Review: Ashes to Ashes (Burn for Burn #3) by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

Book Title: Ashes to Ashes
Authors: Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
Published Date: September 16th, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: Book three in Burn for Burn trilogy
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonThe Book Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
New Year’s Eve ended with a bang and Mary, Kat and Lillia may not be prepared for what is to come.

After Rennie’s death, Kat and Lillia try to put the pieces together of what happened to her. They both blame themselves. If Lillia hadn’t left with Reeve… If Kat had only stayed with Rennie… Things could have been different. Now they will never be the same.

Only Mary knows the truth about that night. About what she is. She also knows the truth about Lillia and Reeve falling in love, about Reeve being happy when all he deserves is misery, just like the misery he caused her. Now their childish attempts at revenge are a thing of the past and Mary is out for blood. Will she leave anything in her wake or will all that remain be ashes?

Disclaimer: Library book.

Prepare for endless rambling about this book. I have lots of things to say about it but it’s gonna come out all jumbly and crap.

I had no idea what was going on with this book. I didn’t know what was real and what was false. I didn’t know what roles Mary, Lillia and Kat would play. I didn’t know what roles Alex & Reeve would play with this book. 

This book had a whole lot more of Kat & Lillia than it had of Mary and there was a reason for that. I’m not going to go into those reasons because it’s a spoiler and I really don’t want to discuss spoilers. 
I never really loved Lillia and Reeve together. I was really hoping that Lillia would fall for Alex, because I know Alex was madly in love with Lillia and it hurt me that Lillia was too emmeshed in Reeve and how she felt about Reeve. I really didn’t like them together and I think a lot of that was because Rennie had just recently died and Reeve and Rennie had been a thing right before the death of Rennie. It really didn’t make me like Lillia all that much. If they wanted to be together, they should of waited several months before they got together.
Kat was going through her own issues. She wants desperately off of the Jar Island. She wants to go to college at Oberlin. She wants to do something for herself. She finds herself in a friendship with Alex Lind. She’s helping him with his own dream, although he is so desperately in love with Lillia that Kat wonders if he’ll ever be able to focus on what he wants independent of how he feels about Lillia.
Both Kat and Lillia have no idea what’s happened to Mary. She’s disappeared and they have no idea what’s going on. Even on an island like Jar Island, there’s still secrets. Secrets that Mary herself knows about and she still wants to make Reeve pay for the pain he put her through. Revenge is what she wants and she’s not going to find peace until she makes him go through hell.
This entire trilogy was amazing. Han & Vivian are a dynamic duo and I really hope they do more collaborations together because this one, was utterly phenomenal. I am giving this book 5 stars. There is nothing I’d change about this book or this series. I cannot wait to get a complete set of this trilogy.

Review: The Fine Art of Pretending (The Fine Art of Pretending #1) by Rachel Harris

Book Title: The Fine Art of Pretending
Author: Rachel Harris
Published Date: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Series: Book one in The Fine Art of Pretending series.
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you’re friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.

With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.

But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Spencer Hill Contemporary via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Okay, so by now you guys should know that I generally don’t do light and fluffy. Light and fluffy normally bores me and I usually need depth to really enjoy the story. However, I had seen this cover awhile back and I fell in love with the cover. So when I saw it up on NetGalley, I decided to give it a shot, hoping desperately that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. One of the biggest predictors of whether or not I’ll like a book is how the character development is. If it’s strong and I see a great character arc with tons of growth and I know what makes these characters tick, I’ll like the book. Unfortunately, with this book, the lackuster character development, particularly for Aly, was what ruined the book for me.

I think Gabi had the right idea here. She was the only sensible girl who insisted on questioning Aly’s reasons for doing it. Gabi knew that changing your whole look just so guys will see you in a different light was insane. Yet Aly had been so sick of watching the boys pass her over for some other hottie, that Gabi’s words didn’t sink in like they should have.

Look, I’m not hating on Aly. Really, I’m not. I remember how it felt in high school to have all the boys see you as just a friend. It was incredibly hard and it does do a number on your self esteem when you see all the hot girls having dates constantly and no guy will even look your way. It sucks. I think it was just hard for me to relate to her as I would have never changed myself for a guy. When I was in high school (10+ years ago) I was definitely a tomboy and boys generally didn’t look my way. Was it hard? Yes, of course it was, but it never occurred to me to change myself just so boys would like me.

