I enjoyed both Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust, which makes me happy beThis excerpt is taken from my full review found HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
I enjoyed both Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust, which makes me happy because I'm such a big fan of Author Melissa C. Walker. This book is an easy continuation with an easy transition from one book to the next. To me, the two best plot lines in Dust to Dust are the good vs. evil plot thread with the poltergeists from Prism and the love triangle with Callie, Nick, and Thatcher. I loved these parts of the story because I genuinely didn't know what the final outcome would be until it was down to the wire.
1. The poltergeists figured out in the first book that they could harness Callie's energy and use it to their benefit, causing all sorts of trouble both in Prism and on earth. NOW they are trying to take this a step further and cause permanent changes to things on earth, which can be devastating for some people, including some of the people that Callie loves most. Callie is willing to do anything in her power to stop these poltergeists and keep people safe, including risk her own life.
There are instances of pure meanness by the poltergeists along with some pretty neat action sequences. This led up to a scene in which Callie had to make some big decisions - saving some that she loves could possibly risk losing others that she loves. There is plenty to go along with this plot thread and it is probably the driving force of the book, but getting too detailed here is not necessary. I just found it an interesting arc across the two books, I liked the trickster-antics of the poltergeists and their manipulative ways, and I appreciate all that they brought to the series even though they were the actual bad guys.
2. This love triangle was so tricky! It was tricky in the first book and it was no less tricky in this installment. I'm not sure that I've come across a situation like this before in my own reading and I was actually surprised by how everything ended up - I liked it. I think there is more resolution than I could have hoped for. Still, with any love triangle, there is heartbreak and that is present here too. (I'm interested in seeing how readers respond here.)
I also liked:
3. The new character, Dylan. Most of the characters returned from the first book, which is always fun, but Dylan is a fresh, quirky voice in this book and it is actually very needed. Dylan's position in the story is quite original, he is funny, and he brings relief to the story during a couple of scenes that need it.
4. Relationships. I love the way Callie and her father have a fresh, restored relationship after her accident, as if her brush with death has opened their eyes to how precious life is. This isn't a topic that is explored very often in young adult books from my experience, and I love seeing it written in a way that feels authentic and realistic across both of the books in this duology. I also love the relationship between Callie and her best friend, Carson. Carson is a little on the sometimes-annoying side, but Callie is too at times - what BFF isn't every now and then, right? What these two have is a friendship that transcends those annoying and trying times and appears quite genuine, a real love for one another, and I love that representation in this series. This is one thing that I notice consistently in Melissa C. Walker's books - great friendships.
Melissa C. Walker's Ashes Series is certainly a departure from her contemporary young adult, but I enjoyed it. I think that if I'm honest, it's most fair to say that I love the contemporary the best, but this series is definitely fun. I love her take on the afterlife and ghosts, and I love that she is always able to bring a very subtle spiritual undertone to her stories without being annoying or hurtful. Dust to Dust is a fitting sequel to Ashes to Ashes - I loved these characters and I do feel that they are all where they should be, doing what they should be doing. I recommend Dust to Dust to readers that enjoy stories involving ghosts, great friendships, and restored family relationships.
I first listened to this audiobook while in the blur of packing/moving last year, and I've just reread again. Full review coming soon because I want tI first listened to this audiobook while in the blur of packing/moving last year, and I've just reread again. Full review coming soon because I want to talk about how great this main character is, particularly after spending time with her TWICE. ...more
Falling From The Sky features Doctor Callie Anders and Snowboarder Hank Lazarus. When the book openRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
Falling From The Sky features Doctor Callie Anders and Snowboarder Hank Lazarus. When the book opens, Callie is with her friends at a big snowboarding event up in Vermont when tragedy strikes. Hank "Hazardous" Lazarus is injured while performing a snowboarding jump. Callie is assigned to his case and sees him regularly while he is an inpatient in the hospital. Hank is broken over his injury - now wheelchair bound, no longer able to do the thing he loves most. Callie knows that it is unethical to have feelings for a patient so she maintains her distance although she cannot deny that there is something attractive about Hank. They have a great doctor-patient relationship, great rapport, and mutual respect. When Hank is discharged, life goes on, but they still think of one another.
