Monday, April 28, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Title: To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

I ADORE contemporaries. It’s no secret. And lately, it seems like all these awesome contemporaries are being published. Basically, I am in Heaven. I had been looking forward to Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before for quite some time and I was beyond excited to read. And so surprise, I absolutely loved it.

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song has been in love exactly five times, with five different boys. Every time she’s been in love, she’s written that boy a letter pouring out her heart in an effort to get over them. Once she’s finished, she doesn’t mail the letters, she puts them in a hatbox she keeps in her closet. But one day, Lara Jean arrives at school to find out that someone sent her letters to each of those five boys. Now Lara Jean has to deal with what those letters mean, especially the one that was sent to Josh, the boy next door who also happens to be her sister’s boyfriend. With help from an unlikely source, Lara Jean starts to realize that her imaginary love life is nothing like the one she has now. She discovers that love is often messy and who you fall for is completely out of your control.

Have I mentioned lately that I ADORE contemporary books? In case I haven’t done so enough already, I’ll say it again just for good measure. And Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is exactly why I love contemporaries. Right from the start, I was pulled into the story. Being the curious person that I am, I wanted to know what was in those letters, even who those letters were addressed to in the first place. Most of all, I wanted to know who had sent them. And once I started getting some answers to my questions, I just couldn’t seem to turn the pages fast enough. I loved seeing the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter develop, especially the situations they would get themselves into being that they were only “fake dating.” But the more time they spent together, I could just see that it was becoming less and less fake, even if they didn’t realize it. It was just an overall fun and adorable story about first love and growing up. And if I’m being honest, as much as I love my deep and serious contemporaries, I might love my adorable ones even more. Basically, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is just the kind of story I adore.

I connected with Lara Jean pretty early on in the book. Just like her, I’ve been guilty of writing letters to people (read: boys) just to get stuff off my chest and never sending them. Unlike Lara Jean though, no one’s ever sent those letters behind my back. But even then, I could feel her pain when she discovered that letters that were never meant for anyone’s eyes but her’s had been read by the boys they were addressed to. And I loved seeing her struggle with how to deal with everything. The situations she put herself in often made me smile, especially when she was with Peter. Because though they may not have been particularly fond of each other at first, Lara Jean and Peter were really fun together. I loved how despite the fact that they started this whole thing as a ploy to make other people feel jealous, I could tell that they were starting to care for each other and eventually even go so far to as fall for each other. It was just great to see both of them grow and change, becoming better people. And now that I know there’s a sequel, I have some thoughts on what I want to happen to both Lara Jean and Peter.

Though this probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, I absolutely loved Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It was exactly what I hoped it would be, and I loved getting lost in this story and getting to know these characters. I can’t wait to find out more in P.S. I Still Love You

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Don't Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all—popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her—even it the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory—someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what is not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Even though I might sound like a broken record by this point, I will say this again: I will read anything Jennifer L. Armentrout writes. To this day I have yet to be disappointed and anytime I hear about a new book from her, I get all excited. And I am happy to report that Don’t Look Back has kept the streak going. This was a page-turner that kept me guessing the whole way through. And I loved it.

Samantha Franco doesn’t remember who she is, what happened or where she has been for the last four days. But from everyone has told her, she wasn’t a good person. She and Cassie, the best friend she went missing with, took mean girl to a whole new level. Now though, Sam is getting a second chance. A second chance to be a better person and maybe try to fix some of the the wrongs she did before she went missing. But know one seems to be telling the truth about what happened the night she disappeared. Hoping to help find Cassie, Sam does everything she can to try to remember what happened that night. The only person who seems to be willing to be the truth is Carson, the boy she spent her childhood with, but who she has treated like trash all through high school. Sam is trying to do better, trying to remember, but could her forgotten memories be the reason she’s still alive?

