Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: Life By Committee

Life By Committee
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Published: May 13, 2014
Hardcover, 304 pages
3 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Some secrets are too good to keep. 

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat. 

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe. 

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

The concept for this book is quite unique. Tabitha finds a website where she can share all her deep, dark secrets, and as long as she does the assignment given to her afterwards, her secrets are safe. Seems pretty cool and it plays out flawlessly, but there were a few things about this book that irked me. Throughout the book, there are references to Tab's appearance and moments where we notice that her friends have started treating her differently after she goes through puberty. There are claims that she dresses slutty but nothing about her wardrobe screams slutty to me. Thy pretty much hate her because she has bigger boobs than them and I guess is pretty. It's a very strange situation that didn't seem realistic to me. But with that aside, Tab is the kind of girl who's hard to root for. She's in love with Joe, who has a girlfriend, and they chat online every night and are very cautious around each other at school. The day they cross the line into a new territory is the moment she discovers Life by Committee and her life changes drastically.

Things spiral out of control and everything about the book becomes much more intense. I got invested in Tab's life once she put her secret on that website and once she got her assignment: Kiss him again. Suddenly there are even more moral issues involved in Tab's life. Not only has she already kissed a guy she shouldn't have, but now she must kiss him again and perhaps do even more things she's not comfortable with. But she does it and she continues to put secrets on the website. Everything from that point on in the story is mostly morally wrong and a lot of things happen that I wish didn't, but I understand how they had to in order for the story to play out. This was certainly different from any book I've read before.

Now, I love unlikable characters. Courtney Summers writes fantastic characters who do a lot of wrong things but I still love them. I had a hard time loving Tab, but most of the time I did like her. Her redemption at the end was nicely done and I loved how she read throughout the book. Her active reading trend was fun to read about and made me want to do that with my books. This book had some problems, but the main theme came through perfectly: Everything has consequences. If you kiss someone else's boyfriend, life will not be so easy for you after that. I liked it like this better than in some books where the cheaters end up with a happily ever after. 

“I am a vacation. I am the Caribbean, and a fruity drink and a sunburn and a break from real life. But I am not real life. No one lives in the Caribbean. No one wants a fruity drink every day. I’d rather be water: necessary.” 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: Since You've Been Gone

Since You've Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Published: May 6, 2014
Hardcover, 449 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um...

I've been waiting for a good friendship book for awhile now. I think it's important to highlight friendships more than romance in YA because really, how many of us really found our true love in high school? My first few boyfriends were not love at all, but my friends were always there for me. So here's Emily, a normal girl who keeps to herself and likes to run. One day she runs by one of the old houses in her town and meets Sloane, she doesn't look back. Sloane changes Emily for the better. Emily actually starts living and they become fast friends, doing everything together. We get to watch their friendship form in flashbacks, but it's enough to show you that Emily loves Sloane. So when Sloane disappears one day and all that's left is a list of things she wants Emily to do over the summer, Emily feels lost, but determined. She thinks if she completes the list Sloane will come back to her. It drives Emily to do things she never thought she'd do with people she never thought she'd do them with. 

Emily's summer is one for the books. I loved following her and checking off items from the list alongside her. With the help of Frank, the cute guy she's known forever but never really hung out with, and a few other friends, Emily somehow manages to have a perfect summer without Sloane. She finds out more about herself than she thought possible and does things she never would have imagined. I think I'll make a list of my favourite things about this book:

1. Emily's younger brother is a daredevil. He doesn't have a big part, but when he's in the book he is either hanging out at the top of door frames or climbing way too high at the rock climbing wall. He was adorable.

2. The flashback scene where Sloane and Emily go to a flea market and haggle their way into getting two pairs of sunglasses super cheap. It was the perfect friendship moment.

3. Frank Porter. He was the perfect book boyfriend (well expect for the fact that he had a girlfriend)

4. The list of course. It was simple, but not. There was a lot of things on that list that I might not want to do either. So I was really proud of Emily the whole time!

5. The drawing that Gideon draws on Emily on their way to the Orchard. He's not a big character, but the flashbacks with him were cute.

6. The running playlists. I'm a big fan of playlists, so I love when authors include them in books!

7. Frank's birthday being the same day as mine. July 19th. Just saying.

8. Emily and Frank dancing the night away at a wedding. It was one of those moments that stand out in books where you know the tables will soon be turning between two characters.

9. The chapter titles being items from the list. It worked really well.

10. The cover art and layout of everything. This is a big part to the book. The inside cover, the back cover, even underneath the cover, portray pictures of Sloane and Emily doing things that happen in the book. I love having a picture to go along with a description and the cover models fit Sloane and Emily perfectly. Kudos Simon and Schuster!

This one the perfect summer read, the perfect YA contemporary and the perfect book about friends. I hope to find more books like this, hope to read all of Matson's books and can't wait to spend the summer with my best friend (hopefully she doesn't disappear on me!)