Then Hank's affluent family makes a proposal to the small hospital: they will fund a major study that could help Hank and other patients like him. Patients that are paralyzed could possibly gain some mobility back with this therapy, and they would like to bring that therapy to their area in hopes, of course, that Hank will benefit from it. The catch? Hank wants Callie to run the study. Callie knows she probably shouldn't because of her attraction to him, but Hank refuses to participate unless she also does, so she agrees.
The study helps everyone, right? She isn't doing it just so she can see Hank? No, no way!
Up until the accident, Hank dates beautiful women, he always has parties and events to attend, very sure of himself and his place in the world. After his accident, his girlfriend breaks up with him plus he now has some limitations on what he can do. He loses some big corporate sponsorships because of his inability to snowboard and he falls into a depression. So, sure, Hank is dealing with some coping issues and some anger, and he has a hard time for a little while. While he is dealing with these things, his house is remodeled into a wheelchair-accessible home and he purchases and modifies a sportscar that he is able to drive comfortably, but he does these things with the assumptions that he will enjoy them alone. Who wants to love a man that isn't even whole, a man stuck in a wheelchair? Even though Hank is always happy to see Callie at therapy, he is reluctant to actually go to therapy because he realizes that he may not walk again.
Callie, on the other hand, is opposite of Hank. She prefers to stick to the rules, she is a people-pleaser - she can't afford to lose what she already has. She's worked hard for everything and money has never been easy to come by. When Callie meets Hank, she sees past his money and fame and his accident, and my gosh how he loves that about her. She is also able to see past his depressed "funk" - she not only treats him as a physician would but she treats him as a friend. This is one reason that Hank trusts her, and this helps their relationship move from doctor-patient to slowly, slowly more than that.
Callie is stubborn throughout this process, she is slow to admit what she knows is true - her true feelings - she has so much at risk, see. But I like her stubbornness. When mixed with Hank's stubbornness (which is totally different), it is so much fun. They complement each other well both as friends and more than friends. I loved watching Callie loosen up over the course of the book, with Hank's help plus a friend or two, but I have to say that it is Hank's character and story that really won me over. Hank is a super-strong character that showed weakness and vulnerability, he couldn't help it, and watching him build his self-esteem and his stamina and his motivation was very cool. I loved his thought processes, the highs and even the lows. I loved being inside the head of this character because I've never had this particular reading experience before. (One of Sarina Bowen's characters in her other series is in a wheelchair, but she is further along in the grief and acceptance part, further along after her accident, so this really is a different reading experience.) Hank ends up with a great ending. I love experiencing his HEA and his return to the mountain.
Okay, so here's the deal about Falling From The Sky by Sarina Bowen: There is so much more than romance in this book. There is an athlete that falls from the heights of his career, loses "everything" and gains it back. There is a man that has to rewrite his definition of what it means to be a man. There is a woman that has to step back and decide exactly what she wants out of life, because maybe she is spending too much time trying to run from a life that she might love. I'm amazed at the things I learned about wheelchair-bound folks while reading this book - I'm a nurse for crying out loud and I learned more about someone with this type of injury from reading this book than I have in my entire career! What I mean is that this book is so realistic and I got so caught up in it that I had the hardest time putting it down. My eyes were burning from reading for so long without breaks and I just want to know these people. They seem like great people and boatloads of fun.
Don't be fooled by me talking about this accident - this character is hilarious, he has great banter and cracks great jokes. This book isn't a heavy read at all. Equal parts romance and issues = THESE are my favorite types of romances, the ones that feel like they could be just any person that I meet out in town with a story that could be very real. I recommend Falling From The Sky by Sarina Bowen to everyone, but especially readers that enjoy adult/new adult contemporary romance that feature athletes and issues. This author is one of my favorites, you guys, so if you trust my recommendations I would love for you to read her stories. ...more
I just love Melissa C. Walker's stories. I've been excited to read Ashes to Ashes since it was giftRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
I just love Melissa C. Walker's stories. I've been excited to read Ashes to Ashes since it was gifted to me, not only because I love this author but because I was curious about how she would transition from contemporary young adult stories to paranormal.
