The Originals by Cat Patrick (website | twitter)
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: sisters, clones, scandal, hiding
Format read: ARC received via Edelweiss (Thank you!)
Summary: Lizzie, Betsey, and Ella split each and every day into thirds. They’re allowed outside their house to spend their third of the day acting as one person, Elizabeth Best. No one knows their secret, but they’re tired of pretending they aren’t clones and desperately wish for individuality.
Two other girls look exactly like you. Your mother has you pretending to be one person. Your days are broken into thirds, very scheduled, and you each only spend your portion of the day outside your home. No one knows the truth about you and your sisters. Why?
Lizzie and her sisters Betsey and Ella have been pretending to be one person since they moved to San Diego when they were nine years old. Due to a huge scandal and to protect the girls, their mother devised a calculated plan and schedule to keep their secret hidden. No one can know the truth.
But what happens when the girls begin questioning their reality?
What if all the questioning reveals that your mother has secrets of her own?
The questioning begins when Ella and Lizzie begin to fall for two different boys and their mother makes the executive decision about who they (yes, they) will “date.” Lizzie’s heart is broken that Sean isn’t chosen and Dave (his repertoire looks much better on paper than in person) is. She has to pretend to be into Dave during her afternoon hours at school when her heart is pining for Sean, the boy who is a talented writer and photographer and makes plans to meet up with her during half time.
There’s so so so much that unfolds in Cat Patrick’s The Originals. First of all — cloning? what? — such an interesting and unique storyline. The concept alone fascinates me. Personally I don’t think I could ever clone something; I would be so let down if this re-created person/animal weren’t exactly the same as the original. What if it had completely different idiosyncrasies? And then there’s the whole psychological aspect of cloning that really weighs on me. What does it feel like to be the replacement? (For the record, I think Patrick tackles the psychological so brilliantly in both of her stories I’ve read — The Originals and Forgotten.)
For Ella, Lizzie, and Betsey, I found it bewildering that they hadn’t really questioned their mother’s decisions very much. There’s this whole element that will really have you reeling from how much the girls are afraid to dive into the truth. Maybe they’re suffering from something like Stockholm Syndrome? More and more, as they dug deeper for answers, I found myself crazily going through the pages. (My kindle couldn’t keep up!) I had to know why their mother would isolate them so much. To trust her or to turn her into the cops? — that was the ultimate question.
It felt so amazing to experience another Cat Patrick book. She sets the scene so well and really makes sure you’re getting a sense of the entire scope of the story while leaving a nice dose of intrigue to keep you glued to the pages. Bonus points also go to The Originals for being a standalone. I loved that nothing was drawn out and the action was continually moving forward to wrap up nicely in one book.
Cat’s other book, Revived, is on my bookshelf, glaring at me, waiting to be read. I might just have to abandon everything else to continue reveling in another of Patrick’s books.
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The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise ( website | tweet )
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: friendships, tech, mobile world, contests, computers
Format read: ARC from Edelweiss via Publisher.
Summary: It’s been three years since Audrey lost her dad and her life changed. Her best friend got mean, and the popularity she thought she had in the bag turned out to be non-existent. But she has found some contentment with Hector (her computer) and her other tech savvy friends. When a contest to create an amazing new app is announced and the prize is a full college scholarship, Audrey knows she just has to win. The entry is The Boyfriend App, an instrument to bring well-matched people together. And while it seems it have a positive effect on things at first, she never imagined how things might spiral out of control.
Reasons I love Audrey:
» She isn’t embarrassed that a sports bra is her favorite undergarment.
» She carries around a lucky rabbit’s foot that her dad gave her.
» She loves her computer so much that she named him Hector + she’s basically a computer genius.
» She’s confident without being braggy, and she really treasures her friendships.
Can you see why I was rooting for Audrey so much during The Boyfriend App? After all she had been through with her dad’s sudden death, the rough (and unnecessary) treatment from her ex-best friend, I just wanted her to build the most amazing app, win the contest, and maybe even get the boy.
