Review: Starry Eyes – Jenn Bennett

Review: Starry Eyes – Jenn BennettStarry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse
on April 3, 2018
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon, Goodreads

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I fell in love with Jenn Bennett’s YA books last year when I read Alex, Approximately. The story and writing was exactly what I love in a realistic contemporary. When I finished Alex I moved on to The Anatomical Shape of a Heart. Same writing and story vibe that I love. Bennett seems to just click with what I love. So when Starry Eyes was announced I was beyond excited. And although it I wasn’t as in love with it as I was with her other two, it’s up there with some other favorites.

Starry Eyes is about Zorie, a girl with a plan. No, seriously, she has a plan for everything! And her plan fo the summer is to work, see a meteor shower, and to stay away from her former best friend Lennon who broke her heart. Unfortunately life doesn’t go according to plan. Suddenly Zorie finds herself abandoned in the woods with only Lennon to rely on to get them home. When plans are no longer an options Zori starts to learn things she never knew and has to deal with the aftermath of it all.

My favorite part of Starry Eyes was Zorie and Lennon’s relationship and history. It’s clear early on that there are things about their relationship that is a mystery to both of them. Honestly they are both missing parts of their own story. Reading as they delve into the past and see what went wrong really endeared them to me. It showed just how teenager-ish they were. Instead of talking they shut out. It was pretty perfect. And Bennett unfolded there story in a way that was paced perfectly.

Like I said, I didn’t love it as much as the first two Bennett books I’ve read, but I think that’s a me thing. I’m an indoor girl so the extended woods part was a tad too much for my city girl loving heart. But with that aside this book was really great. It shows friendships changing, parents failing, and character growth. Definitely one to get on the TBR.

Have you read any of Jenn Bennett’s books? Alex, Approximately is still my favorite!

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New to You (7): Kathleen Reviews Open Road Summer by Emery Lord {+ a giveaway}

Welcome to New to You!

This idea came along last year when I was supporting Lauren Miller’s newest book All Things New and I asked Kelsey to read and review Parallel, a book I have read more than once. I didn’t really get it going until December when I offered people the chance to sign up to read and review a book that has been a favorite of mine that they have never read. I got a great response and I’m happy to tell you (minus January) you will see a New to You post twice a month.

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Next up for New to You is Kathleen from Books, TV and More…Oh MY!. When I found out Kathleen hadn’t yet read an Emery book I knew what book I was going to have her take on. Everyone needs a little Matt Finch in their life, not to mention a strong female friendship that Emery does so well. I’m excited to see what she thought! (Make sure you check out the giveaway at the end!)

New to You (7): Kathleen Reviews Open Road Summer by Emery Lord {+ a giveaway}Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Published by Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books
on March 3, 2015
Amazon, Goodreads

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O'Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. Her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah's 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of healing hearts and break-up ballads.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

A fresh new voice in this growing genre, Emery Lord's gorgeous debut hits all the right notes of contemporary romance.

I heard about Emery Lord a couple years ago and knew immediately that I wanted to read what she wrote. Since that time I’ve acquired all of her books, but haven’t read one yet. I know, what’s wrong with me?! Thankfully Andi decided to do her “New to You” feature and I jumped at the chance to participate. I gave her a few options of books that I owned that were on her list and after chatting with Gail, they both decided I needed some Matt Finch in my life. Spoiler: They were both right!

Open Road Summer was so beautifully written. I felt like I was physically there on the road with Reagan, Dee, & Matt all summer. While Dee and Matt are singing superstars, they are so down to earth. The first thing I thought of when Dee was described was Taylor Swift, which I’m sure Emery would approve of. Reagan, her best friend and MC of the story, is a strong and loyal. Her tough shell really resonated with me and I liked that she embraced her faults and past and learned from them. Matt is the boy next-door kind of guy. He’s sweet, kind, and honest. All three of the characters are relatable and I can see my friends and myself in each of them.

They all have their own struggles and I think the way they were revealed was very realistic. You feel as though you’re a part of their life and privy to such emotional information. I also think these struggles is what helped form the bond between Reagan and Matt. I liked that the roles were reversed in their case. Reagan was the bad girl and Matt was the good guy. I feel like there aren’t a lot of books that explore that and it was a refreshing change. They dynamic between them was electric at times and at others, you could feel the heartache. One of my favorite parts of the book was the songs Dee and Matt wrote. I feel that music unites everyone and you could feel the connection between Reagan, Dee, Matt, and Jimmy (Dee’s ex-boyfriend).

I absolutely loved this book and look forward to reading the rest of Emery’s books soon! Thanks again Andi for lighting the fire under me, and getting me to read Open Road Summer sooner rather than later.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on April 12, 2018. It is US ONLY!

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Thanks Kathleen for signing up for New to You! I’m so happy you enjoyed Open Road Summer. Matt Finch will always be one of my babies!

