Since You’ve Been Gone

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson


Since You've Been GoneThe Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…(Goodreads)


The Skinny:

Emily’s best friend, Sloane, has disappeared at the beginning of what was to be the most epic, off the charts summer of their lives. There’s no warning, no phone call, no note–Sloane is just gone. Emily tries to reach her, searches for clues as to her whereabouts, but all she finds is Sloane’s family home abandoned and no sign of her friend.

That is, until a mysterious To Do list written in Sloane’s unmistakable handwriting arrives at her door. It’s full of random tasks, the kinds of things you only do at the prompting of your best friend, the kind of things Emily would never, ever do alone. Sloane is the vibrant, fearless, life of the party. Emily has always been the loyal sidekick. But there’s a dash of hope in this list, a belief Emily holds to that if she takes the journey, if she completes each task, perhaps it will all lead her back to her best friend.

With unexpected help of Frank Porter, an undeniably cute guy from school (they’re always cute in YA aren’t they? Love it), Emily dives head first into the list and begins a summer full of changes.

My Thoughts:

First of all, I am so with Emily on this fear of doing anything too crazy. I always felt like more of an accessory than the main event. And with items like “Kiss a Stranger” (no, I didn’t want to kiss people I knew, let alone strangers), and “Steal something” (WHAT IF I GET CAUGHT?), “Break something (I mean, that’s just plain rude), or “Go skinny dipping” (Uh, let me think. No), I felt for Emily.

But with Sloane gone Emily was suddenly faced with a big, empty summer. Life feels less interesting because Sloane and Emily have one of those all-consuming tight knit friendships (except that part where Sloane forgot to mention she was about to skedaddle). Outside of her family, Emily honestly doesn’t have anyone else she’s really close to. She realizes that she’s basically alone. She only attacks that mysterious list because she feels that through it her best friend is sending her a message about how to find her. The enormous courage it takes Emily to do some of these things is what is so enchanting about this book. No, they aren’t tasks that will harm her or truly change her life in any way, but they’re different. She has to take a step outside of the comfort zone she’s been in. She begins by going to the local apple orchard where she runs into Frank Porter, schoolmate and problem solver deluxe. Frank begins to help Emily in her search for clues and the more time she spends with him the more she opens up to the possibilities around her, things she didn’t always see with Sloane standing nearby.

One element I enjoyed about this book was the flashbacks. Matson allows us to see inside Sloane and Emily’s world so much so that even though Sloane isn’t truly present in the current day storyline, as the reader I felt like I knew her (and I was as charmed by her as Emily was). Matson paints a vivid picture of what friendship is like for girls, especially high school ones. There’s a real sisterhood, a bond that runs deep and is felt clearly. And we’re left with the same question Emily had, “Why would she leave without a word?”

I also loved watching Emily grow into an individual. At the beginning, she is Emily of Sloane and Emily. She starts her trek in a cautious, single-minded way, but by the end she views herself as an individual, as someone who matters to those around her (and stands out to them) and she sees the importance she holds.

Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 I loved this book. It was so cute. Morgan Matson never misses. And also, though I didn’t put a ton of focus on him in the review, Frank Porter is adorably crushworthy. Read this book!

Where’d I Get It: Bought this one for my Nook.

Isla and the Happily Ever After

IslaIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins


Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series. (Goodreads)


The Story:

Isla has had a crush on Josh–yes, that Josh. The one with his tongue permanently down Rashmi’s throat in Anna and the French Kiss–since forever. When she runs into him at a cafe in NYC  as she’s hopped up on Vicodin following oral surgery, it’s not exactly ideal (though it’s quite charming to read). She proceeds to make a fool of herself, Josh is amused and perhaps slightly intrigued, then it’s over. They don’t see each other for the rest of the summer.

When school starts and the two are back at SOAP in Paris, it takes time, but they make their way from Awkward Cafe Encounter to Awkward Almost Friends to OMG We’re So Adorable. You see, unlike other Perkins books, this one isn’t so much about the will they or won’t they get together, it’s about will they or won’t they make it. They both have issues. Josh’s family is Not Amused with his regular antics and as much as Isla and Josh want to believe they’re in their own little romantic world, real life sort of slaps them in the face. The question for this couple is will they get their happily ever after, the one Isla’s been dreaming about (hint: look at the title)?

My Thoughts:

I didn’t loooooove this book (though I liked it) and I feel sort of terrible saying that. It’s not a bad story, in fact, there are some uber-cute moments. I guess it just doesn’t compare to its near-flawless predecessors, Anna and Lola.

Josh is well-written, flawed and funny, yet still raw and edgy in his complete apathy toward all things regarding school. While I didn’t necessarily crush on him the way I immediately did with St. Clair and Cricket (I’m sorry. It’s so unfair to compare), I saw why Isla liked him.

But Isla. You guys. I had such a hard time with her. I found her to be whiny and completely lacking the humor of Anna or the whimsical charm of Lola (not that she has to be them, she just didn’t have something good that stood out to me the way those girls did). She felt so one-dimensional to me. And the feelings for Josh, like I said, I get it, but she was, forgive me, kind of stalkerish about the whole thing. Then, when they finally got together he was EVERYTHING. I understand that first time love feels like everything but Isla lived as though it was.

But what would a companion novel be without St. Clair (still utterly adorable. I want to kiss his cute little cheeks. Because I want to act like the French, obviously. That’s all). And we see Anna (still strong and funny. Everything Isla is not, actually), and, be still my heart, Cricket (in all his sweet, nerdy awkwardness) and Lola (sucking the air out of the room with her quirky brand of awesome). Their scenes are fabulous. They make the book. And the ending. I LOVED the ending (basically from the time the old characters come in all the way to the very end I was in love. It was perfect). The end of this book is what romance stories should be. Perkins did a beautiful job there.

Crush Intensity: 4/5 Not my favorite, but still definitely worth the read.

Just Call My Name

18607158Just Call My Name (I’ll Be There #2) by Holly Goldberg Sloan


Emily Bell has it all. She’s in love with a boy named Sam Border, and his little brother has become part of her family. This summer is destined to be the best time of their lives–until a charismatic new girl in town sets her sights on Sam. Now Emily finds herself questioning the loyalty of the person she thought she could trust most.

But the biggest threat to her happiness is someone she never saw coming. Sam’s criminally insane father, whom everyone thought they’d finally left behind, is planning a jailbreak. And he knows exactly where to find Emily and his sons when he escapes…and takes his revenge. (Goodreads)

Just Call My Name picks up soon after the close of I’ll Be There, the stellar debut novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan. After the emotional, nicely tied up ending of the first book we settle in with the characters we first fell for and find out exactly what happens when they get their happy ending.  The truth is, it’s a lot of work, especially for Sam and Riddle, who’ve never had a normal life, never had stability or security, and have only been able to rely on each other.

In Just Call My Name, the boys are settling into their new lives, Riddle with the Bell family, who have adopted him, and Sam in an apartment nearby (the Bells wanted to adopt Sam as well, but since he was about to turn eighteen they were told it wasn’t necessary). Riddle is learning to read, trying to fit in with the adoptive family he adores (and the new brother who seems a teensy bit jealous of him). Sam is attending college and walks to the Bell family home on a daily basis to visit his younger brother. He’s struggling more with the adjustment process, so used to constantly worrying over Riddle. This new happiness is foreign and he lives as though it may somehow slip from his grasp.

Emily has a job at a local restaurant, joined by the ever-annoying Robb. Don’t call him Bobby. No, no, no. It’s Robb. Two B’s. And he’s every bit as obnoxious as that extra B makes him sound–at first. He still has this odd fixation with Emily that borders on creepy and he just doesn’t get what she sees in Sam. Sam and Emily are treading slowly, but we are able to see that these two seem to have an unshakable bond, something even they don’t quite understand.

But remember that they are, in fact, teenagers. As such, one night as Sam waits outside the restaurant for Emily to finish her shift, he meets Destiny, a girl who works at the boutique next door. Destiny has a pretty rough background and can use the help of a few friends, but she makes Emily uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s so experienced in life. Maybe it’s the way she dresses, or her obvious interest in Sam. Whatever it is, Emily can’t shake the feeling that this girl is trouble.

And let’s not forget Clarence Border, that stealth, arrogant man, so evil and driven in his contempt for his boys and the way they’ve been “brainwashed” by the Bells. He manages to escape prison and sets out get Sam and Riddle back to teach them all a lesson about how traitorous they’ve been.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book. I fell in love with the characters the first time around, and I loved them equally here. Sam is a genuinely tormented young man, balancing the damage done by his father, the changes in responsibilities with his brother (entrusting him to the Bells), and his deep love for Emily,which often confuses him in how beautiful and overwhelming it can be. The closer he gets to her, the more afraid he seems to be of letting her see how damaged he really is.  This is where Destiny finds a slight connection with him. In some ways, they understand each other. Emily is understandably insecure, but she’s still the bright, brave girl we met the first time around. I had mixed feelings about Robb and Destiny (of course I hated her at first because DON’T EVEN), but they both earned my respect in the things they were willing to do for their friends. The star of the show though was Riddle who, through the love of his new family and that of his big brother, has grown more vocal, and has embraced his new life with bright curiosity. I dare you not to fall in love with this kid.

If I have any complaints about this book it’s the fact that Emily’s parents play such a small role. They were such an integral part of the last book and they are the reason Emily is the girl she is, which is evident in the way they’ve taken in the boys (especially considering how awkward it must be to have their adoptive son’s big brother who is an almost-adult dating their daughter). Otherwise, this was a great book and a good follow-up to a story I already felt immersed in.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 I love Holly Goldberg Sloan’s omniscient storytelling style that lets us into the minds of multiple characters. Excellent sequel.


Thank you to NetGalley and to Little & Brown for giving me an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.



Ignite Me (please)

Ignite MeIgnite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi


With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her. (Goodreads)


Ignite Me. Finally. Even though I read it the week it came out (and fanned myself frequently), I’m finally reviewing it.

Fair warning, if you have not read Shatter Me, Destroy Me, Unravel Me, Fracture Me–first of all, why are you reading this when you clearly have books to read?–there will be spoilers here.  Go. Go read them now because Warner. You’re welcome.

Little Bit of a Recap

Ignite Me is the final book in the Shatter Me series, a trilogy (plus novellas. I don’t know what you’d call that) I have loved every step of the way. Juliette is a fabulous protagonist, one we watched grow from timid to courageous, one who has found her strength in what she originally thought was a flaw. She has a gift so powerful no one can touch her except…wait for it…Warner (I know. Lucky duck). In Unravel Me we discovered that while Adam was at one time able to freely touch her, it comes at great cost and he has to work hard to safely have physical contact with her. This is a struggle because Adam believes he loves Juliette. It’s in Unravel Me that we also discover a shocking truth: not only is Warner able to touch Juliette, he can “borrow” powers from other people. Also he can touch Juliette. Did I already say that BECAUSE IT’S WORTH REPEATING, especially because in Unravel Me we also see how desperately Warner wants to get all up on that.

The Final Book

The big challenge for Juliette this time around is getting her team from Omega Point, one that includes Adam and Kenji, to trust the guy who was enemy numero uno, Warner. They have to join forces, move into Warner’s facility, train together, and build an alliance against Adam and Warner’s father.

In this book we learn more about Warner. We delve further into his past, learn about his mother and his childhood, and begin to understand just where his fascination with Juliette began.

In this part of the story, the love triangle fizzles a bit. One guy turns into a giant jerkhead (completely crazy bananapants) and Juliette, even before that point, makes her heart pretty clear. While I won’t spoil it or say whether or not my choice was the one, I will say that Mafi makes it abundantly clear that there is a guy who wants to help Juliette control herself (while in some ways, be controlled by him) and there is another guy who wants her to unleash herself and fly free. Either way, Juliette taking steps toward one guy over another opens up the romance in a serious way. I’m talking SERIOUS STEAM.

