Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set During the Summer

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Books with X Setting.” I decided to go with a summertime setting. At first I was debating doing books set at summer camp or at a beach house or by the ocean, but what they all have in common is that they’re set during the summer.

What is it about books and summertime settings that seem to go so well together? There’s something about the freedom from studying and annoying teachers and locker drama and finding someone to sit with at lunch. The longer days, the sleeping-in, the late nights or all-nighters. You’re free to have new experiences, meet new people, travel, and figure out who you are. These books capture those summers where anything can and does happen, when you start to see things – or people – differently, when you go outside your comfort zone.

The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen: Sarah Dessen is the queen of summer YA novels. I could have chosen a number of her novels, but I decided on this one. It’s a summer of change and discovery for Macy, featuring romance, quirky workers and the chaos of catering jobs, and dealing with grief.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares: Another ultimate summer read. Four friends spend their summer apart – one in Greece, one in Baja California, one in South Carolina, and one at home – experiencing love and loss, staying connected through their magical pair of jeans.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han: Belly spends her summers at a beach house with her family and family friends Susannah, Jeremiah, and Conrad. But this particular summer is different: she starts to see things differently – and maybe Jeremiah and Conrad start to see her differently too. A cute, sweet read.

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler: Jude Hernandez is spending her summer helping her dad restore his motorcycle and trying to avoid the charming Vargas brothers. There’s a sweet romance, three-dimensional characters, and lots of emotional moments involving family, memory, and her dad’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson: A sad, realistic novel about a girl who is dealing with her dad’s diagnosis and grief, while also navigating relationships with her former best friend and former boyfriend, and learning how to be confident and not run away from everything.

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson: Three totally different girls spend their summer working at a peach farm in Georgia. Full of friendship, vignettes about the girls’ family and history of the town, and a little bit of magic.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: The synopsis states: “A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth.” And if you haven’t read it, that’s all you need to know, don’t read anything else about it, just read the book.

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy: Three sisters encounter crushes, heartbreak, bullying, sneaking out, and other shenanigans at summer camp. Ultimately it’s about the bond between sisters.

 

Do you like books set during summer? What other settings do you like? Leave me a comment 🙂

Review: You Know Me Well

LaCour Levithan You know me wellTitle: You Know Me Well

Author: Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Published: June 7, 2016

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, You Know Me Well is a story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

I love both David Levithan’s and Nina LaCour’s writing, so I thought this collaboration would be a perfect pairing. It ended up being not my favourite David Levithan collaboration, but it was still a good read. It’s a great novel to read during Pride Week as it’s set in San Francisco and features Pride festivities. There are a lot of coming out YA novels; this one is more about what happens after. I could definitely feel the passion and excitement of the characters at the end when they were embracing who they are, celebrating, and heading to the parade.

The characters, especially Katie, were very relatable. In particular, this book absolutely nailed a few things: running away from opportunities because you’re scared or because you think you’re not good enough or don’t deserve them, and pushing away someone you really like because you want to hold onto the idea of them and don’t want to ruin things – and you can’t ruin them if nothing’s begun.

At first I was a bit disappointed in how Mark’s storyline ended, or maybe I was just sad for him. At the same time, I liked that the novel didn’t end with everyone getting together with the person they liked. It can still be a happy ending without everyone pairing off in romantic couples. Plus it felt more realistic that way.

It was nice to have a novel focus on a platonic male-female relationship – in particular, a friendship that wasn’t toxic or dysfunctional, just a friendship where the two of them are there for each other, pushing each other to go after what they want, supporting each other through bad times, understanding each other in ways that other people don’t or can’t.

Favourite Quotes:

“And when I begin to worry that I chose the wrong college, or that my future roommate will hate me, or that I’m going to grow up and forget about the things I once loved – cobalt blue, this certain hill behind my high school, searching for old slides at flea markets, the song “Divided” – I think about Violet.”

“Because we lose it. We grow up and we lose ourselves. Sometimes when my favorite songs are on I have to stop what I’m doing and lie down on my carpet and just listen. I feel every word they’re singing. Every note. And to think that in twenty years, or ten years, or five, even, I might hear those same songs and just, like, bob my head or something is horrible. Then I’m sure I’ll think that I know more about life, but it isn’t true. I’ll know less.”

“And we step off the curb, all of us together, as if to say, Here we come – through hard days and good ones, through despair and through exhilaration, in love and out of love, for just now or for forever. Here we come. It’s our parade.”

You might also like: any of David Levithan’s collaborations – Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares (all with Rachel Cohn), Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), and other David Levithan books – Two Boys Kissing, How They Met and Other Stories, Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility + + check out Nina LaCour if you haven’t – The Disenchantments is a personal favourite!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside the US

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Ten Books Set Outside The US.” Here are my picks!

Kephart One thing stolen

1. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart (Italy)

Set in Florence, Italy, this was a beautifully written book about a girl whose mental state and capacity for communication seem to be strangely diminishing. The book follows her as she travels around Florence, searching for an elusive Italian boy and gathering strange objects, and tries to figure out what’s happening to her.

Hingston dilettantes

2. The Dilettantes by Michael Hingston (Canada)

This book is set at Simon Fraser University in BC, Canada, is written by an SFU graduate, and I was reading it while I was attending SFU myself, so that was pretty cool. Two editors of The Peak, SFU’s campus newspaper, are trying to save the paper amidst approaching graduation, a free daily paper coming to campus and stealing readers, a Hollywood star returning to finish his degree, film shoots on campus, and lots of absurdity. It was hilarious and full of smart and funny observations about college life, and some inside jokes about SFU campus life specifically.

Forman just one year

3. Just One Year by Gayle Forman (Amsterdam + Mexico, India)

This is the sequel/companion novel to Just One Day, and it’s told from the perspective of Willem as he returns to his home in Amsterdam, and then travels around to places like Mexico and India, all the while searching for a girl he knows only as Lulu and growing as a person. Lots of lovely descriptions and beautiful passages.

Marchetta looking for alibrandi

4. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (Australia)

Melina Marchetta is amazing and this is her classic coming-of-age novel about Josephine Alibrandi, an Italian-Australian teenager who learns about and navigates school, friendships and relationships, family, and her heritage. If you haven’t read any of Melina Marchetta’s novels, do it now!

Montgomery Anne of Green Gables

5. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Canada)

This is where my interest in Prince Edward Island began. One of these days I will get there and I will visit the real Green Gables!

Teller Nothing

6. Nothing by Janne Teller (Denmark)

In a small Danish town, a seventh-grade boy decides that nothing means anything, so he climbs a tree and refuses to come down. His classmates try to convince him that things do have meaning, and to do so they resort to increasingly shocking and extreme measures. To be honest, I don’t recall if I actually enjoyed this book, but I don’t necessarily think it’s the type of book you’re supposed to enjoy. I think it’s supposed to be unusual and thought-provoking and a little bit twisted, and if that was the goal, then it definitely succeeded.

Kephart Going Over

7. Going Over by Beth Kephart (Germany)

This book is set in 1980s Berlin. Two teenagers are in love, stuck on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall. Full of lovely, literary writing, it provides a glimpse into a historical time period.

Giordano solitude prime numbers

8. The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano (Italy)

A prime number can only be divided by one or itself; special primes are prime numbers like 13 and 15 that are close but still separate. The two main characters, Alice and Mattia, are called twin primes because they too are close yet still remain lonely and isolated. This book is certainly not a happy read; it was rather bleak and depressing at times, but not in a bad way, if that makes sense. It was an interesting concept and very well-written.

Nilsson heart's delight

9. Heart’s Delight by Per Nilsson (Sweden)

A book about first love and first heartbreak. Over the course of a night, a boy assembles a random assortment of objects, including a potted plant, a grammar book, condoms, and a movie ticket, and decides he must get rid of them. As he tosses each item out the window or into the garbage chute, we find out that each has some significance in his relationship with his heart’s delight and learn what happened in this relationship.

Van de Ruit Spud

10. Spud by John van de Ruit (South Africa)

I confess that I haven’t actually read this, but it’s on my list! It’s about a boy who starts at a boys-only boarding school in South Africa, and according to the blurb, it is apparently full of “illegal midnight swims, raging hormones, and catastrophic holidays that will leave the entire family in total hysterics and thirsty for more.” It sounds hilarious. Plus, I just found out there’s a movie adaptation, and Troye Sivan plays Spud!

 

Have you read any of these? What books set outside of the US have you read?

