Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Title: Open Road Summer

Author: Emery Lord

Publication Date: April 15, 2014

Publisher: Walker Childrens

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

Goodreads Synopsis:

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own.

Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.


 ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆


This will probably sound weird, but I wish I would have read Open Road Summer before reading The Start of Me and You. The Start of Me and You is one of my favorite YA books of all time. It was a 5 star review. Open Road Summer was really, really good, but it wasn’t as amazing as The Start of Me and You. If I would have read Open Road Summer first, I most likely would have given it 5 stars. I kind of hate that I’m giving it 4 stars because it doesn’t show off Emery Lord’s spectacular writing as well as The Start of Me and You did. That being said, Open Road Summer is definitely a YA novel I would highly recommend reading.

Reagan was a very easy character to relate to. She did what so many teenagers do, she let rumors about her shape her perception of herself. Reagan became the rumors. Luckily, through some tough times, she figured out she didn’t want to be the rumors and set about changing herself. I loved this aspect of the story, especially that she got to work on herself while touring with her famous best friend, Dee.

Dee was such a sweet character. She had Reagan’s back when no one else did. She was experiencing a different kind of heartbreak than Reagan, and my own heart broke for her. Her relationship with Jimmy had shaped her entire teenage life. She was trying to be so strong without him, which was hard with the whole world watching. Reagan touring with her and the addition of singer-songwriter Matt helped her find herself.

Matt. That guy was so dreamy: a hot musician and amazing friend. He was the total package. His friendship with Dee was so sweet and nurturing. The way he brought out the best in Reagan and pushed her to her limits was fun to read.

This coming of age story was such a fun read. I really enjoyed the great message it shared and the reminder of the drama of being a teenager. If you’re looking for a fun summer road trip read, you’ve found it.

Review: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

Title: The Way I Used to Be

Author: Amber Smith

Publication Date: March 22, 2016

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books  

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Goodreads Synopsis:

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year.


  ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Powerful. Tragic. Devastating. Haunting.

Those are all words I would use to describe Amber Smith’s debut novel, The Way I Used to Be.

The Way I Used to Be is the story of Eden, a shy and quiet fourteen-year-old who is raped by her older brother’s best friend. Eden, always the good girl, can’t find a way to tell anyone. The secret she keeps drastically changes and shapes her life over the next four years.

This book was heartbreaking and painful to read right from the start. I felt horrible for Eden and I just wanted her to tell someone — anyone! The secret she carried ate at her and started to destroy a part of her. It was so frustrating to watch her self-destruct.

But, even though it was painful to read, I couldn’t put it down. I was blown away by the writing. There was a reality and an honest feel to Eden’s story. I could imagine a real live girl out in the world somewhere reacting the same way. It made this story all the more tragic and necessary.

If this is how amazing Amber Smith’s debut novel was, I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in the future.

 

 

Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Title: The Beginning of Everything

Author: Robyn Schneider

Publication Date: January 1, 2013

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Goodreads Synopsis:

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?

Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything is a lyrical, witty, and heart-wrenching novel about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.


★ ★ ★ ★ ★


I started reading The Beginning of Everything when I was on a Disneyland vacation last week. It was perfect timing because this book is set in California and actually begins with a look back to an outing to Disneyland for Ezra and his best friend, Toby. I couldn’t have planned it better! It made it so easy to imagine the setting.

The Disneyland trip marked the end of twelve-year-old Ezra’s childhood friendship with Toby and began the rise of Ezra’s popularity. Due to a tragic accident, high school senior Ezra has lost what made him popular and the friends who were along for the ride. Now, Ezra feels alone in his crippled body. He has to learn how to navigate his last year of high school with everyone watching him. I immediately felt bad for the Ezra. High school isn’t easy and his personal tragedy made things even harder for him. I did love that his loss enabled him to reconnect with Toby, who was a really awesome friend. I also liked how his change is social status had him reevaluating his thoughts on who he was and who he wanted to be.

