The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to YA readers. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses Kisses, a 2008 Irish film written and directed by Lance Daly.
An Irish boy and girl, both 11, escape their abusive homes to spend a night in beautiful but dangerous Dublin, where they search for the boy’s older brother.
The visuals and plotting of this charming Christmastime fairy tale are so light that it might just float away were it not for the gritty, real-world issues anchoring it. Though Dylan and Kylie are neighbors of the same age on the outskirts of Dublin, they’ve never managed to strike up a friendship. Dylan spends most of his time hiding in a storage cupboard from his drunken, unemployed, and hot-tempered father; next door, Kylie’s mom and sister belittle her endlessly and her creepy uncle Maurice seems far too friendly. When Dylan tries to save his mum from another beating by “Da,” he’s literally forced to run for his life; Kylie helps him escape and soon the two of them are off to… well, anywhere but home.
They hop aboard a barge heading up a canal, hoping to find Dylan’s brother Barry in Dublin. Though the barge pilot discourages them from riding, he proves a fine traveling companion, playing games and singing songs from the boy’s namesake, Bob Dylan. They get a further education in the singer’s catalog when they help a busker earn tips on the glittering streets of the capital. Kylie’s stolen a hefty bankroll from her sister and the duo quickly spends it all on candy and warm coats. They also buy themselves Heelys, those sneakers that have a wheel embedded in the sole, which they use to skate all over town. The twinkling lights on their new kicks blend into sparkling and festive Dublin, aglow with hope and possibility on this magical Christmastime night.
The gleeful carnival spirit begins to fade a bit as their hunt for Barry takes them from squatters’ flats to dingy flops to homeless camps near the river. With hunger growing and money gone, they begin to realize that the big city may not be such a safe place for little ones. To help them survive, they have only each other. Which may just be enough.
In runaway stories like this, it’s frequently the male who’s leading the charge. In this case it’s the very smart and tough female; Kylie is brave and endlessly inventive, with courage enough for both of them. She’s played brilliantly by nonprofessional actress Kelly O’Neill, who wisely seems to have abandoned the acting business since this 2008 film in favor of a normal childhood. (The actress reminded me of Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on Game of Thrones.) Shane Curry plays Dylan as fairly brooding, which is appropriate; given that his brother may have succumbed to exposure or perhaps his father’s violent hand, the boy’s got a lot on his mind.
Though outwardly calm and quite beautiful, the film builds up considerable tension: we realize the kids can’t survive in the city and we can’t imagine them going home to suffer more cruelty, either. (We learn that Kylie has endured abuse as well.) How will they resolve this? The finale is subtle yet deeply moving; it’s clear these two survivors have much to face on the road ahead, but neither will have to face it alone.
Tough and frequently heartstopping, this Christmas-themed film is filled with hope, the one thing desperate Dylan and Kylie need more than anything.
Kisses is Not Rated and runs 80 min. It’s available to rent from Netflix.
Book: Dare You To by Katie McGarry, Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd, June 2013
Book Info: Purchased audiobook, and received for review via Netgalley. Audiobook Running time: 12 hrs, 18 mins. Read by: Brittany Pressley, Christopher Gebauer. Also available in hardcover or e-book, 480 pages from Harlequin Teen.
Series Order: Pushing the Limits * Crossing the Line (novella) * Dare You To * Crash Into You * Take Me On
About the book:
“I dare you…”
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and 17-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….
Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock – with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams – and his life – for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….
I read Pushing the Limits, the first book in this series, over a year ago, but it didn’t take me long to get reacquainted with the series. I think it actually worked to my advantage to start fresh since I didn’t miss the characters as much from the first book. I quite liked Dare You To, I daresay even more than Pushing the Limits, and read straight on through to Crash into You afterwards.
Dare You To is from the POV of Beth, a side character from Pushing the Limits, as well as a new character named Ryan. Beth has had it rough, taking care of her drug addict mother and trying to fend off the guys her mother brings home. She’s taken on much more than she should and things are at a breaking point. But, she loves her mom and wants to do everything she can to protect her.
Ryan, on the other hand, seems to have had a much easier time of things. He’s a star baseball player but his dad is really micro managing him, and he’s not just about baseball, you know? From the outside, Ryan’s family is keeping up appearances, but from the inside it’s all falling apart. I kind of love that he falls for “bad girl” Beth, and they have a lot to offer each other. Ryan and his friends are into dares, and Beth is his biggest challenge, and surprise, yet.
Beth is prickly and hard to get to know, and when circumstances lead to her moving to a new town to live with her uncle (and former Yankee player) Scott, she’s really out of her comfort zone. Taking care of her mom was such a big load that she doesn’t know how to let go. I felt for Beth, and admired her courageousness, and her strong will. I enjoyed seeing her character develop over the book, as her icy exterior starts to melt away.
It was easy for me to get behind Ryan and Beth as a couple, since I didn’t have Pushing the Limits‘ Beth and Isaiah fresh in my mind. I definitely was ready for Isaiah’s story though, after this book.
There are strong supporting characters in the book, like Beth’s childhood friend that she reconnects with, Lacy. Ryan’s brother Mark is estranged from the family, and he adds an interesting element to the story also.
I listened to the audiobook, performed by Brittany Pressley and Christopher Gebauer. The pair is well suited to play Beth and Ryan, with Ryan sounding like the golden boy, and Beth sounding a little rough around the edges. They were believable in their parts, and with the secondary characters as well. I felt emotionally connected to the story through their performance, and this was an audiobook I didn’t want to stop listening to. Since I enjoyed it, I picked up the next book on audio as well, even though there are different narrators.
Katie McGarry writes a gripping series full of emotion and adrenaline, and she has a knack for writing authentic well-rounded characters. There are several characters I can’t wait for her to explore in future books. I like that she writes about tough issues, and does not shy away from the angst, but at the same time you know she’s going to fix everything she breaks. It took me some time to catch up with this series, but I’m fully on board now.
I finished the next book in the series, Crash Into You, and will have a review up soon. If you haven’t started the series yet, there are three addictive books waiting for you.
Dare You To is a YA Fiction Cybils nominee.
- Dare You To by Katie McGarry (bookgoonie.com)
- Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry (thebookhookup.com)
- Review “Dare You To” – Katie McGarry (brocsbookcase.wordpress.com)
Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event brought to you by Breaking the Spine where we spotlight upcoming books we can’t wait to read.
This week I’m featuring a contemporary YA title that caught my eye. It’s a witty coming of age about secrets, sisters, friendships, and love, and it’s supposed to appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and John Green. Plus, it’s already been optioned for film by Warner Bros.
Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan
Publication Date: May 1, 2014 from Dial
Can anyone be truly herself–or truly in love–in a language that’s not her own?
Sixteen-year-old Josie lives her life in translation. She speaks High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Break-ups, and even the language of Beautiful Girls. But none of these is her native tongue–the only people who speak that are her best friend Stu and her sister Kate. So when Kate gets engaged to an epically insufferable guy, how can Josie see it as anything but the mistake of a lifetime? Kate is determined to bend Josie to her will for the wedding; Josie is determined to break Kate and her fiancé up. As battles are waged over secrets and semantics, Josie is forced to examine her feelings for the boyfriend who says he loves her, the sister she loves but doesn’t always like, and the best friend who hasn’t said a word–at least not in a language Josie understands.
I like this style of cover, even though we’ve been seeing it a lot. And the navy background and typography is so clean and pretty. Humorous YA is always appealing to me, and it does sound like LOVE would make a great movie, what with the wedding and all.
What book is on your radar this week?
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature from The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Winter reading!
I don’t usually get a ton of reading time in during the holidays but January is usually a good reading month. I’ve been busy reading Cybils books lately and stockpiling some books to catch up on this winter. Books listed in order of publication date:
1. Champion by Marie Lu - I haven’t had a chance to read this yet and I can’t wait to see how the series ends!
2. Another Little Piece of My Heart by Tracey Martin - This is a rock-and-roll retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Sounds like such a fun read!
3. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book, and even though I’m more of a casual sci-fi fan I can’t wait to read it. Due Dec. 10th from Disney Hyperion.
4. Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr – Roomies takes place right before college, and looks fab to me. Due Dec. 24th from Little, Brown.
5. Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young - The third book in the On Dublin Street series! Can’t wait to meet Nate and Olivia. Due Jan. 7th from NAL.
6. No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale – That’s a cozy looking book cover, isn’t it? This is a quirky mystery set in the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin. Due Jan. 7th from Harper Teen.
7. A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller – This book sounds really fun. It’s a historical fiction set in 1909 London about a girl who likes to break the rules, and gets involved in the suffragette movement. Due Jan. 23rd from Viking.
8. Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott - I’m a big fan of this author, and have wanted to start this book for a while. It does sound quite heart wrenching though! Due Jan. 28th from Harlequin Teen.
9. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith - This just sounds like a strange little book and I like that this author likes to push the envelope. Due Feb. 11th from Dutton.
10. Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt – This book takes place over 12 hours, and is about how quickly life can change and the roles we play. Looks good! Due Feb. 18th from Walker Books.
What’s on your Winter TBR?
Book: Audacious by Gabrielle Prendergast, Orca Book Publishers, October 2013
Book Info: YA realistic fiction, review copy provided for Cybils, 336 pages.
About the Book:
Self-portrait of the artist as a teenage girl.
Sixteen-year-old Raphaelle says the wrong thing, antagonizes the wrong people and has the wrong attitude. She can’t do anything right except draw, but she draws the wrong pictures. When her father moves the family to a small prairie city, Raphaelle wants to make a new start.
