After about a year together, Ashleigh and Kaleb would soon face their greatest challenge — he would be leaving for college. Ashleigh wants to soak up every minute with Kaleb before he leaves, but he’s focused on spending time with his boys, and playing baseball every chance they get because they’ll be spread throughout the country at different schools.
Fed up with his abandonment, Ashleigh drunkenly confides in her friends, Vonnie and Rachel. They recommend she capture his attention by texting him a nude photo. How could he possibly ignore Ashleigh after that?
Fast-forward through the details of Kaleb’s departure and Ashleigh’s insecurity to their ugly, vengeful breakup. One thing leads to another, but Ashleigh never expected Kaleb to send out a mass text of her nude photo to every one of his contacts. The text is forwarded and shared and Ashleigh’s name and contact information are added to the photograph. Soon, Ashleigh finds herself in the middle of a sexting scandal that has her school in an uproar and she’s in trouble for distributing child pornography.
She faces sixty hours of community service as her court ordered sentence. She’s all alone — her relationship long over, friendships on the brink of destruction, she’s bullied, and her father’s superintendent job could be terminated. One seemingly innocent text has ruined Ashleigh’s clean record and reputation.
Thousand Words is the first experience reading Jennifer Brown. I’ve heard praises for her work by so many of my book-loving friends, and thankfully, can now join the choir to spread the word. Brown tackles a relevant and extremely difficult topic. Was Ashleigh wrong for sending the photo? Should she have gotten in trouble? What are the repercussions for Kaleb sharing the photo? There are so many complexities that make a resolution darn near impossible, but Brown explores each sector so well. Ashleigh goes through the ups and downs of feeling like she’d been pressured into sending the photograph, the anger at Kaleb for not being the upstanding guy she thought he was, and the devastation of realizing that she was as guilty as anyone else. If she hadn’t sent the text, none of this would have ever happened. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
Brown’s Thousand Words tells the very realistic tale of a situation that’s happening across the country. Laws are currently being revised in multiple states to tackle this situation. Ashleigh’s story isn’t easy to read — it’s uncomfortable and frustrating. I was angered by Ashleigh’s attitude and reluctance to accept responsibility for the part she played. She could be very “woe is me” and didn’t always have me convinced she was actually going to learn anything from the situation, other than pointing fingers at everyone else. (But, thankfully, a boy named Mack teaches her a lot about what it is to truly lose everything.) While Thousand Words isn’t a happy, feel-good read, Brown’s writing is spot-on. It’s beyond necessary for her story to be read, shared, and discussed.
Since I’m very much a Jennifer Brown newbie, can you tell me which of her books to read next? ...more
Jumped In is a fast, quick-moving story that was extremely touching and heart-warming. Two boyReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading...
Jumped In is a fast, quick-moving story that was extremely touching and heart-warming. Two boys, both disinterested in school for very different reasons, are pushed by their English teacher, Miss Cassidy, to engage and participate in her class. She intentionally pinpoints Sam and Luis each class, waiting for them to answer and making sure they know the material. Sam’s just trying to get by, unnoticed, because he feels worthless and abandoned after his mother left him several years before. He has no friends and tries to be a wallflower. Luis is an exceptionally bright student, but his father and brother have set a pattern in motion he’s expected to follow: join a gang. How can he uphold his bad-boy reputation if he shows how much he really cares about school?
As they begin a poetry unit, Miss Cassidy announces that their final project will be to read their poetry aloud in a poetry slam. Sam and Luis pair up and begin working on something they hope will unexpectedly blow the class away. While the majority of the story is told from Sam’s perspective, we see bits of Luis blended in via the poetry he writes (but doesn’t share it with anyone). As the boys prepare for the poetry slam, they decide to allow more of themselves to filter into the piece they’re writing together.
But one day, Luis disappears. Sam goes on a hunt for him — searching everywhere he can think of to find out what happened to Luis. Is he okay? Was he pulled into some kind of gang-related activity? Is he alive?
