Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Title: Bitter End
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 10th 2011
Pages: 359
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Source: Bought
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When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole -- a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her -- she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats.
As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose -- between her "true love" and herself.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I love books about dark topics, so Bitter End sounded perfect for me. I was expecting an emotional account of an abusive relationship, and that's what I got - but I also got much more than that. I love how many layers there are to Alex's story. I loved every part of it!

The account of Alex's relationship with Cole is great. It's very realistic, in each stage - I liked reading about the innocent way they got to know each other up until the, ahem, bitter end of their relationship. I was torn between understanding Alex and wanting to shake her to make her stop forgiving Cole - and when you know you're reading a good book when you're torn just the way the main character is. The depiction of the abuse Alex suffers is honest and real, and heartbreaking to read about.

The rest of the layers to Alex's story add a lot to the novel. There's the family storyline - I really liked reading about Alex's family's past and and her ongoing struggle with her mother's death, and I wish we would have gotten to know even more about her dad and his development throughout the novel. Then there's Alex's friendship with Zack and Bethany, another aspect I really enjoyed - I just wish we could have gotten more details on their relationship towards the end.

But even though I really liked almost every aspect of the novel, Bitter End doesn't quite make it to favorite-status because it didn't stand out enough to me. I've read a couple of books about abusive relationships, and while Bitter End does a good job of portraying such an issue, I didn't really see what it added to the array of novels about the topic already out there. Jennifer Brown says that she wanted to write about this topic because she wanted to address the 'heart' and emotions of such relationships, and she definitely did, but I feel that other novels have done so as well. That's why, even though I really liked it, Bitter End didn't stand out to me too much, and I don't think it'll stay with me long after finishing it.

Still, Bitter End is a great book. If you like contemporary YA stories about darker topics, and especially if you haven't read as many abuse books as me, you should definitely give Bitter End a try!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Awkward by Marni Bates

Title: Awkward
Author: Marni Bates
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Release date: December 27th 2011
Pages: 300
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: Bought
Mackenzie Wellesley has spent her life avoiding the spotlight. At Smith High, she's the awkward junior people only notice when they need help with homework. Until she sends a burly football player flying with her massive backpack and makes a disastrous - not to mention unwelcome - attempt at CPR. Before the day is out, the whole fiasco explodes on YouTube. And then the strangest thing happens. Suddenly, Mackenzie is an Internet sensation, with four million hits and counting. Sucked into a whirlwind of rock stars, paparazzi, and free designer clothes, she even catches the eye of the most popular guy at school. And that's when life gets really interesting...
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars 

I really don't know why I keep reading these books - I should know by now that younger YA just doesn't work for me anymore. The fact that me and Awkward didn't click isn't the book's fault; it's mine - typical high school stories might be fun for some readers, but I just don't want to be reading them anymore.

The set-up is the cliched high school setting, and the  story is entirely predictable. We have the awkward geeky girl as the main character, her two best friends for comic relief, the bitchy popular girl, the popular and "nice" guy she's admired from afar forever, and the other guy she's never considered as a love interest. Right from the start, you can tell where each part of the story is heading. And I know it's my fault, because just from the description you know this story is going to be predictable and full of cliches, I am just so, so sick of this set-up and these stereotypical characters. I feel bad about it, but I couldn't really see past that throughout the book, which is why I never really got into it.

That being said, there were definitely parts of the story that were entertaining. The whole idea is so out-there and crazy that you can't help but be intrigued. Especially the stuff relating to Mackenzie's new-found fame, the scenes with paparazzi, interviews, rock stars, etc., are very entertaining, and that's what kept me turning the pages.

Really, the problem here is the age thing: Awkward is geared towards younger YA. The tone is too melodramatic and teenager-y for me, and the cliched characters and predictable story made it hard for me to like this novel, but it's a quick, entertaining read that could be a good match for the younger set of YA readers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Flawed by Kate Avelynn

Title: Flawed
Author: Kate Avelynn
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release date: November 22nd 2012
Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
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Sarah O’Brien is only alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago—James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely. Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.
Sam Donavon has been James’s best friend—and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on—for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realize James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact...
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'd been waiting for this book forever - I was so pissed when they kept pushing back the release date! So when it came out, of course I had to buy and read it immediately. And luckily, I was not disappointed - Flawed is just as dark and amazing as I'd hoped!

The whole set-up of the story is genius. I've read quite a few books on the topic of abuse and domestic violence, but Kate Avelynn put a whole new spin on it. In regular abuse books (if there is such a thing), you may understand the main character's struggle, but you still always know who the bad guy is, what the right thing to do would be, that the main character should leave behind the abuser no matter their relationship. But in Flawed, it's not as easy. Concerning her dad, yes - that's pretty much the "basic" abuse storyline. But concerning James, it's so much harder to figure out what's wrong and what's right. James isn't simply a bad person, he's just... broken. A lifetime of fucked-up things happening to him over and over again has made him this way, making it very hard for me to judge  him. That's why, even though it doesn't make sense, I understood Sarah's struggle with leaving James behind. Even though it's wrong, I couldn't help but understand their relationship. Flawed does a great job of blurring the lines of what's right and wrong, causing for a great story and also confronting me with my own morals.

