Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick | Review

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick | ReviewForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Published by Little Brown on August 13, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 273
Format: ARC
Source: ALA, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

Leonard Peacock is turning 18.
And he wants to say goodbye.

Not to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing something tragic and horrific.

Nor to his mum who's moved out and left him to fend form himself. But to his four friends.
A Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour.
A teenage violin virtuoso.
A pastor's daughter.
A teacher.

Most of the time, Leonard believes he's weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he's not.

He wants to thank them, and bid them farewell.

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Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a really hard book for me to review.  It’s one of those books that you think you should like because the subject matter is tough and it’s honest and well done but I found myself disliking a lot of things about it.

I’ve Had Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock on my shelf for over a year now and the only thing that made me finally pick it up was my YA Lit class.  It was one of the optional books and I figured I’d give it a try since I already had a copy.  I’m definitely glad I read it but it’s not a book I’d ever take the time to read again, if you know what I mean.

Leonard Peacock is turning 18 and as a gift to himself he decides he will kill his former best friend and then end his own miserable life.  But before all that can happen, he has 4 gifts to deliver to the only people he really considers friends.  It’s definitely a plot that will grab readers’ attention but it’s not a very realistic one.  Why would no one think it odd that Leonard is giving out these random, extravagant gifts?  It’s out of Leonard’s nature and while everyone does question this, no one takes the time to dig deeper or figure out that it’s Leonard’s birthday.  I found this part highly unlikely.  There’s even a scene where someone asks if Leonard is going to kill himself but does nothing really to prevent Leonard from leaving.  I truly feel that in this day and age, if someone is suspected of having suicidal thoughts or tendencies, someone will do something to try and help.  That was not the case in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.

Leonard is very much alone.  His dad ran out, his mom lives in another city (leaving him a whole house to himself), and his “friends” don’t actually care much for him.  Walt was the only person Leonard really seemed to have a relationship with and that relationship was totally strange.  The other three friends Leonard has gifts for are almost more like close acquaintances.  Also, I don’t really blame them for not liking Leonard all that much.  He was a really rude kid.  He even calls himself an asshole multiple times throughout the book and I couldn’t have agreed with him more.  There was one point where he was so mean he almost made someone cry.  Hard to have sympathy for someone like that.  (Not that I was rooting for him to kill himself, or anything.)

The story is fast-paced but also a little hard to get into.  Most of the story is told regularly but there are footnotes interspersed throughout, as well.  The footnotes were really distracting to me.  It was almost like Leonard’s thoughts didn’t quite fit in with the pace of the story so he threw them in as footnotes so readers wouldn’t miss out on them completely.  It’s something I’ve never seen done before in books like this and I had trouble getting used to it.

I think the best thing about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is how honest it is.  It portrays a very real teenage boy who thinks he has the biggest problems in the world.  Sure, he has some pretty big issues but he never manages to look outside himself and see that there are bigger problems than his.  He may not be an easy guy to like but how many high school guys are wonderful people?  For that matter, how many high school girls?  Matthew Quick shows the darker side of the teenage mind and it was spot on.  However, he still managed to leave readers hopeful.  I didn’t think that was going to be possible but I love how he did it.

Overall, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not going to be a book for everybody but I think it has many merits that will make it appeal to some readers.  Fair warning though, it’s not for younger readers.  There is a lot of profanity and many tough subjects are brought up throughout the course of the book.

What others are saying about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock:

Cuddlebuggery’s review: “All in all, I’m really glad I decided to check Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock out.”

Once Upon a Bookcase’s review: “I implore you to read this novel, let Leonard tell you his story.”

Steph Su Reads’ review: “FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK is arguably one of the most explosive and important books of this year, but if you knew nothing about Matthew Quick, most famously the author ofSilver Linings Playbook, you probably wouldn’t expect it.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton | Review + Giveaway

Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton | Review + GiveawayAdrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on September 23, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 192
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

When a daredevil teen pushes herself too far, she must choose between two boys: the one who wants to keep her safe, and the one who dares her to return to her old self.

Seventeen-year-old Dyna comes from a family of risk takers and is an avid thrill-seeker herself, until the day she splinters her ankle in a terrible fall. Her whole life goes from mountain biking and rock climbing to sitting at home and attending group sessions at the bizarre alternative healing center that her hippie mother found. The boy who witnessed Dyna’s accident believes her injury is a wakeup call and he encourages her mild new lifestyle, but a young Afghanistan War veteran she meets at the healing center pushes her to start taking chances again. Forced to face the consequences of her daredevil impulses, Dyna finds herself in danger of risking the one thing she’s always treated with caution—her heart.

picadillyblueBefore reading Adrenaline Crush, I hadn’t heard much about it but what I had heard wasn’t the greatest.  I went in with low expectations and the book definitely surpassed them.  I found myself really enjoying Adrenaline Crush and I powered through this book!

