Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website:
Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different...

This summer she's a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He's the first guy she ever kissed, and he's gone from geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt...with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn't that easy...

Contemporary is one of my favorite genres, and Miranda Kenneally is an absolute gem of a contemporary writer (Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker are proof of this). Therefore, it was no surprise that I simply adored Things I Can't Forget, her third book in the Hundred Oaks series. It contained everything I enjoyed about her prior books: strong, likable characters, a swoon worthy romance, and lots of heart. More importantly, though, it managed to tackle a hard subject - religion- and while I was hesitant about that aspect at first, I feel that Miranda had a did a beautiful job of gracefully intertwining into Things I Can't Forget's "heart."

Things I Can't Forget tells the story of Kate, a girl who has been through a lot in the last few months. From the first chapter, I was instantly taken with Kate's story. She was facing something that most protagonists in YA don't encounter too often: the dilemma of being her definition of a good christian while also being a good friend. I felt that Kate's struggle between the two jumped right off the page and came to life. I could feel her confusion and pain over it. More importantly, though, I could relate to it, and I'm sure most, if not all, other readers will feel some degree at the same, because at the heart of this it Kate's dilemma is not necessarily all about religion. Instead, it is about finding a common ground between what you believe in and making choices based on it while also finding it in you to respect and see reason behind other people's choices and beliefs as well. It something that's incredibly important even behind the religion aspect, and I feel that Miranda did a great job of taking it past that point, and having it so that this book wasn't a "preachy" religious book. Instead, it showed a protagonist's journey in balancing her religion and relationships with others AND also balancing her viewpoints and relationships in general. It was interesting addition to the book, in my opinion, and one that has given me a new sense of respect for Miranda Kenneally as a writer.

Adding to this, I loved seeing the transformation Kate made over the course of the book due to this all, as not only did she truly bloom and come to life as a person, but she formed some pretty fabulous friendships as well. One was her friendship with Parker, a former leading lady of Kenneally's. It was interesting to see them become friends over the course of the book, and get over their differences and find common ground, as not only was it an important stepping stone for Kate but Parker as well (Parker surprisingly had some more growing to do in this book, and with that, I felt that it was a great little extension off of Stealing Parker). I also enjoyed seeing Kate's relationship with Matt bloom over the course of the novel as well. Just like Parker, he made her see a new side of herself, one that while made her question her morals and choices, lead to important self discoveries over time. Plus, there little romance was adorable to see unfold....I was continually rooting for them to make it work.

The camp backdrop of this one also provided some fun entertainment. The little camp drama and dilemmas that popped up added important aspects to the plot and character development while also providing something even more important at times: laughs. However, I do resent it a little for making me even more wishful for the summer season.

In all, Thing I Can't Forget is yet another fabulous book by Miranda Kenneally, one that I would suggest to contemporary lovers out there.

Grade: A

Things I Can't Forget (Amazon, BN, Goodreads) is now out! 

Source: Bought from Amazon 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website:
From the author of Parallel comes a high-stakes romantic puzzler set in a near-future where everyone's life is seamlessly orchestrated by personal electronic devices. Imaginative and thrilling, this fast-paced story with two starred reviews is not to be missed.

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision-making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is to follow what Lux recommends. When she's accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn't use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux's recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore—a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

After reading and loving Lauren Miller's upcoming All Things New, I immediately added her other two novels to the top of my TBR pile. Free to Fall was the first one up, and I had an inkling I would enjoy it based on the boarding school setting and the futuristic plot (an app that makes all your decisions for you? Now that sounds interesting!). Luckily, Free to Fall blew me away. Combining an intricate, well developed plot, likable characters, and a swoon-worthy romance, Free to Fall had me sacrificing sleep to read more.

One of my favorite aspects of Free to Fall were the characters. Rory was incredibly likable and relatable. Rory starts the book off being slightly unsure of herself. She's just accepted into Theden Academy, an exclusive, highly sought out boarding school, and she's not sure if she's going to thrive there. As the book progressed, however, not only does Rory find her place in life but she also becomes this strong, kick a$$ character. I loved seeing this transition occur, and I respected the fact that no matter how many bad events were thrown her way, she still managed to overcome them, making the best out of the worst situations. Most people would have had a nervous breakdown in Rory's position but not Rory. In addition to Rory, Free to Fall introduces North, Rory's partner-in-crime and love interest. North was the perfect addition to Free to Fall - I was obsessed the moment he first appeared in chapter 3. The chemistry behind North and Rory was incredibly strong, and some of their interactions had me laughing out loud. North was the perfect pairing to Rory's character, and without their bond, I don't think Free to Fall would have been nearly as strong of a book. In addition to Rory and North, there's a bunch of other characters who have big to little roles throughout. Hershey, Rory's roommate, also became a favorite of mine over the course of the book, even though it took me a while to decide if she was a good guy or bad guy. And the evil guys in this? So incredibly bad! From the moment they walked into the story, I hated them, but I still loved the amount of twists and turns they brought with them.

The plot of this described in two words? Brilliantly smart. Free to Fall is YA at its peak. It contains this crazy plot, and in the start, I was little worried about how Lauren would pull it off. As it turns out, I shouldn't have had any worries, because by the end it was so incredibly obvious how much time and research Lauren put into making this book perfect. I don't want to say too much about the plot, as I don't want to give anything away; however, I will say that I throughly enjoyed the details about the app. It was incredibly interesting to see the neuroscience approach of it, and the little details really managed to make this book stand out to me. It also made me really question the dependency the world has on technology today. Letting an app make all your decisions seems like something that could totally happen in the future, so it was interesting to see the pros and cons to it. I also loved the addition of the Secret Society that Rory took part in. In the beginning, I didn't really understand what the whole point of it would be, but by the end, I was thrown back by how much it had to do with the overall picture. The twists and turns in this one just kept me flying through this, because once I started it, I couldn't put it down!

Lauren Miller's writing was great. She did a fantastic job of developing the setting. It had me wishing I had gone to a boarding school based on the overall coolness of Theden Academy. The amount of technology that school had was beyond awesome! As hinted to above, she did a great job of fleshing the characters and the plot out; I enjoyed every minute of this, and even though, it had a satisfying ending, I was still left wishing for more...more Hershey, more Rory, and definitely more North.

In all, Free to Fall is yet another great novel by Lauren Miller. I thought she made a fan for life out of me with All Things New, but this one really sealed the deal. I can't urge you all enough to try this book out!

Grade: A+ 

Free to Fall (Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble) is now out in hardcover, paperback, and eBook formats!

Source: Finished copy provided by Goldberg McDuffie Communications - thanks Megan!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (143)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

My pick this week is...

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.
Books about twins always fascinate me because I've always wanted a twin and the bond between twins is one-of-a kind. This one sounds super good - I'm curious to see how the Huntington's results will effect the twins...I can't even imagine how it would feel to be in those shoes, knowing one of you would live and the other wouldn't. Also Rachel is a 2018 debut author!

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone will be released January 2, 2018!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This week's topic is:

Top Ten Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't  

1. The Program series by Suzanne Young: This book has been in my TBR longer than I would like to admit, but I'm planning to change that this summer. This series sounds amazing....a society where true feelings are banned? Sign me up for sure! Also I can't believe there's SIX books in this series. Guess I'll be busy if I end up loving the first one. 

2. The Conqueror's Saga series by Kiersten White: I'll let you in on a little bookish secret of mine: I borrowed the first one in this series from the library this past Winter, but never got around to reading it; however, I'm planning to rectify that this summer. The reviews for this has been great, and I love that it has a historical aspect to it. 

3. Blood of Eden series by Julie Kagawa: I loved Julie's Iron Fey series, so I really don't know why I haven't started this one yet.  

4. To All the Boys I've Loved Before series by Jenny Han: I love YA contemporary, Jenny Han's Summer series was one of my favorites, and this one sounds really, I don't know why I haven't read this one already either. 

5. The Blackcoat Rebellion series by Aimee Carter: I LOVED LOVED LOVED Aimee's Goddess Test series. 

6. Scarlett series by Maureen Johnson: I've had the first book in my TBR pile since it released back in...2008. Shameful, I know. This one sounds great, though, and I hope to get to it soon. Hotels, romance, and a city setting? What's not to potentially love? 

7. The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski: The covers for this series are seriously stunning. Seriously, look them up, and try to tell me that they're not beautiful. Anyhow, this series also has been amassing a ton of great reviews....need to read it ASAP. 

8. Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich: Ever since I saw the movie for this one staring Katherine Heigl, I've wanted to start this series. I love mystery type books and movies, so I'm sure there's nothing I wouldn't find enticing about this bounty hunter series. 

9. Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead: I enjoyed Richelle's Vampire Academy series, and now that I'm older, I'm hoping to make my way through her adult series as well.

10.  Millennium series: This series has gotten so much press and love, and I really want to see for myself what's so amazing about this series. 

That's it for my list, so tell me: have you guys read any of the series I mentioned? Any of them in particular you suggest I have to move to the top of my TBR pile ASAP? Let me know in the comments! :) 

Sidenote: As I was making this list, I noticed an interesting trend: a lot of the books I wanted to include I had already read the first book for but hadn't gotten around to the other ones. Do you guys have that problem? Read one or two books in the series, and not getting around to the other ones? 
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