Bunheads – Sophie Flack

Bunheads
Bunheads – Sophie Flack
Published: 10-10-2011 by Poppy
Get the book: Amazon,The Book Depository

As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet.

But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah’s universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other “bunheads” in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?

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Design – Tracy Shaw       Photo – Karl Taylor  

I really like this cover. The kaleidoscope pattern of ballerinas is visually interesting, and representative of how hard it is for Hannah to stand out among the other dancers. It also reminds me of how easily she gets lost in the insular world of the ballet company.

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Bunheads is a New Adult that feels like a YA because it’s more focused on plot and personal development than romance. Hannah, at 19, is finding that she feels overlooked in the ballet company she’s devoted her every waking moment to. So, when the pressure starts weighing her down and she meets a guy who sees her as more than a ballerina, she finds herself questioning the future she’s always planned.

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  • Jacob – What I really appreciated about this story is that the love interest has his own life going on. Jacob really likes Hannah and doesn’t want to give up on her. He’s extremely patient and willing to try again and again to break Hannah out of her ballet bubble. But his life doesn’t revolve around her – he’s got his own music career to start and doesn’t like being ignored.
  • plot – Hannah’s only nineteen, but she’s spent her whole life only concentrating on ballet and doesn’t know anything else. She almost literally has no time to do anything besides dance. Despite her dedication to ballet, Hannah feels overlooked when she can’t seem to get promoted to better parts. The amount of pressure on the girls is insane and every little thing about them is scrutinized constantly. Hannah’s a young woman living in NYC and seeing nothing but the inside of the ballet studio. But pressure and the feeling of being ignored are universal.
  • new start – Just when everything seems to be crumbling around Hannah, she realizes that ballet doesn’t have to be her life anymore. There’s so much going on in Hannah’s life and all of it seems to be pointing to the end of her ballet career. It’s hard to give up something she’s put so much into, but it doesn’t mean that she can’t start doing something new that will be even more fulfilling.
  • dancers’ bodies – The author was a ballet dancer for many years and writes about the toll on Hannah’s body realistically. Hannah is so devoted to dancing that she’s just beginning to develop breasts, skips meals, and has friends her age that haven’t had their first period yet. One of the star ballerinas is so malnourished that she develops a thyroid disorder. Hannah exercises constantly, and that’s in addition to her endless daily rehearsals.

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  • “friendly” competition – Hannah and her friends regularly insult one another, both behind each other’s backs and not so secretly. The competition between these girls always comes before their friendships. They aren’t happy for one another’s accomplishments and they don’t support each other. Everything is about being better than one another at dancing. They are all so self-centered and focused on ballet that they can’t even treat each other nicely.
  • Matt – Hannah feels like no one appreciates her hard work, so when a rich guy who’s familiar with ballet takes an interest in her, she gets the ego boost she needs. Matt, however, is known around the Company for routinely wooing and then dumping young dancers. He’s smooth-talking, constantly complimenting Hannah, and spends money on lavish gifts, but all he sees is a beautiful and thin ballerina – now who Hannah really is or what makes her different than any of the other dancers. Sure, he understands her ridiculous schedule, but having a guy willing to never see you doesn’t sound like a relationship to me.

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“And now brace yourself because this might just blow your mind…There’s more to the world than just New York City.” His eyes widen, and he mimes an explosion with his hands.

“Wait, what?” I feign shock. “You mean, we won’t fall off the planet if we walk below the financial district?”

Jacob shakes his head slowly, with an expression of utter seriousness. “Crazy, right?”

– Jacob + Hannah  pg. 189

So what if I don’t have time to appreciate the pretty pink buds opening on the trees near the Avery Center? So what if I’ve stopped eating bread, stopped opening mail, stopped answering my phone?

My mother learns to text in desperation. ‘Call me sometimes why don’t u?’ she writes. ‘Daddy sends luv.’

‘So busy,’ I write back. ‘Love u.’

– pg. 232

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought

The Distance Between Us – Kasie West

TheDistanceBetweenUs
The Distance Between Us – Kasie West
Published: 7-2-2013 by Harper Teen
Get the book: Amazon,The Book Depository

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

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Design – Torborg Davern       Hand-Lettering – Sarah Jane Coleman     

I really like the simple layout of this cover. The hand-lettering is perfect – its placement and the way the letters are not solid is great. I also like the warm color scheme of the photo. I’m not sure that the photo at all captures the personalities of Caymen and Xander, but it’s a nice picture.

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The Distance Between Us is a story about a sweet romance and the relationship between a mother and daughter who have only ever relied on each other. Money is a big issue between Caymen and her mother because her mother has always avoided the rich like the plague and taught Caymen to be wary of them. Xander changes everything for Caymen. He makes her rethink certain things and re-examine her relationship with her mom. This book deals with some big things but is also hilarious.

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  • Caymen – Caymen is easy to love. She’s nonstop sarcasm and dry humor. Caymen knows that her mom’s store and their finances limit her options for college and the future, but she’s not looking for a hero to save her. She’s not someone who needs or even wants a guy around. Caymen is hilarious and while she’s sarcastic and cold with Xander at first, she won’t push him away just because of her mom’s issues with the wealthy.
  • Caymen + Xander – I wish every scene in this book included Xander. He and Caymen have each met their match as far as verbal sparring goes. Xander appreciates Caymen’s strange sense of humor and Caymen finds Xander charming and kind despite everything her mom’s ever told her about rich people. They are both fighting to figure out what they want in life so that they don’t end up following in their respective parents’ footsteps. Caymen and Xander’s ‘career day’ dates are adorable and show how they care for each other more and more as time goes on, planning things according to the other’s interests.
  • independence – Although Caymen’s mom is selfish with Caymen’s time and the doll store, she’s also extremely independent. Independence is something that she’s passed on to Caymen, who finds it difficult to let go of her responsibilities to her mom and the store. Xander, by contrast has every opportunity available to him, and longs to be independent of his father’s control. They both want to be independent from their parents, free to do what they choose.

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  • Mason – I disliked Mason almost immediately. It bothers me how he touched Caymen when they barely knew each other – just acting like he and she were already that comfortable with each other. He never asked Caymen ‘hey is this ok’ and she just shrugged it off by thinking he’s just a touchy guy. Mason shows the bare minimum interest in Caymen. He doesn’t really treat her any differently than he treats other girls, and he doesn’t seem to care that Caymen isn’t very interested in him.
  • twist – I really hate how the major twist near the end of this book basically wipes away the entire conflict that the story is built on. It also makes Caymen’s mother unbearably selfish.

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“Which one do you like?”

Am I allowed to say “none”? Despite the fact it’s my inevitable future, the store is my mom’s love, not mine. “I’m partial to the eternal wailers.”

“Excuse me?”

I point to the porcelain version of a baby, his mouth open in a silent cry, his eyes squeezed shut. “I’d rather not see their eyes. Eyes can say so much. Theirs say, ‘I want to steal your soul so don’t turn your back on us.'”

– Xander + Caymen  pg. 3

Minutes later a Starz magazine is slapped against the window next to me, making me jump in surprise.

“You read this?” he yells through the window. I can barely hear him. He opens the door and climbs in next to me without waiting for me to scoot over. “You read this didn’t you?”

He’s practically on top of me. I slide down the seat to make room for him.

“Drive, Lucas,” he says, pulling the door shut. Then his eyes are back on me and there’s fire in them.

– Xander + Caymen  pg. 207

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

Crash into You – Katie McGarry

CrashIntoYou
Crash into You – Katie McGarry
(Pushing the Limits #3)
Published: 11-26-2013 by Harlequin Teen
Get the book: Amazon,The Book Depository

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.

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Design – ?     

