I think by now you're all familiar with my love for Ellen Emerson White's books. So you'll have no trouble underOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I think by now you're all familiar with my love for Ellen Emerson White's books. So you'll have no trouble understanding the level of excitement I've been living with ever since I heard she was writing a contemporary YA about the first girl to be drafted by a Major League Baseball team. Wild horses were having trouble keeping my anticipation within any sort of manageable proportions. It's difficult to believe that the release day has finally arrived, but it has, and I'm here to tell you you need to rush and grab your copy. Featuring White's trademark wit and understated class, this book is in—you'll forgive the pun—a league of its own.
Jill Cafferty is pretty sure she'll go. Yes, she's accepted a scholarship to play baseball for Stanford. And, yes, she's assured her mother that if she doesn't go early in the draft she'll head off to college and accept her fate. But. She's pretty sure she'll go. What she isn't sure is which team it will be and what in the world she'll do when it actually comes time to say goodbye to her mother and older brother and go live and work with a bunch of guys. Guys who will more than likely be none too pleased to have her around. But baseball is sort of it for Jill. Her entire life has led to this point, even if the realities of being the first girl to go pro induce a level of blind panic she's wholly unfond of. But if she doesn't try now, how will she ever know if she could really go all the way?
A Season of Daring Greatly is just everything I wanted it to be. I mean, every ounce of it. It resides in that unique space where young adult meets new adult, as Jill is eighteen years old and on her way to college (or the minor leagues) when our tale begins. If you've read even one of Ms. White's other books, you'll have an inkling of the kind of main character you're in for, which is to say the kind of girl who is simply more in all the ways that matter. Jill is smart, driven, determined, and self-exacting. She's private, though quite open with her two closest friends. She has a healthy, if quirky sense of humor. And while she has a truly gratifying confidence and pride in her abilities, she is not without a corollary set of very real fears, doubts, and concerns. In fact, where her confidence and skills meet the pressures and fears of actually playing professional ball is where this novel shines. Like Jill herself, the book feels almost shockingly natural—as comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans, despite its unprecedented setup. Jill may be the first of her kind (and she is 100 percent/24-hours-a-day aware of that and the expectations, both fair and unfair, that come with it), but she has made a commitment. And, come hell or high water, she will see it through to its finish,whether it be in ignominious defeat or in the breaking of barriers. She's really not certain from day to day which it will be.
This reading experience is very much focused on the day-to-day journey with Jill and her internal struggle with the internal and external ramifications of the life she's chosen. Watching her learn (and be forced) to balance her lifelong love of the game with the new and painful trappings of fame, league politics, team machinations, and the realities of sexism and gender stereotypes on every level is fascinating and timely. These deeper questions are balanced with that excellent humor and with Jill's determined, but shy forays into friendship on her team. I was particularly enamored of her relationship with her veteran catcher. A favorite scene (taken from my uncorrected ARC):
She managed to throw a strike—a good one, sneaky fast, right on the inside corner—so, the batter swung at the next pitch, and sent a sharp grounder up the middle, which she didn't manage to get anywhere near.
Terrific. That meant two runs, and—except the shy second baseman streaked over, flicked it backhanded from his glove to Raffy without missing a beat, and that was the third out.
What a great play! And he'd made it look easy.
She was so relieved that she intercepted him on his way off the field and couldn't stop herself from giving him a truly heartfelt hug.
He looked horrified, and extricated himself, speaking so rapidly in Spanish that she only managed to catch a few phrases, most of which were along the lines of "Holy Mother of God!"
So, she backed away from him raising her hands apologetically—but, still, that had been a big league play. She was practically in love with him, for making that play. Deeply in love.
It felt as though a huge weight had lifted from her shoulders, and she suddenly felt so cheerful, that she almost wanted to bounce into the dugout.
She paused in front of Adler, waiting for his reaction.
He looked at her for a few seconds, with about eight expressions moving across his face, before settling on a small frown.
"Don't hug the infielders," he said. "They hate that."
Seemed that way, yeah.
I'm still grinning over that exchange. Because I am just am so fond of Jill and the team she sets on its ear. The team that also finds itself stretching enough to take her in and give her a new fabric and viewpoint from which to feel out and examine her life. While you won't be at all displeased where this novel lands, it's virtually impossible not to feel an immediate thirst for more. Please....more
I'm feeling very possessive when it comes to this one, guys. I finished it a few days ago, and it has been a bitOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I'm feeling very possessive when it comes to this one, guys. I finished it a few days ago, and it has been a bit touch and go emotionally since then. You try to find other characters and other places to fill the void, but the truth is—it's not your first rodeo. And you know very well you're not going to simply be able to will the ability to move forward with your life. That you're just going to have to wait it out and mourn having been with Quincy and Arch, er, those characters, as steadily and for as long as you were and then learn to live on a day-to-day basis not being with them. And, yes, I do know they're sitting right there on the shelf whenever I need them. But you know what I mean. You have to somehow get past the end having happened to you, too. And not just to them. The Q is a lovely little (actually gratifyingly thick) standalone historical fiction (with a twist) novel and instant entry on my Best Books of 2016 list. Oh, and lest I forget, that cover. It is everything. With the newsprint? And the crease? And that very particular Q? Everything, I say.
It's worth mentioning that Beth Brower and I are friends. And that while I've talked about and spotlighted her work several times on the blog, I haven't reviewed her first three novels because of the close nature of our friendship. But this one, you guys. No power in the 'Verse could stop me from spreading the word. It's that good.
Quincy St. Claire makes time for nothing and no one not intimately involved in the day-to-day machinations of her beloved printing press—The Q. Since being taken in off the streets by her Great Uncle Ezekiel (along with her friend and fellow foundling Fisher), she has harnessed every ounce of her formidable energies and poured them into making Ezekiel's unusual press run like clockwork. And if it is true that Quincy's name is spoken far and wide throughout the lower streets and upper parlors of Rhysdon, it is also true that no one, with the possible exception of Fisher, truly knows the girl who sits on the high stool behind the counter. The girl who writes down the questions that pour in from the denizens of the city, each on an individual Q slip, and who then prints them to be sent out into the world to find their answers. Within the confines of The Q, it is Quincy's world. And it follows her rules. Until one night the heretofore laid back, if quite elderly, Ezekiel throws the hitch of all hitches into her plans. He is to die, he tells her. Imminently. And he has set her a task in the wake of his passing. Twelve of them, to be exact. Not only is she not to be informed what the tasks are, she is to be monitored in her efforts by none other than the bane of her existence—Mr. James Arch—The Q's solicitor and general disapproving stick-in-the-mud. If she fails, The Q will fall into other hands. Ezekiel proves immovable, as well as a man of his word, and so it is up to Quincy to go against every one of her grains and divert some of those well-harnessed energies to accomplishing the mysterious tasks. The alternative, after all, is unthinkable.