I never really felt “it” between Aly and Brandon. They didn’t sizzle off my Kindle like I was hoping they would. In romance books, chemistry is key and I just never felt like Aly and Brandon really had chemistry. I did like the tension between them, but I definitely felt like the chemistry was lacking between the two of them. Now friendship chemistry was absolutely there and I felt like they would have made better friends than romantic partners.

All in all, this book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t one I enjoyed either. I’m pretty indifferent to it actually, which really bums me out. The lackluster character development and the romantic chemistry were both major disappointments to me. For these reasons, I have to give the book 3 stars. I would recommend this book to a younger reader. I think the tone of this book is for a younger reader. I was never able to connect with it.

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
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.
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: The Edge of You by Theresa DaLayne

Book Title: The Edge of You
Author: Theresa DaLayne
Published Date: September 25th, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Synopsis from Goodreads:
He left home to escape. She made a new life out of guilt. Neither one expected to find love—but not even the Arctic can cool this steamy romance.

Maya knows she’s doing the right thing by moving to Alaska with her parents, but that doesn’t mean she has to be happy about it. Forced to give up a scholarship to a prestigious art school, she relocates to a Podunk town with one college the size of her high school cafeteria, all to help hold her family together after the death of her little sister. But a fresh start can only do so much.

Jake doesn’t like handouts and he certainly doesn’t need any distractions. Working on a salmon boat in Kodiak, Alaska is the only way to pay for his mother’s surgery back in the lower forty-eight. Juggling college courses and constant worry about his mother’s health, Jake couldn’t imagine anything else fitting into his life. That is, until he meets Maya, the sexy Californian artist who tints his world in technicolor.

But when Maya’s family starts to crumble and Jake’s mom takes a turn for the worse, will they drag each other down, or can they find what they were missing all along?

In this new adult romance, Theresa DaLayne paints a swoon-worthy story about life under the midnight sun, following your heart, and learning to live on the edge.

Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Bloomsbury Spark via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

In a romance book, you have to want to root for the couple. You have to feel the sparks coming off the page every time they interact with each other. You have to cheer when they finally kiss. I couldn’t root for these two. I just couldn’t do it. I think, because I am very picky about my New Adult books that I choose to read, I hold them to a higher standard. Impress me, wow me. Very few NA’s have been able to do that.

Maya was impossible to like. She was maddening and aggravating and she made me want to throw my Kindle across the room. At 20 years old, she didn’t “need” to go with her family when they relocated to Alaska, but she felt guilty about not going, so she gave up everything and went. But when they get there, she spends half the time whining about it. She sounded like she was much younger than 20 years old.

I did like Jake and his devotion to his mom. That definitely warmed my heart. But it’s his behavior after he met Maya that is enough to drive me bat-crap crazy. He barely knows this girl, but suddenly he’s putting his job in danger, a job he claims he needs because his mom needs surgery. All of a sudden, since a pretty girl has shown up in Kodiak, his focus has shifted and that really drove me nuts. I would have never essentially put my mom’s health on the back burner for a guy. No freaking way would I ever let that happen. So I lost a lot of respect for Jake after he met Maya.

Sometimes, people work better together when they’re just friends and I felt like that was Jake and Maya. They never really had the romantic sparks I was expecting. Their chemistry was bland at best. I was really disappointed by this book. I was hoping that I had found another NA that I would love. Unfortunately that just wasn’t the case with this one. 

I was completely bored out of my mind with this one, so it should not surprise anyone that I’m giving this book 2 stars. The chemistry was bland, I did not like them as a couple at all. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.

Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Publish Date: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: YA Historical
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonThe Book Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

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

“I don’t think right and wrong is always that simple.”

This book made me feel all the things. Anger, sadness, happiness, hope, despair and so many other emotions, it’s hard to keep it all straight. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to Sarah Dunbar, her sister Ruth and 8 other “colored” students who are attempting to be the first colored students to integrate into Jefferson High. 

I had studied this time period in college history classes so I was worried it wouldn’t feel authentic. But it did. Everything that Sarah, Ruth, Yvonne, Chuck, Paulie & Ennis went through was heartbreaking and before I had even gotten a quarter of the way through it, I had sobbed out loud, multiple times, scaring my cat.

