Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where we make lovely bookish lists!

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books on my Winter TBR List

1. My True Love Gave To Me (Stephanie Perkins etc.): Holiday stories are a must!

2. Let It Snow (John Green etc.): Going to read as many as I can!

3. Don't Touch (Rachel Wilson): One of the books I've been eager to get my hands on.

4. The Darkest Minds (Alexandra Bracken): It's been sitting on my shelf too long, I think.

5. Sway (Kat Spears): This one just looks like a lot of fun!

6. We Can Work it Out (Elizabeth Eulberg): The first one in this series was really cute, so I can't wait to read this one.

7. All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven): TFIOS meets Eleanor and Park? Sign me up!

8. Where'd You Go Bernadette (Maria Semple): This one looks adorable!

9. The Queen of the Tearling (Erika Johansen): A dark book for dark winter days.

10. Unleashed (Sophie Jordan): Can this just be out already?

What are your must reads for this cold, brutal winter season?

Review: Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Breathe, Annie, Breathe
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: July 15th, 2014
Hardcover, 306 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can't escape the guilt that if she hadn't broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honour his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more gruelling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she's at war with her body, her mind - and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms... and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be ever more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

Entering back into Hundred Oaks made me smile and Annie's story was just as hard and heartbreaking as every other girl I've met throughout this series. Annie is racked with guilt over her ex boyfriend's death, feeling as though he would still be alive if she hadn't broken up with him. So she plans on running the marathon he would have been running that year, a marathon she is in no way ready to run. She begins her training, her life revolving around miles and food intake, beginning the hard journey to the finish line. Along the way, she meets Jeremiah, a guy who makes her feel things she hasn't felt in a long time and someone that could easily help her guilty mind. But the closer she gets to Jeremiah and the finish line, the more she pulls away, not knowing if by finishing the race she'll actually be able to forgive herself.

Annie deals with so much in this book. She's finishing high school, about to start university and trying to focus all her energy on this race. She deals with her grief step by step, breath by breath. It's wonderful to see how her running relates to her feelings, we can see it in the writing as she pushes through everything to get to the other side. Kenneally hits the nail on the head in this one, comparing running to death, the hardships involved with both. Annie is a complex character who can't forgive herself for doing something she knew in her heart was what she needed to do. The consequences rack her brain and they stop her from moving on with her life and with Jeremiah. Her relationship with Jeremiah is fast yet slow, steady yet super uneven. Annie is cautious, but her heart is at war with her head and it's such a familiar feeling, one most people have felt, that it was so unbearably real to read. Their love story was lovely and I loved reading it, even though I wasn't sure if they'd make it through most of the time. Jeremiah is a wonderful counterpart to Annie, he believes in her and let her know that she doesn't need to do anything to get better, she just needs to push through it.

I loved seeing some familiar friends again. Matt is Annie's coach and we vaguely met Jeremiah in Things I Can't Forget, which makes me happy that he gets to be the hero of his own story. This book is touching, sad, and uplifting all at once and even though I know nothing about running, I was pulled into the story as Annie ran and ran until she could finally forgive herself. A great book that looks at grief, love, and growing up in a different way than usual an in a way that will leave you smiling.

"Maybe you don't have to figure life out at all. Maybe it just is."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer

The Retribution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Published: November 4th, 2014
Hardcover, 470 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she's been told. There is.

She doesn't stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead. She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance. She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer's story.

Retribution has arrived.