I’m not usually a fan of covers that show exactly what the characters look like, but I do really like this photograph. The rich red of the car is so eye-catching, and the couple look comfortable not only together, but in a small backseat. I really like the angle of the title because it makes the cover dynamic.

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Crash into You is my second Katie McGarry book, and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors for contemporary YA. She has a real talent for writing bad boys with hearts of gold, heroines with complex emotions, and couples who are so different from one another. Isaiah and Rachel are so fun to read about. Their connection is almost instantaneous, their struggles are compelling, and their chemistry is insane. If you haven’t read any of the books in the Pushing the Limits collection, I highly recommend them.

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  • Isaiah – Isaiah’s tough exterior comes from growing up in a series of bad foster homes and a lot of practice pushing people away. Yet Isaiah can’t stop his urge to protect Rachel despite her insistence that she can handle things on her own. As Isaiah tries to keep Rachel safe, he fights his own need to be near her and finally let someone in. Although he screws up sometimes, Isaiah is a truly good guy.
  • Rachel – I really admire Rachel’s drive to watch out for herself, especially with four overprotective older brothers. Her struggle with panic attacks makes her feel weak, but dealing with her overly concerned brothers makes her feel weaker. At home, Rachel is insecure and always feels like a faulty replacement for her deceased sister. When Rachel is with Isaiah she comes to life, challenging him and flirting with him, just generally having more fun even though she’s in unfamiliar territory.
  • twists – I enjoyed all of the plot twists in this story. Each one is realistic, unexpected, and challenging. I also like that the twists are from external sources and not Rachel or Isaiah being stubborn or emotionally distant. Most of the twists had me completely surprised and I was definitely emotionally invested.
  • cars – Isaiah’s life is built around his love of cars. He works in a garage, loves restoring cars, and does some street racing. Rachel also adores cars but feels like her family discourages this interest. I really like how Rachel and Isaiah connect and bond over this mutual love for classic cars. I also appreciate that Rachel never brings up not being friends with girls because her interests are soooo different – that is a horrible and annoying cliche. Rachel’s protectiveness over her car, which is her most treasured possession, is important to the story just like Isaiah’s protectiveness of Rachel.

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  • Isaiah’s mom – Isaiah’s struggle with his mother and being in the foster care system is part of what makes him tough. His mom is selfish and immature, even though she claims that foster care was the best choice at the time. A decision that she made later on about Isaiah changed his life more than she can even imagine, and I was a bit proud of Isaiah for using her need to see him to his advantage.
  • Eric/stakes – High stakes situations are usually more compelling, but I struggled to understand exactly what would happen if Isaiah and Rachel failed to pay Eric. I get that it involved violence and owing Eric, but I’m not sure how one guy could wield so much power. The consequences had to be dire enough for guarded Isaiah to immediately get involved to protect Rachel, but I was left feeling like Isaiah knew the score but I didn’t.

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“This is where you fill in the blank with your year in high school.”

“Senior,” he finishes. “And I don’t go to Worthington Private.”

“You don’t say.” I let the sarcasm flow. “I thought for sure you had run for student body president last year.”

He scratches the stubble on his jaw and I swear he’s covering a grin. “You’re too brave for your own good.”

– Rachel + Isaiah  pg. 71

Mom stares at the night sky, searching for something. “I often wondered what would have happened if I stayed and did as Daddy asked or if I had agreed to let them take you or if I let that one couple adopt you when you were ten.”

My head jerks to glare at her. “They wanted me?”

– Isaiah + his mom  pg. 417

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought

Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson

SinceYou'veBeenGone
Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson
Published: 5-6-2014 by Simon & Schuster
Get the book: Amazon,The Book Depository

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?

