Review: The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey

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Book Title: The Sister Pact
Author: Stacie Ramey
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published Date: November 3rd, 2015
Genre: YA Contemporary
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Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads
A suicide pact was supposed to keep them together, but a broken promise tore them apart


Allie is devastated when her older sister commits suicide – and not just because she misses her. Allie feels betrayed. The two made a pact that they’d always be together, in life, and in death, but Leah broke her promise and Allie needs to know why.

Her parents hover. Her friends try to support her. And Nick, sweet Nick, keeps calling and flirting. Their sympathy only intensifies her grief.

But the more she clings to Leah, the more secrets surface. Allie’s not sure which is more distressing: discovering the truth behind her sister’s death or facing her new reality without her.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an e-ARC from Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Review
Books about sisters are one of many book related things that I love. I love the dynamics that come into play as well as the differences & similarities between the sisters. Books that include some sort of suicide pact are books that I have a morbid fascination with. The idea of a “suicide pact” seems so interesting and bizarre.

Going by the fact that this book had both of those things in it, I should have loved the book. But I didn’t.

First of all, even in death, Leah was a horrible person. A horrible sister who pressured younger sister, Allie, into things she didn’t want to do. Situations that she didn’t want to be in. Among other things, she basically virgin-shamed her little sister.

“You have to grow up. If you can’t with Max, pick someone else. Someone you don’t care about. Then go back to him. Show him you can play with the big boys.”

Apparently losing your virginity proves that you are growing up. Ick. I really don’t like when virginity is tied to respect or maturity levels. That really bothers me and it’s a crappy thing for girls (and guys) to have to worry about.

Leah also had a twisted view of love. Granted neither she or Allie had a good model to look up to. After all, their parents were no longer together thanks to a girl only a few years older than Leah. Their dad had picked this girl, Danielle, over his wife and daughters.

“It’s that nothing matters other than being with this person. Even the things you thought were important, aren’t. Every second you aren’t with this person is like being slowly suffocated.”

That quote worries me. I know so many girls who feel exactly like Leah. So many girls who believe in constant contact and togetherness. That’s not healthy and it worries me that teen girls are reading this.

It’s Leah’s viewpoints on love & sex that get Allie wondering about her own experiences. Is Max really worth all of her thoughts? Is semi-geeky Nick worth more than she initially gives him credit for?

“And I wonder, by giving him what he wants, have I made him want me less?”

That is such a common worry for not only teen girls, but also women as well. We’re told from a very early age that boys want sex. So in the minds of teen girls and some women, once they get sex from you, a guy won’t want you anymore.

Nick tries hard to dispel that worry. He tries hard to make sure that Allie knows how he feels about her and that her decision to have sex with him, has not changed how he feels about her.

And then there’s John Strickland. He turns out to have a connection to Leah that Allie never knew about. Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan of his, but by the time the book ended, I was really liking him and how protective he was towards both Allie and her deceased sister, Leah.

Overall I just wasn’t a huge fan of this book. Some of it I liked, like Nick, John and Allie’s character arc, but a lot of it I didn’t like, like Allie’s parents, Leah, Max and Emery. The pacing was jerky too. Sometimes I would speed through it really quickly and and other times, I’d be reading it very slowly because I was at a part that wasn’t particularly interesting to me. I am giving it 3 stars. The only reason it’s not getting a lower rating is because I enjoyed Allie’s character arc a LOT.

Review: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

Book Title: Playlist for the Dead
Author: Michelle Falkoff
Published Date:  January 27th, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend’s suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular NowPlaylist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.

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

Review:
I love music, so I was excited to read this book once I realized that music played a significant part in the story. Unfortunately, even with a kick ass playlist, this book let me down in a big way.

I could tell almost immediately that this book was going to be a letdown for me, and yet I continued to read it. I kept thinking that it would get better, these characters would get more interesting, I would get more invested, but it just never happened and I finished the book feeling like I just wasted my time.