Dyna isn’t an easy character to like for a while.  She’s fearless, at first, and totally willing to go after whatever she wants.  However, after her accident, she’s scared of all the things she used to love and she thinks safe is the best way to go.  Her new boyfriend, Jay, totally embodies her new philosophy of taking things safe.  He’s sweet and kind and pretty corny.  He had no flaws and that in itself was totally a flaw for me.  As for being fearless, Dyna doesn’t see her ever being that way again.  That changes when she joins the Ulyssess center for physical therapy and meets Pierce.  Pierce and the rest of the group force Dyna to realize that maybe being safe isn’t the best way to live the rest of her life.  Pierce definitely had some flaws and I loved that about him.  He was strong but could be volatile.  He brought out the best and the worst in Dyna.

Dyna’s family was one of my favorite things about Adrenaline Crush.  Her parents are originally introduced as two people who don’t pay much attention to their kids but I did not see them that way at all.  When Dyna was in her accident, they would not leave her alone.  They were super overprotective but they were awesome.  Her dad’s protective attitude towards Jay was so funny.  As for Dyna’s older brother, Harley, he cracked me up.  He was a total stoner, going nowhere, but I thought he was adorable.  They had a very strong family and I loved seeing that.

The story is super fast-paced.  The book itself is only around 190 pages and it flies by.  I seriously sat down, started this one, and couldn’t put it down until I was done.  I wanted to know what Dyna would choose and how the other Ulysses center patients would overcome their issues.

Overall, Adrenaline Crush is a really cute story with a little bit of a deeper story.  I will definitely be checking out more from this author.

What others are saying about Adrenaline Crush:

Lili’s Reflections’ review: “If you enjoy characters with haunted pasts, a love triangle done right, incredibly strong heroines, and a family dynamic that is absolutely to die for, I highly recommend this book.”

Rather Be Reading’s review: “All in all, the book kept me interested and was definitely enjoyable, even if it won’t be a forever favorite.”

Books Are Vital’s review: “Adrenaline Crush definitely lives up to its name.”

Giveaway!

Thanks to the wonderful people at Macmillan, I have a copy of Adrenaline Crush to giveaway to one US resident.  Just fill out the Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 22, 2014

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson | Review

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson | ReviewI'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Published by Dial Books For Young Readers on September 16, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
5 Stars

A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell

Jude and her brother, Noah, are incredibly close twins. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude surfs and cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and divisive ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as an unpredictable new mentor. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world. 
 
This radiant, fully alive, sometimes very funny novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

picadillyblueI’ll Give You The Sun is Jandy Nelson’s highly anticipated sophomore novel.  With my love of her debut novel, The Sky Is Everywhere, I had supremely high expectations for I’ll Give You The Sun.  To be completely honest, my expectations were probably even a little unrealistic.  However, Jandy Nelson definitely delivered and you completely met my expectations and more.

I’ll Give You The Sun is told in a unique way.  Each chapter is told from either Jude or Noah’s point of view.  However, not only does it switch points of view, it also switches from past to present.  Jude’s chapters are about the present and Noah’s chapters are about the past.  It’s an interesting way to tell their story and after reading the book, it’s really the only way that could possibly work.  It’s also very obvious to readers who is narrating each chapter and whether or not it’s in the past or present.

Jude and Noah are twins who couldn’t be more different.  Jude is a bit of a conformist, doing whatever it takes to fit in.  Noah is the opposite.  He doesn’t care what people think of him as long as he likes himself.  At least, that’s how it is at first.  When you switch from the past to the present you realize that the twins have kind of switched roles.  Jude is now the unique one who doesn’t do things to please other people anymore.  As for Noah, he is almost unrecognizable as the boy he used to be.  Every unique aspect of him is gone.  It takes almost the whole of the book to find out what exactly happened to the twins to cause these changes.

The twins are the focal characters of the story and for a while I had trouble connecting with them.  I honestly thought about giving up on this one because I wasn’t sure how I felt about Jude or Noah, past or present.  Jude came across kind of bitchy all the time and Noah came across a bit whiny and immature at first.  However, as the story progressed, new people came into each of their lives and helped them grow and develop.  The addition of these new people in each of their lives also helped bring them back together.  Their stories were so interwoven it was sometimes hard to see how the two of them could ever have such a rift between them.  Their bond always showed through no matter how they outwardly felt towards each other.

I’ll Give You The Sun is a story of family.  At it’s center is the story of Noah and Jude and what happened to tear them apart.  However, the twins weren’t the only ones affected by what tore them apart.  It affected their whole family and throughout the course of the book their family is torn apart and put back together again, in a new, not necessarily better or worse, way.  Also, I’ll Give You The Sun shows that maybe you can choose to add members to your family but that you can’t ever get rid of the originals.

