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there's more to life than reading books

“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do.”

Where You Are - J.H. Trumble Mostly enjoyed this story. I appreciated the character development and their background stories, particularly Robert's relationship with his Dad. It was a different perspective for a dying parent scenario and one that I hadn't really considered before.

My issue with this book is that it romanticised the student/teacher relationship between Robert and Andrew, whilst also making me feel uncomfortable with it. A few times, I felt Drew took advantage of his position as Robert's teacher and I felt he didn't get the seriousness of what he was doing, by starting a relationship with Robert before he graduated. He seemed more worried about the potential harm to his career, than his being involved with Robert, who was a vulnerable seventeen year old.

I get the appeal of student teacher stories, they're taboo and in this case the age difference was minimal (6 years I think). Yet Andrew crossed the line of what is acceptable behaviour from a teacher for me, and that held me back from supporting their relationship.
Suicide Watch - Kelley York A book that makes me wish I had the skills to express my feelings in a more eloquent way, instead of just gushing gibberish.

The themes in Suicide Watch (quite obviously) are heavy and depressing but thankfully dealt with in a realistic and respectful way. I only say this because it concerns me when the topic of suicide is so easily introduced and brushed over in a book, included for the shock value rather than as a very real and tragic issue.

Throughout the story I was affected by Vince's very honest and frank thoughts. I felt they were genuine and insightful for a kid who has been through what he has, without manipulating me into feeling sorry for him.

I tried explaining to Maggie once that either I feel nothing at all, or everything at once. There is no happy medium with me, and it makes everything so hard.

York gives an accurate portrayal of teenage loneliness, feelings of worthlessness and mental health issues. Vince, Casper and Adam have found each other at an integral time for each of them. By connecting with each other, the three friends bring a different perspective, and ultimately hope, into each other's lives.

Underneath all this hurt and pain and sadness is a beautiful and subtle love story. So even though Suicide Watch broke my heart it went a long way to mending it.

I think it might be the first time he's ever directly spoken my name to me. For some reason, it makes heat rush to my face. Would he find it weird if I asked him to say it again?

It confounds me that this has only 233 ratings at the time of my review. It really deserves more attention.
Hurt - Tabitha Suzuma I found this style of writing to be over-indulgent on the author's part, keeping me at arm's length from the story, never really allowing me to connect with any of the characters, including the MC, Matt.

The writing is overly detailed, descriptive and filled with so many metaphors that I constantly found myself skimming and losing interest in the plot. Many interactions between characters and recurring events in the book felt contrived, purposefully trying to manipulate an emotional reaction from me.

The dialogue between the young friends didn't sound authentic, was often stilted, and just reminded me that I was reading a story. Rather than getting lost in the conversations between friends, imagining myself among them, I was querying whether young people really speak like that to each other.

The book is lacking in character and relationship development. We are told quite often how Matt and Lola feel about each other, without any genuine build up to their relationship. Matt professes his love for Lola constantly, almost to the point of blind, desperate obsession. Without Lola life is simply devoid of all meaning, all worth, and he is whittled down to nothing. I found their Romeo and Juliet-type tragic love a bit nauseating, TBH.

This point is irrelevant to my rating but the author needs to tone down on the use of exclamation marks, they were so prevalent it was distracting and they weren't used correctly half the time.
Hushed - Kelley York Wow. I found this equally disturbing and intriguing. I was sickened by some of the characters but couldn't stop reading to find out what they were going to do next. The lines between good and bad were so blurred that I had no idea how I wanted the story to end.

And about that ending: I thought Vivian offing herself was slightly convenient for Archer not having to be held accountable for his actions. I was somewhat appeased by him spending that much time in the care facility - hopefully he would get some help, because I was NOT convinced he would not consider murdering again. He just seemed to show so little remorse for what he had done.

Evan was awesome - so loyal, though even he had an evil streak for covering up for Archer (and perhaps setting Vivian up). I personally would be fucking terrified of starting a relationship with someone like Archer.
The Trouble With Tony - Eli Easton Cute and funny story, but for me, not as memorable as the other two stories I've read by Eli - Superhero and The Lion and the Crow. I'm impressed with the scope of her writing.
Gives Light (Gives Light, #1) - Rose Christo A beautiful and heart-warming coming of age story.

Skylar, despite being mute (or perhaps because of it) was a fantastic narrator. He was adept at reading others and wore his heart and feelings on his sleeve, making him very easy to fall in love with.

The unlikely friendship which develops between Skylar and Rafael was perfect. Not rushed or cheesy, but equally innocent and sweet.

It struck me as kind of crazy, kind of amazing, that one person could make me feel so serene just by being.

I was very pleased to discover that this is the first part of a series which follows Skylar and Rafael's story.
My Cowboy Heart - Z.A. Maxfield This was my first ZAM read and I gotta say, it didn't appeal. A fairly predictable out for you story with unoriginal characters that struggled to hold my interest.
Thief (Love Me With Lies, #3) - Tarryn Fisher How many times can a heart be broken before it is beyond mend?

How much drama and angst can you throw at a couple before I lose interest? About as much as occurred here.

I guess I should be happy that I had most of my questions answered - who is Estella's father? this dramatic twist was dragged out beyond need, let alone the car accident on top of it What was in the box? nothing too surprising here, everything I thought may be in the box was there Was Noah a pawn? Where was Noah? Kinda feel he was swept under the rug Why did Caleb walk away in Italy? I didn't get his sense of obligation towards Leah. By this stage he had cottoned on to her, not sure why he really stayed, except that it kept him away from Olivia What happened in the office? What?! It was just a misunderstanding? NO!

At one stage it did feel like we were just ticking off boxes as each secret or lie was uncovered or fessed up.

Maybe my expectations were too high but nothing blew me away. No revelations gave me the 'aha' moment I was looking for. Where was Leah? She just conveniently fell back in to uber-villain territory for the little page time she got. I don't love Leah but I would have liked an insight into the past scenes when Caleb did care for her. This was one big Olivia love-fest and the eventual reunion between Caleb and Olivia couldn't have been more anti-climactic.
Collide - J.R. Lenk This isn't a perfect, or even typical, YA book but it just worked so well for me that I have to give it 5 stars. You probably have to be in the right mood to really appreciate it - it's long and slow-paced, almost philosophical at times. It does a lot of telling (rather than showing) and it's light on plot. It's more of a meandering journey through Hazard's adolescent years.

The story has a dark, melancholic undertone. I was always braced for something bad to happen, it just has that inevitably tragic feel. It's not a traditional romance, or even romantic, but it is a story of first love and deals with all the firsts that come with that. The feels were strong in this one.

If I could clone this story, I would, to read again and again. I really hope there is more from this author to come.
Louder Than Sirens, Louder Than Bells (Love is Always Write) - K.D. Sarge This story had potential but it suffered from a lack of editing and was too long. Lots of details for things which were never resolved - what happened with the film assignment anyway? Not my favourite type of ending either - marriage to prove their commitment to each other.
The Nature of Cruelty - L.H. Cosway Good but not great. Was easy to read and I enjoyed the enemies to lovers aspect, but for me this doesn't compare to Painted Faces. Lana's inner monologue became a bit tedious for me to read and wasn't always relevant to the story. The ending dragged, once Lana and Robert got together, I wasn't so interested in continuing, and the story was really only focused on their relationship anyway.
The Lion and the Crow - Eli Easton Loved this story. Only wish it had been longer.
Bully (Fall Away, #1) - Penelope Douglas 3.5 stars

A modern day re-tell of Grease, perhaps? Imagine that Danny had taken his silent treatment towards Sandy and times it by a thousand, turned the whole school against her and carried on like this for years, with some car racing in between.

This was an entertaining story for the most part, with a decent amount of chemistry between the main characters, Tate and Jared. The sex scenes were slightly more explicit than I expected for a high school setting (not really a complaint, though). There were a few mandatory plot points that were overly convenient for the story (both Tate and Jared live alone at 17) and I felt like I'd read a couple of scenes in other books (I had a few flashbacks to the car racing scenes in The Secret of Ella & Micha).

I wish I was more satisfied with the ending. I'm just not convinced that Jared's treatment of Tate over the years was forgiveable. I thought his reasons for bullying Tate could've explained away maybe a month's worth of bad behaviour. But years? That wasn't OK. Let's just say Tate is a much more forgiving person than I could have been.

On another note, I would have liked to hear more about Tate's year in France. Being a former exchange student myself, I know that a year overseas is a very defining life experience for a teenager. There wasn't much reflection on this. Or she had the most boring year ever, but I doubt that.
Openly Straight - Bill Konigsberg And the award for best supporting ensemble goes to… this book.

Rafe has been described and discussed in many other reviews. I can’t add much to what’s been said except that I really enjoyed him for his fresh sense of humour, even if he was a little too clever for his own good at times.

I totally got why he embarked on the journey that he did, wanting to shed a piece of his identity that seemed to overshadow everything he was, or perceived to be. I can’t imagine what it felt like for him to feel solely judged by others based on his sexual preference. But I can relate to over thinking things and reading more into what others may say and do than is probably accurate.

I adored Rafe’s parents, they were so wonderfully supportive and kooky. I loved their over the top approach to everything, even if it did sometimes border on fanatical.

“Hey. You’re gonna be a rock star here, Rafe” he whispered into my ear.

They try so hard to be perfectly supportive and understanding parents to Rafe, but often just miss the mark completely. In that way parents so often do.

But instead I got a pile of books from Mom, and now it was like I had gay homework from my mother. I was like, thanks for making this exciting new thing a chore, Mom. Awesome.

Rafe has equally quirky friends at school too. Albie and Toby were the standouts and will be remembered for starring in one of the most entertaining scenes in the book for me: the apple picking adventure.

“Stop” Toby said, once he recovered and went back into character again. “You’re killing our reputation as gang members. We’re the toughest gang in this entire apple orchard, and you can’t show weakness.”

“Yeah but what does our gang do?” Ben asked. “We maintain order among the different apple breeds”, Toby explained. “We make sure the Jonathons and McIntoshes don’t get into it”.

Rafe’s ruse often became frustrating. I was hoping he’d fess up a lot earlier than he did.

“But since I was supposedly straight, I had to watch what I said so that I wasn’t (a) too knowledgeable about gay things or (b) insulting to gays. It was exhausting.” For you and me both buddy.

I’d recommend this book for the laughs alone. I haven’t chuckled so much through a book in a while.

He frowned, put his hand over his face, and then removed them to display a smile.
“Hi, you must be Rafe, my athletic new roommate.”
I shook his hand. “And you must be Albie, my unorganised new roommate.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“I don’t feel the urge to clean up this horrendous mess at all. And, by the way, great poster. I love that show,” I said.
“Let’s go play some sports”, he said.

Rough Canvas - Joey W. Hill The BDSM element made it difficult for me to really enjoy this. So keep that in mind if you like BDSM in your M/M. Besides that I found the MC's too serious and the overall tone too heavy, with only the occasional light-hearted or fun moment between Marcus and Thomas. I don't mind a little angst but it was overkill here for me.
The Collector - Victoria Scott 3.5 stars.

I am Dante Walker.
I am not merciful.

Oh but Dante you are, you really are.

I really enjoyed the first half (easy 4 stars) but the last third or so dragged a bit. I think we spent too much time in Dante's head while he was flying around the country. I most enjoyed him when he was interacting with Charlie and her friends.

All the way down the stairs and into the kitchen Charlie yaps away. I nod and smile and smile and nod, and when she turns away, I form a gun with my hand, place it to my temple, and pull the trigger.

I could have hated Dante, but I didn't. Victoria Scott did a good job of making me believe in Dante's transition. He starts out pretty rude, mean in fact. But it just confirmed that when he does develop feelings for Charlie, they are more than skin deep.

Charlie doesn't strike me as the kind of girl who has any friends, much less more than one.

I can't bring myself to say she's beautiful. She's not. Ouch. Maybe he's too honest.

Dante is confident, but not obnoxious. His cockiness was the perfect balance for me. You'll really only love him or hate him.

I'm so good, in fact, that I train the other five collectors on how to be more awesome.

Charlie is lovely, though I'm not sure how I feel about her changing so much physically. What message should I take from that? She would have naturally grown out of her teenage awkwardness, bad skin and her teeth could be fixed.

For a fresh twist on the bad boy/good girl relationship, check this out.