we're magan + estelle -- two girls who live miles apart, but connect daily over our love for books. we share thoughtful + honest reviews of the books we read, but enjoy talking about our crazy lives and other interests, too (style! diy! zac efron!). join us!
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares ( web | tweet ) Publication Date: June 14, 2011 Publisher: Random House Pages: 349 Target audience: Mature YA/adult Keywords: friendship, marriage, secrets, traveling pants Format read: Paperback I bought.
Summary: A return to the friendship of Lena, Carmen, Tibby, and Bridget — four girls connected by their long history together and also a pair of pants that seemed to magically fit all of them for a few summers in a row. So what has happened now that all of them have become true grown ups?
I bought this book on a whim this past week because I was looking for some inspiration for writing a matron of honor speech. While I didn’t use any quotes from the book like I was originally planning to, it felt so fitting to spend some free time revisiting four friendships that really shaped my childhood as I prepped for the wedding of my best friend — a gal I’ve known since I was 5 years old. (Ironically my best friend has my original copy from when I lent it to her.)
I, first, read Sisterhood Everlasting when it was initially released in 2011. I remember I was totally frozen in place on my couch in our old house reading and reading until I got through the whole thing in one night. I just had to see how it ended. I’m happy to say that book was just as addicting the second time around, even if it is surprisingly sad.
Even though the girls (who I thought of as the next-gen Baby-Sitters Club) went through a fair share of drama through high school and college, I always thought the book boasted about the positivity of female friendships. So to experience such a change in Sisterhood Everlasting where the girls are all living in separate places, not getting together very frequently, Tibby totally MIA, and dating people the others don’t approve of — as a dedicated fan of the series, you feel genuinely gutted.
“Growing up is hard on friendships,” Carmen says in the very beginning.
I know with too much experience how true this statement can be but part of me was hoping for the happily ever after scenario for these four. But Brashares has the opportunity to showcase some top notch writing because of this choice — the grown up thoughts (Is this who I really want to marry? Am I really happy in this job? Why do things not feel like they used to?), the small nods to the past, and even the gorgeous imagery (I need to get to Greece) — that she wasn’t always able to use when writing for a younger audience. Like the girls, her writing most definitely matured.
With Carmen an actress in NYC, Lena teaching in Rhode Island, Bee unable to settle down in California, and Tibby off in Australia — the girls are unable to find the common ground they once had with each other (even after the pants went missing). When Tibby surprises them with a reunion in Greece, the three feel this is what they really need until they arrive in Greece and things totally spiral out of control. When the girls go their separate ways once again, it feels like all hope is lost until each of them embark on their own journey undoubtably leading them to answer the same question: can they regain what they had and move forward together?
While I didn’t always agree with Brashares’ characterizations (I don’t think Carmen could ever be a size zero or tone down her Latina pride; Lena just seemed way TOO sad and isolated), I do think she did well when it came to capturing the spirits of these characters we love and showing just how much time can change us — to the point where we might not even recognize ourselves. It’s tough to see on the page, but almost necessary, because there are so many factors that come into play when it comes to friendships, too many distractions, and at some point, friendship takes a little bit more of a push than it has to when you were kids hanging out in the same neighborhood every day.
Whether you remember reading the Sisterhood series way back when or you are looking for a book about female friendships that run deep, Sisterhood Everlasting provides a roller coaster of heartbreaking, sweet, and honest moments as so many realizations are made. For me, it was so nice to spend 300 more pages reuniting with some of my favorite girls with the added reassurance that fighting for friendships is so important.
Skinny Bitch in Love by Kim Barnouin ( web | tweet ) Publication Date: June 4, 2013 Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster) Pages: 302 Target audience: Adult fiction Keywords: cooking, vegan chef, cooking class, love/hate relationship Format read: ARC paperback from Small Girls PR. (Thank you!)
Summary: When Clementine is fired from her awesome job at a vegan restaurant because someone botched up her big moment, she takes her future in her own hands and decides to offer cooking classes and personal chef services. Not only do the classes give her more time with her best friend and roommate, Sara, but she has interested “students” who become friends and the attention of the hot guy Zach, opening a MEAT restaurant next door to her apartment in her own dream eatery space. Will she make enough money to open her own place? Can she really trust Zach?
Being a “skinny bitch” is all about cutting the crap out of your life and Clem is TRYING to do this but it seems like drama after drama keeps finding its way to her.
She’s lost her job, she’s still not over her ex-boyfriend, and her checking account is about one rent check away from being totally cleaned out. But this girl gets her act together. She’s motivated! With the encouragement of her best friend, Sara, and other close friends, she decides to be her own boss: starting with a vegan cooking class and providing personal chef services. Right around this time, her dream spot for a restaurant is taken over by a NON-VEGAN restaurant! The horror! (It’s called The Silver Steer.) Of course, Zach, the guy opening the business, is super hot and charming and Clem can’t stop thinking about him.
