Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Better Off FriendsBetter Off Friends
Elizabeth Eulberg
Point
Release Date: February 28, 2014
Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN: 9780545551458
Websites:
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Elizabeth Eulberg has done it again! Better Off Friends is another great contemporary from Elizabeth Eulberg that left me grinning from ear to ear. 
It’s hard to review a book you liked so much. I’m finding it difficult to start off this review. There is so much I want to say, but I’m having issues figuring out how to say it. 
I loved the structure of the story. Macallan and Levi were recounting the story of their relationship, starting from when they first met in 7th grade. Between each chapters, present day Macallan and Levi would provide commentary on their actions in the past. The chapters alternated point of view between Macallan and Levi, and it was great getting into each of their heads to see how they interpreted the same events. I loved that because the story started in 7th grade, you got to see the full progression of Macallan and Levi’s friendship. You got to relive their relationships’ ups and downs. I loved that their friendship wasn’t perfect, because no friendship ever is. 
I loved both Macallan and Levi. They were extremely well written; they felt like real people. While they sometimes made stupid decisions, I couldn’t help but like them because they felt real. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when it comes to relationships with friends, and it was great to see them tackle the ups and downs of their friendship. Levi and Macallan made the book. Macallan was such a strong character. I loved how protective she was of her family and of those she cared about. Levi was adorable, and it was great seeing him trying to adapt to his new home. 
Their friendship is what drives the story. I loved seeing their relationship develop, from friends to something more. They both care deeply for each other, despite the rough patches their friendship hits. It reminded me a lot of friendship’s I’ve actually had. Their relationship wasn’t perfect, but they managed to work through their arguments and road blocks. I loved how we got to see the relationship transform and grow. Levi and Macallan realize at different times that they feel something more than just friends, but something is always getting in the way of them getting together. 
This book was so cute. While the romance is important, it is really a book that focuses on their friendship. It was great to see such a strong and complex friendship between a guy and girl. While the book does have romance, I would have enjoyed it just as much without it. This story would still be great regardless of how their romantic relationships ended up. It was really a story about friends, family and were your heart feels at home. I think this beautiful quote sums up what this book really is about: “But in truth, home isn’t necessarily where you sleep at night. It’s where you feel like yourself. Where you’re most comfortable. Where don’t have to pretend where you can just be you.” 
Elizabeth Eulberg is an author I know I can turn to for a great contemporary YA novel. Her books never fail to put a smile on my face and improve my mood. The Lonely Hearts Club helped improve my rejection from my number one college, and Better Off Friends had the same effect. Elizabeth Eulberg’s book always lighten my mood; her books remind me of the why YA books are so great. For the few hours of reading Better Off Friends, you can escape from your troubles and just enjoy the story of Levi and Macallan. Their story will lift your heart and leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. I would highly recommend this book, along with Elizabeth Eulberg’s other books, to everyone and anyone as they are magical and have the power to leave you grinning from ear to ear. 

