I am absolutely giddy in love with Raina Telgemeier’s work.
Drama is the first graphic novel I’ve ever read and while it only took me about an hour to get through it, I couldn’t stop going back and smiling over the details in these colorful scenes and how perfectly Raina has been able to capture the middle school experience.
And for the theater lovers, finally: a book that celebrates those dear people who work on the stage crew, the kookiness that ensues, the intertwining love stories, budget constraints and trying to actually get people to the shows. (Plus the book was divided in Acts with an Intermission – such a cute set up.)
Callie is a theater dork in a way that I geek out over theater and books and Disney. She cannot contain her love of the performing arts and I love that about her. She doesn’t give a crap what other people think and good for her. Embrace what you love, Callie, and don’t let that go. She also falls for boys pretty easily and gee, don’t we all remember being like that in 8th grade? If it wasn’t one boy it was another. Raina’s creation of Callie’s wide eyes in particular scenes brought such comedy to the page. It was only one of the many small details that made such an impact. (I also loved the attention paid to Callie’s bedroom. You can learn so much more about a character’s background without reading words.)
Raina also does a great job of integrating a crew of multi-cultural kids (I came from a very diverse middle school so this was great to see) and also blending in a variety of characters with different sexual preferences. As I read more and more books that include LGBT characters, I am so inclined to hug these writers who are so keen on depicting TRUE life.
I can only describe Drama as a total delight. It has surprising depth but doesn’t weigh down the flow of the story or even the lighter moments. There are so many details to look at and take in when it comes to this novel, and I could see myself flipping through it again and again and always finding something new to love. The awesome illustrations and bright colors paired with a sweet story make Drama a highlight in anyone’s book pile....more
I'm not usually one to pick up historical romances but if all of them are as enjoyable as Smith's upcoming Wicked Designs -- I think I've found a newI'm not usually one to pick up historical romances but if all of them are as enjoyable as Smith's upcoming Wicked Designs -- I think I've found a new genre to explore.
I'll admit... I was a little wary of the "kidnapping plot." Lord (and notorious playboy) Godric with the help of the League of Rogues kidnap Emily Parr. Not because of anything SHE did but because of her unreliable uncle who took investment money from Godric and never used it for what he said he would.
Emily is totally innocent in all of this, and is only looking for a suitor so she can finally gain the inheritance that her father left her. When she is kidnapped by Godric and her crew, she is sure her reputation is ruined forever and she will never do all the things she dreamed of.
I really enjoyed Emily. She was certainly no damsel in distress and gave Godric (and all the League of Rogues) a run for their money. She often tries to escape, and is constantly clever and wildly independent. Even though she is kidnapped by Godric, she can't help but feel attracted to him and as she learns more about him, wonders if they could actually fall in love and get married.
Smith has created such multi-dimensional characters because Godric, while strapping and uber-confident, is hot and cold throughout the book. As he gets to know Emily some of his vulnerability peels away and it's interesting to watch him squirm and bottle everything up again. Emily gets confused and self-conscious, and you wonder when and if they can get it together.
These two have a TON TON TON of chemistry.
Best of all, the supporting cast of League of Rogues have such distinct personalities and I love how they are all so taken with Emily. They are so used to pursuing women for a night or a few and she really starts to open their eyes. They all get a bit protective of her, and it was really nice to see.
WICKED DESIGNS is super sexy, funny, suspenseful and the perfect book to read in one sitting. (This is what I did.) I truly loved the characters and the setting was so well done, I felt like I was right there riding horses and fishing alongside the characters.
Definitely looking forward to getting to know the other League of Rogues in depth as the series continues!...more
Despite a slow start, this book is one of the best crafted stories I've read in awhile. It also managed to have this dark fairy tale feel to it. Wow wDespite a slow start, this book is one of the best crafted stories I've read in awhile. It also managed to have this dark fairy tale feel to it. Wow wow wow. More to come....more
1. I guessed the outcome of the book before the halfway markReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
My own truths about Broken Hearts, etc.:
1. I guessed the outcome of the book before the halfway mark. 2. I did not connect with any of the characters or their relationships. 3. I still read until the end of the book.
I started Broken Hearts with certain expectations because Katie Finn is Morgan Matson’s pen name and she has been nothing but a total delight in my reading life. But I found myself muttering something very surprising as I read this: I don’t think I’m the right audience for this book. I rarely feel “old” when I read young adult because there are so many feelings that parallel how I feel in my life today and also remind me of some of the brighter and tougher moments from my childhood. (I’m not the kind of person who doesn’t want to remember things so this is a positive.)
But I had to suspend a lot of reality to believe an 11-year old Gemma could be so vindictive without consequences or without an utter breakdown on her part. I know that young kids can get themselves into messes but unlike an adult who engages in this kind of behavior, I think it’s more likely for a child of that age to give in and fall apart because things are so out of control. But instead, she gets away with the awful things she does even though she still feels guilty years and years later. (Not guilty enough to fess up, even as she “matured.”)
I found myself thinking a lot about movies I like where characters take on another identity in a situation that affects a lot of people. Two that popped in my head were Ladybugs (Jonathon Brandis pretends to be a girl for a soccer team season) and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (The babysitter dies, everyone is scared to do anything about it, so Christina Applegate’s character lies on her resume and gets a fashion job for the summer to take care of her siblings while her mom is away on vacation). These are both highly entertaining films where I still feel for the characters in these impossible and improbable situations, and that’s what was missing for me in Broken Hearts. The characters and the relationships were not funny or genuine enough; the scenes, instead, felt like they were moving full-steam ahead (into more and more dubious situations) and losing all those important details along the way.
Even if the book is meant to be breezy and fun, I still want to connect with the characters. That’s the bottom line.
