A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook + Brendan Halpin
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Egmont USA
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: therapy, depression, eating disorders
Format read: eBook from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)
Summary: Justin and Emmy are two teens who meet at a therapy/boarding school where they are battling very different demons. What seems like a total damper on their summer soon evolves into group adventures surrounding a pig, Harry Potter, food stealing, and more.
The group that made up Justin and Emmy’s Anger Management class felt straight out of The Breakfast Club to me. The outcasts, each with their own set of problems, working through whatever got them to this reform school in the first place. Or maybe even denying themselves the chance to work through these issues is what truly bonds these unlikely friends.
Though, the center of A Really Awesome Mess is on Justin and Emmy. In alternating chapters, both tell about their experiences at the school, in classes, glancing at each other, disliking one another, and also how exactly they got roped into this position to begin with. The story felt a little slow for me at first, and it wasn’t until both character started opening up a little bit more I felt more invested in these two characters and their struggle to get better.
It’s not every day that the main character in a young adult novel is struggling with identity issues after being adopted. I really liked this aspect of A Really Awesome Mess. Emmy was unable to believe that her parents truly loved her, especially when they had their own biological daughter to care for too. On the other hand, Justin had to contend with a father who just really wasn’t a great guy. Like Emmy, he also had to accept certain aspects of his family, and I enjoyed watching the process it took for him to come to these conclusions.
Even though Halpin and Cook’s book revolves around therapy, there is a ton of adventure to go around when all the kids from the Anger Management class are involved. That was by far my favorite aspect of the book: the friendships formed out of necessity growing into something supportive and true. It was fun tagging along on the wild “pig” chase and seeing what happens.
Definitely more of a light-hearted look at teens struggling with various obstacles, A Really Awesome Mess is a pretty fast-paced read with unique characters, a blossoming romance, and a cinematic feel.
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A few weeks ago I was at a bar with one of my friends after a long work day and the guy next to us asked how we knew each other.
I kind of laughed to myself because I met Melissa “on the internet.” (She’s the second best thing to a book blogger; she writes about Disney!) But saying that out loud to a stranger? You never know if they are going to get it. But luckily for us, the guy was kind of drunk (but sweet) and thought it was nice we met because we both “love Mickey Mouse”.
Even though I’m so wrapped up in happenings “online” (and it seems like more and more people are these days), there’s still this stigma attached to “the internet” for some — whether it’s about dating, making friends, or being nerdy enough to work a ton for no monetary gain on Disney or books blogs. Real life and the internet mesh so much for me that I don’t even blink at these things. In fact, I encourage them.
Being present on the internet has helped me to smooth out transitions in my personal life, make real-life friends who get me and my hobbies, and teach me everything from Disney history to the publishing industry to steaming my own cauliflower.
One of my favorite bloggers posted this “state of the blogosphere” piece recently, and I started to feel so nostalgic for some reason. It made me think about why I got into blogging in the first place.
Did you know I was a writing major in college? After two years of an intensive writing program that led up to my graduation, I was so drained. I didn’t think I wanted to pick up a mechanical pencil again. Or think about fiction. Or even write about my own experiences. (I took a fantastic and pretty much life-changing memoir writing class my senior year.) So I didn’t. I wasn’t even reading books, which wasn’t like me either. I dove into a long-distance relationship with my now-husband (which required a lot of traveling) and I started making greeting cards and watching baseball again.
It wasn’t until one of my dearest friends asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding that I started getting into blogs. I read about how to create a personal and amazing bridal shower until I was “something blue” in the face. Weddingbee will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason. It was full of brides concocting some of the most beautiful wedding events I had ever seen or thought about. I had my heart set on being a Bee contributor when I got engaged. So I started writing a blog about wedding planning, and I applied.
I didn’t get it.
I can’t even tell you how crushed I was. I cried a lot. I felt like it was such a lost opportunity because I knew I was a good writer, and I knew our wedding would be amazing and our process could help others. But I think a lot of my problem was voice. Finding my own. Being myself but also saying something that sparked something in others. Maybe my voice sounded too much like the others on the blog. Even though I wasn’t an official Bee writer somehow I became associated with the blog anyway, and this was how I fell into Twitter.
