3 stars · fiction · young adult

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

Things We Know by Heart

author : jessi kirby

pages : [hardcover] 304

publication date : april 21, 2015

summary :

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

review :

I’m not sure of how I feel about this book, to be honest. There were some parts of it that I truly loved and wanted more of. I wanted to learn more about Quinn’s relationship with her family, particularly her father and her sister because they seemed like interesting characters who could have been used much more than they were. I wanted more than the focus on her and Colton, mostly because I knew that relationship would eventually blow up because of all of the secrets that Quinn was keeping from Colton.

Of course, some portions of the story were predictable, and I really didn’t mind that. I just wish that some of it could have been handled differently. Not necessarily by changing the plot points or anything serious like that. Really, I just feel like most of it was too rushed, and even though I did get emotional at a few points, if it’d been slowed down I feel like I would have been much more of a mess. Not that I want to be emotionally damaged by a book, you know, but sometimes you can really appreciate something that tangles up your emotions and spits you back out again in the end.

I think that’s another thing that was off for me, too–the ending. I wanted to know what was going to happen next because I feel like some of that could have been more interesting than some of the buildup to that conclusion. I can’t say much without spoiling anything, but I know that there were still problems and issues that could have been explained or fleshed out that weren’t given the chance to come to the heart of the novel . . . see what I did there?

I feel like this book is interesting and it certainly kept me reading, even though it isn’t a favorite. I don’t know if I’ll recommend it to my friends, but I know there are people out there who’ll love it more than I did. Maybe with all of their heart. Last heart joke, I swear.

3/5 stars

5 stars · fiction · young adult

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

 

Love Letters to the Dead

author : ava dellaira

pages : [hardcover] 327

memorable quote You can be noble and brave and beautiful and still find yourself falling.

favorite character : laurel

summary :

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven?

It’s not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that’s as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl’s journey through life’s challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

review :

 Love Letters to the Dead is unlike anything that I have ever read before and I say that in the best way possible because I ended up really loving this book. It’s told solely through a series of letters written by Laurel, all addressed to people who have passed away. This morbid assignment turns into a way for her to express feelings and come to terms with memories that she was repressed from herself and avoided mentioning to those who love her. Laurel is having a hard time with May’s death and the reader doesn’t quite know why for most of the book because Laurel isn’t willing to speak about it.

What I found unique about the choice of letters is that several could come from a certain day when Laurel needs to let out her feelings or weeks would go by between letters and we’d only know that from Laurel mentioning that it is so. The reader has no control and needs to piece together what the narrator isn’t mentioning as well as put together the clues that she happens to leave about her past and her hopes for the future.

Laurel was a fantastic character because she just seemed so real to me. She’s a typical teenager trying to find herself and has to go through this hardship at the same time. While not every teen can say they’ve experienced that kind of loss, I think that those who are teens themselves as well as older people who remember their teenage years will be able to relate to Laurel and her chaotic, emotional life. She isn’t perfect; far from it. Similarly, her life at school and her relationships with the people around her are peppered with imperfections that only add to the realistic vibe.

By the end of the book, I was severely emotionally invested in these characters. I wanted to know what had happened while  I simultaneously dreaded finding out the truth. Just like I think Laurel needed to tell her secrets but also didn’t want people to see her differently for them. She had me shedding a few tears by the end of the book, which, despite the heavy material, I hadn’t expected.

I really love this book and think that a lot of people will also love it. I’d highly recommend reading it when you have plenty of time to read through the whole thing. You will get hooked, you may cry, and you’ll love the journey anyway.

5/5 stars

fiction · young adult

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Torn Away

Author : jennifer brown

pages : [hardcover] 288

memorable quote Growing up, we were taught over and over again what steps to take in case of an approaching tornado. Listen for sirens, go to your basement or cellar, or a closet in the center of your house, duck and cover, wait it out. We had drills twice a year, every year, in school. We talked about it in class. We talked about it at home. The newscasters reminded us. We went to the basement. We practiced, practiced, practiced.

But we’d never— not once— discussed what to do after.

favorite characters : marin & jersey

summary :

Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she’s sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.

review :

This story was absolutely beautiful and wonderful. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about a tornado before and I wasn’t ready for how emotional it would make me. As soon as I started reading I was sucked into Jersey’s world and couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if a tornado affected my life in this way. Now, I live on the East Coast, where the chances of a tornado occurring are so much smaller than they are in the Midwest. But it’s too easy to picture any natural disaster taking out everything I’ve known and loved, leaving me in it’s wake. There’s nothing that can stop the forces of nature but we live our lives every day not knowing which will be our last . . or which will drastically alter our lives forever. I’m definitely going to be showing my family some extra love after reading this book.

Jersey is your typical teenage girl. Not skinny, not rich, no excitingly charming boyfriend. She’s so relatable because she’s a normal girl. It made her story that much more powerful. The book begins on the day of the tornado and Jersey has no idea what’s coming for her. She doesn’t say anything she might have said to her family if she’d known what was going to happen while she was home alone the fateful day the tornado sirens weren’t going off for a false alarm. That was one detail I loved in a bittersweet way, how Jersey heard the sirens but didn’t want them to interrupt her activities for the evening because of a false alarm. The tornado the book is based on had such a high casualty rate because people became desensitized to the sirens.

The book has a great pacing as it draws you through the aftermath and Jersey’s life after. The book says “we’d never-not once-discussed what to do after”. Half of the town is just gone. No trees are left after the tornado rips through. And Jersey is forced to move in with family she’s never met, family that never wanted to know her. I felt her pain and anger at her situation. I couldn’t wait for her to get out of it but like her was helpless to come up with a better solution.

Marin was my favorite character of this book, even though she’s mostly seen through Jersey’s memories. That little girl is absolutely adorable and was a shining light even when my eyes were blurry with tears. Torn Away made me cry so much. I have to admit that I do tend to cry over sad books but I don’t think I’ve read many that made me tear up throughout the entire novel. If you’re going to read this-and you should, because I want to recommend this to everyone-be prepared with tissues and maybe don’t read in public if you’re afraid of crying in front of others!

This is the first book I’ve read by Jennifer Brown and I’m definitely going to read more because this book was just fantastic. It’s been a very long time since I’ve loved a contemporary book so much; this is probably going to be one of my favorite books of the year! If you’re looking for a great (and fairly short!) read, pick up this book. You won’t regret it. Torn Away will leave you in awe of the devastation nature can cause and you’ll appreciate the life and love you have while it’s here with you.

5/5 stars

4 stars · fiction · young adult

Brother, Brother by Clay Carmichael

Brother, Brother

author : clay carmichael

pages : [hardcover] 314

favorite characters : kit & jack

summary :

After his grandmother’s death, seventeen-year-old Brother sets out, with the abandoned son of a friend, on a 200-mile trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks to find his twin brother, of whose existence he just learned.

Part coming-of-age story, part love story, this is a book about finding out that who you are and where you come from aren’t necessarily the same thing.

review :

I really didn’t know what to expect from this book. It’s contemporary, the focus is on family, and I haven’t read a book like this in ages, if ever! I loved reading about these characters because no one’s perfect in this story. Even Brother, who dropped out of high school. But he was able to take care of his grandmother and get a job to help support them instead. He’s had a hard life, about the opposite of the one of his twin brother that he’s just found out about. I found it so interesting seeing how the two of them were so alike in appearance and so different in personality just because of how they grew up and where they came from.

I really loved the supporting characters in this as well. Well, loved as in they were very interesting and absolutely well-constructed but some of them were just horrible. Even Cole, who seems to be there for his brother sometimes, is very willing to drop him at any moment just when things are getting tough for him. That kind of an unsupportive brother is practically the only one shown here. That and another one I can’t mention because I’m afraid I’ll spoil one of the big twists of the book! I love how Brother sees all of this and still wants to strive to be the best sibling he can possibly be, under the circumstances.

One of my own personal fears is having someone try to control how I act or what I say. Brother needs to face that now that he’s found out about his family. I loved his strength and I think he’s a great role model. I would love to have the strong morals that he has. Well, I think that I have them, but everything like that becomes a real test when something bad is happening and the easy route isn’t always the best one.

I’d recommend this book to anyone, boy or girl, young or old. Read it with your sibling. Appreciate your family. Strive to be a better person.

