Oh my gosh. This book knocked my socks off. Totally charmed me, made me smile and every character is so alive. The comics were a great touch...more4.5 stars!
Oh my gosh. This book knocked my socks off. Totally charmed me, made me smile and every character is so alive. The comics were a great touch and I feel like I was in a 14 year old's brain. So so so amazing,(less)
I bought this book on a whim this past week because I was looking for some inspiration for writing...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
I bought this book on a whim this past week because I was looking for some inspiration for writing a matron of honor speech. While I didn’t use any quotes from the book like I was originally planning to, it felt so fitting to spend some free time revisiting four friendships that really shaped my childhood as I prepped for the wedding of my best friend — a gal I’ve known since I was 5 years old. (Ironically my best friend has my original copy from when I lent it to her.)
I, first, read Sisterhood Everlasting when it was initially released in 2011. I remember I was totally frozen in place on my couch in our old house reading and reading until I got through the whole thing in one night. I just had to see how it ended. I’m happy to say that book was just as addicting the second time around, even if it is surprisingly sad.
Even though the girls (who I thought of as the next-gen Baby-Sitters Club) went through a fair share of drama through high school and college, I always thought the book boasted about the positivity of female friendships. So to experience such a change in Sisterhood Everlasting where the girls are all living in separate places, not getting together very frequently, Tibby totally MIA, and dating people the others don’t approve of — as a dedicated fan of the series, you feel genuinely gutted.
“Growing up is hard on friendships,” Carmen says in the very beginning.
I know with too much experience how true this statement can be but part of me was hoping for the happily ever after scenario for these four. But Brashares has the opportunity to showcase some top notch writing because of this choice — the grown up thoughts (Is this who I really want to marry? Am I really happy in this job? Why do things not feel like they used to?), the small nods to the past, and even the gorgeous imagery (I need to get to Greece) — that she wasn’t always able to use when writing for a younger audience. Like the girls, her writing most definitely matured.
With Carmen an actress in NYC, Lena teaching in Rhode Island, Bee unable to settle down in California, and Tibby off in Australia — the girls are unable to find the common ground they once had with each other (even after the pants went missing). When Tibby surprises them with a reunion in Greece, the three feel this is what they really need until they arrive in Greece and things totally spiral out of control. When the girls go their separate ways once again, it feels like all hope is lost until each of them embark on their own journey undoubtably leading them to answer the same question: can they regain what they had and move forward together?
While I didn’t always agree with Brashares’ characterizations (I don’t think Carmen could ever be a size zero or tone down her Latina pride; Lena just seemed way TOO sad and isolated), I do think she did well when it came to capturing the spirits of these characters we love and showing just how much time can change us — to the point where we might not even recognize ourselves. It’s tough to see on the page, but almost necessary, because there are so many factors that come into play when it comes to friendships, too many distractions, and at some point, friendship takes a little bit more of a push than it has to when you were kids hanging out in the same neighborhood every day.
Whether you remember reading the Sisterhood series way back when or you are looking for a book about female friendships that run deep, Sisterhood Everlasting provides a roller coaster of heartbreaking, sweet, and honest moments as so many realizations are made. For me, it was so nice to spend 300 more pages reuniting with some of my favorite girls with the added reassurance that fighting for friendships is so important.(less)
4.5? I want to give this a five. But it's 1am and I finished this in a day because I was loving it so so much. Beautiful writing, and I am so filled u...more4.5? I want to give this a five. But it's 1am and I finished this in a day because I was loving it so so much. Beautiful writing, and I am so filled up with plenty of emotions. This is a book that makes me want to tell a story.
It’s a rare and wonderful feeling to fall so hard and so fast for a book.
I was instantly hooked to How to Love in the first six pages. I knew it would be hard for me to put down. Is it because I understood this kind of uncomfortable reunion between the once love-of-your-life, not looking your best, wanting so badly to push down the familiar butterflies and remember what made you despise this person so much? Maybe.
Sometimes you just can’t control how you feel. Even when you are keeping those feelings very quiet and concealed.
Cotugno gives us a beautiful story of friendship and romance and connection and second chances. I felt so intimately connected to all of the people in Reena’s life. Her closeness with Allie when they were in high school, the support she received from Shelby, the friction between her and her father post-pregnancy, and, of course, that undeniable something with Sawyer. Deliciously flawed, these messy relationships grounded the story. Let’s face it. We don’t always make the right moves in life. There’s a lot of that going around here, and everything felt so real.
And the writing style? To set up a before vs. after story detailing Reena’s life before and after Sawyer leaves and her pregnancy? Cotugno impressively married the two, introducing us to a loner Reena who is anxious to graduate ahead of her class and spend her life writing and traveling and, years later, bringing new light and maturity to both Reena and Sawyer. The pacing remained swift, and I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough. Cotugno weaves in description so well (without ever getting flowery), punctuating moments with sound and movement that it was like I was right there in the room.
You know a book is special when you are willing to sacrifice sleep to finish it. I did not want my time with the world of How to Love to end, but I couldn’t press pause that long, not without discovering the next part of Sawyer and Reena’s journey. I haven’t felt quite this overcome with affection for characters in so long, even when I was annoyed with both of their reactions to things or not agreeing with certain decisions. I think that’s the biggest test as a reader. Do you still care when things are at their lowest? If the answer is a yes, you have a winner.
