Tag Archives: contemporary romance

Cecilia Vinesse’s Seven Days of You

Standard
Cecilia Vinesse’s Seven Days of You

This is a book about letting things go:  Old hurts, old friends, and old dreams.  It is also a book about seeing all the good things that are waiting to fill the void.  It gets ugly, as only teen drama and talk shows can, but I ultimately enjoyed how it turned out in the end.  I gave Seven Days of You four stars.


Goodreads Summary

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

My Thoughts

The characters are fairly immature teenagers, and they all have their good sides and their bad sides. This book mostly revolves around an incident that broke up a friendship years ago, prompted by jealousy over middle school crushes.  If you are expecting more grown up issues, step away from this book.  If you are still holding a grudge from junior high and expressly avoid that person to this day, you will relate.  I loved the fact that the book did give a lot of the cultural aspects of the setting a role in the book, but don’t expect actual natives to be part of the cast.  I thought that was a missed opportunity, and I couldn’t decide if it represented the self absorption of teens or reiterated the the stereotype of self absorbed Americans.  I was horrified that the main character repeatedly pointed out her failure to learn the language despite living in the country for years.  Really?  I chose to enjoy the book despite those flaws, but I did notice them.   I will say that the book made me get a bit of wanderlust (which my husband promptly shut down – boo). Teens looking for a familiar story in an exotic setting will probably find this engaging, and there is definitely enough conflict to satisfy those who long for drama.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Advertisements

Break Me Like A Promise – the second in the Once Upon A Crime series

Standard
Break Me Like A Promise – the second in the Once Upon A Crime series

If you enjoyed Hold Me Like A Breath, and even if you didn’t, you should give Break Me Like A Promise a chance.  Where Penelope was an over-insulated ingenue of a narrator, Magnolia is all steel and cynicism.  She is strong and driven (yay!) but she is also so self-absorbed you want to slap her.  Honestly, I quickly longed to be back in Penelope’s weak little hands, so I’m really glad I stuck around to see Magnolia’s character arc run its course.  It is her dynamic development that really is the heart of this story.

Break Me Like A Promise will publish on Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

image

Goodreads Summary

No one is unbreakable.

All Magnolia Vickers has ever wanted was to follow father’s path as head of the Family Business. But new legislation is poised to destroy the Family’s operations in the black-market organ trade and Maggie’s recent behavior has wrecked the business-savvy reputation she’s worked her whole life to build.

She’s given an ultimatum: shape up or step aside.

Then Maggie messes up: she downloads a virus onto her father’s computer, and must sneak it off-estate for repair. When Alex, a tech whiz, uncovers the type of information on the machine, he offers Maggie a choice: her Family can give him a kidney, or he’ll irreparably scramble the data. Maggie agrees, but has no intention of keeping her promise or every seeing him again. That night Alex shows up at her Family estate with copies of confidential Family files and a shocking revelation—the kidney is for him.

The Vickers aren’t willing to let Alex out of their sight, so he moves onto their estate and Maggie is assigned to be his keeper. A task she resents and he enjoys making as challenging as possible. But procuring black market organs is becoming increasingly difficult, and as Alex’s health declines, she’s surprised to find herself falling for him.

Like it or not, Maggie must accept that if she wants to save Alex’s life and carve out a place in the new legalized organ business, she’s going to have to fight for both.

My Thoughts

Like I said before, this is a book about character development.  The plot isn’t action packed – there is a lot of time shuffling around Magnolia’s ranch.  There isn’t a real sense of threat either, though there is a lot of tension and anxiety that develops simply because Magnolia is such a shoot from the hip kind of person.  There is a slow burn romance that is sweet and believable, but it, too, is really only part of the making of Magnolia.  Personally, I think that is what a book should be about, so I was pleased, but if you expected the suspense that drove the first book, you might be disappointed.  I was a little annoyed that the author seems to be disbanding the mafia of organ trade so early in the series, because that was a pretty engaging scenario ripe with potential story lines full of danger and betrayal, but I’m willing to see where the next book goes with the idea.  Overall, this is a nice juxtaposition of a sequel, and I think most readers will like it better than the first book.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summer of Sloane

Standard
Summer of Sloane

If you are looking for a little drama in your next YA contemporary, you would be hard pressed to find a book with more drama than Summer of Sloane.  The narrator, Sloane, learns her best friend is knocked up by her boyfriend in the first few pages, a revelation that kicks off a summer full of eye-opening situations about love, betrayal, forgiveness and trust.  Too much drama for me, so I gave it three stars, but other reviewers averaged a four star rating on Goodreads.

image

Goodreads Summary

Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.

These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.
Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.
But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to find as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

My Thoughts

The problem for me as a reader is that the dramatics seemed to eat up much of the time that should have been spent developing characters and relationships.  Sloane never really seems to get past her self centered, woe is me funk.  The lessons were there and the knowledge was for the taking, but I’m not convinced she really got it in the end.  This might be due to the fact that the ending felt rushed, which is a shame because there was an attempt not to tie everything into an unrealistic neat bow as the book closed (kudos for that).  I think what Sloane really needed – some real thinking time – was pushed to the side for the sake of a romance I wasn’t sold on.  Maybe the thinking time was there but felt distorted because it was more implied by time measurements than any real soliloquies.  That being said, I don’t think readers of the contemporary YA romance will be hugely put off by the things that bothered me.  My high school students like books that are full of drama like this, and I think they will be content with the ending.  I would purchase this book for my classroom library, and I can see it getting a lot of word of mouth recommendations.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Deb Caletti’s Essential Maps for the Lost – A YA read about depression that left me anything but depressed.

Standard
Deb Caletti’s Essential Maps for the Lost – A YA read about depression that left me anything but depressed.

It is hard to explain how a book about depression made me so very happy.  Both Madison and Billy have been balancing the emotions of their unstable mothers and are living with the soul crushing responsibility and guilt that comes with the parenting of a depressed parent.  They find in each other, though, those effervescent moments of happiness and joy that are pure pleasure to experience through them.

image

Goodreads Summary

Sometimes people want to be lost. Madison—Mads to everyone who knows her—is trying her best to escape herself during one last summer away from a mother who needs more from her than she can give, and from a future that has been decided by everyone but her.

Sometimes the lost do the unimaginable, like the woman, the body, Mads collides with in the middle of the water on a traumatic morning that changes everything.
And sometimes the lost are the ones left behind, like the son of the woman in the water, Billy Youngwolf Floyd. Billy is struggling to find his way through each day in the shadow of grief. His one comfort is the map he carries in his pocket, out of his favorite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
When three lives (and one special, shared book) collide, strange things happen. Things like questions and coincidences and secrets—lots of secrets. Things like falling in love. But can two lost people telling so many lies find their way through tragedy to each other…and to solid ground?

My Thoughts

I think these characters rang so true because their feelings, pretty and ugly, are believable and honest.  The quirks and tells of a lifetime spent walking a tightrope feel just right, and the book is paced to develop them fully.  I’m not going to lie – their relationship is messy and uncertain, but it feels like the truth.  The lessons they learn about themselves and about life add a real depth.  The secondary characters lighten the mood, and the shared dream they have to live out a childhood fantasy inspired by a beloved middle school book is sweet and realistic.  I think my high school students will respond to these characters and their situation.  I definitely want to include it in my classroom library, so it is going on the wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+, but adult readers will appreciate it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The Natural History of Us

Standard
The Natural History of Us

Ah, thwarted love.  Can a class project fix the love story that should have been?  In my class it probably would have just resulted in someone being murdered in the back corner of the room, but in fiction, all things are possible.

image

Goodreads Summary

One class assignment. One second chance at love. The school player is all in. Now he needs to win back the sweet commitment girl who’s forever owned his heart.

Justin Carter has a secret. He’s not the total player Fairfield Academy believes him to be. Not really. In fact, he used to be a one-woman guy…and his feelings for her never went away. Too bad he broke her heart three years ago and made sure to ruin any chance she’d ever forgive him.

Peyton Williams is a liar. She pretends to be whole, counting down the days until graduation and helping her parents at the family ranch. But the truth is, she’s done everything she can to get over Justin, and salvation is just around the corner. With graduation one short month away, she’ll soon break free from the painful memories and start her life fresh. Of course, she has to get through working with him on one last assignment first.

For Justin, nothing ever felt as right as being with Peyton, and now that fate’s given him a shot at redemption, he’s determined to make the most of it. And for Peyton…well, Justin Carter has always been her kryptonite.

