Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown: Review

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents. In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.

My first and most consistent thought throughout reading this novel was that this plot was so unique from anything I had ever read before. I know there are stories out there about tornado victims and survivors, but I don't know of any YA ones, and I had never picked a book up about this topic before now. I loved it, because it let me see things from a perspective I was never able to see from until reading this book. 
Torn Away was about Jersey's experience surviving the tornado and everything that she lost because of it - but it is also about what makes a family, and what it really means to lose everything. My favorite quote from the book pertains to what it means to lose everything:
"I'm wondering if it's even possible to lose 'everything,' or if you just have to keep redefining what 'everything' is." 
This quote, in a way, expresses everything that this book is about. It is about rediscovering the important things in life, and figuring out what your "everything" really is. 

Something else about this book that I felt should be known by those considering reading it is that this book really has no romance. This isn't a book about love in the sense of the "boyfriend and girlfriend" kind of relationships. This book is deeply focused on the bonds of family love, and natural disasters, and what it means to be human when everything physical that you use to define humanity is suddenly ripped away. 

I also have to state that, even though this is a bit unrelated to what I have been talking about so far, this book cover and title are so fitting for the book, and I think the cover picture and artwork is stunning. 

Now that we have that comment out of the way, I will wrap this up.
Basically, I loved this book very much. The writing style was classic Jennifer Brown, and I quite enjoyed that. Brown typically writes contemporary stories about very serious subjects, and she does it so well. I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in it, and even those who are unsure of their is definitely worth a read. 

Just a few more comments before you go. I did end up giving this a 4 stars, so you may be wondering why I didn't give it a full 5 stars since I loved it so much. The only reasons I have for not giving it 5 stars is because I have liked some of Brown's other stories a little bit better, just for little reasons here and there. The main character was a little bit less likable, but she was in no way intolerable. In fact, I felt her so much in this story. Other than a few little nit-picky things like that, it was a fantastic book, so pick it up if you get the chance!
In honor of our main character, Jersey, I give this book 4 little porcelain kittens:

Disclaimer: This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review by the Publisher, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, through Netgalley. These opinions are completely my own, and are completely honest.
 Publication Information:
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  
ISBN: 9780316245531
(most information is from Goodreads page)

You can purchase this book almost anywhere that books are sold. 
Some places you can find it online:

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt: Review

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt is about 17-year-old Holly Nolan who acquires ownership of her Grandfather's Vegas wedding chapel after he passes away. Not only is she shocked by her sudden ownership of the business, but she also learns that the place is much more "in the hole" than anyone expected, and it's up to her to save it.
Next door to the business sits another wedding chapel owned by her Grandfather's long-time nemesis...and things get even more complicated when said nemesis' super handsome Grandson, Dax, comes into the picture.
Before I go any further with this review, how fun does this sound? I, personally, have never read a book about a teenager trying to save a wedding chapel while also dealing with the whole Romeo & Juliet romance with the competition's grandson. When I read this synopsis I was immediately interested. Also, seeing Lindsey Leavitt's name on the cover sure didn't hurt. I recently read Going Vintage by Lindsey as well, and my friends can tell you I gushed about it for quite some time after I read it.
There is something infinitely charming about Lindsey Leavitt's writing that just keeps you coming back for more.
I had so much fun going along this journey with the characters as they tried to save the chapel. This book was pretty hilarious, and I had a smile on my face 90% of the time...however that is not to say that this book didn't have its serious moments, because it did, and it had me feeling for the characters in those moments of grief and disappointment as well.
Simply put, I adored this book for many reasons. It was cute, funny, unique, and just so much fun.
If you like contemporary, pick it up.
If you like a story that is different & a breath of fresh air in YA, pick it up.
If you like witty, relatable, and realistically-flawed characters, pick it up.
Basically what I'm saying is, just pick it up.

I give this book 4.5 Moths...for Dax's species racism here! ;)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira: Review

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira is about a girl starting her very first year of High School who gets an English assignment that requires her to write a letter to someone who has died. This soon turns into much more than an English assignment, and we get to hear Laurel's story through these letters that she writes to famous dead people that she looks up to. Laurel's sister, May, passed away less than a year ago, and so she writes about her often. This book is ultimately about Laurel's journey discovering who she is without her sister around.
The synopsis itself could make you think that the book sounds quite similar to the Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky...and having read the book, I can say that those assumptions would be accurate. Perks is one of my favorite books, so when I heard the comparison between the two in addition to seeing Stephen Chbosky promoting the book himself on twitter (his blurb is also on the front cover of this book) it was enough to completely sell me on this one. I went into it with high expectations, and I was not disappointed.
This books was absolutely incredible, and I loved every minute of it. I wanted to read this slowly to enjoy everything about it, but because it was so good and such a page-turner I just couldn't put it down...which led to my reading it practically in one sitting.
There were a lot of things about this book that had me so enthralled with it, so I have decided to list them in bullet points to save time and to keep from gushing endlessly:
  • The writing style was so beautiful and poetic, I couldn't get enough of it.
  • The characters were so extremely well-developed, they felt like real people that I truly cared about. They were all so beautifully flawed, and I loved them for it.
  • Our main character, Laurel (I agree with what the character Hannah said in the book, "coolest name EVER") was such a distinct and relatable character, I immediately loved her. Her growth through the book was beautiful to watch, and by the end, I was so completely happy for her and all she had discovered about herself. 
  • The writing to dead celebrities aspect was so interesting and unique, and I learned so much about the people that she wrote to, like Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart, etc. I loved hearing about them and why Laurel looked up to them as much as she did; it was a nice addition to this story.
There wasn't a single aspect of this book that I did not enjoy. It was raw, gritty, real, and completely breath-taking. Like I have also said about Perks, it is amazing to me the way I felt so connected and involved with all these characters through letters...that, to me, is just incredible talent.
I highly recommend this books, and I give it a full 5 heart-shaped sunglasses, in honor of May: