Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

I LOVED this book. I know that not everyone who reads it will love it in the way that I did, mainly because this book hit my two main teenage/college hobbies: camping and singing. Not only that but Ingrid’s journey and trials were told through her experiences in these activities, making her connections with the outdoors and with her life in music even stronger. If you’re thinking about reading this book, let me give you a little bit of a synopsis:

257521542Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is told from Ingrid’s point of view, but through two different timelines: one as she is growing up with her opera star-gone wrong mother, and one in the present on a month long wilderness survival-turned disaster trek she wasn’t quite expecting. Growing up, Ingrid and her mother lived a wonderful life, with Margot-Sophia Lalange performing in the spotlight of the great opera houses until she does exactly what she knows not to do–she over sings and does not take care of her voice thus resulting in vocal nodes and the end of her career. Ingrid’s mother becomes bitter regarding music and theater, and the glamorous life ends. Ingrid struggles to fit in at school and she grows up taking care of her mother. Eventually, a role in the school play and (of course) a boy will change many things for both Ingrid and her mother.

5-star ratings are very difficult to earn from me, but I’m feeling generous today and I will round up a 4.6 rating on this one to a 5 for a few reasons. First of all, the wilderness survival camp is one for at-risk teens and while Ingrid didn’t feel that she wasn’t “at-risk” so she didn’t need to be there, she still toughened up and took it like a champ. I think that a lot of her thought processes were exactly like mine would have been (I won’t really give more information than that because it’s part of the humor and charm [lol…sass?] of Ingrid). Second, the way that passion for music and performing on stage is described. How you get up on stage and more or less don’t always know if you did well or not. Or Margo-Sophia’s phrases like “You did well last night but today you must be better. Always better.” In some ways she often comes across as self-centered but her career and that state of mind was her entire life. It was her state of mind for years. It was hard to see her discourage Ingrid from pursuing music but she was completely horrified for her. The one thing I did NOT like was how Ingrid treated Isaac after the show and the incident with the other girl. I didn’t think that blaming him so strongly was fair at all and I hated that. I thought that was the big chink in the book for me. And the end, of course, is a cryfest and my biggest weakness in books. It could have been more played up but I think it was just the right amount considering the characters so I say it was very well done. Overall, wonderful book. It is one that I highly recommend.

–I was given a copy of this book by Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review–

Book soundtrack: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

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First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

20795198_995366038329_2075362817_oThis book has me left with mixed emotions! No, scratch that. This book has left me an emotional wreck! Let me first say that I am a big fan of thrillers and there aren’t too many in the YA genre so when one releases, I am ON IT! I dove into First We Were IV with a fiery fury. Pranks, secrets, a murder mystery…all the yes!!

Here comes the actual synopsis: Izzy (often called “Icky” by the popular kids in school), Viv, Graham, and Harry are best friends. They only have each other and are often pushed around by their peers, some rivalries even stemming back as far as elementary school. NO MORE, they decide. So this, coupled with the fact that the four best friends will soon be parting ways for college, leads them to form the Order of IV, a “secret society” of the four friends created for pranks, fun, and forever memories. All they wanted was to be included in parties and to keep in touch. Of course that’s not how it ends. Of course it escalates….and I’ll let you read all of that for yourself.

So in my opinion, the beginning is interesting, and the ending rocked me to my core. The middle 300 pages were filled with 95% eye-rolling drama and 5% interesting plot. For me, the murder mystery with Jane Doe was so disconnected from the central characters….I just didn’t understand why Izzy cared so much to begin with. Maybe if the incident occurred a week ago, or if it was her cousin she was seeking justice for, or if she really had PTSD. I’m not trying to be cold or like I don’t care about missing persons cases but really, there was no real reason why Izzy cared. I don’t get it! Harry had a reason to want to pursue crimes against his father, yet they didn’t pursue those. I get that. But Izzy was selfish. This was hugely unsettling (and mildly boring and even confusing) to me.

While I didn’t like this, it was also an ironic point in the book. Live in the moment. Just be with your friends and loved ones. When friends are so loved and so close like this group is, there shouldn’t be competition of who loves who more; of who was friends first, or of which memories are better or stronger. Just make the most of everything. Bullies and adults will do what they will but you have each other and that is the strongest thing and that is better than anything than they will ever know (haven’t you seen Harry Potter? lol – just kidding). So that’s what I felt was a theme, who knows if that was an actual intent of the author.

