Miranda Kenneally, thank you for writing such good books! Okay, I had to get that out of my system so I could startReview originally posted on YA Love
Miranda Kenneally, thank you for writing such good books! Okay, I had to get that out of my system so I could start writing this review.
But seriously, Miranda Kenneally writes such good books. She really does. And they get better every time. I really enjoy that the majority of the Hundred Oaks series features girls playing sports since we need more books like that, but it was refreshing to read about a Hundred Oaks character who’s a musician instead.
Before I get into why I like the musical side of Jesse’s Girl, I want to point out that while this is part of a series and though it references Jordan from the first book Catching Jordan, this could be read on its own. I like to point this out since I know many librarians and teachers read my reviews and students often ask me about the order of these books. And if one student has been waiting patiently for Catching Jordan to come back so she can start the series, I know I can hand this one or even Breathe, Annie, Breathe to her while she waits.
To the musical side of Jesse’s Girl. Many parts of it reminded me of Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Jesse is a passionate musician much like Adam, but he’s also troubled and doubting himself like Adam does. Maybe it was the country music aspect, but I also found myself thinking of Open Road Summer by Emery Lord while reading Jesse’s Girl. Both books are sweet and honest and down to earth.
When it comes to music and Maya, I really enjoyed how independent and adventurous she is. Although she’s scared to attempt any solos, she wants to put herself out there and branch out. She wants to try different sounds and genres of music. I’m not much of a musician, but I know it’s not always easy to leave your comfort zone no matter the situation. I can’t imagine it’s any easier for an artist, especially a musician, who’s being judged right there in the moment while performing. This made Maya an admirable character.
Maya’s a great protagonist and she has a fun cast of secondary characters who support her. Catching Jordan has maintained the spot as Favorite Hundred Oaks Book since I read it, so I’m not surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed reading more about Jordan and her life this far in the future. I’m also a fan of Maya having supportive parents. Those are sometimes hard to find in YA even though many teens have great relationships with their parents and siblings.
If you still haven’t introduced yourself to Miranda Kenneally’s books, I hope you change that soon. They’re great books to read during the summer (or any time of the year). And my students absolutely adore them, so if you’re working with teens make sure you get your hands on this one....more
I can’t remember how The Scar Boys was brought to my attention as a book to read, but I’m happy that it was. It’s aReview originally posted at YA Love
I can’t remember how The Scar Boys was brought to my attention as a book to read, but I’m happy that it was. It’s a book that my musicians and music fans will adore, but it’s also a book for my students who are looking for a solid story. I’m surprised more of my Goodreads friends don’t have this on their to-read shelf.
Something I liked most about Len Vlahos‘ debut is Harry’s voice. It’s distinct and one that caught my attention right away. He’s writing a college essay and decides to go way beyond the 250-word limit. I’ve read books like this before, but Harry’s story is quite different. As I read farther into The Scar Boys I realized that I was spending more time in Harry’s head than I typically do in a novel. I noticed that I wasn’t reading a lot of action scenes and a lot of dialogue; I was perfectly okay with that. It was refreshing.
Readers will really get to know Harry. They’ll get to know his fears, his desires, his taste in music, and more. His scars have left him severely deformed and insecure, but music becomes an outlet for him. Like music does for many people, it helps Harry escape and connect. The coming of age story arc ties in perfectly with Harry and his growth as he participates in the band. Being in the band puts Harry in scenarios he may not normally confront like learning to stand up for himself, putting himself in front of a crowd, and taking a risk on love. Without the band, I think Harry would have stayed hidden within himself.
The Scar Boys reminded me of what a Chris Crutcher book would be like if he wrote more about musicians than athletes. So if you enjoy Crutcher, books full of music references, road trips and more, then I recommend reading this....more
To put it simply, I just loved Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.
Smith’s writing is lively and beautiful. I almost neveReview originally posted at YA Love
To put it simply, I just loved Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith.
Smith’s writing is lively and beautiful. I almost never take notes when I’m reading a book because it distracts me, but I had to write down multiple sentences and paragraphs while reading Wild Awake. If I didn’t want to stop, I took a picture of what I was reading so I would remember it when writing this review. Here are a few of the sections I wanted to remember (quotes taken from the ARC):
“His smile is a jar full of fireflies.”
