Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz

GoodReads Summary:
Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.
Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?
Jane AnonymousReview:
Thanks so much to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Jane Anonymous had me hooked from the moment I read the synopsis. Then I read the prologue and I literally couldn’t put this book down until I finished it. I devoured it in one sitting.
I was crying within the first ten percent of this book, which might not say much because I cry at the drop of a hat since having a baby, but still. I was sucked into this story, chewed up, and spit out in the final pages. I really liked the way this story was told. Jane Anonymous is telling us her story. She is writing everything down as a way to work through what she experienced. I thought this was brilliant because we feel what she’s feeling. We get invested in everything the way she does, and our whole world is rocked when we learn certain bits of information. I really liked the ‘anonymous’ aspect of the story. It takes place in ‘Suburb City/Town, New England State’ which is not a real place, but I thought it was a really interesting way to keep the story focused completely on Jane and her experiences. As someone who grew up in New England, I liked that the small town northern setting was there even if no actual places were named.
Jane is experiencing some serious PTSD. We follow her as she tells us her story in alternating chapters of now and then. I thought this was done well to add more suspense to an already excellent story. Then there’s the mystery of how she got from then to now.
This story was absolutely incredible. It had characters I alternated between loving and hating. There was the best friend that I loved at first and then hated and then loved again by the end of the book. Then her parents, I wanted to hate them at times, but also imagining how I would feel if something like this happened to my daughter, I couldn’t fathom how I would react. I think they were doing their best, and eventually, I ended up liking them.
Overall, I’m obsessed with this book. It may just be a new favorite. The writing was paced just right to keep me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I loved Jane and having her tell this story was an excellent choice. I will be shouting about this book from the rooftops for the next forever.

Quotes:

“I wonder if it matches the one inside my chest, where there used to be a heart.”

“We’ve all carried our regret around like anchors, struggling not to drown.”
“Shards of mirrored glass that reflected just what I’d become: a distorted version of the person I used to be.”

“We’re all broken in some way; it’s part of that being-human thing I was talking about before. The key is to learn how to carry your broken pieces as you move forward day by day.”

“It’s funny the way memory works, especially long-term memory, when the thing being remembered hits us, the brain pops like electricity. We think it’s so random—that timing of sorts. But there’s nothing random about it. Our brains are smarter than we are, equipped to recall things at key times, when we’re able to make the most sense of the information.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

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GoodReads Summary:
In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.
Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.
What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.
Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.
The Way I Used to BeReview:
I really thought I was going to rate this book five stars when I first started it, but the longer I read it, the less I liked it. There were a lot of things I liked about this book though, so I’ll start with those.
Eden, though I’ve never experienced what she went through, was very relatable. I saw a lot of myself in her with her destructive behaviors, like smoking and drinking. I was a reckless teenager and did a lot of the same things she did. But Eden was mean. She was lashing out at anyone that showed her attention, anyone that was kind to her. It made her really unlikeable, but at the same time, with the things she went through her behavior was understandable.
I thought the writing was excellent. I also thought the characters and interactions were well done. The relationships between the characters were interesting too.
The thing that really bothered me was the pacing. This book follows Eden through all four years of high school. This was an interesting way to tell the story in theory, but for me personally, it made me feel like huge chunks of the story were missing. At the end of Sophomore year, it’s Christmas time and then suddenly it’s her junior year and the same in the transition between Junior and Senior year. It really bothered me. Also, when Senior year comes around things are obviously different. Eden has started calling her mom and dad by their names, which is not explained at all. The reader is just left to figure that out.
This was my biggest issue with the book. But aside from that, I really liked the characters, even Eden. The relationships and the disagreements were realistic and compelling. It was hard not to feel sorry for Eden, but it was equally hard not to want to yell at her for her behavior. This would have been a five star book for me had it not been for the bizarre pacing and time jumps.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julie Drake

