You may not know it yet but you are probably a lot like Sunday. In most ways. Maybe you’re not smack...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
You may not know it yet but you are probably a lot like Sunday. In most ways. Maybe you’re not smack dab in the middle of six kids in a family but even if you have another sibling, I’m sure your parents or relatives have mixed up your names. Or like me, with three older successful cousins, you can feel inferior sometimes. But I’ll go out on a limb and say you probably fit the bookish part of her. The girl who is so well-read (classics too!) at “almost 12″, she believes the library is magical, and she knows what it’s like to get lost in a story and its characters.
Seriously, Sunday is so enthusiastic about books you will fall in love with reading all over again.
In A Summer of Sundays, Sunday and her family are off to Alma for the summer. Her dad is helping to rebuild the library, her mom is chief organizer of the project, and the rest of their kids will make themselves at home for a few weeks. Sunday takes advantage of the new setting to seek out some circumstance that will help her stand out from her siblings once and for all. When she finds an unpublished manuscript in the library, her plan is to uncover the identity of the writer and make a splash with her discovery. She reluctantly divulges her find to new friend, Jude, who becomes her partner-in-crime and sometimes a voice of reason when Sunday gets a little too into things. (These two are too cute.)
As Sunday and Jude investigate within the town, we are introduced to some lovely supporting characters from Ms. Bodnar at the crepe shop and Mr. Castor, the misbehaving dog under the ownership of Muzzy and Phil. It was really wonderful to see how welcoming the small town was, and how easily Sunday’s family and the residents became friends and helped each other out. Eland really excels at the tiny details that allow each of these characters to feel so unique. (Even “off camera” with Sunday’s grandfather who always called Sunday his favorite day of the week.)
I can’t help but love Ben Folger, though. He’s the grumpy old neighbor that everyone is scared of and is connected to all these creepy rumors. Jude is scared to death of him, but Sunday’s interest is peaked. He’s just like a character in a few of her books! Maybe she can get him reconnected in society! I really liked watching this unconventional friendship unfold, and how Ben slowly reintroduced himself to a town that he has always loved (for many reasons). His own backstory is so romantic, and was truly a highlight of A Summer of Sundays for me.
There is so much to adore about this novel: Sunday’s curiosity to her insecurities with her place in the family, her older sister’s terrible driving lessons (who does not remember those times?!), loving (though busy) parents, and watching the process of a library go from an empty building to one where people can find joy in it again. And the allusion to To Kill a Mockingbird and Harper Lee? Such a brilliant bonus.(less)
I think it’s a pretty fair statement to say that you don’t want to meet the man of your dreams when you are literally hugging a tree.
Right? Not exactly the best first impression.
This is how it all starts for Zane and Brylee. It’s one of those situations where they can’t stop thinking about each other after that first, very strange meeting. But things are standing in their way, of course. Zane is focused on settling down on his ranch and unexpectedly integrating his younger brother into his life. (Their dad is known for living his kids for long periods of time.) And though it’s been years since Brylee had been publicly embarrassed when she was left at the altar, she hasn’t moved forward much and, instead, dedicates most of her time and energy to her business.
This is only my second Miller romance, and while I really liked Big Sky Summer, I did like this book more. I think Zane and Brylee were more relatable characters and I liked how the author chose to focus on the lives of these two characters that were undoubtably filled with more than just a budding romance. (In fact, my one complaint is that the romance happens too close to the end and the good stuff felt rushed.) Miller is so fantastic at making her setting shine: the horseback riding, the small town feel, the cowboy hats. I don’t think I’ve ever has a desire to visit Montana and after reading her books, I’m ready to pack my bag.
Let’s be real, folks. A title like Big Sky Wedding pretty much tells us how things are going to turn out, but how Zane and Brylee actually get there? It’s not melodramatic, it’s not over the top unrealistic, it just sort of is. Of course, there’s a good amount of hotness thrown in with some “eff you” heels and a killer red dress. But I don’t want to give too much away. Except there is one detail at the end of the book that really surprised me, and that I thought was a pretty awesome decision on behalf of the gentlemanly Zane.
Oh, and any book that has the line “kiss me cowboy” is a must-read for me. (less)
I love Holly Goldberg Sloan’s writing because it instantly transports me back to my younger self and...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I love Holly Goldberg Sloan’s writing because it instantly transports me back to my younger self and all the reasons I loved books in the first place.
Her themes revolve around unconventional families, tragedy, fate, and how the smallest act of kindness can utterly change someone’s life.
With her succinct writing style, Sloan has written a beautiful book about young Willow, probably the smartest protagonist I have ever encountered, who must deal with the shocking deaths of her parents. She was adopted by them, and now she is surprisingly “adopted” by high schooler Mai, her mom, her brother, and (kind sorta) her school counselor. This group of people couldn’t form a more eclectic family, and together they learn how to evolve individually as they help Willow to grieve and move forward.
