Sophomore Year is Greek to Me Review

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I’m g(r)eeking out over this fun young adult read.

Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin follows Zona Lowell, an aspiring high school journalist, who is forced to move with her father to Greece. While her father finishes up a novel on the current affairs in Greece, Zona must adapt to a new school in Greece and meet the family who shunned her mother after she left the country.

Sophomore Year is Greek to Me was suggested to me by Goodreads. I had read one other book by Meredith Zeitlin and thought it was okay, but this book sounded like something I would enjoy so I added it to my Want to Read section. Luckily, my sister found it a few weeks later for only $1 at Dollar Tree! Even though Sophomore Year is Greek to Me wasn’t everything I expected it to be, I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would.

I think the best part of this novel is the realistic portrayal of Greece and its culture. When Zona first arrives in Greece, she mainly concentrates on the country’s financial struggle. As the story goes on, Zona learns more about the attitudes of people in Greece, their customs, and more about the specific areas. My favorite part of the novel is when Zona travels to Crete and interacts with her mother’s family. The author seamlessly blends teaching the reader about the culture with the book’s story line.

I also really loved how the author focused more on Zona experiencing Greece and meeting her family that focusing on a love interest or drama at school. Although those issues do arise in the book, they are not a significant portion of the novel. Since Zona only lives in Greece for a short time, it was nice to see that the author focused more on other aspects of the novel. In this novel, family plays a large role and the author does a good job of highlighting how the cultures shapes different family member’s attitudes and relationships with Zona.

My only complaint about this book would be the pacing. While there needs to be some build up before Zona travels to Greece, I felt like it spans way too many chapters. I felt like I zoomed through the first several chapters of the novel because it told information that I already knew from the book’s description. Additionally, I was also slightly bored by the chapters of Zona in her new school. Zona never really struggled to adapt to her new school and I felt her experiences there never added anything to the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed Sophomore Year is Greek to Me and think it is a great end of summer/start of a new school year book. Since the setting and family-focused plot stood out among other contemporaries to me, I give this book four out of five stars.

Books I Packed for Vacation

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Last week, I traveled with my family to Williamsburg and Virginia Beach. Since I would be spending a few days in the sun, I had to throw some books in my beach bag! There’s a few summer books that I wanted to read before the summer ends and before they were due at the library, so I decided to take a few of those on my trip. Here are the books that I took on vacation:

  • Summer Days and Summer Nights by Stephanie Perkins

I thought this short story collection would be perfect for the beach because it’s so summery! Since it contains short stories, the stories could be read whenever I was laying out in the sun.  With shorter stories, I could have the perfect mix of reading time and beach time!

  • It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Like with Summer Days and Summer Nights, this story is very summery and even takes place on a beach! The first book in this trilogy was a quick, easy, and lighthearted read. This was the perfect book to take on vacation because it would be a fun and quick to read at the beach or before going to bed.

  • Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Even though this book isn’t particularly summery like the books above, it is another book that I have checked out at the library. I’m also excited to read this and Kasie West’s new book, Lucky in Love, because they have similar plots and I want to see how they compare.

What books did you take on vacation this summer?

Girl vs. Boy Band: The Right Track Review

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Just like your favorite pop song, this book is up beat and fun, but not extremely unique.

Girl vs. Boy Band: The Right Track by Harmony Jones follows middle schooler Lark, who moved to Los Angeles from Nashville after her parents divorced and her mother started a new record label. With only one successful artists on the label, Lark’s mother looks across the pond for some fresh voices. She discovers Abbey Road, a British boy band comprised of three unruly teenagers and invites them to stay at Lark’s house as their career begins. Even though most teenage girls would dream of Lark’s situation, Lark finds herself living in a nightmare after the group steals one of her songs.

When I started Girl vs. Boy Band, I was impressed with the easy and quick writing style paired with a promising plot. While I enjoyed many aspects of this book, I was disappointed with the direction it followed. When I saw the book’s title and description, I expected a little more drama, especially concerning the stolen song. While this book started off strong, it slowly turned into a more predictable contemporary book.

