August 9th, 2010
Rating/Conclusion: Borrow it
Things I Know about Love by Kate Le Vann
Release Date: June 2010
Pages: 160 pgs.
Buy from (affil. links): Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound
Livia Stowe hasn’t had the best luck when it comes to boys. She’s come across those who have lied and those who have left her broken hearted when she needed them the most. But this is the summer where she hopes everything will change. After finally beating her battle with cancer, she has convinced her mom to let her spend the summer with her brother in the States. This was to be the summer about inner reflection and figuring out the things she has known about love through her private blog. And while she is endlessly talking about love, she never thought that a holiday love would happen to her. Not until Adam that is. If she can just grab his attention, this may become the best holiday ever. If only Livia can move beyond writing about love and risk the chance to experience it…
The Short of It: I adored this book…until the end. Really, honestly, until the last 20 pages or so. I kind of suspected it was going to end the way it did, but I had high hopes that I was wrong. When I figured out I was right, I literally threw the book across the room and left it there for a while. I did end up finishing it, but the ending really did disappoint me. And although I didn’t cry, I would recommend having some tissues close on hand.
Plot: I liked the plot. Really I did. Or at least I did until the last 20 pages or so. I love the idea of a girl truly reflecting on love and taking it seriously. It’s not about bad boys or quick, unrealistic or unhealthy love. It was still a bit quick, but she had met him before and sometimes first impressions can be very strong. She learned from her past mistakes, no matter how small they were, and took them into account as she moved forward. I will admit, that most seventeen girls do not think this way, but I wish they would! This book has one of the more healthier messages I’ve seen in YA in regards to romance.
Now, I really wish she had been wiser when it came to the rest of her life. She should have ignored the things that she did. As a cancer survivor, I think she would have planned things just a bit more safe. However, I do understand as a young girl tasting her first chance at freedom in years would get carried away. I only wish Le Vann wouldn’t have felt it necessary to end it as she had. I’m sure some of my opinion on this area is that I’m a sap for happily-ever-afters, but the larger part of me felt like it was a ill-fit. She could have done so many other things and the ending just felt too fast, a tad forced, and unrealistic.
Characters: Livia is a very likable character. I was reminded of my own seventeen year old self and could easy relate to her. (Ok, so my twenty-something self can as well.) I was right with her as she tried to figure out something that is completely illogical and irrational…love. Her stories were ones that any normal girl could see herself in. Haven’t we all had a boy twist the truth to make himself look more favorable? Or leave us when we least expected it? Even her lists and final conclusions were honest and raw. Her view on a possible holiday romance was refreshing and I truly enjoyed my journey with her.
Romance: The moment Adam entered the picture, I knew he would be perfect for Livia. Normally, I’m not sure I would approve of the age gap for someone that young, but it really didn’t bother me in this case. Perhaps it was because I was excited to see a truly realistic boy for once. One that was incredibly sweet and kind, but that wasn’t sure of his footing. It was refreshing to see a boy’s doubts as he worries about missed chances, perfect dates, and falling in love. It was cute how their thoughts echoed each other almost perfectly. And even if the romance didn’t last forever, it was a nice reminder that love can hit without any warning when you least expect it.
Writing: I really enjoyed the blog style that Le Vann chose to use. It gave it a more personal, story-telling effect without feeling overwhelming. Yes, there wasn’t necessarily a lot of dialogue, but it worked well in this case. After all, the story was more about Livia and what she has learned about love than an actual love story. It’s her personal thoughts and reflections on the things she has already experienced in order to help with what she will someday experience. This book was her facts and no one else’s, so a blog seemed the perfect way to go. I am glad, though, that Le Vann decided to have Adam do a blog as well. It was nice to see his perspective and his voice added quite a bit to the story, in more ways than one. His thoughts truly made the story richer and may just be the reason that the blog style really worked in this book. I never felt like I needed more or that I was missing pieces of the story/inner thoughts of someone else. And while I may have hated the ending of this book, I would love to read something else by her.
Librarian-Mode: Hands down I think this book will fit the best with those who love Lurlene McDaniel. You may also try recommending it to those who enjoyed Sing Me To Sleep as well. Simply put, those who love those sappy, tear-jerker endings will adore this one.
So, now it’s your turn…have you read Things I Know About Love? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.
March 29th, 2010
Sing Me To Sleep by Angela Morrison
Release Date: Mar 2010
Pages: 302 pgs.
Source: Around the World Tours
Buy from (affil. links): Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound
Beth has always been the unattractive girl; teased endlessly by her peer and nicknamed “The Beast”. However, everything changes when Beth lands a solo in her all-girls choir; one that wins them a spot in an international choir competition in Switzerland. And after an intensive make-over, Beth now resembles the angel she sounds like and begins gaining attention from boys, including a dreamy, Canadian singer named Derek. While their time is short together in Switzerland, the two fall in love and plan to continue the relationship once they’re back home. The only problem? Not everything is as magical once they’ve returned. Beth soon realizes that Derek has a dark secret, one that is threatening to tear them apart. Not to mention her geeky, and now hunky, best friend, Scott, has proclaimed his undying love for Beth as well. The only question now is who makes Beth’s heart sing more: the boy she’s always known or the one who feels like a dream?
The Short of It: I’m still a little torn about how I feel about this book. On one hand it’s an interesting story and excellent writing. Morrison knows how to spin a story in a way to keep the reader captivated and interested in her characters. On the other hand, I’ve been unable get past the emotions this book inflicted (whether intentionally or not) and ultimately hurt how much I could have enjoyed the book.
Plot: The overall plot was okay. I enjoyed reading about Beth in choir and how she earned the right to be in the spotlight. It was obvious that she cared a lot about singing and had enough talent to go far. Being from a musical background myself, I did like how it was intermixed into the book and how fun it was/could be. While my own choir experiences were different, I couldn’t help but remember all the good times I myself had with my high school choir. As for the ending, I wasn’t surprised and actually saw it coming. I don’t want to ruin it for my readers, but by the way he acted I figured it was something more than a bad boy/drug behavior.
Before I move on, I do want to talk about the make-over, which is something that really, really bothered me. In fact, it’s part of the reason why I ended up not liking the book. I don’t mind the type where a little hair restyling and wardrobe change gives the illusion of a “better” girl. I do have a HUGE issue with the lengths that this makeover went to. When you get into cosmetic procedures and other surgeries, I start to cringe. What kind of message is that sending to teenage girls? (Who already have SO much to deal with when it comes to body image.) Morrison’s only saving grace is that the makeover didn’t instantly “fix” Beth. She still had doubts about how she looked and took her a while to believe she was truly beautiful. I only hope that the girls can latch onto that and not the whole ugly-duckling made swan = get everything I want.
Characters: I hate to say this, but overall I was rather indifferent to the characters. There were moments of sympathy, but there were also a lots of moments where I was to shake some sense into them. For example, I hate how Derek lied to Beth. I understand why he did, I really do, but how can you have a true relationship, friendship or dating, based on such a BIG lie? And then Beth how she sulked and pouted whenever he did his disappearing act; it literally drove me insane. On the other hand, I did admire Beth’s loyalty to stand by what she really cared about. She could have easily ditched both Derek and her choir, but she chose to stick it out.
Although, I suppose if I were to name a favorite character it would have to be Scott. He felt like the one person who was honest and true throughout the whole book. He wasn’t afraid to love Beth when she was the “Beast” and did everything he could to protect her from their cruel classmates. I loved that he was able to see past the physical appearance and care for the girl within. In fact, I think he earned even more points with me when he disapproved of the make-over because it wasn’t Beth. Ok, maybe he did a few things that were a little creepy, but they were kind of sort of adorable at the same time (like tracing her lips with his fingers).
Romance: This is where I have to be very careful not to rant. I hated, HATED the romance in this book. My hackles raised and all I wanted to do was save Beth from the abusive/controlling relationship with Derek. Yes, there were times that Derek felt like the perfect boyfriend, especially all the events in Switzerland, but once they were home it was a whole different story. It made me sick how he tried to control her life without consulting her. I know finding out his secret explains his actions, but I don’t think that it excuses him. The way he demanded her to do things, coupled with the emotional and physical outbursts felt way too abusive to my tastes. Girls should NEVER feel like this behavior is acceptable.
While Scott had his own quirks, I kept wishing that Beth would dump Derek already and go to him. He was the one who truly knew Beth’s beauty (before she was one!) and loved her for HER and nothing else. I think their relationship was the true love story and wish it had played out more than it did. Of course, their story was not the one that Morrison was trying to tell. (Again, trying to stay relatively spoiler free, but once you read the book and author note, you’ll understand that comment.)
Writing: This is where Morrison shines. She truly know how to weave a story that keeps someone reading. Even though, overall, I was rather indifferent to most of the characters, I still found moments where my heart strings were pulled. (I’ll even admit I shed a tear or two at the end.) To still pull that kind of emotion out of someone, especially when they don’t agree with things that had done or went through, is a true gift indeed. And while I may not have enjoyed this book, I am interested to read other books by Morrison.
