ARC Review: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Court of Fives
author: Kate Elliott
pages: 448
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-0316364195
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: For fans of The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski, Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, or anything Tamora Pierce.
In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott begins a new trilogy with her debut young adult novel, weaving an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But at night she can be whomever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multi-level athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best competitors. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between a girl of mixed race and a Patron boy causes heads to turn. When a scheming lord tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test Kal's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a powerful clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

in short

I thought I'd never find an equal to The Winner's Curse.  I was wrong.  Court of Fives is a gripping start to a remarkable fantasy saga.  It follows Jes, the illegitimate, dark-skinned daughter of a Patron general and a Commoner woman.  Her sisters worry that they will never be allowed to marry a high-born man because of their blood.  Jes only wants to run the Fives, a competition of athletics and strategy that can exalt even a low-caste girl.  Everything changes when the family's patron dies.  Jes' father marries a Patron woman to save his position, leaving Jes and her family destitute.  But her father's new patron has seen her skill in the Fives, and wants to use it to glorify his family.  In the process, Jes befriends and falls for a highborn boy.  Their romance is dangerous, but Jes' plan to save her family from the lord's wicked whims is deadly.  It's a beautifully written, intricately crafted tale of intrigue, romance, and family, a tale that examines the ugly truths of an unequal society.  It keeps you breathless until the final mindblowing page.  

Incidentally, The Book Smugglers has an interview/giveaway with Kate Elliott.  Check it out! 

in depth

in a rich fantasy world where fate is unalterable,
Elliott has fashioned a truly unique world, one built on the foundations of the familiar but developed into something new and astounding.  In her world, there are Patrons, white conquerors from across the sea.  Their base is somewhat Greek, and their society is founded on rank, reputation, and unshakable deference to the king and the oracles.  Beneath them are the Efeans, black natives of this land, not enslaved but still subjugated in a caste system that keeps them poor and apart.  Their religion is of magic, of the earth.  It's a world where dead men walk themselves to their graves.  Where oracles are walled into tombs.  Where the only thing cementing the two castes together is the competition of the Fives.  Elliott's world feels so rich and layered that I could imagine myself into it.  I only wished that we'd gotten a more thorough description of Jes running the Fives early on; her first run is bare-bones.  

where people must wear masks, 
The Fives is Jes' passion and downfall.  Her family walks a thin line.  Her father is a low-born Patron who rose through skill and luck to military glory.  Her mother is a beautiful Efean woman whom he can never legally marry, his four daughters illegitimate and, to Patron lords who kill their daughters to make room for sons, embarrassing.  The treatment they receive from Patrons, especially Lord Gargaron (I cannot express my loathing for this man in words), is palpably horrific, skin-crawling.  At a time when racial disparities in the States are a hot topic, Court of Fives makes you feel sharply the shame and pain of being held apart.  Elliott's rich, emotional writing, reminiscent of Marie Rutkowski's ornate prose, brings Jes' world gorgeously and viciously to life.  

the only thing deadlier than playing the game 
Jes' family is always near disaster.  Their father's patron is benevolent and tolerates Esladas' "eccentricities."  His death means Esladas' ruin, unless he agrees to Lord Gargaron's plan: disavow his family, marry Gargaron's niece, and indenture Jes to Gargaron's Fives team.  Reading these bits was emotional torture, and the tension never lets up--because one wrong move could destroy what's left of Jes' family.  Finally living her Fives dream is exhilarating and can help her support her family, but Gargaron can crush her whenever she wants.  And when Jes becomes closer to Kal, Gargaron's charming and open-minded, if not somewhat naive, nephew, her heart threatens to bring down his wrath.  Their romance is honey-sweet, starting with a tentative friendship and building through mutual respect.  It's a rare light in Jes' harrowed life.  

is trying to unravel it. 
Yet, Jes begins to realize that her tenuous happiness is built of glass and sand.  Secret wars are being waged amongst the patrons, battles fought with smiles and intrigue.  Gargaron wants to raise his family's status, and he'll destroy anyone who doesn't fit his perfect world.  When Jes' family is in danger, Jes and Kal launch a desperate, dangerous plan to save them.  Their plan risks destroying not only themselves, but Jes' mother, sisters, and even father.  The second half of the novel is a daring rescue mission steeped in plotting and narrow escapes.  In saving her family, Jes and Kal discover the secrets and magic bubbling beneath the city's surface, ready to erupt.  It's tense, almost thriller-like, but with a solid foundation of good characters and good writing.  And hanging over your head is the frightful dilemma: in getting everything she ever wanted, Jes may lose everything she's ever had.  

