Falling by Design
Publisher: self published
Date Published: March 12, 2014
Brooklynn Summers has a plan for her life: graduate from high school, get into a top fashion school, prove to her family that she’s not a failure. She wishes someone in her life understood her need to create because her parents sure don’t support her dreams, her sister hates her, and the deadlines are soon approaching.
Enter Grayson Banks.
There are a few things in life Brooklynn can’t stand: mismatched patterns, cheap polyester, and Grayson. No boy has ever publicly humiliated Brooklynn like Grayson has. When he suddenly moved away in eighth grade, Brooklynn happily wished him good riddance. But on the first day of senior year, Grayson comes back, with his piercing blue eyes and a smile that melts icebergs, he is not exactly the boy Brooklynn remembers. She quickly realizes that Grayson’s intentions have completely shifted, but she’s not sure if she can put their past behind her.
Grayson understands Brooklynn’s creative ambitions and he devises a plan to showcase her work to the world. When the two agree to work together, suddenly, there is more than just fabric paint that’s having a chemical reaction to its environment. Brooklynn cannot help but feel pulled into Grayson’s arms, but memories and misunderstandings surface, putting in danger whatever small comradeship these two childhood enemies have constructed.
Can Brooklynn overcome her own insecurities, finally making her dreams come true? Even a dream she didn’t know she had.
This is a story about a girl with big dreams and a boy who helps her achieve them.
So after saying that I don’t read that many self published books, I seem to have read two in a pretty short period of time. Oops. Anyway, picked this up after seeing a few recommendations about it but just couldn’t get past some of the issues I had with it.
What I Loved
1. Brooklyn, our main character, is an aspiring fashion designer. She’s dedicated, smart and determined to make it into a good fashion school to follow her dreams.
2. The love interest, Grayson, is actually a great guy. He takes care of his baby brother, volunteers and sticks around for all of Brooklyn’s indecisiveness.
3. I thought this was going to be a case of insta-love, and while there was some pretty unrealistic attraction in the beginning, the romance actually played out pretty slowly.
What Bugged Me
1. There’s nothing about this book that stands out. It’s a pretty straightforward girl sees boy again after a long period of time apart, boy used to be a giant jerk to her but now he loves her. Wow, talk about a run-on sentence. I kept reading it expecting something to happen, but at 90% in I realized, this was it. There’s not really any big conflict that drives the book forward. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of smaller things, but nothing that kept me hanging to see what happened. I pretty much already knew the ending before it happened.
2. The writing style. It’s not bad, but the writing is kind of stilted. Conversations don’t flow naturally, and there are some spelling/editing errors. A lot of what bugged me is the “show vs. tell” problem. A lot of the issues in the book that could have been demonstrated through the actions of the characters were just told to you. And that makes for a pretty dry book to read.
3. The conflicts in the story that Brooklyn addresses are repeated almost word for word throughout the story. Family drama makes up most of it, and you can predict the conversation before it happens. Also, a bigger opportunity for some action later in the book is kind of dropped in with no follow up.
4. Brooklyn is the most indecisive, wishy washy character ever. Grayson goes out of his way to do everything he possibly can to help her, make her trust him, etc. and she just continually pushes him away beyond all logical reasons. It drove me insane!
5. The story ties up neatly with a bow at the end. Conflicts magically resolved, no loose ends! It’s like a fairy tale. Except well, it’s not supposed to be.
6. Minor spoiler ahead —-> At the very end of the book, after pushing Grayson away forever, they kiss once and both immediately start exchanging “I love you’s.” Ugh. Could not have helped ruin the ending for me anymore.
So after writing all that, I realized I should downgrade my rating. I started writing this at a 3 but I’ve moved it to a 2.5. There were just too many things wrong that bugged me to no end.
The 5th Wave
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Date Published: May 27th, 2013
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.
DNF at 25%
So. I went into this book knowing it’s not my favorite type of read. I’m generally not a fan of aliens (Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series being an exception) and I’m not a huge fan of science fiction either. But this one was recommended to me so many times over the last year that I’ve had it on my TBR pile for a while, and I honestly tried to go into it with an open mind.
Cassie is a 16 year old girl who’s survived the first four waves of the alien takeover of Earth. She had been with her family until a few weeks before, and now she’s on the run by herself, trying to stay hidden and alive. I thought I could get into this, I mean the premise is pretty cool, even if it’s been done in various forms plenty of times before. I think I could have gotten more into it if more focus had been on the aliens. In the first quarter of the book though, we just get some pretty bare bones descriptions of what’s been going on.
Cassie’s voice was also hard for to to get into. I don’t like to gender the way a character acts or talks as too feminine or masculine, but I couldn’t identify with her voice as a 16 year old girl. The things she said and the way she spoke were just really distracting. Ex. “I was like, Damn it old man, if you give me that g.d. condescending little pat one more time. . .“. I mean, I just never met anyone who talks or thinks that way, especially in the age range Cassie was supposed to be. The sentence structure was also pretty simplistic and it was a struggle to get through.
At a quarter of the way through the book, I was just bored. I wasn’t really interested in picking it back up, and I’ve decided that if I’m really not that into a book, I’m not going to waste time continuing it. I think this book could appeal to some people, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
About the Author
Since then he has launched two critically acclaimed series: The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, for young readers, and The Highly Effective Detective, for adults. Both books are set in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Rick lived for ten years before returning to Florida.
Date Published: June 4th, 2013
*Both of these books are romance novels and contain adult situations. Please note that these are not YA books. Thanks!*
An orphaned, small-town, southern girl, held hostage by responsibility and self-doubt.
A Hollywood A-list mega-star, on the run from his latest scandal and with everything to lose.
A chance encounter that leads to an unlikely arrangement and epic love affair that will change them both forever.
When his co-star and real-life girlfriend is caught cheating on him with her new director, A-list hottie, Jack Eversea, finds himself in sleepy Butler Cove, South Carolina. Jack hopes the sultry southern heat in this tiny coastal Lowcountry town will hide him not only from the tabloids and his cheating girlfriend, but his increasingly vapid life and the people who run it. He doesn’t count on meeting Keri Ann Butler.
Keri Ann has relied on herself so long, dealing with her family’s death and the responsibilities of keeping up her family’s historic mansion, that boys and certainly the meager offering of eligible boys in Butler Cove, have never figured into her equation. But fate has other plans. Suddenly face to face with the man who played the movie role of her favorite fictional character, Jack has Keri Ann yearning for everything she has previously avoided … and Jack must decide whether this funny, sassy girl is worth changing his life for, before his mistakes catch up to him.
Date Published: November 25th, 2013
Keri Ann Butler’s life changed on the night she met movie star, Jack Eversea. She thought she knew a Jack that was very different to the man adored by fans the world over. In the wake of his betrayal and abandonment, Keri Ann has had to pick up and move forward with the life she was supposed to live and has put off far too long.
Suddenly Jack is back, and his explanations for why he left seem more and more plausible, and his declarations more seductive. But being Jack’s latest tabloid accessory isn’t on Keri Ann’s career agenda, no matter how much she is attracted to him. And how can she can ever trust him again?
Jack knows he let the only ‘real’ thing that ever happened to him slip through his fingers. And his hands have been tied to try and stop it. Until now.
Jack is now fighting to save his relationship with Keri Ann, even as his crazy life threatens to tear them apart. Again. The question is, can he convince her she can have it all? And have him? Forever?
Normally, I try and steer away from most self-published books. It’s not that I don’t think there are some great authors out there going a non-traditional route, it’s just that I’ve been burned one too many times by really bad writing/editing. And I don’t have that much time to read anyway, so I just started staying away from books that were self-published. I started hearing a lot of buzz about this last year though and I was in the mood for a summer-time romance, just a light read that I could breeze through. So I grabbed Eversea for my kindle and I was pleasantly surprised by it.
Keri Ann (ugh the name – not one of my favorites) lives in a small town on the coast in South Carolina. She’s been working hard to keep their house, waiting tables at a diner down the street while her brother is in school to be a doctor. Since their parents died, it’s just been the two of them trying to make it work. You can tell the author knows this area of the country really well. There’s a lot of good imagery and I felt this was one of the strong points of these books.
