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 šŸ™‚ 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 bookĀ Once and For AllĀ 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.Ā 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 aboutĀ 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-

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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

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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!

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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 withĀ The Alice Network,Ā 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 themĀ afterĀ 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.Ā 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.

The Alice Network

The Alice Network

A few weeks ago while on vacation with my husband, we visited this super fun cafe in Bend, Oregon. A cafe with yummy treats, coffee and all the books you could read. Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe (http://www.dudleysbookshopcafe.com/) has become one of my favorite bookstores.

Dudley's

(Here I am picking up a “new to me” hardback copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and enjoying the most fabulous staircase I’ve ever seen!) We spent quite a few hours here…. and walked out with several new books. Bliss.

One of those books was The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn is the tale of two ordinary women, who in their own time, become extraordinary women.

The year is 1915 and Eve is a secretary at a law firm trying to remain unnoticed. She speaks three languages and is excellent at reading people, but most disregard her as dumb due to a stutter she has never overcame. In a country at war, Eve like many other women, is doing a job that would likely have gone to a man if one had been there to fill it. But in this job she meets Captain Cameron of the British Army and he has an intriguing proposition for her.  One that will take her from her home and throw her right in the middle of the war, and Eve is more than eager to join up.
Fast-Forward to 1947 and you meet Charlotte St. Clair, or “Charlie” as she’s known by friends and family. Charlie has lost important people in her life to the second world war and tries out a few vices to forget. Vices that don’t just walk away when she’s in polite company. Charlie is now paying the consequences of her actions and being taken to Switzerland until her problem is taken care of.
However, on the journey to Switzerland, Charlie decides to ditch her parents plan for her and make her own way in life. And this includes finding out what happened to her French cousin Rose.

In a story full of ghosts Eve and Charlie, who have become the most unlikely of friends, bind together to help one another face their pasts and additionally their futures. Weaving two lifetimes with one common denominator, this book was “un-put-down-able.”

The Handmaid’s Tale

Thehandmaidstale

I was very apprehensive to read this book. People rave about it, and the injustices about women. They talk of feminism, a lot. But that’s not what I got from this book. The Handmaid’s Tale didn’t anger me like I thought it would, it reminded me of when I read The Bell Jar and I just didn’t quite get what shook people so much. It’s a weird sensation having feelings toward a book that are not common ones. And while I am against what it had to say about Christianity and the way it would twist scripture around to fit the agenda, I preferred to read it as dystopian and leave it at that.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, takes place in a futuristic time in the country of Gilead (which seems to be the “new” America). Babies are scarce and as a result, husbands and wives who have not reproduced bring a “handmaid” into their home for the husband to try and impregnate in order to grow their family and the human population.

Let’s go a little deeper and add some details, like that the wife lays with the handmaid when she’s intimate with the husband, and again when the handmaid is birthing the baby, or that the handmaids don’t have any rights to their baby aside from breastfeeding and once that’s over they are moved to a different home to try and have a baby for another family.

Aside from the sexual part of the story, there are mass hangings of people who break the law, Ā handmaids have to wear hats that have bowed out wings so they are nearly forced to look ahead and not in other directions, an analogy for their life. Don’t look back. Only look forward. Because, after all, becoming a handmaid was their “choice.” And how can I forget, they do not allow women to learn to read. Brutal.

Another hot topic for The Handmaid’s Tale is that of religion. Christianity is the only faith mentioned in this text, (but it’s not the only faith that’s been distorted) because this book is a blatant attack on the faith using the Old Testament. Personally I feel that additionally the Mormon faith was attacked for their past with polygamy and Islam with respect to Sharia law.

How I actually feel about the book as a whole? If you can separate from your faith while you read, go ahead. If not then I would pass on this one, there are other dystopian books that do not attack the faith that fill the same shoes.

This is Really Happening

Thisisreallyhappening

A few times in my life a book has come along that was a game changer. Back when I first went back to school and didn’t know anything about publishing or the industry, I came across The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry, by Gabrielle ZevinĀ and became introduced to a plethora of careers I’d never heard of, but sounded amazing. Or when I first readĀ The Help,Ā by Kathryn Stockett- I read that one in a weekend, all these issues that were never talked about opened up worlds for me. Or when I read The Great Gatsby and realized that the “classics” weren’t so bad. Those books affected me in ways I never could have dreamed. Encouraged me to step out of my little bubble and use books not just for entertainment, but for information too.

This is Really Happening,Ā by Erin Chack was one of those books. And I can see how, by looking at the cover, you might think it’s just some comedian trying to make light of their experiences but this book shook me. Made me crack up at times and ugly-cry (for real) at others. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Erin Chack, she is a writer for Buzzfeed, the popular site known for list making. So many times during this book I had to pause and just breathe, because Erin has been through some heavy stuff. Like battling cancer. And some less heavy stuff, like road tripping across the U.S. with her friends.

