A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Narrated by Tim Curry

ACCBook Description: Charles Dickens’ masterfully crafted Christmas fable tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a man with wealth to match the coldness of his heart. On a mystical Christmas Eve, a visitation with spirits forces Scrooge to make a choice: change, or perish.

 

My Review: It’s A Christmas Carol that reminds me that Charles Dickens was a genius. I often forget that fact. Most of his books are so long that I get lost in them and finish with the feeling that I narrowly escaped the main characters fate . Confession: I have never finished Little Dorrit.

It’s a shame that I only think of A Christmas Carol at Christmas. It’s such a fantastic story. I wonder what the world did before there was an Ebenezer Scrooge to remind us to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Actually, I guess it’s more like what did the world do before Ebenezer Scrooge was scared strait by some scary ghosts. That’s what happens in this story. Cold hard facts are presented to Scrooge. Oh those Victorians. They sure wore their misery on their sleeves. I guess that means that Scrooged was closer to the original material than Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

Scrooged

 

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

 

A Christmas Carol was published in December of 1843 and was an immediate success with both critics and the general public. Believe it or not Dickens barely made any money from the book. He decided to publish it himself which was very expensive but the books were beautiful. I’ve read several articles that say A Christmas Carol renewed the public’s interest in singing Christmas carols. I had no idea but now you can wow your friends and family with a bit of Christmas Carol trivia.

How about some more trivia? Wikipedia says that Charles Dickens, then forty-five, left his wife for an eighteen year old actress. Actually he sent his wife away and kept the house for himself and the remaining children. Catherine took Charles Jr. with her and her sister Georgina stayed with Charles to care for the children. Why was Dickens upset with his wife enough to have an affair? He claimed she was a bad mother (their daughter Dora died; Catherine was distraught and had a nervous breakdown), a bad housekeeper and had too many children which caused his financial problems. How was that her fault exactly? Want to know how she found out about Charles’s affair? She received a bracelet meant for Ellen Turnan, the mistress. Just like another Christmas movie I love; Love Actually. In case you were curious Catherine loved Charles very much even after his death and it pained her that the world didn’t see that he loved once too.

I don’t want to bash Charles Dickens though so I’ll leave you with something positive. He raised a great deal of money for charity. His public readings were wildly popular and he toured America twice. Can you imagine listening to Charles Dickens read A Christmas Carol? In the end, Dickens left Catherine an annual income when he died. I like that in the end of his own story he proved to be just as much of a good person as the character he created.

Tim Curry’s performance of A Christmas Carol is amazing. I will return to his version every Christmas. He doesn’t simply read this story. He makes you feel it. You feel Scrooge start to see the error of his ways. You feel when Scrooge starts to fear the future. You feel his giddy joy when he realizes it isn’t too late to change the future.

This is the version of A Christmas Carol to invest in. This is the one you will want to listen to every year on Christmas Eve.

Happy holidays!

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Original Background Image: Christmas by George Hodan from PublicDomainImages.net

My True Love Gave To Me

Short_story_bannerMy True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

Edited by Stephanie Perkins

MTLGTM_coverBook Description: If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers (Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de La Peña, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Tayler and Kiersten White), edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins.  Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s something here for everyone.  So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy.  You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

 

My Review: What they say in the book description is completely true. If you love holiday movies you will love this anthology. And if ever there was a story ready to be made into a Hallmark movie Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter is it.

Disclaimer: I love Ally Carter’s work. As in ALL of it. I was so sad when she wrote the last Gallagher Girls book that I still haven’t read it. I bought it when it came out and I put it on the bookcase next to my bed. (Yes I have bookcases instead of night stands. Don’t judge me.) If I don’t read it then the series will never be over right? If you are ever looking for a good heist book try her Heist Society series. They never disappoint and you will love Kat and Hale I promise.

Back to the review: Since I read Star of Bethlehem first I’m going to focus on that story. All of the stories are fantastic though and definitely worth reading. Don’t do what I did and get overly excited in the middle of Target and start looking only for Ally Carter and Holly Black’s stories. Holly Black, whose Doll Bones won a Newberry this year, has a great story too- Krampuslauf. (It was the second one I read). Holly Black is my kind of weird.

Star of Bethlehem focuses on a girl that wants to get away. Away from herself and her whole life. We don’t even get to know her name for most of the story. She trades airplane tickets with a total stranger who also wants to get away. That’s all I can tell you about the story without spoiling it. For me the story was about having faith. Faith in other people and faith in yourself.