The author immediately introduces us to Jack, a movie star who’s trying to escape his fame and his ex-girlfriend by hiding out in the little sea-side town. Now i’ll be honest. I’m a sucker for movie star books. Or books that deal with the side-effects of fame or fortune. So part of that was definitely an appeal for me for this book. Part of what was so intriguing about the characters was that Keri Ann knew Jack as a movie star, and has a pre-determined idea of what he’s like based on what the media has been saying about him for years. She also loved the movies that he was in, had read the books, etc. that they were based on (you get a strong Twilight implied reference from this). It was interesting to see them try to have a relationship, when Keri Ann feels so out of her league because she thinks Jack is a player who’s going to love and leave her.
The romance in this book is definitely hot. It builds up fairly quickly, and the books center around the relationship between Jack and Keri Ann. Jack is very much a swoon-worthy leading man. He’s gorgeous, thoughtful, and knows how to work with his hands, fixing up Keri Ann’s house to stay out of the public’s eye and spend time with her. Keri Ann becomes his unofficial assistant, running errands so that he can stay hidden.
Jack has a pretty horrible past, and the two of them make a lot of mistakes when it comes to communicating and trusting one another. The first book ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger, which I normally hate, but in this case it didn’t bother me since the next book was already out and I just read them back to back. If that’s a deal breaker for you though, be warned the first book will leave you hanging.
These books have some really good secondary characters, including Keri Ann’s best friend Jazz and her brother. They’re well-developed and do help the story out a lot. Part of what I really liked about the books was that Keri Ann saw the importance of being her own person. Faced with dating a really famous movie star, she was concerned about her wants and needs not being overshadowed by him. I thought that was refreshing, since I feel like a lot of the times, the girl in these kind of books gets swept away to be coddled and provided for without batting an eyelash.
The books weren’t perfect. Sometimes the writing came across as a little stilted, and I felt like some of the plot in the second book dragged along a little bit, but the characters really shone through and I didn’t want to put them down. Definitely pick them up if you’re looking for some hot romance and a fun, summer time read!
About the Author
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Date Published: March 12, 2013
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
I loved this book! A lot of my favorite books have really strong female characters, and Kyra fits the bill. She’s only sixteen, but she’s a Master of Potions, and knows how to fight better than most men. After an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the princess, she’s been on the run until she can find the princess again for a second try. Along the way, she manages to acquire a piglet named Rosie who’s supposed to help track the princess, and a companion named Fred who, along with being very handsome, also knows how to cook and make Kyra laugh. It’s tough to review this one without spoilers so I’ll give you a list of what I loved below.
What I Loved
1. Kyra: She’s a badass. She’s only sixteen, but knows hand to hand combat, how to precisely measure potions to make someone tell the truth without killing them, and has utter loyalty to her kingdom and her friends.
2. Rosie: Rosie is a tiny piglet that helps Kyra track the princess. She’s adorable, carries a little basket around her neck and is best friends with a giant dog. What’s not to love?
3. The world: Potions in the kingdom of Mohr can heal, change your appearance, put someone to sleep, turn them into wood or kill someone. There are witches and magical creatures, gypsies and magical jewelery. It all felt really effortless and I never questioned why something worked or the rules because I was completely immersed in it.
4. The plot: I had to give a somewhat abbreviated review because I wanted to avoid spoilers. The plot keeps you guessing till the end and there are little twists and turns throughout. I loved not know what the full story was until the end.
5. The humor: The characters are like reading about a good friend. They joke around, have witty comebacks and you generally enjoy getting to know them. The light-hearted dialogue is central to the book.
If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted fantasy read, I can’t recommend this enough. It’s entertaining and will keep you guessing until the end.
About the Author
Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers’ copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads.
Date Published: April 1st, 2012
An intense look at the rules of high school attraction — and the price that’s paid for them.
It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.
This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two
I really wanted to love this book. When I started reading it, I had really high hopes that it would put an interesting take on high school, and how the labels that kids give themselves and each other affect their lives. And while it did do that, it fell flat in its delivery for me.
The book follows the points of view of eight different girls at their high school, Mount Washington High, after the posting of the annual tradition: a list that names the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade. It’s always embossed with an official seal, and no one knows who makes it or who passes on the responsibility of making it every year. We follow each girl from their discovery of their name on the list, and to how that changes their lives. Part of the issue I had with the book was the multiple story lines. I don’t mind alternating chapters with different points of view, most of the time, but this isn’t a very long book and the chapters aren’t super long either. So it was a little confusing switching from character to character and trying to remember who was who, and what grade they were in, and why did they not like that person again? Then by the time I got into the groove of that character again, we’d be switching to a new one.
The book delves into some pretty serious topics, and I was actually really glad to see that. It’s hard to find books that seriously try to address topics that are somewhat difficult to talk about. The main one that stood out for me was Bridget’s eating disorder and how being on the list worsened her problem. It also addressed how that affected her younger sister who always idolized her and I think that’s a really important issue. The problem is, nothing got resolved. We didn’t see any decision on Bridget’s part on what she was going to do. We didn’t see her get help for her problem. And that was kind of upsetting. I felt like it would have been a great place to set an idea of what would be a good path to follow, at least give kids some realistic solutions for someone who was going through these problems. But Bridget is even more messed up at the end of the book than the beginning, and we don’t see much hope for her recovery. And that was disappointing for me.
Some of the characters had really great character growth, and others just.. . .didn’t. And honestly, I wasn’t too attached to any of the characters in particular, just because there were so many points of view. There is a small twist to the story at the end, but it wasn’t particularly surprising for me, and again that doesn’t get resolved either.
I feel like i’m listing a lot of negative things and that’s not what I’m trying to do. I did enjoy reading it. It’s a well-written book and it tries to address some super important topics. And the fact that those are even in here was great to see. I just hoped for more closure at the end of the story. Maybe that’s the way the author meant for it to be. That all of these problems can’t be fixed easily, and that life is complicated and can’t be sewn up neatly. And I understand that goal, but it made a somewhat frustrating ending for me. This book definitely earned 3 solid stars, and I would try some other books by this author.
About the Author
Second Chance Summer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Date Published: May 8th, 2012
Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.
Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.
As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.
I picked this one up by accident at the library last week. I was strolling through the YA section and saw this one out of the corner of my eye. I’m a sucker for pretty covers and so I grabbed it on a whim and I’m so glad I did! I know it’s a couple years old, but I saw that the author has a new book coming out next month and I loved it so much that I just had to review it anyway.
Taylor and her family just got some really bad news. Pretty much the worst kind of news a family can get, and they got it on her birthday. Her father is dying and only has a few months left to live and he wants to spend the time with his family at their lake house that they used to go to every summer. After spending the last few years not spending too much time together, the summer starts out awkwardly and is made worse by the fact that Taylor is confronted with the two people at the lake that she would have rather never seen again. Finding out that her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend are still there after five years is hard for Taylor to deal with, especially since she’s the reason they’re not friends anymore.
Let me start out by saying that I had a totally different impression of what this book was going to be about before I read it. I’m not sure why, but I thought this was going to be more a teen romance novel. And although there is romance in there, it’s definitely not the focus of the book. Much of the book is devoted to the way that a family deals with devastating news, and how they use the limited time they have left. The author does it beautifully. I lost my mother when I was 16 unexpectedly, and I don’t know if that’s part of why I was so invested in this storyline. I don’t think so, although it did make me think about what you would do with extra time with a loved one if you knew it was almost the end. It’s really beautifully written and brought me to tears several times, because you could feel the emotions of the characters. The fruitless anger, frustration and overall sadness as Taylor goes through these last few months with her dad just come out as very real as well as the joy she finds as her family pulls together.
What I Loved
1. The characters: Taylor herself is a very relateable character, you can feel her pain and joys throughout the story and she has incredible growth as a character from beginning to end. Lucy is the greatest friend! She has to work through so much resentment over what happened in the past with Taylor, but she cracked me up too. She’s boy crazy and utterly loyal to her friends. And last but not least, Henry. Sigh. I could have done with a lot more of Henry! He is just the perfect guy for Taylor, and super adorable too.
2. Working through grief: As someone who has experienced a death of a close family member, I really identified with Taylor as she was going through this loss and the time before it. I was brought to tears several times because of how real this felt emotionally.
3. The lake: Loved the setting at the lake house. I’ve been to a beach house several years in a row and I got that same nostalgia that I saw in the book. Where things look exactly the same even as time goes by. And it’s the perfect setting for teenage friendships and romance.
4. The writing: This book is very well-written, one of those books you keep reading until 1 in the morning and then realize you have to get up in 5 hours. (*facepalm*) It’s one of the ways I know I love a book, you get so engrossed you don’t even feel the time passing by.
What Bothered Me
For a longer book, I could have used more romance. There was a lot of build up to it, and I felt like when we finally got to the romantic part of the story, it was cut a little short. And more kissing scenes! You can never go wrong with more kissing scenes.
I am officially a Morgan Matson fan after this. If you want a book about love and loss and family, this is the one for you. And if you’re smart, you’ll have some tissues ready!
About the Author
Morgan Matson grew up in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College in Los Angeles but halfway though a theater degree, she started working in the children’s department of Vroman’s Bookstore and fell in love with YA literature.
Following college graduation (and the proud bearer of an incredibly useful theater/English degree) she moved back East to attend the New School, where she received her M.F.A in Writing for Children.
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, inspired by Morgan’s three cross-country road trips, was published in May 2010. It was named an ALA Top Ten Best Book, a PW “Flying Start” book, and was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Book Prize. It has since been published in five different languages and six different countries.
In the meantime, Morgan moved back to California, went back to school again and in 2011 received an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California.
Her second book, Second Chance Summer, was published in May 2012 and draws largely on her experiences spending summers growing up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Morgan currently lives in Los Angeles, though she loves to travel and does it whenever she can. She is currently writing another book, to be published in 2014.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date Published: March 25, 2014
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.
First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.
I don’t know about most of you, but I don’t get a lot of longer stretches of time to read. I have three little kids and so any reading time is come by in short bursts. Fifteen minutes while I’m waiting for the bus, after I get them down for bed at night, things like that. And for most books, that’s fine. I can hop in and out of them without any trouble. When I tried to do that with this book though, I was struggling. That’s because it’s not an easy book. It’s a great book, and so very well written but the writing style doesn’t lend itself to a casual read. You have to concentrate. Every sentence means something, words are chosen so carefully for the images they convey. So it took me a little longer to get through this because I had to wait for times when I could concentrate.
I don’t want to give away the plot too much, so I’m not going to go over too much of it. This book was written as the story of Ava Lavender, but much of the beginning of it was dedicated to her family’s history. Even though this part of the book was important for the story, it was hard for me to connect with. It covers the family’s move from Europe to America and their life there. The book was much more interesting for me once it got to Ava’s birth and life. Ava is born with wings. There was nothing to indicate that she wouldn’t be a normal baby, and when she was born the doctors were unsure of what to do with her. Her mother also didn’t know that she was going to have twins and was very surprised when Ava’s brother, Henry, was born as well. The book after their birth is centered around the little town where they live and their lives confined to their house on the hill. Much of the action of the story occurs once Ava decides to start leaving the house to see more of the world and what being a normal girl is all about.
What I Loved
1. The imagery: This book is filled with beautiful, lyrical writing. You can see the town where they live, the house on top of the hill they live in. You can picture Ava’s wings so perfectly because the writing leads you to see it. The author has a wonderful writing style that is almost like reading poetry.
2. The bakery: Much of the book is tied together through the food of the bakery. There are strong French influences throughout, but you can see it most in the knowledge of the pastries, the breads, and all of the different food that Emmiliene cooks in her bakery. Different things are cooked for different reasons, and you can almost taste all the magical things she bakes as you read it.
3. Love: This is a book about love in all its forms. Romantic love, love between friends, between siblings and between parents and children. It’s about the love a boy has for a pet, and the love that a parent has for a child, even when the child is grown. It’s about the fear of falling in love after pain and loss, and how your life is worse because of that fear. It’s wonderful, and even if you’ve never been in love, there is a lot for everyone to identify with.
4. The magical realism: Leslye Walton writes so well that you don’t even question how the magic fits into and is weaved into the regular world around them.
What Bothered Me
Not a whole lot! The beginning of the book was hard for me to connect with. It was a little drier, a little harder for me to lose myself in. Once Ava’s story started, I was immediately drawn in. And the beginning of the book is very necessary for the story, it just wasn’t as interesting for me personally.
If you love beautiful writing and an engrossing story, you should check it out! You won’t regret it.