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Game Review — Gone Home

Gone Home is a first-person adventure
exploration video game developed andpublished by The Fullbright Company. Wikipedia

Initial release date: August 15, 2013
Genre: Adventure game
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS

5PenguinsQuick Reasons: creepy and atmospheric backgrounds; pervasive sense of “racing time”; I jumped to several conclusions…which turned out to be all wrong; beautiful love story/coming-of-age journey; first person POV, which put me right in the action; tons of mystery and quiet drama
  • “But BETH!”  I hear you all shrieking.  “This is a GAME!  You don’t review GAMES!”

 

  • And you’d be right.  I usually don’t.  But I also don’t usually play THIS SORT of game–at least, I didn’t.  I think I might be branching out.  AGAIN.  And this sort of game?  First person POV, adventure/quiet drama, tells a story type?  Yeah, this is my JAM.

 

  • So this morning, the husband dropped by to see me at work.  “So…I finished that game I told you I downloaded on the PS4,” he said.  “Yeah.”  He nodded really hard for about five seconds.  “You should play it.  I think you should play it.  You really need to play it.”

 

  • Well, color me intrigued.  So tonight, when I was bored and seeking something to do…I decided to give it a whirl.  AND OH, MAH PENGUINS–best decision ever, guys.  And now I need more games like this.
  • So first things first:  this is, above all else, a story.  You play the whole game as Katie, freshly home from Europe and searching for her sister Sam, who has mysteriously disappeared.  The story is told BY Sam, through letters, through soundtracks, through photographs and clues… Seeing through Katie’s eyes, you follow where Sam leads, accessing hidden panels, secret doors, and other alcoves throughout the HUMONGOUS mansion they call their home.  There are mentions of ghosts.  There are creaking floorboards, a very angry thunderstorm, and other large-house noises to complete the experience (I listened to this through a headset.  If you can’t turn your volume up very loud on your TV, I recommend doing the same–you’ll miss things otherwise!)

 

  • And the story being told?  Is heartbreaking.  Sam is 17, and struggling to figure out high school and all the drama that comes with it.  She is also fighting to find acceptance–both within and outside of herself.  The notes are often heavy-handed, darkly humorous in places, and heart-wrenching.  Several times throughout the journey, I found myself questioning where the story was leading me–only to be very happily wrong at the end.
  • The attention to detail is also ASTOUNDING.  Just look at those pictures above–the designers left nothing out.  Every room has light switches or light strings to give better vantage to players; TVs and cassette players turn off and on at the click of a button…  And this house is HUGE, guys.  I sometimes felt, turning corners in hallways, as if it might just go on forever… which means there are a LOT of rooms, nooks, and crannies to cram with details and general stuff.

 

  • Overall, this was a highly enjoyable evening spent…and now I need more games like it in my world.  I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this journey earlier, but I am SO glad that I followed the husband’s orders and played this game!  It’s sort of like an “I Spy,” but for adults.  The moody atmosphere, the attention to detail, and the heart-wrenching story made for one HELL of a gaming experience; I can’t wait to see what else this (genre?) has to offer.
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Teaser Review: How to Make Out, by Brianna Shrum

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How to Make Out

Goodreads Rating: 3.77 Stars
240 Pages
Sky Pony Press Publishing
Expected Publication Date: September 6th, 2016
Pre-order a copy here!

Sixteen-year-old Renley needs three thousand dollars for the math club’s trip to New York City, and she knows exactly how to get it: she’s going to start a how-to blog where people pay for answers to all of life’s questions from a “certified expert.” The only problems: 1) She doesn’t know how to do anything but long division and calculus. 2) She’s totally invisible to people at school. And not in a cool Gossip Girl kind of way.

So, she decides to learn to do . . . well . . . everything. When her anonymous blog shifts in a more scandalous direction and the questions (and money) start rolling in, she has to learn not just how to do waterfall braids and cat-eye makeup, but a few other things, like how to cure a hangover, how to flirt, and how to make out (something her very experienced, and very in-love-with-her neighbor, Drew, is more than willing to help with).

As her blog’s reputation skyrockets, so does “new and improved” Renley’s popularity. She’s not only nabbed the attention of the entire school, but also the eye of Seth Levine, the hot culinary wizard she’s admired from across the home-ec classroom all year.

Soon, caught up in the thrill of popularity both in and out of cyberspace, her secrets start to spiral, and she finds that she’s forgotten the most important how-to: how to be herself. When her online and real lives converge, Renley will have to make a choice: lose everything she loves in her new life, or everyone she loves in the life she left behind.

3.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: adorable, cutesy romance; Renley’s blogging antics (and subsequent consequences) are entertaining and, at times, absolutely hilarious; DREW IS MY NEWEST BOOK CRUSH, don’t judge me; I giggled, I laughed like a maniac, I made horrendously weird noises and then said the most hilarious thing ever to explain said noises to my husband; basically, this was a TON of fun to read

Huge thanks to Brianna Shrum, Sky Pony Press publishers, and Edelweiss for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an unbiased review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

And until August, that’s all you get out of me!  Sorry, guys–rules rule my blogging life at times!  You still love me, right?

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Teaser Review: Wrecked, by Maria Padian

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Wrecked

Goodreads Rating: 4.50 Stars
368 Pages
Algonquin Young Readers Publishing
Preorder a copy here!

Everyone has heard a different version of what happened that night at MacCallum College. Haley was already in bed when her roommate, Jenny, arrived home shell-shocked from the wild Conundrum House party. Richard heard his housemate Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with. When Jenny formally accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard find themselves pushed onto opposite sides of the school’s investigation. But conflicting interests fueling conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible–especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.

Maria Padian offers a kaleidoscopic view of a sexual assault on a college campus. Wrecked will leave readers thinking about how memory and identity, what’s at stake, and who sits in judgment shape what we all decide to believe about the truth.

– – – – –

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: like the title suggests, this book WRECKED me; comfort zone? what even is that? I don’t think I know anymore; there’s an interesting play on “unreliable narrators” and “omniscient narrators” going on throughout this book that made this both frustrating, and intriguing; I don’t know what to feel right now; this book will shatter every perspective you think you have…and piece it back together in a different way

Huge thanks go to Maria Padian, Algonquin Young Readers publishing, and Netgalley for granting me early access to this title in exchange for an honest review. This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

Unfortunately, Netgalley rules rule my life—this is all the review you get from me until September!  Until then, there’s one thing about this book you should know-

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Teaser Review: Surviving High School, by Lele Pons and Melissa de la Cruz

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Surviving High School: A Novel

Goodreads Rating: 3.81 Stars
272 Pages
Gallery Books Publishing
Get a copy here!

Vine superstar Lele Pons—“one of the coolest girls on the web” (Teen Vogue)—teams up with #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz (The Isle of the Lost) in this lovable debut novel about the wilds and wonders of high school that’s as laugh-out-loud addictive as Lele’s popular videos.

Ten million followers and I still sit alone at lunch. Lele is a bulls-eye target at her new school in Miami until, overnight, her digital fame catapults the girl with cheerleader looks, a seriously silly personality, and a self-deprecating funny bone into the popular crowd. Now she’s facing a whole new set of challenges—the relentless drama, the ruthless cliques, the unexpected internet celebrity—all while trying to keep her grades up and make her parents proud.

Filled with the zany enthusiasm that has made Lele into Vine’s most viewed star, this charming novel is proof that high school is a trip. From crushing your crushes (what’s up with that hot transfer student Alexei??) to throwing Insta-fake parties with your BFFs and moaning over homework (GAH) with your frenemies, high school is a rollercoaster of exhilarating highs and totally embarrassing lows. Leave it to Lele to reassure us that falling flat on your face is definitely not the end of the world. Fans of Mean Girls will love this fun and heartwarming fish-out-of-water story.

– – – – –

4Penguins
Quick Reasons: ohmah goodness, I love this character; snarky, quirky, my type of narrator!; this is a coming-of-age like you wouldn’t believe; tackles the topic of “internet fame” and how to handle the pressures that come with it; it’s like I looked into this character’s head…and the journey was amazing; this is laugh-out-loud funny; so many pop culture references!

Huge thanks to: Lele Pons, Melissa de la Cruz, Gallery Books Publishing, Netgalley, and Giselle @ Xpresso Book Tours for hooking me up with early access to this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

Because this is part of a blog tour, my full review is under wraps until May 6th! Keep an eye out for that to come!

For now, take a gander at my favorite status updates:

4%–

I already LOVE the sass on this character! Seriously, she could fry an egg just looking at it.

Also, hello references to the Disney channel *I* grew up with!

Thirdly…LOVE that this reads like a blog so far. She even addresses the readers. Way to break the 4th wall! (my inner English major is squealing!)

11%–

Ohmahgosh, never have I EVER met a more awkward character! She’s even more awkward than Bella Swan, which…is saying something. The defining difference? Lele has a personality to stand up with. Also, Bella never made me laugh so hard.

65%–

The more I read, the more entertained I am. Lele is SUPER dramatic and over-the-top and I usually don’t like characters like her, but for some reason, the pop culture references and her awkwardness all sort of work together to create something messy and unique and lovable.

I want to be her friend. It would make life interesting.

 

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Teaser Review: The Museum of Heartbreak, by Meg Leder

The Museum of Heartbreak

Goodreads Rating: 4.28 Stars
256 Pages
Simon Pulse Publishing
Expected Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Preorder your copy here!

In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.

Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.

Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.

Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.

But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.

– – – – –

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: teenage angst; cute, angsty romance; gross manipulative crush; awesome self-growth and actualization; lots and lots of dinosaurs!; great, vibrant characters; some weird, undefined “girl” hate (towards one character specifically); atmospheric, beautiful writing

HUGE thanks to Meg Leder, Simon Pulse Publishing, and Netgalley for access to this eARC in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered how I read, or my opinions of, this book.

For now, THIS is all the review you get! Keep an eye out for my full review to come in May!

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Teaser Review: The Cresswell Plot, by Eliza Wass

The Cresswell Plot

Goodreads Rating: 3.52 Stars
272 Pages
Disney-Hyperion Publishing
Expected Publication: June 7th, 2016
Get a copy here!

The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark.

Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.

Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.

Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.

– – – – –

5Penguins
Quick Reasons: OHMAHGOSH, ohmahgosh, this book is insanely intense; I took a huge step out of my comfort zone for this read—and am so glad I did!; lots of plot twists and moments that caught me off-guard; lots of pretty, “makes you think” moments; the prose is beautiful and well-done; the characters are vibrant and unique; the plot is action-packed and full of mystery from the beginning; THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD!

Huge thanks go out to Eliza Wass, Disney-Hyperion Publishing, and Netgalley for access to the eARC in exchange for an honest review. This in no way altered my opinions or review of this book.

Keep an eye out for the publication in June 2016! Until then, SHHHH—my full review is a secret!

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Teaser Review: Arena, by Holly Jennings

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Goodreads Rating: 4.00 Stars
336 Pages
Berkley Publishing Group
Expected Publication Date: April 5th, 2016

A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming…

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier…

The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside…

– – – – –

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: THIS is the type of awesome virtual-gaming read I’ve been looking for!; epic, butt-kicking characters; lots of real-life drama, struggles, and honesty; this read touches on a very important, heavy subject throughout; action-packed, fast-paced from start to finish; lots of great imagery and world-building; just a bit of steamy romance and adorableness thrown in for good measure

Huge thanks go out to Holly Jennings, Berkley Publishing Group, and Netgalley for a free copy of this eARC in exchange for an honest review! This in no way changed my read or opinions of this book.

I WISH I could give you all the nitty gritty, delicious review details now–I mean honestly, this read was AWESOME!–but rules are rules. Keep an eye out for my full review to come in late March. Sorry, guys!

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Teaser Review: The Steep and Thorny Way, by Cat Winters

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A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

– – – – –

5 Stars

Quick Reasons: educational, awesome glimpse into 1920s Oregon; entertaining, fun characters; a sense of mystery and flair for drama; some interesting/unforseen plot twists; complex, heart-wrenching story; subtle but easy-to-spy influence/references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet; LIFE RUINER!

Huge thanks go out to Cat Winters, Amulet Books, and Netgalley for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered how I read or reviewed this book!

GUYS! I forgot how much I absolutely love love looooove reading historical fiction! And this?! This book is the perfect melting pot of historical, diverse, and absolutely brilliant. Also, apparently it’s a Hamlet retelling, which I didn’t know going in…but can definitely see now! I have to admit, when I found out that little tidbit, I squealed a bit TOO loudly in the husband’s ear. I don’t think he likes me very much right now; I proceeded to go on a five minute rant about how much I love Hamlet. Oops!

Also, my apologies, but you’re going to have to wait until February to see my full review. Rules are rules!

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The Art of Being Normal, by Lisa Williamson

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Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

—–

Rating: 4.75/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: fantastic, realistic, well-written diversity; a sensitive and mature handling of an important subject; lovable, quirky characters; a great glimpse into various different familial relationships; not insta-love, but insta-friendship

Huge thanks to Lisa Williamson, David Fickling Books and Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) publishers, and Netgalley for access to this digital galley in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered how I read or perceived this book.

When I discovered this book while browsing Netgalley, I knew immediately I needed to read it. Needless to say, I was super excited when, just a day later, I was approved for access. I’ve just finished reading…and WOW. Wow. I was so not disappointed!

***Sorry, guys–this book comes out in May 2016! Keep an eye out for my full review in the near future. For now, this is all you get, because….***

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Flawed (Flawed #1), by Cecelia Ahern

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The Scarlet Letter meets Divergent in this thoughtful and thrilling novel by bestselling author Cecelia Ahern.

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions.

She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where obedience is paramount and rebellion is punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her-everything.

– – – – –

Rating: 4.75/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: heavy, hard-hitting story; (mostly) redeemable, engaging characters…except that one villain guy, who’s another President Snow in the making; realistic, terrifying dystopian; well-written, heart-wrenching prose; this entire story is FEELS from start to finish

Huge thanks to Cecelia Ahern, MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Netgalley for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered how I read or reviewed this book.

OH MY good golly gee willickers, I can’t even with the feels right now.

No, really. You guys think I’m joking. I can hear you all now, sitting there in your chairs, faces drawn in mild amusement (and perhaps a bit of exasperation, because HELLO, I freak out about books all. the. time, so this is nothing new) But trust me—this book? You’re going to want to read it. You’re going to want to drop everything the day it’s published and pick it up. I just wish I could explain to you, right now, why. Unfortunately, I have to follow the rules. Keep your eyes peeled for my in-depth review come March!

Until then, I’ll just…be sitting over here in my own little corner of this fandom, all by myself. You know. The usual.