How to Ruin a Summer Vacation (How to Ruin, #1) by Simone Elkeles
Series: How to Ruin #1
Published by Llewellyn Publications on October 8th 2006
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Moshav? What’s a moshav? Is it “shopping mall” in Hebrew? I mean, from what Jessica was telling me, Israeli stores have the latest fashions from Europe. That black dress Jessica has is really awesome. I know I’d be selling out if I go with the Sperm Donor to a mall, but I keep thinking about all the great stuff I could bring back home.
Unfortunately for 16-year-old Amy Nelson, “moshav” is not Hebrew for “shopping mall.” Not even close. Think goats, not Gucci.
Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a. “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer—no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone…
Goodbye pride—hello Israel.
I was looking for a fun summer read and I figured this couldn’t be more perfect. I’m a huge fan of Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry series so I had really high hopes for this one. While I did find it a fun read for the summer, I was disappointed by many things about it.
- Setting: To be completely honest, I’ve never been all that interested in Israel as a setting. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a cool place, I’ve just never seen many books set there and I never set out to find a book set in Israel. I’m glad How to Ruin a Summer Vacation was set in Israel though. It’s a unique setting and Simone Elkeles did a wonderful job including not just the atmosphere but the history as well. I may have to see about finding more YA books set in Israel.
- Romance: I love the romances where the characters start out disliking each other. I feel like characters who argue quite a bit sometimes have the best chemistry and that was the case with Amy and Avi. I could see their romance coming from a mile away but I wasn’t sure how they were actually going to get together. They had their ups and downs but I thought they were really good for each other. They balanced each other out.
- Amy: Amy was one of the most immature characters I have ever read about. She was so self-absorbed. Her dad wanted to take her to Israel to see her grandmother because she was sick. All Amy could see was that her dad was trying to ruin her life. Then she met her family and she treated them like crap. Yes, her cousin was a bitch. However, so was Amy. She didn’t even try to make things work between her and Osnat. I was really let down by that. And honestly, I don’t know what Avi saw in her because she was such a bitch to him most of the time. Really, she was a bitch to everyone.
- Story: There really wasn’t much going on for the story. This was really just mostly a romance. I was okay with that since the book was so short but if there were more pages to the book, I would have gotten bored. I was hoping there would be more to the story as far as Amy’s relationship with her father and that didn’t happen. I know it could still happen in the next two books but for now, there wasn’t much to that relationship and what there was happened rather quickly.
Overall, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation is not Simone Elkeles’ best book, that’s for sure. I will continue with this trilogy since it is a fun read but I’d definitely recommend the Perfect Chemistry books over this trilogy.
What others are saying about How to Ruin a Summer Vacation:
Stuck in Books’ review: “If you like contemporary YA then this is good one to choose.”
The Page Sage’s review: “The insight into Israeli culture is fantastic.”
Deeper We Fall by Chelsea M. Cameron
Series: Fall and Rise #1
Published by DRC Publishing on January 24th 2013
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Two years after her best friend was involved in a car accident that caused a traumatic brain injury, Lottie Anders is ready to start her freshman year of college. Ready to move on. Ready to start forgetting the night that ripped her life apart.
Her plans come to a screeching halt when not one, but both brothers responsible for the accident end up back in her life again.
Zack is cruel, selfish and constantly rubbing what happened to her friend in Lottie's face.
Zan is different. He listens to her awkward ramblings. He loves To Kill a Mockingbird as much as she does, and his dark eyes are irresistible. His words are few and far between, but when he does speak, she can't help but listen.
The trouble is, Zan was the driver in the accident, and now Lottie's discovered he lied to her about what happened that night. Now she must decide if trusting him again will lead to real forgiveness, or deeper heartache.
Let me just start off by saying that I’m extremely glad I got this book for free on Kindle and didn’t waste my money on it. Deeper We Fall reminded me why I don’t read self-published books. There were so many things I absolutely hated about Deeper We Fall. I’m honestly amazed I even finished it and I’m kind of kicking myself for wasting so much time with it.
- The only good thing this book had going for it was the beginning. It started off strong, I’ll give it that. I wanted to know more about what happened after the accident and the secrets surrounding the accident. It was pretty easy to figure out what the secret about the accident was though so my curiosity didn’t last too long.