4/5 stars

4 stars · fiction

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides

author : jeffrey eugenides

pages : [paperback] 249

memorable quote Basically what we have here is a dreamer. Somebody out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she’d fly.

favorite character : lux

summary :

The haunting, humorous and tender story of the brief lives of the five entrancing Lisbon sisters, The Virgin Suicides, now a major film, is Jeffrey Eugenides’ classic debut novel.

The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.

review :

I’ve been wanting to read something by Jeffrey Eugenides and this happened to be the first book I picked up. While I didn’t completely know what to expect (well, except for the obvious in the title), I more than enjoyed the ride and now I’m looking to pick up more by this author in the future!

This book had a kind of slow build for me. I didn’t know where exactly it was taking me at first or if I was going to like it. I still really had my doubts, especially because it seemed like the narrator was part of a group of boys whose sole purpose in life was to stalk all of these girls. But the writing was just beautiful. It wasn’t overly done but was well put together and added so many extra layers to everything that was happening. I felt like fangirling every time this book spurred a new, larger idea in me. I love authors that can make you think. That’s what writing is all about to me and this book was right on target.

I said that the book started slowly and I feel it kept up that pace throughout the entire book. I knew that while I was reading there was something that I was missing, some bigger picture, and by the time the last few pages rolled around it all clicked together for me. I don’t even remember how it did, just that suddenly everything seemed to fit together so perfectly it made the book even more wonderful. Who wouldn’t want that?

This book has me so excited to read more of Eugenides’ writing! I recommend it to anyone looking to read some great fiction. I’ve been trying to get into adult fiction now and for anyone else doing so too this is a sneaky way to start where most of the characters are still in the YA range.

4/5 stars

blog tour

Blog Tour! Interview with Katie Williams, author of Absent

Absent by Katie Williams : When seventeen-year-old Paige dies in a freak fall from the roof during Physics class, her spirit is bound to the grounds of her high school. At least she has company: her fellow ghosts Evan and Brooke, who also died there. But when Paige hears the rumor that her death wasn’t an accident—that she supposedly jumped on purpose—she can’t bear it. Then Paige discovers something amazing. She can possess living people when they think of her, and she can make them do almost anything. Maybe, just maybe, she can get to the most popular girl in school and stop the rumors once and for all.

 

I recently read and really loved Absent by Katie Williams so of course I was excited to get a chance to be part of this blog tour! This wonderful book will appeal to all sorts of people. It has ghosts, mystery, suspense, and a fantastic ending! If you haven’t already checked out Absent, maybe this interview will convince you to!

 

Did something inspire you to write Absent?

My first novel, The Space Between Trees, is about a community’s reaction to a teenage girl’s murder, about how absence—of knowledge, of a person—can become an impactful presence. One of the absences in the TSBT is the character of the murdered girl herself; everyone else is trying to put a story to her, but of course she never gets to tell her own tale. So in Absent, I was interested in writing from the perspective of the character who’d passed away, to give her a voice in her own death. Hence, a ghost story told by a ghost. I should be clear that Absent is a completely separate novel from The Space Between Trees, but its inspiration came, in part, from my first book.

What did you find most challenging about writing Absent?

My editor and I applied the majority of our time and sweat to getting the rules of the ghost world to work with the characters and plot. From possession to ghost physics to the ghost frogs hopping around the high school, we wanted these rules to make both logical and emotional sense. I’m a big fan of fantastical writing, but not when the fantastic is used simply as set-dressing. One of my goals in Absent was to have the experience of the ghost world communicate truths about loss and relationships, identity and growing up.

Have you been influenced by any particular writer’s style?

Oh tons! Here’s a small portion of the list (in no particular order beyond whose name popped into my head first): Ursula K. Le Guin, Alice Munro, Kristin Cashore, Marilynne Robinson, Kelly Link, Elizabeth Knox, George Saunders, Paolo Bacigalupi, Octavia Butler, Angela Carter, Jennifer Egan, Neil Gaiman, Toni Morrison…I’ll stop for now.

 If you had to choose a place to haunt, where would you be and why?

Well, a library or bookstore. But if we’re going with the rules of my ghost world, I wouldn’t be able to open the books, so on second thought, that’d be a special form of hell, my own Tantalus situation. You know what? A school wouldn’t be half-bad, because you could listen to the lessons and enjoy plenty of good people-watching. But I’d choose a university over a high school for the greater variety of lessons and people.

If you could meet any fictional character who would you pick?

Just to meet? It’ll have to be someone flashy then. Let’s say Delirium from Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Maybe she’ll make me a floating fish balloon.

What was the most exciting aspect about writing Absent?

Writing the ending, not because I’d gotten it over with, but because I felt that the story arrived at its destination.

What is the last book that you read?

Right now I’m reading Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton and swiftly realizing how rad she is. Before that I read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (superb!) and Prodigy by Marie Lu (a solid sequel).

I’d like to thank Katie for coming on the blog today and answering a few questions for me! I love getting to know more about the authors behind the novels.

5 stars · fiction · young adult

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Author : patrick ness

pages : [hardcover] 215

memorable quote You do not write your life with words…You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.

favorite characters : conor & the monster

summary :

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

review :

I love Patrick Ness’ writing style so much! I read the Chaos Walking trilogy a while ago and that was and still is one of my all-time favorite things to read, both because of the great characters and the way the author has with words. He definitely holds onto that skill in A Monster Calls and uses it to draw the reader in from the first page.

First of all I loved the beautiful way that the book was set up. There are illustrations scattered throughout the book, all dark and dreary and depicting the monster that comes to visit Conor. Sometimes they frame the text and they really drew me into his story so that I could see what he was while he was speaking about it. Conor is mostly just the average kid though Ness makes even that seem special. Everything about this book is so realistic which is part of how horrifying it truly is. All of this realism is faced with the monster and the reader is guessing along with Conor as to whether or not the monster is really there or is just in his imagination.

A Monster Calls deals with very tough issues in a beautiful and powerful way. I didn’t know much about this book before I picked it up, only that I’d heard great things about it and already had a love for Ness’ work. What I didn’t expect was to become so emotionally connected with these characters that I felt like I was going through this horrible time alongside Conor. I really have to applaud the author for the way he conveyed this story without making it overdone or feel false. By the time the monster was demanding for Conor to tell his story of the truth the book brought me to tears.

I really recommend this book to everyone looking for a quick and wonderful read you will never forget.

book trailer :

If you like this book, you might also like Deadline or The Knife of Never Letting Go

5 stars · dystopia · fiction · romance · science fiction · series · young adult

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Unravel Me

Shatter Me #2
Book 1 : Shatter Me

author tahereh mafi

pages : [hardcover] 461

memorable quote “Books are easily destroyed. But words will live as long as people can remember them.”

favorite characters : adam & kenji

summary :

tick
tick
tick
tick
tick
it’s almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.

review :

I have waited so long to read this book! I read Shatter Me last year and it gripped me immediately; I loved the colorful and embellished writing style and couldn’t wait to read more about Juliette and Adam. At the end of book one there are so many exciting revelations that set up the sequel to be much different from what I ever could have imagined it to be when I first started reading. There were so many new, interesting characters to learn about as well as a new villain and, of course, Warner returns.

I love how the writing style has evolved as Juliette changes and grows stronger. It’s less centrally focused as she comes out of her shell and less whimsical as she’s forced to face reality for maybe the first time in her life. She’s found people who might come to accept her if she gives them the chance. I think it’s really brilliant, how Tahereh Mafi manages to pull this off so smoothly and seamlessly and doesn’t interrupt the flow of the plot at all. Unravel Me is more fast-paced than the first book. Now that everything has been set up it’s time for action and I can’t wait to see how that climaxes in the next and final book in the trilogy.

I’ve always had a thing for characters with superpowers, even more so when they’re flawed and the reader really gets to see the changes the character has to make throughout the book. As a rather shy person myself, it’s awesome having a leading lady like Juliette who is often afraid to speak for herself or offer up information even if it’s being asked for or she feels ridiculous for not speaking up. I think that having a person like her as a role model is great; even if she isn’t perfect, it’s easy to see how she’s testing the surface and making her way now as her own person.

I’d recommend this series to anyone! I love the characters so much . . even if the only complaint I have is the whole thing between Warner and Juliette, that I didn’t warm up to until near the end of the book. Other than that this book was as great and gripping as I’d hoped it would be and now I can’t wait to read more!!

5/5 stars

If you love this book, try reading Paranormalcy or The Darkest Minds!