Ultimately, Jumped In is one of those kinds of books that makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you’ve read the final pages. (Which seems like such a contradiction to the subject matter and stories the boys tell throughout the book.) It reminds me of the many, many movies I would watch with my mom, a former teacher, about how the teacher completely turned a group of ill-fated students around. (Sister Act 2, anyone?)
Jumped In hasn’t received nearly the recognition it should in the blogosphere. If you’re looking for something quick to read, but with a more serious undertone, definitely check it out....more
Maybe somewhere between a 3.5 and 4, but leaning toward the 4 because of its uniqueness. A girl who writes letters to a man on death row and reveals hMaybe somewhere between a 3.5 and 4, but leaning toward the 4 because of its uniqueness. A girl who writes letters to a man on death row and reveals her secret to him? So intriguing. Some parts did seem unnecessary as she tried to infer what the prisoner's life was like, but mostly I didn't feel too much of that was included.
Prison. It just dawned on me that this isn’t something I’ve read about much in my literary explorations. What are the odds that I would read two books back-to-back that would have this in common? Completely coincidence I’m sure.
Alas, Ketchup Clouds is about young Zoe, a girl who lives in the UK and begins writing letters to a Texas prisoner. She chooses a man awaiting execution from a website and begins writing to him under a pseudonym. Though she changes some locational details, she is forthright about the nitty-gritty aspects of her life that led her to write to him. Zoe has a secret — something she feels she cannot confess to anyone but this stranger. Each “chapter” is a letter Zoe writes to Stuart Harris, reliving a bit of the past and relinquishing a few more details each time.
Since Zoe doesn’t offer a return address for Stuart, the story is very much one-sided. Her letters are the platform she chooses to communicate what she’s done wrong. Stuart’s voice is conveyed through Zoe’s letters as well, as she shares with readers the little she knows about him and begins to speculate as time ticks on how he must be feeling as they approach the date of his execution. Admittedly, the speculative portions of Zoe’s letters were some of my least favorite scenes because I didn’t feel extremely connected to Stuart; maybe I sound heartless, but I desperately wanted to know what she was hiding, therefore, I needed her to quit hypothesizing about how he might feel as he lives out his last days.
Zoe is a normal-ish high school girl who lives under the strict umbrella of her parent’s rules, but desperately wants to break out of that mold to experience more: parties, dating, and boys. Her parent’s focus is skewed when a situation arises with her grandfather and miscommunication affords Zoe the opportunity to manipulate her parents and weasel her way into a few social situations. It’s here that our drama starts to unfold as we see Zoe balance a very fine line as she lies and breaks a few unspoken rules.
Ketchup Clouds held my attention as I fought to piece together the mystery of Zoe. While I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the secret in the end, I do feel it was a very age-appropriate reaction to the situation at hand and accurately depicted how I would have felt were I to swap places with Zoe. I really enjoyed that Pitcher chose such a unique way of sharing Zoe’s story, and was happy with (what I’d consider) the surprise I found waiting for me at the end of the book. I was taken a bit outside my element as I was subtly forced to think about a prisoner on Death Row, but equally captivated by the secret Zoe was so afraid to share.
If you’re looking for something different that will offer you a unique reading experience, definitely take a chance on Ketchup Clouds....more
I enjoyed the story and reading about a young 15 year old fall in love for the first time. It was so innocent and sweet, with lovely family moments3.5
I enjoyed the story and reading about a young 15 year old fall in love for the first time. It was so innocent and sweet, with lovely family moments thrown in the mix as Chelsea's family mourned the loss of her grandmother.
Allow me to set the stage: Fifteen-year-old Chelsea’s grandmother has just passed away. Her family is road-tripping from California to Michigan to spend the summer in her grandmother’s house, as they normally do each year. Except this year, everything’s different. Chelsea can’t look around without being overwhelmed by memories; it doesn’t seem right to be at the lake when her grandmother isn’t around to enjoy it with them. How will Chelsea make it through the summer and what will they decide to do with her grandmother’s house?
