#ReadADessen Review: Along for the Ride

It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.
A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.
In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

 

The first time i read Along for the Ride I was in high school.  Now that I am an adult and am re-reading this book I am seeing it in a much different light. When I was younger I never realized how toxic Auden’s mother and father were. While I was reading this i was kind of shocked to see how toxic her parents were because i did not remember seeing them in such a negative light. As someone who has dealt with toxic family members in their life, I understand the struggle one goes through while coming to terms with the fact that someone you love is toxic to you and you don’t want to let that person go because you do love them and care about them. Auden deals with her parents toxicity gracefully as she learns who she is.

This book is all about change and if people can change. At the beginning of the story we see Auden as a young woman who doesn’t really know who she is. She does her best to please her parents and she does the best in school so that they will notice her.  As the story progresses we see Auden come out of her shell, and learn who she is as well as who she wants to be. The journey Auden goes through is something most young women can relate to. In this book we also see how the people around Auden change, it is nice that we can see the changes her parents go through as she grows as a person.

Although this is not my favorite Sarah Dessen book this is most definitely in my top 5 favorites.This book is perfect for any woman who has had any type of family issue or has simply experienced change in their life.

4.5 Bards

Along for the Ride


Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

Review – The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

What isn’t written, isn’t remembered. Even your crimes.
Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person’s memories – of parents, children, love, life, and self – are lost. Unless they have been written.
In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn’t written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten.
But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence – before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

The first thing i need to mention about this book is that there is self harm, not by the main character but it is by someone close to her.

I had been thinking about listening to the audio-book for months when i picked it up. I was bored and needed something to listen to while at work. When I started listening to it, I was iffy about it. Originally I was not a fan of any of the characters and I almost gave up about third of the way in, but i was told it would get better so i kept on reading.  The entire first half  of the book nothing made sense! It was getting very confusing in certain parts. There is very little to no explanation of anything in the first half but once the second half starts you figure out what exactly is happening and why. The first half of the book went really slow but once things started moving I could not stop listening to it

-Spoilers Ahead-
I was trying to not get attached to the characters but the more I read(well listened) the more I became attached to the characters.  I was intrigued as to why Nadia could remember but nobody else could. As the story goes on we find out that Canaan is actually not on Earth but on an entirely different planet. We find out that the people on the planet were supposed to be colonizing the it so that they could see if life was sustainable there. the farther in the story you get the more you find out about why Canaan is the way it is and who the original settlers were and why Grey is so important to Nadia.

Overall after you get to the second half of the book it is fantastic.  It improves ten fold which is nice. The story becomes much more fast paced and everything ties in. The person who does the voice for the characters does a great job at narrating each character and does them each justice.

3.5 Bards

The Forgetting


Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

NOLA Review: Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan



Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s. And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru — a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.

This week is focused on the City of New Orleans. A caveat of this novel specifically is that it’s actually set in a smaller parish outside of New Orleans, but it deals with some characters from NOLA and the implications of evacuation pre and post-Katrina.  I figured that counts towards it!

Between Two Skies is beautifully simplistic and heart wrenching at the same time. Don’t mistake simplistic for poorly written, it is just easy to read considering the subject matter. The narrative follows the Riley family as they navigate the times before Katrina – where they struggled to stay afloat financially, to post-Katrina where they struggle with their lives after the devastation and with the idea of returning home.

Home is such an important aspect of this novel.  While some narratives really emphasize that home is where the heart is in a family or romantic sense, Evangeline feels this on such a basic and physical level of being connected to the land and the water of the Mississippi and the Gulf. She’s a champion fisher, although I really don’t know what kind of competitions there are for fishing other than maybe the size of the catch? I’ve only fished like twice in my life though, so that’s probably why I have very little knowledge of this. But anyway, being a fisherwoman would help explain why she felt so connected to the water and the land around her town.

O’Sullivan touches on the depression and anxiety that came from the relocation of the Riley’s to Atlanta, and how adjusting to a completely new school without any roots, any of their major belongings, or their friends. This is mostly shown through Evangeline’s sister, Mandy, so it really is just touched on.  I do think this should have been more of a focus, but I understand that it wasn’t the main point of this story.

I do think the love story was a bit distracting from the family narrative that I found to be the best part of the book, and the death of the family matriarch should have been more important and a focus on the transition to the new generation.

Other than those drawbacks, I really enjoyed reading this book! I read it in one sitting, and I suggest everyone pick up a copy!

4 Bards.

Between Two Skies


New From: $5.75 USD In Stock
Release date April 25, 2017.

NOLA Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

 


It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan to get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

Holy hell was this book a roller coaster of action and heartbreak.

Now, I mostly decided to feature books set in or about New Orleans for this week because I will be visiting for the first time in a week. I’m quickly realizing that I’m in for some moving work.

Out of the Easy provides such a portrait of New Orleans in the 1950s that I feel like I could have been walking alongside Josie and taking a ride with Cokie through every page.  Sepetys is such a historical fiction genius.  She weaves the story of this incredibly intelligent teenage girl with a penchant for books and a heart of gold alongside a rough and tumble life of prostitutes and mob violence. Honestly, there were so many vibrant characters that jumped off the page.  From Charlie to his son, Patrick, to Charlotte (who only physically appears twice), to the brooding Jesse, to the fierce and unapologetic Willie…New Orleans is my favorite character in this book.

The version of New Orleans that Sepetys has created shows the darkness and the light sides of the city in such a subtle way.  She doesn’t hammer us over the head with the details or even using too much of the southern dialect or Creole vocabulary.  I don’t really know how to explain it, but it made me fall in love with the dichotomy that is this historic city.  I also appreciate that while the novel mentions Mardi Gras, it doesn’t focus on it or spend a whole lot of the narrative on it.  I think I’ve just come to expect that with anyone who mentions NOLA, so I was super happy that the narrative was much more character focused.

Side note: Sepetys actually mentions a good number of places in New Orleans that are still famous today and places that myself and my best friend have actually discussed visiting next week.

Commander’s Palace (which has .25 cent martinis at lunch!), Antoine’s (with famous Baked Alaska), and Galatoire’s (NYT Top 10 Best Restaurants)

This book stole my heart.

5 Bards!

#ReadADessen Revew: This Lullaby

 

 

When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a review of This Lullaby just because it is extremely hard for me to try not to gush about how much I love this novel and try to give it an actual critique-type review.  I am going to try though, but be forewarned: this is one of my favorite books of all time, so be prepared for gush.

Let me start off by saying that Dessen does an excellent job of establishing Remy’s, the narrator, voice immediately.  Not only is Remy a bit snarky, but she has some serious sarcastic and bitchy moments that really help characterize her for the rest of the novel.  Remy has a rock solid group of girlfriends to spend the summer with before college, and a typical place to hang out and sneak drinks underage.  I had all of these things as well.  Probably one of the reasons when I read this originally when it came out I felt like Dessen was writing about my life and my initial love for the novel.

After reading it again, I find that I am impressed by Dessen’s story telling ability and the subtle growth that Remy makes as the book continues.  Not only does Remy’s attitude start to shift, but she begins to become the person she needs to be in order to succeed in life.

Dexter, oh Dexter.  What can I really say about my first laugh-out-loud enjoyment and crush on a fictional character?  This doofus would likely be the love of my life if he was real.  The whole scene where Dexter and John Miller are discussing their respective relationships while sitting outside the QuikZip is brilliant.  Kudos to Dessen to making such an endearing character so vibrant and, well, crushworthy.

I will leave you with some of my favorite quotes from This Lullaby, and an active plea for you to pick up a copy of this novel as soon as you can.  You will not regret it!

Favorite Quotes:

“Everything, in the end, comes down to timing. One second, one minute, one hour, could make all the difference. So much hanging on just these things, tiny increments that together build a life. Like words build a story, and what had Ted said? One word can change the entire world.”

“I meant what I said to you. I wasn’t playing some kind of summer game. Everything I said was true, from the first day. EVERY GODDAMN WORD.”

“Huffah.”

