Review The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

2
Book Title: The Start of Me and You
Author: Emery Lord
Publish Date: March 31st, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Kids
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Sweet mother of God, Emery Lord is a WIZARD! 

I fell in love with her debut, Open Road Summer last year and never in a million years thought that she could do better. It was a beautiful debut that had everything I could want in it: friendships, cute boys and music. When I got book number 2 in the mail I had just started hearing whispers that The Start of Me and You was actually better than Open Road Summer. It wasn’t until I finished reading it that I had to concede that those whispers were correct.

The Start of Me and You is about friendship, family and of course, love. In this book we meet Paige, whose boyfriend died a year ago and who she’s still grieving for. She is still greeted with “That Look” very often and then sometimes complete strangers send her pitying looks. She wants this year to be the best year ever. She even has a plan.

1. Parties/Social events
2. New group
3. Date
4. Travel
5. Swim

She has wonderful friends who have been there for her in this past year. Gosh, I just love the way Lord writes about friendships. Tessa, Morgan, and Kayleigh each have their own distinctive personalities and problems but they are very loyal friends.

And Paige is going to need them as she navigates the waters with her parents. Paige’s parents have been divorced 5 years, but times are changing and they are beginning to date. So now Paige must deal with her own feelings about that. Her mom has become very strict and overprotective since Aaron drowned the year before. But what she doesn’t know is that Paige has not gone swimming since that day. She refuses to go into the water. Despite that refusal, Paige continues to have nightmares where she’s drowning and no one can get to her in time.

And then there’s Ryan Chase, the boy Paige has been crushing on for as long as she can remember. She is hopeful that this year will be different. He’s recently single and Paige is ready to make a move on him. But Paige didn’t expect Ryan’s cousin Max to look so different than he looked the last time she saw him.

She didn’t expect to fall for geeky, nerdy Max who stockpiled Do Si Do Girl Scout cookies and whose favorite TV show was the one season wonder, Firefly. It turns out that the guy she thought she wanted made a much better friend, than boyfriend. And the guy she never thought she’d fall for was the guy she needed in her corner. He was the guy willing to call her out on her skepticism and her realism.

“I mean, you’re always preparing yourself for the thing that’s most likely to happen, instead of hoping for the thing that you most want to happen.” –Max-

It’s been a very long time since a quote has stopped me cold to that extent. I mean, wow, Max could have been describing ME at that very moment. It wasn’t until this quote that I realized Paige and I were similar in some ways, yet Max’s backstory with his deadbeat dad was also so similar to my own backstory with my biological dad. All the way down to him wanting to meet me when I was about a year older than Max.

I cried a lot in the last 40 pages. I had spent a lot of time laughing while reading this book, but the ending broke me into tiny pieces. Lord is so good at weaving in happy, funny moments with heartbreaking poignant moments. Like I said earlier, this woman is a WIZARD. This book is definitely getting 5 stars. I absolutely loved this book and I cannot wait to get a finished copy of it. Emery Lord has secured her place on my growing list of auto-buy authors. Everyone go read this book, pre-order it, tell your library about it. 

Blog Tour: When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill

ABOUT WHEN JOSS MET MATT:

In the tradition of New Adult superstar Jessica Sorensen, Ellie Cahill’s debut novel is a charming friends-with-benefits story . . . with a twist!

What if after every bad breakup, there was someone to help “cleanse your palate”—someone who wouldn’t judge you, who was great in bed, someone you were sure not to fall in love with? “Sorbet sex” could solve everything—as long as it never got too sweet.

Joss and Matt have been friends since freshman year of college, meeting one night after Joss is dumped by her boyfriend. After a few drinks, Matt humors her with a proposition: that he’ll become her go-to guy whenever she needs to heal a broken heart. In return, she’ll do the same for him. The #1 Rule: They’ll never fall in love with each other. People scoff at the arrangement. But six years later, Joss and Matt are still the best of friends . . . with benefits.

Through a string of boyfriends and girlfriends—some almost perfect, some downright wrong—Joss and Matt are always there for each other when the going gets tough. No strings. No attachments. Piece of cake. No problem. After all, since they wrote the rules, surely they can play by them. Or can they?