Chack is able to take her experiences and write about them as if she is talking to her best friend. She puts her personality in the spot light. This alone gaveĀ meĀ strength. As someone who has tried for her entire life to fit in, it was reassuring to read these stories. They help show that we are all trying to figure life out. And while there are many times in the book she seems to feel like the odd one out, she is in fact completely relatable. Writing that brings weirdness front and center, you can see that in this passage where she says:

“It felt a little like saying something aggressively nice about a kid in class you don’t know very well, like, ‘When Jim reads from the textbook out loud, his voice is like warm chocolate and I want to bathe in it,’ and then turning around to find Jim standing right there” (Chack, 62).

That is the kind of writing (and experience) I can relate to. Showing one’s weirdness and refusing to apologize for it is just what this book does. This book shares stories from her life that tell of vulnerability, teen angst, determination and love. A person who doesn’t hide behind what is popular and conform to what everyone else is doing, but instead makes her quirks work for her. This is a person to look up to. And that is why this book will never leave my shelf. So thanks Erin Chack, for baring your soul, apparently I needed this book.

Good Girls Marry Doctors

Goodgirlsmarrydoctors

This book isn’t normally something I would pick up. I was strolling through the Bay Area book festival a few weekends ago, taking a break from helping with the Creston booth, when the title caught my eye. I love to learn about other cultures and compare and contrast our differences, but being a southerner (now transplanted to the west coast), I had heard about girls who were “expected” to marry doctors or “marry well,” back home. I just never knew other cultures had this expectation too.

Good Girls Marry Doctors was different than I was expecting. This is a book of individual essays telling the experiences of young girls who are born in the United States, but are expected to adhere to their parents rules and restrictions that may or may not conform to those of Americans. I was expecting to read a book with tales of helicopter parenting, instead, essay’s full of questioning and truth revealed that I as a white American have never experienced, are what I got.

Girls talking about the pressure put on them to either become a doctor, or to marry one may be the primary focus, but there are other details that are unseen from an outward appearance that these girls have had to face, such as, telling their parents they are bisexual/gay and having their parents completely disregard the statement and act like it’s not true, or worse telling them to keep it a secret and marry a man anyways. This was a big topic that shocked me. I had to read paragraphs several times to understand just what was going on with these families. Another shocking issue was that of girls who marry past the age of 25, parents and families practically beg men to marry them, because all of their lives they have “groomed” their daughter for marriage and “prepared” her, only to have her refuse and then the age of 25 comes and they are looked at as an “old maid.” Families get so desperate that if the “older” girl marries outside her culture, the families start to support her. Anything to get her married seems to be a running theme.

But then, there are stories of love. Parents and families who break free from expectations and support their daughters in every way possible. Dream parents. There are girls who are accepted for being gay or for marrying outside their religion or race, girls who go on to be in the arts not the sciences, and girls who marry for love. These stories lift you up, they show that everyone is different and parents are doing the best they can with the resources they have. These stories break the stereotypes that cultures put onto one another. They show strength and determination in a world full of followers, to break out and be the person you were made to be.

I loved this book. For opening my eyes to problems that are hidden from most, and teaching me things I never thought about. Not once did I want to put it down. If you have the desire to learn of another culture from true stories and not just a history book, I encourage you to give this one a try, and if you do, drop me a line and let me know what you think šŸ˜‰

The Whole Thing Together

Thewholethingtogether

From the talented writer of theĀ Sisterhood of the Traveling PantsĀ series, comes the new book from Ann Brashares. True to her writing style, Brashares takes cringeworthy situations and makes them bearable.Ā The Whole Thing TogetherĀ is another story that causes readers to question boundaries and put themselves into the story and consider what they would do.

Ray and Sasha are “fresh starts” for their parents. Two should-be-siblings who share a room but never see each other and start to wonder “what-if.” See, Ray’s mom and Sasha’s dad were once married, together they had three beautiful girls- Quinn, Mattie and Emma. Then the relationship went sour and the couple parted ways, each remarried and had one more child- Ray and Sasha. Making them half-siblings to the girls, but not to each other. The two families have nothing to do with each other except of course, custody of the three girls and strangely enough, a house that was Ray’s maternal grandfathers, now in the ownership of Ray’s mother and her ex-husband.

Complicated enough yet?
Well, the two families would not give up the house, so they alternate weeks of ownership- making Ray and Sasha roommates even though they’ve never met. The two share a bedroom, thoughts, secrets and even a job. What they want more than anything though? Read and find out šŸ˜‰

A tale of divorce and the angst of teenagers and twenty-somethings, this is a story that will leave readers scratching their head and considering their stance on the situation. This book further explores flirtation and temptation, life and death, in ways never imagined. A great read for those who like exploring life’s complexities and heavier story lines.