Monday, October 22, 2018

In a Nutshell Reviews

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

Robin Talley
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars
In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.
Two young women living in the nation's capital discover lesbian pulp fiction. Though their circumstances are quite different, they were both inspired by these books, which helped them gain a better understanding of themselves.
  • Pro: Talley expertly navigated the dual timelines, and the results were very successful. She achieved suspense, tension, and great impact via the story structure. 
  • Pro: Abby's research grabbed me and kept me captivated. I wasn't completely clueless about the questionable things that went on during the 1950s, but I did learn quite a bit. 
  • Pro: I hung on every word of Janet's story. It was so important for me, that she found happiness, and I shed tears for her, when I read of all the injustices and heartbreak she had to endure. 
  • Con: That said,  I did not feel as invested in Abby's part of the story. I felt like it wasn't focused, and I only seemed to care about her being successful with her research. 
  • Pro: Books within books don't always work for me, but Talley deftly wove three different pulp fiction tales into this story. The excerpts were perfect and perfectly placed for impact and meaning. 
  • Pro: There was something really awesome that happens at the end, which was nothing short of spectacular for me. I loved that Talley wrote the ending that way. 
Overall: An interesting and well executed look at one woman's struggle with identity, which shed a lot of light on LGBTQ history.

Four Three Two One
Courtney C. Stevens
Series: n/a
Age/Genre: Young Adult,
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating:  5 out of 5 stars
In this contemporary YA novel, a girl reunites with the three other survivors of a bus bombing that killed nineteen people, and together they face the secrets, struggles, and emotional warfare that each has been enduring.

Golden “Go” Jennings wasn’t supposed to be on Bus 21 the day it blew up in New York City. Neither was her boyfriend, Chandler. But they were. And so was Rudy, a cute stranger whom Go shared a connection with the night before. And Caroline, a girl whose silence ended up costing nineteen people their lives.

Though it’s been a year since the bombing, Go isn’t any closer to getting over what happened. Since Chan shuts down every time Go brings that day up, she decides to reach out to Rudy. Just like that, the two fall right back into their easy, deep connection. Facing the past head-on with Rudy has opened up a small window of healing Go never thought was possible. So she makes an impulsive decision: Round up the rest of the survivors and head to New York City. There they will board an art installation made of the charred remnants of Bus 21.

But things are never easy when it comes to rehashing the past. Uniting the four stirs up conflicting feelings of anger and forgiveness and shows them that, although they all survived, they may still need saving.
Go, Chan, Caroline, and Rudy all lost something that day on the bus. While some scars were more obvious than others, each one was harboring some pain and guilt, which was holding them back. Go was hoping that facing her fears at the exhibit would help propel her forward, but maybe she, and all the other survivors, would find the strength they needed before they arrived in New York.
  • Pro: This story was emotional and painful and wonderful. Stevens did such an incredible job helping me navigate the very complicated feelings these characters were experiencing, and I loved all the feels that were passed on to me. 
  • Pro: Survivor stories are always interesting to me. We automatically think of how lucky the they are, but I don't think one can fully understand the complex emotions at play for these people.  Four Three Two One was such a thoughtful look at the baggage they were stuck with following the event. Each of these survivors was harboring some guilt related to the bombing, and seeing its impact on their lives was saddening. 
  • Pro: I thought the story was structured really well. The story was told predominately from Go's point of view in the present, but we also got some chapters from past and present Caroline, and even a little bit of Rudy's viewpoint via his written work. I felt like I got a good look in their heads, and a better understanding of what they were experiencing via this format. 
  • Pro: The characters were all so well drawn, super likable, and so easy to root for. I even grew to love and care for Caroline, even though she was (rightfully) angry and damaged, because she was just as well crafted as the other characters. 
  • Pro: There were two really great side characters: Go's grandmother and Becky. Gram was an encouraging and supportive voice, who didn't let fear force her to discourage Go's ambitions, and Becky! She was the sunshine and the cheerleader for this group of survivors. I think she was really important to the story too, because she was a non-survivor in the group, and being on the outside of it all allowed her to be objective and see things more clearly at times. 
  • Pro: Post explosion, the four survivors had to embrace their new futures. Things happened as a result of the event, which altered their futures, and some of them needed a little nudge to keep moving towards that new destination. 
Overall: This was one fantastic non-road trip road trip. It was a beautiful story of the different ways we survive and the healing power of love, forgiveness, connection, and friendship.

** ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Just Pretending 
Kate and Leah Rooper
Series: The Chicago Falcons, #3
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Rating:  4 out of 5 stars
It's not easy being royal. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline wears her crown proudly, but between her duties and her overprotective big brother, the idea of romance is just a dream. But a chance encounter in Chicago changes all that….

Sure, seventeen-year-old Tyler Evans loves playing hockey, but he's more concerned about providing for his dad and little sister. Then he meets Eva--and falls head-over-heels in love—and he has two more problems. One, she's his best friend's little sister. Two, she wears a crown.

But then Eva accidentally mistakes Tyler for a visiting prince, and for the first time, Tyler doesn't feel like a nobody. He knows he has to tell her the truth…but not yet.

His plan? To keep up the royal charade as long as it takes to convince Eva he’s the guy for her. Even if he’s lying to everyone…including himself.

Disclaimer: May cause disillusionment. Those girls looking to find their Prince Charming might consider scouting out hockey rinks.
Tyler was the poor kid with the dead mom. Eva was the teen queen. Both felt the pressure of all their responsibilities, but maybe together, they could have everything they wanted and needed.
  • Pro: Tyler and Eva came from such different backgrounds, but surprisingly shared a lot of common ground. The Roopers did a great job drawing those parallels between the two, which I thought lent some credibility to the friendship and the romance that developed between them. 
  • Pro: These two tugged on my heartstrings. They just wanted to be seen beyond the labels they had been"assigned", because there was a lot more to both of them then met the eye. I was so happy they found each other, and could share all of themselves, not just the parts people wanted to see. 
  • Pro: There was this wonderful message of trusting in others and sharing one's burdens, which I liked a lot.  
  • Pro: Ty and Eva were super cute and swoony together. They could really talk to each other, and share their hopes and fears. They could also have fun with one another, and the happiness they enjoyed together was wonderful. 
  • Pro: As in the previous book, the Falcon family came through to support their own. I never tire of stories that feature family-we-picked-ourselves. These characters were sort of doubly lucky too, because they were blessed with great families and great found-families. 
  • Pro: This was the final book in the series, and I really grew to love the Falcon family. I was so pleased with the epilogue, because the Roopers gave all our Falcons great starts to their futures. 
Overall:  A wonderful ending for a series that was filled with friends, family, swoony romance, fun antics, and lots of love. 

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


  1. Pulp and Four Three Two One stand out within these three -- and I love the cover for Pulp. I like your point about survivor stories being more complex than we think -- that would make the book a must read if the author delves into that.

    1. The cover of Pulp is what initially caught my attention. I think it's difficult to totally understand everything a survivor deals with, and Stevens did a good job giving me something to think about

  2. Four Three Two One sounds pretty amazing. I'm always intrigued about the aftermath of tragic events (in a curious/concerned way, not in a morbid way) and it seems like Stevens showcases that really well in this one.

    1. I love Stevens! I really need to get on her backlist. It was more about healing, which is how I prefer my tragedy stories.

  3. Robin Talley has always been "okay" for me but I love multiple timelines!

    Just Pretending sounds really fun!

    1. Janet's story was just so powerful. Abby's didn't really stand a chance. Though seeing 1955 through a 2017 lens gave it an interesting slant

  4. I had not heard of any of these books. I probably prefer the Robin Talley one because no royalty in YA for me, but the second book sounds even rougher than the Talley. I'm glad you liked these books overall.

    1. They both had just the right amount of weight, and really uplifting endings

  5. Four Three Two One is on my wish list. I love her books so much and glad to see you enjoyed this one. Great reviews!

    1. It was really good. She peeled back the layers in a great way in revealing what was driving each survivors behavior

  6. Oh dear! Once again I’m not familiar with any of these. It’s becoming apparent that I’ve fallen if the YA contemporary bandwagon which is a shame because it’s one of my favorite genres. The road trip one sounds fun. I love a good road trip book.

    1. I loved each and every second of Four Three Two One. What a beautiful story Stevens gave us. I am all about the contemporaries, so I will try to keep you in the loop.

  7. Four Three Two One sounds so powerful! Definitely adding that one to my TBR.

    1. It was emotional, but the characters were also so interesting. I loved learning about the Hive - the commune, where Go and Chan grew up, and their history! Caroline had a really painful storyline, and Rudy was just a profile in courage and how having a positive attitude goes a long way. It was really good.

  8. I'm glad to hear you really liked Four Three Two One. I'm definitely curious about it. Sorry you didn't love ALL of Pulp; I was hopeful for that one.


    1. I wasn't totally disappointed by Pulp. I feel like the story delivered some of what I was expecting. I just wan't into Abby's part of the story.

  9. I've really been looking forward to Pulp. I hadn't heard of the other two but they both sound great.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. There are a lot of things to love about Pulp and maybe you will connect better with Abby than I did.

  10. Sounds like some good reading lately! I love when that happens. I just finished Bring Me Back and I am now reading Sadie and I am enjoying them a bunch. So two for two is good for me. Great reviews and I have to pick up Pulp and Four Three Two One.


    1. I liked Sadie a lot. It was really dark for me, but I thought it was so well told. The podcast was a fantastic way to get out of Sadie's head.

  11. Ah I understand why you didn't like Pulp so much if you couldn't connect to one side of the story and only really cared about one more than the other! I have had that before as well, and it can be a bit of a bummer on the story. I also really like the sound of 4 3 2 1. I understand about how the baggage can be different and also affect people in different ways, and I am glad it discussed that very well and really gave some more insight into it.