Quincy unwound her scarf and laid it over a matchstick chair. Removing her jacket, she opened her creaking armoire and hung it back in its place. Rolling up her shirt sleeves, Quincy walked to her window—a single window that looked down on Gainsford Street—and frowned at the snow.
The Q was to be given away.
If she could not fulfill her uncle's obscure requirements, The Q was to be given away.
On either side of Quincy's window stood two bureaus, tall, with five drawers each, large enough to fit clothing, papers, and what few possessions Quincy found worth keeping. She liked them not for the plebeian practicality they offered, but rather for the way that, when she pulled herself up on one and rested her feet on the edge of the other, Quincy found herself perched high in her window, watching whatever was passing on the street below. She did so now, feeling the gears of her mind catching, too disjointed by her uncle's words for their usually smooth, oiled rotation.
This early passage was the first moment I felt in perfect sympathy with our heroine. As she felt her mind strain to accommodate an unforeseen, wholly unwelcome shift in her well-ordered world. An old and solitary soul tucked economically inside the body of an eccentric young slip of a girl, Quincy is all that is analytical and stubborn, prone to excellence and disdain in equal quantities. In short, I loved her to pieces. From her dogged taunting of the self-righteous Mr. Arch to her single minded passion for the business that gave her life a reliable shape and purpose. To say nothing of her quiet, unwavering loyalty to her oldest (and only) friend Fisher and her uncharacteristic (some might say) fondness for a certain disreputable smuggler who drops into her domain from time to time. Oh, yes, I understood Quincy. And because I understood and loved her, I felt keenly her fierce determination and resolve to hold onto The Q at all costs. And so the pages flew by, full of eloquent and visceral descriptions of the workings of the press. I fell in love with not just Quincy, but with the intricate hierarchy of Rhysdon society, and especially with the people from all walks of life who found themselves drawn to this fanciful, yet precise location where they might quietly voice their questions, knowing that they will be heard, set in careful type, and perhaps someday answered. For a young woman with little use for demonstrative affections, she manages to provide rather a lot of hope for a city in need of just that.
Quincy and Fisher walked through all this in silence. Silence was the most common stock-in-trade between them, and the portfolio of their friendship was thick with it. So, without words, they stepped across the streets, their feet pressing the pavement with the same sounds, their toes turned just so; they knew what life was like at each other's side. Sometimes he would speak, or she would, small offerings on the altar of their joint survival.
This beautiful friendship was one of the most affecting aspects of the novel—for its solidity, its history, and its ardent portrayal. Bound together, are Quincy and Fisher, and we get to see them continue to chase survival on all its levels. And while we are speaking of ardency, I would be remiss if I didn't express my wholehearted devotion to the romantic vein that wends its way through the tale. I so appreciate that readers are given just as many pages as they might want to witness that particular relationship develop in the organic, stumbling, messy, and magnetic way that it does. Even more, I admire the way the two of them don't alter their essential chemistry to fit the other's expectations. They rage when they should rage, but they also see beyond the surface when the light glances off the other person in just the right way. Most importantly, they don't forget what they've seen and just how valuable it is. As I said, days later, I still can't get them out of my head. They're in there, striding down alleys and scarfing down buns, and generally making it impossible to get anything else done, so badly do I want to just sit back and watch them push and support each other and question wildly whether or not they will ever be able to make it come out right. I loved them so. The experience of reading The Q was an impossibly charming one. It repeatedly put me in mind of a few time-honored favorites, from a little Westmark here to a little Spindle's End there, to say nothing of a healthy dash of Dickens just for good measure. In the end, one thing is certain—The Q has room for you....more
I could not finish this debut novel by Mercy Brown, which was hugely disappointing as I had very high hopes. The setup and idea for the novel is greatI could not finish this debut novel by Mercy Brown, which was hugely disappointing as I had very high hopes. The setup and idea for the novel is great, and I gather the author has extensive personal experience with the subject matter. But I simply could not get past the cringeworthy dialogue and the insipid protagonist. I had hoped for more sophistication in both, but it became clear I would not be able to follow Emmy anywhere, so I cut my losses and quit....more
This was by far my favorite of Ms. Bowen's Gravity series. Callie and Hank were a hit. I enjoyed reading every bit of their reluctant relationship forThis was by far my favorite of Ms. Bowen's Gravity series. Callie and Hank were a hit. I enjoyed reading every bit of their reluctant relationship form. There's no deus ex machina here. Just a sweet, strong story of love and healing. ...more
There's nothing wrong with this story, per se. It caught my attention right away and held it for the first half of the book. Meet cute designed to makThere's nothing wrong with this story, per se. It caught my attention right away and held it for the first half of the book. Meet cute designed to make book lovers grin. Believable, if simple, backstories for both leads. But then the whole thing went on to remain so clear-eyed and earnest that that simplicity began to pall. I finished it, but the bloom was well off the rose by the time I did....more
This is really such an insulated series, and I mean that in the best sense. It wraps itself around you, and the world outside the winding streets of EThis is really such an insulated series, and I mean that in the best sense. It wraps itself around you, and the world outside the winding streets of Edinburgh just sort of slips away. I was really quite sad to see the series end. Some installments worked for me much better than others, but I felt that Grace & Logan's story was a fitting way to bring it to a close....more
Not the best NA I've read, not the worst. Definitely the first Cormack I've enjoyed. And I did enjoy it. Somewhere around the last third it lost someNot the best NA I've read, not the worst. Definitely the first Cormack I've enjoyed. And I did enjoy it. Somewhere around the last third it lost some of its steam, but I finished and didn't regret it. It's worth mentioning that the whole before-I-graduate-from-college, socially-awkward-but-highly-intelligent-girl making a bucket list trope did periodically make me wish I was just reading Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, but hey. I knew what it was when I picked it up....more
Madeline Ash has been such a golden find this year. I first discovered her through her latest novel Love and Other Lies, which I utterly enjoyed. Ash Madeline Ash has been such a golden find this year. I first discovered her through her latest novel Love and Other Lies, which I utterly enjoyed. Ash writes emotional, heartfelt romances with such a light hand that they are a pleasure to read in every sense of the word. So when I saw her novella The Secret Prince pop up, it took me no time at all to dive in.
