In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins ( web | tweet )
Part of the Blue Heron series.
Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Target audience: Adults/romance fans
Keywords: old loves, new loves, small towns, California, cops, wine
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: When Emmaline gets an invitation to her ex-fiancee’s wedding, she lands a “date” with the most eligible bachelor in Manningsport — Jack Holland. They play hockey together, see one each other at the town bar, but it’s never gone further than friendship. Jack is dealing with the aftermath of his efforts to save some teenage boys in a horrible accident, and needs a break from being treated like a hero when all he can think about is the one kid left in a coma. Can these two overcome their pasts and look toward the future together?
Kristan Higgins continues to weave her magic spell on me, folks. I’m totally hooked.
In Your Dreams brings us Emmaline and Jack — two people who live in the same town and are just passing friends. Over the course of the book, we learn that both characters are thrown into situations where they are forced to see the rawest part of the other. For Emmaline, she’s the cop on duty when Jack saves teenagers from an accident, when their car plunges into water. Later, Jack agrees to accompany Emmaline to the wedding of her ex-fiance and sees for himself the tension caused by her family and her insecurities sparked by her ex-fiance.
This is another area where Higgins excels. It’s not all about the chemistry or pushing her couples together but she really creates a backstory for each of her characters. Jack’s heroic gesture connects to his past, and is also affecting his present. He’s having nightmares, some shady things are going on, and he can’t confide in anyone. Not even his clingy ex-wife who is back in town and hoping to make amends. Jack is just SO nice. Too nice. Even Hadley’s reappearance doesn’t bother him (on the outside). He’s so polite, and helpful that it’s pretty much a curse because she is not one to get a hint.
For Emmaline, her parents are constantly on her case about her job as a cop and how they know she’s gay, and why doesn’t she come out already? They’re therapists and very judgmental and so frustrating. I was continually flabbergasted by how heartlessly they treated Emmaline, and how quick they were to disregard how she really felt. No wonder she had so many walls built up. Her parents paired with her ex-fiance (now that was a story)? It’s amazing she didn’t move to Fiji and change her name. (Okay, that’s dramatic but still. I felt bad for her.)
Somehow Higgins makes Jack and Emmaline’s pairing as unexpected and natural as possible. Emmaline knows that Jack is going through some rough stuff, and he has seen firsthand what kind of crap she is trying to dig herself out of. But it’s the resistance from Emmaline that makes this relationship so freaking sexy. Jack practically has to beg for her to go out on a date with him, and it’s pretty adorable and delectable. I loved how sarcastic and funny Emmaline was amongst the town, but also in her own head. That’s the thing about Higgins’ books. You have to be prepared to be swooning one minute to giggling the next. I can’t think of another romance author who succeeds at both so well. Jack and Emmaline made me fall in love with her work all over again.
Goodreads | Buy on B&N | Buy on Amazon | Review of WAITING ON YOU by K. Higgins
⇒ ⇒ GIVEAWAY! ⇐⇐
Hi! Little Bird Publicity has one copy of In Your Dreams for me to provide as a giveaway! Please leave a comment below to be entered. I will pick a winner on October 10, 2014 11:59pm EST. You must be 13 years old to enter and live in the United States. Good luck!!
Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Friendship, post-high school decisions, family life
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: After an intense summer romance, Sean is starting his senior year of high school single. He works at a thrift shop, reluctantly helps his future sister-in-law with wedding tasks, and sets his sights on joining the Marine Corps. Sean secretly gets the ball rolling, never thinking he has any reason to stay in town post-graduation.
After purchasing Carrie Mesrobian’s Sex & Violence back in February, I never imagined that Perfectly Good White Boy would be my first time officially reading her. (Though, I’m hoping by the time this review publishes I will have read my copy of her debut book.) But I’m glad this title finally got my butt into gear. For once, high expectations did not ruin my reading experience. Perfectly Good White Boy was that good.
Sean is a senior in high school, recently moved into a rental with his mom. His dad is off to rehab. His older brother is engaged to a bubbly girl and they are in the midst of planning their wedding. (The DIY projects peppered throughout the story made me smile.) Over the summer, Sean fell into an unexpected romance with Hallie, a older girl he knows from school who is off to college. I appreciated how Mesrobian crafted Sean’s character. He was a pretty normal teen who was dealing with the aftermath of his family torn apart, he was very open with himself about his sexual urges, and he was also incredibly sensitive. So it’s heartbreaking to him, after being attached to Hallie’s hip, that she decides she wants to start college single.
So Sean is without Hallie (but still missing her), hanging out at home, and also working his part-time job at a thrift shop. I worked so much retail in high school, and I loved how his job was such a big part of his social life. He liked people he worked with, while he disliked others. They all had their quirks, too. In another surprising turn of events, Sean finds himself getting into a friendship with Neecie. It happens by accident but she begins to confide in him about the guy she is sort of seeing. He starts to open up to her in a way he hasn’t with others, and they suddenly have this awesome friendship. Can it be more? Sean isn’t so sure.
