Book Talk: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Book Talk: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan MatsonSince You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers- May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Format: ARC
Source: From Author
Other Books From Author: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Second Chance Summer
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

 

book synopsis When Sloane came into Emily’s life, it’s like she became a new, more daring person and did things she wouldn’t normally do with Sloane by her side — though she still wasn’t quite up to Sloane’s speed. Just as the most perfect and epic summer is about to start for the two girls, Sloane just disappears. She doesn’t leave any explanation — not even when, a few days later, a Sloane-made list that Emily has experienced before shows up in the mail with 13 tasks for Emily to do — things Emily wouldn’t do on her own. Emily hopes that by doing the things on the list she’ll be reunited with Sloane or given some sort of clue as to where she went so she sets out to tackle the list full of firsts, scary things, embarrassing things, random things and more — things that lead her to meeting people along the way who end up helping her complete the list!

 

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Morgan Matson is one of my favorite authors ever. Her books always just strike the right chord within me and I connect emotionally and always just love the story, the writing and the characters. Since You’ve Been Gone, I’m happy to report, kept that trend alive…but in a different way for me. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer were really, really personal for me because they dealt a lot with grief and loss. There was that personal connection there for me. This one there wasn’t that same HUGELY personal element (though I connected quite a bit in ways) but it proved my love for Morgan Matson’s books even more fiercely because DAMN can she write a story that sucks me in, makes me love the characters, makes me swoon and gives me all sorts of emotions. Since You’ve Been Gone, like her other books, just does it all for me. That perfect feeling of getting lost in a great book.

So let’s talk:

1. I’m used to Morgan Matson’s books making me cry (okay SOB FEROCIOUSLY in the case of Second Chance Summer) but Since You’ve Been Gone just made me grin like a fool — allegedly…according to Will who apparently watches me while I read but I’m too absorbed to notice. Okay, he’s right though. My face hurt from grinning so much. This book gave me happy feels and I did some happy crying at times. I could produce for you a whole LIST of these moments that made my heart happy or made me giggle. This book is sweet, heartfelt and a wonderful story about friendship and really finding yourself. I just felt giddy the whole time I was reading it. And the relationship between Emily and Frank made my heart melt like an ice cream on a hot day…just a sticky sweet puddle of heart eyed feelings. Ooh the friendship and then the tension.

2. I love lists and I loved watching Emily deal with Sloane’s list: I was so pissed at Sloane for leaving Emily with no explanation..just this list. Like YOU HAVE SOME SPLAINING TO DO, Sloane. WHERE ARE YOU? I half wanted Emily to crumple the list up but obviously I was happy she was going to tackle the list because I was so interested in what some of them meant and HOW she would do some of them (skinny dipping, kiss a stranger, steal something). It was a super fun premise and I felt like each thing on the list helped me to get to know Emily AND Sloane even more. Obviously watching Emily go out of her comfort zone with this list was a given, which I’ll talk about below, but I felt like I got to know Sloane in learning where some of these list items came from and WHY she put them on her. I’m a bucket list enthusiast so I was excited about this premise.

3. I loved experiencing Emily figure out who she was apart from Sloane: I don’t know about you but I’ve had the experience of being in relationships (friendships/romantic/otherwise) where I don’t know who I am apart from the person and it’s only when I’m forced to confront that absence that I start to realize how strongly my identity was in those people. Doing these things on Sloane’s list helped her to start to figure out who she was without Sloane there. Sloane had been such an integral part in her past couple years and Sloane was the driving force of their fun and excitement. I loved watching Emily be brave, in the small and big moments, and start to figure out who she was while tackling this list. Even though at first she was doing this list in hopes it would help her find Sloane, she began to do it for herself. Her growth was wonderful to watch and she honestly kind of inspired me.

4. I loved the focus on friendship: Without Sloane, Emily really didn’t have any other friends so I loved watching her meet some new people like Dawn, Frank and Matthew. I just loved them so much and loved how they ended up helping her with the list and it really became less about this THING she was doing for Sloane but for herself and with these new friends. I also really loved how this experience really gave her perspective on her friendship with Sloane and really added even more depth to it when she eventually figured out what happened with Sloane. All these friendship feels made me miss that feeling of making new friends — those friends who end up being your partners in crime, the ones you tell all your secrets to, etc.

5. Morgan Matson gives me an experience: I could say this about her other books but I think maybe I felt like it with this one even more. She makes me feel like I am really involved in the story with the details she gives and how she takes her time in the best way possible to get you to feel it and to KNOW the characters. She just doesn’t paint me a picture of the scene and of the feelings but she makes me feel and experience everything. I feel like I’m there in the midst of it all. I feel the pain of missing Sloane, the fear of doing the things on the list, the thrill of the moment they skinny dipped,the awkwardness of making new friends and seeing Emily’s ex boyfriend. I couldn’t contain my reactions and feelings at times — the laughs escaped, the happy tears fell, the tension constricted my heart and the love just flowed.

6. FRANK FRANK FRANK. That’s all. Also, that boy has excellent taste in music. Okay, so maybe that’s not all. So often in YA I see these boys who are not in fact teenage boys but like supposed to be hot, hunky man candy with all the right moves and words. Frank made me swoon like a school girl in love but he was not perfect or mysterious or anything. He was a teenage boy who was smart and had so many facets to who he was. He felt like somebody I would have REALLY fallen for. And I loved the friendship that he and Emily built. MY HEART. I would like to guarantee a Frank for my nieces and if I ever have daughters (I mean, unless they aren’t into boys). WEAK IN THE KNEES FOR FRANK!

7. Be happy, fans of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour…the music playlists are back!! And they are so, so good though Morgan said they are a little different in the final copy!

book reviewsI LOVED IT. Morgan Matson just keeps solidifying herself as one of my favorite authors. My heart wants to seize up with happiness over Since You’ve Been Gone. It was a most anticipated book for 2014 and it did NOT disappoint. If you love contemporary YA, read it and then go read her other books if you haven’t!

 

 

 

short book review

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Speechless by Hannah Harrington | Book Review

speechless by hannah harringtonBook Title/Author: Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Publisher/Year
: Harlequin  Teen 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series:  No
Other Books From AuthorSaving June

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I received this from the publisher at BEA. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Chelsea Knot is popular and she can’t keep a secret — always blabbing everything she knows and spreading gossip around. The last secret she told almost got somebody killed and has turned her into the ultimate social outcast. Trying to learn from her mistake, she takes a vow of silence which alienates her even further at a time where everybody is talking about her and she’s become the target of a lot of bullying. When she meets a girl whom she would never have associated with before, she is befriended despite everything that has gone on, she realizes she might have a chance to be forgiven by people for what she did– if only she could forgive herself first.

This was my pick for book club this month and I honestly didn’t know what to expect but had heard good things about this book and Saving  June. I’m pleased to report that I really liked this book and think it’s going to make for a good discussion! It delved into quite a few issues without screaming “HEY I’M AN ISSUE BOOK” and I felt like it wasn’t a complete “THIS IS WRONG AND THIS IS RIGHT” kind of book either. I felt conflicted sometimes and I liked that.

Speechless by Hannah Harrington is your ultimate “popular mean girl gets thrown from her social status and falls hard to the bottom” kind of story. We know the skeleton for this kind of story — the mean girl is cast down from the social heavens and at the mercy of all those people who she treated like dirt or ignored. Chelsea certainly gets that and  more from the people who she used to be friends and with those she ignored — plus, in her  case, the people close with the person who was affected most because of her gossip. I thought Hannah Harrington really made that skeleton of a story into so much more as it chronicles her downfall from queen bee status to biggest social outcast to what she finds out about herself by the end.

The thing that is always make or break for me in these kinds of stories is whether or not I feel like the “mean girl” has truly changed or if she’s just adapted — there’s a difference for me. It’s interesting with Chelsea because it’s easy to hate her early on (I did!) because she’s a serious bitch but I couldn’t help but know I would root for her  at the  moment that she does the RIGHT THING early on — the thing, that for her life, would be the worst thing. Not days or weeks later. Right away. For that, I already felt like I could root for her. You can FEEL how conflicted Chelsea was about her decision after she starts enduring all the harassment and bullying — it WOULD have been so much easier to not do the right thing and she THINKS that. She knows logically she did the right thing but she can’t help but truly wonder. I found that to be incredibly realistic as I’ve been in the same situation knowing that doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest, and doubting yourself, but realizing you had it to it.

I found her whole journey to be believable and real and I really felt her change was authentic — she eventually saw that, at the end of the day, she couldn’t BE like those people anymore if they couldn’t see what was wrong about the situation. Her journey isn’t perfect — she still maintains a lot of her old ways of thinking throughout a lot of it but I saw true growth and could sympathize slowly but surely.  I loved how she saw all of these qualities she wanted to possess, that her old friends didn’t, through this new group of people. Her journey wasn’t easy but I loved taking it with her and watching her grow and realize who SHE is. I REALLY loved the supporting characters she makes friends with as they have so much depth and are just really great characters– Asha and the whole diner crew and of course SAM.

I’ll say I didn’t always quite understand the whole vow of silence and what it meant to her and I wasn’t even sure that she did, but I realized as the novel progressed, that was kind of the beauty of it. I don’t think she set out to do anything profound or enlightening with her vow of silence but she was just processing what happened and was her way of kind of making  a sort of penance and amends even if she knew she couldn’t fix things.

