Book Blitz | Pushing Perfect by Michelle Falkoff

Pushing Perfect by Michelle Falkoff
Genre: YA Contemporary Mystery
Release Date: October 25th 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary from Goodreads:

A girl’s quest for perfection results in dangerous consequences in this layered, suspenseful YA novel by the author of Playlist for the Dead.

How far would you go to be perfect?

Kara has the perfect life. She gets perfect grades. She never messes up. Until now. Because perfection is an illusion, and Kara has been struggling to maintain it for as long as she can remember. With so much pressure to succeed, it’s hard not to do whatever it takes.

But when Kara takes a new underground drug to help her ace the SATs, she doesn’t expect to get a text from a blocked sender, telling her to follow a set of mysterious instructions—or risk her dark secret getting out. Soon she finds herself part of a group of teens with secrets of their own, who are all under the thumb of the same anonymous texter. And if they don’t find a way to stop the blackmailer, their perfect futures will go up in flames.

This dark, emotionally resonant contemporary YA novel is perfect for fans of We Were Liars and The Secret History.

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Buy Links:
Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

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Review: Water Bearer by Wendi Christner

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Kindle Price: $4.99

Official Rating: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

“Cassidy unintentionally set the fire that destroyed her family. Now that she has graduated high school, she spends one last summer with her best friend before she leaves the tiny farming community she grew up in. But this summer will change both their lives forever.

The endearing characters and bittersweet, moving story of everlasting love and forgiveness linger long beyond the final page. Written by the author of Writer’s Digest Short-Short Story winner “Throwing Stones.”

My Review:

I actually liked Water Bearer. I didn’t know who the author was, I barely read the synopsis (the second time around), and I kind of just dived in without checking to see how deep the water was. But, I only mildly bumped my head, which is a lot better than it could have been!

I need a word that’s in between like and love. Actually, I need this kind of setup: Hate < New Word(1) < Like < New Word(2) < Love < New Word(3). I need these words!! I’m feeling New Word #1 for the characters in this story.

On one hand, Cassidy and her best friend, Jared, have a very intimate relationship. I don’t mean XXX rated intimacy, but intimacy that goes deeper than hormones can go. Specifically speaking on their friendship, I liked to read about it because of how they are friends. They argue, they tease each other, they’re both comfortable with being who they are around each other, before anything else, Christner showed me their relationship as close friends.

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Contained by S.E. Green

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Kindle Price: $2.99

Official Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

“After a viral attack from Screechers left the Earth desolate, a safe house rose from the disease ridden ground; a place where people are protected from the virus and the wrath of the creatures that delivered it to their doorstep. Life outside of the man-made walls of Containment became a distant memory.
Eighteen-year-old Reverence Arthur is thirsty to escape the Container she has spent her entire life in and bring justice to the Screechers. When she becomes the first female to join the Watch, the Containment military, enduring cat-calls while she showers is the least of her problems. The Watch has fired shots declaring war, her cold shouldered mother has become particularly arctic, and a rumor about her father, a Watch General killed in action, raises questions about the motives of the officials within Containment.
Then, amid the battle for Earth, Reverence sees a human. A living, breathing human surviving unprotected in a world where the air is toxic, and she uncovers a truth about her home that is vile enough to kick-start a war of its own.”

My Review:

I was completely caught off guard because of Contained. My expectations were admittedly lowered when I saw the usual one-word title (that are on most dystopian books), the words ‘Screechers’ and ‘Watcher,’  and the heroine’s first name, Reverence. I was expecting a generic dystopia, where there’s some type of war against some type of creature that is out to kill humans and the heroine is named differently than everyone and is the only one with questions and eventually starts a rebellion. When I say, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed, I truly mean it.

I did roll my eyes at Reverence’s name, but half-way undid my eye-roll when I saw that there were other out of the ordinary names like “Force,” “Brute,” and “Apollo.” I appreciated Reverence, much more than I thought I would. She wasn’t a perfect heroine with no flaws who immediately steps up to any challenge. Instead, she was an eighteen year old girl who had many questions, a rebellious streak, but a rather good head on her shoulder. She was a leader, an actual one. Her leadership abilities weren’t something she was conveniently blessed with and everyone wanted to follow her like mindless zombies. Reverence earned respect and her role as a leader. She didn’t cry when things got hard, she understood that she had to have a cool and calm exterior, even if she was falling apart inside. I recall her crying maybe four times, twice it was somewhat detailed and once it was merely mentioned. I said four because I like even numbers. Reverence preserved, didn’t allow hormones or ridiculous love triangles get in her way of being the heroine she is, and made great decisions under pressure. She had obvious room for improvement, but it made her realistic.

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Frey (The Frey Saga) by Melissa Wright

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

“Unaware she’s been bound from using magic, Frey leads a small, miserable life in the village where she’s sent after the death of her mother. But a tiny spark starts a fury of changes and she finds herself running from everything she’s ever known.
Hunted by council for practicing dark magic, she is certain she’s been wrongfully accused. She flees, and is forced to rely on strangers for protection. But the farther she strays from home, the more her magic and forgotten memories return and she begins to suspect all is not as it seems.”

My Review:

Firstly, I was drawn to this book by the cover. Frey, who I assumed was the girl behind the flames, looked powerful, mysterious, and emotionally strong. The hawk that lurked behind the smoke only seemed to heighten my expectations. The hawk seemed to be a hint, meant to lead me to believe that Frey’s powers reached beyond expectations. Dare I say it, that her powers soared. The hawk didn’t mislead me either.

Frey was powerful. She had yet to reach her full potential, which I understand, Frey is just the first book. Frey is learning herself and the ways of magic and I, as the reader learned alongside her. I assumed that Frey is around sixteen or seventeen, but I don’t recall it ever being mentioned inside the actual book or synopsis. Granted, the book does fall under the Young Adult category, so I believe that her being around the young adult age group is a safe assumption. As I said, Frey was powerful. I loved reading about her small adventures while she tested out her magic. They were interesting and I wish she had fully embraced the magical elf in her much more quickly than she did. Sadly, Frey had no emotional strength.

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Jump When Ready (Jump When Ready series) by David Pandolfe

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Kindle Price: $0.99

Official Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis:

Since he drowned, Henry has remained with the same group of teenagers and he keeps wondering why. After all, what could he possibly have in common with a mohawk-sporting punker from the 80s, a roller skater from the 70s with a thing for kimonos, and an English “rocker” from the 60s? Add to that, Henry can hear the other groups but he never sees them. Soon, Henry learns that his new friends all possess unique skills for making themselves noticed by the living. Is Henry’s group kept isolated because of their abilities? If so, are they considered gifted or seen only as a potential bad influence?
Before Henry can reach any conclusions, he witnesses his sister being kidnapped. He knows who did it, where she’s being held and what will happen if the kidnappers don’t get what they want. As the police chase false leads, Henry comes to realize that he’s his sister’s only hope. But for Henry to even have a chance, he has to convince a group of teenagers that dead doesn’t mean helpless.

My Review:

This was a bitter-sweet book. The ending broke my heart and I wasn’t expecting it to. It’s a quite short book and surprisingly…the main characters are dead. I definitely don’t want to spoil anything so I will be writing this review carefully.

The story follows Henry after he has drowned, but not quite gone to Heaven. It wasn’t described completely, but the gist is that this is where the kids go where they aren’t quite in Heaven nor Hell, but are waiting to be reborn into a new life. The synopsis is once again a little bit misleading, Henry only briefly wonders why he and his group of friends are separated from the others. He is mostly too occupied getting to know how it feels being “between lives,” as they all call it, and saving his sister from a kidnapping. The plot is interesting, not quite edge-of-your-seat, but it keeps you absorbed in the world that Pandolfe has created. His writing is full of descriptions so that you can really understand and see what is going on around you. He did, to my disappointment, include curse words that weren’t necessary. It completely jerked me out of the book and I had to re-insert myself into it. There were only a few, but it was still needless.

The character development is what broke my heart and again, I cannot give anything away lest I give away the whole plot. But let it be known, the way Pandolfe wrote it made my heart squeeze.

Jump When Ready received three-and-a-half stars due to the fact that I felt that because the story focused mainly on Henry’s sister being kidnapped, a lot of good character back-story was lost. The character that developed was briefly shown and then disappeared until the very end, so while I did acknowledge his development, I didn’t really see why he changed. It just kind of happened. Is it worth ninety-nine cents? In my opinion, I don’t believe so. But Jump When Ready has a lot more to offer than many other ninety-nine cent books so if you decide the price isn’t so bad, I suggest you check it out.

