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Pretending to Dance was my second book by Diane Chamberlain, and I was not disappointed.  It’s told in the alternating voices of Molly as a teenager and Molly as an adult, and the plot twists and mysteries seem neverending.

In the present, Molly and her husband are working to adopt a child, knowing that Molly cannot conceive.  They undergo interviews, background checks, and home visits, all of which put them one step closer to their future child, and all of which send Molly’s thoughts back to her adolescence.

In the past, Molly as a fourteen-year-old girl adores her father, a therapist with a particularly quick-progressing form of multiple sclerosis.  Her mother, on the other hand, is cold and distant.  As Molly spends the summer helping her father, she also experiences her first love and learns about family secrets that she might not have expected.

Pretending to Dance is an easy, fast-paced book.  The characters feel alive, the story never drags, and the writing is wonderful.  For fear of spoilers, and since the book’s release date is so far off, I don’t want to go into too much detail in this review.

Let me just say that this book is not to be missed, and I would highly recommend pre-ordering it.

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC!

Final rating: ★★★★☆

The Bibliophagist is flying away!

I’m headed out to Scotland for a week!  I have a few things queued up, but I’m not sure how steady my internet access will be to post new reviews and updates.  I will, however, be reading up a storm while I’m away.  I have five paper books and eight ebooks that I’m taking with me.

Have you ever been to Scotland?  What should I do while I’m there?  Do you have any favorite books that take place in Scotland?

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Frenchie Garcia is struggling.

She’s just finished high school, and nothing is going as planned. She didn’t get into art school. Her best friend constantly blows her off to be with his new girlfriend. Their plans to move to Chicago have imploded. And the cherry on top of this disastrous year? The guy she’s had a crush on for as long as she can remember committed suicide after spending the night adventuring with her.

She’s withdrawn, depressed, antisocial. Her friends don’t understand what her problem is, but then again, they don’t know what happened with Andy. Frenchie pushes everyone away with her snippy, snarky attitude. And here lies my biggest problem with this book: instead of reaching out for help, Frenchie pushes her friends away with well-timed, sometimes vicious jabs. And it didn’t feel necessary to me.

You know, sometimes when you’re reading about a character like Frenchie, you understand that they need to act out. You feel bad for them. You forgive their indiscretions. But that was really hard with Frenchie, because more than feeling her pain, I just felt like she was trying too hard to be edgy and mysterious.

I didn’t feel much better about her friends. Joel keeps secrets from Frenchie. He tosses his long time best friend aside for his new girlfriend. Her other friends aren’t much better, insisting that she drown her sorrows in the bar’s cute bouncer, Colin, without even asking her what’s wrong. (Not that she probably would have answered truthfully.)

Strangely, the only character I felt a semblance of connection with was Colin – the one character who doesn’t back away from the barbed wire fence that Frenchie has constructed around herself.

As for the topic of suicide, I felt that it could have been dealt with a lot better. I remember reading 13 Reasons Why while I was working a college job and struggling to hold in the tears as students and their parents swirled around me. That is a book that properly deals with suicide. It’s more of a plot point here than anything else. “This guy died; how is Frenchie going to handle it?”

I can’t fault the writing style, but I had trouble getting into the book, and most of the characters fell flat for me. Honestly, I’m really disappointed, because this book has been on my list since it came out and I didn’t win a free copy. This book could have been so much better than it was. 

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #28: a book with antonyms in the title.

To be honest, today’s Top Ten Tuesday was a little hard for me.  Because, despite the fact that I am a voracious reader with many favorite authors, there are very few people whose books I’ll just blindly buy.  I mean, some really good authors have been known to write some pretty terrible things.  I like to check the reviews first.

So, here’s a list of ten authors whose books I’ll most likely buy on or near the release date.  It’s interesting how different this list is from last week’s, which featured my top ten most read authors.

Which authors would be on your list?

Book review: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source: Purchased

Gwen’s whole life is about to change.

Gwen Castle comes from a long line of fishermen and housecleaners who support Seashell Island’s summer visitors, and she expects her life to go the same way.

But then she discovers that Cassidy Somers—also known as her Biggest Mistake Ever—is working on the island for the season. And though she tries to avoid him, fate keeps pushing them together.

Sparks fly and secrets are revealed as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about her life, herself, and the people she loves—with what really is.

I was a huge fan of My Life Next Door, and I’ve had What I Thought Was True on my to-read shelf ever since I finished it. I’ve walked past it at bookstores a few times, always thinking, next time I’ll buy it. Well, I bought it. And it’s good. And I’m kicking myself for waiting so long.

