There You’ll Find Me

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Having read Jenny B. Jones’s the Katie Parker’s series, I found out that she had written more books and settled on one that sounded good, There You’ll Find Me.

Finley Sinclair is an ambitious high school senior who wants to attend music school in New York City. Ever since her older brother Will was killed abroad two years ago, she has become fixated on her goals and obsessed with having control in her life. She decides to follow Will’s travel journal and goes to Ireland on an exchange program.There she meets Hollywood star Beckett Rush, who offers her a new perspective on what a different type of life can be like.

Ireland is the one country that I haven’t had the chance to visit. A friend of mine spent last summer in Ireland, and reading about Finley’s experiences made me feeling like I was hearing her stories all over again. The description of the landscape and scenery created vivid images in my mind.

However, this novel was about more than the beautiful country of Ireland. It’s about grieving over a loved one’s death and learning to accept the help of others. Finley is focused on her one goal, but doesn’t realize that her obsession is negatively affecting her both emotionally and physically. She continually pushes people away who attempt to offer help, not wanting to admit that something is wrong. Jones’s interpretation is very realistic, because it is difficult to admit that something is wrong.

Another plot element concerns the character of Beckett Rush. Although a famous star, we find out over the course of the story that his parents made the decision for Beckett would go into acting. This reminds me of the all too familiar story of child actors who later don’t know what to do with their lives. It also shows that a famous life is not always what it seems. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Beckett’s story wove into Finley’s situation pretty well, as they both deal with making the right decisions.

I definitely recommend this novel. Although it has some cliches of a romantic comedy, it tells a relatable and realistic story.

On a lighter note, this book will definitely want to make you visit Ireland too.

Anna and the French Kiss

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Studying abroad is one of the experiences that everyone should do in their lifetime if ever given the chance. Normally it’s a option in many colleges, but there are also high school programs available. Author Stephanie Perkins gives us those in Anna and the French Kiss.

Anna Oliphant is a seventeen-year-old who has experienced a rough few years with her parents divorce. When she’s sent to spend her senior year at the School of America in Paris, or SOAP, she braces herself for a long year in an unfamiliar country. It’s there she meets new friends, among them Etienne St. Clair. Anna soon finds herself attracted to him, but with St. Clair having a girlfriend, knows that she must learn to control her feelings.

Perkins did a great job of depicting the study abroad experience. Anna has homesickness and initially struggles to adapt in an unfamiliar country, which is eventually resolved when she makes friends. If you’ve ever studied abroad, it’s always comforting knowing you are not the only person who may feel the culture shock during the first few weeks.

The city of Paris is given character itself, with Perkins describing the numerous places that Anna and her friends visit. Having been there myself, it was easy to visualize the locations and the beautiful auras they cast on the city.

The most interesting element of the plot is the idea of Anna having feelings toward somebody who already has a significant other. This is no doubt something that has happened to almost everybody, or to somebody that you know. These situations can be tricky, because there has to be consideration of the fact that you can’t necessarily pursue the person the way you want to and whether to tell them or not. The best way to deal with it depends on the person. In Anna’s case, it wasn’t all about her relationship with St. Clair, but discovering a new perspective by being away from home for awhile.

All in all, I recommend this book to people who like novels about studying abroad mixed with some romance.

Bad Bloods Book Release!

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Today’s entry is a guest post from author Shannon A. Thompson. 

Letter from Shannon A. Thompson, the author: Publishing is quite the journey! As some of you know, Bad Bloods was my first published book—originally released when I was only 16 in 2007—but now that I’m older, I am beyond ecstatic that Bad Bloods is getting a second chance almost a decade later. Special thanks goes out to my publisher, Clean Teen Publishing, for believing in this story, and of course, an extra thanks goes out to all the book bloggers reading and reviewing it. You all are my stars.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

November Rain, Part One, released TODAY

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Series Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Serena isn’t human. She is a bad blood, and in the city of Vendona, bad bloods are executed. In the last moments before she faces imminent death, a prison guard aids her escape and sparks a revolt. Back on the streets determined to destroy her kind, Serena is spared by a fellow bad blood named Daniel. His past tragedies are as equally mysterious as her connection to them. Unbeknownst to the two, this connection is the key to winning an election for bad bloods’ rights to be seen as human again. But Serena is the only one who can secure Vendona’s vote.