Reborn as “Ella,” she tries to fit in at her new school. She’s drawn to Samir, a Muslim boy in her art class, and expresses her confused feelings in explicit art. When a classmate texts a photo of Ella’s art to a younger friend, the fallout spreads throughout Ella’s life, threatening to destroy her already-fragile family.
Told entirely in verse, Audacious is a brave, funny and hard-hitting portrait of a girl who embodies the word audacity.
I do tend to enjoy verse novels, so I was glad to get the chance to check out Audacious for Cybils. Raphaelle/Ella is a girl on the fringe who finds a home in art class and bonds with her classmate, Samir. They work on an art exhibit at school, and Ella hits a nerve with her explicit art. Audacious indeed. The pair forms an alliance in spite of cultural differences, family and school drama. The verse format is perfectly suited to this emotional story about bravery and finding your voice.
Raphaelle gets the chance to start over and escape the past. So why not start with a new name? Now, as Ella, not much is different at her new school – she’s still an outsider. But, she’s starting to figure things out and take some chances. There’s drama at home too, with her parents and her younger sister, but Ella can escape through art and friendship with Samir.
Ella is brave and takes chances. There is a big to-do over her statement piece but you have to admire her for going for it. It is such a big deal though that there are some unforeseen circumstances and it was pretty audacious of the author as well for going there.
I like how Ella sees people and that she has a big heart. At the same time, she tells it like it is no matter the circumstances. She’s an interesting protagonist, and I could never predict her next step.
Gabrielle Prendergast looks at censorship, racism, religion, mental health, and bullying in Audacious- big themes that lend themselves well to verse. The writing is creative and smart and stands out. For a quick one-sitting read the book packs a punch and gives the reader a lot to think about.
The love story was made more interesting by the forbidden aspect, and that both Ella and Samir struggle with their faith. They bring out something electric in each other that’s interesting to watch, though Ella is a strong character in her own right.
Speaking of the romance, Audacious ends on quite a surprising note in terms of Ella’s romantic life. I didn’t realize until I got to the last page that this book was part of a series, so consider yourself warned! Pick this up if you’re a fan of verse novels, or stories that are a little off the beaten path. The sequel Capricious is due out in May.
I read Audacious for the Cybils YA Fiction category.
Mailbox Monday is a weekly event where we share our latest book arrivals. Join in to share your book loot and discover some new book blogs. Mailbox Monday is on tour, and you can link up at Rose City Reader this month. Make sure to vote in the Mailbox Monday poll to decide the fate of the meme for 2014.
I’m still reading quite a bit for Cybils, as you can see from the books that made their way to me this week.
Red by Alison Cherry - A girl wants to win The Miss Scarlet competition, but alas, her crimson locks are fake!
Rumor Central by ReShonda Tate Billingsley – A girl with a hot new gossip show will do anything to keep the buzz coming, including selling out her friends.
The Girl of His Dreams by Amir Abrams – The school heartthrob falls for the unattainable girl.
The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews – A foster kid stops speaking and tries to heal one summer.
The War within These Walls by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki – A graphic novel about the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
Eggplant Alley by David Cataneo – 13-year-old Nicky’s adventures growing up in The Bronx in 1970.
September 17 by Amanda West Lewis – Historical fiction story about the 1940 sinking of the 1940 City of Benares, and three of the survivors.
Second Impact by David Klass, Perri Klass – The story of a football player with a head injury, told through dual perspective blog posts.
In the Band by Jean Haus – I already reviewed this one about a girl who joins a college rock band.
The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni – Historical fiction about arranged marriage, witchcraft, and buried treasure.
Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean – Verse novel set in Newfoundland about an introverted boy, family drama, woodworking, and saving a dog.
The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle – Verse novel set in Cuba about a girl who loves stories, though girls in Cuba are not allowed an education.
Netgalley/Edelweiss digital review books:
The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi – A girl’s mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart and is getting ready to fly.
Subway Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin – A time travel love story about finding your soul mate on the subway.
(Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn – This is about the idyllic town of Gardnerville. It’s not so perfect though, because every four years a paranormal curse infects teens with deadly urges.
After The End by Amy Plum – World War III has ravaged the earth, and a few survivors escape to the Alaskan wilderness.
Fan Art by Sarah Tregay – A guy with a secret (he’s gay) falls for his best friend.
Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff – Two teens bond over their mutual love of RPG.
Going Over by Beth Kephart – Set in the 1980s, star-crossed lovers live on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall.
Have a good week and happy reading!
Book: Shredded by Karen Avivi, published by the author, April 2013
Book Info: YA contemporary fiction, review copy provided for Cybils, 307 pages.
About the Book:
Drop into the world of girls’ freestyle BMX for an action-packed summer road trip adventure.
