Review The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

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. 

Blogger Trick or Treat: Halloween Traditions

I am participating in a Halloween related thing that the ladies of Great Imaginations created. We were asked to come up with a Halloween related post. I absolutely love Halloween, and it in fact begins the greatest three months of the year (for me at least) Yet, coming up with a post was difficult for me. Nor because I couldn’t think of anything, but because I had TOO many ideas. 
I am really big on traditions, so I decided to focus this post on both the traditions my mom & uncle had as kids and then the traditions I had as a kid as well as traditions I have now as an adult.
When my mom and uncle were young, their house was the “Halloween Party House” and my grandmother would serve hot chocolate and apple cider and all kinds of other yummy things. Yet, instead of having the party early in the evening, it was always after the kids had gone trick or treating. They would all be in my grandmother’s house, candy spilled out all over the floor, and when these kids went home, they were on a massive sugar high. 
When I was a kid, my mom and I lived with my grandmother, but we didn’t do the party thing. I was a sick kid and no one wanted to expose me to a boat-load of germs at this time of the year. Instead I went trick or treating with friends, some were from the neighborhood and some were from school. Across the street and over one house we had a very elderly neighbor who was always very generous with me and the other kids. She handed out king sized candy bars every year. When she died, my selfish 9 year old self’s only thought was “No more king sized candy bars” Damn, just reading that makes me feel crappy for thinking it.
 Even when my mom and I moved out of my grandmother’s house, I still trick or treated at her house with my best friend and my grandmother always had two brown sacks full of candy set aside for us. 
As an adult, my new tradition is to buy big bags of candy from Costco and keep one for myself and then use a second bag of candy for trick or treaters. I usually save the Kit Kats for last as they are my favorite candy. 
So, what were some of your Halloween traditions as a child?

Review: Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry

Book Title: Stronger Than You Know
Author: Jolene Perry
Published Date: September 1st, 2014
Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonThe Book Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
After police intervention, fifteen-year-old Joy has finally escaped the trailer where she once lived with her mother and survived years of confinement and abuse. Now living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in a comfortable house, she’s sure she’ll never belong. Wracked by panic attacks, afraid to talk to anyone at her new school, Joy’s got a whole list of reasons why she’s crazy. With immense courage, Joy finds friends and grows closer to her new family. But just when hope is taking hold, she learns she must testify in her mother’s trial. Can she face her old life without losing her way in the new one? Will she ever truly belong in a world that seems too normal to be real?

Disclaimer: I received this book from Albert Whitman Teen via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Review:
Oh my goodness, this book shattered my heart and broke my feels. At the end of 2013, I read Perry’s previous book The Summer I Found You and while it was good overall, nothing could have prepared me for what this book would hold. I remember reading the synopsis on NetGalley and really wanting this book. I clicked the request button and crossed my fingers and toes. I was super excited to get approved for it and I couldn’t wait to be able to dive in.
Well, it was about 8 days ago that I finally sat down to read this book, and I read it cover to cover in one sitting. It was very different from The Summer I Found You, and actually it reminded me of some of my other favorite books, namely If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch and Fault Line and Bleed Like Me, both written by Christa Desir. All three of these aforementioned books are very dark contemporaries, and they are also ones that I really enjoyed and even loved.
When we first meet Joy, she’s settling into a “new normal” She’s now living with her aunt, uncle and two cousins. She’s still very quiet, prefers to be alone in her room. Family dinners are uncomfortable for her and her uncle Rob scares her. Soft voices are used around her so she’s not startled. She shies away from being touched and the smell of beer and cigarettes makes her nauseated and takes her back to the life she had with her mother…and those men. All of those men who hurt her. Especially Richard, the scariest one of them all.
I loved watching Joy’s journey. It’s was both beautiful and heartbreaking. So many times I wanted to reach through the Kindle and hug her. Her therapist, Lydia set these goals for her and at first Joy struggles to meet even one of them, but as she gets more comfortable, she slowly opens up a bit more. Even if it’s just to tell a lie to the incredibly cute Justin.She’s supposed to talk to at least one person at school, at first.
Her next assignment is to talk to her uncle Rob. Logically, she knows her uncle wouldn’t hurt her, but her body doesn’t realize that yet. So her anxiety manifests in strange ways, shaking being the number one way. When she first opened up to her uncle Rob, I full on sobbed. I could tell that this was a big deal for her and I was so incredibly proud of her for doing this.
“Everyone has a different normal, Joy.” -Uncle Rob-
As much as I loved Joy as a character, I loved her aunt Nicole almost as much. It was so clear to me that she blamed herself for not getting Joy out of there sooner and it killed me to see this sweet woman blaming herself. Nicole starts attending therapy with Joy’s therapist as well, which felt like a betrayal to Joy, until Nicole explains things.
“I was here for me. Because I feel like I should have rescued you a long time ago.” -Aunt Nicole-

