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Estelle: Ashes to Ashes by Melissa Walker

Ashes to Ashes by Melissa C WalkerAshes to Ashes by Melissa Walker ( web | twitter )
Publication Date: December 23, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books (Harper)
Pages: 356
Target audience: Young adult, Paranormal
Keywords: afterlife, purgatory, young death
Format read: ARC borrowed from Jamie! (Thanks!)

Summary: A terrible car accident sends Callie to Prism (a purgatory before she can reach heaven), where she is trained to bring peace to her nearest and dearest: her father (already a widow), her best friend, Carson, and her boyfriend, Nick. Being so close to these people and not being able to BE with them is difficult, especially as she starts to piece together details of her life she never realized existed before. And then there is her spirit guide, Thatcher, who she feels immediately connected to. As he tries to teach her the proper way to bring peace to those left on Earth, she is distracted by others in the Prism who want to break all the rules.

As a huge fan of Melissa Walker’s contemporary young adult novels, I was super intrigued when I heard she was releasing a paranormal as her next book. For starters, the cover is gorgeous and second, I love when authors I adore take a leap into a new genre, especially when it’s not my go-to genre. It gives me a chance to try something new as well.

It’s true that the “afterlife” novel kind of upsets me, and I’ve steered clear of them until I read The Catastrophic History of You and Me a few months ago. It’s sad to think of a character who is dead, and has no hopes of returning to her regular living life. It probably depresses me more than anything, but I was super swept up in Jess Rothenberg‘s vision for the afterlife (unlimited pizza, reclaiming of prized possessions from the past, etc.) and I found myself really enjoying the story, knowing the main character was making a second life for herself.

Melissa’s version of the afterlife (this in-between before heaven) is called Prism, and I’ll be honest it’s sort of a lonely place. Callie is immediately heartbroken to discover her deceased mother is not waiting there for her with open arms. (She missed her crossing over.) In Prism, Callie’s main priority is granting peace to those she left behind, and when she is not haunting Earth doing that, she is to spend time alone in her “space” (which looks a lot like her bedroom back home), where she is not allowed to invite anyone in to spend time with her. I liked the idea of returning to friends and family and helping them move forward, but the rest of it felt so stark and gray.

The one bright light for Callie is Thatcher, assigned to help her with her duties back on Earth. When Callie died, she was deeply in love with Nick, but it seems as soon as she runs into Thatcher, she immediately forgets about Nick and is fixated on this looming figure in Prism. He’s not very sensitive to Callie and her grieving, and he’s not exactly forthcoming with any of details of his own life. But still, something draws her to him. While his attitude toward her makes sense later on, I still didn’t buy Callie moving on so quickly from Nick to Thatcher and I could have used more meat in this situation because I simply wasn’t convinced.

To top it all off, Callie is also lured by the other kids in Prism. The ones who want to stay young forever, and believe they know exactly how to continue their life on Earth after death. This part of the story was a bit too black or white for me; I half expected a Sharks vs. Jets musical dance off with Callie caught in the middle. Thatcher tried to warn her away from “the enemy” but Callie couldn’t help but be curious. I didn’t blame her. Prism seemed kind of boring.

Something about these intertwining plot lines didn’t entirely click for me. Was it a structural issue? Too much emphasis on one thing and not on the other? I’m not sure. Plus Callie’s voice felt so much older than it should, and I had to remind myself many times that she was only a teenager. As I moved toward the ending there were many developments I guessed correctly but I was left to wonder how things could possibly wrap up in book 2 when so much material was spent on one thing. (Am I being too mysterious?)

Despite the challenges I had with Ashes to Ashes, Melissa’s world building was definitely creative (bonus: Charleston setting!) and I also loved how she interjected slight changes in people’s pronunciation of certain words (i.e. Prism vs. prison), indicating their deeper feelings. Still, I wish there had been less insta-love, and more of the genuineness I’ve come to appreciate in Walker’s books. I have no idea where Book 2 will take these characters, but I’m still willing to invest my time to follow along.

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Other RBR reviews of Walker’s books:  Lovestruck Summer | Unbreak My Heart | Small Town Sinners

January 16, 2014 - 11:49 am

Rachel - I’m really excited for this one! I actually like books about the afterlife, probably because I’m terrified of death and they comfort me somewhat (even if they’re not true haha). I’m sorry it didn’t totally work for you, though! It’ll be interesting to see what I think of it when I read it

January 16, 2014 - 1:29 am

Lucy - I liked Catastrophic too, though I’m not particularly passionate about afterlife books. Whoa this cover is gorgeous though! I didn’t realize this was part of a series- hmmm.

