Friday, November 24, 2017

In a Nutshell Reviews

In a Nutshell Reviews are my version of mini-reviews, because sometimes, you just want the highlights.

Any Way You Slice It
Kristine Carlson Asselin
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Romance
Publisher: Wicked Whale Publishing
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Penelope Spaulding just can't catch a break. Between long hours at the family pizza shop, piles of homework, and her dad’s new obsession—getting the restaurant on a new foodie reality show—it's hard to find a spare moment to breathe. But when she laces up her skates and steps on the ice, the world is hers to control and everything else slips away.

When the bad boy who lives down the street dares her to join the Rink Rats, the local misfit hockey team, she surprises herself and joins in silent defiance of her controlling parents.

The more she plays, the easier it is to keep lying, and soon Pen finds it impossible to come clean. She’s sneaking out to practice—and loving every minute of it. It doesn’t take long for her to fall in love with hockey…but she’s not entirely sure if it’s the game she’s falling for or the boy. Because it can’t last. As soon as her dad finds out, she’ll be benched. For good.

And the one thing she IS sure of...she can't stop playing.
Did someone say hockey, romance, and pizza? Count. Me. In. This book combine so many of my favorite elements, and produced a fun, feel-good read, with a lot of heart.
  • Pro: I really loved Pen and I was cheering for her from page one. She was trying so hard to forge her own path, and it was heartwarming to see her find these new parts of herself. It saddened me that she had to keep these parts a secret from people who really mattered to her.
  • Pro: This couple was easy to ship. From the first time Pen and Jake are on page together, there are sparks. There was also an ease between them, that could probably be attributed to their past friendship. It was fun watching them reconnect, and I loved getting blasts from their past.
  • Pro: There was a lot of time spent in a pizza place, talking about pizza, and you know who loves pizza. This girl. I really enjoyed getting peeks at the family business, and I thought the Food Network involvement added to the fun. 
  • Pro: Because some much of this story revolves around the family business, we have a great family-centric story. Pen's mom, dad, and grandmother played an important role in the story. I found her grandmother to be my favorite (me and my soft spot for grandmas), but I was also very pleased with watching Pen and her dad work through some of their existing issues. 
  • Pro: There was a lot of hockey in this book. I didn't realize we would spend so much time on the ice, but we did, and it was really great getting to see Pen in action. 
  • Pro: Friendships were important in this story as well. Pen's best friend was one of her biggest supporters. Without her, Pen would never have attempted the things she did. In addition, Pen had the support of her teammates, which was a new and wonderful experience for her. 
  • Pro: There were a lot of beautiful ideas about honesty in this story, and the importance of telling the truth to the ones you love. 
  • Pro: This was a light and sweet, low drama tale of family, friendship, and romance, and these are among my favorite kind of stories. 
  • Pro: I adored the Rink Rats. This rag tag bunch of boys had so much heart and they ultimately supported each other. I was happy that Pen was able to find such a wonderful group to be a part of. 
Seriously reminded me of this movie (Hockey Night). 

Overall: A sweet and adorable romance, which was heartwarming and left me happily craving pizza.

