Mini Reviews: Kasie West

Mini Reviews: Kasie West

The Fill-In BoyfriendThe Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
(Standalone)
Published: May 5, 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Read via Scribd. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

Summary from Goodreads: 
When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

new the lowdown

I’ve finally read my first Kasie West book. As a devoted contemporary YA lover, it almost felt blasphemous to have never read Kasie West’s books, but I also tried not to hype myself up too much.

I think The Fill-In Boyfriend was a pretty solid introduction to West’s work. I’m a sucker for the fake boyfriend trope, so of course I’m all about the premise. Gia is a really interesting protagonist, and I enjoyed following her on her path of self-discovery and growth as she realized that “perfect” does not always mean “good” and “not showing weakness” does not always mean “being strong.”

The romance in this novel is adorable, probably because the love interest is a precious lil sugar cake. Hayden is a genuine, caring geek who was done way too dirty in the past. I loved the relationship with his family.

I found myself frustrated with a lot of the things the characters said and did. And there are a ton of cheesy moments in this novel, but it was a super quick, light read and had me grinning in the end.

My rating:

3.5bows

3.5/5


The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
The Distance Between Us(Standalone)
Published: July 2, 2013 by HarperTeen
Source: Read via Scribd. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

Summary from Goodreads: 
Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

 

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Unfortunately, I found this novel a bit less enticing than The Fill-In Boyfriend. This novel is, of course, still light and quick and cute, but it was also frustrating to me in a lot of ways.

Things I liked: the protagonist’s sense of humor, the quirky doll house family business, Xander (the love interest), the secondary characters.

Things I didn’t like: Everyone pointing out how sarcastic Caymen is–we get it. The big thing is that, while I typically enjoy the “opposite sides of the track” romance, I didn’t like that every conflict stemmed from the rich vs. poor ideological square that West has going on. It got redundant and annoying. Also, it feels as of the only problem in this novel is that characters refused to just, like, communicate. Caymen is kind of a brat and I don’t think she treated Xander right.

Overall, this novel has some charming qualities and it was easy to get swept into the story. It seems like the bad outweigh the good, but that’s really not true. It just lacked a certain amount of depth that would make this story more meaningful and less contrived and caricaturistic.

My rating: 

3bows

3/5


P.S. I Like YouP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
(Standalone)
Published: July 26, 2016 by Point
Source: I listened to this audiobook via Scribd. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

Summary from Goodreads: 
Signed, sealed, delivered…While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

new the lowdown

I listened to this one on audiobook, and though it took me a little while to warm up to the audio narrator, this ended up being my favorite of the 3 West books I’ve read. Is it predictable? 1000%. But it was still adorable and fun to read. I couldn’t wait to take public transportation just so I could put on my headphones and listen.

I’m a sucker for the anonymous pen pals trope, not to mention enemies-to-lovers, which West mashes beautifully together in this novel. I really loved the letters that Lily exchanges with her anonymous pen pal because it helped flesh out the characters and helped me connect to them.

I really enjoyed the family dynamic and the friendship element in this novel. It was all very authentic and interesting. West always adds little quirks to her characters that never fail to charm me, like the fact Lily’s mom is a jewelry maker and her parents always have little competitions and get the kids to vote on who they think is the winner.

Overall, Kasie West has provided yet another light, romantic contemporary book and though it’s nothing extraordinary, it is addicting and enjoyable. Though I wouldn’t say she’s one of my favorite authors on the planet, I do think I’ll eat up anything she writes.

My rating: 

4bows

4/5

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A Broad Goes Abroad #6: Florence and Prague

A Broad Goes Abroad #6: Florence and Prague

a broad goes abroad

Please note: I wrote this article several weeks ago and it was originally published in my university’s newspaper.

Studying abroad has its pros and cons, but one thing I am delighted about in Europe is my spring break. It is two weeks long, and since I do not have class on Monday or Friday, my break is closer to two-and-a-half weeks. If anything makes me feel like I’m living in a fairytale, it’s the extended holiday. It’s glorious.

