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Friday, July 1, 2016

Review: Defending Taylor (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally



Blurb from Goodreads:
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?
My Review:
 
I'm a bit worried -- this used to be one of my all time favorite series but the past two books in it have just been just okay for me.  Books 1-5 were five stars for me and just so, so good but I have been a bit underwhelmed by both last year's release and this year's, Defending Taylor.  I think what was different for me with this book versus the other books in the series that I loved is that I felt a lack of understanding in the romance -- it seemed like so much tell rather than show and I've never had that problem with this series before.  This should have been a slam dunk for me since I love politics and I played soccer for 14 years but it just felt off; I didn't enjoy reading it. Don't get me wrong, I still think MK writes absolutely amazing female characters and I think every teen should read this series -- all of the books feel realistic in their characters, in their plot and in the situations; this series is also one of the best examples of honestly dealing with sex in YA.  That being said, I don't think we were given enough info about why Taylor was so interested in either her ex boyfriend or Ezra and vice versa -- snippets of scenes between them were recounted by I was missing that spark. The rest of the book outside of the romance worked for me because it felt so genuine, another thing I love about this series, but the romance was a pretty big part of this book.

For me, I feel a bit like the author should take a break from this series but I know a lot of people loved the release last year, Jesse's Girl, and will probably love this one, too.  I just wanted something more. Defending Taylor comes out next week on July 5, 2016, and you can purchase HERE.
My first class is calculus 1, the most advanced math course Hundred Oaks offers.  Just a week ago, I was taking an advanced calculus quiz at the University of the South.  St. Andrew's is one of the best prep schools in the country, and they offer seniors the opportunity to take courses at the university, which is up the road.  Even thought I was still in high school, the professors treated me just like a college kid.  I was only in the course for two weeks, but still.  It was insanely difficult.  The truth is, unlike everyone else in my family, I hate math.  I have to work at it harder than anything else in my life.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

This & That #2: 3 Books That Shouldn't Go Together

This & That – 3 Books That Shouldn't Go Together

This and That” is a feature created by Megan @ Reading Books Likes a Boss and borrowed here with permission. Megan created this feature and I owe this post to her brilliance.  Not only should you check out her blog, generally, but her This & That recommendations are utterly perfect! Megan created this feature to showcase books that either sound similar or have similar themes, and thus I am recommending that you read the "that book" because you are a a fan of the “this book.” 


About the Books:

Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
Didn’t you ever just simply want to…stop?

Star athlete and straight-A student Nanette O’Hare has played the role of dutiful daughter for as long as she can remember. But one day, a beloved teacher gives her his worn copy of The Bubblegum Reaper—a mysterious, out-of-print cult classic—and the rebel within Nanette awakens.

As the new and outspoken Nanette attempts to insert her true self into the world with wild abandon, she befriends the reclusive author and falls in love with a young, troubled poet. Forced to make some hard choices that bring devastating consequences, Nanette learns the hard way that rebellion can sometimes come at a high price. 

The Pigman (The Pigman #1) by Paul Zindel
Meet Mr. Pignati, a lonely old man with a beer belly and an awful secret. He's the Pigman, and he's got a great big twinkling smile. When John and Lorraine, two high school sophomores, meet Mr. Pignati, they learn his whole sad, zany story. They tell it right here in this book -- the truth, and nothing but the truth -- no matter how many people it shocks or hurts. 
Amazon | Audible GR

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” Just a few years later, the book and the aesthetic/moral dilemma it presented became issues in the trials occasioned by Wilde’s homosexual liaisons, which resulted in his imprisonment. Of Dorian Gray’s relationship to autobiography, Wilde noted in a letter, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps.”


The Why:

So these three books may seem totally divergent but there is a method to my madness and a basis for recommending all three of them together!  

