April 30, 2014

Rewind & Slow Down Time

Split Second by Kasie West

Release Date: February 11, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins | Harper Teen
Pages: 360 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
Series: Pivot Point #2
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Amazon)
Addie has always been able to see the future when faced with a choice, but that doesn't make her present any easier. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. So when Addie's dad invites her to spend her winter break with him in the Norm world, she jumps at the chance. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He's a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. She wants to change that.

Laila, her best friend, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie's memories... once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don't want this to happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school —but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

In the suspenseful sequel to Pivot Point, Addie tries desperately to retrieve her lost memories and piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot.

Brief Thoughts on Split Second
When I first picked up Pivot Point, I went in with almost no expectations. I was intrigued by the cover but found the summary a little weird. Searching the future to see the outcome of a choice? Okay... Seeing other bloggers shower the book with love finally convinced me to give it a shot. And I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The concept was different, but the execution of it was excellent.

The book ended at a critical moment that left me dying for the sequel immediately! I had to know what happened to Addie next. So, I was curious, hopeful and excited to dive into Split Second - even though it seemed like it was going to focus more on Laila's story than Addie's. Thankfully, there was so much to discover about both ladies that I was completely caught up in the story from the start.

Pivot Point was structured differently with the chapters alternating between the two possible futures, but Split Second is a more linear story. You'll see the aftermath of the choice that Laila made after searching her future... and the way Addie is integral in getting back all Laila lost in the process. But Addie's not just there to help Laila! She's got her own story (and romance!) going on in this book, which I really loved.

There's a lot of new information introduced in this story - about the Compound, the girls' powers, their families, etc. I really loved that the ending was resolved, but there was still the possibility for future development if West ever decided to write more in this world. As someone who doesn't read many books like this one, I really enjoyed getting lost in this story. This book was addicting, romantic and funny (even though it has serious moments, too) - and I was completely satisfied by the ending. All in all, I've realized I become an even bigger Kasie West fan with each book I read by her!

So Quotable
He sighed. "Does it get tiring?"
"What?"
"Always thinking you're right."
I smiled. "No, not really. It's other people not realizing I'm right that gets tiring."

April 29, 2014

Turn Off The TV & Take A Chance On This

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

Since I love TV, I couldn't limit myself to just one show with ten books that correspond. Plus, that ended up being way too difficult. So, I decided to highlight SIX shows with an adult and young adult book for each! 

Top Ten Books If You Like These TV Shows
1. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: freshman year of college | finding your way | not fitting in
2. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham: New York | two guys | following your dreams
3. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord: friendship | Southern | real issues
4. Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer: football | small town | family
5. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen: scandal | drama | society elite
6. No Angel by Penny Vincenzi: generational saga | romance | history
7. New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal: inheritance | angst | drama
8. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice: outsider to insider | wealth | gossip
9. Heist Society by Ally Carter: hijinks | disguises | around the world
10. The Negotiator by Dee Henderson: thriller | smart leading lady | demons from the past
11. If I Stay by Gayle Forman: life or death | accident | tragic but hopeful
12. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: ethical medical issue | love story | tears

April 28, 2014

Time Keeps Tearing Us Apart

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Release Date: June 2012 (Originally 2010)
Publisher: Penguin | Pamela Dorman Books
Pages: 416 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
A sophisticated, page-turning double love story spanning forty years - an unforgettable Brief Encounter for our times.

It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing - not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply "B", asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archive. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.

Thoughts on The Last Letter from Your Lover
First things first: I read the hardcover version of this book, which looks different from the one I'm highlighting in my post. I like this hot pink cover better because it matches the look of the other Moyes U.S. releases, BUT I picked up my copy at a used bookstore in Boston while traveling for work so mine has character that makes up for the not-as-cool cover.

Like The Girl You Left Behind, The Last Letter from Your Lover includes historical and contemporary sections. The book opens in the 1960s and sets up the main conflict: Jennifer Stirling has been in a car accident, and now she can't remember anything about her life. Her husband is a stranger to her... and then she finds a letter, hidden away, begging her to leave him and signed only "B." Jennifer is wealthy and has a glamorous life that many could only dream of, so why is she so haunted by the mysterious "B"? The passion in his letter has her wondering - who is he and where can she find him?

The contemporary portion is set in 2003 and involves a young woman named Ellie. She's involved in an affair with a married man, and it's complicating her entire life. She's lost her focus and her footing at work when she discovers a moving love letter that leads her on a wild goose chase to discover the author and the recipient. She claims it's just for a story, but there are personal reasons why she's invested in seeing this through.

I read this book at the beginning of March, but I purchased it in August. I'd actually been a little hesitant to read it. As much as I loved the two Moyes books I had read, I was wary of this one because of the summary. Although I don't completely avoid books involving cheating/affairs, I don't gravitate towards them (especially when it involves marriage). There are a few things that I have a hard time separating how I feel about them in real life from how I feel about them in a book, and cheating is one of those things. The biggest reason is this: I struggle with rooting for a couple whose relationship starts from that point, even if it's only fiction. But when a good blogging friend mentioned reading it at the same time, I figured that was just what I needed to finally dive in!