Advance praise for When Joss Met Matt:

“Hands down, one of my favorite New Adult reads . . . Ellie Cahill is definitely one to watch!”New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack 

“This is one of those books that make you forget everything around you. Prepare to be consumed by this story.”—Sophie Jordan, New York Times bestselling author of Wild

“Fun, sexy, and full of amazing chemistry, When Joss Met Matt is an entertaining escape that will leave you smiling with every turn of the page.”—Cassie Mae, author of The Real Thing

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ellie Cahill is a freelance writer and also writes books for young adults under the name Liz Czukas. She lives outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband, son, and the world’s loudest cat.
CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR

Review: Little Peach by Peggy Kern

2
Book Title: Little Peach
Author: Peggy Kern
Publish Date: March 10th, 2015
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In the tradition of Patricia McCormick and Ellen Hopkins comes this powerful novel, the riveting story of a runaway who is lured into prostitution by a manipulative pimp.


What do you do if you’re in trouble?

When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York City, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: she is alone and out of options. 

Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels. 

But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution where he becomes her “Daddy” and she his “Little Peach.” It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition. 

This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Balzer & Bray via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review:
This book left me emotionally spent, curled up in the fetal position sobbing my eyeballs out. My heart ached for Michelle, Kat and Baby, all three of them had no where to go, no one to turn to. All they had was Devon.The world of prostitution is such a sad world, but it’s often the only world these girls will ever know and that realization is hard. Unfortunately the world of prostitution is very real in all parts of the world. 

I had studied it a little bit in college, but Little Peach took me into the harrowing, terrifying world of prostitution through the eyes of 14 year old Michelle, twelve year old Baby and Kat, whose age we never learn. The girls are given drugs to relax them as they meet “tricks” in hotel rooms. When the tricks get too rough, Devon and the rest of his boys come charging in to the room to rescue the girls. 

Despite everything he makes her do, Michelle still feels a sense of loyalty to him. After all, he’s taking care of her better than anyone else ever has. Or at least that’s how Michelle feels early on.

It isn’t until the book is almost over that Michelle realizes how dangerous this world is. Girls get killed for trying to run away, to get out of this life. When girls run away from their pimps, they’re seen as disloyal and their lives are often cut short very soon after they betray their pimps.

I think this book is extremely important. It’s raw, emotional and hauntingly beautiful. It delivers a very accurate account of how pimps and their girls are. It doesn’t shy away from the scary stuff. It’s blunt and heartbreaking. It’s not a story for everyone and in fact it is very dark, but since I love dark contemporaries, it really worked for me. I loved this book and it’s getting 5 stars. Everyone should read this book.

Review: This Side of Home by Renee Watson

Book Title: This Side of Home
Author: Renee Watson
Published Date: February 3rd, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything—friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.

In her inspired YA debut, Renée Watson explores the experience of young African-American women navigating the traditions and expectations of their culture.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Bloomsbury in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
I truly think that this book was just one of those books that wasn’t bad at all, but it was one that I couldn’t get into, no matter how hard I tried. I think this book had the misfortune to be read at all the wrong times. Either during a book slump or right after I finished an amazing book. I tried to read this book multiple times, and I finally just pushed myself to finish it, even though I wasn’t feeling it.

I couldn’t connect with the characters at all. I usually love stories about sisters, but I found myself bored with Nikki and Maya. I didn’t feel like I cared about them and the struggles that they were going through. I wanted to care about them and what was changing in their lives, but I just didn’t.

The pacing was incredibly slow which is probably my biggest disappointment with this book. I mean it’s a contemporary book, so I didn’t expect it to be action packed, but there were many times that I would just read a bunch and not a whole lot would happen in those pages that I read. There was a lack of feelsy moments as well. If there are good feelsy moments, that can sometimes save a slow pacing book, but not with this one.

I will be giving this one two stars. I just was bored throughout the book, the pacing was too slow and I couldn’t connect with the sisters or any of the other secondary characters. Despite me not enjoying this book, I will still recommend it to others. I seem to be the black sheep with this one, so give it a shot. Who knows, you may love it.

