Archive for the ‘book reviews’ Category:

Raw, beautiful, and real | SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson

20522640Novel: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: May 8th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

 

Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.

I am such a sucker for books about family. They automatically make any book a MILLION times better for me, and I think Second Chance Summer may take the cake on the portrayal of a family dynamic.

The story is all about Taylor’s family reconnecting during her father’s last months. They go to a lake house where they summered every year until Taylor was twelve, and at first, none of them are all that happy to be there. But once they begin to adjust, find friends, and reconnect, it becomes a beautiful summer. Scenes of Taylor talking with her older brother, having breakfast with her dad at a diner, and having dinner together as a family made me so, so happy. You rarely see moments like that in YA – especially little ones like dinners, heartfelt conversations, and witty banter. Usually, family dynamics in YA serve a purpose, but in Second Chance Summer Taylor’s family feels like a given. Of course they’d be so present in the story, and the story wouldn’t be the same without them in it. I loved the family dynamic that Matson created, and this is something I think all of her books truly excel at – family is always incredibly present in the story.

One of the other things I adored in the book was the focus on forgiveness. Taylor’s main issue with returning to Lake Phoenix was that her former best friend and first boyfriend would most likely still be there, and they aren’t exactly on good terms. Over the course of the story, Taylor has to forgive herself for her actions all those years ago, and also for the way she handles situations when she gets nervous or scared. She has to learn to stop running away, a theme that I and I think many other people deeply relate to.

And then they’re the heart-breaking reality of the cancer consuming Taylor’s father. For much of the book, his cancer doesn’t take a main role in the story. Instead, it’s there, in the background of the story, only brought up when moments remind Taylor of her father’s declining health. However, reading about Taylor watching her father slowly die in front of her just broke me in half. It’s such a raw and honest narration of that experience, and I think a different perspective than many of the “cancer books” in YA. In Second Chance Summer, the focus is on making those last moments hold meaning and purpose. On creating lasting memories and showing people how much they mean to us. I think those themes will be relatable to anyone, no matter if they’ve lost someone or not. The heartbreak of an impending loss of someone we love, I think, is universal.

My only complaint is that as much as I loved Henry and his and Taylor’s relationship, it felt a bit rushed. I didn’t quite ship them together as much as I wanted to, and I think that was because I didn’t know Henry very well. I wish I had seen more of him earlier in the book. However, I adored Taylor’s rekindled friendship with Lucy, because it reminded me of rekindled friendships I’ve had over the years, and how beautiful summer friends are.

Second Chance Summer is an emotional, raw, and beautiful story about love, loss, and family dynamics, and is an absolute treasure.

 

My inner history nerd is dying right now | THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE

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Novel: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig | Goodreads
Release Date: February 16th, 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Reviewing

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

As some of you may or may not, I’m a MASSIVE history nerd. Like. Really, really big. Moon-sized big. So, obviously time-travel of any kind? GIMME.

The Girl from Everywhere is time-travel, except there are ships! weird time-traveling abilities! maps! flirtatious and kind thief Kash! (I’m a big Kash fan, FYI.)

As you can tell, this book is right up my alley. It’s all the things I love in a book and drew me in from the beginning. Nix and father’s relationship fascinated me, especially the decision he was making that would risk Nix’s life. It creates an interesting dynamic that spans the course of the book and made the story much more about their relationship and Nix coming into her own than anything else, which I adored. I loved seeing not only Nix develop, but also seeing her father, Slate, make hard decisions and struggle with the consequences of it. He is deeply flawed, and it made me like him a million times more.

The concept is just…beautiful. A ship that travels through time with the help of maps? YES. Heilig has obviously done intensive research, because not only does she intricately describe life aboard a ship, but also brings the historical locations to life on the page. You can feel the beauty of Hawaii in your bones, hear the splash of the water against the boat, and smell the sea. I was astonished by the details she managed to find about these locations, and she made them vibrant and real, no matter how old the time.

The book is set in Hawaii for the most part, and centers around Slate’s attempts to get a map that would take them back to the time of Nix’s mother’s death. Slate wants to save Nix’s mother, but this would risk Nix’s entire existence, which causes Nix to oppose her father getting the map. In her attempts to save herself, she meets Blake, a young man who surprises Nix in more ways than one, and Joss, who knew her mother and father and gives Nix information that will change everything. Set against the backdrop of a Hawaii becoming more and more influenced by imperialism, the story will enchant every reader (it certainly grabbed me!)