If you’re not in the holiday spirit when you finish this story then nothing will ever put you in the holiday spirit (and, you should probably know, you probably don’t have a soul).  Even I was teary by the end of it. Me, who steadfastly believes that the holidays should consist of Santa and zombies. You’ll love it. I did.

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This book features complicated themes suitable for teens.

 

 

 

 

Original Background Image: My Yard In Winter (2) by Claudette Gallant from PublicDomainPictures.net

Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin

Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin

 

Deadly CuriositiesBook Description: Cassidy Kincaide owns Trifles & Folly, an antique/curio store and high-end pawn shop in Charleston, South Carolina that is more than what it seems. Dangerous magical and supernatural items sometimes find their way into mortal hands or onto the market, and Cassidy is part of a shadowy Alliance of mortals and mages whose job it is to take those deadly curiosities out of circulation.

Welcome to Trifles & Folly, an antique and curio shop with a dark secret. Proprietor Cassidy Kincaide continues a family tradition begun in 1670—acquiring and neutralizing dangerous supernatural items. It’s the perfect job for Cassidy, whose psychic gift lets her touch an object and know its history. Together with her business partner Sorren, a 500 year-old vampire and former jewel thief, Cassidy makes it her business to get infernal objects off the market. When mundane antiques suddenly become magically malicious, it’s time for Cassidy and Sorren to get rid of these Deadly Curiosities before the bodies start piling up.

 

My Review: My favorite thing about this book wasn’t the plot (which I loved) or the characters (which I adore). My favorite thing was the history. This book takes great care when describing Charleston and its history. It takes its time setting the scene. There is a scene in the book when a character is showing Cassidy around a building and Cassidy is describing what she has seen. In my humble opinion it takes a certain amount of skill to pull that off and not make it boring. That’s why Gail Z. Martin is one of my favorite authors ever. She keeps you thinking even when she’s talking about lamps. You can’t help but think that anything could happen.

Another great aspect of this book is all of the stories that go along with the objects that are in the story. Are they based on real stories? I have no idea but they’re details that make this book.  Cassidy’s visions of the past are a whole different matter. Her visions are whole stories within stories. She lives her visions so we get to live them too. I also thought it was nice that Cassidy gave us a cameo of Alard the vampire that created Sorren. We met Alard in the first story in this series Vanities.

I really don’t think that you need to have read all the short stories that came before it. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or that you won’t want to after you read this book. Be prepared to want to read those stories. It will, however, make this book even more enjoyable. I miss Dietger and Alard.

I’ve written enough reviews of this series that I don’t have to tell you what I think about the characters. I don’t think that I’ve given any of the stories in this series anything less than five stars. Sorren has always been my favorite but now I think it’s a tie between Sorren and Cassidy. I like how they interact and how Cassidy feels for Sorren. She recognizes that he looses everyone in the end to either a natural or violent death. Part of me has to think perhaps she’s worried that she’ll lose him at some point. Part of what I like about Cassidy is that her friends are her family.

This is such a great adventure story. I’m really into adventure right now. I really enjoyed it and if you go to Gail Z. Martin‘s site you can see that there is more adventure to come. I’m so excited.

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Try these other books by Gail Z. Martin:

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Original background image: Iron Gate by Tom Genovese from PublicDomainPictures.net

 

 

Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson

Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson

 

TMT_BookBook Description:  Two years after the massacre, the State enforces stricter rules and harsher punishments on anyone rumored to support tomo – the clairvoyant drug that caused a regional uprising. But sixteen-year-old Sophia Gray has other problems. Between her father’s illegal forgery and her friend’s troubling history, the last thing Sophia needs is an unexpected encounter with a boy. He’s wild, determined, and one step ahead of her. But when his involvement with tomo threatens her friends and family, Sophia has to make a decision: fight for a future she cannot see or sacrifice her loved ones to the world of tomorrow.

* I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review*

My Review:  The book description sounds dire.  This book is far darker than the Timely Death series.  While the Timely Death series follows Eric and Jessica’s struggle with the righteous Light it is confined to their struggle.  The war that Eric and Jessica are fighting is not known to the everyday humans.  There isn’t a constant tension that the entire world would be affected.  This book has a wider scope.

In the opening pages we find that the United States is a different place then what we know.  There is a curfew that the main character of this story skirts like a professional.   Right from the beginning we know that something terrible has happened and changed everything forever.

We are immediately introduced to a drug that is a huge problem for a lot of people for a number of reasons.  Tomo allows the user to see the future.  It’s an interesting concept.  Who wouldn’t want to see the future right?  When Sophia meets Noah for the second time he is clearly under the influence of tomo.  Under the influence and totally alert as if it’s a normal thing for someone to know what is going to happen before it happens.

The characters in this novel are just as complex, and just as complicated as the Timely Death series so if you enjoyed those characters you will love these.  These are not just normal teenagers thrust into the unknown.  These teenagers know that life can be upset in a single heartbeat.  They know that lives can be irrevocably changed by the decisions or mistakes of a single person.

This book is an adventure and I loved every single minute of it.  I enjoyed getting to know Noah and Sophia.  Everything is on the line in the war they are fighting and the author makes us feel it.  If you like books such as Divergent and Under the Never Sky then you will love Take Me Tororrow.  It’s a big story with many layers and I’m excited for the next installment.  It’s clear that Shannon A. Thompson is growing as an artist and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

 

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*Complicated themes.

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Don’t miss our reviews of the Timely Death series and our interview with Shannon A. Thompson:

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Background image:  Sunlight Through Trees by Hills22’s (Tim Hill) from freeimages.com

Fallen On Good Times by Rewan Tremethick

Fallen On Good Times by Rewan Tremethick

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Book Description:  Fairy tales are warnings.  Legend is history.  Monsters are real.

America, 1920. The city of Pilgrim’s Wane. The people on the street can be dangerous, the ones in the shadows even more so. Private Detective Laslo Kane is giving up. But then a brutal murder drives a terrified investor to offer Laslo a life-changing sum of money to solve the case.

 

The fee could set Laslo up for the rest of his life, assuming he still has one when he’s finished going up against the most dangerous crime family in the city.
Can Laslo survive and claim his fee, or will earning a living be the death of him?

My Review:

Let me just come out and say that this book will be included on my list of best book that I’ve read this year.   It’s extremely well written and charming.

I puzzled over where to place Laslo Kane in my vast library of private detective knowledge.  I was torn at first between Sam Spade and Harry Dresden.   Then a most miraculous thing happened about half way through the book.  I realized that Laslo Kane was his own private detective.  He doesn’t remain tortured at the end of this book the way so many other characters do.   He isn’t in the same place at the end of this book as he is when we first meet him.  Literally and figuratively,  since he’s sort of homeless, but he knows who his friends are and that’s important too.

The book is told in first person and Laslo has a unique outlook.  He also uses the slang of the time which also makes him charming.  The other great thing about Laslo is that he’s a normal sort of guy with normal ambitions.  I really liked that.

One of my favorite scenes in this book is when Laslo goes to meet-let’s call her a potential witness.  Everyone has, at one time or another, been in a persons house who have managed to match the furniture, carpet, drapes and walls.  We’ve all been there.  Laslo comments that the room looked empty to him and he had to find a chair by touch.  It was very funny.  The witness was also pointing a gun at him the whole time so that added to the funny.

Another scene that I’ll never forget is Misty Joe sitting with his candle.  There was something supremely sad about Misty Joe sitting with a candle in front of him and Laslo explaining about ghosts earthly remains.  That right there was worth the price of admission.

Mr. Tremethick was kind enough to send me a copy of his book to review.  I liked it so much that I bought one to support the book.  I’m glad he found us because it would have been a shame if I had missed this book.

Fallen On Good Times is impressive and elegant.  The story is told with ease and an addictive natural flow.  Laslo Kane may very well be my new favorite private detective.

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PicsArt_1375992730999PG-13 Some violence and things exploding.

 

 

 

 

 

Background image:   Ciudad De Panama by Silviamar2 from freeimages.com

Throwback Thursday: The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Book Description:  

This collection brings together 12 of the finest short stories of prominent American feminist author Charlotte Perkins Gilman. “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman’s best-known work, was first published in 1892 and represents an important examination of 19th-century attitudes toward women’s physical and mental health. Written as a collection of journal entries by a woman whose physician husband has confined her to her bedroom, the story depicts the narrator’s descent into psychosis as her confinement gradually erodes her sanity.

This collection also includes the stories “The Giant Wistaria”, “According to Solomon”, “The Boys and the Butter”, “Her Housekeeper”, “Martha’s Mother”, “A Middle-Sized Artist”, “An Offender”, “When I Was a Witch”, “The Cottagette”, “Making a Living”, and “Mr. Robert Grey Sr.”

 

My Review:     If you follow us on Twitter then you know that Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s birthday was on July 3rd.  I thought that if ever there was a time to cover one of my favorite stories by one of my favorite authors this was it.

The Yellow Wallpaper is one of my favorite short stories because Charlotte Perkins Gilman had a gift for subtlety.  The Yellow Wallpaper is so terrifying because of her slight of hand.  She spends a great deal of time building up what is happening in the house.  The main character in this story is slipping into madness and she doesn’t know it.  The genus of this story is that we don’t realize it either.  Charlotte Perkins Gilman is yelling over here over here while her character is describing her husband’s behavior while the real story is  happening right in front of you.  It’s genus.

If you’ve never read a Charlotte Perkins Gilman story you can start now and if you’ve read them all you can listen to the great audiobook that I listened to.  The audiobook is amazing.  It’s only four hours and thirty-nine minutes and they are all short stories.   Kirsten Potter narrates all of the stories and is perfect.  Sometimes when I listen to a story that I’ve read several times I’m disappointed in the audiobook but this one gave me something.  Kirsten Potter brought a lot out of the story that I hadn’t realized was there.  That was such a gift.

So when you’re looking for something short to read or listen to this weekend please remember Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s wonderful stories.  They are often labeled as chick lit or women’s fiction but they are so much more.  They are stories written by a  woman who’s talent could never be confined to her own lifetime.

 

 

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Header image: Flower Drop by Olivotte from freeimages.com

The King’s Blood by Sabrina Zbasnik

The King’s Blood by Sabrina Zbasnik

 

kings_blood_coverBook Description:  Save the Prince, save the world. Maybe stop for coffee.

Magic is coming back. Or so say the old prophesies cobbled together from wandering soothsayers, women huffing broken gas lines, and the back of comic tomes. The Evil Empire™ of Avar and its perfectly sane, in no way crazy Emperor risks others’ life and limb to stop it from coming to pass.

The only obstinate chunk of gravel in their shoes is a small kingdom warring against the over confident reach of the growing Empire. The fight was going well for them, all things considered, right until their King went and let his head slip right off his shoulders.

Now Ciara, a black servant into her sixteenth year, finds herself on a mad quest across the countryside trying to get the second son and possibly only hope of the severed Ostero line back onto his throne. Along the way, she and Aldrin — the rather simple and OH GODS KEEP HIM AWAY FROM ANYTHING SHARP prince — find themselves at the mercy of assassins, witches, traveling historians, a sect of killer doctors, and the unblinkers.

Can two teens survive an entire Empire crashing down upon them while a shambling army of corpses waits patiently in the shadows? Will the religious fight for and against magic rip apart the world they all became rather fond of? And just how can a fifteen year old take over a throne dangling precariously over the edge of war?

 

My Review:  I will be the first to admit that I haven’t read a lot of epic fantasy.  I had The Hobbit read to me in library class when I was a child.  I have also read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.  I guess I characterize epic fantasy by how many pages it has or I would count Ice Forged and The Palace Job too.  I realize that doesn’t make me a card carrying member of the epic fantasy fan club but it does equip me to know what epic fantasy is.  So I can tell you without a doubt The King’s Blood is definitely epic fantasy.  It’s also really good epic fantasy.

This story is fun, funny and well told.  It’s everything in the book description and more.  My favorite character was Ciara.  It’s hard not to pick her.  She goes from serving girl to heroine.  There is also the small of matter of her nearly dying.  I won’t say more than that because you really need to read this book.  You won’t be disappointed.   You have to root for the girl who almost dies.

This book contains some of the best lines I’ve ever read.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

-Lord Albrant, who was perched percariously upon his chair, ready to leap to Edric’s assistance should the King’s makeshift throne finally commit suicide.

-Kynton, raised on a heavy diet of taking the world with a grain of salt, peered into the hazy void.

 

There is more where that came from.  This book is filled with stressful moments lightened by funny dialog.  You don’t want to miss Ciara’s journey.  Alright, there is a rag tag group that travels with Ciara.  I guess you don’t want to miss them either.  They are almost as interesting as she is.  Ohhhh, you will also want to see the prince become his own man.  I guess that was interesting too.

This book is on the long side.  If you, like me, are not a card carrying member of the epic fantasy club you should not be put off by the number of pages.  Once you get going you will become so wrapped up in the story you will be traveling with this rag tag group and you will lose all sense of time and place.  This book really is that great.