Broken Symmetry by Dan Rix

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Blaire Adams can walk through mirrors.
It’s called breaking symmetry. To her, a mirror feels like a film of honey. She can reach through it, grab things…even step inside.
On the other side she lives every teenager’s fantasy: a universe all her own, zero consequences. She can kiss the hot guy, break into La Jolla mansions, steal things…even kill. When finished, she just steps back into reality and smashes the mirror—and in an instant erases every stupid thing she did. Gone. It never happened.
But breaking symmetry is also dangerous. First there’s the drug-like rush she gets when passing through the glass, like a shot of adrenaline. She suspects it’s degrading her body, making a new copy of her each time. A reflection of a reflection, each one a little hazier. Then, of course, there’s the risk of getting cut off from reality.
When she narrowly escapes a military quarantine zone with the San Diego Police Department hot on her heels only to discover her escape mirror littering the floor in shards, her worst fear is realized. Now, trapped in a broken reflection, she must flee through a mind-bending maze of mirrors, going deeper into the nightmare as she struggles to grasp a betrayal, uncover the chilling truth about her ability, and somehow find a way out of a dead-end universe that “never happened.”
Somehow, she must find a way home.

My Review:

I wish I could have thoroughly enjoyed this. I really do.

A while back, I read a book about time travel/leaping (A Time to Reap) and I sincerely enjoyed it. I gave it a four-out-of-five stars review and recommended it. Time travel can get complicated very quickly because it’s a very complicated subject. Likewise, the concept of traveling within mirrors is a complicated subject as well. So why did A Time to Reap receive 4/5 stars, but Broken Symmetry received 2.5/5?

The low rating has three reasons. One: I didn’t understand it. Maybe complicated topics lose me as easily as I lose my chapstick, but I was able to keep up in A Time to Reap. In Broken Symmetry, a lot of things were lost to me. Why? Because it was poorly explained. As a reader, I learn along with Blaire; what she knows, I know. At least, that’s how it was supposed to be. Somehow, Blaire is able to understand what Damien (I’ll go over the characters later) tells her without much trouble, but I was left behind. As they walked through the plot, I was left on the other side of the mirror, still trying to figure out how to get my hand to go through. It was frustrating and unfair because it left me having to decide if I wanted to re-read the same paragraphs three times or continue on and hope I’m not missing valuable information. In the end, I was able to make it through the story without understanding it all, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating. Unlike in novellas, short stories, or novelettes, there was plenty of time to really explain how this “mirror jumping” business worked. Instead, Damien would smirk, tell Blaire something in one to three lines of dialogue, and Blaire’s mind would shrug and understand it. On the other side of the page, to my brain, Damien was explaining quantum physics to me and Blaire, who is a quantum physics expert, and as she nods along, I’m still reading the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page. How fair is that? At least there wasn’t an exam.

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Star Struck by Jamie Campbell (Review)

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Review: 5/5

Synopsis:

Melrose Morgan was your typical teenager, flipping burgers and surviving high school the best she could. Yet all that changed after a chance encounter took her face to face with the world’s biggest superstar.
Living every girl’s fantasy, Melrose falls for one fifth of the most successful boy bands on the planet, Cole Newton. He invites her on a date and she can’t help but fall in love with her idol.
But in a world that is full of shining stars, can one small town girl really capture the heart of a supernova? Find out in the first installment of the Star Kissed series.

My Review:

WARNING: NOVELLA/NOVELLETE/SHORT STORY AUTHORS TAKE NOTE

This is a short story done right. After all of the novelettes that I have read, this one has actually felt like it was worth my time. It took me maybe thirty minutes to read; I was bored, it was late, I didn’t want to try to tackle a two-and-a-half-hour book at nine at night so I thought, “Why not?” And as it turns out, that was a really great idea.

I feel that the main issue in novelettes is that authors feel the need to make their characters develop somehow. If you have around seventy pages to impress a reader, you don’t have the time to have a character develop. For the most part, at least. Unless you can write a seventy page book and make it feel like a two hour long action or romantic comedy or adventure movie, don’t try to include character development. That doesn’t go to say that these authors can’t write if they can’t pull that off, far from it, because Campbell can write.