January 15, 2014 - 8:39 pm

Alexa S. - I wasn’t particularly interested in reading Ashes to Ashes, if I’m being honest. While I did enjoy Unbreak My Heart a lot, I’m a bit wary of books that are a mix of contemporary/paranormal. Still, I’m glad you found something worth investing in when it comes to reading this series and seeing what happens to these characters.

January 15, 2014 - 10:14 am

Liz (Along for the Read) - I am so intrigued by this one, I always find it interesting when contemporary authors go for something different.

January 14, 2014 - 7:14 am

Amy @ bookgoonie - I need to get to my 1st Walker book.

January 13, 2014 - 8:17 pm

Samantha @ Reading-AndCoffee - I saw this at the bookstore today and holy gorgeous cover, but the synopsis didn’t quite sell it for me. I think I might trust your borrow it rating.

January 13, 2014 - 3:40 pm

Tiff @ Mostly YA Lit - Yikes. I bought this book because I’m also a huge fan of Melissa’s, but I had some doubts. Like you, Estelle, I’m a contemp reader and this is way out of genre for me. I’m still going to read it, but now I’m scared that I’m not going to like it…

January 13, 2014 - 12:28 pm

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - I have struggle with books set in the Afterlife. I even struggled with The Catastophic History of You and Me, but I might not have been in the right frame of mind when I tried to read it.

But yay for reading outside your comfort zone, right?

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Estelle: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Heartbeat Elizabeth ScottHeartbeat by Elizabeth Scott ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: parental death, grief, step-parents
Format read: ARC paperback reviewed at BEA in May 2013.

Summary: When her pregnant mom dies suddenly from a stroke, Emma is completely distraught, and even more so when her stepfather, Dan, decides to have her mother’s body kept alive by machines in an effort to help their unborn baby survive. She completely shuts everyone and everything out of her life except Olivia (her best friend) and surprisingly, Caleb — a boy from school known for his rebellious acts.

“I think at a certain point you can choose to sort of fall from this or you can choose to rise.” – Lea Michele

I hope you don’t think it’s hokey that I’m using that quote to start off this review. But it just so happened Michele was making her first TV interview appearance a few days after I finished Heartbeat and everything she was saying aligned so well with the heavy subject matter tackled in Heartbeat: grief and what we do afterward.

Heartbeat begins shortly after Emma’s mom dies and Emma hasn’t gotten to that point that Michele talks about. Instead Emma’s life as she knows it — ruled by school deadlines and grades and the future — has taken a sudden nosedive into an abyss of not caring. Not caring about school, not caring about college prospects, and most definitely not caring about her step-father, Dan.

As far as non-biological parents go, it’s obvious from Emma’s memories and hurt feelings that Dan was a perfectly attentive and super loving father (she is so lucky). These good moments seem to disappear the minute Dan makes a very difficult decision without asking her opinion. In order to keep Emma’s unborn sibling alive, Dan chooses to keep her mother’s body hooked up to machines to ensure a better chance of survival for this child.

Can you imagine seeing your dead mother every single day, working enough to keep a baby alive but not quite enough to wake up and speak to you again? For Emma, it’s like part of the greiving process is put on hold because the small tiny possibility that her mom could wake up still pops up. So she’s angry at Dan — angry because she doesn’t think he knows how her mom really felt about anything and angry because of this baby that will never know his mother.

Scott’s book largely consists of Emma’s internalizations because most of her actions have become routine: make it through school, see Mom, ignore Dan, be comforted by her best friend, Olivia. Rinse and repeat. Misunderstood bad boy, Caleb, shakes things up when he shows up volunteering at the hospital. Emma is drawn to him, and it’s their budding friendship and his ability to relate to what she is going through that gives her something to think about other than her mother. Exactly the first tiny step she needs.

Emma’s journey of moving ahead and moving on is not smooth. Not even close. She is fixated on so many small details, probably trying to find a way to make such a non-sensical thing like death make sense. While understandable, I felt this was frustrating as a reader. It was like I knew what she was thinking before she thought it; even once she hit certain ephiphanies, Emma continued to go back and forth with her feelings. There were so many times I wanted Dan to rush in and pull rank; an adult really needed to. She was a struggling child, and blatantly disrespected Dan and her mom’s marriage on multiple occasions.

One thing I did appreciate was Emma’s friendship with Olivia (who hated all techy things; I loved this detail). I think Scott did a realistic job of portraying two girls who suddenly have very different lives. How do you give comfort to a friend when you haven’t experienced the same kind of heartbreak? How can you share your own problems when they seem so trivial compared to Emma’s situation? Emma and Olivia had a little bit of work, a bit of a struggle, and it was a conflict that felt so true to life.

