meg says read this, Read This

Read This: The Last Boy and Girl In the World

designed_by_expanded_gallery2Happy Friday, friends! Today I’m going to re-share an entry from last year about one of my favorite reads of 2016. Siobhan Vivian’s The Last Boy and Girl In the World was on my top favorites list of all time before I even finished reading. I live in Florida, and we have no shortage of summer storms. This past week the skies were dark and gray and it seemed to just rain and rain all day, every day. Whenever those days roll around I feel like I’m the “last girl in the world,” and my mind always wanders back to this incredible novel. That mixed with the news that Vivian’s next novel Stay Sweet will be released next spring has had this heavy on my mind. TLBAGITW is an amazing summer read, late night stay up and turn the pages instead of going to sleep read, beach read, poolside read, airplane read, snuggled up in your covers on the weekend read – basically it’s an anytime, anywhere, you have to read this book – read. Here’s my original post gushing about this book, I’ll admit my mild obsession peeks through a bit, but that should just be a testament to what a wonderful story it is. If you didn’t read it after my first urging, what are you waiting for?!

“Be still my heart” should basically be my mantra after reading Siobhan Vivian’s latest, The Last Boy and Girl in the World. Pure genius, I’m telling you – well, more like sweetly yelling at you with an excited urgency. See, if you’ve been reading my blog for long you know I have an intense love affair with young adult fiction but since I read Mosquitoland back in December, there hadn’t been a YA title that truly captured my attention. Then a few weeks ago Siobhan Vivian tweeted a link to the first six chapters of TLBAGITW, and I was absolutely captivated. I honestly had trouble sleeping that night because I couldn’t wait to read the rest – that’s how hooked I was. There is a particular quality of magic in this book. Something that makes it sparkle and shine and stand out among the rest. Truly, Keeley and Morgan, Jesse and Levi – all of these characters really found a little home in my heart. I had the library put the book on hold for me and when I saw it was in transit, I ducked out from work for a minute on Friday to pick it up before they closed. By Saturday afternoon, I was finished. Even though I tried to space out my reading binge a little because I didn’t want the story to be over yet. Also, I had to take a few breaks near the end because I was in tears.

Now, I’ve given myself a bit of time to really absorb it all, and sort out my thoughts.  I don’t think this has really aided in watering down my obsession, though. I still want to tell everyone I know to go ahead and read this book. My friends who are in the camp of “I just can’t relate to high schoolers” – get over yourselves for a second, right? Because it’d be a shame to miss such an enchanting story.

The premise of an unknown weather related disaster reminded me slightly of The Age of Miracles. I’m not complaining because I loved that book too! But other than that The Last Boy and Girl in the World really set itself into a world of it’s own. Vivian really hit it out of the park with this one. I know these are all vague descriptions, but I’ll tell you this: If you were one of those girls who grew up with an overwhelming crush on one particular guy – you will love to read what unfolds between Keeley Hewitt and Jesse Ford. Some of the scenes and the lines, are enough to make you swoon – but not overboard cheesy where you’re thinking “gag me” as you dive into all of the romantic details. I think many of us can relate to the idea that sometimes, regardless of what catastrophic disaster is happening around us, it’s nice to be selfish for a second and be distracted by our own grand stroke of luck in the scheme of things. That’s kind of what happens here when Aberdeen seems to be suffering from frigid temperatures and never ending rain that causes the town to flood and leads to even bigger problems.

Vivian also found a way to touch on friendship in one of the most beautiful ways I’ve seen written about to date. For anyone who has had a friend from a very  young age, and seen your friendship change as you get older – you know that this isn’t always easy. We’re not the same at eighteen as we were at eight (and for that matter twenty-eight). Some bonds don’t survive the tumultuous ride of life, and that pain is one that can cut the deepest. Love in a friendship though, can sometimes make it transcend anything. I think that happens here. We’re reminded how sometimes, even though you can’t replicate what you had in the past, you can learn a way for the friendship to be a part of your present and future, just in a different capacity.
In a few hundred pages Siobhan Vivian successfully covered topics from friendship, relationship, all different kinds of love, family drama, growing up, and transitional periods in life with so much reality and heart, I find it impossible not to keep this book in one of those esteemed spots for avid readers. The kind of spot on your favorite books list, that it will always be one of the first you recommend when people ask for suggestions. There’s adventure and angst and such vivid storytelling that when I recall the chapters, I feel like I can still see the scenes in my head.All of this to say, if you haven’t gotten your hands on a copy of this yet – what are you waiting for?!
(Image borrowed from official site.)
listen to this, meg says read this

