Estelle: Kissing Snowflakes by Abby Sher

Kissing Snowflakes by Abby SherKissing Snowflakes by Abby SherSparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews
Publication Date: November 1, 2007
Publisher: Point
Pages: 256
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: winter break, skiiing, stepmoms, boys!
Where I heard about it: Ashley Loves Books
Format read: Paperback from the library.

Summary: Sam and her brother are off to a ski lodge for their dad’s honeymoon to a cute, spunky lady (who, of course, Sam can’t stand). Trying to distract herself from being away from her best friend during her winter break and watching her dad make puppy dog eyes at his new bride, Sam decides she is going to find a boy on this trip.

This is the perfect book to curl up with when you have a few hours to spare and some peppermint mocha at your side.

It’s not a holiday book, exactly. Sam’s family is Jewish and they are spending winter break up in the mountains. But there is snow, hot chocolate, karaoke and cute boys.

While Sam is on the prowl for her first real kiss (and maybe a little more than that), she is also coming to terms with her dad being married to someone she hardly knows and watching the two being so much more affectionate than she has ever seen him and her own mother. Sher is spot on with the changing dynamic in Sam’s family, and while sometimes she is over-dramatic when it comes to certain aspects of this remarriage, I totally understand where she is coming from.

One thing that really surprised me was how open this book was about sex. From the fluffy title, I had no idea sex would be so openly discussed but I really liked how Sam was not shy with us readers about how she felt, what she wanted, and who else was doing it.

Enter Drew, the hot ski instructor, who is totally interested in Sam. The shared moments between the two range from sizzling to uncomfortable, and I really liked how Sam handled herself in this situation. I certainly had a hunch where all of this was going but I was proud of the way that Sam was able to come into her own and be herself.

One missed opportunity in the book is Sam’s brother, Jeremy. He’s two years older than Sam, and would rather watch wrestling than hang out with some cute girls. That was odd to me because he is 18 and I could swear I nailed his storyline but Sher left him hanging and Jeremy (sadly) remains a mystery.

Unexpected drama from back home manages to wiggle its way into Sam’s trip, and practically collide with all of the misadventures she’s experiencing on and off the slopes. It may be pretty predictable but it is fun nonetheless. With a picturesque lodge, lively main character, and some risque moments, Kissing Snowflakes is a guaranteed speedy and sweet read!

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Sparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews Song Pick




Someone I  knew once said, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” Now, trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing so instead I’m going to pick a tune by someone much more talented than me that best fits the winter/holiday book I’m reviewing. Today I’m going for something sweet, sexy, and chilly. So how about the soulful sounds of Boyz II Men crooning “Let It Snow”?

Source for image used in graphics comes from ShowMeOKC.

book cover for this is so not happening by kieran scott, may 2012 young adult book releases

Magan: This is So Not Happening by Kieran Scott

book cover for this is so not happening by kieran scott, may 2012 young adult book releases

This is So Not Happening (He’s So/She’s So #3) by Kieran Scott
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Pages: 320
Audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: Teen Pregnancy, High School Graduation, College, Parent Re-Marriage
Format read: Hardcover from the library.
My Review of He’s So Not Worth It (He’s So/She’s So #2)

Summary: Jake and Ally have finally ended up together and things seem to be falling back into place for Ally…until Chloe announces she’s pregnant and Jake is the father.

I spend a lot of time reading difficult issue books. They’re kind of my thing, but after reading them back to back things can seem a little somber. I was thrilled my library finally got a copy of This is So Not Happening, the last book in the He’s So/She’s So series because this final book was sure to fulfill my need for drama and craziness.

Ally and Jake have finally become an official couple. They can look forward to normalcy and enjoying their senior year together. Or so they think. Ally is thrown a curveball when her ex-best friend Chloe announces that she’s pregnant with Jake’s baby. Chloe and Jake slept together before he and Ally became an official couple. What does that mean for Ally?

She tries to do the right thing and be the supportive and understanding girlfriend who doesn’t go crazy. She stands up for Chloe when things at school get bad for her. (What high school students wouldn’t feast on the news of the popularity heiress getting pregnant?) She sticks by Jake’s side and doesn’t give up on their relationship (even when it seems Chloe takes her place as he suddenly has doctor’s appointments to attend all the time). Ally is stuck in an awkward position because she will most likely lose her friends if she and Jake break up and she can’t talk to her mom about things because she’s too preoccupied planning her wedding to notice something is bothering Ally. She’s left to figure things out on her own.

Though Jake never betrayed Ally, I feel like I would have done more investigating and probing than Ally did. Something just never seemed to add up (and for those of you who read He’s So Not Worth It, you will have strong suspicions). Jake seemed like a pawn in the chess game of Chloe’s life – he was at her beck and call and did absolutely everything she asked. It was really difficult for me to have outsider information and not be allowed to talk sense into the characters.

(Do you guys ever feel that way? I wanted to provide some twenty-something-year old advice to these seventeen year olds. I felt like this the WHOLE time.)

Oh No You Didn’t Gif from Gif Central

Jake was the character I struggled with the most. He did the honorable thing and really did everything he could for Chloe, but he became a mean, cold-shouldered boyfriend to Ally. At the climax of the story, I didn’t want Ally to date Jake. I hoped that maybe she would go to college a single lady and she and Jake’s story would finally have a bit of closure. I wish I could say that his character was fully redeemed for me by the end, but his actions were just … actions…without a lot of heart behind them.

While there were a few other things I would have liked to have seen (as in maybe a few chapters from Chloe’s POV to understand her character a bit more, more focus on Ally’s mom’s remarriage, and some of the spunkiness provided by Ally’s best friend Annie we saw in book number two), I did enjoy the nostalgia that crept up as Ally applied to colleges and prepared to move on after graduation. I loved seeing the characters mature and ready themselves for their next stage of life.

This is So Not Happening was definitely full of drama and an easy-breezy read; Scott does a great job exploring the difficult topic of teen pregnancy without making the topic feel overwhelming. If you’re like me and you like “issue” books, definitely give this one (actually, the whole series) a try if you need something a little more light-hearted than normal.

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Estelle: All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin

All You Never Wanted by Adele GriffinAll You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin ( website | tweet )
Publication Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 240
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: siblings, re-marriage, insecurity
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Sister relationships are never easy, but ever since their mother’s remarriage to a wealthy man… Alex and Thea seem to be at odds. Alex is popular, pretty, and smart and younger sister Thea wants to find her place in Alex’s circle, in any way possible. She’s crushing on Alex’s hot boyfriend, while Alex is crumbling under her own pressure to take care of herself. Secrets,  untruths, and family boundaries come to a shocking finale in this dark novel.

If I wrote down five facts about me  and five facts about my sister, it would probably be hard to believe we are related. We are just so different. But sometimes we make the same facial expressions, we share the same parental frustrations, and she will not let me forget when I tied her to a chair when she was little. (She even mentioned this is her maid-of-honor speech at my wedding.)

Even though she’s the younger one… sometimes I wish I had her wisdom and sense of adventure. Sometimes I wish I never succumbed to academic pressures I threw on myself until college was done. I wish I could pull off a pixie hair cut like she does. And, I’m sure, if someone asked her… there is one or two things about me that she might want for her own.

In the case of Alex and Thea, they formed a close-knit unit with their mother as they struggled to make ends meet with their father left. That solidarity has taken a back seat since their mother remarried a wealthy man who provides them with all the money and leather products and fancy cars they ever imagined. So money doesn’t exactly bring happiness… instead their mother is frequently absent from their lives (without even realizing it), Thea has sewn a complex web of lies to further her status in high school, and an embarrassing moment for Alex causes her to take “control” of her body in a horrific way.

I know, I know. It sounds a lot like a “poor little rich girl” story, doesn’t it?

Craftily, Griffin manages to keep this dark and twisty tale grounded despite Thea’s delusions of grandeur and Alex’s continual meltdown. It seems totally justifiable that a family could be at odds without even knowing it, nostalgic about the way things used to be but ignoring the reality of their current situation. Even this “rivalry” between Alex and Thea has its push and pull moments where Alex needs Thea, Thea comes to her aid (even though it’s half-hearted) but Alex is aware of how Thea looks at her boyfriend and Thea is actively trying to become the queen bee of their school.

