romance

Review and Blog Tour: One True Loves

onetrueloves Happy June, everyone!  I’m so thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for One True Loves, the latest book from Taylor Jenkins Reid. Last year I read (and adored!) Maybe in Another Life, and I reviewed that here.  So thank you, Atria, for giving me the chance to read One True Loves!

Stick around after my review: there’s a link to a giveaway at the end of this post!

Emma Blair lives a cozy life in Massachusetts. She works at her family’s bookstore and she has a wonderful fiance named Sam. One night when she is sitting down to dinner with Sam and her parents she gets a phone call she could not have expected to get in a million years. On the other end of the line, she hears the voice of her first love and her husband, Jesse Lerner. He tells her he is coming home.

Three years prior, on the eve of their first wedding anniversary, Emma said goodbye to Jesse before he boarded a helicopter on an assignment. The helicopter went down, leaving no survivors, as the authorities and family were lead to believe.

But somehow, Jesse survived all of this time. Jesse, who Emma grieved for, is coming back home, and he wants to pick up their marriage where they left off.

Emma, who mourned and suffered and drastically altered the circumstances of her life, is a new person, promised to another man.

“Do you ever get over loss? Or do you just find a box within yourself, big enough to hold it? Do you just stuff it in there, push it down, and snap the lid on it? Do you just work, every day, to keep the box shut?”

What follows is a intricate story about relationships, choices, and personal identity. Emma is not only caught between two men; she’s caught between the life she had built for herself before Jesse’s accident, and the life she is building for herself now.

When Emma was married to Jesse, the two lived in California and traveled the world extensively – together as well as separately – and they were always up for a new experience.

Emma’s life with Sam is rooted in their Massachusetts hometown. It is a calm and cozy life, full of domesticity, and owning cats, and having dinners at home. Both of Emma’s lives are appealing for their own reasons.

The supporting cast of characters – Emma’s parents and sister, Marie – are complicated in their own way, but fiercely dedicated to the rest of the family. Scenes between Emma and her sister are especially poignant.

Taylor Jenkins Reid is a master of tugging on the heartstrings. If you’re looking for a book to make you swoon and/or cry this summer, I highly recommend picking up One True Loves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted, After I Do and Maybe In Another Life. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.

ONE TRUE LOVES by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Atria/Washington Square Press Paperback | ISBN: 9781476776903 | On sale: June 7, 2016 | 352 pages | $16.00

eBook: Atria/Washington Square Press | ISBN: 9781476776910 | On sale: June 7, 2016 | 352 pages | $11.99

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY:

2 COMPLETE SETS OF SIGNED TJR BOOKS

5 SIGNED COPIES OF ONE TRUE LOVES

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway HERE.

Thanks to Atria Books for supplying me with an advanced e-copy for review purposes!

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Review: The Two of Us by Andy Jones

thetwoofus Before a snowstorm hit New York City in January, I was contacted by Atria Books with an a review request for The Two of Us by Andy Jones, which was later released on February 9th. Atria promised me “the perfect book to cuddle up to as snow and ice pelt the windows,” so I eagerly downloaded it.

In reality, The Two of Us lasted me a few chilly, soggy subway rides post-snowstorm, and while it wasn’t necessarily a book I would think of cuddling up to, it was a captivating read that was vastly different from any love story I’ve ever read.

Fisher and Ivy have been dating for a blissed-out, totally sexy nineteen days when they’re faced with a major wake-up call: one that’s set to completely change their lives in nine months time. While Fisher is certain that the gorgeous, spontaneous Ivy is the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with, the couple is forced to learn about each other, overcome hurdles together, and reach milestones together on an incredibly sped-up timeline.

While on their own I didn’t entirely enjoy Fisher or Ivy as characters, they made an interesting couple. Separately, I found both of them to be impatient, self-involved people. Together, however, they become a different entity entirely. Their dynamics, their moods, and their conversations kept me on my toes and turning the pages. The secondary characters – especially Fisher’s friend, El, who is suffering from Huntington’s disease – made this story a rich, compelling read.

