Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: LGBT, boarding school, labels, friendship, lies
Format read: ARC paperback from TLA.
Summary: Rafe decides to spend his junior year on the East Coast at an all boys boarding school. What’s so crazy about that? Well, unlike his life in Boulder, he decides not to share with anyone that he is indeed gay in order to give him the chance to strip away all labels and give him the opportunity to be more than his sexual preference.
Openly Straight is a novel that encompassed so many of my favorite things: a flawed main character who felt a lot, supportive and enthusiastic parents, and heart-tugging friendship and romance. And best of all? It made me think.
Basically, I want to hug and squeeze this book until I can’t anymore.
Rafe is pretty lucky when he comes out to his parents. They are completely supportive; they barely blink an eyelash. The liberal town of Boulder, Colorado responds pretty much the same way. His teachers want his thoughts on the gay movement, he trains to give speeches to others about sexuality, and his family surprises him with an awesome coming out party. Life is pretty much hunky dory. We’ve all heard people’s hurtful experiences regarding coming out, so it’s kind of hard to believe that Rafe has anything to complain about, right?
Well. Wrong. He feels totally pigeonholed by his sexuality, and decides to go off to a boarding school on the East Coast in hopes of wiping the slate clean. He won’t exactly be back in the closet because he knows he’s gay… he just won’t really tell the peers in his all-boy school what his deal is.
The idea of going to a brand new place and being a whole new you is pretty tempting. Of course, part of it, especially in Rafe’s case, isn’t awesome because he is kind of lying in some instances. But in others, he’s finding out things about himself that he never knew. Like maybe the jock isn’t always “the jock” and maybe he can actually keep up with a bunch of guys playing football in the quad.
The challenges though… outweigh that lack of boundary Rafe feels. And as a reader, you are just waiting for everything to blow up in his face. His parents are confused by this “phase”, he’s making up stories about his closest girl friend, and this intimate friendship with Ben, a soft-spoken jock who loves to read and have deep conversations, is definitely in jeopardy, especially as he and Rafe continue to get closer. Is Ben gay? Are they just best friends? The lines are so blurred at times, that it was really hard for me to figure it out. The possibility of heartbreak is so palpable.
Konigsberg also included pieces from Rafe’s writing class — a great way for us to get this character’s back story but also to see him grow as a writer. (I adored the teacher’s comments so much because so many times what he was saying was criticism I have about what I’m reading: “show don’t tell!”) Mr. Scarborough also gives him room to think about his choices to be someone new at the school, and subtley offers some helpful perspective. He would definitely have been one of my favorite teachers too.
I feel absolutely so much love for this book that my heart is actually seizing up as I write this review. From Rafe’s refreshing narrating to watching him painstakingly make blunders and attempt to get himself out of them, Openly Straight unveils a different kind of journey towards self-discovery — one filled with laughs, love, late nights, and finding out how to balance all the parts that make you you.
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Every time, we throw one of these posts together… we can’t believe another month is come to a close. August 2013 Book Releases? So crazy how fast the summer is going. Hope you are enjoying all your books and painting your nails!
Last month, we changed things up and used Zoya colors to make some book cover palettes. We gave one of our colors away, and Jennifer won and picked an awesome red called Diana! She sent us a picture of her gorgeous manicure!
Doesn’t it look fantastic?
Jumping back to this month, we’re back to the rainbow of Julep colors out there and hope you enjoy what we came up with this time around!
The Hero by Robyn Carr
This is actually the first “big kid” book I’ve picked to feature for Nailed It! The books in Robyn Carr’s Thunder Point series have such dreamy covers, and when I first spotted The Hero… I was just so taken with how gorgeous the colors were. It’s such a striking cover, and from all the rumors I’m hearing, it’s the best in the series so far. (Yes!!)
Unlike other romance novels I’ve read recently, Carr’s Thunder Point series jumps from various people in town rather than focusing on just one person’s story. I like this a lot because you can really invest yourself in the characters and don’t feel like you are missing too much when you move to another book. In The Hero, we have a new football coach, a young boy who just found out who is bio dad is, and a lot more hi-jinx. I can’t wait to get started.
As for the color palette, purple has always been one of my favorite colors + I just love the shades here. Perfect for the summer but also workable for the transition to the fall.
Alaina | Gabrielle | Alice
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
I haven’t read a book by Holly Goldberg Sloan yet, but I’d like to change that right now. I’ve heard amazing accolades sung for this particular book. “It should win awards” has been one of the best endorsements I’ve heard for it. That means a lot, right?