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Design – Lucy Ruth Cummins       Photo – Meredith Jenks

This cover is a bit strange because it seems to depict Emily and Sloane, which ties it in to the story…yet the story is mainly focused on Emily’s new friends. My favorite part of this cover is the lettering, especially how the first part of the title is striped, making it seem transparent. It’s interesting how the word ‘gone’ is the biggest and boldest, but I really like it. The author’s name is very small, which is strange. I appreciate that the angle of the words ‘a novel’ matches the angle of ‘gone.’ It really seems like the photo could be of Emily and Sloane – all the little details sell it.

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Since You’ve Been Gone follows Emily’s summer without Sloane, who mysteriously disappears leaving only a list of challenging tasks for Emily. What follows is a summer of unexpected events as Emily learns how to have fun without Sloane and makes new friends. Each item on the list comes with a flashback showing how it relates to Emily and Sloane’s friendship. The list takes on a life of its own as Emily gets help completing it from Frank, Collins, and Dawn. This book is a great mix of sweet and serious.

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  • Beckett – Emily’s relationship with her younger brother Beckett is sweet. Although Emily sometimes wants to get him out of the way so she can figure out Sloane and the list, she also takes care of him while her parents are distracted. Beckett loves climbing and can frequently be found at the tops of doorways. Even though he’s only ten, Beckett is pretty perceptive sometimes. He likes hanging out with Emily and is upset when she spends all her time out with her friends.
  • Frank – Emily’s new friendship with Frank is interesting because of how Emily thinks of him. To her, he’s always been Frank Porter, class president, possible valedictorian, and boyfriend of the smartest girl in school. Frank’s also having a summer he never expected, and Emily’s finding out that he wants to let loose and be normal. Because Frank has a girlfriend, he and Emily get to have a true friendship as they cross things off the list. He’s a geek and a truly nice guy.
  • the list – Each item on the list holds special significance for Emily and Sloane, and flashbacks in each chapter explain their importance. Some of the items are things Emily never thought she’d do, especially not without Sloane there. The challenges presented by the list help Emily go from shy and stuttering to confident that she can do things that scare her without Sloane there to push her. Even though Sloane had no way of knowing when she wrote the list, each thing she came up with helps Emily connect with Frank and her other new friends.
  • playwright parents – Having Emily’s parents be playwrights is fascinating and a great way to distract them. They’re very entertaining as they stock up on bulk-size food and only emerge from their story occasionally, spouting strange facts about Nikola Tesla. Their living room theater mishap provides one of my favorite interactions between Emily and Frank.

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  • Sloane – The explanation for Sloane’s sudden disappearance is really underwhelming. I was expecting something more, and I don’t think I’d forgive her so quickly if I were Emily. The whole ending focusing on the answer to the Sloane mystery doesn’t feel like it fits with the rest of the story.

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“Dad,” I said, hearing how strangled my voice sounded.

“Have you seen my glasses?” he asked, not, apparently, thinking anything was strange about the fact that his daughter was awake at eight a.m. and standing in the doorway in her pajamas, talking to a boy he’d never met.

“They’re on your head, sir,” Frank supplied from the porch.

– Emily, her dad, Frank  pg. 157

I was scanning the crowd for her when I realized I recognized someone in it – it was Frank, and he was looking right at me.

I felt my jaw fall open, and then closed it quickly. He walked across the dance floor to me, hands in the pockets of his suit, taking his time, like he was enjoying the fact that he’d just thrown me for a loop. “What are you doing here?” I asked, my voice low, once he reached me.

“I think I could ask you the same question,” he said. “I mean, you didn’t think I was going to let you do this without me, did you?”

– Emily + Frank  pg. 335

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

Hopeless – Colleen Hoover

Hopeless
Hopeless – Colleen Hoover
Published: 12-19-2012 by Colleen Hoover
Get the book: Amazon, The Book Depository

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…

That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.

Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.

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Design – Sarah Hansen

This cover is nice but bland and could be for any book really. I really don’t have anything to say about it except that the color palette is nice.

