Friday, April 18, 2014

The Museum of Intangible Things by Wendy Wunder

Title: The Museum of Intangible Things
Author: Wendy Wunder
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: April 10, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Loyalty. Envy. Obligation. Dreams. Disappointment. Fear. Negligence. Coping. Elation. Lust. Nature. Freedom. heartbreak. Insouciance. Audacity. Gluttony. Belief. God. Karma. Knowing what you want (there is probably a French word for it). Saying Yes. Truth. Devotion. Forgiveness. Life. Happiness (ever after).

Hannah and Zoe haven’t had much in their lives, but they’ve always had each other. So when Zoe tells Hannah she needs to get out of their down-and-out New Jersey town, they pile into Hannah’s beat-up old Le Mans and head west, putting everything—their deadbeat parents, their disappointing love lives, their inevitable enrollment at community college—behind them.

As they chase storms and make new friends, Zoe tells Hannah she wants more for her. She wants her to live bigger, dream grander, aim higher. And so Zoe begins teaching Hannah all about life’s intangible things, concepts sadly missing from her existence—things like audacity, insouciance, karma, and even happiness.

An unforgettable read from the acclaimed author of The Probability of Miracles, The Museum of Intangible Things sparkles with the humor and heartbreak of true friendships and first love. 

I am so excited to have finally entered what appears to be “Contemporary Season.” Looking at my TBR pile recently, it seems like all the books I have coming up are contemporary reads and that makes me so unbelievably happy. And I was even more excited when I saw that Wendy Wunder’s The Museum of Intangible Things was going to be my next read. And as excited as I was, I was also not in the least bit disappointed by this story.

Hannah has always had relatively low expectations, this way she doesn’t get disappointed. In her small town in New Jersey, everyone is that way. The one person with ideas of grandeur is Zoe, Hannah’s best friend. But Zoe’s over the top feelings may be what will bring her down. So when Zoe suggests that they get out of New Jersey, Hannah goes along with the plan, knowing that eventually she will be able to talk down Zoe. But the further west they get, the more Hannah begins to think that there might be no coming back for Zoe this time around. While out on the road, Zoe makes it her mission to teach Hannah all about the things in life that will better her existence, all in the hope of getting Hannah ready for when she won’t be around anymore.

Though it’s been sitting on my shelves for the last two years, I still haven’t read Wendy Wunder’s debut, The Probability of Miracles (I know, bad), but after having read The Museum of Intangible Things, you can bet that I will be picking up the other one soon. Keeping up with a recent theme (or so it would seem), the Museum of Intangible Things wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I loved it. I loved that this was a story that focused on friendship, on how Hannah and Zoe have always been there for each other but how they also need to learn how to get on without each other. And of course I loved the road trip aspect, though it wasn’t always the sanest road trip. Though what I loved the most about that the ending didn’t really go in the direction I thought it would. Sure, stuff happened that I had guessed would happen or hoped would happen, but there was also a lot I didn’t necessarily see coming. And like I said, that made me love the story even more, because I love it when stories take me by surprise. But more than that, I just found the characters, especially Hannah and Zoe, endearing.

Hannah and Zoe couldn’t have been more different, but they worked perfectly as friends. Being what looked like complete opposites, they balanced each other out. Where Zoe was outgoing and adventurous, Hannah was more reserved and cautious, always thinking things out before acting. Zoe was the rule breaker, while Hannah was the rule follower. But this was a great friendship. I loved the dynamic between Zoe and Hannah, and how each girl could be exactly who she was around the other. But at the same time, they pushed each other to be better, to want more for themselves and for each other. Throughout the story, I really felt for Hannah though. Being that the story was told from her perspective, I got to know a lot more about her and her life than I did about Zoe. In that respect, I found that I could relate to many aspects of Hannah’s personality, especially her more cautious and thought-out side. And in some ways, I could also relate to what it feels like to have a very exuberant best friend, granted mine isn’t quite as extreme as Zoe, but still. Though what I loved the most about Hannah, was seeing her growth over the course of the book, how she really came into her own and started to get a better idea not just of who she was, but of who she wanted to be in the future. But to sound like a broken record, the friendship is what really did for me in this book.

Wendy Wunder’s The Museum of Intangible Things was a fantastic read, showing just how powerful friendships can be, how much they can mould and change you. If you are looking for a great story with a focus on friendships, then The Museum of Intangible Things is perfect for you.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

Title: The Summer of Letting Go
Author: Gae Polisner
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope and love can appear in the most unexpected places.

