The Promise by Robin Carr ( web | tweet )
Part of the Thunder Point series.
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: small towns, medical practices, single parents with children, big families
Format read: ARC paperback from Little Bird Publicity. (Thanks!)
We last reviewed: The Chance by Robyn Carr
Summary: Peyton hopes to find a little reprieve in Thunder Point, after feeling dejected and unappreciated by the man she thought she loved for the past 3 years. She takes on a short-term job at a clinic with a widowed doctor, Scott, who goes above and beyond his call of duty in this small town. Peyton has sworn off guys for awhile, and Scott hasn’t seen anyone seriously since his wife died. Is there something between the two?
Remind me to visit the Pacific Northwest soon, okay?
Thunder Point books always get me revved up about small towns near the water, cute bars to catch the sunset, paddleboarding, nature, and some of Carrie’s fine foods. (Okay, I know this part is just fictional but I can assume there’s an adorable locally-owned food spot there in real life, right?)
Robyn Carr skillfully welcomes readers back to Thunder Point while comfortably ushering in the new ones in the tale of Scott Grant, widowed father of two and town doctor. If you’ve read a few of the books in the series before this one, you might know him a bit already. Since his entry into this beloved community, he’s popped up here and there — never digging deep enough into his story. So I was happy to finally get a chance to know the guy, and, my gosh, is he a total saint or what? He singlehandedly cares for the all the people in town, even if this means not making a ton of money. You see, Scott’s not concerned about that. He came to Thunder Point to give his children a safe, happy life and he doesn’t mind giving back.
You can’t blame him either. The town is a family within itself. You see it in how everyone cares for the other, and how easily they welcome brand new Peyton into the fold. (Okay, sure, they are a little gossipy but it’s charming! None of it is out of malice.) I think Peyton is a little taken aback by this altruistic little town and who could blame her? She spent the past three years being treated like a permanent maid to her boyfriend and his ungrateful children.
It takes some time and a very funny misunderstanding for Scott and Peyton to wake up to how perfect they might be together. As always Carr balances out the sweet romance with some fantastic side stories — truly rounding out how just lovely this town is. Lovely and constantly changing. Some of my favorite parts of this book were meeting Peyton’s huge family who run a super successful farm and treasure hard work and each other so much, and an absolutely adorable campfire scene. Best of all, Carr makes Thunder Point feel like a real place with every book in the series; I liked how this one touched on how dedicated the townspeople were, working two jobs to make ends meet.
So if you are looking to take a trip to the West Coast this summer where the people are always ready to lend a hand and share a smile, I suggest you jump on the Thunder Point train as soon as possible. As Peyton says at one point in the book: “This is a nice place to fit into.” She couldn’t be more right about that!
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My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: senior year of high school, summer, Greece, friendships, parent/kid relationships
Format read: ARC paperback from Bloomsbury. (Thanks!)
Summary: Colette and Sadie were once inseparable, and then suddenly they weren’t. With no explanation, Sadie stopped speaking to Colette so it’s a little bit of a jolt when, after 3 years of radio silence, Sadie asks Colette to come with her family to a wedding in Greece in a few weeks. While she already has volunteer work lined up with her boyfriend on a trip she raised money for, Colette is desperate for excitement and adventure. Life has been feeling so dull lately, and she’s curious about Sadie, their friendship breakup, and what a few days in Greece could do for her. So she says yes.
I think no matter how inseparable two people are, how much fun together, how many memories they make with one another, there is always some kind of difference between the two. Even before Colette and Sadie stopped being friends out of nowhere, Colette was feeling it. Sadie was concerned with how she looked and interested in boys, and Colette knew she wasn’t there yet. It was a small crack in the foundation, one that could have easily been worked through except for the big mysterious thing that causes the two to go from peas in a pod to total strangers for 3 years.
How would you feel if your ex-best friend appeared out of nowhere and asked you to take a trip to Greece? Would you go?