How to Love is a winner. Buy it, gift it, read it, and treasure it. And then read it again. Easily one of my favorite books this year, and, if you can believe it, a new inductee into my most-loved reads collection.(less)
Sarah Ockler is always going to have a special place in my book lovin’ heart because her novel, Twenty Bo...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading
Sarah Ockler is always going to have a special place in my book lovin’ heart because her novel, Twenty Boy Summer, was the first review Magan and I ever put up on RBR — our launching post! Then (almost a year later) in December, I fell in love with Ockler all over again after devouring Bittersweet (kind of a pun) and passed it on to Magan immediately. It had family, cupcakes, cute boys, and was just a good feeling read all the way around.
Well, ladies, gents, crickets, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the overwhelming amount of love I feel for The Book of Broken Hearts, a gem that has solidified Ockler’s spot on my most treasured author’s list. You have to believe me — despite a clumsy start, I read the book all the way through — twice.
The summer before college is supposed to be a time for reminiscing and having as much fun as possible, but instead of trying out for the community theatre musical or hanging out with her girlfriends every possible moment, Jude and her dad are restoring his old motorcycle. Unfortunately, Papi is in the early stages of Alzheimers and while he can’t remember where he lives or what kind of ice cream he likes, he does remember the good old days when he was cycling around Argentina with his crew. His memories make Jude hopeful: fix the bike, restore Papi’s memory.
The key to this project is Emilio, the cute guy at the motorcyle shop, a few years older than Jude, who is pumped to work on a vintage bike for the summer. There’s only one teenie tiny issue. He’s a Vargas, which means he is brothers with two of the boys who have broken the hearts of Jude’s sisters. So much so that in a fit of passion, the girls took an oath several years ago, promising to never get involved with a Vargas again. But that’s old news? Silly kid stuff, right? Well, Jude still takes the whole thing pretty seriously, a product of being the youngest sister and the pressure of the Holy Trinity, as she calls them.
But Papi likes him, and Jude is like, “This is strictly a professional thing.”
Yes, Emilio is professionally adorable and flirty. But as much as Jude paints him as this bad boy with no heart, he is patient and thoughtful and sweet too. As you can see, Jude is losing this inner battle. And the chemistry between the two was seriously felt all the way to my toes, and Ockler does the perfect job of stretching it out. Because at the same time Jude is fighting her feelings for Emilio, her dad’s condition is getting worse, her friends are MIA (wtf?), and her mom and sisters are banding together to figure out the next step for their family.
There’s nothing that makes my heart hurt as much as a sick parent, especially such a young one. I easily imagined myself in this position and felt for Jude so much. Helpless. Scared. Not only for Jude but for her mother who worked hard and left Argentina to marry her husband, and all the sisters who weren’t living at home anymore. Family is the core of this book. The absolute core, and Ockler hits upon so many relatable situations: how hard it is for family to get together, how they bond during tragedy, and also the pressure to be the person they want you to be.
Emilio says something to Jude that really struck a chord with me. He said she’s the kind of person who wishes for a time machine, to go back to the days when everything was fine and dandy and her friendships were the same and she was the little sister who never stood up for herself. The emphasis we put on the past — it’s so real and so hard to move on from. Because how can things change so quickly? But Jude has to face that, and despite the ever-changing nucleus of her family, she has to make decisions for herself. Because she has a life to lead too.
The Book of Broken Hearts made me swoon, it made me cry, and it made me feel so many things relative to my own life right now. I loved the mix of Argentinian and Puerto Rican culture, too. It’s one of those books that I was sad to finish; I noticed myself feeling more and more attached to the story as time passed. This is truly a testament to Ockler’s writing and how much her craft has grown since her earlier books; she’s not relying on a love triangle to create tension but instead has found a natural balance between family, romance, and friendships. I can’t wait to read it again and again.(less)
When I wrote my review of J.H. Trumble’s Don’t Let Me Go in March, I wrote about how I kept thinking of the main characters of that story like they were people I had actually known in real life.
Fast forward almost nine months later, and I’m standing in a store parking lot in the freezing cold, on the brink of what is going to be a difficult two days for my family, and I am thinking about Robert and Andrew in the same way. What are they up to? What are they thinking? If they lived in my hometown, would I be calling them to hang out right now?
I’ve wracked my brain trying to figure out how Trumble makes her characters so human — flaws and all — and I come up short every single time. Because it just happens. It is so natural how these characters live and breathe on the page, even when I disagree with their actions and especially when everything becomes right in their worlds.
For many of you, a little red flag is going to pop up when you see “student/teacher” relationship. I’m not here to talk about a moral code or the importance of maintaining boundaries. Because as soon as I started reading about Andrew and Robert, all of their labels seemed to dissipate and I was left with two young men who really cared for each other. Two men who needed each other in different ways, and two people who actively tried to keep themselves at a distance (time and time again).
One of the most fascinating details about these characters is just how differently they deal with their sexuality. Robert was very open, and frustrated with a boyfriend who would rather hang out with “his girls” and not bother to kiss him, while Andrew was very focused on keeping his private life private (those nosey teachers!), even if it meant allowing people to think he was attracted to women. As the novel goes on, this difference created many scenes of role reversal where Robert actually seems to be the older one and Andrew, the more giddy.
On the surface, Where You Are was this kind of epic love story but the author also developed complex and intertwining back stories that allow the reader to dig deeper into these characters and help us to understand who they really are. I really loved Robert’s relationship with his mother (even the messy parts) and Andrew’s ex-wife, Maya, who always kept me guessing. (This is a good thing.) Trumble also skillfully integrated the influence of social media in our lives — from the accounts Andrew chooses to follow, secret fan pages, and a partner in bullying.