Anyway, for my spring break, a couple of friends and I decided to book spots with a tour company that would take us to five cities in ten days. The tour started in Florence so my friends and I took a nine-hour bus ride to Italy and spent a few days there on our own.

Walking the streets of Florence was absolutely incredible, but also strange. As we were strolling the cobblestone alleys with no specific destination in mind, I couldn’t help but think, “How am I here on my own? Am I a big kid now? Who let me do this?” Though it shouldn’t have been, it was a startling epiphany, because the truth is that I am, indeed, a big kid now. I didn’t seek permission before packing my bags and heading to Italy. Studying abroad has allowed me more independence than I have ever had in my life. It makes perfect sense, but it was almost baffling to examine the scope of my freedom.

Of course, Florence was magnificent. Yes, the sights were stunning, but my heart resides with the food. I’m pretty sure eating lasagna in Italy is the most important thing that has ever happened to me. I also got to try authentic connolis and tiramisu, and I was reunited with the love of my life: gelato. I’m fairly certain I consumed the maximum amount of gelato the human body can handle over the course of three days and I am not even a little bit sad about it.

It was devastating to say goodbye to the country of my ancestors and my heart when the tour began, but I wasn’t sad for too long. After a miserable twelve-hour bus ride, we made it to Prague in the Czech Republic. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this city that always seemed so aloof to me, but I was pleasantly surprised. Prague is a different kind of incredible than Florence is. Prague has a fascinating history of revolutions (and the fact that I put the words “fascinating” and “history” next to each other speaks volumes, as I am the furthest thing from a history buff) and a quirky present. Prague is teeming with idiosyncrasies, from the eclectic array of architecture to the bold, politicized statues around town.

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I got a taste of traditional Czech food and loved every second of it. The trdelnik, which is like a hollow churro with ice cream and Nutella inside, was like warmth and happiness inside my mouth.

Everything about Prague captivated me, and I think this would be a city I’d recommend everyone to see in their lifetime.

I have already created so many lasting memories on my spring break, and I’m only just getting started. I still have Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris left in this trip. I cannot wait to see what other magic I get to experience.

Movie Review: The Fundamentals of Caring

Movie Review: The Fundamentals of Caring

Please note: I wrote this review several months ago and it was originally published in my university’s newspaper.

The Fundamentals of Caring.jpgI have a fairly dry, sarcastic sense of humor, and movies, though they often try, rarely appeal to that humor. Rob Burnett’s “The Fundamentals of Caring” is one of the rare films that managed to tickle my funny bone. I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud—quite frequently, too. Aside from the film’s particular brand of humor, there were also interesting characters and a quirky adventure.  

“The Fundamentals of Caring” follows Ben, a writer with a traumatic past who gets a job caring for Trevor, a teen with muscular dystrophy. The two head out on a journey to find the world’s deepest pit, meeting different obstacles and characters along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics between these two characters. Their relationship is far from perfect, but it is clear they provide the kinship that the other needs most. They have some truly delightful banter along with some sincerely touching moments.  

Trevor is definitely my favorite character in the movie. He’s complicated and relatable. He can be timid at times, but he doesn’t let his muscular dystrophy keep him down. He covers insecurities with sarcasm. He likes to dream of deep pits in the ground but has hardly even left his home. I was rooting for him the entire time and I was quite satisfied with where his character ends up.  

There are some sub-plots I didn’t care all that much about or find too engrossing. A pregnant woman named Peaches comes along, and while she has the potential to add a lot of energy to the story, she mostly feels like she’s there to help Ben’s character arc come to fruition, which is frustrating.  

I also wasn’t really sold on the romance between Trev and runaway teenager Dot. While I think they could have made a fascinating couple, their relationship is not developed the way it should have been to make me root for them to be together.  