Another nudging feeling that I couldn’t shake during Broken Hearts was how other books I’ve read conquered this kind of premise better. Here are two:
- Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian: While I wasn’t fully invested in this series until book 2, it balanced deception and fully developed side plots (friendship, relationships, fears, etc.) in a way that even made me care for the “bad guy”. The potential for this happening in Broken Hearts was there (Josh, Gemma’s relationship with her dad) but never fully realized. - Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin: an authentic Hamptons-in-the-summer book. I don’t understand the choice to use a real locale if you aren’t going to work to get the tiny details correct. (Maggie at Just a Couple More touches upon that in her review.)
All in all, Broken Hearts wasn’t my cup of (iced) tea and I won’t be continuing the series. As a reader, you just can’t love them all....more
Whoa. Very glad I Kept this out pass due date from the library. It was so worth it.
BURIAL RITES is a story of heartbreak, betrayal, lies, AND love. AgWhoa. Very glad I Kept this out pass due date from the library. It was so worth it.
BURIAL RITES is a story of heartbreak, betrayal, lies, AND love. Agnes is a woman who has been sentenced to execution, and, while she waits, is sent to live with a family on a farm. The family wants nothing to do with a murderer living in their home, especially with young daughters, but Agnes is more than she seems.
I had heard from friends this is a book you needed to settle in with, you couldn't speed read through, and it was totally through. The story flip flops between Agnes present day and the past that led her to where she is now. She has had a hard life, left by her mother and her other living sibling. She has loved but (in her eyes) not enough to keep anyone for herself.
Agnes subtly changed the opinions of those around her, and I feel like that's a common device in books like these. A murderer is more than a murderer or an evil person. There are two sides to every story. It's hard to go into details without spoiling anything so I won't... but what happens to a lonely person who continues to attach herself to harmful individuals?
I'm always apprehensive about picking up a historical fiction book, and I wish I could get over that already. I found this one to be incredibly emotional and almost thriller like, as the reader learned more and more of the backstory.
Perhaps my only issue is my poor pronunciation of locales and names. (At some point, I was just making them up in my head.) ...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
There are many days where I sit around and pray for a very successful and kind friendReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
There are many days where I sit around and pray for a very successful and kind friend to sweep me out of my routine 9-5 life and take me to a tropical island (all expenses paid!!), where I can frolic in the waves with friends, sipping margaritas, and chatting to all hours of the night.
(Note: Any of these friends can step forward at anytime… really.)
Sadly, I don’t see this happening to me any time soon but I can be happy (cough hate cough) that it happened to this group of friends, while I drool over their opportunity of a lifetime. But in all seriousness, this group of college pals needs this trip more than anything. Case in point: Tina is feeling totally rundown as a mom; Savannah is reeling from her unfaithful (soon-to-be ex) husband; Allie receives some unfortunate news about her health; Pauline is tired of the persona she has built as Dwight’s wife.
You can see how escaping from real life couldn’t come at a better time.
Pekkanen does a great job of weaving the stories of these four women; I really liked seeing how differently each of their lives turned out and how their views on marriage and life-after-college were so vast. There is such truth in how everyone’s relationship is so unique. How do you balance your own interests when you are a mother? Can you forgive someone who betrays you? Does your relationship have what it takes to go the distance? Is it ever too late to let your guard down?
While this crowd is chumming it up like they are back in college, tension builds in paradise when old feelings resurface, flirting speeds into overdrive, unwanted guests arrive, and that hurricane they hoped they would miss is heading right for their house. There’s nothing like being in close quarters to really confront your problems. Despite the drama that ensues, Jamaica proves to be a turning point of every single person in this house — whether that’s good or bad is up to you to find out.
The Best of Us is a book that is meant to be scorched in the sun, stained with your sunscreened fingers, and maybe even splashed with a little ocean water. I was practically salivating over the luxuries these characters were offered, and I literally could not wait to figure out how this little trip would change them all. There’s a great balance to the sexy, sweet, tough, and nostalgic moments that fill the pages. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out more of Pekkanen’s work.
Wow. I really enjoyed this for so many reasons but I think it dropped off a bit at the end for me. I don't know if I'm just sad that it's over but I tWow. I really enjoyed this for so many reasons but I think it dropped off a bit at the end for me. I don't know if I'm just sad that it's over but I think I needed a little bit more.
Great college setting though. Loved the family relationships and of course Levi and all the writing. Such a sucker for these classes and professors bc that was my life in college and something I miss so much. So easy to fall for a writer and that fear Cath has of starting fresh and writing something all her own? That feeling is so real to me and makes my heart ache a little bit.
The fanfic parts didn't bother me as such as I thought they would but almost felt too concise before each chapter. Need to think more on that.
Attachments is still my number 1 Rainbow book. But man can she make me laugh and tear up in quick succession of each other. I love when characters are so distinct and she had that so down in this book. Really top notch writing and so addicting....more
If you haven't read an Anastasia book you are truly missing out. This is pre-Judy Blume, pre-Alice McKinley. What great female characters are made of.If you haven't read an Anastasia book you are truly missing out. This is pre-Judy Blume, pre-Alice McKinley. What great female characters are made of. She has spunk, a good heart, she loves to write, and she wants to make sure she fits in some explicit sex in the mystery novel she is writing. (Oh, and Nancy Drew bores her because it's not subtle enough.) Her dad is a professor/poet; her mom is a painter; her brother Sam is a pip. He acts like the oldest 2-year-old I have ever met. There is also the added pleasure of reading an early 80s novel where it was okay for kids to drink the foam off their dad's beer. It's sort of liberal, hippy and even more entertaining. Lois Lowry rules. I hope I have a kid just like Anastasia, and I raise her to be an intelligent, creative girl who speaks her mind. No matter how insane it is. (I also hope I don't lose that in myself.)...more
One of those times I want to yell at myself for waiting too long to read a book. I'm a Laurie Halse Anderson virgin despite owning a few of4.5 stars.
One of those times I want to yell at myself for waiting too long to read a book. I'm a Laurie Halse Anderson virgin despite owning a few of her other books and I read so many positive things about this title. Well, everyone was totally right.
Hayley is one of those frustrating situations where she is the one taking care of the adult in her life. Her dad is suffering from PTSD and instead of asking for help, Hayley believes she can keep their life running even if this means not applying herself in school and caring about her own future as much as she should.
