Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Details

Publisher:  Harper for Teens
Published:  September 6, 2011
Genres:  YA, contemporary, Romance, Realistic fiction
My Rating: 4.25 Starts

 

10429005GoodRead Blurb

Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all, there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss—a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

Jennifer Castle’s debut novel is a heart-wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.

 

My Review

This book was not as depressing as I thought it was going to be when I started reading it, don’t get me wrong, it’s sad, but I was expecting it to be sadder. In the first couple chapters, the destruction of Laurel’s life takes place, her whole family dies in a car accident in what could be a drunk driving accident but no one is really sure what happened. Laurel goes through what I found to be a very authentic grieving process. She does things that don’t make much sense, she fosters some kittens, she pushes all of her friends away, she tries to not be the girl with the dead family, but in her small town, she was never going to be able to escape that. This book follows Laurel for about a year, the beginning of this new part of her life where everything is different, and she had to relearn her whole life.

I’ve talked a little bit about survivor’s guilt and how it’s this terrible thing that makes you do the weirdest stuff, things that you would never do in a time before this huge event happened. You’re trying to elevate this pain that you feel because you feel such terrible guilt about what happened even though it was in no way your fault. Laurel’s whole character is created in a way that I understood and related to. Her journey through this grief is well thought out and feels real.

I loved the difference between how Laurel and David, who also lost part of his family, deal with the loss. Laurel is trying so hard to pretend everything is normal, and David knows it’s not and it never will be.

Laurel wanting to not be the girl with the dead family, wanting to spend more time at her job where no one knows her, is incredibly relatable. The whole story hit home with me on multiple levels.

There is an underlying sub-plot of romance, which I don’t really think is completely necessary but didn’t take away from the overall story. I think that part of the story feel right at the point where it comes into the story.

I think this book is a good one if you are looking for something a little bit deeper but is still a fairly quick read. This book is very character driven– the plot revolves very tightly around what is happening emotionally to Laurel. I enjoyed that because of the process that Laurel goes through to deal with her grief.

Have you read this book? Or know a book that is like it to recommend? I’d love to hear about!

 

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

Review- Unspoekn by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Details

Publisher:  Random House Books for Young Readers
Published:  September 11, 2012
Genres:  YA, fantasy, paranormal
My Rating: 3.75 Stars

17162405

GoodReads Blurb

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met… a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

My Review

So, fun story about me. I have a terrible habit of calling famous people I follow on Twitter and Facebook “my friend.” In no person am I guiltier of doing this than Jared Padalecki from Supernatural. In the last few years I have said “My Friend Jared” and then talked about the Always Keep Fighting Campain as if a person I actually know was involved in it. I’ve been called out many a time. One memorable one being my mother saying to me “You don’t know anyone named Jared.” Although one time he did like a comment I made on a Facebook Live he did and therefore we are friends and I will fight you.

So I feel a weird connection to Kami. I  have never talked to other people in my head or heard other people’s thoughts, but still. I felt an understanding with Kami.

There were parts of this book that I felt didn’t exactly make sense. I felt that Holly and Angela accepted Kami’s explanation that flesh and blood Jared standing in front of them is the same Jared that Kami’s been talking to in her head too easily. I also felt the romances were a little forced. But overall I enjoyed this novel.

There’s a lot going on in this book, murder, magic, mystery, people that can read one other person’s mind, animal sacrifice, breaking and entering. And for the most part, it’s laid out pretty straightforwardly. I feel like some of the dialogue is wonky, but I think it may be a “language barrier” between American English and British English. There are parts of Harry Potter dialogue that still make no sense to me.

This is a good modern Gothic novel, which after reading some Victorian Gothic novels, I enjoyed seeing how those themes aged through time. I liked those elements that I’ve seen in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in a brand new story. Even my least favorite element, Cousin Marriage, survived. Stop marrying your first cousins. I have seen so much cousin marriage in media the last few months it’s getting a little weird. Everywhere I look COUSIN MARRIAGE.

I like the mystery, the who and why. I think it’ll be an interesting series as I continue reading it. I think there is a lot to explore. The history of the town and Lynburns is going to be interesting as it continues to unfold. I recommend this novel to people looking for something a little creepy and odd. It was a fun quick read.

Have you read any of The Lynburn Legacy? What did you think?