Colette is not an easy character to understand; she lives her life a certain way, a product of her parent’s upbringing. Her mom who urges her to remain chaste, to remain protected and covered up while her dad just blurs into the background of her life, never speaking up. I believe Colette’s parents had good intentions. They wanted their daughter to grow up to be good with boundaries, and have only the best influences infiltrate her life. Instead Colette is insecure in her own skin, feels like any decision that will not garner the approval of her parents is “bad”, and has tiptoed through her high school life being very careful not to experience too much of anything.
Her day-to-day life has grown to be so black and white (especially after Sadie has left it) and she is yearning for some gray.
Freedom. Adventure. Fun. All of these words are synonymous with Sadie. This was how they balanced each other out. So it’s not a surprise that Colette wants to ditch her summer plans (volunteer work in another country with her long-time boyfriend) and see Greece and, most importantly, figure out why Sadie left her. For the first time in a long time, Colette defies many people to do what she wants. (Though her support comes from an unexpected place; I liked this choice.)
Caela Carter did an exceptional job painting a portrait of Greece: the beauty of the water, the food, the vineyards, the hot water near the volcano. It was exactly like I was there alongside Colette as she spent time with Sadie’s family — people she believed were her family until they weren’t anymore. It’s not entirely paradise; against this gorgeous backdrop, Colette is feeling constant tension with the family, knows Sadie is keeping many somethings from her, and is afraid she made the wrong choice and fractured relationships at home for no good reason.
I like the messy books. I like when we are privy to ALL the parts of the characters. These books are near and dear to me because they are truly representative of real life. We don’t all see things in the same way. We often don’t understand the reasons why people do things the way they do. People can surprise us: in good and bad ways. I applaud Carter for thrusting us into this unsteady friendship. Colette missed Sadie; she wanted to patch things up. Sadie obviously still felt she could trust Colette or she never would have asked her on this trip. But could it be more than just a trip? (Sometimes friendships sound a lot like relationships, don’t they?)
Despite the heaviness of the conflicts and secrets in My Best Friend, Maybe, I gobbled this one up. Read it in under 24 hours. I had to see how Greece would change Colette, get her thinking on her own without constant pressure from her parents. I had to know if Colette and Sadie’s friendship had anything left after all these years and after this trip. Plus, there’s a sweet romance that felt just right. I think young adult books sometimes underestimate how hard it is for kids to break away from their parents; it’s impossible for us to share the same beliefs and constantly agree on how to live our lives. How moving forward has nothing to do with the level of respect or love we have for those parents. In addition to that, it’s not so often we see two best friends break up and be granted a second chance to be truthful with one another.
My Best Friend, Maybe did that + then some. It was thought-provoking, tough, visually beautiful, and certainly made me a Caela Carter fan.
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Blast from the past: Magan reviews Caela Carter’s ME HIM THEM AND IT (now out in paperback)
Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker (twitter | website)
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: strong sibling relationships, female country singer, singer-songwriter
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Discovered in a small honky-tonk bar on the evening her father cannot lead their family band, Bird is quickly pulled into the singer/songwriter world. Her brothers, Dylan and Jacob, work through feelings of jealousy and abandonment, while her parents try to keep Bird grounded and safe. Bird works through all her feelings as she jots down ideas for songs about the boy, Adam, she’s been pining for over many miles on the road with the Barrett Family Band.
In the midst of a family crisis, Bird’s family manages to survive by clinging to music; they each choose an instrument, and eventually the Barrett Family Band is formed because they become so passionate about playing. They ditch the traditional brick and mortar lifestyle and travel around the country living in an RV — mom, dad, Jacob, Dylan, and Bird. In addition to the covers they play, Bird is a writer and occasionally they incorporate her songs into their set list. One fateful evening, Bird’s dad, Judd, is too ill to sing and lead the band so he asks Bird to step up and do so. Despite her initial nerves, she delivers a brilliant performance that attracts the attention of a big-name label, thus beginning the whirlwind experience of being signed and finding peace after feeling she’s abandoned her family band.