Gwen Castle, our protagonist, lives on the wrong side of Seashell Island. She spends her summers working for her father at his beachside restaurant, where she waits on the wealthy summer visitors. This summer, though, she’s working as a “companion” for the well off, elderly Mrs. Ellington. Since she’ll be spending her days with Mrs. Ellington and her nights with her friends, this summer will be the perfect time to finally get past the mistakes she made over the last year.

Cassidy Somers is the epitome of everything Gwen wants to forget. A mistake of a night. A boy she thought had feelings for her, then turned around and crushed her heart. Gwen never thought that Cass would be working on the island this summer too – that in order to whip his son into shape, Cass’s father would make him work as the island’s “yard boy,” spending his days tending the lawns of Seashell Island’s rich and lazy.

As much as Gwen tries to avoid Cass, it seems that they’re constantly thrown together. As their time together increases exponentially, she’s forced to re-evaluate her assumptions and misconceptions about their short-lived relationship. Nothing is what it seems.

Just like in My Life Next Door, I appreciated the honest, realistic portrayals of teenagers in What I Thought Was True. Gwen and Cass, and their friends for that matter, are imperfect but lovable characters. Nobody is all good or all bad. Sometimes in YA, the situations are so unrealistic that I can’t imagine any of them happening to a teenager. In My Life Next Door, everything feels like something that happened to me, one of my friends, or one of my classmates in high school. Misunderstandings, heartbreak, and volatile emotions – all presented in a real, refreshing way.

Another thing I really like about Huntley Fitzpatrick’s books is that she deals with teenage sexuality in a sensitive, but, again, realistic way. Gwen slept with a few boys last year that she’d rather forget. She’s getting a bit of a reputation, and she knows it. But while Gwen is upset at the way the boys refer to her, and she regrets some of her sexual partners, she’s never slut-shamed. This kind of message is so important for teenage girls, and I’m glad that Ms. Fitzpatrick is getting it out there.

I had a really hard time putting this book down, and it was a great reminder of how much I love Huntley Fitzpatrick’s books prior to the release of The Boy Most Likely To. If you’re looking for a summer romance with a deeper message, don’t miss this one.

Hardcovers are beautiful, but I hate dealing with the dust covers!  They always get banged up or lost.  Audiobooks are handy for when I’m doing something like cleaning or sewing, but sometimes I zone out and have to rewind.

I usually prefer paperbacks and e-books. Paperbacks are my preference for reading at home, and e-books are my preference for reading on my lunch break or while traveling.

What’s your favorite?

Book review: The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White

The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: July 1, 2015
Source: Kindle First

From a distance, Felix Fitzwilliam, the son of an old English family, is a good husband and father. But, obsessed with order and routine, he’s a prisoner to perfection. Disengaged from the emotional life of his North Carolina family, Felix has let his wife, Ella, deal with their special-needs son by herself.

A talented jewelry designer turned full-time mother, Ella is the family rock…until her heart attack shatters their carefully structured existence. Now Harry, a gifted teen grappling with the chaos of Tourette’s, confronts a world outside his parents’ control, one that tests his desire for independence.

As Harry searches for his future, and Ella adapts to the limits of her failing health, Felix struggles with his past and present roles. To prevent the family from being ripped apart, they must each bend with the inevitability of change and reinforce the ties that bind.

Seventeen-year-old Harry Fitzwilliam suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, and anxiety. His loving mother, Ella, has dedicated her entire life to his well-being, while his father, Felix, avoids dealing with him by working non-stop. Ella and Felix have accepted their way of life, and while neither is fully satisfied, it works for them. That is, until otherwise health Ella suffers a heart attack and their whole family structure begins to crumble.

At the beginning, it seems that Ella is perfect, a devoted mother who tirelessly manages her son’s medications, therapists, physicians, school activities, and emotions. Felix is supremely unlikable. Even when he’s not working himself to death, he’s criticizing his wife and child. Why can’t Harry be more normal? Why does Ella baby him so much? Why can no one remember to put their shoes away?!? When Ella’s health takes turn after turn for the worse, Felix finds himself absorbing more and more of her tasks, and understanding just what it takes to keep their family running smoothly.

Harry is an impressive character, never letting his conditions get in the way of his life. He has good friends and does well in school. There are, of course, moments when he struggles. When he tries with everything he has to stop ticcing, but he just can’t. When he realizes that his Tourette’s could get him in a lot of trouble. When he struggles with his mother being in the hospital and having to deal with his father. But overall, Harry is a beacon of hope and happiness.

But it’s Felix that really steals the show. He develops so much as a person of the course of the book, coming to love both his wife and his son more as he realizes that Harry isn’t the only one with issues. As Felix delves deeper into his past, he confronts uncomfortable truths about his relationship with his own father, and how that may influence the way he treats his own son.

The Perfect Son is an unexpectedly touching book about family and mental illness, and I would highly recommend it.

I received a free copy of The Perfect Son from Amazon’s Kindle First program.