“…I feel more exposed than I ever have before, like I’m climbing a rock face with only a strand of dental floss for a harness. The music we’re playing is a dripline straight from our hearts, a confession of all that we are.”
“…I’ve traded in a jar full of pennies for a bar of gold. It’s amazing how quickly the things you thought would make you happy seem small once you stumble on something true.”
Hilary T. Smith has lines like those woven throughout her entire novel. I absolutely love her similes and metaphors.
Along with loving the writing, I adore Kiri Byrd. She is alive on the page. I simultaneously worried about Kiri while wanting to be her friend and spend time with her. I worried for her because she is grieving over her sister and what she discovers about her sister. I also worried for her because she’s manic and dealing with it all by herself. (Note–I knew something was mentally wrong with Kiri, but didn’t think of mania–I have no idea why not–until Kelly @ Stacked pointed it out in her review, which is great by the way.) What’s awesome about Wild Awake is that I never felt like I was reading a novel about grief. I understood Kiri’s grief and empathized with her, but I never felt down while reading this. I think the main reason I didn’t feel down is because Kiri is so exuberant. Even at times that she shouldn’t be, she is full of life and wonder and wanting the best for herself and for Skunk.
Speaking of Skunk, his character is wonderful. He and Kiri are both suffering, but they’re life rafts for each other. He’s her “bicycle boy,” her “love-bison,” and so much more. Kiri sees his potential and wants to help him heal. I don’t want to say too much more because I’m afraid I’ll spoil something, but I sure do love Skunk. Especially Skunk and Kiri together.
A couple people have asked me if Wild Awake would be okay for middle grade readers, and I’m honestly not sure. There isn’t anything graphically sexual in this novel, but the themes and issues are deep. I’m not sure if a middle grade reader would grasp what exactly is going on with Kiri and Skunk. My best advice is to read this–because you’ll hopefully enjoy it anyway–then make your decision based on what you know about your readers. I feel completely comfortable offering this to new freshmen in the fall, if that helps at all.
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith is a must-read. Based on this debut, I know that Hilary T. Smith is going to be an exciting voice in YA literature. I can’t wait to read what she writes next!...more
Thoroughly entertaining. More "bathroom" humor than Swim the Fly. Not quite as good as Swim the Fly, but I still really enjoyed it and ended up reallyThoroughly entertaining. More "bathroom" humor than Swim the Fly. Not quite as good as Swim the Fly, but I still really enjoyed it and ended up really liking Coop's character. Lots of character growth....more
When I was invited to be part of this blog tour I was really excited because the premise for Being Friends with BReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
When I was invited to be part of this blog tour I was really excited because the premise for Being Friends with Boys sounds like a fun summer read. Plus, it’s contemporary which I love, and I haven’t read any of Terra Elan McVoy’s books yet. It’s kind of awkward though when I end up not liking the book as much as I hoped to when I’m featuring it as part of a blog tour. I’ve decided that breaking this post down into a likes/dislikes will probably work best for my review.
What I Liked:
I really like that Terra Elan McVoy decided to write a book about a girl with mostly guy friends because I always found it easier to be friends with guys, and many of the girls in my classes have mentioned this as well. McVoy wrote a pretty accurate representation of what hanging out with guys is like. Charlotte is part of the group, and loves telling jokes with them and watching them play video games, but she also sometimes feels out of place. She’s managing their band and writing the lyrics, but then she’s also the one to organize them and get snacks ready for practice. She’s riding that line between being one of the guys and being “Suzy homemaker” which she’s mentioned not wanting to be, or something along those lines. I like that Char and Trip pass a notebook back and forth to one another about their day, gossip, music, feelings, etc. I had a notebook with my best friend, but I never considered having one with one of my guy friends. I don’t think I really had any guy friends who were the notebook type though either. A big part of the story is Charlotte figuring out who she is and where she fits in. Her mom left their family years ago, her sister is away at college, she’s trying to get to know her stepsisters better, and it feels like the band is falling apart. Charlotte has to learn that she can’t always make everyone happy and sometimes it’s more important to do what’s right for her.
