Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Anything To Have You by Paige Harbison (ARC)

Anything To Have You by Paige Harbison
Harlequin Teen, 304 Pages
Expected US Release Date: January 28, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!
Challenges: Contemporary Challenge, Stand Alone Challenge

Nothing should come between best friends, not even boys. ESPECIALLY not boys.

Natalie and Brooke have had each other's backs forever. Natalie is the quiet one, college bound and happy to stay home and watch old movies. Brooke is the movie—the life of every party, the girl everyone wants to be.

Then it happens—one crazy night that Natalie can't remember and Brooke's boyfriend, Aiden, can't forget. Suddenly there's a question mark in Natalie and Brooke's friendship that tests everything they thought they knew about each other and has both girls discovering what true friendship really means.
---------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote

Love is the one thing that no matter how much you want it, if it's not there, there is nothing you can do to get it. No measure of hard work, begging, crying, wanting or needing; nothing in the world can make love happen out of nothing.

I was debating if I should sign up for this touring ARC when I first saw it posted because Harlequin Teen can be a bit hit or miss for me. I expect a lot of things from Harlequin in terms of love stories and romance, you know? And this sounded good, but I also felt like I probably knew the story without even reading it. But I went for it, because why not? It sounded daring and passionate, two things I hardly turn down.

And honestly? I’m pretty disappointed. The entire novel was predictable, down to the “twist” and other turns they threw at the reader. Perhaps the only thing that really took me by surprise was that this book turned into a dual narrative (didn’t expect to get Brooke’s point of view!), but that actually was a bad thing for me. I don’t think it added anything to the storyline, I didn’t think it was executed well…it was basically two books shoved into one that happened to criss-cross. Sure, the storyline overlapped since it was written to, but I didn’t think knowing the other side enhanced the story more.

And I admit that while a lot of the boys were pretty hot on the page (at least I can still count on Harlequin for that!), there were so many flaws in each one that I couldn’t believe it. Aiden was nice and sweet (aside from possibly sleeping with his girlfriend’s best friend…but y’know.), but he was just a little too perfect. His reactions, all the things he did to protect others and be considering of them…it was too much. Too perfect, too ideal, especially in comparison to the other males in the book. I could not STAND Eric – he was supposed to be Mr. Hot Stuff at school, the untouchable but all-wanting, the perfect dude, but I actually thought he was a preeeetty big douchebag! Some of the things he said or did were pretty clear asshole things to me, and I couldn’t understand why every girl at the school seemed to love him.

Other things that bothered me: 1) every character was described as hot or popular or pretty or model-like. This is not a TV show, not every single damn character is going to be flawless and hot. It diminished any of the relatability I could get to any of the situations. And 2) the title does NOT fit with the novel to me. I don’t think someone did anything to have someone, I did not think it was as daring as it could be or really pushed any boundaries. The title makes it sound a lot more…risqué, you know? And it wasn’t at all.

Perhaps the only thing that did push the envelope was Brooke and her spiral towards the end. I normally am not into those Badass Girl characters, but she was the only one I could vaguely see the progression with and understand how she went there. Her attraction with Reed, the reactions to Aidan and Natalie, everything made sense to have her go in the direction she did.

I did like Natalie and Brooke’s friendship, too. That worked nicely together, I believed in it and their connection and all the emotions they experienced together and because of the other. That was probably one of the only redeeming parts to this entire novel.

Obviously, Anything To Have You wasn’t quite the book for me. It had so much potential and could have been, but I thought very little of it worked. While I endorse the friendship between the girls, I can’t endorse much else.
2 Stars

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Flash Giveaway: Goodbye 2013! (US only)

One last giveaway to bid farewell to 2013, shall we?  :)

ONE (1) lucky winner will win three hardcovers!
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Every Day by David Levithan
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

US Only
(sorry INT!)
Ends January 1, 2014

Please do not leave your email in my comment section.
Enter through the rafflecopter below, and all my usual giveaway policy rules apply.
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

[Une Petite Revue] Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Starry Night: A Christmas Novel by Debbie Macomber
Ballantine Books, 256 Pages
US Release Date: October 8, 2013
Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a mega-bestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Filled with all the comforts and joys of Christmastime, Starry Night is a delightful novel of finding happiness in the most surprising places.
-------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
There was no doubt in Carrie’s mind. Finn Dalton owned her heart. He carried it with him, and now the question, the real question, was what he intended to do with it.”
The Goods
Classic Debbie Macomber. Touching and heartfelt with just the right amount of cheeseball.
Finn. Ooooo he is a great mountainman.
Creative gifts! Loved that and the backstory behind each one and why they meant something.
Alaska. I love when her stories are set here.

The Bads
Not too big a fan of Carrie, but she was ok. Strong enough for Finn.
I want more Hennessey!! Dogs are always a great addition to Christmas novels.

The Consensus
Debbie Macomber delivers again. This is everything I’ve come to expect and love when I pick up her Christmas novels.

The Recommendation
For anyone who wants a quick Christmas romance. This won’t disappoint.

3 stars

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I'll Miss You, Ned Vizzini

I am heartbroken.

If you've been a longtime reader of this blog (hi, friend!), then you know how much I love and adore Ned Vizzini. His books spoke to me, and I've had the privilege of meeting, befriending, and knowing him. I have a tag on this blog dedicated to him, to tell of all the brilliant stories of us meeting and how incredibly sweet and nice he was. Like when he made ALA for me by giving me his personal ARC, or when he thanked me for writing a piece about his event (as if he needed to thank me for anything!).
The first time we met.
(I remember thinking he was so cute.)

So it's with a heavy heart that I write this post.

The last time I saw Ned, he was doing LATFOB with Chris Columbus and the lines were madness. I tried to wait in a signing line, but had to get to a panel. I remember him catching my eye and waving as I was leaving, tilting his head as though asking where I was going. I tapped my phone, hoping he understood it meant I'd tweet him. Sure enough, he was quick to respond when I asked where he'd be later. When I did finally catch him just before his solo signing, he hugged me hello and said he'd been happy to see me at the panel/signing. We chatted, he told me a story about his wife getting a book signed by Orson Scott Card, introduced me to her and Felix (his son), we talked longer…and then I realized I'd made him almost 10 minutes late to his signing. He waved aside my apologies and didn't even rush us to the end. He signed my book, we said our goodbyes and promised to talk and meet up again when he had more events and closer to the paperback and Book 2 release. I remember walking away thinking I'd meant to get a photo with him since we didn't have any of us together, but I'd try again next time.

There's been an outpouring of love since the news broke of Ned's passing. He lost the battle against depression, something he was so open about. It was this disease that ultimately took him from us, but it's also the one that brought him into our lives, too. And that's what I'm going to choose to remember.

Ned was such an individual. He was brilliant and funny, charming, with a built-in storytelling gene. He would regale me with hilarious stories or funny run-ins with his industry, and I'd leave him already anticipating the next adventure he'd tell me about. I still remember the day I met him felt like I was hanging out with an old friend: he treated me as such, with a warm and welcoming crooked smile. I knew then he'd gotten a fan for life. And every meeting after that just made it stronger. When he started messaging me about his upcoming events, seeing if I was going and setting up where/when we'd have a chat, it baffled me he'd remember some random fan girl and take the time out of his day just to say hi…but that's who he was. He was kind and considerate, mindful of the people in his life. He always thanking me for my writing and reviews and support, no matter how often I'd remind him it was my honor to do so.
There's really nothing else I can say, other than how terribly sad this situation is. That I am heartbroken for Ned, for the YA community's loss, for Sabra and Felix and all his other family. I hope Ned has found peace, wherever he may be, and I hope he's seeing how much we all loved him, how much his words have helped those in the same dark places he's found himself in.

I love you always Ned, and I'll miss your amazing writing, seeing you, and that happy drop in my belly every time I'd see a message from you pop up in my inbox. Thanks for teaching me the roadmaps in my head, how to travel them and what they're worth. Until we meet again, my friend.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner (ARC)

These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Disney-Hyperion, 374 pages
US Release Date: December 10, 2013
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World ARC Tours - thank you!

It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

A timeless love story, THESE BROKEN STARS sets into motion a sweeping science fiction series of companion novels. The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.
-----------------Goodreads summary
Notable quote
"If it's true, then we know we're not mad," I say, keeping my eyes on the sky.
"And if it's true, we know we're not alone." He, however, sounds more troubled than relieved.
If Titanic and Across the Universe decided to have an interdimensional Under the Never Sky baby, These Broken Stars would be it. And trust me: it. Is. AWESOME. I went into this book expecting to be blown away. I’ve heard about this book since last year, the cover has long been coveted, we all know about it. So safe to say: expectation. To the max.

I’ve been trying to write what I thought was the best part, and I keep deleting to put in something else. Which leads me to: everything is the best part. I loved the set-up of the disaster, the exploration and adventure Tarver and Lilac are forced to go through as they explore this planet, the tension and action so perfectly weaved together into a brilliant tale of hopelessness, even the scary parts made me love it!

There is definitely a creep factor here guys, and I have to admit how surprised I was by it! Just reading the summary, you know there are voices. But how they’re presented, how they slowly build into something – it is so fantastically terrifying and oh my god I would go batshit nuts if I were hearing and seeing the things Lilac was.

Perhaps the best part is that even though this book focuses almost entirely on a romance and relationship, it barely feels like it at all. Not that I’m opposed to relationships, we all know I’m a huge romance/contemporary relationship kinda gal. Give me that any day. But how the relationship built up, how they slowly started to mean something to each other, how it all comes together and gets fiercely tested and ripped apart time after time…it’s interesting and crazy and heartstopping, and it really makes the relationship feel secondary. And somehow, it still manages to maintain sweetness and sentimentality! Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner are phenomenal masters.

We all know how much I love a dual narrative. And this one is amongst the best – you get first person narratives from both Tarver and Lilac. You get to really feel who they are, understand what they’re becoming, sense what they’ve been. You get to see some situations from both points of view, which gives a great roundness to scenes and settings. Both are perfectly crafted, and I love both for very distinct reasons.

Of course I love Tarver though. Military man? Check. Real? Check. Strong? Check. Considerate, can-do, get’s-his-shit-done? Check check, more check. Poet? OH. YOU. KNOW. IT. It sounds crazy, but it all wraps up into one character so perfectly and trust me when I say you will swoon like it’s nobody’s business when he worms his way into your heart.

These Broken Stars yanks at every string I ever had in my heart, and made me discover more. It’s crazy how it made me feel so attached and in love and hopeless and lost with them, and I haven’t even begun to describe it all. Read this, guys. It’s your new favorite.

5 stars

Monday, December 16, 2013

Top Ten Authors I Discovered in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fab ladies at The Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Authors
I Discovered in 2013
In no particular order! All links go to my reviews.
Katie Cotugno (How To Love)
Megan Shepherd (The Madman's Daughter)
Cristin Terrill (All Our Yesterdays)
Kasie West (Pivot Point, The Distance Between Us)

Lauren DeStefano (Perfect Ruin)
Melissa Kantor (Maybe One Day - review coming next year!)
J. Lynn (Frigid, Wait For You)
Leila Sales (This Song Will Save Your Life)
Elizabeth Scott (Heartbeat)
Meagan Spooner, Amie Kaufman (These Broken Stars - review coming this week)

What authors did you discover this year?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Ashes to Ashes by Melissa Walker (ARC)

Ashes to Ashes (Ashes to Ashes #1) by Melissa Walker
Katherine Tegan (Harper Teen), 356 pages
Expected US Release Date: December 23, 2013
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours
- thank you!

When Callie's life is cut short by a tragic accident, she expects to find nothingness, or maybe some version of heaven.

Instead, her spirit travels to the Prism, an ethereal plane populated by the ghosts she thought were fictional. Here she meets a striking and mysterious ghost named Thatcher, who is meant to guide her as she learns to haunt and bring peace to the loved ones she left behind.

However, Callie uncovers a dark secret about the spirit world: The angry souls who always populate ghost stories are real, dangerous, and willing to do whatever it takes to stay on Earth, threatening the existence of everyone she ever cared about.

As she fights to save them, Callie will learn that while it may no longer beat, her heart can still love-and break.
-------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
…it's such an abstract concept. Reaching out feels so much more natural to me.
There is one main thing that I think a person should know going into reading Ashes To Ashes: this is a duet. There will be a second book! I had absolutely no idea when I read it, I thought it was a standalone—but as I crept closer and closer to the end of the book, I started thinking, “Hmmm…all these questions and still ninety BILLION questions?!” And I remember thinking good heavens there BETTER be a second book, else I’m not even going to bother rating this it infuriates me so much! (Book blogger threats. They’re real.)

So, PHEW on that front. Knowing that, I definitely like this book the more I think about it. When I first closed it, I thought it was a bit odd, and unsatisfying, and that there were too many questions without answers. And while I do still think there weren’t enough answers, it wasn’t enough to put me off from wanting to pick up Book 2.

I’m not a big paranormal person, so I was a bit iffy going into this novel. I haven’t quite figured out my feelings on ghosts and the paranormal happenings in life; and I have even less experience in my books. But I like Melissa Walker, I adore most of her contemporaries that I’ve read and I thought this would be a good way to get into it. And I’m glad to say I gave it a shot!

The concept of the Prism is pretty interesting to me, I like that we try to help our loved ones get over our death. I found that delightfully satisfying and fulfilling, and I kind of hope that is the real reason ghosts haunt. Not their own unfinished business, but the unfinished business of helping someone else. I loved the personal ghost prisms they each had too, the concept of why they’re built as they are and that it’s an area for them to recharge. Kinda made me wonder what my personal prism would look like (as vaguely morbid as that seems). And I quite enjoy the little bits of humor and puns regarding life/death/having a life in death.

I have to admit that there are still some predictable parts, that I knew why Callie could feel and still had her memories and emotions as a ghost—that seemed pretty easy to figure out, and that definitely influenced how I felt about certain scenes where that affecting things. It took away some surprise to the book, but there were still enough moments for me to overlook that.

I found I really liked most of the characters, too. Carson was a great friend, I loved how into the spirit world she is and how she connects with all that. She was a fantastic friend to Callie, even after she was gone, and I started hoping that my friends were like her. Nick is…well. He was probably my least favourite of the good characters, but I didn’t particularly not like him. He felt mostly incomplete to me, like I was given him as a part to the story without explanation or real connection. Leo was creepy. He was so, so creepy. Written well, and a great character, but like Callie, I would shiver and dread every time he showed up on the page. The entire idea of some ghosts existing who did not want to move out of the Prism and into Solus was dark and scary; and Leo just took it to an extreme. That’s some great writing where I would hate seeing his name on a page.

I am SO FREAKIN’ CURIOUS. Omg. There are so many questions, and I don’t have answers, and omg you guys I NEED THEM. Why was Nick going to…well, you know. What is going on with Carson? Who is H? Why is Thatcher so freakin’ hot and amazing and man aliiiiiiiiive do I want that ghost. The book ended fairly well in terms of leaving you satisfied enough for the book but wanting more.

Last, random thing: I love the title font on the cover. I really, really draw towards the first “Ashes” being different than the last “ashes.” I don’t quite know why, but I know I really loved it.

3.5 stars

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr (ARC)

Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr
Little, Brown BYR, 288 pages
Expected US Release Date: December 24, 2013
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours
- thank you!
Challenges: New Adult Challenge, Contemporary Challenge, Stand Alone Challenge

It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.
----------------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
After a few days passed and the sting of it all started to fade, I realized something: if two or three of the most important people in your life are telling you something and you are resisting it with everything you have, there is a distinct possibility that what they are saying is true. That you are wrong and just don’t want to admit it.

When I first read the premise of this book, immediately I tried to recall how I introduced myself to my first college roommate. Did we email incessantly? Did we talk at all? First year of college seems like it was ages ago (in reality it’s only 8 for me), but I barely remember contacting my roommate before we eventually moved in together. Times were different back then, sure; this was back when Facebook was still, and you still had to have a verified college email to join it and you were only in your college network. ANCIENT, I know. I know I emailed my roommate before (I’ll call her Emcee for the sake of this); and Emcee and I discussed the usual fridge/microwave situation. We may have even discussed colours (though I doubt it, since hers was every shade of purple possible whereas I was strictly blue. I don’t think we’d have coordinated to look like a bruise). But beyond that? Emcee and I remained a mystery until we shared a 10x10 cube.

After reading Roomies, I think that may have been the best idea! Sure, neither of us are as extreme as EB or Lauren (we were both from California (me from Southern California, her from NorCal), but we definitely would have meddled in each other’s lives.

The point of this ginormous walk down my memory lane is that Roomies made me reminisce like crazy. Which is hilarious, since my first roommate and I weren’t (and aren’t) particularly close…we’re Facebook acquaintances at best, and have been since second year of college. But there was such an edge of familiarity throughout all of EB’s and Lauren’s correspondence that made me miss all my college days and friends. Dormmates and roommates and friends alike.

