There seems to be a growing trend in young adult fiction I’ve been reading. Taking the popular girl...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
There seems to be a growing trend in young adult fiction I’ve been reading. Taking the popular girl main character and giving her a conscience. Sometimes this frustrates me because I was never the popular girl. I was the bookworm. The majorette in band. A CVS worker who liked to work in the shampoo aisle. The creative one. The existing moment that makes me relate to a character that is so unlike me, who is in fact the people I usually completely write off, is very small. Miniscule. Yet here I am connecting on an intense level with a girl like Paige. Rich, gorgeous, popular, mean to the small people. To the point where I am wondering if there are other girls I went to school with who maybe felt constricted by their status, the pressures of their moms who are always trying to relive their younger years, who really had no idea who they were.
It’s not like I was automatically on Paige’s side either. She’s in a horrific car accident because her or one one of her best friends drank too much (the real story unfolds along the way) and her mom is glad to ship her off to Paris for the summer where she works as a nanny. This gives her mom time to wipe up the mess and ensure her daughter’s (and her family’s) gold-star reputation. Paige returns to a world turned upside down. Her best friends (Lacey & Nikki) are giving her the cold shoulder, and her boyfriend is more interested in being there for Lacey. At this point, Paige’s thoughts and worries could definitely be seen as a bit selfish… what did I do… don’t they realize that I’m upset too… but you know what, I seriously would have been thinking the same things.
It takes a fantastic writing class and some new friends to push Paige onto this journey of discovery. Mr. Tremont sounds like the kind of writing teacher that I would have loved to have had in high school. I was lucky to have a few of them in college like this, but holy crap, wow. I loved how he talked about writing being this difficult thing. He was completely inspiring, and I can see why Paige was so intrigued by him and this other part of herself that seemed to come out of nowhere. It was inspiring to me. Especially because her own writing is the device she used to figure out what happened in that car accident last spring and make sense of it and her surroundings and the expectations that have become a burden instead of something she thought she wanted for so long.
The new friends – Shanti & Ethan – would, of course, normally be out of Paige’s general circle of friends a year ago. And I liked how they sort of tiptoe around each other when it comes to making this commitment to be real friends. Paige even acts like a real bitch at some points, and while I hated that about her, it was true to her character and made even more sense when she disentangles herself from her own norm and shies away from the spotlight.
The Princesses of Iowa is so rich in story, and the intensity is built up so perfectly. It’s like a house of cards that could break at any time. And I couldn’t put it down. It gets scary and frustrating but Backes succeeds in tackling some very sensitive and serious storylines very well. Her characters are well-developed and real and even disappointing and surprising. What hit home for me the most was Backes’ belief in the power of writing and expression. That in itself is such a truth in my own life and she nailed it. Many many times. And all I know is that I will be buying a copy of The Princesses of Iowa when it is released on May 8th. I already have a place in my bookshelf waiting for it.
”It’s your writing you guys. Follow it wherever it takes you. All you need to do is tell your truth.” (less)
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But with The Lifeguard, I couldn’t help it. I was ha...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But with The Lifeguard, I couldn’t help it. I was half-expecting a more grown-up, better developed version of Boy Crazy Stacey, one of my favorite Baby-sitter’s Club books. But instead I was launched into a story about infatuation, ghosts, separation, and healing. While there is nothing wrong with these subjects coming together to make a decent story, there was something very disjointed about The Lifeguard.
Most of my difficulty with the book was centered on Sirena. While I knew she was broken up about her parent’s relationship and missed her best friend who went off to camp without her, I never got a deep sense of who she was and what she was feeling beyond the obvious. It was frustrating when she fell for Pilot so fast. I understand attraction. Totally. He was hot. He was unattainable. She wanted him. But it went beyond that and I wasn’t sure why. (He hardly spoke. I didn’t learn a thing about him.) Sirena had so many unresolved issues and even though most of the book is inside her head (another thing I didn’t like; dialogue would have helped) I wasn’t sold on her growth as a character.
This was one of those books where I kept hoping things would fall into place if I just kept reading, but it never happened for me. While Blumenthal’s language was ethereal and at times very sensual, I always felt like I was on the cusp of something, never to obtain any sort of satisfaction (especially when it came to the end). In fact, one of the parts I loved about the book most were the letters between Sirena and her best friend. I think it would have been a great device for us to learn more about our main character, but they were few and far between.
I would be curious to hear the thoughts of others who decided to read The Lifeguard. It’s difficult for me to recommend because I’ve been reading so many other novels that tackle difficult issues (and unique twists) with much more clarity and planning. This book certainly had potential but it missed the mark with me. It wasn’t so much the writing but the structure of the book and the lack of backstory when it came to the main characters. That being said, if other factors in the book had been tightened up, maybe I would have bought the ghost story connection and the “healing” subplot. Instead, it all seemed like too much, too soon. (less)
I don’t remember the last time I stayed up past my bedtime to finish a book. It was probably five years a...moreReview first posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I don’t remember the last time I stayed up past my bedtime to finish a book. It was probably five years ago when I was still in college. At least. So the fact that I stayed up way past midnight on a weeknight to finish Breaking Beautiful (on the same day I started it) should mean something. It should mean a lot. (Because as if that wasn’t enough, it kept me up for another half hour thinking about it.)
A book with this kind of premise could easily turn into a Lifetime movie, soaking in cliché. In fact, after reading other reviews, this was my fear. Getting hooked on a book was one thing but I wanted it to be because the story was actually good, not because it was like a train wreck I couldn’t peel my eyes away from.
I’m happy to say it did not cross into the realm of Lifetime television but did a solid job of exploring some tough themes without much sugar coating or fairy tale endings.
Who knows? Maybe I’ve had the pleasure of knowing people who are repeatedly dealt blows by life but I had no problem believing Allie could have experienced all of these hardships in real life: an abusive relationship, bullying, a car accident that killed her boyfriend (a night she has totally blocked out of her memory), and a disabled twin brother – sure, it’s a lot. But Allie’s reactions to all of these situations were reasonable and realistic. She had good things in her life too – an old friend named Blake and a super close relationship with her brother, Andrew. It’s no surprise that her “hidden life” has clouded those good things. She is constantly questioning her own worth and who wouldn’t after the boyfriend you loved (and you believed loved you back) treated you with such cruelty?
As a reader, it is so frustrating to watch as Allie lies, covers up, avoids, and hides when she could be telling the truth. That frustration we feel means that the author is doing a killer job at making us feeling exactly what Allie is going through, and most importantly, those around her who care just want her to get better and be happy again.
One of the book’s main themes is control. Tripp’s parents are rich and have a lot of clout (too much) on the small town. So there’s that and Allie’s desperation to take control of her life, the lack of physical control her brother may have, and the power Tripp’s ghost and their memories have on Allie as she attempts to move on. Control is a funny thing. Everyone wants it and when they get it, there is no telling what might happen. Some may even surprise you.
In a way, this book is part mystery. We discover the events of the accident along with Allie as she is able to remember and confront more of her demons. Until the end, I did not find the revealed events to be predictable at all. The author did a commendable job of weaving memories with the present day and also keeping the suspense and tension high. (And this is why I needed a caffeine drip the morning after I finished it.)
I’m not going to lie. Many of the events in this book are terrifying. The helplessness that Allie feels, her mom’s allegiance to Tripp’s family and her legacy to the town, the utter desperation so many of these characters feel. Even once I hit the last page, that desperation and fear felt like it was haunting me. Breaking Beautiful reveals the bleakest depths of the human spirit and the not so pretty process it takes to get back to feeling like you. And we can’t go around ignoring that the bad exists.
