Saturday, August 31, 2013

Novel Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Rating (Out of 5): ~4.5
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Penguin (Speak)
Publish Date: June, 2012
Spoilers?: No.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another

“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, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.

Something Specific:
  • "'...instinct. You can tell who to trust. People can, just like animals. We don’t listen as well as they do, always, but it’s still there. That prickling feeling when something’s not right. That calm feeling when it is.’” (Paperback, pg. 98)
  • "...Life’s a beach and then you swim… (Pg. 161)
  • "'Now we’ll make it better.’” (Pg. 261) Awww...
  • "You’re walking along on this path, dazzled by how perfect it is, how great you feel, and then just a few forks in the road and you are lost in a place so bad you never could have imagined it.” (Pg. 269)
  • "'It’s all about incentive, payback, and how it all looks. Being a politician is a lot like being an alcoholic in denial.’” (Pg. 275)
  • "They say you never know what you’d do in a hypothetical situation. We’d all like to think we’d be one of the people who […] jumped in front of a bullet for a stranger […]. But you just don’t know for sure if, when things fall apart, you’ll think Safety first or if safety will be the last thing on your mind.” (Pg. 351)

The Cover:

I really like this cover. It's cute and fitting, not only the people, their outfits, their position, and the setting but the general atmosphere of it. It's generally just a really cute, sweet cover to go along with the book with the same feels. It's a little embarrassing, but I'm okay with that because I like it so much.
Oh, the German cover: also, very cute; maybe even more so.


This book was so good. I loved it, so very much. I was expecting to, as well, so I’m really glad that I did. That it was so good. And that the plot took such a surprising turn, at least to me.
Samantha’s mother is a politician, a neat freak, and she cannot stand the Garretts’ next door. And yet Samantha, the good, responsible daughter and student and everything else, cannot help but watch the Garretts’ from the roof outside her window, all the time. In the Garrett household, there are eight kids, most of them about three years apart, both parents present—they have a pool, and toys and things all over the yard, and the mother is always breastfeeding out in the open. And as Samantha gets pulled into the family by an odd encounter with Jase, the son her age, she finds that she loves them.
Samantha is great. I love that she’s such a good girl, but she falls for Jase, not a bad boy, who her mother hates even the thought of. Samantha is smart, understandably conflicted, fun, and responsible. And Jase… I love Jase. He’s sweet, fun, responsible, works hard, gets embarrassed… He is just so amazing. He’s so good for Samantha, just as she is for him. And their sexy-esque times together are very nice, as well. There are more than I thought there would be, and they are much more adorable and sweet, they are just so very good. Sex, also, is handled much more openly and sweetly and maturely between them than I thought it would be, and I was pleasantly surprised by that.
And the Garrett family! I love them. All of them. There’s the youngest, Patsy, who can only say a few words and is attached to her mother’s breast. There’s Duff and Harry, who are always fighting about something, throwing things at each other. There’s Andy, who’s just getting her first boyfriend and learning about and kissing boys now—a dreamy, somewhat dramatic teenage girl. There’s Alice, the oldest daughter, who’s training to be a nurse and always dating a new boy. Joel, the oldest son, who rides a motorcycle and has a leather jacket and helps around the house as much as he can. And finally, my favorite, there’s George, one of the younger boys, who doesn’t really like wearing all of his clothes, likes sweets, is afraid of so many things and knows all these odd facts about them, and who tells all. He is adorable, and so sweet, and I love him. He’s probably my favorite Garrett, a tiny bit above Jase. There are also the parents, who aren’t around quite as much, but whom are both very awesome and smart and sweet—they’re fantastic parents.
Next is Samantha’s family. Her older sister, Tracy, is not around too much, and I don’t really agree with her on a lot of things, but she’s mostly there for Samantha when she needs her. She has her own life, and I like what’s happening with her own future, as well as what she’s doing with her boyfriend, Trip. Then there’s Samantha’s mother, who I don’t really like. And part of that is probably personal experience with people very like her, but still. Don’t really like her, cannot believe how she reacted to Samantha about her attitude, as well as about Clay (Samantha’s mother’s boyfriend, who is a total manipulative jerk) and what she’s doing in her political world. Ugh, cannot believe that.
The political aspect of the book was something I was not expecting, but something that I really liked, and could relate very well to. I was glad it was part of the book, and happy about the impact it had on Samantha and the Garretts’.
Next is Samantha’s friends. There’s Nan, who I thought would be okay at the beginning, and then slowly started not really liking. By the end, I didn’t like her at all. Tim, on the other hand, Nan’s brother, is fantastic. He’s a jerk at the beginning, and he has some bad parts later, but he grows quite a bit by the end of the book, and I like him quite a lot. And I like his attraction to Alice, and I hope that that went somewhere later. 
I really, really liked this book. It was sweet, and romantic, and mature, with a very good pace and voice and awesome characters. I loved it, and I can’t believe it took me so long to read. The writing, and some of the characteristics, reminded me of Sarah Dessen, but with a lot more romance—like Katie McGarry style romance, only a bit less in intensity and frequency. Overall, a very good book. And I cannot wait for Fitzpatrick’s next book to come out, as it is already on my want list.

