Source: Library

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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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The Great American Whatever Review

February 22, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

The Great American Whatever ReviewThe Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 29th 2016
Pages: 278
Source: Library
Also by this author: Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, Flying Lessons & Other Stories
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three-stars
Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before the car accident that changed everything.
Enter: Geoff, Quinn’s best friend, who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—okay, a hot guy—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually end happily—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.
Tim Federle’s beautiful YA debut is laugh-out-loud sad; a wry, winning testament to the power of old movies and new memories, one unscripted moment at a time.

This is the first full length Tim Federle book that I’ve ever read! I’ve previously read two short stories of his that were published in anthologies, but that’s it. I’m happy that I finally read it, because I’m a big fan of everything that he represents and have followed him on Twitter for some time now. Anyway, this was a nice introduction to him. I’m definitely going to check out his Nate books and whatever he writes next in the future. However, this book simply wasn’t my favorite, which makes me sad. I can’t completely put my finger on what it is, but it was missing something for me. This just didn’t click for me as a whole. I think it was a good book, it just wasn’t great for me. I recommend this if you don’t mind angst and enjoy books that have a snarky/clever protagonist.

Quinn is a pretty interesting main character. I’m always a fan of sarcastic and witty protagonists and Quinn did deliver on this front to an extent. This probably isn’t a fair comparison, but the book in general did remind me a bit of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which is one of my all time favorites. I think that Quinn’s personality didn’t stand out in the way that Simon’s did. Quinn was very sarcastic and hilarious in the beginning, but I think he did lose a little of that as the book continued. I know that some of that is due to the rather serious subject matter, but I think that isn’t enough of an excuse to not still have a strong and memorable personality. He was still interesting, but not my favorite.

So there is a romance in the book, but I honestly don’t feel like it’s super essential to the plot. I liked it and I thought that it was a great example of a summer romance. The boys weren’t a couple that I rooted for necessarily, but I think it was still important for Quinn’s general character development. I wanted to focus more on the things that I liked and disliked. So a positive is that I thought the humor was clever and fun. I also felt like a lot of the secondary characters were well developed and complicated. I thought the stories were interesting and layered. There was one storyline in particular that had a twist to it that I honestly didn’t see coming at all. That was a pleasant surprise for me. I thought the romance was relatable and intriguing. The LGBTQ rep was also awesome. Quinn wasn’t out of the closet yet, but his sexuality still wasn’t a huge part of the plot either, it was just a natural part of it. What I didn’t like is that I was truthfully pretty bored. I wasn’t always entertained for whatever reason. Maybe it was the story that just didn’t totally click, but it didn’t work for me. The pace just seemed rather slow as a whole. Like I mentioned earlier, it seemed to be missing something essential. I thought that the concept was interesting, but the execution wasn’t as great as I was anticipating it to be.

My review might sound rather negative, but I don’t mean it to be! I think that it was a solid novel, just not the best. I’m pretty likely to forget about it sooner rather than later. It wasn’t painful to read or anything, I still believe that Federle is a great author and I want to read more from him. He has such a unique and compelling voice as an author and I’m dying to read more of it. I can’t help but compare it to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and it just didn’t come close to that. I liked the book, but it wasn’t my favorite. I hope that people read it because it’s still an interesting and important book!

three-stars

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Hope Was Here Review

January 29, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★

Hope Was Here ReviewHope Was Here by Joan Bauer
on June 2nd, 2005
Source: Library
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four-stars
Hope is a 16-year-old girl, living a nomadic lifestyle with her aunt Addie. Addie is a chef and restaurant manager, and Hope works as a waitress. They're always moving from place to place, and the story opens with them up-rooting from Brooklyn, New York. Before she leaves, Hope scribbles 'Hope Was Here' onto the menu board - it's become her motto, a ritual she carries out whenever they have to hit the road - again. Hope's a city girl and she isn't sure how she's going to tackle life in 'cow country'. Things start hotting up for her, though, when she gets embroiled in the local politics of Mulhoney, Wisconsin while working at the Welcome Stairways diner- Soon, Hope is tackling big issues about her own past, while grappling with some surprising developments in her new home town.