Plus, this cover is ridiculously awesome. I’m so in love with the color combination and the layout. If you walked into my house, you wouldn’t be surprised to find these colors accenting our home. I’m so drawn to them! I love the pops of color on the clean white background. And the typography? Nice, simple, understated. I sent this ARC to Estelle after I went to ALA and I can’t *wait* to hear what she thinks about it. This might be a pre-order book for me soon!
Lena | Jackie | Harper
So tell us what you think of our Nailed It selections for August!
What covers are you guys loving right now and what books are you anxious
to get your hands on this coming month?
Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Death, stalking, secrets
Format read: eBook from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)
Summary: When Sawyer’s popular jock boyfriend dies in a car accident because of his drunk driving, she thinks the secrets of their relationship will be buried with him. But a mysterious note in her locker (“You’re welcome” attached to a newspaper clipping of her boyfriend’s accident) has her wondering what really happened that night… especially when other horrible things start happening right before her eyes.
When I picked up Truly, Madly, Deadly, I expected something along the lines of Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf — a book about a girl who survives a car accident that kills her boyfriend (who wasn’t really the nicest guy). I was completely glued to that book until the very end.
But Truly, Madly, Deadly only grazes what Shaw managed to do in Breaking Beautiful and I really missed that happening here. While main character Sawyer does wrestle with the truths of her relationship with Kevin, the novel focuses on the domino effect of bad events that occur after his car accident. All of these terrible things are somehow connected to Sawyer, are supplemented with a note or flowers, and are downright scary. Instead of going to the authorities, she fears all of these occurrences might be her fault and keeps it to herself.
I really felt for Sawyer throughout the book. Her boyfriend suddenly dies, she feels like she can’t trust anyone, her dad is preoccupied with work and his new baby with his new wife, and her mom lives on the opposite side of the country. The only two people who seem at all on her side are Chloe, her best friend from forever, and Cooper, the new guy in her life who is super sweet. But even so, she doesn’t divulge what is happening to anyone until everything spirals out of control and too many lives are at stake.
Personally, I felt very suspicious of every character I met in this book. (This is probably in direct relation to my reading of the amazingly horrifying Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas.) And while the ending semi-took me by surprise, I would have loved to have the book go on a tad longer instead of just dropping off and ending on a semi-joke. There was too much blood shed for a tone change like that. Plus, I’m not sure if Sawyer’s character made the kind of growth that I needed her to make.
A little bit more character development and plot tweaking could have really strengthened Truly, Madly, Deadly. Instead, I felt like I had just finished an addicting but not entirely fulfilling Lifetime movie of the week.
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Three Little Words by Susan Mallery ( web | tweet )
Part of the Fool’s Gold series.
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Target audience: Adult; romance fans
Keywords: childhood love, opposites attract, post-military life, small towns
Format read: eBook received from Publisher via NetGalley! (Thanks!)
Summary: Isabel was heartbroken when her sister broke off her relationship with Ford and he ran off to join the military. At 14, she was utterly in love with him and while he was gone, sent him letters for years and years without any response. Years later, the two are reunited in their hometown (he’s living in her parent’s apartment) and he recruits her for a little help.
When I was 14, I was totally in love with this older boy (a family friend) and thinking back, I did some really cringe worthy things to get/not get his attention. (Does that make sense?) There was this one time I sent him a picture of me blowing him a kiss! For real. (I tried to unsend it but that function did not exist then.) Reading Isabel’s young letters to Ford in Three Little Words really transported me back to that very young me, hoping beyond hope that this amazing/almost off-limits guy felt the same way.
I absolutely love the “reunion” storyline in romance novels. People with a history, seeing each other again. Will old feelings come zipping back? Can they fall for each other despite the experience and years between them?
For Isabel and Ford, there isn’t much standing in their way. Just themselves. After years in the military, Ford just feels like he could never fall in love, and Isabel is reeling from a divorce that left her feeling like it was kind of her own fault. Back in Fool’s Gold to sell her family’s bridal shop and report back to New York to start a new fashion venture, she finds out that Ford will be occupying her family’s apartment a.k.a. living in her house. In the mean time, Ford is trying to adjust to being around people again, including his mother who is desperate for him to get married and start a family of his own.
This is where Isabel comes in. Ford asks her if she can be his pretend girlfriend for awhile so his mom will finally calm down. I’m sure you can see where this is all heading.
