New to You (22): Nicole reviews Altered by Jennifer Rush {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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For my last New to You of the year we have Nicole from Boundless Bookaholic. She read and reviewed an old favorite of mine, Altered by Jennifer Rush. Let’s see what she had to say about it.

New to You (22): Nicole reviews Altered by Jennifer Rush {giveaway}Altered (Altered, #1) by Jennifer Rush
Published: January 1, 2013
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three-half-stars

When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who has stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

Not a bad read, but not a favorite either. This one fell right in the middle of the rating scale for me. I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
I’ll be honest…when I started this book, I was not engrossed in the story. I was having a hard time connecting, and the writing style was part of the problem for me. I kept noticing the overly descriptive passages, how there was repetition sometimes, etc. But that being said, the plot was interesting and unique. There were even some twists that surprised me, which doesn’t happen often (i.e. almost never).
I liked Anna’s character quite a bit, and Sam, Cas, Nick, and Trev were super entertaining as well, especially Cas. He might have been my favorite character in this book because of his personality. Anna had a different “relationship” with each boy, but most of the focus was on her and Sam. Without spoiling anything, I will just say that Sam was swoony at moments, but he never lost sight of the important things. He was almost laser-focused, which makes sense considering everything they were dealing with.
This book could easily be read in one sitting; I didn’t want to put it down most days after I finally got hooked by the story. I need to know what happens next, so I’ll be checking out the rest of the series. If you love young adult sci-fi/dystopian books, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

 

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Thanks Nicole for signing up for New to You. Sorry this was middle of the road for you but happy you gave it a chance!

Giveaway is US only and ends on January 4, 2019  at 11:59pm EST.

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New to You (21): April reviews The Lies About Truth by Courtney Stevens {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 April from Between the Pages. I feel like I have been suggesting books to April for ages so it was great when she signed up and I had two more to choose from to have her read. It was a tough call but in the end I thought The Lies About Truth would be a good fit for her. Let’s see what she thought:

New to You (21): April  reviews The Lies About Truth by Courtney Stevens {giveaway}The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens
Published by HarperTeen
Published: June 6, 2017
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four-stars

This story from Courtney Stevens about hope and courage and the struggle to overcome the pain of loss.

Sadie Kingston is living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can't move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent's brother, Max.

As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him. But Max looks at her scars and doesn't shy away. And Max knows about the list she writes in the sand at the beach every night, the list of things that Sadie knows she must accomplish before she can move on from the accident. And while he can help her with number six (kiss someone without flinching), she knows she's on her own with number three (forgive Gina and Gray) and the rest of the seemingly impossible tasks that must be made possible before she can live in the now again.


So this was a book that I was interested in reading, but kept putting off. I’m not sure why I did, but I did. So when I saw Andi’s New To You feature come out, I was intrigued and decided to sign up, knowing whatever book Andi assigned to me was going to be worth reading. Andi has yet to lead me astray when I ask for book recommendations. So I read it, finally, and I’m glad I did.This is the story of Sadie, a teenage girls whose life changed due to a car accident that took the life of one of her friends, and changed the dynamic of the rest of her friendships. This story was very relatable, not because I’ve been through what the characters have, but because the friendships involved changed throughout the story. I feel like this is something that happens in real life as well. I also loved that Sadie had parents that were there for her, and wanted to be there.

Because of the Accident Sadie closes herself off from her friends, not wanting to be around them, then by a chance encounter we start seeing how they sort of become friends again in a different way, maybe not as close as before, but the friendship is there. The story evolves as the characters become different people, and truths are uncovered, truths that could change things in bad ways, but maybe allow the characters to grow in a good way.  By the end of the story each character, at least to me, seems different from the start of the book, but it was great to see them grow and change throughout the story.

I have to admit I struggled with the book while I was reading it, not because of the content of the story but because I was slightly disappointed that parts of the story were one-sided to me. I would have liked to have seen more of Max’s answers to Sadie, then just trying to guess what he wrote based on what she did.

All in all I was glad I finally read this book.

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Thanks April for signing up for New to You. I happy you finally got to read this one. I need a reread. I devoured it when I read it and never got around to my review.

Giveaway is US only and ends on November 27, 2018 at 11:59pm EST.

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New to You (20): Jennifer reviews Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson {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 Jennifer from YABookNerd. When Jennifer signed up I knew Second Chance Summer would be the perfect book for her to read. She told me why she put off reading and believe me I understand, but I also knew she would love it. Let’s see if I was right:

New to You (20): Jennifer reviews Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson {giveaway}Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published: May 7, 2013
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five-stars

From the Flying Start author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, a powerful novel about hope in the face of heartbreak.

Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.


The news from Taylor’s Dad changed everything. Instead of the summer they planned, the whole family will be spending the summer at the lake house together. The lake house where they once spent every summer before life got in the way. The lake house where everything for Taylor fell apart – including the relationships both her best friend and her first boyfriend.

Now she’s back and everything’s different and yet the same.She has to face everyone again. Plus she has to face the fact that this is her last summer with her father. As the summer progresses, she must face both her past and her future.

My Thoughts: I adore Morgan Matson, but I put off reading this book because I knew it was going to destroy me. And it did. I made until the last little bit of the book and I bawled like a baby. My puppy grew so concerned that she came over to make sure that I was okay.

But besides the heart wrenching tears, Andi was right, this one is amazing. I loved it. I loved learning about the past and how that influenced the present. I enjoyed the moments at Taylor’s job – working with her ex-best friend and trying to navigate those waters. I liked learning how they both had changed in the years apart. I liked the banter between Taylor and Henry. I loved Henry’s little brother. I loved the dog and who he inserted himself in to the family. 


I have a hard time reading books that I know will make me cry, but I loved this book. I was sad yet hopeful and of course all about second chances. If you haven’t read this one yet, run out to the library and grab it! 


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Thanks Jennifer for signing up for New to You. I’m sorry your puppy was so concerned, but the tears are so worth it.

My review of Second Chance Summer.

Giveaway is US only and ends on November 15, 2018 at 11:59pm EST.

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New to You (19): Kate Reviews Something Like Normal by Trish Doller {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 Kate from Beyond Bookish. When Kate signed up she mentioned how she heard some really great things about Trish Doller (ALL TRUE!) and how she has been meaning to read her. It was perfect! I love Something Like Normal so much and I hoped she would too. Let’s see what Kate had to say:

New to You (19): Kate Reviews Something Like Normal by Trish Doller {giveaway}Something like Normal by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Published: June 19, 2012
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five-stars

When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

As a school librarian I am constantly looking for stories that introduce my students to different types of characters and experiences. I generally have little issues finding female stories and characters but I constantly struggle reaching boys since many (in my specific experience) either do not like to read, or lean more towards nonfiction and/or sports books. Something Like Normal is an absolutely perfect realistic fiction that will definitely speak to the teens that I work with and has truly made an impact on my reading experience as well!

Here are three reasons to pick up this awesome book!

1. An Unlikely Hero
Travis, while being a typical (albeit flawed) teen is also a combat war veteran. I have never read or heard of a story that has a veteran protagonist in YA and it intrigued me from the very beginning! I knew immediately that Travis was going to be a very special character and I have been book talking him to many of students ever since. Travis is real, complex and complicated and it really shows that you can make mistakes, feel regret but strive to do better. Your mistakes do not define you. I personally identified with him because I felt like I grew up with boys just like him. Boys that went into things with the absolute best of intentions but face the harrowing and real challenges that they must deal with.

2. Imperfect Family and Relationships
Travis is not always painted in the best light but his family and friends certainly have their own issues as well. His father is emotionally abusive and constantly finds fault with his oldest son. Again this can be all too typical for many young people where in they feel their only way to escape is to get as far away as possible. Once Travis comes back home he is dealing with his own demons (plus a not so healthy dose of PTSD) which many of his friends are not sympathetic to, this is just a reality of life and I loved how the author approached it with such a beautiful amount of grace and humility. I certainly do not feel that we as the reader are meant to dislike his friends and family as much as we are to understand that these sort of relationships can be very complex especially surrounding the type of issues that Travis must face.

3. Treatment of Mental Illness
I love it when we get to see proper depictions of mental illness of young people in YA fiction. Even within the best circumstances (which Tyler doesn’t necessarily have) things like anxiety and depression can be a real problem and is a huge struggle for a large amount of teens. As someone who struggles with mental illness and family members who deal with PTSD I can understand this stigma surround therapy, medication and other treatments. In Travis’s case he feels that he must deal with any issues involving his friend’s death as a man and as a soldier which ultimately does not go in his favor. I think this is  probably a common view amongst men and soldiers which makes the barrier to treatment even that more difficult. It is rare to get this perspective in a YA story but I feel it is so important and a necessary piece for young people to see, those dealing with mental illness or not. Doller did a fantastic job of creating a story that is sympathetic but not preachy and allowed for a great journey as Travis continues to grow and learn as he begins to heal.

I could not recommend this novel more! I really am so grateful that Andi allowed me to read and review it. I really suggest this story for anyone serving teens (teachers, librarians, counselors), those struggling with mental illness and especially those who do not feel like they see themselves in what they read. We need more stories like this and I hope Something Like Normal is the catalyst for more amazing stories like it!

Twitter: @beyondbook_kate // Instagram: @beyondbookish // Blog: beyondbookish.com

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Thanks Kate for signing up for New to You. Travis still breaks my heart when I think about him. I’m so happy you loved this gem of a story!

My review of SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL

Giveaway is US only and ends on November 4, 2018 at 11:59pm EST.

