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Kiss of Broken Glass – Madeleine Kuderick

Kiss of Broken Glass – Madeleine KuderickTitle: Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick
Publishing Info: September 9, 2014 by HarperCollins
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: June 18, 2014

    Madeleine Kuderick’s gripping debut is a darkly beautiful and lyrical novel in verse, perfect for fans of Sonya Sones and Laurie Halse Anderson. Kiss of Broken Glass pulses with emotion and lingers long after the last page.
    In the next seventy-two hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for seventy-two hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.   
    When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for mandatory psychiatric watch. There, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems... for a moment.

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When I first started KISS OF BROKEN GLASS, I actually had no idea it was in verse. Verse is not usually my thing, but I decided to roll with it and I was glad I did! It was a very interesting story and definitely one with a powerful message.

The story starts with fifteen-year-old Kenna being brought to a facility for psych evaluation after being caught cutting herself in the girls bathroom at school. What really intrigued me about the story as I was reading was Kenna’s reason as to why she was cutting. See, it’s become sort of a fad at her school. Girls do it for a thrill, for bragging rights, for proof that they’re daring. Some of them really are hurting inside and we find out throughout the story that Kenna is a little bit of both.

For some, the fad of cutting may seem like a really unrealistic concept but I actually read the afterword when I completed the book and it broke my heart to read that Madeleine Kuderick’s daughter actually went through a very similar situation that Kenna did and that’s how she came up with concept for the story. I’ll also tell you that I’ve witnessed this fad first hand at my own high school – not as quite as portrayed in the book but I’ve had friends who used to cut and I’ve seen how that idea can take off as something appealing as a physical release of an emotional struggle and catch on with others.

The book sort of reminded me of something like a YA Girl, Interrupted. It definitely had the same kind of feel and it was shocking and intriguing all at the same time. I really appreciated the message and how the story evolved too. Even though it was verse which is something I’m not really as into, the book really moved quickly and it was a very easy read.

The only lack of connection I had was actually because of the verse. There were small rhyming poems strewn throughout the book which were actually composed by one of the characters that I seemed to connect with more than the overall composition. I used to write some really bad high school poetry, but it worked really well for dumping all of my feelings into a creative outlet like that so I had hoped the verse would make me feel the same way writing my own poetry had, but I think it actually had the adverse effect on me. KISS OF BROKEN GLASS didn’t at all feel like bad high school poetry, but I felt like I would have personally connected with Kenna better if I had been able to really dig deep into her feeling through more conventional prose. I really wanted to read through long paragraphs, climb into her mind, and sort of let all of those feelings wash over me. I feel like the verse really put up a small wall that I couldn’t break past in order to really connect with the characters.

KISS OF BROKEN GLASS didn’t bowl me over but it was still a powerful story nonetheless. I think it’s a great read and a really great selection for those who don’t normally read verse. It was actually really quick and easy, but also enjoyable and carries a really powerful message.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a new featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Kenna // Character Obsessions: Friends, popularity, family, control, cutting. 
I really felt for Kenna as I was reading. It’s quite complicated when you want to fit in with your friends, when what your friends are doing becomes appealing to you even when it initially isn’t, and even when you know it’s a bad idea. I feel like a lot of people who read this book won’t believe that something like cutting can become a fad or something that girls would do to impress one another but I’ve actually seen it at my old school and I can tell you that it is a real thing. I understand how fitting in with your friends and wanting to be important in the group, not wanting to be that goody-two-shoes feels. Not to mention that I felt like expressing myself through poetry in high school was the way to get my feelings out too haha!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Serious issues. I don’t read a lot of “issue” books, for lack of a better term, but when I do, I try to choose them carefully. I think there are a lot of different stories to be told about people who suffer from self-harm and I think they’re important stories to read. I think if you’re not someone who has suffered from it or knows someone who has, it may be difficult to understand why it happens so I really appreciate the authors who write the genuinely realistic stories for others to read and experience and understand.
Left Me Wanting More: Connection. As much as I wanted to connect to the book and initially didn’t expect the verse to hold me back, it actually did a little bit. I was hoping it would help the story flow and infuse more emotion but I actually felt like it took away from the emotional side for me. I didn’t have time for those long, emotional paragraphs to really take me over.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I think this book is definitely an important read, even if I hadn’t connected with it as much as I had hoped. It’s a important topic to read about and inspire conversation and awareness and also a really good book for those who are starters in verse.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE KISS OF BROKEN GLASS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

       Fault Line Christa Desir   The Stone Girl Alyssa Sheinmel

Something Like Normal – Trish Doller

Something Like Normal – Trish DollerTitle: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Publishing Info: June 19, 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary, New Adult, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: March 28, 2014
Related Posts: The Devil You Know

When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

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The very first thing I’ll say about SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL is that I had NO idea it was from Travis’s point of view when I first started it. I’m actually mildly upset that the cover (which I really like) focuses on a girl because that automatically leads you to believe it’s from a female’s point of view. Obviously how I feel about the cover has no impact about how I felt about the book, but something that irritated me a little nonetheless.

Okay! So onto the actual review — I really enjoyed SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL more than I thought I would. I usually don’t pick up books with military themes simply because it’s not something I often relate to, not really personally knowing anyone in the military and let’s be honest — it’s not like the military is a bed of roses. When I’m in the mood for a contemporary novel, I’m usually swinging towards light and fluffy so those just tend to be the books I pick up first. I was in need of a new audiobook so I purchased the Whispersync companion for the ebook I had purchased last year and this one instantly drew me in and I’m so glad I chose it!

SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL was not what I was expecting. In a good way. You know I’m totally loving male POVs in YA right now (although, this would be considered more New Adult, I think?) and so I really loved being able to feel those emotions as Travis was feeling them and his perspective was just so powerful. It was so interesting to be in his shoes and see how much different his life has been since he’s been in the military and the decisions that had brought him there in the first place.

This is definitely a book that was heavy on the emotions and I really appreciated that. I love when I’m able to really be in a character’s head (which I very much was with Travis) and that allows me to really feel everything as I’m reading. There were times I wanted to throttle him, times I wanted to hug him, and times where I wanted to both laugh and cry. I really connected with him and just felt so conflicted about everything that was going on in his life — he doesn’t have it easy with his family and being away, while that meant temporary escape, didn’t solve all of his problems. He isn’t sure what to do about his romantic life, especially when he’s leaving again in such a short time span. And he’s also mourning the loss of one of his best friends Charlie, who he lost in Afghanistan and was more like a brother to him than his own brother was.

