The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 22, 2014
Publisher: Perseus Books
Target audience: Middle grade
Keywords: summer, friendships, camp, cicadas
Format read: ARC paperback from Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: It’s summertime and Julia is planning on spending the warm weather with her best friend, Taylor. That’s until the new girl moves in. Alyssa is competitive and gets to watch the shows that Julia isn’t allowed to, and soon Taylor is ditching all their plans to spend more time with Alyssa. Despite Alyssa’s unfriendliness toward her, Julia still tries to get in her good graces but instead finds herself preparing for a “Russia” (it’s a ball game) showdown in front of the entire neighborhood.
When I was in first grade, a new girl moved in (I still remember her full name) and stole my best friend. I remember how sad I was when I found out my BFF was hanging out with the new girl (instead of me) and even more so when the new girl was just NOT nice to me.
This is something you never ever forget. It’s traumatic for a kid (and adult, for that matter) when the friend you love the most in the world is suddenly gone and you have no control over making it better. Or even understand why it’s happening in the first place when all you’ve been is nice. Don’t those best friend necklaces mean anything?
Julia’s original dreams for her summer are shattered when Alyssa moves on her block. She acts like a jerk, and for some reason, Julia’s BFF, Taylor, thinks that’s an attractive quality in a friend because she starts secretly and not so secretly hanging out with Alyssa instead of Julia. As you can imagine, it sucks. For Julia, obviously but also for the reader because she keeps trying to make a threesome out of the twosome, to get her friend back, and to try to get Alyssa to like her.
Why why why do some people just not like you? This is such a horrible lesson to learn because sometimes there’s no answer to that question.
So a summer that was supposed to be filled with days at the pool, the occasional trip to the city, and awaiting the arrival of the cicadas is spent with her (ultra cool) parents, convincing them to let her switch rooms and redecorate with more “grown up” decor, and attending music camp with her friend (and crush) Peter. She’s also perfecting her skills at the ball game (“Russia”) that Alyssa introduced to the neighborhood as the two are set to compete in a major showdown to become “Russia” champion of Darcy Lane. (Julia’s commitment to “Russia” was super commendable.)
Throughout the book, I loved Julia’s observations on her parent’s relationship, the meaning of life, and also her great passion for music. (It reflected so much of what I felt during those early days of band in middle school — the triumph of people coming together!) These were the parts of the story that really made me smile and fall in love with her character.
The Battle of Darcy Lane is so charming, bringing me back to those awesome, fun-filled days of summer from my childhood but also reminded me of some of the more difficult parts of being a kid. (I wish I could have told Julia her situation with Alyssa and Taylor would make her stronger but she had to learn that on her own.) Altebrando transitions from YA to middle grade so well, bringing along so many of the reasons why I love her work: the humor and the heartbreaks of life, honesty, and a full picture of Julia’s family and this neighborhood.
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Bonus: This book trailer was made by 11- and 12- year old filmmakers! How cool is that? It definitely portrays The Battle of Darcy Lane perfectly:
A Passionate Love Affair with a Perfect Stranger by Lucy Robinson
( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 2013
Publisher: Notting Hill Press
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: dating websites, career, Edinburgh
Format read: ARC provided by author. (Thank you!)
Summary: A break from a bustling career for a workaholic is never a good thing. Charley is determined to make the most of her time, and decides to start her own business — ghostwriting for those on dating websites who need a little help making the initial connection. So what happens when she begins falling for one of the guys she’s writing to for a client? Things only get more complicated when she goes back to her “real” job, the guy she’s been in love with forever admits he’s getting a divorce, and a sneaky coworker is determined to take her job. And that’s only at her day job! Can she juggle it all?
Having the busiest week last week, it was a treat to pick up A Passionate Love Affair… during my down time. Charley is so zany, so intensely intense — she wormed her way into my heart and is one of the more memorable characters I’ve met in a long time. (I was reminded so much of reading Sophie Kinsella and Emily Giffin back in the day with this title.)
First of all, starting a company where ghostwriters are hired to help those who are having trouble on dating sites? Total genius. It seems like everything goes right for a person like Charley — she has the career, she makes good money, she has great friends, an awesome family — but the love part just hasn’t clicked for her yet. It’s not surprising either… she’s been crushing on a guy in her office for years (too many years) and his flirtation keeps her hanging on (even though he’s having an affair with a married woman).
Right off the bat I loved the premise, but it wasn’t until Charley starts writing notes for clients (specifically for a very very busy career woman named Shelley) that she starts a bit of self-actualization. Has she been ignoring friends and family because work is her life? Has she pretended to be someone else in relationships and that’s why they never worked out? So as she talks to William as “Shelley” and he starts hitting all the right buttons about letting her hair down, enjoying life, Charley gets a little smitten. Like, a lot smitten. To the point where you will NOT believe the lengths she would go to. (But I was along for the ride and loving it.)
I can’t tell you anymore.
But there’s a surprise, and then another surprise and whoa, Robinson took this story to a whole different place than I would have ever thought. It was fantastic, though, because I had no idea how things would end, how all of this might blow up in Charley’s face, and what it would mean for her career, and her love life. It’s good stuff; I promise.
Clocking in at almost 500 pages (I’ll admit I was a little nervous about this), we get a full picture of Charley’s family including her banjo-playing dad and her two sisters. There are also her friends — Sam, her childlike but adorable roommate who is recently engaged, and her best friend, Hailey, who is the best kind of gal pal because she tells the harsh truth even it’s the last thing that Charley wants to hear. Of course, the work drama played a big part in A Passionate Love Affair too… the crappy coworker (in the inappropriate short skirts) who wants to usurp Charley’s job and most importantly, figuring out proper work/life balance. Was it even possible for her?
In her 30s, Charley was still someone trying to figure out who she was and I really liked seeing that, especially because so many experiences and such different people had an influence on her conclusions. We never know who is going to have that kind of effect on us, and it just goes to show that learning to love and trust yourself is an on-going life lesson. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun and charming book, and I loved the emphasis on dating in the digital age. (While I was reading this, quite a few convos popped up about dating websites and I couldn’t help but smile and think of Charley.) It’s such a relevant experience these days, and no matter how hilarious Charley’s experiences are throughout the book, it will no doubt give you something to think about how you approach relationships and balance work and play in your life.
P.S. I can assure you this review was not ghostwritten.
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The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: family, summer, secrets, new friends, romance, best friendship
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Four years after the death of her little brother at the beach, Frankie is still coping with the aftermath of his family tragedy. Her father is distant (and possibly off with their neighbor), her mom is dedicated to helping others and avoiding their home, and Frankie is left to her own devices. But the summer brings Frankie Sky into her life — a four year old boy that shares so many similarities with her brothers and makes her smile in way that she hasn’t in a long time. As a mother’s helper, Frankie spends a lot of time with Frankie Sky, who has a mother reeling from the lost of her husband. At the same time, Frankie is conquering past demons a little bit at the time, coming to terms with changes in her friendship with her best friend, Lizette, and trying not to fall harder for her Lizette’s boyfriend.
I told myself I needed to take a break from books about grief and then I started The Summer of Letting Go and could not let it go. Immediately I felt for Francesca, aka Frankie, aka Beans, who is still distraught over the death of her baby brother four years ago. She believes it’s her fault that he drowned in the ocean, and her mom’s incredible coldness toward her solidifies that her belief is the truth. With her dad secretly cavorting with their neighbor, Frankie’s family is falling apart and she doesn’t know how to fix it. She loves her dad and wants to believe her accusations are false so she follows their neighbor to the country club where an unexpected little fellow pops into her life — Frankie Sky — an adorable 4-year old who is so strikingly like her little brother that it takes Frankie some time to recover.
It seems that our Frankie has also struck a chord with Frankie Sky because he wants her to be his baby-sitter for the summer; this works out in the best interest of many people. Our Frankie needs to be kept occupied while her best friend, Lizette, is constantly spending time with her boyfriend and Frankie Sky’s mom has been stunted by her own grief and is not always entirely capable of taking care of her son.
There’s a lot of heavy sadness in The Summer of Letting Go, for sure, but bright lights like Frankie’s personality, enthusiasm for life, and his fitting dialogue paired with this anchor created by Frankie and Lizette’s friendship let so much hope into the story that I could not put it down. Even as Frankie went over and over again in her head the possibility of Frankie Sky being a reincarnation of her brother, as unbelievable as that was, I felt myself working through it alongside her as she was finally allowing herself come to terms with this tragic event that broke her family four years before. At 16 years old, she was making an active decision to be happy and move forward and live her life. This could not be easy for anyone to do, especially after watching her parents struggle in different ways as well.
The Summer of Letting Go is about those little miracles in our lives — sometimes a period of time, or in this case a person — who open our eyes to the past and also (maybe without them knowing) nudge us toward the future. Frankie Sky was that person for Frankie and I loved watching as their friendship grew over the summer. How protective she was of him, but at the same time how Frankie Sky helped Frankie to let go a bit and have faith in people, in nature, and in life.
I have to mention the incredible best friendship between Frankie and Lizette as well. It’s not easy when you want your best friend’s boyfriend, and it’s especially difficult when you feel like your best friend is everything you aren’t. It’s an interesting summer for the two of them because they don’t spend a lot of time together throughout the story, but for Frankie, Lizette is on her mind a lot. So many changes are already blossoming between them and I admired the loyalty and devotion these two had for one another. Even when things got tough and situations got messy and Frankie’s grief drove her to a lonely place, Lizette was there. Their differences never drove them from one another, but they also didn’t push and knew the importance of space.
There hasn’t been a book that broke my heart and put it back together quite like this one has. The Summer of Letting Go is so much about confronting truths from the past (even when they are uncomfortable) and finding the strength to heal. It’s about those small moments and people who come into our lives and turn everything upside down, teaching us more about ourselves then we ever could have thought. It’s about remembering those warm summer days at the beach with your best friend, the speed of your heart racing when the boy of your dreams looks your way, and making your home a safe and welcoming place once again.
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Howdy, friends! We’re both checking in to
confess how many books share the books we’ve purchased lately with another Shelve It. It’s been a good, good month for reading and we both, um, went a little overboard. Our wallets are feeling quite depleted, but we’re really excited about all of these and we hope you are, too!
First up is this glorious book I received from Macmillan, Unremembered by Jessica Brody. (Thank you so much, you guys!) It’s been optioned for film by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures. I have been wanting to read Unremembered FOREVER and I’m super excited about this! (PS — Congratulations, Jessica!)
And my (super incriminating) purchases: a screenshot from my amazon orders page. Ooops?!
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Pointe by Brandy Colbert (per Estelle’s amazing blurb on Goodreads)
Noggin by John Corey Whaley
There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos (again because Estelle gave this 5 stars!)
The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle
Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
Panic by Lauren Oliver
*Not pictured because I pre-ordered it (but it was also delivered last week): To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (because, duh. It’s Jenny.)
ARC e-galley approvals:
Through to You by Lauren Barnholdt
Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley
On the Fence by Kasie West
Well, it was a marathon of a book event week last week. THREE IN FIVE DAYS. Insane. Normally I just pick one but they were just too good to pass up — Jennifer E. Smith, Sara Benincasa, and Jenny Han — so I skipped the gym, bought a lot of books, and even had a beer in Books of Wonder in NYC. (Thanks to Jenny Han’s great launch setup. The goodies were amazing.) Here are some pictures from the week:
A few highlights:
- Jen E. Smith reminiscing about first moving to New York during the 2003 blackout. She was ATM and suddenly nothing was working.
- Sara Benincasa is hilarious, and I loved hearing her read from GREAT. It’s always so interesting to hear the inflections in the author’s voice compared to your own. Her next book is going to be a re-telling of Lord of the Flies starring the ladies. Looking forward to that one!
- And Jenny Han made me a little weepy talking about how close she is with her sister and how she finds her sister always worms her way into her books. She also mentioned how she realized how much things were changing when her sister got married and they wouldn’t be spending Christmas mornings together like they used to. This is a feeling I struggle with a lot and I’m glad I wasn’t the only one.
I was a little tricky and fit all my books into one picture. Hopefully it looks less severe?
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly (from Disney Press; thanks!)
After Hello by Lisa Magnum (sent to me by Kelly for a super secret project!)
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (my pre-order came six days late!)
What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick (thanks to Emily @ohmagichour for my #AndiSpringExchange gift!)
Shug by Jenny Han (this is a middle grade book)
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (I needed the paperback! There’s chevron inside!)
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Great by Sara J. Benincasa
I’m definitely cut off, right? As you can tell, I’m going to be busy for awhile. I think M + I both are. So what about you? Anything fantastic make its way on to your shelves lately? Let us know! We are curious and nosey and we probably need to add more books to our TBR — because that’s what we do!
Happy Wednesday — we’re halfway there, folks!
Psst! Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for an ONLY EVERYTHING signed arc (U.S. + Canada) and check out reviews of Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwen Heasley; The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jess Verdi; Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu.
Greetings, friends! It’s a special, special day at Rather Be Reading Blog. Contemporary YA author Kieran Scott has granted me special access to the leading lady of her new trilogy, ONLY EVERYTHING. That’s right. Today I am talking to True a.k.a. Cupid. I know, I know… you are wondering why cupid isn’t a chubby little baby with a bow and arrow. THAT’S A MYTH FOLKS. The true True was banished to Earth after Zeus discovers she has been actively engaged in a relationship with a mortal. In order to get back to her love and back to Olympus, True has to make a love connection between three couples — not realizing just how difficult life in New Jersey for a goddess could be.
