Sunday, October 18, 2015

Change is good.

It's been a little quiet around these parts. Yes, mostly because of a big life change in March that limited my time (and currently still does), but also…the blog stalled a bit. And I want to talk about why.

My blog has always been about YA books and wanting to talk about them. Whether it's crazy plot twists or unbelievable characters or ridiculous endings, the fact is: I read, and I want to talk about them. I want to connect with other readers and be inspired by this community and find meanings and purposes right alongside others.

Then a funny thing happened: I found a wider community, filled with connections and ambitions and doors that lead to exciting, amazing things. Every book blogger can and will tell you how we never expected to find our sisters, our brethren when we started our blogs. It was about the books, and somehow it became a mirror and opportunity to our lives. And it's humbling and brilliant and I am so, so lucky.

But it also got to be a little overwhelming. I started to feel obligated to do things: write a review in a better light, make an appearance at a book signing, do memes or posts since it was the trend. I hope it's clear that I'm not blaming anyone for this -- it was all me. It was all in my head, my own thoughts and insecurities and changes and choices. Nevertheless, I started to change what I was doing. In retrospect I can see the negative path it was leading me on, but at the time, it was all so subtle I didn't realize it. Honestly, it was probably what I needed at that point in my life: structure and rules that still allowed me to feel as though I was being completely creative.

And then it started to take a toll. I didn't want to review a book -- but I had to, since it was a touring one and I only had so many I could say no to after reading. I wanted to talk about something spoiler-y, but knew it wouldn't get as many hits/reads. I hadn't read any books by authors who were visiting San Diego, but I knew I'd be expected at a signing - so I went, and bought books. I only had a few sentences I wanted to say in a review, but one of my touring sites requires at least 3 full paragraphs, so I had to stretch my review and add some inane sentences and muddle my real point. I wanted to talk about what it was in March that limited my time but made me so much happier than I'd ever been--but it wasn't book talk, and that felt like it wasn't allowed.

I hope it's clear I don't regret any of it, but it is the reason this blog fell by the way side any time anything else came up. I thought if I couldn't write that review at least this long and format it just so, then there was no point in putting it up. I met amazing people, amazing bloggers and reviewers and authors and book lovers. I've read books I never, ever thought I'd find or give time to, and I have loved every single moment.

But that was the old me. That was how this blog used to be run.

Now? I'm doing it how I want. If I want to write a review that's only 5 sentences long, I'm going to do it. I'm going to open up about my life and write about me and what's going on with me. Maybe it will be book related--and maybe it won't (GASP!). And I don't know if that's going to make me lose followers or people will be upset that I'm not strictly reviews/bookish memes anymore, but…it's my space, and I feel like I'm a bit lost in all my pages now. And I don't want that at all.

So: changes. Tons and tons of changes. They'll probably be subtle, and it's not like ALL my reviews will suddenly change. I still write with flourish and there are times writing 3 paragraph reviews are me limiting myself. I still read and love YA and want to discuss everything. That remains. It'll just be a bit…different.

And I hope you stick around for it. Because I love you all and want to share this new open side of me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (2/2016)

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

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Simon Pulse, 320 pages
Expected US Release Date: February 9, 2016

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything. This is their story.

Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England? 

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.
----------------------------Goodreads summary

Because pirates. Because rich vs. poor. Because Romeo & Juliet-esque romance. Because trapped by society. And because FREAKIN' PIRATES.

What are you waiting for this Wednesday?
Leave your link and I'll hop by!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano (ARC)

A Curious Tale of the In-Between (Pram #1) by Lauren DeStefano
Bloomsbury, 240 Pages
Expected US Release Date: September 1, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

Lauren DeStefano is beloved by critics and readers alike, and her middle grade debut is lyrical, evocative and not to be missed.
-------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Saying it aloud was an admission as well. No wonder she'd grown up in a house where nobody said they loved anyone; what a terrible pain that word caused.
If someone asked me to describe the perfect Middle Grade book, I would probably reference A Curious Tale of the In-Between now. I’m not sure what I would have said before (this is excluding Harry Potter of course, because that’s just all ages), but I can certainly tell you now that everything you’re looking for is probably found in this little book.