Despite my misgivings, I can tell you that I really did love this book. Did I have moments where my own personal beliefs influenced the way I felt about what I was reading? Sure. I know that as much as I loved this book, I would have loved it even more if the main character wasn't married. I get that it creates drama and angst, but I still really hate that I couldn't get quite as invested in this couple as I would have liked. But I still have to give Moyes credit for writing an incredibly moving story with characters that I truly loved, even when I struggled with their actions.

Jennifer and her lover make up the primary focus of the book for a long time before it shifts to Ellie and her life. This aspect reminded me of The Girl You Left Behindi: the book is set solely during the historical time period for a long time before finally switching completely to the contemporary portion. The two halves do connect, but there's a pronounced shift from one section to the other (not an intermingling of the two time periods throughout the book). I'll admit that I'm a little bit torn on the way this was done. I don't like it when books jump around a lot between two time periods, but the second storyline and those characters are introduced so late in the book that it (in some ways) feels like they detract a little bit from the primary story.

On the one hand, I truly do like the way the two stories work together to paint a more complete picture of what's going on. But, on the other hand, I was so invested in Jennifer and B that I was kind of annoyed at first when it switched to Ellie. I truly did grow to like her (despite the fact that you want to yell at her a little bit), but it took a little warming up to her. The problem I had with the contemporary portion is that Ellie's story didn't feel entirely necessary. But Jojo Moyes has still become an auto-buy author, and I really can't complain about much in this book. There's real emotion, exciting action and charming characters in The Last Letter from Your Lover, which is a recipe for a great read.

This was my least favorite of the three books I've read by Moyes at this point; however, my least favorite from Moyes is still a thousand times better than so much of what I've read. Moyes is an incredibly gifted author, and I'm so glad that she's becoming more well-known in the U.S. Many of her books previously only published in the U.K. are finally making there way here, and that's definitely something to celebrate.

The Last Letter from Your Lover is romantic, thrilling and bittersweet. Once I was hooked, I couldn't put it down. It might not be the first Moyes I'd recommend, but I bet that you'll be clamoring for anything and everything by her once you give any of her books a shot!

So Quotable
"Somewhere in this world is a man who loves you, who understands how precious and clever and kind you are. A man who has always loved you and, to his detriment, suspects he always will."

April 24, 2014

A Place to Belong

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Release Date: June 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Atria Books
Pages: 448 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle e-book
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her - her identity, her spirit, her will to live - pay.

Josh Bennett's story is no secret: every person who loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is to be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won't go away until she's insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensified and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she's been hiding - or if he even wants to.

Thoughts on The Sea of Tranquility
I actually bought The Sea of Tranquility in January 2013, which I know only because that was when I started sharing what books I'd bought each month on my blog. Why is that date significant? Well, it wasn't long after I'd returned to blogging after a six-month hiatus, and I'm pretty sure it was before I discovered the amazingness that is Kelly from Belle of the Literati.

What prompted me to buy the book? I have absolutely no idea. Maybe I saw positive Goodreads reviews? Maybe I liked the sample? Maybe a blogger I followed at the time reviewed it? The reason why is now a mystery to me because the summary alone really doesn't sound like something I'd pick up on my own. But the heart of the matter remains the same: this book languished on my Kindle for more than a year. It sat there, unread, containing untold amounts of goodness that I was missing out on with every single day that passed.

Thankfully, Kelly came into the picture. She wouldn't shut up about this book! I noticed it on her blog a lot, so it always stayed there in the back of my mind when I thought about books that I owned but still hadn't read. One day, I came right out and asked her: do I need to move this up on my TBR? I'm not going to lie - her resounding yes was pretty convincing. And then I found out Betty from Book Rock Betty was about to read it, too! Impromptu read-along? Sure thing, sugar.

The Sea of Tranquility is the perfect example of why I typically avoid participating in read-alongs. As much as I love the idea of them, I really struggle with actually doing them. I either lose interest in the book and fall behind or... I enjoy the book so much that I race ahead and finish long before everyone else. I'm hoping you can guess that this book fell into the latter category. Y'all, for the first time ever, I was trying to sneak pages of a book in at work. Every time I would try to work on something my mind would just went back to Nastya and Josh. Every time. Betty and Kelly can attest to this fact because a) Kelly and I had a long, fangirl-y text conversation going on where we discussed the many reasons this book had me under its spell and b) Betty was barely getting started and couldn't believe how much I'd already read. Eeep!

I don't even really know what to say. I started out a bit skeptical and, honestly, worried about what I'd say to Kelly if I didn't love it as much as she did. Pushing a book on someone is scary, especially when it's one of your all-time favorite books ever. And it's a little scary as a reader to read something based on someone else's recommendation when they love it in such a personal way. Thankfully, I fell for The Sea of Tranquility in a way I didn't totally didn't see coming. This book exemplifies why I get so mad at myself for buying books and leaving them unread for months+ at a time. Why did I wait so long to discover the beauty inside its pages?

This was the third book I read this year, and it immediately got five stars from me (which I haven't changed since - something I notoriously do after I've had more time to think about a book). I'm just now "reviewing" it because I couldn't really figure out what I wanted to say about it. How do you talk about a book that you loved so much that you can't really discuss it analytically? Listen, I know this book had some flaws. I can think of a few minor things that didn't totally work for me. But overall? I was a giddy reader on the high that comes when you find a new favorite read.

And yes, I'm aware that it's a book I've told you nothing about at this point. Oh well! Nastya and Josh are two of my very favorite characters I've discovered in a long time, and their interactions had such a poignancy to them. I can remember so many scenes from this book so specifically, which is a miracle because my mind basically empties itself of all small details about a book after I finish it. (Yes, Kelly can attest to this fact, too. Trying to fangirl with me while you read something that I read a while ago is basically impossible. I'm sorry! I want to remember, I really do.)

I closed this book with a huge grin on my face, and I immediately wanted to read it again. I haven't re-read it yet, but I totally will before the end of the year. The Sea of Tranquility is emotional, romantic, heartbreaking, infuriating, hilarious, amazing, intense and just downright wonderful. Adjective overload? Maybe. But it's totally deserving!

Plenty of bloggers can give you a better idea of what to expect from The Sea of Tranquility, and maybe one day I'll write a "re-read" review where I actually talk about the book and not just my reaction to it. For now, I think this is a fitting tribute to a book that sat on my shelf for more than a year and was totally deserving of my attention long before that. The Sea of Tranquility was a new all-time favorite for me! This book is really something special.

So Quotable
"I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk."

April 22, 2014

Let's Make This A Reality

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

Top Ten Characters I Could See on Reality TV
1. Past Perfect by Leila Sales | Historical reenactment village = totally valuable random treasures.
2. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas | I would PAY MONEY to see Celaena on this show.
3. The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen | Like a historical version of Gossip Girl, major drama included.
4. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins | Let's just imagine Tim Gunn and Lola in the work room.
5. The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson | An unexpected choice but totally the underdog winner.
6. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham | Girl in her 20s hoping for her big break. LC or Franny?
7. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner | If they can travel through space together...
8. Open Road Summer by Emery Lord | Matt doesn't want to get through only on his early fame. Duh.
9. Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer | Queenie could also hold her own on Hell's Kitchen if she wanted.
10. Crash Into You by Katie McGarry | Surprise car redesign + inspirational story? Totally these two.

April 21, 2014

Big Mama, Her Baby & Her Boy

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle

Release Date: February 8, 2013
Publisher: Tyndale House
Pages: 240 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Paperback
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
"There is really no better indicator you're a mother than acquiring the ability to catch throw-up in a plastic bag, disinfect your hands, and immediately ask your friend to pass the beef jerky as you put on another Taylor Swift song and act as if nothing has happened."

This is the type of insight Melanie Shankle offers in this quirky memoir of motherhood.

Written in the familiar, stream-of-consciousness style of her blog, Big Mama, Sparkly Green Earrings is a heartwarming and hilarious look at motherhood from someone who is still trying to figure it out. Filled with personal stories — from the decision to become a mother to the heartbreak of miscarriage and ultimately, to the joy of raising a baby and living to tell about it  Sparkly Green Earrings will make you feel like you're sitting across the table from your best friend. A must-read for anyone who's ever had a child or even thought about it.

Thoughts on Sparkly Green Earrings
Melanie Shankle is author of the Big Mama blog, which I didn't start reading until after I'd discovered her book. I kept seeing Sparkly Green Earrings at the Christian bookstore, and I was attracted to the cover. Yep, I'm a total sucker for an eye-catching cover! Anyway, I picked this up a few times and thought about buying it... but I always ended up putting it back down since it's about motherhood. I'm not a mama yet, so I wasn't really sure how relevant or relatable this book would be for me.

I finally decided to give it a shot, and I'm really glad I did! Sure, I don't have any babies yet, but I still found a lot to enjoy about this book. Shankle's book is a lot like reading a blog - each chapter is a short essay that concludes with the end of the chapter. The stories are mostly light and funny, and they wrap up with some broader thought or lesson. It's not really a memoir or a devotional, but it has elements of both. Shankle talks about how having a daughter has changed her. She's funny and doesn't take herself too seriously, but she also has some wise words about what it means to be a mom and what God has taught her through motherhood.

There's not really an over-arching theme that carries through the whole book, which is why it read like a collection of essays. While there wasn't always a ton of depth to the chapters, Shankle is a great storyteller. I caught myself laughing out loud a few times! The conversational, stream-of-consciousness writing style made for a fun, quick read. I couldn't really relate to very much in the book at this point in my life, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of it. Sparkly Green Earrings was a cross between a memoir, blog and a devotional - one that would appeal to moms who would appreciate reflections on faith and motherhood.

So Quotable
"Real motherhood is different. It's better and it's messier and it's more complicated. It will break your heart and make you laugh harder than you ever imagined. You find yourself alternating between feeling like your friends talked you into some sort of pyramid scheme so you could share in their misery and thinking this is the most fulfilling thing you've ever done in your life."
The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle

Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Tyndale House
Pages: 205 pages
Source & Format: Bought; Paperback
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Welcome to the story of a real marriage.

Marriage is simultaneously the biggest blessing and the greatest challenge two people can ever take on. It is the joy of knowing there is someone to share in your joys and sorrows, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it's a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall.

In The Antelope in the Living Room, New York Times best-selling author and blogger Melanie Shankle does for marriage what Sparkly Green Earrings did for motherhood — makes us laugh out loud and smile through tears as she shares the holy and the hilarity of that magical and mysterious union called marriage.

Brief Thoughts on The Antelope in the Living Room
After finishing Sparkly Green Earrings, I knew I wanted to pick up Shankle's The Antelope in the Living Room. Her second book came out earlier this year, and this one focuses on marriage. In a lot of ways, this book is just like Sparkly Green Earrings just focusing on a different topic. It's written in the same conversational style, which is very similar to reading a collection of blog posts.

The chapters are set up in the same way - telling a story and concluding with a lesson that ties it all up. The stories are funny and light, and they mostly stay surface-level (and that's not necessarily a bad thing). I wanted to a quick, enjoyable read and that's what I got with this book! I related to the stories in this book a lot more than the ones in Sparkly Green Earrings, and I'm sure that's because of where I'm at in life right now. I haven't been married nearly as long as Shankle, but there were definitely stories that reminded me of moments in my own marriage. Because of that, I laughed a lot more while reading The Antelope in the Living Room (to the point that my husband heard me from another room and kept asking what was so funny).

This book just focuses on Shankle's marriage specifically, not marriage advice in general. It can be a little all-over-the-place at times, but I'm glad that I read it. I've started following Shankle's blog since finishing both of her books, and I've found it very representative of everything I've read by her so far. So, if you're interested, check out her blog for an idea of whether or not her books might be for you! I had fun reading The Antelope in the Living Room and finished it in one night with a huge grin on my face the whole time I was reading.

So Quotable
"When I look in his eyes, I don't see perfection. I don't see a love story that would necessarily be something people would watch on a big screen and dream about. I see someone who will fight for me and protect me and love me in spite of all the ways I am still a wreck. I see home. Wherever he is. That's my home."

April 18, 2014

Putting Twitter in Time Out

Y'all, I gotta put my mama pants on for a second. In other words: we need to talk.

I had a personal Twitter account long before I started blogging, but I didn't create an account for my blog until a few months after I started writing in this little corner of the world. I had no idea what I was missing out on! Becoming active on Twitter had a huge impact on the growth of my blog. The more I interacted with people, the more blogs I found to read. And the more blogs I visited, the more I put myself out there and started building relationships with people.

Needless to say, I fell in love with Twitter because it helped me talk with fun, bookish people around the world. It was so addicting! I wasn't tweeting a ton, but I was constantly joining in on awesome conversations. But I've noticed that I don't get on as much lately. And when I do, I'm not as excited about scrolling through my feed. Mostly, I just respond to mentions.

So, what's changed? Honestly, I've been really discouraged lately whenever I get on. I'm an adult with a husband and a job... and I thought that I'd left high school behavior behind. I'm sure this has been going on for ages, but it's only lately that I feel like I'm seeing it happen so often:

Vague tweets criticizing or complaining about 
other bloggers without actually identifying them.

Y'all, it's driving me crazy. You know why? It absolutely sucks when you think that you either recognize yourself or one of your friends in a tweet like that. It's so hurtful and frustrating because what can you say or do in response? The worst part is the fact that it's vague so everyone starts responding asking what happened. Whether the person responds publicly or moves it to DMs, the conversation still started in full view of everyone.

Listen, sometimes people say or do things that irritates others. The natural inclination is then to vent about it. I get it. I promise that I do. But I work with social media everyday for my job, and I'm constantly amazed by the things that people put online. Is a vague tweet about someone a huge deal in the grand scheme of things or that bad in comparison to some of the other stuff I've seen? No way. But it's still hurtful.

Here's the thing I always find a little baffling about public complaints or grievances: they're often talking about people often who follow them on Twitter and sometimes even people that they follow back. Being vague may keep someone else's name out of it, but it doesn't take away the sting of hurt. And chances are that the person who is the subject of the tweet is going to see it at some point.

We call it a book blogging community, which (to me) implies that there's a relational aspect. It's not just a group of people with shared interests. Or, at least, I'd like to think that it's more than the disconnectedness that simply the word "group" implies. So, why do I feel like my stomach is in knots when I sign in? I don't have the energy or desire to surround myself with drama, and I want blogging and social media to be FUN.

Rather than secretly be sad about it, I figured I should just lay it out there. I'm tired of seeing bloggers use social media to complain or talk about other bloggers. To me, it's not the right forum for it. Someone makes you mad? Totally fine. Feel free to talk and complain about it all you want. But think about doing it privately instead.

Here are questions that I think are worth asking before posting something on social media:

1. Does this need to be said?
2. Does this add value?
3. Would I say this face-to-face?
4. What's my motivation for saying it?
5. Could saying this have any consequences?

Listen, I don't mind vague tweets for the most part, but I do when they are about people. There's a person behind the computer. A living, breathing person with feelings, whether or not you like them. I'm not calling for a revolution or anything - just a little consideration. I want Twitter to be a place that's welcoming, inviting, and enjoyable. Sure, there will always be spam and random crazies... but I want the lame side of Twitter to be limited to trolls and not to the bloggers that I've chosen to follow.

I'm not your mama, and I can't tell anyone how to tweet. But I can throw my two cents in, and tell you where I'm at right now. Tweeting about other people is rude, even if their name is never mentioned. They may have been rude first, but my mama always told me: you can't control other people but you can control how you react. I'm not perfect, and I certainly don't get it right all the time. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying to be respectful, think about others and be thoughtful in everything that I say and do.

