I was first smitten with the cover of My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp, then I fell in love with thRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
I was first smitten with the cover of My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp, then I fell in love with the Appalachian setting. The summary for this book is interesting, right? Since I've been in such a reading slump lately, I was excited to find that I was immediately pulled into this story. RIGHT AWAY, I was there, as Lulu is talking directly to Mason in the form of a letter. He words are filled with so much emotion, immediately I wondered what would be their story.
Lulu Mendez is a recent high school graduate, super excited about the prospect of leaving her sleepy small town and heading to San Diego and a new life at college. She plans for a summer filled with hanging out with her best friend, and then Lulu is G-O-N-E from Dale, Virginia. She can hardly wait. But this dream comes to a screeching halt when Lulu finds out from her Dad that she can't go to San Diego, no college this fall, the money just isn't there, sorry but you'll have to stay home. No, no, no, no, she thinks. No.
Lulu comes up with a great, super-easy plan to make good cash, quick money. Moonshine.
Okay, so YES, the story of young people making moonshine in the Appalachian countryside is appealing to me - especially when there is also the promise of desperation and love woven throughout. Lulu is so ready to leave home, so very ready, and this made me love her immediately. I remember feeling that way myself, so eager, high school and the days immediately after were just too long. Lulu's mother is a shut-in with a crippling anxiety that keeps her from leaving the house - this is so stressful to Lulu. Her travels almost constantly with his job, so he is never home, which means that it falls on Lulu to care for her mother. She has an un-glamorous job at a junkyard and she just wants to get away from small-town life because nobody ever becomes anything if they stay around there. The idea that Lulu would have to put aside college is not something that she is willing to entertain - I understand this, and so I connected with her because of it.
We meet Mason early in the book. Lulu is easily smitten by him, but I think her interest in his moonshine-making abilities is almost equal to her attraction to him, at least for a time. There is a mutual crush or attraction that turns into a really neat romance as these two grow more acquainted and make moonshine together. Mason helps Lulu with things, and Lulu helps Mason with things - they are good for one another. Mason is not the typical young adult love interest; he is a recovering alcoholic, his family's name is stained in the community, and he has a reputation from his younger days. But Mason isn't like that anymore, he isn't anything like people judge him to be. Lulu sees a side of him that nobody else does, and because of this we grow to as well as we read her thoughts to him in her letter. I loved getting to know him through her eyes and thoughts and heart. He's one of the best young adult male characters that I've read in a long time, a favorite.
There are other noteworthy characters: Roni and her boyfriend Bucky, for example. Roni is Lulu's best friend, with no plans to leave Dale, Virginia. No plans for college. Bucky does have plans for college and this has created a small strain in his relationship with Roni. Both agree that they could use some money, however, so they join in with Lulu and Mason to help with the moonshine-making. I love how things unfolded with Roni and Bucky and I have to admit that things took turns along the way that I didn't expect.
I love how things unfolded with all of the characters, actually. Beginning the story, I had a feeling that something was coming up, but I didn't really know that it would be. Why is Lulu writing to Mason in the first place? Also, I initially wondered if the story structure (Lulu speaking directly to Mason) would prevent connection with Mason, but it did not. If anything, I felt more of a connection with both characters, and this is probably because Lulu felt everything she was saying so passionately. Lulu spoke her heart to Mason in these pages.
Do you know the books that are a pleasure to read because the author uses lovely language? This is one of them. Sarah Tomp wrote My Best Everything with such a lyrical language, but not too much so, and the story easily made such a great movie in my head. I recommend My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp to readers that enjoy young adult contemporary stories and contemporary romance. Readers that enjoy a unique story structure or premise may also enjoy giving this one a shot. I'll be rereading this one and I'm thinking it will be one of my favorites this year. ...more
When I was young, I used to love to read Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I'd read them over andRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
When I was young, I used to love to read Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I'd read them over and over, making sure to arrive at the different endings each time. I wanted to see what adventures were possible within the book. One just wasn't enough. The concept of this type of story was so exciting to me, one where I was in control of how things turned out. This is what Jill Santopolo has done with Love On The Lifts, except we're not choosing adventure - we're choosing a chance for love.
As the story begins, you and your sister Angie are at the airport, on your way to a ski vacation with your parents. Your boyfriend Nate has broken your heart, and you just aren't feeling the fun of the upcoming vacation. Angie tells you that she has a plan - you need to kiss someone you meet on the ski mountain, you need to fall in love on the lifts.
Hmm, you're not so sure! You'd rather ski and hang out with your sister and just not think of romantic things. BUT Angie convinces you that it takes a boy to get over a boy, and you eventually agree to try out her plan. The "choose your own adventure" part of the story begins once you both make it out on the slopes.
When Love On The Lifts by Jill Santopolo arrived, I read it immediately because it sounded like so much fun - and it was. It was a quick read that left me smiling and flipping pages, but in a really fun way. There are something like eleven choices for an ending - a ski instructor, a handsome twin, deciding to hang out with sister Angie instead of finding a guy, hanging out alone - so, yeah, several possibilities. AND true to what we all know of these types of "choose your own adventure" books, the opportunity to decide what to do next pops up every few pages, which made me feel in control of what was going on.
I ended up "finding love" with Charlie - he's a nice guy out on the slopes that I spot and decide to spend the day skiing with. He is hilarious and charming and loves old movies. It's a good match and helps me take my mind off of my awful ex-boyfriend.
*SO while I've been taking care of my Dad recently and because this book was so fun to read, I picked up Love On The Lifts and read it again - twice. I ended up with two very different endings, both a lot of fun. I ended up hanging out with my sister Angie, which is always a good time of course (YAY sisters, I absolutely love mine) and I also found love with a guy named Orion, who happens to be the son of the ski resort owner.
Love On The Lifts by Jill Santopolo is fun. It isn't a long read or a heavy read. It's perfect for someone that is looking for something light, cute, and happy - EXACTLY what I've needed in my life right now, actually. I haven't made it through all of the options for endings yet but there does not appear to be any love triangles so far. The book is written from a perspective of YOU being the main character, YOU are looking for love, YOU are choosing your own adventure. I recommend Love On The Lifts by Jill Santopolo for fans of young adult contemporary with romance that enjoy fun story structures. ...more
For Keeps is the second book in the Love to the Rescue Series by Rachel Lacey. I read this one on the heels of Unleashed, which is the first book in the series. (Here's my review.) I have to admit that while I'm not the type of person that normally goes crazy over pets, I'm head-over-heels over this series and I love the way dogs and other animals play into these stories.
Merry Atwater is a full-time nurse who also founded the Triangle Boxer Rescue right after finishing nursing school a few years ago. She loves dogs - rescuing them, fostering them, helping them find adoptive families. This makes her so happy! It's hard work, but good work, but lately the Rescue has taken a huge financial hit. A very supportive anonymous donor has recently stopped sending their generous donations, and this has been a big blow to the Rescue's accounts. As a result, Merry has been using her own personal accounts to pay for everything, and running an organization like this is extremely expensive - she has to stop. Merry is stressed! This Rescue means life and death for these dogs! Also, how could she have let herself depend so heavily on an anonymous donation like that? She should have been more forward-thinking! Merry needs a plan and now.
Suddenly a solution falls into Merry's lap, albeit a temporary one: local veterinarian T.J. Jameson runs a summer camp for special needs children with horses. Equine therapy, so cool! This year, he wants to add specially-trained dogs to the camp and he's reached out to Merry. In exchange for a nice donation to her Rescue, he has asked Merry to donate her time and a few dogs to the camp. This is a large commitment but it can help Merry pay some of the Rescue's expenses for at least a little while...except when she meets T.J., his ideas for what he wants are not the same things that Merry is willing to provide -- and neither seem to want to compromise.
Well, neither are initially willing to compromise. It doesn't take very long for THAT to change...
For Keeps by Rachel Lacey is SUCH a cute story! Merry and T.J. have a chemistry that is so present and obvious, and one of the things I loved about these two was that they acknowledged it right away instead of refusing to admit it, dancing around it like some couples do sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a slow burn, but I like when people admit there is an attraction too. HOWEVER, even though the attraction is obvious, Merry and T.J. take a while to agree on exactly what they want in terms of a romantic relationship. Is a future even possible for them?