Both girls had endlessly dramatic summers, and I was so swept up trying to keep up with both of them. I wanted to be able to give each of them advice at the same time as listening to what the other was saying with everything I had. I love that both girls are different – but going through such similarly opposite things. Family, but one has an endless amount while the other lacks it. Boys, the problems and fresh starts. Leaving, which could mean growing up or just moving (or perhaps a bit of both). I sincerely wish I’d had this book when I was going through college, because I think I could have found a few sorely needed friends within it.

So, here’s something I’m a bit ashamed to say: I’ve never read any books by either Sara Zarr or Tara Altebrando. I own several by both-but never actually read. So it might not mean much when I say I can’t tell who wrote what parts, but that’s the truth of it – both girls are distinct from each other, but the style is so flawless throughout the entire book I would never have thought two people wrote this book. I still have no idea if one took the character of the other, or if they worked on both together…there’s a fluidity in each that makes you fly through the pages.

And I do have to say, having read Roomies, I definitely want to read those books by Sara and Tara now – I’ve heard how amazing they both are, and this just reinforces what I’ve heard, for sure.

While I was reading this book, I know it’s a solid 4.5 star – though I can’t quite pinpoint why it’s not 5. Perhaps because it is quite serious; there are some funny parts, but it’s so dramatic and insular upon itself that I think I would have liked a few more parts to lighten it up. For them to really become friends through good, rather than through their problems. I know that’s how a lot of us bond together, but sometimes I just wanted them to discover they both like to rock climb, you know?

I did love their little Yes/No/Maybe to what they were bringing to college in most of their emails. Such a fantastic little touch that really gave a great movement to the story in such little bites.

Roomies was spectacularly done, with that new friendship to keep you riveted and the same raw familiarity of struggling to connect and understand a person in your life. There’s emotion and connection, both on the pages and when you read, and I can’t help but think this is one of the better reads of 2013…and perhaps ever.
4.5 Stars

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff (ARC)

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
Putnam Juvenile (an imprint of Penguin), 256 pages
US Release Date: October 3, 2013
Format/Source: Print ARC, Around the World Tours
- thank you!
Challenges: Contemporary Challenge, Standalone Challenge

Printz Award-winning author Meg Rosoff's latest novel is a gorgeous and unforgettable page-turner about the relationship between parents and children, love and loss.

Mila has an exceptional talent for reading a room—sensing hidden facts and unspoken emotions from clues that others overlook. So when her father’s best friend, Matthew, goes missing from his upstate New York home, Mila and her beloved father travel from London to find him. She collects information about Matthew from his belongings, from his wife and baby, from the dog he left behind and from the ghosts of his past—slowly piecing together the story everyone else has missed. But just when she’s closest to solving the mystery, a shocking betrayal calls into question her trust in the one person she thought she could read best.
------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
And so, perhaps, when I say I long to be a pane of glass, I am lying. I long for partial obscurity at the same time that I long for someone to know me.
It is confusing and difficult being me.
I've only read one other of Meg Rosoff's books (There Is No Dog - click to read my review!), but I'm fairly certain her books are ones that will remain in your memory. There such a unique take to everything; the story, the personalities, the situations...I feel like this book is something I've never really seen together at once, and I love that.

There is a sadness that permeates this entire novel. It weaves itself into all the worlds, all the settings and thoughts. It's not overwhelmingly sad like how I felt while reading Safekeeping by Karen Hesse, but there's a distinct melancholy. Something that makes me feel like I'm searching for a lost cause. And while that's perfect in terms of the actual story and what Mila and Gil are doing, sometimes I had to close the book just to breathe and remember the world is, in fact, ok.

Picture Me Gone isn't so much of a coming-of-age book; but more a losing-your-innocence book. It's having to grow up, of having to face adult decisions and consequences, while learning there is a darkness to people and sides that we try to hide. It's a little heartbreaking to be in Mila's head as she learns to wrap her thoughts around the darkness hidden in people, but at the same time it makes you love her more and want to wrap her in a hug and protect her. There's a sense of pride I have for her, too, that she's able to process all that she and Gil learn about her father's friend, that she understands these are the life lessons she's been told most her life she'll have to understand when she's older.

Seriously up for discussion: what did you think of Meg Rosoff not using quotation marks? Of not making the distinction of dialogue and who exactly was speaking? I personally found it intriguing and a good choice. It feels a little more like being in a 12-year-olds head. Plus, I felt like we followed the story a little better and that we really got into the rhythm of the plot. To know who is speaking to whom, you have to follow closely, and I feel like without the quotes it let us fall into it a little more. But still...anyone hate it? Think it was too weird?

