Magan: The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt

book cover for The Chapel Wars by Lindsey LeavittThe Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt (twitter | website)
Previously Reviewed: Sean Griswold’s Head // Going Vintage
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Pages: 304
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: family rivalries, loss of a grandparent, secret romance
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thank you!)

Summary: Not only does Holly inherit her grandfather’s wedding chapel in Las Vegas when he passes away, but she continues the rivalry with the chapel across the parking lot and becomes responsible for saving the chapel when she realizes how much debt they’re in.


So you know when you think something is a really awesome concept, but then there’s just a little bit of spark that’s lacking to make it perfect? Essentially, that’s what I walked away from The Chapel Wars feeling. Set in Las Vegas, Holly’s grandfather passes away and she inherits his the wedding chapel he’s lovingly owned and operated. While others (particularly the one across the parking lot) have sold out to commercialize weddings and take theatrics to the extreme, Holly’s grandfather stayed true to his vision of weddings by trying to appeal to the elegant Las Vegas bride. What Holly and her family didn’t realize was the debt her grandfather was in and the race Holly must enter to keep them afloat, all while secretly falling in love with the competition’s grandson and facing an imminent deadline.

The chapel is passed down to Holly because she’s a go-getter who is obsessed with numbers. She’s a problem solver; if anyone’s going to save the chapel, it will be her. Her father is a little spacey and her mother lacks the passion. Holly really struggles with everyone taking her seriously and finding a balance between modernizing the chapel and falling into the money-trap that is Vegas by offering themed weddings and Elvis. The owner of the chapel across the parking lot had a long-withstanding war with her grandfather, and he’d like nothing more than to see Holly’s chapel crash and burn. But his grandson, Dax, enters the picture right around the time of Holly’s grandpa’s funeral. And Holly has a letter she’s been instructed to give him.

Dax and Holly have an instant attraction, but she feels like she’s cheating on her family if she pursues a relationship with him. Thus begins this whirlwind courtship that involves lots of sneaking around, secret dates, and stolen kisses between the chapels. As much as I enjoy seeing characters overcome obstacles, the relationship with Dax and Holly often felt rushed and a little forced. Coupled with the pacing feeling a little off and and an imbalance between the focus on the relationship, chapel, and Holly’s family problems, I always felt intrigued by what the outcome might be, but I didn’t feel invested. (I felt so distanced from Holly that at times I even felt myself not remembering her name.)

I applaud Leavitt for trying to give us more than just a slice of the pie by including multiple aspects of Holly’s life, but some details felt like nibbles when I really wanted to dissect the entire slice. Holly felt distant and difficult to connect to; she’s a very unemotional character who had a lot of barriers that, while intended to keep Dax at a distance, negatively impacted how attached I was to her. When Holly finally begins to loosen up and release some of her tension, her quick judgments felt out-of-character and that really made me feel like her actions were being manipulated for the intention of moving the story along.

If you’re looking to read your first book by Leavitt, I definitely recommend you begin with Sean Griswold’s Head; both Estelle and I have nothing but good things to say for it!

rather be reading borrow from the library icon

Add The Chapel Wars to Goodreads | Buy from Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature with Fiction Folio and GReads!

Sweet Summertime Reads: The Yearbook

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature with Fiction Folio and GReads!

Welcome back for another Sweet Summertime Reads post. As summer winds down, stores fill up with huge school supplies displays that make us yearn for the days we’d be doing our school shopping and prepping for our first days of school. So this week, Ginger, Tara, and the two of us are focusing on going back to school. Estelle and I thought we’d celebrate the new school year with some of our favorite books and aspects of going back to school.

making new friends.

winger by andrew smith and the reece malcolm list by amy spalding

Winger by Andrew Smith: Goodreads | Amazon | Magan’s Review
The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding: Goodreads | Amazon | Estelle’s Review

M: In my tiny little town, there wasn’t a lot of people turnover. Friends from year to year pretty much stayed the same and since my school included Pre-K through 12th grade, there was no changing campuses and fretting over who I would meet. New people were scarce. Maybe that’s why I get nostalgic when I read about YA characters venturing into new schools. It seems like such an opportunity — a fresh start. However, it also seems frightening and kind of scary! I loved how Ryan Dean was taken completely out of his comfort zone by having to live with guys he had preconceived notions about. Definitely changed his perspective and life. Read Winger, y’all!

E: My town wasn’t really THAT tiny, and I don’t remember every starting a school year thinking “oh yay! I can’t wait to make new friends!” Probably because I just couldn’t wait to see my old ones. In high school it was a little different when we were able to choose our own electives (creative writing, journalism) and started to get paired up with different people in our class. (I graduated with 742.) I remember making some special friends in those classes just like Devan was trying to / starting to make with some of the theatre kids at her school.

new clothes.

going vintage by lindsey leavitt and queen of kentucky

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt: Goodreads | Amazon | Magan’s Review
The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker : Goodreads | Amazon

M: Clothes shopping was something that was a favorite, favorite part of my going back to school experience. I would plan out my outfits for weeks. We didn’t shop at the nicest stores or have tons of money to splurge on tons of new things, but I was really excited about the experience. I love, love, loved going with my mom. If only my taste was an ounce as awesome as Mallory’s in Going Vintage. I wasn’t nearly that brave or cool.

E: The best part of back to school was definitely buying new fall clothes, and then picking out what I would wear the first day back. So so exciting. (As I got older, I did stop wearing the dresses and tried to be cooler by wearing jeans.) Queen of Kentucky is such a great book in general because it deals with fitting in with a new group of kids but also maintaining who you are. Ricki Jo is a hilarious main character and she has some fun makeover moments that I loved experiencing with her!

after school activities + clubs.


Band Geek Love by Josie Bloss: Goodreads | Amazon
Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell: Goodreads | Amazon | Magan’s Review | Themed Gift Pack

E: I’ve talked about it on here plenty of times, but I was a band geek. I was a majorette (twirled a baton) but I went to band camp, had practice after school every day, went to every single high school football game (home and away), and performed at other events too. It was like a full-time commitment, and I loved the friends that came along with it. But there was drama and a lot of romance and a lot of gossip, and Band Geek Love gets that so so right.

M: Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe made me really wish my school had it’s own little radio show. I desperately wished I could have been spending time with the mismatched crew after school trying to save the radio from being cut off. Despite not having that experience, I could visualize every moment of it.

sports + athletics.

dairy queen by Catherine Gilbert Merdoch and Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch: Goodreads | Amazon
Dare You To by Katie McGarry: Goodreads | Amazon | Estelle’s Review

M: Dairy Queen is my current audiobook read and oh. my. gosh am I loving it. DJ is so full of personality and my, oh, my does it make me want to do another rewatch of Friday Night Lights. The football rivalry runs so deep in DQ. DJ knows her stuff and definitely knows how to stand up for herself, even around pig-headed football players. This is one book that definitely had me more alert than listening to music as I drove to photograph a wedding.

E: I used to play softball in a league not related to school, but I did play with a few classmates and we always invited our teachers to come to our games. (Such suck ups, we were.) My high school “team” was really the marching band (see above and YES it is a sport) but when I’m reading books now of kids this age playing sports, I really wish I would have had the guts to play for the softball team. Ryan in Dare You To was an amazing baseball player and so motivated to make it big. I loved seeing that side of his character.

« »

Did you see the awesome kindergarten and high school photos Ginger shared in her back to school post?

Make sure you check out Tara’s blog later this week for her back to school post, too! Can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

Tell us what your favorite back-to-school book recommendations would be…

Sweet Summertime Reads: Wonderful, Cute + Kind of Perfect (Dates)

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature

Hi, friends! Today we are sharing one of the books we both adored this year: Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt. Main character Payton does not react well when she accidentally finds out her dad has MS. She stops talking to her parents, and when the school counselor gets involved she asks Payton to choose a focus object. Enter Sean Griswold’s head — a staple in her school life since forever.

So why is this title so underrated? It has a supportive family, a sweet love interest, and a great best friendship. Seriously — the two of us have been secretly crushing on Sean Griswold since we “met” him and decided to feature unique and romantic summer dates inspired by his relationship with Payton.

A bike ride.

It turns out that after years of staring at Sean Griswold’s head… Payton doesn’t actually know anything about him. Turns out he is majorly into bike riding, and one of their first hang outs includes this very activity. I know, I know… it doesn’t seem super romantic but it’s DIFFERENT and totally Sean sharing one of his passions with Payton.

date idea inspired by sean griswold's head by lindsey leavitt

NYC Engagement Session found on CycleStyle Australia

You might make a total fool out of yourself in front of the other person, but you know what — it’s fun to let your guard down and do something totally out of the ordinary. Plus a bike ride could include a trip to the park, and a picnic and stargazing. This sounds pretty awesome to us!


Before Payton finds out that her dad has MS, basketball is HER sport. This doesn’t exactly turn out to be a romantic moment in the books but the idea of friendly competition with your main squeeze? So cute. You are outside, the weather is gorgeous, and you are hoping your partner just doesn’t LET you win because you want it to happen fair and square.

Basketball Engagement Session by Joshua & Co. Photography

Plus, it’s a great excuse to get a little bit closer.

(Estelle note: I remember playing basketball with the boys in middle school and it was the best way to flirt. Really.)

Ice Cream.

