Lord Help the Sisters | Pub Date

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Ohmigosh. It is FRIDAY.

Why is it that the week after a holiday weekend feels like it goes on for months and months? Maybe it’s all the holiday anticipation. Or still not being over daylight savings? (Tell me this gets worse when you get older.) Anyway, pizza, and Star Wars: The Empire Strike Back are on my agenda for tonight. What am I forgetting? Oh, right. Beer. And this month’s pub date theme: siblings.

Let’s talk sisters. I am one. A built-in friend, but also one of your most complicated relationships. This topic comes at perfect time because I just finished Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. It’s a book that unpacks the overwhelming grief June is feeling after her favorite relative, her uncle, dies from AIDs in the 80s. That much I knew going in, but I had no idea how much it would explore the relationship between June and her sister, Greta. Close in age, they used to be best friends but have gradually grown apart. Jealousy. Misunderstanding. And rediscovering a connection June and Greta have only begun to understand. Have your tissues ready because wow wow wow. Brunt nailed the messy and wonderful moments of sisterhood.

(If you need to get more in the mood, listen to “Sisters” from White Christmas.)

This leads me to the drink: Two Roads Brewing Co. Route of All Evil Black Ale. There’s a lot of dark moments to this novel, and that matches perfectly with the chocolate, molasses, and mocha that make up this brew. On the bright side: It’s one of my favorite winter ales (especially after the disappointing and very week Redhook Winter Ale) and perfect for a cozy night spent reading, watching a movie, or staring at your holiday lights.

Pub Date, Books about Sisters

As you can see, I couldn’t help myself and picked a few other memorable sister reads from 2015 for you to try out. I enjoyed each of these for so many different reasons… definitely give them a look!

A Million Miles Away | To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before | Between Us and the Moon |
Making Pretty | Rules for Stealing Stars

Most importantly, enjoy your weekend. Relax, destress, and recharge! xoxo

Pub Date: Brittany @ Book Addict’s Guide | Andi @ ABC’s | Maggie @ Just a Couple More

The pen is mightier than the sword…

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t isn’t easy, but telling something as it is, telling the truth, always seems more beautiful and more poetic than anything else,” says Mr. Graydon — the English teacher in Sarah Crossan’s simultaneously sweet and heartbreaking Apple and Rain. At first, he’s the teacher no one wanted, a replacement, and suddenly he spends the year treating his students with the kind of respect that has them interpreting poems and writing their own pieces in response. As the main character in the story, Apple is a young teenager dealing with the return of her mother who abandoned her years ago on Christmas Eve. She wants so badly to make her a permanent part of her life that she decides to leave the person who has always taken care of her — her grandmother — to live with her mom as she settles in. It’s as surprising for her as it is for the reader when Mr. Graydon’s assignments start to pry so many unspoken feelings out of her. Suddenly this homework doesn’t seem so innocent as she pens her truest feelings and hands in the paper with the easier, more superficial answer. She may be in her early teens, but she already has a grasp at how powerful the truth can be.

Similarly, in the fast-paced and oh-so-good Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone, Sam is discovering being vulnerable in her writing and having the courage to share it with others is more of a safe place than a scary one. She’s older than Apple and has a bit more life experience so I like to think of her as the next level Apple, in a way. Sam is struggling under the shadow of her judgmental, popular friends who have no idea who she really is or what she’s all about — a girl dealing with OCD. When the Poet’s Corner pops into her life, she’s forced to look deeply at herself and how she identifies with the world. She learns even more hard lessons, and uses all the energy she channels into poetry to find her happy place — a place she hasn’t seen in a really long time.

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland StoneFor both Apple and Sam, writing and words become a lifeline. Sure, Apple’s relationship with poetry and her English class are kept a secret, but it is the one thing that’s keeping her sane when her life is being turned upside down by selfish people and their secrets. It helps her work through that and realize that her feelings are not invalid. Sam may be opening herself up to a small group of people, but at some point she has to take the courage she finds in that small room and apply it to the rest of her life. She has to find a way to make these two parts of her life click in a way that feels true.

The Mr. Graydons and Poet’s Corners may not be easy to come by in every day life, but they do exist. The gift of expression, of unlocking a whole new piece of yourself and a new strength you had no idea you possessed, is huge. You always remember that first confidence boost, the gift of a blank notebook, that place that becomes the safe haven for all of your ideas and messy feelings. Writing as a hobby in books (especially young adult) might not be anything groundbreaking, but I loved how both of these novels made writing so imperative to a character’s emotional growth — how it was a comfort and an ally when both girls were feeling so alone.