There are so many different personalities in this book, and I found myself being pulled almost equally to all of them. Even when some of the personalities aren't necessarily good ones, there's something distinct, endearing almost, about all of them. I loved that Gil is quiet and spare, his words measured and his thoughts logical. I adore Mila and her ability to read situations, because sometimes I feel just like her: seeing too much from so little and feeling like it's a punishment and a power. Matthew and Suzanne are not made to be positive characters, but there's something to both that you see a bit of people you love in them. They make you clench your fist as you put your arm around their shoulders, you know? And I found the element of Mila's best friend, Catlin, to be interesting. I like how their relationship as children still mirrored adult situations, how a friendship made when they were so young and doing childish things can still teach her lessons about being an adult and growing up. Even though I think Catlin is ultimately a negative in Mila's life, I can appreciate the positives she catalyzes.

I know I've said a lot of things that are dark or sad, but there's actually a lot of love and sweetness throughout this entire book, too. A lot of it is from family - Marieka and Gil especially - and the trust and belief we have in them. There's moments of comfort and happiness. While I don't really like Honey's devotion to Matthew, it's still something that makes you smile amidst the rest of the confusion. It's nice to know that even though there's questions and deception all around, there can also be true loyalty and an unfailing love.

Picture Me Gone is a serious book, with serious lessons and sweet moments (Jake!) interspersed. It is a book meant to make you think, to consider humanity and personality and who we are to others. It is one that makes you think of the darkness you hide, the secrets you keep hidden, and the why to all of it. But there's also enough in here that reminds you of those people you hold close, of the ones who do bring you hope and light the way in darkness.

3.5 Stars

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusic (ARC)

Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick
Candlewick Press, 400 pages
US Release Date: September 10, 2013
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours
- thank you!
Challenges: Stand Alone, Contemporary Challenge

Hollywood glitz collides with workingclass aspirations in this satirical tale of an impulsive starlet and a sharp-witted small-town teen.

Cherry Kerrigan loves her simple life, her family’s tiny trailer, even working at Burrito Barn. Forget college — she’s marrying her sweetheart from next door. But here comes Ardelia Deen, a glamorous starlet who sweeps Cherry into a world of fast cars and penthouse parties. Now Cherry’s small-town life just seems so . . . small. When Ardelia drops a bomb of an offer — one involving a baby — Cherry knows her life will change forever, no matter what she decides. John M. Cusick focuses his signature wit on Hollywood royalty and the wide-eyed dreams of Small Town, U.S.A. in a novel about discovering who you are . . . and changing your mind.
-------------------------Goodreads summary

I’m not sure this book was anything like I expected, though I have absolutely no idea what I initially expected! It sounds like it’s going to be a predictable novel about a trashy white girl who suddenly gets exposed to the big, wide world and how it messes up her life. And sure, I guess you could trivialise it down to that if you really wanted – but it’s actually SO much more. It’s about who you are because of where you are, because of what you are, because of all the things you never knew you could be. It’s about society and exposure, celebrity culture and “normal” culture.

I have to be upfront about this: I didn’t really like Cherry. As a person, that is; Cherry as a character was fantastic. She’s so strong and distinct, and I suspect unlike any other YA protagonist. She’s different, and she revels in it. That part is pretty awesome. But her personality grated at me. She was just so…stubborn. Maybe I didn’t like it because I’m stubborn too, I don’t know. I did like her family though, and how loyal she was to them and Lucas. As much as I can whine about her, I can say that there are endearing traits as well.

I did, however, love Ardelia, and not just because I love her name so much. She was flighty and fabulous, just the right amount of over-the-top celebrity characterization mixed with a real person. She is someone I’d love to get swept up in and taken on adventures with all over the city. I don’t question how she and Cherry fall in together; Ardelia had that wonderful sense of just accepting anything and rolling with everything presented to her. Very early on (the candy scene, actually), I knew I’d love her.

Even though the entire book itself was unexpected, I have to admit that some of the storyline itself was a bit…predictable? Not in a premonition, I know what will happen the moment I read the opening line way. But it just seemed a little sensible what was going to happen, once you found out it would. (I have no idea if that makes sense to anyone who hasn’t read this. Disregard if you’re staring at the screen like I’m a big ball of crazy right now.) I do love how the book is split into essentially 3 sections of Cherry, Money and Baby. It really made a great tone and flow for the story.

