book review: listen to your heart by kasie west

goodreads summary:

Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend . . . until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West’s adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

my review:

this book was such a delight to read! i can honestly say that i had a huge smile on my face the entire time i was reading it!

prior to reading this book, my reading experience with kasie west’s books had been 50/50. although i own all of her books in some capacity, i had only read two of her books so far, and while i remember loving the first book that i read by her (the fill-in boyfriend), i was not at all a fan of the second book that i read by her (love, life, and the list). so i was a bit hesitant to dive into anything else by her (in all honestly i reallyreally did not like the second book i read by her at all) but seeing as how i did enjoy one of her books, i still wanted to give her another chance, so i decided to download listen to your heart, and i’m so glad i did because i ended up finishing this book within a few hours because i was unable to put it down! this was the perfect lighthearted, fun, summery read, and i really cannot think of anything that i didn’t enjoy about this book.

i loved the main character, kate, and her love for the lake and wanting to be in the water whenever possible. i may not be a fan of summer (autumn girl all the way!) but one aspect of summer i have always enjoyed is swimming (i am a pisces after all!) i loved her big unconventional family, and the chapter with her cousins night put an even bigger smile on my face because it sounded like so much fun! i loved her friendship with alana, and the way in which the love triangle (of sorts?) was handled between them. speaking of love. the romance between kate and her crush was super cute the way in which it developed throughout the book, and was yet another reason i couldn’t stop smiling as i read.

my favorite part of this book was probably the podcasting class though. it just sounded like so much fun! honestly, i wish i would have had cool classes like podcasting back when i was in school (even though i don’t think podcasts even existed back when i was in high school. but still. wow do i feel old) because i’m pretty sure i would have enjoyed high school at least a little bit more than i did it classes like that had been offered! the entire aspect of the podcasting class itself was interesting and unique, and i love how it got kate to step outside of her comfort zone and i really enjoyed the snark between her and her co-host, victoria, as well as everything about their advice podcast in general. i’ve never been one for listening to podcasts, but this book has definitely upped my interest in them!

this book by far exceeded my expectations, and i’m so glad i decided to pick it up on a whim. my faith in kasie west’s books has been restored, as this was exactly what i was looking for when it came to reading her books! i was having a pretty bad day the morning that i started reading this book, but my mood was instantly lifted the moment i started reading. this was definitely one of my favorite books that i have read so far this year, and i highly recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for a fun, lighthearted read this summer! my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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arc review: i have lost my way by gayle forman

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goodreads summary:

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.

my thoughts:

Sometimes a book comes into your life at the exact time that you are in need of it, and that’s exactly what I Have Lost My Way ended up being for me.  I am currently going through something in my life that is incredibly difficult for me to handle, and I am struggling to regain a sense of normality and find my way back to wherever it is that I need to be. In a nutshell: I have lost my way.

I was originally drawn to this book when I first heard about it due to the fact that it was penned by Gayle Forman. I have read all of her previous books, and while I didn’t love all of them, I have so far at least liked all of them.  She writes about some incredibly deep topics, and I have definitely cried some tears over her books, specifically the If I Stay duology. (I’m still recovering from those books tbh.)

Admittedly, despite the fact that I felt that I Have Lost My Way was a book that I needed to read, and I am glad that I read it, as it did impact me in some ways, it also didn’t quite pack the emotional punch that I was expecting, and I didn’t find it to be quite on par with some of Gayle’s previous books.  Although I can’t pinpoint the exact reason, I just didn’t connect with the story or the characters as much as I had hoped to. But on the other hand, the overall theme of the story (aka losing one’s way) is something that I was able to connect to, and is the reason that I am glad that I read this book at this point in time.

This book takes place over the course of one day, and tells the story of three very different and diverse characters, Freya (an up and coming singer who has lost her voice), Nathaniel (a boy haunted by his past), and Harun (a closeted muslim teen who is afraid of disappointing his deeply religious parents). True to the title of the book, each of the characters has lost their way, and are struggling to make sense of their pain and in need of someone to help them find hope in life again.

Due to a chance meeting in Central Park in NYC, their stories become intertwined, and through their unlikely and sudden friendship with each other, they help each other to heal and feel alive again.  Despite the fact that this story takes place over the course of a day, we are also given a glimpse into the backgrounds of each character, and because of this, we as readers are able to gain a better understanding of their struggles and how they came to be at the point that they are in their lives when they meet.

