ARC Review: Kill All Happies by Rachel Cohn

review         book

Book Covertitle: Kill All Happies
author: Rachel Cohn
pages: 288
format: Paperback ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 2.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 45/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Nick & Norah (obviously), The DUFF, or movies like Adventureland and Snow Day. People looking for something light and funny.
Last Call at Happies! Tonight, 8 P.M. Senior Class Only! Please with the Shhhh….

This is it. Graduation. And Vic Navarro is throwing the most epic party Rancho Soldado has ever seen. She’s going to pull off the most memorable good-bye ever for her best friends, give Happies—the kitschy restaurant that is her desert town’s claim to fame—a proper send-off into bankruptcy, and oh yes, hook up with her delicious crush, Jake Zavala-Kim. She only needs to keep the whole thing a secret so that her archnemesis, Miss Ann Thrope, Rancho Soldado’s nightmare Town Councilwoman and high school Economics teacher, doesn’t get Vic tossed in jail.

With the music thumping, alcohol flowing, bodies mashing, and Thrope nowhere to be seen, Vic’s party is a raging success. That is, until Happies fans start arriving in droves to say good-bye, and storm the deserted theme park behind the restaurant. Suddenly what was a small graduation bash is more like Coachella on steroids with a side of RASmatazz pie. The night is so not going as planned. And maybe that’s the best plan of all.

in depth

  • Sometimes, you need a read that's silly, irreverent, and just balls-to-the-wall madcap. Kill All Happies is that book. It's  not life-changing, and some of the humor falls flat, but there's something undeniably charming about Vic's wild optimism and panache. If you're looking for something laugh-out-loud and light along the order of Adventureland or The DUFF, you've found your answer at Happie's. 

  • The premise is ridiculous, in a good way. The famed desert stop Happie's is closing. An institution in a town known for little else. For Vic, it's the chance to make her mark on the senior class with a wild bash--as long as Miss Ann Thrope (yes, pun intended) doesn't destroy her plans. It brought me back to old-school comedies like Snow Day, with gangs of outrageous kids battling crotchety over-the-top adult villains. 

  • Vic's story is populated with endearingly crazy characters: her besties, Slick and Fletch; Slick's quirky brothers; and a whole troop of Happie's-obsessed bikers covered in years' worth of Happie's (and the adjoining amusement park) memorabilia. Most of the characters were relatively underdeveloped, particularly as Slick and Fletch were nearly absent for most of the book. I got to know Slick's brother best, even though I can't remember his name. He's charming and funny. But a story that hinges on over-the-top humor doesn't suffer much from type-ish characters. They're like props for the adventure and chaos. 

  • The writing is overall pretty good. It matches the theme. Vic is incredibly dramatic, from her passionate hatred of Thrope to her complicated master plans to her slangy narration. Some of the slang is invented or outdated, and honestly, the way Vic talks about gay people isn't explicitly bigoted but it's definitely not sensitive, and she can be kind of slut-shame-y. In the way of old sitcoms that feel out of touch and cringe-y when you watch them now. Definitely knocked a few points off. Those moments aside, Vic's voice is funny and fresh. You can't help but become infected with her energy. 

  • All in all, Cohn's solo novel is a high school adventure worthy of a light-hearted summer blockbuster, maybe starring Michael Cera or something. With bikers throwing people into amusement park jail, trucks being shoved off cliffs, and unexpected romances. The rating may seem low, but it's not because it was a bad book. It was incredibly fun, just now wow. It'd make a great beach read, or something to cheer you up when you need pure silliness. 

        in a sentence

        Kill All Happies is a light, madcap candy book with an intentionally ridiculous plot and moments of true hilarity.  


        will i read this author again?  I have been meaning to read Nick & Norah forever, ever since I found out it was a book 
        will i continue the series?  N/A 

        Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


        ARC Review: Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren

        review         book

        Book Covertitle: Prisoner of Ice and Snow
        author: Ruth Lauren
        pages: 288
        format: Kindle ARC
        buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
        rating: 2/5 (from hated to loved) or 4/10 (all books I've ever read)
        recommended for: Fans of the movie Brave or Frozen, light and quick reads, and adventure stories.
        In a thrilling fantasy that’s equal parts Prison Break and Frozen, Valor attempts the impossible—breaking her sister out of prison.

        When Valor is arrested, she couldn’t be happier. Demidova’s prison for criminal children is exactly where she wants to be. Valor’s sister Sasha is already serving a life sentence for stealing from the royal family and Valor is going to help her escape . . . from the inside.

        Never mind that no one has escaped in three hundred years. Valor has a plan and resources most could only dream about. But she didn't count on having to outsmart both the guards and her fellow prisoners. If Valor’s plan is to succeed, she’ll need to make unlikely allies. And if the plan fails, she and Sasha could end up with fates worse than prison.

        This fresh and exciting middle-grade debut effortlessly melds an unforgettable protagonist, a breathless plot, and stunning world-building—and is impossible to put down.

        in depth

        • I was hoping for a cute middle grade along the lines of a Russian-esque Brave. I loved the concept here: girl gets sent to kiddie prison to free her framed sister. There were just some pieces missing for me. It wasn't bad, by any means, but I found myself growing bored. Not just because it was MG, because I've enjoyed many MG fantasies. No, it was more that the plot dragged on in places, felt contrived or ridiculous in others. By the end, I was racing through it and the final twist wasn't either shocking or satisfying, because I'd just lost interest. It's cute, but insubstantial. 

