Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
Source: Library
Pages: 398
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: September 17th 2013
Series: Standalone
Verdict: Buy

SummaryIra Levinson is in trouble. At ninety-one years old, in poor health and alone in the world, he finds himself stranded on an isolated embankment after a car crash. Suffering multiple injuries, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes and comes into focus beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together – how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can’t possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.

A few miles away, at a local rodeo, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward -- even life and death – loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans -- a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he’s keeping doesn’t destroy it first.

Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.

Review: I'm ashamed to say that I am a Nicholas Sparks newbie. Why am I ashamed? Because I, book junkie, somehow haven't read one of this many, many books (and oh man, he's written a lot) until now. His work is renowned, many of his books have been turned into major motion pictures, and his storytelling abilities are constantly praised. And I'm a newbie. I am a silly, silly person. Let's just leave it at that, because now that I know what Nicholas Sparks is all about, there's no turning back. 

I've always thought that The Notebook would be the first Nicholas Sparks book and movie that I would read and watch respectively, but looks like I was wrong on both parts. No disappointment there though. I'm not sure which movie I watched first, The Last Song or A Walk to Remember, but both were great. Yet somehow, I still haven't watched (or read) The Notebook... Hm, I suppose I'll have to fix that movie and book situation soon.

Anyway, reading The Longest Ride was great, and I'm glad that this was my first glimpse at the world of Nicholas Sparks amazingness, because it's definitely left me wanting more. I've never read a book with more than two alternating POV's, so this was a nice surprise. It was so interesting reading a book that intertwined the three lives of three different people into one completely connected and whole story.

There's so much going on, but it's a good thing. It was really easy to follow, and I loved the authenticity. Ira was adorable, recounting his times with his departed Ruth with Ruth. Does that make sense? If you've read it, I'm guessing it does. And if you haven't, doesn't that little twist make you want to? As his health dwindles, the stories get cuter and cuter and I was transported. And I was just banging my head (internally, of course) because why wasn't anybody coming to save him? His side of the story was just so beautiful.

But then so are Sophia and Luke's stories. Gosh, this whole entire book was just so beautiful. As the love story of Ira and Ruth is revealed, the love story of Sophia and Luke is being lived. It's amazing how everything unravels. So many emotions will be brought on, and if I had just one word (other than beautiful) to describe this book, the individual stories, and Nicholas Sparks, it would have to be that everything is breathtaking. 

And the conclusion, oh, the conclusion. It brought on the feels, that's all I have to say. The way they connected at the end is both heartbreaking and life changing. I sort of saw the ending coming, but I never thought of how it would happen. Wowzers, I sure didn't see that coming, and let me tell you, it does not disappoint. I'm not kidding when I say that it's life changing, because it is literally life changing. If you read it, you'll see what I mean... Basically, read this book because it's awesome, wonderful, beautiful, amazing, and... quite frankly, I'm on a Nicholas Sparks newbie euphoric journey.

I think it's appropriate to say that I am officially a Nicholas Sparks fan. The only problem is, which one should I read next?!

Pure perfection

Monday, May 25, 2015

First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano

First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano
Source: Library
Pages: 400
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: April 14th 2015
Series: Standalone
Verdict: Borrow

SummaryLima and Hailey have always been best friends: Lima shy and sensitive, Hailey funny and free-spirited. But Hailey abandons Lima to party with the popular kids and pursue Nate, her disinterested crush. As their friendship falters, Lima and Nate begin spending more time together. And before Lima knows what she’s feeling, she and Nate do something irreversible. Something that would hurt Hailey... if she knew it happened.

Lima thinks she’s saving her friendship by lying, but she’s only buying time. As the secrets stack up, Lima is forced to make a choice: between her best friend forever, and the boy who wasn’t meant to be hers.

Review: A coming of age story, First There Was Forever is a book about love, loss, and growing up. Nothing in life is predictable, and Lima shows that when something unexpected comes along, the best thing to do is to trust your own instincts, go for what you want, and let go of everything that's holding you back.