None of the characters in Heartbeat are perfect, and while that portrayal felt spot-on (because who really knows how they are going to act until they are forced into this terrible situation), I wish I hadn’t felt quite so disconnected from Emma. The book is extremely fast-paced because the chapters are so compact, but Emma’s growth through the story didn’t progress quite the way I thought it should. I was never expecting her to be 100% okay but the “breakthrough” came very late in the story, and it felt off.

I do think Heartbeat is a very discussion worthy novel because of all the shades of gray it presents. Was Dan right in his decision? Is Emma being selfish? How do you figure out what the deceased wanted without second guessing yourself? There’s so much that’s intriging here and the chemistry between Emma and Caleb is great but, in the end, Heartbeat just didn’t have the emotional impact I was expecting.

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January 28, 2014 - 7:02 am

Review: Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott | wrapped up in books - […] Estelle at Rather be Reading: “I do think Heartbeat is a very discussion worthy novel because of all the shades of gray it presents. Was Dan right in his decision? Is Emma being selfish? How do you figure out what the deceased wanted without second guessing yourself? There’s so much that’s intriguing here and the chemistry between Emma and Caleb is great but, in the end, Heartbeat just didn’t have the emotional impact I was expecting.” […]

January 21, 2014 - 7:30 pm

Ellice - I requested Heart Beat on Netgalley, but I’m such a mood reader and so far I just haven’t been in the right frame of mind to start this one. Poor Emma. I can’t imagine a teenager waking up every morning, knowing that she will have to face that situation. So heart wrenching!

January 19, 2014 - 7:04 pm

Bookworm1858 - I can see this being a great discussion novel specifically because of the question of if Dan should have left the mom on life support. I loved it and am looking forward to others getting a chance to read it once it’s released! (I’m a huge Elizabeth Scott fangirl.)

January 15, 2014 - 10:11 am

Liz (Along for the Read) - I definitely agree, I didn’t connect quite as much as I was hoping, but it was such an interesting moral issue that it made up for that. Definitely a unique book, worth reading, but not one that I would re-read. Great review, as always!

January 11, 2014 - 9:13 pm

brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - Oh my god, I actually had no idea what this book was about!!! I picked it up at BEA too but I didn’t realize the subject matter. Holy cow. I think I’ll be able to pick it up soon and hopefully I’ll enjoy it and appreciate the book! Curious to see how the read goes!

January 9, 2014 - 7:38 pm

Alexa S. - I still haven’t read this one, despite having an early copy of it in my hands! But I am very intrigued by the story. I think the whole subject matter that this book presents is definitely worthy of discussion. There are so many people and feelings and “ifs” involved, and I just feel like it would be interesting to unravel it all. It’s a little sad to hear you weren’t able to connect well with the main character though!

January 9, 2014 - 12:37 pm

Ginger @ GReads! - I know we’ve already discussed this book, since we read it at the same time, but I wanted to comment on your review. Mine will be going up next week and it mirrors a lot of your same thoughts & feelings. I did not connect with this MC and that had a lot to do with my disconnect from the book. I, too, felt the “break through” was rather rushed.

Side note: I read yesterday in the news that a story very similar to this situation is going on right now near Dallas (I think?). Anyway.. there’s a huge legal controversy regarding it because the family says the hospital doesn’t have rights to keep the Mom alive while the baby is still inside her, growing.. yet the hospital says they do? I’m not sure on the details, but when I read it I immediately thought of this book.

January 9, 2014 - 12:12 pm

Rachel - I adored this book so much, but your feelings make COMPLETE sense. Emma is definitely not a likable character (I mean this in a good way. Not all characters should be ‘likable’), and while she was very selfish, I understood where she was coming from and was able to look past her behavior for the most part.

January 9, 2014 - 11:43 am

Tara - I’ve heard that this is a really heavy story and your review just solidified that. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to get into the right mood/frame of mind to give it a solid go…and I’m really nervous about it. I love E. Scott’s writing so much that I’m afraid of what I’ll think. Basically I need to suck it up and read it :)

January 9, 2014 - 10:22 am

alice-jane - The synopsis for Heartbeat reminds me so much of Priscille Sibley’s The Promise of Stardust, which is an adult fiction novel. In Sibley’s novel, the MC’s pregnant wife has an accident, leaving her brain dead and left to deal with the religious, moral and other reasons for keeping her alive.

While Heartbeat didn’t seem like it had the extra oomph-factor that it could’ve had, I do agree that it is an incredibly discussion worthy piece. So many different factors to be considered when something like that happens.

Also, The Promise of Stardust is absolutely amazing and I think it’s a great book that has a lot of emotional impact, so maybe it can make up for Heartbeat? :)

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Magan: Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

veronica rossi trilogy reviewInto the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi  (website | twitter)
Other Books Written by This AuthorUnder the Never Sky Through the Ever Night
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 400
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: dystopian, contrasting worlds, trilogy, science fiction, fantasy
Format Read: ARC received from the publisher via Edelweiss. (Thank you!)

