“The Light We Lost” by Jill Santopolo

32956365Whatever you are doing right now, STOP. Go get this book (once it is officially released on May 9th) and read it. Seriously. Oh, and buy a box of tissues as well, because you are going to need them because….ALL. THE. FEELS.

Lucy and Gabe are two binary stars rotating around each other in a love that is out of this world; the kind of love that poems and sonnets are written about, and artists find inspiration in and musicians compose from. The book is all from Lucy’s point of view as if she is talking directly TO Gabe….but why? Very unique for an entire novel to be written from this perspective and it definitely takes a little getting used to.

Eventually, Gabe wanders away, following his passion for photography to the Middle East, leaving Lucy shattered. She finds new love that isn’t quite the same, but she settles down nevertheless and starts a family, still occasionally keeping in touch with Gabe. Without ruining the full story, we follow Lucy’s journey for thirteen years and through it all, the author does an amazing job of keeping the characters and the story real and so beautiful.

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Hundreds mourn Associated Press video journalist killed in Gaza. (credit)

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who reads fiction, who likes a good cry, who appreciates contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, or romance. Jill Santopolo’s writing absolutely shines so bright in this book and even brings honor to those in the field of photojournalism. That is not a piece of cake artistic line of work. Beautiful book!

Soundtrack: “The Fault in our Stars” by Troye Sivan

“The Princess Diarist” by Carrie Fisher

33290316The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher was very much not what I was expecting. I was expecting a straightforward run through her journals from her movie days when she was filming the “Star Wars” movies. Apparently I don’t know Carrie very well. Well, I already knew that. I’m really not that big a Carrie fan, or Leia for that matter, but I am a “Star Wars” fan and since Ms. Fisher recently passed I figured I’d give the book a shot. The book was actually written very well, but the content was…just ok. Here’s why:
princess-leia-behind-the-scenes-starwars375-80% of the book is really about Carrison (Carrie + Harrison if you’re slow….their name for their affair, not mine). And not just “about” them…but its literally either recent Carrie talking about it, or teenage Carrie pining over it. Its quite beautiful and poetic for about 10-20 pages and then its just old. The beginning and ending biographical pieces about how she got casted and how she feels about her fans are funny and candid and that’s what I wanted. I wanted on-set memories as well and interactions with the cast and crew and the script. However….you can’t always get what you want.

At the end of the day, the book had its extremely well-written moments where I was so shocked I was ready to give it a 5 star rating because Ms. Fisher is so articulate and the book is quotable and memorable and funny. There are pictures in the actual book and the audiobook is read mostly by Carrie Fisher herself so its really great. Then we sometimes hit the doldrums of talking on and on as a teenage would-be poet about Harrison Ford for dozens of pages at a time…is it love or is it not? bla bla bla. Ugh.

Soundtrack: Return of the Jedi: “Luke & Leia Theme” by John Williams

“Zenn Diagram” by Wendy Brant

What a cute, new YA romance with a little magical twist! Let me also say that I almost image-3535didn’t read this because I am NOT a math person at ALL, but don’t let that discourage you from reading this book! Its still great!! What you do need to know, however, is what a fractal looks like. I have assisted you with this in the image on the right.

Eva is a senior in high school living with her aunt and uncle (whom she calls Mom and Dad, because she was orphaned as an infant) and the 4 E’s (her quad cousin/siblings). Gearing up to go to college, Eva is completing her applications and searching for scholarships and logging tutoring hours to put on her list of extracurriculars. But Eva is also special–one touch of a person or object and she can see its “fractal,” telling her the person’s emotions in one giant rush.

34199574I really liked that this book had great characters–a fun best girlfriend, Charlotte, who we see stray to the world of popularity and then come back to the math savvy Eva. Zenn, who is a new kid in school, is full of secrets and surprises, who actually is a hard worker and who is an all-around great character. Both Eva’s and Zenn’s family (what we saw and found out about of them) were well-built. And Eva herself was an interesting and unique character!

To me, there is always something sweet about couples in books who end up “psychically” doing the same thing for each other without knowing it. I also have an appreciation for authors who respect characters’ youth and don’t rush kids into commitments, so thank you, Ms. Brant, for letting the kids go their separate ways but still have a cute ending at the same time, as much as can be.

Soundtrack: “Fireflies” by Owl City

Camino Beach by Amanda Callendrier

34204786Sarah, Kristin, and Jack are a week away from their twentieth high school reunion and the reunion just won’t be complete without their long lost friend Roxanne. Roxanne hasn’t been seen nor heard from since the final weeks of their senior year of high school and the gang has no idea where she is. They set off on an adventure in a classic El Camino named Elvira in the hopes of finding answers…and forgiveness. The story flip-flops between the “now” and the “then” so we hear and see why Roxanne left and how sometimes friendships can get complicated, but ultimately work out in beautiful ways.

1969-Chevrolet-El-Camino-SS-12Here’s one thing that I really enjoyed about this book: the nostalgia. I loved the description of Sarah and Kristen buying and road tripping in the El Camino. “I had forgotten what cars were like in the 70’s and 80’s, wide stretches of bench-like seats that felt like couches….Didn’t even use seat belts, and you could slide back and forth on the leather whenever you made a hard turn.” Yeah!!! It was just so fun to me! Plus, just look at this beauty! Its a frickin’ Hotwheels in real life!! I’m not a car girl, but its so cool! And every time I see one (and its rare that I see one), I think that I want to put a little jacuzzi back there, so this book isn’t far off from my fantasy, in putting a “beach” in the back! I love it!

On the not-my-favorite-part-side, the MC Sarah could be SO dense and self-absorbed and just about every other character in the book brought it up to her face. She was fine in the beginning–great even!–and then two-thirds of the way through she went off her rocker and everything was her fault and in her world and her drama and her blindness and her, her, her! Blah!!
Another plus: this was definitely a warm and fuzzy, feel good, easy to read book. If you need a good summer read, pick this up. Plus, I was very impressed that this was a debut for Amanda Callendrier, so hats off, and congratulations!
Book Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Listening to: “No Diggity” by Blackstreet, Dr. Dre, Queen Pen

Bookmail! … Otter Nonsense Designs

Ah, Star Wars! Don’t hate me, but Princess Leia has never been my favorite character in the galaxy. I’ve always been more on the nerf-herder’s side. Oh, and little R2 too! Its amazing what that droid who is all boxed in could do. Never underestimate R2-D2!

Anyway, I wanted to make the point that even though I haven’t exactly been a Leia fan over the years, I have beenĀ curious about reading some of Carrie Fisher’s books, especially “The Princess Diarist.” This book is a behind the scenes look at the Star Wars prequel movies, as told from young Carrie’s journals while actually filming. Interesting, methinks! I’d especially love to listen to the audiobook because Ms. Fisher narrates it herself, and I love it when authors read their own books…especially memoirs.

image1So here is my cutesy bookmail for now. A new bookmark from a great seller I found on Etsy by the name of Otter Nonsense. She has tons of other bookmarks and printables from Star Wars and several other fandoms…something for everyone. Check her out if you’re so inclined. šŸ˜€

Listening to: The Force Awakens Soundtrack – “Han and Leia” (John Williams is love, guys. The fugue [“Han and Leia” allude to it; “March of the Resistance” is the big one! It will get your blood pumping! So exciting!! So exciting my grammar gets bad – sorry] in this soundtrack is my favorite thing in the galaxy! And his new instrumentation for Leia’s theme…subtle, but amazing. It makes me actually enjoy the theme, when I didn’t before [don’t hate me please!]).

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

294808654.5 stars that I will round up to 5 because I absolutely devoured the majority of this ugly and wonderful book!

I went into this book expecting a depressing story full of abuse and continual neglect and drugs and rape. However, what I found was a sweet story about an unlikely friendship between young Wavy and her gentle giant, Kellen. Kellen is there for Wavy and her younger brother Donal when no one else is, taking her to school, doing the grocery shopping, and just being good company when all the other adults in their world are cooking meth and getting drunk. Then, of course, there is the relative we all love to hate: the well-meaning aunt. The aunt who is trying to protect the kids who don’t want to be protected. Kellen is eventually accused and convicted of crimes he didn’t commit and the family is torn apart. After spending years in prison, however, no sparks of love are lost between Wavy and Kellen and no matter what, she keeps fighting to find her way back to him. Their story is a beautiful one, if a little difficult to read because of the age difference. Nonetheless, because of the life circumstances, their situation is understandable to an extent.

One fairly unique thing about this book is that it is written in many different points of view. Going into one chapter, we might not even know who the character is when we begin reading. It keeps things interesting, I think. At the same time, though, things jump around a bit. Sometimes events happen in one chapter from someone’s point of view and in the next chapter, someone else is flashing back on that same event so its reading the same thing from two different times.

Overall, I really loved the book, especially the second half. The beginning was a little slow for me. Just a lot of slow burning set up for me and then everything really took off midway and I couldn’t stop! I loved Wavy’s fascination with constellations and how it eventually ties into her <> education and even her engagement ring! Stars on her ceiling, stars on Kellen’s bike….it just becomes something sweet and smart between them and its lovely.

Soundtrack: “I Would Do Anything For Love” by Meat Loaf (yeah baby!!!!!)

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

What an incredibly fun book!! I, myself, was in a fine arts program in high school and went on to major in music in college and I went into this book a little skeptical that this would be another author trying to write a mediocre music book. NO WAY! Riley Redgate knows her shit! Thank the music gods!

32933947So not only were all of the music references accurate, I really thought that so much of the teenage identity struggle was real too. Whether Jordan was struggling with her voice (“[her] singing voice is difficult to reconcile with musical theater. Firstly, there’s a timbre to it…It also affects your physicality. Your eyes close; you shift and sway…Those tics are a challenge to eliminate.”), her gender (“The longer I thought about the possibility that I might not be a girl, the more I became sure that I was one…The struggle to fit into some narrow window of femininity didn’t exclude me from the club.”), her sexuality (“All I understood about sexuality was its uncertainty, discovering your way through yourself day by day…”), or her emotions (you get the point…I can quote this book all day), she is a really fun character in a unique situation.

Speaking of Jordan/Julian’s unique situation, I thought Noteworthy was extra noteworthy (see what I did there?!) because it touched on almost all aspects of LGBTQIA. Not so much the L, but we have Nihal and Connor’s relationship, Jordan admitting Bi-curious tendencies, plus the obvious cross-dressing/acting male for months which Isaac asks if Julian is trans. I thought it was an eye-opening lesson how one seemingly small ploy (dressing up for one audition) can ultimately snowball into a life-altering course.

So while I rave about all of this, why did I only give 4 stars and not 5? Well, I have to say the book was quite predictable. Fun, yes. But I knew from early on who Jordan would end up with, what would happen with the family, how the competition would go, etc. Also, while I enjoyed reading the book and it was fun, it wasn’t life-changing and that is my big qualifier for that 5th star. However, I will definitely be recommending this to my music students. It was a great read and perfect for my high schoolers.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Soundtrack:Ā The Official Noteworthy SoundtrackĀ (from the author BY the author…more total coolness!!!)

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Cupid Day. Definitely has the potential to be hell on Earth if you were to die on this day if you ask me.

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So, I picked up this book because the movie is coming out soon and I read “Thirteen Reasons Why” recently and really enjoyed that and the Netflix series was a big hit so I figured I’d give this one a shot. Uh, not so glad I did. “Before I Fall” is more teenage girl blubber and drama. Yes, there is a little bit of the pondering of suicide, family values, time and love lost, etc. but overall wouldn’t you rather read a character who figures out she wasted her life being a bitch and opens her eyes and learns to live and love her life? I don’t know, maybe that’s too cliche but I know that’s what I would want to do.

Let me also add another layer to the cake: I listened to the audiobook of this one and it was narrated by Sarah Drew. Does that name ring a bell? It did to me. Grey’s Anatomy. April Kepner. LOVE!!! She was a really great choice for reading this book. She captured the teenage attitudes perfectly, it was great! I really enjoyed it. Not only that, but also the emotion and the depth that actually was in the book, she really was able to bring that to life as well.

In sum, this book had too much time with shallow, bitchy friends and Sam’s deuche boyfriend and not enough time waking up and ‘living,’ per se. In my opinion, she went about ‘fixing things’ all wrong and everything was dragged out and got annoying and I didn’t relate to it as much as I would have liked. Plus, there’s no real resolution. Why does she finally stop living Cupid Day over and over again, just because it was 7 days? Guess so. The only things I really liked in the book were Kent, Izzy (Sam’s little sister), Anna (the crazy stoner girl), and Sarah Drew. Oh, and the debate about flavors of “butt bagels.” lol

Soundtrack: “Eet” by Regina Spektor