How I Spent My Summer Vacation

summerreading

This has been a big year for me, an even bigger summer. My husband and I left our home of 10 years to move to a new state based on the fact that every time we visited here, we were happy. We left the day after I graduated college to a move-in ready house, unpacked and started a new chapter. This included finding a new church, new friends, and a new grocery store (it’s harder than you would think!), we’ve had to find our place in an entire new community.  It’s been a lot of changes. Lucky for me, one other thing that has changed is the amount of time I can spend reading. When I was in school it was hard to read for pleasure when I had so much work to do and then my spare time went to my husband and friends and family. Now though, I have so much free time each day (when I’m not working), and can read whatever I feel like and still have time for others. Did I mention, this town has three independent book stores and a Barnes and Noble. It is wonderful.
I’ve been spending my time trying to catch up on my reading list–trying to hit at least a book a week for the year. As of today, I am still 7 behind but, I am catching up quick!

The books I read over the summer were all very different, Sarah’s Quilt was the sequel to
These Is My Words, 
which I blogged about in the past (you can read it here: https://sweetteaandpaperbacks.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/these-is-my-words/). The sequel was not as great as the first one, but I loved the time period all the same.

Just Remember to Breathe, is a love story full of drama, centered around the lives of the Thompson sisters who range in age from 25 down to 4. Charles Sheehan-Miles self-published the series, and they are what I would deem “un-put-down-able.” There are two other books in the trilogy: A Song for Julia, and The Last Hour. Additionally, he has written another trilogy about the youngest sister, Andrea.

The Summer List, tells of a friendship gone bad. Two girls who grew up together as neighbors and friends are reunited after a decade of not speaking. This was a fun story and the twist was one I never figured out ahead of time.

Girl Wash Your Face, is written by Instgrammer @msrachelhollis and is an empowering book telling us to quit believing the lies that society, family, “friends,” and satan have made us believe. It’s about waking up each day, believing that you are good enough, smart enough, pretty enough… Just ENOUGH.

Becoming Myself, was read by my women’s group at church. I really enjoyed and hated this book all at the same time. It opened my eyes to several lies that I had been taught to believe, and it also made me reflect on my own decisions and how I could do better in the future. If you’re looking for a change, I recommend starting here.

My favorite book of the summer though, was the last one I read. The Nightingale, had me in tears on an airplane. In front of people. That story was so powerful that I haven’t been able to pick up another book with a WWII setting since (and that’s my favorite time period).

I realize that this blog post was a bit different than my usual. I keep debating on whether or not to keep blogging, or if I want to take a break. But, then I realized that this blog is whatever I make of it. I can write once a week, once a book, once a year… and then I’ll get to comb back through all these memories of stories and what was going on in my life when I read them, and that makes me happy.

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As Close To Us As Breathing

As Close To Us As Breathing

In the summer time there is not much I enjoy more than a good book detailing the coming-of-age of a well developed character and her family. Add to that, the story takes place in a family beach house and I am in heaven. Growing up, I never spent time in a family cabin on the lake or beach, but for whatever reason, I am drawn to books where the family has the means and ability to take off from their everyday life and have what is considered to be their “summer life.” I could name books that do this all day, some of my favorites include: The Summer I Turned Pretty series, by Jenny Han, The Summer We Read Gatsby, by Danielle Ganek, The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd, and The Whole Thing Together, by Ann Brashers, to name a few. Whether nostalgia for something dreamlike, or simply wanting a “summer read” on a summer day, these books stay with me and keep me coming back for more. Forever happy to find a new one, and forever sad when it comes to an end, these summer reads have helped mold me into the person I am today.

As Close To Us As Breathing, was written in a way that I had not come across before. Each chapter is told in part by twelve-year-old Molly and then “middle-age” Molly, as well as each character within the Lebritsky family. Three sisters who share their parents home on Long Island Sound in 1948, take us back to a time where our country was changing. Religion, while important to some, was forgotten by others who just wanted a chance at love. Childhood was idyllic, but adolescence was a mess of unmentionable emotions left to be wrestled with while pouring over thought-provoking books.
The Lebritsky family, while fortunate enough to have an accomplished family business, and no one lost in the two world wars, have many others problems beneath the surface. Within these pages, you’ll hear about love lost, sibling rivalry, and how people grapple with what they want versus what others think is right.

