ARC REVIEW: Making Faces – by Amy Harmon


Title: Making Faces
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: October 12th 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Finished reading: January 28th 2017
Pages: 405
Rating 5qqq

“I don’t think we get answers to every question. We don’t get all the whys. But I think when we look back to the end of our lives, if we do the best we can, and we will see that the things we begged God to take from us, the things we cursed him for, the things that made us turn our backs on him, are the things that were the biggest blessings, the biggest opportunities for growth.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Spencer Hill Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


It’s been over two weeks since I finished reading Making Faces and I still find it difficult to put my thoughts properly on paper. It doesn’t happen all that often, but Amy Harmon was able to give me another book hang over with this little masterpiece. I’m ashamed to admit I have only recently discovered her work, but I’ve already become addicted to her lovely prose and diverse plots. Making Faces is no exception. I had already heard great things about this book and I basically broke down the request button as soon as I saw it was available at Netgalley. All the raving reviews were absolutely right: this story is simply brilliant. I fell in love with both the characters, writing style and plot and this story will definitely stay with me for quite some time. Sure, some of it might be a little cheesy if you think about it critically. But if you have characters like Fern, Bailey and Ambrose, it is really easy to put those thoughts aside. I loved the war veteran elements as well; it’s such an important topic and definitely deserves more attention, especially as they are often misunderstood by society. As you might have guessed already, I simply adored Making Faces and I can definitely recommend it to any contemporary fan. I promise you that you will fall in love with the characters and their story! This new edition published by Spencer Hill Press later this month has some nifty bonus content as well.


Ambrose Young’s looks and talent have made him really popular during his high school years. He isn’t just tall, muscular and good at sports, he also seems to have walked right off the cover of one of those romance novels. Fern Taylor should know, because she has been reading them since she was thirteen. Fern has had a crush on him for years, but she isn’t exactly the ‘prettiest’ girl in town and she doesn’t think Ambrose would ever look at her that way. But life isn’t just about physical attraction and works in funny ways. After the 9/11 attacks, Ambrose and his four friends decide to join the cause and were sent off to war. Only one comes back… And the whole town struggles to deal with the loss; each in their own way.


I kind of feel I’m not doing the story justice with this summary, but I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot… This line in the blurb describes the general idea behind Making Faces beautifully though: “a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us“. It’s contemporary romance with a healthy dose of realistic fiction, a cup of tears and mixed with lovely characters and a very important topic. I basically loved everything about it and this story has confirmed Amy Harmon is one of my new favorite authors.


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BOOK REVIEW: Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine – by Stephanie Tromly


Title: Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine
(Trouble #1)
Author: Stephanie Tromly
Genre: YA, Mystery, Contemporary
First published: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Finished reading: September 21st 2016
Pages: 352
Rating 3qqq

“Preparing to survive a typical day of being Digby’s friend wasn’t that different from preparing to survive the apocalypse.”


While I was browsing books, I remembered someone had recommended this title to me some time last year. I thought it sounded like a fun read, so I decided to give Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine a go. And now I’ve finished it, I’m not sure what to make of it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading it, but there is no doubt that the whole plot and story just is a bit too absurd and over the top for me. I feel like this book is trying too hard… Either way the plot just isn’t credible and doesn’t make any sense. I’m also having mixed thoughts about the main characters and I’m not sure I actually like them… That said, somehow I still managed to enjoy reading the story. It might be the prose, it might be the fast pace, it might be the weirdness of it all, but Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine is without doubt entertaining. If you like unpredictable contemporaries with a dash of humor, this would be an excellent choice.


After her parents get divorced, Zoe moves with her mother from Brooklyn to upstate New York. She is determined to get back to the city and transfer to the elite private school her father wants her to go to. But then she meets Philip Digby, and he is by no means an ordinary guy. Zoe soon finds herself in a series of both hilarious and dangerous situations just by being a friend of Digby’s. Digby wants to find the kidnapper of a local teenage girl, because the kidnapper might know something about the disappearance of his little sister eight years ago. But helping Digby comes at a cost, and Zoe will have to step out of her comfort zone if she wants to keep up.


I thought I was going to enjoy Trouble Is A Friend Of Mine better than I actually did, but the plot just was a little too absurd to my taste. It felt almost like the story and their characters were trying too hard to be funny and original. That said, it’s still a superfast read and I actually ended up enjoying it despite the crazy ride. If you like weird books with a lot of unpredictable situations, this book is definitely for you.

BOOK REVIEW: Seven Ways We Lie – by Riley Redgate


Title: Seven Ways We Lie
Author: Riley Redgate
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 8th 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Finished reading: June 30th 2016
Pages: 352
Rating 3qqq

“I stand there looking after him with the feeling that – just like that, in one careless moment – I might’ve ruined somebody’s life.”


I have heard mixed things about this book in the past, and now I’ve read Seven Ways We Lie myself I’m not sure what to make of it. Sure, this novel by Riley Redgate is a fast read, the prose mostly reads easy and is quite entertaining in general. Sure, I liked the idea of the seven deadly sins incorporated into the story and reading about the different characters and their problems and lies. But those seven different POVs did make it harder to focus on the story, get a proper feel for the characters and the plot and properly enjoy this book in general. I was quite confused by the all the different names in the beginning and it took me a while to really tell them apart… And the deadly sin references weren’t as obvious as I thought they would be. Seven Ways We Lie was without doubt a good enough and fast read, but the whole ‘lying teenagers with secrets’ theme was not that original. Also, I liked some characters better than others and especially Juniper’s chapters felt a bit forced ‘artsy’ and started to annoy me. My favorite characters would probably be Olive and Matt, although I liked Valentine and Lucas as well with his whole pansexual angle. In short, it’s a nice enough YA contemporary novel if you enjoy the genre, but not as good as I thought it would be.


Seven students at Paloma High School are each resisting the allure of one of the seven deadly sins, and all have their own secrets. Each of the students tells their story from their own point of view, and slowly their lives are starting to intertwine more and more… What do a thespian, closeted pansexual, neurotic genious, the perfect girl and a few others have in common? Nothing obvious, until the rumors of a student-teacher affair hit the fan and suddenly the whole school wants to find out the identity of the guilty couple. But aren’t all students guilty of something in the first place? The perfect girl might not be so perfect after all after her secrets comes out, and it’s up to the other six sinners to keep her secret safe. But can they resist their temptations?


To be honest, I’m having a hard time rating Seven Ways To Lie. In a way, I quite enjoyed reading this story and it was a really fast read, but I also had some minor problems with it that made me enjoy the story less. The biggest issue would probably be the fact that there are many different characters and POVs, which makes it hard to properly connect to the story. I also would have liked seeing more of the seven deadly sins incorporated in the book… But all in all it is still an entertaining enough read if you normally enjoy reading the genre.

BOOK REVIEW: Tell Me Three Things – by Julie Buxbaum


Title: Tell Me Three Things
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 5th 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: June 21st 2016
Pages: 336
Rating 4,5qqq

“One of the worst parts about someone dying is thinking back to all those times you didn’t ask the right questions, all those times you stupidly assumed you’d have all the time in the world. And this too: how all that time feels like not much time at all.”


After hearing repeatedly I just HAD to read this book, I decided to give and pick up Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum. And I’m glad I did, because I really loved it! In a way I’m still surprised I enjoyed this story as much as I did, because the idea behind the plot is not exactly original and does sound a bit cheesy. To make things even worse: there is even a love triangle (rectangle?!) included in Tell Me Three Things, which normally is a huge dealbreaker for me. I’m not saying the whole multiple love interest theme wasn’t annoying, but this book is one of the few exceptions where I can still thoroughly enjoy the story anyway. Sure, some of the plot is quite cheesy and the way the story it told (using e-mails and text messages) might not be original, but in Tell Me Three Things it just works. This novel has a fast pace, is both easy and highly entertaining to read and is without doubt an excellent summer read. And although I wasn’t completely convinced by Jessie as a main character (I’m still not sure I actually like her), I absolutely LOVED SN. The whole mystery behind his identity definitely makes this read addicting and you will most likely love the ending! Recommended for those who enjoy reading contemporary romance and/or need a feel-good story.


