Just Wanna Have Fun | Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally

A country star + budding musician/high school student + one awesome day. Sourcebooks Fire; 7/7/15; 304 Pages.

What can I say about the Hundred Oaks series? When Catching Jordan first released, my love for YA was gradually building and it holds a special place in my heart. With six of her books tucked in my bookshelf, I’ve come to depend on Kenneally for a strong female leads, sweet and sexy romance, and standout friends and family. Despite these bright spots, she’s not afraid to explore the complexities of these relationships, have her characters question faith and sex and themselves, have them sometimes fail.

Jesse’s Girl is just more of what I love about these books. Maya, a genius musician with stage fright, meets Jesse Scott, a young, massive country music star. He’s supposed to be teaching her about the music industry but the original plan takes a Ferris Bueller-like turn. In the course of a day, they totally butt heads but Maya also offers him her friendship — something he could really use — but nothing goes according to plan. (I love this: “I decide to take Mom’s advice this time: if Jesse really wants me, he’ll let me know.”)

The extra special treat (for someone who wants to be an honorary resident of Franklin, TN) is each book comes with a Hundred Oaks reunion of some kind. Folding Jordan and Sam into the Jesse’s Girl mix added so many comedic elements to the book, and I loved seeing Sam as this big, scary protective big brother (even though he’s kind of a sap).

So pencil in a date night with Jesse’s Girl. Not only can you expect the whole Miranda Kenneally package (special shout out to Dave, Maya’s awesome BFF) but it’s an ode to everything fun in the 80s and a reminder to keep working for what you want.

♥

Why in 5 — country music style (Sorry, Maya!):

Live a Little” (Kenny Chesney): I need to live a little, have some fun / Take some time, waste it on number one / Find a girl that brings my whole world to a stop / Live a little

I don’t want to call Jesse a “poor little celebrity” but he’s been burned before and he’d rather hang out alone with his cat (Casper!) than actually talk to other people when he has time off. Plus — imagine working so hard all the time and barely being able to go in public on an off day. I always liked a boy who was a challenge so I like that Maya (who plays it so cool) wants him to confide in her — even if it’s a one time only thing.

New Strings” (Miranda Lambert): I’ve worried about life and / If it’s arriving right on time / I guess if you don’t jump / You’ll never know if you can fly

Maya is gutsy and she knows what she wants. That’s more than we can say about a lot of 17 year olds but, more than anything, I love how nothing has stopped her from getting closer to her passion. Lack of money, crappy band members, her age — none of these factors matter. When the going gets tough, Maya just grows to be tougher and I admired her for it.

I Don’t Want This Night to End” (Luke Bryan): I’m so glad you trusted me / To slide up on this dusty seat / And let your hair down / Get out of town / Got the stars coming out over my hood/ And all I know now is it’s going good

I’m obsessed with the concept of two people spending one magical, amazing day together. What happens next? Jesse can ditch his entourage for a day, and Maya’s parents have no idea what her Career Day (arranged by her principal, no less) has turned into. Our main characters reach a certain level of intimacy, hanging out in this bubble all day, and, as the reader, you want so badly for nothing to disturb that.

Tumble and Fall” (Little Big Town): “It’s a reach out, it’s a white flag, it’s a forfeit of the game / It’s a let go of the ego, and the whisper of your name / It’s a fight for, not a defend, it’s a stay out in the rain”

It’s not like Maya goes into Career Day thinking she’s going to nab the GREAT Jesse Scott. Spoilers aside: this is a Miranda Kenneally book so we know we have some high-charged chemistry to look forward to. But he’s a celebrity! She’s in high school! How would this even work if either of them were willing to admit they liked each other? It’s all about taking that risk.

Maps Out the Window” (Caitlyn Shadbolt): Woahhh feels good just letting go / Woahhh roll it down, let the wind blow

This song embodies the fun and fancy free feeling that Jesse’s Girl is all about. Just like you want to be listening to this song with the top down and sun shining on your face, there’s no way this book won’t boost your mood and make you smile.

Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

Add JESSE’S GIRL to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This book was provided by the publisher for review.

Religion in YA Books • Dive Into Diversity

Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge

Each Sunday, I found myself driving down the back roads of our small town with my grandparents, headed to our tiny Catholic church. I was baptized there and participated as a reader, attended Sunday school, and in high school was confirmed, too. I didn’t really know anything other than Catholicism until my sophomore year in high school when my best friend began asking me to attend her Wednesday night youth group at her Baptist church. The differences between her church and mine were night and day: there weren’t nearly as many rituals at hers, people talked a lot more openly about things like sin, sexuality, and who God is. It was then that I realized that not all churches are the same. I guess hypothetically I had known that before, but until I saw it in action, I didn’t know there could be something different.