I read this book twice before I wrote the review (and I’ve only done that one other time this year with Marisa Calin’s Between You and Me) because I had to relive it again. I had to make sure I didn’t miss out on any one detail. Trumble has officially spoiled me with rich characters, feelings that make me feel everything, intricate details, the cool balance of family and school life, and a controversial topic that is dealt with so delicately and so passionately.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Trumble is an author to look out for.
(And I apologize in advance because if you react to this book like I did, you will not be able to get much done before you finish it.) (less)
It’s easy to feel spoiled by Jennifer Echols and her writing. Going Too Far? Forget You? Two books...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
It’s easy to feel spoiled by Jennifer Echols and her writing. Going Too Far? Forget You? Two books that deserve no bookmarks. Two books that are vacation days well spent. The chemistry, the well-developed characters, the omg-sexy moments. It’s like a reader’s paradise. And just when you think it can’t get any better, she does it again with even more conviction, even more punch, weaving in a strong-willed female main character and a lot of mystery, in her newest book: Such a Rush.
Leah has practically raised herself, moving from trailer park to trailer park, with a mother who thinks she is a teenager. At the age of 14, Leah is determined to do something useful with the life she has been dealt and decides she wants to learn to fly airplanes. This is where she finds a place to get away from her home life, and also take control of her future. So it’s not a surprise when, 3 years later, she would do just about anything to hold on to what she loves the most — even if it means allowing herself to be blackmailed by the Grayson, the (hot but reckless) son, of her (now deceased) boss.
As a main character in a young adult world overcome with females, Leah kicks ass. Because she is 1) takes no bullshit 2) knows what she wants and won’t stop until she has it 3) manages to still be vulnerable without any of the “woe is me, I’ll never be pretty enough” crap. Hi, she has much larger problems then her lack of a wardrobe and curly hair. She may have grown up in a trailer park but she’s not going to let anyone get the best of her. (Even though every guy she comes across seems like a grade-A asshole.) Not even Grayson, who she has been silently crushing on for years at this point (despite his many flaws). I loved her drive and her inner thoughts. I felt she deserved so much more than a mother who neglected her and a father who walked away. My heart just wanted a white knight to come and swoop her away and take her somewhere beautiful. (Even though I know she would have never given him the time of day.)
After the first few chapters, the remainder of the book is spread over one very long spring break week. Alec and Grayson Hall are determined to take over their father’s business after he dies unexpectedly, and Leah is roped into working because of Grayson’s blackmailing. I have to say, I was very surprised by his request. It has everything to do with his brother but I was imagining something totally different. Grayson’s demands add so much intrigue to the story, and suspense… I was practically salivating as I sped through the chapters. (Why is he doing this, I kept asking myself!) These characters take on such adult responsibility and feelings during this week, all time and knowledge of age melted away, and I was floating in this extremely high-pressure bubble of three people, vying for control and direction of their lives.
How far will they each go to get what they want?
Echols does an impressive job of crafting her characters and a complex storyline, while keeping every detail, every soundbyte authentic. (The intricacies of flying and airplanes were so well-explained but never took the reader out of the dynamics of the story.) The chemistry and tension between many of the characters (especially Grayson and Leah) blew me away and made me so over anxious for the moments when things would come together sweetly, messily, passionately, or dangerously. Even though the story focuses mostly on Leah and Grayson, there is almost a widescreen lens that opens up this world and its supporting characters in a way that the readers are invested in every one of them to the very end — when we are blown out of this ageless/timeless bubble and brought back to our characters acting their age.
So much can change in a week. This is the electrifying truth in Such a Rush. It’s wild, slow, steady and sort of fulfills every emotion of flying — the highs, the lows, the dependencies, the responsibility, letting the wind take control. Trust. Letting go but remaining aware and precise; it forces you to really be in the moment. And as a reader, I was there until the final page… or at least until I opened the book and started rereading many of my favorite passages the following day. While I have had the pleasure of reading many strong novels this year, there aren’t many I felt the compulsive need to reread in such a hurry.
I’m warning you… Such a Rush is dangerous. You will ignore your husband, bump into a few people as you walk and read, and you will love every delicious moment of it. Echols does what I hope more will do with contemporary fiction; she challenges her readers, creates multi-dimensional relatable storylines that focus on many areas of a character’s life, knows the importance of details, and presents the world with female characters who are brave but flawed.(less)
“Maybe there will be a day when this shit will be over and I can just be a dude with normal regula...moreReview originally posted on RatherBeReadingBlog.com:
“Maybe there will be a day when this shit will be over and I can just be a dude with normal regular stuff in his life.” - Gabe
Many of us can agree that music can be a haven, a safe place.
For Gabe, who was born Liz, working the late shift at a public access radio station is a place where he can be himself — sharing the music with a small group of people who are just about as passionate about music and its history as he is. John, Gabe’s next door “grandfather-figure” neighbor, has hooked him up with this gig and also serves as his music guru; the two staying up all hours of the night sifting through his extensive vinyl collection like little kids. Gabe’s on-air discussion of our “A-side/B-sides” becomes a theme woven through the entire story; a theme that is not only true to his whole being, but one that also manages to connect us all.
I applaud Cronn-Mills for welcoming us into Gabe’s story, post-coming out. I thought that was a fresh and bold choice. It’s not surprising that his parents cannot bring themselves to fully accept who their daughter really is. Gabe just wants them to be able to look him in the eye but it is understandably tough and the depiction of their behavior and distance was never over the top, did not monopolize the plot of the book… it was just naturally there. (In many situations, Gabe proves to be impressingly patient, knowing that what he is going through can be difficult and confusing to those around him.)