Ready to Fall
Marcella Pixley
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
When Max Friedman's mother dies of cancer, instead of facing his loss, Max imagines that her tumor has taken up residence in his head. It's a terrible tenant--isolating him from family, distracting him in school, and taunting him mercilessly about his manhood. With the tumor in charge, Max implodes, slipping farther and farther away from reality. Max is sent to the artsy, off-beat Baldwin School to regain his footing. He joins a group of theater misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet and slowly becomes friends with Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, an edgy upperclassman who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But his tumor is always lurking in the wings--until one night it knocks him down and Max is forced to face the truth, not just about the tumor, but about how important it is to let go of the past.
This was another of my Can't-Wait Wednesday picks, and I when I looked back at the all the reasons for why I wanted to read this book, I have to admit, I would highlight all those things as "pros", because they are some of the elements I really liked, but there were additional things that made this a great reading experience for me as well.
  • Pro: The way Pixley handled Max's grief was so real, yet so odd. He exhibited all the common symptoms - withdrawal, weight loss, anger - but his grief also took the form of an imaginary tumor, which he believed transferred from his mother to him, and the interactions with the "tumor" though quite strange, had a lot of real emotion attached to them. It was interesting and different, and it added an extra dimension to Max's grief, which he had to work through.
  • Pro: This book was filled with some intriguing and complicated characters. Fish, Ms. Pruitt, The Monk, the twins, Grandma Jean, Dad, Mr. Cage, and Ms. Grossman all added something special to the story. I was especially fond of Fish, because she and Max shared that common bond of having "lost" their mothers, and she was an important stepping stone to his healing process. 
  • Pro: Speaking of mothers. The tears!!! Every time Max shared something about his mom, I got a little verklempt. He shared beautiful and tender moments with me, but he also shared some final and painful moments. The love and adoration he had for his mother was unquestionable, but I knew, that he knew, he was very loved by her too. 
  • Pro: This school was as awesome as I thought it would be, and Pixley did an incredible job weaving a tapestry of pain and grief that included Kafka and Hamlet. 
  • Con: Though hopeful, the ending left me with some loose ends, and I like rather tidy endings. I was not too frustrated though, so minor con.  
  • Pro: The title comes from a trust exercise, which Max and the other thespians engaged in, and I really think it was quite brilliant to use this as the litmus test for where Max was on his healing journey. 
  • Pro: I was impressed by the story and the writing. Pixley loaded this book with vivid imagery and whip smart dialog. The words grabbed me and pulled me right in. 
  • Pro: I cared so much for Max, Dad, Grandma, and Fish. I wanted them all to find some happiness and healing, and I reveled in every good thing that happened to them. 

Overall: The pain, grief, and loss that Max was wrestling with brought tears to my eyes, as did the joy and peace he eventually found.

Good and Gone
Megan Frazer Blakemore
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: HaperTeen
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
When Lexi Green’s older brother, Charlie, starts plotting a road trip to find Adrian Wildes, a famous musician who’s been reported missing, she’s beyond confused. Her brother hasn’t said a nice word to her or left the couch since his girlfriend dumped him months ago—but he’ll hop in a car to find some hipster? Concerned at how quickly he seems to be rebounding, Lexi decides to go along for the ride.

Besides, Lexi could use the distraction. The anger and bewilderment coursing through her after getting dumped by her pretentious boyfriend, Seth, has left her on edge. As Lexi, Charlie, and their neighbor Zack hit the road, Lexi recalls bits and pieces of her short-lived romance and sees, for the first time, what it truly was: a one-sided, coldhearted manipulation game. Not only did Seth completely isolate her, but he took something from her that she didn’t give him permission to.

The farther from home they get, the three uncover much more than empty clues about a reclusive rocker’s whereabouts. Instead, what starts off as a car ride turns into an exploration of self as each of them faces questions they have been avoiding for too long. Like the real reason Charlie has been so withdrawn lately. What Seth stole from Lexi in the pool house. And if shattered girls can ever put themselves back together.
Good and Gone delivered a more complex story than I was expecting, and I loved every second of it. This was an important road trip for the Greene siblings, because it helped them find a way back to each other and themselves.
  • Pro: Sibling stories - love them! Lexi and Charlie's relationship was quite strained at the onset of the story, but while on the road trip, they reminisced and also confessed the secrets they were harboring and this precipitated their reconciliation. 
  • Pro: There was a lot of great banter and discussion in this book. I would expect no less from the children of two college professors. Well done, Ms. Blakemore!
  • Pro: I am a fan of the Then and Now format. I had a good idea from the very beginning what was wrong with Charlie, but I knew there was more to Lexi's bad attitude. Slowly, through the alternating timeline, we learned about Lexi's relationship with Seth. Blakemore did something interesting with the Then portion too, it wasn't in chronological order. The jump around was a great way to keep the source of Lexi's anger a secret for a little longer, but I also felt like I had more time to witness her conflicted feelings and confusion regarding her role in what had happened. A lot of the Then parts were difficult as I watched what should have been something beautiful for Lexi turn into something toxic. 
  • Con: It bothered me that Seth was not confronted and punished. I guess maybe that didn't fit with the overall goal of the story, but I needed him to pay for what he had done. 
  • Pro: There were a lot of things that happened in the story that seemed random, but eventually, all those small random things were tied together, and I loved it when I had my "a-ha" moment. 
  • Pro: The Greene parents were present in this book. They were all wrapped up in Charlie's issues, but fairness to then, they had no idea what Lexi was dealing with. They did reach out though, and often reminded their children that they were there for them, and that they loved them. 
  • Pro: I really appreciated how Gwen was used, in the Then and Now. It was important for me to see that there were parts of Lexi's pre-Seth life that were still salvageable. 
  • Pro: I really felt Lexi's wide range of emotions, and the author captured her fear and self loathing especially well. 
  • Pro: This book touched on some really serious topics, but Blakemore handled the topics in such a way, as to keep the book from becoming too heavy. There were some moments with a lot of gravity, but they were balanced out with humor and happier moments. 