The Girl from Everywhere is an incredible debut from Heidi Heilig that will appeal to readers who enjoyed Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger, and are fans of historical fiction, fantasy, and time-travel. Go out and grab yourself a copy, and wait in desperation with me for the sequel, The Ship Beyond Time!

 

One day + inventive storytelling | THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon

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Novel: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon | Goodreads
Release Date: November 1st, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Reviewing

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I’ve read enough books set over the course of one day to know that they are usually not my cup of tea. I struggle with the insta-love that tends to happen, a lacking setting, and not enough character development. But then I read The Sun Is Also a Star and it became the anomaly in this grouping because it was amazing. 

Me upon finishing:

Nicola Yoon’s debut, Everything, Everything definitely hit me in the feels, but I also had a complicated relationship with it. The book made me angry. It made me hate the mother, angry that the entire story felt like a lie, and that made the reading experience not incredibly enjoyable for me. BUT! The Sun Is Also a Star blew me away.

I consumed this book.

I was immediately struck by two unique characters: a girl about to be deported, and a boy going to an admissions interview for Yale, a school he doesn’t even want to go to. They were dynamic and raw and real from page one, and I think it was this connection to the characters that kept me reading. Then their banter hit me in the feels and the evolving romance broke me half and the TENSION and the question of whether or not Natasha would be deported…I just…I couldn’t stop reading.

The story is beautiful. It’s real. It’s not a happily-ever-after ending, but I think that’s what I loved so much about it. I loved that the ending was a testament to true life: that people’s choices impact our own. (I’m not going to say anything more because I don’t want to spoil but if you’ve read you know what I’m talking about because I was literally YELLING AT THE BOOK at that ending.) Nicola Yoon does a fantastic job of building tension over the course of the book as well as allowing the characters to evolve organically. I loved the character development and how they pushed each other to be honest with themselves.

My #2 favorite thing: the random bits of history about random characters, words, or concepts. There are these short chapters scattered throughout the story told from the perspective of a minor character or someone Natasha and Daniel encounter in passing, or of a scientific concept Natasha mentions. These chapters added a new dimension to the story and allowed the book to feel well-rounded and well-developed, despite the short time frame in which it’s set.

And then my #3 favorite thing: THE FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS. JUST. YES, NICOLA. THANK YOU. Thank you for authentic family dynamics, for complex relationships with heritage, for apologies and understanding. Thank you thank you thank you thank you. The family parts broke me almost as much as the romance did.

So, in conclusion, I loved The Sun Is Also a Star, and I desperately hope this one is as popular as Everything, Everything was, if not more. Yoon has crafted a honest story about heritage, growing up, and love, and I loved every second of it.

Mini Reviews: July 2016

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This month has been full of writing. I marathoned finishing my manuscript (I wrote about forty thousand words in two weeks #dead), so I put reading on the backburner. However, I still managed to make it through these five books, all of which I adored. I started but didn’t finish (sadly) Draw The Line by Laurent Linn and Empire of Dust by Eleanor Herman, which I was really looking forward to but just didn’t engage me enough to continue. Currently, I’m reading The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, which I’m in love with and plan to sit down with and finish this evening.

On to the reviews!

T18081228he Orphan QueenThe Mirror King by Jodi Meadows | Katherine Tegen Books

I read this series per Aneeqah’s request, and it was exactly what I needed. This summer I’ve been loving addicting fantasy series and this one had a perfect mixture of royalty, deceit, friendship, action, and hints of romance. It’s about a young queen who fled her nation as a child when it was invaded, and for the past ten years, she’s been plotting to regain her rightful throne. When she travels to Skyvale Palace in a disguise, she encounters a boy from her childhood, and what she learns from him could change everything.

The Mirror King was an exhilarating sequel and wrapped this duology up wonderfully. It gave me an even bigger appreciation for duologies, which I’m growing to love!

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab | Greenwillow Books

After reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I knew Victoria Schwab was on my favorite authors list, and This Savage Song has cemented my love for her. A dystopian story about monsters who roam free, told through alternating points of view of a monster who wants to be a boy, and a girl who wants to be deadly. They team up after a thrilling turn of events and the friendship that emerges teaches them both that their assumptions were wrong: a monster can be kind, and the daughter of a ruthless mayor is more than her heritage. It’s packed with action, world-building, and incredible writing–the recipe for a Victoria Schwab book.

