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)

A School for Unusual Girls – Kathleen Baldwin

SchoolForUnusualGirls
A School for Unusual Girls – Kathleen Baldwin
(Stranje House #1)
Published: 5-19-2015 by Tor Teen
Get the book: Amazon, The Book Depository

It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don’t fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts…

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Design – ?

This cover is decent. I love the color scheme and the eerie and misty feeling of the background. I also like that the girl looks like she’s in motion and that we aren’t seeing any defining features other than her hair color. The title treatment is elegant and I really like how the words fit together. Overall, I like this cover, but I think it needs a bit more to differentiate it from all the other boarding school historical books and the other girl in a pretty dress covers.

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I love this book. A School for Unusual Girls is a unique story with a smart, scientifically-inclined heroine. I’ve read a lot of ‘boarding school for special people’ books, and this one is, without a doubt, one of the best. As soon as I finished this book I was online looking for a sequel release date…only to remember that I had read an ARC. I want more of the Stranje House series now!

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  • Georgie – Our heroine, Georgie, is smart. She knows it and refuses to pretend otherwise to fit in. Even when her experiments go wrong, Georgie doesn’t waste time moping – she can’t stop thinking of solutions to the problem. Georgie’s introduction to Stranje House is unusual, and she’s really never given much by way of explanation, so she goes about finding her own answers. I love Georgie’s intelligence, courage, and willingness to do everything possible to help her friends and country.
  • Sebastian – From their first meeting, Georgie and Sebastian’s relationship is deeply interesting. Although Sebastian knows a few unusual girls, he’s never met someone quite like Georgie. My favorite romances are the slow-burning ones, and this one is great. Georgie and Sebastian have a sweet chemistry but are too preoccupied with matters of life and death to act on it. Sebastian is a gentleman, he’s smart, and he respects Georgie. That’s particularly important in a historical society that ignores women.
  • alternate history – This story is an alternate version of what happened following Napoleon’s exile to Elba. Georgie and Sebastian’s work to find a formula for invisible ink is for the army to use instead of codes that can be broken. If their ink formula doesn’t work, it could mean death for thousands of soldiers. I am unspeakably awful at history, so I appreciated the author’s note briefly detailing what actually happened, and I had no trouble following the events of the story. I really enjoy this twist on history that so heavily relies on young adults and science.
  • Tess + Ravencross – We get to see more of Tess than of the other girls, and while I find her running around outside to be strange, I really like her fiery spirit and determination. Although we don’t have all the details about the two men of Ravencross, that aspect of the story is really interesting. Lord Ravencross is very distant and brooding, but he clearly has a heart and it shows in his actions, especially those that involve helping Tess. The sequel is Tess’ story and I can’t wait to read more about Tess and Ravencross. Their relationship was very well developed, especially since they were not the main focus of the book.

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  • Stranje House explanations – There are no explanations given to Georgie about the torture of the other girls until very late in the book. The explanations were too little, too late, and it didn’t make any sense to keep that info from Georgie for so long. The other girls keep putting off telling Georgie what’s going on like they don’t trust her, which is really confusing. There’s no actual reason that she should be left out of the loop, which makes the lack of explanation very annoying.
  • other girls – There aren’t very many other girls at Stranje House, making it more curious when they aren’t given much personality or development. Georgie is at the House because she’s wildly intelligent and won’t conform to fit in. We’re given this reason outright and I assume it’s the same for the others, yet they act like they are there against their will. This may just be related to withholding info from Georgie, but I disliked it. It also seems like one of the girls possesses some kind of paranormal ability, which is very strange given the rest of the characters and story has nothing to do with the paranormal at all.

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Squaring his shoulders, he towered over me. “What I am about to tell you must be kept in strictest confidence. You will never tell anyone.” He grabbed my shoulders. “Anyone. Do you understand me? Lives depend on you keeping silent. My life.”

– Sebastian  Loc. 1380

“Good heavens, Emma, the child might put a torch to our entire neighborhood. We could all be killed in our sleep.”

“In our sleep. Oh, dear. That would, indeed, be a tragedy.” Miss Stranje set her teacup on its saucer. “We really ought to be awake for such a momentous occasion.”

– Lady Pinswary + Miss Stranje  Loc. 1946

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5 Robots

Acquired: Netgalley (ebook)

Unbreak My Heart – Melissa Walker

UnbreakMyHeart
Unbreak My Heart – Melissa Walker
Published: 5-22-2012 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Get the book: Amazon, The Book Depository

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

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Design – ?

This cover is great for the story. The simplicity is refreshing and really works with the elements of the story. I like how the girl is shown alone on a boat because so much of this book is Clementine wishing for a bit of solitude on the boat. I really like the placement of the title in the arc of the heart shape. I’m not sold on the placement of the publisher’s name, but I guess publishers see it as necessary to put their logo on ebook covers now.

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Unbreak My Heart is the story of Clementine getting over a bad situation with her friend and her friend’s boyfriend, while being stuck on a small boat with her family all summer. Being in constant contact with only her family and a few other families on the same sailing route gives Clem time to brood, but also gives her perspective. Clem’s story is part reflection on what happened and part making new friends on her trip. Overall, it’s a short look at love gone wrong and love gone right.

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  • Olive – As annoying as Clementine finds her little sister much of the time, Olive is great. While Clem tortures herself with worrying what her friends think of her, Olive is young enough to not care what other people think of her, and to be annoyed by her sister’s constant moping. Olive makes fast friends with everyone and wants to be involved in Clem and James’ adventures. Olive is fun and Clem discovers that her sister understands much more than she gives her credit for. She gives you a nice break from Clem’s woes.
  • boating – I like the plot of having Clem stuck with her family constantly. So many YA books ignore parents, but Clem is forced onto a boat where she can’t escape her family, and eventually learns that her parents and Olive can actually be helpful when she’s struggling with something. Although she doesn’t quite go to them for advice voluntarily, Clem’s family surprises her with their understanding.