Unfortunately, nothing came that easy for her. I don’t know if it was the book cover or the synopsis that made me think so but The Boyfriend App is more than some fluffy high school story. Sise manages to weave in a ton of technical terms, really emphasizing Audrey’s tech strengths and also truly describing the major digital influences that have infilitrated the life of today’s teenager. It was fun to read about Audrey’s cousin, Lindsay, and her successful fashion blog, and even the use of social media to market The Boyfriend App. (But then again, I love this stuff!)
Just as Audrey’s app gains popularity and starts to change the way people perceive her, Sise introduces an interesting and unexpected layer to the plot. I’m not sure if she meant to make some grand statement about the influence technology has on our society (are we being brainwashed?) but she certainly threw me for some very welcome, refreshing loops (that included a makeout scene in the cafeteria that felt like a food fight a.k.a total chaos!).
One detail I absolutely loved was how culturally diverse Audrey’s high school was. This is probably one of the first books that reminded me so much of my own high school experience in that way. And you know, her friends just rocked. I loved that Lindsay, a family member!, was her best friend and always had her back, and I also appreciated how much Audrey wanted to keep these friends, even so much as to pretend she didn’t like Aidan as much as she did because she didn’t want to lose him completely. (Though, at times, I just wanted to be like: Girl, he LIKES you. Believe it! because she doubts his every move so much.)
I really enjoyed The Boyfriend App for all of its quirks and especially the chances that Sise took with her plot and her characters. It was a really fun ride that had me scratching my head (that’s how you build apps?!), laughing out loud (the geeky boy discovering the importance of a signature accessory), and reeling over the “will they won’t they” couple of the season. (And wondering if someone was going to lock the ex-best friend in a closet and throw away the key — oh the joys of a bully!)
Katie Sise is definitely an author I will be looking forward to reading in the future!
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The Academy: Game On by Monica Seles and James LaRosa
Publication: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA for Children
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: romance, friendship, tennis, new school
Format read: NetGalley eBook from Publisher (Thanks!)
Summary: From small town girl to up and coming tennis star at a prestigious school, Maya’s new life is nothing like she expected.
Who loves books full of competition, heart throb boys, and boarding school? Yes, yes, and yes please.
Maya’s just been accepted to The Academy to train to become a professional tennis athlete and finish high school. After four attempts to earn a scholarship, she finally feels like her dreams are within her reach. But she’s nervous and determined to prove herself. At least… that’s the attitude she has when she first arrives.
Maya is motivated, especially since she’s on a six-month probation period. Cleo, Maya’s roommate, is quite the opposite of Maya – disorderly, attention-seeking, and blunt – but is also a great source of inspiration for staying focused because she’s also on scholarship. Things are golden as Maya makes friends with Cleo and Renee, the beautiful girl with a naughty reputation, until she meets Travis.
Travis is Nails Reed’s son (the owner of The Academy). He’s a star football player and on his way to following in his father’s footsteps. New-girl Maya somehow catches Travis’ eye and her whole world seems to change and she’s experiencing so many new things – clubs with celebrities, a private flight to Brazil for a dance lesson, and a significant upgrade in her housing. Down-to-earth, work-hard-Maya is suddenly replaced with a girl who forgets to make it to the courts for practice because she’s spent so much time beautifying herself and she abandons her best friends in favor of hanging out with Nicole (the biggest celebrity at The Academy).
And then there’s this awkward situation with Travis’ brother, Jake. Maya finds herself caught in a professional game of tug-of-war with Travis and Jake. Her feelings, however, don’t always make sense. She seems physically attracted to Travis, but unsure of his motives. And the tension is pretty delightful between she and Jake, but there’s really not a whole lot of explanation before - BAM! – Maya is in the thick of a sticky situation.
That really sums up a lot of my feelings toward The Academy: Game On. I assumed a large portion of the story would be about this unknown girl trying to make something of herself, and that just didn’t turn out to be so. Maya’s purpose at The Academy wasn’t clear. There was so little time practicing. There were never any meets, tournaments, or games to prepare for. Ultimately, I felt the focus of the story was lost and I much rather would have read about Maya trying to prove herself than gallivanting around, pretending to be someone she wasn’t. Everything that comes her way falls too easily in her lap.
I never really found myself settling into the rhythm of the story because I wasn’t quite sure who I could trust. The characters were constantly undulating back and forth between admirable and over-the-top dramatic. And the ending? It was left open-ended for the possibility of more to come, meaning that while Maya may have had some minor growth in the last pages of the book, we don’t really get the opportunity to see that come to fruition. Nor do we see where she ends up and what becomes of her time at The Academy.
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I really like using Christmas carols to express joy all year round. This time? Baseball is back, baby!
It’s almost been a full month of baseball on our television (pizza Fridays are so much better with it) and just last week, my husband and I went to our first game in a pretty long time. We both grew up Yankees fans, and went to quite a few games when we were kids. In the years we’ve been together we’ve enjoyed one championship win, said goodbye to the the iconic “old” stadium, and visited the brand new one. (Truth: we miss the old stadium so much.) It’s been a wild ride (and this year our team is pretty questionable) but it’s one of those hobbies we actually have in common. (A story for another day.)
Ladies and gents, it was nice to be back.
To enjoy the sight, sounds, and some eats too…
And hey, we won the game — always a great bonus.
With all the excitement of the new season, I can’t help but think of the some of the books I LOVE because of their baseball themes! I wanted to share a few of them with you today!
Leading off, a dear favorite of mine:
THE COMEBACK SEASON BY JENNIFER E. SMITH
I read this one last year and it has remained my top Jennifer E. Smith reads. Smith manages to weave the tragic history of the Chicago Cubs (they haven’t won a World Series Championship in 104 years) and Ryan’s struggle to muddle through the grief associated with her father’s death. The Cubs were one of their shared interests; they both loved the team so intensely. Ryan soon meets Nick, and ties the chances of their relationship surviving to the success of the Cubs. It’s a truly beautiful story, and just oozes with love of the game.
(Add to Goodreads)
CURVEBALL: THE YEAR I LOST MY GRIP BY JORDAN SONNENBLICK
This was one of those delightful reads with a great male narrator. While Peter doesn’t get much playing time in this book (he’s been injured), he has to look past his identity as someone who played on the baseball team and go after new experiences. There are so many sweet moments in this book from meeting a new girl to dealing with changes in his treasured relationship with his grandpa.
(Add to Goodreads)
STEALING PARKER BY MIRANDA KENNEALLY
I think most people see this book as the “one where the girl falls for her baseball coach.” Okay, sure, that happens. But Parker’s passion for the sport is so connected to her mother that she did a lot of things that didn’t make sense… like quit playing for a game she loved so much. One of the main themes of Stealing Parker is about teamwork: with an actual team, a family, and friendships and relationships. While it’s not quite as baseball-filled as the cover originally promised, the sport still plays an important part.
(Add to Goodreads)
CONFESSIONS OF A SHE-FAN: THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE WITH THE YANKEES BY JANE HELLER
Guys, it’s tough to be a fan sometimes. And I know, I know. People hate on the Yankees for their success but seriously… I remember all the games in the early 90s when we would lose every single Sunday. But anyway, Jane Heller (who I love following on Twitter) writes a book about following the team in 2007. Like many, her love of the game started very early and I really enjoyed reading her story.
(Add to Goodreads)
Those are the all-stars on my bookshelves!
What books do you love that have a sports theme? (It’s okay, I’ll forgive you if it’s not baseball.)
The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler ( tweet | web )
Publication Date: May 27, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer, sisters, motorcycles, parents
Format read: Paperback ARC from Simon Pulse (Thank you!)
Summary: Jude is banking on the restoration of her father’s prized motorcycle to dig him out of his hazy sickness. As if things are not difficult enough at home, she realizes the person she and her father hired to do the job is a Vargas, as in part of the family that has successfully broken two of her sisters’ hearts. The oath she took years ago — to stay far far away or else — is threatened when she realizes she likes him. How could she explain that to her sisters? And how can she concentrate on her love life when the state of her family is so in flux?
Sarah Ockler is always going to have a special place in my book lovin’ heart because her novel, Twenty Boy Summer, was the first review Magan and I ever put up on RBR — our launching post! Then (almost a year later) in December, I fell in love with Ockler all over again after devouring Bittersweet (kind of a pun) and passed it on to Magan immediately. It had family, cupcakes, cute boys, and was just a good feeling read all the way around.
Well, ladies, gents, crickets, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the overwhelming amount of love I feel for The Book of Broken Hearts, a gem that has solidified Ockler’s spot on my most treasured author’s list. You have to believe me — despite a clumsy start, I read the book all the way through — twice.
The summer before college is supposed to be a time for reminiscing and having as much fun as possible, but instead of trying out for the community theatre musical or hanging out with her girlfriends every possible moment, Jude and her dad are restoring his old motorcycle. Unfortunately, Papi is in the early stages of Alzheimers and while he can’t remember where he lives or what kind of ice cream he likes, he does remember the good old days when he was cycling around Argentina with his crew. His memories make Jude hopeful: fix the bike, restore Papi’s memory.
The key to this project is Emilio, the cute guy at the motorcyle shop, a few years older than Jude, who is pumped to work on a vintage bike for the summer. There’s only one teenie tiny issue. He’s a Vargas, which means he is brothers with two of the boys who have broken the hearts of Jude’s sisters. So much so that in a fit of passion, the girls took an oath several years ago, promising to never get involved with a Vargas again. But that’s old news? Silly kid stuff, right? Well, Jude still takes the whole thing pretty seriously, a product of being the youngest sister and the pressure of the Holy Trinity, as she calls them.
But Papi likes him, and Jude is like, “This is strictly a professional thing.”
Yes, Emilio is professionally adorable and flirty. But as much as Jude paints him as this bad boy with no heart, he is patient and thoughtful and sweet too. As you can see, Jude is losing this inner battle. And the chemistry between the two was seriously felt all the way to my toes, and Ockler does the perfect job of stretching it out. Because at the same time Jude is fighting her feelings for Emilio, her dad’s condition is getting worse, her friends are MIA (wtf?), and her mom and sisters are banding together to figure out the next step for their family.
There’s nothing that makes my heart hurt as much as a sick parent, especially such a young one. I easily imagined myself in this position and felt for Jude so much. Helpless. Scared. Not only for Jude but for her mother who worked hard and left Argentina to marry her husband, and all the sisters who weren’t living at home anymore. Family is the core of this book. The absolute core, and Ockler hits upon so many relatable situations: how hard it is for family to get together, how they bond during tragedy, and also the pressure to be the person they want you to be.
Emilio says something to Jude that really struck a chord with me. He said she’s the kind of person who wishes for a time machine, to go back to the days when everything was fine and dandy and her friendships were the same and she was the little sister who never stood up for herself. The emphasis we put on the past — it’s so real and so hard to move on from. Because how can things change so quickly? But Jude has to face that, and despite the ever-changing nucleus of her family, she has to make decisions for herself. Because she has a life to lead too.
The Book of Broken Hearts made me swoon, it made me cry, and it made me feel so many things relative to my own life right now. I loved the mix of Argentinian and Puerto Rican culture, too. It’s one of those books that I was sad to finish; I noticed myself feeling more and more attached to the story as time passed. This is truly a testament to Ockler’s writing and how much her craft has grown since her earlier books; she’s not relying on a love triangle to create tension but instead has found a natural balance between family, romance, and friendships. I can’t wait to read it again and again.
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