Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

Title: This Too Shall Pass
Author: Milena Busquets
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Release date: May 12th 2016
Pages: 164
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: Gift from publisher
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Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shocked at the unexpected loss of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realizes that she has no idea what her future will look like.
To deal with her dizzying grief and confusion, Blanca turns to sex, her dearest friends, her closest family, and a change of scenery. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to her mother’s former home in Cadaqués on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, with plans to meet her married lover. Though she is haunted by both the past and the present, Blanca embarks on a new sort of journey alongside those she loves most, one of resilience and hope, teaching her to live on with the knowledge that even the most devastating pain will eventually subside.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

While definitely not my typical read or the type of book I would want to read a ton more of, This Too Shall Pass was an interesting reading experience for me. It's very literary, much more literary than I'm used to, and with that come both the things I like about literary fiction and the things that make me not want to read it all the time.

The writing is gorgeous. I don't know how much of this is Milena Busquet's writing and how much of it is excellent translation, but the words in this book are just so beautiful. It's the kind of writing that makes you stop and think after every other sentence. Saying this sounds so cliched, but I really think that this book is full of important life lessons, beautifully expressed and leaving a lasting impression.

I also loved the main character Blanca. I've read a lot of reviews complaining about how much they disliked Blanca, and I can see why - she's not the most likeable character. She's selfish, incapable of love, and makes terrible decisions most of the time. But I really liked reading about her. I related to her problems, and regardless of whether she's likeable, I think she's a very realistic character and her story is very honest.

However, as with a lot of literary fiction, it was hard for me to really get to know the secondary characters or become invested in the plot. We get short descriptions, but I don't feel like we really get to know any of the secondary characters in depth, and none of them really have their own storylines. To some extent, this could be attributed to Blanca's self-absorption and emotional distance from everyone around her. But I felt like at least Blanca's mother's character could have been explored in more depth, considering she was supposedly the most important person in Blanca's life. We read about Blanca's problems with her mother towards the end of her life, but I don't feel like we ever get to see the two of them in any kind of positive relation that would justify her being so important in Blanca's life. Because I felt like I didn't really know the characters, I felt somewhat removed from the plot for a good portion of the book.

Even though This Too Shall Pass is a very short read, it definitely packs a punch. Not necessarily the plot - not a ton of things happen, really, But the beautiful, thought-provoking writing makes it worth it. I would definitely recommend this for fans of literary fiction, or someone looking to give literary fiction a try, since this is a much quicker read than most literary novels. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: You Before Anyone Else by Julie Cross & Mark Perini

Title: You Before Anyone Else
Author: Julie Cross & Mark Perini
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release date: August 2nd 2016
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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New York City model Finley is fed up with hearing the same feedback at castings: she needs to take some serious action to wipe the "good girl" stamp from her resume if she wants to launch to stardom.
Enter Eddie Wells. He's shallow, predictable…and just as lost as Finley feels. Deep down, Finley is drawn to Eddie's bravado, his intensity. Except Eddie is hiding something. A big something. And when it surfaces, both loving and leaving Finley will become so much harder.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I liked You Before Anyone Else right from the start. The writing is great; even though the book is 400 pages long, it reads super quickly because the writing flows so well and really absorbs you in the story. The characters are easy to like: they're not the most unique characters, but they are fully-developed and make it easy to care about their stories. I especially liked how You Before Anyone Else blurs the borders between YA and NA, since Finley and Eddie are living on their own and have very adult responsibilities, but the themes of the book are still definitively YA. 

One thing I didn't find all that realistic is both Finley's and Eddie's success. Eddie just randomly decided to start modeling (we never even find out how and why he made that decision), and instantly, everyone loves him, and he gets all the jobs with all the big labels. I don't know all that much about the modeling world, but that just doesn't seem realistic. Finley struggles a lot more with getting modeling jobs, but, in the sense of the story, that's because her true passion is dance, not modeling, which she used to do but gave up a while ago. And when she suddenly shows an interest in dancing again, everyone is blown away by her talent and technique and she's immediately offered a job with a professional dance company. No matter how talented she is, I doubt that would happen if she hasn't practiced in a couple of years and is barely getting back into it. I wish we had seen some more actual struggle with the two of them succeeding because I think that would have made the whole story more believable.

I really loved the romance in You Before Anyone Else. Finley and Eddie have great chemistry, and I loved the unconventional (for YA) start to their relationship. The two of them manage to fall for each other quickly without it coming off as unrealistic or insta-love-y. In addition to the chemistry that makes them fun to read about, they actually have a really healthy, mutually supportive relationship, which I think is really important to see in YA. I also appreciated, though, that the focus isn't entirely on the romance: both characters' individual stories matter just as much, and the novel revolves around Finley and Eddie trying to combine their own passions with their romance.

And then, about half way through the novel, Eddie's secret is revealed and it steers the novel in a completely new direction. I'm still not really sure how I feel about this entire storyline, and I can't really talk about it without spoiling anything. It's definitely a surprising twist and it provides for an interesting story, but I just didn't really understand Eddie's motivation in all of this; he's such a good guy, but he's just being an idiot when it comes to this, to be honest. If the secret had more to do with his "bad boy" past, it would have made more sense to me, but his past struggles aren't really explored all that much, and it was more so his current decisions that I found confusing. And Finley's reaction is strange too, and also just really goes against what I wanted for her. I just don't know what to make of this storyline at all.