I think what I liked the most about the book was that it just felt so realistic. Even when Travis came home, his family issues were still right where he left them except things had actually compounded and even gotten worse in his absence because he wasn’t there to address them. His past comes back to haunt him, just like anyone else, and that affects both his family life as well as his romantic life between his ex-girlfriend who still hangs around (and is actually dating his brother) and new romantic interest Harper.

The romantic aspect of this book was fantastic. I loved how cautious the relationship was between Harper and Travis and yet how easily everything seemed to fit and how casual it became. I loved that nothing was rushed, as it shouldn’t have been, even though Travis was only back home for a short period of time. They really just felt like they fit and even though they had their own personal demons to overcome to make it work as well as one big demon that was actually a major conflict between the two of them from their pasts, it just all felt like it was meant to work out.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would connect with this book but the emotional aspect really brought me into the story and didn’t let go. I was totally hooked and for an audiobook, I finished pretty quickly (granted, it was also a shorted book too). I didn’t like it as much as others loved it but I still had a very solid amount of praise for this book and it definitely opens up that emotion-portal that really allows readers to totally fall in love with the characters!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Travis // Character Obsessions: Charlie, Afghanistan, family issues, Harper.
I’m so glad I got to read this book from Travis’s perspective. I really got to see everything he was seeing and feel everything he was feeling (which is a LOT). I haven’t really read many books that involve military aspects so it was incredibly interesting to hear all of that from Travis and it was just so darn emotional and even hard to read sometimes. (Not in a bad way.) It’s incredible that people have to deal with war and PTSD and such incredible amounts of pain and constant reminders. It really made me appreciate that just a little bit more.
Harper // Character Obsessions: Work, marine biology.
I loved Harper. I’m so glad she was a part of this story and became a part of Travis’s life. She seemed like a real “take charge” kind of girl but also allowed for opportunities to present themselves. I like how she was able to open up to Travis even though they didn’t have the best experiences together in the past. Thank goodness she allowed for second chances!

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Kept Me Hooked On: More serious contemporary. I usually opt for fluffy, light, and more rom-com feel contemporary when I’m in the mood for it so whenever I pick up a more serious contemp book and I have a positive experience with it, it just pushes that door open just a little bit more!
Left Me Wanting More: I really can’t say… You know, I didn’t really feel like anything was missing. I felt like this book was VERY well done and the only reason I wasn’t over the moon for it was really more of a topic-issue, so to speak. It’s not something I usually pick up or usually read but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great! There was a great mix of serious as well as comedy and lighter times mixed in between.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I’m so glad I picked this up because without the glowing praise from other bloggers, I probably wouldn’t have. Not my typical read but it was very emotional and extremely well written!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        Where She Went             Fault Line

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars – E. LockhartTitle: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Publishing Info: May 13, 2014 by Random House Publishing Group
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: February 2, 2013
Related Posts: Genuine Fraud

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

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My review for WE WERE LIARS is a complicated thing to write. Obviously we know from all of the chatter so far that there’s an interesting twist to this book and unfortunately, the chatter somehow spoiled the book for me without even talking about specific spoilers. Before I get into that, let me explain a bit more first.

The narration of WE WERE LIARS is interesting but at times a bit confusing to me. The main character, Cady, suffers from unbearable migraines after an accident she suffered two years ago at her family’s beach house and she can’t remember the details of the accident. To make matters more complicated, no one will tell her what happened either. Cady’s approach to filling the reader in is obviously limited. She has selective amnesia from the accident so the reader is very much attempting to discover what exactly happened with Cady’s accident right along side her. I didn’t find the lack of information confusing but one thing I did wish is that we had just a few more clues earlier on in the story. I didn’t really pick up on anything to sort of help push me along to really wrap me up in the mystery. I understand being in the dark so the reveal to Cady is just as much of a shock to the reader, but with all of the hype around the surprising ending (that’s no spoiler — the buzz around the blogosphere is that the ending is one to die for!), the reveal was a bit TOO much information all at once. I really think the book could have benefitted from just tiny clues here and there because honestly? If I hadn’t already known there was a twist coming, I may not have continued reading or it would have taken me a lot longer to finish.

I’m a sucker for a twist. I absolutely love being surprised and when I heard this book had a killer ending, I was so excited to read it, especially with all of the amazing feedback out there but… the hype monster totally got me on this one. It’s a tricky situation when you hear a book has a fantastic twist. That’s not a spoiler, right? You can’t fault anyone for saying a book has a twist because naturally people are wanting to discuss it and without saying what that twist is, no one is really spoiling the book. For me, hearing that WE WERE LIARS had a twisty ending inadvertently spoiled the book just a little bit for me. I never read any specifics but when I hear a book has a twist, what do I do? I go looking for it and guess what. I found it. About a quarter of the way through. (I actually had a second guess later on the book which was the wrong one but that kept me on my toes trying to guess if it was one of the two possible outcomes I had surmised.) I was actually kind of hoping I was wrong so I would be totally surprised but I did enjoy it… It just didn’t knock me off my feet since I was able to see it coming. As much as I REALLY want to discuss the reasons how I spotted it, obviously I can’t do that so I don’t spoil it for you guys! 🙂

I did enjoy the ending. It didn’t knock my socks off, as previously stated, but it’s a concept I really love and enjoy and totally commend authors for pulling off. That being said, I was also a bit disappointed with it at the same time. Again, for spoiler reasons, I won’t delve into why I was disappointed, but if you’ve already read the book, I’d love to discuss! If you haven’t read, no, I will not tell you how this ends!

The other pro and con of this book for me was the length. I really appreciated being able to be swept away by this book in one sitting on a Sunday morning with the book at just under 250 pages (Goodreads currently locks it in at 240) and with all of the hefty books on my TBR, I always appreciate reading a shorter one! At the same time, I feel like this book could have benefitted a little from a few more pages. I appreciated the characters but felt they could have been a little bit more developed. I don’t think I ever understood exactly how the group of teens had come to be called the “Liars”. I could have used even a few sentences to a paragraph of tiny, tiny clues in the beginning or middle to keep me invested in the story. I would have liked to see the romance between Cady and Gat developed a little bit more. I really liked being able to finish this book so quickly but there were still quite a few things that I felt the book could have benefitted from in those extra pages.

So what can I possibly say for this book at the end of this review? READ IT. I hope you’re one of the people who is truly blown away and just entangled in the mystery of this book. I had a few qualms about it and probably my biggest issues was that I sort of ended up spoiling it for myself, but it really was interesting and jarring.

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a new featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Cadance // Character Obsessions: Filling in the blanks, the Liars.
Cadance was very “meh” for me. I felt like I could have gotten to know her so much better, even without giving away any of the twisty details. I’m still on the fence whether I liked her inner monologue and wild thoughts or if it was just weird to me. I think it was maybe a bit too dramatic/flowery for my tastes.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Twists. I LOVE twists. I really loved how this book played out but it was my own guesses that spoiled it for me! I love that it was something interesting though and it really kept me racing through to see how it would end.
Left Me Wanting More: Development. I felt like the character development came only from what Cadance told us about each person and I didn’t really get to know anyone, including Cadance herself. Everything just felt so distant to me and I couldn’t really get sucked into the book.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This book either seems to be a love it or leave it book. A lot of five star ratings and a lot of two and three. It’s absolutely worth the read because you never know how the book may affect you!

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BOOKS LIKE WE WERE LIARS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          The Beginning of Everything   One Moment

Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead – Ava DellairaTitle: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Publishing Info: April 1, 2014 by Macmillan
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: March 6, 2014

    It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more -- though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was -- lovely and amazing and deeply flawed -- can she begin to discover her own path in this stunning debut from Ava Dellaira, Love Letters to the Dead.

bookreview1LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is definitely a unique book, and one of the most original I’ve read so far this year. The book is comprised of letters to celebrities that have since passed, written by the main character Laurel. The titular letters are originally an assignment for class, but the more Laurel writes and the more she shares with these ghosts of celebrities past, the more she finally opens up about everything that’s happened in her recent past and the feelings that she hasn’t been able to share with anyone, especially since her sister’s death.

Admittedly, I had a hard time with the beginning of this book. I knew that it was made up entirely of letters and yet I still had a hard time getting into the swing of the narration. Each letter (which essentially made up a chapter) was dedicated to a different person and that person had a life or an experience that directly related to what Laurel was going through at the moment. I really liked the connections and how the deceased famous person involved really brought the story together, but at times, I felt like the personal life of the celebrity was a little too detailed for my tastes. I did learn a lot about their lives and things I didn’t know before, but at the same time, it sort of took me out of Laurel’s story and put me into someone else’s when I was anxious to make more of a connection with Laurel and her life and not a celebrity that I could easily research if I had the interest.

Aside from the involvement of the lives of the once rich and famous, I just wasn’t making a connection with Laurel for a decent portion of the first part of the book. Laurel had been having an extremely difficult time with her sister’s death and rightfully so, but the ways in which she was dealing with it just kind of turned me off. Unable to remain at the same school, Laurel lives with her aunt part-time so she’s able to attend a different high school and try not to live in the shadow of her older and more charismatic sister. In a new place, Laurel makes new friends and tries new things and many of those veered toward a more cavalier and rebellious-teen lifestyle. I mean, I understand. Laurel does not have an easy life and she’s also feeling not only grief but guilt from her sister’s recent death. I understand that she may be handling that different than I would handle it and I have no issues with that but reading about the decisions that Laurel made edged on uncomfortable and made it very hard for me to connect to Laurel as well.
I apologize for the lack of eloquence here, but it was just more of a feeling as I was reading that caused a big disconnect for me during the first half of the book and it’s hard to put into words. It wasn’t something that I necessarily “frowned upon” but just a series of subject matters that aren’t usually something I connect with or thoroughly enjoy reading about. Maybe it’s the fact that I was trying to feel for Laurel who was just trying to shut off her feelings and shut out her past and that made it painful to read, causing me to feel uncomfortable. Laurel has gone through quite a bit in her life that has led her to where she is at the time of the book and it’s been a more traumatic road than we initially realize.

That being said, the second half of the book did start to come together a little bit more for me. Yes, there was a romance involved, but that wasn’t the reason why. The romance, I think, helped Laurel feel the need to open up to someone else. She finally wanted to connect with someone and finally found her voice with Sky, the attractive and mysterious boy who she finds a connection to in more ways than one. Mostly, I was incredibly curious to find out exactly how May died because the reader is in the dark most of the book since we only get to see what Laurel is willing to divulge. My issue with things that are left intentionally mysterious in contemporary stories is that I find myself “hurrying” to find out what the big reveal is. LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD takes on a much slower pace so with a question rattling around inside of my head, I had a hard time focusing on what I should have been reading and anxious to find out exactly what happened. I don’t mean that in a negative way — it was more of a personal issue and I just know that’s what happens when I encounter situations like those.

All said and done, I easily see the appeal and glory of LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD but I just had a hard time connecting with it. I feel like my review pointed out so many negatives but the positives were so subtle and the more I reflect on the book, the more I have trouble remembering what they were. The second half of the book took off for me and I think all of the answers to my burning questions helped, but overall, I may not have been the ideal audience for the book. I’ve also read books with a similar feel (see recommendations below) and have been totally amazed and not disconnected like I was with this one, so take that as you will. There was just an ineffable something that I didn’t feel when reading this book and I wish I could have fallen in love with it.

view_from_goodreads1

“The View from Goodreads” is a new featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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I’ve decided to work my character section a bit differently for this review. I had so much to say in the general review section that I wanted to talk about the characters completely separately.

Hannah & Natalie // Relation to Laurel: New friends.
Hannah and Natalie are Laurel’s first friends at her new school. They have a fairly important plot that run along side Laurel’s and really open Laurel’s eyes to things outside of her world and also that connect into her personal experiences. At first I wasn’t convinced of their friendship with Laurel. I actually didn’t like either girl very much (not dislike, but more indifferent) and towards the end of the book, I grew to really appreciate the fact that these girls all had each other and all of the things they had taught each other as well. Their story line deals a lot with acceptance, honesty, and not letting other people stand in the way of what makes you happy and that was really eye-opening for me. (Special nod to Estelle’s review because I almost forgot to include these two girls in my review somehow!)
Sky // Relation to Laurel: New crush.
What I really liked about Sky’s role in the book was that yes, he was the love interest and we got to see Laurel fall in love, but just her relationship with him taught her how to open up, how to trust, and how to love herself again. She needed to find out how to BE loved again and be appreciated and for me, it really wasn’t even the fact that there WAS a romance but exactly all of the things that Laurel learned from it. Honestly? I barely remember any details about Sky himself. I remember the big, bold points and that’s about it so to me, that says that yes, he was a big forgettable in the sense that it wasn’t a new book boyfriend for me, but that he still played a really important role in the story and the book could not possibly have been the same without him.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Epistolary formats. Granted, I DID have a hard time with the letters at times, but I really like the unique story-telling format and the feeling that it brings to the book. I always like to try to read different formats and ways of narrating so it was definitely interesting to pick up something told entirely in letters!
Left Me Wanting More: Dialogue. On the other hand, the epistolary format does take away a lot of opportunities for dialogue. We were so inside of Laurel’s head and had a larger inner-monologue since in a letter format, it’s really hearing things second-hand than as they’re occurring. I really enjoy dialogue and it makes me feel more involved in the action so that was something that I did wish there was more of.

Addiction Rating
Try it

I felt a range of emotions and reactions as I was reading LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD. I had some minor issues and though those issues weren’t large, they did last through the majority of the book for me. Then again, these were all really more personal issues than feeling like I had issues with the writing. I guess like any book, it will appeal to some and others won’t connect with it but it’s definitely worth the try to see if you fall in love with it!

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BOOKS LIKE LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        The Sky is Everywhere       The Beginning of Everything

Loud Awake and Lost – Adele Griffin

Loud Awake and Lost – Adele GriffinTitle: Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin
Publishing Info: November 12, 2013 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: November 20, 2013

    There was an accident. Ember knows at least that much. She was driving. The car was totaled. Eight months later, Ember feels broken. She can’t even remember the six weeks of her life leading up to the accident. Where was she going? Who was she with? And what happened during those six weeks that her friends and family won’t talk about?
In the wake of her critically praised young adult psychological thrillers, Tighter and All You Never Wanted, National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin has created another triumph in this unflinching story of loss and recovery that Booklist called “exquisite” in a starred review.

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There don’t seem to be a lot of mystery-type YA novels (or weren’t… I think they’re starting appear more often now! Or maybe I’m noticing them more…) so I was really hoping LOUD AWAKE AND LOST would be a really good mystery and, well. It just wasn’t as thrilling as I had hoped!

I actually have a lot of respect for the book, especially after finding out that Adele Griffin was inspired to write this book based on a situation that happened to her brother. (You can find out more info about that on the author profile over at Teen Lit Rocks!) I really enjoyed the psychological factor involved in LOUD AWAKE AND LOST. I really enjoy a good psychological twist and this book definitely had them! Ember wakes up after her accident and is missing a few very, very key details all from the last six weeks of her life before the accident. It was incredibly interesting to see how Ember had to figure out exactly what happened during those few weeks — especially involving a very important piece she can’t remember, a fight she barely believes happened, and memories of the accident that she really needs to recover before she can move on with her life.

I really enjoyed the concept and the process of the story and overall, it was exactly what I was looking for but somehow it just didn’t come together as the story was progressing. I felt like that was kind of weird for me, but the resolution of the story sort of confirmed suspicions for me and brought everything together. I feel like a lot of times if I’m struggling a bit during the story, the ending usually ends up disappointing me as well, but I was invested in what I was hoping the ending would be so really the big picture was a big deal! There were a couple interesting twists in the book but I do have to say that I kind of guessed the “big deal” in there. It actually made the book better for me that was able to suspect that because otherwise it would have been a bit too confusing for me along the way.
There were actually a few times that I felt like the mystery was dragging. I wanted a few more clues to push the plot forward and keep my interesting piqued but there were times it was just a bit too slow. I think the fact that I do love a good mystery actually took away from it for me because I love the build-up of suspense and it did build up but then there were points where it would build up and then not move forward. I needed a bit more of a reveal than I was given at times!

I also had a bit of trouble connecting with the characters. I liked Ember but I didn’t feel that emotional connection with her. I was also really confused with her relationship with Kai at first until things started to really unfold. Everything of course made sense towards the end, but it was another situation where it just didn’t quite all fit together for me.

So I guess the review really sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book but I did. Just really not as much as I had hoped. I think my big issue was that things really just didn’t mesh for me while I was reading it. I had suspicions about what Ember was missing and I used those suspicions as fact (which did end up being true) so things made sense for me. Without those, I would have been a little too confused and I didn’t like being so dependent on a hunch!

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Ember // Character Obsessions: Recovering, making up with her friends, regaining memories, Kai.
I really wanted to connect with Ember but somehow I just didn’t have that emotional connection and I couldn’t quite comprehend all of her decisions. I think we were just different kinds of people and who knows — maybe that’s because of the place she was after the accident. I just really wanted to get to know her more and I just couldn’t get inside her head.
Rachel // Character Obsessions: Helping Ember recover, making up, getting E back together with her ex.
I actually really liked Rachel! She really was one of my favorite characters and I loved her spunk and true friendship with Ember. She really was pushing for Ember to get back together with her ex-boyfriend (which, by the way, is also is Rachel’s cousin — they had a really close friendship before Ember’s accident). I just really enjoyed her whole presence in the book and the friendship aspect that she provided.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Psychological mystery/thrillers. I really loved the absence of memories and the importance that it played in this book. The lack of memory, the need to unearth them, and the psychological factors were just so interesting! I love those aspects and I love when books mess with my head!
Left Me Wanting More: Action or faster pacing. There were a lot of moments when the book just lulled. I didn’t need it to be a full-on action book but I need a bit more of a gradual reveal then giving me clues and not actually getting answers along the way.

Addiction Rating
Borrow It

I think this one could go either way. Some people have really liked how the book unfolded and others have felt like it was slow. It really will depend on the person!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE LOUD AWAKE AND LOST

(Click the cover to see my review!)

          The Adoration of Jenna Fox   False Memory

Wild Awake – Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake – Hilary T. SmithTitle: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Publishing Info: May 28, 2013 by HarperCollins
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 4, 2013

In Wild Awake, Hilary T. Smith’s exhilarating and heart-wrenching YA debut novel, seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd has big plans for her summer without parents. She intends to devote herself to her music and win the Battle of the Bands with her bandmate and best friend, Lukas. Perhaps then, in the excitement of victory, he will finally realize she’s the girl of his dreams.
But a phone call from a stranger shatters Kiri’s plans. He says he has her sister Suki’s stuff—her sister Suki, who died five years ago. This call throws Kiri into a spiral of chaos that opens old wounds and new mysteries. Like If I Stay and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Wild Awake explores loss, love, and what it means to be alive.

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WILD AWAKE. How do I review WILD AWAKE? No, seriously. How do I review this book? I had been meaning to read it since I heard so many good things, especially from Jamie, and when Hilary T. Smith was going to be at Anderson’s Bookshop in the end of June, I knew I had to go and that was the perfect time to buy the book. I had a ton of time to read on the 4th of July so I started WILD AWAKE…… And finished it that night. I honestly could not put it down. I finished the book, let out a sigh of “Wow”, and then went to go mark it at read on Goodreads like I usually do. Goodreads said, “Awesome! You finished a book! Now how do you want to rate it?” And I sat there, phone in hand, and thought. And thought. Usually when I’m reading a book, I can tell what I’m going to rate it and I generally gauge that star rating, changing it if necessary as I read. WILD AWAKE started out as a four star rating and THEN I got to the second half of the book and was mesmerized. The ending! It was just so much more than a star rating. It was interesting, terrifying, captivating, non-sensical, and quite a whirlwind. I entered my star rating on Goodreads, but even as I’m writing this review, I’m still not sure if it’s appropriate or not. I guess all I can do is talk about how I felt!

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The first half of the book definitely felt slower than the second half, for obvious reasons once you read it but also because I felt like things took just a little while to get… somewhere. The story is obvious right off the bat: Kiri’s parents are gone on a cruise for 6 weeks (yes, I know to some people this amount of time was shocking and unbelievable, but you’d be surprised), her brother Denny is at college, and she gets a phone call from a stranger asking her her sister who died several years ago. Sukey was practically Kiri’s idol — She really, really looked up to her older sister and was devastated when she died so when she gets this mysterious phone call, her curiosity gets the best of her and she stumbles into secrets that she didn’t even know were there.

I honestly don’t want to rehash the plot because the feelings of this book are way more important. When Kiri starts looking for the the stranger who once knew her sister, she opens Pandora’s box, so to speak, and can’t take that back. The sadness and regret and anger she feels from pretty much rehashing her sister’s death is a very emotional time and there were a few times I teared up from Hilary Smith’s writing and how she conveyed this jumble of emotions for Kiri. Outrage, denial, fear… And along the way she meets a helpful stranger (unrelated to the stranger who knew her sister) named Skunk. The way people went on about Skunk in their reviews and/or Twitter I was like, “There is no WAY I’m going to like a character named Skunk.” But there you have it. He was a gentle giant — a quiet personality in a large body and slowly formed a perfectly un-perfect relationship with Kiri. (I love that she called him her love-bison, brontosaurus of love, and even once compared his stature to Hagrid haha.)

I don’t really know how else to talk about this book except to say that that second half! (!!!!) I actually didn’t know a TON about WILD AWAKE before I picked it up. If you know me well, you know I love going into books blind so I get surprised by all of the little things as they were intended to surprise an audience. When I saw Hilary T. Smith in person, she described her book as involving music, mystery, and an aspect of mental illness. I thought “Mental illness is in this book?” Psychology and mental functions and/or illnesses have always intrigued me so I was immediately more curious to see how that even fit in the book and even as I was reading the first part, I was still guessing how it was going to come into play. We see this mental break start to appear in Kiri’s character slowly but surely, taking us on quite the wild ride of emotions and actions. What happened to Kiri was incredible (and scary) to witness from a first person point of view. I wondered how it even came on… Was this brought on by the secrets of her sister’s death? Her parents being away and Kiri being alone? Time? Stress? An existing condition? I’m not really sure, and as much as it would be interesting to know, that’s not even quite relevant to the book except that the reader gets to witness that happen from Kiri’s perspective and she doesn’t even know that anything out of the ordinary is going on. I actually almost didn’t even want to talk about this in my review because it feels like such a spoiler since I didn’t really know it was coming, but it was such a BIG part of the book and the reason that I was so blown away by it that I didn’t know how I could hold it back.

This is a story about love. And loss. And friendship. And breaking down. And every emotion you’ve ever had balled into a tornado and whipping you around your own life until you’re terrified of when it finally spits you back out into the universe as a jumbled mess. WILD AWAKE was beautifully written. It comforted me and shocked me all at the same time and I’m still in awe of it. I’m so glad that Hilary T. Smith wrote this book to share with the world! I feel like you will either love this book or it’s something that’s just not for you and that very few people will fall in the middle. WILD AWAKE has its lovely tender moments, but many frenzied aspects as well so be prepared for a very serious side with some light-hearted moments. It was a fascinating ride, clearly, since I couldn’t even put it down for a few hours. I really hope that people love this book and feel as amazed by it as I do.

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Kiri Byrd // Character Obsessions: Practicing piano, her sister Sukey, solving a mystery, more piano.
God, Kiri was so interesting. I was afraid in the beginning that she was going to be shy, vulnerable, and awkward and in a way she was… But she changed in two ways: both with her knowing it and without. To see her grow as a person and start to mature at the same time that she was breaking down was… paradoxical. I’m so glad that this book was written in Kiri’s first person POV because it was incredible to see this story from her perspective.
Skunk // Character Obsessions: Radios, bicycles, cigarettes.
Skunk was quite the interesting character. He was gentle, yet strong and his quiet attitude really intrigued me. He had his own past and his own secrets that I was dying to find out about as did Kiri. I really liked how his relationship grew with Kiri and how they began to trust each other throughout the book.
Denny Byrd // Character Obsessions: School…? None?
For some reason I kind of identified with Denny and I’m not really sure why. When he finally makes his physical appearance in the book and we see his interactions with Kiri… For some reason that totally just GOT ME. That was almost the defining moment — Obviously Kiri didn’t see it and I almost didn’t quite recognize all the signs of her mental breakdown either UNTIL Denny arrived and we got a different person’s perspective of how she acts when she’s at home or alone and that was just like “WHOA”. His presence in the book really sort of opened my eyes and made me feel scared for Kiri.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Psychology. Had it not been for those pesky stats classes, I would have minored in Psych (which means nothing because I probably wouldn’t have used it in my practical life anyway) and Abnormal Psychology was one of my absolute favorite classes in college. It was so interesting to see how the brain works or changes or differs for people who suffer from mental illnesses. I’ll always find it fascinating how the brain works, or in many cases, how it fails to work according to the norm.
Left Me Wanting More: Familiarity. Kiri’s parents are gone the whole book, her sister is dead, and her brother Denny is away at school. We do get to see Denny later in the book, but only briefly. The only familiar people we see in the book is Kiri’s friend Lukas and his family and even then they seem to flit in and out of the story line… Then again, maybe that’s the point. Kiri has no rock, no one to go to when she starts to discover all these new things and maybe that ultimately assists in her mental break.

Addiction Factor
BUY THIS!

This was a pretty spectacular read and I highly recommend it! Hilary T. Smith does a great job at grabbing the reader’s attention and keeping them hooked the entire book.

book_recommendations1

     Pushing the Limits      the Book of Broken Hearts

Sisters In Sanity – Gayle Forman

Sisters In Sanity – Gayle FormanTitle: Sisters in Sanity by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: August 16, 2007 by HarperCollins
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: July 3, 2013
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here, Leave Me, I Have Lost My Way

For sixteen-year-old Brit Hemphill, it's hard to know who she can trust. Convinced she's out of control, her father has sentenced her to Red Rock: a center for supposedly rebellious teens, where the therapy consists of name-calling and the girls who get privileges are the ones who rat out their peers.
    But then Brit meets V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie—four girls who keep her from going over the edge. Together, they'll hold on to their sanity and their sisterhood despite the bleak Red Rock reality.

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I was really excited to get to SISTERS IN SANITY as part of the Gayle Forman Read Along! I’m a huuuuge fan of basically every other Gayle Forman book so I was curious to pick up her first book (although technically I guess she wrote another book/memoir from a journalistic aspect? Curious.) to see how it all started!

SISTERS IN SANITY is the story of Brit, a 16-year-old girl who was raised in coffee shops amongst bands and artists until her mother starts showing serious signs of schizophrenia and her family begins to fall apart. We first meet Brit when her father, now re-married, is dropping her off at Red Rock: a facility designed to help “straighten out” trouble teens. Her once normal upbringing is now seen as wild and disrespectful and Brit struggles to understand why her father has taken such extreme measures instead of… you know… talking to her.

Brit’s story was not an easy one to read in the sense that it just broke my heart to see such disconnect between Brit and her father when they were once a happy family. Really when it comes down to it, it seems like her dad is just scared. He fell apart after her mother’s mental illness and he never quite recovered and you can tell that he’s just scared Brit is going to end up just like her mother. He can’t deal with that so he sends her to Red Rock. I don’t think HE ever realized that, but I think that’s pretty obvious to the reader!

Red Rock is a terrible place. There’s nothing awfully brutal about it, but one thing here and one thing there started adding up until I finally had it (and Brit too). I seriously got angry towards the end of the book and then the administration really started to cross the line and I lost it. It was tough to see Brit cut off from the outside world and even more tough when her dad didn’t even seem to want to make contact most of the time.

I absolutely loved the “Sisters in Sanity”, as they called themselves — Brit made a fantastic group of friends that really did become like her family. They were all different personalities, but they bonded together over their mutual hate of Red Rock and their need for some sanity in the middle of a facility that treated everyone like they were crazy when they certainly weren’t. I think V was one of my favorite characters followed closely by Bebe. They were the two Sisters that stood out the most for me and I loved their friendship with Brit!

Overall, I really enjoyed SISTERS IN SANITY but it wasn’t nearly as deeply emotional as Gayle Forman’s later books. There was a really nice romance between Brit and Jed and I definitely swooned a few times! I didn’t quite fall head over heels though. If you’re a Gayle Forman fan, SISTERS IN SANITY will be a good read for you! It’s quick, interesting, and a nice balance of light and heavy. A really funny thing was that since I’ve read the rest of Gayle’s books, I could definitely see bits and pieces of them in her first novel. I saw SO much of IF I STAY in SISTERS IN SANITY with the music background, the coffee shops… It just made that that much more anxious to start IF I STAY soon!

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Brit Hemphill // Character Obsessions: Getting out of Red Rock, standing her ground, proving she’s not crazy.
I felt so bad for Brit. She got put in Red Rock with no warning, no say, and just abandoned there, basically. She’s got a somewhat feisty personality, although not as wild as her father makes it out to be, and so she tries to fight the system which ultimately pushes her further into it. I loved how she made friends at Red Rock and essentially found a different kind of family when her actual relatives were not communicating with her or treating her well. I really liked her determination and it was interesting to get inside her head when she was thinking/worrying about her mother and if there was a chance that she could end up that way as well.
Virginia aka V // Character Obsessions: Helping Brit, sticking up for the Sisters, damning the man. V was another one of my favorite characters. She seems like a sort of protector of the group having been in Red Rock for a long time. She knows how the facility works and how to get what she wants so she was a great ally for Brit to have. V also has her own secrets as well which I found to be really interesting when the time came for that reveal!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Gayle Forman. While this wasn’t the most emotionally raw GF book, I still love her writing and it was so interesting to see aspects of future books in here!
Left Me Wanting More: Romance! We do see some of Brit & Jed and what we got was adorable. I just wished it made up a bigger part of the story in the beginning.

Addiction Rating
Read it

I wasn’t as emotionally invested in this as other Gayle Forman books but… It’s Gayle Forman! It was really an enjoyable read and it’s a must-have to sit comfy-cozy next to my other Gayle Forman books 🙂

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE SISTERS IN SANITY

     Pushing the Limits        the Book of Broken Hearts

Our Song – Jordanna Fraiberg

Our Song – Jordanna FraibergTitle: Our Song by Jordanna Fraiberg
Publishing Info: May 2, 2013 by Penguin
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: May 25, 2013

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

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OUR SONG was an interesting read for me. The first half of the book actually went by really quickly. I was really interested in Olive’s story and I totally breezed through. The second half of the book sort of seemed to take a lot longer for me to get through, though.

The story starts off with Olive Bell coming back home after a car accident for which she spent two weeks in the hospital. She can’t quite remember the details of what happened and why except for the fact that she has this string of lyrics and a melody running through her head — a faded memory of the accident and a key to the mystery of it all. I loved this puzzle of the mystery song throughout the first half of the book! I was dying to know why this song was stuck in her head and how come she couldn’t find any information about it.
The second half of the book kind of let me down with the reveal of how the song was related to the accident, though. I thought the reveal was kind of… off the path of where the book was taking us. It just didn’t seem to fit the general feel, in my opinion. Just didn’t do it for me. What I DID like was the reveal of Olive’s actual accident and the events leading up to it. I was like, “OHHH that makes so much sense!” That was very fitting, even if I wasn’t sold on the song part of it.