It’s a ridiculously complex story where many of these characters could probably use a bit of therapy. The extremes that Thea took and her off-the-wall behavior was embarrassing, bordering on psychotic. And Alex was her direct foil. Her extremes cut her off from everyone (or so she thought) and sent her down a dizzying spiral. I couldn’t help but be an enthusiastic member of Team Alex, and hope that Thea would learn her lesson. Especially when Xander, a boy from her volunteer after-school program, starts to shed a positive light on this entire book.

I don’t want to say he was a savior, but he was certainly a much welcomed character. I was really hoping that Alex would learn to lean on him because she really needed someone to see through her bullshit because, in her own way, she was creating a mask of lies too.

While I had a little trouble adjusting to Griffin’s language in the first chapter, I settled in nicely and was very invested in Thea and Alex and how and when the grand firework finale would break down the rest of novel. I didn’t exactly have faith that these sisters could detangle themselves from one another, and step forward — into a better place. I was definitely holding my breath.

One more thing. There aren’t many books that I want to reread right after finishing them the first time. But Griffin is such a detailed and skilled writer, I wanted to go back immediately and discover all the details she buried within her chapters. She took what could have easily been a superficial premise and gave it such rich layers. I also didn’t waste any time: two more books by Griffin are sitting on my nightstand right now.

own it now -- highest ranking from Rather Be Reading Blog

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More thoughts on All You Never Wanted:

Kelly at Radiant Shadows: “Complicated, relationship between sisters and a writing style that I enjoyed did make All You Never Wanted a mostly entertaining read.”

BOOK REPORT: The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

book cover for the story of us by deb calettiThe Story of Us by Deb Caletti
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target Audience: Young adult
Keywords: First love, remarriages, breakups
Pages: 400
Format read: Paperback from ALA (thanks!)

Summary: Cricket is on a break from her longtime boyfriend, just as everything in her life is changing. Her mom is set to remarry, and they are heading to spend some time with their new family before the nuptials. Cricket takes the time away to examine her relationship and figure out what she really wants for her future.

Estelle: Here we are for another book report… this time featuring Deb Caletti’s The Story of Us, a contemporary young adult novel that hit shelves on April 24th — which sort of feels like Christmas Day in young adult publishing because EVERYTHING was released that day!

Magan: NO JOKE! I don’t think I’ve seen a release date as popular. All of us bookies probably went broke on April 24th…and right after the tax deadline, too. Hmm…

E: It’s a conspiracy! (Just kidding.) Okay, so let’s talk about The Story of Us, which looks like a deliciously romantic book from the cover art. Don’t you think? It made me want to go walk on a beach at sunset!

M: Oh yeah, I wanted to hug that cover. It elicits everything I had been wanting, in real life and a book: warmer weather, a beach, Zac Efron (kidding… that’s not on the cover, obviously), and a little romance.

E: The big question is… did we get all of that once we read the novel? The Story of Us sort of reminded me of Sarah Dessen’s Lullaby a bit because it was centered around a parent getting remarried after some disastrous relationships. Here, we have Cricket, who has recently gotten out of a long-term relationship, traveling to spend a week with her future step-family and end it all (hopefully) with a wedding.

M: I haven’t read that Sarah Dessen book, and in fact, this was my first Deb Caletti book. I liked that the issues seemed to be something teenagers could relate to. Sadly, divorce happens and families are split. What was interesting was seeing how these two families with older teenagers would blend together. That week was almost like a test.

E: Yes! A test for the dogs too! This was also my first Deb Caletti book. I liked the premise of the book and the mystery surrounding just WHY Cricket and her boyfriend, Janssen, broke up.

M: Oh, yeah. I liked the mystery, too, but I have to say my biggest complaint about this book is how long we were left wondering and guessing. I got anxious to know what happened because… I guess because I wanted to understand the decisions she was making as a result of what happened with Janssen.

E: That’s the thing. Caletti has some beautiful images and language in this book. Just as gorgeous and tangible as the cover, but when it came to cracking down on Cricket and what exactly happened between her and J, it just got to be too much. I think the book could have definitely been edited down almost 100 pages. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t completely into it. It took awhile. Probably 200 pages before I was in the “I cannot put this down” mode. But not everyone has patience to go 200 pages without anything really happening. And that’s another thing. The book focused on her relationship with J when really it was everything happening with her family that was bubbling into the real story, ya know?