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  • Ethan – It definitely seems like Clem and Ethan had a connection, so why is he dating Amanda in the first place? True, we only see things from Clem’s POV, but Ethan never seems like the great guy she thinks he is. As much as Clem and all her old friends vilify her, it’s clear that Ethan is the one who should be hated. Clem shouldn’t be excused, but he’s definitely doing something wrong and obviously knows it. It would be easier to sympathize with Clem if Ethan seemed like a worthy object of her affection.
  • quick relationship – Since this story is split between the boat journey of the present and Clem’s friendships during the school year of the past, there isn’t much time given to building Clem’s relationship with James. They aren’t with each other during any actual sailing and most of their time together involves their parents. It’s not that their relationship goes far or anything, but it would have been just as nice if they were simply friends since they just met. It just seems like James and Clem didn’t get to spend much time together, especially since they couldn’t communicate when apart.

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I look out at the water and I’m glad for the sound of the waves and the wind, so I don’t have to hear my parents talking about me. I let a few tears fall, but I have to stay quiet. That’s one of the hardest parts of being on this boat. I can’t even let go and cry without everyone knowing.

– pg. 106

“We didn’t do anything at all, except hold hands a little. But it felt like…”

“You felt like his girlfriend,” says Olive. I look down at her and see that she’s totally caught up in this story, my story, and she’s understood me perfectly. I want to hug her.

– Clementine + Olive  pg. 192

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3 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)

Perfect Timing – Robin Mellom

PerfectTiming
Perfect Timing – Robin Mellom
Published: 3-1-2015 by CreateSpace
Get the book: Amazon

After a break-up with her boyfriend, Tori Wright decides to get her mind off the guy and takes a job running errands for an eccentric couple. Suddenly she finds herself involved in the crazy world of LA nightlife–nightclubs, palm readers, movie stars, and a roving pack of paparazzi. After a misunderstanding lands her in jail, she has one night to clear her name, help a movie starlet avoid the paparazzi, and find Adam…the coworker who is quickly stealing her heart.

As she makes decisions that can change the course of her life, Tori discovers just how far she’ll go to set the record straight.
But is she too late?

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Design – ?

What I like about this cover is the balance between what’s in the light and what’s in shadow. I love how you can see the characters, but nothing too specific about them physically. They’re kind of on the border between light and dark, which is sort of like Tori and Adam because they only know each other at their nighttime job, but not much about their day to day lives. The color scheme is nice, but the text is really large and I wish the radial gradient effect on the title was more subtle.

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Perfect Timing is another great YA romance from Robin Mellom, author of Ditched (now known as Perfect Kiss). Both have strong girls in zany situations telling the story of their crush. Perfect Timing is the tale of Tori’s unconventional job, her crush on her coworker, and how she ended up in juvie. Tori and Adam are both dealing with recent breakups, but bond over their job’s strange requirements.

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  • Tori – I love Tori’s confidence in all situations. Whether she’s in juvie, in a club, or in a one-hopper bathroom with a tabloid star, Tori doesn’t freak out easily. She barely bats an eye at having a job that requires her to travel around LA at night. Tori is self-confident throughout all the crazy things she experiences and that makes her a great character to read about.
  • Adam – My favorite thing about Adam is how he really listens to Tori and her ideas. He takes her thoughts about his ex into consideration and values her opinion. Even when Tori and Adam are having casual conversations, Adam listens to everything Tori says, even while navigating LA traffic. Although Tori and Adam are only together for short drives, their friendship seems really genuine.
  • plot structure – ‘Plot structure’ sounds so technical but I don’t know how else to say it. Like in Ditched, this story is framed by present Tori relating a story of how she ended up in jail by going through the events that led to her job and arrest. Tori’s recollections are broken up by prison-intake forms that narrate what she’s doing presently while she tells an officer her story. While I don’t think the flashback kind of story works as well for Perfect Timing as it does for Ditched (now known as Perfect Kiss), it’s a storytelling strategy that I really enjoy.

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  • Tori’s BFF – At the beginning of the story, Tori is dealing with a fresh breakup with her best friend, who has also just been dumped. Although they are dealing with similar situations, Tori’s friend is introduced and then just forgotten. As soon as the girls go to this friend’s house, Tori is looking for her older brother instead of wanting to hang out with her friend. So this girl, who is so inconsequential that I don’t remember her name, is basically replaced by her own brother as Tori’s best friend. I don’t understand why this character was introduced if she was only going to be in a chapter or two.
  • short – I’m not sure if this book is short or just feels that way, but it doesn’t feel long enough to really develop a story and a relationship between Tori and Adam. Things seem to happen very quickly with little down time in between events and I just want more get-to-know-you time.

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“I’m watching the way he looks at you.”

How is he looking at me?” I ask into his shoulder.

Taylor watches for a few more seconds. “Huh. He’s trying not to look at you, but…he can’t help himself.” He adds under his breath, “God, that’s cute.”

– Taylor + Tori  Loc. 1791

“Here.” He flips his phone to show me the screen – it’s an address. “It’s on Sepulveda Boulevard. Stellar Insights Psychic reader. Five minutes and we’re there.” He cranks up the Jeep and backs out of the parking lot – a heart-melting smile on his face.

I breathe him in and try to focus. Adam isn’t self-absorbed – he’s downright awesome. “You’re taking me to a psychic reader…now?”

– Adam + Tori  Loc. 2081

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3 Robots

Acquired: Netgalley (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)