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Going Vintage

Going Vintage

Lindsey Leavitt
Bloomsbury
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN: 9781599907871
Pages: 320
Website:
Rating: 4 Stars
Seriously, where has this book been my whole life and why haven’t I read it sooner? I’ve read other books by Lindsey Leavitt, but this book was just what I was looking for. Funny, sweet and heartwarming, Going Vintage shows that its hard to be a teen, no matter what era. 
The premise of this book is simple, but makes for a cute read. After Mallory discovers that her boyfriend has been cybercheating on her, Mallory decides it is time for a change. When Mallory discovers a list of goals her grandmother had in 1962, Mallory decides it is time to demodernize.   Going vintage for Mallory has its ups and downs, and along the way Mallory learns a lot about herself and those around her. 
I loved how much Mallory grew throughout the course of the entire novel. In the beginning, Mallory was soley focused on her boyfriend. When she breaks up with him, she does not really know who she is or what to do. While deciding to try to live its the 1960s seems a bit drastic, for Mallory, it fits. She’s a bit different, marching to the beat of her own drum, and sticking to something she believes in. She was sarcastic and funny and I loved her voice. Mallory is obsessed with keeping lists, part of the reason why she becomes fascinated with her grandmother’s own list, and I loved that each chapter would begin with one of her lists. 
The secondary characters really helped to complement Mallory and round out the story. I loved Mallory’s entire family. Her dad and her mom had their own little side story that ended up working nicely into the plot. I loved that her dad’s job was sort of “Storage Wars”-esque, while Mallory’s mom was busy running, and hiding, savings blog. I really liked her parents and their story. Mallory’s sister Ginnie was so cute. She was very different from Mallory, but the pair complemented each other well. Their relationship was spot on. Mallory’s Grandma was the character who surprised me the most. Her list from junior year of high school is what drives Mallory and I loved learning about the women behind it. She’s not exactly what you would expect, and she proves that high school back in the 60s was just as difficult as it is today.
The romance in the book was very cute. Oliver Kendall, who just happens to be Mallory’s ex-boyfriend’s cousin, proves to be a good match for Mallory. The scenes between the two of them were so fun to read; I couldn’t help from grinning. While they have their misunderstandings, their relationships works really well. Going Vintage isn’t primarily a rom-com book, but the romance fits in well with the plot.
Despite the fact that giving up all modern technology to accomplish outdated goals (what is pep club anyways?) is a bit of an outlandish idea, Lindsey Leavitt makes the book work. The book could have easily been very cheesy and full of fluff, but Leavitt manages to expertly weave a tale that tackles the difficulties of being a teenager and finding yourself. This book was heartfelt and showed that high school is never perfect; every teenager, no matter what decade, faces their own unique challenges. 
This is my second book by Lindsey Leavitt that I’ve read, but I will definitely be checking out any of her other books. She has an incredible talent of telling entertaining stories, that also deal with real issues facing teens. Going Vintage is a cute and fun read that delivers a heartfelt story about the difficulties of being a teenager. If you are looking for a quick and enjoyable read this summer, I’d pick this up.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry + Q&A + Giveaway!

Pushing the Limits

Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN: 9780373210497
Pages: 384
Websites:

Rating: 4 Stars

“My father is a control freak, I hate my stepmother, my brother is dead and my mother has…welll…issues.  How do you think I am doing?”  – opening line of Pushing the Limits

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that  horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude   and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. Echo and Noah couldn’t be more different, but they find themselves united by a common goal: to sneak into their court- ordered social worker’s case files in order to learn the truth about themselves and their families. What they didn’t count on is falling in love — and now Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.


Oh god, this book. This book gave me all the FEELS. I knew this book would be dealing with some serious stuff but I didn’t expect to feel such a wide range of emotions. I laughed, I bawled my eyes out, and even got angry. So many feelings that I wasn’t expecting.

Pushing the Limits was so much more than a romance story. While the romance was smoking hot, I have to say I enjoy learning more about Noah and Echo as characters and seeing them overcome their struggles more than the romance. Both Echo and Noah are very trouble characters and have dark secrets they have kept buried inside. Katie McGarry was not afraid of tackling the nitty gritty and serious issues, which I really liked. She was able to capture the emotional struggles Echo and Noah were facing so well that I was in tears for these poor, poor characters.

Normally I am not a fan of alternating points of view, one of the characters always seem to come off as weaker or it just does nothing for the plot, but in the case of Pushing the Limits the alternating point of view worked perfectly. I loved getting into both Echo and Noah’s head. The writing helped create these characters who you come to care about and get emotionally attached to. Katie McGarry wrote these fabulous characters and as a reader you were truly was able to get into each of their heads. When a chapter ended and switched characters it didn’t feel awkward, the story flowed and it didn’t feel like head jumping (thankfully!).

Now Noah and Echo, man, I just wanted to give them a hug. And boy, do they need one. Noah is the boy everyone warns their daughters against, but he’s so much more. While he has the tough, bad boy exterior, Noah is one of the most caring, motivated, strong teenagers I’ve seen. Despite all the struggles he’s had to face, like losing his parents and growing up in foster care, he’s extremely dedicated to his two brothers who have been separated from him. Noah’s devotion to his younger brothers, oh god. It was the sweetest thing. The scenes with Noah and his brothers made me tear up so much, I’m not afraid to say it. He loves them so much and will do anything for them. Noah gives everything to those he loves and will do anything to protect those he loves, such an admirable trait. I loved that aspect of his personality so much. I loved how he grew as a character over book. 

