“This is What Happy Looks Like”—A Book Review

51wb92R06GL__SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith is a cute coming-of-age book…sort of. Not quite as awesome as her first novel, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but still an enjoyable read.

Perchance, two teenagers start swapping emails due to a small typo in the “send to” email address. Knowing nothing about the other originally, other than the fact that they both have a pet and have read Charlotte’s Web, the witty banter flows much too easily.

After a smidge of investigating from context clues gathered, the original sender discovers where his Internet Pen Pal lives. And because he just so happens to be no other than Graham Larkin (teen celebrity heartthrob), he pulls some strings and gets the production of his newest movie moved to small town Main.

Upon discovering that her mystery guy friend is insanely famous, Ellie wasn’t quite sure how to handle the news. Not one drawn to spotlight and drama, Ellie pulls away. But she can’t help how Graham makes her feel…the real Graham (the boy she spent several hours a day writing to), not Graham Larkin the movie star.

Figuring out what we think is important in life and what is truly important can be a hard truth to wrap your head around. A lot of the time, overcoming our own fear and learning to lower our personal self-preserving safety net is a difficult feat, indeed.

A pretty cute coming-of-age novel, with some pretty deep self-examination thrown in (not to mention coming to the realization that the whole world doesn’t revolve around you, no matter who you are, and you have absolutely no way of knowing exactly what other people are thinking, unless you happen to be telepathic), I would say This is What Happy Looks Like was worth the read. Three out of five stars!

 

“All that was left was the boy with a smile that seemed intended only for her”

Advertisements

“In Honor”—A Book Review

9781442416987_p0_v4_s260x420

In Honor by Jessi Kirby is more than just a story about grief. It’s a story about how to find and except yourself after you lose a love one, and how to being rebuilding your life.

Honor’s brother, Finn (a marine), was killed in action in Afghanistan. Aside from the aunt that raised them from children, he was the only family she had left. Ever since their parents died, Finn was always there to protect honor and with him gone, she can’t seem to make since of her life without him there to guide her.

After they find out Finn has been killed, the last letter he wrote to Honor arrives in the mail. When she opens it, she discovers concert tickets for the last show their favorite singer will ever perform. Trying to find a way to honor her brother, Honor decides to take his ancient “classic” Impala on a road trip from their hometown in Texas out to California, with an unexpected travel companion for company.

Traveling several miles through the desert in an old car, Honor and her brother’s best friend argue, sit through mounting awkward silence, and even exchange unforeseen sexual glances.

Not only does Honor have to figure out how to navigate this world without Finn, but she has to find a way to forgive herself and others for not being exactly who she thought they were. Sometimes learning that the world isn’t strictly black and white can be a tough pill to swallow.

I give this coming-of-age novel three out of five stars.

 

“He always told me to look strong, even if I didn’t feel it, because sometimes that’s all you can do.”

“Etched in Sand” –A Book Review

9780062218834_p0_v42_s260x420

“When you’re a kid with no one to protect you, everything comes with a price.”

Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra is an eye-opening memoir. This story tells of the impoverishment Regina and her four siblings had to endure throughout their childhood in Long Island.

Each child has a different father (none of which are in the picture), and their alcoholic mother is both verbally and physically abusive. Leaving the kids on their own for weeks, even months, at a time (to spend time with a new boyfriend or drink herself senseless at a bar), “Cookie’s” kids have never known stability. Regina is tasked with keeping her two younger siblings safe, fed, and sheltered. Sadly, this task is much easier when their mother, Cookie, is away.

“To me, feeling secure means the opposite of what it means to most kids. Children are supposed to find their greatest safety and comfort in the arms of their mothers. Instead, Cookie’s homecoming is our darkest danger, like the worst storm anyone can imagine.”

One night, after Cookie stumbles home from wherever she’s been holed up for the past several months, she decides to take out her aggression on Regina. But this time, the damage is too extensive to hide, and school authorities report it to social services. With the promise of keeping her two younger siblings safe and away from their mother’s grasp, Regina is “tricked” into telling her social worker everything. However, she soon learns that kids like her are often thrown under the bus by the system put in place to keep them safe.

“We’re poor. We have no connections and even fewer resources, and we’ve learned not to trust anyone who says You can trust me. We’ve had to put our faith in the people who treat us coldly, who attempt to prey on our vulnerabilities and take advantage of us; but in the end, no one can really save us from our own hard reality. Every single one of us has had to climb out of our childhood and help ourselves.”