Bird is a typical sixteen-year-old-girl with a unique name and affinity for playing the fiddle. She’s close to her parents and siblings thanks to living in such close proximity to them in the RV; they’re her supporters and best friends. But that doesn’t mean they easily accept the big things that start to happen for Bird and they feel like their lives are set aside. And that doesn’t mean that when she starts to feel like she’s got a career she’s always accepting of the decisions her parents make on her behalf (because she feels she should be given some say-so). It does mean, however, that she’s got a pretty serious crush on a boy, Adam, who is a solo act they frequently see on the road (and oh, one of her brother’s best friends).
That she just so happens to have written a song about.
Bird is linked to a big songwriter, Shannon, who helps her learn how to better craft her songs into hits; Shannon’s daughter, Stella, quickly becomes one of Bird’s closest friends and was one of my favorite aspects of Wildflower. While Bird’s home life seemed very strong, I enjoyed the development of these friendships that were separate of her family. They demonstrated how Bird was a bright girl with a blossoming career, but showed how she was a young girl who needed her best friend’s help responding back to text messages from Adam or someone to complain to when her new career became overwhelming. (Because God forbid she complain at home and her family think she didn’t want the success or opportunity.)
Whitaker nailed the flow and pacing. My only complaint: I just wanted more. (Estelle even helped me search for news about a follow-up book.) The ending felt a little abrupt; there were a few situations with her record label and Adam that I felt were left hanging in limbo. Bird seemed to be working through a lot of emotions and trying to find her footing right before the book ended. Open-ended stories don’t bother me, but Bird seemed almost able to grasp where her career could take her and I wanted to experience that with her, as well as a bit of resolution. Wildflower cured my Nashville hangover (I’m addicted to the show — anyone else?) with every Bluebird, record label, honky-tonk reference. I flew through the pages and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of Bird’s whirlwind rise to fame.
But my one request: Alecia, I need more!
Update: BEST NEWS EVER:
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Fan Art by Sarah Tregay ( web | facebook )
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: coming out, best friends, literary magazine, art class, graduation
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: Jamie is in love with his best friend, Mason. He’s pretty sure Mason is into girls. Mason has no idea that Jamie is gay. Jamie’s fear of coming out rules the last months of his senior year, and well as his role as designer on the literary magazine when the staff can’t seem to agree on one particular piece.
This is another one of those situations where I love an author’s past work (Love + Leftovers is just amazing) and was highly anticipating their next book… only to be disappointed.
Sigh. It makes my stomach hurt just to say that.
I liked a few parts of this novel but, collectively, something did not click when all the pieces were put together. First, Jamie. He’s gay and in love with his male best friend, Mason. Though his parents are open and supportive, Jamie is struggling with coming out to Mason, much less telling him how he feels. He doesn’t want their years of friendship to disappear with his honesty overload.
As readers, we hear all of his insecurities and his fears. I work very hard to be a compassionate reader but, at some point, I really needed him to move forward. It was almost like the worrying when on for so long; it didn’t create a story arc. It was more of a straight line. Add in conflicts within the literary magazine (that started a little bit too late in the story) about an LGBT comic a student has submitted. There’s a group vote about the piece, but when it’s met with such indignation, it starts to eat away at Jamie. He feels every student should be represented in the literary magazine, and rejecting the piece is not the right thing to do.
His taking matters into his own hands does create a level of anxiety in the book. What will the consequences be? But, at the same time, the driving force of the book should have been something more.
The bright spot of the book was Jamie’s new friends with fellow art geek, Eden. She’s overcome with pressures of her own, but for once, he has someone to talk to about coming out and being himself… in front of everyone. Their friendship grew to be so special, and I loved how they supported each other and were also a little tentative with one another — just like new friends growing to trust each other would be. Another sweet detail was Jamie’s relationship with his baby sisters. They loved him so much, and he truly came from a loving family who tried to connect with each other despite busy schedules.
On their own the poetry included was beautiful and gave us a glimpse into the different personalities at this school but it also made the book feel a little uneven. Introducing other mediums into novels is something I personally love. It gives a book a collage feel, but the story also has to benefit from these breaks in the story and it didn’t in Fan Art. I almost wish the book had been more rooted in the lit magazine environment, and less in art class and in Jamie’s head. It was hard for me to get a grasp on all the different characters, and more of a focus might have helped with that.
Despite unbalanced storytelling, I was rooting for Jamie and Mason. I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite authors, J.H. Trumble, who has written some great romances that reminded me a bit of these two. (Check out Don’t Let Me Go.) In the end, Fan Art was too much of one thing and not enough of another.
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It’s kind of crazy when everyone in your timeline loves a book.
Like REALLY loves a book.
Normally, I would wait until later in the year to get to it. Wait for all the hubbub to die down. But with Magan texting me friendship quotes and after watching her vlog (a lot of times, I miss her), I knew I had to make it a priority. So on a weekend when I really needed to love a book, I brought Open Road Summer along. I expected to love the romantic interest a lot, sure, but I did not expect to fall head over heels for the friendship in this book. We should all be so lucky to know a connection like the one that Reagan and Dee share. It’s honest, it’s not always easy, but there is extreme loyalty — whether in action or silence — and they just get each other. It was the biggest highlight of Open Road Summer for me. (Seriously, all the quotes I wrote down were about Reagan and Dee and I just… cried so much during some of their scenes. I thought the book was incredibly powerful and well-done in so many ways.)
So it was an extra bonus that country music was everywhere in this book. While it wasn’t always this way, country is my favorite genre of music. It makes me feel full and happy, and I just love the way that the songs tell a story. It’s been about 10 years now (ahh) that country music has provided the soundtrack to many late writing nights, annoying commutes, brutal workouts, and even a few songs at my wedding. Not everyone in my life feels the same way about country, sadly, so I’m happy that I’ve met smart people like Cassie and Ellice throughout my book blogging who love it too! Since the three of us adored ORS so much, we teamed up to create a country soundtrack that reflects moments and feelings in the book.
For me, I tried to focus on songs and musicians that don’t necessarily get a ton of play. (You know me with my “under the radar” everything.) And, truthfully, I thought soundtracking ORS would be so difficult or distracting but with so many emotions and great moments, it just felt like fun. Here are a few of my own contributions (and why I picked them):
“I Break Everything I Touch” by Jason Aldean: There’s a great song called “I Break Things” by Erika Jo but unfortunately it’s not available on Spotify. But I think Jason and Erika’s songs describe exactly how Reagan was feeling in the beginning of ORS. She just couldn’t get anything to work out right.
“Famous in a Small Town” by Miranda Lambert: I used to love to sing this song in my car and I had to use it when thinking of how Dee’s life has changed since being a regular high school kid.
“Homemade Love” by Jessica Harp: Jessica Harp used to be in The Wreckers with Michelle Branch (oh my god, was that almost 10 years ago?!), and that’s how I got into her. It’s her only album but this song popped into my head as soon as I heard Dee and Jimmy’s backstory.
If you know country even a little bit, you could probably think of about twenty songs right off the bat to explain Reagan and Matt’s relationship. These were my top picks:
- “Stop Drop + Roll” by Dan + Shay: their car ride.
- “Cool Thing” by Rascal Flatts: just them meeting each other in the first place.
- “There’s Where It Is” by Carrie Underwood: two people who did a lot of work to get to this point.
Jo Dee Messina’s “Was This My Life?” is so Matt’s life philosophy after what he’s faced in life. “Oh, we just get one ride around the sun / In this dream of time, it goes so fast.”
I think Ellice + Cassie will agree that the biggest challenge was finding a good friendship song. We need some female country singers to get on this! Perhaps the song to best fit Reagan and Dee’s friendship is “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are” by Tracey Lawrence.
When the water’s high / When the weather’s not so fair / When the well runs dry / Who’s gonna be there? /
You find out who your friends are.
On that note, that’s enough from me! Time for you to get listening!
We sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together! Be sure to head over to Cassie’s blog for a special guest + Ellice for more chatter about our playlist collaboration efforts! Hooray!
More on OPEN ROAD SUMMER: Magan’s vlog | on Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Befriended with Emery Lord