That Summer by Sarah Dessen

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Reader
Pages: 208
Release Date: April 6, 2006
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming-of-age
[Goodreads]

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With such a low rating you’re probably wondering why I didn’t DNF this book. Well, because of my own damn stubbornness, that’s why. Being my first “Sarah Dessen” book, I was determined to read it through. Dessen books seem to be very popular and well-known so I thought That Summer would be a sure thing. As they say: there’s no such thing as a sure thing.

Contemporaries are my least favorite YA genre type. I find that I quickly lose interest unless one of two things occur; epic romance and/or fantastic characters. I get the sense that ‘That Summer’ is geared towards Middle Grade readers, which excuses this book from having no romance(s) to root for.

So then there’s the characters. What can I say about the characters? Well…. SNOOZE. I couldn’t connect or relate to a single one. That Summer follows Haven, a 15 year old girl who’s trying to stay the same while the rest of her world changes. She’s hitting puberty at a fast rate and she’s having trouble accepting it. This sounds like an interesting, albeit, usual coming-of-age story, unfortunately, the characters (including Haven), are lackluster, making the story even more sluggish and agonizing.

My own stubbornness saw me through to the end of That Summer. I really wanted to quit this book about 40 pages in. The only reason I gave this book one stake is because the last 20 pages of That Summer was actually pretty good. The story finally went into hyperdrive and the climax supernova’d. I think if the characters had been quirkier and that more significant moments had occurred, I would have liked ‘That Summer’ a whole lot more.

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I give That Summer one stake. It’s going to be a while before I give another Dessen book a go. I’m going to have to do some better research next time.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Pages: 421
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance
[Goodreads]

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Sarah J. Maas – you’re officially one of my new favorite authors. I plan on filling my shelves to the brim with your amazing books!

I really enjoy the Throne of Glass series, and now I’m completely in love with A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Sarah’s level of creativity is amazing! She flawlessly creates vivid worlds and one-of-a-kind characters. Although A Court of Thorns and Roses seems to be inspired by Beauty and the Beast, Sarah diverges from the original story by spinning new plots and new captivating characters.

Feyre is such a wonderful character. She’s been neglected and taken advantage by her family, her entire life. When Feyre’s mother was dying, Feyre made a promise that she would take care of her two older sisters and father. Even when Feyre was 8, her mother knew that Feyre was the only one with her wits about her. Her mother knew that Feyre would do anything and everything to keep her little family alive. Feyre has taken care of her older sisters Elain and Nesta, and father, in any way she can since her mother’s passing. The family lost their fortune many years ago which forced them into a ramshackle itty-bitty cottage. Feyre taught herself how to hunt to be able to feed her family and herself, a feat that at times, is near-impossible. She and her family are all underweight, malnourished and miserable.

Tamlin, a ferocious-seeming faerie quickly shows up in the story when Feyre accidentally kills a fae friend of his. He gives her the option to either die or go to live with him forever in the fae lands. After making sure her family will be spared, Feyre grudgingly goes with Tamlin to his home.

I really enjoyed the interactions that took place between Tamlin and Feyre. Feyre was resistant to all things fae in the beginning of the story because she had grown up hearing stories of their torturous and murderous ways. She viewed them as monsters that only caused pain and destruction for humans. Through the time Feyre spends at Tamlin’s home she begins to see things differently though…

A Court of Thorns and Roses was so addicting. Tamlin was a tall, handsome mystery that I wanted to unravel immediately. Feyre was a spirited girl who cared more about others than herself. There was also Lucien, another fae whose role was of the sarcastic best friend and ally to Tamlin. Lucien clearly has some type of problem with Feyre from the beginning which made for hilarious bickering between the two.

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There’s so much to love about this book but I’m going to stop here. You NEED to read this one asap.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: February 2, 2008
Pages: 217
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
[Goodreads]

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My feelings for Sweethearts are muddled. I simultaneously think this book lacked “something” and yet, was satisfying. Confusing? Very!

To start-off, this book is pretty short. My NOOK was showing me about 210 pages, but Sweethearts ended up only being about 150 pages. This book felt more like a short story vs. a full length novel.

Sweethearts is an emotional book that tackles tough issues, mainly; bullying and child abuse. Zarr did a great job of presenting these subjects with care and knowledge. On a personal level, I could really relate with some of the characters. Their tribulations and thoughts, really struck a cord with me. Zarr’s writing is simple, yet powerfully emotional, because of this I became captivated with the story.