This book was a haunting and moving story about life, loss, friendship, family, and finding your way back in a world that no longer makes sense the way it once did. Although I didn’t quite connect with this story as much as I had hoped to, I still found hope within the pages of this book and I feel that many others will too.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

***an early copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review

book review: restore me by tahereh mafi

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goodreads summary: 

Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

my thoughts:

I LOVED THIS BOOK.

I REPEAT: I LOVED THIS BOOK.

No one is more surprised than me by just how much I loved this book. In fact, I am so fond of this book that I wanted to immediately start reading it again as soon as I finished reading it.

Honestly, the Shatter Me series has never been one of my favorites.  Sure, I like it, and I was excited when I saw the news that Tahereh Mafi was planning on releasing (3?) new books in the series, but I wasn’t excited to the point of being over the moon about the new additions.

It’s been a while since I have read the original three books in this series, and at some point (hopefully soon) I need to go back and give them a reread to see if my opinions on each book has changed.  I really loved the third book in the series, Ignite Me (BECAUSE, WARNETTE) but from what I can remember, I thought the first book was just okay, while I had a hard time making it through Unravel Me, the second book in the series.

But there is one thing I have loved about each of the books in the series, despite any negative opinions I may have had, and that is Tahereh’s beautiful writing style. Her writing is just so unique, and it is that very reason that I continued reading this series, despite the fact that I wasn’t captivated by the plot of the first book.

Restore Me follows the aftermath of the events of Ignite Me, and shit gets real.

I loved everything about this book. The plot. The character development. The Writing.

It was so interesting to see how Juliette, a 17 year old, would handle all the power suddenly at her disposal , as she is the new head of Sector 45.

This book is told in alternating view points, from the perspectives of Juliette and Warner.  I really love that Tahereh decided to tell the story this way and give us glimpse into their thoughts and everything they were feeling, as they both had so much going on,  internally and externally.

In the midst of everything they are already dealing with, they hit some snags in their relationship, and although I wanted them to be living happily ever after forever and ever with no problems whatsoever, the relationship problems they are facing are very realistic and its understandable that the problems in which they are facing come into play. (But they better get that happily ever after!)

Due to everything Juliette and Warner are dealing with, and everything that they have endured within their pasts, they are both naturally struggling with anxiety, and I was especially drawn towards Warner’s struggles with anxiety.  Everything he was feeling in regards to his anxiety was understandable, given everything he has been through in life, and the way in which his anxiety was described was just so painfully real. As someone who struggles with anxiety on a daily basis, I was very impressed with the way in which Tahereh described what its like to be suffocated by anxiety. I wanted to reach into the pages of this book and give Warner a hug.

As for my thoughts on Juliette: she is wonderful and amazing and so strong and I am so proud of her for everything she has overcome and everything that she has achieved thus far and I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next.  You are doing amazing sweetie, and I am rooting for you every step of the way.

This book also features some of my favorite chapters/scenes from the Shatter Me series so far.  The scenes I speak of all are scenes that include Warner/Juliette and Warner/Kenji.

Also: Kenji is his usual wonderful, perfect self and my love for him continues to grow as the series progresses.  Just wanted to throw that out there.

AND THAT ENDING.  I am still at a loss for words.  I need the next book and I need it now!

Okay, I am going to end this review here, as I know what I have written is a rambling mess and I will more than likely come back and edit the entire thing at some point.  I just want it to be known that I loved Restore Me and I will be impatiently counting down the days until the release of the next book!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

book review: love, life, & the list by kasie west

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goodreads summary:

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

my thoughts:

to say I was highly disappointed by this book is an understatement. while i wasn’t expecting this book to be something phenomenal, i was looking forward to it being a cute, swoon worthy, easy read, and it even failed to meet those expectations. before picking up this book, i had previously only read one book by kasie west (the fill-in boyfriend) and i really enjoyed it, but it pains me to say that i can’t say the same for this one at all. i had initially picked this book up not long after it released, and i expected to fly through it, but i found myself putting it down numerous times because it failed to hold my attention. in fact, i was bored throughout a majority of it, and honestly, i almost dnfed it multiple times. while i love the idea of the main character, abby, completing a list of tasks in which she faces doing things that she fears, that particular aspect of the book wasn’t enough to hold my attention. neither she, nor her best friend/love interest, cooper, resonated with me (in fact, i found pretty much all of the characters to be dull and forgettable with the exception of abby’s grandfather), and i found myself annoyed with their relationship, as i felt it lacked any chemistry whatsoever. their entire relationship felt forced, and definitely didn’t give me the kind of feels that i expect to get from a supposed to be cutesy contemporary novel. i really could not stand cooper and his character is one of the main reasons that i found this book to be so unbearable. despite my overall disappointment with this book, i still plan on reading more books by kasie west, as i do find her style of writing to be charming. unfortunately, this particular book by her just did not work for me whatsoever.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️

