Magan: Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding

Book Review of Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy SpaldingInk is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding (website | twitter)
Books Read by This Author: The Reece Malcolm List (Estelle’s Review)
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Pages: 320
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: diverse families, adopted siblings, newspaper staff, older boyfriends
Format Read: ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley. (Thank you!)

Summary: Kellie’s always been a little uncertain of her place in life — she’s the underachieving sibling and the less attractive friend. When Kellie’s best friend, Kaitlyn, suddenly drops her for the popular crowd, and her older sister connects with her biological mother, she’s forced to discover who she is and what her passions are. And maybe, just maybe, that includes a boy named Oliver.

Yesterday in our Nailed It post, I teased you guys with hints of why I really enjoyed Amy Spalding’s secondary novel, Ink is Thicker Than Water. The family dynamics were absolutely one of my favorite aspects of the entire book. Kellie is a girl who doesn’t really know her place in her diverse family — her older-by-a-year, adopted sister, Sara, is extremely gorgeous and über smart. Kellie is most like her mother, but she’s scared that she won’t figure out who she is until much, much later in life, just as her mom did. And while he has the best intentions, her dad is always pressuring her to apply herself more and comparing her accomplisments to Sara’s. Her step-father Russell is a gem because he seamlessly fits into the family, but doesn’t overstep his bounds. Finn, Sara and Kellie’s half-brother, is this four-year-old ball of adorableness that everyone loves to take care of.

Is this family flawed? Yes. Do they have some issues? Absolutely. Do they fall-to-pieces because of them? Well… not necessarily, but things do get interesting when Sara’s biological mom emerges out of thin air. Everyone tries to give Sara the space to figure out her relationship with her mom without interfering, but just imagine how hard that would be without feeling like you’re being replaced. Kellie’s mom is the biggest proponent of personal space and there not being “gossip” amongst the family — she wants everyone to be open and honest, but when Sara begins distancing herself, no one knows how to navigate this bumpy road.

Aside from the family, there are some pretty strong secondary stories woven into Ink is Thicker Than Water. To make her dad happy and to quit being such a wallflower, Kellie immerses herself in the school newspaper, an activity she finds both a bit nerdy and uncool, but still intriguing. Meanwhile her best friend, Kaitlyn, suddenly transforms into this gorgeous babe that makes Kellie feel a little inferior, especially when Kait decides to try to connect with the popular crowd. There’s so much self-discovery woven into the pages of Ink; how does Kellie find her place amongst her family and how does she deal with the abandonment of two people she’s closest to — Sara and Kaitlyn?

Romantics, you may be wondering where the love interest comes into play. Oliver is a guy Kellie met several months prior, but didn’t keep in touch with. When they run into each other again at a local diner, the text and chat marathons begin. Except Oliver seems to come on a little too strong; his intensity level is set to high and Kellie’s a little unsure of how to talk with Oliver about his eagerness. While I am typically so invested in the love lives of main characters, I felt like something was askew with Oliver and Kellie’s relationship. I wasn’t fully invested, but maybe that’s purely because I was so concerned about how her family dramatics would work out. It’s really difficult when I’m extremely interested in one storyline and another doesn’t quite capture my attention in the same way. The romance was definitely there, but my heart wasn’t.

Despite the few things I felt needed to be finessed a little more, Ink is Thicker Than Water was an enjoyable read that allowed me to disconnect and relax in exactly the way reading should. And if you haven’t read Amy Spalding’s The Reese Malcolm List, you absolutely should. Both Estelle and I give it our stamps of approval.

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Estelle: The Look by Sophia Bennett

The Look by Sophia BennettThe Look by Sophia Bennett ( tweet | web )
Publication Date: March 1, 2013
Publisher: Chicken House (Scholastic)
Pages: 336
Target audience: young adult
Keywords: modeling, cancer, London, siblings, family, self-discovery
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: The world becomes a confusing place for Ted when she finds out her fab-looking older sister, Ava, has cancer and must undergo treatment, and she (the odd looking one) is discovered by a modeling agency. Like always, Ava can convince her sister to do anything and Ted decides to take a chance on the modeling thing to raise Ava’s spirits. But the deeper Ted gets into this world, the more she learns about herself, her relationship with her family, and what she really wants.