At first sight, Willow is a little hard to get a handle on. She knows even the smallest details about the plants in her garden, she can learn to speak Vietnamese in record time, and she’s sort of walks around like she’s a little 50-year old with super complex brain functions. This little lady, even when brought down by absence of her parents, has no idea the effect she has on the people she comes across, and I loved watching that happen. Slowly and meaningfully, I knew Sloan would connect the dots in a way that would make me nod my head and think “all is right in this world.”
For all the serious situations surround the main plot, I promise there are some sweet, funny, and wonderful moments to counterbalance the flow.
Counting by 7s felt like a poetic masterpiece as I got swept into Willow’s story and this cast of colorful and complex characters. (I love that the adults are facing their own demons too.) It really is a team effort to make these people feel whole again, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. My only warning? Have tissues on hand. (less)
Like a certain little girl named Frances Gumm who had a humble beginning in Minnesota in a vaudevil...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog.
Like a certain little girl named Frances Gumm who had a humble beginning in Minnesota in a vaudeville group, Elsa Emerson, the youngest of three sisters, loved to watch the inner workings of her family’s playhouse every summer. The actors who came in and out, her dad’s energy as as director and actor, her beautiful and vivacious sister, Hildy, and the small opportunity to make an appearance on stage. In 1938, the same year Frances Gumm started filming a little movie called The Wizard of Oz under the name Judy Garland, Elsa Emerson was on her way to morphing into Laura Lamont, glamorous and famed newcomer to Hollywood.
After getting to know Elsa as a youngster, I was surprised she was the one to escape Wisconsin. It almost seemed out of character. She idolized her father, and loved the comfort and creativity that came out of her family’s little theater. But being the observer caused Elsa to understand a few things a bit too early and see a lot she didn’t want to see. When a tragic event occurs and disrupts her family circle, getting married young and jetting off to California seems like the best option.
Straub’s writing is filled with brilliant descriptions, and very little dialogue. The novel is a little dense and takes some patience to get through but the payoff is worth it. Through the fancy times and tougher moments, Straub skillfully keeps Laura amazingly down to earth. She does go through her share of disappointment, regret, and triumph (although maybe not for the reasons she originally thought). Through Laura’s path at times seems familiar (a la Judy Garland or Marilyn Monroe), Straub is able to instill a certain amount of hope between the lines.
Plus, the supporting characters — especially Ginger, Elsa’s best friend and a ringer for Lucille Ball; Irving, a man who changes her life; and later, her children, especially her son, Junior — brought much to the story and broke up the times when Laura wasn’t engaging in much action.
I’m a huge fan of classic movie stars so it was refreshing to read a fictional account. In the years that span Laura’s youth and the later years of her life, she continually battled between the small town girl who wanted fame and fortune, and the star with all the pressure, responsibility and joy that came along with it. Life, understandably, grew a bit confusing and overwhelming when one identity took over the other, and I enjoyed following as Laura regained a content balance.(less)
I know the cover of this book is very dramatic and sensual (and gee — can we stop with these kissing cove...moreReview first posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I know the cover of this book is very dramatic and sensual (and gee — can we stop with these kissing covers, please??) but wow, this book was seriously uplifting, adorable and funny, and completely lyrical.
After reading Katie Kacvinsky’s Awaken and knowing how her sometimes dense description caused me to gloss over passages, I was worried about this happening again. But the author filled First Comes Love with crisp description (there were a lot of scene changes) and this natural flow between two people who were connecting with one another.
Dylan was just about one of the most original characters I have ever come across. She’s so incredibly free spirited and optimistic and selfless. I found myself jealous of her, to be honest. I wished that I could be so inhabited and not worry so much about others thought of me. I mean, gosh, I would have wanted to spend a whole summer with her going on random adventures and listening to her crazy stories and answering her questions.
And I was so glad that Gray gave her a chance. Life had been pretty rough since tragedy rocked his home, which felt even emptier than it should with his mom always off to bed early and his dad away on business trips. Gray himself gave up a baseball scholarship to stay home and watch over his family, but, instead, it was like he was floating and not living much at all.
Dylan sensed something was up with Gray. She never pushed, never overdid it. She managed to distract and open him up at the same time. And I liked that the author gave one of the characters this tough backstory but allowed Dylan to have an average upbringing (even if she wanted to live like a gypsy, as my grandma would say). And tell me why every time I read about a brooding, trouble male character I picture Channing Tatum? Because he was so Gray to me!
And the romance? Slow and steady, organic, hold your breath, fall over yourself goodness. Dylan and Gray knew each other for a short period of time but their relationship is so convincing and genuine; Kacvinsky intertwined both the lightheartedness of love and the more serious moments in such a true way. I could not get enough. (I also couldn’t stop snapping pictures of passages I absolutely adored.)
First Comes Love shared a story of healing, opening yourself up to all the world’s possibilities, making choices, and the utter excitement and giddiness and uncertainty of getting to know someone and falling so hard… you can’t get up.(less)