Ezra’s new social circle also enabled him to get to know the new girl, Cassidy. She was different from anyone else at school. Cassidy was beautiful and smart. She helped Ezra figure out some very important things about life. But Cassidy was a little mysterious. She had her own demons, and she wasn’t willing to share them with Ezra. I immediately liked her, but was weary of her because of this. I could easily guess what Cassidy’s demons were, but I didn’t expect them to have the effect they did.

I loved every minute of reading The Beginning of Everything. Robyn Schneider’s writing style is amazing and so beautiful. She took a story that could have been depressing and somehow made it uplifting and humorous. Her characters were so easy to connect and empathize with. I loved Ezra and truly enjoyed getting to know his friends. I really didn’t want the story to end.

 

Review: Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer

22055480Title: Save Me, Kurt Cobain

Author: Jenny Manzer

Publication Date: March 8, 2016

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Goodreads Synopsis:

What if you discovered that Kurt Cobain is not only alive, but might be your real father?

Nico Cavan has been adrift since her mother vanished when she was four—maternal abandonment isn’t exactly something you can just get over. Staying invisible at school is how she copes—that and listening to alt music and summoning spirits on the Ouija board with her best friend and co-conspirator in sarcasm, Obe. But when a chance discovery opens a window onto her mom’s wild past, it sparks an idea in her brain that takes hold and won’t let go.

On a ferry departing Seattle, Nico encounters a slight blond guy with piercing blue eyes wearing a hooded jacket. Something in her heart tells her that this feeling she has might actually be the truth, so she follows him to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest. When she is stranded there by a winter storm, fear and darkness collide, and the only one who can save Nico might just be herself.


★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


As a Washingtonian who was a teenager in the Kurt Cobain era, I couldn’t wait to read Save Me, Kurt Cobain. While I was never obsessed with them, Nirvana (and several other grunge bands of the time) was the soundtrack to a special time in my life. I was looking forward to see how the author was going to craft a story around Cobain.

I’m shocked that Save Me, Kurt Cobain is Jenny Manzer’s debut novel. It definitely didn’t feel like it when reading. Her story flowed smoothly and her characters were expertly crafted. Each chapter was titled with a perfectly corresponding Nirvana song title. I really enjoyed all of her nods to the rock history, local landmarks of Seattle and the long lost Sonics. Oh, and I especially loved her perfect description of Aberdeen.

My problem with Save Me, Kurt Cobain was Nico. While everything about the set up of Save Me, Kurt Cobain was outstanding, I became annoyed with Nico fairly early on. Her obsession with Nirvana and Kurt Cobain got old fast. I empathized with the mysterious loss of her mother and loved that she felt close to her through Nirvana’s music, but the unsafe things she did based on that drove me nuts.  I agree with her father’s idea that music can influence mood. Nirvana’s had a negative affect on Nico for sure. I wanted to give her a good shake and send her to therapy. Her actions made the majority of the book hard to read. I did enjoy the way the story wrapped up and brought everything full circle, though.

So. Would I suggest reading Save Me, Kurt Cobain? Maybe. It might just depend on how much you love(d) Nirvana or if you’re interested in finding out more about them.

And now for a random fact…

My favorite version of Nico’s favorite Nirvana song Sliver is actually performed by another famous musician: Caspar Babypants. You haven’t heard of him? Well, maybe you’ve heard of Presidents of the United States? Caspar Babypants is PUSA singer, Chris Ballew. He makes awesome kids’ music now. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Elastic Hearts by Claire Contreras

elastic heartsTitle: Elastic Hearts

Series: Hearts, #3

Author: Claire Contreras

Publication Date: March 20, 2016

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Goodreads Synopsis:

Victor Reuben.
Most sought out divorce attorney in LA.

Nicole Alessi.
Soon to be ex-wife of Hollywood’s biggest star, Victor’s latest client and his boss’s daughter.

In such a high profile divorce, they can’t afford any extra drama. Luckily, neither one of them has anything to hide.
Unless you count the mind blowing sex they had…
Once…
Twice…
Three times all those years ago.