MAJOR SPOILER IN WHITE – WARNING – DON’T HIGHLIGHT UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK – FINAL NOTE: HOW DID THEY GET AWAY WITH ALL OF THAT? NO WAY! WHAT?! 

Soundtrack: “Your Song” by Elton John

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“All Things New” by Lauren Miller

Title: All Things New

Author: Lauren Miller

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

Publisher: Three Saints Press

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Lesson learned: Never judge a freebie book based on its “freebie” status! So not only did I receive a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, it was also a ‘download now’ free copy, meaning that I didn’t have to be approved or anything in order to read it. I usually equate these books–in my mind–to the freebies of the ARC world. That aside, I thought that this book was a really good read and I very much enjoyed it.

Jessa has suffered from an anxiety disorder since her father left her mother when she was just twelve years old. Now, at 17, she is barely getting through school living with her mom in L.A. and clinging to her prepster boyfriend. Until one night at a party changes everything. A near-fatal car accident leaves Jessa’s face scar-ridden, and her brain nearly as damaged, she decides to leave everything behind to live with her dad in Colorado. Here she meets new people, reconciles with her father, and learns about the true measure of healing both inside and out.

On to the nitty-gritty opinionated part of my review. First off, I was surprised at the intelligence level of this book. Now, I am no doctor, psychologist, or philosopher and I have no idea what an actual practicing physician or thinker would say about the topics in this book, but for someone at my level of knowledge, it was awesome! I mean, we got deep about Dorian Gray and van Gough! We were talking about heart surgery and brain surgery and the reflections of the soul! Plus, that ending though!! Secondly, I did feel that the book had a bit of a rough start and sometimes it is difficult and not for everyone to read books from the POV of a main character who has a panic disorder. But guess what? Having a panic disorder is rough. This book deals with a tough issue. In all honesty, this book deals with a LOT of tough issues. Jessa isn’t the only person who goes through trials. She has her panic disorder and gets in a car accident, but then she meets Marshall who has a heart defect, and Hannah who isn’t perfect, and she is basically in a community of not perfect people and this is basically her new life. So the final point I will make: a lot of the reviews I have read talk about how much people like Marshall. Yes, I really like Marshall as well. But who really comes through as an amazing character is Super Dad. My favorite moment is when Dad is encouraging Jessa to drive to school again because she can’t live in fear forever; can’t let the fear control her life and he says:

“Because there’s something I want for you even more than safety. I want you to be free. Free from the panic and worry, free from all that terrible self-doubt I see in your eyes and blame myself for. But you have to want it too, Jessa. You have to decide not to let fear win.”

So yeah. I loved this book. I tend to like books where characters have to find their light. I love strong, powerful moments of tenderness and strength. They all still have their scars but they have found some consolation or some way through them and I think that this book did a good job of doing that. I recommend.

Listening to: “Numb” by Max Jury

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

28458598Let me start out by saying that I really enjoyed “When Dimple Met Rishi.” I tend to enjoy contemporary YA fiction much better in audiobook format, and this book was no exception. The alternate points of view were great and the chosen narrators especially helped to depict the diversity.

The book begins with the ambitious Dimple Shah graduating from high school and getting ready to go to college for computer science. She values hard work and intelligence and has no plans to marry like her traditional parents want her to (“that’s what college is for after all,” they think!). When she convinces them to let her attend Insomnia Con, she is shocked by how easy it is, but it is a chance to meet her idol! On campus under….surprising circumstances….she meets Rishi Patel. Rishi is a bit of a romantic and was raised more traditionally, yet humbly. Surprisingly, the two are paired together for the contest. Push comes to shove, circumstances happen, you’ll have to read the book to find out the details, and that’s the gist.

First, characters. I admire a young woman who is career-driven and intelligent. Dimple wears her glasses all the time, despises make-up (though I don’t know think its completely the make-up as much as rebelling against her mother and dating in general), and is entitled to her opinion and her own choices. (almost to a fault) Rishi is the eldest son of the CEO of a large company, but he completely breaks the mold of the phrase “snobby rich kid.” He does, however, fall in line with his family’s traditional Indian values and he is planning to(expected to) follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue engineering and enter into an arranged marriage. In his heart, however, Rishi is an artist. He loves drawing comics and he is a romantic. Also, he is quick, witty, and loyal. (almost to a fault)

There weren’t very many secondary characters, but the ones that were around were pretty good. Celia–Dimple’s roommate–brought the little bit of ‘feminine’ and guidance that Dimple needed every once in a while, and vice versa. They were there for each other to get each other through lots of obstacles and awkward moments. Ashish, Rishi’s brother, brought in another tangle of a relationship and a fresh voice of guidance and opinion. He turned out to be more mature than I expected him to be. Then there were other contestants and Jenny Lindt herself, who seemed to be all the L.A. “hip.”

I have several thoughts on this book, especially after having read and heard a lot of the buzz surrounding Dimple & Rishi. First off, I think that we adults who read YA need to remember that Dimple and Rishi are teenagers and this book is written for teens. WE are the adults here. I didn’t have any feelings about this really until the last 30 or 40 pages, as I mentioned, from what I have read and heard people saying, I think we can give the kids a little bit of a break. There are a few gushy , cheesy parts where they are cuddling and the dialogue is just downright roll-your-eyes “really?!” but come on, we’ve all been there. Its that honeymoon stage in a young relationship! Another note re: the relationship. I loved that the two of them brought out the good in each other. Really, I thought they worked well together. HOWEVER. Dimple says “I don’t want to marry” and “I don’t want to get married” and “No, I won’t be getting married” and then 2 minutes later they are mutually saying “I love you!” and it is a completely serious relationship! So I know what I said…young love and all that…cut them slack, you never really know when you’re young. But I’m just saying. Chill out on the extremes, please. Just a bit. kthanks.

A quick quip about Insomnia Con: was the Talent Show really relevant? Was it really necessary? No? I didn’t think so. Maybe its a cute thing to put in a YA book for couples to do together but man, it does not seem to fit realistically with app building. Sorry, Sandhya Menon.

All right, those are my thoughts on “When Dimple Met Rishi.” Overall, I am super impressed at how well this book has done for a debut! Congratulations and best of luck on your future endeavors, Ms. Menon!

Listening to: “No Man’s Land” – Wonder Woman Soundtrack

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Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

32452313So I admit that I was drawn to the beautiful colors on the cover of this one. And its quite fitting because the plot centers around two teens who were raised “in a commune full of hippies and mountain folk.” That being said, just like hippies and mountain folk, the book is very laid back and pretty slow moving so don’t expect much action or quick pacing or even very much angst. Things just happen, and the characters deal with them. Mitchell (athletic, funny, good-looking, ready for college away from the commune) and Josie (sunshine-loving, overall-wearing, community lifestyle proud) grew up together and slowly develop a relationship after Mitchell’s mom admits to having an affair.

For me, this book never took off as much as I hoped. I always appreciate books with diversity and books that have new and different settings, which this certainly did (I mean, an old woman who does naked yoga every morning? Show me another book that has that!). But I found it to stretch far wider than it did deep. I like depth as well. For being so different, Josie and Mitchell actually sounded pretty similar to me in their reactions. And then for liking each other, they were so judgemental of each other. What gives?? Oh well. By the time their romance was in bloom, it was cute and sweet and well written. Which was a huge plus. Not only was the romance writing great, but the writing of the scenery and the community was wonderful as well. I really enjoyed that.

** Thank you to Blaze Publishing for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a honest review **Book release date: July 11, 2018**

Listening to: “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

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“The Library of Fates” by Aditi Khorana

I was a little skeptical about this book because the author’s first book, Mirror in the Sky, received ratings that were quite low on Goodreads (3.29 as on 7/9). I decided to give this book a try because I was offered a free ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program, the cover is beautiful, and YA book companies were making quite a buzz about it. I am SO glad I gave it a go. Now I am on the bandwagon and recommending that everyone mark the release date of July 18th on your calendars and go buy it and read it on that day!!

32930680The Library of Fates opens with a really neat story called The Parable of Trees. (I, personally love trees and nature so I was hooked in a second!) Then we get into the rest of the book with our main character Princess Amrita, who lives an easy, sheltered life in the kingdom of Shalingar. Until the day that the Emporer of Macedon–known for being a brutal man–comes to finalize the terms of their arranged marriage and Amrita loses everything. She flees the palace and sets off on a journey that will completely transform not only her, but all those she loves.