Not only is Sarah dealing with integrating at a new, all-white school, she’s also dealing with sinful thoughts about girls.

“I used to think the wrong things all the time. Before I knew they were wrong.” -Sarah-

At this time in history, being LGBT was considered “wrong” and “sinful” and “not normal” Sarah struggled with knowing that the way she felt about girls was considered wrong by society & by God. She’s so focused on pleasing her parents and being a good girl and not disappointing them, that she doesn’t take the time for herself to think about what she wants and what she believes.

“I don’t talk back and I don’t ask questions. That’s what good daughters do. Being good means being invisible.” -Sarah-

I know I would have failed big time in this time in history. I get that it was a totally different time in our history, but wow, things have definitely changed at least in some ways.

“It isn’t right for girls to talk about being smart around boys.” -Sarah-

This line absolutely infuriated me. Again, I know that this was a very different time in our history where girls were expected to shut up, not question their father or their husband and pop out babies. I was absolutely livid at reading this. Especially knowing that Sarah was smart. She was very smart, yet she couldn’t talk about that around boys.

“Everyone is counting on me. I can’t be a failure.” -Sarah-

That seems like a lot of pressure on a teenager and I was, once again, infuriated on Sarah’s behalf. She was so concerned about not failing anyone and I was honestly worried for her. What would happen if she did fail? Would she be able to deal with the disappointment and move on?

Linda had it all. She was popular, worry free and seemingly happy. Her father was well known in the community and he was also very well respected. But Linda’s hiding a secret, well a couple of secrets. Both of which she knows she cannot leak out or it would damage her family’s reputation.

Since she was a small child, she’s obediently listened to her father and willingly parroted all his beliefs to her friends. She agrees with everything her father says about the dangers of Negroes and how the end of segregation is going to ruin America. But everything changes when she meets Sarah.

“It didn’t seem right that she had to be so scared just because she was a Negro. She couldn’t help the color of her skin.” -Linda-

Linda waffled on her beliefs a lot and while I was continuously frustrated by her, I understood her, at least a little bit. All her life her father had said bad things about Negroes and she was so desperate to get his approval that she agreed with him without doing any of her own thinking on the subject. Meeting Sarah was exactly what Linda needed in order to realize that maybe these people were okay. Maybe they weren’t lazy, uneducated slobs like her Daddy always said they were.

Linda was also dating a much older boy in the hopes that they would get married after graduation and she could move out of her father’s home and start popping out babies with Jack. She honestly didn’t think there were any other choices. At that time, marriage and babies were really the only choice for most women.

“Jack is all I need.” -Linda-

That quote frustrated me, but again I know why she felt like that. She wanted to get away from her awful father and she truly believed that Jack was all she needed because she wanted to marry him and leave home. She was convinced that a life with Jack was all she wanted and needed.

It’s Sarah who tries to get Linda to figure out on her own what she believes and to stop taking everything her father says as gospel. Sarah is not afraid to call Linda out on it either. That I loved.These two had so many passionate discussions on what was right and what was wrong. That was the basis of many of their conversations early on which I thought was awesome.

I wish there had been more in the way of romance. I was definitely excited to see the romance unfold and I was disappointed that we really didn’t get a lot of it. Also, at about 65% of the way through, it had slowed down and it was a bit boring for awhile. Thankfully it picked back up. I did enjoy this book a lot, more than I expected to actually and I’m really glad I took a chance on this book. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Review: Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick

Book Title: Kiss of Broken Glass
Author: Madeleine Kuderick
Published Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Madeleine Kuderick’s gripping debut is a darkly beautiful and lyrical novel in verse, perfect for fans of Sonya Sones and Laurie Halse Anderson. Kiss of Broken Glass pulses with emotion and lingers long after the last page.

In the next seventy-two hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for seventy-two hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.

When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for mandatory psychiatric watch. There, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.

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

Trigger Warning: Self Harm.

I was really, really nervous about reading this book and it wasn’t because of the subject matter. I actually tend to gravitate towards books that are dark, so the subject matter was kind of right up my alley, as weird and creepy as that sounds. I think teens (mostly girls) cutting themselves is seen as this deep dark secret that they don’t want their parents or teachers to know about because they don’t want to seem crazy.

