Magan: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Rites of Passage Book CoverRites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 416
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Military Academy, sexism, hazing and bullying
Format read: ARC received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary: Dared by her older brother, Amos, to join the military academy when they agree to accept females, Sam accepts. Life in the academy is far from easy. Is there a point where Sam says ‘enough is enough’ or can she prove herself despite the extra harassment?

What if you were dared by a sibling you greatly admired to do something that was so freakin’ hard you’d want to quit before you even began? Would you still go forward or just bow out?

Sam joins the DMA (military academy) on a dare from her older brother, Amos. When he passes away and the academy agrees to begin accepting females, it feels like more than just a dare to Sam. She’s gotta prove herself and not let him down. She becomes one of only four girls accepted. The majority of the guys do not want the girls there, but Sam is specifically targeted because of the military position her father holds and who her brother, Jonathan, is on the DMA campus, the corporal cadet. Sam doesn’t want preferential treatment, but many, many things cross the line, especially with her leader, Matthews, who wants her to suffer and quit.

Sam’s roommate, Katie, constantly finds ways to finagle her way out of workouts, and her friend, Kelly (a boy), seems to be on her side until Sam doesn’t want to break the strict no-dating policy. Everyone’s already watching her like a hawk, so why toe the line with something she could easily prevent? Sam is tough and strong and fights like hell to prove herself. Though her hard work is often overlooked, she is able to make some allies who commend her. Those allies, however, aren’t always around to protect her.

Let me break things down into a little Why I Loved Rites of Passage list:

  • Sam and her determination are absolutely unbeatable. Maybe she joined the academy on a whim, but she’s got a lot of fight and stamina. She’s probably one of the bravest female young adult characters I’ve encountered; I would have fled home because I couldn’t have mentally taken the torment.
  • I loved seeing a female succeed in a man’s world. Though there were countless times her achievements were overlooked (and I wanted to punch someone in the junk because of it), I was doing mental fist pumps cheering her on as she endured not only the physical training and workouts, but school and the ridicule as well.
  • There’s this subtle storyline that had me wondering what happened to her brother Amos. You can tell how much Sam is missing him and really working hard to make him proud, but why did he pass away?
  • Sam’s other older brother, Jonathan, is in a ranked position at the military academy. I wondered from the very beginning pages how he would treat his sister amongst a group of guys who clearly were so opposed to having females around. Would he be ballsy enough to stand up for her (assuming he wanted her to be there) or would he only make things worse and overlook any harassment?
  • Hensley’s writing flowed so, so well. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with the military (aside from attending Texas A&M for a year and seeing my fellow classmate suffer through his first year in the Corps) so the story really needed to be written well for me to grasp the environment and regimented lifestyle. And it was. Perfectly. The details were so crisp and I understood every ounce of Sam’s story.

To be fair, I did have one uncertainty about Rites of Passage:

  • The end felt a little abrupt. BUT, my adrenaline was also pumping and I had to finish before bed so the story buildup was there and my anticipation was high…but I needed a little more. My personal hope: that Hensley will continue writing Sam’s story. I just don’t feel like her story is over yet.

Absolutely, 100% add this book to your Must Reads of 2014 list. I think it’ll be one of my top ten favorites for the year. I’d be willing to bet on it.

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wardrobe inspired by rites of passage book

Rites of Passage: A Bootcamp Wardrobe + Giveaway


Attention, friends, attention! Today is such an exciting day for Alexa, Rachel, and me. Rites of Passage is a review book we were all so, so lucky to receive review copies of. I DEVOURED IT. And recently, Rachel visited Austin, TX (where I live) and we could not stop talking about this book. We’re each spotlighting fun things about this incredible book (on Wednesday, I’ll do a full review for y’all) because RITES OF PASSAGE IS OUT TOMORROW. That’s right — plan a trip to your local bookstore tomorrow. You won’t be sorry.

Rites of Passage Book Cover

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 416
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Military Academy, sexism, hazing and bullying
Format read: ARC received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)

SYNOPSIS: Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

I had this grand, grand idea of doing a Parent’s Weekend Survival Kit for Sam, but without saying too much, once I reflected back on some events in the book, I realized that just didn’t seem true her story. But of course I still wanted to window shop. I challenged myself to create a Military-themed bootcamp wardrobe because this is so outside of my norm. I don’t own anything like this in my current wardrobe, but after pulling this together, that might change. Enjoy!

wardrobe inspired by rites of passage book

  1. Dr. Martens — Can anyone else remember wearing these in middle school or high school? Anyone? I was OBSESSED. When these showed up during my search, it was like a time warp. How are these coming back in style?! They’re so heavy I hold them soley responsible for my back problems. 😉
  2. Nice Guise Leggings — If these leggings PROMISED to hide and disguise my thighs, I would buy them in a heartbeat. Right?
  3. Bomber Jacket — Something I’ve always, always wanted to add to my collection, but seems to always be out of my budget. This Forever 21 version has definitely caught my attention, though!
  4. Military Dog Tags — It’s undeniable that dog tags had to be part of the wardrobe. I love the font used on these. While I know they aren’t identical to the military ones, I think this is a nice nod toward the originals.
  5. Aviator Sunglasses — My favorite pair of aviators I’ve owned were from Fossil (like many of my favorite wardrobe staples), but these Ray-Bans are so quintessentially military. I love the variety of colors they come in, too!
  6. Rucksack Fossil Bag — This bag is listed under the men’s section, but I think it’s the perfect companion for quick trips and would be so easy to pack for a little getaway. (And the interior is orange, which I love!)

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Magan: If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

book cover for if i lie by corrine jackson

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (website | twitter)
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 276
Target Audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: Military towns, cheating, reputations, bullying
Format Read: eBook purchased for my Kindle.

Summary: Quinn’s boyfriend, Carey, is serving our country in Afghanistan. Shortly after his deployment, a photograph was taken of Quinn and another guy, proving that she was cheating on Carey. She’s trapped in a world of bullying because she’s protecting Carey by not sharing his secret.

I mentioned in my Shelve It vlog on Sunday that I was recently in a deep book slump because I was having a really difficult time making it through a book. (Don’t worry. It wasn’t If I Lie.) I was super hesitant to pick up another book because I really needed something solid, something that was sure to be an absolute win. And guess what? If I Lie was the perfect book for me.

Quinn is in her senior year of high school, shunned by her entire small Military town because they think she’s committed the ultimate crime: She cheated on her boyfriend, Carey, right after he went away to serve our country in Afghanistan. Did you catch what I said? They think she’s done this. There’s photographic proof that she was with another (unidentifiable) guy, but no one except for Quinn knows the absolute truth. Or the secret that Carey’s asked her to keep.

The backlash that Quinn faces from her father who was abandoned by her mother while he was at war, or from her classmates who vandalize her school locker, or from Carey’s parents who want absolutely nothing to do with Quinn will make you feel appropriately uncomfortable. But I fully believe Jackson does a brilliant job of balancing the bullying by showing us how resilient and dedicated Quinn is to Carey. There’s no way someone could face all the turmoil Quinn does without feeling deep, sincere love for another person.

But things only become more complicated for Quinn once Carey goes MIA after being out on a mission. But you know what I found most wonderful about If I Lie? Yes, we’re learning about Quinn, and yes, slowly Carey’s secret is being revealed to us, but there’s just so much more meat to the story. There’s also George, her wonderful elderly companion at the VA Hospital who is teaching her how to become a better photographer and doesn’t succumb to the rumors he has heard about Quinn. And there’s her messy relationship with her father and how desperately Quinn wants to be seen by him again. The speculation about who this other boy is also made my heart pound a little harder, but the final few chapters (our foster daughter can vouch for me as I was reading aloud to her while she played) really tugged on my heart strings and I balled my eyes out. My point: If I Lie is so incredibly well-rounded. The focus isn’t just on this one relationship, but has so many lovely gems that propel the story forward and make it flow effortlessly, especially when the subject matter gets a little tough.

I’m really, really not sure why I waited over a year to read If I Lie. I suppose that’s what happens when you let books pile up on your kindle because you get buy-happy. I sincerely hope that if you haven’t read this book yet that you’ll give it a whirl as soon as you can. Don’t be like me and wait too long to read a really wonderful story.

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Happy Memorial Day from Rather Be Reading!

military related book recommendations

Hello, friends! Happy Memorial Day from us here at Rather Be Reading!

Many times I excitedly look forward to Memorial Day because my husband gets the day off from work and — YAY! — we get to spend the day together BBQing with friends, BUT forget to really take a moment to pause and reflect on the meaning of the day. So instead of glossing over this holiday, I thought it might be fun to share two books with you that are somewhat reflective of today. Two books you most definitely, absolutely, positively must read. Got that?

rather be reading military book recommenadations

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Because we’re living in a time of war, many of us probably know of someone, even if not a close relative, that has joined the military. The idea of losing someone is terrifying. My brother frequently contemplates what he’ll do after he graduates from college and he often comes back to joining (I forget which branch he’s interested in). The thought is nauseating, yet there are so many men and women who dedicate their lives to this.

Travis was one of those people. He joined the Marines spontaneously to get away from his superstar-NFL-Superbowl-winning-father. His last year was spent in boot camp and fighting in Afghanistan. When he returned home, he carried the loss of his friend Charlie. He was suffering and broken, but too tough to admit that he had problems. That he was seeing images of Charlie everywhere – and that he was having conversations with those illusions. (Read more of my Something Like Normal review)

Recommended because it specifically deals with loss, is beautifully written, and is a refreshing look into the male psyche as the story is told from Travis’ point of view.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I haven’t reviewed The Book Thief on Rather Be Reading, but man, oh, man, it’s a book that undeniably left an impression. Maybe it’s not an obvious choice for Memorial Day since it’s told from Death’s perspective, focusing primarily on the struggle to survive during World War II. But, maybe, if you’re like me you find yourself wondering how someone could be so evil, so vindictive, and want to so badly destroy a people, a country, and why so, so many people followed him to make that happen.

Memorial Day, to me, can be about remembering the people who were helpless, those who lost their lives to a war the world, for a long time, wasn’t aware was happening. Today is about being thankful for those who intervened, risked their lives, and put a stop to the madness — even if that meant risking their own lives.

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So, without me continuing to drone on and on, please pick up these two books. They’re fantastic — I guarantee it.
Happy Memorial Day!