Barely Have the Words (1)

I was looking at some of my 5 star reads, some read almost 3 years ago, that I still need to review. I realized there are some books I love so much I’m not sure I will ever be able to put into words how I really felt about them so welcome to my new feature, Barely Have the Words. I can’t adequately review this books since “READ IT” doesn’t really tell you how it made me feel, but this is my start:

Barely Have the Words (1)Sadie by Courtney Summers
Published by Wednesday Books
Published: September 4, 2018
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five-stars

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she's left behind. And an ending you won't be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

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

It has been months since I read this and I still can’t accurately put my feelings into words. I know this is the best Courtney Summers book I have read to date and left me emotionally wrecked.  It is dark, and hard to read, and what can be ugly about the world, but it is a story of love and strength too. It broke my heart into tiny pieces and worth every sliver. Sadie was a broken girl and justice was her only way to deal with how truly demolished she was. But even with all the sadness and the pain Sadie is worth the read. Not only is the format awesome and something new/now, you will feel for these characters like you have never felt for fictional people before. This is a must read.

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Barely Have the Words (1)Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books
Published: September 4, 2018
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five-stars

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?

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

I don’t often give Christina Lauren books a 5 star rating. The highest to this point has been 4.5 stars. It isn’t because I don’t love them and enjoy my reading experience. It is mostly because there is that one thing in the story that ends up bugging me and taking away from the whole feel. Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating didn’t have that one thing. It was perfect, and I don’t know what else to say about it. I have been trying to gather my thoughts since I finished in mid2018 and I just can’t do it. What I can say is that I loved everything about it. I loved hos crazy Hazel was and how dumb Josh was. I loved their friendship and their not friendship. I loved there chemistry. Basically, I loved it and that is what it comes down to in the end.

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Barely Have the Words (1)Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: July 4, 2017
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five-stars

Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?

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

Coming Up for Air is one of the rare books that I have read twice (once as a draft) that I still can’t find the words for. Part of the problem is it is Miranda Kenneally’s last book in the Hundred Oaks series and that is so hard to capture in a review. The other problem is that I loved Maggie and Levi’s relationship so much I can’t really describe the love I have for it. This book was probably Miranda’s funniest to date and her most sex positive and I still can’t tell you exactly why I loved it. Does just saying “read this book and this companion series and be done with it” work because that is all I’ve got. Also Kenneally writes a cute boy.

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Barely Have the Words (1)There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Published: September 26, 2017
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five-stars

Love hurts...

Makani Young thought she'd left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She's found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn't far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.

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

I read There’s Someone Inside Your House almost 3 years ago, the days after I met Stephanie Perkins for the first time. The whole this was surreal and I think that is why I have had such a hard time reviewing it. I’m not a horror/slasher book kind of person but TSIYH was just fun (and I’m aware that is odd to say). It brought me back to those great Kevin Williamson written horror movies with some of those Stephanie Perkins’ contemp moments. It is not the same experience as I had with Anna/Lola/Isla. It is a completely different book yet I still felt Steph when reading it. I can’t really say much else because a) I don’t want to give anything away from the book and b) I’m still kind of a loss for words from meeting Stephanie to reading the book right after. I just know I need something new from her and I need it now.

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These ‘reviews’ don’t do the books justice, but I have no other way to describe them. In the end I leave you with…READ THEM!

What books to you love and can’t review because you love them so much?

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New to You (13): Michelle Reviews Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

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 Michelle from Pink Polka Dot Books. Michelle and I have always shared a love for a certain kind of book. It goes back to 2014 when we met in line for a signing of Tease by Amanda Maciel at BEA. When she signed up and wanted to read Breathe, Annie, Breathe, I knew it would be a good fit for her. Let’s see what Michelle had to say about it.

New to You (13): Michelle Reviews Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda KenneallyBreathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: April 7, 2015
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four-stars

From the bestselling author of Catching Jordan comes a contemporary YA you won't forget.

The finish line is only the beginning.…

Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can't escape the guilt that if she hadn't broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she's at war with her body, her mind-and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms...and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

 

When I spied this book in Andi’s New To You options, I knew I had to choose it.  It’s been sitting on my shelf since one of my first BEAs and I’ve been meaning to read a book in the Hundred Oaks series since forevs.

I feel like this may have been the perfect book for me to start with because the subject-matter is a lot more serious and lot less romancey– although, the romance is DEFINITELY there.  I was really surprised how much I enjoyed reading about running, considering whenever I have to run in real life all I can think about is the intense pain all over my body, but I liked seeing how Annie progressed.

We follow Annie’s training schedule in the 6 months leading up to her first marathon.  Annie isn’t a runner, so having only 6 months to train to run a full marathon (26.something miles) is tough stuff.  I loved reading about her training and learning things about running that I never knew (like eating fish is good for your knees and weird things about Vaseline).  I actually loved being in her head, which I usually do not like.  When you run, you have A LOT of time to think and for the most part, I liked Annie’s thoughts.

Annie is running the marathon in honor of her boyfriend who passed away before he could run in one.  It gets complicated when her trainer’s brother enters the picture and gives her all kinds of crushworthy-feels.  I could see why she didn’t feel great about getting with a guy who is involved with something that connects to her boyfriend’s memory.  It was awkward as all hell.

The thing about Jeremiah (the brother) is that he’s an adrenaline junkie, constantly seeking the next high, putting himself in all kinds of unnecessary danger.  I felt like Annie was right to be wary– how could she go through another accidental death of a love interest???

What I liked about the Jeremiah situation: He sounded hot as hell.  Boys that don’t have fear are hot– they just are.  I liked their chemistry together, and I liked that hooking up wasn’t the biggest deal in the world to this author.  I thought Jeremiah might have been the most patient college kid on the planet and I respected that.

What I was MEH about the Jeremiah situation: I didn’t care for Jeremiah using Annie as a way to get his new high.  What’s going to happen when that newness wears off??  It will wear off Jeremiah, I promise you.  Also, why was every guy in love with this Annie chick??  She seemed like an everyday girl, I didn’t think she needed to be HOTTEST GIRL EVER for me to believe Jeremiah would be interested in her.

I will definitely be reading more Miranda Kenneally books!!  I really enjoyed the flow of this book. reading about marathon training, going to college, and awesome families.  Thanks to Andi for getting me to read this backlist book that I should’ve read years ago!!

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Thanks Michelle for signing up for New to You! I knew Annie would be a good fit for you!

My Breathe, Annie, Breathe review.

Have you read any books by Miranda Kenneally? If so which ones?

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On My Radar – July Releases (12)

It’s finally 90 in Boston…well for today and tomorrow anyway. And with 90s in June there is only one thing on my mind…July. July is one of my favorite months of the year. It is usually the tome when the weather is great and the books released are pretty fantastic and mostly quiet. There usually aren’t a ton of hype books released in July and that’s part of the reason I love books that come out then. You can find some great gems.

Currently there are 16 books on my TBR that are released in July, but I’m focusing on 6. Two of them I have read and gave 5 stars and the other 4 are ones I’m super excited for:

On My Radar – July Releases (12)Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: July 4th 2017
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Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?

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On My Radar – July Releases (12)What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
Published by Delacorte Press
Published: July 11th 2017
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things comes a charming and poignant story about two struggling teenagers who find an unexpected connection just when they need it most. For fans of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Niven, and Rainbow Rowell.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

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On My Radar – July Releases (12)Trust by Kylie Scott
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Published: May 23rd 2017
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Being young is all about the experiences: the first time you skip school, the first time you fall in love…the first time someone holds a gun to your head.

After being held hostage during a robbery at the local convenience store, seventeen-year-old Edie finds her attitude about life shattered. Unwilling to put up with the snobbery and bullying at her private school, she enrolls at the local public high school, crossing paths with John. The boy who risked his life to save hers.

While Edie’s beginning to run wild, however, John’s just starting to settle down. After years of partying and dealing drugs with his older brother, he’s going straight—getting to class on time, and thinking about the future.

An unlikely bond grows between the two as John keeps Edie out of trouble and helps her broaden her horizons. But when he helps her out with another first—losing her virginity—their friendship gets complicated.

Meanwhile, Edie and John are pulled back into the dangerous world they narrowly escaped. They were lucky to survive the first time, but this time they have more to lose—each other.

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On My Radar – July Releases (12)This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes
Published by HarperTeen
Published: July 11th 2017
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Somehow I’ve become a liar. A coward. Here’s how it happened.

When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.

As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.

Incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully told, Paula Stokes’s story will compel readers to examine the consequences of making mistakes in a world where the internet is always watching…and judging.

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On My Radar – July Releases (12)Who's That Girl by Blair Thornburgh
Published by HarperTeen
Published: July 11th 2017
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This laugh-out-loud debut is filled with hilarious awkward encounters, a supportive LGBTQ organization, and too many cheesy lyrics to count—all with the compulsive readability of Audrey, Wait! and Boy Meets Boy.

Junior Nattie McCullough has always been that under-the-radar straight girl who hangs out in the cafeteria with her gay-straight alliance friends. She’s never been the girl that gets the guy, let alone the girl that gets a hit song named after her. But when last summer’s crush, smoking-hot musician Sebastian Delacroix—who has recently hit the mainstream big-time—returns home to play a local show, that’s just what she gets. He and his band, the Young Lungs, have written a chart-topping single—“Natalie”—which instantly makes Nattie second guess everything she thought about their awkward non-kiss at that June pool party. That it was horrific. That it meant nothing. That Sebastian never gave her another thought.