What I Didn’t Like:
From the beginning of Being Friends with Boys it felt like there was a back story I was missing or like this is the sequel to another book about Charlotte and the guys. Readers are instantly thrown into the drama of Trip leaving the band even though we have no real reason why. This sort of expected understanding happened often in the beginning of the book which left me confused and re-reading pages to figure out what I was missing. To top it off, the chapters are incredibly long which almost always irks me. I like a book with drama, but there’s so much drama wrapped into this book that it started to take away from the real meat of the story which is Charlotte’s friendship with Oliver and Trip. At least I think that’s supposed to be the main focus. McVoy wound in all of this extra drama about Charlotte and her (ex?) best friend Lish, her sister being away at college, and her mom not being around anymore. Through most of the book it felt like I was reading a timeline of events that keep happening instead of getting a real in-depth story. The length. Being Friends with Boys is 360 pages long and it should have been 100 pages shorter. If there was more in-depth story and less timeline and telling so much of happening instead of showing what happens, then I think the story could have been shorter. Even if it wasn’t shorter, I think I would have enjoyed it more. The writing is really what turned me away from the book. The ending. After all of this drama, so much was left with loose strings.
Make sure to check out the main page of the blog tour so you can read other reviews of Being Friends with Boys. I’m only one opinion, and many of the other bloggers participating in the tour really liked Terra Elan McVoy’s newest book....more
I listened to this while driving to see my grandpa in the hospital, so I guess this was the perfect book for that considering the topic. My grandpa doI listened to this while driving to see my grandpa in the hospital, so I guess this was the perfect book for that considering the topic. My grandpa doesn't have cancer, but this is a sad yet hopeful book. I was a little extra weepy while listening, but I absolutely loved it. Not only is the book excellent, the narrator did a fantastic job. I'll have to listen to more audiobooks now :) ...more
This is a cute book. Most of the characters are stereotypes which I wasn't thrilled about, but I think many of my students will look past that and stiThis is a cute book. Most of the characters are stereotypes which I wasn't thrilled about, but I think many of my students will look past that and still enjoy the story. ...more
I’ve read some pretty good books this summer, but Virtuosity is one of the few that I read in one sitting. The book begins near the end of the story aI’ve read some pretty good books this summer, but Virtuosity is one of the few that I read in one sitting. The book begins near the end of the story and it had me hooked because Carmen appears to be at a crossroads in her musical career. From there we transition to the present and Carmen isn’t stalking, or so she says, her competition. Paralleling these two very different, but very intriguing scenes piqued my interest and didn’t let me go.
Carmen is a phenomenal violinist who has records out and has even won a Grammy. Now she’s preparing for a very prestigious competition, but she’s worried that Jeremy is better. This is probably my ignorance, but I kept thinking, Carmen, you won a Grammy! You’re obviously awesome, so don’t worry about Jeremy so much. I’m guessing if Carmen was a real person and knew I was thinking that, she’d probably scoff at my ignorance and be really annoyed with me. The kicker is that Carmen isn’t only feeling the pressure from herself, but she’s feeling the heat from her teacher and her mother. She’s become a jumble of nerves and is relying too heavily on her anti-anxiety drugs to calm her down so she can be a better performer.
Like I said, the anxiety and pressure Carmen’s feeling stems quite a bit from her mother. Her mother is her manager, and Carmen doesn’t even call her mom; she’s called by her first name, Diana. Obviously, there are some serious mother-daughter issues in this book. They are layered and twist in an excellent element to the plot. Diana is written so well that she was making me anxious. I kept feeling this urge to yell at her to back off and give Carmen some room to breathe.
Another relationship that really made the story come to life is Carmen’s relationship with Jeremy. In some ways it reminded me of Adam and Mia’s relationship from If I Stay/Where She Went by Gayle Forman. It isn’t nearly as steamy and angsty, but I don’t think it’s meant to be. Virtuosity focuses more on Carmen finding herself and whether she truly enjoys the violin anymore. It’s more about her recognizing her strengths and weaknesses and the true colors of those around her. I enjoyed their relationship because it made for an interesting twist in their rivalry and focus.
This is an early review, but Virtuosity is an awesome book that deserves some glowing, early buzz. I hope you’ll remember to pick it up in October or pre-order it now. Jessica Martinez is an author to watch; I’m already looking forward to her second book when her first hasn’t even officially released....more