To pass the time and allow themselves to put their grieving on pause, Chelsea’s family does a ton of family activities together when they first arrive at the lake. That’s all well and good, but when you have three boy crazy teenage girls, they’re going to want to explore on their own so they can find their summer flings. (Am I right?) As Chelsea’s two older sisters are chasing down the boys they’ve got their eyes on, she meanders into a new bookstore that’s opened since she was at the lake last year. (It’s called Dog Ear. How cute is that?!) Her e-reader very inconveniently broke so she’s in need of a few physical books. As she rounds the corner of the YA section, she sees a young (cute) boy ripping the covers off of books. Chelsea’s first interaction with Josh, the owner’s son, is awkward to say the least.
Much of Chelsea’s coming weeks are spent trying to figure out Josh. Does he like her? He seems to be interested, but after he does something somewhat forward, he backs away almost entirely. This being her first foray into a relationship, Chelsea is completely boggled. My gosh, how this brought me back to those days when I read too much into every interaction, when I replayed a kiss over and over and over again in my head, or when I would forget what I was doing because I was simply too wrapped up in being in love. This, friends, is where Dalton really shined; she captured the essence of first love so perfectly. It’s not easy to navigate the choppy waters of falling in love. Who knows what to do instinctually? (I certainly didn’t.)
Fifteenth Summer is such a lovely portrayal of what it’s like to grow up and lose someone important to you. It’s about the whirlwind of falling in love for the first time and all the sweet firsts that accompany it. There’s a great depiction of what it is to have strong family ties, but to learn to bend the rules a little bit as you become independent of your family and pave your own road.
In case you need further prodding, be sure to check out the excerpt from Fifteenth Summer that I shared for the Fourth of July....more
Really really love Cat's ideas - she always has me curious to solve the mystery of the story. And I love that it's a standalone so I don't have to waiReally really love Cat's ideas - she always has me curious to solve the mystery of the story. And I love that it's a standalone so I don't have to wait and wait and wait for more. :)...more
I really like that I can read this book with fun voices or I can make it pretty monotoned at nap time to calm the babe down. Love the rhyming too, ofI really like that I can read this book with fun voices or I can make it pretty monotoned at nap time to calm the babe down. Love the rhyming too, of course!...more
4.5 maybe? I have to be honest and say I wasn't so sure of the situation when I began, but Jessi really wrote this story well. And the imagery and thin4.5 maybe? I have to be honest and say I wasn't so sure of the situation when I began, but Jessi really wrote this story well. And the imagery and things Colton and Quinn did together were amazing. The sibling relationships are on point and the parents are so well represented here. I feel Jessi just continues to grow and grow as an author and this was a really, really great story! ...more
Probably more of a 3.5, but it really hit home for me with a lot of things that happened with Kya. Things I have personally experienced with someone IProbably more of a 3.5, but it really hit home for me with a lot of things that happened with Kya. Things I have personally experienced with someone I'm close to. Janet did an awesome job writing those parts; I cringed and wanted to rush through them, but they made me FEEL. I wish the story had maybe been a bit longer (? - I think) to provide a bit more end resolution. I know Grace will be okay, but I hate continuing to wonder about characters.
Growing pains are rough…especially when you’re suffering through them with your best friend. I’ve totally been there with friends throughout the years: early in my marriage as I tried to figure out who I was as a wife, or even right now as some of my best friends just don’t care to make the effort to hang out anymore or respond to invitations to hang out. (Or even ask about what’s happening in my personal life — sometimes, you guys, I swear you know more about me than people I see on a regular basis.) The emotions and roller coaster ride of friendship is sometimes brutal.
In a nutshell, that’s what Grace and Kya are suffering through. Kya has a big secret that she’s entrusted Grace with, and sometimes the truth and reality of her secret leads to drinking too much and being much more flirtatious with guys than she should be. Always-loyal-Grace steps in to save the day and make sure that Kya is okay. The problem is that protecting Kya is exhausting and Grace is having to interfere much more than she should have to because Kya’s self-deprecating act is continually getting worse. Kya’s outbursts are intruding on Grace’s plans to make a college all-girls paintball team (that she thought Kya also wanted to join).
I’ll admit that I definitely felt torn about what Grace should do. Does she remain loyal to her friend to make sure she’s okay or does she speak up and get Kya more help? (It doesn’t help that Kya’s parents intentionally ignore the situation, taking the “innocence is bliss” route.) I tend to be president of the put-yourself-second club, but in How I Lost You, my emotions were on high alert. Kya was so selfish and bratty — always taking and never giving, always needing protection, but never thankful. Grace was strong and had good, good things coming her way — if only she could focus and improve her skills without Kya’s outbursts interfering. How much is too much? When do you start to breakdown if you’re always the person saving the day?
(Small side note: Kya’s behavior struck a real chord with me. I’ve had that person in my life before who calls in the middle of the night and scares the living daylights out of me because I’m just not sure what frame of mind they’re in. The drinking, the depression, the constant worrying about that person. All very real and a little uncomfortable, too.)
It’s hard to move through the rough patches of a friendship because sometimes you can’t quite determine if you’re going to make it to the other side. While reading about the problems these two girls faced wasn’t always the easiest, I could relate to so many moments. And thankfully, Gurtler included intense paintball games and a nice helping of a really sweet new boy that Grace needed on her side to break up the tension.
How I Lost You is the story of two girls whose friendship is at a fork in the road. They must decide whether to continue fighting to save their friendship or if it’s time to move forward individually. The lesson is that even if life does take us along different routes, we’re forever changed by the interactions and time we’ve had with those people....more
Oh, man. Didn't connect with this book or the story. Felt like so many things could have been pieced together a bit more. The idea for the story was sOh, man. Didn't connect with this book or the story. Felt like so many things could have been pieced together a bit more. The idea for the story was strong, but the execution wasn't what I wanted....more
4.5 stars. I really enjoyed it. Written flawlessly by Cat and Suzanne - I couldn't distinguish between their voices, which I loved. I love the concept4.5 stars. I really enjoyed it. Written flawlessly by Cat and Suzanne - I couldn't distinguish between their voices, which I loved. I love the concept of the story - one scenario and two different reactions and outcomes - and seeing how everything played out.
One reality: Caroline’s grandmother is dying. No one knows how much time she has left. Two scenarios: Escape the sadness and family drama to go to a party with her BFF, Simone, or stay with her grandmother.
STAY vs. GO
Have you ever thought about a pivotal moment in your life and realized that if you had gone down another path, absolutely everything might have ended up differently? For me one of those big moments is if I had actually dated my long-term crush/best guy friend in high school. Or maybe the moment when I liked this other guy and he and his dad made a bet about how many phone numbers he could collect while we were at camp. (Let me add: it was church camp.) Thanks to social media, I have been able to keep up with where both of those guys have ended up throughout the years, and let me just say, I’m really glad things have worked out the way they are. (And yes, I do realize I sound stalker-ish.)
Just Like Fate is a beautiful exploration of how Caroline’s choices and decisions in the past have shaped how she moves forward. One particularly excellent portrayal is in regards to her family. Her parents are divorced, and both are remarried. Caroline barely speaks to her father, and her mother’s remarks always seem to be a little underhanded. She remained close with her brother, Teddy, but is somewhat estranged from her older sister, Natalie. Her youngest sister, Juju, is too young to grasp the majority of what’s going on. Natalie and Caroline have a ton of friction between them since Caroline decided to move in with her grandmother during the divorce because she couldn’t handle the change. Natalie feels like Caroline always runs away from problems and never sticks around to solve anything. Caroline sees Natalie as a goody-two-shoes who is judgmental and stuck-up. Teddy is the glue that tries to hold everything together, but as a college student he’s got his own life to live.
When the situation arises with her grandmother in the hospital, Caroline is once again faced with a tough decision. Does she do the hard thing and push through all the family drama to be by her grandmother’s side, or does she go to a party with her best friend, Simone, and forget about about her problems? Both scenarios and outcomes are laid out before the reader in alternating Stay and Go chapters. My reading time was a bit spotty when I first began Just Like Fate, not allowing me a good chunk of time to get into the flow of the story. Once I was finally able to push aside my responsibilities and focus, I felt like I could really connect with Caroline and the flow of the story.
