Waiting on Wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

Book Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets – skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood’s band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet’s biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know…that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl.

The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in a put innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more – making this a fight worth dying for.

 

The only tale I know of Robin Hood is the Disney movie. (It was never my favorite, I was more of a fan of Ariel.) When I started this book I was not expecting much, but I enjoy a story about a strong female. I was actually expecting to stop reading halfway through. While this is not my favorite book it did keep my interest enough for me to finish. The entire time I wanted to know what was going to happen next.

-Some Spoilers-

The thing I disliked most about Scarlet was the love triangle. As an avid romance novel reader I can get how it can get the story moving and keep the reader guessing.  In this book I didn’t want there to be a love triangle. I wanted to see Scarlet play with knives and be a strong female lead on her own with no help from anyone. Maybe the love triangle has some sort of purpose later in the series. Even though I didn’t like love triangle, I still went with it because I am trash for any type of romance story.

-BIG SPOILER-

I was surprised when I found out Scarlet was actually a noble lady. It all made sense, why she was hiding with this band of thieves, why she was so freaked out when Lord Gisbourne came to Nottingham.  I was especially surprised she is engaged Lord Gisbourne. I guess that makes it a love square? When you find out some of the background as to why she is hiding you understand why she is doing what she is doing.

Overall I enjoyed the book, especially that she was strong and didn’t give up when things got hard and that she kept fighting.  It kept me guessing and interested enough to finish. – Liz
3.5 Bards

Scarlet


Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

Waiting on Wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

#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

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!

Blog Tour & Giveaway: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr


For my stop on the Penguin Teen Blog Tour, I was able to interview Emily Barr about her first young adult novel, The One Memory of Flora Banks!  Not sure what this book is about?  Check out the synopsis below!

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Now that you’re all informed about what this book is about, let’s get to the interview!


Midsummer Reads-Jess:  After years of writing adult fiction novels, what made you want to delve into the world of Young Adult fiction?

Emily Barr (EB): It was really the book that came first: Flora’s story was in my head even though I was trying to write something completely different. When I started writing, it as an adult book, but it didn’t quite working. I tried making her younger and writing it as Young Adult fiction and everything fell into place. That opened up a whole new wonderful world for me!

MR-Jess: What was your inspiration for Flora’s story?

EB: The thing that came first was the Arctic setting. I was dreaming of a book set in the endless daytime of an Arctic summer, with a protagonist who didn’t quite know what she was doing there. Also, I’d always wanted to write about memory and amnesia because I think that human brains are incredible, and this felt like the time to do it.


MR-Jess: What kind of research did you do on short term memory loss/anterograde amnesia in order to make the book true to reality and true to your narrative?

EB: I did a lot of reading. I read books by Oliver Sacks and others, and read medical research and papers. I have an old university friend who works in this area and who was incredibly helpful to me.

From our Instagram @Midsummerreads


MR- Jess: How did you keep the “Boy Cure,” stereotype out of your novel? Did you purposefully want to circumvent that?

EB: Yes I did! I know it looks like a “boy cure” initially from Flora’s unreliable perspective, but as the story progresses it becomes clear that things are not at all as straightforward as they seem. I wanted to take that stereotype and subvert it.


MR- Jess: Why does the memory of her kissing her best friend’s boyfriend stick around? Why did you pick this specific moment for her to remember?

EB: It was a heightened moment for her, and it meant that her memory could be pinned to a specific person which would give her a mission: she would be consumed by the need to find the person again and see whether being close to him again made her memory work.


MR – Jess: What made you choose Svalbard, Norway?  Why was the Arctic such an important narrative choice for you?

EB: I just had it in my head: I’m not sure where it came from but I was longing to write a book set in the Arctic. I did some research about locations, and Svalbard seemed to be the exact place that I was imagining. In the end I couldn’t shake it off, so I cracked, cleared a week and went there. It was everything I’d dreamed of, and more, and the book flowed straight from that visit.

In fact I wrote so much about not going there in winter (when Flora visits, it’s May and daylight all the time; people are always telling her not to go in winter when it’s dark all day and night) that I got intrigued, and went there last January. It was dark and incredibly cold, but there were Northern Lights in the sky and the whole experience was spectacular.


MR-Jess: What are you working on next?  Can we expect another Young Adult Novel from you?

EB: You can! It’s set in Rio (pretty much the opposite of Svalbard in many ways) and it’s about a girl discovering, as her life falls apart, that nothing has been what it seemed. It’s a very fast paced twisty thriller.
Special thanks to Emily Barr and Penguin Random House for this interview and the chance to read FLORA!

Giveaway:

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr (ARV: $17.99 each).
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on May 1, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 22, 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 May 24, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks


New From: $4.20 USD In Stock
Release date May 2, 2017.

#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

Waiting on Wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: May 9, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client).

When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

#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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