 

book review: always and forever, lara jean

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goodreads summary:

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

my thoughts:

my heart is so very full.

i was thrilled when i found out that there was going to be a new (& unfortunately, final) installment in this series. as i sit here writing this review, i am a bundle of emotions; on one hand, i am happy, because this book was everything i wanted it to be and more, but i’m also sad that this was the end of our journey with lara jean & co. but what a delight ending it was! i am a huge jenny han fan, & the to all the boys i’ve loved before trilogy is by far my favorite of hers.  being reunited with lara jean & all of the characters was so bittersweet, because as overjoyed as i was to be reunited with them, i knew that i was slowly saying goodbye to them with each and every turn of a page.

i have to say that although i love & cherish all three books in this series, this one was probably my favorite.  lara jean experienced so much growth throughout this novel, as she had so many challenges to face, and i was rooting for her each and every step of the way.

i was filled with such a sense of warmth & nostalgia throughout the entirety of this book, & overall, this really was, in my opinion, the perfect conclusion to this series. i don’t want to say to too much, so as not to spoil anyone, but i will say that i was completely satisfied when i finished it, and i could not think of a better way for it to have ended.

i am still holding out hope for a spin-off series featuring kitty (hint hint jenny han!) but even if that never happens (sobs) i just want to end this review by expressing my eternal gratitude to jenny han for gracing us with one last chapter in lara jean’s story.

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

book review: you were here by cori mccarthy

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goodreads summary:

Grief turned Jaycee into a daredevil, but can she dare to deal with her past?

On the anniversary of her daredevil brother’s death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake’s favorite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother’s exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn’t bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

my thoughts:

you were here was not only my favorite contemporary read of 2016, but it immediately became one of my favorite books ever, period.  it is hard for me to even put into words how much this book means to mean & why.  this was such an emotional and personal read for me, and even just looking at the cover now invokes so much emotion in me.

to put it mildly, this book changed me.  

immediately after reading this book, i reached out to the author & she told me that writing this book was a very cathartic experience for her, & that’s exactly what my reading experience with it was. i have known grief since i was a young girl, & sometimes i am still so consumed by it, to the point where i feel suffocated by it. that’s why books like this, that capture that all encompassing essence of grief so well, speak to me so very loudly.  these type of books bring me so much relief, & i feel like i can breathe again after reading them.

grief is such a strange & unique thing, & this book does an excellent job of showing its many facets, & how all of us an individuals deal with our traumas & losses.  there is no right or wrong way to grieve, just as there is no timeline for how long it is acceptable to grieve for.

this book has multiple characters, all of whom were deeply affected in one way or another by the loss of a daredevil teenager named jake. while it would seem that jaycee, his younger sister, is most traumatized by his death, we learn that the other characters within the story also have deeply rooted emotional scars in relation to his untimely death.  each of these characters had so much depth to them, and to see them all so broken over the loss of one boy really gives such a glimpse into just how much a single loss can change us all in so many different ways.

perhaps one of the best things about this book is the unique & original way in which some of the character’s povs were narrated.  it combines typical storytelling with graphic novel style and art (one of the characters, bishop, is constantly tagging, and his pov is shown through pictures of what he has tagged throughout the story). i have never seen a book written this way, and it was amazing. upon reading the story you will see why it was written this way, and why it makes so much sense. this unique form of storytelling alone is worth picking the book up for.

this is a coming of age story that will shatter you into pieces & stitch you back up little by little just when you’re least expecting it to.  honestly this book is so underrated, & i hope that more people will unearth this hidden gem & find solace in it just as i did.

“that’s what regret does well and grief does better: rips out your energy and leaves you feeling each and every heartbeat.”

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

book review: fireworks by katie cotugno

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goodreads synopsis:

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-’90s boy-and-girl-band craze.

It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

my thoughts:

well, first off, Katie Cotugno has done it again-she managed to simultaneously leave me annoyed & frustrated while still wanting more. i just finished reading this book earlier today, and i’m still reeling from the way it ended. it’s not the fact that the ending was left open ended, as this is Katie’s usual fashion & something that i’ve grown to expect (& not totally hate) when it comes to her books, but more so about the conclusion that was actually reached in regards to something major happening in the story. even though i saw it coming from a mile away, it still managed to not only sucker punch me right in the face, but left me shaking because i was so angry at one of the characters. (i actually kind of threw the book off my bed with a bit of force if that tells you anything) but even with all that being said, i didn’t actually hate the overall ending (as far as it being left open) because as much as the event that preceded the overall ending frustrated me, the story was very well crafted to make for an enjoyable read.

Katie Contugno is a great YA contemporary story-teller, and one of the things that i always admire when it comes to her books is that, despite how frustrating her characters are, (and believe me, they are frustrating) they are also very multi-dimensional and definitely not without flaw, which makes them feel very real.  I even appreciate her open-ended endings, as they too, help to make the story that much more real and authentic.  rarely in life are things tied up neatly with a bow, and i feel that a story doesn’t always have to be either, even if it’s merely a work of fiction.

fireworks, although irksome at times, was a great coming of age novel about first love, the hardships of chasing dreams, and the ups and downs of friendship. set in the 90’s, this story revolves around Dana (who is the narrator of the story) and Olivia, two life-long best friends, who, despite being from the same place, grew up under very different circumstances. Dana grew up in poverty, with an unsupportive mother who cared more about vodka than her own daughter, and because of these bleak circumstances, Dana had very little hope of ever leaving her hometown and making something of herself. Olivia, meanwhile, always dreamed of being a pop star and had a bright future ahead of her no matter if she managed to make her dreams of stardom a reality or not, as she had a more stable home life than her friend, both financially and in the way of supportive parents. both girls have the chance to make their dreams come true when they audition to join an all-girls singing group (Eden’s Crush, anyone?) and are chosen, alongside two other girls. for Olivia, it’s a chance to finally make her lifelong dream of becoming a pop star come true, while it’s a lucky break for Dana, (who accidentally auditioned) to change her circumstances and escape from the nothing town from which she came, and the bleak future thats in store for her there. although it starts off as an exciting new adventure for the two friends, the stress of the competition, along with jealousy and secrets, starts to take its toll on the girls. throw a boy (a cute boy who also happens to be a member of a boy-band) into the mix of it all, and you have a disaster just waiting to happen. it’s not long into the competition that the girls start to go from being the best of friends to near bitter rivals. i found the ups and downs of their friendship to be portrayed in a very realistic manner, especially considering the grueling and competitive circumstances they were put under. this story also gave an interesting insight into the world of fame, both the glamorous and ugly side of it.

despite the fact that both girls’ were flawed in their own way, and each played a role in the unraveling of their friendship, i felt that Olivia was more at fault than Dana, and at times it was really hard to find anything very likable about her and honestly i found myself siding with Dana for the most part.

although this story is very much about friendship, romance also plays a pretty central role. Dana ends up dating a boy named Alex who not only lives in the same apartment complex that she is staying in, but also happens to be a member of a boy-band.  (O-Town, anyone?) not only was their relationship really cute, but also a perfect depiction of what it’s like to fall in love for the first time.

before ending this review, i would like to issue an ed-trigger warning, as one of the characters (Olivia) has eating issues, and it’s heavily implied that she does in fact suffer from an eating disorder.  this is also one of the things that kept me from giving this book a full five stars.  although Olivia’s eating disorder wasn’t exactly portrayed badly, i do feel that it was glossed over a bit too much and i wish that the author had taken the time to go more in depth about it.  as someone who is working through recovery from an eating disorder and has struggled with food related issues for years, i am very critical about how an author handles it in a book, especially a book that is targeted towards teens. also: i personally did not find it to be extremely triggering, but as each and every one of us is different in what we find to be triggering, i gently urge anybody who is currently suffering from an eating disorder to take caution when reading this book.

overall, this was a solid contemporary that i really enjoyed (it was one that i finished within hours because i couldn’t stop reading, if that tells you anything), and i think that anybody who has an interest in ya contemporaries that focus on the power of friendship (with some romance and a lot of drama thrown in) will definitely take a liking to this book, along with the other books that Katie Cotugno has written.  I bought this book on release day and i’ll definitely be doing the same whenever Katie’s next book is released!

my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️