Jandy Nelson’s lyrical writing style is showcased in I’ll Give You The Sun.  Part of my love for The Sky Is Everywhere was for Jandy Nelson’s writing and I knew I would read this one regardless of the subject matter.  That being the case, the writing didn’t overshadow or take a backseat to the story of Noah and Jude.  Also, I mentioned above that I had trouble connecting to the characters.  The writing really helped me move past that.  I honestly felt that I would be missing out on an amazing story if I did not finish something with such beautiful writing.  And I was right.

Overall, I’ll Give You The Sun is really just one book I feel that everyone should read.  My review will never do it justice.  All I can say is that I feel like readers will be missing out if you don’t give this one a chance.  I’ll Give You The Sun has definitely earned a permanent place on my favorites shelf.

P.S. I feel like I left some things out of my review but I just figured I should probably stop now so you can get your hands on a copy.

What others are saying about I’ll Give You The Sun:

Teen Librarian Toolbox’s review: “For me, this is one of the best books I have read in 2014.”

Forever 17 Books’ review: “I can’t wait for everyone to meet and fall in love with these characters as much as I did.”

Jenna Does Books’ review: “In the end, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is an excellent story about coming of age, finding yourself and falling in love.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blog Tour: Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane | Review + Interview

Blog Tour: Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane | Review + Interview

Blog Tour: Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane | Review + InterviewEvidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on September 16, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Told in a series of first-person narratives from people who knew Tommy and third-person chapters about people who find the things Tommy left behind—his red motorbike, his driving goggles, pages from his notebook—Particles explores themes of loneliness, connectedness, and the role we play in creating our own realities.

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Evidence of Things Not Seen might be one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read.  It’s unlike anything else in the YA market and while it wasn’t my favorite, I truly enjoyed reading it.

The story focuses on the disappearance of Tommy Smythe.  Tommy is a strange boy with a fascination for particle physics and alternate universes.  One of the quirky things about the book is that you never actually meet Tommy.  You get to read his journal entries but that is all you have of Tommy other than what other people have to say about him.  Each chapter is told from a different point of view, some people who knew Tommy and some people who stumble upon items of his after his disappearance.  While it took some getting used to, this style was awesome and probably my favorite aspect of the book.

Each chapter is almost like a short story.  Each person has something to do with Tommy, whether they know it or not.  It’s also a way to see how everyone is connected by just one person.  All of the people were very different but they all tied together somehow.  There were times when I wondered why I was reading about a certain person but later on in the book I’d see the bigger role they played.  It was really fascinating and such a unique way to tell this story.

The mature content in Evidence of Things Not Seen really got to me.  I don’t usually have a problem with this kind of stuff but in this case, there was a lot of it and some of it seemed unnecessary.  There was rape, incest, child prostitution, abuse, and all kinds of other stuff.  I just felt like there was an over abundance of mature content and at times it made me really uncomfortable.

The ending is not perfect, it’s not tied up with a bow, but it’s perfect for the story.  It’s very open ended and it has definitely got me thinking.  Also, I won’t tell you what it is but I adore the last line.

Overall, Evidence of Things Not Seen is a promising young adult debut from Lindsey Lane.  I look forward to more unique stories from this author.

What others are saying about Evidence of Things Not Seen:

Shae Has Left The Room’s review: “I will say that it is definitely unlike most books I read.”

Bewitched Bookworms’ review: “The writing was crisp, sometimes stark, but beautiful at the same time.”

Read.Sleep.Repeat’s review: “Overall, I recommend this book to people looking to read fresh and interesting contemporaries, and books with a large feeling of community and family.”

lindseylane

 

About the author:

Award-winning author Lindsey Lane is proud to announce her debut YA novel EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers on September 16, 2014. Her picture book SNUGGLE MOUNTAIN (Clarion, 2003) is now available as an iTunes app, which Digital Storytime describes as “heartwarming and adorable with rich illustrations and lyrical text.” In 2010, Lindsey received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Lindsey is a featured presenter at many schools where she gets kids (of all ages) excited about writing. When she is not writing, reading or being a mom, Lindsey loves sweating at Bikkram yoga, seeing movies and plays, and enjoying some of the outrageously good food at Austin restaurants with friends.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

Interview with Lindsey Lane!

First off, thanks for stopping by the blog.  =)

Thank you so much for hosting me. It’s an honor.

Describe Evidence of Things Not Seen in 140 characters or less!

Without hashtags? Okay, here goes:

Tommy is missing. As the community searches, their lives are affected by the loss & the only clues they find are pages from Tommy’s notebook

What made you decide to write YA?

I’m not sure I decided to write YA. I think stories come to us and we have to figure out the best way to tell them. That said, one of the things that I am most proud of about EVIDENCE is that it is tough, gritty and honest and I think that young adults sometimes want a story that doesn’t have easy answers and big bows. Sometimes they want to look behind the wizard’s curtain and see the machinations of what makes life messy and magical.