The ending is a veeery happy ending, the kind that generally makes me roll my eyes at how unrealistic it is. These types of endings always annoy me because, even if the characters were concerned with real-life issues over the course of the novel, in the end things turn out perfectly like they never would in real life. Finely and Eddie don't actually have to make any difficult decisions because, by coincidence, someone shows up or something happens that ensures that everything works out just the way they wanted, without them having to give up anything. The realistic conflict of needing to decide between pursuing your dream, doing the "safe" thing, and staying with the person you love just kind of... disappears. I understand that this probably makes a lot of readers happy, but to be honest, I feel like it discredits everything the characters went through before the ending.

I'm still not really sure what to make of You Before Anyone Else. It had a ton of potential: I loved the setup, the writing, and the characters. And I did really like parts of the story, like the initial romance and both characters' individual story arches. But the plot twist halfway through kind of threw me off, and it ended up dominating most of the novel from that point on. I do recommend You Before Anyone Else because it's a quick, entertaining read; just don't expect everything to be realistic.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review: The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay

Title: The Assassin Game
Author: Kirsty McKay
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: August 2nd 2016
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult mystery
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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At Cate's isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game- it's an elite secret society. Members must avoid being "Killed" during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the "Killer" is. When Cate's finally invited to join the Assassins' Guild, she know it's her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.
But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she's the next target?
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Assassin's Game sounded like a great read; with the theme of murder at an elite boarding school, it reminded me a little of the Private series, which I loved. The idea of the Guild and their game is fascinating, too. I was expecting a thrilling mystery. But unfortunately, I was very disappointed by The Assassin's Game; while the book had a ton of potential, I had a number of issues with the execution, and the novel just didn't have the level of thrill and danger that would have made it a worthwhile read for me.

A boarding school of geniuses and misfits on an isolated island has a ton of potential for unique and fascinating characters, but unfortunately, I wasn't all that impressed by any of the. Cate is okay, but I don't feel like we even got to know that much about her; I wish her passion for art had been explored more so that we could have maybe gotten to know her better. Cate also frustrated me with how useless she is in times of danger, never shutting up and listening to what anyone is saying to her. The entire cast of secondary characters is very underdeveloped: not Cate's best friend and roommate Marcia, whom we know basically nothing about, not Vaughn, Cate's childhood friend that suddenly reappears but who, to be honest, we don't really get to know either, and none of the other players in the Game that are really all just described with one or two adjectives each. Because none of the characters (and potential suspects) seemed like real people, I couldn't really get myself to care or try to figure out which one of them might be the killer.

Which leads me to my main problem with this book: the underwhelming-ness of the entire mystery. The novel starts out slow, with a really long introduction to the school and the game, and a ton of info-dumping. I kept waiting for the plot to pick up, and to some extent it does... buy in my opinion, it just doesn't pick up enough. I was expecting things to get completely out of hand, for people to actually be killed and for there to be a real sense of danger. But what happens, at least up until the very end, is actually relatively tame, and I never felt any immediate threat or danger. The plot just wasn't intense enough for me. It doesn't actually become dangerous for Cate until the very end, but I still found the resolution to be underwhelming: the bad guy's motivation is kind of petty and didn't seem strong enough to justify what had happened, And after this one scene of confrontation, the book just kind of ends, with a last chapter that wraps everything up nicely and reads more like an epilogue. I just didn't get out of this book any of the sense of thrill I like to read mysteries for.

To be honest, I don't think I can recommend this book. The writing isn't bad; it flows nicely (except for the info-dumping), making this a quick read, if nothing else. But with underdeveloped characters and a mystery that never really picks up steam or makes you feel any sense of threat or danger, the whole book was just very underwhelming for me. While I love the idea, there are other much better YA mysteries out there.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

Title: All We Have Left
Author: Wendy Mills
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release date: August 9th 2016
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Interweaving stories from past and present, All We Have Left follows two girls, Alia and Jesse, who discover that hatred and love have the power to reverberate into the future.
Then: Alia is a proud Muslim, even if it makes high school more difficult. Grounded for a stupid mistake, Alia decides to confront her father at his Manhattan office, putting her in danger she never expected. When the planes collide into the Twin Towers, Alia is trapped inside. There she meets a boy who risks everything for her.
Now: Jesse is haunted by the past. Ever since her brother died in the September 11th attacks, her dad's rage and grief has overshadowed their lives. When one hate-fueled decision turns Jesse's life upside down, the only way to make amends is to face the past and find out the truth of her brother's last day.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I absolutely love the set-up of All We Have Left! I know there's a lot of 9/11 books out there, but I actually don't think I'd read any YA books about 9/11 before this one, and I do think the combination of these two stories from different time periods makes this a unique read. I loved the intertwined-ness of these two stories; it made them both feel more meaningful and made the whole book more suspenseful, since you're finding out what happened to Travis and Alia along with Jesse, but through Alia's eyes, All this being said, I did have some issues with the details and execution of the novel; I thought this story had a ton of potential to be an absolutely amazing novel, but because of some issues with the character and plot development, it turned out to be a pretty good book but nothing more.

