Book Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

12294652My Rating: 5 stars

Date Read: August 8, 2014

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: June 14, 2012

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

Genres: Young adult, contemporary, romance

Summary (taken from Goodreads): “One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

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I heard a lot of good things about this book, yet I waited a long time before reading. I’m thinking the main reason for this is that I didn’t believe it would be as great as everyone else seemed to think. I was ready to be disappointed.

That didn’t happen. The book hooked me from the very first sentence. I was so disappointed not to have more reading time than I did, because I just wanted to sit down and read the whole thing at once.

The characters were a huge part of what made this story great. They weren’t typical young adult characters. While some of them – a snobby, materialistic rich mother; a jealous best friend; a rebellious teenage sister – were pretty common tropes, they also had their own unique traits that made them real.

An easy writing style and a (somewhat) lighthearted story made the book a wonderful summer read. I was not let down at all by this one. It was fantastic.

links

This Book on Goodreads

Author Website

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A Brand New Look

I have no idea if anyone saw my earlier post – if you did, forget what you saw! I found a much better design that I’m hoping you guys will like.

As you can see, I have made major appearance changes to the blog. A new theme, new buttons (!!!), a new header… And more to come!

I’m going to sample the newest buttons for you guys. These will separate my review posts like so:

review againLet me know what you guys think! I’ve been working awhile on making this right, so I’m pretty excited and would love any advice you have. Leave any likes/disikes/questions down in the comments!

linksPretend there are

links here, just to

give you an idea.

There will be links

to Goodreads,

author websites,

etc. in my reviews now!

extras

There are also a lot more, content-related updates coming in the next couple months that I cannot wait to share with you guys!

I’d also like to say that if you guys have any ideas at all for this blog, I’d love to hear them! Reader opinions mean a lot to me and I would love to incorporate your ideas and have your feedback as I continue to expand, make changes, and try new things.

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is a weekly event started by Should be Reading where you share the books you’ve found throughout the week. These don’t have to be purchases, just books that you added to your TBR.

Here are the books I’ve added to my TBR this week:

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Sam Cruz’s Infallible Guide to Getting Girls by Tellulah Darling

I feel like I’ll either love this one or hate it. I read a great review and am looking forward to it, however the review made it sound similar to Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, and I didn’t finish that book. I actually wrote a “DNF (did not finish) Review” of that one here.

I’m still hoping for the best on this one, though, so we’ll see. I’m excited to get around to it.

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Venom by Fiona Paul

This isn’t my usual genre, but I’ve been meaning to try some historical fiction lately. Since I’ve heard good things, I added this one to my TBR. I can’t get to it soon, but hopefully sometime.

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Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton

I saw this one awhile back and was unsure. However, when I read this review, I decided to give it a chance. It sounds great and I’m really looking forward to it.

Book Review: How We Deal With Gravity by Ginger Scott

21945638My Rating: 4.5 stars

Date Read: August 3, 2014

Source: Review copy from Netgalley

Publication Date: July 8, 2014

Publisher: Self-published

Genres: New adult, romance

Summary (taken from Goodreads): When her son Max was diagnosed with autism, Avery Abbot’s life changed forever. Her husband left, and her own dreams became a distant fantasy—always second to fighting never-ending battles to make sure Max was given opportunity, love and respect. Finding someone to fight along her side wasn’t even on her list, and she’d come to terms with the fact that she could never be her own priority again.

But a familiar face walking into her life in the form of 25-year-old Mason Street had Avery’s heart waging a war within. Mason was a failure. When he left his hometown five years ago, he was never coming back—it was only a matter of time before his records hit the billboard charts. Women, booze and rock-n-roll—that was it for him. But it seemed fate had a different plan in mind, and with a dropped record contract, little money and nowhere to go, Mason turned to the only family that ever made him feel home—the Abbots.

Avery loved Mason silently for years—until he broke her heart…completely. But time and life have a funny way of changing people, and sometimes second chances are there for a reason. Could this one save them both?

Review: Going into this book, I expected a typical romance. I was interested in the fact that Avery’s son had autism, but I didn’t think it would play a large part in the book – or be included so well. In fact, I fully expected to be disappointed.

The autism was portrayed nicely here, but that wasn’t all. Being a mother in general was really captured in this story. I feel like so many novels – and maybe this is because I read mostly young adult, where parents tend to be absent – show people with children, but they don’t feel like parents to me. They don’t sacrifice for their kids or do anything that a “real” parent should.

Avery does. This isn’t important just because Max is autistic, either, although it does mean he needs extra attention and understanding. But every child needs parents who are willing to put their lives on hold, who are going to do anything it takes for their kid. I think this book captured that wonderfully and blended it together with the love story.

I will say, once I was into the story, I predicted nearly everything. Only one thing at the end caught me off guard – and surprisingly enough, that wasn’t even the part that made me cry. I did cry, though, because Avery was such a caring mother, and the way she worried for Max was touching. At one point, her father pointed out what I had been thinking throughout the book – she shielded Max too much from the real world. And her concern and her tears in that moment caused some of my own.

This book wasn’t about plot, at least not for me. It was about emotion and what it’s like to be a mother. It was about Max, and it was about making time for yourself – it was about Avery.

The only fault I found was the rush towards the end. It felt like too much happened at once, and it might have been better if the book were longer so things could be slowed down. That way, the characters could work through one thing at a time, and so many important events wouldn’t be thrown at once toward the readers.

Really, though, that’s a small thing when I think about how much I enjoyed this book. It was real and heartfelt, and I’m so glad I decided to pick it up.

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WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?

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I believe I’ve included this in a few posts already. It’s a review copy, but it doesn’t come out until mid-September. For that reason, I began it awhile ago but put it off in order to read others, mostly earlier releases. I really love it though and am glad to be able to finish reading it now.

What did you recently finish reading?

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I really enjoyed this one. My review will be posted tomorrow, so check back for it if you’re interested in my thoughts.

What do you think you’ll read next?

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This is a buddy read that begins this weekend. If I finish Sway before the start date for this one, I’ll pick something else up in between, but otherwise this will be my next read.

Top Ten Tuesday

Here is a link to the Top Ten Tuesday information from The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is Top Ten Books I’d Give To Readers Who Have Never Read X – where ‘X’ is a genre or topic. Because it’s my most-read genre, I’m going to go ahead and recommend some contemporary young adult.

I’m going to split this into some categories and try to stray from the books everyone knows, because you can find those recommendations anywhere. I’m also going to narrow it down to eight (mainly because I didn’t have time for ten – sorry!)

First, here are some books for readers who haven’t tried young adult contemporary because they think it’s all about love. These books either have no romance, or it’s a small subplot.

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1. The Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin

This is about a friendship, a boy-girl friendship that doesn’t turn into romance. The book follows Dinah, who is sometimes childish and worries about everything – especially her best friend, Skint. For his part, Skint has several problems at home and sometimes, Dinah’s good intentions don’t help.

I still think about this book sometimes. It’s one of those books – thought-provoking and realistic in a way that made me angry, still makes me angry, but has stuck with me since I read it seven months ago.

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2. The Vow by Jessica Martinez

The books under this category are going from least to most romance – meaning this one does have a tiny bit, but it’s a subplot. The main story is so much more.

Mo and Annie are just friends, and nobody believes it. When Mo’s father loses his job – and work visa – it looks like Mo and his family will have to move back to Jordan, away from their life in America. Mo doesn’t feel like he belongs in Jordan at all; he hasn’t lived there for so long. And Annie, desperate not to lose him, comes up with a plan: They get married in order to keep Mo in America.

The problem (for Mo and Annie; not for those who dislike romance!) is that they really are just friends. Living together is difficult. They went into the situation desperate, not because they had thought through consequences or any of the downsides. It doesn’t help that they each have a love interest of their own – hence the romance subplot.

This is another very realistic story. It’s not as heavy as the book above, but I do recommend it to those looking for a lighter story about friendship and helping others. This book really does make you think about how far you would go for those you love, and how far you should go.

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3. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Several of you will disagree with me on this one, I’m sure – but to me, this isn’t a romance. It’s a break-up book, the end of a relationship, and I think that’s so different.

This is Min’s explanation to her ex, Ed, telling him why they broke up. She sends this ‘letter’ with a box of items, each playing a role in their relationship. The chapters open up with an illustration before she goes on to tell the story of how things happened. It’s a pretty untraditional style (I tried not to include books like that, for the sake of not throwing people into a completely different reading environment), but it’s very creative and the items in the box are incorporated nicely.

This does go back in time a lot to when they were dating, but to me it wasn’t too romantic. While I say this, I want to make it clear that I love romance in books, so I might not be the best judge – but this is a great book. If you don’t think you’ll mind the romance, if you’re willing to dig through it for the character development of Min and her acceptance of the break-up, I highly recommend it. This is one I have always, always wanted to reread.

These next few are going to be for those who don’t mind some romance, but want a ‘serious’ book at the same time. The books will be in order from ‘heaviest’ subject matter to ‘lightest’ reads.

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4. Take Me There by Carolee Dean

If you read the Goodreads blurb, this book sounds like a typical ‘bad boy falls for good girl’ type of book. It’s not. It’s also not all romance. The book deals with some serious issues.

Dylan has a difficult time with reading and writing. This was a major theme, as the story showed the power of words. It dealt strongly with the things we sometimes don’t consider – education, literacy, etc. – that still play a huge role in crime and in changing a person’s life.

I really don’t know how to summarize this book the way it deserves, but I do highly recommend it. Don’t read it when you’re looking for fluffy romance, or happily ever after. But read it sometime.

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5. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

This book’s main focus is romance – the cover doesn’t lie, although it doesn’t necessarily do the book justice either.

While there’s romance, though, both of the characters are dealing with serious issues. Echo used to be popular at school until a night she can’t remember. She is seeing a therapist due to her repressed memories and wishing someone would just tell her what happened. And the boy she likes, Noah, has secrets of his own – which doesn’t make forming a relationship easy.

This is written so well, and it’s much more than the love story. But it includes an amazing love story as well.

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6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

This book deals with an awful accident. The main character, Mia, has a supportive family and a great boyfriend. She has a choice to make that seems impossible – chase her dreams and her passion for music, or stay with her family, friends, and Adam at home?

Then on a normal morning, things go wrong. Suddenly her parents are dead and Mia is watching it all, as she’s brought to the hospital in a coma. During this out-of-body experience, she realizes that she has an even harder decision to make than she thought. Because she’s the one who chooses if she wakes up or not.

This book has always been special to me. After my middle school years of not reading, this hooked me again and made me realize what I missed. And the sequel, told in Mia’s boyfriend Adam’s point of view, is even better.

Finally, here are some for those who just want light, fluffy reads. These are for those who are looking for a break in between heavier books of their usual genre, or who are into contemporary for quick, fun books that they can fly through.

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7. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

I’m not going into a lot of detail here, because I think most people have heard of the movies. However, I haven’t heard too much about the book series. For a long time I didn’t even know they existed.

This is a lot different from the movie, but it’s still light and fun. It’s also good for those beginning the contemporary YA genre, because there is a long series – 10 books and a few novellas – that you can move onto if you enjoy it. Mia’s voice is great and funny. I also think it’s a good place to start in the genre if you’ve read the movies, because it makes the books more fun (or for me it did) when you can compare them to the movie.

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8. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

This one isn’t super fluffy, but it’s not real heavy either. I would definitely call it a light summer read. It’s all about a girl named Emily who is finding her way after her best friend Sloane leaves.

Sloane is gone without telling Emily where she is. She doesn’t leave any explanation except a list of things to do. Although Sloane has done this before, Emily never took the lists seriously until now. Believing it’s the only thing that will lead her to her best friend, Emily takes the challenge.

Emily is socially awkward and always depended on Sloane, so this forces her to branch out and do some growing up. I think Emily’s character is easy to relate to, because so many people have been in the place where they depend on others too much. It’s difficult to get out of that habit, and refreshing to see Emily break it.

Book Review: All We Had by Annie Weatherwax

19838895My Rating: 3.5 stars

Date Read: July 31, 2014

Source: Review copy from Netgalley

Publication Date: August 5, 2014

Publisher: Scribner

Genres: Contemporary, adult fiction

Summary (taken from Goodreads): A poignant and fierce debut novel about the relationship between a teenage daughter and her struggling single mother—from a powerful new voice in fiction.

For Ruthie Carmichael and her mother Rita, life has never been stable. Jobs are hard to find, men come and go. But when a set of unexpected circumstances strands them in Fat River, a small rural town in upstate New York, life takes a turn. Fat River becomes the first place they call home. The modest economic security they gain gives them peace and space for friends. The people of Fat River—Hank and Dotty Hanson, the elderly owners of the local hardware store being driven out of business by the new Walmart; Mel, the flawed, but kindhearted owner of the town diner where Rita finds work; and the cross-dressing Peter Pam, the novel’s voice of warmth and reason—become family. Into this quirky utopia comes Vick Ward, a smooth-talking broker who entices Rita with a subprime mortgage and urges her to buy the ramshackle house she and her daughter have been renting.

Tough and quick-witted, thirteen-year-old Ruthie—whose sardonic voice and plain-spoken observations infuse All We Had with disarming honesty and humor—never minded her hardscrabble existence as long as her mother was by her side. Through it all, the two have always been the center of one another’s lives. But when financial crisis hits, their luck takes a different turn.

All We Had offers an unflinching look at the devastating choices a mother must make to survive and is an achingly funny, heart wrenching tale about love and loss, told with humor and razor sharp vision.

Review: I went into this expecting a light read. It took some adjusting before I could get into the story, but once I did it was wonderful.

Ruth is so young and deals with so much in her life – and her mother doesn’t make things any easier. Throughout the story she was awful and manipulative, and I couldn’t bring myself to like her. I think this is why it took longer for me to grow attached to the story.

