The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry

Natalie was adopted by a nice white family when she was just days old. For years she’s been communicating with an otherworldly being who would appear in her bedroom at night called Grandmother. Grandmother tells her stories the Natalie rarely understands. But three years ago Grandmother stopped coming and Natalie has felt lost ever since. The week of graduation, Natalie starts seeing things that she shouldn’t. One minute she’s in the hallway at school, but the next she’s seeing rolling hills and grazing buffalo. What’s happening to her and who is the boy that she sometimes sees during her episodes?25467698

This book was kind of interesting…I thought the premise was very unique and I was excited to see where the book would go. Right away I rejoiced that our main character was half Native American. Hooray for diversity in YA! I also really liked that actual Native American legends were woven into this story. In the back of the book I think there was an author’s note listing each of the stories told and what tribes they’re attributed too. I don’t know very much about Native American culture, so I was happy to get a glimpse into some of their stories and the way they might think about things.

The beginning of the book was very slow for me. I had a hard time really getting into it. And then as the story progresses, it doesn’t feel like the pace ever really picks up. We’re in Natalie’s head a lot so even though there’s a time constraint and Natalie is technically “battling against the clock”, the story still progresses at this really unhurried pace. There’s insta-love involved which I usually hate, but it wasn’t the worst in this book. Of all of the insta-love stories that I’ve read, I feel like this one was on the more realistic end of things. Beau seemed like a fairly interesting character (even if we’re not really clear on any of his motivations) but I kept imagining him as being Native American also…which, I don’t think he actually was.

Honestly, I kind of feel like a lot of this book went over my head. Like I said earlier, we’re in Natalie’s head A LOT and there’s quite a bit of internal struggle going on in there. In the end, I’m not really sure if she really did develop as a character. What did she learn about herself? I feel like she definitely learned something, but I’m not picking up on what it was. Then there was the resolution of the plot. It’s like…I kind of get it, but the last couple of chapters seemed super info-dumpy and I don’t think I got all of it. And then there was the ending…which was just okay for me. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either.

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I feel like this book is really different from a lot of books that are popular right now. It definitely has a darker overall tone to it. The alternate realities/time travel element was interesting even if it wasn’t necessarily explained that well. There are some religious elements to the story as well that I thought were interestingly tied in. Overall, I don’t think most readers will necessarily hate this book, but I also don’t think you’ll regret passing on it.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate. Some brief, strong language.
Violence: Moderate. Some mention of domestic abuse.
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. A lot of underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Moderate

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy [ARC]

Jaycee’s brother Jake died the day of his high school graduation and every year since then, Jaycee has revisited Jake’s favorite hang-out for a macabre homage to her brother. This summer, she finds a map left behind by her brother with a list of dares and she decides to complete each of his dares in order to feel closer to him. What Jaycee doesn’t count on is the people who decide to tag along and the truths that she will discover along with the dares.25679559

I was not expecting this book. McCarthy deals with some heavy topics such as death, abusive relationships, and uncertain futures. The characters in this book are much deeper than I usually see in Young Adult fiction because a lot of the time the plot is the main focus. The book switches off between five different perspectives so we really get to know three of the characters very well. Only three because Mik’s chapters are graphic novel-esque and Bishop’s feature a piece of art that he’s created. I just want to say that I LOVE the variation in the chapters. I enjoyed reading the book, but I also felt really eager to reach one of Mik or Bishop’s chapters.

The characters were well thought-out and I liked that nobody and nothing was black and white. There were some “bad” characters, but things also weren’t as simple as they may have seemed on the surface. McCarthy has the reader dive into each of the characters and as the book progresses, each character learns something(s) about themselves. The character development in this book is CRAZY and even the secondary characters have depth. Characters did have a tendency to be a little immature at times, but not necessarily in an unrealistic way.

The settings in this book are excellently described and it makes me want to do a little bit of urban exploring myself. The different places that the group visits match the mood of the overall book and the characters themselves in a haunting way.

Overall, I thought this book was a good read that dealt with some important themes and issues. There was quite a bit of content, however, and because the issues are so heavy I would only recommend this book for older teen readers.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. Several scenes throughout with teenage drinking.
Sexual Content: Heavy. Nothing too explicit, but a big part of one of the story lines (talked about a lot).

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Remy is just three months from going to Stanford. She has one last summer to spend with her three best girl friends and then she’s out of here. She doesn’t expect to meet Dexter–who happens to be wrong for her in every way possible. He’s unorganized, can’t sit still, and worst of all, he’s a musician.

