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Read This: 99 Days

First of all, let me just say that Katie Cotugno has a genius way of being able to weave a juicy plot, into a story of summer love, lifelong friendship, the meaning of family, and the events in life that make us grow up.

In 99 Days we find out early on that Molly’s mom has done the unthinkable – used the love triangle of her own daughter’s (disastrous?) adventures in love – as the plot for her best-selling novel. Because who isn’t going to read about the sweet girl betraying the boy she grew up with, her first love Patrick, by getting together with his older brother Gabe? Dramatic, I know. So what does Molly do when this story lands itself on the cover of People magazine? Run off to boarding school out of state, of course. Even with a year hiatus from the town holding the secrets of her past, she can’t stay away forever. So, the summer before going off to college in Boston she finds herself back at her mom’s place. Of course, Molly does what any teenager practicing avoidance and any kind of social interaction would do –  lays in bed eating Red Vines and watching Netflix documentaries. Not surprisingly, though that’s a comforting activity, it gets old fast. So, Molly unexpectedly finds herself with a new job to busy her self, (helping with the re-opening of a restaurant at the country club,) and slowly tries to mend the pieces of her broken friendships.

Cotugno tells Molly’s story of learning forgiveness (extending it to others, like her mom and looking for it with her friends by owning up to mistakes she’s made.) We all know I’m a sap, but I felt Molly’s struggle of trying to listen to her heart screaming to her about someone she knew like the back of her hand, and someone new who was fun and present and real, and seemed open. Cotugno also delved into the meaning of family – with Molly’s relationship with her mom but also her relationship with Patrick’s family – she used to be like one of their own.

While yes, this has a great pace for an indulgent read by the pool or at the beach – don’t dismiss it as a fluff read. 99 Days is heartfelt, emotional, funny at times, and it’s true to life. Maybe you see yourself in Molly, or one of her friends. It’s a refreshing take on coming into your own from the throws of teenage-hood, and growing up.

If you haven’t read this one yet, check it 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: My 2016 List

Happy New Year friends! Hope everyone had some great days this holiday season. I know I haven’t posted as nearly as often as I should lately. Although we’re five days into this new year, I thought it’d be fun to share my reading list from 2016. I’ll let you know, which ones were my favorites (and I’ll even add in some of the books I started but didn’t finish *insert eye covering emoji here.*) Some of these books have stuck with me in such a way that I think about them several times a week. When you find books like that, it’s hard to find a follow up. What were your favorites you read last year? What are you most looking forward to reading this year? Right after Christmas I started reading A Game of Thrones, but this one is going to take me a while. These are in the order I read them, not by my affection for them. The titles listed in bold were my favorites, and if I already featured it on Meg Says, I linked to the original post. See below for a variety of non-fiction, adult fiction, and young adult books I found this year!

*Note: I apologize for any weird formatting issues, I’ve been trying to sort out the kinks.*

How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (Adult Fiction)

This story of a young girl without much worldly experience, who decides to ditch school and write about bands in a magazine. Made me a little uncomfortable at times, but probably because it’s so real. Moments were laugh out loud funny. It’s well written and unique, and there’s a reason so many celebs were buzzing about it on their Instas this year.

Save the Date by Jen Doll (Adult Non-Fiction)For my girlfriends that are always attending weddings – bridesmaids, guests, etc. you will probably find yourself relating to some of these stories. Some of them are funny, and some you’d feel the embarrassment, or you’d get the tensions that can fly in these situations. Nothing too crazy or surprising, but a reminder that a lot of us might feel like we’re in 27 Dresses (as my brother’s friends used to point out about my life, haha.) We probably all have enough of our stories to compile a book like this.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Adult Fiction)

Soon to be a mini series on HBO with a stellar cast, you should read this before it airs. I was HOOKED, immediately. I love multi-view point stories, and this is a little bit mystery, somewhat amusing, a touch sad, but all around intriguing. It’s one of my favorite “fun” books to recommend.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (Adult Non-Fiction)

Mindy Kaling never disappoints. I love how real she is, and getting a peak into her life and relationships. She is definitely comfortable and completely embraces all that she is – brilliance and flaws, and all. I feel like I’m having a couch convo in my PJs with a friend while I read her stories.