I was expecting this book to be chock full of feels, but it wasn’t. I was expecting to sympathize with Sam, but I didn’t. I was expecting to be blown away by the writing, and I wasn’t. It hate it when that happens

Sam would have been a better character if he had been fleshed out more. I didn’t care enough about him to even pay attention to him. I didn’t care about Astrid, and the mystery of what happened that night and how Hayden came to kill himself was not was compelling as I was hoping it would be.

I really only finished this book because of the music. The writing style was strange and the characters were very poorly developed. I can’t even recommend this book, that’s how disappointed I was in it. It had so much potential and it just didn’t live up to it. I am giving this book 2 stars.

Review: Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook

Book Title: Year of Mistaken Discoveries
Author: Eileen Cook
Release Date: February 25th, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Pre-Order Links: AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Friendship is a bond stronger than secrets in this novel from the author of The Almost Truth and Unraveling Isobel.

As first graders, Avery and Nora bonded over a special trait they shared, they were both adopted.

Years later, Avery is smart, popular, and on the cheerleading squad, while Nora spends her time on the fringes of school society, wearing black, reading esoteric poetry, and listening to obscure music. They never interact…until the night Nora approaches Avery at a party, saying it’s urgent. She tells Avery that she thought she found her birth mom, but it turned out to be a cruel lie. Avery feels for Nora, but returns to her friends at the party.

Then Avery learns that Nora overdosed on pills. Left to cope with Nora’s loss and questioning her own actions, Avery decides to honor her friend by launching a search for her own birth mother. Aided by Brody, a friend of Nora’s who is also looking for a way to respect Nora’s legacy, Avery embarks on an emotional quest. But what she’s really seeking might go far deeper than just genetics.
Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from Simon Pulse via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.
Review:
This book tackles a lot of tough subjects and it does it pretty well. Not amazing, but pretty well.As small children, Avery and Nora bonded over the fact that they were adopted.Knowing that they knew they were adopted was great to see. So many parents often don’t tell their kids that they are adopted and I still don’t understand that. It’s like the parents are terrified that their child will reject them in favor of their birth parents.

From the beginning, it is clear that Nora has a desire to find her birth mom whereas Avery does not. Obviously she knows she’s adopted, but it doesn’t intrigue her like it does Nora. Actually I cannot even say intrigue as much as obsess. Nora becomes obsessed with finding her birth mom and when she is cruelly scammed, Nora descends into a self destructive phase that leads her to suicide.

BRODY! Oh my God, Brody was adorable and sweet and kind and… ugh, just EVERYTHING.He was a great friend to Nora and when she passed away, he was grief stricken. Yet he agreed to help Avery with her project.Avery claimed that she only wanted to find her birth mother in memory of Nora, but what she didn’t tell Brody, was that she was hoping a project of this magnitude would convince the people at Duke, that she deserved to be a student there.

Avery and Brody start off as friends which I loved. There was no cringe-inducing insta-love, nor cutesy nicknames.It just worked.It was a normal basically drama-free relationship.

The end of the book just crushed me. I cried so much at the end of it. Mostly for Avery. She just wanted acceptance from her adoptive parents. Acceptance that even if she didn’t get into Duke, she was still “good enough” Acceptance from her birth mother that she wasn’t ashamed of Avery.

I felt that the ending was unfinished. I felt like more could have been explored when it came to Avery and her birth mom. I felt like the author dropped the ball on this one. It left us wondering what happened next. I get that sometimes an ending needs to be open ended but not this time. Not with how important this story-line was.

Because of the ending feeling so unfinished, I’ll be giving this book 4 stars. It was a truly great read but I just wish that the ending hadn’t felt so unfinished.

Review: The Program (The Program #1) by Suzanne Young

Book Title: The Program 
Author: Suzanne Young
Published Date: April 30th, 2013 
Published By: Simon and Schuster
Genre: YA/Dystopian
Series: Book 1 in The Program series
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

Disclaimer: This book was purchased by me.

Review:
I really wasn’t sure about this one initially. It had gotten a few not so good reviews from people I trust so I was a little iffy. Thank goodness I took a chance on this one. Oh my goodness it was amazing and heartbreaking at the same time.