As long as they leave the past where it belongs, they’ll be fine. But with her wearing those tight dresses and him giving her those heated glances, keeping their hands to themselves is proving to be more difficult than either one of them realized.

It won’t be long before the paparazzi start to smell smoke, and where there’s smoke…


 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


The first book I ever read by Claire Contreras was Kaleidoscope Hearts. I saw Colleen Hoover recommend it on her Facebook page when it was released and decided to read it because I was just getting into reading the New Adult genre. I loved Kaleidoscope Hearts. It was so emotional and brilliant. It made me fall in love with Claire Contreras’ characters and her writing. I was so excited when I saw Elastic Hearts was being released. I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for Estelle’s brother, Victor.

Elastic Hearts was a different type of second chance love story than the first two books in the series. It wasn’t based on an old, deep connection between the main characters. Victor and Nicole’s connection was based on a couple of hook-ups they had a few year ago. Now, they were being thrown together in a lawyer-client situation without anyone knowing about their connection or attraction. They had to pretend it didn’t exists. I liked this change. The secrecy around their hook-ups relationship made the story more exciting. It also put me on edge a couple of times wondering if they were going to end up in trouble.

Victor Reuben is going to be many ladies’ new book boyfriend. (I call dibs!) He was just right parts cocky and sweet. Victor knew what he wanted from life and went for it. When his wants changed, he wasn’t afraid to admit it and go for it — even if he did it cautiously. Nicole was a fun surprise. I expected her to be more confident than she was having been married to a movie star. Her little insecurities made her very relatable. I loved watching Victor and Nicole trying to keep things professional. I’m so happy the story was told in dual points of view, so I could see what was going on in each of their heads.

Elastic Hearts is one of my favorite New Adult releases of 2016 so far. It put a smile on my face the entire time I was reading it. It was witty, smart and sweet. I didn’t want to put it down and I’m sad it’s over. (Although, I can’t wait to see what’s going to come next from Claire Contreras!)  I would highly recommend Elastic Hearts and the entire Hearts series to New Adult readers who enjoy emotional stories filled with amazing characters.

 

Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

224293501Title: The Start of Me and You

Author: Emery Lord

Publication Date: March 31, 2015

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

Goodreads Synopsis:

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?


5 / 5 Stars


I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this, but The Start of Me and You  is the start of me and my love for Emery Lord’s books. Wow. Her writing is beautiful.

The title The Start of Me and You would lead one to believe this book is a romance. It is so much more than just a romance. It is a story of friendship and helping each other through the tough times in life. The romance most definitely played second string to the friendships in this book. Those tight friendships made the romance even sweeter.

I’m honestly kind of at a loss for words with this book. I feel like I can’t do it justice with this review. If you’re a YA contemporary romance lover, you should definitely read this book. It’s now one of my favorites. I can’t wait to read more of Emery Lord’s books.

 

 

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Publication Date: October 12, 2013

Synopsis:

High school senior Fern Taylor knows she’ll never be beautiful like her best friend Rita. Fern’s got crazy red hair, glass and braces. If that wasn’t enough, she’s so tiny she could pass as a child. Fern knows she’ll never be beautiful enough to capture the attention of her crush, Ambrose Young.

Ambrose Young has it all. He’s not only tall and handsome, he’s smart and talented, too. The wrestling state championship has everything going for him, yet the pressure to be the winner his small town needs overwhelms him. So when the opportunity to be more presents itself, Ambrose grabs onto it. He enlists in the armed forces and convinces his four close friends to join him.

When tragedy strikes, Fern’s small town is torn apart. Five boys may have left for war, but only one will return alive.


My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


I had to give Making Faces 5 stars. The message in this story is so important — especially to teens and young adults. It’s a story about looking past what you see on the outside to what’s on the inside of a person. Looks can be deceiving and words can be hurtful.

I almost gave it 4 stars because it took me a while to get into the book and understand its flow. I was a little confused by the different points of view. I thought there would be two: Ambrose and Fern. There were three. Bailey, Fern’s cousin / friend, was also a narrator. I wasn’t expecting that. There were also some flashbacks peppered throughout the book that I didn’t get at first. I knew it would all make sense, it was just getting further into the story to understand where it was all going.

The beauty and message of this story completely negated those complaints. Once I got a few chapters into Making Faces, I honestly didn’t want to put the book down. I forgot about my previous confusion. I read it in one day. The story was filled with such love and loss — not just for the main characters but for the entire small town. It was also filled with beautiful writing and a powerful message. It’s a book I wish I would have read in my late teen / early adult years when I put so much pressure on myself based on my looks.

Making Faces was an incredible story. It’s one that will stick with me for a very, very long time. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to consider it. To entice you, I’ll share one of my favorite quotes from Making Faces:

“If God made all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?

Does he make the legs that cannot walk and eyes that cannot see?

Does he curl the hair upon my head ’til it rebels in wild defiance?

Does he close the ears of a deaf man to make him more reliant?

Is the way I look a coincidence or just a twist of fate?

If he made me this way, is it okay, to blame him for the things I hate?

For the flaws that seem to worsen every time I see a mirror, For the ugliness I see in me, for the loathing and the fear.

Does he sculpt us for his pleasure, for a reason I can’t see?

If God makes all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?”

Beautiful, right? Read it!

The Isle of the Lost: Review & Interview with the Kiddo

The Isle of the Lost by Melissa De La Cruz

Publication Date: May 5, 2015

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads:

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that’s been left to rot and forgotten by the world.

But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon’s eye: the key to true darkness and the villains’ only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it…who will it be?

Maleficent, Mistress of the Dark: As the self-proclaimed ruler of the isle, Maleficent has no tolerance for anything less than pure evil. She has little time for her subjects, who have still not mastered life without magic. Her only concern is getting off the Isle of the Lost.

Mal: At sixteen, Maleficent’s daughter is the most talented student at Dragon Hall, best known for her evil schemes. And when she hears about the dragon’s eye, Mal thinks this could be her chance to prove herself as the cruelest of them all.

Evie: Having been castle-schooled for years, Evil Queen’s daughter, Evie, doesn’t know the ins and outs of Dragon Hall. But she’s a quick study, especially after she falls for one too many of Mal’s little tricks.

Jay: As the son of Jafar, Jay is a boy of many talents: stealing and lying to name a few. Jay and Mal have been frenemies forever and he’s not about to miss out on the hunt for the dragon’s eye.

Carlos: Cruella de Vil’s son may not be bravest, but he’s certainly clever. Carlos’s inventions may be the missing piece in locating the dragon’s eye and ending the banishment for good.

Mal soon learns from her mother that the dragon’s eye is cursed and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the dragon’s eye, these kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad.

Note: This review is going to be a little different from my other reviews. Since I read The Isle of the Lost with my 7-year-old daughter, I’m going to give you a quick review and then I’m going to interview my daughter about the book.


My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


I decided to read The Isle of the Lost to my daughter after watching Disney’s Descendants movie. My daughter loved it, so I thought it would be a good way to get her interested in chapter books without pictures. I struggle getting her to read them because she wants all of her book to have pictures (in color, if possible). This was the perfect way to branch out.

The Isle of the Lost was a fun read. Since my daughter and I were already familiar with the characters, we could try to guess what was going to happen next or who was responsible for something. Each chapter wasn’t too long or too short. It was perfect for reading out loud for 10 to 15 minutes prior to bed. The story was entertaining and we were both excited to see how Mal, Evie, Carlos and Jay became friends. There were new settings to see on the island and we even got a peak at what was going on with Prince Ben in Auradon.

If you or your child loved Disney’s Descendants movieThe Isle of the Lost is sure to be a big hit.


What My Daughter Thought of The Isle of the Lost

Me: If you could give The Isle of the Lost between 1 to 5 stars, 1 being worst and 5 being best, how many would you give it?

Kiddo: 5 stars

Me: What was your favorite part of the book?

Kiddo: Them going to the castle.

Me: Who was your favorite character?

Kiddo: Mal. I like her purple hair and purple clothes.

Me: What didn’t you like about the book?

Kiddo: Nothing. I wish it had pictures.

Me: Would you tell your friends to read it?

Kiddo: Yes!


Here is the trailer for Disney’s Descendants, in case you haven’t seen it yet.

Until Friday Night

Until Friday Night (The Field Party #1) by Abbi Glines

Publication Date: August 25, 2015

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Synopsis:

Maggie Carleton doesn’t speak. She hasn’t since she told the police her father killed her mother two years ago. Maggie chooses to stay silent to protect herself from the pain.

Football player West Ashby is cocky, popular and too cute for his own good. He has girls lining up for a chance to be with him. What people don’t know is that he uses it all as a front to hide his pain. West’s father is dying slowly of cancer. He doesn’t want anyone to know, so he hides it with football, beer and girls.

When Maggie moves to live with her aunt and uncle in Lawton, she has no plans to start talking. She’s content to hide her pain within herself. What Maggie doesn’t count on is West. When he takes his pain out on her at a post-game field party, it starts the beginning of a friendship. West needs someone to talk to, someone who won’t blab his problems around. Who better to confide in than a girl that doesn’t talk? But as Maggie gets closer to West, she feels the need to share her wisdom with him — by talking.


My review: 4.5 out of 5 stars


I loved this book. Really, truly loved it. Abbi Glines created a group of characters that were so much fun, even if the story was a little sad. I loved the strength both Maggie and West had. Their friendship was so sweet. It was so much fun watching them try to avoid falling for each other.

I also loved the dynamic between West and his friends. Their dialogue made me smile! I really want a book in this series about each of them! I’m hoping that’s what Abbi Glines has planned since this is the first book in the series. I’m not quite sure with the way this book ended.

That brings to me to why I didn’t give it 5 stars. Even though the storylines were wrapping up, the ending felt abrupt to me. It ended and I was like, “That’s it?!?!” I wish there would have been a little bit more.

I would definitely recommend this to YA readers (FYI – There is a few sexual acts mentioned. Actual sex was not described. There is also drinking in the story.). Until Friday Night captivated me from the beginning. The writing was amazing. I think it just might be my favorite Abbi Glines book that I’ve read so far.

Juniors

 Juniors by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Publication Date: September 22, 2015

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Synopsis:

High school junior Lea Lane recently moved to Hawaii with her actress mom. She hasn’t really made many friends on the island other than her childhood friend, Danny.

When her mom’s rich friends, Eddie and Melanie West invite Lea and her mom to move into their guest house. Lea’s not excited. Moving means living on her popular classmates’ property. She’s embarrassed to be accepting charity for Whitney and Will’s parents. Lea doesn’t want to be known at her posh private school as a charity case.

To her surprise, Lea finds herself becoming friends with Whitney and maybe something more with Will. She’s also experiencing more in life than ever before. But her friendship with the West kids may be changing Lea in a way she never wanted. Lea will have to decide if being friends with the West kids is worth losing the respect of the two people she cares the most about.


My rating: 3 out of 5 stars


I loved how Juniors started off. It was a creative start but something I could imagine happening in real life. Lea was a normal teenage girl trying to figure things out. I liked her the dynamic between her and Danny. It was a cute friendship. I also loved the nod to the Hawaiian culture and scenery.

Somewhere in the middle of the story, it lost me a bit. Lea got very immature and it was hard for me to read. A lot of it was very realistic but it still drove me nuts — especially her “relationship” with Will. I hated how she treated her mom, too. I was frustrated with the story and kind of wanted it to hurry up and end.

Then, right before the very end, the story picked up and went in the direction I was hoping it would the entire time. I wish it would have happened earlier. I would have liked more interaction between Danny and Lea. I would have loved for the entire book to have more Danny in it. He was the cute and funny part of it all.

Juniors wasn’t my favorite book by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The Descendants has that spot. I still think Juniors had a good message for teenagers, though. I would suggest it to young adults going through high school. It’s an excellent representation of what trying to fit in could be.