Book Review – Just Friends

Title: Just Friends
Author: Tiffany Pitcock
Published: August 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars
Cover: It’s okay

Synopsis:

A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Debut author Tiffany Pitcock delivers a spot-on depiction of first love and the high school rumor mill in Just Friends, chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads.

“If life were a teen movie, then this would’ve been just another Tuesday.” (chapter 1)

I am extremely grateful to Xpresso Book ToursTiffany Pitcock, and Swoon Reads for a free advanced reader’s copy in return for an honest review. Head over here to follow the rest of the tour.

Just Friends was such a fun read. I got sucked in pretty easily and grasped onto every lie as it weaved into the story of Jenny and Chance. The cool thing about this scenario is that it takes two COMPLETELY different social circles, and brings them together through a string of made up stories about a friendship years old instead of hours. It was captivating and each story left me wondering what the next would be.

I’ve seen some commentary on how quickly Jenny and Chance become friends, especially seeing as how different they are. They’ve known about each other’s existence for years, but the first time they’re thrown together for an assignment they decide to be best friends. In high school (and even some in college, honestly), I definitely had moments where one conversation with someone would start with us being strangers and end with us deciding to be great friends. Let’s be real, most people crave a connection with people, why would you not take advantage of one? I didn’t find the whirlwind beginning of Jenny and Chance’s friendship to be unbelievable in the least, but fun and pretty accurate. Plus, the lies they told to make others believe in their fake past is definitely something I did in high school. Maybe that’s why I felt so connected.

One of my favorite themes that Pitcock explores in this story is the types of relationships that make us grow as a person. Through Jenny and Chance’s friendship, Jenny learns to live her life in the world outside her books, and Chance learns the value of being a friend and having someone who will be one to him. There are definitely some annoying, crappy characters that frequent high school aged life, but I was very pleased with the loyal friendships that stood out and stayed grounded. For example, Kelsey, Jenny’s “first” best friend, is such a good and supportive friend to her, even when Jenny chases a more exciting life. She provides pretty insightful feedback to both Jenny and Chance, not afraid to say it how it is, but she also was crazy loyal and kind. I got some serious Barb vibes? (Where are my Stranger Things fans at?) Loyalty was the artery to this whole book, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Sure people screwed up and trusted the wrong people, sure some of the characters have hard family lives or pasts, sure gossip and rumors are a bitch, but through it all, Jenny and Chance learned who to cling to in order to make it through the storms, and they learned how to be there for the other person during their own storm.

Pitcock’s writing was engaging and she was able to really capture the minds of high school students. The plot is so fun and easy to invest in, and the characters are full and consistently growing. I definitely feel like it was an easy and quick read, which is common with YA contemporary romances, but the substance was there and it was good.

Purchase Links

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

blog-post-header-15

23. Writer. Reader. Sarcastic.

I was born and raised in Arkansas, which isn’t terribly exciting. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I used to sit in class and write stories in my notebooks, thinking that everyone did. It turns out, everyone didn’t. I love writing because it means I’m putting my thoughts, feelings, and soul out there for someone else to read – for someone else to feel. The fact that someone can read my words, and empathize with my characters – characters that wouldn’t exist with out me, that I created from my mind – is such a wonderful concept to me. I could happily write for the rest of my life as long as there was one person out there who was affected by my words.

Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

blog-post-header-14

Tour-wide giveaway (US/CAN)

Print copy of Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Looking at the Artists Behind the Book Covers

Who judges books by their covers? *tentatively raises own hand* If you think about it, from a marketing standpoint, it’s totally natural to be drawn to something that is presented better than another. Books that are released with the whole package are way more exciting than ones with disappointing covers. Plus, I grew up in a very artistic-centered family, so a cover that disappoints is significantly less likely to be picked up than one that’s well done. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the correlation between what a cover looks like and the probability that you’d pick it up to read or buy. Are covers important to you?

As I spend more time in the bookstagram community, working with authors and publishers, and writing reviews, I’ve noticed a growing trend of cover revels for upcoming titles. Cover reveals help cultivate more excitement over an upcoming book and the author’s work, but most of the time I’ve noticed that there is no recognition for or mention of the artist who created the cover. To me, that’s just ridiculous. Why create hype over a piece of art without crediting the artists who made it? We credit the author and the publisher, but often times the artist gets completely overlooked for their contribution, unless they’re a big name like Jim Kay. I wanted to take some time today to show you some beautiful covers and let you know who made them. I hope you enjoy! Let me know which are your favorites in the comments.