I’m not even a big “spooky” story lover. And it’s not like A Curious Tale was terrifying or nightmare inducing – it was just the right amount of spooky and creepy with adolescent curiosity and innocence. I thought DeStefano handled that weird middle-time of being a kid and learning there are bigger, sometimes better and definitely sometimes worse, things in life. It’s a very strange transitional stage, and she did fantastically well not only representing it, but also maneuvering through the Big Life Things and cutesy childhood moments.

Lauren DeStefano’s YA books always have this fantastic storytelling creativity to them. They’re original and unique but entirely relatable and human – and she’s carried this into her MG story as well. I never went through seeing ghosts as a kid, but I still felt like I could have been Pram in so many parts of this story. Her curiosity, her strangeness, her sadness and big heart and emotions…they were all so real to me and felt like it was a part of me, too.

I absolutely love love loved Clarence and Felix. If I were in High School English classes, I would have had so much fun analyzing them and who they represent to Pram and her stages in life – but this is a review, not a report, and I won’t. But trust that they are enjoyable from a literary analytics view, and just as characters from a reader. Both were unique and loveable in their own ways, and I wish I had them as friends when I was younger, too.

A Curious Tale of the In-Between was an adorable read, but also one I feel like is important to the Middle Grade book roster. It represents that time in life where you’re growing from a kid into a teenager and struggling to find your identity within your family, within your friends, and within yourself – and it represents it entirely well. The story is evocative and enjoyable, strong and so, so original. I highly recommend reading it.

4.5 stars

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder (ARC)

All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder
Scholastic, 272 Pages
Expected US Release Date: July 28, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn't leave, the world will end. But Emerson's world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city's quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people's wishes -- and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day -- maybe even their own.
--------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
"…time has this magical ability to change things. Just because something was true then doesn't mean it's true today."
What do you think you would do if you knew a huge asteroid was going to hit North America? Would you leave? Do you think you'd try to outrun it, even though you know it will alter life as you know it? Or would you stay and live out the last of your days as you wished?

Quite honestly, I don't know what I would have done. I'm nowhere near Emerson and Vince's situation, nor was I as a teenager…but I think I would have stayed. There's something about an unknown that seems doomed versus a doomed comfort, and I would be one of those to try and make the most of the last certain days. At least...I like to think I would.

Moving along. This book made me think, and it made me hope, and it made me sad, and ultimately, it made me feel a whole range of emotions--and it was so, so good. I love the idea of spending your last hours/days/moments trying to grant wishes and do good, and it was such a fun premise to the plot. The variety of people Emerson and Vince meet are this ridiculously amazing mix of interesting and tragic, and I really felt such a distinct sense of personality from each of them. It was a pleasure meeting all of them on the page.

Vince and Emerson themselves are a cute duo, and a sweet, sort of tragic story in itself. They really worked well together, especially in this tentatively-built safety zone of their friendship, and I enjoyed watching them go through their emotions together and with each other.

I do have to say, the "cult"/"revolutionist"/"skeptic" portion was a little...odd. Interesting! But odd. and I wasn't sure how I felt about it within the kind of felt device-y? I'm having a hard time explaining what I mean, especially without being spoilery. Just know that I found it a little strange.

All We Have Is Now is a wonderful YA book about our last days and what we find important in. There's elements of love and friendship and family, and I thought it had a wonderful message of doing what we can while we have the life and the time to do it. Highly recommend.

4 stars

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway (ARC)

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway
Harper Teen, 352 pages
US Release Date: Today! June 23, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.
--------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
"Sometimes love isn't something you say, it's something you do," he finally said. "Or, I don't know, at least that's what it seems like."
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Robin Benway on a multitude of occasions and getting to hear her speak at events. She’s warm and friendly, hilariously endearing and so real and cheerful to be around. I look forward to any event I can make with her.

And I have to say, Emmy & Oliver possesses all the same charm that Robin herself does. Sure, it’s a bit depressing—and actually, pretty scary to think about, at its premise—but there’s such heart and humor in this that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the story.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be Emmy. Or Oliver. Oliver broke my heart over and over again, simply because what he’s gone through is unfathomable. It is terrible and horrible and no child should ever go through that—except once you read more about it, and understand the motives, why it happened…it shatters you all over again to realise you can kind of understand the father’s way of thought. I’m in no way endorsing kidnapping your child of course (seriously.), but…I mean. Love makes you do crazy things, you know?

Oliver is so fantastic, by the way. His personality, who he has developed into in his circumstance…he’s just crafted so well. He’s not perfect, but he’s beautifully broken and wonderfully written. His friendship with Emmy is adorable at the beginning and tenuous in the middle, but it is always something precious and on the verge. I can’t think of a friendship-that’s-almost-more that I’ve loved as much in any of my recent reads.

Emmy is wonderful as well, in her own little hopeful way. She’s sweet how she’s hung onto Ollie and helps him regain who he was; but at the same time, lets him become whoever he was in the 10 years it had been. The way she and Oliver left each was just cruel (in the best way possible, of course), and it made me yearn for her and them that much more. I loved her humor and fierce friendship with all of the characters, and I’d be pretty happy to have someone like her in my life.

Honestly, I don’t have much to complain with in Emmy & Oliver! I loved the two best friends and would love to have more of them (spin offs, maybe? Maybe!), and I liked the family elements in this. Sometimes I thought it was a bit extreme how the parents each acted, but within the circumstances they are given…it actually makes sense. I can’t say I’d act differently, really.

Emmy & Oliver represents heartfelt characters and what it means to be able to love someone no matter what has happened. It’s an exhibit of the heart and the capacity it can allow others to have within it, and I find it a privilege to have these characters and this writing in my life.

4.5 stars

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review: The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis (ARC)

The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis
Disney-Hyperion, 336 pages
Expected US Release Date: September 8, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won't invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie's rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn't interested in rehabilitation, not when she's still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

Then Maggie's whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she's ever met.Ben's life isn't easy, but he doesn't see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn't have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she's currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie's new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben's brother.

But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future...before she loses everything she has grown to love. 
--------------------Goodreads Summary
I have this bad habit of skimming and skipping around a book if I’m a little bit bored or slowed by the pacing of the story. Or if I can predict and guess, and I’m pretty sure of myself, I just kinda…hop ahead to check.

And I did that with The One Thing. I knew going in why Maggie could see Ben – I feel it’s pretty obvious, actually. And then I wasn’t sure how much I really liked her, and some of the beginning stuff bothered me…but I still wanted to know! So I hopped. And found out I was right! And a little bit wrong, too. And that way more happened than I thought would, so I went back to read some of the parts I missed, and I was actually kinda bummed that I robbed myself of a decent story and development.

The one thing I definitely loved about this book
is the distinct voice Marci Lyn Curtis writes with. It’s so unusual but completely relatable, and I felt like each character could really have their own personality shine through the voice Marci was able to write. I was also quite impressed with how much is packed into this story! How much happens, the different people, how music ties in, the shows, learning with Maggie how to adjust to being blind…there was a lot in here, that somehow all flowed together really well.

The one thing I liked about the book
was the characters. Ben and Mason especially – they were sweet and kind and funny and sometimes infuriating, but always lovable. Sometimes I thought each were a little cliché, but it also worked within the story, too. It’s like they needed to be a little cliché to balance out all of Maggie’s hard lines and inflexibilities and attitudes.

The one thing I wasn’t too sure about
was Maggie. Sometimes I really liked her! I thought her as a character was great, and if I were in her situation and how she went blind, I’d actually probably be a lot shittier of a person with an even worse attitude. But there was also something about her that I just didn’t quite like, on a reader level. She’s bitter and hard headed and negative – which is fine! But I just couldn’t find enough to balance her out into a likeable person, either. She kind of got there in the end, but that was a progression totally predictable and expected.

The one thing I definitely did not like
was how little her probation officer and prank played a part in the book! I was expecting some awesome rebellion, fantastic community service stories, things like that! And it just…wasn’t as big a thing as I expected or wanted. I was also not a fan of what the title was literally directed to. I liked the concept of The Thing, and Maggie’s thing, and Ben’s Thing and just…the idea of a Thing. But hers, and how it worked into the story? A little too convenient, in my opinion.

The One Thing had it’s ups and downs with me, but overall was an incredible story from a literary standpoint, as well as a bit on the personal front. The one thing I didn’t mention in here was the enormous amount of heart and strength that comes from each character, and I definitely think that ‘s the reason anyone should pick this book up.

3.5 stars

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Review: Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley (ARC)

Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley
HarperTeen, 416 Pages
US Release Date: September 9, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences. 
----------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
"You are not a drop in the ocean. You are an ocean in a drop."
This isn’t the end, right? RIGHT?! RIGHT?!?!?

Not that it isn’t a fantastically full book now, you know. I’m just saying, I’d like to know what happens…after. What happens to him, and to her, and them, and…yeah.

Rites of Passage was a surprise read for me, in a lot of ways. If you’ve been a longtime reader of my blog, you know my military stuff—and I was a little scared it would trigger something. But it was an entire other facet to military life, and I found it so interesting and eye-opening. I’ve heard stories and known people who went to military academies or schools, but this is the first I’ve ever taken the time to let details sink in.

I was also surprised at the depth and complication in this story. There’s more to it than an Army BRAT feeling the need to prove herself in a military family and military world. That’s there, of course-but add in family things, romance things, friends things, facing the academy as one of the first girls admitted, the hazing and bruises and behind-closed-doors smokes (not quite what you’re thinking, I swear)…there’s a lot going on, and it all intertwines masterfully.

The romance. Drill. Oh BOY. I liked that Sam’s feelings for Drill were actually…not that big of a deal in the book. I mean, it’s a big deal since that’s strictly forbidden, but this story wasn’t just their hidden feelings. It was just a small part to the larger plot, and it worked so well. And that’s a big deal for me to say: I’d take romance over everything else any day! But in Rites of Passage, it was a great element that enhanced an already full and compelling story. A great little part of the whole.

This is one of the few books I’ve read this year that really captivated me, that really made me clutch at the pages and wonder what was going to happen. I read pretty fast in general, but I couldn’t read fast enough to know what was going to happen and who would do what and would Sam be ok?! There were so many moments of fear, of hope, of pride, of feelings and emotions as I went with Sam through her first year and watched her fight and struggle for her place at the Academy. There were bright spots, like Drill and her Alpha friends; and there were dark spots, like the Society and just how cruel and far they went. But all of it together was phenomenal.

Rites of Passage is a compelling, brilliant story of a Strong Girl fighting for her place, of a girl out to prove her worth and so much more. Following Sam and her story was heart-wrenching and breathtaking and a little bit terrifying—but I’m so glad I did.

But seriously. SECOND BOOK!!
4.5 stars

Monday, April 6, 2015

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (ARC)

A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1 by Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury, 416 Pages
Expected US Release Date: May 5, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!
----------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Rhysand stared at me long enough that I faced him. “Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.”
If you’ve ever read a Sarah J. Maas novel (and that should be ALL OF YOU), then you know how incredibly hard it is to write a review for it. There’s just SO MUCH for you to say! The characters, the setting, the world, the action, the intrigue…Sarah is such a master in storytelling and world creation, and how does someone possibly comment all they want to without using all the words in the world?!

Somewhere I completely missed that this book was a blend of Beauty & the Beast, and about 50 pages in I was like heeeeeeeeey…this is starting to sound familiar! So, chalk me up to being an idiot – but it was definitely a pleasant surprise! Beauty & the Beast is one of my favourite tales, and this was a fantastic retelling. It stuck pretty true to the lore and enhanced the parts that definitely had room for it.

If I were to try to boil my review down to 3 words only, I’d go with these:

Fascinating. Because everything Sarah created in this world was so original (even though it is a retelling!) and absolutely creative. In all the action, all the progressive storytelling, it was always interesting and different and filled me with such awe and incredulity that she could create something like this book.

Seductive. And not just in the relationships (though trust me, that is definitely applicable to the relationships, too), but in the entire aura of the writing. The dangerous lore, the spirits and darkness that always has a tinge of sexiness and intrigue…there’s something so deliciously wanting about the entire thing, and it hooks you in and does not let go the entire book.

Heart. This applies in a lot of ways. The heartstrong characters, who endure everything and more for their loved ones or loved land. The hearts that are empty and then filled as we move along in the story. How my heart felt like it was hurting for everyone at various parts, for the hearts that are broken and empty and seemingly incapable of having a capacity at all. There is heart woven throughout this entire book, and it is brilliant and wonderful.

And I mean…that doesn’t include how much I want to talk about the perfect pacing, how Tamlin is so divine and strong and sexy, how Feyre is headstrong but human, how the ending just absolutely blew me away and made me gasp and tear up and clutch at the pages as I furiously flipped through them just wanting to know how it ends!

