For Real by Alison Cherry ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte / Random House
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: revenge, reality TV, sister relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.
Summary: Two sisters embark on a reality show adventure but with different objectives: one wants revenge on an ex-best friend and the other is hoping for more quality time with her sister.
FYI: You don’t have to be a reality show guru to enjoy FOR REAL. In fact, if you are like me and maybe watch more Dancing with the Stars reality entertainment over the latest Survivor-type show, you will be impressed by the little details the author has folded into this story. From the auditions to deep in the action of Around the World, I felt like I was behind-the-scenes in the thick of things.
The core of FOR REAL was sisterhood, and that was so refreshing to experience because a lot of my reading doesn’t concentrate on the complicated relationship between sisters. I would know. I’m an older one. So even though I am more similar to Miranda and not Claire, our narrator, I related so much to the push and pull between them. Even though two people are related, when they are in two difference places in life, it’s so difficult to find common ground. Hearing Claire talk about playing second fiddle to Miranda made me think a lot about my sister and if she had ever felt the same way. Despite the disconnect, Cherry nailed the best thing about sisters: no matter where you are or what you are doing, the loyalty is unbreakable.
So Claire and Miranda team up to audition for a reality show that will take them around the world, participating in various challenges as a way to get back at Miranda’s cheating ex who is also on the show. They are so excited to land a last minute spot, but are also thrown for loop after loop once they sign their contract. There’s time spent with Will Devine, an adorable guy who seems to have his eye on Claire, and the changing landscape on the show that is focused on causing more drama and not really about strengthening new and old relationships. Is anyone taking part in this for real or are they all faking it?
It’s great that Claire was forced to make some tough decisions, as she struggled with her love for her sister and also her desire to win. (Let’s not forget her affection for Will.) Even as a reality show aficiando, Claire doesn’t have all the answers and I really enjoyed her journey. Cherry’s story was full of heart and I loved how she gave readers the opportunity to think about how real these reality shows are. Still, I would have welcomed more chapters to flesh out the end of the novel, and maybe a few more in between to lend some clarity to the show’s timeline. Overall, this was a fun introduction to Cherry’s writing and I was impressed by her decision to not always make the typical storytelling choices.
Add FOR REAL to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
Big thanks to Random House for the opportunity to chat with Alison about FOR REAL!
First of all, I loved that FOR REAL focused on the relationship between two sisters. As an older sister, it was a little hard for me to read about how Claire wanted her sister to respect her and want to spend time with her. (I became very self-reflective, seriously.) What was the hardest part about getting this dynamic right? Did you throw in your own experience at all?
It was definitely a challenging dynamic to write, especially since I’m the older sister in real life, too! My younger sister and I have always been close; we’re far enough apart in age and have diverse enough interests that we’ve never really experienced any sibling rivalry, and she says I never underestimated or babied her the way Miranda does to Claire. (I was extremely happy to hear that, as you might imagine.) But many of my best friends in high school were older than I was, and I remember exactly what it felt like when they went off to college and moved on to bigger, better things while I was still stuck at home. It’s extremely painful to watch your importance in other people’s lives wane, especially when your feelings for them haven’t changed at all.
I’m more of a Dancing with the Stars fan than an adventure reality show fan but I was so impressed by all the behind-the-scenes details you included that I never would have thought of. Was it tough to narrow down the destinations of the show that Claire and Miranda take part in?
The behind-the-scenes details were surprisingly hard to find! It turns out people have to sign all kinds of non-disclosure agreements when they go on reality shows, so there are barely any tell-alls or even blog posts about the experience. I did manage to interview one former contestant and one field producer, both of whom were very helpful, but I also got a lot of my information from a fan-written compendium about the first five seasons of The Amazing Race. If you want to know minutia about pop culture, it’s always best to talk to rabid fans; they’ve done much more digging than you’ll ever accomplish on your own.
As for narrowing down destinations, it actually wasn’t that difficult, but I can’t talk about my decision-making process without major spoilers! Let’s just say this: at each location, my characters had to do three challenges based on a very specific kind of local custom, so I could only send them to countries for which I could find three usable ideas.
Since its December and we are all about the holiday spirit around here, what do you think Claire and Miranda would be gifting each other this holiday season?
