Category Archives: Bookanistas

Bookanista Rec :: PUSH GIRL by Jessica Love and Chelsie Hill

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is
Push Girl (June 3rd) by Jessica Love and Chelsie Hill

From Goodreads – Kara is a high school junior who’s loving life. She’s popular, has a great group of friends and an amazing boyfriend, and she’s a shoe-in for homecoming queen. Even though her parents can’t stop fighting and her ex-boyfriend can’t seem to leave her alone, Kara won’t let anything get in the way of her perfect year. It’s Friday night, and Kara arrives at a party, upset after hearing her parents having another one of their awful fights, and sees another girl with her hands all over her boyfriend. Furious, Kara leaves to take a drive, and, as she’s crossing an intersection, a car comes out of nowhere and slams into the driver’s side of Kara’s car. When Kara wakes up, she has no memory of the night before. Where is she? Why are her parents crying? And, most importantly — why can’t she feel her legs? As Kara is forced to adjust to her new life, where her friends aren’t who they seemed to be and her once-adoring boyfriend is mysteriously absent, she starts to realize that what matters in life isn’t what happens to you — it’s the choices you make and the people you love. Co-written by “Push Girls” star Chelsie Hill, whose real life closely mirrors Kara’s experience, this novel will open the eyes of readers everywhere who have never met someone who lives with paralysis.

Oh, this book! I have so much love for it — not to mention its co-author, my friend and fellow Bookanista, Jessica Love. I cannot wait for June 3rd, when the world will finally meet courageous, determined Kara and her fabulous friends!

At first glance, Push Girl is simply an issue book. Kara’s been dealt an incredibly challenging hand and she’s facing all sorts of struggles, struggles the average person’s probably never even considered. But this novel is so much more than the issues it covers. It’s a hopeful, honest, uplifting story about change and friendship and taking a stand. It’s about healing and traveling unexpected paths and — while Kara hates this word — it’s inspirational.

Kara is such a likable protagonist. While she goes through (understandable) stages of grief and anger and self-pity, she’s ultimately a tenacious girl with an unshakable spirit. Kara’s fight to come to terms with her paralysis is heartbreaking, hard to read at times, but there’s so much joy during the scenes in which she preservers, changing peoples’ minds about paralysis, what it means to be different, and the true meaning of the word inspirational. Kara’s cast of supporting characters is fantastic as well. Jack, especially, makes me smile, and Amanda’s loyalty is refreshing.

Push Girl will appeal to teens and adults alike. It’s emotional and deep, but there are moments of fun, too. Plus, it’s incredibly well-written. Do pick it up when it becomes available June 3rd — I think you’ll love this debut as much as I do!

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Jessica Love adores WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN by Kristin Rae

Kimberly Sabatini is crazy for THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Kasie West

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Bookanistas Rec :: OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

From Goodreads – After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

About a thousand people recommended this book to me even before its official release date. I preordered it because my book besties know me well, but when it arrived at my house, I was nervous. I mean, the cover is gorgeous, the synopsis really does sound like it was written with my tastes in mind, and it’d been so hyped — to me and across the YA community. What if I hated it?

I didn’t. In fact, I LOVED it. I’d go so far as to say it’s a new favorite. Guys, Open Road Summer is pure magic. Here’s what I adored…

*Reagan. She’s a breath of fresh YA air. So real. So complex. Fantastic arc. I was riveted by her backstory, which played perfectly into the girl she is at the novel’s opening, and the girl she becomes by its close.

*Dee. I was prepared to dislike her because it’s immediately established that she’s perfect (aside from the fact that she’s grouchy when she’s sick and hungry). Perfect or not, she’s also deep and genuine and charming. An awesome BFF.

*Reagan & Dee’s friendship. Author Emery Lord rendered their longstanding relationship beautifully. Their loyalty and love for one another is palpable.

*Matt Finch. *happy sigh* He’s so freaking cute and alluring and just… winsome. Pretty much every scene he shared with Reagan made me grin. They have incredible chemistry, super fun banter, and some of the sweetest kisses I’ve read.