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I have officially learned my lesson. Any Colleen Hoover book is going to be emotionally devastating and contain an impossibly perfect boy. This is a very long book and all the drama started to get to me after awhile. Hopeless is full of dramatic declarations of love, heavy subject matters, and emotional breakdowns. It’s an extremely dramatic love story, with no shortage of chemistry and tons of description.

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  • Holder + Sky – I love any interaction between Holder and Sky. They have crazy chemistry and a deep and beautiful connection. Holder’s emotions are clearly strong and near the surface. He has some intense mood swings early into his friendship with Sky, and the reasons aren’t revealed until much later on in the story. Sky, although very interested in him, doesn’t let Holder go off and act out whenever he wants. She gets angry at him for his treatment of her during these outbursts and she lets him know it. Every time Sky and Holder are together, the sexual tension is high and highly delicious.
  • Breckin – Breckin’s first interaction with Sky made me love him. Even though Breckin is far from perfect, he is great and provides some much-needed relief from the extremely high drama of this book. He seeks Sky out and proposed they form an alliance against the rest of the school, who are shown as people who judge others solely on rumors. This story quickly becomes all about Holder and Sky’s relationship, so Breckin gives us a break from them and sometimes that’s a big relief. He’s really the only person that Sky interacts with besides Holder, sometimes Six, and her mom.

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  • timing of sex – I have no problem at all with sex in my YA novels if it makes sense for it to happen. My issue with the sex in Hopeless is that it happens when both Sky and Holder are in emotional down-spirals after big revelations. Yes, it distracts them for a while from their problems, but I would have liked to see them just holding each other. The timing of it just threw me off a big, because there were plenty of other times they could have had sex.
  • highly dramatic – It’s easy to get sucked in to this story, but for me the drama was so much that it took me out of the story at some points. Holder is devoted to Sky and especially prone to dramatic declarations of love forever. Both Sky and Holder are going through some crises following major revelations about their lives and loved ones. There are some very heavy subject matters dealt with in this story, which make Hopeless nothing less than heartbreaking. One of these things is hinted at early and throughout the story, but some of the things are revealed or happen in quick succession near the end. This is not a light read. I mean, he says ‘I live you’ instead of ‘I love you.’

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I also don’t want to fall for someone who has already branded himself hopeless. But I’m curious. So curious.

“If I ask you something, will you be honest?”

He tilts his head toward me. “That’s all I’ll ever be.”

– Sky + Holder  pg. 80

He’s blaming himself again. He always feels like he’s done something terrible, when I feel like he’s been nothing short of my hero. He’s been with me through all of this, steadily carrying me through my panic attacks and freak-outs until I’m calm. He’s done nothing but be there for me, yet he still feels like this is somehow his fault.

– pg. 368

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler

TheBookOfBrokenHearts
The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler
Published: 5-21-2013 by Simon Pulse
Get the book: Amazon,The Book Depository

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.

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Design – Jessica Handelman       Photo – Steve Gardner

This is a nice looking cover, but it does scream ‘girl book.’ I like the heart made out of book pages and the pop of the orange flower – it’s really eye-catching. The book and flower are related to the story, but not in a way that is immediately recognizable. The title font is a bit too girly for my taste, although I do like the all lowercase and the way the lines run off the sides.

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The Book of Broken Hearts is extremely well-written, emotional, and complex. This is a multi-layered contemporary story that reminded me of a Sarah Dessen novel. Jude is dealing with a lot during the summer, between her father’s disease, her controlling older sisters, and falling for the one guy she shouldn’t like. This story is sweet, layered, and realistic.

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  • family – Most YA novels tend to ignore the main character’s family, unless they are the main source of conflict. This story has everything to do with Jude’s family as she tries to be patient while caring for her father and tries to get her opinion heard among sisters with loud opinions. Everyone in Jude’s family has a different reaction to Papi’s disease and a different way of coping with it. While this story is still mainly about Jude, we see her family as Papi’s disease chips away at their sense of security. Jude has a lot of family stuff to deal with between Papi, her mom, and her pushy sisters.
  • Emilio – Emilio comes off as an arrogant jerk at first, whose idea of flirting is just making suggestive comments. As he works on Papi’s bike, Emilio reveals the person he really is to Jude. He’s hard-working, dedicated, and caring. Emilio has his own difficulties and he doesn’t bring Jude’s problems up. Instead, he focuses on the motorcycle and becomes a good friend at a time when Jude really needs one. There’s no shortage of chemistry or teasing between the two of them, and Jude sees how unfair it was to conclude that all Vargas boys are jerks.
  • Jude – Jude is often embarrassed by her father’s random outbursts, but she tries, in her own way, to help Papi reconnect. She dishes it right back to the mechanics who think she can’t understand their comments about her just because they’re speaking Spanish, and she can definitely hold her own with Emilio. She doesn’t melt when he calls her princesa, and doesn’t stare when he takes off his shirt, although she definitely notices. Jude’s determined to help with the bike, learn as much as she can about it, and see her Papi ride it again.

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  • sisters – When Mariposa comes home to help with Papi, she immediately takes over everything. She acts like Jude’s opinions – about Papi, about the motorcycle, and about Emilio – don’t matter simply because Jude is the youngest sister. Mariposa acts like all three of Jude’s older sisters – like both Jude and Papi need a babysitter in order to control their actions because they can’t be trusted to make their own choices. Jude feels like she has the most important opinion on Papi and his cycle because she’s the one spending all her time with both, yet her sisters try to sweep all control of the situation away from her.
  • Vargas oath – The very idea of banning interaction with an entire family based on the actions of two of its members is shaky at best. The girls took the oath the night one of them was dumped by her Vargas fiance, and was originally to make her feel better. The oath has turned into another way for Jude’s older sisters to control her. there’s no way to judge someone based on the actions of someone else, even their family.

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I wanted to spill it. I wanted to tell them that Emilio, more than any of my old friends, continued to show up when he said he would. He listened when I felt like talking, didn’t push when I wanted to stop. He showed me stuff about motorcycles and made sure I understood what he and Papi were doing. He didn’t freak out at Papi’s episodes, and he didn’t treat him like a kid in need of a babysitter.

– pg. 175

My sisters got the good stuff first. All I had of their precious moments were imprints, shadows of the real thing cobbled together from the faded scraps of their reminiscing, bits and pieces that changed each time in the telling.

Like so many things in my life, the best memories of my father were a legacy, passed down to me like their hand-me-down clothes and toys and the Vargas oath.

– pg. 249

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4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

Halton Cray – N.B. Roberts

HaltonCray
Halton Cray – N.B. Roberts
(Shadows of the World #1)
Published: 10-8-2014 by Amazon Digital
Get the book: Amazon

When Alexandra Turner takes a job at the eerie Tudor mansion, Halton Cray, she needs all her wit and spirit to cope with the enigmatic Thom Rues. While a near constant fog envelopes the estate, Alex begins questioning the bizarre things she’s seeing around him, as gossip circulates that Thom is more than just different. Determined not to let rumours influence her, Alex tries to learn who he really is, even as he provokes her with his dark sense of humour. But discovery of Thom’s terrible secret propels Alex’s life in a direction she could have never predicted.

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Photo – Andrea Hubner

I like this cover overall. It’s the little details that bring it down. I really like the photo of the girl, especially the way you can’t see her whole face and how her hair is blowing wildly and obscuring the background. It’s a huge plus that the heroine is actually a redhead. The background is suitably eerie for the tone of this book, with just enough detail to make it interesting. What I don’t like is the title font, although it could have been worse, or the golden color of the author’s name. It does kind of look self-published and needs a little pop.

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Halton Cray is an eerie story following Alex as she works at a creepy old mansion with a mysterious tenant. This book has it all; a feisty heroine, great chemistry, a mysterious guy, a creepy haunted house. The atmosphere of this tale is like a ghost story. It’s a slow-building mystery and a slow-burning romance. This is an enthralling story that I really enjoyed and definitely recommend.