It's sad and painful to watch because as a reader you know that she needs a hand, support, and someone to depend on. Their situation made the book reach a level of suspense I was not expecting because time has basically running out. How long could Hayley and her dad live this way?
A total highlight to the book was Finn, who pursues Hayley in a very unassuming yet adorable way. I loved watching them grow closer and also have to deal with this secret life Hayley had going. He was one of my fav parts of the book. (Probably because he did bring a sense of happiness to Hayley when she didn't have much at all.)
While Hayley's dad is "working" through demons, she has a few of her own and they keep popping up. Man, I needed her to catch a break. I wanted her dad to take over, even though I knew he couldn't. I cared for her and her well-being in the way you want to care about all the characters you read about.
I honestly can't give this book enough praise. The reason I didn't give it a perfect 5 (something I don't do a ton) is that there were a few places I could have used more detail and more development. But very, very few.
My official Rather Be Reading rating? Buy (in paperback).
At one point, I didn’t think I would finish Truth or Dare. But it was sort of like a game of Clue, I just had to figure out who was stalking these girls, making them do outrageous things to prevent their deepest, darkest secrets from being exploited. So I kept reading, I got completely sucked in, and I stayed up until almost 2 a.m. to finish.
And I felt major disappointment.
While Green’s writing is pretty strong (especially when it comes to characterization and navigating these tangled plotlines), I felt like Truth or Dare tricked me. Big time. In 400 pages, there was no reason why the ending had to feel rushed, totally lacking emotion, and left me with a cliffhanger.
THE KING OF ALL CLIFFHANGERS.
This is why I rarely invest my time with a series. It has to be getting RAVE reviews from my most-trusted friends for me to pick it up because I refuse to pay for three books just because. I prefer books in a series to hold on to some of its secrets but for them to also feel complete on their own. I don’t want to feel pushed into reading book two for any reason except I want to continue on a journey with these characters. I should never feel like I lost 400 pages of my reading time to be left with not one single resolution.
With three characters like Sydney, Caitlin, and Tenley, there is no shortage of storyline though. Sydney does not come from a well-to-do family like many in Echo Bay and works hard, using photography as a de-stresser, and figuring out what the guy of her dreams (Guinness) really wants from her. Caitlin and Tenley are old best friends, reunited and starting their senior year together. There are some growing pains because Caitlin has a new close friend (Emerson) and Tenley’s not sure where she stands. But she’s super confident and ready to take the school by storm, yet again. She’s always been known for her killer parties and crazy games of truth or dare, which is how our story get its start. With her squeaky clean reputation, Caitlin is involved in every activity imaginable and hoping to win class president, all the while dealing with flashbacks from her kidnapping, unsure that the right man was framed for the act.
Whew! It’s a mouthful, isn’t it?
Super drama (think Gossip Girl), everyone suspecting the other, and the giant mask of a town “curse”… life for these three turns into an even bigger mess than it was initially. It’s pretty terrifying to think that someone knows details about your life that you have never ever shared with anyone.
(One thing I was curious about: how Green would handle new step-siblings with an obvious attraction to each other? Go figure that I found that interesting and hated that a smaller character was sleeping around with the family member of one of our main girls.)
In the thick of Truth or Dare, I felt just as glued to growing mystery and suspense as I did reading R.L. Stine books (Goosebumps and his other thrillers) back in the day. I was slowly going through the cast of characters trying to figure out the culprit before I hit the last page, but, alas, I feel like I ended the book with less knowledge than I had when I started. And the worst part? Less of a desire to find out the particulars.
A theme in many of more effective books I’ve read this year lately is complicated main characters. I like to remind myself that I am never going to agree with or understand why any one person does something. Not even some super close to me. That’s just about how I felt about Brynn, a supporting character from Terra McVoy’s 2011 novel, The Summer of First and Lasts, who steps to the forefront in the addicting and complex In Deep. (Note: I didn’t much remember Brynn from an earlier reading of TSOFAL but, FYI, In Deep takes place before it.)
Brynn is a risk taker. She loves to egg on her best friend, Grier, and, in turn, loves to do stupid shit herself. She basically fills up her time with anything she can before returning to the place she feels the best — in the pool — working to perfect for times and feel like a winner. With her dad suddenly dying a few years ago and her unhappiness with how her mom handled the entire situation, she has basically shut everyone out. Sure, she says hi and bye and allows herself to play silly games with her stepdad in the car but, despite the title, it doesn’t go deeper than that.
It’s hard for me to explain why Brynn acted the way she did. Was she jealous when Grier met a new guy and completely ditched her? Why couldn’t she let Charlie be good to her and accept that he wanted more from her than just sex? All of this work focusing on swimming, not caring about schoolwork, not being honest with Grier — it was all bound to come to explode at some point, right? I mean, that’s the thing. In Deep felt like a ticking time bomb. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what all of this debauchery was leading up to, but, at the same time, completely charmed by Brynn sometimes too. Like the way she dispensed useful advice to her school friend, Kate. Or how admirable her work ethic was when it came to swimming.
But that’s the thing. Our life can’t be just one thing. No matter how good it makes us feel, balance is key to our well-being. I worried that Brynn was filling up her time with some very damaging habits because she was hiding from her mom, hiding from the death of her father, and never truly dealing with any of it. Just like McVoy did with Criminal, she completely immersed me in a world that felt dangerous: emotionally and physically. But there were also so many layers to Brynn’s behaviors and routines, so many shades of gray, that I found myself wanting so badly to be able to discuss all my thoughts with someone. My mind was all over the place — in a good way.
I love to be challenged in my reading, and I’ve grown to love McVoy’s writing with every book I experience because not one of them is the same. She is constantly stretching my limits as a compassionate reader, and introducing me to characters and situations that make me consider possibilities in my reading I never have before. Sure, there is something to be said about knowing what to expect from an author, but being surprised and satisfied? There’s nothing like it.
In Deep is dark and messy; it’s a story about how we can abuse control and routine, using it to shield us from the moments that catch us off-guard and what we do to fill an impossible void. Terra Elan McVoy continues to deliver memorable, authentic characters (leading and supporting) and moments that cause you to question your own convictions and press pause on just about everything in life until you reach the last page. (And then you won’t be able to stop thinking about it so… it’s never ending — in a good way.)...more
Road trip picks are super popular among the YA reading crowd. And how can blame them? New sights, neReview originally posted @ Rather Be Reading Blog.
Road trip picks are super popular among the YA reading crowd. And how can blame them? New sights, new people, the open road! Out of all the ones I’ve had the pleasure of reading, Adi Alsaid’s Let’s Get Lost is definitely the most unique take on the road trip I’ve experienced. Not only in story structure (5 very separate stories strung together by the presence of one girl) but in tone, too. It read older and I almost pictured the characters aged more in their mid-twenties than their teens. This was more of a bonus than a detriment because the story is all about how people come into our lives for (sometimes) short periods of time and evoke change. See? It’s super universal and I liked that a lot.
Let’s dive in. Leila, the common denominator in all of these stories, is driving her red car through the United States with a main goal of reaching the Northern Lights. She’s very mysterious. She reveals very little to each of the characters, keeping info about herself super basic, but she is kindhearted, a good listener, and so open to adventure on the open road. Not everyone is going to bump into total strangers and want to befriend them, and offer to help them in some super challenging times. Leila was like this super fairy godmother.
There’s Hudson (a mechanic the night before a huge school interview), Bree (a free spirited runaway), Elliot (dealing with the aftermath of telling his best friend how he feels about her, and finally — my favorite — Sonia (struggling with moving forward in a heartbreaking situation). I’ll admit, it’s a little evil that Hudson and Leila hit it off romantically in the first section of the book because I spent the next few stories waiting for a glimpse of him! But that’s just not how the book worked. Despite my own anxiousness about it, the formatting worked because the meaningful yet fleeting moments were emphasized by Leila waving good-bye to the people she met and moving on.
Let’s Get Lost is a book you want to take your time with (especially because it takes a majority of the book to piece together all we want to know about Leila). I could picture readers throwing it in their beach bag, picking it up repeatedly during travel breaks, or maybe enjoying it like I did, sandals off and sitting in a great park. It makes you think about the significant impacts that people have had in your life, whether you still talk to them or not. You just never know how one act of kindness or honesty can make you look at life in a different way or change your path.
Best of all, this book revved me up for another adventure! I want to road trip again soon....more
When we first meet Lauren and Ryan, they are fighting over something silly: where they parked their car at a baseball game. For some, this is an annoyance that is easy to shake off but for these two, it was only part of something bigger. I think it’s impossible to be married to someone so long, friends with someone so long, RELATED to someone so long that the little things don’t get to you and you find yourself arguing over the mundane or taking something a little too personally. It’s too easy to take the people we know will always be there for granted. Sure, we can treat them like a mini-punching bag sometimes because they are never going to leave us. But what happens when that behavior is circling all the time and you are only happy when you are sleeping or find a moment to yourself?
I thought it was brave when Lauren and Ryan decided to take a sabbatical from one another. An unconventional way to “fix” things for sure but a decision they were able to come to together. Live apart for a year, cut off contact completely and see where they are after it’s all finished. For some reason I thought Lauren would do something drastic like go on a wild trip and take time off from her job but she surprised me because she stayed put. She went to work at the alumni department of a college, had lunch with her best friend (Mila), hung out with her sister (Rachel), and enjoyed time alone with her dog. After going through the motions of a life void of Ryan for awhile, she did start living… but in a very normal kind of way.
This is what I’ve come to expect from Reid and I love it. The actions of her characters (even when they are shitty) are as realistic as they come. Lauren seesaws with her feelings about Ryan, about marriage, and what love really means. For this one year, she goes back to her roots and finds the Lauren she might have lost along the way. She spends time with her amazingly hilarious and diverse family — dramatic but well-meaning grandma, a single mom, her sister who doesn’t feel the need to get married, and a younger brother who is always surprising her. It also goes to show how much one person’s marriage affects a group of people. Everyone in Lauren’s family was mourning the loss of Ryan in their own way, but it never affected their support of her. Reid was so great at sharing the funny, quirky side of this family (+ her friends); their involvement added the perfect balance to what could have been a super depressing book.
As much as I love TV spoilers, I never feel that urge to skip to the end of a book. It’s all about the journey, right? But Reid tempted me. I needed to know that Lauren and Ryan’s year apart would bring them closer together in the end. I needed that happily ever after (or whatever)! But I didn’t succumb to the temptation. (I’m actually pretty proud of myself.) Again, Reid has a way of writing about regular folk that makes me never want to let her characters go. I laughed, I cried, and, since I’ve finished, felt the need to recommend it to just about everyone I know. Reid creates characters who are relatable, complicated, and oh-so memorable.
Happiness doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, and I think Reid conquers the messy, thoughtful path that gets us to that realization so genuinely.
I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next....more
I’m officially a Jennifer Snow fan. Country music, holidays, strong characters, and a great story =Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I’m officially a Jennifer Snow fan. Country music, holidays, strong characters, and a great story = The Mistletoe Melody. Melody is a single mom raising her twins; her husband was killed a few years ago in a car accident caused by his best friend, Brad. After years of ditching his hometown during the holidays, Brad is back in town filming a special for a country music special and is still reeling from this tragedy head-on. Running into Melody is never easy because even though she was so in love with his best friend, they had always been close friends, and also worked together musically. Neither of them can forget about the accident.
Melody is a pretty private person and it’s not easy for her to ask for help, even when the bank is threatening to foreclose on her house. But even when Brad asks her to pen a song for him, she’s reluctant to say yes and starting dreaming some of her old dreams. Can she move on from the past and put her faith into her music and Brad? I love how devoted Melody was to making a great life for her sons, and how Snow folded in a sub-plot featuring the kids too. The romance was slow and sexy, and super well done for a book where a widow falls for her dead husband’s best friend and vice versa.