I think my largest problem with this book would be its title in description. While Lark and the boys don’t get along, I expected a little more drama with a title “Girl vs. Boyband.” Additionally, the description of this book really capitalizes on the stolen song, however the majority of this book didn’t revolve around this conflict. When this part of the plot arose in the book, I was disappointed that this entire part of the plot unfolded and was neatly resolved in literally a few pages. Instead, the majority of the story focused on Lark’s stage fright. Even though this part of the story line will be more relatable to the audience, this is a plot line frequently used in middle grade novels and this book didn’t provide an original take.

One aspect of Girl vs. Boyband that I enjoyed was the depth added some of the characters. While some characters, such as Lark’s best friend, school crush, and the “bad boy” of the group clung to certain stereotypes, there were several stand out characters within this book. One of the boy band members, Max isn’t that musically talented and struggles with being away from his family. However, Max is also very approachable and a great dancer. I think Max was the most developed character out of the boy band, so I liked him the most out of the group. I think Lark’s mother was also well characterized. Lark’s mother struggles between her country roots and maintaining her new pop appearance. I liked how there were good and bad moments between Lark and her mother because it made the story more realistic.

Overall, Girl vs. Boyband is a cute book and I liked reading it. However, I’m not sure if I’ll be interested in the story that the book is going read, so my investment in this series will depend on the summary of the next book. I give Girl vs. Boyband three out of five stars.

August TBR

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Looking back on my July TBR, I’m not surprised that I only read one of the books that I initially planned. After my library brought in a slew of new releases, I found myself checking out six books at time. Even though I did have a great reading month (see my July Wrap-Up here), I didn’t end up tackling my TBR pile. Last month I planned to read the following books:

  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
  • Burn by Burn by Jenny Han and Siobahn Vivian
  • Surviving High School by Lele Pons and Melissa De La Cruz
  • Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale
  • L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad

Looking back at my choices, I can see why I didn’t pick up most of these books. Most of the books on my July TBR were school-centered and in the midst of summer, I leaned more towards beachy reads. I’ll probably save a lot of books on this list for September and October! The only book that I read on this list was L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad, which I rated three stars.

Looking towards August, I’m going to try to fit in as many summer books as I can before back to school rolls around. Here are my picks for the last month of summer:

  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories

I’m trying to branch out and read different types of books, so this short story collection will be the perfect way to venture out of my comfort zone! I read the winter short story collection but Stephanie Perkins and loved reading it around Christmas time. Hopefully, I love reading this one during the summer!

  • It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

It's Not Summer Without You (Summer, #2)

I read the first book in this series in July, so I definitely want to finish this series before the summer ends! Even though the first book in this series wasn’t my favorite summer read, I feel like I will never finish this series if I wait an entire year to pick up the next book.

  • We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

We'll Always Have Summer (Summer, #3)

Similar to the second book in the series above, I want to finish this series before I forget the details. This series is perfect to read during summer, so hopefully I can finish it before the end of August.

  • Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Second Chance Summer

I planned on reading this book last summer, but never got around to it. Hopefully, I can get to it before this summer comes to a close! Morgan Matson is one of my favorite contemporary authors, so I know that I won’t be disappointed by this one.

  • Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Windfall

This isn’t necessarily a summer read, but it is a book that I recently checked out of the library. I want to finish this book before the due date!

 

What books do you plan to read in August?

Library Book Sale Haul 2017 Part Eight: My Library Book Sale Experience

Library Book Sale

We’ve finally reached the end of my eight part series on my largest book haul ever from my library’s annual book sale. This was definitely a crazy sale for me… my sister and I walked away with 223 books for only $65! Like I mentioned in my first post, this does seem a little excessive. However, my sister and I use this sale to mostly stock up on books for our future classrooms.

Last year, I found the original price of every book we purchased to see how much we actually saved. This year, that process was a little too difficult. With so many books, many with old editions or prices not easily located online, it wasn’t possible to find an accurate percent savings or even the original price of every book. Instead, I calculated how much we paid per book and compared it to the average price for a children’s book, a middle grade book, a young adult book, and an adult book.

Since we paid $65 dollars for 223 books, we paid about 30 cents for book. To determine the prices of a standard book, I use the prices created by the School Library Journal. Let’s get into the savings!

