Review: Made You Up

Made You Up, Francesca Zappia

Amanda

Published May 19th 2015 by Greenwillow Books

Hardcover, 448 pages

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

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Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

For a girl that does not read a lot of contemporary YA, what I have been reading in 2015 has been phenomenal! Exhibit 1. All the Rage.  Exhibit 2. The Walls Around Us. Exhibit 3. Made You Up.  This book just went straight to my heart.  Alex herself went straight to my heart and shattered it.

Alex is beginning her senior year at a new high school.  We don’t learn right away what’s caused her to transfer but we know this is her last chance to prove that she doesn’t need to be hospitalized for her schizophrenia.  What a weight to try to live with!  While Alex is trying to balance school, work, and her mental health, she is also trying to just be a teen with a family and to maybe make some friends.  And yet, Alex carries a camera with her so that she can look at printed photographs to see what changes.  Are those armed guards surrounding school real?  What about the snake looking at her from the ceiling tiles?

The ups and downs of this book nearly killed me. Alex’s story was emotional and moving, and yet also funny and so sweet.  I loved the innocent romance.  I loved the rivalry between the smart kids and I loved the friendships between the trouble makers.

The only thing that kept this from being a 5 star read for me was the very, very end.  I just didn’t want it to end that way for Alex – and I thought the details could have been gentler.  But details aside it was the right ending even if it hurt.

4.5 stars!

Have you read Made You Up?  I need someone to discuss this with!  Also, how pretty is that cover?

Thank you Greenwillow Books and Edelweiss for an advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

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Review: Silver Bay

Silver Bay, Jojo Moyes

Amanda

Published August 26th 2014 by Penguin Books

Paperback, 338 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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Liza McCullen will never fully escape her past. But the unspoiled beaches and tight-knit community of Silver Bay offer the freedom and safety she craves—if not for herself, then for her young daughter, Hannah. That is, until Mike Dormer arrives as a guest in her aunt’s hotel.

The mild-mannered Englishman with his too-smart clothes and distracting eyes could destroy everything Liza has worked so hard to protect: not only the family business and the bay that harbors her beloved whales, but also her conviction that she will never love—never deserve to love—again.

For his part, Mike Dormer is expecting just another business deal—an easy job kick-starting a resort in a small seaside town ripe for development. But he finds that he doesn’t quite know what to make of the eccentric inhabitants of the ramshackle Silver Bay Hotel, especially not enigmatic Liza McCullen, and their claim to the surrounding waters.

As the development begins to take on a momentum of its own, Mike’s and Liza’s worlds collide in this hugely affecting and irresistible tale full of Jojo Moyes’s signature humor and generosity.

I love how different Jojo Moyes books all are!  If you loved Me Before You (which I completely did!), you should not expect every book to be similar.  The Girl You Left Behind and One Plus One were both totally different as well.  In Silver Bay our action moves from London to a tiny coastal town in Australia.  Mike is a businessman trying to sell a group of investors on a posh resort in Silver Bay.  He arrives, without fanfare, to check out the town and the services available -such as they are.  Kate is a native of Silver Bay in her seventies.  She runs the down-on-its-luck hotel that Mike checks into.  Kate lives with her niece Liza and her great niece, 11 year-old Hannah.  The scene around Silver Bay includes a mix of boat pilots and guides to take tourists out on the water looking for dolphins and whales.  The dolphins and whales themselves were definitely scene stealing characters as well.  As Mike starts to fall for Silver Bay and the inhabitants the reader falls as well.  It was a bit of a slow start for me, but in the end I was totally on edge waiting to see how the hotel development would play out.

We change perspective frequently and I love getting a story from all sides.  This was particularly helpful in Silver Bay as this was a book full of secrets.  Mike has secrets about why he is in Australia, Liza and Hannah have secrets about why they cannot leave Australia and even Kate has secrets of long-ago love affairs.  The secrets were making me crazy!  Of course the secrets have to come out in the end.  Maybe I started to predict some of the answers but that did not take away from my enjoyment of this book at all.  I certainly did not predict all of the directions the story would take though.  Moyes gives so much life to her characters both the starring and minor roles that in each book I feel totally drawn into the story and anxious for the outcome.

