We’re best friends, Estelle and I. We live miles and miles apart, but there’s seldom been a day in our three year friendship that we haven’t talked about something. Our friendship is the platform from which Rather Be Reading was created. Because of that, we’ve been really wanting to focus on friendship more. Something positive and uplifting. We both find friendship to be such an incredibly important aspect of the books we read. They can often make or break a book. There’s the good, the bad, the ups, the downs… and through all of that, you need a best friend. Someone to hold your hand as you wade through the craziness of life.
Hence the new feature we’re rolling out right now: Befriended.
We’re beginning with one of our very favorite new authors, Emery Lord. We’ve both read Emery’s debut novel, Open Road Summer and fallen madly in love with her incredible writing. (Admittedly, we’ve also watched her awesome author intro video and want to be her BFF, too). Reagan and Dee have this outstanding friendship with years and years of history and love between them. We asked Emery to talk to us a little bit about her personal best friend and in the vein of our themed gift-packs, to create gifts to and from Dee and Reagan. It’s an understatement to say I love how this came out and how much I adore what Emery wrote about her best friend. (Fact: I teared up reading it.)
A big, huge THANK YOU to Emery for helping us introduce our new friendship feature, Befriended. Without further ado, please welcome Emery to Rather Be Reading…
My BFF and I met at church when we were in fourth grade. We were in all the same activities our entire lives and have so many similarities, but we’re different in a lot of ways too. Even little things. I’m a basic-nail polish kind of gal, and she’s great at, like, nail art and Jamberry nails. She went to a small private college for Music Ed; I went to a larger public school for Communications and English. She lives in the suburbs near our hometown; I live in a more urban setting a couple of hours away. She got married in the winter surrounded by cranberry reds and creams, in a strapless dress with her hair up. I got married in the spring, surrounded by peony pinks and tuxedo blacks, in a dress with sheer sleeves and my hair down. I wore her veil.
I wrote about to very different BFFs in Open Road Summer because I wanted to show that you don’t have to have everything in common to be best friends. You just have to show up, emotionally. Everyone understands a relationship like marriage…that I chose my husband to be my family. But my best friend is someone I chose to be my family too. It’s a sisterhood of choice, and it doesn’t matter how far apart we are or how many differing choices we make. What we have in common is 20 years together and so much love and loyalty that we can fill the miles between us. That’s truly all we’ve ever needed.
- – -
From Dee to Reagan
- Arrow Necklace: This is a necklace Dee lets Reagan borrow in Open Road Summer. I think she’d get her one of her very own, since Reagan loves it–and probably write her a cheesy card tying in lyrics to Kacey Musgraves’ song Follow Your Arrow (which I love).
- Photo Cube Printer: Reagan’s a photographer, so she’d love this for iPhone photos taken on the go.
- Vintage 1971 Canon 35mm Camera: Dee’s an antiquer, so she’d absolutely snag this vintage camera for Reagan.
- Ferris Wheel Photo Frames: Dee would get this both as a way for Reagan to display photos and to tease her a little about Matt Finch and a Ferris Wheel ;)
- Boots: Reagan loooves shoes and these boots are totally her style.
- New York Book: Dee is super supportive of Reagan’s ultimate goal of attending NYU. She’d absolutely gift Reagan with NYC-related things to share in her excitement about that.
- – -
From Reagan to Dee
- Bestie iPhone Cases: Reagan would totally get these infinity BFF phone cases for herself and Dee, since they’re in a long-distance friendship/on the phone so much of the time. But, since Reagan would be using the phone case too, she’d pick something a little less frilly ;)
- Decorative Pillow: Something for Dee’s tour bus or new apartment–Reagan’s sense of humor and something to make Dee laugh.
- Tennessee Necklace: To remind Dee of home.
- Floral Weekender: So not Reagan’s personal style, but definitely Dee’s. I think Reagan would get this for Dee to remind her she’s only one packed bag away from a weekend trip home.
- Every Day Journal: One of the things Dee struggles with is how quickly life seems to be moving–by the time one thing happens, she can barely process it before the next big thing happens. Reagan would buy this one-line-a-day journal to help her remember each day without spending too much time memorializing instead of living–something she’s big on :)
- Dolly Parton Quote: Dolly is one of Dee’s heroes, and Reagan would want to remind Dee that even Dolly has seen herself through the rain!
Thank you so incredibly much to Emery Lord for stopping by RBR
to help us kick of BEFRIENDED. Friends, please, please read Open Road Summer
as soon as you possibly can. And stay tuned for more friendship-related posts!
