Waiting on Wednesday–First & Then by Emma Mills

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I try not to focus too much on book covers, but seriously, this cover is SO PRETTY! It’s what grabbed my attention and drew me to the book. The synopsis sealed the deal. Have you read an early copy? Is it as good as it sounds?

Title & Author: First & Then by Emma Mills

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)

Release Date: October 15th, 2015

First & ThenSummary (From Goodreads):

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

Audiobook Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Audio Review

99 DaysTitle: 99 Days

Author: Katie Cotugno

Narrator: Allyson Ryan

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Interest: Contemp

Source: eARC received from the publisher / audio received via Scribd

Summary (From Goodreads):

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Audiobook Review: I decided to read 99 Days via audio despite having the eARC mostly because of how much easier it is for me to listen to audiobooks at this stage in my life. I’m trying to keep up with blog tour reading requests and my own personal reading desires, so sometimes I’ll take the easiest route and experience a book via audio. Also, I’ve recently been contacted by Scribd to give their platform a free one month trial and figured, why not? Katie Cotugno’s book was right there and I’ve been wanting to read it. The stars aligned and I made it happen.

At first I wasn’t quite sure about Allyson Ryan as the narrator. She doesn’t really sound like a teenager to me and sometimes her voice went a little flat, but somehow that worked for Molly’s character. Molly is sometimes a tough character to like so it worked for me that I didn’t always like Ryan’s voice. A number of people have abandoned this book because of the content and characters, so I think those readers should give the audio a try. It’s not my favorite audiobook because of the narrator, but I enjoyed the story itself.

Book Review: Like I said, 99 Days has been receiving a lot of criticism, mostly because the story features characters who cheat on one another. Honestly, I don’t think those reviewers are being fair. I 100% understand being against cheating, but I think we have to recognize and remember that even though it’s ugly and messy, it happens more often than we’d like it to. For that reason, I think Katie Cotugno deserves more credit for writing this book. She could have written another story about a guy or a girl getting cheated on, but instead she wrote it from the point of view of the person being unfaithful. This is a young adult novel and young adults are going to connect with Molly, Patrick, and Gabe for one reason or another. Every reader deserves to find her or himself in a book even if that book contains subject matter that some readers don’t like.

Do the characters in this novel make poor choices? Yes. Do they make poor choices over and over again? Yes. For me, this heightened the story and made those characters stand out on the page. I like flawed characters; they’re interesting and engaging. So many times I cringed over Molly’s decisions, but I also recognized that she’s just finished college and is at an age when she’s going to make mistakes. I think one of the best parts about her story is that she learned from those mistakes. Her entire summer was about figuring out who she is and how and who to love. She needed to figure out how to make friends and how to trust her mother again. She needed to figure out what she wants out of college. Molly figured out much of those problems, but it wasn’t a neat and tidy process that resulted in a gift with a big fat bow. She stumbled, she lost friends, and she learned some important lessons about life and relationships.

Personally, I couldn’t stand Patrick for most of the book and could not understand Molly’s attraction to him. Gabe has a little more going for him, but even he didn’t always seem right for Molly. Molly struck me as an insecure teen trying to find her way and in need of positive attention. I know teens like Molly and I know they’ll appreciate what Katie Cotugno wrote.

I do, however, like Molly’s close friend Imogen. She’s the type of friend I think most people desire because she’s loyal and honest.  She stands by Molly and sticks up for her as Molly endures endless slut-shaming, but she also calls Molly out when she thinks she’s making a huge mistake. People need friends like that in their lives because they keep us balanced. I’m glad Cotugno wrote Imogen’s character the way she did.

Another element to the story I enjoyed is the summer atmosphere. I can’t wait for summer and warm weather and reading on my deck, so listening to 99 Days while I drove to work in the morning literally brightened my day. It felt like summer while I read this even though the temps weren’t quite summer-ish.

Review: Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Things We Know By HeartTitle: Things We Know by Heart

Author: Jessi Kirby

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: eARC from the publisher / Purchased hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads):

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Jessi Kirby is hands down one of my favorite authors of realistic fiction. Every one of her books pulls at my heart strings and Things We Know by Heart is no exception. I literally cried within the first two pages.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the inclusion of different quotes relating to hearts at the beginning of each chapter. Some of the quotes are profound, many are scientific, and others are dealing with love. I especially appreciated how each quote specifically connects with events in the chapter it begins. Unfortunately I didn’t mark some of my favorite quotes like I now wish I would have.