Here are some THINGS about For Keeps that I love:
1. T.J. Jameson is a veterinarian, and Merry thinks that's charming. She loves his farm/ranch but when she finds out that he rescues horse - like she does with dogs - it elevates her feelings for him by WELL, A WHOLE LOT. Because, see, here this means that what they have in common, a love for animals, is deeper than Merry realized. Maybe Merry judged T.J. a little bit prematurely when she made assumptions about his cowboy-ness, his big truck, his extreme hesitance to foster one of her dogs...
2. T.J. is also uncle to an autistic boy, Noah. He's a FANTASTIC uncle. Noah is the primary reason T.J. hosts his summer camp. Merry loves watching his interaction with Noah, and T.J. loves watching Merry interact with his nephew. Heck, T.J. may even be a little bit jealous of how well Noah responds to Merry BUT he tries to remember that she is a pediatric nurse so she does have some experience in working with kids. If only this camp could be successful at helping Noah to interact more, become more verbal, and be more social! Merry's dogs seem to be just about the only thing Noah responds to...
3. Merry has a THING from her past that comes up while the two are developing their relationship - I've seen and read before where this THING sends a man running away fast, fast, fast. BUT! Here, it doesn't even make T.J. flinch and I kind of loved that about him. Merry does too.
4. Merry's nursing job, her work with the Rescue, and her work with the summer camp are all connected - this shows the type of person Merry is even though she is determined that she doesn't want to get married and have a family (while T.J. does - here's our romantic tension!). T.J. watches her, and puts bits and pieces of her life together over the course of the month-long camp, and he falls for her as he sees who she really is through all of these pieces of her life.
5. Both Merry and T.J. have fears and vulnerabilities. Both of their fears and vulnerabilities come out in the story, and both are dealt with. I love how both can depend on the other one to help with these challenges, and there is no judgment given. This is really special.
You know how many romance have that 'falling-out thing' that happens about about three-quarters into the story, the thing that causes the big issue that must be resolved before the happy ending? Well, there is a little bit of that, but it didn't feel like such a big thing because Merry and T.J. were so good for each other from the beginning. There is some dramatic tension, but it is quickly resolved, and the happy ending does come. There is plenty of depth to this story, and this was a nice change for me.
Two books into the Love to the Rescue Series, and I'm all in! I love the way the series is set up, I love the characters, I love the North Carolina setting. I hope Merry's friend Olivia, who plays a nice role in the summer camp as an assistant to Merry, will have her own book because she seems to have some shenanigans of her own going on and I'd love to find out more about her! I recommend this series to fans of small town romances with happy endings, fans of companion stories, and fans of stories that feature animals because the dogs play a nice, big role in the romances in these books. ...more
I eagerly began Three Brothers by Nicole Williams because I'm a HUGE, MASSIVE fan of this author'sRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
I eagerly began Three Brothers by Nicole Williams because I'm a HUGE, MASSIVE fan of this author's Lost & Found Series. Her Author's Note in the summary above states that fans of the previous series may be interested in this new standalone novel. I loved that I found some similar-but-not-the-same things in the story, so I can absolutely see where that comparison is made. AND I feel like the author snuck this new release up on us, which was really exciting for me! I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I'm such a huge fan and her books are instant-read for me (I still have some backlist titles to get to.)
Scout has grown up with three brothers but they're not exactly her brothers. She came to live on their ranch with them, under the care of their father, after her mother died years ago. After having her heart broken pretty severely by one of these brothers, she left and never looked back. Only after she received a call that the man that took her in, John Armstrong, was dying -- that's when she finally took a deep breath and made her way back out to the ranch.
Three Brothers - Chase, Chance, and Conn. Chase was the "big brother" type, the boy-next-door. Chance was Scout's best friend. And Conn - he's the one that broke her heart. She thought he was the one she was in love with, she thought he felt the same. This younger brother had held her heart so strongly she barely knew which way was up or down. When she caught him doing something that devastated her, she FLAT OUT LEFT, like that same night, and never gave a second thought to how much her leaving would affect the rest of the family. After all, she'd been living there for several years and they'd all grown to love her like family. PLUS one of the other brothers had loved her from the very beginning but had never said a word, never given a clue, she had never ever known.
Scout had her heart broken, but she'd broken a few hearts in her wake. But now she's back and things are NOT the same anymore.
One brother has since gotten married and recently lost his wife to a tragic accident - the family "curse." He's so deep in a depression that Scout can barely stand seeing him. One brother is battling the demons of alcoholism but for WHAT? Scout has a hard time reconciling sadness over seeing him like this and past feelings she had for him. And then there's Chance, her best friend. Things slip back into an easy routine with him and thankfully - he makes Scout wish she would have never left, he makes her wish she had a life on the mountain, among the horses and livestock, riding in the wind all day long. With Chance, she can imagine living the life of a rancher because being beside of him makes everything fun, even the mundane tasks. He's still the best friend she ever had -- but Chance can't help but to see this woman that he cannot help but to love with everything that he has, this woman that he thought he had lost forever, this woman that he doesn't want to lose again.
For Chance, this could be a second chance at romance.
Oh, friends, Nicole Williams writes these cowboy romances SO WELL. Three Brothers is a sweet romance - there is this wonderful slow and sweet revealing of the love that Chance has for Scout in these pages, and Scout admits and feels her love for him slowly too. BUT! when they finally admit it, the chemistry is SO VERY THERE, and it is done in such a way that isn't too steamy or sexy in this particular story. It really works for this book! But their love story has some interesting factors working alongside it or maybe against it that need addressing:
**There is an Armstrong family "curse" that prematurely takes all of the women any of the Armstrong men ever love. Chase firmly believes this is what happened to his wife so early in their marriage, and this is what the rest of the older men, including John, believe happened to the mothers and older women. Chance is TERRIFIED that if he admits his feelings and allows this relationship to happen, something awful will happen to the woman that he loves. Is he willing to risk her life to have a relationship with her? And is she?
**Scout has just finished college, veterinary school! It would be PERFECT for her to come to work in a ranch like Red Mountain that needs a full-time person like her, but is she willing to put her heart on the line with this family again? I mean, Conn has a connection to that farm. Is the pain of the past worth the risk of happiness now?
**There's a big plot twist or two that comes close to the end of the story that, in my opinion, kind of made things a little dramatic and had my heart beating a bit faster than the previous the pace of the story thus far. I was really nervous and I was scared for a while. And then WHOA.
The plot twists at the end admittedly left me with a couple of heartbroken feelings, but I loved that Three Brothers ultimately had a happy ending with hope for the family and the future of the ranch. This is what I expect from the cowboy romances from Author Nicole Williams, and she delivered.
Also something that I can count on from Author Nicole Williams is a wonderful setting for these cowboys and ranches -- in this case, she has her story set outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and I LOVED IT. The scenes that have Scout riding her horse through the fields and pastures, where she feels the wind in her hair and takes in all of the colors and scenes all around her -- I LOVE THESE SO MUCH. I absolutely adored this about the Lost & Found Series, and I think this is one of the bigger comparison between that series and this book. I recommend Three Brothers by Nicole Williams to readers that enjoy contemporary romance stories with great settings and sibling relationships. This author is auto-read for me - when I see her name on a book, I get VERY excited because she writes books that I just ENJOY. I have a long way to go to get through the books that I haven't read by her yet, but MAN the journey through them is so exciting to me. ...more
I think it's so fun that I chose to read this book because I'm sometimes wary of the mysterious "baRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
I think it's so fun that I chose to read this book because I'm sometimes wary of the mysterious "bad boy" with tattoos and this cover looks like exactly that type of character. HOWEVER, HOWEVER this character is not that way at all, not mysterious or broody or angsty, and it made me very happy that I decided to read this book because I feel like people need to know this! Bringing Home the Bad Boy by Jessica Lemmon is a really wonderful second-chance romance.
Evan Downey is an artist - a painter, a book illustrator, and a tattoo artist. He also sports plenty of tattoos of his own. He has the messy-hair, dark t-shirt, great-looking jeans vibe going on and his best friend is a rock star. SO! I can see where the cover of the book comes from. BUT OH OH, see, Evan is anything but a bad boy. He's actually a very good boy.
