Books & Tea: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Years ago, I read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and what I remember most about it is how mediocre I thought the story was, and after reading through summaries of her other novels, largely formulaic:

  • Girl experiences some kind of hardship and withdraws from the world
  • Girl falls in with a new crowd
  • Girl meets handsome teenage boy and starts to feel human again
  • Girl and boy have a misunderstanding and experience a falling out
  • Girl and boy make up at the end and live happily ever after

So, considering my previous experience with this author, it’s strange that by the end of my first library visit in months, one of the books I borrowed was The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. And even more surprising? I devoured the book in just a few sittings.


The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen book coverThe Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Contemporary YA
374 Pages
Published May 11, 2004
Penguin Group, Inc.
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★★★☆☆

A long, hot summer…

That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.

But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to question her sheltered life.

Is it really always better to be safe than sorry?


My Thoughts

I appreciated reading about Macy’s journey. She is grieving the loss of her father and with the help of her boyfriend, Jason, she has established a very strict routine. One that includes working at the library information desk, studying for the SAT, and ironing and starching her clothes to perfection. It helps keep her mind from dwelling on her father’s death, and it shows people that she’s carrying on with life and everything is fine, just fine. But, her routine is threatened when her boyfriend goes away to Brain Camp. And worse, wants to take a break so he can focus on his future.

Then comes along a new job opportunity and a group of new and ragtag co-workers, who turn her life even more topsy-turvy. They draw her out of her shell, they introduce her to the chaos and imperfections of catering and of high school parties, and most importantly, they allow her the opportunity to be vulnerable without judgement— a stark contrast to her boyfriend.

But, while enjoyable, The Truth About Forever doesn’t deviate far from the plot structure outlined above. The Truth About Forever doesn’t introduce anything new to Contemporary YA. It doesn’t even attempt to put a clever twist on any of the genre tropes. But, I don’t think that’s why people reach for novels by Sarah Dessen. Dessen has been around for a while. A long while. Like, she was writing YA back when I was… YA. She’s a constant in this genre, so many people reach for her novels for the comfort of likable characters, the familiar summertime settings in North Carolina, specifically the fictional town of Colby, and a plot that is…well, predictable— one where despite all the hardships, all the characters end up okay at the end. At least, that’s why I reached for The Truth About Forever; and that’s why I’m inclined to continue picking up other books by Dessen in the future.

The Tea

The Truth About Forever takes place during the summertime in the south, and only one thing comes to mind— sweet, iced tea! Stereotypically Lipton, sweet iced tea, but I’m choosing Ceylon Sonata Cold Brew from Adagio Teas instead. Adagio’s Ceylon Sonata is a black tea that comes from the Kenilworth Estate in Sri Lanka. It is a medium bodied, black tea with bright citrus notes. 

It’s balanced and refreshing, and it’s one of those teas that makes me break my no-caffeine-after-3PM bans because it’s so, so good. This is exactly the kind of iced tea I think the characters in Dessen’s fictional town of Colby, North Carolina would sip on during summer vacations.

What is your favorite Sarah Dessen book? Do you have a favorite Contemporary YA author you reach for when you’re looking for comfort?

Murder in the Mystery Suite Book Review

There is something so delightfully tacky about the book covers for cozy mystery novels. I especially love the book covers that have a beautifully illustrated background but then have other elements from the novel (say, books, a cat, a bicycle) photoshopped in from what I assume are stock photographs. They remind me of the hidden object games I became obsessed with my final year at college when I was avoiding attending my business law lectures. The textures seem a little off, but I find the book covers endearing and comforting, and this is probably why I couldn’t resist purchasing a copy of Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams. Either that or it was the cat on the cover. I’m 100% more likely to pick up your cozy mystery novel if there is a cat on the cover as demonstrated here, here, here, here, here, and here.


Murder in the Mystery Suite (A Book Retreat Mystery, #1) by Ellery Adams

Released: August 2014
Publisher: Berkley
★★★☆☆

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Tucked away in the rolling hills of rural western Virginia is the storybook resort of Storyton Hall, catering to book lovers who want to get away from it all. To increase her number of bookings, resort manager Jane Steward has decided to host a Murder and Mayhem week so that fans of the mystery genre can gather together for some role-playing and fantasy crime solving.

