Through to You by Lauren Barnholdt (twitter | website)
Previously Reviewed: One Night That Changes Everything / Sometimes it Happens / The Thing About the Truth / Right of Way / Two-Way Street
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: choreography, roller-coaster relationships
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!)
Summary: Intrigued by a note left on her desk and a few convincing words by the note-writer, Penn, Harper decides to ditch school to learn more about him. Penn is a closed-off guy and Harper desperately wants to strip away his tough-guy exterior to learn more about him.
Good golly, Miss Molly. I really dread having to sit down at my computer to write a review about a book that just didn’t resonate with me. But alas, I want to be as honest and transparent as possible so unfortunately that means I have to suck it up.
Through to You was my third novel of Lauren Barnholdt’s to read. My complaints in the past have been that there wasn’t enough depth and character development before the final page was turned. I wanted a higher level of believability. However, those continue to be two of my biggest complaints after completing this novel.
Harper is a girl who flies under-the-radar; she has one best friend, is a good student, and is going to audition for a spot in a prestigious choreography program. Penn randomly walks by her desk in the one class they have together and drops a note on her desk that reads, “I like your sparkle.” This is the introduction to Harper and Penn’s very roller-coaster-esque relationship. Harper doesn’t know why Penn would leave her the note. Penn doesn’t know why he left the note for Harper. I immediately felt disinterested in Penn. What were his intentions? Did he want to lead her on or was he really interested? Prior to that one moment, the two of them had never spoken. My gut told me that Penn wasn’t to be trusted.
After an awkward hallway conversation, Penn convinces Harper to ditch school. She’s intrigued by this boy and seeks to know why he would leave her the note. They have very little to discuss, not knowing much about the other or what common interests they have. She was such a gullible character to blindly follow this boy she knew so little about. As she learns more and more about him, as he proves that he’s unstable, moody, and hard to relate to, Harper takes on a savior complex. Though she knows she should back away, she repeatedly falls victim to his half-hearted apologies. Penn was confusing and angsty, and while he would make Harper feel useless and seemed disinterested, she continued to push aside her anger and was too easily swayed by her need to fix him. (Though he rarely shared information about his personal life, so she was never quite sure what needed to be fixed.)
Ideally, I would have liked for Harper to have had more of a backbone, more strength. For all these other interests she had, choreography per se, there’s very little of her actually working on those things that she’s passionate about. The girl I got to know tossed all of those things aside and became fixated on the unobtainable boy. Overall this would have strengthened the flow of the story so that when the day arrives for Harper to audition, it doesn’t seem out of place for the sequence of events to occur.
While Through to You is a very casual read, it doesn’t exhibit the type of relationship I’d like to see teenage girls (or anyone for that matter) pursuing or idolizing. I want to read strong stories about girls who are chasing boys that aren’t disinterested and stringing them along. I want to see girls who are still able to stay true to themselves and boys who make an effort to do better for that girl, not encourage them, repeatedly, to skip class and cast aside all responsibility.
Unfortunately, Through to You wasn’t a hit for me. If you’ve read it and you saw things through a different perspective than mine, please share your thoughts below. I’m always, always curious to know if I missed something when I didn’t connect with a book.
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In Deep by Terra Elan McVoy ( web | tweet )
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Simon Teen
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: swimming, competition, grief, addiction
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Summary: School work, friendships, family, romance — nothing is going to get in the way of Brynn’s swimming. Living for practice and not caring too much about everything else, all Brynn wants to do is best her times in the pool and land a scholarship for college. But is her training and focus a bit out of control?
A theme in many of more effective books I’ve read this year lately is complicated main characters. I like to remind myself that I am never going to agree with or understand why any one person does something. Not even some super close to me. That’s just about how I felt about Brynn, a supporting character from Terra McVoy’s 2011 novel, The Summer of First and Lasts, who steps to the forefront in the addicting and complex In Deep. (Note: I didn’t much remember Brynn from an earlier reading of TSOFAL but, FYI, In Deep takes place before it.)
Brynn is a risk taker. She loves to egg on her best friend, Grier, and, in turn, loves to do stupid shit herself. She basically fills up her time with anything she can before returning to the place she feels the best — in the pool — working to perfect for times and feel like a winner. With her dad suddenly dying a few years ago and her unhappiness with how her mom handled the entire situation, she has basically shut everyone out. Sure, she says hi and bye and allows herself to play silly games with her stepdad in the car but, despite the title, it doesn’t go deeper than that.