My personal rule of thumb:
If I wouldn't say it to your face, I won't say it online at all.

April 16, 2014

Sugar & Spice

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury | Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 342 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O'Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind... and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah's 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord's gorgeous hits all the right notes.

Thoughts on Open Road Summer
Well, goodness gracious. This book wasn't really on my radar until Cass pointed it out to me. I thought it sounded like something she'd love, but it didn't jump to the top of my reading wish list. Little did I know, Open Road Summer was soon to become one of my favorite reads of 2014!

And when I say favorites, I should clarify that I'm completely and totally so obsessed with this book. So, it's really more like favorites of all time. Let me count the reasons why:

1. Best Friends.
Books involving best friends? Count me in! There's so much I loved about Reagan and Dee's friendship. Reagan is the wild child, and Dee is the "perfect" one. Reagan's family is complicated, but there's no place like home for Dee. They're opposites in so many ways, but they balance each other out so perfectly.

So many books involving female friendships focus on the negatives - fighting, falling outs and frenemies. Open Road Summer was everything I've wanted from book friendships!
"I owe Dee for so much, for pinkie links and kindnesses and phone calls and bail-outs. This is the currency of friendship, traded over years and miles, and I hope it's an even exchange someday. For now, I do what all best friends do when there's nothing left to say. We lie together in the darkness, shoulder to shoulder, and wait for the worst to be over."
These girls are like sisters, and I couldn't help but admire their loyalty to one another. Even when they argue, you know they've still got each other's backs at the end of the day. I loved reading a book where the friendship was central to the story and was portrayed in such a positive light.

2. Matt Finch.
Holy guacamole! Matt Finch is definitely making my list of book boys worth swooning over. Sweet, funny, attractive, talented, flirtatious... What's not to love?
"His eyes are somewhere between gray and blue, and his hair is somewhere between brown and blond, and I am somewhere between hostile and attracted."
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I can't get enough of relationships that start with a little conflict. Anne and Gilbert. Lizzie and Darcy. Veronica and Logan. HELLO! Butting heads with an undercurrent of attraction? I'm totally and completely sold. So, you shouldn't be surprised that I loved Matt's interaction with Reagan based on the quote I highlighted above.

Do you know how much I love Matt Finch? I once wrote a post about my three favorite "types" of book boys, and noted two qualities that went along with each type. I'm not sure how, but I feel like Matt embodied every single one: loyal, patient, strong, steady, playful and teasing. And let's not forget his music! I've never been so disappointed about the fact that an album doesn't actually exist.

3. Music Tour.
I've always loved books involving road trips, but traveling the country on buses for a music tour takes the concept to a whole different level. Dee is an up-and-coming country star, and she's about to set out on her summer tour. But it's not all fun and games.
"For me, this summer is more than a pleasant detour; it's a necessary diversion. For the past year, I've been stuck in the life of a normal junior in high school, passing the time with people I don't especially like at parties that aren't especially fun. So I made my own fun, and it did not go very well."
For Reagan, the tour is an escape from her past mistakes and difficult family life. For Dee, it's taking her away from the people she loves most. They are both experiencing heartbreak, although with different causes, and the tour is an opportunity for them to get away. They may not be able to run from their problems, but the tour offers them a chance to heal.

4. Song Lyrics.
I mentioned in a review before that I usually don't like when emails, texts or lyrics are included in a book. I'm not sure why, but I often find them distracting... or my eyes just kind of glaze over while I'm reading them. And then Open Road Summer convinced me otherwise.
"Dee says that phrases in songs are like beads in a necklace – they should stand on their own, but they make the most sense together."
Like I said in my previous point, I was actually disappointed that I couldn't go out and purchase these songs! They added so much to the story and held so much emotion that I found myself grinning stupidly at the pages. I actually highlighted a few of the lyrics, and that almost never happens for me.

5. Celebrity Drama.
Because Dee is a talented musician, her every word and action is in the spotlight. There's always something threatening to derail her career or ruin her image. The fascination may help sell records, but it also poses a threat when it involves the pressure of constant scrutiny.
"For two years, her rising popularity has seemed untouchable. She doesn't have a backup plan. This career is all she's ever wanted or worked for. Her sponsorship, her fan base, her future: it's all hanging in the balance between rabid reporters and judgmental mothers who will refuse to buy concert tickets for their daughters."
I liked that the precarious nature of celebrity played a role in Open Road Summer. Our culture has elevated celebrities to impossible heights, and we seem to revel when they fall from grace. It's something that I find so sad! The fickle nature of the public, the challenges and privileges that come with being young and famous and the obsession with celebrities make for fascinating discussions. They're only lightly touched upon in Open Road Summer, but they were still such a nice addition.

6. Young Love.
Ahhh, young love. Are you wondering why I Matt Finch and young love make my list separately? While Matt definitely contributes to the swoon in the book, the portrayal of young love goes beyond that in Open Road Summer. You've got breaking up, trying to get over your first love, flirting, developing a crush, having a fight, feeling betrayed, falling for the wrong person... There's a little bit of everything!
"You know what? I think it's the bravest thing in the world... to run straight at love, even knowing how badly you could get hurt."
Don't you just love that quote? To love anything is to open yourself up to risk. It's brave and beautiful. I loved that you get all these tiny glimpses at the different stages of young love in a single book. I think most people will find something they can relate to in this story for that fact alone!

