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.


Monday, May 1, 2017

May Releases I'm Most Excited For

May 2nd:
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate - This book is about a girl who dresses up as a boy to audition for an all-male a cappella group.  Everything about this is amazing, and screams that this is a book that I will adore.  I can't wait to read it.


May 9th:
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy - Julie Murphy is a great author, and I look forward to reading her next book, which has a cover that I love a lot.

Ramona Blue

May 16th:
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord - This book is by Emery Lord, which is about all I need to know to pick up an Emery Lord book after having already read 3 books by her.  It sounds like it'll be a good book, though, from the premise.  And this cover is beautiful.

The Names They Gave Us

May 30th:
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon  - This book is about two Indian teens at a summer camp whose parents plan on setting the two of them up for an arranged marriage.  And the girl is the one interested in STEM and the boy is the romantic.  Everything about this premise is awesome and I can't wait to read and love this adorable book.

When Dimple Met Rishi