*Jimmy. He’s a fairly minor character (he’s in only in one scene), but his presence sort of looms over Dee throughout, and I love how that’s executed. IWLYF  

*Travel. This novel literally takes place on the open road, all through the southern half of the US (my favorite half, incidentally) and exploring the country with Reagan, Dee, and Matt was a blast. 

*Music. It’s no secret that I love country music, and it’s no secret that I love Taylor Swift. I get the impression that Dee was perhaps inspired at least in part by her, which is sort of amazing. Also, there are song lyrics sprinkles throughout the novel that are so very lovely.

*Nashville. One of my very favorite cities. We used to live nearby, so I could totally picture Open Road Summer‘s references to Music Row and the Ryman and the gorgeous landscapes outside the city. Makes me want to visit.

*Voice. There wasn’t a moment while reading this story where I was pulled out of the narrative by a word or phrase that didn’t fit. Emery Lord’s voice reads as effortless, and I’m a fan.

 Open Road Summer is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year thus far. I highly, highly recommend it.

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Lenore Appelhans loves WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart

Tracy Banghart lights up for
STREETLIGHTS LIKE FIREWORKS, by David Pandolfe

Jessica Love is on fire for CAMELOT BURNING by Kathryn Rose

Tracey Neithercott sings the praises of
STOLEN SONGBIRD by Danielle L. Jensen

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Bookanistas Rec :: THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN by Meredith McCardle

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is
The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle (May 6th, 2014)

From Goodreads – Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris. It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together. But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever. Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?

I had the privilege of beta reading The Eighth Guardian for Meredith last year and have since reread the paperback (which I’m giving away today — see below!). Guys, this book is so cool. It’s time travel done right, full of twists and betrayal and fascinating historical reference; the stakes are unbelievably high.

Amanda (code name Iris) is exactly the kind of protagonist I love. She’s sassy and smart and doesn’t put up with crap from anyone. She’s so courageous, and she refuses to bow to those in positions of power, no matter the sacrifices she has to make to do what she believes in. I loved traveling through the decades with her. Oh, and Amanda has a really cute boyfriend, too. This romance lover’s a fan. 😉

The Eighth Guardian is a smart, smart book. It’s super fast-paced. The writing is top-notch. It’s a novel that makes you think. It makes you work for answers, and the payoffs are huge. Every chapter is a surprise, and almost no one’s who they originally appear to be. I love how Meredith plays with the past, bending important historical events to work with her plot. And I love how relentlessly she challenges Iris, who quickly learns that there are no easy solutions, especially when it comes to altering history.

I’m so, so happy that The Eighth Guardian is the first book in a series, and I can’t wait to follow Iris on more adventures through the past!

Want to win a signed paperback copy of The Eighth Guardian before its release? Well, lucky you, because I’m giving one away today!

To be automatically entered in the giveaway, leave a comment below telling me which historical event you’d travel to if you had a fabulous Annum Guard time travel watch…

(Giveaway is open internationally and will close Sunday, April 27th. I’ll announce the winner on Monday, April 28th. Good luck!)

ANNUM

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

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Bookanista Rec :: THE SYMPTOMS OF MY INSANITY by Mindy Raf

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is
The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf

From Goodreads – A laugh-out-loud, bittersweet debut full of wit, wisdom, heart, and a hilarious, unforgettable heroine. When you’re a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what’s really wrong…

 I almost raised my hand, but what would I say? “Mr. Bayer, may I please be excused? I’m not totally positive, but I think I might have cancer.” No way. Then everyone at school would know, and they would treat me differently, and I would be known as “Izzy, that poor girl who diagnosed herself with breast cancer during biology.” 

But Izzy’s sense of humor can only get her so far when suddenly her best friend appears to have undergone a personality transplant, her mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, and her beautiful maybe-boyfriend is going all hot and cold. Izzy thinks she’s preparing for the worst-case scenario, but when the worst-case scenario actually hits, it’s a different story altogether—and there’s no tidy list of symptoms to help her through the insanity.

