Sweethearts - Sara Zarr
There has been so much gushing love for Sara Zarr, especially in some of the end-of-year book surveys that I've been reading over the last month. So I thought what-the-heck, and put a book on hold at the library to give her a shot. And WOW. If I learned one lesson from this experience, it's this: when you see multiple bloggers gushing about a particular writer, especially bloggers whose opinions you know and trust, RUN to the library/bookstore to see what the fuss is all about!
This story was just so charming and sweet that I gobbled it up in just over a day. I loved the relationship between Jennifer and Cameron, who hadn't seen each other in years, and then fell back into each others' lives suddenly. Their story was heartwarming, and just a little bit sad, and just perfect all over. Sometimes a book tries too hard to be sentimental and lovey (and I'm a hopeless romantic, so I can handle some serious sappiness), but this book just walked the line between being realistic and over-the-top SO WELL. I felt like these two weren't characters in a book, but rather were two real people that I came to know quite well over the course of the book. This definitely will not be my last venture into the wonderful world of Sara Zarr -- I'm hooked.
My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick
I've been excited for this one since I saw either Magan or Estelle @ Rather Be Reading tweeting about this one over the summer. I put it on hold at the library and it FINALLY arrived in mid-December. I dove into this one with SO MUCH excitement and anticipation and, while I enjoyed the majority of the book, there were a few things that fell flat for me.
First of all, the characters in this book are incredibly well-developed. I loved the entire Garrett family SO MUCH and thought that Huntley did such a great job of bringing that crazy household to life. The contrast between Jase's lively and busy household and Samantha's cold and quiet household was so well done and really added to the storyline. It'll be hard for me to outline the things that I didn't like without being spoilery, so CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED! I felt that the friendship fallout between Samantha and Nan wasn't resolved and, although Tim kind of saved the day at the end, his storyline needed more closure, especially considering how messed up he was for most of the book. And, finally, although I wanted a happily-ever-after between Jase and Samantha (because, really, who doesn't?), the whole reveal-of-the-big-secret and how their relationship surpassed that moment didn't quite sit with me perfectly. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it was that made it less-than-perfect, but it just seemed to resolve itself just a little too perfectly, considering what a momentous secret it was. But, on the whole, My Life Next Door is a fantastic contemporary ride, and definitely deserves its spot on all of those best of 2012 lists and I, for one, am SUPER excited to see what Huntley has in store in her next book! She's definitely a writer to watch.
Audrey, Wait! - Robin Benway
I first heard of this book when Jaime @ The Perpetual Page-Turner posted a review in November. Jaime compared the book to the Jessica Darling series, and I was sold. Then, after getting myself on a Christmas-y contemporary kick with the above-two books, I decided to give this one a shot.
I'd actually go one step farther and say that this book is Jessica Darling mixed with Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. I loved Audrey's snark (which is totally Jessica Darling-esque -- some of things that she said/thought just made me laugh out loud!). But the music aspect of the book is what totally won me over, which is why I would relate it to Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. Oh, and Just Listen by Sarah Dessen too. I absolutely LOVE books that have to do with music, whether it's friendships blossoming over a shared mixed tape, or a boy and a girl shyly sharing their favourite music with one another, and falling head over heels in love as they discover all that they have in common. Music is such a personal thing, and the sharing of music with one another is, in my opinion, a way of very intimately sharing piece of your soul with another person.
But before I get too deep, let me just say that this book is a lot of fun. Audrey goes on one incredibly wild ride after her ex-boyfriend writes a song about their break-up, a song that becomes #1 on the charts and changes her life unexpectedly. (Think paparazzi, reporters wanting to hear her side of the story and other musicians wanting to date her so that she can "inspire" them). The story is told in such a fun way that, although Audrey can be a little bit annoying at times, you totally cheer for her and want her to come out on top at the end.
So those are the contemporary books that I read over the Christmas holidays. It was relaxing to take a break from some of the heavier dystopians that have taken over my 2012 reading this year, and read some lighthearted and fun.