Monday, April 9, 2018

In a Nutshell Reviews

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

Sneaking Out
Chuck Vance
Series: Chased, #1
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Publisher: Dunemere Books
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Could you sleep next to a murderer?

Luke Chase—yes, that Luke Chase, a modern hero ripped from the headlines—didn’t mean to get caught up in Mrs. Heckler’s murder. He just wanted to hook up with the hot new British girl at St. Benedict’s, and if that meant sneaking out to the woods after hours, then so be it. But little did he know someone would end up dead right next to their rendezvous spot, and his best friend and roommate Oscar Weymouth would go down for it. With suspects aplenty and a past that’s anything but innocent, Luke Chase reluctantly calls on his famous survival skills to find the true killer.

For fans of “A Study in Charlotte” and boarding school lit, “Sneaking Out” (book one in the “Chased” series) immerses readers in the privileged prep school world, with a mystery that exposes the dark side of life on a residential high school campus.
Sneaking out was a right of passage for all boarders at St. Benedict's, but maybe Luke would have been better off keeping to the straight and narrow. What should have been fun, put him right in the middle of a murder mystery, and re-awakened fears he has buried from his past.
  • Pro: Boarding school settings are a favorite of mine, and Vance actually gives us a pretty good look into school life and the culture of St. B's. 
  • Pro: Luke's backstory was awesome. The whole Kidnap Kid thing really added an extra layer to Luke, and I liked the way Vance worked in the flashbacks and complications that accompanied his resulting fame. 
  • Pro: Pippa also had an interesting backstory, and I hope the teaser at the end of the book was legit, because I think it would be fantastic if her mystery was part of the the Chased series. 
  • Pro: Vance assembled quite a suspect list, and he did a really good job keeping me guessing. There were many times I was ready to dismiss a suspect, and he would reveal something that would create doubt in my mind. That's the way I like my mysteries. 
  • Pro: Luke's mentor is sort of creepy and scary, but I am intrigued as to what he has in store for us. 
  • Pro: Bromances always make me happy, and I especially like when they arise between two unlikely people, such as Oscar and Luke. 
  • Pro: I am really excited to get the next book. That speaks volumes for how fun and entertaining this book was. 
Overall: A fabulous mystery that kept me guessing and has me wanting more.

Emergency Contact
Mary H.K. Choi
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.
I was really excited about this book. I would like to think there is someone in this world for everybody, whether on a romantic or platonic level, who will serve as their "person", that someone who will be there for you, and will pick you up when your down, and I was not disappointed by Penny and Sam's story.
  • Pro: I love this concept of having "your person", that someone who will support you, listen to you, and will bring you comfort, and I was really happy that Penny and Sam were able to find each other and fill that role for one another. 
  • Pro: Both Penny and Sam were grappling with some serious emotional baggage. How lucky were they to finally find someone, who they could trust, and would help them "unpack" some of that baggage. 
  • Pro: Lots of introspection in this one, which I enjoyed, as it was well done. Penny and Sam both ran quite deep, and had a lot to think about and share.
  • Pro: This courtship was so 21st century. First, there were a ton of texts exchanges, which later evolved to phone calls, and then actual face-to-face interactions. And the fear they had of taking it outside the phone was too real. I loved it! 
  • Pro: I was totally in love with both Sam and Penny for the first half of the book. I could not get enough of their thoughts and banter. I just loved every second of it. 
  • Con: There was a bit of time given to Penny's sic-fi story, but I thought it was a little overkill. I think it was supposed to correspond to her personal growth, but I felt like it went on for a little too long. 
  • Pro: It was easy to relate to both Sam and Penny in some way. I felt their pain, loneliness, and confusion, and I wanted to hug them both, and help them in any way I could. 
  • Pro: These two had the hardest shells around them, and it was truly gratifying to see them begin to crack. Penny and Sam each experience a lot of growth, and I, for one, was happy with the leaps they made. I was especially pleased with the peace they made with their family situations. 
  • Pro: A cast of interesting and colorful characters added to my enjoyment of this tale. 
Overall: A lot deeper than I expected, and a rather beautiful look at how life can be complicated and messy, but so much better when we share it with someone.