If you somehow have missed This Savage Song, which hit the New York Times Bestsellers List (!!!!) then go out and get yourself a copy–it won’t disappoint. (also i’m in desperate need of book two omgomgomg)

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The Graces by Laure Eve | Amulet Books (out September 6th, 2016)

I stumbled across this one on Grace’s Instagram (which is gorgeous and full of good book recommendations) and when I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy I jumped at the opportunity. I’m a sucker for unusual and twisted contemporary, and The Graces is the epitome of that–about a girl who befriends a trio of elusive magical-yielding siblings. I loved River, the main character, for her fiery personality, honesty, and relatability, and her friendship with Summer Grace made the book for me. River has a crush on the beautiful Fenrin Grace, the male twin of Thalia Grace, who no one really gets. The book is about River’s friendship with them and how she uncovers the secrets of the Graces–and of a tragic accident that changes everything.

The Graces is perfect for fans of magical realism and books that make you question what’s real and what’s not–I adored it! It’s also the start of a series, which I’m super hyped for.

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The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter | Philomel Books

I’ve been looking at this one for a while, but when Jeff Zentner (author of The Serpent King) told me I needed to read it, I immediately went out and got it from my library. That night, I started and proceeded to consume this book. In the vein of Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces, which I recently read and adored, The First Time She Drowned is about a girl who gets out of a mental institution (which she was put in against her will) and heads off to college. But college isn’t what she was expecting. Her past can’t seem to stay in the past, and Cassie is barely keeping her head above water.

The First Time She Drowned is a heart-wrenching and beautiful story of healing. Cassie’s story of growing up and confronting her past is one that readers will fall as in love with as I did. Kletter’s writing is haunting and lyrical and will pull you in from the first line: “My mother wore the sun like a hat.”


I hope you enjoyed some mini-reviews and go check these titles out–they’re all five star reads from me!

 

Thoughts on GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow

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I read a lot. (That’s a fairly well-known fact, especially if you check my Goodreads profile and see how many books I read in a year.) I read many different genres–fantasy, contemporary, dystopian, science fiction, literary, even some memoirs and non-fiction. I read pretty much everything.

But there’s this certain kind of book that I’ve always gravitated towards.

The “sad” books. The “hard” books. The books that push us to read about pain and grief and suffering and healing–the kind of books that make us sit in un-comfortability and force us to feel. The books about addiction, about screwing up, about depression, about self-harm, about abuse.

The thing about books like these is that they aren’t fantasy. They aren’t made up. Sure, the characters may be, but that plot? That idea? That topic? That’s not made up. That’s real. That pain? Real.

Growing up, I’ve been blessed to not live through that kind of pain, but I’ve always read books about it. These books made me realize that everyone has their own kind of pain, their own demons, their own daily struggle. Whether it be a parent’s divorce, a guilt that you can’t shake, a friend who you’ve been trying to let go of for years and just can’t. These books made me realize that all of our pain is valid and real and that we’re not alone.

Girl in Pieces reminded me of all of this. It reminded me of why I fell in love with Jellicoe Road six years ago, why Wild Awake still gets me thinking, why What We Saw made me understand in a different way. It reminded me why we all read–we read to understand. We read to understand people’s lives, to understand our own, to get a telescope into a new dimension we ourselves don’t experience. We read to feel. To feel deeply and fully and without questions.

And these books? These “hard” books, the books that break us apart and leave us in a puddle of tears, begging the characters to heal, and aching to know what their lives become? These books are vital. These books change people’s lives. These are the kinds of books we have to read. These are the books we should give every teenager to remind them that they aren’t alone, that there are hundreds of people out there just like them. That they can heal.

Charlotte Davis is a girl with a past. A past filled with a father in a river, a mother with a palm on Charlotte’s cheek, a best friend who doesn’t want to feel anymore. A past with a home under an overpass, a past with glass shards and skin, a past with Frank who takes so much and gives nothing in return. Charlotte is, in many ways, broken. She’s what people would call broken, a girl who will never heal. Except Charlotte wants to heal. She wants to get better.

And Girl in Pieces is her story. Her story of pain and relapses and trying to get better and having all the wrong people in her life, but maybe a few good ones. Her story of drawing and washing dishes and getting her first apartment and stumbling through her life, searching for a new story.

Girl in Pieces is a book I don’t think I’ll ever forget, because it made me remember that we’re never alone. Not really. We may feel like we’re the only ones in the darkness, stumbling around for a light, but there’s always someone there, standing next to the switch, just waiting for us to ask them to turn it on. It made me remember that we all have our own Mikey, Blue, Linus, and Tanner. Our own Alice. Our own Casper. Our own Evan, our own Ellis.

Kathleen Glasgow has written a book that feels. It understands what it’s like to be human, to suffer, to want to heal, to struggle to keep it together. It understands what it’s like to start over, to find new friends, to find the good in people. It is real.

Girl in Pieces is a song I never wanted to end.