Monday, February 26, 2018

In a Nutshell Reviews

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

Where I Live
Brenda Rufener
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating:  5 out of 5 stars
Linden Rose has a big secret--she is homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her position as school blog editor, her best friends, Ham and Seung, and the promise of a future far away are what keep Linden under the radar and moving forward.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea's life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay more attention. And attention is the last thing she needs.

Linden knows the only way to put a stop to the violence is to tell Bea's story and come to terms with her own painful past. Even if that means breaking her rules for survival and jeopardizing the secrets she's worked so hard to keep.
I had originally re-arranged my weekly TBR to read a light-hearted romance before this one, because I suspected a story about a homeless teen and an abused teen would make me a little sad, and there were some parts where I felt sad (and mad), but mostly, this book made me feel happy.
  • Pro: Linden was so easy to root for. She essentially had so many things working against her and so many obstacles in her way, but she kept chasing her dream, day after day.  I will always root for a survivor, especially one, who was able to own my heart by the first chapter. 
  • Pro: Linden chose wisely, when she picked Ham and Seung as her friends. They both had so many wonderful qualities to admire, but mostly, they cared for Linden, and would do nice things for her on the sly, just to make her life easier. I adored these three together. 
  • Pro: Believe it or not, family was a big theme in this book. Linden's family was explored as well her "family", those friends that took her in and treated her as their own. Seung's mom was quite incredible. She would do all these lovely things for Linden, which made me totally understand what Linden meant when she compared Mrs. Rhee to her jersey jogger pants. Calling them "as cozy as she is". 
  • Pro: This book really gave me a new appreciation for all the little things I have and take for granted on a daily basis. 
  • Pro: I was quite impressed with the way Rufener tackled teen homelessness and abuse without neither diminishing the gravity of the topics nor making the story too heavy. It was quite a balancing act she accomplished, and I applaud her for it. 
  • Pro: This story is drenched in hope, and I have to tell, I really needed an injection of hope. 
  • Pro: The romance was precious. I adored watching these two tip toe around the attraction, as they grew more and more aware of their growing feelings. 
  • Pro: So. Many. Feels. But mostly, happy feels. 
  • Pro: Hooray for that ending! We got a jump ahead that was beyond my expectations, and gave me so many answers. Endings like this one are the best. 
There's a line in one of Ham's mob movies that defines family as who you are sworn to, not who you are born to. Friends included. My friends have become my family. My family is my friends. 
Overall: A wonderful story of one girl's struggle to survive, and her desire to find a place where she fit, which left me elated, hopeful, and full of joy.

Honor Code
Kiersi Burkhart
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Sam knows how lucky she is to be part of the elite Edwards Academy. As she dreams of getting into Harvard one day, she's willing to do anything to fit in and excel at the private high school. Even if that means enduring hazing, signing up for a sport she hates, and attending the school dance with an upperclassman she barely knows.

But when she learns the high cost of entry, will Sam be willing to bury the worst night of her life in order to "keep the community sacred"? As the line between truth and justice blurs, Sam must find out for herself what honor really means.
I am always intrigued by books set in boarding schools, and this one deals with the darker side of those institutions. Though multiple issues were touched upon, the one which caught, and kept my interest, revolved around sexual assault and the fallout experience by the women, who are brave enough to speak out.
  • Pro: The book was broken into three acts, each with a distinct focus in the story. I liked this division, which kept me very focused, and I also really liked the addition of the second POV, as she served a purpose I was not fully aware of until almost the end. 
  • Pro: Burkhart showed the good and the bad sides of boarding school. She introduced us to nice and not so nice people at said school, and I appreciated that she didn't paint the school and the people affiliated with the school as all bad. 
  • Con: Sam was a really complicated character, and I don't think we got to know her as much as I would have like to
  • Pro: BUT, I think that was the point. Part of her needed to be kept concealed in order for this story to work. 
  • Pro: The story definitely ramped up in Acts 2 and 3 as Sam prepared for and actively sought justice. These were my favorite parts of the book, and I loved seeing that side of Sam. 
  • Pro: There was this very awesome twist, which I only saw coming really close to the reveal. I tip my hat to Burkhart, because it was a great way to distinguish this story from a field of sexual assault stories. 
  • Pro: As a woman, I found myself angry and frustrated and nodding my head over and over again. There were so many things that happened in this book, which were appalling, but sadly, quite realistic. 
  • Pro: The ending had many elements that were not shocking, but I was pleased with the effect seeking justice had on the young women in the story. 
"This is the price for speaking up," I write. "This is why we so often stay quite. Who would willingly bring this into their life?"
Overall: An interesting and thought provoking look at rape culture and the repercussions survivors are forced to endure when they speak out, which left me simultaneously sad, frustrated, and angry.

This Heart of Mine
C.C. Hunter
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Mystery
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
A new heart saved her life—but will it help her find out what really happened to its donor?

Seventeen-year-old Leah MacKenzie is heartless. An artificial heart in a backpack is keeping her alive. However, this route only offers her a few years. And with her rare blood type, a transplant isn’t likely. Living like you are dying isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when a heart becomes available, she’s given a second chance at life. Except Leah discovers who the donor was — a boy from her school — and they’re saying he killed himself. Plagued with dreams since the transplant, she realizes she may hold the clues to what really happened.

Matt refuses to believe his twin killed himself. When Leah seeks him out, he learns they are both having similar dreams and he’s certain it means something. While unraveling the secrets of his brother’s final moments, Leah and Matt find each other, and a love they are terrified to lose. But life and even new hearts don’t come with guarantees. Who knew living, took more courage than dying?
I was drawn to this book, because it seemed to have a lot to offer. An ailing teen, romance, a mysterious death - I predicted tears and smiles from this one, and I did indeed cry and smile.
  • Pro: Leah was quite wonderful, and Hunter did such a fantastic job conveying her emotions. After having accepted her imminent death, Leah was trying to adjust to the possibility of a future, something she never thought she would have, and this prompted her to contemplate who this "new Leah" was. 
  • Pro: The romance was so sweet. From their first interaction, I was shipping these two. This was the second chance they never really thought they would get. After years of missed connections, fate puts them in each others orbit and also gave them quite an interesting thing to bond over. I must admit, the romance was probably my favorite part of the story, because, well, I love romance. 
  • Pro: Matt had quite a few swoony moments, and I liked that Hunter wrote him to be so sensitive. This was the boy I wanted for Leah. She had a tough time and deserved someone who was wonderful. 
  • Pro: Leah's doctor stole my heart. She was such a wonderfully written character, who shared quite a bit of wisdom with us during the story. 
  • Pro: Kudos for the present YA parents. Leah's parents were top notch. Maybe a little overprotective, but in all fairness, their only child was dying. 
  • Pro: There's a bunch of grieving in this book, and everyone knows how much I like that. The healing process was not one-size-fits all and I thought the exploration of the different characters' grief was quite honest. 
  • Con: I was not the biggest fan of the mystery element. It was ok, but honestly, I just wanted to focus on the romance between Matt and Leah, because I liked it so much. 
  • Pro: I think the mystery was supposed to get my emotions all heightened, but it was actually Leah's health that did that for me. I cared about her so much, and needed her to be able to enjoy some sort of life without constantly thinking about dying. 
  • Pro: I liked that Hunter showed us that even with a transplant, life is not easy. There are complications that can occur, and some limitations, but she also reminded us that every moment is precious and to savor them all. 
  • Pro: I am a registered organ donor and my daughter has been directed to donate my body to science, so I really appreciated that part of the story. I like seeing this topic getting a little attention. 
  • Pro: I shed a few tears during this story, but the tears really fell as I read Hunter's afterword. When reading the story, it was obvious that Hunter was very passionate about organ donation, but when I read why those happy tears that I love so much started falling. 

Overall: A heartwarming story, that combined grief, romance, and mystery, and left me with a whole lotta wonderful feels. 

BONUS: You can listen/read an interview with Hunter here.

** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

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


  1. I'm reading This Heart of Mine now, and I definitely agree with what you said about Leah's parents. They're fantastic, realistic, and PRESENT. <3 Not a fan of the rest of the book so far, though. :(

    I can't believe I haven't heard of Where I Live yet!!! Definitely adding it to my TBR now.

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    1. Overall, I enjoyed This Heart of Mine, though I feel like I would have enjoyed it more as a straight romance.

  2. I hadn't heard of Where I Live---your blog is dangerous to my TBR!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Where I Live was just such a wonderful read for me. I have read some the negative reviews, and they had problems with the writing, but I was so busy feeling so many feelings, I didn't notice any of the things they mentioned.

  3. This Heart of Mine sounds really good - I could almost do without the "mystery" part, though! Even just a focus on organ donation and how the MC adjusts to her new life would be good for me.

    1. I did overall enjoy This Heart of Mine. I just wish it was a regular romance, because I did like the dynamic between the two MCs, and I'm with you, just adjusting to having a new lease on life is enough to focus on.

  4. I will need to check out Where I Live. I would think the same thing with the summary that the book was heavy. I am glad that it was enjoyable. I love the idea of family coming through in this type of book. Great reviews!

    1. I was really surprised by how feel-good Where I Live was. I really expected it to bring me down, but it left me elated.

  5. Oh Where I Live is new to me. Definitely need to think about adding that one!

    1. If you like a good story of friendship, family, and survival, you will enjoy Where I Live

  6. Where I Live is the one that appeals to me the most. We have such a huge homeless problem here in Portland. I am so happy that this one is drenched with hope.

    1. Where I Live actually takes place in OR. I forget the name of the two, but it was small, and sort of rural. The whole concept of hiding in plain sight and people not seeing what's right in front of them was very interesting, and oh, this one left me happy and full of hope.

  7. I'm really glad to hear that Where I Live actually made you happy. I had it pegged as a much darker, sadder read so I'm glad I was wrong. Adding to my TBR right now!

    1. It surprised me in the best way. It wasn't that Rufener ignored the sad parts of homelessness, because we hear of how hard everyday things are for Linden, but there was more to the story than that.

  8. Where I Live sounds like it could be a tough read... but worth it. Anytime I’ve read a book with a homeless character (particularly a child) in it, my heart has broken. It’s such a basic human need (shelter) and reading someone’s experiences who doesn’t have that - it just does me in. I’ll have to add this one to my TBR.

    1. Tanya, it was so good. There were tough parts, but it was more feel-good than anything for me, because Rufener didn't make Linden a victim, she made her a survivor.