The Mara Dyer series is fucked up. It's messed up in the best kind of way. It makes you think, second guess, scared to read the next page, and it may just drive you as mad as Mara. From the beginning we knew there was a lot to know and a lot we would never know. The first sentence describes Mara having to use a nom-de-plume, and how she's going to tell us a story we may not believe and that she shouldn't be telling. It was the most fantastic way to hook me in and these books seriously never let me go. The first, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer left me confused and angry, yet so eager to need more information. None of us knew what Mara was or why she could do the things she does, but I was desperate for information. And Noah Shaw captured my heart immediately, and I knew I'd never forget him. The Evolution of Mara Dyer gave me some answers, but not much. And it weaved itself into me so much deeper, taking me down with Mara and Noah into a world I wish didn't exist. Then Michelle was cruel, oh so cruel, and I didn't think I'd make it to the last book without knowing the truth. But I did, and boy am I glad! This final instalment was a masterpiece. It weaved everything we knew, everything we wanted answers too and gave them over to us on a platter while still making us cringe after every page and waiting until the end to know for sure if we would get a happy ending.

This book left me breathless. I'm going to be vague because I don't want to give away anything to those who haven't read it yet. This is the kind of series that thrives without spoilers and I'm so glad I read it quickly before I accidentally read some. Mara's world is upside down and everything from the second book is creeping up on her as she desperately tries to find out exactly who she is and how to get away from those that are experimenting on her. Jamie is the perfect comic relief, which is so needed in a book like this where it would be all seriousness without him. There are so many pop culture quotes that made me laugh and reminded me that these are regular teenagers in irregular situations.

The pacing was perfect. Every chapter left me wanting more. There were some gruesome parts, some scary parts, and some parts that still blow my mind. There were some romantic parts (oh yes there were!) and I love how it all wrapped up, bringing us to the beginning of the first book, like a circle of craziness that will never be truly explained. It made it seem so realistic, that there could actually be someone out there like Mara or Noah or Jamie, someone with extraordinary powers living beside us, near us, passing us on the subway, and we'd never know unless we got on their bad side or in their way. This story will live with me for a long time, eventually I'd like to re-read the whole thing as one and see i I can make even more connections throughout the series, remember small details I forgot, and bask in the glory that is Michelle Hodkin's beautiful writing and story telling. She is a weaver of magic and she has created a wonderful, real character, whose real name we will never know. Someone who has been through hell and back and lived to tell about it. Mara is a heroine for this day, a strong girl who goes through things we wouldn't dare dream of but that some teenagers or anyone, may relate to. We all feel crazy every once and awhile and it's nice to know there are others who feel like that sometimes too.

If you haven't read this series, please go read it, and if you've only read the first two and are scared for it to end, trust me when I say you'll be happy with this finale, glad you read it, and eager for another series from Miss. Hodkin.

"I love you. Today. Tonight. Tomorrow. Forever. If I were to live a thousand years, I would belong to you in all of them. If I were to live a thousand lives. I would want to make you mine in each of them."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: Even in Paradise

Even in Paradise
Author: Chelsey Philpot
Published: October 14th, 2014
Hardcover, 368 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne's at the beginning of the 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. 

Everything about this book screamed The Great Gatsby in the most subtle way possible and it was wonderful. There's no real mention of it being any sort of retelling. The only real connection is the name Buchanan and I loved that about this book. The subtlety was in the writing, in the nostalgic feeling throughout the whole novel, through the actions of the characters and the chain reaction of events that slowly get uncovered throughout it. Charlotte is a mix between Nick Caraway and Daisy Buchanan, just like Julia is a mix between Gatsby and Daisy. I love that there was no distinct characterization, it left everything blurry and unreal, which drove me further into the story and kept me in until the last page.

It's told in past tense. the same sort of tense as Gatsby, with Charlotte looking back on a time in her life that was crazy and unpredictable, but that she wouldn't change for the world. This in no way drains any of the tension, as there is a bit of a mystery as to what happened to Julia's sister that we slowly become more aware of throughout the book. There's something wonderful and thrilling about watching the past play out and knowing there is nothing you can do to change it. Charlotte is quickly seduced by Julia and falls into her world effortlessly. She begins summering with the Buchanan family, staying at an old house with many secrets, and falls for Julia's older brother, Sebastian. The more she gets involved with the family, the closer she gets to the truth. I was excited to see how it would all relate to Gatsby, and I was pleasantly rewarded with the answer. Just like Fitzgerald's classic novel, there is a tragedy that cannot be stopped and the rich get away with it. I love that Charlotte narrated, just like Nick did, as it's almost a third party watching from afar. Charlotte gets very much more involved than Nick did, getting so deep into the Buchanan family that it's hard to leave. She knew her days were numbered and that she never really belonged in the Buchanan's world, and we as reader knew from the start that it doesn't work out, but like Charlotte, we fell in love anyway. Who wouldn't want to spend summers at a big house and go to lavish parties, even if it meant keeping something terrible a secret?