One would think that a program to help the suicidal would be a good thing right? Well it’s not. The program essentially wipes your memory under the guise of removing the infected memories.When the Program releases the participants of the program,the returners are shells of who they used to be. They don’t remember their connections to anyone around them.

My heart ached for Sloane. She had gone through so much in such a short time,her brother committed suicide,her best friend doesn’t remember her and then her other best friend commits suicide. She had every right to feel depressed. The one thing that seemed to help her was her relationship with James. James had this ability to pull her out of whatever she was feeling, even if it only lasted a moment.I adored James. His sole purpose seemed to be, keeping Sloane safe.

No matter how much they love each other,they can’t hide from the program.I just couldn’t believe this.It felt like a never-ending circle of sadness and that was so heartbreaking. The idea of being forced to forget everything and everyone who you love was completely uncomphrensible to me.
The second part of the book wasn’t as heartbreaking as it focused more on the idea that even if you had your whole life essentially erased, would you still end up in the same place,around the same people. Now you have to rely on what people tell you which is hard as the families and friends who do remember the “old” you cannot tell you the truth about some things. Now you aren’t even sure that you can trust the very people you once trusted wholeheartedly.
I know that there were some mixed feelings on Realm. I liked him but he does have an air of mystery around him that I find very compelling. I have a feeling we’ll learn more about him as the series goes on.
This series is definitely my new favorite Dystopian series. It’s new and fresh. It doesn’t recycle the same old formula.I zipped through this book at lightening speed and I cannot wait to find out what happens next in this series. It was a perfect start to what I’m sure is going to be an amazing series. Five stars to this book with its amazing characters and unique plot.

Review: A Life, Redefined by Tracy Hewitt Meyer

Book Title: A Life, Redefined
Author: Tracy Hewitt Meyer
Publish Date: June 21st, 2013
Published By: Cerulean Publishing
Genre: YA
Series: Book One in the Rowan Slone Novels)
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Link: Amazon
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Seven years ago, an innocent act by Rowan Slone turned her life into a nightmare. Since the age of ten she’s lived with the burden of her baby brother’s death. Now she is seventeen and all she wants to do is graduate high school, go to college, and escape the loveless family she has endured all these years—the same family that holds her responsible for his death. But no one holds her responsible more than herself.
When long-time crush Mike Anderson invites her to the Prom, suddenly her future looks brighter. Rowan’s younger sister, Trina, however, is determined to ruin her new-found happiness, no matter the cost. And when Rowan discovers her mother’s long-held secret, she finds herself teetering on the edge of an abyss. Can Rowan find the strength to move toward the future or is she doomed to dwell in the past?

Disclaimer: I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Review:
I entered the Goodreads giveaway on a whim and was stoked when I found out that I had won. It was staring at me from my desk earlier so I looked at the page number and I guessed that I could finish it pretty quickly. I was right. It was a riveting, page turner that dealt with so many tough issues. Usually when a book tackles so many tough issues,the book ends up being subpar. Not this book.This book handled such tough issues as teenage pregnancy,rape,infanticide and depression, among other issues, well.
Rowan has been living with guilt for ten years. The book says that she is the one that punishes herself the hardest but I disagree. It was her father who punished her the hardest.She,along with her sister Trina and her mother are subjected to her father’s abuse constantly. It is no secret that things would be different if her baby brother had lived. 
Not only does her father abuse Rowan and Trina,he also emotionally abuses their mother. I got frustrated with their mother. She was so far deep in her depression that whenever her daughters were abused,she only put up a half-hearted effort to protect them.Not only that but Rowan’s mother carries with her a secret that will turn everything on its head. I cannot say that the twist was entirely unexpected but I was a bit shocked. 
Mike Anderson and Jess were good characters too. I wish we had seen just a pinch more of Jess but I did like her from what I did see. Mike had everything that Rowan didn’t have and I think that’s part of what drew Rowan to him in the first place.
This book is getting 4 stars from me. I really enjoyed it but it felt like some parts were just a teeny bit rushed.I think making the book longer would definitely have fixed the issue of certain rushed parts. If you are up for a quick page turner,give this one a try. I both cried and laughed during this book and to me,that’s the mark of an amazing book.