- Characters: I didn’t like most of the main characters. Will and Simon were probably the exceptions. They were funny and I loved how they treated Charlotte. Will was a great brother and Simon was basically brother number two. They were adorable. Charlotte, however, was whiny and annoying and extremely naive. She blamed herself for the accident even though she wasn’t even in the car. She did everything she could to stop her friend from getting in the car, short of dragging her away. There was nothing she could have done and she constantly beat herself up about it. Not just herself though. She treated Zan and Zack Parker like crap for the accident. Zack was totally to blame but Zan was pretty much an innocent bystander even though he was driving the car. I could also understand her hostility toward Zack because he was a total douchebag. Her attitude toward Zan was just mean though. And for her to then start falling for him just made no sense. Zan was annoying because he was so obsessed with Charlotte. I didn’t find his behavior attractive. In fact, it was a little stalkerish. He claimed to be in love with her but he never even had a conversation with her before the accident. That’s not love, that’s obsession.
- Romance: Okay let’s get into the romance a little more. Zan and Charlotte obviously have something going on and it was the dumbest thing I have ever read. First, Charlotte is a giant bitch to Zan. She was never once nice to him and yet he loved her. Or at least claimed he did. Then when they do finally start something, he lets her call all the shots and she’s not willing to let anyone know about them. And Zan is fine with that. He doesn’t want to scare her off so he just lets her walk all over him. I’m all for men and women being equal in relationships and that goes for this situation too. Zan had no control over what they did or didn’t do. I hated that.
- Story: The story dragged for so long. There was so much unnecessary information. Nothing even happened with Charlotte and Zan for more than half of the book. I’m sorry, if there is supposed to be some big important romance in a book, it should happen before I get 70% of the way through the book. Also, there was pretty much nothing else going on other than this romance that I was pretty sure was never going to happen. There were a few small side stories which I knew were going to be excuses to have more books with these characters but they were pretty much all tied up pretty quickly and didn’t hold my interest. Everything about this book was predictable.
Overall, I’m just going to stop because if I don’t, I’ll rant for 5 more pages. I don’t recommend reading this one but it’s free on Kindle if you do decide to pick it up for some reason. It seems like other readers have really enjoyed it so maybe it’s just that this one was not for me.
What others are saying about Deeper We Fall:
- Polished Page Turners’ review: “I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys New Adult, especially those that are heavy on the emotional and not on the sex.”
The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
on June 7th 2016
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Seventeen-year-old Maddie O'Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie's closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie's plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret "death with dignity" cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way - and give the O'Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.
The Loose Ends List is one of those books that you will either love or hate and I am definitely on the love side. I knew from the moment I read the synopsis that this was going to be a book for me. While it had it’s flaws, I truly enjoyed Carrie Firestone’s debut novel.
- Story: It takes a lot to switch things up with contemporary novels. I admit that even though it is my favorite genre, I can really get bored with the books because they all seem to be very similar these days. The Loose Ends List really brings something new to the contemporary genre. I’ve read tons of books dealing with death in the family but nothing like this. Maddie’s grandma is a force to be reckoned with and she’s not gonna let cancer bring her down. She’s going out the way she wants to and that’s on a cruise with her family by her side. While it’s definitely a sad story, there are so many fun and happy moments to balance it out.
- Romance: I knew from the start that Maddie’s boyfriend wasn’t going to be the one she ended the summer with and I was glad for that. He was terrible and her reasons for being with him were terrible. Enzo, on the other hand, was good for her. They were going through similar situations and they both needed someone. Their relationship was sweet and fun and I loved watching Maddie cross things off her loose ends list with Enzo.
- Writing: I really liked Carrie Firestone’s writing style. The story never drags and a lot of that has to do with the writing. It’s not overly descriptive or wordy but it’s also not sparse in descriptions. I think it lends itself well to contemporary stories although I say that without having read any other kind of story from Carrie. It really helped keep my interest in the book even if I had issues with some other things.
- Humor: This is not just a sob story. There is so much humor woven into the story that it’s almost easy to forget that one of the main characters in the story is going to die. I loved how Carrie Firestone managed to balance the humor and the heartache. I never expected to laugh as much as I did throughout The Loose Ends List. That’s not to say I didn’t cry a ton too but it was pretty even. A lot of that had to do with Maddie’s grandma. She was a hoot. I loved her and I could see why Maddie did too.
