My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: June 14, 2012
Pages: 394
Source: purchased
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
"One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time."
 The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.
 As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
 A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another. --Goodreads
Samantha lives the perfect life: lives in a big house, has a rebellious older sister, and a clean-freak for a mother who is running for senator.  However, she longs for something different.  When she watches the neighbors on her balcony at night, a family with five (maybe more) and counting children, Samantha wishes she could be a part of it.  One night, when one of the Garrett boys, Jase, visits her at her bedroom balcony, she is introduced to a whole different perspective—the one next door.

Everyone is currently raving about this book since the companion novel—which will be interesting—has just released (The Boy Most Likely To).  However, reading everyone’s reviews took my expectations to a higher level and My Life Next Door definitely fell short.

It is a character-driven book.  I remember a couple of years ago, The Bucket List held a discussion about the preference of plot-driven or character-driven stories.  It seemed to be no question that readers wanted both—an equal balance of plot and character.  There is no balance in My Life Next Door.  Way past the half-way mark, the plot kicks in with a reeling secret that I didn’t see coming.  It came so fast, unexpected, that even I don’t even know what I would have done.  Huntley Fitzpatrick took the longest time setting up the characters and letting readers live with them for a while, getting to know them.  The whole first part of the book was Samantha living the best of both worlds.  It wasn’t the ingredients for a page-turner—just about a girl who seems to have everything getting a little more. 

With that said, the character development was, of course, on point.  Without much plot getting in the way, Fitzpatrick delved deeper into her characters, including all the Garrett children.  I can’t name all the children for you but being a fan of Cheaper by the Dozen and other large families on screen (I don’t know any in real life), I’ve always loved the method that large families possess to function.  However, Samantha’s actions—of watching her neighbors from her balcony every night—borders on entry-level creeper though her stalker-like tendencies were never mentioned as a poblem in the book.  I understand why she did it but I don’t particularly like it.

I will probably give myself a few months before reading the companion novel.  My Life Next Door would make for a good commute book but unless you love heavily character-driven plots, I say skip it and go with a book that has more balance.  Huntley Fitzapatrick will introduce you to a fantastic cast of characters that will have you wondering if the grass is really greener next door. 

My Life Next Door (6/14/2012): 3 stars
The Boy Most Likely To (8/18/2015): TBA

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is: Top Ten Authors on Your Auto-Buy List.

There are so many authors that I auto-buy and I was so surprised that some of my most-read authors (from last week's list) weren't on this one. Can you believe it? (Warning: fangirling below.)

Ever since I read Anna and the French Kiss, I just can't stop buying Perkins books.  She is coming out with a few books in the coming months-- one a horror book and of course, that will already be in my cart to preorder.  However, no matter how many guys Perkins writes about, Etienne will always be my first love. *sigh*
In the past few years with a variety of literature read for classes, I've come to enjoy translated work.  The whole process of the translated novel is incredibly fascinating.  Who knows, I might even write a post about it one of these days.  Getting ready last year for my 5-month adventure to South Korea, I decided to delve into Korean literature.  What better way to learn more about a country than to read some of its bestselling novels.  Kyung-Sook Shin is a genius.  I was so fortunate, when I went to Korea, I was able to interview Shin's translator, Sora Kim-Russell (I'll Be Right There).  Her books are so moving and unbelievably gorgeous! I hope she releases something soon-- and has it translated so I can read it!
Way back when, I started Bray's Gemma Doyle series.  It took me years to finish with the intimidating size of the forth and last book, A Sweet Far Thing. In those years, I continued to reread the books more than I can count.  I made memories with those books, highlighting passages, and tabbing pages.  Now if Libba Bray is writing something, you can bet it will be purchased by me.  Going Bovine is one of my favorite books by her.
Amy Plum made zombies sexy.  Any author who can do that and have me like a zombie book, deserves all the book purchases.  
It started with Fault in Our Stars and really, I just can't get enough of these books that make me cry.  John Green has a way with words.  He just gets it.
I haven't read a book by Noel in a long time but if she comes out with any books, I will definitely be buying her stuff.  Here is this author who can write about vampires and contemporary romances.  Her range is simply fantastic.
Godberson writes historicals like a boss.  Set in Manhattan, in the 1899, drama is afoot in her Luxe series. In her most recent series, she welcomes us to Long Island in the 20s.  There is never a dull moment.  I hope a new release is in the works. 
You know I love Cassandra Clare.  A few years ago, The Bucket List talked about City of Bones in our annual book discussion.  Since then, Clare keeps coming out with awesome side-series and other books that are just great.  I will read everything she has and keep reading-- even if the two in-love lead characters turn out to be siblings.
It was Hate List that got me buying everything of hers.  Truthfully, I haven't read anything else by her; I just keep buying her contemporary YA.  When I have the time and when I am ready for another crying fest, I'll be sure to pick her books up off my shelf.  How do you prepare for a crying-fest? I don't think I'll ever be ready.
It started with The Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl and then Boy Toy and then tons of others.  Barry Lyga has a talent of creating stories readers are interested in.  I, actually, brought Hero Type with me on vacation to Disney World one year-- and I don't mean for the plane ride, I mean I stayed up after a day in the park and read through the night.  Barry Lyga does that and I buy all his books because of it.

