Recent Reads / 05

Hello hello!

Happy Monday, dear friends. What’s new? How was your weekend? On my end, these summer days have been long and lovely; it’s certainly a change of pace from the school year, but I have little complaints about a schedule that includes day trips by the water, lazy movie nights, and homemade ice cream.

To my delight, I’ve also done a lot of reading this summer, in large thanks to a commute during which I can tackle my pile of library books and weekly meetings that have me reading and assessing new plays at work. Two months into my break (and numerous titles now read and adored), I thought I’d highlight some of the books I’ve enjoyed most. I leave you, then, with my highest recommendations, a few brief thoughts, and an important question: what have you read recently and recommend? :-)

Recent Reads 5[1] If French Milk is graphic novelist Lucy Knisley’s story of growing up, Kid Gloves is her delightful ode to parenthood. Chronicling the before, during, and after her first pregnancy, Knisley writes and draws with compelling honesty and humor, even when her journey presents its fair share of struggles. I’m years away from thinking about pregnancy, and yet the larger theme about how we discuss women’s health strikes a chord – and is presented with a welcome care. As a longtime Knisley fan, perhaps what is most exciting about Kid Gloves is the opportunity it presents to trace her growth as an artist and author parallel to her journey of becoming a mother. Needless to say, I have a feeling I’ll be suggesting this one for many months to come.

[2] I highlighted Dig back in January as one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and if my inability to put it down until I reached the end is any indication, it certainly delivers. True to King’s style, it’d told in a surrealist tone as readers are introduced to a “maze of tangled secrets” that connects potato farmers Gottfried and Marla to their children and grandchildren. Though it moves quickly, it remains a quiet read, one whose narrative is housed primarily in the inner (and intersecting!) thoughts of its large cast of characters. Dig’s impact, however, is profound, provoking readers to consider not only the voice of youth in the face of authority but also the hateful legacies of racism and abuse that extend generations. A worthy consideration for your TBR list, without a doubt. 

[3] After listening to author and artist Jenny Odell speak on a recent episode of Hurry Slowly, I was quick to request her book at the library. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy arrived quickly, and I devoured it at a similar pace, captivated by Odell’s inviting writing as well as her extensive research that spans artistic and scientific disciplines. She is frank from the start that she has no intention of writing a self-help book, and the final product sours far above it. It is both a call to action and an insightful meditation, prompting us to consider the act of “nothing” as an act of resistance. At risk of sounding like a broken record, let me just say that this has already landed a spot on my year-end list – and it’s likely I’ll soon be buying a copy for myself to reference and savor.

 [4] Finally, leave it to a YA veteran like Sarah Dessen to craft one of the strongest and sweetest contemporary novels I’ve read this year. Her latest, The Rest of the Story, finds the protagonist, Emma Saylor, reconciling the family she’s grown up with and the family she’s only now met when she moves in with her mother’s family for the summer. At her fourteenth book, Dessen has clearly perfected the beach town setting (North Lake pleased my Cape-Cod-loving heart), as well as her ability to develop an endearing ensemble of characters. I’ve taken to calling it “summertime bliss,” for Saylor’s coming-of-age is perfectly matched with a breezy romance, lakeside traditions, and imperfect but loyal family relations. A YA beach read doesn’t get much better than that.

Wishing you a wonderful week of warmth and rest.
B

Psst. I track all of my reading on Goodreads, so if you want more frequent updates on my five-star selections, please do come say hi here!

Top Ten Books in My Beach Bag

Hello!

Top Ten TuesdayWith June just around the corner, summer – summer vacation, to be specific – is on my mind, so this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt couldn’t be better timed. As in years past, I’ve rounded up ten books that are perfect for summer reading or, as the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish put it, the novels I plan to have in my beach bag this summer. I’m not a frequent beach-goer, but I do love a good “beach read,” a novel that is light, romantic, and relatively short. These ten books seem to match the qualifications, and I can’t wait to grab copies of them all throughout June, July, and August. For added fun {I’m not one to turn down online shopping}, I’ve matched the cover of each novel with a beach bag – you’ll need a chic tote to carry your books around during the summer! :)

A few notes, before we begin. I try not to repeat books in these TBR round-ups, so several novels {Jenny Han’s P.S. I Still Love You, anyone?} are not on this particular list. And, as always, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at The Broke and the Bookish. Stop by, take a peek, and link up yourself HERE!