While I loved the two stories in combination, individually, I did have some issues with both stories, especially Jesse's. While some parts of Alia's story are underdeveloped, but I didn't mind too much, since most of her story takes place in the towers, the imminent danger overshadowing the exploration of anything else going on in her life. Jesse's story is more ambitious in the sense that it tries to cover a longer time period and a number of storylines of what is happening in Jesse's life. We start out reading about Jesse's romance with Nick, the "bad guy" who leads her to the "hate-fueled decision" that works as a starting point for the entire story. While I thought that Nick's racism and anti-Muslim ideas that Jesse gets sucked into due to her infatuation with Nick were a great premise, the book doesn't really have enough time to explore this in any depth: their relationship is insta-love-y and underdeveloped, making it hard to believe that Jesse would actually go along with Nick's hateful actions, and then regret them so deeply later on. Jesse's relationship with her family, especially her angry and spiteful father, is interesting too, but also isn't explored in enough depth, and I felt like their issues are resolved much too smoothly in the end. Jesse's relationship with Adam, a Muslim boy she meets at the interfaith center where she's serving her court-mandated community service, has a ton of potential, but again, it isn't explored enough and reads kind of insta-love-y. To be honest, I think there's just too much going on in Jesse's story to explore any of it in enough depth, since all of it has to share the spotlight with Alias's story in this still relatively short novel. All of the storylines had a ton of potential, but none were fully developed or let me really get to know Jesse enough for her to feel like a real person.

One thing I did really enjoy is the writing. Wendy Mills's style is immersive and addictive; even when I had issues with the plot, I didn't want to put the book down. The descriptions are realistic and vivid, making you feel like you're there along with the characters. All We Have Left is the kind of book that you just keep reading without noticing the time passing, and, to be honest, that's the only thing that matters, since that's what I really love about reading. It also conveys emotions really well, making this book a very sad but hopeful read.

I really wanted to love this book, since it has such a great set-up with so much potential. And I did really enjoy parts of it, and the writing made all of it worthwhile. But I still thought the novel had a number of flaws, and tried to cover too much ground and ended up not exploring any one thing in enough depth. I do recommend All We Have Left because it's a unique and engrossing story, but it's not the masterpiece I was hoping for.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Release date: June 30th 2016
Pages: 352
Genre: mystery/psychological thriller
Source: Gift from publisher
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This was meant to be the perfect trip.
The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.
A chance for travel journalist Lo Blackwood to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.
Except things don’t go as planned.
Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.
Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that her sleep problems might be driving her mad or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness...
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I've been really into mysteries and psychological thrillers lately, and The Woman in Cabin 10 sounded like a great read, with the fear-inducing setting of the enclosed space of a cruise ship, a heroine with a dynamic backstory, and a psychologically complex murder story. But unfortunately, I found myself very disappointed by the execution of the novel: it just wasn't as gripping, suspenseful, or well-crafted as I had hoped.

I started out liking Lo and enjoying her story. I felt for her during the break-in, and I wanted to keep getting to know her throughout the novel. But I quickly grew bored with her character. The characterization became very repetitive, focusing on her anxiety and her drinking and not much else. None of the other characters are fully developed, and I couldn't really keep track of them, making it hard for me to really care what happened to any of them or to figure out who was a potential suspect.

The mystery was what I found myself most disappointed by in The Woman in Cabin 10. Like I said, I loved the set-up of the cruise ship and the woman in the cabin disappearing without anyone else noticing. But the development of the mystery is very mediocre. You find out who the murderer is relatively early on, and it's a very convoluted scheme - which I liked - but I wanted more shocking twists afterwards, some kind of suspenseful confrontation with the murderer, more connections to previous clues, and we don't get any of that. We find out what happened basically just through Lo's thought process, and I wanted more actual plot twists and, well, just more of a plot, really. I never had that edge-of-my-seat, can't-turn-the-pages-fast enough feeling that I love about mysteries.

To be honest, the writing just wasn't strong enough to keep me interested. The narration is very heavy on description, light on dialogue, and the descriptions are repetitive at that, which bored me. The pacing is too slow for a successful mystery, in my opinion - honestly, the book could have probably been half as long because of its simple and straightforward plot, if it weren't for the lengthy descriptions. One element I did really enjoy were the newspaper clippings, emails, etc. in between sections; these heightened the suspense and worked as ominous foreshadowing for what was to come for Lo.

