Book Review: The Summer I Gave Up Boys – Kassandra Kush

Synopsis from Goodreads: 

A summer love novella 

Kaliyah Simon just broke up with her cheating boyfriend, and now that summer break is here, all she wants is a quiet, boy-free summer. To focus on work, reading, and her tan. But then she meets up with her old high school nemesis, Isaiah Winters, on the way home, and he seems more interested in being friends than enemies. Can Kaliyah lower her walls and get over seven years of pushing Isaiah away and find out what it would be like to actually be with him? 

With her best friend going boy-crazy, a twenty-first birthday looming on the horizon, Isaiah continually showing up on her doorstep, and an ex that seems to want her back, Kaliyah’s summer promises to be anything but quiet.

My Review:

What do I read when the snow falls outside but a book about summer love of course!  The Summer I Gave Up Boys is a fun, short novella about Kaliyah and Isaiah, apparently “mortal enemies” since High School with just enough spark to be something more.  I enjoyed the chemistry between Kaliyah and Isaiah, which is evident from the very beginning.  It was fun watching these two banter and bicker at each other, however if this were a full length novel I would have been really disappointed by how quickly Kaliyah dropped her resolve and went for Isaiah.  In a book that would be perfect for one of those Summer anthems with several other short stories, the story of Kaliyah and Isaiah made me smile, at times even laugh, and gave me the happy feeling of a decent HEA without a lot of drama.

Rated:  PG
Genre: Young Adult – Romance
Rating: 4-Stars

Book Review: Pan’s Revenge – Anna Katmore

Author: Anna Katmore

Genre: Young Adult – Fiction, Romance, Fairytale Retelling
Synopsis (From Goodreads): “Are you ready to be kissed?” he breathes against the corner of my mouth.

My knees start to tremble and there are butterflies in my belly now. Way too many. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“I think it’s the best idea I had in a long time.”

Desperate to leave Neverland and find his love in this notorious town called London, James Hook makes a grave mistake. He puts his own wishes above those of his half-brother and once-arch-enemy, Peter Pan.

The consequences alter Peter’s life in a way no one could have foreseen. The boy who wouldn’t grow up swears revenge, and what better way than by stealing Hook’s girl?

The first to arrive in London, Peter finds Angel once again without any memory of ever being in Neverland. That gives him time to plant the idea of a ruthless pirate captain in her mind—someone who tried to kill her once and is now on his way to kidnap her again. If only this stubborn girl would stop playing with Peter’s head. He’d completely forgotten how beautiful she was. Or is it only because he sees her through different eyes now?

Through a shower of falling stars, a loop around the moon, and then a hard left at the Clock Tower—when James Hook finally arrives in London, he has to fight with a vengeance for his love and face a boy who grew up after all…

Review:  Pan’s Revenge picks up right where Neverland left off.  Angel is back in her own time, and has no memory of her time spent in Neverland, outside of haunting dream-like thoughts based around the necklace that one of her sisters brought home.  Hook is stuck in Neverland trying desperately to figure out a way back to Angel.
What’s the Drama:  Pan feels betrayed, not only does he figure out Angel inadvertently told Hook where his treasure is located, but Hook tricks him into breaking the Time-Stop curse on Neverland and is now seeking his revenge – and the best revenge he knows is to hit Hook where it will hurt the most; Angel.
What I Loved:  The chemistry between Angel and Hook is still going strong.  I was afraid of a love triangle scenario, but we were blessedly spared from that! (THANK YOU, Anna Katmore!)  The entire time I was reading, all I could think is..please let them have a HEA!
The other thing I really enjoyed is the Fairy’s involvement in Hook and Pan’s life.  It might have been deceitful in a way, but  I liked that they were concerned about everyone getting what they needed/wanted.
Not so Much:  It’s really hard to view Pan in the light that he is given in this book.  I’m purposefully being vague, but die hard Pan-Fans may not like the book because of this.  You really have to let the book stand on its own and let the ending bring you a glimmer of hope.
Can my Kids Read This:  Yes.  There is some language, and a bit of sensuality, but other than that, it’s a pretty safe read.  And it’s loosely based off of a well loved story – so you know, they are going to WANT to read it!

Book Review: A Long Way From You – Gwendolyn Heasley

Author Website: Gwendolyn Heasley
Form: eBook
Genre: Young Adult – Fiction, Romance

Synopsis (from Goodreads): For too long, Kitsy has had to satisfy her dreams of becoming a real artist by giving her friends makeovers before prom. So when her best friend Corrinne’s family offers to sponsor her for a summer art course in New York City, Kitsy bids a temporary good-bye to Texas to say hello to the West Village.

Between navigating the subway and the New Yorkers–namely, the Art Boy who has a nice trick of getting under her skin–Kitsy knows that this summer is going to be about a lot more than figure drawing.