- Characters: While most of the characters were awesome, I had some issues with a few. Take Maddie, for instance. She was so superficial. I was beyond annoyed with her attitude at the start of the book. She admits to dating a guy just because he’s popular and the captain of the lacrosse team. It’s like she’s always trying to prove herself to someone. I wanted her to grow up and start doing things just for herself. Her friends were the same way. It seemed like all they cared about were boys and parties. All except for Rachel, Maddie’s friend but not really. They grew apart because Maddie became popular and Rachel cared about comic books and things like that. What a lame reason to grow apart. Why can’t you do both? Yes, Maddie grows up a lot throughout the book but she really annoyed me for a lot of it, as did the people she chose to hang out with.
Overall, The Loose Ends List is a wonderful read that had me laughing, smiling, and crying quite a bit. I look forward to reading more from Carrie Firestone. Check this one out and don’t forget your tissues when you do pick it up.
What others are saying about The Loose Ends List:
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Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Delacorte Press on May 17th 2016
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For fans of Lauren Oliver and E. Lockhart, here is a dreamy love story set in the dark halls of contemporary high school, from New York Times bestselling author Brenna Yovanoff.
Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.
Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.
But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.
Places No One Knows is a step out for Brenna Yovanoff. I’ve only read one of her other books (The Space Between, which I loved) but I felt like I got a sense of her writing from that one. Places No One Knows is a completely different story from anything she has done before and anything I have read before.
- Writing: Brenna Yovanoff’s writing is what really grabbed me when I read The Space Between and while Places No One Knows is a completely different story, Brenna’s writing shines through. Her writing is descriptive and can sometimes come across a little heavy but I have always loved that style and think it really worked well with the story here. I can see why Brenna Yovanoff is Maggie Stiefvater’s critique partner because their styles of writing are similar. Even if I had hated the story in Places No One Knows, I would have kept reading for the writing alone.
- Story: The story had it’s strong points and it’s weak points. When I started Places No One Knows, I was looking for a contemporary story set in high school. Places No One Knows fits those criteria but it’s a lot more than that. Waverly doesn’t sleep and in an attempt to get some sleep, she ends up visiting another classmate, without ever having left her room. He’s the only one who can see her and he’s the only one she visits this way. He doesn’t run in her circle at school but she is drawn to him for some reason. They come from very different walks of life but they have more in common than either of them think. Brenna Yovanoff doesn’t spend much time detailing exactly what Waverly does to be able to visit him but that’s okay because that’s not what the book is about. It’s more about what happens when Waverly does spend time with Marshall and how that time together (away from everyone else) brings out the truth of who they are and who they want to be.
- Characters: Pros and cons here, that’s for sure, especially with Waverly. It’s odd because the thing I hated about Waverly also made me really like her. She was very much a high school girl. She let Maribeth put her down all the time, she cared so much about what everyone else thought of her, and she participated in all the cheesy school functions even if she didn’t care about them. It may not be the case for everyone but I could relate to Waverly so much about those aspects. It was almost exactly how I felt in high school. As for Marshall, he was probably my favorite although Autumn gave him a run for his money. I could understand why they were friends. Autumn did what she wanted and didn’t care what anyone thought. She was genuine and she cared deeply for her friends. Marshall was the same way. He had a seriously messed up home life and it showed through in everything he did. He was a slacker and a bit of a nobody and he didn’t mind that until Waverly came into his life. They both made each other stronger and brought out new sides of each other. Waverly was finally willing to just be herself with him and he was willing to want more out of life when he was with her. I loved that about their relationship.
- Waverly: While Waverly did have some pros about her, she also had some very big cons for me. I almost gave up on this one at one point because I did not like Waverly at all. She was so shut off from the world that she was kind of impossible to like or sympathize with. I couldn’t understand her. I didn’t get why she didn’t sleep and I think that impacted how she acted with people. I would have liked a little more background about that. I also would have liked more background about her friendship with Maribeth because it was obvious that she didn’t like Maribeth but she just put up with her, no matter what she said or did.
Overall, Places No One Knows may not be my favorite from Brenna Yovanoff but it’s still a solid addition to her books. I think it really shows that her talent lends itself to any style story that she chooses to write and I look forward to seeing what she does next.