Tread lightly. 
If you find, in the course of reading this book, that your knuckles are white and you've been grinding your teeth, you aren't alone.  Elliott's book will easily make my favorites for this year.  Lush and tightly plotted, it's the kind of story that owns you, body and soul.  And that ending!  Oh my freaking god.  

in a sentence

Court of Fives is a tightly plotted web of adventure, romance, magic, and intrigue wrought in beautiful prose.  It'll suck you in and leave you breathless.        


will i read this author again?  Yes yes yes!  
will i continue the series?  Oh god, is it out yet?  Why isn't it out yet!?  THAT ENDING OMG.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


Book Blast: Release: Into the Dark by Caroline Patti

Happy Release Day to
Into the Dark by Caroline T. Patti!!
Join us in celebrating this release from Month9Books!
Enter the giveaway found at the end of the post.

Happy Book Birthday, Caroline!

A girl’s sweet sixteen party is supposed to be among the most memorable events of her life. But on the night of hers, Mercy Clare wakes in the waiting room of a hospital with no memory of how she got there. To make matters worse, she’s wearing something she’d never be caught dead in: her best friend Lyla’s clothes.
Mercy’s nightmare is just beginning. The doctor arrives to tell her that it’s she who lies in the hospital bed waiting to die. A trip to the bathroom confirms Mercy’s fears, as Lyla’s face stares back at her and Lyla’s curvy figure pokes through her tight clothes.
But finding out what’s really going on won’t be easy. Because if Mercy wants her body back, it might just cost her Lyla’s life.



Over the next few minutes several different hospital staffers, including a

chaplain, stop by to speak with my dad. All offer their condolences 

before handing him flyers about grief and asking him to sign documents. 

The last lady that comes by, a plump, squishy woman with a rat’s nest 

for hair, wants to discuss arrangements for the body.

My body.

“There’s several options available to you.” She speaks softly, but it feels 

like she is screaming in my ears. It’s wrong, so utterly wrong that she is 

calmly, casually giving my dad a sales pitch. “We have a lovely 

selection of caskets and there’s always the option of cremation.”

Cremation? Did she just say cremation? Will my father even consider 

that? The picture of myself burning and melting in a blazing fire is 

enough to jolt me back to life. I bolt toward the exit.

“Lyla!” Jay calls out to me, but I am too far gone to stop.

Caroline T Patti is the author of The World Spins Madly On and Too Late To Apologize. When she’s not writing, she’s a school librarian, mother of two, wife, avid reader and Green Bay Packer fan. You can chat with her on Twitter:@carepatti or find her onFacebook.

Connect with the Author:  Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads


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Top Ten Tuesday: The top ten authors who take all of C.J.'s money

top ten tuesday                tbr

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!   

Just take my money already!!!   

c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

Chuck Palahniuk 

Obviously, there's some overlap between last week and this week.  I have loved everything Chuck ever wrote.  Maybe I didn't live and die by all of them, but I've never felt even mediocre about one of his books.  He has my undying faith.   
Sarah J. Maas 

I've said this before: I'd buy toilet paper if Sarah wrote on it.  She just keeps getting better and better, especially with ToG.  And now a third series!?  These are books I'd buy in all editions, just to ogle.  


Susan Dennard 

Give me all the books now!  Seriously, not getting an ARC of Truthwitch may be the single worst bookish thing of this year.  I've had my copy on pre-order for months now, and it's not even out until January.  
John Green 

Maybe his books have a bit of sameness to them, but I always know I'm in for a quirky ride with adorable characters and quotes to write on my wall.  I'm just wondering where his next book is!  Not sure I'm quite desperate enough to read the Christmas one yet.  

A.S. King 

I read Reality Boy through an ARC tour and I've never looked back.  King's stuff is weird and raw and emotional, and I want more!  Luckily, there are still a few older titles I've stashed away for a rainy day, cause waiting sucks.  
Renee Ahdieh 

She's a new addition to this list.  I'd have pre-ordered Wrath and the Dawn's sequel already if it weren't, you know, titleless and not available for purchase yet.  It's a lot of trust after one book, but Wrath wowed me so completely that I know anything Ahdieh writes will be gold.   
Cat Winters 

While I didn't love The Uninvited quite as much as her first two (although I did love it, so check back Sunday for the blog tour!), I've enjoyed every one of Cat's books.  They're authentically historical, they tend to focus on spirits and war, and they have bantery romances that don't overshadow the feminist themes.  Yes, please! 

Jennifer Niven 

I want her next young adult book now.  Or I'll just keep re-reading snippets of All the Bright Places until I've re-read the whole thing like 10 times.  I love it enough that I might actually dip into her adult books, because I neeeeed more!  
Victoria (V.E.) Schwab 

I may not have read them all yet, but I own all of her books, because I buy them as soon as they're available.  The Archived captured my attention with its quirky darkness, and Victoria continues to wow and surprise me. 

Leigh Bardugo 

After I shredded through the Grisha trilogy, I knew that Leigh was going to be a long-time favorite.  Which is why I waited in line an hour and a half early to get Six of Crows at BEA, because waiting was not an option.  And I'm still pre-ordering the hardcover.  


Cover Reveal: Giveaway: Like the Red Sky at Morning by Brielle Skye


Forget Me Not #2 
Author: Brielle Skye
Release Date: October 27th, 2015
Publisher:  Gypsy Pen Publishing


In the battle between duty and desire, there will be causalities. But when passion is blinding, morals are questioned, and loyalties are broken, can love conquer all?

In Solitude of a Birdcage, when Isaac Cole falls victim to an act of violence that leaves him with no recollection of the prior eighteen months, two best friends tend to his recovery. For Savannah, it’s simply an attempt to care for the man she loves.
For Maxie, it’s a chance at redemption.

She tells Isaac nothing of the passionate secrets they'd been keeping from Savannah, nor of the unyielding feelings that nearly consumed them both. But as the fragile wall obstructing Isaac's memory begins to crack, hidden truths slip through the fissures, and Maxie will be faced with an impossible choice—her loyalty, or her heart.

Then, in Like the Red Sky at Morning, the story of Maxie and Isaac continues, and Maxie is determined to move on from the past she shared with Isaac—especially since he still doesn’t remember it. Seeking comfort in a new job, dreams of becoming a chef, and a scheme that may be the very escape she needs, she counts down the days to her fresh start. But as she draws closer to her goals, she finds herself facing a new temptation as intoxicating—and as forbidden—as the last.
Torn between the past and the future, truth and pretense, a new love and the old, Maxie will once again be forced to make a decision that will leave her with everything she's ever wanted, or nothing at all.


Amazon  |  Barnes&Noble  |  iTunes  |  Goodreads

Can't wait until October to dive into Like the Red Sky at Morning? If you leave a review of Book I of the Forget Me Not series, Solitude of a Birdcage, on Amazon, you'll get an exclusive, first look at the first TEN CHAPTERS of Red Sky. For details, click here!


Brielle Skye is from New York where writing, reading, crocheting, and traveling keep her busy. She is the founder of the New York City Writers Network, an organization dedicated to uniting the very people who share her passion for words.

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Website


5 Winners Will Get A Signed Set of the FORGET ME NOT series by Brielle Skye. 

Ships in US Only | Must be 13+ To Enter | See T&C in form for more info.

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Blog Tour: Giveaway: ARC Review: The Uninvited by Cat Winters

I'll Meet You Theretitle: The Uninvited
author: Cat Winters
pages: 368
format: Kindle ARC
isbn/asin: 978-0062347336
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: For fans of Sharon Cameron, ghost movies, historical romance, and pretty prose.  Check out USA Today's glowing review for more.
Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

in short

I didn't quite feel the full effect of this one until the end.  It's a layered, slowly building story, accumulating greater tension and suspense each page, just waiting to punch you in the gut.  It begins abruptly.  Ivy's brother is dead.  Her father and brother return home bloodied up, a dead German boy in their arms.  The horror finally gives Ivy the strength to leave the prison of her house, but town only holds new horrors: corpses on hay carts, boy soldiers, anti-German paranoia, and the ravages of the Spanish Flu.  Midst the darkness, she finds friendship in two stolid ambulance workers and love in the arms of Daniel, the boy whose brother her family killed.  It's a sweet tale of violent passions, whispering ghosts, and the horrors of 1918, and it lingers as long as a ghost photo or a southern Illinois breeze.  

in depth

this tense historical ghost story
Ivy sees ghosts.  All the women in her family do.  They appear, uninvited guests, at moments of suffering.  They warn of horrors to come.  Lately, they come too often.  First, Ivy's brother Billy, suffocated in the mud in France.  Then, her father and other brother come home with a corpse on their shoulders.  A German man whom they murdered in a vengeful passion.  Ivy flees the bloodshed and seeks her freedom in town, but 1918 isn't a kind year for freedom.  Homegrown spies look for signs of foreign sympathy.  Hospitals overflow with the bloated bodies of flu victims.  Widows proliferate.  And Ivy walks with a glance always over her shoulder, waiting for the next harbinger to bring disaster.   

combines a desperate romance
This gloomy backdrop seems unhospitable for a girl seeking her freedom, but then, the world seems to be ending.  She finds a sweet friendship with a widow who takes her in and two Red Cross nurses who drive an ambulance at night, determined to save the just one more body.  In the days, Ivy goes to see Daniel, the fallen boy's brother.  He knows that it's guilt driving her into his arms, but they're both afraid, lonely, and a little less lost with each other.  Their romance has a strange start, but spirals into something deep and encompassing, something that seems fated.  I lived for the pages they were together, and felt as tense and fraught as Ivy when they were apart.  

and labyrinthine mystery 
Even in darkness, Ivy finds freedom.  She chases the night and finds solace in dancing and jazz (a little too heavy on the jazz, if you ask me).  But nothing is simple, even love.  Bodies of flu victims keep piling up, and even Ivy and her nurse friends can't keep up with all the poor undesirables turned away from the hospital.  An old school friend is following Ivy, ready to charge her with sedition.  And Daniel has his own secrets, dark truths that chain him to the store he once shared with his brother.  Then there's Billy, appearing in Ivy's rear view, presaging something terrible.  Every page, I was waiting for the bomb to drop.  

with chilling, breathless clarity.   
I was a little frustrated.  The pacing is somewhat slower than Cat's previous books, and there were so many odd details, seeming carelessness or "plot holes," that irritated me.  I should have known to trust her, because the ending brings all those details, all those curiosities, into sharp reality.  I think that's why I struggled to rate this; it was a bit slow during the reading, but it's so freaking well done in retrospect.  Regardless, it's a gorgeous story.  Cat is at the top of her game with prose.  Ivy is hysterically awkward at times, just hysterical at others, and perceptive in a way that gives her narrative weight and sharpness.  And it leaves you with a sweet melancholy, and an urge to read it all over again.   

in a sentence

The Uninvited is a dark beauty of a story, steeped in mystery, romance, and the violent memory of a dark past.         


will i read this author again?  Yes, probably everything she ever writes.  
will i continue the series?  N/A 

Note: I received this copy from the publicist in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


ARC Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Vengeance Road
author: Erin Bowman
pages: 336
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-0544466388
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 7/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: For fans of old-school Westerns, swashbuckling sort of adventures, and gritty history.  The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.
When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there's room for love in a heart so full of hate.

In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.

in short

I have a confession to make: I don't like Westerns.  Never been interested in that part of Americana.  Honestly, anything pre-1870s America is usually off my radar.  But I love and trust Erin Bowman, and so I decided to branch out of my comfort zone.  And she didn't fail me.  Vengeance Road is a cinematic thrill of a book.  It starts right off with Kate's father buried, and Kate on her way for revenge, and doesn't let up.  While I did get a little sick of the Old West slang (I tried to like it, I tried!), Erin's writing is general is sharp, witty, and vividly imaginative.  She also doesn't pull any punches.  There's murder.  There's backstabbing.  There's racism (1800s, remember!).  Kate isn't exactly a soft-hearted, noble flower.  And you know what?  It was fan-freaking-tastic.  I had a few issues with the ending from a character development perspective, but on the whole, this is a fabulous adventure story.  

in depth

it's a rip-roaring western adventure
This would make a kickass movie.  It's pretty much nonstop action and adventure, with a nice thread of romance, too.  Kate knows that Waylan Rose murdered her father.  She plans to kill his mean dead in return, one by one.  But things get twisted when she learns what her father was killed for--a map to a gold cache like no other.  She hooks up with the Colton brothers, motivated by loyalty to her Pa--and gold, of course--and sets off to find Rose and the gold.  Trouble's always at their heels, and their journey is full of horse chases, shootouts, saloons, escapes, and enough twists to keep you guessing.  I didn't actually see the key twist coming, and it was so freaking clever.   

with complex, spunky characters, 
Kate is a spitfire.  She's feisty, stubborn, reckless, and brave (and also half-Mexican, photoset creators!).  Her friends call her out multiple times for letting revenge get to her head, and she too realizes the unintentional destruction her quest has caused.  She grows, learns.  The Colton brothers are also nicely surprising.  There's Jesse, old-souled, over-protective, and smart, but also hotheaded and careless.  Will is flirtatious and easygoing, fond of women and alcohol, but has a surprising inner quietness and good sense.  They feel like real people.  Then there's Liluye, who is freaking awesome.  She's sarcastic and doesn't bow at Kate's feet just for one good act.  She knows her shit, and she's so kind.  And the gangsters?  Well, Waylan Rose is pretty much what you'd expect.  Very punchable.  