But when the winner of the scavenger hunt, Felix Hampden, is found dead in the Mystery Suite, and the valuable book he won as his prize is missing, Jane realizes one of her guests is an actual murderer. Amid a resort full of fake detectives, Jane is bound and determined to find a real-life killer. There’s no room for error as Jane tries to unlock this mystery before another vacancy opens up…


It’s easy for cozy mysteries to become formulaic. Typically, the main character is a female, who is thrown out in to the world on her own after a recent divorce/break up with her boyfriend/death of her husband. She’s still getting used to life on her own, but luckily she has been able to turn her hobby into a career, so she has a distraction as she navigates her grief. Then, someone dies in or around her business, and she’s thrust into a situation where she has to figure out whodunnit.

Also:

  • the female lead has a cat (or maybe a dog to appeal to those other readers)
  • a potential love interest is introduced
  • if the female lead is new in town, she may be a suspect in the murder mystery
  • the setting is usually a very small town, where all of the townsfolk have been able to turn their hobbies into careers too
  • the female lead probably lives in an old Victorian-style home

Murder in the Mystery Suite had several of those elements, but then Jane, our heroine, discovers a family secret hidden within the walls of Storyton Hall that sets this novel apart from the rest of the cozies. What I thought was going to be my typical cozy mystery ended up having more action and adventure than usual complete with secret agents, a little bit of espionage, hidden rooms, and blow dart guns. Murder in the Mystery Suite was probably one of the most thrilling cozies I’ve ever read!

There were some inconsistencies, like the fact that this story takes place in rural Virginia, but all of the characters seemed prim and proper; I kept thinking the story took place in England. Also, Storyton Hall is initially described as falling on hard times, and yet the resort was able to invest enough money for a week-long Murder & Mayhem themed program complete with costume parties, multi-course gourmet meals, and Rolls Royce town cars to pick up attendees. If readers can look past that, Murder in the Mystery Suite promises readers a fun and engaging whodunnit. Mystery novel nerds will especially love all of the literary references made throughout the story!

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to picking up the second book in this series, Murder in the Paperback Parlor, in which Jane plans a romance novel themed week for Valentine’s Day.

Book Review | Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is one of those books that have been on my TBR list for ages, but I couldn’t remember why. That happens you know – forgetting why I put a book on my wish list? Or that I even put a book on my wish list at all. That started happening once I became a book blogger. I get bombarded with book recommendations from other bloggers that sometimes I lose track. It’s especially bad because I’ve been a part of the book blogosphere since 2011, so that’s a lot of books that have made it onto my radar. Has that happened to you?

I will even admit I forget what Everything, Everything was about– just that it was a contemporary that was supposed to be an emotional read, and it came highly recommended. I didn’t even bother to read the synopsis when I bought it! I just saw that it was on sale, so in my cart it went.


Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon


Released: 
September 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
★★★☆☆

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


The Writing

The first thing that stood out to me was the formatting of the story. I thought I was going to dive into a heavy novel with beautiful and emotional prose, but instead Everything, Everything has short, two to three page chapters, and it includes some epistolary storytelling in the form of instant messages, emails, and homework assignments. The formatting was engaging and perhaps an effective way to show how isolated Madeline was. Through her e-mails and instant messages, readers catch a glimpse of what is inside her head while also seeing how she tries to connect with the people around her though limited those opportunities they may be. The formatting also happened to be the story’s downfall. The story addressed some heavy subject matter like mental health, physical abuse, chronic illness, death, and isolation, that I wish was explored further in prose.

The Relationships

I appreciated the relationship between Madeline and her nurse, Carla, who seemed to treat Madeline as though she was a normal teenager despite growing up in a bubble. This relationship feels more like a mother/daughter relationship compared to the relationship Madeline has with her own mother. There is conflict and some bickering between Madeline and Carla as Madeline tries to push her boundaries. But of course, the two love each other, and that comes through too.

Her relationship with her mom, on the other hand, seemed sterile and a touch unrealistic. The two get along too well, and the two don’t seem to have a history of conflict despite being cooped up with each other for so long.

The fast-paced relationship between Madeline and Olly, the dreamy boy next-door, also seemed unrealistic. I liked the bond the two formed. And despite Olly’s bad-boy appearance, he was kind and gentle and fun. But, their relationship seemed to move too fast considering how limited their interactions were. And Madeline seemed incredibly mature about everything despite her lack of socialization with people her age. She would probably argue that it’s because she’s read so many books. But, I don’t care how well-read someone is– relating to other teenagers, especially when hormones are buzzing, is easier said read than done!