Summary: In Rossi’s final book of the series, Aria and Roar must bring their people together in order to save them. They attempt to cross into the still blue, but must make sacrifices and decisions that cause them great sadness and loss.

Please excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor from my hysterical weeping. 2013 was The Year Magan Did Not Finish Any Series. I’m not kidding. There are several I just haven’t been able to say good-bye to. I’m determined to have a bit more closure in 2014 so I’m (hesitantly) starting off the year by saying goodbye to Aria, Perry, and Roar.

I feel like I have to be so careful with my words because I don’t want to give anything away, especially for those of you who have yet to begin the series. One major strength of this third installation was Rossi’s ability to take an imperfect and broken world in which two vastly different cultures collided and bring them together. Were things always easy? No. Was there always peace? Certainly not. All of the differences and struggles definitely made the world richer and more interesting. Seeing how Aria and Perry were forced to bring their people together was absolutely incredible in Into the Still Blue.

In the previous books, there is definitely this sense that something BIG is going to happen, but there’s so much to understand about how Aria and Perry meet, fall in love, and the different dynamics of each people — the Dwellers and the Outsiders. But in ItSB, they’re running out of time. There’s no time to peddle around because everything could crumble around them. I loved the different snippets of each place they had to go and the struggles they had to overcome to achieve their goals. (Again, being super vague. Don’t want to ruin anything for you guys!) Rossi made sure everything was handled very realistically, without anything being too easy or convenient. I greatly admire this because she trusted her characters’ intelligence to work through any chaotic situation she laid before them.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Into the Still Blue is wanting to rush to find out what happens and how the story ends, but grappling with the fact that after you’ve turned that final page…it’s all over. It’s the worst dilemma a reader can be faced with. But let me reiterate that you should soak it all up, enjoy the journey, and let your heart experience all the emotions. Rossi’s work deserves to be appreciated.

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January 11, 2014 - 9:11 pm

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - Yes! This was a perfect series ender. As sad as I was to say goodbye to the series, it was done SO well and Rossi’s writing is JUST beautiful. I really appreciated the characters, the world, the plot… It was all just spectacular!

January 8, 2014 - 6:43 pm

Kelly - Oh this makes me just so happy! The first couple reviews I read for ItSB were on the negative side, and they had me so worried! I think Rossi being willing to put her characters through the ringer is one of my favourite aspects of her writing, so it’s great to hear that she hasn’t changed that tactic with the finale.

January 8, 2014 - 12:36 pm

Nikki @ Foil the Plot - Oh god, I’m both super excited and super anxious to read ItSB. Quite a few majour series enders have been released over the last couple of months and I’m just not sure my heart can handle it! Will there be tragedy? Happiness? Resolution? Death? I NEED TO KNOW but I also don’t want to know!

Also, thanks for the not spoilery review. :)

January 8, 2014 - 10:29 am

Jackie Lea Sommers - I’ve had this one pre-ordered for what feels like forever … so excited!!! Great, non-spoilery review. :-)

January 8, 2014 - 10:12 am

Annette - Oh, I can’t wait….Sounds great. Thanks!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Let’s Talk 2014 Resolutions

top ten tuesday hosted by the broke and the bookish

Hey-lo! It’s Tuesday and time to talk about New Year’s Resolutions! Do you do this every year, do you follow them, do they change? Well thanks to Broke and Bookish’s meme this week we are spilling the good stuff. We can’t wait to hear what all of you are hoping for and striving to accomplish in the next 12 months!

Estelle:

  1. Take a break from electronics. I am obsessed with my phone and my computer and it just needs to end. Ya know, life happens when you are staring at a screen and I want to discipline myself better when it comes to all of those things. This also leads to managing my time better so I can keep up with my writing, my side projects, and such. But it also means focusing on hobbies I haven’t been able to give much attention to like crafting and baking. (I think I cheated and put a whole lot of resolutions in 1.) If anyone has suggestions about this, please help me. (My husband and I thank you.)
  2. Finally get my money situation under control. This has been the first full year of James going to school and me working. And it wasn’t until a few months ago that something snapped in my head and I realized just how difficult this was going to be. In the past few months, I’m significantly cut down on shopping (for clothes and for books) and also tried to manage when I was going out with my friends and when James and I would be going out. Things seem to be slowly but surely looking up and I want to have at least a tiny savings to show for it by the end of the year. (This will be the year I finally learn, right?)
  3. Read in a different way. Whether it be picking up books from my shelves, re-reading, reading a non-fiction book at the same time, I need to make use of the books I already own and read what I want. Again, toward the end of last year if I didn’t like something I stopped reading and found what I did like. Life is too precious to stick with something you don’t like. And there are so many amazing, touching books out there. I want to find those. (This also leads to me writing reviews for books where I actually have something to say. What’s the point otherwise?)
  4. Nurture friendships. I need to stop focusing on the negative and focus on those who are there for me during the bad AND the boring times. (I am going to sing Frozen’s “Let It Go” to remind myself of this.)
  5. I don’t know what to title this last one, but I keep picturing myself a year from now and I just want to know that I tried new things, connected with new people, my friendships are on track, my marriage is getting stronger and stronger, and that I just enjoyed myself. Whether that’s finally hanging up new pictures of us in our apartment, getting a new coffee table, traveling to Boston for the first time in forever, or moving forward in other ways … I’m not sure but I’m ready and I’m pumped! (I’m also already counting down the days until Christmas. I’m a sad sad person, I know.)