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  • Alex’s decision – This is gonna be incredibly vague to avoid spoilers, so try to just go with it. In the middle of this story, Alex makes an important decision about her life. She makes it quickly due to the time-sensitive situation she and Thom are in, but she fully commits to that decision. I really admire the way she makes that tough call, and I love that Thom is a character who respects Alex’s choice immediately. She makes her choice and asks him not to interfere, and he simply does as she wants instead of acting selfishly, which he easily could have done. There is no prolonged scene of Thom trying to change her mind, although of course he does make an attempt, and his nearly unquestioning acceptance of Alex’s decision is wonderful. I wish more book boyfriends and significant others were so confident in their partner’s ability to make choices of their own and support those choices.
  • atmosphere – I love the setting, the pacing, and the eeriness of Halton Cray. Alex’s new job is at an old mansion rumored to be haunted; in fact, she takes over for an employee who literally ran away from the place. Much of the book takes place while Alex is working in the mansion, giving her plenty of exposure to strange noises, strange people, and Thom’s strange behavior. The ghost stories, along with the creepy things Alex experiences as work, build up her suspicions about Thom and the house slowly. Everything is done gradually and convincingly so I was just as uncertain about things as Alex was and I never guessed Thom’s secret.
  • Alex + Thom – Alex is a strong and stubborn character who sticks to her guns. Thom is a mysterious guy who keeps to himself except to tease and provoke Alex. Most people are naturally repelled by Thom, but Alex decides to befriend him. Their banter while they get to know each other is highly entertaining, even if it has Alex sometimes questioning her sanity. The chemistry between these two is great even before any feelings are admitted. They are each strong-willed people throughout the twists and obstacles of the story.
  • story – Although this is a paranormal romance, much of it reads like a contemporary story, which I really enjoyed. Alex is just going about her everyday life while noticing the occasional impossibility and being slowly drawn in to the mystery surrounding the mansion and Thom. There’s definitely a big helping of the paranormal in Halton Cray, but it’s done in a way that’s different from a lot of other paranormal books. There’s no ‘I’m special, I’m the chosen one’ cliche. There’s no adjusting to new powers or a new world. There’s just Alex, learning about things she didn’t know existed or happened.

didn't love green

  • 2 parts – I felt like this book’s tone and pace were a bit too different from one half to the other. The first half builds everything up very slowly, while the second half launches into action and keeps going until the end. The section before Alex discovers Thom’s secret and the section following the revelation are so different that it threw me off. Of course the sections need to be different, but I really liked the eerie feel of the first half and it took a little time to get used to the faster pace of the second half.
  • dramatic speeches – Thom has the tendency to make long and dramatic speeches and declarations – to himself, to Alex, and about pretty much whatever he has on his mind. Following the revelation of Thom’s secret, he rants about that secret, likes to make undying declarations of devotion, and generally speaks in an old-fashioned manner. Much of this comes from who Thom is and what his secret and story is, which is great. However, the grand declarations of adoration got to be a bit much for me.

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He didn’t move for a moment. His eyes remained fixed on mine as though something strange had caught his attention. Almost certainly the wet strands of hair falling into my face. he looked from my eyes to my mouth and inclined his head a little towards me. I felt confusion with a racing in my chest. Then he bit his lower rip, took his arm away and turned abruptly for the stairs.

– Alex + Thom  Loc. 1859

“Thom, I can’t leave them. There’s something in there, and it’s not right – it doesn’t seem like a normal person. Just help me, please?”

“I will always-” he rushed to say before hesitating. He got next to me, grabbed my arm firmly and spoke rapidly in my ear. “I know about the person in that room, Alex. Listen to me! It won’t harm them; do you understand?”

– Alex + Thom  Loc. 3365

4robots green

4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)