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review 2017-05-09 04:27
Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
Fireworks - Katie Cotugno

Quick review for a progressive read. Katie Cotugno's "Fireworks" was a struggle for me to read in places, but in the end, I'm glad I read it, especially considering the turns it took in the story. The ending was bittersweet and not quite the impression and direction I thought it would go given the beginnings of the story. Yet even saying that, I'll admit I struggled to hold interest in the novel for a while.

The story is told through the viewpoint of Dana, a young woman stuck in a small town with a mother who drinks too much, a job that ended upon her graduation, and a struggle to decide how to escape what seems an inevitable future. Dana's best friend Olivia seems to have everything that Dana doesn't: a supportive family, a college career, and a chance to go to be a part of a pop group in what seems to be like an X-Factor music competition. Olivia begs Dana to accompany her to the competition, but Dana gets the shock of her life when she's asked to be a part of the group after an impromptu competition. Alongside a budding relationship with a guy that's a part of rising boy band maintained by the same manager, things seem to be going well in Dana's circles despite rivalries with her group and rising tensions between herself and her best friend as the practices and training roll on.

One might think this is the kind of novel in which Dana is a special snowflake who gets everything she asks for (the prospective accidental singing career, the boy, the supportive best friend through thick and thin with some moments of emotional tension, etc.) and has a talent that makes her the TCO of the work: but that would be far off the mark, especially as the novel finally hits the ground running in a different direction after the midpoint of the novel. I appreciated that it wasn't so predictable and unrealistic as to paint Dana as a practically perfect underdog heroine. She was selfish and immature on many fronts, but the novel showcases places where she makes mistakes, growing and learning from those decisions/interactions on her own accord. Her emotions are palpable to the encounters/betrayals/relationships she has.

Like Cotugno's other novel "99 Days", the decisions and interactions between the characters aren't so much glorified as they are put into perspective relative to the interactions and passions of the characters within. For another point against the narrative, though, I felt an odd sense of detachment throughout the novel that kept it from being a more meaningful experience for me. For one, the pacing was very slow and the setup in the beginning is so cliche ridden and predictable that it was hard for me to feel invested in Dana's experience. I mean, I got that she got the chance of a lifetime, something that seemed to offer an out to the downcast spiral her life seemed to be. Dana's character, I understood, was incredibly passive and going with the flow, being the odd woman out among vocalists - including Olivia - who had been training their entire lives for the opportunity in this 90s-era singing competition (the novel takes place in the late 90s when boybands/girlbands are all the rage. There are spot references to frame the era, but they're not superfluous. I'd argue that they also weren't as immersive as they could've been, though.)

Dana's narration through the novel is at an odd distance and lacks a passion/immersion that I would've thought could've grown with each experience she had with respect to her experiences in Orlando. The romance in this wasn't poorly done for intent, but again - I felt like I couldn't fully invest in it because of the way it was presented: telling more than it showed. The showcasing of the competition and relationships within was weirdly mechanical in dictation and I wish it could've been more intimate and invested.

The latter part of the novel was actually when I finally became invested as I watched the interactions between Dana and Olivia move in some fluctuating high and low tensions, ultimately culminating in something that was less than ideal. I had a feeling it would likely turn out that way after a point, but I was still surprised. I liked the direction, but I didn't like the execution, and I almost wish that Olivia could've had a narrative perspective to see what she thought on the other end of the events that transpired in this story (because I feel like that would've held my attention by being a different take).

In the end, it was an okay novel, but not really one that I loved from Cotugno. I feel like it could've had much better execution for the intent and premise.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

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review 2015-11-07 01:53
99 Days by Katie Cotugno
99 Days - Katie Cotugno

 

99 days of drama and cheating and brothers fighting and friendships torn. I couldn't help it, I really enjoyed the show. I hope there's a continuation or at the very least I hope to hear about these characters in a different book.

I'm looking forward to other books written by this author.

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review 2015-08-17 20:47
99 Days Book Review
99 Days - Katie Cotugno

Ugh. I have never hated the main characters more in a book than in 99 Days. And I'm honestly trying to decide if I hate Molly, Patrick, Julia or Gabe the most. And, the sad part is the author tried to make us sympathize with a bunch of teenagers who do awful things to each other and a protagonist who cheats with two brothers. 

 

Molly is back for the summer and wants to be anywhere but home. After her mom's book came out and her secret with it all of Molly's friends now hate her. Because she cheated on Patrick with his brother Gabe. 

 

This actually didn't start off too terribly and I was able to get through the beginning pretty quickly. But everyone became more horrible to one another the further the plot line moved along. The fact that two brothers would do this to one another? I think that's what bothered me the most about this book. Not to mention a mother who writes about her daughters secret relationship in a bestseller. Big NO. 

 

Some may enjoy 99 Days, for its not terribly written or anything. It is different than our typical contemporary YA. I just can't get passed how awful everyone is in this story and would not personally recommend it. 

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review 2015-06-21 21:59
Review: 99 days by Katie Cotugno
99 Days - Katie Cotugno

Quick review for a not-so quick read, but to me was still worth the time. Oh, how the heck am I going to expound upon this book? It's a hard sell and I understand the range of emotions as to how people whether really liked it or absolutely loathed the experience of reading it. The pretty cover on my edition of this book will fool you. You come in thinking that this might be a happy-go-lucky novel of relationships, but then you read the blurb and the collective story and think "THIS IS NOT LIGHT AND FLUFFY! THAT COVER'S LIGHT AND FLUFFY, DANGNABIT!!!"

So if you're looking for something lighthearted or with swoon worthy characters, please exit off the monorail to the right right now because that's not happening with this novel.

My jests aside, notice if you're reading my tags/shelves for this book that I'm not putting this as a romance novel. I absolutely refuse to. It's not a romance novel as much as it is a relationship novel with tough leanings, and I'll at least give Cotugno credit for dealing with a pretty taboo subject matter in a responsible way, even if multiple characters' actions weren't anywhere near responsible for the scheme of events that occurred in "99 Days."

I'll admit two things upfront for you guys before I dive into this review fully:

1. I do not typically like novels with cheating relationships. I rather detest them because more often than not, quite many a time in the scheme of romance novels, they're not treated with the gravity/weight/repercussions that they have in real life. There's always this thing where people say "Oh she was better with the guy she cheated on anyway, it's okay just because he's hot/cute/sexy/whatever" justification that makes the moral transgression less significant and focus more on the romantic ship. Not to mention, the difficult emotions and relationships are dropped faster than a blink in favor for the HEA.

I find that stereotypical portrayal to be full of B.S., because cheating is a real thing and with respect to relationships: it HURTS. (I don't know about this kind of thing personally, but I've known people who've gone through the emotional gauntlet and aftermath of it.) But - and this is a caveated "but" - I can read it to an extent when I can see the way it affects the characters contained within and when the gravity of the situations and people involved comes across. I can also read it when the characters are fully developed/realized and I can figure out what they're thinking and feeling in the scheme of the decisions they make and such.

2. I can read novels about unlikable characters and their actions/relationships if the narrative has a strong enough pull and immersion where I can say "Okay, I understand why the POV character and the supporting characters think and feel the way they do." Personal relationships are complex in terms of understanding and watching them unfold, so only examining them in a single handed/dimensioned way - to me - undervalues the experience. It is especially undervaluing if it's notably skewed to a certain POV, rather than the actual relationships and build in the novel itself.

That being said, my experience with Cotugno's "99 Days" was fair. I won't say I enjoyed this novel, but I did appreciate it because it's rare that I see a YA novel go "there" when it comes to portraying relationships of this measure. Reading the situations felt like pulling teeth at times, but with the reality of the situation itself, that was pretty much a given.

To the novel's premise, Molly has 99 days before she has to go to college, and she's forced to go back to the hometown she left behind where she's been branded a social outcast. Reason? She was involved with a guy (Patrick), was dumped by said guy, and ended up having a one-night stand with said guy's brother (Gabe). She does not tell Patrick that she slept with guy, but Molly's mother decides - after her daughter confesses to the whole mess - to use the situation as fuel to write a bestselling novel.

And Molly's secrets are secrets no more. She's branded as a "slut" and relentlessly bullied and shamed into silence and hiding (which led to her stint in boarding school).

Suffice to say, Molly does not get a welcome homecoming, at least not by her former best friends - one who is the sister to the brothers, and the other who was going through her own personal pains and was subsequently abandoned by Molly when she abruptly left town.

Molly is a selfish, conceited brat. Don't get me wrong. That's her fatal flaw. I didn't like her, didn't respect the decisions she made, wanted to throw her out with the bathwater several times as I read her perspective and watched her fall into similar situations that she described being a part of previously. I knew this, but I did vividly watch her experiences, affections, and somewhat coming to terms here. She's a young woman, but very naive and careless with her relationships. I don't know if her coming to terms was as grounded, developed, and progressive as it could've been, but I saw it.

I equally raged at Gabe and Patrick's actions (because they used Molly for their own motivations/conflicts, but I don't know if that was as focused upon as Molly's experiences because they weren't front and center.) I liked that the narrative did expound on the unfair blame game that women often get subjected to in this measure, as well as the bullying and inner dialogue of guilt and examination of relationship complications, but I feel like that message was somewhat lost in the scheme of events in this novel, especially with Molly pretty much not learning from her mistakes until yet another crash and burn situation occurred. For what it's worth, though, Cotugno does deal with the realism of the situation, rather than glossing over it for a certain "ship" or formula that would remove the weight of the emotions of people involved in it, including Molly herself.

I feel like this could've been a fuller novel than what it was, though. I appreciated the attempt of what it aimed for, but didn't particularly care for how it was executed, and that's probably what has me sitting right on the fence. I valued the time taken for this, but at the same time - I feel like the way it came across didn't really make the most of the subject matter, especially considering the weight of it.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

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review 2015-05-28 16:20
Six weeks worth of reviews...
The Magician's Lie: A Novel - Greer Macallister
99 Days - Katie Cotugno
The Kiss of Deception - Mary E. Pearson
Landline: A Novel - Rainbow Rowell
Mr. Kiss and Tell - Jennifer Graham,Rob Thomas
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
The Heir - Kiera Cass
The Eternity Key - Bree Despain

So in the past six weeks I've read 8 books- I won't write a full review for all of them but I will summarize my thoughts and overall reaction for each:

The Magicians Lie by Greer MaCallister
I was eagerly anticipating this book- the Amazon blurb “Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician's Lie, a debut novel in which the country's most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband's murder - and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence” made it sound so exciting! It jumped from past to present, in alternating chapters leading up to the night of the murder and what happens immediately after. It was a quick read and I enjoyed the character building- the relationships are at the center of the story and are ultimately what drives the plot forward. I might read this one again. Overall: 3.5/5 

99 Days by Katie Coutgno
A teenager has to endure one last summer in her hometown before heading off to college- one last summer as the most hated girl in town. Insert teenage love triangle, subsequent drama, and lack of friends. You get 99 Days. Overall a good story- very predictable. Molly, the main character, was a tad whiny. There were times I wanted to shake her and say “you brought this on yourself” or “grow up and deal with the choices you made” but she is a teenager after all. Typical teen love triangle,angst, drama, friendships, and backstabbing. Overall: 3/5

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
On the day of her wedding, Princess Lia flees from an arranged marriage to a distant village with her best friend and handmaiden. The two handsome men, one a the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill the princess, track the two girls to the village. The entire time I was reading this I couldn’t figure out what the magical “gift” Lia was supposed to have- I spent the entire novel confused about this. Maybe I missed it but even so, the “gift” was a major part of the plot and should have been flushed out more. Also the love triangle was a frustrating and a bit forced between Lia and the two boys- she just seems disinterested the entire time- until she finds out who they really are and then it turns into “love”. Overall: 3/5