Add OPEN ROAD SUMMER to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble | My Review of ORS
The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 22, 2014
Publisher: Perseus Books
Target audience: Middle grade
Keywords: summer, friendships, camp, cicadas
Format read: ARC paperback from Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: It’s summertime and Julia is planning on spending the warm weather with her best friend, Taylor. That’s until the new girl moves in. Alyssa is competitive and gets to watch the shows that Julia isn’t allowed to, and soon Taylor is ditching all their plans to spend more time with Alyssa. Despite Alyssa’s unfriendliness toward her, Julia still tries to get in her good graces but instead finds herself preparing for a “Russia” (it’s a ball game) showdown in front of the entire neighborhood.
When I was in first grade, a new girl moved in (I still remember her full name) and stole my best friend. I remember how sad I was when I found out my BFF was hanging out with the new girl (instead of me) and even more so when the new girl was just NOT nice to me.
This is something you never ever forget. It’s traumatic for a kid (and adult, for that matter) when the friend you love the most in the world is suddenly gone and you have no control over making it better. Or even understand why it’s happening in the first place when all you’ve been is nice. Don’t those best friend necklaces mean anything?
Julia’s original dreams for her summer are shattered when Alyssa moves on her block. She acts like a jerk, and for some reason, Julia’s BFF, Taylor, thinks that’s an attractive quality in a friend because she starts secretly and not so secretly hanging out with Alyssa instead of Julia. As you can imagine, it sucks. For Julia, obviously but also for the reader because she keeps trying to make a threesome out of the twosome, to get her friend back, and to try to get Alyssa to like her.
Why why why do some people just not like you? This is such a horrible lesson to learn because sometimes there’s no answer to that question.
So a summer that was supposed to be filled with days at the pool, the occasional trip to the city, and awaiting the arrival of the cicadas is spent with her (ultra cool) parents, convincing them to let her switch rooms and redecorate with more “grown up” decor, and attending music camp with her friend (and crush) Peter. She’s also perfecting her skills at the ball game (“Russia”) that Alyssa introduced to the neighborhood as the two are set to compete in a major showdown to become “Russia” champion of Darcy Lane. (Julia’s commitment to “Russia” was super commendable.)
Throughout the book, I loved Julia’s observations on her parent’s relationship, the meaning of life, and also her great passion for music. (It reflected so much of what I felt during those early days of band in middle school — the triumph of people coming together!) These were the parts of the story that really made me smile and fall in love with her character.
The Battle of Darcy Lane is so charming, bringing me back to those awesome, fun-filled days of summer from my childhood but also reminded me of some of the more difficult parts of being a kid. (I wish I could have told Julia her situation with Alyssa and Taylor would make her stronger but she had to learn that on her own.) Altebrando transitions from YA to middle grade so well, bringing along so many of the reasons why I love her work: the humor and the heartbreaks of life, honesty, and a full picture of Julia’s family and this neighborhood.
Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
Bonus: This book trailer was made by 11- and 12- year old filmmakers! How cool is that? It definitely portrays The Battle of Darcy Lane perfectly:
A Passionate Love Affair with a Perfect Stranger by Lucy Robinson
( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 2013
Publisher: Notting Hill Press
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: dating websites, career, Edinburgh
Format read: ARC provided by author. (Thank you!)
Summary: A break from a bustling career for a workaholic is never a good thing. Charley is determined to make the most of her time, and decides to start her own business — ghostwriting for those on dating websites who need a little help making the initial connection. So what happens when she begins falling for one of the guys she’s writing to for a client? Things only get more complicated when she goes back to her “real” job, the guy she’s been in love with forever admits he’s getting a divorce, and a sneaky coworker is determined to take her job. And that’s only at her day job! Can she juggle it all?
Having the busiest week last week, it was a treat to pick up A Passionate Love Affair… during my down time. Charley is so zany, so intensely intense — she wormed her way into my heart and is one of the more memorable characters I’ve met in a long time. (I was reminded so much of reading Sophie Kinsella and Emily Giffin back in the day with this title.)
First of all, starting a company where ghostwriters are hired to help those who are having trouble on dating sites? Total genius. It seems like everything goes right for a person like Charley — she has the career, she makes good money, she has great friends, an awesome family — but the love part just hasn’t clicked for her yet. It’s not surprising either… she’s been crushing on a guy in her office for years (too many years) and his flirtation keeps her hanging on (even though he’s having an affair with a married woman).
