Guest Review: Wanderlost – Jen Malone

Today on the blog we have a guest review done by Sarah (palmys05 on Twitter). Some of you have met Sarah and some of you may know her from social media. When we were at ALA together she mentioned she wanted Wanderlost so I offered to let her read it and review it on my blog. Here I give you here review!

Guest Review: Wanderlost – Jen MaloneWanderlost by Jen Malone
Published by HarperTeen
Published: May 31st 2016
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Not all those who wander are lost, but Aubree Sadler most definitely is on this novel’s whirlwind trip through Europe. A romantic and charming YA debut perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Jenny Han.

Aubree can’t think of a better place to be than in perfectly boring Ohio, and she’s ready for a relaxing summer. But when her older sister, Elizabeth, gets into real trouble, Aubree is talked into taking over Elizabeth’s summer job, leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe.

Aubree doesn’t even make it to the first stop in Amsterdam before their perfect plan unravels, leaving her with no phone, no carefully prepared binder full of helpful facts, and an unexpected guest: the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Considering she’s pretending to be Elizabeth, she absolutely shouldn’t fall for him, but she can’t help it, especially with the most romantic European cities as the backdrop for their love story.

But her relationship with Sam is threatening to ruin her relationship with her sister, and she feels like she’s letting both of them down. Aubree knows this trip may show her who she really is—she just hopes she likes where she ends up.

The lovely Andi asked me to review Wanderlost for her and I was so happy to take her up on her offer. 

Jen Malone’s Wanderlost was a just a feel good read.  It made me wistful and long for my semester abroad days in college.

Due to wacky hijinks, Aubree, a recent high school graduate who is babied by her parental units, winds up spending her summer vacation leading a group of seniors on a bus tour through Europe in place of her sister, Elizabeth.

The set-up to the tour was a bit clunky. After graduation, Aubree was hosting a party that got a bit out of hand while mom and dad were away.   Due to the noise, angry neighbors called the police. Aubree’s overachieving (and overbearing) older sister, Elizabeth, tried to diffuse the situation, which didn’t go over so well! Elizabeth ended up getting arrested and was unable to leave the country to lead the senior tour.  This tour guide position was supposed to be Elizabeth’s in to pursue a career in politics.  To save face, Elizabeth begged Aubree, a self-professed homebody with no desire to travel, to lead the tour as Elizabeth so that she could still get recommended for a desired internship.  WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

I hope I got that right….this set-up to the plot was just SO convoluted and ridiculous.  Anyone with Elizabeth’s smarts would have never gone with this plan or even thought it up in the first place.  I’m so glad I kept reading, but the whole beginning was a major turn-off.  If it had gone on much longer, it probably would have led me to DNF the book. The end result was adorable, but still, I wish the beginning wasn’t so plot pointy.

Now, let me get to the good stuff.  Aubree’s tour group was just delightful.  There was an outspoken couple from Texas who wouldn’t stop making out in the back of the van. Also, Emma and Mary, longtime best friends who wanted to see the world together, and Mr. Fenton, an adorable retired history teacher constantly sharing factoids about every spot they were seeing.   At first, Mr. Fenton seemed like he would out Aubree’s true identity to the rest of the crew, but he quickly befriended her which resulted in some great heart to hearts.  Rounding out the crew was Delores.  From day one, Aubree could tell she wasn’t enthused about being on the tour, but learned quickly that due to her connections, she was the one that needed to be impressed the most.  Aubree’s relationship with her tour group was a delight to read.  She both had to keep up the charade as Elizabeth, and be a responsible leader.  Both being stretches for her. She went from not wanting to leave Ohio to declaring every new city as her “favorite.”

Lest I forget to mention the adorable Sam.  As Aubree’s contact with the tour company in the states, Aubree talked to him on the daily.  This quickly led to phone flirting.  Aubree didn’t think twice about chatting with him as “Lizzie” since he was so far away.  When an emergency causes Sam to join their tour, Aubree must confront their attraction headfirst and wrestle with coming clean with him while lie after lie continues to pile.

I loved Aubree’s growth throughout the book.  She went from being dependent on her family, whiny, and entitled to resourceful, content, and eager to learn from her new surroundings and those around her.   The combination of Aubree’s character growth, her romance with Sam, and her relationship with her tour created a very sweet YA about finding yourself.


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Review: The Epidemic – Suzanne Young

Review: The Epidemic – Suzanne YoungThe Epidemic by Suzanne Young
Series: The Program #0.6
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: April 19th 2016
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Can one girl help others find closure by slipping into the identities of their loved ones? Find out in this riveting sequel to The Remedy and companion to the New York Times bestselling The Treatment and The Program.

In a world before The Program…

Quinlan McKee has spent her life acting as other people. She was a closer—a person hired to play the role of the recently deceased in order to give their families closure. Through this process, Quinn learned to read people and situations, even losing a bit of herself to do so. But she couldn’t have guessed how her last case would bring down her entire world.