Two peas in a pod, Lima and Hailey have a friendship like no other. Even though they are complete opposites, with Lima and introvert and Hailey and extrovert, they have each other's backs. But then, like with all teenagers, superficial issues catch up to them. In high school especially, popularity is something that many people strive for. When Hailey decides to make new friends in order to up her social status and gain the interest of her longtime crush, Nate, it becomes clear that Lima isn't someone who will help Hailey achieve that.

It's hard to say what was really going through Hailey's mind, because one second she's hanging out with her bestie, Lima, and then the next second, she has a new best friend and bails on Lima all the time. What was so difficult to read was how Lima reacted to it all. She had no idea she was getting ditched, and that's something that is commonly seen in reality. The truth isn't accepted until it hits home, and it really hits home with Lima. 

It was interesting seeing Lima find herself, because she was able to discover that she had a lot going for herself. She didn't need to be Hailey's shadow because she had a magnetic personality when she really became just Lima, as opposed to the Lima in LimaAndHailey. 

I did get annoyed with Hailey because of how she treated herself and Lima. It seemed like she didn't respect herself enough to live life to its fullest. Hiding behind the pretense of outgoing and fierce, I found that she was really insecure and shy at times. It just goes to show that nothing is ever as it seems. Icing Lima out is something that I can never understand or justify, though. True friends are loyal, no matter what. Yet Hailey just drops Lima like they never had a friendship to begin with. And her obsession with Nate was overwhelming and unstable. Hailey became a person who would do anything to get the attention of a guy, even if it meant isolating her best friend. And that's just something that I cannot get behind.

Speaking of Nate... Nate was a bit of an enigma. He was brooding, intense, and surprisingly sweet. His interactions with Lima were so cute. He actually saw Lima for the good, kind, and whole person she was. Even though Nate caused a good chunk of the problems between Lima and Hailey in this book, I truly think that he's a good guy. 

Lima was a character that I could really feel for, because she was just so goodhearted, despite what some of the actions taken may have insinuated. Things happen, and that's the reality of life. But Lima was strong and capable and willing. Because of that, things turned around for the better, for Lima, for Nate, for Hailey, and for everyone.

I'm so glad the lovely ladies at Rather Be Reading recommended this book. First There Was Forever is a book that both entertains and teaches, which truly is one of the best kinds of books, really. With this stunning debut, I think it's safe to say that I'm going to be very excited for whatever Juliana Romano has coming up next. 

Really enjoyed

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Heartbreak River by Tricia Mills

Heartbreak River by Tricia Mills
Source: Library
Pages: 256
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: April 16th 2009
Series: Standalone
Verdict: Borrow

SummaryAlex thought she'd be spending the summer focused on her family's rafting business, burying the memories of her father's death last year, and leaving behind all the messes she made in its wake.

But when Sean returns to town, she is forced to reckon with her mixed-up crushy feelings for him - more powerful than ever before. It takes another tragedy to make Alex realize Sean has loved her, and forgiven her, all along.

Review: I seem to be making a habit of picking up books that take me on emotional roller coasters. Heartbreak River is literally heartbreak river. No joke. It is what it is, and that's what it is. Flow of emotions, squeezing of the heart, laughter, love, anger, sadness, angst, happiness, shock, honesty—heartbreak river. I basically became a person with a gazillion emotions. I never knew that I could feel so much in a few hours. But oh, I definitely can.

I don't think the summary really does the book justice. To me, it was deeper than what I had been expecting. Going in, I was expecting the typical teenage romance story, but that's not what I got. Instead, I got tragedy, insecurities, conflict, recklessness, dysfunction, and so much more. Even though it wasn't what I thought I was getting, what I got was no disappointment, that's for sure.

I enjoyed the dynamics that Alex had with everybody. Of course, her complicated relationship with Sean was by far the most interesting. I kept wondering what happened the previous summer, what was going to happen, and how everything would unravel. And wow, what I discovered, well, it was great. The duo of Alex and Sean is definitely not one to be messed with. They had a past, they have a present, and the future? Well, that's what's to be discovered by reading this book.

