Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books in X Genre (YA Contemporary)

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they will post a new Top Ten list that one of their bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Anyone can join!

So this week’s theme features our favorite books in the X genre…you get to pick the genre! I decided to go with YA contemporary. There are many YA contemporaries that I love, but looking back at the ones I have reviewed, the following are my favorites (but are not in any particular order):

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What do y’all think of my list? Anything other fabulous YA contemporaries that I missed (or haven’t read yet!)? Let me know! And let me know what your favorite X genre list looks like!

Waiting on Wednesday – The Art of Lainey

WaitingOnWednesday“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

16068910The Art of Lainey (Paula Stokes)

Release Date: May 20, 2014

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is used to getting what she wants, and when her boyfriend Jason breaks up with her for no reason, what she wants is to win him back before the start of their senior year. Lainey and her friend Bianca check the interwebz for tips and tricks, but the online dating advice is all pretty lame.

Then the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. Didn’t someone once say that love is a battlefield? Jason isn’t going to stand a chance once Lainey and Bee go all Zhou Dynasty on him…

Old school strategy and subterfuge meet modern-day dramarama in the story of a girl who sets out to win at all costs and ends up discovering what’s really worth fighting for.

(Description from Goodreads)

This looks like such a fun YA contemporary book! What do y’all think? What are YOU waiting on?

Review: Golden

Golden by Jessi Kirby

Golden by Jessi Kirby

Love, tragedy, and mystery converge in this compelling novel from “an author to watch” (Booklist).

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

(Description from Goodreads)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

That Mary Oliver line is the one driving question throughout this book, and quite frankly, I’m starting to think it should be a driving question in everyone’s life. Very rarely do I come across books (especially YA ones) that make me stop, think, and reflect on my life, but this one did. Of course, like many of the adults in this book, sometimes reflecting on the past puts a damper on the now, as life may not have turned out like our teenage self may have imagined. However, reflecting on the past or constantly thinking about the future does no good for the present. Enter Parker Frost…

Parker is a high school senior who is about to graduate from high school not having done anything, except what is expected of her. Never has Parker taken a chance or done something spontaneous. However, while completing her duties as a TA to one of her school’s English teachers, Parker runs across something that sparks an interest in her and sets her off on what goes from a wild goose chase to a spontaenous trip that her best friend, Kat, has been nudging her to find.

I liked Parker a lot, probably because I saw a lot of my high school me in her; I sometimes wonder if I missed out on opportunities because I was so strait-laced. Parker starts to question the same thing toward the end of her high school career when a certain composition notebook falls into her hands. Everyone is always faced with the question of “what if,” though sometimes the question comes too late and the answer is never known. I loved watching Parker’s character evolve during the book, going from the quiet girl who did what she was told to the almost high school graduate who took a daring trip because of a romantic view on life. Along the way, Parker began to discover her true self and what she wanted to do with her life, not what others wanted of her.

Golden had not just one story, but there was a sub-story within the main story, that of a tragic romance that the little town Parker is from memorializes. However, Parker learns as the story progresses that the story the town remembers isn’t necessarily the actual truth behind it all. I enjoyed the fact that for at least half of the book, there were two perspectives being told, that of Parker’s and that of Julianna’s, the girl who wrote the journal in the composition notebook Parker finds. It was interesting to see Parker grow as a person, even while she was merely reading the entries written by Julianna. Even though Parker knew the journal was private, it helped her realize that she needed to be living her life more than what she was currently doing; she needed to truly think about what she wanted to do with her one wild and precious life.

I also really enjoyed the romance aspect of this book, though it resembled quite a bit to a Nicholas Sparks novel. Apparently Parker likes that kind of romance though, so it fits quite well into this novel. I wish there had been more between Parker and her longtime friend/crush, Trevor, but I enjoyed the romance story between Julianna and Shane, as well as Julianna and Orion. Swoon alert.

There were several aspects about this book that were a little farfetched for me, however. Of course, most of them would be spoilers for the book, so I’ll have to be vague with what and why. I think the ending is a little too perfect, especially with events that happened closer to the end. Yes, it’s the ending that makes us smile and feel giddy, but at the same time, after everything that happened prior, it didn’t really fit properly. Perhaps I’m thinking too realistically and should just be happy with the happy ending, especially since it is a YA novel, but something about it just didn’t feel right. The complete transformation of Parker was also a little out there. Yes, it’s good to change things up and do something for yourself, but to do a complete 180 and give up on something you’ve worked so hard for? Ehh, it just doesn’t sit well with me.

Despite those issues, I thought this was a rather compelling YA book and many teens could not only relate, but could learn a lot about their own lives from reading it. It makes you stop and think; truly, it does. You only get this one life, this one wild and precious life…so what are you going to do with it? In the words of Ferris Bueller (yeah, I went there), “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Review: The Almost Truth

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

From the author of Unraveling Isobel and The Education of Hailey Kendrick, a smart, romantic novel about a teenage con artist who might be in over her head.

Sadie can’t wait to get away from her backwards small town, her delusional mom, her jailbird dad, and the tiny trailer where she was raised…even though leaving those things behind also means leaving Brendan. Sadie wants a better life, and she has been working steadily toward it, one con at a time.

But when Sadie’s mother wipes out Sadie’s savings, her escape plan is suddenly gone. She needs to come up with a lot of cash—and fast—or she’ll be stuck in this town forever.

With Brendan’s help, she devises a plan—the ultimate con—to get the money. But the more lies Sadie spins, the more she starts falling for her own hoax…and perhaps for the wrong boy. Sadie wanted to change her life, but she wasn’t prepared to have it flipped upside down by her own deception. With her future at stake and her heart on the line, suddenly it seems like she has a lot more than just money to lose….

(Description from Goodreads)

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Even though I give this book 3 out of 5 stars, I must say that it was a compelling read. There were several times where I thought I knew what was going to happen, but then I was completely thrown for a loop; at one point, my mouth must have been hanging open because my boyfriend made the comment that something shocking must have just happened in the book (which it had.) I wish I could give this book a higher rating, but there were several things I wish were different about it.

First of all, I wasn’t drawn in so much by the story as I was the main character’s name: Sadie. I absolutely LOVE that name. It’s probably a silly reason for someone to pick up a book to read, but that’s all it took for me. Of course, once I got past the main character’s name, the premise of the book actually sounded quite interesting. There were many twists and turns to this story, which made it all the more interesting and fun to read. Aside from being named Sadie, I really liked her character. I felt so bad for her the entire time…my heart seriously ached for this girl. Like the description says, Sadie’s mom takes ALL of the money she has been saving up for college since who knows how long. Sadie doesn’t come from the most affluent life, so everything she had, she earned. Well, for the most part. Even though she worked at the local hotel, she did manage to pull several cons that earned her quite a bit of extra money to put in her account. The minute Sadie found out that she lost everything, I immediately started to feel absolutely sorry for this girl. I have to say that Sadie is probably the main reason I continued reading this book and not so much the actual story; I just wanted to make sure that she turned out okay in the end.

The other characters in the book were pretty interesting and compelling as well. Brendan, her best friend and fellow con artist, got on my nerves at first, mostly because of how he treated Sadie. However, about halfway through the book, he started to shine a bit more because of him actually expressing his true feelings to Sadie about why he acts the way he does toward her. Chase was just the opposite of Brendan in my mind, as he was a pretty awesome character at first, but then he turned out to be a total jerk. Go figure. I never quite figured out how I felt about Sadie’s parents. Throughout most of the book, I have to say that they really disgusted me, just because of how they treated Sadie (ie. taking all of her money) but once the various truths to the story started to come out, I felt sorry for them as well. The whole family was just a complete mess, I must say.

The idea for the story really was quite an interesting one, even though the whole switch-a-roo type story has been done before (and probably in a better way.) The story felt really rushed during the last third of it or so. The pace of the first two-thirds of the book was just how it should have been, but when certain things started to arise, it felt like even the author was done with writing any more and just wanted to end it as quickly, yet efficiently as possible. I was also thrown off by the actual lack of cons that happened throughout the book. I was expecting there to be far more cons that led up to one big con, but the book started off with a very tiny con (that had nothing to do with the actual story) and then focused on a giant con that was left hanging out to dry, in a sense. Also, the whole love triangle that occurred between Sadie and Brendan and Chase was kind of a big mess. The only purpose I saw it served was to give Sadie an idea of what she might possibly be missing by living in a trailer and having to scrape as much money together as possible. Of course, once certain aspects start to come out, the whole triangle is forgotten, and is left as a big ol’ mess.

As for the ending, I still am baffled by it. I guess it’s the type of ending where the reader can decide what happens, but I’m the kind of person who NEEDS a defined ending. I have no idea what to make of the ending, mostly because it was left open to interpretation. I really wanted a solid ending that left the reading knowing exactly what happened to Sadie, Brendan, Sadie’s parents, Ava, Chase, etc. Sadly, there was none of that, so I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and decide what I think actually happened.

I really did enjoy this book as a fun read. I would have given it a much higher rating, but it just left me feeling like it wasn’t absolutely finished when it could have easily been. Perhaps that’s just me.

Review: Meant To Be

Meant To Be by Lauren Morrill

Meant to be or not meant to be . . . that is the question. 

It’s one thing to fall head over heels into a puddle of hazelnut coffee, and quite another to fall for the—gasp—wrong guy. Straight-A junior Julia may be accident prone, but she’s queen of following rules and being prepared. That’s why she keeps a pencil sharpener in her purse and a pocket Shakespeare in her, well, pocket. And that’s also why she’s chosen Mark Bixford, her childhood crush, as her MTB (“meant to be”).

But this spring break, Julia’s rules are about to get defenestrated (SAT word: to be thrown from a window) when she’s partnered with her personal nemesis, class-clown Jason, on a school trip to London. After one wild party, Julia starts receiving romantic texts . . . from an unknown number! Jason promises to help discover the identity of her mysterious new suitor if she agrees to break a few rules along the way. And thus begins a wild goose chase through London, leading Julia closer and closer to the biggest surprise of all: true love.

Because sometimes the things you least expect are the most meant to be.

(Description from Goodreads)

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Romance, England, and Shakespeare. What an absolutely perfect mixture! As soon as I read the description and saw the mention of Shakespeare, I had to pick it up. I’m honestly starting to wonder if I should just keep my education going and get a PhD in Shakespeare study because I love the playwright so much. This was such a cute book. It was predictable in some ways, but it was still very cute and I enjoyed it quite a bit. There were a few things about it that I wasn’t a fan of, but otherwise, it was a great YA contemporary story.

Poor Julia, the main protagonist of the story, experiences so many ups and downs during the days she spends on a class trip in London with some fellow juniors. Of course, as luck would have it, none of her actual friends are on the trip with her, so she plans to spend the majority of her time glued to her guidebooks and enjoying the sights and sounds of London. Julia also has a practically perfect vision for what love and romance should be, as her parents were always the perfect model for her. Sadly, her father died when she was seven years old, so she has kept his spirit alive by making sure to visit the places in England that her parents visited on their honeymoon.

Of course, not everything looks up for Julia, as she is forced to be trip buddies with class clown, Jason. However, as Julia learns throughout the book, there is more to Jason than anyone knows. It doesn’t help though that the two don’t exactly start off on the right foot, especially after a rumor is spread about them becoming members of the “mile high club” together, if you catch my drift. From that moment on, Julia and Jason are constantly either butting heads or they are enjoying the company of one another. While this did annoy me to some extent, I figure that this was a pretty good portrayal at how young adults may actually behave to those they care about, even if they don’t know they care about the person.

The description used in the book was fantastic. I could picture myself walking through every scene because of how detailed it was. While I personally visited London when I was only nine-years-old (that has been thirteen years ago!), I don’t remember much about what it looked like; however, once Hyde Park was mentioned, I started to remember bits and pieces of what I could recall from my own trip, that’s how awesome the description was in this book. The places that Julia visits while on her trip are fantastic as well. I mean, hello, Stratford-Upon-Avon and The Globe? Count me in!

Julia is the type of character who never does anything outside of the box. She never breaks the rules and is always stuck in a book instead of actually living her life without the help of information she finds. Being paired off with Jason may seem like a horrible time for Julia, at first, considering how opposite Jason is from her, but Julia is able to experience England on a whole new level with the help of Jason and his own rule breaking. I will say that Julia looked down on everyone else quite a bit and that was no fun to read about. It literally felt like no one and nothing was good enough for her. By the end of the book though, Julia has learned quite a few things about herself, as well as a few other people. Especially her MTB, aka Meant To Be (hence the title.) The whole book is about Julia and her MTB, as she and her best friend, Phoebe, call it. Julia chases the fantasy that a guy named Mark is her MTB. But then she starts receiving mysterious texts from someone named Chris after a drunken party. The book revolves a bit around Jason helping Julia find out exactly who her MTB is, even though he doesn’t believe in it himself.

There are a few twists and instances in the book that I find completely hard to believe, but I guess you have to sometimes overlook those and just read the book without over-analyzing it. Of course, I actually predicted the ending differently, so I was pleasantly surprised when the book didn’t exactly end how I imagined it would (and I had been expecting a different ending for at least half of the book.) I really enjoyed the writing style of Lauren Morrill as well. It flowed and worked together in the way that made this book one that wasn’t easy to put down. Lauren Morrill easily portrayed a teenage girl telling a story about her class trip to London and her experience with romance.

Meant To Be was a fun and easy read, filled with genuine feelings, emotions, and actions of a teenager.