Summary From Goodreads:
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.
In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.
There are books that you fall in love with because of the world, the author’s creativity, or the relationships that are forged both inside of the story and between you and the characters within. Then there are books that you connect with because they feel like yours, stories that seem like the author’s intended audience was you and you alone. The latter was my experience with Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, and it made me both love the book, and reflect a lot on my life. With that said, I clearly have a bias here, but if you don’t mind then read on.
First, I should expand on my connection with the story of Vanishing Girls. This is the first blog post since October 2014, and there is good reason for that. On January 11th of this year I attempted suicide, and my mode of choice was to crash my vehicle into a tree at high speed. I hadn’t felt like blogging again until reading this book, and while Nick and Dara weren’t involved in the car accident because of a suicide attempt, the results were similar.
Scars, both emotional and physical. Major life changes in behavior, friendships, and overall lifestyle. Overwhelming guilt.
Now that you have an idea of why I connected with the story and characters so much (if you want more on my life just hit me up via Twitter and such) let’s get into the review.
Lauren Oliver’s writing is as wonderful as ever. I became a fan of hers after reading Liesl & Po, an adorable MG read, and Vanishing Girls is even better. The story flows extremely well, despite the confusion of the characters within, and transitioning between the POV of the sisters is seamless. Everything concerning the sisters, the accident, their warped family and relationships was fascinating, with just enough edge to keep it from becoming too sappy. However, I will admit that while I understand why the hunt for Madeline Snow was included (spoilers!) it did feel forced, and her character never really adds much to the book.
The characters are what makes or breaks this book in my opinion. You have to feel for Dara and her physical injuries, struggles to return to her usual self, and her black sheep role in her discombobulated family. There needs to be sympathy for Nick’s guilt and emotional struggles over the crash, her frayed relationship with Dara when they were so close before, and her drive to find out the truth to fill the gaps in her memory and the resulting world around her.
Vanishing Girls utilizes the sisters so well, equally showing off the issues and negativity between them after the accident (the usual way sisters are represented in YA), and the positively cute development of their close friendship prior to it (something rare in YA). There should be more books that have sisters who actually like each other in YA, that are also main characters, at least in my opinion. It’s a relationship that doesn’t seem to be tapped enough.
There is also the trio of friends/relationships dynamic with Nick, Dara, and their best friend Parker. All three were really good friends growing up until Dara and Parker became a bit more. That played a major role in Nick and Parker’s relationship, as well as Dara and Nick’s due to Nick feeling like a third wheel. It’s awkward, and the book doesn’t try to hide that, instead exploring each pairing (as well as the atmosphere when all three are together) with plenty of love and care.
In addition, Vanishing Girls explores all kinds of issues, something I really applaud Oliver for, and a big reason why I think the book is worth the read for any teen or young adult. Divorce, step parents and siblings, PTSD, depression, guilt, DID, drinking, drugs, and a plethora of other issues are explored and in just the right amount of detail. Best of all, Oliver manages to do all of that without saying anything that might trigger problems for those suffering from or dealing with those same issues. There is an art in doing that, and I really appreciated that she pulled it off.
Finally, the setting does a lot of the work in the fun department, making lighter situations to balance the deeper parts of the book. Nick is forced into a job at the local amusement park FanLand. It’s old, the employees are bizarre as one would expect, and best of all Parker is there for all the nostalgic feels. FanLand is a diversion from all the shitty things happening to Nick, and it’s one that she and the reader need every so often, plus metaphors, so many metaphors. I loved how Oliver brought it to life.
Overall Vanishing Girls was an excellent read, even if it was pretty dark at times, and while my bias is real, I don’t think it is clouding my judgement. I loved this book so much that it made me blog again. I HAD to share my thoughts on it, and a book that powerful is worth reading. Yes, I’m late to the party (the book came out in March), but hopefully I’m only fashionably so. It’s been fun. Thanks as always for reading.
As Long As You Love Me by Ann Aguirre
Summary From Goodreads:
Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. She has her reasons; missing her family, losing her college scholarship. But then there’s the reason Lauren can’t admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend’s older brother.
Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He’s the guy who women love and leave, not the one who makes them think of forever; until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her.
Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with.
It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!
I received a copy of As Long As You Love Me on NetGalley along with book one, I Want It That Way which I reviewed earlier if you’d like some context. I enjoyed book one of the series quite a bit, so I couldn’t help myself and read book two already, even though it doesn’t come out until the 30th of this month. ALAYLM was a solid NA read with some good humor and plenty of sexy fun time, just like IWITW, but this time more serious issues were tackled, something that was greatly appreciated as it gave needed depth to the book.
