Thu, April 24, 2014

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs Review

Breakfast Served Anytime book cover

Breakfast Served Anytime book cover

Breakfast Served Anytime
By Sarah Combs
Publication date: April 8, 2014
Candlewick Press, 272 pages
Source: Publisher

A coming-of-age debut evokes the bittersweet joys and pangs of finding independence in one unforgettable summer away at “geek camp.”

When Gloria sets out to spend the summer before her senior year at a camp for gifted and talented students, she doesn’t know quite what to expect. Fresh from the heartache of losing her grandmother and missing her best friend, Gloria resolves to make the best of her new circumstances. But some things are proving to be more challenging than she expected. Like the series of mysterious clues left by a certain Professor X before he even shows up to teach his class, Secrets of the Written Word. Or the very sweet, but very conservative, roommate whose coal-industry family champions mountaintop removal. Not to mention the obnoxious Mason, who dresses like the Mad Hatter and immediately gets on Gloria’s nerves — but somehow won’t escape her thoughts. Beautifully told by debut author Sarah Combs, this honest and touching story of growing up is imbued with the serene atmosphere of Kentucky’s natural landscape.

— description

Breakfast Served Anytime is a short little book, one I’m afraid may get overlooked by many readers. But it’s big on inspiration, and I’m so glad I picked it up.

Sarah Combs’ story struck me as thoughtful, lovely and inspiring, especially for anyone working as or inspiring to become a writer. Something about it seemed reminiscent of the movie Dead Poets Society, which I adore.

Bits of the plot were disjointed for me — at parts, the story would skip ahead quickly and without much fanfare. I frequently found myself lost, pausing to backtrack and get myself back into the correct new time frame.

But, still, I loved watching Gloria and her friends find themselves, expand their perspectives and grow over their summer together. It brought me back to what a “coming of age” story should really be like, and I so appreciated that.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: friendship, sarah combs, summer

Wed, April 23, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead book cover

Love Letters to the Dead book cover

Love Letters to the Dead
By Ava Dellaira
Publication date: April 1, 2014
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 323 pages
Source: Publisher

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

— description

Love Letters to the Dead is the sort of book that hits you like a punch in the gut.

You’re off-kilter from the get-go, a bit woozy as you read…but wow does it make you feel something.

It’s a poetic and haunting story that made me feel its highs and lows so very sharply as Laurel shifted between euphoria and depression. It’s a difficult and uneasy read, for sure, but if you are in the right mood to accept and appreciate that, it is not to be missed.

The story structure! How beautiful. Each chapter is set up as a new letter from Laurel to a dead person, from Kurt Cobain to Judy Garland. It’s quite brilliant and ties in so well with the story.

I loved the depth of emotion this story conveyed, its complexity and, ultimately, its characters’ strengths. Highly recommended.

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: abuse, angst, ava dellaira, death, depression, family, friendship, romance

Mon, April 21, 2014

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han Review

To All the Boys I've Loved Before book cover

To All the Boys I've Loved Before book cover

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
By Jenny Han
Publication date: April 15, 2014
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 288 pages
Source: Publisher

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

— description

I think the best way to share my pure LOVE of this book is to share with you the texts I sent to my friend Ginger after we’d both read it:

On the book as a whole…
“This really is gonna be an all-time favorite, I think. Like THAT level. That is huge. I am putting it up there with JD so we are for real. I want every book to be like that!!!!”

“AHHHHHGG it is so good. Like it reminds me of the reasons I love Jessica Darling, right? Like those are the tone of books I just die for.”

On the cover…
“Her outfits seemed so cute and that cover is perf.”

On the romance…
On one boy: “Oh em gee. He was so funny and sweet and grew on me.”
On another: “Ick on him. He is a loser.”

On the friendship…
“I love how the BFF is just like how she is. She’s different from Lara Jean and there’s no judgment there. I think a lot of teens will benefit from reading about that type of relationship.”

On the ending…
“The ending was too abrupt!”

Thankfully, Ginger told me there is a second book coming — PHEW. All I wanted was to spend more time with these characters.

Okay, so this is a really silly way to share a review, but I wanted you to get the sense of how I felt after finishing this book this book: I was on a book high. I had to discuss it instantly, to tear apart every bit of it, and to get MORE MORE MORE out of it. Truly, my only thought was: “Why can’t every book be like this?!”

A perfect reading experience for me in terms of topic, tone, characterization, humor, dialogue — everything!

So, if you share my taste, you know what to do. READ IT!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

PS: Thank you to G for being there for me when I need to talk books like this! Her parts of the convo have obviously been redacted, but for her stellar (and much more coherent!) review of the book, click here.

Posted by: Anna   •   In: family, friendship, jenny han, romance

Wed, April 16, 2014

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was True book cover

What I Thought Was True book cover

What I Thought Was True
By Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publication date: April 15, 2014
Dial Books for Young Readers, 416 pages
Source: Publisher

From the author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.

Gwen Castle’s Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen’s dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

A magnetic, push-me-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.

— description

Looooooved it. In fact: I liked it better than My Life Next Door and I think you will, too.

Huntley Fitzpatrick’s newest book has a million good things going for it: summer, romance, a kick-butt old lady and a Portuguese grandpa, complex family issues, misunderstandings, lies, friendship, class problems, a genuinely GOOD guy, a sweet little brother, humor…I could go on.

The story was equal parts light & summery and serious & layered. I loved the complexity and depth to the relationships depicted, from romance to family to friendship. They were all so incredibly engaging and well-depicted.

The setting too — wow. I could practically smell the salt in the air as I read.

Definitely a great book to kick off your summer reading. I see this one making its way to a lot of people’s favorites lists in the coming year (including mine)!

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: family, friendship, huntley fitzpatrick, romance, summer

Mon, April 7, 2014

The Last Forever by Deb Caletti

The Last Forever book cover

The Last Forever book cover

The Last Forever
By Deb Caletti
Publication date: April 1, 2014
Simon Pulse, 336 pages
Source: Publisher

Endings and beginnings sit so close to each other that it’s sometimes impossible to tell which is which.

Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it’s all she can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, her happiness from slipping away. And then there’s her dad. He’s stuck in his own daze, and it’s so hard to feel like a family when their house no longer seems like a home.

Her father’s solution? An impromptu road trip that lands them in a small coastal town at Tessa’s grandmother’s. Despite all the warmth and beauty there, Tessa can’t help but feel even more lost.

Enter Henry Lark. He understands the relationships that matter. And more importantly, he understands her. A secret stands between them, but Tessa’s willing to do anything to bring them together—because Henry may just be her one chance at forever.

— description

One of my biggest delights as a reader is when a book genuinely shocks me. And oh boy, did that happen with The Last Forever.

It was one of those instances where something about a book just isn’t feeling right and something is niggling around in the back of your head when — aha! — it all adds up and you are equal parts mad at yourself for not thinking of it earlier and so very pleased that the author was able to pull one over on you.

Ahh, good times.

Okay, so clearly I enjoyed that feeling. But I can’t say I loved what it was about. *Tries to be vague*

Pros: I loved how Deb Caletti starts each chapter with a factoid about a plant. I was thoroughly impressed with how well she was able to tie this in with the story.

Cons: I also had some issues with the latter half of the book, when certain problems were resolved quickly and others were resolved totally unrealistically…but for that “WHOA” moment alone, I have to say I enjoyed this one.

Has anyone else read it? Without spoiling — did you have a similar experience or am I the only slow one out there?

Anna Reads young adult book blog

Posted by: Anna   •   In: death, deb caletti, family, friendship