I really can’t recommend A Court of Thorns and Roses enough. Even me, who usually cannot stand anything faerie, and I definitely don’t like fantasy…this got through to me and blew me away. The writing, the story, absolutely everything ties together to be a completely unique tale of love and the varying lengths we go through for it.
5+ stars

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno (ARC)

99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Balzer + Bray (an imprint of Harper), 384 Pages
Expected US Release Date: April 21, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me. 
----------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
It occurs to me, not for the first time, that you can never really know what anybody's got hidden in the back of her secret heart.
I really adore Katie Cotugno’s writing. I mean, I know that only means 2 of her books, but if you’ve read them…you get it. (And if you haven’t read them, you need to. NEED TO.)

99 Days probably tops How To Love with me, but that’s really only because I could relate better to this novel. I’m not a teen mother, I don’t care for a child…there were things that I could sympathise with…but 99 Days is a book I can empathise with. Not that I’ve cheated on someone with his brother (!), but the idea of being torn, of temptation and avoidance and being stuck in an uncomfortable place while you wait for life to continue one.

For my fellow Friends fans: WE WERE ON A BREAK!! That is seriously what I wanted to yell so many times I was reading haha.

So, I’m not sure where you stand in terms of a love triangle and cheating and all that nonsense (not that I think anyone should be on the positive side of that…), but there are some people who really can’t stomach reading it. If that’s you, well…go into this book forewarned, ok? I’m of the tribe that’s delightfully sickened by situations like that. Not that I think a girl should hook up with brothers, or cheat, or what have you, but it’s one of those things that I’m horrified and riveted all at once. This is definitely an extreme triangle, but the amazing (and slightly disturbing) thing about it is that a reader can completely understand Molly’s indecision between Patrick and Gabe. I was always leaning towards one, but then things would happen, and serious doubt would creep in. It freaked me out a little, but really speaks to how skilled and amazing Katie Cotugno’s writing and storytelling is.

The slut shaming. Yes, it’s there. Yes, it’s horrible. Yes, it’s terrible to read about and think about and I kind of wanted to break a lot of the girls’ knees in this book. But the way Katie Cotugno wrote the slut shaming into the story was so brilliant. It was almost like a device, like it was a form of the literature to make you feel a certain way towards the characters. And it’s not that I accepted the slut-shaming, but…I was into it, in terms of the story.

I think my only issue was somewhere around the middle or beginning of the end – it felt like it was getting a little slow. I’m not sure if that was just my impatience at wanting to know what was going to happen, but I felt like Molly had flip flopped and exhausted her guilt and jezebel feelings at some points.

But honestly, that was a small issue in the grand scheme of things. The pacing and development of this story was top notch, and I found myself flipping pages almost faster than I could read I was so into knowing what would or could happen.  I found qualities in almost every single character that I could either relate to, happily hate, or want to be—and sometimes a mix of all!

99 Days is a wonderfully stomach clenching story of a girl and her choices. What led to them, what justifies them, why they may or may not have been for the best in the end. It’s about a summer that can change you and everyone around you, but still remind you of what was originally there.

4.5 stars

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord (ARC)

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Bloomsbury, 384 pages
Expected US Release Date: March 31, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.
-----------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
If you're lucky, relationships--with family or friends or boyfriends--are limitless. There's no maximum on how much you can love each other. The problem is, there's also no limit to how much you can hurt each other.
The Start of Me and You is by far my favourite read of 2014. Because the entire story itself is fun and inventive and interesting. Because everyone in it is entirely relatable and lovable and just a smidge infuriating, in manageable and almost endearing increments. Because I swear it felt like I was reading something with my feelings all over the page. Because Max Watson is my book boyfriend. And that’s all just the beginning!

Emery Lord has got to have the most approachable writing in YA right now. There’s something so open and friendly about her writing (I hope others who have read her books know what I mean, otherwise I sound like a crazy person), it just draws you in and gets you coffee and lets you prop your feet up. I always sink so comfortably and so fast into Emery Lord’s stories, and it completely consumes me.

The Start of Me and You had such an interesting concept of having Paige the “widow” of a high school relationship. So unique, and something that has so many possibilities in terms of follow up. And I mean…I’m a sucker for lists, so her plan of moving on was so perfect and right up my alley.

And maybe this is a weird thing to attach to, but one of my favourite things about The Start of Me and You is how utterly normal it all is. I mean, Paige’s situation is unique…but her friends, her thought process, befriending Ryan and Max, moving through her school year? It’s all perfectly realistic and paced just as any real relationship and friendship would develop, and that definitely made everything seem so much closer to my heart.