“When you live on the fringes of society with no resources, you have no voice, and your complaints are easily ignored.”

Ripped apart from her younger siblings, Regina must learn how to navigate the world on her own (while still struggling to keep her family together). Somehow, through more hardships than most of us can even begin to imagine, she manages to pick herself up and create a good life.

“Maybe my impossible upbringing sets me apart from the rest. I’ve cultivated a strong work ethic and faith in my capacity to take care of myself.”

 “The older I get, the more I’m convinced: I’ve suffered for a reason. It’s a reason I don’t know yet, but it’s been circling me—a forecast of something mighty.”

This spell bounding account will have you thanking the heavens for everything you have and help to remind you that there is always someone out there worse off than you. I give this heartfelt piece four out of five stars.

“Death, Doom, and Detention”—A Book Review

9780312625214_p0_v2_s260x420

Death, Doom, and Detention by Darynda Jones was kind of a letdown after the first book in the series, Death and the Girl Next Door.

The first book in the Darklight series was extremely witty, snarky, and action packed. The second installment, however, I found to be extremely lacking.

I feel like nothing much really happened in the sequel. We basically just followed the main characters around school while their peers may or may not have been possessed by evil spirits. The hot guy (the Archangel of Death) Lorelei is crushing on is absent for most of the novel. And even when stuff is “happening” it wasn’t very exciting. I never really felt the suspense like I did with the first book.  

While the dialogue was still pretty fantastic and snarky, I just wasn’t feeling it with this one. Sadly, I have to give it two out of five stars.

“That Time I Joined the Circus”—A Book Review

9780545433815_p0_v2_s260x420

That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard was a thoughtful tale that makes you take stock of the things around you.

Left with nothing, her father recently dead, her runaway mother being who-knows-where, Lexi is left with nothing but a bus ticket out of New York, a duffle bag’s worth of belongings, and word-of-mouth-hunch that her mother may or may not be with a traveling circus in Florida.

  When Lexi arrives at the Europa Circus in Florida and discovers her mother is not there, she is out of options. She has no money, no food, and no place to sleep. Taking pity on her, the Ringmaster offers Lexi a job, and crew quarters to sleep in.

Having no one in the world to count on or talk to (her old best friends in New York abandoned her), Lexi has no choice but to make the best out of a completely crappy situation. Learning to break out of her shell , Lexi makes true friends, has a shot at love, and learns that the word “home” doesn’t necessarily mean a building or a particular place, but rather, it can mean being with the people you love, no matter where you are geographically.

Told in back and forth present and past tense, this novel really makes you take a look at how you view and live life. Sometimes life is crappy, merely because we don’t have the guts to do anything to change it. And sometimes crappy things just happen, but how you react to it is entirely up to you.

I give this insightful story four out of five stars.

“Dare You To”—A Book Review

9780373210633_p0_v2_s260x420

Dare You To by Katie McGarry (the spin off book from Pushing the Limits) is another mind blowing story. I’m telling you, people, don’t let the raunchy covers fool you. These books are deep.

Beth’s mom is a drunk and her boyfriend beats her (and Beth) at any available opportunity. In a drunken rage, her mom decides to bust out the windows of the no-good-girlfriend-beater-drug-abuser’s car. When the cops arrive, Beth has no choice but to take the blame for it, otherwise her mom will go to jail for violating probation. While in jail, Beth is faced with an ultimatum: Move in with her uncle (newly back in town) and live life on the straight and narrow, or he will turn her mom in to the police for horrors imaginable and her mom will go to jail.

Ryan is as straight-laced as they come. Town golden boy, he is looking at possibly going pro as soon as he graduates high school. On the outside, looking in, his life is perfect. Behind closed doors, his family hides hurtful secrets.

When Ryan first sees Beth, he asks her out on a dare (the one thing Ryan can never refuse…he doesn’t lose). When Beth shows up at school the following week, Ryan can’t help but try to regain the win and score a date with her. Little does he know, there is much more hiding underneath the surface of her skater-girl, emo, looks.

Will Beth help Ryan to finally see want he really wants out of life and give him the courage to go after it? And will Ryan help Beth to see that she isn’t her mom, nor is her mom her responsibility?

Told in alternate narratives from two teens, this story is sure to tug at your heart strings and remind you to be thankful for what you have, and to fight like hell for what you want.

Five out of five stars! Can’t wait for the next book by this fabulous author!