Tag Archives: love

The Loose Ends List – an awesome YA about loving life and letting go

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The Loose Ends List – an awesome YA about loving life and letting go

Half of this book will have you snorting with laughter, and the other half will leave you searching for tissue.  Seriously.  It’s a feelings read, and even the hardest hearts (me, for instance) will find it hard to resist the cast of vivid characters and their collective journey.  I liked the world travel and the ridiculous antics, but I also liked the lessons about dealing with the hard things in life.  I gave this book five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

First loves. Last Wishes. Letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

My Thoughts

First, and foremost, this is a book about love, and sometimes it’s about finding and reveling in love, and sometimes it’s about letting go of the things you love.  This lesson comes at a pivotal time in the narrator’s life and is the right mix of levity for young adult readers who are probably facing some of the same heartbreaking and breathtaking experiences.  Older readers will draw from the story in a different but equally compelling way.  The characters are rich, the plot is unexpected, and the culmination is absolutely worth your time.  I want it for my high school classroom library because it is the equivalent of hiding the broccoli in the cheese – so good that the kids won’t even notice the important messages they are also getting.  This book does take a stance on assisted death, and there are some pretty frank (and hilarious) discussions about sex as well as a few scenes of sensuality, so it isn’t for everyone, but I think it is appropriate for mature high school readers.

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

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Love, Lies and Spies – YA in the vein of Jane Austen

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Love, Lies and Spies – YA in the vein of Jane Austen

A fumbling miss, a gentleman spy, and some rather sweet romance complicated by misunderstandings, polite behavior, and enigmatic looks steer this genteel YA romance.  Fans of Jane Austen and YA historical fiction will enjoy this love story which uses the strictures of society to let romance blossom sedately.

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Goodreads Summary

Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

My Thoughts

The plot is rather predictable – Jane Austen comparisons give you a fairly good play book for how this story will go down.  The characters are equally predictable.  It won’t take readers long to spot the good guys and the villains in this work.  The pleasure is in the simplicity.  You feel warm and fuzzy when the polite and kind people get what they want and when the scheming jerks get their just desserts as well.  This isn’t a book for everyone, and it may not interest the average high school reader, but those closet romantics of the YA world will find plenty to sigh, both longingly and contentedly, about in this romp through high society and courtship rituals.  I do have to warn readers that Julianna, the heroine, initially comes across as a bit of a simpering ninny.  I really thought this was going to be a book that required me to tolerate the strange and eccentric humor I usually equate with the steampunk genre, but, happily, it evens out after a few chapters.  Julianna proved to be smarter and more resourceful that I anticipated.  While Spencer is no Mr. Darcy, he is certain to be the hero of many a young gal’s dreams, and the pairing of Julianna and Spencer is quite satisfying.  While my final impression was one of contentment and I felt spurred to read another Jane Austen inspired YA right after I put this one down, some readers will see this as a rather muted version of several popular regency romances.  I personally think that is a good thing, but if that isn’t your genre, or if you were reading romances for the racey bits, you might be disappointed by this sure-to-be-momma-approved, well behaved read.  Language and situations are appropriate for all ages, but interest level is high school and beyond.

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

All the Bright Places: A Book I’m Still Thinking About Two Months Later

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All the Bright Places: A Book I’m Still Thinking About Two Months Later

While All the Bright Places is publishing today, I got a chance to read it in November. I’ve thought about this book a lot since then. I’ve seen a few negative reviews and I’ve considered what they have to say. The conclusion I’ve reached is that I recognized these kids. I’ve seen them in my halls and called them out for their antics, and prayed they would live through another weekend if I let them out of my sight. The authenticity of these characters will touch readers who know people like Theodore and Violet. This book will resonate with you and punch you in the cry box. If you don’t believe they are real people because you cannot fathom teens like these, you may fail to connect. This is one of my top reads for the new year. I’m recommending it to students left and right. They go to school with these characters. If you liked The Fault in Our Stars or Thirteen Reasons Why, or Eleanor and Park, add this one to your TBR list.

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All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Knopf

Theodore struggles with periods of overwhelming depression. Violet can seem to figure out how to live since her sister died. When the two meet while contemplating suicide on the same ledge, they find that some things might be worth living for. The characters were people I recognized, believed in, and quickly learned to care for. The plot was paced well, allowing time for a relationship to develop without dragging. I was engaged in the outcome and read it straight through in one sitting. I thought the themes were well suited to the intended audience and came from a pair of sincere and believable teen voices. I am still thinking very hard about the way this one ended, and it is going to stick with me for a while. Language, sensuality, and situations are edgy, as is any good contemporary YA that reads authentically to its intended audience. It is appropriate for mature high school readers.