We know our friend Novel Sounds is going to appreciate this one. Sure, it’s simple and not the most groundbreaking idea but there’s nothing like sharing ice cream on a warm summer’s day. Maybe after a bike ride or that neck-and-neck basketball game? Ice cream is pretty perfect in any situation and we recommend you have as much as possible with that special one. (We can’t give away when and why this happens in the book but we’ll put it this way: Payton challenges herself many times in this book and everyone needs a sweet reward.)

Ice Cream Engagement Session by Tanya Malay courtesy of Weddings Illustrated

We hope you and your significant other can try out a few of these date ideas inspired by Sean Griswold’s Head. And definitely, definitely pick up this book by Lindsey Leavitt. The sweet romance is oh-so-perfect for these long summer days. Enjoy!


Add Sean Griswold’s Head on Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon
Read Magan’s Review


For more Sweet Summertime Reads, check out:
Ginger’s post about Ingredients for a Summer Romance or enter to win a copy of Along for the Ride
Check out Tara’s summer-y post at Fiction Folio on Thursday!

Book Cover for Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Magan: Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Book Cover for Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt  <website • twitter>
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Multiple Sclerosis, sick parent, focus project, counseling
Format read: Purchased the paperback after Lori recommended I read this book.

Summary: After Payton finds out her father has Multiple Sclerosis and stops speaking to her family for keeping the secret from her (for 6 months!) she finds herself in counseling sessions. Her assignment is to find a focus object to help her sort through all of her feelings.

Oh, the days of alphabetical order. I was always at the very end of the line because my maiden name started with a Z. But Payton finds herself in the middle of the alphabet (as a G), and always has to sit behind Sean Griswold in biology class. He has a big head and sometimes it’s a bit distracting when Payton’s trying to take notes and see the board.

It (yep, his head) becomes her focus object when she begins sessions with the school counselor. The focus object is supposed to help her sort through all of her feelings and emotions about her family neglecting to tell her about her dad’s Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. She just happened to walk into her parent’s bedroom while her mother was administering a shot for her dad. Payton shuts them out — she quits basketball (the sport she and her dad loved to bond over) and stops speaking to them entirely.

Naturally, her mom intervenes. Yippie?

This counselor is super strange and her methodology a bit unorthodox. She tells Payton to find a focus object (thinking it would be something simple and inanimate) to journal about. But of course in her act of defiance, Payton chooses Sean’s big head. She and her best friend Jac, who happens to be quite obsessed with the male population, manipulate their way into Sean’s life by stalking him and finding ways to intercept him in hallways. A series of lists, graphs, pie charts, and Sean factoids ensues.

The problem with this focus project is Payton falls for Sean.

He introduces her to bike riding (of the competitive sort) and gives her something to put all her energy into that she used to exhaust during basketball practices and games. She is able to open up to him about all the complexities of her family situation, and instead of being scared away, he reacts in the kindest, most sincere way. (Nope, not telling you what’s involved — read the book!)

Lindsey Leavitt did a phenomenal job tapping into the mindset of a younger high school student — one who is very mature, but also has a lot to learn about life. There’s a lovely balance of friendship, family, and first love. And just as Estelle mentioned in her review of None of the Regular Rules, it was so refreshing to see two girls who are such close friends sort through some difficulties. Oftentimes, friendships in YA seem to be either/or — either they’re perfect or the best friends seem so mismatched and uncharacteristically paired. When it came to Jac and Payton — they’re definitely opposites in just about every way, but they’re very self-aware and (typically) know how to use their strengths to help the other through a tough time.

I know most of you are probably excited about the strong family element, but maybe a little shied away because I mentioned a sick parent. Please note that you shouldn’t be afraid. Sure, I’m kind of a sucker for a good melancholy story, but Leavitt maintained a carefree tone. She certainly didn’t shy away from sharing Payton’s feelings and emotions, but she treated Payton like the strong, brave girl she is without dwelling on the sadness.

Maybe if you’re new to Lindsey Leavitt’s work like I was, you should check out Sean Griswold’s Head and then follow up with Going Vintage — they’re both strong contemporary stories about very real, original girls trying to find their way through the chaos of high school.

rather be reading worth it icon

Goodreads | Amazon (only $1.59 for the kindle!)

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Magan’s Shelve It for March 10, 2013

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Oh, hello there. It’s been a while since I did a vlog for Shelve It. My weekends have been disgustingly busy since January, but here I am — enjoying a nice, quiet, rainy Saturday at home. (Hooray!!!) I just finished up one of the books I bought this week (Sean Griswold’s Head) last night so I need to figure out what to start next! For all of you on Spring Break, I hope your week is filled with awesome books, lots of rest, and NO homework! (What will you do with your week off?!)

Shelve It Vlog:

For those of you who maybe don’t want to watch me talk about the books, here’s what I got this week:

requiem, things i can't forget, sean griswold's head, and the academy: game on

Books I Purchased (on the left):

+ Requiem by Lauren Oliver
+ Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally (Estelle’s Review)
+ Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt (Recommended to me by Lori of Pure Imagination)

Received for Review via Netgalley (on the right):

+ The Academy: Game on by Monica Seles and James LaRosa (Bloomsbury, 6/4/2013)


What Happened on the Blog:

+ Big Kids’ Table — Authors Who’ve Written Adult and YA Books
+ A Review of Trinkets by Kirsten Smith
+ A Review of Being Henry David by Cal Armistead
+ Estelle’s Anniversary Post about Marriage, Magic + Books
+ A Review of Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo


Thanks for check out this week’s Shelve It! What books did you guys get?
Hope you have an awesome week!

book review for Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Magan: Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

book review for Going Vintage by Lindsey LeavittGoing Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt [ tweet | web ]
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 320
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: technology, 1962, internet relationships, strong family and sibling relationships
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley (Thank you!)

Summary: Mallory feels betrayed after she finds out her boyfriend, Jeremy, has been cheating on her with an online girlfriend named BubbleYum. This deception and a list she finds written by her grandmother in 1962 inspires her to abandon all things technological to simplify her life and live like they did fifty years ago.

Going Vintage is one of those books that’s right up my alley. Take a hypothetical situation — throwback to the 1960s and remove everything technological — and see how it plays out in a character’s life. Unfortunately for Mallory, she decides to make this monumental change after she discovers her boyfriend of over a year, Jeremy, has been cheating on her with a girl online. (That he’s never met in person, and oh, her online name is BubbleYum.) Mallory’s upset and distressed because Jeremy connects with BubbleYum in this deep and emotional way she was never able to with him. Mallory got the physical side of Jeremy and a little bit of notoriety at school for being his girlfriend, but … she wanted more.

Because of a douchey move Jeremy makes online, their break-up turns into a scandalous affair. When Mallory takes off to her help her dad pack-up her grandmother’s house (because she’s moving into a fancy, high-class nursing home), she turns off her phone to have a weekend in peace. Tucked in an old journal of her grandmother’s, she finds a list Grandma Vivien wrote when she was a junior in high school. Upon consulting with her younger sister and best friend, Ginnie, Mallory decides to accomplish the things on the list by pretending it’s 1962 all over again.

This means big changes for Mallory. And a lot of growth as a character. Mallory realizes after the break-up that much of her identity was wrapped up in Jeremy — who she hung out with, what she did on the weekends, who she sat with at lunch, etc. At some point, she mentions that in a 24/7 time period, when she was dating Jeremy, 20/6 of that time was spent with him. By saying adios to her phone and computers, she’s got a lot of time to fill. The List challenges her to do things like “run for pep club secretary” or “sew a dress for homecoming.” Mallory’s school doesn’t even have a pep club so she has to plead for her student council to approve the new club. One unsuspecting person who takes an interest in pep club is Jeremy’s cousin, Oliver.

Mallory has all of these preconceived ideas about what a “hipster” Oliver is (based on Jeremy’s very strong opinions of him). Oliver is a guy who is very comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t care what other people think. He doesn’t feel the need to “belong” and he speaks his mind. With little time to get the pep club on its feet, Mallory and Oliver spend time talking, shopping, and planning their float for the homecoming parade. Mallory realizes that she’s more herself than she ever was with Jeremy — Oliver understands her jokes, thinks she’s funny, and appreciates her quirkiness. He’s kind, a great listener, and makes a few simple moves that made my heart pitter patter. (Did I mention Oliver was my favorite character?) But Mallory’s afraid to fall too fast. And um, for Jeremy’s cousin? That could stir up some drama.

Going Vintage definitely has a cute and catchy plot with all the twists and turns along the way as Mallory sorts things out, but there’s a lot more that really makes things come alive. Mallory is super close to her family, especially Ginnie, who holds Mallory accountable to The List and strips her room of anything that wasn’t invented in 1962. Her parents run a business together that causes them to bicker and worry a lot (…and then to have some very public displays of affection that embarrass Ginnie and Mallory when they make up). Her mom seems to be hiding a big secret and Ginnie has suspicions about what it might be so she takes on this role to “save the family.” Grandma Vivien is feisty and I loved seeing her as a central character to the story because so rarely are grandparents even mentioned.

Despite some moments when Mallory said some things that didn’t sit well with me (she was a bit judgmental and overly opinionated in the beginning), I  enjoyed Going Vintage. I want to put copies of this book in the hands of some of my friends who place entirely too much emphasis on their online lives and forget to go out and live and experience and do things. Maybe, like Mallory, if we minimized our lives, we’d grow and be challenged, too.

rather be reading borrow from the library icon

Goodreads | Amazon