Every Exquisite Thing was a recent read for me and instant favorite (you can read my review HERE); it's about Nanette who discovers a cult-classic book written many years ago by a reclusive author and when she finds out that the author lives not more than 20 minutes away from her, she strikes up a friendship with him that changes everything. When I was reading it, I couldn't help but think about one of my childhood favorites, The Pigman, because there is a sort of similar premise in both of these books.  They both involve teens becoming friends with a reclusive older person and seeing the world differently because of it.  In The Pigman, there is that same truth of this friendship and the same desire to find out the older person's "story" as it were.  

The leap from Every Exquisite Thing to The Picture of Dorian Gray is more obvious; both involve an absolute fascination and obsession with a piece of art.  In fact, without giving anything away, Matthew Quick refers to The Picture of Dorian Gray at the end of Every Exquisite Thing.  But having read both, I can understand this obsession being present in both and having very interesting consequences in both books.

So, what do you think?  
Have you read any of these book and, if so, what do you think of my pairings? 
Do you have a favorite This & That pairing?  Let me know!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: The Life of the World to Come by Dan Cluchey



Blurb from Goodreads:
Leo Brice is dead, in a sense (not the traditional one). When the neurotic law student meets his cosmic match in Fiona Haeberle, an impulsive spirit and burgeoning soap star, all seems well—the two fall fast in love, and spend three years navigating their twenties in wide-eyed wonder. But once the fantastical woman who had defined his future bolts to pursue a fantasy life of her own, Leo is forced to come to terms with a reality that more closely resembles an epilogue than the story he’d hoped it might be. Now a junior death row advocate, Leo immerses himself in the esoteric world of his condemned client, a born-again Georgia inmate named Michael Tiegs. As both men become consumed by the question of an afterlife—and as Leo becomes increasingly confused by his own future and past—Tiegs’ fate hangs in the balance. Leaning on his friends and grappling with his memories, Leo must try to save a client who may not want to be saved after all, even as he struggles to confront the prospect of his own mortality.

At once obsessively readable, philosophically probing, and verbally acrobatic, The Life of the World to Come announces Dan Cluchey as a fresh new voice in fiction.
My Review:
 
This was a WoW pick for me and I so wanted to like, if not love, this one.  While there were a few beautiful passages, the lack of plot and character development ultimately made this an unenjoyable read for me. This was also a case of trying way too hard -- not only in its diction but also in its desire to be something it wasn't.  The entire book focuses on the MC's break-up with his perfect actress/manic pixie dream girlfriend, Fiona.  He is obsessed with Fiona and the break-up and it interferes with his newly passed bar status as a lawyer working for a non-profit to help those people sentenced to death. I thought there would be more law, so to speak, but I didn't need that to be satisfied.  Instead I would have just needed something genuine besides some twenty-something obsessing over a break-up in light of the real world creeping in and in spite of having an opportunity to do something meaningful. We don't fully understand the connection between Leo and Fiona, just that it's supposed to transcend all space and time.  Not to give anything about the tiny "law" subplot away, but there was also a seriously cheap shot at the end that didn't need to be included -- it was almost as if the author were trying to assuage some guilt, some feeling you may have when finishing this book for the way things turn out and I wish the author would have just left us with that feeling rather than making things safe.  The real world isn't safe.

I think I could best describe this as a millennial hipster book -- a bit dismissive in its form and substance but pretty at times, which may completely work for some people; it just didn't work for me. The Life of the World to Come came out yesterday on June 28, 2016, and you can purchase HERE.
Love may be a planet. It may be something ancoral, something firm and steady and muzzled by its own gravity.  It may be snug. But what good is love if it isn't also unrestrained?  If it isn't supernatural? What good is it if it doesn't course through space and time like a fucking rocket ship, blitzing Heaven and bewildering Earth, not terra firma but terra incognita, raining bright issles down upon the cozy planets below?  What good is it if it isn't Heaven?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that you are eagerly anticipating.

Today, I am waiting on:  
One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards


From Goodreads:
Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.

Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.

Suddenly it's clear; they're being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion… 
Oh this sounds like a throwback to Christopher Pike or RL Stine, maybe -- I hope it's creepy!  One Was Lost is scheduled to be released on October 4, 2016, and I am excited!

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday??


Review: All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda



Blurb from Goodreads:
Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love. 
My Review:
It's a familiar story in thrillers lately, especially those with unreliable female narrators: girl leaves home after something terrible happens, she builds a new life (usually with a new love) but doesn't reveal anything about her hometown and what happened, girl comes back to her hometown (and usually an old boyfriend is still there) and the past can't help but make itself known to her new life . . . things get complicated and maybe scary.  This story is told backwards, which seems like a fun trick, but it was actually done so well in this book that I gasped out loud more than a few times.  You think you already know what's happened in the past two weeks by starting from that point but you don't, at all.  While I didn't love the ending of this, I loved the writing, the pacing, the reveal -- I didn't figure things out until the book was in the middle of it and, even then, I was left guessing several times over.  I can't wait to read more from this author!

All the Missing Girls comes out today, June 28, 2016, you can purchase HERE, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to fans of thrillers and fans of unreliable narrators; this one is a great exemplar of what an author can do with this genre!  
THESE WOODS ARE MINE.   
These were the woods I grew up with.  They stretched from my home and wove through all of town, connecting everything, all the way down to the river and out to the caverns.  It had been years, but if I stopped thinking so much and moved by heart, I could follow countless paths through them, day or night.  They were mine, and I was theirs, and I shouldn't have to remind myself of it.  But now there were too many unknowns.  The scurrying of animals in the night, something so unsettling about the nocturnal, about things that needed the dark to survive.  Things breathing and growing and dying.  Everything in perpetual motion. 
These woods are mine.   

Monday, June 27, 2016

Totally Should've Book Tag

I was tagged by Tanya @ Girl Plus Books!


 TOTALLY SHOULD'VE GOTTEN A SEQUEL

I really don't like sequels for sequel's sake . . . prefer to have the author decide.

TOTALLY SHOULD'VE HAD A SPIN-OFF SERIES

I think Nereyda would kill me if this wasn't my answer!

TOTALLY SHOULD'VE HAD A FILM FRANCHISE


TOTALLY SHOULD'VE HAD A TV SHOW


TOTALLY SHOULD'VE HAD ONE POINT OF VIEW

Changing this up slightly -- totally agree with Erin that this book would have been amazing with dual POVs between Suzanne and Evie.

TOTALLY SHOULD'VE HAD A COVER CHANGE


TOTALLY SHOULD'VE STOPPED READING

I stopped after book 6 but should have stopped sooner!

TOTALLY SHOULD'VE KEPT THE COVERS

Tanya is right!!

TOTALLY SHOULDN'T HAVE PRE-JUDGED


WHO ARE YOU GOING TO TAG?

Anyone who wants to do it! ♥♥♥ 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mini Reviews: The Ones with Summer in the Title



Blurb from Goodreads:
Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren't betrayal enough, he's about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn't support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.
My Review:

I didn't get very far into this one -- I found Sophie to be incredibly whiny and the situation to be ridiculous.  Yes, I get it, she had to leave her planned summer to spend it in Paris with her dad and his new wife, but she was such a brat and beyond naive.  I really love this author's Off the Subject (NA) series - but this one just didn't work for me.  I understood that Sophie felt left out since her dad moved to another country and left his family but she didn't seem to see the positive in anything, even considering that her long time crush was coming to stay with her and her brother in Paris because they couldn't have an entire summer without their friends.  Too immature for me but hopefully this one got better as it went along!




Blurb from Goodreads:
A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel—from the author of The Lake Season.