Until now, I knew Jennifer L. Armentrout could do paranormal and contemporary romance like no other. Now I can also add thriller to the list. I loved Don’t Look Back. Like, dropped-everything-when-I-walked-in-the-house-after-work-and-kept-reading-all-night loved this book. This story was engrossing. I kept telling myself I would stop after reading just one more chapter, but I was just humouring myself by that point, there was no way I was putting the book down. Being the curious person that I am, I just had to find out what was going on, what had happened the night that Sam and Cassie disappeared. And because the story is told from Sam’s point of view, I was finding things out as the same rate she did. And if I’m being honest, that could be a little frustrating at times, but at the same time it just made it so I couldn’t stop reading. And as with any Jennifer L. Armentrout book out there, it didn’t hurt that there was also a good does of romance in the story. But the mystery is what truly did it for me. I just wanted to know everything. Until it was close to 2 AM and I finally did (though I may have regretted that decision when my alarm went off the next morning). But Sam and Carson made it totally worth it.

I loved that this story was told from Sam’s perspective. It made everything feel that much more intense and there was almost this sense of urgency to the way she told her story at times. And if I’m not lying, that’s probably what kept me on the edge of my seat so much. But beyond that, Sam was just an interesting character to read about and get to know. Seeing how she would react to what people told her she used to be like just made me love her that much more. She was able to see that she had been a pretty horrible person but at least she was trying to do better now that she had a second chance at it all. But as much as I loved Sam, Carson is the one who completely stole my heart. Because Carson was truly a good guy. Sure he didn’t seem that way at first, but it didn’t take long for me to change my mind where he was concerned. For me, Carson just leapt off the page and straight into my heart. There was very little about him I didn’t love. And he was exactly who and what Sam needed. I also have to mention Scott, Sam’s twin brother. I loved the relationship this two had when Sam came back not knowing who she was. They might not have gotten along before her disappearance, but I loved the sibling bond, and how protective Scott became where Sam was concerned.

In case the gushing didn’t make it obvious enough, I loved Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Don’t Look Back. It was an engrossing page-turner that kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. With this book, Jennifer L. Armentrout has just reinforced the fact that she will forever be on my auto-read list.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Title: The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Poppy
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marvelling at the rare appearance of stars about Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and—finally—a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

I love Jennifer E. Smith’s books are some of my favourite contemporary YAs. As you can imagine, I was beyond excited about reading her latest, The Geography of You and Me and I loved every page of it. This story was exactly what I had hoped it would be, but it was also so much more. I just loved it all.

If it wasn’t for a blackout trapping them together in an elevator, Lucy and Owen may have never met. But that time spent together in the elevator, and the hours spent roaming a dark Manhattan, bring Lucy and Owen together. But once the power comes back, the two go back to their own lives, almost as if nothing happened. Owen and his father drive west and Lucy and her family move to Edinburgh. But even though they only spent those few hours together, Lucy and Owen can’t seem to stop thinking about each other. They keep in touch through postcards and a few e-mails, even meeting when the opportunity presents itself. But it’s hard to know what could happen when every meeting is so brief. Could it be that Lucy and Owen have become the center of each other’s worlds?

Jennifer E. Smith is one of those authors who is on my auto-buy list: as soon as I see her name on a book, I buy that book and read it as quickly as possible. So far she hasn’t disappointed me, and that still holds true now that I’ve read The Geography of You and Me. I loved this story so much. I loved how I got to see both what was going on with Owen and with Lucy over the course of the story, seeing how each one was basically going through a lot of the same things the other was. But more than that, I loved how the story developed over time, everything that happened wasn’t crammed in a few days or weeks, it took place almost over the course of a whole year. And I loved that this story was set all over the states, and at times, all over Europe. I’m not going to lie, as I was reading The Geography of You and Me, I got this urge to travel and see all of the places Lucy and Owen visited over the course of the story. But most of all, I loved that the whole time I was reading I just had this big, goofy smile on my face.

I loved Lucy and Owen. I mean, how could I not? Not only were they kinda perfect together, they were also these awesome individuals outside of that relationship. When I first read about Lucy, I saw a lot of myself in her. I could relate to so many aspects of her personality and so I connected with her right away. Owen I can’t really say I related to, but I was immediately drawn to him, much int eh same way that Lucy was. There was clearly a lot going on with him, and I loved peeling back the layers and finding out everything there was to know about him. And then put Lucy and Owen together, and I was a happy reader. Though it wasn’t immediately obvious that they would work together, especially when both of them immediately found someone else when they moved away from New York. But still. The more I read about them individually, the more I could see that they really belonged together. And so I just kept turning the pages to see how it would all play out. 