Speechless was a solid read that breathes new life into the “mean girl fall from grace” plot with the way it seamlessly explores the many facets of high school experience — the fickle nature of popularity and social status, the damage of gossip,  the beginnings of finding yourself in an atmosphere that wants everyone to be the same, etc. –and tackles it at a level that goes beyond the superficial surface of it all. The beauty of the novel is that, even far removed from high school, so many of these things that were explored are still so relevant to me and I appreciated thinking about them as I watched Chelsea, a character I didn’t want to like, make this genuine journey — even though the road was quite thorny. Great characters who are full of depth, a story that will captivate and full of really heartfelt messages without beating you over the head with it.

 

 

Speechless by Hannah Harrington review

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it? Did you feel like her journey was genuine? Who was your favorite secondary character (I LOVE ASHA!!)

 

 

 

 

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney | Book Review

When You Were Here by Daisy WhitneyBook Title/Author: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
Publisher/Year
: Little Brown June 4th 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: The  Mockingbirds/The Rivals, Starry Nights (out in Fall 2013)

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I borrowed this from a very kind friend.

 

 

 

Three weeks before Danny’s graduation, his mom loses her battle with cancer and Danny becomes an orphan.  Amidst his grief and hopelessness, a directionless Danny has to try to make it through his graduation and deliver a hopeful Valedictorian speech while trying to make adult decisions about what to do with their home and his mother’s things. On top of it all, the girl who broke his heart by just shutting him out of her life suddenly reappears in his life. When the manager of his family’s apartment in Japan, where Danny’s mom had spending some of her final months for treatment, sends a letter that reveals to him that maybe he didn’t know all about his mother’s final months and why she seemed so happy in them. With nagging questions and sense of purposelessness that has made him numb, Danny takes a trip around the world to Japan to if he can find the answers and reconnect with his mother through these memories

I read this book back in January, wrote my Save the Date for it immediately and my heart is still bursting at the seams with my love for it remembering the emotional journey I took with Danny. I can say it’s one of the best 2013 books I’ve read so far and for sure a new favorite. I instantly knew I wanted to read this book when I first creeped the catalog because the story was about a boy whose mom, who wanted to see him graduate high school, passes away from brain cancer 3 weeks before he graduates. I nearly cried just reading the summary because that was my mom’s wish to see us graduate which, luckily for us, she did. I’m always drawn to stories of grief in YA and I knew this was going to hit close to the heart. It did in fact make me sob and sob and sob.

When You Were Here was just all around beautiful. It steamrolls through your heart and then you realize, by the last page, that Daisy Whitney has been so subtly rebuilding those pieces of your heart ensuring that it’s still intact. It’s a story of loss and love but also of the courage and strength you must possess to make it through both. It’s more than just a story about a boy who loses his mom. It’s about how we move forward in all of these things that life throws our way. I definitely connected to the grief portion for personal reasons but, without a doubt, the things that Danny grapples with are things I think a lot of people will connect with.

I loved the physical and emotional journey Danny takes to Tokyo to retrieve his mother’s belongings and looking for answers to what his mom was doing with her time in those last months. I loved how Danny tries to feel the spirit of his mom in the city they loved so much and Daisy Whitney makes the city comes alive as Danny visits the fish market, ambles along the twisted streets or admiring the cherry blossoms. The spunky daughter of the caretaker, Kana, was one of my favorite characters and her spirit just radiated vibrantly which really was this surge of brightness that was a nice balance to the grief and sorrow Danny was feeling. She was the perfect tour guide and really helped him understand some of what his mom was doing and to start the healing process by reminding him to keep LIVING. I love how he learns more about his mom through Kana and her mother and also through the city she spent so much time in, that in turn, help him through this process and learn a lot about himself.

I connected so much with Danny and love the way he was written — one of THE best male POVS I’ve read in YA that was both emotional and felt like HOW A REAL GUY THOUGHT/TALKED. None of this “what the hell kind of boy talks or acts like that?” that I’ve encountered so often.  Having watched my now husband grapple with his own grief I felt that some of the things were so realistic for how some guys might deal with things versus how I did.

I think the ONLY way I didn’t connect with him was with the whole ex girlfriend thing. There is this whole THING surrounding them and their breakup and how she just up and left — it was a little bit hard to swallow and I really struggled to connect with HER which hindered my ability to understand Danny’s love for  her. We get a little of a background of THEM but I felt like I just never FELT what they shared. There are things that will make you understand her more but I just would have liked to truly feel what he felt for her.  I was at such a distance from her whereas, even though his mother wasn’t alive during the book, I felt like I REALLY got to know her and feel the depth of their relationship.

Aside from the emotional grief aspect of this novel there is something that happens that is of the rollercoaster stomach dropping variety and completely took me off guard. I didn’t expect it and it pretty much laid me out emotionally. Big sobby mess over here when I read it — snot nose and all. (I’m so delightful, aren’t I?) I just didn’t see it coming at all.

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney is one of my newest favorite contemporaries. It’s definitely an emotional read with moments that will steamroll right through your heart but also a good balance of ones that will uplift and remind you how much strength the human spirit has and how resilient we are in love and loss. Loved the realistic male perspective and I connected with him and his physical and emotional journey to work through his grief throughout the novel (with the aside of fully FEELING this connection to his ex girlfriend). It’s a beautifully written story through and through and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of YA contemporary that is more of an emotional, not so light read. ALSO, favorite pet in YA in this book!

 

 

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney review

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it or feel different than me? Did you see the THING coming or were you surprised like I was?

 

Golden by Jessi Kirby | Book Review

Golden by Jessi KirbyBook Title/Author: Golden by Jessi Kirby
Publisher/Year
: Simon  & Schuster May 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No!
Other Books From Author: Moonglass, In Honor

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

 

ALSO, read the very personal post I wrote inspired by this book!

 

Parker is coming closer to her high school graduation and everything is on track for that next stage in her life. She’s valedictorian, always listens to her mom, is driven but, as her best friend always points out, she rarely takes chances or does the unexpected — despite her best friend’s urging and influence. Her life is shaken when she takes a chance and peers into the personal life that unexpectedly sheds some light on a town legend and tragedy. Everybody knows the tragic love story of Julianna Fernetti and Shane Cruz. Ten years they were the golden couple of the high school and town and ten years ago when a tragic accident on an icy road sent them plunging into the river from which their bodies were never found. The golden couple has been romanticized but Parker finds that things aren’t always as they seem as she reads a sealed class assignment that Julianna wrote 10 years ago and begins to question what really happened the night of their fateful accident.

Honestly, of Jessi Kirby’s 3 novels so far, Golden is undoubtedly my favorite. She’s become an author I don’t hesitate to recommend if you like contemporary YA and placed on my auto-buy list and reading Golden confirmed all these things even  more. Golden is a stunning book with incredible depth, a skillfully unraveled mystery and characters that I really loved. One of those books that absorbs you completely and you find yourself done in a flash and your emotions are all scattered over the place. I was equally enthralled with both the mystery element to this novel as well as the character development and growth of Parker — I really could root for and relate to her.

I really loved how Parker’s story and the mystery of Julianna’s tragic accident were woven together. I felt like I got to know Parker so much through her reactions to reading Julianna’s journal and my heart was in my throat reading Julianna’s tragic story as it was so perfectly revealed. It was one of those tragic stories where your heart just ached and I could feel the intensity and weight that Parker felt for uncovering it all as she read the journal that had been sealed away for 10 years shining a whole new light on a town legend. I loved the adventure that Julianna’s story took Parker and her friends on and how it challenged her with things in her life that she had always struggled with — getting out of her comfort zone, living the life SHE wants etc. It was just a perfect blend of mystery, character growth and one of those books that makes you think and examine your own life. I thought about so many things — how things aren’t always as they seem to be and how they are romanticized sometimes and just how sometimes we get stuck in trap of trying to figure OUT our life rather than living it. I journalled a lot after reading this one.

The mystery thread was SO interesting how it was revealed and kept me on the edge of my seat but not in that thriller kind of way. I kept guessing and speculating. I DID end up making a good prediction and read at a dizzying pace to see if my little hunch was right and it WAS. I love that. Jessi Kirby cleverly unravels things so that you can’t help but start thinking things and questioning things along with Parker. I was reading with a friend and it was hilarious the different predictions we made!

It’s hard to explain, without giving it all away, what is so special about this novel but it’s the whole package — fully developed, interesting characters and dynamics, beautiful writing, thought-provoking and a refreshingly executed plot that practically glues your eyeballs to the pages. I could start spouting off fancy adjectives but you should just probably read the book.

 

Golden by Jessi Kirby was a stirring and beautiful story with depth and emotion and I LOVED IT. I have this desire to reread it already. It was refreshing and one of those books that just is all consuming in the best possible way. I couldn’t stop reading as Parker read the journal of a girl who was the center of a tragic accident and finds her life become intertwined with this mystery — all while watching Parker’s growth. It’s my favorite novel thus far from Jessi Kirby and solidifies her as a go-to author in the contemporary YA genre. Don’t miss this one, friends!

 

Golden by Jessi Kirby

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it? Did you guess the mystery or a piece of it??

 

 

Book Review: Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

10861195Book Title/Author: Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
Publisher/Release Date
: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers – January 15, 2013
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Paranormal (hard to say because I thought it would be way more science fiction-y than it was but there are paranormal elements)
Series: Yes. It’s book 1 of The Memory Chronicles
Other Books From Author: None — it’s her debut!