M: Yes! I understand that SO much. J isn’t present in the book except via her flashbacks and the letters she writes to him. I wanted to understand him and how he was feeling. (Man, that’s such a girl thing to say.) I wish some of the extra family things had been stripped out and that maybe we were able to see the letters he actually wrote TO Cricket. Not just her responses.

E: That is a genius idea. I kept thinking about the structure of this book, which is basically we see the wedding craziness through Cricket’s eyes and learn about the backstory of her family and relationship with Cricket through her letters to J, which is a creative way to do it, for sure. But Cricket’s voice changes a lot in those emails to J and I’m not sure who she really is especially once we see her actions and thoughts during wedding week. J is always kind of a shadow to me… sort of ghostly because we never get the deeper side of him. (Even though from what we know he seems like a winner.)

M: That left me so confused. If he was such an awesome guy, then why all the drama? Cricket definitely seemed like a completely different person in her thoughts (and via her actions) than she did in her letters back to J. Especially once the BIG secret was revealed, I really didn’t understand how her actions and responses all meshed together. Maybe I just wouldn’t have responded like that.

E: I’m not exactly one to beat around the bush about anything so it was difficult (and a tad frustrating) for me to watch her spell everything out. If she had to go through this much to decide if she wanted to be with him or not, maybe she was looking too hard for an answer. Especially when Ash pops into the picture. She’s clearly attracted to him, and all I kept thinking was… hey hun, maybe you’ve been tied down for too long at too young of an age  and need to see what’s out there. There’s no harm in that. But Cricket was deathly afraid of change and making decisions. And she even knew that about herself. It was a rough time… she graduated high school (yay for an older YA), her mom was getting a whole new family, and she was sort of lost. I think those feelings were very relatable.

M: Add to that the feelings of not being sure where her relationship with J were headed and not being able to make a decision about where to go to college. That IS a lot to handle. I always understood that she had a lot on her plate, but what was frustrating was her fear of not wanting to turn into her mother. I think at the root of everything, she was afraid she’d run away from guys like her mom did. Except, I didn’t get it! Janssen was a GREAT GUY. Her mom always dated d-bags. Yet, Cricket was still running.

E: One character I really loved was her dog, Jupiter. I just adored that little guy and animals never really make that much of an impact in books. But dogs and their relationships to their “owners” was very important in this book and while at times, it was a little too much, I did enjoy the parallels you could draw between dogs and how they perceive things and then the human side of all of that.

M: I’m definitely a huge dog person, but at times, despite my love for Jupiter, I just wanted to say.. get to the point. I understand. I love metaphors, but I had had enough. I needed answers.

E: Okay how about her relationship with her brother? I liked him a lot.

M: All the family things were great. I loved their closeness and the grandparents kept me cracking up, but I guess my question to you is this: what was this book about – learning about the family or learning about Janssen and Cricket? I just expected a lot of their story (ahem, the title of the book!).

E: I think that’s a strong argument. I expected one thing and sort of came out with something else entirely. Maybe Cricket did too? I just think if the point of the letters was to REMIND Janssen the many details of their time together… could that have been expressed in a better way structurally? Would we have felt the author got to the point faster?

M: I honestly would have liked to have seen both of their letters with the goings on of the wedding and life in the beach house making guest appearances. Instead, I feel like their relationship and her working through things felt more like the secondary plotline.

E: So how would you rate this book?

M: It’s most definitely a borrow kind of book for me, and hopefully we’re making it clear that working through all the decisions is a slow process. I feel like Caletti was intentional in making us dislike Cricket’s indecisiveness. Readers should be prepared for a slower read when they pick this one up. What about you, E?

E: I would agree. I think it’s a borrow book. I could see myself taking this one on vacation and reading it gradually over a few days. There are definitely some entertaining moments, and some filled with crazy chemistry, but in the end, I didn’t feel fulfilled.

M: Oh, I like the way you said that. Unfulfilled. Perfect way to describe this book in a word. Any last comments?

E: I’m most curious to see what fans of Caletti’s work think of this book and which other of her work they could suggest to us?

M: Awesome, I wanna know, too. So, readers, tell us what your favorite Deb Caletti book is! Also let us know if you’ve read this one. Do you agree with us?

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