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New to You (18): CJ Reviews Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

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 CJ from Sarcasm and Lemons. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous when I assigned this book to her. It is heartbreaking and a gorgeous story, but the subject matter is a hard sell. Honestly I have never recommend Forbidden to anyone because it isn’t a book that you can tell someone to read, they have to want to read it because it is high disturbing. But when CJ was the only one that selected it as an option, my warning included) I knew she was the right person. Let’s see what she had to say about a book that tore me to pieces:

New to You (18): CJ Reviews Forbidden by Tabitha SuzumaForbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: June 28, 2011
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three-stars

Perfect for readers who enjoyed Flowers in the Attic, this is a heartbreaking and shocking novel about siblings Lochan and Maya, their tumultuous home life, and the clandestine, and taboo, relationship they form to get through it.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As de facto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: A love this devastating has no happy ending.

Family Dysfunction is an Understatement

If I had to reduce my thoughts to a sentence, I think it would mostly be facial expressions. FORBIDDEN is a slow burning, heart wrenching book. There’s something a little old fashioned about the writing, something a bit V.C. Andrews or Nancy Drew, and it’s difficult to place it in any particular time. Entering it is almost entering another world. Even the characters speak with a poetic gravity. But all this gives a timelessness to the story of two hapless lovers, who happen to be brother and sister.

It’s no easy read. I found myself alternately hand-wringing and squirming and placing my hand to my heart throughout. You can’t help but sympathize with Lochan and Maya’s impossible situation, even as a very deep part of you feels nauseated by a relationship you’ve been programmed to revile. It’s a complicated story with no easy moral statements, no clear answers, and although the slow pacing made for some languorous skimming at times, the relationship between Maya and Lochan–and its startling conclusion–left me deeply mired in thought. It’s a book worth talking about.

Romeo and Juliet Had it Good

Our story opens on the Whitley family. Just from the set-up, you know this is going to be a Family Drama. The mother never wanted children and is scarcely at home; most of her time is spent playing cougar with her boyfriend. The father has gone to Australia and never calls. Teens Lochan and Maya are forced to play siblings and parents both to delinquent Kit, hyperactive Tiffin, and sweet naive little Willa. I often found myself raging at their mother, but also knowing that she’s the kind of person who would never take responsibility–which made me rage more, and also feel quite protective of the characters.

In this environment, it’s no wonder the result is a strange relationship between Lochan and Maya. I’m not sure if Suzuma meant to write it as a pure, sweet love; perhaps because of my background, I read it as unhealthily co-dependent. There’s an aspect of Heathcliff and Cathy in it. They cling to each other, fiercely enmeshed in their own world, isolated from others by fear and choice, parentified by the lack of an adult figure. They are everything to each other. I found it a little shocking how quickly they grow used to the idea of their romantic relationship–I would have expected some more hesitancy initially. But perhaps that’s part of the tragedy. It was a strange feeling, finding myself sometimes rooting for them, sometimes sickened, sometimes horrified and overwhelmed by the pathos of their abnormality. It made me want to do research, which is always a good sign that a book has made me think. I think the ending really underscored the tragedy of it all: in this world, their romance is abomination. Should it be? Was it a phase? Was there another way? Are we supposed to support them or assume they need therapy?

The best part of the book was its portrayal of depression and anxiety. I’ve rarely read such a thorough, accurate description as Lochan’s. He suffers from extreme social anxiety, to the point of having intense panic attacks at school when forced to speak to anyone. He also experiences soul-crushing depression, tinged with hopelessness and marked by the occasional outbursts of temper and self-harm. His POV chapters are electric and claustrophobic with the feeling of being trapped and beset on all sides. By contrast, I thought Maya was a bit fluffy. She’s the one who immediately accepts their relationship, sees it as them against the world. Her personality seems less distinct. Lochan was her whole world, and I couldn’t help but feeling the horror of that, and knowing it wouldn’t end well.

That Ending Though

Whatever you think of the sibling relationship, you’d have no soul if the ending didn’t give you pause. I admit, I didn’t see it coming. Not because it didn’t make sense, but because the last few chapters are so frenetic and fraught after a period of seeming contentment that it comes as a slap in the face. I was left with so many questions, for myself and the world. How could such an attraction like this occur? Was it the neglect of their circumstances? Would they have grown out of it? Is it wrong for society to see it as wrong if it’s two consenting parties? Am I wrong for being disturbed? Despite my hangups with the pacing and tone, I’m glad I read FORBIDDEN. It’s always good to be thrust out of your comfort zone and to question everything you’ve accepted as true. I have a feeling I’ll think of this one for a long time.

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Thanks CJ for signing up for New to You. I promise, you are right, you will think about this book for a long time. I read it in 2011 and I still find myself thinking about it.

Have you ever read anything with a disturbing subject matter? How do you feel about recommending it?

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