Archive for the ‘Beach Reads’ Category

If you want a typical Sarah Dessen book (which I did) which takes place in the summer (a good beach read) and features a girl falling in love with a boy who seems unlovable, then Once and For All is just the ticket. Louna Barrett is jaded about love. Having experienced true love once, she doesn’t think it will ever come again. Add to this the fact that her mother, Natalie Barrett, is one of the best wedding planners in the business and Louna has worked through many a wedding (and heard about many a breakup), her cynical attitude is understandable.

Enter Ambrose, the son of one of the older brides, who was AWOL right before his mother’s wedding, who Natalie had to separate from a female catering worker and drag to the ceremony, and you have the setting for disaster. I won’t tell you the result, but you can guess.

As with all Sarah Dessen books, you get what you paid for, an easy reading, fun, love story. Once and For All does have a slightly dark side, but it fits the story nicely. Louna’s best friend, Jilly, adds some comic relief as she shepherds her three younger siblings around all summer while her parents work in a food truck.

All in all, Once and For All is the perfect antidote for the dismal goings on around us.

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A child’s guilt can be overwhelming and so it is with fifteen year old Francesca (Frankie) Schnell. SummerOfLettingGoFour years ago, while at the beach with her parents, her four year old brother, Simon, drowned. She and Simon were building a sand castle. She went to the beach blanket where her parents were sleeping, looking for food. When she turned around her brother was at the water’s edge, then he was caught by a wave. Frankie was stunned into inaction. Her father, hearing her scream, runs into the water but Simon couldn’t be saved. Frankie hasn’t swam since.

It is four years later. Frankie’s guilt is still in full force. She thinks her mother, who ignores her and spends most of her time at a foundation created in Simon’s memory, blames her and hates her. She’s jealous of her girlfriend, Lisette, who is gorgeous and has the boyfriend that Frankie yearns for.

Having snuck into the local country club pool (for reasons I won’t tell you), she sees a four year old boy dive into the deep end of the pool and look like he’s going to drown. She is paralyzed into inaction and Peter, the lifeguard, jumps in. As the boy’s mother drags him away, they almost bump into Frankie and the little boy asks “Who she?” Frankie introduces herself. It seems that his name in Frankie as well.

The next day, Francesca is called into the office of the pool’s owner. Afraid she’s going to be arrested for sneaking into the pool, she’s relieved when she finds out Frankie’s mother wants her to be a mother’s helper and help with Frankie during the summer.

All of this would generate a so-so book, but there’s more that pulled me into this book, The Summer of Letting Go. Little Frankie is the same age as Simon was when he drowned. Frankie looks like Simon, likes frogs just like Simon and has that same fearlessness. There’s more that I won’t tell you about.

Polisner explores the possibility of reincarnation/transmigration. Is it possible that Simon’s soul migrated into little Frankie? An interesting possibility. She also explores how people cope with pain. Each person in the Schnell household has dealt dramatically differently with Simon’s death. And finally, Polisner deals with a young girl’s self image and self doubt. Is Frankie pretty, especially compared to Lisette? Would any boy like her, especially the one she likes…who happens to be Lisette’s boyfriend?

The characters are all clear cut. They each have distinct personalities. I think it’s hard sometimes to create a four year old character, but little Frankie is cute, exasperating, funny, sad, just like a four year old and his sidekick dog, Potato, is just as cute.

There is a lot to think about in The Summer of Letting Go but Polisner does a fine job of putting all together in a cohesive, interesting, fun read. More that just a beach read, this book will make you think….which is what a good book should do. So, don’t let this summer go by without reading The Summer of Letting Go.




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RoseUnderFireI sandwiched Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein between The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, the ultimate beach read and The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle, the ultimate coming of age/love story. Talk about contrast. Which one is not like the others?

Rose Under Fire, the companion novel to Wein’s award winning Code Name Verity is equally compelling. In my post about Verity, I said “It is about the clash between what you do and what you portray to others…how you do or don’t live with yourself.” This holds true for Rose Under Fire as well.  What I like about the main characters of these two books is their understated heroism.

Rose is an American 18 year old working as an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot in England in 1944, ferrying planes back and forth to troops that need them and flying damaged ones back for repair. On one flight she sees a buzz bomb and decides to attempt to dislodge it from its targeted course. After doing so, however, she gets intercepted by the Luftwaffe and is diverted to a German air base and ultimately transported to the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

Rose’s story is told in three sections: Southampton, Ravensbruck and Nuremburg. Through a series of diary entries, Rose describes her life as a pilot, the atrocities (including medical experiments), comradship and inhumanity in the concentration camp and finally her escape, liberation and emotions during the Nuremburg trials.

I typically don’t read books about the Holocaust because I can’t stomach it. But Wein has a way with words and characters, making her books impossible to put down. While they describe the inhumane treatment suffered by the camp inmates at the hands of soldiers, other inmates, and civilians, it also describes lovingly the heroic deeds, large and small, that prisoners were capable of, the selfless acts that impacted others’ lives.CodeNameVerity

Wein leaves no doubt that the concentration camps, the commandants that ran them and the doctors who experimented on deportees were evil personified. She describes the horrendous conditions of the camps and the people living in them. However, she also, out of the darkest gloom shines a light on people who fought, within the camps, to save prisoners, people who saved a crust of bread for others, who would not work in the factories that manufactured bombs which would have been dropped on Allied forces.

While it is not necessary to read Code Name Verity to enjoy Rose Under Fire, both are worth reading. Wein has compiled a list of resources, including internet and survivor accounts. And, while Wein states that this is a work of fiction, the general descriptions of the camp is based on fact.  I envision many awards for Rose Under Fire. Both books are a must read.

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MoonAndMoreAs you know (maybe), Sarah Dessen is my guilty pleasure. Yes, I read certain teen chick lit. I’m not ashamed of it…so there! I am on page 72 of The Moon and More‘s 435 pages and so I’m going to predict what happens. (If you don’t want a spoiler, stop now.) I could be way off base. Then, I’ll write what really happens and see how close I am. Why? Because there’s something to be said for consistency and Sarah Dessen is nothing, if not consistent. You know you’ll get a great teen romance/beach read and for the first 72 pages, nothing has happened to change my mind. So, here goes.

Emaline, just graduated high school, lives in Colby, a resort town. Her grandparents started a summer rental business that she, her mother and her sisters work at. She’s in love with Luke, known him forever and has been going out with him for a few years. VIP renters get a special gift: a cheese/fruit platter and a bottle of wine. It’s Emaline’s job to deliver them. At one house, Sand Dune, she meets a guy her age, but doesn’t really chat. She sees him the next day and they do talk.

Meanwhile, Emaline’s estranged father is in Colby to arrange the sale of his deceased aunt’s house and asks to have dinner with Emaline.

So, the story can go one of two ways: (1) Emaline and unknown boy become friends testing her love for Luke and/or (2) Emaline’s father wants her to move in with him for the summer so she can get to know him and her half-brother, Benji…the separation testing her love for Luke. Somehow, unknown boy inserts himself into this scenario. Anyway, I predict Luke loses and unknown boy wins in the end.

Read on to see how well I did….

OK, so I was close in some respects and a little distant in others. Emaline’s father (as opposed to her dad, who is her adoptive father) is in town for the summer and indeed she does bond with Benji. Does she bond with her father as well? You’ll have to read on.

Of course, unknown boy, Theo, and Emaline do go out. Who wins in the end, Luke or Theo? We’ll both have to read on because I’m 15 pages from the end and I don’t know.

My overall opinion on The Moon and More? It is not my favorite Sarah Dessen book. (I really don’t know which one is.) That much I can say. There are some great characters in Morris and Daisy and Benji. There are some mediocre characters such as her sisters Amber and Margo and her father. There are some really annoying characters, who I won’t mention. The plot and writing are pretty typical Dessen. Regardless of the above,..as I was thinking of why it’s not my favorite book, three things popped into my mind. (1) Compared to all the ‘loner’ characters in Dessen’s books, Theo doesn’t hold up. (2) There’s no music in The Moon and More. I always liked that. And (3) Dessen makes all New Yorkers sound like (as someone close to me says) condescending assholes. As a New Yorker, I resent that.

So, while I have, in the past, given Dessen’s books 5 out of 5 stars, for this one I’m leaning towards 3 1/2 to 4 stars.

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MoonAndMoreWith the weather outside ranging between 60 and 80 degrees, rainy (torrential) one day, breezy sunny the next, the question arises: What to read? Of course, weather does play a role in your reading desires.

If you were handed two vastly different books at the same time, would you choose the ultimate RoseUnderFirebeach read, The Moon and More, by Sarah Dessen or a more literary, cerebral Rose Under Fire by award winner, Elizabeth Wein? Rose Under Fire is a companion book to Code Name Verity which won the 2013 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult mystery, is a 2013 Michael L. Printz Honor Book and a 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Fiction Honor Book. Hard choice!CodeNameVerity

Now that you’ve considered the subject for your own reading pleasure, can you guess which I’m reading first? Hint: it is in the mid 60s, cloudy and rainy out. This probably doesn’t help much, I know.

Whichever you decide to read first, make sure you read the other one second. Enjoy.

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Okay, I admit it. I like teen chick lit…well, some of it anyway. Sarah Dessen has always topped the list and I used to get ARCs of her books to review from VOYA. I’d have to finish it in a hurry so Abbe could read it. You know what you’re getting, but that’s okay. Her books are good any time of year, but they’re great beach reads.

HappySo is This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. If Smith isn’t a teen household name, she should be. Her books are fun and well written. Happy is her latest. Ellie and Graham find out what happens when an email goes to a total stranger. Taking place in Maine, it’s got all the trappings of a good beach read, including a beach.  There’s mystery, romance, picnics, 4th of July festivals. I rest my case.

Smith’s other books that I read include The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and The Comeback Season.

Sarah Dessen’s latest love story, The Moon and More, is coming out in early June. Of course I’ve got my TheMoonAndMorereserve in on that one. But if you’re longing for a good romance, try her previous book, Along for the Ride. Lately she’s been referring to previous characters or situations in her new books, so maybe start from the beginning and see how many embedded references you can find.

I”m sure there are other Beach Read favorites that I have but I can’t think of them at the moment. I’m sure they’ll come to me but in the meantime, let me know your Teen Chick Lit-Beach Read favorites.

By the way, look at yourself in the mirror when you read This is What Happy Looks Like, because, indeed, it is.

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