Cherry Money Baby is a surprising read, one that will touch your heart at the same time as making you laugh out loud. There’s tons of adventure, a little bit of heartbreak and suspense, and a whole lot of fun. And the best part? Cherry’s potty mouth. Damn if I love some good foul language in a book.

3 Stars

Friday, November 8, 2013

Review: 45 Pounds (more or less) by KA Barson (ARC)

45 Pounds by KA Barson
Viking Juvenile (Penguin), 264 pages
US Release Date: July 11, 2013
Source/Format: ARC via Around the World Tours
- thank you!
Challenges: Contemporary Challenge, SARC

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!
-------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote

I'm still not at my ideal weight. I didn't lose forty-five pounds before the wedding. Who knows if I ever will. I've lost twenty-seven and a half pounds, and that's better than nothing. Somehow, though, today I'm thinking more about what I've gained than what I've lost.

This seemed like such an interesting premise, especially for a YA book – we all know obesity has become a big problem, but I feel like it’s not ever so frankly tackled in the literary world. As soon as I saw this, I knew I had to read it.

And I knew I had personal ties to it. I’ve been overweight since I was 9. I’ve literally been 5’3” since the 3rd grade, and I started growing my “womanly curves” at the same time. Since then, it’s just been a steady increase in width, even though I never got the height to go with it. I don’t diet, ever, for reasons too personal for a book review; but the struggles that Ann goes through? I know them. They are mine. They are things I face daily, I will continue to face daily no matter what I do or how many numbers my size decreases. They’re constant and consistent, no matter what we do.

So of course, as predicted, sometimes I had to put this book down because it was too many of my own insecurities out for the world to see. Those are private thoughts, you know? And now they’re here. But at the same time, I think that’s what made me love this book more, because I finally feel like there’s someone who understands and I know I’m not alone. I sincerely wish I’d had this book in high school, because it would have helped. And even still, at 26, I’m so glad to have this in my life now because I still feel like this, 10 years later.

Taking this out of the personal ties, I do really love this book! I love that Ann is still a person, not just some bitter fat girl. That her struggles are real, but so are her triumphs. I really like that she’s still “normal” to an extent. She’s had friends, she gets a job, she doesn’t get rude slurs and things thrown at her every other page like I’ve seen some fat people get in books. She’s still a teenager, still has love around her, still normal.

Her family is a bit bizarre, and I love how it plays into Ann’s life and what she does. Yes, her dad is a dick (the book’s words! Not mine!); and yes, her mom is pretty pushy—but I love that there’s a reason for all that be so. That there is resolution to all of that, and that it serves a purpose. One of the best parts to this plot was the support Ann had when she started in on the diet. I know sometimes the support was a little too aggressive, but that’s a very real situation sometimes. People try to help, but they don’t realize that it’s just hurting in the end. While support is appreciated, sometimes it makes it a little worse, too.

Something else fantastic? That Ann goes through normal teenage things like friendship problems, boy troubles and first-job woes, too. They’re fun and funny, and give a nice rounding of normal to this story at the same time. Jon was absolutely adorable, and it meant so much to me as an overweight reader that his parts and her weight rarely crossed, if ever. And I’m so glad that Raynee came into play, too, because she’s a friend we can hope to find in life.

When I was nearing the end of this book, I started to wonder how it would wrap up without being some stupid cliché ending about realizing her worth is more than the number on the scale, that it’s inner beauty and blah blah blah. So I was happily surprised how they brought in her younger step-siblings and made it play a part in the end! I won’t spoil how, exactly, but it made so much sense and I felt really does better at driving the point home than Ann just realizing it about herself.

Of course, I’m happy that there were lessons like the cliché “inner beauty” in here, because ultimately, it’s true. I’ve taken a long time to realize that I have more to offer than a fat stomach and huge arms. It’s been a lifelong struggle of doublechins and chipmunk cheeks, but I can recognize that I should take pride in them since they’re prominent when I’m laughing and smiling. How 45 Pounds (More of Less) tackles that is fantastic, and I hope those readers who see themselves in here can recognize it, too.

So after all this, what’s my number for this book?

