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Top Ten Favorite YA Contemporary Reads of 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature from The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I Read in 2013! I decided to just focus on YA Contemporary since I read a lot of it this year. (For more of my year-end favorites see my wrap up posts for: Audiobooks, New Adult books, and favorite New-to-me authors)

These YA Contemporary reads are tops in my book:where the stars still shine

1. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller - Emotional story wrapped up in a great setting. The emotional journey includes abuse, mental illness, drug addiction, family issues, and love in a relatable way that gets under your skin.

2. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – This author just makes me love historical fiction! Set in 1950 New Orleans, this coming of age offers mystery, romance, and colorful characters.

sex & violence3. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina - This book about bullying really hits home. Yaqui has a great voice and strong themes including family and race relations.

4. Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian - Sex & Violence has really stuck with me. It deals with sex & violence, yes, but also PTSD and family. This author is one to watch.

5. If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch - I read this one back in March, and it’s haunted me ever since. It’s a lovely, harrowing read about survival.

6. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan - A relevant and moving read that looks at gay teens today as compared to the 1980s during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.this song will save your life

7. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales - This book spoke to me with its musical theme. A lonely girl finds salvation as a DJ.

dr. bird's advice for sad poets8. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos - Such a quiet and quirky read. A depressed boy talks to his makeshift imaginary therapist pigeon, Dr. Bird. This book makes me smile.

9. Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg - This book made me lol, and I just loved the theme of labels and sexuality. Such a witty book, with great characters.

10. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - E&P vs. Fangirl- it’s like Sophie’s Choice! I love them both, though I may slightly prefer Fangirl, with its creative misfits.

Bonus 8 that are also great! Eleanor & Park, When You Were Here, The Reece Malcolm List, Golden, Just One Year, Picture Me Gone, Also Known As, and Wild Awake.

Having too many favorites is a good problem to have, and writing about these books makes me want to read them again. Hope next year is another awesome year for YA Contemporary!

What books top your list?

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Where the Stars Still Shine Book Review

where the stars still shine trish dollerBook: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller, Bloomsbury, September 24

Book Info: YA realistic fiction, purchased hc from Amazon, 342 pages.

Rating:  5 / 5 Stars

Where the Stars Still Shine sneaks up on you with its emotional hard-hitting story and doesn’t let go. Once I picked up this book I couldn’t put it down- Callie’s story is so raw and compelling. Callie’s been to hell and back after life on the run with her mom, and now that she has a chance at having a home and friends and family who care, can she accept it?

With Trish Doller’s sophomore book, she’s proving to be a go-to author for smart, emotional contemporary reads. Last year’s Something Like Normal is about a soldier facing PTSD, and with Where the Stars Still Shine, Doller examines the life of a 17-year old girl, returned home after her mother abducted her 12 years earlier. Callie’s story will break your heart in pieces and attempt to put it back together again.

Tarpon Springs

Callie works in a gift shop probably similar to this one

Callie’s mom took her from her home in Florida and went on the run, moving from town to town, boyfriend to boyfriend. Callie never went to school, and frequently had to scrounge for food and clothing. She had to become “the adult” at a very young age. By chance, a traffic cop discovers their identity, and Callie is returned to the father she barely remembers.

Tarpon Springs, Florida is a character in the book itself. It’s a small touristy town with the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US. The town is known for their sponge industry, and there are tourist shops and tour boats that cater to the visitors. Greek language is sprinkled throughout the book, and there’s a glossary of definitions for reference.

One of the local attractions/ ladies men is Alex who leads one of the tours, and works the sponge dock. Alex is 22 and life circumstances have forced both him and Callie to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age. When he appeared I thought he spelled trouble for Callie, but their relationship is full of surprises, and one of my favorite parts of the book. Their relationship takes off full blast straightaway, and its not all sunshine and roses, but I rooted for them.

Tarpon Springs Florida boats

Alex lives and works on a sponge boat.

Callie’s dad Greg is caring and wonderful to Callie and I loved seeing their relationship develop. The road is rocky after so many years apart, but Greg is as patient and loving a dad as you could hope for. Callie’s grandma and her cousin Kat also play standout roles in Callie’s recovery process.

Callie has had a rough time in her life, but she comes out strong. I liked her caring nature, and good heart. It’s hard for her to trust so she keeps her cards close to her chest. Each step forward is heartwarming to watch. And she’s a bookish girl who wants to work at a bookstore- a girl after my own heart.

This is one of those books that leaves you shattered and it’s hard to pick up another book when you’re done. The emotional journey includes abuse, mental illness, drug addiction, family issues, and love in a relatable way that gets under your skin.

This book reminded me of two recent favorites of mine- Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me and Katja Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility. All three are about starting over and healing after a traumatic event.  If you love contemporary YA, you should run and pick up Trish Doller’s books.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Book: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, On Sale June 19, 2012

Book Info: Young Adult Contemporary, Review copy courtesy of NetGalley, Available in HC 224 pages

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

More Info: Goodreads | IndieBound | Amazon

I’m continuing my journey into reading more contemporary with Trish Doller’s debut novel Something Like Normal. This book has received a lot of positive buzz from bloggers and I had to take notice. I recently read Miracle by Elizabeth Scott, a book that addresses PTSD, and In Honor by Jessi Kirby, another book about the aftermath of a military death, and this book seemed to fit right into my current reading mood. The book’s tagline, War is only half the battle, fits the story to a T as the main character Travis is maneuvering through a number of difficult personal challenges. The military aspect is very topical and makes for a rich subject matter to explore. Something Like Normal is another great entry into the new adult category and I couldn’t put it down.

In Something Like Normal, Travis is just returning home for a month’s stay after serving the last year in Afghanistan.  He’s haunted by his best friend Charlie’s death and having a hard time adjusting to family life. Life at home seems trivial compared to his last year in Afghanistan. It’s hard to come home again, especially when his younger brother has taken over his old life by stealing his girlfriend and his car. His mother has thrown herself into the role of military mom whole-heartedly and meanwhile her marriage is crumbling. A ray of hope arrives when Travis reconnects with Harper, a girl he has a bad history with but who is now his saving grace. Travis needs to battle his PTSD and find some inner peace before he can go back to being a Marine again.

19-year-old Travis has a refreshing voice, and he’s not perfect by any means but it’s still easy to relate to his struggles. We learn Travis’s story via flashbacks, visits from old friends, and through his complicated family life. His military experiences have brought on a new maturity that helps him see his family and friends back home in a new light. Travis’s military flashbacks seem realistic, though I’m no expert on the matter. The PTSD episodes ring true as well, and fit seamlessly into the story. Travis is a really interesting character and I was rooting for him to get better and find some happiness. Thank goodness he had his awesome mom on his side, since his dad is just the worst. Harper is a great girl for Travis, and sensible, fun and smart  – someone you want to be friends with.  Their story ends a little too soon for my taste, and I could have happily kept reading about their journey a while longer.

Consider picking up Something Like Normal if you like contemporary, new adult books, or YA with a male point of view. The PTSD and military themes in the book are handled realistically and with respect and make for an engaging read. Travis’s road to healing is touching and insightful. I’m a new fan of Trish Doller and look forward to her next book.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a weekly event started by Marcia from A Girl and Her Books, and is now hosted on a blog rotation. Cindy of Cindy’s Love of Books is the host for the month of April. This is my first week participating in Mailbox Monday and I’m so excited to visit some new blogs and see what everyone received this week.

This week’s mailbox is pretty eclectic for me and I’m glad to expand my horizons and check out some new authors.

This week’s new arrivals:


Miracle by Elizabeth Scott – Already enjoyed and reviewed this one here. Devoured it quickly like I read all of Scott’s books.

The Mongoliad: Book One by Neal Stephenson – This book is a hard one to label, but it seems to be a serialized fantasy historical book and it sounds very unique. I’m excited my husband is interested in reviewing this one!

The Taker and The Reckoning by Alma Katsu – The covers are so pretty. It’s a historical paranormal trilogy, and I’m having a hard time describing it but it looks good!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – What do you think of the new paperback cover? I’ve already listened to the audiobook but am excited to have a hard copy to read.

Fated by Alyson Noel – The first book in the Soul Seekers series – received for an upcoming blog tour.

eGalleys from NetGalley & Edelweiss:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I hit the jackpot this week with all the Read Now’s on Netgalley. This one is a historical YA that has gotten some good early buzz.

Timepiece by Myra McEntire – This is the sequel to last year’s Hourglass, a book I own and need to read, stat!

One Moment by Kristina McBride – I’m always interested in reading more YA mysteries.

The Glimpse by Claire Merle – A romantic dystopia with a very pretty cover.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller – A contemporary YA with a male protagonist. Have to say, the early reviews make this sound so good.

A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez – A new historical YA from the author of The Red Umbrella. This one comes out in October.

Kindle purchases:

Tempting the Best Man by J. Lynn – J. Lynn is Jennifer Armentrout’s adult romance pen name. I liked Obsidian a lot so took a chance for $2.99.

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe – Kindle freebie bought to peruse before reading Bethany Griffin’s Masque of the Red Death.

What did you receive in your mailbox this week?


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