7. Mean Girls.
Reagan hasn't had a great experience with girls. She's got her best friend, sure, but she doesn't really care for anyone else. She's been the subject of gossip and ridicule, and she covers up her hurt in a variety of ways.
"I grew up in a minefield of mean girls, and their snarky shrapnel made me bionic."
My mom has talked to me before about what she calls the cycle of rejection - how when someone hurts or rejects you, it's easy to then turn around and hurt or reject that person or someone else like them. It's not always on purpose. Sometimes, the instinct to protect yourself, to hide your hurt, results in passing that hurt onto the ones who have hurt you or others who represent that hurt. It's something I noticed with Reagan, and I loved the way Emery portrayed it (even if it was painful to read at times).

Girls have said horrible things about Reagan, and she's been the subject of their judgment for years. And it's something that she then turns around and does to others. She's been rejected, so she rejects others. It seems so hypocritical, right? To shame others with the same accusations that have been hurled at you. While I wish it wasn't that way, I can't deny that it's so common (at least in my experience). Someone has to be able to break the cycle, but it takes maturity and time. Being able to stop perpetuating that rejection won't happen overnight, which is why I thought Reagan's characterization was so realistic.

It's not the ideal world or behavior, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be portrayed. It's a delicate balance - to create a rejected character who rejects others while still making them someone a reader is invested in and wants to see prosper. For me, Emery totally succeeded. I didn't necessarily like everything Reagan said or did, but I still loved this book and this character. I could totally see an adult Reagan doing better, breaking the cycle, but I understood why she wasn't able to during Open Road Summer.

8. See for Yourself.
I know I had way too much to say about Open Road Summer, but it's only because I loved it so much. But there's still so much to discover for yourself! I immediately pre-ordered this book when I finished the review copy, and I did a little happy dance when it showed up at my door yesterday.

In Open Road Summer, Emery Lord has written a story about loyalty, love and loss... and all the complicated things in between. This book has so much heart, and you don't want to miss it! I was enchanted by the characters and their stories, and I can't wait for more readers to discover this talented author in her incredible debut.

So Quotable
"If we could capture feelings like we capture pictures, none of us would ever leave our rooms. It would be so tempting to inhabit the good moments over and over again. But I don't want to be the kind of person who lives backwardly, who memorializes moments before she's finished living in them."
*I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review. 

April 15, 2014

Just Click "Add to Cart"

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists - so it makes perfect sense that I'd love this feature!

Top Ten Bookish Things (Not Books) That I'd Like to Own
1. Custom Blog Design - I love my current design and am so happy with the pre-made template that I chose. However, in my dream world, I'd love to have a custom design. I don't know how long I'll be around the blogosphere though, so I always feel like I can't justify the cost.

2. I Never Met A Book I Wouldn't Take to Bed Shirt - I've never bought a book-related shirt before, but this is one I just cannot resist! It makes me laugh and has been on my wishlist for a long time. It's probably time I take the plunge and just buy it already.

3. Book Lovers Mug - I'm not sure how much my husband will appreciate this mug, but it's too cute not to buy it. So nerdy, but so adorable! The seller also makes it as a print if you want some nerd love on your wall instead.

4. She Is Too Fond of Books Tote Bag - Can't you just see me schlepping this around the library? I always walk out with WAY more books than I went in to pick up, and I think this will contribute nicely to that little habit.

5. Ikea KALLAX Shelves - I was pretty sad when I found out the Ikea was discontinuing their EXPEDIT shelves (since I already own two of them), but it seems like their new KALLAX line is almost identical. I hope that's true because I was planning on expanding my library!

6. Ideal Bookshelf 660: Girl Stars - I almost put a custom Ideal Bookshelf painting on my wishlist, but I've also got a soft spot for these prints. As a huge fan of classics and amazing heroines, I'd most like to hang this one with the other two I already own.

7. Great Expectations - I haven't seen this movie yet, but I started reading the book after I watched the recent mini-series version starring Douglas Booth (hottie alert!). With Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes, this one has me curious!

8. The Invisible Woman - Another literary movie I haven't seen but want to - starring Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens and Felicity Jones as the young woman he has an affair with (I think?). Anyway, I'm a sucker for costume dramas so I really look forward to watching it!

9. Reading Chair - I don't want this exact chair, but I am dying to have a comfy and cozy chaise lounge as my very own reading spot. I typically read in the bath, in bed or on the couch... but I can totally see myself curling up in a spot like this with a good book.

10. Custom Calligraphy Book Stamp - I have zero idea if I'd actually use this because I have a difficult relationship with stamps... but I like to think that this stamp would actually work for me. It looks so gorgeous in the pictures, right?!

April 14, 2014

Lying Through Your Teeth

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Release Date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: Random House | Delacorte
Pages: 240 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends - the Liars - whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Thoughts on We Were Liars
I'm really not sure what to say about We Were Liars, and I don't think I've ever been this conflicted about a book before. I'm going to briefly share four things I think you need to know about We Were Liars, followed three reasons (one of them very vague) why this book just didn't work for me.

