This is, by far, one of the best books I've ever read. :: WARNING - This book doesn't have an "emotionally satisfying ending." :: But that's what make...moreThis is, by far, one of the best books I've ever read. :: WARNING - This book doesn't have an "emotionally satisfying ending." :: But that's what makes it so good. I couldn't figure out what was going to happen, and I was enthralled until the very last page.
I fell in love with the character of John and found myself wanting to slap Savannah. Any book that can raise that kind of emotion is worth reading. The first person narrative from John's POV gives an insight into his personality and how his experiences shaped his life - being raised by a man who's only passion is coins made John bitter, and the army focused his anger into something productive and controllable. But it's Savannah that melts his heart.
With our country at war, Sparks has created a story many can relate to. How can a relationship survive the stress of distance and danger? The book delves a little into a soldier's life, but keeps the reader from slipping over the edge into painful descriptions of the horrors of modern warfare.
The movie ruined the ending of this book, and I'll never forgive Hollywood for it. Read the book, then watch the movie.(less)
Okay, first, let me say that I'm a huge Simone Elkeles fan. She is my go-to author for contemporary romance. I don't really reread books, but I've rea...moreOkay, first, let me say that I'm a huge Simone Elkeles fan. She is my go-to author for contemporary romance. I don't really reread books, but I've read the other two books in the Perfect Chemistry series more than I would like to admit. They're just feel-good reads.
So I was counting down the days to the release of Chain Reaction, and like all the other fans, was really upset when the release date got pushed from May to August. But after actually reading the book, I've got to say that I'm a bit disappointed.
These are character-driven books, despite the gang violence and rough neighborhood setting. At their core, these books are about romance and how love crosses cultural and economic boundaries. They also happen to have very hot male leads in them. Luis has been my favorite Fuentes brother since Perfect Chemistry because he was cute and smart and different than his two older brothers.
But I felt like in trying to appeal to her established fanbase, Elkeles sacrificed some of Luis' individualism to make him more tough, arrogant, and hot-headed. Grown-up Luis is entirely too much like Alex. Luis is still smart and driven, but there were too many similarities between him and his brothers. I guess I wanted him to be more different. He felt a bit like a knock-off Fuentes brother. It would have worked better if he had been totally different, I think. I felt a little jipped, like this character that I had come to know suddenly became a different person.
Also, I tend to have issues with the heroines in Elkeles' books. I had lots of issues with Nikki. I understand that she's got a rough past, and she feels like she can't trust guys. Okay, I get it. Then be a bitter shrew. But she's also really flirty and a maneater. The two combined to create a character that I just couldn't sympathize with. She was straight up mean sometimes, and I still have no idea why Luis liked her besides the fact that she was a challenge. She really had very few redeeming qualities.
All that being said, this is still an addictive read. I flew through the pages, as I do with all of Elkeles' books. The romance was just as steamy as the other two, maybe a bit more so. There were moments I thought she toed the line of what's appropriate for a YA book, but maybe I'm being overly critical. I just wasn't as invested in Luis and Nikki's relationship; I didn't care if they got together or not, unlike Alex and Brittany or Carlos and Kiara, who I really wanted to have happy endings.
The best part of the book is the inclusion of Alex and Carlos, who play pretty influential roles in the story. It's like a Fuentes family reunion! Alex plays the protective father figure, and Carlos is hilarious, as always. I just wish Kiara had been in more scenes. But that's probably because she and Carlos were always my favorite. Of course, the ones they did have were wonderful, so I shouldn't complain, I suppose.
I also loved that this was a book almost solely about minorities, and it's a huge commercial success. That's very rare. I liked that Nikki was a Mexican American, making her different than Brittany and Kiara. There was definitely an exploration in themes of race and prejudice in the entire series, but I thought they were most prevalent in this book. Very cool.
Fans will enjoy this story, even if it's a bit of a let-down. I'm sad to see the trilogy end, but I can't wait to see what Elkeles has planned for the future. I have faith that her next series will be just as awesome as this one, though I wish I could have more Carlos...(less)
What a fun, funny book that touches on the universal and relatable theme of acceptance and fitting in! Yes, there are a lot of books out there similar...moreWhat a fun, funny book that touches on the universal and relatable theme of acceptance and fitting in! Yes, there are a lot of books out there similar to this one. Yes, Populazzi is a lot like Mean Girls. But it's also hilarious and poignant and one of my favorite contemporary reads to-date.