My Review: 

A Long Way From You was an impulse library ebook decision I made when I was bored and looking for a nice simple young-adult romance to read.  Something simple and easy, not a lot of fighting off demons or time travel or any of that kind of thing, just a laid book about a boy and a girl.  It never does work that way, does it?
That is not to say that A Long Way From You wasn’t a simple easy-going book, because for sure – it was.  However, the romance was minimal (which is surprising considering the title), but that’s okay.  Regardless, this book was pretty great.  Kitsy, small-town Texas girl, is awarded a chance to spend a month in big –town New York on a sponsorship from her friend’s parents, as a thank you for being such a good friend to Corrine during her time in Broken Spoke.  This sponsorship is for a prestigious summer art program – the entire concept is a dream come true for Kitsy.  Except for the part where she has to leave her younger brother at home with her alcoholic mother, who doesn’t seem to understand the concept of taking care of her children.

So at first, I thought this book was going to be all big parties and super hot super models and that kind of craziness the entire way through.  It started off that way, at least.  Corrine seems to be really, really into her money and lifestyle, to a fault, and she seems to be trying to suck Kitsy into the scene as fast as she can.  Thankfully, Kitsy sticks to her guns and really doesn’t lose herself to the high life.  She does, however, lose herself in the big city life, literally and figuratively.  Kitsy has almost always been the caregiver, and the one who just makes sure everything is running smoothly, and everyone is happy.  But here, on her big adventure, I think she veers a little bit left of center when attempting to do something for herself.  Thankfully, Kitsy is a strong character, and is able to find some perspective.  Just at the moment where I was grabbing my head and screaming (mentally – can’t have everyone thinking I’m crazy) ‘What are you doing??? What about this perfectly good guy back home, and what about …..” Kitsy gets a clue, and drives her life back into an amenable, and quite honestly, a realistic place for a High School senior’s  life to be.

In the end A Long Way From You, though it has it’s share of craziness, wild parties, and a few heart thumping boy moments, this book was a very happy, satisfying book to read.  I love how Kitsy is able to put her life into perspective, and find out who she really is.  So while I may not have gotten the romance that I was looking for, I did get the feel-good happiness that comes with that kind of book anyway.

BOOK REVIEW: Guitar Notes – Mary Amato

Author Website: Mary Amato
Form: eBook
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Romance
I found Guitar Notes on the library ebook downloads, and thought the summary sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a shot.  The book was a very quick and easy read.  I read it in about 4 hours total, I think – less than one day.  The chapters move very quickly, especially in the beginning as Tripp and Layla are establishing their connection.  From the beginning, however author Mara Amato traps you into their world.  Tripp is kind of a sad fellow, but as you read you find out that he has many reasons for his emo exterior.  (He’s not exactly emo, but I kept thinking in the beginning – oh boy, a sad troubled teen…).  Tripp has somewhat recently lost his father, and his best friend moved away at almost the same time.  His thoughts and emotions are actually pretty natural in my opinion.  Layla is a very very good cello player who has a lot of pressure from her father to move forward with her career.  Most surprising though, this the pressure that she receives from her “best” friend.  I have a personality a bit like Layla’s, so I can completely understand the desire to tell Annie (best friend) off and try and explain what’s going on inside to her dad – but they are both so driven and involved, it would not be an easy road to navigate.
Anyhow, this book moves forward expectedly when notes are left in the practice room at school (I forgot to mention, Tripp plays guitar as his emotional outlet…kind of important to include, yeah?)  What starts out as sniping and smart alec retorts turns into understanding and friendship.  The book has many smiling and laugh out loud moments, but at the heart is just sweet and great. I will say, at the climax I was almost in tears.  I mean, I KNEW this book was going to have a happy ending, but some very harsh things were said and I couldn’t help but feel really bad for Tripp.
This book is well written, characters are funny and interesting.  Best of all – this book is in the “teen” section, and it absolutely belongs there.  Very age appropriate and not to hot and heavy, yet I think in many ways it captures the confused emotions and the pressure that some teens face…with a lot of innocence thrown in there.  I liked that.

BOOK REVIEW: Unbreak My Heart – Melissa Walker

GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction, Romance
FORM: e-Book, Netgalley

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads):  Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart? Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.

REVIEW:  Unbreak My Heart is the perfect summer read!  I am a great lover of books that involve “road trips” of sort; trips that help the main character find meaning and purpose.  It also seems that all road trip (in this instance it’s a boat trip) books include lots of iPod/playlist references…another favorite topic of mine!  So for the summer days coming ahead, the days of sitting in the sun at the pool, this book is one you want to add to your list!

I enjoyed Clementine, she was a perfect mix of brooding teenager, and genuinely good kid!  I think what I enjoyed most is that I remember having emotions exactly like Clementine.  I never did anything like coming close to “cheating” with my best friend’s boyfriend or anything like that, but I do remember actually wanting to be in a bad, lonely mood – simply because I felt like it was what I deserved.  I also loved her little sister, Olive!  She was fun and perfectly persistent.  Between her, and James (the beau of the book) the two of them manage to pull Clementine back into a better frame of mind, and help her to realize that while she made mistakes, she does not deserve to be miserable.