Saint AnythingSarah Dessen, as any regular YA reader can tell you, is a queen of the market, writing bestseller after bestseller. Her previous books have offered fresh characters, summer settings, and swoon-worthy relationships, and I expect nothing less with her latest novel, Saint Anything. Die-hard Dessen fans seem pleased, as I hope I will be as well! {bag}

Happy AgainThe number of contemporary novels I’ve read is forever growing, but I still keep my all-time favorites close to my heart. I’ve praised Jennifer E. Smith’s book This is What Happy Looks Like countless times, and I couldn’t be more excited to “catch up “ with Ellie and Graham in the short story, Happy Again. I will need to pack my Kindle when I head on vacation! {bag}

The Fill-in BoyfriendI devoured Pivot Point and Split Second in mere days, and I now happily declare myself a Kasie West fan. Although I know her only by her fantasy/science-fiction work, West has written plenty of cute contemporaries for me to finally read this summer. First on my list? Her newest release, The Fill-In Boyfriend, where a girl asks someone to fill in as her prom date. I suspect hilarity ensues. {bag}

Amy and Roger's Epic DetourI have been slacking on my Re-Read Challenge progress; I have only one of twelve books down! My hope is to return to a few novels this summer, such as Morgan Matson’s Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. I have recommended this book time after time, but it has been years since I have revisited Matson’s debut myself. That’s a problem I am determined to fix. {bag}

My Life Next DoorIf there’s one novel I’m sad to have not read yet, it’s My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. Frequently appearing on Top Ten posts, this contemporary romance has been on my TBR list since its 2012 release. If all goes well {as I’m sure it will}, I will be checking out the sequel, The Boy Most Likely To, in August. {bag}

Three Day SummerMusic festivals scream summer to me, as does the bright and colorful cover of Three Day Summer! Set at Woodstock in the summer of 1969, Sarvenaz Tash’s book is a winning combination of romance and music. Although the novel has flown under the radar since its release last week, I have my fingers crossed I can snag a copy at my local library. {bag}

Sophomore Year is Greek to MeWhen I picked up Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin, I was excited for a light-hearted read set in Greece – little did I know that it was a companion novel to her book, Freshman Year & Other Natural Disasters! Fortunately, reviewers have promised that these two books can stand alone; I think, however, it gives me perfect reason to try out both novels. {bag}

The Summer of Chasing MermaidsSarah Ockler is a well-known name in the young adult industry, but I haven’t yet found the chance to read one of her novels! Here’s hoping her latest release, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, is the first of many of my Ockler reads. It’s already winning in my book for the diverse characters and creative retelling of The Little Mermaid. {bag}

Hello, I Love YouTraveling is an essential part of summer, but when day trips and small vacations don’t suffice, books are a wonderful second resource. Katie M. Stout’s debut, Hello, I Love You, is set in Korea and follows a romance between American boarding school student Grace and KPOP superstar, Jason. Early reviews have not put it in the best light, but I like to read with an open mind! :) {bag}

Proof of ForeverFinally, a story with time travel, summers at camp, and former best friends? I’m most definitely in. Told from four different perspectives, Proof of Forever looks like and adorable and quick read by a YA-newbie, Lexa Hillyer. Beach reading at its best, I think. {bag}

Have a wonderful Tuesday!
Bella

The Moon and More: A Book Review

Hi!

The Moon and More

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Summary: Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough. Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby. Emaline’s mostly absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby? Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

{kindly taken from Goodreads}

My Thoughts: Sarah Dessen is the queen of beach reads. Her books are always predictable, yet still well-written. The main character usually has family and friend problems, so it feels like she could be you own classmate. AND, Dessen knows how to keep a reader engaged. Clearly, it’s easy to see why she makes bestselling lists again and again, and I’m positive that The Moon and More has and will continue to succeed. Although it was nothing outstanding to me, it was still a solid read, and I was happy to get my Dessen fix of the summer! :)

The Moon and More starts by introducing you to Emaline, a soon-to-be college student, who is enjoying her last summer in Colby. One of my favorite things of this book was the characters and their development. I loved seeing how all of the characters worked and reacted with each other, and it was fun to compare the small town Colby citizens to the city tourists. The author did a terrific job not only letting Emaline stand out as the MC, but also giving the supporting characters their own distinct qualities. I could easily describe to you Emaline family, from her overly organized and highly efficient sister, Margo, to her distant and cold father. The dynamics in her family and friends were well-crafted. I found Emaline and her friends to be incredibly realistic and very easy to relate to, so that’s a big plus, in my book. However well-developed the characters were, I can’t say I liked them all. Toby got on my nerves quite often!

The plot, on the other hand, felt a bit forced, and less like the natural feel I had come to expect. I can’t exactly pinpoint what it was in the story, but I can definitely say that it had a much different feel than the synopsis lead on. I also felt that the romance between Emaline and Toby was too much. I couldn’t really see it all happening, but maybe that’s just me?! Who knows. There were some good moments in the story though. I especially liked seeing the scenes when Emaline hung out with her half-brother Benji, and when she was with her best friends, Daisy and Morris.

Overall, The Moon and More, wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything amazing. Like I said before, the perfect beach read!

Pros: Strong main and supporting characters.

Cons: The plot just didn’t feel natural.

Heads Up: Minor language and some romance.

Overall: I give it 3 1/2 stars {*** 1/2} and I recommend it for ages 14 and up.

Have a lovely rest of your day!
Bella :)