Callie lives with her Dad in Charleston, South Carolina. She loves her Dad, but their relationship is a teensy bit strained as they were never able to make a great connection her mother died. She has an amazing best friend that she absolutely adores, and she loves her boyfriend Nick. Callie is on her way to see Nick one day when she is involved in a tragic car accident - Callie ends up in Prism, which is an in-between place between earth and eternal afterlife. Since Callie is now a ghost, she is paired with a guide, Thatcher, who will help her haunt her friends and family. This sounds kind of awful, but what it means is that she actually helps bring them comfort which helps them move toward accepting her death and moving on with their lives in a healthy way; in this way she can also move on to her own peaceful eternity in what appears to be the book's version of Heaven, called Solus.
So Callie takes to haunting her friends and father, slowly, appropriately, with the help of Thatcher...and then she befriends the wrong crowd while she's in Prism, which sets things on a bad course. She is attracted to these people because they remind her of herself, always looking to have a good time and seeming to enjoy (after)life. They teach her some haunting techniques that Thatcher has already warned her against, they show her some fun places, everything they do is fun. Callie doesn't listen to Thatcher when he advises her to stay away from these ghosts, she doesn't listen when he tells her not to do the haunting that they teach her, she doesn't listen to him on several different counts. She actually breaks quite a few of his rules, with Thatcher coming to her rescue time and time again. It seems like she's almost constantly toying with the grieving processes of the people she loves and risking her entry into Solus. When Callie was living, she was a risk-taker and rule-breaker, always pushing the limits on things to get an adrenaline rush. This was not my favorite characteristic of hers while she was living, but it was a part of who she was, so it did not come as a shock to me that she would push and bend the rules over and over while she was in Prism and place others around her at risk. Callie does not have the best track record on thinking through things. She is impulsive, but it is not in the way that I usually love about characters.
SO...her attraction to trouble didn't surprise me. Callie's impulsiveness blinds her to some of what these new "friends" of hers have planned for her, and it is Thatcher to the rescue again when these poltergeists stir up trouble that she cannot get out of alone. These particular ghosts, the poltergeists, have an interesting backstory and while they're the bad guys and I didn't particularly love them - I do have to admit that they did add much to the story and I think their placement there is needed.
Callie does end up mellowing out by the end of the book, which is twisty by the way! After everything she goes through in Prism working to help her friends and her father to accept her death, and realizing that some of her methods of doing so weren't the correct way - the process chilled her out a bit, which is SO GOOD. The Callie at the end of the book is calmer, not the same risk-taker, just different. Some of this is probably attributed to the romance, I would have to guess.
See, before Callie dies, she is crazy about her boyfriend Nick. After she dies, Nick is one of her main concerns - she is constantly wanting to check in on him, to be near him. He isn't coping well back on earth and she wants to soothe him with her presence, to haunt him into being okay. I love her care for him and her attentiveness to his well-being. Thatcher helps her, but now that Callie has moved into Prism because she isn't alive anymore, she knows that she can't be with Nick...this leaves room for a natural development of feelings for Thatcher. Thatcher feels similarly, he cannot help it, but he does try to hold his feelings back for a time. So here we have this sticky love triangle with one girl that loves and grieves for a living boy back on earth and yet is also falling hard for a ghost-boy in Prism. I always wonder about these love triangles, how they will play out in future installments - obviously someone has to be the losing guy, but there is the whole paranormal vs. living situation playing out here. Interesting to see how this one will end. (Personally, I do like both Nick and Thatcher - I do not have more feelings toward one than the other!)
Also note: this book has a fantastic friendship between Callie and her best friend. I love this. Writing great friendships is something that this author does very well.