While Gabe is supported by both his best friend, Paige, and mentor John, he knows that not everyone is going to accept him. He can’t wait to escape his town, move to the city, and work for a radio station. When a contest opportunity pops up (or, rather, John enrolls him), Gabe sees his ticket to the future and even participates under the name Gabe. At the same time, his following is growing on the radio (there’s even a Facebook group!) and a girl he knows from school begins calling in and suggests meeting.
This is where we have a problem. Because 1) Gabe is in love with Paige. This was heartbreakingly sweet for me. They two had such amazing chemistry and I just never knew if it would work. The second problem was that everyone in school thought Gabe was Liz, including his date and he wasn’t sure if agreeing to meet her would blow up in his face. (Whew!) Teenagers worry about dates all the time but it seemed like Gabe always had to triple worry because of other people’s judgements and unwillingness to accept him for who he was. I could tell it was exhausting but it never brought Gabe down.
I’ve read many LBGT books this year, and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a moving story full of the ups and downs of life, totally magnified. Each chapter begins with clever quips pertaining to Elvis (i.e. “Harry Potter is the new Elvis because they’re both magic”) and the music knowledge seeping from the book was so impressive (the research must have been extensive!). The music genres featured were so vast that I really wish I had a playlist handy to listen to while Gabe worked his own magic.
I really liked how the author was not focusing on some horrific event and how it affected this character and focused more of an every day account and how certain circumstances affected his thought process, decision making, and also the leaps Gabe had to take to be the person who always knew he was. I really felt for him in his struggles. (And really wanted the boys who were threatening him to be exiled to another planet for their smallmindness and insecurities.) I came to care for him so much, enjoy his humor, and just wish the best for him.
BMFUG is one of those books I wish could’ve gone on forever. It has engaging characters, sheds lights on a subject that is not brought to the forefront enough, and also illustrates the varying degrees of acceptance in this world — our own and the people around us.
Here’s hoping you take a chance on Gabe too. (less)
During my junior year in college, I took a New York City history class. I don’t remember covering C...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
During my junior year in college, I took a New York City history class. I don’t remember covering Coney Island, but I did do my end-of-semester report on young adult novels set in NYC, focusing on how the city was depicted through the eyes of a child. (Needless to say, I had no idea that 7 years later, I would be reading and reviewing these same kind of books regularly.)
I wish that Dreamland Social Club could have been part of that assignment.
Jane is new to the challenges Coney’s community faces as big business is trying to buy up all the retail space from locals (who have been there forever) and strip the place of its history. While she sees the effects of this firsthand, she is also on her own scavenger hunt to find out more about her mother. Altebrando does the work of a magician as she weaves in these (fascinating) social issues with an extremely personal story.
It’s really amazing how memory works — how it could just be buried at the back of your head and reappear at the strangest of times. I loved how Altebrando played with this and how we were able to learn more about Jane’s (short) relationship with her mother and how her mother made Coney very much a part of her childhood without her realizing it until much later. This was such a lovely and unique device for young adult fiction and I was enthralled and touched when these moments popped up. Structure in a book is always very important to me and you can tell that Altebrando worked diligently to connect these memories to Jane’s present life without making them seem too coincidental or too perfect. Everything meshed together to form this glorious picture of Jane’s life as her family history and her future beautifully collided.
And the supporting characters: beautiful, complicated tattoo infested Leo – a leading man who makes my mouth water. While romance does play a part in this book, it is a careful sidebar and never overpowers the plot. I liked that so much. In too many novels, the love story becomes the main focus and we lose the lush details of the background and maybe even the depth of the main character. It does not happen here. The chemistry between Jane and Leo is out-of-this-world wonderful. Altebrando also introduces a team of characters who are quite different… most fabulous was Babette, a goth dwarf, who is confident and sassy. There was also a legless boy who can work a skateboard, and a 7-foot boy named Legs. Jane is just average. She’s not uber talented at one thing, and she doesn’t have much style. But when confronted with her peers who have their own challenges to face but remain true to themselves, Jane begins to dig a little deeper to figure out just who she is and how she fits into this school, this town, and the world. (This growth was paced so naturally.)
Once I started reading Dreamland Social Club, I did not want to put it down for one minute or ever finish it. The characters and their stories were so intriguing and I loved going on this adventure with Jane. I yearned for her to have stability and to have a real handle on who her mother was. I wanted her to connect. While the novel dealt with serious issues, there was still a mystical and magical quality to it. I’ve read many novels this year (almost 60) and I read over 100 last year, but I have yet to find one that made me feel quite so passionate for style of writing, character development, and setting as this one. If I could buy everyone who reads this a copy, I certainly would.
Lastly, I need to take my first visit to Coney Island… yesterday. (less)
Sometimes I hear a song and love it so much that I wish I could lay on my dining room floor for an e...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
Sometimes I hear a song and love it so much that I wish I could lay on my dining room floor for an entire day listening to it, letting it just wash over me. (In this fantasy, there’s sunshine coming through a window. Lots of it.) This is how I can best describe my experience of reading You Have Seven Messages. I wanted to soak in its beautiful and lyrical writing for as long as I could, never breaking my connection with these characters or this state of grief and discovery that was so eloquently described.