Yes, that’s Anna Scott from Pitch Perfect. She’s how I picture True. :)
A few quick thoughts on the book: My Greek mythology is a little rusty but it came back to me so easily in Only Everything. Plus the entire book was more laugh out loud funny than I ever expected; Scott folded in some details I never would have thought of and it made the story so lush and well-done. True is basically an alien in New Jersey and she tries to act as normal as possible but it’s so hard for her — which makes it even more difficult for her to make love connections. Without powers. Without any idea of how Earth works. In addition to True, the chapters alternate between the POVs of Katrina and Charlie, two other students at the high school. Genuinely nice people who are struggling in some way (Charlie is the new kid at school…again; Katrina’s dad died and her relationship with her mom has become difficult). Friendship, silly / ridiculous times, falling in love, fitting in = ONLY EVERYTHING. So addicting, so fun (seriously, I could not put it down).
And now for that interview with TRUE from Only Everything. Away, we go….
True, it is totally an honor to be talking to you today! I should tell you up front that I ignored my husband for a lot of the time I was reading your story. (That’s true love, right?) After all of your “adventure” on Earth, what are three tips you would give the next God or Goddess banished to Earth?
It’s an honor to be interviewed! Now go take your husband out for pie!My three tips for any God or Goddess banished to Earth would be:
1) Look in the mirror before you leave the house and make the proper adjustments. (We’re used to looking perfect all the time, no matter what. Mortals have to put in a lot of work.)
2) Expect your new body to turn on you in sudden and unpleasant ways. (Before I became mortal I had never vomited, sneezed, hiccupped, burped, gained weight, passed gas or sprouted a zit. None are very much fun. Except sneezing. That can leave a pleasant tingling sensation.)
3) Know that nothing will be easy. (On Mount Olympus we can have whatever we want, whenever we want. Having to buy things or work for things or ask for things is an adjustment. But I’ve found that working for things, at least, can be very rewarding. That’s my favorite mortal lesson so far.)
Orion. Your one and only. What is it about your relationship that makes you so confident in forever?
Orion and I have so much in common, but we’re also different enough that we’re constantly surprising each other and challenging each other. I cannot express how much fun it is to go out on a hunt with him, crashing through the woods with our bows drawn—the excitement, the adrenaline, the sweat, the thrill, the danger. It’s intense. We love to eat well, we love to spin yarns and we could spend days just lying around talking about the past and our future. But Orion is also rash, where I’ve always been cautious and calculating. He makes decisions by his heart, while I tend to overthink things. We balance each other out on that. He can be selfish at times and cocky, which I find both infuriating and mind-bendingly attractive, but I try to reel him in when he lets his head swell. He thinks I can be too involved with my calling—too work obsessed—and is always looking for ways to distract me and help me stop and see the beauty in the world. I feel as if we’ll never get bored with each other. I can’t imagine my existence without him.
Your relationship with your mother, Aphrodite, is a bit contentious. Do you feel like this experience has made you closer in any way or are you just too different?
On Earth, I think that we’ve learned not to take each other for granted. She has always been my biggest advocate and defender, and I believe I stopped appreciating that when I got involved with Orion. I definitely appreciate it now. I think she has seen me as her errand girl for the last few centuries and hasn’t really recognized the value of the work I’ve done. Now I think she sees how difficult it is, forming true love, and how dedicated I am to our cause.
What’s one thing you learned from your interactions with people in New Jersey that you will apply to your relationships back home?
Great question! I’ve seen how important family is to Katrina and Charlie and it’s made me think about my relationship with my father and brothers. I’m close to my sister and even to my mom, though that can be, as you mentioned, complicated. But I hardly ever see my brothers, Phobus and Deimus, because they’ve sequestered themselves in their palace, and going over there can be very unpleasant. They’re so paranoid and jumpy all the time. But that’s no reason to avoid my own flesh and blood. And my father . . . well, I have to accept the fact that he’s Ares. He’s never going to stop waging wars. But there has to be some aspect of him that’s redeemable, something I can love. I should be grateful for the fact that it would be virtually impossible for me to lose him the way Katrina lost her father. Maybe I’ll try to get to know him better. I feel like it would be disrespectful to Katrina and to the memory of the dad she loved so much, if I didn’t.
I really enjoyed getting to know Charlie and Katrina in book 1. Will readers be reuniting with them in the next book? (I hope so!)