My trepidation was based on the fact that it was written in verse. I really don’t tend to like books written in verse but I was willing to give it a shot. I was hoping that it would be the book to change my mind about books written in verse. However, my problem with this book in verse turned out to be the same problem I continually have with books in verse.

I didn’t connect to Kenna, and I didn’t feel like I got a sense of who she was outside of the cutting. I got that she was in a group of teens who made a competition  out of cutting. Of course I found that to be very classless. Cutting is serious and making it into a competition was awful and sickening. I think if it had been written in a more straightforward way, I would have gotten to know Kenna better.

I do feel like the ending was rushed, which I didn’t enjoy. At all. I ended up liking it a little bit more by the end, which is why I am giving it 3.5 stars. It was definitely better than I was expecting it to be. I would recommend this book if you like books in verse because despite my issues with it, I felt like it was an important book.

Review: Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

Book Title: Don’t Touch
Author: Rachel M. Wilson
Published Date: September 2nd, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A powerful story of a girl who is afraid to touch another person’s skin, until the boy auditioning for Hamlet opposite her Ophelia gives her a reason to overcome her fears.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good.

Caddie can’t stop thinking that if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, her parents might get back together… which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin.

It seems harmless at first, but Caddie’s obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who’s auditioning for the title role—and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall.

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, this debut novel from Rachel M. Wilson is a moving story of a talented girl who’s fighting an increasingly severe anxiety disorder, and the friends and family who stand by her.

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

This book was very hard for me to read. I wanted to love it, I wanted to sympathize with Caddie given everything she had going on. But that didn’t happen. I don’t have any experience with the kind of crippling anxiety that Caddie dealt with. I wasn’t invested all that much in the story, although I did like the writing a lot and I wanted to love Caddie herself.

But as the book continued, and she descended deeper and deeper into her anxiety, it didn’t feel realistic to me. I found it very hard to believe that her mom wouldn’t notice something was going on with her child. I mean, come ON! Even if somehow her mother legitimately didn’t know something was going on with her, her friends should have picked up on something. I mean, friends are supposed to be the people who notice when something’s not right and call you out on it. But with Caddie’s friends, they seemed very selfish and overly involved in themselves. In other words, I didn’t find them to be good friends.

I think she was given the role of Ophelia in the hopes that she would then work on her issues, but nope, that didn’t happen. Given the very nature of having the lead in a play, should have clued Caddie into the fact that she would have to touch other people and that other people would have to touch her.

The book itself could have done with about 200 less pages. There were a lot of boring parts, which could have easily been eliminated and would probably have made the book even stronger. When books are this long, certain parts tend to be very boring and they tend to drag and that was definitely the case with this one.

Overall, despite the pretty writing, this book just didn’t work for me. I’m really bummed about it because so many of my fellow bloggers absolutely loved it. I thought for sure it would be a hit for me as well, but it wasn’t. I’m giving it 2 stars, but if this seems like your kind of thing, you should give it a shot.

Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Book Title: Belzhar
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Publish Date: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.
Disclaimer: I participated in an ARC Tour for this book and I read it with the ladies of On The Same Page.

What the hell did I just read?
And I mean that in the best way possible. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with Belzhar, but I was willing to give it a shot. In the beginning, it was a little slow, but by the time Page 60 rolled around, it was really picking up. By the time Page 100 rolled around, it was next to impossible to even consider putting this book down.
I’m a weirdo, I love Sylvia Plath’s poetry, so when I heard that Sylvia Plath was going to be featured in this book, I was stoked and I had really high hopes for this book.Sylvia Plath also wrote The Bell Jar, which is one of my favorite novels ever. Told you, I’m a weirdo.
Anyway, this book follows five students, Casey, Sierra, Marc, Griffin and Jam. They are the only five students in this “Special Topics in English” class that has been taught for a long time by the same teacher. Each of them has their own story, their own reason for being at The Wooden Barn. Yes, we do learn about the reasons these people come to The Wooden Barn, which was probably my favorite part.
The supernatural elements of the book were also quite fascinating. I kept wanting to read more and more of the book. I wanted to find out more about Belzhar as a whole. It had a very Dead Poets Society feel to it, which I loved as Dead Poets Society is one of my all time favorite movies. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it definitely reminded me of the movie.
I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book, but I knew I had to give it a chance and I am so incredibly happy that I did give it a chance because it was nothing like what I was expecting and when book surprise me like that, I get excited. I am honestly not sure why I can’t give it the full 5 stars because I did think it was awesome. If I had to put my finger on it though, I’d say that the ending was abrupt and I really wanted more of this book, an ending that was a bit more smooth than what I got. I did really like it a lot and I would definitely recommend it.