What I really loved about this book is that most of the things that I expected would happen did not. I would think to myself “She’s going to abandon the plan to go to X and go to the Library in stead. I mean, that’s the title of the book.” But nope! The plot absolutely did not happen how I thought it would, and I loved that!!

The characters surprised me around every turn, and part of the beauty of it all was how magic and folklore was seamlessly woven into the story. There were so many elements to it and they weren’t so complex that I was bored or confused like in some fantasy books. It was a really good balance so as to make it just mystical enough to be really beautiful and special. Plus everything came out full circle in a really great way. I just loved it.

So overall, I enjoyed it enough to where I was given a free e-copy and I will probably purchase my own hard copy for my shelves. I know it won’t be for everyone, but that’s my take on it. It was a pretty quick read at 354 pages. I devoured it in about 2 days and could have read it faster if I didn’t have a lot of things going on. But this is one I could see myself reading again, and I don’t see myself forgetting anytime soon.

Listening to: “The Gateway” by Ahmad Ebadi

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“The Fixer” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Ok, so this book was recommended to me by a friend and when I picked it up I just thought “eh, this will be okay” but I am actually surprised by how much I enjoyed it! Jennifer Lynn Barnes has actually written several books (“26 distinct works, according to Goodreads”) and I have seen them in stores quite frequently but just have never picked them up. The covers and titles don’t really catch my eye, but I wish I would have sooner because the quality of writing is real! It is definitely good YA thriller/mystery writing and I have been missing out! So now onto the book.

25781800The Fixer (see, not too appealing of a title…what are we talking about? A plumber? Carpenter?) is about sixteen year-old Tess who is uprooted from life with her grandfather on a farm to the center of political life in Washington DC with her older sister Ivy. Not only has Tess not seen Ivy in years, Ivy also has a top secret job in DC as a “fixer,” someone who fixes problems for top politicians and officials, such as the President and First Lady. After walking into an incident in a school bathroom where a girl is crying over shared photos, Tess confronts the offending party and soon finds herself being called the school’s “fixer.”

I thought that Jennifer Lynn Barnes did a fantastic job with the overall writing of the book. The plot and the scandals were done so well. Tess got repetitive in her processes sometimes and just a little naggy at her friends, but really the characters were pretty great as well. I was also really surprised at how unpredictable the book was. I thought that, especially for a YA novel, things would be easy to figure out and would resolve quickly, but no. Plus–biggest shocker of all–there is no love story. So there are not pages and pages of mindless flirting and snogging. Its all investigating and sleuthing. Impressive.

The only reason that I gave it 4 stars in stead of 5 is because the book is definitely meant to go on into the second book. Its not a cliffhanger, per se, but it leaves off in a spot where you want to know what will happen next in the character’s lives! And that’s one thing that the author is great at as well is getting you invested in the actual familial lives, backgrounds, and relationships of the characters. You’re pretty invested by the end and you just have to read on into book 2! There is no book 3 and I don’t know if there will be or not in the future, but so far everything has been a hailstorm of action and intrigue so I can’t wait to see where the next book takes us!

Listening to: “Not Afraid Anymore” by Halsey

Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

27064385Ivory and Bone–what an awesome title, in my opinion! Kol is the main character of the book and we witness everything through his eyes (male narrator–relatively rare. Cool!). Kol is the eldest son of the High Elder of his tribe. Home and family are everything to him. The book is written in second person (very rare), so Kol is telling the story TO the love interest, Mya, who is from a neighboring clan. Conflict arises when a third clan emerges, wanting to go to war. Of course by the end, the strong win and love conquers all and its on to book two.

First and foremost, I loved the setting of this book. Ivory and Bone is set in prehistoric times and this is one of the most unique things about this YA book. With the setting comes another aspect about the book that I loved: the culture. I really liked reading the storytelling, the roles of the various clan members, and seeing the interactions between the clans. Julie Eshbaugh did a great job of describing the landscapes and hunting grounds–in these respects, the book was really beautiful.

