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ARC Review – The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

22449806Title:  The Year We Fell Apart

Author: Emily Martin

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.

As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.

Huge thank you to the author for letting me borrow an advanced copy of this!

River’s Review:

Ugh this book got me right in the feels! Emily Martin writes a very witty, funny, sad, and heartwarming contemporary novel that really took me back to a place in my life that I will probably never get over. And that was a little difficult for me to face, but sometimes I need books that are like therapy, and this was one of them.

This is the story about Harper and how she deals with healing herself and her relationships while coming to terms with her mother’s fight against breast cancer. In 2000 my Grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and I spent two years falling apart over it. Much like Harper I destroyed relationships and dealt with things by drinking and hooking up with guys that I shouldn’t have been. I destroyed my relationship with my best friend and really didn’t take care of myself. There were times when the things Harper did were the things that I’d done and I was just shaking my head and saying HARPER NOOOOOO.

I loved the characters in this book! Everyone was so real and so relate-able. Declan was swoonworthy and Cory was such a good friend. I really enjoyed how Harper got to know Gwen and Mackenzie. And I really wanted Sadie to get her just deserts. But really it was Harper who I really connected with. I understood a lot of her feelings and a lot of her pain and even thought I didn’t always agree with what she was doing, I could understand it.

This is the type of book I wish that I’d had when I was going through my Grandmother’s cancer.

Another thing I really loved was the subtle mid-western-isms (since the author is also from Michigan!) which just made it even more personable for me.

If you’re a contemporary fan like I am you’ll so want to check this out come January! It’s perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jessi Kirby, and Sara Ockler.

Sam’s Review:

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

My co-blogger told me that I was going to have a bit of a hard time with this book due to the content. She was right. This is a novel that focuses on a young woman who has learned her mother has cancer and has a slew of other problems as well. Harper seems herself as a screw-up, a mistake, and she’s someone who wants to make amends with those she’s hurt.

The part of this novel that worked for me was in regards to Harper’s mother. I could relate to a lot of her feelings, as my own mother has had an eleven year on and off battle with cancer. There’s a lot of self-sacrifice and constantly feeling like you’re being selfish when you don’t want to do something. I understood Harper’s feelings perfectly, because living or taking care of someone with cancer can take a lot out of you both emotionally and physically. But I also could sympathize and understand a lot of Harper’s mother’s feelings — the chemo brain, the fog, wanting to be as strong as possible for yourself and others, it’s a lot of hard work as well. You feel like a burden on your loved ones when all you really want to do is feel like yourself. I understood both points of view since it’s something I live with every day.

But this book is full of emotions, which is what I truly loved about it. Martin writes in a way that is both witty as it is gut-punching. Harper is a character who makes so many mistakes and yet she is someone who I found myself sympathizing with throughout. She makes mistakes, she doesn’t feel as though she has self-worth, and yet she’s spiraling through so many emotions that she feels out of control. She doesn’t know how she can take care of anyone, let alone herself. I can identify with that wholeheartedly. Unlike Harper, I found myself clinging to others when things went bad, rather than pushing people away. Still, I understood a lot of her feelings and part of me just wanted to say how much I understood what she was going through.

The friendship element in this novel is fantastically well developed, and Martin gives us so much insight into Declan and Harper’s relationship. We understand how and why it fell apart, and yet the way in which they begin to converge in the story is just mind-blowing. Every character in this novel and their relationships felt so real. Also I hated Kyle. I hated him so much throughout the story and every time he was on the page I just kept cringing with disgust. He just made me so angry! But even he felt realistically portrayed.

If you love contemporary literature, especially ones that focus on tougher issues, this is a great choice. It not only shows grief, but portrays it in such a realistic way. Watching Harper fall apart and then collect herself was such a fantastic and important reading experience for me. She reminded me of myself when I was first going through dealing with my mom and her cancer. This is such a powerful and poignant read.

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Summer Contemporary Fling – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Title: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids22840182

Author:  Sarah Ockler

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I fell in love with Sarah Ockler’s writing when I blew through #Scandal last year, and was SO excited when I got approved for this! I was a little worried that #Scandal might have been a one-hit-wonder for me (I wasn’t the biggest fan of Twenty Boy Summer, another one of Ockler’s books) but nope! This book was so good and I flew through it in less than two days.

The little mermaid retelling aside (but let me just say that I loved all of TLM references!) this was a solid book about finding you voice. Almost everyone in this book is oppressed somehow. Elyse literally cannot speak because of an accident that damaged her vocal chords. Christian is oppressed by his father. Sebastian is shoved into a box and nobody will listen to him. Lemon is outside of the norm. Even the fathers can’t speak due to their pride. I loved that there WERE characters that could speak though. Vanessa was loud and outspoken, her mother killed me when she took a stand for Sebastian, and Kirby is always talking, about everything and everyone. In one sense Kirby is everyone’s voice.