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. four years ago, Francesca's little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca is the one who should have been watching. now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can't have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it's possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she'd never dar to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky. 

I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but I love contemporary. And if it’s set in summer, than you can bet that I will be reading that book. For those reasons, Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go had been on my radar for quite some time and I was looking forward to reading it. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, and that might be for the best since I ended up loving this story.

Unlike everyone else, Francesca Schnell doesn’t look forward to summer. Despite living on the coast, she doesn’t enjoy spending her summers by the water and at the beach. She hasn’t ever since her little brother drowned four years ago. Ever since that day, Francesca’s family hasn’t been the same. But this summer, she meets Frankie Sky, a four-year-old little boy who bears an uncanny resemblance to Simon. Without realizing she’s doing it, Francesca starts to wonder if maybe Frankie Sky could be Simon’s reincarnation. But the more time she spends with this little boy, the more Francesca realizes that after all this time, she needs to move on and start living her life. And that doing so doesn’t mean forgetting Simon, it just means forgiving herself, growing up and even letting herself fall in love.

Summer contemporaries are just my favourite. I could keep going on all day about why I love them so much. They can be taken in so many different directions, and I feel like every time I pick one up, I never really know what I’ll get. I just know that I’ll love it. And that was the case with Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go. The book had been on my radar for quite some time and I was definitely looking forward to reading it. But in my mind, it was a completely different story than the one I ended up reading. I don’t actually know why, but for whatever reason the synopsis had not registered right with my brain. But that might be for the best, because I loved the story I ended up getting. It was more than the summer contemporary story I was expecting. It was also a story about grief, and growing up, and learning to keep going and be happy even when it feels like you have no right to be. I loved seeing Francesca come to accept everything that had happened in her past, and starting to see what her future could possibly hold. Because it felt like first and foremost, this book was about growth, specifically about Francesca’s growth. Even when she wasn’t always aware that she was doing a whole lot of growing up.

Francesca was an interesting character. At first I wasn’t really sure how I felt about her. She just seemed like someone who didn’t really know what she wanted and wasn’t really willing to try and find out. But then she met Frankie Sky and this change happened in her. Of course this change didn’t happen all at once, but from that point on, Francesca started doing some growing up. And I loved seeing that change happening. Francesca went from being someone who I didn’t really care for all that much to being someone who I could understand and even relate to at times. But if I’m being totally honest, Frankie Sky is the one who completely stole the show. Every time this little boy appeared, my heart just melted. He was just so brutally honest in his four-year-old way, while at the same time still being this totally adorable and sweet kid. All that to say that I loved Frankie Sky. He really should have his own book.

Gae Polisner’s The Summer of Letting Go was a fantastic read. I loved reading every single page of it and getting to know these characters that would eventually work their way into my heart. If you are looking for a summer contemporary that is not all about the romance, than The Summer of Letting Go is just the book for you.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Tour - Blue Notes by Carrie Lofty + Giveaway

Today I have the pleasure of being part of the blog tour for Carrie Lofty's upcoming New Adult novel, Blue Notes. Keep reading to find out what I thought of the book and for your chance to win some pretty sweet prizes!

Title: Blue Notes
Author: Carrie Lofty
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Source: eARC for Blog Tour
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
For fans of Jamie McGuire and S.C. Stephens, a sizzling new adult novel featuring the tumultuous relationship between a young piano prodigy and a reluctant billionaire playboy--set against the vibrant backdrop of a New Orleans college campus.

After being bounced from foster family to foster family, Keeley, a talented pianist, is ready to start over as a junior at Tulane. But when she plays a small concert that attracts the attention of Jude, a brooding playboy and heir to an enormous fortune in the wake of his parents' tragic death, suddenly Keeley's life is thrown off balance once again.

Jude is the first person to confront her about the pain behind her music, and she struggles with whether or not to let him into her life or to keep protected herself from the hurt that relationships have caused her in the past. But Keeley's about to learn that the melancholy young billionaire who appears to have everything he wants can open her eyes to exactly what she needs...

Because it’s still so new, I’m never really sure what I’m going to get when I pick up a New Adult book and I’m always afraid when I pick one up that the story will be more about the sex than the plot. And as nervous as I may have been, the synopsis for Carrie Lofty’s Blue Notes really piqued my curiosity. And once I started reading, I didn’t take long for me to get sucked into the story and fall in love with the characters. 