However, all of this being said, I am not a fan of second person writing. Thankfully its not very common because its not my thing. Secondly, and I think its partially because of the writing style, I felt that the pacing of the book was slow and lacked some emotional depth so I didn’t really like that about the book either. One final thing that is really just a heads up to anyone looking at the Goodreads page, its hard to label this book. Fantasy? Historical Fiction? There’s no magic but its in a maybe-fantasy time, but not really?? So don’t go into this expecting fantastical elements because you’re not going to get those. You will get action and romance though. So take that for what its worth.

Listening to: “I Should Live in Salt” by Asgeir

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The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

32197111This book took me a while to finish because it dragged on. And on. And on.

And on.

And on.

We are hearing the story from Lalla’s point of view. Lalla (short for Lallage) is the daughter of the ‘revolutionary’ who basically bought, founded, organized, and coordinated The Ship. In these dystopian times, the safest place to be is in the middle of the ocean (so these people believe). There are 500 people on the ship–each one of them selected by Michael himself for being good, worthy people–and the ship is equipped to sustain them for twenty years. They have a plan to ‘go peacefully’ at the end of these twenty years, but they are also optimistic that within those twenty years, they will have engineered new ways to grow things or sustain their lives, etc. The degree to which the people on the ship are happy is almost scary. Michael is portrayed as nearly god-like and the ship is almost heavenly. To everyone except Lalla.

So here comes the fun part of the review. Lalla’s inner dialogue. Lalla’s mother is killed early on in the story and she spends the entire book mourning over it. Yes, I know its heartbreaking to lose your mother, but everyone on that ship lost someone. Many people, in fact. They all give their testimonies, as you’ll see. Next point: being the daughter of the founders of the ship, Lalla was very sheltered. She didn’t see hardly any of the conflicts happening on land and she was very young. Since she wasn’t exposed to much of the horrors of the conflict (I mean, we’re talking famine, murder, prison camps, cannibalism, starvation, the list goes on….) all she talks and thinks about is *LAND*LAND*LAND* “ARE WE THERE YET?” “ARE WE THERE YET?” “ARE WE THERE YET?” So its a pretty hard situation, and I understand to an extent because a) she associates the ship with her mother’s death. b) she is literally the only person on the ship who didn’t willingly choose to be there. Her parents chose it for her. BUT, its not like she doesn’t have any friends or companions because she is given a job and finds a friend/mentor there AND she finds a boy who, of course, she begins to fall in love with.

At this point, if I talk about the book anymore, I will give away huge spoilers, but my general overall thoughts are that the book is okay. It really has some points that make you think, but they are buried within a lot of parts that I wish I could just fast forward through.

Listening to: “Shallow Brown” by Sean Dagher

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

19401576_977403645109_55861277_oI have been wanting to E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars book for a while, and finally I did because I am going to an author signing with E. Lockhart tomorrow evening! I am so glad I finally came up with an excuse to finally pick it up and read it because its actually REALLY GOOD!! Well, I thought so at least.

I started out listening to the audiobook and wasn’t digging it. There are several parts throughout the book where Lockart exaggerates her writing and its hard to tell that its an exaggeration until the story really moves on. As an example, in the second chapter, Cady’s father is walking out on her and her mother and Cady tells the story as “Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened up wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed….” The scene goes on for a couple more sentences. I’m reading this like ‘what?! How did you survive?!’ Well, that’s only what it felt like. Duh. There are a few more scenes that are similar to this where she describes painful scenes in violent ways, but really they aren’t happening. She just feels like they are. It really makes you reality check yourself and the book and by the time you get to the end it sort of all clicks but as you’re reading it you’re just thinking ‘wait, what?!?!?!’ (yes, all of that punctuation is necessary).

So what else happens in this book? Well “the liars” are four cousins, basically, who visit the family island each summer. I really can’t say very much more without giving away very much. The book actually is much more of a mystery/thriller than I thought that it would be. It involves a lot more beach and summer island sun than I realized as well, plus summer love, and its pretty short–I finished it in just 2 days or so–so I would recommend it if you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat summer read. Like I said, the book really kicked my book and was not what I expected and I really liked that so if you’re up for something a little off the beaten path, give this a go. I think you’ll enjoy it. Happy reading!

Listening to: “Sunset Lover” by Petit Biscuit

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