I also really liked Quinn and Colton; they’re simply incredibly likable characters. Sometimes books dealing with the loss of a loved one will feature characters trapped in the past, but Quinn isn’t like that. She’s understandably afraid to move on from Trent, but she shows growth and allows herself to let go and try new things when she’s with Colton. Both characters shine when they’re with each other and I couldn’t help but fall for both of them.

There were times when I was uncomfortable and tense while reading Things We Know by Heart, but that’s natural considering the plot. Quinn already knows Colton before actually knowing him. She’s at an unfair advantage in the relationship and as a reader I kept waiting for the moment when that would come to light. So of course parts of the story are predictable, but that never drew away from my complete and utter engagement and enjoyment. I rooted for Quinn and Colton the entire time I read this book, especially as I stayed up until close to midnight on a school night so I could finish reading their story. I may have even shed some tears as I read the last 10-15% of the novel.

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby made my heart swell. It’s one of my favorite books of 2015; I hope you’ll read it soon if you haven’t already.

Book Trailer Thursday (165)–99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Book Trailer Thursday

I was going through my “Releases in 2015” list on Goodreads with my students a month or so ago and students in every one of my classes pointed out 99 Days by Katie Cotugno because they wanted to know more about it. The synopsis grabbed my attention right away and I like the book trailer as well. I’m looking forward to April 21st when this releases!

99 DaysSummary (From Goodreads):

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Independently Wealthy_Tour Banner

 

On December 2nd, Lorraine Zago Rosenthal’s third novel released. Independently Wealthy is a follow up to Lorraine’s second novel New Money, but it can also be read as a stand alone. Today I have an excerpt of the book and am offering a giveaway.

Independently WealthySummary (From Goodreads):

In New Money, Savannah Morgan was thrust into high-society New York when she learned she was the sole heir to her father’s billion-dollar fortune. In Independently Wealthy, she is living her dream life on the Upper West Side, excelling at her job as an editorial assistant, and enjoying her handsome new boyfriend, Alex.

Everything in Savannah’s life should be perfect—but she can’t ignore the questions and scandal surrounding her father’s fatal accident. Her hopes of solving this mystery are shared by Caroline Stone—her newfound sister who is slowly becoming a friend. Savannah decides to investigate, although not everyone wants her to discover the truth. Her domineering older brother, Ned, has his own problems, including a lingering regret over his recent divorce, the constant pressure of running the Stone media empire, and managing a playboy bachelorhood. As Savannah’s quest for justice becomes complicated and dangerous, she is led to Washington, D.C., an alluring stranger, and more surprises, trouble, and changes than she ever could have imagined.

Lorraine Zago Rosenthal 2014About the author:

LORRAINE ZAGO ROSENTHAL was born and raised in New York City. She is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and earned a Master’s in English from Northern Kentucky University. Lorraine’s debut novel, Other Words for Love, was published in 2011, and her second novel, New Money, was published in 2013. Currently, she lives near Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband.

 

 

 

 

A portion of chapter 1:

One

 “It’s true,” I said as I gazed at the gilded statue of Prometheus, the massive tree dotted with colored lights, and the swarm of people in winter coats who were skating across the ice. “Manhattan really is the best place to be for Christmas.”

 “It sure is,” Alex said, “especially when I’m with the most beautiful woman in the city.”

 He was sitting across from me at a table beside a window in the Rock Center Café, which was filled with a Saturday-night dinner crowd and the sound of Christina Aguilera singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

 I grinned while I admired Alex’s thick, dark hair and the broad shoulders beneath his black sweater. The white lights framing the rink sparkled in his blue eyes.

 He flashed me a smile and turned his attention to a waitress who’d just arrived at our table. He gave his order while I glanced around the casual but upscale restaurant that had chairs covered in beige leather and walls decorated with Andy Warhol’s art. I was studying one of the paintings when the waitress asked if Alex wanted an appetizer before his entrée.

 “No, thanks,” he said, handing her his menu.