But even more so than making me think, this book broke my heart. Even if it's hard to decide who's at fault, the things that happen in Flawed are so, so horrible. The things that Sarah has had to go through are just unimaginable - every aspect of her family life is fucked up to the max. Especially the ending  just broke my heart. But, of course, I loved it, because I love dark and messed-up stories.

The only aspect of the novel that I didn't like as much is the romance. There were parts of the Sarah's and Sam's relationship that I did like - the sexual tension is really well-done, and I could feel their chemistry. But the actual emotions to their relationship didn't work for me. Yes, Sarah had had a crush on Sam for the longest time, but they didn't really know each other until just now. And considering how little they really know each other, I just found it kind of weird how they talk about how much they love each other and all of that. Yes, I get that because of these circumstances, they bonded faster than you normally would, but their relationship still moved too fast for me to find it realistic.

Despite the romance that was just a tad too melodramatic for me, I really loved this book. With a taboo topic that explores the gray areas of good and bad in the best way, Flawed is dark and heartbreaking in the best way possible. I loved it, and I know it'll stay with me for a while.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight 
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Poppy/Little Brown
Release date: January 2n 2012
Pages: 236
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: Bought
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18B. Hadley's in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was the perfect book for me to read on my flight. It’s not the most deep, meaningful, or realistic story, but it’s cute and fun, and it kept me entertained on my own (obviously not as exciting) travels.

The story is cute and fun. Yes, the characters are somewhat basic and a little too perfect, but I didn’t mind, because they’re just so cute. Hadley and Oliver’s interactions are witty and entertaining, and I loved reading about them. I really liked how the cute romance is balanced with some darker topics, since we get to learn about both of their family lives. Both the light, fun stuff and the more serious topics kept the pages turning.

If you’re someone who gets hung up on little details, though, this book might drive you crazy, because there’s a bunch of small things that just don’t make sense. For example, why does Haldey have her big suitcase with her at the gate in JFK, but then goes to pick it up in wherever? And why does she live in Connecticut but just drive to JFK? And what’s up with the looong international phone calls and the genius idea to fly to another continent for a single day – don’t you have anything better to spend your money on!? Those little things bugged me, but they didn’t take much from my overall enjoyment of the novel.

Either way, this book was a cute, fun, read. I especially enjoyed reading it while I, too, was at the airport/on my flight, since Jennifer E Smith conveys the atmosphere of it all really well. If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining read and don’t care if not everything is realistic, this one’s for you!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Interview & Giveaway with Allison Rushby (The Heiresses Blog Tour)

Today we have Allison Rushby here for an author interview and a giveaway! This post is part of the blog tour for The Heiresses, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours

Where did you get the inspiration for The Heiresses?
This is extremely embarrassing, but I think it was actually from watching a Dr Phil show, years ago. I can't say too much as it will spoil the plot completely, but I saw a segment that involved a family and their genetic makeup and asked my husband (a medical specialist) about it all that evening. This led me to wondering how this family's scenario might have played out if genetic testing was not available to them, which is the case in The Heiresses, set in 1920s London.
What other novels in the New Adult genre would you compare The Heiresses to?
I think the obvious comparison is Anna Godbersen's The Luxe series, because of the historical setting and the saga-like plot. I love all her books!
What's The Heiresses about?
The Heiresses revolves around triplets Thalia, Erato and Clio. Estranged since birth, they are thrust together in glittering 1926 London to fight for their inheritance. They quickly learn they can't trust anyone in their new lives – least of all each other.
I had an absolute ball writing The Heiresses with all its dramatic highs and lows. I was even lucky enough to be living in Cambridge at the time, so had the advantage of being able to research in London whenever I needed to.
Who are your favourite authors?
My very favourite author is P.G. Wodehouse. So much so that for Christmas I received the five book The Jeeves Omnibus set because I'd worn my old five book set out! Some other favourites are Stella Gibbons and anything at all Mitford.
How long did it take to you to complete The Heiresses?
The Heiresses was a little different for me because it was contracted from only a short writing sample and a series guide. I wrote it very quickly, in under nine months (altogether, it's roughly 120,000 words). Usually I wouldn't be anywhere near this fast!
What was the hardest part about writing The Heiresses?
The most difficult part was the historical research. Although I love to read historical books and watch documentaries and historical dramas on TV, I hadn't actually written anything historical before. When I started writing, I found myself stopping after every second sentence or so to research this point and that point. After a while, I realised I had to write on and put little 'x' signs where I needed to research and go back later to do all my research in one session, or I'd never get anywhere! Luckily, I wrote The Heiresses while living in Cambridgeshire in the UK (I usually live in Australia), so could pop on a fast train and be in London in under an hour to research anything I liked. Being so close to London was an enormous bonus – from the London Transport Museum, to simply walking around Belgrave Square, it really brought the story to life for me. I even managed to crash the village set of Downton Abbey, which was a hugely exciting day, despite the fact that it snowed (Australians don't do snow well…)!
Why New Adult?

