Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

These Things I've Done A contemporary YA perfect for fans of Courtney Summers and Jessi Kirby, THESE THINGS I’VE DONE is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who accidentally caused her best friend’s death and, a year later, is still grappling with the consequences.

Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.

It's been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn't racked with guilt over her role in her best friend's death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn't half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey's brother, every day. Not just because he's a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she's betraying her best friend one final time.

My Review: 5 Stars

I read this book over the span of one day, starting in the early afternoon and finishing at 1:30 AM.  This book made me feel all the emotions of the story, and it is a sad book for many parts of it, so I finished it feeling a bit sad.  And I realized I definitely cared about Aubrey dying even though she was a fictional character.  This story jumped between the timeline of present day (senior year) and the timeline of sophomore year leading up to Aubrey's death.  In the sophomore year timeline, I tried not to be attached to Aubrey's character since I knew she was going to die but I ended up loving her character anyway.

The book does a good job showing the strong friendship of Aubrey and Dara in the past timeline sections.  It is clear that they care a lot about each other and are there for each other when things are tough.  There is a slight rift between them that is created when Aubrey starts dating her first boyfriend, Justin, a boy who Dara had had a slight crush on before his relationship with Aubrey began.  Dara finds herself not always able to feel happy for her friend because she is instead jealous.  Despite this, I never felt that the friendship became toxic like some other friendships I've read in YA.  Instead, it was clear that they still both cared a lot about each other and really just needed to have a good talk and forgive each other's mistakes.

Ethan is the boy who Dara had thought of as just Aubrey's little brother and a friend for a long time, but now, after having been away for a year, she suddenly notices that he has gotten quite attractive in her absence.  And the feelings that she starts to have for him are not longer the type of feelings you would have for someone who is like a little brother to you.  Ethan is a really sweet guy and while Dara thinks he has the right to be angry at her, since her actions caused the death of his sister who was very important to him, he never once treats Dara in a way that shows that he blames her.  In fact, they have conversations about what happened and he specifically says it wasn't Dara's fault.  When their friendship evolves into something more, it is cute.  I think I would have also been okay with them staying just friends, but them becoming a couple also worked for the story.  I still wonder how they will get past the hurdle of his parents, since that wasn't really explicitly stated. 

I really liked Dara's family and how it showed how they struggled too to figure out how they should treat her in the present timeline.  Tobias was her little brother who had become kind of scared of Dara since she wasn't the same daring and fun older sister that she used to be.  Dara overheard her dad saying she should have waited another year to come back which led her to think that he didn't like her when really he was just thinking about what would be best for her.  Her mom is the one who seems the most caring throughout, though I'm sure she struggled plenty too.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August Releases I'm Most Excited For

August 1st:
These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips - This book sounds amazing and also sad.  I look forward to seeing what happens in it.  I wonder what the main character did to accidentally cause her friend's death.  I know the author's agent loves this book a lot and has talked about it online.

These Things I've Done

August 8th:
Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert - I read Brandy Colbert's first book, Pointe, a few years ago, and it was good.  I'm looking forward to reading another own voices book by her.  And I like that the MC is both black and Jewish.

Little & Lion

August 29th:
Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C. Stevens - Courtney Stevens is a great author, which is why I will definitely need to read her newest book about life in a small town.
You Don't Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow  - This book sounds really good.  It is about a girl who was given up for adoption who gets pregnant in high school and has to decide what to do about her own pregnancy.

Dress Codes for Small TownsYou Don't Know Me But I Know You


Thursday, June 1, 2017

June Releases I'm Most Excited For

June 6th:
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee - I have never read a book with an ace main character before, so I look forward to this one.  It also sounds like it has a great friendship and romance in it.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy

June 13th:
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios - Heather Demetrios is a great author, and I look forward to reading this book about a tough subject of an abusive relationship.

Bad Romance

June 27th:
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee - This sounds like a great historical fiction book with a lot of adventure as Monty, Percy, and Felicity embark on a grand tour of Europe.