Let’s talk Max, because YES PLEASE. I may even love him more than Matt Finch from Open Road Summer! Who know THAT was possible?! Max is seriously the best nerdy awesome guy in the world.  I loved his backstory, his friendship with his cousin, his playfulness and how he exhibited his intelligence without any sort of bragging or condescension. As I get older, I tend to attract to guys who are unabashedly, unashamedly themselves—and Max fits that bill perfectly.

And as much as I did love Max, I have to admit the friendships in this book are amazing and wonderful, too. Which I think Emery just specializes in, because Lilah and Dee’s friendship in Open Road Summer was one of my favourites, too. (I think this means I should be friends with Emery. Is that creepy?) Paige’s girlfriends were the best and reminded me so, so much of my own little crew I keep. Sure, there are pairings within the 4, but it makes sense and they’re still 100% there for the other. It’s a real friendship, with ups and downs and arguments and hugs and support, and I absolutely wish I could be folded in with them.

Paige and Max’s friendship is also something I enjoyed immensely, because it’s so obvious there’s an attraction but there’s also an understanding there, too. They’re thoughtful in regards to each other, and seeing it on the page absolutely squeezed my heart with warmth.

And the thing I particularly attached to was the ending realization of having to come to terms with yourself and be who you are before you can really be with anyone else. I like that Paige is sort of broken, without being absolutely shattered, and that every win for her no matter how small it is really makes a difference in her rebuilding of strength. It’s very much a lesson I’ve been learning, and thought it was displayed so well.

The Start of Me and You is a fantastically written story of a girl struggling to find her way after suffering a loss. It’s got romance and friendship and Quiz Bowl and airplanes and I cannot wait until I can read it over and over again because I will never tire of the relationships found within. Everyone needs to read this book.

5 stars
and airplanes above me sprinkling so many more stars!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: Boys Don't Knit (In Public) by T.S. Easton (ARC)

Boys Don’t Knit (In Public) by TS Easton
Feiwel & Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), 272 pages
Expected US Release Date: March 24, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Knitting is a man’s game.

After an incident regarding a crossing guard and a bottle of Martini & Rossi (and his bonehead friends), 17-year-old worrier Ben Fletcher must develop his sense of social alignment, take up a hobby, and do some community service to avoid any further probation.

He takes a knitting class (it was that or his father’s mechanic class) under the impression that it's taught by the hot teacher all the boys like. Turns out, it’s not. Perfect. 

Regardless, he sticks with it and comes to find that he’s a natural knitter, maybe even great. It even helps ease his anxiety and worrying. The only challenge now is to keep it hidden from his friends, his crush, and his soccer-obsessed father. What a tangled web Ben has weaved . . . or knitted. 
------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Maybe just having someone listen is all you need.
Talk about a fun book! I absolutely loved Boys Don’t Knit—it was filled with such humor and cute moments. I was laughing out loud and giggling to myself, even when I was reading it in public—and I wasn’t even ashamed about it.

I loved the backstory as to how Ben Fletcher got into knitting, how it was a bit of a fluke but so brilliant, too.  I adore that the book is written as a diary/journal style, because it’s such a fun way to get Ben’s thoughts on all the zany situations he finds himself in.

The characters are definitely the best part about this whole book. Ben and all his goofy, not-quite-amazing friends. His teachers and instructors. His parents, even, who are so hilariously different from all typical YA parents. My least favourite was probably Megan, and I’m not saying I didn’t like her—she just didn’t shine as much as the rest of them. Ben’s friends definitely almost stole the show. Their ideas were so off-the-wall and crazy, but still filled with a bit of good heart and humor the entire time. And I loved how in the end, they’re still Ben’s friend, no matter what.

There’s so much hidden heart to this book, too. Sure, I can sing from the rooftops how funny and hilarious it is (it’s a dude who’s the best knitter in the UK! Come on!), but there’s a lot of real warmth and love to a lot of it, too. The romances are fun, the relationships are real, and Ben’s self-discovery and narration is absolutely brilliant. There’s real concern for his family, for his friends, for everyone around him. I love how he finds a group that really understands him, no matter their age or status in life.

I think one of the more subtle but better parts of this story is the knitting, too, and how much it reveals about Ben. How it gives you insight into who he is that he likes the repetitive and uniform nature of knitting. How it gives you a little peek into his head when he lets it go clear while he’s knitting. I love the people it connects him to, and I love how it causes a lot of his problems. It’s definitely an interesting variable to his life, and I loved exploring it.

Boys Don’t Knit is a book that will make you laugh out loud and fill your heart with humor and love. You’ll love Ben, and root for him no matter if it’s his life, his sanity, or him knitting at the UK champs.

4 stars

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: A Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd (ARC)

A Cold Legacy (The Madman's Daughter #3) by Megan Shepherd
Balzar + Bray (an imprint of Harper), 400 Pages
US Release Date: January 27, 2015
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.
-------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
“I want to know that this life is the only one that matters. When you can never die, do you ever really live?”
I’m feeling a little empty, knowing that Montgomery is no longer in my life now that this trilogy has ended. My love for him ran deep, and it was true, and I’m absolutely distraught there’s no more.


I really do love him though.

Moving on. Guys, I can’t even with this series. I. Can’t. Even. It’s rare for me to find a series that I love all of it, but…this is it. I mean, sure—I had my problems with Book 2 having a bit of the Book Two Syndrome. And A Cold Legacy wasn’t perfect. But together, looking at the series as a whole, as a story arc with the twists and turns…it’s so fantastic and original. A Cold Legacy was decidedly less dark than the first two—which I was a bit sad about since you expect that from a book that takes after Frankenstein. But it actually kind of…fits. The tone of it, the overall feel flows so well with the action and story, and I enjoyed it quite a bit by the end.

One of the best parts was how much happened in this book. I’m not saying all of it was exciting and gripping and had me furiously flipping pages (some of it did!), but I felt like there was so much evolution, so much that happened overall. There were more questions, answers given, more questions raised, some bloodshed, lots of secret passages and tension…it was pretty fantastic.

I do have to admit that one of my disappointments was the traveling troupe and that character that…”reappeared” in the middle. I wanted so much more, I felt like there was so much more potential with him and his friends. The same with Edward and what happens to him…it felt very safe, very small what happens, and I kind of wish it had been at touch more dramatic and chaotic.

But the character I still love? Lucy. She’s flighty and hilarious and such a great friend. She’s also a little crazy, and actually pissed me off quite a bit at some points…but I still think she’s one of the best best friend characters in a book so far. She’s still so much more essential than Book 2 made her seem, and it was brilliant.

And of course Balthazar. Tried, true, so tender and amazing. I have no bad things to say about him, and only wish I had him in my life.

A Cold Legacy is one of the best endings to a series I’ve ever come across. It stands on it’s own as fantastic, with a plotline that moves in ways I’d never expect and still retains all the characters, confusions, and challenges I’ve loved forever. And together, all 3 of the Madman’s Daughter books create this terrifying, amazing, brilliant story about your nature versus your nurture, about discovering who you are and shaping who you want to become. It’s about your choices, what is inevitable, and what is created in between.

And it is bloody fantastic.

4.5 stars
Read my review of Book 1: The Madman's Daughter and Book 2: Her Dark Curiosity.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (ARC)

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider
Now titled: The Beginning of Everything
Katherine Tegan (an imprint of HarperTeen), 335 pages
US Release Date: August 27, 2013

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes? 

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.
-------------------------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Imaginary prisoners are still prisoners.
I feel like this book is my kindred spirit. I feel like it’s the missing piece of me I’ve always been yearning for, that extension of myself that I hadn’t realized was lost until I found it. Severed Heads, Broken Hearts feels suspiciously like home.

Probably the best word I can think to describe this book is “unexpected.” Not surprising , and nothing was horribly improbable, but there were some very unexpected twists and revelations. They were all done perfectly and with the best treatment, but still: unexpected.

When I say this book is my kindred spirit, it’s because I feel like every single character has elements of me in him or her. Toby, Cassidy, Ezra, absolutely everyone was a little bit of the confidence I have and a lot of the questions and indecision and existential crises I go through daily. I remember all these feelings so well in high school, and even now. There’s so much complexity and depth to each one, and seeing how they all intertwine and affect the other just makes it all the better. The characters are so complementary to each other, I absolutely adore it.

More passages were marked in this book than I have in any other this year. It feels like there’s so much wisdom and guidance in these pages, I feel like there’s so much to learn between the lines. About love. About friendship. About family, and relationships and happiness and accepting a direction you feel forced to go in. Probably the best part about this story as a whole is that it’s about the changes that happen in someone’s life, whether we make them by choice or consciously or without reason. That it’s a story that focuses on living through the changes and tragedies, rather than fighting or resenting.