My Open Road Summer review.

Have you read Open Road Summer yet?

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New to You (6): Alexa Reviews Free to Fall by Lauren Miller {+ a giveaway}

Welcome to New to You!

This idea came along last year when I was supporting Lauren Miller’s newest book All Things New and I asked Kelsey to read and review Parallel, a book I have read more than once. I didn’t really get it going until December when I offered people the chance to sign up to read and review a book that has been a favorite of mine that they have never read. I got a great response and I’m happy to tell you (minus January) you will see a New to You post twice a month.

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Next up for New to You is Alexa from Alexa Loves Books. I was really excited when Alexa stated she would really love to read Free to Fall. As a massive Lauren Miller fangirl, I find this book is totally underrated and I want more people to read it so to its relevance with technology (think Siri and Alexa, the Amazon one, not the real person). Come check out what Alexa had to say about one of my favorites! (Make sure you check out the giveaway at the end!)

New to You (6): Alexa Reviews Free to Fall by Lauren Miller {+ a giveaway}Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
Published by HarperTeen
on May 12th 2015
Amazon, Goodreads

From the author of Parallel comes a high-stakes romantic puzzler set in a near-future where everyone's life is seamlessly orchestrated by personal electronic devices. Imaginative and thrilling, this fast-paced story with two starred reviews is not to be missed.

Fast-forward to a time when Apple and Google have been replaced by Gnosis, a monolith corporation that has developed the most life-changing technology to ever hit the market: Lux, an app that flawlessly optimizes decision-making for the best personal results. Just like everyone else, sixteen-year-old Rory Vaughn knows the key to a happy, healthy life is to follow what Lux recommends. When she's accepted to the elite boarding school Theden Academy, her future happiness seems all the more assured. But once on campus, something feels wrong beneath the polished surface of her prestigious dream school. Then she meets North, a handsome townie who doesn't use Lux, and begins to fall for him and his outsider way of life. Soon, Rory is going against Lux's recommendations, listening instead to the inner voice that everyone has been taught to ignore—a choice that leads her to uncover a truth neither she nor the world ever saw coming.

I’ll be completely honest and tell you all that I totally forgot what Free to Fall was about when I first started reading it. But I think that worked out in this story’s favor since I had no set expectations going into it (except the knowledge that it was one of Andi’s favorite reads)! It turns out that this one is a science fiction mystery set at a boarding school that is also a thoughtful commentary on technology and power… and it totally ended up being a story that worked for me overall. Aurora ‘Ror’ Vaughn is a girl who lives her life by Lux, an app that is set to make all the most beneficial and right decisions for its user. She winds up being accepted to Theden, an exclusive boarding school that promises only the best opportunities for its students after graduation from its prestigious program. But all is not as it seems, and Aurora soon discovers challenges – in the form of the education and staff, her peers, a townie boy who doesn’t use Lux, secrets that she uncovers and the inner voice in her mind that she’s always been encouraged to ignore.

I know, I know, this sounds like an awful lot to fit into a plot, but Miller does it well enough. She sets the mystery up beautifully, has a knack for pacing (except the first few chapters) and does well with grounding her story in the setting. I couldn’t stop reading this novel once I’d hit a certain point, and I’m fairly certain a lot of that has to do with how Miller wrote this story. Now, I really only had one reservation, and it’s more personal taste than anything else — I couldn’t find a way to personally connect with the characters, even though I liked them overall. That’s really the only reason I couldn’t rate it higher! However, Free to Fall was still entertaining and quick to read. If you’re looking for a plot-driven story that’s really fun to read, well, I’d definitely encourage you to check this one out.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 25, 2018. It is US ONLY!

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Thanks Alexa for signing up for New to You! I’m so happy you enjoyed Free to Fall. It’s been a long time since I read it. May be time for a reread!

My Free to Fall review

Have you read Free to Fall yet?

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New to You (5): Lillian Reviews The Program by Suzanne Young

Welcome to New to You!

This idea came along last year when I was supporting Lauren Miller’s newest book All Things New and I asked Kelsey to read and review Parallel, a book I have read more than once. I didn’t really get it going until December when I offered people the chance to sign up to read and review a book that has been a favorite of mine that they have never read. I got a great response and I’m happy to tell you (minus January) you will see a New to You post twice a month.

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Next up for New to You is Lillian from Mom with a Reading Problem. For a while now I have been planning a readalong for Suzanne Young’s series The Program. The final book in the series comes out in April (Spoiler alert…it’s AMAZING) and I wanted to bring this amazing series to everyone’s attention. When Lillian signed up and wanted to read The Program the timing was perfect. More info on the readalong will be posted on 3/16, but for now, check out Lillian’s review below and find out what she thought!

