Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Debt

Author: Tyler King
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Forever Yours
Pages: 281
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Academic/College

*I received this book as a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary

Hadley saved my life...and I ruined hers. 

Hadley's my best friend. We share a house, our friends, a life. She knows all my secrets...except one. My desperate need for her is inked on my body, it's the best I can do. But Hadley needs to hear the words...

Growing up as foster kids, Hadley made me feel whole-sane. And what did I do? I destroyed our chance to be together. I ran out on Hadley when I should have stayed, and something broke between us. Now I'll do anything to fix it. 

I'll never leave her again. I won't ever let her feel afraid again. But the more I try to protect her from my pain, the more I just make things worse. I'm terrified that if I tell her everything, she'll never forgive me. I'm even more terrified that it may be too late to make her mine. I have to try to give her what she needs...it's a debt I'm determined to repay. -Goodreads description


The Rundown

Ummm...hmmm....

I still haven't exactly figured out what the debt is. Or if it was a lot of things. 

I just couldn't figure this book out. Nothing was clear and the plot was all over the place. I feel like this book was trying to be too many things at once. 

The characters were more or less just names on a page. Aside from tattoos and piercings, I couldn't tell you what Josh looks like. As for Hadley...dark hair and dark eyes? Probably the most described character was Asha, but she was introduced out of nowhere that though she was the most likable character in the story, she didn't make sense. 

Josh was extremely sexist. At one point he said he'd like to lock Hadley up in their house to protect her. What? If a guy ever says he wants to lock you up in a house: run!! Their relationship was more poisonous than romantic. And speaking of romance, the physical aspect of their relationship came out of nowhere. Like they had "the talk" while they were drunk and then all of sudden were intimate? Huh? Aside from a physical attraction and knowing each other since childhood, we didn't even get to know Hadley enough to figure out why Josh was so in love with her in the first place. 

A tree house, a Peter Pan reference, and a benign tumor later (if you read the book this'll make sense...or maybe it'll all just leave you scratching your head too) I was just baffled. But they got a happy ending/beginning? I guess?

The book isn't a total loss. The descriptions of mental illnesses suffered by Hadley and Josh were realistic. It also shined a light on the darker side of the foster care system and the lasting damages of sexual abuse. I just wish the author would have spent more time on character development and a less busy plot. I'd be totally willing to read another book by Tyler King, but this one just wasn't for me.

Rating: 2 Stars. Meh, not for me. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Exit, Pursued By A Bear

Author: E.K. Johnston
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Pages: 248
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Summary

Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She's been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and undisputed queen of her school. Now it's her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she'll be a different person. She thinks she's ready for whatever comes next. 

But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined: 

Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.

Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier's best friend, and that may be the truest label of all. -Goodreads Description

The Rundown

Before I even start my review, let me just get on my soap box for a minute. It is NEVER NEVER NEVER the victim's fault when it comes to rape. Ever. Fault belongs to the rapist alone. Period. No victim was ever "asking for it" when it comes to sexual assault. I don't care about a victim's sexual history or reputation or what they were wearing. That is all irrelevant when an attacker takes away a victim's ability to choose to give their consent to engage in sex. If you're reading this and are a victim of rape, know this: I am very sorry that such an awful thing happened to you. But it is not your fault. It's not. And you are not alone. 

Let's change the conversations we as a society have about rape. We aren't asking the right questions. We need to stop putting focus and blame on victims by constantly telling women not to wear this or go here or drink or fill in the blank with the countless things we say to help women avoid sexual assault. We need to stop asking victims what they would have done differently. We should be telling men that the second they deny a woman the right to say yes and to say yes with enthusiasm to sex, it's rape. It's a crime. It's a crime that is solely the fault of the attacker and no blame rests on the victim. Stop forwarding those emails telling women not to wear their hair in pony tails or be talking on their phones when they walk at night. We need to stop telling our girls how to not get raped and start telling our men to not be rapists. We need to support and not shame victims.  

Steps off soap box & resumes book review.

I loved this book. It was a tough read. In an ideal world it's book that would never be written. But we don't live in an ideal world and Hermione's story is the story of too many. 

