Saturday, May 10, 2014

Review: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

One Man Guy
by Michael Barakiva
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pub Date: May 27, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshman year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.

Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again.

My Review:
(I received a copy of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Yes! Adorable. I loved this book. 

From the very first scene, Alek pulled me into his story and made me care about him and root for him. He was adorably awkward and I loved him. I also loved his family dynamic. It was funny how his mom found fault in everything Americans do, but then pointed out how her friend does it. I liked how Alek and his brother Nik didn't seem to get along at all, but then they were totally there for each other when they needed it.

I loved Ethan. Loved, loved, loved. The one thing I could say is that I actually wanted to know more about him. I would have kept reading this book if he and Alek's story was 500 pages long. But I absolutely adored how he treated Alek. And I liked how realistic their relationship felt. They had misunderstandings and were jerks to each other at times, and then they addressed these things, instead of just magically letting everything be better. But they always forgave each other. I really appreciated that.

And finally, I really enjoyed how New York was used as a setting for the boys' developing relationship. Also, even though I haven't listened to too much Rufus Wainwright, I liked how the author used one specific musician to sort of set the tone for the story. 

So like I said, this book was sweet and adorable and fantastic. So good. Everyone should check it out when it's released May 27th!

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Second Star
by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Pub Date: May 13, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

My Review
I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don't even know where to start. This is a YA retelling of Peter Pan about a girl who hangs out at an abandoned beach with two surfer boys! Just the concept is crazy awesome. I was beyond thrilled for the chance to read this early, and I loved it even more than I expected. I was so obsessed with this book while I was reading it. When I had to put it down before I was finished, I kept thinking about it and telling my friend about it. It was so so so good!

One thing I thought was great (even though it kind of drove me crazy at the same time) was how the author maintained this sort of magical tone throughout the whole story. It kept me guessing until the very end about what was real.

And, of course, what I thought was the greatest was the boys. Pete and Jas. They were both ridiculously great, but I have a tendency to root for the "bad" guy. At first I did think I'd get annoyed with Wendy sort of bouncing back and forth between two boys. But it actually felt believable and the author managed to do it without me losing any respect for Wendy. It probably had something to do with the whole magical/real-or-not-real quality of the story, too.

The last thing I want to say is slightly spoiler-y, so you might wanna skip this paragraph!

The ending. I was rooting crazy hard for a totally cheesy, ridiculously happy ending. But I started realizing way before the end that it wasn't going to be as ride-off-into-the-sunset as I wanted it to be. And I was okay with that, only because I reminded myself of Peter Pan. The story was always kind of sad to me. But also awesome.

And that's totally what Second Star was. Kind of sad, but even more awesome. I thought it was perfect. If you like fairy tale retellings, read it. Seriously. It was so creatively done.

Second Star is available Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

TORN AWAY Blog Tour: Review, Playlist & GIVEAWAY!

I'm so excited to be participating in the Blog Tour hosted by Itching for Books for Jennifer Brown's newest YA novel, Torn Away! I'm posting my review AND my own playlist for this story. And the publishers are allowing everyone participating in the tour to host their own GIVEAWAY for a copy of the novel!

I have loved all of Jennifer Brown's other novels, so I was practically jumping up and down for the chance to get an early copy from NetGalley. And let me just say that Torn Away completely exceeded my expectations!

It actually wasn't quite what I expected it to be...but it was better. I do think I wouldn't have been so surprised by the shape of the story if I had paid better attention to the synopsis, though. So I would actually suggest skipping the synopsis down below and going into the book blind. It's about a girl who survives a tornado. That's all you need to know!

Torn Away
by Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: May 6, 2014

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.

In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.


Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer's weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist. 
Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.

This book was heartbreaking. I knew it would be, because of the subject matter. But it felt so immediate. The whole thing takes place, I believe, within a month of the tornado, so Jersey is still basically in shock. She’s grieving, obviously. I thought that the story would be more about her finding a way to move on, that it would take place further after the fact. But instead, we get to see her when everything is still so raw. Like I said, it’s heartbreaking. And perfect.

It’s hard to say too much without spoilers, but I will say that for me, the best thing about the book was the characters. They were all so vivid and real, even if they were only in the story for a short time. Some of them were so awful I wanted to scream at them and punch them for Jersey, and then some of them were so wonderful I wanted to hug them and thank them because Jersey couldn’t. 

My heart was breaking for Jersey the whole time. I wanted her to fight back against the awful people, but she was mostly just too numb. And then I wanted her to try to accept the people that wanted to help her, but again she was in too much pain at first. It was frustrating, and I wanted to scream at her, too. But all of Jersey’s actions and reactions felt so believable for someone who had just been through such a tragedy. Everyone deals with tragedy in different ways, but I thought that the author handled all of Jersey’s conflicting emotions so well.

The ending was also perfect. After all of the horribleness that was happening to her, I was starting to think that Jersey could get nothing but a miserably bleak ending. But no. She finally managed to find a little bit of hope. And it made reading through all of the heartbreaking parts worth it.

I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone. But be prepared to cry basically the entire time.

And now for my Torn Away PLAYLIST!

1.  I'm With You--Avril Lavigne
     waiting in the basement
2. Goodbye to You--Michelle Branch
     losing people
3. Rescue Me--Aaron and Andrew
     the in-between
4. View from Heaven--Yellowcard
     starting to accept
5. You'll Be Okay--A Great Big World
6. Let It Be--The Beatles
7. I Will Remember You--Sarah McLaughlin
     at the cemetary
8. When I Look to the Sky--Train
     the end

Enter below to win one paperback copy of Torn Away! (Contest open to U.S. residents only.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out all the other stops on the tour!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: Boys Like You by Juliana Stone

Boys Like You
by Juliana Stone
Sourcebooks Fire
Pub Date: May 6, 2014

I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What it's about: This story is told in alternating points of view. Monroe is sent to spend the summer with her grandmother in Louisiana after a mistake tears her family apart and leaves her broken. Here she meets Nathan, a boy who also made a terrible mistake and is just as broken as she is. And then romance ensues and they put each other back together, of course!

I don't even know where to start on how much I loved this book. Maybe I should start by saying that the entire thing took me by surprise. I guess based on the title and cover, I was expecting it to be a cute romance and not too much more. But I was so wrong. The writing was beautiful, the characters were beautiful and real, and it was all just perfect. My eyes were watering up pretty much the whole way through the second half of the novel, and then a minute after I finished it, I had to grab a tissue. I wasn't expecting that! Also, I read the entire thing in one sitting, before bed, and it kept me up all night. I couldn't put it down.

I guess the biggest thing going on is the secrets that each of these two characters are keeping. If you read the synopsis, they're pretty obvious. But I did, and I was still caught up in the way the author slowly revealed the details to the reader as the characters slowly opened up to each other. She did a really great job with that.

I loved both Monroe and Nathan. And of course, I'm totally a sucker for the not-love-at-first-sight relationships. On their first meeting, all they did was bicker at each other. But thanks to Monroe's meddling (and completely awesome) grandmother, they have to spend more time together. And eventually, they start to develop feelings for each other. I felt like the author did a good job of making their relationship feel believable. Both characters were in such a bad place at the start of the novel that it was hard for them to let each other in. But then they did. And again, it was perfect. I also really appreciated how their romance didn't magically make everything okay again. It didn't. They just found a way to help each other start healing. And I really believed it.

To avoid just repeating the word perfect, I'm going to stop here. But I'll just say again how much this book took me by surprise. I'd never read anything by Juliana Stone before (I guess she normally writes adult romance), but I'll definitely be looking for her next YA novel now.

Boys Like You comes out today, so go check it out!