First Comes Love

26192467 First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley and from BEA, release date 6/28/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.
Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.
On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.
As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

My thoughts:
I have read all of Emily Giffin’s books, except the one right before this (going back to it as soon as I get a chance though), and have always enjoyed her writing. I got the chance to meet Emily and get this book signed while at BEA in Chicago, so I was super excited to read and review it.

I really liked this book and found myself excited to get back to it each evening before bed. I found myself really relating to Josie, since I started out as an elementary teacher (before moving to the high school level) and am still single, though not actively searching/needing a man like she thought she did. I have a very similar personality as well, so I found her chapters especially enjoyable. Emily also did her research on teaching (or maybe she has a background I’m not aware of!) and was accurate about the life of a teacher. I also found the dynamic among the two sisters quite entertaining, though Meredith was highly unlikeable for me (because I am pretty much her opposite, like Josie). It is always interesting to read about two sisters so different, as this is certainly the case in real life with my sister and me. Not that my sister is like Meredith either, we are just extremely different from one another.

Meredith is the more uptight, boring sister in this particular story…she has the life that Josie thinks she wants, but she is not happy with it herself. Throughout the book, she is trying to figure out where she went wrong and how she can be happy in the future. It is certainly a struggle, as she knows she has it good in the eyes of most other people. Josie struggles throughout the story for Meredith’s approval, while they both are trying to figure out how to move on from a tragedy that happened 15 years ago.

If you don’t like books with alternating viewpoints, you may not like this format, but I tend to like this style; since a lot of Young Adult books that I read are that way, I have become accustomed to it. I would say that it’s safe to say this is my favorite Emily Giffin book thus far and I have already recommended it to my own sister and mom, and I will be telling friends about it also. If you are looking for a great summer read, and if you enjoy a family story, then pick this one up for sure! I am hoping maybe we will get to read more about these sisters in future books. 🙂

My rating: 5/5

 

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American Babe

27274352 American Babe by Babe Walker

***This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 6/28/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Babe Walker thought she had done it all. After all, she’s survived the highly exclusive social hierarchies of Bel Air, traipsed around Europe in true white-girl fashion, and left her mark on several of the best rehab facilities in the United States. But now Babe is about to enter a terrifying new world: Middle America.
After a freak accident that was definitely not Babe’s fault, her estranged mother offers her the perfect escape from LA: an invite to her grandfather’s eightieth birthday party in Maryland, of all places. Babe’s journey throws her headlong into elementary school classrooms full of small, unfashionable people and pizza buffet restaurants that will haunt her nightmares and eventually back to Los Angeles, thank goodness. Tossed together with her cousins—basic preteen Cara and mature and preternaturally stylish Knox—Babe learns that connecting with someone on an intimate, familial level might be the most rewarding experience there is…
Besides being thin, of course.

My thoughts:

I absolutely adore these books. They make me laugh so much and they are just plain fun. I read the first White Girl Problems book when it first came out and I didn’t read Psychos, but am definitely going to go back and do so now after this one. I forgot how much I liked them! Babe uses a lot of slang and a lot of modern references, which will date the book over time, but it is great for now. I really enjoyed reading about her developing more of a family relationship with the characters in this book and seeing how “normal” people live. She also gets to learn a bit of responsibility in this book. Though she can be a bit obnoxious in her behaviors and how spoiled she is, I still find it really entertaining, because I know I would be the exact same way if I was wealthy. 🙂 I’m not sure if it’s good to admit that or not, but there it is.

If you’re looking for a fun read this summer, then this would be it! I can’t say that I’ll be buying it for my school library due to content, but I will definitely recommend to some friends.