 

4 stars · fiction · paranormal · young adult

Absent by Katie Williams

Absent 

Author : katie williams [also wrote the space between trees]

pages : [hardcover] 184

favorite character : evan

summary :

Forever is a long time to be stuck in high school.

Seventeen-year-old Paige is dead, the victim of a freak fall from
the roof during Physics class. Now she’s a ghost, permanently
bound to the grounds of her high school. It isn’t all bad, she can
find out everyone’s secrets, which can be amusing—for a while.
But then Paige hears something that isn’t amusing at all: the
rumor spread by the most popular girl at school that her death
wasn’t an accident—that she supposedly jumped on purpose.
Paige is desperate to stop the gossip, but what can a ghost do?
Then Paige discovers something amazing. She can possess
living people when they think of her, and she can make them do
almost anything. Maybe, just maybe, she can get inside the girl
who’s responsible for the stories. . . and have a little fun turning the tables while she’s at it.

Katie Williams’s second novel is a suspenseful page-turner full of
eerie wit and a touch of the otherworldly

review :

Absent by Katie Williams is everything and nothing like I’d expected it to be. It’s a much shorter and less action oriented novel than I thought that it would be, judging from the summary alone, though now that I’ve read it through I think that it sits at precisely the perfect length and follows a great pace for the plot that is presented. Some of what is shown is heavy material for teens in high school, blatantly speaking about drugs, alcohol, suicide, and the less horrible problems-teen love, friendship, and trust.

The characters in this were fantastic and flawed, both the living and the dead. Evan was definitely my favorite though he didn’t get much dedicated to him in the novel, though he was very sweet and understanding even after he’d been stuck alone and invisible in the school for so long. I loved the hint of mystery surrounding him for most of the book as well as the plot twists that keep appearing throughout the novel, all culminating in an ending that I really loved and think perfectly suited the story and the characters. Plus, there was so much happening that I hadn’t even imagined would come about, which was great.

I read The Space Between the Trees, Williams’ first novel, before this and thought that there was something off about it that kept me from completely enjoying it. Now that I really like Absent, I think that it wasn’t Williams’ writing style but probably just the plot that kept me from really diving into her work before. I really liked the characters and setup of Absent, so readers that might not have loved the other novel will definitely find something more in this one.

4/5 stars

3 stars · fiction · young adult

The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes

The Ghosts of Kerfol

author : deborah noyes

pages :  [paperback] 176

summary :

In her classic ghost story “Kerfol,” Edith Wharton tells the tale of Anne de Barrigan, a young Frenchwoman convicted of murdering her husband, the jealous Yves de Cornault. The elderly lord was found dead on the stairs, apparently savaged by a pack of dogs, though there were no dogs — no live dogs — at Kerfol that day. In this remarkable collection of intertwining short stories, Deborah Noyes takes us back to the haunted manor and tells us Anne de Barrigan’s story through the sympathetic eyes of her servant girl. Four more tales slip forward in time, peering in on a young artist, a hard-drinking party girl, a young American couple, and a deaf gardener who now tends the Kerfol estate. All these souls are haunted by the ghosts of Kerfol — the dead dogs, the sensual yet uneasy relationships, and the bitter taste of revenge.

review :

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this book because I’ve been trying to branch out more and discover books that I haven’t heard about before. This was one of the books in that little experiment that I picked up from the library. I thought that it would be interested just because of the ghosts and murder. Then I realized it was several interconnecting stories and I was even more intrigued. While it didn’t completely impress me and isn’t a favorite, it also isn’t a waste of time and was definitely enjoyable.

I think that my favorite tale has to be the last not, and not because it’s the most recent. That and the first were the ones I connected to the most because the characters felt closer to my own age and were more relatable. I liked how every story had a different person with a distinct personality to fixate on, giving me an idea of what it was like living in that time period and dealing with this haunted house. Its history was gruesome and the horrors kept piling up as I flipped through the pages.

While there were some parts where the plot dragged, I had enough interest in everything to carry on. It did help that each story was fairly short, twenty or thirty pages long, so the entire novel was short as well. I don’t think that I’ll be rereading this, but I will check and see if Deborah Noyes has written anything else. Her writing style was really gripping and great.

3/5 stars