I liked Ashes to Ashes by Melissa C. Walker. I am an instant-read fan of her books, so this makes me happy. It is fun reading a non-contemporary story written by an author that I love, so fun to see how she branches out. It's easy to see the contemporary-ness in there, but this is definitely paranormal. I absolutely love the Charleston setting, so charming to this Southern girl, and I also love the way the author places an underlying spirituality in the story without making it a book about religion. This author has a knack for being able to do this perfectly, and I adore that about her. I recommend Ashes to Ashes by Melissa C. Walker to readers that enjoy young adult stories involving ghosts and great friendships. ...more
Jenna Lacombe: Fiercely independent, scared of commitment, has a need for control. Jenna has a plan for her life and if you aren't a part of it, then you may as well give up. She likes having a good time, but can't help but hold herself back just a little in everything - this is because she just can't allow herself to fall completely in love with the one guy she wants to love. Everything in her life basically revolves around her fear of loving love Jack.
Jack Oliver: Big handsome guy with tattoos, but not the stereotypical bad boy. He's so nice and genuinely kind and he has his eyes on Jenna, only Jenna. He makes it no secret that he wants her as more than a friend. He is frustrated and a little angry that Jenna is so stubborn about her "life plan" that does not include him, even though she's more than happy to be his best friend and spend tons of time with him.
Hey, Jenna, your walls are coming down, little lady. Just give up, already!
Okay so what happens in Right Kind of Wrong by Chelsea Fine is we see Jenna continuously try to push away Jack, who pursues her calmly and with intention. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Ahem. Let me start over.
At the beginning of the book, Jenna gets a call from her grandmother in Louisiana that she is dying, please come home. Now this isn't a new thing, her grandmother cries wolf like this from time to time. Frankly, Jenna is a little over it. Traveling from Arizona to Louisiana is expensive and she always finds that her healthy-and-fit grandmother is as healthy as ever. Jenna decides that this time, she's going to save money by driving cross-country instead of flying, no big deal that she has to drive herself. No one is happy about her decision, particularly Jack (who is in love with her). It works out well that Jack's family needs him to come home too and oh hey guess what, they also live in Louisiana. Jack invites himself along on Jenna's road trip, giving safety and saving money as the reasons, and Jenna can't really refuse. Jenna doesn't take kindly to him inviting himself, but she doesn't have much of a choice because of Jack's persistence. (She also doesn't put up a huge fight because she really secretly loves him too even though she doesn't want to admit it.)
This road trip was one that I knew I would love from the very beginning. LOVE LOVE LOVE.
To say there is tension is putting it lightly. Jenna is one tough chick. She gives Jack a hard time, but he is so cool with her. It's obvious that his feelings for her are real and run deep. What makes this trip even more interesting is the reason that Jack is heading back to see his family. As readers, we know that Jack's brother has gotten himself into some trouble - dangerous trouble - and big brother Jack has to come save his life, but Jenna doesn't find this out until later.
Why? Because Jenna is being Jenna, trying to keep up her walls, trying to stay hard. But it's difficult when she is stuck in small spaces with Jack Oliver, see. And when she hears him talking to his family, such love and concern. But then when she sees him interact with his family, his forced and faked calm easing their biggest fears, JENNA CAN'T HELP IT. She begins to break. It's awesome, it's wonderful, it's the best.
Right Kind of Wrong is the third book in this series, but you can read these books in any order, no problem. The characters in each book appear here and there in all three books, but it isn't a big deal at all, no confusion. This book was a little more serious than the other two although there are some funny parts in it (the other two are a laugh-out-loud at times), but the story in this one is so, so good. Here you have a couple that fights hard for the love that they finally get, you have the guy fighting hard for the girl's love, and you have a little bit of action and holding your breath while Jack has to take care of some family stuff to rescue his younger brother. It's great to see character development in Jenna, who is fiercely independent and strong in the beginning but still has some things she needs to work on - she is so much better off at the end of the book when some softer edges! And Jack, just a great all-around character. You think you have him figured out within minutes of meeting him, but NOPE NOPE, there's really so much to his character.
I have devoured these three books, the Finding Fate Series. They're so fun, they're happy-ending stories, no-triangle books. They're rereads for me. I want more contemporary from this author. I recommend Right Kind of Wrong by Chelsea Fine to readers that enjoy romances with happy endings, no triangle, and swoony-swoony romances. (All three of these love interests have been so great, good gracious.)