What others are saying about Places No One Knows:
- Wrapped Up In Books’ review: “It’s a complicated and nuanced look at how difficult it can be to inhabit your own skin, especially in high school, and how sometimes, the right person can make it easier to breathe.”
- BookPage’s review: “Few writers delve as intimately into raw emotion as Brenna Yovanoff as she strips her characters of their practiced self-delusions and faulty coping strategies.”
- Read.Breathe.Relax’s review: “Places No One Knows offers an intriguing mystery, romantic tension and incredible writing, and if you don’t mind the inclusion of some tough topics then I would definitely recommend it.”
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Washington Square Press on June 7th 2016
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From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a "Best Book of the Summer" by Glamour and USA TODAY—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.
In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.
On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.
Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.
That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.
Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?
Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.
One True Loves was my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book and I’m glad I started with it. While I don’t doubt her other books are fabulous, this one was right up my alley and completely blew me away. I had some high expectations (some blogger friends of mine rave about her books) but not only did she meet them, she surpassed them.
- The story: I was hooked on One True Loves from the moment I read the synopsis. A woman’s husband goes missing for years, she falls in love and gets engaged to someone else, her husband returns from the dead throwing a wrench in her life. I wasn’t sure where things were going to go after he returned and I worried things would become a little stagnant but that was so not the case. While there wasn’t much action, Emma’s dilemma was so interesting and so complicated that I couldn’t stop reading.
- The romance: It’s hard to say which romance in Emma’s life was more appealing to me. Both men were great for Emma but in very different ways. Emma and Jesse fell in love as teenagers and explored the world together. They had a wonderful relationship that had it’s flaws but overall was very successful. Emma and Sam met when they were teenagers but didn’t develop a romantic relationship until after Jesse was gone. Sam was a total sweetheart and, I must admit, definitely my type of guy. Emma and Sam had a much more mature relationship with a more settled down lifestyle. Sam and Jesse were very different guys but they both worked for Emma in different ways.
- The storytelling style: I’m not sure how I really expected Taylor Jenkins Reid to tell Emma’s story but I was surprised by how she did it. One True Loves starts with Emma and Sam at dinner with her family and Emma gets the call about Jesse being alive. Then it goes back to high school when Jesse and Emma first met and how they fell in love. After that it jumps ahead to Emma losing Jesse and eventually finding love with Sam. Finally, it goes back to the present and shows what happens when Jesse comes home and how Emma decides what she’s going to do now that she has both a husband and a fiance. I was worried with all the jumping around but it worked and I managed to keep up with Emma’s story no matter what was happening.
- The writing: I was extremely moved, not just by Emma’s story, but by Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing. I admit that I don’t typically read chick lit and when I do, I’m not really in it for wonderful writing. However, that is what I got from One True Loves. While her writing is not wordy or heavy, Taylor Jenkins Reid still manages to convey a powerful message throughout the book. One True Loves is a book I could easily flip through and find tons of quotes that really make you think. Sure it’s a book that will ultimately leave you with a smile on your face but that’s not all it has to offer.
Overall, One True Loves has been added to my favorites shelf and I’m now going to hunt down the rest of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books. Fans of the chick lit genre will fall in love with this one.
Paper Princess (The Royals, #1) by Erin Watt
Series: The Royals #1
on January 1st 1970
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Buy on Amazon
From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.
These Royals will ruin you…
Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone.
Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.
Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.
He might be right.
Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees.
Paper Princess did not seem like anything I normally read but I thought I’d give it a try. I was looking for New Adult recommendations and this one was mentioned more than once. I figured that must be a good sign and it definitely was. Paper Princess was a little out of my comfort zone but I’m so glad I gave it a chance.
- Characters: Oh where do I even begin with these characters? Ella is my favorite kind of girl. She’s sassy and sarcastic, and badass but also extremely lonely and vulnerable. Erin Watt managed to perfectly capture all these sides to Ella and make me love every single piece of her. As for the boys, I admit that I’m not typically into the rude, arrogant, completely jackass guys but something about Reed Royal (and the rest of the Royals) appealed to me. Reed was the alpha male in the Royal household (except when older brother Gideon was around) and he made that very known. Callum may be the dad but he wasn’t the one in control of the boys. Reed was a total jerk to Ella for a good portion of the book but I still managed to fall for him. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Ella put him in his place but I really do think they worked well together. It also didn’t hurt that the sexual tension between the two of them was off the charts. My next favorite Royal was Easton, for sure, and I hope to find out more about his story in the coming books. And then there was Callum. He was a total sweetheart and really wanted to look out for Ella.
- Story: I read the synopsis for this one and really didn’t think there would be a whole lot to the story but I was wrong about that. Ella is taken in by Callum Royal and given some stipulations about her new life. If she sticks it out, he’ll pay for her college and if she sticks that out, she’ll get even more money when she’s done. Seems easy peasy, right? So wrong. His 5 sons think she’s a gold digger out to get their dad’s money and will not take no for an answer. They do everything to make her life miserable, both at home and school. The Royals have endless supplies of money and they pretty much run the school so it’s easy to get everyone to alienate her. There is more to their hatred for Ella though that stems from what happened with their parents and the role Ella’s dad played in that story. I was intrigued about the Royals’ backstory and how each one dealt with the grief of losing their mother.
- Romance: I don’t even know if I can call what Ella and Reed had between them a romance. For a lot of the book, they hated each other or at least made it seem like they did. Their relationship was more sexual tension than anything, at least at first. As they started to get to know each other I could see where things were going. They tried to fight it but they had some great chemistry and more in common than either would have guessed. I loved watching them give in to each other and see what they could offer one another.
- Ending: I know I really shouldn’t hate on a book just because I didn’t like the ending but this one seemed to come out of nowhere. I actually went back and re-read it a couple times just to see how it would make sense and I couldn’t figure it out. It’s a huge cliffhanger (which has me dying for the next one) but that isn’t what bothered me about it. I’m not going to spoil it but I just felt like it was rushed and really didn’t fit with what I knew of the characters. I’m eager to see how it will all play out in the second book and if things will start to make more sense to me then.
Overall, Paper Princess has been added to my list of New Adult recommendations, for sure. It doesn’t hurt that one half of the writing duo happens to be one of my favorite NA authors (Elle Kennedy!) but don’t think that’s my reasoning behind this recommendation. I actually didn’t find out she was part of the writing duo until after I finished the book. Paper Princess stands on it’s own and while it might leave you with the urge to throw it against a wall, it’s one you should definitely try.
What others are saying about Paper Princess:
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 3rd 2016
Buy on Amazon
Andie had it all planned out.
When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.
Important internship? Check.
Amazing friends? Check.
Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).
But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.
Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.
And where’s the fun in that?
It’s been a while since I’ve read a Morgan Matson book (I know, I fail at life) and I’d forgotten how much I loved her writing, her characters, and the way she writes romance. The Unexpected Everything was just what I was looking for in a summer contemporary novel. I can’t help but smile just thinking about this book!
- The characters: This one is a little odd for me because some of the characters are on my pro and con list. Take Andie, for instance. I mostly loved her but she had some moments where I could not stand her. I’ll get to that part later though. For most of the book, I loved Andie. I think the best part about her was the development she went through over the course of the novel. She was almost a completely different person by the end of The Unexpected Everything and I think a lot of that had to do with her friends, her family, and Clark. It just goes to show how the people around you help shape who you are. Speaking of the people around her, I adored her friends and Clark. Her friends were all really well-rounded and they were all so different but they just worked together. I never had issues telling them apart because their personalities were so well developed. As for Clark, he might be my dream guy. He’s totally shy and nerdy and a little awkward and just so dang cute.
- Family: Family plays a huge role in The Unexpected Everything and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first because Andie and her dad had a very weird relationship. I didn’t like how her dad all of a sudden cared so much about what she was doing when he never had before. He was a total absentee parent and then he decided to take a really active role in Andie’s life and came off a little overbearing at first. However, once Andie and her dad hashed some things out between the two of them their relationship changed a lot and definitely for the better. There were some absolutely adorable moments between them (the scavenger hunt!)
- Friends: Andie and her friends were extremely close. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that showcases a friendship like theirs. These girls interacted with each other daily. They told each other almost everything and they had these rituals (like talking about love lives at the diner) and their friendship was seriously adorable. They had issues (boy did they ever) but they were pretty much always there for each other. Friendship goals right here guys!