Josie Peters thinks she’ll do anything to qualify for the Ultimate BMX freestyle event the summer before her senior year. She can handle road trips and back flips, but when flashy rider R.T. Torres tempts her with an easy “in,” the sacrifices required threaten to send Josie spinning out of control.
What is it that makes Sports YA so appealing even for non-sporty readers like myself? Before reading Shredded, I’d had no exposure to the world of BMX. But, I like the adrenaline rush I get from sport-themed reads and the way it introduces me to new experiences. I think the stories are so inspiring, with strong, motivated characters who put it all out there.
Shredded is all about girl power in the world of competitive BMX freestyle, a sport where guys dominate. Josie and her teammates want to be taken seriously, not to provide eye candy and be the token girl players. There are many obstacles on the road to the big tournament and Josie has to decide what type of player she really wants to be.
Josie’s boyfriend just dumped her and now she has to find a new place to train, since they used to ride together. That leads her to team up with a couple of other girls who are also into BMX. Could her hobby really take her places? Her parents support Josie’s brother in his baseball endeavors but don’t take Josie’s interest in BMX seriously. Now that she has a goal to compete in tournaments over the summer, she has to use all the connections she’s got to make it happen.
Josie has an uphill battle to climb. Girls just aren’t seen as contenders in BMX, so she and her teammates have to work double time to prove their worth, and to get the attention of sponsors. It’s tempting to tag along with a guys team or take other shortcuts to get ahead, and Josie faces some ethical challenges.
This book is inspiring, action packed and such a rush. These girls are kick-ass and can hold their own with the guys. When they fall they just brush it off and get back up again. There is a lot of support among Josie, Lauryn and Alexis, and even the girls from different teams. They push each other to be better and master new tricks, and don’t tear each other down. There are even some strong guy-girl friendships and support along the way.
There is a little romance in Shredded but it’s not the focus by a long shot. Josie is getting over her boyfriend, and there’s someone else she’s interested in, and her friends Lauryn and Alexis also have guys in their life. The romance was the weakest link for me, but it does balance out the BMX action to have a prom side story. One guy that stood out for me in the story is Connor and I really liked their friendship.
The sexism in the sport makes the reader root for Josie all the more and see how she can make a difference. It’s inspiring to watch the lightbulb turn on for Josie as she figures out what she wants to do with her talent.
I was impressed with the caliber of writing – the book is well edited, engaging, and kept my attention. Make sure to hand this one to your daughters and their friends. Looking forward to more high adrenaline reads from Karen Avivi.
Check out this short film about girls freestyle BMX to see what it’s all about:
I read Shredded for the Cybils YA Fiction category.
The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to YA readers. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses How I Live Now, directed by Kevin MacDonald, based on the novel by Meg Rosoff.
When a tough American teenager goes to live with cousins in the British countryside, a nearby nuclear attack forces them out of their farmhouse and on a quest to survive.
At the film’s start young Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is very much the city mouse visiting her country-mouse relatives; with her shiny headphones and bright urban clothes, it seems unlikely she’ll ever fit into the peaceful rural routine. Rather than accepting their invitations to play, she’d rather stay home and give herself a pep talk full of self-loathing. Adding to the oddness of the situation is the apparent lack of any adults on the farm, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Soon Daisy’s aunt does show up; she’s some sort of political strategist, overwhelmed with what seems to be a global political crisis. But in no time she’s off to nearby London to catch a plane to Geneva, and we don’t know if she ever gets there.
Because that afternoon there’s a distant flash, a rumble, and a rain of ashes; from the TV the kids learn that a nuclear device triggered in London has killed thousands. Though the blast doesn’t affect Daisy or her cousins directly, they sense their lives will change, and to avoid being captured and evicted (due to fallout), the kids hide out in the barn. The ensuing closeness causes Daisy to become enamored of her handsome older cousin Edmond, and the two become attached. But British troops find the family anyway, dragging them off to camps for their own protection as terrorist forces prowl the countryside. Before Edmond and his brother are taken to one camp and Daisy and her young cousin Piper to another, they hastily agree to meet back at the farmhouse as soon as possible.
After a brief spell at a work camp, the two girls are forced to make their way back home through the hostile countryside. On the way she keeps having strange dreams showing Edmond in deep distress. For both to survive, Daisy must summon reserves of courage and compassion she didn’t know she had. Good thing those rather brutal pep talks have built up her inner strength so well.
I’m always a fan of films that show epic events through the eyes of people who barely glimpse them (for instance, the virtually unseen alien invasion in Shyamalan’s Signs). Here we only see and understand as much as Daisy does; we don’t really comprehend the reasons for the global crisis and don’t see what’s happened in London or anywhere else. All we know is that the family’s farmhouse is a good place, and nothing can be right until everyone meets up there again. So the focus isn’t on the global crisis, it’s on Daisy’s coming of age, in a setting in which no one should ever have to come of age.
Saoirse Ronan’s a wonderful young actress fond of playing girls on the run; she also played a refugee in 2010’s The Way Back, and in the next year’s Hanna she was a fugitive teen assassin who refused to be captured. Here she gets a more mature character arc as she finds herself becoming a de-facto mom and a woman in love as well as a fleeing survivor. Director Kevin Macdonald has directed both political dramas and documentaries, and his gritty style is excellent for the material. As both an effective dystopian thriller and sensitive coming-of-age picture, this is likely to please both parties as a date night film, especially viewed on demand. It’s a quality, very marketable film and I’m surprised it didn’t get a bigger release. But I guess digital distribution is how we live now.
- Review: Kevin Macdonald’s Intense, Thrilling ‘How I Live Now’ Starring Saoirse Ronan (theartsyfilmblog.com)
- How I Live Now: All You Need Is Love… And Saoirse Ronan! (venusfrommars.wordpress.com)
- The End Of The World, As She Knows It (wnyc.org)
Every year I read a few winter themed books to get into the holiday spirit. I haven’t had a chance to peruse many of the new holiday titles out this year, so putting this list together helped me to see what’s available. These are ten holiday romances I have my eye on:
Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan – Another book by the author of Ripped, Sleigh Bells is a full-length novel about a workaholic who wants to work to avoid Christmas. But, she falls for a guy who makes her feel the magic again.
Frigid by J. Lynn – I don’t know how Christmassy this New Adult book is, though it is set in winter at a ski resort. Syd and Kyler are trapped in a snowstorm, and someone is stalking them! $2.99 for kindle
Ripped by Sarah Morgan – I’ve heard really good things about this hot and humorous novella about a holiday fling.
The Christmas He Loved Her by Juliana Stone – This is book two of the Bad Boys of Crystal Lake series, a book I haven’t read. BUT, I hear this works as a standalone. It sounds like a sad book, about love and loss, and the reviews are quite good.
All I’m Asking For anthology -This collection of holiday novellas includes Tinsel My Heart by Christi Barth, Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh, and Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham.
If I Return by Sawyer Bennett – This story is one of the books in the 12 NA’s of Christmas novellas. It’s about a bookish college student who goes with her sister to the mountains for Christmas, where she falls for an Army helicopter pilot. $0.99 for kindle
Heating up the Holidays anthology – Includes Play With Me by Lisa Renee Jones, Snowfall by Mary Ann Rivers, and After Midnight by Serena Bell. I’m a fan of Jones and Rivers writing, so I’m eager to check this out. $0.99 for kindle
Do you have any holiday romance recommendations for me? I haven’t read too many so I’d love to know what I’m missing out on! I’ll put together a YA list in the next week or so.
Happy holiday reading!
Book: Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick, Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, September 2013
Book Info: Purchased audiobook, and received book for review from publisher. Running time: 7 hrs, 21 mins. Read by: Sarah Elmaleh. Also available in hardcover or e-book, 400 pages from Candlewick
About the book:
Cherry Kerrigan loves her simple life, her family’s tiny trailer, even working at Burrito Barn. Forget college — she’s marrying her sweetheart from next door. But here comes Ardelia Deen, a glamorous starlet who sweeps Cherry into a world of fast cars and penthouse parties. Now Cherry’s small-town life just seems so . . . small. When Ardelia drops a bomb of an offer, Cherry knows her life will change forever — no matter what she decides. John M. Cusick focuses his signature satirical wit on Hollywood royalty and the wide-eyed dreams of Small Town, U.S.A., in a novel about discovering who you are . . . and changing your mind.
(source: Brilliance Audio)
Cherry Money Baby is a book with a lot of personality. The character of Cherry Kerrigan is bold and sassy and has no filter. She’s the type of no bullshit girl you know you can trust to tell it like it is and to have fun with. She doesn’t have big ambitions but she’s practical and loyal, and prides herself on rolling the best burritos at her job at Burrito Barn. Her life changes overnight when she saves an A-list movie star from choking at Burrito Barn, and gets some notoriety of her own. Will Cherry stay true to herself or will the fifteen minutes of fame spoil her forever?
I’m a little wary when guys write female protagonists, but I have to say that I would never have guessed a guy wrote this book. The female voice is authentic; Cherry is larger than life, unapologetic, and fearless. You just never know what’s going to come out of her smart mouth. When she talks to the press after her brush with fame, and Cherry admits she didn’t think before giving Ardelia Deen the Heimlich Maneuver, manufacturers rush to print up “I Don’t Think” Cherry t-shirts.
Right away this book reminded me a little of another humorous contemporary read- Robin Benway’s Audrey, Wait! There’s not enough humor in YA in my opinion, so I was happy to read about a comic gold heroine like Cherry. Similar to Audrey, Wait, the protagonist becomes a reluctant celebrity and learns a lot about herself.
Cherry has always scraped to get by, and now that she’s friends with a generous celebrity she gets a taste of the good life, including a swanky Alfa Romeo, parties, and new job opportunities, it’s mind-blowing. The differences between the haves and have-nots are shown in Cherry’s and Ardelia’s relationship. Ardelia seems too good to be true, and you never know if she’s just slumming it with Cherry with an ulterior motive. There are several opportunities to look at class issues, from life at the trailer park, to meet and greets with Ardelia’s hoity-toity friends, as well as “celebrity.”
Another thing going on with Cherry is her ambition- what will she do after high school? Her dad wants her to do something with her life, not just marry the guy in the trailer next door. But, Cherry loves her boyfriend and wants to start their life together. When Cherry meets Ardelia, she starts to see that she might have other options and more to offer than she ever knew.
I listened to the audiobook, performed by Sarah Elmaleh, a new-to-me narrator, and in fact this seems to be her first audiobook. This audiobook just would not work if it weren’t matched with the right performer. There’s Cherry, with the larger than life personality, her family and friends in the trailer park, plus the English accented movie star Ardelia and her entourage. But Elmaleh gives an authentic voice to Cherry and infuses the supporting characters voices with personality. I had a copy of the book, but used a credit on the audiobook based on the audio sample, and I’m really glad I did. Elmaleh has a great throaty voice and nails Cherry’s deadpan humor, and eases seamlessly into Ardelia’s polished accent. This is an audiobook I’d listen to again if I needed a pick-me-up.
Cherry Money Baby is fun and entertaining, but has more going on beneath the surface. The tale got a little too convoluted for me in the third act but I couldn’t put down the book all the same. I kind of like it more as time goes by actually.
This is the first book I’ve read by author John M. Cusick, and now I’m eager to check out his other book, Girl Parts.
Cherry Money Baby is a YA Fiction Cybils nominee.
I love a good holiday novella- how about you? If you don’t have a lot of reading time during the busy holiday season you can always sneak in a novella, right? Kisses, She Wrote by Katharine Ashe is a new Christmas novella that is on sale today from Avon Impulse. Read on to find out more about the book and enter an awesome Sephora giveaway!
From award winning author Katharine Ashe, comes an enchanting Christmas novella about a shy but imaginative princess and the rakish Earl who could make all her wildest fantasies come true….
The Christmas season has never been so steamy.
Handsome as sin and scandalously rakish, Cam Westfall, the Earl of Bedwyr is every young lady’s wickedest dream. Shy wallflower Princess Jacqueline Sensaire knows this better than anyone, because her dreams are full of the breathtaking earl’s kisses. And not only her dreams–her diary too.
But when Cam discovers the maiden’s not-so-maidenly diary, will her wildest Christmas wishes be fulfilled in its pages . . . or in his arms?
Excerpt from KISSES, SHE WROTE, A Christmas Romance by Katharine Ashe
“At least you won’t be at a significant disadvantage when you wed,” the princess said thoughtfully.
“There is . . .” Her voice trailed off. She looked out the window and tilted her head. Her stance was relaxed. This conversation did not, apparently, agitate her as it did him.
“The thing is, I have never kissed a man,” she said and looked over her shoulder at him. “Will my husband be disappointed to discover that I have no knowledge of kissing?”
Cam’s throat had gone entirely dry. If she had no actual knowledge of kissing, she certainly had excellent intuition.
“Why do you ask me?”
“I cannot very well ask my brother. How horridly embarrassing that should be.” She scowled but her eyes twinkled.
“You might ask your ladies in waiting, or the Duchess of Lycombe.”
“How would they know the answer? They are women.”
He was nonplused. “Well . . .”
She turned to him fully. “You and I are friends, so I trust you will answer me honestly. I know you have considerable experience kissing women.”
His cravat had shrunk again. “Do you?”
She lifted a single, eloquent brow. She was far too intelligent for him, and far too forthright, and he was far too accustomed to consorting with females of much less acute minds and much baser characters. She was not now flirting with him but making a statement of fact.
He nodded in silent admission.
Both brows perked now, like the shimmering feathers of a raven. “So . . . ?”
“I should think that your husband would be delighted to teach you the finer points of kissing.” And learn a thing or two in the process.
“I suppose you may be correct about that. Men like to instruct women. I think it makes them feel more in control.”
He could not hide his amusement. “You don’t say?”
“Well, doesn’t it? You are a man.”
“Good of you to notice.”
“Do you like it when you feel in control of a woman?”
“I like it when a woman feels she is getting what she wants from me.”
Her fine, expressive eyes widened. Then, slowly, she turned to the pianoforte and began rearranging the music on the stand. Cam studied the clean sweep of her back to her gently curved hips and the straight set of her shoulders. She was not petite, not enticingly round, not anything he had ever desired in a woman. But merely looking at her back and knowing what she imagined of him — of them together — made his heartbeats hard.
“I should like to give it a try before I marry,” she said without turning around. Her voice was pitched a bit low. “Kissing, that is.” She glanced at him. Her cheeks were ever so slightly pink.
“Should you?” He suspected where this was going. He’d been the object of countless women’s flirtations. But never this woman. She confined her attentions to him safely in her diary.
This was a different woman before him now.
“Yes,” she said. “I think it would be a useful experience to take into marriage. Don’t you?” She turned her hungry gaze upon him . . .
Steal your own Christmas kiss with a $100 gift card to Sephora! Follow Katharine Ashe on Twitter, like her on Facebook, or leave a comment with a diary story of your own to enter for a chance to win! Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway –> here. Be quick about it – the gift card contest will be open until the end of the day on 12/4 (that’s tomorrow!)
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature from The Broke and the Bookish.
This is one of my favorite topics- listing the books I’m most excited to read next year. I took a peek at last year’s list to see how I did, and I actually read just about all of them. Let’s see if I picked the right books again this year!
1. Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead – Of course! “Their worst fears now a chilling reality, Sydney and Adrian face their darkest hour in this heart-pounding fifth installment in the Bloodlines series, where all bets are off.” That’s slightly disconcerting. Due July 29th from Razorbill. GR
2. Armada by Ernest Cline – A new book from the author of Ready Player One. Hope Wil Wheaton narrates this audiobook too! Due Oct. 7th from Crown. GR
3. Landline by Rainbow Rowell – Adult contemp about a woman who can magically save her marriage or choose to erase it. Doesn’t matter what it’s about, really, can’t wait to read it. Due July 8th from St. Martin’s Press. GR
4. #scandal by Sarah Ockler – Gaming, scandal, social media, romance. Looks good! Due June 17th from Simon Pulse. GR
5. Guardian by Alex London – The sequel to Proxy! You know I don’t read a lot of dystopia but this series (inspired by The Whipping Boy and Feed) struck a chord. Due May 29th from Philomel. GR
6. Breakable by Tammara Webber – Companion book to Easy from Landon/Lucas’s POV, including a prequel and scenes from Easy. Due May 6th from Penguin. GR
7. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson – A friend leaves mysteriously and leaves behind a list of unusual tasks for Emily to complete. Due May 6th from Simon & Schuster. GR
8. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover – A music-themed college romance from one of my favorite NA authors. Yes! Due March 18th from Atria Books. GR
9. What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick – Really liked My Life Next Door and can’t wait to read Fitzpatrick’s summertime romance follow-up. Due April 15th from Dial. GR
10. Still Point by Katie Kacvinsky – The final book in the Awaken trilogy! So many trilogies are ending- hope this one doesn’t break my heart. Due Sept. from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. GR
What 2014 books are you most excited to read?
After loving The Reece Malcolm List earlier this year, Amy Spalding earned a place on my auto-buy list. Family relationships have never been as intriguing as they are in Spalding’s hands. Plus, her characters are artistic, witty and quirky. INK’s book title refers to Kellie’s family business, a tattoo shop, and looks at what it means to be a family. Is ink thicker than water?
Kellie is the middle child and lives with her mother, stepfather, younger brother, and older sister in St. Louis. Her brother is adorable, and her sister Sara (adopted) is an academic over-achiever wrapped in the body of a supermodel. It’s hard for Kellie to standout but she’s been content thus far to keep a low profile. Her dad wants her to think about colleges and try harder, and seems to favor Sara overall. Kellie snags a writing gig for the school newspaper and writes humorous op-ed pieces, and discovers a new world of intellectual friends, coffee houses, and plays that she previously ignored. And oh, Oliver, the boy she had a very awkward (almost) sexual encounter with last year, is back in the picture.
I like Amy Spalding’s YA books because they are such well rounded coming of age stories, with complex relationships, style, and heart. The family relationships are unconventional but at the same time totally normal as well. Her mom and stepdad run a tattoo shop and are half-vegan, creative, and hippieish, but have traditional values as well.
The sisters Kellie and Sara are just a year apart and are very close. The fact that Sara wants to connect with her birth mother feels like a slap to Kellie, who is protective of her mom. Everyone is supportive of Sara and understands that this is what she needs to do, but it still rocks the family foundation.
Kellie is also dealing with the gradual loss of her BFF Kaitlyn, who ditches her for a more popular clique. It’s realistic to see alliances change in high school as interests change, and their experience feels authentic. It’s also refreshingly different for Kellie to have a new group with the newspaper crew, led by the efficient, intellectual Adelaide. I wouldn’t mind Adelaide getting her own book.
Some of the humor comes in the form of Kellie’s op-ed pieces, where she riffs on meatless options in the school cafeteria (not) and the manure smells of the school courtyard. That she has a knack for writing gives her a confidence boost, something that extends to other parts of Kellie’s life.
I got so attached to the stories and characters that I was sad to let them go at the end. The ending is hopeful but a little open ended. I like when endings aren’t neat and tidy but at the same time I wanted just a bit more resolution.
INK is smart, fresh and real, and a quick, entertaining read. I like that it doesn’t go for over the top dramatics to get the point across but feels true. The dialogue is spot-on and witty, and Spalding doesn’t talk down to her readers. The sex-positive message is a bonus too as is the strong female characterization. If you loved The Reece Malcolm List you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of INK on Dec. 3.
Congrats to Jessica who won a copy of Ink is Thicker Than Water!
Mailbox Monday is a weekly event where we share our latest book arrivals. Join in to share your book loot and discover some new book blogs. Mailbox Monday is on tour, and you can link up at Rose City Reader this month. Mailbox Monday is looking for a new home for 2014. Look for an announcement and the new host/touring schedule soon.
Happy December! Hope everyone had a nice holiday/long weekend/week. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, which was a lot of work, but came out really well I think. And I got to listen to audiobooks while I cooked so that was a bonus.
Here are the books I received over the last two weeks – I’m just going to list the Cybils review books because that is where my reading is concentrated right now. So, if my blog ever goes quiet I am probably trying to catch up on these books!
Review books received 2 weeks ago:
Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison – A murder mystery with a touch of paranormal.
The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky – Historical mystery thriller set in Australia.
Cherry Money Baby by John M. Cusick – I just read this one, and the title pretty much sums it up! The main character, Cherry, saves a Hollywood star from choking and gets some fame of her own.
Falling Hard (Roller Girls #1) by Megan Sparks – Roller derby!
The Gamal by Ciarán Collins – Irish novel about Charlie, aka The Gamal. Charlie writes about a traumatic event at the urging of his psychiatrist.
Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy – Danielle babysits a 5-year old who gets struck by a car.
Hysteria by Megan Miranda – A psychological thriller about a girl who kills her boyfriend, and then becomes a suspect in another killing when a classmate turns up dead.
Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek – Reyna is starting high school as the new girl and becomes friendly with the school outcast, Olive. Friendship, grief, bullying and sexual identity issues are explored.
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford – Set in 1982 Leningrad, American student Laura meets Russian artist Alexei and they explore Russia in secret.
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg – An average girl is overshadowed by her pageant contestant 7-year old younger sister. She gives herself a makeover so she can be known for more than just her great personality.
A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron – Steampunk sequel to The Dark Unwinding.
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth – Set in the ’70s on the Tuscarora Indian reservation- this is a book about male friendship, music, cultural identity, and bullying. Recommended! (I’m behind on reviews but I’ll get there)
Mac in the City of Light by Christopher Ward - 14-year-old Mackenzie (Mac) goes on a school trip to Paris and meets her dad’s old musician friend, now a cab driver. She explores the Paris underground with the cabbie crew.
Old Man by David A. Poulsen – Nate’s estranged father turns up and they go on a roadtrip to reconnect.
Review books received last week:
A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison – A modern retelling of Hamlet
The Sin-Eater’s Confession by Ilsa J. Bick – This book sounds pretty gruesome, and the book cover is all blood-stained too. Ben is a soldier who has survivor’s guilt after the death of his friend.
Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachman – Kiara has Asperger’s Syndrome and has a hard time making friends. She wishes she could be more like her X-Men hero, Rogue, and tries to find her own super power.
This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell – Two teens tutor a first grade class, when the class is held hostage by a gunman.
Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick – Set in post-Civil War Virginia, Brotherhood tells the story of a town adjusting to their new roles and relationships.
Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff – Mila’s father’s friend goes missing, and solving the mystery brings more revelations.
I’m with Stupid by Geoff Herbach – Book three in the Stupid Fast trilogy, a sports themed coming of age.
Six Months Later by Natalie Richards – A mystery about a girl who falls asleep in class and wakes up much later with no memory of the past six months. Now she’s popular and on the college track- how did she get there?
Shredded by Karen Avivi – Josie is training for the BMX Freestyle bike event, and the book looks at feminism, sexism, and friendship.
Invisible by Marni Bates – Book two in the Smith High series.
Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer – Historical fiction about the life of Queen Victoria.
Pieces by Chris Lynch – Eric’s brother Duane dies and Eric is left to put the pieces back together.
Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick - A Sliding Doors kind of book about a girl who’s decision splits her fate into two paths.
Thank you so much to the publishers and authors that sent these books for review. I have a stack of them I’m working through right now. Which books sound good to you?
Oh, and hey, Monday, Dec. 2 is the last day to enter the Book Thief Prize Pack giveaway (US only.) You could win a copy of The Book Thief & a $25 Visa gift card.
Have a good week!