And then there is Echo. That poor poor girl. She definitely has it rough. Her father is overprotective and overbearing, she is not allowed to see her mother because of an event Echo cannot remember but left her with horrible scars over her arms. Despite everything, Echo still wants to remember the horrible event that almost killed her and still cares for her mother. Her struggle to learn the truth about that night was hard to read. All she wanted was to know. When she finally learns the truth, I was in tears with her. Like Noah, she grew so much over the story. She was willing to come to terms with what happen and open up to those around her, thanks to Noah. While they might be the two messed up character ever, they were so adorable and perfect together.

The romance in this book was electric. Noah and Echo’s chemistry jumped off the page and you couldn’t help but want them to be together. They needed to be together for each other. But the romance did not define this book. Yes, it might be how they market it, what with the cover and all but it was so much more. The emotional struggles in the book are what really made me love it. The romance was a nice bonus.

If you read one book this year, it definitely should be Pushing the Limits. Its such a great read that captivates you with its amazing characters and draws you in with their struggles. I’m super excited to see what Katie McGarry writes next because she has me next. A companion book staring a secondary character for this book is being published so I’m super excited for that! Hands down, Pushing the Limitis a must read.

P.S. I think these lines from the Broadway show Next to Normal define what Noah and Echo both are ultimately working toward in their struggles: “I don’t need a life that’s normal—/ That’s way too far away, / But something…next to normal / Would be okay. / Yeah, something next to normal— /That’s the thing I’d like to try. /Close enough to normal / To get by…”


Q & A with Author Katie McGarry


Q: What was your inspiration for writing Pushing the Limits?
A: I had two main inspirations: One, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write a story in which my characters felt strong enough to leave their pasts behind and create new futures for themselves. The first scene I ever saw in my mind was Echo and Noah leaving town after graduation. Two, I wanted to write two characters who were facing over- whelming issues and who, through battling these issues, found hope at the end of their journey.

Q: How did you come up with Echo’s name?
A: Echo went through several name changes as I wrote the manuscript. For a while, she had a very normal name, but it always felt off. It wasn’t until I looked at Echo from her mother’s point of view that I found her name. Echo’s mother loved Greek mythology so it made perfect sense that she would name her children after the myths. I read several Greek myths and the moment I found Echo’s,  I fell in love. Echo,  to me, was the girl who lost her voice. Thankfully, she finds it by the end.

Q: Which character is the most “like” you?
A: All of them. I gave each character a piece of me (though some have larger slices of me than others). Overall, I’d say I’m a strange combination of Echo, Lila and Beth. Echo has my need to please, Lila has my unfailing loyalty to my friends and Beth encompasses my insecurities.

Q: Did you experience friendships with Grace types when you were in high school?
A: Yes. And the more people have read this story, the more this question comes up. Grace has struck a stronger nerve in people than I ever would have imagined. It seems most of us have un-fortunately experienced a relationship where a person wants to “like” you and wants “be your friend,” but only if it serves their needs. In case anyone is wondering, that isn’t friendship.

Q: Are there any parts of the story you feel particularly close to?
A: Yes. The relationship between Noah, Isaiah and Beth. Beyond my parents and sister, my nearest family members were over fourteen hours away. My friends became my family. The peopleI grew up with were more than people I watched movies with or talked to occasionally on the phone. These were people with whom I shared life’s most devastating moments, but also my hardest laughs. These were people who I would have willing- ly died for and I know they would have done the same for me. They shared my triumphs with smiles on their faces and con- gratulatory hugs. They held me when I cried and offered to beat up whoever hurt my feelings. These were also the same people who were more than happy to get in my face if they thought I was making a wrong decision.

Q: Did anything that happens to Echo happen to you?
A: Sort of. I was bitten by a dog when I was in second grade and repressed the memory. It felt very strange to have no memory of an incident that other people knew about. It was even strang- er to have injuries and not have an inkling where they came from. In college, I finally remembered the incident when a dog lunged at me. I relived the horrible event and sort of “woke up” a few minutes later to find myself surrounded by people I loved. Even though I “remember” the incident, I still don’t remember the whole thing. I only see still frames in my mind and there is no blood in any of the memories.

Check out the book trailer!


About author Katie McGarry:

Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and she remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings and reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Writing has given Katie an excuse to pursue her passions. Research for her books has provided her with the amazing opportunity to train with baseball players, ride along in a drag car at ninety-six miles per hour and experience boxing and mixed martial arts. Katie loves to visit schools and talk to teenagers about her research, writing and the truth that no dream is out of reach.



