You know those books you see pop up a TON on review blogs? You read incredible reviews for the book[Review originally published on Rather Be Reading!]
You know those books you see pop up a TON on review blogs? You read incredible reviews for the book and add it to your TBR list on Goodreads, but somehow it takes you months to pick it up?
Yup, that was me with Cinder.
I sincerely wish a blog had blatantly stated SKIP EVERYTHING ELSE AND READ THIS NOW. I absolutely loved Cinder that much. So, this is me telling you to stop what you’re doing and read Cinder immediately.
Fairy tale retellings are a popular thing right now. It’s such a great way for us big kids to relive the stories we used to adore as children, but with a shiny new twist on things. Cinder was precisely that for me – unique and artistic, fresh, and oh-so-good.
Meyer took a lot of creative liberties and didn’t follow the original Cinderella to a T. It’s set in the future and our beloved Cinder is a cyborg, a human that’s been “fixed” by having a foot and an arm replaced with engineered, metal ones. Her step-mother is as atrocious as ever, but the circumstances are different. Cinder is adopted into the family by her step-father (who does, as in the original, pass away). She’s one of the best mechanics in town and undertakes as much work as she can to provide the cushy life her step-mother has grown accustomed to.
Cinder is a mere sixteen years old, but she’s tough and unbreakable. (I suppose having a wretched step-mother can callous you.) I loved her hard core attitude and the way she fumbled over her words when she was in the presence of Prince Kai when they first met. Kai isn’t your stereotypical arrogant/conceited/egotistical prince. He’s a little quirky, very funny, kind and tender-hearted. He was so sweet and immediately had my heart swooning.
Part of the brilliance of Cinder was that the entire cast of characters felt so fully developed. I connected and sympathized with Cinder, but my love wasn’t just for her. All the layers of Kai were peeled back, allowing us to see him for more than just a prince. (I wrote a list of moments I adored with him: when his father passes away, when Cinder arrives at the ball, quiet moments with her in the elevator, and meeting Cinder for the very first time at the festival.) But Meyer didn’t stop the amazingness with the primary characters. She gave Cinder an opinionated, original robotic friend, Iko and the sweetest, most innocent younger step-sister, Peony. Iko and Peony helped show us more than Cinder’s abrasive, distrusting side.
Oftentimes, I dislike when I can guess where a plot is headed (I like to be outsmarted by the author). Something I’ve learned to really like about Meyer’s writing is that she gives her readers just enough subtle hints without spoiling it entirely. Instead of feeling let down that I guessed the ending, I felt a rush as my suspicions were confirmed because I felt like I knew something Cinder didn’t know. I do think Meyer is intentional in the little breadcrumb hints she leaves along the way – she builds anticipation by allowing us to know things and be surprised when the truth is revealed to the characters.
I could go on and on about my love for Cinder, but I hope you’ll take my word for it and pick it up soon. You’ll want to be prepared for the sequel, Scarlet, to come out in February! (This time we get to meet Little Red Riding Hood!)...more
Kate Elliot is a girl who found her identity when she allowed her friend Annie to give her a makeover.[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Kate Elliot is a girl who found her identity when she allowed her friend Annie to give her a makeover. Despite her mother’s blatant disapproval over her new gothic look, Kate won’t falter from dressing this way. While nothing ever seems to please her career-driven politician mother, Kate’s behavior and an unknown mishap (the mystery is unraveled throughout the book) eventually lead her to boarding school. She is no longer welcome in her own home and her parents decide she needs more structure; the time away from her family (they hope) will improve Kate’s attitude and allow their broken relationships to mend.
Kate is forced to room with three very different girls — two popular girls and one rule-breaker with a reputation, Mandy. Kate goes through periods of absolute resentment and distances herself completely from the three girls. Mandy eventually breaks the barrier and forces her way into Kate’s life. They’re an odd pair — Kate stands out because she’s got multiple piercings, dies her hair black, and intentionally wears makeup a few shades paler than her skin tone; Mandy wears skimpy clothes and has a reputation for being a bit slutty. Their friendship was one of the most beautiful aspects (other than Harry’s lovely writing) of I’ll Tell You Mine. Their conversations are full of snark and laugh-out-loud funny moments. Their antics (or rather Mandy’s plans) often lead to trouble.
Mandy is honest and upfront about how she’s feeling; she isn’t afraid of the front Kate puts up to dissuade people from befriending her. Mandy seems utterly naive to Kate’s insecurities and solitary ways. As Mandy begins to strip away the walls Kate has built around herself, we get to know Kate in a whole new way. She’s distraught over the events that occurred with her mother. Why does it seem like she’s always messing things up and doing something to irritate her mom? She misses her dad (who understands self-exploration and calls her mother out on her hypocrisy). Her little sister is one of her favorite people in the world; she wants to set a good example for her.