It’s hard for me to explain why Brynn acted the way she did. Was she jealous when Grier met a new guy and completely ditched her? Why couldn’t she let Charlie be good to her and accept that he wanted more from her than just sex? All of this work focusing on swimming, not caring about schoolwork, not being honest with Grier — it was all bound to come to explode at some point, right? I mean, that’s the thing. In Deep felt like a ticking time bomb. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what all of this debauchery was leading up to, but, at the same time, completely charmed by Brynn sometimes too. Like the way she dispensed useful advice to her school friend, Kate. Or how admirable her work ethic was when it came to swimming.
But that’s the thing. Our life can’t be just one thing. No matter how good it makes us feel, balance is key to our well-being. I worried that Brynn was filling up her time with some very damaging habits because she was hiding from her mom, hiding from the death of her father, and never truly dealing with any of it. Just like McVoy did with Criminal, she completely immersed me in a world that felt dangerous: emotionally and physically. But there were also so many layers to Brynn’s behaviors and routines, so many shades of gray, that I found myself wanting so badly to be able to discuss all my thoughts with someone. My mind was all over the place — in a good way.
I love to be challenged in my reading, and I’ve grown to love McVoy’s writing with every book I experience because not one of them is the same. She is constantly stretching my limits as a compassionate reader, and introducing me to characters and situations that make me consider possibilities in my reading I never have before. Sure, there is something to be said about knowing what to expect from an author, but being surprised and satisfied? There’s nothing like it.
In Deep is dark and messy; it’s a story about how we can abuse control and routine, using it to shield us from the moments that catch us off-guard and what we do to fill an impossible void. Terra Elan McVoy continues to deliver memorable, authentic characters (leading and supporting) and moments that cause you to question your own convictions and press pause on just about everything in life until you reach the last page. (And then you won’t be able to stop thinking about it so… it’s never ending — in a good way.)
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It’s Monday so I’m feeling rebellious. That’s right. I chose books by their covers. NO ONE THROW THINGS AT ME. Basically, I was in the bookstore last week, checking out the New Fiction table, and stumbled upon some beautiful looking books. Not just beautiful but bright and eye-catching. When it comes to summer, I am about bright sundresses, nail colors, lips, sunglasses… everything! I love love color. So today I want you think of these books as some gorgeous piece of clothing in a shop window or even the best looking umbrella on the beach…
Because regardless of what we are taught, a good cover is a HUGE reason why we pick up a book in the first place, right?
Let’s see what we have today…
This image doesn’t do the book cover justice. It’s so so so bright!
Description from Goodreads: Meet Tess. A vintage clothes–obsessive, she’s trapped in a frighteningly grown-up customer relations job she loathes. Still, she’s been dating the gorgeous accountant Dominic since university, and has a perfectly lovely flat, which she shares with her best friend, Kirsty. But if her life is so perfect, why does she tear up whenever anyone mentions her future?
Meet George. He’s a brilliant jazz musician who spends almost as much time breaking up fights between his bickering band mates as he does worrying about his ailing father and living up to his stockbroker girlfriend’s very high expectations. For a guy who has always believed in romance, the grim practicalities of twenty-something life have come as something of a shock. Seemingly always on the verge of a big break, he’s looking for something more…something special.
They just might be two halves of one perfect whole. Now, if only they could manage to cross paths…
(I actually chatted about this book in my Shelve It from this weekend.)
Great font and colors, right?
Description from Goodreads: In a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen in Mahim, Bombay, through the last decades of the twentieth century, lived four love-battered Mendeses: mother, father, son and daughter. Between Em, the mother, driven frequently to hospital after her failed suicide attempts, and The Big Hoom, the father, trying to hold things together as best he could, they tried to be a family.
Bonus: I’m seeing a ton of 5-star ratings on Goodreads.