I think it's just a fascinating time in life -- a time that's difficult to bridge and often scarier than any other change you've been through. You don't necessarily feel like an adult, but you have sudden adult responsibilities (working, studying in the kind of way where no-one cares if you go to classes or not, maybe being a parent if you have children early…). Everyone has a different experience and everyone deals with that experience differently. There are endless story-telling opportunities! 
What do you feel the major differences are between New Adult and Young Adult?
For me, it's all about bridging that gap between childhood and adulthood and the more I see people discuss New Adult, the more this is firmed up in my mind. I do think people focus too much on the sexual content of books when talking about the New Adult genre. For me, The Heiresses is New Adult because of how the girls deal with the sex they are having in the book (and, to be honest, there isn't a whole lot of sex) and how it changes them from girls into women, along with all the other happenings in their new lives.

So much New Adult work is self-published. Is there a reason you chose the traditional publishing route?

The Heiresses was a bit of a different publishing experience for me as my agent approached me and mentioned St Martin's Press was actively looking for New Adult ideas that could work in serial form. I had the basis of an historical idea that I'd been thinking about for years and the timing was great as Downton Abbey (set in a similar time period) was really taking off. Thus, The Heiresses began to take shape very, very quickly. I'd love to say all my ideas pull off so easily, but unfortunately that's not quite true (I sold my first chick-lit novel out of the slush pile and agent-less in 2000 and have many a manuscript in my bottom drawer)!
Most New Adult books seem to be set in college. Can you tell us more about writing historical New Adult?
As it happens, when I first had the idea for what would become The Heiresses (years ago), there was no such term as New Adult. The idea itself meant that the story required three 18-ish year-old heroines (they needed to be able to inherit money, be of marriageable age, live away from home and be generally young and fabulous in 1920s London etc.), so it simply happened to fall into the New Adult genre naturally. As for the world, I've always adored reading about London in the 1920s and it's a perfect fit for the New Adult genre -- the years between WWI and WWII were a very heady, unstable time to be young in England, with death looming and a 'live for the moment' motto.
What are you reading at the moment?
I'm actually on a short New Adult/Young Adult reading break (might have gorged myself a little there) and am reading Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which is absolutely fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.

What are you writing now?
I've just finished a contemporary New Adult novel. While it's set in the present day, it's not college-based, but is about a charismatic modern artist and a young woman who becomes his muse. It's set in Paris, London and New York. My next New Adult novel will most likely be historical, though.
Do you have any advice for aspiring New Adult writers?
Read widely and write what you'd love to read. I think it always shows if you're writing something you're excited about, rather than trying to write to a trend. 

Thanks for the great interview answers, Allison!


As part of the blog tour, St. Martin's is offering 20 paperback copies of The Heiresses, open to US & Canada addresses. Enter using the form below!

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Make sure to check out all the other stops of the tour, and keep your eye out for the Heiresses, which has already been released.

The Heiresses by Allison Rushby
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When three teenage girls, Thalia, Erato and Clio, are summoned to the excitement of fast-paced London--a frivolous, heady city full of bright young things--by Hestia, an aunt they never knew they had, they are shocked to learn they are triplets and the rightful heiresses to their deceased mother's fortune. All they need to do is find a way to claim the fortune from their greedy half-brother, Charles. But with the odds stacked against them, coming together as sisters may be harder than they think.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Author Interview with Joy Preble (The Sweet Dead Life Blog Tour)

Today we have Joy Preble here for an author interview as part of the blog tour for The Sweet Dead Life!

