Book Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Summary: Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous-6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide.

There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS--Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.




Release Date: May 2018
Age Group: YA, Contemporary
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
I've been sitting on this review for a month because I just didn't know how to write what I felt about it. I'm an ice queen. I can compartmentalize feelings in less than 5 seconds but this book hit the Mom in me. My most cherished role. At the surface this was a crass, funny, coming-of-age story but at the core it dives into the complex issues our youth face each day-- sexuality, socioeconomic distress, religion and uncertainty all mixed with the typical high school experience of being inexperienced. 

By nature I am conservative with flares of liberalism. I am not left. I am not right. I am for the legalization of marijuana (for medical use) and staunchly anti-abortion. I strive for a bit of yin & yang. Let's be clear, I am no saint. I silently judge at Wal-Mart, snarky remarks are my forte and I am opinionated. 

Did I agree with all the views of this book? No. Did I agree with some? You bet. I try to always step back and see situations from others perspectives and sometimes agree to disagree. I'll always love people, even in the crappiest of circumstances. By nature I am a do'er and I try to stay afloat with action. But a lot of times I have to remind myself that people's opinions are like butt-holes, they all stink. 

With that said, I really enjoyed Neanderthal. It was incredibly honest, hilarious, sad, sweet, at times intolerant and still hopeful. The first 5 pages had me laughing so hard that Sweet Stuff actually threatened to kick me out of bed! 15 years and I have never achieved this crowning threat... I seriously couldn't stop giggling. 

Neanderthal (Cliff) was basically written after my brother. If drinking and not careful, the phrases and comments of Cliff would make you spew water. Yeah, no drinking during this read. Cliff was so intelligent and yet a victim of circumstance... sounds like 90% of the youth I interact with. Yet he persisted. 

This is not a clean read, this is a raw read. It has more of a realistic image of what life is like for most teens today. There are foul-mouthed teens, drugs, homophobia, parental abuse, confusion of sexuality and religious instability. My biggest complaint was the overuse of the F-bomb. Seriously NOT.A.FAN. 

Just about every worry I have as a mother popped-up:

Will my kids be confident enough to stand up for what they believe?
Will my kids be confident enough to stand up for those that can't stand for themselves?
Will they remember that it's better to be kind than right? 

Will I eventually want to beat up a child? 😁 just kidding... kind of... ahhhh, Mom'ing is hard y'all πŸ’†πŸΌ

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is more than a coming-of-age story, it is a window into our society today as seen by our {confused/misplaced/forgotten/innocent} youth.

Don't read it to agree. Don't read it to disagree. Read it to be informed. Read it to know the struggles of our youth today. Read it to be a better friend. Read it to decide what you can stand for and what you stand against. Most important, whatever you do, do it with kindness and compassion. Don't tear down those that disagree with you. Be the example of what you "preach". And for crying out loud stop saying the F-word! Get a thesaurus and choose another expletive to express yourself.


Book Review: Unraveled (Perfected #3) by Kate Jarvik Birch

Summary: Ella isn’t anyone’s pet anymore, but she’s certainly not free.

After exposing the dark secrets about NuPet’s breeding program, forcing them to repeal the law that allowed genetically modified girls to be kept as pets, she thought girls like her would finally be free. She never dreamed that it would backfire. NuPet may have convinced the public of their intentions to assimilate pets back into society, but Ella knows it’s a lie.

They aren’t planning mass rehabilitation...they’re planning a mass extermination.

Now, with the help of a small group of rebels, Ella and Penn, the boy she’d give up her life for, set out to bring down NuPet for good. But when her group gets implicated in a string of bombings, no one is safe. If she can’t untangle the web of blackmail and lies that extends far beyond NuPet’s reach, she won’t just lose her chance at freedom, she’ll lose everyone she loves.






Release Date: April 2018
Age Group: YA, Dystopian
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
The covers get me every time! Makes me want to go to a ball... and wait for some Supreme Commander to bust in and make the world all Handmaids Tale'ish... then I would quickly transform into Katniss and shoot a freaking arrow at the Commanders head (it hits the target of course, I'm Katniss) and then we go back to my dang dream ball!

Anywhoo. #coolstorybro The cover art for this series have been exceptional!

