HOW DO I PORTRAY MY FEELINGS TO YOU ABOUT A BOOK THAT I LOVE SO MUCH? HOW HOW HOW?
I barely even know how to describe Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and how it still sits with me despite the fact that I finished it several weeks ago. I began the book and immediately, immediately, fell in love with it. I remember reading the prologue and thinking that it was absolutely beautiful and then being stunned at the structure of the story - a mixture of narrative and epistolary/documentation relevant to the trial of the main character, Agnes, and the other accused and the deceased. Not only is there that mixture of structure but there is an alternating point-of-view that was a little different at first, but within a chapter or two became second-nature to the story. I really cannot say enough GREAT things about this book.
In fact, as I was reading, I purposefully limited myself to 30-40 pages at a time so I could truly soak it all in and remember the details. I knew that if I was not careful, I would fly through this one and perhaps miss something important, something I would want to remember, and I wanted to focus on spending time with Agnes and the other characters. PLUS the story was so atmospheric that I wanted to spend as much time as possible lingering in the pages.
If you're one of the people that has been considering this book or maybe you are on-the-fence about reading it, just GO AHEAD AND GRAB IT. Do it. Take the plunge BUT! when you do, make sure you enjoy the heck out of it.
You already know when you begin the story that Agnes, the main character, has been condemned to public execution for the murder of someone else - but you don't really know all of the details of the story. The author goes to great lengths to release these details, though - first, you learn of the public's opinion and their idea of what happened at Agnes' hands and why she was found guilty. Then, ever-so-slowly, readers find out the actual details of what happened: the relationship Agnes had with the deceased, the events leading up to the death, what literally occurred, and how Agnes really feels about it.
Agnes is - WOW - one of the most memorable characters I've read in a long time. I'm not sure that I liked her 100% but I absolutely loved her. She felt so very human and real to me that it was almost creepy, but I loved that (I mean that in a completely positive way, I promise). In the beginning of the story, Agnes is in a prison and the conditions are just horrible. Within only a few pages, the picture I had in my mind of Agnes was one that I loved, despite being quite pitiful - she was filthy, I mean filthy, and quiet. In my mind, Agnes had erected these invisible walls around herself so as not to give any of herself away to anyone - I really feel like she didn't want anyone to know her heart. Perhaps she had tried that before and it didn't work very well? Perhaps it only hurt to feel things? Agnes occasionally allowed thoughts - the emotional kind - to creep in and when they did, THEY BROKE MY HEART. These are some of the times that my heart broke for Agnes but just as quickly as my heart broke, Agnes would throw her walls back up and become as stone-faced and quiet as she had been before...almost like she didn't just leak an emotion, almost like she never had emotions at all. All of this, you see, I felt about Agnes at the BEGINNING of the story...and then she was moved to a farm in Northern Ireland to serve the remainder of her sentence. It is at this farm that she slowly became a little comfortable because life afforded her more comforts: instead of being in a crowded and stinking cell, Agnes was in what we would consider sort of a primitive house-arrest. Agnes slowly began to let her guard down for a while each day. And then longer. And then longer. But always, no matter what, the date of execution sat in the background, looming like a giant black cloud...
As Agnes reached the farm where she would be held before her execution, she at first had to deal with the harsh stares and judgment from the family she was living with and working for, as well as the community around her...but AAAHHHH how wonderful it was to be outside in the breeze and work in the grass and take a bath and eat food! Even confinement among the judgmental family was like heaven when compared to being in the unlivable conditions of the prison. Agnes became content at the farm, going about her duties, and little by little the family began to see inside of Agnes - they began to wonder about her, about her heart. Perhaps Agnes won them over, or at least a few of them? Perhaps there is more to the story than everyone has been told?
This is so smart, you see, because as the characters are won over by Agnes - as she opens up a little bit and reveals more and more of herself and her story, we as readers only grow to love her more. We become more connected to her, as some of the people around her do, which makes that execution date that looms overhead weigh heavily on us too...brilliant, I say, and also painful.)
Aside from the amazing Agnes, there are other really wonderful characters - I absolutely loved the family she came to live with. All of the members of the family seemed to have differing opinions about Agnes and her fate and how guilty she must really and truly be - it is interesting to read their opinions shift different ways, and how they inspired the neighbors' opinions to maybe, possibly shift as well. And Agnes has a preacher that comes to see her - Toti. He is responsible for her soul, in a way - he is responsible for making sure she is repentant of her crimes - but it is quite possible that he learns more from Agnes than she learns from him.
The landscape of this story is brilliant. The story feels like I know the setting to be - cold, dark at times, windy. It felt like the colors on the book cover and also gray and cloudy. It felt like wool and the smell of freshly-plowed fields and hay. I am amazed at the talent behind this debut story and I would love to sit down with this author over tea or coffee and just TALK WITH HER ABOUT IT. When I was nearing the end, I felt myself mourning the end...and when I finished the book, I texted a friend that I felt a loss that it was over.
What you have to understand is that when I love a story like I loved this one, my own words cannot do it justice because all I do is bumble them and mumble them and garble them. I do not feel qualified enough to do this story justice. This is a truly spectacular fiction account that is inspired by a real-life event, and that made it sit heavy in my heart - but truthfully, I think I would have loved it equally had it been an entirely made-up story with nothing real about it at all.
I recommend Burial Rites by Hannah Kent to fans of historical fiction because it truly is amazing and wonderful. I would love to hear it as an audiobook re-read - I can imagine it would be beautifully read. I think that it is a great place to start for readers that are a bit on the newer side of historical fiction (like myself) because the story stands so well on its own that you pretty much forget that it is historical fiction and you find yourself immersed in it and a part of it and you feel like you know Agnes and these characters. I have my eye on this author, Hannah Kent, because WOW I really want to see what else she has in that lovely mind of hers.
Brilliant and moving and lovely, this book. I just can't believe how much I love it and I want everyone to read it. Not necessarily because I loved it so much but because it is THAT GREAT. (less)
I think Sweet Ruin will appeal to mature readers of New Adult Contemporary Romance. There are scenes in this one that are not appropriate for younger readers, so be warned if you are under 17-18! I think many will find the three-person relationship in this book appealing and sexy, but I honestly am not sure how this will pan out in the future installments of this series because I'm not sure how a relationship like this can last - at least one of these characters have some issues that need dealing with and I am hoping for the best for that person in future books. (less)
I was attracted to Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci because of the beautiful cover and the excitement of reading a space opera - I mean, who doesn't love a great story set in space? (especially after these books which are amazing)
As Tin Star opens, young Tula Bane's ship, the Prairie Rose, has sustained some damage and has stopped off at the Yertina Feray space station for repairs. As one of the few humans that knows the Universal Galactic language, she has been allowed off of the ship with Brother Blue to assist him with communications. Brother Blue, leader of this group of humans, is someone Tula trusts and works under as part of the Children of Earth, which is a group of isolationist humans that has set out to colonize in outer space. While Tula was off the ship with Brother Blue, she trusted him and felt that he had her best interests at heart...HOWEVER she began to realize that something wasn't quite right when she noticed that the precious grain cargo belonging to the Prairie Rose was now OFF of the ship and was not being reloaded. What is the reason for this? If it is in error, it must be fixed right away! Tula's efforts at bringing this to Brother Blue's attention and discussing this with him were met with not only opposition but a firm rudeness and basically an insistence that she stand down. Why won't Brother Blue answer her questions? She had already sort of squashed some of her previous questions about some of Brother Blue's decisions, rules, and demands in the past, but she trusted the man and felt he was helping her to establish herself in a position of leadership, so she didn't outwardly question him...until now. Tula realized that the people of the Prairie Rose would be in a poor position for survival fairly quickly if the cargo was not loaded back onto the ship, so she pressed Brother Blue on the issue which was a HUGE mistake on her part. To her credit, she felt it was possible that he genuinely didn't realize that the cargo needed to go back onto the ship.
Instead of reassuring her, instead of talking to her and making her aware of his plans - Brother Blue took Tula Bane to one of the docking bays and beat her until he thought her dead. Then he left her there and lied to her family and the other colonists about her whereabouts. It wasn't long before a resident alien species rescued her, took her to their medical clinic, and nursed her to health. And THIS begins Tula Bane's unusual time aboard the Yertina Feray AND her mission to hunt down Brother Blue and make him pay for what he did to her.
Tin Star is my first experience with Cecil Castellucci's storytelling and I found it to be a fun story and very imaginative. I very much enjoyed the vivid imagery created with the different alien species at Yertina Feray and how different they all were. I enjoyed being able to imagine and learn Tula Bane fairly easily in my head - I felt like as a leading character, I knew her quite well, and I appreciated this. However, while the story was a quick, fun read there were a couple of things that I felt were just a little underdeveloped for what I needed.
First of all, let's talk about Tula. I liked her. Right away, we learn that she is a smart young girl and very useful to the people of her colony. It is her usefulness and resourcefulness that gets her in trouble with Brother Blue, and although we don't initially know WHY, we can see exactly how threatened this man is by this young girl - which is, I think, quite telling and made her very interesting to me. After Tula was nursed back to health, she acclimated to her surroundings as quickly as she possibly could for a human stuck in outer space - THE ONLY human in a place with many different species of aliens - and I think that proves my point of her resilience. Tula was quick to find a friend in a fellow cast-off alien who was very helpful to her in terms of teaching her the ropes of survival as a minor/lower species in a place such as Yertina Feray. Tula was able to learn the art of trading - she traded both favors and objects - and this is how she made her living. Again, resourceful. Tula was settling into life there (with hope that she would one day run into Brother Blue and her family) when suddenly she sees that a group of three additional humans have arrived - Reza, Caleb, and Els.
Tula is smart - she takes her time and observes these three humans. They are together, she notices, but they are all very different and seem to have different goals. While they all want OFF of Yertina - just as Tula does - they are all willing to do different things to leave and they all have varying levels of loyalty to each other and to Tula, being that Tula is another human just like them. ALSO, these three know that because of Tula's trading skills and camaraderie with the residing species on Yertina Feray, she has something that they all want. Tula is not stupid - she can see that some of this group of three are trying to use her to get these precious things that she has, but some of them are actually trying to get to know her in hopes that she will share what she has (because they have taken a liking to her).
Speaking of 'liking' Tula, there a little bit of romance scattered among the pages of this book - and this is where I had such a hard time. I felt like 1) none of the romantic encounters or relationships felt very personal or developed or real, so they had an almost-but-not-really comedic feel to them. Also 2) I think the story could have moved along quite nicely and made much more sense without the romantic encounters - ALL of them with the exception of perhaps one. I would have to say that there is one interaction/relationship/friendship in this story that I felt would make a much better romantic relationship than any of the others, but it was never once explored in this way, which was a little odd to me. Ultimately, I think leaving out these relationships would have been great EXCEPT that this is a series and I wonder if perhaps what I've read is set-up for future installments? If this is the case, I maintain that what I read is a little open-ended without enough closure for this first book to carry over into the second. I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens with the whole "romance" thing in the next book. BUT! The romance aspect of this book is actually not very large when compared to the story as a whole - it is just something that bugged me a bit and I wanted to talk about it. The story is much bigger than any of the romance inside of it - at this point, in my opinion.