Amazon| Goodreads | @lenoreva |

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear! And full disclosure: Lenore is a fellow blogger and friend but I have written my full and honest opinion of the book that has not been swayed by my relationship with author.

When Felicia dies, she finds herself in Level 2 — an afterlife that isn’t quite disconnected from the living but isn’t quite the “next life.”  She and the others in her chamber spend their day plugged into computers where they have access to view all their old memories or the memories of others by way of a very elaborate system of credits. When a girl in Felicia’s chamber suddenly vanishes and a very dark piece of her past enters the chamber, a chamber that nobody on the outside had ever come in, and tells her there is an uprising and rebellion happening against those running the show in Level 2. Felicia isn’t sure whether or not she can trust this mysterious guy, Julian, from her past but her curiosity about what lies outside her chamber, and Julian’s promise to reunite her with somebody important, just might be the push she needs to follow him and align with the rebellion that is taking place.

Truly, Level 2 was one of the most unique and refreshing books I’ve read in a while!  I loved the concept from the start — dying and then your sort of afterlife consists of this “in-between” place where you have access to all your old memories to revisit and there is a credit system wherein your memories can be loaned out and you can borrow other peoples memories. It was interesting to think about which memories I would never want to relive and which ones I’d find myself watching over and over again. I kept thinking about which sorts of memories I’d want to borrow from other people — probably some good travel memories, memories of reading books so I could experience those and probably all sorts of lovely dovey memories because in the afterlife I’m sure I’d still be a sap like that.  So, obviously, I was instantly intrigued from page one as to what Level 2 was and why Felicia was there.

It was just unlike anything I’ve ever read before! The world-building was fantastic! I loved learning how things worked and could picture the pods and the rooms so easily– although I will be honest that at first it was A LOT of information to absorb. But the world is intricate and well built and I loved the pace at which we learned more about what Level 2 is right alongside Felicia as she learns from Julian that there is way more to Level 2 than she knows. I know I couldn’t stop turning the pages just anticipating what the deal with Level 2 was and why there was a rebellion and WHO controlled it. SO MANY QUESTIONS.

I loved, loved loved how the story builds through Felicia’s access to her memories and we get to learn more about her through these memories of her life that she chooses to access and through her response to them. More of the pieces start to come together through these memories  and I loved trying to figure out what the deal was with Julian and why he got her in trouble in the past. Lenore moves you seamlessly through the past and the present and I loved that because sometimes flashbacks can be troublesome.  I’d say that the first part of the novel really is less ACTION and more memories and introducing you to the world and then from there there is more movement outside of the chambers and plot twists to boot!

I found myself really attune to  the emotions of this novel.  I felt such a deep sense of sadness at points, I felt anger, the pain of betrayal, longing for what was  lost, the tension, etc. Through the memories we are able to experience the sweetness of how Felicia and Neil fell in love, the shame  and guilt Felicia had for the mistakes she made that hurt her best friend when Julian was in the picture, the intensity Felicia felt when reliving her death, etc. Felicia isn’t perfect and she isn’t always likeable but she felt SO real and well fleshed out and I really enjoyed her perspective.

Up until the end, Level 2 and I were were moving in the right direction and I was thoroughly enjoying it. And then the big climax came and I found myself thoroughly confused. Like I honestly re-read it and still couldn’t really figure out what happened. I don’t know if it changed in the final copy, which I plan to buy so I can re-read, but I felt like we are moving along at a certain pace and then the ending came and there was this flurry of THINGS happening really fast and I just couldn’t keep up or picture what was going on. Remember in cartoons when a scuffle or something would happen and all you would see is a whirlwind of dust and occasionally a splintered chair would fly out or we’d see a pot or pan come outside the dust and then after the dust settles we see a disheveled character with bumps and bruises or something wearing a dress or something. I don’t know if I explained that well but THAT’S how I felt. I have NO idea what was going on there behind the “dust” when the action was happening, but would  catch one or two things, but then when it ended I guess I knew technically WHAT happened but everything was very hazy leading up to it. I really don’t get what happened.

EDIT: I meant to add this in my review but forgot initially. I will let you know that there ARE a lot of religious aspects to this novel. I didn’t personally find this got in the way but others I spoke to did. Just a warning!

Level 2 was a really strong debut — refreshing and unique with great characterization and an intricately built, imaginative world. The presentation of information through the past memories and the present was evenly handled and made for a great page-turner that was a blend of a contemporary novel, science fiction and a paranormal-y sort of afterlife. There were perfectly placed plot twists and revelations and I can honestly say I never knew what to expect from the time I cracked open the book until the very climatic end. I will say that towards the end things sped up and the final scene is a complete blur to me because I have no idea what happened as it happened at break-neck speed for me but that wouldn’t deter me from recommending this! Can’t wait for Level 3 because there is still SO much more to learn and I need to  know what happens to Felicia!