The side characters were the best – a cross-dressing waitress called “Peter Pam,” a chatty neighbor with four kids who lived next to her old teacher and watched her through binoculars, and so many more. They were original and lovable, and I found myself loving it in Fat River just as much as Ruth did.

The excerpt from one of Ruth’s papers at the end talks about little girls faced with violence, and them being blamed when they grow up to be imperfect mothers. This is something I just couldn’t get over, because I think Ruth’s mother was worse than this implies. She was not “less than perfect.” She was childish and I don’t think it can be excused that she didn’t act like a mother – Ruth did.

I liked the message. I liked the mother-daughter bond, and that they stuck together even when things weren’t perfect. The story was real and honest, and Ruth’s voice was great to read. I just had real problems with Ruth’s mother and the way she was written into the book. I kept waiting for her to turn around, to rise above the way she grew up, but that never happened – and then it was excused, like she couldn’t have done better. I’m just glad Ruth seems headed in a better direction.

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is a weekly event started by Should be Reading where you share the books you’ve found throughout the week. These don’t have to be purchases, just books that you added to your TBR.

Here are the books I’ve added to my TBR this week:

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Slated by Teri Terry

This one seems promising. I love the plot idea, a young girl who has had her memory wiped and is told she was a terrorist. Children who are ‘slated’ like Kyla are then sent into foster-care and given a second chance at their lives.

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A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

This one sounds so fun! It’s a love story told in several perspectives – from the best friends to a delivery guy. It comes out late August and I can’t wait to get ahold of it.

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When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle

A retelling of Romeo and Juliet in Rosaline’s point of view. I tried to read this when it was free on pulseit.com, however it didn’t grab my interest at the time. I believe I was just looking for a different type of book, so I’m going to give this one another shot.

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The View From Who I Was by Heather Sappenfield

This one seems so mysterious. I can’t really tell enough from the blurb to give any kind of summary myself – it seems like some force (maybe uncontrolled magic?) caused Oona’s body to try freezing itself to death as she watched in an out-of-body type of experience. It comes out in January next year.

I also added Royal Wedding and From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot, which I found pretty exciting! Neither of them have covers yet and both are set to be released in 2015. Royal Wedding continues The Princess Diaries with an adult Mia and Michael (!!!) and From the Notebooks… is about Mia’s long lost half-sister. The second seems a bit iffy to me, but of course I’ll still be reading.

Poetry Review: Odeful by Jennifer Recchio

20965370My Rating: 3 stars

Date Read: August 1, 2014

Source: Review copy from Netgalley

Publication Date: February 27, 2014

Publisher: All Night Reads

Genres: Poetry

Summary (taken from Goodreads): In this collection of poems about coming of age in the modern world, critically declaimed author Jennifer Recchio takes on such thrilling subjects as math, groceries, and oil changes. The collection includes poems that have been published in online magazines such as Word Riot and Defenestration, and other poems that have never been seen before.

Review: This collection grew better as it went on, but it didn’t start off very strongly. The first poem, Odeful, was humorous and cute, but it didn’t hook my attention. It felt like something was missing – which, unfortunately, seemed to set the tone fairly well for the rest of the collection.

After These Messages marked the start of some stronger writing. The poems beyond this point felt like they had more meaning and purpose than those at the beginning of the book. This trend continued and I was so glad, because it was such an improvement.

Still, I have to say that several of the poems didn’t have anything extra – anything to make them stand out as special to me. They were well-written, but there wasn’t enough emotion there for me.

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

6186357My Rating: 4 stars

Date Read: July 27, 2014

Source: Purchased ebook

Publication Date: October 6, 2009

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genres: Young adult, dystopia

Summary (taken from Goodreads): “If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.”

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Review: It’s difficult for me to write about this book, mainly because it’s so complex. There’s so much mystery, it’s hard to review without spoiling something. This whole book leaves the reader wondering, guessing what is happening and what might come next. Every time a question is answered, several more form.

I enjoyed reading this, frustrating as the lack of answers could be. At first the whole world was extremely confusing and hard to get into, especially because all of the characters were thrown into “the Glade” without memories or any idea what to expect. It’s difficult to learn about a world that’s so blurry in the character’s minds, and even by the end of the book I wasn’t convinced I knew anything.

An important thing going into this one is patience. It’s a book that I, at least, wanted to take my time with and really think about. I found it a great read when I took time off to theorize and consider what could be happening. Also, the lack of answers can be confusing if you’re looking for a quicker read – even though it is pretty fast-paced and can be read quickly.

I’m also very glad I did a buddy read on this one – reading with someone else encouraged me to keep reading in the beginning, when I might have put the book down otherwise. If the beginning of this one doesn’t hook you right away, I would encourage you to give it another shot – maybe try 50 pages or so before making a decision. It took me awhile, but by the end I really liked this one.