In case it wasn’t obvious, I seriously loved Jennifer E. Smith’s The Geography of You and Me. This is the kind of story that reminds me just why I love contemporary stories as much as I do. And if you haven’t already picked up any of Jennifer E. Smith’s books, you are seriously missing out.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: April 10, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).

Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.

An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of Miracles, The Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendships and first love. 

I am so excited to have finally entered what appears to be “Contemporary Season.” Looking at my TBR pile recently, it seems like all the books I have coming up are contemporary reads and that makes me so unbelievably happy. And I was even more excited when I saw that Wendy Wunder’s The Museum of Intangible Things was going to be my next read. And as excited as I was, I was also not in the least bit disappointed by this story.

Hannah has always had relatively low expectations, this way she doesn’t get disappointed. In her small town in New Jersey, everyone is that way. The one person with ideas of grandeur is Zoe, Hannah’s best friend. But Zoe’s over the top feelings may be what will bring her down. So when Zoe suggests that they get out of New Jersey, Hannah goes along with the plan, knowing that eventually she will be able to talk down Zoe. But the further west they get, the more Hannah begins to think that there might be no coming back for Zoe this time around. While out on the road, Zoe makes it her mission to teach Hannah all about the things in life that will better her existence, all in the hope of getting Hannah ready for when she won’t be around anymore.

Though it’s been sitting on my shelves for the last two years, I still haven’t read Wendy Wunder’s debut, The Probability of Miracles (I know, bad), but after having read The Museum of Intangible Things, you can bet that I will be picking up the other one soon. Keeping up with a recent theme (or so it would seem), the Museum of Intangible Things wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I loved it. I loved that this was a story that focused on friendship, on how Hannah and Zoe have always been there for each other but how they also need to learn how to get on without each other. And of course I loved the road trip aspect, though it wasn’t always the sanest road trip. Though what I loved the most about that the ending didn’t really go in the direction I thought it would. Sure, stuff happened that I had guessed would happen or hoped would happen, but there was also a lot I didn’t necessarily see coming. And like I said, that made me love the story even more, because I love it when stories take me by surprise. But more than that, I just found the characters, especially Hannah and Zoe, endearing.

Hannah and Zoe couldn’t have been more different, but they worked perfectly as friends. Being what looked like complete opposites, they balanced each other out. Where Zoe was outgoing and adventurous, Hannah was more reserved and cautious, always thinking things out before acting. Zoe was the rule breaker, while Hannah was the rule follower. But this was a great friendship. I loved the dynamic between Zoe and Hannah, and how each girl could be exactly who she was around the other. But at the same time, they pushed each other to be better, to want more for themselves and for each other. Throughout the story, I really felt for Hannah though. Being that the story was told from her perspective, I got to know a lot more about her and her life than I did about Zoe. In that respect, I found that I could relate to many aspects of Hannah’s personality, especially her more cautious and thought-out side. And in some ways, I could also relate to what it feels like to have a very exuberant best friend, granted mine isn’t quite as extreme as Zoe, but still. Though what I loved the most about Hannah, was seeing her growth over the course of the book, how she really came into her own and started to get a better idea not just of who she was, but of who she wanted to be in the future. But to sound like a broken record, the friendship is what really did for me in this book.

Wendy Wunder’s The Museum of Intangible Things was a fantastic read, showing just how powerful friendships can be, how much they can mould and change you. If you are looking for a great story with a focus on friendships, then The Museum of Intangible Things is perfect for you.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

Title: The Summer of Letting Go
Author: Gae Polisner
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope and love can appear in the most unexpected places.

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. four years ago, Francesca's little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca is the one who should have been watching. now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can't have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it's possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she'd never dar to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky. 

I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but I love contemporary. And if it’s set in summer, than you can bet that I will be reading that book. For those reasons, Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go had been on my radar for quite some time and I was looking forward to reading it. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, and that might be for the best since I ended up loving this story.