With the two different scenarios comes different obstacles and characters. Joel is the boy that Caroline’s always wanted to date; she’s loved him from afar for quite a long while. Then there’s Chris, the college guy who is incredibly funny and sarcastic. Both seem appealing in their own ways until Caroline is confronted with having to make some decisions. (This seems to be a common theme, doesn’t it?) There are some pretty big ups and downs with Simone as well that felt very realistic; they have to figure their way out of some uncomfortable situations and Caroline has to learn how to talk through things instead of turning inward. While I definitely loved the guy aspect that strung my romantic side along, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the bigger questions: Was it possible for Caroline to mend the broken relationships with her father and sister? Could she become a stronger woman if she had to confront life instead of always fleeing? Despite how we react to a situation, do we arrive at different conclusions?
Just Like Fate was an engaging, fast-paced read. I’ve very much enjoyed Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young’s individual work in the past, but I certainly hope they’ll consider writing more together in the future. For now, you should definitely be pre-ordering this book so you can gobble it up as soon as possible....more
PHEW. Holy smokes is BTP a sexy, steamy read. This was my first Elkeles book and I'm glad I finally took the time to read one. I listened to the audioPHEW. Holy smokes is BTP a sexy, steamy read. This was my first Elkeles book and I'm glad I finally took the time to read one. I listened to the audio book of this one any my few notes here are a) the guy pronounces Ashton's name as "Ashjin" the whole time and that's just...well, weird. It bugged me! b) Some of these scenes are super steamy so I got a little embarrassed listening to them out loud while on a walk in my neighborhood. c) Things were predictable, but enjoyable. ...more
I really, really enjoyed the story. Love strong families and good friendships (especially when they suffer from very realistic trials). First loves arI really, really enjoyed the story. Love strong families and good friendships (especially when they suffer from very realistic trials). First loves are so fun. :)...more
Yesterday in our Nailed It post, I teased you guys with hints of why I really enjoyed Amy Spalding’s secondary novel, Ink is Thicker Than Water. The family dynamics were absolutely one of my favorite aspects of the entire book. Kellie is a girl who doesn’t really know her place in her diverse family — her older-by-a-year, adopted sister, Sara, is extremely gorgeous and über smart. Kellie is most like her mother, but she’s scared that she won’t figure out who she is until much, much later in life, just as her mom did. And while he has the best intentions, her dad is always pressuring her to apply herself more and comparing her accomplisments to Sara’s. Her step-father Russell is a gem because he seamlessly fits into the family, but doesn’t overstep his bounds. Finn, Sara and Kellie’s half-brother, is this four-year-old ball of adorableness that everyone loves to take care of.
Is this family flawed? Yes. Do they have some issues? Absolutely. Do they fall-to-pieces because of them? Well… not necessarily, but things do get interesting when Sara’s biological mom emerges out of thin air. Everyone tries to give Sara the space to figure out her relationship with her mom without interfering, but just imagine how hard that would be without feeling like you’re being replaced. Kellie’s mom is the biggest proponent of personal space and there not being “gossip” amongst the family — she wants everyone to be open and honest, but when Sara begins distancing herself, no one knows how to navigate this bumpy road.
Aside from the family, there are some pretty strong secondary stories woven into Ink is Thicker Than Water. To make her dad happy and to quit being such a wallflower, Kellie immerses herself in the school newspaper, an activity she finds both a bit nerdy and uncool, but still intriguing. Meanwhile her best friend, Kaitlyn, suddenly transforms into this gorgeous babe that makes Kellie feel a little inferior, especially when Kait decides to try to connect with the popular crowd. There’s so much self-discovery woven into the pages of Ink; how does Kellie find her place amongst her family and how does she deal with the abandonment of two people she’s closest to — Sara and Kaitlyn?
