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 Goodreads.com):  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.

BOOK REVIEW: The Boyfriend Thief

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, Romance

FORM: eBook

Book 1 of the 2012 eBook Challenge

SYNOPSIS: Avery James has a lot of ambition and drive. She is determined to raise enough money to be able to go to Costa Rica to volunteer with doctors and humanitarian workers; which would give her a notch on her college applications as well as possibly put her a step closer to her runaway mother. However, money is not coming in very easily, and she will be offered no help from her father. That is until her ex-best-friend-now-arch-nemesis, Heather, offers her a deal; the rest of the money for Costa Rica in exchange for stealing her boyfriend.

REVIEW: I have to admit, I almost didn’t finish reading The Boyfriend Thief. After the plot of the book was quickly known and the character’s personalities revealed, I wasn’t sure I could put up with Avery’s attitude for the duration of the book. Avery has been extremely bitter about relationships ever since her mother up and left her, her father, and brother, and soon after she lost her two best friends in a moment of stupidity. She is controlling, bitter, and at times mean and very judgmental.  When called out on her behavior she is hurt and offended. She is as selfish of a character as they come. So you can understand my hesitancy to read an entire book of, “my mom was a miserable creep, so watch me put up unrealistic walls, and attempt control everyone’s life.” Even in her chapter of redemption, I felt like it all came much too quickly and easily for her. While the character in the book showed remorse and understanding – the storyline didn’t really help me to believe it.

The person who made the book worth the read was Zac. He was sweet and innocent, quirky and smart too. I enjoyed the chemistry between him and Avery. I loved his words of wisdom, especially since was supposed to be a lazy goof up. He was cute and funny and had a way of making Avery open up and talk in a way that no one else could. He was the best part of the entire book.

The Boyfriend Thief was a quick easy read. I may have reviewed it harshly, but for a nice Young Adult read – it does the trick in a pinch. Especially for the ebook price!

BOOK REVIEW: Why We Broke Up – Daniel Handler

GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction, Romance
FORM: Audiobook
NARRATOR: Khristine Hvam

SYNOPSIS: A letter written by Min to Ed explaining all of the things that she kept from their relationship that are included in a box she is leaving on his door step, and what they meant to her.

REVIEW: Why We Broke Up is a five and a half hour (via audiobook) monologue of…well exactly that. Sounds boring? Well, it really isn’t. What you get in that monologue, which is actually a letter written to Min’s ex-boyfriend, of their entire relationship from start to finish. She points out areas where she should have seen the break up coming, where she knew things were going wrong but had remained blind.

The relationship between Min and Ed was actually very sweet most of the time, like when it was just the two of them together. Outside of that scenario, Ed was kind of a jerk. I did feel like his feelings were very true and exactly how Min described it, “fragile.” Something so new and big to him that in a way I think he couldn’t handle it’s magnitude. Or perhaps I still just want to think the best of him and he not only acted like super-mega jerk, he actually IS super-mega jerk! Anyway, I enjoyed the book – but on the other hand, the entire thing was very predictable. I loved Min and Ed’s adventure, and the way they came together so sweetly. That was a fun experience, but we all knew what was coming in the end. (Well, DUH, title..)

Al, on the other hand, was a dope. He sat around on his feelings way too long, and Min was equally stupid for not catching on anyway. I am glad that there wasn’t some grand stateMint at the end – a proclamation of undying love that was going to last forever – but that never would have happened. What I enjoyed most about this book was how realistic it was, and in this story Min has put herself out there and proclaimed a love that was shattered, and she isn’t one of those girls who has that kind of reaction on a weekly basis. (Sorry about the spoiler, but as I said, this book was very predictable, if you didn’t figure this out within the first couple of chapters…well, I’m sorry, but you should have!)

Daniel Handler’s writing style was very descriptive and detail oriented. He created a picture where you could see what the characters where seeing, actually hear the slam of the lockers, etc. The book brought me back to High School, and it was so accurate – from the description of going to a sporting event, to a school dance, all the way to standing in the hallway with your peers; it was almost as if Daniel was in high school himself. (Maybe he is or recently was? I haven’t really done any author research or anything.) It was kind of a nice flashback, at least in that way that is nostalgic but not something you actually want to do sort of way. I was completely under impressed with the names of his characters, however. And really, a name IS important in a book – they help shape personalities in my opinion. In the case of this book, I would have though (without reading) that this book was full of very dull characters with barely any personalities at all. Not people I would be jumping at the chance to get to know…

My only regret is, having listened to this on audiobook, I did not get to see the illustrations of the book. I might have to flip through the book in a bookstore or library just so I can find out what I was missing out on.

BOOK REVIEW: The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction (16+)
FORM: eBook

SYNOPSIS (from goodreads.com):

Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is navigating through the strange worlds of love, drugs, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, and dealing with the loss of a good friend and his favorite aunt.

REVIEW:  I first heard about The Perks of Being a Wallflower during Banned Books week.  The title alone draws me to the book because, well growing up I was a bit of a wallflower myself, and felt that I could relate to the book.  After reading a few reviews, I sort of backed off though – because I’m not real big into reading sad books, and it sounded like this book had the potential of being sad.  Of course in my mind I come up with all of the worst case scenarios and just know I don’t want to read about it.  If you are like me in this – let me put your mind at ease just a bit.  No one in this book that wasn’t already dead dies in the end.  It has some tough situations and topics, but it’s worth the read.  Trust me.

Charlie is the perfect mix of a normal 9th grader and extremely awkward teenager.  This is just another way that I felt like I could relate to him as read the book.  As a young teenager, I was oblivious about so many things – innocent really. I was not, however, as quick to try unknown things as Charlie was.  And, as emotional as my baggage goes, mine was not near as heavy as Charlies was in the end either.

The book contains exploration of drugs, alcohol, sex, and even homosexuality – none of these are the main topic or point of the book.  I feel that their point in the book was more about being a teenager and trying to find yourself and understand who you were and why.  And though it does include all of the things said above (which is why I included 16+ in my genre) – I’m not so sure that the age distinction is true.  Usually I get a little sensitive with those topics being so prominent in a young adult book, but I almost wonder if this book might help other teenagers realize that yes, other people have the same thoughts and concerns, but would also help those of us who weren’t so lucky to be the popular kid, the beauty of the school, or just simply blessed to be able to make friends easily – that yes, there are kids who are “different” but they are people with feelings and thoughts, and the capacity to love and be loved and…I just don’t know.  I remember how hard high school was for me, and outside of some of the mental things – I could really, really, really relate to who Charlie was in the High School scheme of things; I was Charlie.

All of that being said – I am curious to see the movie coming out in 2012(?).  I’m curious to see what they do with the characters, and honestly to see what things are changed and what things will be staying the same.  I also love that Logan Lerman was cast as Charlie, and Emma Watson as Sam.  I will have a hard time watching of those actors do any kind of drugs – so there is a large part of me that is hoping it is left out of the movie, but other than that I’m hoping things are left true to the novel.

BOOK REVIEW: Ten Things We Did – Sarah Mlynowski

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction – Romance
FORM:  eBook

SYNOPSIS (from Goodreads.com):  

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn’t have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn’t jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe “opportunity” isn’t the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: “Lied to Our Parents”). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up “Skipping School” (#3), “Throwing a Crazy Party” (#8), “Buying a Hot Tub” (#4), and, um, “Harboring a Fugitive” (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them. 

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn’t-have-done at a time.

 REVIEW:  A fun book about rejection and rebellion and behaving like an unauthorized teenager. As a mother and adult, I do not agree with the behavior displayed in this book, and am a little bit disappointed that there weren’t stronger consequences for the girl’s actions, even though there WERE consequences…sometimes some pretty harsh ones at that. But so much could have happened, people could have been hurt, killed, or a whole slew of things.

More than the disappointment I felt for some of April’s decisions was the way April’s mother handled the situation. Sure she was across the ocean, but I feel like she still should have done something. Then her dad, who was completely gullible and happily blind to all of April’s lies. But this is the point, isn’t it? April and Vi both have parents who have ceased to really care about them. Maybe not completely, but in many of the ways that matter. They [the parents] all have their own lives and concerns, and April is almost an adult after all…it was sad, in my opinion. And what teenager in their right mind would turn down a crap load of money and parental freedom indefinitely?? There was a secret part of me, that regardless of my shock at the situation itself didn’t want them to get caught either.

The reader in me – taking out the mature adult and responsible parent for a moment – was entertained. The characters were fun and goofy, and sometimes very serious and mature…sometimes. I felt like guy/girl relationships didn’t seem as meaningful as they were intended to be. I felt no chemistry between April and Noah, and likewise I barely felt sparks between her and Hudson. On the flipside, the “girlfriend” relationships seemed to be strong, and forgiving, and ever growing and evolving. All of the girls had open minds, were willing to discuss important matters, and were even willing to let the crazy girl, Lucy, into the group. In the end, I would say that it was the bond between these girls that made me enjoy this book the most.

BOOK REVIEW: Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins

GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction, Romance
FORM: Audiobook
NARRATOR: Shannon McManus

SYNOPSIS: Lola is perfectly happy, well mostly perfectly happy. She has the best boyfriend ever; the best older boyfriend, who’s in a band, and has awesome tattoos! She loves her family, which includes her two dads, and their black dog, Betsy. The only thing that could make it a bit better is if her Dads and friends would like or at least except her boyfriend, but that will come in time….

Then Lola’s world begins to be flipped upside down. The Bell twins move back into the house next door, including Cricket Graham Bell. He’s the boy Lola was in love with as a child, the boy who broke her heart two years ago, the boy she never, ever wanted to see again.

REVIEW: I have been waiting on this book since I read Anna and the French Kiss. I was/am so in love with Anna and Etienne that I just couldn’t wait to get more of Stephany Perkin’s writing. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I would not be able to sit and read her books back to back (to back – when the third is released), because her books are most certainly about a girl and a guy, and how they circle each other with heated desire. Of course the characters have their issues, but it’s all part and partial to their feeling for one another, which continues to escalate throughout the book until the moment of impact (however that may play out.) I love these books – because it is all emotion/love/romance driven, but large quantities all that the same time would probably get old.

I really like Lola and I think I want to marry Cricket – they are amazing for each other. They are completely funky and crazy. To see them walking down the street together would probably be a lot like watching a rainbow, or a cartoon, or something else equally as bright and magnificent. I think I just have a small problem with Lola. While she dresses crazy and makes amazing costumes, I was a little frustrated with her lying and deception of everyone around her. I did not blame Max, her older boyfriend, for being upset and hurt (however his selfish anger was a little annoying, and his rudeness a bit unredeemable), because Lola was really, really unfair to him. She does see this about herself, and admits this, and talks about “proving herself” or “redeeming herself,” but the amount of time given in the book for what it would have taken to gain trust and respect back was not adequate. Though, I don’t know how else it could have been written. I just found her rather immature and it that was hard for me, as a reader, to really love her.

EVERYTHING about Cricket was perfect though. Like I said, if I wasn’t already married to the one perfect guy of my dreams, I’d want to marry him. I wanted to touch his hair and have him help me pick out my clothes. I am a tinsy bit of a sucker for the slight nerd/hipster combination. He was so open and honest and just naked with his emotions. There was a scene near the end – that I won’t elaborate too much on – but his “anguish” was the most amazingly hot, and sweetest thing I’ve read in a book in a very long time.

I had read about Lola and the Boy Next Door a few times, and I knew that Anna and Etienne would be in the book, but it did not prevent my heart from giving that little leap of excitement when I “heard” Etienne speak for the first time. Thank goodness for consistent narrators!! I finished listening to Anna again a bit over a week ago, so I guess I wasn’t expecting to hear from them again so soon. They are, of course, as amazingly cute and perfect as ever.

REVIEW: Forever Mine – Elizabeth Reyes

GENRE: Young Adult
FORM:  eBook
SERIES: The Moreno Brothers

SYNOPSIS:  Sarah has been forced to move to California with her Aunt, and cousin Valerie, while her mom mom goes to jail.  She is leaving behind the only place she has known as a steady home, Flagstaff AZ, as well as her very best friend Sydney.   Upon arriving at her new home and new school, Sarah immediately is taken with the ever popular and mega-hot Angel Moreno, and to her surprise he is taken by her as well.  As things heat up between Sarah and Angel, Sarah is aware that there is one part of her life that Angel is just not going to understand; Sydney, Sarah’s best friend.  Bestfriend, who is a guy.

REVIEW:  For a free book on Amazon.com, this is an awesome read. The characters are captivating, and make you want to finish the book in one sitting.  I cannot say, however, I am in love with this book, as I have heard many say recently.  Angel was just a bit too, unapologetically, overbearing for my taste.  Yes, we all love an Edward, the mega jealous and overprotective character, but Angel took that a little too far in my opinion.

I was also a little put off by all the casual sex talk in this book.  I don’t care how “current” or “real to life” this might be, even for teenagers today, I just find it sad if it’s the truth.  I find it disappointing that we, as adults cannot be better examples of what love and sex should look like – and that throwing ourselves out there for anyone to have a taste of is not just emotionally damaging to girls, but to guys too.  It’s a bad example of how anyone should behave.  Sarah, herself was not this bad example, but it seemed as though many of the other characters were.  Love does not equal sex.  Sex does not equal love, but I do hold the strong opinion that the former should not exist without the latter.

In the end, I enjoyed the characters, and the writing was great.  I was really sucked in from the point that Angel found out about Sydney until the very end, which is when most of the entertaining action happened.  The characters were well written, and mostly consistent.  I cannot say I’m overly enthused with picking up the next book in the series, mostly because I have met the characters, and I don’t care for them that much.  I understand they likely change in their book – but I don’t think I can sit through it.