1. I read that you used to be an English teacher - how did that influence you in your own writing?
Novel study certainly gave me a wide and varied background in the world of storytelling. I have a broad knowledge of world literature that makes me aware of the talented shoulders on which I stand and the basic  story patterns and tropes that exist and have been used.  But I would honestly say that my own writing had a larger effect on my teaching of lit! And teaching Creative Writing allowed me to teach myself on the job. So it mostly worked the other way! I do have to say that being a working writer did result in a healthy bit of skepticism of many of the rigid essay structures taught by some of my colleagues. I’d hear teachers lecturing about how students must have EXACTLY a certain number of sentences per paragraph or how they have to remove every single  ‘to be’ verb or some such other arbitrary nonsense that was directed with mostly good intent and I’d think, whoa! That is so screwed up! Even though I knew that their focus was to give non-writers a template.
2. Without spoiling anything, could you tell us what was your favorite scene to write in The Sweet Dead Life?
That’s a hard one because I adore every single scene in this book! But definitely one of my favorite scenes is the one where Jenna discovers that her brother Casey is actually now a guardian angel and even when she believes him, she still subjects him to a haphazard and funny series of tests to prove that he is indeed an ‘A-word.’
3. What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
I’ve received lots of great advice but one of the best suggestions comes from my critique partner, author Kim O’Brien, who when I was writing my first novel, told me to break it down into writing 25 pages at a time. Because it’s scary to think about writing a 250 or 300 page novel. But 25 pages isn’t scary. And once you write 25 pages 4 times, you’ve got 100 pages! After that it feels easier... well sort of.
4. If you had to pair up your main character Jenna with any other character from any other book, who would it be and why?
Jenna and Tess Edwards from the Dreaming Anastasia series would probably burn each other out with their honest assessments of the world. I would hope they would both appreciate how brave and loyal they are.
5. What comes easier for you, description or dialogue?
In The Sweet Dead Life, dialogue always flows easiest, particularly for my narrator, Jenna. She is enormous fun to write and since I just finished the sequel, which will be out in May 2014, Jenna is firmly tucked in my brain. She has a very specific way of speaking and seeing the world and so her dialogue always comes fairly quickly.
6. How do you go about naming your characters?
Good question! It depends on the book. For TSDL, I look on line at certain local place websites that I will not divulge! But they are real places and I mix and match names for exactly the Houston, Texas feel that I need. So far it’s working. Plus I’m a huge fan of Nameberry. If you flip through lists like Hipster Names on Nameberry, you will seriously find most of the names currently given to characters in YA books you love!
7. What is one message you'd like readers from The Sweet Dead Life?
Hmmmm.... That family is what you make of it. That good and evil have some grey areas. And that the most unlikely people can become heroes when their sisters need them.

Thanks for the great interview answers, Joy!

Make sure to check out all the other stops of the tour, and keep your eye out for The Sweet Dead Life, which will be released May 14th.

The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble
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“I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”
So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs— difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead. 
Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious depression and father’s disappearance.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook

Title: Nobody But Us
Author: Kristin Halbrook
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: January 29th 2013
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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Bonnie and Clyde meets Simone Elkeles in this addictively heart-wrenching story of two desperate teenagers on the run from their pasts.
They’re young. They’re in love. They’re on the run.
Zoe wants to save Will as much as Will wants to save Zoe. When Will turns eighteen, they decide to run away together. But they never expected their escape to be so fraught with danger....
When the whole world is after you, sometimes it seems like you can’t run fast enough.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was expecting Nobody But Us to be a light, fun read – something along the lines of Tokyo Heist or Pretty Crooked, a cute story with some crime on the side. But that is most definitely not what Nobody But Us is all about. It’s the story of two teens who grew up in dire circumstances, trying to escape but just running into more and more trouble. It’s heartbreaking, but I still loved it.

The characters are great. With alternating narrators, it’s always hard to make sure the two voices are actually distinct, but Kristin Halbrook did a great job with that. It’s easy to tell the two narrators apart, and they both have their own unique way of telling their stories. I can’t say I particularly liked either of them – there were times when I just wanted to shake both of them to realize how stupid they were being – but I definitely felt for them: it’s impossible not to, considering what they’ve been through. Even when I didn’t understand their reasoning, I couldn’t blame them because their pasts have scarred them and broken them in this way. I just wanted to hug them both and never let them go, to make sure nothing bad would ever happen to them again.

The suspense is great, too. I wasn’t expecting Nobody But Us to be such an action-packed novel, but with the two of them on the run from the police, it definitely has its share of action scenes. These scenes balance well with the emotional ones, making sure the reader keeps the pages turning. I especially liked how the novel doesn’t condemn any character for their actions – everyone in the novel has committed crimes and done bad things, but they’re not portrayed as bad people; it’s just the circumstances around them. Not knowing who was the good guy and who was the bad guy made the action scenes even more fascinating, and made me think about how things could possibly turn out in a way that wouldn’t be terrible for these characters.

One aspect I didn’t enjoy as much was the romance. A large part of the novel relies on the relationship between Will and Zoe; they’re running away together, from their separate pasts, to build a new life together. But the romance just didn’t work for me. Will and Zoe have only known each other for about two months, and she’s 15, while he’s 18. I know those are very superficial things to judge a relationship on, but those factors made it hard for me to take their love seriously, and to see a future for the two of them together.

Despite my issues with the romance storyline, I really enjoyed Nobody But Us. With lots of action and suspense as well as heartbreaking emotion, Nobody But Us is a great contemporary for any kind of reader.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Interview & Giveaway with Megg Jensen (Shucked Blog Tour)

Today we have Megg Jensen here for an interview and a giveaway! This post is part of the blog  tour for Shucked by Megg Jensen, organized by Xpresso Book Tours.


1. Why did you decide to write a contemporary YA after spending the last three years writing high fantasy with the Song of Eloh Saga?
Shucked has been floating around my brain for close to seven years, but I always wanted to be known as a fantasy author, so I kept pushing Tabitha to the side. In January, she decided to grab a hold of me and not let go.
2. Why did you set the novel on a farm?
I grew up on a farm and have always wanted to write about life there. Shucked gave me a chance to do that. It was a lot of fun writing about some of the thing that were normal to me as a kid that aren’t normal to everyone else. I adore my farming community and loved incorporating that small town spirit into the book.
3. Why did you decide to write a contemporary YA after spending the last three years writing high fantasy with the Song of Eloh Saga?
Shucked has been floating around my brain for close to seven years, but I always wanted to be known as a fantasy author, so I kept pushing Tabitha to the side. In January, she decided to grab a hold of me and not let go.
4. Why did you set the novel on a farm?
I grew up on a farm and have always wanted to write about life there. Shucked gave me a chance to do that. It was a lot of fun writing about some of the thing that were normal to me as a kid that aren’t normal to everyone else. I adore my farming community and loved incorporating that small town spirit into the book.
5.  did you come up with the idea for the cover? I love it!
It wasn’t easy. I have a fantastic cover designer, Steven Novak (www.novakillustration.com). Usually he designs a cover, I say yes, and we’re done. This time I felt like the concept was a lot harder to nail down. He worked through four or five different version with me. I couldn’t be happier with the cover that you’re seeing now.
6. Tell me about the title, Shucked.
Haha, that was another toughie. From the beginning, the file on my computer for this book was Adventure. It wasn’t until I became serious about publishing it that I realized I needed a unique title. I went through close to a hundred different ideas, but none of them felt right. Eventually I settled on Digging In. I figured it was the best I would come up with. About two weeks before publication, I finally had that stroke of brilliance with Shucked. Not only does it scream farm (shucking corn), it also is representative of what happens to Tabitha during the book (having her emotional layers peeled away), and there’s always the street meaning, which you can look up on Urban Dictionary if you want. Lol
7. Will you write more contemporary novels?
I hope so! Right now I’m working on my next high fantasy, but Tabitha’s still in the back of my mind, begging for a continuation of her story. While Shucked easily works as a stand-alone novel, I think we all know that no one’s story really ever ends. There’s always tomorrow. 
Thanks for the great interview questions, Megg!


Megg was so generous to offer an ebook copy of Shucked and three bookmarks to one lucky winner! The giveaway is international, open to entrants ages 13 and older. It's open from now till May 15th. Enter using the form below. Good luck!

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Shucked by Megg Jensen
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Fifteen-year-old Tabitha has had the kind of life that would impress even the greatest adventurers. She's escaped a croc attack in the Amazon, walked the length of the Great Wall of China, and earned a black belt in taekwondo in Korea. She owes her worldly experience to her mother's career in archaeology, but when her mother takes on a dangerous new assignment, Tabitha is devastated to learn she can't tag along.
Instead, she's forced to live on a midwestern farm with her grandparents where she'll have to attend a full year of public school. It's Tabitha's greatest nightmare, because despite all her adventures, she has no practical experience with the one thing that frightens her the most - other teenagers.
Her math teacher is her mom's old high school boyfriend, she can't tell the friendly girls from the mean ones, and she develops a major crush on a boy she knows she can't trust. And just when she thinks she'll never get the hang of this normal teenager thing, an attack brings the danger of her previous life right up to her midwestern porch. Who could have ever guessed getting totally shucked would bring her face-to-face with her most exciting adventure yet?

Monday, May 06, 2013

Review: Ditched by Robin Mellom

Title: Ditched: A Love Story
Author: Robin Mellom
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: January 10th 2012
Pages: 277
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: Bought
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High school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her.
Ian, who always passed her the baseball bat handle first.
Ian, who knew exactly when she needed red licorice.
Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom.
And then ditched her.
Now, as the sun rises over her small town, and with only the help of some opinionated ladies at the 7-Eleven, Justina must piece together — stain by stain on her thrift-store dress — exactly how she ended up dateless. A three-legged Chihuahua was involved. Along with a demolition derby-ready Cadillac. And there was that incident at the tattoo parlor. Plus the flying leap from Brian Sontag's moving car...
But to get the whole story, Justina will have to face the boy who ditched her. And discover if losing out at prom can ultimately lead to true love.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I'm not sure what to make of this book. There were some aspects I really enjoyed, but most of it just left me feeling underwhelmed. And honestly, I think it's just because I'm getting too old for these types of books - I feel bad for judging the book when I didn't enjoy it because I'm not the right age group, but overall, I just felt very meh about it.

