Jun 25, 2017

Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han


Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
My Rating: 3/5 Stars
Hardcover, 336 Pages
Published May 2nd, 2017

Summary: Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding. But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind. When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to? 

I've been a big fan of Jenny Han ever since I read To All The Boys I've Loved Before, so when I found out that she was going to be at BookCon signing copies of Always and Forever, Lara Jean, I was beyond excited. I was happy to begin with because this series was never expected to be a trilogy, so this was a nice little ending that tied up all of the loose ends that I wasn't expecting, and as always, the Song girls are always a delight to read about.

So at BookCon, Emily and I were walking around and just exploring the show floor before some signings, when we came across a short-looking line that didn't require much waiting, and we decided to jump on it just because. We couldn't see what the line led to, because it was around the bend...but it turns out that it was Jenny Han and Morgan Matson doing photo ops with fans, and then they were also serving coffee and cookies to fans, and giving away some super adorable swag and nail decals and stuff, so I got a chance to meet Jenny (and Morgan!) in person, and she was so sweet and adorable and was wearing the cutest outfit, and there entire little meetup was so great to go to, even if it was stumbled upon accidentally! Honestly, it was one of the highlights of the first day of BookCon for me.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing
Morgan, Me, and Jenny!

My boyfriend also took some adorable pictures of my swag and my signed copy of the book that I got at the event, and he takes really great photos, so check it out!

Image Credit: Santiago Rolon

Okay, now onto my actual review of the book itself. This is the final book in the trilogy, and it pretty much covers Lara Jean's senior year of high school. There are college applications (and then, of course, college decisions), prom, graduation, and even a wedding. Her and Peter's relationship seems to be on the upswing, but then something happens that they don't account for (which I won't spoil for you!), and things just get...tricky. Lara Jean, who absolutely hates change -- which I can totally relate to, because I'm the same way -- isn't ready for all of the ways that her life is about to 

As for what I really liked about this book, as always with Jenny Han's books, is that it's an adorable romance. I've shipped Peter and Lara Jean's relationship from the very beginning, even when things were a little rocky between them, and I especially loved how adorably Peter got along with Lara Jean's younger sister, Kitty, and just her family overall. I also see a lot of myself in Lara Jean, specifically with how she loves to get creative and plan things, and, as I just mentioned, how she hates change. I found this book very easy to relate to, possibly because I was in her shoes last year, with college decisions, actually going away to school (rather than only being 15 or so minutes from home, I'm a good hour and a half or so), people she was leaving behind, and all of the common stress and anxiety that just comes with going away to school. So I understood everything that Lara Jean was feeling, and all of the worries that came along with it.

It was just refreshing for me to look back through the senior year feelings and events that happened to me over an entire year ago. It felt nice to revisit them, which is what I really liked. Call me crazy, but I actually miss college applications, getting decisions, yearbooks, prom, and graduation. Today is actually an entire year since my graduation party, so yeah, I can definitely confirm that I miss it. And who better for me to experience it again with than Lara Jean? This book was honestly so adorable and lighthearted (even though it contained some serious moments), and I enjoyed it a lot. I finished this book in less than a day because I kept wanting to read more and more of Lara Jean's final story, and I just couldn't tear myself away. 

By the time I finished the book, I felt satisfied. I'm usually pretty sad when a series is over for good, but I feel like all of my questions were answered. There are no loose ends left untied -- Jenny Han makes sure of that. I closed this book with a feeling of finality and satisfaction, while also feeling just the tiniest bit sad that this series and these characters that I have gone on to know and love are officially moving on. But I'm happy with the way that the book ended. I really am.

There was really only one thing that I wasn't crazy about this book, and that's what kept me from giving this book a little bit higher of a rating. I don't know if it's just something that I'm reading into too much (haha, #bookpuns), or if that was Jenny Han's intention all along, but at times I felt like Lara Jean was a lot less mature than she should be for her age. It just made the story hard to read at times, because during certain scenes I felt like Lara Jean's narrative voice sounded more like somebody who was in middle school than somebody who was about to graduate college and go off into the world as an adult. Maybe that's just Lara Jean's style, because it's definitely consistent throughout the three books, but that's really the one thing about her that I wasn't entirely in love with. 