Your character, Tommy, is a genius when it comes to physics.  Do you have a physics background?  If not, how did the idea come to you?

I do not have a background in physics but I have a fascination with the ideas in physics.  So do a lot of other writers. Steven Moffatt (Dr. Who) Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass), to name two of many.

The first story I wrote about Tommy was called Particles and, in it, I hinted that Tommy might have disappeared by going into another dimension. When I expanded the story and wove it through the entire book, I had to entertain all the possibilities of how Tommy might have disappeared.  As Tommy writes in his journal:  All Possibilities exist. When I make an observation, all possibilities collapse into one. So is it our observation that limits possibility? What if there is absolutely no observer? Then anything is possible. Anything. I could be anywhere. I could be dead. I could be sleeping. I could be on Ruby going to class. I could even be in class because that’s one of the possibilities that exists as long as no one is observing me.

Do you have any must haves while writing?

A cup of strong black tea (Yorkshire Gold or Scottish Breakfast) with milk and a comfortable chair. Other than that, I love hearing my animals breathing nearby and, if the weather’s good, the windows open so I can hear the birds.

What has been your best experience being part of the YA community?

I have to say that the Kidlit/YA community has the most enthusiastic and generous people on the planet. As far as best experience, well, being on this blog tour is pretty great and when I reached out to blurbers, I was welcomed heartily into the fold. Because this is my debut, I am looking forward to many more great experiences.

What are you working on now?  Anything else YA?

I am working on the next YA novel. The working title is Inside The Notes.  The protagonist is a musician who is set on a path to meet the man who killed her mother fourteen years ago: her father.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blog Tour: Louder Than Words by Iris St. Clair | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Louder Than Words by Iris St. Clair | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Louder Than Words by Iris St. Clair | Review + GiveawayLouder Than Words by Iris St. Clair
Published by Swoon Romance on September 16, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 310
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

Disappointment has been on speed dial in Ellen Grayson's life lately. Her dad died, her mom numbs the grief with drugs and alcohol, and her so-called friends have slowly abandoned her.

Trusting a popular teacher with her troubles should have been safe and should NOT have led to an unwelcome seduction attempt that made her desperate to escape the final moments of Junior year. Lesson learned. Best to keep all the sordid details to herself and trust no one.

Enter Rex Jacobi, a cocky boy, recently transplanted from New York City and fellow summer camp employee. Though his quick wit and confidence draws her in, she can't let him get too close. And summer is just long enough and hot enough to keep a boy like that at arm's length.

But by the time Rex's charm wears down her resistance, it's too late. He's put Ellen on the "just friends" shelf and has shifted his romantic attentions to the impossibly annoying and perky anti-Ellen. Even worse, the teacher who tried to get her to sleep with him is still at it, preying on other girls while Ellen struggles to come to terms with what happened.

With her ability to trust as shaky as a chastity vow on prom night, Ellen must decide if she has enough remaining courage to speak up about the well-liked teacher and risk retribution, tell Rex how she really feels about him and risk heartbreak, or hold all her secrets inside. After all, it's the only safe place she knows when the only thing louder than words is the fear of being rejected.

picadillyblueStraight contemporary romances haven’t really been wowing me lately and I was hoping Louder Than Words would change that.  While I enjoyed the book and I devoured the story, it just didn’t stand out to me as anything all that special.  It’s a fun read but there could have been a lot more to it.

Louder Than Words does not have a promising beginning.  It’s cheesy and not the best writing and it doesn’t do a good job showcasing what the book contains.  If I had picked this one up at the store and read nothing but the first chapter, I would not have bought it.  However, once I got past that, things got better.  The writing is really rather juvenile but that does help to speed the story along.  However, it doesn’t do justice to the characters or the story.  I honestly felt like I could have been reading something written by a student rather than a published work.  I was not impressed by that aspect of Louder Than Words.

The characters have a lot of growing up to do when readers first meet them.  Ellen and Rex meet during the summer before their senior year of high school but when I was first introduced to them I thought they were much younger.  They were both really immature and Ellen was extremely naive.  That was something I was able to look past though since I expected them to do some growing throughout the course of the story.  Luckily, they did.  Ellen has had a rough couple of years and she is rather cynical.  She’s unwilling to trust most people and Rex is no exception.  In fact, she probably trusts him least of all.  He’s new in town and she has no clue what he could possibly see in her.  Ellen’s lack of confidence in herself was heartbreaking.  She thought very little of herself.  The only thing she ever really liked about herself was her intelligence.  It’s a strong quality of hers but it’s definitely not all Ellen had going for her.  She was also strong, funny, and a tad awkward (which I totally related to.)  Rex was a total sweetheart but he was definitely a bit of a player.  He knew what he looked like and he was willing to use that to his advantage.  Once he saw that his charm and looks weren’t going to work with Ellen though he became a much more honest version of himself.  He was quirky, funny, smart, and kind.  He appealed to me a lot even with his horrible decision making skills.

The secondary characters didn’t stand out a ton to me but they were not bad.  Gracie was annoying and bitchy but I’m pretty sure that was done on purpose.  Lizzy was supposedly Ellen’s best friend but she played a very minor role in the story until the very end.  She wasn’t present for most of the book and I didn’t care much for her when she was introduced to the story.  Robbie, Ellen’s brother and guardian, was a great guy who very obviously cared a ton for his little sister.  However, he tended to underestimate her knowledge at times and it got on my nerves a little.  Mr. Hamer, the creepy science teacher, came across totally like he was supposed to.  He gave me the creeps from the start.  I wasn’t sure how to feel about Leanne for most of the book but she ended up being a good person and a good friend to Ellen which I really liked since Ellen did not have enough of those.

There were parts of the story that seemed almost as if they were thrown in as afterthoughts.  For the first half of the book the story surrounding Ellen and Mr. Hamer went absolutely nowhere and that bothered me a lot.  Then there was a side story about a little boy who was maybe being abused at home.  That story didn’t really go anywhere or play any role in the bigger story.  There was also the story about Rex and his father that took up maybe a chapter but never really came up again after that.  Same with Ellen’s mom and her drug habits.  That story was introduced at the beginning, disappeared for most of the book, and then came back again at the end.  For someone so affected by her mom, you’d think Ellen would mention it more than she did or even think about it more than she did.

Overall, Louder Than Words is an all-around mediocre read that I found entertaining but none too meaningful.  If you’re not looking for a story with any hidden agendas or extensive development, check this one out.

iris st claire About the author:

Iris St. Clair is the pen name for a long-suffering cubicle worker by day, a Walter Mitty-like dreamer by night. (Her alter ego Tatiana Ivanadance also choreographs gravity-defying routines in those fantasies, but that’s another bio.)

No matter what genre she writes, she prefers witty, insecure heroines and kind, persistent heroes able to break through to the gooey heart inside.

In high school she was voted most likely to win at Monopoly and Clue, but least likely to throw a ball anywhere near a target. Thank goodness writing requires less hand-eye coordination, punctuation errors notwithstanding.

Iris believes in the two-year “fish or cut bait” dating rule and has a 20+ year marriage and two teenaged sons as proof of concept. She lives, writes, dreams and dances in the rainy Portland, OR area.

Author Links:

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

GIVEAWAY:
$10 Amazon gift card + ebook of Louder Than Words (INT)

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley | Review

Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley | ReviewRites of Passage by Joy Hensley
Published by Harper Teen on September 9, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

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

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty...no matter how much she wants him.
As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

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Rites of Passage is a strong debut novel from Joy Hensley.  I was seriously impressed by this contemporary novel and I’m already looking forward to whatever she writes next.

Rites of Passage combines a few of my favorite things: strong females, forbidden romance, and a school setting.  And it just so happens that all three of these things are done well.  Sam is one seriously kick -ass female.  She knows it’s going to be tough being one of the first female students at Denmark Military Academy but she doesn’t let that stop her.  She’s never backed down from a dare and this is not going to be the first time she does.  She is determined to honor her brother’s memory by making it through the first year and paving the way for future generations of young women.  She is severely hazed, to the point of injury.  She’s looked down upon by almost everyone, including her older brother.  To top it all off, she has no clue who to trust seeing as there is a secret society determined to get her and all the other girls to leave.   None of that stops her though.  She is smart, funny, kind, and one tough cookie.  She’s the kind of heroine girls can definitely look up to.

The forbidden romance aspect was pretty steamy.  Sam and her cadet drill sergeant have a lot in common and he’s one of the few people at the school who treats her just like anyone else.  He doesn’t look down on her because she’s a female and he doesn’t make any special concessions because she’s a female.  To him, she’s just another person, one that he is attracted to though.  The attraction between them is definitely made clear at the beginning of the book but it takes time to build and nothing happens for quite some time.  Even after things are more out in the open, Rites of Passage really isn’t a romance centered novel.  Sure there are some steamy and some super sweet scenes between Sam and Drill but it’s not a focal point.  It was well done.

The school setting was awesome.  Rites of Passage is a lot like any other boarding school novel except that it’s set at a military academy where things are crazy strict.  To be honest, while I was reading I kept picturing the set of the Disney Channel Original Movie Cadet Kelly.  I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about, with Hilary Duff.  Scenes from that movie kept popping into my head while reading Rites of Passage and that was not a bad thing.  Denmark Military Academy was a really well-developed school setting that I could easily picture in my head.

The story is completely pulse-pounding.  I read Rites of Passage in one sitting because I was dying to know what was going to happen.  You won’t want to put this one down once you start it.  The ending was a little abrupt though and I was left with a few questions that I would love to have answered, maybe even in a second book.  While I don’t think Rites of Passage necessarily needs a sequel, I’d greatly enjoy one.

Overall, Rites of Passage is a fabulous debut and a wonderful contemporary novel.  I can’t wait to see what Joy Hensley has planned next!

What others are saying about Rites of Passage:

Jenuine Cupcakes’ review: “Sam McKenna is the perfect blend of fierce determination, vulnerability and feminine strength.”

The Bookish Owl’s review: “Rites of Passage, without a doubt, is a phenomenal debut.”

Love is not a Triangle’s review: “I stayed up until 1:30 am finishing Rites of Passage because I couldn’t go to bed until I got to the end.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blog Tour: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner | Review + Giveaway

Blog Tour: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner | Review + GiveawayCan't Look Away by Donna Cooner
Published by Scholastic on August 26, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident -- maybe because of Torrey and her videos -- Torrey's perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn't know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey's internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there's Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

picadillyblueCan’t Look Away, Donna Cooner’s sophomore novel, shows promise for her as a writer.  I found it to be an extremely quick read that captivated me from start to finish.

Torrey’s story was one that is very relevant to todays teens.  Torry has a great online presence through her Youtube beauty channel as well as Facebook and Twitter.  When her sister is hit and killed by a drunk driver, Torrey’s personal life takes center stage and she’s forced to take a step back from the internet to evaluate her life and where she goes from there.

Surprisingly, very little of the story centers on Torrey’s online life.  After the accident, Torrey takes some time to reevaluate things and she’s not sure how to approach her fans online.  However, that doesn’t stop her from reading articles about herself as well as looking at comments on her old videos or on blogs.  Many people online blame Torrey for her sister’s death and very few of the comments are supportive.  Add to that that Torrey has just moved across the country, started at a new school, and has to deal with some rather bitchy popular girls and she really doesn’t have a lot of joy in her life.

What joy she does have comes in the form of some unexpected friends.  Torrey’s cousin and neighbor, Raylene, is a wonderful source of comic relief.  She is completely quirky and 100% okay with who she is.  She cares very little for popularity and she doesn’t let people hurt her feelings.  She does what she wants and she encourages Torrey to do the same thing.  Raylene’s cat, Stu, is pretty much another character.  Stu cracked me up.  There was also Luis who was not exactly who Torrey needed to be hanging out with to gain popularity.  He works at his family’s mortuary and he plans to one day take over the family business.  Torrey is warned off him from the start but for some reason she just can’t resist him.  Luis is another person who does what he wants.  He’s smart, funny, and kind but he does have a bit of a mystery to him.  He brought out the darker side of Torrey but he helped her a lot with her sister’s death.

Torrey herself was not the greatest character for most of the book.  She was rather shallow and kind of self-centered.  However, it’s easy to forgive those things about her once you understand what she is going through.  What comes across as self-centered at first actually makes sense the more you get to know Torrey.  She’s hurt by her sister’s death and her parents have done very little to help with the grieving process.  She closes herself off from people so she doesn’t have to deal with her emotions.  It was heartbreaking how she blamed herself for her sister’s death.  They fought a lot (like any siblings at that age) but they never got the chance to make up and grow closer.  That hurt Torrey a lot more than she let on and she really was a much deeper character than I originally perceived.

My favorite part of Can’t Look Away had to be all the history and stuff surrounding el Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  When Torrey first finds out about the Day of the Dead she’s a little creeped out by it but as she learns more about it’s history and it’s purpose she becomes intrigued by it.  I’ve always been interested in the Day of the Dead and finding out more about it’s background definitely kept me reading.

Overall, Can’t Look Away has its flaws but is all around a great contemporary novel.  I’m definitely planning on checking out Donna Cooner’s debut novel, Skinny.

What others are saying about Can’t Look Away:

Rather Be Reading YA’s review: “Can’t Look Away is fairly predictable in its storyline, but the Youtube angle, the character of Luis and,Día de los Muertos give it a little more of an unusual feel.”

Nick’s Book Blog’s review: “Can’t Look Away was a decent YA contemporary novel that I tackled an issue that I didn’t know much about.”

Once Upon a Twilight’s review: “Torrey’s story will keep turning you pages.”

Cooner_5
About the author:

Donna Cooner was born and raised in Texas. She is a three time graduate of Texas A&M University. A former teacher and school administrator, she now teaches teachers and principals at Colorado State University where she is the director of the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her two labs and a cat named Stu. She’s a big fan of chocolate and laughing (not necessarily in that order).

Donna is the author of over twenty picture books and was a founding member of the Brazos Valley Society of Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators. She has also written children’s television shows for PBS and textbooks for future teachers. SKINNY is her debut novel for young adults.

