Sunday, January 25, 2015

I Was Here with Hope and Tears

Gayle Forman has a new book coming out this Tuesday! *squeals* I managed to grab an ARC of I Was Here and I devoured it within 24 hours. Cody’s journey is internal, heartfelt and tearful, and I adored it from first page to last.


I Was Here

When her best friend, Meg, drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.


My Thoughts
I Was Here is a deep, dark journey on the path of grief. Cody lost her best friend, Meg, and she has no explanation for why Meg decided to commit suicide. After finding something suspicious on Meg's laptop, Cody dives into a suicide mystery that takes her into the abyss of her soul.

I won’t dive deeper into my thoughts on Cody's journey because spoilers, but I do want to say that I cried at the end. There was a moment that Cody’s mom played a pivotal role, and it just reminded me so much of something my parents did for me once. The scene struck a chord with me, which reminded me that Forman’s writing is realistic. Suicide is a hard topic to tackle, yet Forman writes about its aftermath without romanticizing or justifying the act itself. She tackles it head-on, managing to be honest without being upsetting.

Then there’s Ben. I like Ben. A lot. He’s layered (as are all of Forman’s characters) and imperfect. He’s troubled in his own right, and affected by Meg’s death as he was one of her friends from her first semester of college. When Cody goes to Meg's college to collect her belongings, she meets Ben. They can’t seem to interact without sarcasm or yelling or general disdain but grief will do that to people. Yet, Cody and Ben keep meeting up, and they start getting to know one another as Cody explores the circumstances of Meg's death.

As I read the last page of I Was Here, I was struck by the novel’s poignancy, its strength and the resounding hope. I’m baffled by and thankful for its truth. It ended with hope and tears, which is how the best books end.


My #IWasHere Moment
I’ve been some places. I haven’t been around the world, but I have been around Western Europe. I always thought Mont Saint-Michel was incredible, however unreachable. But when I studied abroad in Belgium, our group took a trip to this out-of-the-way island town on the French coast.


Sometimes when I look back, I still can't believe that #IWasHere.


Share your #IWasHere moments below!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Seven Authors to Read if You Love The Maze Runner

A couple weekends ago, I finally watched The Maze Runner! It has non-stop action, gasp-worthy thrills and a cliffhanger that makes me want to read the rest of the series. (I read TMR in 2009.) In short, I loved it! The Scorch Trials (which is filming now) is on my TBR pile, along with the rest of the series. But with so many people diving into The Maze Runner, it got me thinking about authors and books to read after finishing book. Here are some of my suggestions:
Joelle Charbonneau
When Cia gets chosen for The Testing, she realizes it’s not the straight-forward program for future leaders that she thought it was. This trilogy has a strong female lead, moments of astonishing terror and threads of romance. The Testing is followed by Independent Study and Graduation Day, and is an exciting dystopian trilogy!
James Dashner
What better to read after The Maze Runner than the rest of the series? Okay, so this may be cheating a bit, but after finishing The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure are the logical next step. The prequel The Kill Order and Dashner’s other series Eye of Minds, should be on the list too! The latter is a technological thriller, where Michael is a gamer and a hacker.  
Michael Grant
In the span of a moment, all the adults disappear. Phones stop working; there’s no internet or television. Just teenagers remain, and they can’t figure out what happened. This is the premise of Gone, which begins a six book series that’s reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. Grant has two other thrilling series, BZRK and one that began a few months ago: Messenger of Fear.
Emmy Laybourne
Fourteen kids ranging from elementary age to high schools are trapped inside a superstore during a series of escalating disasters. With apocalypse banging down the door, this trilogy is an exhilarating tale of survival and adventure with a monster cliffhanger that will make you want to dive into the rest of the trilogy, Sky on Fire and Savage Drift, right away.

Marie Lu
In a future where the United States is split into two, June is a prodigy and Day is a wanted criminal. Their paths cross, of course, and the results are action-packed. The trilogy is one of my favorite dystopians! I have yet to read The Young Elites, but it’s on my TBR list!
Neal Shusterman
After America’s Second Civil War, Unwinding is a common practice. Children between age thirteen and eighteen can be unwound, meaning all their organs are transplanted to various recipients. Conner, Risa and Lev are runaway Unwinds whose paths intersect. With death on the line, issues of morality are tested in the Unwind Quartet. Shusterman has many other series and books worth diving into as well.
Rick Yancey
Alien invasion doesn’t exactly equal dystopian future, but something that’s vital to Thomas’ story in The Maze Runner is his ability to survive, which runs deep in Cassie’s story. Cassie’s survived four waves of the alien invasion, but now she’s on her own, searching for her brother, as The Fifth Wave begins. A movie version is coming in just over a year, and the sequel, The Infinite Sea, was released over the summer.
What authors and books do you recommend for fans of The Maze Runner?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Bright Places of Life

Shortly after the new year, I dived into my first read of 2015: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven! This book is getting a lot of buzz because it's powerful, deals with real issues and is a natural read for anyone who loves The Fault in Our Stars.

All the Bright Places
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.


My Thoughts
Finch and Violet meet atop a clock tower one school day. Finch is quirky, individualistic and unlike anyone I've ever known (in a good way). I fell in love with him in the first few chapters! Violet is more wrapped within herself. She's removed (due to grief) but she's smart and honest. Even though it took a bit longer, I really connected with her personality. From their first fateful meeting, they're tied together.  
In the only class they have together, Finch and Violet are assigned a semester-long project to wander Indiana. The travel to Hoosier Hill and many other unusual, hidden sites of Indiana. I have to admit that learning about the intricacies of Indiana was one of the great aspects about this book for me! Another thing I loved about All the Bright Places is that Germ Magazine is an actual website! It's just like Violet brainstormed in the book, and so much more. There are sections on life, love and lit. Also there’s a Be Lovely section, and one on Bright Places. Seriously, this site is one of my new favorite things!
All the Bright Places deals with suicide, mental illness, abuse, bullying and loss. That's a lot of tough stuff for one YA novel, but Niven writes Finch and Violet and their interwoven experiences with a measured, knowing hand. The issues are dealt with in an honest fashion, and are not diluted or side-stepped. Finch and Violet's experiences widened my worldview and I'm grateful that I could dive into their heart-breaking yet hopeful story.
And I'm so glad that All the Bright Places was my first read of 2015!

My Bright Places
Bright Places are small, simple things that make one happy on a daily basis. They're places traveled--real or imagined--and loved. They're people who brighten the everyday. All the Bright Places made me think about life in a new way and helped me recognize my own Bright Places! Here are some of them: 

Amelia Island, Florida
Reading by the pool
The Irish Coast
Holidays at my parents house
Exploring Indy

 Planes landing at night
Peppermint tea
Singing on my commute (usually to T Swift)
Working with books
Reading books
Writing books
Loving books

Have you read All the Bright Places? If so, what did you think? If not, I highly recommend it! What are some of your Bright Places? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Five Things I Want from YA in 2015

In 2014, I fell in love with The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson and A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. I adored debuts by Anne Blankman and Emery Lord. I went to theaters for the big screen adaptations of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay. There was a new Scott Westerfeld book (Afterworlds!) and I’m still struggling to let go of Leigh Bardugo’s Alina, Laini Taylor’s Karou and Stephanie Perkin’s Anna, Lola and Isla. Also in 2014, I discovered #WeNeedDiverseBooks and vowed to read more diversely.  

Basically, 2014 was awesome. Here’s what I’m excited/desperate/hoping for from 2015!

Fantastic Debuts
Right now I’m reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and I’m loving it! Technically, she’s not a debut author, but this is her YA debut, and that counts in my book! I’m excited for other debuts like Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi and The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall (which I’ve already read and loved and it comes out next week!).


Sequels/Series Continuations
The Winner’s Crime, The Heart of Betrayal, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, Throne of Glass #4, The Heir, Winter. SO MUCH WANT! 2014 was a great year for series beginnings and I can’t wait for their sequels and other series continuations!

More Diversity in Books and Movies
Well, I pretty much want this always. More diversity on the shelves and at the theaters. And it'd be nice if (particularly in the case of YA books) their covers reflected their diversity. One of my goals for 2015 (see last week's post) is to read more diversely. I even made a list of seven diverse books I want to read this year and hung it behind my desk!


Books from My Favorite Authors
All Fall Down by Ally Carter, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and A Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot. I’ve sampled all these and WOW! I can barely wait a couple weeks for the start to Carter's new series (I've already pre-ordered the signed edition, thank you very much!), let alone wait until May and June for the other two! Now just give me a new J.K. Rowling fantasy series and I’m set for life!


Things I mentioned last January that I’m still waiting on
This includes: a new John Green book and the Next Big Thing. The former is self-explanatory, but the latter… well, maybe John Green is the next big thing? Vampires, then dystopia, and maybe now it’s realistic fiction? (I refuse to call it ‘sick lit.’) It’s been argued that realistic fiction isn’t a trend, as it’s always there and it's always popular. But maybe the John Green/Rainbow Rowell/Gayle Forman brand of realistic fiction is the next trend? Or maybe if Stephenie Meyer was the forefront of the vampire trend, and Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games was the kick-start to the dystopian trend, maybe John Green is the beginning of the next trend? I suppose this remains to be seen.


Here's hoping for an awesome 2015!