It’s been two years since her mother died, and Jessie’s father has decided to get married again with a woman he met online. The worst part: Jessie is forced to move across the country, leave behind her best friend and old life and live with her new stepmonster and teenage son in Los Angeles. She doesn’t feel at home at all in this new town, home and school where everything and everyone seems so different. But just as she is thinking about escaping and somehow go back to Chicago, she receives an email from a person calling himself Somebody/Nobody (SN). SN offers to help her find her way in Wood Valley High School, but Jessie is not so sure the sender is actually honest. She doesn’t want to accept his help, but what else is there to do in a situation that feels this desperate? Jessie decides to write back and rely on the information SN gives, and slowly she is starting to feel a bit better about her new life… And SN is starting to play a big role in her life. But who is SN in real life? Jessie wants to met SN in person, but maybe some mysteries should stay unsolved…


I have to say I wasn’t sure about this book at first, because I’m normally not really into (cheesy) romance stories. I decided to give it a go anyway after quite a few raving reviews, and Tell Me Three Things turns out to be the exception to the rule. Sure, this story has a love triangle, a (partly) cheesy plot and might not be that original, but I loved it anyway. This novel by Julie Buxbaum is the perfect feel-good read that anyone who enjoys reading the genre should give a go.

BOOK REVIEW: All The Rage – by Courtney Summers


Title: All The Rage
Author: Courtney Summers
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: April 14th 2015
Finished reading: May 9th 2016
Pages: 321
Rating 3qqq

“But just because something starts out sweet doesn’t mean it won’t push itself so far past anything you could call sweet anymore. And if it all starts like this, how do you see what’s coming?”


I have had this book on my radar even before it was first published last year, but somehow it took me a long time to actually pick it up. All The Rage is a story with a complicated topic and definitely shouldn’t be considered as a light or easy read. Why? In this novel by Courtney Summers you will find numerous mentions of sexual violence, abuse and bullying and the way the victim in the story is treated after the facts is quite horrible. I normally don’t mind stories with shocking elements, but in this case it was hard to focus on the actual facts and feel sorry for the main character. I’m not saying what happened to Romy wasn’t horrible and she must feel terrible that nobody seems to believe her, but still… Why has she have to be so unlikeable?! Most of the other characters weren’t exactly likeable either, and that made it really hard to connect to the story itself or have proper feelings while reading it. It’s not that All The Rage is badly written and it actually reads pretty fast, but I’m not sure what happened to Romy and the fact that (almost) nobody seems to help this poor girl is actually credible. What I do appreciate is that this story brings attention to sexual violence and how it can affect its victims. Maybe one day warning signs will actually always be investigated no matter how crazy they might sound. (Unlike in the case of All The Rage, where the suspect is the sheriff’s son and protected by his father and the community.)


Romy Grey has a horrible secret, and nobody seems to believe her. Kellan Turner is the sheriff’s son and seems to be the perfect golden boy, but Romy knows for a fact that is not true. But no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town and from a family with a bad reputation in the community… In fact, telling the truth about what happened took away everything good in her life. Romy is called a liar by the whole community and bullied by the same people she used to hang out with. The only way she can escape reality is during her shifts at a diner where she works outside of tome, where nobody knows her name or past. Things change forever when both Romy and a girl she used to be friends with go missing after a party… Romy shows up alive the next day, but the other girl isn’t so lucky. Now the whole community seems to wish it was Romy still missing… And Romy doesn’t know whether she should fight to get the truth out or ignore the fact that more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t.


The message behind All The Rage is an important one and I appreciate the fact that it brings attention to (the consequences of) sexual abuse and bullying. I wasn’t completely convinced by the prose though. I understand the chapters are the way they are to build up tension and keep you guessing about what really happened, but it did make it less enjoyable to read. Still, the main problem probably is the fact that most of the characters are completely unlikeable and almost nobody seems to even consider helping Romy in the first place. It made it a lot harder to connect to the story and feel sympathy for the main character. Would I recommend reading this story? Probably, if you enjoy the genre and don’t mind unlikeable characters.

BOOK REVIEW: The Improbable Theory Of Ana And Zak – by Brian Katcher


Title: The Improbable Theory Of Ana And Zak
Author: Brian Katcher
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 19th 2015
Finished reading: May 5th 2016
Pages: 336
Rating 3,5qqq

“Everyone thinks they’re the only one who’s ever been hurt.”


I was looking for a light read to cheer me up a little and while browsing my TBR shelves this novel by Brian Katcher caught my eye. The description of this book said that it was supposed to be a funny story and the fact that it combines quiz bowl semifinals with a sci-fi convention sounded deliciously nerdy and just what I needed. And while I can’t say it was the perfect story, it did manage to bring a smile to my face. The chapters in The Improbable Theory Of Ana And Zak alternate between the two main characters. Zak Duquette is basically the perfect awkward, geeky and funny sci-fi convention fan and probably the main reason this story just works. Ana Watson on the other hand I didn’t really care for; she was actually quite annoying at points and the fact that her parents are so strict is not a valid excuse to be behaving the way she did. Also, she is making what happened to her sister sound a lot worse than it actually is (spoiler: I actually thought she died first). In short, she is main reason I lowered the rating. Her little brother Clayton is a genius though, and I think both he and Zak are my favorite characters of the bunch. And even though some of the story might feel a bit cliche, the crazy things that happen during their night at the Washingcon sci-fi convention are without doubt very entertaining to read about. Recommended to fans of the genre and those who like a ‘nerdy’ main character and/or a whole lot of sci-fi references.


Ever since her sister was kicked out of her house, Ana Watson has been trying to be the perfect daughter so her parents don’t have a reason to complain. They control every move she makes, but the quiz bowl semifinals give her a little room to breathe as long as she looks after her little brother Clayton. But things don’t go as planned… And she believes it’s all Zak’s fault. Zak Duquette was given an ultimatum: participating the quiz bowl semifinals or failing health class and not graduating this year. The worst part: the semifinals are the same weekend as the Washingcon sci-fi convention, the one event that Zak is looking forward to every year. On their way to the semifinals, Zak tells all about his adventures during previous conventions… And without knowing he convinced Clayton to ditch the quiz bowl semifinals and go to the Washingcon by himself. Ana has no choice but to break the rules as well and find her brother before her teacher and parents find out he is missing… And Zak promises her he will help, especially since he knows a lot about the convention in the first place. He is risking his chance to graduate this year, but tries to chase down Clayton anyway in the sea of sci-fi convention visitors. Will they find Clayton on time?


I’m not a big sci-fi fan and I’ve probably missed/misunderstood a few references here and there, but that doesn’t take away that the Washingcon sci-fi convention definitely is what makes this story into something original. The Improbable Theory Of Ana And Zak is fast-paced with a prose that is easy to read and will probably bring a smile to your face. I personally wasn’t a fan of Ana’s character, but Zak and Clayton mostly made up for it and saved the story. In short, this novel is a quick and entertaining read and definitely worth trying.

BOOK REVIEW: The Beginning Of Everything – by Robyn Schneider


Title: The Beginning Of Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: August 27th 2013
Finished reading: April 18th 2016
Pages: 335
Rating 2qqq

“If everything really does get better, the way everyone claims, then happiness should be graphable. But that’s crap, because better isn’t quantifiable.”


I was looking for a quick and entertaining read and since I loved reading Robyn Schneider‘s other novel Extraordinary Means two months ago, I decided to pick up my copy of The Beginning Of Everything. Unfortunately, this story wasn’t as nearly as good as my first experience with her work. It might have been because of my high expectations, but the cheesy and cliche plot and annoying characters made me feel mostly disappointed by this read. The first three chapters make you think this could be a really interesting take on how Ezra deals with the fact that he can no longer play tennis and has to adapt to his new life and status at school. Those chapters are actually quite misleading, because the rest of the story is basically a cliche storybook involving a couple of seniors both trying to be different and fitting in during the last year in high school. Jocks against nerds, a former jock now belonging to the debate club, the former tennis captain that used to date a cheerleader, prom, (hotelroom) parties involving alcohol and games… This plot is basically one big cliche and almost made me gag. I guess those who don’t mind a story like this will probably end up loving The Beginning Of Everything, but this definitely wasn’t my cup of tea. Also, the fact that I couldn’t stand the main character, the whole pity party and prom situations didn’t help either… And the tension between Cassidy and Ezra is actually quite boring. But like I said before, fans of contemporary romance who don’t mind cheesy and cliche high school scenes will probably love this read.


Ezra Faulkner used to be the golden boy with a great athletic career and a busy social life with his jock friends and girlfriend. But all that changed that one night of his personal tragedy, where a reckless driver shatters his knee and dreams… Ezra can no longer play tennis and finds himself without friends or a girlfriend after she cheated on him. His senior year is not going to be as he thought it would, and suddenly he finds himself at the table of misfits. His former teammates don’t seem to care much about the fact that Ezra is missing, but can he accept his new status and friendships? And what about the new girl Cassidy Thorpe, who seems to be unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met?


The Beginning Of Everything started out promising even though I never liked the main character, but things soon went downhill from there. I admit I never really like cheesy contemporary romance stories, but the promise of something better actually made me feel more disappointed in the end. I’m not saying this is a bad read and the right person will probably love it, but if you want to try Robyn Schneider‘s work I would definitely recommend reading her other novel Extraordinary Means first.