Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson


Released: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: galley gifted by author (OMG THANK YOU)

Summary from Goodreads:
The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

My Thoughts

In case you’ve been living under a rock or haven’t only recently started reading my blog, then I need to inform you that I ADORE Morgan Matson’s books. Like, the day I get to meet her IRL I will probably cry and be a mess because her books have just really helped me through things and that means a lot to me. Since You’ve Been Gone was literally my #1 anticipated book of the year and it did not disappoint.

Matson’s writing is some of the best I’ve come across in YA. There are some authors who it feels like writes down to teens/dumbs down the writing/vocabulary so they can presumably understand it better. There are also authors who write so pretentiously that it sounds like an adult writing a teenage character. Matson manages to balance both of these aspects. Whether this is purposeful or not, she writes in a way that treats teens as the intelligent individuals that they are, but also understanding the way this age group thinks and speaks. I found this to be especially true in Since You’ve Been Gone. There was a realism to the characters and their feelings that made it feel like her characters could have been my friends in high school.

Another very strong aspect of this book that I briefly mentioned above is that I felt like I knew these characters and I cared about them. Sloane and Emily are almost identical portraits of my best friend and I. I am SO like Sloane it is kind of crazy, and same for my bff and Emily. Now, while I could not relate to Emily one bit because I’m not very shy or cautious or anything, but I still was interested in her story. Like, for me I normally need to relate to the main character in some way, but that wasn’t the case with this book. Emily felt so real for me that though her hesitance to do anything DROVE ME UP A WALL, I also understood and wanted to see what kinds of adventures Sloane’s list would take her on.

Also, this is the PERFECT summer story. There are crazy adventures (skinny dipping!), awesome friendships, and a SUPER CUTE budding romance that I will ship until the end of time. This is a really great story of self-discovery, of facing your fears and going outside your comfort zone because amazing things can happen when you take chances (It’s really true!). I would recommend you pre-order this or buy it as soon as it’s out because it is A++++. You guys need this book in your life. Trust me.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe


Released: February 6, 2014
Publisher: Viking Children’s
Source: Library copy

Summary from Goodreads:
For sixteen years, Daisy has been good. A good daughter, helping out with her autistic younger brother uncomplainingly. A good friend, even when her best friend makes her feel like a third wheel. When her parents announce they’re sending her brother to an institution—without consulting her—Daisy’s furious, and decides the best way to be a good sister is to start being bad. She quits jazz band and orchestra, slacks in school, and falls for bad-boy Dave. 

But one person won’t let Daisy forget who she used to be: Irish exchange student and brilliant musician Cal. Does she want the bad boy or the prodigy? Should she side with her parents or protect her brother? How can she know when to hold on and when—and how—to let go?

My Thoughts

I first became interested in this book after reading Ginger’s glowing review. I love a good novel written in verse, and this one sounded a bit different from what I usually read. Yes, it’s contemporary, but the subject matter is something I’ve never read about.

Daisy is a bit of a musical prodigy, throwing herself into playing her trumpet to make up for her extremely autistic brother, Steven. She tries to be the good girl, the daughter her parents don’t have to worry about so they can take care of Steven. Home isn’t the most pleasant place to be, so she loses herself in music to cope with it. But then her family makes the decision to send Steven to a place where he can better be taken care of. Rather than talk about it, Daisy internalizes it and slowly falls apart, losing herself in the process.

I really hate the synopsis of this book, which is why I wrote up one of my own. I think it overemphasizes some things and makes this book something that it’s not. The Sound of Letting Go is a subtle story. It is not this extreme story of shock and sadness. It is a story of guilt, of a girl trying to figure out how she will finally live a “normal” life and what exactly she wants with that life. Daisy gets lost trying to figure this all out. Her life is confusing and she struggles to keep up with it. That’s what this story is about. She’s grieving and relieved and because she internalizes everything, she’s really unable to deal with her feelings for a while. Add in a boy from her past who becomes a potential love interest, and you’ve got what I think is the epitome of growing up: discovering who you are and what you want out of life.

When beginning a verse novel by an author I’ve never read, I’m always a bit worried about the execution. It needs to be done well to successfully tell the story yet still evoke emotion from the reader. Ward did a fantastic job at this. The story flowed so beautifully. While I found the story to drag on a bit, thankfully Ward’s writing made it so that it was easy for me to continue rather than get bored or annoyed that things weren’t happening quicker. I will say that I thought the romance was a bit weird in that there wasn’t a whole lot of communication between the two throughout their developing relationship, but I’m also the kind of person who is really big on open communication, so this might just be a personal preference.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I found it painfully honest and it was interesting to see how something like autism can tear apart a family, yet also bring them together. And if you’re new to verse novels, I would definitely recommend this one as it’s a pretty easy to read introduction to the format!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Review: Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley


Released: April 22nd, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: egalley from publisher (thank you!!)

Summary from Goodreads:
All her life, Imogene has been known as the girl on THAT blog.

Imogene’s mother has been writing an incredibly embarrassing, and incredibly popular, blog about her since before she was born. Hundreds of thousands of perfect strangers knew when Imogene had her first period. Imogene’s crush saw her “before and after” orthodontia photos. But Imogene is fifteen now, and her mother is still blogging about her, in gruesome detail, against her will.

When a mandatory school project compels Imogene to start her own blog, Imogene is reluctant to expose even more of her life online…until she realizes that the project is the opportunity she’s been waiting for to tell the truth about her life under the virtual microscope and to define herself for the first time.

My Thoughts

As someone who spends a lot of her time online blogging, I think it’s pretty natural that this book caught my eye the second I read that it’s about a girl whose mother blogs. I mean, blogging is a huge part of my life, and I loved that this took a look at the blogging life from someone who is a little bit more on the outside.

Imogene’s mom has been a successful mommy blogger her entire life, documenting her every move as she grows from a baby into a teenager. Imogene hates having her life broadcasted to the entire world, but doesn’t know how to tell her mom this so she just puts up with it. When she’s assigned a school project to blog about her life, she decides to use the blog as a platform to stand up to her mom. Over time though, she realizes that her mom’s blog is about a lot more than just herself.

This book blends together so many different themes, but in a way that’s really cohesive. There are thoughts about living life online, how it’s not for everyone, as well as the importance of unplugging. That last part is especially important, I think. As someone who does have a very social life online, I always take special care to unplug when I’m with my IRL friends because sometimes it’s just more important to be in the “now.” Imogene discovers this, and also teaches her mom a few lessons about this as well, which I found to be really neat. She also learns about the importance of standing up for herself. For years Imogene has wanted to ask her mom to stop blogging about her, and instead of telling her this, she just learns to resent her mom. And you’ll see in the book, learning to communicate and stand up for her beliefs ends up turning out really well for Imogene.

The other thing that stood out to me in this book is the realistic portrayal of teens. Heasley writes her characters in a way that really makes them feel as if they’re actual people. I always hate when it sounds like an adult wrote a teen’s dialogue. There is a huge difference between the way a young person talks compared to someone much older. So kudos to Heasley for pulling that off effortlessly.

I pretty much loved this book and I can’t wait to read this author’s past and future books!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Listen Up! (17)

Listen Up! is a feature on my blog in which I share my favorite tunes for the week (or every other, depending on how much new music I discover each week). One thing most of you probably don’t know about me is that I LOVE music. I’m that girl that always has her headphones in and I spend hours online looking up new bands. Because I love music so much AND I said I was going to do whatever the hell I want with my blog, I figured I’d share some of my most listened tracks for every week or so. I listen to all different genres, so hopefully you’ll like some of my choices and maybe discover some new music for yourself!

listen-up

Wild Child by Enya

I first have to say that I have refused to even think about Enya for a longggg time because I associate her music with some pretty unpleasant memories. I am really not an Enya fan. BUT I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS SONG. I’ve mentioned in the past that I love practicing yoga, and this is one of the songs that I currently have on my practice playlist. I don’t know what it is, but it’s so whimsical and it makes me happy and calm.

