Shelve It: Oh Hello + Books

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

Happy Sunday!

Books, books, books! Lots to read and share with you today. I swear, my apartment is going to cave in some day. If that happens, I’ll be sure to record it so I can share it on a future Shelve It. (Ha.) I hope your reading is going well, and in addition to the reading time, you are having fun doing some other stuff. It’s summer! This means a lot of park time, especially now that James is off from school for the semester! Yay!

Also exciting news — I mention this in the video but I visited a new bookstore in Brooklyn called BookCourt. It’s super cute + easy to get to from midtown if you want to check it out!

Okay, without further delay, here’s my vlog. It’s 15 minutes long but I am talking about 12 books. If you make it through the whole thing, I will send you 10 virtual hugs. 🙂

From Harlequin

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst (May 2014)
Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes + Loretta Nyhan (May 2014)

From Macmillan

Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton (September 2014)
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry (September 2014)

From Harlequin Teen

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto
Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid


Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Nantucket Red by Leila Howland
Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu
What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell


On the blog:

The Lonely Hearts Club by Brenda Janowitz (my first review in tweets)
Estelle writes about Cricket from Nantucket Blue + Nantucket Red
Magan reviews Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Befriended with Corey Ann Haydu + her BFF (plus friendship in YA)
Estelle reviews Broken Hearts, Fences… by Katie Finn

And for those you coming to NYC super soon, check out the roundup of this year’s BEA Part of It series!


Thanks for stopping in!! Happy reading! xo

Magan: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

since you've been gone positive review

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (twitter | website)
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 448
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: best friendships, losing a friend, list of challenges
Format Read: ARC received from the author.

Summary: After the sudden disappearance of Emily’s best friend, Sloane, she receives a random list of things to do written by Sloane. Emily takes this as a sign and accepts the challenge to complete all of the items, as frightening as they are. Skinny dipping? Penelope? Yikes.

There’s absolutely zero doubt that Morgan Matson is one of my favorite authors. Without a second thought, I pre-order her books and add them to my Goodreads to-read list (likely without even reading the summary). Morgan creates these worlds in which I not only know and love the main character, but I can envision their entire world — their homes, their neighborhoods, their day-to-day routines. And that’s exactly how deeply I wish to know all of the main characters in the books I read.

Since You’ve Been Gone was no different than her other stellar books, Second Chance Summer and Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, providing exactly the escape from reality I was so wanting. There’s a girl, Emily, who is aching after the abrupt departure of her best friend, Sloane. There’s no explanation, no clues, and zero warning. Sloane disappears in the blink of an eye and her house is left vacant; her family just picked up and moved on. While it takes Emily a little while to come to grips with what’s happened, it jolts her when she receives a list in the mail from Sloane, something she would randomly send Emily. Except this time, instead of discarding it, Emily accepts it as a challenge and hopes that it will provide answers that will lead her to wherever Sloane has gone.

I love that Since You’ve Been Gone is essentially a road map of sorts; it provides an emotional journey that Emily must work through, a ton of growth she must face, and a lot of ground to travel as she tries to figure out how to step outside her comfort zone to complete Sloane’s list. And unexpectedly, it involves one go-getter guy she befriends without intentionally trying to, Frank Porter. As we begin the journey with Emily, we see that she’s a closed-off, introverted girl who has little faith in herself and has greatly depended upon Sloane. She’s lived inside Sloane’s shadow, following along and not speaking up though she might have had a differing opinion at times. Emily is only known to others in association with Sloane.

When Sloane disappears, Emily loses her own identity. She’s begun to identify herself so closely with Sloane that she’s uncertain of who she is anymore. It’s a scary and frightening thought, but yet it’s so incredibly beautiful that we can bond with someone so deeply that they’re such an intricate part of who we are. Emily begins to tackle the list and somehow, Frank Porter continues to bounce into her life. Frank has a girlfriend who is away for the summer and it seems he’s trying to pass the time just as Emily is. Helping her work through the list provides a much needed distraction for him from the chaos of his own personal life. They begin running together. They bicker over the other’s musical choices and begin making one another playlists to listen to on their runs. We begin to see Emily’s world expand just a little bit as she releases some of the pain of losing Sloane and begins to bond with an entirely new group of people.

