BOOK REVIEW: The Start Of Me And You – by Emery Lord

Title: The Start of Me And You
Author: Emery Lord

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 31st 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Finished reading: April 14th 2017
Pages: 376

“In books, sometimes the foreshadowing is so obvious that you know what’s going to happen. But knowing what happens isn’t the same as knowing how it happens. Getting there is the best part.”

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Confession: contemporary romance is not really my thing and I normally tend to avoid the genre… But I was in desperate need for a change of genre and I enjoyed Emery Lord‘s other story When We Collided, so I decided to give The Start Of Me And You a go. I didn’t read the blurb before I started and I thought it was going to be a ‘happy’ read, so it’s easy to say I was surprised when I was confronted with another case of grief instead. Although the sad part was mostly in the beginning. The writing style itself is very enjoyable to read and I literally flew through the pages. Like many YA contemporary romance novels I’ve read in the past, the plot of The Start Of Me And You is quite cheesy and predictable and unfortunately this is yet another story with one of the most annoying romance tropes possible: a love triangle. And quite a frustrating love triangle as well as the main character Paige is SO blind during most of the story! I had mixed thoughts about the characters (LOVED Max, wasn’t so sure of Paige for example), but I did enjoy all those little geeky elements that were included. Like I said before, about 90% of the story is way too cheesy for me and the plot was quite predictable, but I can see why fans of the genre would love The Start Of Me And You. I personally didn’t love it, but I did enjoy it better than I thought I would. Without doubt an easy, entertaining and fluffy read!

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Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident last year, and she is still struggling to get her life back on track. People still feel sorry for her and give her THAT LOOK all the time, but Paige has a plan this time for a fresh start at her high school. Five simple steps that should help her convince everyone she’s back to normal… Including finally getting her old crush Ryan Chase to date her. But that plan will not work out as she thought it would… And she might end up doing something completely different instead.

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If you are a fan of slightly cheesy, predictable but incredibly fluffy YA contemporary romance stories, you will probably end up loving The Start Of Me And You. Personally it was a little too sweet to my taste, but it was a rather welcome break from more ‘serious’ books… This story starts out a little sad, but is mostly about Paige trying to get her life back on track. It’s a cute read, but the love triangle did get quite annoying after a while (especially since Max is so adorkable!). All in all not the best I’ve read, but without doubt still satisfying.


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BOOK REVIEW: History Is All You Left Me – by Adam Silvera

Title: History Is All You Left Me
Author: Adam Silvera

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: January 17th 2017
Publisher: Soho Teen
Finished reading: March 31st 2017
Pages: 320

“People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished. Sometimes that’s for the best. Some pieces can’t be forced into a puzzle, or at least they shouldn’t be, because they won’t make sense.”

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This title has been on my list of most anticipated releases ever since I first heard about it and is also a case of insta-coverlove (I’m sure I’m not the only one on both counts). It took me longer than I hoped to be able to finally pick up my copy of History Is All You Left Me, but I’m definitely glad I finally did. I can completely understand why so many people seem to love this book now! It’s true my own expectations were set just a tiny bit too high, but there is no doubt that this newest novel by Adam Silvera is a great read. The writing style is excellent as well as the character development, and it definitely would be wise to keep a box of tissues ready. Because History Is All You Left Me is filled raw, realistic emotions and talks about both grief and how to deal with the death of someone close. It might not have been the 5 star read I was expecting, but that doesn’t take away I was thoroughly absorbed by the story and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew how the story ended. The characters are realistic and have their own little quirks… And while some things about certain characters annoyed me a little, they were able to win me over anyway. Kuddos to the author for the inclusion of OCD in the plot and I loved the different relationships. True, I felt the whole story was a bit messy, but mostly a good messy. If you are a fan of the genre, realistic and quirky characters and don’t mind a healthy dose of sad, you will probably love History Is All You Left Me.

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Theo was Griffin’s first love, and also the first time he ‘came out’. He had to let him go as Theo left for California to study last year, and now Griffin lost him all over again in a drowning accident. In an attempt to hold onto every piece of the past, he wants to talk to Theo’s last boyfriend Jackson as well. When Jackson starts to show signs of guilt, Griffin starts to suspect he is hiding something… And he is determined to find out the whole truth about Theo’s death.

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There is no doubt that History Is All You Left Me is both a well written and emotional read with excellent characters. It shows a wide variety of emotions and I loved learning more about how the different relationships started and developed. Reality is added to those emotions by the fact that the author doesn’t leave out the ‘ugly’ parts. If you like the genre, I can definitely suggest giving this one a try!


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ARC REVIEW: Goodbye Days – by Jeff Zentner

Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 7th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s / Andersen
Finished reading: March 14th 2017
Pages: 416

“For the most part, you don’t hold the people you love in your heart because they rescued you from drowning or pulled you from a burning house. Mostly you hold them in your heart because they save you, in a million quiet and perfect ways, from being alone.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s/ Andersen in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Birthday review! 😀 Because reading Goodbye Days this week was basically an early birthday present in the first place.

I absolutely loved reading Jeff Zentner‘s other novel The Serpent King earlier this year and I added Goodbye Days to my list of most anticipated releases as soon as I finished it. You can imagine my reaction when my Netgalley request was actually approved… I didn’t want to set my expectations too high after such a fantastic debut, and I kept telling myself it would be hard for Goodbye Days to outshine it. But I guess I shouldn’t have worried, because I think I have just found my new favorite Zentner novel. Basically, this story took my feelings, put them on the middle of the road and ran them over repeatedly with a bulldozer. It doesn’t happen often that a book actually manages to make me cry, but Goodbye Days managed to break my heart more than once. Brilliant prose, excellent characters and those feels!! I literally flew through the pages of this story and the characters were easy to love. And this isn’t just another YA contemporary story either; it also touches a very important topic. Thank you Goodbye Days for raising awareness to the dangers of using your phone while driving; is more dangerous than drunk driving and causes so many unnecessary accidents… Hopefully an eyeopener as well as a brilliant read! Recommended to any contempory/realistic fiction fan who doesn’t mind sad stories.

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Carver Briggs never thought something so simple as a text message could end the lives of his three best friends Mars, Eli and Blake. He didn’t think about possible consequences when he sent the text as they were driving to meet him, and while Mars was trying to answer the three friends ended up in a fatal car crash. Carver cannot stop blaming himself for the accident and it seems like he isn’t the only one… The authorities are looking into the accident to try and determine if they can press charges against him. Blake’s grandmother doesn’t blame him, and asks Carver to help remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. That leads to the idea to have memorial days for his other friends as well, but not everyone is willing to forgive… Can the goodbye days really help?

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Goodbye Days is without doubt one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I don’t think I can find something negative about it, other than that it basically broke my heart and left me nursing a book hangover. The writing style is brilliant and will have you flying through the pages as you ride the emotional rollercoaster. The characters will win over your heart and the plot is both wonderful, sad and has an important lesson. If you like the genre, Goodbye Days is a must-read!


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ARC REVIEW: Who We Were Before – by Leah Mercer

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Title: Who We Were Before
Author: Leah Mercer

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Drama
First published: October 1st 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: October 9th 2016
Pages: 256
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“I spend a lot of time inside my head. I like it there, blanketed from the world.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I requested a copy of Who We Were Before on whim from Netgalley some time ago. I’m normally not really into drama, but the blurb sounded interesting enough and I decided to give it a go anyway. It seems like yet again my intuition didn’t fail me, because this novel by Leah Mercer turned out to be an easy and fast-paced contemporary read. The ‘present/Paris’ chapters weren’t as strong as the ones set in the past, and I’m not quite sure they were all that believable either. I mean, it sounds pretty farfetched that someone like the main character Zoe can just wander around in a strange country all day without any money, and on top of that isn’t able to find her husband. That said, I enjoyed reading the chapters set in the past and it was interesting to learn more about how the two main characters first met and how it all started to go wrong… Poor little kid. The character development of both characters is very well done and they seem realistic (except for the chapters set in Paris like I mentioned before). In short, Who We Were Before is without doubt a fast-paced and interesting read for any contemporary romance/drama fan.

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It’s been two years, but both Zoe and Edward are still haunted by that terrible tragedy. Edward knows they should find a way to take healing steps together, but Zoe always seems to shut him out and he is tired. Zoe knows that it wasn’t really her fault, but she still blames herself for not being able to stop the car that killed their little son. And she cannot forget Edward’s bitter words at the time of the accident either… A weekend in Paris might be their last hope for reconciliation, but mischance sees them separated before they have even left the train station Gare du Nord. Edward and Zoe now must try and find their way back to each other and the way back to the people they were before, but is that even possible?

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If you are looking for a fast-paced and entertaining contemporary read, I can definitely recommend Who We Were Before. It has a healthy dose of drama and the character development is both well done and realistic. The story is easy to read despite the drama and the chapters set in the past are excellent. I had some minor issues with the credibility of the Paris chapters, but all in all it’s still a great read.

ARC REVIEW: We Awaken – by Calista Lynne

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Title: We Awaken
Author: Calista Lynne
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publish Date: July 14th 2016 
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Finished reading: June 27th 2016
Pages: 180
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“You know your sexuality isn’t set in stone. There are more things than just gay or straight. ”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Harmony Ink Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I was immediately intrigued when I first saw the cover and read the blurb, so when I was able to get a review copy at Netgalley I decided to read We Awaken straight away. This novel by Calista Lynne has the promise of a realistic fiction story with a paranormal touch and main characters exploring their asexuality. Especially the last part caught my attention, since asexuality isn’t something that has been written about often in YA novels as far as I am aware. And I think this interesting topic is probably the strongest feature of We Awaken, because I found the other elements kind of lacking. The story had a fast pace, the prose was easy to read and I liked the descriptions of the dream world in the beginning. I also liked the general idea behind the plot, but I wish there would have been more focus on the after effects of the accident and the dream world itself and less on the romantic scenes. Because if I have to be honest, the romantic elements are what most bothered me about this story. First of all, the relationship between Victoria and Ashlinn felt too much like insta-love; their relationship evolved so quickly that it just wasn’t credible anymore, especially for a confused teenage girl who hasn’t had any previous experience with love. The romantic babbling between the two definitely made me enjoy this story a lot less, and the scenes mostly felt awkward, forced and unnatural. The exploration of asexuality is actually quite well done, but I felt it was kind of buried under the other romantic scenes/dialogues. I probably would have liked the story a lot better if there would have been a better balance between the actual plot and romance scenes, because both Victoria’s life and the idea of two ‘creatures’ creating dreams and nightmares sound truly intriguing.

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After her father died in a car accident last year and the same accident left her brother in a coma, Victoria Dinham feels like she doesn’t have much left to look forward to. The only thing that keeps her going is her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory… But then, just before the audition in New York, an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn visits Victoria in her dream with a message from her comatose brother, claiming the two are friends. Ashlinn has the task of creating pleasant dreams for humans, while her counterpart creates nightmares… And soon Victoria finds herself looking forward more and more to her dreams with Ashlinn. In Victoria’s mind the two are starting to become close, and she is finally able to understand herself and her sexuality better with the help of the asexual Ashlinn. And then, when Victoria needs Ashlinn’s help outside the realm of dreams, she suddenly appears in front of Victoria in human form… But aren’t dreams too good to supposed to last forever?

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There is no doubt that the general idea behind the plot of We Awaken is very interesting, and I really liked the fact that it incorporates a topic that you don’t come across often in YA fiction novels: asexuality. Like I said before, that is probably the strongest feature of We Awaken, because unfortunately the story itself didn’t live up to my expectations. There was so much focus on the romance scenes that the balance with the main plot was lost, and the romance itself felt mostly unnatural, not really credible and awkward. The pace is fast though and romance fans might still really enjoy this read.

BOOK REVIEW: Love Letters Of The Dead – by Ava Dellaira

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Title: Love Letters To The Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 1st 2014
Finished reading: May 10th 2016
Pages: 336
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“There are a lot of human experiences that challenge the limits of our language,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons that we have poetry.”

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I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about this book ever since it first came out, so it’s easy to say I was a bit hesitant to read it myself. To be honest I wasn’t sure whether to read this book at all… But since I already had an e-copy and it came up as one of my TBR jar picks, I decided to just give it a go and see how things turn out. Love Letters To The Dead didn’t end up being a particularly bad read, but I wasn’t blown away by it either. While the whole ‘chapters in the form of letters’ idea seems rather original, it does look quite similar to The Perks of Being A Wallflower. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as always with a comparison there is a winner and a loser and things aren’t looking good for this Love Letters To The Dead. What I did enjoy is that the main character Laurel writes her letters to famous deceased people that are related to whatever happens in the story: Kurt Cobain, E.E. Cummings, Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse… Those elements (especially the music and poetry references) were a nice touch to an otherwise quite repetitive story. Because that is what the rest of the plot basically is: a repetition of the same letter idea where Laurel is trying to figure out how to deal with the death of her sister. Laurel blames herself for her death, although she takes a long time revealing why that is. This was actually quite annoying, both because it made the story drag and the actual plot twist was not that great either. (Why did she never tell anyone before?!) In short, while I liked some things of the story, there were other elements that made me enjoy this story a lot less than I would have hoped.

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Laurel has been struggling to deal with the death of her sister May, and even decided to go to a different high school to avoid the stares full of pity. Laurel blames herself for May’s death, but isn’t ready to tell the truth about what happened yet as much as she doesn’t really know how to grieve for May either. An English assignment marks the beginning of a journey where she starts writing letters to famous dead people about both her feelings and what happens to her during her days. Slowly Laurel starts to accept the past and how life can go on without May… Starting high school, new friendships, learning to live with the new family situation, falling in love; life does go on even after such a terrible experience. But how do you really mourn for someone you haven’t forgiven yet? Can Laurel finally make peace with what happened?

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I was almost afraid to read Love Letters To The Dead after hearing so many mixed opinions. And while I didn’t think it was a particularly bad read, I wasn’t blown away by it either… Some elements like the music and poetry references were really interesting, but others (repetitive plot, ‘big secret’ plot twist) made me enjoy this story a lot less than I thought I would. Would I recommend this novel by Ava Dellaira? With all those mixed reviews out there, I guess I would leave that up to your own decision.

BOOK REVIEW: Random – by Tom Leveen

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Title: Random
Author: Tom Leveen
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: August 12th 2014
Finished reading: March 30th 2016
Pages: 224
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“’Because that’s what being dead means,’ Andy says. ‘It’s the zenit of ‘never’. Never again, never this, never that. You don’t come back from never. You can’t enjoy never. You just sit there, not existing, not listening to your favorite songs or eating you favorite foods. Never.’”

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I’ve read a few good books about teen suicide and (cyber)bullying in the past (including Tease, Thirteen Reasons Why and Nothing Everything Nothing), so when I first read the blurb of this novel I was immediately interested. Unfortunately cyberbullying is becoming a more urgent problem every day with the internet-focused society we are living in today. Tom Leveen did an excellent job in showing us how something seemingly ‘innocent’ as a few harsh Facebook comments can make someone vulnerable make the decision to end it all. The main character Tori is the perfect example of someone who didn’t see the consequences of her comments, and still thinks she didn’t do anything wrong. The random call and the way she is forced to think about suicide and how she might have played a role in the death of the very person that used to be her friend make this read into something truly intriguing. Random has a fast pace, is easy to read and has just enough plot twists to keep you surprised until the end. The characters might not be completely likeable, but they do feel real and show us what can happen if cyberbullying isn’t taken seriously. Recommended!

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Tori hasn’t been herself lately ever since one of her former friends decided to end his life. Kevin and Tori used to be closer, but when Tori became friends with a bunch of popular people she started to act differently. Her new friends don’t exactly treat Kevin the right way and slowly Tori starts to join them… And when her new friends start leaving harsh comments about everything Kevin writes on her Facebook page, she doesn’t defend him. Feeling desperate to stay popular, she even writes a few nasty comments of her own. Now Tori’s Facebook page is evidence in an upcoming trail with national coverage that wants to convict her group for cyberbullying and being the direct cause of Kevin’s suicide… Tori doesn’t believe she is guilty, but is forced to rethink what happened to him when she receives a random phone call. What seems to be a wrong number turns to be a guy her age that asks her for only one thing: a reason not to kill himself. Tori first thinks he is a fraud, but can she really take the risk and have another possible suicide on her conscience?

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Random is a well written and fast-paced read about a subject that is becoming more and more important as the influence of the internet grows. Cyberbullying is probably more common than the ‘old-fashioned’ bullying known ten years ago, and it is important that the consequences are revealed to the bigger public. Tom Leveen did an excellent job by doing just that in his novel and make us think about how something simple as a few Facebook comments can have a huge impact on someone. I would definitely recommend reading this book if you are interested in the subject.