I started out liking the set-up of this novel. Justina tells the reader about her night as she is telling these two ladies at the 7-11 how she got stranded there, so we alternate between chapters taking place the night before at prom and the morning after at the 7-11. Each chapter talking about what had happened the night before starts by Justina pointing out one of the stains on her dress or bruises or anything else she got that night. At first, I thought that set-up was cute - it makes for a fast-paced and entertaining style. After a while, though, I started getting annoyed by it. Especially the stain thing got repetitive and annoying, and it just felt very contrived to me. I also didn't see the reasoning behind the order of the descriptions - in the beginning, I got the impression that Justina didn't remember the events of the night, but she actually remembers everything, which made the many small stories seem kind of random and unnecessarily drawn-out.

The characters are okay. Justina is a fully-developed character, and she's definitely unique. There were times I could relate to her, but there were also times where she got on my nerves; there's things she's just very opinionated about. The secondary characters are fun, but that's really all there is to them - they're not very dynamic or realistic characters, and their craziness was just a little much sometimes.

What bugged me most about the story, though, was that it has a very immature feel to it. I'm not even sure why - the story is just too predictable and cheesy for me, and I think it would've worked better for younger readers. The preachiness also bugged me - every time things like drinking and smoking are addressed, it's done so in a very melodramatic and preach way. There are some undertones of slut-shaming, too, that didn't sit right with me. But again, maybe it would have worked better for younger readers.

All of that said, there is one thing I really enjoyed about Ditched, and that is the humor. Yes, it may be overdone and a little too crazy at times, but it's definitely funny. The novel had me laughing out loud - no matter if it's better suited for a younger audience, it entertained me for the short time I spent with it, and that's  all I can ask for, really.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Author Interview with Colleen Patrick (Come Back to Me Blitz)

Today we have Colleen Patrick here for some quick-fire interview questions! This post is part of Xpresso Book Tours's blog tour for come Back to Me by Colleen Patrick.

Last book you read?
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Last movie you watched?
Remember Sunday
First TV character to come to mind?
Damon Salvator
Song that’s stuck in your head?
When I was Your Man, by Bruno Mars
Last thing you Googled?
Hair styles—because I was going to get my hair done.
Farthest place you’ve traveled?
Favorite snack?
Anything peanut butter and chocolate—and if you add in baked potato chips, I will love you forever.
Coffee or tea?
I drink both during the day, but if I’m at Starbucks, soy lattes are a favorite.
Last thing you pinned on Pinterest?
A beach pic, with a guy holding a surf board. 

Thanks for the great answers, Colleen!

Here's what Come Back to Me is all about:

Come Back to Me by Colleen Patrick
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Whitney Denison can’t wait to start over.
She thought she had everything under control, that her future would always include her best friend Katie… Until everything changed.
Now her life in Bloom is one big morning after hangover, filled with regret, grief, and tiny pinpricks of reminders that she was once happy. A happy she ruined. A happy she can’t fix.
So, she is counting down the days until she leaves home for Colson University, cramming her summer with busywork she didn’t finish her senior year, and taking on new hobbies that involve glue and glitter, and dodging anyone who reminds her of her old life.
When she runs into the stranger who drove her home on graduation night, after she’d passed out next to a ditch, she feels herself sinking again. The key to surviving the summer in Bloom is unraveling whatever good memories she can from that night.
But in searching for answers, she’ll have to ask for help and that means turning to Evan, the stranger, and Kyle, Katie’s ex-boyfriend. Suddenly, life flips again, and Whitney finds herself on not only the precipice of happy but love, too, causing her to question whether she can trust her feelings, or if she is falling into her old patterns of extremes.
As she uncovers the truth about her memories, Whitney sees that life isn’t all or nothing, and that happy isn’t something to wait for, that instead, happy might just be a choice.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

New Releases May 2013

New releases:

How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler
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Release date: May 1st 2013
Grace and Kya always do everything together, and nothing can get in the way of their friendship. They have a pact: Sisters Before Misters. Buds Before Studs.
Only Grace knows what Kya's been through, or how much she needs someone to stick by her. No Matter What. Besides, Kya keeps life exciting-pulling Grace into things she'd never dare do on her own.
But inch by inch, daring is starting to turn dangerous. And Grace will have to decide how far she can go to save her friendship with Kya...before she ends up losing everything else.

Our Song by Jordanna Fraiberg
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Release date: May 7th 2013
Olive Bell has spent her entire life in the beautiful suburb of Vista Valley, with a picture-perfect home, a loving family, and a seemingly perfect boyfriend. But after a near-fatal car accident, she’s haunted by a broken heart and a melody that she cannot place.
Then Olive meets Nick. He’s dark, handsome, mysterious... and Olive feels connected to him in a way she can’t explain. Is there such a thing as fate? The two embark on a whirlwind romance—until Nick makes a troubling confession.
Heartbroken, Olive pieces together what really happened the night of her accident and arrives at a startling revelation. Only by facing the truth can she uncover the mystery behind the song and the power of what it means to love someone.

