:

“…I’m feeling done with it— with the idea of doing everything, of being brave, of living life for my mom when she couldn’t even take care of herself enough to live it for me.”

The difference:

The first quote is the story of a young girl struggling with the grief of losing her mother, but finding the strength to persevere and taking on life a day at a time. She’s not trying to jump back into “being normal” because she knows her limits so the reader gets to see the character progress from crying every day and hating life to crying every once in awhile and understanding that she had no control over the situation and her mother loved her deeply.

The second quote is the story of a daughter creating and executing a bucket list to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. In the process, the girl loses herself and her friends (who weren’t that great to begin with) and engages in uncharacteristic behavior like cutting class and smoking.

I would have preferred HTBB to be the former scenario because it seems like an empowering story about grieving. The latter seems to encourage readers to lose themselves when they can’t process their grief. I’m all for living life to the fullest (according to each person’s personal definition) but I wouldn’t tell a teenager to cut class and start smoking as a means of living. In How to Be Brave, it takes Georgia way too long to realize that she should be living her life for herself and not for her mother. And even this revelation only seems to occur so that the story ends in an HEA. Georgia would have realized that she messed up her life eventually, but I don’t think everything would have worked out so smoothly.

Spoiler Ahead

Excuse me while I take a moment to rant. There’s a point in the story when Georgia and her friends are at a party. During the event, Georgia gets drunk and high and since the pot is laced with something, she engages in unfaithful behavior with her best friend Liss’s boyfriend. For most of the story, I thought that Georgia had had sex with Gregg while at the party, which would have been a reasonable explanation for Liss being upset with Georgia, but it turns out all Georgia did was Gregg. Excuse me but I’m not going to dump my best friend for kissing my (sleazy) boyfriend while under the influence. I would have been more concerned about her accidentally overdosing from combining three substances, one of which was unknown. I would have been mad, borderline infuriated, if my best friend had sex with my boyfriend (though I’d have a be in a relationship first), but a friend’s health is priority number one. All this hoopla over a kiss. Fuck that. We obviously aren’t good friends if you dump me over a kiss while under the influence. Whew, I needed to get that off of my chest.

End of Spoiler

Overall, How to Be Brave was a disappointment, but I’m going to give myself points for finishing even though it took me forever. Yeah, so I don’t really recommend this book, but if you’ve read it: Did I miss something? Did a key point of the story go right over my head which is why I didn’t like it? Let me know.

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A Book With Large Time Jumps (Deal Breakers)

Deal Breakers

Laura Lee

Rate: 2.5

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Deal Breakers begins when Riley and Devyn meet freshman year of college. Riley is only interested in getting into Devyn’s pants. Devyn only wants to be friends. The next few chapters jump a year to spotlight each year of their college lives. Each chapter interaction is borderline friendship and relationship, with Riley still flirting and Devyn continually shutting him down, up until the end of their senior year when Devyn is willing to cross the line to lose her virginity. The whole deal is supposed to be no strings attached, but like any good romance story there are consequences that negate the no-strings agreement.

What bothered me about the first few chapters was all the large time jumps. The chapters only served to reinforce that even though Devyn turned Riley down the first time, he was persistent in being with her sexually romantically. Most of the chapters felt flat to me since they were only trying to highlight this idea. But it also bothered me that Riley was pushing so hard to “get out of the friendzone.” He came off as a misogynist, believing that he could have any woman he wanted and any resistance from a woman was seen as a challenge. Sadly, Devyn didn’t prove him wrong when she eventually went to him asking for sex. It would have been good for Riley’s ego not to “get” the conquest he had wanted for so long.

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Tugging At My Heartstrings (The One Thing)

The One Thing

Marci Lyn Curtis

Rate: 4

I received an e-copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What I Liked

Ben and Maggie’s Friendship: I enjoyed that The One Thing was centered around Ben and Maggie’s friendship. Often YA stories focus on romantic relationships, but this one centered on friendship. A friendship that didn’t turn into a romantic relationship! Because of the age difference. Plus, I liked that Ben and Maggie’s interests weren’t identical. They introduced new things to each other and just enjoyed spending time together; Maggie didn’t spend time with Ben because it was socially acceptable or she was growing out of her friends. Even though there were times Maggie spent time with Ben for self-interested, self-destructive reasons, for the most part, she was a real friend to Ben.

Maggie’s Character Development: I can’t even begin to imagine how I would react if, like Maggie, I lost my eyesight and had to relearn how to live. That’s why I enjoyed Maggie’s development so much. Sure, in the beginning, she kept setting herself back and wasn’t trying to acclimate to her situation, but I’m sure I would’ve reacted similarly. However, over time, Maggie realized that she was her own obstacle and that if she tried, things would eventually get better. As an added bonus, it didn’t take a boyfriend or crush for Maggie to come to this realization. (Yeah, the repetitiveness of YA is starting to get to me so I had to point it out.)

