The Sun is Also a Star: Bright and Dim

Nominated for GoodReads Best Young Adult Fiction of 2016, The Sun is Also a Star is a poignant, sweet take on young adult love while exploring much more complex adult issues. Natasha, an undocumented immigrant, finds herself facing deportation amid her father’s missteps. Unwilling to accept their fate, Natasha seeks out a solution at the local immigration office in New York where they live. Meanwhile, Daniel, an American-born son of Korean immigrants finds himself on his way to entrance interview with an alumni for Yale where his parents have determined he will study to become a doctor.

While Natasha and Daniel are facing very different futures, their paths cross by a series of events that Daniel questions as to whether or not fate and destiny exist. Are all of life’s moments carefully orchestrated to lead up to the next to impact outcomes and events? Nicola Yoon successfully weaves a novel that tackles important philosophical issues through witty banter, short chapters, and insightful side characters/musings. Natasha is delightful in her scientific outlook on life whereas Daniel is determined to make Natasha a believer in love.

Yoon provides an insightful look into immigrant life amid the backdrop of New York City. Natasha and Daniel’s journey takes place over one day that is richly layered with details and characters. Although this book is a relatively quick read, this young adult novel hints at more sophisticated issues. However, the saccharine ending places The Sun is Also a Star firmly in the Young Adult category.

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Girl in Pieces: Takes a little piece of you

A New York Times Bestseller and named one of the Best Books of the Year by Amazon, Girl in Pieces is a hauntingly, traumatic read.  The opening chapters of the book finds Charlie as a patient in a mental hospital for young girls.  The beginning chapters are riddled with drops of clues that give you a little insight to how Charlie ended up in the mental hospital.  Soon, Charlie finds herself being discharged from the hospital—not because she is ready but because her insurance and financial assistance from her absentee mother has been depleted.

“Everyone has that moment I think, the moment when something so momentous happens that it rips your very being into small pieces. And then you have to stop. For a long time, you gather your pieces. And it takes such a very long time, not to fit them back together, but to assemble them in a new way, not necessarily a better way. More, a way you can live with until you know for certain that this piece should go there, and that one there.”

Armed with a loose plan of what happens next, Charlie embarks on a journey of self-discovery and healing.  Although that sounds cliché, Kathleen Glasgow tells a very raw and emotionally gripping story.  I appreciated that this book did not wrap everything up into a neat bow.  After Charlie leaves the hospital, her journey is not easy and is riddled with self-destructive behavior which makes the story feel more authentic and honest.  While Charlie’s actions are sometimes hard to understand, Girl in Pieces is a journey that you will find yourself better for having experienced.

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The Opposite of Hate: The Hating Game

I have found that book choices are very mood dependent.  For example, sometimes I’m in desperate need of a good cathartic gut wrenching cry and will choose a book accordingly.  On the other hand, a book that has been recommended over and over again just won’t strike a nerve because I’m not in the right mood.  Thus, my book choices fluctuate from literary fiction to contemporary to young adult.  However, when you find the perfect book to fit your mood it’s as if striking gold and thus the book high…you know, that feeling you get from reading a book that makes you not want to put it down because it’s so good and then you have to go find another one that makes you feel that same way and you search and you search and you read and you flounce until just when you think you can’t find the feeling again…AHHHH…you found it.

Enter, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne.  Named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2016, it was the perfect romantic comedy of a book which could easily translate into a movie.  This one reminded me of Ten Things I Hate About You meets How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days.  Lucy, an upper-level assistant at a publishing house finds herself wanting to be friendly with her new counterpart Josh, when their publishing houses merge.  However, Josh does not return Lucy’s smile on the first day and it’s game on.

“He did not smile back, and somehow I feel like he’s been carrying my smile around in his breast pocket ever since. He’s one up.”

Rather than form an alliance at their newly formed company, Lucy and Josh become the best of adversaries in their new roles.

“I always thought you’d live underground somewhere, near the earth’s core,”

But, like all good rom-coms, Lucy and Josh are barreling straight toward a head-on collision with potentially disastrous consequences, not only for themselves but their careers as well.  The Hating Game, included on The Washington Post’s Top 20 Romances of 2016, was a delightful, smart, funny read that simultaneously made you wish it was a movie but at the same time not because it was such a good book and you thoroughly enjoyed reading it so much that there is no way that the movie could make you feel the same way. So…when you find yourself in the need for a quick escape but still in need of some mild angst, UST (unresolved sexual tension), and romance The Hating Game is the book for you.

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An Exaltation of Larks: A 2016 must read.

an-exaltation-of-larksAn Exaltation of Larks is both all-consuming and surprising.  After reading the description of this book, I was all in.  A multi-generational story of an immigrant and his journey to the United States, along with a love story–this book had all the makings of something epic.  Alejandro, a native of Chile, finds himself fleeing to the US parentless to live with his uncle.  Befriending another family, Alejandro is eventually taken in by another family, the Larks where he then falls in love with one of their daughters.  The build up to their relationship and the subsequent story building afterward is unlike any book that I have ever read before.  Simultaneously, you are also introduced to another character, Javier, whose story unfolds throughout the book.

This book is long…550 pages of exquisite character development.  I loved that this book was so long.  Once you start reading it, you don’t want it to end.  At the same time, with the multitude of characters that are introduced and developed, you will often find yourself asking how is this book going to end and how are these characters related.  It’s not often that I find myself surprised of shocked by books, however, this one is right up there. Suanne Laqueur’s details and plot planning throughout this book is something to be admired.  The details, many of which you may not pick up on (if you’re like me) won’t reveal themselves as important until much later in the book causing you to have many “aha” moments and appreciation for the author’s craftiness.  Although many books have these details, it’s not often that authors are able to do without being hokey or cute.

Another thing that I loved about this book was that many of the relationships the characters have are very unconventional.  It was refreshing to read something new that challenged the way I previously viewed relationships.  This book, although very, very different, was reminiscent of All The Ugly and Wonderful Things—both in content as well as my love for the writing.  I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone but I will leave you with this: behind All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, this was the second best book that I read this year.  An Exaltation of Larks will make you want to find someone else who has read the book so that you can discuss it.  Any takers?

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Heavenly Bodies: A heavenly debut

heavenly-bodiesSometimes you need an escape and books are the perfect vessel for the voyage.  Enter St. Croix, the star of Rochelle Allison’s debut YA novel, Heavenly Bodies.  As an avid reader of fanfiction and Allison’s previous ff works (more on that on another day), I was greatly looking forward to her original fiction work.  Anyone who knows Rochelle Allison, and I’m fortunate to call myself one of those people, knows that her love of the land that spent her formative years, St. Croix, is beloved to her.  Most of us can only dream of living in such an idyllic setting, but fortunately, through her novel, we get a chance to live vicariously through Isla Kelley, the main character in Heavenly Bodies.

Isla finds herself in every teenagers worst nightmare—having to move just before their senior year.  But Isla doesn’t make just any move, she finds herself moving from Atlanta to St. Croix, where her mother grew up, to help care for her ailing grandfather.  Caught in between her life in the states and her new life in St. Croix in a private school, Isla is fortunate enough to have a built in friend through her cousin Camille.  Through Camille, Isla is shown the ins and outs of life in St. Croix as well as the tiny school she is now expected to graduate from.

If you are anything like me, I love YA novels, especially coming of age novels set in and around high school.  There is something about the nostalgia and angst of being taken back to the time period.  First loves, first tryst with alcohol, and first…everythings.  Allison is a master at captivatingly telling slow burning love stories and she delivers just that in her debut novel, Heavenly Bodies.  The setting of St. Croix is just the cherry on top.

***After reading Heavenly Bodies, don’t miss out on Allison’s collaboration For The Win.***

 

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The Glass Castle: Read it now

the-glass-castleAfter reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, I was strongly reminded of Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle.  Not being one to usually read memoirs, The Glass Castle is a magnificent read.  Much like Wavy in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Jeannette Walls was also born with very eccentric parents who left a lot to be desired in terms of parenting.  Both grew up in extreme poverty and both became care takers of their younger siblings.  However, unlike Wavy, Jeannette’s childhood (and adulthood) was very much real.

Jeannette was one of four children born to Rose Mary and Rex Walls.  Although her mother was college educated and a teacher, she didn’t see value in working and instead preferred to focus on being an artist and a writer.  Her father, although extremely intelligent, worked odd jobs as an electrician or handyman and full time as an alcoholic.  Their family would often move around from place to place as her father lost a job or the land-lord kicked them out due to non-payment.  Jeanette’s eccentric parents would often frame their moves as “adventures”.

“How many places have we lived?” I asked Lori.

“That depends on what you mean by ‘lived,’” she said.  “If you spend one night in some town, did you live there? What about two nights? Or a whole week?”