Hermione has such a great support system between her parents, friends, team, coach, and therapist that her story becomes one of triumph. There's pain and hurt about her rape, but this story is so much more than that. It really becomes more about strength and not letting one event define you. Yes, unfortunately, Hermione was a rape victim. But she's more than that. Maybe that's why in one scene she asks her pastor to stop asking others to pray for her. She was more before the rape and she'll go on and be more after the story is over.

Hermione is also a real leader. She's smart. She doesn't dim her light her senior year or shed her duties as cheer co-captain because of the rape. She returns to the scene of the rape. She jumps in the lake with her team. By not doing those things, she feels like her attacker would have won. 

Johnston was able to take a dark and heartbreaking story and deliver hope. If you're looking for a powerful read, pick this one up today!

Rating: 5 Stars. You totally must read this book!


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Every Exquisite Thing

Author: Matthew Quick
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 272
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance

*I received this book as a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary

Nanette O'Hare is an unassuming teen who has played the role of dutiful daughter, hardworking student, and star athlete for as long as she can remember. But when a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bugglegum Reaper--a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic--the rebel within Nanette awakens. 

As she befriends the reclusive author, falls in love with a young troubled poet, and attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion sometimes comes at a high price. -Goodreads Descripton


The Rundown

Wow. *Takes calming breath* And wow.

My mentor taught me how valuable note taking while reading is. As a result, I have quite a collection of composition notebooks full of quotes or thoughts or questions I have from all of the books I've read over my years as a YA librarian. Every Exquisite Thing may now hold the record for most pages of notes taken (over 20!) and it's in the best possible way.

I don't even know where to begin with telling you how much I love this book! This will definitely be one that I'll buy so I can highlight and scribble in it. Pristine books are boring to me anyway. And this isn't a pristine book. This is a book that should have notes in the margins and coffee stains and finger prints and all other signs of book love because the story itself isn't neat. It's messy, uncomfortable, tragic, hopeful, and will leave readers thinking about it long after the last page. 

Nanette, a popular soccer star from a wealthy family, becomes obsessed with an obscure novel called The Bubblegum Reaper and finds out from her teacher that the author, Nigel Booker, actually lives not far from her school. Nanette meets the aging writer for coffee hoping to have her lingering questions about the book answered. Booker refuses to speak of his writing if they are to be friends, so Nanette accepts his offer. She's been so unsure of so much in her life like "Why am I expected to go to college next year?" and "Why do I play soccer?" and "Why do I feel so disconnected with everyone in my life?" that, at the time, a friendship with Booker seems perfect.

Booker introduces Nanette to the works of Charles Bukowski, Pablo Neruda, and more importantly, the poems of Alex Redmer, another young fan of his. Booker believes that Nanette and Alex will hit it off, that "all eighteen-year-olds need to be in love." The two do hit it off over a bond of solving the mystery of the origins of the characters in the Bubblegum Reaper. Before it can fully bloom into love, tragedy hits. Though brilliant, Alex is troubled and sick, something Nanette doesn't see fully until it's too late. Alex sees himself as the champion of the outcasts and is at war with those he calls "pretty boys." His quest to defend Oliver, a middle school student he saved from being bullied by the pretty boys, lands Alex in reform school after he punches the father of one of the boys picking on Oliver. 

Suddenly Nanette is without Alex. Booker refuses to continue his friendship with Nanette, or any young person, because he blames himself and his book. He tells Nanette that he only meant for teens to figure out their feelings for themselves, but he never wanted the violence. An already lonely and isolated, Nanette retreats even further into herself at the loss of these two significant friendships. Her parents decide to send her to a therapist to help.

June, Nanette's therapist, starts a new chapter in Nanette's story by encouraging her to refer to herself in the third person, to "kill the I," to help get outside of her head and see herself as somebody else. For most of the last half of the book, we go from a first to third person narration. It's a little strange to get used to (especially in conversation scenes) but it's an interesting therapy tactic and doesn't disrupt the flow of the story in the slightest. 

While in therapy and distant from Booker and Alex, Nanette improves her relationship with her parents, who were separating when Nanette had her "break down" and walked away from soccer. After so many nights in with books and Scrabble games with her mom and dad, Nanette thinks she could pretend at being "normal." She sees it as an experiment as she falls in with her old teammates, goes to parties, and starts dating. She obviously hates the whole thing, but plays along because, "You sometimes pay a high price for individuality." (Ch. 28). 

