Monday, August 20, 2018

In a Nutshell Reviews

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

The State of Grace
Rachael Lucas
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
Whip-smart, hilarious, and unapologetically honest, Rachel Lucas's The State of Grace is a heartwarming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

"Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost."

Grace is autistic and has her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more.

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own.
I was really curious about this book for several reasons. I was eager to read an #OwnVoices YA romance featuring a character with ASD, as this is not something I see often, and I must say, my experience was rather wonderful. NOTE: I have read a ton of reviews from reviewers with ASD, and all approved of the rep.
  • Pro: I'd be hard pressed to find a person out there, who didn't fall in love with Grace. She was funny, smart, and really honest. Her commentary on most situations left me smiling and sometimes even laughing out loud. She didn't always do everything right, but she always tried her best and had good intentions. I know I was rooting for her. 
  • Pro: I wasn't surprised to read that Lucas was autistic and also, the mother of an autistic child, because Grace's emotions regarding her autism came across as wholly authentic. Not only did I get keen insight into her feelings, but Lucas also shared some many important ideas about autism and people with autism. 
  • Pro: The romance was so adorable. The nerdy conversations and awkwardness kept me grinning, and all those firsts were terribly sweet. So, yeah, I shipped them. I would have loved to get to know Gabe a little better, but what I did see was pretty wonderful. 
  • Pro: Grace's grandma was a pretty awesome human. Her love and acceptance of Grace was really beautiful, and she just was so in tune with her. 
  • Pro: The friendship between Anna and Grace was lovely. Anna was really supportive, and had an understanding of Grace's needs. It pained me, when Grace would question why someone like Anna would be her friend, because it was obvious that Anna loved Grace dearly and also got lots of their relationship. 
  • Pro: Lucas did a beautiful job conveying Grace's state of mind. In the part where she was really stressed, the words whipped me about and pulled me into her emotional state. She also deftly illustrated how much effort it took for Grace to adapt to neurotypical expectations. 
Overall:  This was a terribly sweet, heartwarming, and touching story of a neurodiverse girl in a neurotypical world, which was told with humor, honesty, and quite a bit of positivity.

Kiss Me In Paris
Catherine Rider
Series: Christmas Romance, #2
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Serena has just flown all the way to Paris for a special pre-Christmas weekend with her sister, Lara. They plan to retrace the steps of their parents' long-ago honeymoon in Paris, and create a scrapbook for their bereaved mother to remember it by.

It's supposed to be serious sister bonding...until Lara takes off with her boyfriend instead.

Jean-Luc is Serena's Plan B, a friend of a friend of Lara's, who has some space in a place where Serena can stay. Just like his latest relationship, his photography final has been an epic fail. He has one night to retake all his pictures if he is to stay in school.

Jean-Luc can't stand Serena's loud voice or her bright orange sneakers.

Serena can't stand his haughty manners or the way his camera is always in her face.

Together, though, they set out into a cold night that will warm their hearts, creating unforgettable photos and fresh romantic sparks in the City of Lights.
Rider took us on another whirlwind romance, this time, we visited The City of Light. We might have been in a different city, but we were still treated to all the charm of her previous book.
  • Pro: We were in Paris! I thought Paris was a really beautiful city, and it's always nice taking a trip there via a book. 
  • Pro: Charlotte and Anthony made a few appearance. I didn't realize that Rider was going to connect this book to Kiss Me in New York, but I was so happy to get a little bit of an update on those two. 
  • Pro: I wasn't totally sold on Jean-Luc, but I did buy into him a lot more, when he let down his armor and we got to see HIM a little more. 
  • Pro: This romantic tour was not all it was cracked up to be. I really wanted Serena to accomplish what she set out for, but I also wanted her to find her own way. It was a pretty complicated personal journey for Serena, however, she learned a lot and worked through some of her issues, as did Jean Luc. I found I did care about the characters, and that's always important for me. 
  • Pro/Con: There were some fun scenes between Serena and Jean Luc, and some really sweet and tender ones too. I just wish there had been more, because I feel like we didn't get to spend enough time with just them. The other love interests added to the story and helped clarify some things about Serena and Jean-Luc's, but they also took time away from the central romance. 
  • Pro: The ending convinced me to give it the extra half star. It was fun and cute and all that, but the epilogue really delighted me. I always want to know more about where things are going, and Rider gave me that, AND I loved the direction she was pointing all the characters in too.  
Overall: This was a very sweet, all-in-one-day romance, which was filled with Parisian hijinks, old friends, and quite a few feels.

Beautiful Mess
Claire Christian
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Text Publishing
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars
Since Ava lost Kelly, things haven’t been going so well. Even before she gets thrown out of school for shouting at the principal, there’s the simmering rage and all the weird destructive choices. The only thing going right for Ava is her job at Magic Kebab.

