Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Houghton Mifflin. 275 p.
Seventeen year old Maggie and Nash have been friends for almost all their lives. Nash can’t wait to graduate and leave their little town behind, always hoping to meet the boy of his dreams while he waits. Maggie loves the quaintness of their town, and hopes the future love of her life won’t care she’s overweight.
Over the years the two of them have held each other’s secrets, and were always there for each other. Then they met Tom, a new student. Nash was instantly infatuated and called dibs, leaving Maggie to take on the role of matchmaker even though she thought Tom was cute.
When Maggie finds herself developing feelings for him, she buries herself in baking cookies and her job at the record store so as to leave the road clear for Nash. Meanwhile Maggie’s frenemy Kayla also has her eyes set on Tom, setting the stage for a love triangle with a twist.
I liked Maggie’s character, which was not the stereotypical “overweight teen girl is bullied at school so binge eats for happiness and spends her life alone, wishing she was skinny” storyline. Though sometimes she seemed too good to be true, she gave me hope that overweight teens reading the book would gain strength from her maturity and way of thinking. Nash, Tom, and Kayla, on the other hand, have lots of growing up to do and their behavior should never be emulated.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Delacorte. 327 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)
Unwilling to submit to an arranged marriage to a 40-year-old man, sixteen-year-old Maude Pichon runs away from her small, seaside village. Adrift in the large city of Paris and with her limited money running out, she seeks work at the Durandeau Agency where she reluctantly becomes a repoussoir – a person who is so ugly she repels others to makes her client look beautiful.
The Agency is filled with poor women and girls who have no money, but who Durandeau deems ugly enough to earn him a few francs. Maude becomes the repoussoir for Isabelle, a Countess’ rich daughter she plans to marry off during her upcoming debutante season. The only catch to her job is Maude must gain Isabelle’s confidence and report back to the Countess, but not let Isabelle know her true role. As months go by and the Countess transforms Maude’s life, she finds herself drifting into fantasies where she has become the debutante and finds herself a rich husband.
As she begins to befriend Isabelle, she looks down on her former life and friends at the Agency in favor of a new, imagined life with the Countess. However, the more time she spends with them, the more she will have to come to terms with her true self and decide if the rich life is really where she’s meant to be.
I enjoyed reading “Belle Epoque,” and learning about life in 1800’s France. Though based on a fictional story about repoussoirs written in 1866, it’s a shame that we still judge others by appearances rather than by what they offer society.
Recommended for ages 16 and older, including Adults.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 15, 2016. Delacorte Press. 260 p.
Nicole Morgan had spent her entire life practicing her violin in hopes of someday getting a scholarship to attend Juilliard, and hadn’t given any thought to relationships. She and Chace seemed to have some sort of electricity that drew them together. With him she felt loved, wanted and alive. Her world shattered when he was found murdered.
Beautiful and rich Lana Rivera spent her whole life living up to her Congresswoman mother’s version of the perfect daughter. She was used to having a certain role in their political life so, when her mother suggested she start dating a rival Congressman’s son to find out family secrets, she did as asked but didn’t realize how hard she would fall for handsome Chace Porter. With Chace she felt loved, wanted and alive. Her world shattered when he was found murdered.
As Lana and Nicole’s relationship grows from being strangers, to roomies, besties and, finally, to mortal enemies, the story of what happened to Chace is slowly unraveled. Their voices speak in alternating cliffhanger ending chapters, which leap from the past to the present. Each of them are suspects in Chase’s murder but, with additional clues, more suspects are added to the drama. Readers find themselves thinking they know whodunit – only to find out they were wrong. The surprise ending will come as a huge shock.
Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Ballantine Books. To be published February 7, 2017.
Kailey loved Ryan, her handsome and rich fiancé who she’d been dating for 4 years. Though secretly still in love with a man from her past, they were set to marry. The day she runs into a homeless man she recognizes as Cade, the love of her life who had disappeared years earlier, her life forever changes.
Through flashbacks, readers are shown their love story, setting the stage for Cade’s disappearance and Ryan’s appearance in Kailey’s life. The more she remembers the former life she had with Cade, the more she begins to question her life with Ryan. Should she give up an old love for a new one? Could she learn to live a new life and leave her old one behind?