Lauren, the MC and best friend from IWITW, takes center stage in ALAYLM as she adjusts to life back at home, a new job and online university, and an old flame. She’s not quite as funny as I found Nadia to be, but she is probably more realistic than Nadia, having some serious issues to work through that people can identify with. She has major anxiety issues, dealing with a lot of people (especially new ones) is not her strong suit, and she’s just starting to return to her usual self, unlike the fake version she forced out that was seen in book one. All of that is made more complicated when Rob comes back into her life, and she has to deal with past feelings (and new ones) coming to light.
Then there is the love interest, Rob, who is having a rough go of it in life from work (construction that he barely scrapes by on) to his relationships (a bad one with Avery). Having Lauren come back completely alters his life, from new potential financial avenues, to a potential relationship that might actually be good for him. However, Rob has his own issues, from incredibly strong self-doubt (stemming from how his parents treat him) to his troubles with opening up to people and believing them when they seem to genuinely care. He doesn’t have as much personality as you might expect from a secondary main character, but (especially those from small towns) he is extremely easy to identify with.
The rest of the cast brings up plenty of issues of their own. There are long distance relationships (and pregnancy to go with it), sexual abuse, and physical disabilities that are all brought up by various people throughout the book, and there is a wide variety of ways that all of them are dealt with which I found pretty interesting. The tone of the book is certainly more somber than IWITW, though there are still plenty of truly happy and exciting moments, but it is something to keep in mind. This isn’t your purely light and fluffy contemporary read.
Though ALAYLM was more serious, something I appreciated in some ways, I did enjoy the majority of what I read. However, there were a few negatives I should mention. The beginning of the book was a bit of a struggle as a lot of the dialogue felt repetitious and the first quarter of the book or so felt pretty rushed, not enough to be jarring, but certainly noticeable. Also, while I know that there is a lot of history between them, it felt like Aguirre might have used that as an excuse to move things forward pretty quickly in the beginning, and that was unfortunate. The story ended up getting to more of a normal pace, but if you liked book one, and book two intrigues you, I would say not to give up if you notice those same issues at the start.
Wow, this got a little longer than I planned for a Mini Review Monday post, but I guess that’s because ALAYLM covers so much ground, especially on different serious topics. Would I recommend it? It’s a good read, but there were some issues with it, and some of the sexual acts as well (the first one in particular) that didn’t sit well, but overall yes, it’s worth your time. If you want a New Adult read that isn’t all about getting your freak on and going crazy over a guy/girl, then this is for you. Thanks as always for reading.
I Want It That Way (2B Trilogy #1)
Summary From Goodreads:
Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she’s determined to make them come true—for her parents’ sake as well as her own. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, she barely has time to think, let alone date. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B….
Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can’t risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, a social life is out of the question. The last thing he wants is for four noisy students to move into the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia’s and Ty’s paths cross, and soon they can’t stay away from each other.
The timing is all wrong—but love happens when it happens. And you can’t know what you truly need until you stand to lose it.
It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!
I received a copy of I Want It That Way from Netgalley, which I was really excited to get into since it is by one of my favorite authors, Ann Aguirre. This also gave me a reason to try some New Adult, something I’ve read hardly any of, and see what I thought of it. After reading it, my first thought is that I should give this new-ish age range/type of books a shot. My second was that I’m really happy that I was able to enjoy Aguirre’s work outside of my favorite series by her, the dystopian Razorland trilogy.
That being said, I will warn potential readers that there is some insta-love involved, something I’ve been open to saying I’m not a fan of. However, it’s not quite as fast as what I’ve encountered in the past, and Aguirre made it feel as real and understandable as something like that could be. Sometimes there is that instant attraction, and once you get to know the person a bit more, and understand who they are outside of just a great set of abs or pretty face, you just connect on a deep level faster than average.
Outside of the quick love connection, the romance is very touching, sometimes steamy (in a fantastic way), and it is tested in all the right (highly believable) scenarios. The MC Nadia has a great voice, is incredibly caring and sweet, but determined when it matters. Ty is a great guy, but reserved for reasons that are incredibly obvious, and not the standard bad-boy type that plagues this type of book, something I was really thankful for.
The banter in the book is great, humor is interspersed with the serious areas to keep the reader engaged, and the supporting cast is very strong, and completely fleshed out. Some of the scenes are a bit corny or predictable, but not in a bad way, just what you’d expect from college life. I’m looking forward to reading book two soon!
If you are looking for a NA contemporary read, especially if (like me) you are a college student yourself, then this is a solid book for you to try. It comes out tomorrow, so take a look if you’re interested! Thanks as always for reading. ^.^
The Art of Lainey
Summary From Goodreads:
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.
And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.
What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?
The Art of Lainey is a book that I’ve been very excited to read simply because of how amazing the author is. Luckily for me, not only did I finally get my hands on a copy of the book, but I got to hear the author’s thoughts on it at the first stop of the MMBB YA Tour (for more info on that click here). Paula Stokes gave her reasoning for why she went with this kind of character, one more preppy and a bit shallow, instead of the standard quiet bookish type. She said she wanted to prove that even the popular girls aren’t all that different from the rest, and in that she succeeded.
Lainey is a tad shallow, pushy, and is certifiably boy-crazy, or at least Jason-crazy. However, I will say that much of how I discovered what she was like was not from how she acted during the story, but from her friends telling her how she used to act, or her comparisons to another diva-type. When you come down to it, Lainey just seemed a bit lost, not as self-centered as I was led to believe, so her “transformation” wasn’t quite as effective as it could have been.
As for the plot, well it felt very much like a lighter version of Easy A. For those who don’t know that movie (you should watch it) it’s about a girl who gets paid (in a variety of ways) to fake dates and sexual encounters with guys from her school. Eventually she wants a real relationship but her persona gets in the way until the end when she winds up with the good guy. The Art of Lainey doesn’t get as sexual, but the fake dates are here too, and the strategizing is similar too. With that movie in mind the arc was pretty obvious from the get go, she’d fall for the bad boy who turns out to not be so bad after all (Micah in this case), and well…you can guess the rest.
Despite a few cliches, The Art of Lainey is a well written, light-hearted, and plain fun book to read. Whether you know the outcome or not, it doesn’t make the journey any less fun to take part in. There are some hilarious scenes on some of the dates and they are worth the read by themselves. If you want a nice fluffy contemporary this is a solid option for you. You might even enjoy it more than I did since I had some preconceived notions going into it from the bookish event. Thanks as always for reading. ^.^
Summary From Goodreads:
Scott Wagner is used to coasting through life as a nobody. His adoptive parents don’t expect anything from him, but they spend more time inebriated than they do being a family. He is invisible at school, and no one talks to him besides his pothead wingman Aaron Marshall. His only other friend Emily Barnes makes up the better half of his gaming club, and he’s not proud of the fact that a girl in junior high can beat him up digitally.
It’s a safe but dull life, a holding pattern of smoking joints and playing video games until a series of chance encounters strips Scott of his invisibility. Forming a band with Emily and some new friends, Scott gains much needed approval from his parents while at the same time coming under scrutiny from Emily’s father, a hard-nosed cop who thinks Scott is a bad influence on his daughter.
Scott’s stumbling path to adulthood is a journey of self-discovery, offering him new friendships, a closer connection to his family, and a taste of young love. But it also brings painful lessons about dealing with prejudices, making sacrifices, and dealing with tragic losses. Between the emotional highs and lows, Scott learns how even a nobody can be special to somebody.
Nobody Special is an interesting read, especially for those that have read Whitten’s work before. Normally there is some sort of taboo involved, regardless of the book is contemporary or supernatural, and that is what sets it apart and makes it unique. However, Nobody Special is far more of what I dare to call a “mainstream” book, but that does not mean it suffers because of it.
Issues are tackled, from homophobia to racism, age gaps in relationships to control and even suicide. The difference is that Nobody Special does it in such a natural way that you can hardly tell you are dealing with some of the issues until either the characters make it obvious, or you reach the end of the book and realize, “Hey, that sure covered a lot of interesting points.” All of these concerns that are so prevalent in society today are looked at and examined, but while often there isn’t an incredible amount of detail so as not to take the focus away from the story, the book as a whole gets you thinking. I imagine that was Whitten’s goal, and if so she succeeded with flying colors.
As far as the main story goes, there are a few minor issues I had, mostly to do with some info dumps in the beginning, and a few sections that felt repetitive. Despite those small problems, the music aspects were great, the romances sweet as can be, and the entire thing had a feel of innocence and wonder about it. The main character, Scott, learns what it takes to step out of his comfort zone and anxieties and how to find self-worth and confidence. He learns that even minor achievements can be fulfilling and hard work really can get you very far, no matter what you end up pursuing as your goal.
Emily, the best friend (or at least one of them) in this story, is a fabulous character. She’s funny, a bit of a goof at times, and brilliant without being in your face about it. Emily was one of the most enjoyable characters I’ve read about in some time, and incredibly easy to fall in love with. She’s a sweetheart with a backbone of steel, and what better combination is there than that?
Much of Nobody Special is introspective and serious, and certainly there are very grim moments in the story, but they are well balanced with witty dialogue and budding young friendships and romances. I would recommend this to anyone wanting a good contemporary read. I think it would be categorized as YA based on the character’s ages, but adults will enjoy this title as well, I know I did. Thanks as always for reading.
Summary From Goodreads:
Before my older sister Francesca died, I worked at the bakery and wrote songs, but now I write lists. Lists like ten reasons why it’s my fault Francesca’s dead, or five reasons why I should try and win Howie back, or one reason why I need to stop lying to everyone, including myself.
Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is an extraordinary novel about one family’s struggle to make sense of their world after losing a family member to addiction. Through sixteen-year-old Carmella’s eyes, we witness the courage and strength it takes to overcome the consequences of grief, guilt and co-dependency. With conviction and determination, Carmella shows us what can happen when we’re open to love, feel the pain of our loss, and find the courage to accept the truth of our lives.
Hold on tight, this is going to get ranty.
I knew that this was going to be a very emotional and grief-filled story based on the summary alone, but I guess I didn’t grasp how much of the book was going to be spent on those points. The loss of any family member is, of course, incredibly difficult to deal with and getting over the damage it inflicts on you emotionally can certainly seem devastating. However, even if it is someone you were very close to as was the case in Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye I don’t think it completely controls your life. Sure it can hurt immensely, but the physical ailments that Carmella suffered that were caused by holding in this pain and the truth from her parents were on the extreme side. There are no amount of qualifications I can make for what I have to say to sound less insensitive, so I’ll just be honest, I do apologize in advance if I offend anyone as it is not my intent.
Carmella was an incredibly whiny main character. There, I said it. The girl suffered a tremendous loss, and I understand that she felt guilty about not doing more to help her sister, but get a freaking grip. She isn’t just whiny though, she’s insanely selfish.
At one point in the book (mini unimportant spoiler alert) she has an argument with her best friend Anna. Anna has finally corralled the constantly moping Carmella into going to watch one of her volleyball games, something Carmella never did the year prior for whatever reason. So of course this is a big deal to Anna and when she blows the game for her team (not all her fault but she feels awful about it) she feels like crap. So when Carmella asks if Anna will go to a party with some guys they had just met and Anna declines you’d think she’d be understanding right? Nope, she plays the victim card saying Anna clearly doesn’t sympathize with her loss, that the game isn’t a big deal especially compared to losing a sibling, that Anna has all of her sisters so she should consider herself lucky and won’t she please suck it up and go to the party so Carmella can be with this cute guy she doesn’t really know yet. I’m sure you can figure how that turned out. So like I said, really freaking selfish.
Back to Carmella. I didn’t find her funny, she was a total wench to her parents, especially her mom, and even though it was obvious that they were hurting and trying to deal with it in their own ways all Carmella could see was how they were being unfair to her. She had no empathy for them, or really anyone that experienced similar loss, it was all about her pain and how miserable her life was. Ugh.
Howie, the love interest, was a decent character. He had a good sense of humor to him and he seemed to genuinely care for Carmella and was a champ in putting up with her bs. He had his own share of crap in his life but didn’t give Carmella grief when she seemed to shrug it off at times and dwell on her pain, major kudos to this guy, though I don’t think he should have put up with her.
There were good points in the story. I enjoyed the lists which were mildly entertaining, probably because I’ve been making lists and charts out of habit for years and felt a connection there. The stories about Carmella and her sister were interesting and often quite funny, they were quite the pair. Unfortunately the highlights were drowned in a sea of self pity and typical teenage “everything is about me” behaviors and mindset.
There is only so many times you can say that someone really misses their sister, that their parents suck and aren’t being fair and that they get really nervous around guys before it gets dull. Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye far exceeded that number and then some, it got repetitive and any sympathy initially felt toward Carmella evaporated by about halfway through the book. Oh well, you can’t love them all. I better stop before I go on a crazy repetitious rant myself. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 88!