The Books My Brain Needed

book recommendations and books to read

 

I’ve mentioned that during my first trimester and a little after that I was having a hard time reading anything. But when I WAS up to reading all I was craving was some light, wonderful fluff. I am a fan of ~fluff~ books and I hate when people act as if they aren’t as good as Other Books. GOOD FLUFFY READING IS IMPORTANT OKAY??

Anyways, my brain was just really craving fun and light books — no matter the genre — but definitely was wanting light and fluffy contemporary romances.  So I figured why don’t I round up some of those books that got me through that misery where I wasn’t quite my self when it came to reading.

They were all so delightful and I’d recommend any of these:

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The Books I Read But Never Talked About Before My Hiatus: PART 1

book recommendations and books to read

 

Sooooo the last time I wrote any sort of book talk/what I’ve been reading post was *cough* November 7th. And the thing was….I was already behind on the books I had to talk about BEFORE I got pregnant and the first trimester killed me and then I forgot how to blog after all that time. So I’m going to BRIEFLY mention some of the books I read last Fall/end of 2016 because they deserve to be mentioned and then I’ll finish part 2 of them so as not to make this post reallyyyyy long and also I don’t want to lose my motivation and if it takes me too long I JUST MIGHT as I dip my toes back into this blogging water.

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What I’ve Been Reading Lately

book recommendations and books to read

 

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been reading rather slowly and not as often this summer but I feel like I can feel my typical reading habits coming back a bit which is nice. What have you guys been reading?? Tell me in the comments!

 

First up for me was:

 

 

Unscripted Joss Byrd book cover

Unscripted Joss Byrd by Lygia Day Penaflor

I received this for review consideration from the publisher but these opinions are all mine…pinkie swear!

 

[Keep Reading]

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

book recommendations and books to read

 

I’ve been a pretty slowww reader these summer months but I’m feeling the urge to really be reading again and I’m excited. This is why I always let my reading desires ebb and flow because sometimes I just need to read a lot less/slower and enjoy other things! I always end up coming back to reading consistently. What have you guys been reading?? Tell me in the comments!

 

First up for me was:

 

 

The Changeling Sea by Patricia K. McKillip

The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip

 

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Five Summers by Una LaMarche | Book Review

20130512-105634.jpgBook Title/Author: Five Summers by Una LaMarche
Publisher/Year
: Razorbill May 16th 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: None — debut novel!

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

 

This book inspired this Beyond The Pages post about friendship!

 

Jo, Maddie, Skylar and Emma have been best friends since they met at summer camp when they were 10. They are now 17 and it’s been 3 years since they’ve all spent the summer together after their last summer as campers and they are reuniting for the weekend at their first camp reunion. They still call each other best friends but with their diminishing communication and the feel of growing apart they are all a little nervous about the weekend — especially when there are underlying secrets and unresolved things from that last summer.

I  thought this one was an okay to good read — I was so excited for it which makes it all the more sad that I didn’t LOVE it like I thought I would. There were some really great things about it and it did those things well but, overall, I just didn’t get that WOW I LOVE THIS BOOK feeling and I think most of it was a lack of connection to the characters which I’ll explain further later on. However, I really feel like younger teenage girls are going to LOVE this one and rightly so. I know I would have at that age but at 27 I was looking for a deeper connection with the characters because I could RELATE but I couldn’t CONNECT.

Five Summers by Una LaMarche is undeniably one of those reads that exudes that summertime feel and makes for a really excellent beach read. I had been complaining about the lack of camp settings in my post about 10 settings I’d like to see more of and Una LaMarche really made me feel the summer camp vibe and I loved it. I  think it really portrayed the fun of summer camp (though I never went to one that long) well.

The premise itself was great and what made this on my most anticipated reads list. Four girls meet at summer  camp and became best friends from the start are now back at their camp reunion three years later. They have grown and changed and there are secrets bubbling under the surface that threaten to change things even more for them. The story was interesting enough and had quite some realistic drama, albeit a bit predictable, and handled really well the way that friendships struggle with change and growing up. I thought that portrayal was so well done and hit very close to home when you feel like your friendship just doesn’t “fit” the right way anymore — like a shirt that shrunk just a wee bit from the dryer but you love it so much that you keep trying to wear it.

