Take Me On by Katie McGarry was full of all the elements I felt were strengths in Pushing the Limits — grReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading
Take Me On by Katie McGarry was full of all the elements I felt were strengths in Pushing the Limits — great witty banter between Haley and West, real life complications and issues, an interesting setting (a gym with a lot of emphasis on kickboxing and mixed martial arts), and fantastic burning chemistry.
But there were also some setbacks for me, too. It took quite a long time for me to feel like the story was progressing because the tension and constant back and forth dance between Haley and West’s emotions took quite a long time to level out. I desperately wanted them to make a decision. Could Haley accept that West was nothing like her ex-boyfriend and revoke her decision to never date another fighter? Could West settle down and stop feeling like the world was against him?
Haley’s ex brought out the absolute worst side of her and turned her kickboxing passion into something she wanted nothing to do with. Her deteriorating home life leaves Haley constantly feeling like a lesser version of herself. She walks on eggshells around her uncle who disrespects women (and people in general) in the most awful ways. She’s witnessing her father spiral out of control while desperately wanting him to get his act together and protect her. Even one of her closest friends, her grandfather, doesn’t know exactly what Haley’s gone through; she’s completely secluded herself and withdrawn.
West’s home life is the exact opposite of Haley’s by comparison — he has everything money can buy, lives in a sprawling mansion, and attends one of the best private schools. But when you look beyond all the shiny material things, you see that West’s mother is just as detached as Haley’s father, that his father’s expectations are unnecessarily high, and his sister is in the hospital for something he blames himself for.
Seeing these two broken individuals come together as they figure out how to heal and move past their struggles was probably my favorite part of Take Me On. I loved the symbolism behind the fighting that Haley was teaching West to do (and hoped that she would find worth in herself and start fighting for herself, too). Sometimes I felt like the story was dragging along more slowly than would have been ideal, making the whole book feel a little bit too lengthy. I can understand how in a real-world setting, people with West and Haley’s struggles wouldn’t immediately be able to bypass them and embrace the love being extended to them.
Haley and West’s story was an enjoyable experience that took me into another world and really made my day-to-day issues seem meager by comparison. Katie McGarry did a great job branching out to explore this new fighting dynamic and continues to impress with her ability to heal two broken characters....more
First impressions and crazy thoughts that went through my head about On the Fence:
-- Holy crap this is so so so so so so so good.
-- I love the relationship between the siblings. There are four of them. Hmm. Would Dustyn want four kids? I want my children to grow up close and protective of one another like them. (Truth: I did talk to Dustyn about this possibility after finishing On the Fence. Second truth: I’ve never considered having four kids before. I’ve always had a “we’ll see what happens” mentality.)
-- Whyyyyyyy did it have to end? I just wanted to keep reading forever and ever.
-- Must. Preorder. Finished. Copy.
Cohesive thoughts to justify my fangirling:
Sitting on a bookshelf in my bedroom is a copy of The Distance Between Us. Estelle loved it last year; she recommended we all buy it. So I did. And I’ve had nothing but the best intentions for wanting to read it since then. Yada yada yada — I was pregnant and a foster mom and blah blah blah — fast forward to now. As we were discussing the review books we had to read, Estelle suggested I be the one to read On the Fence. (I think she knew I needed something REALLY good to pull me out of full-time-mommy-mode so I could enjoy some much needed reading time.)
And crap. Now I’m 100% irritated with myself that I haven’t read TDBU because I feel like I have sincerely missed out on greatness. Kasie’s writing in On the Fence is undeniably fantastic. Within a few paragraphs, I was hooked and completely ignoring all life responsibilities. (Don’t worry; Everett was already in bed for the night.) Charlie is the youngest sister to three older brothers (four brothers if you count their neighbor, Braden, who practically lives at their house); she’s tough and fast and very un-girly. She’s eager to hop into a football or soccer game. She doesn’t expect the boys to take it easy on her because she’s a girl. Charlie’s never had a boyfriend, but her brothers would give any guy she brought around the third degree. Her brothers are her best friends.
When Charlie finds herself with another speeding ticket (oops?), her father forces her to get a job to pay him back for it (and the others). The place she finds unemployment is very un-Charlie-like with clothes she’d never be caught dead wearing in front of her brothers and makeup she doesn’t know how to use. Despite her anxiousness to do her time and pay her dad back, she finds herself becoming friends with girls she never would have expected to and creating outfits she didn’t know she was capable of.
But Charlie also has this other thing: she doesn’t sleep well at night. She stays as active as possible so she is completely worn out when she goes to bed in hopes that she’ll have a good night of sleep. More often than not, she finds herself awake in the wee hours of the morning. Oddly enough, she soon realizes that Braden is up at strange hours too. They find themselves outside on either side of a fence, having candid conversations about things they’d be too shy to discuss in the daylight. (Swoon.)