Final Thoughts

Ignite Me is good. I thought it was a pretty epic close to a thoroughly awesome series. The final sequence is particularly good. And leading up to it all are many tingly scenes, so there’s that. Also, Juliette’s relationship with Kenji blossoms and I have to tell you, I could read an entire book about that man. He is hilarious and he’s loyal to Juliette to the very end. I felt as though at the close of the book, I could have kept reading. It feels like there is so much story left to tell because the characters are now on the verge of something huge, but alas, it’s over.  We just have to trust that this ending is a good beginning for them all.

My biggest complaint is one brought to my attention by my dear friend Sandie. In order to resolve the love triangle, Mafi chose to have us more fully see two characters we may have once misunderstood. In one case it was a breath of fresh air to learn that this person was not quite what we thought he was. In the other case, it was sad to realize that the guy was not at all what we thought he was. We see hints of this in the novellas written from each guy’s perspective, Destroy Me (Warner) and Fracture Me (Adam). In the case of one guy, he took such a dramatic turn that it felt like a character assassination.

But you should be the judge. Either way, I really liked this book.

Crush Intensity: 5/5 WARNER OMG

Where’d I Get It: Bought it for my Nook so I could highlight and bookmark to my heart’s content.


Just Like The Movies

Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore

Just Like the MoviesPretty and popular track star Marijke Monti is confident about almost everything – she’s got great friends, a great family, and she’s on her way to the State Track Championship. In fact, the only thing Marijke isn’t confident about is her relationship with Tommy Lawson.

Lily Spencer has spent her entire high school career preparing for the future – she’s participated in every extracurricular activity and volunteer committee she could. But, at home, she watches her mother go on date after date with dud-dudes, still searching for “the one.” Lily realizes that she’s about to graduate and still hasn’t even had a boyfriend.

While they live on each other’s periphery at school, Lily and Marijke never seemed to have much in common; but, after a coincidental meeting at the movie theater, Lily gets an idea – why can’t life be like a movie? Why can’t they set up their perfect romantic situations, just in time for their senior prom, using movie techniques?

Once the girls come up with the perfect plans, they commit themselves to being secret cohorts and, just like in the movies, drama ensues. (Goodreads)


The Story:

Marijke (I looked it up and I think it’s pronounced Ma-RYE-Kuh), track star and all-around popular girl, is in love with romance. She’s like Annie in Sleepless in Seattle. She doesn’t just want to fall in love. She wants to fall in love in a movie (see how I did that? I used a movie reference to talk about a girl who loves movies). Girl after my own heart. She’s been raised with parents living out the ideal love story and all she wants is a little lovey dovey perfection. And she wants her boyfriend–the guy every girl in school wants–to say those three little words to her.

Lily is the opposite of Marijke. She’s a wallflower. She’s the smart girl who’s invisible to virtually everyone, including the one guy she’s crushing on. It doesn’t really matter though. She wants nothing to do with love. She’s watched the endless parade of losers her mother brings home break her mom’s heart and shatter her romantic dreams. Lily has no desire to follow in her footsteps.

One night, Lily and Marijke, unlikely friends, stumble upon each other at a showing of Titanic at the local theater. Marijke is in tears over a fight with her boyfriend, Tommy, and she confides in Lily. In response to this, Lily shares her secret crush on Joe, the school’s reigning motocross stud. Together, in a moment of trust and pure craziness, they form a plan to stage romantic scenarios with Tommy and Joe, with scenes straight from the movies, and they hope to turn the tide of the current love lives.

My Thoughts:

What an adorable premise. Fiore is constantly referencing and quoting movies I love. And I liked the fact that Lily and Marijke develop a relationship based on this common goal. I struggled with Marijke’s boyfriend, Tommy, though. While he turns out to be a nice guy in the end, I thought he was a terrible boyfriend and I couldn’t understand how a girl with everything she had going for her would be so interested in him. In fact, I kept waiting to find out some deep, dark secret about him because I just didn’t trust that guy. But I still liked Marijke. She learns from the experiment, and she finds a balance between what she has and what she thinks she wants. As fas as Lily is concerned, I felt sad for her and for the life she has with a mother who constantly brought different men in and out of their lives. While their relationship is addressed, I felt it was too easily resolved because it seemed to me to be a much deeper problem than “hey, I shouldn’t pay more attention to guys than my kids.” The budding romance between Lily and Joe is cute, but the best relationship is the one between Marijke and Lily.

In the end, I had high hopes for this one and felt a little bit let down. It had some very cute moments, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The end was very sweet though and it felt like Fiore put her whole heart into it.

Crush Intensity: 3.75/5

Thank you to Net Galley and Walker Books for Young Readers for giving me an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

Biggest Flirts

Biggest Flirts (The Superlatives #1) By Jennifer Echols


Biggest FlirtsTia and Will’s lives get flipped upside down when they’re voted Yearbook’s Biggest Flirts in this sassy novel from the author of Endless Summer and The One That I Want.

Tia just wants to have fun. She’s worked hard to earn her reputation as the life of the party, and she’s ready for a carefree senior year of hanging out with friends and hooking up with cute boys. And her first order of business? New guy Will. She can’t get enough of his Midwestern accent and laidback swagger.

As the sparks start to fly, Will wants to get serious. Tia’s seen how caring too much has left her sisters heartbroken, and she isn’t interested in commitment. But pushing Will away drives him into the arms of another girl. Tia tells herself it’s no big deal…until the yearbook elections are announced. Getting voted Biggest Flirts with Will is, well, awkward. They may just be friends, but their chemistry is beginning to jeopardize Will’s new relationship—and causing Tia to reconsider her true feelings. What started as a lighthearted fling is about to get very complicated…(Goodreads)


The Story:

Tia is the party girl with a bit of a rep. Will is the new guy everyone wants to know about (and, you know, he’s hot, so that never hurts). These two meet up at a party just before school starts, they have some steam, and then they form a bond later the next day during band. Because Tia is known as such a major flirt, and because she and Will spend pretty much every moment talking when they aren’t supposed to, smiling at each other, laughing, and ogling each other, they earn the honored class title “Biggest Flirts.” Truly, there could not be a more fitting description of them. Tia doesn’t want anything serious, so Will moves on and the whole flirty thing doesn’t sit well with his new lady. And of course, his new lady doesn’t really sit well with Tia. She really likes him but after watching her sisters make terrible, awful decisions pertaining to love, she’s afraid to make the same mistakes. She and Will’s friendship (or more) hangs in the balance because they both want something but they can’t seem to find common ground.

My Thoughts:

I have only read two other Echols books, both good, both with a slightly darker edge (slightly), but I’m not a huge Echols fan. I say this not to disparage her, but to let you, the reader, know in advance that I’m not a built-in fan destined to love anything she writes. But I really adored this book. It was absolutely, perfectly fun and it made me laugh out loud in many parts. In fact, I’m so thrilled it’s going to be a series.

The center of this story is Tia. I have to tell you, at first description, I had no idea I’d love her the way I ultimately did. Tia wants few ties or romantic entanglements. She’s okay with being a friend with benefits, making out with one of her best guy friends because they have an understanding, and she prefers to be with a guy for a fleeting moment rather than falling in love. Despite this, Tia is about as loyal as a friend can be. She goes to great lengths for the ones she loves, and she is honestly so sweet-natured, despite the reputation. And this girl is so funny. She has a habit of being very chatty and she says the funniest things. All of this just endeared her to me. I seriously adored this girl. If she were real I’d want her as my best friend.

Will is great because he isn’t perfect. He has a bit of a temper, he has that bit of mystery being that he is the new guy in school, and he is extraordinarily devoted to Tia, even when he’s dating someone else. Together their flaws are somewhat heightened, but it somehow makes them that much cuter. And the banter! I’m such a sucker for fun, witty banter and Echols nails it with Tia and Will.

There are still deeper emotions to this story, issues with Tia’s family, questions about who each of them are and where they want to be, but the book never feels heavy. It feels just right:perfectly fun and happy with a romance that’s sexy without being a cheesy. There’s some off the charts swoonworthiness here, but it all feels real.