Miranda has noticed that Claire carries a Doctor Who bag, so the first thing she’ll Google when it’s time for Christmas shopping is “Doctor Who gifts.” She won’t know what this blue police box thing is supposed to be, but since it pops up everywhere, she’ll deduce that it’s probably pretty important, and she’ll buy Claire a TARDIS bathrobe. Claire will be delighted, thinking Miranda is finally taking some interest in the things she likes. But when she puts it on and makes a “bigger on the inside” joke, Miranda will just stare at her blankly.
Claire will buy Miranda the complete Freaks and Geeks on DVD. She’ll tell herself it’s just because she wants to introduce her sister to some great television, but secretly, she also wants Miranda to know what it felt like not to be popular in high school.
Thanks so much, Alison!
(Be sure to check out Alison’s appearance at this month’s BIG KIDS’ TABLE too!)
Fa la la la novella la la la. (Did you like that song?)
I’m loving this mini-review thing! Honestly, I don’t read a ton of novellas, but after checking out these three? I’m looking forward to checking out more especially since here are three authors I’ve never read before and I’m excited to read more of their work.
Stay warm & enjoy, friends!
Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey ( web | tweet )
Publisher: Carina Press/Harlequin
Target audience: Adult
Her Holiday Man is all about second chances: Christina is on her own for the first time in her life after her husband embezzled money and Will has returned to live in his hometown, knowing full well memories of how his life should have been will be everywhere. Christina and her young son befriend Will’s mom (who is dealing with the holidays as a widow) and Will is immediately taken with the enthusiastic and sweet little boy living across the street, and, even more so, the mother who works so hard to take care of her little family.
For a novella, the development of each of the main characters plus the romance between Christina and Will is well-developed even as the couple keeps resisting what is happening between them. I did not want to take one break while I was reading, and I mostly succeeded in that (thanks to huge Black Friday lines). It was so nice to see a family come together, neighbors become friends, and two people come to the realization that life can begin again. (Plus the small town is adorable — so many holiday events!)
Add HER HOLIDAY MAN to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
Mistletoe & Mr. Right by Lyla Payne ( web | tweet )
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Target audience: New adult
Jessica is one of the most Type-A characters I’ve ever met in a book before. On winter break from college, she decides to surprise her boyfriend in Ireland during holidays with his family. (Isn’t this ballsy?) She is determined to make a good impression on his family, and figure out once in for all if Brennan is “the one”. (I know. She’s a little young to feel this way but she’s obsessed with following a very specific list of life achievements. There is a reason for her madness; trust me.)
Not only does she hit a goat with her rental car when she first arrives in Ireland, but Brennan isn’t entirely thrilled to see her and his family isn’t exactly welcoming. (They don’t throw her out though, so that’s a plus.) Instead of the romantic trip she was envisioning, Jessica is dealing with family members who don’t even know who she is, a serious ex-girlfriend she never knew Brennan had, and the cute guy who works for the family and keeps catching Jessica at her worst.
All in all, Mistletoe & Mr. Right is more about a girl coming to terms with her own past and realizing that it’s okay to let loose once in awhile. You cannot be in control of everything. So Jessica’s Christmas miracle ends up taken a completely unexpected turn but I definitely liked the way it all turned out. Writing was a bit on the high-drama side (a lot of sentences with “soul” in it) and I would have loved to see a goat or a horse on the cover instead of a dog, but yet another fun read from Bloomsbury Spark! (Oh — and the author’s love for Ireland is so apparent. Loved all the detail!)
Add MISTLETOE & MR. RIGHT to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman ( web | tweet )
Publisher: CreateSpace (originally Notting Hill)
Target audience: Adult
Christmastime & home improvement rolled into one = two of my favorite things! Lottie and her young daughter head to Wales when Aunt Kate lands herself in the hospital after a terrible car accident. Unable to take care of her bed & breakfast due to her injuries, Lottie is positive she can handle the stay of a big reviewer and his family especially because her aunt desperately needs the exposure. When she makes her way to the B&B, she’s surprised the house is in such disrepair and is forced to do whatever she can to make it livable for her guests. Enlisting the help of Danny, a full time cab driver and part time sculptor, Lottie is forced to think on her toes in order to host the perfect Victorian holiday.
Guys, this book was so utterly charming and laugh-out-loud hilarious. I loved how wise Lottie’s daughter acted (reminded me of Susan in The Miracle on 34th Street), and the funny way Gorman framed so many of the scenes in this book. As you can imagine, so much went wrong (Lottie is a video game designer and has no experience in hotel management) but there is also so much that went right. I loved the mother/daughter relationship, sweet Danny who is a devoted long distance dad, and the B&B backdrop so much that I would have welcomed a full-length book with these characters!