I didn’t know much about this book before I bought it. I’d heard that it was very funny and very real, and that seemed like enough. Plus, the cover is super cool, isn’t it? I’m happy to report that the story beneath the cover is cool, too. It’s hard to describe without giving away major plot points, but I can tell you that Izzy is a genuinely  hilarious narrator, the issues she’s dealing with are real-life and deftly handled, and there’s a ton of heart beneath all the humor in this novel. 

There’s a lot going on in The Symptoms of My Insanity and most of it isn’t good — poor Izzy. While she obviously cares about her friends and family, she’s the kind of teenager who is very much wrapped up in herself. She sees the world through insecurities and anxiety and while that makes for a lot of humorous musings and interactions, it also litters Izzy’s path with a lot of extra challenges. I loved following along as she learned to step away from herself and view situations for what they truly were, and I loved how she slowly began to stand up for herself and take ownership of her actions, good and bad. I loved how Izzy’s familial relationships and friendships deepened, and how the girls at her school banded together after a really stupid boy did a really terrible thing. And I love how the novel concludes, how Izzy uses her art and her portfolio to give that really stupid boy the finger. It’s tremendously awesome.

If you’re still not sold, here’s how The Symptoms of My Insanity opens:

I’m standing inside a large fitting room at Lola’s Lingerie. Oh, and there are three hands on my breasts.

Yup, three large Russion hands. On my breasts. I’m not even kidding. 

How can you not want to know what happens next? 🙂

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to…

Lenore Appelhans is nuts for NOGGIN by John Corey Whaley

Tracy Banghart swoons for STAR CURSED by Jessica Spotswood

Rebecca Behrens raves about PUSH GIRL by Bookanista Jessica Love

Christine Fonseca is riveted by SEKRET by Lindsay Smith

Jessica Love sings the praises of OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord

Kimberly Sabatini loves BRAZEN by Katherine Longshore

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Bookanistas Rec :: PANIC by Lauren Oliver

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is Panic by Lauren Oliver

From Goodreads – Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do. Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought. Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for. For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Honest confession: The synopsis of this novel didn’t do much for me. The fact that there’s no mention of romance had a lot to do with that. Also, the talk of the “game” and the danger and the high-stakes… I don’t know. Just not my thing.

But. Lauren Oliver is one of my auto-buy authors. Before I Fall blew my mind (it was my very first Bookanista rec), and I thought the Delirium trilogy was lovely, especially Pandemonium, the second book (another Bookanista rec). I have always found Lauren Oliver’s writing to be enviably gorgeous, and that holds true for her latest release. Check it out…

It was the final, explosive demonstration of summer, the line in the sand, a desperate attempt to hold fall forever at bay. But autumn nibbled the blue sky with its teeth, tore off chunks of the sun, smudged out that heavy veil of meat-smelling smoke. ~ Panic, Lauren Oliver

So visceral, right?

Despite my initial reservations, I ended up captivated by this novel. The game turned out to be quite gripping (the challenges had me on the edge of my seat), and the characters are, in true Lauren Oliver form, compelling and beautifully drawn. I thought the dynamic between Heather and Bishop was especially intriguing. Panic is one of those books that seems hopeless as you’re reading — how are these people possibly going to solve all of their problems? — so it was hard to put down, particularly as I hit the climax. And the ending… awesome.

Big recommend if you’re looking for a contemporary that’s gritty and unique, and if you’re a fan of stunning, evocative prose.

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Jessica Love is captivated by LIV, FOREVER by Amy Talkington

Kimberly Sabatini loves LADY THIEF by A. C. Gaughen

Christine Fonseca applauds DANGEROUS by Shannon Hale

 Lenore Appelhans is riveted by THE GLASS CASKET by McCormick Templeman

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Bookanistas Rec :: NIL by Lynne Matson

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is Nil by Lynne Matson

From Goodreads – On the island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die. Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field. Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought. So is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, she must save him. On an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

Guys, this is such a cool book. Part survival story, part romance, part adventure, it’s like Survivor set in a parallel dimension, one where escape is not guaranteed.

I’ve never read a story quite like Nil, and for that reason, it took me a bit of time to fall into. The cast is large and the world is unique (both good things!), so it took awhile to ground myself in the story. Once that happened, though, I was hooked. I read while I ate breakfast, while I dried my hair, while I was on the elliptical, and while I waited in the pick-up line at my daughter’s school. Lynne Matson is ruthless when it comes to challenging her characters, and she very successfully uses time (dwindling time, specifically) to rachet up the tension, making Nil almost impossible to put down.

Charley and Thad are awesome protagonists. Charley is strong and smart and motivated, and Thad is a natural leader who’s incredibly sweet when it comes to romance. Their relationship deepened  quickly, a bit of an instalove situation that might’ve bothered me in another story, but on the island of Nil, time is limited and a no regrets mindset is the way of life. Why not go after the boy/girl of your dreams? I enjoyed Nil‘s secondary characters too, particularly Natalie and Rives, and the island setting was fantastic and very well developed.

While Nil requires some suspension of disbelief, it’s a unique story of survival, sacrifice, and love, and a strong debut from Lynne Matson. Do check it out!

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Jessica Love is out-of-this-world excited about ALIENATED by Melissa Landers

Tracey Neithercott is loving BETTER OFF FRIENDS by Elizabeth Eulberg

Kimberly Sabatini is raving about 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

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Bookanistas Rec :: THE SUMMER I FOUND YOU (With *5 Things* From Jolene Perry!)

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is
The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

From GoodreadsAll they have in common is that they’re less than perfect. And all they’re looking for is the perfect distraction. Kate’s dream boyfriend has just broken up with her and she’s still reeling from her diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Aidan planned on being a lifer in the army and went to Afghanistan straight out of high school. Now he’s a disabled young veteran struggling to embrace his new life. When Kate and Aidan find each other neither one wants to get attached. But could they be right for each other after all?

I bought this book because Jolene is awesome, and because I think the cover is really pretty. Luckily, the story beneath the cover lived up to my expectations. I adore Aidan. He’s been through tons, but he doesn’t spend a lot of time feeling sorry for himself. His inner commentary about learning to live life with just one arm is fascinating, and so well written. Similarly, Kate is very much a winsome character. She’s got a lot going on with her recent diabetes diagnosis, plus her boyfriend’s just kicked her to the curb. She’s not sitting around having pity parties either, though, which is a big part of why The Summer I Found You is such a quick and enjoyable read. Aidan and Kate just work, and it’s such a joy to watch their relationship blossom, even through awkward moments and missteps.  Also, the chemistry between these two… So good, guys! Big recommend if you’re a fan of romantic contemporary young adult novels!

And now, a bit from author Jolene Perry…

FIVE THINGS THAT WERE INTERESTING ABOUT WRITING A TEENAGE CHARACTER WHO IS MISSING AN ARM

(Me and my good friend, Allie Brennan, do these “five things” posts a LOT. Normally they’re not this long, but I wanted to use excerpts. And yes, there are lots of things that happen in The Summer I Found You that have nothing to do with Aidan’s lack of an arm!)

ONE – GETTING BREAKFAST

“I step into the massive kitchen and pull a bowl from the cupboard. Everything for me now requires multiple steps. Open cupboard door wide enough that it stays open. Let go of door. Pull out bowl. Set bowl down. Reach back up to cupboard door to close it. Pull open silverware drawer. Let go of drawer. Pick out spoon. Set spoon down. Close silverware drawer.

One damn thing at a time. Three months without my arm, and there isn’t a second of the day I don’t think about it. The thing is, no one in this house has yet to comment on it. Not my cousin Jen. Not my cousin Will. Not my aunt. Not my uncle. There’s No way they’re not at least a little curious…

TWO – GIRLS NOTICING HIM (Like Kate, hilarious truth-blurter)

“Oh,” Jen says as we pull up. “Aidan-is-a-bit-moody-and-lost-an-arm-in-Afghanistan.” And then she jumps out of the car. 

What? How can she have a cousin living with her for weeks and I know nothing of this part of it? I leap out my side, and then have to smooth the T-shirt fabric of the dress down again to make sure my panties are covered. How did I get talked into this? Wait. “What did you say about arms?”

“Shh.” Her eyes widen as I come around the front of her car.

Her gangly brother walks up with the guy who must be Aidan. He has the family blond hair and gorgeous light blue eyes. But he also has broad shoulders shown off by the snugness of his T-shirt. One of his shoulders leads to an arm. The other one does not.

I know I’m staring, because it’s definitely something I should NOT be staring at. But my brain’s having a hard time wrapping around it. It feels like someone’s erased what should be there.

“Kate,” she hisses. “You’re staring.”

“So, what does the other guy look like?” I grin at Aidan, and then realize I don’t know this guy, and it was possibly one of the dumbest things to ever leave my mouth.

THREE – AWKWARD CONVERSATIONS

“How do you open jars?” I turn to face him.

“Um…you sort of put it all out there, don’t you?” His face is unreadable. Is he annoyed? Does he care?

“Sorry.” I push out air. “But I just say stupid crap. You’ve already probably realized that, though.”

“I put the jar between my legs.”

“Sounds like a pain.” I do loads of things every day that take two arms. How does he stand it?

“It is.”

“I can’t believe I’m even talking about it after saying that stupid thing when I got out of the car.” Jen seriously should have known better than to pair me up with her cousin.

“No. It’s okay. I mean, no one ever asks. It’s like they all try to pretend my arm’s still there and it isn’t. Seems like sort of a silly thing to pretend.” He shrugs again, but this time he only shrugs the shoulder with the arm.

“Does it still hurt?” The words come out before I can think. He nods once. It looks like resignation. “Like hell.” His answer is totally unexpected and makes my gut drop. 

I mean, he’s out and about, hanging with my neurotic self on the Ferris wheel.

“Sorry.”

“It is what it is.”

“So, you can ask me something personal and embarrassing. Even us out.”

FOUR – KISSING

But now I wonder—what will she actually think about me only having one arm? What will happen when she accidentally runs her hand over where my arm should be? Will it matter? Will she care?

I’m actually relieved that my shoulder stump is against the seat. Out of reach.

She leans forward and our lips come together in a small soft kiss, before pulling away. I kiss her back, but this time our kiss is deep enough that the electricity flies through my body sending tingles to my toes, fingertips, every piece, every part. All of it. And I should probably be thinking more, but it feels so good to not think, to just feel. I slide my arm around her waist, frustrated I don’t have more power to keep her close, and kiss her again.

FIVE – MORE THAN KISSING

I move my hands up his chest and around his neck, but then I slide them down, unsure if I should run my hand over where his arm used to be. 

“Can I see your arm?” I ask.

Instead of answering, he pulls his T-shirt over his head and drops it to the floor, and I forget to look at where his arm used to be. I’m looking at his chest, his tight abs, his back, and whoa, wow. Shelton’s toned, sort of. He’s thin, but Aidan’s built like…I guess he’s built like a man. Different. Nervous tingles hit me in the pit of my stomach. A man. Older, more experience in life, I’m sure in love, in everything.

“That bad?” he asks. 

“I wasn’t looking at your arm.” Stupid, stupid lack of filter! 

“Are you checking me out, Kate?” he teases. 

But I don’t have it in me to tease. Not right now. I run my hand over his chest, down his stomach and even have the guts to slide my fingertips into the front of his jeans…

And that’s my story. ~ Jolene

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Lenore Applehans freaks for PANIC by Lauren Oliver

Christine Fonseca is captivated by SHINOBI by Cole Gibson

Jessica Love raves about WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
by Bookanista Rebecca Behrens

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