Our apartment windows are open; there’s pumpkin spice everywhere. Did you ever notice how people don’t know how to dress when seasons change? Some in shorts, others in boots while all the beer taps have had Oktoberfest and pumpkin-whatever for the last four weeks. (Sigh. The damn holiday creep.) Anyway, I’m glad the cooler weather cooperated with my round of Pub Date. Last week, Brittany kicked us off with a fall brew and I’m up to bat next with one of the books I treasure the most.
Here we go…
Narragansett Fest Lager = yum. I have never had a fall beer in a can (this is a new development) and I liked that even though this beer was heavier than I’ve been used to all summer, it was still on the light side. This beer is New England’s oldest beer and the official beer of the Red Sox (I know this makes Andi happy) which segues perfectly into my book pick: Openly Straight (my review from last summer).
Bill Konisberg has created one of my favorite books in the world about a character named Rafe who escapes his open town in Colorado where he is a celebrated gay teenager to a boarding school in New England where he doesn’t want to be defined by his sexuality at all. It works for a time, until it just can’t anymore. New friends, new feelings, and dealing with all he has left behind = a book full of such heart and honesty. Everyone needs to red this, and then pop open a Narragansett. (Lots of baseball jokes in the book too.)
For me more than any other season, fall feels like a new beginning. After sweating through the summer, it’s nice to snuggle into the comfort of your warmer clothes, seeking out the drinks and snacks you forgot about in the summer, and breathing in that fresh air. People go back to school, leaves start to fall from the trees and nothing beats an autumn in the Northeast. (I’m biased, probably.) Rafe’s time at boarding school, and his extreme efforts to keep who he really is a secret because he’s not sure that’s who he should have to be pair so perfectly with a less intense first brew for your fall.
As a bonus recommendation, try out Peak Organic Hop Harvest Oktoberfest.
As always, cheers and happy reading!
Psst. Don’t forget to leave any of your own fall beer recommendations below!
Jessica Darling’s IT List 2 by Megan McCafferty ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 9/16/2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Target audience: middle grade/JD fans!
Keywords: making friends, middle school, big sisters, family
Format read: ARC from Elena at Novel Sounds. (Thanks!)
Summary: Despite the “luck” she had with the last IT list her sister passed on to her, Jessica needs all the help she can get as old friendships change and new ones in emerge.
While reading Jessica Darling’s IT List Part 2, I was reminded of how much Jessica marches to her own drum. Even though she gets comments on the old band t-shirts she loves to wear and how she wants to dress up like the Periodical Table of Elements for Halloween, she doesn’t change.
The fact that those things stay put when she is literally (I used it right!) questioning everything about her life? Totally admirable.
In the second book of this middle grade series, Jessica is navigating friendships like whoa. Her best friend Bridget seems to be relying more and more on the popular crowd and putting a lot of effort into her boyfriend. Then there’s Hope, who is someone Jess really clicks with but can be so hot and cold. And what about the girls on the track team? How does she know what’s real and what’s not when it seems like her longest and most important friendship is crumbling?
One of the the biggest highlights of this book for me was Jessica’s relationship with her grandma. With her parents so occupied, her grandmother is staying with them for a few weeks and I loved the sounding board she provided when Jessica was feeling a little lost. Not going to lie — made me tear up in some spots because of my own close relationship with my grandma at that age. It was a nice touch to have her a part of the story.
Once again, reading this brought me back to so many of the titles I loved at this age and also made me want to dust off my copy of Sloppy Firsts and get addicted to this heroine from the beginning I know best. I love that these books serve two purposes: entertaining young readers with realistic story lines and a pinch of humor and reminding us Jessica veterans why she is so important to us.
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The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Target audience: young adult/verse fans
Keywords: senior year, family secrets, pressure from parents, football, small town
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Lauren is suddenly living in the small town when her aunt and uncle take her in. Colby is a star on the high school football team and as pressure to pick a college mounts, he wonders if anyone close to him knows him at all. A friendship forms between Lauren and Colby, unable to go any further but as they both have difficulties to face, they may need each other more than they think.
The two things I really love about verse books done right is how swiftly they move, and how much emotion they can evoke in a short block of words. Schroeder took an different angle with verse in The Bridge from Me to You: Lauren got the verse chapters and Colby’s was written in regular prose. This is where I wish I would have read a finished copy of this book because the formatting of Lauren’s pages were all over the place and I didn’t realize it was poetry vs. prose until a bit of the way in.
Anyway. Lauren and Colby are two really nice people. Even though Lauren has been shipped off to her uncle’s by her mother and Colby lost his mom, they are both people who are positive, fiercely care about their friends and family, and are determined to have great futures. It’s all the other factors in their lives that are affecting those happy endings. Not only has Lauren been cut off from her mom but her younger brother, and Colby can’t seem to stand up to his dad about his desire to study engineering in college and retire his football jersey for good.
Despite a great time hanging out the first time, Lauren and Colby’s friendship isn’t instantaneous. When Colby’s best friend gets in a terrible accident, he’s distracted and distant and it takes time before they find themselves in the same place. Colby and Lauren are very at ease with each other; I think it helps that Colby has someone to talk to who isn’t associated with their small town and vice versa, Colby doesn’t know Lauren’s mom. For both, it’s a blank slate.
Focused on having something instead of nothing, Lauren and Colby decide to focus on friendship even though they clearly want more. On each side, there is building pressure as Lauren must come to terms with the truth about her family and Colby has to make some serious decisions about what he will be doing next year. Verse and prose combination made the 300-plus pages fly by so fast, and I loved getting to be a part of this tiny football-loving town for a little while.