a raw look at history's scars, 
Erin doesn't tiptoe around the past or glorify it uncritically in the way of so many Westerns.  She makes it clear right off the bat that this is a rough-and-tumble, dangerous, precarious sort of living.  Her characters have very un-modern views about Native Americans, Mexicans, and women.  It's tough to read, but I appreciated the devotion to reality.  So many authors give their characters 21st century sensibilities so you'll like them.  It's kind of a cop-out.  Now, Erin's characters aren't unrepentant bigots--they do develop some cultural understanding--but they're not saints either.  Their actions make you uncomfortable.  It's important to feel uncomfortable sometimes.  My one hang-up was Liluye.  Maybe I'm over hung up on this, but her character and tribe felt a little "minority there to make the white people feel better cause now they have a minority friend".  But I do know that Erin did a lot of research into the Apache, so I appreciate the dedication to accuracy rather than caricature.  

and a gritty, cinematic style. 
Bowman writes things into existence.  When you read her words, you can see the golds of the sunset and the barren landscape.  You can feel the gritty dust almost until you sneeze on it.  You can taste the tobacco, sweat, and blood.  It's so easy to imagine yourself into her world.  She also has a flair for the dramatic that really, truly would make a great movie.  If you're gonna have a chase scene, why not have it across the rooftops of a burning trading town?  She makes you feel every cut, every bullet.  And she makes you feel feelings, because she is not nice to her characters.  This is a dangerous world, and she doesn't let you forget it.  One scene in particular called up a few tears, not gonna lie.  I will also say, the ending killed me a little.  There's a character who seems to grow so much, then totally punks out, like they haven't learned anything!  I wanted to slap them, and the reaction to their attempt at reconcile is a little too forgiving.  But maybe that's just life in the West.  

in a sentence

Vengeance Road is a cinematic thrill-ride that combines the adventurous spirit of old time Westerns with the brightest and darkest parts of the human spirit.         


will i read this author again?  Yep!  Still need to finish the Taken series... *hides in embarrassment*     
will i continue the series?  Not sure there's going to be one.  Erin said maybe a companion novel.    

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


ARC Review: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Never Always Sometimes
author: Adi Alsaid
pages: 320
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-0373211548
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 3.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 6/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: For fans of Rainbow Rowell, Katie McGarry, Sandy Hall, and Jennifer E. Smith.
Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

in short

I greatly admire Adi, who is delightfully charming in person, and so I was excited to read him for the first time.  Never Always Sometimes turned out to be a story as adorable as its author.  Meet Dave and Julia, best friends for years.  In middle school, they wrote a list of things they'd never do, cliches to avoid.  Now in their senior year of high school, they're determined to break them all--except Dave already has, by being in love with Julia for years.  Their journey through the Nevers was wacky and cute, despite a few creepy exceptions.  I also loved that Adi threw a wrench into the works with Gretchen, a sweet girl with an eye for Dave.  Even while succumbing to some romance cliches, Adi subverts others in a way that was delightfully surprising.  Despite a too-sweet ending and a few uncomfortable bits, Never Always Sometimes was an enjoyable, great beach read. 

in depth

it's a sweet contemporary romance
Never Always Sometimes is a solid, charming young adult contemporary romance.  While the best-friends-falling-for-each-other set-up isn't new, Adi gives it a special spin.  Back in middle school, Dave and Julia made a pact and a list: all the high school cliches they would never do, from running for prom king to dying your hair a crazy color.  Or dating your best friend.  Then, in the wake of graduation, they decide to do every single one.  With this set-up, the novel becomes about more than two friends falling for each other.  Instead, through their wacky adventures, we get to see Dave and Julia's friendship and its changing dynamics.  We get to have fun with them, and we get to watch as their feelings deepen unexpectedly--and Julia's downward spiral when she realizes that she might lose Dave to sweet Gretchen.   

with deep, thoughtful friendships, 
The story isn't especially different from other contemporaries I've read, but it's fun and ridiculously cute.  I loved most of Dave and Julia's crazy antics.  They dye their hair and end up accidentally dying the cat.  They drum up a crazy campaign for Dave to be prom king.  They build the ultimate tree house hangout.  Adi's clear, authentic narration brings their story alive.  I connected with Dave earliest.  He was a little quieter, a little more hesitant.  He'd nursed a crush on Julia for years, too afraid to ruin their friendship.  I felt so many feels when Dave began bonding with Gretchen and feeling confident about himself.  Julia was a harder sell.  She's reckless, wild, and frequently callous.  It wasn't until midday through, when her soft side began to sneak through, that I really felt for her and began to understand her demons and motivations.  

and just a few hitches. 
What really knocked this story down a few pegs for me was twofold.  First of all, one of the Nevers is "Never hook up with a teacher."  Julia makes it her personal mission to seduce her math teacher.  At first it starts as relatively innocent, attempting to bump into him at a restaurant, admiring his tie.  But she ups the ante to somewhat implausible levels.  Much of her behavior could get her a stalking charge.  I hated how uncomfortable she made her poor teacher feel, and how she didn't quite feel guilty enough after.  But the biggest turn-off was the cheating.  Someone cheated on someone, and I just find it really difficult to sympathize or root for any character after that, especially when it feels like the crime is just swept under the rug in favor of a happy ending.  

in a sentence

Never Always Sometimes is a cute contemporary romance that celebrates friendship and finding the right person, even if they're someone you never expected.          


will i read this author again?  Yeah, I'd like to check out Let's Get Lost.   
will i continue the series?  N/A   

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


Top Ten Tuesday: Authors by whom I've read a crazy number of books

top ten tuesday                tbr

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

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Goodreads is my homeboy.   

c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

Diana Wynne Jones - 21 books 

No surprise here.  I worship this woman.  I've read all her Chrestomanci books, the Dalemark quartet, and a whole ton of others.  Not to mention Howl's Moving Castle, which I might have mentioned on S&L once or twice (actual count:  18).  If you claim to be a fantasy lover, if you wonder who was British and whimsical before JK Rowling, then check out Diana.  
Lemony Snicket - 15 books 

I'm counting Why We Broke Up, cause duh.  I still freaking love A Series of Unfortunate Events.  I know a lot of people read it, but it still never got the acclaim it deserved.  BUT THEY'RE MAKING IT INTO A NETFLIX SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!  Excuse me, while I start breathing again. 


Tamora Pierce - 14 books 

As some people are just finding out (hem Nicole and Christina), Tamora Pierce is a certified badass.  She was Sarah Maas before there was Sarah Maas.  Her stories stuck with me.  I read them over and over.  She inspired me to write!  I started with Daine--accidental choice, but it made for an interested sequence. 
Chuck Palahniuk - 10 books 

Chuck is my twisted idol.  Ever since Fight Club, I've been obsessed with his books.  His style and his boldness speak to my creepy little black icicle of a heart.  So far, chronologically, I'm current up until Pygmy.  Soon I shall conquer them all!  

D.J. MacHale - 9 books 

The Pendragon books were my jam in middle school.  I was freaking in love with Bobby,who is adorable and a space/time traveler and super noble in that Harry Potter way.  Plus, his friends Courtney, Mark, and Loor kick ass too, and all the worlds are amazing! (Secret: I still haven't read the last one. Then it can't end. :( ) 
J.K. Rowling - 9 books 

This really should be 9, because I forgot to add Fantastic Beasts.  Obviously Ms. Rowling made the list.  Not hard when you write a 7-book series.  Although, it makes me realize how many series I read, writing this...  I could tell you stuff, but you already know it all. 
Darren Shan - 8 books 

I still don't know his real name, but his Cirque du Freak books were awesome.  They were vampires, post-Anne Rice and pre-Twilight, plus a lot of other people with crazy abilities and connections to the underworld.  All centered around a traveling freak show.  AMAZING.  (Haven't finished this either.  Endings are hard...) 

C.S. Lewis - 7 books 

Yes, there are some pretty racist and misogynist elements here, but I believe that you can love something critically.  And I love these books.  They're infused with a nostalgic magic that always leaves me in tears when I turn the last page of book 7.  They will always be special to me. 
Roald Dahl - 7 books 

Dahl is my man.  I think I read The Witches about 12 times before I was 10, and watched the movie at least a few dozen.  Every single one of his books is creepily whimsical.  No wonder I turned out the way I did...   

Kurt Vonnegut - 6 books 

I haven't read him in a while, but he'll always be a favorite.  His mix of cynicism, whimsy, and poignancy is unparalleled.  I mean, who else can get away with writing a literary novel set in a place called Tralfamador!?  He's a freaking genius.  So it goes.