Book Talk: Behind The Scenes by Dahlia Adler

Book Talk: Behind The Scenes by Dahlia AdlerBehind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler
Series: Daylight Falls #1
Publisher/Year: Spencer Hill Press- June 24, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: ARC
Source: For Review, From Author
Other Books From Author: None it's her debut!
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1
Ally and Vanessa have been best friends since they were kids. Ally is happy for and supportive of her best friend’s Hollywood career, especially now that she’s landed the lead role in a hot new teen show,  but she couldn’t be anymore different in what she wants for her life — going to Columbia and studying in Paris. When she realizes that the money to make those dreams come true is being all used up because of father’s serious medical bills, she knows she has to make some money so she becomes Van’s assistant on set. The gig is fun and she slowly starts to fall for Liam, Van’s co-star. And then Van and Liam have to agree to fake date for a publicity stunt to drum up gossip about their show. Ally’s left to figure out how to date a boy who appears not to be hers to the rest of the world and if she can handle being wrapped up in Hollywood.

a2THIS WOULD BE A FUN MOVIE OR TV SHOW!

a4It was really hard for me to NOT compare this to one of my favorite books of this summer — Open Road Summer. It was very similar plot-wise except this was Hollywood and not young music stars. Both stories featured “normal” girls who were best friends with a famous person. Both stories featured a love interest that was also famous and who ends up fake dating their famous best friend for a publicity stunt. Luckily I love this trope so reading another book so similar so soon didn’t turn me off to it and I felt like there were a lot of things Behind the Scenes did different/brought to the table that made me forget how similar they were on the surface.

1. I SHIPPED ALLY AND LIAM SO HARD: Like I said, I have a soft spot for that “normal girl dates a famous person thing.” I just do. As a teen I always fantasized about a celebrity falling in love with me. I really felt their chemistry! Ally is jaded towards Hollywood because she sees how it is for Van and Liam is also really jaded towards a lot of it but he has his reasons for staying in the business. I loved that they bonded over something that was actually really similar to how Will and I bonded. I loved how their relationship definitely had some sexy bits, too! You could feel that tension from Ally and Liam being forced to be so careful and private with their relationship spill over into their moments together. I really got the frustrations and hardships that made this relationship tough!

2. I loved the “drama”: It wasn’t over the top but, come on, this is Hollywood so there’s all that goes along with that. The biggest drama is obviously with the fake Liam and Vanessa relationship and I felt like it was done SO WELL and so realistically. I thought that it was realistic that Ally would think she would be okay with it at first and then we slowly see how hard it actually is for her so much that it DOES come in between them. Between having to watch them be all over each other, to barely ever getting to see him and not being able to tell really anyone I could really see why we had the drama. I think the drama level Open Road Summer had with the fake relationship was right for THAT story but I really liked that we saw how absolutely hard this would be to maintain in this situation. The fake-dating thing was definitely more of a bigger deal in this one and I think it suited the story really well! I just loved these characters and how they dealt with the drama at hand — even if not always perfect (which YAY FOR IMPERFECT CHARACTERS WHO MAKE MISTAKES) but always rang true to me.

3. I loved the family situations presented: Vanessa and Liam’s family situations are told but the one we see the most that contrasts those two is Ally’s obviously. Ally’s family is going through something really tough but they are so supportive and in tune with each others lives. I really loved Ally’s family and how Van was like another daughter to them. There was a lot going on in this story and even though the romance was important I still felt how her family situation was in the forefront of her mind and what kept her going.

4. Some things I didn’t love: Nate (I didn’t get his role at all or what his real deal was), sometimes the story would hit lulls for me where I wasn’t super compelled to read, sometimes characters (Ally) made really dumb mistakes which doesn’t bother me but I felt like it was SOOOO glaringly obvious and I felt like it was just drawn out for too long. I also found the ending to be a LITTLE rushed for the time they spent apart..I felt like there needed to be a little more there.

 

a6RATING-LIKED

factors+ plot, romance, how fun it was,
- times when the story lulled for me, little bit of a rushed ending for me, some plot areas being drawn out

Re-readability: I probably wouldn’t but I’m itching to read the next book in the series.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Probably not because I wouldn’t reread it and it wasn’t a favorite!

a5fans of Open Road Summer, people who like books set in Hollywood, contemporary YA romances lovers, readers who like the “normal person dates celebrity” trope, readers looking for something fun and romantic

a8Behind the Scenes was an enjoyable read with a fun Hollywood setting and a VERY shippable romance aka normal girl falls for the hot co-star on her bff’s new teen show who ends up being her faux boyfriend in a publicity stunt. Despite some random lulls in the story and little irksome things, it was an addictive read and I can’t wait for the next book in the series because JOSH…I want to know HIS story for sure.

review-on-post-itBehind The Scenes by Dahlia Adler

 

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does this series feel like something you’d be into?
* What are some other “normal person dates a celebrity” type romances you’ve read?
* Is anyone else super intrigued by Josh?? I can’t wait to learn his story!