For a hardcover children’s book the average price is $17.77 and the average price for a paperback is $7.29. That means we saved about 98% on each hardcover children’s book and about 95% on each paperback children’s book. Each hardcover young adult book averages at $19.12 and each paperback young adult book averages at $12.09. For each hardcover young adult book, we saved 98.4% and for each paperback young adult book we saved 97.5%. Each hardcover adult book averages at $26.98 and each paperback averages at $16.06. We saved 98.8% on each hardcover adult book and 98.1% on each paperback book. Overall, we saved an average of 97.6% off of regular retail price on the books we purchased at the sale.

Compared to last year’s sale, I found that I picked up more picture books, early chapter books, and middle grade books. I think this year’s selection of young adult books was smaller than last year and the books available were ones that I already had in my book collection. This year I really scored with picture books by finding several books on my wishlist, including Pinkalicious and Aqualicious.

During last year’s sale, my percent savings was a little higher at 98%, but due to possibly inaccurate book pricing, the savings may actually be slightly different. Either way, those savings are pretty high of the regular retail price. I think I paid slightly more for books this year due to finding more hardcover books on the first day of sale and inconsistent pricing across the book sale employees.

Consistent with previous years, the $5 bag sale was the craziest day of the sale. If you are looking for DVDs or books in a series, I suggest scoping out the location of these items the day before. The line outside of the library is extremely long before the sale opens and these tend to be the first items of the sale to go. I’ve seen people not even look at the DVDs before sweeping a whole pile into their bag.

Since the library most likely will give you a bag to ensure consistency, you might want to bring your own tote bag to stash items as your walk around the sale. The flimsy plastic bags won’t be able to hold everything that you will end up stuffing in them and it is difficult to maneuver around the sale with a stack of books in your arms. After you secure your most desired items and scope out the sale again for any books you missed, it’s a good idea to find a less crowded area away from the sale too review the books you picked up, take back any that you accidentally grabbed and don’t want, and to carefully organize the books into as few bags as possible. For more information on how my library sale worked and what to expect on different days of your library book sale, check out my experience post from last year here.

Overall, I really enjoyed this year’s sale and can’t wait until next year! I walked away with a lot of books that I’ve been wanting to read and supported my local library at the same time. I recommend library book sales to any book lover looking to add quality books to their collection for a fraction of the cost while supporting their local reading community!

 

Library Book Sale Haul Part 7: Bre’s Books

Library Book Sale

Over the past six weeks, I’ve talked about all the books I scored at my library’s annual sale. This week, I’m going to switch it up and talk about the books that my sister found. During the library book sale, my sister primarily searches for young adult and adults books. Usually, she finds great deals on new releases and pricey hardcover books. Here’s what she found:

  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I’ve seen The Maze Runner movie and definitely have a lot of questions after watching it. I’m hoping that I’ll understand it better once I read the book, but I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about this series.

  • The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I feel like Cassandra Clare is one of the bigger YA authors out there right now and I’ve never read a book by her! Now that my sister owns a copy of the first book in The Mortal Instruments series, hopefully I can enjoy her books like so many other people!

  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

I’ve always wanted to read Number the Stars,  but I’ve never picked it up so I’m glad that my sister found a copy at the library book sale. I know so many people love this book, so I’m very excited to read it.

  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

This is another book that I feel everyone reads when they’re younger, but I never got around to reading! Luckily, it’s always easy to find these types of books at library sales!

  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Bounce by Natasha Friend
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This was definitely the #1 book people were looking for at the library book sale… and my sister found it! Not only is this book in perfect condition, but it’s a newer release and a great find at the book sale.

  • Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
  • The Sweet Far Thing Libba Bray

I read Beauty Queen by Libba Bray, but wasn’t a huge fan. However, I’ve heard a lot of positive reviews from close friends of this series, so I definitely plan on giving it a try.

  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

My sister and I love these books by Barbara Robinson, so I’m happy that she finally found one of her books to add to her own book collection!

  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Debs by Susan Bride
  • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steigg Larsson
  • The Girl who Played with Fire by Steigg Larsson
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

I remember seeing the trailers for the Memoirs of a Geisha movie when I was younger. Since I’ve never seen the movie, it will be cool to read the book before I watch it!

  • The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker 

 

What book deals have you scored recently? Stay tuned for next week to see my final post for this year’s annual book sale!

The Truth About Forever Book Review

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You want the truth? I think that I’ll love this book for ever.

The Truth About Forever follows Macy West after her father dies and her boyfriend leaves from Brain Camp for the summer. To maintain her perfect appearance, Macy takes over her boyfriend’s job at the library despite his rude coworkers and spends her night studying for the SATs to please her mother. When Macy meets the crew of Wish Catering and an extraordinary boy named Wes, her summer starts to look up.

I’ve read all of Sarah Dessen’s books and The Truth About Forever is in my top three. I remember in high school my sister recommended this book to me and I’m glad that I listened to her! The Truth About Forever is one of my all-time favorite books and I recommend to anyone, even people who aren’t typically fans of contemporary. Like all of Sarah Dessen’s books, The Truth About Forever hits you right in the heart with its underlying universal themes.

I think one of the main reasons The Truth About Forever stands as one of the most beloved Sarah Dessen novels is the characters. Every character in this book is realistic and complex. Macy is a likable character whose struggle to be perfect will be relatable to many readers. Furthermore, Macy’s relationships with her family and other characters are accurate to every day life. Additionally, the supporting character in this novel all stand out, no matter how little they appear in the book. Kristy’s bold and dramatic personality stands out as one of Sarah Dessen’s most well-developed and favored best friends. Monica’s one-liners and Bert’s quirky personality also provide quality comic relief throughout the novel.

Another one of the reasons this book stands out is the romance. Both Macy and Wes are flawed characters which makes their relationship all the more perfect when they get together. Like Kristy says, Wes definitely has a sa-woon factor and stands out from other ordinary guys in young adult literature. One quality about Sarah Dessen’s love interests that I appreciate is that their caring, funny, and kind without being cookie-cutter or too perfect. Wes is the perfect example: he’s exactly the kind of guy Macy needs, but not in an obvious way.

Sarah Dessen’s books will always hold a special place in my heart, but The Truth About Forever is one of her books that stands out from the rest. The Truth About Forver contains everything that I want from a contemporary book: relatable characters, realistic relationships, and a deeper underlying message. I give The Truth About Forever five out of five stars.

 

Wanderlost Book Review

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Not all those who wander are lost… except for Aubree.

In Wanderlost by Jen Malone, Aubree finds herself in hot water after her sister takes the blame for a high school party gone wrong and is arrested. Aubree’s sister, Elizabeth, was supposed to lead a senior citizen tour around Europe, but with a looming court date, she is unable to leave the country even though this job is very important for her future career. Elizabeth convinces Aubree to pose as Elizabeth and lead the tour even though she’s never been out of there small town.

Wanderlost is a book that I was interested in as soon as it was released, but held off on reading it. When I spotted Wanderlost as a Kindle deal, I was excited to finally read it! Wanderlost was everything I expected it be. It is the perfect fun summer contemporary that makes you feel like you’re on vacation.

I really enjoyed Aubree as a main character and think many readers will relate to her. Aubree has never left her small town and even after her high school graduation, she never plans on leaving. When Aubree finds herself in a foreign country, without her sister’s guide book or her phone, she is definitely challenged to go out of her comfort zone. As a result, Aubree grows significantly throughout the novel. Even though she never loses her small town roots, she gets a greater appreciation for the world around her.

I think one of the biggest factors of this novel that draws people in is the European tour. Even though there are some locations that are better detailed and represented that others, overall, I think that overall the tour aspect is well done. In the tour, Aubree visits several countries across Europe and the author definitely gives each country its own distinct feel. Additionally, all of the members of the tour group are well characterized and add a lot of humor to the novel.

There’s only one major criticism that I have with this novel. Inevitably, readers know that Aubree’s identity will be exposed. However, I’m not really a fan of how this plays out in the book. Without spoiling the book, I think what occurs is very unnecessary. It really disappointed me because I thought the story lines of the characters involved would go in very different directions. Even though I didn’t care for this part of the story, overall, it didn’t ruin the novel for me.