This movie really is a hoot and a half, though. It’s weird enough to stand apart from other teens-finding-themselves stories, and funny enough to make me want to watch it again.  

Lefty’s Lowdown: The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford

Lefty’s Lowdown: The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford

The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford
(Standalone)
The Harper EffectPublished: May 15, 2018 by Sky Pony Press
Source: I received an eARC of this novel via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated in this review are my own. 

Summary from Goodreads: 
Sixteen-year-old Harper was once a rising star on the tennis court–until her coach dropped her for being “mentally weak.” Without tennis, who is she? Her confidence at an all-time low, she secretly turns to her childhood friend, next-door neighbor Jacob–who also happens to be her sister’s very recent ex-boyfriend. If her sister finds out, it will mean a family war.But when Harper is taken on by a new coach who wants her to train with Colt, a cold, defensive, brooding young tennis phenom, she hits the court all the harder, if only to prove Colt wrong. But as the two learn to become a team, Harper gets glimpses of the vulnerable boy beneath the surface, the boy who was deeply scarred by his family’s dark and scandalous past. The boy she could easily find herself falling for.

As she walks a fine line between Colt’s secrets, her forbidden love, and a game that demands nothing but the best, Harper must decide between her past and her future and between two boys who send her head spinning. Is the cost of winning the game worth losing everything?

A sizzling tennis romance perfect for the summer months, The Harper Effect, will be a grand slam for fans of Kasie West, Miranda Kinneally and Simone Ekeles.

 

new the lowdown

Before I get into this review, I would like to say that there is controversy surrounding this author. I wasn’t aware of the situation (and still don’t know the whole story) before I requested and read this novel. Therefore, my review is based entirely around how I felt when reading. However, if you’re thinking about reading this book, I recommend looking into the controversy first and then making a decision. 

Anyway, this is a pretty standard contemporary. I have an aversion to all things sportsball, but I also have an affinity for all things SCANDALOUS in books, and when I read the synopsis, I could tell there was going to be plenty of romantic scandal and a love triangle and a love-to-hate romance…all things that I am trash for. 

At first I had trouble getting into the book, but after a little while, I found myself falling into the story and these characters’ lives. Harper can be incredibly frustrating. Especially in the first half. So, she’s been in love with the boy next door for YEARS…too bad he just broke up with her sister. So, while I find it morally abhorrent to pursue your sister’s ex, I still love reading about that kind of shit. What I didn’t love was Harper’s wishy-washy “I cannot do this to my sister but OH LALA HE FEELS SO GOOD.” It went on for too long. I got to the point where I just needed her to be firm. Really, that’s what I wanted throughout the entire novel. There were moments where she just wouldn’t explain herself or lay down the law and it, like, made my skin crawl in a weird way. I was so antsy for her to just say, “Here’s what happened” or, “Here’s what is going to happen.” Admittedly, she does become better in the second half of the novel, and I was pleased with how much growth she experiences. 

As far as the romance goes, it was okay. Like I said, standard contemporary. There’s the sexual tension and the drama and the “Are they going to end up together???” I really loved Colt, the main love interest. He’s really cold at first, but the closer he and Harper get, the more he opens up and we realize he’s actually a big sweetie. He was a good influence on her and I think, after they work through all their shit, they have the foundation for a really healthy relationship. 

I liked that I found myself getting into the tennis elements of the novel. The tennis actually plays a pretty big role in the book and I like that it never took me out of the reading experience. 

There are a few things I think could have been better addressed in the novel, like abuse and suicide. I wouldn’t say those elements are handled poorly, necessarily, but I think there could have been more depth where they’re concerned. 

Overall, this novel had some good and some bad, but it was an interesting, occasionally sexy, read that I just ate up. It wasn’t earth-shaking or anything, but I enjoyed it. 

My rating:

3bows

3/5

My Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

My Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

guilty tv.png

I’m not particularly fond of the term “guilty pleasure” because I think people should just enjoy what they enjoy and not feel guilty about it. But I couldn’t think of a better phrase to describe these TV shows, so guilty pleasure it is! Basically, these are the TV shows that just, like, aren’t good but I am total trash for anyway. 

1) RIVERDALE

If I’m being honest, it is taking every ounce of restraint I have to not just fill this post with gifs of Cole Sprouse because he is the most important boi in the world do not @ me. 

Anyway, the first season of Riverdale was definitely cringe-y and cheesy, but at least it was dramatic and intense and addicting. The second season……? Not so much. It feels like the equivalence of my middle school fanfiction. There’s so much unnecessary filler and the plot that actually is there is shaky. Archie is dumb and annoying. I roll my eyes approximately 3 billion times per episode and yet…I can’t stop watching it! 

2) PRETTY LITTLE LIARS

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Believe it or not, I am binge-watching this series for the SECOND time. Like, wow, it’s so bad but so good. My friend (who also loves it) and I make fun of this show constantly, but, like, with love in our heart. 

Frankly, though, this show went on for too long. The characters are IDIOTS. There are plot holes out the wazoo. This show is an absolute mess but I’m not a tidy person so it works. 

3) SHADOWHUNTERS

I’ve officially declared this THE most cringe-worthy show I have ever watched. When it started airing, I watched the first few episodes and I just absolutely, completely, utterly COULD NOT handle it. The acting is atrocious. Some of the dialog makes me want to pull a Van Gogh on both of my ears so I never have to hear dialog that bad ever again. 

But

Do I watch the new episode every week? You bet your sweet potato pie I do. In my opinion, the 3rd season hasn’t been nearly as good as the first 2 so far, but I’m going to stick with it because for whatever reason, I need to know what happens to these characters! 

4) GOSSIP GIRL

blair oh really.gif

I truly cannot explain why anyone likes this show. The characters are just the worst. 90% of the drama is petty, first-world, trivial bullshit that the characters created with their horrible, selfish, idiotic decisions. But of course I wanted them all to get their happy endings even though they definitely do not deserve them. 

This show is pretty much the paradigm if trashy television but if it’s wrong to love Gossip Girl, I don’t wanna be right. 

5) SUPERGIRL 

supergirl1.png

As far as bad television goes, this show pales in comparison to the other shows I’ve listed. Still, half the time, watching this feels like I’m watching a cheesy after school special. Isn’t that part of the appeal, though? It’s got some emotional moments, but overall it’s a happy-making show with some (cheesy) fight scenes thrown into the mix. 

I’d be lying, though, if I said that half of the appeal of this show for me wasn’t the dudes in it. Jeremy Jordan (the reason I started watching it in the first place) and Chris Wood sure know how to make my heart melt. 

Either way, I’m dying for the new season to come on Netflix and tbh just writing about the show and looking up gifs made me want to go rewatch the first season. 

Do you love any of these shows as well? What are your “guilty pleasure” TV shows? 

Top Ten Books I Didn’t Love But Am Really Glad I Read

Top Ten Books I Didn’t Love But Am Really Glad I Read

new top ten tues

I’ve realized that I don’t read a lot of books that I straight-up dislike. Usually, if I’m not enjoying a book, I stop reading it. So rather than talking about books I disliked =, which is what the topic originally was, I’m going to talk about books that I don’t necessarily love but am still happy I read. I don’t have anything against these books, they’re just not among my favorites. 

This topic was a lot harder for me than I expected.

glad1.png1) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer – I just need to get this one out of the way. While I have a lot of negative opinions about this book now, it was the first book that showed me how much I could care about fictional characters. This is the book that made me fall in love with reading, as it was for most people, and that is no minor thing. 

2) The Selection by Kiera Cass – I knew before going into this series that it wasn’t going to blow me away with some top-quality story-telling skills, but it was still fun and quick and I’m happy I read it because everyone has read it and it’s nice to not wonder if I’d like it.