My Thoughts

The Natural History of Us seems pretty simple on the surface, but the use of dual narrators and alternating timelines makes for a much more complex and satisfying picture of a relationship than expected.  This creates an intimate feel that insures that readers will find themselves quickly invested in the love story between Peyton and Justin, but also in the characters as individuals.  Developing a relationship with this much detail means there wasn’t a lot of action outside of their encounters, but I didn’t feel the story suffered for it.  I was pleased that there was drama, but it was not over-the-top.  It felt like a believable romance, and I think YA readers always respond well to realism.  I did think the prose felt awkward for the first few chapters. Peyton’s narrative voice seemed to wobble and her reactions felt off, but she soon found her pace and I didn’t notice it for long.  This is the second in a series, but I read it as a standalone and had no trouble following the story.  Overall, I think this is a book my high school readers will enjoy, particularly those who enjoy contemporary YA romance writers like Miranda Kenneally.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list.  Language and some scenes of sensuality make this most appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

How do you let go of the events and the people that have defined you? Elissa Janine Hoole’s YA, The Memory Jar, explores that question

Standard
How do you let go of the events and the people that have defined you?  Elissa Janine Hoole’s YA, The Memory Jar, explores that question

I kind of feel like the summary on this book missed the mark.  I was expecting a mystery with a lot of tension and a little danger.  Instead, I found a book about the normal mysteries that accompany teen love.  I think that is a bit of a shame because the real audience for this book is going to be the reader who likes an exploration of all the heartbreaking and hopeful feelings that go with letting go of someone you love, even when it might be more comfortable to cling to them.  

image

Goodreads Summary

Since the accident, Taylor’s memory has been fuzzy. But at least she’s awake. Who knows what her boyfriend, Scott, will remember when he comes out of the coma. Will he remember that Taylor was driving the snowmobile when it crashed? Will he remember the engagement ring? Her pregnancy?

Will he remember that she tried to break up with him?

Taylor doesn’t know. And she doesn’t know if she wants him to remember. Plenty of things happened that night and before—secrets wrapped in secrets—that she’d prefer be forgotten.

Facing choices she’d rather ignore, Taylor searches for something more solid than whispers and something bigger than blame to face the future and forgive herself.

My Thoughts

Taylor’s world is rocked by an unexpected pregnancy followed by a tragic accident that might take away some of the choices she already thought she had made.  She spends the majority of the book re-evaluating her decision to break up with her boyfriend who now lies in a coma.  She’s lost control of the life she planned and is now going back through the pieces of the wreckage, trying to decide what she should and can salvage.  I think there is a universality that will appeal to YA readers because this is really about saying goodbye to an era in your life, something that we all do as high school ends and the relationships forged there shift and evolve.  It is also about making choices that are going to best fit the future you really want, which, again, is a pretty universal concept.  I think the characters will also appeal to YA’s because they feel like real teens with emotions that are volatile and impulsive.  The situations and discoveries, which may play with less enormity to adult readers, will probably play as spot on for the YA crowd.

While I think YA readers will enjoy this book, there are a few things that may make it harder to enjoy for some.  It was difficult to follow at times because it was set up with alternating chapters of “Then” and “Now.”  While this did help maintain suspense about the accident, it also created confusion because it was hard to follow the timelines.  The “Then” chapters ranged from the first time Taylor and Scott met to the point of the accident, but not in chronological order, so it was a little disorienting for me as a reader.  It wasn’t an insurmountable obstacle, but it did interrupt the flow of the story enough to annoy me.  Second, I think the end felt rushed to some degree, and one of the more intriguing sub plots got a very quick resolution that I found a little disappointing – I wanted to know more about Kendall, and I’m betting others will as well.

Overall, I think this book is engaging, but it will be more compelling for real young adults than adult readers of YA.  There is some discussion of sex, though nothing graphic, and the debate between abortion and adoption does come into play, so it is probably most appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Year We Fell Apart

Standard
The Year We Fell Apart

I picked up this book because it was recommended to fans of Sarah Dessen, but I have to say that was a bit of a misleading comparison.  Dessen’s characters face big problems and make mistakes, but they do actually grow and learn from their experiences.  I didn’t feel like that was the case in this book.  I gave it three stars.

image

Goodreads Summary

Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.

Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.
While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from.
As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.

My Thoughts

I was all about believing Harper could put the brakes on the behavior and choices that kept making her life a spiral of suck.  I believed and believed until I just couldn’t any more.  This protagonist made excuses for her messes and other characters made excuses for her messes (even while they were telling her that she was selfish), and even when the book came to a close, I had a pretty good idea she would be back to her old bad habits in a few weeks.  I just didn’t see the growth, and I felt like her romantic interest was a sucker in the end.  My second problem was that this storyline included a rift in the relationship between Harper and her parents that is complicated by her mother’s cancer diagnosis.  I felt like this ended up being an accessory subplot because there really wasn’t a feeling of resolution or development in terms of that issue.  Her parents came off as suckers, too, and that was disappointing.  I do think that there are readers who will connect with this character because in real life, there are lots of people who can’t seem to get themselves under control, but I’m not sure if there is really a message or hope in these pages.  This is a perfectly adequate contemporary YA surface read, but I really wanted to see more character growth, and I think most of my high school readers will as well.  Language and situations including sensuality and drugs make this a read for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Dreaming of Antigone 