This story, while tragic at times, tells a story of how far families will go to help and hurt each other. Detailing personalities that show just how different a person can be from their family, As Close As We Are To Breathing, by Elizabeth Poliner, will take you back to a time and place you won’t want to leave.

My Top 10

I am proud to say, that I finished my 52nd book of the year before mid-night on New Year’s Eve. In years past, I averaged 70 books in a year, but with school taking a bigger role in my life (going from part time to full time student), reading for pleasure isn’t always something I get to do. Matter of fact, several of the books on my list this year were assigned by professors and some were given to me to copy edit by the publishing company that I work for. It should also be stated that only a few of these books were published in 2017, this isn’t a list of the “year’s best” it’s a list of the best that I read during 2017. Nevertheless, 52 novels were read by yours truly, and these are my top 10 of the year, in no particular order…

  1. I See London, I See France- Sarah Mlynowski.
    A fun quick read about two best friends traveling through Europe together. Additionally dealing with life choices, illness in the family, romance and sex. As someone who has been to Europe, I particularly appreciated the detail of the places visited, the story made me wish I were in Rome with my husband.
  2.  The Dressmaker’s Dowry- Meredith Jaeger.
    Chosen by my book club, this story takes you back to San Francisco in the late 1800’s. A young immigrant girl who is forced to become mother to her younger siblings works as a dressmaker making pennies which she relinquishes to her father only to watch him spend it on booze. She decides to take her siblings and run away one night, but the shelter they find may be worse than being home with their father.
  3. The Alice Network- Kate Quinn.
    Two stories intertwine taking place in 1947 and 1915, The Alice Network is made up of women spies. These are women who would generally be looked over by society and cast off, but prove to others and themselves that they are worthy. Meanwhile, current day 1947, a young girl has gone missing and no one in her family will talk about it. The two stories intertwine in an unconventional way and will leave readers guessing at what the outcome will show.
  4. Saint Anything- Sarah Dessen.
    If you keep up with my blog, you’ll know that I am a HUGE fan of Sarah Dessen. I have read every book she has released. I read two this year, and while it was a hard choice, Saint Anything was my favorite. What Dessen is able to do is create characters that you haven’t read before, she is able to portray nuances and quirks that I haven’t found in other books. Saint Anything deals with families who have favorite children, and what happens when the favorite does something horrible.
  5. The Woman in Cabin 10- Ruth Ware.
    One of the first thrillers I’ve ever read, not generally my cup of tea (as I like to sleep peacefully at night). However, I could not put this book down. I think I finished it in 24 hours. Starting with one crime and barreling into another, this story takes place on a luxury cruise ship where a woman goes missing. But, when reported, the ship staff members claim there was never a woman there at all.
  6. The Same Sky- Amanda Eyre Ward.
    This story killed me. Everything within it’s pages is plausible and it parallels so much of what our world today is going though. Two separate stories come together- one in Austin, Texas and one in Honduras. In Texas, a couple want desperately to have a family but are unable to, while in Honduras Carla has to take care of her younger brother once her grandma dies. Dealing with death, drugs, and escape both families are pushed to the brink.
  7. Last Things- Marissa Moss.
    A graphic novel tackling the subject of ALS. The true story of a family with three young children who deal with their father/husband being diagnosed with this disease. The pictures bring the story to life in a way that makes it shockingly real. A fast read that will stay with you long after you are finished, this book helps bring a new light to families who are in awful circumstances.
  8. This is Really Happening- Erin Chack.
    This book came to me at the right time. Filled with personal essays about friendship, life with cancer, and life after cancer, this book was the salve my soul had been searching for. Erin Chack is a writer for Buzzfeed, and she is brutally honest about herself in these essays- the book will make you laugh as well as cry, and is un-put-down-able.
  9. The Last Thing You Said- Sara Biren.
    A story chronicling first loves and first tragedies. Lucy and Ben have always shared a fondness for each other, and once they are finally willing to admit their feelings, tragedy strikes. The safe and happy world they were once in, now seems daunting and unsettling.
  10. Little Fires Everywhere- Celeste Ng.
    This book was thought provoking with thoroughly thought out characters and back stories. In a small town there was a perfectly thought out community where people were well-mannered and high social achievers. But a new family moves to town who do not share the same values. When the two families start to clash, lives are altered and just when you think you know, you find you have no idea.