Until next time Internet

 

Deanna

Review: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

The Details

Publisher:  Simon Pulse
Published:  January 3, 2012
Genres:  YA, romance, contemporary
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

12478533 GoodReads Blurb

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances… a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life… and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last.

 

Review:

I loved this story. There is something about it that struck me personally that I connected so much with Hudson and her life. I’m not a figure skater or have my life figured out, but I do love baking cupcakes and miss reading signals from boys is a specialty of mine. While reading this book, I texted my friends and kept saying “How does Sarah Ockler know my life!?!” It’s a really cute, thoughtful book I think many people can relate to.

The book is mainly about a girl trying to figure out what she wants from life. She used to be a figure skater, a very good figure skater, but after her parents had divorced, she hung up her skates to help her mom out with her brother and the diner than her mom runs. Hudson hates waitressing but feels like she has to do it. Hudson takes on a lot of side responsibilities. She cooks desserts for the diner, mainly cupcakes. There are a bunch of super cute cupcake recipes spread out within the books. I still want to try some of them out. Hudson also decides to take out helping out the school hockey team, teaching them the basics of skating, much like how football players take ballet for better footwork. She teaches the boys the finer points of skating to help them during their games. On top of all that, Hudson is secretly working on a new routine to win a scholarship for college.

Hudson does so much that some of her other responsibilities get left behind. She’s not doing as much as she should at the diner or at home. Her friendships suffer. Although her best friend is kind of a douche and doesn’t see that Hudson is struggling and just is a jerk about Hudson not spending time with her.

There is brilliance in the way that Ockler is able to write Hudson’s juggling and losing her battle to keep everything going. Sometimes a person takes on too much, and Hudson realizing that is such a huge, pivotal part of the book. It’s an awakening in a way, that was probably the biggest thing I took away from it.

This book was a very quick read, enjoyable in the way that I find many a YA romance. There is something about finding that first love that gets me every time.

I have read one other Sarah Ockler book, Twenty Boy Summer, and I’ve discovered via GoodReads that she has a couple more books. I’m going to have to scoop them up. When a writer can write first love and understands the immense stress that teenagers go through trying to juggle everything, their books are definitely worth looking into.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of love who are looking for a book that is about more than just love the story. It’s a really great book.

Have you read Bittersweet? Or any other Sarah Ockler? Let me know what you thought!

 

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

Review: The Infinite Moment of Us

The Details

Publisher:  Amulet Books
Published:  August 27, 2013
Genres:  YA, romance, contemporary
My Rating: 3 Stars

17290266Goodreads Blurb

For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now… not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?

Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.

And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them…

Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers

MY REVIEW

I enjoyed this book. However, there were some unfinished storylines and some problematic issues that I had that keeps this book from being four stars from me. It had so much potential, but I feel like it fell flat in many spots where it could have really shined.

It reminds me of Judy Blume’s Forever, only not quite as good. I mean, Forever is probably the best sex and relationship YA book ever to exist. The Infinite Moment of Us tries, and to be honest, it does hit notes of a teenage relationship in mid-2010’s, but not enough of them.

There is a fair amount of slut shaming. There’s a character named Starla, she’s promiscuous and has a rough past. I felt reading the book that both narrators, Charlie and Wren, looked upon Starla as something to be pitied. Wren and her best friend both discussed how Wren was much better than Starla because Starla was known to get around whereas Wren was clean and pure and wholesome and from a good family. I know this is a thing that happens in high school. It’s how girls talk to and about each other, but because of other elements of this book the Starla is dirty and Wren is bright and clean aspect of it is very unhealthy and gives the wrong impression to a reader about what is and isn’t acceptable.

There are some anti-feminist things, which doesn’t bother me, except compounded with the virgin/whore dynamic between Wren and Starla. Wren’s best friend, Tessa, talks to Charlie about how “girls like to have sex.” I saw it as more how Wren would want a sexual relationship, but it can be read both ways. Some of the reviews if this book that I read on GoodReads talked about how weird this was, for the boyfriend to go to the best friend. However, in my experience, girls talk to each other about this kind of stuff in a way that they don’t with significant others. Charlie is just trying to learn about Wren, so he goes the source, the best friend. Is it super weird, yes, but still teenage girls talk to their girlfriends about a lot of things. I would imagine if someone wanted to know more about me, they would go to Jen or my other close friends. I would assume it would be to find out what kind of food I like and what items of Harry Potter and Supernatural merchandise I already own so they can buy me a present and not about positions, but who knows?

