29218968.jpg Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley.

Summary from Goodreads:

Lily Bennett is less than thrilled to be the new kid as she starts her junior year in high school.
But soon after classes begin, she meets a classmate, Cole Drepeau, with whom she forms an immediate and intimate bond. As Cole and Lily grow closer, Lily learns about the murder that divided the town more than thirty years before. In 1985, graduating senior Amber Greeley snapped, killing her boyfriend Ben—Cole’s uncle—and taking her own life.
Lily feels inexplicably linked to Amber, and she can’t help but think that there’s more to the girl’s story. Determined to investigate the truth about Cole’s uncle’s death, Lily and Cole are pulled into a dark mystery—one that shakes the constraints of the world they’ve always believed in.

My thoughts:

I really, really enjoyed this book! I read another title by this author a few years ago and liked it as well, and I thought the synopsis of this one was interesting. I wish I had finished it before the release date, but here I am a little late. From the beginning, the story was entertaining as it flipped back and forth between current day (Lily) and past (Amber). Lily can’t figure out why everything in her new town seems so familiar and why she recognizes people that she couldn’t possible know. She learns about a girl named Amber, who was accused of killing her boyfriend and then herself several years ago. She then meets Cole, and figures out that he is related to Amber’s boyfriend and they set out together to figure out what actually happened all those years ago. I really liked how the stories went together so well…just as Lily was figuring out something to do with the murder, the story would switch back to Amber and what was happening during her time along the same lines. I was excited to go to bed each night and pick this one up, and even though I wasn’t all that surprised at the ending, I still hadn’t quite figured it out until I got there. I will definitely be recommending this one to my high school students. It’s an interesting take on a classic type of mystery. Though I don’t think I really believe in reincarnation, it was fun to read about.

My rating: 5/5

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The Lovely Reckless

27414434.jpg The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date is 10/4/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.
Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

My thoughts:

Who can resist a good girl meets bad boy story? The writing in this book reminded me a lot of books by KA Tucker and Katie McGarry, which are two authors that I love. I met Kami Garcia at BEA in Chicago last May and got a signed copy of this one as well. I really enjoyed the story and the characters, nothing felt too cheesy and the love story wasn’t too easy. Marco was a great “bad boy” and I can see why he would be someone girls would easily fall for, but he had a lot of good in him too. Frankie had a rough-go in life for a while and her back story was really interesting. I kind of figured out the connection in the story fairly early on, but was still a little surprised to find out I was correct. I also really enjoyed the very minor storyline of the homeless cat because I have a huge soft spot for stray animals. I have already ordered a copy for my school library and will be gladly putting it in the hands of some students next week I hope!

My rating: 5/5

Meeting the author:

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Holding Up the Universe (Part 2)

28671039 Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

**My opinions are based on an ARC of this book received from the publisher/author. It releases tomorrow, 10/4/16!

Read my initial thoughts about the book here.

Summary from Goodreads:

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone. 
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

My thoughts:

Well, if you don’t know by now that I’m a huge fan of this author, Jennifer Niven, where have you been?! Here’s a reminder of the excitement on my face when meeting her:

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So, the new book is FINALLY coming out…yay! I can’t wait for lots and lots of people to get to read it. I still feel strongly like I did when I originally posted that this book is not offensive to fat people and I don’t know why some would think it is, unless they are just extremely unhappy with themselves and look for any way to be negative. I accept who I am, so why would reading about someone with some of the same struggles make me angry? If anything, it makes it more enjoyable to read. I have been talking this book up to my students, especially those that I know enjoyed All the Bright Places and I have let a few read the ARC. They have enjoyed this one as well and it made them feel really special to get to read a book that wasn’t out yet. 🙂 I feel like this will be another important book that everyone should read because I think we should all read books about people that are similar, as well as very different, from us. How else do we develop compassion and empathy?

Just a side note, I have recently been diagnosed with Raynaud’s Syndrome and my fingers hurt so bad, but I am fighting through that pain to type this because I wanted it out there. I feel like Jennifer Niven deserves recognition for her writing and for being such a kind, awesome person! Thank you for another great read, Jennifer. I can’t wait to get it in my library and into the hands of many readers.