 I frowned. He’d gotten better at accepting gifts from me, but he still tried to be a cheap date whenever I insisted that dinner was my treat.

 “A big boy like you,” I said, “needs a healthy meal. Get an appetizer.”

 It took a moment for him to let out a chagrined laugh. “Yes, ma’am,” he said finally. Then we put in our orders, the waitress left, and Alex reached across the table to pinch my cheek. “You’re trying to fatten me up, Savannah.”

 I shook my head, thinking of all the times he’d walked into my bedroom after a shower, wearing nothing but a towel and glittering beads of water on his skin. “I wouldn’t do that. I’m much too fond of the way you look right now.”

 He smiled shyly. “So your mother and Tina are flying in soon?”

I nodded and took the lemon wedge off my glass. “In ten days … they’ll be here Christmas morning. My office is closing early the night before and won’t reopen until January second, so I’ll have plenty of time to spend with them. And Mom can’t wait to meet you.”

 Alex’s smile widened as the waitress returned with a shrimp cocktail for him and a crab cake for me. I started eating, but he didn’t.

 “What’s wrong?” I asked.

 “Nothing, actually,” he said. “Ever since we got back together, I’ve felt happier than I have in years.”

 I reached out to squeeze his arm. “That’s so sweet.”

 He put his hand over mine. “Like I’ve said before … if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be a published author.”

 I smiled, thinking about his short story inside the pages of a literary journal. The story had come out earlier this month, and I’d had it framed for him. I’d done the same for my first story in Femme. “You give too much credit to me and not enough to yourself,” I said, sitting back in my chair. “It’s great work, and it deserved to be published. Was your dad impressed?”

 Alex shrugged. “I couldn’t tell. He seemed more interested in my brother’s new stockbroker job on Wall Street. I don’t know … I just wish my mother was alive to see me finally doing something with my writing.”

 “She still sees,” I said.

 He gave me a faint smile. “Of course my father had to remind me that one publication doesn’t make a career.” He glanced out the window at a row of novice skaters limping past. “But maybe his cynicism will crack when I tell him about my new job.”

 I raised an eyebrow, surprised. “What new job?”

 He looked at me. “I didn’t want to say anything until it was definite … and it’s really no big deal … but I got hired at an advertising agency. I’ll just be a proofreader, and I only landed the position because I know a senior copyeditor there … I met him at the gym. But he saw my story in the journal and knew I wanted a better job than bartending, so he used the publication and my degree to get me in. I’ll be proofing TV copy … and I start right after New Year’s.”

 I clasped my hands together. “That’s fantastic, Alex. I don’t know much about advertising agencies, but which one is it?”

 “Fletcher, Cole, Goddard and Bristol,” he said so quickly that the names ran together. “Fletcher Cole for short. It’s on Madison Avenue … and it’s a prestigious agency. I’ll have a more stable schedule and I might make some acting contacts … who knows.”

 “Fletcher Cole,” I repeated, imagining how delectable he’d look heading off to work in a suit each morning and sipping a Gibson Martini at his desk every afternoon—even though workplace drinking had been outlawed decades ago and the agency’s dress code was probably business casual. Still, my Mad Men fantasy was so sexy, I just had to indulge it.

 I slipped my cell out of the Gucci purse I’d bought last July. “I’m so happy for you … and Mom will be, too. I have to call and tell her.”

 He reached across the table and gingerly extracted the phone from my fingers. “I don’t want to brag. Your mother will think I’m an arrogant jerk before we’ve even met.”

 I smiled and dropped the phone back into my purse. “You’re not even close to being a jerk. But I understand … so I’ll tell just her when she’s here. And I’m very proud of you.” I stood up, walked toward him, and leaned down to plant a kiss on his mouth while Mariah Carey sang “All I Want for Christmas Is You.

 The song was stuck in my head when we walked into my darkened apartment later that night. I’d finally given in and hired a cleaning lady—but only because I’d been working so much that I didn’t have time to vacuum and dust—and she’d banished the stench of Tina’s Marlboros. Now the place smelled fresh and clean like the Norway spruce in a corner of the living room, beside my windows that overlooked Central Park.

 I flipped a switch. The tree brightened with blinking white lights that made the silver tinsel on the branches shimmer. There were lots of boxes underneath—presents for Mom and Tina and Alex—wrapped in dark-blue foil and tied with silver bows.

 “Oh,” I said with a gasp as I stood there in my coat. “Isn’t it pretty?”

 Alex nodded and pulled me toward him. “Just like you.”

 The cold leather on his jacket rubbed against me when he pressed his lips to mine. We stayed there for a while, just kissing in the middle of the room as the Christmas lights twinkled. His mouth was so warm and he kissed so well, but I remembered something that made me take a step back.

Copyright © 2014 by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Giveaway Details:

One copy available for a US entrant only
Leave a comment to enter
Only one comment per entrant
Giveaway open until 12/15/14
Winner will be emailed
Do not leave your address in the comments; I will request that in the email

Blog Tour Stops:

12/1       JENNIFER VIDO                                                 ‘TOP PICKS’ + GIVEAWAY

12/1       CHICK LIT CENTRAL                                          ‘BOOKSHELF’

12/1       THE BEVY BIBLIOTHEQUE                              REVIEW + GIVEAWAY

12/2       BOOK MAMA                                                         REVIEW + GIVEAWAY

12/2       THE READING DATE                                         EXCERPT + REVIEW

12/2       JENNIFER VIDO                                                 EXCERPT

12/3       A SOUTHERN GIRLS BOOKSHELF                EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY

12/3       DEW ON THE KUDZU                                      ‘SPOTLIGHT’

12/4       RATHER BE READING                                      REVIEW + GIVEAWAY

12/5       LUXURY READING                                            GIVEAWAY

12/6       HARLEQUIN JUNKIE                                        ‘SPOTLIGHT’

12/8       BOOKS IN THE BURBS                                     INTERVIEW + GIVEAWAY

12/9       YA LOVE                                                                  EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY

12/10     CHAPTER CHICKS                                              EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY

12/11     THE HIDING SPOT                                            REVIEW + INTERVIEW

12/12     DREAM WITHIN A DREAM                            EXCERPT + INTERVIEW + GIVEAWAY

12/15     JUMP INTO BOOKS                                         EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY

12/16     INKBITTEN                                                          REVIEW

12/17     WILLA’S RAMBLINGS                                      REVIEW + INTERVIEW

12/18     WINDOW SEAT ON A RAINY DAY               ‘SPOTLIGHT’ + GIVEAWAY

12/18     WRITE MEG!                                                      REVIEW

12/19     KAYLA’S READS AND REVIEWS                   EXCERPT

12/22     THE READING FRENZY                                    ‘SHOWCASE’ + INTERVIEW

If you have any additional questions for Lorraine, head over to her Goodreads profile here: http://bit.ly/1B70IzC!

Waiting on Wednesday–Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

You know a book is going to be good when the summary makes you say “Ooooo…” That was exactly my response when I read the synopsis for Things We Know By Heart. But honestly, why *wouldn’t* I have that reaction to a Jessi Kirby book?! Now to wait until April…

Things We Know By HeartTitle & Author: Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary (From Goodreads):

Quinn Sullivan lost the love of her life when her boyfriend, Trent, died in an accident their junior year. In an attempt to get closure, she reached out to the recipients of his donated organs. Though some answered her letters, the one Quinn feels matters most–the person who received Trent’s heart–has been silent.

Nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas has spent the last several years in and out of hospitals waiting for a heart transplant. Now that he’s finally received a new heart, Colton is regaining strength, and he’s walking away from his bedridden past with no intention of looking back. He doesn’t want to know about the person who had to die so that he could live. He only wants to move forward.

But Quinn can’t let it go. Venturing outside the system to find Colton, Quinn takes a risk in hopes of finally laying her memories to rest. But what begins as an innocent conversation quickly becomes an attraction–and to make matters worse, Colton has no idea how they’re connected. His zest for life pulls Quinn from her months of sorrow but leaves her torn between honesty and utter betrayal. Because no matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost.

Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Open Road SummerTitle: Open Road Summer

Author: Emery Lord

Publisher: Walker Childrens

Release Date: April 15th, 2014

Interest: Contemporary / Debut Author

Source: Finished copy received from the author

Summary (From Goodreads):

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

I originally received a copy of Open Road Summer when I was at NCTE in Boston. I added it to my classroom library before I read it because I knew my girls in class would probably love it, so I figured I’d read it over the summer. Sadly my ARC went missing during the school year and I never found it. After tweeting about this, Emery Lord saw my tweet and offered to be a “book fairy” and replace my missing copy. I’m thankful she did for multiple reasons, one of them being because it gave me the opportunity to read a truly enjoyable book!

I have absolutely nothing against reading edgy YA, but sometimes it’s nice to read something light and sweet. Open Road Summer isn’t without its true to life conflicts, but it’s not a book that kept me on edge. Lord has written a book that I’ll feel very comfortable offering to both my incoming freshmen *and* my seniors; it will easily appeal to both grade levels. It’s not uncommon to start a school year with “young” freshmen who may not be ready for a heavy romance filled with conflict. Open Road Summer will work well for those students who want to read about love and summer and friendship. My seniors are a different story. They also like to read about love and summer and friendship, but they generally have more life experience and will appreciate Reagan’s history. (Please keep in mind that these are generalizations and don’t apply to all freshmen or all seniors.)

Speaking of Reagan, I’m glad Emery Lord chose to write this from her point of view. I love how protective and loyal she is to Dee (only people who know Lilah really well call her that) and how much she’s trying to move on from her past. Another thing I enjoyed about her character is that she reminded me of some of my friends, but I could also see myself in her. She’s a well-rounded character. On the outside Reagan is fierce and protective of those she loves, but underneath it all she’s vulnerable and hesitant to let anyone in. She makes mistakes and learns from them. I would, for the record, absolutely love to read stories from Dee’s and Matt’s points of view because they are both genuine and fun characters with interesting lives.

Once I finished reading this and gave it my rating on Goodreads, one of my followers on the site asked me if it’s really worth reading and how the music scene was portrayed. First of all, I absolutely think it’s worth reading. Emery Lord is an author that I’ll be keeping an eye on so I can read more of her books. I thought the question about the music scene was an interesting one because I honestly hadn’t considered it. Dee works hard to maintain a wholesome image because that’s who she really is and she wants to be a positive role model. She faces unfortunate drama and rumors because of the paparazzi, but other than that the drama she deals with mostly has to do with her personal relationships. It’s another reason why I think my more innocent readers will appreciate Emery Lord’s debut.

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever AfterTitle: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Author: Stephanie Perkins

Publisher: Dutton

Release Date: August 14th, 2014

Interest: Series / Author

Source: ARC received from a friend (Thank you, Lea!)

Summary (From Goodreads):

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins is going to receive a ton of well-deserved hype, so I’m going to try and keep this review simple. Basically, I LOVED it. I felt like I was waiting forever to finally read it and it was worth the wait.

I adore Stephanie Perkins’s writing and how she crafts stories that combine romance and self-discovery. Isla and the Happily Ever After balanced this perfectly. I really liked reading about Isla and Josh’s budding relationship and about Isla trying to learn what she wants to do with her life after high school. Like so many high school students, Isla doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do with her life. Trying to decide which college to attend and what to do after high school are major conflicts for plenty of high school students whether they’re in a relationship or not. Stephanie Perkins wrote a real love story with real conflicts.

In high school I felt pretty confident about what I wanted to do as a career and where I wanted to attend college, but I really connected with Isla in other ways. As I was reading I could identify with how she felt about relationships and the ways she reacted to things. Her character really came alive on the page for me. I let one of my former students borrow my ARC before she leaves for college for the school year and she told me she felt really similar to Isla as well. I have a feeling I’ll have quite a few “Islas” in my classroom this year and beyond.

If you haven’t read any of Stephanie Perkins’s books, I highly recommend that you do. You don’t necessarily have to read them in order, but it helps if you do simply because you’ll avoid tiny spoilers. Or in Isla and the Happily Ever After’s case, kind of a big and ohsocool spoiler. And that’s all I’ll say about that :)

Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved BeforeTitle: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: April 15th, 2014

Interest: Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

I love it when I find the right book for the right moment. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han was that book. I’m not sure what it is right now, but lately I’ve only been interested in reading contemps that are on the lighter side. Lara Jean’s story couldn’t have fit any better.

I’ve never read any of Jenny Han’s books, but after reading this I’ll be sure to get my hands on the rest of her books. I really enjoyed Lara Jean’s story because her voice is very much that of a junior in high school. She’s a little on the innocent side of the spectrum, which I found to be a breath of a fresh air. That innocence fits her character perfectly because she’s basically been raised by her older sister since her mother died. Lara Jean is very much a middle child who works hard to be responsible like her father and older sister want her to be and her younger sister needs her to be. She also spends a great deal of time thinking about Margot (her older sister), focusing on two of the guys in her life Josh and Peter, and taking care of her little sister Kitty and her dad.

Lara Jean’s focus on everyone else added well to the conflicts of the story, but it also drew away from her character. By the end of the story I knew I really liked the book and want to read the second one, but I don’t feel like I know Lara Jean as well as I think I should. I know that she is devoted to her family. I know that she’s a romantic at heart. I also know that she wants to take risks. But I don’t know as much about her personal interests and passions besides her family and close friends. I really hope to learn more about her in the second book which is currently titled P.S. I Still Love You.

While I wanted to know Lara Jean a little better, I did love the cast of characters in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Kitty is absolutely adorable and a great addition to the story. She’s one of the reasons why Lara Jean’s family works so hard to keep their Korean traditions alive despite the fact that their father isn’t Korean and that their mother has passed away. I liked both Peter and Josh, but I think I enjoyed Peter’s character just a little bit more. He along with Kitty added a nice amount of humor to the story.

I do have to admit that I’m not wholly satisfied with the ending, and I know I’m supposed to feel that way. Sure, it fits with the story, but it left so much unanswered! Some pieces of the conflict are resolved at least. I’m really happy there’s a sequel, but I really wish I didn’t have to wait until 2015 for it!

I’m not sure how many of my students will be able to read my copy of Jenny Han’s latest before the school year ends, but I know it will be a big hit next school year.

Student Book Reviews: The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

Since bringing my ARC of The Summer of Letting Go into my classroom, my senior girls have been passing it around quite a bit. It’s been such a favorite this year that three of my students wrote mini book reviews for Gae Polisner’s sophomore release.

Title: The Summer of Letting Go

Author: Gae Polisner

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

The Summer of Letting GoSummary (From Goodreads):

Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope and love can appear in the most unexpected places.

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca’s little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca is the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can’t have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it’s possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she’d never dare to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky.

Student Reviewer: Alyssa

Student Review:

This book may turn some people away by the love story and what not, but what makes this story so interesting is the aspect nobody tends to think or talk about. The idea of reincarnation.

Francesca Schnell’s story of her brothers passing is absolutely heart breaking. Definitely not something you’d ever wish upon someone, especially a child. Her struggle through getting over it is never ending. Once Frankie Sky, a boy she babysits, comes into her life, everything changes. The fact that her brother could have reincarnated into Frankie Sky is something so unbelievable and makes you wish it could happen in your life. This books pursues a different way of making people knowledgable on the topic of reincarnation. The ups and downs and the adventure of finding this all out is a journey worth reading about. The love aspect of this book is just the cherry on top of it all for me. I give this five stars!

Student Reviewer: Morgan

Student Review:

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner ws not only a story of moving forward from the past, but also a story of love and friendship. I loved every part of this book, from the cute and daring personality of Frankie Sky, to the conflict Francesca faces in leaving behind the guilt of her brother’s death. I enjoyed the way the story would tie into other parts of the book with Francesca’s past and her younger brother Simon. Every page was entertaining and kept me hoping for more. When it came to tense parts, my heart would start racing as if the story were my own life. I consider this book the best that I have read so far and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in stories of friendship or stories about moving on from the past.

Student Reviewer: Kayla

Student Review:

I absolutely loved this book. It’s 316 pages long and I read it in two days, which never happens. The book takes you to multiple places, from a love story to a story about religion and different beliefs. As cliche as it sounds, I honestly believe this book changed the way I think. I grew up believing that heaven was the only way after death. This book opened my eyes to a whole new world. While I know The Summer of Letting Go is fiction, I connected with it it because I’ve been questioning things. It is a very insightful book that I would recommend to those who enjoy impossible love stories.

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