Unlike everyone else, Francesca Schnell doesn’t look forward to summer. Despite living on the coast, she doesn’t enjoy spending her summers by the water and at the beach. She hasn’t ever since her little brother drowned four years ago. Ever since that day, Francesca’s family hasn’t been the same. But this summer, she meets Frankie Sky, a four-year-old little boy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Simon. Without realizing she’s doing it, Francesca starts to wonder if maybe Frankie Sky could be Simon’s reincarnation. But the more time she spends with this little boy, the more Francesca realizes that after all this time, she needs to move on and start living her life. And that doing so doesn’t mean forgetting Simon, it just means forgiving herself, growing up and even letting herself fall in love.

Summer contemporaries are just my favourite. I could keep going on all day about why I love them so much. They can be taken in so many different directions, and I feel like every time I pick one up, I never really know what I’ll get. I just know that I’ll love it. And that was the case with Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go. The book had been on my radar for quite some time and I was definitely looking forward to reading it. But in my mind, it was a completely different story than the one I ended up reading. I don’t actually know why, but for whatever reason the synopsis had not registered right with my brain. But that might be for the best, because I loved the story I ended up getting. It was more than the summer contemporary story I was expecting. It was also a story about grief, and growing up, and learning to keep going and be happy even when it feels like you have no right to be. I loved seeing Francesca come to accept everything that had happened in her past, and starting to see what her future could possibly hold. Because it felt like first and foremost, this book was about growth, specifically about Francesca’s growth. Even when she wasn’t always aware that she was doing a whole lot of growing up.

Francesca was an interesting character. At first I wasn’t really sure how I felt about her. She just seemed like someone who didn’t really know what she wanted and wasn’t really willing to try and find out. But then she met Frankie Sky and this change happened in her. Of course this change didn’t happen all at once, but from that point on, Francesca started doing some growing up. And I loved seeing that change happening. Francesca went from being someone who I didn’t really care for all that much to being someone who I could understand and even relate to at times. But if I’m being totally honest, Frankie Sky is the one who completely stole the show. Every time this little boy appeared, my heart just melted. He was just so brutally honest in his four-year-old way, while at the same time still being this totally adorable and sweet kid. All that to say that I loved Frankie Sky. He really should have his own book.

Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go was a fantastic read. I loved reading every single page of it and getting to know these characters that would eventually work their way into my heart. If you are looking for a summer contemporary that is not all about the romance, than The Summer of Letting Go is just the book for you.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Tour - Blue Notes by Carrie Lofty + Giveaway

Today I have the pleasure of being part of the blog tour for Carrie Lofty's upcoming New Adult novel, Blue Notes. Keep reading to find out what I thought of the book and for your chance to win some pretty sweet prizes!

Title: Blue Notes
Author: Carrie Lofty
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Source: eARC for Blog Tour
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
For fans of Jamie McGuire and S.C. Stephens, a sizzling new adult novel featuring the tumultuous relationship between a young piano prodigy and a reluctant billionaire playboy--set against the vibrant backdrop of a New Orleans college campus.

After being bounced from foster family to foster family, Keeley, a talented pianist, is ready to start over as a junior at Tulane. But when she plays a small concert that attracts the attention of Jude, a brooding playboy and heir to an enormous fortune in the wake of his parents' tragic death, suddenly Keeley's life is thrown off balance once again.

Jude is the first person to confront her about the pain behind her music, and she struggles with whether or not to let him into her life or to keep protected herself from the hurt that relationships have caused her in the past. But Keeley's about to learn that the melancholy young billionaire who appears to have everything he wants can open her eyes to exactly what she needs...

Because it’s still so new, I’m never really sure what I’m going to get when I pick up a New Adult book and I’m always afraid when I pick one up that the story will be more about the sex than the plot. And as nervous as I may have been, the synopsis for Carrie Lofty’s Blue Notes really piqued my curiosity. And once I started reading, I didn’t take long for me to get sucked into the story and fall in love with the characters. 

For the last six years, Keeley Chambers has finally been able to be who she really wants to be. Even after all this time, it’s still not easy going. Now, though, Keeley is starting her junior year at Tulane University, improving her skills as a pianist and composer. If only she could get over her fear of playing in public, things would be great. When Jude Villars, a local playboy, overhears her playing in a rehearsal room, things start to change. Now, Keeley finds herself wanting to outdo herself, pushed out of her comfort zone by this man she barely knows. But Jude challenges Keeley in ways no one ever has before and as much as she wants to trust him, she’s afraid that letting him in all the way could also mean losing him forever. Could being with Jude be exactly what Keeley needs?

As I’ve already stated, New Adult books always make me a little nervous. I have a few authors whose books I’ve read and loved and generally trust, but whenever I encounter a new NA author and book, I never know what to expect. It’s happened a few times that the story ended up being more about sex than actual plot and I’ve been disappointed. But I really shouldn’t have worried about Carrie Lofty’s Blue Notes. I loved this story. Right from the start, I was completely pulled in. I wanted to find out more about Keeley and her past, as well as what the future could possibly hold for her, all things considered. And so I was sucked in. I couldn’t seem to turn the pages fast enough, and every time I told myself I would stop after just one more chapter, I would keep going. The next thing I knew, it was 3 AM and I was finished the book. But there was just something about this story. It was a lot darker and even deeper than I initially thought it would be and I loved that about Blue Notes. But, as they often do, what really made this story for me were the characters.

Right from the start of the story, I loved Keeley. Saying she had had a tough life would be a major understatement. But despite how bad things had been in the past, she was actually moving forward with her life, going after her dreams. And even though I only knew her very little, I still wanted what was best for her. And if I’m being honest, at first I didn’t think that was Jude Villars. Keeley and Jude’s wasn’t exactly healthy when it first started out. Keeley became borderline obsessed with Jude and in return it kinda felt like Jude was just toying with her. But then the more I found out about Jude, the more I started to think that maybe he needed Keeley just as much as she needed him. And that feeling just kept growing as I kept reading. By the end of the book, I was pretty much convinced that Jude was as good a guy as they come. And yeah, I was a little bit in love with him. 

Carrie Lofty’s Blue Notes took me by surprise. This was a story that I knew I would enjoy, but one I didn’t think I would end up loving as much as I did. If you’re looking for a good romance with some deep characters, than I would strongly recommend giving Blue Notes a try.

And of course, be sure to check out the other tour stops!


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Monday, April 7, 2014

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs

Title: Breakfast Served Anytime
Author: Sarah Combs
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
A coming-of-age debut evokes the bittersweet joys and pangs of finding independence in one unforgettable summer away at "geek camp."

When Gloria sets out to spend the summer before her senior year at a camp for gifted and talented students, she doesn't know quite what to expect. Fresh from the heartache of losing her grandmother and missing her best friend, Gloria resolves to make the best of her new circumstances. But some things are loving to be more challenging than she expected. Like the series of mysterious clues left by a certain Professor X before he even shows up to teach his class, Secrets of the Written Word. Or the very sweet, but very conservative, roommate whose coal-industry family champions mountaintop removal. Not to mention the obnoxious Mason, who dresses like the Mad Hatter and immediately gets on Gloria's nerves--but somehow won't escape her thoughts. Beautifully told by debut author Sarah Combs, this honest and touching story of growing up is imbued with the serene atmosphere of Kentucky's natural landscape. 

Books like Sarah Combs' Breakfast Served Anytime are the reason I love contemporary stories as much as I do. This was a quiet story that completely drew me in and held me captive the whole way through. And after having read this story, I am ready to read just about anything Sarah Combs writes.

Gloria Bishop thought she knew what she would be doing after her high school graduation. For as long as she can remember, she and Carol, her best friend, having been planning their great escape to New York City where Gloria will act and Carol will dance. But since her grandmother's death, Gloria isn't so sure that's what she wants anymore. To help her decide, Gloria decides to go to "Geek Camp" for four weeks, but the experience is not what Gloria thought it was. Her professor sends mysterious letters to her class, her roommate, though sweet, doesn't share many of Gloria's opinions, and then there's Mason. Mason, the boy who always gets on Gloria's last nerve, but who she can't seem to stop thinking about. But over the course of those four weeks, Gloria will discover just who she is, and more importantly, who she wants to be.