The Woman in Cabin 10 had a ton of potential but unfortunately fell flat for me. With a disappointing mystery that lacks suspense and plot twists and a rather slow pace, The Woman in Cabin 10 just wasn't a book that really gripped me as a reader. If you're more interested in the character development aspect and the setting of the cruise ship, this book might work better for you, but if you're in it for the suspense and thrill, like me, I wouldn't recommend The Woman in Cabin 10.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Review: How to Keep Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo

Title: How to Keep Rolling After a Fall
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release date: August 2nd 2016
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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The party was at her house. The photos were posted to her Facebook account. That's all the evidence anyone needed to condemn Nikki Baylor for a cyberbullying incident that humiliated a classmate and nearly resulted in the girl's suicide. Now Nikki's been expelled from her old school, her friends have abandoned her, and even her own parents can't look her in the eye. With her plans for the future all but destroyed, Nikki resigns herself to being the girl everyone hates - almost as much as she hates herself. But then Nikki meets Pax, a spirited wheelchair rugby player who knows what it's like when one mistake completely shatters your life. Refusing to judge her because of her past, he shows her that everyone deserves a second chance... and everyone deserves to be loved.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Lately I've been struggling with whether I still want to read as much YA as I used to. I've been reading more adult books, and the last couple of YAs I read just didn't impress me all that much; some of them were cute, entertaining reads, but there hasn't been anything I really loved, and I was wondering whether I'm just too old for YA. This is why I'm so glad I picked up How to Keep Rolling After a Fall; it reminded me of everything I love about YA.

I loved the premise of How to Keep Rolling After a Fall; it reminded me a little of Tease by Amanda Maciel, another book I loved. Nikki is an intriguing character; I love when we get to see a perspective that's different from the typical nerdy, unpopular MC. Nikki shouldn't be an easy character to like, but, as wrong as this sounds, I understood her reasoning and related to her decisions. Nikki is especially vulnerable in her relationship with her parents, and I loved seeing the growth in those relationships explored throughout the novel. I also loved Sam, a victim of bullying at her new school whom Nikki befriends; this is another relationship that worked really well along with Nikki's personal growth.

But of course, none of these relationships that Nikki has with other people compare to what she has with Pax; I absolutely loved him. I think this is the first book I've read with a differently abled person as a love interest (which is a shame, really), so I loved that this is explored in How to Keep Rolling After a Fall. Luckily, Pax isn't only characterized as a guy in a wheelchair; I loved everything about his personality. Pax and Nikki are so cute together, they have great chemistry, and they're actually good for each other. They have problems, too, of course, but those didn't feel like silly drama that could've been easily avoided (which plenty of other fictional couples have); their conflicts make sense and are actual issues the two of them need to work through. I just loved everything about their relationship.

I'm not really sure how to explain my love for this book; Karole Cozzo just sweeped me off my feet with her writing. The style isn't necessarily what I would call beautiful, but it flows nicely and works perfectly for this story. It reads super quickly; I finished this book in a day and didn't even notice the time passing. Karole Cozzo's is the type of writing you can read forever and that really lets you get lost in the story and the characters.

My one complaint would be that, at the end, things are wrapped up a little too quickly. Maybe this is just because I didn't want the book to end, but I really wanted to see Nikki and Pax continue to navigate the problems in their relationship and to see how exactly they make it work. I also wanted to see some more development in Nikki's relationship with her ex-best friends and with Taylor. But really, this might have just been because I wanted to remain within Nikki's world and never stop reading.

I'm so glad I decided to pick up How to Keep Rolling After a Fall, both because it's such a great story and because it reminded me of what I love about YA, and about reading in general. With immersive writing, unique characters that really come to life, and a story that I didn't want to end, I absolutely loved How to Keep Rolling After a Fall. I'm going to need to check out Karole Cozzo's debut, How to Say I Love You Out Loud, as soon as possible, and I can't wait to see what she publishes next!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Defending Taylor Spotlight: Excerpt & Giveaway

Today we have a spotlight for Defending Taylor by Miranda KenneallyDefending Taylor comes out tomorrow, July 5th. Here's what it's all about:

Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
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?

I loved this book (and all of Miranda's Kenneally's previous books); you can check out my review here.