BOOK REVIEW: I Am (Not) the Walrus – Ed Briant

GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction
FORM: eBook – NetGalleys

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads):
A quirky story about girls, love, and rock ‘n’ roll
As the singer and bass player for Lucky Twenty, a Beatles cover band, Toby wants to make it big. But Zach, Toby’s best friend and fellow band member, is convinced there’s a problem: Toby’s utter lack of mojo. How can he croon about love when he’s never even kissed a girl?
So begins Toby’s quest for cred as a lovestruck singer. But his quest derails when he finds a note inside his old bass guitar. Who is the true owner of the bass? And can a kiss really help Toby figure out who he is?

REVIEW:  I’ve had a hard time getting into the book at the beginning. If you don’t catch my attention within the first few pages, look out because I may pass you by! I have way too much to do than to read a semi-interesting book…and yes, I do tend to assume the first few pages will reflect how I feel through the duration.

So I Am (Not) the Walrus started out at a rugby match, and over-description is the feel. I usually like details, but when the author is using big flowery words that I don’t tend to think of on a regular basis, it almost just feels like…too much..yah know? Anyhow so it opens in on two teenagey boys discussing their band, and it’s a little bit humorous how at times it seems like they are each keeping up two different conversations between the two of them, AND attempt to play rugby too. They aren’t succeeding at the rugby. Anyhow, Zach (the friend) is single minded – it’s all about the band, and there is nothing more he thinks of in the beginning stages of this book – major one track mind. Toby (main character) is a mishmash of thoughts and imaginings. I suspect he might be a tinsy bit ADHD, but who among us isn’t anyhow?

So I’m reading, and what I just described to you, is about it. It’s getting a little boring, and a little old…until Toby runs into the girl he completely embarrassed himself in front of (twice) the day before. He starts talking to her and – walla! PERSONALITY! I actually like this guy. He’s got a little bit of wit, and he’s compassionate and sincere, despite Michelle’s kind of snotty and a bit ugly (at this point) personality. So I’m snagged – if only to see THIS Toby, and what happens to him….

The thing is, the book is pretty much exactly as I described above all the way through, minus the over descriptive narrative – that was only the very beginning. Toby is a boring “bloke” who only seems to have a personality when around Michelle or his mother. Michelle, thankfully, turns into a fairly nice girl who isn’t really a major part of the book. She’s only around for bits and pieces. There is a villain, Rupert – crazy hippy dude who is extremely strange and out to get the bass. Despite his extreme creepiness, Toby has a weird tendency to stand around talking to the guy, and even willingly hands over the bass to him on an occasion…big red flag of “stupidity” flying over his head right there.

Outside of the fact that Zach and Toby are a Beatles cover band, and it is a forever on-going conversation – it doesn’t even seem like it’s a major point in the book. It’s just the background noise. So what is the point of the book? I have not much of a clue. The book, like Toby, seems a little ADHD. The major plot is this bass guitar; it’s value, the fact that Toby’s brother may or may not have stolen it; the fact that a note inside of it indicates it was certainly stolen at some point; getting the guitar back to its owner, and some strange dude who really, really, really wants it (so badly he gets a knife involved!) So yeah.

I’m not a huge fan. It was NOT the worst book ever in the history of books…I’m pretty sure the book that is there in my heart will not be replaced anytime soon. It is not rated very high – but here’s a fact, it must have been okay enough, because I read it all the way through.

The Beginning of After – Jennifer Castle

GENRE:  Young Adult – Fiction
FORM:  Book

SYNOPSIS (from  Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the “ka-pow,” shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss–a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

REVIEW:  As expected, The Beginning of After has its tough moments. Those moments where you just want to put down the book and have a short cry. Laurel is having to cope with the loss of her mother, father and younger brother, and while she is not doing it alone, it is still a very lonely and personal process. She manages through it rather well, probably much better than I would have actually.

The book focuses a lot on how she feels about how others feel about her though. Yes, she is managing her grief, but she is also very wrapped up in what people are saying about her, and what the motivation of others is rather than just accepting their help, or politeness. But despite people talking about her and not knowing if people are being real or just acting out of pity, she sticks through it and deals with everything the best she can. Her life has been altered, and finding out how to live it in its new form is tricky.

The story is also about David, whose father was driving the car that ended up off the road, and who’s mother was also killed in the accident. Where Laurel stays at home and deals with the pain and the healing, David runs. He becomes as anonymous as he possibly can so he doesn’t have to deal with false niceties or pity. He also runs to forget his grief. The only connection to home he keeps for a while is to Masher, and to Laurel.

I did enjoy this book. While it was sad, it wasn’t overly difficult to read most of the time. I felt like it got a bit too long, and I’m sure there was a lot that could have been cut out and it still would have been a complete book. But the length also helped to bring home the point that healing from tragedy is a long, slow process.