As much as I enjoyed the general story and there were moments when I was really into the girls’ story, I also found myself really bored and skimming through some parts as well as feeling like it was a little clunky in ways. Five Summers is the story of their reunion but it is also interspersed with many chapters that are memories from the various years of each summer that they were at camp from age 10-14. It really gave a lot of insight into why some of the things are the way they are now and I did enjoy seeing their friendship at its best. The story is also told in alternating perspectives, which I thought WAS essential to understand all the girls, but with that and the memories and the present day it was sometimes clunky and confusing going from present day Emma to 12 year old Jo to present day Maddie to present day Skylar to 13 year old Emma.

I think part of my problem with all of the alternating perspectives was that I never felt a distinct voice for any of them and they all just kind of blended in as one. I think this caused me to not really connect with the girls individually — they felt very much like surfacey characters to me and kind of cliche — the tomboy, the flirt, the bookish overachiever and then one who tried so hard to hide who she really was because she didn’t feel like she could fit in — and I wanted to think of them as more than that but it never really happened. As much as I didn’t feel like I connected with them individually I felt as though collectively as a group I connected because of the author’s great portrayal of the ups and downs of friendships and I was totally rooting for them to sort  things out.

A minor thing that really could have just been ME is that when the chapters switch from present day selves at 17 to their youngers selves  it was clearly indicated which summer it was and whose perspective but I found myself having a hard time remembering and I think it was because the voice didn’t really ever felt like it changed from their 17 year old self to their pre-teen selves (I though the 10 year old chapter was fine). I kept thinking, “Would a 12 year old talk like this?” “Am I really just so far removed from being that age that I can’t remember what I talked about and how I talked?” Regardless of that, I just felt like the voice just really stayed the same throughout and just seemed off to me personally.

Definitely got a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants feel from this book! Five Summers was an enjoyable read about friendship and growing up and I was smitten with the summer camp setting but unfortunately this just lacked something for me to be super excited about it. It was only an okay read for me because I never really connected with the girls individually as they sort of all blended into one voice-wise. I just never felt much on a deeper level like I should have though I related a lot to the ups and downs of figuring out where you fit when friendships evolve and change. Not really the MUST READ I thought it was going to be but I know it’s the breezy, cute read dealing with normal teenage things that a lot of people will enjoy if they find themselves connecting to the girls. I plan to recommend it to my 16 year old niece.

 

Five Summers by Una LaMarche review

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it? What are some other books you’ve read that are about friendship?

 

 

two-half-stars

Live Through This by Mindi Scott | Book Review

Live Through This by Mindi ScottBook Title/Author: Live Through This by Mindi Scott
Publisher/Year
: Simon Pulse 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: Freefall

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I purchased this book with my own cash money.

 

 

 

 

On the outside Coley looks like a normal teenager — she’s got friends, is on the dance team, works hard in school and has a nice family. She’s got the typical teenage dramas — fights with friends, trying to be the best so she can earn the captain spot next year and, of course, navigating the boy scene. But nobody knows the secrets Coley keeps — secrets she buries down so deep she goes about her day pretending they don’t exist. When she starts getting closer with her crush, all of those secrets of the relationship that crossed the line come up full force making her feel the shame and guilt she’s tried to bury.

Wow. This is going to be a hard book to review because it’s not one of those books where I can be like “WOW…I really enjoyed that” because it was a TOUGH book to read and saying I enjoyed something like that seems rather awkward. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more uncomfortable while reading a book…ever. Ok, maybe Lolita was more uncomfortable but you understand. And I don’t think that is a bad thing. It was a hard book to read and my heart broke knowing this happens so often and isn’t something that is talked about which is probably where my discomfort with some of the more confrontational scenes happened.

Live Through This starts out with a really, really intense scene. It’s the kind of WOW scene that smacks you in the face and demands that you pay attention — alerting you to the fact that this is going to be a very emotional and hard book to read with the sexual abuse occurring right off the bat. But then the brilliant part about this whole novel is how she tells the rest of the story from there. There is literally, for about half the book, NO mention about what happened. The whole time I was just reading, on the edge of my seat, just knowing that this abuse was lurking on the corner after that explosive first scene. I was nervous. On eggshells.  We really got to see Coley’s life and how she really was careful to be that normal girl with the normal life — trying to ignore those buried secrets. But, as the reader, you could just palpably feel that soon it was going to catch up with her.  By the time the abuse happens again it is intense and I just knew that I unfortunately figured out what was going on and it was very emotional and tense from that point until the very end.