I like that Olive was basically reinventing herself after the accident. She knew it was a defining moment in her life — not just because she had technically died and come back to life — but also because although she couldn’t quite remember what, she knew there was something that led to the accident that changed her. I like that she didn’t just go back to her regular life, as much as she had originally wanted to. It was nice to see that change in her and to see her making her own choices instead of what she thought other people wanted.
On the flip side, I wasn’t quite sure I like the ways that she changed. The romance in this book, Nick, sort of became her partner in crime, so to speak, but I actually didn’t like their rebellious  nature together. Maybe it’s because I’m still that girl who finds the need to please other people, but I kind of felt like Nick was getting her into more trouble than helping her. I guess in the long run, he really helped her figure out who she wanted to be, even if she did a few crazy things along the way, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was more of a bad influence on her than a good one. *shrugs*

That being said, I just never really ended up liking Nick as the romance. He felt unreliable and dangerous. I mean, this girl was in a car accident, right? So why does she never speak up when he’s driving around recklessly through L.A. in a beat up Jaguar (which clearly has been through some traumatic things on its own)? If Olive didn’t even want to drive anywhere near where the accident happened, why was she okay with Nick driving so crazily? She was holding on for dear life a few times, sure, but even still. I felt like that didn’t quite fit.

I liked how the ending came around with Olive and the issues she had with her family, her final decision about ex-boyfriend Derek, and a touching conclusion with Nick, but it all felt a little too perfect for me. Mostly with her family. I liked that things wrapped up well with her family, but it all felt too convenient and quick.

I think I was just much more invested in the first half of OUR SONG than the second and I wasn’t quite sold on several things in the end. The fact that I never connected with Nick as a romantic interest and failed to swoon didn’t quite help my enjoyment of the book! I think a lot of people can like this one, but it just wasn’t quite for me.

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Olive: I liked Olive and her transformation as well as how she ended up dealing with the aftermath of her car accident. I felt like she made a lot of mistakes and at times was a little melodramatic, but then again, hey. She’s a teenager. I felt like she was a little too all over the place for my personal tastes and when it came down to it, I just found it hard to root for her and Nick until the very, very end.
Nick: Nick’s a little bit of a wild child, it seems. He’s got his own demons, that’s clear, but I wish the story had delved into those a little bit sooner so I could have made a more personal connection with him. He felt like he was hiding so many things from Olive for such a long time, which I guess he was. Once I finally found out what those things were, I was like, “OH I like you much better now because I understand you.” I didn’t get Nick half of the book so I just couldn’t make that connection with him and I didn’t find myself swooning.
Annie: Annie was Olive’s best friend in the book, who I LOVED. She pushed Olive to be her own person and to discover who she wanted to be, but not in the way that Nick did. She seemed to push her in a much more positive way and she was always there for Olive, even when Olive ended up ditching her a few times. She was a good friend and very lively! What I didn’t like was the turn her own story line took. I just didn’t think it was necessary. Not like I had anything against it, but it didn’t seem to have a place in the book and was just a bit of extra drama.

addiction_factor1Borrow it

It was enjoyable at first and then it wasn’t AS good. I had hoped for more but it may be hit or miss with some!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE OUR SONG

     Confessions of An Angry Girl      Where She Went

The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler

The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah OcklerTitle: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Publishing Info: May 21, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: May 18, 2013
Related Posts: The Selective Collective features The Book of Broken Hearts, #scandal, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

    Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one. Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas? Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong? Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

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Oh my gosh, you guys. THIS BOOK. Of course I expected to like this book, but I seriously had a book hangover when I finished. THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS was the perfect read for me. It was so beautifully written, had a perfect romance, a great family aspect, and also some serious issues that came together to create a masterpiece.

I say that this was the perfect read for me because there were just so many ways in which the book just totally drew me in and I was able to make a personal connection.
ONE: The motorcycles. My boyfriend (at the time — now husband!) Shane is car/motorcycle guy and I’ve spent countless hours in the garage with him reading/watching/helping/learning. To watch Jude go through the same thing with Emilio as he works on her father’s motorcycle, it kind of brought all those memories back to when my own personal relationship was blossoming and it brought all those little butterflies back!
TWO. The language. The culture is in this book is a big part of the story from the family dynamic to the food to the customs. Emilio is Puerto Rican and Jude is Argentinean so both of them (and their families) tend to slip into Spanish from time to time when speaking to each other. I’m not Hispanic in any way, but I was a Spanish major in college so I just always feel my own little personal connection when characters speak Spanish, even if it isn’t my own heritage. I feel like it’s a little secret that I’m able to know what they’re saying when they slip into a different language while the general audience might not.
THREE. The setting. The book takes place in Blackfeather, Colorado which appears to be a fictional town (I looked it up), but these past couple of years, we’ve taken a few different trips to Colorado & Wyoming so that general area of the country, although not home, holds a special place in my heart.

Okay, enough with the personal connections. But you can see why this book was so special to me based on those elements alone! Of course, any book can have those elements, but it was the way the book was written as well as the combination of topics just made it so special. These characters all felt like extremely real people. The story was so genuine. My heart just went out to each and everyone, especially throughout Jude’s father’s Alzheimer’s struggle. Jude spends her last summer before college with her father, watching over him, taking care of him, and enjoying what could possibly be his last lucid moments before the Alzheimer’s takes over. This whole part of the book just ripped my heart apart. It was so sad to see him disappearing before the family’s eyes, but it was also so touching to see how the family came together, especially Jude’s attempts to do one last epic thing for her father by helping him restore his old motorcycle.

I absolutely loved the romance in this book. Emilio Vargas is the boy who ends up getting hired to restore Jude’s father’s motorcycle, but he comes with a catch — Jude’s older sisters have been wronged by many a Vargas boy in the past and all four Hernandez sisters have a pact to avoid all Vargas boys at all times. At first, Jude rationalizes that Emilio is just there to help with the bike and she won’t have a problem resisting his charms. Of course we know that’s not going to happen and at some point in time, she’ll have to answer to her sisters about crushing on a Vargas.
Besides the “forbidden romance” I just love how this relationship came to be. The “forbidden” aspect really is half of the fun because we watch Jude’s internal battle between sticking to the pact she made with her sisters and what her heart really wants. Not to mention that Emilio is adorable and he and Jude have a great back and forth throughout the whole book that made me laugh and made my heart flutter all at the same time.

