Hot cocoa + s’more books in February

February, I barely knew ya. Another birthday gone (it was a nice one!), so many great movies (Hidden Figures and Moonlight!), lots of hot chocolate, and a few warm days where I shed the big jacket and the hat and was reminded just how much I love spring. I’M READY! (But also kind of not because I like how winter is all about snuggling and reading books on the couch, or in bed… I suppose that won’t change too much with a change in season but still! A blanket and a book make for a lovely pair.)

Speaking of books, here are three books I read this month that I hope you’ll add to your shopping or library list:

If I Fix You by Abigail Johnson / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / This book unexpectedly popped up in an issue of Clover Letter that was left unread in my email box for an embarrassingly long time. For the record, I will champion Clover Letter — a newsletter full of news and strong females — until a pig flies over the moon but I usually collect a bunch and read them in bulk. Jill, the main character of this book, is a mechanic in her dad’s shop and finds herself in the middle of a rock and a hard place. Her relationship with her old friend/former crush is tense because of an unfortunate incident but she can’t seem to stop feeling something for him as much as she tries. But her friendship with the mysterious guy next door, a guy who is in a pickle himself, finds herself trusting a guy with secrets she hasn’t told anyone. So we kind of have ourselves stuck in a triangle, and I didn’t mind it. Jill’s chemistry with both of them is pretty great, and you don’t lose this character’s challenges in dealing with an absent mom and a dad who is unwilling to deal with the reality of their family. Promising debut by a new writer. Con: only white characters. | Young adult book from Harlequin Teen; October 25th, 2016.

100 Days of Cake by Shari Goldhagan / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / I was a big fan of Shari Goldhagan’s IN SOME OTHER WORLD, MAYBE and I totally forgot that she came out with a YA book until Miss Print reminded me. Molly has a part-time job at pet shop, a possible thing with the guy who works with her, and a mom who plans to bake a different cake for 100 days in a row to encourage time together and possibly cure Molly’s sads. Only Molly’s sads is actually depression. I’m a natural fixer and while the gimmick of 100 cakes (each chapter is named after one) wasn’t executed especially well, I did think this was an important and well-done look into depression. I have a few friends who very much want to progress forward but are stunted because of their depression, and I thought Goldhagan did a great job of explaining that type of feeling in the book — especially as we see what Molly has given up in extracurriculars and in her relationships because of everything she’s going through. I loved that she cared about her PT job so much; it reminded me of how much I enjoyed my after-school jobs in high school. 100 Days of Cake is definitely full of surprises and despite a few shortcomings, I really really liked the main character and read this whole book pretty quickly. | Young adult book from Atheneum Books for Young Readers; May 17, 2016.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne / Goodreads | B&N | Amazon / Why even go into detail?! Magan and I read this book at the same time and were so inspired, we recorded our conversation about it. (There are minimal spoilers, and I suggest you listen to the recording and not watch it because I touch my bangs a lot and it’s annoying. I’m working on that!) Lucy and Joshua are executive assistants to the CEOs at their merged publishing company, and from Lucy’s very first day, she’s felt at odds with Josh. They play little games with each other; they are most definitely not friends. Told from Lucy’s POV, readers finds she’s a bit of a workaholic with an undecorated apartment and dreams of doing MORE in her company. Her world is turned completely on its head when she orchestrates a date for herself with another guy at her company and then finds herself in the company of Josh. IT GETS SO GOOD. THAT IS ALL I WILL SAY. Just read it. This book is so much fun, an attention grabber, with two great backstories. I wish all romances functioned this way. | Contemporary fiction from William Morrow; August 9, 2016.

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Here’s to a new month of new books, warmer weather, and better time management? (A story for another day.)

Magan and I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment here or say hi on Twitter @readinggals or Instagram @readinggals too!

In Some Other World, Maybe by S. Goldhagen | E Reviews

In Some Other World Maybe by Shari GoldhaganIn Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 288
Target Audience: Adult
Keywords: Pop culture, missed connections, growing up, 90s
Format read: Copy from Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: It all starts with a movie based on a popular comic. That’s the only thing tying these characters from different places together in December 1992 but as these individuals go off to college and to pursue their “dreams” their lives connect and reconnect in unexpected, heartbreaking, and happy ways.

What if? What IF? I’ve been muttering these two words to myself like a semi-crazy person since I finished In Some Other World, Maybe last night. How many times do we say this phrase during our lives? Wish we said or did something we didn’t, knowing it could have made the difference or maybe not knowing and noticing years later that it could have. It’s frustrating and it hurts but if we didn’t make choices (whether it means letting it all out or keeping something to ourselves), we’d never move anywhere. We’d always be bolted in place.

There are a lot of characters in ISOWM. They all share a common thread: they have an affection for a sci-fi comic turned movie and throughout their lives, it still seems to pop up. (It’s kind of amazing but in this world of recycling material for nostalgia sake — so familiar.) Eons & Empires is that one thing that takes these characters back to a time when their life was on the brink, everything was just beginning. Adam leaving his single mother in Florida to go to NYU; Phoebe leaving her lovable boyfriend to try her luck in Hollywood; Sharon living in New York and still  haunted by her own “what if” when she skipped high school to see E&E.

In a world similar to Love Actually, the lives of these characters begin to intertwine — in Los Angeles, in New York, on a plane ride to Chicago — in really surprising ways. All I could think was: this was hard work on the author’s part. How did she make this work, and so believably? But she did. We see these people affecting each other momentously — relationships, sex, friendships — and then in smaller ones too. Bringing to life the bigger picture: we have no idea what small tiny thing is going to motivate and affect us.

It’s both amazing and scary to think about, isn’t it?

Truthfully, I haven’t felt this engrossed in a novel’s world in a long time. If I could have put my entire world on pause to read it, I would have. (Nonetheless, I finished in a little over a day.) It’s both lovely and heartbreaking how the lives of these characters click together and crack; the missed connections weighed on me so much. As an overthinker, I can’t help but retrace conversations and moments in an effort to find the sense in them, find out where the situation may have gone south. The intensity of that emotional rollercoaster was utterly palpable here; you would have thought I was living it myself.

This is one of those rare books I want to dive right back into, and stock up on copies to hand out to friends and family as gifts. The concept of connection and disconnect is so relatable — from the barista you see everyday to the person you’ve known your whole life and not to mention bonds constantly formed and fractured through social media platforms. We’re always one step, one decision away from our choose-your-own-adventure life. Do you go left or do you go right? In Some Other World, Maybe explores these complexities in the best, most thoughtful way.

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