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Review: Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook

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Book Title/Author: Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook
Publisher/Year
: HarperTeen January 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Nope!
Other Books From Author: None — debut!

Amazon| Goodreads | @kristinhalbrook |

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 Zoe and Will have seen their fair share of hard knocks — more than the average teenager. Zoe’s mom passed away and she lives with her alcoholic father who  hits her. Will has been bounced around  from foster home to foster home and is constantly in trouble. Will convinces Zoe to run off with them  so they can get away from their lives and start a new future together. The two head out of town, high on their love for one  another, and find themselves not prepared for what lies ahead when they are on the run from the police & their past. 

UGH I am sad times infinity that I have to write this review. This was one of my most anticipated books of 2013 (a Bonnie & Clyde story — heck yes!) and I was so happy when it showed up in my mailbox but, unfortunately, this book just didn’t do much for me personally.

The good?  I welcomed a book about different characters — no girl next doors, popular cheerleaders, shy and gorgeous girls who don’t know  how amazing they are or bad boys who really aren’t that bad, the popular stud,  etc. etc.  The characters of Nobody But Us are two teens who have seen their share of hard times and their relationship seems to be, to them, that one bright spot at the moment. Zoe lived with her alcoholic father who has abused her and Will has jumped around in foster care — they are both genuinely broken, a bit damaged and so very vulnerable. Will wants to save Zoe and take her out of this situation but his tendency to explode and use violence against others in the story makes Zoe a little bit fearful of him sometimes.  These weren’t cookie cutter characters by any means. I really rather liked Zoe — her POV was my favorite because some of the things she thought were really so wise & beautiful but I struggled with why she made such dumb decisions when it came to Will. I wanted for her to speak up more and to see how unhealthy their relationship was.

I was also kind of skeptical of the whole “Bonnie  & Clyde” reference because I thought maybe the storyline would wimp out a little bit but OH NO they become outlaws very literally. They get into some crazy situations complete with high speed chases & stolen money. There was a lot of action for sure in this book that made it pretty quickly to read. So I was at least happy that it wasn’t watered down on the “on the run” storyline. It was drama central in this book — bad decision after bad decision tumbling into one another until the very dramatic conclusion that I didn’t expect at all but I think  I was ok with.

However, I expected something incredibly heartwrenching & would require a bucket for my tears (I mean, they compared it to If I Stay and, well, Kleenex stayed in business because I read and loved that book) but I just cared too little and when I did start to care a little bit about them as individuals it was too late — and for the romance — never hit a point where I cared.  I felt like the whole time I KNEW the reaction I was supposed to be having to this “tragic romance” and story but I never really found myself feeling it in a REAL, in-the-depths-of -my-soul kind of way. It was like the time I dated this boy I should have been excited about dating because I crushed on him forever but when I dated him I just felt like I was going through the motions and pretending I felt things that I knew I should have felt; that I knew he felt. That’s how I felt about this book. I KNEW the characters and their story should have pulled at my heart and I should have felt indescribable pain to my heart during parts of this story but I only felt little pricks of sadness and tragedy — mostly at the ending. Also, like my issues with Pushing The Limits, I found their love very eyerolly to me and, in this case, very unhealthy.

I think I was supposed to be rooting for the romance? (I wasn’t)  I don’t know? As the reader, we see this is a really dumb series of bad decisions that they are making. WE know that. We know that this is all very risky and that their relationship is unhealthy and that it’s not going to end well. I even felt like Zoe did know what they were doing was dumb, because she really was so smart, but I don’t know why she just went along with it — I guess because she loved him that much?. A lot of what they did was irrational and stupid but was I supposed to be gentle with my judgement in that because we all know that as teenagers we make crazy, rash decisions that are very emotional based? I mean,  I think a lot of their actions and their crazy, exacerbated feelings for one another were part of being so young and in love but I just felt so confused if I was supposed to identify with it or feel sad because of how tragic it all was, etc. I just think my heart was supposed to be somewhere it wasn’t in this novel.

I think a lot of people will enjoy this novel, I do, but I just wasn’t one of them. I welcomed different characters who truly had seen the  hard knocks in life, I enjoyed the dramatic, wild ride that we were taken on but, in a novel where it seemed so integral to connect with the characters and FEEL something about their tragic love, I just wasn’t there. I mean, I had high expectations considering it was compared to If I Stay by Gayle Forman but I just never found my heart in this novel — just little pricks of sadness and tragedy; mostly at the end. I didn’t ever feel anything for the romance  nor root for them (though I’m still unsure if we were meant to or if we were just supposed to feel a sense of tragic  love destined to fail but still root for a happy outcome anyways).

For Fans Of: Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry (which I loved the story for WAY more despite not LOVING this book like others did), Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, books with bad boys, complicated romances, books with troubled  characters

 

nobody-but-us-kirstin-halbrook

Review: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Book Title/Author: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher/Year: : Little Brown 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No!
Other Books From Author: Keeper

Amazon| Goodreads | Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Website

The Story

Told from many perspectives, I’ll Be There tells the story of how one song on a Sunday morning brought Sam & Riddle Border into Emily Bell’s life and changed their lives, and those connected to them, forever.

Sam & Riddle have grown up in a poor, unstable home with a father who drinks and doesn’t believe in doing things the way everyone else does. They bounce from home to home and never have much interaction with others as per their dad’s lifestyle. Sam is very protective of his little brother Riddle — he doesn’t talk much, he draws and some might think he’s stupid but there’s a lot more behind his quiet exterior. Emily Bell is the girl who has a normal life — a good group of friends, two loving parents, a boy that really likes her and more — but meeting Sam makes her wonder if that’s enough.

What I Thought:

This is one interesting book! I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to experience based on things I had heard but I really actually enjoyed this one. It’s so, so different from what I typically read — especially in the contemporary YA genre. It was a little quirky and really quite moving (in a non-crying way for me) and beautiful — such a testament to how we all are so interconnected and weave through one anothers lives making imprints on one another in varying degrees. I just loved the little vignettes of many people’s lives that were used to tell this story of Sam and Emily.

The storytelling itself was very interesting — the dialogue is sparse, very short sentences that pack a punch, and we are told the story in the 3rd person throughout. Through some of the book you really have to suspend your disbelief for how outrageous some of the things that happen are, how it seems like some of the situations just couldn’t get any worse but then the worst DOES happen or how things certain things just HAPPENED to work out at the right time. Definitely a little bit of a more imaginative novel so if you can get past some of the more crazy things and just enjoy some of the more dramatic parts then I think it will be enjoyed for how cinematic it is. It was certainly very action packed at times when I totally didn’t expect that from this novel. In a way it seemed like this funny little modern day fairytale — the good prevailed, the baddies were taken down in somewhat hilarious ways and mostly everyone lives happily ever after but it takes a long journey to get them there. Um, let’s talk about Bobby — that guy just couldn’t WIN and I chuckled at the ridiculousness of his demise from thinking he was Hot Stuff to him getting served a big ol’ piece of Humble Pie.

Immediately you find yourself rooting for Sam and Riddle and feel so invested in their story and willing for there to be a happy ending. You just hope they can get out from the their father’s rule so to speak. You feel your heart become happy as people who were at first wary of Sam and Riddle start to open their hearts to them. Now Emily…I didn’t really feel much for her to be honest. I felt way more for Sam, Riddle and some of the other supporting characters than I did her. I don’t know what it was about her but I just never felt compelled to care for her nor did I know what to make of her. She seemed weak and I couldn’t tell what guided her in life other than Sam when she met him. Sam & Emily’s relationship really wasn’t my cup of tea and I didn’t feel strongly about it but I really thought the relationships of Sam & Riddle and then Emily’s parents and Riddle (Sam too) were so very touching and MUCH more interesting.

 

 

My Final Thought

I really enjoyed this one. I think the thing I say the most when describing is that it is just SO different than what I seem to be reading in the YA drama. It’s kind of quirky, imaginative and undeniably a moving novel. I loved so many of the characters and their relationships (especially that of Sam & Riddle) but I’ll be honest that I didn’t GET the Sam & Emily romance. Much better relationships throughout the book. If you can suspend your disbelief amidst some of the more dramatic, over the top things that happen to the characters then I think you’ll be fine and will actually enjoy the cinematic qualities of this one! There’s really tender moments, complex relationships, some compellingly written action and, at the end of the day, it’s one of those stories of how humanity is so beautifully woven together.

 

For Fans Of: Imaginative contemporary stories that feel cinematic, stories in the 3rd person, moving stories but not in an obvious sob-your-brains-out kind of way.

 

Let’s Talky Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Did you find Emily and Sam’s relationship to be more moving than I did? Which relationship did you love the most? Favorite character? What did you think about some of the, errr, more dramatic things that happened later on in the story? Were you satisfied with the ending?

Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

teen summer romanceBook Title/Author: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Publisher/Year: : Simon & Schuster 2009
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: Yes — it’s the first book in the Summer series!
Other Books From Author: Shug, Burn For Burn, rest of the Summer series!

Amazon| Goodreads | Jenny Han’s website

The Story

For as long as Belly can remember she, her brother and mom spent their summer at the beach house with her mom’s best friend Susannah and her sons Jeremiah and Conrad who along the years have been her playmates, her enemies, brother-like figures and in the recent years — her crushes!  This summer it seems as though the boys are starting to see how much she’s grown up and are actually letting her hang around.  Summers at the beach house were always perfect for Belly and she lived for those months when they’d be back at the beach house — all the other seasons just led up to Summer. This summer seems like the summer that will change everything but will Belly be ready for just how much change?

The Review:

The Summer I Turned Pretty is one of those books that everyone has told me I must read! After having read it I understand why! It’s just one of those really wonderful contemporary YA books that I’m so glad I finally read — it seems like a rite of passage or something for most people who are hardcore contemporary YA fans. And I definitely understand why it’s on all the “Great Beach Reads” lists — it’s got a great summer vibe, romance, fun — but also some substance that makes for some pretty serious and REAL moments that balance really well with the general lightheartedness of the book. Moments that are quite raw and real; a striking contrast to the carefree picture perfect moments of the summers Belly recounts.It’s really quite everything I love in my contemps!

I just love the way Han paints this picture of these summers at the beach house through flashbacks of summers past and obviously through the current summer. She just makes you feel Belly’s love for the beach house and why it’s so special to her. I just got those warm, fuzzy feelings towards my own childhood & teen summer memories — beach days, pools, lazy days lounging in your swim suit, iced tea and more! Han creates the perfect setting for fun and romance and the beach house seems like this perfect backdrop to some of the growing up and self discovery that happens to the characters– something that I feel like will happen even more in the remaining two books with how this one ended!

I loved the boys! Jeremiah and Conrad are just so wonderful and I loved the relationship Belly had with each of them. During the whole book I couldn’t figure out which one was RIGHT for her but I just loved the tension between her and Conrad. I can’t help but love Conrad — I felt like there was something more going on with him and his “brooding” and then at the end when all of his feelings came out…OH MY GOD. I would have been a heaping pile of mess on the beach next to him. I cannot WAIT to see where the next books take her relationships!

I liked Belly. I think I’ll grow to love her. I didn’t feel as though I didn’t get a sense of who she was outside of her love for the beach house and the boys — and the fact she’s kind of whiny. I mean, I know that all we know of her exists in the confines of her summers at the beach house mostly but I did wish I got to know MORE of her — I just didn’t really feel like I KNEW her; but I suspect in the next two books will get a REAL sense of who she is. I hope! The good thing is — she felt REALLY authentic and seemed like a normal girl that anyone could relate to on some level.

 

My Final Thought

Love the start of this series and so glad I finally listened to all my blogger friends on this one! It’s just a really good example of really wonder contemporary YA. It’s just so real and finely written. Jenny Han gets straight to the heart but not in some contrived, overly dramatic way. She creates something light and fun but with substance and heart — the epitome of what I look for in a beach read! Cannot wait to devour the rest of this trilogy! I also will say I wish I was a teen when I read this because  I would have been even MORE obsessed with this!

 

You May Also Like: books by Sarah Dessen, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols

Review of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Book Title/Author: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Publisher/Year: : Little Brown Books For Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Series: No – standalone!
Other Books From AuthorFixing Delilah, Bittersweet & out in May 2013 — The Book of Broken Hearts

Amazon| Goodreads | Sarah Ockler’s Website

Every girl dreams of their first real romance. When Anna finally experiences this she is dying to tell her best friend Frankie. Only problem is that her new boyfriend is Frankie’s brother. A tragedy occurs before Anna and Matt can tell Frankie the truth and Anna keeps the truth hidden from everyone — especially Frankie. A year later, Anna is still holding on to her lost romance with Matt and Frankie decides that Anna is in need of a summer romance. Whilst on their summer vacation together at Zanzibar Bay, Frankie plots that for every day they are there (20) they will have a competition to see who can snag a new guy each day. Under the weight of her secret, Anna halfheartedly agrees to go along with the plan though conflicted with being true to her love for Matt.

I got interested in this book back when the whole Scroggins-was-a-douche-and-tried-to-ban-this-book-without-reading it drama llama happened. I procured a copy and so it has sat on my shelf like a lot of other books I really want to read. So this summer, as part of  my Read Backlisted Books Plan, I decided to read it. So take that Scroggins, your stupid little tirade made a lot more people interested in this book. SUCKER.

Seeing as though it was part of a banning debacle, I kept WAITING for something “bad”  or “edgy”. I was waiting. And I just didn’t really understand why this was being challenged at all. Ok, so teens drink sometimes (a pretty minimal part in this book)?? Shocking. And they sometimes have sex (SAFE SEX with a condom in this novel) and think they want to lose their V card? Really? And this is different from what teens are experiencing for real in their high schools? Different from things they are seeing on tv and the movies?  I don’t know. I’m not seeing why it’s so dirty and filthy.

I thought Twenty Boy Summer was so powerful — no light, fluffy beach reading here. That grief just gnaws at your heart throughout the book — just as you see it doing to Anna (and Frankie too obviously). The general grief and pain, Anna’s secret, the what could have beens, etc. just are written in such a way that you can’t help but feel an immense amount of sorrow. I felt the complete and utter devastation of love lost. You can feel Matt’s presence in her heart. Sarah Ockler doesn’t lose him in the novel. He’s not easily forgotten. I felt it to be very realistic portrayal of grieving and coping and trying to put back those pieces. This book was one of those where I could feel my eyes and nose starting to sting because the tears were a comin’ and I was trying to hold them back so much. It annihilated my heart. More quietly and over time than say If I Stay where I was in full out SOBBING mode. But still. Shredded. Minced. Diced. What have you. Sarah Ockler didn’t hold back on my heart. I’ll say I felt hopeful and a little bit of peace at the end but there is no reversal to this type of slaying. Certain books leave their mark like that on me.

Sarah Ockler’s writing was just perfect for me — right from the beginning as she hooked me with such a sweet, playful & innocent romance. My heart. She also nailed the setting for me. I had to look down at my pasty white skin to remind myself I was not actually enjoying their summer fun on the beach. I really connected with Anna right away and I could tell that behind the messy exterior of Frankie there was a really great character that I’d grow to love. You could just tell. She grieved her brother like my sister grieved my mom. A little more attention seeking and rebellious…and attention turned to boys. I also thought some of Frankie’s family interactions were written were just brilliant to be honest; though I was quite disappointed that they seemed SUPER oblivious to what was going on all summer. Grief is just this big ol’ elephant in the room and sometimes it decides to show itself in the strangest of ways, places and times. I could relate to it.  And the way the secret came out – HEARTWRENCHING.

 

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is just one of those books that you easily get sucked into (the pain evoked experiencing a sweet love lost, the jump-off-the-pages variety of characters, the gorgeous setting, etc.) and find yourself come tumbling out of the pages hours later; bruised, tattered & with a heavy sense of something in your heart. Sarah doesn’t totally pulverize your heart as you see the beauty of friendship & family, hope,  and a new found appreciation for every day. It’s a good mix of heavy & uplifting. I do not understand AT ALL why this book was challenged. I expected something way more scandalous and promiscuous based on the title and then on the whole Wesley Scroggins thing. I will say that I’d be more likely to hand this to older teens as there is a little bit of drinking and sexual situations involved.

 

Young Adult Contemporary Novel Twenty Boy Summer

 

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, books from Jennifer Echols, Moonglass & In Honor by Jessi Kirby, books from Sarah Dessen

 

Did any of you read this book? Did you agree with Scroggins assessment of it? Tell me what you thought!

Audiobook Review – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan & John Green

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

I’ve never reviewed an audiobook before so this is exciting! I decided that I was going to get more into audiobooks since so many of my favorite bloggers swear by them. I have done ONE audiobook before (This Much I Know Is True by Wally Lamb) so I’m certainly no veteren when it comes to the audiobook scene. I am officially a fan after this one!

Audiobook Review Portion

Let’s just talk about how entertaining this was on audio! I always fear that audiobooks won’t hold my attention but this certainly did. I would advise on NOT listening to this out loud while you are around people that might not want to hear all sorts of swears and some sexual references and jokes. I also would not advise listening to this while you should be working as it may induce the giggles as this book is HILARIOUS and the narrators have the most perfect inflections that really give it that hilarity. I really enjoyed the narrators of this one. They really made it for me. It was easy to follow and they really got into their characters — no monotony here! It switches back and forth between the two Will Grayson’s and I thought it was easy to follow.

I think my only gripe was that sometimes with the one Will Grayson it was hard to follow because it seemed to be in email or IM form a lot of the times because he was IMing but also with the dialogue. I’m not sure how this looks in the book but it was a tad hard to follow but enough that it lost me. I would highly recommend this as an audiobook to people who love contemporary YA and are unsure if an audiobook will hold their attention. This certainly will as the narrators are really quite fantastic and the story is a good pace on audio. Not too much introspection that it loses you because you feel it isn’t moving anywhere but rather has the perfect blend of action and dialogue and comical thoughts.

Review Of The Novel Itself

Oh dear. Where do I even begin? Let’s start with Tiny Cooper! Never in my life have a read a more dynamic character. It’s funny because he isn’t even one of the narrators yet he steals the show and is what I think of most about this novel. Sure he could be selfish and an ass sometimes but, seriously, Tiny Cooper resonated with me for some reason. I think I admired his confidence and optimism but appreciated that he was REAL — selfish, blinded by his own wants but mostly because in his confidence there is still that fraility of being human and being aware of what we lack and what makes us different. He just balanced that well and I thought him to be a great character. I liked the Will Grayson’s well enough but Tiny made the story for me. Really all the characters came alive — from Mona to Gideon.

This could quite possibly be one of the funniest contemporary novels I’ve ever read — YA or adult. It seemed like every sentence – whether it be a description, dialogue or a vagrant thought — always seemed to be so vivid and alive; peppered with wit and hilarity and TRUTH. Whether the passages were just hilarious or thought-provoking, I was always wishing I could mentally highlight passages every so few pages. (Downfall of listening to this rather than reading it!). I mean, the descriptions of the simplest things were brilliant — like talking about how Tiny Cooper fits in a desk! I’m not normally one to just drop a punch of quotes in a review but this book needs to speak for itself:

 
“Dating you would be like a series of unnecessary root canals interspersed with occasional makeout sessions.” 
 
“When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost – the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.”
 

“I have a friend request from some stranger on facebook and I delete it without looking at the profile because that doesn’t seem natural. ‘Cause friendship should not be as easy as that. It’s like people believe all you need to do is like the same bands in order to be soulmates. Or books. omg… U like the outsiders 2… it’s like we’re the same person! No we’re not. It’s like we have the same English teacher. There’s a difference.”  

I think the only thing that I found to damper my love for this book was some of the scenes with the play. It kind of bored me and if I would have reading it rather than listening to it I would have probably flipped past those songs and some of those parts. It WAS pretty interesting to hear the narrator sing those songs though. 

My Final Thought: I’ve already been a fan of David Levithan but now I’m even more excited to read the John Green books sitting on my shelf. This book was highly entertaining yet was thought-provoking. The Will Grayson’s and Tiny are people who I wouldn’t think I’d have anything in common with but the barest of human emotions and young adulthood will resonate with you as these characters grapple with love and relationships and what it means to truly be yourself. David Levithan and John Green are a fantastic duo and I beg of them to keep collaborating! Definitely recommend this as an audiobook as well. Sure made my commute a lot less rage inducing.

 Review On A Post-It:

Vagrant Yet Valid Thought: Before I had ever heard of this book I wanted to name my future male child William Grayson.


Have you read this book? What did you think? Also, which John Green book should I read first? I own pretty much all of them but I’ve just never read them!

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez – Book Review

Book/Author: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Publisher/Year: Simon Pulse 2011
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
I received this book from the publisher at BEA.

When you are considered to be a violin prodigy and competing in the SUPERBOWL of all violin competitions, there’s little room for error if you want to win the most prestigious title that could essentially launch the rest of your career. No pressure, right? This is where Carmen, an extremely gifted violinist, finds herself. The mounting pressure to succeed has escalated and can only be remedied by one thing — anti-anxiety pills. And to top it off? Her concentration is further tested when a guy she shouldn’t give the time of day comes in the picture and has the ability to stand in her way of what she’s worked so hard for.

Books like this are why contemporary will always be the apple of my eye. I honestly picked this up at BEA because of the cover (it’s so wickedly awesome) and because I really enjoyed the violin aspect of If I Stay & Where She Went despite not knowing ANYTHING about violin…and it just sounded so unique! This book was utterly un-putdownable as I felt my heart thumping inside my chest the way Carmen did as she was facing the biggest ‘make or break” event in her life and simultaneously trying to figure out the mysteries and intentions of the new eye candy in her life. Tension galore, I tell you!

A decent amount of YA books suffer from “missing parent syndrome” but NOT THIS BOOK. Let’s just say, as I mentioned in a recent list of books that made me emotional, that Carmen’s mom is one of those most insufferable biznatches I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading about. She goes in parent jail along with all the moms who put their 7 year olds on crazy diets and the crazy pageant moms who skankify their five year old and teach them to dance like their working a pole. Now my mom used to put the pressure on me about school work and getting straight A’s but my mom’s pressure seems like a little kitten to this beastwoman. I won’t say anything more about her because huge parts of the plot are propelled by her mom’s desire to feel success again, vicariously through her daughter, but her actions are seriously HORRID.

I think that aspect of the book was done really well. While most of us can’t relate to the magnitude of pressure that Carmen faces, I think most teens and young adults can relate, at the core, to how these pressure make us feel and act. Things like getting into college, SATs, getting good grades, staying out of trouble, finding the perfect boyfriend, etc. etc. We can feel out of control of our life, doubt if we are living or just going through the motions and feel a more than healthy dose of anxiety. I could feel all these emotions that Carmen was going through and it ripped my hearts into shreds. And it was even sadder to me that her whole life revolved so much around her career that she hadn’t ever gotten to experience the normal teen rites of passage.

Carmen was truly an admirable character though and not in a contrived way. I truly got a sense of who she was as the novel progressed and felt satisfied with her actions and the decisions she made for herself. She was entirely relatable and definitely memorable.

The writing was superb! This wasn’t just a good contemporary story…it was a fantastically written contemporary story. The prose is so lyrical and lovely; filled with lively imagery that lingers and scenes so powerful that they tug at your emotional heartstrings without being too obvious or contrived. Some truly beautiful passages are to be encountered.

The one thing I was a little disappointed with is the whole anti-anxiety med addiction. I just felt like it was going to be more important in the novel but I felt like it was there and we were told how bad it was but I never truly felt her addiction and the impact. And *minor spoiler* it seemed like she all of a sudden made the decision to be done with them and that was it. I don’t know if maybe the addiction was in her head or what but I just felt a little disappointed with how this thread was resolved. I just had thought, from the description, that it would play more of a prominent role in the story.

My Final Thought: Virtuosity is a contemporary read you want to add to your list if you like beautiful writing with a unique storyline and lively characters. The romance takes a unique spin on the “forbidden romance” for those who desire that storyline but prefer for the story to not be paranormal or cliched. It’s a very heartfelt story and I guarantee you that your heart will break with Carmen but also feel that hopeful feeling you get when you start finding yourself again.