        • The worldbuilding has a few strong positives. First, it's matriarchal, which is pretty cool. The queen rules, the princess is the heir, and the council is made up of both men and women. That's about where the diversity stops, unfortunately. As far as I could tell, all of the cast members were white. Which was boring but also seemed unrealistic, especially in a capital city, especially in a prison where you'd expect some form of xenophobia to diversify the population of people sent there. Even in a setting influenced by Russian--or at least by Russian words. The similarities seemed to stop there. 

        • The characters themselves were a little thin. Solid, but not spectacular. The main character, Valor, is a bit obnoxious, but made more endearing by her intense love for her sister, Sasha. I think her obnoxiousness wouldn't have bothered me if most of the adults weren't so unbelievably stupid. I guess you could write them off as underestimating their child charges, but they just seemed dense. Like giving a loaded crossbow to a prisoner because apparently none of the guards can shoot well enough to kill some wolves? I liked the side characters more than Valor, which is often my problem. I just wanted to know more about them. 

        • Especially why Valor trusted them right off the bat. The thief kid, I could understand. She knew he was just a thief. But she also formed really close alliances with other prisoners and shared her secrets, but never once wondered what they were in for! This is supposed to be the maximum security version of juvie. Even though Valor only faked being an assassin, you'd think at least one or two of the children in there was actually guilty of something. That Valor would be unsure of trusting them. It would have been a nice extra layer, for her to see through their criminal veneer, or at least it would have been more realistic that some of them were actually dangerous. The usual scuffles and hierarchy you'd expect in a prison were absent.  

        • The plot was straightforward enough, perhaps too much so. Valor was ever so resourceful, there were unexpected traitors and alliances, and the final reveal was interesting enough. I just really wanted a bit more twistiness. Or at least deeper characterization. This book worked on a surface level for me, and will be quickly forgotten. I can see many children enjoying the fast-paced plot and spunky characters, but I think it's eclipsed by more intricate MG fantasies like The Magisterium

              in a sentence

              Prisoner of Ice and Snow is a fast-paced fantasy with a clever premise but, ultimately, a surface-level execution that leaves something to be desired. 


              will i read this author again?  Probably not  
              will i continue the series?  I doubt it  

              Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


              Top Ten Tuesday: Ten hooks and phrases that will make me foam at the mouth over a book

              top ten tuesday                loves

              Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

              Want to help support your broke blogger so she can host more giveaways and give swankier prizes?  Click the book covers.  If you like the book and choose to purchase it from Amazon, a little bit of the proceeds goes to Sarcasm & Lemons!   

              And an example book for each!      

              c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten


              I'm such trash for this trope. The snarky banter! The sass! The subtle changes as people see past their initial impressions. Bonus points if it's hate-to-friendship-to-love. 

              Carnivals, circuses, and other oddities 

              I love the bizarre and the fantastic, especially when there's magic or unspeakable horrors involved, because carnivals and circuses are places of both wonder and eerieness. 

              I. Love. Fairy tales. I grew up compulsively reading Grimm's Fairy Tales (the original, f*cked up ones), Chinese fairy tales, Russian and Middle Eastern fairy tales. And also re-reading things ad nauseum, so getting to revisit the same content in a fun new way is perfect. 

              Elemental magic 

              Considering this is the subject of the WIP I've been rewriting for the last...embarrassing number of years, I'm pretty obsessed with it. Give me your fire, air, earth, and water! Your metal and stone! 


              Dark comedy. Dark mystery. Anything twisted and a little f*cked up, I'm here for. Not so much like Gone Girl, but more like if Amy from Gone Girl wrote a book. I'm not sure what that says about me as a person. 

              Mental illness 

              They say don't take your work home with you, but I feel like, when you're a psychologist, your work is also your life and vice versa. So I pretty much have to read every book about MI, either to revel in its awesomeness or so I can nitpick the hell out of it. 
              King Arthur and co. 

              Another one on the list of things that C.J. has been obsessed with for a really long time. It can even be fluffy and silly like Avalon High; I'm here for it. Subsumed under this is a general fascination with Welsh and Celtic lore. 
              Serial killers 

              Yeah, okay, I think I know what this says about me. Psychopaths, serial killers, murderers. I guess when your primary area of research is psychopathy and aggression, you have to be a little twisted... 
              Multiverses and alternate realities 

              I'm not sure if it's a profound fear of death or just academic interest, but I love the idea of worlds layered on top of each other, people traveling between worlds with blood or magic or subtle knives, alternate Earths with sexy talking clocks. 

              I don't overly go for the fluffy and the sweet (with exceptions for the Ganseys and Secret of a Heart Note-s). I like my heroes dark, messed up, edgy, and maybe a little bit on the antisocial side--but obviously with a secret softness. Sometimes very secret. 

              Your turn!  What phrases or tropes are a guaranteed win for you? Or at least a strong second glance.