⇔

EVERY LAST WORD by Tamara Ireland Stone: A favorite read of 2015; a touching, addicting, & well-paced tale of old friendship, honesty, and digging deep to find what makes you bravest. – Disney Hyperion; June 16, 2015. (Goodreads | Amazon | B&N)

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APPLE & RAIN by Sarah Crossan: A heartbreaking story about kids forced to act like adults, the messy complications of family, and finding the unexpected that makes us safe and happy. – Bloomsbury Children’s; May 12, 2015. (Goodreads | Amazon | B&N)

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Estelle: Island Girls by Nancy Thayer

Island Girls by Nancy ThayerIsland Girls by Nancy Thayer ( web | facebook )
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: Random House/Ballantine Books
Pages: 320
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: Nantucket, family secrets, sister, summer
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley.

Summary: Three sisters (two step, one half) are forced to spend 3 months together at their recently deceased father’s house in Nantucket in order for them to inherit the house and sell it off.

Nantucket, Nantucket! This place is all I hear about lately. And rightfully so, it is the perfect setting for a summer novel. Small town, beautiful people, clear skies, bright stars, and gorgeous beaches. I’m always wishing I could jump right into the pages of my book and be right there, alongside the characters.

Despite the serene environment, Island Girls is a bit of a drama fest. (In an addicting way.) Rory, dad to Arden and Meg (different moms) and adopted dad to Jenny, has just passed away and stipulates in his will that the girls must spend three months together at the family house in Nantucket in order for them to be able to sell it and reap the benefits. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Back when they were in their early teens, Arden and Meg were “exiled” from the Nantucket house by Rory’s third wife, Justine, after she accused Arden of stealing her necklaces. The sisterhood the three girls had been forming was immediately shut down, and in the recent years, anytime they see each other was as an obligation to their dad.

Now in their 30s, they are all determined to get through the summer without killing each other.

Luckily each of them have some distractions: Arden is looking for a new angle for her TV show (after she was deemed “too old”; shes 34.); Meg is finishing up her May Alcott book, on break from school and standing clear of her feelings for a younger colleague; Jenny hopes to make up for lost years with her sisters and finally find out who her dad is.

Tall orders for three months, don’t you think?

There is something about Island Girls that kept me hanging on every word. The family dysfunction, the cautious friendship growing between the girls, and the most unconventional family reunion near the end; I could not put it down. The novel might not be perfect (the dialogue seemed a little too old for women in their 30s plus there was a fairy tale ending) but I liked how it was a little love letter to Nantucket, the sexy relationship between Meg and Liam, and how these woman did try to make the best out of some crazy situations.

So if you can’t make it up to Nantucket any time soon, Island Girls is the next best thing!

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young adult book review of dirty little secrets by jennifer echols

Magan: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

young adult book review of dirty little secrets by jennifer echolsDirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Publisher: MTV Books
Pages: 288
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: country music, Nashville, family drama, hot guitar player
Format read: ARC received from the publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary: After a year of breaking all her parent’s rules, Bailey is living with her grandfather. Though she’s not allowed to play her fiddle or even consider joining a band, her grandfather helps her get a job playing in a tribute band… where she meets the mysterious Sam.

If your interest is even slightly piqued by any of the below, I strongly suggest you purchase Jennifer Echols’ newest upcoming release, Dirty Little Secret. Just look at all that’s in store for you…

♥ Steamy scenes.
♥ Hot love interest.
♥ Strong-willed main character.
♥ A little bit of country music in the great city of Nashville, TN.
♥ A big helping of family drama.

After Bailey’s younger sister is signed to a mega-record label, her parents focus all their attention on making Julie’s career a success. This means removing Bailey from the music scene (even though the sisters used to be a duo, playing shows together all the time) so no one catches wind of the ripped-apart-sisters-storyline that could ruin Julie’s career before it’s begun. Bailey, over the course of a year, morphs into a girl that’s only an inkling of who she used to be. She chops her long, blonde locks into an asymmetrical cut and dyes her hair black; she begins dressing sexier and edgier than ever before. Bailey wants to be badass.

When her sister leaves to go on tour, Bailey is asked to move in with her grandfather. Though she’s been forbidden to play her fiddle or participate in any shows, her grandfather pulls some strings and lands her a job where she plays in tribute bands at the mall. Some days she plays with Elvis Presley, others with Dolly Parton. The day she plays with the Johnny Cash band, she’s challenged by the guitar-playing-boy who pushes her to play harder and better. The boy named Sam who she thinks she’s met before. The boy who invites her to play with his band… and for some reason, even though Bailey should, she just can’t turn down.

