Publisher: HarperCollins

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Before I Fall Review

March 16, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★½

Before I Fall ReviewBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on October 25th 2010
Pages: 470
Source: Library
Also by this author: Replica (Replica, #1)
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three-half-stars
With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.
For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—"Cupid Day"—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.
However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.
Named to numerous state reading lists, this novel was also recognized as a Best Book of the Year by Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, The Daily Beast, NPR, and Publishers Weekly. It has been optioned for film by Fox 2000 Pictures.
Supports the Common Core State Standards.

Wow, so I’m honestly not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I took such a long time to read it because I wasn’t really sure if this would be my kind of book. I wasn’t sure what to make of the whole mean girl thing or the concept overall. I ended up picking it up because of the recent movie adaptation. The trailer seemed interesting enough so I wanted to give the book a shot before I saw it in theaters. Anyway, this was definitely a unique book. I’ve seen so many people who absolutely adored the book and felt like it was the best thing ever. I didn’t have the same reaction, though I didn’t exactly dislike it either. I think that Oliver has crafted a beautifully written novel, but it still just wasn’t entirely my type of story. So this book has been out for seven years now and so I’m going to have some serious spoilers. I’m sorry if you haven’t read it, but you can just skip this completely if you don’t want to know major details about the ending.

At the beginning of the book, Sam is a total mean girl. She wasn’t always this way, she used to get made fun of herself, but that all changed when one of the most popular girls wanted to be her friend and her popularity automatically rose. So yeah, she’s extremely difficult to relate to and sympathize with for the first couple hundred pages. As she mentions, no one deserves to die, but I still wasn’t a fan to say the least. Thankfully, she became easier to identify with as the book progressed. By the end, you can’t help but love Sam and hope that she’s able to find a way out of reliving her death and figure out how to save herself. I loved that she was able to see her flaws and be able to change that around for the better. She had some of the best character development that I’ve ever come across. However, I wasn’t sure what to make of her complete attitude change towards the end of the book. Like on day six, she was determined to find a way to save herself and Juliet but then on the last day of her life, she had somehow accepted it all. Maybe I missed something, but I wasn’t sure what to make of that.

The main issue that I had with the novel was the mean girls. Yes, Sam does change in the middle of the story, but her friends sure as hell don’t. I get that Sam didn’t want Lindsay, Elody, and Ally to die in the car accident, but I still don’t understand why she would still be friends with them after all the shit she learned. She discovered that Lindsay hated Juliet now, but she actually used to be best friends with her in elementary school. Then Lindsay peed in her sleeping bag on a Girl Scout trip and blamed it on Juliet, leading everyone to call her a horrible name for years. Juliet has a difficult home life and all the terrible bullying obviously doesn’t help matters, which leads her to attempt suicide. After learning all this, how can Sam even look at Lindsay the same way? Even when Sam confronted her about it, she didn’t seem to show that much remorse, not enough to change anything about herself anyway. Who knows, maybe Sam’s death will make these girls better people.

All in all, this wasn’t a terrible book, but it wasn’t my favorite either. I think maybe my expectations were too high going in since everyone loved it so much. The book was also rather thick considering the fact that it only had seven chapters total. I did really enjoy that even though she relived the same day over and over, it wasn’t repetitive. There was always something new going on and different dialogue happening. I thought this was a nice touch that made it even more enjoyable to read. I thought that Kent was absolutely precious. I wanted more and more from him, and wished that her boyfriend (I honestly already forgot his name) didn’t exist at all. I thought the ending was obviously depressing, but also surprising and refreshing. Regardless of some of my mixed feelings, I can’t deny the fact that this book totally makes you think.

three-half-stars

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Replica Review

January 12, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

Replica ReviewReplica (Replica, #1) by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on October 4th 2016
Pages: 544
Source: Library
Also by this author: Before I Fall
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three-stars
Two girls, two stories, one epic novel
From Lauren Oliver, New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy, comes an epic, masterful novel that explores issues of individuality, identity, and humanity. Replica is a “flip book" that contains two narratives in one, and it is the first in a duology. Turn the book one way and read Lyra's story; turn the book over and upside down and read Gemma's story. The stories can be read separately, one after the other, or in alternating chapters. The two distinct parts of this astonishing novel combine to produce an unforgettable journey. Even the innovative book jacket mirrors and extends the reading experience.
Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape.
Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.
While the stories of Lyra and Gemma mirror each other, each contains breathtaking revelations critically important to the other story. Replica is an ambitious, thought-provoking masterwork.

I’m not a big Science Fiction reader, but I knew that I had to give Replica a try once I heard that it was a “flip book.” In this case, if you read the book from one side, you get one of the girl’s perspective. Then when you turn it over and flip it upside down, you get the other perspective. With this type of layout, you can really read it in the style that appeals to you. I personally read it by alternating between Gemma and Lyra every chapter, but that definitely requires a lot of flipping on your part. I liked doing it this way because the stories do start to come together at a certain point in the novel, and so I think it’s helpful to be able to see what each girl is thinking about these similar situations that they face. Though it wasn’t my favorite, I have to admit that Replica is still a unique and cool concept. I will likely read the next book in this duology just to see how things end up for Gemma and Lyra.

Gemma was easily my favorite character out of the two girls. I felt her to be much more relatable, and I’m sure that other teenagers who’ve also been through high school will probably think the same. She’s your pretty average awkward high schooler who is dealing with some awful and disgusting bullying due to her weight. Though this is a Science Fiction book, Gemma’s perspective does make this seem a lot closer to a contemporary novel, which is something that really stuck out to me about the story. Gemma was a consistently solid and memorable character as the book progressed. She was honestly the reason why I pushed through some of the more boring parts of the story.

On the other hand, Lyra was not as easy to warm up to as Gemma. This might be just me, but I had a difficult time with being able to truly cheer for this character. Yes, I realize that she’s had a tough life and I was totally able to sympathize with her, but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of her chapters were straight up boring. Her character was also very closed off and extremely brainwashed, which obviously isn’t her fault, but it still made it difficult for me to become invested in her. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but she wasn’t my favorite to say the least. Her chapters were typically shorter than Gemma’s, so they did go by relatively fast, I just wish the pace itself moved faster than it did.

There is quite a bit of romance in this book for both of these girls. As you can probably guess by now, I also enjoyed Gemma’s romance a lot more than I did Lyra’s. I felt like Gemma’s romance happened at a much more realistic and convincing pace. There was no insta-love, Gemma had little to no interest in Pete at the beginning of the novel, but she slowly warms up to him which I loved seeing. Pete also wasn’t your typical love interest, which I thought was refreshing. I have a soft stop for nerds, and Pete totally fits into that category easily. I wasn’t completely convinced by Lyra’s romance. I felt like it progressed WAY too quickly. Lyra has been taught for most of her existence that love isn’t a thing yet she’s suddenly able to almost automatically confess her love for someone that she barely even knows? It didn’t feel the least bit realistic to me.

I wouldn’t note this as being one of my favorites or anything, but it was still a decent book nonetheless. It took me a lot longer to read than it takes me to read most books. I think this was mostly due to the kind of slow start that happens in both of the perspectives. Once it got started though, the book did become a lot more intriguing to me. I doubt that this genre will ever become my thing, but I’m still happy that I read it in spite of this. This is my first Lauren Oliver and I don’t plan on it being the last one. I’m for sure going to pick up Before I Fall before the movie comes out in a couple of months! Anyway, I do recommend this, but only if you don’t mind books that have a slower pace at the beginning.

three-stars

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The Lost & Found Review

July 6, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

The Lost & Found ReviewThe Lost & Found by Katrina Leno
Published by HarperCollins on July 5th 2016
Source: Edelweiss
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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.

A charming and imaginative new novel about getting lost before you can be found.
LOST:Frannie and Louis met in an online support group when they were both younger. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. Well, not lose them, exactly. Things just seem to…disappear.
FOUND:They each receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.
The Lost & Found is a bighearted novel about connections (missed and found), family (the kind you’re born with and the kind you make for yourself), and unexpected journeys (on the road, and of the heart), from an author who Publishers Weekly called “a fierce new presence.”

So a lot of my Goodreads friends have rated this book extremely high, so I was anxious to read and judge The Lost & Found for myself. Ultimately, I really enjoyed Katrina Leno’s duel narration and writing in general here. I think both the main and supporting characters were very strong and memorable. If you can overlook some magical fantasy that’s weirdly thrown into the plot, this is a solid read. I hope that others will be able to love this as much as some other bloggers out there are, but it didn’t completely work for me.

If I was giving my rating on characters alone, this book would easily receive 5 stars from me. Louis is the male protagonist, and my heart broke for him throughout the novel. He struggles with guilt from an accident that happened when he was little. As a result of this accident, his twin sister lost her legs. I personally suffer from anxiety, though not as bad as Louis’s, but I still identified with his struggle. I felt like the portrayal of his mental illness was so raw and real. Frannie is the female protagonist, and I didn’t love her as much as Louis, but she was still a decent character as a whole. She was definitely a smart and witty character and I loved her sense of humor. Besides that, there wasn’t all that much about her personality that I was able to connect with, but I didn’t hate her either so that’s always a plus!

If you like books that have strong supporting characters, you’re going to love this one. Willa is Louis’s twin sister and she was just ridiculously amazing. As mentioned earlier, she lost her legs, but I love how she doesn’t let being disabled define her. There were several scenes where she was just so honest and open about how people staring at her out in public made her feel. Not going to lie, those scenes made me want to cry. On top of all that, she’s a total feminist with absolutely spot on opinions. This quote sums it all up better than I can:

“We live in this really weird world where female celebrities can be photographed without underwear on and instead of making it illegal to publish explicit photos of a person without their express permission or, you know, shaming the person who’s shoving a camera up their skirt, we call them sluts for accidentally spreading their legs when they get out of their car.”

Frannie has a cool cousin named Arrow who is also incredibly memorable. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have all that many memorable lines, but she was amazing as well. Arrow also brings some diversity to the mix because she was adopted as a baby from Vietnam. Anyway, she cracked me up how she responded to a random guy in a restaurant hitting on her. That scene was totally priceless to say the least. So the supporting characters bring both diversity and priceless moments in the book.

So how in the world can this book have magical realism when it seems to read exactly like a contemporary? Well, I won’t say too much about the specifics because I don’t want to reveal any major spoilers, but let’s just say that it involves the things that Louis and Frannie lost. In my opinion, too much time was spent on losing these objects, but it never felt all that resolved in the end to me. I think that if you typically enjoy magical realism in book, you won’t have a problem with it. I barely read anything that isn’t contemporary, so it was difficult for me to understand and accept.

All in all, there was a lot to like about The Lost & Found. Unfortunately, I was hoping for a little bit more in terms of a resolution and the romance was seriously lacking for me. It’s weird for me to say since I’m usually all about it, but I think this book would have worked just as well without the romance between Louis and Frannie. I recommend this book if you’re a fan of short fast paced reads that have wonderful supporting characters and just a bit of legit magic sprinkled in for good measure.

three-stars

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The Distance from A to Z Review

January 13, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 2 ★★★★★

The Distance from A to Z ReviewThe Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Published by HarperCollins on January 12th 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Reading Challenges: Contemporary Romance Challenge, Debut Author Challenge 2016, Rock My TBR
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five-stars
This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.
Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.
That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.
But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.

Wow you guys, this is book is something that all you YA contemporary romance fans need to purchase right away! Not only is it amazing, but it’s also a very affordable buy, it’s a full-length novel but only $1.99. It doesn’t get much better than that! Based on the description, I expected that this would be something that I would get lost in and really relate to. In the end, it turned out to be a lot more than simply that. I loved this book and I hope that you give it a try.

Personally, Abby was a character that I wasn’t able to completely relate to. However, I did understand where she was coming from and I think that is what a great book should accomplish. Like Abby, I also grew up around the baseball field. It’s probably more accurate to say that I actually grew up AT the baseball field because I spent so much time (and countless unhealthy meals) there. Unlike her, my parents never put any pressure on me to actually play the game. I was perfectly happy sitting at ball field, not paying much attention to the actual game and just cheering my brother on. Therefore, baseball is still one of my favorite sports today.

My personal favorite character was definitely Zeke. In the beginning, he was sort of a mystery to both Abby and us readers. I loved trying to figure out what Zeke was hiding from her but I was way off with my guesses! I probably should have connected the dots and I’m sure many of you will, but I felt like it was very well written how it all came together in an effortless and purposeful way. What are some things that I liked about Zeke? He was more than what meets the eye, Abby assumed that he’d be some annoying jock because of his baseball shirts and caps, but soon discovered he was more complex.

I loved how Abby got lost in learning French languages. I think that all of us have something that we’re passionate about like that so I thought this was extremely well done. French is a beautiful language and you will definitely get the urge to learn more about the language and culture if you read this! The main thing that Zeke and Abby had in common was a love and passion for the French language. When they speak in French, Abby sees a completely different side to the so called stereotypical jock. I felt like the relationship between the two of them was realistic to say the least. Abby is often doubting Zeke’s feelings for her and he isn’t always honest or straightforward with her, which often happens in high school relationships.

So in conclusion, read this book if you’re looking for a light and fluffy read that will actually make you feel ALL of the feels. This book will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside when you finish reading it, I promise! More than just being a romance, this is also a story about a girl discovering who she is apart from her family and where she wants to end up in the future. It’s also about friendship, family, and obviously love. Sorry guys, but I have to go learn some more French and watch Amélie!

five-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Mini Reviews: What’s Broken Between Us & This Raging Light

December 26, 2015 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★

Mini Reviews: What’s Broken Between Us & This Raging LightWhat's Broken Between Us by Alexis Bass
Published by HarperCollins on December 29th 2015
Pages: 241
Source: Edelweiss, Netgalley
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three-stars
Alexis Bass’s heartbreakingly beautiful second novel is a tale of love, loss, and learning to forgive, perfect for fans of Gayle Forman and of Robyn Schneider's The Beginning of Everything.
A year and a half ago, Amanda Tart's brother got behind the wheel drunk and killed his best friend. Today, he's coming home from prison.
Amanda's been the one living with the fallout, made worse by her brother's recent unapologetic TV interview. People think he's a monster. Still, she loves him. It's her dark secret, until she starts getting close to Henry again--whose sister is paralyzed from the accident.
A year and a half ago, her brother destroyed his life. Now Amanda has to decide if she'll let his choice destroy hers.

This book hit a little bit close to home for me since I also have an older brother. While it did have some flaws, I liked that it was a book about finding forgiveness and moving on. It also tackles the topic of holding onto the past instead of letting go. These were extremely real and touching themes that I found enjoyable to read about. However, I didn’t like some aspects to the relationship between Amanda and Henry. I also wished the ending would have turned out differently, but I suppose it was the only realistic way to resolve everything. In the end, I did like it, it just wasn’t all that memorable for me.

I didn’t read Alexis Bass’s first novel because I heard that the ending was depressing. But the summary for this one intrigued me and it was really fast paced and easy to read in just one sitting. Even though books that have to do with the MC’s big brother screwing up always make me extremely nervous, I still genuinely liked reading it and am glad that I did! I will be looking out for more books from this author in the future, who knows I might even bite the bullet and read her debut just because she is such a decent writer.

Mini Reviews: What’s Broken Between Us & This Raging LightThis Raging Light by Estelle Laure
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on December 22nd 2015
Pages: 288
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three-stars
Can the best thing happen at the worst time?
Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she's about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend's brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure's soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

This Raging Light was one of those books that I thoroughly enjoyed while reading it, but didn’t like it as much once I really looked back on it and was able to reflect on it. Basically, I felt like the story was creative but I also feel like there wasn’t enough closure on some important parts the way that there should have been. It seemed as if they never gave enough information and depth behind the main characters parents not being around. Yes, we knew why, but I felt like it should have been brought up and had closure to it in the end. Instead, the whole book consisted of the high school MC stepping up into the role of parent to her younger sister. I won’t lie, I’m a big fan of little kids in YA, I think they always make for adorable and entertaining supporting characters and Wren definitely didn’t disappoint. This was an emotional read and I cried several times throughout the story, but it was a decent book as a whole, it just felt like it was missing some important details.

Would I recommend this debut? Well, it depends on what kind of books you like. If you’re a reader who embraces YA books that deal with crappy home issues and result in a teenager taking charge, this one might be for you. Warning: if you aren’t a fan of love triangles/cheating, you might want to stay clear of this one. The LI just so happens to have a long term girlfriend for quite a bit of the novel. So if you despise those, I wouldn’t recommend this because it will likely infuriate you. However, I did like this book, I just didn’t completely love it.

three-stars

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Go Set a Watchman Review

July 23, 2015 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Go Set a Watchman ReviewGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Published by HarperCollins on July 14th 2015
Pages: 278
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four-stars
From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch--"Scout"--returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past--a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience.
Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision--a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

When I first heard that Harper Lee was releasing a sequel to her beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, I panicked. Was this something that Lee truly wanted to do? Her sister, who cared for her estate had recently passed away, and I worried the older woman was being taken advantage of.

Now that I’ve read Go Set a Watchman, however, I understand why Harper Lee’s lawyers and publishing agent pushed for its release: the book is nothing short of yet another masterpiece. Though it’s an early draft of the novel with spelling and grammatical errors, Watchman brilliantly resurrects our favorite characters and tackles the topic of racism.

We are reintroduced to Scout Finch, who is now 26 years old and living in New York. She is coming home to Maycomb, Alabama for two weeks to visit her aging father Atticus. During her stay, we see Scout (now referred to as Jean Louise, her given name) play around with a potential lover, visit and reminisce about old friends, and learn about the NAACP and just how her town feels about it.

While the book contains good points as well as bad, I overall found this to be an easy read and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I did not mind the way Atticus was portrayed. In Mockingbird, he was a hero and the one we cheered on in court as he defended an African American man. In Watchman, Atticus is said to hold racist beliefs. I wasn’t bothered by this in the slightest. Atticus never says outright that he hates African Americans or believes they shouldn’t be citizens. Which is why people shouldn’t let this tidbit dictate whether they read the book or not. Other chapters and characters in the novel make it a notable read and definitely one that everyone needs to see in today’s time and age regardless of if they like the newer Atticus.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting another perspective on the topic of racism. Like Mockingbird, this novel makes plenty of excellent points on the treatment of African Americans and how equality can be achieved. Even if one is unsure this book will live up to the hype of the prequel, it will definitely come pretty darn close.
four-stars

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