I'll be perfectly honest, I was completely unsettled about this book. I've had these great adventures before and then the author freaking ruins my life and DESTROYS the characters and/or plot... I was nervous. Would I have to break-up with Birch? Would I have to award her the #Rothed #hashtag or would she go down as a dystopian prowess? πŸ’†πŸΌ

The wait was so worth it.
 πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯She killed it people!πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Unraveled started and ended with a bang! It was fast-paced from beginning to end. If I didn't love my ombre nails so much I would have bit them off, instead I settled for LOADS of popcorn and coconut Bai.

It was no surprise that Ella and Penn were drug through one pile of crap to the next. This world was normal yet so abnormal, it felt real. The themes in Unraveled were definitely feminist and politically driven but VERY well done. I loved that Penn followed Ella, a strong, not totally independent, woman driven by a noble purpose-- FREEDOM.

This wasn't a story that wrapped with a pretty pink bow. People died, stuff was always blowing up and the twists and turns kept me on edge. A few of the realities of what enslavement offers to humankind made my stomach hurt. The thought that this was fiction made it a little easier to swallow but then there was the reminder that enslavement is happening in the real world, our world, and that made me sick.

Missy. That girl was a fighter. Her fire and sheer will was so vivid. I felt her rage and defiance. It was inspiring. We need more Missy's, she remains my homegirl.

Bottom line, Unraveled was beautifully written, gritty and inspiring. A fantastic conclusion and a top notch edition to the dystopian family.

Bravo Birch! So glad we didn't have to break-up.



 

Book Review: Tarnished (Perfected #2) by Kate Jarvik Birch

Summary: Freedom comes at a cost...

Ella was genetically engineered to be the perfect pet—graceful, demure...and kept. In a daring move, she escaped her captivity and took refuge in Canada. But while she can think and act as she pleases, the life of a liberated pet is just as confining as the Congressman’s gilded cage. Her escape triggered a backlash, and now no one's safe, least
of all the other pets. But she's trapped, unable to get back
to Penn—the boy she loves—or help the girls who need her.

Back in the United States, pets are turning up dead. With help from a very unexpected source, Ella slips deep into the dangerous black market, posing as a tarnished pet available to buy or sell. If she's lucky, she'll be able to rescue Penn and expose the truth about the breeding program. If she fails, Ella will pay not only with her life, but the lives
of everyone she's tried to save...


Release Date: December 2015
Age Group: YA, Dystopian
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
For most series, book two sets you up for the big πŸ’₯BOOMπŸ’₯ in the conclusion book and that makes for a strong LOVE-HATE relationship for me. I want more of the story but know what's going to happen... the story is going to literally pause and leave me on a cliff dangling by two fingers! But it's cool, a little torment and anticipation is what makes the conclusion so sweet (unless it's Divergent, in which you regret EVER having started the series #Rothed).

The cover of Tarnished had a Hunger Games vibe to it and was just beautiful but I don't think anything will ever beat the caged dress from Perfected. For a second book, I liked it. I actually felt like the characters were more fleshed out and began to be more relatable. I mean, I was initially just shocked in Perfected with the entire concept of a pet and am happy to report I couldn't relate. 

I am happy to report that the love story has developed a bit more and moved from instalove to more of a Peeta & Katniss situation in Catching Fire (still just a bit off). Ella is actually having life experiences and moving from a pet to an actual human being BUT her emotions are still pretty stunted.

There are several new characters introduced and Missy by far is the fire. Dang she is a fighter. I think a novella about what happened to Missy between Perfected and Tarnished is a must! There is so much unsaid and I really want to know her full story.

The good news is today is the release day of the final book in the series, Unraveled! I have waited a year for the conclusion and I'm ready to kick some butt and blow stuff up! πŸ’£ #rebellion


Book Review: Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi


Summary: Juliette Ferrars thought she'd won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she's still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she's got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

Release Date: March 2018
Age Group: YA, Dystopian
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:

The covers remain epic.

It has all just gone to hell.

I love it.

I hate it.

It better not end like the Divergent series. 

Awaiting Maryn's thoughts...










My feelings when I finished:
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HUH.
🀐



Series Review: Hotbloods 1-4 (Hotbloods, Coldbloods, Renegades, Venturers) by Bella Forrest

Summary: One last adventure. That's all Riley wants before heading off to college and parting ways with her two best friends. Spending their last summer together on a Texas farm in the middle of nowhere isn't quite as exciting as they'd planned...

That is, until they stumble upon secrets no human should know.

Men who appear and disappear.

A giant wing hidden in the creek.

Screams in the dead of night.

Every oddity seems connected to their strange--and alarmingly attractive--new neighbors, led by the stormy-eyed Navan. For reasons she can't explain, Riley feels drawn to him and the story of his past.

But Navan has a monstrous side, one that grants him incredible powers that are not of this world...and ashen skin that feels like fire to the touch.

When events take a dangerous twist, Riley is determined to protect her friends at all costs, but as she unravels each thread of the mystery, she finds herself entangled in a supernatural conquest that is far bigger than Texas... and even Earth itself.

A mystery.
A romance.
And a journey that could change the fate of the human race.

Prepare for a unique spin on the lore you love - and an adventure that is as thrilling as it is unexpected. 


Release Date: November 2017
Age Group:  YA, Paranormal
Source: KindleUnlimited
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
I am a devout Bella Forrest fan. Her series are the kind that keep on giving... like a lot... as in 50 books for A Shade of Vampire series... Yes, I've read every.single.one. 

I had to download a series reading order off of Kindle just to keep me straight! These are the books that are my "go-to fillers" between review books. They are easy, quick and I can't guess the plot. #winning

Today, I realized I've never reviewed a single one! Why?!

Because I typically review series when they finish and guess what? THESE DON'T END! Which is a big part of their magic.🎢🎢>insert magical fairy music<🎢🎢

I really enjoy the writing style of Forrest and how she has no problem wrapping up one group of characters and heading down a completely unexpected path with a new, related cast. I like the familiarity of the worlds and how easily I can jump back in at anytime.

So, when I saw that she had a new paranormal series out I drank the KoolAid!

The Hotbloods series may be about vampires but I assure you they are unlike any you have ever encountered (and VERY different from A Shade of Vampire). The world is vicious, galactic and unpredictable. And it takes the idea of a Wicked Queen to a whole new level.

I'm not going to try to describe the twists and turns of each book, it's a waste of reading time. As a matter of fact, you are wasting time now. Go. Shew. Vamos Amigo!







If you are interested in A Shade of Vampire series, HERE is a review of book #1

Book Review: The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt & Adam Rex (πŸ—ΏπŸ“„✂️ )

Summary: You’ve played the game. Now read the legend of how it all began . . .

Long ago, in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard, there lived a warrior named ROCK.

Meanwhile in the Empire of Mom’s Home Office, a second great warrior sought the glory of battle. And his name was PAPER.

At the same time, in the Kitchen Realm, in the tiny village of Junk Drawer, lived a third warrior. They called her SCISSORS.

These three were the strongest, smartest, and fastest in all the land. Time and again they beat the most fearsome opponents they could find: an apricot, a computer printer—even frozen, breaded, dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets! But when the warriors finally meet each other, the most epic round of battles begins . . . and never ends. That is why, to this day, children around the world honor these worthy adversaries by playing ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS!


Release Date: April 2017
Age Group: Childrens, Picture Books, Humor
Source: Purchased at Scholastic Book Fair
Reviewed By:  Nat & The Boys

Review:
Playing Rock, Paper, Scissors is a right of passage in life. I mean, I'm pretty sure I've made the challenge in adulthood and thrown my hands up in victory. You know, winning is equivalent to the lottery because you have wagered something B-I-G. Like, who is going to turn off the bedroom light, who is going to pump the gas, who is going to do the walk of shame and drop the kids of tardy??? Who WHO W-H-O. The loser of course. The one that throws down Scissors at the wrong moment. The one who thinks you are always going to choose Rock and shoots down Paper! The Big "L" that's who.

Adulting. It's hard.

In childhood, Rock Paper Scissors determines who's "it" or decides who gets to go "first" or who has to follow through with "the dare". I know my monsters have been posted on our town crime watch thanks to losing a round of Rock, Paper, Scissors... yea, you read that right. They thought ding-dong ditching the grumpy neighbors (with cameras) was a brilliant idea. It wasn't.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors was epic! The Boys thought the images were so strong and cool. I mean, I was a little intimidated by Rock and I wanted Scissors to do my homework (he/she had that nerdy vibe).

The battles throughout were entertaining, hilarious and fun to read aloud. When rock battles the apricot we were cracking up at the fuzzy little butt reference. I mean, what little boy doesn't appreciate butt humor. Adam Rex really knocked it out with the illustrations! πŸ‘ŠπŸ½

I feel like this picture book needs a warning:

WARNING: This book is guaranteed to result in an epic battle of Rock Paper Scissors. No one is safe. You may be challenged by your toddler or your grandmother. Be cautious when making eye contact, battles can occur at any moment. Take care of those fingers and keep your reflexes sharp.

You've been warned. 
xoxoxo πŸ—ΏπŸ“„✂️ 

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors is an excellent gift. It is entertaining and fun to read aloud! Plus, you get to battle when it's over. πŸ—ΏπŸ“„✂️  #forlife


Vlog Review: The Moonlight Meeting By Tracey Hecht (The Nocturnals Easy Reader #1)


Release Date: September 2017
Age Group: Childrens, Easy Reader
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Macy Kate & Nat

Review:
Anything related to The Nocturnals series by Tracey Hecht will hands down be the best! When I first discovered that The Nocturnals was starting an easy reader set I was thrilled! My youngest monster has just started easy readers and when I showed him The Moonlight Meeting he was excited to read about new animals, I mean who doesn't want to read about a pangolin?

Said monster is not ready to review on camera so I passed it to Macy Kate because she (and Mrs. Leger) are our Nocturnals connoisseurs. They LOVE all things Nocturnals, I mean, Macy Kate sets her Dawn the Fox stuffed animal on her desk at school (for good luck of course) and Ms. Leger's classes study every single odd animal that makes an appearance in the series. We are all in around here.

It is exciting that young audiences can now get in on the action and learn about odd, unique animals and get to know The Brigade! And we are a house divided here at I'd So Rather Be Reading... we all have our favorites. I am partial to Bismark, the sugar glider and Macy Kate obviously loves Dawn the Fox. She wins the loyalty card. Macy Kate dressed as Dawn the Fox for Halloween this year. With fiery red hair and a swanky fur jacket, she OWNED it! #winning




And I am thrilled that I just got in The Slithery Shakedown! Which is set to release this April (it's so new that I couldn't find it on Goodreads, which is like saying I have acquired a piece of the Holy Grail).

Teachers and parents, start collecting these easy readers and prime the little minds because once they hit the middle grade reading level they are going to fall in love with The Nocturnals series!









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And don't forget about #WORDWEDNESDAY with The Nocturnals >>>HERE<<<


Vlog Review: Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George

Summary: When Mona the Mouse stumbles across the wondrous world of the Heartwood Hotel in the middle of a storm, she desperately hopes they'll let her stay. As it turns out, Mona is precisely the maid they need at the grandest hotel in Fernwood Forest, where animals come from far and wide for safety, luxury, and comfort. But the Heartwood Hotel is not all acorn souffle and soft moss-lined beds. Danger lurks, and as it approaches, Mona finds that this hotel is more than a warm place to spend the night. It might also be a home.

This delightfully enticing start of a new chapter book series tells a tale of friendship, courage, and community, with exquisite black-and-white illustrations throughout.


Release Date: July 2017
Age Group: Middle Grade
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Macy Kate



I think it's safe to say that Macy Kate has found another "AWESOME SERIES" that she loves and Mona the Mouse is just so cute, fun and adventurous. Heartwood Hotel: True Home is a sure win for middle grade readers that love animal adventures.

Series Review: Storybook Valley by Stacy Juba (1 & 2)

Summary: What happens when the glass slippers pinch Cinderella’s toes? When Jaine Andersen proposes a new marketing role to the local amusement park, general manager Dylan Callahan charms her into filling Cinderella’s glass slippers for the summer. Her reign transforms Jaine’s ordinary life into chaos that would bewilder a fairy godmother. Secretly dating her bad boy boss, running wedding errands for her ungrateful sisters, and defending herself from the park’s resident villain means Jaine needs lots more than a comfy pair of shoes to restore order in her kingdom. First in the Storybook Valley series, a blend of sweet romance, chick lit, and fairy tale fun.
 








Release Date: November 2015
Age Group: YA, Romance (clean), Contemporary, Chick Lit
Source: Review Copy from Publisher


Review: Dance instructor Rory Callahan likes to play it safe. When she meets Kyle, he’s impulsive, persistent, and her exact opposite. He’s pushing her to tango way past her comfort zone and keeping Rory on her toes more than twenty years of dance teachers ever had.