“I somehow knew that the particulars didn't matter. She was my heart, she was half of me, and nothing, certainly not a few measly hundred miles, was ever going to change that.” 

“Real friends are the ones you can count on no matter what.
The ones who go into the forest to find you and bring you home.
And real friends never have to tell you that they’re your friends.” 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: What I Thought Was True

What I Thought Was True
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Published: April 15, 2014
Hardcover, 416 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

Fitzpatrick blew me away with My Life Next Door. Her characters were real, flawed, and couldn't control everything that happened in their lives. They were from two different worlds but that never stopped them from loving each other. It was cute, romantic, and I swooned the entire time. What I Thought was True has some similar elements. The characters are drastically flawed, from two different worlds and as much as they don't want to fall for each other, it's inevitable. But these books are not at all the same. Both stand on their own as very different stories about young love and I loved both in very different ways.

Gwen has lived on a small island all her life. Her blue collar family owns a restaurant and she plans on working there all summer to help pay the bills. When she is offered a job to take care of a summering elderly woman, she takes it up thinking she'll be spending her days reading and relaxing. But that was before she found out that Cassidy Summers has decided to slum it as the yard boy this summer. Gwen is trying to avoid Cass at all costs, but that seems terribly impossible. He's everywhere and he's just as charming as ever. From the very beginning, you know something horrible happened between the two of them, but I did not expect it when it was revealed.

Gwen is not your typical YA heroine. She's stubborn, not overly emotional and has done some questionable things in her past. Most YA books talk about sex like it's the end of the world, by Fitzpatrick takes a realistic approach, in the spur of a moment you may do something that you might regret, but once it's done there's no taking it back. Gwen is not a virgin and she has earned a reputation because of it. This book makes us think of young love in a very different way. Not everyone gets to fall in love with the perfect guy and have a perfect relationship. Some of make mistakes, sometimes love doesn't work out the way you'd like it too. Gwen and Cass certainly have their struggles and the way their relationship plays out made me desperately want them to kiss. The sexual tension was intense and it was perfectly written. But they are not the only ones that were experiencing first love. Gwen's cousin, Nic, who lives with her family, has been dating her best friend, Vivien, for a long time and they are planning on dating much longer. From afar, their relationship looks perfect, but hidden beneath the surface is something not even Gwen can fathom. They were the perfect sub characters and their story was just as important as Gwen's. 

This book is full of feels, betrayal, and most of all love. There is family love, especially between Gwen and her portuguese grandfather. Fitzpatrick weaves together stories from a small island that will relate to anyone who reads this. She's quickly becoming a great name in the YA contemporary genre and I can't wait to read more from her!

“I finally get that sometimes we hold on to something - a person, a resentment, a regret, an idea of who we are - because we don't know what to reach for next. That what we've done before is what we have to do again. That there are only re-dos and no do-overs. And maybe ... maybe I know better than that.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where we discuss bookish topics in the forms of lists.

This week's TTT is: Top Ten Books in Your Summer TBR List

1. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour: This has been on my shelf too long.
2. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: Summer reads about summer!
3. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord: Reading this right now, so cute!

4. 40 Thing I Want to Tell You by Alice Kuipers: Gotta read something that will make me cry.
5. You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith: Cute romance, I bet?
6. These Broken Stars by Annie Kauffman: Everything about this looks beautiful.

7. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson: Perfect summer read.
8. 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen: Looks so cute.

9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Must read before the movie comes out!
10. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: I've heard so many wonderful things about this series!

What are you guys reading this summer?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead

Love Letters to the Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Published: April 1, 2014
Hardcover, 327 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

Laurel is quiet, a freshman in high school and still trying to get over her sister's suicide. So when the teacher tells them to write a letter to a dead person, she decides to write to a lot of them, each one with a mysterious death or suicide and each one important to her life or her sister in some way or another. By writing these letters, she can finally let herself reveal the truth of what happened that faithful night, while also opening herself up to new friends, love, and acceptance.

The writing in the novel is authentically young. Laurel writes normally, using no big words and simple thoughts that flow over the pages beautifully. She connects to each dead celebrity in their own way and the way she writes to each of them reveals how she feels about them as a whole,. When she is writing to Kurt Cobain, the letters are mostly about her sisters death, but when she writes to Amelia Earhart, she writes more about school and her future. It's heartbreaking to read and remember these celebrities and their lives that they left behind. Dellaira weaves together a story through these letters that reveals so much and so little. The further Laurel gets into the school year, the more she opens up as she has made new friends and is going out with Sky. Laurel is experiencing everything for the first time even though she has experienced more than any regular 15 year old has. This book deals with some serious issues while a girl tries to over come some things that happened in her past. It reminded me a lot of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the way it was written and the voice of the main character. The simple writing that sometimes sounds too young for a 15 year old that leads up to some major events that happened in her past to make her write this way. It's what bothered me about Perks and it bothered me in this book as well.