Standard
Dreaming of Antigone 

You can’t have a book that references Antigone without some dark family drama, and this book does rise to the challenge.  Dead sisters, men abusing power, and questions about fate and guilt surface in a contemporary take on the way we protect and destroy our families.

image

Goodreads Summary

Every star has its own path…

“I can’t ever be the blazing star that Iris was. I’m still just a cold, dark satellite orbiting a star that went super nova.”
Andria’s twin sister, Iris, had adoring friends, a cool boyfriend, a wicked car, and a shelf full of soccer trophies. She had everything, in fact—including a drug problem. Six months after Iris’s death, Andria is trying to keep her grades, her friends, and her family from falling apart. But stargazing and books aren’t enough to ward off her guilt that she—the freak with the scary illness and all-black wardrobe—is still here when Iris isn’t. And then there’s Alex Hammond. The boy Andria blames for Iris’s death. The boy she’s unwittingly started swapping lines of poetry and secrets with, even as she tries to keep hating him.

Heartwrenching, smart, and bold, Dreaming of Antigone is a story about the jagged pieces that lie beneath the surface of the most seemingly perfect life…and how they can fit together to make something wholly unexpected.

My Thoughts

Readers will appreciate the honest depiction of the emotions and internal battles that are part of the aftermath of tragedy.  Andria, the narrator, is compelling both for her normalcy and for the events in her life that make her anything but normal.  Her conflicted attraction to the reformed bad boy she feels is responsible for her sister’s terrible spiral makes for an engaging set of complications as well.  I have to say, too, that the author took a set of dramatic circumstances and managed to keep them from taking over the story.  The focus here is really on the relationships, and I think that is why it worked so well.  Feelings and reactions didn’t feel exaggerated or overblown, and I think YA readers will respond to this tone because it feels believable.  Finally, you don’t gave to have any background knowledge to enjoy this book, but if you do, it adds another layer to the story.  I particularly enjoyed the way Andria’s perceptions of herself shift how she relates to the Greek tragedy she is studying in high school.  Overall, I think this book will be popular with my high school readers and I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list.  While the themes are mature, the approach makes this book appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Bookishly Ever After – the book version of that great guy that I just didn’t feel sparks with

Standard
Bookishly Ever After – the book version of that great guy that I just didn’t feel sparks with

In high school, the nicest boy liked me, but some terrible part of me just couldn’t like him back.  I felt like I must be a bad person because how could I not want to just embrace this wonderful human and bask in his admiration?  I’m really glad I didn’t fight my instincts on that – chemistry matters.  I feel the same way about Bookishly Ever After.  It’s a book that I just know is perfect for someone like me, but not me.  Maybe I am that bad person – I mean, this should be my best read ever.  It is just not.  However, it might be your perfect book – it’s nice and sweet and loads of other people have crushes on it, so you might, too.

image

Goodreads Summary

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary.

But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

My Thoughts

Like I said, I wanted to adore this book, but I just didn’t.  That seems impossible because (1) it included short scenes from the books that Phoebe loved that I, too, would love!  (2)it allowed her to get as dorky as I ever wanted to be – I longed to dress up as my favorite book characters for Halloween, and Phoebe does it!  (3) there is a Bollywood dance scene  (4) Phoebe fan-girlz like nobody’s business . . . I could go on.  Phoebe’s life should have made an awesome read, but I was seriously bored.  Why?  I’m old.  I just can’t read about the minutia of every encounter Phoebe has with Dev then read a full analysis of the situation by another teen and stay interested.  It drove me crazy.   I do think that an actual young adult would enjoy the book a lot more than I did.  The main character is sweet and blind to what is really going on around her.  Much of the miscommunication that complicates the action is exactly like my experiences with real life, and I think that reality is going to make this book believable and easy to relate to for young adults.  But if you are an adult reader, I’m letting you know now that the crush encounter dissections go on for over 300 pages.  It is like Sex and the City but minus the shoes and sex plus some knitting and Mr. Big if he were Indian and a bit of a dork.  It exhausted me.  

Especially since I brought up S&tC, I want to point out that this is a clean read, and it would be appropriate for grades 8+.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.