Waiting on Wednesday: The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan

Waiting on Wednesday is a topic hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers post about books that they are looking forward to being published in the near future 🙂

New WoW

This week’s WoW book is The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan!

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Middie is finding the strength to make it happily through the next year while her boyfriend, Nate, spends the year after graduation volunteering in Central America.  This becomes much more difficult for Middie after a tragic accident leaves her reeling. Feeling isolated in her grief, Middie turns to solace in the most unlikely of places, Nate’s best friend, Lee.

Though the two haven’t gotten along in the past, Lee and Middie find they can lean on each other in order to find their way forward again.

I am interested to see how Cat Jordan portrays Lee and Middie’s grief in The Leaving Season.  I feel like this is a common time in life when people experience and process loss for the first time and there are so many different outlets that people use to express their emotions.  I could easily see this being a very heartbreaking and healing story.

The Leaving Season comes out March 1st 2016, and is published by Harper Teen.

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#RockMyTBR 2016 Reading Challenge

Rock my TBR

Like many readers, I have a problem where there are simply not enough hours in a day to read all of the books I plan too! As a result, I have acquired quite a pile of unread books that have been lying around…for years in some cases.  That is why I LOVE the #RockMyTBR challenge that Sarah over at The YA Book Traveler has created!  Here are the books that I’ve added to my shelves over the last couple of years that I  hope to read in 2016:

Sabriel – Garth Nix

Illusionarium – Heather Dixon

Furies of Calderon – Jim Butcher

Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer

Assassin’s Aprrentice – Robin Hobb

In the Afterlight – Alexander Bracken

Assassin’s Curse Duology – Cassandra Rose Clarke

Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

Some Boys – Patty Blount

First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Clare North

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone – Kat Rosenfield

Kingdom of Little Wounds – Susann Cokal

Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides

Bossy Pants – Tina Fey

March – Geraldine Brooks

Midwinterblood – Markus Sedgwick

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landou-Banks – E. Lockhart

Girl in the Woods – Aspen Mathis

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Gaudin

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

This Star Won’t Go Out – Esther Earl

The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

Rebel Spring – Morgan Rhodes

So hopefully, I’ll be able to knock 2-3 of these out a month (give or take) and by this time next year my TBR should look a bit thinner 🙂

If any of these are on your list and you want to do a buddy read, let me know!

Review: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

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Made You Up

by Francesca Zappia

Rating: 2.5-3/5 stars

After being run out of her previous school, Alex is determined not to let anyone realize she has a secret at her new school.  Alex has schizophrenia and in order to keep track of who is actually in front of her, she constantly takes pictures to review.  However, she is not sure if her precautions will be enough once she meets Miles, a boy who reminds her of one of her childhood delusions.  Or at least she thought he wasn’t real, but now she can’t be sure.  All Alex wants is to graduate high school, go to college, and beat back her disorder long enough to accomplish these goals, but trying to navigate the uncertainty of high school is hard enough, factor in having to discover who is real or not makes it seem impossible.

Review: Zappia does a great job of writing to make the reader really feel Alex’s confusion and frustration.  I could not imagine having to second guess what I am seeing all the time, and it is easy to see why Alex is paranoid about many things.  However, I did have some issues with the plot.  For the first half of the book, things were really slow and it didn’t seem like much was happening.  I wasn’t really fired up to pick this book up each time I went to read it.

Once the plot did start to move, Alex becomes involved in something much bigger than she anticipated.  This plot twist and mystery that Alex became involved in was a huge leap for me, and pretty unbelievable.  It had to do with the school principal being kind of crazy and having an inappropriate relationship with a student.  I know part of that was to make the reader doubt whether the events were actually happening of if it was all in Alex’s mind.  But it was just really out there, and I find it hard to believe that no one was suspicious of the school principal in the years leading up to Alex’s attendance.

For me this book was really enlightening and informative, but I wasn’t super entertained.

The Ben ‘n’ Jerry’s Book Tag

I stumbled across the Ben ‘n’ Jerry’s Book Tag on the Bookshelves & Paperbacks blog and loved the idea instantly!  So here are my ice cream themed reads 🙂

Vanilla Caramel Fudge: Pick a light, fluffy contemporary

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Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally is a really cute, light contemporary read for days when you don’t want your book to drag your mood down.