Which is where she meets Gideon. Skinny, shy, anxious Gideon. A mad poet and collector of vinyl records with an aversion to social media. He lives in his head. She lives in her grief. The only people who can help them move on with their lives are each other.
The title did a good job setting me up for a story that was both beautiful and messy. This book was a total emotional rollercoaster, and I have to admit, I really loved the ride.
  • Pro: My heart belongs to Gideon. I fell in love with this awkward, tenderhearted, skinny boy, who wrote amazing slam poetry, loved his family to pieces, and bravely fought his depression. 
  • Pro: The poetry featured in this book was incredible. I don't think any of the poems failed to bring tears to my eyes, but I also loved that Christian put a spotlight on how amazing art is as an outlet for pain. 
  • Pro: Not only did this book have incredible poetry, there were also a myriad of letters between Ava and Gideon, which were so sweet and funny and made my heart do a little flip flop. 
  • Pro: Both Gideon and Ava scored in the family department. Ava's dad was trying so hard to support his daughter as she grieved, and he even went to bat for her in some tough situations. His love for Ava was obvious, and they shared a really lovely connection. Gideon's moms were too fabulous and so was his sister. I loved their dynamic, and there were so many heartwarming on-page moments with them. 
  • Pro: I was really pleased with the way all the mental health issues were addressed. There was a positive stance towards medication and therapy, as well as alternatives to talk therapy. There were times, when Kelly or Gideon were trying to help people understand their depression, which really hit home for me, because they totally captured my own feelings. 
  • Con: The whole time I was reading this book, I was thinking "5-stars", but then at 91%, Christian did something that made me yell, "WTF". It sort of frustrated me. 
  • Pro: BUT, she did give me a nice, jump-ahead ending, which left me feeling happy and hopeful. 
Overall:  A beautiful and messy story of grief and loss, told with humor and lots of heart. 

** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

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


  1. I didn't love Kiss Me in Paris. I wanted more out of the romance I think. State of Grace sounds really good. Great reviews!

    1. I did not like Paris as much as NY, but I still thought it was cute, and the ending was really strong. State of Grace really surprised me. I found it quite wonderful.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed all of these! They're all new to me, but Beautiful Mess sounds really good! I'm curious to know what Christian did to make you drop half a star... Thanks for sharing!

    1. Beautiful Mess was a very beautiful mess. Christian just did this whole hand grenade thing, when I was in a happy spot. She made lemonade out of that lemon mess, but it just really upset me at the time.

  3. Looks like another fun bunch of books. I hate when characters do something or make a choice that is so astounding that it actually drops my rating. That’s one bad choice.

    1. The very end of the book was descent, and if she had given me just a little bit more, I might have been able to forgive her. But, the book was still really wonderful (obviously, I gave it 4.5).

  4. These all sound great! I especially like the sounds of Beautiful Mess. Great reviews.

    1. My heart is doing all sorts of strange things just thinking of Beautiful Mess. It was a really lovely story.

  5. I love your to the point reviews. I am really excited about Beautiful Mess, so I am happy that you enjoyed it so much. It sounds like it will require a box of tissues, so I will read it when I am prepared for those feels. ;)

    1. Beautiful Mess has some really painful moments, but it's so wonderful when Ava and Gideon are on page together or when Gideon is on page. Seriously, I just adored him.

  6. Kiss Me in Paris sounds cute, although a little weird to just wander around a new city with a stranger! I think that was part of my issue with the original story, too. But, it's Paris - I can't resist that!

    1. He was a friend of a friend, so sort of a stranger (?). I think a lot of people wish Rider had let Jean-Luc and Serena have more time together, but you know, all in one day romances - tough choices must be made.

  7. I've seen a few mixed reviews for Kiss Me in Paris. I still want to read it because Paris! but I think I'll be lowering my expectations a little bit. Beautiful Mess though, wow! That one definitely sounds like my kind of read.

    1. It wasn't bad, but I really wanted more of the central romance. I liked both main characters, and the ending was really good. But, I would say Beautiful Mess was the best of the bunch for me, which probably isn't fair to compare them to each other, because you know, those books that are more emotionally charged seem to get me every time.

  8. I love how sweet these are and how sometimes sweet just hits the spot.

  9. It sounds like you really enjoyed reading Beautiful Mess and it left you on a mess of emotions! The Paris book looks fun and I love visiting Paris through reads too, and comparing it to my own experience. But it's the first book which really catches my eye of the three of these because it sounds like the autism representation is done so well, and it seems knowingly so from Lucas having people with autism in her life.

    1. I think Beautiful Mess and Grace are not new, but new US releases. I really loved them both. Lucas is actually ASD, and when I think about past rep I have read, I could really see the difference in the way she wrote her character.