I think what I really appreciated about Live Through This is that it wasn’t so concerned about tying things up in a neat little bow. So often in “issuey” books I find that the story happens, the main character realizes she needs help and then YAY RESOLUTION. ALL IS WELL. With this book, I know when I closed the pages that it would be an uphill battle for this character (you know, because I’m weird like that and think the characters live on when I’m done haha).   I actually found that having her try to stifle all of what she was going through and not even  feel clearly about what she wanted to do/feeling conflicted felt really realistic and made it all the more emotional to me.  I could feel how lost she was about it and I appreciated that, while the end was satisfying, it didn’t try to be  like ALL FIXED NOW.

 

Live Through This is really tough book to read, parts where I literally felt so uncomfortable, but I thought it was balanced well as we watched Coley try NOT to deal with the sexual abuse taking place and try to live a normal life like everyone  thinks she has. I think because of her keeping it at arms length I didn’t feel very emotional for most of the book except at some very explosive scenes that were really hard to read. It feels weird to say if I “enjoyed” this book but I do think if you don’t mind reading a book that tackles a tough topic this is a good one that definitely stuck with me because I just know this happens all too often. Live Through This was at times heartbreaking  and tough to read but it was worth it as it was well written and handles the topic sensitively.

 

live-through-this-mindi-scott

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you kind of guess WHO the person was? Did you think it tackled the subject well/comparatively to other books dealing with this topic?

 

 

 

 

three-half-stars

Also Known As by Robin Benway | Book Review

13132661Book Title/Author: Also Known As by Robin Benway
Publisher/Year
: Bloomsbury – February 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary (with a mystery/spy twist)
Series: Unknown for now. I’ve heard that it is.
Other Books From Author: Audrey, Wait! and The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

 

Since Maggie has been a young girl she’s been cracking the codes to safes and picking locks as she apparently inherited the spy gene from her parents who are international spies taking down serious baddies around the world. She’s never stayed in one place for too long and has never gotten a chance to be with her peers but her latest mission sends her into the trenches of high school for her most important mission yet — a mission that relies solely on her. She must act the part of a high school student of a fancy private school in New York City while trying to get close to Jesse Oliver — the cute boy who will get her the information she needs from his dad. She must maintain her cover while navigating the foreign world of high school — meeting friends, handling classes and talking to guys — as she realizes that it’s not as easy to look at people as “just a job” when it gets personal.

 Also Known As was my latest gym read. This was a problem. Why you ask? Because pretty much the whole time I had a stupid grin on my face while reading it. Will confirmed this one day when he asked me if the book I was reading was funny because every time he looks at me I’m smirking. Also Known As, like Robin Benway’s novel Audrey, Wait!, made me smile a lot because of the snappy dialogue and a loveable cast of characters (also: the adorable romance). It was impossible for me not to smirk with this wildly entertaining teen spy story. Truly though it was a fun read whilst on the elliptical because it was incredibly fun and easy to get into — I swear I heard James Bond music in my head during some parts.

This is my first teen spy novel I’ve ever read and it was a beyond fun plot — a teenage spy has to go undercover in high school (somewhere she’s never been with her undercover, on the road life style) and integrate and hone in on her subject that she needs to get closer. That subject just happens to be a cute boy. You know the sorts of shenanigans that are bound to happen with that sort of plot and Also Known As didn’t disappoint with Maggie’s thrilling yet fun mission full of mishaps and danger. It definitely had more of a light, fun feel rather than a dangerous feel but you always knew the stakes were high for Maggie and her family.Definitely an older Spy Kids kind of feel but better!

I loved Maggie’s badassness throughout the novel but loved the way she had to assimilate into high school — a completely foreign world to her in contrast to her safe-cracking and lock-picking in cities around the world and bringing down serious baddies of the world. Before in her missions she didn’t feel any sort of human connection — she was in and she was out. With this big mission, not only was it hard to get down the whole high school thing, but she had to get to know her subject firsthand and I really loved her struggle with getting to know these people and still treating them as just a mission. You could really feel how conflicted she was as she juggled the lies and the feelings and the expectations of her parents and their bosses.