Crush Intensity: 4.5 I just loved this book. It made me smile… and you can’t ask for more than that.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for providing me with an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

Second Chance Summer

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson


Second Chanc SummerTaylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love. (Goodreads)

The Story:

Taylor’s family is returning to their summer home at Phoenix Lake, someplace they haven’t been in ages. It’s the place she spent every summer of her childhood, the place she first fell in love with Henry, where she forged what seemed like an indestructible friendship with Lucy, and where it all fell apart five years ago. Now Taylor is returning there with her family on the cusp of receiving life-altering news. She has to face the heartbreak that is inevitably waiting around the corner, and face those she left behind without a word that last summer on the lake. Here, Taylor gets to know her family again, she faces her fears instead of doing what she’s always done–run away–and she gets what we all need sometimes: a second chance.

My Thoughts:

What a beautiful, sweet, sometimes heartbreaking book. Morgan Matson perfectly captures all those emotions wrapped up in first love, best friends, and family drama, and even simple things like summer jobs or days lounging by a lake. This book is everything a summer novel should be.

Taylor is grappling with earth-shattering news. Her father has only weeks, month maybe, to live. And this man, oh, what a guy he is. Both in flashbacks and in present day timelines, it’s impossible not to love him and love the way he enjoys life. The moments he takes with each person in the family, the special breakfasts he and Taylor have a couple of times a week, are the sweetest, loveliest parts of this book. To me, this is where the true love story lies. But we can’t talk about that too much because THE TEARS.

But yes, there is another story. First, that of Taylor and Lucy, her old BFF. The dialogue, the flashbacks, the ease of these two girls, is pretty much YA perfection. Every moment of it feels real, feels true, like any moment you or I may have had with our childhood bestie. And Henry, that adorable first crush, who has grown into that adorable guy, his relationship with Taylor has such promise. The reason Taylor had her falling out with the two of them five years ago is not high drama. As an adult, I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I can see how, at the age Taylor was at the time, it seemed massive. And her heart feels so raw until she rights that wrong.

This is a wonderful book. I was so sad when it ended, for many reasons, but mainly because Matson introduced me to characters I fell in love with and placed them in a town I’d move to in a heartbeat. It made me wish those summers of my childhood could have lasted forever.

Crush Intensity: 4.5 I could read this book again and again–but I’d need lots of Kleenex!

Where’d I Get It: The library

Bright Before Sunrise

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt

Bright Before SunriseWhen Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, “miserable” doesn’t even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother’s first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real… until she breaks up with him.

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she’s really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She’s determined to change his mind, and when they’re stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself. (Goodreads)



Brighton and Jonah come from different backgrounds. She’s the perfect goody-two shoes and he’s that guy who hates everyone and everything remotely related to Cross Pointe High as he’s been moved there against his will. The two are thrust together and over the course of one night get to know each other. In those few hours they forge an understanding that blossoms into a romance. The thing is…it’s tough to buy it. I normally LOVE books that take place over the course of one “life-changing” night. Further, I love books that are, like Bright Before Sunrise, written from alternating POVs, but I honestly struggled with this one.

Initially, there was promise in each character. First in Brighton, who is struggling with the loss of her father. She has a goal to get every student in the school to volunteer houses, something she does to follow in the footsteps of her dad. There is real pain there, something she hides from those around her, but the surface of this is barely scratched. And then there is Jonah. I found it so difficult to like him or sympathize with him at all because, while he was struggling to adjust to moving to a new town, living with his mom and his stepdad, he was, quite honestly a jerk. Inwardly he wasn’t a bad guy, but outwardly I thought he was terribly rude to Brighton. Of course he softens as time goes on, but I found it hard to understand why she’d even want to speak to him in the beginning.

That’s not to say there aren’t enjoyable parts of this book or sweet moments–there are. But for me those things came a little too late.

Crush Intensity: 3.0/5 Not bad, but not as cute as I’d hoped. I was definitely disappointed.