The Twist

The plot twist left me wanting more. Although, to call it a twist is inaccurate (for me). I wasn’t surprised the story took the turn that it did. I already had my suspicions after reading the first few pages.

After the twist was revealed, I thought “Oooh! Here is where things get juicy!” But there was no juice, and I was left feeling thirsty. The plot twist opened up more opportunity for conflict between Madeline and her mom, but the story didn’t go there. Madeline…just sort of ignores her mom and continues on with life, and the ending just sort of fizzled along.

Overall I appreciated Everything, Everything. The characters were likable, and the plot, though predictable, was new and refreshing (or, at least I haven’t read anything like it). The blend of prose and Epistolary storytelling made for an engaging and quick read– perfect for cluster feeding nursing sessions at two in the morning– but I don’t think the formatting allowed the reader to explore some of the heavier themes beyond the surface.

I would recommend this novel to anyone in a reading slump or for fans of Before I Fall, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go, and Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have).

Nope! Nope. So Much Nope. | Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Look, I have a library to read. On top of that, it’s moving locations from its teeny, tiny 900 sq. ft. building to a sprawling 10,000 sq ft. building (that used to be a grocery store before Walmart moved to town), which means my TBR is about to get longer. That’s why, when nothing happened in ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY TWO PAGES, I decided to abandon book #3 in my READ ALL THE BOOKS challenge. To put it bluntly, I’d rather read the entire Twilight saga again than try to read Halo by Alexandra Adornetto. (I shouldn’t say nothing happened. Angels did move to the suburbs, and one of them did attend a house party and drink too many cocktails).


Halo (Halo #1) by Alexandra Adornetto

Released: August 2010 (first published January 2010)
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
DNF
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Three angels – Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, the youngest and most human – are sent by Heaven to bring good to a world falling under the influence of darkness. They work hard to conceal their luminous glow, superhuman powers, and, most dangerous of all, their wings, all the while avoiding all human attachments.

Then Bethany meets Xavier Woods, and neither of them is able to resist the attraction between them. Gabriel and Ivy do everything in their power to intervene, but the bond between Xavier and Bethany seems too strong.

The angel’s mission is urgent, and dark forces are threatening. Will love ruin Bethany or save her?


Other reasons why I abandoned this book include:

  1. I couldn’t stand to read another THREE HUNDRED pages of nothing happening. Seriously, why is this book so long? (Apparently the villain the angels so urgently need to defeat isn’t even introduced until around page 250).
  2. The angel, Bethany, was the Mary Sue-iest of the Mary Sues. She was even worse than Sookie Stackhouse; at least Sookie had a distinct voice. Even worse, Bethany is supposed to be this divine creature, but she’s so…vapid and obsessed with talking about how beautiful she is.
  3. Come to think of it, Ivy and Gabriel were also Mary Sue-ish.
  4. This is basically Edward Cullen and Bella Swan part 2, except Bethany is the preternatural creature and Xavier human. Although, flipping ahead, I learned Xavier still gets to be the controlling and possessive boyfriend that YA authors are wont to romanticize.
  5. The characterization seemed inconsistent. Bethany is an angel, who has never visited earth before, so her new friends have to explain modern things to her. Yet, Bethany already uses human slang. Also, she seems really vain, which seems contrary to the message of the good book, you know?
  6. It doesn’t really make sense for a seraphim and an arch-angel, some of the highest ranks in the hierarchy of the divine, to show up in the suburbs that has been negatively affected by a fire and a car accident while famine and war exist in other parts of the world. #firstworldproblems

Beautiful Writing, Cringe-Worthy Plot | Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Warning: this post contains spoilers.

Dark Companion by Marta Acosta is book #2 in my READ ALL THE LIBRARY BOOKS challenge, and like my initial reaction to Sign Language by Amy Ackley, when I pulled Dark Companion from the shelf, I was once again disappointed. In fact, I hadn’t even openly declared that I was trying to read all of the books in the YA section of my library at this point, so I almost gave up on the project in that moment. The book cover featured a young woman wearing a white gown in the middle of a spooky forest; between that image and the title, it screamed paranormal romance or paranormal fiction, which is a genre that has me hightailing it in the other direction faster than if it were a plate of brussel sprouts.

I chose to persevere though, and in the end…I’ll still run from PNR faster than if it were a plate of brussel sprouts.


Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Released: July 2013
Publisher: Tor/Macmillan
★★☆☆☆
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Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true.

They are.

The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?

As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove and what she would risk to stay there..because even the brightest people make terrible decisions when they are offered the things they desire most.


Admittedly, for the first half of the novel, I thought Dark Companion was going to be a solid, four-star kind of novel. I thought it was going to be the book that changed my mind about paranormal fiction. So what if I thought the main character, Jane, was kind of uninspiring? So what if I thought Lucien and Jack, potential love interests, were worse then Edward Cullen (how?!)? It takes place at a friggin’ boarding school, which is one of my favorite settings ever! Plus, Acosta wrote one of my favorite secondary characters ever– Mary Violet (or MV). MV is hilarious and clever and vibrant, and all I wanted to do was read a book about her. Of course, there simply is no denying that Marta Acosta’s writing is beautiful either, and she captured the atmosphere of a gothic novel so perfectly.

Yet the exclusive Birch Grove Academy has a dark, cult-like secret. One that I wasn’t on board with.

I thought Dark Companion was going to be a vampire novel because there are these subtle clues that some of the characters in the novel have a certain fascination with blood. They like their steaks rare (Did I say “rare”? I mean “basically raw”), and they practically start salivating when people get paper cuts. And yet, vampirism would have been preferred to the twist that was presented (even though I can’t stand vampires. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C.) A genetic disorder plagues Lucien and his family (who run Birch Grove), that makes them both incredibly pale and incredibly thirsty for blood. And Jane was invited to Birch Grove Academy because her blood is exactly what Lucien needs. When it is revealed to Jane that she was selected to be Lucien’s companion, she’s both freaked out (because this means he will drink her blood), but also kind of thrilled because it means she gets to be with Lucien forever and she totally has the hots for him. Except, their relationship ends up being just as creepy as you think it will be. Lucien is overwhelmed by literal bloodlust, and he tries to seduce Jane every time he wants to feed. It boggled  my mind that this novel was marketed as a YA novel, especially considering in a previous scene, Jane returned to a friend in the slums and learned all about BDSM and “blood play”. All of this just made me feel so uncomfortable, and all I wanted to do was take a hot shower and scrub myself clean with a loofah made of steel wool. Ick.

Jane eventually comes to her senses and realizes this relationship is absolutely crazy and toxic and ends up falling for Jack, Lucien’s brother, instead. Neither of the love interests are particularly decent, but at least Jack doesn’t want to drink Jane’s bodily fluids.

Dark Companion was a disappointment, but I still find myself optimistic about this challenge. This is especially odd because the next book in line is Halo by Alexandra Adornetto, and I’ve intentionally avoided YA novels featuring angels as the main character. I’m not keen on innocent and pure main characters and forbidden love.

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This is the Book I Didn’t Know I Needed to Read | Sign Language by Amy Ackley

Sign Language by Amy Ackley is the first novel I read that is apart of the Read All the Library Books challenge I set for myself a few weeks ago. It was the novel to set the tone for this process, and the moment I plucked it from the library stack…I was disappointed. The book cover seemed to indicate that the novel I held in my hands was going to be some generic contemporary YA novel. This is a genre I tend to avoid because I have a hard time relating to the characters, and sometimes I find their actions/reactions to be unbelievable. However, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Open Road Summer by Emery Lord are exceptions; I adored these two novels. On top of that, Sign Language dealt with a topic that I wasn’t entirely sure I was prepared to read about because I was already dealing with it in my own life– grief and a parent battling cancer. I did struggle to immerse myself into the novel at first, but by the end I found Sign Language to be wonderfully written and emotional story.


Sign Language by Amy Ackley

Released: August 2011
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Page Count: 392
★★★☆☆
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Twelve-year-old Abby North’s first hint that something is really wrong with her dad is how long it’s taking him to recover from what she thought was routine surgery. Soon, the thing she calls “It” has a real name: cancer. Before, her biggest concerns were her annoying brother, the crush unaware of her existence, and her changing feelings for her best friend, Spence, the boy across the street. Now, her mother cries in the shower, her father is exhausted, and nothing is normal anymore. Amy Ackley’s impressive debut is wrenching, heartbreaking, and utterly true.