As much as you’d think this would be a fast, breakneck plot-based novel (I mean, a crimesolving teen spy), it was really driven very much by Maggie and the fabulous cast of characters. The friendship between Maggie and Roux was refreshing and Roux made the best sidekick ever. Maggie and Jesse’s complicated relationship was engaging and delightful even though you know it’s going to get messy when Jesse becomes a real person to Maggie and not just a subject. Jesse is incredibly sweet and a refreshing and, if you love the nice guys in YA, you are going to fall head over heels for Jesse. I also really loved the adults in the novel — Maggie’s parents and Angelo. I loved that it was a family affair and that their family had to learn to adjust to Maggie being a “normal” high school student for this mission.

Like Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait!, Also Known was completely charming and fun as we watch a young spy’s transition to being a high school student for her latest mission while trying to crack the case by getting to the subject’s cute teenage son. It was a fun, crimesolving romp through high school and the city streets of the Big Apple but the shining star is Maggie and her growth and the delightful cast of characters involved. COULD NOT STOP SMIRKING while reading it on the elliptical because of the snappy dialogue, the grin-inducing situations and an adorably complicated romance. I mean, she’s a SPY and he’s the target. You know it’s going to get messy. I really enjoyed this one though I still think Audrey, Wait! is my favorite of the two I’ve read from her.

For Fans Of: teenage spy stories, snappy dialogue, a good balance of a crime-solving plot and character development, Spy Kids if they were a bit older, Veronica Mars (ok not SO like it bc nothing could ever be VMars but sort of with the witty nature and the balance of high school life and her detective life)

 You May Also Like:   The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter, The Heist Society series by Ally Carter, The Squad series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

 

Also Known As by Robin Benway

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  How did you feel about it? How awesome was Roux?? I think she is a new favorite secondary character. Have you read any other really good spy stories? Do you also think it could be a fun movie?

three-half-stars

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley | Book Review

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz ColeyBook Title/Author: Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley
Publisher/Release Date
: Katherine Tegan Books – March 19th 2013
Genre: YA Mystery, YA Contemporary
Series: No.
Other Books From Author:

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

The last thing Angie remembers is being thirteen and at Girl Scout camp. When she finds herself in front of her house with no memory of why she’s standing there, she finds out from her very shocked parents that she’s actually been missing for 3 years and is no a sixteen year old. Angie has no memory of the last three years at all. She struggles to make sense of what happened and tries to remember and piece together the mystery of her kidnapping and captivity while trying to reintegrate back into her normal life — but her psyche is making that very hard.

I went into Pretty Girl-13 knowing it was going to be a pretty intense book — after all I saw a blurb saying it was reminiscent of the Elizabeth Smart case and I knew of her story of being kidnapped as a young teen and eventually found so I knew that sort of storyline was going to not be a light read. I was definitely right. Pretty Girl-13 had my attention from the start. Liz Coley immediately begins it in a way that unsettles and intrigues and the questions started flooding to my brain. Who did it? How did she escape? Why can’t she remember? What happened in those 3 years?

I have to applaud the way Liz Coley unraveled this mystery with, what I thought, was perfect execution. The mystery of who abducted her is weaved together with a psychological mystery too — why is her own mind shutting her out and causing her to not remember where she was for 3 years?  We get some pieces here and there and things are revealed in a way that just makes you hunger to know more and turn the pages faster. Sometimes we are learning things along side with Angie and sometimes we are meant to understand and piece things together before she does and have to experience her painful journey to figure out the tidbit we just figured out. It took me a little bit to get into it and figuring out who was narrating because there is the story and then there are these pages in italics but you quickly figure it out and understand what is going on. But even with that..it made me even MORE intrigued and once you start to understand a little bit of WHAT is going on with her mental state it makes a ton of sense and becomes this page-turning mystery that I honestly had a hard time putting down.

I was a little scared as to HOW intense this book would be because I’ve read some kidnapping stories before and, even though they are all equally hard, some are way more graphic and disturbing than others. This one is quite disturbing — there is sexual exploitation — but it never went to the graphic side. All of the sexual abuse that I remember was very much alluded to or “behind the curtain” so to speak. The psychological aspect of this was absolutely fascinating. I don’t want to give too much away (because I think this is a good book to go in somewhat blind to)  but it was absolutely riveting and frightening to me.

Pretty Girl-13 was one of the most gripping stories I’ve read in a while. Angie’s story of being kidnapped and returning home with no memory of the last three years was riveting, chilling and made my heart heavy but also appreciate the ability of the human spirit to triumph and be courageous against all odds. The mystery of her abduction and the psychological state she is in was revealed in a way that made it impossible to put it down! It’s definitely not a light read and will twist your insides around but I really recommend it if you are okay with something a bit darker but not graphic or explicit.

