Book Review: The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood Book Cover

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood Book CoverI’m a sucker for a good illustrated cover – and The Cactus has a gorgeous one – however, after reading the book, I can unequivocally say that the cover is misleading. Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with this one – I picked it up because it was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection. Typically, her selections are pretty darn good, but unfortunately, this one was a huge miss.

Even the prickliest cactus has its flower…For Susan Green, messy emotions don’t fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic and an “interpersonal arrangement” that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.When she learns that her mother’s will inexplicably favors her indolent brother, Edward, Susan’s already dismantled world is sent flying into a tailspin. As Susan’s due date draws near and her family problems become increasingly difficult to ignore, Susan finds help and self-discovery in the most unlikely of places.

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Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

Photo of the book Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

Photo of the book Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt

I’ve been on a kick of revisiting young adult contemporary’s that came out around the time I was in high school and middle school. I’ve reread some Sarah Dessen books, a few Rainbow Rowell books, and a few newer YA contemporaries that came out after I was in high school. With this nostalgia kick I have going I decided to pick up a book that I have had on my shelf since middle school. Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt had a certain sense of appeal to me it seemed to promise decent levels of angst as well as a fun road trip. What I wasn’t expecting were vile, sexist characters and an overdrawn plot.

This is Jordan and Courtney, totally in love. Sure, they were an unlikely high school couple. But they clicked; it worked. They’re even going to the same college, and driving cross-country together for orientation.

Then Jordan dumps Courtney—for a girl he met on the Internet. It’s too late to change plans, so the road trip is on. Courtney’s heartbroken, but figures she can tough it out for a few days.

La la la—this is Courtney pretending not to care. But in a strange twist, Jordan cares. A lot.

Turns out, he’s got a secret or two that he’s not telling Courtney. And his secrets have everything to do with why they broke up, why they can’t get back together, and how, in spite of it all, this couple is destined for each other.

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What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

Have you ever read a book that just immediately throws you back to being in middle school, reading in a stuffy library while trying to avoid going back to class? Well, I’m no longer in grade school (thank God) but it is fun to read a book that brings you back to that feeling of youth and what it was like to get into young adult literature in the first place. For me, it was authors like Sarah Dessen and Ann Brashares who got me into YA – they provided realistic representation of what it was like to be a teenager. While Julie Buxbaum wasn’t around when I was in middle school and high school, her books really remind me a lot of the books I loved at that time. What to Say Next is another phenomenal, realistic book about what it means to be in high school and seek acceptance while also trying to be being true to yourself.

Two struggling teenagers find an unexpected connection just when they need it most.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

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Opposite of Always by Justin A Reynolds

I’ve been on a bit of a roll of time traveling books lately – Recursion by Blake Crouch, the Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver – and they’ve all been phenomenal. So when I saw there was a YA rom-com time travel book coming out, I got really excited about it and couldn’t wait to see the author’s spin on the trope. Plus, I don’t seem to read many books in YA genre with male narrators, so I was excited to get a bit more diversity in my reading. Unfortunately, this book relied far too heavily on the time travel mechanism and failed to really tell a story. It’s deeply repetitive, the romance feels forced and inorganic, and none of the characters are likable. Altogether, this is a nonsensical take on a fun narrative mechanism.

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.

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Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman

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The Bachelor is my go to guilty pleasure TV – it’s romantic, funny, and dramatic. Plus, I’ve been able to set up a viewing party with my friends, so it’s now become a social habit for me. Naturally, I wanted to find a way to dive deeper into the series and find out how this bizarre TV show is made. Plenty of previous contestants have written tell-all books in the past, but most of them felt like quick cash grabs and a way to hang onto fame. While Bachelor Nation goes a little deeper than the individual contestant books, it still lacks the depth and juicy details that most Bachelor fans would hope for.

For sixteen years and thirty-six seasons, the Bachelor franchise has been a mainstay in American TV viewers’ lives. Since it premiered in 2002, the show’s popularity and relevance have only grown—more than eight million viewers tuned in to see the conclusion of the most recent season of The Bachelor.

Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise—ABC even banned her from attending show events after her coverage of the program got a little too real for its liking. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show’s inner workings: what it’s like to be trapped in the mansion “bubble”; dark, juicy tales of producer manipulation; and revelations about the alcohol-fueled debauchery that occurs long before the Fantasy Suite.

Kaufman also explores what our fascination means, culturally: what the show says about the way we view so-called ideal suitors; our subconscious yearning for fairy-tale romance; and how this enduring television show has shaped society’s feelings about love, marriage, and feminism by appealing to a marriage plot that’s as old as the best of Jane Austen.

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