5 stars. 
For sure.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: The Vow by Jessica Martinez (ARC)

The Vow by Jessica Martinez
Simon Pulse, 432 pages
US Release Date: October 15, 2013
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!
Challenges: Contemporary Challenge, SARC

No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends?

Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him.

Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love?
-----------------------Goodreads summary

Notable Quote
Unfair only exists if fair exists, and I’m too old to believe the universe owes me anything. 
How have I never read a book by Jessica Martinez before guys!? Virtuosity has been on my TBR forever, but I just never made it a priority. Well, after reading The Vow, I’m definitely bumping it a few notches higher on my list!

The Vow was such an interesting premise to me, especially to be tackled in YA. Even more once I realized it took place in Kentucky. The setting played such a huge part, and I was riveted to watching it all unfold and the glimpses we got through “townspeoples” eyes. It was few and far between, but I was drinking it all in every time it came up. While I’m not Jordanian like Mo, nor do I have to deal with terrorist links in my name, I am not white (you guys knew that, right?) and I have been teased before about my nationality and who I am. Racism and prejudice are topics that get a rise out of me (that should get a rise out of anyone!), and to see it here on the pages…I thought it was brave for Jessica Martinez to try this. I do think some parts could make waves in the world, but for the most part it’s tame and handled well.

The thing that struck me most about this story was Martinez’s writing; it’s just so smooth! I seriously felt like I was gliding through the pages, and I breezed through the 400+ pages like it was nothing. I loved how each chapter kind of lead into the next one, either by situation or similar words – it really did wonders in making the flow work. The voices of Mo and Annie are so distinct and fun, and they really fit well together while remaining completely their own. And as I always say, I love me some dual narratives!

I can’t quite call this story predictable, but the way it works out…I mean, I feel like there was just no other way for it! I wanted so badly for it to go one way, but then something else would happen or be revealed, and suddenly my heart would just break and want to go into another direction…I was so invested in their plight. It’s been awhile since a book made me cry, but this one definitely got me close to it. You feel how much Mo and Annie love each other, how their friendship really transcends situations. When I first read the summary and realized what they were going to do to keep Mo here, I was kind of like “well that’s pretty extreme…” But when you get to know them, you get it. You so get it.

Something that almost made me cry? How awful Mo and Annie’s families are! They’re so horrible! And in completely different ways! And the part that makes me so much more sad? I know these parents are so common in the real world, and it kills me to know that. I’ve never felt more grateful for my parents while reading a book, I tell you – because Mo’s father makes me want to punch walls until he understands his son, and Annie’s parents need to open their eyes to the colors of the world.

The Vow is one of those books I went into expecting to like it, and left it so unexpectedly loving. I’ve fallen for the author’s writing style, in the friendship that’s so strong it will never break. I felt every emotion with them as they struggled to fight circumstances outside their control and grow up at the same time. There’s so much to this novel that every page I felt like I learned something new, and only loved it more.
4 stars

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine
meant to highlight an upcoming release we're excited for!

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Harper Teen, 432 pages
Expected US Release Date: April 1, 2014

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!
----------------------------Goodreads summary

I'm pretty certain this book wins for most original concept/best fairy tale retelling (that's not even a fairy tale retelling!). How freakin' awesome does this novel sound?! I love love LOVE the idea of not only continuing the story of Oz, but turning it completely around. I always thought Dorothy could go on the evil side, too! This book has all the potential to be thrilling, original, hilarious and brilliant -- and I can't wait!
What are you waiting for this Wednesday?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Grabby Hands: Top Ten Sequels I NEED RIGHT NOW.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the fab ladies at The Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Sequels
I Can't Wait To Get My Hands On
(*all release dates subject to change.)

Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu (TODAY!!!!)
Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky #3) by Veronica Rossi (January 28, 2014)
The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab (January 28, 2014)
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer (February 4, 2014)
Ignite Me (Unravel Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi (February 4, 2014)

Let the Storm Break (Let the Sky Fall #2) by Shannon Messenger (March 4, 2014)
The One (The Selection #3) by Kiera Cass (May 6, 2014)
Rebel (Reboot #2) by Amy Tintera (May 13, 2014)
While We Run (While We Wake #2) by Karen Healey (May 27, 2014)
False Future (False Memory #3) by Dan Krokos (August 19, 2014)

Which sequels are giving you the grabby hands?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!
PS. Have you entered my giveaway yet? US + INT, 22 books total! ends 11/29
Newer Posts Older Posts Home