If you are looking for a book that is charming and sweet and almost-Christmas Carol-esque (especially from Brad’s point of view), The Mistletoe Melody is a must....more
“Maybe there will be a day when this shit will be over and I can just be a dude with normal regulaReview 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. ...more
First, a few reasons to pick up this August release paperback:
- The setting is practically another character. Cook described the gorgeous Mi3.5 stars.
First, a few reasons to pick up this August release paperback:
- The setting is practically another character. Cook described the gorgeous Mississippi town so well, I felt like I was practically living there too. It was so delightfully Southern and everything felt so gorgeous and grand. - It’s not exactly a Romeo and Juliet story. Instead of Ryder and Jemma want nothing to do with one another, and it’s their parents who are pretty much marrying them on the spot. Loved this twist, and also the backstory associated with it. - There is a storm. An intense storm that traps both of the main characters in a house — alone. With the threat of no electricity. So. I’ll let that idea simmer for you because it was awesome.
I sped through Magnolia so quickly because I could not WAIT to see what would happen.
Have you ever read a book that was completely addicting, really moving (enough to make you cry), and in the end, still had no idea how to rate it?
That’s exactly my relationship with Maybe One Day. On one hand, I was so thrilled to have a strong female friendship portrayed in my young adult literature. And on the other, some rough transitions, offhand comments from the main character (football players learning to rape?), and overlooked characters and situations continued to nag me and therefore, affected how I felt about the entire book.
Zoe and Olivia’s friendship reminded me of a few of my high school friendships: knowing each other since childhood, spending time together after school pursuing other passions, practically sharing family, and making plans for that future far and beyond high school and college. They were lifers. So I can only imagine how heartbreaking it was for both of them with Olivia got sick. First you guys are both cut from the New York Ballet Company, and now your partner-in-crime is laying in a hospital somewhere — hoping that treatment can zap this villainous disease out of her system.
Nothing prepares you for moments like this, that’s for sure.
I admired Zoe’s devotion to Olivia, big time. She visited the hospital, she called, she even took over her dance class on the weekends and Skyped her in when she could. But most of the time, she feels helpless. Her grades slipped because when she’s not spending time with Olivia, she’s thinking about her. Truth is, Zoe was kind of lost before this happened with Olivia. She missed dancing, soccer didn’t cut it, and maybe she just wasn’t ready to trust herself dancing again. She didn’t have something to fill her time like she used to. I can imagine how out of control everything felt for her.
We do have a potential romance with Calvin, which is kind of complicated because Olivia has a crush on him and Zoe doesn’t like him much at first. But I really liked him. Even when Zoe was difficult, he never stopped trying to be her friend. (Plus he was always there for Olivia’s brother. Nice guy.) I could have used more of him to lighten up the book and make his story arc a bit more complete. He felt glossed over, and his chemistry with Zoe was just too good to be ignored. (Even if it was a messy pairing; in the beginning, I thought she would hit it off with Olivia’s brother.)
While I loved Zoe and Olivia’s bond, the heartfelt efforts of their classmates, how Kantor’s words made me feel so much, there was something that didn’t click for me. Was it the deep detail that was given to some scenes and not to the ones where Zoe’s character growth could have been realized? Or maybe how the first section of the book was substantially longer than the others making it feel a little uneven? It’s true the emotions were heavy in Maybe One Day and the friendships were meaningful but sharper focus on who the story was actually about would have made it entirely more effective....more
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.) ...more
Love Letters to the Dead reminded me of why I loved last year’s Wild Awake and classic Perks of BReview originally published on Rather Be Reading Blog
Love Letters to the Dead reminded me of why I loved last year’s Wild Awake and classic Perks of Being a Wallflower so much: the ultimate highs and lows a character experiences while working through the tough stuff and the effort it takes to grow, and move forward. That’s all in Love Letters but despite some similarities, I assure you that this debut stands on its own with unique story structure, fluid writing, and a main character I wanted to shield from her demons and deliver to safety.
This is a difficult book to read, friends. And not for any reasons except it was dark and it was sad and some of it felt very lonely. I pictured Laurel sitting in her room or at school writing letters to Judy Garland, Amelia Earhart, or Heath Ledger and it just tore me up inside. Even as she maneuvered new friendships, a possible love connection (the absolutely amazing and mature Sky), and attempts to reconnect with her once jokester father and her runaway mother, everything in Laurel’s life felt so out of control. I wanted to be positive for her but gosh, it was so hard and I wondered when (and if) things would take a turn for the better.
The love Laurel and May had for each other was encompassed by this innocence I loved so much. Even when May started to detach herself from her family, she always came back to Laurel. It was a shame that May’s own distractions kept her from seeing what was going on with her little sister, and heartbreaking (but not unheard of) that Laurel couldn’t be open with her. There were a lot of “coulda shoulda wouldas” and at some point, playing rewind and reliving all of these moments could make someone totally unhinged. Especially if you are keeping it all to yourself. I was curious to see if Laurel would take these missed opportunities and make necessary changes for her future.
I have to take a minute to talk about the supporting characters. Hannah and Natalie, two girls who Laurel makes friends with at school, both have their own separate stories and I liked watching the ebbs of flows of their relationships with one another. Can you truly be friends if you are unable to be honest and open up? What if you can’t accept who you really are? For awhile I wasn’t even sure if Hannah and Natalie would remain friends throughout the book, and I felt a lot of Laurel’s own anxieties about fitting in and finding people who know you. (Especially when people you love have the tendency to leave.)
I also have to give it up for Sky; he’s older and a bit mysterious but I really thought he did good by Laurel even when she might not have seen it that way. He wanted to be her shoulder, he wanted to help her, but how do you help someone who doesn’t want to help herself? Sky felt like an anchor from the moment he and Laurel connected but she had to be her own life preserver for them to work as friends or as more than that. Everything about Sky felt true to Love Letters‘ story.
When I’m reading (and I’m not sure I’m alone), I tend to think about the longevity of a book’s time in my life. Will I read it again? Do I want to own a copy? Is it the kind of book I want to pass on to others? I had my doubts with this one because it was just so very sad. Why would I want to relive it, right? Well, I was so impressed with the beauty of Dellaira’s writing and I found myself berating myself for not taking extensive notes from the very beginning. From the conclusions Laurel would draw about the celebrities she confided in, the music and movies she mentioned, and even what she chose to share with each of these people… there is so much to breakdown and discover. Love Letters is a book that not only deserves your uninterrupted attention, but a spot of honor on your bookshelf....more
If Sam saw my movie collection or knew that I barely got through the first Star Wars film, he wouldn’t make fun of me. Instead he would politely suggest we watch it, fill me in on all kind of behind-the-scenes facts, and make it a totally enjoyable experience, I’m sure. Enthusiasm like his can only be infectious and in Life in Outer Space, it totally is. While I felt a little out of my element with all Sam’s film references at first, I caught on and found myself totally enjoying them (and laughing too).
I think I might actually be a little bit in love with Sam. His love of movies reminded me of Dawson (I hope you know who this is) but he was never obnoxiously confident or super melodramatic. He internalized a lot, and I think that made his character completely endearing. Because he legit has no idea what to do when his best friend Scott starts acting super weird and distant, and he’s even more at a loss when he starts to fall for the person everyone wants to be friends with, Camilla.
Keil does a great job of introducing so many elements of life in one book: parents having problems, friends falling in love, the fear of what to do after high school is over, absent parents, not being afraid to try new things. It’s actually amazing how much is seamlessly (and thoughtfully) woven through this Life in Outer Space. It’s a true snapshot of life and all the messy feelings that come along with it.
There’s also this loyalty amongst friends that you don’t see too much in books these days. Sam is the guy you want in your corner. Even if it takes him a little time to react and confront someone, he truly cares about his friends and their well-being. You can tell that Scott, Adrian and Allison felt the same way; they all had each other’s backs and weren’t afraid to be honest with each other when they needed a good dose of it. Growing up is tough on friendships, and that was so apparent here.
Life in Outer Space is a book that I wanted to buy all of my friends (especially the ones who would love all the Star Wars jokes and horror movies). It had so much charm, so much heart, and reminded me why I loved to read so much and how sometimes book characters feel like your friends. This is not one to miss....more
This book is the ultimate as far as light, summery YAs are concerned.
First: the setting. Three glorious weeks at a summer camp where you pick a concentration: writing, running, nature. When I was young I only attended day camps that ran for a few weeks, and McVoy had me secretly hating my parents for never sending me away to an overnight place like this one. (If there are any camps like this for 27-year olds, let me know because I am game!)
Second: the boys. Now, my husband’s name is James so I always feel secretly proud when there is a love interest in a book that shares his name (see: Unbreak My Heart). Middle sister Violet reunites with James after he skips a year of camp… although now he’s a counselor — a big no-no. Campers and counselors can’t date. Or make out. Or stare at each other from across the room and feel all tingley inside? Yum, their story was delicious. Each sister has some kind of boy in their life in some capacity and I really liked seeing the different stages the three were in.
Third: the drama. Now it wouldn’t be summer camp without some bitchy girls, unavailable guys, and a rebellious girl who loves to be the center of attention. Instead of being a counselor, Calla has a paying job in the camp’s office and is thoroughly worried about being perfect, making a good impression, and making the best out of camp even though her job duties take her away from the camp activities she has grown to look forward to year after year. Violet buddies up with a new girl who keeps getting into trouble, and Daisy is dealing with girls who are so jealous of her they will stop at nothing to humilate her. While each sister goes through their own thing, they do overlap with one another and provide support and friction at the same time.
At the core, this book is about the bonds of sisters. And it really made me miss mine. (We’re five years apart and don’t see each other that much because she’s in school and I’m a “grown up”.) I missed the days when I used to come home after school and see my sister or even the days during the summer when we hung out at the beach. It kind of just made me miss home. At the back of the book, McVoy shares that she indeed is part of a trio of sisters and I could tell. They were some very tender, sweet moments as well as those inevitable ragey ones. (By alternating chapters between the three, we were able to find out the inside thoughts each had about the other and I loved being privy to this insight.)
Best of all, McVoy shocked me completely with her ending. Reading it was just as disruptive as what happens to the girls (ohh the suspense) and it fit the situation perfectly. All I could think was “bravo” for taking the road less traveled.
I could see you reading this book on the beach (like I did), in the fall, or even with some hot chocolate in the winter. It doesn’t need to be summer to feel the excitement and freedom that the season and this book radiates. ...more
I can’t be the only person who sees Greek mythology and thinks of this guy:
Before I launch into one of my favorite Hercules songs, I should say that I don’t normally read paranormals. But every once in awhile I’ll crawl out of my comfortable cocoon of contemporaries and try something new. My Ex From Hell‘s title was so catchy and who couldn’t get behind a name like that? We have ALL been there.
Sophie, a ballsy teenager, known for pranks especially when it comes to the bitchiest girl at her boarding school. On the night of one of her biggest jokes yet, Sophie’s world as she knows it changes when she kisses Kai, the hottest boy she has ever seen, and she starts to see visions. Her friend, Theo, (someone she now knows she goes way back with) fills in the pieces and bam, there is it. She is actually a goddess, caught in the middle of a war between the Underworld and Mt. Olympus.
I’m always curious about the amount of time a character takes to get used to outlandish news like this. Huge! Crazy! Unbelievable and when they just sort of go with it and don’t question it all too much, my investment in the story starts to wane. Unfortunately this happened here. Darling has a great premise but the voyage into the world of the Greeks happens so fast; I felt like I was getting whiplash. (Even her best friend, Hannah, was pretty ho-hum about the news.)