For the last six years, Keeley Chambers has finally been able to be who she really wants to be. Even after all this time, it’s still not easy going. Now, though, Keeley is starting her junior year at Tulane University, improving her skills as a pianist and composer. If only she could get over her fear of playing in public, things would be great. When Jude Villars, a local playboy, overhears her playing in a rehearsal room, things start to change. Now, Keeley finds herself wanting to outdo herself, pushed out of her comfort zone by this man she barely knows. But Jude challenges Keeley in ways no one ever has before and as much as she wants to trust him, she’s afraid that letting him in all the way could also mean losing him forever. Could being with Jude be exactly what Keeley needs?

As I’ve already stated, New Adult books always make me a little nervous. I have a few authors whose books I’ve read and loved and generally trust, but whenever I encounter a new NA author and book, I never know what to expect. It’s happened a few times that the story ended up being more about sex than actual plot and I’ve been disappointed. But I really shouldn’t have worried about Carrie Lofty’s Blue Notes. I loved this story. Right from the start, I was completely pulled in. I wanted to find out more about Keeley and her past, as well as what the future could possibly hold for her, all things considered. And so I was sucked in. I couldn’t seem to turn the pages fast enough, and every time I told myself I would stop after just one more chapter, I would keep going. The next thing I knew, it was 3 AM and I was finished the book. But there was just something about this story. It was a lot darker and even deeper than I initially thought it would be and I loved that about Blue Notes. But, as they often do, what really made this story for me were the characters.

Right from the start of the story, I loved Keeley. Saying she had had a tough life would be a major understatement. But despite how bad things had been in the past, she was actually moving forward with her life, going after her dreams. And even though I only knew her very little, I still wanted what was best for her. And if I’m being honest, at first I didn’t think that was Jude Villars. Keeley and Jude’s wasn’t exactly healthy when it first started out. Keeley became borderline obsessed with Jude and in return it kinda felt like Jude was just toying with her. But then the more I found out about Jude, the more I started to think that maybe he needed Keeley just as much as she needed him. And that feeling just kept growing as I kept reading. By the end of the book, I was pretty much convinced that Jude was as good a guy as they come. And yeah, I was a little bit in love with him. 

Carrie Lofty’s Blue Notes took me by surprise. This was a story that I knew I would enjoy, but one I didn’t think I would end up loving as much as I did. If you’re looking for a good romance with some deep characters, than I would strongly recommend giving Blue Notes a try.

And of course, be sure to check out the other tour stops!


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Monday, April 7, 2014

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs

Title: Breakfast Served Anytime
Author: Sarah Combs
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
A coming-of-age debut evokes the bittersweet joys and pangs of finding independence in one unforgettable summer away at "geek camp."

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

Books like Sarah Combs' Breakfast Served Anytime are the reason I love contemporary stories as much as I do. This was a quiet story that completely drew me in and held me captive the whole way through. And after having read this story, I am ready to read just about anything Sarah Combs writes.

Gloria Bishop thought she knew what she would be doing after her high school graduation. For as long as she can remember, she and Carol, her best friend, having been planning their great escape to New York City where Gloria will act and Carol will dance. But since her grandmother's death, Gloria isn't so sure that's what she wants anymore. To help her decide, Gloria decides to go to "Geek Camp" for four weeks, but the experience is not what Gloria thought it was. Her professor sends mysterious letters to her class, her roommate, though sweet, doesn't share many of Gloria's opinions, and then there's Mason. Mason, the boy who always gets on Gloria's last nerve, but who she can't seem to stop thinking about. But over the course of those four weeks, Gloria will discover just who she is, and more importantly, who she wants to be.

It's no secret that I love contemporary stories, and if I listened to myself, I wouldn't read much else. Every once in a while though, I'll pick up a book and as I'm reading, I'm reminded of just why contemporary is my favourite genre. This was the case with Sarah Combs' debut, Breakfast Served Anytime. The best way I can think of to describe this story is quiet. This wasn't a story with a big and crazy concept, it wasn't a story that was wild. Instead it was a story that was more subdued, but that was still powerful. Because this story isn't really about the plot. Sure there are events and those events lead to some of the character development, but if you ask me, Breakfast Served Anytime is about the characters. Well, character. Because this is Gloria's story in all senses of the word. These four weeks spent at Geek Camp are about Gloria understanding who she is and who she wants to be, away from her regular life. And I loved that about Breakfast Served Anytime--how almost introspective it was. It was the textbook definition of a coming-of-age story. And to make things even better, it was set in summer AND at camp. So this story? I loved it.