Thank you to Net Galley and Walker Children’s for providing me with an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Black Butterfly

The Black Butterfly by Shirley Reva Vernick

The Black ButterflyPenny is furious, and who can blame her? She has to spend Christmas break alone at the Black Butterfly, an old inn at the coldest, bleakest edge of America—the coast of Maine. This “vacation” is the brainchild of Penny’s flaky mother, who’s on the other side of the country hunting ghosts. Penny most definitely does not believe in spirits. Or love. Or family. Until, that is, she discovers two very real apparitions which only she can see…and meets George, the handsome son of the inn’s owner…and crashes into some staggering family secrets. If only Ghost Girl didn’t want Penny dead. If only George were the tiniest bit open to believing. If only she could tell her mother. Then maybe this could still be a vacation. But it’s not. It’s a race for her life, her first love, and her sanity.

The Story:

Penny’s super-flaky mom is across the country on one of her ghost-hunting adventures. She’s supposed to be home in time for Christmas, but like many things with her mom, plans fall through and Penny finds out she’s being shipped off to spend the holidays at an inn owned by a former friend of the family. It’s bad enough she’s being sent away for Christmas, but to be forced to spend the holidays with total strangers in freezing cold Maine…Penny is not amused.  But as she settles in at the Black Butterfly, she grows to find comfort in the warm kindness of the owner, in the amazing food her chef prepares, and in the company of George, the inn keeper’s cute son. The whole thing would seem like an ideal escape from her real life if it weren’t for the fact that Penny, a girl who is ardently closed-minded about ghosts, begin seeing apparitions of her own. And not all of them are friendly.

My Thoughts:

This was a cute book. Penny’s inner monologue is funny and while I sympathized with her regarding her life with a totally unreliable (albeit kind) mother, I liked that Penny could really take care of herself. She was strong and opinionated, and bold without being abrasive. The ghost story is intriguing without being too too scary (think Mediator series by Meg Cabot) and is interesting enough to carry the book forward and keep you turning the pages. One of my favorite things about The Black Butterfly was the cast of characters. I liked the conversations she had with the inn staff and, of course, with George. While the romance doesn’t reach super-swoony heights, there’s definitely potential there. As with many books, I felt the end tied up a little too perfectly, but I still liked it. Penny was in a good place, which is what I’d hoped for her.

Crush Intensity: 3.75-4.0  This was a good book. I think Vernick is a strong storyteller. I would definitely be happy to read more about Penny in the future.

Thank you to Shirley Vernick for asking me to read The Black Butterfly. Not only did she send me a copy of the book in exchange for a honest review, she was very patient about the length of time it took me to get this posted!

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by e. Lockhart

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

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

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



The Story:

The Sinclair family summers in a private island just off the coast of Massachusetts. They are so beautiful, so privileged, so exceedingly wealthy that not only to they have an island to themselves, there are several homes on the island (each named, of course), one for each daughter, and one main residence for the family patriarch. And no matter how much they have they are never without secrets, never without a dose of animosity, both to each other and to Grandfather, who rules the family with disapproving looks and silent financial threats.

On the outside the Sinclairs live an ideal life, but inside they are just as imperfect as any other family. Perhaps more.

Cadence “Cady” Sinclair is our MC. When we meet her she’s recovering from an accident, a head injury that’s left her with migraines and weakness and with no memory of how it occurred. It’s kept her away from the island for a couple of summers, and more importantly it’s kept her away from the people she loves most: her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and her first love, Gat. The four of them are bound by love and by family, and by a shared belief in the strength of their trust over the value of their money. Together they are the antithesis of what Grandfather and the aunts stand for.

This is the summer Cady finally returns to the island, to the memories of the accident, and to the family she’s longed for these last two years.


My Thoughts:

This book. Oh, I loved it. I realize it’s not for everyone. Lockhart has a style and prose that’s unique, and sometimes choppy. As a writer, she always speaks to me and I find her words to be direct and lovely, and this novel more than any other, is hauntingly beautiful, but quite tragic. It is a different turn for her, especially if you’re accustomed to novels like The Ruby Oliver series, or The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, but one thing is similar: Lockhart is first and foremost a wonderful storyteller who imagines quirky, beautiful characters who live in worlds just distant enough to feel foreign, but realistic enough for us to relate to on a deeply human level.

There is little I can say about this story without spoiling it, but read it. Trust me. You’ll be so glad you did.


Crush Intensity: 5/5 One of my favorite books this year.

Thank you to Random House for providing me with an advance copy for review.