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I’m Being Nit Picky So Just Deal With It (The Last of the Firedrakes)

The Last of the Firedrakes (The Avalonia Chronicles #1)

Farah Oomerbhoy

Rate: 2.75

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What I Liked

  • Rafe: My feelings for Rafe remind me of that pen commercial where the guy isn’t doing anything, but the girls still fawn over him. Rafe doesn’t do much in the story other than safe Aurora and yet I love his character. I love that he’s always there to save Aurora in the nick of time (like a superhero) and expresses his emotions in the most boy-like way (telling Aurora not to get into trouble while he’s away). Even though Rafe doesn’t play a large role in the story, just having him in Aurora’s life made Aurora do things that made me laugh. (Most readers probably won’t find the story funny, but I stopped taking Aurora seriously early on.)

  • The end: At the 65/70% mark, the story begins to pick up. This is because the latter part of the book has a “big reveal,” the confrontation/fight scene, and details that set up the next book. However, if, like me, you pick up on the clues presented at the beginning of the story, the ending is pretty predictable. I think the only thing that drove me to finish the story was my desire to see my predictions come true. Additionally, the ending was good because it seemed to be a faster pace than the rest of the book. It doesn’t deviate far from the Aurora gets in trouble, is saved, gets scolded cycle, but it seems more interesting and slightly faster. Plus, the details that set up the next book have me waiting in anticipation.

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Perfect Betrayal By Season Vining

Perfect Betrayal

Season Vining

Rate: 1.5

I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

It took me three weeks to finish Perfect Betrayal. To some, this may seem like a little or short amount of time (just chock it up to life getting in the way). To others, it may seem like a long time (like what was I doing this whole time). For me, three weeks raises the question: why did I keep trying? This means that I’ve had time to read other books, live life, and binge watch movies on Netflix and yet I still couldn’t finish this book. This book should have been a DNF, but I didn’t want to DNF it. I don’t want to become a serial DNF’er. The problem is Perfect Betrayal didn’t give me a reason to want to pick it up and read it. It practically encouraged me to do other things.

Anyway, let me stop making excuses for why it took me so long to finish reading Perfect Betrayal and review it.

What I Liked About Perfect Betrayal

Character development (sort of): Throughout most of the story, Taylor is simply a rich girl with absentee parents who complains about how fake her life is and how shallow her friends are, but does nothing to rectify it. Most of the story is Taylor hanging out with her fake, shallow friends and trying to seduce Levi. However, towards the end, Taylor shows some improvement when she helps a girl increase her reading level. Or maybe that’s not Taylor showing development; maybe I’m biased. I’ve done a few programs similar to the one Taylor does in the book so I commend anyone who takes the time to help someone whether it’s reading or something else. So maybe Taylor improved as a person or maybe I’m just trying to find a redeeming quality in the book.

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Two Across By Jeff Bartsch

Two Across

Jeff Bartsch

Rate: 4

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed Two Across more than I expected. I became wary of the story when I first started reading and realized it was historical fiction – I don’t like historical fiction – but history doesn’t play a large role in the story so I was able to keep going. To me, it seemed like the few historical events that were mentioned were only meant to be points where the reader could center his-/herself to the date since so much was going on. The story focuses on Stanley and Vera’s relationship not their opinion of current events so historical events don’t play a factor in the progression of the story. For the most part, the story could have taken place in current times except the existence of the internet would have made it easier for Stanley and Vera to track each other down and would have made the theme of the crossword obsolete.

What I liked most about Two Across was that it was unlike any other new adult novel I’ve read. Though I haven’t read many so that’s not saying much. What stood out to me though was the fact that the story revolves around Stanley and Vera’s relationship and yet there’s barely any romance. Vera and Stanley are both geniuses, but they are also both emotionally inept so, to a degree, it makes sense that they would be unable to express their feelings and fully understand how they feel for each other. Sure, parts of the story feels like a stereotypical rom-com with Vera repeatedly running away from Stanley, but for two people who were taught to know and not taught to feel it makes sense. Yet even without Vera and Stanley being all lovey-dovey like a typical YA or new adult novel, I could still sense how much they cared for each other, which made the story a good read.

Overall, Two Across was a good read. Even though I had to consult a dictionary a couple of times – I’m neither a genius nor a crossword solver – I liked how the story unfolded, especially since it was different from what I’ve gotten used to.

