Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I've Read In 2017 So Far

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Best Books I've Read In 2017 So Far

I actually haven't read too many books so far in 2017. As I write this post, my books read number is currently at 33; however, out of those 33 books, I've read several show-stealers. Here's my list (in no particular order) :


1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 

Between my college graduation and my senior week activities, I had two days completely off, and during that time, I tore through this book at record speed. I loved nearly everything about this book: the mystery, the characters, the look into the "typical" town. Since then I've read everything Liane Moriarty's written, with the exception of The Hypnotist's Love Story


2. In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch 

Prior to reading this one, I had been hearing good things about Allison's books for years. Now I know who people talked about her...this book was great! The characters were perfectly imperfect, and while they drove me insane almost all the time, I couldn't help but be fascinated with them. Plus, I loved the UPenn setting! 


3. All Things New by Lauren Miller

I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this one (publication date: August 1, 2017), and I was blown away. The writing was top notch and the characters were relatable as well as lovable. Basically, add this one to your wish lists, you won't regret it. 


4. 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues

This one is currently a contender for the most surprising books of the year. I went into not sure whether I would like it or not (the reviews were mixed), but I ended up loving it. It was gritty, it was heartbreaking, and it even made me cry - but I still loved every minute of it. 


5. Free to Fall by Lauren Miller 

Yes, another one by Lauren Miller. I already gushed about this book enough last week, so check out my review and consider checking this one out! 


6. Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Not my favorite Dessen but I still throughly enjoyed this one. It was whimsical and summery, the perfect poolside book. Also, it's instilled this desire in me for more wedding planner type books. 


7. The Program by Suzanne Young 

When Jay Asher blurbs a book, it has to be good (at least, in my opinion), and this was good, beyond good actually. I loved Solane, I loved James, I loved Miller, and I loved Lacy. The plot was depressing but Suzanne still managed to hook me in from page 1. 


8. A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody 

Jessica Brody always manages to weave together a great book, and this one is no exception. Reading this was like revisiting an old '90s teen movie: you know the ending from the start, but you can't help but get lost in the ride. 


9. The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty 

This book made me want to go live on an island. 


10. Paper Princess by Erin Watt 

This series and its author is my new guilty pleasure. It's smutty and over-the-top and I'm already on book #3 in less than 2 weeks. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Eve & Adam by by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website:
In the beginning, there was an apple?

And then there was a car crash, a horrible injury, and a hospital. But before Evening Spiker's head clears a strange boy named Solo is rushing her to her mother's research facility. There, under the best care available, Eve is left alone to heal.

Just when Eve thinks she will die not from her injuries, but from boredom—her mother gives her a special project: Create the perfect boy.

Using an amazingly detailed simulation, Eve starts building a boy from the ground up. Eve is creating Adam. And he will be just perfect . . . won't he?
Review:

What made me first add Eve and Adam to my wishlist was its beautiful color. There is something so simple yet eye-catching about it, and I just love the sci-fi vibe it gives off through the puzzle pieces and lightning bolt. Luckily, Eve and Adam contained much more than just a pretty cover. Fast paced, slightly romantic, and with a surplus of adventure, Eve and Adam is a book I easily devoured in one sitting!

Eve's day was going perfectly well until she started thinking about an apple - a crimson McIntosh in a sea of green Granny Smiths - on her way home from the farmer's market, and while in the middle of her thought, she gets into a tragic car accident. Sent to recover from a series of injuries in her mother's high tech, high security biotechnology company, which coincidentally has a hospital inside, Eve doesn't know what's worse: the amount of time it will probably take to recover form her injuries or the amount of boredom she's going to experience being locked away. Just as she thinks she can't handle it anymore, her mother gives her an unqiue task: create the perfect boy. Now with a technology advanced program and a surplus of time, Eve spends her days thinking about what characteristics the perfect boy would possess. However, is there more than meets the eye about the program and the company itself? Solo, an unusual boy who appeared by Eve's side the day of her accident, certainly thinks so, and he's going try everything in his power to convince Eve too.