Melrose Morgan isn’t your average teenager working at a fast food joint. It’s obvious that she isn’t, but you aren’t explicitly given a reason why, which was fine. It wasn’t necessary. What I did notice about Melrose, and I’m not sure if it was just placed to add depth or if it was foreshadowing for the next book, was how observant she was about how her sister Jemma was feeling. Even when Melrose wasn’t in the mood to talk, she still made sure that Jemma was okay and if she wasn’t, she spent time with her until she was. When I think about it, that might have been just to add depth, but it added the right amount of depth. It showed me, as a reader, that Melrose wasn’t the type of person to discount a person’s emotions just because they were younger. Instead, she truly cared and did her best to ensure that Jemma knew she cared.

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The Forever Contract by Avery Sawyer

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Kindle Price: Free!

Official Review: 1/5

Synopsis:

In the very near future, the country is plunged into drought and unrest. Scare resources and constant heat are making life completely miserable. Casey doesn’t think she can stand slugging back another gel pack or working one more shift at the wells. Fortunately, there’s a solution: anyone over the age of seventeen can sign the Forever Contract and enter a utopian paradise. While people’s minds take a permanent vacation, their bodies get warehoused and hooked up to a complex array of sensors and feeding tubes. As Casey’s brother says, “You upload your consciousness to the system and you’re free to live as long as you want, however you want. No more pain, no more heat, no more awful dust, no more work. Just pure thought. It’s what our species has always been meant for. Suffering is for philosophers. Not for me.”
Casey’s ready to sign–a permanent vacation is just what she needs. There’s only one problem: her boyfriend James doesn’t trust it.
Told from his and her perspectives, The Forever Contract is a 17,000 word (60 page) novella suitable for readers in grade 8 and above.
Would you sign the contract?

My Review:

The cover of The Forever Contract and the synopsis were both misleading. For the most part, I stay away from books that have covers like that, it usually means certain “special” events occur. None of that happened though, so I’m not sure why Sawyer chose this cover. The synopsis was what pulled me in, but it didn’t quite deliver what I was expecting either. The thought of “upload[ing] your consciousness to the system and you’re free to live as long as you want, however you want.” was intriguing. A unique twist to a dystopian novella. So why didn’t I give it more than one star?

It was completely and totally dull. I was losing my mind trying to get through this novella. Casey, James, and all the other characters were completely one-dimensional. This is one of the biggest issues with novellas: Too complex of a concept crammed into a novella. It almost always leads to poor character development and a poorly delivered plot. If you need more “book time” to develop a solid plot and solid characters than a novella will be able to provide, do not write a novella. It’s unfair to the reader, not just because they may have spent money to buy the book, but in addition, they spent time reading your book only to receive something sub par. It’s equivalent to going to a restaurant and reading over the menu (the books on shelves) and you finally choose something that sounds appetizing (the cover). The chef (author) is making the food in front of you and there are lots of flips and sizzles (the synopsis). Then, your food is finally done and the food is being put on your plate, a little sloppily, but it still looks rather good (the first few chapters). You finally take a bite and your face scrunches in disappointment as your taste buds recoil in horror. It’s undercooked and not what you expected after watching the chef’s grand flips and loud sizzles. But what can you do? You already paid. You wasted your time and money on a chef that did not deliver the service you deserved.

It was honestly a shame because this plot was incredibly amazing. There could have been ocean-deep depth, heartbreaking-ly emotional scenes between James and Casey, gorgeous world-building, and just so much more. There was barely a climax before the ending, the ending just quickly wrapped everything up. It was like those times when you’re having company over soon and you aren’t quite ready and don’t know what to do so you quickly throw things into closets and shove things under couches. I don’t know what happened why Sawyer decided to hastily end The Forever Contract this way but it was inexcusable. It left an appalling amount of uncertainty and was poorly put together. It clearly says “END” in bold letters, but seems to hint at a sequel since it “ends” at a cliffhanger. The Forever Contract has immense potential and I truly mean that. It should definitely not be a novella, but at least a full length novel so that Sawyer can make this plot reach its full potential.

Understudy by Cheyanne Young

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Kindle Price: $2.99

Official Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

The high school play is in two months and senior Wren Barlow just became director. Wren still isn’t over the fact that she got stiffed as a stagehand instead of the lead role that she totally deserved. Now she is in charge of rehearsals, costumes, navigating around cast member hookups and managing the real life drama at home.
The principal counts on her to succeed because tickets have been sold and the money has been spent. But when he drops a gorgeous bad boy on her and wants him to help the play for extra credit, she falls hard for someone she knows she can’t date. With everything spinning out of control, the mysterious and secretive detention king named Derek has a few tricks up his sleeve and wants to help—too bad Wren is scared to give him a chance to prove himself.