Review: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Book Title: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Publish Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.

At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

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

Rites of Passage was unlike anything I had ever read before, but that was one of the many things that I loved about it. Usually anything set in a military school or anything military related is not really my thing, but the fact that it was a female attempting to make it through at a previously all boys military school, got me excited.

At first, I was having a very hard time with the book. All the military stuff was boring the crap outta me and the only character I cared about was Sam. At right about 20% of the way through the book, I really started getting into it and I didn’t want to stop reading it. Sam was not the only girl there, in the beginning there are 3 other girls along with her. By the time I really started to get into it, Sam was left with Katie Quinn and Bekah Cross as her only two fellow females.

Sam was an amazing character. She was so different from the way girls are normally in books. She was focused on her goal and that was to make it at the DMA. It was more than a dare to her. She felt like she needed to make her dad proud of her. She felt like she needed to show all the guys at the DMA that she was every bit as strong as they were and that she belonged here. She wanted to prove to her older brother, Johnathan that she belonged here and that she wouldn’t be expecting special treatment. And of course Amos. Amos hung himself, but not before he dared Sam to join the DMA’s first female class.

 What I really enjoyed was that she wasn’t totally boy crazy. She had goals and she wasn’t going to allow a brief flirtation with Liam Kelly, ruin anything. Even her attraction to drill sergeant Dean Stamm won’t ruin anything for her. Or at least that’s what she says initially. Things sort of take a turn around Christmastime.

Things were anything but smooth sailing for her though. She was constantly harassed by Matthews as well as other upperclassmen, but she refused to allow that to stop her from reaching her goals. She wasn’t scared off easily which I really enjoyed. Even when the bullying started getting really bad, Sam refused to back down. Awesome!

I know a lot of people didn’t love the ending but I definitely did. I was okay with it being open ended, but of course I wouldn’t mind if the author decided to make this one into a series. It could happen with the way the ending left it. I finished the book earlier this week and I’m still thinking about it! I am giving it 5 stars and I cannot WAIT to get a finished copy of this.

Review: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Book Title: Falling Into Place
Author: Amy Zhang
Publish Date: September 9th, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: YA/Contemporary
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Synopsis from Goodreads:
On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road. 

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

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

Okay, let’s see if I can get my thoughts all written down before I start crying. Holy cow, this was such a powerful book. Emotional punches were packed tightly within this book so it was akin to a roller coaster, albeit, an emotional one. Knowing a teenager wrote this, seriously makes me feel like a big fat slacker.

I cannot say enough amazing things about the prose. Oh my goodness, it was beautifully written. It was emotional, it was easy to relate to and it was written in a way that would ordinarily confuse the heck outta me. But this time, I wasn’t confused. I was too drawn in to be confused by the fact that the timeline of the book wasn’t straightforward. There were flashbacks and a lot of jumping around to different parts of the story.

Sometimes when the writing is really beautiful, character development suffers. Happily, that was not the case with this book. Liz, her mom, her friends and even the boy she bullied, were all well rounded, complex characters which was another thing that I loved. No, the characters as a whole were not likable characters, but each of them had their own redeeming moments.

This book also had some tough subjects attached to it. Rape, Suicide, bullying, teen pregnancy, drug & alcohol use. These subjects were weaved into the story well which was great to see as often it feels as if the author has bit off more than she can chew. Clearly, that was not the case with this author.

Books like this tend to be on the preachy side, but thankfully this one was not. It did make me think a lot about my own life and what it means to be a friend, to love someone. Life is complicated, messy and like this book, it rarely goes in a linear fashion. I absolutely adored this book and I cannot wait to get my hands on a finished copy of it. 5 stars to this beautifully written book about life and the choices we make every single day.