The only person Quinn trusts is Deacon, her best friend and the love of her life. Except Deacon’s been keeping secrets of his one, so Quinn must set out alone to find Arthur Pritchard, the doctor who’s been trying to control her life. The journey brings Quinn to Arthur’s daughter, Virginia, who tells Quinn the truth about Pritchard’s motives. The former closer will start to see that she is the first step in fighting an epidemic.

But Quinlan doesn’t want to be a cure. And with all the lies surrounding her, she realizes she has no one left to rely on but herself—even if she doesn’t know who that is anymore.

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.

How do you review a book that puts an exclamation point on a fantastic series? Honestly, what can I really say about The Epidemic that won’t give away the whole plot of The Program and The Treatment or even The Remedy for that matter? What Suzanne Young did with this series is nothing short of perfection and I feel like I used all the words I can to tell you what I loved about each book and they all apply to The Epidemic as well. (You can find my reviews HERE, HERE and HERE). I guess what I can try to do and explain why I loved the series as a whole.

In my review for The Program I mentioned what fascinated me the most about the story was what came first, the depression or The Program? It was such a simple concept and one that stuck with me. It seemed like these kids were in an endless loop of fear. They couldn’t feel grief and loss because then they were high risk and pushed into mandatory therapy but they also couldn’t not feel them because the really could become depressed. They were in a catch-22 of sorts and The Program showed that. This kids had no choices and that made it even scarier of an idea and made me curios where it started.

Then there was The Treatment. The Treatment was different from The Program as it showed what happened after you were taken away from you. It showed what happened after you completed The Program and how it effected every part of your life. It was so interesting to see what the kids would put themselves through to get control of their lives and not live in fear. They put everything on the line and did it without flinching. But still I wondered how it all truly started, what came first.

So that brings me to The Remedy (which I said I was scared to read in my review of it) and The Epidemic. Both books billed as part of a duology and prequels to The Program and The Treatment. Each book added a layer to the already fantastic narrative Suzanne Young created and did the impossible by making the story even better. There are subtle and obvious connections in the prequels that really make parts of The Program and The Treatment stand out. Honestly I can’t say enough good things about the two books and the series in general.

What I’m trying to say here is that Suzanne Young pulled off something very few authors could do. She started at the middle, went to the conclusion, backed up to the beginning, and connected it all together with a fantastic ending and did it perfectly leaving very few questions.  I know a lot of you have read The Program and The Treatment and if you have I highly suggest picking up the prequels and finding out what this story is really made of. And for those of you that haven’t read any of them? Stop waiting! Pick up The Program and read them by release date. You won’t be sorry.

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Review: The Remedy – Suzanne Young

Review: The Remedy – Suzanne YoungThe Remedy by Suzanne Young
Series: The Program #0.5
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: April 21st 2015
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n a world before The Program…

Quinlan McKee is a closer. Since the age of seven, Quinn has held the responsibility of providing closure to grieving families with a special skill—she can “become” anyone.

Recommended by grief counselors, Quinn is hired by families to take on the short-term role of a deceased loved one between the ages of fifteen and twenty. She’s not an exact copy, of course, but she wears their clothes and changes her hair, studies them through pictures and videos, and soon, Quinn can act like them, smell like them, and be them for all intents and purposes. But to do her job successfully, she can’t get attached.

Now seventeen, Quinn is deft at recreating herself, sometimes confusing her own past with those of the people she’s portrayed. When she’s given her longest assignment, playing the role of Catalina Barnes, Quinn begins to bond with the deceased girl’s boyfriend. But that’s only the beginning of the complications, especially when Quinn finds out the truth about Catalina’s death. And the epidemic it could start.

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.

To say I loved Suzanne Young’s The Program and The Treatment is an understatement. Those books messed with my head in the best of ways. I had a strong ‘what came first the chicken or the egg’ feel the whole time I was reading. It was the best of both worlds as it was real world with just a tiny twist to make it not 100% reality. It was flawless and perfect and amazing and I didn’t think I could love the story any more than I did. And then The Remedy happened to me. I knew where it was going pretty early on. I could feel it as I was reading, wasn’t surprised by the end, or the direction it took. Yet I was blown away anyway. Suzanne Young took a story I loved and made it into more.

The Remedy is a prequel to The Program. Honestly I don’t know the time frame but it has to be a while between books. The story is about Quinlan (love this name by the way) a 17 year old girl that is what is known as a Closer. Quinn has the job of mimicking a person after they have died to help give the grieving family closure. She’s been doing it for as long as she can remember and she good at it. When she is given an assignment that is against the typical one she must figure out a way to integrate herself in these people’s lives while not losing herself forever. And as she starts to bond with the clients things start to unravel in a way no one saw coming.

It’s hard to explain how hardcore I loved this book. There is something about the way Suzanne Young gives power to her words and characters that I fall head over heels in love with. I mean as soon as I was introduced to Quinlan, Aaron and Deacon I was in and I was in deep. Quinn and Deacon reminded me of James and Sloane from The Program. They had this thing about theme that just made them relatable, like you wanted to be part of their group, be the one that had their backs. The story was…just wow. It’s a heavy subject matter, grief, and Young dealt with it in a way that once again had me thinking. It broke my heart to see these families grieving enough to hire someone to play the part of a loved one. But I also understood that every case was one that needed some kind of closure. Just fantastic.

The short of it…read this book. Read this series. Like I said, I had a feeling how things were going to go down and I was still in love. I ached for these characters. I was completely immersed in their lives and their story. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it.

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Backlog Review: Last Year’s Mistake – Gina Ciocca

Backlog Review: Last Year’s Mistake – Gina CioccaLast Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: June 9th 2015
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Is there anything that electric chemistry can’t overcome? The past may be gone, but love has a way of holding on in this romantic debut novel told in alternating Before and After chapters.

The summer before freshman year, Kelsey and David became inseparable best friends—until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke and everything around her crumbled, including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decide to move away, she can’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. But David’s not quite ready to be left.

Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family moves to town. Old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never let him go. And maybe she never wants to…

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’m a major sucker for best friend to love troupes in books. I don’t know what it is, but I’m drawn to them like nobody’s business. So when I read the description of Last Year’s Mistake I was instantly drawn in. It had exactly what I would want in a book. And I loved the idea of the story having a back story, a past. And I can happily report that it hit the spot.

I guess what I really liked about this book was the relationship David and Kelsey formed right away. They were both these awkward teenagers and they just clicked. They understood each other and I liked that. Kelsey wasn’t always my favorite person. I mean sometimes I questioned just what the heck she was doing, but I also understood her too. She was trying to do anything to be someone else. To reinvent herself in a way her old high school never allowed her to do, but she also wasn’t being true to herself at the same time. Now David I loved the whole time. There was something so swoony about him. Something that made you just want to be his best friend and crush on him at the same time. It was sure who he was and I loved that about him.

I did have 2 issues that I didn’t particularly enjoy which is why this book isn’t rated higher than a 4. I hated Kelsey’s boyfriend. He was a jerk so I didn’t understand why she was even with him. I mean I know he kind of had to be a jerk for the book to work for the most part, but I think he could have been written a little better. I also wasn’t too crazy about the “misunderstanding, school joke” thing from Kelsey’s old high school. It just didn’t seem like it should have been as big a deal as it was. I mean I know kids are cruel, but this just seemed a tad over the top even for young high school kids.

Even with those two things I really enjoyed Last Year’s Mistake. It was definitely my kind of book and I read it when I needed something just like it. Getting to know Kelsey and David and the inner workings of their relationship was fun. I’m excited to see what else Gina Ciocca has in store for us with her writing.

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Review: The Distance from A to Z – Natalie Blitt

Review: The Distance from A to Z – Natalie BlittThe Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt
Published by HarperCollins
Published: January 12th 2016
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This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.

Seventeen-year-old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to wear baseball caps and jerseys every day.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between who she is and who he is is worth the risk.

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 have been waiting a really really long time for The Distance from A to Z to come out. I’m a huge sucker for cute contemporary romances and I was told that this was a mere book by someone that read an early copy. But as excited I was for reading it I was weary when I saw it billed as a book for Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally lovers. To me those are hard shoes to fill. Stephanie and Miranda are two of my favorite YA contemporary authors and people so I did take pause. I knew I was going to read it but I did so with lower expectations. Now I can tell you I was wrong to do that because if you love Perkins and Kenneally you really will love The Distance from A to Z. So fun and fantastic.

I will admit if I was going to mark this book down for anything it was the French. There was a lot but the translations were always there so I couldn’t even fault the story for that. I mean French was a huge ‘character’ in the book so it made sense it was in there. Now the baseball thing in the other hand…give me all the baseball. I’m a huge huge fan on baseball so I loved that that was the thread through the story.

I loved the setting being on a college campus in New Hampshire. There is something about putting high school kids in a setting with less supervision that helps to make stories like The Distance from A to Z work for me. These kids were good and didn’t get into too much trouble so it made it make more sense that they had the amount of freedom they had. Plus I loved the trip that was thrown in. That really added to the story. It all was just written really well and just worked.

Zeke and Abby. Abby and Zeke. I flipping loved these two. They had that kind of friendship/relationship that I love reading about and watching in TV and movies. There was a natural chemistry and push pull. They had things in common but were so different in so many ways.  Because of those differences I fell in love with them. I constantly found myself wanting more of them and when I finished I wanted to know more of their story.

And then there was Alice and Abby’s brothers. They were all parts of the story but in the sidelines. We got to know a lot about them through Abby but I wanted more of all of them. Abby’s family sounded like so much fun (especially as the baseball fan I am) and Alice has a story that needs to be told. I loved her relationship with Abby. As people say soul mates don’t have to be romantic and Abby and Alice proved that.

This book was just what I needed. Actually I have said more than once that I feel like it was written for me. It had everything I love in a book and it left me wanting more. After 300ish pages, which I read 97% in a sitting, I ended just wanting more words. It was fun and emotional and just really well written. I had high hopes when I heard about this one and Natalie Blitt did not let me down. Don’t miss this really great book.

Currently Natalie has a promotion going on for us readers to get #MoreAtoZ. Check out this post to find out how to get an epilogue and a bonus scene!

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