Nanette's parents and therapist feel like she's making progress until the night of the prom, when she just can't take it anymore. She's just exhausted. Tired of the parties. Tired of misogynistic music and shallow movies and the whole act. She runs to Booker's house where she demands that he tell her what happened to Wrigley (the main character in The Bubblegum Reaper). She's angry that she still can't get a direct answer from him and he tells her, "That's what you learn when you grow up. No one knows the answers." (Ch. 35).

The realization that she treated Booker like the end all be all with literature hits her hard and fast. Nanette feels like it's time to finally be herself just before graduation. As she sits there, she marvels at how her honesty mended her parent's relationship with each other and with her. Even if they can't always be exactly what the other needs, their relationship as a family is a million times better than it was at the start of the book. 

She also notes how few people really got to know her in high school, but thanks to June pointing out that there are seven billion people in this world and she's bound to find others outside of her hometown, away from Alex and Booker, who will want to know and understand her as much as she wants to do with them. 

As Nanette leaves graduation, she sees someone placed a copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde on the seat of her Jeep. There's no note, just a highlighted quote: "Behind every exquisite thing, there was something tragic." She reads it that night and the big picture gets a little less fuzzy as she recognizes that she and Alex saw something of themselves in someone else's work and it became a destructive obsession. As she thinks about Alex and Booker and Oliver and June and her parents she starts to feel better that it's okay to just be herself. That it's okay to do the unexpected. As for Wrigley and The Bubblegum Reaper? It doesn't matter as much now as she's in the pursuit of being present and finding out what happens to her own story. 

Like I said: wow. Just wow. If you're still with me after reading probably the most detailed summary I've ever written I hope you're still interested in reading this book. This made me feel like I did the first time I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Or the first time I saw the movie SLC Punk! Or the first time I listened to Taking Back Sunday. Or the first time I read Hunter S. Thompson or William S. Burroughs (like Nanette, I was much weirder on the inside than I was on the outside as a teenager). Weird is good. Weird is okay. Weird is beautiful. Just don't get so caught up in your own head that you forget to participate in life. To quote SLC Punk! (one of my all time favorite movies. Like desert island movie): "We can do a hell of a lot more damage in the system than outside of it." I'm not sure why, but that quote kept playing in my head as I neared the end of this story! I needed this book right now, even at almost 30. It so perfectly summed up the constant question of adolescence of "where do I fit in? Do I fit in?" And Booker is right, even when we're grown ups, we still don't always have the answers. But it's important to be there and as true to yourself as possible. I think? I hope!

For another great read that deals with the question of "Should we meet our heroes?" check out Looking for Jack Kerouac by Barbara Shoup!

Rating: 5 Stars. You totally must read this book!


Monday, May 16, 2016

Tell Me Three Things

Author: Julie Buxbaum
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Summary

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that's what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she's thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help? 

It's been barely two years since her mother's death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith-or an act of complete desperation-Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can't help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved? -Goodreads description

The Rundown

What a feel good book! I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I picked it up (but I'll pick up anything with waffles on it...especially heart-shaped waffles). Was this going to be a sad book? A funny book? A sigh and a smile love story book? Yes to all! Though it's definitely more funny & happy love than sad! 

Jessie lost her mom to cancer two years ago. Her dad, a pharmacist, meets a grieving widow in an online support group and when Jessie thinks he's away for a conference: SURPRISE!!! Her dad eloped. They leave behind their normal, middle class life in Chicago for mansion living and elite private schools in LA as her new stepmom runs a top film marketing company. 

Now she has a new home. A stepmom. A stepbrother. A new school. Her mom is still dead. Her best friends are halfway across the country. She shops at the GAP and not by designer. She drives a used car and not a new BMW. She's not ultra thin, ultra blond, or ultra tanned. And she can't believe juicing is like a thing. 

But here she is. After a week of school where she feels like she's only being noticed by the resident mean girls as their new target, she gets an email from a guy at her school offering help with adjusting to life at Wood Valley and an odd friendship of sorts. The catch? He's anonymous. 

With SN's help Jessie makes new friends and starts adjusting to her new life. She steps out of her comfort zone. She asks guys for coffee and goes to parties. Here's the thing: Jessie is already super cool. She's smart with a confidence that only comes with being comfortable in your own skin. I could totally see why she turns so many heads!

