Magan: Take Me On by Katie McGarry

book cover for Take Me On by Katie McGarry

Take Me On by Katie McGarry (twitter | website)
Previously Reviewed: Pushing the Limits // Dare You To // Crash Into You
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Pages: 544
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: mixed martial arts, job loss, family injuries, fighting and kickboxing
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Netgalley. (Thank you!)

Summary: After swearing she’d never date a fighter again, Haley finds herself in a “relationship” with West, the new guy at school, as she teaches him to become a mix martial arts fighter. She must teach him how to fight or else she puts her cousin and brother’s lives at risk of ongoing, life-threatening fights with her ex-boyfriend.

Take Me On by Katie McGarry was full of all the elements I felt were strengths in Pushing the Limits — great witty banter between Haley and West, real life complications and issues, an interesting setting (a gym with a lot of emphasis on kickboxing and mixed martial arts), and fantastic burning chemistry.

But there were also some setbacks for me, too. It took quite a long time for me to feel like the story was progressing because the tension and constant back and forth dance between Haley and West’s emotions took quite a long time to level out. I desperately wanted them to make a decision. Could Haley accept that West was nothing like her ex-boyfriend and revoke her decision to never date another fighter? Could West settle down and stop feeling like the world was against him?

Haley’s ex brought out the absolute worst side of her and turned her kickboxing passion into something she wanted nothing to do with. Her deteriorating home life leaves Haley constantly feeling like a lesser version of herself. She walks on eggshells around her uncle who disrespects women (and people in general) in the most awful ways. She’s witnessing her father spiral out of control while desperately wanting him to get his act together and protect her. Even one of her closest friends, her grandfather, doesn’t know exactly what Haley’s gone through; she’s completely secluded herself and withdrawn.

West’s home life is the exact opposite of Haley’s by comparison — he has everything money can buy, lives in a sprawling mansion, and attends one of the best private schools. But when you look beyond all the shiny material things, you see that West’s mother is just as detached as Haley’s father, that his father’s expectations are unnecessarily high, and his sister is in the hospital for something he blames himself for.

Seeing these two broken individuals come together as they figure out how to heal and move past their struggles was probably my favorite part of Take Me On. I loved the symbolism behind the fighting that Haley was teaching West to do (and hoped that she would find worth in herself and start fighting for herself, too). Sometimes I felt like the story was dragging along more slowly than would have been ideal, making the whole book feel a little bit too lengthy. I can understand how in a real-world setting, people with West and Haley’s struggles wouldn’t immediately be able to bypass them and embrace the love being extended to them.

Haley and West’s story was an enjoyable experience that took me into another world and really made my day-to-day issues seem meager by comparison. Katie McGarry did a great job branching out to explore this new fighting dynamic and continues to impress with her ability to heal two broken characters.

rather be reading worth it iconAdd Take Me On to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble

Magan: One Moment by Kristina McBride

One Moment by Kristina McBride 
Publication Date
: June 26, 2012
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Pages: 272
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Death, lies and secrecy, friendship, loss of first love
Format read: eBook received from NetGalley

Summary: When Maggie’s friend Adam finds her hiding beneath the cover of the forest, she has no memory of what happend atop the rock she and her boyfriend Joey were supposed to jump off of together. She’s faced with Joey’s death when Adam escorts her down. As her memory begins to piece together, she learns how many secrets Joey had been keeping from her.

Some of the world’s greatest stories are based on tragedy. Would Romeo and Juliet have been so epic if the end hadn’t been so tragic? I’m drawn to stories that have big plots with scary events because it takes a lot of ingenuity to make it work flawlessly. (And I also secretly like to see if I can figure out all the details before the author gives us all the clues.)

In One Moment, McBride introduces us to a close-knit group of six friends – Pete, Shannon, Tanna, Adam, Maggie, and Joey – who are celebrating the beginning of summer at their favorite secluded hang out. Our main protagonist is Maggie who has been dating Joey for nearly two years. Maggie is extremely afraid of heights and since they found these huge four-story high rocks by the water, she’s never jumped off of them. She always chickens out. With a little liquid courage and a dare from Shannon she can’t seem to back down from, Maggie decides to jump off the rock with Joey. They climb, hand-in-hand, to the top, but the next thing Maggie knows, she’s being rescued by Adam from a spot she hid in the forest.

When Adam ushers her back down she finds out that Joey is dead.
She has no recollection of what happened once she and Joey got to the top of the rock.

How suspicious does this sound? I immediately assumed Maggie was hiding something and maybe she wasn’t suffering from memory loss like she proclaimed. McBride also gave away a subtle hint in the beginning of the story that led me to make bigger assumptions about what really happened to Joey. The secrecy, mystery, and desire to find out the truth propelled me forward. These six friends were thick as thieves before Joey’s death, but afterward, they’re completely out of sorts. Adam completely distances himself from the group because he’s upset over something (but won’t share the details with them). There was also a phone call between Joey and Adam, but Shannon doesn’t want to get into the details.

As Maggie’s memory slowly comes back to her, so do all the unwanted truths about Joey.

Joey is the only boy Maggie has ever loved. She never got to tell him that. Maggie’s heart becomes so conflicted as she learns that the boy she loved was not the person he was. He was living a double life. How wretched to learn that someone wasn’t who they thought they were and you no longer have the opportunity to talk it over. Maggie doesn’t know whether she should mourn the loss of her boyfriend or be angry at him for all the things he kept from her.

One Moment was incredibly fast-paced and engaging. It’s the story of friendship and a life-altering event. It will make you question how well you know the people closest to you. Your heart will break into tiny pieces (or maybe you’ll be madder than hell) when everything comes together. McBride does a wonderful job exploring how one fleeting moment changes everything and how things piece back together when you’re not even sure where to begin.

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

Sweet Summertime Reads: The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland

Welcome back for another Sweet Summertime Reads review! Today we’re featuring The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland. It’s a great book with secrecy, cute boys, and awesome beaches in a quaint town I wish I could escape to for days. Don’t forget to check out Tara and Ginger’s blogs for more great summer reads!

(Also – don’t forget to enter our summertime giveaway!)

book cover for the summer my life began by shannon greenland, book with girl in swimsuit riding bikeThe Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland [website | twitter]
UPCOMING Publication Date: May 10, 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 256
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: eBook received via NetGalley

Summary: Elizabeth Margaret, or Em as only her sister calls her, heads to the Outer Banks to spend the summer with an aunt she never knew she had until a congratulatory graduation note appeared in the mail. Her strict, proper parents permit her to go. While she’s away, she discovers a lot about herself, falls in love for the first time, and unravels deep family secrets.

A perfect (goody-two-shoes) girl embarks on a summer of freedom.
She meets a boy. Or two.
She embraces a passion of hers that may not lead her down the path her parents want for her.
There are enough family secrets to account for my entire extended family.

Upon first meeting Em, my very first written note was how rigid her life was. So much is expected of her by her parents and grandmother, and she has no wiggle room to question what they think is best for her future. The only person who has a glimpse of who she really is, or wants to be, is her younger sister, Gwenny. When an unexpected letter arrives in the mail for Em inviting her to spend a summer with an aunt she didn’t even know she had, she can think of nothing else she’d rather do. (Especially when the alternative is prepping for Harvard and working as an intern at her father’s law firm.) I admit I was a bit taken aback by how easily the decision was made for Em to change her summer plans. For as intense as her parents were, their permission was not as difficult to obtain as I’d have assumed.

While I mostly anticipated a summer romance read, I didn’t expect there to be so many secrets surrounding Em’s Aunt Tilly.

Why did Em not know about Tilly?
Why doesn’t Tilly speak to her grandmother?
Why didn’t she know she had a cousin?

All these questions were nagging at Em, but her aunt was reluctant to give answers. Instead of dwelling on what she couldn’t find out, she immersed herself in getting to know her cousin, touring the Outer Banks, and helping out however she could around the bed and breakfast Tilly owned.

During those activities, she meets Jeremy and Cade – two very different (but great!) boys. Jeremy is everything her parents would expect in a boy; he’s proper, determined, has a life plan. Cade is sexy, but mysterious, a little stand-offish, and comes with baggage. Em’s never had time for boys before, so of course, this was my favorite part of the book because watching her fall in love was so sweet. I had hopes for who she would fall for, but also never really felt like there was a strong love triangle. (That’s kind of a pet peeve of mine in books. I wish these YA book girls would get their acts together. Or there should stop being so many smouldering, hot YA boys. Okay, rant over.)

Overall, The Summer My Life Began was about discovery. Em has to decide who she wants to be – who everyone expects her to be or who she feels she’s called to be. The facade of her perfect family comes crumbling around her when she finally starts piecing together the truth. She had a lot of tough decisions to make; finding out what she would do and choose kept me engaged as a reader. This was definitely a book that called to me while I was sitting at work anxiously looking forward to the next time I could begin reading again.

I feel like I’m hiding a lot from you guys. (Guess I’d fit right in with Em’s family.) BUT, I can’t ruin the thrill of The Summer My Life Began and all the surprises. Definitely pick this book up for your next beach trip… or sooner if, like me, just reading about beaches makes you want to reach for a fruity drink with an umbrella.

*I’m giving this a BORROW recommendation because I would probably pass this along to a friend to read for her beach trip to spread the love.

Goodreads | Amazon

(For your viewing pleasure … I’m including pictures of my personal happy place. Greece. The husband and I went there in September 2011. Anytime I read books about beaches, I picture myself being here again.)

on the beach of greece, blue and white umbrella and chair

It was in one of these very blue and white chairs that I devoured all five of the Jessica Darling books last year. Who wouldn't have blissful dreams of Marcus Flutie after being here?

sunset in greece, orange sunset with mountains in the background

Taken from almost the same spot as the above picture. The fog hides these mountains (islands?) during the day, so the most beautiful time to see them is at sunset. One of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen. The black dot on the right is a boat floating into the sunset.

view of santorini, greece

We spent the last half of our trip in Santorini. This place is like heaven. The most amazing beaches I've ever seen. I want to go back.

book cover for zero by tom leveen, black white and red book cover

Magan: Zero by Tom Leveen

book cover for zero by tom leveen, black white and red book coverZero by Tom Leveen [website | twitter]
UPCOMING Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages: 304
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: eBook received via NetGalley

Summary: Zero is an artist. She was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), but her life plans change when she isn’t awarded a scholarship. Her best friend, Jenn, is going through some …stuff… and there’s a lot of tension between the two of them now. Zero’s dad is an alcoholic and her mom is super overbearing. Despite all the crap, Zero meets Mike, a boy she falls head over heels for.

Zero’s real name is Amanda Walsh. Her mom calls her Amy, but she loathes that nickname. She picked up the name Zero when she was teased in middle school by a bunch of jerks. It stuck. Now she’s graduated from high school but her summer plans changed when two things happened:

a) she didn’t get the scholarship she needed for art school in Chicago, and
b) her BFF got super weird and they’re not speaking anymore.

That leaves her feeling more alone than ever, even for a girl with the nickname Zero.

She passes the time by going to local shows of punk bands. After a performance by Gothic Rainbow, she decides to approach the drummer with the amazing eyes she wishes she could capture on a canvas. Thus begins the awkward, albeit sweet, relationship between Mike and Zero.

I loved Zero’s character – she was quirky and self-deprecating. She was always a little down on herself about her looks and weight. She fluctuated constantly between hoping she’d make it as an artist to thinking she’d never be good enough. (I could relate to so many of the thoughts floating through her mind.) Tom Leveen did an awesome job of capturing the essence of an insecure, never-been-kissed seventeen-year-old.

I only had a few quirks to overcome while reading, and those pertained to Leveen’s writing style. In several instances, Amanda would have a thought, and then follow it up with, “Discuss.” Other times it would be the phrase, “Here’s the thing,” and things would go a little more into detail. I don’t mind that happening sporadically, but I suppose I’m not one for much repetition, and things like this take away from the story and make me focus on the writing. (Please note this is just a minor complaint.)

As for Mike, he made my insides become a hot mess. He was quiet and nice. Sweet. Definitely awkward. I loved the blending of his musical talents and band with Zero’s artistic abilities. The descriptions of her art and his shows were so vivid. I felt like I was there or involved while she was making art or his band was performing. (Another sidenote: there’s a picture of a boy on the cover. Tell me when you read the book if your imagination depicts a guy who looks like the mohawk-dude on the cover. Mine did not.)

A few things to note:

  • This is one of the more… graphicyoung adult contemporaries I’ve read. Be prepared for a few hot and steamy scenes that go into more detail than most other YAs.
  • Look up the artists that Zero mentions throughout the book (mostly Salvador Dalí) to have a better understanding of some of the descriptions of her work and the emotions she describes by comparing them to paintings.
  • Don’t judge this story based on the cover. It implies something darker and heavier, maybe a little more gritty. I found it easy to relate to and didn’t think the cover really captured the essence of Zero.

While the story focuses a lot on the relationships Zero has with all the people around her (crazy mother, drunk dad, awkward boyfriend, lost BFF), it’s mostly about her journey to figuring out who she is. What does she want out of life? Now that all of these changes have occurred around her, how is she going to react and what’s she going to do about it? Zero is a witty, engaging story of self-discovery.

This was my first Tom Leveen book, but I’m definitely anxious to pick up Party now, and look forward to more from him.

 

Goodreads | Amazon

 

Magan: In My Mailbox (6)

Happy Sunday, you guys! Below is my In My Mailbox vlog. In My Mailbox is a weekly feature hosted by Kristi at the Story Siren. It’s a way for us to share the books that we bought, borrowed, or received throughout the week. Click here for Kristi’s blog, and here for a direct link to her IMM this week.

Just a warning…I look like terrible and may or may not sound like a man because I’m losing my voice. :-/ Ha!

Enjoy the vlog! Please let us know what you received in your mailbox this week.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJtEJVTWgu8

Books I mentioned this week:

Bought
Article 5 by Kristen Simmons: Goodreads | Amazon

Received from ALA
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour: Goodreads | Amazon
Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg: Goodreads | Amazon
The List by Siobhan Vivian: Goodreads | Amazon

NetGalley
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: Goodreads | Amazon
Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman: Goodreads | Amazon
Tessa Masterson WILL Go to Prom by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin:  Goodreads | Amazon
Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker: Goodreads | Amazon

Around the Blog:

Magan reviewed Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard.
Estelle reviewed The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal.
Estelle shared her latest edition of The Big Kids’ Table with five new contemporary adult releases.
Magan reviewed Clean by Amy Reed.

Have a great week, everyone!

Magan: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

debut author challenge, kristi at the story siren, january debut author challenge post

Estelle and I are super excited to be participating in the Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  I’m bringing you the first debut young adult book this week, though Estelle and I will alternate months participating.  The challenge is to read and review a minimum of twelve young adult debut novels between January 2012 and January 2013.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Future Release Date
: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Harry Abrams
Pages: 288
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: e-book downloaded from NetGalley
How we found out about it: Carla at The Crooked Shelf tweeted about it!
Challenge: 2012 Debut Author Challenge
Summary: Greg is the narrator of this book – he’s reflecting back on the last year-ish of his life. He rambles and tells the story of how his mother forced him to re-friend a girl (Rachel) he used to semi-date when he was in Hebrew school… because Rachel is dying of cancer.

Okay, so let me be the first to say that the summary of the book sounds depressing and sad, but it’s anything but. Just take a look at that cover and tell me if you think sadness would seep from its glorious pages.  Just like the cover, this book is colorful and animated. It’s full of stories (each chapter has a different focus and point) that somewhat don’t make sense together or flow extremely well from chapter to chapter. When you accept and understand that Greg is writing this in a stream-of-consciousness state of mind and that his personality is scattered and crazy, the book is tons of fun and laugh out loud funny.

Greg wants to be the kid at school that’s friendly to everyone, but not a member of any particular group. He’s obnoxious and observant, and Earl is Greg’s best friend. Probably his only friend. Who don’t even really hang out at school together. In their spare time, they create re-makes of their favorite movies. These creations haven’t seen the light of day by anyone other than these two. The conversations between Earl and Greg are mind-numbing, although funny, and extremely inappropriate at times.

One of the most awesome things about MaEatDG was how the story was told. Some parts of it are written just like any typical book – with dialogue and description. However, the best parts of this book were either written in movie script format or as a series of bullet points. I loved when Greg would pull the script card and re-tell a story with actor’s notes and lines. Through these typographical changes, I learned a lot of Greg’s back story – his embarrassing history with girls, his relationship (that was more like a business partnership) with Earl, and conversations he had with Rachel.

Greg’s mother forces him to try to re-friend Rachel so she has someone to make her laugh while she’s dealing with her leukemia. He doesn’t want to, but tries anyway. When he meets with Rachel, there’s mostly a lot of talking on Greg’s part where he says some of the dumbest things I’ve ever read. He constantly makes fun of himself, throws himself under the bus, and is always overly modest to the point that it’s annoying.  He talks and talks because he doesn’t know how to listen. All he wants to do is to make Rachel laugh, and he’s uncomfortable with silence.

Through Greg, Earl is introduced to Rachel. Of course Earl offers to let her view some of the films they’ve created. This makes her INSANELY happy, and Greg becomes unspeakably mad at Earl for sharing their “secret” with someone. As Rachel hits a low point with her cancer, Earl and Greg go on a mission to create a film specifically for Rachel.

Thus, the world’s worst film (EVER) is created.

You might be wondering what the point of the whole book was. I admit, while I enjoyed the craziness, I was hoping for answers, too. (And you should know, they do come.)  The scenes are just crazy and SO different from my typical reads. I tend to want a sweet, romantic love story, but I’m learning that these coming-of-age male books are quite fulfilling. You won’t get a love story or learn Big Life Lessons from this book, but you will enjoy it. One of my favorite scenes with Earl and Greg reminded me of the movie Half Nelson with Ryan Gosling…and frankly, if something can elicit images of Ryan, then…YUM YAY! (For your viewing pleasure, I’ve included the poster for Half Nelson, taken from IMDB.)

This book is (to stay true to Greg – I feel I should make a list):

  • witty.
  • awkward.
  • ADD.
  • funny.
  • RANDOM.

You’ll enjoy it and breeze through the pages quickly. You’ll laugh out loud and maybe sometimes cringe.  I guarantee you Jesse Andrews does not have to fear that he wrote the worst book ever.

 Add to Goodreads | Pre-Order on Amazon