Interviews, Reviews, ya contemporary, YA Mystery, YA Paranormal

ARC Review & Interview: Wake the Hollow by Gaby Triana

Wake the Hollow

GoodReads Summary:

Tragedy has brought Micaela Burgos back to her hometown of Sleepy Hollow. It’s been six years since she chose to live with her affluent father in Miami instead of her history-obsessed eccentric mother. And now her mother is dead.

But while Sleepy Hollow was made immortal by literature, the town is real. So are its prejudices and hatred, targeting Mica’s Cuban family and the secrets of their heritage that her mother obsessed over. But ghostly voices whisper in the wind, questioning whether her mother’s death might not have been an accident after all, and Mica knows there’s a reason she’s here.

With the help of two very different guys—who pull at her heart in very different ways—Micaela must uncover the hidden secret of Sleepy Hollow…before she meets her mother’s fate.

My Review:

So  this review is going to be on the shorter side. I got the opportunity to interview Gaby Triana about Wake the Hollow. I’ll let her tell you more about the novel, but I was so enthralled with this book; I needed to know what happened and finished it in 24 hours.

Wake the Hollow’s plot is a nail bitter, chilling you to the bone. You don’t know who to trust- Bram, the childhood best friend, Dane, the handsome witty new teacher, Mica’s father, who is unavailable most of the time, or the voices leading Mica. It’s very clear that Mica has a complicated relationship with both her mother and the people of Tarrytown. Her mother has been considered the town “crazy” for a long time. Her mother is also accused of stealing valuable property from a historic society. So when her mother dies, Mica is forced to confront her own demons along with the town’s intolerance of her mother. Everything Mica has ever known she starts to question.

There are twists and turns that you don’t see coming as past and present are reconciled. The story is also educational. Triana pulls from Washington Irving’s real life to build suspense about a secret journal of  his and a possible affair that could change everything people know about Irving. If you enjoy suspense, romance, and Sleepy Hollow give this book a read!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Interview:

Thanks so much for joining us here at The Talking Bookworm. I’d  first like to say that I absolutely loved Wake the Hollow and your portrait of the Sleepy Hollow. I finished it in about 24 hours; I was so enthralled and did not want to put it down.

Thank you! That’s the ultimate compliment for any author—“couldn’t put it down.”

Can you tell us a little bit about Wake the Hollow?

Wake the Hollow is a re-imagining of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow set in modern times. However, it was important to me not to write a straight retelling of the classic, since we all know how that story goes, so I took a different approach. I turned the love triangle of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow into a subplot, coupled it with the gothic elements and open-endedness of the classic tale, and created a completely new storyline. In the end, we have an homage to the classic with new things to think about.

In the acknowledgement section of your book, you said it took eight years to finalize once you had “finished” it. Why did it stew for so long?

Life changes made me put it aside for a while and move on. Also, it couldn’t seem to find a home with any publishers, and I realized it was because the story was hard to pinpoint. I had all these great elements that weren’t gelling the way I would’ve liked, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with them either. Several revisions later, the story started to sort itself out, I cut a lot of the noise distracting us from the root of the story, and Micaela’s real story started to come through. Sometimes, you’re too close to a story and have to step away for a while.

What was so interesting about the story of Sleepy Hollow that inspired you to write a retelling of some sorts? and the author Washington Irving?

I’ve always been fascinated by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It began with the Disney short cartoon from the 50’s, then I read the story as a child, and I’ve always been intrigued by the open-endedness. We think it’s about the Headless Horseman, but it’s not. It’s about an out-of-town schoolmaster named Ichabod Crane who tries to get the town coquette to fall in love with him, but her boyfriend isn’t having it, so he uses Ichabod’s superstitions to his benefit and drives him away dressed up as the legendary town ghost. I always loved how Irving left the story’s ending to your imagination.

You had to have done quite a bit of research on Washington Irving for this novel, can you tell us a little bit about that process? Did you actually travel to Tarrytown, New York?

Yes, in 2008 I took a 4-day trip to Tarrytown with my mother to scope out the area and get a feel for Sleepy Hollow. I tried to capture the feel of the fall season in Tarrytown without getting too technical about locations. I did a lot of research on Washington Irving and discovered lots of things that helped bring this story together. The man led a fascinating life—he was Ambassador to Spain, lived a long time in London, wrote most of his all-American stories while in Europe, and penned massive biographies, only to be mostly remembered for a couple of short stories he didn’t feel represented his best work.