Review on a Post-It

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Young Adult Fiction – Harper Teen 2006

This is one of those books that I thought I was just destined to fall in love with. Written by Maureen Johnson? Check. I find her hilarious, witty and meeting her in person was AWESOME. Set mostly in Europe? Um hello, you do know me, right? Main character gets to wander around Europe by on orders from envelopes that her deceased Aunt has left her. SOUNDS LIKE A CRAZY FUN ADVENTURE.. A promise of some romance in the description? Ohh yeahhh. SIGN ME UP.

But alas, this wasn’t the new favorite I thought it would be to be honest. And it’s one of those times where I hate myself for not wanting to declare epic, amazing, favorite book status on this one. We were SO meant to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike it by any means. I really did LIKE it. It was an enjoyable read that had me romping around Europe with Ginny on this crazy adventure full of twists and turns…brought to you by her zany Aunt Peggy whom I actually ended up understanding a little bit. I could picture her persona so perfectly — flighty, zany and just never able to settle down. I actually found myself feeling bad for her rather than mad at her for just up and leaving. It’s just the kind of person she was. Some people can be content where they are and some just need changes of paces and new adventures. I get it. I feel like that a lot. Do I think it was a shitty thing to do to your family? Yes. She still irked me a little bit.

I don’t know why this book didn’t strike that chord with me like it should have. I don’t know if I was expecting it to be hysterical like Maureen herself or if it had been hyped as one of those must read YA books It felt like of like my first kiss. I was expecting fireworks and a feeling of being profoundly changed. After it was over, I just was glad I did it but didn’t feel that overwhelming, powerful feeling like I thought I would. I feel like maybe I had such high expectations of it that it ended up just being a GOOD read for me.  I just never felt like I connected sometimes with Ginny which should have happened more than it did. At some points I just wasn’t understanding what Aunt Peggy was trying to teach Ginny with all these different tasks…but I think that was probably the feeling MJ wanted you to feel. But sometimes I just felt lost on the journey and didn’t understand some of the choices that were made.

That being said, there were a lot of really good things that did make this book so enjoyable and fun for me. Maureen Johnson writes a really wonderful contemporary novel.. I found some of the secondary characters to be pretty interesting despite the fact we saw most of them just for a fragment of time as Ginny completed her journey. I thought the journey was interesting and full of twists that actually did surprise me. I did like the changes that Ginny went through throughout the course of the book. I found them to be realistic considering how much responsibility her aunt had given her and the fact that she really did a lot of this on her own. I think Maureen balanced the physical and self journey well.  I really did find myself feeling a myriad of emotions but none that really connected me too much to Ginny…which might not make sense but that’s the best way I can explain it. Maybe I just knew what I was supposed to feel for someone in her position.

The Final Thought: While I certainly wasn’t blown away by it like everyone else (which makes me want to hang my head in shame because, dammit, this book and I were MEANT to be), I did enjoy it. There were a lot of really great things about this book but in the end I didn’t feel too much of an impact or connection with Ginny on that level I suspect most that loved this book did. I understood people like her — shy, not knowing what they are capable of — and so I could see how this journey could have molded a person like her and I loved seeing that…but really I didn’t get that BFF feeling from Ginny like you are supposed to get. At the end of the day — I’m glad I read a Maureen Johnson novel finally, thought it was a good read and will probably pick up The Last Little Blue Envelope at some point. I just can’t claim that it was a WOW kind of book for me..just good and pretty enjoyable.

*Will post my review on a Post-It later…it’s on my home computer and I’m on lunch break at work*

Review: The Beginning Of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning Of After is a heartbreaking story that strips grief and loss down to its barest and most raw form to show the upward, grueling journey one must take in order to live and thrive in the “After.” I loved the title of this book and found it an incredibly accurate descriptor for how one who grieves categorizes time, memories and events and Castle did a great job of showing what the “beginning of after” is like in a tragic situation.

I mentioned before in reviews of books with similar themes that I find myself always, as someone who has lost a parent and experience what it is like to fully grieve that loss, being even more critical when it comes to stories of grief in YA literature. Everyone’s grief is different but yet, at its most bare form, it shares many similar characteristics that those who have grieved can recognize from their story of grief. I look for it. I do. And I have to say that Jennifer Castle was able to deliver a realistic portrait of the grieving process that shook me to my core and stirred up some overwhelming emotions for me…although not enough to cry which surprises me. It was raw and honest, rather than contrived, and I found myself shaking my head to passages that looked as though they could have been ripped from the pages of my journal. I wished for a little bit more of the “in her head” moments because I think that dialogue really could have added more to it but I did find these little moments to resonate deeply.