Oh gosh. I realized I was so blinded by these colors that I fell for a movie tie-in cover. Can you blame me? As soon as I saw that sky, I imagined doing a NAILED IT based on it. Anyway…
Description from B&N: First published in 1947, Mood Indigo perfectly captures the feverishly creative, melancholy romance of mid-century Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Recently voted number ten on Le Monde’s list of the 100 Books of the Century (the top ten also included works by Camus, Proust, Kafka, Hemingway, and Steinbeck), Boris Vian’s novel has been an icon of French literature for fifty years—the avant-garde, populist masterpiece by one of twentieth-century Paris’s most intriguing cultural figures, a touchstone for generations of revolutionary young people, a jazz-fueled, science-fiction-infused, sexy, fantastical, nouveau-decadent tear-jerker that has charmed and beguiled hundreds of thousands of readers around the world. With the help of Michel Gondry and Audrey Tautou, it is set to seduce many, many more.
Not only is this cover fun but this book is one of those “choose your own adventure” books…
Abbreviated description from B&N: Your best friend is getting married and she’s asked you to be a bridesmaid. You have so many decisions to make. . . . You also have to navigate through the bachelorette party, the bride’s wedding jitters, the dress from hell, and more. Perhaps the most tempting option is to flee the entire affair with a tall, dark stranger . . . or maybe an old friend who could surprise you with a sizzling encounter. You make the decisions—a wild ride is guaranteed.
It’s interesting how many of these book started out with a toned-down cover and released a second, more vibrant one!
Description from Goodreads: About to turn thirty, Alice is the youngest of three daughters, and the black sheep of her family. Drawn to traveling in far-flung and often dangerous countries, she has never enjoyed the closeness with her father that her two older sisters have and has eschewed their more conventional career paths. She has left behind a failed relationship in London with the man she thought she might marry and is late to hear the news that her father is dying. She returns to the family home only just in time to say good-bye.
Daniel is called many things—”tramp”, “bum”, “lost.” He hasn’t had a roof over his head for almost thirty years, but he once had a steady job and a passionate love affair with a woman he’s never forgotten. To him, the city of London has come to be like home in a way that no bricks and mortar dwelling ever was. He makes sculptures out of the objects he finds on his walks throughout the city—bits of string and scraps of paper, a child’s hair tie, and a lost earring—and experiences synesthesia, a neurological condition which causes him to see words and individual letters of the alphabet as colors. But as he approaches his sixties his health is faltering, and he is kept alive by the knowledge of one thing—that he has a daughter somewhere in the world whom he has never been able to find.
So what do we think any keepers in this group? Four out of the 5 books are strong contenders for me. (Not sure “choose your own adventure” is something I want to try again.)
What about you? What’s the last book you picked based on a cover?
Thanks for checking out this month’s Big Kids’ Table! ♥
Hello! I know, two weeks in a row of Shelve It? What?!? I find it motivates me more when I do these + it’s been forever since I’ve done a v-log. (Don’t ask me about Instagram videos though… I am a wreck at those. How how how do you say anything in just a few seconds? M is my hero.) Anyway…
Good weekend, so far? I can’t believe it’s Sunday evening. I did so much walking yesterday, did a little reading, and I’m excited to settle in for the evening and also share what’s been hitting my mailbox this week. Some very exciting details that are making me wish for a reading vacation. Do those exist?
Before you check out the v-log, we wanted to wish Rachel (you may know her from Hello Chelly) a very very very happy birthday! She’s one of the sweetest, loveliest people in the world! Yay Rachel! xo
Summer of Yesterday by Gina Triana
The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy
Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler
From Atria Books:
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Out 7/1)
The Price of Inheritance by Karin Tanabe (Out 8/5)
Charlie Glass’s Slippers by Holly McQueen (Out 8/5)
For Once in My Life by Marianne Kavanagh
The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (Out 7/29)
From Scholastic/Chicken House:
Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais (Out 8/26)
From Random House/Crowne:
Brunette Ambition by Lea Michele
On the blog this week:
The Promise by Robyn Carr: lovely small town + sweet romance!
A favorite of 2014: My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker: Nashville, country music, families, oh my!
Fan Art by Sarah Tregay — not exactly what I was hoping for.
A collaborative country music OPEN ROAD SUMMER playlist for your enjoyment!
Thanks so much for checking out my Shelve It v-log today! I actually did that one in 2 tries! Woo hoo!
So now it’s your turn. There’s ONE question you can answer from my vlog and now here’s another: what did you buy this week??
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)