Oh, Twitter, love of my life. You have brought such wonderful (and difficult) things into my world.
This is the thing about the internet. There is always a new bandwagon to jump on. Staying afloat in this crazy rabbit hole is about doing what works for you. (Even though it’s hard not to get swayed by shiny things.) And I do think it works best when you are yourself. When it’s not always about perfection and beautiful pictures and graphics. Are you a person or are you a brand? I can easily write about how wonderful I think something Disney related is, and then turn around the next day and talk about something else within the company that doesn’t work for me. This is real life. Honest opinions. Changing judgments. Connecting to other people who may or may not feel the same way too.
But there’s a danger in connection too. How can you tell the difference between people who build themselves up like a product and the real ones who want to actually know you? I have fallen into this trap before, and it hurts a lot. To think you are building this relationship with someone only to realize they have been creating this persona and it’s really more about them than you. I’ve been too trusting, too honest, too willing to give a true piece of myself to some people that I have been tricked by the “friendliness” of social media and the blogosphere. And it’s so easy for that to happen to anyone. Said person wants to show their best self and it is not always their true self.
Even though these internet connections start on a screen, that next step, bridging that (cyber) space between blog friend and real life friend, requires the same faith and trust you hold on to when making a new friend in any other environment. There’s still the same chance it might not work out. For whatever reason: you don’t click, the expectation is too built up, or you just don’t have enough in common to keep it going. (It’s kind of the same way we pick and choose what blogs we dedicate our time too, isn’t it?)
With blogging, friendship, or even being a dedicated reader of someone’s internet space, there can be a lot of disappointment. It can be competitive when it doesn’t even have to be. But that is just the nature of human existence, I guess. That just means there’s that flip side too. Even if you never speak directly, you might draw inspiration from one person and see your life reflected in someone else’s. Ironic or not, this internet world really does make us feel less alone.
For me, “the state of the blogosphere” and the sense of community go hand-in-hand. My tastes are always swayed by those who seem sincere and honest. And that’s another thing that doesn’t just apply to the internet. I feel like sincerity and truth are two things I expect (and deserve) in my daily life too. So the more I talk about, or the longer this post gets (ha), I realize that line between real life and the internet isn’t really tangible vs. imaginary. It blurs even when we aren’t thinking about it.
Five Summers by Una LaMarche ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 16, 2013
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer camp, friend reunion, old crushes, secrets
Format read: ARC paperback lent to me by Lena from Addicted 2 Novels. (Thanks!)
Summary: It’s been three years since four best friends have been together at the place where it all started: summer camp. Will secrets (old and new) affect their bond?
In Estelle world, comparing a book to Summer Sisters by Judy Blume and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares is like hitting the jackpot. Those titles have been some of my favorites for years and years now. It’s also kind of scary to see two of your favorite books written on the back of a brand new one because your expectations might skyrocket and the possibility of getting disappointed is so much greater.
While Five Summers didn’t exactly reach the Summer Sisters/Traveling Pants level for me, it did have the same essence of those two classics: the joys and the difficulties of friendships, the years that bring people together and pull them apart, secrets kept that once seemed necessary but risk ruining everything.
I think most of us know that friendships can be rough. Especially when you don’t see each other every single day. (Which is most cases, actually.) So for Emma, Skylar, Maddie, and Jo to create such a bond at 9 years old, spend 5 summers enjoying every moment of summer camp, and then reuniting after not seeing each other for 3 years (and not keeping the best touch)? That’s a lot of time to miss each other, and a lot of time to grow apart.
Through flashbacks and alternating POVs from each of the girls, we get to find how the girls became friends in the first place and where they are now. LaMarche gives each of the them relatable challenges and problems, and I liked that. Anyone could understand feelings of embarrassment, fear of moving forward, working way too hard, and pressure from parents. I did favor Emma and Skylar’s stories best, though. I felt like I was always waiting for their turn to come around again. Their locked in a love triangle (though Emma doesn’t know it) and it’s created some distance between them. I really enjoyed their closeness though and I was really rooting for them to cut the crap, tell the truth, and regain their best friendship again.
The object of this love triangle is Emma’s long-time crush, Adam. I’ll admit. I would have fallen for him too. Utterly charming but so real when he is talking to you one-on-one. What is it about guys like these? After failing to share her true feelings with him on their last day of camp, seeing him 3 years later hits Emma like a ton of bricks. One last chance to make something happen and all those romantic notions, right? Sigh. This portion of the story had me feeling a mix of things: regret, excitement, and anger.
Five Summers was really an enjoyable read for me. I really felt for these friendships, and hoped these girls would make it out of their 3-day reunion to the other side with something stronger. While I didn’t always agree with the structuring of the book (the placement of the flashbacks made it jarring at times and while I understand the sentiment of the last chapter, I didn’t think it was necessary there) and the characters could have used more sculpting to make them feel a bit more different from each other (not just in circumstance but in tone), it still felt fast-paced and kept me interested.
I’m kind of a sucker for a summer camp story, too. So that was just icing on the cake.
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What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee Hathaway, Sharon Mazel
Publication Date: February 1, 2002
Publisher: Workman Publishing
Target audience: Pregnant women!
Keywords: babies, pregnancy, expecting a baby, books to read while pregnant
Format read: Whelp, I haven’t actually read it… yet.
Summary: Are you really confused right now? Do you need an explanation.
Continue reading for more details…
Approximately 120,291,584 times I’ve thought about what I would say in this post. I’ve written drafts of it in my head over and over and over again. And now that I’m actually writing it, I feel so nervous. I think I’m actually shaking. I haven’t read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but some time over the next 27 weeks, I think I might.
Here’s the short version of the story: Dustyn and I are expecting our very first baby. Holy cow, y’all, I am having a BABY. And today, a very special day — our nine-year wedding anniversary — I am so elated to share the news with you guys.
Here are a few answers to commonly asked questions:
- When is your due date? February 7, 2014.
- How far along are you? 13 weeks. Hello, second trimester!
- Will you find out if you’re having a boy or a girl? We’re completely undecided. Part of us thinks it would be so fun to wait, but then we’re also a little bit Type-A and want to know how to plan and prepare. I think having our foster daughter has taught us to be a little more flexible and laid back though. So, anyway, this is still to be determined.
- How did you keep this a secret? Well, Estelle has known since the very, very beginning. I basically asked her to keep the biggest secret ever because I was so overly fearful that something might happen and I didn’t really know how I would deal with losing a baby and having to explain that. A few people have known, but we just told our grandparents on Saturday (four days ago) that we’re expecting, so don’t worry friends, you’re not far behind!
- Do you have baby names picked out? Well, you see. Baby Blasig is likely to be born on Estelle’s birthday, February 5th. According to her, we only have one name choice for our future baby boy or girl. 😉
This whole moment, announcing we’re pregnant, is really exceptional and amazing, but also a little bit bittersweet. For a long, long time Dustyn and I have been hoping for this. For the last three years, I’ve been in and out of the doctor’s office more times than I can count because things were just completely out of whack with me. I’ve had tons of friends in this time span that have announced pregnancies, had babies, and even have a second bun in the oven. Despite my excitement and happiness for them, I was always a little bit heartbroken and jealous too. Such a bottle of conflicting emotions and so disappointed in myself that I couldn’t completely push away my sadness and desire to be a mom to celebrate their moments. For all of the time we spent hoping and trying, I am completely aware there may be some of you who are in my shoes right now. (I’ve got tears streaming down my face, thinking about all those emotions I dealt with.) I don’t, at all, want my post to be one that rubs my pregnancy in anyone’s face. I understand.