Four Things To Know About This Book:

1. The less you know the better.
I absolutely agree with all the reviews that say the less you know about this story the better. The climactic moment of We Were Liars hinges on a major plot twist that you don't want to know beforehand. The book is narrated by Cady - the "brilliant, damaged girl" described in the summary - who has no memory of the "accident." If you're like me, you'll spend a lot of the time leading up to the twist trying to guess what exactly happened. But it's better if you don't have any real idea what's coming.

2. The hype machine is in full gear for this book.
To be honest, I can't remember the last time there was this much hype surrounding a book. I feel like so many of the early reviews for this book have been fawning proclamations of love. There's nothing wrong with that at all - it's awesome when people are really passionate about a book. I'm just not in that camp with this one. I spent most of the book confused but still enjoying what I was reading. Until I wasn't. And then I never recovered my former positive feelings.

3. The writing style is lyrical, but it's also very confusing and disjointed.
One thing I really liked, particularly in the beginning, is the writing style. It's confusing and hard to connect to, but it's also really different and memorable. You can tell that Cady isn't totally mentally sound from the way it's narrated, so I think it was a fitting decision to write the book this way. But it's also really frustrating at times. The disjointedness started to grate on my nerves by the end, but I can still admit that I think I get the reasoning behind it.

4. The story will leave you talking.
Whether or not you like this book, you'll probably want to talk about it. This is nothing like the other books I've previously read by Lockhart, except that I think most of her books provoke some kind of discussion. I can absolutely say that I wanted to talk about this book by the time I closed the last page. I had so many thoughts, and it was the first time I wasn't able to rate a book on Goodreads immediately after finishing. I had to take time to sort through my feelings, which were incredibly intense and conflicted.

Three Reasons It Didn't Work For Me:

1. The characters and their relationships.
I'm not sure if it's because of the way it was written or the brevity of the book, but I really struggled with these characters and their relationships. They are almost all unlikeable (not a deal breaker for me), but what bothered me more was that I found certain elements of their interactions and conversations to be almost unbelievable. It required too much of a suspension of my disbelief for me to really buy into the story. The twist left me completely emotionless because I didn't care about these people who were mostly awful, very entitled and made such stupid decisions.

2. The twist was one of my biggest bookish pet peeves / deal breakers.
I can't say what the twist was because that would spoil it, and I promise not to do that. However, I do have to acknowledge that I actively avoid books that use this element for a story's resolution or as an explanation for the majority of the plot. I find it incredibly frustrating when a book I've become invested uses this particular element, so my reaction to this book was definitely affected by my personal dislike of books with this kind of twist.

3. The way I felt when it ended.
A lot of early reviews have indicated that you should have tissues nearby when reading because the book left them in tears. I felt absolutely none of that when I turned the last page. My overall emotion was anger and complete frustration. There was nothing hopeful for me about the way We Were Liars ends. It's an ending that doesn't really provide much closure, and it sort of highlighted all the issues I was having with the book by that point. I can't stand how conflicted I still feel about this book.

Why Can't I Rate It?
I developed a new rating system not that long ago, but I can't use it for this book. There's really no fair way to assign one of my rating phrases to We Were Liars. I think many readers will love it - there is a reason it's being hyped this much - but I wasn't one of them. I don't want to discourage anyone from reading it because I know some of my feelings were based on my personal dislike for one of the elements that is crucial to the conclusion of this story. No book works for everyone, and this one definitely didn't for me.

So Quotable
"It was love, and it hit me so hard I leaned against the screen door that still stood between us, just to stay vertical. I wanted to touch him like he was a bunny, a kitten, something so special and soft your fingertips can't leave it alone. The universe was good because he was in it. I loved the hole in his jeans and the dirt on his bare feet and the scab on his elbow and the scar that laced through one eyebrow."

*I received a copy of this book from Delacorte in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way.

April 11, 2014

Consider This Classic: Elena Recommends

Consider This Classic is a monthly feature where bloggers highlight and recommend their favorite classic. They'll tell you when they first read it, why they love it and where to go from there. If you'd like to participate in Consider This Classic, click here to sign up.

I'm seriously so excited to have Elena from Novel Sounds here mixing it up this month. Instead of recommending just one book, Elena offered to write a little "Introduction to Japanese Classics" post. She's highlighting five books to get you started! From the amazing graphics to her unique perspective, there's so much I love about her blog. I can't tell you how happy I am that she's bringing something so new to Consider This Classic.

ELENA'S AWESOME PREAMBLE: 

I'm an East Asian Studies major which means I'm deeply interested in doing anything with China, Japan, or Korea. I love modern Japanese literature but I've also read my fair share of classic Japanese literature too. So here's a short guide to get you started!


The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

Publication Date: 1008
Originally Published In: Japan
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
The exact origins of this remarkable saga of the nobility of Heian Japan remain somewhat obscured by time, although its author, Lady Shikibu Murasaki, presumably derived many of her insights into court life from her years of service with the royal family. The novel centers on the life and loves of the prince known as "the shining Genji." Far more than an exotic romance, however, the tale presents finely drawn characters in realistic situations, set against a richly embroidered tapestry of court life, Moreover, a wistful sense of nostalgia pervades the accounts of courtly intrigues and rivalries, resulting in an exquisitely detailed portrayal of a decaying aristocracy.