But that might be where this novel could fall flat for some. A few people, during a conversation on Twitter, found that they just could not connect at all and felt as though they were missing something because they hadn’t experienced something like this. For as much as I could feel it, I could see how some might find it hard to connect to a huge propelling force in this book if that hadn’t experienced it and maybe in some ways the narrative failed to provide those places for (those who haven’t experienced that kind of loss) to actually feel as though they HAD like a story really should. This is where I think more internal dialogue could have really helped. It’s hard to understand why she’s fixating more on a boy from class taking her to prom then her grief if you don’t understand the thought process behind it like someone grieving might. It’s that facade of normalcy that you are trying to achieve while repressing some of your inner turmoil.

But strangely, while I connected so emotionally to this journey of grief, I did not find myself connected to the main characters. Laurel and I had that grief in common yet I felt as though I couldn’t quite break through to really care about her. I felt like I just didn’t care where the story ended up, I was bored and felt as though it just kept dragging on and not really going anywhere at all. I wanted to root for her to triumph through her grief but there were few things in the story that really motivated me to do aside from my own personal connections which wasn’t as powerful for me as some other YA books dealing with grief. I kept losing interest and it never really stood out for me nor provided me with unforgettable characters. I liked it and felt some obvious connections to the grief, but in the end, that was about it. I had really high hopes for this one and I’m not really sure why it fell flat for me ultimately.

Review On A Post-It:

Other perspectives:

Miss Remmers’ Review
Books With Bite
I Swim For Oceans

* I received this book from review from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and in no way had an effect on what I’ve written in regards to this book.

Here’s a guest post with Jennifer Castle that I featured this week.

Have you read this one? Did you have a different experience with it than I did? What are some other YA books you’ve read with similar themes?

Review: Love Story by Jennifer Echols + GIVEAWAY

Love Story by Jennifer Echols

Erin Blackwell is an aspiring romance writer is determined to do whatever it takes to work her way through college in NYC and get the coveted publishing internship that would really jumpstart her dream career. She’s even turned against her family’s wishes to major in business and become the heiress to her family racehorse farm in Kentucky….and loses her whole inheritance. As she struggles to get by, her old crush Hunter–the stable boy on her farm– accepts Erin’s inheritance from her grandmother and shows up in Erin’s creative writing class where she has just shared a romance story that fantasizes about her own stable boy. Their rocky past will become even more complicated when Hunter and Erin use their writing assignments to communicate to each other and let those feelings bubble up on the surface. 


I’ve heard from many bloggers that if I want a good romantic YA than Jennifer Echols is the way to go so I was excited to receive a copy of Love Story to review so I could experience the irresistible romances that I’ve heard so much about!


The first thing that struck me about this particular book was that the MC was in college! I am the creator and moderator of the College Students book group on Goodreads and we always talk about how there is a lack of college aged characters and stories in both YA and Adult lit. So, Jennifer Echols gets a big thumbs up for that! 


I have to say my favorite aspect of the book was all the stories that Erin and Hunter wrote back and forth for class. I loved reading them and I thought it was SUCH a nice touch to really see the complicated feelings they had for each other and I loved that it was such an interesting way for them to communicate these in a different way. I really loved reading them!


I think I had mixed feelings about the characters to be honest. I really liked Erin at first but as the story went on she really confused me and I got fed up with some of her actions and her overreactions. However, I cut her some slack because I know as a freshman in college I was the same way and I was really impressed with how she adapted and grew as the story progressed. Hunter also just confused the heck out of me! I couldn’t understand, aside from his handsome nature and the forbidden romance, what the attraction was beyond lust. He seemed like kind of a jerk to me with some of the things he did but then sometimes he was just SO swoonworthy and irresistible. I just couldn’t quite figure him out. I did, however, love how much he cared about Erin even in the face of some of her moronic actions and conclusions she jumped to.


Aside from my constantly changing opinions of Hunter and Erin, I found myself unable to put down the story. I loved both settings — New York and Kentucky — and I felt like the story was pretty unique. I can’t deny that I was completely sucked into the tension of their relationship and found Hunter’s confidence/cockiness to be kiiiinda sexy when mixed with his kindness that he showed at points. I was happy that the story wasn’t JUST about their romance and really found Erin and her grandmother’s relationship to be so interesting and wish it would have been more explored. With how must I really really was invested into the plot and the outcome of their love story/ the story with Erin’s grandmother, the ending left something to be desired. I don’t know, I found it to be a bit rushed and some of the things leading up to it seemed to be very convenient and somewhat predictable.


My final thought: While I don’t think this was my favorite romance because of my mixed feelings for the characters, I really enjoyed it and the plot and the writing class assignments really pulled me in. I’ve heard from other Echol’s fans that this one wasn’t their favorite, so I’ll definitely be trying out another Echol’s novel in the near future because I really enjoyed her writing and her ability to create an interesting love story. I definitely think it’s more suitable for older teens as it IS set in college and does have some of the heavier things you’d expect for that age (some sexy scenes, drinking etc).  

Review on a Post-It:


 

Thanks to Big Honcho Media and MTV Books I have TWO finished copies to give away.  All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment with a way for me to get in contact with you to get your address should you win!

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