Kate feels stuck between making new friends and maintaining the old friendships; her two best friends (pre-boarding school) Annie and Noah seem to be moving on just fine without her. She’s heartbroken when she learns that Noah is dating someone new. Will he never see that she’s in love with him? Kate goes through many a transformation and the separation from her life outside of school allows everything to shift into focus. She sees what she was doing wrong, how she could be better, and what she could change.
The question is: Will she ever be given the opportunity to prove she’s a different person or will she just continue to mess things up?
I’ll Tell You Mine is a story I didn’t want to end. Pip’s writing is concise and packed with punch, every word very intentional. I connected to Kate on so many levels — struggling to become your own person but feeling like you’re always coloring outside the lines, being a bit insecure about how you look and what you weigh, and wanting that boy you’ve loved for oh-so-long to finally take notice. The friendship and family aspects were so thoroughly explored and impeccably written; I projected more drama into the book by not always trusting Mandy’s intentions or assuming the worst. Time and time again, Pip proved me wrong and restored my faith in her characters.
Pip’s writing is authentic and realistic. She flawlessly developed a story that everyone should devour. There are a few wonderful surprise gems hidden within the pages of I’ll Tell You Mine (possibly including a love story that made my heart go pitter patter). If you’re interested in a story that’s very true-to-life and will sweep you away, definitely take a chance on Pip Harry’s debut novel.
(Thank you very much to Mandee at VeganYANerds for gifting this incredible book to me!)...more
As a social worker, Holly’s main focus is mental health patients. To get through her long, long days wh[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
As a social worker, Holly’s main focus is mental health patients. To get through her long, long days where she often feels overworked and under-appreciated, she has her best work buddy, Nick. He’s clever and understands her, and often they are paired up together to visit patients. At home, Holly lives with her supportive, kind, geeky boyfriend Tim. She’s excited for all the things they get to experience together and enjoys spying on her next door neighbors.
Holly balances present day (as a young 20-something) with flashbacks from the past. It’s a bit difficult at first to figure out what’s happening in her life, but I settled into the rhythm of Buzo’s intelligent writing quickly. Holly’s battling a lot of things. She’s still reeling from the death of her father who died when she was 15 years old. Her mother is difficult and their relationship isn’t the best. She feels more connected to her high school best friends than she does to her own family, especially since her mother tends to favor her younger brother, Patty.
To avoid dealing with the past (in which there’s a vague story about a boy named Liam that Holly was in love with for a long time), she throws herself into her work. All of her attention and effort are focused on her job. She’s a perfectionist and feels like she can “fix” everyone else.
But what she doesn’t realize is that she needs to heal.
She’s never allowed herself time to properly grieve any of the big circumstances that have happened in her life. She’s always pushed forward. She pretends that life will just carry on. She struggles with accepting change, especially when she begins to realize that her friendships are a blurry version of what they used to be. But what she wants is for her friendships and the people in her life to stay the same, for no one to ever change. It throws her off kilter when everything begins to shift.
Holly’s story, while a simplistic one, is very realistic. As a 27 year old lady, I could very much relate to what Holly was going through. In my personal life, I’ve absolutely struggled with severed friendships and moving on. I’ve cried on countless occasions over people that I no longer see or talk to because we’ve just grown apart. Change is evil. I also fear a lot of things for the future; I have personally never lost a parent or grandparent, so anytime someone is sick or hospitalized, I freak out and go crazy. My family is very close and I just shut down. Essentially, Holly was so focused on fixing everyone else that she didn’t even realize she had all these barriers built up around her to protect her from anything bad that could happen.
This was my second read by Laura Buzo and while the writing was sometimes a bit abrupt when I was sorting through changes in scenery or flashbacks, I still felt incredibly connected to Holly. I really, really enjoyed reading about someone I could relate to so well. Holly is just an ordinary girl going through ordinary life things. I felt very involved in her well-being, and had such a good grasp on her friends, family, coworkers, and even clients. Buzo did what she does best in Holier Than Thou – she explored the life of someone who’s extremely relatable and told her story in a way that causes you to step back and examine your own....more
Woo-hoo! Second audiobook finished. I loved this one. My husband listened to the majority of it with me and we kept laughing out loud together. The stWoo-hoo! Second audiobook finished. I loved this one. My husband listened to the majority of it with me and we kept laughing out loud together. The story is really great and DJ is highly entertaining.
Thanks to the fantastic Lori at Pure Imagination, Dairy Queen was on my radar. It’s been out in the wonderful world of published books for a few years (a 2006 release) so when I saw her audiobook review, I knew that a) I HAD to read the book, and b) I needed to use one of my audible credits to listen to it as an audiobook. I’m very new to the world of listening to books. In fact, this is only my second to finish. But before I begin chatting about the audio aspect of Dairy Queen, let’s get into the nitty gritty details of D.J.’s life.
Things you should know about D.J.:
- Her family owns a milk farm. She single-handedly keeps it running and this has forced her to quit her high school basketball team and be pretty distanced from “normal” high school activities.
- Her brothers are college athletes — athleticism runs in their genes. However, her family’s kind of at an impasse, feuding over something silly and mundane.
- D.J. isn’t the smartest cookie; she failed her Sophomore English class because she couldn’t possibly keep up with the farm work and school.
- D.J. attends Red Bend’s high school. Their arch-rival is Holly.
One day D.J. is approached by Jimmy Ott, the Holly football coach and her father’s best friend, about training Brian Nelson. Jimmy suggests that maybe Brian can do some conditioning and farm work so that he can get in better shape, build his character, and simultaneously lend a hand to a family who desperately needs the help. Brian and D.J. are practically complete opposites. He’s popular and well-known. D.J. has a bit of a reputation as a hick. Brian’s got the big headed attitude of an awesome athlete, but he’ll never become more than the backup quarterback if he doesn’t train more. D.J. has raw, natural talent, but the opportunity for her to participate in sports has been taken away from her.
There’s this fantastic dynamic between Brian and D.J. as they try to figure out how two rivals can work together. And you know, of course, there’s this amazing chemistry that flares up but both of them want to ignore. BUT Dairy Queen offers more than just a tense relationship. There’s so much happening with D.J.’s family; they don’t really speak or communicate well. Why is that? And why is D.J’s best friend, Amber, having such a difficult time with D.J. training Brian? Amber has always been a say-what’s-on-her-mind kind of girl, but the things she’s blabbing to D.J. are becoming hurtful.
So there you have it: a rocky friendship with a questionable best friend, a family that needs a little fixin’, and an awesome dose of two very unlikely characters spending tons of time together.
As for the audio, it was spot on. I loved the narrator, Natalie Moore. She really got into D.J.’s character and I think I probably laughed out loud more than I would have if I were speed reading through the pages. Moore captured my husband’s attention, too, as I asked to listen to Dairy Queen while we were driving to Florida. I had to pause the book and explain the characters, setting, and plot so he could follow along with me. (He was asking a million questions.) We both really enjoyed the story — not too girly for him and not too heavy on the football/farm setting for me.
One bonus? There are two more books following Dairy Queen. I didn’t realize there was more when I finished listening, but I’ve just added The Off Season and Front and Center to my audible shopping cart because I’m so anxious for more D.J. and Brian. (And the rest of the gang, too.) ...more
Tomorrow is a day all book readers need to rejoice, rush to the closest bookstore, purchase a copy of J[Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading]
Tomorrow is a day all book readers need to rejoice, rush to the closest bookstore, purchase a copy of Just One Day, and read it in its entirety. I am not kidding, not in the least. This book is probably one of my very favorite books I’ve read … ever.
Forman took me by complete surprise with her previous books, If I Stay and Where She Went. There are moments I still reflect on scenes from those books and find myself daydreaming about the characters. It’s always a bit scary to read something new when an author leaves that kind of impression. Regardless, Jamie and Anna talked up Just One Day and graciously sent it my way.
Within the first few pages, the confused and very structured main character, Allyson, had struck a chord with me. Her life was controlled and micromanaged by overbearing parents who planned every second of her life. It’s not until the end of her tour in Europe that she realizes how little she’s explored because she was too afraid to do something not on the itinerary (meanwhile, her best friend, Melanie, has made new friends and semi-reinvented herself).
When the chance to go to Paris for a day with Willem (a boy she meets through a local production of a Shakespeare play) arises, she pushes her hesitations aside and chooses to be adventurous. Willem is funny, intelligent, good-looking, and has a wandering spirit that’s up for the challenge of showing Allyson the city. Allyson morphs into an alter-ego, Lulu, who is the bold and daring version of herself. The girl that’s brave and doesn’t need to have every moment pre-planned.
Forman’s writing is beautiful and perfect; her prose is spot on. Her descriptions are vivid — painting clear pictures of the places they went, the people they encountered, the sights they saw. Though I may have expected a “touristy” and overly romantic trek through Paris, what I received was so much more than that. Their stops felt very realistic and not overly idealized. I loved that I didn’t receive the postcard description of the city, but experienced two people discovering themselves in a foreign city in a very natural way. Nothing feels forced, cliched, or contrived.