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I’m going to come out and say it. I hate the new Sarah Dessen covers. It’s all about this classic look to me. Anyway. Irrelevant. This was the first Sarah Dessen book that I ever read way back in junior high. I remember how much older than me Remy seemed at the time. It’s crazy to me that I’m now about the same age as Christopher (maybe even older!). How did that even happen??? Despite that, it still feels like Remy’s older than I am. It’s a weird thing. I like this book because I feel like Remy is different when held up against some of Dessen’s other protagonists. She’s feisty and sarcastic. She doesn’t take bull from anyone and would rather shoot you straight than worry about your feelings. Some of the times it feels like Dessen’s main characters are more or less interchangeable (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). Not with Remy. She is her own person.

Dexter is a sweet guy and I really like how his relationship with Remy developed. It felt natural with who they are as people. Not forced, and not too fast. The reader can see how different they are, but Dessen still makes their relationship seem believable.

One of the things I really love about this book is the secondary cast. Dexter’s band mates all have distinctive personalities as do Remy’s girl friends. They feel like real people who struggle with real problems. As characters, they are used in a way that illustrates who Dexter and Remy are as people without overshadowing them.

Overall, this book is great. I think it really stands out among Dessen’s other books. Who wouldn’t want a friend like Remy?

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate. Some language throughout.
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. Smoking and underage drinking throughout–but not cast in a glamorous light.

BLOG TOUR: This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup (GIVEAWAY)

ThisOrdinaryLife_FCThis Ordinary Life
by Jennifer Walkup
Publisher: Luminis Books, Inc.
Release Date: October 1st 2015

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SYNOPSIS:
Sometimes Hope is the Most Extraordinary Gift of All.

High-school radio host Jasmine Torres’s life is full of family dysfunction, but if she can score the internship of her dreams with a New York City radio station, she knows she can turn things around.

That is, until her brother Danny’s latest seizure forces her to miss the interview, and she’s back to the endless loop of missing school for his doctor appointments, picking up the pieces of her mother’s booze-soaked life, and stressing about Danny’s future.

Then she meets Wes. He’s the perfect combination of smart, cute, and funny. He also happens to have epilepsy like her brother. Wes is living a normal life despite his medical issues, which gives Jasmine hope for Danny. But memories of her cheating ex-boyfriend keep her from going on a real date with Wes, no matter how many times he asks her.

Jasmine can’t control everything. Not who wins the internship, not her mother’s addiction, not her brother’s health–not even where her heart will lead her. She wishes she could just have an ordinary life, but maybe what she already has is pretty extraordinary after all.

REVIEW:
I was really interested in radio when I was in high school, so I was excited to pick up this book where the main character is also interested in radio. Jasmine seems like the kind of girl who really has her head on straight–and for good reason. Her mom has been kind of neglectful, so Jasmine has had to step into the parent role. Even though she’s trying to take care of her family, I liked that she still had time to be sweet with Danny. They seemed to have a really special relationship and it made me think of my own little brother.

Overall, I liked Jasmine quite a bit as a main character, but she had some traits that I disliked. She could be a little vindictive and bratty towards her mom. I understand that her mom isn’t doing what she’s supposed to be doing, but I don’t feel like there’s ever an excuse to be that rude to another human being. Another thing is that I don’t feel that the author showed us why Jasmine is so special. I get that she’s awesome with her brother and is very mature, but if you gave her a different family, what’s special about her? This made it so that I couldn’t quite see what Wes saw in her. It didn’t make sense to me why he was being so persistent with wanting to date her. I will say this about Jasmine though, I’m so glad that she never ONCE thought about taking her ex-boyfriend back. Way to stand up for yourself!

The story line and drama is mostly centered around the radio internship/epilepsy so I was glad that neither Wes nor Frankie added to the drama. There are times when I feel like an author has put too much drama into their book, but in this case I felt that there was a really nice balance. Overall, I liked the ending of the book. It’s not your typical happy ending, but it’s hopeful. Most of all, I love that this book brings attention to a disease that I, personally, did not know a lot about.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy (alcoholic adult character).

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

GIVEAWAY


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Jennifer Walkup
Award-winning author Jennifer Walkup is most often found writing, reading, and spending time with her husband and young sons. A member of SCBWI and RWA, Jennifer also works as an editor and creative writing instructor, and is an advocate for Epilepsy awareness. This Ordinary Life is her second novel.

To hear about Jennifer’s upcoming books, sign up for her newsletter here.

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Note: I received this book free from the Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Sydney has never been the center of her family’s attention. That spotlight has always been occupied by her older brother, Peyton. At first, it was for good reasons. Peyton was so outgoing and charming and friendly. He was athletic and smart. Then, he started getting into drugs and alcohol and he became the center of attention for bad reasons instead. When Peyton gets into a drunk driving accident where he leaves a teenage boy paralyzed, he’s sent to jail and each family member has a different reaction. Sydney is overwhelmed with guilt, her father throws himself into his work while her mom throws herself into what she’s always thrown herself into–Peyton. Seemingly forgotten, Sydney switches schools and meets siblings Layla and Mac Chatham. They draw her into their world and Sydney realizes that there are people out there who can see and appreciate her.
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I LOVED THIS BOOK. Sorry, I just wanted to get that out of the way early. I finished this book and immediately had that feeling that you get when you’re done with a really good book–like there’s a vacuum sucking at your soul. This was the first time that I’d read a Sarah Dessen book critically. I’ve read all of her books, but before it was just for fun. This time I was looking at her writing, how I felt about her characters, the plot, etc. Maybe that’s why I felt like this book was deeper than her others (in reality, I may just need to read her other books with a more critical eye). Okay, let’s just get into the meat of the review, shall we?

Right off the bat, I could feel my heart aching for Sydney. She felt sadder than Dessen’s other protagonists. Not in a depressed way, but just overwhelmingly sad and lonely. Isolated. Her friends at school couldn’t possibly understand the situation she was in and her parents weren’t willing to go over it with her. So she was just alone with the shame and the guilt caused by Peyton’s accident. I will say, a lot of Dessen’s books place the main character in a new situation where they seem to “accidentally” make these cool new friends who are awesome. That happened in this book too–not that I minded, but I could see how some people might.

Layla and Mac were perfect in this book. I loved seeing their relationship as siblings along with their older sister and they are so sweet to their mom. It’s awesome to see such a tight family. Layla is THE BEST. Dependable, loving, and understanding…just what every girl needs in a BFF. And she just gets Sydney. She sees what Sydney needs and will give it to her whether it’s some tough advice, a listening ear, or some protection/back-up against Ames. Then there’s Mac. A decent guy, a NICE guy. I like that Dessen always has her protagonists end up with nice guys. Whenever there’s a “bad boy” in the picture, you can be sure that it’s not going to end well. The thing that I especially liked about Mac were the things that he didn’t do. *Mini Spoiler* It wasn’t Mac that saved Sydney from Ames, in the end, it was Sydney’s dad. I LOVED that detail. It’s not that Mac didn’t care about Sydney or wasn’t willing to throw down with Ames, I just love that her dad was the one who ended up punching that creep in the face. And I think that’s kind of how it should be. It seems like a lot of YA books have the love interest step into a protector role, so I appreciate that Dessen didn’t do that to Mac. I love that her father got that role in the end. *End Spoiler*

In the end, there were a couple of things that I didn’t care for: 1) There was kind of a lot of foreshadowing. Foreshadowing has a time and a place, but when it’s used too often, I find it very distracting from the present. 2) “I didn’t realize I was holding my breath”. Dessen used a derivative of this phrase at least three times. See Joey’s post over at Thoughts and Afterthoughts to see the true impracticality/improbability of this phrase. It’s something that kind of bothered me before, but after reading Joey’s rant, it’s even more aggravating.

But those were the only bad things! The rest of this book is AMAZING. It’s not plot-driven so much as it is character-driven and I love that about Dessen’s books. Nothing important ever really happens, but you can definitely see each character’s growth. Everyone needs to read this book. Then they need to reread it. I know I will be. Sarah Dessen does it again folks. I wasn’t a big fan of her last book, but this completely makes up for it. Standing ovation.

Overall Rating: 5
Violence: Mild
Language: Moderate. Strong language, but not frequent.
Sexual Content: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy

Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos [ARC]

Pre-teens who are creative are tapped to go immediately into the workforce while those who are not are listed as “adequate” and continue their schooling to become teachers, doctors, and journalists. In this world fashion is everything and any given article of clothing could be in one week but out the next. The same holds true for people.
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Finally a Netgalley ARC that I enjoyed! I was starting to feel guilty for giving bad review after bad review, but I genuinely liked this book. Think Brave New World mixed with the Lego Movie set in the fashion industry and you have this book. That may not sound appealing, but it surprisingly works. I just finished this book today, but since it’s Earth Day, I wanted to get this review up as soon as possible. A big theme throughout is how wasteful this society is (and it’s obvious that the author thinks our current society isn’t too far off). Some of the characters try to start an “eco-chic” movement and at the back of the book there are some sources for being eco-friendly. Thus why I wanted to publish this post on Earth Day.

Okay, but onto the analysis. I liked that the chapters alternated between the characters Ivy and Marla. Ivy is a teen pop idol while Marla is working at one of the Big 5 Fashion Houses. It lets the reader see two separate angles of how the society operates. In addition, it was interesting that the author chose separate points of view for the characters. Marla’s chapters are written in first person while Ivy’s are written in third person. Not an obvious thing, but I thought it was interesting that the author chose to write that way. I also liked that Marla’s main group had a unique dynamic. They were united in a cause, but that was the only thing uniting them. They didn’t agree 100% on what their purpose was and they all had different degrees of investment in the group–if that makes sense. Lastly, a lot of times in these dystopian type books, teenagers form a revolution but it seems a little implausible that they would have as much power as they seem to have. It’s like…after hundreds of years in their society, all of the sudden these teenagers are special enough to take on the adults who are clearly running things and have everything under control. What gives them the power or the right to do that? Well, in this book teenagers legitimately have the power in society. So it’s more plausible when they stage a revolution against some of the more powerful adults.