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes. 
My Review:
  
So I have yet to find a summer release that I LOVE this year in terms of all the beach reads. Before this, I read the latest by Nancy Thayer, Mary Kay Andrews, Shelley Noble (DNF) and Dorothea Benton Frank, none of which I loved this year!  I was hoping that this one would break my streak and be that perfect beach read but wow, what a dud!  This was so boring that had it been any longer, I probably wouldn't have bothered to finish it.  And, not liking the MC didn't help at all.  I also had some serious issues with the purported timeline and there were some glaring factual inconsistencies -- not sure if this one needs more editing or was supposed to be that sloppy. I liked the idea of the second chance romance but I found Maggie to be so milquetoast that I wasn't interested -- the whole novel is basically spent preparing for her best friend's wedding but, like I mentioned, although it's supposed to be a few months away, there were references to days not weeks that threw me off and I wasn't sure how much time had actually passed. Regardless, I would skip this one and I'm not sure I will try anything else by this author -- the best thing about this one is the cover.
The server returns with Cam's change.  She looks around the booth at all of us as she clears our plates. "You have a beautiful family," she says.   
I shake my head. "Oh no, we're not--" 
But she's already headed for the kitchen, the plates rattling in her arms. 
I glance around the booth, trying to see what she saw.  Two toddlers, two babies, two diaper bags, and a car seat between us.  "God, can you imagine if all this was ours?" 
Cam laughs aloud. "No! No, I cannot." 
But in that moment I see the picture we make.  Beside me, Lucy coos in her baby carrier.  Owen's and Randall's mouths are stained with pizza sauce.  Across form me, Cam bends to kiss Emory's cheek.  In that moment I am inexplicably happy.  Baby food in hair and all.



Blurb from Goodreads:
Four friends. Twenty years. One unexpected journey. Inseparable throughout college, Eva, Benedict, Sylvie, and Lucien graduate in 1997, into an exhilarating world on the brink of a new millennium. Hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien and eager to shrug off the socialist politics of her upbringing, Eva breaks away to work for a big bank. Benedict, a budding scientist who's pined for Eva for years, stays on to complete his PhD in physics, devoting his life to chasing particles as elusive as the object of his affection. Siblings Sylvie and Lucien, never much inclined toward mortgages or monogamy, pursue more bohemian existences-she as an aspiring artist and he as a club promoter and professional partyer. But as their twenties give way to their thirties, the group struggles to navigate their thwarted dreams. Scattered across Europe and no longer convinced they are truly the masters of their fates, the once close-knit friends find themselves filled with longing for their youth- and for one another. Broken hearts and broken careers draw the foursome together again, but in ways they never could have imagined. 

A dazzling depiction of the highs and lows of adulthood, Invincible Summer is a story about finding the courage to carry on in the wake of disappointment, and a powerful testament to love and friendship as the constants in an ever-changing world.
My Review:


What a bummer!  It seems like I've had a lot of DNFs in June -- I've never had a reading slump before but this may be as close to one as I get.  Unfortunately, this book reminded of Bright Stars but not  as well done, not in any good way.  This book follows four friends from University onward, telling little snippets of their lives every year for twenty years -- Obviously, I didn't read how this ended but the snippets I did read did not intrigue me.  Benedict wants Eva, Eva wants Lucien . . . not the best situation in a group of four friends, especially when Lucien is also Eva's best friend's, Silvie's, brother and a drug dealer . . . I just found myself not giving a fig about any of these characters pretty quickly once I started the book.  I kept putting this down, struggling with each chapter until I decided enough is enough.
She didn't have her camera with her--it had already been packed up with the rest of her things--so instead she tried to snatch the scene out of the air and etch it onto memory: Lucien, eyes darkly gleaming, Sylvia, hair flaming like a radioactive halo in the sunlight, and next to them Benedict, silhouetted against clear blue sky, turning towards her now and catching her looking at him and breaking into this broad lopsided smile.  Hold it right there, she thought.  Everything's about to change, but just let me keep this moment. 
Well I didn't have much luck with these summer releases with the word "summer" in the title but maybe you'll have better luck with them! One Paris Summer and Mystic Summer were released earlier in the month on June 7, 2016, while Invincible Summer comes out next week on June 28, 2016.

 
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