I thought.  “If you unpack all your things,” I said.

We counted eleven places we lived, then we lost track. We couldn’t remember the names of some of the towns or what the houses we had lived in looked like.

Jeannette’s parents were so frivolous with what money they did have when they had it that the children often went without basic necessities.

A little while after we’d moved into the depot, we heard Mom and Dad talking about buying us kids real beds, and we said they shouldn’t do it.  We liked our boxes.  They made going to bed seem like an adventure.  Shortly after we moved into the depot, Mom decided that what we really needed was a piano.

Jeanette’s parents had an uncanny ability to treat life as an adventure and explain away basic needs –not for the sake of the children, as some parents might do to cover up the lack of basic necessities and circumstances of poverty, but because that’s how they chose to live their life.

The nurse declared her severely shortsighted and sent Mom a note saying she needed glasses.

“Nosiree,” Mom said. She didn’t approve of glasses.  If you had weak eyes, Mom believed, they needed exercise to get strong. The way she saw it, glasses were like crutches.

Jeanette’s parents didn’t stop at their lack of providing basic needs such as shelter and food, but also protection.  In one particular house that they lived in, Jeanette and her siblings would often encounter creepy characters that would look at children as victims.  Their house, in particular, was a haven for vagrants as it looked like an abandon house.  Because of the lack of air conditioning, her parents would leave the front door of the house unlocked.  One night, Jeanette awoke to a stranger running his hands over her private parts.   The next day, after telling her Dad (who was out drunk the night of), Jeanette, her brother, and her Dad “went out on a serious Pervert Hunt.”

Our blood up, we searched the streets for hours, but we never did find the guy.  I asked Mom and Dad if we should close the doors and windows when we went to sleep.  They wouldn’t even consider it.  We needed the fresh air, they said and it was essential that we refuse to surrender to fear.

 

Like All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Glass Castle is chock full of examples of people who have

Cast of The Glass Castle on set.

Cast of The Glass Castle on set.

failed Jeanette.  And like Wavy in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, somehow, Jeannette is able to preserve.  Her journey is amazing, inspiring, and unbelievable.  If you enjoyed reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, you will most certainly love The Glass Castle, but read it quickly! The Glass Castle has been adapted to a movie which will release in 2017 (date to be determined) starring Brie Larson as Jeannette Walls, Woody Harrelson as Rex, and Naomi Campbell as Rose Mary.

**If you love The Glass Castle, don’t miss out on Jeannette Walls true-life novel about her grandmother, Half-Broke Horses.**

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things: Best Book of the Year

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things was probably one of the most difficult books that I have read since Jeanette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle.  Like Wall’s memoir, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things explores the ugly side of poverty and child abuse.  This book was powerful, gritty, raw, disturbing, and moving all at the same time.  There were several points throughout this book where I took a break–not sure if I could stomach what I reading, points where I stopped to think about whether or not it was even ethical for me to continue reading, and many points where I couldn’t put this book down.

I was pleasantly surprised and a little dismayed at the misleading book description.  After reading the description, I thought I was in for reading about a forbidden romance between a young girl and her father’s drug runner.  This book is so much more than that.  From the first chapter, you know that this book is unlike anything else.  As the story unfolds, we meet Wavonna, or Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer and a mother with severe psychological issues.  Their neglect and abuse leaves Wavy to fend for herself and her little brother until she finds an ally in a man that she rescues in a motorcycle accident.

Told through a multitude of view points throughout the book of people involved in Wavy’s life, Greenwood masterfully unfolds a multi-layered story that makes you think.  One of the most surprising things about this book was the depth of story building and the time span of the novel.  I loved that this book took the reader on a journey from Wavy at eight years old to a young woman of twenty-twoof.  This book encompasses many of the ugly and wonderful things in life, the journey and perseverance that it takes to get to it, and the fact that love takes many shapes and forms.  This book will make you uncomfortable but I believe that the author’s ability to shed light on this uncomfortable subject in such an endearing way makes this worth the read.  All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is one of the best books of the year.

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It Ends With Us: A book you don’t want to end

It Ends With UsI’ve always found that the best books are the ones that make you think and spur the need to talk about it such as JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You.  Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us is one of those rare books that will stay with you for days, weeks, and months after reading.  I think Hoover is an amazing writer and I always look forward to her books.  The first novel that I read of hers was Hopeless.  It was one of the first books that I had read in a long time from the Young Adult genre and it could have just as easily been found on an adult reading list.  Her most recent new release prior to It Ends With Us, November 9, also did not disappoint.  With eager anticipation of her latest release, I began to see social media hype calling this her best book.  While following her on Facebook and Instagram (follow us here), Hoover stated that this book was the most difficult book to write in her entire career because of how personal it was.  Everywhere you looked sang praises for the book but they all said the same thing—go in blind.

How do you go into a book blind?  Don’t read the summary? Avoid reviews? That is just what I did.  With promises of an amazing book, I began reading with knowing little about the premise of the book nor did I read any of the advanced reviews.  First, what an amazing testament to Hoover’s fan base that she was able to heavily promote this book without giving anything about the book away.  Secondly, I’m so glad that I listened to the warning about going in blind.  I’m not sure that I would have loved this book as much as I did if I’d known anything about the characters or the plot.  With that being said, I want you to have the same experience.  I know, I know—how do you give a book a glowing recommendation without telling the readers anything about it?It Ends With Us Heart

What I can tell you is that this book is based on a romance which you find out from the first chapter.  I can tell you that you will fall in love with the characters.  I can tell you that you will want to simultaneously devour and savor every chapter of this book.  You will feel the need to consume it all at once while at the same time needing to take a break because you aren’t sure if you’re ready to find out what happens.  Yes there is angst, but let me tell you, this transcends the typical angst you might find in a typical Hoover book.  This angst is something that you will learn from and it will make you question your beliefs.  It will make you a more understanding human being and create a new understanding that you didn’t’ know you needed.  It will also make you want to share this book with those that you love.  And after all, what more could you ask for in a book?

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For The Win: An Olympic Themed Winner

For the WinIf you’re anything like me, sometimes you get in the mood for a specific type of fiction.  Sometimes you need something that will make you cry, sometimes something light-hearted and funny, and sometimes you need some action.  I often find myself craving sport themed fiction at the start of a new sport season which is why For The Win, by Rochelle Allison and Angel Lawson came at the perfect time.  If you’ve been consumed with the Olympics like the rest of the world and simultaneously are looking for a great book, this one wins.

For The Win features brother and sister soccer phenoms, Julian and Allie, who have aspirations of playing in the Olympics.  Allison and Lawson did a brilliant job of turning a sports themed novel into one that anyone would want to read.  They beautifully built this multi-layered story with plenty of suspense, character development, and intrigue to keep you reading.  I loved that this book was not predictable.  I thought I knew the outcome but was pleasantly surprised in the direction that the novel took.

Not only do you have the intrigue of brother/sister Olympic soccer hopefuls, but their childhood friend, Melina, is also a serious soccer Olympic contender.  Couple their aspirations with Julian and Melina’s romantic history and you have a great plot.  However, Julian is battling his own bad-boy past that has left him as the disdain of the soccer world due to his self-implosion.  At first, this plot seems predictable and entertaining.  However, the author’s ability to build a story and weave together characters, drama, and a plot that you didn’t see coming makes this book different from the rest.

For The Win is a great debut novel from Allison and Lawson that couldn’t come at a better time–and price.  It’s free on Kindle Unlimited!

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8/5/2016

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New release books that are on our radar.


For The Win
by Rochelle Allison, Angel Lawson

Free on Kindle Unlimited!

For the WinWhat better way to kick off the start of the 2016 Olympics than by reading an Olympic themed novel? 

Former All-Star collegiate goalie, Julian Anderson, has spent the last year off the grid, putting his life and health back together after losing nearly everything and everyone important in his life due to a series of bad decisions in college. But when he gets a call from the US Men’s Soccer team, asking him to play in the Olympic Games, he’s thrust back into the world he’s tried so hard to distance himself from  Read more...


It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

*I devoured this in two days.  It’s one of Colleen Hoover’s best novels!*

Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true. Read more


Mid Air by Kodi Scheer

Free on Kindle Unlimited!

“I had a secret: I wanted to leave the earth in a spectacular fashion. Specifically, by leaping from the Eiffel Tower.” So begins this provocative coming-of-age novel about a teenage girl bent on self-destruction and revenge, set in the City of Light.

It’s the summer of 1999, the end of a millennium. In the mind of Nessa Baxter, a girl from rural Illinois, Paris is the remedy for all of her woes. The death of her beloved brother and the betrayal by her classmate Kat has left Nessa bereft and doubtful about her future. She plans to exact revenge on Kat during their renegade French Club trip.  Read more...


Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

Free on Kindle Unlimited!

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together.  Read more

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