On the Fence has every element I desire in my books: family background, strong friendships, a believable relationship, a great sense of time and fantastic pacing, and a strong setting. I became so wrapped up in Charlie’s life that I felt they were real. I wanted to know these people. I wished I could visit them and watch Charlie kick ass in a football game. I greatly admired Charlie’s dad and how protective he was of his baby girl, but also how hard he tried to be the parent he needed to be for her, especially with the absence of her mother. Every aspect feels so perfectly authentic and real; I laughed out loud and I really never wanted On the Fence to end. I think it’ll be topping the charts as a 2014 favorite for me....more
I have not flown through a book so fast in a LONG time. I was obsessed. There's one thing at the end that kinda makes me think, "Eh, really?!" becauseI have not flown through a book so fast in a LONG time. I was obsessed. There's one thing at the end that kinda makes me think, "Eh, really?!" because it just shouldn't have happened that way. BUT - I also feel things were left open-ended for a follow up. I need to do some investigating. In short, READ THIS. Fantastic debut!...more
I'm giving this a four purely based on the writing. The story is also a good one, but I wouldn't say it's a feel-good kind of story. It's heartbreakinI'm giving this a four purely based on the writing. The story is also a good one, but I wouldn't say it's a feel-good kind of story. It's heartbreaking, really, and you're going to be super frustrated and irritated by the main character. But this book is necessary. It's common for us to read a book from the perspective of the tortured, but not from the bully. TEASE gives a great glimpse inside the bully's mind - who really doesn't see herself as such and often feels quite justified in her actions - and how that affects her moving forward after something terrible happens to the her target.
Hello again, friends! I’m back with another vlog review, and –wow!– what a book Tease was. I’ve seen a bit of differing opinions about this one because author Amanda Maciel takes you (uncomfortably) inside the bully’s mind. As a reader, you’re going to want to wring Sara’s neck in hopes that she could see that she’s done wrong and made some major mistakes. Does that happen? You’ll just have to find out for yourself. But do know that you’ll feel frustrated with Sara. She thinks her actions are justified; she felt threatened by Emma and had a hard time standing up to her best friend, Brielle, when she suggested something particularly nasty to do/say to Emma because Sara felt like her friendship with Brielle was slipping away.
Simply stated: Tease is complicated. It’s a difficult read, but it’s very relative and important. Read it....more
So you know when you think something is a really awesome concept, but then there’s just a little bit of sReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading
So you know when you think something is a really awesome concept, but then there’s just a little bit of spark that’s lacking to make it perfect? Essentially, that’s what I walked away from The Chapel Wars feeling. Set in Las Vegas, Holly’s grandfather passes away and she inherits his the wedding chapel he’s lovingly owned and operated. While others (particularly the one across the parking lot) have sold out to commercialize weddings and take theatrics to the extreme, Holly’s grandfather stayed true to his vision of weddings by trying to appeal to the elegant Las Vegas bride. What Holly and her family didn’t realize was the debt her grandfather was in and the race Holly must enter to keep them afloat, all while secretly falling in love with the competition’s grandson and facing an imminent deadline.
The chapel is passed down to Holly because she’s a go-getter who is obsessed with numbers. She’s a problem solver; if anyone’s going to save the chapel, it will be her. Her father is a little spacey and her mother lacks the passion. Holly really struggles with everyone taking her seriously and finding a balance between modernizing the chapel and falling into the money-trap that is Vegas by offering themed weddings and Elvis. The owner of the chapel across the parking lot had a long-withstanding war with her grandfather, and he’d like nothing more than to see Holly’s chapel crash and burn. But his grandson, Dax, enters the picture right around the time of Holly’s grandpa’s funeral. And Holly has a letter she’s been instructed to give him.
Dax and Holly have an instant attraction, but she feels like she’s cheating on her family if she pursues a relationship with him. Thus begins this whirlwind courtship that involves lots of sneaking around, secret dates, and stolen kisses between the chapels. As much as I enjoy seeing characters overcome obstacles, the relationship with Dax and Holly often felt rushed and a little forced. Coupled with the pacing feeling a little off and and an imbalance between the focus on the relationship, chapel, and Holly’s family problems, I always felt intrigued by what the outcome might be, but I didn’t feel invested. (I felt so distanced from Holly that at times I even felt myself not remembering her name.)
I applaud Leavitt for trying to give us more than just a slice of the pie by including multiple aspects of Holly’s life, but some details felt like nibbles when I really wanted to dissect the entire slice. Holly felt distant and difficult to connect to; she’s a very unemotional character who had a lot of barriers that, while intended to keep Dax at a distance, negatively impacted how attached I was to her. When Holly finally begins to loosen up and release some of her tension, her quick judgments felt out-of-character and that really made me feel like her actions were being manipulated for the intention of moving the story along.
If you’re looking to read your first book by Leavitt, I definitely recommend you begin with Sean Griswold’s Head; both Estelle and I have nothing but good things to say for it!...more
When I saw a few negative reviews for this book, I admit my guard was up. But I really enjoyed it. CJ and Megan's friendship is messy and imperfect. CWhen I saw a few negative reviews for this book, I admit my guard was up. But I really enjoyed it. CJ and Megan's friendship is messy and imperfect. CJ's home life is depressing and she is so responsible for holding everything together. I liked the storytelling tactic and going back and forth between CJ's first kisses and present day. I'm a fan, and so glad I didn't let my hesitations deter me.
Note: 17 First Kisses is full of complicated, messy relationships, mistakes, and heartbreak. With so many thoughts running through my mind after finishing, I decided I needed to break this down Estelle-style and do a “Why in 5″ post.