Review: The Cellar (The Cellar #1) by Natasha Preston

The Cellar (The Cellar #1)
Book Title: The Cellar 
Author: Natasha Preston
Published Date: March 1st, 2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Book One in The Cellar duology
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Nothing ever happens in the town of Long Thorpe – that is, until sixteen-year-old Summer Robinson disappears without a trace. No family or police investigation can track her down. Spending months inside the cellar of her kidnapper with several other girls, Summer learns of Colin’s abusive past, and his thoughts of his victims being his family…his perfect, pure flowers. But flowers can’t survive long cut off from the sun, and time is running out….

Disclaimer: Library book.

Review:
I was sure I’d love this book. It looked like it was straight out of a script from Law and Order: SVU. I looove crime shows, always have.  So I was excited about this book from the start. Plus the cover was perfect.

Unfortunately this book bored the heck out of me. I couldn’t get into it. I normally love the creepy books, but this psychopath was anything but exciting and interesting. In fact his supposed reasons for murder, rape & kidnapping were so overdone, I was bored. He did all this crappy stuff to protect women from the dangers of the real world. He wanted to keep girls pure, and that’s why he kept girls in his cellar, and named them after flowers.

His mom had been cheated on, and so Clover/Colin, whatever the hell he was called, felt the need to murder the “other women” His mother loved flowers so that was another reason why he named them Lily, Violet, Rose & Poppy. He considered them “his family” His perfect, pure and whole family. It didn’t matter to him that Summer/Lily came from a loving family. What mattered was that she was “allowed” to walk alone in the dark at night.

Summer herself was exasperating. I could not understand why she thought it was a good idea to walk alone in the dark. I was pissed at her boyfriend for not insisting that he come with her. Of course I’m not blaming her for what happened to her, and I’m also not blaming Lewis, her boyfriend. 

The pacing was very jerky. Sometimes it would be intense and mildly fascinating, and other times it was boring and uninteresting. I wasn’t excited about picking it up, and in fact I got really excited when I got to put it down. The editing was pretty crappy, and if I had to see one more exclamation point, I was going to scream. The author used an abundance of them, usually when it was completely pointless.

I was hoping for a creepy, bone chilling, thrilling ride. What I got was a predictable story with unlikeable characters and a jerky plot. I’ll be giving this book 2 stars, and I will not be reading the next book. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer #3) by Michelle Hodkin

Book Title: The Retribution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Published Date: November 4th, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Genre: YA Mystery
Series: Book Three in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer trilogy
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

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

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

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

Retribution has arrived.

Disclaimer: Library book.

Review:
So I was told, right before I started this book, that it was much different than the first two. I went into it not knowing what I was about to experience. 

By the time the 2nd book ended, I no longer trusted Kells, who worked at Horizons Treatment Facility. She had proven to be untrustworthy and when book 3 starts, almost immediately, I remember why I don’t trust her.

“Pain is just a feeling and feelings aren’t real.”
That quote stands out to me big time now, since I finished the book. Given everything that happens in this final book, that quote is really more of a manipulative statement that borders on foreshadowing. When I first read it, though, I got angry. Angry that someone would imply essentially, that pain wasn’t real.

Kells further proves her jerkiness by telling Mara that she can’t be fixed, she can’t be helped. No matter what Kells does for her, she is helpless. Kells mentions that she has spent years trying to help patients like Mara, but the significance of that statement wasn’t clear to me until I kept reading and learned more about Kells’ past.

I don’t think I even mentioned Jamie in my review of the first two books, but I quickly grew to love him in this book. He was a great friend and super funny to boot. Jamie’s response to swimming to a boat was priceless.

“Not it. Sharks, first of all, and second of all, sharks.”

Perfect response, and it’s a response that I myself would have had in the same situation. I don’t do sharks. Neither does Jamie, apparently.

We get more Stella too, which excited me. I enjoyed getting to know her better throughout this book. We find out what exactly are Stella’s powers when she is held captive by a man who has made his intentions to rape & kill her very obvious. That scene was incredibly intense, and I found myself biting my nails while reading.

I loved watching Stella and Mara talk about girly things like periods and tampons in front of Jamie. He made it so clear that the conversation was not enjoyable to him. Poor guy wanted to put the kibosh on it ASAP.

As uncomfortable as Jamie was with the period talk, he was perfectly fine with discussing sex. I’m guessing that’s just a guy thing, but anyway, he wanted to know if Mara wanted to have sex with Noah, and if she did, why hadn’t she done it with him. This is where Mara confesses that she’s afraid of hurting him. Not emotionally, but physically.

