Thursday, December 17, 2015

ARC Review: Firsts

by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication date: January 5, 2016
Published by: St. Martin's Griffin
Kindle edition, 320 pages
My rating: 3.5/5 ★

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

I have conflicted feelings about this book. There were many aspects that I enjoyed, and others that I wasn't so sure about. Firsts addresses some difficult and important topics  that separate it from the usual YA contemporary (romance) novels. It also presents a very unusual and somewhat controversial main character that is the main reason for my uncertainty about my thoughts on the story.

On one hand, I did not like Mercedes and it was incredibly hard to connect with her and feel for her. She has so many issues and does the stupidest things, and it was absolutely infuriating to read about it. But then I think, somehow that's also a good thing. Firsts definitely doesn't portray a teenager that is in control of her life. It's a story about a girl who has literally no clue what she's doing and makes all the wrong choices because she has no role model. Her family life is completely messed up, so that she also has huge trust issues. Mercedes was unable to open up to absolutely anyone (seriously, not anyone). She kept all those secrets until it got way too much for her to handle. I kept thinking that her inability to talk about herself and just trust people was overdone and unrealistic. But then I had to remind myself that just because Mercedes isn't like me, that doesn't mean that people can't have those issues.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Firsts was a hard book for me to read and it was even harder to warm up to Mercedes. But I don't want to judge the story too much because of that.

One thing that I thought was interestingly portrayed was Mercedes's relationship with Faye, the new girl that arrived at their school. All throughout the book, Mercedes isn't sure if she has only friendly feelings towards Faye or if it's more than that. It showed her general confusion about herself and her life perfectly and I think it really helped her character development. I myself didn't really like Faye, though, but I was glad she was there for Mercedes. She was a really good friend, if a little too much and over the top at times.

Zach, Mercedes's friend-with-benefits kind of thing, was the only character in the story that I really liked. He was kind and patient and always tried so hard. It was impossible not to root and feel for him.

One thing that bothered me was that I feel like lots of things weren't quite resolved at the end. I would've needed something more, more information about what happened, etc. The ending was too focused on the romance, which hadn't played such an important role in the story up until then. Because of that, the topics that had been more prominent before didn't get enough attention, so the ending lacked closure.

Overall, I gave the book 3.5 stars (4 on goodreads) because I enjoyed the story for the most part. I would recommend Firsts to people who are looking for a different contemporary read. As I said, my own feelings are very conflicted, and I don't think this will be everyone's cup of tea. If I had to compare it to any other book I've read, I would have to go with The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, though I have to say I didn't enjoy it quite as much. 



Sunday, December 6, 2015

November 2015 Wrap-Up

Hello there. I'm here today with my very late November Wrap-Up. As always, the weeks are just flying past and I'm trying to keep up. I can't believe it's already December but I'm also super excited because it means that Christmas is right around the corner. I should probably start my Christmas shopping at some point.. But of course I'm here to talk about books, namely the ones I read in the past month.

What I Read


I managed to finish five books in November and I'm happy with this number considering that I'm nearing the end of my uni semester and the workload is just getting bigger and bigger. But anyway, here are the books that I read:
  • Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, 3/5
  • Overall, this just wasn't really my kind of book. While I enjoyed the story itself, the writing seemed pretentious and simply did not work for me. I feel like I couldn't connect to the characters or the story because of that. I'm going with three stars because it was an okay book but nothing more for me.

  • Magiona by Maria Dahvana Headley, 3/5 
  • I really loved the first part of this book, before all the fantasy elements came into the story. The characters were great and I felt so excited about the whole thing. But after the 'big thing' happened, I completely lost interest in the story. Aza, our main character, started to annoy me and I got so confused by the plot. This book is written in a very unique way and while I appreciated that at the beginning, it felt too jumpy in the second part of the book. Aza's actions were often not explained or anticipated in any way, so everything simply happened and I didn't understand why she did the things she did. By the end, I was honestly just waiting for the book to finally come to a close.

  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, 5/5 
  • I absolutely adored the second installment in the Lunar Chronicles series. Scarlet and Wolf were both very interesting characters and I loved how everyone's stories intertwined and worked together. As with Cinder, I found the plot to be rather predictable, but I wasn't bothered by it at all.

  • Cress by Marissa Meyer, 5/5 
  • Another 5/5 – I just can't get enough of this series. Cress was, again, pure awesomeness. It's perfectly paced in my opinion. Something is always going on but it doesn't get too much. Another thing that I love is how Marissa Meyer makes you anticipate certain things but then resolves them at the perfect moment. There are no stupid and annoying mishaps and misunderstanding. She just gets everything right.

  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer, 5/5 
  • I just had to give this one 5/5 as well. It was so much better than I had thought it would be. The only reason I even picked it up before reading Winter was that I had still been waiting for that last book to arrive. I wasn't really interested in Levana and I thought Fairest was going to be an unnecessary side story that I might as well leave out. But I have to say I'm really glad that I read it. It made me understand where Levana came from and why she might have turned into who she is, but it doesn't try to justify her actions. She's still evil and her actions are wrong – that's made clear again and again throughout the book. I think knowing what her life has been like gave me some valuable background information, not only about Levana but also the rest of the Lunar people that appear in the books. I can't wait to see how all of this is going to play into the story of Winter.

What I Bought


I bought seven books in November, three of which I already read. Two I bought with a gift card that I received for my birthday, so that's okay as well. And for the last two, well, I visited my sister in Brighton and couldn't resist buying some books in the beautiful bookstore there. So I guess I can somewhat justify adding four more books to my TBR when I actually want it to get smaller. Oh, well. So here's what I bought:

December TBR

As always, I don't have a specific TBR for December. I will definitely read Winter this month, but I'm trying to make myself wait until the end of my uni semester to start it. At the moment, I'm actually reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, which I bought on a whim the other day when I didn't have a book with me to read on the train ride home. I went to the book store and just decided to pick the smallest book in the non-fiction section because I never read non-fiction and thought now was as good a time as any to start. Well, it turned out to be Stephen Hawking's book. It's super interesting but all the physics stuff is definitely very hard to follow. I don't know if I'll ever actually finish it but I'll keep reading it for now. Then I also want to read Made You Up and Uninvited for my 2015 Authors A-Z Reading Challenge.

On the Blog

Well, this was one of those months (again) when I just didn't really blog at all. I did talk about  the portrayal of Unhealty Relationships in New Adult, but that's already it.

Life

As I already mentioned, I went to Brighton to visit my sister who stayed there for three months (she actually just arrived back home today, finally!). I was really happy to see my sister and especially to see where she's been hiding all these months. Mostly though, I'm just glad I didn't get blown away by the wind. 

So that's it for my November Wrap-Up. I hope you all had a good month and happy holidays to you! 

What was your favorite read of the month?
Do you have any weird ways of picking out books at the book store?