1. The beauty of 17 First Kisses is that it’s focused on things that are so realistic and hones in on the complexity of relationships and life. Claire’s home life is less than desirable; her family went through a situation that was new to me in the YA world. It’s left her mother severely can’t-get-out-of-bed depressed and her father has also checked out and disengaged. Claire becomes the glue that holds everything together, but ultimately this means she’s the third parent in her family. That’s a lot of responsibility for her to carry.
2. Without the support of her best friend, Megan, Claire would be treading through her difficult home life all alone. Megan is the person Claire turns to when she needs someone to talk to. The friendships felt extremely authentic. (Even the supporting friendship between Megan and her childhood friend, Sam, who was a nice balance to the catty situations the girls sometimes wound up in. He was calm, steady, and level-headed throughout.) Megan and Claire both screw up. They’re both responsible for hurting one another. In terms of teenage decisions, I felt they were spot on — they’re sometimes too selfish and don’t think things through, but ultimately, I was pleased that their friendship always, always pulled them back together (even after the worst of situations). What two friends have never suffered from saying or doing something awful that hurt?
3. Speaking of hurt, let’s just cut right to the chase and talk about boy trouble. Luke enters the picture as someone new, charming, and automatically draws the attention of both Claire and Megan. His interests perfectly parallel Claire’s, but Megan is the striking, gorgeous, popular girl all the guys fawn over. Though the girls make a pact to stay away from him, he’s persuasive and… how could they stay away?
4. I admit that when I learned we were going to learn about all of Claire’s 17 kisses, it seemed like she’d done an awful lot of kissing. Allen, however, uses a great storytelling tactic and progressively pieces everything together with flashbacks to those middle school spin-the-bottle days. It just worked. Now, I’m not condoning that all of Claire’s kisses were worthwhile (ahem, the band members), but every flashback gives us the opportunity to learn more about Megan and Claire’s friendship, family life, and really gives us the full picture.
5. The ending wasn’t tied in a perfect bow. There’s room left for interpretation and growth and the more time I spend away from 17 First Kisses after finishing, I realize this is exactly what Claire needed. After all the drama and change that occurs throughout the course of the book, she needs some time to heal, become her own person, and not have everything figured out as she leaves for college.
Final thoughts: I’ve seen a few negative reviews for this book, but felt so intrigued by the story as I was reading it. Don’t be deterred by the sometimes messy friendship or the bad decisions the characters make. To me, they were realistic depictions of everyday life. Things aren’t always so perfect, and I was so glad to have felt differently than the reviews I read prior to beginning the book....more
I just...wow. This was such a great read. So very different (since it's written in verse) than my norm, but a very welcome change. Stasia's words areI just...wow. This was such a great read. So very different (since it's written in verse) than my norm, but a very welcome change. Stasia's words are powerful and so carefully chosen.
Though not exactly by choice, I somehow don’t read many books written in verse. Maybe because there just aren’t as many? After reading The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe, I find myself really, really wishing for more.
In TSoLG, Daisy is an award-winning trumpet player. She’s a straight-A student who plays by the rules and is very diligent about being home on time and helping her parents with her younger brother, Steven, who is autistic. Daisy realizes there are a lot of “high school” activities she’s missing out on because of her family’s situation, but she doesn’t dare complain. She’s a very mature young woman who sorts through her emotions in a very considerate way. Does she like that she has to turn down Dave when he suddenly asks her out on a date? No. But she’s also not the girl who is going to blabber off excuses to Dave so he’ll continue to pursue her. (I really liked that about Daisy — if Dave was interested, he’d keep trying, even if he didn’t know why Daisy blew him off.)
Despite all the precautions Daisy and her parents take to make sure Steven is as cared-for as possible, their situation only intensifies as he becomes stronger and they become more concerned for their safety. This leads Daisy’s parents to make a very difficult decision that begins a downward spiral for her. Suddenly the life Daisy so carefully constructed for herself doesn’t make sense — if there’s to be no Steven around, then why should she have to be the perfect student? Why should she throw her everything into her music? Why shouldn’t she say yes to going out with Dave? What would life be like if she got to experience a few HBO moments of her own?
Though I haven’t experienced exactly what Daisy and her family dealt with on a day-to-day basis, Stasia’s words pulled me in and immediately connected me to their story. There’s this great internal debate Daisy is struggling with — desiring freedom to live her life as she’d like, but also not wanting to give up on her brother. She’s afraid of what her life might be like if all the walls and rules and guidelines they’ve abided by for so so so long suddenly aren’t necessary anymore. Can you imagine her struggle? It certainly makes sense to me why she’d lash out.
Stasia’s words are so beautifully written. So carefully chosen. I couldn’t put The Sound of Letting Go down. I sincerely hope that you’ll connect with Daisy through her music, the emotional journey that it is to feel powerless when a big decision is made without your input, and her struggle to grasp onto reality when everything around her seems to be changing without her consent....more
Well, hello 2014! I’m so excited to be kicking off this new year with a new release that I thoroughlyReview originally published on Rather Be Reading:
Well, hello 2014! I’m so excited to be kicking off this new year with a new release that I thoroughly enjoyed, Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill. Here’s a little backstory:
Sloane Emily is a senator’s daughter. She’s got family issues that she wants to run away from and insane amounts of pressure she’d love to escape. She’s being sent to figure skating camp, against her will, for four weeks where she’s expected to perform well and make a splash back into the competitive figure skating community.
Contradictory to Sloane Emily’s seemingly “perfect” life (from an outsider’s perspective) is Sloane Devon’s. Her family is barely making ends meet, she’s losing her edge in hockey — along with all of her confidence — and the only chance she has to be a starter her senior year is to redeem herself at hockey camp.
These two girls couldn’t live more opposing lives, but a chance encounter at a hotel leads them to swap places and spend four weeks pretending to be the other Sloane Jacobs. I’m sure you’ve all seen movies like The Parent Trap or 17 Again in which two people swap lives and learn Really Important Things about themselves. Being Sloane Jacobs has that same feel-good aspect, but with great doses of humor that made me laugh out loud as the girls struggled to embrace the other’s sport. I’m not a reader that loves all loose ends tied up perfectly either if things don’t feel realistic and Morrill did a lovely job incorporating strengths and weaknesses into the story that made everything feel a bit more believable.
While the story takes place at the beginning of summer, the ice rink setting made me feel like winter was the absolute appropriate time for me to be meeting these girls. Their stories are told from alternating points of view, giving a clear picture of what each girl’s struggles are and how she’s managing to keep up the facade of being someone else. Perhaps the only time I wasn’t entirely comfortable reading from both POVs was during the epilogue when the girls were face-to-face having a conversation. (I also didn’t fully see the need for the epilogue as I would have felt pretty satisfied without it.)
I texted Estelle when I finished reading and mentioned Being Sloane Jacobs gave me the same kind of happy feel as Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler. There’s tons of self-discovery, a sweet love story (or could there be two?), depth, and a generous dose of laughter. If you’re itching to use a gift card you were given for Christmas, definitely consider using it toward the purchase of Lauren Morrill’s newest release, expected in bookstores on January 7th....more
[I've tried to be completely spoiler-free, but since this is the third book in the series, proceed with caution JUST IN CASE.]
What? What’s that? I read another book in a series? Heck yeah! If you’ve been following along with my reviews of Marissa’s Lunar Chronicle Series, you’re well aware that I love, love, love the genius and brilliance that is this series.
Cress continued to further prove how incredible Marissa’s writing is — how she’s been able to weave together all of these fairy tales into one intricate story just …blows my mind. To briefly recap, in Cinder the story begins with a Cinderella retelling with Linh Cinder, a girl with engineered body parts that label her has a cyborg. Her story intermingles with Little Red Riding Hood’s (Scarlet) in the next book, Scarlet. And in Cress, we meet Marissa’s version of Rapunzel, Cress. Would you ever guess that these ladies would be together in one book? Me neither. But lemme tell ya: it just works. Perfectly.
As the cast continues to grow larger, so does the world and our knowledge of what’s going on and how order will be restored, hopefully. Cress becomes such an essential player; she’s this brilliant, young girl who has been rotating in between Luna and Earth in a satellite. Yes, stranded and alone. She’s a very curious girl who becomes incredibly obsessed with Cinder and her whereabouts, especially as she and her team’s location is unknown and everyone is on the lookout for them. Only Cress has the skills necessary to find them. But she’s torn between sharing the information and reaching out to Cinder. What’s a girl to do when she’s trapped between the Earth and the Moon?
Cress moves rapidly — there’s no lull in the action. There’s constantly something you’re anticipating happening, but you’re not quite sure when things are going to fall apart. I was most surprised by how well all the characters are pieced together; I know I probably sound like a broken record, but thank goodness for Sasha because she helped me keep everyone in line. I really began to second guess myself a few times because I thought, “There’s just no way Meyer could have worked things out so intricately,” but alas, SHE DID.
Cress is filled with so many meaty details that keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time: What’s happening with Prince Kai? Will Cinder reveal the truth about herself? What detestable things does Queen Levana have in store? Who should you trust? What’s Cress’s motive?
There’s so much I want to say about Cress, as if you and I were having a heart-to-heart after we’ve both read the book, but I can’t ruin any surprises. I do hope that after you’ve finished reading, you’re as impressed with where the story has gone and as anxious to see how everything ends in the final book, Winter, as I am....more
You know that feeling when it’s just so incredibly nice to bReview originally published on Rather Be Reading:
Why, hello Hale. And Kat, too, of course.
You know that feeling when it’s just so incredibly nice to be reunited with characters you love unconditionally? Even when they’re acting in ways that may make you want to punch them once or twice so they stop acting like fools? I have so much love and affection for the entire Heist Society crew and couldn’t help but fly through Uncommon Criminals.
After pulling off one of the biggest robberies ever in Heist Society, Kat sort of disappears for a while. She disconnects from her friends and family and travels the world on her own secret mission. Of course for this tight-knit group, that doesn’t really fly. Hale is understandably irritated that Kat would feel she can do so much on her own. But what he may not realize is that Kat has a lot she needs to sort through. How does she feel about him — there’s chemistry there (obviously), but does she want to risk ruining their friendship by seeking something more? One thing I love about Hale is he just doesn’t deny his emotions; he doesn’t go through hypothetical play-by-plays of what-ifs. He has feelings for our beloved Kat and doesn’t withhold them. I find that so refreshing and am reminded of the beginning days when I first started dating Dustyn. (He told me on our second date that he loved me.)
Once Kat finally turns back up, she is approached about another big, big job. Stealing the Cleopatra Emerald is something that’s been attempted several times before, unsuccessfully. Why is Kat approached? Her uncle would flip his lid if he knew the risks she and her team are taking and the danger they face. Furthermore, the Emerald is thought to be cursed. Isn’t that enough to make anyone run in the opposite direction? But who can back down when it seems like the wrong you’re being asked to commit will right so many past faults and land the gem in the hands of the rightful owners?
The major appeal of Uncommon Criminals continues to be the around-the-world travel, the strong character connections with spot-on dialogue, and the increasing pressure to see if Kat and Hale can pull off the job they’re facing before time runs out. I so desperately want to circle every place they visit on a map and hop on a plane as soon as possible. The scenery is delightful and Carter does a fantastic job transporting her readers around the world, desperately trying to solve the puzzle.
I mentioned wanting to smack a character a time or two while reading. Sometimes main characters get a little bit of a savior complex and take on so much that it bears down on them. Understandably, Kat begins to feel responsible and guilty for a few things that haphazardly occur. While I may have been frustrated that she dragged her feet and couldn’t get over the punch to her ego, I find myself thinking her reactions were extremely realistic. Who wouldn’t need to grovel after you’ve fallen victim to … oops, not going to finish that sentence. So not going to be that spoilery person. Read it and find out for yourselves, friends!...more
Remember when I gushed and fangirled about Throne of Glass last year? Just in case you didn’t read thReview originally published on Rather Be Reading:
Remember when I gushed and fangirled about Throne of Glass last year? Just in case you didn’t read that review, ToG pretty much rocked my world and sent me into a deep book slump because I was so taken with Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol. Waiting a year for Crown of Midnight has felt like such torture!
But let me tell you friends, it’s well, well worth the wait! What an awesome follow-up to Throne of Glass. Let’s begin with our favorite assassin heroine, Celaena. She’s working through her feelings for Chaol. Oh, yes. Chaol. (Hubba, hubba.) Meanwhile, he’s trying to decide if she’s worth losing everything for, especially if the King finds out. Dorian is a lovesick puppy who feels dejected and a little lost because he can clearly see something is happening between these two, but he’s still harboring major feelings for Celaena. What a conundrum! While it may sound like there’s this crazy love triangle happening, it didn’t feel like that as much to me in Crown of Midnight as it did in ToG. The relationship between Chaol and Celaena felt like this beautiful dance, as if they were balancing on this tight rope of survival.
Of course things get a little bit complicated though. Crown of Midnight is packed with tons of secrecy. Celaena is being sent on missions as the King’s Champion, but she isn’t quite fulfilling his requests exactly as he hoped. This knowledge could cost her life and put anyone who finds out about it in a very terrible position. She’s set herself up for danger. Nehemiah also has a lot going on — she’s missing from her room when people go searching for her, there’s a threat against her life, and she’s not giving full disclosure to Celaena as they each promised they would. Chaol feels the need to protect Celaena, but his silence may cause more drama than his honesty would. (Isn’t that pretty much always the case?) I do believe Dorian’s secrets shocked me the most though; he seemed to be a secondary character when Celaena and Chaol’s relationship was developing, but out of nowhere comes this huge unveiling that really made me excited.
The beauty of Crown of Midnight is how so many aspects felt like they were clicking into place, but how I constantly felt jolted or surprised by revelations, too. I absolutely loved seeing where the story was headed, even if I feel like my heart suffered a bit as some pretty awful things went down. You know those moments when you want to smack a character upside their head? There were a couple of those times where Chaol and Celaena really needed to bypass their own egos and agendas to resolve issues, but they just couldn’t do it. These were the times I noticed a few lulls in the story as Celaena really had to work through a lot of emotions. While the story may have slowed down in tempo a bit, I feel this was necessary and intentional on behalf of Maas because it really allowed me to see a completely different side of our leading lady. I saw her not just as a person who is incredibly awesome at murdering someone, but as a very emotional woman who tries to distance herself from people because she’s suffered from so much loss.
Speaking of loss, what will I do for the next year while I wait to find out what happens next? Ay yi yi....more
Goodness gracious! Absolutely LOVED this book. You know how when you read something that just fills this void you didn't even know you had? That was OGoodness gracious! Absolutely LOVED this book. You know how when you read something that just fills this void you didn't even know you had? That was OPEN ROAD SUMMER for me. SOOO good!
Howdy, y’all! Man it feels so incredibly wonderful to type these words. It feels so good to be here talking books. And yes, quite literally below, I talk books in my vlog. I’m really wanting to mix things up a bit and as I’m just on an altogether different schedule with a newborn, vlogs seem like the best solution for me right now. My hope is that it’s a) not boring for you and b) fun to watch. I really want your feedback about what you think so if you’ve got some, leave it below in the comments. Okay? Alright, let’s get started!
Highlights of Open Road Summer by Emery Lord:
-- Incredible friendships — something I want to see much, much more of in the books I read. I get kind of bogged down by the drama sometimes. Reagan and Dee are friendship gurus.
-- Mucho, mucho hotness in the form of Matt Finch. He’ll make you swoon. And laugh. And want to know him in real life.
--A girl who is incredibly relatable because she’s made some stupid mistakes. Who hasn’t done something they regret? * cue the crickets*
-- ORS made me feel just about every emotion and made me miss my BFF, Estelle, somethin’ fierce.
A few quotes, as promised:
“He’s kind of beautiful, in an understated, comfortable-looking-way — the kind of guy who doesn’t mind seeing a rom-com with you and gives you his hoodie when you’re cold.”
“We’re saying a lot within the silence: We can’t and I know and But I want to and Me too. The effort of restraint burns in my chest — a physical ache from holding back.”
“Laughter feels like our flotation device — it won’t pull us out of the storm, but it might carry us through, if we can just hang on.”
“If we could capture feelings like we capture pictures, none of us would ever leave our rooms. It would be so tempting to inhabit the good moments over and over again. But I don’t want to be the kind of person who lives backwardly, who memorializes moments before she’s finished living in them.”
Definitely, definitely enjoyed. Really love how it forced me to explore some scenarios that I've never read about before. Very happy to have read thisDefinitely, definitely enjoyed. Really love how it forced me to explore some scenarios that I've never read about before. Very happy to have read this....more
There’s absolutely zero doubt that Morgan Matson is one of my favorite authors. Without a second thought,Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading
There’s absolutely zero doubt that Morgan Matson is one of my favorite authors. Without a second thought, I pre-order her books and add them to my Goodreads to-read list (likely without even reading the summary). Morgan creates these worlds in which I not only know and love the main character, but I can envision their entire world — their homes, their neighborhoods, their day-to-day routines. And that’s exactly how deeply I wish to know all of the main characters in the books I read.
Since You’ve Been Gone was no different than her other stellar books, Second Chance Summer and Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, providing exactly the escape from reality I was so wanting. There’s a girl, Emily, who is aching after the abrupt departure of her best friend, Sloane. There’s no explanation, no clues, and zero warning. Sloane disappears in the blink of an eye and her house is left vacant; her family just picked up and moved on. While it takes Emily a little while to come to grips with what’s happened, it jolts her when she receives a list in the mail from Sloane, something she would randomly send Emily. Except this time, instead of discarding it, Emily accepts it as a challenge and hopes that it will provide answers that will lead her to wherever Sloane has gone.
I love that Since You’ve Been Gone is essentially a road map of sorts; it provides an emotional journey that Emily must work through, a ton of growth she must face, and a lot of ground to travel as she tries to figure out how to step outside her comfort zone to complete Sloane’s list. And unexpectedly, it involves one go-getter guy she befriends without intentionally trying to, Frank Porter. As we begin the journey with Emily, we see that she’s a closed-off, introverted girl who has little faith in herself and has greatly depended upon Sloane. She’s lived inside Sloane’s shadow, following along and not speaking up though she might have had a differing opinion at times. Emily is only known to others in association with Sloane.
When Sloane disappears, Emily loses her own identity. She’s begun to identify herself so closely with Sloane that she’s uncertain of who she is anymore. It’s a scary and frightening thought, but yet it’s so incredibly beautiful that we can bond with someone so deeply that they’re such an intricate part of who we are. Emily begins to tackle the list and somehow, Frank Porter continues to bounce into her life. Frank has a girlfriend who is away for the summer and it seems he’s trying to pass the time just as Emily is. Helping her work through the list provides a much needed distraction for him from the chaos of his own personal life. They begin running together. They bicker over the other’s musical choices and begin making one another playlists to listen to on their runs. We begin to see Emily’s world expand just a little bit as she releases some of the pain of losing Sloane and begins to bond with an entirely new group of people.
Since You’ve Been Gone has all of the elements we love and adore about Morgan’s books — an emotional journey, a road-trip of sorts (though this one is a little more metaphorical), a really sweet boy, a good dose of parental guidance (in the form of two playwrights on a mission to write their next big production), and a lovely town with wandering streets perfect for running, a quaint (and often quiet) ice cream shop, and a beach (that may or may not be the place where a few special events occur).
*** Visit the blog to see the BFF list I made for Estelle to tackle!...more
There were definitely aspects of the story I enjoyed, but ultimately, I think a little bit of finessing was necessary. It seemed slow and took a whileThere were definitely aspects of the story I enjoyed, but ultimately, I think a little bit of finessing was necessary. It seemed slow and took a while to pick up momentum. Details were repeated too often and that kept pulling me out of the story because I just wanted it to move forward. A fun, light read overall.
Five and a half years ago, Lucy’s husband, Jimmy, died in a car accident. Present day her sister is having a baby. This makes Lucy realize that the clock is ticking and if she wants to have a family, she needs to open up again and begin dating. But she doesn’t really want to date someone that she could love as much as Jimmy. She wants someone safe and predictable that she’ll have a good life with. She’s scared the Black Widow curse will strike again and take her second husband should she remarry. What is the Black Widow curse, you ask? Her mother and her aunts all lost their husbands at entirely too young an age. Lucy’s following in their footsteps with the loss of Jimmy.
There’s one catch to Lucy moving on with her life: she needs to cut ties with her “friend with benefits.” Oh, and surprise, surprise — guess who this person is? Jimmy’s younger brother, Ethan, who is completely and overwhelmingly in love with Lucy. She refuses to let herself fall for him though because he’s a daredevil and he could die easily from all of his shenanigans. Full disclosure: this was so difficult for me to wrap my head around, especially in the beginning. I wasn’t quite sure how Lucy and Ethan would have decided sleeping together was a good idea. I mean, I just couldn’t do that with Dustyn’s brothers because they’re like my brothers. Eww eww eww.
I was really excited to read about Lucy’s mishaps as she ventured back into the dating world, but I was a little underwhelmed by the sheer amount of backstory that was included in the first 40% of the book. There was little progression and the story felt much more sluggish than I would have liked because Lucy was so hung up on actually acting on her decision to begin dating. How could anyone replace Jimmy? It does make very logical sense why this would be so tough, but the actions and decisions that followed felt jerky and abrupt because the story, later, needed to propel forward. There could have also been some thinning out of details as some were overly repetitious — I knew a lot, lot, lot about Ethan’s beard, the psychic, and other descriptions that felt unnecessary.
I am a woman who is madly in love with my husband. I can’t imagine life without him, and in that regard, I completely connected with Lucy’s hesitancy to move forward with her life. However, she seemed so closed off and distant to me. That’s possibly because I could see the flaws in her plans and wanted her to so badly see what (or who) was right in front of her. Though Lucy wasn’t the most relatable I did love the secondary characters, particularly Nicky, her sweet, hug-worthy nephew, best friend, Parker, who always always said what I needed Lucy to hear, and Corrine, her sister who would have wrapped her husband in bubble wrap to protect him from the Black Widow curse should it be guaranteed to save his life.
The Next Best Thing was a really nice break from all of the heavy books I’ve found myself reading lately. Take it along to the beach and pair it with a nice umbrella-clad drink!...more
I couldn't contain myself. It's so easy to zip through these books because I just need to know what's going on with Rose, how things will play out witI couldn't contain myself. It's so easy to zip through these books because I just need to know what's going on with Rose, how things will play out with Jamie. I would say things were even more complicated in this book than the first, but dang, it's so good!
At the end of Confessions of an Angry Girl, there was a huge prom debacle involving crazy Regina (don’t worry — I’m being vague) and Rose was left more confused than ever about Jamie Forta. He had a very cryptic note delivered to her and their contact was cut off. The summer months have separated Jamie and Rose, and that’s right where Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend begins. Rose is about to begin her sophomore year of high school. She and Jamie haven’t spoken or seen each other in months.
Rose is still very hard on herself — wishes she had more style and thinks her hair is ridiculous — but she’s determined to have a better year. She decides that she’ll be Rose 2.0, reinvented and sassier than ever. She ditches the school band and tries to find a new niche by auditioning for the school musical. (All the while questioning whether or not she can sing.)
She and Tracy, after much separation and freshman-year-drama, are finally on the mend again. Tracy’s had a huge wake-up call and while Rose still wishes things had happened a bit differently, she’s happy to be reunited with her best friend. It was pretty refreshing to see a friendship so deeply explored — to go from a very fragile state and back to a healthy and happy place again. (That’s real life; friendships ebb and flow.)
Then there’s her family. Of course. Her brother, Peter, has bigger issues. He and Rose have almost lost touch completely; she knows he’s in trouble, but there’s really no way to reach him. She and her mom are attending family therapy sessions together. These were some of my favorite scenes because Rozett did a lovely job making them comical; Rose’s mom has a helluva time turning off her therapist switch and frequently gets put in her place by their therapist.
And finally, there’s Jamie. He’s not sure Rose is good enough for him so he’d rather back away than get more serious. (Hmm.) And Rose just can’t help but fall for him a little more every day. Regina is sadly still on the peripheral and Rose doesn’t really understand their relationship. They aren’t dating anymore, but Jamie can’t seem to step away.
Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend is a fantastic follow-up novel. Rose really grows and matures in ways that made me proud; she speaks up for herself and continues to do the right thing. Sure, Jamie and Rose’s relationship made me feel a little like — GAH! JUST MAKE UP YOUR MINDS ALREADY! — but once I flipped the final page, I felt it all made sense. Hopefully you’ll love the journey and continue to fall in love with these characters, too.
(By the way, there’s a bit of a bonus at the end of Confessions. I loved the Q&A with Louise Rozett!)...more
Probably 3.5 out of 5, but I didn't feel the same love as I did for Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe. Rebel is a bit harder to connect with, but mostlyProbably 3.5 out of 5, but I didn't feel the same love as I did for Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe. Rebel is a bit harder to connect with, but mostly I felt a lot of transitions in the storytelling were a bit off and I was missing some deeper details that could have been explored more. One big turn of events was left hanging at the end, too.
Remember last year when Estelle and I couldn’t stop gushing about Shelley Coriell’s Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe in Estelle’s Attention, Attention post, my review, and the book-themed gift pack? Truth be told, I prolonged reading Goodbye, Rebel Blue until I needed that absolute win, the guaranteed love affair with a book I was certain I would be granted. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same affection for Rebel that I did for Chloe, leaving me a little disappointed and underwhelmed.
Rebel Blue comes across as a distanced and troubled teenager; she doesn’t care about making good grades, often finds herself in detention, and is less than affectionate with her aunt, uncle, and cousin (with whom she lives after the death of her mother). She adorns her backpack with shark teeth and wears chunky blue streaks in her brown hair. Rebel is not a member of the popular crowd.
One day she finds herself in detention (again), but this time goody-two-shoes Kennedy Green also finds herself stuck in the counselor’s office for a few hours. Kennedy and Rebel have a very distant relationship; they’re aware of who the other is, but wouldn’t be considered friends by definition. When the counselor tells them to make a bucket list of twenty things they want to do before they die, chatterbox Kennedy abruptly scribbles down her list and overwhelms Rebel with conversation. For two near-strangers, they have a very deep conversation about being in the right place at the right time.
The next day, Rebel finds out that Kennedy died in a car accident.
Feeling a bit taken aback by Kennedy’s sudden death, Rebel races to the detention room to find the discarded bucket lists. There’s a bit of speculation about if Kennedy committed suicide. Surely her list would be an indicator, but Rebel finds it to be a reflection of the happy-go-lucky girl Kennedy was and cannot discard it. Instead, she decides to tackle the list and complete the things Kennedy aspired to do.
The majority of my struggle with Goodbye, Rebel Blue lies in the overall execution of completing the bucket list. There were twenty items on the list, and oftentimes, I felt like just as Rebel was making a bit of progress toward completing an item and overcoming huge obstacles, the stage would fade to black and the next scene would be her facing the next obstacle. The transitions often seemed a little bit jarring, as if I had missed a few paragraphs, because there were so many hurdles to jump. I felt little closure and maybe if the list had been shortened, more time would have been allotted to each task. I strongly feel this would have a) given me a better sense of time as it passed, and b) allowed me to accept the character changes Rebel was going through without feeling as if the story was being rushed.
There’s quite a large can of worms that is approached by Rebel near the end of the novel that I also felt was completely neglected when I finished the book. I’m not sure if there will be a continuation of this story, but it seemed rather huge to introduce and then leave it hanging. And the message, while a good one, is definitely reiterated over and over, and quite possibly too literally, leaving little room for interpretation. I really love strong, positive messages, but again, a little more finessing may have made this aspect a little less forced and more organic.
While it was lovely to be distantly reconnected with old friends, Chloe and Clem, via their cameos, I wish I was able to feel as excited and inspired by Rebel’s story as I was Chloe’s. One lovely addition to Goodbye, Rebel Blue was definitely Nate, the go-gooder boy who is intrigued by Rebel, and his huge My Life Next Door-esque family that will melt your heart....more
Probably one I would love to own in hard cover because I just adored it so much. Adoration = wanted to read from cover to cover in one sitting, reallyProbably one I would love to own in hard cover because I just adored it so much. Adoration = wanted to read from cover to cover in one sitting, really feeling like so much of this was authentic, even when I was feeling a little uncertain about what was happening with Lara Jean. ...more
Very, very well (and uniquely) written. At times made me physically uncomfortable as I was trying to piece the details together. Actually finished 2 dVery, very well (and uniquely) written. At times made me physically uncomfortable as I was trying to piece the details together. Actually finished 2 days ago, but needed some time to let it simmer.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz was my second A.S. King read, and definitely my favorite so far. Her writing is so perfectly woven together and the alternating points of view between Vera (the primary storyteller), her father Ken, Charlie, and the Pagoda carefully revealed tidbits of the story that had me furiously flipping through the pages. Vera and Charlie were childhood best friends, sort of the two oddball kids who live next door to one another and immediately bond. Charlie’s got a sketchy home life that Vera and her family are very aware of, but they choose not to intervene. As they grow older, Vera develops a crush on Charlie and at points, he seems well aware of her affection for him. He begins doing this weird push and pull of leering Vera in by making her think he feels the same way, and then completely ignoring her after something happens.
Before Charlie’s death, their relationship can be described as rocky at best. Vera keeps up with his whereabouts, but their friendship is only an inkling of what it used to be. A.S. King provides details from the past leading up to present day, allowing the reader to really grasp the struggles and challenges these two characters have faced. There’s a bit of mature content as Charlie gets mixed up in some pretty sketchy business that makes Vera a bit worrisome. Often I found myself speculating about what might have happened to Charlie, why he and Vera had a falling out, and I desperately wanted to see Vera become her own woman. She was a bit afraid of becoming her father, who is a recovering alcoholic, and her mother, who was a stripper, and the fear of making either of those same life choices debilitates Vera.
I connected so well with Vera’s emotions over losing a friend. When I was in third grade, one of my friends was killed in an accident over spring break. The news was terrifying, even at such a young age. This boy sat behind me at school and would often play with my hair (well, actually, he would pull it out, but I think he was probably just trying to flirt) and tease me. I remember the day of his funeral like it was yesterday. Vera went through a similar experience with Charlie — she felt that when she went to the funeral, he was going to walk out like it was a big joke and say, “GOTCHA!” I knew there was no way my friend could have passed away. That doesn’t happen to someone so young, right? I slept in my parents bedroom for ages because I struggled so much; I felt haunted by his death. Vera is trying to work out all the details of their friendship gone wrong, but she’s also got this information that could possibly shed some light on the events surrounding his death. That’s a ton for one person to carry around, and Vera certainly feels haunted by Charlie.
I could gush forever about the beauty that is Please Ignore Vera Dietz, but I hope that without revealing too much of the story I can convince you to pick this one up as soon as you can. If you’ve never read one of King’s books, I highly suggest this be your first. I’m very much looking forward to her upcoming book, Reality Boy, to be released on October 22nd. ...more