I’ve read a bunch of Fool’s Gold books since I started last year, and I can say with confidence that Three Little Words is my favorite. I loved how Ford teased Isabel about her letters, how Isabel wasn’t the most comfortable in her body and wasn’t an immediate sex goddess in bed, the bridal shop setting, and especially how all the ladies of Fool’s Gold came around to support her with friendship and drinks when she needed them most.
Three Little Words is sexy, sweet, and probably one of the more relatable books in this series. (There’s also a second romantic storyline between a tough lady and a very nice math teacher. Loved watching barriers come down for this one.) Plus football players are moving into town. Even more reason to check into Fool’s Gold if you ask me!
Did I mention this was probably the hottest Fool’s Gold book I ever read? Major heat wave, hot. Prepare yourself. Hydrate. You will need it.
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Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett (website | twitter)
Series: Confessions #1
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: loss of a parent, first year of high school, comical and angry MC
Format read: Purchased digital version for my kindle.
Summary: Rose’s father died right before her freshman year of high school; she’d like nothing more than to wallow in her sadness, but somehow she keeps doing things that make her noticeable to the popular crowd (so not good).
Rose is pissed off. Her father died and he absolutely shouldn’t have. She’s entering her freshman year of high school and she’s overwhelmed with anger and frustration. Her therapist mom uses her “therapy voice” all the time and can’t be real about how she’s feeling. They don’t talk about her dad. At all. Her brother has flown the coop and gone to college, but conveniently, he’s finding ways of disconnecting from the family by dating a new girl and not coming home for family holidays. Popping up unexpectedly at school is Jamie Forta, the boy Rose has secretly (or maybe not so secretly) been crushing on from afar for years. Rose likes him. They kiss. Except they shouldn’t have. And maybe Jamie didn’t just decide to start hanging around Rose; maybe he was persuaded to?
Complicated doesn’t even begin to describe Rose’s freshman year. She’s trying to find her way and fly under the radar, but just can’t seem to get her footing. Her (non-existent) popularity further plummets when her honest, do-what’s-right-self makes her a target. Even though she wants nothing more than to be unseen, Rose just can’t seem to escape center stage. In many, many ways, Confessions of an Angry Girl reminded me of my good pal Ruby Oliver. In no way were the stories alike, but I think Ruby and Rose would have been quite the duo. Rose was full of spunkiness and blatant honesty. She made no apologies for being sad and needing to deal with her grief. Everything she said and felt was so real and honest to me, even if she (like Ruby) said some hilariously off-the-wall things that gave the impression she had no control over her mouth sometimes. Rose is a very imperfect girl who is simply trying to manage all the change that’s happening in her life.
Rose is trying, desperately, to deal with her grief, but she’s also afraid she’s going to forget her dad. She’s in the midst of losing touch with her best friend Tracy, who wants to make a name for herself in high school and is itching to be a cheerleader. (Rose is even more unsettled by Tracy’s constant contemplation over whether or not she should lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Matt. Personally, Rose thinks he’s a d-bag who just wants to sleep with her.) And then there’s her “relationship” with Jamie. She wants to be with him, but doesn’t understand what’s happening with Regina. Are they really together?
Confessions of an Angry Girl was an unexpected delight — I breezed through the pages and connected instantaneously with Rose. She’s a little down on life (and sometimes herself), but she’s got a lot of insight and fight in her to push through all the bad. Even though Rose’s story stems from the loss of her father, I felt meeting her was very uplifting and delightful. The story does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, which I absolutely wasn’t certain was necessary, but I suppose you’ll have to wait and see what I thought about Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend soon. (I know — what a tease!)
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A note from Magan: I’m beyond honored (thrilled, excited, ecstatic) that Morgan Matson is guest posting for Rather Be Reading today. Morgan is one of our very favorite authors who never fails to wow us with her incredible writing. We deeply loved Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. There’s no doubt that Morgan’s books are a pre-order/auto-buy for us. We asked her to take over Rather Be Reading today to share one of her masterful playlists with us and to let us know what her summer essentials and must-reads are.
Photo Courtesy of Morgan’s Instagram Feed (@morganmat): Jessi Kirby, left, and Morgan Matson, right
Summer is my absolute favorite season. There’s a reason my first two books – and the one I’m revising now – are all set during the summer. To me, summer is worth looking forward to all year. The days are long, it’s fine to eat ice cream at almost any hour of the day, and flip-flops (or, frankly, bare feet) become totally acceptable footwear.
