One of the reasons I love running She Reads with my best friend is because she sends me links to videos like this. And as the daughter of an artist, I love this so much. Marybeth and I knew this was a novel we should share with you, and really, once you watch it, you’ll see how this was the best possible format to do so. You can bet that I now have ALL WE HAD by Annie Weatherwax on my to-read list.
Kim Culbertson’s Catch a Falling Star is one of the best contemporary YA romances I’ve read so far this year. It has everything I want to see: a strong, relatable, intelligent protagonist, a swoon-worthy boy, great supporting characters (including good parents – YAY!), a setting I’d like to spend time in, and a cute, cleverly written plot sprinkled with some humor and sweetness.
What it’s about:
Carter Moon is happy with her life – she helps out in her parents’ deli, she’s about to graduate high school with some great friends, and she loves the small town of Little, CA. The problem? Well, there are a few. One, she’s so content with her current life that she hasn’t made any plans for beyond high school. Two, she takes on too much responsibility for her brother’s gambling addiction. And three, she’s completely unprepared for the impact the filming of a Hollywood movie in Little will have on her nice, quiet little life.
When Adam Jakes, current teen heartthrob and object of almost every teenage girl’s obsession, comes to Little for his next Hollywood movie, he’s in need of some positive PR. When Adam’s manager sees Carter and her small-town sweetness, he hires her to “date” Adam while he’s in town to build up his public image (Carter only agrees so she can use the money to help her brother).
Adam is not prepared for a girl who speaks her mind and seems immune to his celebrity status, and Carter is not prepared to actually find some depth and humanity behind Adam’s public persona. The result? A really, really cute story reminiscent of Jen E. Smith’s THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE. I devoured this in a day and instantly wanted more of Carter and Adam’s story. I’d love to see these characters reappear in future Culbertson titles.
Also, though these characters are upper high school age, I was really pleased to see that the book was totally clean and appropriate even for my middle schooler students to read. It was also pleasantly surprising to see that Carter’s parents are really good parents, models for the kinds of parents I wish we saw more in YA titles. Culbertson is a refreshing new voice in the YA world – I’d love to see this book on a bestseller list (and it would be perfect for a movie, too).
When I set out to write IT COMES IN WAVES, I knew one of the novel’s pivotal relationships was going to be that of forty-two year-old, single mother Claire, and her teenage daughter, Lizzie, who is struggling to assert her independence.
Before I began the novel’s first draft, I worried I wouldn’t be able to relate to Claire’s challenges. Don’t get me wrong: I’m the mother of two daughters—but my daughters are young; young enough that they—and for this I thank my stars DAILY—still want me to, on occasion, hold their hands, sing them to sleep and maybe even, for a few precious minutes, be their whole world.
Now I know one day they will want their own space. There will be no hand-holding, no lullaby-singing, no tolerance of mom’s Mom-ness on any level—but that day is far, far away.
After all, I was a wildly independent kid who grew up to be a wildly independent adult. My leash was long—okay, in truth, there was no leash. There was no fence, no curfews, no limits. At seventeen, I backpacked through Greece and Italy with my best friend for six weeks. After college, I moved to LA, not knowing a soul, and asked a bus driver to drop me off in Venice Beach because I liked the way it felt. If my mother struggled to come to terms with my fierce independence, she cloaked it well. So how could I relate to a mother who saw the early sparks of independence in her daughter and felt such panic she could barely breathe—or let her daughter breathe, for that matter? Surely I couldn’t understand that mother?
Then I started writing Claire.
And suddenly, I could.
Because as mothers, no matter how we tell ourselves we will let go when we must, the instinct to hold on is strong—quite possibly even stronger than our childrens’ desire to pull free.
In my novel, Claire comes out on the other side, a better mother, a better person.
When the day comes for my daughters to show that same desire for personal freedom, that vital craving for independence, I can only hope I will have learned from Claire’s challenge—and emerge as well on the other side.
For competitive surfer Claire “Pepper” Patton, the waves of South Carolina’s Folly Beach once held the promise of a loving future and a bright career—until her fiance, Foster, broke the news that he and Claire’s best friend, Jill, were in love.