When the two unite, their accidental relationship becomes the catalyst for a twelve-year war to continue. Exposing the twisted past of a corrupt city, Daniel, Serena, and every bad blood they know will come together to fight and win, but very few of them will survive to see the day. Bad blood or human, a city will burn, and all will be united by catastrophic secrets and irrevocable tragedy.

What are readers already saying?

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Excerpt:

“My dad was a cop. My mom hugged me a lot. I can’t really remember what she did, but I think she was a writer.”

She used to smell the same way my books did—the ones I remembered reading but not retaining the ability to read beyond a few words. I leaned forward to snatch the paper out of my back pocket. “She always told me stories, especially at night, and my favorite one was about the stars and the moon and how we were all born from them.” I unfolded the paper to stare at the clunky handwriting, knowing it was my father’s but wishing it was my mother’s elegant script. “That’s why they’re so beautiful to us, but that’s also why we should respect them.”

“What do you mean?” Finally, he said something.

I found him over the paper and folded it. “Well, for one, the darkness can shelter us, protect us in our sleep, but it can also let all the bad things hide.” A frown etched onto my face instead of the smile I wished to share. When I realized my failure, I searched the sky. A white light pushed against the back of the murky overcast, bright enough for me to predict. It’d be a full moon in a week. “The full moon can be romantic, light up paths for us, but it can also scare people into believing in monsters.” Bad bloods were the monsters now. “All of my mom’s stories proved that,” I said. “She used to tell me that a full moon is when mysterious things happen and wishes come true.” I stared at the little paper in my hands. “Do you think she tells my sister those stories?”

Daniel didn’t respond. He only listened. I had told him before I had a sister. He had probably assumed I lied, but I hadn’t. It was the truth, and it tumbled out like a story my mom created before bedtime. I tried to picture her telling stories to my sister, but nothing came. I only saw the little girl, with Mom’s hair and Dad’s eyes, standing in the road, saying my name.

“I’ve never met her,” I confessed, staring at the writing bleeding through the folded end. “I think her name is on this, but I can’t read.”

Daniel reached for it. “I can—”

“No.” I held the note against my chest. “I want to learn and read it on my own,” I explained, softer than my previous snap.

Daniel’s head tilted. “Robert never taught you.”

I wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement, but I responded anyway. “He can’t read.”

Daniel’s eyes swept over me. He took the time to rub his face before looking away.

“He can’t read,” I repeated, studying his reaction. “Right?”

Daniel’s hand lowered to his lap. “I can teach you,” he said, and when he faced me again, he was remarkably closer than I realized. His hand moved to rest on my knee. My heart stabilized. “What else do you want?”

It was a question I had never heard before, and the way Daniel stumbled over the sentence suggested he had never been able to say it before either. Bad bloods weren’t allowed to want anything. Not even life. So, when I was asked, my mind spiraled into obscurity, never actually solidifying an answer even though I searched for one.

“I’ve never been allowed to want anything,” I confessed.

“Me neither,” Daniel agreed, and for a brief second, I was oblivious to the fact that his lips were on mine.

November Rain, Part One, released TODAY

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboSmashwordsGoodreads

November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads

www.ShannonAThompson.com

 

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here

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Fan fiction is a popular Internet trend that is, well, fans writing fiction about their favorite characters from television shows, movies, video games, books and so on. Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here, the debut novel of Anna Breslaw, uses fan fiction as a major part of the plot, all of it written by the protagonist, Scarlett Epstein.

Scarlett is a sixteen-year-old living in New Jersey who dislikes school and has few friends. She is an avid fan of the television show Lycanthrope High, and writes fan fiction as a hobby. When a series of events causes her life to become difficult, Scarlett turns to fan fiction as a way to channel her frustration and begins writing about the people in her life and her issues in her online stories.

I liked Breslaw’s inclusion of fan fiction as a device in the plot, as it’s something that thousands of people participate in. I myself have read fan fiction and even wrote a few stories (a really long time ago.) It’s enjoying to read other people’s writing styles and different interpretations of what characters experience. Breslaw also uses several pop culture references to explain her character’s feelings and experiences.

Honestly, though, I felt like the fan fiction presence was the only element that set this story apart from other similar novels that I’ve read. I found Scarlett’s life and experiences to be full of cliches: old friend comes back into life and stirs up feelings in the girl, girl experiences drama between her divorced parents, the popular crowd causes trouble for the girl. The list goes on.

As much I appreciated Breslaw’s talent, I just couldn’t get into the story or relate to the characters. I would recommend borrowing this novel from the library.