5 Bards to the story I’ve always loved and for the story I will always re-read.

fivebards

#ReadADessen Review: The Truth About Forever

Are you as excited about the release of Sarah Dessen’s newest young adult novel, Once and For All (out June 6, 2017) as I am?! We teamed up with Penguin Teen to celebrate the release by counting down the weeks with reviews of her previous novels. Check out the description of Once and For All, and then our review of The Truth About Forever.  Stick around until the end of the post, you can enter to win a full set of Dessen’s catalog in paperback!

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

 

REVIEW:

In The Truth About Forever, when asked how she is coping with her father’s death, invariably seventeen year old Macy Queen’s answer is “fine,” when nothing could be further from the truth. In actuality, she is drowning in grief while maintaining a flawless façade of good grades and unblemished behavior. Though she feels lost when her boyfriend heads to “Brain Camp” for the summer, she finds herself a job with the quirky Wish Catering crew, and meets “sa-woon”-worthy Wes, whose chaotic lifestyle is in direct opposition to her own.

As the two share their stories over the summer, Macy realizes she can no longer keep her feelings on ice. Though it feels like her future ended with her dad’s death, Macy’s learns that forever is all about beginnings.

I sit here, after finishing The Truth About Forever for about the 20th time, and I am crying.  This book isn’t just important to me because of how long I’ve been a Dessen fan, but because I grew up with a lot of death in my life.  Yes, that doesn’t sound ideal or even something that you’d want to hear about, but it’s true.  I’d been to more funerals in the first 12 years of my life than I would go to in the next 12. So this book spoke to me in so many ways.

Another aspect that was important to me was the accurate representation of disease like breast cancer (my mother is a survivor) and heart disease (two of my grandparents passed away from heart attack’s like Macy’s father).  So obviously, so many ways I connect to this novel that have nothing to do with the love story, which, in my opinion is much more of a third tier narrative compared to that of Macy’s healing and her growth as someone who was no longer defined by her grief.

Sure, I love a good romance like the next person, but I think I fell in love with the friendship that Macy and Wes developed before anything romantic happened.  Honestly, I think this type of relationship development is so much more rewarding than immediate physical intimacy.  Not saying that I don’t enjoy physical intimacy (I now feel like I need to apologize to my mother), but the friendship foundation has always made any relationship worthwhile for me.

I am working on a piece that explains how much Sarah Dessen’s writing has meant to me, and how her books have always provided a light in the darkness any time I needed it.  I find picking up her books, even if I’ve read them more than twenty times, to be so fulfilling and beautiful.

I will always give this story, one of my heart (hand in heart, anyone?!), 5 Bards.

 

 

 

 

Enter to win! 

Giveaway Details:

Enter for a chance to win one (1) set of Sarah Dessen’s books in paperback (ARV: $132.00).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on April 17, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 29, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 1, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

 

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Book Review: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

Please welcome the newest member of Team Midsummer: Liz! Liz met Lyv way back at a To Write Love On Her Arms conference and they stayed in touch.  Then, as Jess and Lyv became friends, Jess and Liz “virtually” met via Tumblr, and finally met in person at YallFest 2016.  Give a big welcome to her and help us celebrate her first official review:

About Liz:

 

Liz is a History major with a double minor in archaeology and statistics, who is currently on a hiatus from going to school. Her first love is history but her second love is reading. She didn’t get into reading until she was 21 and she found comfort and courage in the characters. The series that really started her love of books was Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. Romance novels are her guilty pleasure but her real love is YA books. Some of her favorite books are Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester and of course literally anything Sarah J Maas writes.

 

 

In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

 

I feel like it should be known i have never been a big fan of Romeo & Juliet. Their relationship is unrealistic.  I typically try to avoid books that have the Romeo & Juliet storyline, but I received an ARC so I decided to give it a try anyway.  I am so glad I gave it a try!

A Million Junes follows June(her real name is Jack but everyone calls her June) and Saul and their desire to be together but mainly needing to know why their families hate each other. Which leads them to learning why and how their families are cursed. Finding out what the curse is, is a whirlwind adventure.  Although it might not keep you on the edge of your seat, it does keep you interested.