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I’ve read all of Rowell’s books- she can do no wrong. They are fun, quick reads and Landline is no exception. The characters are well developed and the intenseness of the marriage falling apart actually leaves you wondering if and how they will ever work through their problems. The premise- a phone that can call into the past- its very cool, I mean who wouldn’t want to call past selves or past loves and try to right wrongs and fix past mistakes to potentially fix the future?! Truth be told, I will probably read all of Rowell’s novels again- especially when I’m looking for something quick and fun. Overall: 3.5/5

Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas
I was (and still am) a huge fan of Veronica Mars: I was heartbroken when they canceled the tv series;I was overjoyed when the movie came out; and ecstatic when I found out the creator was going to use books as a way to continue the story after the movie. I read the first VM book (The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line) and was pleasantly surprised at how similar it was to both the tv series and the movie. The witty dialog was present- it read just like an episode or movie (which could be a bad thing in future books- becoming too cookie-cutter). The second book, Mr. Kiss and Tell, was very similar to the first- it read just like an episode or movie script. It was a quick read with all the witty banter between characters Mars fans have come to love. I will continue to read the series- even if it becomes cookie cutter, they’re quick, fun reads. Overall: 3/5

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I read this book while on vacation- I couldn’t put it down! The twists, the turns, the unreliable narrator, the anticipation, the questions, the conclusion- this book kept you guessing after every chapter. The main narrator, alcoholic Rachel is so unreliable that everything you know and learn has to be taken at face value- not to mention questioned heavily based on what you know and learn from the people she interacts with. This book has been compared to Gone Girl (both have unreliable narrators, females at the center of missing person cases) but I did not like Gone Girl at all- I found the two characters annoying and frustrating. I was weary of Girl on the Train because of this but boy was I wrong- I thoroughly enjoyed it and though I don’t know if I will read it again (the ending and the twists/turns are spoiled now) I did give it a 4/5 because 1) I couldn’t put it down and 2) I was so surprised at the ending! Overall: 4/5

The Heir by Kiera Cass
I read The Selection series last year- I enjoyed the breath of fresh air this series brought to YA. There was no killing (Divergent trilogy, Hunger Games trilogy), the love triangle wasn’t at the forefront of the story (yes, it played a big role but it wasn’t a distraction), the main female character was strong- and could stand on her own two feet- she didn’t need a man to rescue her. I was looking forward to the continuation of the series, America and Maxon’s daughter is now participating in her own selection. Eadlyn is a spitfire- doesn’t take no for an answer and is a strong, independent person (much stronger than her mother)- she actually has a bit of an edge to her- talking back to her father the king, not wanting to put on a show for the kingdom but not understanding why her kingdom actually hates her (she acts like she’s better than everybody else- she is a princess after all). It leaves plenty of room for Eadlyn to grow and mature as a character and for her to come into her own- hopefully there are more than three books in this series, as I feel three books wouldn’t be enough to fully flush out all of her potential. Overall: 3/5

The Eternity Key by Bree Despain
I enjoyed the first book (The Shadow Prince) and was impatiently awaiting the second title- The Eternity Key. I was(n’t) disappointed. I put the (n’t) in parentheses because I could’ve done without Toby’s POV- had that been taken out of the second book, I would’ve given it a 4/5. Toby’s POV added nothing to the story other than a whiny teenage voice who was jealous of Haden and wanted his sister back. The reader learned nothing of importance from his POV alone that we wouldn’t have gotten from other characters- he was only necessary for the last 1/16th of the book. I wish I could’ve skipped his chapters (and I could’ve because, like I said, everything you learned from his POV, you got from other characters as well). BUT HOLY MOLY- that ending! That twist! I was so surprised at the shocking turn- I had to read it over twice. Not to mention the cliffhanger ending- how can an author do that to their readers!? I will definitely read number 3 (and 4 and 5- if Ms. Despain is kind enough to continue the series) Overall: 3/5

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