My rating: 5/5

Leave Me

28110865 Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Summary from Goodreads:

For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.
Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we’re going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.

My thoughts:

I was not super interested in this book based on the synopsis alone, but I wanted to read it since seeing it at BEA/BookCon in May. I started reading 2 days ago and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how quickly I was working my way through it. Though I could not relate to Maribeth on the level of being a mother and wife, I could relate to her just wanting to get away . You want to hate a character who just up and leaves her family, but I couldn’t bring myself to dislike her all that much. Maribeth is taking time she feels she needs and doing something for herself, which is commendable in some aspects, just maybe not the way she went about it. Anyway, I found her story while in Pittsburgh very interesting, as I can’t imagine being cut off from technology and everyone I know willingly. The other characters in the story were enjoyable as well.

Though I do feel the book wrapped up too neatly and nicely, I still enjoyed the process of getting to that point. I thought the story was wonderfully written, which I was unsure about, because I don’t remember exactly loving or hating If I Stay, which is a young adult book by the same author. I wouldn’t mind reading a sequel to this just to find out what happens with Maribeth’s family. I will purchase this for my library and recommend to my family, friends, and colleagues.

My rating: 4/5

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 9/6/16.

Quick Review: Damaged

28203746 Damaged by Lisa Scottoline

My thoughts:

This is exactly what I have come to expect from a Lisa Scottoline book. I wasn’t sure about reading it because I have not read the others in this particular series (read almost everything else by her though!), but I found it was not necessary to have read the ones before this. I just love Lisa’s writing style and storytelling skills. I am not normally much of a mystery fan, but I always pick up her new titles immediately. I liked Mary as a character, and I particularly liked that this book focused on a special education case since I am in the education field also. It was a bit of a heart-breaking story; but, unfortunately, all too real and possible. I will highly recommend this book to my colleagues, most of which I have already gotten hooked on Lisa’s books.  Lisa has quickly become one of my favorite, go-to authors over the past 2 years.

My rating: 5/5

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 8/16/16.

The Singles Game

27276380 The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 7/12/16.

Summary from Goodreads:

Charlotte “Charlie” Silver has always been a good girl. She excelled at tennis early, coached by her father, a former player himself, and soon became one of the top juniors in the world. When she leaves UCLA—and breaks her boyfriend’s heart—to turn pro, Charlie joins the world’s best athletes who travel eleven months a year, competing without mercy for Grand Slam titles and Page Six headlines.
After Charlie suffers a disastrous loss and injury on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, she fires her longtime coach and hires Todd Feltner, a legend of the men’s tour, who is famous for grooming champions. Charlie is his first-ever female player, and he will not let her forget it. He is determined to change her good-girl image—both on the court and off—and transform her into a ruthless competitor who will not only win matches and climb the rankings, but also score magazine covers and seven-figure endorsement deals. Her not-so-secret affair with the hottest male player in the world, sexy Spaniard Marco Vallejo, has people whispering, and it seems like only a matter of time before the tabloids and gossip blogs close in on all the juicy details. Charlie’s ascension to the social throne parallels her rising rank on the women’s tour—but at a major price.

My thoughts:

Let me start by saying that I love this author, I have read all of her books since I first read The Devil Wears Prada and have enjoyed them all. I was excited to get approved for this one, and then I realized it was about tennis…which is something I am not remotely interested in. BUT, like any good author can do, Lauren made me interested in something that I normally wouldn’t be. I also learned a lot about the game of tennis, and it’s always fun to learn something new!

I love Charlie’s character and found her struggles relatable, even though I’m nothing close to being an athlete.  I also liked the “Hollywood” factor that was involved in the story–gossip, affairs, and all. I also really liked Charlie’s brother, Jake, throughout the story and found myself rooting for him to find a happy relationship. I hated Marco, but could understand why Charlie was drawn to him–we all like the bad boy that everyone else wants sometimes.

Overall, I just really enjoy this author’s writing style: sometimes snarky and always entertaining. I am wondering if there will be a follow-up book…I would definitely be open to reading it if so. Another great read by an already great author! I will recommend to friends and family.

My rating: 5/5

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