These last few years, and maybe more specifically, the last 18 months, were some of the toughest I’ve ever been through. I felt so emotionally drained and so fed up with how difficult everything was. I questioned why it had to be so hard for us. Many times I sat at a dinner table with Dustyn and wept as another month passed and we were left waiting. He ever so patiently and lovingly dealt with my roller coaster of emotions and was so supportive. (Sometimes maybe a little too much as he’d say, “I just know it’s going to happen soon.” Maybe his definition of “soon” is different than mine, but man did it feel like an eternity.)
Over a year ago, last June, I sat at a table with Dustyn and we discussed our future family. Adoption was something we had discussed, vaguely, but that night we became a bit more serious about it. We both agreed that we didn’t want to spend years trying to have a baby and then more time waiting to be chosen or waiting to finish the licensing process to foster children. We decided we would take until the end of August to think and pray about what we wanted to do. I kid you not, at church one day the last week of August, they announced a partnership with a foster agency and had sign-ups to begin the classes for licensing. I immediately walked to the table and signed us up (yes, without even discussing with Dustyn first).
Dustyn + me after announcing to our grandparents that we are having a baby; we got all of them together by telling them we wanted to have a lunch with them to “celebrate our anniversary.” One of my grandmother’s brought a cake!
From September to February, we worked on our licensing and continued to try for a baby (that phrase is really awkward to me, by the way). More doctor’s appointments came and went and I grew increasingly frustrated that it seemed we weren’t getting anywhere. Nothing was happening! We began receiving phone calls for children needing a foster placement in March and for every time we missed the opportunity to have a child in our home, I wept. I was having a really hard time dealing. Nothing, absolutely nothing, seemed to be working according to plan. I decided I needed a mental and emotional break. I cleared a few weeks of my work schedule to allow myself some time off. The very next day, we were so, so graciously blessed with our beautiful foster daughter.
Over the last few months, I’ve kept a lower stress level and continued to work, but on a much less hectic scale than I had been. I’ve really focused my time and attention on baby girl. I had less time to worry about waiting two weeks after I ovulated to see if I was pregnant. We went to Colorado in May with my family and the trip was somewhat stressful for me. Our foster daughter’s schedule was off and she wasn’t sleeping well. We were also pushing her a bit with inconsistent nap times as we traveled and explored. When we arrived back home and I realized I missed my period, I didn’t even think twice about it. In my mind, I was off because I had been stressed. It took three more days and me running to our house to grab something on Memorial Day and having to clutch my chest because my boobs hurt so badly for me to ask Dustyn, finally, “Do you want to know or do you want to keep waiting?”
First of all, let’s just add a disclaimer right here. Never, ever take a pregnancy test at night, friends. Never.
He was already cuddled up in bed with a book after a long, long day of BBQing with our neighbors and friends. He told me he was ready to know. I grabbed my pregnancy test and went to our second bathroom (our bed looks directly into our bathroom — a) I didn’t want to pee in front of him and b) if I had a breakdown over a negative test result, I was going to need a while to compose myself). The moment the test says “positive,” I start SCREAMING. I should mention that our second bathroom is by baby girl’s bedroom so my screaming caused Dustyn to run out of the bedroom, trying to hush me and saying, “SHHHHH. YOU’RE GOING TO WAKE THE BABY!” I yelled back, oh so happily, “WE DON’T CARE. WE DON’T CARE TONIGHT! WE GOT A POSITIVE. WE ARE HAVING A BABY.”
And there in our hallway, we hugged and cried and laughed and stared in complete utter disbelief that a test had finally, finally, finally come back positive. The next day I took another one just to be sure. The next week, I took another test just to be sure. That night, we called our parents and Face Timed with them to tell them our good news. We swore them to absolute secrecy and they promised they wouldn’t breathe a word to anyone. For all our excitement, there was so much fear in me. I was so scared that after all this time, something was going to happen and this little slice of happiness was going to disappear. We laid in bed that night, giggling like little school girls, so excited and giddy. We couldn’t sleep!
I had a doctor’s appointment at eight weeks. Well, I thought I was eight weeks according to my last cycle, but the baby measured at seven. My due date was pushed back from January 31st to February 7th. After the night we found out, I never got overly emotional or excited about my pregnancy. Fear completely overtook me. At my first appointment, when we saw the baby for the first time, I wept like nobody’s business. The nurse practitioner held my hand and the doctor passed me tissues and patted me on the back. I guess it just didn’t seem “real” until then.