My Review:

This was such a cute romance and I loved it. There were some things I didn’t like, but I still I adored Understudy.

Wren Barlow, truly an amusing and engaging character. Young wrote her as a realistic and relatable teenager and I was impressed. Instead of making Wren “not like other girls.” or “better than the rest.” or giving Wren the usual “I’m not fat, but when I look in the mirror…” in order to make her somewhat relatable. Wren was just Wren and that’s all she needed to be in order to be a great character. Truth be told, one of my favorite lines from Wren was, “I’m not fat,” I say confidently, because I know I’m not fat.” I cannot begin to explain how beautiful of a declaration it was. The confidence, the self-pride, the self-respect…it was wonderful to read and I highly respect Young for giving Wren that type of attitude. I also appreciated that Young didn’t make Wren automatically not believe or have heard the rumors or the lies that spread around her school. It just isn’t realistic, you’re definitely going to hear and possibly believe the rumors that fly around in school. I liked that even though she pretended to not have heard them, she wasn’t very good at lying nor was it done in a way to impress Derek. It was just good ole’ teenage nerves. Unfortunately, Wren wasn’t a perfect character. When Derek specifically tells her that he cannot under no circumstances tell her a secret that he has a right to keep, she completely loses it. I know that seeing your crush text someone whose contact name is “Lexie <3” is very incriminating, but where is the trust? Instead of just waiting for him to be ready to tell her what it is, Wren starts to treat him horribly. He even asks her why she’s treating him with such disdain and she recognizes that he’s hurt, but just continues to do so. It was terrible and I wish Wren had handled it better. However, that is who Wren is and if there’s ever another book, it’s something she can work on. Another issue, one that absolutely made me uncomfortable with Wren’s priorities: Wren’s best friend Margot, who I assume is seventeen like Wren, is dating a twenty-one year old man in college. And instead of expressing concern or wanting to know who Jordan (the twenty-one year old) is, Wren’s response is: “Margot’s next two weeks of dashing off after rehearsal to visit Jordan turns out to be a great thing. It means I get to hang out with Derek after school and not have to make up lies as to why I can’t sit on Margot’s pillowtop mattress and watch reruns of Supernatural with her.” That’s called being a terrible friend. You would rather casually shrug off the fact that your “best friend” is going up to visit someone in college just because you want to hangout with Derek without lying to her? That’s terrible judgement, I feel bad for Margot.

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A Hairy Tail (A Hairy Tail series) by Jamie Campbell

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Kindle Price: Free

Official Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis:

Please note: This is a short story. Flash fiction is a fun and quick read, not a novel.
Hannah needed a project to get her through the long summer. Signing up at the local animal shelter, she finds exactly what she needs in the sad, lost dog Basil.
She sets her sights on finding his owner, promising him he would be reunited with his family. What she didn’t anticipate was being distracted by her gorgeous co-volunteer, Harry.
Overcoming her inner shyness, Hannah needs to reel in Harry the hottie, find Basil’s owner, and try to be a normal teenager for her mother. And do all this before the summer ends.
Love, paws, and fur balls abound in this fun short story that is bound to make your tail wag.

My Review:

Don’t take my rating as a bad 2.5, A Hairy Tail was a decent read, which is why it received a 2.5.

The main character is Hannah and she was kind of cool. She was more interested in school and homework and schedules than summer parties and wildness, which I respected. There was actual no obvious character development from what I could see, but that was fine. Mostly because there was no need for development, it wasn’t a thirty-two chapter novel about a teenager who finds herself. It was about down-to-earth Hannah who finds something to do while she wants for the last ninety-three days of summer to end. There wasn’t much to her, since, again, this wasn’t a long novel, but it was enough.

I think what I didn’t like of anything was Hannah’s mother, Coco. I didn’t appreciate that Coco was almost shaming Hannah for not liking the party scene. Multiple times she asks or tells Hannah that she isn’t normal or not doing what normal teenagers do by not enjoying parties. I have known teenagers who don’t appreciate the party part of life and it wasn’t as abnormal and unimaginable as Coco made it seem.

The romance was surprisingly subtle. I thought that this was a romance story so I had expected a lot more of the romance aspect, but the ending was cute. Would I recommend A Hairy Tail? I don’t see why not. If you have an hour of your time that you won’t feel guilty about spending on a book, definitely go for it.