CLASSICS

catcher-in-the-ryeThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Artist: E. Michael Mitchell

TheGreatGatsby_1925jacketThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Artist: Francis Cugat

61aqO0sPF+L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Artist: J.R.R. Tolkein

LITERARY FICTION

51Ok9FmXxbLExes by Max Winter
Designer: Strick&Williams
Illustrator: Zohar Lazar

The_goldfinch_by_donna_tart.pngThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Designer: Keith Hayes
Artist: Carel Fabritius

22237161The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Designer: Rodrigo Corral
Illustrator: Matt Buck

Wolf_in_White_VanWolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

FANTASY

039360909xNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Artist: Sam Weber

SCI-FI/FANTASTY

Annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
Designer: Abby Kagan

9781101873786The Vorrh by B. Catling
Designer: Jaclyn Whalen

PaperGirls_Vol01-1.pngPaper Girls by Brian Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang & Matt Wilson

9780316261241_p0_v3_s1200x630 by Ben H. Winters
Designer: Oliver Munday

vermilion-cov300.jpgVermilion: The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp by Molly Tanzer
Designer: Osiel Gòmez
Artist: Dalton Rose

THRILLER/HORROR

51fLeSBiAuLGet in Trouble by Kelly Link
Designer: Caroline Cunningham

1501143107.1.zoomMisery by Stephen King
Designer: Will Staehle

Rant_by_Chuck_PalahniukRant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
Designer: Michael Collica

29939268.jpgUniversal Harvester by John Darnielle
Designer: Abby Kagan

51xmzRflX5LWe Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley
Designer: Maria Carella

NON-FICTION

519sg-ItOaLThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Designer: Matt Dorfman
Art Director: Helen Yentus

NEW ADULT

AnimalThe Animal Under the Fur by E.J. Mellow
Designer: E.J. Mellow
Typography: Dan Covert

YA CONTEMPORARY

28504676Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Designer: Kristin Logsdon

18718848Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Artist: Eileen Savage

28588459Sill Life with Tornado by A.S. King
Designer: Kristin Logsdon

25372971Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin
Artist: Jill De Haan

9780525425892We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Designer: Samira Iravani
Artist: Adams Carvalho

YA HISTORICAL FICTION

23719270Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Artist: Teagan White

YA MYSTERY

Wink_poppy_midnight_book_coverWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Designer: Nancy R. Leo-Kelly

YA FANTASY

31369411The Graces by Laura Eve
Designer: Maria T. Middleton
Artist: Spencer Charles

9780399538537Tales of Peculiar by Random Riggs
Artist: Andrew Davidson


12180226Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Designer: Sheila Smallwood
Artist: Evan B. Harris


Thanks to my brother, Dylan, for helping me with this special blog post. Check out his artwork HERE

Book Review – Vinyl

Title: Vinyl (The Vinyl Trilogy #1)
Author: Sophia Elaine Hanson
Published: November 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Steampunk
Goodreads

Rating: 5 Stars
Cover: Like it

51EWaqC1uiL

Synopsis:

Ronja staggered back and forth across the room half a dozen times, rolling the kinks from her neck and kneading her shoulders. The exercise worked the hitches from her mind. For the first time in her life, her thoughts were bitingly clear. Everything that had happened over the course of the last few days was impossible. A shiny without a Singer. A makeshift hospital underground. A symbol invisible to an entire city that she alone could see. Her Singer, ripped from her skull just before The Quiet Song could drag her under. Ronja halted, her heart writhing in her ribs. The Conductor tried to kill me, she thought dimly. Why?

All citizens within the soaring black walls of Revinia have metal Singers grafted into their skulls at birth. The parasitic machines issue a form of auditory hypnosis called The Music, which keeps their minds malleable and emotions flat. All artistic expression—especially real music—is strictly prohibited. On the edge of the city, nineteen-year-old Ronja struggles to support her cousins and disabled mother. A chance meeting leads to her kidnapping by an underground resistance striving to preserve the human spirit. Violently severed from her Singer by the brash young agent Roark, Ronja revels in her newfound freedom until the consequences of her disappearance begin to unfold.

“Uncaged ideas can be dangerous, even deadly” (p. 56).

An emotionally investing dystopian story set in a steampunk society with characters worth fighting for. Vinyl is immersive, dunking the readers right into this futuristic world.