What authors do you auto-buy?

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Pages: 383
Source: purchased
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win? -- Goodreads
Red and silver: two colors that mean so much more in Mare’s world.  Those with red blood are forced to live in poverty, working nonstop, most without electricity, and most forced into the military at young ages.  Those with silver blood are royalty, all with money, and all with some sort of magic power—some stronger than others.  These two people are divided.  However when Mare, quite literally, falls into the sights of the royals and shows the powers she possesses, the divided line becomes blurred.

In the first few pages, I was cringing at the predictable-ness of the work.  Really?  Reds are forced to watch a televised event, where Silvers come in an arena to fight.  That sounds very close to The Hunger Games.  And the ones with silver blood have super powers?  Like Vampire Academy, perhaps.  Wait, come on.  At the palace, there is a competition—a fight to win the prince’s hand in marriage.  Did anyone say The Selection?  I would come back to Red Queen and inwardly whine, knowing it was probably going to be like all the rest.  How could I ever have been more wrong?

The characters were so realistic

And thank you, Aveyard, so much! Mare did not choose a single guy in the whole book.  One, I think Red Queen should pride itself on being one dystopian that is not drowning in romance.  Sure, there is some romance, dancing, and kissing (oh, my!) but Mare said so herself that there is no choice [when it came to choosing a male character].  Thank you.  Girls can get through love triangles or whatever that was in the book and come out without a guy.  It is actually the most realistic outcome I have read in a long time. 

But, also, as the reader I chose a male character that I preferred from the beginning.  I even wrote a status update about him on Goodreads because I liked him from that first scene.  Cal is the most gorgeous creature in the whole book.  And like all Aveyard’s characters, he is complex, very real, and totally awesome.  His decisions throughout the novel threw me a bit, having me waver about my choice in liking him but isn’t that what people do in real life too?  Everyone is unpredictable, including the characters of Red Queen.  It reminds me of Aveyard’s constant mantra of “Anyone can betray anyone.”

You know when you are reading and you get swept up in the story—you start to wish and even believe, if only for a few seconds, that the book is actually real.  If Red Queen was real, Victoria Aveyard would be a Silver and her magical power would be writing.  I know a lot of reviews say things like I was on the edge of my seat, her writing kept me up at night, and this book will surely blow you away.  All of that is definitely true.  However to explain Aveyard’s writing concisely, I thought I would use some examples because her writing is genius.  She was able to make readers laugh in one sentence and, yet, suck in a breath in the next.  What Aveyard certainly has is a gift:
“We used to beat each other up as children, but now that we’re older—and he’s a foot taller than me—I try to avoid scuffles.  He has his uses, I suppose.  Reaching high shelves, for example” (3).
“Like my dad, Kilorn’s father was sent off to war, but whereas mine returned missing a leg and a lung, Mr. Warren came back in a shoe box” (4).
It is difficult to write reviews for books I absolutely loved because what is there to say other than: LOVED it, go read it now, please.  Red Queen is one of those books.  LOVED it. You need this book in your hands and should have been reading it five minutes ago.

Red Queen (2/11/15): 5 stars
Glass Sword (2/9/2016): TBA
TBA (2017): TBA

State of Grace by Hilary Badger

Publisher: Capstone
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 306
PreOrder It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Ever since she was created, Wren has lived in an idyllic garden with her friends. Wren's deity Dot ensures the trees are laden with fruit and the water in the lagoon is crystal clear. Wren and her friends have everything they could possibly need right there, in Dot's Paradise.
If only Wren could stop the strange, disturbing visions she's started having. Do these visions make her less worthy of Dot's love? And what does Blaze, the most beautiful and mysterious of Dot's creations, know about what's going on in Wren's head?
Wren is desperate to feel Dot's love, just like everyone else. But that's harder than ever when a creation she's never met before arrives in the garden. He claims to be from outside and brings with him words and ideas that make Wren's brain hurt.
Gradually Wren and Blaze uncover the truth: they're part of a clinical trial of an ominous drug called Grace.
And as she deals with this disturbing knowledge, Wren confronts a horrific secret from her past. Now she must decide whether to return to the comforting delusion of faith or fight for the right to face the very ugly truth. --Goodreads
This book sounds good! Switch Press gave me a copy for review but, unfortunately, I won't have time to read it.  So I want to pass it along to you.  Enter for your chance to win.  Happy reading!

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One winner will receive an ARC copy of STATE OF GRACE by Hilary Badger
Contest ends September 1
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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is: Top Ten Authors I've Read the Most From.

This is going to be set up a little different than most Top Ten Tuesdays to accommodate the theme.  Instead of explaining each book or author, pictured below is the author and my favorite book of theirs with the number of how many I've actually read by that author:

If I ever finished any series, I would probably have a different set of names above.  This was so much fun pulling together.  Goodreads did help me out a bit.  Have a great Tuesday!

What is the author you've read most?