It did help that Sophie was funny and quirky and for a kind of insta-love/hate plot, she and Kai had some intense chemistry. (I wanted more of them!) Every now and then, I would get caught up in the tone of the characters though. Sometimes the story felt so juvenile and then there would be a line or two injected in there about foreplay and sex and I would be like WHOA. These ARE teenagers.
Maybe it’s just a personal preference but I need a dose of reality in my fantasy. While I’m glad to have read My Ex Goes to Hell (and I think it could make an awesome Disney Channel movie), I’m not sure I’ll pick up the rest of the series....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
My awesome baby-sitting skills have become sort of a running joke in my family. My sister even mentiReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
My awesome baby-sitting skills have become sort of a running joke in my family. My sister even mentioned them in her maid of honor speech at my wedding. My name is Estelle and I used to tie my sister to a chair in front of the television. For the record, it wasn’t because she was a snot to me. She just would not sit still. And hey, she turned out okay? So really, this was not traumatic at all.
A few pages into Elizabeth Eulberg’s new book and let me tell you, my sister was a saint compared to Mac. While my sister and I are five years apart, Lexi and Mac have a staggering 9 years between them and their upbringing couldn’t be more different. Even though Lexi’s parents fought a ton, she was brought up with two parents. Upon Mac’s arrival, Dad peaces out and Mom decides to bond with her youngest by signing her up for beauty pageants. And, hence, Mac the brat is born.
So not only is Lexi reeling from her parent’s divorce (still), she is forced into assisting with all the details of Mac’s pageants too. It’s not often that we have a character who is cast in the shadow of her younger sibling, and I liked this change. The age gap between the two is so apparent, especially when Lexi sees that their mom is spending ALL their money on this obsession (even after Mac can’t win back their entry fee many times). But Lexi’s mom doesn’t want to hear it. I was appalled (APPALLED) by how she dismissed Lexi’s worries and continually accused her of being jealous of Mac.
Luckily, Lexi has some great best friends to turn to. (The kind of friends that always make me miss high school.) Cam and Benny are very supportive, awesome people and I love that Benny convinces Lexi to show the world what she is made of. They both challenge each other to dive into something new: Benny is going to ask out a boy he likes (he’s gay but not completely “out”) and Lexi is going to primp and polish her appearance and see herself as beautiful for once.
In some ways, this plan soars and, in others, it backfires. Mac sees Lexi as competition, and becomes even more of a whiny brat (if possible). But, on the other hand, Lexi starts to be more social with her peers and even gets to go on her first date with the adorable Taylor. (Even though she can’t stop thinking about Logan, who has a girlfriend and never looks at her like that.) While I know a makeover is not the answer to esteem issues, I do like the way it helped Lexi build her confidence and figure out how she wanted to present herself to the world.
But, at the heart of this book are some deep, intense family issues and I applaud Eulberg for giving a lot more depth to her storylines and characters this time around. (This was one of my reservations with Take a Bow.) Lexi and Mac’s mom was so resistant to her daughters’ pleas to change their life for the better. Their mom was severely obese, and goes to some disgusting lows to keep the appearance of their “beauty pageant” life going. In the end, though, this storyline seemed to suffer with a quick ending and not enough resolution. I’m not sure their mom was capable of being a good mom. She was emotionally and physically unhealthy, unwilling to see her family for what it really was, and used the pageants as a distraction from reality. I finished the book still worrying about the well-being of both girls. (Especially for Mac, who wasn’t lucky enough to have college to escape to.)
While The Lonely Hearts Club still holds my heart as far as Eulberg’s work goes, I was really pleased to see growth in both plot and characterization in Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality. The author brings up some great points when it comes to appearance and the strength it takes to be honest (especially when others don’t want to hear it). While Lexi has a few more opportunities than the average person to tell it like it is in a public forum, I respected her for her patience, honesty, logic, and willingness to try new things. ...more
Criminal was one of those books I had to hide in another room so I wouldn’t be tempted to keep pReview originally published on Rather Be Reading Blog:
Criminal was one of those books I had to hide in another room so I wouldn’t be tempted to keep picking it up way way past my bedtime.
Terra Elan McVoy, queen of summer camp and girls being friends with boys, has created such a tense, horrifying, addicting read in 288 short pages. Nikki is a down on her luck teenager with an addict for a mother, finding a sense of home living with her best friend, Bird, and her baby daughter. But her whole life changes when she meets Dee and falls desperately in love. The desperate kind of love that makes you forget everything else, leaves you so undone, that everything else seems unimportant.
Dee is passionate when he’s sexy and when he’s angry, and makes Nikki feel worthwhile and safe. He’s the kind of guy that really knows how to manipulate a situation, knows how to use sex to his advantage and gets Nikki involved in a heartless crime. Before she even knows what’s happening he gives her a disguise, tells her where to drive and when to wait for him. Nikki is scared but not sure what to do, and when she hears the gunshots and sees Dee’s face afterwards, she’s still not sure what to feel.
The next morning Dee is questioned by the cops and promises to contact Nikki when he can. Nikki goes nuts trying to say the right things to the cops when they come to question her, and keeping everything from Bird is really hard. When she realizes the murder Dee has committed may get Bird in big trouble, Nikki confesses just enough to clear Bird from the crime but not enough to keep herself out of jail.
Does this sound like your typical YA?
McVoy has branched out so much; it’s like Criminal is from a different planetary system. Her succinct writing style, the oodles of research that had to be done, and the fact that as a reader, I couldn’t figure out if I thought Nikki was incredibly weak for not standing up to Dee before he killed someone or just totally helpless in the heat of the moment, or if she was really at fault or not when she had no idea what he was planning. Every time she texted him (and wasn’t supposed to), my brain was screaming “Nooo Nikki! Don’t you know they will have a record of those texts to use against you?” (Cue everything I learned from the Casey Anthony trial.)
It’s amazing — even though Nikki is now IN jail, obviously strained her friendship with Bird and lost her job, she still can’t believe anything bad about Dee. She’s afraid FOR him. I kept wondering when she would finally break, when she would finally start to feel angry because she still felt attached to him after the “foundation” of their relationship started to crack. After the authorities let a few of his lies loose. It’s kind of like watching someone wind down from the biggest high of their life and finally be forced to make make do with truth.
In the jail, with this group of girls, and having the opportunity to incarcerate Dee by spilling every detail she can think of, Nikki grows and changes in ways I didn’t fathom. For awhile, she’s detached, guilty, bored, obsessed, apprehensive, difficult. But jail is kind of this blessing; it’s a controlled environment, something she is not used to with her addict mom’s antics, or the disdain she felt from Bird when she was dating Dee. Even when things start to click for Nikki, her life is not without consequence and big unfortunate changes.
Criminal is such a tight, well-written story yet still leaves a lot of room for discussion. I really appreciated the leaps that McVoy took with her writing this go-around; this story about power, lust, and love never felt over-dramatized or black and white. And the fact that I was able to discuss the details at length with my husband just proved to me how versatile a book it was for readers, being able to satisfy a larger audience. ...more
I was tempted to read Wildlife because the reviews have been such a mixed bag. H3.75? This is a tough one! Originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I was tempted to read Wildlife because the reviews have been such a mixed bag. Here are some of my thoughts organized in a pros & cons list:
- The setting. I haven’t read another book where students took a semester to live in the wilderness. It very much felt like a camp (but with grades), and I enjoyed hanging out in a new setting and taking part in all the nature-y and physical activities that were part of their every day routines. (I don’t know if I ever would have survived a semester like this.) - Lou is dealing with some very heavy grief. She’s also brand new to this school, and is able to shrink in herself as she deals with a tragedy that totally shattered her world. I loved how realistically Fiona Wood handled this storyline. Lou has to come to terms with so much without a familiar shoulder to lean on. She’s independent but hurting, and I liked how her story was broken down in diary entries as a way for her to work through these hefty emotions. - I felt similarly about the sex in this book. Sib, who is dealing with some new treatment from her classmates because of a modeling gig she has, engages in a secret relationship with one of the most popular guys at school and she has so many questions about deciding to take the next step and what it means to her. This was some of the best inner dialogue I’ve seen about sex in a young adult book, and I wish there was more of it. What do you do when you think sex is a big deal and your partner doesn’t? Michael — Sib’s true blue best friend who is sort of pushed to the side while she pursues other interests and also a new friend to Lou. He’s quiet but super solid and I had a lot of love for him throughout the story. - Short chapters! Again, something I rarely see in the books I’m reading but very welcome when I’m reading during lunch and only have a short amount of time to jump back into the story. It felt like I always had a stopping point. (Plus the chapter number art was beautiful.)
- The pacing was a little slow. Wildlife takes place over a semester and because all of the chapters were so introspective, there was very little action. I kept wondering what was going to break the book wide open, and it took awhile. (Even when it got there, it felt more like a tiny fire than a full on explosion.) - I was reminded a lot of my reading of Paper Airplanes from a few weeks ago. Two girls become friends, one of them has a toxic best gal pal, and there seems to be only a little bit of time for a full-fledged friendship to develop. It was obvious Sib and Lou could help each other (especially because Sib’s best friend is a piece of work) and I wanted the seed for their friendship to be planted sooner so maybe they could be farther along as I came up to the ending.
Final thoughts: Wildlife is written so beautifully, and I loved the supporting character that nature played in the story. The author did such a commendable job bringing to life two girls going through so much: one dealing with questions of her own limits (in relationships and friendship) and another working to make peace with the past. It was real and emotional but also hopeful. Definitely looking forward to reading more of Wood’s work in the future....more
Five pages into Roomies, I was thanking the book gods for placing it in my hands.
The summer before I left for college was pretty rough. I started dating a new guy (this would lead to a long distance relationship), my mom and I were fighting all the time (there is this one fight over paper towels that I can’t seem to forget), and I was working two jobs. It was a lot. Then there’s that extra layer of all your friends leaving for college one by one, and you are basically the only one left. (Our school started late.)
Your emotions are so jumbled up. On one hand, you are so excited to start a new thing and get out of the town you grew up in and on the other, you are totally terrified to leave the comforts of your friendships, your house, and your parents — scared to leave the past behind. (Ten years later, it’s funny to me that these are the same fears I have now. Scared to move forward, excited to jump ahead. I can never make up my mind.)
Elizabeth (EB) and Lauren are feeling such similar things: tension with their best friends, on the brink of new romances, and then the family stuff. For Elizabeth, she is so ready to get out of the nest and away from her mother, who is too busy dating the wrong men to spend time with her and for Lauren, she’s so used to being a big part in taking care of her big family. Her mom and dad really depend on her to take on a lot of work at home: baby-sitting, cleaning, you name it, she does it. So Lauren’s a little apprehensive: can her parents do this without her? How will her siblings deal with missing her?
Through each of their characters, Altebrando and Zarr hit on so many intriguing conclusions on friendships: the dependence you feel on old friends and the hope that new friendships can become just as meaningful. As these girls get deeper and deeper into the summer and find themselves leaning on one another, you are left to wonder how their relationship will hold up in real time, face to face. While this book is so much about moving forward and growing up, there’s also some interesting commentary on technology: how easy it is to confide in a stranger through email, and how easy it is to doubt the genuineness of the person on the other side. Trust totally comes into play.
Separately, Altebrando and Zarr write books that are memorable, touching, and so quote-worthy I might as well highlight the entire thing. But together? It’s almost out of control how much I felt immediately at home, ready to curl up with hot cocoa until I was done. Elizabeth’s landscape architecture dreams, Lauren’s lack of “real” phone, and then the boys — EB’s Mark and his sweet tasks for the summer and Lauren’s Keyon and how he always asks his dad for advice about her (Keyon’s dad soon becomes synonymous with adult wisdom for both girls). There is absolutely so much to enjoy in Roomies; I couldn’t possibly list it all.
This is definitely a book that is meant to be re-read time and time again and absolutely the best reading experience to end your year....more