Would it be a Jojo Moyes book if I wasn’t teary at some point?  I don’t know because she’s four for four in making me cry while reading.  I love Jojo even more because when I tweeted that she had me in tears she told me to just keep reading and all would be well.  How sweet is that?

4 stars!

Thank you Penguin Books and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.  

Review: Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa, Kristen Lippert-Martin

Amanda

Published September 23rd 2014 by EgmontUSA

352 pages

Source: NetGalley

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From Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of a massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end.

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won’t be silenced again.

Goodreads described Tabula Rasa as the “Bourne Identity meets Divergent” and, much as I love Jason Bourne, I can happily say that I did not find that to be true.  This is not a dystopian novel.  Sarah is a patient at a special hospital where she’s undergoing experimental procedures to remove her memories.  When we meet Sarah she can’t remember why she’s even there.  There are no mirrors in the facility so she can’t even remember what she looks like.  There’s definitely a creepy vibe about the whole place so it does not really come off as a huge surprise when Sarah realizes the hospital is being invaded by soldiers.  I flew through this book because I just couldn’t wait to read what happened next.

The procedures to remove all of Sarah’s memories are never completed, so with some help she starts to slowly remember how she ended up in this hospital.  Sarah meets up with a young computer hacker who is trying to bring the facility down for reasons of his own and they team up to try to recapture all of her memories.  I really liked seeing Sarah rediscover herself and gain confidence I thought the romance-of course there was a romance-was sweet and not too over the top.

I thought the foreshadowing of who the villain would be seemed too obvious, but in the end I have to give Lippert-Martin credit because it was not at all what I expected!  I really liked Sarah -and it was great to be reading about a girl that wasn’t a white All-American Barbie.  Score one for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement!  Also awesome-this is a standalone book! No cliffhanger ending!  Yes, this did require some suspension of disbelief but I didn’t find the premise to be too wild and it was such a fun book I didn’t care.

Check it out if you want a fun and fast read!  This was a great debut and I will definitely be watching for more from Kristen Lippert-Martin.

4 stars!
Thank you Egmont USA and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Review: The Accident

The Accident, Chris Pavone

Reviewed by Amanda

Published March 11, 2014 by Crown Publishing, 400 pgs

Source: Netgalley

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From Goodreads…

From the author of the New York Times-bestselling and Edgar Award-winning The Expats

As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through the explosive revelations about powerful people, as well as long-hidden secrets about her own past. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals with publication of The Accident, while always looking over his shoulder.

Over the course of one long, desperate, increasingly perilous day, these lives collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril.  The rich cast of characters—in publishing and film, politics and espionage—are all forced to confront the consequences of their ambitions, the schisms between their ideal selves and the people they actually became.

The action rockets around Europe and across America, with an intricate web of duplicities stretching back a quarter-century to a dark winding road in upstate New York, where the shocking truth about the accident itself is buried.

Gripping, sophisticated, layered, and impossible to put down, The Accident proves once again that Chris Pavone is a true master of suspense.

Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.  That is a lesson proved in the Accident.  

The Accident read like watching a movie for me. It was fast paced with a lot of action throughout. I felt the tension build from the beginning as I tried to figure out who wrote the manuscript and how far the subject of The Accident and his shadowy CIA associates would really go to find the copies and the author.  This was a fast read for me because I was so entranced.  The chapters were short with alternating points of view as the manuscript moved from person to person.  I found myself thinking ahead a lot and wondering where copies would end up which was fun.  Perhaps some of it was predictable, but I definitely did not expect this to go the way it did in the end.  

This was a great fun read when you want something not too serious.  Also, I just always love books about books!  

I haven’t read the Expats yet, but I will definitely go back and do so now.  I liked Kate, who had a brief but memorable role in the Accident and I’d like to hear her story.  

4 stars!

Thank you Netgalley and Crown Publishing for this advanced copy for review.