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

My Review: 5 Stars

As someone who loves the Pitch Perfect movies, I knew that I had to read this book about a cappella.  And I had also read Riley Redgate's first book, Seven Ways We Lie, last year and I liked it.  But I definitely liked this book much more than her first book.  While her first book had the perspectives of many characters, this one focused on one main character and developed just Jordan's story as well as the other characters in her life.  There were so many topics that were well handled in this book.

I loved so many facets of Jordan's character.  She is Chinese American, figuring out her sexuality, and also poor.  She struggles with the fact that she has a scholarship to attend Kensington and yet she still isn't cast in any of the main shows because of her voice not fitting the roles.  It really shows her family's struggles and how it makes things like money a big deal to her while so many of the other kids at Kensington don't have any issues with money at all.  And her dad is a paraplegic which also brings up some issues with healthcare and welfare in the US.

I loved how complex the characters were and how well we got to know the guys in the Sharpshooters.  I often try to read books with good female friendships between girls but it was good to read strong friendships between boys in this book (and some between the guys and someone they thought was a guy).  My favorites of the guys were Isaac and Nihal.  Nihal was a super sweet guy who is a Sikh who really gets close with and confides in "Julian" (Jordan's fake name).  Isaac was Japanese and may have things going on in his life that he isn't telling the guys.  Jon Cox and Mama are roommates and close friends with each other.  Marcus is a freshman who really cares about politics and people voting in local elections.  Erik is a freshman who can be a bit annoying and worried about fitting in.  Trav is the music leader and intense and cares a lot about the group and a cappella.

I also really enjoyed the romance in this book.  I don't want to say too much about it but it is sweet and I liked the two characters together.  It is the kind of relationship that Jordan needs after her relationship with previous boyfriend Michael didn't end well.  The new guy is much better for her.  

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

The Names They Gave Us When it all falls apart, who can you believe in?

Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized.

My Review: 5 Stars

I finished this amazing book last night and am still thinking about the characters and story today.  And I think for me that is what separates a good book from a great book.  If I finish it and then keep thinking about it, it is a great book.  I think of Emery Lord books this one and The Start of Me and You are tied for my favorite.   This book had such strong friendships and a slow burn friends first romance (which were also things I loved in The Start of Me and You).  I also liked the relationships shown in Lucy's family.  The only thing I didn't like was that I wanted a bit more closure at the ending.

I liked how the book explored Lucy's faith as a Christian.  She was struggling with this because her mom had gotten cancer again after already having been cured of cancer before. She has grown up as a preacher's kid who always prayed and believed in God.  But now she isn't sure if she believes since she thinks God would listen to her prayers and not give her mom cancer again.  I liked how the book dealt with this and showed Lucy's journey with this throughout the book, though it didn't take over the entire story.

I loved the summer camp setting.  I enjoy reading books that take place during the summer, especially when it is the summer and I realized I really like reading books about a camp too, since there are relationships built there that are fun to read about.  This camp was an interesting camp, since it was one for kids who had some kind of emotional trauma reason that allowed them to participate in the camp.  Some of them had been abused or in foster homes or were pregnant or had lost parents or other family members.

I loved the friendships that Lucy formed with the other counselors.  She had never really had a group of friends at her high school and her closest friend there had been her boyfriend Lukas who had put their relationship on pause for the summer.  She meets some other counselors.  But they had all grown up going to this camp and she at first felt like she was on the outside of their tight knit group.  But quickly she was welcomed by them and became friends with Anna, Mohan, Henry, and Keely.  I liked reading about their adventures on Friday nights off and how they would be honest with their feelings in telling their highs and lows of the week.  I liked how each of these characters that she became friends with had their own backstories and issues that they were dealing with and how they weren't just in the book without stories.  

I loved the romance that developed between Lucy and Jones (or Henry) who was another one of the counselors.  It was slow burn and started as a friendship first.  And it was cute, and they were also real about their feelings with each other.  They were able to communicate successfully and not have overdone drama due to not communicating.  Also this romance was interracial since Henry was black.  Lucy definitely had a stronger relationship with Henry than her previous relationship with Lukas.

Family was also an important part of this book.  This part was sad sometimes since Lucy's mom had cancer and Lucy was dealing with what things she would miss about her mom if she didn't make it.  I loved the relationship that she and her mom had though.  And there was also a scene that was great where she realized how great her dad really was.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.