Eve and Adam contains a wide cast of characters. The majority of the book is told through the first-person perspectives of Eve and Solo. Over the course of the book, I consistently wavered between liking Eve and not liking Eve. On one side, Eve is this great friend and someone who isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in; however, on the other side, she was also incredibly abrasive and very serious and staunch. Some of the things she said to her best friend just blew me away, and not in the good way. I often wondered how this character who could be so good natured and seemingly wise one second could become a whiny witch the next second. Solo, on the other hand, I did like. Solo was someone who hasn't had the easiest of lives, and I was always curious to find out more about his back story, especially why he was of such great interest to Eve's mom. I also liked the fearless aspect of Solo. Like Eve, he wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed in, and throughout the book, he showed just that, and managed to save the day in some respects...even though some of his predictions were dead wrong. The character I surprisingly clicked with the best with Eve's best friend Aislin. She was crude and downright hilarious, a great contrast to Eve's seriousness. She really managed to spice up the story!

The plot of this wasn't what I expected it to be. Going into Eve & Adam I thought it would be this big love story between Eve and her hand-made man, but instead, the majority of the book dealt with Solo's past, the sketchiness of the Eve's mom's biotech company, and Aislin's dilemmas with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. The part involving Adam didn't come until the very end, and wasn't really a love story or at least the one I was expecting. While it wasn't what I expected, I still enjoyed the plot. Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate did a great job of building up the suspense about the biotech company. Throughout the book I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out whether Eve's mom was truly as bad as she was made out to be. The end result? Didn't see it coming one bit, which is something I always enjoy. I love a good surprise. However, there was some parts of the plot I didn't think were as fleshed out as they could've been (for instance, Adam and role he will be playing moving forward).

Perfect for fans of Jenna Fox Chronicles, Eve & Adam sets up an interesting new series, and I looked forward to seeing what occurs in book two, Adam & Eve.

Grade: B

Eve & Adam (Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble) is now out in paperback, hardcover, and ebook!

Source: ARC provided by publisher - thanks Macmillan!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Review: Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website:
Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different...

This summer she's a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He's the first guy she ever kissed, and he's gone from geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt...with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn't that easy...
Review:

Contemporary is one of my favorite genres, and Miranda Kenneally is an absolute gem of a contemporary writer (Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker are proof of this). Therefore, it was no surprise that I simply adored Things I Can't Forget, her third book in the Hundred Oaks series. It contained everything I enjoyed about her prior books: strong, likable characters, a swoon worthy romance, and lots of heart. More importantly, though, it managed to tackle a hard subject - religion- and while I was hesitant about that aspect at first, I feel that Miranda had a did a beautiful job of gracefully intertwining into Things I Can't Forget's "heart."

Things I Can't Forget tells the story of Kate, a girl who has been through a lot in the last few months. From the first chapter, I was instantly taken with Kate's story. She was facing something that most protagonists in YA don't encounter too often: the dilemma of being her definition of a good christian while also being a good friend. I felt that Kate's struggle between the two jumped right off the page and came to life. I could feel her confusion and pain over it. More importantly, though, I could relate to it, and I'm sure most, if not all, other readers will feel some degree at the same, because at the heart of this it Kate's dilemma is not necessarily all about religion. Instead, it is about finding a common ground between what you believe in and making choices based on it while also finding it in you to respect and see reason behind other people's choices and beliefs as well. It something that's incredibly important even behind the religion aspect, and I feel that Miranda did a great job of taking it past that point, and having it so that this book wasn't a "preachy" religious book. Instead, it showed a protagonist's journey in balancing her religion and relationships with others AND also balancing her viewpoints and relationships in general. It was interesting addition to the book, in my opinion, and one that has given me a new sense of respect for Miranda Kenneally as a writer.

Adding to this, I loved seeing the transformation Kate made over the course of the book due to this all, as not only did she truly bloom and come to life as a person, but she formed some pretty fabulous friendships as well. One was her friendship with Parker, a former leading lady of Kenneally's. It was interesting to see them become friends over the course of the book, and get over their differences and find common ground, as not only was it an important stepping stone for Kate but Parker as well (Parker surprisingly had some more growing to do in this book, and with that, I felt that it was a great little extension off of Stealing Parker). I also enjoyed seeing Kate's relationship with Matt bloom over the course of the novel as well. Just like Parker, he made her see a new side of herself, one that while made her question her morals and choices, lead to important self discoveries over time. Plus, there little romance was adorable to see unfold....I was continually rooting for them to make it work.