I also love how cool-nerdy this book is. All the references, the “smart” situations and words, how it’s about the debate team – and yet, all the characters are completely normal as well. They have friends, there’s drama, there’s schoolwork and projects and some family problems and secrets. Sure, it feels a little exaggerated sometimes between the “cliques” and the divide in high school, but it has to be so in a book (and maybe it’s not, I just didn’t experience a high school like this!).

Perhaps my only disappointment? The title change! I guess I get why the title is now The Beginning of Everything, but I absolutely ADORED Severed Heads, Broken Hearts. And it’s just so much more fitting!

Also, this will only be understood by anyone who has already read it: COOPER <3
5 stars

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegal (ARC)

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegal
Harlequin Teen, 319 pages
US Release Date: April 29, 2014
Format/Source: ARC via Around the World Tours - thank you!

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash.

Some work at the mall.

Becca Williamson breaks up couples.

Becca knows from experience the damage that love can do. After all, it was so-called love that turned Huxley from her childhood best friend into a social-world dictator, and love that left Becca's older sister devastated at the altar. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Becca strikes back—for just one hundred dollars via PayPal, she will trick and manipulate any couple's relationship into smithereens. And with relationship zombies overrunning her school and treating single girls as if they're second-class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even Becca's best friend, Val, has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, Becca receives a mysterious offer to break up the most popular couple in school: Huxley and raw football team's star player, Steve. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date—starting rumors, sabotaging cell phones, breaking into cars...not to mention sneaking back into Huxley's good graces. All while fending off the inappropriate feelings she may or may not be having for Val's new boyfriend.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist would be easy.
-----------Goodreads Summary
Notable Quote
Why do my classmates believe that saying those three words automatically protects a couple? They’re not relationship insurance.
I’m having a hard time writing this review because I’m so “meh” towards the book. There were parts I liked, some I really liked…and there were parts I didn’t like, and definitely parts I really DIDN’T like. Everything kind of cancels out, so I’m left with just a neutral feeling towards it.

I like the concept of The Break Up Artist. I feel like it’s been done a few times, but there are certain elements that still make it feel unique. I like that it’s one person as the Artist, that she’s working alone (mostly), that she hides it from everyone. I like that Becca has a reason to believe something, I like that she has to work through some things.

I did not like how extreme some of the situations were. I definitely called Becca’s sister and her and a few others “bitter old hags” in my head more than once. I may have even said it out loud at one point.  I felt like I had to suspend my reality, kind of forget a lot of the things I’ve learned about humans and humanity and think people really were as dense as they were coming across in the book.

I liked Val and the friendship she had with Becca. I thought the idea behind this book, that those in relationships treat singletons differently was a pretty good one, if not a bit exaggerated. I’ve been single all my life (only recently have I been realizing that perhaps some of it has been by choice) and I have my fair few memories when people treated me differently for it. People who thought I was sad or pathetic for not having someone, people who thought I must be lonely or excluded me because I wasn’t paired off. Some of that is real, and I appreciated it in this book. Especially when it came to Val and her boyfriend and how that friendship slowly changed.

Becca’s school is definitely the exaggeration. I appreciated the attempt to justify it with the boy-to-girl ratio, but I won’t buy it. I found Steve and Huxley’s relationship cute and sweet, but also a tad unrealistic. Most of the ones in here are slightly so.

I most certainly did not like Diane, nor did I like Val’s boyfriend. I liked that Diana gave a reason to Becca to do a lot of the shenanigans she partook (is that a word?) in, but Diane was just…ugh. I want her to grow up and get a grip. Yes, of course, have a mourning period, but don’t take it out on friends and just…UGH. Horrible. And I’m not talking about Val’s boyfriend—not just because it would spoil some things. He’s a cliché, he was easy to read as what he would turn into, and I was not impressed.

Ultimately, what saved this story for me were the friendships. I liked the nerd boys at Becca’s table, I liked Val and Becca when there wasn’t a guy standing around them, I liked Becca’s relationship and friendship with her sister. I even liked Huxley (probably best of all the characters). When she wasn’t spouting some crap about needing a boyfriend, she actually made a lot of sense and felt the most rounded of everyone.

The Break Up Artist was definitely hit-or-miss with me, and so much so that I just can’t seem to make up my mind what it is. For every part I hated, there was a part I liked.  If it sounds like something that intrigues you, give it a whirl.
3 stars
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