That being said, the writing style of the book made the characters feel younger than seniors. I wonder if Lauren’s poetry should have been a supplement to her own prose because there could have been so much more meat to her story. Same with Colby. With his best friend in the hospital and the trouble he has being honest with his dad, there was definitely more of an opportunity to dig deeper in this story. All “issues” seemed to solve themselves pretty quickly, and I would have loved to get more from the secondary characters.
The Bridge from Me to You was a welcome break to a long-string of prose books. In fact, it’s the first verse book I’ve read all year. It was a sweet, feel-good read, and the many mentions of junk food and baked goods (berry pie!) made me wish I had one by my side at all times.
Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N | Magan’s review of Falling Into You by Lisa Schroeder
Make It Right by Megan Erickson ( web | tweet | facebook )
Part of the Bowler University series but can be read as standalones.
Publication Date: September 8, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse
Target audience: Young adult/new adult
Keywords: college, forgiveness, post-graduation plans, trust
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: After mistakes he made last year, Max has sworn off girls for good. His focus is graduation and a job with the family business that he is not looking forward to at all. But a few chance run-ins with Lea, a girl from school, makes him rethink his break from dating. Can he ditch the cocky attitude and have a meaningful relationship?
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t much of a Max fan when I read Make It Count. In fact, it surprised me that author Megan Erickson decided to have her next book in this companion series focus on him. I knew that Max would have a lot of work to do for me to me to not only care about him but believe in his transformation.
Well, I’m happy to say that Megan did another standout job with her characters in Make It Right. Most importantly, learning more about Max did not get him off the hook for past actions either. By hitting his lowest point, he was almost putting more pressure on himself to do better and think more about other’s feelings. In the beginning of this book, I was glad to see Max is actively creating boundaries between who he was and who he wanted to be. I think that was an important first step to getting him as a character. We all make mistakes, but it’s what we do next that means the most.
Did I mention he takes in a homeless cat, bakes like a champ, and can sing?
While Max is dealing with just about everything, he keeps bumping into Lea. In fact, he gets totally beat to a pulp by her when he volunteers to be an attacker during a self-defense class. (I liked this plotline!) She’s really good at reading people, and she wonders which side of Max is the real one: the cocky lady killer or the guy who will drop everything to bring her to the hospital when her friend is hurt? She hopes it’s the second one, and her curiosity gets the best of her when she decides to go on a date with him.
Lea is wrestling with some overarching trust issues from a horrific childhood accident that caused her limp. But she doesn’t let her disability get the best of her. No way. She’s totally kick ass, black belt, and all powerful. I loved that she had this tough exterior while her insides were working to catch up. (There are some other sexy details about her but I’m going to let you discover those yourself.) Her strength and sensitivity make her the most ideal match for Max. That’s for sure.
Here’s what I have grown to adore about Erickson: all of her characters have baggage but it’s the relatable kind. (Revolutionary, I know.) Learning to stand up to your parents, carve your own path, learning to trust yourself and your instincts. While Max and Lea do gain a lot as they get to know each other, their efforts to find happiness don’t end with the promise of romance.
Again, Erickson has delivered a sassy, sexy, and addicting new adult story. Make It Right belongs in your queue.
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Big thanks to Good Choice Reading Tours for hosting this review tour as well as this nifty giveaway
for the first book in the series! Go enter!
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Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton ( web | facebook )
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: pregnancy, miscarriages, fertility treatment, unconventional families
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: After suffering two miscarriages, Laurie and Alan are thrilled when their fertility treatment takes & “Buddy” is on his way to them. But news from the treatment center changes things, challenging their marriage, and altering how the two think of their family and Buddy’s future.
One thing that really struck me about Laurie and Alan’s marriage was how laidback it was. They laughed together, they went on adventures, and it’s not until they are about to embark on a different adventure that things start to unravel for the two. Ann Lewis Hamilton gives us an honest and (at times) heartbreaking look into how partnerships are affected when unexplained tragedies occur. Why do some couples conceive so easily and why do others not have that same kind of luck?
Post-happy news after a visit to the fertility treatment brings some unusual revelations. An angry employee has switched all the vials, and it seems that Laurie is not having Alan’s baby but someone else’s. Now, Jack, 5-year college student, juggler of multiple girlfriends, enters their lives. Laurie is focused on making the best of the situation and having some sort of relationship with him, while Alan can’t help but feel insecure about his role in the family now. (One of Alan’s big concerns is how his son will most likely not look like him because Jack is Indian.)
Expecting shifts POVs between Laurie, Alan, and Jack so the readers are privy to their innermost thoughts — sad, happy, angry, and mean — and it was a treat to watch how these three took an accident and made it work for them. There were a ton of road blocks along the way, but Jack injected a breath of fresh air into the story and really made it work for me. I loved his growing friendship with Laurie, and how much he thought about Buddy, even when Buddy was someone he never imagined caring about. (Not cool he was dating two girls at once but the personalities of both girls were fantastic and made for some very comical moments in the story.)
There were parts of the story that dragged for me, and Expecting took me longer to read than usual. Was it the lack of urgency? Sometimes a lack of connection with the characters? I think so, but it didn’t stop be from enjoying the high moments and sympathizing when life was so messy and out of control. Hamilton allowed us to see the weaker sides of these characters, and I appreciated the authenticity.
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