Being a teenager is full of so many firsts. While Jessie got dealt the really crappy card of experiencing grief so young when her mom died, she's also still laughing and living and taking chances and finding first love. She'll learn that home doesn't always have to be a place, parents make mistakes, and her step family may be pretty great after all.

When you get to the unveiling of who SN is (and I'm not going to tell you because you should find out for yourself!) it's cute and unexpectedly expected. At least for me it was who I wanted but I was afraid to get my hopes up for. And with that I almost feel like I've said too much! I really liked this book and feel like Julie Buxbaum is a new voice to listen for in YA contemporary!

Rating: 4 Stars. A great book and enjoyable read!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Top Five Things I Love About Summer

Days are getting warmer. Nights are getting shorter. Summer is on its way! Winter has never been my cup of tea so by the time May rolls around, I'm well on my way to being kid on Christmas morning excited about everything unique to summer! Here are some of my favorites! What are yours? I'd love to hear!


1) The 4th of July

I happily still live in my hometown, which happens to be crazy about celebrating Independence Day! I couldn't imagine ever being anywhere else for the 4th of July. Seriously. In all my 28 years I've always had a Boone County 4th, and I wouldn't have it any other way! So much tradition! The carnival, the cookouts, the parade, the fireworks...I love it! Between marching band (go drum line!), starting baton twirling at age 4 (I have the trophies and awkwardly curled 90s bangs pictures to prove it), being part of the library's float, and being Beautiful Baby Girl Boone '89 (yes, it's a thing) I've probably logged over 40 miles of parade route time. Near & dear to my heart!




2) The Indy 500 & The Brickyard 400

I'm a Hoosier girl through and through. I was fortunate enough to grow up less than half an hour from THE race track. Not just any old race track, but the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! Being raised by a dad who loves racing I spent a ton of time at the track as a kid and still do to this day! Carb Day, the race, the parade, the festivities leading up to the Brickyard (500 is Indy Car, 400 is NASCAR)...being there just feels like summer.



3) Concerts

Although winter is basically awful, I do look forward to the big summer tour announcements made during those cold months! Gives me something to look forward to. I love scoring lawn seats at Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana (hey they're cheaper and the lawn is just way more fun) and hearing great music with my family and friends. From my first trip there in 1998 to see the Backstreet Boys (be jealous. be very jealous) it doesn't feel like summer without a trip to Deer Creek (I don't care how many name changes the venue gets, it'll always be Deer Creek to me).


4) Camping

The convenience of a Keurig will never replace the taste of coffee made over the fire. Burgers and hot dogs taste better when you're camping. It's a fact. As do s'mores. Bonus: we usually find ourselves at Turkey Run State Park, where there's tubing! Tubing? It's where you and your friends tie a bunch of tubes together and float down the river. I promise it's amazing!



5) Not Being Cold

I hate being cold. I hate snow. I hate the gray and the yuck and the slush. I love you Indiana, but I despise your winters. Always have. Always will. I want heat. I want to wear dresses and flip flops and be outside as much as possible. Winter, you'll just never be able to offer what summer does. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Girl in the Blue Coat

Author: Monica Hesse
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction, World War Two, Mystery, Young Adult

Summary

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through. -Goodreads Description


The Rundown

Wow! Just wow! It's been too long since I've read a book where the end got so intense and the unexpected twist in the case of the missing girl had me flipping back through the book going, "Oh my gosh! How did I miss that?!" This is why I just read the mysteries instead of trying to solve them myself. I'd be a really bad detective.

This story has so many beautiful and heartbreaking layers. I love good historical fiction, and I will always have a fascination with anything set against the backdrop of World War Two. It takes me away from my history major geekdom and reminds me of the human experience, the countless individual lives that were lived during such a dark time in modern history. First love was still first love. Devoted friendships still had bad spats. Parents still loved and worried. Teenagers were still teenagers. Every day heroes were still flawed. People still felt guilt and made mistakes. The tough questions were still tough: how much would you risk to save your best friend? The person you love most in this world? What are you willing to give up to keep another safe?

The deeper Hanneke goes in her search for the missing Jewish teenager she finds herself in with the Dutch Resistance. Thrust into a world where the stakes are much greater than what she faces running goods on the black market, she has her eyes opened for the first time to the realities of what Dutch Jews and other minorities face against the Nazis under the occupation. She begins to realize the lies she's believed about where neighbors and classmates have disappeared to.  