Add THE RELUCTANT ELF to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
All holiday novellas in this post were supplied by individual publisher for honest reviews. (Thank you!)
Today we’re hosting a dinner party so I’m glad you are here because the guests of honor are awesome. All four of them have books releasing this month, and were kind enough to attend this potluck get-together at a pretty late hours. (Wink wink; thanks ladies!)
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a get-together like this one on Big Kids’ Table and who knows? It might be a sign of what’s to come in the new year. But right now, we have four talented authors with their own shiny new books and on top of that, some personal non-YA recommendations for you. I hope you get a kick out of these and find something to add to your TBR too.
Molli’s pick & pitch: I recently had the chance to read Becka Paula’s New Adult debut, EVERLY AFTER, which I thought was such an unconventional and brave romance. EVERLY AFTER is a tense, beautiful story about two damaged individuals who see the best in one another – and the versions of themselves they can become.
What’s new (dinner convo): When I’m not reading whatever I can get my hands on, I’m working on the sequel to my first book, AS YOU TURN AWAY. The sequel is called AS WE FALL TOGETHER and with luck, will be published in the spring of 2015!
Add ONE SONG AWAY to Goodreads | Visit Molli on the web + twitter
Lorriane’s pick: White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Her pitch: WHITE OLEANDER is an adult book with a young protagonist who ages from 12 to 20 during the course of the novel. It’s a raw, compelling, emotional tale about a girl who is the victim of her mother’s bad choices and struggles to make her way in the world. It’s also an excellent movie!
What’s new (dinner convo): My latest novel, INDEPENDENTLY WEALTHY, was published by St. Martin’s Press on December 2, so I’m currently very busy with a blog tour, etc.
Visit Lorraine on the web + twitter | My review of Independently Wealthy
Liz’s pick: Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
Her pitch: This is not your average vampire book–it’s hilarious. Like all of Christopher Moore’s books, it turns your assumptions on their heads. If you love the fun, relatable voice of humorous YA writers like Josh Berk and Louise Rennison, you will never be disappointed by Chris Moore.
What’s new (Dinner convo): My 2nd YA book, TOP TEN CLUES YOU’RE CLUELESS comes out on December 9. Then my first New Adult book under my pen name Ellie Cahill, WHEN JOSS MET MATT, comes out on February 24, 2015! Other than that, I’ve got a couple of YA and NA projects in the works that I can’t talk about yet!
Liz Czukas on the web + on twitter | Magan’s review of TOP 10 CLUES
Alison’s pick: The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
Her pitch: In any book, the most important thing to me is well-drawn characters, and the four protagonists of The Robber Bride seem so real that I’ve never thought of them as characters at all—I just think of them as people I know. There have been times I’ve been out shopping and thought, “Oh, Charis would like that,” before I remembered she’s not a real person. The plot is so well paced and intricately woven and ultimately quite suspenseful, and the way Atwood describes these four women loving and hurting and manipulating each other is incredibly masterful. I’ve read this book every few years since I was about sixteen, and it never fails to delight me.
What’s new (dinner convo): I have two books coming out in 2016! The first, Grandma Jo’s Guide to Prim and Proper Pilfering, is a middle grade about a girl who discovers that her grandmother’s bridge club is actually a heist ring. The second, Look Both Ways, is a YA about musical theater and two girls walking the very fine line between obsessive platonic friendship and romantic love.
Alison’s upcoming book FOR REAL releases on December 9. Big sisters on a reality TV show adventure!
Alison Cherry on the web + twitter
You were brilliant guests, Molli, Lorraine, Liz, and Alison! I hope you’ll be back soon!
Now it’s your turn! What great non-YA have you read lately?
(My current recommendations are The Rosie Project and Her Holiday Man!)
Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Z. Rosenthal ( web | tweet )
→ Book 1: New Money from Fall 2013
Publication Date: 12/2/2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Target audience: New adult/adult
Keywords: family secrets/mystery, romance, New York City
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher. (Thanks!)
Summary: Savannah is still finding her way in New York City: balancing a job, her boyfriend, and settling into life with her extended family. She hasn’t yet given up on what really took her biological father from her, and is determined to figure out the true story… with our without the help of her half-siblings.
I had a really good time reading New Money last fall, but this time around, I bonded with Savannah in a way I hadn’t before. She’s more settled in the city, working hard at her job (even though, let’s face it: with her allowance, she doesn’t need to), balancing a boyfriend and getting to know her newly acquired family better.
The drama from the first book has mostly disappeared and I say mostly because while the craziness in New Money seemed to creep up on her out of nowhere, this girl goes after it herself in this book — chasing down the answers of what really killed her media tycoon father. While we spend a majority of our time cabbing around Manhattan (the book opens with the Christmas season — so fitting and Rosenthal captures it so perfectly), Savannah also spends time in DC, worming herself into many uncomfortable situations to find out more and eventually returning to NYC with more than she bargained for.
This is the thing: even though Savannah handles her wealth and new lifestyle with such grace, she’s not above acting impulsively either. And maybe not always in the way you would think. Rosenthal has made a good habit of writing about strong, complicated women from the little sister in Queens (Other Words for Love) to this southern belle granted a fairy tale life with a few inconsistencies. The struggle to be independent, successful, and express love to the people in your life is what makes Savannah such an authentic character. We may not be wearing Gucci or living in an apartment that overlooks Central Park, but we worry about our hearts. We want to be good and do good by the people we care about.
Independently Wealthy mixes some ballsy detective work and delicious distractions with finding your place in relationships, your family, and a bustling city. As I inched to the last pages of the book, I already missed Savannah and wondered what she would be up to next. You know I want you to check out this series from the beginning, but I won’t tell if you cheat and skip to this one.
Add INDEPENDENTLY WEALTHY to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
The lovely folks at St. Martin’s Press are offering 1 lucky winner a finished copy of Independently Wealthy. Open to U.S. readers only. Enter below & good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless by Liz Czukas (website | twitter)
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: grocery store, Christmas Eve, theft, teenage diabetic
Format Read: ARC received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: Chloe’s Christmas Eve is spent as a cashier in GoodFoods, the supermarket where she works, trying to work up the courage to talk to the boy she likes, learn something new about a co-worker, and desperately trying not to forget to bring home her mother’s ham.
We’re a little more laid back with our reviews this month, but there are exceptions to every rule, of course. Especially because Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless comes out in a few days and the entire book takes place on Christmas Eve. Oh, and did I mention I really, really enjoyed it?
Chloe is a categorizer, a list-maker, an observer. She’s just moved to her new town and she’d really like to make friends. The list she makes on Christmas Eve is as much a to-do as it is a challenge. She can’t forget her mother’s ham when her shift is over, but she’d also like to speak to the boy she’s been crushing on, Tyson, and learn something new about one of her GoodFoods grocery store co-workers, too. (Bonus points: Chloe is a fair-skinned, red-head and Tyson is a black guy. Yippie for some diversity!) Unpredictably, the donation money that GoodFoods has been collecting is stolen. Chloe and her teenage co-workers find themselves in grocery store lockdown in the break room because they’ve been targeted as suspects and the police have to arrive to begin an investigation.
It’s rare to read a book that takes place over the course of a single day; to make the story work and feel believable, the pacing has to be flawless. And Czukas really nailed it. I was swept up in the mundane duties of working in a grocery store (that I really found quite fascinating) — how each job operates, how good Chloe is as a checker but how terrible Micah is, and how they have a running list of the oddest shoppers ever. (I must admit I felt a little outted when I read about mom’s going in without makeup; uh, guilty as charged.) But aside from Chloe’s actual job, there’s this great mystery of what really happened to the thousands of dollars gone missing. Who really stole it?
Chloe wants to heroically solve the crime, but there’s also this nice minor story of her being a diabetic and what each day is like for her. (First time reading about a teenage diabetic!) There’s all of this tension and chaos because last minute shoppers have flooded GoodFoods, the money has been stolen, and Chloe’s unable to focus on taking care of herself and checking her insulin levels. Ultimately, the story has such a simple setting, but the timeline is intermingled with these great heart-to-heart moments, reality, and a nice helping of a wintery, icy setting to make you want to sip hot chocolate and curl up with this book from cover to cover.
Add Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless to Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Hiya, friends! 2014 has been such a great year, and, personally, my Twitter feed and TBR list would not have flourished like it did without the influence of Dahlia. As a debut writer and fantastic blogger, it’s been a pleasure to check out her work, read about her adventures in publishing, and know she is always available for a book recommendation!