There isn't nothing really happy about this book. There are moments here and there were Julia and Charlotte share a wonderful moment, words that make you think they will be friends forever, but in the back of your mind the entire time, you know it doesn't work out. It's brutal and honest and nostalgic. The closer I got to the end, the more involved I was with the family and like Charlotte, needed to know all the answers. Fans of Gatsby will be pleased, those who didn't like that book may not enjoy the way this one is written, but I for one loved it. I think the subtleness worked in this book's favour, as I enjoyed it more than Great, which was almost a direct re-telling. This book is crazy, intoxicating and will take you down the rabbit hole into a world that really does exist but feels dreamlike, a world where the rich get away with murder and pay off those who find out about it.

"It's only in hindsight that we can point, as easily as finding a town on a map, to the moments that shaped us - the moments when choices between yeses and nos determined the people we became. I have no illusions. Even knowing everything, I would have chosen the same."

Review: Racing Savannah

Racing Savannah
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: December 3rd, 2013
Paperback, 304 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

They're from two different worlds.

He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. especially boys like Jack Goodwin - cocky, popular, and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.

With her dream of becoming a horse jockey, Savannah isn't exactly one to follow the rules either. She's not going to let someone tell her a girl isn't tough enough to race. Sure, it's dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack...

If I thought the Hundred Oaks series couldn't get any cuter, I was seriously wrong. Kenneally has done it again with this sweet story of two people from opposite sides of the track that find a way to fall in love and still me in good with their parents. All Savannah wants to be is a horse jockey. She's short and knows how to get a horse to go fast. But her dad worries for her safety and doesn't want her anywhere near the fast horses unless she's grooming them. But meeting Jack Goodwin proves more dangerous than the horses as Savannah finds herself falling for him quickly and shamelessly. Jack believes in her and wants her to try jockeying a certain horse that seems to respond to her touch. But not everyone is as supportive as he is.

Savannah is adorable. I loved her to pieces and hoped for her to fulfill her dream of jockeying a horse and winning a race. I completely understand where Savannah's dad is coming from. Jockeying is not a light activity and he doesn't want her to get hurt. The relationship between them is wonderful and I love seeing a parent who's so involved with their daughter but not super over protective. The other people who work at the Goodwin house are just as supportive and wonderful. It takes Savannah some time, but she comes around to the idea of living them and starts to appreciate the new family that she has. Jack Goodwin is your typical unattainable guy, but he stands out because of the way he treats Savannah. He was constantly nice to her and even though he had to live a separate live and his father expected a lot from him, he still supported Savannah and wanted the best for her. These two are adorable together and I fell in love right alongside them, praying they'd get a happy ending.

These books are too cute for words. Kenneally treads on difficult subjects, puts her characters in hard situations, and shows us that there is always a way through and that if you dream something hard enough, you can achieve it. I loved seeing old characters show up throughout the book and see some of the original characters grown up and ready to start their lives together (Jordan and Parker were planning their weddings!) The great thing with this series is that it could potentially never end as we go through generations of teenagers living in Hundred Oaks. I'll continue to anticipate more from this author and series.

"But you're kind of like a great book... you know, you pick up a book at the bookstore because it has beautiful cover... but it's what's inside that pulls you in."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Night We Said Yes

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

My WoW this week is:

The Night We Said Yes
By Lauren Gibaldi
Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected Publication: June 16th, 2015

From Goodreads:

Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good-ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without anymore distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she's lived her entire life.