How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
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Release date: May 7th 2013
Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious.
To put distance between Rosie and her ex, Rosie’s parents send her on a cross-country road trip with responsible, reliable neighbor Matty and his two friends. Forget freedom of the road, Rosie wants to hitchhike home and win back her ex. But her determination starts to dwindle with each passing mile. Because Rosie’s spark of anger? It may have just ignited a romance with someone new…

Golden by Jessi Kirby
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Release date: May 14th 2013
Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost may be a distant relative of Robert Frost, but she has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a mystery in her lap—one that might be the key to uncovering the truth behind a town tragedy, she decides to take a chance.

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson
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Release date: May 14th 2013
Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it's the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma's family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma's grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.
Emma feels out of place in the United States.She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother's urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena's poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston
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Release date: May 14th 2013
She’s been six different people in six different places: Madeline in Ohio, Isabelle in Missouri, Olivia in Kentucky . . . But now that she’s been transplanted to rural Louisiana, she has decided that this fake identity will be her last.
Witness Protection has taken nearly everything from her. But for now, they’ve given her a new name, Megan Rose Jones, and a horrible hair color. For the past eight months, Meg has begged her father to answer one question: What on earth did he do – or see – that landed them in this god-awful mess? Meg has just about had it with all the Suits’ rules — and her dad’s silence. If he won’t help, it’s time she got some answers for herself.
But Meg isn’t counting on Ethan Landry, an adorable Louisiana farm boy who’s too smart for his own good. He knows Meg is hiding something big. And it just might get both of them killed. As they embark on a perilous journey to free her family once and for all, Meg discovers that there’s only one rule that really matters — survival.

The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble
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Release date: May 14th 2013
“I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”
So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs— difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead. 
Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious depression and father’s disappearance.

Five Summers by Una LaMarche
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Release date: May 16th 2013
Four best friends, five summers of camp memories...
The summer we were nine: Emma was branded “Skylar’s friend Emma” by the infamous Adam Loring...
The summer we were ten: Maddie realized she was too far into her lies to think about telling the truth...
The summer we were eleven: Johanna totally freaked out during her first game of Spin the Bottle...
The summer we were twelve: Skylar’s love letters from her boyfriend back home were exciting to all of us—except Skylar...
Our last summer together: Emma and Adam almost kissed. Jo found out Maddie’s secret. Skylar did something unthinkable... and whether we knew it then or not, five summers of friendship began to fall apart. Three years after the fateful last night of camp, the four of us are coming back to camp for reunion weekend—and for a second chance.

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
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Release date: May 21st 2013
Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath — with candles and a contract and everything — to never have anything to do with one.
Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle. No one wants to end up with a toaster on wheels, so they hire a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?
Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away — no way would she fall for them. But old warnings fade fast, because Emilio turns out to be the first guy in forever she likes. Really likes. Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak… 

All I Need by Susane Colasanti
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Release date: May 21st 2013

Skye wants to meet the boy who will change her life forever. Seth feels their instant connection the second he sees her. When Seth starts talking to Skye at the last beach party of the summer, it’s obvious to both of them that this is something real. But when Seth leaves for college before they exchange contact info, Skye wonders if he felt the same way she did—and if she will ever see him again. Even if they find their way back to each other, can they make a long-distance relationship work despite trust issues, ex drama, and some serious background differences?

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown
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Release date: May 21st 2013
Ashleigh's boyfriend, Kaleb, is about to leave for college, and Ashleigh is worried that he'll forget about her while he's away. So at a legendary end-of-summer pool party, Ashleigh's friends suggest she text him a picture of herself -- sans swimsuit -- to take with him. Before she can talk herself out of it, Ashleigh strides off to the bathroom, snaps a photo in the full-length mirror, and hits "send." 
But when Kaleb and Ashleigh go through a bad breakup, Kaleb takes revenge by forwarding the text to his baseball team. Soon the photo has gone viral, attracting the attention of the school board, the local police, and the media. As her friends and family try to distance themselves from the scandal, Ashleigh feels completely alone -- until she meets Mack while serving her court-ordered community service. Not only does Mack offer a fresh chance at friendship, but he's the one person in town who received the text of Ashleigh's photo -- and didn't look.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
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Release date: May 28th 2013
Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:
1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:
1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

New in paperback:

First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky
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Release date: May 7th 2013

Lke his name, Gray is dark and stormy. Dylan, a girl always searching for what's next, seemingly unable to settle down, is the exact opposite: full of light and life. On the outside, they seem like an unlikely couple. But looks can be deceiving and besides, opposites attract.
What starts as friendship, turns into admiration, respect and caring, until finally these two lone souls find they are truly in love with each other.
But staying in love is not as easy as falling in love. If Dylan and Gray want their love to last, they're going to have to work at it. And learn that sometimes love means having to say you're sorry.

Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams
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Release date: May 7th 2013
Twelve-year-old Hope's life is turned upside down when her older sister Lizzie becomes an elective mute and is institutionalized after trying to kill herself. Ever since their dad died Hope and Lizzie have relied on each other from a young age. Their mother is a reluctant and unreliable parent at best, and it's up to Hope to discover the terrible secret that's eating away at Lizzie before it's too late.

The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher
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Release date: May 7th 2013

Lizzie wasn’t the first student at Verity High School to kill herself this year. But the difference is, she didn’t go quietly.
First it was SLUT scribbled all over the school’s lockers. But one week after Lizzie Hart takes her own life, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s own looping scrawl. Photocopies of her diary show up in the hands of her classmates. And her best friend, Angie, is enraged.
Angie stopped talking to Lizzie on prom night, when she caught Lizzie in bed with her boyfriend. Too heartbroken to ask for an explanation or to intervene when Lizzie got branded Queen of the Sluts and was cruelly bullied by her classmates, Angie left her best friend to the mercy of the school, with tragic results.
But with this new slur, Angie’s guilt transforms into anger that someone is still targeting Lizzie even after her death. Using clues from Lizzie’s diary and aided by the magnetic, mysterious Jesse, Angie begins relentlessly investigating who, exactly, made Lizzie feel life was no longer worth living. And while she might claim she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, her anguish over abandoning and then losing her best friend drives Angie deeper into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
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Release date: May 7th 2013

Taylor's family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it's stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains. Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven't actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he's much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.
As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they've ever been before. But all of them very aware that they're battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
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Release date: May 7th 2013

Up until senior year, Greg has maintained social total social invisibility. He only has one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time - when not plaing video games and avoiding Earl's terrifying brothers - making movies, their own versions of Coppolaa and Herzog classics. Greg would be the first one to tell you his movies are f*@$ing terrible, but he and Earl don't make them for other people. Until Rachel.
Rachel has leukemia, and Greg's mom gets the genius idea that Greg should befriend her. Against his better judgement and despite his extreme awkwardness, he does. When Rachel decides to stop treatment, Greg and Earl make her a movie, and Greg must abandon invisibility and make a stand. It's a hilarious, outrageous, and truthful look at death and high school by a prodigiously talented debut author.

In Honor by Jessi Kirby
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Release date: May 14th 2013
Honor receives her brother's last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn's celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.
Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn's last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn's best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn't seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn. . . and ruggedly good looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn't. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn--but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

The Boy Recession by Flynn Meaney
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Release date: May 21st 2013
The boy recession has hit Julius P. Heil High, and the remaining boys find that their stock is on the rise: With little competition, even the most unlikely guys have a good chance at making the team and getting the girl. Guitar-strumming, class-skipping Hunter Fahrenbach never wanted to be a hot commodity, but the popular girls can't help but notice his unconventional good looks. With a little work, he might even by boyfriend material.
But for down-to-earth Kelly Robbins, the boy recession is causing all sorts of problems. She has secretly liked her good friend Hunter for a while now, but how can she stand out in a crowd of overzealous Spandexers?
As if dating wasn't hard enough without a four-to-one ratio!

Crazy by Amy Reed
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Release date: May 21st 2013
Connor knows that Izzy will never fall in love with him the way he’s fallen for her. But somehow he’s been let into her crazy, exhilarating world and become her closest confidante. But the closer they get, the more Connor realizes that Izzy’s highs are too high and her lows are too low. And the frenetic energy that makes her shine is starting to push her into a much darker place. As Izzy’s behavior gets increasingly erratic and self-destructive, Connor gets increasingly desperate to stop her from plummeting. He knows he can’t save her from her pain...but what if no one else can?

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
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Release date: May 28th 2013
When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief she’ll never have to tell them that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl. But that relief soon turns to heartbreak, as Cam is forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and not making waves, and Cam becomes an expert at this—especially at avoiding any questions about her sexuality. Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. To Cam’s surprise, she and Coley become best friends—while Cam secretly dreams of something more. Just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, her secret is exposed. Ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self—even if she’s not quite sure who that is.

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker
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Release date: May 28th 2013
Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart? Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan
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Release date: May 28th 2013
Farrah "Digit" Higgins may be going to MIT in the fall, but this L.A. high school genius has left her geek self behind in another school district so she can blend in with the popular crowd at Santa Monica High and actually enjoy her senior year. But when Farrah, the daughter of a UCLA math professor, unknowingly cracks a terrorist group's number sequence, her laid-back senior year gets a lot more interesting. Soon she is personally investigating the case, on the run from terrorists, and faking her own kidnapping-- all while trying to convince a young, hot FBI agent to take her seriously. So much for blending in . . .

Wow, so many great books coming out this month! What May releases are you most excited about?
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