 

Review: This is Where the World Ends

Zhang this is whereTitle: This is Where the World Ends

Author: Amy Zhang

Published: March 22, 2016

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivien moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship—as long as no one finds out about it. But then Janie goes missing and everything Micah thought he knew about his best friend is colored with doubt.

Using a nonlinear writing style and dual narrators, Amy Zhang reveals the circumstances surrounding Janie’s disappearance in a second novel.

When I first heard about this book I thought it was about apocalypses and the world ending for real – as in, a meteor coming for earth or an actual zombie apocalypse or something like that. So I didn’t pay much attention to it because that’s not really my thing, but as it turns out that’s actually not what it’s about at all!

This book is a dual narrative, with Micah telling the “After” chapters and Janie telling the “Before” chapters. Eventually the Before and After kind of converge and you get a clearer picture of what happened. This did help to build suspense and keep me reading, because every time I found out a little bit more of what happened Before, the chapter cut off and we were back to After. Micah having amnesia also contributed to the suspense because he can’t remember what happened to Janie or how he ended up in the hospital; the reader finds out what happened only in bits and pieces.

I was disappointed because I guessed early on what had happened to Janie, although I didn’t know all the specific details of how. Because of that, the reveal and ending were not as shocking or unpredictable as they were probably meant to be. The book also seemed to end before it should have. There was the big reveal, a couple of lines that were maybe supposed to hint at closure, and then it was over. I felt the ending was too sudden, with some unanswered questions.

This definitely reminded me a lot of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Not only were there similarities in plot, but both also interspersed fairy tale re-tellings. In the case of This is Where the World Ends, every so often there was an excerpt from Janie’s journal. She was studying fairy tales for her senior project, so her journal was filled with re-written fairy tales that reflected the thoughts or situations of her and other characters. I did think this was well done, and it emphasized the idea that life is not always like a fairy tale, but even if it is, fairy tales can be dark and twisted and not end happily, just like the original fairy tales that many Disney movies are based on.

Although overall I was disappointed with this book, I might still read Amy Zhang’s debut, Falling into Place, at some point, because I did enjoy her writing style and I hear a lot of people saying that her first is better than this one.

Favourite Quotes:

“He is rainwater and smoke and wishes. He is honey and wind and bitter as truth and sharp with hurting and endlessly, unbearably sweet. He is air, finally, endlessly. Ease — that’s what it is, that’s what we are, we snap into place, or we glide, or we fall.”

“Micah was right — I would have wished and wanted but I would have been too scared to do anything. Just like everybody else. Everyone says they want to travel and leave home and find themselves or whatever, but they never do it. That’s what high school’s for. You make plans and you don’t follow through. You dream and you can be brave when you dream, brave enough to dream that there’s actually a yourself to find, brave enough to finish projects even though you were never born with endings, brave enough to plan volunteer trips even though you’d probably be dead of asphyxiation by the time you’re there because you’re always holding your breath as if that can keep you together.”

You might also like: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, All the Rage by Courtney Summers, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Paper Towns by John Green

Review: A Sense of the Infinite

Smith A sense of the infinite

Title: A Sense of the Infinite

Author: Hilary T. Smith

Published: May 19, 2015

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.

But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith’s second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

This is a quiet and thoughtful book. In some ways, a lot of things happen, but in other ways, not a lot happens. What I mean is, there’s a lot of introspection, of shared glances and little jokes, being ignored and being on your own – little moments that mean something, sometimes something significant, but aren’t necessarily major events in terms of plot. Mostly this book is about Annabeth’s growth as a character, as her friendship with her best friend Noe deteriorates and as she slowly opens up to other people and experiences.

A Sense of the Infinite incorporates a variety of issues, including eating disorders, rape, abortion, and depression, but not in a heavy way, not in a way that makes it feel like an Issue Novel or a Problem of the Week Book. It just feels like it’s about real life and complex people, and these issues are naturally a part of their character or backstory or circumstances.

I liked the friendship that developed between Annabeth and Steven. When I first read that Noe’s new boyfriend, a constant presence, was changing Noe and Annabeth’s friendship, I thought that was going to go in a completely direction. I expected to dislike Steven, to resent his presence and interference. I thought it was going to involve a girl who ditches her friend and spends all her time with her boyfriend, but that was not the case. I actually liked the character of Steven a lot – in fact, much more than Noe.

I loved how certain lines said so much. One example is “I believe you owe me a pizza” – if you’ve read the book, you know that line spoken to the nutritionist has a lot of significance, but it’s not spelled out. It’s just there and then the chapter ends, and it leaves you thinking about what that means. So many times a chapter ended on a powerful line or two.

In fact, the writing was easy to read yet powerful. Even though it was 400 pages, I whipped through it in a couple days. Smith’s writing is emotional, beautiful, and poignant. I’ll just end this with some quotes, because there were a lot that resonated with me in one way or another.

Favourite Quotes:

“‘Everything’s happening!’ we said over and over, until it turned into a magic spell, an incantation, sweeping us out of Noe’s bedroom and into the great rushing hugeness of the rest of our lives.”

“It felt like the day had already lasted a hundred years. I wanted to talk to myself some more; to attend to those quiet inner stirrings that didn’t happen every day. I wasn’t ready to turn outward, to engage.”

“It was hard to switch from being deep in my head to talking on the phone, to vocalizing. Words felt clunky and crude, like using wooden blocks to communicate.”

“Were we even still ourselves back then, or had we already changed into these other people? Did we really mean it, or were we playing out our old rituals one last time, as a kindness, or a half-life, the way that light from a dying star continues to reach the earth for years after the star has burned out?”

“People are like trees. They need one kind of food when they’re seedlings, and a different kind of food once they’ve been growing for a few years. Maybe you and Noe needed each other in ninth grade in a way you don’t need each other now.”

2016 YA Releases I Can’t Wait to Read

2016 is shaping up to be a great year for YA releases; many of my favourite authors have interesting, intriguing, clever, and/or fun new releases coming out. It’s always awesome when some of your favourites have new books being released, because you know you’re almost guaranteed a good read. This list of five 2016 YA releases consists almost entirely of authors I’ve read before, except for #5.

Altebrando The Leaving

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
(release date: June 7, 2016)

Tara Altebrando always seems to incorporate interesting and original concepts into her stories, whether it’s the history of Coney Island and carnival sideshows in Dreamland Social Club, or the contrast between the fakery of Las Vegas attractions and their real-life European counterparts in What Happens Here. It will be interesting to see her tackle thriller/suspense.

Caletti Essential Maps

Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti
(release date: April 5, 2016)

I will read anything Deb Caletti writes. End of story. I love her prose, and she has a way of perfectly capturing certain feelings and incorporating little details to make a story feel so real. Her newest has secrets and falling in love and tragedy and depression and alternating perspectives, and somehow incorporates the children’s novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (which I never got around to reading when I was younger, but maybe Caletti’s latest will inspire me to check it out).

Arnold Kids of Appetite

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold
(release date: Sept. 20, 2016)

David Arnold’s first book, Mosquitoland, was amazing, so I’m excited for his sophomore release. According to his websiteKids of Appetite is about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.

2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.

3. One dormant submarine.

4. Two songs about flowers.

5. Being cool in the traditional sense.

6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.

7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.

8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.

9. A story collector.

10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.

11. Falling in love with a painting.

12. Falling in love with a song.

13. Falling in love.

I can definitely say I’m intrigued.

Yovanoff Places no one

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
(release date: May 17, 2016)

Brenna Yovanoff’s books can be strange in a good way, and this looks like no exception. I devoured her book Paper Valentine, which is less paranormal/horror/fantasy than her other books (genres which are not really my thing). Places No One Knows is apparently like this as well – more contemporary realistic with some elements of magical realism and fantasy. It involves dreams and waking up in other people’s dreams and connecting and sharing parts of yourself with another.

Cavallaro A study in Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
(release date: March 1, 2016)

Just recently I got into watching BBC’s Sherlock. I’m super late to the game, I know, and I have no idea why. It’s so totally my thing: mysteries, clever deductions, sometimes snarky dialogue… I mean, I grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and playing Nancy Drew computer games. I wanted to be a detective, and had a magnifying glass and a spyscope for peering around corners! I had a notepad where I could record clues and suspects! Anyway, all of this is to say that I’m looking forward to A Study in Charlotte. It’s a sort of modern re-telling of Sherlock Holmes in which Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson are the descendants of Sherlock and Watson, respectively. They attend a Connecticut prep school and of course there is a suspicious death and much investigating and many twists and turns, I’m sure.