As Kailey debates what to do, readers easily split into Pro Ryan or Pro Cade camps. The decision is not as hard as Kailey makes it out to be; she’s just too dense to figure it out as fast as I did. In the midst of trying to understand what happened to Cade, I couldn’t figure out the point of all the “cloak and dagger” mysteries around him. “Always” was okay but was a bit too predictable, with a few too many loose ends, for me to rate it higher than three stars.
Recommended for Adults who don’t mind the occasional “huh?” thrown into their reading.
I received an Advance Reading digital copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published October 4, 2016. Knopf Books. 391 p.
Sixteen-year-old Addie is unable to deal with issues. Having an overprotective mother, along with a father and older brother who both ignore her, tend to make her feel like something is missing in her life. She wishes she and her family were as close as they used to be when she was younger, and tries to fill the emptiness in her life with concerts, classical music, and playing the viola.
After a bus accident Addie starts to see a handsome boy no one else can see. Worried she’s going crazy, she finds out she had her memory erased because she couldn’t deal with something that happened. As she begins to cut through the fog in her mind she begins to find out other secrets. Suddenly she starts to get answers about why she feels like something is missing in her life, but she will not like what she finds.
I wondered why Addie had access to a clinic, which allowed people to just walk in to get their memories erased. Isn’t that a bit like a science fiction movie trailer? I googled the idea, and found an article saying scientists can erase your memories AND plant new ideas. I think that’s very scary.
I wasn’t a big fan of this book, finding Addie very whiny and too love struck in such a short time for my taste. I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published June 7, 2016. Blink.
Sophie’s mom forced her and her older brother to spend the summer with their father in Paris. Neither wants to go since he abandoned them a year ago and is now getting remarried, but they don’t have a choice. Filled with anger at her father for leaving her behind, she also has to deal with her stepsister Camille’s hatred at her presence.
Sophie knows her time in Paris with her father’s new family would be bearable if she could release tension by playing the piano, but her father doesn’t have one. When she meets Camille’s friend Mathieu, Sophie gets two of her wishes answered. Not only is Mathieu incredibly handsome and interested in her, he also has a piano she can play.
As Sophie navigates the waters of distrust in her Parisian home, she finds herself enjoying the city and maturing in ways she’d never thought possible. When an invitation arises to audition for a spot at a conservatory for high schoolers, she has to decide if she’s willing to forgive her father and Camille in order to begin a new path towards her musical dreams. Change has never come easy for Sophie but, with summer coming to an end, she will have to make a decision that will forever change everything she’s ever known.
I really enjoyed “One Paris Summer.” Swank did a wonderful job recounting what first love feels like for a 16-year-old girl in a place as romantic as Paris, while her love for music and piano playing is also well documented. As Sophie travelled throughout the city, the realistic descriptions took me back to my time spent there, making me nostalgic and wishing I could turn back time. Anyone who has been to Paris will recognize her beauty, while those who haven’t will be aching to go by the final pages.
Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Simon & Schuster. 2015.
Beatrice lives with her father who is always working and hardly ever home. Her mom died when she was born, and her older brother moved out years ago, so she spends most of her time secretly playing the piano and hanging out with her best friend Plum. Bea has never told anyone about her love for the piano, and how it makes her feel when she plays, because of how her mom died. It is her secret.
Now that it’s their senior year Plum has pulled out all the stops in her plans for them to attend the same college, but Bea doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. When she meets Mr. Dane Rossi, her incredibly young and handsome music history teacher, his love for music and the piano awakens a dormant part of herself that she never knew existed. Amazed by her musical prowess, Dane is determined to get her to envision a future that revolves around the piano but, as they begin to spend time together to plan for her musical future, they fall in love. Bea now has another secret.
Bea is 17 going on 18 and, though Dane is just a few years older, she knows people will think their relationship is bad. She loves him and knows he loves her but, as events build to a crescendo, Bea’s decisions will forever change the trajectory of both of their lives.
Is it okay for a student and teacher to have a sexual relationship? Ohlin addresses this question by giving readers an opportunity to see this situation from all angles through Bea’s point of view, and to draw their own conclusions. The open ending allows us to think about the clues Ohlin dropped, which give answers to what will happen in their future. “Consent” is very thought provoking, and will stay with you long after the final page is turned.
Recommended for ages 16 and older.