But Matt - the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town - was never part of that plan.

And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying "yes" to every crazy, fun thing they could think of. 

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella's heart but those of their best friends too. So when he shows up a year later with a pan of his own - to relive the night that brought them together - Ella isn't sure whether Matt's worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future.

In alternating then and now chapters, debut author Lauren Gibaldi crafts a charming, romantic story of first loves, lifelong friendships, uncovered secrets, and, ultimately, finding out how to be brave. 

This sounds like the perfect summer read with some really cool adventures. I love a good contemporary, so I'm hoping I love this one!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Deserve Their Own Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish where we get to list wonderful bookish things.

This week's topic is:

Top ten characters you wish would get their own book

1. Zuzana and Mik (Daughter of Smoke and Bone): There's no denying how utterly adorable these two were. We did get a bit of their story in Night of Cake and Puppets, but I could totally read a full length focusing on their love story. 

2. Johanna Mason (The Hunger Games): She is way too amazing and I would love to see her kick some ass in her own Hunger Games. 

3. Calliope Bell (Lola and the Boy Next Door): Because even though she seemed kind of awful in this book, I know she's probably a really sweet person and I'd love to see her fall in love.

4. Wren (Fangirl): Why not focus on the other twin? I'm sure she's just as awesome as Cath and I bet she secretly likes to still read fan fiction.

5. Roar (Under the Never Sky): I loved Roar, he was a fantastic side character and I think he could run his own book no problem. Now if only we could get Liv in the picture somewhere.

6. Hermione (Harry Potter): Because she is amazing and there would be so many books and potions involved in the book that it would be so much fun!

7. Lilah Montgomery (Open Road Summer): I would love to read about her being on tour and the feelings she goes through being alone. Maybe see her fall in love again.

8. Eowyn and Faramir (The Lord of the Rings): There two have and always will be my favourite OTP, so can I just have a novel about them being in love and helping to rebuild Middle Earth, please and thank you?

9. Sabine (Soul Screamers): This mara makes me laugh, cringe, and freak out. She was so much fun I know if she had her own story it would be adventurous, dangerous and very dramatic, but we'd have a good time with it anyway. 

10. Suze (Confessions of a Shopaholic): Because anyone who can be friends with Becky Bloomwood for so long is clearly an awesome person and probably has some cool stories to tell. Let's get a prequel of her meeting and falling in love with Tarquin please!

Who are some of your favourite characters that you're just dying to see star in their own novels? Let me know!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: The Lonely Hearts Club

The Lonely Hearts Club
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Published: January 1st, 2010
Paperback, 290 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Love is all you need... or is it? Penny's about to find out in this wonderful debut.

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It's a personal choice... and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her non dating ways... which is too bad, because there's this certain boy she can't help but like...

This was a quick, fun read that made me want to listen to The Beatles and fall in love all over again. Penny Lane's parents love The Beatles. Songs about love surround her everywhere she goes and that's all fine and dandy until she gets her heart broken and decides to swear off guys. She starts The Lonely Hearts Club, a group for girls who want to put themselves before the terrible population of guys at high school. Before long, most of the girls in school are part of the club, including Penny's old friend Diane, who recently broke up with her long time boyfriend Ryan. Penny loves having a group of girls she can hang out with whenever she wants, Saturday nights are always busy and she's not so lonely anymore, but the more she spends time with Ryan, the more she thinks she's falling for him. But she's the leader of the club, she swore she wouldn't date. But Penny's thinking about breaking her own rules.

I read this book in one sitting. It was so much fun and pulled me right in. Lyrics to Beatles songs were everywhere and I love the Beatles, so I was happy for them. I love how obsessed Penny's family is with the band and it made for a very nice little side story to the main events taking place. The Beatle are clearly a very big part of Penny's life and the author does a fantastic job showing us this. Penny and her three sisters are all named after Beatles songs and Penny and Ryan go to a Beatles tribute band concert (against her parent's wishes because gasp, they aren't the real Beatles!) I loved the references, the song lyrics and everything Beatles related.