I hope Shaw is busy at work on her next book, because after reading Breaking Beautiful, it will certainly make its way on my list.(less)
Unfortunately the world isn’t as accepting as we want it to be. And it sometimes happens when we are our...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading:
Unfortunately the world isn’t as accepting as we want it to be. And it sometimes happens when we are our bravest and our most vulnerable. Tessa Masterson experiences this first hand when she declines her best friend’s invitation to prom because she can’t take it anymore. She needs to tell the truth. She is a lesbian and was hoping to go to prom with a girl. A girl she was secretly seeing. This happens very early in the book, and from there it divides into two distinct stories: Tessa dealing with her unsupportive and ignorant peers, neighbors, and most surprising of all, the loss she feels when Luke can’t deal with the news. That’s the second part. Luke is mad. And upset. Since they were little kids, Tessa and Luke shared everything. He thought he knew her better than anyone and suddenly, this. Okay, sure she always had a love for Katharine Hepburn but he never thought she would throw him a curveball like this.
So here we have two characters reeling from one admission, an admission that affects the entire town. A town that stops buying groceries from Tessa’s mom and dad. A town that wants to cancel prom just because Tessa wants to bring her girlfriend as her date and wear a fashionable tux. It’s a lot to take in. And Tessa is a slow-paced novel. I took it slow. Not because I wanted to. I wondered if this was the intention of Halpin & Franklin because the crap that Tessa faced was unbearable. The authors do a great job of getting us in her head. Practically her entire town, the one that has watched her grow into the person she is now, is so quick to judge. It’s disgusting many times. She goes through many different phases of emotion once the truth is out. It’s a lot to deal with and every thought and event feel painfully authentic, but they are filled with a quiet dignity.
Luke, on the other hand, is dealing with being the kind of person who does not hang around and support the friend that has always had his back. He’s hurt and scared and confused and his ego has been damaged. No chick flick in the world has taught him how to deal with his current predicament, and it takes a majority of the novel for him to sort through his own reactions to Tessa’s coming out and his own beliefs about friendship and acceptance.
While the slow pacing wasn’t exactly my cup of tea (and the title is too long), I did enjoy getting to know these characters and their friendship so deeply, not only through the current drama surging through their lives but with little anecdotes about how Tessa and Luke first became friends and other memories pertaining to their unique connection. Any reader will feel for them and wish they had a similar friendship in their own lives. I also think those teenagers (or anyone really) dealing with the fear of coming out or expressing their true selves without knowing just how people will react will connect with Tessa’s story. There are many lessons buried within Tessa, and they are worth learning. Most importantly, we get that other side — Luke, the person who is dealing with his own reactions to this news, his anger, detachment, and his inability to be a good friend when his best friend needs him most. From every angle, Tessa provides an honest account of a tough situation. (less)
Like most people might, I was interested in this book because of the title. But not because I can’t...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
Like most people might, I was interested in this book because of the title. But not because I can’t miss an episode of the Jersey Shore. (Trust me, it makes me feel ill to even know it exists.) Born and raised in New Jersey, I’m used to all the jokes. And that was before MTV ever “created” that god-forsaken show in the very town my parents and I would spend two weeks on vacation every single summer. So when the publisher note said this book explored “the real people behind the Jersey stereotypes” I was hopeful.
But Angel, the main character, and this cast of characters were unlike anyone I had ever encountered before. First, Angel’s mom owns three houses at the shore that they rent out every summer, which means most months of the year Angel (remember she is 18) lives in her own house. HER OWN HOUSE. She needed a smoking patch at the age of 13, and she can barely pass a crowd without being able to point out at least one guy she has hooked up with in some capacity.
I can tolerate a character who is “empowered by her sexuality” (as the publisher’s note always points out) but when it comes to Angel, I’m not totally convinced she is feeling that way. It seems like sex is a hobby. She doesn’t get much parenting from her mother (who has her own problems) and she doesn’t seem very focused on anything else – except her sudden pangs to hang out with her on again/off again boyfriend, Joey.
The thing about Angel is that she is likable. She is surprisingly maternal. She loves her best friend and her siblings. She does want something out of her life (even if her goals are somewhat mediocre). But the book spends more time getting into the dirty details of her sexual escapades then the innermost thoughts of this girl, and that was what I wanted. Even when she embarks on risky encounters with a certain someone, I was disappointed in the lack of consequence in the end. The book didn’t need a big blow up; it could have easily been an inner breakdown, a rationalization of how her actions could affect her life forever. What kind of person was she if she wasn’t loyal? If she didn’t have any morals? I’m not sure this character learned much of anything.
There were also supporting characters, namely Sherry, who were underutilized and I thought would have brought much to the book if they were involved in a bigger role. Add in a rushed ending and I’m left with a lot of questions. Truthfully, I think the plot of this book had potential but the structure and the lack of development when it came to plot and the characters made it fall short for me. For the record, I wouldn’t have minded all the hot steamy moments if there was more substance to the story to begin with.(less)
Rachel's world is shaken to its core when she overhears her rabbi getting down in the synagouge. I...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
Rachel's world is shaken to its core when she overhears her rabbi getting down in the synagouge. I mean, who can blame her? A man she has known forever, seen her through bad times, listened carefully when she had questions about her religion, and has been a person of superior authority in her life has just shocked the crap out of her. So not only are her parents constantly fighting and her favorite relative in the world a shell of her former self, but now she holds the heavy burden of keeping this secret.
It's not even so much about who the rabbi was with... but the aftermath of Rachel's discovery.
Basically, Rachel -- a perfect student, devout to her religion, a goodie-two shoes of sorts -- is a complete and utter mess. And I couldn't have loved that more about her. She's just clumsy with life in general and I could relate. The way she talks to boys, the way she tries to balance her school work or keep her room clean... it's just never perfect, a tiny tiny thing always goes wrong. And sadly, she has no one to turn to. Her best friend is MIA (for reasons she doesn't know) and she still hasn't found the perfect avenue when it comes to talking to Jake, the boy she loves. Heiligman has really succeeded in creating a flawed character who despite her experiences with a traumatic situation is still spunky, funny, and sensitive without being a drama queen. Watching her rabbi teach about goodness and God after finding out his secret is confusing and causes her to have a healthy internal deliberation about her role within her religion and also who she wants to be on an everyday basis.
I loved the idea of adults who preach and then act in the opposite fashion. How exactly do you deal with this when adults RULE THE WORLD and you are supposed to follow their example? It's a frustrating paradox but one that is a part of our reality, unfortunately. The other one being the need to be comforted by the very person who may be making your life a stressful wreck. How many of us can relate to those feelings?
One intriguing supporting character was Adam, the rabbi's son, who has a tempting bad boy streak but also these quiet moments of understanding and sweetness. Even though we know Rachel has her sights set on Jake, I was very curious about what would happen with Adam, and if he was in the know about his father's side activities. Was this why he was always acting out? I really enjoyed the arc of his character and the temptation he brought into the story. Jake, on the other hand, had his own secrets and was strangely distant with Rachel. Though, for once, it was nice to see a shyer relationship that wasn't based on some wild chemistry. It was quiet and private, and Rachel expressed many relatable fears when it came to coming to terms with how she felt about him.
