My Year in Review: Part 2 – My Personal Life

As some of you may recall, I posted my New Year’s Resolutions on here last January and, when I was thinking about all the books I read this year, I thought I should do an update on this as well.

Here’s a quick recap of my resolutions:

  1. Fill my life with as much happiness as possible
  2. Make a dent in my to-read list
  3. Challenge myself more
  4. Remember to dance
  5. Trust and love myself first.

Obviously, some of these are incredibly difficult to go, “Yup, nailed that one! I can cross that off the list now.”  Now, we’re going to have some show-and-tell moments to try to do just that.  YAY!  🙂

Fill My Life With Happiness

logo-facebookI don’t know how well I did with the first goal.  I mean, I’m generally a happy person, so it’s hard to say what came about because of that and when I actually consciously tried to make myself happier.  I will say that I realized that Facebook was, at times, toxic to my mood.  As a 24-year-old, lots of my friends are getting engaged, married, and starting families.  And because I don’t have that, I get jealous.  So detoxing from Facebook for a few days really helped me keep things in perspective.  So what if I’m not married?  Why am I comparing myself to someone I haven’t talked to in 5-6 years?  It didn’t make any sense to me.  But I still have some work to do there too.  I mean, I’m still Facebook friends with my ex-boyfriend, who I broke up with nearly 2 years ago.  Yes, I stalk him from time to time to see what he’s up to.  But more and more, I keep asking myself why I care.  So hopefully 2016 will be the year when I can actually click the “Unfriend” button and not feel remorse about it.

To-Read List

I think it’s totally safe to say I succeeded in completing my mission with my 2nd goal.  I’ve read more this year than I think I ever have in a single year.  And I’ve got Goodreads stats to prove it.  Check out these stats!

Total Books:

Screenshot 2015-12-30 15.11.14

Total Pages:

Screenshot 2015-12-30 15.11.26

TAKE THAT 2010!!  I think it’s safe to say that this is a serious dent.  Case closed.  Thank you, Outlander series, for the ridiculous page number count.

Challenge Myself

family-tree-background-graphics-4As for challenging myself, I think there are a few moments that definitely stand out.  First of all, as I mentioned in January, I wanted to figure out my family tree.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was about a freshman in high school.  And this summer, I finally started it.  It took a ton of time, but I now have nearly 9,000 people on my tree (and always growing!).  I can now share with people where my family comes from (France and Germany on my mom’s side, Germany and England on my dad’s), famous relatives (William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, and a couple of Salem Witch Trial victims, just to name a few), and interesting family stories.  My favorite story comes from my 8 or 10 times great-grandfather, who was a 2nd generation American.  When accused of stealing sundry goods from soldiers, his response was, “I didn’t steal them, the Indians left them on my property.”  (There are no surviving court documents to record whether or not the court bought that.)

As for another story of challenging myself, we’ll see that in the next section.  🙂

Remember to Dance

I have photographic evidence that I remembered to dance!  Tada!

Screenshot 2015-12-30 17.51.45

While he was a lovely partner, I have no idea who this guy is.

So here’s the totally-inspiring-and-not-at-all-lame story behind this.  This was at my barely-22-year-old cousin’s wedding in September.  When another of my cousins got married in October 2014, I didn’t dance much because I was trying to make my date happy.  It was his first time meeting my family and he didn’t want to dance.  I love dancing.  This killed me.  So I resolved that the next wedding, I was going to dance all out.

And this dress was perfect for it.  (My aunt who sent me this pic called it my “Marilyn Monroe” look.  Thank God I wasn’t flashing my undies.) But I was nervous.  I’m what I like to call “reserved” and I don’t like to make a fool of myself; my family calls me “serious” or, if they’re angry, “uptight.”  I just didn’t want to go out there and be the idiot pulling an Elaine from Seinfeld.

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via GIPHY

But I literally couldn’t have picked a better occasion to break loose.  Everyone at the wedding was so old-school.  It was old-fashioned social dancing with twirls and dips and strangers coming up and asking to dance with a pretty girl.  It was 80s music and the coolest dance to “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” that I had ever seen.  It was so me.  I had the time of my life.  (By the end of the night, I was barefoot, sweaty, and sore, but it was worth it.)