I REALLY enjoyed Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt. This book features Penny Landlow who isRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
I REALLY enjoyed Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt. This book features Penny Landlow who is a frail young girl, the daughter of one of the most influential crime families out there - they deal in black-market organ transplanting, which is equal parts horrifying and intriguing. Penny has pretty much everything she wants at her disposal because money is no object, but she cannot have the one thing she wants the most and that is her freedom. A dangerous autoimmune disorder keeps Penny inside the family estate, under the watchful eye of her parents and private physician, but more than anything Penny wants to leave her family's estate, to wander around the city streets among the pedestrians, to attend a regular school with actual students, to eat at a restaurant. She cannot do these things because her family goes to extremes to keep her safe, to keep her delicate skin from bruising and bleeding. Penny rarely has a chance to interact with other young people - when she does, there is no touching, no hugging, no hand-holding or even side-hugs, none of the touching that healthy people take for granted. It is an isolating life, even living among a family that is as loving as hers.
While Penny daydreams and makes plans of leaving, there are actual big things going on in this world - there is a ton of talk about organ donation-specific legislation, which could mean big changes for the Landlows, their business practices, and their cash flow. (It's also very important to the Families to make donation a safe practice. Yeah, that's important to them too. Cough, cough, ahem.) Penny is very interested in politics and in the Family (big F, Family) business, so she pays attention even when she isn't taken very seriously. She is never considered a viable candidate to run the Family business, even when her family (little f, family) is murdered and she is the only one left alive.
BAM, BOOM, Penny goes from the fragile, overprotected girl with a very small voice to a girl that is forced out on her own without any protection nor any idea of this or that. But she rallies and by the end of the book, GOOD GRACIOUS she is amazing, and also WHO WILL RUN THE FAMILY. I went into the book thinking one thing, changed my mind a few times, and then was pleasantly surprised with how things ended.
While there is action in Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, it was the character-driven portion of the story that captured my heart. This cast is so cool, and not only because of Penny. They kept me thinking, kept me on the edge of my seat, kept me thinking some more. Nobody is safe and there is no such thing as trust - every time I found myself comfortable with someone, something, or some idea, the plot twisted and thickened and yes it worked. Some of these characters are really bad people from the beginning, and even now there are some that I still do not entirely trust yet. I love this feeling in this case. It makes me want to both reread the book to look for more clues and have the next book in my hands right away so I can have more information.
There are a few things that stand out as awesome about this book:
**Penny. Her autoimmune disorder had me feeling for her, I wanted to make her life simpler and easier. At first, I wondered if I would be annoyed with her porcelain-doll-like self, the constant reminders - Don't touch Penny or she'll bruise! - but I think Penny has to be set-up to appear small and extremely easy-to-damage so her development will feel authentic and real, and it does. Penny has a private physician that sees her in a clinic that is attached to her family's estate. No one is allowed to touch her because she bruises too easily. Penny is kept from the day-to-day runnings of the Family because of her fragile tendencies. BUT Penny is mentally strong - this is proven when she is forced to survive on her own, which is coincidentally the thing that she wants more than anything, freedom. The way Penny's fragile physical self is contrasted against her strong mental self = LOVED THIS. **The other characters. The secondary cast makes me seriously giggly because of how many of them had me completely fooled. Nobody is safe. Trust no one. Also, don't get too attached to anyone because not everyone makes it to the next book. I love it when an author goes places and takes risks with characters like the ones that are taken in this book, even if it breaks my heart a little. **Crime. The actual organ transplant and donation business that these families operate is so...dark and odd. Interestingly, it's also something that I couldn't get enough of and I couldn't look away. There is enough about the business in the book to give the story weight and substance, but not too much so that I felt like I was reading a political commentary or a science textbook. It's very interesting, the business, because these families are so sneaky. (I felt the same way about the way Penny's disorder is present in the book - plenty, but not overly done. A perfect amount of science.) **Setting. I loved the setting - Penny spends the beginning of the book wishing to be off of her family's estate and then she is forced off. She ends up in New York City, and this is an adventure for her because of all of the dangers associated with her disorder. Here she realized how convenient a private physician was, how devastating those bruises can be when they happen all-too-easily, and how she can still feel alone when surrounded by millions of people. **Retelling. The Princess and the Pea retelling part of the book was really great. I don't think I realized how wonderfully the story was retold until the end when I was able to look back on the book as a whole, but YES. The book has a very contemporary feel to it, but there is plenty of fairy-tale stuff in there.
I think I could honestly write pages and pages about this book, and I could also discuss it for a long time if you want to. This is one I want to push on people. I finished the book and immediately sent a few messages to some friends, do you plan to read this book, you need to read this book. I'm a pretty good judge of what I will like but I had no idea that it would be SO MUCH FUN to read. Hold Me Like A Breath was a little bit dark, a little bit romance-y, and a little bit twisty as far as plot goes and I cannot believe I have to wait a whole year to find out the next part of the story. Thank goodness I love to reread. I recommend Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt to fans of young adult fairy-tale retellings and readers that enjoy stories with a crime thread....more
I wanted to read Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider immediately when I saw the cover because, oRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
I wanted to read Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider immediately when I saw the cover because, oh how lovely, and it also goes along with the book so well. I think that books with very sick characters sometimes make readers hesitant and while I understand that, it also makes me sad sometimes, especially in this case when the book is so great and hopeful even with the sickness diagnosis. But not reading this book means absolutely missing out on something special because it is so full of smile-inducing moments and life.
Lane: Super-smart , second in his class, plans on early admission to an Ivy League school. Spends all of his time studying and prepping for college entrance exams, very little social activity. Arrives at Latham House prepared to continue his current heavy course load in order to maintain his GPA and second-place rank in his regular high school. Plans to leave as soon as he is healthy - in other words, very soon. Plans have to change when he works himself into a weakened state and his books are confiscated, he is forced into more rest and relaxation in order to recuperate.
Sadie: Has been at Latham House for about 15 months when Lane arrives. Loves making people laugh, often sneaks out and makes mild trouble around campus. Has a great group of friends, participates in as many social activities as possible at Latham. Been at Latham House so long she never really acts like she cares to leave.
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider is the story of a group very different teens that are thrust together under the same scary, sick circumstances. It's a great story of how they all cope with this sickness that plops itself into their lives while also trying to maintain normalcy, foster their interests, and leave their mark in a world that sometimes doesn't remember they exist. Lane and Sadie would not likely be friends outside of Latham House, but their friendship blossoms within the the sanatorium and soon turns into this really sweet romance.
There is so much I loved about this book, too much to say without elling you everything, so I will list a few things:
1. Lane and Sadie are great. They are so different, yet they complement each other very well. Outside of Latham House, both would likely have been less social but for different reasons. Over the course of the book, Lane learns to loosen up a bit and embrace life, aided by Sadie, and it is amazing to watch this transformation. He is so hesitant in the beginning, like coming out of a shell, but I loved that he began to really live and to love life, and this is due to Sadie and her circle of friends. Before Latham House, he probably would not have experienced life to the fullest.
2. Lane and Sadie have a backstory that predates their arrival at Latham House, when they were at summer camp together. Something happens that has affected one of them and it has clouded so much about his/her life since that camp experience. Both recognize one another immediately as fellow campers, but it takes a while for both sides of the story to come out and for the air to be clear. There are several themes to this part of the story: forgiveness, judgment, etc. and I loved that the author included it into this book.
3. Sadie's circle of friends are an eclectic bunch. They have different interests and are diverse. Sadie loves them wholeheartedly. They embraced Lane wholeheartedly. I think that they have a healthy dynamic to offset their unhealthy conditions. (There is a lot of this healthy/unhealthy in the book, so neat.) When they bring Lane into their fold, I feel likes them too, but I feel like it was initially more a thankfulness and a "Phew, I made friends!" before it grew into the same genuine love the rest had with one another. This isn't surprising to me because Lane was not very social before arriving at Latham House. It wasn't long before he was able to find deep connections with each of these characters, he grew to love them tremendously. I could feel how much this circle of friends meant to each other when I read their scenes together. It was important because of how they clung to each other during their stressful and scary times and also relied on one another for stress relief during fun and happy times.