My only complaint is that it is far too short. I fell immediately in love with Dee and Jed and would have followed them much farther than across an ocean from LA to a tiny European principality and back again. And since my emotions were so definitively engaged, I did wish the reader had a chance to spend more time with them exploring their unfortunate history after their reunion in Los Angeles (this was my favorite section) and then again in Leguarday as they negotiated the unusual terms of what a life together might look like. To say nothing of the miles and miles of potential regarding Jed's father. Everything ties up so neatly and quickly, I presume in order to fit it all into novella form.
But Ash's writing is fully up to the task of delving deeper into the psyches of these two banged up kids and, given the slim page count, I felt that we got a healthy amount of bang for our buck. She doesn't shy away from the painful, complex moments when two hurt individuals are trying and failing and trying again not to make things worse. And she absolutely knows her way around the tentative exploration that follows, with one hand protecting your heart and the other shakily reaching out.
Her Secret Prince is a sweet (if too short) contemporary fairy tale, and I look forward to Ash's next full-length novel with much anticipation. ...more
Fine. Just fine. Not the best in the series and not the worst. My main problem with Imaginary Lines was that, in previous books, Abe was the most charFine. Just fine. Not the best in the series and not the worst. My main problem with Imaginary Lines was that, in previous books, Abe was the most charming of characters, just begging for his own story. But when his turn finally came, this Abe felt like an entirely different beast, not nearly as charming or compelling as he was in previous installments. I struggled to want Tamar to achieve her lifelong crush. I simply felt she was worth more, deserved more than she got in Abe. Very competently written, as always, but lacking the spark and tenacity of the first book in the series....more
You all remember my love for Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl novels, yes? A certain patriarch of a certaiOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
You all remember my love for Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl novels, yes? A certain patriarch of a certain . . . well. You remember. The thing is, those are my kind of New Adult novels. And I think I've been sort of quietly looking for more in that vein ever since. And then a couple of months ago I ran across Diana enthusiastically recommending a new series for fans of the SSG books. It's called the Ivy Years series and it is written by Sarina Bowen. Needless to say, I investigated further. When I found out the books were also sports-related, I said to the internet, Say no more, internet. You have my attention. And that night I jumped in and started the first book—The Year We Fell Down (which, by the way, such a great title)—and I thoroughly enjoyed Bowen's easy style, down to Earth characters (well, most of time, I'm looking at you Hartley), and the fabulous college setting. So when the second book came out, I was all set to dive right back into life at Harkness, particularly when I heard it featured Bridger—a character from the first book who I really liked but who I had more than few concerns about.
Bridger McCaulley's life does not resemble what it used to be. Not that it's ever been easy, but there was a period there where he worried . . . less . . . and partied more. And he played hockey like nobody's business. Those days are gone now that he's wholly responsible for his little sister. And it doesn't help matters that it's all on the down low since child protective services would have a heyday if they knew a college hockey star was hiding a little girl away in his dorm room. Scarlet Crowley's life also altered suddenly and irrevocably and for the worse. She's come to Harkness to escape as many of her problems as possible, starting by enrolling under a different name in order to stave off as much of the media as possible. When the truth about her father's charity was made public, the life she led became impossible and she hopes distance from her parents and her father's crimes will allow her to build her own life. When the two meet, sparks fly, but they agree not to take things any further than study dates in the cafeteria. Bridger has no time to speak of and a pack of responsibilities weighing him down to the ground. Scarlet fears discovery and the look on Bridger's face were he ever to find out the kind of family she comes from. But it proves to be difficult for each of them to give up that regular human contact again. With someone who might just understand.
As I said, I enjoyed (my impatience with Hartley aside) most everything about the first book in the series. But I loved everything about The Year We Hid Away. How lovely a thing it is when you get to know a previously secondary character better only to find out they were exactly who you were hoping they would be all along. Getting to know Bridger was just such an experience. There was so much more to him than his escapades the year before led you to believe, and every one of those added layers made him an infinitely sympathetic character. He is crazy strong, is Bridger. And determined to go it alone, if just to adequately protect his little sister Lucy from additional disappointment and pain. He rightly judges she has suffered enough. But then so has he. And it takes Scarlet entering his tightly closed off life to see that and know how to help. It was so interesting watching these two hockey players interact while on enforced hiatuses from the sport they love. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of this story is the equal treatment the two protagonists get. Their stories, their histories, they are equally valued and play appropriately weighty roles in their present. They are not just back stories, but fleshed out narratives explaining the way they are, the challenges they live with. And they fold so seamlessly into the force bringing and holding them together. An early encounter snippet:
"You never say very much about Miami Beach," Bridger said as we lingered over our coffee. "Or your family."
I didn't bother to hide my flinch. "Miami Beach is the best. My family . . . not so much. I don't really talk about them. It isn't a nice story." The truth was, I didn't want to lie any more than necessary to those deep green eyes.
Bridger's face flashed with sympathy. "Okay. It's exactly the same for me, but I didn't expect that. Because you look like someone from a family with a nice story."
"And you don't?" I countered.
He put one hand on his own cheek and covered mine with his other. "You make a good point. Maybe there's no look. I should probably stop thinking that everyone else in this room has it easier than me."
I turned my head, and together we both scanned the laughing, eating, bustle that was the student center at noon. It sure looked happy out there. For just a moment, I was a goalie again, analyzing the play, scouting for trouble.
"Nah," I said finally, turning back to Bridger. "I still think most of them have it pretty good."
Bridger grinned. "This is the cynical table," he said, tapping his fingertip on the wood grain.
"Party of two," I agreed.