Tessa talks about a male dominated, male aggressive kind of relationship where the girl is submissive and does what the guy wants. Your sex life if up to you, but to think that there is only one way to have this kind of relationship isn’t okay. In Starla’s relationship with Charlie, Starla is in charge. It was very clear that Starla set the rules for the relationship. This to me plays a little into the “good and bad” relationship that is woven throughout the book. Tessa’s description of the kind of relationship that Wren would want makes Charlie believe that everything he and Starla were was wrong and even dirtier. Girls shouldn’t be like Starla, they should be like Wren. Girls can be both.

There are some, it’s not graphic, but its detailed, depictions of sex acts, and the only part of that that really bothers me is that Wren wants to have unprotected sex. It’s made to seem like a good and understandable decision. These characters are 18 years old and graduate high school at the beginning of the book. Unprotected sex probably isn’t a good choice. This is a Young Adult book, and is obviously targeted to older teens, but just say yes to condoms.

There are some storylines that don’t have a resolution, Starla’s in particular. There was so much more that could have been done with Starla. I left the book wanting to know more about what happens to her, how she comes out of these events. I feel so bad for her. I wanted to protect her, which I really don’t feel was the point of her character, but nonetheless is how I felt walking away from the story. I feel like there is a potential for a second book which would wrap this up, but as of right now there isn’t. There are so many loose ends that it would make sense to have a follow-up.

I feel like there is a potential for a second book which would wrap this up, but as of right now there isn’t. There are so many loose ends that it would make sense to have a follow-up. There was a complete story but it read like (this is going be the weirdest analogy ever) during the writers strike when most TV shows had shortened seasons. Storylines were introduced in the first half of the season, then the strike happened, so those storylines weren’t picked up again and forgotten. There are just a lot of loose ends.

All in all, I did enjoy this book. I like the way Lauren Myracle writes, but there were pieces of this books that just don’t sit right with me after thinking about it for a few days. I mean if I didn’t hyper-analyze it to write a blog post about it I may have enjoyed it more, but thinking about book critically was something I was doing before I wrote about them online. It felt like there was a much bigger book planned and pieces got cut out but that whole storyline wasn’t removed, does that make sense?

I felt slightly let down by this book, I didn’t have the highest of hopes because of the mixed reviews on GoodReads, but I still think there was a greater potential than what ended up happening.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

 

 

 

Calendar Girls: Best Sequel

Welcome to the fifth month of the reading/blogging event Flavia and Melanie are hosting, Calendar Girls! It’s a monthly event designed to ignite bookish discussions between bloggers based on the monthly theme. For more information, check out Melanie or Flavia’s launch posts!

This month’s theme: best sequel.

199687

 

My choice is the second book in the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty, Second Helpings. To be honest, it’s been a little while since I read this book (about 7 years) and I desperately need to re-read this series considering how much I talk about Megan McCafferty, her writing, and how much I love her books, but I remember this one sticking with me for so many reasons.

 

 

I picked up this book because Hayley for the fiveawesomegirls youtube channel talked about it, and she was very excited about the release of the fifth one. Trusting Hayley’s taste in books I decided to dive in for a crazy ride that goes from YA lit to more adult literature and themes as Jessica, and therefore Jessica’s audience aged.

The first book in this series, Sloppy Firsts, was published in August of 2001, Second Helpings was released in April on 2003, Jessica, the main character is a senior in high school in this book. It follows Jessica through her senior year, the superlatives, yearbook prep, college selection, as well as her older sister’s pregnancy. It’s a turbulent year for Jessica as she tries, like so many of us have at 17 and 18 years old, to learn who she is and what she wants.

Between the release of the first book and the release of the second book, a huge event in American History happened. I was a freshman in high school that day. And in the nine years between that event in September of 2001 and March of 2010 when I read this book, I had never read a book that discussed the high school student reaction to it. There is a tone shift in the books that, looking back at them; you can tell that book one is a pre-9/11 book and the second in a post-9/11 book. It’s hard to explain, and I could have been imagining the whole thing, but there is a worry free honesty of the first book and the second book truly captures the change that there was in, at the very least, my high school.

Obviously, the Megan McCafferty’s take on 9/11 through the eyes of a high schooler who was not that much older than I was isn’t the only reason I love this series and this book. There is an honesty and a light-heartedness that Jessica’s character has as she writes her diary and explains the events of her life that feel so real. She doesn’t sugar coat her friendships with the people in her friend group who she calls “The Clueless Crew.” She’s conflicted about her feelings with two different boys. It just feels more real than many YA books I’ve read. There is also a lot of appreciation for Barry Manilow, which you just don’t see in YA literature.

I highly, highly, highly, recommend reading the Jessica Darling series. They are just good books.

Have you read them? Let me know what you thought!

Next Month’s Calendar Girl’s Theme:

BEST SHAKESPEARIAN PLAY

Until next time Internet,

 

Deanna

Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

The Details

Publisher:  Harper Teens
Published:  MArch 14, 2017
Genres:  YA, Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling
My Rating: 5 Stars

 

30653719

Good Reads Blurb

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast

My Review

I am new to the fairytale retelling trend in YA lit. To be honest, before starting this blog I was unaware it was a thing outside of the Cinder Chronicles, which as I mentioned in my post about Cinder, I was anxious about reading because I didn’t want to be disappointed by it. When this book appeared in my uppercase book box in March, I was nervous about it. Beauty and the Beast is such a huge thing in the first quarter of 2017 with the live action movie and such. But then I started to see the reviews by my fellow bloggers, and I was less nervous about this book.

What I loved is that it doesn’t follow the Disney version of the story that is so well known. I listen to the Myths and Legends podcast (side note if you are interested in old stories and origins of myths and stuff listen to this podcast it’s really fun) and a while back he covered the Beauty and the Beast origin stories. This story is truly a tale as old as time, it has origins from all over the world. Spooner’s version focuses mainly on the Russian version but has elements of the French version, which for the most part is the version we are familiar with.

Because of the Myth and Legends podcast, I have learned a lot about Russian Fairytales: the stories of Prince Ivan and his brothers. Russian fairytales are very different than western stories, Spooner intertwines them into her story seamlessly. It was one of my favorite elements of the book.

Another thing I loved were the journal entries by the Beast between chapters. For the most part, the story is told through Yeva’s experience, but through these little half-page entries, we learn about the Beast from the Beast.  It was a very interesting way to show his character development as the story continued.

I did feel that the ending came very quickly. The rest of the story is slower paced, but when we get to the last third of the book, everything happens very fast. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book, and it was still highly enjoyable– one of my favorites this year– but I think that it could have benefited a little from more at the end.

Overall, I found this book extremely well written and told a beautiful story about acceptance and love. It is worth picking up if you haven’t already.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Until next time Internet,

 

Deanna

Book Review: By Your Side by Kasie West

The Details

Publisher:  Harper Teens
Published:  January 31st, 2017
Genres:  Contemporary, YA, Romance
My Rating: 4 Stars
30256248

 GoodReads Blurb

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead, it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

My Review

I cannot review this book without first addressing the unlikely scenario that the first third of the book centers around. There is, literally, no way to be locked in a public building. There are regulations that make that impossible. This is not a Novalee Nation from Where the Heart Is staying at the Wal-Mart on purpose. This is 2017 two people locked in a public building that if it doesn’t have emergency exits can’t be opened from the outside but an alarm sounds when you exit it, it is not up to code, and it’s, literally, illegal. There is a way out. It also seems illogical that a public library would not have a landline. Every library I have ever been in has landlines, their technology is mostly from the early 2000’s. If there is one place that still has landlines it’s a public library.

It feels so go to let that out.

Ignoring this, I really liked this book. I found Autumn very relatable. I suffer from anxiety similar to Autumn. I understand her. I understand her overwhelming sensations. I have also had a Jeff. That guy that seems so right, but when you step back and look at it the whole relationship is easier to see. Dax is interesting. He seems very genuine and understanding. He’s a great foil for Jeff.

I can see how someone reading this book would see everything Autumn says and does are completely ridiculous and over-reacting, but that–for me– was what made her so real. Her inner narration, the panic, thinking people will hate her, all of it is what happens in my head. It was cool to see that kind of character not be a joke.

This is a wonderfully cute romance book. I love YA romance novels. They are probably my favorite thing to read. This was a great addition to the genre.

This was my first Kasie West book. I’ve seen a lot about her books on the internet. I wasn’t sure I would like this book because of the locked in a building that should be easily escapable thing when I read the blurb after I opened my February Uppercase box, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well it was written. I’ll be picking up more of her books in the future.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Until next time Internet,

Deanna