75th Post and Fourth Anniversary

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This is my seventy-fifth post and also marks the four-year anniversary of this blog. I first started this blog back in 2012, when I was at the halfway point through college. It actually started as a suggestion from my older brother, who said that a journalism major should have a blog, and that it could be about anything. Since I loved to read, I decided to start a book review blog.

When I think about it, writing book reviews is something that I think almost everyone has done in their lifetime. In grade school, we had to read a certain number of books from a list we were given and then write a summary about it, pick out certain words to analyze and one time even had to create a puzzle using words.

The whole practice of reading books has definitely evolved since those days. The Internet has made it much easier for people to look up information and read material without having to go to the library. This has lead to the common perception that people no longer go to libraries or even read books anymore. However, the Huffington Post reported on a study last fall that showed that 80 percent of people 18-29 had read a book in the past year. Plus, with e-readers like the Kindle and Nook, reading has become easier for people who may not have the room to carry books with them. I’ve seen this on the subway and in airports.

When it comes to libraries, I think it depends on where you are. Here in D.C., the libraries are almost always full, people sitting at the tables reading books and on the computers. But then again, it’s a city. If I think of my hometown in Upstate New York, where the population is much smaller, the library is probably not as full during the day, but still has plenty to offer.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog so far, I will continue to write reviews as often as I can. If you have any suggestions, leave it in the comment section.

 

 

P.S. I Still Love You

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The sequel to Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this novel continues the story of Lara Jean Song Covey, an Asian-American girl whose letters to five guys she had loved before were sent.

Having formed a relationship with Peter Kavinsky, one of the guys she had written a letter to in the past, the two of them are getting to know each other. Their bond is soon tested when a video of them together is viraled out to the whole school and begins rumors about what has been going on. When another boy from Lara Jean’s past comes back into her life, she finds herself conflicted about who she really loves. She seeks advice from family and the senior citizens at the retirement home where she works.

I enjoyed reading the parts about Lara Jean spending time in the retirement home and listening to senior citizen’s stories about their experiences. It reminded me of the stories my grandparents used to tell me about being young adults and how life was like back then. And of course, who doesn’t have grandparents who likes to give relationship advice?

I did find this novel to be a little more predictable then its predecessor. In this case, the cliche of “who is the girl going to choose?” was present. However, I like how Han includes messages about how the people in your life can affect your perception of the world and how memories stay with us.

About a week ago, I discovered that Han plans to release another novel next, the third and most likely final one, entitled Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I am looking forward to seeing what happens to Lara Jean.

On a side note, another thing I have discovered is that the characters of Lara Jean and Peter both have Instagram accounts. Played by actors, of course, but I think it’s an interesting way to bring the characters to life.

 

 

Girl Against the Universe

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Paula Stokes’s Girl Against the Universe is easily one of my favorites this year and one that has resonated with me the most.

Maguire Kelly is a seventeen-year-old who feels like the universe is against her. After surviving a car accident that killed her father, uncle and brother, she feels like she brings bad luck wherever she goes. A series of bad experiences, including a roller coaster crash and accidentally burning her neighbors house down due to an unattended candle, has only added to Maguire’s anxiety. To keep herself on track, she keeps a luck journal to document her experiences and does luck rituals every day. When an opportunity comes to visit her grandmother in Ireland, Maguire decides to try to take back her life by making a list of goals that she wants to do, with the help of her psychiatrist.

As part of her first step, Maguire decides to try out for the tennis team at her new high school. It’s there she meets Jordy Wheeler, a tennis star, and discovers that he has the same psychiatrist. The two of them become friends and end up helping each other out in unlikely ways.

I related to Maguire right away. I played tennis during my junior and senior years in high school, so the tennis tryout scenes felt very familiar. Part of my heritage is Irish, as is Maguire’s.

When it came to Maguire’s anxiety, that’s where I felt the most connected to her. I struggled with anxiety throughout high school and college. I sometimes felt like I wanted to control certain parts of my life, and wanted to stop bad things from happening. I also went to see a psychologist, as Maguire does. Maguire’s decision to try something new reminded me of my decision to study abroad during my junior year of college, wanting to make a change in my life. More about that can be read here.

I love that Paula Stokes was able to capture the experience of having anxiety so realistically and wasn’t afraid to show the effects it can have on one’s lifestyle; the constant struggle it can be. I definitely recommend this book, as it’s an accurate portrayal of something serious that affects millions of people every day, all over the world.

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