This was a wonderfully short yet beautiful novel that I really enjoyed. It only takes you a few hours to read it, which is a definite perk to picking it up in the first place. I’ve only read one book from Joan Bauer in the past and that was Rules of the Road. I found that one to be completely touching and a fun read as a whole. Not going to lie, it definitely made me cry. Hope Was Here also had similar emotions: funny but also sad. Strangely, this one was rather accurate to what’s going on in the world when it comes to politics. Really though, there’s a rather crooked politician who manipulates pretty much everyone in the town except a few good people who are made aware of what exactly is going on. Sounds familiar, right? Anyway, this was a nice read and I’m happy that I picked it up.

Hope was easily the highlight of the book for me. She has a wonderful and fierce personality from the very first page. She just had some of the best and laugh out loud funny lines. She was a character that I was personally able to identify with. Though she could be a little immature at times, she was still relatable and fascinating. She’s one of my new favorite female characters! She’s an inspirational character, and she reminded me a lot of a Sarah Dessen heroine.

There isn’t much romance in this book so I’m not really going to touch on that at all. However, the romance between Hope and a cute cook at the restaurant where her and her aunt worked. That wasn’t really that big of a plot point, but it was still a sweet little side story that went on. A lot of the romance isn’t actually between Hope and anyone, it’s actually between her aunt and the kind owner of the restaurant who is also running for mayor. The main focus of the story is really about non-romantic relationships. Hope doesn’t know much about her mother besides the waitressing tips that she gives her when she visits her every now and then. Her aunt Addie is the one who takes care of her and does everything she can to provide for her. They move to a lot of different places and work at a lot of different restaurants but this place is one of their favorite places yet.

I found Hope Was Here to be a wonderful and charming short little read. I’m happy that I had the chance to read another book from Joan Bauer. She’s written yet another memorable story filled with a fantastic cast of characters. I mentioned it earlier, but this story reminds me a lot of a Sarah Dessen book, specifically Keeping the Moon, which also featured characters who worked in a restaurant. This was a refreshing and enlightening read. Though it was written awhile ago, it still felt just as timely as ever. It wasn’t a perfect book by any means, it could have been a little longer which would have allowed for more character growth. However, it was still pretty freaking good and I look forward to reading more from Joan Bauer.

four-stars

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The Female of the Species Review

January 22, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

The Female of the Species ReviewThe Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 20th 2016
Pages: 341
Source: Library
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three-stars
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

So this book was a difficult book for me to rate. On one hand, I really adored the message of this book and basically everything that this story represented. However, I also personally wasn’t completely able to look past some of the plot and characters. In my opinion, this story isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s especially not for people who aren’t into dark books or strong violence. This contains a solid amount of violence, and even some acts against animals, which I think people will likely have the most issues with. I also found myself struggling with the animal violence in the story, which I’ll explain more later on in my review. That being said, this was a fast paced story that was extremely intense, but it was far from perfect. I can’t say that this is my favorite, but I’m still happy that I read it.

There’s three main POV’s in this story. First we have Alex, who’s older sister was brutally raped and murdered years ago and her killer wasn’t arrested. Alex ends up taking matters into her own hands and killing him herself. I don’t consider this to be a spoiler since we learn this very early on in the book. Anyway, we can basically consider Alex to be like a younger Dexter who isn’t really a serial killer, she just believes in getting justice for those who are being wronged. We also have Peekay, which isn’t her real name, but everyone calls her that because she’s a Preacher’s Kid. I liked her, but I wasn’t sure what to make of her views on her parents and religion. She talked a lot about how she no longer believed in religion and said bad things about her parents, but I didn’t really understand why? I did think that she was a strong and powerful character as a whole. She was also a solid friend to Alex, and I enjoyed their friendship. Our final main character is Jack, who I probably liked the least. However, I do think that he evolved a lot as a character throughout the story. At the beginning, he was a major douchebag who only acted on his hormones. By the end of the story, he still was very much dominated by those hormones, but he was still a better person who had changed his way of thinking to an extent.

