“Dare You To”—A Book Review

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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!

“Pretty Face”—A Book Review

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Pretty Face by Mary Hogan was a quick read that offered a lot of insight into not only how we view the world, but how the world views us versus how we view ourselves.

Hayley tragically lives in Santa Monica, where blonde, tanned, and toned people are aplenty. Hayley’s mom is constantly hounding her about her weight and what she is eating at every possible second. Thus, to Hayley, bikinis are basically a form a torture.

Living in a place where narcissism is a way of life, Hayley’s jumps at the opportunity when her mom offers her the chance to go to Umbria (a small town in Italy) to stay with a family friend. No more of her mom breathing down her back every time she takes a bite of something and no more guy crushes telling her what a great friend she is. This is a chance for Hayley to get away and reinvent herself. On the plane, she vows that she will eat less than a thousand calories a day and will lose thirty pounds by the time she returns home.

However, when Hayley arrives in Italy, her game plan falters. Emerging herself in a totally different culture, can she learn that sometimes just slowing down and enjoying life can make you a better you?

“I’m on Italian time. Nothing is rushed; everything happens when it’s supposed to.”

Adjusting to Italian traditions like “riposo”, the time between 1-3pm where everything closes down and everyone goes home to enjoy lunch with their family, take a nap, or even make love, and learning to slow down and actually enjoy the taste of food, opposed to just shoveling it in her mouth, Hayley may just learn to love herself. And even better, she may even find a steamy Italian amore.

Using a witty teenage backdrop, this book really opens you eyes to how materialistic Americans are. All we think about is being thin (not necessarily healthy), and pushing that concept of “perfect” onto our children. Everyone in America is constantly “plugged in” and going a million miles a minute, never accomplishing enough. I was reminded that when all you do is berate yourself for having that scoop of ice cream, or scramble around to get a gazillion things done at once, you end up make yourself a pretty miserable person. If we could learn to slow down a little bit, enjoy the scenery, our food, and the company of others, we could be so much happier not only as individuals, but as a society.

And in regards to overweight people “eating their feelings”, I’ve mentioned this issue in another review for the book Butter by Erin Jade Lange, and maybe I’m just an insensitive asshole, but it really pisses me off. If you are hiding what you are eating and how much you are eating, you obviously feel ashamed about it. If you are feeling embarrassed or guilty about the amount of crap food you consume (without even tasting most of it, I might add…just shoveling it in faster than you can breathe), obviously there is something wrong with the situation. For example, in this scene at the beginning of the book, Hayley orders a giant pizza and coke to be consumed by her, and only her, she tries to play it off as if she is ordering for a whole gob of people, only to later hide from curious/disgusted eyes to consume everything.

“Intellectually, I know the counter guy doesn’t care who I am or how many people will be eating this pizza. Emotionally, though, I can’t bear for him to know the truth. I can’t even stand to know the truth myself.”

If you are upset by your appearance, and you know you are partaking in unhealthy habits, then fix it. It is in your power to make positive choices and take control of your life and body. I’m not saying everyone should be a size 4, quite the opposite. Most people are not naturally thin and are not capable of being that thin. Everyone’s body is different. But being healthy (exercising) and choosing healthy eating habits can go a long way. And no, it’s not fair that some people can eat whatever they want, never exercise, and stay rail thin, but that’s life. Get over it.

Sorry for the brief rant! All in all, I give this insightful little tale 4 out of 5 stars!

*Warning: This book will make you want to drink wine, eat amazing food, and book a trip to Italy!

“Nantucket Blue”—A Book Review

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Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland is the most absolute perfect beach read if you are looking for something a little thought provoking. Fans of Jenny Han’s The Summer I turned Pretty trilogy are sure to love this title.

Cricket Thompson is ready to have the summer of her life in Nantucket, staying with her best friend in the world, Jules. But right before the trip, Jules’ family suffers a tragedy and Cricket finds herself uninvited to stay with them.

But Cricket is determined—determined that Jules needs her this summer more than ever, and determined that this is the summer she will make her long-time crush, Jay, hers. Thus, Cricket gets a job as a maid at an inn on the island…not quite what she had in mind, but better than stuck at home all summer babysitting a snotty kid.

The thing is, life doesn’t always go how you planned it. Jules is dealing with her own sadness and decides not to be Cricket’s friend and is pissed that Cricket showed up in Nantucket.

“It didn’t matter how good my grades were or that I’d made varsity as a freshman; it didn’t matter how carefully, how perfectly, I’d managed my popularity; it didn’t matter that I’d measured an doled out my flirtations like teaspoons of sugar—never too much to be a tease, always enough to be sweet. Jules was able to take my happiness away from me with one swift betrayal. My social life had slid from good to bad like a hockey puck across a rink. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to take her to friend court.”

Now Cricket finds herself stuck on this island for the summer, scrubbing toilets and making beds, and without a best friend. While surrounded by rich hoity-toity islanders, Cricket must learn to lead her own life and stop wishing for things that are outside of her current grasp.

 “I was wishing I were that kind of rich, the kind where people have to respect you, because that’s what money does. It makes people shut up. It means you live in the big house, throw the cool birthday parties, belong to the country club that has its own jokes, its own dances; take awesome vacations, go skiing enough to get really good at it, own the best clothes, get the green dress.”

Ultimately, this is a summer for Cricket to find herself and to find love in the most unexpected place.

“The only opinion that should matter to me was that of the girl in the mirror. For the first time it felt true. It didn’t matter what other people thought of me; it mattered what I thought of me. I’m not sure why it was at that moment that it finally sank in, except that maybe this is how wisdom works sometimes. You hear it, and some extra-smart part of your brain that you don’t even realize you have grabs it. It stays there, hidden away, until it’s needed.”

This novel kept me turning pages from the very start. I simply couldn’t put it down. Five out of five stars for this brilliant debut!

“Twenty Boy Summer”—A Book Review

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Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is a heart wrenchingly good summertime read.

Anna is headed to Zanzibar Bay with her best friend Frankie for the summer. The wild and daring Frankie is determined for Anna to finally have a summer romance and devises a plan that they meet and hang out with one boy each day.

Anna agrees to go along with Frankie’s crazy plan. But what she doesn’t tell her is that she’s already had a sizzling romance…with Frankie’s older brother Matt, who died a year ago. Matt promised he would tell Frankie about them, but died tragically before he had the chance. So for the past year, Anna has had to keep the dear memories of her and Matt’s steamy romance secret.

“But when you’re in the middle of being in love with someone, you just don’t stop to ask, ‘Matt, listen, if you die before you tell your sister about us, should I tell her?’”

Emotionally raw and honest, this novel deals with grief, tragedy, secrets, betrayal, family, steamy romance, and most importantly, learning how to move on and live again. I give this summer time read five out of five stars!