Their Tuesday and Thursday lunch/study dates never failed to bring a smile to my face. And the natural and seemingly inevitable way they grew into a relationship with a healthy amount of depth kept the smile upon my face. They are able to take a breather of sorts and step away from being self-conscious when they're together. It feels like a reprieve, doled out in careful doses. No wonder they look to increase those doses. I also appreciated the way Bowen handles the "finding out" of the respective pasts. It was a recipe for maturity while still paying tribute to their actual ages and the extent of their life experiences. As is the case with the best romances, I am so very glad they found each other. As for myself, I am so very happy to have found a fresh voice in the new adult genre. Recommended for fans of Down London Road and, of course, Secret Society Girl....more
Sigh. I was expecting more. Kind of a lot more. There were definite attempts to flesh out the two leads (and points for clocking in low on the PointleSigh. I was expecting more. Kind of a lot more. There were definite attempts to flesh out the two leads (and points for clocking in low on the Pointless Angst Meter), but they wound up leading nowhere in the end. I finished it, but there was no reason to....more
I am monumentally relieved that the cover gods came up with a second (better) cover for this contemporary romancOriginally reviewed here @ Dear Author
I am monumentally relieved that the cover gods came up with a second (better) cover for this contemporary romance, if not a second (better) title. It’s not that the original cover was bad . . . it’s that it was so mind-numbingly bad that nothing could have induced me to read it were it not for the fact that the ebook is free from most vendors and I read a handful of thoughtful, positive reviews. I feel compelled to point this out right off the bat because going off the cover (and title) alone, I was second guessing my decision before I even began. Then after I began, I felt certain I would get a few pages in and call the whole thing off. But then I kept reading. And . . . I didn’t want to put it down. Not at all. And so I didn’t. I read it through in one lovely gulp. And then I found myself in the awkward position of standing around, wringing my hands, mumbling about the packaging. So I’m glad the cover at least got a revision, because I do think this story deserves whatever will help it find its way into the hands of other readers who will love it, too.
Ellie Jenson still isn’t sure how she got into Harvard in the first place. She worked her butt off in high school, set her sights sky high, and made it to the big time. But deep down she still wonders if it wasn’t all a mistake. Because of the two kinds of students who go to Harvard, she falls fair and square in the Smart and Poor category. And Luke Thayer is Rich and Dumb through and through. Actually, Luke isn’t dumb at all. But he’s filthy rich, entitled as all get out, and bound and determined to disagree with every assertion Ellie makes in their freshman expository writing class. Which is the only thing they have in common. And Ellie would like to keep it that way. Which is why, when a tipsy Luke makes a pass at her one night, she tamps down every ounce of attraction she feels for him and . . . passes. And with that Luke Thayer walks out of her life. Fast forward fifteen years. Ellie took her Harvard degree in computer programming and is now supervising her own little department of programmers. She hasn’t thought of Luke in years. Which is why she’s fairly gutted to find out her old nemesis is the new CEO. Determined to show her new boss just how far she’s come, she strides into his office to find out that Luke is in a wheelchair. And has been for several years now. Caught completely off guard, Ellie struggles to reconcile the insufferable Luke she knew with the man before her whose life is clearly anything but charmed.
I wasn’t prepared to like them so much. I wasn’t. The whole thing started off like every other New Adult cookie cutter I’ve read over the last year. But then . . . they grew up. And their lives just hadn’t gone the way they’d imagined. Luke’s more so than Ellie’s obviously, but they were both so endearingly adrift. And I when I say endearing, I mean I they were going on anyway, knowing their lives lacked something and every day experiencing the pain of not knowing what it was or how to find it. Watching them carefully negotiate the new and unwieldy boundaries of their relationship was . . . adorable, to be honest. It was sweet and giddy and it filled me with anxiety for both of them. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book with a physically disabled protagonist, and I have to say the way Luke’s disability was handled felt incredibly real and unvarnished. Nothing about his condition is glossed over or simply melts away in the face of their growing attraction. And the book is infinitely better for this steady hand. There are cringeworthy moments, ones where Luke, Ellie, and the reader wishes like anything they could just sink into the floor and disappear. Ellie doesn’t always say the right thing and Luke is alternately unutterably charming and absolutely mortified. But they stay.
Luke and Ellie both have some of the same hang-ups they had in college. Luke has even more money than he did back then and Ellie’s simpler, more frayed lifestyle befuddles him. For her part, Ellie is uncomfortable and a bit stunned by Luke’s wealth. To say nothing of the glitzy company he keeps. I wasn’t sure from chapter to chapter if it could last or whether or not it should, particularly as the numerous limitations presented by Luke’s condition and the consequences of his ruthless business acumen begin to press on the back of Ellie’s consciousness. But, my, I wanted it to. Here’s one of my favorite scenes which highlights the particular blend of humor and honesty that is Ellie and Luke’s story. A policeman has just spotted them getting a little up close and personal in Luke’s car:
“All right, get out of the car,” the cop says.
Luke obligingly opens the door to the car. He grabs his wheelchair out of the back seat and the officer watches in shock as he pops the wheels into place. When he transfers into the seat, the cop is white as a sheet. I would have laughed if I wasn’t still shaking. Luke pushes his palms into his thighs to straighten out his posture and he looks at the officer questioningly.
“Oh, um . . . ” the cop says. His jaw is hanging open. He peeks into the car at me, probably wondering if I need a wheelchair, too. “Well, um, I guess . . . I can let you off with a warning.”
“I really appreciate that,” Luke says politely.
The officer still looks a little stunned as he goes back to his own car. Luke looks at me in the car and winks, “I never get tickets.”
“Jesus,” I say. I wipe my sweaty palms on my dress. “I think I better go.”
His face falls. “Oh.”
“It’s getting late,” I say, “and . . . well, like I said, I’ve got stairs.”
Luke nods. “All right,” he says. “Will you come to my office for lunch tomorrow?”
“Lunch, huh?” I smile.
“Totally innocent,” he assures me with a grin.
That would actually be a pretty big disappointment.
I loved the way Luke’s challenges were leavened a bit by the glib, at times downright roguish way in which he maneuvers his life. From tearing down the streets of Boston in his sleek car to ordering massive amounts of Chinese takeout to lure Ellie into his office, his antics nearly always brought a grin to my lips. It’s a simple story in the end, very simply told. There isn’t much in the way of grand flourishes or conflict here. In fact, history with Luke’s father aside, few of the secondary characters really come into focus outside of the two principals. And maybe it was a case of the right book at the right time, but Ellie and Luke felt like people I might pass in the hallway at work, leading ordinary lives, in search of warmth to come home to at the end of the day just like me. A sweet, disarming read. ...more
Copies of the books in this series inexplicably keep showing up in my mailbox. I figured the universe was trying to tell me something, so I gave thisCopies of the books in this series inexplicably keep showing up in my mailbox. I figured the universe was trying to tell me something, so I gave this first one a shot.