Hanneke feels like the war has taken everything from her: her boyfriend, her best friend, her city, and her future. Yet she's not a bitter, gloom and doom protagonist. She kind of faces her current world with an attitude of this is what it is, but the bills still need to be paid and we still need to eat. Though in private she grieves over the death of her boyfriend and falling out with her best friend, she gets to know those who have lost as much or more in the war. Her fight is as much for Holland as it is trying to ease guilt and heartache. 

Not going to lie, I was in tears and needed a minute by the end. If I could beg Hollywood to make one YA book from this year into a movie, I'd toss Girl in the Blue Coat at them! Powerful historical fiction here!

Rating: 5 stars. You totally must read this book!



Monday, May 2, 2016

Walk the Edge

Author: Katie McGarry
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 426
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Summary

Smart. Responsible. That's seventeen-year-old Breanna's role in her large family, and heaven forbid she put a toe out of line. Until one night of shockingly un-Breanna-like behavior puts her into a vicious cyber-bully's line of fire—and brings fellow senior Thomas "Razor" Turner into her life. 

Razor lives for the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, and good girls like Breanna just don't belong. But when he learns she's being blackmailed over a compromising picture of the two of them—a picture that turns one unexpected and beautiful moment into ugliness—he knows it's time to step outside the rules. 

And so they make a pact: he'll help her track down her blackmailer, and in return she'll help him seek answers to the mystery that's haunted him—one that not even his club brothers have been willing to discuss. But the more time they spend together, the more their feelings grow. And suddenly they're both walking the edge of discovering who they really are, what they want, and where they're going from here. -Goodreads Description


The Rundown

    I love Katie McGarry! Ever since I picked up Pushing the Limits a few years ago, I've been hooked on her books. She had a table at the ILF annual conference last fall and I was too afraid to go up to ask her to sign one of her books because I knew I'd word vomit all over the place and just weird her out. Maybe it's a librarian's curse: I can't maintain the little bit of cool I possess around really great authors. 

    Anyways...this book! Walk the Edge is the second in her new Thunder Road series (check out my review for the first one, Nowhere But Here). Much like me waiting for Isaiah to get his story in the Pushing the Limits series I couldn't wait to know Razor more after meeting him in Nowhere But Here! 

    Why? I'm a huge (like mega huge) Sons of Anarchy fan. Before I cracked open Walk the Edge I had this picture in my mind of Razor being a young (and way less violent) Jax Teller, complete with the mysterious sexiness, a tragic past, a sharp intellect, and a good heart under a very tough exterior. And I found everything I'd dreamed him up to be and more. Basically, Razor is my book boyfriend jackpot! 

    Breanna may be my favorite female protagonist that McGarry has ever cooked up! She's insanely smart, kind, and strong. She also wants to change the way people see her: the smart girl, the quiet friend, and the middle child in a huge family. She wants to be seen. She wants to be heard. And senior year is the perfect opportunity to make a splash. 

     When Razor steers Breanna away from a dangerous situation, a bully snaps a photo of the two in what truly was an innocent moment and threatens Breanna that he'll post it online unless she agrees to help him cheat with school work. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and suddenly Breanna is facing a ring of cyber bullies who have already ruined the reputations of a few other girls in town. Refusing to let Breanna be the next victim, Razor makes a deal with her: he has ways to track down her bullies if she helps him look into the mysterious code that could solve his mother's death. 

     The two set off on a journey of friendship, love, and trust and learn what family means and what sacrifices you'll make to protect what means the most to you. There were some awesome messages (like total teachable moments) in these pages! One of my favorites is when Pigpen, an Afghanistan vet who joined the Reign of Terror when he left the army (and who I want to have his own story too! Please please please??) tells Razor that there's no weakness in admitting when you're facing something that's bigger than you, that it's okay to not go at it alone. That's just a warm fuzzy feel to take away from a book: there's always someone who cares enough to stand beside you. 

     If you're looking for a great story with characters you'll fall in love with, standing up to bullies, and facing down the demons of the past mixed with a well researched depiction of life in a motorcycle club, start down Thunder Road!!

Rating: 5 Stars. You totally must read this book! 

     

Roar (Stormheart 1)

Author: Cora Carmack Release Date: June 13, 2017 Publisher: Tor Teen Pages: 352 Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy *I received this bo...