There are certain things that I NEED to have in my summer, and come August, if I haven’t fulfilled these criteria, I might go a little manic in tracking them down. My summer essentials:
Photo Courtesy of Morgan’s Instagram (@morganmat): Her writing view from Jessi Kirby’s house.
I think you need to go to the beach at least once in a summer. Even if you’re lucky enough to live in a place that’s warm and you can go to the beach year-round, there’s just something about the beach in the summer. Make a day of it – half the fun of the beach is packing up the beach bag and snacks. My essentials? Magazine, paperback, sunglasses, sunblock (I’m practically a vampire, and need crazy-high SPF), iPod, backup paperback, candy (preferably individually wrapped so that sand doesn’t compromise the whole enterprise). I like staying at the beach until it gets cold and you have to put on a sweatshirt. And if you can stay until it gets dark, is there anything better than stars above the water? I think not.
As much as I love the beach (and I DO – just ask Jessi Kirby, since I’m always showing up uninvited at her beach house and inviting myself for dinner) I grew up spending summers at a lake house in the mountains of Pennsylvania (which I might have, um, used as inspiration for a book). So to me, it’s not summer without lots of trees and cicadas at night and too many mosquito bites. To balance out the beach, you need s’mores over a fire and the smell of woodsmoke at night.
3. A blockbuster, a bag of popcorn, a diet coke.
I look forward to summer movies all year. Nothing against small, nuanced, deeply felt, Oscar-bait movies, but I can’t WAIT for summer blockbusters. I’m so happy when I’m in an air-conditioned theater, with salty, buttery popcorn, watching superheroes banter and punch each other. Bliss.
4. A great soundtrack.
You need that perfect summer playlist, the one that, when you come across it in your iTunes library in November, will remind you of a sunburn on your shoulders and driving with the windows down, the wind whipping your hair around. I tend to make new playlists every two weeks, but I find my songs of the summer show up over multiple playlists. And this is not the time to be a music snob! Sometimes the best summer songs are the poppy ones that just will not leave your head. They also don’t have to be current – one my favorite things is to discover and older song and repurpose it as one of your summer songs. [Find Morgan’s Playlist at the end of this post!]
Photo Courtesy of Morgan’s Instagram Feed (@morganmat): Morgan and the Giant Bunny at the Newport Public Library.
Summer is when I dig into that to-read pile that’s been gathering dust. I also think summer is the perfect time to try out a book that might not be something you’d normally read. Some of these aren’t new, but some books I’ve LOVED so far this summer: Fire With Fire (ARC), Eleanor & Park, The Moon & More, Golden, Nantucket Blue, Rules of Summer, Dark Places, The Interestings, Siege and Storm, and Shadow and Bone.
6. An adventure.
This is crucial! This can be whatever – but you have to have one. If it’s taking a road trip with your BFF or getting lost on the way to the party with your crush (this might possibly be getting lost on purpose. No judgment). But you have to have that one (or two or three – hey, it’s summer) so that when it’s December, and someone says something about the summer, you’ll smile and refuse to answer when people ask you what you’re thinking about.
Have a most excellent summer!!
Morgan’s Summer Playlist
Morgan graciously put together this amazing playlist for us.
If you’d like to listen to it in its entirety, join us by listening on Spotify.
Don’t have Spotify yet? No worries — find all the songs listed below.
1. Nightswimming/ REM
2. Fallen/ Imagine Dragons
3. Cruise/ Florida Georgia Line
4. Die Young/ Ke$ha
5. The Downeaster Alexa/ Billy Joel
6. Back and Forth/ Operator Please
7. Submarines/ The Lumineers
8. A Better Son/Daughter/ Rilo Kiley
9. Out on the Town/ fun.
10. Love Like Woe/ The Ready Set
11. Running Out of Moonlight/ Randy Houser
12. I Love It/ Icona Pop
13. Take Me Home Tonight/ Eddie Money
14. Entertainment/ Phoenix
15. Never Wanted Your Love/ She & Him
16. Get Lucky/ Daft Punk
17. Just Like Heaven/ The Cure
18. Forever/ Walter Meego
19. I Always Knew/ The Vaccines
[Because Spotify is silly and doesn’t have Fallen by Imagine Dragons, here it is on YouTube.]
Morgan, thank you so much for stopping by Rather Be Reading!
xo, M + E