- Romance: I’m just going to gush here. Clark and Andie were so adorable. They had probably one of the most awkward first dates ever but I knew that couldn’t be the end for them. Bertie (the dog that Clark is dog sitting) brings them back together and things really took off from there. They didn’t have a picture perfect relationship and that is what I loved so much about them. They had issues and they disagreed on things and they didn’t have to spend every waking moment together. They were so real and neither of them was perfect.
- The characters: Like I said, a couple of the characters fit on both my pros and cons list. Andie was one of them. She was so uptight at first. She was so unwilling to accept changes and she kept everything bottled up. So many things could have been solved so easily if she was just willing to say something about it. Her relationship with her dad was one of those things. She was never willing to tell him how she felt about her mom’s death or their relationship without her and it finally just all bubbled over and she couldn’t keep it inside anymore. She was closed off and just unwilling to let people in and it really bothered me. But like I said earlier, she developed a lot throughout the book and by the end of it, I really did like her. One character that I still didn’t really like at the end of the book was her friend Toby. I’m not going to spoil anything but Toby did some really crappy things and she was so selfish. She only ever thought about herself and she made that very clear. Also, I think I may have liked her even less by the end of the book. She was a minor issue for me though.
Overall, The Unexpected Everything is another stunner from Morgan Matson. I couldn’t read it fast enough and I never wanted it to end (and that’s saying something for a 500+ page book!) If you’re looking for the perfect summer read, this is it!
Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann
Published by Greenwillow on May 3rd 2016
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Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.
Ask Me How I Got Here ended up on my TBR because I needed a quick book to read. I’m not typically a fan of books written in verse and I think that’s probably why I didn’t love this one. It had potential to be more than it was though it was by no means, bad.
- Story: The story was fast and extremely interesting. Addie is a teenage girl attending an all girls Catholic school when she gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion. However, to get an abortion in her state, she has to have parental consent. So not only do she and her boyfriend know, so do her parents. The abortion causes Addie to lose a lot of motivation for things such as cross-country and she starts to become withdrawn. Her relationships suffer and it takes a lot of introspection for her to really get past what she has done.
- Verse: While I did mention that verse novels aren’t really for me, I think it fit well with this story. Writing in verse really opens up a lot of different possibilities for the author and Christine Heppermann took advantage of that. Not only was Addie’s story told in what she had to say but also in what she didn’t say or even what she crossed out.
- Characters: I never felt like I knew or could connect with any of the characters. I understood that Addie was going through a very tough time but I couldn’t feel that much for her. She shut herself off from the people that were there for her and she wasn’t willing to let any of them try to help her. As for Nick or Addie’s parents or even Claire, they all played very brief roles and so I didn’t really get a feel for any of them.
- Romance: The romance between Addie and Nick was cute but not very substantial. The romance between Addie and Julianna seemed to come out of nowhere and didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think Addie saw some of herself in what Julianna went through and so she was drawn to her. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Julianna just fine but I didn’t really see a connection between her and Addie. Once again, probably a little due to the writing style.
Overall, Ask Me How I Got Here was not one for me but I can see why it’s been getting quite a bit of love from some other bloggers. The poetry was great and the story was definitely something that appealed to me but it just fell flat in some areas.
Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano
Published by Hyperion on May 3rd 2016
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John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn't the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke's new home and the only one he believes he deserves.
But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they're asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn't care that the "threads" that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.
Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink's help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he's willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.
Elle Cosimano became one of my favorite authors with her Nearly duology (possibly trilogy?) When I first heard about Holding Smoke, I was extremely excited and immediately added it to my TBR. I got my hands on an ARC and I read it immediately. While it was very different from her first books, I liked the new direction her writing took.
- Characters: Smoke stole my heart from the very start! He comes across as a bit of a bad boy but he has a heart of gold. His circumstances were beyond crappy. He was not a completely innocent man but he was not as guilty as you’d first think. He had quite a few layers to him and I never knew what side he was going to show next. I liked that he was able to keep me guessing. As for Pink, she was a bit of a mystery. She came across as this badass female but she also had quite a shy, scared side. She knew when she could handle herself and she knew when she needed help. She and Smoke weren’t always good for each other but they worked past that.