4. The sneaking out and shenanigans provide plenty of smiles and chuckles and happy times, which is fantastic because there is always the underlying knowledge that these characters are sick. Yes, they are surviving right now, but the odds are that everyone won't survive. It's important to the story when certain sad things are explored, but the book did not feel overwhelmingly sad to me.
5. The world outside of Latham House is afraid of tuberculosis, so afraid. (Our real world is too, it's afraid of any sickness that easily spreads.) There are a few parts of the book where we are reminded of the potential for hysteria even though it isn't really present in the book. A minor character presents with fear, there is talk of potential fear back home, etc. This is something that is interesting to think about while reading. If a teacher at your child's school lived with a person that had been diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis, how would you feel, what would you do? Would you demand the teacher step down from their job? Would you want the teacher to send their family member away to protect your own child? OR...what if you had no idea that the person coughing beside of you had a diagnosis of drug-resistant tuberculosis? Scary, right? This is something that these teens worry about, integrating back into society after the world has been afraid of them, when they're no longer sick.
Towards the end of Extraordinary Means, something happened that I was not expecting and a little cascade of events took place. I loved the end, how everything unfolded, but to tell you why means to spoil things that you really aren't expecting.
I think that if people don't pick up this book out of fear of heartbreak, it will probably be because of what they fear for the ending BUT the ending has some surprises. And it is hopeful. This story is a tragic one, yes, but there is so much in this book and it is a favorite of the bunch that I've read so far this year. I'm so happy that I stumbled upon such a lovely cover (it totally represents this book, by the way) and that I read this one. And I found a new-to-me author, that's always fun! I need to go backward now and read previous work by this author. I recommend Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider to readers that enjoy young adult contemporary fiction with issues, alternating points-of-view, and romance. ...more
I was first smitten with the cover of My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp, then I fell in love with thRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
I was first smitten with the cover of My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp, then I fell in love with the Appalachian setting. The summary for this book is interesting, right? Since I've been in such a reading slump lately, I was excited to find that I was immediately pulled into this story. RIGHT AWAY, I was there, as Lulu is talking directly to Mason in the form of a letter. He words are filled with so much emotion, immediately I wondered what would be their story.
Lulu Mendez is a recent high school graduate, super excited about the prospect of leaving her sleepy small town and heading to San Diego and a new life at college. She plans for a summer filled with hanging out with her best friend, and then Lulu is G-O-N-E from Dale, Virginia. She can hardly wait. But this dream comes to a screeching halt when Lulu finds out from her Dad that she can't go to San Diego, no college this fall, the money just isn't there, sorry but you'll have to stay home. No, no, no, no, she thinks. No.
Lulu comes up with a great, super-easy plan to make good cash, quick money. Moonshine.
Okay, so YES, the story of young people making moonshine in the Appalachian countryside is appealing to me - especially when there is also the promise of desperation and love woven throughout. Lulu is so ready to leave home, so very ready, and this made me love her immediately. I remember feeling that way myself, so eager, high school and the days immediately after were just too long. Lulu's mother is a shut-in with a crippling anxiety that keeps her from leaving the house - this is so stressful to Lulu. Her travels almost constantly with his job, so he is never home, which means that it falls on Lulu to care for her mother. She has an un-glamorous job at a junkyard and she just wants to get away from small-town life because nobody ever becomes anything if they stay around there. The idea that Lulu would have to put aside college is not something that she is willing to entertain - I understand this, and so I connected with her because of it.
We meet Mason early in the book. Lulu is easily smitten by him, but I think her interest in his moonshine-making abilities is almost equal to her attraction to him, at least for a time. There is a mutual crush or attraction that turns into a really neat romance as these two grow more acquainted and make moonshine together. Mason helps Lulu with things, and Lulu helps Mason with things - they are good for one another. Mason is not the typical young adult love interest; he is a recovering alcoholic, his family's name is stained in the community, and he has a reputation from his younger days. But Mason isn't like that anymore, he isn't anything like people judge him to be. Lulu sees a side of him that nobody else does, and because of this we grow to as well as we read her thoughts to him in her letter. I loved getting to know him through her eyes and thoughts and heart. He's one of the best young adult male characters that I've read in a long time, a favorite.
There are other noteworthy characters: Roni and her boyfriend Bucky, for example. Roni is Lulu's best friend, with no plans to leave Dale, Virginia. No plans for college. Bucky does have plans for college and this has created a small strain in his relationship with Roni. Both agree that they could use some money, however, so they join in with Lulu and Mason to help with the moonshine-making. I love how things unfolded with Roni and Bucky and I have to admit that things took turns along the way that I didn't expect.
I love how things unfolded with all of the characters, actually. Beginning the story, I had a feeling that something was coming up, but I didn't really know that it would be. Why is Lulu writing to Mason in the first place? Also, I initially wondered if the story structure (Lulu speaking directly to Mason) would prevent connection with Mason, but it did not. If anything, I felt more of a connection with both characters, and this is probably because Lulu felt everything she was saying so passionately. Lulu spoke her heart to Mason in these pages.
Do you know the books that are a pleasure to read because the author uses lovely language? This is one of them. Sarah Tomp wrote My Best Everything with such a lyrical language, but not too much so, and the story easily made such a great movie in my head. I recommend My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp to readers that enjoy young adult contemporary stories and contemporary romance. Readers that enjoy a unique story structure or premise may also enjoy giving this one a shot. I'll be rereading this one and I'm thinking it will be one of my favorites this year. ...more
When I was young, I used to love to read Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I'd read them over andRead my full review HERE at Into the Hall of Books.
When I was young, I used to love to read Choose Your Own Adventure stories. I'd read them over and over, making sure to arrive at the different endings each time. I wanted to see what adventures were possible within the book. One just wasn't enough. The concept of this type of story was so exciting to me, one where I was in control of how things turned out. This is what Jill Santopolo has done with Love On The Lifts, except we're not choosing adventure - we're choosing a chance for love.
As the story begins, you and your sister Angie are at the airport, on your way to a ski vacation with your parents. Your boyfriend Nate has broken your heart, and you just aren't feeling the fun of the upcoming vacation. Angie tells you that she has a plan - you need to kiss someone you meet on the ski mountain, you need to fall in love on the lifts.
Hmm, you're not so sure! You'd rather ski and hang out with your sister and just not think of romantic things. BUT Angie convinces you that it takes a boy to get over a boy, and you eventually agree to try out her plan. The "choose your own adventure" part of the story begins once you both make it out on the slopes.
When Love On The Lifts by Jill Santopolo arrived, I read it immediately because it sounded like so much fun - and it was. It was a quick read that left me smiling and flipping pages, but in a really fun way. There are something like eleven choices for an ending - a ski instructor, a handsome twin, deciding to hang out with sister Angie instead of finding a guy, hanging out alone - so, yeah, several possibilities. AND true to what we all know of these types of "choose your own adventure" books, the opportunity to decide what to do next pops up every few pages, which made me feel in control of what was going on.
I ended up "finding love" with Charlie - he's a nice guy out on the slopes that I spot and decide to spend the day skiing with. He is hilarious and charming and loves old movies. It's a good match and helps me take my mind off of my awful ex-boyfriend.
*SO while I've been taking care of my Dad recently and because this book was so fun to read, I picked up Love On The Lifts and read it again - twice. I ended up with two very different endings, both a lot of fun. I ended up hanging out with my sister Angie, which is always a good time of course (YAY sisters, I absolutely love mine) and I also found love with a guy named Orion, who happens to be the son of the ski resort owner.
Love On The Lifts by Jill Santopolo is fun. It isn't a long read or a heavy read. It's perfect for someone that is looking for something light, cute, and happy - EXACTLY what I've needed in my life right now, actually. I haven't made it through all of the options for endings yet but there does not appear to be any love triangles so far. The book is written from a perspective of YOU being the main character, YOU are looking for love, YOU are choosing your own adventure. I recommend Love On The Lifts by Jill Santopolo for fans of young adult contemporary with romance that enjoy fun story structures. ...more