I love the technique of framing in a novel and Heiligman uses it here, beginning the books with an older Rachel, recounting the events of this particular year, and ending it the way it started -- back to adult Rachel, who has returned to town for the first time since everything with the rabbi went down. I thought it was a great touch, but my only complaint is that Rachel's younger years wrapped up a bit too quickly and we didn't get a better glimpse at the supporting characters. The ending, however, is extremely extremely surprising, folks, in a way that made me really think about Rachel far long after I finished the book.
Intentions is a great representation of the time in your teenage years when everything just comes at you from all angles, and you are forced to see and learn things you never wanted to. For such a jaw-dropping premise, Heiligman has created a well-written world of people in various degrees of imperfection, while still weaving in the lighter moments in life. I was hooked from the very first page. (less)
A character like Sethie is one we all know — a straight A student who wants to go to a good college...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
A character like Sethie is one we all know — a straight A student who wants to go to a good college (like Columbia), wants to be able to go up to her boyfriend and kiss him, a girl who looks in the mirror and doesn’t like what she sees.
At 17, Sethie can get in her college applications early but isn’t sure what her relationship with Shaw (her boyfriend?) is all about. It’s simply easier to let him take the lead and make the first move so she doesn’t destroy the delicate balance that is their relationship. She’s just sort of there.
That’s Sethie’s general MO in this novel. She’s not passionate about much more than maintaining her 110 pounds or less. (In fact, she quits yearbook because she doesn’t want to worry about the snacking that goes on.) There are flickers of another girl in there especially when she befriends Janey and they do everyday girl things like buy tight clothing and get all dolled up for frat parties.
From third person, Sethie’s behavior is still worrisome and alarming. There isn’t the same character connection and I felt like I was looking into windows and watching what these people were doing. I could not reach out and help — I was only an observer.
I didn’t know when and if Sethie would reach a breaking point. I feared what that would bring and while most stories regarding eating disorders build to a Broadway style complex, this one did not. It was gradual and calm and ordinary in a good way. The author, who reveals she suffered from an eating disorder in her teens, does present a different perspective which I appreciated. It felt believable and not weighed down by drama.
In fact, Sethie was not about drama at all. She did not like to make ripples and preferred standing in the shadows. One thing I couldn’t grasp was her relationship with her mother. Was I imagining her mom ignoring her daughter? Or was she simply an observer like the reader? Waiting and waiting until the right time to butt in? It wasn’t like her lack of a relationship with her mother or Shaw forced her to seek attention by losing weight. It didn’t seem Sethie had interior motives. She was addicted to this ideal and couldn’t let go.
While this novel focuses on serious subject matter, I did love the chemistry between Sethie and Janey – even though at first I didn’t trust their budding friendship. (Call me a cynic.) And later, I adored a character named Ben who brought a ‘giant’ amount of life into a very gray and stormy story.
Sheinmel’s writing is crisp and edgy and down-to-earth. She taps into a familiar subject matter, not by creating something cataclysmicly new but focusing on the everyday realities of those living with the disease, those who just find themselves in it and can’t figure out if they want a way out or not. Despite the distance I felt from Sethie, I still liked her and my fondness for her paired with Sheinmel’s fast paced story made this a seamless read for me. (I only put it down twice.) Plus I loved how clearly it was written — every paragraph, every word seemed deliberate and served a purpose and that is something I don’t see nearly enough in young adult books. (less)
Full disclosure: in the years since high school, my knowledge of England in the 1500s has slowly di...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
Full disclosure: in the years since high school, my knowledge of England in the 1500s has slowly dissolved into dust particles. And geez, I could have really used it while reading Kissing Shakespeare. I knew historical fiction might be a challenge but it was the religious conflict in England that really threw me for a loop. From the book description, I had no idea it was going to take such precedence in the story. Religion is so imperative to Shakespeare’s future and while I applaud Mingle for attacking such a storyline, sometimes my lack of understanding on this subject slowed down my enjoyment of the book.
But let’s get to the good stuff. I was first interested in this title because of the theater! I’m a huge fan of plays and I can only imagine what it would be like to be given the opportunity to meet your idol in another century. Stephen could not have “coerced” Miranda to come along at this journey at a better time — Shakespeare needs her help and perhaps Miranda needs a little kick in the butt as well. I’m no expert on time traveling (are you?) but I did wish that Miranda would have been a bit funnier when they switched time periods — she was a dramatic girl (no surprise there) but the bits of sarcasm she does express would have been welcome in earlier parts of the book. (It took me about 138 pages to get into the story.)
As Stephen “casts” Miranda as his sister “Olivia” (anyone get the Shakespeare reference here?) — it is funny to see the cultural clashes between the two, and Miranda and the rest of the supporting characters. William is, of course, utterly charming but conflicted about his future. He wants to be a player but he also feels he should do his duty to the church. Jenett is a mysterious gal, crushing on William, and betrothed to an older man she has no desire to marry. There are quite a few mini sub-plots swirling around KS and they did the job of softening the religious plot when situations got a bit too intense. That intensity, though, did grip me quite a bit in the second half of the book and I was anxious to see what would become of our characters and the future of Shakespeare’s work.
Not only did the subject matter surprise me, but so did the love story. Stephen is a dapper and intriguing young man, and I enjoyed getting to know him. Although his plan for saving Shakespeare? Don’t think he thought that one through. Ladies and gents, he wanted Miranda to do more than just KISS Shakespeare. He wanted her to sleep with him. I thought that was a tad presumptuous on his part, especially since Miranda was a virgin. (Is this commentary on teenage girls of today?) Again, I was shocked by her reactions to this “order” (and also the fact that protection in this century was not discussed?). I’m not sure if I would have treated it as lightly even if I felt I wanted to prove something (which I get, I’m totally competitive).
Thematically, I love the idea of fate and how one little thing can affect so many people and so many outcomes. How would our world be different if Shakespeare didn’t write his works? His influence goes far behind the stage and the classroom and that is completely evident in this story. In a smaller sense, how will Miranda’s life be shaped by this experience as well? You know her love story is only temporary, which saddened me; I kept hoping for a stroke of magic that would make everything come together… but I’m glad that Mingle decided to end her tale where she did.
Here’s my advice to you: even though Kissing Shakespeare is a longer YA novel, starts out slow, and isn’t the fluff you may be expecting, stick with it. The chemistry is hot, there are some funny and silly moments, and I felt a renewed sense of interest in Shakespeare and his life. (Did anyone remember he married a gal named Anne Hathaway? I had to do a double take when I read that!) (less)
While I’m open-minded when it comes to the religious beliefs of others, I don’t like to be overwhelmed by them — especially when I’m reading a book. There has to be some kind of balance in the story so the reader doesn’t feel alienated and I’m sorry to say at times I felt uncomfortable reading Starring Me for this very reason.
Kara is a sweet, focused, and enthusiastic girl who hails from Long Island (loved reading a book set so close to home!) and is determined to become a famous actress. Her uber supportive family (another aspect of the novel that I liked a lot) is totally okay with her pursuing this career and even heading to Florida for a variety show opportunity. At the same time, Chad is a pop star (who got famous by winning a reality show) and is ready to take a step back from the spotlight and host that variety show. He wants to act and write and while his parents are impressively focused on making sure their son always appreciates his good fortune. They are very firm about him having a Christian co-star and get the network to agree to pre-show auditions where this particular girl can be found.
Does this sound like discrimination to you? I understand the parents want Chad to spend his time with a girl who shares his beliefs but it doesn’t mean he couldn’t spend the same amount of time with a person who may adhere to another religion but be just as hardworking, sweet, and family-oriented, right?