- Story: The story was both a pro and a con for me. It was so unique and so twisted that I was kept guessing until the very end. Not only could I not figure out who committed the crime Smoke was in jail for, I also couldn’t figure out the exact nature of the crime Smoke actually committed. He was good at hiding things and Elle Cosimano is good at twisting things so much, you’ll never see it coming.
- Romance: Smoke and Pink didn’t have a traditional romance. For one, Smoke wasn’t actually physically there for most of their interactions. With his ability, he came across as a ghost to Pink most of the time. Because of that, their relationship developed mentally way before it did physically and I really liked that. They weren’t exactly a cute couple (they got on each others nerves quite a bit) but they had their own charm.
- Story: Like I said, the story was both a pro and a con for me and it’s actually the only con I had with Holding Smoke. I felt a little confused at times. Smoke’s ability was very unique but also very odd. I didn’t understand it all the time and some of the scenes when he was separated from his body threw me off. I think it was how they were written and how Smoke looks at things when he’s like that. It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just took some getting used to.
Overall, Holding Smoke isn’t my favorite from Elle Cosimano but it held up to my expectations pretty well. Elle Cosimano is a name to know if you are a fan of YA suspense. If you were a fan of her Nearly books, check out Holding Smoke. I think you’ll find you enjoy it.
3 winners will receive copies of Holding Smoke. US only.
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Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Published by Delacorte Press on April 5th 2016
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Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?
Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.
I’m a huge advocate for contemporary young adult literature. I love it and I think it doesn’t get enough recognition or love from a lot of readers. Tell Me Three Things is probably going to the top of my list of recommendations, especially for those readers that don’t necessarily like contemporary.
- Characters: All of the characters in Tell Me Three Things were pretty much perfect. Don’t get me wrong, they had their flaws but that only made them better. Jessie was a little self-centered but she kind of deserved it. Her whole life had been uprooted and things were not great at her new school or home. Theo was one I wasn’t sure about at first but he grew on me quickly. SN was so funny and clever and adorable. Dri and Agnes were great friends to Jessie although I really wasn’t sure they would be at first. The same goes for Scarlett. She and Jessie may have been separated by thousands of miles but they worked past that. Ethan and Liam were so cute. Liam was a little airheaded and Ethan was a little closed off but I liked them both a lot. Probably Ethan more though because of the whole reading thing. I’m all for the nerds.
- Romance: The romance in this one was different. Jessie and SN start out flirting and then it becomes something so much more than that. Jessie doesn’t even know who SN is but she’s attracted to him on an intellectual level and their conversations were so cute and so real. Not knowing who he was allowed her to open up to him in a way she wouldn’t have in real life. It was a little stalker like at times since he knew who she was and sometimes made comments about what she was wearing that day or doing but it was a cute stalker way. And once I found out who SN really was, I could see how they were perfect in real life too.
- Family: Jessie’s family is broken and put back together in a new way and it was definitely weird for her. Her mom died (I’ll get to that next) and now she’s living in LA with her dad’s new wife and her teenage son. Pretty much none of them (except her dad and his wife) want anything do with each other and I really wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. I appreciate that Julie Buxbaum didn’t make it work out perfectly. They were a broken family when the book started and they were still broken when it ended but they were working on it and that’s what I loved.
- Grief: Julie Buxbaum did a fabulous job with her representation of grief in Tell Me Three Things. Jessie wasn’t the only one dealing with the loss of someone. Her dad lost his wife. Theo lost his dad. Theo’s mom, Rachel, lost her husband. Ethan lost a sibling. Each of them dealt with it differently. There is no right way to grieve someone and I loved that Julie Buxbaum could show all the different ways.
- Pacing: Tell Me Three Things is a fast-paced contemporary novel. At no point does it drag. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. The mix of texting, IM’ing, and email messages interspersed throughout the novel also helped to move things along making it an extremely quick read.
- Mystery: Let’s be real, here. I figured out who SN was pretty early on and I think most readers probably will. It’s not that great a mystery. It was just a little too perfect and while there were some red herrings thrown in, I never really thought they were him. I’m not really complaining though because the mystery wasn’t what kept me reading. The story was and knowing who SN was before the big reveal didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story.
Overall, Tell Me Three Things might just make you change your mind about contemporary novels. Julie Buxbaum’s young adult debut hit it out of the park and I can’t wait to see what she does next. I hope this isn’t her only foray into the YA world.