**Bonus: 5 Reasons You Must Read Emergency Contact

Someday, Somewhere
Lindsay Champion
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: KCP Loft
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Dominique is a high school junior from a gritty neighborhood in Trenton, where she and her mom are barely getting by.

Ben is a musical prodigy from the Upper East Side, a violinist at a top conservatory with obsessive talent and a brilliant future.

When Dom's class is taken to hear a concert at Carnegie Hall, she expects to be bored out of her mind. But then she sees the boy in the front row playing violin like his life depends on it --- and she is transfixed.

Posing as an NYU student, Dom sneaks back to New York City to track down Ben Tristan, a magnetic genius who whisks her into a fantasy world of jazz clubs and opera, infatuation and possibility. Each sees something in the other that promises to complete them.

As Dom's web of lies grows, though, so does Ben's obsessive need to conquer Beethoven's famous Kreutzer Sonata. But Ben's genius, which captivates Dominique, conceals a secret, and the challenges of her life may make it difficult to help him.

Alternating perspectives and an unreliable narrator create suspense and momentum, romance and heartbreak. Author Lindsay Champion's deep roots in theater and music are evident on every page --- structured like a sonata with hints of West Side Story, her debut novel hits all the right notes.
This love-at-first-sight story had me instantly hooked, and I kept reading because I was so invested in the outcome for these two.
  • Pro: I was instantly in love with Dom and cheering for her the whole time. I wanted more for her, and was beyond happy with where Champion took her story. 
  • Pro: Ben was so intense. I have a certain admiration for the dedication those who perform at an elite level have, and that intensity came through ten-fold with Ben. Watching him spiral out was really difficult, because I wanted him to succeed. The look we got into his world was quite intriguing as well, and I found all the musical references fascinating. 
  • Pro: The romance was wonderful! From the meet-cute to how Ben found Dom again. It all made my heart flutter. 
  • Pro: The setting was wonderful. I have a special place in my heart for NYC. I lived there until I was in my teens, and it is still my hometown. I love revisiting places I know, and Champion took us on a fun tour. 
  • Con: I had such a love/hate thing with the ending. I felt like I had enough closure for most of the characters, but I was still left a little wanting.  
  • Pro: These kids were my kind of people, as they shared my love for old movies, especially musicals.  
  • Pro: The mental health issues were well done. I diagnosed Ben well before his problems were acknowledged in the story. 
  • Pro: Cass was a top-notch friend. I absolutely adored him, and you could see how much he loved Dom. It was in everything he did for her. 
  • Pro: Dom's life was not easy. She was poor, and lived in an unsafe neighborhood, hoping to have enough to make ends meet, but Dom and her mom had each other, and their bond was quite beautiful. 
  • Pro: I loved the way Champion divided the book, and matched the pacing to it's musical equivalent. Ben was learning this sonata, and at one point, he explained the three movements of it, and I thought using the movements was an interesting way to divide the book. 
  • Pro: Though the book deals with some heavy issues, it was never too heavy. 
Overall: An equally heartbreaking and heartwarming story. 

** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

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


  1. A couple of these re on my tbr but I haven't paid attention to any reviews until now. I am so happy to see all of the pro thoughts on Emergency Contact. And I am totally okay with it being deeper than expected. And despite not having as much closure as you hoped for Someday, Somewhere I'm glad you were able to enjoy it. I look forward to that one too!

    1. Emergency Contact was quite enjoyable. I was fully vested in Sam and Penny and I found them quite amusing and interesting as well. I really did enjoy Someday, Somewhere, if you ever read it, you will know exactly why I complained about the ending.

  2. I have Emergency Contact on my TBR because I got sent a finished copy and I'm so glad to hear it was a good book. It definitely sounds like a deeper story than I expected.
    Someday, Somewhere has such a pretty cover! Glad you enjoyed that one too.

    1. Penny and Sam both had some stressful childhoods, with Sam's being way worse, but I really liked that Choi explored and confront these issues.

  3. Sneaking Out sounds great! I love a mystery that keeps you guessing and that you think you have it figured out and something else comes to light. I also like the boarding school idea. Great review!

    1. I have been having really good luck with these boarding school mysteries. I am absolutely looking forward to continuing this series.