Read This: What She Knew

If you’re like me, the weekend isn’t only a time to recharge your batteries for the week, but if you’re lucky it’s a chance to dive into another new book and not have to worry about how late you stay up reading it. A few weeks ago I picked up Gilly Macmillan’s What She Knew. I saw it on a list of suggestions if you enjoyed Gone Girl. Okay, first of all – I really enjoyed the plot twists of Gone Girl. They were shocking, and unexpected. Unfortunately, now I compare any mystery novel with a female narrator to that story. After reading Girl on the Train I thought maybe some of these mysteries were starting to run together in their run of the mill use of plot devices. I’ll admit, I think I ill-judged What She Knew for about the first sixty pages.
In this novel, young mom Rachel is at a park with her 8-year old son Ben and their dog Skittle. Ben begs to run ahead to the rope swing, and Rachel agrees trailing behind him. When she reaches the swing, as it sways in the empty clearing, Rachel doesn’t see Ben – instead of assuming the worst, she thinks maybe he’s playing hide and seek. That is until all the normal go-tos don’t bring  him out of hiding. Of course, Rachel starts to panic. Thus begins a mother’s (and the father who she’s divorced from) worst nightmare – her son has been abducted. I found this story very well written, and hard to put down because I desperately wanted to know what happened next. Rachel’s sister and her journalist friend end up being her main avenues of support in this harrowing ordeal. Unfortunately, Rachel is put in the media spotlight and it does not bode well. Then there’s the blogging world that turns ugly, pointing blame and suspicion on her. The detectives try to research everyone involved in their lives on a daily basis, from friends and parents on the soccer team, to school personnel, to old patients of Ben’s father who’s a pediatric surgeon who may have a vendetta against him.

This is one of those stories that makes readers question the information in front of them. If Rachel a reliable narrator? Are we getting the whole story? Are the investigators sidetracked by their own personal grief?

The story digs into the personal lives of these people, and long buried revelations are revealed. I have to say there were some surprising elements to this story, that I was extremely pleased with. The novel wasn’t entirely predictable, which can be hard to do sometimes. The suspense was carried out though the end. I think the story also lent itself to an introspective reading – displaying so many sides to a story and all of the emotions that go with it. If you’re looking for a fresh mystery novel, check this one out.

meg says read this, Read This

Read This: Everything Everything

I guess you could say I’ve taken a bit of a break from young adult novels in the past few weeks, (well, in terms of usual ratio,) but I saw the movie trailer for Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything, and thought to myself “why the heck haven’t I read this yet?” Too impatient to wait on the library’s hold list, I picked up a copy at Sam’s Club, and dove right in. Maybe I’m off my game, but I was thrown by the plot twist. And I LOVE that. I genuinely love when I’m surprised by the words on a page, and am so overwhelmed absorbing the information I didn’t expect to see, I have to pause. Everything Everything tells the story of teenager Madeline who has lived her whole life in the same house, breathing filtered air, with only in-person contact with her mom and her nurse (who takes her stats and vitals all day,) and a time or two a visit from a teacher – because she is allergic to everything. Can you imagine? Though, maybe it’s like some things in life – when you haven’t experienced them yet, you don’t know to miss them. You can’t miss the smell of the ocean, if the salty air has never wafted below your nose, and you can’t miss the taste of a steaming hot slice of pizza burning the roof of your mouth, if those ingredients have never touched your tongue. You probably won’t daydream all day about holding hands with a boy, if you haven’t interacted with one in real life. Maddy lives life vicariously through the pages of the books she devours, and is entertained by movie nights, and made-up board games with her mom. Life as Maddy knows it, changes when cute, mysterious, Olly and his family move in next door. How convenient their bedroom windows face one another. What starts with hand gestures, and condensation notes on window panes, leads to e-mails and the ole trusty instant messenger, and then opens to a whole other world of experiences beyond what Maddy could have imagined on her dreamiest days. Armed with a credit card, and a mischievous streak of braveness not to let her life pass her by, Maddy makes some huge decisions – taking her life and all of it’s possibilities into her own hands. Everything, Everything is a story of love and friendship, trust and betrayal, adventure and risk, and listening to your gut. I know I’m late to the game, but this was a fantastic read, and I found it refreshing. If you haven’t yet, check out this great novel. (I have to admit, I’m excited to see what they’ve done with the movie adaptation!)