Aside from Hephaestus, they’re pretty much my only friends at Lake Carmody High, so yes, they’ll be around. As long as I don’t do anything to mess things up!
Which celebrity romance do you find yourself shaking your head at right now?
I wish this whole Justin Bieber/Selena Gomez thing would fizzle already. Too many breakups are not a good thing. Also Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Love them both, but they almost never look happy when they’re together. Have you noticed that if they’re smiling, which is rare, the smile doesn’t extend to their eyes? That’s a major giveaway that something’s not quite right. Maybe if I could get in there and talk with them I could fix whatever’s going awry.
As someone responsible for so many love connections, what do you think is the most important part of keeping a relationship everlasting?
Honesty and trust are very important. You have to pick your battles, of course, and let the little things go. If you love someone, you shouldn’t nitpick every little thing that bothers you about them or your relationship, but if there’s a big issue, you must discuss it. Preferably in a calm and rational tone of voice at a point in the day when you’re not both stressed and/or exhausted. (So not during finals or after the senior lock-in.) It’s also important to keep things fresh, do the things you like to do together, and be there for each other, no matter what.
After all your… ahem, difficulty… getting settled on Earth, what’s one power from Mount Olympus that you wish you would have been allowed to bring with you?
When I first arrived, I would have said the power to read minds, because it would have made the matchmaking so much easier. But now I realize I never would have gotten to know Charlie and Katrina as well as I have if that power had been available to me. So I suppose I wouldn’t mind having the power to conjure things. Sometimes a girl just really needs a lipstick, or a headband, or, you know, a replacement cell phone for an awful jerk boy. Things happen.
ONLY EVERYTHING by Kieran Scott hits stores May 6, 2014. It’s the first book in the TRUE LOVE trilogy.
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
COMPLETELY NOTHING (Book 2) will be out September 20, 2014.
You’re in luck! Your chance to win a signed arc of ONLY EVERYTHING thanks to Kieran Scott! (Open to readers in U.S. and Canada; must be 13 years old or older to enter. Once the winner is notified, winner has 48 hours to respond or another winner is chosen.)
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Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Target audience: Young adult
Key audience: parental relationships, the internet, friendship
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thanks!)
Summary: Imogene has been the subject of her mother’s popular blog, Mommylicious, since forever. As she starts 9th grade, she’s losing her patience with the staged outings, the products her mom wants her to review, and the people who recognize her when she’s out. So when her new English teacher assigns the entire class to starting up their own blogs, Imogene and her best friend, Sage, are determined to get back at their mothers with THE MOMMY BLOGGERS’ DAUGHTERS plan.
Reading Don’t Call Me Baby was an ironic experience. On one hand, I could totally understand where Imogene was coming from. She wanted her privacy; she didn’t want her mom to tell the world about every little thing going on with her. But on the other, as a blogger myself, I know there are so many positives experiences to come out of writing in your corner of the internet.
But Imogene’s mom definitely took blogging to a whole new level. I didn’t entirely blame her because she made a living by running her blog and had built quite a following. But she was distracted by her Mommylicious brand. She wasn’t sensitive to her daughter’s needs or even the needs of her mother (Grandma Hope) or her husband. She had a one track mind.
I’ll admit it, though. I can totally lose myself in my computer screen, and on my phone. To the point where I don’t even hear what the person next to me is saying. It’s not good. And it’s not something I’m proud of. But I have tried to put a cork in it, and be more conscious of how much time I’m spending around technology. That was one of the main themes of the Don’t Call Me Baby and in our internet-driven world, I appreciated it. Balance is so important when it comes to screen time vs. real life time. Imogene’s acting out had so much to do that, and her mother needed to take the time to realize this and do something about it.
Since Imogene was in ninth grade (and not yet officially in high school), the novel read a little young at points but I loved the friendship between Imogene and Sage (her mom also had a blog) and how their conspiring to take down their moms brings up a few conflicts between the two of them. They had a supportive, honest relationship and could lean on each other, but like any other friendship, they didn’t always agree with one another. And then there was Grandma Hope — a bright light and energetic gal who loved golf and didn’t understand the internet. She’s also gave Imogene the support she needed to be more honest with her mother.
From the authentic family dynamics to the commentary on the internet age, I had a great time reading Don’t Call Me Baby. While I had a few concerns about the logistics of the ending, the entire reading experience had me thinking about overexposure of children on the internet, the pros and cons of blogging (how dangerously easy it is to make your life look perfect), creating boundaries to ensure your life is about more than social media, and, most importantly, the delicate and tumultuous relationships between mothers and daughters.
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