For Fans  Of: unique afterlife stories, YA science fiction/paranormal with a contemporary balance via flashbacks, great worldbuilding

Level-2-Lenore-Appelhans

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? Were your thoughts similar to mine or different? Did anyone else have a hard time knowing what was going on in that least scene?  And did anyone else have some serious thinking about which memories you’d never ever want to relive again? And which ones you’d keep replaying over and over again? I pretty much would never want to experience my mother’s death or funeral ever again. On the less serious side, I would not want to relive a breakup or the time I had toilet paper stuck in my pants and flapping behind me as a tween. I’d love to relive some great dates, first kisses, my travels to Europe, sweet moments with my niece, my wedding day and some really fun moments with friends. I have a feeling I’d probably analyze some “what went wrong moments’ in my life. lol

Top Ten 2013 YA Debut Novels I’m Looking Forward To!

toptentuesssTop Ten Tuesday, as  always, is hosted at my other blog — The Broke & the Bookish

This week’s topic:

Top Ten 2013 YA Debut Books I’m Looking Forward To!

 

top YA debuts 2013

1. Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza:  I plan on starting this soon but it sounds like an amazing science fiction novel about a girl who find out she’s not actually human but an experiment of artificial intelligence. (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)
2. The Rules For Disappearing by Ashley Elston: This was one of my Catalog Creepin’ picks for Disney Hyperion and I’m excited because I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the Witness Protection program and the MC’s family has been placed in it and she has no idea as to the reason why. (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)
3. Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland: I love a good beach read and this is one of my #1′s for summer 2013!  Set during the summer the MC, Cricket, experiences a tragedy that changes her life and has her working instead of having the perfect summer she’s imagined. She never expected that she’d fall in love either with someone she isn’t supposed to. (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)
4. The Ward by Jordana Frankel: I can’t but help being excited about  post-apocalyptic sorts of books and this debut looks so thrilling that I did a happy dance when it showed up in my mailbox this week. The premise is that Manhattan is underwater and people are becoming ill because of pollution. The MC accepts an offer from the government to go in search of a freshwater source and learns the situation in the Ward may not be exactly how it seems. (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)

Must Read Teen Books 2013

5. The Ruining by Anna Collomore: I love a good psychological thriller and this seems intense and mysterious! (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)
6. How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski: I have been pining for this book every since I saw it! I think my initial thought was “I wish I had the balls to set an ex’s car on fire” but this book seriously looks like an awesome contemp! And UM a road trip? Total win if you know me! (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)
7. The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna: This cover drew me in initially and then I read the synopsis and was sold. It honestly just seems so whimsical and quirky and why it definitely was a book I picked out as I creeped the Penguin 2013 Spring/Summer Catalog. (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)
8. Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith: I am not normally a gal swayed by author blurbs on a book but when I saw this blurbed by Gayle Forman in the HarperTeen Spring/Summer 2013 catalog I knew this book had to be mine.  So excited to read this one!  And I love the cover! (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)

2013 teen books

9. Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley: When I originally saw the cover for this I though it was paranormal so I was pleasantly surprised when I found it was contemporary psychological mystery. It sounds like an  intense page-turner! (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)
10. The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher: Though I was not bullied in high school, I find myself drawn to books that delve into bullying to some degree because of what a sad reality it is these days. In this novel, the main character’s best friend gets bullied, her reputation is tarnished and then she commits suicide. The MC then feels like she owes it to her friend to find out just who hurt her enough to make her not want to live. (Add To Goodreads | Pre-Order)

Bonus Titles (Because I hate limiting this to ten):

anticipated-YA-books-2013

Ones I’ve already read that would be on this list: Level 2 by Lenore Applehans, The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shephard

So tell me…are you excited about any of these 2013 debuts?  Have you read any of them? Which ones aren’t on my list  but you think  I might like/should check out?

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: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Book Title/Author: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer  E.  Smith
Publisher/Year
: Little Brown 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Nope!
Other Books From Author: You Are HereThe Comeback  Season, The Storm Makers, This Is What Happy Looks  Like  (Out Spring 2013)

Amazon| Goodreads | @jenesmith |

I bought this with my own cash moneyyy.

When seventeen year old Hadley misses her flight to London for her dad’s wedding to the woman he fell in love with & left her mother for, she finds herself stuck in the airport waiting for the next flight –  thinking about what awaits her in London, how she’ll actually make it to the church on time and unresolved feelings she has towards her dad. What she didn’t imagine happening as a result of those four minutes that prevented her from making her original flight was that she’d meet Oliver — a British boy studying at Yale – who happens to  be  in the same row  as her. Hadley & Oliver spend the entire flight laughing and letting the walls down and sharing some of the most important matters of the heart. When their flight lands they are shuffled off into different lines at customs and Hadley is against the clock to make it to what awaits her at the wedding while she wonders if she’ll be able to talk to Oliver again.