Magan:

  1. Develop a System for Choosing What to Read Next: Very often I find myself questioning what to read next. I stare at my shelves and just have no idea what to grab because seeing everything is … overwhelming. One of my go-to things-to-do is to search through my Goodreads to-read list and select one of the best rated books. I’d say that often works in my favor and I end up reading a book I love, but this can lead to a) me buying a book I don’t already own or b) being disappointed because there was so much book hype and I didn’t agree with the ratings. I need to find a better way of choosing what to read next. Any suggestions? My one idea is to make a list as I see something on my shelves and think “I should read that soon.”
  2. I Need to Learn to Say I Need More “Me” Time: Estelle can confirm this, but Dustyn and I are always, always on the go. ALWAYS. It feels like there’s rarely time to sit and be lazy or enjoy quiet time. We’re busy people who love to spend time with our families and friends. That’s not something I’m upset about; I love spending time with people. But, guys… I’m worn out. And no, that’s not just the pregnancy talking. I mentioned in my Q&A with Estelle that I’d like to be more welcoming and have people over more often. Maybe these two concepts can work together? We stay at home more, AND have people come visit us.
  3. Stop Spending Money: I have a shopping problem. I’m quite addicted to Pick Your Plum and Jane these days. I’m a sucker for a good sale. Dustyn and I made a list of house things we’d like to fix up or accomplish over the next year or so. I should apply that to myself as well and make a list of things I’d like to buy eventually or suggest to Dustyn when he asks what I’d like for my birthday. I did a much better job with this in 2013 than in previous years, but there’s still so much room for improvement here.
  4. Embrace Snail Mail: Something I started *trying* to implement at the end of 2013 was mailing out random cards to friends that were on my heart. I didn’t do it much, but I really want to continue dropping notes in the mail this year. Over the last year, I’ve been very fortunate to have received several extremely thoughtful notes from friends when I was having very down days. I’ve kept them and have them sitting in a special place as a reminder that there are people out there rooting and praying for me. That was a huge, huge lesson for me as it can feel like so much of our lives is based on competition — for example: who has more comments or visitors, who has a more clever idea and receives more recognition, etc., etc., etc. That, my friends, is draining. I’d rather focus on raising someone up, even if they’re “competition” per se, and encourage them to keep going.
  5. Be Realistic About My Reading Goal for 2014: And last but not least, I have to be honest and say that I have no idea what to expect of myself for how many books to aim to read. None whatsoever. I’m going to be a new mom. I’m potentially going to see my foster daughter returned to her biological family. I’m going to be working through a lot of change. I suppose more than anything, I should be saying that I will allow myself to work through that change and not put so much pressure on myself to be so composed through all of it. I’m going to be elated and I’m going to cry tears (of joy and sorrow). I’m not going to expect myself to pick up a book if that’s just not what I can do that day. But I do resolve to keep reading as books have potentially been some of my best friends through some of my roughest times.

What’s on your agenda for 2014?

January 28, 2014 - 7:03 am

Judith - E, I can totally relate to what you said about taking a break from electronics. With blogging and social media and even uni work, I sometimes spend entire days behind my laptop, and it’s slightly driving me crazy. I also just don’t want to be that person always texting when hanging out with friends – that’s just rude. Speaking of that last part: nurturing friendships is so, so important. Last year, I wasn’t in a good place and I’ve really gotten to know who my friends are. Now it’s time for me to give back and be a better friend.