So Kara doesn’t know she is actually auditioning for Chad’s new show… and the two meet through mutual friends and instantly click. But Chad is worried because Kara is not a Christian and Kara doesn’t have religion in her life so she’s not sure if they would ever work either.
The two supporting characters, Jonathan (who is the President of the U.S.’s son) and Addy (Kara’s co-star on another reality show and her best friend), are both full-fledged Christians too. Kara is never judgmental about their beliefs and instead is always asking questions and sort of searching for her own beliefs as well. There’s a lot of Bible talk and most of the characters are absolutely sure Kara will soon join their team and be a follower of God.
Beneath the religious aspects, McGee has a cute story here. I loved Kara’s excitement, her blended family, Flora (the house mom with a love of literature and Jane Austen), the included skits, and the few mentions of Orlando theme parks. Just because the story deals with circumstances I can’t relate to personally doesn’t mean that someone won’t be affected by this book or connect to it. I’m just not sure if this reality show scenario is entirely believable. I guess if none of the actresses found out that the search was for a Christian girl… all would be well? I don’t know.
Mostly, McGee succeeds in the creation of an independent and motivated female character who takes her time making decisions. I have a grasp on who Kara is and I only wish the other characters had that kind of depth. Starring Me has a lighthearted premise but is heavy hitting when it comes to religion and as a reader you have to decide if that’s the kind of book you want on your bookshelf. (less)
I don’t want this to sound like a PSA for underage drinking. We’ve heard all of this before. And so...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
I don’t want this to sound like a PSA for underage drinking. We’ve heard all of this before. And so has Jake. He’s just your average guy who makes one mistake and affects the lives of many. He’s not unaware of his actions and the havoc they caused. Of course, he’s devasted. The money he’s costing his parents (who have seven children), his future plans are now impossible, he can’t play school sports anymore, he can only communicate to friends and family with a notebook, and everyone is always staring at him. Not the life he is used to for sure.
What I liked most about this book was the community. It was a small town full of supportive people, who even decided to make personal pledges to stop drinking for the remainder of the year because of the car accident. Jake’s family is the crowd that everyone wants to hang out with; they are always inviting and loving and helping others out. But there were so many times where I wished the family was more like the Garrett’s in Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door where we could truly get a handle on everyone’s personalities even if we met them in only a few fleeting moments.
Then there is Samantha, the girl that Jake has loved for a long time. Though they seemed to miss their chance of getting together in the past year, he still can’t get her out of his mind. But Samantha has grown distant and he doesn’t know what to do about that. He desperately wants to tell her how he feels, especially after the accident, when the two are paired in a sign language “class”. Sure, this was a little coincidental but I didn’t care what force brought them together. I wanted to see what could grow between them. Samantha has some mystery about her, and Jake is struggling to come to terms with his inability to speak. And really struggling… he’s positive one moment and down the next and I appreciated Taylor presenting this see-saw of emotions because there is no way someone could go through something this tramatic and be on a straight path to happiness.
While I enjoyed Jake and Samantha’s sweet love story, I do wonder if the story would have stayed more grounded if Samantha’s life did not deal with such extreme issues. Did all of this weigh down the story? Sometimes. Was it an over-the-top way to teach Jake to appreciate his life? And could it have been done in a quieter, less hectic manner? I think so. Jake was never depicted as this ungrateful, big-man-on-campus/football-player type. He was a typical teenager who had something bad happen to him. Post-accident, I believe his true challenge was not getting dragged down by his disability and instead embracing it the best he could.
In general, Taylor took her own personal story and created a very original premise in What I Didn’t Say. Still, a fine read could have been bought to a whole new level by introducing a blanket of over-looked details (Jake’s family embracing sign language, what Jake was actually going to study in college the following here, etc.). Even though the novel lacks in development and unique voice in some areas, What I Didn’t Say is a fast-paced read, well worth your time that truly encompasses the unsure time between senior year of high school and the rest of your life, amplified by a million.(less)
I am absolutely giddy in love with Raina Telgemeier’s work.
Drama is the first graphic novel I’ve ever read and while it only took me about an hour to get through it, I couldn’t stop going back and smiling over the details in these colorful scenes and how perfectly Raina has been able to capture the middle school experience.
And for the theater lovers, finally: a book that celebrates those dear people who work on the stage crew, the kookiness that ensues, the intertwining love stories, budget constraints and trying to actually get people to the shows. (Plus the book was divided in Acts with an Intermission – such a cute set up.)
Callie is a theater dork in a way that I geek out over theater and books and Disney. She cannot contain her love of the performing arts and I love that about her. She doesn’t give a crap what other people think and good for her. Embrace what you love, Callie, and don’t let that go. She also falls for boys pretty easily and gee, don’t we all remember being like that in 8th grade? If it wasn’t one boy it was another. Raina’s creation of Callie’s wide eyes in particular scenes brought such comedy to the page. It was only one of the many small details that made such an impact. (I also loved the attention paid to Callie’s bedroom. You can learn so much more about a character’s background without reading words.)
Raina also does a great job of integrating a crew of multi-cultural kids (I came from a very diverse middle school so this was great to see) and also blending in a variety of characters with different sexual preferences. As I read more and more books that include LGBT characters, I am so inclined to hug these writers who are so keen on depicting TRUE life.
I can only describe Drama as a total delight. It has surprising depth but doesn’t weigh down the flow of the story or even the lighter moments. There are so many details to look at and take in when it comes to this novel, and I could see myself flipping through it again and again and always finding something new to love. The awesome illustrations and bright colors paired with a sweet story make Drama a highlight in anyone’s book pile.(less)
Review originally posted on RatherBeReadingBlog.com Just imagine living in the same town and working for the same company as your ex-husband, a man you...moreReview originally posted on RatherBeReadingBlog.com Just imagine living in the same town and working for the same company as your ex-husband, a man you have been in love with since your teens. Never in your wildest dreams did you think your marriage would end after a few years and somehow, despite the hurt, you are co-existing. And then he goes and gets engaged to a beautiful woman who has usurped your job at the company. Oh wait, he also fathered a child during your separation who you have fallen in love with.
The hits just keep on coming too because there is a complex sub-plot that involves the future of the Quixie, the family cherry soda company. Mason and his brother, Davis, have run the company since their father’s passing but it seems like they have two different ideas of what it should become. This twisty storyline involves Annajane’s career, the entire Bayless family, and the economy of small town Passcoe.
There are secrets and strategies and secret rendezvous and much devious behavior.
In fact, Spring Fever is heavier than the turquoise cover and a bunch of flip flops. It definitely had small reminders of The Notebook or Sweet Home Alabama films, but there’s a lot more at stake than an old relationship and moving forward. The underlying ‘business’ plot intensified the entire story, and left me guessing until the very end. I’ll admit… this story is soap opera central in its entirety (could have done without the typical Celia scenario) but that didn’t stop me from connecting with Annajane who cannot for the life of her decide what to do about Mason. To me, it seemed they divorced much too soon but she couldn’t decide if they could really make it work again if given another chance. She didn’t exactly fit in the ‘rich wife socialite’ box that Mason’s own mother belonged to. And that misunderstanding and lack of communication led them down a wrong road in the first place.
But ooh, the romance… the longing. It was good. Really good. Andrews can certainly write a tender love scene but also the fun ones where everyone is a teenager again. With mix tapes! And hot cars.