[Full disclosure: I began going with Leslie because there was a cute boy involved.]

The summer after my Sophomore year, I went to a church camp in Glorieta, NM with Leslie’s youth group. I went hoping that I’d sit next to that cute boy on the way there and that sometime over that week he would FINALLY ask me to be his girlfriend. Spoiler alert: his dad was our bus driver to New Mexico and made a bet with him to see how many girls’ phone numbers he could get while he was there. We pulled into the camp and my heart was just crushed. Thank goodness I found out before all the festivities began because I think my sole focus would have remained pursuing him if I hadn’t found out the truth early on. Instead, I tried to ignore him and threw myself into bonding with my group and being active.

And it’s there that my heart really seemed to change and this whole idea of Christianity really became something more. It was more than just a proclamation. It was more than just attending church on Sundays. Sure I had a lot of questions and things I just didn’t know the answer to, but I felt anxious to seek out those answers and to explore religion in a whole new way.

This little piece of my history is something that still impacts my day-to-day life and it’s something I am searching for when I’m reading: What do the characters believe? Are they searching like I was (still am)?

I think at our core we’re curious humans and we like to test the waters. We don’t easily accept things at face value or believe things necessarily because we’re told to. There have been a few standout books for me that really reflected how it felt for me to question and seek those answers:

stealing parker, small town sinners, things i can't forget

Stealing Parker, Small Town Sinners, and Things I Can’t Forget have given me characters that aren’t always right, don’t know all the ins and outs of their beliefs, want to learn more, are flawed and imperfect, and they all struggle. Gosh, even as a nearly 30 year old woman (say WHAT?!) I still feel this way. I don’t always know what’s right or what I’m supposed to do. These books extend this amazing olive branch that say, “IT’S OKAY TO NOT KNOW!”

Perhaps what I’ve felt lately in a lot of my reading has been that there’s either a strong believe or a great nonchalance. In two books I recently read (The Last Time We Say Goodbye and Since You’ve Been Gone), the main characters both admit to having no faith as they’re going through these GIANT life changing events; the conversation stops there and once they’ve said, “I don’t know what to believe” that’s it. But I’ve also noticed that aside from Christianity, I’m not seeing a whole lot of exploration of other religions. Perhaps those with Christianity stand out to me because that’s what I identify with the most, but ideally, I’d really love to be able to update this post with a long list of books that explore other faiths. Religion and beliefs are just one of the multitude of things that make us diverse, and I’d love to see this tackled more in what I’m reading. I want to know my character’s struggles and strongholds.

So here you have it, my great question to you guys: Where is religion in young adult books? What books have you read that have done a really nice job exploring religion? 


 

Thanks for joining the discussion for this month’s Dive Into Diversity! Don’t forget to link-up with you diverse posts below. Rebecca, Estelle, and I cannot wait to read them and check out your blogs! If you haven’t had a chance to join the DID reading challenge, feel free to visit the intro post and use #DiversityDive on Twitter & Instagram!

You’re Invited: A Fictional Birthday Party

Greetings, friends!

It’s early, I know. (Well, depending on where you are, of course, but I’m going to imagine you woke up at 8 a.m. to read this.) You are dressed in the outfit that makes you feel your best and headed to a party to celebrate yours truly and the big “omg I’m 30” moment. Don’t worry. It’s less about me than it sounds. I just want to mingle and have fun cocktails. Maybe we can do a large book swap? No gifts, please. I’m happy just to make your acquaintance (or see you again, whatever the case may be) and introduce you to some of my fictional pals. (I’ll invite my parents and some real life friends too so this isn’t too weird. Promise.)

What are you waiting for? There’s guacamole! Mini tacos! A soft-serve ice cream machine! Rachel made her famous red velvet cupcakes! A room to cuddle with puppies and kittens. Dirty Dancing is playing in the background with no sound. (Who needs sound?! We all know the words! If you don’t, it’s not a good time to tell me.) Mickey Mouse might even show up! Don’t forget your phone but, please, let’s refrain from too much tweeting. Let’s forget to take too many pictures. I want to have THAT much fun.

Rather Be Reading Fictional Birthday Party

A good host knows great party begins with people who all have some sliver of something in common and won’t be afraid to meet new people. Plus I have to guarantee a good time. Entertainment! Laughs! Stimulating conversation!

Case in point:

  • First things first, I need Kitty Song (To All The Boys I Loved Before) to do my hair. She’s so talented for a nine-year old. Okay, fine, Lara Jean can come too. (Just kidding. I need the ENTIRE Song clan. Maybe they can make some cookies?)
  • I have wanted Jordan from Catching Jordan to meet Sam every since I read Rites of Passage. Strong ladies unite!
  • Guys, you might not know this. But the Super Bowl just happened and most especially after this one, I need to know what Jordan is thinking about it.
  • How about some music? Gabe (Beautiful Music for Ugly Children) can spin the tunes. Maybe he’ll also want to talk about Katy Perry’s half-time performance.
  • THEN we need dancing and I know Skylar from I’ll Meet You There has the moves and isn’t as shy as I am. (I also want to talk to her about her collages.)
  • For my bachelorette party I dragged my friends to karaoke because I wanted to hear them sing. (No one wants to hear me sing.)  But I want to hear Devan (The Reece Malcolm List) sing! Perform a bit? A little cabaret? I want to be able to say I had a future Broadway star at my party. (Maybe she can introduce me to Jeremy Jordan some day?)
  • Hands down, I think Vivian and her best friend Harp will be the ones everyone wants to talk to. They are running from the Rapture (Vivian Apples at the End of the World)!  They’re parents have disappeared. (I think Skylar will also relate to their best friendship.)
  • Rumor has it Matt from The Boy in the Black Suit is a pretty awesome cook. (Homemade chocolate chip cookies.) But he also has an incredible heart, and it would be nice to “get to know” (I realize he’s not real) someone else in the city. I also need to give him a hug.
  • Rafe from Openly Straight is so real to me, it’s like I’ve already met him. I have a hunch he would be hilarious at a party, and I sure want to hear what he is up to lately!
  • Cricket, Jules, and Zac? (Nantucket Red) I don’t feel I need to explain this one because I know we would get each other and I need to know all the latest gossip. (This is where I ask/beg Leila Howland to write another one of these books.)

For no other reason, I would be happy to get all the dirt from these characters. I AM A GOSSIP HOUND. I will not blog about it, fictional birthday guests. I will not. I will just write it in my journal and look back on this night with so much fondness. (Sidenote: Will I allow +1s? Hell yes. I need to know everything I can about these happily-ever-afters.)

I can picture it now. I’m chatting. There’s champagne (and sparkling cider). My #pubdate ladies have supplied themed beers. Magan and I are once again united! We’re laughing, we’re twirling, we’re eating all the mini pies (the cherry is delicious), and it all goes by in a snap. But you know what? All the planning was worth it. It was one fun shindig.

Thanks for spending this birthday with me, friends! I can’t let you leave empty-handed though. I’m giving away two of the above books to reader in the U.S. or beyond. (Just not the moon, okay?) Click through below to enter and good luck! xoxo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

On a Personal Note: A “Brave” Reminder

“I might be a little scared.”

“That’s awesome.”

“No, it’s not,” I said.

“Yes, it is, because you can only be brave if you’re scared.”

– from The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

↔

Last week, I flew through The Impossible Knife of Memory (why did it take me so long to read it??) and after I finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about the above passage. So today of all days, when tons of kids will be starting a new year of classes, teachers will be learning a whole new set of kids, and when I will be starting a new job, it helps to hear that because scared is a good thing.

In fact, it’s a bit of advice I’ve heard over and over in the past few weeks. You’re nervous because you care. Or because you want to do a great job. These are all acceptable reasons for being a little shaky the first day? Okay, well. That’s good. Because I am. All of the above. Looking back at the first days of school, I was always the kind of person who stayed up all night, unable to sleep because all the anticipation. Some years, this carried onto Sunday nights too. I’m a natural born worrier; that’s definitely a part of it. On the other hand, I’m a major perfectionist so I’m sure that had a hand in it too.

As self-admitted bookworms, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I rely on books a lot during these times of change. Practically all the characters we meet are working through some version of newness, dealing with a bit of insecurity, wondering if they have what it takes, and if they will fit in. Silly as it might sound I find myself thinking “if they can do it, I can do it!”. Fully aware, my confidence boost is coming from fictional characters in fictional scenarios.

So I thought I would share a few of those titles today. Just in case you need a little cheerleading too.

Books and Bravery A List from Rather Be Reading Blog

Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes | Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally | Only Everything by Kieran Scott

Disneylanders by Kate Abbott | Nantucket Red by Leila Howland | There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

↔

Truth be told, it was difficult to narrow down this list because there are so many books that have given me support at one time or another. But I think these are a fantastic start. (Plus I read all of them in 2014 so there’s that.) Here’s hoping you have a wonderful start to your September, knowing support comes from all places in your life. Even your bookshelf.

Shelve It: New Books / New Friends / Giveaway

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

I wonder if I’ll ever NOT be amazed by how fast time is flying. It’s practically been a month since I’ve done one of these, and when I was getting my books together — I was pleasantly surprised how few i’ve bought in the last few weeks. Go me? Don’t get me wrong; so many great books are coming out but i’m so behind on reading what I own i’ve been making a conscious effort to do that. So this is what’s been happening…

What I bought:

Rather Be Reading Shelve It

Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Fun goodies in the mail:

Rather Be Reading Blog Shelve iT

From Harlequin: The Oleander Sisters by Elaine Hussey
From Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
From Melissa @ Rolling with the Magic: Beer and Food by Mark Dredge

THANK YOU ALL!

↔

Speaking of BEER, this week debuted my contribution to PUB DATE — a new feature I’ll be working on with a few fantastic bloggers and beer lovers. My sister made the banner and i am feeling way proud of her! So if you are curious about beer or just want another way to find a book recommendation, be sure to stop in!

In other blog news, Magan and I are so excited to share in the launch of THE PAGE GIRLS — a new online magazine dedicated to books, friendship, and cocktails. Seriously, could this new venture be any more perfect for us? I think not. So to spread the love, the gals of The Page Girls have donated some lovely blog-themed coasters and an eBook of a winner’s choice. If you’re a fan of finding super fun mail in your box, I recommend you enter this giveaway!

Page Girl Coasters 2

Here’s a little bit more info:

About The Page Girls | The Page Girls (www.thepagegirls.com) is a new online mag with an emphasis on books, cocktails, and female friendships. Each week, they publish a themed issue containing short stories, book reviews, personal and funny essays, videos, cocktail recipes, and more. Some sample issues include The Craziest Thing I Did For Love and LYLAS (Love You Like a Sister).

Sign up for The Page Girls’ weekly newsletter to get notified about new issues, and be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Ebook giveaway (Winner chooses 1 title):

An Imaginary House by the Sea by Cecily Gates (Contemporary Romance)
HDU by India Lee (New Adult)
Normal is the Watchword by Jasmine Tru (YA Thriller)
Here for the Cake by Emily Poule (Rom-Com)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

↔

In case you missed it:

  • I want you to consider buying AFTER I DO (contemporary fiction) + BLAZED (dark contemporary YA).
  • Magan wants you to borrow EXILE (a YA book for music fans).

↔

How’s your summer been? Let us know + don’t forget to enter The Page Girls giveaway!

We hope you have a great week full of sunshine, books, and maybe a donut? Yum!

It’s Here: Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally

Christmas has come early at Rather Be Reading!

We are really excited to present you with the cover of Miranda Kenneally’s upcoming novel: Breathe, Annie, Breathe. We have been huge fans of Miranda’s work since the release of Catching Jordan: she writes about brave young women with different backgrounds, beliefs, goals, and dreams. We love that about her.

Okay, okay, we can’t hold it in any longer. Here’s the gorgeous new cover of Breathe, Annie, Breathe:

Breathe Annie Breathe by Miranda Kenneally: cover reveal at Rather Be Reading Blog

Breathe, Annie, Breathe is part of the Hundred Oaks series and will be releases on July 1, 2014. Here’s the official summary:

Eighteen-year-old Annie Winters can barely run a mile without wheezing. Still, she’s training to run the Music City Marathon in seven short months. Running is so not her thing, but she has to finish what her boyfriend started… before he died.

Annie feels guilt that she’s still alive and blames herself for his death; she has to do this to honor him – running a marathon was his dream. Plus training gives her something to do, it’s a distraction. So is Jeremiah Brown. 

He’s an adrenaline junkie who runs marathons backwards. He flirts with Annie on the trails and it makes her feel alive and happy and guilty all at the same time. She wants to both race into his arms and sprint in the opposite direction – because loving is a risk she’s not sure she’s ready to take again…

Are you as psyched as we are?!

Be sure to add Breathe, Annie, Breathe to your reading list and stay up to date with Miranda’s work on Twitter and her website!

Now we just have to sit around and wait until July….

(In the meantime, take a visit to Hundred Oaks and check out Miranda’s latest: Racing Savannah! It’s so so so good!)