Romantics, you may be wondering where the love interest comes into play. Oliver is a guy Kellie met several months prior, but didn’t keep in touch with. When they run into each other again at a local diner, the text and chat marathons begin. Except Oliver seems to come on a little too strong; his intensity level is set to high and Kellie’s a little unsure of how to talk with Oliver about his eagerness. While I am typically so invested in the love lives of main characters, I felt like something was askew with Oliver and Kellie’s relationship. I wasn’t fully invested, but maybe that’s purely because I was so concerned about how her family dramatics would work out. It’s really difficult when I’m extremely interested in one storyline and another doesn’t quite capture my attention in the same way. The romance was definitely there, but my heart wasn’t.
Despite the few things I felt needed to be finessed a little more, Ink is Thicker Than Water was an enjoyable read that allowed me to disconnect and relax in exactly the way reading should. And if you haven’t read Amy Spalding’s The Reese Malcolm List, you absolutely should. Both Estelle and I give it our stamps of approval....more
Once upon a time, I was mere high school freshman. I had a crush on an older boy (Travis). My brother p[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Once upon a time, I was mere high school freshman. I had a crush on an older boy (Travis). My brother played pee-wee football on a team with Travis’ younger brother (whose name I cannot remember — odd, I know). I attended every practice and football game I could once this good-looking boy with perfect pearly white teeth, dimples, and a great laugh was introduced into my life. We talked. We flirted.
Fantasies looped through my mind about this gorgeous boy becoming my boyfriend. I thought about how I’d tell my friends when we started dating, what it would be like to kiss him, and my parents would tease me about my sudden interest in football.
Guys, I asked this boy to a dance. (Unfortunately, he was going with someone else by the time I struck up the nerve to ask. Can you say devastated? This was probably the first and last bold boy-move I ever made.)
Travis consumed my life…much like Blaze’s fascination with her younger brother’s soccer coach, Mark, who is a classmate of hers. Blaze is the offical chauffeur to and from practices and games for her brother and his best friends. Her mom is incredibly busy working long hours since their father skipped town to chase after a career as an actor. For a teenager, Blaze carries a ton of responsibility and often doubles as a secondary mother-figure. She doesn’t really mind sitting at the games because she works on her comics and admires Mark from behind her mirrored sunglasses.
She, too, makes up fantasies about this boy and wonders what it would be like to date him. (Reading this snapped me back to all my Travis fantasy days and oddly enough, I ran into his mother in the grocery store.) Blaze’s daydreams tended to be a bit more crude and sexually-charged than mine ever were — at one point pondering what Mark’s boy parts were like as she sees him running across the field. While I thought she would be a relatable character for me, there were a handful of these times that I really couldn’t connect with her. She is most definitely not a girly-girl — her interests lie in geeking out over superheroes and comics, both by creating/drawing her own and being a connoisseur of all things Marvel. She’s a bit nerdy and has a small social sphere.
When Blaze catches Mark’s attention, her obsession reaches a whole new level. She mentally inflates their relationship to be more than it is and things progress rapidly. Without so much as a real date, Blaze finds herself in the back of her minivan with Mark. (Which is where I must mention I was extremely put-off. While I know unprotected sex happens, I feel Crompton could have used this platform to address Mark’s “reputation” and the possibility of pregnancy and STDs when he is coaxing Blaze into having sex without a condom. Blaze was more concerned with him fondling her boobs.)
After their minivan tango, Mark refuses to reply to her texts, IMs, and barely makes eye contact with her. Blaze is forced to realize she’s been used, just as she’d been warned by her little brother. She seeks revenge by publishing a comic in which she outs Mark the Shark. In reply, Mark leaks a photo that goes viral of Blaze in barely-there pink lingerie. The story shifted gears here. There was bullying and how the kids at school were responding to the photo, a side story about her father, a spontaneous road trip, Blaze’s two best friends who were pretty crappy after the photo went public, and a new boy at the comic book store. There was so much to wrap up in such a short amount of time.
Ultimately, Blaze handled the whole bullying situation with a lot of grace; she said some things at the end that made me really proud. But, I needed more resolution with Mark and the viral photograph when unnecessary emphasis was placed on her father. Throughout the story, there were definite times I found Blaze’s character refreshing and she made me laugh out loud, but overall I wish there had been a bit more balance that undoubtedly would have made me feel more invested in her well-being and all the intermingled story lines....more