I adored Rush Me, Parr's first novel in her New York Leopards series, and it was with great excitement I dove into Running Back. For awhile there, eveI adored Rush Me, Parr's first novel in her New York Leopards series, and it was with great excitement I dove into Running Back. For awhile there, everything was going swimmingly. I thought the Irish setting and Natalie's dedication to archaeology would suit me just fine. Unfortunately, her persistence (and loud insistence) that love wasn't real and that what she was experiencing with Mike wasn't anything beyond surface-level lust began to ring hollow and pall very quickly. The whole reason they wound up in Ireland also started to feel thinly manufactured and it grew more and more difficult to buy the entire scenario, let alone to continue to want the fairly innocuously charming Mike to stay with Natalie. I missed the football. I missed the other teammates. And I missed a couple I could actually root for. By the end, I just wanted them to part ways for good. ...more
I feel like I've been waffling on whether or not to read this book for years now even though it's only been a fewOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I feel like I've been waffling on whether or not to read this book for years now even though it's only been a few months. The thing is, I really enjoyed the first half of Rainbow Rowell's Attachments. I really, really did. And then I was summarily disappointed with the second half. I don't know if it was me or the fact that I read it immediately after giving birth and that just rarely ever works out for me or what. But the direct result was that I stayed away from Eleanor Park, despite it's adorable cover and quirky premise. And I was apparently still shell-shocked enough that I was going to just go ahead and pass on FANGIRL if it wasn't for Janice's enthusiastic review some weeks back. I thought I was just sort of waltzing around lacking the Rowell gene, when in fact I simply hadn't found my gateway book. So, Janice. Can I send you a book bouquet or a fruit basket or some such gift of gratitude? Because I'm kind of having a hard time imagining my reading year without this book. This hilarious, complicated book that induced all the feelings in the general vicinity of my heart.
Cath doesn't do social situations. Outside of her twin sister Wren and her dad, few people have been able to penetrate the force field of solitude with which she surrounds herself. Even her high school boyfriend Abel was really just a placeholder, a nice idea of a boyfriend. But there has always been Simon. And Baz. Ever since they were kids, Cath and Wren have teamed up to write Simon Snow fan fiction. And when the more vivacious Wren's social life took flight, Cath soldiered on alone. Dedicated to the fictional world of Simon Snow, her followers grew to number in the tens of thousands and sating their voracious appetites became a full-time job. Which is why college seems to be getting in the way so much. Having to make small talk with her roommate Reagan and Reagan's kinda sorta ex Levi sends Cath into paroxysms of exhaustion. Not to mention her demanding class schedule and not knowing where the cafeteria is and worrying about leaving her dad all alone at home to fend off loneliness. Cath is a basket case. Fortunately, her roommate can read the writing on the wall and stages an intervention. And thus begins Cath's tentative exploration of life off the page. But when Wren's life threatens to run off the rails and their long-estranged mother re-enters their lives, Cath's only refuge remains with Simon and his sometime nemesis, sometime partner Baz.
I fell on page one. It was laughable how fast I fell. And I'm not even a little bit hesitant to admit it, because I laughed and giggled and gasped my way through this absolutely delightful book. And not just your run-of-the-mill out loud laughing either, but the silent smiles that slowly grow until they take over your whole face and you have to stop and just let the moment happen and savor it before continuing on. Those moments occurred basically any time Cath was thinking, speaking, writing, or sitting in the same room with Levi. Honestly, the boy deserves a moment of silence all his own. I don't remember the last time I grew so fond of a nice guy so fast. In fact, here are a couple of my favorite Levi moments:
She didn't look over at Levi again until they were standing together in front of the elevator. (Condition: smiling, stable). When it opened, he put his hand on her back and she practically jumped in.
"What's the plan?" she asked.
He grinned. "My plan is to do things that make you want to hang out with me again tomorrow. What's your plan?"
"I'm going to try not to make an ass of myself."
He grinned. "So we're all set."
And now a somewhat spoilery exchange (because I literally cannot help myself with these two and trust me, there were way more spoilery bits I somehow managed to resist):
"I just want to know—are you rooting for me? Are you hoping I pull this off?"
Cath's eyes settled on his, tentatively, like they'd fly away if he moved.
She nodded her head.
The right side of his mouth pulled up.
"I'm rooting for you," she whispered. She wasn't even sure he could hear her from the bed.
Levi's smile broke free and devoured his whole face.
I will never tire of Levi's smiles. But as smitten as I was, the focal center of the book remained Cath for me. And I'm so glad Ms. Rowell kept the whole thing so tightly focused on Cath's struggles, both with the world inside her head as well as with the world around her. Initially, I was wary of the actual Simon Snow excerpts (to say nothing of Cath's fan fiction sections). But Rowell surprised me with her deft interweaving of Cath's own life and the life she breathed into Simon and Baz and the whole Watford School gang. To be perfectly frank, she surprised (and wowed) me with the level of nuance on the grand scale. And before long, Cath's dorm room felt like home to me, felt disturbingly like my own dorm freshman year, papered with clippings and memorabilia declaring who I had been, threaded through with anxiety and hope for who I would become. I knew who Cath was. I could see her with perfect clarity. Last of all, one of the most visceral moments in the book, in which Cath confronts the woman who gave birth to her and abandoned her ten years later.
"You don't just leave somebody alone in a hospital," Cath said. It came out aflame.
"Wren's not alone," Laura said sternly. "She has you."
Cath jerked to her feet and swayed there. Not Wren, she thought. I didn't mean Wren.
Laura wrenched her handbag straps higher. "Cather—"
"You can't leave like this—"
"It's the right thing to do," Laura said, lowering her voice.
"In what alternate universe?" Cath felt the rage burst up her throat like a cork popping. "What sort of a mother leaves the hospital without seeing her kid? What sort of a mother leaves? Wren is unconscious—and if you think that has nothing to do with you, you are skimming the surface of reality—and I'm right here, and you haven't even seen me for ten years, and now you're leaving? Now?"
"Don't make this about me," Laura hissed. "You obviously don't want me here."
"I'm making it about me," Cath said. "It's not my job to want you or not want you. It's not my job to earn you."
"Cather"—Laura's mouth and fists were tight—"I've reached out to you. I've tried."
"You're my mother," Cath said. Her fists were even tighter. "Try harder."
And that is how it's done. That is how you secure my everlasting loyalty for a character. She's so strong in that scene. Her fists are tighter. And I love her so much for saying what she needed to, for getting it out. I loved every word of FANGIRL. As my friend Laura says, some books move in. I had a bed all made up for this one faster than Levi can crack a smile....more
Nothing draws me to a book like a passel of reviews that are all over the board. I literally cannot help myself.Originally reviewed here @ Angieville
Nothing draws me to a book like a passel of reviews that are all over the board. I literally cannot help myself. Where will I fall on the spectrum? Will my feelings be ferocious or will they dwindle away after leaving the pages and characters behind? The questions, the questions. So it was that I came to download a copy of THE COINCIDENCE OF CALLIE & KAYDEN by Jessica Sorensen awhile back. Pretty kissing in the rain cover aside (I might be a bit of a sucker for those), I had previously stayed away because of the said all over the board-ness. Originally self-published new adult contemporaries are turning into quite the beast of late. Some readers are immediately turned off. Others have enjoyed enough of them to keep their engines running, so to speak. I tend to go on a case by case basis. I've been burned before, but I've also been taken by delightful surprise. This was happily a case of the latter. For those interested, Grand Central picked this one up and will be publishing it in paperback next month (it is already available in ebook), at which time the ebook of the sequel will be released with a paperback edition to follow early next year.
Callie quite simply cannot wait to escape to college. For the last six years, she's avoided contact with pretty much everyone outside of her immediate family. Her older brother is already off at college, coming home occasionally to relive the glory days. And now Callie is just days away from her own sort of freedom in the form of her freshman year at the University of Wyoming, hours away from her unhappy home. Then, just a few months before she's scheduled to leave, she finds herself witness to a scene of violence at her neighbor Kayden Owens' home. Without thinking, Callie rushes in to stop it and, in doing so, forms an unwitting bond between herself and Kayden--a boy she hasn't spoken to since they were in elementary school. Four months later, their paths cross again at school in Laramie. Kayden is there on a football scholarship, while Callie is blissfully flying under-the-radar and crossing one item a week off her list of things to do that scare her. When Kayden literally runs into her, it jogs his memory and he becomes determined to thank the lonely girl who saved him from further beating that night. But, of course, there's a reason Callie fell off the face of the earth all those years ago. And it will take more than gratitude and a growing attraction to overcome the demons lurking in both of their closets.
A word of warning: Trigger issues abound and the whole thing ratchets up to one massive cliffhanger. But I loved it nonetheless. To each her own, of course.
It's a moment I'll remember forever, because it belongs to me.
To be perfectly honest, THE COINCIDENCE OF CALLIE & KAYDEN was everything I was hoping The Sea of Tranquility would be and wasn't. There is plenty of pain and bleak pasts and uncertain futures within its pages, but the pain and bleakness and uncertainty are justified by a fundamental belief in hope and healing that underscores the characters' struggles to survive. There is also a very sweet affection that crops up between them, and not just between the two principals but among their tiny cohort of real friends as well. It's that affection that buoyed me through the story when I found myself confused and afraid along with Callie and Kayden. The writing is simple and unpretentious, the subject matter a sort of dark fluff, if you will. The chapters alternate point of view between the two, each chapter beginning with a numbered item from Callie's list. I appreciated the believably slow way in which she scaled her mountain. And while the romance is most definitely simmering along the entire time, it is never so overwhelming as to force the underlying issues aside. Equal time is spent on both of them, and I appreciated that equality. This is not a story where anyone rides in on a white horse. Instead it is more realistically a story of two individuals meeting and being stretched outside of their own troubles for the sake of the other. I think my overall response was so positive because I never felt like the writing was trying too hard. In other similar books, I have felt so buffeted about by the overwhelmingly present effort that went into it that I was left unable to connect with the characters or lose myself in the story. But Jessica Sorensen isn't trying to sell you something in the guise of something else. She's merely recounting a simple, sad story about two people moving somewhere in the direction of hope, a story I found myself perfectly content to fall for. But I really do need that sequel. Soon. ...more
Suffering from a severe lack of emotional engagement here. Fun setup. Formulaic execution. In fact, I'm inspired to inaugurate a brand new shelf: EmptSuffering from a severe lack of emotional engagement here. Fun setup. Formulaic execution. In fact, I'm inspired to inaugurate a brand new shelf: Empty Chairs at Empty Tables - for those books with, as my friend Diana says, blank characters in blank stories. Come on, NA. You can be better than this....more
I will admit, I liked the cover of Allison Parr's debut novel RUSH ME right off the bat when I first saw it floatOriginally reviewed here @ Angieville
I will admit, I liked the cover of Allison Parr's debut novel RUSH ME right off the bat when I first saw it floating around the blogosphere. I could tell it was going to be marketed new adult as soon as I saw it, and that's probably a marketing win right there. But the reason I liked it was because everything I knew about the book seemed to come together in the cover. The bold stripes of color and the font work really well for this sports romance. I particularly liked the colors set across the black and white photo, and that the couple was sort of naturally or ordinarily presented (and attired). It was both a relief and an eye-catcher, if you will. I still waffled back and forth a bit on picking it up until I read Li's review over at Me and My Books. In it, she compared it to another new adult title she'd read and found this one to be decidedly preferred. Li has excellent taste, in case you were wondering. And so that (and the extremely attractive price) was all it took to push me over the edge from waffling to buying.
Rachael can't seem to gain any traction. She took the unpaid internship with a small-ish publishing house in the hopes that it would open doors to a career in the industry. But it seems she's just biding her time, blowing through her savings, not getting anywhere. The same could be said for her love live, or lack thereof. These days the only kind of social life she engages in is when her roommate Eva drags her out with her gaggle of fellow theater friends. Which is how Rachael finds herself one night in the wrong apartment at the wrong party. Surrounded by a host of men too brawny and women too clingy to be Eva's crowd, she realizes she's crashed some sort of sports-related party or other. Infinitely outside her comfort zone, she attempts to beat a path out of there. Unfortunately, said path is barred by a couple of bruisers who assume she's just another in a long line of groupies. The situation devolves from there. Utterly disgusted, she walks out without her scarf. And it's a nice enough scarf that she's forced to return to retrieve it. And wouldn't you know in the cold light of day, some of those big, bad football players don't look all that big and bad. They invite her in. They're interested in what she has to say. All but Ryan Carter. The star quarterback is convinced she's there for one reason and one reason only. He wants her gone in no uncertain terms. But by the time he makes his opinion known, the team has already sort of adopted her. And perhaps most surprising of all, Rachael finds herself . . . wanting to stay.