Elise Allen is the often-overlooked writer that helped Hilary Duff with Elixir, and she's also the author of several children's books. I was really surprised at how much I loved her first solo YA project. From the cover, I wasn't expecting much, but this book held me captive from the first chapter.
What's so great about this book is the humor - it's hilarious. I found myself literally laughing out loud a dozen times, even when I was reading it at the gym and people were giving me weird looks. Cara has such a great voice, and her outlook on life and all the situations she gets herself into was hysterical.
The book could be separated into three parts: (1) pre-"The Ladder," (2) with first-boyfriend Nate, and (3) member of the Populazzi. I've got to say part #2 was my favorite, as it showcased Cara's main choices that showcased how much she was willing to sacrifice to be popular. By part #3, she had already totally committed to Populazzi-at-any-cost.
I also found Nate a really interesting character. He's what Claudia and Cara call a "Danger Zone," someone not a member of any clique but is cool enough on his own to not need one. He's a drug addict, boozer, and emo musician, but he's also really troubled. And his reaction after Cara breaks up with him is priceless. Seriously, I laughed my face off when I read the lyrics to the song he wrote her!
Honestly, I just couldn't put this book down. Cara is adorable, her best friend Claudia is uber funny, and the cast of other supporting characters were really well-developed. This isn't really a "romance" per se, though there's definitely an undercurrent that runs throughout the story. It's more chick lit - a girl's journey from being popularity-obsessed to comfortable in her own skin, and all the hilarity in between.(less)
When I read Anna & the French Kiss, I just couldn't understand all the hooplah over Stephanie Perkins. I mean, sure, it was super cute. But there...moreWhen I read Anna & the French Kiss, I just couldn't understand all the hooplah over Stephanie Perkins. I mean, sure, it was super cute. But there was little to no substance, and I wasn't head over heels for St. Clair. However, I was determined to give Stephanie Perkins another shot, especially after everyone raved about her sophomore effort, Lola & the Boy Next Door. And, boy, am I glad I did!
In a nutshell, Lola is everything that I wanted Anna to be - sugary sweet on the outside with a deeper level of truth hiding underneath. There's also possibly the most amazing boy of all time in this book. OMG.
There are...no words for his awesomeness. He is the epitome of the nice guy. He made highwater pants cool and science sexy. Seriously, every description of him made me love him even more. I adored the fact that he was smart and was into inventions, that he supported his twin sister so fully, and that he had pined for Lola for years. Also, the fact that he's a bazillion feet tall, wears tight pants with colorful socks, and keeps his hair spiked was just precious. I. Love. Cricket Bell.
I also loved Lola. She's one of the most unique protags that I've ever read about, I think. I often have a hard time liking female heroines in YA, but I totally wanted to be besties with Lola. She's quirky, sassy, and mature, but she's also a little broken on the inside. She's got a drugged-out mom and a boyfriend that's a lot older than her. And she's got insecurities a mile wide.
Lola isn't as innocent as Anna. There are a lot of touchy issues in this book, ranging from the reprecussions of having a bad-boy boyfriend to the LGBT community. The only part of the book that niggled me was that slightly too forceful (in my opinion) push for acceptance of gay marriage. I don't like my politics mixing with my books, and there was a little too much mixing for me here - only a couple paragraphs here and there, really, so I was able to get past those.
My main issue with Anna was that I felt there wasn't any substance - no real struggles for the characters besides their getting together. And I know that's what most people want in a frothy, girly read, but I also like some more substantial conflict. I thought that was more apparent in Lola. There's lots of dealing with insecurity, which I liked. Lola is desperate to be unique and special, and she has to find a way to truly be herself.
But above all, what makes this book great is the romance. Let's be real - Perkins is a master at building a relationship. While I did miss the romantic setting of Paris (you just can't get any more beautiful, sensual, and romantic than the City of Lights!), I thought Perkins did an incredible job of integrating the personality of San Francisco into her story of young love. And the sweet, budding romance between Lola and Cricket is everything we loved between Anna and St. Clair. I thought it was interesting that Max and Lola's relationship is clouded in this dark, almost toxic feel; it's almost like Perkins is comparing and contrasting two different kinds of relationships. I loved that! Very literary. :)
In summary, this is an incredible book. It's cute and fun and fresh, but it's also got a spine that Anna didn't have. Perkins is still a master at setting and relationships. I'm now totally counting the days until Isla and the Happily Ever After!(less)
This book has been marketed as Eat. Pray. Love. for YA and for good reason. Instructions for a Broken Heart details the emotional journey and healing...moreThis book has been marketed as Eat. Pray. Love. for YA and for good reason. Instructions for a Broken Heart details the emotional journey and healing of Jessa Gardner as she travels around Italy on a school trip. The letters she receives from her best friend take her through the different stages of grief until she is finally able to really be over her ex, not only with help from the letters but also from the beautiful world around her and new friends.