The family dynamic in this book was honestly one of my favorite. I feel like too often, a family member is villainized and naturally, all of the characters in the book are right to hate that person. Both the Hernandez family and the Vargas family were just real people with real problems and real reactions. I saw the humanity in each one, and yes, there were definitely some really flawed characters, but they also had such redeeming qualities as well. It made matters so much more complicated because I wanted to feel for each and every one of them and I couldn’t possible hate any of them!
I loved the sisterly relationship in this book and how even despite the age difference between Jude and her sisters, they all start coming together for their father and for each other. It was exciting to see Jude really making a connection with her sisters in a different and more mature way. Now that she’s older, she gets to talk with them in a totally different way and she’s more respected than when she was just a kid and they were all teenagers and adults.

THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS was extremely beautiful and touching. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I cried. Several times. And ugly crying. Like, uncontrollably sobbing at the end of this book. It was just so, so touching and so incredibly realistic. Like I said earlier, I had a book hangover after this book. I tried to start two new books after I finished and I couldn’t. I had to take a day to let this marinate in my head and let my mind cool off. This is a book that will stick with me for a long, long time.

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Jude: God, I loved Jude. She was such a joy to get to know throughout this book. She matured, she fell in love, she learned so many things. I loved her dedication to her family and at the same time, her desire to be true to herself, even when it went against her family’s wishes. I just really loved her all around.
Emilio: Ohhh, Emilio. I can just picture him with that killer smile and flirty charm and he totally just got me. I loved the romance that developed between him and Jude. Jude has been told that all of the Vargas boys are poison, bad news but she begins to doubt that Emilio can really be that bad. Emilio has quite a story of his own and I really loved hearing everything from his side when all of those details finally come out.

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BUY IT NOW!

I MUST go pick up some more Sarah Ockler books after reading THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS. I can’t believe this is the first of her books that I’ve read. It was just that good for me.

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS

     Nantucket Blue           Eleanor & Park

Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarryTitle: Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry
Publishing Info: July 31, 2012 by Harlequin
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: August 20, 2012

    No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.
    But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.
    Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Breaking It Down Further: After a tragic incident with her mother that she repressed in her mind, Echo Emerson finds it hard to return to her normal life. She can’t remember how she got the scars on her arms and everyone at school treats her like a total outcast because of them. The more Echo withdraws, the more she feels lost and desperate to find out what really happened to her. Noah Hutchins tells his own story as well – typical bad boy with a bad rep. Although his reputation is mostly true, Noah has a dark past that put him there but now more than ever it’s important for him to clean up his act a bit to reunite with his brothers who are in a separate foster home. When Echo & Noah’s worlds collide, it quickly becomes hard to fight the attraction until the two become more than they ever imagined.

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Hm. Well. Let’s start with my overall opinion: I really did enjoy reading PUSHING THE LIMITS. I felt like it was a different kind of contemporary YA romance and we actually had a little bit of mystery with Echo’s secret story about what really happened between her and her mother. I really did pick up on the chemistry between Echo and Noah. I was a little afraid at first since Echo was a formerly popular girl (I don’t know why that bothered me, but for some reason it did a little – Maybe overkill on the polar opposites?), but Echo actually seemed pretty normal aside from the trauma that she went through.

I actually really enjoyed tons of aspects of this book (even though I’m about to complain a lot). I really liked the story line a lot! Echo’s story was really interesting and I really didn’t know where that little mystery was going. The relationship between Echo and Noah was pretty much instant physical attraction, but there was a nice lead up to their actual relationship and I liked that it didn’t jump into things too fast.

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Echo: I was actually just a smidge annoyed with Echo? Yeah, that’s a question. Even after the whole book, I still don’t know how I feel about her. I felt like she put too much blame on other people for how her life turned out. I mean, I know it wasn’t her fault for whatever happened with her mom, and even though we don’t know what the incident was throughout the book, we do know that Echo was indeed a victim of the situation and she’s not at fault. But I felt like the whole book she was searching for someone to blame and sometimes it put me off a bit that she was so mean to her dad and step-mom (I felt bad for poor Ashley the whole book). It seemed a little “typical teenager” that okay yes, you do have a hard life, no one’s denying that, but time to face it.
Noah: I liked Noah a lot more. He has a tragic past as well, but he’s already been dealing it for years and we see the hardened exterior of Noah throughout the book and Echo actually softens his personality up a bit. We know he’s got a really passionate side for his friends and family and I really loved seeing that side of him. The only thing that really bothered me about Noah (and yes it really bothered me) was all of the “Noah-isms” that Katie McGarry used for him over and over. It was way to repetitive to hear him call Echo his siren/nymph constantly and I’m sorry if anyone out there uses this, but I hate hearing couples call each other “baby”. Babe is fine. Cute even. Baby irritates the hell out of me. I know, I know personal rant, but it’s stupid stuff like that that really does make a difference when I’m reading. Baby just seems so insincere to me so to hear Noah call Echo “baby” just seemed like he was belittling her because that’s how I see the word.
Ashley: I actually did feel bad for step-mom/former nanny Ashley! I think she got treated way too harshly by Echo. I guess I didn’t feel as bad for her dad because it’s easier to be mad or to be mean to family and “get away with it” so to speak, but even though Echo saw Ashley as someone who broke up her family, I could really see Ashley’s side and I felt like we as readers knew she was a good person at heart and never intended it.
Supporting Characters: I actually think some of the secondary characters stole the show for me and really made the book that much better. If they weren’t in the story, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. Noah is still one of my favorite characters, but here’s my shout out to the secondaries that made it a much deeper and beautiful novel: the great Mrs. Collins, Noah’s brothers, Isaiah, Beth, Lila, step-mom Ashley

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Try it

I feel bad that this review somehow ended up being a lot more complaining than I anticipated… I guess all those things really just got under my skin! I thought about rating it 3.5 stars since apparently I found to many negatives, but I actually really did like reading the story quite a bit and would recommend it to people. Really, really great story. I actually felt kind of like I was watching a movie instead of reading. I think almost anyone will read this and really enjoy it.

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