JJ Greene is kind of the black sheep in her uber successful family and not because she isn’t smart (she graOriginally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
JJ Greene is kind of the black sheep in her uber successful family and not because she isn’t smart (she graduated from high school at 16 — two years early). Both her parents are lawyers and her older brother is following the same track. JJ has always been fascinated by the music business and writing her own songs for as long as she can remember. Instead of spending the summer filing at her mom’s law office, JJ gets a job working for a music publishing company where she’ll be doing admin but also have a chance to share her music with the owner.
It’s no surprise that JJ’s family shies away from the music biz; JJ’s mother is estranged from her own brother, also in music, but a no-good gambler who has been known to take the credit for other people’s work. Luckily, her family agrees to drop the law talk for the 3 months that JJ will be working for Good Music Publishing. If she can’t get one of her songs recorded during her time there, she promises to never bring up music again.
Her gig at Good Music Publishing is definitely an eyeopening one from her rekindled relationship with her Uncle Bernie (a secret from her mother), her late night jamming sessions with Dulcie, an ex-music star and current office cleaning woman, and her crush on the green-eyed boy she always seems in the elevator. For the first time ever, JJ is able to connect with people over music and not feel like she is silly for loving it so much. While her knowledge of the business grows, so do her own talents.
But a surprising wrench thrown into this feel-good book manifests into a whodunit subplot that I was not expecting. I didn’t mind it, and it kept me guessing (I almost guessed right) but it also made a few of the puzzle pieces click a bit too precisely into place for me. I’m Glad I Did certainly illuminated the rougher sides of musical success and didn’t steer away from the complexities of interracial relationships. While the book felt a bit on the younger side of young adult, I enjoyed my quick trip to 1963 New York City and following along as JJ experienced one memorable summer.
Bonus: I could easily picture I’m Glad I Did as a stage musical (think Hairspray meets Memphis!). Someone get on this!...more
This is hands down one of the best fiction books I’ve picked up in years.
I was nervous about it, too. Leah over at The Pretty Good Gatsby awarded the book such high praise. Wanting to feel the same felt like an added pressure but a chapter in, I was hooked. With Steal the North, you aren’t sucked in in a way where you want to speed read the whole thing. As the book shifts POVs from the big hitters like Emmy, her mom (Kate), her aunt (Beth), and Reuben (the boy next door) to the smaller characters, there is a lot of exposition. Explanations of backgrounds, family trees, and a lot of beautiful description of this Pacific Northwest town. The land is its own character because in all of these stories, it has been a catalyst in the decisions then make and who they are all destined to become.
Emmy is a bit of a conundrum. There are so instances she acts so wise and so much older than she is, but there are others where she can be so naive and so inexperienced in life. She is so tied to her mom because for so long Kate made her believe it was them against the world. No other relatives and a dead father. But imagine the surprise when Emmy finds out that her own story is not what she thought at all. She is quickly sent off to stay with her Aunt Beth and Uncle Matt for the summer, without enough time to deal with the repercussions of her mother’s many lies.
Immediately, Emmy and Beth are like peas and carrots. The intimacy and connection they shared when Emmy was just a baby is back, and they spend much of the summer getting to know each other all over again. I loved their relationship. Beth and Matt are very into the church, but they don’t expect Emmy to believe what they believe and I liked the respect they had for her. Her time alone eventually leads to her spending a lot of time with Reuben, a Native American teenager, who lives in the trailer next door.
It was Beth and Reuben’s belief in much more than what they could see that took Steal the North to a whole new level for me. Beth concocting her antidotes around the house, and Reuben sensing the presence of his dead father, and both of their commitments to the earth fused to create this overpowering spirituality in the whole book. The secrets and the pasts of these characters was haunting every scene, and the fear, the shame, and even the hope was so palpable. It’s overwhelming to think words on a page could be this powerful.
Steal the North is a love story not limited to the feelings between Reuben and Emmy. Mothers and daughters, sisters, husbands and wives, and most importantly how we feel about ourselves. The sense of loyalty, the heartbreaking betrayal, and the tough decisions we make because of our love for others can be found throughout the story. I laughed, I swooned, I cried, and I wondered if this family could ever be whole again. Could Emmy break out of her shell and trust? Could she forgive her mother and forgive herself?
This book is as much about death as it is rebirth. I am totally in awe of Bergstorm’s talents: how well she described the land, her decisions to reveal important information what she did, her pick of what character got to tell what, and most importantly, how she challenged her characters and stretched them beyond their comfort zones. Life could be hard, and it could also be good. Very, very good.
From the writing to the characters to how invested I felt in the smallest detail to the biggest, Steal the North is a book I am going to give a special spot on my bookshelf and buy for others whenever I get the chance....more
Very few books make me feel speechless. This was a heartbreaking, almost suspenseful story and it really stands on its own in this book category. I liVery few books make me feel speechless. This was a heartbreaking, almost suspenseful story and it really stands on its own in this book category. I literally can't think of one comparable book. I'll have a full review but some words I wrote down while reading: discarded, impulsive, and validation.
Another great piece of work from this author with so many crossover opportunities.
I told myself I needed to take a break from books about grief and then I started The Summer of Letting Go and could not let it go. Immediately I felt for Francesca, aka Frankie, aka Beans, who is still distraught over the death of her baby brother four years ago. She believes it’s her fault that he drowned in the ocean, and her mom’s incredible coldness toward her solidifies that her belief is the truth. With her dad secretly cavorting with their neighbor, Frankie’s family is falling apart and she doesn’t know how to fix it. She loves her dad and wants to believe her accusations are false so she follows their neighbor to the country club where an unexpected little fellow pops into her life — Frankie Sky — an adorable 4-year old who is so strikingly like her little brother that it takes Frankie some time to recover.
It seems that our Frankie has also struck a chord with Frankie Sky because he wants her to be his baby-sitter for the summer; this works out in the best interest of many people. Our Frankie needs to be kept occupied while her best friend, Lizette, is constantly spending time with her boyfriend and Frankie Sky’s mom has been stunted by her own grief and is not always entirely capable of taking care of her son.
There’s a lot of heavy sadness in The Summer of Letting Go, for sure, but bright lights like Frankie’s personality, enthusiasm for life, and his fitting dialogue paired with this anchor created by Frankie and Lizette’s friendship let so much hope into the story that I could not put it down. Even as Frankie went over and over again in her head the possibility of Frankie Sky being a reincarnation of her brother, as unbelievable as that was, I felt myself working through it alongside her as she was finally allowing herself come to terms with this tragic event that broke her family four years before. At 16 years old, she was making an active decision to be happy and move forward and live her life. This could not be easy for anyone to do, especially after watching her parents struggle in different ways as well.
The Summer of Letting Go is about those little miracles in our lives — sometimes a period of time, or in this case a person — who open our eyes to the past and also (maybe without them knowing) nudge us toward the future. Frankie Sky was that person for Frankie and I loved watching as their friendship grew over the summer. How protective she was of him, but at the same time how Frankie Sky helped Frankie to let go a bit and have faith in people, in nature, and in life.
I have to mention the incredible best friendship between Frankie and Lizette as well. It’s not easy when you want your best friend’s boyfriend, and it’s especially difficult when you feel like your best friend is everything you aren’t. It’s an interesting summer for the two of them because they don’t spend a lot of time together throughout the story, but for Frankie, Lizette is on her mind a lot. So many changes are already blossoming between them and I admired the loyalty and devotion these two had for one another. Even when things got tough and situations got messy and Frankie’s grief drove her to a lonely place, Lizette was there. Their differences never drove them from one another, but they also didn’t push and knew the importance of space.
There hasn’t been a book that broke my heart and put it back together quite like this one has. The Summer of Letting Go is so much about confronting truths from the past (even when they are uncomfortable) and finding the strength to heal. It’s about those small moments and people who come into our lives and turn everything upside down, teaching us more about ourselves then we ever could have thought. It’s about remembering those warm summer days at the beach with your best friend, the speed of your heart racing when the boy of your dreams looks your way, and making your home a safe and welcoming place once again....more
4 stars for all the 1980s Disney Park references. This would make any geek happy, and anyone who wants to learHad a blast reading Summer of Yesterday!
4 stars for all the 1980s Disney Park references. This would make any geek happy, and anyone who wants to learn a little bit more about theme park history. (You can tell the author is invested.)
3.75 stars for the story. I needed a bit more at the end, and would have loved a bit more attention and closure to the parents/divorce storyline. All in all, the time travel worked well for me, and I thought the dialogue was spot on in present day and 1982.
Disney World as a setting in a book seems like an Estelle no-brainer, right? Let me assure you… very few authors get it right. As if Gaby Triana’s dedication to Walt Disney didn’t tip me off initially, she gets it — the fandom, the importance of its history, and, most importantly, the details.
As a WDW geek, I could not stop squealing over the details of a now-abandoned River Country water park, basically left to rot. I never had the chance to visit as a kid (my first trip to WDW was in 1996 and my parents aren’t water park people) but Triana brought the park to life for me through Haley’s time traveling, and, once again, I wished I had had the opportunity to experience it.
I’m getting ahead of myself. (See how excited I am!?) Basically, Haley suffers from seizures (she has recently found this out) and has one when she is taking part in a scavenger hunt with new friends at the resort that housed River Country. She breaks in, has her seizure, and suddenly wakes up to 1982. She meets Jason, an adorable lifeguard, who takes pity on her and helps her blend into the background, and discovers that her parents (in their younger forms) are on property with her too.
Triana definitely has that “typical teenager” attitude down when it comes to Haley. She never wanted to go on this vacation in the first place; she’s missing out on hanging with friends and the guy she is crushing on. She has no patience for her dad’s memories of a vintage Disney World. A lot of her anger stems from the fact that she still cannot accept her parent’s divorce, I think. Even though years have passed, she still feels the effects of her family’s breakup.
Because Haley is suddenly privy to the earliest memories of her parent’s courtship, I expected more of an emphasis on this portion of the story. Did I think she would succeed in getting them back together down the line? Not at all. But Summer of Yesterday‘s focus on Jason and his growing relationship with Haley teetered the equilibrium of the book for me. Self-actualization should have won out over romance (as sweet as it was) because while they were great for each other at this exact moment, how could it possibly work in the end? It might sound crazy but balance of the storylines would have made this time travel story a bit more realistic for this reader.
Despite that hiccup, I couldn’t get enough of the book. I may have shed a tear near the end (okay, fine I did) and I closed it, truly appreciating the accuracy of the Disney theme park setting (I even learned a few things!) and how nice it felt to read about a (somewhat complicated) summer love story....more
I think we’ve all probably hit a point in our life where we wish we could press pause, take a majorReview originally posted on: Rather Be Reading Blog
I think we’ve all probably hit a point in our life where we wish we could press pause, take a major break, and decompress.
In the world of fiction, this is possible for Olivia who leaves town as her fiancee tries to pin down a date for their long-time-coming wedding and decides to use the first year anniversary of her mother’s death to do it. She wanted her ashes spread into spots in her childhood hometown, a childhood that her mother (Janie) never shared with Olivia or her sister, Georgia.
So she’s really killing two birds on this impromptu road trip with her niece, Logan. Find out why her mom made these specific instructions and figure out if marriage to Leo and her demanding job is truly what she wants for her life.
I was immediately swept up in the small town of Huntley, Georgia. Debut author Carolyn Dingman painted such a charming portrait of the place where Janie grew up — down to the charming details of the building, the vast lake, and the friendly people. I was ready to head down there myself. The town is so tiny that it doesn’t take many to find a person who recognizes Janie’s last name, and soon the cute newspaper editor, Elliot, is part of the research team too.
Piece by piece, Olivia is formulating a family tree she never knew existed, learning about the fascinating history of the town (Tennessee Valley Authority Act!!) her mother never wanted to talk about. I was totally hooked to this mystery (pretty creeped out at times), and loved as each part of the story clicked into place. Never predictable, Dingman kept me curious throughout the entire book. In fact, Cancel the Wedding was one of those books I kept thinking about when I was not reading it. (Isn’t this torturous sometimes?!)
As if Olivia’s life isn’t messy enough, she starts to feel completely at home in Georgia. It’s so unexpected and she’s so wrapped up in her mom’s story, that she doesn’t necessarily pay her “true life” the attention it needs. Avoiding Leo, discounting her sister’s advice, and even dismissing some of her niece’s own admissions. (This teen was smart.) You knew that reality was going to slap her in the face soon, and eee, I was nervous nervous nervous. But, at the same time, totally torn because I loved as she and Logan acclimated to life down South, Olive’s growing affection for Elliot, and how each discovery about her mother made her own life snap into better focus bit by bit.
It just that the whole “getting answers” part took longer than the people in her life wanted it to.
Honestly, the only drawback to Cancel the Wedding were the areas where the author decided to explain confrontations instead of present more dialogue. It made it a little difficult to hear the voices of the characters, and also to connect. I wouldn’t have minded an even longer story if there was a bit less exposition and more showing.
Despite that, the book was just so darn readable. I could not get enough of this sweet small town (the history was so impressive), the colorful supporting characters, budding romance, and a main character finding the bravery to put her life on the path she wants — even if that means making hard decisions later rather than sooner.
Cancel the Wedding is the perfect read for your summer getaway....more
4.5 stars. Wow. I loved all the complicated relationships in this book. And Greece! I need to go to Greece.
"There were a lot of things in the world th4.5 stars. Wow. I loved all the complicated relationships in this book. And Greece! I need to go to Greece.
"There were a lot of things in the world that won't make sense, I decide. A lot of things religion can't explain. And maybe we're supposed to live in a world of mystery."
"Back then, only three days ago, the world was black and white and I was simply choosing black. Now, sunset, the sky explodes beyond the restaurant in a flurry of color and even though it's beautiful, it's complicated."
I think no matter how inseparable two people are, how much fun together, how many memories they make with one another, there is always some kind of difference between the two. Even before Colette and Sadie stopped being friends out of nowhere, Colette was feeling it. Sadie was concerned with how she looked and interested in boys, and Colette knew she wasn’t there yet. It was a small crack in the foundation, one that could have easily been worked through except for the big mysterious thing that causes the two to go from peas in a pod to total strangers for 3 years.
How would you feel if your ex-best friend appeared out of nowhere and asked you to take a trip to Greece? Would you go?
Colette is not an easy character to understand; she lives her life a certain way, a product of her parent’s upbringing. Her mom who urges her to remain chaste, to remain protected and covered up while her dad just blurs into the background of her life, never speaking up. I believe Colette’s parents had good intentions. They wanted their daughter to grow up to be good with boundaries, and have only the best influences infiltrate her life. Instead Colette is insecure in her own skin, feels like any decision that will not garner the approval of her parents is “bad”, and has tiptoed through her high school life being very careful not to experience too much of anything.
Her day-to-day life has grown to be so black and white (especially after Sadie has left it) and she is yearning for some gray.
Freedom. Adventure. Fun. All of these words are synonymous with Sadie. This was how they balanced each other out. So it’s not a surprise that Colette wants to ditch her summer plans (volunteer work in another country with her long-time boyfriend) and see Greece and, most importantly, figure out why Sadie left her. For the first time in a long time, Colette defies many people to do what she wants. (Though her support comes from an unexpected place; I liked this choice.)
Caela Carter did an exceptional job painting a portrait of Greece: the beauty of the water, the food, the vineyards, the hot water near the volcano. It was exactly like I was there alongside Colette as she spent time with Sadie’s family — people she believed were her family until they weren’t anymore. It’s not entirely paradise; against this gorgeous backdrop, Colette is feeling constant tension with the family, knows Sadie is keeping many somethings from her, and is afraid she made the wrong choice and fractured relationships at home for no good reason.
I like the messy books. I like when we are privy to ALL the parts of the characters. These books are near and dear to me because they are truly representative of real life. We don’t all see things in the same way. We often don’t understand the reasons why people do things the way they do. People can surprise us: in good and bad ways. I applaud Carter for thrusting us into this unsteady friendship. Colette missed Sadie; she wanted to patch things up. Sadie obviously still felt she could trust Colette or she never would have asked her on this trip. But could it be more than just a trip? (Sometimes friendships sound a lot like relationships, don’t they?)
Despite the heaviness of the conflicts and secrets in My Best Friend, Maybe, I gobbled this one up. Read it in under 24 hours. I had to see how Greece would change Colette, get her thinking on her own without constant pressure from her parents. I had to know if Colette and Sadie’s friendship had anything left after all these years and after this trip. Plus, there’s a sweet romance that felt just right. I think young adult books sometimes underestimate how hard it is for kids to break away from their parents; it’s impossible for us to share the same beliefs and constantly agree on how to live our lives. How moving forward has nothing to do with the level of respect or love we have for those parents. In addition to that, it’s not so often we see two best friends break up and be granted a second chance to be truthful with one another.
My Best Friend, Maybe did that + then some. It was thought-provoking, tough, visually beautiful, and certainly made me a Caela Carter fan....more
The kind of power that Granddad wielded over his family makes me angry because this man with all of this money and all of his houses only grew to be more powerful because those around him were too weak to stand up to him. Too weak to stand up for what they wanted and too obsessed with the trust funds they heavily relied on. At least, that’s how his daughters felt. The grandkids — they were a different story.
Cadence (our narrator), Mirren, Johnny, and Gat (not related but not ignorant of these family dynamics) were tired of being pawns in their mom’s schemes to own all the best stuff, stay in Granddad’s good graces, and maintain the facade of the successful, wealthy Sinclair family. When you are young and 15, you can be idealistic and can be so gung-ho about eliciting change and breaking free from the obligations and unrealistic expectations of your family. While these four teenagers definitely had their share of immature moments (who doesn’t at 15), I do think they had a grasp on how the game was played.
But how could they alter things? Did they have the power?
Lockhart has written a captivating story of a puppeteering and manipulating patriarch who cares much more about dollars signs and maintaining control than formulating real bonds with his family and seeing the people in his family be happy by their own accord. So much of We Were Liars was completely fucked up. Using the young ones to keep your kids-who-are-now-adults in line, pushing aside the obvious prejudice Granddad feels toward Gat, and most importantly, how badly this family collects possessions in efforts to top the other.
While the character development was well-done (especially in the pettier scenes), Lockhart’s writing style completely blew me away. The rhythm felt calculated and perfect, and so poetic; it was fast paced and swept me up in this tornado of romance and treachery. I must note the dialogue. It was authentic but also had a flair of theatricality. I could picture these words making quite the impression on stage, and at the same time, could have easily pictured myself saying them in real life.
But for all the intriguing details of We Were Liars, something stopped me from feeling too connected to the story. (Is it possible for the writing to be a triumph and a hindrance at the same time? Maybe.) As Cadence searched for answers about that last summer at Beechwood Island, my brain was scrambling to pick up small clues and figure out what happened. Why had the Liars been ignoring her? Why did they not rush to her aid when she needed it? So I was more curious than anything. But, on the other hand, the romance between Gat and Cadence did turn me inside out because what happens when you feel so much for someone but see that nothing is falling easily into place? Especially since Beechwood was this exclusive, dreamlike world that fed their connection to one another and would never be a year-round thing.
We Are Liars is mysterious and heartbreaking, full of small-minded folks and a perpetual cycle of greed, and children who are forced to suffer because of it. It’s one of those books that had my brain working in overdrive, and also kept me so interested I finished in just about a day. While the style and tone of the writing was so memorable, I think a few fleshed out scenes (not too many, just enough) to balance out the prettily expressed thoughts would have served to create a connection I didn’t always feel.
Still, I think I need this book in my possession....more
There was something so quiet about Returning to Shore. Not many action packed scenes, instead the distant lap of the tide in the background as a father unsteadily attempted to bridge a gap with his estranged daughter, teaching her the routines of the sea turtles and hence, his research in the small town he grew up in.
Clare was already filled with emotions on her way to Cape Cod. Not only was she not entirely thrilled with her mom’s new pick for a husband but she was also mourning the loss of a yet another person in her life. Someone her mom chose to leave; someone Clare wished to be a “real” daughter to. Even though there was a lot of feeling to go around at the start of Returning to Shore, Corinne Demas gave us a character wading through her all this change and uncertainly in a thoughtful, calmly-paced manner.
Even when Clare was suddenly in a car with her father, Richard, and living in his home for the summer, the situation was never highly dramatic. Instead the two danced around one another, slowly getting to know who the other had become. The bond between them was gradual and almost so silent, you had to really pay attention to see that it was happening. Clare was super insightful and also very careful but I also applauded her when she openly asked for honesty from Richard. She didn’t go into a summer with him thinking there would be a happily ever after, but she wasn’t against having a relationship with him either.
Returning to Shore explored acceptance, rediscovering connections, and love in this vividly painted portrait of a summer between two people who are essentially strangers, learning to be a father and a daughter. I’m not sure if this book would be everyone’s cup of tea but it felt like a surprise gem in my pile of books. So much observation and feeling packed into a short novel laced with purposeful scenes and lots to learn about the wonderful sea turtle (and how their behaviors can sometimes parallel our own).
- great best friends. - #diversityinYA - tons of music (so much Springsteen). - mysterious love interest. - interesLoved this! Could not put it down.
- great best friends. - #diversityinYA - tons of music (so much Springsteen). - mysterious love interest. - interesting developments when it came to sex & your first time. - summer setting that reminded me so much of vacations from when I was young.
Can't wait to try more of Poston's work in the future!...more
One thing I love about novellas = it's a great way to cleanse your palette after a particularly heavy read.
Seasons in the Sun was exactly wh3.5 stars.
One thing I love about novellas = it's a great way to cleanse your palette after a particularly heavy read.
Seasons in the Sun was exactly what I needed after reading a rather melancholy YA book. Main character Callie is 14 years old and pretty sheltered by her protective parents. She works at her mom's coffee shop on Martha's Vineyard (she's also half Irish & half Jamaican, which I thought was awesome) and this summer her routine is interrupted by the arrival of famous twins. Famous twins that will be living so nearby and also working at the coffee shop with her.
I remember 14 being a super awkward age. You still feel like a kid (because you kind of are one) but you desperately want some freedom and independence from your parents. Tristan dangles these temptations in front of her, and while she wants to break out of her shell, she's also scared. She doesn't want to defy her parents, and she is also worried about Tristan's tendency to over indulge in just about everything.
Seasons in the Sun provides just a snapshot of Callie's summer, and I am definitely curious enough to want to read the next part of this series. (A full novel with vampires! I know, I was surprised too.) I definitely appreciate Strassel's unique approach to this series... contemp leading into paranormal. It's definitely something I haven't experienced before....more
I was really excited to spend time with old friends again this year. Rules of Summer was a highlighReview originally posted on: Rather Be Reading Blog
I was really excited to spend time with old friends again this year. Rules of Summer was a highlight of my reading last June, so the idea of a sequel made me all kinds of happy. But, sadly, this summer did not hold the same kind of magic as the first.
Joanna Philbin had a lot to play with here: a reunion between Rory and her boyfriend, Connor. Isabel dealing with the family secrets she found out at the end of the last book. The friendship between both girls. And, finally, the family that brought all of them together: the perfect Rules.
I’m not sure where things started to go wrong for me. Instead of diving more into Rory and Isabel’s friendship, they spent a lot of time apart (Rory was interning and Isabel got a job as a waitress) dealing with various challenges mostly separately. So many times I thought to myself: I just don’t buy it. How close are they really? Are they best friends? Should they be? I wanted more. I think the friendship needed to be the anchor of this story, and instead, it was grazed over and it was presumed the reader just understood their connection. I needed to feel it.
“Grazed over” is a suitable way to describe most of the plot lines in Since Last Summer and it made the difference between an entertaining book and a memorable one. Rory has some unexpected relationship issues with Connor, and Isabel is dwelling on her breakup with Mike last year. Oh man, I really loved Isabel and Mike and not only could I relate to her inability to move on from him (even though she tried to convince her otherwise), I was rooting for this reunion to work somehow. (Is it strange how I wished the discussion of sex was folded more into the story? I would have liked to see the author have Isabel work through her first time and her intimate connection to Mike.)
New characters were featured in Since Last Summer too, and I happened to really like Evan and Amelia. One of these characters might have been as a device to create drama in the book, but because it was pretty much the only bolt of chemistry I felt in the entire story I just went with it, hoping things would work themselves out somehow.
It’s confusing to me why when given the chance to build on two great characters from a previous novel I still don’t have a good handle on them and their backgrounds. (Well, not true about Isabel so much, but what about Rory’s mom? I would have loved development there or even more conversations between her and her aunt, who worked for the Rules.) As a sidenote, I really enjoyed getting to know Mr. Rule in Since Last Summer and I wish he would have popped up more. A decision seemed to be made to place more importance on romance than family and that choice didn’t entirely work for me, especially when there was potential for so much more.
So would I still recommend Since Last Summer? I would. It’s breezy young adult book full of drama and cute boys. But if I had to choose between the two: Rules of Summer is the way to go....more
Cricket is such a brave character, and I want to be just like her. This book was more than just a follow-up to a love story about a girl coming into hCricket is such a brave character, and I want to be just like her. This book was more than just a follow-up to a love story about a girl coming into her own, and learning how to make difficult decisions.
My only complaint is that it could have been longer; there could have been more development in some areas.
I immediately want to read this again.
Psst: I didn't write a formal review but I did write about why I think Cricket is underrated as far as strong female leads in YA goes. (I Stand for Cricket)....more
After a long and cold winter, Since You've Been Gone feels like the summer I've been missing. Reading this one after the buzz died down is certainly aAfter a long and cold winter, Since You've Been Gone feels like the summer I've been missing. Reading this one after the buzz died down is certainly a different experience and I'm glad I waited. I could savor it because it has, indeed, been too long since I cracked up a Morgan Matson book.
Emily and Sloane are inseparable until Sloane disappears before what should have been their best summer yet and leaves behind a to-do list for Emily to complete. Emily's been so used to acquiescing to Sloane, maybe without even realizing it, so going out of her comfort zone is not something she is used to doing. But if it means finding Sloane, she'll do anything... mostly.
Checking off items on the list gets her bumping into Frank Porter and Matt Collins from school, and even a new girl named Dawn, who works at a pizza shop near the ice cream place Emily works. (Why did we never get to know what was on the menu?) In ways, this little group reminded me of The Start of You and Me by Emery Lord -- when friendship is surprising and so natural. I loved watching all of these guys get together, and especially how they pushed (in a nice way) for Emily to get through Sloane's list.
Collins was the comedic relief, and Dawn was such a welcoming friend. Frank Porter, ladies and gentlemen, was perfect. He has some drama in his family life but he's really this stand up guy. (I mean, there has to be something wrong with him. Right? Can he cook? Does he snore? SOMETHING.) Frank and Emily start running together at the beginning of the book, and I loved that because there is such an intimacy there. You see each other at your worst, and you also can't talk all the time (if you want to keep breathing). Emily discovers a whole new side to the overachieving, class president... and vice versa for him too.
For all the time I spent lost in this story, there was a part of me that felt a little heartbroken too. Friendships are so hard to navigate. We have to work so hard to accept each other for our best qualities and also our flaws. Not all of us know how to do that, or do it perfectly.
As always, Matson gives us romance and friendship -- all in this lush summer setting. Most of all, I loved that Emily worked to face her fears, and stopped hiding. Let's hear it for a cute little brother too. I would have loved more Beckett....more
There’s nothing like clicking with a narrator like I did with Naomi.
Her voice was so vividly judgy — I was immediately wrapped up in her story and the indignation she felt about her annual summer plans: the Hamptons to visit her mom where quality time meant hearing her mom complain about her clothes and push her to socialize with the well-connected kids her age. (Delilah and Teddy tolerate her, mostly. But she does not fit into their posh lifestyle at all.) It’s no shock that all Naomi wants to do is study and survive until she can get back to her best friend and dad in Chicago.
So it’s as much of a surprise to her, when Naomi is suddenly giving her mother a little bit of what she wants — getting invited to parties, wearing expensive dresses, going on dates with Nick (whose dad owns a record label), and girlishly texting with Delilah. This switch in behavior is all thanks to Jacinta, the girl next door who has the means to throw the most excessive parties and maintains a highly-visited fashion blog that everyone wants to get featured on. Naomi is curious about her at first, but almost immediately takes a liking to her — even introducing her to Delilah (Jacinta’s #1 goal for the summer).
This is where things start to intensify because Jacinta and Delilah’s bond is — BOOM — super close, super quick and they are totally inseparable. Delilah is hardly seeing Teddy, Jacinta and Delilah aren’t including Naomi, and when Naomi does manage to see Jacinta, her every thought is wrapped up in Delilah.
Their behavior is bordering on obsessive, and it’s changing the dynamics of the group in a huge, dramatic way.
Most of all, it’s baffling what so many people in this story are willing to sacrifice because they don’t think the rules (of the world!) apply to them. It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, and it’s tremendously effed up. Naomi is caught in the storm of all of this, and as she skirts the line between these “two” realities, her character is forced to make super tough decisions. Great is so well-paced, the tension is built so tightly, I literally could not put the book down — debating right and wrong, and who the true villain of this story was.
I definitely empathized with Jacinta and rooted for her in a way that I don’t remember doing with Gatsby. It’s tremendous how far she is willing to go for acceptance and for love. I didn’t blame Naomi for being so torn over her friendship with her and I loved the author’s choice of creating an internet maven out of Jacinta — oh, the great dangers and advantages of the world wide web. Without it, this story wouldn’t have existed.
Truth be told, it’s been a really long time since I read The Great Gatsby (I haven’t seen the latest Leo movie either) but Benincasa got my memory rolling and I was so excited (this is geeky) to pick out the parallels between the classic and Great. (Favorite detail, hands down, was how she named each character by using the first initial of the character’s name from the original.) Best of all, my familiarity with the original text in no way affected how hooked I was to this story.
Committing to a modern Gatsby retelling for young adults couldn’t have been an easy task and with the exception of a few too-modern references that I didn’t think would stand the test of time, I couldn’t have asked for a better crafted book to save me from a reading slump and get me excited about a new author. ...more
Nantucket, Nantucket! This place is all I hear about lately. And rightfully so, it is the perfect setting for a summer novel. Small town, beautiful people, clear skies, bright stars, and gorgeous beaches. I’m always wishing I could jump right into the pages of my book and be right there, alongside the characters.
Despite the serene environment, Island Girls is a bit of a drama fest. (In an addicting way.) Rory, dad to Arden and Meg (different moms) and adopted dad to Jenny, has just passed away and stipulates in his will that the girls must spend three months together at the family house in Nantucket in order for them to be able to sell it and reap the benefits. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Back when they were in their early teens, Arden and Meg were “exiled” from the Nantucket house by Rory’s third wife, Justine, after she accused Arden of stealing her necklaces. The sisterhood the three girls had been forming was immediately shut down, and in the recent years, anytime they see each other was as an obligation to their dad.
Now in their 30s, they are all determined to get through the summer without killing each other.
Luckily each of them have some distractions: Arden is looking for a new angle for her TV show (after she was deemed “too old”; shes 34.); Meg is finishing up her May Alcott book, on break from school and standing clear of her feelings for a younger colleague; Jenny hopes to make up for lost years with her sisters and finally find out who her dad is.
Tall orders for three months, don’t you think?
There is something about Island Girls that kept me hanging on every word. The family dysfunction, the cautious friendship growing between the girls, and the most unconventional family reunion near the end; I could not put it down. The novel might not be perfect (the dialogue seemed a little too old for women in their 30s plus there was a fairy tale ending) but I liked how it was a little love letter to Nantucket, the sexy relationship between Meg and Liam, and how these woman did try to make the best out of some crazy situations.