I LOVED the aliens in this story. They are all so very different and sort of weird and kind of gross and just...very alien. That part was done very well. I loved that I was able to picture this story easily taking place in space with the stars surrounding the docking stations and out every window...and I loved that there was a planet nearby that Tula and some of the others liked to catch glimpses of every now and then because it made them feel a connection to Earth. I can sense a bit of political something going on as there is this galactic tug-of-war for control or leadership taking place, and I'm wondering what is going on out there (meaning, outside the scope of the novel as I'm reading) and I'm excited to see what happens with the politics of the universe in the next installment. And as far as the ending goes, there is a revelation made that was not the most shocking as I think I could see it coming, but I liked it and I want to know more about it! Also, the OTHER part of the ending is left wide open for another book and I'm eager to see where this takes us - I'm feeling like it will quite literally broaden the setting quite a bit and that could be exciting when you think of adding the galactic politics and the potential romances that may or may not be involved.
Overall, Tin Star was a very interesting book. It is not the best book that I've read this year but my interest is up and I will be watching for the next book in the series because I'm certainly interested enough that I want to keep up with these characters (especially the secondary characters) and see how several of the plot lines continue to play out. I recommend Tin Star to fans of space operas, science fiction, female leading characters, and aliens. I think it would be a fantastic book to recommend to male young adult readers - even younger ones - particularly reluctant readers. (less)
The Rule of Three opens as sixteen-year-old Adam is helping his friend Todd with an essay in their school's computer lab during study hall. The two are joking around - Todd is teasing his friend Adam because Adam is taking flying lessons - just regular teenage banter. Suddenly the lights go out and the computer screens all over the room go blank - a obvious power shortage. What is odd is that devices like cellphones and laptop computers that were not even using electrical outlets also went dead and will not power back up. When it becomes obvious that power will not be restored any time soon/during the school day, school administration decides to let school out early. As Adam and Todd are filing out of school to load into Adam's old 1970's-something clunker of a car, they begin to notice that none of the other cars in the parking lot are cranking up - students everywhere are looking under their hoods to try and figure out their problems. Adam has no trouble turning his car on, however, and the two (plus Adam's crush Lori) leave the school quickly. It seems that the newer vehicles have electrical wiring and therefore are suffering the same fate as the earlier-mentioned cellphones and laptop computers. Adam drops Lori off at her farm on the edge of town and picks up his younger twin siblings, then he heads home.
During the drive to drop off/pick up and head home, Adam and Todd notice that people everywhere are stranded because of their newer vehicles. Roads are blocked, people cannot get home, kids aren't being picked up from school. People are having to walk home and it is taking hours. The population is in the very early stages of confusion and panic, and the boys realize that they quickly need to get home as they watch situations slowly escalate before their eyes. Upon arrival home, Adam's older, seemingly eccentric neighbor Herb greets them with not only hypotheses for what is occurring but suggestions and a few requests. The boys realize that Herb is extremely smart and may know a thing or two about what is going on - they begin to listen to him, learn from him, help him, and do what he says - realizing that if this event is what he thinks it may be, their very survival may depend on Herb's knowledge and skill set.
The event, I think, ends up being much bigger than any of them realized.
The Rule of Three by Eric Walters is a very exciting and action-driven apocalyptic survival and adventure story starring a teenager, his 70-something-year-old neighbor, and his mother who is a ranking police officer. I've read quite a few apocalyptic stories (I love them) but what strikes me as different about this one is that others typically take place AFTER some big catastrophic event while in this one, the catastrophic events unfold before our eyes, right on the pages. We are privy to the decline of civilized behavior and panic and an increase in what appears to be a mob-mentality over the course of day one, then day two, then day three, and so on. I found this really exciting and nerve-wrecking and very, very cool. It was also very cool that I was able to witness this through the eyes of a young boy as it occurred, so I was privy to his wide range of thoughts and concerns as everything unfolded.
Adam has to take some huge responsibilities and grow up super fast - for several reasons. First of all, his mother is gone for much of the time as one of the community leaders in charge of keeping order among the citizens, so Adam is left with taking care of his younger brother and sister. Not only that, but he is one of the few people around that has a working vehicle, so Adam is also tasked with driving people back and forth to various places when it is necessary, particularly Herb. For a teenage boy that was goofing off a little in the opening of the story, Adam certainly matures quickly - perhaps this is due to the mentorship of neighbor Herb (I'll get to Herb in just a second). Before long in the book, Adam is thinking critically with very important decisions, and then he is making very important decisions for the community and there are even times when the community leaders defer to him strategically. This is all great and good, but Adam is sixteen and still crushing hard on his classmate Lori, which keeps Adam as realistic as possible in these circumstances. Also, remember that I mentioned that Adam's friend Todd makes fun of him for taking flying lessons? Well, Adam ends up being the only one in the community that can fly and this is a HUGE part of the book.
Neighbor Herb is probably the most interesting character in the book, in my opinion. Herb has this crazy-huge knowledge of how to survive in situations such as this one and is one of those people that prepare for years for events such as this. He has food and weapons and supplies galore in his basement. He has the capacity to remain calm when everyone around him is freaking out, and because of this people trust him when he begins to delegate tasks and responsibilities (including the actual town officials). Herb has the ability to anticipate what is ahead and plan accordingly. And what is interesting to Adam is that Herb already seems to be one or two or even five steps ahead of everyone else - he already seems to know what to do. He has the survival of the community already planned out in his mind, but he only reveals what the people need to know little by little so as not to overwhelm them. Herb keeps the community on a need-to-know basis to keep chaos and mayhem to a minimum. So far, Herb is the community's saving grace and the smartest guy they have.
Adam trusts Herb and becomes a side-kick of sorts. When Todd sees this, and then Lori, and then Todd's mom - they follow suit. This then has a ripple effect and more and more people begin to trust Herb. This is important because Herb does not hold any official seat on town councils or boards and he isn't a member of the police department or any other rescue department. However, the author makes reference to time Herb spent working for the government as some sort of classified agent doing work that required many of the same types of survival skills and rescues and plans that he is performing and teaching and leading now. Adam questions Herb on more than one occasion about his former job, but I (as a reader) never was able to get a firm grasp on what exactly Herb did before the book began, before his retirement, to give him the knowledge to know everything. Herb just knows everything. And Adam learns everything and becomes a respected young leader by being around Herb.
There is a pretty large cast of secondary characters and I have to admit that I find them likable for who they are. Even the ones that are written as questionable - I liked them as characters. Great job in that regard, author! The setting is a surburban area and an outlying farm, all of which are easily imaginable and visualized because the author describes his scenes well. BUT...I really feel like The Rule of Three stands out in world-building - readers are basically plopped right down in the middle of this peaceful suburban neighborhood that experiences some thing and we watch as chaos happens and civilization breaks down and people begin to distrust one another and battles begin. People lose lives, people die from lack of necessities and basic needs. People have to learn to go back to almost-primitive ways of living - growing their own food, cleaning their own water, things like that. I LOVE THIS part of the story. Not only do we get a glimpse of how this particular community chooses to do these restorative actions, but we get a general sense of how dependent we are on things like electricity, refrigeration, grocery stores, working vehicles, air travel, entertainment, etc.
In my opinion, the action-driven plot, the unfolding of the catastrophic/ apocalyptic event as it occurs, and the great world-building make this book adventurous and therefore appealing to a broader target audience. PLUS the marketing as far as the cover goes also works in to pull in those younger male readers and reluctant readers. I recommend The Rule of Three by Eric Walters to fans of middle grade and young adult adventure and survival stories, apocalyptic tales, male leading characters, and great world-building.
**I would love to see this book in libraries and classrooms specifically for the reluctant readers that I have mentioned and I noticed that on the author's website there is a reading/study guide provided, which I think is AWESOME.**
Sidenote: I finished this book thinking it was a little "open-ended" or maybe a bit unresolved because I initially thought it was a standalone. HOWEVER, I read the author's STUDY GUIDE that he has graciously provided on his website (LINK HERE) in which he mentions that there will be two additional books in this series. This is exciting to me because I know 1) my questions will be answered and 2) we will get to see further into the future of this community that is in chaos and devastation, and hopefully things will turn around for them! YAY for news of more to come!
As the book opens, Rory Macintosh is waiting, waiting, waiting out in the living area of a friend's apartment as her two roommates are, um, busy back in the bedrooms with guy friends. Rory isn't alone out there - there is another unattached friend - Grant - who Rory is kind of talking herself into liking as she is sitting there drinking beer, one after the other. Rory's mind is just racing about how Grant is a little awkward and skinny, but cute, and how she has a kind-of crush on him because there is sort-of "possibility" with him. Rory mind is thinking back on how nobody has ever really liked her before, wanted to date her before, wanted to sleep with her before, and suddenly she decides that she wants Grant to kiss her. YES, SHE DECIDES SUDDENLY THAT SHE WANTS TO KISS GRANT. Right in the middle of all of her thinking and drinking. Just like *snap* THAT! her thinking changes to how perfect she and Grant are for one another because they are both quiet, pale, and sensitive.*
*I'm not making this up.
Then Grant, who is Rory's brand-new crush, has to be awesome and start talking about her roommate Jessica, which immediately kills it for Rory. OF COURSE he couldn't be interested in her, right? NOBODY ELSE IS, right? (This is Rory's mind talking.) And before too long and after too many beers, Rory finds herself being sexually assaulted by Grant. As in, real actual sexual assault. In the living area of their mutual friend's apartment. While four of their friends are, um, busy in other rooms.
Now, it just so happens that one of the four "busy" friends, one Mr. Tyler Mann, happens to see part of this assault take place and he hears Rory tell Grand NO. And he sort of rescues Rory. He kicks Grant out of the apartment. And he offers to drive her back to her dorm. During the ride, they talk a little bit and Tyler seems a little bit interested in her, which is a little weird because he is with Rory's roommate Jessica. RIGHT? So Rory shakes it off and goes into her dorm and that's that.
True by Erin McCarthy is way more than just this opening scene, although I believe that this first scene sets the book up very well. The first scene holds several things that I didn't love about this book. First of all, it was really awkward for me to read about Rory sitting in the living area of an apartment while she waited for her roommates to hook up with their respective guys. She knew what was going on there, so why subject herself to the torture of being a third wheel? And FINE if she wanted to hang out there - sure, OKAY - but all she ended up doing was spend an awful lot of time thinking about how nobody liked her when she was younger and even still, and how she is now twenty years old and still a virgin. (In other words, it's time to put the beer down, Rory.) I couldn't get over the overwhelming stench of "I feel inferior" coming off of the opening scene, but it's cool. I kept going because even though nobody really did anything to Grant after his illegal and degrading moves, I was interested in Tyler Mann and his intentions for Rory Macintosh (while he was with roommate Jessica).
It turns out that Jessica and Tyler (as well as other roommate Kylie and other friend Nathan) all have very casual relationships. Which means that they're not really attached. And by that I mean that they're no-strings-attached hook-up friends. So, okay. Alright. Now that we've established that, let's move on. When Jessica and Kylie find out from drunken, just-having-been-sexually-assaulted Kylie that she is still a virgin, it doesn't bother Jessica in the least that Tyler is interested in her. Because Jessica isn't really interested in Tyler. They use each other - it is an understanding that they have. SO...Jessica and Kylie decide between themselves that Rory is awesome and smart and has so much to offer but people don't really know that because she shuts herself off from people. And if she would just finally open up physically, surely she would be able to open up emotionally as well. (HUH?) Being the best friends that they are, they offer Tyler money to sleep with Rory.
Now let's switch gears a little bit on these thoughts, okay?
I've already told you I felt Rory's awkwardness early on. When Tyler began to express interest in her, she had a really hard time believing it (after she found out Jessica wasn't really interested) because why on earth would someone so good-looking want anything to do with her? [I'm not gonna fault Rory for this, though, because what girl hasn't felt this way when some crush of theirs has finally started liking them? I know I have.] Rory has some self-esteem issues in the beginning that I personally chalk up to the loss of her mother at a young age. However, Rory is exceptionally smart - she is premed and an ace in her science and math classes. And she is beautiful. But I question her choice of "best friends."
Jessica and Kylie are Rory's dorm roommates, so I understand the initial connection. However, the two are way more extroverted than Rory and are always trying to get her to go out with them and pushing guys onto her, things like that. While that may not seem like such a bad thing, it isn't Rory's thing, and she doesn't really like it. But she isn't firm enough in telling them so when she finally gets around to it, which is way too far into the story. When Rory is assaulted, their attitude and actions to her are strange for "best friends" - a huge hug and back rub, a few words, then it's back into the bedrooms with the boys! WHAT? Still not gonna judge them. But when they offered Tyler money to sleep with Rory behind her back? That's where I have to draw the line on what a friend is. Still, Rory KNOWS THIS and they all are three BFF'S FOREVER! So strange to me, but perhaps it is because I'm Southern? Or because I have friends that are different than this? I'm not sure. Moving on...
Thankfully, Tyler makes a good choice in dealing with the "please sleep with our roommate, here's some money" situation. See, he actually likes Rory for who she is. He sees her awkwardness, her blunt sense of humor, her true self, and he likes her for it. I love that he pursues her, respectfully, and I love that he is able to find a way into her life that doesn't involve sex: it turns out that Tyler is quite smart himself and is going to school to be an EMT. He is struggling with his Anatomy and Physiology classes, though. He knows that Rory is premed and a science whiz. Tyler is also an avid reader (he has a battered, beat up library card - y'all that is super sexy, I won't lie) and loves literature. When he finds that Rory is struggling in her literature classes, the two find that they can help one another out by studying together. THIS is where Tyler works his way into Rory's heart, and I loved it.
Also making an appearance in True are the families of Tyler and Rory. Rory's family is of the slightly more traditional variety - father has a live-in girlfriend, both are supportive of Rory in school, helping her pay the part of her tuition that her scholarship does not cover. But it is Tyler's family that won over my heart. See, his mother is an addict after an accident left her with an injury requiring pain medication years ago and his father is in prison. Tyler has an older brother and two younger brothers. There is nothing but dysfunction in the home as far as parenting and normalcy goes, but the four brothers consider themselves a family without their parents (they have their own special tattoo to show their brotherly bond) and the older two brothers do the best they can to take care of the two younger ones with their mother throwing their money away on drugs, alcohol, and who knows what else. The conditions inside the Mann household are unbelievable. It is when Rory meets Tyler's family, particularly the younger two brothers, and learns what true family and real love is - it's then that she finds herself becoming stronger and learning to speak up for herself. In a way, she learns these behaviors from these four brothers. This is kind of unusual and also awesome because she eventually counts herself as part of Tyler's family and she loves them all so much.
Then, OF COURSE, something bad happens and Tyler is involved and Rory's family isn't happy about it and their relationship is threatened...DRAMA!
True by Erin McCarthy is one of those New Adult books that I started on a whim and read quickly. I personally love a book like this thrown into my mix regularly. BUT I understand why some people read books like this and think that this category is filled with nothing but...books like this...if this is what they are always picking up. But that is not the case. True is just the story of Rory and Tyler. It is not a perfect story; it is flawed. I think that there are probably one or two too many things going on in here, honestly. I think that it starts out a bit odd and that it is an unusual choice to let Grant get away with what he did to Rory - RORY EVEN APOLOGIZED TO HIM later in the book. I think that Jessica and Kylie are an unusual, wild pair and perhaps I am not used to having friends like these two, and I think they are a horrible match for Rory - but that is Rory's problem if she is fine with them, perhaps I can learn to be too?
I did like the romance between Rory and Tyler. It was just what I like in contemporary stories - romance + issues. It built slowly and oozed tension and that part of the story was really fun to read about. Just as great as the romance was the brother-relationship between Tyler and his three brothers. I absolutely love a great sibling bond and this is probably one of the better ones that I have read. And I like that both Rory and Tyler made some character growth over the course of the story. (Also YAY to Rory for not rushing into having sex just because her friends were pressuring her to. Way to go on that one, Rory. Peer pressure is basically bullying and is not cool.)
I honestly do not know what will happen in the future installments of this series, but I have to admit that I am curious. The next book features Jessica and Riley - Jessica the no-strings-attached roommate and Riley, Tyler's awesome older brother. So, yeah, I'm going to keep reading.
I also need to admit that I'm going to be careful who I recommend this book to. There is such a negative association with the New Adult category out there and I think that this book could add to it if not read with an open mind. I recommend True by Erin McCarthy to fans of New Adult Contemporary Romance with Issues and strong sibling relationships. If you don't enjoy drama sometimes and are unable to enjoy a story without putting your own morals and beliefs onto the characters, this is most likely not the story for you.
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart was refreshingly funny to read and listen to with plenty of charm, humor, and the reality of being a teenager in high school. Ruby transported me back to my teenage days - feeling "less than" everyone else, feeling like my family was different, feeling like I didn't have a boyfriend when all of my friends did, feeling alone when there was a friend-fight, that sort of thing.
E. Lockhart nailed this character, I think, and while it makes me really happy because the book was so entertaining, it kind of broke my heart a little because the book was so doggone realistic to how people are often treated when presumptions are incorrectly made and when teenagers make silly mistakes. Being a teenager can be so hard.
Ruby is so anxious - man could I relate to that! I still can relate to that. But I completely understand why she would be such an anxious young lady. She has an unusual family situation - living as part of an unusual family in a non-wealthy part of town and yet still attending Tate Prep, which is a pretty nice private school. Ruby is sent to a therapist, which sounds like a great idea but actually is the contributing factor to this huge social fallout - if the therapist hadn't required or suggested this Boyfriend List, it wouldn't have been created. Had it not been created, it wouldn't have been haphazardly thrown away in the WRONG PLACE. Had it not been thrown away in such a public place, it wouldn't have been found by Ruby's peers and used against her. Ruby's decision to throw the list (on personalized stationary, Ruby, really?) in the trash at school is just one of MANY not-great decisions Ruby makes throughout the book...but that's one of the things that I found charming about her. She makes her mistakes, she takes a deep breath, and she keeps going.
If you've read this one, you know that it contains footnotes - reading the book digitally means that they are still accessible. On my Kindle, they look like a pop-up box that appears over the text of the book whenever you touch the tiny number that indicated a footnote is present. KNOWING ME, you guys, I was audiobooking and reading simultaneously, so it took me a second to figure out why the audiobook and the book didn't always match up - this is because in the audiobook version, the footnotes are seamlessly integrated into the narrative. They just appear as part of the story; I suppose that's the only way or the best way to add footnotes? This was my first experience with them in Kindle + audiobook. Either way, they were great - pop culture references, additional information about secondary characters, additional information about events Ruby briefly mentions, etc. Very cool addition to make this book/series stand out (I assume the footnotes carry over into the subsequent books).
Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart is published by Listening Library and is 5 hours, 48 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Mandy Siegfried, who is no stranger to narrating young adult audiobooks with titles on her resume belonging to such authors as Laurie Halse Anderson, Aprilynne Pike, and others. This was my first experience with her reading and she was absolutely perfect for the part of Ruby Oliver. She sounded exactly the way I imagined Ruby would sound, and I will most likely continue this series in audiobook format (with print readalong) if I am able to.
I recommend E. Lockhart's The Boyfriend List to fans of Young Adult Contemporary Fiction with plenty of humor and a quirky female lead. I've seen this series compared to the this series but I don't want to make that comparison at all. I agree that both have quirky and funny female leads but both seem different enough that I can enjoy them both without feeling like I am reading the same thing twice. (less)
The first thing you need to know is this: Jack Peak is a writer. He used to write funny books but he doesn't anymore.
Jack Peak wrote funny books earlier in his career but lately he has been researching an idea for a book that has him a bit consumed, you could say, almost to the point of obsession. He is constantly traveling off to this place or that place, interviewing or visiting someone that might be able to help him understand his topic: coincidences.
Jack pays his daughter Laureth to help him out - an assistant of sorts. She checks his email, things like that. But her breath catches when she receives a bizarre email from someone in New York City claiming that he has found her father's notebook (containing notes for his upcoming novel) and that he is interested in claiming the reward mentioned on the inside cover if the notebook were to be found. This freaks Laureth out for several reasons, mainly: 1) he always has his notebook with him and 2) HE WASN'T IN NEW YORK. HE WASN'T EVEN IN AMERICA. After emailing back and forth with this guy a couple of times, Laureth arranges to meet him in New York City to pick up the notebook and pay him his reward, all the while hoping that she may also find her father. She has a horrible feeling that there is something horribly wrong.
A couple of things to consider:
*Laureth mentions this to her mother, who seems completely unaffected by it and offers no words of comfort or hope for Laureth. *Laureth is a young girl - a minor, actually - and she is legally blind. *Laureth cannot travel to New York without the help of her younger brother Benjamin. *Laureth goes anyway.
The second thing you need to know is this: Laureth and Benjamin travel internationally. It seems impossible, but they have it all worked out.
Laureth prints off a note 'from her parents' giving her permission to travel without them, buys two plane tickets using her mother's credit card, and withdraws $500 cash - their mother is out for the day so she never noticed that they left. Laureth wears sunglasses so people do not notice that she is visually impaired and she relies on Benjamin's guidance by voice and hand-holding to maneuver throughout the airport - through lines, up and down stairs, when she has to hand people things and receive things by hand, things like that. They have it down to a science, almost.
They board the plane and make the long flight and then have to make it through US Customs - these are tricky parts of the traveling for Laureth and Benjamin to navigate. With just a few hang-ups, though, they make it out and are able to meet the emailer, Michael Walker, at the agreed-upon location, which is Queens Library.
When they meet Mr. Walker and he relays the story of how and where he found the notebook, there is a brief pause on Laureth's part - kind of like OKAY, I HAVE THE NOTEBOOK. NOW WHERE SHOULD I START? She's very determined to find her father, you see. But there is one clue inside the notebook that sets her on a path, and from there she doesn't stop. She pushes on and forward and ahead, constantly seeking out answers using whatever she has available to her - mainly Benjamin's sight along with her older and more mature thinking skills - to figure out where to go next. And next. And next...
The third thing you need to know is this: I forgot this was a mystery book. I forgot the thriller component.
Right away, I was so wrapped up in Laureth as a character and the things about her that made her special to this story that I forgot that this was the type of story that I do not normally read. As I've mentioned before, I don't like mystery stories because they make me feel nervous and I don't like thrillers for the same reason. BUT THIS ONE didn't really feel that way to me. I never felt much more than a rise of anticipation for what was coming next and I really enjoyed that feeling more than I feared it. THAT IS HUGE, you guys, for me.
I think this has so much to do Laureth, her adaptation to her visual (dis)ability, Benjamin and how he works well with Laureth, and the great setting of New York City.
Okay, so WOW. WOW? WOW.
This is my first experience with Mr. Sedgwick's work and I am really impressed with She Is Not Invisible. It is not a long book by any means, but this story is absolutely FULL of things. There is a ton of information in there and it is all important and none of it is wasted or filler. I love the way that the book began with a bang and didn't let up until the end. I love the way I forgot what the genre/category of this story is and I just enjoyed the story. I love the way I was trying to anticipate next moves and figure things out, but I never really could - it kept me on my toes the entire time. And I love the way the story's female main character used her sight to show that she was NOT weak, that she was NOT to be walked-upon, and that she was still every bit as awesome and kick-butt as girls that can see.
Laureth begins the story by taking action to go and find her father after her mother sort of brushes her off. Now, to be honest and real, most of us cannot advise a young girl, blind or not, to take her seven-year-old brother and make a trans-Atlantic flight on her own because she feels like she can find her father OR because she wants to trade a reward for his notebook. SO right away there is a little bit of suspension of belief required. BUT! This is a fictional story SO JUST DO IT. Just allow Laureth to get on the plane with Benjamin and go to New York, okay? And enjoy the story.
Okay, now that we've established that, as a character - Laureth is a very forward-thinking gal. She decided a long time ago that she did not like people treating her like she is this invisible person because she is blind - people talking to her parents instead of her, things like that. So Laureth adapts. She uses modern technology like her iPhone and her father's computer, she just adapts it to talk to her, and she gets along very well. She wears sunglasses so people do not realize that she may/may not be looking in the correct direction. And she uses her other senses to perceive what is going on around her. I love how Laureth is a lot like her father in that she sort of jumps-the-gun on things sometimes. Or, rather, she doesn't always make what would be considered the best or smartest decision in a pinch. It would have been pretty easy for Laureth to make some phonecalls to the United States with regard to the notebook and her father potentially being missing, but instead she just GOES TO THE UNITED STATES. As you read the book, it is evident that she is much like her father in this way - which is really kind of neat, really, because Laureth and her father have a really lovely parent-child relationship. No spoilers here, but after I finished the book I realized a few times when they both could have done things a little differently, a little better, and it made me smile a bit because of how much alike they are.
Benjamin, just a child, is amused by things and filled with wonder at things and carries around a stuffed animal that he affectionately calls Stan. Benjamin treats Stan almost like an invisible friend. But Benjamin has this really great relationship with Laureth that is filled with mutual respect and a dependence on one another, and it is obvious in the reading that even at his young age, Benjamin understands this. Laureth feels guilt and a sort of regret at having to involve her younger brother because there is a point at which Laureth realizes that what she is doing is actually pretty dangerous and kind of/maybe stupid, but Benjamin just keeps up with her and hangs in there. AND he plays some pretty integral roles in the story whether he even realizes it or not. He is a great character and I loved the sibling relationship that these two have.
As far as the rest of the characters, there are some that come and go. Some are good guys and some are bad guys. But everyone has a place in the story and everything is important. While Laureth and Benjamin are searching for their father, they take moments in taxicabs and while sitting on benches or whatever to read excerpts from his notebook - it is in these times that they try and decide their next move. It was during these times that I also tried to figure out what happened to Jack Peak. I felt like I was looking for him too, but like I said earlier, not to the point that it felt like I was involved in a mystery. WHICH IS SO ODD because normally I'd be completely in panic-mode. (Weird, I know, but we all have our things.) Also, as an American, I almost always have trouble with BritSpeak but I had no trouble at all with this book. NONE. It took me like half of a second to realize that a "queue" meant a "line" - like when you're waiting in line at the airport, but other than that, I was good to go with this one. This is another huge thing for me, because I have often not read books that I am interested in before because I have trouble with the translation. This one felt seamless.
And the setting! OH NEW YORK CITY. This book felt so very New York City that I could have been there. I don't even know what else to say about it except that this author NAILED IT.
I'm just as impressed as I can be with She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick. I opened the book knowing pretty much nothing about it and became fully engrossed in it very, very early on. I love the little clues and the little details and the way it made me think. I love the setting and how visual it was - I was easily able to see this book play out in my head, which I LOVE. I love the way the book ended and I never would have figured it out - and I love the actual ENDING, like the END. Such a great surprise. If you are able to suspend the fact that in real life, Laureth and Benjamin probably would not have done what they did, I think you will likely love this one too.
I recommend She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick to fans of Young Adult Contemporary with Realistic Fiction, strong female leading characters, strong family relationships, a great setting, and mystery stories. It's a fairly short read but there is so much in there and WOW I can't believe I loved it as much as I did. More Marcus Sedgwick for me, please and thank you.
Also, Sidenote: High-five to the author for putting me in Laureth's shoes and making me understand a little bit, on a small scale, how it must be for a person with a visual disability to navigate life. I know not every visually impaired person uses the same methods that Laureth used, but I was amazed at how she did things that I take for granted, like tell which/remember which American dollar bills are which, etc. This was a definite bonus to the book, I think. (less)
I think what we have here in The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello is a genuine STORY. It begins after the main event has already occurred - I am calling Sabine's death the main event - and everything that happens in the book is like a series of events that just flat-out results from that death. People fall apart and are put back together, big secrets are revealed among the living and the no-longer-living, some healing takes place, some reputations are altered... The ending is left a bit open-ended BUT I was happy with the ending and felt comfortable with where my favorite characters ended up and even the characters that I didn't care for so much.
If I could change anything at all, I would have made Brady a character that was less concerned with protecting all of Sabine's several secrets and more concerned with seeking justice for some pretty big wrongdoings that occurred because reputations among the living were tarnished and ruined, and some remain on the line. I also wish I could have seen a little bit more in the way of the romance/developing-relationship portion of the story even though I realize that this is not a romance-type of story - I felt like those few scenes were nice, light breaks in the rest of what was going on. However, I think The Moment Before shows how Brady, being a young girl, has to cope the best way she knows how and sometimes we aren't really sure what to do in situations that are sticky with big consequences like this one AND sometimes romance is not the first thing on our minds when we are grieving. I enjoyed this story. It was very readable and I think it is very discussable. I found myself not wanting to put it down. I recommend The Moment Before by Suzy Vitello to fans of YA Contemporary with issues (grief, death) and some very light romance. (less)
The first thing you need to know is this: Lila Rae Garrison has quit the game. She's in college. She drives a brand new car. She wears designer clothes. She paid for NONE of these things.
Lila Rae used to be a con artist, you see, and a VERY GOOD one. She and her best friend Nick worked together - they had a very good business plan and made a ton of money. Not long ago, Lila began to sense that their good luck wouldn't last forever, so she decided she wanted out. She enrolled in college and is now living a relatively "normal" life...except that it is all funded by money she "earned" by running cons with Nick. Things are going well until Nick decides he wants to run ONE. MORE. CON. And he needs Lila Rae to help.
See, Nick has gotten himself into some gambling trouble and he has some debt to pay - something like $40,000. Nick KNOWS he and Lila Rae can make back the money just like they used to and he has already chosen "the mark" - that's the poor guy that will lose his hard-earned money to their scheme. All he needs is for Lila Rae to agree to help him.
The second thing you need to know is this: Nick Dammery has been pulling Lila Rae along for years. They truly are best friends and they both feel MORE for each other. But Nick won't commit.
For something like five years (or maybe more?), Lila Rae has wanted to belong to Nick. She has loved this boy to pieces for ages. And you know what? Nick really does feel the same way or at the very least, he feels close to it. BUT! Nick says that as long as he is running cons, he cannot commit because he doesn't have time for a girlfriend.
OUCH! - Can't you just hear poor Lila Rae's heart breaking? If you can't right now, you WILL when you read the book.
Nick tells her to wait, hold on, just a little longer - after the cons, they can be together! He wants Lila Rae for his future but he wants the money and the lifestyle he has going on now for his PRESENT. So Lila Rae does wait...she waits because she loves this boy. She doesn't know much about her future except that she doesn't want to have to worry about money (because of a difficult childhood) and she never wants to go back to the slums. The only thing she KNOWS that she wants more than money is NICK DAMMERY.
Hold on, sweet Lila Rae, you're just about to meet your "mark."
The third thing you need to know is this: Tucker Kline is The Mark.
So what? Big deal.
Well, first of all, Tucker is Nick's college roommate in their fraternity house. A little odd, right? Considering their marks are usually older, wealthier men? Well, not really, because it means that Nick has easier access to learning everything he needs to know about Tucker. For example: Tucker is the son of a tractor tycoon from a small town not too far away. He is known as a real jerk, a spoiled brat. And as far as Nick is concerned, he DESERVES to lose a chunk of money. Besides, Lila Rae only took money from the people that really deserved it anyway, and Tucker is no exception. They never conned good people. But I digress...
Lila Rae joins Nick at a fraternity party where she meets Tucker for the first time. Her first impression: Amazing eyes. Tall, dark, and ohmygod handsome. Deep, raspy voice. OH BOY.
Oh boy is right, sweet Lila Rae!
The fraternity party is superfun and dramatic. I won't give much away, but Lila Rae is feeling all kinds of emotions after a very nice kiss with Nick - WOWZA! - but MAN OH MAN later when she is talking with Tucker - his barest touch gives her tingles.
TUCKER IS THE MARK. THAT ISN'T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. SHE ISN'T SUPPOSED TO FEEL ANYTHING! OH DEAR OH DEAR OH DEAR. (This is where I stop to rub my hands together and remember how deliciously wonderful this story is for a second. Hang on...)
I will admit that I avoided Give Me Something by Elizabeth Lee for a little while because I was intimidated by the previous cover featuring just the blond-headed female. In my reading world, I am most often not the hugest fan of the female leads, often finding very little sympathy with them and many times finding them unlikable, period. I was afraid that if I picked up this book with that cover, I would feel the same way and I did not want an experience like that after loving Escaping Me so much.