Through the research I did after reading Wake the Hollow, because lets face it your novel is full of fun interesting facts I didn’t know and wanted to learn more about, what made you decide on the Mary Shelly plot?

Ha ha, I got you on Google, didn’t I? One of the things I learned while researching was that Washington Irving had been friends with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, and a few sources said he might’ve had a very brief relationship with her, even though he would’ve been about 30 years older than her. The first thought to go through my mind was one of those rap lyric battles—Frankenstein vs. The Headless Horseman…who will win?? Here you had two famous authors of Gothic literature possibly in a secret romantic relationship…it just doesn’t get better than that.

I loved that Mica was of Cuban descent. Did you decide upon her heritage after researching Washington Irving’s life? What about the other characters? What was your thought process for them?

I already knew from the beginning that I wanted to give the story a Cuban angle. I do this will all my books because my parents are from Cuba, and I pay homage to that in some small way every chance I get. But when I started planning Wake the Hollow, I thought, how the heck am I going to make anything Cuban in a story about an author as American as apple pie? Then I found a clue about Irving’s past and knew I had to follow it and use it to tie the whole thing together. All three main characters are modern-day parallels from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Micaela Katerina is the rich man’s daughter (Katrina Van Tassel), Dane Boracich is the worldly new schoolmaster from out of town (Ichabod Crane), and Abraham Derant is the handsome town hero (Brom Bones).

Which character is your favorite? I personally loved Dane!

Dane is my absolute favorite too. Without saying too much, he holds secrets, harbors quiet love he can’t express, and is a sworn man of duty.

Can we talk about that ending for a second? No spoilers, I promise! I had so many theories and you just destroyed them all! Will we be getting a second book or is Wake the Hollow the end of the story? If so, I need people to start some fan fiction for me!

Again, without saying too much, I will probably write a second book, because I want to see Micaela start a new life, one she lives for herself rather than others.

I know when you aren’t writing, you design whimsical cakes; what type of cake would you design for Wake the Hollow? What cake flavors would you assign Bram, Mica, and Dane?

I love this question! Let’s see…I would probably create a topsy-turvy Tim Burton inspired cake with black, purple, and green layers, a Headless Horseman on top carrying a flaming pumpkin, and lots of painted silhouettes of gnarly trees and tombstones. Bram’s layer would be Devil’s Food Cake, Micaela’s would be cinnamon cake with dulce de leche filling, and Dane would be marbled vanilla and chocolate, light and dark, good and bad all rolled together.

Best read of 2016… go!

I’ve spent 90% of my time this year so far writing, writing, and more writing, but I did manage to read a few great books, though they may not be from 2016. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, and Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.

What is the number one thing that helps you write? Music, a specific room, coffee? (note: I like knowing what helps writers write or like surpass the madness)

I have three kids, all boys, aged 15, 10, and 10. So what helps me write the most…is late-night silence.

I’d like to again thank Gaby Triana for taking the time to interview with us. I can’t wait for you all to read Wake the Hollow!

Excerpt:

I hear the laugh once again, calm and satisfied. A solid wave of rage starts between my forehead and the back of my head, overtaking my entire body. Teeth clenched so hard, I hear them grind. I scream, “What’s so funny, you sick bastard!”

Then a new sound, so clear there’s no mistaking it. A horse’s neigh, followed by the woody, hollow sound of hooves galloping right toward me.

Thirsty leaves rustle on the ground like littered newspaper in the wind. I stand paralyzed over my mother’s grave, eyes roving, searching for the source of the sound. A horse in the cemetery? Seriously? But there’s no one here! Yet the galloping feels a blink away.

Run, Lela!

I break free of the invisible straitjacket immobilizing my upper body. I plunge through the woods, boots pounding the earth in time with my breath, eyes focused ahead, dodging grave markers, logs, rocks, and fallen limbs in my way. Who’s charging me on a horse? The Headless Horseman is only a character in a story. A legend.

Isn’t he?

I run straight for the bridge, my breath short and choppy. Isn’t the horseman supposed to stop chasing his victims once they cross the bridge? How ridiculous that I’m considering the logistics behind a work of fiction. Maybe it’s not a real spirit at all, but someone playing a trick on me.

It’s unnervingly dark inside the covered bridge, but I have no other choice. The galloping is right behind me. I’ll have to go through it if I don’t want to sense a horse’s hot breath prickling my neck. I avoid eye contact with whoever is chasing me, in case paralysis freezes my body again.

I charge through the bridge, my breath loud in my ears, panicked footsteps echoing against the siding, plowing along the musty planks until I blast out the other end, nearly tumbling onto the ground. I check over my shoulder. Nothing followed me through. But next to the bridge, a hazy mist hovers above the ground in the shape of what could be interpreted as a massive horse with a rider on top. It stands at the edge of the river, watching me escape.

That’s no trick.

GABY TRIANA is the award-winning author of six YA novels—Wake the Hollow (Coming 2016), Summer of Yesterday, Riding the Universe, The Temptress Four, Cubanita, and IMG_3071Backstage Pass, as well as thirteen ghostwritten novels for best-selling authors. Originally a 4th grade teacher with a Master of Science in Elementary Education and ten years teaching experience, Gaby earned Teacher of the Year in 2000, wrote her first novel, Freddie and the Biltmore Ghost, then left teaching to launch a full-time writing career. She went on to publish young adult novels with HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, win an IRA Teen Choice Award, ALA Best Paperback Award, and Hispanic Magazine’s Good Reads of 2008. She spends her time obsessing about Halloween, Christmas, and Disney World, as well as hosting parties, designing mugs, making whimsical cakes, and winning costume contests. When she’s not writing, she might also be watching Jurassic Park movies with her boys, posting excessive food pics on social media, or helping run the Florida region of the SCBWI. Gaby lives in Miami with her three sons, Michael, Noah, and Murphy. She has one dog, Chloe, and two cats—Miss Daisy, and the reformed thug, shooting survivor, Bowie. Visit her at www.GabyTriana.com.

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Entangles Publishing, LLC for the opportunity to review this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my opinion.Blog Signature

Reviews, YA, ya contemporary, YA Dystopian, YA Fantasy, ya romance

ARC Review: Refuse (Recoil #2) by Joanne Macgregor

Refuse (Recoil Trilogy, #2)

GoodReads Summary:

Everyone wants Jinxy, except the one she loves.

In a near-future USA decimated by an incurable plague and tightly controlled by a repressive government, teenagers with special skills are recruited and trained to fight in the war against terror.

Now a rebellion is brewing.

All sixteen year-old expert sniper Jinxy James wanted was a little freedom, but now she’s trapped between the government and the rebels, unsure of who the real enemy is. When she uncovers appalling secrets and twisted motivations, Jinxy begins to question her allegiances. Soon she will need to choose between love and freedom, as she struggles to do the right thing in a world gone horribly wrong.

Refuse is the second book in the Young Adult dystopian romance that began with Recoil. This much anticipated sequel is filled with romance and heartache, shocking twists, and a thought-provoking examination of freedom, fear, loyalty and identity.

My Review:

SO back in May I was read and reviewed the first novel in this trilogy, Recoil, and really enjoyed what Joanne Macgregor brought to the table. It was quite a realistic dystopian story. The same can be said for the second novel in this series as well.

Refuse starts exactly where Recoil left off. Jinxy is sort of in hell. She has to convince the government that she isn’t some spy working for rebellion. She also has to decide which side of the fight she is on and who she can trust.

Macgregor’s story telling definitely improved with this novel. In a series like this the first novel is the setup and has to introduce you to a lot of characters and plot, but the second one is always better. You can dive right into the story, get to the nitty gritty of the characters and really focus on their decision-making process and character growth. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will just say this, I really enjoyed watching Jinxy grow as a person. In the first novel she was young and naive. In Refuse she has grown up. She sees the world for what it really is. She sees the government and her missions for what they truly are. She understands that her actions have larger consequences, effect more people, more families. She understands that not everyone can be trusted and that you should listen to your gut when it’s trying to tell you something isn’t right.

The follow up to Recoil really brings the themes of right and wrong to the forefront of the story. Nothing is black and white and the gray area is very hazy. It does not do to always assume your government has the best interest of the people in mind. You should always be watching and questioning.

Definitely check this novel out.  There is cliffhanger after cliffhanger that will keep you wanting more.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank Joanne Macgregor for providing me with an ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

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Reviews, ya contemporary

Book Review: Outspoken by Lora Richardson

LoraRichardson_Outspoken_450x675

Goodreads Summary:

Penny Beck is a girl who says yes when she means no. She keeps to herself, follows the rules, and does what she’s told. After a disastrous experience with her boyfriend, she’s determined to change from the spineless person she’s always been into the strong woman she wants to become. All she needs is a little practice.

On a cross-country trip to check on her grandpa, she strives to become bolder and more outspoken with the strangers she meets. Penny’s plan is to practice saying and doing what she wants without worrying about what anyone else thinks.

Then she meets Archer, an introspective loner to whom she finds herself drawn. She realizes she does care what he thinks, very much. Will Penny be able to stick to her plan, or will she revert back to her people-pleasing ways?

Review:

Let me start with a PSA. If you start reading this book and you think it’s a little slow, please keep reading. That was my mistake the first two times I tried to read it. Once you’re past the first 20 pages, trust me, you will be hooked. Lora’s writing style gives off a Sarah Dessen vibe, so if you like Sarah Dessen, please pick up her books!

Outspoken is Lora’s debut novel. As you may have seen, earlier this month Liz reviewed Lora’s sophomore novel which she loved! If you want to check that out after this review please click here! (Also, Liz interviewed Lora so that is also something you’re not going to want to miss.)

Outspoken starts of with Penny, a yes girl so to speak. She can’t say no for the life of her, but after a life-changing moment she decides she will no longer say “yes” even if it disappoints those closest to her. Penny has always tried to lead a life where she can make everyone happy, but herself. At the beginning Penny may not be your favorite person, you may want to scream at her and tell her what the hell is she doing, but as you go on this journey with her she starts to grow into a person we start rooting for and hope she gets the happy ending she deserves.

I will keep this review short as to not to spoil you, but if you are looking for a coming of age story that will make you question your own life’s journey then you should read it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Vero Signature copy

Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Lora Richardson for providing me with a copy of Outspoken. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

Interviews, Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

Book Review & Interview: The Edge of Juniper by Lora Richardson

The Edge of Juniper

GoodReads Summary:

“You’re off-limits, so why can’t I stop thinking about you?”

Fay Whitaker, sixteen years old and yearning for adventure, is excited to spend the summer with her fearless cousin Celia in small-town Juniper, Indiana.

But Fay soon discovers that her summer home is not what she expected. She is alarmed by her uncle’s temper, and learns of the grudge he holds against the Dearing family. Celia handles the tension at home by escaping with her boyfriend, leaving Fay with time on her hands—time that leads her straight to Malcolm Dearing, off-limits because of his last name. Fay is captivated by Malcolm’s warmth and intensity. She finds that trying to stay away from him only makes her think of him more.

Fay and Celia are launched on a journey, and each must attempt to navigate the thrilling and unpredictable world of love. Everything Fay thinks she knows about love is put to the test, as relationships unfold and reveal themselves in ways she never before dreamed.

Review:

The Edge of Juniper is a contemporary romance that analyzes family dynamics, friendships, and romantic relationships.I absolutely loved Lora Richardson’s writing. She was thought provoking and honest. There is a lot going on with the main character Fay, but Richardson manages to bring all of Fay’s thoughts and emotions to the forefront. Fay doesn’t hide who she or what she wants, but also  being 16, she still isn’t 100% sure of who she is what she wants.

I do have to say that because Fay is so open with her thought and emotions, her relationship with her parents is the kind I want with my kids. The aren’t afraid to discuss anything, and that includes sex. If/When I have children I want to make sure they can be honest with me. For example, Fay’s mother knows that teens have sex; instead of being crotchety about it, she literally buys her daughter condoms, explaining that Fay needs to be responsible and not just expect the guy to have them.

The Edge of Juniper is heartbreaking and eye opening. I absolutely loved it. Below is an interview I did with Lora. Guys she is fantastic and really gets into the nitty gritty of what the book truly represents.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Interview:

So I want to start off by saying thank you for joining us today at The Talking Bookworm. We are super excited to have you and to discuss your book The Edge of Juniper, which I absolutely loved.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with your readers.  I’m happy to be here, and I am delighted that you enjoyed my book!

Can you tell us a bit about The Edge of Juniper?

Fay, a 16-year-old Northeastern city girl, is sent to live with her cousins in Indiana for the summer.  She finds small town life charming, but she discovers some surprising things about her aunt and uncle’s home—not the least of which is the grudge her uncle holds against the Dearing family.  Fay is close with her feisty cousin, Celia, but must come to terms with the circumstances in Celia’s life, and her different style of decision-making. 

And then there’s Malcolm Dearing—strictly off-limits due to his last name.  Fay knows she shouldn’t spend time with him, because doing so will upset the delicate balance in her aunt and uncle’s home.  But the more she learns about him, and the more tumultuous Celia’s household becomes, the harder it becomes to stay away.

