The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Review Source: eARC Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Summary (from Goodreads): When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.
Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.
Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?
Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?
Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.
I loved this book. Seriously. Loved it. I loved it so much that I've been kicking myself for never having read a Sarah Ockler book before this. How have I not read any yet? I even own both Twenty Boy Summer and Bittersweet. What is wrong with me?! If those are anything like The Book of Broken Hearts I'm going to be so mad for letting them just sit on my shelf for so long!
But let's focus for a few minutes on this book. Because I loved it (did you hear?) and I definitely think you should read it. We not only get a little bit of romance between Jude and Emilio (a new favorite!), we get a truly touching view into the relationship of a father with early onset Alzheimer's and his youngest daughter during the summer before she moves away for college. It is heartbreaking, emotional, and beautiful. It made me cry. And I almost never cry during books. I know I won't be able to do it justice here with my words, but this book seriously touched my heart.
A few things I liked best about this book were the main character Jude, her relationships with her sisters, the focus on family, and, of course, the romance. Jude is a wonderful MC and while she did have a problem sticking up for herself and really knowing what it was she wanted, she was brave and hopeful and loyal. Where there times I wanted to punch her for being such a pushover? Sure. But she grew up during the book and that's pretty much what it was all about. And the way she dealt with her father and his disease was much stronger than I could have ever been. Jude's relationships with her sisters changed as she changed throughout the book and even though I've never had sisters, let alone three who were much older than me, I appreciate the way they tried to take care of her and the way she always felt left out of their group. Emilio was pretty perfect as the male interest, a bit of a mysterious bad boy with a motorcycle and scars (literally and figuratively) but also a heart of gold. All of these components combined with the heartache of Alzheimer's made for one emotional ride and an excellent book.
Final Thoughts: Read this book. If you are a fan of YA Contemporaries, I really think you'll like this one. It was more emotional than I was expecting and the romance was definitely not the main focus, but it was a beautiful book about growing up, changing relationships, what's really important, not taking things for granted, seizing the moment, and all of those other things we sometimes forget about when we're busy focusing on our futures and goals instead of the present. I'm still heartbroken over her father's disease and his moments towards the end left me in tears. But the characters are strong so we're also left with hope. Not that her father will be able to beat the disease, but that love is real and broken hearts can be mended. I gave The Book of Broken Hearts 5 stars and highly recommend that you read it.
Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1) by Kasie West
Review Source: eARC from HarperTeen via Edelweiss
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Summary (from Goodreads): Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.
I just need to say that I really loved this book and I am going to try really hard to make this review not just a repeat of that statement over and over again. I'm going to try to put some helpful information in here so you can make your own decision on whether you want to try this book out (You should totally read this book!). I'll highlight some things I loved about the book and maybe even mention a thing or two that I wish had been different but otherwise I'm going to gush a bit about how awesome this book is.
We get to meet Addie in Pivot Point. She seems like a regular teenager, except that she lives in a community full of people with special brain powers. They are kept a secret from normal people and live in the Compound but life is otherwise pretty similar to what we experience here in the Norm world. Addie's power is called Clairvoyant but is really Divergence, a somewhat rare power that lets her see the future when confronted with a choice. She can only see her own future and only when there are two separate paths that she could take. She doesn't use her power often, because she can't change the future, but when her parents confront her with the fact that they are divorcing and her dad is moving off the Compound, they give her the chance to use her power to help her decide which parent she will live with. What she thinks will be an easy Search turns into an emotional journey through two futures she's not sure she wants. But in the end she must choose one.
This was one of those books whose premise got me super excited. It is so unique and different. But I was also a little nervous because I wasn't entirely sure how it would be accomplished. I wondered how I would feel emotionally connected to the stories, both at the same time, when I know that the stories aren't even happening to the characters for 'real'. But I got totally sucked in. The future stories occur side-by-side as soon as Addie starts her Search. One chapter she's in the Compound, the next she's out, and it alternates throughout the six weeks that she's decided she needs to see ahead to. I had no problem following along with both stories, no problem becoming attached to the characters in each and the stories they were telling, and no problem becoming emotionally invested in the outcome of each path as well as the overall story. Plus, Kasie West did the alternate futures in such a way that many of the plot points overlap. We learn a little bit in one future and a little bit of something else in the other until they finally converge and we get the whole story. It's both very interesting and very clever. I never knew what was going to happen next. There was one time when I remember thinking that maybe something would turn out a certain way and it did, but only once. It's one of the many reasons I loved this book so much.