A Piece of the World

A Piece of the World

I cannot get enough of Christina Baker Kline’s writing! This is my third read of hers, and I have another waiting on my shelf. What is so great is her attention to detail of the time periods she writes about. And unlike so many writers, her attention to detail isn’t dragged out. So for those of you who, like me, appreciate a story that tells not only about events of the time but additionally the details of daily life and tools used that are different from what we are used to, Christina Baker Kline is someone whose books you’ll want to check out.

A Piece of the World

How are you perceived through another’s eyes? A perfect question to ask the artist painting the picture. Christina is just a young girl when an illness leads her to having mangled limbs that make everyday life difficult for her, getting worse as she ages. A stubborn girl, Christina refuses to let this stop her from living the life she wants to lead.  Living with her family, and hearing stories of her ancestors from her grandmother, Christina has an idyllic childhood. However, there always comes a time in one’s life to put away childish things and become an adult.

Adulthood proves to be the hardest task for Christina, as her legs, and her lack of a love life bring a bitterness inside she hadn’t expected. Forced to see herself through the eye’s of so many others, Christina is forced to ask herself, is this really me? When she becomes friends with the artist Andrew Wyeth their quiet friendship helps her open her eyes to what is around her and the person she wants to be. Through this friendship, Christina is able to thaw the ice around her heart and make her most brave decision yet.

The Two-Family House

Thetwofamilyhouse

It has been way too long since I last blogged. Just goes to show that once you’re out of a habit, it’s hard to pick it back up. I’ve been reading, just mainly for school, with graduation just around the corner I have been focused solely on keeping my grades up.
Anyways though…..

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman was the right book at the right time for me. I had just finished two papers and was preparing for midterms and I wanted something to capture my attention and take my mind off stressful things and this book was the ticket. Two sisters-in-law, Rose and Helen didn’t have a choice on whether they wanted to share a house with one another and their families. Their two husbands had bought the duplex years before marriage because it was a good investment. Fast forward and Helen and Abe have four rowdy boys while Rose and Mort have three quiet girls. Rose and Helen have become friends and raise their children like siblings rather than cousins.
But one fateful day comes and both Rose and Helen find themselves pregnant. Things are going well with both pregnancies up until the day of the delivery….both women go into labor on the same night while the husbands are away on a business trip and a snow storm is coming down outside.
What happens next will leave readers guessing and second guessing and page turning to find out just what happened that night while the husbands were away.
Told over the span of twenty years, The Two-Family House explores family relationships and male/female dynamics. Why is one person better at math and another better at grammar? This story is an ask-all questions, hold nothing back, force of honesty, betrayal and what it takes to forgive.

Once and For All

Onceandforall

I have been waiting a while to post about this book, this summer has been crazy with reading and school work so I am just getting around to this one. And I loved it. But before I get started, I am going to clear up a few questions I have been getting- I get questions sometimes about the books I post- first off I don’t do this for money- this is just a hobby of mine that I may or may not try and do as an actual job in the future. So really it’s just books that I read for pleasure (sometimes a school book gets on here-hey I am taking “Baseball in America” and so I am sure I will have one of those books blogged about before summer’s end 🙂 Additionally, it was suggested by a friend of mine to only blog about books I liked- and that makes sense. Who wants to wake up to a bad review of their book, even if it is on some random girls blog?? So yea, I only blog on books I enjoy. My goal in the beginning was to post once a week, but then I started school in a town an hour away and with the commute plus daily life that became once a month… now it’s just whenever I find the time, which is why sometimes I blog several times in a week and why sometimes y’all don’t hear from me for a month. It is what it is. Ok, now let’s get back to the book!

Once and For All is the latest book from author Sarah Dessen who is a Chapel Hill native (and an awesome person! I got to meet her! More on that in a minute). I have read every book Dessen has written and she does not disappoint! Her characters are always complex, and far from typical. Additionally, Dessen likes her characters to have cameos in future books- I LOVE THAT. Many of her stories take place in the same town and certain places are mentioned in several of them- Bendo is a band promoting club and Perkins Day and Jackson High are schools mentioned in nearly every text. It’s as if you get to meet each person in the town, rather than just one character.

In the book Once and For All readers meet the character of Louna who works for her mother, part owner and founder, of Natalie Barrett Weddings. Louna has seen all types of brides, flowers, venues… you name it. Not sure how she feels about love until she finds it, Louna goes about her daily life finishing high school and working on weekends.

At a wedding taking place at a beach resort she meets Ethan who quickly makes her feel special and loved. But not long after their meeting tragedy strikes and Louna is alone. Continuing on one day at a time, Louna is back working for her mom and trying to pick up the pieces, in doing so she meets charming, albeit messy, Ambrose. Is he the one who can help Louna move on? Read to find out!

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Lucky me had the chance to meet Sarah Dessen a few months ago! She came to a local bookstore to talk about Once and For All and additionally she signed books and chatted with everyone- and I’m on the west coast and even though she must have been super jet lagged from her book tour, she was so kind to everyone! She made sure to not only sign books, but personalized them and talked with each person- that was so cool, it made me like her even more.
I will also admit that I got a little star struck talking to her- this is the author who I started reading in middle school and though her books are considered “YA,” I’ve never stopped. She is super talented. My favorite books of hers are “This Lullaby” and “Saint Anything.” Anyway, as I am talking to her, I get up the nerve to tell her about “Sweet Tea and Paperbacks” and gave her a card for the blog. When she saw the name of my blog she knew I was a southerner and started talking sweet tea and bojangles with me! ah, it was so cool! Here is a photo of nervous me- you can always tell I’m nervous if I start using my hands like crazy when I am talking… case in point-

givingsarahmycard

meandSarahDessen

The icing on the cake was when a few weeks later, I’m on Facebook and see that on her page she posted a picture of all the cards and letters she received on tour. And my “Sweet Tea & Paperbacks” card was in the pile! It made my day!! Here is the pic- I did one in color and the next one only my card is colored (not because the other cards aren’t important, but just to show which one is mine)-

sarahdessencard

colorpop

The fact that she kept all these cards from fans is awesome- I think it shows her kindness and the love she has for them all. So thanks Sarah for an awesome meet and greet, and for a lovely new book! Can’t wait to see what you write next!

Miller’s Valley

Miller'sValley

This summer has been a pull between reading what I want, and reading what my professors require. That being said, I was halfway through with The Alice Network, when my husband and I went to visit family and I had to write a paper during the trip, so I did the unthinkable and left my book at home so I wouldn’t be tempted to forgo school work in order to read my book. That was my mistake. Because I finished that paper before the 5 hour plane ride home and so I did what I absolutely hate to do; I bought a book and read it while in the middle of another. I seriously cannot stand to do that. I am a “one book at a time” type of girl. Now I may buy other books and read them after completion of my book (why I literally have over 60 books on my shelf waiting to be read, but hey, who’s counting?), but this was different.

Miller’s Valley was an interesting read- covering the late adolescence of Mimi Miller, we learn about the town of Miller’s Valley and the close-knit community of people residing in the area. Focusing primarily on the life of Mimi and the people who come in and out of it, Miller’s Valley is a coming of age story that touches deeply on first loves and chasing your dreams. Readers will find themselves soaking in the nostalgia of their childhood homes and friends who are no longer there. The reality that discovering your dreams may take you away from the ones who care the most and coming to terms with this, hits hard in Mimi’s life; this is a story of leaving in order to better oneself, and possibly those around you. A story where someone you thought was your friend, changes their beliefs at the drop of a hat and leaves you to pick up the pieces.

Additionally there is an underlying issue of government wanting to take the town of Miller’s Valley for their own economic gains, and the fight the town puts up in order to keep their homes. A small town with a big heart, living on dreams of the past is something worth discovering in this book of growth and nostalgia.