30 Shades of Grayton by Kyle Petit (Adult Non-Fiction)

I picked this up at one of my favorite little independent bookstores over in Seaside, Florida. It’s a quick read, and was mildly entertaining about a woman in a small coastal town dating after a divorce.

Room by Emma Donoghue (Adult Fiction)

A story abut a young woman who was taken, and brought to live in a room. She doesn’t know life outside of those walls anymore, until one day she has a son. Her son changes everything, as she tries to create a world for him within this space. This was another book I just couldn’t put down. I still haven’t seen the Oscar nominated film, but I was convinced it was finally time to set aside any fears I had that this was going to psychologically torment me and finally read it. I’m so glad I did. This is a beautiful story that I’d say is more about love and life, and the ties that bind then about the awful abduction and treatment during that time. It’s written in a format I wasn’t expecting, and I think it’s completely original.

Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas (Adult Fiction)

This little British book kept calling to me from the shelf at the library. It felt like I was immersed in a reality television show. A story about a group of random strangers brought together by responding to an ad. I still feel unsettled by the ending, but it was definitely interesting and not like the other books on my list.

Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Adult Fiction)

I know it’s unfair to compare this novel to Gone Girl, but I think that was expected as it’s written in a similar vein. This one’s hard to provide details without ruining anything but our main character has blurred memories of a variety of events she’s witnessed. Her alcohol issues have caused her to lose her job. Instead of admitting this to her housemate, she continues on her way with her daily train commute. When a woman she’s seen from the train (and has watched her relationship) turns up missing – she gets involved. It had a bit of a slow pace for me, but still managed to create suspense and I’ll admit it took me more than three quarters of the book to “figure it out.”

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian (YA Fiction)

Undoubtedly, hands down one of my favorite books of the year. Not just the year – all time. I freakin’ love this book, and you should read it. The first several chapters were released online prior to the pub date to increase anticipation and oh my goodness – I was glued to my computer screen. I’m not even going to tell you more, but get this book in your life.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (Adult Non-Fiction)

My favorite non-fiction book of the year. Aziz is brilliant. He’s hilarious, and he’s so insightful. I only wish I had been a collaborator in this creation. A look on modern dating, and how it’s evolved over time, and what it looks like in different parts of the world. Simply fascinating.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (Adult Fiction)

I have to admit I was majorly disappointed in this book. I finally got around to reading it when I saw the film trailer released, (which I never ended up seeing the movie). The trailer made me cry, and all of my friends thought the book would destroy me. A story of a young woman who is out of a job, and ends up taking on the job of caring for a man who’s been injured and permanently paralyzed and lives in his parent’s home. There were somewhat tender moments, but everything seemed so shallow. The characters were apparently experiencing intense emotions, but they were so poorly conveyed that I was unable to connect.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Shneider (YA Fiction)

Schneider just crafts such beautiful stories. I thought, “oh! I’m going to make it through this one without crying.” Joke was on me, as this story inevitably ripped my heart out. It follows a group of people who are brought together by an usual connection (their TB diagnosis), where they’re all living in a boarding school/treatment center of sorts. It’s one of those stories that extra makes you appreciate the beautiful intricacies of relationships.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiw (Adult Non-Fiction)

Short, but powerful. Read it if you haven’t!

Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn (YA Fiction)

Morgan Matson’s alias. I was excited to finally dive into the Finn world, and while it was somewhat amusing I didn’t feel compelled to read the follow-up novels. Though the light read that has some of the appeal of an MTV reality show like Laguna Beach could be something fun to try.

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Adult Fiction)

This novel was fantastic. Following the relationship of a young couple who met in New York, and later move to DC as the husband pursues a career in politics. This is a work of fiction, but it felt so realistic. I felt like I was reading a blog, or my friend was emailing me about her life. It definitely made me want to read another Jennifer Close book.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (Adult Fiction)

READ THIS. My only qualm with this one was the designer brand name dropping. Once I got beyond that, I was mesmerized by the story. I knew it was building up to something, but I was taken by surprise when I found out what. (Like gasp a loud, close my eyes surprise.) Then when you find out the similarities of Jessical Knoll’s own experiences, it’s even more heart-wrenching. This is a powerful story that I have chills just referring to right now.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (YA Fiction)

With this historical fiction novel, Ruta Sepetys raced to the top of my list of favorite authors. It’s a unique take on parts of history, and some of it I was ashamed to realize I was unaware of. It’s painful to read at times, but also beautiful. It’s another book that reminds about the strength love gives us, and the grit and determination fueled by that love can pull us through even the seemingly most impossible situations.

The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (YA Fiction)

Huntley Fitzpatrick is so great at weaving stories about friendship, love, family and the importance of trust and communication in our relationships. There’s always a twist in her stories, that you’re not expecting and I think that just adds to the appeal. I felt like my heart was literally aching for the characters in this story. Tim Mason grows immensely in this book, and it felt like watching a friend experience some really hell situations and come out the other side.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler (YA Fiction)

This story had me fired up. Especially because I was reading it around the “grab her by the p****” comments from earlier this fall. It’s just one of those that drove me crazy because unfortunately you can’t shake your shoulders and say it’s just a story. It’s real, it’s inspired by true events, and victims of sexual assault have been shown over and over that even with video proof of them being violated, people will still try and silence and discount their stories. I think this is an important book to read. I think it shines light on a different perspective. And it takes you outside of the exact event that happened to third party characters which I think lends an interesting view point. This text also lent one of my favorite quotes of the year:

“You’re doing the right thing,” she says.
“Doesn’t feel like it.” I wipe my eyes. I am so tired of crying. She nods, reading back over her list and flipping to a new page in her  steno pad. “Sometimes, that’s how you know,” she says without looking up. “That’s how you know.”

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter (YA Fiction)

The librarian seemed a little disturbed when I was checking out this title, but assumptions aside this is an important piece of work. Sure all families have their own sorts of dysfunction, but some have more than others. This one delves into that divide when parents have their own personal issues they project on their children, and take away the chance for their kids to bond with them in normal ways. Of course, that causes all kinds of psychological damage. I can’t imagine feeling the degree of betrayal Cassie experiences, but man what a journey she traverses to get through it. This is one of the grittiest stories I’ve ever read. Sure, there are some positive spots but there’s no glossing over the anger and heartache. I think the straight forward approach to all sorts of topics in this story is brave and important.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (YA Fiction)

The second book I read by Ruta Sepetys, and it was just as good as the first. Another look into world history, surrounding Stalin and Hitler but referencing some events I still had no idea about. Somehow Sepetys is able to expand your world view, and your heart at the same time. The friendships that blossom through the pages are just so endearing and painstakingly beautiful. It aches to think about the atrocities they witness together, but you’re glad they’re at least together. She has one more title I haven’t read, and this book dissolved any doubt (I didn’t really have) to read anything she’s ever written.

Bare Bones: I’m Not Lonely If You’re Reading This by Bobby Bones (Adult Non-Fiction)

A memoir from my favorite radio host. I laughed, I cried, I was amazed being reminded of the stories we all carry with us that make us who we are, and sometimes we have no idea what others around us are carrying. This is a great, inspiring story. And it’s all about stories.

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn (Adult Fiction)

A little psychological terror short story. Definitely had no clue what to expect reading this one, and found it to be just the right amount of creepy.

What Light by Jay Asher (YA Fiction)

This was a perfect read in December with Christmas lights up in my room. A family who goes to their Christmas tree farm every December? Perfect. If you’ve read Thirteen Reasons Why – this one doesn’t have the same life changing punch, but it’s a sweet story. It’s also a good reminder to get to know people on your own, and don’t take their “reputation” at face value because who knows what you could be missing out on.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Adult Fiction)

In the last week of the year, this was the final book I read. It was actually the second time I’d tried to read it. This time I finished. It was an okay story. I really enjoy weird futuristic, post-apocalyptic stories (The Road, The Age of Miracles), and this one was interesting enough I guess, but it seemed to fall a little flat. There were multiple points of view, and I liked the way it came together in the last seventy-five pages or so, but there were so many more things I wished she’d done with it. Maybe it didn’t help that in December I also watched Netflix’s The OA and was obsessed with all the theories it made me think about. I just wish some of the stories had been further expanded on.