The camp backdrop of this one also provided some fun entertainment. The little camp drama and dilemmas that popped up added important aspects to the plot and character development while also providing something even more important at times: laughs. However, I do resent it a little for making me even more wishful for the summer season.

In all, Thing I Can't Forget is yet another fabulous book by Miranda Kenneally, one that I would suggest to contemporary lovers out there.

Grade: A

Things I Can't Forget (Amazon, BN, Goodreads) is now out! 

Source: Bought from Amazon 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website:
From the author of Parallel comes a high-stakes romantic puzzler set in a near-future where everyone's life is seamlessly orchestrated by personal electronic devices. Imaginative and thrilling, this fast-paced story with two starred reviews is not to be missed.

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision-making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is to follow what Lux recommends. When she's accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn't use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux's recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore—a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.
Review:

After reading and loving Lauren Miller's upcoming All Things New, I immediately added her other two novels to the top of my TBR pile. Free to Fall was the first one up, and I had an inkling I would enjoy it based on the boarding school setting and the futuristic plot (an app that makes all your decisions for you? Now that sounds interesting!). Luckily, Free to Fall blew me away. Combining an intricate, well developed plot, likable characters, and a swoon-worthy romance, Free to Fall had me sacrificing sleep to read more.

One of my favorite aspects of Free to Fall were the characters. Rory was incredibly likable and relatable. Rory starts the book off being slightly unsure of herself. She's just accepted into Theden Academy, an exclusive, highly sought out boarding school, and she's not sure if she's going to thrive there. As the book progressed, however, not only does Rory find her place in life but she also becomes this strong, kick a$$ character. I loved seeing this transition occur, and I respected the fact that no matter how many bad events were thrown her way, she still managed to overcome them, making the best out of the worst situations. Most people would have had a nervous breakdown in Rory's position but not Rory. In addition to Rory, Free to Fall introduces North, Rory's partner-in-crime and love interest. North was the perfect addition to Free to Fall - I was obsessed the moment he first appeared in chapter 3. The chemistry behind North and Rory was incredibly strong, and some of their interactions had me laughing out loud. North was the perfect pairing to Rory's character, and without their bond, I don't think Free to Fall would have been nearly as strong of a book. In addition to Rory and North, there's a bunch of other characters who have big to little roles throughout. Hershey, Rory's roommate, also became a favorite of mine over the course of the book, even though it took me a while to decide if she was a good guy or bad guy. And the evil guys in this? So incredibly bad! From the moment they walked into the story, I hated them, but I still loved the amount of twists and turns they brought with them.

The plot of this described in two words? Brilliantly smart. Free to Fall is YA at its peak. It contains this crazy plot, and in the start, I was little worried about how Lauren would pull it off. As it turns out, I shouldn't have had any worries, because by the end it was so incredibly obvious how much time and research Lauren put into making this book perfect. I don't want to say too much about the plot, as I don't want to give anything away; however, I will say that I throughly enjoyed the details about the app. It was incredibly interesting to see the neuroscience approach of it, and the little details really managed to make this book stand out to me. It also made me really question the dependency the world has on technology today. Letting an app make all your decisions seems like something that could totally happen in the future, so it was interesting to see the pros and cons to it. I also loved the addition of the Secret Society that Rory took part in. In the beginning, I didn't really understand what the whole point of it would be, but by the end, I was thrown back by how much it had to do with the overall picture. The twists and turns in this one just kept me flying through this, because once I started it, I couldn't put it down!

Lauren Miller's writing was great. She did a fantastic job of developing the setting. It had me wishing I had gone to a boarding school based on the overall coolness of Theden Academy. The amount of technology that school had was beyond awesome! As hinted to above, she did a great job of fleshing the characters and the plot out; I enjoyed every minute of this, and even though, it had a satisfying ending, I was still left wishing for more...more Hershey, more Rory, and definitely more North.

In all, Free to Fall is yet another great novel by Lauren Miller. I thought she made a fan for life out of me with All Things New, but this one really sealed the deal. I can't urge you all enough to try this book out!

Grade: A+ 

Free to Fall (Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble) is now out in hardcover, paperback, and eBook formats!

Source: Finished copy provided by Goldberg McDuffie Communications - thanks Megan!
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