So one of the problems that I had with this book was the animal violence. Though it wasn’t exactly a major point of the plot, it still disturbed me that it was included at all. In the beginning, I was excited that Alex and Peekay both volunteered at the animal shelter. Though Alex can be a ridiculously violent person, she shows nothing but pure kindness towards animals. There were a few brief scenes that featured some really graphic instances of what happens when the shelter has to deal with dead animals. I think the point of the scene was that it showed extreme violence towards these animals, which brought out some equally violent images from Peekay, who views these as awful and wrong thoughts. Though I’ve tried to justify it to an extent, it still doesn’t make sense to me. I also felt disconnected from the characters a lot of the time. I respected the fact that this was a take on rape culture, but that still doesn’t mean that I really identified with the characters. I also realize that characters being likable isn’t a reason to like or not like a story, in this case though, I just wasn’t able to feel that much of an emotional attachment to the characters, mostly Jack. The ending also caused me to knock about half a star or even a full star off of it. It honestly caught me off guard entirely, it just didn’t feel like an appropriate ending to me!

The Female of the Species is a different kind of book to say the least. I’ve never read anything by Mindy McGinnis before but I’m sure I’ll pick up her stories in the future. This book was pretty well written. I think she did a solid job at making all three of these POV’s unique. That can be a particularly difficult thing to pull off, but the author did this with ease. This was an interesting take on rape culture that I’ve never really seen before. I seriously enjoyed this aspect of the book. There were just some other parts that I wasn’t a huge fan of and so that affected my rating. I do recommend it, but only to those who are okay with a good amount of violence.

three-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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Salt to the Sea Review

January 4, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★

Salt to the Sea ReviewSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 393
Source: Library
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four-stars
Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.
Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

So this book has received nothing but rave reviews since it was released back in February. I’ll admit that I had some serious reservations about it since I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction books at all. Anyway, I knew that I had to give this one a chance since so many people have absolutely loved it. I’m happy to say that I found this to be a beautiful, touching, and heartbreaking book that continually moved me throughout the story. This wasn’t an easy read due to the heaviness of the topic, but Sepetys’s quick pace kept the book moving at all times. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend that you do. This is one that will stay with you long after finishing it.

This book faces on an epic tragedy that so many people know absolutely nothing about. Wilheim Gustoff was the biggest tragedy in maritime history, yes, it was even greater than the Titanic. It takes place towards the end of World War II. The ship belonged to the Germans and was bombed by a Soviet Union submarine when they were trying to evacuate all German citizens. The ship was extremely overcapacity at that point. In the end, there were over 9,000 people who died, about 5,000 of them being children. This is just a little bit of background on the story since it’s definitely not in most history books.

Salt to the Sea doesn’t just have one main character, it has four of them. I’d say we might get more chapters for a few of the characters over some of the others, but they are still all vital voices in the story nonetheless. Our four teenagers are Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred. Joana is a nurse who is doing everything she can to be reunited with her family. Florian is a mysterious boy who is filled with secrets about where he comes from. Emilia is a young Polish girl who left her homeland for safety and is still searching for that. Alfred is a young German sailor who is very blind to anything but “orders” from his “master” aka Hitler. Though the chapters are extremely short, I still felt like the voices were all strong and well developed. We never overstayed our welcome with these characters, we learned just enough information to become so invested in their fates and lives before suddenly the tragedy strikes and things will never be the same for them after that.

I don’t really want to spoil it, but I will say that there is some romance in the story. This is a tragedy so obviously that’s the main focus here, but it’s also nice to have a little bit of a bright spot in the midst of all the darkness surrounding the story. I will say that Florian is seriously such a swoony boy and I loved his character so much. Yes, he had his secrets, but he was also so kind and awesome. I really sympathized with a lot of his story. I will admit that Alfred is a boy who disgusted more and more as the book went on. Honestly though, that should be expected considering he’s a German boy right in the middle of when Hitler rose to power. Though you don’t like him, you also have to admit that he was well written and complicated.