Oh, holy smokes, you guys. Bailey and Sam’s connection was on fire. These two, from the moment they met, were flirty and sarcastic. It did take me a minute to accept how quickly their relationship developed, but I’d consider that a minor bump in the road. (And I was only concerned because WHOA BUDDY was there a steamy, steamy scene pretty early on and I felt so protective of Bailey.) Sam’s charismatic and quite a charmer, but he also has a story that made me cock my head to the side and squint my eyes at the pages because I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure him out.

Sam’s suspicious storyline, plus Bailey’s family drama that was slowly unfolding, and the way these two seemed to magnetically be connected completely absorbed me. Another minor hesitation was that when the climax of the story arrived, I felt like Echols could have explored the resolution a little bit more. It felt a little like, “OH CRAP! THINGS ARE ABOUT TO GO DOWN.” … *fade to black* … All is better now. I fully believe Echols has the ability to dive into those tough situations and provide an example of how these messy moments can be resolved, but it just didn’t happen here as much as I wanted.

Despite my hesitancy with areas of the story, I believe Jennifer did a lovely job with the Bailey and Sam’s story. And heck, she even got me listening to country music. (I would have said pre-Dirty Little Secret that this was darn near impossible.)

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Be sure to check out the playlist for Dirty Little Secret on Jennifer’s website too!

Estelle: Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

Wild Awake by Hilary T. SmithWild Awake by Hilary T. Smith ( twitter | web )
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Pages: 400
Target audience: Mature young adult (drug use, murder)
Keywords: music, family, siblings, summer, family secrets
Format read: Paperback borrowed from Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner.

Summary: Kiri is ready to make this a summer to remember with the house all to herself while her parents are on a long summer vacation. She knows she has to keep up with her piano lessons in preparation for the big symposium, but she’ll also be rocking out with her best friend aka the guy of her dreams, Lukas, in their band in hopes of winning Battle of the Bands. A call from a stranger changes the course of her summer, when she finds herself heading into a seedy part of town to pick up the possessions of her dead older sister years and years after she died in an accident. And suddenly the summer changes…

In her debut, Hilary T. Smith weaves electrifying visuals with a raw (and fresh) writing style, as our main character discovers that life as she knows it is a complete mystery.

Kiri is a genius pianist with a golden future ahead of her. She also plays the synthesizer in her best friend, Lukas’ band. She’s a sister (to a brother named Denny and her deceased older sister, Sukey). She smokes pot. She loves to ride her bike. And the straight path she thinks she is on — the one that includes taming her eyebrows, wooing Lukas, and keeping up with her piano lessons — is suddenly busted wide open when she receives a call from a stranger who claims he has the last of her sister’s stuff and it’s her last chance to come around and pick it up.

This is when Kiri’s surroundings become like a ticking time bomb, or some kind of twisted version of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart… except the ticking and the constant beating that her family has been trying to ignore and bury deep into the earth is: truth. What really happened to Sukey? Why wasn’t Kiri in the loop? Why does no one talk about her now? What is going on with her family? What is going on with her?

In the midst of these tragic and emotional discoveries, peppered with memories of a sister she idolized and cared so deeply about, Kiri bumps into Skunk one day, a random guy who seems nice enough and fixes her bike. And then she bumps into him again and they begin to bond in a way she hasn’t been able to do with others — partly because he knows this new truth. Their coupling is totally unconventional — it’s not based on looks or having a certain hobby in common. It really feels like happenstance. Kiri and Skunk slowly begin to depend on another, and even when the relationship reaches this peak of perfection (hello, Chapter 24) — nothing, still, is as it seems.

After a lifetime of balancing many roles — a kid who is motivated just to make her parents happy, the girl a guy can’t see, the rocking girl in a band — Kiri is spiraling, spiraling out of control. She can’t sleep, she can’t shut her mind off, and she continues to fall, fall, fall into some dangerous black hole. It’s amazing how much grief can transform you, even when it’s retroactive… even when you thought you were done with all of that.

Smith gives Kiri such a vivid voice — she’s insecure, she’s artistic, she feels sexy, she feels free, she feels stuck. Will she be able to crawl out of this? Confide in someone? Be honest with her parents? Be honest with herself? Wild Awake isn’t your typical summer contemporary novel. The vibrancy the beautiful cover promises is not immediately apparent. In ways, this novel reminds me so much of Kirsty Eagar’s Raw Blue, a story that may have been centered on a horrific moment but still celebrates the lighter moments in life while balancing tough consequences and decisions.