A couple of other things I really liked about the book were the characters and the dialogue. They both seemed very natural to me, very real and honest. Addie was great as a teenager trying to deal with her parents divorce as well as with a mom who can persuade people and a dad who can detect lies. She likes to follow to the rules and not rock the boat but she also doesn't like that her parents are not together and that her dad is leaving. The conversations between her and her parents and the conversations between her and the other teenagers in the book all seemed like very typical, normal conversations. The language wasn't awkward, the passages weren't forced. It all flowed very nicely and I think it can sometimes be very hard for authors to make dialogue seem really genuine and natural. And Kasie West did that in this book. (This and the romance parts of Pivot Point make me really excited to read her contemporary romance The Distance Between Us in July!)
One thing I wasn't a huge fan of was that the ending wrapped up so quickly. Maybe I just wanted more from the characters and wasn't ready to let the book go, but I felt like there could have been a bit more when it came time for Addie to make her choice. The summary says, "Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . ." but it seemed like the choice was very easy for Addie. And knowing how the two futures 'end' it's easy to see why the choice wasn't that hard. I just wish there had been a longer moment for her to sit and think about everything she was giving up by choosing one path over the other and what would happen once she made her choice. It's a lot to go through. Not to mention everything she experienced in her Search. Again, I know why she chose the path she did and how she decided it. It was probably just me that wasn't ready to let the other path go so quickly. But is just a little bit of angst too much to ask for?!
Final Thoughts: Okay, I'm going to get gushy again. I loved this book. I loved the writing, the story, the characters, the surprises and the suspense, the twists, the romance, and Trevor. I loved how clever the book is about everything (even the love triangle that wasn't even really a love triangle). Everything was awesome. I am so excited for the sequel, though I'm pretty sure my heart may break a little with it. But really, I just can't wait to see what else we'll get from Kasie West and this story. If you enjoy paranormal stories, especially ones with time travel or alternate realities, don't miss this book. If you like romances or thrillers or science-fiction, DON'T MISS THIS BOOK. If it doesn't suck you in and make you think about all the what-ifs and changing the future and what you would do in Addie's place, who you couldn't live without, then I don't know what to say. I gave Pivot Point five stars and I definitely think you should give it a try!
Summary (from Goodreads): Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered.
This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent energy storms will. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must come together to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
I feel like I should be saying, "Why didn't anyone tell me about this book sooner?!" But I can't because everyone did tell me about this book! I was just the stupid one that never read it. Until now. Now I can finally say that I've read it and I understand why everyone is in love with it! I enjoyed this book so much. It's definitely moved onto the favorites shelf for me. I hope if you are a fan of dystopians, or YA romances, that you've either read this book or are planning on reading it soon.
My favorite thing about this book, besides the romance, was Aria. She was a perfect female lead. She was strong, brave, smart, and willing to accept that she is wrong about some things. But she's also funny and kind and caring and loyal. She works hard when she needs to, even after coming from the Realms where almost no one does hard labor anymore, and she wants to learn how to survive when in the outside. She doesn't want to be helpless and she does everything she can to accomplish the goals she has and the promises that she's made. She wasn't a pushover or a brat or a know-it-all or extremely emotional or a damsel in distress or anything else annoying. She seemed real and well-rounded and I really enjoyed learning about her, following her story, seeing her change, and seeing her grow.
My second favorite thing about this book was the romance. Ah, the romance. Oh, Perry. Two people who should never have met and fallen in love, but did. And they are so good together! Seriously though, the romance was done really well. It felt natural, not forced at all. Aria and Perry just gradually grew closer over the time they spent together, meaning more and more to each other and getting to know each other better. Sure they were spending time together under unnatural circumstances, but the progression of their relationship felt completely natural and real. Plus, Perry was so sweet with Aria. If you've read it then maybe you changed your mind about him around the same time I did. When he explained to Aria about how she wasn't dying, I thought I was going to die (both from embarrassment for Aria and for the sweetness of Perry). But holy cow, a man who would explain that to you, be happy about it, and help you deal with it is a keeper! (Though I did wonder why she was so confused by what was happening and also know exactly what it was as soon as he said it. But oh well.) I think the whole romance was developed very well. And I also now know why people talk about ALL THE FEELS with this book. Seriously, if you're looking for a YA book with a well-developed honest feeling romance, don't miss Under the Never Sky! Seriously.
One little itty bitty part that annoyed me a tiny bit was the whole rendering thing. Why can't people just love people because they love them? Why does there always need to be something that connects a person to another? Can't people just want to protect each other and know each other and be with each other because they want to? Instead they have to be rendered or imprinted upon or one of many other explanations in YA literature. Although to be fair, rendering is much less creepy than imprinting to me. It basically just means that you now not only know what the person is feeling but you feel it to. It's just a deeper connection to someone else, not necessarily romantically, just more intuned to them than someone you aren't rendered to. What did you guys think about this part? I know it's just a nit-picky thing, but it also made me pause while reading so I could roll my eyes.