Since You’ve Been Gone has all of the elements we love and adore about Morgan’s books — an emotional journey, a road-trip of sorts (though this one is a little more metaphorical), a really sweet boy, a good dose of parental guidance (in the form of two playwrights on a mission to write their next big production), and a lovely town with wandering streets perfect for running, a quaint (and often quiet) ice cream shop, and a beach (that may or may not be the place where a few special events occur).

– – –

In the vein of Sloane’s list to Emily, I was inspired to write one for Estelle. Sloane’s list includes several things that take Emily out of her comfort zone. Things that make her a little uncomfortable, but are meant to challenge her in positive ways. Here’s my shot at doing the same for my BFF.

  1. High-five a stranger on the busy streets of New York City.
  2. Choose a random table in a restaurant and buy their lunch.
  3. Write a letter to a friend who has wronged you for closure.
  4. Apply to five new jobs, even if you’re not sure you’re qualified.
  5. Begin a solo flash-mob song and dance to your husband James in the middle of Times Square.
  6. Invite someone you just met to attend a Broadway show with you.
  7. Bake a pie for one of your neighbors.
  8. For your next vacation, close your eyes and blindly choose the location on a map.
  9. Go on a date and wear your fanciest outfit.
  10. Reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time.

– – –

Friends, I sincerely hope you read Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone soon. SOON. You won’t wont to miss out on seeing Emily blossom and Frank keeping her in check. (Or Frank’s sincere passion for the Beatles.)

Rather Be Reading Buy It IconAdd SYBG to Goodreads | Buy from Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble

Sweet Summertime Reads: Morgan Matson’s Summer Essentials

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

A note from Magan: I’m beyond honored (thrilled, excited, ecstatic) that Morgan Matson is guest posting for Rather Be Reading today. Morgan is one of our very favorite authors who never fails to wow us with her incredible writing. We deeply loved Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. There’s no doubt that Morgan’s books are a pre-order/auto-buy for us. We asked her to take over Rather Be Reading today to share one of her masterful playlists with us and to let us know what her summer essentials and must-reads are.

Photo Courtesy of Morgan’s Instagram Feed (@morganmat): Jessi Kirby, left, and Morgan Matson, right


Summer is my absolute favorite season. There’s a reason my first two books – and the one I’m revising now – are all set during the summer.  To me, summer is worth looking forward to all year.  The days are long, it’s fine to eat ice cream at almost any hour of the day, and flip-flops (or, frankly, bare feet) become totally acceptable footwear.

There are certain things that I NEED to have in my summer, and come August, if I haven’t fulfilled these criteria, I might go a little manic in tracking them down.  My summer essentials:

1. Beach.

Photo Courtesy of Morgan’s Instagram (@morganmat): Her writing view from Jessi Kirby’s house.

I think you need to go to the beach at least once in a summer.  Even if you’re lucky enough to live in a place that’s warm and you can go to the beach year-round, there’s just something about the beach in the summer.  Make a day of it – half the fun of the beach is packing up the beach bag and snacks.  My essentials? Magazine, paperback, sunglasses, sunblock (I’m practically a vampire, and need crazy-high SPF), iPod, backup paperback, candy (preferably individually wrapped so that sand doesn’t compromise the whole enterprise).  I like staying at the beach until it gets cold and you have to put on a sweatshirt.  And if you can stay until it gets dark, is there anything better than stars above the water? I think not.

2. Mountains.

As much as I love the beach (and I DO – just ask Jessi Kirby, since I’m always showing up uninvited at her beach house and inviting myself for dinner) I grew up spending summers at a lake house in the mountains of Pennsylvania (which I might have, um, used as inspiration for a book 🙂 ).  So to me, it’s not summer without lots of trees and cicadas at night and too many mosquito bites.  To balance out the beach, you need s’mores over a fire and the smell of woodsmoke at night.

3. A blockbuster, a bag of popcorn, a diet coke.

I look forward to summer movies all year.  Nothing against small, nuanced, deeply felt, Oscar-bait movies, but I can’t WAIT for summer blockbusters.  I’m so happy when I’m in an air-conditioned theater, with salty, buttery popcorn, watching superheroes banter and punch each other. Bliss.

4. A great soundtrack.

You need that perfect summer playlist, the one that, when you come across it in your iTunes library in November, will remind you of a sunburn on your shoulders and driving with the windows down, the wind whipping your hair around.  I tend to make new playlists every two weeks, but I find my songs of the summer show up over multiple playlists.  And this is not the time to be a music snob! Sometimes the best summer songs are the poppy ones that just will not leave your head. They also don’t have to be current – one my favorite things is to discover and older song and repurpose it as one of your summer songs. [Find Morgan’s Playlist at the end of this post!]

5. Books!

Photo Courtesy of Morgan’s Instagram Feed (@morganmat): Morgan and the Giant Bunny at the Newport Public Library.

Summer is when I dig into that to-read pile that’s been gathering dust.  I also think summer is the perfect time to try out a book that might not be something you’d normally read.  Some of these aren’t new, but some books I’ve LOVED so far this summer: Fire With Fire (ARC), Eleanor & Park, The Moon & More, Golden, Nantucket Blue, Rules of Summer, Dark Places, The Interestings, Siege and Storm, and Shadow and Bone.

6. An adventure.

This is crucial! This can be whatever – but you have to have one.  If it’s taking a road trip with your BFF or getting lost on the way to the party with your crush (this might possibly be getting lost on purpose.  No judgment).  But you have to have that one (or two or three – hey, it’s summer) so that when it’s December, and someone says something about the summer, you’ll smile and refuse to answer when people ask you what you’re thinking about.

Have a most excellent summer!!




Morgan’s Summer Playlist

Morgan graciously put together this amazing playlist for us.
If you’d like to listen to it in its entirety, join us by listening on Spotify.
Don’t have Spotify yet? No worries — find all the songs listed below.

1. Nightswimming/ REM
2. Fallen/ Imagine Dragons
3. Cruise/ Florida Georgia Line
4. Die Young/ Ke$ha
5. The Downeaster Alexa/ Billy Joel
6. Back and Forth/ Operator Please
7. Submarines/ The Lumineers
8. A Better Son/Daughter/ Rilo Kiley
9. Out on the Town/ fun.
10. Love Like Woe/ The Ready Set
11. Running Out of Moonlight/ Randy Houser
12. I Love It/ Icona Pop
13. Take Me Home Tonight/ Eddie Money
14. Entertainment/ Phoenix
15. Never Wanted Your Love/ She & Him
16. Get Lucky/ Daft Punk
17. Just Like Heaven/ The Cure
18. Forever/ Walter Meego
19. I Always Knew/ The Vaccines

[Because Spotify is silly and doesn’t have Fallen by Imagine Dragons, here it is on YouTube.]



Morgan, thank you so much for stopping by Rather Be Reading!
xo, M + E

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

Sweet Summertime Reads: Beach Bags Galore!

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature

Hello, hot hot summer! Yesterday Ginger at GReads! shared what’s in her beach bag. Today we’re doing the same. Quite frankly, we’re longing for days at the beach to escape work and day-to-day life busyness. Oh, to smell like sunscreen while spending a long day with sand collecting between your toes…


I’m a terrible packer. Terrible. I over pack and bring a million and a half things just because I *might* need them.  I’m pretty pleased with how practical my hypothetical beach bag appears to be packed. (And yes, you do see two beach bags. One for beach-y things, one for books.)

modcloth inspired summer beach bag

  1. Paradise Beach Bag — Gotta love a good summertime tote to pack along all the sunscreen and snacks. (I’m practically clear – I’m so pale. The sunscreen is an absolute given.)
  2. Crossing Sandals — Sand in the summer = HOT. Scorching hot. Cute sandals are a necessity when strolling along the beach.
  3. Pastel Sunglasses — Must protect the eyes from UVA/UVB rays.
  4. Color Block Beach Towel — I own a couple of this exact towel from Target. I love the gradient of colors.
  5. Striped Backpack — So here’s the bag I would stuff FULL OF BOOKS. Because somehow I convince myself I’ll have time to read 33 books in one day. (That’s possible, right?) 😉
  6. Books, Books, Books (duh!) — I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson are two books I have to read this summer. I just purchased Sophie’s book this past week (!!) and I’ve had Morgan’s glaring at me from my bookshelf. Cannot wait for some time to devour these.
  7. Chic Hat — I’m not usually much of a hat girl, but there’s something about going to the beach that makes me feel sassy when I wear an awesome hat. And it protects my head from getting sunburned. Nothing hurts worse than a sunburn on your scalp!


When my husband and I lived 15 minutes from the beach last year, we used to jump in the car after I commuted home in our work clothes and head over to eat dinner on the sand. It was always surprising how crowded the beach was at that time, but still, a nice way to end the day after a bustling twelve hours in the city. Now that we’ve moved, it’s not possible for us to do this anymore so my beach bag is dedicated to this fun tradition. (That we may be able to revive on weekends, I hope.)

Sweet Summertime Reads Estelle's Beach Bag Sunset Nights

1. kate spade picnic basket: Stylish and functional!
2. pose garden sandal: Cute sandals that are so work appropriate. (Wouldn’t they look great with a pencil skirt?)
3. fujifilm instax MINI: One of my favorite Christmas presents that I would love to bring to the beach and capture the sun going down, the surf, or even just some candids of the husband and I.
4. goldfish pizza flavored: A childhood tradition that I’ve kept going in my grown-up life. I always remember my mom and dad throwing Goldfish in our beach bags during the summer and I can’t eat the Pizza ones without thinking of those fun times. I’m always sure to throw some in our beach bag.

So what about the books? I think I’m still in wedding mode after this weekend because I was thinking of something “old” (totally classic, a major re-read) and something new to recommend as fantastic beach read options.

something “old”: From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas | A crazy, unexpected road trip between the most popular guy at school and a stick-in-the-mud super responsible gal to Mexico. I read this on my cruise last June and I have so many fond memories of reading it. Must take a second spin with it soon!

something new: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas | This mature young adult thriller comes out July 16 (but my review is up on Thursday) and was seriously so difficult to put down. (You might get a pretty spectacular tan if you bring this one to the beach because I guarantee you will not want to move.) It’s about a group of friends who spend their senior year of spring break in Aruba where one of their friends ends up murdered and another charged for the crime. So so so creepy good.


What is a must in your beach bag? Most importantly, what books are you bringing to the beach?!

Don’t forget to check out Fiction Folio on Thursday for Tara’s beach bag!

book related PMS survival kit

On a (Very) Personal Note: A PMS Survival Kit

Male readers, I apologize in advance for today’s topic being so … girly. (Actually, maybe take note and make one of these for your significant other. You could win major bonus points for thoughtfulness.) - PMS is such a drag...feeling like a Jekyll and Hyde type of day. Which face should I wear.......decisions decisions.....

Image from Some E Cards

I’m not sure if you ladies are like me, but when I’m all PMS-y and hormonal, there are a few things I find myself needing every. single. month. It’s like a pattern. I get ragey-pants, sad, and have to stay away from sad/depressed people who are woe-is-me all the time because I’m already flipping out because OH MY GOSH I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO DO and MY TO DO LIST IS OVERWHELMING and THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME and ALL I WANT TO DO IS CURL INTO A BALL AND ROCK BACK AND FORTH.

I make one monthly trip to Walgreen’s to grab a few of my PMS staples. A few weeks ago, I was doing just that very thing and realized that, no pun intended, of course, it’s this big cycle. After my trip, I drove home thinking, “Oh, if only I could get Dustyn to make me a survival kit because being a woman sucks.”

I went home and stacked all my purchases into a neat little pile and started gathering a few more things that should be there, and viola!, my completely inappropriate post was born. Here’s what would be in my monthly PMS survival kit:

book related PMS survival kit

So what you see above is:

+ Sprite. Because apparently caffeine will only make us feel worse.

+ Midol Complete. Um, this doesn’t really need an explanation other than HOLY MOTHER I HATE PAIN.

+ Nail polish. Let’s talk about femininity? I feel ugly and disgusting and gross. Painting my nails helps cheer me up and feel a little better. (Yes, yes, I admit — serious polish addict. I know.) This helps me feel a bit more girly and appreciate SOME aspect of womanhood. Pictured here are my Essie Top Coat and Essie Base Coat. And I obsess about this frequently on twitter, but I’m sharing my one of my favorite Julep nail polish colors, Eloise. (In case you’re interested in their Julep Maven program, here’s where you can find out more.)

+ Sour Punch Straws. These are my favorite, favorite treat. Some girls choose ice cream or chocolate, but GIVE ME THE SUGAR. (Yes, I’m aware that I snack like a 10 year old kid.)

+ A Big Ol’ Glass of H2O. Apparently water helps us feel better. As much as it can be (seeing as how 95% of my work is done on my computer) my right hand is glued to my glass of water.

+ Books. I also really want to read a specific type of book during this hellacious week. I want something like Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (Clem is a little bit emo, I’m a little bit emo. It works.) Or something by Sarah Dessen. (She’s always makes me fall in love with her characters. Shown in these photos is Lock and Key, but I haven’t read it yet. Next month. ;)) Or maybe a book that’s going to break me into a million pieces and let me get out ALL OF MY CRYING. You know, like Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer.

magan's pms survival kit with books

I looked down while I was taking these photographs and realized I also dress like a frump. My old lady moccasins are glued to my feet, I wear my favorite old t-shirts and the comfiest pajamas a girl can buy from Target. I snuggle up in blankets and don’t really leave the house (*except for my Walgreen’s trips, I swear).

Things I Thought About After Taking Photographs:

+ Music. This is usually when I’ll change the station in my car 100,000 times because nothing fits my mood and everything is just too sad. But! If I find someone I like, I listen to them over and over and over again. Usually this person is uplifting and happy to pull me out of my self-loathing funk.

+ Take Out Dinner. Because a) I don’t feel like cooking and b) I look like a frump and c) I’m doubled over in pain.

+ Flowers. Sometimes I buy myself cheap little $5 bouquets of flowers just to cheer myself up.

+ Movies. Anyone else think this is a good time to watch The Notebook over and over and over again?

*I just realized the people at Walgreen’s must laugh at me when I leave the store. I’m always all “hey, yeah, these sour punch straws aren’t for me….” in my head, but I’m sure my Midol purchase is a dead giveaway.

– – –

So, yup. I just like to be holed away and remind myself that the world isn’t ending (even if it feels like my uterus hates me). What would you add to my Survival Kit? Any book recommendations that seem like they’d fit the bill for me?

The Big Kids’ Table: Holiday Shopping Guide Edition

Friends, I can’t believe I am writing my 12th Big Kids’ Table post right now. When I started up this idea in January, I wanted to open up my reading world to new books, even though I had found a new and lovely home in the young adult genre. For me, it’s always best for me to switch up the books that I’m reading. That way my feelings for one don’t have much of a chance of meshing into the other. Here’s where some of my “big kid reads” have come in (and the occasional dystopian too).

For December, I decided not to focus on NEW adult fiction/non-fiction releases but maybe some of the books I think deserve another mention and might be suitable for your holiday shopping needs. I have read every single book on this list and I totally stand by them.

Enjoy! And definitely let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for me or our readers! See you in 2013!Rather Be Reading Blog Shopping Guide - The Grown Up Books

titles you shouldn’t be afraid to give mom

My mom has always been a fan of romance novels and I keep thinking of books I may want to gift her… but I’m a little uncomfy giving her ones with super sexytimes. Is that mean? I mean, my mom, for example, loves The Vampire Diaries. She also watches Parenthood where sexytimes do exist. But you know, for my heart and my sanity… here are two titles I would not think twice about giving her. (In fact, I bought her Baby Proof for Mother’s Day this year and hoped she wouldn’t think I was “telling her something.” [I wasn’t. Sometimes a book is just a book.] P.S. She loved it.)

A Fool’s Gold Christmas by Susan Mallery [ my review ] dancing, cats, two Scrooges.

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin [ goodreads ] marriage, children, happiness.

my fave grown up books of 2012

Gosh, this was a toughie. Elena from Novel Sounds surprised me with a fabulous copy of Attachments a few months ago, and I finally finished it this week. Wow. It’s the kind of book you want to buy for 10 of your friends. I love the writing style, the male POV, the inserted emails, the throwback to 1999. It’s perfect. It made me feel warm inside. (Also this book is perfect for your mom and your best friend.)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell [ goodreads | novel sounds review ] an office setting, love at first email, mystery!

Saving Ruth has a few heavy elements — eating disorders, sibling rivalry — but the author’s voice is really refreshing and the age group is great… a kid home on her first break from college. This was a pick on Big Kids’ Table in the beginning, and I’m so glad I got a copy at the the library. While I hate dislike the term “new adult”, this kind of falls into the category and could engage a wide range of age groups.

Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman [ my review ] a girl home from college dealing with some heavy issues, befriending a sweet kid, a dash of romance

to be gifted with a cold shower (or 2)

Let’s go back to my sexytimes comments before as in not safe for work or while operating heavy machinery or maybe even gifting to your mother. These two titles made my toes curl, but they had nice stories too. (I liked Victoria Dahl’s approach to the romance novel a bit more than Susan Mallery’s… but both will sure satisfy your desire for a solid romance novel.)

Summer Nights by Susan Mallery [ my review ] a cowboy and a librarian meet in a bar (really, sort of)

Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl [ goodreads ] a cowboy and a makeup artist meet in a beautiful place

…okay seriously, I may have a thing for cowboys.

haunting + captivating

Despite slow starts with each of these picks, I got to a point where I could not put either down. So different but so well written, and so addicting.

City of Women by David Gillham [ my review ] Set during World War 2, a woman separated from her lover may be hiding his wife and children. (Warning: sexual themes.)

The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker [ my review ] A man is determined to figure out what really happened to Marilyn Monroe… and someone really doesn’t want him to find out.

bonus: YA picks for the wary grownup

You know the type I’m talking about… the kind of person who loves to read but looks down at your love for young adult literature? Just because it’s written for younger people does not mean that it is not LITERATURE. Because it really is. This list was probably the most difficult for me to make, because when I finalized it, I kept coming up with more. What do you think?

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson [ magan’s review] beautiful writing, a story about family

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer [ my review] lush setting, solid writing, mothers/daughters, bonds

The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas [ magan’s review] grief, a story about family and moving forward

The Pursuit of Happiness by Tara Altebrando [ my review ] dealing with change in a family, well-developed characters

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloane [ my review ] the feel of a vintage YA, family, fate, etc.

For some more ideas, check out Jamie’s post on picks for a picky reader over at The Perpetual Page Turner!

And one more shout out to Anna Reads’ sister (even if she stole Anna’s Harry Potter books), who shared some grown up choices for the holidays as well.

Happy reading and shopping! (Two of my favorite things in the world!)