The letter aspect was great. I love the idea of writing to dead famous people, especially since I know about all of them and how they died. Dellaira incorporated many famous deaths and in that revealed how Laurel feels about May's death and everything that led up to it. Part of me loved this book, but part of me is still wondering if 4 stars is too much. It will stay on my bookshelf, unlike more 3 star rated books, but I'm not sure I'll be reading it again. Maybe if I was a bigger Nirvana fan, but I kind of hate that band and wish there were more letters to Heath Ledger instead.

“I know I wrote letters to people with no address on this earth, I know that you are dead. But I hear you. I hear all of you. We were here. Our lives matter.” 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: I'll Give You The Sun

Waiting on Wednesday is weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

My WoW this week is:

I'll Give You The Sun
By Jandy Nelson
Expected Publication: September 16, 2014

From Goodreads:

Jude and her brother, Noah, are incredibly close twins. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude surfs and cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and divisive ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as an unpredictable new mentor. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
This radiant, fully alive, sometimes very funny novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once. 

I loved The Sky is Everywhere, so if this one is anything like that, I'll love it as well. Nelson's writing is beautiful and her characters leap off the pages. I'm excited for another book from her!

What's your Waiting on Wednesday? Let me know!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Books I've Read So Far This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we discuss bookish topics in the form of lists.

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books You've Read So Far This Year

1. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson: A fun, cute, mystery about two friends.
2. Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout: This won't be my last book by this author!
3. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover: Amazing, go read this now!

4. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor: A great ending to a fantastic series.
5. Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt: The perfect little read.
6. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan: Such a cool concept and I love everything Jordan writes!

7. Cress by Marissa Meyer: This whole series is amazing!
8. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick: This book blew me away and redefined YA Contemporary for me.

9. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson: Heartbreaking and beautiful.
10. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith: The cutest thing I've read in a long time.

So what books have you loved so far this year?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Review: Don't Look Back

Don't Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published: April 15, 2014
Hardcover, 369 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. 

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash. 

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can fi
nally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

 This is my first Armentrout book and it blew me away! I was hooked from the first page, the mystery of what happened to Sam suddenly clouding my mind and I couldn't think about anything but this book until I found out what happened to her. Samantha wakes up on the side of road, bloodied and not remembering a thing. She soon realizes she doesn't remember anything any about her life, not even her name. As her family returns her home, she starts to learn things about herself that she's not happy with. She was little miss popular and treated a lot of people badly, one of those guys being Carson, her parents's yard guy's son. Coming back home also means facing the fact that her best friend Cassie, who disappeared the same night as Sam, is still missing and it looks like Sam is the only one who knows what happened, except she can't remember.

I'm a sucker for amnesia books. I know a lot of people are tired of reading them, but I love the mystery and the steps that the narrator has to take to get back to their old life. Along the way, they tend to realize that they didn't like who they used to be and are glad for the second chance. Redemption stories are my favourite, and this one tops them all. Samantha was a great character, a girl who fell for the thrill of popularity and didn't care who she took down along the way. Her friendship with Cassie wasn't healthy at all and I'm glad Sam realizes this throughout the novel. Her so called boyfriend isn't the  best guy either and I love that Sam had more feelings for Carson, someone she couldn't stand before, than her boyfriend (who was a major jerk!) Sam's post traumatic stress is written beautifully and so believable. When she starts to see Cassie in places it scared the crap out of me. And the closer we got to finding out what really happened, the scarier it got. And the ending was so unexpected I almost threw my book. I couldn't believe how it all played out and there's no way I could have called that. The best part of a mystery is not being able to guess the outcome, and this book left me guessing until the end. 

Armentrout is known for writing swoon worthy guys and this book is no different. Carson is a sweet guy who is giving Sam a second chance after she treated him badly throughout the years. Sam is immediately attracted to him and I love how their friendship turns into something else so easily, since they've known each other all their lives. Sam has reverted back to how she used to be before Cassie came along and Carson sees this. It's sweet and romantic and he's the kind of guy any girl could ask for. Every  character is unique and plays an important part in the story. Everything fit together so perfectly and there were scenes that came into play later as the mystery unravelled. Also, can we just talk about this cover? It's so beautiful and it plays into the story so perfectly. I love the sweet ballerina with the cracked glass. Everything about this book is perfection and I think everyone should read it, even if you're done with these kinds of books. This one stands out among the rest.

“Money doesn't buy taste, personality, or common decency.” 

“I’m not sure I want to go to prom. I’m not sure I want to share you with anyone.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Even in Paradise

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, where we showcase an upcoming release we're eagerly anticipating.

My WoW this week is:

Even in Paradise
By Chelsey Philpot
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: October 14, 2014

From Goodreads:

When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator’s daughter. Most people do... or think they do.

Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than-life-new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia’s handsome older brother, Sebastian.

But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden … until now.

I've read that this is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, and that caught my attention. Sounds like a thrilling, cautionary tale.

What do you think, sound good? What's your Waiting on Wednesday?

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