  4. AHHH EMERGENCY CONTACT. I finally received my pre-order for this book and I can't wait to finally read it, it is one of my most anticipated reads and it sounds amazing. I am so happy you enjoyed it!
    I also heard great things about Someday, Somewhere and, even if I am not a fan of the insta-love, it still sounds like a lovely story :)
    Great reviews! :) x

    1. Yeah for book mail! I hope you enjoy Emergency Contact when you read it. I guess it's instalove, but there is so much more to the Someday, Somewhere. The romance is part of it, but it's more about these two people finding their way in this world, and their meeting helped them see the path.

  5. I'm so happy to hear you liked Sneaking Out. I have it in my TBR pile, and I've been looking forward to starting it. You know how much I love boarding school books lol And that's awesome that the mystery kept you guessing. I completely agree with you on Emergency Contact. I love the idea of "my person" (though I can't think of that phrase without thinking of Grey's Anatomy and Christina and Meredith) and I thought Mary did such a great job of exploring that bond. And yeah Penny's sci-fi story was a bit much at times... Someday, Somewhere is on my wish list. It sounds like my kind of book, and you have me curious about the ending now! Lindsay's actually doing a YA panel at one of the bookstores near me in May so I'm really hoping I can go. Great reviews! :)

    1. Sneaking Out was a nice surprise. I didn't have any sort of expectations, and I really enjoy it. I totally rushed to put this post out and didn't add my Mer & Christina gif. --sigh-- They always come to my mind when I think of "my person". Glad it wasn't just me that thought the sci-fi story went on a little too long. Someday, Somewhere was a really beautiful story of finding your self and making your path. The romance is part of the story, not the whole. Where is the panel?

  6. I was really close to buying Emergency Contact a couple of weeks ago, but held off because I haven't seen too many reviews of it. It's definitely one I want to read soon. I haven't read Fangirl, but you mentioning the character's sci-fi story taking space reminded me of it.

    1. Penny is in a writing class in college, and there is this story she is writing, which I think has parallels to her own growth in the story.

  7. SO MANY BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME OMG!!! I was already super-excited for the latter two and I'm even more hyped now. I'm glad they all worked for you, Sam- great reviews! I think I'm most excited for Emergency Contact, but I could also do with a good mystery so I need to check out Sneaking Out too! Thanks for bringing it on my radar!

    Ruzaika @ The Regal Critiques

    1. Seriously, that is going on my tombstone. Emergency Contact was a great book, and I can see it appealing to a lot of readers. I am a character driven reader and I found myself fully immersed in Sam and Penny's lives. Sneaking Out was a random pick and it ended up being excellent. Again, great characters, but because it's a mystery, you also had a lot more plot.

  8. I do like boarding school settings and mysteries- what is it about them??- so Sneaking Out looks good to me. Emergency Contact sounds good too

    1. I really liked that Vance didn't just set the book in a boarding school. He revealed some of the culture and the day to day lives of boarding school students. It was a bigger part of the story than just backdrop.

  9. I kept looking at Emergency Contact because of the great cover, but kept thinking it was probably too YA romance-y for me. After reading your thoughts about it I think I might like it. 📚

    1. The cover really is awesome and Choi writes great dialog/monologue too. Most of the book focuses on the individual characters' personal issues and their friendship. Though each has some sort of romantic feelings for each other, they have a lot of other messy things to work through.

  10. I have been unsure about Sneaking Out and Emergency Contact. I am really excited to give Sneaking Out a try because I love a great mystery that will keep me on my toes. I am glad that you enjoyed all of these so much. :)

  11. I’m interested in Emergency Contact. Just the concept alone intrigues me. Both MC’s sound so likable and the fact that there’s great banter... I’m a sucker for it. :)

    1. Emergency Contact had tons to love, but just the characters alone was enough to keep me reading.

  12. Emergency Contact is a book I have been seeing come up quite often and I really am curious about it now. I want to know more about it for myself and might have to read it. I love how 21st century the romance is. Sounds good to me!

    1. If you like a good character driven story, you would enjoy it. I think Choi crafted some fantastic characters in this one.

  13. Ohhh I think Sneaking our is my fave out of these! I like the sound of like so much!

    1. I really enjoyed that book. It had a lot of great elements, and I am looking forward to more of Chase's adventure.