So if you can’t make it up to Nantucket any time soon, Island Girls is the next best thing! ...more
The main character might be 14 but I think DISNEYLANDERS is a great example of YA transcending age. If you ever went on a family trip with your familyThe main character might be 14 but I think DISNEYLANDERS is a great example of YA transcending age. If you ever went on a family trip with your family, or dealt with a best friend who outgrew you, you will find a lot to relate to in this book. Not to mention, fans of theme parks or people who are so connected to a place they have visited time and time again. Does the magic truly disappear as you grow up? Can you still hold on to it?
I have a lot of love for this book, especially after my second read-through. I know I would love to see a follow up with the main character a bit older and wiser.
Ginger inspired me to pick up a Dessen after a long drought of her books in my reading. I know "Along for the Ride" is a favorite of many De3.5 stars.
Ginger inspired me to pick up a Dessen after a long drought of her books in my reading. I know "Along for the Ride" is a favorite of many Dessen fans, and I really enjoyed it.
Auden is spending the summer before college with her dad, his new wife, and their newborn daughter. She's kind of like the oldest 18-year old I've ever experienced in my young adult reading, and it got a little tiresome to hear about her lack of experience so many times. She almost came off as cold. As the story went on, I was glad to see her open herself up to new friends, a boy, and a life that didn't revolve around academics.
Dessen does a great job of creating a setting -- Colby was so clear in my mind. I am so ready to visit, see the beach, and have those great onion rings at the neighborhood hot spot. Dessen also doesn't shy away from the "family" dynamics that are sometimes pushed to the side in YA books. There was a lot of drama here, stemming from divorce and even weaknesses in each of her parents that continued to wreak havoc on their lives. Many characters in this book needed to embrace a different side of themselves, and recognize the "grays" that make up everyday life.
And Eli? I really liked him a lot but feel like I still knew less about him than a lot of the other characters. He definitely intrigued me, and I could see why Auden liked him so much.
I do wish of the novel was faster, and the storylines had been tightened up. It did feel a little too long.
Like always, nice to take a breather with a Dessen book. Still have two more on my bookshelves that I'd like to get to!...more
Walker is a hat-tippin, horse-riding gentlemen with a soft spot for country star, Casey Alder, and her two fantastic kids. Two kids that are his, evidence of two passionate nights with a woman he has been forced to love from afar. Kind of crazy isn’t it? Despite Casey’s popularity, the tabloids and the gossip columnists have not uncovered the fact that her kids were not product of test-tube pregnancies. But as they grow older, the resemblance becomes more evident, and Casey and Walker believe they finally have to tell their kids the truth.
I love that Casey and Walker have a history that spans the years when they were young and on the cusp of success. While I wish that Miller concentrated on their earlier moments together instead of informing readers in bits and pieces, this really amped up the tension between the two. THEY CANNOT KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF ONE ANOTHER.
Casey’s resolution to all the lies and craziness is marriage. Telling the kids the truth and then getting hitched to Walker. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that jump in her decision making process. It seems hard enough to deal with a daughter who is very hurt and it felt the the decision was more about appeasing her fans and the public then her kids. But it also forces them Casey and Walker to share a bed. So there is that. (Although it is NOT cool to not tell your partner that the condom broke. I don’t care how old you are or what the circumstances.)
Despite that hiccup, I was really impressed with Miller’s dialogue. It’s often the case with romance novels that everything starts to blend together and I thought she did a nice job of bringing humor and affection to the story. It’s also interesting to see what happens to two characters who made certain choices when they were young, and watch them wrestle with those choices years later — not necessarily regretting them but certainly figuring out where they could have done better.
If you like a mega-country setting or are a fan of the television show, Nashville, I’d say you best pick this one up. Though I warn you, the country tunes will be two-stepping in your head for sure....more
In Estelle world, comparing a book to Summer Sisters by Judy Blume and The Sisterhood of the TraveliReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
In Estelle world, comparing a book to Summer Sisters by Judy Blume and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares is like hitting the jackpot. Those titles have been some of my favorites for years and years now. It’s also kind of scary to see two of your favorite books written on the back of a brand new one because your expectations might skyrocket and the possibility of getting disappointed is so much greater.
While Five Summers didn’t exactly reach the Summer Sisters/Traveling Pants level for me, it did have the same essence of those two classics: the joys and the difficulties of friendships, the years that bring people together and pull them apart, secrets kept that once seemed necessary but risk ruining everything.
I think most of us know that friendships can be rough. Especially when you don’t see each other every single day. (Which is most cases, actually.) So for Emma, Skylar, Maddie, and Jo to create such a bond at 9 years old, spend 5 summers enjoying every moment of summer camp, and then reuniting after not seeing each other for 3 years (and not keeping the best touch)? That’s a lot of time to miss each other, and a lot of time to grow apart.
Through flashbacks and alternating POVs from each of the girls, we get to find how the girls became friends in the first place and where they are now. LaMarche gives each of the them relatable challenges and problems, and I liked that. Anyone could understand feelings of embarrassment, fear of moving forward, working way too hard, and pressure from parents. I did favor Emma and Skylar’s stories best, though. I felt like I was always waiting for their turn to come around again. Their locked in a love triangle (though Emma doesn’t know it) and it’s created some distance between them. I really enjoyed their closeness though and I was really rooting for them to cut the crap, tell the truth, and regain their best friendship again.