When I first found out Saul was 21 I was worried this would be a book about a man much older than the main character because June is still in high school. For me, I automatically get worried when a book mentions age differences specifically if one of those people are in high school.  If the characters are not consenting adults or at least both in high school, I will put a book down and never pick it up again.  But it turns out June is 18. The fact that the main characters are two consenting adults is wonderful (compared to Juliet being 13 and Romeo being an age that is never disclosed, but we can assume is older than Juliet).  

When I first started this book I expected everyone to die (how could I not?! The description said it was like “Romeo & Juliet.”).

SPOILER ALERT:
I was happy when nobody ended up dying but enough does happen where for most of the end you expect one of the characters to end up dead.  The more information you get about the curse the more you assume someone is going to die. There is simply no avoiding it. A Million Junes didn’t fall into the YA cliche of “and they lived happily ever after.”  There is still room for these characters to grow but you don’t feel like you are being left with a cliffhanger.  If the author wants to write a sequel she could, but I think where it ended is a good place.

My favorite quote from A Million Junes was :

“‘June, Moments are like cherries.  They’re meant to be relished. Shared – not hoarded.  You can clutch one terrible moment or experience all the rest.  Your life is slipping past in brilliant little bits…’”

I am someone who spends a lot of time thinking more about the bad memories than the good. This quote made me realize I am missing out on so many good memories by holding on to the bad ones. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting the bad memories go and living in the now and enjoying your life as much as possible. I feel like part of the reason I enjoyed reading about June so much was because of the journey she went on and the growth she experienced.

This book was a happy surprise for me.  I am so pleased I picked it up and gave it a chance.

3.5 Bards!

You can pre-order A Million Junes now!

 

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

First things first: THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. I loved this book so much that I ended up dedicating an entire BookTube video to making Strange the Dreamer themed cupcakes while I talked a bit about what I liked so much about the novel.

Check it out below and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more fun videos!

Now, let’s get to the meat of the review.

As I mentioned in the review, I fell in love with Lazlo himself within the first few chapters of this book. How pure and wonderful is my tall crooked-nosed son with his love for reading, learning, and dreaming (see what I did there?)? Lazlo may not have any idea about his heritage, but unlike some book characters, this doesn’t weigh him down with questions of “who am I,” “what is my purpose in life,” etc.  I think his acceptance of that, or even the fact that he doesn’t consider it to be a problem in his life, is what makes him such a humble and caring character that helps those who need it without expecting anything in return.

Speaking of those people who probably should given him something in return, I was extremely irritated by the golden godson and all of his nonsense.  I found myself eye-rolling through a bunch of his scenes, which is exactly what I think Taylor intended, but still. I’d kick him in the shin if I could.  At least he does have intelligence, although we all know that he wouldn’t be able to do anything without help from the best crooked-nose librarian there is (this isn’t spoilery…well, kind of).

I’ve read some reviews where people found the pacing a bit slow at the beginning, but I didn’t find this a problem at all.  I really loved the development of Lazlo as a character, and while I do think it would have been fun to see more of the journey from their home to Weep, I know this wasn’t the point of the novel.  However, the action does pick up significantly after the arrival of Lazlo and the other characters to the mythical Weep, so even if you are struggling to get to that point, push through it! I promise it’s worth it.

Since I was so fond of Lazlo and his character development, I must say that the only one of the Godspawn that I truly felt connected to, and I’m sure this is because Sarai was the other point of view in the novel, was Sarai.  She is such a complex character with an odd gift, to say the least, but it allows her to grow and have empathy for humans in a way the others don’t.  This becomes a major plot point as well.  But the others kind of felt almost like unnecessary background noise (all except Minya, of course), but I anticipate they will play a much larger part in the second book.

I loved this book and I cannot wait to pick it back up again and read carefully for clues about the twist at the end.

5 Bards!

 

Guest Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

 

Special shout out to Midsummer Contributor, Brittany, for reading and reviewing The Circle!

 

 

 

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

This novel was a friend’s choice in our book club.  I was only supposed to read half the novel for our first meeting but I couldn’t stop.  I ended up reading the entire book and I LOVED IT.  Yes, I have read books that have a similar storyline (very 1984ish) but I was really able to relate to this specific portrayal. This is my first time reading the author, Dave Eggers, but I will now be looking into more of his work.    

The Circle is a powerful tech company that is slowly taking over….basically everything…the way you shop, the way you interact with others, and even the way the government works.  In my mind I pictured something along the lines of Google or Facebook.  The Cirlce made me question my own presence on social media.  It made me question the power of the internet in general.  It’s quite chilling because I could potentially see this as our future.  There were multiple times when I put my book down and just thought, “Holy crap.  This could really happen.”  This novel made me ask questions.  What are our limits as a society when it comes to sharing knowledge? Where is the line between innocent curiosity and breaching privacy?  Are we becoming dependent upon instant gratification?  

Some of the ideas and beliefs of the Circlers are just mind blowing.  For instance, if you don’t post a picture of yourself surfing in Costa Rica then you are selfish and are denying others the opportunity to be involved in the experience.  Their belief is that everyone is entitled to ALL knowledge and “sharing is caring”.  Out of context it seems obviously insane, but Eggers brings you so deep into the Circle that these radical ideas begin to make sense.  It brings forth your true notions on how society and privacy should be constructed.  

Mae is such a wonderfully well written character.  I loved watching her journey in finding her place within the Circle and the unraveling of her humanity.  I’m super pumped because this is going to be a major motion picture with Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega.  It looks SO good!

Eggers does an outstanding job with this novel.  And let me just say, the ending is awesome.  

5 bards 

Blog Tour Review: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.

Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.

The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.

Release Date: April 25, 2017

When I started The Whole Thing Together, I immediately fell for Sasha and Ray.  I loved the way they spoke about each other.  Almost reverent tones reflected the lovely thoughts they each held for the other.  Ray reminisced about the summer they built a Lego city together and talked about the safety he found in their shared bed. Sasha mused about his stubble in the sink and their shared copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.  I was hooked from the start on the beautiful things they thought about the other and the fact that while they didn’t know each other, they had feelings beyond fondness.

As we stepped into the lives of the rest of the family, however, I had less love.  I felt disinterested in Emma’s perfection, irritated by Quinn’s sage thoughtfulness and downright hated Mattie’s bratty behavior.  I pressed on through the drama and the hardship though.  It was worth it for the beauty and simplicity of Ray and Sasha and their sweetness.  I rolled my eyes at the arrogant Robert, the timid Jamie & Evie and the flighty Lila.  Adam and Jonathan were barely on my radar.  Overwhelmed by character names? I was too, at first.  I often wondered, why did she include all these other character’s stories, why not just focus on Ray and Sasha and their perspective.

However, as I read on I began to relate to Emma and it hit me, this family was a lot like my own.  My parents were divorced when I was young and growing up I often wondered if they would ever be able to be in the same room without a brawl breaking out.  I have five younger brothers and sisters in total and I don’t bother with explaining the halves of any siblings.  As Ann Brashares newest book came to its conclusion, the answer to my question became clear.  Brashares included the stories of each character and the perspective of each kid because that’s how a family works.  If something happens in a family that seems small to one person, it can ripple its way to another and they can get hit by wave.  I used to think about this a lot as a kid.  Worry about how my life choices could hurt my mom or drive away my dad.  Eventually, thankfully, I discovered that our lives can’t be lived that way.  Everything we do can affect those we love but that doesn’t mean we should make choices for everyone else. It is the opposite actually. Choose love, kindness and goodness and it will give you the strength to ride out the waves that can be created.  This book reminded me of the importance of family, the good, the bad and the ugly.

It is a beautiful picture of love in its purest form and its darkest (also known as hate).  Life is not as two dimensional as it can seem; sometimes we are an Emma- overachieving our hearts out, occasionally we are a Mattie- misbehaving for attention or to hide a truth unspoken and maybe a few of you are lucky enough to be a Quinn- wise and thoughtful.  I strive to be a Sasha- modest, brave and overcoming my anxieties with love and beautiful thoughts.

This is a great story for teens and adults and just to top it off, it’s set at the beach, bringing the concept of ripple to wave full circle.

4.5 bards

 

 

Special thanks to contributor Lesley for reading and reviewing this book for A Midsummer Night’s Read.

 

 

 

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