My rating: 5/5

All the Missing Girls

23212667 All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 6/28/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

My thoughts:

Obviously, this synopsis got my attention, because I requested this book even though I hadn’t read the author before. I knew she was a young adult author writing this novel for adults, which doesn’t always work out so well…but it was good here. This story made you think all the way through since it is told in reverse. It starts at Day 15 and works back to Day 1. Since you read it this way, you have to remember what the characters know and don’t know yet all the time, which makes for an interesting read. There are also flashbacks thrown in, which can get quite confusing if you aren’t focusing enough. All that being said, the mystery was quite compelling and wasn’t really predictable.

This book was compared to Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, etc. and I have to say that was a pretty fair comparison in my opinion…not nearly as dark as Gone Girl, but still a good mess-with-your-head book. The author did a good job of making the characters very real, some extremely unlikable (Corinne) and some kind of creepy. I wasn’t majorly into it at first, but at about the 60% point, I couldn’t put it down…good thing I’m off work for the summer and can stay up late reading. I was satisfied with the ending, but it wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to work out. I realize this review is pretty vague, but I don’t want to give away any details.

I would recommend this to my friends and family, but probably won’t buy for my school library.

My rating: 4/5

Gifted

25689031 Gifted by H.A. Swain

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 6/14/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

In Orpheus Chanson’s world, geniuses and prodigies are no longer born or honed through hard work. Instead, procedures to induce Acquired Savant Abilities (ASAs) are now purchased by the privileged. And Orpheus’s father holds the copyright to the ASA procedure.
Zimri Robinson, a natural musical prodigy, is a “plebe”–a worker at the enormous warehouse that supplies an on-line marketplace that has supplanted all commerce. Her grueling schedule and her grandmother’s illness can’t keep her from making music–even if it is illegal.
Orpheus and Zimri are not supposed to meet. He is meant for greatness; she is not. But sometimes, rules are meant to be broken. Here is a thriller, love story, and social experiment that readers will find gripping–and terrifying.

My thoughts:

I did finish this book, though I almost quit a few times because I just wasn’t excited about it. BUT, I was interested enough to find out what happened, so I guess that makes it still decent. Basically, this futuristic (but not too futuristic to be unimaginable) society is divided into Plutes and Plebes, which are like the elites and the working class. Plebes, like Zimri, work in a warehouse (ahem, Amazon) gathering items purchased by Plutes to be immediately delivered by drones…we’re getting to that point, folks. Plutes, like Orpheus, undergo a surgery as teens that gives them a special skills, like music or writing, in order to become famous and entertain the society.

The book is told in alternating viewpoints between Orpheus and Zimri as they come together under some kind of unusual circumstances. Orpheus gets to see what the world is like for those less privileged than he while working with Zimri at Amazon (oops, I mean Corp X) and learning about her life. Zimri spends a majority of the book worried about her grandmother, who has developed dementia, and how she will care for her with no extra money or help. Orpheus can relate to her a little more than he would have ever imagined as they become closer. At the same time, Orpheus has been declared missing in the Plute world and no one seems to care. Should he bother to even return or stay in Zimri’s world?

I can see some of my students finding this book really interesting, especially all the techy stuff, but I’m not sure they will make the same connections as I did as an adult reading it. It could make for some interesting discussion. With that being said, I will purchase the book for my school library, but I can’t promise that I will remember to recommend it.

My rating: 3/5

 

Girl Against the Universe

22297294 Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Summary from Goodreads:

Maguire is bad luck.
No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.
It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

My thoughts:

I kept seeing people talking about this book on Twitter and praising it, so I knew I had to read it as soon as I could fit it in with all my ARCs I need to read. I had already ordered it for my school library and it came in the last week of school, so I nabbed it to read over the summer. I picked this up Monday night and was finished with it by Wednesday night. I get the hype now and I am impressed as well. Maguire’s story is told so well and makes her mental health issues seem so relatable. I have read books before that make it pretty clear that one mental health issue doesn’t not usually show up alone and this book did a great job of explaining why those problems tend to build upon one another. Poor Maguire has PTSD, which leads to some OCD tendencies, and anxiety, and so on. Almost everyone that reads this book will be able to relate to the way she feels at some point in the book.