Why the heck had I not read this already?? Everyone had been singing its praises and saying that it would be a total Jamie book! I even BOUGHT it and got it signed at an event but  I don’t know…it got lost in the shuffle of books I own. In Mitali’s (former blogger at Alley of Books & lady who knows what books I love) words:

 

And THE WORLD WAS RIGHT.  In short:

I really enjoyed The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight! It was cute and swoony and such an addicting read that I finished in a single day. I immediately know I have to edit my End Of Year Book Survey to include this book and I already added her to my top ten favorite new-to-me authors that I’ve read this year and I’m dying to read off her backlist & look forward to her new release This Is What Happy Looks Like.

I think this concept of “love at first sight” has the ability to be really tacky and contrived but luckily what Jennifer E. Smith does is just pure perfection for me. It’s one of those things, prior being with Will, I always wondered if it would happened. If that cute guy and I would end up next to each other on the train or if that cute guy in the coffee shop and I would strike up a meaningful conversation and spend hours just talking. A girl can dream! Those chance encounters are always so fun to me and The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight will make your heart thump in your chest at Hadley & Oliver’s meeting and throughout their transatlantic conversation in which they learn the random and the important things about each other. The slow burning realization that there was a connection there was so sweet to watch and deviates far from the “insta-love” that I hate. This was two people who met and had great, honest conversation — it’s happened to me in a non-romantic way plenty of times! Sometimes you keep in touch and sometimes you don’t.

I loved learning about them through their conversation in the airport and on the plane in the first half half of the book and then I LOVED getting to see Hadley finally see her dad and meet Charlotte. There is a particular touching scene between she and her dad and I felt ALL OF THE FEELS. And I don’t want to give too much away but there was some pretty epic scenes that took place in London and I loved how you could see how Hadley realized perhaps her and Oliver meeting was more than a chance encounter that would dissolve into a vague memory.  While I kind of predicted what was going to happen, it did not detract at ALL from my enjoyability level. Hadley & Oliver’s story was sweet, touching and one to cheer for!

I absolutely and undeniably LOVED The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E.  Smith — an author I cannot wait to read more from! It’s a sweet and charming contemporary romance that will bring ALL OF THE SWOON and Hadley and Oliver are two of my favorite pairs this year! It’s a memorable and touching story about happenstance, forgiveness and opening your heart and it will charm the pants right off you. Perfect if you are in the mood for something lighter but with substance!

For Fans Of: swoony books, the movie Happenstance (umm hello Audrey Tautou, sweet contemporary YA stories, scouring the “Missed Connections” pages (oh yeah, I totally used to do this all the time — the thought of someone finding someone so memorable on a train and maybe chatting them up but then parting ways and hoping you can find them again! Le sigh!) , Just One Day by Gayle Forman

 

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Did you guess the THING about Oliver?? Which book should I read next from her? ALSO, have you ever had a connection like this with a stranger??

Review: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Book Title/Author: Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
Publisher/Year: Little Brown 2008
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: How To Save A Life, Story Of A Girl, Once Was Lost

Amazon| Goodreads |Sara Zarr’s Website

Got this little beaut at the library!

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Harris used to be THAT girl in school — the one that always got made fun of and who was a complete social outcast. Her best friend, Cameron, was her one and only friend in school so when Cameron disappears randomly so does the old Jennifer. Fast forward a little bit and once social outcast Jennifer is now pretty and popular, well-liked Jenna who has a boyfriend — something she thought she’d never have.  On the outside she may have changed but on the inside she still hurts from Cameron’s disappearance so when Cameron mysteriously reappears in her life it hits her hard and she has a hard time reconciling her old self that Cameron knew versus who she has become.

I am definitely a new found Sara Zarr fan! This was just straight-up excellent contemporary YA. It’s not flashy or trying too hard — it’s incredibly authentic and sweet yet tells the really heartbreaking story of two friends who share a whole lot more than just your typical elementary bffs type memories.

I instantly fell in love with Jennifer and also Cameron. Their relationship as kids was just so beautiful and pure — they had a friendship that was so strong because everyone else rejected them. I felt so badly for them but loved that they had each other. And when the book fast forwards to “Jenna” I really loved her too. Zarr really wrote her in a way that you could totally understand her desire to change who she was and get a fresh start but you could feel that deep conflict in her soul where Jennifer and Jenna warred — with Cameron, who accepted Jennifer, being at the heart of it. Zarr creates some really well developed characters in this novel that felt incredibly realistic. And Cameron’s story — so sad!

The thing I loved MOST about this book was that it was a book about friendship — true friendship. Two incredibly broken people who could find solace and love in each other when they were young and again when they found each other again. I truly thought this book would be a sweet little romance and that’s not at all what I got. I feel I got something way more. It didn’t have that forced romance plot and I loved that. Their friendship ran so deep and they shared that secret and I just felt how hard it was for each one of them to deal with it on their own so when they came together again Sara Zarr just created this intense feeling of longing, confusion and unfinished business. There were so many things that were left unsaid with the two of them and I loved how you could just feel the intensity of it.

I’ll say that I personally thought the ending was quite fitting. I felt hopeful and just sad to see their story end. The ending actually did kind of surprise me just because I totally thought I’d predicted what was going to happen. I know a lot of people were wanting more resolution but I was fine without everything all tied up neatly in a bow for this story.

After only one Sara Zarr book I know I’ll be racing back to my library to pick up all of her books because she is a force to be reckoned with in the contemporary YA world. This story of a beautiful friendship was unexpected for me and touched me more deeply than I realized until I was done. The characters were just incredible & the way Sara Zarr unraveled this story and their secret  from the beginning to end was perfect.

 

For Fans Of: Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, Sarah Ockler

 

Let’s Talky Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Were you satisfied with the ending or were you wishing for more resolution? Have you read any of Sara Zarr’s other novels? Which was your favorite?

Review Of Over You by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

Book Title/Author: Over You by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Publisher/Year: : HarperTeen September 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No!
Other Books From Author: The Nanny Diaries, Between You And Me, Nanny Returns, Citizen Girl, DedicationThe Real Real

Amazon| Goodreads

The Story

A fool proof plan to get over the jerk boyfriend who dumped you? That’s exactly what Max, a seventeen year old girl who survived a nasty break-up herself, offers her clients — a step by step program to get over the guy and get BEYOND it and make him wishing HE could have you back. She’s got the steps down and she customizes them to each girl — she’s even got scientific data to boot to back up what she’s doing. But when the girl who can handle everyone else’s heartbreak is reunited with her ex it become the ultimate test of whether or not SHE has passed her own program.

What I Thought:

When I saw that the authors of The Nanny Diaries were coming out with a YA novel that looked just as fun as The Nanny Diaries I was super excited. When I think of really light and pure fun chick-lit I automatically think of that book when I read it back in the day! I decided I’d save it for my honeymoon because it seemed like the ultimate beach read with it’s premise and totally cute cover!!

So once I found myself at our resort, I began to forget about all my pre-wedding stress and immersed myself into this book (along with many a fruity adult beverage)! I will say that it was the perfect honeymoon read for me — it was pretty light, a quick read and absolute fun! I read it in a whole day lounging poolside. Many drinks later. Exhibit A:

It wasn’t exactly incredible writing (some poorly executed 3rd person actually = confusing at times & a lil’ awkward) nor did I find the characters to be super original or well fleshed out — not going to lie. I didn’t quite understand how a seventeen with no other job actually funded all of the THINGS she did to help the girls get over their exes.  But it was just plain old fun. I can’t deny it. I mean, as a girl who was dumped once by a boy I thought I’d marry some day and who was my best friend, I could completely relate to the crazy stupid things that the girls were doing — crying in bed, smelling a scent of the ex and becoming a blubbering pile of patheticness or trying to call them and ask WHY. I could laugh, I could relate, I felt some girl power in wanting to make your ex wish he never did it. LOOK AT ME NOW, FOOL! I would have DIED for a version of Max’s plan in that fateful senior year when my heart was ripped out.

I think that I DID relate with Max though I wished she had been a better character. I heard many people’s complaints were with her and (SOMEWHAT SPOILERY) how the whole Hugo debacle have happened and she was a hypocrite but I felt like that made her relatable. I don’t know how many times I had given advice about “how to get over a break-up” or something else when I really didn’t have my crap together. You WANT to think that you are over them and past it but sometimes you aren’t. She was throwing herself into other people’s broken hearts rather than dealing with her own — which is so much easier and I could relate and thus didn’t think Max was a horrible character. I understood it. It’s way harder to deal with yourself — which is why tons of people get all up in other people’s BIZ  and give opinions because they don’t want to face their own problems.

 

My Final Thought

Over You was the ultimate beach read for me on my honeymoon! I devoured it as quickly as I was sucking down those post-wedding margaritas and daiquiris. It was fun and just what I needed after a long year of stress. Was it spectacular writing? No sir. Was it completely earth shattering? No ma’am. But it was one of those fun, quick reads — despite the flaws I mentioned in the review portion –  that didn’t require TOO much thinking but was SO relatable and funny at times…says the girl who swore she would never love again or ever get out of bed or ever smile because of a broken heart in the 12th grade. It’s just fun with touches of serious notes that most ladies can relate to.

 

For Fans Of: A more light and “fluffy” read, YA chick lit,

Teen Book Review Blog - Over You

 

Let’s Talky Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Tell me your worst breakup story!

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