Dante’s Girl by Courtney Cole ( website | tweet )
Publication Date: June 24, 2012
Publisher: Lakehouse Press
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: royalty, Greece, complicated relationships
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thanks!)
Summary: Reece’s usual summer vacation in London visiting her father takes an unexpected turn when a serious attack closes all airports, and she is whisked away to beautiful Greece with a gorgeous boy who just happens to be the son of the Prime Minister of Caberra.
Reece is a small town girl who is afraid of flying, and Dante is just about her exact opposite. In the style of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, the two bump into each other in the airport and later find themselves seated next to each other on the plane. Although unlike STAT, their plane never lifts off after a horrific explosion kills all the passengers on a nearby flight. Immediately, security whisks Dante away from the attack and he takes Reese with him.
For such a traumatic beginning, it is completely forgotten when Reese and Dante land in Caberra, a small (made up) island in Greece, where Dante’s father is Prime Minister. She is instantly attracted to him, and can’t believe her luck – spending a few days in Dante’s house, meeting his friends, and only having one outfit to her name! (Oh no.) I’ll admit I got pretty swept up in their romance and this mystery surrounding Dante, but it seems pretty unlikely that a big event like the first one would be forgotten so easily right? I, for one, would have been pretty obsessed and affected by it.
But Greece is beautiful and Reece is really having the time of her life, especially when she is given the opportunity to stay for the rest of the summer… which means more staring at Dante, thinking about Dante, and well, being with Dante. I understand what she sees in him… he’s beautiful (as she mentions a bunch of times) and is extremely Prince Charming-like. But a few events that occur during this novel feel forced, and the special moments where they get to know each other are too easily glossed over. (Doesn’t everyone know that’s the best part?) Even their dialogue feels inconsistent… Reese alternates between sounding her age and also like a much older person (which doesn’t make sense judging from her insecurities and high dramatics).
With a little finesse, the author could have bridged the gap between this light, summery romance and the dangerous sub-plot that kept popping up. Instead the darker moments are flippantly disregarded by the characters, while the story climaxes into a major fairy tale (completely with the typical good vs. evil conflict). It feels unsettling. Despite the unbalanced plot, there are elements I enjoyed: Reece’s budding friendship with Mia (who desperately needed a solid friendship), the vineyard setting that felt like it was straight out of a movie (Letters to Juliet, maybe?), and a few Cinderella moments that straight out of a Disney Channel flick.
If you are prepared to embrace the drama, Dante’s Girl is worth giving a shot. It’s fast paced (I read it in a day), the chemistry is spot-on, and it is very easy to get lost in the majesty of Greece.
Today Magan & I are celebrating the upcoming release of Dear Teen Me, a collection of letters written by authors to their teen selves. It’s available from Zest Books on Halloween, October 31! ( Amazon | Goodreads )
Dear Teen Me,
Here are a few things you need to know: Katie Holmes married and divorced Tom Cruise. (It’s a long story.) James Van Der Beek is currently playing himself on a new TV show. (It’s hilarious.) Your man, Joshua Jackson, stars on a show you don’t watch (it’s not your thing) but looks positively stylish and handsome, even more so than he did as Pacey. And the one who continues to garner the most buzz due to her acting talents (and unfortunate death of her daughter’s dad) is Michelle Williams. She was even nominated for an Oscar.
Crazy and unexpected right?
Just when those Capeside kids were closing up shop, you were graduating high school. Off to a college near the beach, a place where none of your fellow graduates would attend. Your new campus was sprawling with space; you couldn’t wait to write near the beach. You wanted to be a journalist. You were dating the most beautiful boy you had ever seen (up until that point) who wrote you love notes and made you mixed CDs. Like any normal teenager, you fought with your mom quite a bit. You also had some pretty awesome friends at home you were going to miss dearly.
You’d never think that the beautiful boy would break your heart into a thousand or so pieces, time and time again. That you would become the crazy of your suite because his drama sucked the life out of you. Or despite your hefty tuition and that new “green” library they were planning to build, your school was in a crapload of debt and would be closing its doors after your sophomore year. Or maybe that some of your good friends would drift away (one would even pass away – a day you still think about all the time).
Okay, those are the bad things.
But, ya know, despite the fact that the boy kept hurting you, you kept trying. You’ll still get mad that you didn’t end things sooner. That you weren’t stronger. But it’s part of the reason you are who you are. You fight like mad. You don’t give up on people. Or things. Even when your school announced its impending doom, you stayed. You became the youngest editor-in-chief of the campus paper. You tried to raise morale. You and your friends teamed up to “save the school”. You even tried out for a show in the theater. Even though you’d rather hang out in the background, the actual theater became your refuge (that smell of burnt coffee!). You starred (yes, you read that right) in a student-directed full-length movie. Sure, the school felt like a ghost town, but you still worked hard to get the best grades and made the most of all its opportunities (while partaking in round 2 of the college search).
Your drive wasn’t the only thing that remained consistent. You had support pouring in from all angles – the three ladies you grew up with, your parents who might not always understand or approve of your choices but trusted you to make the right ones (so it’s okay to stand up to them when it’s important), and two science-y girls from college by the beach. It’s amazing to think how one little choice, one friendship, can change your course and enhance your life. People come and go, but like a wise pal told you recently, they’ll come back if they’re meant to. Trust me when I say… you are the luckiest girl in town.
If anything, you’ve learned that life has its own ideas and can turn the best laid plans into a disaster and a blessing at the same time. You graduated from school in the city. You reconnected with the last person you ever thought and he ended up being the person you married. A man who makes you feel smart and beautiful, who encourages you to be your silly self, who deals with your moods, who listens to you, and who loves to go to Disney as much as you do. (This is why rewriting history and not going to your first school is not an option!) Maybe at this time certain details aren’t perfect. They aren’t ideal. But, like always, you keep on trucking. You make mistakes! You keep on fighting to do what you need to do to find happiness and move into the right direction.
When you were 18 – hell, even when you were 13 — you thought you understood the meaning of “it was the end of everything simple, and the beginning of everything else,” the little saying on those season 1 Dawson’s Creek posters. Girl, you didn’t even know the half of it. And that’s okay. Because you are a happier, better dressed, super honest person who knows what she deserves and what she can accomplish because of all of that.
Hey, if you can dream it, you can do it.
P.S. If it’s possible, you love Disney even more than you did then. Also, your music of choice is country. Seriously.
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves
Publication Date: October 31, 2012
Publisher: Zest Books
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: weight battles, suicide, LGBT, parental problems, rape, relationships
Format read: ARC from Zest Books at ALA (Thank you!)
Summary: More than 70 authors write therapeutic letters to their teen selves, providing advice or guidance revolving around a variety of topics.
*Estelle and I each wrote letters to our teen selves in the format of Dear Teen Me. Stay tuned for E’s letter later today! Add DTM on Goodreads and Amazon.
It’s been almost ten years since you escaped the halls of high school, the ones that made you feel self-conscious and ugly. There was so much about high school that confused and overwhelmed you. You didn’t know how to stand up to be your own person. You wanted to impress everyone and strife or disagreements made you incredibly uncomfortable. Somehow you always felt that someone’s anger or sadness was a reflection of something you did wrong. You took everything too personally.
You participated in lots of sports – volleyball, basketball, and track – but you never felt good enough. You could never run fast enough, jump high enough, or shoot consistently enough. Despite trying your hardest, always, you felt the pressure to be greater. The summer before your senior year, you started taking diet pills. You thought that if you could just shed some weight and run faster, you’d be a better athlete and so many things would improve as a result of that: more playing time, camaraderie with your teammates, feeling like you were a useful part of the team.
All summer you dieted and the weight dropped off. You were barely eating anything. Your heart hammered inside of your chest. As a requirement for basketball season you had to go out and run 3 miles eighteen different times in the excessive Texas heat after volleyball practice was over. There were times you ran alone along those windy back roads and I can remember your heart seemed to stop beating sometimes. You would push through it, mentally telling yourself that if you could do this, nothing was impossible.
I wish I could tell you that losing weight made everything perfect. It didn’t. Your coaches did see improvement in your abilities, but you gained a sense of entitlement that left you even more hurt than before if you were benched. Being skinnier didn’t mean you had more friends. Your friends, the ones you had before you lost the weight, were still there and they were still the same amazing people. You realized that you didn’t want new friends. (Thank goodness because some of them, all these years later, are still good friends of yours. One of them is now your sister-in-law!) You didn’t become an all-star athlete. You didn’t gain scholarships based on your athletic abilities and you certainly didn’t get a modeling contract by losing weight.