One theme highlighted heavily in this story is one that is common with dystopian books: class structure. However, Hanson handles this with such grace that it doesn’t feel like we hear this theme over and over in this genre. The vivid writing connects the audience with the disparity those on the outer circle feel, like Ronja and her family. Ronja’s family has been genetically modified in order to serve the Conductor and suppress their emotions better. While they are the ultimate servant and citizens of this repressed society, they are the lowest of the low. No one wants to hire them, talk to them, or associate with them in any way. Ronja has to bust her butt working every job she can get her hands on in order to provide for her alcoholic mother and two young cousins. One of these jobs is how she met Roark and was thus thrust into a secret underground society with little to no choice.

The Anthem is a resistance group that is on the brink of demanding a revolution. As Ronja is introduced to this strange world without The Music controlling your thoughts and actions, and to the slew of dynamic and diverse characters, I couldn’t help feel the excitement she felt. There was this hope that she could’ve never even let herself dream of. There was joy in feeling emotions in a far more tangible way without the demands of the Conductor’s way of living blocking and dulling them. As Ronja encountered real music for the first time, as she encountered dancing and singing and rejoicing in freedom, it made me appreciate the privileges of this life I live so much more. We have freedom over our thoughts, over our emotions, over who we want to be. How amazing is that?

Ronja learns just how powerful ideas and thoughts are. They can change and shape the world. They are the very thing that scares those in power, the very thing that drives the resistance. Individual ideas and thoughts are the tools to create the reality we live in, which is why books like this are so important! I felt a pull in my gut to fight for the characters in the midst of all their dangerous situations, and I couldn’t let go! I can’t wait to see how the characters fight in book two, Radio.

No Plain Rebel – Book Review

Title: No Plain Rebel (No Ordinary Star #2)
Author: M.C. Frank
Published: July 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia 

Rating: 4 Stars
Cover: Like it

51jlw2ncnml-_sx326_bo1204203200_Synopsis:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He had no idea what to do.

A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.

A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.

The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.

The year is 2525.

Inspired by the short stories of Ray Bradbury, this futuristic novel is set in a world where Christmas—among other things—is obsolete and a Clock is what keeps the fragile balance of peace.

Written in three installments, this is the breathtaking and sensual story of how two unlikely people change the world, and each other, one book at a time.

In No Plain Rebel, Felix finds out the truth. Or so he thinks. He’s trying to come to terms with that, as well as with the fact that the Clockmaster’s shack has been discovered by his fellow-soldiers, but he can’t exactly concentrate. The match girl’s fiery curls appear before his eyes every ten seconds, distracting him, and then he starts talking to her in his head. Because she’s no longer there.

The Stadium is looming in the distance.

It’s ten heartbeats to midnight.

“Silence is not peace, Felix, my hope” (p. 188).

*I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review*

The truth is out there. *Cue “The X-Files” theme music.*

No Ordinary Star ended with a cliffhanger, so naturally I scrambled to continue the story with No Plain Rebel. (You can see my review for NOS here.) I love reading about Felix and Astra and watching them learn, and as they learn, their worlds grow so much bigger. I love how they learn about how humanity was before it was taken away from them, and watch them marvel at it: “They stand for a few more minutes there, absorbing all the newness of the Old World” (p. 25). Felix and Astra learn what knowledge, ideas, beauty, and love are when the world they live in is void of it. This continuation of their story was perfect.

All of the questions left in NOS are answered in the second installment. Felix learns the truth about who he is, who his family is, and where the world is headed. I think I could feel his mind blowing as his knowledge grew. Both characters learn who to extend a trusting hand to and who is perpetuating the bleak future of their world. There is a delightful part of NPR where Felix is forced to swallow a giant pill of humility and face reality in the fact that he can’t help change the problem without recognizing he’s part of the problem. Whoa! The character growth is through the roof!

Astra and Felix {finally} start realizing their feelings for each other, even with the knowledge that any sort of romantic relations is illegal. Heck, everything they do in this book is considered illegal. I can’t imagine living in a world where reading is treason! I was disappointed, though, that this story seemed to be mostly focused on Felix, and we don’t hear much from Astra in the second half of the book. I am a fan of that feisty red head.

Ultimately, I think book one is my favorite of the two, specifically because of the world immersion rather than the overflow of information. However, as I said, this book didn’t disappoint – and of COURSE it ended on another cliffhanger. Where’s book three?

Love. Hurt. Betrayal. The story continues.