A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray | Magan Reviews

Book Review of A Thousand Pieces of  You by Claudia Gray

 

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray (website | twitter)
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 368
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: parallel universes, time travel, death of a parent
Format Read: ARC received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary: Marguerite seeks answers about her father’s death and travels between parallel universes using the Firebird, the device her parent’s created that make such travel possible, in search of his suspected murderer.

Marguerite is the artist in a family of award-winning physicists. When her father dies and her parent’s assistant, Paul, takes off looking like the most obvious suspect, she has no choice but to emerge herself in her parent’s scientific world to find answers. Even if that involves learning how to use the Firebird, the device her parents created that allows her to jump to alternate dimensions. Marguerite has always felt like her parent’s assistants were adopted family members and there were these inexplicable moments she had with Paul that make her wonder how she could have been so fooled.

The strongest component of A Thousand Pieces of You is seeing Marguerite take a crash course in survival and physics to seek answers. Essentially with a turn of the Firebird, Marguerite finds herself in a parallel universe where the people she knows and is familiar with exist, but things can range from being ever-so-slightly altered to feeling centuries behind technologically. When she takes over another Marguerite’s body, she has to quickly adapt to her surroundings so she can cleverly figure out where Paul is located and when the proper time is to move on to the next place.

There are elements of a great chase paired with this very mysterious relationship between Marguerite and Paul. Her search is for more than closure and justice, but it’s a sweet, wild ride to see how Paul and Marguerite’s story morphs through each dimension. It’s a beautiful, tangled mess of cat-and-mouse paired with a confusing “what-if” love story as we flash back to learn about Paul and Marguerite before her father’s death. There’s a huge internal struggle to believe that Paul couldn’t have done something so destructive and devastating, but when all evidence points to him, how can it be denied? I absolutely loved how complex and intelligent the storyline was, but how the majority of the story focused on the simplest question: What lengths will we go to for the people we love? 

A Thousand Pieces of You is my first Claudia Gray book, and I’m incredibly anxious to get my hands on more of her work and to see where the rest of this story goes.

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Talking Friendships with Magan

On a Personal Note: Un-boxing Friendship

Well, hello! It’s been a while since I wrote something just to write. I read a book, Even in Paradise, several weeks ago and there’s a quote that’s been running through my mind. I’ve been trying to find the words to write this post; hopefully I’ve finally figured out what I want to say and don’t ramble. Bear with me if I do. Let’s start with the quote:

“I knew what I was doing. I was becoming that girl,

the one who drops all her old friends when a new,

exciting one comes around. I knew what I was doing

and I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t want to.”

— Even in Paradise

♥

My childhood friend, Sarah, and her daughter, Arla, meeting Everett for the first time a few weeks ago. Friends' babies becoming friends! SO SWEET!

My childhood friend, Sarah, and her daughter, Arla, meeting Everett for the first time a few weeks ago. Friends’ babies becoming friends! SO SWEET!

What I take from that quote (and from what was happening with Charlie at that time in the book) is that our friendships are categorized. That we can’t be friends with someone who likes art, studying, and focusing on school AND be friends with someone who is unfocused, a little wild, and doesn’t follow the beaten path. Charlie was so instantly attracted to Julia’s free-spirit, but she felt so nervous about what her other friends would think that she didn’t even attempt to get everyone together to see how well they meshed.

And maybe it’s because I hang out in the pages of young adult books that I find this pops up a lot in my reading, but do you believe this to be true — that we have to be either/or about who we hang out with?

I don’t.

I remember there being times in my life where I begged and prayed for friends who really clicked with me. I needed a core group that just got me. But as I’ve gotten older (ha, wow, does that feel terrible to write), I realize that’s such a narrow-minded attitude I had. There were my sports friends, my book friends, my church friends, etc. I didn’t allow them to intermingle and overlap. Even in college, my architecture friends didn’t really know my married friends. I was the odd girl who got married at 18, but also the girl who was still experiencing college. Balancing it all felt like such a chore. One that I definitely didn’t succeed at very well.

But there doesn’t have to be a THIS or THAT when it comes to friends. It’s so much more freeing to have adapted an all-inclusive attitude. I recently called up two friends — one I have known for a few weeks, another I’ve known for nearly a year — that had only momentarily met before to go shopping with me. It was spontaneous and spur of the moment, but why the heck not? I adore both girls and I knew they both needed time out, so why not do it together?

I’ve spent so, so much time in my life making sure everyone feels loved and happy. Ever the people-pleaser. I think that when I label my friends as being into books or fashion or DIY projects, it prevents me from getting to know more of them. I’m into all of those things and more — nail polish, makeup, hate cooking, love Target, Toms shoes-aholic, a wife, a church-goer, currently addicted to working out, a photographer, a good listener, a sympathizer. Why can’t my friends be more too? And why can’t a group of people hang out who don’t have absolutely every single thing in common? Won’t that push us to grow and mature?

Estelle and Magan

So thankful for Estelle who understands my crazy, spastic interests. Who oogles over shoes with me, listens when I’m having a bad day, and gives me her honest opinion, always. (PS: I swear one day soon we’re going to reunite and surprise y’all with a new photo of us!)

I certainly hope so.

Let it be clear that I agree some friendships have an expiration date. There are times when we have to “break-up” with a friend because we’ve grown apart. (Rachel wrote a great post about this!) Maybe, just maybe, our friendships could continue to morph and grown and change if we were a little more forgiving and less static about how we approached them. It’s okay to mix things up and pull together a group of girlfriends who represent different aspects of our lives. What a slap in the face it was several years ago when a best friend of mine kicked me to the curb when her childhood best friend was visiting town. I wanted to learn about both of them, their history, and to see this new three-way friendship blossom into something brand new. That took many, many years to develop, but FINALLY it has.

Charlie eventually figures it out, too. It takes a long time for her to realize the mistakes she’s made and the ways she’s secluded herself, but she gets there. That’s quite possibly the highlight of Even in Paradise for me. It felt like such a revolutionary moment for me to read about something I’ve experienced so personally. But that leaves me curious…

How do you approach your friendships? Do you agree that we shouldn’t put them in a box? 

ETA: I think many times I segregated my friendships because I was afraid of how people would accept other pieces of me than what they originally liked me for. What if my friend found out I went to church? Would that change the dynamic of our friendship? What if she thinks spending time on hair and makeup is stupid? What if she gives me a hard time about buying a pair of shoes when a few days ago I complained about being on a budget? I realize that those are things I find fascinating about my friends — their little intricacies and the details of their lives are what make them so rich and intriguing. I think many times I’ve “boxed” my friendships because I was afraid there were parts of me that wouldn’t be accepted. But maybe that’s a whole other can of worms… because then that boils down to whether or not that person is a friend at all, right?

Magan: This Summer by Katlyn Duncan

book cover for this summer by katlyn duncan

This Summer by Katlyn Duncan [twitter | website]
Publication Date: July 9, 2014
Publisher: Carina UK
Pages: 240 Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: boy/girl next door neighbors, camp counselors, summer camp
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Two years ago, Hadley’s next door neighbor, Will, fled town on the very same night he and Hadley became “more than friends.” After her high school graduation, Hadley breaks up with her boyfriend, Carter, to have one last free summer with her BFF, Lily. Unexpectedly, Will returns to town and is assigned to be her co-counselor for the summer camp her father is in charge of. So much for an easy-going summer.

♥

Have you ever read a book that made you flashback to a specific moment in your life and felt so authentic it seemed like the author had written about your particular experience? I can’t explain This Summer by Katlyn Duncan in any other way except for HOW DID SHE STEAL MY MEMORIES?

Growing up, I attended a weeklong summer camp where we rode horses, spent countless hours swimming, and did super cheesy arts and crafts projects. I idolized my camp counselors. (And this one time, the lifeguard was Australian and I 100% had the hots for him. I was convinced we’d get married. True story.) When I was old enough to attend an additional leadership camp to become a counselor at my yearly camp, there was no question. Sign me up! Compile all of those memories with the questionable relationship Hadley is experiencing with her former neighbor who returns to town and becomes her co-counselor for the summer, there’s no doubt this all felt almost like an out-of-body experience for me.

Hadley’s last summer as a camp counselor is one she and her BFF, Lily, deem worthy of being wild and single for. No strings attached. Hadley breaks up with her boyfriend, Carter, because she’d rather not delay the inevitable for the end of summer when they head across the country for different colleges. She’s satisfied with her decision until Will returns to town. Will: the boy Hadley was deeply in love with, the one who broke her heart by quickly disappearing from town and never contacting her.

The physical attraction is still there for Will and Hadley, but she doesn’t want him to know how painful his abandonment was, and he’s unable to explain all the reasons why he left so quickly. Every time these two take one step forward to rebuild their relationship, something causes them to take two (giant) steps back. I definitely rooted for their reunification and hoped they’d get past their inability to communicate. My personal summer romances never worked out, but the hopeless romantic in me desperately wanted theirs to. Even though Will is only in town to fix up and sell his father’s home and will be leaving at the end of the summer, maybe, just maybe, they can bypass all the hurt to start something new.

The camp aspects — loving the kids, understanding their quirks, being responsible for tiny humans, and spending time at an overnight camp — were all on point. I loved how Will and Hadley interacted with them. I bear-hug embraced Hadley and Will trying to figure out their feelings, but realistically felt like too much time was spent on the tension and buildup before the climax of the story came. There’s a lot of back and forth, which didn’t annoy me because their story IS complex, but when things finally got to a point I was satisfied with, the timing seemed to have lost its flow.

A few details felt like they could have been finessed; the story is dual-perspective so we know where both main characters stand. Sometimes this was beneficial so I could see how both were feeling, but a few times the details were confusing. One area Duncan certainly didn’t fail to explore was the, um, very mature nature of Will and Hadley’s relationship. Ahem. I’ll just leave it at that. Be prepared.