Overall: A story of a shattered girl, who slowly put herself back together, piece by piece, mile by mile.

**I would like to thank the publishers for the advanced copies of these books.

Have you read any of these books?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Any Way You Slice It sounds like a cute story! I love all the different elements - the family restaurant, the budding relationship, the reality tv factor. It sounds like a good mix of things without being overwhelming. And who doesn't love pizza?!

    1. It was adorable and had a lot of heart. Definitely a solid, grin inducing read

  2. I haven't heard of any of these books before, but they all seem really interesting! I like Ready to Fall's cover most, it's creative and eye-catching. The last sibling road trip story I read was Finding Paris by Joy Preble, and it featured two sisters trying to find each other. I might have to try Good and Gone to see if it stacks up!

    claire @ clairefy

    1. I didn't get the cover, until I read the part in the book where they do the trust exercise and they intertwine their hands together to catch someone falling. It was a beautiful way to show how Max was progressing through his issues and working towards trusting people again. Good and Gone was very good. I found myself totally absorbed in the story, which was equal parts fun and heartbreaking.

  3. Any Way You Slice It sounds adorable. :) And Ready to Fall sounds like such a YOU book. Max dealing with his grief (I know you love the grief books!) and believing the tumor had transferred to him. Sounds like he had a great family, too. So glad you enjoyed these!

    1. Slice was adorable. I feel like it would fit right in at entangled. I really did like Ready to Fall. It had a lot of moving parts, but the author brought them all together quite well, after she gutted me with all the mom-recollections.

  4. Good and Gone sounds like something I would enjoy. I do enjoy the Then and Now format. I would probably give the other two books a try as well. Glad you enjoyed them overall.

    1. I loved the search for the rock star and the way we were fed the story. The characters had an interesting dynamic too. I really enjoyed them all.

  5. Good and Gone and Ready to Fall sound great. I am a big fan of the then-and-now thing too! Any kind of interesting timeline, really. Also, love the Alice gif!

    1. They were both great, and showcased what I think is fantastic about YA - great character growth. The combination of feels and laughs definitely yielded a great reading experience for me.

  6. Oh wow, I can't believe all three of these are new to me! And the third one is a Harper book? It must be an enormous rock that I'm under. The "then" and "now" format doesn't usually work for me, but it is pretty neat. I'm glad you liked it. Excellent reviews!

    Have a great weekend, Sam. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    1. You know me, I 'm a contemporary-ho, and see them out.

  7. I love these reviews - and you did a great job, since I'm adding two out of three books to my TBR here :P
    I'm all in when it comes to pizza ahah, and that first book sounds adorable <3
    Good and Gone sounds so good as well, I love siblings stories and am such a huge fan of the "now" and "then" kind of stories. I think they're my favorite kind to read :)
    Thank you for the lovely reviews :)

    1. The first one is the lightest read, and the other two were more emotional, as they dealt with heavier issues, but all were great. Glad you are considering them.

  8. Any Way You Slice It by Kristine Carlson Asselin is on my TBR. I don't think my library has it though. Maybe our e-book system does?! who knows lol!! lovely reviews!