I love a good prickly protagonist. Or two. Together, Rachael and Ryan are definitely the kind of stiff, stubborn immovable forces I love. Plenty of push and pull (and swoon) for your buck. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting going into RUSH ME, but what I got was more substantial and enjoyable from the word go. These characters possessed fully developed lives and, happily, all the different aspects of those lives made appearances on the page. The palpable presence of family, education, co-workers, teammates, and religion helped me construct a vision of people I could love, who could love each other, despite their very normal, very real fears and the miles of vastly different experiences separating them. I've never lived in Manhattan, but I've visited several times over the years, and I thoroughly enjoyed living inside Rachael's Manhattan for the duration of this book. Her observations and insights about the people and places around her held my attention. While she may have struggled discerning the motivations of some key players in her life, her point of view felt continually real to me. Here, a favorite passage that immediately landed me right at her side:
The room's centerpiece, a seven-tiered fountain, obscured the flock. Bubbly champagne frothed downward as waiters reached out to catch the golden ambrosia. They circulated through the room with their balanced platters, passing by women in long gowns and men in black jackets. Murmured voices were underlain by the slightest whisper of classical music. Precious stones winked in earrings and cuff links, and guests appraised each other from behind their champagne flutes. A young woman in a red dress tossed a flirtatious glance at a young man on an older lady's arm, while two men huddled together in the shadows, trading secrets over empty glasses. People touched and parted, a dance of consequence, as everyone tried to break into circles higher than their own.
It was a pleasure accompanying her through that dance of consequence, especially as she got to know Ryan and the team and was able to see her city and its people in an entirely new way. It was another pleasure absorbing the wry humor of this story. A quick exchange between Rachael and her roommate:
"Ryan Carter wants to have dinner with me on Friday. And like a dozen other people. But still." I collapsed onto the sofa and kicked off my shoes.
Eva frowned. "But aren't you in a fight?"
"Yes. I don't know. Is this a really bad idea? Apparently he suggested it."
Eva's grin broadened and her dark eyes twinkled. She peeled off the rubber dish gloves and dropped down next to me on the sagging cushions. "I think it's a great idea."
"But what if he's a Wickham?"
She shrugged. "Maybe you're a Lydia."
I shuddered. "Don't say such things." Lydia might have caught Wickham in the end, but she was still vain and flippant and unlikeable. "I want to be Elizabeth."
Eva gave me a look.
"Fine." My head dropped against the back of the couch. "I'm a Jane. I'm a Jane, okay?" The staid older sister.
"There's nothing wrong with being a Jane."
"That's what the Elizabeths always say," I muttered darkly.
What can I say? I appreciate a quietly tossed in Pride and Prejudice moment. In fact, I appreciated everything about this sweet, surprisingly grounded story of opposites attracting against a backdrop of professional football and the big city....more
I was warned about reading this book. And I did go back and forth for awhile before deciding it wasn't for me. Or I wasn't foOriginally reviewed here.
I was warned about reading this book. And I did go back and forth for awhile before deciding it wasn't for me. Or I wasn't for it. That I wasn't that intrigued. Or that I didn't want to hate myself in the morning. Take your pick. You're familiar with the hype/trainwreck induced cycle of warring self-doubt and insatiable curiosity, yes? Then you understand. And I honestly didn't give it a second thought after making that decision. Then I read and loved Easy. And I immediately started running across comparisons, mentions of similarities. Plus, several of these new-ish, self-published new adult authors have been all over the place lately, and, well, all that curiosity washed over me full force once more. So I decided I wanted to decide for myself. I think I went in expecting one big hot mess from start to finish, albeit a hot mess I couldn't look away from and would be compelled to see through to its inevitable overwrought ending. You see? I had been warned. But BEAUTIFUL DISASTER still managed to surprise me. In both good and bad ways.
Abby is cardigans and pearls. She's straitlaced and together and interested in finding a dependable, going places boyfriend. Except she's totally not. Abby is dedicated to getting good grades and keeping all her ducks in a row. She's not at all interested in attending one her university's underground fight clubs just to see what it's like. Except she totally is. And that's how she meets the infamous Travis Maddox. His name alone inspires men to sit up straighter and glance over their shoulders. His rakish reputation precedes him, and it seems women fall at his feet as a matter of course. But when these two seeming opposites meet at one of Travis' fights, sparks fly as it were. And a friendship is born in lieu of a romance, as Abby is determined not to become another one of the hapless females Travis leaves in his wake, and for his part, Travis seems unable to look away from a girl who seems to like him well enough but clearly doesn't want him. While their respective friends are somewhat skeptical, somewhat intrigued by their burgeoning friendship, it's what they're hiding from each other--the combustibility of it all--that might cause this fragile new thing to go up in flames before they can figure out just what it is they're dealing with.
I loved the first half. Loved it, I say. Right from this first encounter:
When I finally reached the front, Marek grabbed Travis with his thick arms and attempted to throw him to the ground. When Marek leaned down with the motion, Travis rammed his knee into Marek's face. Before Marek could shake off the blow, Travis lit into him; his fists making contact with Marek's bloodied face over and over.
Five fingers sank into my arm and I jerked back.
"What the hell are you doing, Abby?" Shepley said.
"I can't see from back there!" I called to him.
I turned just in time to see Marek land a solid punch. Travis turned, and for a moment I thought he had dodged another blow, but he made a complete circle, crashing his elbow straight into the center of Marek's nose. Blood sprayed my face, and splattered down the front of my cardigan. Marek fell to the concrete floor with a thud, and for a brief moment the room was completely silent.
Adam threw a scarlet square of fabric on Marek's limp body, and the mob detonated. Cash changed hands once again, and the expressions divided into the smug and the frustrated.
I was pushed around with the movement of those coming and going. America called my name from somewhere in the back, but I was mesmerized by the trail of red from my chest to my waist.
A pair of heavy black boots stepped in front of me, diverting my attention to the floor. My eyes traveled upward; jeans spattered with blood, a set of finely-chiseled abs, a bare, tattooed chest drenched in sweat, and finally a pair of warm, brown eyes. I was shoved from behind, and Travis caught me by the arm before I fell forward.
"Hey! Back up off her!" Travis frowned, shoving anyone who came near me. His stern expression melted into a smile at the sight of my shirt, and then he dabbed my face with a towel. "Sorry about that, Pigeon."
Adam patted the back of Travis' head. "C'mon, Mad Dog! You have some dough waitin' on ya!"
His eyes didn't stray from mine. "It's a damn shame about the sweater. It looks good on you." In the next moment he was engulfed by fans, disappearing the way he came.