I had a hard time getting absorbed into the story because I struggled to accept how Abby North, the main character, reacted to the news of her father’s cancer.  At first, she wouldn’t call her father’s ailment what it was– cancer. It seemed like she was ignorant and unaware of what was happening, which didn’t make sense because twelve-year-old kids know what cancer is. Then I realized. this was her “denial stage”, and the author was essentially using the 5 steps of grief as framework for the novel. The moment when Abby finally acknowledges that her father has cancer and it is terminal changed everything for me. I recall reading this novel in bed at 2AM with a flashlight tucked under my chin, and I’m fairly confident I wept through the entire second half of the novel.

Aside from coping from the loss of her father, Abby still has to deal with everything else that comes with being a teenager– falling in love, a family that feels like its falling apart, moving away, finding a place in the world. She feels lost, and she feels angry that her father is not around to guide her through adolescence. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, sometimes she pushes friends and family away, and every time, it felt like my heart was breaking for her.

Sign Language by Amy Ackley is a perfect example of why I wanted to challenge myself to READ ALL THE BOOKS. It’s a novel I would have ignored either because of something vain, like the book cover, or because I don’t often like contemporary fiction, but in a way, it’s a story that I needed to read.

(Also, fun fact, according to her bio, the author is a Michigan native, and she lives two towns over from where I live. What if I bumped into her at a restaurant and didn’t even realize?! NEAT!)Save

In Which I Over Share About My Lack of Friends | The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Following my recent re-read of Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, I decided to check out another book from my teenager days– the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. To be completely honest, I only sort of vaguely remember this book despite its popularity and despite the movie, which of course I saw. I don’t have any specific memory related to this book, not like Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging at least, but I know I admired the depiction of a strong friendship, and wished I had a Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget in my life.


sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pantsThe Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Released: September 2001
Publisher: Delacorte
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★★★★☆

From Baja California to Greece, from film-making to soccer – as Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget endure their first summer apart they are secure in the knowledge that their friendship is constant – and the symbol of it is only a parcel-delivery away.


I felt something strange while reading the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I don’t know if “regret” is the right word, but I think it was something close to that. I’ve never been a social butterfly. In high school, I hung out with friends during my school days and my color guard performances, but aside from that I kept myself pretty secluded mostly communicating with friends through livejournal and AIM (AOL Instant Messenger for you youngsters out there). We rarely had slumber parties. We rarely went to the movies or the beach or the mall together. In hindsight, I feel like I missed out on creating a strong bond, a strong friendship. I was very much a Tibby Rollins, cynical and sarcastic, but without the Carmen, Lena, and Bridget to balance her.

At first I thought, if I could go back and do things differently… but then I wondered why go back in time when I still have so much future ahead of me? Because, as embarrassing as it is to admit, even at the age of 28, I still find myself living vicariously through Carmen and Tibby and Lena and Bridget. [This is about the time where I realize that I need to create one of those “Thirty before Thirty”lists and put “make real friends” at the very top.]

The four girls are hardly perfect. Sometimes they become so preoccupied by events that are going on in their own lives– discovering that a parent is about to get remarried, making a new friend only to find out she is suffering from a terminal illness, allowing oneself to become vulnerable to someone else for the first time, becoming intimate with someone before they were actually ready– that they say things that they later regret or they don’t see that another friend is working through something painful too. But, their friendship is so strong that it doesn’t take long before one of them can take a step back and forgive one another or realize that they are needed by a friend to console and to comfort and to help realign the world.

Another strange thing happened during my reread of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants— I cried. Specifically when Bailey is in the hospital and Tibby realizes just how big of an impact this little girl had on not just Tibby but the people the duo had met that summer. I never cry when I read books, but I swear, adulthood has turned me into a weepy wimp.

the-sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pants-2-movie-poster

Naturally, I had to immediately rent the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie. It didn’t have quite the same effect as the book because I think their friendship seemed stronger in the book. But, I still spent the last twenty minutes of the film weeping (truly, adulthood has ruined me).

If you’re looking for a contemporary novel focusing on friendship, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a must read!

Have you ever read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? What are some of your favorite books that portray a strong and positive female friendship?

I Had Good Reason to Feel Nervous About Starting This Book | Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

About a month after publishing a blog post about how I was nervous to start reading Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris, a reader pointed out that a fair amount of time had passed and I still hadn’t written a review for the novel; she was curious about what I thought of the book. The truth is…it took me nearly a month to read the novel, and it was a pretty grueling experience.


dead-until-darkDead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

Released: May 2001
Publisher: Ace Books
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★★☆☆☆

Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She’s quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn’t get out much. Not because she’s not pretty. She is. It’s just that, well, Sookie has this sort of “disability.” She can read minds. And that doesn’t make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He’s tall, dark, handsome–and Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s exactly the type of guy she’s been waiting for all her life….

But Bill has a disability of his own: He’s a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of–big surprise–murder. And when one of Sookie’s coworkers is killed, she fears she’s next….


I went into reading Dead Until Dark with skepticism. I’ve never developed a fondness for novels about vampires, and I suspected this novel was mostly smut, yet I was pleasantly surprised in the first few chapters. I was impressed by the character of Sookie Stackhouse and how vivid her voice was. She seemed like a down-to-earth and simple southern girl who had an insatiable curiosity about vampires. She also had a peculiar gift that allowed her to read the thoughts of others, which…okay…I wasn’t that impressed with. It was a little too Bella Swan for my taste (and yes, I realize Dead Until Dark was published first), though I was willing to overlook it.

And then everything changed following her first roll in the hay with Bill, the vampire. Sookie Stackhouse? Surely her name is really Mary Sue!

  • She’s the most gorgeous girl in Bon Temps, Louisiana, which she and everyone in Bon Temps constantly reminds the reader about. I guess the only reprieve the reader gets is at least Sookie doesn’t try to convince you she’s just mediocre looking despite an excess amount of male attention.
  • She refers to her magical ability, which allows her to read the minds of those around her, as a “disability”. Gross.
  • Said magical ability is a result of her not-so-human status (which is actually revealed in later novels, I just accidentally found a spoiler).
  • Spoilers also tell me of a love pentagon? A love hexagon? Just no.
  • She’s abstained from any romantic and sexual relationships because of her mind reading ability, so naturally her first sexual encounters, with a vampire of course, reveal she’s actually a sexual beast. Who doesn’t come out the gate swingin’ though, amiright? (Just kidding. The answer to that question is “NO ONE”).
  • She essentially has a minimum wage job, but she doesn’t ever have to worry about money because a giant “nest egg” has been willed to her. On multiple occasions. This allows her to take all the time off from work that she needs with no consequence. That and her boss is in love with her. How convenient.

There was a mystery in this book too that became quite muddled after Sookie lost her V-card. I mean, it was a compelling murder mystery at first, but then the story morphed into this weird relationship power struggle between Bill and Sookie. Bill was a bit of a wet blanket unless bedroom activity was involved, and Sookie was excessively stubborn by refusing her gentleman caller unless bedroom activity was involved. I forgot about the mystery until the last couple of chapters, which in all fairness, wrapped up nicely.

In the end, while I didn’t hate Dead Until Dark, it definitely didn’t impress me. I sort of wish I could have my month back to trudge through a different novel.

Have you ever read the Sookie Stackhouse series or watched the True Blood series? Do you prefer one over the other?

For Fans of Character-Driven Novels | Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

I had a friend in high school who was a little left of center. She never cut her hair. She never wore matching shoes. And she never cleaned her room. She cried when she broke a nail… and then taped the tip back on. She only listened to the Beatles, Kylie Minogue, and the Powerpuff Girls OST. And she only watched the Twilight Zone, Powerpuff Girls, and Sailor Moon. She collected (and I assume played with) dolls. She still collects (and I assume plays with) dolls. She had a high pitch, chirpy voice, and an even higher pitched laugh that sometimes sounded like she was screaming if she thought something was particularly funny. She colored strips of paper with pens and markers and taped them into bracelets, and then she wore them. Unless they broke…then she would toss them into her clear, plastic backpack, where they would collect at the bottom along with pencil shavings, empty Frutopia bottles, pen caps with erasers, and incomplete math homework.

She is the best writer I’ve ever known. She is an enigma. She’s probably the only reason why I had real friends in middle school and high school. And this is who I thought about when I read Eggshells by Caitriona Lally.


Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

Released: March 2017
Publisher: Melville House Printing
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★★★☆☆

Vivian doesn’t feel like she fits in – and never has. As a child, she was so whimsical that her parents told her she was “left by fairies.” Now, living alone in Dublin, the neighbors treat her like she’s crazy, her older sister condescends to her, social workers seem to have registered her as troubled, and she hasn’t a friend in the world.

So, she decides it’s time to change her life: She begins by advertising for a friend. Not just any friend. She wants one named Penelope. Meanwhile, she roams the city, mapping out a new neighborhood every day, seeking her escape route to a better world, the other world her parents told her she came from. And then one day someone named Penelope answers her ad for a friend. And from that moment on, Vivian’s life begins to change.

Debut author Caitriona Lally offers readers an exhilaratingly fresh take on the Irish love for lyricism, humor, and inventive wordplay in a book that is, in itself, deeply charming, and deeply moving.


I thought I preferred character-driven novels over everything else, but I was wrong. And, the thing about Eggshells by Caitriona Lally is it’s 100% character driven. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Eggshells. That’s far from the truth. But, I did find the novel to be…exhausting. Vivian, like my friend from high school, is a little left of center. Her behavior is extremely quirky (which, is just a polite way of saying, she’s a weirdo), and at first I found it charming and silly.

I was amused when Vivian sent letters containing the ashes of her late Aunt Maud to 22 of Aunt Maud’s friends– one to each letter of the alphabet. Then she picks four unsuspecting citizens from the phone book to complete the alphabet. I even related to her when she repeated the word “bumble bee” so many times that it started to sound meaningless because I do the exact same thing with the word “purple”.

Then, I felt sad for her when she felt confident that a letter sent via message in a bottle across oceans would get to her friend more safely than through the postal service. And that’s just barely scratching the surface. He whole perspective of the world is so abstract and bizarre, and it began to wear on me. I felt like my ability to enjoy this book depended on how well I accepted and appreciated Vivian, and perhaps she’s a bit too much of a social pariah for my tastes. In the end, I just felt overwhelmed by her, but maybe that’s the point.

What I really found myself sticking around for was Lally’s writing. It was poetic and clever and humorous (not in a laugh-out-loud sort of way, but subtly so). But even that was hard– sticking around for 250+ pages just because stylistically Lally’s writing is amazing.

In the end, would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Just make sure you understand what you’re picking up.

Are you a fan of character driven novels? What are some of your favorites?

This novel was received for free in exchange for an honest review as a part of TLC Book Tours

#TBT | Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison is so old that I remember seeing it at my elementary book fair…nearly twenty years ago. I also remember wanting to buy the book, but I was too embarrassed because the word “thong” was in the title, so I picked up something more prudent instead. It wouldn’t be for another two years before I had the courage to pluck Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal snogging from the shelf at a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

On the ride home, I read excerpts out loud to my mom about Georgia Nicholson dressing up as a green olive for a costume party followed by excerpts about Georgia accidentally shaving off one of her eyebrows, which made her look really surprised in one eye. My mom nearly had to pull the car over because she laughed so hard her eyes filled with tears.

During a recent library visit, I spied this book on a shelf, and I wondered if it was still as funny after all of these years. I’m not much of a reader, unless it’s Harry Potter, but I could resist. I brought this book home…and devoured it in one sitting.


angusthongsandfullfrontalsnoggingbookcoverAngus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Released: January 1999
Publisher: Harper Teen
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★★★★☆

There are six things very wrong with my life:

1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.

2. It is on my nose

3. I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.

4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic teachers.

5. I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.

6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.
In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones’s Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it’s “Fabbity fab fab!”


Indeed, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging is still hilarious, in the laugh-out-loud sort of way, after all of these years. It’s also entirely possible that Georgia Nicholson is one of my absolute favorite characters ever written. Okay, so she is sometimes selfish and a total snot to her friend, but she is also brave and vibrant, and she goes after what she wants (whether it’s Robbie the Sex God or Dave the Laugh or Masimo). Plus, Georgia has such a strong and memorable voice.

angus-thongs

After finishing the book, I immediately settled down to watch the movie adaptation on Netflix. If my memory serves me, the film is actually an adaptation of the first two novels in the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series. It was such a fun little movie, and I just loafed on the couch wearing a cheesy grin and giggling. Although, Robbie was not how I pictured him. The movie version of Robbie the Sex God had such a feminine sounding voice, which was really weird.

Also, I don’t recall if I thought about this as a teenager, but I certainly did during my recent re-read– I was kind of disturbed by the relationship between Georgia and Robbie. In the book, Georgia is only 14 but Robbie is just about to turn 18, and I found that to be totally creepy. (The film closed the age gap, so it didn’t bother me as much.)

Have you ever read Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging? Have kids these days heard of this series? (I mean, I have to suspect that they have because my teeny tiny local library has the series…)