3) The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West – This was my first Kasie West book and I feel like it was a pretty solid initiation into her work. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever read, but it still made me want to read more of her work. 

4) That Summer by Sarah Dessen – And this was my first Dessen book. I read this soooooo many years ago that I hardly remember anything about it. I do remember that I didn’t really adore it, but apparently it was good enough to keep me interested in Dessen because, as we all know, I’m obsessed with her now. 

5) Nightshade by Andrea Cremer – I loved this a lot when I first read it, though I’ve definitely fallen out of love with it since then. Still, I’m so so so happy I read it because this novel is how I became introduced to the book community. I was searching for information on the sequel when I stumbled across Andrea Cremer’s blog, and from there I stumbled across book blogs, and 7 years later here I am. 

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6) Looking for Alaska by John Green – I feel like this is a lot of people’s favorite John Green book and, even though I didn’t fall in love with it, it feels important to have read it. 

7) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang – This is such an important graphic novel for a lot of reasons and I’m glad I had the chance to read this and participate in discussion about why it’s so important. 

8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Literally everyone and their chinchilla has read this book and I felt like a fake book lover having not read it. 

9) Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – I enjoyed this book well enough, but it didn’t steal my heart. However, it put Jenna Evans Welch on my radar, and I am obsessed with her upcoming release Love & Luck. Plus, this novel takes place in Florence and it was really cool to remember things from this novel when I was there. 

10) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – Obviously everyone talks about this book all the time and even though I’ve only read the first installment, it’s good to know where I stand with this series. 

Lefty’s Lowdown: Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Lefty’s Lowdown: Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agendy by Becky Albertalli
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.jpg(Creekwood #1)

Published: April 7, 2015 by Balzer + Bray
Source: I read this novel on Scribd. All opinions stated are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

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As an English major, it’s probably against the law for me to say I don’t particularly enjoy classic novels. Oftentimes, they require a lot of work to understand and do nothing to stimulate my emotions.  When I’m reading, I prefer novels that transport me into the book, that are emotionally engaging, and that are, quite simply, fun. Becky Albertalli’s “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” fits that criteria quite well for me.

“Simon vs.” is a young adult contemporary fiction novel that chronicles the misadventures of Simon Spier coming out as gay. Simon has spent months anonymously emailing a boy he knows only as Blue. He has told Blue things about himself that nobody else in his life knows (like the fact that he’s gay) and vice versa. However, when somebody at his school discovers these email exchanges and blackmails him, Simon begins to question who Blue is and what it would be like to tell the world he’s gay.

This is a story of acceptance and self-discovery, of love and growth. For me, this novel felt like that lightness in your chest before you begin to laugh. A sip of cold water on a scorching day. I wouldn’t describe this book as intense or especially plot-driven, but it was still fun and engrossing. Above everything, I adored Simon’s sarcastic narration. He’s a self-proclaimed cynic, but he clearly has a romantic heart, and it was a blast to see the world and the characters through his eyes.

The relationship dynamics presented in this novel are as equally complicated as they are endearing. Simon loves his friends and family, but that doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and kittens in his life, which makes the idea of his coming out even more challenging. Everyone is well-developed and real and incredibly relatable.

One fascinating aspect of this novel is the email exchanges between Simon and Blue. We don’t get to see all of them, but it’s easy to put the pieces together for all their conversations. These emails were interesting because it allowed us to see a relationship develop without any sort of physical presence. Neither of them knows what the other looks or sounds like, but it’s obvious that a genuine relationship is forming. It’s heartwarming and adorable.

Honestly, that is probably the best possible description for this novel: heartwarming and adorable. It’s a quick read—I devoured the entire thing in one sitting—and it’s so light and happy-making. I cannot speak much to the representation in this novel, but I have a feeling this book will speak to many teens and, hopefully, help them through tough times. I had an absolute blast reading this novel.

My rating: 

5bows.jpg5/5