It was mushy, girly and exactly what you'd think it'd be, but with a few tricks and treats along the way. The girl power was a nice change from some YA these days and I loved that they all supported each other even when they decided to start dating again. Penny and Diane were my favourite. Diane ditched Penny for Ryan at the beginning of high school and though there was a bit of bad blood, they eventually overcame that and became good friends again. Diane even supported Penny going out with Ryan. All in all, this was a super cute book that will leave you smiling. Don't expect too much more than that, but if you're looking for a cute read with some music mixed in here and there, than I'd definitely recommend picking this one up.

"There was only one thing I could do to ease the pain. I turned to the only four guys who'd never let me down. The only four guys who'd never broken my heart, who'd never disappointed me. John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Any body who has ever clung to a song like a musical life raft will understand. Or put on a song to bring out an emotion or memory. Or had a soundtrack playing in their head to drown out a conversation or a scene."

Review: Things I Can't Forget

Things I Can't Forget
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Published: March 1st, 2013
Paperback, 308 pages
4 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school - although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different...

This summer she's a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He's the first guy she ever kissed, and he's gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt - with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn't that easy...

Kate is not the kind of character you see in a book very often and it was great seeing someone so into their faith have the spotlight in a book. Religion is not something authors feel comfortable discussing anymore, as there is so much speculation that surrounds it. But I'm glad Kenneally was brave enough to make Kate very religious and not hold that against her. Kate struggles with a lot of things that I struggled with as a teen and i'm sure most others did too. She's not ready to go past kissing, even though everyone around her is, and nor is she comfortable sleeping in the same room as a member of the opposite sex even though everyone else is doing it. Her beliefs are a lot stronger than mine, but reading about her struggles to stay strong and keep her values in a world where peer pressure can turn anyone.

Working at a Christian camp is just what Kate wants to do the summer before college. She's excited to be around like minded people but she soon realizes that not everyone has the same morals as her. The counselors are shacking up together, hanging out alone at night and doing things Kate wouldn't dream of doing, that is, until she sees Matt. Matt was her first kiss when they were eleven and he's changed a lot for the better since then. Now he is very good looking and likes to flirt with Kate. He makes her feel something she's never felt and it scares her. The more they hang out, the more Kate wants to go further than she ever thought she would before marriage and both scares and excites her. Suddenly the summer becomes more than just money for school, it becomes about finding out who she really is and how her relationship with God may change.

Kenneally's books have all had a religious connection in them and I love that about them. They stand out from the rest of the YA Contemporary out there and I'm glad that her characters have beliefs. Kate is judged right away for her old-fashioned beliefs, but Matt never judges her. The romance between them is wonderful and slow, but there are moments where Kate wants to feel more than what she's feeling, just like any girl in love. Kenneally captured the fear between your beliefs and what your body is telling you as Kate goes through so many feelings and moments, until she finally decides who she really is. Matt is certainly swoon-worthy and I fell in love with him as easily as Kate did. Kenneally has a way with her characters, making me love the girl and the guy and the relationship I can only hope comes between them. It was great seeing some old characters, something that I now look for when reading these books. Having Jordan and Parker be there for Kate as she goes through this crazy time was really nice and I love seeing girl friendships in books. For some reason, this is hard to find even though most of my friends were girls in high school. One of the most important parts of this book was that when Kate changed her mind about how far she wanted to go with Matt, he completely respected her decision and did not pressure her into anything. Sadly, this too is hard to find and I'm glad it was very prominent in this book.

Kenneally's books capture the essence of teenage life. Facing hard decisions, figuring out who we are. Falling in love. This series is the perfect go to for any lover of Stephanie Perkins or Kasie West.

"Maybe all that matters is that he's right for me, and I'm right for him."

"Learning is never a bad thing. And neither is changing your mind about things... It's always good to reevaluate. To think and consider all sides."

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