Elyse is from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. I know very little about these Caribbean islands and their culture, but I never once felt that Ockler was making things up. And she’s an author I trust to do her research. I enjoyed how Elyse was familiar with the USA, but at the same time had her difficulties with the culture and customs. Since I don’t know how different her homeland is, it’s hard for me to judge, but I felt that her situation was very realistic. People often commented about how she was so withdrawn from everyone and not only was she dealing with the loss of her voice, the trouble with her sister, but she was also living in a new country. Her behavior seemed legit.

I loved all of the characters in this. Kirby and Vanessa were perfect friends. Christian was swoony and sweet and sexy. Sebastian stole my heart. Lemon was so unique and quirky. And Elyse was so smart and insightful. I’ve never read a book where the MC literally cannot speak, and it was very interesting to see the ways she communicated. Sure we were in her head, but dialogue is huge for me!

There were so many times this book made me smile too. I was just reading along, smiling and it hit me that there aren’t THAT many books that make me ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY SMILE. And I loved it.

This book is just… perfect. It hits all the right notes and addresses a lot of issues in the current world and in current YA. It’s the perfect blend of diverse and swoony and touches on a lot of subjects that I really feel are important to open up dialogues about. And I hope that this book will get people talking.

Sam’s Review:

Oh my goodness, if this is what reading a Sarah Ockler book is like, sign me up for more. Yes, this is my first Sarah Ockler book, and I can honestly say without a doubt that I am going to be diving into her back cataloguing this summer. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is the perfect beach read. I realize it’s silly to say that since this is a book about mermaids, beaches and summer, but honestly, there was something so relaxing about this novel. It might also be because it’s based off of The Little Mermaid, a tale near and dear to my heart, that I gravitated to this book with such ease.

Elyse is a brilliant heroine, and I absolutely adored her character. She’s clever, curious, and a lot smarter than she initially lets on. This book focuses on the theme of finding your inner voice and having the courage to speak up. Elyse spends a lot of the novel trying to find herself and her strength, though she’s quite unsure of herself throughout the story. This overlaying message that Ockler puts in the novel is very thought provoking throughout. Heck, I generally don’t like playboy characters, but I admittedly adored Christian, if only because his curiosity sometimes borderlined on nosey, and yet there are so many parts of the story where he means so well.

My favourite character, interestingly enough was Kirby. She’s one of those overprotective friends who wants what’s best for everyone yet doesn’t realize that it’s not always the best approach to have when dealing with people. The more I read the book, the more I loved a lot of the secondary characters, which doesn’t always happen with me, but everyone in the story is quite lovable or interesting. It made for a real page turner.

Plus, I want to share the fact that I loved Ockler’s Acknowledgements that were at the back of the book. I loved who this story was for, why she wrote it, and who she in way wanted to represent. Furthermore, I loved her depictions of Trinidad and Tobago, and I felt like when she was description the islands that I felt like I was truly there. Also, can I also just say how much I loved Elyse and Christian’s romance? Because it was totally believable and adorable and I loved it so much.

Let’s be honest here, this book is very emotional to read and it’s the kind of emotions that are hard to hide in public (I was reading this book at a bus station, yeaaaah). Still, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is just one of those stories that is not only emotionally gripping, but it keeps you guessing in unexpected ways. Plus the ending completely wrecked me, and I mean that. It just destroyed me emotionally. I highly recommend this book, not only as a fantastic summer read, but just one that will keep you thinking even after it’s over.

ARC Review – Dancing with Molly by Lena Horowitz

23309639Title: Dancing with Molly

Author: Lena Horowitz

Rating: ★

Synopsis: Before, I was never the life of the party. I was the reliable one. The one no one had to worry about. The one no one had to think about. I was the one that everyone could ignore. Until that night, when everything changed and I finally became someone. Someone special. Someone noticeable. Someone Carson might actually care about, as much as I cared about him. But the cost of being someone is more than anyone can imagine. For every moment, there’s a price to pay. For every party. For every choice made. For every kiss. Ultimately, living a life of PURE ECSTASY might be no different from not living at all.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I tried to like this book. I really did, but the whole story rubbed me completely the wrong way. I’m always interested in books when drugs are a subject matter because I like to see how the subject matter is handled, particularly in young adult fiction. Sad to say but this book was boring and the writing style was as well. I get mimicking how a teen would write in a journal, but it was awful to read and so awkward at times.

In that sense, the novel is actually successful. It’s writing style mimics the age the protagonist well, even if it’s awkward to read. I just have a hard time excusing lots of all caps and exclamation points, but it gets overused in this book a fair bit. Plus (and I’m sure again it was intentional) it was impossible to feel connected or empathic to any of the characters in this book. I had a hard time with the protagonist in particular because she turned to drugs to in a way “become someone.” But this book follows a very repetitive formula of drugs, drama, make outs, and more drugs. Thankfully, the book is short, because I don’t think I could have handled more than 200 pages of this monotonous story. I feel like stories that have drugs as a theme should be a lot more impact, but this one fell completely flat for me.

I can see why people would enjoy Dancing With Molly, but for me this should have been a story with a great message behind it, and I just felt the message and its connection was lost a lot of the time. Admittedly, the best part of the novel was the ending and how her habit had consequences, and I think that aspect was handled well. I just struggled to find any enjoyment from this story, I think there are much better young adult novels out there that deal with drugs in a much better way. This novel isn’t horrible and I think it will find fans when it releases, I just could handle the lack of substance and the writing style to save my life.

ARC Review – Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

17900792Title: Not Otherwise Specified

Author: Hannah Moskowitz

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

This book wasn’t entirely on my radar at all, despite having heard good things about Hannah Moskowitz’s writing. It was actually seeing Courtney Summers’ tweets about the book that made me intrigued to check this book out. It’s a shame that this book doesn’t release until next year, but having now read it, I wish it would be coming sooner so you all can experience how thoughtful and smart this novel in.

Etta isn’t the most likeable protagonist, but I found her completely charming. Like the title states, she’s “Not Otherwise Specified” and has no place to truly call her own. She’s not butch enough for the lesbian clique (and is in fact, bullied by this group for hooking up with a dude), she’s not tiny enough to continue ballet with the same passion she once had, and she’s not sick enough to be anorexic. However, it’s meeting someone who is, in a lot of ways, her exact opposite, and that is what really gets the story moving.

I actually love both Etta and Bianca. I love Bianca because she is someone who means so well and yet she struggles with her own imperfections. Etta wears her imperfections loud and proud, yet she can’t seem to catch a break with anything in her life. Despite being snarky and sassy, Etta struggles in a lot of ways to love herself, and that really is the main connection the two girls have. It made me love their relationship throughout the story because even when they didn’t agree with one another, there was this air of understanding between them. I also love how the two girls are constantly teaching each other about friendship, privileges and hardship. It made for great characterization and strong story telling.

Also Natasha was horrid, but did not read like she was a one-dimensional kind of horrid. It’s interesting that she’s the lead bully and yet Etta always can get under her skin and strikes back. We need more of this in YA, the push back, the “I’m not afraid.” Why isn’t there more of this? Seriously, we need this so much in YA. We do, we do, we do.

There is an intense amount of richness in this story, and one I could go on about forever, but that would likely spoil this book. If you love wonderfully flawed protagonists and gritty contemporary, then this mustbe checked out when it releases next March. As for me? I now plan to check out more of Hannah Moskowitz’s books

ARC Review – Compulsion (The Heirs of Watson Island #1) by Martina Boone

20759498Title: Compulsion (The Heirs of Watson Island #1)

Author: Martina Boone

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead–a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

This book exceeded my expectations. I didn’t really know much about it when I requested it, but I loved the cover. The writing was beautiful, the paranormal aspects (the ‘curse’) was so smoothly woven into this that it didn’t feel like there was anything out of the ordinary at all. Everything just felt so right.

This book is super emotional too. Everybody is dealing with loss, betrayal, heartache… I teared up quite a few times and had my heart strings more than pulled at. There’s also some very swoon-worthy romance that flows so well and feels again just so right. Nothing in this felt forced, over the top, or unnatural. And I loved that.

It’s just a rich, beautiful, southern gothic with a lot of atmosphere. I’m really looking forward to the next one.

River’s Quickie Reviews! #1

River has been super busy with her new job (MIT, baby!), so she’s allowed me to share with you guys a few quickie reviews she’s written for a few books she’s read recently. Enjoy! – Sam


20877228Title: Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White (Release Date: September 9th, Harper Teen)

Synopsis: Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.

River’s Review: Over all I really enjoyed this. I love White’s writing, I loved the setting and the characters. I even loved Sir Bird! Everything was wonderful and witty and the dialogue was spot on.

But the ‘be a strong/smart/educated/curious/passionate woman’ message was a bit too strong for me. I hate it when the “message” of the book is SCREAMING at me. I also hated how EVERYONE had to point out how clever Jessa was every five seconds. We got that too. I’m all for girl power, but I don’t like it when it takes me out of the story. Also for all of her ‘DON’T JUDGE ME’-ness, Jessa sure did do a lot of judging (tho she did realize it and admit it and grow from it eventually).

I also wish that some of the conflict would have been fleshed out more. At times I was so caught up in the pretty parts that when the conflict came back around I was like ‘the bad guy is doing this why for the what now?’ – 4/5 Stars


 

20759444Title: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (September 25th, Simon Pulse)

Synopsis: Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she’s made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings… Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the ‘Afterworld’ to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved – and terrifying – stories need to be reconciled.