It's no secret that I love contemporary stories, and if I listened to myself, I wouldn't read much else. Every once in a while though, I'll pick up a book and as I'm reading, I'm reminded of just why contemporary is my favourite genre. This was the case with Sarah Combs' debut, Breakfast Served Anytime. The best way I can think of to describe this story is quiet. This wasn't a story with a big and crazy concept, it wasn't a story that was wild. Instead it was a story that was more subdued, but that was still powerful. Because this story isn't really about the plot. Sure there are events and those events lead to some of the character development, but if you ask me, Breakfast Served Anytime is about the characters. Well, character. Because this is Gloria's story in all senses of the word. These four weeks spent at Geek Camp are about Gloria understanding who she is and who she wants to be, away from her regular life. And I loved that about Breakfast Served Anytime--how almost introspective it was. It was the textbook definition of a coming-of-age story. And to make things even better, it was set in summer AND at camp. So this story? I loved it.

In many ways, this story is very introspective. Sure Gloria comments on what goes on in the world around her, and on her relationships with the other people at Geek Camp, but it's very much about her and how she'd slowly discovering exactly who she is. It's very often about how what other people say or do make Gloria think about her own opinions on certain subjects or how her actions compare to the actions of others. So I really loved seeing her thoughts and her reactions to the other members of her class. I loved how protective she could become of Calvin, how quickly she became friends with Chloe despite her reservations, and the way she just let Mason get under her skin. I just enjoyed seeing Gloria's growth over the course of the story, coming to realize just who she is, and what she wants her future to look like, including the people she wants in that future. But what struck me the most, was just how real Gloria felt, and in turn how real her growth felt. And that's what made the story resonate with me.

Sarah Combs' Breakfast Served Anytime was a whole lot more than I thought it was going to be. I didn't expect to read a quiet story that would resonate with me, but I loved every page of it. I can't wait to read more from Sarah Combs.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Title: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself. 

Thanks to the seemingly never ending winter we've been having here in Canada this year, I made the decision to start reading the summer romances sitting on my shelves as a way to escape the snow and cold. But I also got to read a bunch of books that I've been meaning to read for who knows how long. And in the process, I realized how stupid I had been for not picking up Morgan Matson's Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. You read that right. I, the contemporary love, didn't read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour until about a month ago.

For the past month, Amy has been living alone in an empty house, finishing out her junior year before driving her mom's car across the country to her new home in Connecticut. But the last thing Amy really wants to do is drive. Since her father's death in a car accident a few months earlier, nothing has been the same. To help her get the car to Connecticut, Amy's mother enlists Roger, the son of an old friend. Amy isn't particularly looking forward to speeding long expenses of time alone in a car with someone she barely knows, but before she knows it, she finds herself enjoying her time with Roger more than she thought she would. Somewhere along the way, Amy starts coming to terms with her father's death and starts piecing her life, and her heart, back together.

So yeah, despite being the contemporary lover--and borderline fanatic--that I am, up to about a month ago, I still hadn't read Morgan Matson's Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. Which I know, bad on many levels. But in an effort to escape the never ending winter we've got going on over here, I decided that it was the perfect time to read all the summer romances I had sitting on my shelves. And so when I picked up Amy & Roger's Epic Detour I realized how big a mistake I had made not reading this book sooner. I mean, I had read Morgan Matson's Second Chance Summer when it first came out, so it's not that I didn't know whether or not I would enjoy the book. I knew I would on some level that I would love the book, I guess I just forgot I had it? But seriously, why had no one forced me to sit down and read this book before? Because I LOVED it. It was everything everyone had told me it would be and I loved every page of it. The story completely sucked me in and it felt like I was right in that car with Amy and Roger. And as can be expected, once I finished reading the book, I basically just wanted to hop into a car and go on a cross-country road trip of my own. This book made me realize that there's so much of the world, heck of my own country, that I haven't seen and that I just want to see.