Breaking the Storm By Sedona Venez

Breaking the Storm (Credence Curse #1)

Sedona Venez

Rate: 2.85

I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What I Liked

  • The ending/cliffhanger: Throughout the story, there were little hints that the Credence Curse may not be real. Honestly, I was more intrigued by this subplot than the whole story. I wish Venez would have worked more on this subplot than on the romance between Storm and Knox. Anywho, what I enjoyed about the ending/ cliffhanger is that in a showdown between Storm and Stalker Luke, Venez began to reveal more details, details I had been craving the whole story, about how the curse may be fake and that Luke’s bloodline may have been stalking the Credence family for decades and killing all of their mates. Doesn’t that just sound super interesting? That’s the story I wanted to read. However, before too many juicy tidbits can be revealed, Knox rushes in and beats Luke to a pulp. Storm gets Knox to stop before he kills Luke, but while they are talking/arguing Luke disappears and the story ends. Why Venez? Why did you have to make the end so good? Anyway, since I needed to know what happened next, I bought the next book and gobbled it quickly, but it’s getting a review of its own so stay tuned.

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Girlgoyle By Better Hero Army

Girlgoyle

Better Hero Army

Rate: 1/DNF

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Similar to the few other books I did not finish (DNF), my rating is not a reflection of the quality of the story, but a reflection of my inability to engage with the book. I finished about 19% of Girlgoyle. The story began very slow and for some time I was confused about what was going on since Tiffany goes from being alive to dead to sort of alive in some limbo realm. That part, which should have been fleshed out better, went really fast and was, therefore, really confusing.

However, my main reason for not finishing Girlgoyle was simply that I couldn’t get into it. I picked up and put down Girlgoyle so many times that I finished two other books and was about to start a third when I realized that the probability of me finishing it anytime soon would be slim. And I’d rather not have it looming over my head causing me to dislike it simply because I know I have to read it, but I haven’t.

The one comment I will make about the story itself is about the art. Because of the art, and the young age of the protagonist, I think this story is best for early teens. Unlike the art presented in Colleen Hoover’s Confess, which is used to illustrate a part of the story that cannot be easily expressed in words, the art in Girlgoyle is a visual aide to help with the imagining of scenes and the setting. The art in Girlgoyle reminds me of the art included in chapter books for elementary students to help them understand and visualize characters interacting. The art in Girlgoyle isn’t a bad thing, but it caused me to conclude that this story may be better for a younger audience.

To summarize, I couldn’t get in Girlgoyle because I thought the story’s pace was too slow and the art within the story makes me think that it is good for early teens to read.

A Book About Book Bloggers

Books, Blogs, & Reality

Ryan Ringbloom

Rate: 3

I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Warning: This review contains spoilers.

As a book blogger, a book about other book bloggers should be relatable, right? Not this one. Books, Blogs, & Reality follows four romance book bloggers: Brooke, Rachael, Lizzie, and Jess. These four women are friends thanks to the book community though they’ve never met in real life. This electronic relationship provides the women with a sense of security and an absolving vulnerability that they can’t get with their “real” friends. Most of their discussions revolve around books and their passion for romance novels, a passion that runs a bit too deep.

Brooke: Upon her first day at work at a new company, Brooke forms a crush on her boss. Unlike every other woman that’s thrown herself at Brooke’s boss, Jag thinks Brooke is special and is willing to break the rules just for her. This is until an external force (Jag’s parents) interferes in their relationship (remind Jag that in their culture they only marry people of similar decent). True to a rom-com, Brooke and Jag break up and awkwardly work together until a misunderstanding forces them to confront their problem. Then Brooke screams about how Jag should have fought for her (as if it’s that easy) and that she was willing to fight for their relationship so why couldn’t he. Skip a few hours to when Brooke is home and just comes to the thought that she’ll give up on Jag, suddenly Jag is there at her door saying nothing at all, but his presence says everything. Finally, they both decide to fight for their relationship even though it will be no easy task. The only redeeming part of this story, a quality that’s repeated for every storyline, is that Ringbloom finally infuses a bit of reality at the very end of the story. In Brooke’s case, the reader doesn’t get to see when Brooke meets Jag’s parents, but on the drive home, she admits to Jag that he was right and that it won’t be easy, it will be nearly impossible, to convince his parents that she is a better fit for Jag than someone of a similar background.

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Miss Mabel’s School for Girls

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls (The Network Series #1)

Katie Cross

Rate: 3

I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The best part of this story was Miss Mabel. She had an agenda so she was will to do anything, manipulate anyone to achieve her goals. Miss Mabel is the antagonist of the story and even though I’m not rooting for her to succeed, her presence inserted some drama into the story that made it interesting. Opposite Miss Mabel is Bianca. Bianca also has an agenda: getting Miss Mabel to remove the curse from her family. She’s been training for her confrontation with Miss Mabel since she was a little girl, but Miss Mabel is much more than she expected. It’s interesting seeing this seasoned witch and this witch in training duke it out so they can achieve their goals, but each opponent getting in the way of the other so the task is more difficult than expected. Continue reading