So much good came out of this.  I met someone I thought could have been special.  (Things didn’t go past the wedding though.  As we got to know each other more, we realized a relationship was not going to be in the cards.  But still.)  But the groom’s older brother told me about the salsa dancing club in town after he saw me dance.  I’ve been going almost every week since.  It’s been a great way for me to break out of my shell a bit and meet some really interesting people I otherwise wouldn’t get to know.

The lesson?  Dance.  Dance like no one is watching.

Trust and Love Myself

This is by far the hardest to really look at and know whether or not I accomplished it.  Because how do I know?

I will say this: I took a year off of dating in order to get to know myself better.  On January 1st, I broke things off with a boy who was a rebound more than anything.  And that wasn’t fair to either of us, but especially not to him.  I needed some space from relationships in order to really know what I wanted out of love.  I had to reevaluate what I was getting and what I wasn’t getting when it came to dates.

It was a long year, but a good one.  Not that I had many offers for dates until this fall.  Part of trusting and loving myself was knowing when I needed alone time/time at home doing my own thing.  (Which was a lot.  Motherhood, should it ever happen, is going to be really hard on me.)  I spent countless nights curled up with a good book.  I spent just as many nights watching sappy movies or documentaries that there is no way in all of Hades I ever would have gotten a previous boyfriend to watch with me.  This was my time.  I have only gone on 1 date this year, and that was just shy of 2 weeks ago.  I’m willing to work with this slowly, to see if anything develops rather than my usual obsessing and wondering “why isn’t he texting me?”

Along with that, I’ve also really started finding my own clothing style.  I’ve been interested in fashion for a while, but the turnover rate in my closet is slow.  I still have t-shirts in there from middle school.  (Not that I wear them…in public.)  But I’ve really started discovering what looks good on me (hello jeggings!), what styles I’m willing to try (BOOTS), and putting together outfits I never would have tried before (a button-down with a tulle skirt looks amazing).  It’s been a lot of fun.

And even though I’ve done it before, this was the year that I really got into yoga.  It wasn’t a continuous thing.  I go in spurts, doing it for a month, off for a month.  But yoga is definitely about finding inner peace, being you, and just living in the moment.  That’s definitely my speed of exercise.  (For anyone interested, I totally recommend the Yoga With Adriene channel on Youtube.  She’s fabulous.)

Phew!

How about you?  How did your resolutions go?  Did you make your goals?  Comment below!  I love hearing from you guys!

My Year in Review: Part 1 – The Books

Hello, my lovelies!  It’s that time of year where we look back and reflect on everything that happened this year.  I thought I would break mine down into two posts – the books and my personal life.

But I don’t want to make this post like the 20,000+ Year in Review posts you’ll see on everyone else’s blog.  No, I’m going to do it my way.  I’m adding a Disney flair to mine!  I’ll match up some of my favorite books of the year to something Disney related.  Enjoy!

The Vanellope Award for Sweetest ReadEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

13132816This award goes to the book that was just adorable from the start and left me feeling good the whole time I was reading it.  And if Emmy & Oliver isn’t that book, I don’t know what is.  Oliver, after having been missing for 10 years, isn’t the Oliver Emmy remembers, but she’s still so optimistic that her old best friend is still there.  And she’s willing to wait for him to come back to her.  It’s simply adorable.

The Dory Award for Most Unforgettable ReadMade You Up by Francesca Zappia

91kwlrwzmhlThis is a debut novel that deserved to win that Goodreads Award I kept voting for.  It’s such a well-written story.  The plot seems simple (Alex suffers from schizophrenia and one day meets someone she thought she made up.  Real or not real?), but the writing is crafted so well that there are so many surprise twists I never saw coming.  One was so good that if I were standing when I read it, I’m pretty sure I would have fallen over.  READ THIS.

The Pocahontas Award for Best Diversity ReadWritten in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

written-in-the-stars-aisha-saeedI’ve been big this year on trying to find diverse reads because they’re so interesting.  I’ve really been fascinated with stories about the Middle East, and this was the first one that really got to me.  Naila’s story is sad and gritty and definitely not for your little sister.  It’s dark.  It’s horrifying.  But it’s also scary real, as the author is quick to point out in her author’s note.  Still, it’s so worth the read.

The Cinderella Award for Most Surprising EndingIgnite Me (Shatter Me, #3) by Tahereh Mafi

ignitemefullFor whatever stupid reason, I put off reading this book for a while.  And when I finally got around to it, I was Blown Away.  I so did not expect, even in the slightest, the way this story would go.  It was kind of epic, and definitely different in the world of trilogies that have started becoming formulaic.  If you, like I was, are waiting for the perfect time to finish this series, the time is now.  ….Now.

The Gaston Award for Best Looks, But Most ShallowThe Elite (The Selection, #2) by Keira Cass

the-eliteThis series was hard for me to get through anyway, but this one was by far the most difficult.  I only even continued the series because you guys told me the next book was better.  I truly did want to like this book, with its gorgeous ball gowns and interesting premise, but I could not get past America’s selfishness and indecisive behavior.  Definitely a Gaston here.

The Merida Award for Bravest Hero/Heroine – Day in Champion (Legend, #3) by Marie Lu

champion_563x850I think it’s easy to say, hands down, that Day wins this.  I mean, holy crap on a cracker, the stuff he does in this book?  Even an Avenger would have a hard time saying they were braver than Day.  I gained a new serious respect for both Day and June after this book.  They went in a new direction that a lot of YA trilogies wouldn’t probably touch.

The Peter Pan Award for Best FantasyUnder the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1) by Veronica Rossi

unshiresI ate up this whole trilogy this year, so I just listed the first book here.  This series had basically everything I ever want in a book, let alone a fantasy: great characters, super evil baddies who actually think they’re doing the right thing, two very different worlds that crash together in a crisis, etc.  It was fun.  And Perry and Aria are simply great heroes for the story.

The Prince Eric Award for Best Adventure BookBlack Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

portada-revelada-black-ice-becca-fitzpatrick-l-dnvys0I know, I know, it’s not really an adventure story technically.  But there are people lost on a mountain in the middle of a massive snow storm!  That’s an adventure…right?  Right.  Filled with suspense and mystery, this book is hard to put down.  This is the book I keep recommending to people who love adult mystery/suspense books because it will totally keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Great Mouse Detective Award for Best MysteryA Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

23272028It’s possible you haven’t heard of this book because it’s not out yet.  (Official release is March 1, 2016.)  I got this as an ARC and it’s hands down the hardest-to-solve mystery I’ve read in a long time.  A modern retelling of the famous Sherlock Holmes stories with a twist, it’s definitely the same kind of thing you expect out of Arthur Conan Doyle or the Sherlock TV series.  Trust me, it’s that good.  Put this on your to-read list.

The Aladdin Award for Most Hopeful StoryThings We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

thingsweknowbyheartThis is the kind of story that is actually a feel-good story that just makes you happy in the end, even though it actually doesn’t look like one from the premise.  It deals a lot with grief and trying to move on after the death of a loved one, which may not seem very hopeful on the outside, but it gets there.  This is truly an awesome book.  I read it in basically one sitting.  Jessi Kirby is a master.

The Jasmine Award for Most Rebellious Heroine – Davy in Uninvited (Uninvited, #1) by Sophie Jordan

uninvitedDavy actually starts out as a reluctant heroine in all of this.  And true, she isn’t exactly Katniss in all of this, leading a revolution against the Capital, but she’s getting there.  I can see pieces of it already.  This whole series has to do with free will (or the lack thereof) and Davy is gearing up for a fight.  I’m so excited to see where the second book in this duology goes next year!

The Toy Story 3 Award for TearjerkerSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen

71gc13jc13lI can’t actually say for sure that I actually cried through this book, but then again, I didn’t cry through Toy Story 3 either.  This book will definitely pull at your heartstrings, at the very least.  It’s cute and real and a lot of adorableness.  Obviously, though, if it’s a tearjerker, it does have its dark moments.  But they are the kind of dark moments that we can all relate to/sympathize with.