Librarian-Mode: The romance of this book reminds me a lot of the romance in Twilight. So, the paranormal-vampire lovers looking for something more realistic may just love this. Also, this is a big tear-jerker novel and would easily fall in with those who love Lurlene McDaniel.
Have you read Sing Me To Sleep? If so, let me know what you thought!
February 3rd, 2010
The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Release Date: Jan 2010
Pages: 192 pgs.
Buy from (affil. links): Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound
One year. That’s how long Colt and Julie secretly dated without anyone knowing. Not their family or best friends, and certainly not Julia’s boyfriend. Even at school, Julia would go out of her way to ignore Colt; after all, she was a county-club goer and he was “white-trash”. But when they met on Friday nights down by the creek, none of that really mattered. They become teens who connected, and possibly loved, like they never had before. However, everything changes when Julia dies in a car accident. Not being allowed to mourn in public, Colt soon learns the price of secrecy. His only saving grace is a journal that Julia wrote during their relationship that ends up in his hands. It gives him the chance to relive the past as he mourns. The only question is what was he to Julia? Did she really love him or was he just a fling? And will the journal finally answer his lingering doubts or will it just add more?
The Short of It: I’m beginning to believe I’m one of those readers who is not the norm. After all the rave reviews, I expected to love this one. Instead, I found myself in neutral ground where I neither loved nor hated the book. The storyline was interesting, but it didn’t quite click with me. However, while not one of my favorites, it will still be one I’ll recommend.
Plot: I was certainly intrigued by the secret romance and Julia’s journal, but something about the plot felt short for me. I really can’t put my finger on it, but I never felt as if I was completely drawn into the world created. Maybe because I didn’t feel as if I knew enough about the before to truly care about the after. There were so many whispers of possibilities that could be that I was sad to never see fully see bloom.
Of course, perhaps the real reason I didn’t fall in love with this book is my own fault. Before chapter one had even ended the thought of “Oh, hey, this is like Twenty Boy Summer, but from the boy’s perspective” had entered my mind. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have, but I really couldn’t help it. The basic story of the secret love that dies kept pulling me there. I kept expecting so much more, but it just never appeared.
Characters: This is one of those instances where I cared about the secondary characters more than the main ones. Julia was too wishy-washy; one of those girls who could never make up her mind. She was a big-name around the school, but I don’t think anyone ever truly saw who she was. And I still haven’t decided if she was a master manipulator or someone who was too scared to publicly step out of her box. I’m leaning towards the latter, but the way she played with Colt’s emotions was maddening. I wish she would have just made up her mind instead of believing she could have the best of both worlds.
And Colt. I liked Colt, I really did, I just wanted to snap him out of it. I know he was grieving and what not, but the boy needed to let go. I feel like a jerk saying that, but he grieved almost as long as they were together. He was obsessed with this girl that was never really his. And when he got the opportunity to have the real thing he blew it because he was still too wrapped up in a dead girl. I guess I just can’t understand having such deep feelings for someone who would only acknowledge you when there was no one around. If it were me, I would feel pretty worthless and I don’t think I would really want to continue to be in that situation.
However, I did like the secondary characters, especially Syd, Tom, and Kirby. I enjoyed when they made their way into the story and would have loved to see more of them. Perhaps because they were everything that Julia and Colt couldn’t be. They had their issues, but when it came down it they were afraid to let the truth be known or stand up for what they believed in. I was definitely cheering on Tom and Kirby as they stepped out and did what they thought was right, no matter what the consequences were.
Romance: I feel like I’ve basically stated how I feel about the romance issue. As far as Julia and Colt go, I never truly felt the depth of their love. There were hints about how their world felt different when they were alone, but it still felt like a sham to me. How can you spend a year hiding something and consider it to be real? There were hints of how Julia and Colt both loved each other, but if that were true, wouldn’t they have come out of the shadows much sooner? I know we’re supposed to believe that Julia was going to break-up with her boyfriend, but I’m not sure I believe she ever would. She was too comfortable with the perfect image in the light and the perfect fling in the dark. And while it was supposed to be something with no strings attached, I think we all know that never really works.
There were other hints of romances with Colt, especially with Kirby, but they never got the chance to fully develop. I was really rooting for these two, hoping that Kirby could break him out of the endless obsession that he had. And while I think she ultimately did help him, it was too little too late. I suppose that their relationship was a very realistic approach, but the happily-ever-after part of me had hoped for so much more.