Giveaway Information

I’m giving away one copy of Pushing the Limits. Information about the giveaway is listed below. US and Canada only.
  • Fill out the form below completely!
  • Open to US and Canada ONLY
  • Must be 13 years or older to enter. If under 13, parental consent is required. 
  • One entry per person. Multiple entries will be deleted.
  • Ends September 5, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (91) – Perfect Scoundrels

Perfect Scoundrels
(Heist Society #3)
Ally Carter
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
To be released: February 5, 2013

Summary (from Goodreads):

Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of loveable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the scion of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it’s that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting—or stealing—whatever they want.

No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale’s family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother’s billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there’s no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. But Kat won’t let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother’s will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company’s fortune. So instead of being the heir—this time, Hale might be the mark.

Forced to keep a level head as she and her crew fight for one of their own, Kat comes up with an ambitious and far-reaching plan that only the Bishop family would dare attempt. To pull it off, Kat is prepared to do the impossible, but first, she has to decide if she’s willing to save her boyfriend’s company if it means losing the boy.

I love the Heist Society series and cannot wait for the next book in the series. I really like the summary of this book and I like that we shall see a lot of Hale since he’s my favorite character (maybe we will finally find out his real name). I cannot wait to see what Kat and the gang get up to next. February seems to far away to wait!

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event highlighting exciting upcoming releases. It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

A Midsummer’s Nightmare

Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Poppy
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Series or Standalone: Standalone
ISBN: 9780316084222
Pages: 304
Websites:

Rating: 5 Stars

Each book that Kody Keplinger releases just gets better and better. A Midsummer’s Nightmare has now replaced Shut Out as my favorite book by her.

 A Midsummer’s Nightmare really showed Keplinger’s growth as a writer. This book is not just a fluffy summer romance book, but delves into Whitley’s very messed up emotional state. Keplinger has such a great range in her writing; she can write a great romance, throw in some humor as well as deal with serious emotional issues, all in one book.

Like Keplinger’s previous books, the characters jump out off the page. Keplinger is really able to capture what it’s like to be a teenager. Almost all the characters have flaws, something I loved, making them feel like an actual person. The characters don’t feel static and their voices flow naturally off the page. Her characters, as always, feel like an actual teenagers.

When I first started this book, I though it would be just a fun contemporary romance novel. Whitley typical summer with her dad gets flipped upside down when he announces he’s getting remarried. To make matters worse, Whitley had a one night stand with her soon to be step brother. Sounds like a fun dramatic read. What A Midsummer’s Nightmare provided was all that plus more. I really loved the book wasn’t all light and fluffy. At times, the book was very serious and Keplinger really delved into the emotional pain that Whitley was feeling and has been feeling for sometime. I loved her exploration of why Whitley acts the way she does and the journey of getting Whiltey to speak up about her feelings.

Whitley was one messed up character, yet I loved her. Her flaws made her relatable and I really empathized with her. She’s an emotional wreck to begin with, and the actions of her dad and what she has to deal with over the summer just make it worse. It was nice to slowly see her open up and accept people into her life. While Whitely feels her dream summer with her dad has turned into a nightmare, but this summer offers her the opportunity to open up and reveal the hurt she keeps buried deep inside. She’s probably my favorite character of Keplinger’s to date. Her emotional pain felt so authentic and it was something many girls could relate to.

Keplinger’s boys in this novel are, of course, awesome. Nathan, as the love interest was not only a hunk, but a sweetheart. I wish every guy was as sweet and caring as he was. Nathan also has his fair share of issues as well, but he’s dealing with them. Whitley’s first best friend, Harrison, is a pretty awesome guy as well. He’s got all the characteristics of a great friend, one I like to have. He’s there for Whitley when she needs him.

The story had me hooked from beginning to end and was very easy to get caught up in. I didn’t want to put the book down until I knew how it would end. I loved how Whitley’s secrets were slowly unveiled and how we got to see the real Whitley. I couldn’t wait to see her finally open up and tell her father how she feels. The romance was cute, but not the star of the book.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare is a perfect summer read. Don’t judge this book by the cover, which I really dislike. The cover doesn’t do the book justice to the wonderful story inside. 

A Midsummer’s Nightmare is everything I wanted and more from a Kody Keplinger book and I highly recommend you pick this one up whether you have read her previous books or now. I can’t wait to see what Kody Keplinger publishes next because each book just gets better than better.