All in all, this was a beautiful book that I truly enjoyed reading. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but I’m glad that I took a chance on it anyway. Salt to the Sea is filled with such memorable and touching characters with a heartbreaking and painful true story as well. Full warning, though you know what’s coming, be prepared to cry regardless. I try my best to stay clear of REALLY depressing books, but this one was worth the read for me. Even if you don’t like historical fiction, I suggest you read Salt to the Sea.

four-stars

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Talking as Fast as I Can Review

December 24, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Talking as Fast as I Can ReviewTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
Published by Ballantine Books on November 29th 2016
Pages: 224
Source: Library
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four-stars
In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.
In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).
In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.
Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).
Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

So I never really know how to review non-fiction books because I read so little of them. When I heard that this was coming out, I just knew that I had to read it. Lauren Graham is one of my favorite actresses and she’s starred in two of my all time favorite shows: Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. Anyway, I just had a feeling that all of her stories would be as hilarious and memorable as she seems to be. Trust me guys, she didn’t disappoint in the slightest. This was such a fantastic and quick read and I’m so happy that I got to read it. I highly recommend reading this if you’re a fan of Lauren Graham’s work. I suppose that you could read it if you don’t know much about her or her shows, but I wouldn’t personally recommend it since I think it would be much less enjoyable for you as a reader.

As mentioned, non-fiction books are honestly really difficult to review. I don’t have all that much to say about this since it’s obviously a very personal story and your enjoyment of it depends on how connected you feel to the author and these stories. I thought that it was extremely intriguing to learn more about Lauren Graham’s background and how she got her start. I knew very little about her childhood or really any of her personal life besides her partner. I loved the stories about her early life with her father and also about skipping kindergarten. I thought that was easily one of the funniest stories in the book. The book started off very strong and it didn’t let up throughout the story.

Some of the other best stories are about how she started her career. Lauren got her start in theatre because she wanted desperately to make it to Broadway. She didn’t have an easy ride to stardom, she worked ridiculously hard to get where she is today. I really enjoyed some of her stories about auditions and things like that. Each story was told in her hilarious and enjoyable tone. I know I keep saying this but this book was simply such a fun read filled with entertaining and witty stories.

I could keep going on and on about how lovely this was to read but I won’t bore you with all the details. As mentioned, Gilmore Girls is one of my all time favorite shows and so is Parenthood. Graham reflects on some fond memories that she has while filming both of them. She obviously focuses on Gilmore Girls more since this was a much longer amount of time. I especially loved it when she rewatched all of Gilmore Girls and she shared her thoughts on each season and explained some of what she remembers from the filming process. She also kept a journal when they filmed the revival and it was a lot of fun to learn what exactly what she was thinking every day. As a fan, it was so fascinating to learn what was happening behind the scenes. Like I said, this was basically everything that I asked for as a fan of this awesome, quirky, and hilarious actress.

four-stars

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What Light Review

December 15, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

What Light ReviewWhat Light by Jay Asher
Published by Razorbill on October 18th 2016
Pages: 251
Source: Library
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three-stars
From Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, comes a romance that will break your heart, but soon have you believing again. . . . Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. 
Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.
By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.
What Light is a love story that's moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

Surprisingly, I honestly don’t have all that many thoughts about What Light. I’ve previously read one Jay Asher book, Thirteen Reasons Why, and that quickly became one of my favorite books after I first read it. This book simply isn’t one of my favorites. I believe that it’s a cute, light, and short contemporary read, but it’s truthfully not anything all that special. If you’re looking for a sweet contemporary and not something that will make you think deeply about the world like Thirteen Reasons Why, then I think that you’ll likely enjoy Jay Asher’s latest.

To tell you guys the truth, I didn’t feel like Sierra was that memorable of a protagonist. I actually had to look at the synopsis just to remember her name. She was a sweet teenage girl who I was able to relate to on some levels, but not enough that her character actually stuck with me long after I finished reading the book. I did respect that she was so sure about what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to fight for it, even with the people closest to her didn’t approve of it.

The love interest, Caleb, wasn’t particularly memorable or unique either. Though I will admit that I did remember his name without looking it up. Sierra has heard some pretty vicious rumors about Caleb’s past that continues to haunt him today. I was expecting it to be a lot worse than it actually was. Yes, it was sort of serious, but not really once you knew all of the context surrounding the incident. And once you also take into consideration the fact that the person involved in the incident has no bitterness towards him at all. I just felt like it was a little dramatic and unrealistic how the rumor would get blown out of proportion and continually change how people see him. My favorite part about Caleb was definitely how he bought Christmas trees to give to people in need. I thought that this was such a selfless and swoony thing to do and I really liked him for it.