The Two of Us, told entirely through Fisher’s point of view (intriguing for a romantic plot), is a funny, complicated, and heartbreaking story. While it may be easy to fall in love, it’s not always easy to stay there. I thought Fisher’s narration was incredibly interesting for this storyline; I may have read this story a dozen times from the woman’s perspective, but I’ve never read it from the man’s perspective. The frank language and candid opinions of Fisher really made this story stand out for me.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Why to Read Outside Your Genre

There are people who only read one genre. People who are steadfast horror fans or romance readers, or if the book doesn’t have vampires with smoldering gazes, then count them out.

I can’t imagine doing that. What if I miss something really brilliant?! It’s not like I have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) for every single book out there, but if something looks interesting or is about something I want to know more about, I’m going to read it. Because of that, I’ve read some really strange books that surprised me.

plumisland

There was Birth, a really interesting look into the historical, sociological, medical, and cultural aspects of being born. Another book was Plum Island by Nelson Demille, a gritty crime novel that focuses on the secret island off the shore of Long Island. And (cough) I even read a few romance novels, thanks to a friend’s obsession in high school.

I took to asking our lovely contributors for their own experiences! What were books that people would be surprised to hear they read and enjoyed?

wrathandthedawn

Danielle: I’m generally not a big fantasy / adventure story reader, but I really enjoyed Renee Ahdieh’s debut, The Wrath and the Dawn! It was full of suspense and gorgeous prose, and I fell hard for the characters. I can’t wait for the next book!

crossroadsofshouldandmust

Sara: I don’t read a lot of autobiography or self-help books, but I recently read Yes Please by Amy Poehler and The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna, and loved both of them!

bestamericanessays

Kim: I think I’m stuck on YA books because they take no brain power from me, and I am totally done after a 50-hour work week. But one of my favorite series of books in high school was about a span of four year’s worth of The Best American Essays. The topics were all over the place and the writing styles were crazy-different, and I just loved the format and how much I learned so quickly.

marryme

Andrew: I just read my first proper “romance,” or so John Updike calls it. Marry Me was dreamy and horrifying, and now I’m not sure if I ever want to get married. Overall a great intro to the genre!

iputaspellonyou

Eden: I just read I Put a Spell on You – it’s an autobiography by Nina Simone and it was really great. I also read The Beat Hotel by Barry Miles, which describes the adventures of the beat poets in 1960s Paris. Both of these books were different kinds of reads for me but both very interesting and great!

radiancesutras

AlysonBecause of my yoga teacher training I’ve had to read a lot of yoga books. But one of them, The Radiance Sutras translated by Lorin Roche, is written in poetry stanzas. It is a really beautiful take on life and love and spirituality. I’ve never read a poetry book before.

How about you, readers? Is there anything you’ve read that was out of your comfort zone? Did you like it, or totally hate it? Will you try to read outside of your genre in the new year?

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at her website.

Review: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

camgirl cover Cam Girl, the third book by author Leah Raeder, was published on November 3 by Atria.

I’ve been an unabashed “Raeder Reader” since her first novel, Unteachable, and I’ve been lucky enough to snag her second and third novels as ARCs so I can share my reviews with you. (Thank you, Atria and NetGalley!)

Read more about the book below, along with my review, and then follow the link for a chance to win one of five signed copies of Cam Girl!

ABOUT CAM GIRL:

Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art and her best friend—and sometimes more—Ellis Carraway. Ellis and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart. Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.

Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone. She’s got nothing left to lose.
So when she meets some smooth-talking entrepreneurs who offer to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night stripping on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.

It’s just a kinky escape from reality until a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they chat intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. It’s an easy decision: she’s starting to fall for him. But the steamier it gets, the more she craves the real man behind the keyboard. So Vada pops the question: Can we meet IRL?

Blue agrees, on one condition. A condition that will bring back a ghost from her past.

Now Vada must confront what she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others and those she’s been keeping from herself…

My Review:

Like Raeder’s previous heroines, Maise and Laney, I may not have been able to relate to Vada Bergen at first glance. Our circumstances are different, and I’m lucky to have never experienced the kind of suffering Vada has experienced. The narrative voice in Cam Girl is so clear; I found myself falling into Vada’s mindset with ease. Her feelings are beautifully described in stark images and vibrant colors (she is an artist, even at her most broken), and with Raeder’s expert attention to detail, I found myself thinking like Vada, too. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. The juxtaposition of darkness and light is awe-inspiring. Even pain, for all its hellish-ness, is beautiful in Vada’s voice.

Unlike the more conventional romance plot of UnteachableCam Girl‘s plot focuses on Vada’s personal journey as well as her relationships with the important figures in her life.

At the center of Vada’s world is Ellis, her best friend and sometimes-lover, a partner that Vada cannot commit to because she’s always imagined herself ending up with a man.

There is Max: a broken man who entangled himself in Vada’s life after the accident. What they mean to each other is unclear. Their relationship is precarious, balancing on the edge of a cliff.

Finally, there is Blue: a stranger that Vada begins chatting with during her cam girl sessions. There is something that the mysterious Blue awakens in Vada, and she cannot deny the attraction she feels for him. But how can she be in love with someone whose face she’s never seen? How can she fall in love with a screen name, when there are flesh-and-blood people in her life?

Cam Girl is a book that forces you to think about things that have not often been explored in new adult books. The camming industry is presented in raw, unapologetic terms, but all of the workers are strong and completely in control of their situations. They are not victims of their occupations, which is incredibly refreshing.  Cam Girl raises many questions about gender, gender identity, and sexuality which I haven’t seen addressed in many other new adult books.

At its core, Cam Girl is a book about relationships, identity, and finding strength even in the most dire of circumstances. It is not a book about miraculous healing. The characters feel pain that is real, and raw, and it cannot be fixed easily – if at all. But Cam Girl is a book about fighting, and a book about love. Readers of new adult books will not be disappointed with this complex, emotionally-charged novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Leah Raeder is a writer and unabashed nerd. She is also the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable andBlack Iris. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at www.leahraeder.com.

CAM GIRL by Leah Raeder

 Atria Books Paperback | ISBN: 9781501114991 | On sale: November 3, 2015 | 432 pages | US $16.00 |

eBook: Atria Books | ISBN: 9781501115004 | On sale: November 3, 2015 | 432 pages | US $5.99

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY FOR 1 OF 5 SIGNED COPIES OF CAM GIRL!

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

morehappythannot The New York Times called Adam Silvera’s debut novel, More Happy Than Not, “mandatory reading,” and I’m inclined to agree. This novel turned everything I thought I knew about the young adult scene on its head, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I meet. So if you see me in the next year or so and ask me what you should be reading, here’s your answer.

Aaron Soto is a sixteen-year-old boy living in the Bronx of the near future. He lives in a housing project with his mother and older brother, all three of them skirting around their grief and disbelief over Adam’s father’s suicide and Adam’s attempted suicide.  Why should they live with their feelings when there’s a procedure that wipes away your memories? The Leteo Institute offers a memory-wiping (“memory relief”) procedure for those who have gone through trauma. In Aaron’s own community, one friend underwent the procedure after his twin brother was killed, effectively wiping out all memories of his sibling’s existence and their shared childhood.

Aaron has a scar shaped like a smile on his wrist, but he doesn’t have much to be happy about: his father killed himself, his mother is overworked, and the neighborhood he lives in is poor. While the support of his girlfriend, Genevieve, is a comfort, it doesn’t always seem like enough. He’s never quite sure of how he’s supposed to act.

But then Thomas shows up, and Aaron’s whole world turns upside-down. Thomas is not like Aaron’s friends from his project; Thomas is sensitive, and funny, and likes the same comic books as Aaron. Aaron starts finding more and more  excuses to hang out with Thomas, until he realizes he’s falling for his new best friend. In a neighborhood where being gay is enough to get you jumped, Aaron struggles with this new realization. Maybe there’s hope for him, still, if he can just get his mom to agree to a Leteo procedure. But is the process of erasing memories enough to change a person?

“Memories: some can be sucker punching, others carry you forward; some stay with you forever, others you forget on your own. You can’t really know which ones you’ll survive if you don’t stay on the battlefield, bad times shooting at you like bullets. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have plenty of good times to shield you.”

You may think: “I’ve seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This kind of seems like the same thing.” But aside from the idea of a memory-wiping procedure, More Happy Than Not is entirely unique. Its diverse cast of lovable (and not so lovable) characters, realistic, gritty setting, and surprising plot twists make this a story all its own. I wept, unabashedly, through the last third of the book, because the writing is so good and the characters are so easy to care for.

Have you read Silvera’s debut yet? I’d love to hear what you think! If you haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet — do it now. You won’t regret it.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Review: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

boymostlikelyto Published on August 18th by Dial Books, Huntley Fitzpatrick’s The Boy Most Likely To is an exciting companion read to My Life Next Door.

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To . . . find the liquor cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house.

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

Tim’s wild ways have finally caught up with him. Though he went through rehab and is now a willing participant in the AA program, his father still insists he get out of the house and turn his life around before Christmas. If he can’t get things together by Christmas, his college fund will be given to his sister, Nan, who has Ivy League dreams.

Tim moves into the garage apartment at his friend Jase’s house. Where Tim’s family life is pretty nonexistent, family life at the Garrett house is the only thing that exists. Mr. Garrett is recovering in the hospital after a car crash, so all of the family managing lands on his wife; however, Mrs. Garrett is overworked, pregnant, and worried about her husband, so the brunt of the duties falls on nineteen-year-old Alice Garrett.

Where Tim is reckless, Alice is over-prepared. Naturally, the two of them have a connection that confuses and frustrates them both. But The Boy Most Likely To is not a simple, straight-forward summer romance story. No: there are a lot of serious elements at play here. When a mistake from Tim’s past forces him to own up and grow up really fast, he questions the choices he’s made so far and how he should approach his future. Alice, who is struggling with her own future plans, must decide where and how she fits into Tim’s life. But wait: isn’t he just her brother’s friend who lives in the garage? Or is he a whole lot more?

The Boy Most Likely To asks you to forget what you know about cliches and high school superlatives, and instead to re-examine what makes a person who they are. The Boy Most Likely To is about the definition of family, self-love, and responsibility.

And for those of you crossing your fingers for a bit of summer romance: don’t worry – you’re not totally missing out. Fitzpatrick writes some swoon-worthy moments.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Review: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

neveralwaysosmetimesI was lucky enough to be included in a very cool project: an ARC Hop for Adi Alsaid’s second novel, Never Always Sometimes! Though Never Always Sometimes is set to release on August 4th by Harlequin Teen, I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of the young adult novel thanks to good old-fashioned snail mail. Alsaid blogged about the idea here. He sent an ARC along to one reader, and then gave that reader the address of the next reader to send the book to. We were asked to keep the book for no longer than two weeks (easy, since I devoured the book in two days). We were also asked to write a high school cliche we were guilty of (or one we wished we’d experienced) inside the book.

Why, you ask?  Never Always Sometimes is all about high school cliches. Rather, it’s about a “Nevers” list: a list of high school cliches best friends Dave and Julia vow to never experience. But when they get bored during their senior year, they decide to shake things up and cross as many “Nevers” off their list as possible. The story that ensues is funny, and touching, and anything but predictable.

The book starts from Dave’s perspective (before switching to Julia’s, and then a dual section), and I found his point of view very easy and comfortable to get behind. He is a sensitive and thoughtful character, preferring to watch the world from the perch of his favorite bench in Morro Bay. He also pines, silently, for his best friend – a “Never” on the Never List if there’s ever been one. After years of practice, Dave has learned to tamp down his feelings, to be content with his extremely close friendship with Julia. It is so obvious how much he cares in the way he notices small details about her, and how he embraces those details, those quirks. And even though this is a “Never,” I found myself rooting for Dave and Julia to become more than friends, because I felt like Dave deserved that shot.

Where Dave is sensitive and quiet, Julia is rather in-your-face and loud. She longs to be like her birth mother, who travels the world meeting fascinating people and doing everything she can not to succumb to a mundane life. It is easy to see why Dave feels the way he does about Julia. She makes ordinary activities, like baking cupcakes, seem new and exciting.

When Dave and Julia decide to cross the items off of their Nevers list, we as readers are taken down a path full of hilarious and exciting moments. Parties are attended and thrown, poetry is slammed, and prom-posals are planned. And even though this book is full of cliches, the path that Dave and Julia felt like anything but. I cared about these characters all the way through the novel’s progression, and I even pined for high school a bit…

Never Always Sometimes is a gem of a second novel from Adi Alsaid. I can’t wait to hear what you all think about it!

A huge thanks to the author for allowing me to take part in the ARC hop! It was a fun experience.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.