Let's talk about Lila for a second. She isn't perfect, you guys. I mean, she is a CON ARTIST. So there's that. Yes, she quit the lifestyle, but she kind of dove back into it. The thing that I like about Lila is that even though she has obvious feelings for Nick - and has for years - she recognizes that she has some sort of thing starting up for Tucker as well, she just isn't really sure what it is to begin with. She recognizes that he really isn't the jerk that everyone says he is and her conscience begins to eat her up. I mean, he's nice to her and he is interested in her NOW, which appeals to her need and desire to feel love and wanted (and Nick isn't really doing much for that NOW, is he? Yikes.). Character development? Sure, yep, and you know I love it. It takes Lila a while to really think hard about what she wants for her future but once she decides, she sticks to her guns and it is really fun to read her transformation. (Also, it happens early enough in the book that we really get to see Lila from one extreme to the other. I love that.)
With regard to Tucker, I'm pretty convinced that most people would like this guy. He is very likable. In the beginning - before meeting Lila - he was a bit of a player on campus, and he never made excuses nor acted sorry about it. But after, he is very charmed by her right away and makes his interests known. Tucker is a little on the cocky side, but I thought it was cute and very appropriate for his character. He is also very sweet and sensitive while also very manly PLUS he says all of the right things. Tucker has had some tough stuff happen in his recent past with the loss of his parents, and as he lets Lila into his heart (first as she cons him, and then as she begins to realize he is a nice guy and drops the con act), I REALLY like what those two have going. I think you guys will like Tucker too.
But in being fair and honest, I really like what Lila and Nick have had going their whole lives. So...
Regarding Nick. You know, I have a soft spot for the broken boys. I don't know that everyone will see Nick as a broken boy, but he had a crappy childhood - just like Lila - and that's why the two made such a great team. They understood each other very well, coming from the same type of background. And Nick probably felt this is one reason he could keep Lila at arm's length while he continued to play his con games until he was ready to settle down.
The thing is that there is WAY MORE to Nick, Tucker, and Lila than we initially see. Once we get into the story and dig a little deeper, things get even more interesting. In this story, some of these characters learn some hard lessons. Some judge others too harshly and it backfires. Some learn how to forgive and forget. Some learn that if you don't act fast, you miss out on big opportunities. Some learn the importance of family and some leave family behind. All of these big themes and some others are woven into this superfun story that had me flipping the pages fast, fast, faster because I HAD TO KNOW how things were going to end up.
Along with the fun story, there is a fun secondary cast and some fun cowboy boots and fun dancing to go along with them. I recommend Give Me Something by Elizabeth Lee to fans of New Adult Contemporary with Romance, fans of friends and family relationships, and swoons galore. Elizabeth Lee knows how to bring the romance, you guys. If you are a reader of books like this AT ALL, you should grab this one. YOU SHOULD DO IT NOW. (less)
I'm not really sure what made me decide to borrow Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential when I did but let me assure you that it was one of my favorite bookish choices EVER.
I began this book by simply reading it and I was enjoying it a great deal. So, so often I loathe having seen movies before reading books because I feel like giving a face to the characters destroys the ones I've created in my head. In this case, you guys, it was completely opposite. Obviously Anthony Bourdain does not have movies - he has those incredible shows from Travel Channel and CNN. Because of these shows, one of the things that I love most about Mr. Bourdain is the fact that his voice is very recognizable to me. How does this relate to the book? I'll tell you.
As I was reading the book, I felt like I could HEAR Mr. Bourdain reading his story to me, which was very cool. As soon as I could get my hands on a copy of the audiobook from my library, I added it to the print and OH MY GOODNESS, this reading experience, you guys. I no longer had to imagine Mr. Bourdain's voice in my head as I remembered it - I heard it as he read it himself from the audiobook while I followed along in the book. Because Mr. Bourdain reads his own audiobook. Aaahhh, perfection.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain is his own account of his life as a chef from his beginnings up until the point at which the book was published (I presume). Mr. Bourdain begins by telling how he began to love food, to truly love excellent food - because food is to be savored, enjoyed, relished. He goes on to talk about a few jobs he had before he went to school at the Culinary Institute of America - how he ended up there and how those jobs contributed to that education - and where he went from there. He recalls the details of each job, some of the people who worked along with him, some of his bosses, and his dreams for a bigger future in the culinary industry. He also remains honest about the details of his life while all of this is happening - the drugs and sex and pranks and hilarity - not all his own, although he does not throw anyone under the bus. Mr. Bourdain simply and honestly discusses the goings-on of the behind-the-scenes of the restaurant industry at various times in his life, from his own perspective. Throughout this book, almost every paragraph is filled with humor because either the story itself is funny or Mr. Bourdain is able to laugh at himself and his various crazy situations. I laughed out loud so many times.
One of my favorite parts of this book is reading about Mr. Bourdain's first memory of really loving food early in the book. This stood out to me because it made me aware that I DO NOT have a memory like that - of remembering the first time that I really loved food - but it made me remember that I grew up with a grandmother that really loved food - the art of it, the preparation of it, everything about it. And my grandmother was a fan of Mr. Bourdain, which was interesting: my grandmother was the epitome of a Southern lady while Mr. Bourdain (with all due respect) is completely the opposite.
I love the way that Mr. Bourdain mentions that on his days "off" he would rather NOT eat in restaurants - a sentiment so opposite many of us! He mentions that he would rather eat "anybody's" homecooking. Also interesting is that he noted that people often apologize to him before serving him.
Mr. Bourdain includes in this memoir a list of tools that he believes are helpful in the kitchen. I loved this. The list is too long to mention here but he mentioned that everyone needs a decent Chef's knife (I agree) and goes on to make fun of the two brands of Chef's knife that I own, which made me laugh. (I own these two brands because they were my grandmother's favorites and, as I knew it, nobody knew more about a kitchen than she did.) He also mentions how helpful plastic squeeze bottles are and recommends a few necessary types of pot/pan to have available. In addition, Mr. Bourdain talks about some important food additions to your kitchen: shallots, real butter, roasted garlic (he mentions that the misuse of garlic is a crime and to please treat garlic with respect - loved that), stock, and too many other things to list here. BUT! Please do not be overwhelmed by this foodie stuff - the book isn't entirely about food nor is it a how-to about food. Kitchen Confidential is a great memoir that includes this information because Mr. Bourdain wants to be helpful, and I found it really fun and indeed helpful. I loved it a ton.
Audiobook Notes: I told one of my friends that listening to Mr. Bourdain read this book reminded me of having one of his television shows on in the house and carrying on with my life while he talks. He did such a phenomenal job at reading his book that I knew immediately I wanted to listen to his other audiobooks. He reads with an ease; it's obvious that he is comfortable narrating and reading his story. When the story is funny, you can tell it in his voice and I love that. His inflection and tone is perfect - listening to Kitchen Confidential is like sitting across a table from Anthony Bourdain and listening to him talk: comfortable and all around lovely. I highly, highly recommend this book in audiobook format to anyone that is interested in reading it, PERIOD.
The audiobook format of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain is published by Random House Audio and is 8 hours, 0 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Anthony Bourdain himself. I will absolutely be listening to Mr. Bourdain read more of his books, especially Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook because it is high on my to-read/listen list.
I have asked online for audiobook recommendations before. I have seen tweets before where others have asked for audiobook recommendations. More than once, I have seen that Anthony Bourdain's audiobooks have been listed - I can absolutely see why. Even for readers that are not huge fans of memoirs/non-fiction, this book is really fun. I recommend Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain to fans of memoirs, non-fiction that is not boring, food/cooking, humor, and audiobooks (especially audiobooks in which the author reads the book him/herself). I knew right away that I wanted to read more by this author, but I REALLY wanted him to read it to me while I followed along with the print copy. I am excited to know that he narrates another of his books, Medium Raw, and when I read that one, it'll be audiobook + print for me.
A February Bride opens as Allie is freaking out. The smalltown Southern church is packed with a crowded sanctuary, the air was stuffy and hot, and people were waving their wedding programs in anticipation of just exactly when this ceremony would begin. Allie, growing every more anxious, begins to sweat (do not sweat in the dress, Allie!) and twist her lovely rose bouquet and pace the carpet. Oh the anxiety! Married. Married? Can she do it? NO, no she can't. So Allie bolts. I mean, she runs. Allie runs in order to spare Marcus the humiliation of a divorce later. She runs now to prevent the heartache that would absolutely, certainly, no doubt come later. As she runs, she hears the popular wedding music beginning in the church behind her, the music signaling that the ceremony is now ready to begin...
Fast forward four months: Allie is having lunch with her good friend Hannah. Hannah, her Maid of Honor. Hannah, who just also happens to be Marcus' sister. Talk about awkward. The reason for the lunch: Hannah wants to let Allie know she is engaged to be married, she is thrilled about it, and she is planning a Valentine's Day wedding! Yay! And OH YEAH, and she wants Allie to be her Maid of Honor, a part of the wedding party that will without-a-doubt include Marcus. Deep breath, Allie.
Wait, what? How is this even possible? After all of the hurt she has clearly caused Hannah and Marcus and the rest of their family, how is Hannah able to look beyond that and still want her to be a part of her most special day? Because Hannah has done nothing but show Allie the unconditional love and grace that a good friend would do, even though her heart has broken for the pain her brother has felt. What a great friend.
And what an awkward request! But how can Allie say no?
Time to plan a wedding. Deep breath, Allie.
Allie is such a fun and quirky character. She comes from a hilarious line of women that are heartbreakers to a fault - these women all believe that they should break the heart of their men before they are able to have their own hearts broken. Love 'em and leave 'em! Their reputation for breaking hearts is stellar, and Allie fears that this is a curse she is doomed to bear. This, this, is the real reason she left Marcus at the altar. She loved him dearly - she still does! But she just couldn't put him through the pain of having her commit the same atrocious heartbreaking foolishness that the women in her family are well-known for.
Allie never gave a thought to the fact that she could be the one to break that cycle and be stronger than the legacy that has been set before her. She is actually nothing like her mother and the women in her family - and the entire town knows it. Marcus knows it, as does the rest of his family. So her plan of saving him? - it didn't really do anything but hurt him even more deeply.
And Marcus - what a great guy. He never stopped loving Allie. He always considered her his girl. Sure, he was hurt. Sure, he went through a period of being angry and upset and humiliated - anyone would in his position. But deep down, his feelings never changed - he just buried them and covered them up with other things. Other hobbies and friends, his work, things like that...until his sister's wedding.
It takes their Hannah and her wedding to force the two back together. And by back together, I mean they were actually forced to be in close proximity for the first time in a while. Avoidance wasn't an option. As both members of the wedding party and best friend/brother of the bride, there was no way the two could tastefully bow out of all of the pre-wedding events: parties, receptions, showers, meals. (Not here in the South, mind you!) It only takes a time or two in the same proximity for ALL of the feelings to rise back up and rear their heads, and before we-the-readers know it, we are witnessing a rebirthing of a romantic relationship all over again. Except it is sweeter this time because there is already the establishment of love and the back-history and the old flame that was there before. Don't we all just love second-chance romances? YES. YES WE DO.