In many ways, this story is very introspective. Sure Gloria comments on what goes on in the world around her, and on her relationships with the other people at Geek Camp, but it's very much about her and how she'd slowly discovering exactly who she is. It's very often about how what other people say or do make Gloria think about her own opinions on certain subjects or how her actions compare to the actions of others. So I really loved seeing her thoughts and her reactions to the other members of her class. I loved how protective she could become of Calvin, how quickly she became friends with Chloe despite her reservations, and the way she just let Mason get under her skin. I just enjoyed seeing Gloria's growth over the course of the story, coming to realize just who she is, and what she wants her future to look like, including the people she wants in that future. But what struck me the most, was just how real Gloria felt, and in turn how real her growth felt. And that's what made the story resonate with me.

Sarah Combs' Breakfast Served Anytime was a whole lot more than I thought it was going to be. I didn't expect to read a quiet story that would resonate with me, but I loved every page of it. I can't wait to read more from Sarah Combs.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Title: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Release Date: May 4, 2010
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository / Indigo
Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself. 

Thanks to the seemingly never ending winter we've been having here in Canada this year, I made the decision to start reading the summer romances sitting on my shelves as a way to escape the snow and cold. But I also got to read a bunch of books that I've been meaning to read for who knows how long. And in the process, I realized how stupid I had been for not picking up Morgan Matson's Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. You read that right. I, the contemporary love, didn't read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour until about a month ago.

For the past month, Amy has been living alone in an empty house, finishing out her junior year before driving her mom's car across the country to her new home in Connecticut. But the last thing Amy really wants to do is drive. Since her father's death in a car accident a few months earlier, nothing has been the same. To help her get the car to Connecticut, Amy's mother enlists Roger, the son of an old friend. Amy isn't particularly looking forward to speeding long expenses of time alone in a car with someone she barely knows, but before she knows it, she finds herself enjoying her time with Roger more than she thought she would. Somewhere along the way, Amy starts coming to terms with her father's death and starts piecing her life, and her heart, back together.

So yeah, despite being the contemporary lover--and borderline fanatic--that I am, up to about a month ago, I still hadn't read Morgan Matson's Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. Which I know, bad on many levels. But in an effort to escape the never ending winter we've got going on over here, I decided that it was the perfect time to read all the summer romances I had sitting on my shelves. And so when I picked up Amy & Roger's Epic Detour I realized how big a mistake I had made not reading this book sooner. I mean, I had read Morgan Matson's Second Chance Summer when it first came out, so it's not that I didn't know whether or not I would enjoy the book. I knew I would on some level that I would love the book, I guess I just forgot I had it? But seriously, why had no one forced me to sit down and read this book before? Because I LOVED it. It was everything everyone had told me it would be and I loved every page of it. The story completely sucked me in and it felt like I was right in that car with Amy and Roger. And as can be expected, once I finished reading the book, I basically just wanted to hop into a car and go on a cross-country road trip of my own. This book made me realize that there's so much of the world, heck of my own country, that I haven't seen and that I just want to see.

Of course as much as I loved the story, I loved the characters even more. Right from the start, I just knew that Amy and Roger would be good for each other. Each one came with their own baggage and I loved seeing them grow and slowly start to let go of some of that baggage. Amy was clearly suffering because of her dad's death and I knew there was more to it than she was letting on, especially with her reluctance to drive. And I loved seeing her start to discover how she really felt about everything, especially where Roger was concerned. And Roger, what can I even begin to say about him? I loved that for once, i was reading a story where the guy was just a good guy, plain and simple. Because that's who Roger was: a good guy. Granted, a good guy who had some issues, but still. I was just reading, waiting of him to realizes that he should just get over his old girlfriend and do something about Amy. So basically, this book, and these characters in particular, just kinda gave me all the feels.

Why I didn't read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour sooner? WHY? I loved it. Actually I more than loved it. And now for a small PSA: If, like me, you still haven't read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour (or any of Morgan Matson's books for that matter), get on that. Don't do what I did and wait to read them. They are more than worth it.

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