Mint Chocolate Cookie: a new release that you wish everybody would read

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A Step Toward Falling is a book I can’t promote enough! It gives a super accurate depiction of people with disabilities, has a great storyline, and ends takes on tough issues while still being able to have light and sweet moments.

Karamel Sutra Core: a last book in a series that you were completely satisfied with

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The One is an example of over eating something super sweet.  Everything wrapped up so perfectly with little conflict that I was a little disappointed.  Even the love triangle ended up not really being a thing because one of the guy’s had one foot out the door.  This book is an example of overindulgence in this ice cream metaphor 🙂

Cherry Garcia: an ending that was bittersweet

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Harry Potter was “the series” of my childhood. I loved how it ended, but was sad to see it was all over.

Strawberry Shortcake: a book containing your OTP of OTPs

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Mac and Sydney’s relationship is one of my favorites. They don’t have instant chemistry that jumps off the page from the moment they meet and their relationship isn’t the sole focus in either of their lives.  I like how they look out for each other, and their relationship feels a lot more natural than some depicted in other YA novels.

Milk & Cookies: two authors that if they collaborated, they would go perfectly together

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If Laurie Halse Anderson and John Green wrote a book together, I would have that thing preordered months in advance.  I think their writing would compliment each other really well, and would love to see them work together someday.

Boston Cream Pie: a book that had you turning pages late into the night

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I’ll have a review of this book up soon! With the alternating chapters from different times and perspectives, I’ll Give You the Sun does a great job of keeping information from readers until the perfect moment, making this an ideal page turning read.

Chocolate Therapy: a book that makes you feel better after a long day of life

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Having read this before and knowing how things turn out, Ugly Love is the perfect book to make me laugh, cry, and just expel all my nonsense emotions after a long day 🙂

Coffee, Coffee, buzzbuzzbuzz!: a book not yet released that you can’t wait to get your hands on

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I read Ink and Bone earlier this fall and really enjoyed it.  I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens to these characters in Paper and Fire.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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Saint Anything

by Sarah Dessen

Rating: 4/5 stars

     Sydney has always lived in her brother, Peyton’s shadow.  When they were younger it was because of his charming personality, but as they grew up it had more to do with the trouble he was constantly in.  After finally getting help and staying clean of crime, drugs, and alcohol for a year, it looks like Peyton is finally back on track and Sydney’s life can get back to normal.  That is until Peyton paralyzes a boy while drunk driving.

     After Peyton is sentenced to prison, Sydney’s parents are less focused on her than ever and she begins branching out.  Seeking to escape her brother’s reputation, Sydney transfers schools and spontaneously starts spending her free time at a pizza shop owned by the Chatham family.  Here she finds total acceptance despite the family going through their own trials, including a mom that is battling Multiple Sclerosis.  She also meets Mac, a quiet, loyal, and protective boy who truly sees Sydney despite all the chaos in her life.

Review:  This book hit all the right chords for me.  Despite being about a very complex and heavy topic, Dessen finds a way to insert really heartwarming scenes throughout the novel that make me appreciate all the characters.  I loved that this book spent so much time on the Chatham family dynamic.  I mentioned this in my post about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universebut it is a major pet peeve of mine when YA novels neglect to talk about the teenagers home life and parental interactions.  This is not a problem with Saint Anything.  The reader gets a super clear picture of the Chathams and Sydney’s family to make a pretty stark comparison.

Dessen also gets major points for the complexity of Peyton’s situation.  It would have been easy to paint him as a bad kid who was finally stopped when he hit a pedestrian while drunk driving.  But the fact that he was trying to get his life back on track, was applying for trade schools, and leaving his past behind, makes the reader empathize with his guilt and sadness so much more. Overall, this is a really well written YA contemporary that I would recommend to anyone 🙂

A Step Towards Falling by Cammie McGovern

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“Friendships are complicated. Friends have power. Friends can break your heart.”

A Step Toward Falling

by Cammie McGovern

Rating: 5/5 Stars

     A Step Toward Falling is a contemporary dual perspective novel that chronicles the lives of two high school girls who have both been affected by a bullying incident.

     Emily is a high school student who witnesses Belinda, a student with developmental disabilities being assaulted and walks away without acting.  Now she and Lucas, another bystander who failed to act, must complete community service at a center that serves people with disabilities.  As time passes Emily begins to feel like she is making a difference in the class, but still feels guilty about the night of the attack.  When Belinda returns to school Emily makes a plan that she hopes will show Belinda how sorry she is and also give Belinda some positive attention that is long overdue.  As new information about the night of the attack comes to light however, Emily begins to second guess how to best help Belinda, and wonders if she is going to end up hurting her more in the end.

     Belinda has not returned to school since she was attacked.  She has fallen into a routine of watching Pride and Prejudice repeatedly hoping to rediscover the comfort she used to find in watching her favorite movie.  She used to believe that there were people like Mr. Darcy in the world but now she isn’t sure.  While her grandma and mom are very understanding and don’t mind that she is taking time off from school, Belinda knows she has to go back.  As Belinda tries to return to her school routine, she begins to understand that things have changed.  She needs to learn to adjust to new roles in her classroom and also finds that she may have some new friends to help her with all of these changes.

Review: This is McGovern’s second novel that I have fallen in love with.  She has a wonderful way of making people with disabilities her protagonists without making the conflict of the novel center around their disability.  Did Belinda’s disability play into how she recovered or reacted to her attack? Of course, but it wasn’t the only motive driving her actions or determining the next plot point.

     I loved the complexity of the feelings and people in this story.  This is seen best through the inaction of Emily and Lucas, despite neither of them being “bad kids”.  They froze, and despite their parents and peers telling them that it isn’t their fault or there is nothing they could have done, it’s not true.  Despite their mistakes at the beginning of the novel however, Emily and Lucas show great maturity in accepting their punishment and doing everything they can to improve the lives of the people they are meant to be serving.

    I cannot recommend this book enough! Whether to learn more about people with developmental disabilities, or just to read a YA book with great themes, character growth, and a heartwarming message.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson Playlist

Here is a playlist for The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson:

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Gods & Monsters – Lana Del Rey

Nothing to Remember – Neko Case

Girls Just Want To Have Fun – Greg Laswell

Broad-Shouldered Beasts – Mumford & Sons

Fear – X Ambassadors

Run Daddy Run – Miranda Lambert

Mr. Tambourine Man – Bob Dylan

The Impossible Knife of Memory Spotify Playlist

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

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The Impossible Knife of Memory

By Laurie Halse Anderson

Rating: 5/5 stars

Hayley is a senior in high school who is struggling to take care of her father who suffers from severe PTSD.  After spending years on the road living as a truck driver and homeschooling Hayley, her father has decided that it would be most beneficial to Hayley if they move back to his hometown and enroll her in public school for her senior year.  On top of managing any crises at home, Hayley also has to try to navigate the social rules of spending time with people her own age.  While also learning to follow the decorum and procedures of being in a classroom.  Although it is very obvious that she doesn’t take the latter responsibility too seriously.

After a few months of stationary living, it becomes clear to Hayley that her father’s condition is not improving. Worse yet, without the option of escaping to a new town like he did while truck driving, he is now in the worst downward spiral Hayley has seen yet.  As much as Hayley would like to blame this on external factors, like his old girlfriend returning to town or the illegal drugs he is taking, the truth soon becomes hard to ignore.  Hayley’s dad is struggling with a huge emotional and mental burden and until he acknowledges this and seeks help, the treatments and programs offered by others are all meaningless.

Review:

The Impossible Knife of Memory is a really powerful story with a gritty realism that keeps it grounded.  I loved that Hayley was portrayed as a complex character who was had great inner strength but could also be very immature and judgmental at times.  It felt like these character flaws were a good balance of Hayley’s natural personality but also a result of her unusual circumstances.  The problems that the other primary and secondary characters were experiencing throughout Hayley’s narration also made reading this book a much richer experience.  There is a common thread throughout these sub plots that show the reader different ways that the actions of parents affect their children. This reinforces Hayley’s own story and makes for a much better reading experience.

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

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Hopeless

by Colleen Hoover

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 Sky is a senior in high school who is attending public school for the first time after being home schooled her whole life.  With her mom, she leads a very natural and tech-free lifestyle that has left Sky pretty sheltered and unprepared for the upcoming year.  Without a cell phone, tv, or computer with internet, Sky has had to solely rely on her best friend and neighbor Six for all the information she needs to know about her upcoming year.  Unfortunately, Six has been accepted into a study abroad program and has left Sky to fend for herself.  One piece of advice Six gives Sky before leaving, is to avoid Dean Holder, a brooding senior who is rumored to have just returned to school after a year in juvie.

 It ends up being too late for that warning though, because Sky and Holder have already met and have even set up a schedule so that can take their morning runs together.  Although Sky is attracted to Holder she also wary of him and his intense moods.  While he often seems angry and tense around others, when they hang out together she feels like she is spending time with an entirely different person.  It is obvious Holder is hiding something from Sky.  While he tries to figure out the best timing to reveal his past, Sky begins to learn the truth on her own and is surprised to find how closely their pasts are linked.

Review:  I am usually a pretty big Colleen Hoover fan, however that just wasn’t the case with Hopeless.  This has everything to do with Holder’s character and his role as Sky’s love interest.  I totally get that he has some unresolved issues and that they might cause him to react negatively.  Holder is definitely dealing with a lot, but this undeniable attraction that Sky has to Holder is just bonkers!  The very first time they meet he is rude and really creepy, he follows Sky into a parking lot and then prevents her from driving away by forcing her door to stay open until he sees her ID.  Then as she drives away she sees him punching the hood of his car.  These are all things that realistically would have most people consider a restraining order, not encourage some instant crush.  He then memorizes every detail on her ID down to whether she is an organ donor, definitely some stalker-type behavior.  Although it doesn’t work with the plot, Holder clearly should be working through his own issues before trying to integrate himself into Sky’s life and solve her problems.

Sky’s past and repressed memories were an intriguing part of the plot, but this book lost me because of Holder’s behavior and Sky’s reaction to it.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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Finding Audrey

by Sophie Kinsella

Rating: 4/5 stars

 Audrey is a high school student who has taken a medical leave of absence from school due to her severe anxiety disorder.  As she puts it, her “lizard brain” (the portion responsible for fight or flight responses) is overactive and she constantly has to talk herself down in situations as harmless as having her brother’s friends coming over to visit.  Something happened to Audrey in school between some other girls that has resulted in her being extremely wary of people outside her comfort zone.

As part of her therapy, Audrey takes active measures to improve her disorder as the date for her re-enrollment in school looms closer.  This begins with her brother’s friend Linus.  When he comes over to play video games, Audrey and him begin a shaking friendship that gives her the encouragement she needs in order to attempt interacting with strangers and the world outside her home.  With a promising start Audrey is excited to be “cured” and begins attempting bigger challenges to prove that her need for medication and extra care is unnecessary. However, Audrey must learn that she, just like everybody, will have some set backs in life and that those set backs do not mean that things aren’t improving overall.

Review: I thought this was an utterly adorable story. Kinsella highlights a very serious condition, showing how it can definitely affect someone’s quality of life while also maintaining the natural sense of humor that Audrey had prior to her breakdown. Although I found Audrey’s mom to be a bit obnoxious when I first started the novel, she quickly grew on me and I found many of her antics really hilarious as the story unfolded.  I also felt that the mom’s overbearing concern with computer games, junk food, and whatever else the media says is bad for kids, shows how almost helpless her mom felt.  As much as she tried to set her daughter up to have the happiest life possible, factors beyond her control resulted in her having to watch from the sidelines as Audrey worked through her anxiety.

All of the characters in this novel supported Audrey in their own way.  It was a truly heartwarming story that showed that despite her disorder, Audrey had the strength and support to stand up on her own two feet again.