So the romance between them was basically insta-love. The relationship just in general moved at a ridiculously fast pace since they only have a bit less than a month to get to know each other. As you can probably already tell, it wasn’t my favorite. I did think that it did portray some aspects of what it means to fall in love for the first time in an accurate way. Although I’m being pretty critical about it, I will say that I still found the romance to be rather adorable. I especially loved how they bonded over delivering the trees that Caleb buys for families who need it together. It was a sweet bonding moment that helped the relationship progress and grow in a realistic way.

Although I’ve been pretty open about the things that I wasn’t a fan of, there was certainly just as many things that I enjoyed. I loved that it took place on a Christmas tree farm. I thought that was a unique and cool setting, making this the perfect read around the Holiday’s. Though I thought that the book probably could have been a little longer for more character and plot development, I still liked that the length made it so you could devour it in a short amount of time. This was the lighthearted contemporary read that I really needed right now and I’m happy that I read it!

three-stars

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Beauty and the Mustache Review

December 6, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★

Beauty and the Mustache ReviewBeauty and the Mustache (Knitting in the City, #4; Winston Brothers, #0.5) by Penny Reid
Published by Cipher-Naught on August 24th 2014
Pages: 376
Source: Library
Also by this author: Beard Science (Winston Brothers, #3)
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three-stars
There are three things you need to know about Ashley Winston: 1) She has six brothers and they all have beards, 2) She is a reader, and 3) She knows how to knit.
Former beauty queen, Ashley Winston’s preferred coping strategy is escapism. She escaped her Tennessee small town, loathsome father, and six brothers eight years ago. Now she escapes life daily via her Amazon kindle one-click addiction. However, when a family tragedy forces her to return home, Ashley can’t escape the notice of Drew Runous— local Game Warden, reclusive mountain man, bear wrestler, philosopher, and everyone’s favorite guy. Drew’s irksome philosophizing in particular makes Ashley want to run for the skyscrapers, especially since he can’t seem to keep his exasperating opinions— or his soulful poetry, steadfast support, and delightful hands— to himself. Pretty soon the girl who wanted nothing more than the escape of the big city finds she’s lost her heart in small town Tennessee.
This is a full-length novel, can be read as a standalone, and is the fourth book in the 'Knitting in the City' series.

So I’ve never read a book by Penny Reid before, but I’ve heard that her books are seriously hilarious and charming. I wasn’t quite sure where to start, but I decided to start with this one since it sets up the Winston Brothers series. I discovered that this was a fascinating story filled with fantastic and memorable supporting characters. I also thought the romance was really well done. I now definitely understand why Penny Reid is one of the first names people bring up when they mention authors of romantic comedy stories. Though this probably wasn’t my personal favorite in this genre, but I can still understand why people enjoy this author so much and I look forward to reading her other books in the future.

Ashley Winston is a hilarious and fabulous heroine. From the first page, she was just full of personality. She was ridiculously witty with pretty much every comment that she made, and I loved that about her. Ashley is a fun and generally lighthearted character. Though I will admit that I felt like she was a bit on the stuck up side when it comes to her brothers. In the end though, this didn’t end up bothering me too much because her attitude thankfully wasn’t like this throughout the entire story. She was also a strong character and we got to see a more serious side to her as we watched her accept the fact that her beloved mother is dying. I thought she was a great and compelling heroine as a whole.

So our hero is Drew. I thought Drew was extremely amazing and all kinds of swoony. From his first appearance, he continued to shake up Ashley’s world entirely. He was constantly surprising and complicated, which I really enjoyed seeing. He wasn’t a simple character, there were still so many layers to him that Ashley slowly began to uncover. I think one of my favorite things about Drew was how much he obviously cared about Ashley’s brothers and her mom. He was so supportive and comforting to each of them and I loved learning more about his compassion and kindness. Though I thought his character was absolutely awesome, I honestly longed for even more details about his history. I know that the author wanted to focus more on Ashley’s family, but it would been nice to see more of the specifics details about his family and past instead of a basic overview. I just wanted to see even more depth to his character.

Drew and Ashley made a good couple, though they definitely took awhile to get to that place. I thought that Reid was right to make the relationship between them to develop at a reasonably slow pace. They were both dealing with their grief and so neither of them wanted to push anything, though the tension was clear from basically their first interaction. I’m always a fan of the couple forming sort of a friendship or bond before they get into a serious relationship. I think it ultimately makes things more realistic when it’s written this way. So there actually weren’t many sex scenes between them and the ones they did had were rather on the short side. I was honestly expecting it be a bit steamier than it was.

Beauty and the Mustache was a funny and sweet romantic comedy that I’m happy that I read. I honestly adored all six of Ashley’s brothers and I can’t wait to read their stories in the spin-off series that revolves around each of them. Though I thought the characters were very endearing, funny, and filled with charm, there still seemed to be something missing for me. I felt like the plot was very interesting and I related a lot to the grief and loss that the characters felt. I guess maybe my standards in general for romantic comedies might still be set a little too high thanks to Emma Chase’s Sustained, but I just wasn’t completely feeling this one.

three-stars

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Do You Want to Start a Scandal Review

December 5, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Do You Want to Start a Scandal ReviewDo You Want to Start a Scandal (Spindle Cove, #5) by Tessa Dare
Published by Avon on September 27th 2016
Pages: 272
Source: Library
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four-stars
On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.•Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?•Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?•Perhaps the butler did it.
All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.
But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.
Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

So I’ve never read a historical romance before. I’ve tried reading a few of them, but I just haven’t been able to get into them for whatever reason. I’m a fan of basically all types of romances, so it’s weird that historical hasn’t seemed to be my thing. I decided to give Tessa Dare a shot since she’s one of the most popular authors in the genre. I started with the fifth book in the series, which may have not been smart since characters from previous books appear in this one, but I was able to catch up for the most part. I settled on this one just because it’s her most recent book and the concept seemed like my cup of tea. Anyway, I’m happy that I read this one because it actually worked for me! I’m still not sure if I’m going to love ALL books in this genre, but this is definitely a good start.

One of the best parts of the story was easily the MC Charlotte. She was just full of sass and didn’t take crap from anybody. She reminds me a lot of Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. She’s not the type of person to simply sit on the sidelines and watch the men do all the work. She’s the girl who gets right in there and does whatever she can. I loved her attitude and her personality in general. It was all extremely refreshing to see and I certainly won’t mind this genre if more heroines have this kind of spirit. She’s also very perceptive from the start. Her romance with Piers begins due to both of them being in the library when two lovers come in and so the pair is forced to hide together. After the lovers leave, a little boy declares to everybody that he heard noises coming from there and everyone assumes it was Piers and Charlotte. So Charlotte does a little Nancy Drew work to get to the bottom of who it actually was so she won’t be forced to marry Piers. This wasn’t a huge part of the plot, but I liked it because it showed us yet another endearing and awesome side to our heroine.

Piers is definitely one swoony dude. I was afraid that he might be too possessive and typical alpha male. However, he wasn’t exactly that. He had a cold and closed off way about him, but he was much more than just that. Once Charlotte got him to open up, she realized that he was quite the kind and caring man. Yes, he’s serious about his work and doesn’t want any distractions from it, but he also can’t help falling for Charlotte from the first time he meets her. He also had such a romantic and sweet side to him which his girl easily brought out of him. He said some ridiculously hot things at times that sort of bordered on being corny, but were still meaningful coming from him.

Piers and Charlotte made a beautiful and strong couple. As mentioned, they are basically forced into marriage when they are caught together since this is obviously a huge scandal since they aren’t married. Piers surprisingly wants to marry Charlotte for reasons that are completely unknown to her at the time. She’s very much concerned about taking extraordinary spy measures to finding out who the lovers are, but Piers could really care less about discovering who it is. The real focus is on their relationship and not the mystery part, though I liked that as well. In the end, Piers and Charlotte made a good team because Piers allowed them to be one. What I mean by that is they are partners, he doesn’t have total control over everything. The romance was also steamier than I was expecting it to be.

This was a refreshing and surprising read for me. If you aren’t sure what to make of historical romances, you should definitely read this book. In my opinion, it represents pretty much the opposite of what I was expecting a historical romance novel to represent. It was truly a beautiful and compelling love story that managed to hold my attention from the first page. I certainly plan on reading more books by Tessa Dare as soon as possible!

four-stars

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