They were just too much fun. In fact, my favorite thing about Abby and Travis was their friendship. The motorcycle rides, the dancing, the doing homework together, the laughing. I mean, it was always headed for a conflagration relationship-wise, but the friendship was honestly just so much fun while it lasted. So for the first half of the book, this book and I were BFFs. The problem came at right about the halfway mark, at which point things got monumentally sketchy. The romantic tension was pretty high throughout. The good kind of high. So I was strangely underwhelmed (when the romance actually started going places) at how uninvolved Abby seemed to be when it came right down to it. The character depiction led me to believe Travis was utterly invested, but Abby never seemed to be on the same page. She said she was. But I never felt it. Which resulted in the whole thing feeling very one-sided just at the moment when it should be expanding and growing. It through me right out of the narrative, this empty gap in the arc of their relationship. I bought that he loved her, in as unhealthy a fashion as he did. But Abby's lack of response confused and disappointed me. And it really did feel like a flaw in characterization. Then right on the heels of this blip, the whole book goes right out to lunch. And it never recovers. The plot, the characters, the writing spin away into the void. All that fun, careful development (much more restrained than I was expecting) of the beginning disappeared in what felt like the space of a page.
So I didn't hate myself in the morning. On the contrary, I actually mourned the characters in the morning. How's that for unexpected? The Travis and Abby of the first half were hard to let go. They were so full of life and danger and laughter and jagged edges that I loved them. I went through my day wanting to be around them. Unfortunately, they up and left on me. And the characters who took their place left me utterly cold. The what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, frothing at the mouth frantic, we suddenly haven't learned a thing from the past 200 pages shenanigans that littered the second half had me dropping my nook in my lap in bewildered exhaustion. To be led to care so much for half the book and then to wind up caring so little it didn't even register on the scale was quite the feat and an ignominious one at that. I don't regret my time with them. I just regret their premature loss. It was always a bit of freak show, but it could have pulled it out in the end instead of crashing and burning so spectacularly. Turns out violence and angst and absolute dysfunction for violence and angst and absolute dysfunction's sake just doesn't do it for me. And the thing is, the characters of the first half deserved better. I suppose I can't complain too much. After all, I was warned. So long Travis & Abby. You rocked. And then you really, really didn't....more
Are you getting a certain vibe from the covers of the books I'm reading lately? Yeah, me too. Though it's purely by chance, IOriginally reviewed here.
Are you getting a certain vibe from the covers of the books I'm reading lately? Yeah, me too. Though it's purely by chance, I think it's worth noting that after I read the books themselves, I often feel their covers are somewhat of a mismatch. Not that I don't like them. In fact, I quite like the cover for SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL. It's part of what made me investigate the book further. But I do think they lead you to believe there's going to be more . . . shenanigans . . . going on inside than there really are. Make of that what you will. This is Trish Doller's debut novel, and I had to smile when I looked up her GoodReads profile and she had listed her influences as Kirsty Eagar, Cath Crowley, and Melina Marchetta. Point to you, Ms. Doller. Way to reel in us Aussie YA-obsessed fangirls with just a few well-chosen strokes on your keyboard. But the thing that really drove me to read it was that it is part of the growing New Adult genre. Protagonist Travis is just back from Afghanistan when the story begins, and he can therefore in no way, shape, or form be considered an inexperienced teen. Though he is still very much a young adult. It is exactly this time period that I'm so enjoying reading about these days. So I tracked down an ARC with a few well-chosen strokes on my keyboard and settled in.
Travis would rather be anywhere but home. Even back in Afghanistan. It's just that facing his dysfunctional family in all its glory and all his old friends from high school just after coming off a tour in the war seems ludicrous at best. It doesn't help that his best friend and fellow soldier Charlie was killed in front him. But home he is. Travis is willing to put on a good face for his mother's sake if nothing else. But being constantly faced with his mother's anxiety, his father's disapproval, his ex-girlfriend's defection to his brother's arms, and . . . oh, a nice healthy dose of PTSD, it's well nigh impossible to get through the day, let alone figure out what he's going to do with the rest of his life. Then a chance encounter with a girl he used to know introduces something approximating normal into his life again. The problem is Travis wasn't all that nice to Harper way back when. He realizes that. What he doesn't realize is just how profoundly his lack of care impacted her life. And what kind of a grudge she's been carrying around ever since. Not to worry, though. Her fist to his face quickly puts these things into perspective for our young vet. As for Harper, running into Travis after all this time is like a slap in the face. All those feelings and doubts she thought she'd done away with come rushing back to haunt her. Even though he's clearly done some growing up in the intervening years, she's just not sure it's enough to warrant putting her heart in his uncertain hands.
My absolute favorite thing about this book is that it's written from a male point of view. I thought Travis himself was impressively drawn, and his reactions felt consistently genuine, even if they occasionally bothered me. And they did. I really liked him, but he drove me batty from time to time with a few of his less-than-stellar choices in regards to his personal life, or, more accurately, his avoidance of said choices. Otherwise, I felt for him deeply. His struggles with his family and his complicated relationship with his mother were the high points of the novel. I like that the focus remained on that and on his experiences in the war, that these key issues took precedence over other secondary matters. As a result, I felt firmly centered in Travis' head by the time a few of the usual suspects rolled around. So much so that when faced with the sheer awesomeness that is Harper, I felt myself reaching out along with Travis. Like she was a drink of cool water in the desert. The relationship development is pretty restrained, which is just as it should be given the fact that Harper is one smart cookie and Travis is all sorts of damaged. When we meet him, he's pretty evenly straddling the emotional maturity line between hormonal teenager and sadder-but-wiser young man. Together they fumble their way toward a sort of middle ground. After the aforementioned avoidance tactics. I loved the arc of Travis' story, his flashbacks to Afghanistan, his tenuous overtures to his mother and to Harper, and especially his interaction with his fellow Marines. Both the ones who made it home and the one who didn't. The ending left me with mixed feelings. While I definitely would not have changed a thing about the place Ms. Doller left her characters in, I (cue refrain) felt that what had been a thoughtful and controlled narrative simply . . . ended. The impact was lessened a bit for me, and I would have welcomed another 40 or 50 more pages. It could be argued that I simply have issues letting go. I merely felt that the sheer distance Travis had traveled merited an extended close. Because I enjoyed my time with him. I harbor hopes for him. And for Harper. SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL went down smooth in a single night....more