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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Add The Chapel Wars to Goodreads | Buy from Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble

book cover of fifteenth summer by michelle dalton

Magan: Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton

book cover of fifteenth summer by michelle daltonFifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton ( twitter )
Also known as Elizabeth Lenhard.
Publication date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 272
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: death in the family, first love, close family relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thank you!)

Summary: Chelsea’s fifteenth summer is going to be one full of adventures and growth — she’s learning how to move on after the passing of her grandmother, but she’s also becoming a responsible young adult by holding her first real job. Oh, and she’s also falling in love for the very first time.

Allow me to set the stage: Fifteen-year-old Chelsea’s grandmother has just passed away. Her family is road-tripping from California to Michigan to spend the summer in her grandmother’s house, as they normally do each year. Except this year, everything’s different. Chelsea can’t look around without being overwhelmed by memories; it doesn’t seem right to be at the lake when her grandmother isn’t around to enjoy it with them. How will Chelsea make it through the summer and what will they decide to do with her grandmother’s house?

To pass the time and allow themselves to put their grieving on pause, Chelsea’s family does a ton of family activities together when they first arrive at the lake. That’s all well and good, but when you have three boy crazy teenage girls, they’re going to want to explore on their own so they can find their summer flings. (Am I right?) As Chelsea’s two older sisters are chasing down the boys they’ve got their eyes on, she meanders into a new bookstore that’s opened since she was at the lake last year. (It’s called Dog Ear. How cute is that?!) Her e-reader very inconveniently broke so she’s in need of a few physical books. As she rounds the corner of the YA section, she sees a young (cute) boy ripping the covers off of books. Chelsea’s first interaction with Josh, the owner’s son, is awkward to say the least.

Much of Chelsea’s coming weeks are spent trying to figure out Josh. Does he like her? He seems to be interested, but after he does something somewhat forward, he backs away almost entirely. This being her first foray into a relationship, Chelsea is completely boggled. My gosh, how this brought me back to those days when I read too much into every interaction, when I replayed a kiss over and over and over again in my head, or when I would forget what I was doing because I was simply too wrapped up in being in love. This, friends, is where Dalton really shined; she captured the essence of first love so perfectly. It’s not easy to navigate the choppy waters of falling in love. Who knows what to do instinctually? (I certainly didn’t.)

Fifteenth Summer is such a lovely portrayal of what it’s like to grow up and lose someone important to you. It’s about the whirlwind of falling in love for the first time and all the sweet firsts that accompany it. There’s a great depiction of what it is to have strong family ties, but to learn to bend the rules a little bit as you become independent of your family and pave your own road.

In case you need further prodding, be sure to check out the excerpt from Fifteenth Summer that I shared for the Fourth of July.

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Goodreads | Amazon

book cover The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

Magan: The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

book cover The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley ElstonThe Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston
Publication Date
: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 320
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: witness protection program, secrecy, multiple identities, mystery thriller
Format read: ARC via NetGalley from Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Meg Jones’ family is in the Witness Protection program. Meg isn’t her real name; it’s the sixth identity she’s had to assume as they’re relocated to Louisiana. She’s not sure why they’re in the program, but she’s determined to find out. And this time she’s not making any connections that will hurt to leave behind when they’re relocated the next time.

You know those books that grab your attention when you read the summary because you think, “Wow! I’ve never read anything about that topic before” therefore, you must, must read the book because it’s new and exciting? That’s how I felt about The Rules for Disappearing. Meg Jones (nope, not her real name) and her family are in the Witness Protection program. In less than a year, she’s been moved six different times and assumed six different identities. Her newest relocation has landed them in a small town in Louisiana. She has to pretend she moved there from Arkansas (though she doesn’t know a thing about it) and she’s forced to chop off her long, blonde hair, give it a bad dye job, and wear brown contacts that hide her blue eyes.

Meg doesn’t have the slightest idea WHY her family is in the program; she only sees how it’s affecting everyone. Her mom, once a casual drinker, is now a full-fledged alcoholic. Her dad refuses to acknowledge her mom’s drunkenness while her little sister, Mary, is slowly withering away, only a ghost of her happy-go-lucky self remaining. Meanwhile Meg is creating boundaries for her new placement — no making friends, no joining clubs or extracurricular activities, no boyfriends — nothing that will cause her heartbreak when their inevitable next-move spontaneously occurs. (Witness Protection gives them zero warning; they just show up and remove them immediately.) Meg is also beginning to feel a little skittish — she can’t help but glance over her shoulder because she’s afraid someone’s following her. Is it her imagination or is her family in severe danger?

When I began The Rules for Disappearing, I possibly expected something that was a lighter take on being in the program — how Meg adapted to each move and what it was like moving constantly. I really enjoyed the depth Elston explored — the fear of being stripped away, the unknowns, the distrust, the loss of knowing who you are, and all the chaos and confusion. All of this added up to a really well-written read that sometimes had me sitting on pins and needles, anxious for the next break in the story. For a good while, Meg has absolutely no idea why her family is on the run. What are they hiding from? She guesses her father did something to monopolize their life, but she’s just not sure. With each and every bit of information she learns, the story gets just a little bit creepier.

There were times I definitely felt like I shouldn’t have been reading The Rules for Disappearing at night. I swear thriller music was playing in my head — the dunna dunna dunna tune was on loop while I crazily tried to solve the mystery of what they were running from and how to get her family out of the situation they were in. Some scenes were downright eerie, I tell ya — the kind where the hair on the back of your neck stands on end. Major kudos to Elston for never allowing me to anticipate when the next big reveal was coming. I loved that everything wasn’t easily solved when the story was at its climax either. (YIPPIE for not making the resolution easily fixable!)

Full disclosure? One thing I do find myself lingering on is the ending. I mostly like how things wrapped up, but there’s just something about the ending that has me questioning whether or not I missed a big clue in there. I almost have this need to reread the story so I can determine whether or not I’m okay with the conclusion. I’m not quite sure if it was done this way because Elston has plans to continue the story or if it she wanted us to close the book with goosebumps still on our arms, a little freaked out. (I do see on Goodreads there is a Rules for Disappearing #2 in the works, but I don’t know if that’s a continuation of the same story/idea.) Regardless, my end-of-the-story hesitation doesn’t take away from the thrill ride that was The Rules of Disappearing. I still definitely, definitely believe those of you who are interested in being slightly creeped out should consider picking this one up!

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Goodreads | Amazon

Estelle: Shelve It (5/13/2012)

weekly feature focusing on the books we bought, borrowed, and received from publishers

Ah! I’m so late! Hope you all had a great weekend! I have a special guest star in this video!

Netgalley

Friendship Bread by Darien Gee (5/1/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor (5/11/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Summer Nights by Susan Mallery (6/19/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Starring Me by Krista McGee (7/10/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle (8/14/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Intentions by Deborah Heiligmann (8/14/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon

Bought

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson — Goodreads | Amazon

Recents reads

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa C. Walker — Goodreads | Amazon
Dream Factory by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler — Goodreads | Amazon

On the blog this week:

Was I enchanted by Enchanted by Alethea Kontis?
Some adult fiction books that caught my eye!
I don’t think you can tell just how much Magan loved Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. 😉
A great meme by Broke & Bookish on favorite book quotes.
Ice cream, family, and some serious heartbreak were found in See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles.