Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Release Day Blitz The Illiusion of Annabella by Jessica Sorensen #YA #contemporary #giveaway

The Illusion of Annabella RDL
Happy Release Day to Jessica Sorensen and her new book THE ILLUSION OF ANNABELLA. The Illusion of Annabella is a Young Adult Contemporary Romance. Enjoy a sneak peek below and make sure to enter the giveaway!

Monday, May 25, 2015

YA book review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen #‎saintanything‬ @sarahdessen Penguin Teen

Saint Anything
by Sarah Dessen
YA contemporary

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Viking Juvenile

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Cover comment: The carousel in the woods is very cool but I don't understand why this was chosen for the cover. There's only one scene with the carousel in the over 400 pages+ of this book. I would have expected a slice of pizza, a chain with a saint medallion, or even a guitar or fiddle as art.
Book source: Purchased.

Standing in the shadows of anyone is never fun. When that individual is your older brother, a charismatic, good looking, larger than life individual, how can another compete or get a shred of attention for themselves? Sydney has lived her entire life with Peyton as the dominant force in her parent's eyes, especially her mother's. When he began getting into trouble, her folks tried to help him, but he needed to want help in the first place. When he gets behind the wheel of his car, inebriated, and hits a teen boy on a bike, Peyton receives a sentence and is jailed. Now Sydney has to live with the repercussions of his actions as well as his ghost in her life. 

Saint Anything is typical Dessen from the quiet girl to the immensely likable secondary characters (here it's an entire family, the Chathams), the budding romance with a guy (Mac) and the journey of self-discovery. It's also one of her darkest toned books in a long time. I will immediately say I was surprised by the amount of telling in the beginning of the story which set-up the premise for Sydney's journey. Peyton's back story did slow down the pace for me, but since I already found Sydney a likable and highly sympathetic character (she calls herself "invisible"), I had to read on. That is what gets me with each and every Dessen book--the voice. The main character may not always be exciting or interesting, but their insight, the way they view the world and convey their feelings to the reader, is what hooks me and what has made me a fan of this author. When I read a Sarah Dessen book I know I will really get to know her MC because she writes such deep portrayals of teen girls. And I usually wind up loving the MC's best friend too.

Sydney changes schools so she can begin over again while Peyton serves his sentence. It's hard standing in his shadow and the new public school she attends offers her anonymity. She meets Layla at a local pizzeria along with her brother, Mac. At school Layla seeks her out and brings Sydney into her group of friends. Sydney is accepted. This story has so much going on from Sydney's internal conflict of dealing with her feelings for Peyton and what he did, to the external of living with her grieving parents, to the secondary plots involving the creepy Ames, making friends and falling for someone. I did love Layla's outgoing personality and her dedication to her mother. Her entire family, no matter how dysfunctional, showed Sydney what family is all about. 

I did have some qualms about a few things in the book. The cover depicts a carousel and I wondered why. When the carousel was mentioned, it was only in one scene, and I really expected to see it used again, especially in a scene with Sydney and Mac. It wasn't. If something is showcased on a cover, I think it's going to be of importance. Why not have a medallion pictured instead? The story line with Ames built up and was tense (even though I had a hard time believing her parents couldn't see what was going on) and then ended rather weakly. And after so much was said about Peyton, I expected to see him with Sydney more, at least one 'big' scene between siblings later on.

Even with my comments and concerns, I have to admit once I open a Sarah Dessen book, it's hard for me to put it down. I love the way she writes contemporary girls. Their voices always have a way of touching me, gripping a piece of my heart, and resonating with me. Whenever I read her books I make sure to keep a highlighter handy becasue I know I will be marking favorite passages. Saint Anything was no exception. My copy is marked up in yellow and also autographed since I was able to meet the author while she was on tour for this book. 

YA book review: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever
by Sarah Dessen

YA contemporary
Paperback, 374 pages
Published May 11th 2004 by Penguin Group Inc.

A long, hot summer...
That's what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister's project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl's world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?

Rating: 5 LOVED it!
Cover comment: I'm not crazy about the new covers. They are boring and don't really express anything about the story.
Book source: I own it.

In preparation for receiving my pre-ordered copy of Dessen's latest book, Saint Anything, I went back and reread the first book I ever read by this author which opened my eyes to the wonderful world of YA contemporary. Macy. Wes. The game of Truth. Has catering ever been so much fun and utter craziness? Has falling in love ever caught someone off guard and made life seem so worthwhile?

The answers is yes, yes and yes. I've read The Truth About Forever about five times now. I don't like Macy's boyfriend Jason. He tells her via email they need to cool things off this summer all because she told him she loved him in her last message. All I can say is if someone can't handle another person expressing their feelings for them, they don't deserve it. Anyway, Macy finds something so much better that summer. And then some. He is named Wes, part of the catering company Macy finds herself drawn to and soon is employed with. He's the type of guy who isn't aware of the power and pull his natural good looks have on females. With everything Macy's dealing with that summer from an egotistical boyfriend to coping with her dad's death to living with her workaholic mother, falling for a hot guy is not on her list. But sometimes things have a way of happening.

The cast of secondary characters in Dessen's books frequently overshadow her main characters and here Kristy is all heart, good guidance, and cool fashion sense. She imbues this natural light which Macy sees and wishes she had, but she'll settle for simply being her friend. The entire Wish catering family offers Macy a home from her frequently empty one, friendships, guidance when needed, and they accept her for who she is. Through playing the Truth game with Wes during work and whenever they hang out together, these two learn a lot about the other in a gentle, often humorous, way. Wes has always been my favorite Dessen guy. He's quiet, introspective, loyal, talented (wouldn't you want one of his angel statues too?), funny, and plays a mean game of Gotcha! He also gets Macy to see the person she's always been and the person she wants to be have always been there inside her and she's beautiful and worth loving. 

From their moments together to the party scene when Wes reaches out for her to the final scene when Macy realizes the symbolism of new statue on her lawn and the guy walking away is all she ever wanted, The Truth About Forever will probably be my forever favorite Dessen book. I read it at a time when it touched my heart and left its mark. After every reading, I may seem the chinks below its surface, and that's okay. No book is perfect, but some are magical, and for me, this is one of those books.