Tag Archive | contemporary

Review: Crash into You by Katie McGarry

Series: Pushing the Limits #3

crash into you -katie mcgarryFrom acclaimed author Katie McGarry comes an explosive new tale of a romance forged in the fast lane.

The girl with straight A’s and the perfect life—that’s who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy family…and she’s just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker—a guy she has no business even talking to. But after the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can’t get him out of her mind.

The last thing Isaiah needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks. But when their shared love of street racing puts their lives in jeopardy, Isaiah and Rachel will have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they’ll go to save each other.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Crash into You has that same Katie McGarry spark but has its own unique love story that is sweet and so, so very tangible. I fell in love as soon as I opened it.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read Isaiah’s story. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I loved Dare You To and he was just so sad as the girl he thought he was in love with, Beth, fell for another guy (who was so much better for her, to be honest). I always felt sad for him. His home life is awful, with foster parents that just didn’t care about his well-being so long as they got the money for taking him in.

And here’s the girl who was supposed to be good for him. A rich girl who loved cars. Now, I’m not a huge car lover – and frankly, I know crap about cars or their parts. I may admire a fast car but I’m no speed or adrenaline junkie. So I wasn’t sure if I could get into this book since it seems to centre on this connection Isaiah and Rachel had.

But I was so, SO wrong. And thank God for that. Their chemistry was so right and so present from the moment they both eyed each other.

Rachel was such an easy girl to love and understand. She has extreme anxiety and panic attacks, which makes her think that she’s weak. When you’re the youngest of 5 children, all of the rest being boys, and she being the replacement daughter for the one her parents lost to leukemia earlier, it’s a lot of pressure and stress to be “perfect”. That’s no good with anxiety. I understand anxiety and am so glad it doesn’t get as bad as hers did. But she tried. Honestly wanted to make her whole family happy, yet none of them seemed to realize just how hard it was to be this girl they all wanted her to be to make their mom happy and proud. The brothers called themselves protective but all I saw sometimes was a selfish yearning for her to continue pleasing their mom so that she didn’t sink into any depressive funk and forget about all of her remaining children. It goes to show that having money doesn’t equate to a lower probability on family dysfunction.

And Isaiah was equally likable. He had so much heart but he was so afraid of letting people in ’cause they only seem to leave and disappoint him. He had to face the mother who left him and got thrown into jail, letting him suffer in the system. But he found it in himself to still love Rachel, and he honestly would’ve done anything for her even if she didn’t ask. For a guy who wanted to scare the world and give them an impression that says “KEEP AWAY”, his heart had so much room for love if only the girl he cared for realized just how lucky she was to receive board in his heart. No matter how difficult life was for him at the moment, and most of these stem from financial problems and the unpredictable nature of his future after aging out of the system, he had somehow found Rachel and he didn’t ever want to let go, no matter what it cost.

These two broken individuals were so much stronger together than apart. They both developed so much in the course of the story as they conquered their individual demons together. Katie McGarry is just so good at giving her characters such strong voices and depicting the depth of their situations as if we were facing them along with them. I loved how these two came together, and fought alongside each other. I loved their first kiss and how they made up when they miscommunicated with each other. I just loved them.

And of course, there was the tense main story arc they both had to face: paying off a debt to some guy who was like a king of many different underground operations, including illegal drag racing. I read this in one go as I was desperate to see how it would all end, all the while drawing out the Isaiah and Rachel’s insecurities. I was never disappointed and coming up for air after finishing this book has left me in a little funk.

Honestly, I can’t really piece together the right words to describe the beauty of a story like this. McGarry is honestly a queen of contemporary YA. The ending wasn’t very predicable but it ended on a hopeful and happy note. And along the way, there were just so many feels for our protagonists. After falling so in love with Beth’s story previously, I have to say that I’m surprised Isaiah’s story has captured my heart just as much as hers did.

Overall Recommendation:
Filled with heart and emotions as it typical for Katie McGarry’s books, Crash into You was one speedy ride that tore at my heart for the pain our two protagonists faced in their very different lives. However, McGarry was able to craft together a wonderful connection between Isaiah and Rachel as they bonded over a common goal and enemy. And as they learned to let down their walls for each, the delicious chemistry between them from the start took over and another different kind of thrill took my heart on a ride. I honestly can’t think she could’ve done this book any better than it is. It’s a definite recommendation.

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

before i fall -lauren oliverWith this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today’s foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person’s life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.


 

3.5 Drink Me Potions


Before I Fall definitely has that extra something that propelled it into fame when it was first published, where at the heart of it is a girl who learns more about herself and others in death than maybe she ever did in life.

I will be honest with you. I had many chances over the years to read Lauren Oliver’s debut but there was something that always made me hesitant to pick it up. In lieu of the movie that was released not too long ago, I thought it was finally time to do it.

And frankly? I wasn’t disappointed. But at the same time, it was exactly what I thought it would be like and why I was always hesitant in reading it.

Sam Kingston is no nice girl. Not like Mean Girls where the protagonist just kinda fell into the machinations of the popular group but she thrived in this setting for so long. The way she acted towards those she deemed not part of her group, she didn’t think twice about laughing it up with her besties. Now, those girls were all sorts of messed up too. Lindsay’s your typical alpha, although the others seemed to have more say than other stereotypical cliques. Ally isn’t particularly bright but rich, and Elody just seems desperate with the boys. The book is broken down into 7 parts aka 7 repeats of Sam’s last day. The first day was dreadfully long, although I understood the necessity of setting the foundation of what the original day was like.

If the slow pacing wasn’t a killer to get through in the beginning, Sam’s attitude was just a huge turn-off. From wanting to just get it over with, she submits to her unworthy boyfriend Rob to lose her V card that night, to being completely rotten to sophomores and her childhood friend Kent who just wasn’t cool enough for her now. Honestly, I wanted to tell Sam to cut it out half the time.

As the story progresses, I will say that Sam’s character development does slowly change, and at a proper pace. She doesn’t miraculously decide to become an angel after the first time she re-woke on Valentine’s day again. It took looking at these different “days” from different perspectives to start to grasp just how little she really saw of her world. Her classmates’ lives weren’t as simple as she thought they were, or how absent she’d become in her own family. I really enjoyed that part.

It’s a good story when you start feeling for your characters. Even the horrid ones. Although Sam’s group of friends don’t technically change from each rewind, you still see beyond the stereotypical mean girl persona they put up. Each one has their own story and struggles that they hide behind their popular status at school. Everyone had their own fears. And at the heart of it all, Sam was trying to figure out how to move on (or was this how the afterlife should be?).

I will say the friendships and Sam’s strong narrative held the story. Each day and rewind got better. She became braver and less selfish (slightly). She started understanding what her actions led to, and how things should’ve been while she was alive. Even though it took a while, I couldn’t hate Sam even at the start. She wasn’t nice and she wasn’t someone I connected with at first, but I understood she was human and she had her own insecurities, though I’m not condoning how she put down others to lift herself up. I even understood why Sam couldn’t hate her friends after seeing what their summed up actions could lead to in others’ lives. That’s a marker of a true story that resonates with the audience. When you can’t even hate these two-dimensional fictional characters because they’re real enough to you, and you get that people make mistakes, albeit some worse than others.

The romance, if you can even quite call it that, was bittersweet. It’s a part of why I dreaded reading this novel. She finally got to the point where you know that she’s a better person ’cause of the days and moments that passed, but no one remembers it but her after each rewind. Her sweet moments with Kent were erased each time, and of course, she couldn’t stay like this forever. She couldn’t spend more time with her family, or truly find a love that would last. Her moments were now limited to just the one day, repeatedly. And hopefully, that wouldn’t be the sum of her afterlife.

Everything wraps up the way you would think it would/should. It’s as bittersweet as I predicted, but at the end of the day, I can see why it got so popular and won awards, even optioned for a movie. The beauty lay in Sam’s transformation and the everyday lessons she learned along the way. And at the heart of it, it was about friendship and family, and not knowing when that last day will be.

Overall Recommendation:
Before I Fall is everything as I imagined it would be ever since it first came out. Poignant and bittersweet, it follows Sam’s story as she navigates the last day of her life over and over again, picking up on the consequences of her actions and how things didn’t have to be the way it was if only she had made different choices and saw things differently. With a romance that doesn’t take away from the main story, ultimately we get to follow Sam’s journey as she tackles final moments with friends and family in order to move on. It’s a story that transverses the contemporary YA boundary and should resonate in some way with readers.

Review: The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

the-secret-of-a-heart-note-stacey-leeAn evocative novel about a teen aroma expert who uses her extrasensitive sense of smell to mix perfumes that help others fall in love while protecting her own heart at all costs

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.

At once hopeful, funny, and romantic, Stacey Lee’s The Secret of a Heart Note is a richly evocative coming-of-age story that gives a fresh perspective on falling in love and finding one’s place in the world.


4 Drink Me Potions


Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**The Secret of a Heart Note comes out December 27, 2016**

If you want a story filled with a diverse cast of characters and a little bit of magic thrown into your every day lives, then The Secret of a Heart Note is the book for you.

Mimosa, or Mim as she liked to be called, was a very intriguing protagonist. She was different (obviously, what with her special nose that could scent practically as well as a bloodhound), but she still held those same desires of any teenage girl her age. I liked that she was relatable yet still so interesting to read about due to her unique abilities that run through her family.

The world building, including the history of aromateurs and their ways, was fascinating and I very thoroughly enjoyed the quotes from aromateurs past at the beginning of each chapter. Even though she lived in California, a very familiar location that should not come as a surprise to anyone for the setting of a contemporary novel, the whole world felt so different when described through Mim’s eyes (or should I say, through her nose?). Stacey Lee really went into detail about the different scents for different emotions, and the ingredients that go into the makings of their love potions. The in-depth details of how their concoctions even work, and the rigorous rules they must follow in their line of duty to their special olfactory abilities was fascinating. I was thoroughly pleased to gain such insight into how it looked like being in Mim’s life.

Because, after all, it wasn’t all so easy being her. ‘Cause apparently, an ancestor cursed them from falling in love at the risk of losing their noses.

Beyond the world building that was superb, I really enjoyed the diverse ethnicities and cultures that were represented in the characters. Mim’s best friend was Samoan, one of their main clients was African American, and a star soccer player was Asian. It was great. I have never seen such representation in the YA genre before in one book. I normally don’t mind so much, but being Asian myself, I’m very proud of Stacey Lee trying to be so inclusive in her writings. I look forward to reading some of her other works because they seem to follow this same pattern. If you like seeing diversity in your books, I’d definitely think this story (and author) is for you!

The only problem I had with the story was, oddly enough, the romance. I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Frankly, I didn’t care much for the love interest, to the point that I’ve even forgotten his name. Sure, I felt bad for Mim when there were misunderstandings because high schoolers of course would not understand what it means to empathize with those who are different. When their relationship got rocky (’cause of course it would), I just felt really sad for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to care as much as I would if I had thoroughly enjoyed the two of them together. Don’t get me wrong, this book was lots of fun and portrayed themes that were important. The romance was obviously a huge glue in the story as it’s a story about falling in love, after all. I just wish the love interest had a bigger personality that didn’t bore me.

Needless to say, I am very glad to have found this story. Lee is being added onto my list of authors to read more from, and I think you should give her a try too. Be sure to check this book out when it hits stores!

Overall Recommendation:
The Secret of a Heart Note was my first Stacey Lee book, and it’s opened my eyes to how a well-done story about falling in love, with a diverse cast and a hint of magic and fun, should look like. With every person holding a unique scent made up of many different scent notes, Mim and her family hold the unique ability to hone in on these to make potions to guide people to love. A very unique idea that was marvellously written with a witty and humorous voice, this novel is sure to entertain. If only the central romance had held more of my interest, this book would honestly have been one of the best of the year for me.