Wanderlost is a solid summer read if you’re looking for a read that will whisk you off to a new place. I give Wanderlost four out of five stars.

Five Summer Job Books

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Happy Fourth of July to my American readers! For some of my favorite patriotic reads, see my Election Day Reads from last year.

Last week, I discussed some of my favorite wedding books. This week, I will choose my favorite books fitting another summer staple: summer jobs. Every summer, a new job provides the opportunity to make extra money, spend time and sun, and meet new friends. Here are some of my favorite books that involve a summer job:

The Unexpected Everything

The Unexpected Everything was one of my favorite books of 2016 and includes a summer that I would have loved in high school: a dog walker! Even though Andie expected to spend her summer at an awesome internship, a scandal concerning her father takes away the opportunity. Instead, Andie finds herself walking adorable dogs and falling in love on the way. Sounds like the perfect summer!

  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever

In The Truth About Forever, Macy covers her boyfriend’s job at the library as he spends the summer at Brain Camp. With nothing to do and judgy coworkers, the library isn’t the most ideal way to spend the summer. After offered a job with a catering company, Macy’s summer is turned upside down with new friends and experiences. The Truth About Forever is one of Sarah Dessen’s best books and I recommend it for anyone looking for a summer book that also contains a lot of depth!

  • Thrill Ride by Rachel Hawthorne

Thrill Ride

To escape her sister’s wedding planning, Megan decides to take a job working at an amusement park even if it means leaving her boyfriend back home. Since Megan lives in staff housing at the park, this book completely revolves around Megan’s summer job! I recommend this book looking for a quick and easy read.

  • Summer in the City by Elizabeth Chandler

Summer in the City

From the title, you can see that book takes place in somewhere different than typical summer reads… the city! In Summer in the City, Jamie decides to spend the summer with her mom, a romance novel author, and work as a soccer coach. Jamie wants romance and finds herself swept off her feet by a guy that seems to good to be true, but another choice may be a better fit. Summer in the City is the perfect book for someone who wants a summer read that takes place in unique location!

The Test: Junior Lifeguards

Before reading this book, I had never heard of Junior Lifeguards. However, this seems like such a cool way to spend the summer! Along with her three friends, Jenna auditions to work as a junior lifeguard on the Cape. However, earning her spot isn’t as easy as she thought, even with her success as a competitive swimmer. I would recommend this book to readers just starting YA or anyone wanted to read a book with a job truly meant for the summer!

 

What is your favorite book that involves a summer job?

The Brittany Awards Part One: Picture Books

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For my blog, I decided to create end of the years awards for my favorite books. I decided that there will be four categories (picture books, middle grade books, young adult books, and overall favorite books) with five winners and three honorable mentions in each category. For each winner, I will include a link to my review, what I rated the book, and an excerpt from the review (if there is a review for the book on my blog).

For the first part, I will select my top five picture books that I read in 2016. For this category, I did not select any honorable mentions. Here are my top five choices, in no particular order:

1.) All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)

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“If you love this song, Mariah Carey, or are looking for a cute Christmas book for your children, All I Want for Christmas is You is the perfect book…”

2.) Good Morning, Superman! by Michael Dahl (★ ★ ★ ★)

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“Overall, I think Good Morning, Superman! is an enjoyable book that colorfully illustrates a monotonous subject. While I do think this is a great children’s books, I think some additional features, like pop-out pictures of the tasks would enhance a student’s learning experience.”

*Check out this review during my 12 Days of Blogmas later this month!

3.) Isabella in Charge by Jennifer Fosberry (★ ★ ★)

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“Isabella takes charge as inspirational character for young girls.”

4.) Fancy Nancy… Halloween or Bust! by Jane O’Connor (★ ★ ★ ★)

Fancy Nancy Halloween... or Bust!

“Fancy Nancy: Halloween… or Bust! will definitely be a treat for young readers on Halloween.”

5.) Happy Halloween, Biscuit! by Alyssa Satin Capucilli (★ ★ ★ ★)

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“Overall, Biscuit is a fun and appropriate book for its target age range. While this consistency is great for younger readers, older readers might become bored with the predictable sentence structure and situations.”

 

What was the best picture book that you read in 2016?