Writing: I have absolutely no complaints here. Hubbard weaves a good story that will easily keeps the reader interested. I can’t remember anything that bothered me or pulled me out of the story. My neutral attitude really does have more to do with the characters than the actual writing. Yes, the characters weren’t really intriguing to me, but Hubbard delivered them well. I really did enjoy her style and look forward to picking up future works.
Librarian-Mode: This is going to do well with your realistic-loving crowd. The ones who don’t care about happy endings and want something real. I would easily recommend The Secret Year to those who enjoy books like Play Me, You Know Where to Find Me or Twenty Boy Summer.
Ok, now it’s your turn! Have you read The Secret Year? If so, what did you think?
July 29th, 2009
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: Jan. 2008
Buy from: Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound
Ava’s world shattered the day that Jackson died. He had been her everything and now he was gone. To make matters worse, she knows it’s her fault he is dead. Scribbles of Ava + Jackson = true LOVE 4ever in her notebook are constant reminders of her guilt and what is no longer hers. But then a miracle happens and her love is return to her, even if it is only in the form of a ghost. Jackson may no longer be among the living, but he continues to show his love for Ava through music, soft whispers, and through her dreams. Fearful of losing him again, Ava isolates herself from her family and friends in order to be with him more. Her friends and family try all they can do to draw her back to normalcy, but she refuses to let go of Jackson. Even as loneliness creeps in, she knows she owes it to Jackson to be there for him. Will Ava continue to cling to this ghostly world or will she let go and return to one of living?
While I’m not normally a fan of verse, I did truly enjoy I Heart You, You Haunt Me. It was the perfect quick read, especially since I had been struggling to finish books before ALA. Schroeder does a good job of connecting Ava with the reader. She tries to give some extra information on the supporting characters, but sometimes it felt a little out of place. I know it was needed to flush out the world more, but I didn’t really care about anyone other than Ava. I should also mention that while I really liked Ava, Jackson kind of creeped me out. I’m sure he was a good guy, but there were several times I cringed at his over possessiveness. At first, I thought it was just anger at his restrictiveness as a ghost, but there were scenes that proved otherwise. My dislike for Jackson made me want to shake Ava and tell her to dump the ghost NOW, especially when a new possible love interest enters the scene. I’m sure this was not the intended reaction and could possible just be me. (If you’ve read it, please let me know what your reactions were!) Beyond that, I have no real complaints about the book. It’s definitely one I recommend picking up and giving a try. I honestly don’t think you’ll regret it!
June 8th, 2009
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Release Date: June 2009
Buy from: Amazon, Powell’s, Indie Bound
It’s my mission in life is to make you care about these words, Anna. About these people and everything they say and everything they were. He traced the lines of my face with his fingers as he spoke. Every story is a part of a whole, entire life, you know? Happy and sad and tragic and whatever, but an entire life. And books let you know them. (p. 167)
It’s been a year since Matt first kissed Anna on her 15th birthday. A year since her dreams came true and she fell in love. A year since a tragic accident took Matt away from them. No one seems to be able move on, but perhaps a trip to Zanzibar Bay could be the perfect thing. And Frankie swears that it’s the perfect place to meet twenty boys in less than a month. Anna agrees to the scheme, unable to tell her best friend that she’s already experienced her first great romance with Frankie’s brother, Matt.
Life at Zanzibar Bay is anything but easy sailing. Anna finds herself buried in memories of conversations with Matt as she steps in the very places he used to write and tell her about. Afraid of erasing her memories of him, Anna ignores each new boy they meet. Well, that is until Jake enters the picture. With his help, she may just be able to find the strength to move on and allow herself to feel again.
When I first picked up this book, I was not expecting what I got. I was anticipating a light-hearted beach story full of romance. One thing that has bothered me about some reviews I’ve read is that they say it’s the perfect beach read. While I agree Twenty Boy Summer has beach setting and romance, it is not your typical beach read.
In fact, I would say not to read this book on the beach unless you have a pair of sunglass to hid red eyes and plenty of tissues. I can’t even count how many time this book had me sobbing, which is not something easily accomplished. Even as I think about it writing this review, my eyes grow a little misty. Ockler writes a beautiful story about a girl who has lost her first love/best friend and is struggling with the hole he left behind. Anna’s character jumped off the pages to me right away. Her emotion tugged at my heartstrings and her pain felt as if it was my own. I highly recommend everyone read Ockler’s amazing debut novel, but maybe not on the beach!
Check out all of the cool Twenty Boy Summer Contests @ Sarah Ockler’s Contest Page