Right off the bat I loved the premise, but it wasn’t until Charley starts writing notes for clients (specifically for a very very busy career woman named Shelley) that she starts a bit of self-actualization. Has she been ignoring friends and family because work is her life? Has she pretended to be someone else in relationships and that’s why they never worked out? So as she talks to William as “Shelley” and he starts hitting all the right buttons about letting her hair down, enjoying life, Charley gets a little smitten. Like, a lot smitten. To the point where you will NOT believe the lengths she would go to. (But I was along for the ride and loving it.)
I can’t tell you anymore.
But there’s a surprise, and then another surprise and whoa, Robinson took this story to a whole different place than I would have ever thought. It was fantastic, though, because I had no idea how things would end, how all of this might blow up in Charley’s face, and what it would mean for her career, and her love life. It’s good stuff; I promise.
Clocking in at almost 500 pages (I’ll admit I was a little nervous about this), we get a full picture of Charley’s family including her banjo-playing dad and her two sisters. There are also her friends — Sam, her childlike but adorable roommate who is recently engaged, and her best friend, Hailey, who is the best kind of gal pal because she tells the harsh truth even it’s the last thing that Charley wants to hear. Of course, the work drama played a big part in A Passionate Love Affair too… the crappy coworker (in the inappropriate short skirts) who wants to usurp Charley’s job and most importantly, figuring out proper work/life balance. Was it even possible for her?
In her 30s, Charley was still someone trying to figure out who she was and I really liked seeing that, especially because so many experiences and such different people had an influence on her conclusions. We never know who is going to have that kind of effect on us, and it just goes to show that learning to love and trust yourself is an on-going life lesson. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun and charming book, and I loved the emphasis on dating in the digital age. (While I was reading this, quite a few convos popped up about dating websites and I couldn’t help but smile and think of Charley.) It’s such a relevant experience these days, and no matter how hilarious Charley’s experiences are throughout the book, it will no doubt give you something to think about how you approach relationships and balance work and play in your life.
P.S. I can assure you this review was not ghostwritten.
Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon <– it’s 2.99, what are you waiting for?!
The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: family, summer, secrets, new friends, romance, best friendship
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Four years after the death of her little brother at the beach, Frankie is still coping with the aftermath of his family tragedy. Her father is distant (and possibly off with their neighbor), her mom is dedicated to helping others and avoiding their home, and Frankie is left to her own devices. But the summer brings Frankie Sky into her life — a four year old boy that shares so many similarities with her brothers and makes her smile in way that she hasn’t in a long time. As a mother’s helper, Frankie spends a lot of time with Frankie Sky, who has a mother reeling from the lost of her husband. At the same time, Frankie is conquering past demons a little bit at the time, coming to terms with changes in her friendship with her best friend, Lizette, and trying not to fall harder for her Lizette’s boyfriend.
I told myself I needed to take a break from books about grief and then I started The Summer of Letting Go and could not let it go. Immediately I felt for Francesca, aka Frankie, aka Beans, who is still distraught over the death of her baby brother four years ago. She believes it’s her fault that he drowned in the ocean, and her mom’s incredible coldness toward her solidifies that her belief is the truth. With her dad secretly cavorting with their neighbor, Frankie’s family is falling apart and she doesn’t know how to fix it. She loves her dad and wants to believe her accusations are false so she follows their neighbor to the country club where an unexpected little fellow pops into her life — Frankie Sky — an adorable 4-year old who is so strikingly like her little brother that it takes Frankie some time to recover.
It seems that our Frankie has also struck a chord with Frankie Sky because he wants her to be his baby-sitter for the summer; this works out in the best interest of many people. Our Frankie needs to be kept occupied while her best friend, Lizette, is constantly spending time with her boyfriend and Frankie Sky’s mom has been stunted by her own grief and is not always entirely capable of taking care of her son.
There’s a lot of heavy sadness in The Summer of Letting Go, for sure, but bright lights like Frankie’s personality, enthusiasm for life, and his fitting dialogue paired with this anchor created by Frankie and Lizette’s friendship let so much hope into the story that I could not put it down. Even as Frankie went over and over again in her head the possibility of Frankie Sky being a reincarnation of her brother, as unbelievable as that was, I felt myself working through it alongside her as she was finally allowing herself come to terms with this tragic event that broke her family four years before. At 16 years old, she was making an active decision to be happy and move forward and live her life. This could not be easy for anyone to do, especially after watching her parents struggle in different ways as well.