We’re thrilled to have her on Rather Be Reading Blog chatting about her favorites in the world of new adult books, especially as she prepares for the December 9th release of Last Will & Testament! More info on her latest contribution to new adult can be found below but before that, make sure your wallets and TBR lists are handy!
Thanks for having me, Estelle & Magan! Anyone who knows me at allllll knows I pride myself on my book recs, but because I blog primarily about YA (at both YA Misfits and Barnes & Noble), I don’t get to talk about NA as much as I’d like. (Except, on Twitter, where I talk about everything I like all day, every day.) So I was really excited when Rather Be Reading Blog asked me to share my recs for my favorite NA novels of the year, especially because I think it’s been a pretty great one for the category.
So, without further ado, here are my 2014 NA faves:
Deeper by Robin York – I had never read a novel by Ruthie Knox before embarking on this one under her NA pen name, but I knew I had several friends who were die-hard fans. And now I totally see why. Deeper grabbed me from the very first chapter, with the main character’s misery and strength and fierceness and growth and candor and ugh, just everything. As I said to the friends I promptly encouraged to read it when I finished, it’s full of the same tropes as lots of other NA, but there’s something about the way York writes them that made me believe them for what felt like the very first time. I know the “revenge porn” theme isn’t for everyone, but I just found it relevant and well done and good lord can York write a sex scene.
The Year We Fell Down and Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen – My good friend Katie recommend Bowen’s books to me, and I promptly devoured all three Ivy Years books in one week. Much as I’ve been loving NA lately, it’s pretty sorely lacking in diversity, so the fact that the series features a romance between two disabled students (one temporarily, one permanently) and one between two guys is pretty freaking huge. These books are sweet fun, and I’ll definitely be buying the next installment on release day.
Make it Count by Megan Erickson – What was really notable to me this year was the amount of light NA I enjoyed. That was something I really hadn’t been finding in NA, so Megan Erickson’s books were a serious gold mine. They’re so much fun, the characters have so much personality, and I particularly loved this first one for featuring a main character with dyslexia.
Swimming to Tokyo by Brenda St John Brown – Oh man, this book. I don’t know what I thought I was getting with it, but it was such a pleasant breath of fresh air. One of the traits I prize absolutely first and foremost in a person is being non-judgmental, and it struck me as I was reading that that was exactly main character Zosia. I just respected her in a way that felt really cool. Add serious chemistry between her and Finn, real family background, and the Tokyo setting, and you have a book that not nearly enough people are reading.
Caged in Winter by Brighton Walsh – Hot. Hot hotness. Cade is a tattooed chef, Winter’s a BAMF, and together, they’re just hot. I’m such a sucker for both guys who cook and girls with an edge, so I really loved this pairing and their chemistry, and the secondary characters too. I’ve been following the teasers for the next book in this series, and holy hell yes, I will be buying that.
The International School series by Chanel Cleeton – This was originally a duology, and now there’s a third book—French Kissed—I haven’t yet read but absolutely will. I love the setting of the international school and the diversity of the cast, not just because it’s nice to actually see diversity, but because the cultures of the different characters are really utilized in the personalities of the characters and the school’s social structure.
The Star Thief by Jamie Grey – I am so not a sci-fi person, but this one by Jamie Grey was a lot of fun. Super sexy, cool heroine with a great voice—definitely a pleasant surprise for almost-strictly-contemp me.
And finally, speaking of spec-fic NA, I loved The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian, as well as the subsequent “insanely hot lesbian novella” (extremely accurate description), Our Broken Sky. I loved the concept and the writing style; perfect for a book that sort of straddled the lines of horror, thriller, and dystopian. And given the serious dearth of f/f NA, that novella was very appreciated.
Those are some favorites, but there were a lot more I enjoyed this year, and a lot of authors—both listed here and not—I’ll be keeping an eye on in 2015 and beyond. I’m so excited to be joining their NA ranks now, and I hope you guys like Last Will and Testament as much as I loved these!
Thanks so much for stopping in, Dahlia!
More on Last Will & Testament (December 9, Smashwords): Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she’s acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she’ll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn’t exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan.
But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you’re ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks… and that she’d like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever reciprocate.
Until he does. Until they turn into far more than teacher and student. Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.
Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N | Follow Dahlia: Blog + Twitter
Dahlia is also the author of Behind the Scenes, and the upcoming, Under the Lights.