As I write this review I’m stuck thinking that this book was too short, yet, still, perfectly numbered. On one-hand the story and messages come through with so little of pages. On the other-hand, I feel sad that things didn’t play-out as I secretly wanted. Basically, because this review isn’t confusing enough, I thought that this story was enough yet not enough.

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Either way, if you like emotional stories, with good messages, that end bittersweet, you’ll enjoy Sweethearts. I give it 3 stakes.

Have you ever read a book that left you with confusing, conflicting thoughts?

Alienated by Melissa Landers

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 344
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi, Romance
[Goodreads]

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I enjoyed Alienated in the beginning. Cara was fiery and fierce. She really spoke her mind and stuck with her personal beliefs. Aelyx was cute and funny. His ways are so different than ours. His people are very formal, bland and unemotional. It was great following his explorations and budding emotions. I was really digging the slow building relationship between him and Cara.

Unfortunately, halfway through this book the storyline took a nosedive. It just really dragged and I found myself steadily losing interest.

Also, I appreciated that there was no insta-love but when the feelings were finally expressed between the two leads it was extreme (to say the least). They were ready to forget everyone else for each other. Cara is bitter and constantly remarking on the fact that her older brother, barely takes interest in her, or their parents. The moment that Cara falls in love with Aelyx she’s ready to ditch Earth and hop on a ship with him. She herself, quickly forgets her parents and sees only Aelyx. That was a huge 360 for Cara’s character. And a letdown.

I don’t know what else to really say. This book just ended somewhere completely different than it started. I’ve easily become bored with the Cara and Aelyx relationship. Given hints towards the end of Alienated, a love triangle might be on the horizon for book two. If anything, I might read the sequel to see what this new guy is like and if he can re-spark this story for me again.

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I give Alienated 2 stakes for a dash of enjoyment and a lot of disappointment.

Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming-of-age
Pages: 268
[Goodreads]

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Being Friends with Boys may be the first book I’ve read by Terra Elan McVoy, but I promise you, it won’t be the last. Besides it’s smooth and fast-paced writing style (which I loved) this is the first time in a long time that I’ve truly adored every aspect of a book. For one, the characters were fabulous. Every single one was well-thought out and interesting because of their individual personalities and the part they played in the overall story. The dialogue was easy to follow and very fun to read. Although at times there was a lot of humor, Ms. McVoy balanced the story out nicely with more thought-provoking ideas and situations. At it’s core, this book is about a teenage girl (Charlotte) whose life suddenly diverges from it’s comfortable and understood path. Like a lot of teenage girls, Charlotte is struggling with accepting and understanding the changes that inevitably come with growing up. I felt a tidal wave of emotions while reading this book including happiness, anger, pride, and confusion (along with Charlotte). This is one book that because I enjoyed so much, I’d definitely consider reading again at some point down the road.

Charlotte is 100% anti-drama. She’s had past incidents involving friends (who I don’t believe were truly ever real friends) who’ve caused her a lot of grief. In the past these “friends” have ignored and shunned her for stupid, non-reasons. Since most girls drive Charlotte crazy it makes since that her close knit group of friends would mainly consist of boys. Although she’s known Oliver since grade school, he along with two other boys – Abe and Trip along with Charlotte, make up a band called Sad Jackal. Charlotte is perfectly content with her life until one day, out of the blue, Oliver announces that Trip is out of the band. This announcement comes at a complete shock to Charlotte, simultaneously starting a domino affect. This is where life (as she knows it) begins to change.

Charlotte has a hard time adjusting. For one, she can’t understand how or why her perfect group of friends and beloved band have been teared apart. Trip whose friendship has been a constant, shining light in her life, this last year and a half, now becomes harder to hold onto. Although she has two stepsisters at home, her sister-sister, Jilly, who Charlotte has always relied on for emotional support, is now away and busy at college. This all together could make a great story line, however that’s not all. Add in not one but two cute, new boys and a quick rise to high school rocker-fame and you’ve got 368 pages of time-stealing awesomeness.

I am absolutely head over heels for Being Friends with Boys. I thoroughly enjoyed following Charlotte’s path to self-discovery. Through humorous, exhilarating, and sometimes, heartbreaking encounters, Charlotte not only learns more about herself but also who her “true” friends are, the ones that she can count on through thick and thin. It was easy to understand Charlotte’s character, feeling sad about a sibling living far away, not knowing how to repair a friendship that is slipping away, and most importantly, understanding what you truly want and then believing that it does matter that you want it.

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I give Being Friends with  Boys 5 stakes because it was perfect in every way. Except for sleep, which eventually I had to give into, I for the most part didn’t part with this book until it was finished.

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