Margaret Downe by Aidan Knight

I saw James Vincent McMorrow a few weeks back and Aidan Knight was the opening band/musician. Aidan sang this track off-mic which was amazing, but this it’s this song’s lyrics that really shine. This song tells a heartbreaking, yet beautiful story. Also, Aidan’s voice is one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard.

Golden by Parade of Lights

You know those happy songs that make you want to dance around your room and suddenly everything feels better? That’s how I feel about this song.

All Eyes on You by St. Lucia

This song isn’t new or anything, but I have had it on repeat so much recently and I have no clue why. At the moment, I’d probably say it’s my favorite song.

Ain’t It Fun by Paramore

I have been a Paramore fan from the very beginning, but their latest release took me quite a while to get used to. I’m definitely on board with it now; I love how much they’ve grown as a band over time. And is this not the cutest lyric video?

Alright, those are my picks for this week! Now, because I am ALWAYS up for new music, let me know what you have been listening to lately in the comments!

Review: The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi


Released: April 22nd, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Source: galley from publisher (thank you!!)

Summary from Goodreads:
Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school – and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?

My Thoughts

I have no clue where to begin with this review. There were so many aspects of this book that I absolutely loved, so I guess I’ll just jump right in.

The main reason I picked up this book was because it deals with mental illness. This is a topic I’m highly interested in and I’m always on the lookout for YA that portrays mental illness in a realistic and non-stigmatized way. The story in this book is centered around Alex, a teen who’s trying to live her life while also coping with the fact that her mother isn’t who she once was. Because of stress, her mother develops delusional disorder and comes to believe that she is Amelia Earhart. This is obviously devastating to Alex and her family, and there’s a lot of confusion in terms of how to move forward with their lives after this.

What I took away as being the biggest message in this book is the importance of communication. Alex’s family pretty much ceases to communicate, at least in a healthy manner, after their mother is diagnosed. They don’t know how to act around her and they don’t know how to act around each other. That’s so understandable, and dare I say, normal, in situations like this. But it is really, REALLY important to keep communicating, especially in high stress situations like this. Alex also basically stops talking to her friends because she’s afraid to tell them what’s going on. She has Jim, her awesome boyfriend, but even he doesn’t really know what’s going on. This threatens Alex’s relationships with everyone, and it’s really difficult to watch, but though Alex struggles through it, she does eventually learn to open up.

Also yay for not vilifying mental health professionals!

I found all the different relationship dynamics to be pretty awesome. There’s Alex and her siblings, who try to help each other but also have their issues. There’s a love interest who is like…super nice and awesome, but misunderstood? I don’t know how to describe him. But it’s pretty cool to see Alex and Jim get to know each other through driving lessons, of all things.

I will say that this book has a veryyyyy slow and slightly awkward start, which is why it took me like two weeks to read, but it’s definitely worth it. This one comes out next week, and I’d recommend you pre-order a copy or put it on your wish list!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Top Ten Bookish Things I’d Like to Own

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely girls over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is all about the ten bookish things we’d like to own. I thought this topic would be a ton of fun because it gave me the chance to do a little online “window” shopping! Who doesn’t like to do that? (Ok, maybe there are people out there that don’t. But I do, so the question worked). Here are the ten bookish items I’d love to have:

bookishitems

  1. Bookish Coaster Set from Out of Print - I don’t currently have a reason to need coasters, but I feel like some day in the future I will. These are so much more interesting than your normal run of the mill coasters.
  2. The Great Gatsby Handmade Bookmark - I’ve mentioned in the past that I collect bookmarks, and I really love having ones that I can attach some sort of meaning to. Not only is this one gorgeous, it’s got one of my favorite quotes EVER. This is one I’d definitely love to add to my collection.
  3. Deathly Hallows Inspired Cookie Stamp - I didn’t even know cookie stamps were a thing, but aren’t these so cool?! I don’t bake cookies ever, but I probably would if I owned these just so I could use them.
  4. Bookish Bandit Tote in Caterpillar - I love tote bags. They’re perfect for going to the library or the park or the beach. I thought this one was super cute. I would totally use it for carrying lots of books wherever I go.
  5. Ideal Bookshelf 484: Travel - This is a print for your wall. There are various designs/types of books, but this is the one I liked best because all the books are related to travel in some way, and it’s my dream to travel the world.
  6. Romeo & Juliet Book Clutch - No list of mine would be complete without something from Kate Spade. Sadly this item isn’t currently being sold, but it was love at first sight when I saw it. The design is so quirky!
  7. Literary Greeting Cards - I LOVE writing letters to my friends and while I normally buy cheap greeting cards (no shame), I’d splurge for these because they’re so gorgeous.
  8. Tundra Wall Cubby - COOLEST BOOKSHELF I’VE EVER SEEN.
  9. Evelina Botanical Journal - I’ve journaled for most of my life and while I tend to use simple black composition notebooks, I’m always on the lookout for cute journals. This one caught my eye as soon as I saw, and I know it’s one I’d really love writing in.
  10. Required Reading Bon Shopper - Another Kate Spade item. I LOVE IT.

What bookish items do you guys with you owned? Am I missing anything? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik


Released: April 22nd, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: egalley from publisher (thank you!!)

Summary from Goodreads:
Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.

Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.

All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.

Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too….

My Thoughts

Looking at this cover, had I not had an egalley of the book, I can say with 100% certainty I would not have read it. To me, this cover screams ‘FLUFF ALERT’ and as we all know, I do not like cute and fluffy books. At all. But after reading a few reviews and seeing that most of my friends who love fluff were not a fan of this book, I was like OK maybe this is the one for me.

The Last Best Kiss is apparently a retelling of a Jane Austen book (idk which one), but I haven’t read anything by Austen so that didn’t matter to me when I was reading the way it might to some others. The beauty of this book rests completely within its realism. You know those stories where it feels like you really get to know a character and his/her life? The people she interacts with on a daily basis, what makes her smile, the nuances of living? This is one of those. Some may find that a bit dull, but those are the kinds of stories I love. You see the growth and change between the characters, especially between Anna and Finn.

Some people might find Anna unlikable (which I hate as a descriptor btw), but I think it’s important to remember that she’s a teenage girl. There are times when she hurts people (Finn) because she’s afraid to stand up to her friends. I think we’d all be lying if we said we never did that at least once growing up. So yeah, she makes some mistakes, but by the end of the story its clear that she realizes that what she did was wrong and tries very hard to make it better. I mean, the whole story revolves around her making this huge mistake with Finn and then later getting the chance to try to redeem herself and all the growth that comes with that. And that’s exactly what she attempts to do so you’ve gotta give her at least some credit.

The other major theme of this book that I thought was done well is the whole idea of the importance of communication. Like, that is super important in ALL relationships whether it’s a romantic or platonic one. Both Finn and Anna totally fail in this department for most of the story and that makes it difficult for them to even be friends. There were multiple times where I was like, “JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER” because things would’ve been a whole lot easier for the both of them.

Ok and let me just talk about Finn for a minute. This boy is cuteeeee. And he’s nerdy, but in that “I get really excited about things that I’m passionate about” nerdy which is the best kind if you ask me. If I could have the adult version of him I would be set for life.

So if you can’t tell, I REALLY liked this book. Like, I am going to go check out LaZebnik’s other books because I liked her writing and characters and storytelling so much. This book comes out next week so preorder or put it on your wishlist or something because it’s awesome.

Rating: 4/5 stars