My heart was aching for all the good reasons and all the bad ones. Maybe I’m just a person who enjoys the melancholic situations. Probably. Luna, the 14-year old going on 30 main character, is serious, sarcastic, creative, and honest in a way that I wish more people would be. In a way that I strive to be. In fact, I think I’m a lot like Luna which is why I connected to her so much. I enjoyed her sassy humor, her love for the boy next door, and how much she loved her mother.
She’s also incredibly brave. She doesn’t hesitate much when she finds her mom’s old cell phone, and starts exploring this secret life — knowing full well her uncoverings could change her perception of this woman she loved so deeply. I also loved how protective she is of her younger brother, Tile, before and after she starts her sleuthing. (Tile is a highlight throughout the book, especially when he speaks in “script talk” – their dad is a well-known film director.) Here’s one beautiful quote that sums it all up: “He’s still a small flower and I feel like I’m becoming a strong tree. There will be storms, and he will need shelter.” Like his sister, Tile has matured since his mother’s death but I get the impression he was always a kid who acted a bit older. I really couldn’t get enough of him.
While Luna’s slight obsession with her neighbor, a talented cello player and older boy, Oliver is more of a supporting plotline. I loved to see Luna stumble and deal with her feelings for him and sort of grasp on to the same bravery she portrays when dealing with this mystery surrounding her mother. Oliver is also unlike many of the other YA boys I’ve read about… he has a certain confidence and maturity but he’s also held back by the mistakes and beliefs of his parents. Luna and Oliver’s relationship is so organic and sweet and special. They seem to have this silent support for one another, and an innocent intensity that I enjoyed so much.
There’s something about taking an intriguing idea and weaving it into this beautiful masterpiece. Lewis writes with such a precise and gorgeous rhythm. I was constantly jotting down lines or closing the book because I was overwhelmed by the art. The art and the skill of writing so beautifully and with such ease. It was inspiring and certainly gave me a tangible example of what I would love to aspire to someday.
You Have Seven Messages is about realizations in love and relationships and family, and also the pursuit of perfection, the idealism of a perfect relationship or family. And coming to terms with that idealism. It is about moving forward and dealing with the messy stuff. Forgiveness. The discoveries made are powerful, painful, and raw and I can just about guarantee you will have the hardest time putting this book down for even a few seconds. It is that engrossing. (less)
For any girl who has been forced to reevaluate her feelings for a guy based on their nonsensical an...moreReview originally posted on: Rather Be Reading Blog
For any girl who has been forced to reevaluate her feelings for a guy based on their nonsensical and asshole-ish behavior, this is the book for you. (Hello every girl in the world.) After Penny makes a horrifying discovery about her childhood love, she decides not to sit around and wallow but to do something about it and forms The Lonely Hearts Club. (She and her family are HUGE Beatles fans.) She vows to remain single for the rest of high school and focus on herself, and after a bit of time she is no longer a club of one.
I instantly clicked with Penny Lane. I’m actually not sure if I’ve connected with a character quite so quickly but I easily related to her being head over heels for a guy she’s known since she was young, a guy that has caused her to fantasize so much about their happily ever after that no one seems to come close. I was also disappointed by that same guy. Not in the way Penny was but it hurt like hell. (And continued to for a long time after.) I loved her go-get-em spirit and the way she took a bad situation and turned it into something bigger. In fact, there were many moments in this book where I wished I had started the same kind of group.
I was also reminded of Kody Keplinger’s book, Shut Out. Girls forming unexpected friendships when they band together for the same cause. But Eulberg took the club and the characters to new heights. They were dimensional, so far from cliche and their mission felt relatable. I could SEE girls in my high school (unlike in Shut Out) concocting this crazy plan. And it was crazy. It’s apparent once the rules are set in stone and their group gains notoriety that something’s going to blow up and go wrong. But that was a lesson these girls needed to learn for themselves. They were hurt and created something with zero flexibility to stop that hurt from happening again. They needed to get to the point where they were ready and willing to take a chance in a new relationship.
Because *newsflash* despite the duds, there were nice guys out there.
Penny is enthusiastic, strong, and brave, and I think she discovered a lot about herself once she establishes TLHC. She is able to reconnect with her ex-best friend, who had become one of those girls we hate — so into her boyfriend she loses her identity and drops her old friends. I say BRAVO to Eulberg for including this character. Because this trap that Diane fell into is JUST SO COMMON (hey, I did it too) so I’m happy to see awareness brought to this kind of issue. Diane actually turned into one of my favorite characters. While it’s important to understand a main character, I love with an author takes the time to create supporting characters who are able to leave an important impact on the reader as well. Eulberg did this many times over.
There were also a multitude of great guy characters in this book (the villainous and the good). Undoubtedly, Ryan, the ex-boyfriend of Diane and one of Penny’s good friends, is swoon worthy and epic amongst potential love interests. I don’t want to give too much away but I loved how Eulberg was able to introduce Ryan and each time it felt like a bread crumb leading to a more significant occasion.
I could probably gush about this book forever. I thought it was a true depiction of high school with characters who were so like the ones I spent my school years with. In fact, I had a huge yearning to go back to those days of planning and getting ready for dances with my girlfriends. Those were just the best times and I think The Lonely Hearts Club captured what is so important and amazing about the friendships of women. They require forgiveness, flexibility, understanding, and most of all, support.(less)
I love when authors take creative chances. When they do it right, the book morphs into more of an e...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
I love when authors take creative chances. When they do it right, the book morphs into more of an experience than just some paper bound together in your purse.