Final Thoughts: I loved this book. I'm so glad I finally picked it up and gave it a chance. I was a little worried it would turn out like Divergent, a book everyone talks about and loves but that was just okay for me. But I'm happy to report it wasn't. I loved it. Plus, the characters are fantastic (even the secondary characters add a lot to the story), the romance is very satisfying , and the writing is beautiful. I felt so many emotions during this book I can't even begin to list them all. I highly recommend this book if you're a fan of YA dystopians or YA romances. I gave Under the Never Sky five stars!
Just a little advice: I've already read Through the Ever Night, too. If you haven't read Under the Never Sky yet (why haven't you read it yet?!), get both books so you don't have to wait to find out what happens. I promise you you won't want to wait after reading Under the Never Sky to read more about Aria and Perry. And, in case you were wondering, Through the Ever Night does not disappoint either!
Summary (from Goodreads): WARNING!! There are SPOILERS for Everneath in this summary and probably also in the review. If you don't want to know the ENDING to Everneath, THEN STOP READING NOW!!!!!
Okay, are we all set? Now don't say I didn't warn you. You may continue reading the summary now, if you would like.
Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.
Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.
Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.
In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love.
Ok guys, I'm just going to come right out and say it. Everbound was one of THE BEST sequels I've ever read. It was so much better than the first and I even liked the first. But in this one the characters, the story, the action, the romance, the memories, and the suspense are SO MUCH BETTER! If you were on the fence about Everneath, I highly suggest you pick up the sequel and give it a try. If you aren't pulled in by this one, at least you gave it a try. But I'm guessing you'll like it much more than Everneath. I think a lot of issues with Everneath come from main character Nikki and an inability to really relate to her. In this one, we see much more of her personality, her emotions, and a much better understanding of her pull to both Jack and Cole. So give it a try. And if you haven't read Everneath yet, now is the time to go pick it up because you won't have to wait to find out what happens after that ending!
Now remember what I said about spoilers? They'll probably be some mild ones within the rest of the review as well, for both Everneath and Everbound, so consider yourself warned.
In Everbound we pick up shortly after the ending of Everneath. Nikki is dealing with not only missing Jack in her everyday life, but also with the guilt she feels for living in his place and the guilt placed on her by the town and Jack's family for his disappearance. Because Nikki was the last to see Jack and because of Nikki's disappearance last year, everyone blames her for his running off. But what nobody else (except Jack's brother and Cole) knows is that Nikki does know where Jack is and is doing everything she can to get him back. Just like when she was in the Everneath, Jack comes to Nikki at night in her dreams. This time, she is keeping him alive. And she promises she'll come for him. In order to do that, she needs Cole. With Jack running out of time and Cole's help, they make the trip to the Everneath. How difficult the trip will be and how successful, they don't know. But Nikki will do everything she can to get to Jack. The journey is intense and dangerous and very different from what Nikki expects. And everything about it is awesome.
One of the reasons that Everbound is so much better than Everneath is Nikki. When we meet her in Everneath, she's been drained. She has almost no emotions of her own and doesn't remember a lot from her past. She regains her memories along the way as well as her emotions, but it took a little bit for her to be not one-dimensional. She was a little difficult to relate to when she couldn't feel anything and didn't know who people were. This time around she remembers everything and has many emotions right off the bat. Most of her emotions revolve around Jack, her guilt and desperation and love and hope. Everything points back to him. And she uses those emotions to keep herself going on her quest to try to save him. She was much more animated and relatable and a much better main character than the one from Everneath. But I also didn't feel like she was a different person. Just evolved. And I really enjoyed that about this book.
I also really liked the action in this one. It seemed like all of Everneath was an investigation. Learning about the Everneath, what happened to Nikki, what to do about Cole, how to escape the Shades. But this one was all about the action. Going into the Everneath, searching for Jack, keeping Jack alive, and finding answers to her questions. The book had more danger, more suspense, more of everything awesome! And we get more of the mythology that was so great in the first one.
One last thing that I loved about this book was learning more about Jack and Cole. I will always be Team Jack (if we have to choose a side), but being able to see more of both of them was awesome. In Everneath, Cole was the bad guy and Jack was the good guy. In Everbound, that's not quite as clear. Learning the reasons for why Cole does the things he does lessened the dislike I have for him, but he still wasn't the good guy to me. Cole helps Nikki in the Everneath, but why and at what cost? What has kept them together all of this time? Yes, Nikki was his forfeit, but maybe there's something more to it from Cole. While we don't get a lot of Jack in the present we do get to learn a lot about him and his relationship with Nikki through her memories. And the memory sequences in this book are done very well. Sometimes they can feel like unwanted interruptions to the real story, but these are woven so seamlessly into the story and are so well--written you'll more likely want more of them than less. I really love Nikki and Jack as a couple and loved every moment I was able to be with them.
Final Thoughts: Read this book! If you enjoyed Everneath, you'll love this book. Brodi Ashton wrote an epic sequel that I loved even more than the first. The continuation of the story along with the chance to learn more about each character made it awesome. I couldn't put the book down! I'm so happy with this book. Seriously, between the character development, the action, the Everneath, the writing, and the memory sequences with Jack and Nikki, this book was definitely a five star book for me.
Summary (from Goodreads): Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.
He was wrong.
Now he's trapped in a school that's surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.
Where breaking the rules equals death.
But when Benson stumbles upon the school's real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape--his only real hope for survival--may be impossible.
If you've read any of my reviews or followed this blog for a little bit, you probably already know that I'm a big fan of the science-fiction genre, especially when there is a bit of dystopia mixed in with it. I'm also intrigued by male POV's and am always on the lookout for new books. With all of that said, it's surprising to me that I didn't pick this one up sooner. I first noticed it when I was checking out it's sequel, Feedback. I hadn't heard of either at that point, but they sounded interesting. Then Variant showed up one Sunday on Arcycling and I knew I couldn't pass it up. I'm so glad I got the chance to read this book. And now I'm going to tell you all the reasons why I think you should read it too!
Variant introduces us to Benson, a teenage orphan who has lived in the foster care system since he was a young child. He's been bounced around to about 30 different families in his short life and is ready for something more permanent. When he happens upon information about Maxfield Academy, a boarding school that specializes in helping kids from less fortunate backgrounds, he doesn't hesitate to apply. He's excited to be accepted with a full scholarship and packs up his belongings and is gone from his old life. But as soon as he arrives at Maxfield, something feels off. He's dropped off my a woman, who doesn't even go inside, and immediately gets spooked by a couple of students who say there's no way out of the school. The school is surrounded by fences with barbed wire, full of video cameras, and there are no adults anywhere inside. He soon learns the rules of the school as well as the best way for him to survive it. Maxfield is closely monitored, rules are very strictly enforced, and all students must play their part. When Benson learns the truth about Maxfield, he must decide who he can trust and figure out how to get out.
My Likes: This book was so gripping! Such a great example of suspense and the true feeling of terror when you have no one but yourself. The students had already split themselves into gangs before Benson arrived and he didn't exactly fit in well right off the bat. By the time he learns the secret of Maxfield, he's made quite a few enemies and very few friends. And the secret leaves even more questions about who he can trust. Since Benson grew up without family and bounced around different homes, he's used to being on his own. But trapped inside the school makes him wish he had someone he could turn to. And Robison Wells does a fantastic job of creating a feeling of true isolation in Benson and the terror of being alone and misunderstood and not trusted. It was perfect for the dystopian society he created for his story!
I also really enjoyed Benson as a character and a narrator. Male POVs can be pretty hit or miss for me. I think it's hard when a woman tries to write a male narrative and I think sometimes the male main characters can be a bit unemotional and hard to connect with. But Wells allowed Benson to feel and communicate and show real emotions without creating a weak, whiny, emotional wreck or a completely logical, robotic, problem solver main character. I think we got the perfect balance in Benson and I really felt for him and wanted him to be the hero I felt he deserved to be. Of course, I can't give anything away. So I won't tell you if he is or not. But I will say that if you're looking for books with a male POV, give Variant a try.
My Dislikes: There really wasn't anything I disliked about the book. But I will say that I was a tiny bit disappointed in a part that I think was supposed to have been a big reveal and somewhat shocking just wasn't. It was a bit too predictable. It was after finding out the real secret behind Maxfield, just an extra part to the story. So the main reveal is still very surprising, don't worry about that. But this other part, I just kind of expected it. And I wish that the characters had expected it too. It just felt a little off that none of the rest of the characters suspected the second part at all when it seemed obvious to me. So, like I said, nothing reallly that I disliked. Just a little disappointed that the characters didn't anticipate this one part like I had.
Final Thoughts: This book was so good! It was a very fast, very gripping read. If you are a fan, at all, of science-fiction/dystopians, you should read this one. The main character, along with the set-up, created such a feeling of isolation and anxiety, I couldn't put the book down. I had to know what was going to happen to Benson and see if he would ever escape Maxfield. I wanted to know if the other students were kids he could trust. They were all initially presented with such specific characteristics and belonged to certain gangs, who would he end up trusting? And what was the secret? Why was he trapped in a school with no teachers or adults of any kind that would kill you for breaking the rules? It really was an awesome read. Just the right amount of action, character development, intrigue, suspense, and even a tiny tiny bit of romance. It was a sort of mash-up of Lord of the Flies, The Maze Runner, and Divergent all in one. I thoroughly enjoyed it and gave Variant 5 stars.