River’s Review: I literally do not know what to give this book star-wise. It’s freaking Westerfeld! This should have been a million star rating! But omfg what the hell WAS this?!

I also feel like I should get credit for two books after reading this monster. jfc. I just don’t even know what to think about this. Was it a joke? If it was, well played! If this is for real then why. Just why.

‘Darcey writes the words, Lizzie lives them’. This led me to believe that the two stories were going to bleed together and cross and have SOMETHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. But they didn’t and that drove me insane! I would have been happy with one story or the other. I don’t understand why they were mashed together. And they were both kinda lame.

It makes my head hurt. – N/A Star Rating.


 

18225019Title: Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Brigette Barrager (August 26th, Random House Books for Young Readers

Synopsis: In this clever twist on the age-old belief that there’s no such thing as unicorns, Uni the unicorn is told there’s no such thing as little girls! No matter what the grown-up unicorns say, Uni believes that little girls are real. Somewhere there must be a smart, strong, wonderful, magical little girl waiting to be best friends. In fact, far away (but not too far), a real little girl believes there is a unicorn waiting for her. This refreshing and sweet story of friendship reminds believers and nonbelievers alike that sometimes wishes really can come true.

River’s Review: Adorable! Thank you so much for letting me read this. I was crazy about unicorns when I was a child and when I saw this book I knew I had to read it for nostalgia’s sake alone. I love the art, it’s SO beautiful. Very cute story, will totally buy this for my niece! – 5/5 Stars

 Huge thank you to all the above publishers for allowing me to read these ARCs!

ARC Review – Random by Tom Leveen

18817638Title:  Random

Author: Tom Leveen

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Who’s the real victim here? This tense and gripping exploration of cyberbullying and teen suicide is perfect for fans of Before I Fall andThirteen Reasons Why.

Late at night Tori receives a random phone call. It’s a wrong number. But the caller seems to want to talk, so she stays on the line.

He asks for a single thing—one reason not to kill himself.

The request plunges her into confusion. Because if this random caller actually does what he plans, he’ll be the second person connected to Tori to take his own life. And the first just might land her in jail. After her Facebook page became Exhibit A in a tragic national news story about cyberbullying, Tori can’t help but suspect the caller is a fraud. But what if he’s not? Her words alone may hold the power of life or death.

With the clock ticking, Tori has little time to save a stranger—and maybe redeem herself—leading to a startling conclusion that changes everything…

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

There have been a lot of books dealing with teen suicide coming out recently. Some are from the POV of the suicidal teen, other’s are from the POV of those outside of the suicidal teen. And there are a lot more coming out now about bullying. I really like the ones that are told form the bully’s POV. This is one of them. It was fast, to the point, and honest. If you’re looking for something that’s super fleshed out and spans a lot of time, then you might want to check out Tease which came out a few months ago.

Random starts on the eve of Tori’s testimony. A boy in her school killed himself following a string of abusive Facebook comments. A news reporter in the area gets ahold of the story and runs with it, forcing the teens to get tried as adults, harassing the bullies, and pushing things further than they would have gone without her. Tori’s family is stressed, her relationship with her brother is almost dead, and she’s in lockdown. Her one and only friend left, Noah, tells her to turn off her phone and go to bed.

But the phone rings, she answers, and on the other end is a boy claiming that he’s going to kill himself. Tori, not wanting to be connected to another suicide, does whatever she can to stop him.

In one night Tori confesses her crimes, her innocence, devels into what is right, what is wrong, and who’s to blame.

And who is this random caller? Is it really random? A prank? More?

Ultimately the way this book happens works well. I unfortunately FLEW through the first 80% of it and then had to go to bed RIGHT when she was meeting the caller and had time to think about who it could be… I’m sure that if I had kept reading I would have figured it out, but after thinking about it and then reading (and finding out I was right) it was a little anti-climatic. So if you can, try not to stop and just read this straight through (or don’t stop around 80%)

I think that these kinds of books are important. There’s a lot of online harassing, teen suicides, and finger pointing going on these days. I think it’s important that we think about things from both perspectives. A lot of the time we so easily assign blame to the bully because we’re all so afraid of having VICTIM BLAMING shouted at us. But I don’t believe that things are always that simple. I don’t think that we can look at things in such black and white terms.

If Tori hadn’t written those awful things on Kevin’s Facebook would that have made a difference?
If Tori had helped him, answered his texts, spoken up for him, would that have made a difference?
Could she have stopped him?

These are questions that don’t seem important after the fact.

Bullying, especially online, needs to stop, I 100% believe that. And I hope books like this, showing the why and how behind the actions of someone labeled as ‘evil’, will help those who are doing the bullying think twice about their choices. Or even those who might be wittiness (like Noah in this book) and might step up and say something.