Everything was great about this book, but I did have one slight problem. I didn't really like what the tragedy was at the end. It seemed like it was sort of randomly thrown in, and I just didn't get why it had to unfold the way it did. But even with that minor break in flow, this book was the definition of smooth. 

Heartbreak River is a book that's definitely going to appeal to all the emotions that exist. There's a little bit of everything, and that's what makes it so great. Sure, it had some bumps along the way, but in the end, it kept flowing, just like a river. This is a story that you won't want to skip.

Really enjoyed

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Source: Library
Pages: 294
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: May 7th 2013
Series: Nantucket; Book 1
Verdict: Buy

SummaryFor Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t. 

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on--most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits--that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

Review: Nantucket Blue is one of the most beautifully written books that I've ever read. It rounds all the corners, touching base with friendship, family, grief, love, self-discovery, and everything more. And it's done in a non-cliche way, perfecting the art of saying a lot without annoying or offending anyone. In this book, Nantucket is a place that stays in the characters' hearts and souls for their entire lives. And in reality, this book has a place in my heart and soul, forever and ever. Seriously, it's truly fab.

There's so much depth to the characters. Sometimes it seems like they only focus on the small things in life, but it's what they hide inside that makes this book explode with emotion. But really though, bring on the feels. 

I loved Cricket. She's so sincere and kind, although she can also be naive, too. The way she took everything in stride was admirable and I really enjoyed seeing her discover herself.

I was honestly a bit annoyed with Jules, though. I know she was going through a lot, but the way she shut Cricket out and the way she acted towards those she loved was just not okay. But still, their dynamic was something, alright. And Zack, well, that's another thing altogether.

There really isn't much I can say about this book (other than it's awesome and amazing and beautiful and... well, the list goes on), because Nantucket Blue is a book that is all about the feels. (I wasn't kidding earlier.) This would be the perfect summer read, although it would be perfect any time of the year. Read this, read it ASAP, and you'll truly understand what the perfect shade of Nantucket blue is. 

Pure perfection

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
Source: Library
Pages: 327
Publisher: Delacorte
Release Date: January 7th 2014
Series: Standalone
Verdict: Buy

SummaryMeet Sloane Emily Jacobs: a seriously stressed-out figure-skater from Washington, D.C., who choked during junior nationals and isn’t sure she’s ready for a comeback. What she does know is that she’d give anything to escape the mass of misery that is her life.

Now meet Sloane Devon Jacobs, a spunky ice hockey player from Philly who’s been suspended from her team for too many aggressive hip checks. Her punishment? Hockey camp, now, when she’s playing the worst she’s ever played. If she messes up? Her life will be over.

When the two Sloanes meet by chance in Montreal and decide to trade places for the summer, each girl thinks she’s the lucky one: no strangers to judge or laugh at Sloane Emily, no scouts expecting Sloane Devon to be a hero. But it didn’t occur to Sloane E. that while avoiding sequins and axels she might meet a hockey hottie—and Sloane D. never expected to run into a familiar (and very good-looking) face from home. It’s not long before the Sloanes discover that convincing people you’re someone else might be more difficult than being yourself.

Review: I know that I say this a lot, but it's true. I don't know why I've only just picked up this book to read. I had heard so many good things that this title made its way onto my TBR list, but somehow I'm only just reading this now. Ugh. 

Being Sloane Jacobs is an unconventional book of sorts. But it's totally and completely awesome, and I hate that I waited so long to meet the Sloanes. They're talented, funny, beautiful, and disciplined. Their lives at home have been tough, but they find a way... albeit a bizarre one.

I've always loved The Parent Trap (what a classic) because of its lightheartedness, camaraderie, hilarity, and everything in between. Being Sloane Jacobs has this Parent Trap thing going on, only they aren't actually related, instead, having the same names, and they're older and getting away from problems as opposed to trying to get their parents back together. Basically, this book is the Parent Trap of the young adult literary world, and right now, I'm having trouble figuring out which I like better. They're just so good.