 

 

Pretty Girl-13 Liz Coley Review

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Think it sounds like something you’d like to read? What did you think if you have read it? Did you find the psychology part fascinating like I did?  Have you read any other kidnapping stories? They intrigue me but are super hard to read! I can’t imagine being a parent and having this happen or being the child and being ripped away and abused.

four-stars

Review: By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters

YA books about bullying & SuicideBook Title/Author: By The Time You Read This  I’ll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters
Publisher/Year: Hyperion 2010
Genre: YA Contemporary
Topics: Bullying, Suicide
Series: No.
Other Books From Author: She Loves You, She Loves You Not.., Between Mom & Jo, Rage: A Love Story, Luna, Keeping You A Secret & more.

Amazon| Goodreads |Julie Ann Peter’s website

 

 

 

 

 

Daelyn is ready to end it all. She’s tried to commit suicide before and she’s failed which has only made things worse for her — everyone thinks she’s a freak and her parents won’t let her out of their sight. This time she’s found a website that will help her in her efforts but only if she’s serious. She’s also found herself spending a lot of time in the forums on this website where she reads about other people’s experiences and why they want to commit suicide and posts her own thoughts. She’s happy when nobody talks to her and doesn’t have to interact with people  so when a boy named Santana starts hanging around her after school it gets under her skin and throws her for a loop since she wasn’t expecting on making any friends knowing that she plans on killing herself.

This book pretty much threw it’s metaphorical hand out of the book and ripped through my body and just squeezed the hell out of my heart. Oh man. It was really heavy and made me so incredibly sad for anybody — especially the young people — who are contemplating suicide or who have endured horrible bullying or just any sort of horrible thing that they’ve kept to themselves that’s made them want to end their life. I seriously can’t even explain how hard my heart ached for Daelyn and people in situations like her.

The way Julie Ann Peters unravels Daelyn’s history of being bullied was just completely effective. When my heart didn’t think it could break any more from hearing how she was bullied, it would start to break even more with the stories she’d reveal — the fat camp, how nobody would listen to her, the bathroom scene at school. I could honestly see why things were so hard for her. It was so painful to read it and to think that this kind of stuff happens in real life. I think Julie Ann Peters gave such an authentic look into the mind of a girl who just grew weary of being bullied, of having nobody listen to her and of trying to make it through every day. She was drained. I quite enjoyed Daelyn’s voice — she was kind of snarky and called it like it was. Obviously I’d wish anyone to choose to live but I found myself really rooting hard for her to find her way through it. I connected with her in the moments when she allowed us to see HER; not the Daelyn who has given up.

Each chapter is a countdown and gives the number of days she has left — a number generated by the website. As every day got closer and closer to the day she was supposed to complete I was reading even more anxiously to find out if she was going to actually go through with it or if she would find some glimmer of hope that would make her change her mind — maybe Santana and his story would, his friendship, or when the music teacher sticks up for her in a way. So many things made me think that maybe she’d find what little bit of hope and strength she could from the good.  I loved when Santana enters the picture and I’m happy that the author didn’t go in the direction I thought it could go in terms of a romance suddenly make everything better. Santana was so full of life despite the heavy stuff he was facing and was so determined to live which was a real contrast to Daelyn and how numb she was.

The ending totally wasn’t what I was expecting. I don’t want to give it away. I still don’t know how I feel about it but I think it was actually kind of perfect in a way and not necessarily in a pretty little bow.

By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead is a heavy, heavy book dealing with bullying and suicide in a really powerful way. It weighed heavy on my heart for a while. I felt like it was such a raw and honest portrayal of a subject that is so delicate yet so prevalent in our society. I’ve read books dealing with these subjects before and sometimes they feel really contrived or less than authentic. This just felt really superior to a lot of them in authenticity and emotion as it never felt contrived nor was Daelyn made to be this poor, poor pitiful me character. Daelyn’s voice is just unshakeable and Santana is unforgettable. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Hard to say that I LIKED it because of the nature of the topic but I was really moved by it and it caused me to think.

 

You May Also Like: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford, Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? What other books have you read that deal with bullying & suicide? If you did read it what were your thoughts on that ending?

three-half-stars
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