There was a really awkward moment when your future mother-in-law (yep, you married your high school boyfriend!) discovered your diet pill problem. She begged you to quit taking them and listed all the problems they could cause. It was enough to scare you and make you stop. That wasn’t easy for you to do. You feared putting all the weight back on. You thought Dustyn wouldn’t find you beautiful. You were scared of what people (even strangers you’d never see again – people who probably didn’t even notice you) would think when they saw you.
I’ll be honest and say that your weight continues to be a struggle and battle for you. You’ve gone through ups and downs. My biggest piece of advice: learn how to eat correctly. Don’t be afraid of eating. You’ve lost a friend to anorexia. Eat fruits and vegetables. Figure out how to make healthy meals. Oh, and another thing: don’t fixate on the number on the scale. Dustyn will love you no matter what. He will be the best, most supportive husband a girl could ask for. He will always tell you that you’re beautiful, even when you’re not feeling like it.
Love is not measured by your weight or how skinny you are.
You have a big heart. You listen to people. You’re compassionate and empathize. These are things that matter. Don’t focus on trying to make people love you. Love other people. Be kind and considerate. Smile at strangers.
Never ever think that you’re not good enough and that your weight will change that.
Better than Chocolate by Sheila Roberts
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Keywords: sisters, small business, small towns, romance
Target audience: Adult
Format read: ARC from Little Bird Publicity (Thanks!)
Summary: With little time to act, Samantha and her family are forced to come up with a solution when they find out their chocolate business is in trouble.
You know that feeling when you want a chocolate bar and you reach into your shoulder bag and all you find is granola? Sure, the granola still fills your appetite but it’s just not the same.
That pretty much captures how I felt reading Better than Chocolate.
I was expecting to be swept up in some big, epic romance but, instead this novel focused on Samantha and the struggling chocolate business that has been in her family for generations. After her step-father unexpectedly dies, she finds out the business owes a huge amount of money to the bank. When she receives no help from the new bank owner/that popular football player from high school, Blake, she and her sisters decide to hold a chocolate festival by Valentine’s Day in hopes of saving the company.
Even though this book is more about Samantha’s determination and loyalty to her family’s legacy, I liked watching her band forces with her sisters and her mom to organize this huge event. Everyone wants to root for the local company, the underdog, when it comes to a bigger company taking over the town. In Icicle Falls, we see the town support the event and tons of creative ideas make it to the table. It was exactly the kind of project I would want to be a part of.
In the meantime, Samantha is sure Blake is anxious for her chocolate company to fail and is intent on making him the big, bad enemy. But of course, he’s super attractive and she can’t stop thinking about him. He’s also conflicted because he loves Samantha’s passion (and her butt) but he knows he can’t help her the way he really wants to. While they are more on each other’s minds than physically spending time together, the sizzling moments only made me want more of the book dedicated to the two of them.
So while romance was more like the icing on top of a scrumptious chocolate cupcake, I did like reading about four women who all had different feelings on careers, independence, and love and took different routes to get to where they were. The fate of their family company caused them to face certain truths, and make crucial life changes and that was nice to see.
Better than Chocolate will make you crave the delicious morsels featured in the book, but also leave you wanting more. After 400 pages it wraps up a little too perfectly, totally softening any tension, and falls together in too much of a fairy tale fashion. Though the trend of setting books in cute small towns with tons of charm? I’m so on board with that. Book me a ticket!
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When I buy books, I’ll be completely honest, I go for convenience.
This is why I end up at the Barnes & Noble by my job, or clicking through Amazon to purchase my books.
As a person on a budget, it’s just what needs to happen.
But since starting this blog and attending various events in NYC, I’ve had the opportunity to visit various independent bookstores and they instantly brought back the romantic visions of Meg Ryan’s job in the earlier scenes of You’ve Got Mail.
Despite my stops in B&N or Amazon, I’ve always been drawn to the cozy bookstore. It’s such a New York thing, ya know?
This is why today’s news… the adorable Books of Wonder hitting bad times … is just so unfortunate.
While I’ve only been there a handful of occasions, I’ve been lucky enough to attend events with authors and get real face-to-face time to chat and discuss their books. (After I got over my shyness, of course.) The events are always personal and fun, and a great way to deepen anyone’s love of reading.
You really can’t find anything else like it.
So I’m asking you to check out all the details about why Books of Wonder is trying to raise a minimum of $100,000 in the next 30 days.
Remember any small donation helps! It’s so important to show support for independent bookstores.
To donate, please jump over here.
Thanks for listening!
→ Check out Rachel’s post about Books of Wonder too!