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Perfect for Summer Lounging: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Hello!

It’s getting to be about that time…summertime!

Yes, it’s true! Teachers and students around the country are beginning to rejoice! Whoot!

With that said, let’s talk about a great read for your beach/pool bag. It’s not actually set in the summer, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulbergbut it’s a fun contemporary novel…and what better for the summer than a good contemp?!

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder… are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

Right?! It’s a romance…or is it?! Perfect for lounging by the pool or on the beach!

It has been said by reviewers before me, but I’ll say it again; Better Off Friends really is like the YA version of When Harry Met Sally. One of the best things about that movie was the mini interviews with all the different couples that were in between scenes throughout the movie, and Eulberg does something similar in this book. Instead of interviews with random couples however, she gives us dialog between Levi and Macallan as if they’re sitting with us at a table over coffee telling their story. Their back-and-forth teasing banter is just so spot-on!

In fact, so much of what Levi and Macallan deal with over the course of their story is so spot-on realistic. In addition to their own friendship/relationship drama, both Levi and Macallan are also confronted individually with the regular middle/high school woes. They have friend issues, family problems and school troubles just like normal teens do and Eulberg writes them with authenticity, while also keeping in line with the fun, light, and all around adorable plot.

Additionally, in keeping with the honesty of the story, both Levi and Macallan are average, non-perfect people. Most of the miscommunications and misunderstandings that go on between them stem from their flaws and inability to deal with awkward and difficult situations. Just like real life! I’m not a teenager anymore (not by a long shot!! haha) but I still struggle with figuring out how to deal when things are awkward and difficult!

The story’s pacing in quick. Levi and Macallan start off in middle school on the day they first meet and over the course of the book their story takes us all the way into high school. Both narrators give us the details on pivotal moments throughout the course of their friendship and they alternate chapter to chapter, which also helps an already fast paced story feel quicker, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. I happened to like the quickness because it makes it that much more perfect for your poolside summer lounging.

So do they remain just friends or do they take the leap and pursue more? I can’t tell you! You’ll have to pack Better Off Friends in your beach/pool bag! It really is a fun, sweet, and light-hearted contemporary read that will make you smile!

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Point (February 25, 2014)

Format: e-galley

Length: 288 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA (possibly older MG too)

Buy the Book:

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Charming: The Sound of Your Voice…Only Really Far Away by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Hello!

I accidentally read the third book in a trilogy recently…before reading the first two! OOPS!

I honestly didn’t know The Sound of Your Voice…Only Really Far Away by Frances O’Roark Dowell belonged in a trilogy because it really did seem to stand on it’s own.

In the conclusion to the bestselling Secret Language of Girls trilogy, Marylin and Kate find that boys can be just as complicated as friendship. Marylin knows that, as a middle school cheerleader, she has certain obligations. She has to smile as she walks down the hall, be friends with the right The Sound of Your Voice Only Really Far Away by Frances O'Roark Dowellpeople, and keep her manicure in tip-top shape. But Marylin is surprised to learn there are also rules about whom she’s allowed to like;and Benjamin, the student body president, is deemed unacceptable. But maybe there is a way to convince the cheerleaders that her interest in Benjamin is for their own good.

Kate, of course, finds this ludicrous. She is going to like whom she likes, thank you very much. And she just so happens to be spending more time than ever with Matthew Holler. But even a girl who marches to the beat of her own guitar strings can play the wrong notes;and are she and Matthew even playing the same song? She’s just not sure. So when Matthew tells Kate that the school’s Audio Lab needs funding from the student government, she decides to do what she can to help him get it.

But there isn’t enough money to go around, and it soon becomes clear that only one of the two girls can get her way. Ultimately, though, is it even her way? Or are both girls pushing for something they never really wanted in the first place?

One thing I absolutely think is perfect about this book is the cover. The colors are just so bright and inviting. It is one of my favorite books to display in my media center!

Like I mentioned before, The Sound of Your Voice, is the conclusion of a trilogy. Since I read it without having read the first two books I can honestly say that I do believe it can stand alone and you don’t have to have read the previous books. Dowell does a good job of providing context in a way that doesn’t feel like she is playing catch up; there is no “previously on Dawson’s Creek” moments.

Identity and personal ethics are big themes for this book. Both Marilyn and Kate are struggling to figure out their own identities and how these identities relate to and influence the choices they make. They’re basically asking themselves questions about the type of person they will be.