Especially because Sean is determined to go into the Marine Corps once he graduates. He doesn’t tell his mother, or call a family meeting. He enrolls, not even wanting to see what happens with his senior year. I was back and forth through the whole book wondering if Sean would go through with it, and, of course, curious about the reaction of his family when they finally found out. I know I had to work through my own acceptance of Sean’s future so I could only imagine what people closest to him were feeling. But, sometimes, we have to make decisions just for us. We just have to.
Perfectly Good White Boy was like this snapshot of Sean’s life before it changed even more than it had already. None of his feelings or the things that happen to him and his friends aren’t necessarily groundbreaking but the fact that they are expressed so authentically on the page made all the difference. From depression to disappointment to the expectations of sex and beyond. I laughed, I teared up, and I wondered what would happen in a year’s time to these characters and their relationships. They all felt like people I knew, and that made the book even more effective for me.
All in all, a super refreshing voice in young adult combined with so many discussion-worthy elements? A winner, for sure.
Add on Perfectly Good White Boy on Goodreads | Buy at B&N | Buy on Amazon
Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan (twitter | website)
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: best friends growing apart, life of an actress, filming a TV series
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Emma loves acting and knows there’s nothing else she’d rather do, but she wishes that people could look beyond her celebrity status to see the real her. Even her best friend, Rachel, seems wrapped up in her fame. When Emma begins filming Coyote Hills, she has an instant connection with Jake, her co-star, but she tries to maintain a friends-only relationship with him.
- Maturity. The characters are college-aged and Emma, the main character, is particularly thoughtful and mindful of how her actions will affect other people. I loved that she tried to think things through before acting on impulse, but there were times she still found herself in uncomfortable situations.
- Friendships. Two points here — Emma’s best friend, Rachel, revels in Emma’s success; she’s jealous and very passive aggressive. It’s clear, even to Emma, that their friendship isn’t working anymore. It’s never easy to make the decision to move on, but I think that was handled really well here. Rachel is also “in love” with Jake based on the modeling photographs she’s seen of him; Emma feels like he’s off-limits to her (though their connection is so strong) because she wants Rachel to have something since her own acting career isn’t working out. What this leads to is Emma and Jake forming this awesome friendship; yes, there’s amazing tension and yes, we see Rachel is terrible so we root for Emma just to GO FOR IT, but as I mentioned in bullet point #1, they’re mature.
- A not-so-cheesy look into an actress’s life. I admit that I’ve read a few books about celebrities and actors. And many of them have felt a little too inauthentic. They skimmed the surface, but didn’t dive into the details. Not in the Script shows how Emma battles with her mom-turned-manager, how misleading the gossip magazines can be, and how everyone is looking out for themselves. Emma seems like the most NORMAL girl who happens to be a celebrity. She’s good at what she does, but it doesn’t define who she is. (Except that this is how most people see her, as a celebrity, and she wants people to look beyond that.)
- Great secondary cast. Kimmi, Brett, and Jake are Emma’s other co-stars in the television show they’re filming, Coyote Hills. McGregor is their director who reads people extremely well, doesn’t handle drama well, and keeps them all in check. Kimmi appears to be the biggest drama queen, seems to maybe be the cause for paparazzi showing up in unexpected places, but often gives Emma solid advice. Brett chases Emma, but doesn’t pick up on the clues that she’s not reciprocating the love-fest. Perhaps best of all is Jake’s mom, who suffered from a stroke, and connects well with Emma. She doesn’t see Emma as a Big Celebrity.
- Perfect balance. Not in the Script isn’t a light and fluffy read, but it’s not crazy heavy and overwhelming either. One thing is guaranteed, you’ll be drawn to keep reading to see if Emma and Jake finally give into the feelings they both so strongly have for each other. You’ll want to know what happens with Rachel, and you’ll want to smack Brett because the poor guy just can’t take a hint. (PS — don’t judge this book by the cover, which I interpreted to be a lot fluffier than the book actually was.)
Add Not in the Script to Goodreads | Buy from Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble
I’m pretty drawn to tough subject books. I scoured my Goodreads lists and narrowed it down to these FIFTEEN tough subject books instead of ten. (Bonus reads!) Obviously I didn’t follow the rules very well. Some of these were harder than others, but they all have aspects of them that really open your eyes to some difficult-to-discuss topics. If you have recommendations for me, I’d love to know what you suggest I add to my TBR.
I broke these down into a few topics and added brief notes for why they were difficult. No spoilers included. All links go to either a review on Rather Be Reading or Goodreads so you can check out the summaries.