Between You & Me is just that. Written in screenplay style, author Marisa Calin introduces us to Phyre, a 16-year old girl, who loves theater and her best friend – a best friend that garners no name, simply known as ‘You’, with no description whatsoever, just movements and words and perhaps a clothing description every now and then.
It may be disconcerting to be kept in the dark about a character who is very much the heart of this novel, but we do get to see You in Phyre’s eyes and get equally frustrated when You’s actions constitute more than friendship and her friend is utterly blind to it.
So this is the thing. We have no idea if You is a girl or a guy. To be completely honest, during my first read through, I thought You was a girl. Once I (begrudgingly) finished the book, I read the Publishers Weekly review where it was mentioned that it was not divulged if You was a girl or a guy. Did I get amped up or what. It was almost midnight and I literally could not sleep because I found that hard to believe.
It’s funny the tricks your mind plays on you when you are reading. Somehow you are filling in the blanks with words that weren’t even on the page. I could swear I read that You was wearing a dress at one point and instead, You was all dressed up. So I went back, two days later, and reread the entire book again. This time, I pictured You as a boy.
And my conclusion? The book certainly works from both angles. But it made me hyper aware of these categories that I place people in. Yellow shirt, crossed ankles, light enough to lift into a treehouse – oh that must definitely mean You is a girl. But does it? Unconsciously we form all of these stereotypes in our head and cleverly and intricately Calin reminds us to forget them, check them at the door. That is not what matters here.
It is the love. It is the playful, intimate friendship between these two characters. It is how You will come over in the middle of the night to paint Phyre’s room because the color is bothering her. You (as in us) don’t meet people like that every day. And despite You’s silent and sweet attempts to show her these blossoming feelings, Phyre is totally crushing on her new theater teacher – the passionate, smart, cute, and encouraging Mia. The way Phyre bumbles around Mia and chastises herself for saying moronic things in front of her is so spot-on. Don’t misunderstand, Mia is clearly the teacher here; she never eggs Phyre on but still she is absolutely enchanting. Calin brings to the forefront various descriptions of light when it comes to Mia and it is breathtakingly clear why Mia is so worth living in this bubble of fantasy, even when it means Phyre taking You for granted.
The script style is, as it should be, very bare bones but Calin weaves in Phyre’s (uncensored) thoughts within the stage direction but manages to keep them simple, succinct and straightforward. The pacing is quick but the moments remain, bleeding into scene after scene. The format is a challenging experiment, but Calin’s writing is genuine and impactful nevertheless. I probably could have highlighted the entire book.
As a theater fan, I love how Calin incorporated parts of a school play that, in ways, paralleled the moments between Phyre and You. I admired Phyre’s passion and dedication to her craft, and so many of the creative elements incorporated into the production. It might be hard to believe that so much emotion could be alive and kicking in a book that isn’t overflowing with monologues or description but it is so there. So many times I had to close the book because the feelings were overwhelming and oh-so familiar.
Between You & Me has easily become one of my top reads of 2012, whether we are talking strictly about 2012 releases or of all the books I’ve read so far. It’s challenging, it’s thought provoking, and an innovative way of looking at relationships and preconceived notions of love and happiness. It just is.(less)
Ahh, the age old question of whether or not guys and girls can really be friends. Readers, I’m here...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
Ahh, the age old question of whether or not guys and girls can really be friends. Readers, I’m here to tell you I still don’t know the answer to that one. I’d like to say yes, but based on my own personal experiences…. it’s not looking too good. And maybe that’s why I connected so strongly to Char’s story. She’s not exactly your typical girl and we know how much that can make you an outcast in high school. She’s not too big on fashion, not the best student, but loves music and manages a band with her two best friends, Oliver and Tripp.
When Tripp leaves the band out of nowhere, the dynamic between the three really changes. Char feels she can’t talk to Tripp about the band anymore which is a total loss to her because they were songwriting partners. Their distance grows even more when Tripp starts hanging out with new friends and the new band members actually start to make the band BETTER. Char also starts crushing on the talented Fabian and gains some attention from Benji, the sweet stoner, from her history class who is helping her study. (Hello, Marcus Flutie fans!)
THERE ARE BOYS EVERYWHERE.
All of a sudden a guy magnet and, not only managing but SINGING in the band, Char is in totally new territory.
After reading The Summer of Firsts and Lasts and now this particular book, I am a certified Terra Elan McVoy fan. Char’s home life is a little unsteady with her older sister, Jilly, away at college and the blending of her new family, which includes two stepsisters. But there is never any hate between any of them. All the girls are really different but it is because of Char’s recent excitement that they come together in this grand way. I loved seeing them get closer. Then Char starts to feel lonely when Jilly is hard to nail down during her first semester. I could only think of my own little sister and wonder if she ever felt like that about me when I left for college the first time. McVoy is a pro when it comes to writing about the complexities of sister relationships. I always leave the scenes intensely missing my own family and home in general, when I could just wake up to Turkey Day at my house and not have to drive there or skip it all together. The sense of home and family is just so on target.
Charlotte, who is sort of directionless when it comes to her future, is forced to make decisions for herself without her sister and Tripp. And she doesn’t always make the right ones. She struggles a lot and overthinks and feels pretty helpless at times too. The hurt she feels from Tripp’s treatment punched me right in the heart so many times (“You’re the one who knows me. I thought he knew it already, but maybe I need to tell him. Maybe that would make a difference. But maybe too—and this snaps me into action…because I don’t want to think about it—maybe he does know how much he means to me. And maybe he’s doing it anyway.”) How one day it’s normal to talk to someone every day and on another, it’s normal to not.
McVoy takes familiar themes and continues to make them refreshing and new; she never makes the typical moves while still injecting emotion in a way we can relate to – some days we are wallowing and others we are laughing. I never really know the ending of these stories until I reach the final page. I still have to do a little work to get there and as a reader, I appreciate that so much. (less)
In some families, being born into a sport and a team is like a legacy. I could totally relate to...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog --
In some families, being born into a sport and a team is like a legacy. I could totally relate to Ryan and her dad’s affection for the Cubs. Sure, I was brought up a Yankees fan which is totally different because yes, we have won a lot of championships but I also remember sitting through many, many boring games in the 90s where they hardly won. But we stayed the whole game and still listened to the post-game on the way home. My dad taught me how to keep score. We were friends with all the people who sat in our section. Instead of going to church on Sundays, we went to home games at Yankee Stadium.
So I could understand how Ryan’s love of the Cubs and of her father were so closely intertwined. Jennifer E. Smith is a master of delving us into the depths of this 14-year old’s innermost thoughts. Her language is poetic and as relaxed, deliberate, and exciting as any great Friday night baseball game. Smith writes about the Cub’s history with such enthusiasm and fluidity throughout the novel and just an absolute love the game. One that brings people together like Ryan and her dad, and later, Ryan and Nick.
Ah, Ryan and Nick’s relationship. It’s quiet and different than other YA relationships I’ve read about. It’s not full of these huge epic gestures or plans or even that much expectation. For both Ryan and Nick, it’s about trusting the other person (for different reasons) and finding hope in dreadful situations. As the Cubs embark on the 100th year since winning their last World Series title, they are pretty much the perfect metaphor for many of the emotions running through the entire story. Why do the fans hang on like they do? How do the players continue to run out on that field day after day when they are never the chosen team? It’s all about getting up in the morning and moving forward. Any way you can.
My emotional reaction to The Comeback Season can only be a testament to Smith’s writing. I was completely invested in Ryan’s life as soon as the story began and even though it took me longer to read than other YAs, I had the pleasure of spending a substantial amount of time with this story. There is such passion behind the words, and so many gorgeous phrases I just wanted to never stop reading. It’s funny to go backwards when reading the work of one author, and I was absolutely blown away by this debut. It is a book that must find a home on my bookshelf and one that will be challenging to top… (less)
The same day I finished reading this novel, I found myself sitting in the diner with two of my best fr...moreOriginally reviewed on Rather Be Reading Blog --
The same day I finished reading this novel, I found myself sitting in the diner with two of my best friend and my husband. I was having a great time but I couldn’t stop thinking about Nate and Adam, the main characters from Don’t Let Me Go. This is all thanks to the remarkable debut novel by J.H. Trumble. She has created characters and a plotline that was so honest and real, it was like I knew these characters personally. Like they were two people I knew in high school.
From page 1, I was completely invested in this story. I know that’s true because I didn’t always like what Nate had to say or the actions he took. I loved him, he annoyed me, and he frustrated me just like any other human in my life. And I don’t blame him. Ever since he decided to come out to his high school, his dad has basically abandoned him, he was brutalized by his peers, and later forced to share the most intimate details of that assault and the relationship with his boyfriend, Adam, during a very public trial. All of this, indeed, would affect a person in a huge way.
This leads us to an epic and imperfect love story. In my mind, that is the best kind. Because it’s authentic. Love is never easy. Love is not without challenge. And we see the inner workings of a deep relationship from the get-go. The most intimate of details and moments are shared, and I felt like I was experiencing their relationship right alongside them. (And reliving the doubts and jealousy I once faced when I was in my own long-distance relationship.)
Don’t Let Me Go isn’t just a romantic love story. Its strength also lies in the friendships. Nate’s friendship with Danial (they have this unreal chemistry) and also Nate’s unhealthy need to help out Luke, a boy who is in the closet but looks to Nate like he is a god. This novel never feels like one character or plotline is getting ignored. Nothing feels under developed and that is a true feat because much goes on, as the time shifts (seamlessly) from past to present.
This book is every reader’s dream. I felt I was given the ability to create my own relationship with these characters, as well as take something from their challenges, their failures, and their triumphs. I was outwardly yelling at the book near the end like I could make a significant difference in the last couple of pages. The ending could have gone several ways but I think Trumble did a stellar job of wrapping up this heavy, multi-layered story.
Is it time for me to stop gushing yet? Don’t Let Me Go is an experience. It is hands down the best book I have read so far in 2012, and probably in my top 5 since I started reading like a maniac last year. I guarantee it is going to take a long time before I feel this strongly about another novel. Stop what you are doing and go read it now.(less)
I love an airport. Even after all the long lines and the pat downs and the random people who cut in...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I love an airport. Even after all the long lines and the pat downs and the random people who cut in line, there is something about an airport that I love. Maybe because it’s the in-between, the connector, between where you are and where you want to be. It’s almost mystifying — all of these different people rushing and sitting and passing through one space. You really never know what could happen.
When it came to The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I was afraid. I had anticipated the release of this book for a long time and the last thing I wanted to be was disappointed. But it was far from a disappointment. Far, far from it. Sure, it was a simple story with common themes. A young girl upset with her father for leaving their family. She meets a guy on a flight, they talk for hours. What happens once they meet their destination? This could have easily fallen under the realm of cliché. Been totally superficial. But it was the meat of the story, the flow, and its pacing that made it a solid piece of writing.
Oliver is basically the epitome of any guy you would want sitting next to you on a long flight to London – he’s sweet, funny, thoughtful, swoon-worthy, likes Dickens and has an accent. He’s a good listener and he’s willing to “borrow” whiskey. I immediately could understand why Hadley felt so comfortable with him and was taken with him at first sight, basically.
But I was almost more invested in Hadley coming to terms with her father cheating on her mother, and marrying the woman he left them for. There was a lot of heavy stuff for her to sort through. I like the way Smith weaved present day with these past scenes that helped us to better understand why Hadley felt the way she did. Hadley could have easily been a character that was obsessed and driven by this sudden romance with Oliver but the procession of events felt extremely organic to me. I think I would have made all the same decisions.
Hadley was always braver and gutsier than she gave herself credit for, and even though the book only takes place over a period of 24 hours, it’s jam-packed with mini-adventures and character growth. For many of these characters, they are simply taking the first step in moving forward; while wonderful, it was also bittersweet because I wanted their stories to keep on going!
For me, The Statistical Probability of Love at First sight is just made up of a million elements I love in a great YA. An adorable yet smart male lead. A thoughtful leading lady who is struggling to understand her family and change. An immediate connection between the two people. An airport. Some time in London. And how sometimes horrible timing can be the best timing. (less)
It’s difficult to read a book about 9/11 without thinking about where I was when it happened. I feel...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
It’s difficult to read a book about 9/11 without thinking about where I was when it happened. I feel kind of shameful about it now, to be honest. I don’t think I ever really took the time to understand what all of it meant. I was a junior in high school, sitting in my English class when someone walked in to tell us a plane hit the Twin Towers. School was pretty much over as we knew it. No one was doing much in class. Everyone was on their cell phones. Rules had zero effect. I remember going home all day and being unable to get in touch with the boy I had been talking to because signals were down. I lived 10 minutes away from New York City, and many of my friends had parents who commuted. One of them waited all day and all night until her dad finally made it home. From one of the main roads in my hometown, you could see the skyline – suddenly filled with smoke that didn’t lift for a long, long time.
I originally thought I would include a snippet from my journal during that time but there was nothing that really stood out to me to share. A few days later, I did include this quote from The Green Mile (I loved that book!):
I’m rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss. I’m tired of being on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain. Not never having no buddy to go on with or tell me where we’s comin from or goin to or why. I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. It feels like pieces of glass in my head. I’m tired of all these times I wanted to help and couldn’t.. I’m tired of being in the dark. Mostly it’s the pain. There’s too much. If I could end it, I would. But I can’t.
They are not my own words but I could see how I felt they were so relevant at the time.
Sometimes I feel so outside of the events of 9/11. I didn’t personally know anyone that died. But it did make my mother reconsider my dream of going to school in the city. It did make me realize how something can happen on any given day and even though you realize that, you can’t let it stop you from living your life. I think this is why I really liked the premise of Love is the Higher Law. Most of the books/movies, etc. were focused on people who had loved ones die during the attacks, and this was a story about three people who lived in New York and were affected by it in other ways.
Now I’ve only read David Levithan’s work in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which I loved. One of my favorite reads of 2011. But I was so enamored by his poetic writing. He was able to evoke such emotion without unnecessarily over-hyping everyone’s feelings. It felt rightfully organic and there were so many times I felt so touched by the pain Claire felt or the detachment that Jasper was experiencing. One of the most beautiful scenes I have probably ever read was during one of Claire’s sleepless nights when she wanders into Union Square, where people had started a makeshift memorial for all the missing. It’s raining out, and all the candles are burnt out. But Claire and another woman work together to light every single candle standing out there. They didn’t speak more than a few words to one another, and Claire worked so diligently to feel like she was doing something.
Then you have Peter and Jasper. Two people who are flirty and free at a party before 9/11 and – two days after the world completely changes – are anything but, resulting in a disaster of a date (although Liza Minnelli is involved). I think it’s interesting to read their perceptions of one another as the chapters switch from person to person, just because these two people are experiencing the same moment so differently, and with Claire, we basically just see Claire. One of my favorite details about Peter is how much he relates music to how he is feeling. There’s a huge emotional moment towards the end of the book at a concert that had tears rolling down my face too. I didn’t even need to know the band or the song they were singing. It’s just amazing the things in life that make us connect and feel other people’s feelings.
That’s what this book is all about. Connection, disconnection, hope, fears, and the unknown. I was reading a review of Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud a few weeks ago and the critic started by saying that 9/11 isn’t something he is over or something he is ever going to be over. And it’s true… 11 years later, I feel the same way. Even if I was only 16 years old when it happened and the only World Trade Center I knew was from when Kevin visited them in Home Alone 2.
There’s a constant struggle to make sense out of these enormously horrid things that happen during our everyday lives. (Even the smaller atrocities too.) I think Love of the Higher Law is a true representation of our generation, one that has seen the effects of an event like 9/11 and how it has changed our perception of the world around us. It pinpoints hard-to-swallow and hard-to-work-through problems without being preachy or over-dramatic or pretentious or pompous. We can be strong even when we lack the understanding of certain events and the reasons behind them. (less)
This book is so beautiful, I can't deal with it fully. The language is flowy, amazing, and meaningful. The story is about identity, self-worth, creati...moreThis book is so beautiful, I can't deal with it fully. The language is flowy, amazing, and meaningful. The story is about identity, self-worth, creativity, and discovery. Love of all kinds. I've read a lot of books this year, and in my life, and I don't think anything has touched me quite like this. I feel so full of this book, and I am desperately sad that it is over.(less)