As this book continues, we learn Kells has a connection to both Jude and Claire. A connection I never saw coming. This connection stopped me dead, and I had a minor freak-out for about 5 minutes before I calmed myself down enough to keep reading. We also learned the truth about what happened that night at the asylum. Did Mara actually kill them, or was it someone else?

While all this is going on, we’re also seeing flashbacks to what happened previously to make everything happen in the present time. We learn more and more about what happened to Mara’s grandmother, and we find out what her role in all this was.

In the present time, we learn who else was a part of this crazy scheme and I cannot say that I was surprised by who it was. I had suspected it for awhile, even before I grasped the full truth of what craziness was actually happening. Up until this point I wasn’t sure what was going on or who else was involved.

It was words from Noah’s mother that actually hit me the most. She had some glorious words of wisdom that practically knocked me off my feet. Words that I think are important to all of us.

“Do not find peace. Find passion. Find something you want to die for more than something you want to live for.”

Mara also had some very interesting quotes that I thought were important to remember.

“The choices you make will change you.”

She chose to love Noah. Love is a choice, and despite knowing what she was and what he was, she chose him anyway. Choosing Noah before had already changed her, and choosing him again, would change her again.

There really wasn’t enough Noah in this book which was definitely a disappointment. I had fallen in love with Noah in book one and I had never stopped rooting for him and for Mara to be able to work it out despite all the odds.

“I love you. Today. Tonight. Tomorrow. Forever. If I were to live a thousand years, I’d belong to you for all of them. If I were to live a thousand lives, I’d want to make you mine for each one.”

I didn’t love this book as much as I loved the previous books. I wanted more with Mara’s family, particularly her mom. So much was made about the connection between Mara and her grandmother. I couldn’t imagine keeping such a secret from my own daughter. It was difficult for me to understand that part. I will give this book 4 stars, as it was enjoyable, and I did enjoy how everything unraveled.

Review: Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills

2
Book Title: Positively Beautiful
Author: Wendy Mills
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Published Date: March 3rd, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jodi Picoult for teens meets Lurlene McDaniel. Beautiful written, beautifully moving, a vivid contemporary story of a girl’s unusual but terrible dilemma – and the love story that springs from it. 

16-year-old Erin is a smart if slightly dorky teenager, her life taken up with her best friend Trina, her major crush on smoky-eyed, unattainable Michael, and fending off Faith, the vision of perfection who’s somehow always had the knife in for Erin. Her dad, a pilot, died when she was very young, but Erin and her mom are just fine on their own.

Then everything changes forever one day after school when Erin’s mom announces she has breast cancer. And there’s even worse news to come. Horrified, Erin discovers that her grandmother’s death from cancer is almost certainly linked, the common denominator a rare gene mutation that makes cancer almost inevitable. And if two generations of women in the family had this mutation, what does that mean for Erin? The chances she’s inherited it are frighteningly high. Would it be better to know now and have major preemptive surgery or spend as much life as she has left in blissful ignorance?

As Erin grapples with her terrible dilemma, her life starts to spiral downwards, alleviated only by the flying lessons she starts taking with grumpy Stew and his little yellow plane, Tweetie Bird. Up in the sky, following in her dad’s footsteps, Erin finds freedom chasing the horizon. Down on the ground it’s a different story, and facing betrayal from Trina, humiliation from Faith, and a world of disappointment with Michael, Erin knows she must discover the truth about herself. Sure enough, she’s positive for the gene that’s slowly killing her mom.

Suddenly, Erin’s life has turned into a nightmare, and the only person she can truly talk to is a girl called Ashley who she meets online. But when, in a moment of madness, Erin flies away with Tweetie Pie to find her new friend, she finds herself on a journey that will take her through not only shock and despair – but ultimately to a new understanding of the true meaning of beauty, meaning, and love.

 Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Bloomsbury Children’s in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
If something is pitched to me as YA Jodi Picoult & Lurlene McDaniel, chances are really, really high that I’ll fall in love with the book, cradle the book in my arms and cry violently in the end. I initially credited Bloomsbury with the pitch, but then realized it was Goodreads that had said this. Well done Goodreads, well done.

This book was utterly beautiful, gorgeous, heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. I read it one night when I couldn’t fall asleep and I did not put it down until I had finished it (sometime after 3:30am) It’s a rare book that can keep me up almost all night, but this one did just that and it was done beautifully. 

I spent a big chunk of the book wanting to hug Erin. She was going through so much and the thought of me ever having to go through it with my own mother, was something I never wanted to think about. Like Erin and her mom, my own mother and I are extremely close and I couldn’t imagine having to watch my mom go through chemo. I’d like to think I’d be as strong as Erin was, but I don’t know.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the flying bits. I was worried I’d be bored, but I wasn’t. I understood Erin’s longing to share something with her dad. I understood her mother’s reluctance given the circumstances, but Erin needed something that she shared with her deceased father. I’ve always wished I shared something with my father. Maybe I do, I doubt I’ll ever find out. I was happy to see Erin embracing this part of her father, and Stew was great. He was a crotchety old man, but he cared about Erin in a non-creepy, almost fatherly way.

I wasn’t all that fond of Michael, so I was hoping it wouldn’t go anywhere. Michael was not who Erin needed. She needed someone solid, kind and generous. Like Jason. I didn’t expect to like Jason much, but he grew on me slowly but surely. They made more sense together than Michael and Erin ever did.

I was of two minds when she flew off to meet her friend: I understood that she needed to get away from everything that was going on. Erin really did need a break from having to see her mom so sick from the treatments. Yet, I knew I could never have done what she did. Not if my mom was that sick. I could never leave her alone to deal with this no matter how scared I was. I was pretty peeved at Erin for making her mom worry during this time. Her mom should have been focused on her own health, and instead, Erin was acting like a six year old who ran away instead of dealing with things, which of course upset her mom.

The strongest part of the book was Erin’s relationship with her mom. It was wonderful to see a teenager get along so well with their mom. The last 50 or so pages pretty much shattered every single feeling I’ve ever had. I actually took pictures of myself after I finished the book. I don’t think a book has ever made me cry as much as this one did.

I loved this book, and I am giving it 5 stars. It is beautiful, it features a strong mother/daughter dynamic and it will break your heart into a thousand teeny tiny pieces. I cannot wait to get a finished copy of this beautiful book. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is not scared off by a “cancer book”

Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer #2) by Michelle Hodkin

1
Book Title: The Evolution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Published Date: October 23rd, 2012
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers
Genre: YA Mystery
Series: Book Two in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer trilogy
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.
She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head.
They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.
She’s wrong.

In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?

Disclaimer: Library book.

Review:
Holy crap, what an opening for this book. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what was going on at the end of the last book, but this one opened with a bang. We learned some things about Mara’s grandmother that we weren’t expecting and that Mara, herself never knew about.

We also delve into the differences between Mara’s family and Noah’s dysfunctional family. Noah’s father is cold and distant and his stepmother tries to be there for him, but it doesn’t really work out like that. Noah is very loyal to his sister, Katie, she’s the only one to not let him down. He’s clearly envious of the fact that Mara’s family loves her and supports her throughout this messed up time in her life.

Mara starts to have issues with sleepwalking, all the way to the point where she doesn’t remember throwing things away. She’ll wake up the next morning and have no memory of the things she did the night before.

The concept of genetic memory is broached which I loved hearing about. I found that idea to be so fascinating. I loved that Noah brought it up. It was supposed to be a connection between Mara and her grandmother, and given how it unfolded, I liked it a lot.

Noah pushes her to put down her defenses and actually wanting him first, instead of having him always being the aggressor. She struggles with the fear that she’ll hurt him, but he wants her to trust him, he wants her to fight against her fear. He is in love with her and she is in love with him. There is a lot of fear and distrust between them, but not in the way most people would think.
“This was the boy I loved. A little bit messy. A little bit ruined. A beautiful disaster. Just like me.”

Near the end, we start to get some of our questions answered. Questions about Jude, Stella, Jamie and Phoebe, among others. The ending was absolutely bat-crap crazy. Even crazier than the first book. I loooooved this book, it was an improvement over the first book, although I was crazy about the first book too, but this book was a crazy-awesome roller coaster ride. 5 stars to this book. ALL THE STARS!!