To help keep her mind off of Sebastian and his maybe-about-her, maybe-not-about-her song, Nattie throws herself into planning the school’s LGBTQIA dance. That proves problematic, too, when Nattie begins to develop feelings for her good friend Zach. With the song getting major airplay and her once-normal life starting to resemble the cover of a gossip magazine, Nattie is determined to figure out once and for all if her brief moment with Sebastian was the stuff love songs are made of—or just a one-hit wonder.

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On My Radar – July Releases (12)The Bakersville Dozen by Kristina McBride
Published by Sky Pony Press
Published: July 4th 2017
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You have four days to locate five treasured trophies. Break the rules and you all die. Happy hunting!

Back in September, the town of Bakersville, Ohio made national news when a video went viral featuring thirteen of the high school’s elite in compromising positions. Now it’s May, and every month since the “Bakersville Dozen” made their infamous appearance on the national stage, one girl has gone missing. Officials are no closer to identifying the criminal.

Bailey “Like a Virgin” Holzman is getting really fed up with the scrutiny. She just wants to enjoy the rest of her senior year and have an epic summer before heading off to college. So when she discovers a note in her locker on the last day of school inviting her on a scavenger hunt, she thinks it’s just a sweet surprise from her boyfriend trying to cheer her up.

But following the clue leads her, instead, to the first official casualty. And another sinister envelope. The killer is close, and it could be anyone. Even the people Bailey’s always trusted most—her best friend, her perfect boyfriend, or the boy-next-door she’s always pined for.

With the clock ticking, she faces a terrifying choice: play the game by the killer’s rules—follow the clues, tell no one, and no cops—for a chance to save the rest of the missing girls, or risk becoming the next grisly victim.

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If you are looking for other books on my radar you can check out my July shelf on Goodreads HERE.

What’s on your radar in July? Are you excited for any of these?

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On My Radar: Staycation Reads (5)

I am on a staycation this week so I hope to get a lot of reading done. Will that be the case? Time will tell since I have some cards to make (thanks for the order Kelsey!) and a hockey game to attend (I’m going today) and some other things to do. But I do like to get some morning reading in and with some caffeine some late night reading too.

When I plan to spend some time reading I like to have some idea as to what I want to spend time on. Here are about 4 books that are currently in my head to start and one that I need to finish (I took a break to read a crack book).

On My Radar: Staycation Reads (5)Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books
Published: February 2nd 2016
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Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

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On My Radar: Staycation Reads (5)The Long Game (The Fixer, #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
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The Kendricks help make the problems of the Washington elite disappear…but some secrets won’t stay buried.

For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington, D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When Tess is asked to run a classmate’s campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even a high school election can involve life-shattering secrets.

Meanwhile, Tess’s guardian has also taken on an impossible case, as a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can—and cannot—be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows better than most that power is currency in D.C., but she's about to discover firsthand that power always comes with a price.

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On My Radar: Staycation Reads (5)Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse
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“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

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On My Radar: Staycation Reads (5)When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Published by Simon Pulse
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A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

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On My Radar: Staycation Reads (5)Coming Up for Air (Hundred Oaks, #8) by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
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Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic try out, so she feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to lose to win?

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On My Radar: Staycation Reads (5)The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
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Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake and spending quality time with her parents. But when her mom's cancer reappears, Lucy falters-in her faith and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend "pauses" their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp-one for troubled kids-Lucy isn't sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Emotionally-charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord's storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life's biggest challenges.

I know I won’t read them all and finishing Salt to the Sea will be accomplishment enough, but a girl can dream.

What’s on your book radar?

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Spotlight: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Spotlight: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (Excerpt + Giveaway)Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: July 5th 2016
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There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor's always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that's what is expected of a senator's daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor's kicked out of private school. Everything she's worked so hard for is gone, and now she's starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor's escape from the pressures of school and family, but it's hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she's going through is her older brother's best friend, Ezra. Taylor's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it's hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

I now understand culture shock: it’s me experiencing Hundred Oaks High for the first time.

A lot of kids go here. Five hundred? A thousand? There are so many I can’t tell. At St. Andrew’s, there were only forty kids in my entire class. We lived on a calm, sprawling, green campus. Walking down the halls of Hundred Oaks feels like last-­minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall.

Two guys wearing football jerseys are throwing a ball back and forth. It whizzes by my ear. A suspender-­clad male teacher is hanging a poster for the science fair, while a couple is making out against the wall next to the fire alarm. If they move another inch, they’ll set off the sprinklers. At St. Andrew’s, kissing in the hall was an über no-­no. We snuck under the staircase or went out into the woods. Ben and I did that all the time.

Thinking of him makes me stop moving. I shut my eyes. Dating Ben was stupid. Going into the woods with him was stupid. Thinking about what happened makes me so mad, I want to rip that newly hung science fair poster off the wall and tear it apart.

A boy shoves past me, slamming my arm with his backpack. That’s what I get for loitering in the middle of the hallway with my eyes closed. He looks me up and down. “You coming to Rutledge Falls this afternoon?”

“What?”

“Paul Simmons challenged Nolan Chase to a fight. Rutledge Falls. Three o’clock. Don’t tell the cops.”

A fight? Where the hell am I? Westeros?

A girl bumps into my side. “Watch it!” Flashing me a dirty look, she disappears into a classroom with a group of friends, chattering away.

Seeing those girls together reminds me of my best friends, Steph and Madison. Right now, they’re probably gossiping before trig starts. I miss Steph’s cool British accent and Madison’s cheerful laugh.

I take a deep, rattled breath. And then another. I feel trapped, like the time I got locked in my grandpa’s garage and no one found me for an hour and I banged on the windows until my fists turned purple from bruises.

I can’t believe I had to leave my school. My home.

All because I made one stupid decision.

I check my schedule. My first class is calculus 1, the most advanced math course Hundred Oaks offers. Just a week ago, I was taking an advanced calculus quiz at the University of the South. St. Andrew’s is one of the best prep schools in the country, and they offer seniors the opportunity to take courses at the university, which is up the road. Even though I was still in high school, the professors treated me just like a college kid. I was only in the course for two weeks, but still. It was insanely difficult. The truth is, unlike everybody else in my family, I hate math. I have to work at it harder than anything else in my life.

But if I didn’t take college calc, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t get into an Ivy League school. I need to go to a top-tier school because that’s what people in my family do. My father attended Yale, and my sister Jenna is there now. According to Dad, my brother Oliver—­Jenna’s twin—­is a traitor for going to Princeton, but I think Dad respects him for having the balls to make his own decision.

Me?

When Dad called me into his home office last night, he barely looked at me as he pored over my new schedule. The silence was killing me.

“I don’t know how Yale will still consider me if I’m not taking all AP courses,” I said. “Hundred Oaks only offers AP chemistry.”

Dad sighed, took off his glasses, and set down my schedule. “I’m incredibly disappointed in you, Taylor.”

I looked him straight in the eyes. His quiet restraint worried me. I’d never seen him so upset.

But I was upset too. He rarely had time to call me when I was away at school, but he could spare a few minutes to comment on my one screwup? After how hard I’ve always worked?

Over the years, I’ve done hours of homework every night. I had a 4.2 GPA at St. Andrew’s. A 1520 SAT score. I was on track to be valedictorian. I was captain of the soccer team and on the debate team. I did everything I could to show Yale that I worked hard. That I am a unique individual. Because that’s what Yale wants.

But my one misstep has muddied my glowing record.

Dad ended our conversation with a death knell.

“Tee, I gave you all the tools you needed to succeed,” he said. “I’ve paid for your private school education since first grade, and you squandered it by getting kicked out.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, my face burning. “I’m going to keep working hard at Hundred Oaks though.”

“You’re damn right you will.”

My father had me so flustered, I wasn’t thinking straight when I said, “Maybe Yale will still take me because of who I am.”

“You mean because of who I am.” Dad rubbed his eyes. “I’ve always taught you kids the importance of integrity, and the minute you got into trouble, instead of owning it, you called me to bail you out. And now you’re doing it again. Using my name to try to get ahead.”

I hung my head. “I’m sorry, Dad.”

“I love you more than anything, but you have to take responsibility for what you did. You’ll have to figure college out on your own.”

“What does that mean?” I asked slowly.

“It means I’m not lifting a finger. I won’t be calling the alumni association or the school president to put in a good word for you.”

“But didn’t you do that for Jenna and Oliver?” I blurted.

He put his glasses back on. “You need to own up, Tee.”

So here I am, glancing around the unfamiliar halls of Hundred Oaks. The school is neat and orderly, but it doesn’t look completely clean, like no matter how hard you scrub, it still looks old. At least it’s not juvie.

I step into my math class, which is already filled with kids. I choose an empty seat at a wobbly wooden desk and stare out the window at the sunny, seventy-­degree September day. I bet at St. Andrew’s, my world politics teacher is telling my friends, “Gather your books. It’s a beautiful day out. Let’s have class in one of the gardens.”

I check out the problem set on the whiteboard. I could do this level of math years ago…

My former guidance counselor told me that colleges look for trends in our GPA and activities over four years of high school. So that means when colleges see my application, they will see:

I’m taking easier classes;

I’m no longer doing debate;

I’ve lost my soccer captainship this year; and

I was expelled.

I have never simply given up when calculus got a lot tougher or an opponent ran faster than me on the soccer field. So I refuse to believe my entire future is over because of one mistake.

I just need to figure out how to move forward.

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About Miranda Kenneally

Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

 

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