The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon

Publication Date: 1002
Originally Published In: Japan
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Written by the court gentlewoman Sei Shōnagon, ostensibly for her own amusement, The Pillow Book offers a fascinating exploration of life among the nobility at the height of the Heian period, describing the exquisite pleasures of a confined world in which poetry, love, fashion, and whim dominated, while harsh reality was kept firmly at a distance. Moving elegantly across a wide range of themes including nature, society, and her own flirtations, Sei Shōnagon provides a witty and intimate window on a woman's life at court in classical Japan.

Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki

Publication Date: 1914
Originally Published In: Japan
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
No collection of Japanese literature is complete without Natsume Sōseki's Kokoro, his most famous novel and the last he complete before his death. Published here in the first new translation in more than fifty years, Kokoro - meaning "heart" - is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man and an enigmatic elder whom he calls "Sensei." Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student's struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.

Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

Publication Date: 1949
Originally Published In: Japan
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Confessions of a Mask is the story of an adolescent who must learn to live with the painful fact that he is unlike other young men. Mishima's protagonist discovers that he is becoming a homosexual in polite, post-war Japan. To survive, he must live behind a mask of propriety.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Publication Date: 1987
Originally Published In: Japan
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman. A poignant story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood brilliantly recaptures a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.


THE TALE OF GENJI
Like the summary says, this is considered the world's first (psychological) novel and what what, it's written by a WOMAN. Fun fact: most of the early Japanese classical literature are written by women because they wrote in Japanese (the women's language) instead of Chinese (which was the language of men). 

ANYWAY! The summary also is not kidding about "a very long romance" because it clocks in at over 1k and spans PAST Genji (the main character's life). You can probably stop after he dies though (spoiler alert??? but I mean, I am pretty sure this passes the spoiler limits) because the story after that is not as exciting and people speculate maybe Murasaki Shikibu didn't even write the second part. Genji basically sleeps with a lot of ladies (including his stepmother who reminds him of his dead mother, YEAH IT'S THAT KIND OF NOVEL). It deals a lot with court politics, yukari (which means sexual substitute. oh this girl reminds me of the girl I can't have? LET ME HAVE HER), more politics, and a ghost or two thrown in.

THE PILLOW BOOK
This is a memoir and the text is surprisingly accessible! Like, you won't snooze after reading it because she's pretty engaging. The Heian period was kind of the Rococo of Japan in that people were obsessed with all things art & pretty. So Sei talks about that and rarely about anything else that's really going on during that period but you can find glimpses if you really look (there was a big thing about the emperors in that period). Also, huh, it was made into a 1996 film with Vivian Wu and Ewan McGregor!

KOKORO
Don't be fooled by this slim novel, it packs quite a punch. Japanese literature basically owns the word "nuance" because it is such a heavy, thought-provoking book. It's definitely a quiet book and one you have to sit on which is why I am going to quote Wikipedia on this, it's about "interwoven strands of egoism and guilt, as opposed to shame. Other important themes in the novel include the changing times (particularly the modernization of Japan in the Meiji era), the changing roles and ideals of women, and intergenerational change in values, the role of family, the importance of the self versus the group, the cost of weakness, and identity."

BASICALLY: YES, A LOT OF LAYERS. Easy to read, hard to fully understand.

CONFESSIONS OF A MASK
First of all, I so wish I could read this book in Japanese because apparently Yukio Mishima is a GENIUS in prose but alas, I can only read it lost in translation.

I know we are suppose to talk about the BOOK and not the author but I can't help it in Mishima's case. He was a radical right-wing person and committed seppuku after trying to overthrow the government. Umm, do you know what seppuku is? It's a ritual suicide and YOU NEED TWO PEOPLE TO DO IT because it means you're slicing through your abdomen by sword and you're usually dead before finishing it so the other person has to do it. 

He may be quite the figure but he's also really good with words. Confessions of a Mask is maybe sort of semi-autobiographical in terms of Mishima's sexuality (WHO KNOWS THOUGH, he was v obsessed with the idea of masculinity). 

NORWEGIAN WOOD
It's a MODERN classic, okay. It's the quintessential Japanese coming of age novel and apparently every young'un has read it. Norwegian Wood has been likened to Japan's Catcher in the Rye, which is a good or bad thing depending on how you feel. 

It is my favorite book though by my favorite author and I don't know, I JUST REALLY LOVE IT? I love the way Murakami writes because his passages are so universal and beautiful to human nature. I mean, my life motto is this quote from the book, "Don't feel sorry for yourself, only assholes do that." 

I think it deals with grief (there is a lot of suicide too, just so you know) in such a specific and aching way, I DON'T KNOW. How do YOU talk about your favorite book??? 

(although I mean, I can totally understand why people aren't keen on this. Murakami isn't! He wrote this to prove he can write commercial fiction, hahahaha. If you haven't read his books before: they have a lot of cats & jazz & magical realism & ears a lot and his work just SPEAKS TO ME)



THE TALE OF GENJI
Ummm. One of those long novels where the protagonist bangs every lady and has issues???

THE PILLOW BOOK
I kind of want to say it's the eleventh century Bridget Jones' Diary.

KOKORO
Um, like one of those books you want to dissect.

CONFESSIONS OF A MASK
I am really awful at this, in case you couldn't tell.

NORWEGIAN WOOD
See above. Probably The Catcher in the Rye, I guess!!
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