The Summer of Letting Go is about those little miracles in our lives — sometimes a period of time, or in this case a person — who open our eyes to the past and also (maybe without them knowing) nudge us toward the future. Frankie Sky was that person for Frankie and I loved watching as their friendship grew over the summer. How protective she was of him, but at the same time how Frankie Sky helped Frankie to let go a bit and have faith in people, in nature, and in life.
I have to mention the incredible best friendship between Frankie and Lizette as well. It’s not easy when you want your best friend’s boyfriend, and it’s especially difficult when you feel like your best friend is everything you aren’t. It’s an interesting summer for the two of them because they don’t spend a lot of time together throughout the story, but for Frankie, Lizette is on her mind a lot. So many changes are already blossoming between them and I admired the loyalty and devotion these two had for one another. Even when things got tough and situations got messy and Frankie’s grief drove her to a lonely place, Lizette was there. Their differences never drove them from one another, but they also didn’t push and knew the importance of space.
There hasn’t been a book that broke my heart and put it back together quite like this one has. The Summer of Letting Go is so much about confronting truths from the past (even when they are uncomfortable) and finding the strength to heal. It’s about those small moments and people who come into our lives and turn everything upside down, teaching us more about ourselves then we ever could have thought. It’s about remembering those warm summer days at the beach with your best friend, the speed of your heart racing when the boy of your dreams looks your way, and making your home a safe and welcoming place once again.
Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on Barnes & Noble
Howdy, friends! We’re both checking in to
confess how many books share the books we’ve purchased lately with another Shelve It. It’s been a good, good month for reading and we both, um, went a little overboard. Our wallets are feeling quite depleted, but we’re really excited about all of these and we hope you are, too!
First up is this glorious book I received from Macmillan, Unremembered by Jessica Brody. (Thank you so much, you guys!) It’s been optioned for film by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures. I have been wanting to read Unremembered FOREVER and I’m super excited about this! (PS — Congratulations, Jessica!)
And my (super incriminating) purchases: a screenshot from my amazon orders page. Ooops?!
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Pointe by Brandy Colbert (per Estelle’s amazing blurb on Goodreads)
Noggin by John Corey Whaley
There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos (again because Estelle gave this 5 stars!)
The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle
Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
Panic by Lauren Oliver
*Not pictured because I pre-ordered it (but it was also delivered last week): To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (because, duh. It’s Jenny.)
ARC e-galley approvals:
Through to You by Lauren Barnholdt
Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley
On the Fence by Kasie West
Well, it was a marathon of a book event week last week. THREE IN FIVE DAYS. Insane. Normally I just pick one but they were just too good to pass up — Jennifer E. Smith, Sara Benincasa, and Jenny Han — so I skipped the gym, bought a lot of books, and even had a beer in Books of Wonder in NYC. (Thanks to Jenny Han’s great launch setup. The goodies were amazing.) Here are some pictures from the week:
A few highlights:
- Jen E. Smith reminiscing about first moving to New York during the 2003 blackout. She was ATM and suddenly nothing was working.
- Sara Benincasa is hilarious, and I loved hearing her read from GREAT. It’s always so interesting to hear the inflections in the author’s voice compared to your own. Her next book is going to be a re-telling of Lord of the Flies starring the ladies. Looking forward to that one!
- And Jenny Han made me a little weepy talking about how close she is with her sister and how she finds her sister always worms her way into her books. She also mentioned how she realized how much things were changing when her sister got married and they wouldn’t be spending Christmas mornings together like they used to. This is a feeling I struggle with a lot and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one.
I was a little tricky and fit all my books into one picture. Hopefully it looks less severe?
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly (from Disney Press; thanks!)
After Hello by Lisa Magnum (sent to me by Kelly for a super secret project!)
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (my pre-order came six days late!)
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick (thanks to Emily @ohmagichour for my #AndiSpringExchange gift!)
Shug by Jenny Han (this is a middle grade book)
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (I needed the paperback! There’s chevron inside!)
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Great by Sara J. Benincasa
I’m definitely cut off, right? As you can tell, I’m going to be busy for awhile. I think M + I both are. So what about you? Anything fantastic make its way on to your shelves lately? Let us know! We are curious and nosey and we probably need to add more books to our TBR — because that’s what we do!
Happy Wednesday — we’re halfway there, folks!
Psst! Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for an ONLY EVERYTHING signed arc (U.S. + Canada) and check out reviews of Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwen Heasley; The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jess Verdi; Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu.