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

 

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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

 

 

Top 5 Wednesday- Summer reads

Top 5 Wednesday is currently being hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. If you want to learn more about the group or are considering joining in, check out the Goodreads group. Each week has a different topic, and you just post five books that fit that topic.

This week’s topic is a look ahead to the not so distant future to the summer and our favorite summertime reads. I’m not the biggest believer that books have a certain season that they should be read, but I do tend to read more in the summer, and I do tend to read shorter quick reads. So without further ado.

1. Every single book by Sarah Dessen.

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A few summers ago, I think it was almost 7 years ago now, I read all of Dessen’s books up to Along for the Ride which was the most recent release at the time. Most of her books are fun summer romances, some of them take place during the school year, but most are about summer and the beach and love. Thankfully, there is a new one, Once and For All due out next month! I am excited.

 

 

2. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

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This is a book is about a girl, Ginny, who’s dead aunt sends her on a mysterious summer adventure/vacation. There’s some love, and a lot of adventure. It’s a fun summer read. I loved it, the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope is also fantastic. All of Maureen’s books are fantastic but I think 13LBE is the most summer.

 

 

3. Ally Carter’s Heist Society series.

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The way I sell this book to my friends is: it’s the TV show Leverage but with teenagers. Right now there are 3 of them, and they are quick reads. There are art heists and mystery and characters in shades of gray. You end up rooting for people who should technically be the bad guys. These books are great one sitting books that I just love. Perfect for sitting under a tree in a park or under an umbrella at the beach.

 

 

4. All Three of Carrie Fisher’s memoirs

I listened to the audiobooks of these three books, but I think they would be great physically reads. Carrie Fisher was such a gifted writer and just so funny. The books are quick reads to read during a day trip to a lake or whatever. Very entertaining and beautiful books.

5. The Peaches Trilogy by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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These books are very similar to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. They are about a group of friends in Georgia near a peach farm that is a big part of the town’s economy. There is love and pushing the boundaries of friendship as they girls come of age and start to see their town a little bit differently.

 

 

 

Those are my choices for summer reads. I’m excited to hear everyone else’s and add some more to the list as summer inches closer.

Have you read these? What did you think? Anything to add to you list?

 

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

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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

WWW Wednesday #7

WWW Wednesday is a meme currently hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s very simple – answer the three questions and leave a link in Sam’s post.

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What am I currently reading?

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I recently started reading Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. So far it’s interesting. I’m not too far into it yet, but I am enjoying how different it is. There are elements of paranormal romance, contemporary, and a little science fiction.  There is a girl with a psychic connection to a stranger who she has always felt was a sort of imaginary friend, but now she’s met him in real life. That’s as far as I’ve been in the story. I’m interested to see where it’s going.

 

 

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To be honestly, I haven’t actually started listening to this Lincoln biography, partly because it’s 30 hours long and thinking about how long 30 hours is freaking me out a little, since I’ve been listening to books that were about 10 to 15 hours long, but in reality it’s just over two weeks of driving to work, so I need to suck it up and start it.

Semi-related, did you know Blondie has a new song? It’s quite good.

 

What did I just finish reading?

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I finished up The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle over the weekend. I’ll be posting a review of it tomorrow. I have mixed feelings about it. It was a good book, but I feel that there were things that could have been done very differently. Well, I’ll get into all that in tomorrow’s post. Overall it was a decent book.

 

 

 

 

What will I be reading next?

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I have some ambitious plans for the month of May. One of the book challenges in a reading group I’m in on Goodreads is to read as many books with one-word titles as possible. Since Unspoken and its sequels have been on my bookshelf for an embarrassingly long time, I’ve decided to start there. I feel as if The Lynburn Legacy books will be quick reads. Up next will be Untold.

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.

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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

 

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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

WWW Wednesday #6

WWW Wednesday is a meme currently hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s very simple – answer the three questions and leave a link in Sam’s post.

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What am I currently reading?

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According to Goodreads, I am currently 39.06% of the way through Hunted by Meagan Spooner. I am loving it. I hope to finish it up over the weekend, if that happens, I will be writing up an in-depth review on Monday, but I love the intertwining of the different versions of Beauty and the Beast.

 

 

 

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I am about half way through the audiobook of Wuthering Heights. So, this book is much more ridiculous that Jane Eyre and I find most of the chacacters barely tolerable. I plan to write a longer post about this next week after I finish it. I do understand why this is Bella Swan’s favorite book in Twilight. That girl has a love for angsty romance, and I think this clearly falls into that.

 

What did I recently finish reading?

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I finsihed reading Thumped over the weekend. This is the second book in a 2 part series. I really love Megan McCafferty’s writing and enjoyed this book. I have a long post coming up tomorrow about this series. It raises questions about society and fame and all sorts of other things.

 

 

 

 

What do I plan on reading next?

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Up next is The Infinte Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. I have read a couple different things by Lauren Myracle and I’m looking forward to reading something else by her. The reviews on GoodReads are quite polarizing. People either loved it or hated it. We shall see. I like her writing and I hope this this will a fun read.

 

 

 

For an audiobook, I still leaning toward one of the backlog of politcal biographies. I think I’m going to start with Abraham Lincoln. We shall see. I may change my mind by next week.

So what are you reading? Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

 

Until Next time Internet,

Deanna