To contact Donna try:  
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Giveaway:

5 winners will receive finished copies of Can’t Look Away!  US only!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

Week One:

8/18/2014- Such a Novel Idea– Interview

8/19/2014- A Book and a Latte– Guest Post

8/20/2014- The Book Belles– Review

8/21/2014- BookHounds YA– Interview

8/22/2014-Fictitious Delicious Review

Week Two:

8/25/2014- Shayna Varadeaux Books & Reviews– Review

8/26/2014- The Cover Contessa – Guest Post

8/27/2014-Katie’s Book Blog- Review

8/28/2014- Swoony Boys Podcast– Review

8/29/2014- Tales of the Ravenous Reader– Interview

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin | Review

Blind by Rachel DeWoskin | ReviewBlind by Rachel DeWoskin
Published by Penguin Teen on August 7, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

When your life as you know it is taken from you, how do you go on?

Imagine this: You are fourteen, watching the fireworks at a 4th of July party, when a rocket backfires into the crowd and strikes your eyes, leaving you blind. In that instant, your life is changed forever. How do you face a future in which all your expectations must be different? You will never see the face of your newborn sister, never learn to drive. Will you ever have a job or fall in love? This is Emma’s story. The drama is in her manysmall victories as she returns to high school in her home town and struggles to define herself and make sense of her life, determined not to be dismissed as a PBK – Poor Blind Kid. This heartfelt and heart wrenching story takes you on Emma’s journey and leaves you with a new understanding of the challenges to be faced when life deals a devastating blow.

picadillyblueBlind is an interesting take on how your life can change in an instant.  Rachel DeWoskin’s young adult debut is a wonderful story about a girl learning to go through life blind.

I think the hardest thing for readers to enjoy about Blind is the style of writing.  The writing is not bad at all but it is very wordy.  Reading from the perspective of a blind girl makes things very interesting but also very different.  The way Emma sees things now is through touch, smell, taste, and sound.   Because of that, the style of writing must encompass all of these things.  Every page of Blind is wordy and it took me a while to look past that and just enjoy the story.  I think some readers will have difficulty overlooking the weighty style of writing but it is worth it to get past.

The characters are a wonderful mix of people.  Emma, the main character, is a very hard person to like.  She is rather whiny at first and ever since her accident she’s had trouble looking past her own problems to see that other people care about her and that she is not the only one with issues.  Emma automatically assumes the worst about people but what’s even worse is that she assumes the worst about herself.  She assumes that nobody will ever love her because of her blindness, that she’s worthless without her sight, and that her life will never get better.  The only thing that kept me from getting really annoyed with her attitude was to try and see things from her point of view.  Emma’s best friend, Logan, was always there to help Emma see the bright side of things.  She was a good friend who stuck by Emma’s side after the accident and didn’t let Emma’s blindness change things in their relationship.  Sure they had their ups and downs but I considered their friendship one of the stronger ones I’ve read about.  Another friendship I liked was that of Emma and Sebastian.  Sebastian didn’t have a huge role in the story but he made an impression in the small amount of time he was there.  He was blind, like Emma, but didn’t let it stop him from trying to live a normal life.

The family relationships were by far the best part of the book.  Emma was part of a very big family consisting of 7 kids: 5 sisters and a brother.  Her brother, Benj, was my favorite of them all.  He was so adorable!  He brought some lightness to the story.  Emma’s sisters also played quite a big role.  Leah, Naomi, Jenna, Sarah, and Lily were very important to Emma no matter how often she got mad at them or how she pretended to feel about them.  Seeing how their relationships changed with Emma’s blindness only helped show how important family was to all of them.  Emma was the only one injured in the accident but not a single person in her family wasn’t affected by it.

The story was quite slow and with the addition of the wordy writing, it dragged quite a bit.  For the most part there wasn’t a great plot to the story.  Everything was all about Emma learning to live with her blindness.  Sure that was interesting but the story would have moved along a lot quicker if there was something else going on.  There was a little bit of mystery early on regarding the death of a classmate but that was cleared up pretty quickly.  This truly is a story about Emma coping with her new disability as well as learning to move on and realize that life isn’t over for her, in fact it’s only really just beginning.

Overall, Blind was a very unique story that shows things through a very different perspective.  Readers who don’t mind a slower paced story with a lot of character development will enjoy this one.

What others are saying about Blind:

A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall’s review: “The premise and story and character development are strengths of this book.”

Bunnies and Books’ review: “Rachel DeWoskin has a real gift for writing.”

June Cleaver Reads YA’s review: “Blind tries to cover too much ground for one novel.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal | Review

My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal | ReviewMy Last Kiss by Bethany Neal
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on June 10, 2014
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
3 Stars

What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? 

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss--the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died--is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn't a suicide as everyone assumes. She can't remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she's worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. 

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she'll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made--good and bad--that led to her last kiss.

picadillyblueBethany Neal’s debut novel, My Last Kiss, was not at all what I expected.  It had a lot of potential to be an awesome story but it fell flat in a lot of areas.  I enjoyed it enough to read it through but this one may not be for everyone.

My Last Kiss has a promising start.  Cassidy wakes up and quickly realizes that she is dead but she has no clue how that came to be.  Readers follow Cassidy through her journey of discovering what exactly happened in the weeks leading up to her death as well what she has to do to pass on.  The chapters alternate between Cassidy’s current situation and the weeks leading up to her death. Cassidy is in for a lot of surprises as she comes to realize that she did some things she wasn’t proud of before her death and she not only has to find out who caused  her death but also make up for those things she did.

Like I said, My Last Kiss, starts off great.  It’s where it goes from there that I had problems with.  Cassidy was my biggest problem.  She was selfish and really kind of a bitch.  Readers quickly come to realize that she was up to some really bad things before her death and she hurt a lot of people who didn’t deserve it.  Her boyfriend, Ethan, was hurt the worst.  Ethan was completely wonderful although I think he may have been a little too perfect.  I would have liked to see some flaws from Ethan but that still didn’t make up for what Cassidy did to him.  And her reasoning behind everything she did was so dumb and self-centered.  She was only ever looking out for herself.  Also, Caleb, her childhood friend turned maybe something more, didn’t deserve how she treated him either.  Just because he was a slacker and a stoner didn’t mean he deserved to be judged as worthless.  I truly liked him way more than Cassidy.  As for Cassidy’s friends, it was pretty easy to see why they were friends.  They shared a lot of the same characteristics and they weren’t exactly good ones.

The mystery is what kept me reading.  I actually couldn’t guess the killer or the motive in My Last Kiss.  It was a very twisted story that didn’t become clear until the very end of the book.  It was pretty much the only thing that kept me interested in the book.  Cassidy’s killer wasn’t necessarily a bad guy and they didn’t set out to kill her but how everything worked out in the end was pretty terrifying.

Overall, My Last Kiss is not for people looking for a character they will root for or a fast-paced story.  If you think you can overlook Cassidy’s flaws though and enjoy it for the mystery aspect, it might be for you.

What others are saying about My Last Kiss:

Not Yet Read’s review: “There is plenty of WHINE to go with this CHEESE.”

Books and Swoons’ review: “I really enjoyed reading My Last Kiss.”

Alexa Loves Books’ review: “While the writing wasn’t horrible, the story wasn’t particularly memorable and thus, this novel was just okay.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer | Review

The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer | ReviewThe Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer
Published by Harper Teen on May 13, 2014
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
4 Stars

Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.

But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.

So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.

As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.

picadillyblueThe Secrets of Lily Graves is one of those rare YA books that actually manages to surprise me.  I expected to enjoy this one, and I did, but I didn’t expect to by stumped by the mystery and up late into the night reading to the very end.  Sarah Strohmeyer wove a fantastic mystery that kept me guessing until I turned the very last page.

The Secrets of Lily Graves is a supremely unique YA novel.  Not only is it a mystery, it’s got a totally non-typical romance, a wonderful family relationship, and a heroine who took me by surprise multiple times throughout the course of the book.  The mystery had to be my favorite part.  I very rarely find young adult suspense novels to be suspenseful but that was not the case at all with The Secrets of Lily Graves.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book!  Erin’s murderer is at large throughout the book and it’s dang near impossible to figure out who it is.  Even if you do figure out who it is, the motive will totally take you by surprise.  There were multiple layers to Erin’s murder and it seemed like as soon as I peeled away one layer, another one would pop up.  Sarah Strohmeyer really did a great job with the mystery aspect of The Secrets of Lily Graves.

The romance was cuter than I expected.  Matt and Lily have had some sort of relationship for a while but Erin was always in the way of them taking it any further.  Erin’s death might not have been the greatest way to bring them together but it did work.  Everyone blamed Matt for Erin’s death except Lily.  Lily took it upon herself to prove everyone wrong.  That brought her even closer to Matt and their friendship started to turn into something more.  The build up of their relationship was so realistic and they were adorable together.

The family aspect of the story was something else unique about The Secrets of Lily Graves.  You don’t see a lot of close knit families in YA books and you do in this book.  Lily is very close with every member of her family.  Sure she keeps some things from her mom but what teenager doesn’t?  Her aunt Boo is always there for her when she doesn’t want to talk to her mom but needs an adult.  Her grandmother was a bit crazy and she really cracked me up.  The Graves women were totally fun.

Overall, The Secrets of Lily Graves is a great young adult mystery that I definitely recommend checking out.  Sarah Strohmeyer definitely deserves every bit of praise she’s been getting for this one.

What others are saying about The Secrets of Lily Graves:

The Book Nookery’s review: “This wasn’t a terrible book, but it was completely generic, lackluster, and half-assed in every way.”

Words, Pages, and Books’ review: “Oh how I adored The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer!”

Once Upon a Twilight’s review: “The Secret of Lily Graves is great read for mystery lovers.”