Posts Categorized: Young Adult

We Own the Night Review

June 30, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★

We Own the Night ReviewWe Own the Night by Ashley Poston
on June 28th, 2016
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairy Tale
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two-stars

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

"Happy midnight, my fellow Niteowls..."
As a candy store employee by day, and mysterious deejay "Niteowl" by night, eighteen-year-old Ingrid North is stuck between rock 'n roll and a hard place. She can't wait to get out of her tiny hometown of Steadfast, Nebraska (population three hundred and forty-seven) to chase her dreams, but small-town troubles keep getting in the way. She can't abandon her grandmother with Alzheimer's, or her best friend Micah--who she may or may not be in love with.
But for one hour each Saturday, she escapes all of that. On air, she isn't timid, ugly-sweater-wearing Ingrid North. She's the funny and daring Niteowl. Every boy's manic pixie dream girl. Fearless. And there is one caller in particular-- Dark and Brooding--whose raspy laugh and snarky humor is just sexy enough to take her mind off Micah. Not that she's in love with Micah or anything. Cause she's not.
As her grandmother slips further away and Micah begins dating a Mean-Girls-worthy nightmare, Ingrid runs to the mysterious Dark and Brooding as a disembodied voice to lean on, only to fall down a rabbit hole of punk rockstars, tabloid headlines, and kisses that taste like bubble tea. But the man behind the voice could be surprising in all the right, and wrong, ways.
And she just might find that her real life begins when Niteowl goes off the air.

We Own the Night was a book that started out decent enough, but didn’t completely work for me personally. The book just needed more character and plot development all around, it should have been longer. Some of the language bothered me as well. I know that sounds extremely picky, but some of it became excessive as the book went on, which I’ll get into more later on in my review. Readers who like fairly light contemporary YA’s that also manage to have quite a bit of teenage angst in it will likely enjoy this one more than I did.

Ingrid North is a recent high school graduate who also has a secret identity as the popular radio DJ Niteowl. One night while doing a show, she receives a mysterious call from Dark and Brooding, a guy who quickly becomes a voice she loves hearing and can’t help but fall for. During the day, she works at a candy store with a girl she can barely stand. She also is secretly in love with one of her best friends, who begins dating the mean girl she sadly works with. Not to mention the fact that she has to take care of her grandma who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s all on her own. Ingrid must decide what’s most important to her, taking care of the one person who has always been there for her or go after her dreams of becoming a full time DJ.

There were some things that I liked about Ingrid and other things that didn’t work for me. I respected the fact that she put her grandmother first. Her mom left her when she was really young, and I get that she owes a lot to her grandmother for supporting her from a young age. There were a few specific scenes between her and her grandma that were specifically touching to me, and I think those scenes portrayed the horror and sadness that comes with this awful disease. However, I didn’t like her decisions when it came to Billie and Micah. She took way too long trying to fix things with Micah when she should have been worried about Billie. On some level, I do understand why the author wrote the events the way that she did, but on the other hand, it was still hard for me to agree with. I can’t completely put my finger on what it is, but I just didn’t like Ingrid as much as I was expecting to.

So the romance is what I truly had a problem with here. I get the whole falling for your best friend thing and then being crushed when he picks a girl that you can’t stand, but I still didn’t like how it was ultimately handled. I also disliked how long Ingrid spent hating on Heather, I was hoping for some more resolutions and even depth to the mean girl character. My problem was that it wasn’t interesting to read about and it got old pretty fast.

On the other hand, I really loved Billie’s character. He was a member of Ingrid’s friend group with Micah and her female best friend LD, who was a hilarious best friend. Billie was the golden boy and popular athlete of the group. He was also a bit more complex than that as well. Before the death of his dad, he was more of a punk rock kind of guy, but he changed into a different person in Ingrid’s opinion. Though he was one of my favorite characters, (LD is my other favorite) I still longer to know even more of his story. I felt like he didn’t get enough scenes in the book.

So in the end, this wasn’t a terrible book or anything like that. It was a pretty fast read and the writing wasn’t bad. Though I did have a problem with the language. Specifically, the fact that Ingrid said “bless” basically every other line of the book. Was that seriously necessary though? Like I said, this just didn’t turn out to be the book for me for a few different reasons. I still think that you should try the book out for yourself, because you might really love it!

 

two-stars

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DNF Reviews: June Releases

June 27, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 2 DNF

DNF Reviews: June ReleasesYou Know Me Well by Nina LaCour, David Levithan
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on June 7th 2016
Pages: 248
Source: Purchased
Also by this author: Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, We Are Okay, Every Day (Every Day, #1)
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dnf
Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?
Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.
That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.
When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.
Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

So it’s very rare for me to stop reading a book. If a book is seriously dragging for me, I might skim it some or even jump to the end. I’ve never even written any reviews for books that I’ve given up on just because I have so little to say about it. In this specific case, I’ve recently tried reading these two books but stopped reading them for similar but also somewhat different reasons. Hopefully I won’t be writing many DNF reviews in the future. However, here are my thoughts on why I didn’t finish You Know Me Well and The Loose Ends List.

David Levithan and Nina LaCour are both really great writers who have created beautiful and memorable books. You Know Me Well is a pretty short book, so I was hoping to read it in just one or two sittings. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the whole insta-friendship thing. I was sure that I’d find it more convincing with a few more pages and possibly chapters, but that didn’t seem to happen. Basically, Mark and Kate share a class together, but they’ve never spoken outside of the classroom. On one crazy weekend out on the town in San Francisco, Kate ran into Mark and began spilling out personal details about herself. I found it hard to believe that they’d both more or less turn their backs on some of their oldest friends in order to spend more time with each other. It’s hard to explain, it didn’t feel convincing at all to me.

I think the plot was a solid enough idea and I love that it includes friendship and two LGBT characters. With that being said, the general execution didn’t work for me personally. Another main reason why I stopped reading is a huge spoiler because I jumped to the end and didn’t like what I saw. This is simply my opinion, I think that it’s seriously important for others, LGBT teens specifically, to read You Know Me Well. I really wish I loved this one, but I still plan on reading books from both of these authors in the future.

DNF Reviews: June ReleasesThe Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone
on June 7th 2016
Pages: 352
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dnf
Seventeen-year-old Maddie O'Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie's closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie's plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret "death with dignity" cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way - and give the O'Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

The description of The Loose Ends List immediately caught my eye. I’m always curious to read books that deal with the death (or this case dying) of an important family member. Grief is a subject that I’ve personally had to deal with, so I think it’s interesting to read the different ways that authors address this terrible but realistic issue that a lot of teens have to confront.

From the very beginning, I could tell that I wasn’t going to like the main character. I hate to say it, but Maddie was a totally cliche character. She was a popular girl who had a steady group of friends in the same crowd who liked to party, and she was also dating the popular athlete who cheats on her. At first, I was thinking that her grandma was a cool character, but as the book went on, it was just extremely inappropriate to me. Look, her grandma openly talks to her granddaughters about her sex life and also talks (and touches) their boobs. I get that it was supposed to be funny, and it was to an extent, it just didn’t feel very realistic to me.

The worst part of The Loose Ends List for me was the romance. If you’ve read basically any of my reviews, you’ll probably know that I take romance very seriously. Truthfully, the romance here was not good at all in my opinion. I’ve made it clear that I’m not a fan of insta-love, but how it was portrayed here was something that I couldn’t bring myself to read. Maddie sees Enzo, and is instantly attracted to him, as you may have already guessed. So it’s the first time that they’ve talked, and all of a sudden they start making out. But it wasn’t some random hookup, they suddenly become a serious thing and Maddie can’t stop thinking about him.

I reached a point in the book where I didn’t care about the relationship and I didn’t have any desire to learn where they all end up honestly. That may sound harsh, but I knew that I needed to put the book down and not return to it again. I think this is one of those books that you either love or hate. Either way, you have strong feelings about what it makes you feel. In this instance, I’m sad that the book didn’t work in my favor.

dnf

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The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You Review

June 23, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You ReviewThe Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 17th 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Purchased
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four-stars
Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.
Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.
The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.

So I’m not going to lie, I’ve never read Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. I didn’t even know the general plot of it. I feel like this needed to be said since The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is a modern high school update on that classic comedic play. Though I had no previous background on it, I still felt like this was a totally refreshing book filled with awesome pop culture references. Trixie and Ben are both hilarious and witty teens who I seriously loved and related to. This was a stunning debut from Lily Anderson and I’m really glad that I read it. I recommend it if you’re looking for a quick book filled with nerdy characters and fandom.

I can’t say much about how similar this is to Much Ado About Nothing, so I’m just going to talk about what I thought about Lily Anderson’s main character, Trixie. She’s a hilarious and smart girl who also just so happens to love comic books and Doctor Who. She’s also a ridiculously intelligent girl who cares quite a bit about her grades and class ranking at the school that she attends for geniuses. Trixie is one sassy chick, and she’s definitely someone I’d want to be friends with in high school. Not only does she have incredible taste in TV shows, but she also is a loyal friend who will always be there for you. I loved seeing her complete dedication to her best friends Harper and Meg.

Ben is a character who we naturally have some mixed feelings about in the beginning since we’re viewing the story from Trixie’s side of things. Basically, the two have hated each other since elementary school. The main reason is because the two are just so similar that they end up clashing entirely. So we really start getting to know Ben and liking him later on in the novel. I’ll be honest, he isn’t the swooniest book boyfriend in the world, but I believe that he’s one of the more honest ones. He actually reminded me of a real high school boy, not someone that we wish we knew in high school.

Like I said, the romance begins as being a mutual hatred for one another. Every time they are around each other, they make rude comments and are just flat out cold to the other. They also have a competition between the two where they are both trying to take the third spot on the class rankings. Once the two are basically forced to be together more frequently when their best friends beginning dating, they call a truce and actually build an unlikely friendship when they find that they love Joss Whedon and similar comics. Anyway, the romance between them is one of my favorites because it starts out as being hate, but eventually becomes love.

As a whole, this was certainly a funny novel that I absolutely flew through. I ended up staying up until 3 A.M. because I just didn’t want to put it down, it was way too addicting to me! I loved both Ben and Trixie in different ways, but I felt like they made a decent but also realistic couple in the end. Sometimes relationships in high school aren’t these perfect love stories where they started out as best friends but slowly became more, sometimes it’s actually a really messy and difficult thing. I feel like Lily Anderson couldn’t have written this book any better. I definitely can’t wait to read her next book!

four-stars

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All the Feels Review

June 22, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

All the Feels ReviewAll the Feels by Danika Stone
Published by Swoon Reads on June 7th 2016
Pages: 336
Source: Purchased
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three-stars
College freshman Liv is more than just a fangirl: The Starveil movies are her life… So, when her favorite character, Captain Matt Spartan, is killed off at the end of the last movie, Liv Just. Can’t. Deal.
Tired of sitting in her room sobbing, Liv decides to launch an online campaign to bring her beloved hero back to life. With the help of her best friend, Xander, actor and steampunk cosplayer extraordinaire, she creates #SpartanSurvived, a campaign to ignite the fandom. But as her online life succeeds beyond her wildest dreams, Liv is forced to balance that with the pressures of school, her mother’s disapproval, and her (mostly nonexistent and entirely traumatic) romantic life. A trip to DragonCon with Xander might be exactly what she needs to figure out what she really wants.

When I first saw this book on Swoon Reads, I didn’t read it because I wasn’t entirely sure that all the fandom stuff would be for me. I was pretty off base with that assumption, so I’m glad that I made the decision to read the book now. It turns out that how fandom was described in this book was actually one of my favorite parts of it. Danika Stone definitely convinced me that Liv was a fully invested fangirl who would stop at nothing to bring her beloved character back to life. Do I think that all of this was totally realistic? No, I really don’t, fandom is certainly powerful, but some aspects of the plot still weren’t entirely believable to me. All the Feels was a well written debut and I really enjoyed reading about a dedicated fangirl.

So Liv is a college freshman who would much rather read Starveil fanfiction and make videos about her fandom than actually doing her schoolwork. After seeing the newest Starveil film, Liv is heartbroken when her favorite character is killed. She goes into a deep mourning for a rather long amount of time. Finally, she gets back on the horse and decides that she has to make a campaign to bring back Matt Spartan. She makes a video starring her best friend Xander, and launches #SpartanSurvived online. This campaign soon goes viral, and Liv finds her life taking an unexpected turn, especially when she decides to join Xander at Dragon Con.

I really liked and identified with Liv. On one hand, I do fully get it when you feel so connected to a certain fandom. On the other, I kind of don’t get that she had literally no desire to focus on her schoolwork. In that regard, I did understand why her mom was frustrated that Liv wasn’t dedicating herself to her studies hardly at all. Some other things that I liked about Liv was her love for fortune cookies. It’s kind of a random thing to note, but I loved that she always searched for the perfect cookie that matched her the best. Anyway, I loved Liv’s dedication to Starveil, and I enjoyed seeing how involved she was in this community of diehard fans.

Xander is her hilarious and eccentric best friend, who she met at college in the fall. He’s an actor, and I loved how expressive and unique he was in general. He was always trying out personas with an accent to match it. I also loved how confident he was throughout the book. He showed Liv that the trick to flirting is just being confident with who you are, and then everything else will follow after that. I enjoyed the fact that he was bisexual, though they only explicitly say it once, but it’s still nice that it wasn’t a big deal or anything. I found him to be a very interesting character that I really enjoyed reading about.

My feelings about the romance here are that it should have been left out altogether. Personally, I think that Xander and Liv make better friends than being in an actual relationship. It was just complicated because for most of the book, the feelings between them were completely platonic, and then the feelings between them suddenly appeared and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. So in the end, I could take or leave the romance. I’m always a fan of friendships between boys and girls not developing into more.

Ultimately, this was a well written book that I ended up reading in just a few sittings. It’s one of those books that you’ll read easily in a day, it has less than 300 pages. I thought that Liv was a charming and witty character and I loved her passion for Starveil. Not all readers will likely be able to relate to that level of fandom, but I personally found it interesting. I did learn some new fandom related terminology that I didn’t know already! Honestly, I think it might be a little boring for you if you aren’t a fangirl for something, but I think this book is worth giving a shot.

three-stars

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Sunday Street Team: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame Review

June 19, 2016 Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★

Sunday Street Team: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame ReviewThe Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen
Published by Macmillan/Swoon Reads on June 7th 2016
Pages: 336
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three-stars
Taylor Simmons is screwed.
Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip.
Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they’re in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it’s better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.

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Hey, everyone! I’m so happy to be a member of the Sunday Street Team. SST is hosted by Nori @ ReadWriteLove28 and you can learn more about it by heading over to her website.

I read this book back when it was first posted on Swoon Reads. Back then, I was impressed by the writing, characters, and the romance in general. I was a little unsure about how the concept would work out when I first heard about it, but it did end up making more sense than I thought that it would. The Way to Game the Walk of Shame is a witty and clever story that I truly enjoyed. I recommend this if you’re a fan of high school romances that promise plenty of angst but sweetness as well.

Taylor Simmons is a character that it takes a little while to warm up to. She cares A LOT about her reputation, like to an insane degree at times. I personally couldn’t completely wrap my mind around it, though I do understand that teens especially feel that pressure. Once you get to know her personality more, you begin to understand exactly where she’s coming from. More than that, she’s much more than just being this uptight smart girl. She’s also clever, witty, funny, and a little bit charming too. I really liked and related to her as the story progressed further.

Evan McKinley is a surfer dude with a serious reputation for being a total manwhore. If you base it only on this alone, then you miss out on how great he actually is. He turns out to be extremely swoony, along with being a smart and witty guy all around. Though Taylor thinks he’s this huge slacker with no ambitions, he turns out to surprise her. He actually dreams of being a marine biologist, and Taylor ends up helping him with his college applications. I really felt for him when it came to him dealing with his jerk of a step-father. So yeah, he turns out to be a rather incredible guy.

So the romance between Evan and Taylor is obviously very shady in the beginning. Taylor panics when she wakes up in bed with Evan, a boy that she only knew by reputation. They end up getting involved in a fake relationship in order to protect her perfect reputation. Anyway, they slowly begin to strike up a gradual friendship, which eventually leads to more. Like I already said, Taylor helps him figure out his whole college situation, which he initially doesn’t want to have anything to do with. I feel like the sort of slow burn thing they had going on was extremely realistic, not to mention full of swoony moments. It felt like your average high school romance, with clearly some not totally real drama thrown in for entertainment purposes.

This was an enjoyable read for me to say the least. It’s a fast paced read, I could barely put it down once I started reading it. Though I thought at first that it would be just another YA romance, it surprised me by also having great character depth and growth. I truly liked basically every character, and wanted the best for them in the end. The author was fabulous and I can’t wait to read more from her in the future!

About the Author:

Jenn Nguyen fell in love with books in third grade and spent the rest of her school years reading through lunchtime and giving up recess to organize the school library. She has a degree in business administration from the University of New Orleans and still lives in the city with her husband. Jenn spends her days reading, dreaming up YA romances, and binge watching Korean dramas all in the name of ‘research’. The Way to Game the Walk of Shame is her debut novel.

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three-stars

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Blog Tour: Autofocus Review

June 13, 2016 Blog Tours, Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★

Blog Tour: Autofocus Review

Blog Tour: Autofocus ReviewAutofocus by Lauren Gibaldi
Published by HarperTeen on June 14th 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
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three-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From the author of The Night We Said Yes comes a fun and heartfelt YA contemporary tale. When Maude decides to search for information about her birth mother, she finds out more than she expected. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Susane Colasanti.
Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude, whose birth mother died after giving her up for adoption. With her best friend, Treena, in college in the same town where her birth mother grew up, Maude decides to visit and explore her past. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena doesn’t seem to have time for her—or for helping with her search. Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude, she starts to realize that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.

I didn’t get a chance to read Lauren Gibaldi’s first novel, so this was my first impression of her writing. I think this was a pretty solid book as a whole. I particularly found the adoption part of the plot to be especially refreshing. It’s a topic that we don’t see often enough in YA, and I believe that it’s much needed. It’s also important to mention that Gibaldi has such beautiful writing, I was so impressed by her effortless ability to make every sentence so vivid. With each scene, I felt like we were right there with Maude as she goes on this journey of self-discovering.

Maude is a senior in high school who is supposed to make family her main focus in her final portfolio for photography class. She was adopted and her birth mother died when she was born, but she still feels like she needs to learn more about her life. Her parents allow her to spend fall break visiting her best friend Treena at college, while also trying to learn about her mother’s past. Treena ends up being more than a little distracted, and much different than she was back in high school. Maude is forced to go through with her search alone, until she meets Bennett, a boy who lives in the same building as Treena. He ends up accompanying her along for the ride, and she ends up discovering more about herself than she ever anticipated.

I loved Maude’s passion for photography. She even has her own blog which she initially created for her class, but it slowly became something that she updated for personal reasons as well. I really enjoyed reading about the photography stuff, Gibaldi wrote it in an extremely compelling and gripping way. I also really respected Maude’s desire to find out about her birth mother. Maude was seriously determined, when we reached a point in her search where I would personally give up on it, Maude just kept on finding a way through it. My childhood best friend was adopted from China, she sadly died when she was nine. But I know that she also had some curiosity about where she came from, and that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love her parents. I feel like Gibaldi really understood this concept, and I loved how she addressed adoption in general.

I loved the fact that Bennett was so willing to help Maude out from the start. He was able to sympathize with her story even more because his mother is a social worker, so he’s seen/heard about some cases that are similar to Maude’s. Anyway, I did like his character. I felt like he was very kind and understanding in all ways when it comes to Maude. When Treena kicks her out of her dorm room so she can spend more time with her new boyfriend, Bennett immediately allows her to stay in his room. I don’t know why I found this interesting, I just think it showed that his feelings towards Maude were more than just for physical reasons, they also built a friendship.

That being said, I still wasn’t overly impressed with the relationship. Obviously, it still moved pretty quickly since they only had one week together. Honestly, I think that Maude was really terrible towards him at times. Well, it was just one scene, but it was still rather off putting to me. I don’t know what it is, I just wasn’t very invested in the romance. It honestly didn’t cause me huge anxiety to think about them no longer being together. Along similar lines, I did like how the author left it open-ended. I will try to spoil it further, but let’s just say that some readers who are huge believers in HEA may not be overly thrilled about it, but I felt like it was realistic given the individual circumstances presented here.

The way that the author wrote friendship here felt painfully real to me at times. Treena is a character who has totally changed during her time at college. Maude slowly but surely learns that some things about their friendship will never fully go back to normal. This is a very real and honest thing that unfortunately happens sometimes. I felt like the communication between the two while Maude felt like Treena was changing for the worst could have been better, but it was still well done for the most part.

All in all, I won’t say that this is my favorite or anything, but it’s still an important read nonetheless. I believe that there definitely should be more YA books out there that focus on adoption. Maude sometimes frustrated me as a character, but I really believed in her passion about photography. The writing as a whole was stunning and quotable. I plan on checking out whatever Lauren writes next!

ABOUT LAUREN GIBALDI:

Lauren Gibaldi

Public librarian and author of THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, MATT’S STORY (a Night We Said Yes novella), and AUTOFOCUS (out 6/14/16), all with HarperTeen / HarperCollins. Fan of dinosaurs and cheesy jokes. And you.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:
 
Week 2:
 
Giveaway:

3 Finished Copies of AUTO FOCUS (US Only)

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three-stars

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Outrun the Moon Review

June 9, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★

Outrun the Moon ReviewOutrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 24th 2016
Pages: 400
Source: Purchased
Also by this author: The Secret of a Heart Note
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars
San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

For the most part, I do my best to stay clear of historical fiction entirely. I liked some of these books when I was younger, (like the Dear America series and even the American Girl books) but I haven’t been able to find many that are YA that I enjoy. That being said, I was hesitant going into Outrun the Moon. However, I decided to try it anyway since I’ve heard nothing but good things about Stacey Lee’s books. I’m so glad that I read this book because it was a fun yet also very emotional tale that I found enchanting from start to finish.

So this takes place in 1906 in the city of San Francisco. Mercy Wong is a girl who is desperate to leave Chinatown behind so she can get a quality education at the best school possible so she can better provide for her parents and younger brother Jack. Beating the odds that were heavily stacked against her, she ends up getting into the St. Clare’s School for Girls, which has never admitted a Chinese student before. Though some of the other girls and the Headmistress make it difficult for her, she still finds herself getting by, until a devastating Earthquake hits the city. Instead of cowering in fear, Mercy and her classmates make the best of the circumstances by trying to help the survivors in any ways that they can.

Mercy is a girl that I want to be best friends with. She’s smart, witty, caring, selfless, opinionated, brave, resourceful, and so many other things. She also doesn’t take crap from anyone, despite this being 1906 when women weren’t exactly encouraged to speak their minds. The best thing about her is that she always puts others before herself. Her first thoughts are always about the safety of those around her. I loved how she did this for people who weren’t always nice to her as well. This is just one of those characters that you need to read about for yourself, she’s that incredible!

This book revolves a lot around the important subject of friendship. I love how Stacey Lee chooses to focus on this, especially during a time when friendship had to have been extremely appreciated and welcomed. One of my favorite friendships was the one that Mercy had with Francesca, a cool Italian girl she meets at school who loves to bake. These two girls were a lot alike, but I love how they both bonded during this terrible tragedy, and stuck by one another. Francesca was always the first to volunteer to go along with Mercy, whether they were going to look for food to provide a feast for everyone, or going back to Chinatown, she was always right by her side.

Another highlight of the book for me was how complex the characters were. For example, Elodie wasn’t a likable character in the beginning. She was really mean and felt like she was so much better than Mercy when she first comes to the school. The two were forced to be roommates, and saying that they didn’t get along in putting it mildly. They were constantly bickering at each other, and even got into a physical fight at one point. Eventually, we get to see that there is more to this character than just being the mean girl. Additionally, Headmistress Crouch is also pretty rude to Mercy in the beginning, but we get to see more to her as well in the face of extreme tragedy. I love that she wrote these characters to be more than just villains.

There’s no way to deny the fact that Stacey Lee is an incredible writer. There are countless sentences in this book that are so quotable. She just has this effortless way of weaving words together that’s unbelievable. It seems like she’s a seasoned professional, though this is only her second book. Though I doubt historical fiction will ever be my favorite genre, I’m still impressed at the beautiful way she was able to mix these horrifying real events, and create a story that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I didn’t give this book the full five stars because I feel like the pacing was slow at times and Outrun the Moon was a bit longer than it probably should’ve been, but this was still seriously well done. I highly recommend reading this one, regardless of whether or not historical fiction is the genre for you.

four-stars

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The Museum of Heartbreak Review

June 8, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

The Museum of Heartbreak ReviewThe Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
Published by Simon Pulse on June 7th 2016
Pages: 256
Source: Purchased
Reading Challenges: Debut Author Challenge 2016
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars
In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.
Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.
Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.
Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.
But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.

I loved the general concept of The Museum of Heartbreak. I feel like that part was very unique and well done. I’ll get into the specifics later on in my review. However, the book as a whole didn’t completely work for me. That being said, I do believe that the author has a lot of potential, this just wasn’t my favorite. But I look forward to seeing what she’s going to write next. I recommend that you pick this book up this summer if you don’t mind a lot of teen angst in your YA books.

At the beginning of the book, we are introduced to Pen’s Museum of Heartbreak, which consists of artifacts that remind her of the person(s) who broke her heart. Basically, all of these artifacts that are in this museum have to do with an event that happens within the novel. Each of the chapters represent an artifact, and we learn more about the event where the artifacts were given. For example, the note that Keats wrote her when he asked her out is in there, and in the chapter, we learn when exactly he gave it to her. Anyway, it works out better than it sounds. The book is also about first loves, friendship, and growing apart from the friends that Pen has had for so long. So the heartbreak comes from so much more than just a relationship, it’s about the end of friendships as well.

Not going to lie, Penelope (or Pen) really got on my nerves at times. I think it’s because I have a lot in common with her. One of her oldest friends gives her a hard time for having such a high expectation for guys because of all the books that she’s read. When she finally gets a boyfriend though, she focuses more on loving the idea of having one instead of actually liking him for him. She overlooked so many obnoxious things about him just because she wanted him to be this perfect guy. The annoying thing about her came when she wasn’t able to see what was right in front of her.

I wasn’t a fan of Keats at all. He’s this ridiculously pretentious kid who talks about his ex-girlfriend an unhealthy amount and is overly obsessed with Jack Kerouac. One of his worst moments was when he thought Pen’s dad was lame. Why would you openly admit to your girlfriend that you felt that way about her father? That’s just not cool at all. In a way, I understood why Pen put up with him at all, but it still made me angry that she just let everything slide so easily. As I already mentioned, he’s her first boyfriend so she was still figuring everything out, but he was basically the worst boyfriend ever.

I thought that Eph (short for Ephraim) was a solid character. However, I didn’t understand some of his actions, and the author never really provided a satisfying explanation for it. Eph and Pen have been best friends for most of their lives. I really loved Eph because he was a huge fan of graphic novels and drawing dinosaurs. I kind of wish the author would have gone into more details about his disability, she hints at him having dyslexia at one point. I thought he was a great friend, and he had some swoony moments too.

A lot of this book does have to do with friendship. One of Pen’s longtime friends was already discussed, but she also has been friends with Audrey for a long time as well. I didn’t like her at all. I related to the fact that Pen and Audrey had seemed to outgrow each other in some ways. In my own experiences, this has previously happened to me, and I’m sure it’s likely happened to you at some point. It’s sad, but some friendships just aren’t meant to last forever. There’s some drama here involving Audrey’s new best friend Cherisse. Audrey wanted Pen and Cherisse to get along, but it still didn’t make sense to me why she just stood there and watched her new friend treat her old one like crap. Truthfully, I think Pen is better off without her, and I like that the author explored other friendships besides just the one with Audrey.

Pen finds a new group of friends when she joins the literary magazine at her school. Grace, Miles, and a few others are in the group, and they all quickly become people who she can depend on and trust. Of course, she doesn’t forget her boy Eph, but it’s still nice for her to find a group filled with those who have similar interests. Grace is a cool, confident, and outspoken girl who has the same feelings as her when it comes to her literary opinions. Miles is Grace’s hilarious best friend, who quickly bonds with Pen. The best part about them is that they don’t have a ton of drama the way that Audrey and Cherisse have. I loved both of these characters!

This was a quick read, I just wouldn’t exactly call this my favorite. I didn’t like that some vital questions ended up going unanswered. I think the book should have been about 100 pages longer to wrap everything up in a much smoother way. I did enjoy the theme regarding friendship, and how sometimes we grow apart from our childhood friends in high school or beyond. I also loved that it took place in New York. The author described the city with such vivid detail that you could feel the magic of it all right alongside the characters. I’m glad that I read this one!

three-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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If I Was Your Girl Review

June 5, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

If I Was Your Girl ReviewIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Published by Flatiron Books on May 3rd 2016
Pages: 288
Source: Purchased
Reading Challenges: Debut Author Challenge 2016
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-stars
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Look, my rating isn’t a huge deal here, because I believe that this is still an extremely important book for everyone to read. My issues came with some of the dialect and some of the important characters. Regardless of what I think, this book provides essential information for cisgender people, and it will hopefully make transgender people very proud of this representation. Amanda is a fascinating main character who is totally nerdy and awesome. Did I find parts of these unrealistic? Yes, though the author is a trans woman herself, she touched on this in her author’s note. She said that she’s a storyteller and not an educator, and she’s taken liberties with what she knows reality to be. That being said, I think this is a fabulous book that will hopefully make way for more transgender stories in the future.

Amanda is moving in with her father for her senior year after an incident that happened back in Atlanta. Her mom and dad are divorced, and she hasn’t talked to her father in years. She quickly meets new friends and even discovers that several boys have a crush on her. She begins talking to Grant, a football player who also has a sweet awkward and nerdy side as well. Soon enough, the relationship between them grows pretty serious and Amanda has to decide whether or not she should tell him her secret. Told with some flashbacks sprinkled throughout the story, we learn more about Amanda’s past when she was born a boy, but knew in her heart from a fairly early age that she was really a girl.

As I already mentioned, Amanda is a little bit nerdy. She’s a super smart and witty girl, I loved her personality. She also allows for us to relate to some of the experiences that we all share, like fitting in, finding love, and accepting yourself for who you are. This is something that both transgender and cisgender people can both sympathize with. While I feel like Amanda was tremendously lucky to find a group of friends on day one at her new school, obviously it’s not so easy for everyone else. However, I genuinely liked that Amanda didn’t have a completely depressing experience, yes there were a few intense scenes, but it was a pretty great experience for the most part. As a reader, I like seeing the main character happy, even if it isn’t the most realistic portrayal.

So Grant is our love interest and I wasn’t a big fan of him. I really liked that he was both athletic and somewhat nerdy, but I feel like his character wasn’t explored as much as it should have been. There wasn’t a lot of depth to him and I wanted to know more. I get that he isn’t the focus, but it still would have been nice to include. I don’t know how to LOVE a book boyfriend who I don’t understand more about.

Since I wasn’t a fan of Grant, you can probably guess that the romance wasn’t my favorite. I like that the romance was just like any other, which is how it definitely should be. But I never like insta-love, it just never works for me. The romance was pretty sappy, which is okay to an extent. I feel like some of the pages could have been dedicated to developing the character’s, specifically Grant’s, instead of the romance. I also thought it was insane how Grant was like “I’ll love you no matter your secret is” whenever Amanda tried to open up to him about her past. Dude, she’s trying to tell you something important so it won’t sneak up on you later, listen to her!

One of the other issues that I had was that this happened in a Tennessee town filled with homophobic and closed minded people. It didn’t make sense to me that Amanda didn’t face more bullying. I’ve seen a few reviews that said that a lot of this book was wish fulfillment. The author wishes that the world would be this way, but we’re sadly not there yet. I don’t want to criticize this too extensively since I’m a cisgender person with no personal experience with any of this. I’m glad that it wasn’t a complete horror show because I know that the few representations in YA and beyond of transgender people hasn’t been very happy. I guess my point is, I wondered a lot about how realistic some of it was, particularly her parents being able to afford all the medical expenses by taking out a loan with no issues. I understand why all of this wasn’t included, but I wasn’t able to fully enjoy it because I kept thinking about the lack of realism shown.

Now that I’ve gotten all of my boring critiques over with, I want to talk about why I think this is important to read. This is a seriously emotional journey that we take with Amanda. I really loved the parental roles here. Amanda’s mother was completely supportive in the past and present. As to be expected, she was initially sad about her son telling her that she was really a girl inside. The dad took much longer to come to terms with this, but I loved getting to see his relationship with Amanda develop. Not going to lie, I definitely got emotional towards the end.

You should read this book because it shows that transgender teens are just as capable of love and acceptance as anyone else. There are hardly any books out there that portray this. That being said, I think that If I Was Your Girl will hopefully pave the way for other mainstream publishing houses to release stories about transgender teens in the very near future. I’m also really glad that the author is a trans woman and the cover model is a trans teen. Anyway, this is one of those books that you need to read because it’s that important!

three-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Wanderlost Review

June 1, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★★

Wanderlost ReviewWanderlost by Jen Malone
Published by HarperTeen on May 31st 2016
Pages: 352
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe.
Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.
Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.
But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.

This is a book that I just can’t say enough good things about. I’m a fan of contemporary romance books, if you can’t already tell based on all of my reviews from the genre. Wanderlost contains literally all the elements that I love to see in books. Including: a relatable main character, fabulous setting, swoony boyfriend, and hilarious supporting characters. This story is just so freaking adorable, it’s impossible not to have a smile on your face for over half of the book. However, there’s also some sad moments thrown in there, I shed a tear or two over some of the scenes. Anyway, this is the perfect book to kick off your summer reading with!

Aubree just graduated high school and she has no clue what she wants to do next with her life. She isn’t going to college, and she is actually pretty happy stuck in her small Ohio town. Her perfect older sister Elizabeth gets arrested while trying to protect Aubree, so she can’t leave the country to be a tour guide for senior citizens over in Europe. Aubree ends up pretending to be her and leaving the country for the first time ever. Along the way, Aubree finds herself falling for a boy named Sam, who also happens to be the tour company owner’s son. Though falling for him could blow her cover, she can’t help the way she feels.

Aubree is a great character who changed so much throughout the book. Honestly, her character growth was truly some of the best that I’ve ever seen. She was so unsure about everything in the beginning: who she was and what she wanted out of life, but she slowly but surely grows with every single page. Don’t get me wrong, everything doesn’t just magically fall into place for her, it takes her a long time to become a more confident and self-assured character. But by the end, the growth is just impossible to deny.

I can’t get over how freaking perfect Sam is. I can’t really put it into words, he just has this natural charisma that’s impossible to deny. He’s such a swoony guy, he does the most adorable things, even in the beginning. He’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for Aubree, as cliche as that might sound. He’s so smart, witty, funny, attractive, and totally charming in every way. More than that, I loved how awesome he was with the senior citizens on the tour bus. He was originally supposed to be the tour guide, and he rejoins the tour after an incident happens. It was just pretty clear that he knew what he was doing, and I loved seeing him in that element of his.

As I’ve already implied, the relationship was downright adorable to say the least. I feel like any romance that begins over the phone is destined to be ridiculously cute. Before they meet in person, Sam starts calling Aubree nightly to check in and see how the tour is going, since he’s a representative from the tour company. It’s hilarious, Aubree accidentally tells him she loves him, and I just love how that banter between the two of them officially begins. I was beyond nervous about how the relationship was going to end up because she’s keeping her true identity a secret from him to protect her sister, you just know that it’s all going to blow up in her face at some point. So it definitely keeps you on your toes, but I love it anyway.

The setting couldn’t have been more perfect, Aubree goes all across Europe on this bus tour. I loved that she was leading around a relatively small group of senior citizens, each of them had distinctive personalities that you couldn’t help but love. In my opinion, this addition to the plot was one of the main reasons why it’s a unique story. I will say that in my opinion, there’s no way something like this could ever happen in real life. That being said, it really didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. How realistic it was didn’t matter because of how much I believed in the characters and their individual relationships. Seriously, read this book!

five-stars

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