The book opens with Evan packing his young son up to move away. They need a fresh start in Evergreen Cove, somewhere familiar and comfortable for them, and it doesn't hurt that they'll be closer "Aunt Charlie." Charlie was his wife's best friend and is the closest family that young Lyon knows except Charlie isn't really Lyon's aunt by blood; she and Evan's first wife Rae were not actually sisters. But they were incredibly close. When Rae unexpectedly died a few years ago, it devastated them all. Evan is hoping that this move will give Lyon a better sense of family - being closer to Charlie - and he is also hoping for some closure for himself because he just has to get out of the house where Rae died unexpectedly.
Evan is not expecting to fall for Charlie. But, man, he really wants to see where their relationship goes.
It's true that Charlie had a crush on Evan even back when they were all young, but when he chose Rae, she respected that decision and never crossed any lines. NOW THOUGH, with Evan and Lyon living just a couple of houses down from her, it's difficult to keep all of her feelings buried under the surface. Evan always smells great, he always looks fantastic, and it's so awesome to see him interacting with his son the way that he does. Plus, it's really sexy to watch him make his art.
Charlie's biggest problem is the guilt she feels in admitting her feelings for her best friend's husband.
I could never even begin to imagine what kind of guilt and stress and strain the death of somebody-you-both-love would put on a relationship like it did between Evan and Charlie. Here we have two people that were friends years ago, even into adulthood - but that friendship had a respectable boundary, which was very well-written. This was all before the book began but it was a palpable respect that I could feel throughout the story. Rae, Evan's now-deceased wife, is a character that is never alive while the story is taking place (her character dies before the book begins), but she is written well enough that I felt her at the most appropriate times, which meant that the respect that Evan and Charlie had for one another because of Rae was very well-placed. It also meant that once the two began to admit that they had feelings toward each other, there was a depth of emotion present that is extra for an adult contemporary romance like this one. It was not too heavy, but it was just a little something there, and I think this was because of the second-chance romance thing.
Evan is called the "bad boy" in the title, but I genuinely feel like he is a great guy. First and foremost, he is a great father. He is smitten with his child, parenting him to the best of his ability, ALSO recognizing that he's doing it alone, without the assistance of a mother for his son. I loved this show of vulnerability and the way he never hesitated to ask Charlie for help. Evan placed himself geographically closer to Charlie because she had a vested interest in the boy's life and because she wanted to help raise him; in doing so he ended up feeling things toward this woman. And this is okay, you see. It's been years since Evan's wife died - he realizes that he needs to move on. He wants to. Charlie helps with this without even realizing it. Evan is thrilled that he is able to feel things again for another woman, and he is thrilled that it is Charlie because they have so many shared interests - his son, their grief, a love for art, several other things. They are helping each other work through the grief process when it rises. But Evan is a man just like any other man, ya know? He is ready for a relationship.
And Charlie...oh, Charlie. She had a relationship before - it wasn't a great one. The guy ended up breaking her heart for not-great reasons, which left Charlie with baggage. So not only is she carrying unwarranted baggage, but she's got this huge amount of guilt over feeling things for Evan, for wanting to be with him. Charlie has to work though this and IT. TAKES. FOREVER., which drove Evan crazy at times (and me too, doggone it!). Despite wanting to reach through the book to squish Charlie into Evan's face so he can kiss her senseless, I love these two together and love their happy ever after and YAY FOR SECOND CHANCES, they make life and reading so much fun.
This book introduces some fun secondary characters that I'm having a fit to know more about, A ROYAL FIT. And I love the small-town feeling that I'm getting from Evergreen Cove - it feels like a vacation destination even though these characters actually live there, at least some of them do! The second book in this series is coming out in May and features one of these fun characters, but there are several that I want to know more about as soon as possible. SEVERAL. I hope some of them get a book of their own, wink wink Gloria and Asher. Ahem.
I'm excited about this book and I love that this is the Second Chance Series because I LOVE these types of stories. I recommend Bringing Home the Bad Boy by Jessica Lemmon to fans of small-town romance stories, fans of second-chance romances, and fans of happy ever afters. ...more
I've been a big fan of Beth Revis since I began the Across the Universe Series. I love her imagination and the way she writes science-fiction with crazy governments and romance. I was so excited for The Body Electric to be published. I went into this book not having read the synopsis and I think that worked out really well for me. It was exactly what I love about this author's work and basically my heart pounded from the beginning of the story until the end.
Both of Ella Shepard's parents are incredibly smart scientists -- or were, her father was killed not too long ago. Ella's mother has created a technology that allows people to revisit their favorite dreams and now runs a spa where they can come and spend time in their reveries. Ella's father worked for the government on android technology and cloning, things like that. The details of his death are incredibly shady and Ella and her mother are still grieving him. Ella's mother is dying, so Ella helps her run the business. Ella is excited that she has taken her mother's research a step further by figuring out how to link two the dreams of two people together so that one person can see into the mind of another.
Okay, okay. But before they can decide if they want to market that technology or even get excited about it, the government comes calling. Somehow they've learned what Ella discovered and want her help to use her new technology to prevent acts of terrorism. It sounds crazy for me to write that they would use a teenage girl for this, but it totally works in the story. And here's where things get tricky. Because OF COURSE, the government isn't telling the people everything. And the more that Ella finds out, the more she realizes that she should question things.
There are some other really crazy things going on with Ella too: the boy that shows up that knows her, says he loved her once, but she has no recollection of him whatsoever -- these communicative hallucinations she is having in which her father seems to be telling her something, what's up with that? -- how did she not realize that so many people that she loves aren't human?
The Body Electric is really cool. Ella has been living this BIG, HUGE LIE lately, and watching her unravel the truth is really exciting and a felt kind of like a wild ride. The further into the story I read, the more shocked I was when I found out that certain characters weren't trustworthy, etc. There are some big reveals and twists, and I loved that. I loved that Ella kept bouncing back, even when she felt knocked down and betrayed, and she felt this way more than once because SHE WAS.
There is a romance present in the story, but it is written in a way that is different than what we read so often. Ella begins to wonder if her memories have been tampered with because the boy that tells her that he has loved her -- well, she has no recollection of this. And he is trying to help her out when she has to escape some crazy government things, so they do spend some time together on the run. Ella spends time trying to remember if they were together as a couple in the past, as Jack suggests, but it takes her a long time to figure out exactly how her past played out. And she does, and Jack is a perfect gentleman, and a great character. His character is subtle, but has a huge voice. I loved him.
And GOOD GRACIOUS, some of the reveals toward the end shocked the heck out of me! Completely. There is a happy ending, though, so everything is resolved and I feel like everyone is in a good place.
The Body Electric is even better than the synopsis sounds. I was totally glued to my Kindle. This story is completely unpredictable and absolutely an adventure. I would recommend The Body Electric by Beth Revis to readers that enjoy science-fiction with some dystopian or crazy-governments. It just made me so, so happy to be reading the words of Beth Revis again. ...more
Cara Medlen is a cancer survivor with no plans to live life to the fullest until she's safely 10-yeRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
Cara Medlen is a cancer survivor with no plans to live life to the fullest until she's safely 10-years cancer-free. Despite being wildly talented and in love with photography, she postponed her dream of being a full-time photographer and instead took a nannying job. She has also pushed aside romantic attachment with basically anyone for fear of breaking her own or another heart if the cancer were to come back. Cara's plans get shaken and stirred when she gets tangled up with her next door neighbor, Matt Dumont. They meet when Matt comes to her door, curious about the relationship she keeps with her dogs.
Cara is passionate about rescuing dogs. She fosters dogs at her townhome, helping to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society after abandonment, mistreatment, bouts of illness, etc - then Cara sends them to permanent homes. By fostering instead of adopting these dogs, Cara is able to give and feel love, yet prevent becoming attached -- this totally fits with her 10-year plan PLUS it helps to fills the void of not having a romantic relationship. Cara is incredibly offended and downright angry when Matt assumes that she is pushing her dogs to fight and when he mentions their unhealthy state and unkempt appearance! She promptly and with a FIERY attitude tells him about how she fosters the dogs...they ALL have an adjustment period when they first arrive, duh! and mind your own business...and then Matt pretty much shuts up because he realizes he was wrong to assume. BUT! OH NOW HE HAS A MASSIVE CRUSH ON THE LADY NEXT DOOR!
After living next door to one another for something like a year already, both Cara and Matt had seen each other coming and going. They'd just never spoken. This couldn't be a worse time to develop a crush, really: Matt is moving out of state in just a few days! But now MY GOODNESS how he wants to stick around just a little longer...and then soon he's thinking of how he can pull Cara into his life, even if he does end up moving. Is that possible? Would she come with him?
Matt doesn't know, see, because CARA HASN'T GIVEN HIM ALL OF THE INFORMATION ABOUT HER 10-YEAR RULE! She needs to talk to him, right? Of course. But Matt hasn't given up all of his backstory either - WE know why he's moving so quickly and WE know why he acts so much like he does, but Cara doesn't. These two are quite the pair and they have a tiny little hill to climb before they settle into their routine of happy-ever-after. Sure, they love spending time together, but it's almost like these two do not want to admit that they're falling for one another, like they're irritated with themselves for even letting it happen. They make me laugh (and want to squish them together).
Is there a happy ever after? YES, there is. It's great.
I enjoyed the heck out of Unleashed by Rachel Lacey. I never considered that I would love a book that features dogs or pets so much, but I did! I fell hard for these animals and I understand a little more now why fictional Cara (and real life people) have the desire to help them like they do - as a person with no pets, I'd never given any thought to this. But this story isn't only about dogs - they're just part of what bring Cara and Matt together.
Cara and Matt are quite the pair. Cara is so affected by her bout with cancer. Because of what she went through, she doesn't leap into anything. She seems to overanalyze everything. She is almost reserved in how she lives. Now, I can't speak to what that must feel like because I've not walked that path, but it seemed like it made Cara hold life at arm's length for much of the book - which is odd because even though she kept me at a distance, I still felt like I got to know her as a character. She has trouble connecting with LIFE, so she doesn't connect with many things or people at all...except one or two friends and her dogs. I GOT THIS. Until her handsome neighbor came over and just frazzled her to pieces! She didn't mean to fall for him - she tried so hard not to - but Matt really got under her skin, and I think this was SO GREAT for Cara because it changed her life. She began to live and be happy and it was so wonderful to read.
Matt is a private investigator with a few trust issues that come from a real thing in his past. His tendency to be inquisitive is how he ends up at Cara's door in the first place. He isn't really snooping, he isn't really nosy. He has a reason for asking questions and being protective. He's smart, he thinks and acts quickly when crazy situations arise (and they do!), and he's an all around nice guy. Total gentleman. Matt IS leaving the neighborhood, and quickly, but he has a very valid reason for this - he doesn't really tell Cara WHY right away. This of course almost backfires on him, but quick-thinking Matt is smart and works everything out for the good. And romantic, yes. What a guy!
Unleashed was an impulse buy for me because I found the author through her interaction on Twitter with some other authors that I love. AND starting this book was such a treat for me because within a few paragraphs, I discovered that the setting is RIGHT HERE, RIGHT HERE where I am! Well, almost right here where I am. (It's always fun to read a book that is set in a familiar place.) Cara's neighbors are not hip to the fact that she fosters dogs. In fact, the homeowner's association takes action against her, and this is a big portion of the plot that drives the story. EVEN BETTER than the setting are the underlying messages to the story: Live to the fullest. Love to the fullest. Make the most of your time on this earth. I think Matt helped Cara realize that her 10-year plan had worked for her for a while, but maybe it was time to ditch it so she could let her happy-ever-after in.
I had the BEST time reading Unleashed by Rachel Lacey, and it's only days until the second book in this series is released the second book is fantastic too. (Here's my review.) I highly recommend this book to readers that enjoy fun contemporary romances with happy endings, and readers that are dog-lovers. ...more
Faking Normal is one of those "issues" young adult contemporary books tRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books, including Audiobook Notes.
Faking Normal is one of those "issues" young adult contemporary books that I tend to really like. Here we have both a boy and a girl that have been through some significant trauma, so they're both dealing with the aftermath of those events, but they're also navigating the day-to-day of school, friendships, and such. I love those stories.
I've tried to write my thoughts on this book and find that I can't organize them well, so I'm doing what I do in this situation and MAKING A LIST.
1. Alexi Littrell was raped a few months ago. She is having a difficult time dealing with guilt in the aftermath of this crime. Is it really rape if she never said no? She KNOWS he saw her crying, surely he KNOWS she didn't want it, right? She hasn't been able to talk to anyone about it, including her parents, her older sister, her best friends. Alexi has taken to picking at the skin at the back of her neck and near-incessant counting rituals to calm her down, which doesn't really help her but she does it anyway. She hides these behaviors from everyone except for Bodee.
2. Bodee Lennox is the quiet boy that keeps to himself and dyes his hair with Kool Aid. After his father murders his mother, he comes to live with Alexi's family. Bodee has always had sweet, secret feelings for Alexi, but he has never acted on them or revealed them to anyone. Because of what he has endured in his own life, he is sort-of wise-beyond-his-years, and he can easily see that Alexi has some sort of pain that she is hiding away. Bodee has a habit of hiding away in small places as a means of coping with his pain, like under the bed or in a tent.
3. The two begin to trust one another as they develop build rapport around their obsessive behaviors. These behaviors initially began as a way for the two to individually retreat from their pain, but both realize that they are not acting "normal." Bodee begins to slowly help Alexi, and in turn he finds help in Alexi.
4. When Alexi and her friends hang out, they seem to talk a lot about sex. I know that people this age talk a lot about sex and things of that nature, but it was SO MUCH in this book (perhaps because of the nature of the story?). The more Alexi's friends discussed it, the more she seemed to retreat into herself and rely on Bodee. I thought it was really interesting that she never revealed anything about what happened to her best friends, yet she was able to trust Bodee who was a new friend to her.
5. I loved the development of the relationship between Alexi and Bodee. Friends first, quietly, then a strengthening romantic relationship. It never, ever overshadowed the real issue of the story, which was what happened to Alexi and how she was able to eventually begin to cope with Bodee's help -- BUT the romance was like this very-big small thing that hovered throughout the novel. Even though the romance was not even fully realized by the end of the book, it was awesome and I had a sense that these two were going to be okay.
6. I found myself wondering all. the. time. who hurt Alexi - I know that was supposed to be part of the secrecy of the story as Alexi hadn't revealed it to anyone and barely even admitted it to herself. Still I wonder if I had known earlier in the story, if it would have made me feel differently toward a few of the other characters? I unfairly judged them because I DIDN'T KNOW all of the information, and I feel awful about that. I almost want to go back and reread to see if I feel differently now that I know WHO DID THIS THING.
7. About who did it, WOW, I'm mad at this person. For doing that.
8. I felt relief at the end of the book because this story, while great, is heavy and heartbreaking. It IS issues contemporary, after all. However, I wish that the story went just a little bit further so 1) we could get a little sense of Alexi and Bodee as a couple and 2) we could see SOME of the punishment or consequences for the person that committed the rape after the confrontation by Alexi and 3) we could see Alexi's character's healing process begin.
Faking Normal is great. I love issues contemporaries even though they are tough at times. They're real life and people do go through these things! I thing the author took on a big task in writing this as a debut and pulled it off well. I loved reading it and am so grateful that Alexi had someone like Bodee in her life. By the end of it, even though I wish there was just a little more to the story, I feel like the author really had delivered a story that shouted out IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT to a character that struggled with doubt and guilt and an inability to think things through in a healthy way. I recommend Faking Normal for readers that enjoy young adult contemporary stories with realistic fiction inside as well as a small thread of romance.
Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens is published by HarperAudio and is 7 hours and 45 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Emma Galvin who is one of my favorite narrators for audiobooks, period. This reader always tends to place me in the head of the character and make me feel as if the actual character of the story is speaking to me, which she easily did yet again with the characters of Alexi Littrell and Bodee Lennox. She has a great voice for reading, she has a great dialect or accent for a story that is set in (I think) Tennesee. I would HIGHLY recommend the audiobook format for a first read or reread. ...more