Here's our excerpt from Defending Taylor:
I now understand culture shock: it’s me experiencing Hundred Oaks High for the first time.
A lot of kids go here. Five hundred? A thousand? There are so many I can’t tell. At St. Andrew’s, there were only forty kids in my entire class. We lived on a calm, sprawling, green campus. Walking down the halls of Hundred Oaks feels like last-¬minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall.
Two guys wearing football jerseys are throwing a ball back and forth. It whizzes by my ear. A suspender-¬clad male teacher is hanging a poster for the science fair, while a couple is making out against the wall next to the fire alarm. If they move another inch, they’ll set off the sprinklers. At St. Andrew’s, kissing in the hall was an über no-¬no. We snuck under the staircase or went out into the woods. Ben and I did that all the time.
Thinking of him makes me stop moving. I shut my eyes. Dating Ben was stupid. Going into the woods with him was stupid. Thinking about what happened makes me so mad, I want to rip that newly hung science fair poster off the wall and tear it apart.
A boy shoves past me, slamming my arm with his backpack. That’s what I get for loitering in the middle of the hallway with my eyes closed. He looks me up and down. “You coming to Rutledge Falls this afternoon?”
“Paul Simmons challenged Nolan Chase to a fight. Rutledge Falls. Three o’clock. Don’t tell the cops.”
A fight? Where the hell am I? Westeros?
A girl bumps into my side. “Watch it!” Flashing me a dirty look, she disappears into a classroom with a group of friends, chattering away.
Seeing those girls together reminds me of my best friends, Steph and Madison. Right now, they’re probably gossiping before trig starts. I miss Steph’s cool British accent and Madison’s cheerful laugh.
I take a deep, rattled breath. And then another. I feel trapped, like the time I got locked in my grandpa’s garage and no one found me for an hour and I banged on the windows until my fists turned purple from bruises.
I can’t believe I had to leave my school. My home.
All because I made one stupid decision.
I check my schedule. 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 though 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 everybody else in my family, I hate math. I have to work at it harder than anything else in my life.
But if I didn’t take college calc, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t get into an Ivy League school. I need to go to a top-tier school because that’s what people in my family do. My father attended Yale, and my sister Jenna is there now. According to Dad, my brother Oliver—¬Jenna’s twin—¬is a traitor for going to Princeton, but I think Dad respects him for having the balls to make his own decision.
When Dad called me into his home office last night, he barely looked at me as he pored over my new schedule. The silence was killing me.
“I don’t know how Yale will still consider me if I’m not taking all AP courses,” I said. “Hundred Oaks only offers AP chemistry.”
Dad sighed, took off his glasses, and set down my schedule. “I’m incredibly disappointed in you, Taylor.”
I looked him straight in the eyes. His quiet restraint worried me. I’d never seen him so upset.
But I was upset too. He rarely had time to call me when I was away at school, but he could spare a few minutes to comment on my one screwup? After how hard I’ve always worked?
Over the years, I’ve done hours of homework every night. I had a 4.2 GPA at St. Andrew’s. A 1520 SAT score. I was on track to be valedictorian. I was captain of the soccer team and on the debate team. I did everything I could to show Yale that I worked hard. That I am a unique individual. Because that’s what Yale wants.
But my one misstep has muddied my glowing record.
Dad ended our conversation with a death knell.
“Tee, I gave you all the tools you needed to succeed,” he said. “I’ve paid for your private school education since first grade, and you squandered it by getting kicked out.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, my face burning. “I’m going to keep working hard at Hundred Oaks though.”
“You’re damn right you will.”
My father had me so flustered, I wasn’t thinking straight when I said, “Maybe Yale will still take me because of who I am.”
“You mean because of who I am.” Dad rubbed his eyes. “I’ve always taught you kids the importance of integrity, and the minute you got into trouble, instead of owning it, you called me to bail you out. And now you’re doing it again. Using my name to try to get ahead.”
I hung my head. “I’m sorry, Dad.”
“I love you more than anything, but you have to take responsibility for what you did. You’ll have to figure college out on your own.”
“What does that mean?” I asked slowly.
“It means I’m not lifting a finger. I won’t be calling the alumni association or the school president to put in a good word for you.”
“But didn’t you do that for Jenna and Oliver?” I blurted.
He put his glasses back on. “You need to own up, Tee.”
So here I am, glancing around the unfamiliar halls of Hundred Oaks. The school is neat and orderly, but it doesn’t look completely clean, like no matter how hard you scrub, it still looks old. At least it’s not juvie.
I step into my math class, which is already filled with kids. I choose an empty seat at a wobbly wooden desk and stare out the window at the sunny, seventy-¬degree September day. I bet at St. Andrew’s, my world politics teacher is telling my friends, “Gather your books. It’s a beautiful day out. Let’s have class in one of the gardens.”
I check out the problem set on the whiteboard. I could do this level of math years ago…
My former guidance counselor told me that colleges look for trends in our GPA and activities over four years of high school. So that means when colleges see my application, they will see:
I’m taking easier classes;
I’m no longer doing debate;
I’ve lost my soccer captainship this year; and
I was expelled.
I have never simply given up when calculus got a lot tougher or an opponent ran faster than me on the soccer field. So I refuse to believe my entire future is over because of one mistake.
I just need to figure out how to move forward.
If you're intrigued, fill out the Rafflecopter form below and enter to win one of two copies of Defending Taylor! Open to US & Canada; giveaway ends on July 30th.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

Title: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone
Author: Adele Griffin
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release date: August 12th 2014
Pages: 256
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source:  I received a free advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won't let her go.
From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison's life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28.
—Adele Griffin
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

To be honest, I didn't realize this book was fiction after I had finished it and looked it up. While reading, I was convinced Addison Stone was a real person, and even when something seemed far-fetched, I didn't mind because I thought it was all true. I don't know if that means I'm gullible or that the book is just really well-done, or maybe some of both. 

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is written entirely in interviews with people who knew Addison. This sounds like something I wouldn't enjoy at all; sounds too formal and like it wouldn't have enough of a narrative for my tastes. But it works surprisingly well. Even though they sound like real interviews (albeit edited by a better writer), they are organized in such a way that they actually tell a story. The writing is what makes it work; it's gripping and reads quickly, and I didn't want to put the book down.

The characters are fascinating. Even though she's never actually present in the novel, Addison has an energy that jumps off the page and made me want to know everything about her. At times, I thought her perfection and instant fame were overdone, but it makes sense within the framework of the book. I also loved Lulu, Addison's best friend from home, and all the characters she meets on the NYC art scene.

Finding out none of this is actually really afterwards kind of changed my perspective. On the one hand, it makes me more critical of things like Addison being too unrealistically brilliant and instantly famous. But on the other hand, it adds another dimension to the story. Adele Griffin is writing about a fictional Adele Griffin who did all of this research on Addison Stone. And since fictional Adele Griffin says she briefly met Addison on one of the classes she taught and became obsessed with finding out everything about her after her death, of course all the interviews are influenced by her own obsession, so this could work as a reason for why Addison so idealized in the story. The real Adele Griffin commenting on fictional Adele Griffin's one-sided perspective on Addison adds a whole new layer of complexity to the novel.

I've read a lot of negative reviews for this one explaining how they couldn't get past how much of a cliche Addison is, being so exaggeratedly beautiful and talented. And she definitely is, but I didn't really mind because she is so mesmerizing, and the unique format makes sure this book is far from cliched. Strange, fascinating, and unique, I really enjoyed The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone, and I recommend it to anyone who's looking for something new and different.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Review: The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe

Title: The Tragic Age
Author: Stephen Metcalfe
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release date: February 16th 2016
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn't always work- not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven't applied to college.
Billy's life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another's mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie's. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul.
With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is-Billy doesn't trust happiness. It's the age he's at. The tragic age.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Tragic Age was a bit of an up and down for me. I started out wary of our main character Billy; he seemed like a pretentious know-it-all. But I warmed up to him pretty quickly, and I began to enjoy his voice; he's very funny, in a snarky, pessimistic, self-deprecating way, The writing style is rather unique, interspersing the story with explanations and facts that are entertaining to read (most of the time) and adding to the quirkiness of the story's voice. Billy is very clever and entertaining, and his voice engrosses you in the story. Even when there's not much going on, Stephen Metcalfe makes it interesting to read about with Benny's individual voice.

None of the other characters are developed with as much complexity as our narrator. They're pretty stereotypical, with the oversexualized latina, the bad boy, and the nerd. Gretchen isn't as much of a stereotype, but I wouldn't say that she's fully developed, either; I felt like we never really got to know her.

And then the ending turns the book into a complete mess. I don't even know what to say about the ending other than.... wtf. I would really like to hear the author's reasoning for ending the story this way because it makes absolutely no sense to me. Billy had been warning us all along that this would end badly, but I was never expecting things to end this badly; everything escalates so quickly and just completely blows up in the main characters' faces. And when things go wrong, common sense goes out the window, even for oh-so-smart Billy, and everything just turns into a huge mess from there. All of this is made worse by how much of an unrealiable narrator Billy is. I enjoyed this at first because I would believe everything Billy said and then be surprised when he tells us he had lied, but after a while I just stopped believing what Billy was telling the reader, and in the end I just assumed Billy was making something up and got really confused when parts of it turned out to be true (and I'm still not entirely sure about this). I can't explain this any more without spoilers, but this book has one of the bizarrest, messiest, least sense-making endings I have ever read.

I know my review sounds very negative, but that's not entirely accurate; there's a lot to criticize about The Tragic Age, but there are also many parts that I really enjoyed. I really liked the every-day parts of the story, being told in Benny's fresh and funny voice, and those made The Tragic Age a worthwhile read for me. But the lack of character development in the secondary characters, and the confusing, messy ending kept me from really loving this novel.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur

Title: The Secrets of Lake Road
Author: Karen Katchur
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release date: August 4th 2015
Pages: 309
Genre: women's fiction/mystery
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away.
Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her—but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family. The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur is a riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I was really excited for The Secrets of Lake Road, since it combines women’s fiction with YA crossover appeal with a mystery. The book started out strong, and I enjoyed the beginning, but over the course of the story I developed more and more issues with the book, and it left me feeling very underwhelmed in the end.

What pulled me in the beginning is the writing. Karen Katchur’s style immediately immerses you in the story and makes it impossible to put the book down. The writing is evocative, creating a palpably eerie atmosphere and really making you wonder about what could have happened in this town (and specifically the lake). Some scenes have a very peaceful beachy, summery feel to them, and they’re perfectly contrasted with the darker elements of the story. Regardless of my issues with this book, you can definitely tell that Karen Katchur is a great writer. 

What first started to annoy me are the characters. Most of them are not very likeable people, which doesn’t have to be a problem, but I found myself getting really frustrated with Jo and Kevin, especially, and also kind of bored by the repetitiveness of the mistakes they make. I enjoyed Caroline’s and Patricia’s chapters the most because they’re the only two characters I could empathize with, although sometimes Caroline’s parts frustrated me as well because is not always authentic to that of a twelve-year-old girl. Patricia, I wish we had gotten to know better – her story is fascinating but isn’t actually explored all that much. I also wish we had gotten Johnny’s perspective at some point; he seems to be the only major character who doesn’t get any of their own chapters, and I’m still not sure why that’s the case. I really just didn’t connect with the characters or care about their stories enough to really stay immersed in the plot.

The ending is what frustrated me the most. I was waiting for some kind of plot twist or major revelation, but we already know pretty much everything when we get to the end. There’s no resolution or big change in the family dynamic, so the book left me wondering what the point of the whole thing was. I wanted more of a resolution to Sara’s and Patricia’s story, too; with no resolution or further exploration at the end, their story just seemed like a device to show what happened with Jo and Kevin in the past.

The Secrets of Lake Road just left me feeling very underwhelmed. The novel had a ton of potential, with evocative writing, a great sense of setting and atmosphere, and a mystery that could have been taken in many different directions. But unfortunately, the characters fell flat, and the mystery doesn’t have any surprising twists or interesting resolutions. I might pick up Karen Katchur’s next book because I did really enjoy her writing, but I’m not sure if I can recommend this one.

Friday, June 17, 2016

ReviewL The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: The Weight of Feathers
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Release date: September 15th 2015
Pages: 308
Genre: Young Adult magical realism
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for more than a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.
Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught since birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I'm kind of sick of Romeo and Juliet retellings, but The Weight of Feathers is a completely new take on the story and creates its own magical world to set it in, so I was intrigued from the first page on. While I had some issues with the story, the strangeness and the magic of The Weight of Feathers is what kept me turning the pages.

The writing is what carries the story. The style is very elegant and ornate, but not in an alienating way; the voice pulls you in and lets you become immersed in the world of the novel. It makes The Weight of Feathers feel kind of like a dream - I don't quite understand it, but it's beautiful nonetheless. The whole novel is very atmospheric and just has a certain energy to it which makes it impossible not to want to figure out the intricacies of the world its set in. I loved reading about both families, their shows, and their magical traits. Even when I had issues with the story or the characters, I kind of just accepted all of them to just be part of the intrinsic weirdness of this book, so I feel like I can't even criticize it. 

The romance is okay but not great, and I kind of wish it hadn't taken over so much of the book (which I know is a strange thing to ask of a Romeo and Juliet retelling). I liked reading about Lace and Click when they first meet and everything that happens before they get together. Once they're together, though, the romance got a little too idealized for my tastes; we're told that the two of them are so perfect together and they both talk about their love for the other, but I never really felt it. It wasn't quite insta-love, but I do think they fell for each other too quickly for the romance to work for me. And the plot twist towards the end that affects their relationship kind of weirded me out, to be honest.

Not just the romance but really, the characters themselves, just aren't that strong. They have interesting backstories and live in a fascinating world, but I don't feel like I ever got to know neither Lace nor Cluck as people. I had some smaller issues with the novel, too, like the unevenness of the pacing, and the randomness of what parts of the story are based in logic and the rules of our own world and which parts are simply explained by magic. 

I'm sorry that this review is so all over the place, but I'm still not really sure what to make of The Weight of Feathers. It's just really weird, but weird in an enthralling way that makes it impossible to put the book down. I didn't like everything about it, but I just kind of accepted that even these things that bothered me were just part of the uniqueness of this book. I'm still not sure if I actually liked this book, but if you're looking for a strange and unique read, you should definitely give this one a try.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review: Trauma by Michael Palmer and Daniel Palmer

Title: Trauma
Author: Michael Palmer & Daniel Palmer
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release date: May 12th 2015
Pages: 384
Genre: Adult mystery/medical thriller
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Dr. Carrie Bryant's is a much-admired neurosurgical resident at an esteemed Boston hospital. But when her first unsupervised brain surgery goes horribly wrong, she loses her confidence-and, after another fateful misstep, Carrie decides to quit her residency and move back home. Her new life's purpose: To help her combat-vet brother, Adam, recover from a crippling case of post-traumatic stress disorder.
At first, the experimental program at the VA Medical Center-one that could forever cure the ravages of PTSD-seems like best option for Adam. But Carrie has her doubts when one of her patients goes missing...and then another. Carrie turns to local investigative reporter David Hoffman for help in getting answers. But the VA organization is determined to keep its secrets-at all costs. As Carrie and David descend into a labyrinth of murder and corruption, the price Carrie could pay for asking the wrong questions is her own life...
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I haven't read many medical thrillers, so I might not be the best judge, and I can't really compare Trauma to any other books in the genre. But I was just very disappointed by this book. I was excited about the premise because I tend to like mysteries with female MCs that combine suspense with a more personal story, and I thought the PTSD element might be an interesting twist. But unfortunately, the awkward writing and implausibilities made it hard for me to enjoy this book.

I feel really mean saying this, but the writing felt very amateur-ish; this felt very much like a debut novel, or even an unpublished manuscript, which is kind of surprising for accomplished writers (although I had never read anything by Michael or Daniel Palmer). The writing is just so awkward, with bad metaphors and all telling and no showing. A lot of the over-the-top descriptions had me rolling my eyes, and I was always so focused on the awkwardness of the writing that I could never actually get lost in the writing.

The characters had a lot of potential. Carrie is actually an interesting character, I really liked David, and Adam adds an interesting element to the story as well. But the writing kept me from actually feeling for these characters. Because I associated the melodramatic wordings with Carrie's voice, I couldn't really take her seriously, and since the awkwardness of the writing was so distracting, I couldn't actually feel for Carrie or David. The romance between Carrie and David is especially cheesy and the descriptions of Carrie's attraction to David made me seriously question the authors' ability to write a female MC. 

I understand that this is a medical thriller, but, to be honest, the excessive medical terms and explanations kind of bored me. I actually enjoyed them in the beginning, during Carrie's first surgery, but after that it just got too much. Of course a story like this needs some medical explanations to show its accuracy, and it did seem like the authors knew what they were talking about, but for readers like me, the amount of medical information was unnecessary; it was just too much and too confusing for someone outside of the field to follow. I got so bored by all of this information that I didn't even try to follow it towards the ending. The ending, to me, seemed very far-fetched and didn't justify everything that happened in the story, and one of my biggest pet peeves about mysteries is when the bad guy doesn't have adequate motivations.

The set-up seemed intriguing and had potential, but it just doesn't work. The awkward writing and far-fetched twists made it very hard for me to care about this story, and I don't think I can recommend it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Defending Taylor
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: July 5th 2016
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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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 rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's no secret I love the Hundred Oaks series, especially the first couple of books. The last book, Jesse's Girl, didn't impress me quite as much as the earlier ones, and neither did Defending Taylor, but they're both still stellar additions to the series. I loved everything about Defending Taylor, but it just didn't resonate with me the way some of Miranda Kenneally's previous books did.

Taylor is a very unique character. She's a pretty typical YA MC in how driven and smart she is, but her background and her decisions before and during this book make her stand out. She's not always easy to like because her naivete and privilege do show at times, but I still liked her most of the time. Despite her privilege, she's going to a relatable character for overachieving teens under a lot of pressure to succeed. I especially loved how tough she is and how she always speaks her mind, especially in regards to soccer and her relationship with Ezra. I had some issues with how judgmental and hypocritical she is about some things (like when she talks about drugs, condemning the guy who asks her for Ritalin, when she's been taking Adderall, which is almost the same thing), but I liked her nonetheless.

And Ezra, I absolutely loved. One of my favorite things about Miranda Kenneally's books is that they often have older, out-of-high-school love interests, which doesn't happen often in YA. Ezra is Taylor's older brother's best friend, which has definitely been done before, but it works so well! The two of them have great chemistry, and I love how Ezra's backstory and secrets are woven into the novel. But even though I loved Ezra, there was something missing in the romance department; even though I appreciate that this is a different kind of romance because Taylor and Ezra have known each other forever, the way they got together seemed a little too easy, and I kind of missed the novelty and drama of seeing two people meet and figuring out if they actually work together. 

I loved the secondary characters, too. Even though we don't get to know Taylor's parents too well, I loved reading about the politics element of the novel, seeing how Taylor's decisions influenced her dad's election and what role the media played in all of this. I loved getting to know Taylor's older siblings, Jenna and Oliver. And I also loved seeing friendships slowly develop between Taylor and the girls on the Hundred Oaks soccer team. I wish the soccer element had been explored even more, and I especially wanted more closure in relation to Nicole, the team captain/bully in order to see what might happen next for the team.

Despite these minor complaints, Defending Taylor is still a stellar book. It's not an all-time favorite of mine the way Catching Jordan and Breathe, Annie, Breathe have become, but it's definitely a cute romance with Miranda Kenneally's trademark engaging writing, keen understanding of teen relationships, and personable, realistic characters. While I would recommend starting with a different book of hers, fans of the series should definitely check this one out!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Review: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Title: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Poppy
Release date: September 1st 2015
Pages: 246
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Jennifer E. Smith's books are reliably fluffy romances - they're never too deep, and the character development and writing aren't the best, to be honest, but they're always fun, and Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between is no exception. 

I really like the premise of Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between. I love when YA books are set in that in-between-space after graduating high school and leaving for college, and the situation in this book is definitely relatable. I found myself looking back on myself right before leaving for college, and also relating Clare's transitions back to my current transition, having just graduated college and heading off to grad school in the fall (especially because me and Clare will be going to the same school!). I also love the premise of a couple deciding whether or not to stay together - in comparison to all the books with drama about a couple trying to get together that end at the "happily ever after," it's refreshing to read a book that actually explores what happens after.

I've read some reviews that were annoyed by Clare's indecisiveness and complained that she spent the whole book going back and forth between breaking up and staying together. But I didn't mind that at all because, well, wasn't that the point of the book? I understood Clare's indecisiveness; it makes sense to struggle with this when you consider that that Clare and Aidan love each other but that Clare is very practical about how hard it would be to sustain a long-distance relationship as freshmen in college. I also love how Jennifer E. Smith decided to resolve this issue; I was scared that, this being a romance(-y) novel, the ending would be cliched and overly happy, ignoring the reality of the situation and making the whole book kind of pointless. But the way she decided to end this book works perfectly; it'll satisfy readers who want a happy ending without being too dramatic or unrealistic.

To be fair, this book isn't perfect. Like I said earlier, Jennifer E. Smith's writing and characters aren't always the strongest, and I found the characters in Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between to be a little underdeveloped. It's not that any of the characters are bad, necessarily; they're just nothing special. Clare is the typical studious YA MC, and Aidan is the typical jock that turns out to be a sweetheart. The secondary characters, like their friends Scotty and Stella and their parents, are also relatively typical with no unpredictable developments. But, as usual in Jennifer E. Smith's books, I didn't really mind this, because it's a fun, fluffy read nonetheless.

If you're looking for depth, unique characters, or stunning writing, Jennifer E. Smith's books probably aren't for you. But if you're in the mood for a fun, fluffy story that you can finish in a couple of hours, Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, just like the author's author books, is perfect for you.
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