Here are the issues: Should these two take the step and get back into a relationship? Allie believes she is cursed to be like the women in her family, so she is extremely reluctant, and the only women she would ever dream of confiding to about this are Marcus' family! So how will this thing all play out? Hannah is really focused on her own wedding, and so is her family - but they've all always treated Allie like their own, so will they make time to help her out or will they let her wade through this all on her own. I think the workings of this HEA will be surprising and lovely and make you want to hug this book. I REALLY DO.
I loved the way things worked out in the end. YES, there is a wedding - we know that because there is a wedding scheduled throughout the book. But the way everything comes together for Allie and Marcus gives us not only the happily-ever-after we are looking for, but in a bigger way than I expected. I kind of loved it a ton. Plus - bonus! - I loved the wedding festivities that were planned and described for Hannah, even though they weren't necessarily the main focus of the story. So much fun with humor and romance included!
Needless to say, I loved the mess out of A February Bride by Betsy St. Amant. It is a feel-good contemporary romance with a little inspiration thrown in and a wonderful HEA. I recommend it for fans of the things I just mentioned and readers that love a little novella thrown into their stacks every now and then. Plus, HELLO! have you seen that absolutely beautiful cover? So stunning. Just like with the other books I've read in this series so far, this novella can be read as a standalone but I completely recommend the entire series. They are inexpensive and they are fun, short reads and I LOVE THEM ALL SO MUCH. (less)
A January Bride by Deborah Raney opens as Maddie Houser has moved from her comfy New York loft into her newly-vacant sister's home as it is being refurbished to sell, which is not so comfy NOR is it an ideal place for Maddie to write her next big novel. One day Maddie hears a drip in the basement and decides to go down to inspect, where she ends of falling down the stairs and hurting herself. Adding insult to injury, the electricity ends up shutting down. Feeling down on her luck, Maddie crawls upstairs and calls her sweet older neighbor Ginny. Ginny has the perfect solution for Maddie: she can go to her friend Art Tyler's Bed and Breakfast, which doubles as his home, to write in comfort so she is able to meet the deadline set by her publishing company. She just knows he won't mind!
Maddie agrees because it certainly HAS to be better than a messy house-under-construction without electricity. She packs up the things she needs for work and heads over to Art's B&B.
NOTE: Art lives alone in the B&B, in an attached apartment on the lower level. His wife Annabeth died a little over two years ago. He rarely has guests and works as a University Professor.
So, Maddie comes in and makes herself at home. She is able to get plenty of work accomplished, so peaceful is the environment. At the end of her day there, she leaves a little note for Art. WELL WELL WELL, the next time Maddie comes to work, she finds that Art has replied on the back of her note - so very charming of him to do so! The two begin corresponding daily and both find that they look forward to the little back-and-forth notes - neither have very much interaction with anyone else and before long, the two are sort of like pen pals.
ANOTHER NOTE: Maddie believes that since Ginny and Art are friends - well, that must mean that Art is Ginny's age (much older than she is). Interestingly, Art believes that Maddie is much older than he is because he finds that she is walking with a cane (remember when she fell down those pesky stairs?). It is a LONG TIME before they meet in person and find out they're both wrong so they both believe that they are pen pal-ing with someone much older which is SO CUTE, you guys. Very humorous.
A January Bride by Deborah Raney is one of those great little feel-good stories - it is not very long but there is definitely a happy ending. Maddie is one of those gals that is of the organized type, so when she is displaced to her sister's home and finds it in a mess, and then it becomes an even bigger mess, it throws her organized, life-with-deadlines off balance in a big way. Thankfully friend Ginny comes to the rescue with her suggestion of Art's B&B. What Maddie doesn't realize is that Ginny is playing Cupid...Ginny just fails to disclose Art's AGE. She gives plenty of information about him, but nothing that would indicate that he is someone that is a potential romantic prospect for Maddie. And Ginny does the same thing with Art!
Art has been living a relatively lonely life since his Annabeth died - he misses her but knows he needs to move on. Ginny knew this and this may have been one of the reasons she was quick to suggest Art's place for Maddie to work. The privacy of Art's lower level apartment made it very easy for the two to miss one another in passing for so long UNTIL a chance meeting one day when Art just happened to be home...he couldn't believe his eyes when he found out Maddie was so YOUNG! And Maddie felt the same way!
The two first laugh over their mutual 'age' mistake. They also pretty quickly realize that they've seen one another around town and have noticed one another, so they both feel the physical attraction present looming over their heads. As the two form a friendship that is face-to-face rather than on paper, they decide that they should try out a date. Okay, see, this is difficult for Art because of his lingering love for his now-deceased wife, Annabeth. So there are feelings that he has to work through leading up to the date AND there are fears about Art's lingering love that Maddie has to work through. Then there is the date itself. Oh, the nerves.
Bless their hearts, you guys. Sometimes taking that step just isn't easy. Sometimes friendships are much easier on paper.
I loved A January Bride by Deborah Raney. I love stories in which pen pals end up falling in love, and this was a nice, comforting, charming example of just that. The novella-length worked well for the story, the pacing was great, and the main characters were easy to love. Ginny, the meddling older mutual friend, gave some comic relief (in my opinion) as she played matchmaker but failed to disclose all of the details necessary for the romance to really take off. And there is a resident cat that lives at the B&B that both Maddie and Art love - the cat is a neat member of the cast!
A January Bride is a nice, easy, quick read - a great one to grab when you're looking for a happily-ever-after to throw between heavy reads or long reads or maybe because the cover just grabs you (because IT IS BEATIFUL). I recommend this story to readers who enjoy romance, inspirational fiction, novellas, and stories with cats in them. I am LOVING this series of novellas. LOVING. (less)
A December Bride by Denise Hunter is the cutest story, from start to finish. Right away, I loved Layla O'Reilly for her independent streak, her snark, and her determination and that is something that stayed true throughout the story. Layla meant business when she wanted to show her ex-boyfriend, her cousin, and the rest of the community that she was not a wallflower, and I LOVED THAT ABOUT HER.
I also loved Seth Murphy right away. He wanders into the pizzeria to eat before the wedding and it seems that he is a little bit sad - perhaps he thought his best friend (or former best friend?) would have invited him to be a member of the wedding party. Certainly Layla was surprised to see him there, and she made that known - she also poured on the snark and kept it coming. It was no secret right away that she had some sort of feelings for Seth Murphy, and they weren't exactly the pretty kind. Still, Seth took her snark like a man and remained kind to her, taking whatever she dished out to him, even offering to drive her to the wedding to make sure she arrived safely. From there, it became clear that he had ACTUAL feelings for her, and this is when he began to melt my heart. No matter how stubbornly Layla treated him, no matter what she threw at him - he took it with grace and charm and was purely good and kind to her. TALK ABOUT A NICE GUY - this is one of them, ladies and gentlemen.
Layla and Seth take on a project together: staging Seth's home - they put in a ton of hours side-by-side, which allows them ample time to get to know one another again (they used to be friends, you see, before Layla decided she didn't really like Seth anymore) - it is fun and refreshing and lovely to read a slowly-developing relationship that begins from a place of WELL WE USED TO BE FRIENDS to WE DEFINITELY AREN'T FRIENDS ANYMORE to WE CAN BE FRIENDS AGAIN to THANK GOODNESS SHE IS ABLE TO SEE THAT I AM IN LOVE WITH HER. Their relationship growth was like a breath of fresh air to read, and set against a Christmas/holiday/snowy backdrop made it even better, in my opinion.
Aside from the lovely slow romantic build, there is some cheerleading that goes on for Layla as she works to make her career aspirations come true. She is on a deadline and BY GOLLY I just wanted her to achieve her goals. There is a point in the novella in which she and Seth are talking about their pasts - their childhoods - and it is clear that while Seth had more of an ideal situation, Layla did not. This just made me cheer for her even harder.
In the novella, we are introduced to Layla's brother Beckett O'Reilly and his fiance Madison McKinley - in researching a little bit, I found that these two have their own book, Barefoot Summer, which is a part of the Chapel Spring Series. Even though they didn't take up very much facetime on the pages, I did like Beckett - I thought he was a pretty great brother as he provided great advice to his sister and he was always honest with his fiance.
I think A December Bride by Denise Hunter was a great novella - it DID turn out to be a holiday novella by nature of it being a story set in December and around the holidays, and I thought that made it even more fun. Despite the "December" wording in the title and the holiday theme, I would read this book at any time during the year! This is my first story by author Denise Hunter; I liked it enough that I would certainly read more by her. I smiled throughout and ended up happy at the ending. The story was so refreshing and cute and I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys happy romances, holiday stories, and novellas. (less)
The Beachwood Bay Series by Melody Grace is one of my favorite New Adult series - I always find myself excited when I find out there is another book close to publication date and then I get excitedly anxious as that date arrives. This series just gotten better and better as it has grown.
Unconditional begins in a scene between Carina MacKenzie and her fiance Alexander - it is not the best of times for Carina, truth be known. Carina has everything she could dream of having - the nice home, the nice car, expensive clothes, friends that share her lifestyle - but she knows that when she marries Alexander she will be in a loveless marriage. Not only that, but Alexander has a couple of habits that are not okay. The opening scene has Carina hosting a dinner party for some of Alexander's business associates with a fake smile - perfectly - even as Alexander entertains his guests with jokes at Carina's expense. She sits there in her beautiful home, surrounded by people living the life she has always wanted, and she begins to second-guess what she wants for her future. Immediately after the party, Alexander leaves for his office in the city - he often spends his weekends at his office (strange, right?) - and Carina decides SHE'S HAD ENOUGH. She packs a couple of bags and BOOM! She's gone. Where does she go? Carina goes back to the family's old beach house in Beachwood Bay, North Carolina.
Carina arrives in the middle of the night to find that THERE'S SOMEONE LIVING IN THE HOUSE. And OH MY GOSH - eww eww eww - it's none other than Garrett Sawyer! Garrett Sawyer, the drinks-too-much, has-the-looks-of-a-mythical-god, ladies' man. Having nowhere else to go, Garrett is kind enough to let her stay in her own beach house and Carina settles in for the night. After a few run-ins around the house and in the bathroom with too much skin (yikes!) and a heart rate that begins to increase the more she is around Garrett, Carina realizes that maybe, maybe, MAYBE he isn't really all that bad. After she quits talking so rudely to him, begins to treat him like a real person, and actually starts listening to him, Carina realizes that WOW - Garrett isn't really stupid and he actually has some really smart things to say...things that help her begin to put the pieces of her life back together when she has no idea how to begin again.
AND AND AND...Garrett has a devastating past of his own that Carina may be able to help him with if he will open up and let her...
As Garrett and Carina go from UGH to hmmm-what's-going-on-here to actual friends, there is the most delicious of slow-burn tension between them. This is something that I'm used to with Melody Grace and her writing and MAN I LOVE IT. Unconditional is the story of Carina MacKenzie finding herself again after thinking she lost what she never had to begin with AND it is the story of Garrett Sawyer opening his heart after he closed it and locked it up because he felt like he didn't deserve anything good in his life after something awful happened.
I would be lying if I said that this story is way different than the others in this series - the characters aren't exactly the same, no. They do move along similar tracks or maybe they run along in the same crowds - perhaps they're similar because some of them are related and because they're all connected in some way. It doesn't actually matter, to be honest. I absolutely love stories like this and if Melody Grace wants to write ten more along the same vein, I will read them all. She knows how to write the oozy tension that begins with two people that want to act like they can't stand each other but we, the readers, know that really isn't the case at all. I read Unconditional with the death-grip on my ereader because I thought if these two didn't hurry up and kiss and then kiss again and then kiss some more, I'd flat-out break my Kindle. (This is how I have read the other books in this series too.)
As always, I love the setting of Beachwood Bay, the small town by the North Carolina shore. It isn't a big tourist-y town - rather, it's a small town that people live in year-round but manages to gather a few seasonal visitors and attracts some college kids from neighboring towns. Beachwood Bay isn't a real place (as far as I know, and I'm right here) but I LOVE IT. It feels real, right down to the beach house and Jimmy's bar, which is a fixture throughout the series. I also love the way the author continues to weave in the characters we've met in the previous books and they remain a nice, big chunk of the story STILL. You do not have to have read the previous books to read this one or to fall in love with these characters, but if you already know and love them like I do, you will be smiling ear-to-ear to see that they are still here, still well, and still happy.
All-in-all, Unconditional is a winner. A WINNER. I love this series to pieces. It's a re-read series for me and I'd love to see audiobooks of the entire series one of these days so I can listen to them over and over. I recommend Unconditional and the entire Beachwood Bay Series to fans of New Adult Romance with an enthusiastic two-thumbs up and two high-fives. In my opinion, books like this one are so much fun. SO MUCH FUN. (less)
Taking Something takes place around four years after Give Me Something ends and it is both a great and interesting time in the lives of Nick, Tucker, and Lila. Nick has made a bit of a name for himself as an emerging club DJ with quite an ear for mixing music, but his real dream is to be a music producer. He spends his time all over the country mixing music at various events, but as the book opens he is back in his home - Chicago - for a big event at a local nightclub. Word has it that a huge record executive, Hollace Westwood, will be in attendance at this event and Nick wants to make sure he networks and rubs elbows with the man. Nick spins a great show and uses his cunning ways not only to gain entrance to the VIP section where he finds not only the record executive he is seeking but the hottest name in pop music, Sadie Sinclair. (That's more than he expected but HEY he'll take it!) After witnessing a diva-like fit by the pop star and worming his way up to the record executive, Nick found himself with a one-shot chance-of-a-lifetime: HE gets to produce Sadie Sinclair's next pop album. YES! Finally! A foot in the door!
The problem is this: Sadie doesn't want to do things the way the record company wants her to. Nick's job is to MAKE her do things their way. And record it. BOOM.
Nick feels certain if he can deliver on his promise to Mr. Westwood it will open more opportunities for him within the industry and his career will take off. Even though he has been warned that Sadie is a handful, he feels confident that he can still deliver and great product for the record label that satisfies both the artist AND the label (he's a little on the cocky side). Not only does Nick underestimate Sadie by a longshot but he also doesn't even consider her assistant, Gia, and what she will bring to the table.
I love this story SO MUCH. I had such a great time reading it.
Taking Something by Elizabeth Lee is so great because it is filled with not only a great romance but it has the characters I loved from the first book (always a plus for me!). PLUS I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVED the way the music industry was so prominent in the book. I've read books that featured music before, but I'm not sure that I can remember a book that featured THIS side of the music industry and in such a huge way. It's almost like the author knows the ins-and-outs of the industry herself and is giving us a peek at how it works. I found myself really caught up in the making of the album during those particular scenes, and I really loved that.
Nick begins this book in a much better place than he ended Give Me Something, which was pretty great. Somewhere between the two books, he grew, and what we see when we open Taking Something is a guy that realizes that he has made some mistakes in his past. He realizes that he doesn't want the kind of life he has had before, so he changed it. There is character growth before the book begins and there is character growth during this book as well - double YAY! See, Nick begins the book as a man on a mission: launch his career, period. That is all. He sees his opportunity, he takes his opportunity, he does what he has to along the way to further himself (even when he has to grit his teeth a bit and even when he doesn't really want to). The thing that is really great is that as the book progresses, Nick begins to NOT LIKE the man he has become and, well, he changes himself again. HOW he changes himself is something you'll just have to see for yourself...
Sadie is just...WOW. She is the absolute image of a pop-star diva extraordinaire. Sadie is a has-been child star-turned-pop star that wants to shed her squeaky clean image and be "all grown up" now. She was once managed by her mom (but isn't anymore), she has had a slew of bad paparazzi photos, she's done some crazy things, had a few engagements, had a less-than-stellar mugshot, and has an attitude that stinks like last week's trash. I love the image that I have of her in my mind because it is this mash-up of several current pop culture icons, which made reading her character a ton of fun. Sadie is very manipulative when it comes to Nick and her music - honestly, the more I read her the more I didn't like her - but I really enjoyed not liking her. Was that supposed to happen? I don't know but was really fun.
And then there is Gia, Sadie's assistant. She is kind of like the wild card in this book, in my opinion. She is sneaky because for the longest time, you don't really know what Gia is thinking, what her motives are. She seems to have a chip on her shoulder sometimes, but then other times she lets her walls down and you can almost see past her facade. I love this character and the more I read her and the more deeply she becomes broken down as a character, I realize WHY I love her. I'm not giving away secrets, but WOW. This gal is something else and I mean that in a good way. Gia is not perfect - she is flawed - and we all know that I love flawed, vulnerable characters. BUT where Gia is vulnerable and flawed, she is also incredibly strong and resilient. This combination in a character sometimes leads to a bit of stubbornness, and Gia is one of those characters, but this is one of the things I love about her. Her scenes in the book (along with the scenes with Lila) are among my favorites. When you read her, you may agree.
There are new secondary characters in this book, and OF COURSE I love them. I'd love to know more about them (looking at you, Landry!). The characters from the previous book are in SUCH a fun place in their lives and their part in the story is such a great one and made me smile several times. The romance is great in this book but not over-the-top...it's just perfect. ALSO: two high-fives to the author for writing a really great non-cheesy, non-standard epilogue! I LOVED IT.
I recommend Taking Something by Elizabeth Lee to fans of Contemporary Romance. It is new adult, yes, but rather than featuring college students, this book features mainly characters that are starting out careers and homes within the age-bracket of the new age category. I also recommend this book to fans of music, singing, and the music industry in general. I enjoyed this one so much - for it to be connected to/in a series with Give Me Something, it was so different, and I think it is awesome to find such a broad range within a series...from con artists to music industry professionals. Really, guys, this is ANOTHER favorite by author Elizabeth Lee - I know I keep saying that but it is just the plain ole' truth. This series easily goes into my re-read pile.
I've read both of Genevieve Graham's previous books in this series and been properly schooled in and swooned over the MacDonnell family. I've loved both of the previous stories LIKE WHOA and I've waited patiently for the chance to read about sweet Adelaide, sister of Maggie. Every time Author Genevieve Graham publishes, I wonder if I can possibly love a book as much as the one before it (I say that all the time, but that feeling started with this series) and every time I hold my breath while I'm reading. Then, when I finish, I exhale and realize that YES, YES I CAN love a book as much as the previous one.
I basically just love the whole MacDonnell family and the people they fall in love with. That is all.
(You can read my thoughts on Under the Same SkyHERE.) (You can read my thoughts on Sound of the HeartHERE.)
Somewhere To Dream by Genevieve Graham is the story of Adelaide, sister to Maggie and the "white girl" member of the Cherokee people in the Carolinas. Adelaide is a quiet girl, one with secrets and fears and some demons that she can't shake, but she finds comfort and acceptance among the people that she once thought were savages. While she doesn't always love their ways, she loves them and she has learned to live among them and speak their language. She has learned some of their healing techniques and she has learned a great deal about their culture, and more than anything else Adelaide has come to realize that the Cherokee people are not any more savage than the white people that live beyond. When her sister Maggie left the Cherokee a while back to make a family of her own, Adelaide was not yet ready to leave and so she remains, still learning, still protected, still a part of this group. Still the white girl, the odd one among them.
And it stays this way until the men bring Jesse Black back after a fight. Suddenly Adelaide isn't the only white person in the village anymore.
Jesse Black was captured by the Cherokee men and brought back to the village because he was believed to carry the soul of one of their fallen brothers. Trying not to appear afraid, Jesse was not only disgusted to be among this group of savages - he'd rather have died than be a part of their group. He has no idea what their plans are and he understands exactly nothing that they are saying. He is badly injured, and Adelaide is brought in to heal him. He is shocked to see another white person among them and assumes she was captured as well. Adelaide works to treat his injuries while trying to talk his anger down, as she is pretty much the only person around that can communicate with him. Eventually, over time, Jesse learns that he was brought back to live among the Cherokee as one of them because of his 'soul' and while this doesn't make him happy at all, he learns to cope. As he learns to open himself up to the Cherokee, he too learns that they aren't as savage as he once thought - they teach him hunting, things like that. He also learns that Adelaide chooses to stay there.
The interesting thing in all of this is that Adelaide has similar visions that Maggie had in her previous story - visions of things to come. These visions are things that have always kept her afraid because of being called a witch - she never embraced these dreams or visions like her sister had. One part of her visions that had been recurring, it turns out, was Jesse. And suddenly, here he is.
Certainly there is a romance that will bloom here. But along with that, Adelaide has to confront her absolute and paralyzing fear of white men (due to an attack years ago) and Jesse needs to confront his hatred of "Injuns" because of the role they played in the death of his family. And of course, there will be obstacles.
Genevieve Graham has never failed to stun me with these stories. Somewhere to Dream is a little bit different because it can be read as a standalone (but please read them all!) and because there is a ton more of the Native American culture vs the Highlander culture this time around. This is well and good to me because I enjoyed it as much as the previous two books - maybe more? - because I have always loved that the "American" setting she uses is the Carolinas and I'm located here in the Carolinas. Graham writes this area perfectly and she also describes the time setting so well which really works for me because I'm such a huge fan of this time in American History. Also, I love any fiction story in which I can learn more about other cultures, and HELLO there is plenty of the Cherokee nation here with Adelaide and her Cherokee community. I loved that.
What gets me more than the place setting and the time setting, though, is the way the author writes her characters every time. I first met Adelaide way back in Under the Same Sky, which is the first book, and I loved that I'm finally getting a chance to get into her head and her heart and know her as more than a secondary character. Prior to the beginning of this book, Adelaide underwent something traumatizing at the hands of "white men" and she now has a fear of them that is pretty much crippling to her. While it is almost unheard of during this time period for white people to live among the natives, Adelaide has embraced her home with the Cherokee and she has warmed to them - she is still a quiet girl, not talking very much and very timid, but she feels protected and relatively comfortable among the people she once thought savage and dangerous. While she feels comfortable there, though, she still feels a little bit out of place because she is not Cherokee, she looks different, and she has that pesky little problem of her visions that just won't go away. Unlike her sister Maggie, she doesn't really like her ability.
It's this ability that ends up partially responsible for the death of one of the men of the village - the one she was betrothed to - and this doesn't do anything at all to make her embrace it or love it any more. In fact, she only feels guilt and pain because she actually acted on her vision, actually telling someone about it so they could intervene in what was a dangerous situation, and disaster occurred. This, friends, is also how Jesse Black came into the picture. When her betrothed died, he was not only the man she was to marry - he was a brother, a son, a friend. Jesse was believed to be his soul reincarnated (sort of) so he was simply...captured and brought back. Simple as that.
And Jesse - boy was he pretty angry about that! Jesse has spent his entire life hating the natives, no matter which tribe or group. To him, they are all evil and they all represent the ones that killed his family. So to be captured and brought back to their village was a fate worse than death. It was humiliating and enraging. He saw only red. When Adelaide treated his injuries, however, her kind and soothing words were able to calm him enough so he was able to think clearly - she told him that he could either accept this fate or be killed, and that's the way it was. Jesse didn't like it, and I loved his inner thoughts as he fought with himself over running and risking being caught and killed, or just staying and accepting this fate of being a white Cherokee person. Throughout his transition into a Cherokee - learning their ways, their language, their customs, etc - Adelaide was always there and always a welcome diversion. She was like a stress relief for him and he always was happy to see her. He found himself falling for her but it was also nice that he recognized that he had some issues or fears that she was dealing with where men were concerned. He was slow with her, never pushing her - even with communication and friendship - and I love how considerate he was for this.
This Jesse - he was a really nice guy. He just had some hate issues he had to deal with, you see.
I loved their romance - slow and lovely - just like Genevieve Graham writes them. And I love everything else about this book.
I recommend Somewhere To Dream by Genevieve Graham to fans of historical fiction/historical romances, books that are rich with setting and culture, fans of strong family ties, and character-driven stories. I am a hardcore fan of this series and am so happy to finally hear Adelaide's story. (less)
This review is one of the hardest I probably will write because what I really want to do, rather than write it and post it online, is just sit down wi...moreThis review is one of the hardest I probably will write because what I really want to do, rather than write it and post it online, is just sit down with everyone and just TALK ABOUT IT. There is so much depth to this book, to this amazing main character, and to this fantastic secondary cast of characters that I feel like any review that I write (however long it is) just won't be enough nor do the book any justice.
The first thing you need to know is this: Evan Carter is the New Guy at his school.
Evan skips chapel at his boarding school one day to find Collette Holmander waiting for him in his dorm - girls aren't allowed! - so he lets her into his room. At first, it seems that Collette is only there as a messenger for another girl - and perhaps she is - but it isn't long before the two have this super-quick and super-steamy kiss. And it's enough for Evan and Collette to begin regularly skipping chapel to meet and engage in some, ahem, activities.
Evan is one of those guys, you see. Being the New Guy at several schools all over the United States over the past few years certainly has had its advantages: Evan is like a novelty, a toy. He's shiny, something for the girls to want. This certainly pleases Evan, and this is again the case at this newest school. There are girls here that want him as well. One, for example, Farrah, is cute enough - but to Evan the looks don't really matter. All Evan wants is "Girls Who [Would] Say Yes" and by YES, he doesn't mean yes to hanging out or sharing their phone numbers - he wants naked or naked enough.
YEP. Evan is THAT kind of guy.
And apparently so is Collette, Farrah's friend and messenger. Because while Collette continues to meet Evan, she has no qualms about going a little further, a little further, a little further every time she sees Evan.
Evan never even makes it as far as Farrah. He's happy enough with Collette, thankyouverymuch. She's a "Yes" girl, you see.
The second thing you need to know is this: There are some people who aren't pleased with the attention Evan is giving Collette NOR the attention Farrah is giving Evan.
Evan's roommate Patrick "The Rammer" Ramsey used to date Collette - they didn't end on great terms, but he has some sort of unusual attachment to her even though she is over him completely. And Farrah has an on-again/off-again boyfriend (Tate Kerrigan) that she's been dating for a long time - apparently they are currently "off" but Tate doesn't really seem to understand this. Even though Tate thinks it's cool if HE dates other girls when he and Farrah are apart, he doesn't want anyone else touching what he considers his. (JERK.)
Well, Patrick and Tate both have issues with Evan. All Evan is doing is being his regular "get-some" self - but only with Collette, mind you. He hasn't even considered Farrah! Unfortunately, both Patrick and Tate decide to teach Evan a message in the form of an extremely brutal, life-threatening beating that puts him in the hospital for days. Evan ends up requiring surgery and he actually could have died.
Evan is immediately taken out of school and his father decides to move from Charlotte, NC to Pearl Lake, Minnesota with him - which is a really great thing for Evan. But it's also a scary thing for Evan because it forces him to really examine himself and confront some big issues in his life - stuff that he'd probably never have even noticed or been willing to change had this hateful crime not occurred.
The third thing you need to know is this: So...Minnesota...
Evan is in Minnesota for the summer with his father. While he's there, a bazillion things happen to him and for him. He begins to have a closer relationship with his father, which is something that he had been missing out on. His father spends time with him and teaches him things like boating, which is kind of cool. Also, his father makes him go to therapy, which at first makes him extremely angry. However, through these therapy sessions Evan is able to face some serious issues about what happened and how it has changed him - his intense anxiety and fear, and his inability to shake it. His therapist gives him an assignment - write a letter to someone each week - and it is through these letters (unsent, if he wishes) that he really gives his true, deep, inner feelings and we are able to learn who Evan is at his core.
It is also during this time in Minnesota that we see Evan build relationships for the first time, both with adults and with people his own age. Remember that as a womanizing teenage sex-crazed boy, Evan was never establishing relationships with the girls he slept with - he often deleted their phone numbers right away and never saw them again, and he always deleted their phone numbers when he moved from school to school. He rarely had friends because he was the New Guy so frequently. But here, in Minnesota, he is basically forced to spend a summer around this group of people that have known each other for long periods of time and this allows him to learn to trust some of these people that already trust each other. They welcome him without question, with open arms and he isn't used to this - but it is really nice. He also begins to trust some of the adults that are allowed into his life: his uncle, his boss, different people. Evan's entire life changes in Minnesota.
Minnesota is a super-quick life lesson in Evan/for Evan, summarized and packed into a short summer, and it is really great. I loved it.
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian is absolutely brilliant - she nailed it and I don't know how she did it. I have so many things to say and I know that I'll forget over half of them. Where to start, where to start...
First of all, you know me - you know that I absolutely, without fail LOVE male point-of-view books, particularly contemporary YA. I tend to really feel for these boys, particularly the broken ones, and MAN did Evan fit this mold. YES, he was a bit of a scumbag for the way he handled himself with girls, but you know what? I never really started out hating this character, which is really odd, don't you think? I mean, he is EVERYTHING WE ARE SUPPOSED TO FIND UNLIKABLE, right? But somehow, I felt compassionate toward him from the beginning. Why is this? It felt a little odd but I'm only being honest. Perhaps it is because he was lacking a great relationship with his parents? His mother no longer living, his father placed him in boarding schools because of the amount of traveling required for his job. It's true that his father called often to check in with him and to check on him, and to make sure that his needs were met, but in truth - how close can you be with your parent with you are in a constant state of upheaval, moving around the country and always in a live-in boarding school? To me, it was evident that Evan was looking for some kind of relationship in his many broken hook-ups with these girls, and he just wasn't finding it. To top it all off, Evan was basically friendless - I mean, he had his roommate Patrick, but we see how well that turned out, don't we? Patrick beat the ever-living crap out of him and left him on the floor of a bathroom because he messed with his ex-girlfriend, whom he affectionately called "firecrotch." Patrick is NOT really friend material. So, yeah, I felt compassion for Evan.
This surprised me, but I went with it. And I think it played out well for me. Because...
...it served well once Evan made it to Minnesota. That boy felt so lost after what happened to him. He felt so many things, actually. Talk about violated? And the irony of that feeling, right? After Evan's behavior toward girls is really just violation, to be honest.
ALSO. Again, I say you know me, and you know how much I love character growth and development because I throw it at you all the time. Well, Evan had it. In the beginning, Evan was a boy that hated himself and acted on it in a very (what I consider) stereotypical and teenage-boy way (it's true that not all teen boys act this way, so no hate-comments, okay?). My point here is that over the course of the book, Evan has a remarkable change in his perspective on life, on relationships, on himself, on basically everything. Interestingly enough, by the end of the book I still think he has plenty to work on but the growth is so remarkable that you can't argue that he is a changed guy.
Part of his growth is due to therapy, sure. Part of his growth is due to spending time with his father and uncle, sure. Part of his growth is due to learning how to form relationships with people, sure. But it would be awful to leave out THE GIRL. While romance isn't the big issue in this book, part of Evan's growth is also due to Baker, the girl next door. The actual girl next door. Evan learns how to relate to girls in a normal way, a healthy way, and it's SO GREAT. There are some scenes that made me feel like "OH MY HEART."
Gosh, there is so much in here worth talking about: there is a whole "Summer of Last Chances" story line that Evan takes on with his new friends and is so, so neat and lovely, there is the realization that Evan has of what a normal and healthy sexual relationship is and how he wishes for it, there is Evan learning to defend himself, there is ALSO Evan never really completely losing that part of himself that was there in the beginning (which I think is fantastic because I hope he holds on to it enough that he never reverts back to it), and there are a million other discussion-worthy THINGS.
Also noteworthy? This male POV is completely believable, never cheesy, and written by a female debut author. WHAT? I KNOW. It's really fantastic. It's witty and snarky (which, if you follow @CarrieMesrobian on twitter, is very true to her own voice WHICH I LOVED). And it's pretty scary to think that there are guys out there like this - not only because HELLO they are doing things like this with girls! but also because they need help. ALSO, there are guys out there like Patrick and Tate, and I'm not sure which of these guys is scarier.
I highly recommend Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian to fans of YA Contemporary with Realistic Fiction and Issues, those who love male points-of-view, those that really love character growth, and those that love standalones. I absolutely loved this book. I realize that the cover and title may be off-putting for some readers, but I ask you not to worry about that and just pick it up and read it if this sounds like something you may be interested in. It's a fantastic character study into a very realistic part of the population because we all know people like Evan exist. I will most assuredly re-read this one. I will discuss this one with others that have read it. And I will be watching and waiting for Carrie Mesrobian's next book.
I love it when an author isn't afraid to push the envelope, try new things, or say what needs to be said. This is certainly the case with this book. This is a risky story and reminds me a little bit of this debut YA Contemporary book - not because of content but because these authors get in there and write these stories and own them. Some readers will read a scene or two and draw up in themselves, but isn't that what is really wonderful about YA Contemporary? That it makes us uncomfortable and want to talk about these issues? What about when young people read it? What about if it ends up in the hands of someone like Evan or Collette or Patrick "The Rammer" Ramsey?