The Buzz and Woody Award for Best Best-Friends Relationship – Reagan and Lilah, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

openroadsummer_hires_covernoquoteThese two girls are like, the best that friendship can offer.  They know each other incredibly well, to the point where they basically know what the other is thinking.  And even though they are far from being the same person (which would make things boring, you have to admit), they are perfect complements of each other.  It’s really awesome.  And this story is just as much about their friendship as it is about anything else.

The Lion King Award for Best Retelling of a Famous StoryA Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1) by Sarah J. Maas

a-court-of-thorns-and-rosesEven though this isn’t officially a retelling (not in the same way that Splintered or Alice in Zombieland are clear retellings of Alice in Wonderland), it’s totally a twisted retelling of my all-time favorite fairytale, Beauty and the Beast.  And when am I not going to like that?  But it’s full of rich characters, delightful settings, and a totally gutsy plot.  As if that wasn’t enough of an endorsement, this book also was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction this year.

The Princess and the Frog Award for Best Magical ReadPrincess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

84c057cb67f07d3e4c808fee256b826cAh, another fairytale retelling!  How I love these.  And Stacey Jay is quickly rising in my ranks for awesome retellings.  This is a mash-up retelling that isn’t officially any fairytale, but has pieces of many.  It’s lovely.  The characters are awesome and hilarious.  If you like Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, and books with ogres and other mythical creatures, this is so up your alley.

The Rapunzel & Flynn Award for Best Love StoryShadows in the Silence (Angelfire, #3) by Courtney Moulton

9780062002396I was speechless upon finishing this series.  The love between Will and Ellie is just…it’s epic.  It’s the kind of love story that I aspire to having, but maybe without all the sword-fighting and, you know, death.  That I could do without, personally.  But this is the kind of series that doesn’t lose its sparkle with each reread.  I’ve done it.  They’re just as awesome every time.

The Mother Gothel Award for Best Villian – Queen Red, Ensnared (Splintered, #3) by A.G. Howard

ubb-ensnaredbyaghowardI’m basing this on all the books, really, not just this one.  But in all of book history, there have been few that have drawn me in more than the Queen of Hearts and her constant “Off with her head!”  Queen Red is just an extension/twist on that.  She’s insane (as everyone in Wonderland is), but she’s clever.  And that makes her incredibly dangerous.  It’s hard to outsmart those villains, when they are so unpredictable.

The Emperor’s New Groove Award for HumorMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

me-earl-the-dying-girl-jesse-andrewsThis was so hard for me to nominate because I didn’t actually like this book much for its plot.  But the humor in it was funny.  Greg and Earl are you typical teenage idiot who had no social skills and tend to blurt out whatever comes to mind.  Couple that with Earl’s disgusting habit of eating the nastiest thing he can find and you’ve got yourself something that’s actually pretty hilarious.

The Mushu Award for Best Sidekick – Kat, A Mad Zombie Party (White Rabbit Chronicles, #4) by Gena Showalter

24893241As soon as I came up with this award, I instantly knew I wanted this one to go to this series, even though I didn’t actually know who to give it to.  I decided on Kat over Frosty (though it killed me to do it) because Kat is the complete best friend/comic relief/moral support package.  And she has made it my life mission to make “That is so cake” a thing.  Therefore, Kat beat Frosty, even if Frosty’s moody temperament and amazing weaponry skills are kind of hot.

The Hercules Award for Best Historical FictionA Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

adeathstruckyearDo you know hard this was to pick when I’ve read so many great historical fictions this year?  I decided on this because of how it has a little of everything: death (obviously), finding your own path, making new friends, finding hope in strange places, discovering love, and more.  It’s gritty and sometimes crosses the line into the gory and disgusting, but it’s real.  And it’s about the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918, a time that is generally overshadowed by World War I.  I loved it.

The Frozen Award for Best Family DramaWhere the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

wherethestarsstillshinecoverroseNothing creates more drama than a mother kidnapping her daughter, keeping her from her father for years, and then Mommy Dearest getting arrested and her daughter going to live with a father she doesn’t remember.  This is the kind of plot that just begs me to read it.  And it’s really well-done.  The characters are all relatable, even when you don’t necessarily want to like them.  You understand them.  And in a drama, that’s a necessity or it comes off as awkward and false.

The Snow White Award for Best ClassicA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

a-christmas-carolYou’d think for how much I love Christmas, I would have read this by now.  But no, not until this December.  It’s exactly the story you’ve seen in every movie retelling of it.  I wasn’t sure how similar it was going to be to the movies, but they’re all pretty much the same.  And I liked that, truly.  It brought back the magic of the story that I’ve come to expect in the movies but without having to decide which version to watch.  …As a lover of books, I can’t believe I just said that.

And finally…

The Belle Award for The Book Lover’s FavoriteThe Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

22840182This is the kind of book where you just want to sit down with a highlighter and a pad with a pencil and just take notes.  There’s a theme that runs all the way through the story, showing up in so many different and unexpected places.  It’s magic how well it all worked out.  I think that anyone who is quiet and introverted can easily relate to Elyse and how people react to her.

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)

23272028First Lines: The first time I met her was at the tail end of one of those endless weekday nights you could only have at a school like Sherringford.

I received this as an ARC from the publisher in return for a review.  (Official release date is March 1, 2016.)  When I initially saw the title of this (back before it had a cover), I was like, “Oooh, this has to be about Sherlock Holmes!”  While I was sort of wrong, I was still totally in.

Jamie Watson wants just two things out of this year: he wants to be a writer like his great-great-great grandfather John Watson and he wants to not go to school at Sherringford in Connecticut, an hour away from his estranged father.  Well, while his second desire doesn’t come true, he does get a nice surprise when he meets Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-great granddaughter of the famous Sherlock Holmes.  Jamie quickly notices that Charlotte shares many of the same qualities as her ancestor: quick intelligence, a lack of social understanding, and a condescending air that comes from believing she is better than everyone else.  At first, Charlotte and Jamie don’t get on very well; there’s so much tension between them that it doesn’t seem like they can be anything but rivals.  But when a Sherringford student dies in a way straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel, Jamie and Charlotte can no longer keep their distance.  They’re being framed and Charlotte may be the only one to clear their names…

Rather than expecting a classic Sherlock story from this book, I was more expecting something akin to the BBC series, Sherlock.  And that’s actually a pretty close comparison.  It’s modern, fast-paced but well-told, but still retaining what everyone loves from Sherlock Holmes.

The characters were pretty much exactly what I was looking for.  Charlotte is super smart, offensive without meaning to be, lacking in some common sense, impatient, condescending, and yet still vulnerable and sweet. I think that’s kind of the brilliance of anything relating to Sherlock: the main character is deeply flawed, and yet you still want him (or her, in this case) to be your friend. Jamie also steals the story in his own way. He starts off as as aggressive, angry teenage boy, but with Charlotte’s friendship, he becomes someone else. Someone more patient. More caring. It was nice to see him change too.  It’s the kind of mellowing I generally see out of John Watson too.

The mystery was definitely well-done.  This is one of the few mysteries I’ve read lately where I actually legitimately have no idea who the murderer is because there is evidence to support blaming multiple characters.  I think I had something like 5 suspects going at one point because I simply couldn’t narrow it down.  My only qualm with the mystery was that the “reveal” of the murderer was anticlimactic.  Like, Charlotte just blurted it out and that was that.  No big reveal, no surprise.  I felt a little let down.

It was entertaining and even funny at times.  (That mostly stems from Charlotte’s misunderstanding of social cues and courtesies.)  There’s a lot of suspense, especially early on in the story.  From there, the suspense does lighten, but it never quite leaves.  That was good for keeping my attention (a real challenge over the Christmas holiday).

Overall, it’s an interesting twist on a classic tale.  I’m definitely keeping this series on my radar to see what kind of trouble Jamie and Charlotte get into next.

(P.S. if you’d like to enter into a giveaway for this book, there’s one going on on Goodreads, good through February 1, 2016.  Enter here.)

Ruby Red (Precious Stone Trilogy, #1)

9780312551513First Lines: As she fell to her knees and burst into tears, he looked all around the park.  Just as he’d expected, it was empty at this early hour.

Ever since I fell into the black hole that is the Outlander series last summer, time travel books (where the characters really go back in time) have become incredibly awesome to me.  And this book, going back in time in London, was a no-brainer.  I was there.

Gwen’s family has never been what you’d call “normal.”  In her family, a time travel gene is passed down through the women of her family, every few generations.  Lucky for Gwen, her cousin Charlotte has the gene.  Gwen can spend her time not at fencing lessons or learning how to ride sidesaddle, but with her best friend Lesley being a normal 16-year-old.  …That is until Gwen discovers she does actually have the gene, not Charlotte.  She’s completely unprepared for traveling through time.  Archaic speech, strange clothes, and outdated beliefs about life are the least of Gwen’s problems when she leaps back in time and can’t blend in.  And then there’s Gideon, the insufferable yet incredibly handsome male time traveler that is set to be her partner.  He can’t stand her and she can’t stand him…right?

One thing that was really excellent about this book was the world-building.  It was a lot of fun to get to know Gwen and her family and this new world she was suddenly dropped into.  It did a nice job introducing the mysterious society that’s in charge of everything and just how the time travel works.  And Gwen’s so snarky and she never takes anything seriously, which really made the whole thing entertaining.

On a related note, the characters were also really interesting.  Especially Gwen and her friend Lesley.  Total snark, the both of them.  They’re just normal teens, and a secret society of time travelers just tips them over the edge a lot.  (I couldn’t take the secret society seriously either, so it helped that they couldn’t.)

But the book is a bit of false advertising.  On the cover it says something about “She wasn’t expecting to travel through time…or to lose her heart.”  The ‘romance’ of this book was utter hogwash.  This book isn’t a romance at all.  I would have been totally fine with that if it had just been a case of false advertising with a decent story.  But no, it had to rush the romance in the tail end of the story like an afterthought to help market the story.  It even wants the audience to believe it’s true love even though it’s not even close to being a believable love story, let alone true love.  Nope, not buying what you’re selling.

That was my biggest issue with the book, but I think that also shows how the world building took a bit too long.  By the time I felt like I had a firm grasp on the story and the world, there were 40 pages left and a climax that didn’t feel very climactic because I had no idea what the story was even building to.

Overall, it’s worth checking out if this sounds like the kind of book you’d enjoy, but if you’re not into time travel and history, pass.

I’ll Meet You There

Red, vintage, neon motel sign on blue sky; Shutterstock ID 95002717First Lines: The Mitchells’ backyard was packed, full of recent and not-so-recent grads in various stages of party decay.  The girls leaned against one another, wilted flowers that looked on while the guys got louder, sweatier.

There comes a time in every reader’s reading cycle where you just go, “You know what?  I need something…different.”  This became that book.  It looked like it was going to be a little edgy and a little more…real than a lot of other books I’ve been reading lately.  (I’ve been on a romance spree lately, hence the few posts lately.)

All Skylar has ever wanted is to escape Creek View.  If she doesn’t, her future is sure to include a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and a minimum wage job for life.  All Skylar needs to do to escape is get through this post-graduation summer working at the local motel.  That is until her mom loses her job and suddenly that escape looks too far away to be a reasonable goal.  Everything she’s ever hoped for is now in jeopardy.  Josh Mitchell has already lost everything.  A Marine home from Afghanistan after losing a leg, Josh’s dream of being a career in the Marines is shot.  Stuck in Creek View with few prospects for the future, Josh is stuck thinking about everything he’s lost and the memories he can’t escape.  All he has is his job at the Paradise Motel–where Skylar works.  What starts off as a friendship slowly turns into something more…but is that something more worth it?

I always love reading something by an author I’ve never tried before because I never know what I’m going to be getting.  It’s like a lovely surprise.

The story quickly becomes kind of edgy.  In Creek View, practically everyone Skylar runs into his poor and lives in a trailer home.  (The Mitchells don’t, but they truly seemed to be the exception, or at least the rarity.)  Everyone seems to be trying to escape this nowhere town.  And Josh’s military nightmares constantly show up to show you just how rough war time can be on soldiers.

The plot was interesting and moved along at a good pace.  There was always something happening, whether it was Skylar dealing with her money/mother issues or Josh’s PTSD.  There was always something that made me want to keep reading.

The characters kept the story interesting as well.  While Skylar is our narrator, I definitely got the feeling that this story was about Josh, something that I was a-ok with.  (Or it could be that I connected with Josh more than Skylar, I don’t know.)  Skylar sells sass like it’s her job.

This was a good read.  While it didn’t blow me out of the water, it was interesting and real.  (I hesitate to say “fun,” but it was that too.)

The Boy Most Likely To

boymostlikelyto_cover__spanFirst Lines: I’ve been summoned to see the Nowhere Man.

Not too long ago, I finished reading My Life Next Door, and Tim Mason quickly became one of my favorite characters in that story.  When I found out the sequel focused on him, I was all over that.

For years, the things Tim was most likely to do wasn’t very encouraging: drive a car into his house, need a liver transplant from his excessive alcohol use, and probably even die young.  Alice Garrett shouldn’t have even been on his radar, but he’s still drawn to her.  And Alice knows that falling for Tim is right at the top of the list of Things She Shouldn’t Do.  It’s terrifying and potentially dangerous…but she’s interested.  When Tim’s wild days come back to haunt him in a big way, Tim is surprised…though he probably shouldn’t have been. Now, Alice is caught in the middle.  Can they withstand it?

For as much as I loved Tim in the first book (and Alice, whose spunk was always awesome), this book just didn’t have the kind of sparkle I was hoping it would have.  While I thought a romance between Tim and Alice would be Epic, I didn’t feel like there was much there.  I couldn’t buy into their emotions.  The romance was definitely secondary to the surprise that happens to Tim.

Basically what this book boils down to is drama.  100%.  Sure, there’s some comic relief along the way (thank you George and Patsy!), but it’s mostly angst and drama.  It even got to the point where I was getting run down by it. I even started thinking, “Ugh, can we actually do something about this problem rather than moaning and groaning about it the whole time?  Seriously, you don’t need to keep hiding some of this stuff.”

I did still like the characters.  Tim is still his sassy, sarcastic self and Alice is tough as nails.  But…that was about it.  They never really moved beyond what I already knew about them from the previous book.  They didn’t develop much.

Overall, it was still an enjoyable book, but I definitely didn’t connect to it the way I wanted to.

Hot Cocoa Hearts

Hot Cocoa Hearts(First lines currently unavailable.  I took the book to school before I got them down.  Sorry!)

Ok, so this is going to be a slightly different book than I usually read.  This is 100% a middle school book, but this is an author that my middle school girls love.  It seems like they’ve all read something Suzanne Nelson has written.  So I wanted in on it.

If Emery had to pick a Christmas character she’s most like, it would be the Grinch.  She’s so over Christmas and all the hype.  Ugh.  To make it all worse, her parents are forcing her to work as an elf at their Santa photo booth in the mall.  The only silver lining is meeting Alejandro Perez, who works at the hot cocoa store next door.  Alejandro is totally into Christmas, though.  But the more time Emery spends with Alex, the more she starts to wonder if she’s really the Grinch she thinks she is.  When a Secret Santa exchange turns her world upside-down, will she embrace the Christmas spirit in time to truly enjoy the season?

I really needed a Christmas book, and this was definitely cute.  I mean, I am totally Alex in this situation (I even bought thigh-high red and white striped elf socks that I totally want to wear to school on the last day before break…to wear as I carol in the hallways.  I am going to be branded as “lame” and loving it.)

Anywho, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect with this, since I’d never read anything by this author before.  And it’s been an awful long time since I was a middle school student myself.  There were some times that I felt like it was a little immature or that Emery should have seen something coming, but I could usually think about my students and go, “Nope, it’s pretty on target with what they know/do.”

While it is incredibly predictable (at least to me, maybe not to my students), it does have a lot of heart.  There’s a lot of good stuff in here about getting into the spirit of Christmas and really understanding traditions and why we do them.  As someone who sticks very closely to my Christmas traditions, I loved seeing that feeling put down into words.

So it may not be the most exciting read, but it’s cute and it’s got a lot of emotion packed into it.  I definitely recommend this to anyone who knows a middle school girl who loves romance.