Magan, I especially like that you mentioned embracing snail mail, because that’s something I want to do as well. Some of my 2013 highlights included sweet notes and packages from friends, and this is something I really want to do as well (especially because blogging friends live too far away to actually hang out with for me). Nothing is better than returning home to find a lovely card from someone you love. :)

January 11, 2014 - 9:10 pm

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - Excellent goals and all very attainable! :)
I totally need to watch my spending. I think I’m already doing better with it (not like I was bad but you know. BOOK BUYING.) now that I have a mortgage. We make our payment everything month and we’ve only had our house for a few months so NO principle (practically) is getting paid off! I’m a person who’s always paid things off quickly so it’s so weird to not see that number coming down. I really want to put our extra money towards that or towards fixing up the house instead of my personal indulgent habits!
I’m really trying to read for ME too. I feel bad DNFing books but honestly, I cannot force myself to finish a book if I’m not enjoying it. I never used to care before I had a blog so why should that change? I should be reading what I’m enjoying!
I have no advice on how to choose books, unfortunately! I’m such a mood reader that at least for this year, I’ve just been picking books that are the genre I feel like reading and trying to work through my ARCs (as long as that mood still applies)!

January 7, 2014 - 10:18 pm

Ellie - Estelle, you managed to PERFECTLY capture how I’m feeling about this new year with #5. Magan, love your number 5 too. I was way too ambitious last year!

January 7, 2014 - 4:02 pm

Alexa S. - You ladies have some amazing resolutions for 2014! As always, I love that you guys aren’t afraid to get extremely personal and share your feelings/life with us… even through this list of things you hope for or hope to accomplish in 2014.

E, I absolutely agree with your bid to take a break from electronics. As of the beginning of this year, I’m determined to make it so that I stop accessing my blog/email by 11pm each day. I’m working on slowly using Twitter less on my phone, but that one might take a lot longer! I also like the last two items on your resolutions list A LOT. Nurturing relationships – good, healthy, fulfilling ones – is something that I’m determined to do as well this year. I want my friends and family to know how much they mean to me! And I want to be able to look back at 2014 and know that I’ve lived and loved to the best of my abilities.

M, I have been thinking about how I choose my next reads! My thoughts were geared towards turning it into a blog feature, but that’s still up in the air. I’d like to read a better variety of books as well as start the ones on my shelf too! I also really like the fact that you’ve put snail mail as a part of your resolutions list. It’s always nice to receive an unexpected note or card of encouragement in the mail from a friend; it just feels very thoughtful and sweet and boosts my spirits tremendously.

Ladies, I too am currently trying to be better about my finances. Thus, my book buying and clothes buying ban! I’m also like you, E, in that I’m parceling out the times I go out just so I don’t go over my own budget. Here’s to hoping we manage to wrangle control over our shopping habits and budgets!

Happy new year, ladies. I look forward to more bookish conversations, adventures and possible collaborations with you two <3

January 7, 2014 - 3:48 pm

Molly @ wrapped up in books - Those seem like very practical goals, Estelle! Let me know if you have any great ideas for how to decrease electronics time…I’m glued to my phone and use work as an excuse.

Magan, for choosing what to read next, why don’t you put the titles you own but haven’t read on slips of paper, store them in a jar, and draw one when you’re reading to move on? I saw a post on Pinterest/Book Riot for using that system…

I love the snail mail idea, too. Last year I did a “month of mail” which is a project sponsored by “more love letters” where I wrote a letter and mailed a card to a friend every day for a month. It was fun, and this year I hope to spread it out throughout the year rather than just in one fell swoop.

Happy new year to you both!

January 7, 2014 - 2:52 pm

Savannah - Wow! :) Seeing the two of you spelling out such meaningful and significant goals is really inspiring. I hope you accomplish everything you aim to in 2014!

January 7, 2014 - 2:35 pm

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - These are wonderful, and very practical resolutions. Estelle, I couldn’t agree more about life being too precious to waste it on reading books you aren’t enjoying. I mean, of course give the books a try, but after 50 pages, usually, if I’m not feeling a book, then I move on to something else. I may come back to that book later on, but I don’t worry about it.

Also, I should be singing Let it Go to my grumpiness revolving around friendships that didn’t work out. Focus on the positive, like you said :)

Magan, Snail mail is fun, isn’t it? There’s nothing quite like getting a letter or card in the mail, and it’s much more special than an email. I love email, but Snail Mail is special.

January 7, 2014 - 1:48 pm

Christina @ Allodoxophobia - Love both your lists! I definitely need to put down the technology. You know you have a problem when you have a phone in your hand at all times. Bad bad bad me. And I’m with you on the shopping. Sales are so tempting! I find if I unsubscribe fro deal emails, I’m a lot better.

January 7, 2014 - 1:11 pm

Lacie - “Life is too precious to stick with something you don’t like.” <—-I really liked this. The snail mail one made me laugh. Good luck with all of your goals, you have some great ones. Have a great week.

Lacie @ Rainy Dayz Reviewz

January 7, 2014 - 1:00 pm

Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) - E: I love “Read in a different way.” – I know that I read in weird ways compared to everyone else, I love it when people stretch themselves and try out new ways to read books. YOU ROCK THAT. Oh my gosh, I love it. I want to know how this works for you!! Discussion post!!! xo

M: Just this morning I saw a picture on Tumblr of a jar with a bunch of multicolored pieces of paper in it with titles of books on them for when people can’t decide what to read next. I thought OH MY WHAT A MARVELOUS IDEA because I don’t make lists and plan ahead and all of that. Maybe I need to hunt down that picture and send it to you because I found it VERY inspiring and it would look really cute on a shelf or table somewhere.

Also, I love sending out mail. I think it’s a dying thing and I’m trying to teach Layla Greta and Jack how important it is – they’re learning because they get really excited when they actually get an envelope in the mail. I’d love to drop you a line sometime if you’re up for it. xo

January 7, 2014 - 12:52 pm

Doris - Awesome goals!
I hope you complete every single one <3
Good luck!
Here's Our TTT
Doris @ OABR

January 7, 2014 - 12:49 pm

Jamie - Really love your resolutions, ladies!

E — I am SO WITH YOU on #1. I did better in the month of December because I really worked on it but I am WAY too obsessed. I can’t do anything without checking my phone for Twitter, email, FB, Instagram. First thing I look at when I wake up in the morning and before I go to sleep. I’m pretty good about not being on it when I’m OUT doing stuff with people but it’s always right there with me and if there is a lag in anything I’m doing I reach for my phone. And my computer..I’m just always on it. I need to get better about putting it away when I’m no longer productive. At least for now. I’m okay with mindlessly perusing sometimes but it’s gotten in the way of productivity of things I need to do and also, like you mentioned, keeps me away from OTHER things I like to do. LESS SCREEN TIME IN 2014. Let’s keep each other on this!

I struggle real hard with #4. We’ve talked a lot about friendship in 2013 together and I know we’ve both been hurt so hopefully we’ll be able to let that go and focus on the good!

Magan:

If you can come up with a system to pick books by..please lend it to me. I’m so random. I posted a Vine awhile ago about wishing my book would just throw a book at me to read so I didn’t have to think. Let’s invent a bookshelf that does that yes? haha

SNAIL MAIL. okay so little known fact: I used to have like 20 penpals when I was a pre-teen and early teen. I was OBSESSED. It was kind of like how book blogging is where I’d be like SAD MAILBOX DAY when nothing came that day. I LOVE SNAIL MAIL. I like this resolution! I need to also do this more!

I really love #5 — you’ve got an amazing new life change happening and I think being realistic about what you can do is smart! Helps you not to feel guilty about it when you are off spending time with your lovely little family <3

January 7, 2014 - 11:45 am

Rachel - Estelle, I absolutely love your last resolution. That’s kind of how I’d like this year to be for me too. I can’t list specifics because I have no clue what this year is going to bring, but I just want to make sure I take advantage of every opportunity and live as much as I can. Magan, I love the snail mail one! I have a few friends who I write letters to and vice versa, and yeah we talk all the time, but it’s always fun to get something in the mail. It’s more personal and just different from any other form of communication.

January 7, 2014 - 11:34 am

Lisa is Busy Nerding - Nurture Friendships is SUCH a solid resolution, Estelle! It’s a personal goal of mine too.

And Magan, I love your goal of embracing snail mail! I try to do that as well. It’s not easy when the internet is there!

January 7, 2014 - 11:08 am

Sunny - I adore both of your goals. ADORE. Snail mail is such a good idea. I’d been thinking about writing my elderly relatives and I think it’s great to use the good ole pen and paper. Also, reading a different way, YES. I stare blankly at books I want to read, but just can’t decide or I don’t know what I’m in the mood for.

January 7, 2014 - 10:43 am

Tara - I can definitely relate to the money thing this year. I’d love to be able to stash away more money and have a buffer in case something goes wrong (and having two freelancers in the house, something *always* goes wrong). Here’s to having an amazing bookish and moneyish 2014 :)

January 7, 2014 - 10:21 am

Stormy - I’m trying to take more breaks from electronics too. I LOVE the internet(it’s where I can talk to all my blogging friends), and twitter and such, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want days to pass me by when I could have DONE something. I can write, bake, go for a walk, etc. I’m trying to be realistic about my reading goal as well and read more for quality than quantity. I might read less books this year, but I hope I’m better at picking books I enjoy.

January 7, 2014 - 9:55 am

alice-jane - I know what you mean about having more “me” time! I’ve always been out and about lately and I have a tendency to fill up my schedule with things, leaving no time to myself. It’s great to have some quiet time and sip hot chocolate, with the looks of this weather! Also, embracing snail mail sounds like a good choice! I used to write more letters but I’ve fallen off the wagon and it’s definitely a good time to get back since my friends are all spread out now.

Taking a break from electronics is something I need to do as well since I’ve noticed myself to be *quite* attached to my phone and laptop.

For me, in 2014, I want to put more effort in staying in touch with old friends and keep my goals in mind throughout the year, not just at the beginning.

January 7, 2014 - 1:02 am

Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books - I totally get both of you about the money situation. I’m about to graduate college and I’m so stressed about money. I want to make financial plan and stick to it.

Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books

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Estelle: Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

Life in Outer Space by Melissa KeilLife in Outer Space by Melissa Keil ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: February 1, 2013
Publisher:  Hardie Grant Egmont (AUS)
Pages: 316
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Australia, film geek, falling in love, friendship, parents
Format read: Review copy, originating with Mandee at Vegan YA Nerds.

Summary: Sam has three best friends, loves films, and wants to be a screenwriter. He’s totally okay with flying under the radar at school but not so okay with his parents, who are constantly fighting lately. When new girl Camillia shows up at school, he doesn’t think anything of it (except well, she’s gorgeous) until she becomes a part of their group and one of his closest friends. His life shifts from routine to unexpected with Mike’s mysterious behavior, his feelings for Camilla, and all those other changes that come along with high school.

If Sam saw my movie collection or knew that I barely got through the first Star Wars film, he wouldn’t make fun of me. Instead he would politely suggest we watch it, fill me in on all kind of behind-the-scenes facts, and make it a totally enjoyable experience, I’m sure. Enthusiasm like his can only be infectious and in Life in Outer Space, it totally is. While I felt a little out of my element with all Sam’s film references at first, I caught on and found myself totally enjoying them (and laughing too).

I think I might actually be a little bit in love with Sam. His love of movies reminded me of Dawson (I hope you know who this is) but he was never obnoxiously confident or super melodramatic. He internalized a lot, and I think that made his character completely endearing. Because he legit has no idea what to do when his best friend Scott starts acting super weird and distant, and he’s even more at a loss when he starts to fall for the person everyone wants to be friends with, Camilla.

Keil does a great job of introducing so many elements of life in one book: parents having problems, friends falling in love, the fear of what to do after high school is over, absent parents, not being afraid to try new things. It’s actually amazing how much is seamlessly (and thoughtfully) woven through this Life in Outer Space. It’s a true snapshot of life and all the messy feelings that come along with it.

There’s also this loyalty amongst friends that you don’t see too much in books these days. Sam is the guy you want in your corner. Even if it takes him a little time to react and confront someone, he truly cares about his friends and their well-being. You can tell that Scott, Adrian and Allison felt the same way; they all had each other’s backs and weren’t afraid to be honest with each other when they needed a good dose of it. Growing up is tough on friendships, and that was so apparent here.

Life in Outer Space is a book that I wanted to buy all of my friends (especially the ones who would love all the Star Wars jokes and horror movies). It had so much charm, so much heart, and reminded me why I loved to read so much and how sometimes book characters feel like your friends. This is not one to miss.

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Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy at B&N | Character Gift Exchange: Sam & Camilla

January 10, 2014 - 3:57 pm

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - YAY! Even more excited for this one (that you recommended to me)after reading your review. Geeky and charming and male POV? You know I’m in!

January 6, 2014 - 10:51 pm

Alexa S. - Even though I’m currently on a book buying ban and cannot do this, I want to buy this book for myself already! I love that it seems like an entertaining, well-written contemporary read. Plus, it’s so cool that the main character loves films! Definitely going to keep an eye out for the perfect time to get this book :)

January 6, 2014 - 5:48 pm

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - You’re always convincing me to try books I’d otherwise over look, Estelle. Haha, I do know which Dawson you were referring about, too. It’s been a long time since I watched that show :)

I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, myself, but I have an basic understanding, so I think I should be able to follow along with all the references. Thanks for the review :)

January 6, 2014 - 4:54 pm

alisa selene - I love the cover of this book! So cute!

January 6, 2014 - 3:21 pm

Meg - Sounds like a book I need in my collection! Love when I can fall a little bit in love with a character. Or, you know, a lot in love — either way! :)

January 6, 2014 - 1:06 pm

Lisa Schensted - I am hyperventilating right now.
NEED NEED NEED NEED.

January 6, 2014 - 1:01 pm

Lucy - Totally agree about this one! So much to love about this book. I have the US edition and I don’t like the cover as much, but I’m glad it came out here anyway.

January 6, 2014 - 9:21 am

Erin - I’ve had this book sitting on my Kindle for a while but keep forgetting about it. Definitely looking forward to reading it after seeing this great review! x

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