Eighteen years later, now forty-two and a single parent to a rebellious teenage daughter, Claire has put miles between that betrayal and that coast. But when ESPN invites her back to Folly Beach for a documentary on women in surfing, Claire decides it might be the chance she needs to regain control of her life and reacquaint herself with the unsinkable young woman she once was.
But not everything in Folly Beach is as Claire remembers it, most especially her ex-best friend, Jill, who is now widowed and raising her and Foster’s teenage son. An unexpected reunion with Claire will uncover a guilt that Jill has worked hard to bury—and bring to the surface years of unspoken blame.
When Claire crosses paths with a sexy pro-surfer who is as determined to get Claire back on a board as he is to get her in his bed, a chance for healing might not be far behind—or is it too late for two estranged friends to find forgiveness in the place that was once their coastal paradise, where life was spent barefoot and love was as dizzying as the perfect wave…
Erika Marks is a native New Englander who now lives and writes in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their two little mermaids who will one day in the far, far future, forbid her from referring to them as such.
Question for you: what was your relationship with your mother like during your teen years? Good? Bad? Ugly? Or somewhere in between?
Carrie La Seur makes her remarkable debut with The Home Place, a mesmerizing, emotionally evocative, and atmospheric literary novel in the vein of The House Girl and A Land More Kind Than Home, in which a successful lawyer is pulled back into her troubled family’s life in rural Montana in the wake of her sister’s death.
The only Terrebonne who made it out, Alma thought she was done with Montana, with its bleak winters and stifling ways. But an unexpected call from the local police takes the successful lawyer back to her provincial hometown and pulls her into the family trouble she thought she’d left far behind: Her lying, party-loving sister, Vicky, is dead. Alma is told that a very drunk Vicky had wandered away from a party and died of exposure after a night in the brutal cold. But when Alma returns home to bury Vicky and see to her orphaned niece, she discovers that the death may not have been an accident.
The Home Place is a story of secrets that will not lie still, human bonds that will not break, and crippling memories that will not be silenced. It is a story of rural towns and runaways, of tensions corporate and racial, of childhood trauma and adolescent betrayal, and of the guilt that even forgiveness cannot ease. Most of all, this is a story of the place we carry in us always: home.
The First Paragraphs:
“The cold on a January night in Billings, Montana, is personal and spiritual. It knows your weaknesses. It communicates with your fears. If you have a god, this cold pulls a veil between you and your deity. It gets you alone in a place where it can work at you. If you are white, especially from the old families, the cold speaks to you of being isolated and undefended on the infinite homestead plains. It sound like wolves and reverberates like drums in all the hollow places where you wonder who you are and what you would do in extremis. In this cold, you understand at last that you are not brave at all.
If you’re Indian–a Crow or Cheyenne off the res maybe, a Shoshone, Hidatsa, Assiniboine, one of the humbled peoples of an unforgiving land–the cold will sound different, but still, it knows your name. It has no mercy for you no matter how long and intimate its relationship with your mothers and fathers. You of all people ought to know that it is a killer. How many of your relatives has it taken? More than wars and car crashes? Do your fingers and toes tingle in the cold because of some childhood frostbite, before you learned to cover up, or when the power company turned off the juice and your little back got pushed up hard against the cold rock of winter?”
Why I loved it:
For me everything about this book came down to sisters. I have three of them, you see. And one of them could be the blueprint for Alma’s younger, troubled, tragic sister Vicky. It’s a wondrous and terrible thing to love someone you can’t control. Especially when that someone is determined to burn through life at their own pace and on their own terms. So reading this novel was visceral for me. I understood why Alma wanted to leave her old life behind (I did the same thing after all) and I also understood how easily and completely she could be pulled back into it (this is a recurring theme in my own life).
THE HOME PLACE is written with the sharp, clean prose of a literary heavyweight and paced with compelling must-know-more suspense. It is exactly the sort of novel I adore. Smart. Searing. Redemptive. I read this novel quickly (that’s always my litmus test) and thought about the characters when I wasn’t with them. I loved the contemplation of home: why we leave it, why we yearn for it, and why, ultimately, we always return. And try as I might, I was not able to solve the mystery of Vicky’s death in advance. A truly well done mystery.
It’s been a long time since I found myself missing the jagged peaks and sagebrush mesas of my own home. But after reading this novel I found myself wrestling with the sudden urge to return to New Mexico, a place not so very different than the Billings, Montana of Carrie La Seur’s beautiful debut novel.
Today’s post by Ann Lewis Hamilton
Sometimes when I look at my daughter, I marvel at the journey that brought us together – a woman from a small southern town who ended up living in Los Angeles and an orphaned infant from the streets of Calcutta.
The “what ifs” start before that. My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Suppose I had carried that baby to term? Would it have been a girl? A boy? If I’d had that child, does that mean I wouldn’t have given birth to my wonderful son? (I missed biology in high school, so I don’t know how things like that work.)
What if. When my husband and I tried to have another child after Max, what if we had been been successful? Successful at least twice so we’d be a family with three biological children. My husband and I had always talked of adoption, but with three biological children, would we have stopped?
What if. We didn’t go very far down the infertility road, only to IUI (intrauterine insemination). The first time was successful, but I had another miscarriage. Suppose I hadn’t? By then we were looking into international adoption. There was a point where I was pregnant and expecting in the spring and we’d been told our adoptive daughter would arrive around the same time. So in addition to our son, would we suddenly have two infants? Would we have stopped the adoption process?
Not in a million years. My husband and I joked about how crazy our lives would have been if it had worked out that way. Things happen for a reason. But do they? The miscarriages and fertility treatments – I have a hard time wrapping my head around how pain and heartbreak make you a stronger person. Really? I think I’d be just as strong without having gone through that. (On the other hand, I never would have been about to write a book about infertility.)
We never found out why I had a hard time getting pregnant or had miscarriages. But what if we had? How far would we have gone to have another child? In my novel, Alan talks about never feeling the need to replicate himself. My husband and I felt the same way. We didn’t need a replica of ourselves or a blend of our genetic material. Color, nationality, sex of the child, none of that made a difference to us.
I’d like to think we have the best of both worlds. A birth child and an adopted child. But when I look at my son and daughter, that’s not what I see. I see my children.
* * *
Laurie and Alan are expecting, again. After two miscarriages, Laurie was afraid they’d never be able to have a child. Now she’s cautiously optimistic — the fertility treatment worked, and things seem to be different this time around. But she doesn’t yet know how different.
Jack can’t seem to catch a break — his parents are on his case about graduating from college, he’s somehow dating two girls at once, and he has to find a way to pay back the money he borrowed from his fraternity’s party fund. The only jobs he is qualified for barely pay enough to keep him in beer money, but an ad for the local sperm bank gives Jack an idea.
Laurie and Alan’s joy is shattered when their doctor reveals that Laurie was accidentally impregnated by sperm from a donor rather than her husband. Who is Donor 296. And how will their family change now that Donor 296 is inarguably part of it?
* * *
Ann Lewis Hamilton has written for film and television. EXPECTING is her first novel.
Ann Lewis Hamilton’s television credits include, among others, Grey’s Anatomy, Stephen King’s Dead Zone, and thirtysomething. She co-edits a small online literary magazine, Hot Valley Writers, and writes a blog, Book Club for One. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia in a house full of typewriters – her grandfather was the editor of the local newspaper where her father worked as a reporter and her mother wrote for the society page. Ann’s goal was to write and draw for MAD magazine, but instead she graduated with a BA from the University of Virginia and an MFA from UCLA. However, she still has a subscription to MAD.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time as a amateur astronaut. (Not really, but she has seen Gravity three times and would consider being an astronaut if she got to meet George Clooney.)
Today’s post by author Sonya Cobb | @CobbSonya
I was hiding behind the shower curtain, hand clamped over my mouth, phone jammed against my ear, sweat pouring into my eyes. In the next room, my daughter’s screams were ratcheting from anxiety to desperation to mindless panic.
There was no man with a knife silhouetted against the shower curtain. There was, however, an important client on the phone, and he wanted to know what I thought about the change in strategy we were considering. I didn’t know we were considering a change of strategy. I didn’t even know what the original strategy was, because the document was sitting on my desk in the room where my baby was screaming her head off. Cue Psycho music.
I learned an important lesson that day: if you try to work and parent at the same time, you will end up doing a half-assed job of both.
Later on I would ask myself why I didn’t politely excuse myself from that phone call and arrange to have the conversation another time. I wondered why I hadn’t trained my daughter to soothe herself back to sleep after her usual ten-minute micronap. But in both roles – freelancer and mother – I was tentative, inexperienced, and desperate to succeed.
We needed two incomes, but I avoided getting a full-time job because I wasn’t ready to put my daughter into full-time daycare. I figured I’d stuff some freelance work into the cracks and crevices of my day, scheduling conference calls during my daughter’s naps, working on assignments after my husband got home. The rest of the time, I’d nurse my baby, provide lots of meaningful eye contact, and watch her personality unfold.
But the work was slow to come, leaving me in no position to dictate my clients’ conference call schedules. I became well acquainted with my phone’s mute button as I perfected the art of multitasking: working while nursing. Working while changing diapers. Working while frantically dabbing spit-up off my keyboard.
It wasn’t working. After the bathtub debacle I finally hired a babysitter, even though the math was all wrong. My hourly rate was higher than the sitter’s, but I had to pay her whether I was working or not. That led to some strange afternoons spent shopping for clothes I couldn’t afford, just because I felt weird sitting at home reading magazines while the sitter played with my baby.
Eventually the work began to flow more regularly, and I got better at budgeting the needs of my baby, clients and childcare provider. But it took a long time, and when I look back, I consider it one of the most exhausting and conflicted periods of my life. When I think about women whose hourly wage is lower than the cost of childcare, who struggle every day just to provide food for their kids (never mind meaningful eye contact), I know I’m one of the lucky ones. But I never look at a new mom juggling the demands of work and motherhood – no matter her socioeconomic circumstances – without sympathy, respect, and the sound of Psycho music echoing in my head.
* * *
Sophie Porter is the last person in the world you’d expect to be stealing Renaissance masterpieces—and that’s exactly why she’s so good at it. Slipping objects out of her husband’s office at the Philadelphia Museum of Art satisfies something deep inside, during a time in her life when satisfactions are few and far between.
Selling the treasures also happens to keep their house out of foreclosure — a house that means everything to Sophie. But the FBI is sniffing around, and Sophie is close to destroying the very life she’s working so hard to build. She knows she should give up her thieving ways. But she may no longer be in control. The Objects of Her Affection is a riveting story about the realities of motherhood, the perils of secrecy, and the art of appraising the real treasures in our lives.
“This thrilling, emotional, and tautly paced novel will appeal to fans of The Book Thief…[Cobb's] brilliant first novel is the story of a woman with nothing and everything to lose.”—Booklist, starred review
Question: have you ever worked from home while caring for young children? How’d it go?
This month marks our fifth anniversary. In blog years (not to mention dog years) that basically means we’ve been around forever. And even though this reading community looks much different than it did when we started, She Reads still exists because we believe in the power of Story. We still want to share stories and encourage the women to read them. Year after year we’ve been profiling the books we think will move our readers. But as time has gone on, we’ve realized there’s been something missing: You.
Given the changes we’re making this fall, and our renewed focus on Community, Conversation, and Connection we’ve decided to open the doors of this organization a bit wider. And we’d like to hear how Story has changed your life. What novel comes to mind when you hear those words? Perhaps it’s a memoir or biography? Maybe a story led you to forgive someone, to make that hard phone call, to notice someone you might have otherwise overlooked, to speak up, to share something painful, to act, or to love. Whatever your story about Story is, we want to hear it. And we’d like to share it with this community.
We invite you to submit your “Love. Story.” posts to us here and we will begin what we hope to be a long conversation about the power of Story in our lives.
A few specifics on what we’re looking for:
- The post needs to be about a novel, memoir, or biography that changed your life. Tell us why. If you can make us laugh or cry, even better.
- Your post should be no longer than 500 words.
- It can NOT be about a book you have written.
We look forward to hearing from you!
This is usually the point where we announce our new book club selection. But that won’t be happening this month because we have some very BIG and very EXCITING news to share with you soon. Our next book club announcement won’t come until September 8th. (And really, let’s be honest: August is crazy. Everyone is getting kids back to school. We’re adjusting to the end of the summer and the new normal for fall.) Until then we’ll be here as usual. Reviewing books. Interviewing authors. Sharing stories. But we have changed the way we look at reading over the last few months. We’ve changed the way we select books and how we share them with you. And most importantly we have changed the way we operate so that we can better serve you, our lovely readers, through conversation, community, and connection.
Change can be hard. But in this case, we promise it will be wonderful. Stick with us. Keep reading. And prepare yourself for September.
As an English teacher, I get to assign summer reading every year… so why not here, on She Reads, too? Summer is the perfect time to kick back with a book and do some reading you might not get to do throughout the rest of the year. If you happen to have teenage daughters, these would be great read and discuss titles, too. Because I absolutely could not pick just one summer reading title, here are three YA titles perfect for warm weather. Hope you enjoy!
1. I have not been as surprised by a book – ever, probably – as I was by E. Lockhart’s newest release, We Were Liars. It was so shocking, actually, that I can’t tell you much about it other than to say the writing is great, the setting makes it perfect for summer, and you’re in for a real treat. Do yourself a favor and avoid reading reviews for it until after you’ve finished the book. Liars will be all over bestseller lists, guaranteed!
2. I’m a sucker for a good YA novel with a pretty cover, but a book with a pretty cover (even gold foil on the paperback! too gorgeous) AND Robert Frost poetry woven in? I’m so there. Golden by Jessi Kirby is a really beautifully written story full of romance, mystery, and adventure. The story is compelling and the characters are realistically flawed with plenty of redeeming value. Parker, the main character, is a protagonist that I rooted for all the way through, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way her story turned out. You’ll love this one!
3. If there was one book I could live inside – and maybe even BE one of the characters – it’s totally Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. In it, Anna’s dad sends her off to boarding school in Paris just when everything seems to be looking up for her. Anna doesn’t want to go and doesn’t know any French… but then Anna meets Etienne St. Clair and suddenly Paris doesn’t seem so bad. Perkins’ writing is fantastic, and this story is every bit as magical as you might think a Parisian romance might be. You’ll fall in love with Paris and Etienne and maybe even wish you could go back to high school at a French boarding school! Another great thing about this is that the characters in this book reappear in Perkins’ second book, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and in her third (due out in August), Isla and the Happily Ever After.
Playlist for Toni’s Prom – songs that may have been played at Toni’s prom (1996) — (Click the link to see Toni’s YouTube prom channel. All the songs below and their videos in one place. SO fun!)
- Everything But The girl – Missing
- Los del Rio – Macarena
- Tracy Chapman – Give Me One Reason
- Celine Dion – Because You Loved Me
- Mariah Carey feat. Boyz II Men – One Sweet Day
- The Tony Rich Project – Nobody Knows
- Blackstreet – No Diggity ft. Dr. Dre, Queen Pen
- Alanis Morissette – Ironic
- Donna Lewis – I Love You Always Forever
- Hootie and the Blowfish – Time
- Whitney Houston: Exhale (Shoop Shoop)
- Melissa Ehtridge – I want To Come Over
- Gin Blossoms – Follow You Down
- Toni Braxton – You’re Makin’ Me high
- Mariah Carey – Always Be My Baby
- Eric Clapton – Change the World
- No Mercy – Where Do You Go
- Goo Goo Dolls – Name
That Night playlist – songs Chevy listened to while writing That Night that make her think of Ryan and Toni and how much they love each other
- Eric Church – Springsteen
- Radical Face – Welcome Home
- U2 – All I Want is You
- P!nk – Just Give Me A Reason ft. Nate Ruess
- A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera – Say Something
- Phillip Phillips – Home
- Mumford & Sons – The Cave