So even if I didn’t necessarily understand Kiri’s actions all the time — they were legit insane out-of-control — they felt like authentic reactions to when your life is turned on its axis and spun and spun until you are so dizzy… nothing looks right anymore. I hoped for Kiri to find some peace, to find a friend, learn to hold true to her memories and not let them be tainted by the events of this summer, and, most importantly, come to terms with what she wants for herself.

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Estelle: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah OcklerThe Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler ( tweet | web )
Publication Date: May 27, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 352
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer, sisters, motorcycles, parents
Format read: Paperback ARC from Simon Pulse (Thank you!)

Summary: Jude is banking on the restoration of her father’s prized motorcycle to dig him out of his hazy sickness. As if things are not difficult enough at home, she realizes the person she and her father hired to do the job is a Vargas, as in part of the family that has successfully broken two of her sisters’ hearts. The oath she took years ago — to stay far far away or else — is threatened when she realizes she likes him. How could she explain that to her sisters? And how can she concentrate on her love life when the state of her family is so in flux?

Sarah Ockler is always going to have a special place in my book lovin’ heart because her novel, Twenty Boy Summer, was the first review Magan and I ever put up on RBR — our launching post! Then (almost a year later) in December, I fell in love with Ockler all over again after devouring Bittersweet (kind of a pun) and passed it on to Magan immediately. It had family, cupcakes, cute boys, and was just a good feeling read all the way around.

Well, ladies, gents, crickets, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the overwhelming amount of love I feel for The Book of Broken Hearts, a gem that has solidified Ockler’s spot on my most treasured author’s list. You have to believe me — despite a clumsy start, I read the book all the way through — twice.

The summer before college is supposed to be a time for reminiscing and having as much fun as possible, but instead of trying out for the community theatre musical or hanging out with her girlfriends every possible moment, Jude and her dad are restoring his old motorcycle. Unfortunately, Papi is in the early stages of Alzheimers and while he can’t remember where he lives or what kind of ice cream he likes, he does remember the good old days when he was cycling around Argentina with his crew. His memories make Jude hopeful: fix the bike, restore Papi’s memory.

The key to this project is Emilio, the cute guy at the motorcyle shop, a few years older than Jude, who is pumped to work on a vintage bike for the summer. There’s only one teenie tiny issue. He’s a Vargas, which means he is brothers with two of the boys who have broken the hearts of Jude’s sisters. So much so that in a fit of passion, the girls took an oath several years ago, promising to never get involved with a Vargas again. But that’s old news? Silly kid stuff, right? Well, Jude still takes the whole thing pretty seriously, a product of being the youngest sister and the pressure of the Holy Trinity, as she calls them.

But Papi likes him, and Jude is like, “This is strictly a professional thing.”

Yes, Emilio is professionally adorable and flirty. But as much as Jude paints him as this bad boy with no heart, he is patient and thoughtful and sweet too. As you can see, Jude is losing this inner battle. And the chemistry between the two was seriously felt all the way to my toes, and Ockler does the perfect job of stretching it out. Because at the same time Jude is fighting her feelings for Emilio, her dad’s condition is getting worse, her friends are MIA (wtf?), and her mom and sisters are banding together to figure out the next step for their family.

There’s nothing that makes my heart hurt as much as a sick parent, especially such a young one. I easily imagined myself in this position and felt for Jude so much. Helpless. Scared. Not only for Jude but for her mother who worked hard and left Argentina to marry her husband, and all the sisters who weren’t living at home anymore. Family is the core of this book. The absolute core, and Ockler hits upon so many relatable situations: how hard it is for family to get together, how they bond during tragedy, and also the pressure to be the person they want you to be.

Emilio says something to Jude that really struck a chord with me. He said she’s the kind of person who wishes for a time machine, to go back to the days when everything was fine and dandy and her friendships were the same and she was the little sister who never stood up for herself. The emphasis we put on the past — it’s so real and so hard to move on from. Because how can things change so quickly? But Jude has to face that, and despite the ever-changing nucleus of her family, she has to make decisions for herself. Because she has a life to lead too.

The Book of Broken Hearts made me swoon, it made me cry, and it made me feel so many things relative to my own life right now. I loved the mix of Argentinian and Puerto Rican culture, too. It’s one of those books that I was sad to finish; I noticed myself feeling more and more attached to the story as time passed. This is truly a testament to Ockler’s writing and how much her craft has grown since her earlier books; she’s not relying on a love triangle to create tension but instead has found a natural balance between family, romance, and friendships. I can’t wait to read it again and again.

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