Overall, I liked Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I feel like Jenny Han wrapped up the trilogy perfectly, and like I said, although I'm sad to see Lara Jean go, I'm glad that we got an extra book out of her adorable world and story. If Jenny Han writes some more stories in the future, you know that I'll definitely be on board to read them.

Jun 24, 2017

Review: Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver

Title: Pandemonium (Delirium #2) 
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary: In this follow-up to Delirium, Lena is on a dangerous course that takes her through the unregulated "Wilds" and into the heart of a growing resistance movement.

After reading Delirium, I had so many questions as to what happens next. Pandemonium did answer some of those but now I have even more questions! I honestly think the questions will never end.

There wasn't much of a summary to this book which I found slightly confusing because you always want some sort of summary, right? Pandemonium was told in two alternating perspectives; then and now. The then portion covers the events that take place right after Lena makes it over the wall and gets taken in by group from the Wilds. Here, Lena learns about their Homestead and how things work in the Wilds. The now portion covers the events that take place while Lena is in Manhattan as she takes part in the resistance.

Lena is told to follow Julian Fineman, the youth leader of the DFA (Deliria Free America), during a major DFA rally. After an unexpected attack, Lena, determined to stick to what she was told to do, follows Julian underground. After searching for Julian, the unthinkable happens, forcing Lena and Julian to work together for there own safety. After Lena finds out what was really going on, she takes a major risk to try and save the ones she cares for most.

Okay, to begin, I felt the "then" parts of the book were not needed. Maybe if the book was split into two parts it would have made more sense or if there was even just a prologue explaining how Lena was saved and by who in the beginning. The switching back and forth confused me before I realized what it was and I really only wanted to read the parts of the book where Lena was in Manhattan as part of the resistance. 

Minor spoilers (skip to last paragraph)

I did like that Julian was able to set aside him and Lena's differences in order to work together. I felt he basically knew right away that Lena wasn't actually cured. I mean they really only had each other. I also loved that Lena was so willing to risk her own safety to try and save Julian.

Although that ending had me wanting to rip my heart out and stomp all over it, I enjoyed the second book. Like I said some parts weren't needed and some I loved. Now I'm hoping the final book is the best of them all. 

Jun 22, 2017

Book Blitz: Something Beautiful by Amanda Gernentz Hanson

Something Beautiful
Amanda Gernentz Hanson
Published by: Pen Name Publishing
Publication date: June 27th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Cordelia and Declan have been best friends since they were three years old. By the time they hit middle school, Cordelia—Cord, to Declan—is already feeling the blackness in her life as depression takes hold. Their mutual attraction to each other leads to a serious high school relationship, one with their foundation of friendship at the forefront. Cordelia seems to have her mental health under control. All appears to be well.
However, when Declan starts to accept his own fluid sexuality, it sets something in motion in their lives that is both beautiful and tragic as they learn to love each other for who they are.
Chapter 1—Now

October 2014
“Fresh off of her book tour, I have here an advocate who is actively involved in fighting inequality in her daily life. I give you, Cordelia Quinn!” The rally organizer steps aside, and I can finally see the crowd. I wave, and the rally organizer gives me a dazzling smile before she continues. “Cordelia Quinn is the bestselling author of The Yellow Wood, a coming-of-age story about a boy and a girl who are best friends as children but choose different paths as adults and then come together later in life. She is also an award-winning screenwriter and one of the most outspoken LGBTQ allies in publishing. Please join me in welcoming her to the podium!” The crowd breaks into thunderous applause that echoes through the cold air, and a smile pulls at the corners of my mouth.
I can’t lie—I’m nervous. I’m not good at hiding my emotions, so I’m afraid that people might be able to tell. I hate crowds, and I hate public speaking. I’ve managed to avoid it ever since I spoke at high school graduation.
“Hello, Topeka,” I begin. My voice is shaking. God, I hope no one notices.
The crowd is rumbling below me, waiting for me to say something good. I’m not even sure I have anything good to say. I’m so bad at this. But I’ve learned that being honest is usually the best way to go, so I decide to veer away from my prepared speech and try for candor.
“I’m going to admit something to you,” I say, gripping the sides of the podium to keep my hands from trembling. I can’t be trusted to hold papers or they’ll be shaking so much that I can’t read them. “I’m not a fan of public speaking, and I don’t usually speak at rallies like this one. But this issue… it’s really important to me. Those of you who have read my book know that. So, when my publicist asked me to come here and talk to you, I couldn’t really turn her down.”
The crowd cheers, and I smile and take a deep breath. With each breath, I feel more at ease, more comfortable speaking up here in front of everyone. I close my eyes for a second, trying to center myself. I see my children’s faces, and my grin widens.
“Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say,” I continue, gaining confidence. “I believe in equality. I believe in love. And I believe that the government should not tell us who we are allowed to love and marry.” At this, all I can think about are the people I left at home—the people who I love, the person I married. I’m lucky. I’ve never had to fight for those rights. “The politicians who are fighting against marriage equality are all active in their conservative churches—well, ladies and gentlemen, I find two issues with that. First, this country was founded on the separation of church and state—it’s in the First Amendment of the Constitution. What ever happened to that?”
I’m on a roll now. My hands have stopped shaking and everything.
“And second, marriage isn’t just about love. Anyone who has made that kind of commitment to someone can tell you that. There are legal rights that come with marriage that should be available to everyone, no matter who they love!”
I can’t help it. I start looking for him. He’s here. I can feel it.
And then I see him, and my face breaks open into the giddy sort of smile I wish I could contain. I knew he’d come. We’ve been apart for weeks now while I’ve been on my book tour, and I’ve missed him so much. Almost as much as I’ve missed the kids. God, I wish they were here with me.
As I make eye contact with him, an idea strikes. I decide to roll with it. “I’m very pleased to tell you that the person who inspired my book is with us tonight. I’d like to call him up here, so that you can meet the first man I ever loved—Declan MacLeod. Come up here, Dec!”
People turn to look at him as he shakes his head and starts moving toward me. I can nearly feel my body vibrating. I can’t wait to be next to him again, to feel his warm hand in mine. My smile is so big it feels like it’s going to split my face in two.
“I’m going to kill you,” he whispers in my ear as he wraps his arms around me. I want him to hold me forever, to never let go of me, to keep me safe and warm wrapped in his strong arms. But we’re in front of all of these people. He has to let go.
“No, you’re not,” I murmur back. “You’re better at this stuff than I am. Tell them something. Anything.” He starts chewing on his bottom lip as he thinks, and I throw him a sharp look. I’ve been on him about that since high school, but he always slips back into the old habit when we’re apart.
He makes his way to the podium and clears his throat. “Hello,” he starts as he waves at the crowd. “I had no idea that I was going to be speaking here tonight, so I apologize if what I say doesn’t make any sense.” He takes a deep breath and glances back at me. “As Cordelia mentioned, I’m Declan MacLeod. I grew up across the street from her in Hamden, Connecticut. Now, I spend most of my time in New York, performing on Broadway.”

The crowd is hypnotized, and I don’t blame them. I’ve been told that, together, Dec and I are hypnotic. We have an energy. I’m not sure I agree—I think he’s the one who radiates energy and charisma, whose skin feels electrifying, no matter how many times I touch it.

As I watch him look out into the crowd, I know one thing—he’s everything. He’s my reason, my why. He’s it for me. I’d be nothing without him.

Author Bio:
Amanda Gernentz Hanson has been writing stories since the third grade, when she entered a five-page story about talking dogs into a local youth arts contest. She is an instructional designer by day and an everything else by night. Amanda is a proud Latina who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Hope College and her Master’s degree in Technical Communication from Minnesota State University. You can find her on the internet at browneyedtwentysomething.com, diverseladybookproject.tumblr.com, and on Twitter and Instagram @amandamariegh. If you see her in the wild, she probably has a book in her purse.


We'd like to thank XPresso Book Tours for allowing us to be a part of this book blitz and giveaway! Best of luck to everyone who enters!