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Meg Says Read This: All the Light We Cannot See

18143977 There’s a reason All the Light We Cannot See won a Pulitzer Prize. It took me a few weeks to work my way through this one. In early January, one afternoon it was a surprise waiting for me in the mailbox from one of my favorite teachers. Over the weekend I was bound and determined to find out how this story wrapped up. Sometimes while reading, I had to take breaks because my stomach was in knots and my thoughts would wander (not out of boredom, quite the opposite – this book gave me so much to think about.) The story alternates view points, and points in time throughout the novel, later adding on to the character’s perspectives you’re seeing through, and eventually (as may have been expected), intertwining these character’s lives. There is so much to digest here, so much to take away. We have Marie-Laure a young blind girl living in occupied France during WWII. Marie-Laure’s father Daniel LeBlanc is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. You have orphan Werner Pfennig living in a children’s home in Germany with his sister Jutta, with their kind care taker Frau Elena. As you can imagine in war-time, all of these character’s locations change and their stories expand and they encounter more people who become essential to their stories. I’m intentionally being vague because I would hate to ruin the beautiful way this story unravels. I think some of the key points I was reminded of is the way art, music, books, and imagination can be threads of hope in the darkest of times. I was reminded that although we know what’s right and wrong, people who do bad things, are still capable of doing good things. Recently, I saw a tweet that said “Historically, ‘I was only following orders’ has not been a solid defense.” How true this is, and some people only come to the realization after so much damage is done. Friendship can sprout from curious places. Fear makes people do evil things. It’s never wrong to do the right thing, even if it means you’re going against the current. Doing the right thing takes a tremendous amount of courage sometimes. People can be very impressionable, it’s important to remember to think for yourself and not be a follower. We have a responsibility to maintain a knowledge of the past, so we don’t repeat history’s mistakes. This story tugged on my heart strings, and these characters will stay with me for years to come. If you haven’t read this novel yet, I highly recommend you do so immediately.

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Meg Says Read This (Maybe): The Girls

414vpuuee6l-_sy346_I woke up at 5:30 in the morning on Sunday, and I couldn’t go back to sleep so I decided to finish reading a book I’d started last week. The book had a ridiculous amount of hype last year, finding a place on so many must-read lists. I’d been excited to finally read it after being on the library wait-list for a few months, only to be turned off by the slow pace and anti-climatic story telling.

I was curious of other reader’s feedback, so I looked at some reviews on Amazon. One person shared: “Look, I’m stoked people are even still writing books, let alone reading them AND sometimes buying the actual book. However, this was just boring.”

Unfortunately, I had to agree.

The Girls focuses on fourteen year old Evie, in the summer of the late 60’s. Bored with her only friend Connie, frustrated with her mom and her string of new boyfriends, desperate and eager for attention she finds herself falling in with a cult. This story line had strong potential, but in my opinion fell flat. The descriptions of the characters, though flowery in their prose, brought us no closer to understanding any of them. The most we got were Evie’s obsessive sexual fantasies about (basically the ring leader of the woman in the group – though they claimed to live belonging to no one with an equal flow of love in all directions) Suzanne. The story is told in flashbacks of present day Evie – older, timid, living a quiet life alone. Basically the whole book just felt like a shell of a story. We don’t really learn much about Evie’s life after that summer, (she wasn’t connected to the crimes committed), except that she made a few friends at boarding school that year, and later in life she had a few different roommates. Even during the summer with the cult and it’s leader, Russell (baring uncanny descriptive similarities to Manson) the flashbacks are lacking as well. Listen, I wasn’t looking for some gruesome telling of the murders, or sexual assault but I just felt confused the whole time. The story didn’t really seem to have much to do with the bizarre practices themselves. Evie seemed to mock them, and question them regularly (mostly internally,) but it was just a means for her to be able to follow Suzanne around and be close to her. Sure – if this wasn’t fictional, it’d be great that some young teenage girl didn’t get completely sucked in. But how much reality is there to the idea that she just rode her bike to hang out with these people on a ranch, occasionally spending the night, but sometimes returning home in time for dinner? It felt non-committal.

Hopefully the other titles on my “to-read” list for 2017 are less disappointing. I know that mine is not necessarily a popular opinion regarding this book. Some people sing the praises of Emma Cline for her “beautiful style.” I wouldn’t personally recommend this book, but I still think it’s good to gather your own opinions, of what is being buzzed about.

(Image from Amazon.)