At the beginning, the Sloanes undermine each others' sports. Each thinking their own sport is harder, the Sloanes are surprised by the difficulties faced in the opposite sport. Sharing the common skill of being able to navigate the ice, the Sloanes figure out how to adapt and soon, they're right in the midst of all the action, action that they never thought they would experience.

The alternating POVs were awesome. I loved seeing how the story moved continuously, transitioning from one Sloane to the other. The one thing was that I sometimes got confused as to which Sloane was talking at the moment, but that issue was always resolved after another sentence. Seeing how each Sloane was handling the situation was great. It was amazing to see the Sloanes bond and understand each other and most importantly, themselves. 

And oh, the ending. It was so funny and unexpected and ugh. I won't spoil it, but wow, I've got to say that life as a Sloane Jacobs sure seems cool. 

I'll definitely be reading this again sometime. It's lighthearted and fun and just amazing. The Parent Trap just gained some competition, and I just gained a fabulous read.

Really enjoyed

Monday, May 11, 2015

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green
Source: Library
Pages: 305
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: September 22nd 2009
Series: Standalone
Verdict: Borrow

SummaryQuentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew...

Review: This is my second John Green novel, the first being The Fault in Our Stars of course. While this book was certainly interesting and entertaining, it wasn't a true winner for me. 

The concept of the paper town is very odd. Prior to reading this novel, I had no idea that things like paper towns existed. Now that I know what paper towns are, I'm experiencing some mixed feelings. The incorporation of paper towns into this book is so vital (hence the title) to the storyline, but like Margo, it's a mystery at the beginning all the way to the end. 

The characters were... something. They're quirky, intriguing, and crazy. Quentin and his two best friends, Ben and Radar, have a bond that's so, so weird. Yet it's endearing because their loyalty to each other is evident. And then there's Quentin himself. It's hard to not fall in love with his character as he develops and grows as a person. He's just so nice and sweet and honest. As he searches for Margo, he finds more than was ever expected. He discovers the truth, the lies, and most importantly, he discovers himself. And it's amazing.

Now, Margo's role in the book was enormous. As the book is split into three parts, we get glimpses of the person Margo is in three very different ways. From firsthand experience to gathered information to mysterious clues, Margo is as puzzling as the next unsolved thing. It's hard to see who she is exactly because we know her as Quentin knows her and we see her as Quentin sees her. But we only think we know her and we only think we can see who she is, but after reading this, all I can say is, Does anybody really know who Margo Roth Spiegelman is?

Paper Towns is all kinds of funny. The conversations were hilarious, as were the dynamics. And the content was just tear-inducing. When a certain Santa-related section was first introduced, wow, I don't think I've ever been as shocked in my life. It was just so unexpected and odd that I might have (probably, definitely) become hysterical with laughter when I read that portion of the book. 

This book was an oddity, that's for sure. I still have conflicted feelings about the ending and the whole journey, really, but what I do know is that I enjoyed every single word. It may not be on the same level as The Fault in Our Stars, but I've got to say, John Green's sure got a way with words.

Really enjoyed

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez
Source: Library
Pages: 294
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: October 18th 2011
Series: Standalone
Verdict: Buy

SummaryNow is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot... what if Jeremy is better? 

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands herand riles her uplike he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win, she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she's told, doing what's expected. 

Sometimes being on top just means you have a long way to fall....

Review: Virtuosity will take you on a journey that is both compelling and honest. I love books that revolve around music of any sort, possibly (probably, definitely) because I love music in general. This book, however, really hits the spot for me. 

Competition is tough. It's brutal. It's ugly. It's necessary. Through Carmen's raw voice, we not only discover how cruel competition can be, we discover that people will do anything it takes to win... And we discover the sacrifices made, the feelings lost, and the memories gained. 

Carmen's emotions really reached out to me in a way that I felt I could relate to. Now, I've never played an instrument at the level she plays the violin, but I can understand how the practice of violin becomes her. I can see how it's possible for her to see absolutely nothing when she imagines a life without violin. Most importantly, I can feel how her love for the instrument is replaced by an obsession to win a competition that can prove everything, while proving nothing at all. Her passion and voice are thrown onto the pages, so unrestrained and powerful that it cannot be missed. 

It's odd how things unravel in this book, yet it's a beautiful weirdness. The instant connection between Carmen and Jeremy is brilliant, bright, and hard to ignore. Their witty banter, spunky conversations, constant wariness, and shared passions create a dynamic that is ready to explode at a moment's notice. It can be a wonderful outburst or a terrifying boom. But it can never be both at once. 

The thing about Jeremy is that he comes off as kind of a sketchy character. His actions and motives keep you on your toes, but his vulnerability and charm draw you in. The tension between him and Carmen is intense and it can (and does) only grow stronger as the competition looms closer and their attraction becomes more obvious and confusing. 

Nothing short of brilliant, Virtuosity is a book filled with twists and turns. This is a must read that appeals to all emotions and tastes. The relationship between Carmen and Jeremy is unexpected, but once it's there, it feels completely natural and essential. A mesmerizing combination of music, talent, discovery, and harsh reality, Virtuosity doesn't disappoint in any way. 

And it truly makes you wonder: How far will you go in order to win? And when will you stop?

Pure perfection

Monday, May 4, 2015

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Source: Library
Pages: 352
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Release Date: April 15th 2014
Series: Standalone
Verdict: Buy

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

Review: Open Road Summer is everything a contemporary young adult book should be. It's got lightheartedness, depth, conflict, romance, and beautiful characters galore. There were no dull moments, and every word had me itching for the page turns that'd give me more. Needless to say, I read this quickly over the course of two sittings, but only because I had to get some work done. Otherwise it'd have been sit, read, finish, and sit in complete awe. Which I definitely did, just with a small break in between, where I kept getting distracted because I couldn't stop thinking about Reagan, Dee (a.k.a. Lilah), and Matt. 

I'm a huge fan of books revolving around music. There's something so exciting and beautiful when you combine music and the literary word. I absolutely love it. This book, however, takes the cake. Wowzers, it's a good read. A great read. A fabtastic read that makes me wish I was a character in the book because that's how good this book is. I literally could not stop smiling and laughing and making all kinds of faces. It's a good thing I read this at home. That way, I only looked like a fool in private. Seriously, this book had me feeling everything they were feeling, and it was amazing and beautiful and all kinds of wonderful.

What truly made the difference were the relationships. The friendship between Reagan and Dee is one that lasts through all of infinity (book reference; so sweet). The fact that they are complete opposites creates another interesting, entertaining, and lovable component to the friendship. They're so honest with each other, loyal to the end, and they truly care for one another. They're not just friends; they're family. Then, there's the relationship of Reagan and Matt. Holy smokes, talk about swoon-worthy. Their lively banter and obvious attraction is one that will make you giggle, laugh, sigh, and all things in between. And of course, it'll make you swoon. What makes Matt so amazing is that he's not a jerk. He's sweet and honest and real. And he sees Reagan for who she really is, and that's the best thing ever.

Reagan has had her ups and downs, and she's on the road to a new her. Her inner conflict, past choices, current situation, and honesty twist together to form a totally relatable character. I loved her character so much. She showed everything, yet she showed nothing. Her bluntness and actions could be shocking, albeit hilarious, but her love, loyalty, and passion were forces to be reckoned with. Those are her defining qualities, qualities that shouldn't be met with surprise, but with expectance. 

The only words that can truly give you the experience to remember are the words that lie in the pages of Open Road Summer. Fall in love, find yourself, reach your goals, and live your life; that's what this book is all about... but even so, it's still more than that. Emery Lord has crafted a novel that's breathtaking and beautiful, and it is undeniably a showstopper. Read, read some more, read even more, read again, and repeat.

Pure perfection