Thursday, June 30, 2016

{Review/Excerpt/Giveaway} DEFENDING TAYLOR by Miranda Kenneally

Tour Schedule:
Week 1:
6/27: Bookiemoji 
6/28: YA Bibliophile 
6/29: Lost In Lit 

Week 2:
7/4: Andi's ABCs 
 
Didn't read CATCHING JORDANSTEALING PARKER, THINGS I CAN'T FORGET, RACING SAVANNAH, BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE, or JESSE'S GIRL? Catch up with my reviews!

(But you don't need to read any previous books to enjoy DEFENDING TAYLOR. Every book is a stand-alone, but set in the same town, so some characters make re-appearances! The biggest book to be referenced is RACING SAVANNAH.)

Take a peek at an old interview from 2011 and see how much things have changed for Miranda (not to mention the look of this blog)!

And check out my Girls in Sports Week interview with Miranda!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL, Dad installed a gumball machine in our house. But instead of just giving me the candy, I had to pay for it by doing chores.
  Now I’m seventeen, and Dad hasn’t changed one bit. If I want a new purse, I start saving my allowance. My father made his own way in life and expects the same of me. He loves drilling mantras into my head: I will work hard at everything I do. I will model integrity and compassion. I will lead by example.

(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)


“Sometimes problems grow like a crack in the ceiling that starts out small but expands if you're not paying careful attention. Then the roof caves in.” 

~Taylor, DEFENDING TAYLOR


I’m always excited when I see a new book from Miranda Kenneally hitting shelves. Some of her books I adore. Others, not so much. But I ALWAYS love the concepts of what she’s trying to do and the way she brings “real teens” into her stories—and sports!! DEFENDING TAYLOR, her brand new novel set in the town of Hundred Oaks, is one of my favorites by her.

I’m going to warn you guys right now, too: It is absolutely impossible for me to talk about this book without revealing spoilers. IMPOSSIBLE. I always try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, but it’s just not possible this time because the things that made this book so important and memorable are also so spoilery.

Taylor Lukens is the daughter of a State Senator, and with that comes the responsibility of being perfect. Her entire life has been about making the right decisions and following the path that will lead her to Yale and her family’s business...just like her older siblings and her father. When Taylor is expelled from her fancy private school for something that wasn’t her fault, her entire life is turned upside down. The future she’s been working so hard to obtain has been pulled away from her...but is it even the future she wants anymore, or just the one that’s expected of her?

Sounds like your typical rich girl story, right? So many expectations, so much pressure, a story we’ve all read before. Except...no. That’s not the story, not even a little bit. And so begins our first spoiler. I love the fact that Kenneally breaks this stereotype. The book could have easily gone this direction. Heck, another of her Hundred Oaks novels, RACING SAVANNAH, takes place within the same social circles, and it did go this route. Instead, there is an amazing message so frequently NOT seen in these types of books: IT’S OKAY TO BE YOU. Family will love you no matter what. You might change and you might grow and you might evolve, but that doesn’t mean you’re not still an awesome person. No matter what shape you or your family thought you would take, you shouldn’t be afraid to follow your own path in life and be different. In too many books like this, the parents can’t accept their child’s decisions. In DEFENDING TAYLOR, Taylor tries so crazy hard to be perfect and do what is expected of her...but she didn’t have to. Her family accepts her, no matter what, and that message is so amazing and strong and NEEDED. There are two outcomes to this scenario, and it doesn’t always have to be the one readers usually see. Point to DEFENDING TAYLOR for scoring such a perfect goal.

Another point is given for the ISSUES at stake in this book. And here, we have two more spoilers. Dyslexia is a huge part of this novel. Ezra is ashamed of the trouble he has with reading, and it has strongly impacted not just his schoolwork, but his personal life as well. The issues he has and the trials he goes through really focus on the struggles of dyslexia, as well as offer options one might take in order to still be successful. I love that message and the way dyslexia isn’t just mentioned and then brushed off, but something that is a huge part of Ezra’s life. I love that Kenneally makes Ezra so relatable to other teens going through the same thing, and gives them some ideas for how to be still be successful if they accept themselves and strive to achieve more anyway.

The use of Adderall also plays a large part in DEFENDING TAYLOR. Using drugs not prescribed to you in order to study and be successful in school is a huge problem plaguing students these days. There is so much pressure to be perfect and to do as much as possible if you want to get into a great college…and there will be even more expectations once you’re in that fancy ivy league school. A lot of people turn to various drugs to stay awake so they can study harder, take even more complex classes, do more extracurriculars, etc. Students need to do it all, and do it well. Kenneally uses her new book to talk about some of these pressures, as well as highlight the way using such drugs can completely change someone’s future.

There are also some great family dynamics at play in DEFENDING TAYLOR. I always complain that I want more family situations in YA, especially when the families are good families. It took me a long time to embrace and love Taylor’s family. As readers, we’re closed off to them because Taylor herself is. We see them as she does. But there are a couple of absolutely wonderful moments toward the books end with both her father and her brother that made me love them. I was so glad these men were in Taylor’s life. Her sister has a very unique personality, and if she was mine, I think she’d drive me absolutely bonkers. I warmed up to her mother as well, but not the way I did her father and brother. The family dynamics in this book are really interesting, and showcase that there’s more than one side to a family.

Friendship and starting as the "new girl" at school is another issue at stake in Taylor's world. She went from being the Captain of her soccer team to being a member on a flailing team where the captain hated her and didn't want to work with her. The team was an absolute mess, and Taylor really struggled. Taylor's presence definitely changes the team, and she evolves a lot as well due to her interactions with her team members. A lot of teens who move and/or change schools will understand a lot of Taylor's struggles and relate to her even more.

There was so much I loved about DEFENDING TAYLOR, and it’s definitely one of my favorite books from Kenneally. If you like her book, or just want a contemporary that achieves so much in its short amount of space, definitely check this one out. It’s books like these that make me wonder why Kenneally hasn’t been a break-out success and a household name like “Sarah Dessen” or “John Green” yet. More teens need to know her and read her, and books like this one are why.
~*~
Need more than my word? 
How about this excerpt to tide you over?
(Provided by Sourcebooks!)

Before


When I was a little girl, Dad installed a gumball machine in our house. But instead of just giving me the candy, I had to pay for it by doing chores.

Now I’m seventeen, and Dad hasn’t changed one bit. If I want a new purse, I start saving my allowance. My father made his own way in life and expects the same of me. He loves drilling mantras into my head: I will work hard at everything I do. I will model integrity and compassion. I will lead by example.

I will fully support his Senate reelection campaign.

To be honest, I don’t see him much. Only on parents’ weekend and holidays. His secretary schedules his rare visits to St. Andrew’s, my boarding school, so I know when my parents will be rolling onto
Before

When I was a little girl, Dad installed a gumball machine in our house. But instead of just giving me the candy, I had to pay for it by doing chores.

Now I’m seventeen, and Dad hasn’t changed one bit. If I want a new purse, I start saving my allowance. My father made his own way in life and expects the same of me. He loves drilling mantras into my head: I will work hard at everything I do. I will model integrity and compassion. I will lead by example.

I will fully support his Senate reelection campaign.

To be honest, I don’t see him much. Only on parents’ weekend and holidays. His secretary schedules his rare visits to St. Andrew’s, my boarding school, so I know when my parents will be rolling onto campus. I know in advance to yank my plaid uniform skirt down a few inches and pull my sock up over my bluebird ankle tattoo.

I tell Ben not to hang around.

He is here on scholarship, and my mother never hesitates to let me know I can do better. Taylor, why don’t you spend time with Charles Harrington? The governor speaks highly of his nephew.

Mom wants me to date somebody with “proper breeding,” as if I’m a horse or we live in Regency England.

But it doesn’t matter what she thinks. I adore the boy who came over to congratulate me after I scored the winning goal against Winchester and then asked me to homecoming.

I love my school in the mountains surrounded by thick green trees and blue skies. I love Card House—­the dorm I share with the fourteen other girls on my soccer team—­where every night, I sit down to lasagna or beef stew with a black lab named Oscar curled up at my feet.

I won’t lie—­this school is tough. It kicks everybody’s ass. I study and study and study. I probably spend more time on homework than sleeping.

But who cares? St. Andrew’s is my favorite place in the world.
campus. I know in advance to yank my plaid uniform skirt down a few inches and pull my sock up over my bluebird ankle tattoo.
I tell Ben not to hang around.

He is here on scholarship, and my mother never hesitates to let me know I can do better. Taylor, why don’t you spend time with Charles Harrington? The governor speaks highly of his nephew.

Mom wants me to date somebody with “proper breeding,” as if I’m a horse or we live in Regency England.

But it doesn’t matter what she thinks. I adore the boy who came over to congratulate me after I scored the winning goal against Winchester and then asked me to homecoming.

I love my school in the mountains surrounded by thick green trees and blue skies. I love Card House—­the dorm I share with the fourteen other girls on my soccer team—­where every night, I sit down to lasagna or beef stew with a black lab named Oscar curled up at my feet.

I won’t lie—­this school is tough. It kicks everybody’s ass. I study and study and study. I probably spend more time on homework than sleeping.

But who cares? St. Andrew’s is my favorite place in the world.


~*~
C O N T E N T R A T I N G S

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG15 ( kissing; sexual situations; a masturbation scene...the book also makes sure to refer to safe sex by mentioning condoms )
Language: PG13 ( F-Boms and various other language, as well as sexual innuendo and comments )
Violence: --
Other:  PG13 ( Drug use for studying; expulsion from school )
~*~
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Miranda Kenneally's covers normally aren't my favorites, but that's because they're always so contemporary, and it's not what I gravitate towards.

That said, I always love the color schemes used, and the way the title and author pop off so well from the image, as well as compliment the colors of the photography.

I really like when these covers feature the sport, too, because it picks up a new group of readers.

It's also interesting that the models always have their heads cut off, so readers can imagine themselves as them and become even more immersed in the story.
~*~
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title:  DEFENDING TAYLOR
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Received: For Review
SUMMARY:

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?
~*~
About the Author
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.

~*~
****Giveaway*****

Enter to win...


3 Finished Copies of DEFENDING TAYLOR

(US/Canada Only)

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

{Review} WHEN WE COLLIDED by Emery Lord


O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  I KNEW I WAS IN LOVE WITH Verona Cove on the first day, but I waited until the seventh day to commit. After one week here, I'm carving my name into a tree in the center of town. It's way harder than you might think, digging a pocketknife into ancient bark. Eleven letters have taken me hours, or it felt like that, anyway. Fortunately, before the sun rises, no one polices Irving Park--or anywhere, really. I'm pretty sure the worst crime Verona Cove has ever seen is someone dropping a napkin. The napkin dropper tried to chase it, I bet, but the wind swept it up, and eventually, somewhere, the napkin became litter.
  And besides, I'd actually enjoy getting caught--clearly, since I implicated myself in jagged lines forever etched into a tree older than any of the 3,051 people in this town: Vivi was here.

(pg. 1, US ARC edition)


“Even the constellations can see us now: we are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know.” 

~WHEN WE COLLIDED


Do you love reading books that take place during the summer....well, during the summer? What about books that take place, in part, before, during, and after the Fourth of July? Books about people on vacation while you yourself are--wait for it--on vacation? With summer well under way, WHEN WE COLLIDED by Emery Lord is a perfect book to pick up if you want something that embraces the season!

Emery Lord is one of the few contemporary authors who automatically goes onto my TBR list, even if I know nothing about the book. Her writing is absolutely beautiful and lyrical and heart-felt. Her third book, WHEN WE COLLIDED, deals with more serious issues than either OPEN ROAD SUMMER or THE START OF ME AND YOU did. Like Reagan in ORS, Vivi is a character that can be hard for readers to embrace and like in the beginning. Her personality is wild and vivacious, with a mix of old-fashioned that creates a very unique soul. As the book progresses, there's so much more that makes up Vivi. While I can have trouble enjoying books when I don't fall for a character right away, Emery Lord always makes me care. She's great at developing strong characters, at delving into the messy strings of their hearts, at showing us what makes them tick the way they do.

Vivi is on summer vacation in Verona Cove, but she doesn't expect her experience to be a life-changing one. She's escaped from her past and the things she's done, and she's ready to move on. When she runs into a local guy named Jonah, their summers both change irrevocably, and neither will ever be the same again.

WHEN WE COLLIDED deals with so many issues in an honest, unflinching way that feels very natural. Jonah is suffering from the loss of his father and having to "be the parent" of his younger siblings since his mother is too depressed to leave her room. (Bonus: I really loved all the scenes with his siblings!!! I wish more books had crazy, sprawling family dynamics!) Vivi (SPOILER ALERT) is bi-polar, but she doesn't want to be, and she doesn't always take her meds because then she can't "feel." But this also causes her personality to be more extreme, and sometimes she feels bigger than life. 

This is a book about life, about summer, about one day at a time. It's about falling in love, about moving on, about discovering yourself. It has all the themes you want when you're reading contemporary, especially at this time of year!
~*~
C O N T E N T R A T I N G S

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

So listen...all my notes about this book were stored on my phone when its motherboard died and I lost everything. I read this a few months ago, and just don't remember the way I should....which is part of why this book took so long to review.

With that being said, it's definitely a book for older teens, not younger ones, due to language and romantic situations. It also deals with bi-polar disorder, which isn't easy for everyone to read.

I'm really sorry!!!
~*~
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

There is this really cool, canvas-like feel to the cover that not many books have! It works because Vivi is an artist. This cover is quite literally a canvas tarnished by splattered, messy paint, and it's so perfect in its imperfection. 

In the following picture, not only do you get a closeup look of the texture, you also get to see Vivi's signature!!! She's always carving or writing "Vivi was here" somewhere (As you can see in the above-quoted opening lines of the novel!), so adding this as an Easter egg was an awesome bonus when I saw the finished copy!!!

Thank you to Alexa Loves Books for getting this picture
for me when I couldn't!!!!!!!!

Speaking of art, the painted effect continues with each chapter heading:



I really love this book's design!!!



O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title:  WHEN WE COLLIDED
Author: Emery Lord
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Received: For Review
SUMMARY:

We are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know…


Jonah never thought a girl like Vivi would come along.

Vivi didn’t know Jonah would light up her world.

Neither of them expected a summer like this…a summer that would rewrite their futures.

In an unflinching story about new love, old wounds, and forces beyond our control, two teens find that when you collide with the right person at just the right time, it will change you forever.