As the younger sister, Ted has a tendency to follow Ava’s lead — no matter how crazy her ideas are. Even in the midst of the changes their family has overcome (their dad losing their job and them moving into a new, smaller home), Ava can still convince Ted to jingle a tambourine on the street in hopes of scoring some cash.

Instead, they get a melted piece of Starburst and a business card from a modeling scout… interested in Ted.

Now, when I first started The Look, I thought I would jump right into Ted’s successful modeling career, the younger sister finally stepping out of the shadows of her beautiful older sister who loves to surf and fawns over her boyfriend, Jesse. But instead Sophia Bennett intricately sets the foundation of a close-knit family going through many catastrophic changes, including the moment that Ava is diagnosed with cancer. There’s actually quite a lull between the opening scene and Ted actually figuring out the modeling agency was legit and heading in for her first meeting. She decides to go through with the adventure as a way to entertain Ava while she is going through the worst of her treatments.

Ted doesn’t think of herself as worth looking at at all; she doesn’t like her hair, she thinks she is too tall, and there’s that guy in her class who is always making fun of her. She thinks it’s practically a joke that an agency would pick her among the beautiful people; therefore, she has this sort of self-deprecating sense of humor that I really enjoyed. I know it was part defense mechanism but she so owned it. As she goes from audition to audition, and learns more about the actual craft of photography, you can see the character truly growing and coming into her own.

In life, I think we can all remember an instance when one part of your life was going terribly and the other was so exciting. It’s hard to choose. It’s hard to feel like you can truly be happy when something so bleak is happening on the other side, especially when this horrible thing is happening to someone you love. Bennett manages to draw this parallel without being overly dramatic or cheesy at all. All the actions and feelings from the characters were so utterly authentic that I was just drawn in more and more to the story as it went on.

All I can tell you right now is that there are some beautiful scenes in this book, scenes of endearing amounts of pain and sisterhood and what it means to be close to someone and be there for them, even if the path doesn’t seem to make sense. Ted’s determination to work hard in order to support her family is so admirable, while her parents’ faith in her, though new, is refreshing and uplifting. There’s also a boy, and deceit, and the evil truths that Ted must face about an industry that she begins to fall in love with. Bennett has concocted such a dimensional story with a backbone that begins and ends with the importance of family and knowing yourself… even if it takes awhile to get there.

As an added bonus, I loved that The Look was set in London!

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The Anatomy of an Author: Daria Snadowsky

a talk with daria snadowskyIf you know me by now, when I love a book I shout it from the rooftops. (Or in this particular case, make it your Facebook cover art!)

And this year, upon the completion of only 8 books so far, there are 3 I would go hoarse for.

Two of which include Daria Snadowsky’s novels: Anatomy of a Boyfriend + the January release, Anatomy of a Single Girl.

Both of these reads center on Dom, a science nerd and budding doctor, as she navigates through her senior year of high school and falls into her first relationship, and later, in a standalone follow-up, Dom’s first summer home from college.

Now I read these two books totally out of order, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the two stories at all. Daria has done a wonderful job of creating a character who has a great support system through her family and her best friend. Dom is caring and ambitious and, sure, in the beginning she may not be all that experienced in relationships or sex but she’s not afraid to talk about these fears or be open about her sexuality.

In the young adult genre, we don’t get the pleasure of seeing characters hanging on to their last moments of high school too much, or even parading into college. This is just one of the reasons I loved these books so much. I could easily relate to Dom’s inner struggles, wondering if her high school relationship could go the distance in college, and even the conflict she faced with her parents when her boyfriend became SO important. In Single Girl, I understood Dom’s difficulty in just letting loose and taking things as they come.

See? I really really enjoyed these.

But before I say too much, here’s Daria who answered a few of my questions recently!

1. When I started reading Anatomy of a Single Girl, I had no idea that there was another book about Dom. After I finished Single Girl, I decided to go backwards and get more of her story! I love how you wrote two books that share the same character but are also standalone novels. Was this a conscious decision? (And can we expect more adventures from Dom?)

It was a conscious decision to make Anatomy of a Single Girl work as a self-contained standalone as well as a sequel that continues seamlessly from Anatomy of a Boyfriend. The books cover different stages of Dominique’s life, so it was important that each feel complete on its own. But because Single Girl draws upon Boyfriend, each book also enhances the other. As for doing another sequel, I’m not planning one, but you never know!

2. In Single Girl, both main female characters are strong, ambitious, and are close to their families. Dom is a girl who wants to fall in love, and isn’t as confident with her relationship experience and her best friend is in a committed relationship but doesn’t want to be classified as a lover of monogamy. (She’s also a huge flirt.) Growing up, were you more of a Dom or an Amy?

I was a combination. Similar to Dom, I was a late bloomer when it came to dating and felt wracked with insecurity. But like Amy, I dated lots of different boys. I also talked more like Amy, who has a rather bawdy vocabulary.

3. In the past few months, there has been a lot of chatter about “New Adult” — a mature young adult genre with more sexual freedom. When I was reading Single Girl, I was surprised (but in a good way) of how comfortable Dom and Amy could talk about sex and even a few of the saucier scenes. Did you ever hit any roadblocks when it came to including these kind of scenes? And do you think Single Girl could be classified as New Adult?

My editor never had any qualms about the love scenes. Both books chronicle all of Dom’s dating “firsts” in minute detail, so it’d be disingenuous to “fade to black” after each kiss. We figured that as long as the love scenes were graphic without being gratuitous, and showcased the emotional aspects of sex as well as the physical, they were necessary to tell the story.

It seems like a good case can be made to classify Anatomy of a Single Girl as New Adult: Dom is now going on nineteen after a year of college, so she’s older than many YA protagonists. A large part of the story is comprised of intimate scenes as well as heated debates about long-term relationships, which are mature issues. And many of the readers I’ve heard from so far are college-aged themselves.

4. Dom is like Jessica Darling and Carrie Bradshaw rolled into one. (Plus she’s a science geek, which I loved.) What strong, independent female literary characters left an impression on you when you were younger, or even now?

It’s funny you mention Carrie Bradshaw because I was addicted to Sex and the City when I first started writing Anatomy of a Boyfriend. Carrie Bradshaw was my hero because she turned the most ridiculous dating misadventures into priceless fodder for her weekly column. She inspired me to do the same thing, just in novel form.

5. Okay, tell the truth: were you are Star Wars virgin too? Because I’ve only seen the first one (and that wasn’t until college) and I am constantly made fun for that!

No, I have a Gen X older sister who made sure to school me in all things Star Wars from an early age. Neither of us is a huge fantasy/sci-fi/space opera fan, but she thought it was important I know the basics since there’re so many Star Wars references in pop culture.

6. When your main character meets a new guy, she is really concerned with every single dating faux pas possible. I mean I’ve probably committed all of them: sharing too much, making myself too available etc. (But hey, I’m married so I must have improved at some point!) Is there a moment from your dating experience that still makes you cringe?

Back when I was in school, I drew a portrait of a guy I liked. Then I showed it to him—I figured he’d be so taken by my gesture that he’d like me back. Instead, he got so freaked out he actually ran away from me. That’s when I learned there’s a fine line between artist and stalker.

7. Since we are talking a lot of anatomy here, what do you think is the sexiest part of a man?

If the guy’s kind, funny, easygoing, driven, and smart, every part becomes sexy, especially his physical imperfections.

♥

Thank you so much to Daria for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more info on Anatomy of a Single Girl, check out my review + be sure to add it on Goodreads!

FOLLOW DARIA: twitter | website