The girls’ on-and-off-again friendship is completely relateable to anyone who has experienced middle school. While struggling with the shape of their own identities, they’re also figuring out if its okay for their friend to have a totally different identity – can friendship even happen with they’re so different from one another? These questions are so well known to middle schoolers that it just amazes me how well Dowell writes them. It’s like she vividly remembers what it was like to be at this pivotal stage in life.

As implied on the cover and in the book’s summary, there is some romance woven throughout the story, but it really does take a backseat to the real focus, which is Marilyn and Kate’s personal and relational issues.

For those of you who have actually read the first two books, you’ll enjoy hearing from these characters again. And for the people like me, who happened on The Sound of Your Voice…But Only Really Far Away without knowledge of the trilogy, you’ll be pleased with this charming contemporary story of friendship and identity.

Author: Frances O’Roark Dowell

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 192 pages

Series: Third book in The Secret Language of Girls trilogy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away (Secret Language of Girls)

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Hello!

It’s time to share a soon-to-be-released title that I’m excited about! We call this meme, which is hosted by Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday.

This middle grades title does sound like it has potential to make me want to cry (and we all know how I feel about that), but I think The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer also sounds like it could be a very sweet read.

Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczerlike gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she’s found it her mother says it’s time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother’s sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she’s never met. She can’t imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe it is her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

This summary reminds me a little of Wild Things by Clay Carmichael, which was another sweet little middle grades read about a teen who looses a mother and is forced to live with family they’d never previously met. Also, this cover is just so lovely!

So, what are you waiting on today?

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Waiting on Wednesday: Wish You Were Italian

Well we’re a few weeks into our extra six weeks of winter thanks to that little cutie Punxsutawney Phil, but I’m already starting to think about spring and summer.  The book I’d like to share with you for Waiting on Wednesday, Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae, sounds like it’s going to be a fun summerish read.

Pippa is in Italy for the summer and, despite her parents’ wishes, she has no intention of just studying the Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Raelocal art! She has a list of things of her own to do: from swimming in the Mediterranean Sea to getting a makeover – and falling for an Italian boy! As Pippa explores the dramatic ruins of Rome and Pompeii, she is swept into her own drama with two guys: an irresistible local she knows is nothing but trouble and a cute American archaeology student . . . Will she find her true love?

Okay so I admit, this one has potential to be a really cute or a really silly read. I hope it’s a really cute one because I love books about traveling in Europe and when Wish You Were Italian is released in May this year, I’ll probably be in the mood for a light summer romance.  :)

So, what books are you waiting for this week?

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Break-Up Artist

Hi everyone!

For today’s Waiting on Wednesday I wanted to showcase The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel.

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the Gap. Becca Williamson breaks up couples. 

After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegeldreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she’ll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity. No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.

Doesn’t this sound like an really interesting contemporary read? I’m so intrigued by the idea of being paid to break people up…I mean I wouldn’t want the job, but it does sound like it could pay pretty well! haha Also, that is a pretty cool cover…its so different from what we normally see in YA today that it will really stand out on the shelf!

The Break-Up Artist is scheduled for release on April 29.

What do you think? Are you excited about this one too?

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Closure and Onions: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Hello! Okay, so Winter Break has been over for about a week now and I’ve been back at work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I do miss those days of lounging on the couch reading, blogging or just seeing my friends in the middle of the day! But, I guess if…
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Waiting on Wednesday: Better Off Friends

Hi there!

This is my first Waiting on Wednesday for 2014! If you’re not familiar with this weekly event, Waiting on Wednesday is special time set aside to highlight an upcoming new release that we’re especially excited for.

So, this week I’m excited for Elizabeth Eulberg’s newest romance Better Off Friends, which, I must say, has a super cute cover!

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth EulbergFor Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated? Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

Summaries online describe Better Off Friends as a YA version of When Harry Met Sally, which sounds pretty darn good to me! Seriously, the more and more I think about this book, the more I get excited about it. It sounds like it’ll be the perfect contemporary romantic comedy that I’ll be in the mood for around Valentine’s Day, which is good timing because Better Off Friends is scheduled for release on February 25.

Yay! Who else is excited about this one?!

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Something Familiar: Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Hola!

As you may know my husband and I moved from Florida to Columbia, South Carolina this past July. We’re loving the fact that we get to experience the change in seasons and that we’re really close to the mountains. It is just a great area to live in. It’s not that we didn’t like Florida, it’s just that it wasn’t the place we wanted to be forever.

Pretty shortly after we moved however, I realized that Chomp by Carl Hiaasen was on the South Carolina Junior Book Award list for the 2013-2014 school year. I was pretty excited to read Chomp because it, like all of Hiaasen’s books, takes place in southern Florida and in the midst of our move I needed to read something familiar.

Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his bChomp by Carl Hiaasenackyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one.

When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show’s boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.

They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun.

Although I’ve always enjoyed the Hiaasen books that I have read, his books are not always my favorite. However, I think out of all of them Chomp might have been the one I liked the most. There was just so much more humor in this story and I stopped my husband to tell him about the story more than I usually do when reading. I especially loved the reality show idea and my husband and I are big fans of Bear Grylls and his survival shows, so I got a kick out of the Derek Badger character, who is obviously a mocking portrayal of Grylls and survival show hosts like him.

In Hiaasen’s books the setting is always a character in its own right. And although I’ve never been to the Everglades (even after living in Florida for around 15 years) I know enough about Florida wildlife and geography to completely understand and appreciate this setting. Hiaasen throws in so many Florida “inside jokes” or references that I absolutely felt like I was back in the Florida sunshine.

The main character, Wahoo and his friend (something more?!), Tuna, are really fun and lovable characters. These two are one of the main reasons why I enjoyed Chomp more than Hiaasen’s other books. Wahoo and Tuna were both so realistic and tender in their new-found friendship that you can’t help but fall for them both.

OMG! I almost forgot! Do you even know who narrates this audiobook!?  I freaked out when I pressed play for the first time and heard the voice I hadn’t heard in like 10 years…DAWSON LEERY! Yes. You read correctly. Chomp is narrated by James Van Der Beek! High School Tina swooned a little. For real.

Chomp, definitely comes recommended for middle grade readers considering jumping into Hiaasen’s books who enjoy survivalist stories with some humor thrown in. Although, I do enjoy Hiaasen’s books they are definitely written mostly for their middle grade audience and I think it would be a stretch for older readers (especially adults) to really get into.

Author: Carl Hiaasen

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 27, 2012)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 6 hours and 13 minutes

Narrator(s): James Van Der Beek

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Chomp

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Waiting on Wednesday: Isla and the Happily Ever After

Welcome!

It’s Wednesday which means that it’s time for another Waiting on Wednesday. Waiting on Wednesday was created to provide space to highlight those soon-to-be released books that we just can’t wait for!Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

This week I’m eagerly anticipating Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins! (She’s going to be at YALL Fest this weekend! WHOOT!)

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever. Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Stephanie Perkins’ contemporary romances are just perfection. If you haven’t read them yet, you totally need to make sure they’re in your TBR pile. I finished Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door years ago so I feel like I’ve been waiting for this one FOREVER and I still have to wait until May 13, 2014.

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Not Just a Pretty Cover: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Hi!

During the last few weeks of summer before school started I was totally in the mood for a good contemporary beach read. I shopped my shelves and picked up My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, which I’d been eyeing for months.

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrickperch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

Can we just acknowledge how lovely this cover is? It just has the exact look you want from a summer read…at least in my mind!

But My Life Next Door isn’t just a pretty cover, it is a well-developed contemporary romance with some serious sides. However, the story doesn’t feel heavy or overly weighty, but instead still maintains it’s summery feel despite the harder issues.

One thing I noticed about this book right away was the grace that it shows to different types or sizes of families. Throughout the novel we see Samantha’s small and reserved family sharply contrasted with Jase’s large and rambunctious one. We see snapshots into the inner workings of both, and what I appreciate the most is that there is no “better” or “worse” between the two. Through Samantha and Jase’s romance (squeeeee!) we see that there are positive and negative aspects to both small and large families and that each has its own unique form of dynamics, some parts healthy and some not.

Now, I mentioned the romance between Samantha and Jase. YES YES YES YES YES! This relationship is just so sweet you can’t help but read My Life Next Door and swoon a little. There is that perfect mix of excitement and uncertainty that usually accompanies first love. And Jase…he is the stuff that teen (or not-so-teen) crushes are made of!

Even the not-so-likeable characters and the not-so-romantic parts of the story are so well-rounded that you are able to understand the reasoning behind the actions being taken, even if you still don’t like them and they make you really angry!

So, even though I know it’s not summer anymore, but if you’re longing for the feel of the warm summer weather you may want to check out My Life Next Door because it will not disappoint!

Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (June 14, 2012)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 394 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA (I’d say 8th grade and up)

Buy the Book: My Life Next Door