All-in-all I was taken back to another part of my life that seemed so come alive again as I read This Summer. Despite the few hiccups I experienced in the story, I felt very connected and this felt like the epitome of a summertime read.

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Magan: On the Fence by Kasie West

Book Cover On the Fence by Kasie West

On the Fence by Kasie West (twitter | website)
Previously Reviewed: The Distance Between Us
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 320
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: strong sibling relationships, athletic female, single-parents
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thank you!)

Summary: Super athlete Charlie finds herself having middle-of-the-night conversations with her next door neighbor, Braden, whom she’s always considered to be like a brother. Neither of them can sleep and find solace in discussing things (such as who knows who better) between the fence posts when no one else is around.

 

First impressions and crazy thoughts that went through my head about On the Fence:

  • Holy crap this is so so so so so so so good.
  • I love the relationship between the siblings. There are four of them. Hmm. Would Dustyn want four kids? I want my children to grow up close and protective of one another like them. (Truth: I did talk to Dustyn about this possibility after finishing On the Fence. Second truth: I’ve never considered having four kids before. I’ve always had a “we’ll see what happens” mentality.)
  • Whyyyyyyy did it have to end? I just wanted to keep reading forever and ever.
  • Must. Preorder. Finished. Copy.

Cohesive thoughts to justify my fangirling:

Sitting on a bookshelf in my bedroom is a copy of The Distance Between Us. Estelle loved it last year; she recommended we all buy it. So I did. And I’ve had nothing but the best intentions for wanting to read it since then. Yada yada yada — I was pregnant and a foster mom and blah blah blah — fast forward to now. As we were discussing the review books we had to read, Estelle suggested I be the one to read On the Fence. (I think she knew I needed something REALLY good to pull me out of full-time-mommy-mode so I could enjoy some much needed reading time.)

And crap. Now I’m 100% irritated with myself that I haven’t read TDBU because I feel like I have sincerely missed out on greatness. Kasie’s writing in On the Fence is undeniably fantastic. Within a few paragraphs, I was hooked and completely ignoring all life responsibilities. (Don’t worry; Everett was already in bed for the night.) Charlie is the youngest sister to three older brothers (four brothers if you count their neighbor, Braden, who practically lives at their house); she’s tough and fast and very un-girly. She’s eager to hop into a football or soccer game. She doesn’t expect the boys to take it easy on her because she’s a girl. Charlie’s never had a boyfriend, but her brothers would give any guy she brought around the third degree. Her brothers are her best friends.

When Charlie finds herself with another speeding ticket (oops?), her father forces her to get a job to pay him back for it (and the others). The place she finds unemployment is very un-Charlie-like with clothes she’d never be caught dead wearing in front of her brothers and makeup she doesn’t know how to use. Despite her anxiousness to do her time and pay her dad back, she finds herself becoming friends with girls she never would have expected to and creating outfits she didn’t know she was capable of.

But Charlie also has this other thing: she doesn’t sleep well at night. She stays as active as possible so she is completely worn out when she goes to bed in hopes that she’ll have a good night of sleep. More often than not, she finds herself awake in the wee hours of the morning. Oddly enough, she soon realizes that Braden is up at strange hours too. They find themselves outside on either side of a fence, having candid conversations about things they’d be too shy to discuss in the daylight. (Swoon.)

On the Fence has every element I desire in my books: family background, strong friendships, a believable relationship, a great sense of time and fantastic pacing, and a strong setting. I became so wrapped up in Charlie’s life that I felt they were real. I wanted to know these people. I wished I could visit them and watch Charlie kick ass in a football game. I greatly admired Charlie’s dad and how protective he was of his baby girl, but also how hard he tried to be the parent he needed to be for her, especially with the absence of her mother. Every aspect feels so perfectly authentic and real; I laughed out loud and I really never wanted On the Fence to end. I think it’ll be topping the charts as a 2014 favorite for me.

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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!

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Magan: Tease by Amanda Maciel

books about bullying Tease by Amanda Maciel

Tease by Amanda Maciel (twitter)
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 336
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: bullying, suicide, lawsuits, book told from bully’s perspective
Format Read: ARC received from the publisher.

Summary: Sara is being tried for the death of former classmate, Emma, whom she and her friends Brielle, Tyler, and Dylan bullied. The story is told from Sara’s perspective as her trial nears and she reflects back on the past leading up to Emma’s death and present day.

Hello again, friends! I’m back with another vlog review, and –wow!– what a book Tease was. I’ve seen a bit of differing opinions about this one because author Amanda Maciel takes you (uncomfortably) inside the bully’s mind. As a reader, you’re going to want to wring Sara’s neck in hopes that she could see that she’s done wrong and made some major mistakes. Does that happen? You’ll just have to find out for yourself. But do know that you’ll feel frustrated with Sara. She thinks her actions are justified; she felt threatened by Emma and had a hard time standing up to her best friend, Brielle, when she suggested something particularly nasty to do/say to Emma because Sara felt like her friendship with Brielle was slipping away.

Simply stated: Tease is complicated. It’s a difficult read, but it’s very relative and important. Read it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHruyZS7ob0

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