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GoodReads Summary:
The Larkin family isn’t just lucky—they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.
But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.
Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece – the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century.
She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.
The Last True Poets of the SeaReview:
I have to thank Chelsea Dolling for hyping this book up. I was intrigued by the cover before even knowing what it was about. So, I bought it when it was on sale. I am so glad that I did because it was way better than I was anticipating. I thought I was going to like it, but boy I loved it so much.
We follow Violet as she’s sent to spend the summer in Maine with her uncle. Violet has spent the past year drinking, partying, and sleeping around. But everything changes when her brother Sam tries to kill himself. Sam is sent to a treatment facility and Violet is sent to Maine. She thinks she and her whole family are cursed, that wrecks are something that happens to them.
Violet makes friends with Orion at the aquarium she’s working at for the summer. Orion introduces her to the rest of his friends, Liv, Mariah, and Felix. I absolutely adored this group of friends. They were such a fun bunch. I liked that Orion just genuinely cared about people. This friend group reminded me of my own friends and that’s why I liked them so much.
Violet and Liv decide to start searching for the shipwreck that Violet’s great-great-grandmother survived. I really liked that the girls had something they were passionate about and a goal to work toward. I think Violet definitely used the shipwreck search to avoid her problems, but I still loved the outcome of their search.
During this time, Violet is remembering and regretting the way she treated her brother. I think this part of the story was captivating. I thought their complicated relationship was interesting and the mental health aspect of it all was well handled and talked about in a thoughtful way.
This book tackled so many complicated issues like mental health, sexuality, underage drinking and substance use, promiscuity, and cigarette smoking. I think it discussed all very well. The bad things were challenged and the good things were addressed thoughtfully. I think this is a new favorite of mine.

Quotes:

“Orion cared in a way that made my chest ache: For music, for fish, for friends. For the moon and the ocean, for these forces that knit us together.”

“I didn’t think it was possible to be blindsided by a truth you’ve always suspected, but there you have it. As it turns out, it’s devastating.”

“Maybe there is no right thing. Maybe there are just things, plural, and you have to try them all.”

“That night, it didn’t matter what had come before and what was going to come after. In that moment, we were the last true poets of the sea, and what mattered more than anything else was our quest.”

“No one could fix us, because no one thing was wrong. The fixing would be in keeping going, in trying. Survival was its own quest: we need to choose to survive over and over again. We had to wash up on shore, and we had to choose to keep washing up every single day.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

 

Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

Summary:
From the bestselling author of All the Bright Places comes an exhilarating love story that asks: As scary as it is to go after dreams, is it even scarier not to?
Libby is the girl whose name everyone knows. But no one really sees her, except Jack.
Jack is the guy who’s friends with everyone. But he doesn’t let anyone in, except Libby.
The two make an unlikely pair. And yet…They just might be able to change each other’s worlds.
Review:
After reading Jennifer Niven’s other book All the Bright Places, I knew I needed to try some more books by her. So, I picked up Holding up the Universe with one of my Christmas gift cards. I’m so glad that I did.
This story focused on Libby and Jack, two characters that are very different but somehow find some common ground. I really liked learning about them. Libby was a girl who has dealt with hardships and still has managed to stay strong and pull herself together. She fights for what’s right, even when it’s not the easy thing to do. I really admired her strength in the face of bullies and those trying to put her down. She knows that she has maybe not made the best choices, but she does what she thinks is best. She loves deeply. I love her relationship with her dad. It was sweet and sometimes sad, but I loved it. I also liked her relationship with Bailey. Bailey was a sweet girl and I liked seeing them rekindle their friendship.
Jack was such an interesting character to me. He is face-blind, meaning that he cannot recognize faces. This is something that I’d never previously heard of. I honestly didn’t know this is something that exists. I liked Jack because he was so flawed. He did dumb things, mostly for the right reasons. A lot of the time he did things because it was the easiest thing until he meets Libby anyway.
I flew through this story. It was easy to read. It was interesting and I feel like I learned something after reading it. I loved that both characters are facing their own issues, but figure out how to work through them together. Libby and Jack got me invested in the story, wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was compelling, thought-provoking, relatable, and so much more. I definitely suggest this to anyone that enjoyed Niven’s other book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Want to buy this book? Click on the book cover! It’s an affiliate link so we will make a small percentage from your purchase, feel free to support us!

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Summary:
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death. Every day he thinks of ways he might die, but every day he also searches for-and manages to find- something to keep him here, and alive, and awake.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation when she can escape her small Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school-six stories above the ground-it’s unclear who saves whom. Soon it’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself. And it’s only with Finch that Violet forgets to count away the days and starts living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink…
Review:
All the Bright Places completely slayed my soul. I was not expecting to feel so many different emotions while reading this. Finch and Violet had me laughing on one page and then in tears on the next. I thought I was going to enjoy this book because of the recommendation of a friend, but I didn’t think it would be this much.
I thought Finch was so interesting. It was fascinating to be inside his head trying to fight to stay ‘awake.’ It was really eye-opening to see his thoughts and how they could so easily spiral and then be brought back into reality. He was such a complex character and I just couldn’t stop reading.

“And sorry wastes time. You have to live your life like you’ll never be sorry. It’s easier just to do the right thing from the start so there’s nothing to be sorry for.”

Violet was just as interesting but in a different way. She’s dealing with survivors guilt after the death of her sister and just trying to go through the daily motions until graduation when she can escape Indiana forever. I really liked Violet and enjoyed seeing her pull herself together and choose to really start living again.
Violet and Finch together were fiery and entertaining and a bomb waiting to go off. I think Finch really brought out all the good in Violet. He pushed her in the best ways to move forward, to get back in a car, to try new things, to try to live her life again. I think Violet wanted to be that for Finch too but didn’t quite succeed. I absolutely loved their dynamic. I loved the effect that Finch had on Violet and I loved that Finch wanted to be better for her, he tries so so hard to do better for Violet.

“The thing I realize is that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.”

I also want to mention that I loved how Violet branched out after kind of realizing and accepting that her friends were shitty and made new friends. She sort of adopted Finch’s friends and I loved that because if I could change one thing I would have added more interaction with Finch and his friends. But we got the interaction with Violet, making new friends and trying new things.
Then this book went and broke my heart. Jaw dropped. Book almost thrown. I was not expecting certain events in this story and I am so not okay. I think it was the worst and best part of the story. It’s hard hitting and brings important conversations to the table. I’m not going to spoil it because that would be shitty, but it really changes the to conversation of the book. It was heartbreaking, but in the best way.

“What if like could be this way? Only the happy parts, none of the terrible, not even the midly unplesant. What if we could just cut out the bad and keep the good?”

Overall, I adored this book. I loved the characters. I loved their adventures as they ‘wander’ all over Indiana. I love the lessons that are learned. I love the way the chapters are labeled. I love everything about this story and I’m sad that it’s over. I’m so thankful to Kim @ Troubled Bibliophile for getting me this story for Christmas.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Beartown by Fredrik Backman

GoodReads Summary:
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.
Review:
I borrowed this from the library after a friend on twitter (thanks Jenny!) told me about it. This book exceeded every single expectation I had for it. I am completely blown away by this story. I have done nothing but read in all of my available free time because I NEEDED to know what was going to happen in this story. It was compelling, kept me interested, insightful, and so much more. I think this is a story that everyone should read. Going into it I was excited because hockey is the one sport that my family really pays attention to and watches, so I knew this book would interest me. But I got so much more than I asked for.

“Never trust people who don’t have something in their lives that they love beyond all reason.”

This story tells of a town that is so obsessed with their local hockey team and the thing that team inspires. The team (or the hockey club in general) is the most important thing and loyalty should always be to the team. The team, the bears from Beartown always stick together no matter what. But what happens when the leader of this team, the player that all the others look up to the most, does something truly horrible? A town divided between staying loyal to the team, to the club, to Kevin, or believing a young girl’s accusation is what this story is really about.

“There are thousands of ways to die in Beartown. Especially on the inside.”

I loved every single thing about this story. It was hard hitting and honestly, I cried like four separate times. This story was written wonderfully. I enjoyed the beginning, where we’re learning about all the characters that matter, about the town dynamics, how life works in Beartown, what hockey means to all of the characters, and how it has impacted their lives. The story then goes on to tell of events at a party after an important win and this changes the entire course of the story. Instead of following the team to victory for the season, we instead follow a town divided between doing what is morally right or doing what is right for the hockey club.

“Pride in a team can come from a variety of causes. Pride in a place, or a community, or just a single person. We devote ourselves to sports because they remind us of how small we are just as much as they make us bigger.”

Beartown was insightful and heartbreaking and horrifying and just incredible. I think it discusses the love of a parent to their child and other family dynamics in such an interesting and thoughtful way. There are so many different kinds of families, wealthy, poor, white picket fence households, single parent homes, it really explored all kinds of home lives. There is just such an interesting group of different kinds of characters. Different in many ways like race, sexual orientation, age, and all the good things. I also really enjoyed that this story was told from so many different perspectives. We read from perspectives of both the adults and the children, so it’s a story that can have a very wide group of readers. There were also quite a few really hard topics talked about such as being gay (and hiding it), rape, suicide, murder, bullying, and just so many extremely relevant things.

“I know you’d have killed for me, Mom. I know you’d have given your life for me. But we’re going to get through this, you and me. Because I’m your daughter. I’ve got wolf’s blood.”

I thought this was going to be a book about hockey, instead, I was given so much more. I really cannot recommend this story enough. I am going to try to patiently wait for the sequel to be available at my library and then fly through that story as well.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Want to buy this book? Click on the book cover! It’s an affiliate link so we will make a small percentage from your purchase, feel free to support us!

Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia

Summary:
When star soccer player Peyton Rios receives an offer from her first-choice college, her senior year starts off exactly as planned…until she uncovers her boyfriend’s dark secret. Peyton confronts him and finds herself falling down a flight of stairs. Her knee-and possibly her dream of going pro-is shattered. Everyone at school is talking: Was she pushed, or did she fall? Peyton knows the truth, even if no one believes her.
With her future on the line, Peyton goes to stay with her uncle in a small Tennessee town to focus on her recovery. That’s where she meets Owen.
A year ago, Owen Law’s life changed and he doesn’t want anyone to know why-until he meets the new girl in town. But dating is off the table for Peyton, even for a guy as sweet and sexy as Owen. He tries to chip away at her walls, but Peyton senses that he’s hiding something and she’s afraid to trust her own heart. When their secrets are finally exposed, Peyton has to decide if love is worth fighting for.
Review:
I loved this book. I wish that I could just say that and be done with this review because really, I loved it and I just want everyone to read it. This was a compelling story filled with so many different things that I like. We follow our main character as she’s dealing with potentially losing everything she’s worked toward her whole life. Also dealing with her crazy ass ex-boyfriend, moving across the country, adjusting to a new school, and grieving for her father.
There were so many different things going on in this story, but it wasn’t too much. All the different aspects of the story were brought together so well that it just worked out.
Peyton was a fierce and fiery character that didn’t back down, even when it would have been the easy thing to do. She stands up to all sorts of bullies, from snotty cheerleaders to MMA fighters on steroids, she’s brave and stubborn. I really loved Peyton. I don’t know that I related to her so much as I just really respected her as a person. She’s someone I could be friends with in real life for sure.
The twins, Peyton’s cousins, Cameron and Christian were a great part of this story. They come off as big dumb jocks at first, but you learn that there more than that. They’re loyal and quick to defend those they care about. They do say some dumb things but don’t have an issue being corrected and learning why they were wrong. They just made me laugh and I loved them.
I liked Grace too. She was sweet and I’m so happy with how her story ended. She was a good friend to Peyton when she needed one and I loved seeing the girls get to know one another.
Tessa really pissed me off, but I understood (to a point) where she was coming from. She’s another character that I was happy with how things turned out. I’m happy with how she and Peyton figured things out, though we didn’t get a whole lot of closure on her after that.
I hated Peyton’s ex-boyfriend and I’m not going to name him so the thing that happens, in the beginning, doesn’t get spoiled but I hated him. He was a giant jerk and I knew things were just going to get worse. The whole situation at the beginning of the book made me so mad. I think because this is something that happens all the time in the real world, it just made me so mad.
Now, my favorite character, Owen. I loved him. He stood up for the little guy. He was nice even when he was supposed to be portrayed as a jerk. He’s big and tough and exactly what Peyton needed at the time. I love that they pushed each other’s buttons. They made me laugh the whole book.
I just really loved everything about this story. It was real and hard to read in some parts. It talked about real things that happen every day in real life and it doesn’t shy away from anything. I definitely think this should be a more widely read and talked about story because it is an important one for sure.

“I used to believe that everyone gets one perfect day sometime in their lives-if they were lucky. But I had it all wrong. We don’t get one perfect day. We get a lifetime of imperfect days, and it’s up to decide what we want to do with them.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

*Want to buy this book? Click on the book cover! It’s an affiliate link so we will make a small percentage from your purchase, feel free to support us!