The object of this love triangle is Emma’s long-time crush, Adam. I’ll admit. I would have fallen for him too. Utterly charming but so real when he is talking to you one-on-one. What is it about guys like these? After failing to share her true feelings with him on their last day of camp, seeing him 3 years later hits Emma like a ton of bricks. One last chance to make something happen and all those romantic notions, right? Sigh. This portion of the story had me feeling a mix of things: regret, excitement, and anger.
Five Summers was really an enjoyable read for me. I really felt for these friendships, and hoped these girls would make it out of their 3-day reunion to the other side with something stronger. While I didn’t always agree with the structuring of the book (the placement of the flashbacks made it jarring at times and while I understand the sentimentof the last chapter, I didn’t think it was necessary there) and the characters could have used more sculpting to make them feel a bit more different from each other (not just in circumstance but in tone), it still felt fast-paced and kept me interested.
I’m kind of a sucker for a summer camp story, too. So that was just icing on the cake....more
I just had to get that out of my system. Even though romance isn’t the main premise of None of the Regular Rules, Johnny is kind of a memorable character. He’s Sophie’s next door neighbor, her long-time crush, and he has a girlfriend. But because he opts out of college when all his friends are off to start their freshman year, he’s hanging around a lot and falls into a friendship with Sophie.
Man, the tension is so thick. Johnny pops up everywhere, and you can tell they like each other, and it’s oh-so painful because he has a girlfriend, and, shock of all shocks, he is a complete stand-up guy. (You’ll have to figure out why yourself.) Despite the swoony stuff, I really liked how supportive he was of Sophie letting her hair down and doing things that scared her.
The big takeaway from None of the Regular Rules is the utter pressure of senior year. Aunt Suzy’s list serves as a great way to ensure time spent with Sophie and her two best friends, Ella and Grace. I loved their friendship so much; they were comfortable being honest with each other (even when it hurt) and made the effort to ensure they have ample hang out time. They are so game to conquer Suzy’s list, but it’s the complete sandstorm of senior year — the fear of the unknown, boys, crazy changes — that starts to chip away at their relationships with one another. It’s been a long time since I read a book where actual friends were fighting with each other, and this particular situation felt entirely authentic.
Family dynamics are also tested because Aunt Suzy’s name has become pretty taboo around Sophie’s household. After her death, no one talked about her anymore and Sophie never understood why. Adopting the list and going on these adventures makes her feel closer to her aunt, and when certain truths come to the surface, they hit that much harder. For all the steps Sophie has taken to being spontaneous and acting outside of her comfort zone, there’s a point where she ends up totally retracting and losing focus on what’s important.
None of the Regular Rules is a super fast-paced read that will keep you entertained until the very end. Sure, the storyline is a little thin at times and there are some uber-dramatic moments but I liked how not every character chose the same path post-high school, Sophie building the courage to confront her protective parents, and the mix of impatience and fear that comes with moving on from high school to college.
And there’s Johnny Rush. Did I mention that? ...more
This is the second time in a row that a vibrant book cover oozing with the feel of summer ended up tReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
This is the second time in a row that a vibrant book cover oozing with the feel of summer ended up taking on a much more serious tone than I imagined.
Riptide is told from the alternating perspectives of Ford and Grace, two best friends/surfing buddies, who are so in love with each other but for various reasons cannot get it together. Ford is all for being upfront with his feelings, but Grace’s avoidance makes him question if she likes him like that at all. Of course, we know that she does and the foundation for some mega-tension between the two is set.
But this is more than a romance. Grace has many secrets at home, and her trust for people is pretty non-existant. Her parents pile on the pressure for her to go to an Ivy League school and her mom is constantly worried about appearances. (There’s a certain irony in that detail.) Since forever, Grace’s main escape and passion has been hitting the waves. She’s pretty damn good at it too, and would rather pass up her Ivy League chances to stay close by and be part of an awesome college surf team.
When Ford signs her up for a big-time competition, Grace hones in all her energy (or as much as she can) into succeeding and hopefully finding the courage to stand up to her parents about what she really wants. In the meantime, Ford is embracing his own future by interning at Grace’s dad’s law firm and hoping to learn more about immigration return, after an unfortunate incident that hit close to home.
Scheibe does a great job of injecting diversity into this cast of characters from Ford’s new friends at work to the Spanish frequently spoken at his home. I never see this enough in the young adult genre, and it’s always refreshing when it pops up in my reading.
Unfortunately, at some point, Riptide becomes more of Grace’s story (for good reason) and we lose a lot of Ford’s perspective, weakening the second half of the book considerably. His story was worth fleshing out too, and I wish more balance had been achieved. His friends were intriguing and so were his ambitions. As the book went on, I continued to question whether the book as a whole would have been stronger if Grace had been the only voice we had been introduced to.
Even as the book winds down, despite real change coming to all the characters, everything was sewn up a bit too perfectly for me. Too much emphasis was placed on how surfing related to real life, and, while yeah, that makes a ton of sense… I don’t think the reader needed it spelled out quite the way that it was.
While Scheibe did bring a rare family dynamic to the forefront and forced Grace to make necessary but tough choices, a fair amount of tweaking would have made Riptide a more impactful, well-rounded story. ...more
I was not expecting Anatomy of a Single Girl, the first book I’ve started and finished this year, toReview 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.) ...more