- Rites of Passage — bullying, sexism, hazing
- Tease — teen suicide, bullying
- If I Lie — knowing the secret truth about characters, bullying, ass-hat father
- Some Girls Are — bullying. bullying. bullying. stupid high school.
CIRCUMSTANCES & RELATIONSHIPS:
- The Tragedy Paper — albino character, seclusion, longing after an unavailable girl
- Ketchup Clouds — written to a prisoner, hidden identity of main character
- The Lucy Variations — uncomfortable relationship with an adult, parents dictating every move
- When You Were Here — loss of a parent, misuse of prescription pills, loss of sense of self
- Small Town Sinners — discovering one’s own religious beliefs apart from what parents have taught you to believe
- Room — being held hostage, abuse, kidnap, written from the POV of a 5 year old
SEX / ABUSE / PREGNANCY:
- Where the Stars Still Shine — mental/emotional abuse MC suffered from mother’s instability
- Please Ignore Vera Dietz — implicit sexual fetish, death of a friend, crumbling friendship
- Me, Him, Them, & It — teen pregnancy + working through the decision to keep, abort, or give up the baby for adoption
- Uses for Boys — language + actual way it was written, but also sexually explicit, borderline uncomfortable for me — sex isn’t described as overly poetic and is raw and often very in-your-face
- Live Through This — sexual abuse by a relative, mental instability of the MC who questions right from wrong
Which of these books was most difficult for you to read?
What tough subject book recommendations do you have for me?
Complete Nothing by Kieran Scott ( web | tweet )
Book 2 of the True Love series.
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Kids
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Greek mythology, pressures of senior year, family secrets
Format read: ARC paperback from S&S. (Thanks!)
Summary: Cupid a.k.a. True is still dealing with her banishment from Mount Olympus to a high school in New Jersey but now with an added complication: her true love, Orion, just enrolled in the same high school and has no idea who she is. It’s not easy to have the distraction of her boyfriend not being her boyfriend at school, but her latest project is proving to be a difficult one. Peter and Claudia, high school sweethearts, break up out of nowhere and she is determined to get them back together. Will it work? Will she be closer to going home?
It was so great to be back experience the antics of True as she tries to make another love connection in Complete Nothing. (She is too funny.) Kieran Scott took a way different approach with couple #2 (True has to make three connections before she’s allowed to return to Mount Olympus) and I thought it was fantastic: a totally over-the-moon for each other couple dealing with the stresses of graduation, college applications, and a possible future apart. Claudia is already a shoe-in for Princeton while star football player Peter is pretty much allergic to talking about next steps.
Early on, you can see that Claudia and Peter have such a comfortable relationship. Some of their friends tease them for acting “married” but it’s Claudia’s determination to help Peter that causes him to irrationally dump her in front of the whole school. It’s completely out of character, and while Peter regrets it immediately, he doesn’t act quickly on fixing anything. Enter: True. She can see how much Claudia and Peter care about each other so she is going to help them find their way back to one another. Bonus? Orion is also on the football team now. Yay for proximity!
Of course, there would be no story if things didn’t go smoothly. True decides to use jealousy as the weapon of choice to get Claudia and Peter back together. Add in a rival football player, a confident cheerleader, True’s tendency to rush into things and you’ve got trouble. As we switch POVs between Peter, Claudia, and True, I wasn’t sure if things would end up working out. What I did like was how Peter and Claudia’s relationship was never perfect, even when they were happy. They never rushed to say “I love you” and they definitely had some kinks to work out. I wondered if they would get the chance to work through those together.
In the meantime, Scott folds in a plotline with True’s life back at home. There’s some impending danger when the wrong people find out about her relationship with Orion, and then there’s a matter of trust due to her good friend Hephaestus (who is on Earth to help her out) and a few family secrets. I like that we never lose sight of that ticking clock True is up against, and how her past actions are still affecting those on Mt. Olympus. I also can’t forget a few of the kids from the high school who come to her aid (especially the adorable and thoughtful Wallace) as she tries to get her “assignment” done.
I’ve enjoyed this True Love series more than I ever thought. The Greek details are interesting, I love watching True acclimate to a new world, and it’s also fun to experience these different love stories and see how they unfold. I can barely wait to see how Scott wraps up the series because I want our girl to get her own true love back. (Is it possible she decides to stay in New Jersey instead of return to her home? Hm… with this series, the possibilities seem limitless.)
Add Complete Nothing to Goodreads | Buy on B&N | Buy on Amazon | My Interview with True
Psst. For those of you who haven’t read Only Everything yet, there’s only a few mentions of the couple True befriends in the first book but you never get the complete story. So if you do have to read these out of order, it’s not the end of the world. Although, it’s definitely more satisfying to read them in the order they were published.