YA contemporary isn't my favorite genre, but I really enjoyed this book, especially Jessa's questioning of whether she brought all her troubles upon herself because she was too busy to be a girlfriend, she had forgotten about her best friend, etc. A lot of issues Jessa faced were real for many teens (and adults, too), I think. How do you balance your future aspirations with making sure to live in the moment?
This isn't a romance book, although there is romance. It's a book about soul-searching, about discovering who you are and what you want to be. It would have been easy for Kim Culbertson to throw in an Italian love interest for Jessa or make Jessa's ex boyfriend be a huge jerk. But Culbertson doesn't take the easy road. She allows Jessa to wander her way through heartbreak without the advantage of falling for a new guy, and she actually creates a believable character in Sean, Jessa's ex - he made mistakes, but we can see why he chose to do what he did. And he's just as miserable as Jessa.
I was really impressed with how Culbertson portrayed all the relationships in this book, both romantic and not. There were a lot of hook ups and a lot of break ups, but not in a cheesy, dramatic way. They felt true-to-life. I remember in high school how everybody was going in and out of relationships like they were trying on new clothes, and there's definitely a level of that in this book. But Culbertson shows how, sometimes, that can really hurt you. A great issue for parents to discuss with their teens? I think so.
While I was expecting a little more romance from this book, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about Jessa's story and how she handles love and loss and finding out her true identity. There's also a lot of amazing Italy-ness that made me want to hop on the next plane to Rome.(less)
In a word, this book is precious. Louise is adorable and naive, the fashion is covet-worthy, and the illustrations are gorgeous. I've got to say my favorite part of the book wasn't necessarily the story but the amazing color illustrations.
The pictures are incredible depictions of fashion not only today but also in the early 1900s. We are treated to visual depictions of all the lavish clothes Turetsky describes. And since the fashion is such an integral part of the story, I felt like it was a necessary part of the book.
Similarly, this is probably the most beautifully-made books I've ever owned. If nothing else, you should get the book for sheer pretty value. Besides all the illustrations of clothing, there are also images of inside The Titanic, as well as different-color font. The hardback book itself is the most detailed I've ever seen, printed so the actual binding looks like an old book. I almost wanted to take off the jacket so I could shelve the book with the adorable purple binding showing!
As for the story itself, it's pretty good. It reads like an older middle grade or younger YA book. Bianca is a sweet girl, and I liked that she was trying to save everyone onboard the ship. The last chapter, with all the information about Titanic survivors and those who didn't make it, was touching. I loved that Bianca now saw them as actual people - she could put a face on the names of the dead. I think that's something that can be difficult with history, as it just seems like a story or names in a book. But this tragedy became real for Bianca.
I wish there had been more delving into Bianca's relationships with her family or really any other characters. All the relationships we get in this book are pretty superficial. But it's a short book, so that was difficult.
I've heard that this is the first in a Time-Traveling Fashionista series. That has great promise, I think. There's a lot Turetsky could do with that, and they would be fun reads. I've already learned a lot more about fashion from reading this book, and I look forward to reading more about great vintage clothing!(less)
This book is freakin adorable! I'll admit that I was first drawn to it by the incredible cover, and when I saw that Chelsea worked at a historical ree...moreThis book is freakin adorable! I'll admit that I was first drawn to it by the incredible cover, and when I saw that Chelsea worked at a historical reenactment place, I was hooked. You see, I've always had the secret desire to work at Colonial Williamsburg (obviously, the inspiration for Essex). I was really hoping that I would get a look at what it would be like to work there. What I wasn't expecting was a precious romance with a perfect amount of teenage angst, sass, and history.
First, let me say that I give huge props to Leila Sales for portraying the South in a believable way, which is sort of shocking since the author is from Boston. There was lots of Southern flavor, but it wasn't mean-spirited or condescending. Even the love interest is described as a bit Southern, with his accent and manners. It was all very relieving to finally read a book set where I live that I didn't feel like was hating on where I'm from. So yeah, that was nice.
But what makes this book really great is the cuteness factor. It reminded me a lot of Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss in that there are a lot of "Awww!!!" moments. Seriously, I squealed a little on the inside with the trampoline scene. (I'll leave it at that to be non-spoilery.) Dan, the love interest, is really sweet and funny, and Chelsea is straight up adorable. She was snarky but not in a whiney or mean way, and I could totally see her conversation with her best friend happening between me and my best friend - definitely a level of authenticity to the whole book that I loved.
But I think my favorite character might have been Chelsea's dad. He is hysterical. I would have to have him as my father, but from an outside perspective, he cracked me up. He's so pompous and arrogant yet also really knowledgeable that I couldn't quit snickering at all his dialogue.
And can I just say that the cheerleaders for the Essex side of the war were also hilarious? Here's one of their cheers:
Keep your Stonewall Jackson, Keep your General Lee. Both of them are cowards Compared to our Chelsea! Chelsea is the best! Chelsea is the one! If you don't have Chelsea You'll lose the Battle of Bull Run! (p. 227)
I guarantee they are all as equally nerdy, lame, and hysterical as this one.
And while I'm on the subject of the war between the two reenactments, I've got to say that I really bought the whole thing. It was a rivalry, and an understandable one at that. I've read some reviews that said they couldn't get past the weird "war" because it didn't make sense, but I thought it was totally believable. School rivalries are all over; why not one between two reenactment villages? And it set up for a less severe "Romeo & Juliet" rehash that was surprisingly amusing.
This is definitely a book to check out if you're into cute, fun reads. But there's also some substance here, themes about moving on with your life after heartbreak and to stop living in the past. The way Leila Sales wove the historical reenactment lifestyle into Chelsea's character was really great and added a lot to the plot. There really was something to ground the frothiness of the story, something that - for me - gives this story a leg up on Anna and the French Kiss.(less)
I thought that while I was on a cute, girly book kick and since Elizabeth Eulberg was at the Decatur Book Festival, I should knock out Prom & Prej...moreI thought that while I was on a cute, girly book kick and since Elizabeth Eulberg was at the Decatur Book Festival, I should knock out Prom & Prejudice. And while this isn't going to win any literary awards, I have to say that I thought it was adorable and, in a word, charming.
Eulberg stays pretty close to the original Jane Austen story, but the way she reimagines Elizabeth Bennett's world was interesting to see. I liked the settings of Longbourn and Pemberly as boarding schools for rich kids, where Lizzie is a scholarship kid. Jane, of course, is her wonderful roommate, and Charles Bingley is the nicest guy at Pemberly Academy. Really, the only characters I missed were Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, both of whom always have me giggling in the original.
I really loved how Eulberg portrayed Mr. Collins, though (or just "Colin" in this version). He was just as bumbling and awkward as in the original, and he made me smile whenever he showed up. I liked that Eulberg made him kind too, though.
Maybe because the story revolved around prom and not marriage, but this version of Pride and Prejudice didn't have quite the same seriousness to it as Jane Austen's novel. Sure, the real P&P is a fun romance, but underneath everything, it's about survival: girls finding husbands so that they don't starve when they get turned out of their house upon their father's death. The case of Charlotte Lucas is the cold reality of what happened to so many women - marrying out of desperation instead of love or even respect. Austen's critique of her society was just as apparent as the story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy overcoming their prides and prejudices.
But Eulberg's novel is much lighter, I think because the stakes aren't as high. Sure, Lizzie suffers mistreatment from her fellow Longbourn students, but it's not a huge deal if she doesn't get a date to prom. There's also not much social commentary here, besides that both rich and middle class people can be as equally snobby or nice, depending on the individuals. Maybe I was expecting too much to find some real substance here when the book is so obviously a frothy, fluffy read. But I don't think it would have hurt to include something serious.
There's also the issue of a lack of originality. I know, I know, this is a retelling - how original can you get? But Eulberg is almost a slave to the original here. I liked that she respected Jane Austen's original story by not botching it, but I think I would have liked a little more of her own character development and exploration of the characters. This is a really, really short book. I read it in 2 hours...and I'm not a fast reader. Really, the only original part of the plot is that Lizzie plays the piano. There could have been more.
All that being said, this is good brain candy, a fun end-of-summer read or something to cheer you up on a dreary winter day. It's light and fun, and even though we all know the ending, it's just wonderful to see how it all comes together.(less)
Wow! This book was so much more than I was expecting. The cover makes you think it's going to be a light romance, and the synopsis doesn't really tell...moreWow! This book was so much more than I was expecting. The cover makes you think it's going to be a light romance, and the synopsis doesn't really tell you how serious the subject matter is or how much truth is spoken in the words of this story.
At its core, There You'll Find Me is about healing from past wounds. Hotel heiress Finley (love her name, by the way!) goes to Ireland two years after the death of her brother hoping to escape her home and party-girl reputation. She's been through therapy, but she's still grieving. I automatically liked Finley, first because of her spunk and later because I sympathized with her pain. She's a perfectionist and some of the things she does will really frustrate you. You even watch her control freak tendencies slowly screw up her life, and you want to reach into the book and shake her.
And while the romance was really quite sweet, it wasn't what made me love this book. Sure, Beckett was adorable and a really nice guy (so refreshing to see a nice love interest in a YA book!), and the fact that he's a teen movie vampire heart-throb was hysterical. There were so many connections between him and Robert Pattinson, I just loved it!
But what made this book go beyond a cute romance was the real issues that Jenny B. Jones deals with - depression, perfectionism, eating disorders, grief. While Finely is no longer outwardly grieving her brother, she's still hurting, and she channels her pain into outlets of her life than she feels she can control, like her weight. At first, I was a little concerned with the side comments about how much she was exercising and how little she was eating. I was afraid that the issue of an eating disorder would never come up, but that subtlety really won me over in the end. Finley's border-line anorexia is such a non-issue at the beginning of the book but blows up by the end, just like it does in real life.
There are a lot of books out there about similar subjects, but what separates this one from others is the faith that it's based in. There's hope found in this book. Finley begins her journey in Ireland totally disillusioned with God and her Christian faith; she thinks that just because she can't feel Him, He's not there, that He's taken a "lunch break" from her life. A huge part of her journey is realizing that she can't fix her life; only He can.
This break from traditional secular values in a YA book was incredibly refreshing! It's hard to find faith-based YA books. (Notable exceptions being The River of Time series by Lisa Tawn Bergren and the On The Runway series by Melody Carlson.) But I think even non-Christian teens will be able to relate to Finley and find truth in this story.
I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a positive, clean read or who enjoys emotionally captivating stories in sweet, romantic packages.(less)
I'm a huge fan of books (and movies/TV shows) that deal with people trying to "make it" in the entertainment industry. This interest has led to me watching movies like "Fame," eating up every last bit. I also really liked Elizabeth Eulberg's previous novel, Prom & Prejudice, so I was excited to see her writing about one of my favorite topics!
This is a short little book that I read in one sitting. It's told from four different perspectives, and it's super fast-paced. The four main characters couldn't be any more different. You've got Carter, the former child star who is now a regular on a daytime soap and trying to decide if he's actually still interested in acting. Then there's Sophie, who is determined to graduate high school with a recording contract, and she'll do whatever it takes to reach her dreams - including using her friends and boyfriend to get ahead. Emme is the soft-spoken songwriter that grows a lot during the book, and Ethan must deal with a lot of inner-demons before he can ever become successful.
Emme is really the main protagonist of the story, and she propels the plot. She was a good MC, though I thought maybe her character development was a little too extreme. She and Ethan are best friends, but it's clear at the beginning that Ethan is more talented. However, as the story progresses, Emme begins to overshadow him. I didn't like that her talent made him less talented, and she ended up becoming the better songwriter. Also, he was a little too dependent on her, like his world revolved around her - a little too much girl power for me.
But other than that, I really liked this book! Sophie is ruthless, and I loved to hate her. And her friendship with Emme was really interesting. I liked watching Emme make excuses for Sophie until she just couldn't take it anymore. I think this sort of frenemy relationship is one that a lot of girls deal with at some point in their lives (if not always), so I think that's a really relatable topic.
Then you've got the music aspect, which was wonderful. Honestly, that's what I loved the most. I liked when Emme and Ethan would talk about songwriting, when Sophie would dream about getting a Grammy. This book reminded me A LOT of the movie "Fame," with the overwhelming pressure these kids have to face. I kept wondering if it was all worth it for them, and the different characters come to different conclusions, which I loved.
This is my favorite Elizabeth Eulberg book so far, and I can't wait to read more by her!(less)