Nicole carries a lot of guilt for not being there for Joy when she was younger. A conversation from when Joy was 8 years old still plays in Nicole’s head and she wishes she had done something more about it. I hated seeing her beat herself up about it. I wanted to hug Nicole hard.

Family has never really meant anything to Joy. She’s been abused, mistreated, malnourished her entire life, so she doesn’t really understand what it means to have a good family that loves you and protects you. Rob and Nicole give her that sense of security that she has never had before. They make her feel like she’s part of a family.

“I’m so heavy.” -Joy-
“Then you lean on us for a while. Let us carry you, Joy, until you’re not heavy anymore. That’s what family is.” -Uncle Rob-

There’s no way I could end this review without talking about Justin. YES, finally a boy who respects girls, who doesn’t push them for more when they aren’t ready and who’s willing to be friends for as long as necessary before it turns into anything more. I loved Justin for everything he did for Joy. He didn’t push her for a relationship. He respected her space, didn’t force anything, and probably most important, he didn’t run away when he learned of her harrowing childhood. He was the perfect guy to help Joy realize that, yes, there are still good guys her age out there who wouldn’t be pushing for more when they were just in a car together.
This book was amazing, absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking and awesome. I adored this book and I cannot wait to see what Perry writes next. 5 stars to this story about what it truly means to be a family, to love and to begin to heal.

Review: Behind the Scenes (Daylight Falls #1) by Dahlia Adler

Book Title: Behind the Scenes (Daylight Falls #1)
Author: Dahlia Adler
Published Date: June 24th, 2014
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Book 1 in Daylight Falls
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs. 

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Spencer Hill Press via Edelweiss.

Review:
I was really excited about this book despite the fact that it isn’t normally my cup of tea. I am definitely a sucker for good friendship stories and that’s what Behind the Scenes gave me. Ally and Vanessa’s friendship was solid and it was an equal friendship. Vanessa is talented and she is set to be one of the stars of the new show Daylight Falls. Yet, she is careful not to flaunt her success in front of Ally.

Ally’s going through her own problems. Her father is in the hospital, fighting Stage IV skin cancer. Doctors are saying that he doesn’t have much time left so Ally spends a lot of time in the hospital with him. Her family is very close and supportive of one another. Ally has been planning to attend Columbia, but now that her father’s medical bills are eating up the college fund. So Ally wonders just how she is going to be able to go to Columbia when all this is going on in her family.

That’s where Vanessa sweeps in and hires Ally as her assistant so that Ally can go to Columbia like she’s dreamed of. It’s here where Ally met Liam. Ally tried her hardest to ignore Liam. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with a guy who makes a living as an actor. What she doesn’t know is that Liam has his own demons.

When Ally begins to talk to Liam, she learns that he has gone through absolute hell. His mother died from cancer when he was 8 and he was whisked off to his father’s house. He didn’t know his father at all and things between his father and him never improve.

“Sick as it was, there was something oddly nice about being able to talk cancer with someone who already knew the terminology.” -Ally-

I totally understood that as I have often said the same thing about my own health problems. It is definitely really nice to be able to talk about my heart problems with others who have experience with it. That means I don’t have to stop and explain everything that I’m talking about, which sometimes drives me batty. I could tell Ally really needed someone who knew about cancer to talk to them about it.