Their “relationship” is anything but easy; I really had no idea if Zach was a good guy or not. I mean, sure, he had nice eyes and was surprisingly generous and wonderful. But then he would do something totally infuriating and, like Clem, I wanted to strangle him and kiss him at the same time. So Zach could be totally pig-headed sometimes while Clem obsessed a bit too much about him being a carnivore. Basically, they had a perfectly fiery love-hate relationship.
So not only is there a great mix of romance and friendship in this book but Clem’s kitchen masterpieces were so mouth-watering, I think my stomach was growling throughout the entire read. (True story: on my lunch break, I was totally craving a tropical fruit scone — where can you buy those?!) I really liked watching this young woman work to get her career revved up. Even when she hit a few roadblocks along the way (would she ever catch a break?), she shook it off, moved forward, and was determined to she find success on her own terms.
I had a total blast reading Skinny Bitch in Love. Zach and Clem’s chemistry, her parent’s farm, trendy L.A. scenes, and Sara’s own journey to cut the crap out of her life made this such a fast-paced read for me. Plus I learned a little bit about the vegan lifestyle! I must also give a nod to Clem’s vegan cooking class who provided some hysterical (and totally nosey) commentary when it came to Clem’s love life. Such a great touch.
I want to tell you that Skinny Bitch in Love is the perfect companion for your summer adventures, but I know you could enjoy this one all year round.
When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney (twitter | website)
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 Publisher: Little, Brown Pages: 264 Target audience: Young Adult Keywords: loss of a parent, grief, Tokyo, relationships that don’t end well Format read: ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley. (Thank you!) Other Books Read by the Author:The Mockingbirds (a joint review)
Summary: Just a few short years after the loss of his father, Danny’s mom dies a few weeks shy of his high school graduation from the cancer she’s been battling. Danny is lonely and seeking answers; he goes to Tokyo to learn more about his mom’s last few months, treatments, and to seek peace after his unexplained break-up from his girlfriend, Holland.
Very, very thankfully I haven’t had to work through a parental loss. I can’t imagine what Danny must have been feeling when at 18, he finds himself without both parents. His father passed away after a freak accident in Japan a few years prior. Present day he’s reeling from the loss of his mother who passed away after a long battle with cancer, one month shy of his high school graduation. Further complicating his family dynamic, he and his (adopted, older) sister aren’t necessarily on good terms. Understandably, Danny is feeling very alone and lost.
He would turn to his best friend Holland for help and a listening ear, but Danny started dating her last year and then she completely cut off communication shortly after leaving for college. Even though she’s back home for the summer, things just aren’t the same. Danny and Holland can easily slip back into their witty banter, but Danny feels guarded because he’s still deeply in love with Holland. Without answers and a huge helping of honesty, he just can’t let things go back to the way they were.
To clear his mind, let go of Holland, and seek answers to burning questions he’s got about his mom’s passing, Danny takes off for Tokyo. His parents owned a house there and they frequently visited as a family. Danny’s mom visited Tokyo often throughout her last months for treatment and he feels speaking to her doctor will give him peace about why she couldn’t make it one more month to see him walk across the stage. He also must decide what to do with their family condo now that he’s inherited it. Kana, daughter of their property’s landlord, becomes his tour guide as he follows in his mother’s last footsteps.
When You Were Here was full of absolutely all of my favorite things — a deep, emotional story, shocking twists and turns that left me needing to collect my thoughts, and a journey to a new place that made me want to catch the first flight to Tokyo. Whitney’s writing was as beautiful as ever, and Danny’s voice was so spot on. He was full of humor that he used to protect himself from feeling all the pain he was going through. He was confused and in need of someone to protect him from more bad things happening.
There’s a major, major plot twist that made me gasp when I read through the scene. HOLY CRAP! — I was so stunned and silenced. I needed time to walk away and think about how I felt. Guys, that doesn’t happen often. Whitney made me feel like Danny’s life was real and I was being asked to lend a helping hand or offer advice. Hopefully you’ll feel the same protectiveness over Danny that I did; after I closed the book, I felt this spoke volumes for Whitney’s writing — she has an uncanny ability to make me want to take care of all her characters. (I felt the same way when I read The Mockingbirds.)
Hi, friends! Today we are sharing one of the books we both adored this year: Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt. Main character Payton does not react well when she accidentally finds out her dad has MS. She stops talking to her parents, and when the school counselor gets involved she asks Payton to choose a focus object. Enter Sean Griswold’s head — a staple in her school life since forever.