 This is a book about first love, the complexity of families, and a girl learning to trust herself.

What was the inspiration behind the novel?

I got the first spark of an idea when my mom told me about the time she spent a week with her cousins.  She had never been a houseguest before, and didn’t know what to expect.  She was surprised by some of the ways their household was different from her own.  I took that idea and ran with it, weaving in Fay—a strong character unafraid to speak her thoughts.  I wanted Fay to be open and genuine, wholly unguarded in her response to the world, and a little bit naïve.  I am curious about the various ways that households function, and how that can affect the behavior of the people inside them, especially teenagers who are making major life decisions, so I explored those thoughts in this novel.  

I loved that Fay and Malcom have no problem talking about sex and don’t feel the pressure to have sex. This is a really important message to both girls and boys. What prompted you to bring this into the story?

I, too, feel like it’s an important message.  I wanted to show a couple that is able to reveal their hearts, even when it’s scary.  I wanted a relationship to progress on its own timeline, without outside pressure—to show how amazing it can be to savor the current moment rather than rush to the next step. 

 I liked the idea of juxtaposing Fay and Malcolm’s relationship with that of Celia and her boyfriend, Ronan.  Celia is rarely honest with Ronan, and that mirrors the way she isn’t honest with herself.  She often hides from her own feelings.  Fay is someone who really examines her own thoughts, and shares them just as openly.  That can backfire, but mostly it draws her closer to the people around her.  Malcolm lives in a very connected, supportive household, where communication is paramount.  Between the two of them, they are able to simplify complicated things just by putting them to words. 

I also think the parent relationships and perception of other people’s families is super important. Can you talk more about that?

It’s amazing to think about all the houses in the world, each with its own group of people inside, all relating to each other and living in various ways.  The way a family seems from the outside can be quite different from what goes on inside.  That knowledge comes to a person slowly, beginning very young, in many big and small ways.  Through childhood and the teen years, I began to notice things, such as:  which households allow food in the living room, who has what curfew, which parents fight, who gets along with their siblings, who has a ton of chores, who always has both parents at the football game and who never has that parental support…and on and on.  Our differences can seem endless, but at heart, so are our similarities.  I think it’s important to think about how other people live, and to hold space and respect for those differences and how they influence a person’s behavior.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? I know I had a difficult time with Celia’s parents and Celia’s relationship with Ronan.

The hardest part was definitely creating Celia’s parents, Todd and Donna.  Every story needs an antagonist, but I didn’t want them to be caricatures—I wanted them to be complex and for their relationship to ring true.  I didn’t want them to seem evil, but rather, complicated—because those situations always are.  I hoped to show that fear motivated a lot of their behavior.

Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?  Summarize your writing process.

I definitely write by intuition.  I had the bare bones of the story in my head, and thought it would be smart to make an outline before I began writing.  It didn’t work for me.  I know many writers love using outlines, but I only got through chapter two before I stopped trying to force it and just let the story take me where it wanted.  Some key scenes stayed the way I imagined them in the beginning, but most everything else took shape as the words hit the page.  What I do, is allow myself a truly messy first draft, which I write as quickly as I can.  I just throw all my ideas on the page.  Then I let it simmer in my head for a while before returning to it when the story has gelled in my mind.

If you were deserted on an island, which three people would you want to have with you? Why? Criteria:

One fictional character from your book

Marigold.  I’m an anxious sort, and she would stabilize me and keep me calm when I started to spiral out of control.

One fictional character from any other book

Jamie Fraser from Outlander.  Aside from being great company, he could build us anything we might need and would be great at finding food.

One famous person that is not a family member or friend

Betty White was the first person who popped into my mind.  She has lived a fascinating life and would keep me entertained with her humor and the stories of her life.

 Thank you so much for having me! 

Thank you to Lora Richardson for joining us to talk about The Edge of Juniper today. You guys should go out and buy it cause it’s totally worth it. This is now is my top ten contemporary YA reads!

I’d like to thank Lora Richardson for the opportunity to read and review her novel.Blog Signature

Historical Fiction, Reviews, YA Historical

ARC Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken

GoodReads Summary:

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

My Review:

And I Darken was quite an interesting book for me. It is a retelling of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, or better know as, Vlad The Impaler. This story takes place in the mid 15th century when the Ottoman’s were trying to take Constantinople. It focuses on Lada (female version of Vlad), her brother Radu, and Mehmed- heir to the Ottoman Empire . It is a dual narrative, switching between Lada and Radu.

Lada Dragwlya is one of the strongest female characters I think I have ever read. She doesn’t take crap from anyone. She isn’t afraid to stand up for her beliefs and even tell the most power man in the world no. Her mind is a thing of it’s own. She is always calculating, planning, evaluating every situation, trying to figure the best way to get her agenda accomplished. She does everything in her power to show that she is equal to any man.

Radu Dragwlya is the opposite of his sister. Where she is night and terror, Radu is sun and calm. While he doesn’t start out as smart as Lada- by smart I mean calculating and conniving- through the teaching is Islam, his mentor, and watching the Ottoman Court, Radu learns to use his beauty and friendliness to develop relationships with the “right” people. Top use those relationships in the same way Lada uses strength and will.

I loved that And I Darken was more a setup for what is to come. In order to understand the end game the characters must be developed and complex.  White does an exemplary job with Lada, Radu, and Mehmed’s growth. They start out as children, barely understanding the world in which they live. But over the ten to fifteen year period the novel takes place, each character grows into their traits. And by the end, they each know their purpose in life and do what is necessary to fulfill it.

I also want to applaud White on her research and detail to Islamic religion. It is quite clear she went above and beyond to understand the religion and portray it in the most realistic way possible. Our society judges Islam as a terrorist religion when, in fact, that is an extreme view of it. White showed the other side, the peaceful side, the true side.

Knowing nothing about Vlad the Impaler, the Ottoman Empire, and Islam I truly enjoyed this book and what Keirsten White had to offer us. Definitely give this novel a try.

Rating: 4 out of  5

I’d like to thank Random House Children’s and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my review.

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Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

One Paris Summer

GoodReads Summary:

Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren’t betrayal enough, he’s about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn’t support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.

 My Review:

One Paris Summer is a delightful read full of teen angst, love, heartbreak, and revelations. Denise Grover Swank does a phenomenal job of show how tragedy and heartbreak can take a toll on a person; that when a person leaves you it has lasting effects on your life; that by forgiving them can you then move forward.

Sophie Brooks is forced to spend the summer before her Junior year in Paris. She is forced to live with her father who abandoned Sophie and her brother, Eric, in pursuit of his dream to restore an old Parisian church. She is forced to get to know a new step-mother, and, share a room with an evil step-sister, Camille. But as the summer progresses Sophie is faced with obstacles and has to decide if she can forgive the people who hurt her, and if she can make her dreams come true.

From the start of the novel, the teen angst and anger is at 200%. Sophie and Eric have a difficult time handling the abandonment of their father. They also have a difficult time understanding how their father can marry someone else so quickly, someone else they have never met. It doesn’t have that their father hasn’t talked to them in 10 months. Sophie stews on things in her mind and that gave me anxiety. But I can also related to who she is feeling. To have your whole word ripped apart is devastating and learning how to handle that is overwhelming. So while it did get annoying that Sophie stewed a lot, I understand and could move past it.

Her step-sister Camille on the other hand I wanted to punch in the face. She is rude and inconsiderate from the moment she meets Sophie. She is always trying to humiliate her in an attempt to get to go home- back to South Carolina. And it doesn’t help that she ropes her friends into this plot as well. However, there is a bright spot… or two bright spots as the book moves forward. Her brother, who has shown very little interest in her life, starts to take an active role in their Paris excursions. He stands up for when it is needed and can empathize with the hurt of their father.

The other bright spot is Matthieu. He opens her eyes to dreams she didn’t think possible. He is truly a great guy for her. However, as always, there are secrets and heartbreak. But as with any good YA Contemporary novel… it only lasts for a little while.

Swank’s summer through Paris is wonderful. Not only do we see Sophie’s character arc and growth, but we see secondary character’s growth as well, showing that everyone at any age can learn new things about themselves and others. Acceptance is the big theme throughout the book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Zonderkidz-Books for the chance to read this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my review in anyway.

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ARC Review: Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Invincible Summer

GoodReads Summary:

Four friends. Twenty years. One unexpected journey.

Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien graduate in 1998, into a world on the brink of the new millennium. Hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien and keen to shrug off the socialist politics of her childhood, Eva breaks away to work at a big bank. Benedict, a budding scientist who’s pined for Eva for years, stays on to do a physics PhD, and siblings Sylvie and Lucien pursue more freewheeling existences–she as an aspiring artist and he as a club promoter and professional partier. But as their dizzying twenties become their thirties, the once close-knit friends, now scattered and struggling to navigate thwarted dreams, lost jobs and broken hearts, find themselves drawn together once again in stunning and unexpected ways. Breathtaking in scope, this is sure to be the book of the summer.