A couple things I didn’t care for. First, I didn’t feel like any of the characters were that developed. As a group they had depth, but on an individual level I felt like they were lacking. But maybe they’re supposed to be portrayed that way because of the society they grew up in? Marla especially was an issue for me. I liked her, but she felt really naive. Even when she met the other drafters and *small spoiler* joined their cause, she seemed kind of clueless the whole time. I wasn’t 100% convinced that she thought the strike was a good idea or that she even knew what was going on and why they were doing what they were doing. Just a small thing.

The ending was great. Not necessarily a happy one, but realistic in my opinion. Make sure to pre-order yourself a copy before it comes out May 5th. Amazon link HERE.

Overall Rating: 4
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate
Language: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. Characters repeatedly take an illegal “drug” called Placidophilus (P Pills).

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Summer I Turned Pretty Trilogy by Jenny Han

Belly (short for Isabel) has been going to the beach house every summer since she can remember with her mom and her brother, Steven. They share the beach house with her mom’s childhood best friend and her two sons Conrad and Jeremiah. The three boys have always been their own little crew and all Belly wants is to be included. Finally things start to change the summer she turns 16. For the first time she feels pretty and she thinks the boys are starting to notice that too.summer-series

I did not particularly care for these books. Obviously Belly is going to be caught between the two brothers and we’re going to see how that plays out. Blah blah blah. First of all, I guess I didn’t particularly care for Belly. In the first book she’s too immature–always on the brink of crying or getting overly embarrassed. In the second book she’s grown up a little bit, but not really. In the last book she’s just okay. Secondly, I didn’t really like either of the brothers! It’s kind of a problem when you don’t like any of the three main characters. I could never take Jeremiah seriously and Conrad was too back and forth. Just make up your mind! I will say, though, that I liked both Taylor and Susannah.

Speaking of people going back and forth…Belly drove me nuts. The. Whole. Time. Pick a guy and stick with it. I just didn’t like that this one girl was pitting two brothers against each other. How awkward. These are people you have to spend the rest of your life with! They were easy reads, but I wouldn’t say they were necessarily fun. Mostly I was agonizing over how dumb the characters were and just wanted them to make up their minds.

Overall Rating: 2
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate
Language: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy

 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath and Wren are identical twins moving away to college for the first time. Cath is worried about leaving her bipolar father by himself and she’s angry at Wren for not wanting to room together. Now she’s stuck in a room with her scary roommate Reagan and the ever-present Levi–too scared to go find the dining hall. This is the story of Cath’s first year in college and how she learns who she is without Wren, who she is as a writer, and most importantly what things matter most.FANGIRL_CoverDec2012

This is the second time I’ve read this book and it’s one of the few books that I own on my Kindle even though I was able to check it out from the online library. It’s just…THESE CHARACTERS. I cannot get enough of Cath or Levi or Wren or Reagan. I fully expect to drive to Nebraska and find these people living and breathing. It’s really amazing to me how even though Cath appears weak and kind of weird at the beginning of the book, I wasn’t annoyed with her, I just empathized. This was definitely not my experience with my first year of college (I was more like Wren, minus the alcohol) but I felt like I understood it anyway.

Now, don’t even get me started on Reagan. I take notes in a journal while I’m reading just so I know what I want to blog about later. This was my note on Reagan: “Reagan. Is. Awesome”. She’s strangely protective of Cath and I love it! She’s so fiery and strong but so kind at the same time. Just read this:

“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too,” Reagan said. “I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”

I don’t know, that might seem kind of mean for her to say, but really. Just classic. She’s an awesome character. Maybe you have to read the book to understand.

Levi’s great as well, of course. He’s an imperfect guy, but he’s almost perfect for Cath (I say “almost” because I think one of the points of this book is that no one’s perfect). I get tired sometimes of reading about guys who are “so ridiculously good looking” or who walk around all Adonis-like. Give me a break.

This book is definitely geared towards more mature YA readers. There’s nothing explicit in it, but I’d definitely say 16+ so just be prepared for that kind of content. Topics that parents may want to be aware of: Family issues exist from Cath and Wren’s mother leaving them at a young age, the family is dealing with Bipolar Disorder, and underage drinking. All major themes.

Overall Rating: 5
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate. Mentioned quite a few times but not explicitly or crudely.
Language: Heavy. College language, but again, not too explicit.
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. A couple characters smoke, one has a major drinking problem, but the main character does not do either.