Unfortunately, he’s the grandson of her family’s archrival and she doesn’t want to disappoint them. After all, her parents imagine her as a proper princess - hence her namesake Aurora, AKA Sleeping Beauty. Complicating matters, Rory’s also dealing with a surgeon boyfriend who’s perfect for her (sort of), an obnoxious boss, and desperate dance moms. Kyle wants to change her whole life, but Rory doesn’t like the stakes. After all, princesses are the ones who get the happy endings. . .aren’t they?

This sweet romantic comedy is a standalone and can be read on its own. All books in the series can be read in any order so jump in at any time.
Welcome to Storybook Valley...Your Vacation Escape

The Storybook Valley books are the perfect beach reads. If you love small town romance, theme parks, fairy tale fun, and amazing love stories, then Storybook Valley will be your new favorite series. Look for the feel-good first novel in the series, Fooling Around With Cinderella.


Release Date: November 2017
Age Group: YA, Romance (clean), Contemporary, Chick Lit
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
I've finally found my Sweet Valley High replacement! Yes, I am 35 years old and still want to read those teenage, angst-filled books! (And yes, I'll further admit, I'd pick up a Babysitters Club if things got real desperate around here #noshameinmygame).

Storybook Valley is a sweet romance series that gives all #thefeels without having anyone strip down to their undies. They give you just enough romance without tipping the hat and turning smutty.

The family of Storybook Valley is fairy-tale obsessed. So mush so, that they have named all their children after characters from classics like Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and even stretched a little and actually named a daughter Tiara. I mean, why not? I say when you're all in, you commit. And naming your daughter Tiara shows commitment.

And there's a theme park to boot! Imagine, first you are named after Sleeping Beauty AND you spend your afternoons playing at Cinderella's castle with your grandma who happens to be dressed as Fairy God Mother! Yea, we all come from weird or maybe dysfunctional *cough >me< but this is one weird that I'd legit be interested in. πŸ˜‚

I really thought Juba did a great job of introducing several characters, in Fooling Around with Cinderella, that will take the lead in subsequent books in the series. I personally can't wait to read Tiara's story. There better be lots of glitter...

Storybook Valley is a light, fun series that will deliver the HEA we all crave, make you believe in modern day fairy-tale romances and add to your ever climbing TBR list.

I'm committed. I'll read every Storybook Valley that comes out because dang it, I CAN. I might even wear a tiara and call my husband Mr. Charming. Why not? YOLO, right.


Love Between Enemies (Grad Night #2) by Molly E.Lee

Summary: Zoey Handler is ready to put an end to her decade-long rivalry with Gordon Meyers. They’ve traded top spot between valedictorian and salutatorian for years, but all that’s over now. Right? But after a crazy graduation speech prank gets out of hand, suddenly their rivalry turns into all-out war. Time to make peace with a little friendly payback.

Step one? Make him believe they’re now friends.

Step two? Show him the time of his life at an epic graduation party.

Step three? Don’t fall for his tricks.

Step four? Absolutely, positively, do not kiss him again.

So what if he’s cute? (Okay, hot.) So what if he’s charming? (Heaven help her, tempting.) So what if he apologizes? (That has to be fake.) She knows the real Gordon. And no matter how much her heart begs her to stop, there’s no turning back.


Release Date: January 2018
Age Group: YA, Contemporary (clean)
Source: Review Copy from Publisher (Entangled Teen Crush)
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
Most of the time it's going to be the same song and dance when I finish an Entangled Teen Crush book... they are just  🎧 to my ears! I love these easy, clean stories. Each one is unique and I never feel like I'm re-reading anything. The only time that re-visiting a good plot is in Hallmark movies. You can never have enough "cottage" "mistletoe" or "marry me" titles. πŸ˜‚

Love Between Enemies was unique in that it was based on revenge and a competitive heart. I wouldn't say this book gave me #thefeels like most of the Crush books do but it did catch my interest.

The entire story was set in the span of a few days and it was a lot to take in. You had to accept that they had an unspoken history with each other and there were several memories that built out their past. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and when it did I was left feeling meh about it. I like the Grad Night series and the writing style of Lee and honestly think it was just the characters. Zoey and Gordon just didn't do it for me.

Overall, this was an easy, quick read but just not one of my Crush favorites.