My Review:

Invincible Summer takes place over a 20 year period. Each chapter is a glimpse into Eva, Benedict, Lucien, and Sylvie’s every day lives. When I first read the synopsis for Invincible  Summer it sounded in curious. I have been friends wit people I went to college with, going on 11 years now (whoa!) so a story about their lives felt like the right thing to read. It can be difficult to keep in touch with people, life drives you in different directions. Their growth over the novel mostly felt like small hills, but by the end it is clear that they have grown up, that the events that take place in their lives affected their life trajectory.

I had a difficult time  connecting with the characters. I’m not sure if it was because of the location- London- or the language usage- not American slag- or the fact that this really took place during a time period when I was really only a child. As a twentysomething myself, I understand lost dreams, heartbreak (maybe not so much haha), change, world image, and ultimately happiness. These things change over the course of one’s life and can change one’s life as well. So while I did have a difficult time connecting with the character’s, the themes behind them I could understand. These things change over the course of one’s life and can change one’s life as well.

I will say that these character’s felt very selfish, self-centered, and it was difficult to watch them make choices… maybe that is the point. Not every decision is the right decision. Taking the easy way out can result in unintended consequences. Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, to fight for what you want. And what you want you can’t always have or aren’t meant to have.

It’s funny, when I started writing this (and it took several days to gather my thoughts) I had intended to give this novel a 2 out 5 stars. But while writing this review, I finally understood the purpose to the book. So while I may not have connected to the characters directly, their stories are engaging, the themes are responsive, the final product is meant to understand- not move mountains.

Rating: 4 out 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the opportunity to read and review this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my review.

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Reviews

ARC Review: The Sound of Us by Julie Hammerle

The Sound of Us

GoodReads Summary:

Kiki Nichols might not survive music camp.

She’s put her TV-loving, nerdy self aside for one summer to prove she’s got what it takes: she can be cool enough to make friends, she can earn that music scholarship, and she can get into Krause University’s music program.

Except camp has rigid conduct rules—which means her thrilling late-night jam session with the hot drummer can’t happen again, even though they love all the same TV shows, and fifteen minutes making music with him meant more than every aria she’s ever sung.

But when someone starts snitching on rule breakers and getting them kicked out, music camp turns into survival of the fittest. If Kiki’s going to get that scholarship, her chance to make true friends—and her chance with the drummer guy—might cost her the future she wants more than anything.

My Review:

The Sound of Us is an emotional and compelling story about a girl who goes to music camp and finally understands what she wants out of her life.

Kiki Nichols takes the summer between her Junior and Senior year of high school to attend a music camp and attain a scholarship that will help to pay to go to college and study music. While at camp she meets a variety of other talented musicians in her program as well as other programs. She meets a boy to helps to open her eyes, see what really matters. Her parents on the other hand hope she fails so they don’t have to waste money on her education, like they did with her older sister. Through out the novel she learns more about herself and what she wants. She strives for her dreams

Julie Hammerle did an excellent job of making this story and it’s characters very real and very relatable. Not many teens know what they want to study and do for the rest of their lives. Seeing these students really push themselves for their dreams is really engaging. The friendships and challenges Kiki faces are the same ones any teen does. Questioning who you are as a person, what you want, who you want to be friends with are all important during this stage of life. And just as important is love and heartbreak. Knowing that you may love someone, that they could break your heart- whether it’s a boy or your parents- and that you can move past it.

I hope readers come away from this story knowing that they can do anything, that they can reach for the starts, and bring their dreams to life.

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Rating: 5 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to review this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my review.

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ARC Review: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves

GoodReads Summary:

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

My Review:

So I know this isn’t a YA novel, but when I read the synopsis I knew I had to have this book. Once I got it, back in February, I put off reading it. I think subconsciously, I wasn’t ready for the heartbreak and loss this book would bring… and it brought it hard and fast.

From the summary, you already know Emma had a husband who died. She eventually moved on, fell in love, and is engaged when news  comes that Jesse, her husband, is alive. It’s quite a shock. And that is really what this novel is about- how to come to terms with your past and your future, recognizing the person you have become. 

Moving through the novel, we experience Emma’s first true love, Jesse. Their relationship is a whirlwind romance. They are high school sweethearts, attend the same college, travel around the world together. You can see that their love could be a forever kind of love. But there comes a moment when Emma questions her future- kids, settling down, etc. And she is not sure of Jesse’s opinion. But in the end it doesn’t matter because he “dies”.

Emma eventually moved back to her home town and is able to move on with her life. Then she meets Sam Kemp. He is her second chance at love and she takes it. They have built a wonder life together, so when Emma gets the call that Jesse is alive, she is thrown for a loop. She now has the opportunity to go back to her travel life with hr first love. But when Jesse does officially come back, it’s different, he’s different, they are different.

When Jesse comes back into the picture, it broke my heart to see Sam believe that Emma would go straight back into her old life, forgetting about him. But Sam was gracious enough to understand that Emma needed sometime to work through her feelings and he gave her that (please go listen to Crash and Burn by Savage Garden– this is Sam and Emma’s song). And I got so mad at Jesse for assuming Emma would drop everything to be back with him, that he thought she shouldn’t have moved on with her life. He was very selfish and didn’t help Emma’s confusion.

Taylor Jenkins Reid does a wonderful job at showing the turmoil a person goes through when they lose someone they love. The book is fast paced, moving through Emma’s life quickly but also showing the most important parts of it. And the transition, that weird gray part of a person’s life right after tragedy strikes, is the most compelling piece of the novel. Reid hits the nail on the head of how the body and mind handles death and destruction. Her words are like a complicated musical, moving from moment to moment, heartache to heartache (please start singing Pat Benatar- love is a battlefield). These in between chapters flow and sway, a slow blooming crescendo to a new life, a new person.

The novel also shows that while tragedy and death do happen, you can move on, you can love again. Heartbreak is not forever.

Everyone should read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5

I received this ARC from Washington Square Press and Edelweiss. Receiving this ARC for free doesn’t sway my review.

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Reviews, Special Review

ARC Review: Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil

Goodreads Summary:

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real.

Three years after a series of terrorist attacks flooded the US with a lethal plague, society has changed radically.

Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats.

She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.

Recoil is the first book in a Young Adult dystopian romance trilogy, and makes great reading for lovers of Rick Yancey (The Fifth Wave), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), and Veronica Roth (Divergent).

My Review:

Recoil is the most recent work by Joanne Macgregor. It takes place in modern day United States, three years after a terrorist attack used biological chemicals to unleash a plague. The story is very realistic dystopian fiction. It’s full of elements that terrorist attacks cause- hyper-awareness of foreign residents, larger defense industry, mass media reporting on threats, politician comments about terrorists.

Jinxy starts out naive, playing a game that eventually leads to recruitment with the military. She takes the words of the media, politicians, and her unit commander Sarge for face value- believes they have the people’s best interests at heart. At 16, it makes sense that she would trust those older than her. It isn’t until Jinxy meets Quinn that she starts to question her missions, especially when he finds out she is a sniper. Jinxy understands why she needs to shoot the infected rats, but when she is required to shoot other animals, and eventually is given more classified missions, she has a difficult time, trying to reconcile herself and her values with the values of her unit and the military. Macgregor does an excellent job of showing Jinxy’s progression from being naive to doubting herself and her missions to taking matters into her own hands, making her own educated decisions.

Quinn is a fascinating character. He is also super hot with an Irish accent (swoon). He does what is required of him, but also has his own secrets that are kept from Jinxy. He helps Jinxy open her eyes and understand that her missions are not what she is being told. There is a strong attraction between them, but her missions separate them- pit on against the other. I will say I had a difficult time with the start  of their relationship. It just sort of happens and I couldn’t figure out what drew them to each other. But by the end Macgregor had me rooting for their relationship. And the way the book ends, I just need to know what happens next.

There is a quote in the book- “We’ve repatriated hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of foreign residents, refugees, and workers. We’ve insulated ourselves, sealed our boarders against immigrants and imports and competition… And as a nation we’ve channeled billions into a defense industry that was sitting idle after the last wars fizzled out.” It is scary how closely it describes our current country. We have a presidential candidate who wants to build a wall on the US/Mexican boarder to keep illegal immigrants out; we have alienated anyone who looks middle eastern and have grouped all those who practice Islam into the terrorist stereo type. This novel is so realistic I can see something like this possibly happening.

If you enjoy dystopian settings, this is a great start to a fascinating realistic series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank Joanne Macgregor for providing me with an ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

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