It wasn’t just the cancer thing that brought Ally and Liam together. They have great chemistry even as friends. Liam desperately wants to prove to Ally that he’s not a total douchebag and Ally wants to believe that he’s not like every other actor on the planet. But as things begin to deepen between them, Ally starts to wonder if she can really deal with being the secret girlfriend to an actor. She starts to think that maybe she’s not cut out for this. Maybe she’s not okay with seeing him “date” Vanessa.

“I just wanted to be enough” -Ally-

That line pretty much broke my heart. Ally’s best friend is a beautiful actress and her boyfriend is a very attractive guy. Ally lives in the real world. The world of high school and homework and prom, and sick dads and money problems. She doesn’t feel like she’s good enough for Liam. She doesn’t feel pretty enough, she doesn’t feel sexy enough. Not feeling good enough is definitely a high school thing so I was happy to see Adler put this in the book as I felt like Ally didn’t feel good enough for Liam for the longest time.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. More than I expected to. I am definitely excited to see what happens next. It was a book that combined friendship, family and love and those seem to be my favorite books regardless of the setting. 4 stars to this book and I’m excited for Vanessa’s story next. 

Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #1) by Jenny Han

Book Title: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)
Author: Jenny Han
Publish Date:  April 15th, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers 
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Book 1 in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before duology
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

Disclaimer: library book.

Review:
This BOOK! I am going to be gushing about it all the way through this review so it may be a really short review or it could be really long. It was perfection all the way through. The writing was beautiful, the characters were well developed and gahhhh, this book was everything I want every other book to be. It was my first Jenny Han book which really makes me realize I need to read all of her books. Especially if they are this fabulous.

I thought for sure the romance would be my favorite part of the book but it wasn’t. My favorite parts all had to do with Lara Jean and her sisters and their dad. Very rarely are single dads portrayed in YA books and especially single dads with only daughters. Throw in the fact that the sisters are half Korean and you’ve really got a wonderfully unique book that will definitely appeal to all sorts of readers.

I loved Lara Jean. She was flawed, which is one thing I really love in books. She’s human, she makes mistakes. She fell for her older sister, Margot’s boyfriend for goodness sake. She’s not great in the kitchen, but she’s working on it. 

I didn’t feel like I really got to know Margot as well as  I wanted to, but I think that was mostly because she wasn’t in the book a whole heck of a lot. But I do feel like I got to know her through Lara Jean and Kitty and even through Josh, her ex boyfriend. 

Kitty was an awesome kid and it took me back to remembering how badly I wanted a sister growing up. Kitty was vastly different from her older sisters. She was more outgoing and less reserved than both Margot & Lara Jean were.

Now with the boys, I found myself loving one of them at the beginning and hating the other one. By the time the book ended, my feelings had completely reversed. Talk about confused. I totally understood how Lara Jean could feel confused and conflicted. It made sense to me given all she knew about both boys.

There was definitely more than met the eye with this book. I LOVED this book. I loved that so much focus was on family and despite what the synopsis said, this book didn’t focus as much on the boys as I was expecting. I mean, the boys were there but Lara Jean’s family played such major roles in this book which was what really made me fall in love with it. 5 stars to this book. It’s definitely something you should pick up if you haven’t already.

Review: 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen

Book Title: 17 First Kisses
Author: Rachael Allen
Publish Date: June 17th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA/ Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

Until Claire meets Luke.

But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.

In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
This book was far more complex than I initially thought it would be. I was expecting a sweet, fluffy book with some friendship drama mixed in. What I got was a book about love, life, choices and family.

Claire’s family has been through absolute hell and they are still going through it. Her mom spends her days in bed, avoiding her children & husband. Claire’s father has immersed himself in his work, leaving Claire to run the house & take care of her younger sister Libby. Claire had a lot of pressure put on her and my heart broke for her.

Yet she also is dealing with the fact that every attractive boy in the world seems to want her best friend. As a teenager, that is an all too common problem. Every female teenager has that “hot” friend that the boys are in favor of. And it sucks because you want to be that girl. Thankfully, Megan and Claire made a pact to never let a guy come between them. 

But that comes into question when Luke arrives on the scene.

I could never get a really good read on Luke. Sometimes I’d really like him and root for him and Claire to be together because poor Claire desperately needed something good to happen for her. But sometimes I’d want her to run far away from this guy. There really is more to attraction than simply physical attraction and I think teens struggle with that fact.

Megan and Claire’s friendship is not smooth sailing, but no friendship ever is. There’s bumps in the road, fights that happen and loyalties that are questioned. However I never doubted the friendship. I never doubted that they cared about one another. I never thought that they couldn’t work things out. Friendships aren’t perfect and mistakes are definitely made.

I really wished we had seen more of Sam. I really liked him a lot and I definitely wanted to see more interaction between him and Claire. He seemed to linger in the background a lot without being a main character in the story. I couldn’t really tell what part he’d play in the story but I was definitely eager to see where it went.

This book brought out the feels more than I ever expected. There was a significant chunk about 30% in where I just full on sobbed. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. I found myself wanting to hug Claire because I remembered what it was like to have a mom refuse to get out of bed. It was unbearably hard and oftentimes I cried myself to sleep. So that part was really hard for me to read.

Character development for the main characters was pretty good, but character development for the secondary characters was lacking. However, I really enjoyed the book,and will be giving it 4 stars. I would definitely recommend it to others. It’s not a light and fluffy read by any means, but it was still a very worthwhile book.

Review: On The Fence by Kasie West

Book Title: On The Fence
Author: Kasie West
Publish Date: July 1st, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA/Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
She’s a tomboy. He’s the boy next door…

Charlie Reynolds can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world. To cope with the stress of her new reality, Charlie takes to spending nights chatting with her neighbor Braden through the fence between their yards. As she grows to depend on their nightly Fence Chats, she realizes she’s got a bigger problem than speeding tickets-she’s falling for Braden. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

Fun, original, and endearing, On the Fence is a romantic comedy about finding yourself and finding love where you least expect.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
By then time you read this, I will have read all of Kasie West’s books and have hopefully enjoyed them all. When I wrote this review I had only read Pivot Point but had just recently bought & received in the mail, Split Second & The Distance Between Us. I was hoping for a cute fluffy read and I definitely got that with On The Fence.

Charlie struggles a lot with this book and I was able to relate to that a lot more than I think I expected to. Charlie is a tomboy with 4 brothers being raised by her dad after her mother died 10 years ago. She doesn’t think that she is what guys want because she’s not feminine and she doesn’t wear makeup and talk endlessly about clothes and boys.

It was so clearly a struggle for her because she feels like she has to change who she is in order to get boys to notice her. She feels like boys don’t want girls who are “big and burly” and Charlie doesn’t know how to be delicate and feminine like she feels she should be in order for guys to notice her.I got that because I was much the same way in high school. Boys didn’t notice me because I was much more sporty than feminine. Boys went for the girls who were “hot” and who wore gobs of makeup and revealing clothing to make themselves look hot.

Working in a clothing store filled with feminine clothing initially makes Charlie borderline uncomfortable but then she begins to embrace her femininity and she begins to realize that she can be both. She can be sporty and feminine. Not having a mother in the past 10 years has made her feel like she must choose one or the other. Feminine or sporty. 

Charlie meets a cute guy named Evan, but she feels like she has to dumb herself down for him because apparently making a guy feel useless is emasculating. So instead of rattling off everything she knows about sports, she stays quiet, allowing Evan to believe that he is teaching her something. Next door neighbor Braden actually had some good insight on this whole dumbing herself down for a guy thing

“If you can’t be yourself around him, you shouldn’t be dating him.”

I absolutely LOVED this quote. I had highlighted several things in the book, but this one in particular stuck with me. Mostly because I think most teenage girls go through this. They feel like they have to dumb themselves down for a guy. They feel like they have to be something different in order for a guy to like them.

Watching Charlie realize that Braden was right and that a girl should never try to be something else in order for a guy to like her, was really awesome. If a guy doesn’t like her for who she is, he’s not worth dating.

It’s hard for longtime friends to admit to being attracted to each other. It’s terrifying because each of them worries that their friendship might be ruined.And what if the relationship doesn’t make it? Will they ever be able to be friends again? So I totally understand why it took so long for Charlie and Braden to admit their feelings.When they do though, its full of sweetness and swoons.

I really only had one complaint.When secrets are revealed about how Charlie’s mom died, I felt like Charlie reacted and then got over it really quickly. I mean I wanted more about that and I felt like it wasn’t delved into it as completely as it should have been.Had that been explored a little more, I think I would have given this book a full 5 stars. But I definitely had the feels while reading this book. Kasie is really good at giving her readers those all important feels. So this book will be getting 4.5 stars. Kasie has absolutely secured herself a spot on my author auto-buy list.

Review: My Life Next Door (My Life Next Door #1) by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Book Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
Release Date: June 14th, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books For Young Readers
Genre: YA/Contemporary
Series: Book one in My Life Next Door series
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis 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.

Disclaimer: This book was a personal purchase.

Review:
When I was making my list of books I wanted to buy, this one was at the top of the list. I had heard so many people raving about it over and over again, to the point where I just had to put it on my list and when I was able to make a book purchase, this book would be one of the ones that I would buy.

I did not regret it one little bit. It was a sweet summery read (since it’s still winter, it’s an odd time to read it but oh well) The characters were funny and sweet and totally likable. Despite being 10 years older than Jase, I wanted him as my new boyfriend. But I’ll settle for him being my book boyfriend. He was totally swoony and adorable and just an all around good guy. I loved how close his entire family was. You don’t get to see that very often in YA books. The entire family was close and it was a big family which made it all the better.

With a big family like this, one could worry that it would make it hard for all of the characters to stand out with individual personalities and such. But it wasn’t. Despite the Garretts having 8 kids, I was still able to differentiate all of them.

Samantha on the other hand, had a small family. Just her mom and older sister Tracy. Now she has to deal with her mom’s boyfriend Clay. It’s strange for Samantha because her mom has been single her entire life. So the idea that she has a boyfriend is kind of icky to Samantha. She doesn’t want to picture what her mom does with this guy.

Samantha and Jase were just about the sweetest teenagers ever. Holy moly, they were cute and sweet and basically drama free (outside of keeping their relationship hidden from Samantha’s mom) I felt bad for Samantha though. Jase has what was essentially, the ideal family and Samantha’s was just slapped together and she had a very judgmental mom which would have really driven me crazy. Samantha clearly longed for a mother like Mrs. Garrett.

There were the supplemental characters like Samantha’s best friend Nan & her brother Tim. My thoughts on Nan stayed relatively positive until the end, when my opinion of her started to become more negative. Whereas my thoughts on Tim started off very negative but by the end,my thoughts were quite positive. Even to the point where his transformation was one of my favorite things to watch.
I wasn’t sure what the “unthinkable” thing would be, when I first started the book but it ended up being totally different than anything I could have ever imagined. The behavior of two people in particular was abhorrent to me. However things ended up exactly how they should have.

This book was awesome. I loved the focus on family & friendship that were not shoved to the backseat in favor of a romance. The only thing that I would complain about was that the ending was short and I was kind of hoping for something more. I also didn’t really get emotional while reading the book. So this book will be getting 4 stars. I am so excited to read the next book, which is Tim’s story. I know that is going to be another special book.

Cover Reveal: After The Storm by Marie Landry

Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis:
For most people, starting senior year at a new high school would be a nightmare, but for Ella O’Dell it’s the new beginning she desperately needs. Two months after her mother’s death, she’s ready to leave behind the rebellious, unhappy person she became when she found out her mom was dying.

When Ella meets River Maracle and Sadie Fitzgerald, she begins to learn it’s okay to be herself, even if that means being different. River and Sadie aren’t ashamed of their misfit status—River grew up on a reservation, and his mother is the school counselor; Sadie stands out with her funky homemade clothes, and is a master at ignoring the whispered rumors that have plagued her since the beginning of high school.

Ella finds a kindred spirit in Sadie, and something more in River. After almost a year of pretending to be someone she’s not, she finally embraces life and allows herself to have fun without constant guilt. But despite her budding happiness, something is off with her new life. She doesn’t want to dwell on the past, but Angel Island is a small place, and she soon realizes her demons are harder to outrun than she thought…

Waiting For The Storm is available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble as well as Smashwords.

Excerpt
Charlotte’s watching me closely. Her gaze is almost like a physical thing, cloaking me in its weight. She pushes back from the table and excuses herself, saying she needs to use the washroom. Dad and Ezra don’t seem to notice that the tone of the evening has shifted; they start talking about some movie that’s coming out in a few weeks. I excuse myself and follow Charlotte to the bathroom.
She’s standing at the row of sinks, staring into the mirror. The sound of the door closing makes her jump, and she meets my eyes in the glass. 
“What’s up?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “It’s nothing. I’m just…having a moment.” She laughs, but it sounds tearful.
I walk over to the counter and lean against it, facing her. “Talk to me. What’s going on? What happened out there?”
She blinks rapidly, and I know she’s fighting tears. I pray she doesn’t cry or I’m sure I’ll start, too. “Sometimes I still miss her so much it’s like an actual ache. Right here.” She rubs the knuckles of one hand over her heart. “I’ll be going along, having a great time—like tonight—and then all of a sudden something will remind me of her and it’s like I can’t catch my breath. It doesn’t happen all the time. Usually when I think of her it makes me happy in a sad sort of way. Does that make sense?”
I nod, unable to speak.
She nods too. “So I get this happy-sad feeling, and I can think of all the great times we had together, and it’s fine. But other times…other times, it’s almost like losing her all over again, and it hurts so much I feel like I’m going to implode.”
She grips the counter and I realize she’s shaking. I pull her into my arms, and for a second she shakes even harder, but then she relaxes and starts crying quietly. “I miss her too,” I whisper into her hair, feeling my own tears start to flow.
I don’t know how long we stand there, wrapped around each other and crying. I hardly ever cry, but this is the second time this week I’ve had a meltdown. It’s like I stored up all my tears over the last few months and they’re coming out in a flood now.
Author Bio:

Marie has always been a daydreamer; since early childhood she’s had a passion for words and a desire to create imaginary worlds, so it only seemed natural for her to become a writer. She resides in Ontario, Canada, and most days you can find her writing, reading, blogging about writing and reading, listening to U2, watching copious amounts of TV on DVD, or having grand adventures with her nephews and niece. She’s a hopeless romantic, an unapologetic eavesdropper (occupational hazard), an equally unapologetic squeeing fangirl, and a lover of swoonworthy book and TV characters. For more on Marie and her books please visit http://sweetmarie-83.blogspot.ca. She also loves to chat with fellow book lovers, so feel free to tweet her @SweetMarie any time! 

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Review: Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1) by Victoria Scott

Book Title: Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood #1)
Author: Victoria Scott
Release Date: February 25th, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: YA/SciFi
Series: Book 1 in Fire & Flood series
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother’s life—and her own. 
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can’t determine what’s wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She’s lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she’s helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It’s an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother’s illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there’s no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can’t trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Disclaimer: I received this print ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
What would you do for someone you love, who was suffering? That’s the question that Tella Holloway is forced to face when she receives an anonymous box one night. Her answer is quick, she would do anything for her brother who’s suffering from an unknown illness. Doctor after doctor have tried to help him but no one knows what’s ailing Cody Holloway. 

So when Tella learns that the prize for winning this thing, is The Cure, she knows that she must compete.Even if she’s never even heard of The Brimstone Bleed before.Even if she has no idea what to expect. She knows that Cody would do it for her in a heartbeat. Tella is bright, intelligent and devoted to her family no matter what kinds of things await her. 

There were so many themes in this book, but the one that stuck out to me the most is loyalty.One could also make the argument for family being the main theme, but loyalty was an even bigger one. Not just loyalty among human allies, but loyalty from Pandoras to humans.

I’m obsessed with Pandora’s.First, you find them as eggs in a room, even before you reach the first stage of the competition. You have no clue what these eggs hold or even if they’ll hatch. So you take a gamble and hope that it pays off. I have never wanted anything like this in my life. I WISH Pandora’s were real. That would be so darn awesome. 
I really liked the supporting characters: Harper,Caroline, Olivia and of course Guy. Oh my goodness, Guy was mysterious, intriguing and just SO swoon-worthy. Initially, he kind of gave me the creeps, but I eventually warmed up to him just like he warmed up to Tella.

I am so excited to see what the next book holds for all of these characters.This book will be getting a full five stars and I cannot wait to read the next book in this series.