Maguire feels cursed and thinks that she is to blame for all the bad things that happen to people around her, so she has secluded herself for the most part. She has started to meet with a therapist, who helps her develop challenges to meet her ultimate goal of being able to travel for a memorial in Ireland for her father. In the process, she meets Jordy, who is dealing with problems of his own, and they are able to help each other along the way. I actually really adored Maguire and Jordy’s love story, which is not a usual thing for me. 🙂 I reminded me a bit of Finch and Violet in All the Bright Places, which is an all-time favorite of mine. I can really see some of my students loving this book and I can’t wait to recommend it when school starts again in August. Great read!

My rating: 5/5

 

Being Jazz

28698224 Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

**This review is based on an ARC received at BEA/BookCon 2016, release date 6/7/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Teen activist and trailblazer Jazz Jennings named one of The 25 Most Influential Teens of the year by “Time” shares her very public transgender journey, as she inspires people to accept the differences in others while they embrace their own truths.
Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series “I Am Jazz” making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.
In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community. But it hasn’t all been easy. Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet she perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Through it all, her family has been beside her on this journey, standing together against those who don’t understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence particularly high school complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy especially when you began your life in a boy s body.

My thoughts:

I didn’t meet Jazz at BookCon, but I was glad to pick this ARC up because I am always looking for good memoirs/biographies to add to my high school’s library collection. Our curriculum requires students to read a memoir for English class and some other teachers require a nonfiction title for a book report during the year as well. I love finding titles with familiar faces and topics that are interesting to my students. I am not a nonfiction reader myself in most cases, but I do enjoy a lot of memoirs, so I happily read this one. I was able to read it all in almost one sitting and found the writing to be wonderful and very readable for teens. I could easily recommend this to any of my students, even those with a lower reading level.

A lot of teens already know who Jazz is from social media and/or TV, so this is a chance to learn more about her. However, I think that even those who don’t know her would still gladly pick this one up and read about an interesting topic. I thought it was great learning about what Jazz felt like growing up and how others treated her. She has overcome so many challenges and loves who she is as a person, which is a great message to send to teens no matter what! I also like that this book has great interactive qualities…I found myself going to watch YouTube videos of the interviews she had done and more while reading and after I was done. There are also great resources for those wanting to learn more included. Jazz’s story flowed well and moved quickly, it did not feel like “factual” reading at all.

Overall, this book sends a great message about loving yourself and knowing who you are, and I will be ordering multiple copies for my library, as well as sharing this ARC with others!

My rating: 5/5

The Leaving

26073074 The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 6/7/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They’re sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn’t really recognize the person she’s supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they’re entirely unable to recall where they’ve been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn’t come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max’s sister Avery, who needs to find her brother–dead or alive–and isn’t buying this whole memory-loss story.

My thoughts:

I wasn’t sure about this one ahead of time and there were mixed reviews on Goodreads from those that had already read ARCs, but I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I almost quit reading about 10% of the way through, because the galley eBook was pretty confusing as far as formatting went. I thought it was an interesting concept though, and it wasn’t super long, so I went ahead and read the whole thing.

I am not super impressed, but also happy that I finished it to find out what happened. I wasn’t sure where this mystery was going and I’m not entirely sure that I’m happy with where it went, but I’m also still kind of processing I think. Perhaps, when I see the finished copy with correct formatting, it will make more sense. The story was told in an interesting way, from a few different viewpoints of those that had different experiences with “the leaving”–Scarlett, Lucas, and Avery mostly– so that kept the pace quick. I read the whole thing in about 2 days and I think a lot of my students would find it to be a fast read as well. I wish we had heard more from some of the other characters, like Kristen for example. I think she would have had some interesting experiences to share. I think this is a stand-alone title, so I’m not sure that will happen, but I would be open to reading it if I had time. I will buy this book for my high school library, and will probably recommend it to those that like mysteries…if I can remember it by the time school starts again. Book nerd problems! 🙂

My rating: 3.5/5