So why is this title so underrated? It has a supportive family, a sweet love interest, and a great best friendship. Seriously — the two of us have been secretly crushing on Sean Griswold since we “met” him and decided to feature unique and romantic summer dates inspired by his relationship with Payton.
A bike ride.
It turns out that after years of staring at Sean Griswold’s head… Payton doesn’t actually know anything about him. Turns out he is majorly into bike riding, and one of their first hang outs includes this very activity. I know, I know… it doesn’t seem super romantic but it’s DIFFERENT and totally Sean sharing one of his passions with Payton.
You might make a total fool out of yourself in front of the other person, but you know what — it’s fun to let your guard down and do something totally out of the ordinary. Plus a bike ride could include a trip to the park, and a picnic and stargazing. This sounds pretty awesome to us!
Before Payton finds out that her dad has MS, basketball is HER sport. This doesn’t exactly turn out to be a romantic moment in the books but the idea of friendly competition with your main squeeze? So cute. You are outside, the weather is gorgeous, and you are hoping your partner just doesn’t LET you win because you want it to happen fair and square.
Plus, it’s a great excuse to get a little bit closer.
(Estelle note: I remember playing basketball with the boys in middle school and it was the best way to flirt. Really.)
We know our friend Novel Sounds is going to appreciate this one. Sure, it’s simple and not the most groundbreaking idea but there’s nothing like sharing ice cream on a warm summer’s day. Maybe after a bike ride or that neck-and-neck basketball game? Ice cream is pretty perfect in any situation and we recommend you have as much as possible with that special one. (We can’t give away when and why this happens in the book but we’ll put it this way: Payton challenges herself many times in this book and everyone needs a sweet reward.)
We hope you and your significant other can try out a few of these date ideas inspired by Sean Griswold’s Head. And definitely, definitely pick up this book by Lindsey Leavitt. The sweet romance is oh-so-perfect for these long summer days. Enjoy!
Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt Publication Date: 1/27/2007 Publisher: Simon Pulse Pages: 288 Target audience: Young adult Keywords: road trips, ex-relationships Format read: Borrowed from library.
Summary: Two weeks after Jordan dumps Courtney, they are due to drive to college on a road trip the two had planned beforehand. Courtney’s trying to pretend she doesn’t care about him anymore, and Jordan is crazy from hanging on to his own secrets. Will these two make it to Boston in one piece?
A fast paced read about two exes on a road trip to college together! What could be more deliciously disastrous?!
As the third Lauren Barnholdt book that I’ve read, I’d rank this one in between Sometimes It Happens (which I loved) and One Night That Changes Everything (superficial bordering on ridiculous). You can’t deny the chemistry between Courtney and Jordan, who couldn’t be more different. Courtney’s sort of a “goodie two-shoes” (I could relate) and Jordan is a former playboy, a fan of rap music and good looking ladies.
We get a taste of their current situation (not good) and the backstory of their meeting (interesting). Barnholdt did a great job of weaving the stories in and out and having them meet in the middle. This is one of the rare YAs I’ve read where we get just as much of the guy’s perspective as we do the girl’s. And I liked that. Dare I say, I liked Jordan as a character so much more. He may be a total flirt and lover of cheerleaders but I liked discovering his softer side, a side it seems that he didn’t even know he possessed.
Barnholdt also used a great comedic technique a few times where the character would think one thing, and then express that same exact thought out loud. It seems simple and isn’t revolutionary but I found that very funny.
Be prepared because this book’s driving force is miscommunication, but for some reason, it didn’t aggravate me as it would in some other books. What did bug me was the reveal of a certain secret WAY too early in the story. I don’t want to give too much away, but REALLY? I guessed Jordan’s secret way before I had to and I wish the author would have trusted her readers a little bit more.
Two-Way Street may not be life altering, and that’s okay. It is the perfect escape from a hectic day at work, or even a great way to enjoy a weekend in the sunshine.
Psst. Lauren Barnholdt’s companion to this book, Right of Way, comes out on July 9!
Happy Sunday + Happy Shelve It Day! It has been A WEEK. I’m still reeling from the exhaustion I’ve been experiencing post-BEA. And if you guys remember, I didn’t even attend BEA this year. But with people in town, places to go, people to see, some book events in between, it was one of the most social weeks I’ve had in forever. I should have some recaps up for you in the next few days about the two events I went to and the great books you should be adding to your TBR, but before I get to that, here’s a v-log about some book purchases I’ve made in the past few weeks and some highlights from my own BEA stash.
Hope you guys are well + enjoying the weekend and reading EVERYTHING!