Manga Review: Haru Hana: The Complete Collection by Yuana Kazumi

Rating (Out of 5): ~4
Publisher: Tokyopop
Volumes: 3 Volumes/1 Omnibus
Spoilers?: No.
Buy it here: Amazon. Barnes and Noble. RightStuf! (Mostly Out-of-Print)

Goodreads Synopsis:

Hana Yamada just moved from Osaka and has finally overcome a rather unfortunate condition: she's allergic to cute boys! But on the very first day of school, things quickly escalate into disaster as she walks in on a boy and girl acting rather sketchy - only to find out later that she will have to work with this boy. Hana's guaranteed to elapse now!
The complete three-volume series is collected here in one gorgeous volume!

Something Specific:

  • "'Each and every photo looked at is like digging up buried treasure.’” (Volume 1)
  • "Why are pure things so embarrassing to write? I mean, I guess I know why… It’s because I’ve lost my purity.” (From an author panel at end of Volume 2)
  • "'We all embrace one another gently… And when we’re embraced, it makes us want to embrace others. […] I’m sure that “love” is passed from one person to another that way…'” (Volume 3)


I got this rather randomly at the bookstore. I’d seen it when it was still in print, and thought about getting it but never did. I found it for a good price recently, though, and thought, “Why not?” And I thought it would take me a while, that it would be a slow read, but I ended up reading it really quickly, and even found it more enjoyable than I thought I would.
This series stars Hana, who’s just recently moved to Japan to live with her older sister, and who gets hives any time a boy touches her. Her sister, though, to pay back some of her debt, signs her on to work for this masseuse who works in the apartment below her. The place only has two employees, one being a late twenties male, and the other being a boy from her school. She dreads it at first, but quickly grows close to the two males, and their friends.
I’m not going to get too into the story, because this holds all three volumes, there’s so much, and I don’t want to give too much away.
I rather enjoyed this. Hana was fun, nice, a pretty standardly nice and shy heroine. The boy her age who she works with (and the masseuse), Haru, is fun. He and Hana have a very love-hate relationship, and it was really sweet and funny. Haru has a hard time opening up to people, and he’s lost some of his memory, but he slowly opens up to Hana, and I liked their relationship, and the pace it progressed at.
The other characters were fun. The shop owner, Shinnosuke, who takes care of Haru, and just about everyone else, and who is just fun and sweet. There’s Nakajima, a girl who likes Haru, but also forms a friendship with Hana. Fujinari, a relative of Shinnosuke, and a violinist who Hana looks up to, and who seems to enjoy pushing Haru and Hana together (although, most of the others do, too). And Oki, a photographer friend from their school, who has a small presence, but is entertaining.
The series was funny, the storylines were fun, the pacing was very well done. The more serious plot line took a turn near the third volume that I wasn’t expecting, but that I liked quite a bit. Everything seemed to turn out a little too well, but I can overlook that, seeing as how often that usually happens. And the romance was done well—the relationship developed in a nice way, at a good pace, and I liked where it was by the end of the book. The art was pretty good, too. It had some weak moments, but it mostly had a sketch-like look to it, and I liked it for the most part. 
Overall, this series gets a light 4 stars—it was surprisingly good, and I’m glad I picked it up.