Of course as much as I loved the story, I loved the characters even more. Right from the start, I just knew that Amy and Roger would be good for each other. Each one came with their own baggage and I loved seeing them grow and slowly start to let go of some of that baggage. Amy was clearly suffering because of her dad's death and I knew there was more to it than she was letting on, especially with her reluctance to drive. And I loved seeing her start to discover how she really felt about everything, especially where Roger was concerned. And Roger, what can I even begin to say about him? I loved that for once, i was reading a story where the guy was just a good guy, plain and simple. Because that's who Roger was: a good guy. Granted, a good guy who had some issues, but still. I was just reading, waiting of him to realizes that he should just get over his old girlfriend and do something about Amy. So basically, this book, and these characters in particular, just kinda gave me all the feels.

Why I didn't read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour sooner? WHY? I loved it. Actually I more than loved it. And now for a small PSA: If, like me, you still haven't read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour (or any of Morgan Matson's books for that matter), get on that. Don't do what I did and wait to read them. They are more than worth it.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday (85)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine where book bloggers devote a post to an upcoming book release they are particularly looking forward to reading.

Lucy's learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart's all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don't feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole's date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she'd rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she's been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time.

When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it's everything Lucy has ever dreamed of…and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole's lingering sweetness, Lucy knows she'll have to 'fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy's own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students' party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral.

By Monday morning, Lucy's been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation.

Lucy's been battling undead masses online long enough to know there's only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend's trust, and graduate with a clean slate.

There's just one snag--Cole. Turns out Lucy's not the only one who's been harboring unrequited love...

So this is the part where I admit that the only one of Sarah Ockler's books I've read is Twenty Boy Summer. Considering how much of a contemporary lover I am, that fact surprises even me. But regardless, I'm really excited about #Scandal. It sounds like just the kind of story that will draw me in and I just can't wait to read it. 

#Scandal by Sarah Ockler will be published June 17, 2014 by Simon Pulse. 

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Author: Leslye Walton
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava--in all other ways a normal girl--is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava's quest and her family's saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

I really knew nothing about Leslye Walton's debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, when I started reading it. I mean, I had read the synopsis and I expected it to be different but I honestly didn't know what I should have been expecting. This book was different from anything else I've ever read in YA, but it was a beautiful story all the same. 

If you're familiar at all with my reviews, you'll know that I usually try to summarize the story in my own words before getting to talking about the story and characters. But I just don't know how to even begin doing that with The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This book was just so different from everything I've read in recent years, especially as far as YA fiction goes. I'll be the first to admit that this book confused me a little at first. I mean, I started reading and for the first 100 or so pages the main character isn't even born, yet she's the one narrating this story. So I was scratching my head a little, but Leslye Walton's writing was just beautiful so I didn't want to stop reading. And the more I read, the more I got drawn into this story. It was so interesting to get to read not just the main protagonist's story, but to also get to read her family's story and see how it was all connected and something that started so long ago impacted Ava's present. Because this was basically a generational story. It started with Ava's grandmother, Emilienne, and moved on to her mother, Viviane, until the story was about Ava. And even at that point the story wasn't all about Ava. It was just all weaved together perfectly.

This might be stating the obvious, but the plot is very much intricately linked to the character's lives. This is the kind of story that's all about the characters, there lives make up the plot in a way that's different than what I've read before. This is especially true when I think back on the story. As I was reading, it was pretty clear that this story was about the Roux/Lavender family and all their quirks and oddities. But looking back on it, this story couldn't really have been told any other way or it wouldn't have had the same impact. The way Leslye Walton chose to tell this story makes it so you're told everything you need to know in order to figure out what's going to happen, but at the same time you won't necessarily piece it all together until it's all laid out for you to see. At least, that's how it was for me. And that's, in my opinion, what made this story so powerful. All those little details that were spread out through the story came together in a way that brought on all these emotions, until the climax of the story where I was just reading with this feeling of dread I couldn't get rid of. It was just all weaved together perfectly. 

I'm hoping this (hopefully) somewhat coherent rambling will have made you want to pick up Leslye Walton's The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This is a story that's so different (apparently that's the only way I can think of to describe this story) from what's currently available in the world of YA fiction and it will make you wish for more like it. If for nothing else, at least read it for Leslye Walton's beautiful prose, you won't regret it. 

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