Unfortunately, I started but didn’t finish (and am still working on them):

  • Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (Adult Fiction)
  • The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (Adult Non-Fiction)
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (YA Fiction)
  • Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

A Few Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2017:

  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zettner
  • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  • Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
  • Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King
  • The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
  • All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
  • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  • Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler
  • Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  • The Girls by Emma Cline
  • Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
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Meg Says Read This: Between Shades of Gray

51fa0mhsovl-_sx331_bo1204203200_I have had a fascination with realistic historical fiction books since I was a little girl reading the Dear America series. Anything involving the 1940’s, and World War 2  particularly peaks my interest. A few years ago I read Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, and I knew that it would be a rare thing for me to find similar novels that left an impression on me the way these did. Since I try to keep up with the buzz in the YA world, I was aware of Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray, but I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally prepared for the read. Well, about  a month ago after reading a variety of different subject matter (such as The Hopefuls, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend) I stumbled upon BSoG at the library and figured why not give it a try? Oh my goodness, what a treat. Between Shades of Gray tells a really beautiful story of one girl’s struggle to hold on to hope, in the face of such horrifically dark and trying times. Lina is young, intelligent, inquisitive, and her sharp tongue speaks of her brutal observations (though sometimes she is able to restrain herself). The fact that that she shares her story through the eyes of an artist, provides a beautiful angle to the icy events. There are several references to flashbacks of simpler times, girls days shopping with her mom, the joy of splashes in a lake in the moonlight, laughing til your stomach hurts, ice cream on a hot summer day, the comfort of a hot cooked meal around a dinner table with family. They’re all reminders of sweet moments we might take for granted in our everyday lives. These people didn’t expect for their worlds to be torn apart overnight, separated from family, some to never be seen again, and uncertain fates. While the subject matter is incredibly heavy there’s a way that Lina’s perspective gives your heart wings while you’re reading. Her strength and persistence lets readers emotions rise above the despair while reading. This novel is superb and I can’t recommend it enough. This is one of those stories that my heart felt like it was shattering while I was reading it, and I definitely shed some tears, but there was also the light of hope picking me back up again.

I will shamefully admit that prior to reading Between Shades of Gray, I had really limited knowledge about Stalin’s deportation of Lithuania and the Baltics during the Russian invasion. This novel pushed me to start researching after I finished, and I was surprised to find that there is still so little communicated from these people that were sent away to work camps and prisons for years, and if they did return to their homes only to find that they were occupied by soldiers who had assumed their identities?! And the fact that they were threatened if they were to speak out against what happened to them? It’s another reminder how important it is to learn from our past, and not let the same atrocities be committed again.

(Image from Amazon.)

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Meg Says Read This: Extraordinary Means

23149128Robyn Schneider has done it again. She finds this beautiful way of telling a story that involves grief, love, friendship and the roller coaster of life and adolescence all rolled into one. I was blown away a few years ago when I read The Beginning of Everything (so of course when I spotted it on a shelf in a visit to Powell’s last year I broke my own rule of  not buying anymore books to add it to my collection.) I was absolutely thrilled when I saw she’d come out with a new novel, Extraordinary Means – I may have even been the first person to check it out from the library.

So more about what Extraordinary Means is actually about. Seventeen year old Lane has been sent to special school, kind of like a boarding school, kind of like a summer camp – except here there is one link that bonds all the students together, and it’s not s’mores and kumbaya. All the kids at Latham have TB, albeit different strains so different levels of the way this diagnosis takes its toll on their bodies. On their good days the students might seem like normal teenagers, but whether it’s a fitful night of coughing that results in bloody pillowcases, or just the lack of energy and dark circles around their eyes – these kids are no longer able to lead something similar to their pre-TB lives. Away from their family and friends, sports and activities with no cure in sight their futures are uncertain.

Although what they considered “normal” lives are disrupted, and they can’t even continue a regular study path of school work – Lane and his new found friends have found a way to make the most of their time, and add some fun to their days. Who would have thought he’d find a familiar face at Latham? But why does this person seem to be so cold towards him? Even with a rocky start Lane will soon have new relationships develop, friendships evolve, and a spark of romance. The scary thing is no one ever knows how much time they have left – but Lane and his friends are cramming a lot of life in their days. Extraordinary Means is a heartwarming story that’s a reminder of the frailty of life, and the power of friendships in any circumstance in life. Schneider has shown us once again what a gift she has to leave such an impressionable story on the hearts of her readers.

(Image from Goodreads.)