Baby Irmagerd: the 12 week ultrasound
Last week, I had a 12 week check-up and Little Irmagerd (we looked up popular German names and Irmagerd made the top 20 list — it’s our temporary placeholder name) was measuring just fine. Everything looks perfectly okay and now that we’re at trimester number two, we feel confident sharing the news and letting our little secret be known.
I’ve had a relatively blissful first 13 weeks so far. I’ve not suffered from morning sickness, though I did throw up last week because I was brushing my teeth. Stupid gag reflex. I’ve been extremely tired and needed a lot more naps than I ever knew I would need to take. I haven’t had super odd cravings or felt ridiculously emotional. I feel so much like myself, but my stomach is poking out in a very self-conscious-inducing way because I just look pudgy and not pregnant. Everyone told us that once we stopped thinking about having a baby, it would happen. I suppose we have one little girl to thank for taking our minds off of things.
Maybe you’re wondering what we’re planning with her. Maybe you’re wondering if we’ll still want to adopt her. The answer is, if we can, absolutely yes. There’s no question in my mind that we want to make her a permanent member of our family. She feels like ours. We’re a long, long, long way away from knowing what will ultimately happen with her, but for now, we’ll continue to enjoy every single day with her and hope and pray she’ll be ours officially one day.
So friends, there’s the story. I’m having a baby. Rather Be Reading is expanding. (HA.) Nine beautiful years of marriage, and today we celebrate the hope of many, many more to come and the excitement of waiting for our little person to be here. Holy moly.
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Confessions of an Angry Girl. Proceed with caution.
Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend by Louise Rozett
Series: Confessions #2 (My review for Confessions of an Angry Girl.)
Publication Date: July 25, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: therapy, confusing relationships, bullying, domestic violence
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley. Thank you to Harlequin Teen!
Summary: Soon to begin her sophomore year of high school, Rose is determined to have a different experience than her last year. She’s reinventing herself while trying to figure out her questionable relationship with Jamie and dealing with heaps of family drama that continues to mount after the death of her father last year.
At the end of Confessions of an Angry Girl, there was a huge prom debacle involving crazy Regina (don’t worry — I’m being vague) and Rose was left more confused than ever about Jamie Forta. He had a very cryptic note delivered to her and their contact was cut off. The summer months have separated Jamie and Rose, and that’s right where Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend begins. Rose is about to begin her sophomore year of high school. She and Jamie haven’t spoken or seen each other in months.
Rose is still very hard on herself — wishes she had more style and thinks her hair is ridiculous — but she’s determined to have a better year. She decides that she’ll be Rose 2.0, reinvented and sassier than ever. She ditches the school band and tries to find a new niche by auditioning for the school musical. (All the while questioning whether or not she can sing.)
She and Tracy, after much separation and freshman-year-drama, are finally on the mend again. Tracy’s had a huge wake-up call and while Rose still wishes things had happened a bit differently, she’s happy to be reunited with her best friend. It was pretty refreshing to see a friendship so deeply explored — to go from a very fragile state and back to a healthy and happy place again. (That’s real life; friendships ebb and flow.)
Then there’s her family. Of course. Her brother, Peter, has bigger issues. He and Rose have almost lost touch completely; she knows he’s in trouble, but there’s really no way to reach him. She and her mom are attending family therapy sessions together. These were some of my favorite scenes because Rozett did a lovely job making them comical; Rose’s mom has a helluva time turning off her therapist switch and frequently gets put in her place by their therapist.
And finally, there’s Jamie. He’s not sure Rose is good enough for him so he’d rather back away than get more serious. (Hmm.) And Rose just can’t help but fall for him a little more every day. Regina is sadly still on the peripheral and Rose doesn’t really understand their relationship. They aren’t dating anymore, but Jamie can’t seem to step away.
Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend is a fantastic follow-up novel. Rose really grows and matures in ways that made me proud; she speaks up for herself and continues to do the right thing. Sure, Jamie and Rose’s relationship made me feel a little like — GAH! JUST MAKE UP YOUR MINDS ALREADY! — but once I flipped the final page, I felt it all made sense. Hopefully you’ll love the journey and continue to fall in love with these characters, too.
(By the way, there’s a bit of a bonus at the end of Confessions. I loved the Q&A with Louise Rozett!)
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It’s music week for us! If you stopped by Ginger’s post yesterday, you’ll see that she created a Sweet Summertime Reads playlist for this year! Hopefully you’ll find some fun new tracks to jam to during your own summer adventures.
So what’s our contribution this week? Well, you know we love stories. Duh, we have a book blog and read like it’s going out of style. Books teach us about people and make us feel so many different emotions; music is like that in a lot of ways. It may not be the singer’s story but it is someone’s. This is why we decided to pick a few tunes that we would think inspire some great stories we’d love to find on our bookshelves one day!
Hope you enjoy!
I Don’t Want This Night to End by Luke Bryan
I’m a self-proclaimed country music fan. I just love how the songs tell us a complete story. There’s so much to get our of the lyrics, and when they are good, so good, they can make you feel a little sexy. (I’m not alone in this; Rachel from Rachel Reads feels the same way.)
Now this particular song came out last year, but oh man. I still love it like it was just released five minutes ago. There’s something so intriguing about a guy and a girl spending one night hanging out together, not knowing what’s going to happen the next day. The freedom of the open road, learning about each other, and oh the mystery.
Favorite line: “I don’t know what road we’re on or where we’ve been/ From staring at you, girl / All I know is I don’t want this night to end.”
Related book: From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Unemployed Boyfriend by Everclear
An oldie but goodie that is close to my heart. One summer, my ex-boyfriend’s best friend burned me a bunch of CDs to take on my annual Florida road trip. Everclear’s Songs from an American Movie Volume 1 was one of them and it is still one of my favorite albums of all time.
Because the answering machine message frames the beginning and ending of the song… it always felt so cinematic to me. Like I could see these characters in my head. A boy watching a girl who is not in the best relationship. He’s the good guy for her but will she ever notice him? This actually seems like it would be more of a mature young adult book (especially with the lyrics) but it could so work.
Truth: When I used to listen to this song in high school, I wanted the nice guy to be mine. I really did.
Favorite line: “Yeah you can be with me / Yes I will treat you like a queen / I will go to all those chick flick movies / That I really don’t want to see.”
Last Kiss by Taylor Swift
So unlike Estelle, I haven’t always been the biggest country music fan. In fact, I protested Taylor Swift for years and years because I just couldn’t get into her music. But by golly, her catchy lyrics eventually won me over and slowly, oh so slowly, I’ve started listening to more and more country music. Yes, I do realize I’m the one from Texas and I should bleed country music, but alas, it’s an acquired taste for me.
But back to the song. This is really a melodramatic choice. It’s about the ending of a relationship and how you don’t really expect that to happen. Remembering the good times is bittersweet, but I love how there’s a positive spin here — two people may not be meant for each other, but you can still wish them well and hope the best for them. I love the implication that we can be changed forever by a relationship.
Favorite line: “I don’t know how to be something you miss / I never thought we’d have a last kiss / Never imagined we’d end like this / Your name, forever the name on my lips”
Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
My “Magan Needs a Save the World” book side would really love to read a book with the power that this song evokes. It’s about being in the midst of a crisis and starting a revolution — being prepared to kick some major ass and fight. I really think this could apply to so, so much — life crises or the end of the world. We have to believe anything is possible and be prepared to stand our ground and fight.
Favorite line: “I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones / Enough to make my systems blow / Welcome to the new age, to the new age”
Tell us what songs you want to become a book!
Listen to Ginger’s Sweet Summertime Reads Playlist.
Check out Tara’s music-inspired post on Thursday at Fiction Folio.
*Bonus: Listen to Cassie and Betty’s Summer Playlist and Road Trip Playlist.*