Why do small town books always have the most intriguing characters? (I actually saw that Andrew’s book, Summer Rental, is set in Tybee Island, South Carolina and I have immediately added it to my to-read list.) I loved the gossip, little mimic Sophie, the ridiculously adorable men who own a neighborhood hotel, and the friendship and scheming between Annajane and her bestie, Pokey (who also is Mason’s sister). Spring Fever was fast paced and majorly addicting (yes, I hid this one under my desk) and it would make the perfect companion on a bus ride or a beach trip.(less)
I had heard the rumor that All Summer Long sizzled even more than the previous book in the Fool’s Go...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I had heard the rumor that All Summer Long sizzled even more than the previous book in the Fool’s Gold series, Summer Nights.
And golly, that rumor was true.
From the start, Charlie and Clay have this easy chemistry, and despite the lack of trust she has had in men all of these years (and rightfully so) she has a hunch about Clay. Can he possibly get her to the place where she can date men again and not shrink away from their touch?
I’ll give you one guess.
For all the touchy feely goodness and the slow, sensual scenes (that are so ridiculously hot) Mallery manages to weave in a sub-storyline about stereotypes and the roles and expectations of sexes in society. Charlie is a firefighter and Clay is an ex-model. Charlie gets treated like she’s one of the boys and Clay’s career seems to make it okay for every single woman to hit on him and think he’s all about having a good time and doesn’t have a brain in his head.
It was nice to see that from both sides.
In addition, Charlie’s mom, a famous dancer, makes an unexpected (and unwanted) appearance in Fool’s Gold and Clay is trying to get a business off the ground. Despite these interlaced storylines, the book remains light and fast-paced but still suffers from Mallery’s tendency to overcompensate and repeat certain key phrases and emotions.
All of that is forgotten, though, when Clay and Charlie’s relationship overwhelms their agreement and the two start to open up to one another. While their steamy scenes are more than comparable to Shane and Annabelle’s in Summer Nights, there’s this urgent intimacy that resonates with them and makes their relationship even sexier and more meaningful. (Although at one point Annabelle confides in Charlie about her relationship with Shane: “We each want to be the person who gives more.” I just loved that.)
While Mallery’s work is a bit formulaic it’s all in good fun and, like the best romance novels, so incredibly addicting. Fool’s Gold feels like a little piece of paradise, and it’s lovely that you can just jump in and out of the series as you please, as well as reunite with old characters and try to decipher who will take center stage in the next volume.(less)
Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better book to be released on my birthday.
A main character who is an extreme theater geek (I was dying over all the references from classic Broadway to Troy Bolton a.k.a. Zac Efron), and a story that did an amazing job of balancing the lighthearted moments with the more serious ones?
Devan grew up in a house with a father who didn’t understand her interests or really talk to her and a stepmother who wouldn’t give her the time of day. When she discovered her mom was bestselling author, Reece Malcolm, she began compiling a list of facts about the woman who said very little to the media. So when Devan’s dad dies suddenly and she is sent off to live with Reece in Los Angeles, she’s not exactly sure what to expect. Can things really be worse than the way they were before?
But she does know what she wants. She wants a warm mother who is going to wrap her in her arms and hold her, let her cry about her dad, and apologize as much as she can about never contacting her once in her sixteen years. Instead, Devan gets someone very standoffish, who clearly knows nothing about kids, and who is not going to easily indulge why she’s been so absent or what exactly happened between her and her father all those years ago.
Reece may make fun of Devan and openly admit that it weirds her out how much her boyfriend (Brad) wants to do “family things” with her yet she, no questions asked, gets Reece an audition at a great performing arts high school, takes her on shopping sprees (Devan loves fashion), and is pretty laidback when Devan starts to make plans with new friends. I really liked how atypical their relationship was. Because, gee, there is nothing normal about their situation or their relationship, and I’m glad no one was putting on airs about what their shared DNA should mean.
So on top of this new shiny (and frustrating) home life, Devan is also thrown into a new school. She’s mega-talented and takes this talent really seriously, and while not everyone is very supportive at first, Devan does get folded into a circle of friends (who have layered storylines as well) pretty immediately. (So unlike her last school.) I really liked her weighing how suddenly she should trust new people and let them in. She still had so, much to figure out in her personal life… it wasn’t like she could just confide in anyone immediately. Even with boy situations, the author makes nothing black and white and that was so entirely REAL high school for me.
Amy Spalding writes The Reece Malcolm List in an incredibly intelligent way with flawed characters, intricate details, and a true love for theater. At 16, Devan may not have known everything about life — in fact, she often wavered between incredulous actions and wise observations about the world. Life isn’t always the happy song that musicals portray, not everything falls perfectly into place. And it takes time for people to let their guard down and to understand who they truly are. It’s like this ongoing journey, even for an adult like Reece who is hard to love and hard to get close to.(less)
My awesome baby-sitting skills have become sort of a running joke in my family. My sister even menti...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
My awesome baby-sitting skills have become sort of a running joke in my family. My sister even mentioned them in her maid of honor speech at my wedding. My name is Estelle and I used to tie my sister to a chair in front of the television. For the record, it wasn’t because she was a snot to me. She just would not sit still. And hey, she turned out okay? So really, this was not traumatic at all.
A few pages into Elizabeth Eulberg’s new book and let me tell you, my sister was a saint compared to Mac. While my sister and I are five years apart, Lexi and Mac have a staggering 9 years between them and their upbringing couldn’t be more different. Even though Lexi’s parents fought a ton, she was brought up with two parents. Upon Mac’s arrival, Dad peaces out and Mom decides to bond with her youngest by signing her up for beauty pageants. And, hence, Mac the brat is born.
So not only is Lexi reeling from her parent’s divorce (still), she is forced into assisting with all the details of Mac’s pageants too. It’s not often that we have a character who is cast in the shadow of her younger sibling, and I liked this change. The age gap between the two is so apparent, especially when Lexi sees that their mom is spending ALL their money on this obsession (even after Mac can’t win back their entry fee many times). But Lexi’s mom doesn’t want to hear it. I was appalled (APPALLED) by how she dismissed Lexi’s worries and continually accused her of being jealous of Mac.
Luckily, Lexi has some great best friends to turn to. (The kind of friends that always make me miss high school.) Cam and Benny are very supportive, awesome people and I love that Benny convinces Lexi to show the world what she is made of. They both challenge each other to dive into something new: Benny is going to ask out a boy he likes (he’s gay but not completely “out”) and Lexi is going to primp and polish her appearance and see herself as beautiful for once.
In some ways, this plan soars and, in others, it backfires. Mac sees Lexi as competition, and becomes even more of a whiny brat (if possible). But, on the other hand, Lexi starts to be more social with her peers and even gets to go on her first date with the adorable Taylor. (Even though she can’t stop thinking about Logan, who has a girlfriend and never looks at her like that.) While I know a makeover is not the answer to esteem issues, I do like the way it helped Lexi build her confidence and figure out how she wanted to present herself to the world.
But, at the heart of this book are some deep, intense family issues and I applaud Eulberg for giving a lot more depth to her storylines and characters this time around. (This was one of my reservations with Take a Bow.) Lexi and Mac’s mom was so resistant to her daughters’ pleas to change their life for the better. Their mom was severely obese, and goes to some disgusting lows to keep the appearance of their “beauty pageant” life going. In the end, though, this storyline seemed to suffer with a quick ending and not enough resolution. I’m not sure their mom was capable of being a good mom. She was emotionally and physically unhealthy, unwilling to see her family for what it really was, and used the pageants as a distraction from reality. I finished the book still worrying about the well-being of both girls. (Especially for Mac, who wasn’t lucky enough to have college to escape to.)
While The Lonely Hearts Club still holds my heart as far as Eulberg’s work goes, I was really pleased to see growth in both plot and characterization in Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality. The author brings up some great points when it comes to appearance and the strength it takes to be honest (especially when others don’t want to hear it). While Lexi has a few more opportunities than the average person to tell it like it is in a public forum, I respected her for her patience, honesty, logic, and willingness to try new things. (less)
Oh man. Oh man. Or should I say: oh boy. Oh boy. Because I have been spoiled with some great titles...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
Oh man. Oh man. Or should I say: oh boy. Oh boy. Because I have been spoiled with some great titles with refreshing male voices this year. (See: Lexapros and Cons, Curveball, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children.)
Not Exactly a Love Story joins this awesome list.
Main character Vinnie is just your normal guy wearing leather pants on his first day of school, in the late 70s. (For the record: not the best fashion choice.) He’s kind of the guy that girls realize they want after they date the bad ones that trample all over their hearts. You know the one I mean. He’s funny, he’s sweet, and he likes to take care of fish in aquariums.
Don’t you love him already?
Couloumbis does a great job of shaping a story around a typical family. Parents who decide to separate. No big blow out fight, just a decision they come to. Each of them off and starting their own separate lives and Vinnie is just sort of in the middle, watching all of this happen. Vinnie’s observations during this time are the most interesting. He’s very perceptive, and he knows exactly where his boundaries are too.
Then in sort of this whirlwind You’ve Got Mail-like situation, Vinnie starts calling his gorgeous and popular next door neighbor, Patsy, every night at midnight. She has no idea who he is, and he keeps his identity a secret because he’s pretty sure she would never go for him. It sounds pretty creeptastic, doesn’t it? I mean, the reader knows that Vinnie means well (even if he comically messes this up time after time) but for some reason Patsy is hooked and keeps picking up the phone. She does, though, know when it’s time to hang up.
The great thing about this phone relationship is that I’m pretty sure Vinnie and Patsy wouldn’t have gotten to know each other quite as well if they just met in gym class or something. There’s something about that mysteriousness and, in Vinnie’s case, the darkness, that gives both of them courage.
It was giddily romantic, even when the two would bicker and shoot straight with one another. I couldn’t wait to know how they would eventually collide in real life. If the possibility of their friendship surviving the real world even existed.
(While the 70s backdrop is delightfully subtle with a few references to music and fashion, I wondered if it also served a purpose. I don’t believe there would have been the same charge with an online relationship.)
The author does tackle some heavy subjects, but manages to maintain a certain lightness. There’s such a calculated balance between Vinnie’s situation at home (new stepfather; embracing his inner athlete; juggling his time with both parents) and the version of himself that talks to Patsy late into the night. And the author does a great job of highlighting each of those intertwining plotlines as they come to a fulfilling end.
In a world full of books about revenge, car accidents, and post-apocalyptic challenges, it feels so right (and so refreshing!) to settle down with a genuine book about real people dealing with every day problems, bumbling around to find their own happiness.
If I wrote down five facts about me and five facts about my sister, it would probably be hard to be...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog.
If I wrote down five facts about me and five facts about my sister, it would probably be hard to believe we are related. We are just so different. But sometimes we make the same facial expressions, we share the same parental frustrations, and she will not let me forget when I tied her to a chair when she was little. (She even mentioned this is her maid-of-honor speech at my wedding.)
Even though she’s the younger one… sometimes I wish I had her wisdom and sense of adventure. Sometimes I wish I never succumbed to academic pressures I threw on myself until college was done. I wish I could pull off a pixie hair cut like she does. And, I’m sure, if someone asked her… there is one or two things about me that she might want for her own.
In the case of Alex and Thea, they formed a close-knit unit with their mother as they struggled to make ends meet with their father left. That solidarity has taken a back seat since their mother remarried a wealthy man who provides them with all the money and leather products and fancy cars they ever imagined. So money doesn’t exactly bring happiness… instead their mother is frequently absent from their lives (without even realizing it), Thea has sewn a complex web of lies to further her status in high school, and an embarrassing moment for Alex causes her to take “control” of her body in a horrific way.
I know, I know. It sounds a lot like a “poor little rich girl” story, doesn’t it?
Craftily, Griffin manages to keep this dark and twisty tale grounded despite Thea’s delusions of grandeur and Alex’s continual meltdown. It seems totally justifiable that a family could be at odds without even knowing it, nostalgic about the way things used to be but ignoring the reality of their current situation. Even this “rivalry” between Alex and Thea has its push and pull moments where Alex needs Thea, Thea comes to her aid (even though it’s half-hearted) but Alex is aware of how Thea looks at her boyfriend and Thea is actively trying to become the queen bee of their school.
It’s a ridiculously complex story where many of these characters could probably use a bit of therapy. The extremes that Thea took and her off-the-wall behavior was embarrassing, bordering on psychotic. And Alex was her direct foil. Her extremes cut her off from everyone (or so she thought) and sent her down a dizzying spiral. I couldn’t help but be an enthusiastic member of Team Alex, and hope that Thea would learn her lesson. Especially when Xander, a boy from her volunteer after-school program, starts to shed a positive light on this entire book.
I don’t want to say he was a savior, but he was certainly a much welcomed character. I was really hoping that Alex would learn to lean on him because she really needed someone to see through her bullshit because, in her own way, she was creating a mask of lies too.
While I had a little trouble adjusting to Griffin’s language in the first chapter, I settled in nicely and was very invested in Thea and Alex and how and when the grand firework finale would break down the rest of novel. I didn’t exactly have faith that these sisters could detangle themselves from one another, and step forward — into a better place. I was definitely holding my breath.
One more thing. There aren’t many books that I want to reread right after finishing them the first time. But Griffin is such a detailed and skilled writer, I wanted to go back immediately and discover all the details she buried within her chapters. She took what could have easily been a superficial premise and gave it such rich layers. I also didn’t waste any time: two more books by Griffin are sitting on my nightstand right now. (less)
Reece is a small town girl who is afraid of flying, and Dante is just about her exact opposite. In the style of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, the two bump into each other in the airport and later find themselves seated next to each other on the plane. Although unlike STAT, their plane never lifts off after a horrific explosion kills all the passengers on a nearby flight. Immediately, security whisks Dante away from the attack and he takes Reese with him.
For such a traumatic beginning, it is completely forgotten when Reese and Dante land in Caberra, a small (made up) island in Greece, where Dante’s father is Prime Minister. She is instantly attracted to him, and can’t believe her luck – spending a few days in Dante’s house, meeting his friends, and only having one outfit to her name! (Oh no.) I’ll admit I got pretty swept up in their romance and this mystery surrounding Dante, but it seems pretty unlikely that a big event like the first one would be forgotten so easily right? I, for one, would have been pretty obsessed and affected by it.
But Greece is beautiful and Reece is really having the time of her life, especially when she is given the opportunity to stay for the rest of the summer… which means more staring at Dante, thinking about Dante, and well, being with Dante. I understand what she sees in him… he’s beautiful (as she mentions a bunch of times) and is extremely Prince Charming-like. But a few events that occur during this novel feel forced, and the special moments where they get to know each other are too easily glossed over. (Doesn’t everyone know that’s the best part?) Even their dialogue feels inconsistent… Reese alternates between sounding her age and also like a much older person (which doesn’t make sense judging from her insecurities and high dramatics).
With a little finesse, the author could have bridged the gap between this light, summery romance and the dangerous sub-plot that kept popping up. Instead the darker moments are flippantly disregarded by the characters, while the story climaxes into a major fairy tale (completely with the typical good vs. evil conflict). It feels unsettling. Despite the unbalanced plot, there are elements I enjoyed: Reece’s budding friendship with Mia (who desperately needed a solid friendship), the vineyard setting that felt like it was straight out of a movie (Letters to Juliet, maybe?), and a few Cinderella moments that straight out of a Disney Channel flick.
If you are prepared to embrace the drama, Dante’s Girl is worth giving a shot. It’s fast paced (I read it in a day), the chemistry is spot-on, and it is very easy to get lost in the majesty of Greece.(less)
I’m willing to bet I’m one of the biggest Christmas enthusiasts you will ever meet. I know I complain about...moreOriginally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I’m willing to bet I’m one of the biggest Christmas enthusiasts you will ever meet. I know I complain about fall clothes being out before summer is even half done, or the Halloween decorations jam-packing the aisles before school even starts… but I get a secret thrill when I see my first bit of Christmas merchandise or get my first email that tells me tickets for the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall will be going on sale soon.
What I’m trying to say is… why not read a Christmas novel in October?
Susan Mallery’s latest, set in the adorable, California town of Fool’s Gold, focuses on two people who resemble Scrooge more than Buddy the Elf. (What?! I refuse to understand this behavior!) Evie has unwillingly returned to FG after an unfortunate injury ended her cheerleading career, and Dante has no choice but to relocate to FG after his business partner (and Evie’s brother) settles down there.
While the novel switches between the two, the story mainly focuses on Evie as she struggles to come to terms with a mother who never seemed to want her around. Evie’s background resembles a Lifetime movie – the product of a one-night stand, a father she never knew, and a mom and brothers who never made her feel very welcome in her home. Obviously these factors have had lasting effects on her own life (she went off on her own pretty young) and also her relationships (never let anyone get too close!).
…I’ll be honest: I’ve heard a little about Evie in the other books in the series and I never bought her background story. It seems so far-fetched but hey, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
Dante, on the other hand, loves how Evie looks in her dance teacher gear and has his own secret childhood challenges as well. They bond over their lack of love for the holidays, how Fool’s Gold turns into its own version of the North Pole, and even the different relationships they’ve had with their families.
A Fool’s Gold Christmas is a sweet romance sprinkled with just enough holiday cheer that it didn’t seem crazy to be reading it in the fall but could be equally fun when the snow is falling and you’re nursing a cup of hot chocolate. More than any of the other novels in this series, Fool’s Gold shines for all its merriment and the supportive and good-natured people of this town. I could absolutely picture all the antics in my head, and I wished I lived in a similar place.
Out of the three leading ladies I’ve met in Mallery’s books, Evie is hands down my favorite. She’s sarcastic, no nonsense, and she totally made me chuckle a few times. She was more than a caricature and more like your favorite down-to-earth friend. While Dante’s storyline was thin, he was no doubt super sexy and surprisingly thoughtful. I really liked watching these two get together and start to let their guard down for one another. (But beware, like any romance novel… something will come between them!) The author also does a better job of incorporating past characters… it felt more natural in this setting and not as overwhelming. (Although, Evie’s mother, May, came off too mopey and emotional and instead of her monologues feeling sincere, they felt annoying.)
I think the smaller details in this particular book – a cat with personality, the big dance performance, and how the women come together time and time again – make this a favorite in the Fool’s Gold series for me. While it was just as addicting as the others, Christmas played a great supporting role and the characters felt more than just sugarplums dancing in my head.(less)
After a childhood of wishing her parents would get together and form the perfect family, Sonnet has...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
After a childhood of wishing her parents would get together and form the perfect family, Sonnet has the next best thing — an awesome mother, Nina, who is married to a man who loves her unconditionally, and after many years, a stable relationship with her uber-successful father, General Lawrence Jeffries, who is heavy-duty campaigning to be senator.
In Return to Willow Lake, Sonnet is pulled in separate directions due to her relationships with both parents. She puts great pressure on herself to be the ideal daughter for her father when it comes to dating and her job, yet when she finds out her mom is pregnant and facing high risk complications, her initial reaction is to drop the job and move back home to care for her.
Now embracing a very different job and the simple joys of her hometown, Sonnet faces a new conflict – what if the person she has been building herself up to be is not really her at all?
Enter Zach, her attractive best male best friend and budding filmmaker. After an interesting shared moment or two or three a few months ago, their dynamic has changed. For so long Zach has been the person she has leaned on and called for good news, but all of a sudden – she’s not so sure what to make of their complicated friendship.
Sonnet’s not the only one figuring things out… from Zach’s chapters we see that he has focused on leaving Avalon and pursuing film in New York or California but can’t seem to escape the place he grew up. For years Zach has been paying for the mistakes of his dad and he’s set to finally do something for himself… but with Sonnet back in town, a request from Nina, and a great job that forces him to stay in Avalon… he’s not sure what to make of his future.
Unfortunately, Zach and Sonnet’s chemistry is mostly buried in the storyline focusing on Nina’s medical challenges (with a few unnecessary chapters from Nina’s POV as well) and the reader doesn’t get pent up, fiery passion from the pair. (A shame!) Though there are some entertaining moments between the two and a celebrity reality star (who I pictured as Macy Gray) who bestows some worthwhile wisdom and stars in some unexpected sweet moments throughout the book.
While the novel features some unbalanced plotlines and a few inconsistencies, it was Sonnet’s search for happiness that hit home the most — what’s right for someone else might not necessarily be the right thing for you. It took Sonnet a lot of pain and discovery to reach that understanding and make the right moves in her life. While I wish the romance had a bit more sizzle and the story jam-packed a lot of drama, Wiggs has succeeded in writing a fast-paced novel (that does not feel formulaic in the least) with many relatable emotional ups and downs at its core.
Oh, for those of you worried about jumping into the Lakeshore Chronicles with book 9, don’t! Return to Willow Lake is perfect as a standalone, or your introduction to the series in general. (less)
At one point, I didn’t think I would finish Truth or Dare. But it was sort of like a game of Clue, I just had to figure out who was stalking these girls, making them do outrageous things to prevent their deepest, darkest secrets from being exploited. So I kept reading, I got completely sucked in, and I stayed up until almost 2 a.m. to finish.
And I felt major disappointment.
While Green’s writing is pretty strong (especially when it comes to characterization and navigating these tangled plotlines), I felt like Truth or Dare tricked me. Big time. In 400 pages, there was no reason why the ending had to feel rushed, totally lacking emotion, and left me with a cliffhanger.
THE KING OF ALL CLIFFHANGERS.
This is why I rarely invest my time with a series. It has to be getting RAVE reviews from my most-trusted friends for me to pick it up because I refuse to pay for three books just because. I prefer books in a series to hold on to some of its secrets but for them to also feel complete on their own. I don’t want to feel pushed into reading book two for any reason except I want to continue on a journey with these characters. I should never feel like I lost 400 pages of my reading time to be left with not one single resolution.
With three characters like Sydney, Caitlin, and Tenley, there is no shortage of storyline though. Sydney does not come from a well-to-do family like many in Echo Bay and works hard, using photography as a de-stresser, and figuring out what the guy of her dreams (Guinness) really wants from her. Caitlin and Tenley are old best friends, reunited and starting their senior year together. There are some growing pains because Caitlin has a new close friend (Emerson) and Tenley’s not sure where she stands. But she’s super confident and ready to take the school by storm, yet again. She’s always been known for her killer parties and crazy games of truth or dare, which is how our story get its start. With her squeaky clean reputation, Caitlin is involved in every activity imaginable and hoping to win class president, all the while dealing with flashbacks from her kidnapping, unsure that the right man was framed for the act.
Whew! It’s a mouthful, isn’t it?
Super drama (think Gossip Girl), everyone suspecting the other, and the giant mask of a town “curse”… life for these three turns into an even bigger mess than it was initially. It’s pretty terrifying to think that someone knows details about your life that you have never ever shared with anyone.
(One thing I was curious about: how Green would handle new step-siblings with an obvious attraction to each other? Go figure that I found that interesting and hated that a smaller character was sleeping around with the family member of one of our main girls.)
In the thick of Truth or Dare, I felt just as glued to growing mystery and suspense as I did reading R.L. Stine books (Goosebumps and his other thrillers) back in the day. I was slowly going through the cast of characters trying to figure out the culprit before I hit the last page, but, alas, I feel like I ended the book with less knowledge than I had when I started. And the worst part? Less of a desire to find out the particulars.
I’m not usually into sweeping generalizations so early in the year, but here’s one for ya: so far, 2013 has totally knocked my socks off with surprise hits.
Also Known As easily slides in this category. It’s not like I didn’t have a hunch this would happen since Audrey Wait! was so much fun and I loved Robin’s letter in the Dear Teen Me anthology… but I had no idea I would love love it.
In a book about a family of spies, I didn’t know what to expect. Mayhem? Fluff? Sure, those are all there. In fact, Maggie’s family sort of reminded me of The Incredibles, a super supportive family where every person had their own specific skill. In this case, Maggie was a safecracker, her dad was adept at stats/languages, and her mom was the ultimate hacker.
But Benway brought more comedy to this story than I expected.
Because imagine being savvy to all these major cases and living all over the world and then being forced to go to high school. It’s hilarious because Maggie seems pretty mature due to the responsibilities of her occupation but when it comes to the everyday kid things… cell phones, best friends, dating, fashion? She is totally clueless, and this parallel between her double lives just really made the book for me.
Then there’s setting. New York City? Awesome. Supporting characters. SO good. Roux, the social outcast who befriends Maggie. Her parents aren’t around a lot, she’s lost all of her friends, and she has this sort of outrageous personality that was so addicting. Then there is Angelo, a family friend and Maggie’s mentor, who is so warm, adorable, and reminds me of Michael Caine in Miss Congeniality for some reason. (Okay, this book was so cinematic to me because I think Rebel Wilson would make a kick-ass Roux.) Both of these characters had such a supreme effect on Maggie because she’s supposed to go into the whole assignment as a professional and not make friends. But despite her responsibility to the Collection, she IS 16 and she desperately wants a normal life.
And what can I say about Jesse Oliver? It’s no great twist in literature that Maggie falls for ” the enemy” but I did really like him, and I liked seeing this character fall for someone for the first time, and all the awesome firsts (and doubts) that come along with that. Again, there’s this added layer that she is indeed lying to both Roux and Jesse, probably the first friends she’s ever made in her life, and I kept wondering how she would eventually handle that. (Also kudos to Benway to giving Jesse some real dimension; liked his sub storyline a lot.)
One thing that surprised me about the book was the pacing, which I found a little slow for a book of this nature. But Maggie’s winning personality kept me going and I found myself having a blast, reading about the many adventures (and mis-adventures) supplied in Also Known As (the cherry on top was an uncovered Dirty Dancing reference) and I’m certainly looking forward to the sequel! (less)
I was not expecting Anatomy of a Single Girl, the first book I’ve started and finished this year, to...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I was not expecting Anatomy of a Single Girl, the first book I’ve started and finished this year, to be more than a fluffy, fun read. Nothing wrong with that. But lemme tell you, it shocked me. Shocked me because it was so much smarter than that, shocked me so much because I was blushing like a maniac because it was overflowing with sex. And not only the kind you have with a hot guy, trying to get your first O (oh that’s in there too) but um, the self-pleasing kind as well.
See? I’m all nervous just typing that!
I am all for girl power: ladies like Carrie Bradshaw and Jessica Darling, who know how they feel and what they want. Not only in their personal lives but for their professional ones too. Main character Dom is a science geek, friends! A science geek who is also still cool, pretty, likes her parents, and has a great relationship with her best friend, Amy. Dom wants to be a doctor, and has been memorizing Gray’s Anatomy since she was in high school.
Now she’s on break from college, after working her ass off, and she needs some relief from those finals. RELIEF. If you remember or if you are experiencing it now, summers home are tough. Friends can change, your parents might seem a little boring, and, man oh man, that freedom you so loved at school may not come as easily. Snadowsky has this down including the super supportive parents who are always begging for more time with their kid.
And where’s Dom? Volunteering at the hospital, and hanging out with Guy, who loves science as much as she does. I love this girl so much because she is SO herself, whether it’s geeking out or thinking so black and white about relationships. Most of us has been there: what’s the point of dating for fun or having a fling if there’s no future? (Okay, so I used to have this mindset so I get it.) Like me, Dom has a problem just LETTING GO + it seems the mission of the summer is all wrapped in that.
In the meantime, her bestie, Amy, is in a committed relationship but dares to flirt and be forward with the boys anyway. I liked this parallel a lot. Amy and Dom have this cool friendship you could only hope for. College can change the dynamics between friends so much, and they manage to fall back into old times as soon as they see each other — even when there are some growing pains to deal with. You can tell they also keep great touch despite going to different colleges, miles and miles away from each other.
You know, I had absolutely no idea that Snadowsky had written a previous book about Dom. But the snappy, honest writing (even with Dom’s long-winded and technical thought process) never made me feel like I was missing anything or getting an intense recap from book 1. I love when authors write a series but each book can also be seen as a standalone. In fact, since finishing Single Girl, I’ve read Anatomy of a Boyfriend and I felt majorly grateful to read another book that was so open about sexuality, virginity, and the dreaded leaving high school for college process.
Snadowsky knows how to write women — strong, flawed women who are open to discovering their bodies and what makes them feel good. (Whether it’s science or sex.) (less)
It’s been awhile since I read a kid’s chapter book, and what better than to tap into my love of all thing...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading
It’s been awhile since I read a kid’s chapter book, and what better than to tap into my love of all things Disney and fantastical? The Never Girls are three best friends with the addition of Mia’s little sister, Gabby, who are magically transported to the land of many talented fairies on an ordinary afternoon.
It’s sweet, cute, and a quick read and will certainly be enjoyable for the new reader or even to take along and read to the little fairies in your life. I was both delighted and surprised by some of the humor — humans are called Clumsies and the various fairy rules, talents (like a harvest talent?) and creative way of saying things by shunning some human language (they don’t use the words “cute” and “sorry”).
Don’t think this pixie dust-filled day is without some shake up. One of the girls (unknowingly) teams up with Vidia, the “fast flying” fairy who is kind of a trickster, and a little more adventure is added into the mix. While it’s sometimes a little hard to tell the girls apart (although one of them does wear glasses!), I’m hoping that will be cleared up as the series continues. (My gosh, Thorpe certainly got Tink’s pouty personality down though!)
In a Blink definitely made me smile, and I know I would have loved this series when I was a youngster! (Now I’m even more inclined to see the first Pixie Hollow movie! Did you know Mae Whitman from Parenthood is the voice of Tink?)(less)