Maybe you’re like me and you assumed that Just One Day would be mostly an epic love story. Forman’s themes are so strong, making me believe that her words could reach a vast audience.
+ JOD is about a pressured, sheltered girl with high demands being forced on her by her parents (Go to med school. Make something of yourself. Collect clocks. Wear these clothes.) and how she struggles to break free of the mold they’ve so tightly cast around her.
+ It’s about the separation and distance we face when we part from our childhood friends to chase new dreams. (How do you remain friends when it seems life is pulling you in two opposite directions?)
+ There’s the sense of change and wanting to chase after something new and different and acting on it, even though (or maybe especially because) everyone expects you to stay the same.
+ It’s about making friends as an adult and how different that can be than the judgmental ways of high school… and how our preconceived notions of someone can be so, so wrong.
There are no words to describe my love/adoration/infatuation for Just One Day. One day can change the course of your life. I wish I could purchase copies for every person on the planet because it has affected me that immensely.
I highly encourage you, friends, to go out tomorrow and purchase a copy of this book. Allow yourself to fall in love with Paris, to seek answers to all the questions surrounding Willem, and to grow and change with Allyson....more
Definitely loved it! Some parts made my heart beat too fast because as with other books that deal with some pretty messed up situations, I have a hardDefinitely loved it! Some parts made my heart beat too fast because as with other books that deal with some pretty messed up situations, I have a hard time pushing through all the bad to get to the resolution. I feel Doller did a beautiful job making Callie and Alex feel real and genuine, as well as their behaviors and reactions, despite if they made me feel uncomfortable or upset sometimes. ...more
The best piece of advice I can give to a future reader would be that this isn't a book to be read and forgotten. I don't think it's possible to forgetThe best piece of advice I can give to a future reader would be that this isn't a book to be read and forgotten. I don't think it's possible to forget some of the topics, lessons, or pictures that were painted in this book. Overall, reading North of Beautiful was a learning experience - in terms of mapping - and a statement - regarding beauty, self, and love.
As Terra grows to accept her port-stained self, the conversation about the port-wine stain lessens. Simultaneously, her love for her mother blossoms. It's a huge take-away lesson that as we come to understand ourselves more, we also understand those around us better. As Terra begins to accept her beauty - and to define what beauty actually is to her and not what society/magazines/culture defines it as - she also begins to accept her Mom.
There are so many conversational points that can come from this book. One of the biggest was the huge contrast between her mother and father. Her dad struck a cord somewhere deep down inside me. I have never read about a more infuriating character. I wanted to hop through the pages to punch him on behalf of the entire family. I'm not sure that in any future novel I'll ever be able to read "chuckle, chuckle" without thinking of him. It was that impactful. I felt that much hatred toward that man. I could feel the mental anguish he put the entire family through.
I really can't write a review that does justice to Justina Chen Headley's beautiful writing. I can't tell you too much about the novel that would make sense to you without having to explain the parallels and the context. Please, just read this book. So. Beautiful....more
I stayed up entirely too late to finish this book last night and I'm so glad I did. Really, really enjoyed Reena and Sawyer's story, however messy andI stayed up entirely too late to finish this book last night and I'm so glad I did. Really, really enjoyed Reena and Sawyer's story, however messy and complicated it was. It felt so realistic and Reena's reactions felt spot-on to me. I loved how she was honest about what she was thinking and feeling. Was her relationship with Sawyer easy? Heck no. They have their fair share of struggles and trials, but I think Cotugno did a lovely job exploring them.
I recently stayed up entirely too late finishing How to Love by Katie Cotugno. Estelle mailed it to me and on a highlighter pink post-it note, said it had to be my next read. How was I to turn down such a request?
Estelle’s already reviewed How to Love here on the blog so I’m not going to dive into all the nitty gritty details, but I’m feeling like I just need to explore a few particulars that sort of parallel Reena’s and my life right now. Reena is 18 years old. She’s a young mom to a little girl that she wasn’t planning to have. Her baby girl, Hannah, is the best, most unexpected surprise of her life. Reena’s plans have been completely derailed; she was going to move on and do bigger things with her life. Travel the world. But now she’s tied down to her hometown, needing the support of her family and attending community college.
You are all aware that this year I’ve become a mom to a foster daughter. I’ve never been a mom before and while I’m 28 and not 18, becoming a mom seems like it happened in such a whirlwind. The night we got the placement phone call, I was five minutes away from the restaurant where I was supposed to meet up with my book blogging friends for dinner. I was at an intersection when Dustyn called and said, “Sweetie, we’re getting a baby girl. She’s seven months old.” I had no idea what to do. If I drove straight, I would be at Dustyn’s work in two minutes. If I turned right, I’d be sitting at a table sipping margaritas and discussing books. I immediately hung up the phone with him and drove straight. I shakily called my friend Jennifer and said, “I won’t be making it tonight. We’re getting a baby girl.” I had no idea what to do. I wanted to laugh and cry. I think I did both. I was afraid to drive because my whole body seemed to be electrified with this scary anticipation and anxiety.
Chalk and Baby FeetFast forward almost eight months and my life has completely and significantly changed. Dinners are a lot more difficult to schedule now. We live a much more routine life. I feel like I have a more regular bed time than I ever have in my life. I can’t sleep in to save my soul because my body has an internal alarm clock that naturally goes off every single day. I don’t have nearly as much time to read books that are of my choosing and often read the same children’s books over and over to the point of having them memorized. But those are all things that most people accept (and expect) when they make the leap into parenthood. I definitely wouldn’t change a thing and don’t regret a single moment.
But perhaps the single-most interesting element is the fact that due to circumstances lately (that I can’t fully disclose for our foster daughter’s privacy), I feel like I’m sharing custody of this child. I’m having to learn what it is to let go and not be so uptight and stuck in my ways. I am having to let go of a lot of personal feelings I have with her biological family to embrace and love them in ways I didn’t even know I was capable of. I am getting to know people I never anticipated meeting and I’m having my eyes completely opened in amazing ways. Months ago when we found out we were expecting our own baby, I recall agonizing over our housing situation and what we might do if we got to adopt our foster daughter and have Baby Blasig. The question that kept me up at night was, “What are we going to do about a guest bedroom?” In my defense, our parents are here weekly and often spend the night with us. We love having guests and I was extremely worried about the comfort and safety of all parties hypothetically involved.
But these days… that question makes me blush with embarrassment. Having now been to our foster daughter’s biological home, I thank my lucky stars every single time I’m there. I feel extremely grateful and overwhelmingly blessed. I feel so selfish for ever thinking that we needed to have more. We can be a cozy family and despite what arrangements we may have, I feel our families would still make it work. How in the world do you think they’ll stay away from our foster daughter and Baby Blasig? There’s no way!
Baby Legs and Shadows
Some of my favorite stand-out moments are when Sawyer (Hannah’s father) re-enters Reena’s life. He didn’t know Reena was pregnant and was absent for two years, only to make a surprise return one random day. Once he finds out he’s Hannah’s father, he awkwardly tries to weasel his way back into Reena’s life (maybe for reasons more than just his daughter…) by participating in activities with Hannah. They go to the park and push Hannah on the swings. They go for long drives. He takes Hannah when Reena’s at a loss for who else to turn to. Reena and Sawyer? They have some major baggage and a ton of history they need to work through. But when it comes to Hannah, all those feelings are pushed aside for her sake.
Reena flawlessly accepts motherhood, despite how difficult it may be and how derailed her plans may have become. Cotugno beautifully describes her relationship with Hannah and difficult moments for her. One that gave me chills was when Hannah was between the ages of zero and six months and extremely colicky. Nothing would help her sleep more than a long drive. Recently Dustyn and I were reminiscing our very first frightening night with our foster daughter. She’d never before slept in a crib. She didn’t know who we were. We were so scared and nervous. We didn’t know her sounds or sleep/eating patterns. When it was time for bed, she wouldn’t go down. It just wasn’t happening. I recalled something my mom said she did with me when I couldn’t sleep: She’d load me up in the car and just drive. Without fail, I still fall asleep in the car (when I’m a passenger) thanks to all those long drives as a baby. That’s what we did that first night. We loaded her up in the car seat and just drove back and forth on the highway until she was coaxed to sleep. I sat in the backseat with her and cried over how beautiful she was. How scared and nervous and excited and overwhelmed I was. How I had absolutely no idea what the next day was going to be like. How I was out of my league and had no idea what to do.
The lesson, though, is that whether you’re like Hannah or more like me, parenthood is such a beautiful journey. Scary as all get out, but amazing. It all depends on our support systems to get us through, and sometimes we’re most surprised by the changes that can occur because of the children in our lives. And not to be totally corny, but in many, many ways, the children teach us, quite literally, how to love....more
Absolutely positively one of the best books ever. So nice to have finally read one of Rainbow's adult releases. I just really think she can do no wronAbsolutely positively one of the best books ever. So nice to have finally read one of Rainbow's adult releases. I just really think she can do no wrong. I want to read this a million times over. And name a son Lincoln. Ha!...more