“Max was just so intimidatingly real.” – The Start of Me and You, Emery Lord
A few weeks ago when I read The Start of Me and You, I stopped myself on the page with the above quote (note: it’s from an ARC so it might not be in the final book but I hope it is) and thought: Hm. This reminds me of something. And then Emery leads into how Max is “not glamorous or idealized or complicated” and a light bulb went off. When I first met James, that was exactly what it was like. I always tell the story that I didn’t like him in college, but then after he graduated and I went off to a different school for my junior year, we reconnected and decided to meet up. We went to school for two years together, had many of the same classes, but never even had a cup of coffee in our cafeteria together. (No, we just shared awkward moments in the newspaper office and later, a grocery store.)
The first meeting didn’t feel right to me. Why? Because he was just so nice. He listened to what I said, he shared stories about his family with me, and he was generally curious. Sure, he smoked and his hair was long and in need of some product but he had a nice laugh and a great smile and didn’t chew loudly or anything embarrassing like that. As far as “first dates” go, I should have had no complaints but I was sure I didn’t want to go out with him again.
Why is it so hard to admit things are actually good?
My heart was confused. When I was forced to switch schools, a part of me thought I would get back together with my serious boyfriend from a few years before. I was sure if I had never gone long distance, we could make our relationship work and now I wasn’t as far. Everything about wanting him, being with him, and feeling disappointed by him was filled with such intensity. It was LOVE. It’s this all-powerful thing and it’s supposed to be loud and conquering and make your heart hurt, right? I was sure he and I were meant to be. This huge passionate love story that would end with a beautiful happily-ever-after. Surely, all the crying and “fighting” for him all happened for that very reason, right?
I think it’s really hard to come down from something like that. Reconcile with yourself that sometimes putting your all into something doesn’t work out. That maybe not all love stories are drowning in drama; that the chase should never seem never-ending. Your heart should not always be bruised. The happy moments should outweigh the difficult ones. And sometimes all the hope and all the effort in the world does not overcome all the cracks.
This is why I can totally relate to Paige’s “a-ha” moment. I invested four years of my life alternating between being a complete puddle vs. silly in love all to end up (kind of where we had started) getting very upset in the aisle of a dollar store. Then I re-meet this guy who I totally misjudged and it felt so easy. Too easy. Is this what love is all about? I’m still not sure but I’m glad I didn’t listen to myself and I went out with him a second time.
I never went on another date with anyone else again.
Today we’re celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary and as I write this, I’m realizing the difficult parts of our relationship didn’t pop up until later. Not the difficult kind of moments where I doubted we would make it or anything but moments I never would have predicted based on how easily we fell into a rhythm with one another. Love does not shield you from unexpected surprises or loss. It can’t protect you from hurt, but it can help you heal. It forces you be flexible and compassionate with one another, even when you might not understand it or necessarily want to be. As a couple, we’ve certainly been tested and I know those days are not over. But I can say that I have never loved harder because of those times. I read so much about focusing on your “baby family” before saying “I do” and I stand by that advice. That bond is the foundation of your commitment. You have to believe in it and each other when the going gets tough.
But the good times, man, they are good. Whether we’re splitting a pizza or a dozen cookies, or he’s playing a video game and I’m reading next to him on the couch, I’m so incredibly lucky to be married someone who (mostly) understands my crazy quirks and encourages me to push harder and be better. He also still deals with me when I’m hangry or super exhausted. He will randomly tell me that he is still so crazy about me, I’ll tell him to shut up, but secretly I love it. It’s likely we’ll never foresee who exactly is going to make a huge impact on our lives. Like Max for Paige, or me with James — the newspaper editor I once yelled at and then totally wrote off. Maybe the best things do happen when we place the least amount of pressure on them.
Dove Arising by Karen Bao ( web | tweet )
Part of Dove Chronicles.
Publication Date: 2/24/2015
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: science fiction, Moon, family, bravery
Format read: ARC from Publisher. (Thanks!)
Summary: Phaet does her best to remain incognito as she lives her life on the Moon with her mother and siblings. But when her mom is taken away, she only has one option when it comes to supporting her and her siblings — to join the Militia. Being away from her family and her best friend combined with being the youngest training for a position weighs on Phaet, but unexpected bonds and the future of her family keep her going.
I may not be a huge science fiction reader but I am a big fan of eclectic reading palettes and debut writers — especially when those debut writers wrote their book secretly during their senior year in high school. It’s so darn impressive!
I felt a strong Mulan vibe from the moment I started Dove Arising. Main character Phaet (“fate”) and Mulan have a lot in common — both are willing to go to great lengths for the ones they love, even if it means putting themselves in danger. Phaet is only 15 years old but when her mother is arrested she steps up to the plate in a big way — willing to leave her siblings and her best friend to join the Militia and earn money to pay her mother’s bail and support the household.
It’s bold, it’s crazy, and, with a ton of training, it just might work.
Author Karen Bao isn’t presenting the Moon as a must-see destination by any means. It’s dismal, heavily monitored by the government, and sounds like the kind of place where life is all about going through the motions. Very few of the Moon citizens shake things up, and when/if they do, they become a target. Even Phaet’s tone is filled with defeat through most of the book. She is a product of her environment: extremely quiet and shy but full of observations and emotions she’s never comfortable expressing. Later, I liked how this trait morphed into one of her strengths.
Not only is Phaet making a huge decision about her future, but she struggling to gain her mother’s acceptance, mourning her deceased father, and coming to terms with feelings she has for the most unexpected person. She’s forced to grow up so fast, and I trust the repercussions from that sacrifice are only just beginning. Will it all be worth it? Does she have the power to help change her world?
In series, I find many of the first books focus a ton on world-building and providing readers with a foundation. There were so many great details here (particularly, Phaet’s hair) and the more action packed scenes felt like I was in the middle of a simulator ride. (Even if the urgency wasn’t turned up where it needed to be.) It’s my hope with the next two books, Bao dives deeper into Phaet’s character development and her emotions. In Dove Arising, I admired Phaet for her loyalty but I wished I had connected with her on other levels too.
I did discover something about myself while reading this. I’m really fascinated about the details that lead to Earth’s demise in books like these. Does this make me a sadist? Or maybe a secret sci-fi geek?
One final thing: I can’t tell you much about the ending. I mean, I won’t tell you anything about the ending, but I got a little giddy when I realized just how Bao was challenging Phaet next. It’s going to make for a very interesting second book, that’s for sure.
Add DOVE ARISING to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N
One Wish by Robyn Carr ( web | tweet )
Part of Thunder Point series.
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: small towns, overcoming the path, family conflict, secrets
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher. (Thanks!)
Previously: The Homecoming by Robyn Carr
Summary: Grace owns Thunder Point’s flower shop, she has a great best friend, and she’s truly settling into this small community. When her friend (and top crush) Troy suggests she doesn’t have enough fun, he recruits himself as her “fun” coach. Grace gives in, despite her feelings and the secrets she has been keeping.
I’m a huge fan of the Thunder Point series because, unlike a lot of the other romances I read, Robyn Carr builds her stories beyond the couple, trickling in more personalities from the community and making it feel like you are truly a fly on the wall of the gorgeous (I really want to visit) Pacific Northwest town of Thunder Point. Here are five reasons to check out her latest, ONE WISH, and where I, again, remind you it’s okay to read these out of order:
1. A flower shop. As much as chemistry and love is important in a romance novel, I love great background stories and I thought it was so adorable that Grace owned her own flower shop. She took pride in her work and her business, and was so so great with her customers.
2. Non-drama relationship. It was refreshing that a majority of the “drama” in ONE WISH came from places other than Grace and Troy’s relationship. Sure, the whole thing started as nothing more of a friendship (from Troy’s perspective anyway) but it escalated in this sweet, natural, no hassle way. Sure there were some kinks but for the most part the “push and pull” was never a huge, melodramatic issue.
3. Ginger. Someone new is always moving to Thunder Point, and I’m praying that Ginger is a bigger character in one of the upcoming books. She’s dealing with depressing, and moves to TP to live with her grandmother and hopefully move out of her funk once and for all. I love how TP is such a healing place for so many and Ginger’s story (her husband leaving her; her young son dying) is one that I want to hear more about. (Great news: we get more hangout time with Ginger in A New Hope!)
4. A true community. I touched on this a little bit in #3 but something about TP always makes me miss living in the suburbs. These neighbors are always around to catch the other, and help out in someway and it’s so so so heartwarming and wonderful. I love these strangers find new connections and find themselves bonding for life with people they never thought they would. (Plus, the views. I want to hear the ocean.)
5. A Valentine’s Day dance. Did your school have one of these? I am pretty sure we didn’t but Troy teaches at the high school and he’s chaperoning one. I couldn’t help but laugh at how his students are in love with him, and just how popular Grace was with the young kids. This was such a fun detail!
It’s time for one of you to read ONE WISH. The lovely people at Little Bird Publicity have provided me with one copy for a U.S. winner. Please enter to win below & good good luck!
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I have NO idea how tomorrow is the beginning of March. HOW HOW HOW? February was full of lots of new adventures, several great books, really cold weather just about everywhere, and way too much time spent looking up YouTube videos.
Here’s a little recap of this February with our most popular Instagram posts. (Are you on Instagram? Find us @ReadingGals, @thatsostelle, and @magan; we’d love to get to know you better, too!)
SHOPPING LIST MUSTS
Magan’s Pick: Liar’s Inc.
Estelle’s Pick: Girl Before a Mirror
We both HIGHLY recommend: I’ll Meet You There
WHAT TO CLICK
SUMMING IT ALL UP
Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer
The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman
Promposal by Rhonda Helms
Cut Me Free by J.R. Johannson
Perfect Girl by Michele Gorman
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil
Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne
A cover reveal for Tara Jenkins Reid’s Maybe In Another Life due July 7, 2015
An author chat with Stephen Metcalfe of The Tragic Age
A peek at Jennifer Snow’s Brookhollow series from Harlequin
Kieran Scott shared her love story in the spirit of Valentine’s Day
Estelle’s fictional birthday party (to celebrate her 30th!)
Beyond High School YA Books (for those who seek older characters)
#SoRatherBeYoung: Harriet the Spy and Number the Stars (and Hannah’s post too!)
Little Kids: books to show/tell your children how much you love them
Dive Into Diversity Discussion: Religion in YA
Pub Date: Sorta Like a Love Story
What were some of your favorites in February? Let us know in the comments.
Cheers to (hopefully) more sunshine and being one month closer to summer!
The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman [twitter • website]
Publication Date: April 24, 2014
Target Audience: Contemporary Adult Fiction
Keywords: weight and obesity, stigmas, friendship
Format Read: Digital copy received from Publisher (Thank you!)
Summary: Katie, Pixie, Ellie, and Jane are fed up with not seeing results at their weekly slimming meeting. They gossip and ignore the leader anyway, so they decide to ditch the meetings for something more adventurous. Each week they set out to do something fun and new, but things change when Jane doesn’t fit in a standard sized theater seat. They form a club with the intent to find things that won’t make them feel uncomfortable or like an outcast.
• • •
Katie. Pixie. Ellie. Jane.
The one thing they all have in common: they’re overweight (for some of them, obese). They met at and attend a weekly slimming meeting (a la Weight Watchers), but decide something’s just gotta give. They’re no longer helpful and the only reason they’re attending anymore is so they can hang out together. The time they spent in meetings becomes time they dedicate to doing something fun together. The plan seems golden until they visit a local theater and Jane doesn’t fit in a seat.
The idea arises that they should share the information with other people and ultimately launch a website, form a club, and attend events they’re guaranteed to enjoy. Thus, the birth of The Curvy Girls Club. Katie spends tons of her free time calling and arranging all of the get-togethers. Rob, another friend from their meetings, joins the club (yep, even guys are welcome!) and becomes their IT specialist by helping set up the website and keeping track of hits. He’s into the club for a bigger reason than being the internet guru; he and Katie have been friends for a long time, but his feelings have developed into something more.
One amazing thing about Rob is that he’s not shy about finally fessing up to his feelings. Who doesn’t like a guy that can take charge and own his emotions? Except things get a little complicated. Katie’s had a six-year crush on her boss, Alex. He’s flirty. He’s sexy. But is he into Katie for the right reasons?
As the girls turn this casual club into a booming empire, Katie begins to drop weight. She’s not changed anything about her diet, exercise, or otherwise, so she visits a doctor and receives some news that she should take more seriously than she does. She spends some time “thinking” about her options and enjoys the weight loss. Rob gets weirded out by her sudden change in attitude and appearance, and Alex is suddenly front and center. See where things are headed? Yikes.
The whole concept of The Curvy Girls Club is overall lighthearted, but feels extremely authentic, too. What girl wouldn’t understand why Katie would be excited about dropping the weight, finally, when nothing else has worked? And who wouldn’t be infuriated that her work never sends her out on face-to-face client meetings (ironically, she works for a nutritional supplement company) but docks her pay for not meeting their requirements? Katie’s desire is to see TCGC grow so that she can replace her desk job with something she’s actually passionate about.
Underlying Katie’s issues are Jane and Pixie who have suffering marriages and the inability to lose weight. Ellie is in a healthy relationship, but still packs on extra weight. Each woman’s journey had a touch of seriousness — verbal abuse, being weeded out of your job because of size, trust issues, not being able to lose pregnancy weight, and dietary supplements. I’d bet money on the possibility that the vast majority of us can relate to something in that list. And it’s for that sole reason that I loved The Curvy Girls Club. Fun concept, great characters you’d want to hang out with, and tons of depth.
(P.S. I love how eye-catching this cover is.)
Add THE CURVY GIRLS CLUB to Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
• • •
In mid-December, Hannah and I rolled out a laidback, sporadic reading project called “You Make Me Feel So Young” — where we joint read a book from our childhood and pick a title for the other to check out. This post includes the very scientific results to our first challenge.
Biggest realization: I thought I read fast but Hannah is a gold medalist.
Second realization: These are quite fun to read outloud. Since my husband is currently obsessed with this video game called Destiny, I made it feel like storytime by reading Harriet the Spy outloud. For the record, the name Ole Golly is repeated so much… (and I understand why for this age group) …that it started to sound like gibberish to me.
Third realization: Gosh, this is tons of fun.
Let’s get started, shall we?
♥ ♥ ♥
Joint pick: HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh | First published in 1964
More Than You Know: Did you know that a companion book (Harriet Spies Again) was published in 2002 by Helen Ericson? She was granted permission by the Louise Fitzhugh estate to continue the series. (Fitzhugh died in 1974 from a brain aneurysm.)
Memories Are Made of This: I have a confession to make. I’m not even sure if I finished this book when I was a kid. Yes, I have a pretty beat up copy but…I barely remembered a thing and I’ve been known to have a great memory! Honestly, I probably know more about the Rosie O’Donnell film than the actual book.
Second Time Around: The reason I don’t think I read this one the whole way through is because I was floored by what a creep Harriet could be. She is just… not a nice kid. Sure, she gets very little attention from her parents and the amount of freedom she has in NYC as an 11-year old is astonishing. But, again, different world. I admired her for being so committed to her writing and for her loyalty toward Ole Golly. Most of the time I felt like she got the short end of the sick so while I don’t approve of her acting out… it made sense. (I hope she has a good therapist.)
You Can Take My Word for It, Baby: I’m not sold on this book being at the top of my reading list for my future child. (James agreed with me.) A book I might have them read when they are older but not when they are aligned to Harriet’s age. The reading experience needs to be more of a “ha ha wow” kind of thing, I think. (And even then, it’s a tad disturbing!)
Hannah’s pick for me: NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry | First published in 1989
Do You Know Why? I knew I wanted to choose historical fiction for Estelle’s first read because it’s been my favorite genre ever since childhood. But what book to pick? As soon as I realized she hadn’t read Number the Stars, I knew it was the one! It’s a lifelong favorite for me – combining Lois Lowry’s lovely writing, a memorable heroine and an emotional story. I was hoping that this book would bring history alive for Estelle in the same way it once did for me! – from Hannah
Can’t You Just See Yourself: I cannot figure out why I did not read this one in elementary school or even early middle school. What a brave female character though and a brilliant romance in such a compact little book. I was tremendously moved by Annemarie’s story and the sacrifices and actions of her family as the Nazi’s turn their lives upside down. It also hits some subtle marks about dealing with grief within a family at a young age.
I Give You My Word: Unlike with Harriet, I wouldn’t think twice about having a copy of this book in my collection for a future child or sharing it with others who are building up a great bookcase. It’s an important book yes because it deals with overcoming adversity but it’s nice to see a young girl finding bravery she doesn’t even know she possesses and a devoted friendship.
Before the Music Ends: I wholeheartedly believe you should pick this one up… whether it’s to read it for the first time or to revisit. (I bought my copy on the Nook and it was so inexpensive.) In a world of very long, intense books, Lois Lowry’s writing is a reminder of how much can be conveyed in small packages.
Have you read either of these lately? Do you remember the first time you did?
Thanks so much for taking part in #SoRatherBeYoung! Tweet & chat with us! We’re nice.
Stay tuned for our joint read Island of Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell in April… and some social media fun!