New to You (5): Lillian Reviews The Program by Suzanne YoungThe Program by Suzanne Young
Series: The Program #1
Published by Simon Pulse
on April 30th 2013
Amazon, Goodreads

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

Why?! Oh, why did it take me so long to pick up this book?!?! Thank you goes to Andi for putting it back on my radar and hosting this feature so I finally could get my hands on it. My heart hurts y’all! The Program by Suzanne Young is a YA dystopia that will leave you heart sick and hopeful all at the same time. I could not sit it down! The author took me through a range of emotions from euphoric to rock bottom depressed to hopeful and aching. Sloane’s journey in the book will rip your heart out and tear it to shreds….you know, in a good way 😉

The Program is set in a not too distant future where an epidemic is rising among the teens of the world. The epidemic: suicide. Suicide in itself is a touchy subject, but I found when placed in a dystopian society such as this one, it is downright horrific. Suzanne Young does a beautiful job of describing not only the depression that brings someone to the brink of ending their own life but also the heartache for the loved ones left behind. This book needs a big warning label on it: NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. Seriously y’all, I cried my eyes out, and when I thought I couldn’t possibly have any tears left, I cried some more.

The teens in this story live their lives in fear. They are not allowed to show any emotion outside of being happy. Why? Because the Program will take you if you show ANY signs of depression (crying, anger, etc.) to prevent the epidemic from spreading. The Program is meant to save your life, prevent you from committing suicide and succumbing to the epidemic. But the “returners,” those who have completed the program, are not what you would expect. Think Stepford wives. These returners have been wiped clean so to speak, having little memory of life before the Program.

And this is how the story begins, with Sloane and her boyfriend James and best friend Miller. Sloane is an average 17 year old girl, at least her thoughts appear that way. Yet she lives in fear of being taken by the Program. Her brother is dead, having committed suicide previously and her home life is less than stellar. She isn’t permitted to show her grief to anyone except James. James is her rock and the only person who truly knows her. When Lacey, her childhood best friend is returned blank, it sets in motion a downward spiral for Sloane, James, and Miller that can only be described as heart-wrenching.

The plot revolves around Sloane and her downward spiral. As I’ve already mentioned, the author’s ability to pull the reader into Sloane’s depression, her resistance to the Program, and her feelings toward the people in her life is astounding. I felt what Sloane felt. I ached for her and James. I cried for all she lost and gained. The intricacies of the Program are interesting and slowly revealed as Sloane experiences them. I found myself intrigued and wanting to know more immediately about this secretive cure for the epidemic the teens faced.

I fell in love with The Program! I loved Sloane and James, Realm (who is introduced later in the story) and the dystopian world. And the epilogue….mind blown! I’ve already purchased book two The Treatment and hope to start it soon. I highly recommend this book to anyone that is a fan of YA dystopia. It doesn’t disappoint!

About Lillian @ Mom with a Reading Problem

I’m a thirty-something Southern girl, currently living in the mountains of East TN. I started blogging in 2014 on a dare from my husband after I became a stay-at-home mama to our little man and haven’t looked back. When I’m not blogging or reading, I’m a superhero or a Jedi and sometimes I’m just Mom.

Website: http://www.momwithareadingproblem.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/momwithareadingproblem
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/lillian_mccurry
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/mom_with_a_reading_problem
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lmccurry286

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Thanks Lillian for signing up for New to You! I’m so happy you loved The Program. I hope you stop by and join the readalong for The Program!

Have you started The Program series? If so how many have you read? Will you be joining my readalong?

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Review: The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

Review: The Hazel Wood – Melissa AlbertThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Published by Flatiron Books
on January 30th 2018
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon, Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When I first picked up The Hazel Wood I was really excited for a book that would use a modern time but throw fairytales into it. It seemed almost like a Once Upon a Time kind of a vibe based on the description. Sadly the book and my reading aesthetic just didn’t mesh as well as I wanted it to. I felt like I was wondering what was happening and what I was reading the whole book and I never quite jived with it. It also started really slow for me. It took a good 25% for me to feel like the story picked up and I also wasn’t a fan of some of the choices made in the last fourth of the book.

With that said, there was something that worked for me though. I actually really enjoyed the brief look we got at the Tales of the Hinterland. The writing in those fairytales was magical and enthralling. The story itself was not a creep fest like I had expected, but the fairytales found in Tales of the Hinterland were. They were dark and twisted and a little strange and oddly they were the part of the book I was excited about. The part of the book I wanted more of. Every time I got to read a little of one of the Hinterland fairytales I got excited for the book again, only to be a little let down.

What can I say about The Hazel Wood? It just wasn’t a book for me. Many of friends have loved it. Actually way more love it than had the same feelings I did. It just didn’t work for me. That being said, it may work for you. I will say that I’m really excited there will be a book released of the fairytales. That made me happy to hear. So while I won’t be running out to read this again or pick up the sequel, I will be picking up Tales from the Hinterland. Also the cover is a work of art!

What book is the last one you read that didn’t live up to your expectations?

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