Don’t miss our interview with author Sabrina Zbasnik tomorrow.

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The Cistern Mission by Michael Dadich

The Cistern Mission by Michael Dadich

TCMBook Description:

Captain Rostand knows the importance of his undercover mission. The families of Azimuth’s proud officers have just been slaughtered as a statement by the evil dictator Hideux. But how did Hideux know where Azimuth’s forces were hidden? How could his Nightlander army be one step ahead of the powerful Azimuth Alliance at every turn?

The hard truths he discovers on his quest for justice may mark the incendiary beginning of the war of all wars. Will Azimuth survive the great onslaught?

 

My Review:  This story was really short and really fun.  You know the story is going to be good when the bad guys have pet monsters called Disembowlers.  In case you had any doubt, they do exactly what the name suggests.

The story starts out with a man breaking in to a military compound and a woman is breaking out of prison.  They meet in the middle and have an intense adventure.  It was great.  I loved it.

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PG  DISEMBOWLERS!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sea of Secrets by Amanda Dewees

Sea of Secrets by Amanda Dewees

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Book Description:  Can I save him from the darkness in his soul–or will it destroy us both?
My name is Oriel Pembroke–or was, until my father disowned me. Although he had always despised me, it was not until my beloved brother was killed in the Crimean War that Father cast me out. I had nowhere to turn until I met the former Duchess of Ellsworth, a relative whose existence I had never guessed, who recently scandalized society by remarrying soon after her first husband’s death. At her opulent seaside estate, Ellsmere, I think at first that I may have found a safe haven–but the handsome, fascinating young duke, Herron, believes otherwise. Haunted by the death of his father, he insists that Ellsmere is sheltering a murderer.

I cannot help but fall in love with the duke, but increasingly I fear that his grief and suspicion may be turning to madness. When dangerous accidents start to befall both of us, however, I realize that someone may be trying to stop us from discovering the truth about the past. And when someone from my past comes back into my life, I learn that he may hold the answer to the most horrifying secret of all…

 

My Review:  The book says it’s a retelling of Hamlet but I think this book is part Hamlet and part Jane Eyre.  Amanda Dewees mixes the two easily and the result is astounding.  This review is going to be really short so that I don’t spoil the book for anyone.

It is beautifully written.  There is a moderate cast of characters.  I would say it’s more Jane Eyre and less Hamlet( I don’t know about you but I have to refer to who is who when I read Hamlet because there are so many characters involved).  Like Hamlet, however, the relationships are complicated.  Also like Hamlet the crazy goes on for a beat too long which tells me this author knows her Hamlet inside and out if she was willing to stick to it.  What I mean by a beat to long is that we’re pretty sure that Hamlet is mad from the beginning.  In this book we know that Herron is mad because he exhibits Hamlet’s characteristics.  We also know he’s mad because Amanda Dewees, like the bard, wanted us to have that extra moment of is he really crazy?  Could he be sane?  Is Hamlet toying with everyone?

There are also parallels between Ophelia and Oriel.  There is a great scene towards the end of the book where Oriel is floating in the water.  It’s a great scene.

The author explains her crush on Hamlet in an afterword.  I will admit that I haven’t read this yet because I didn’t want it to influence my review.  There are also discussion questions at the end of the book.  I didn’t look at these either so that they wouldn’t influence me.

I have to say that I think there may be a smattering of Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen in there also.   I wasn’t sure about Charles.  There were points where I thought he held some responsibility in the mystery and then there were time I didn’t.  What it comes down to is that this is a great gothic novel.  It even has a great ending.  I wish all of the gothic novels ended like this one.

See Jessica.  I don’t hate romance.  I just like mine with crashing waves and a bit of murder.

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PicsArt_1375992730999PG-  Did I mention there was murder and madness.

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

 

Audiobook_ReviewGoing Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt.

Narrator: Ali Ahn

An Audible Audiobook

Unabridged

Genre: Young Adult

Length: 8 hours and 3 minutes

 

 

GV Audible AudioBook Description:  When Mallory discovers that her boyfriend, Jeremy, is cheating on her with an online girlfriend, she swears off boys. She also swears off modern technology. Inspired by a list of goals her grandmother made in 1962, 

The List:
1. Run for pep club secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for Homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous

Mallory decides to “go vintage” and return to a simpler time (when boyfriends couldn’t cheat on you online). She sets out to complete grandma’s list: run for pep club secretary, host a dinner party, sew a homecoming dress, find a steady, do something dangerous. But the list is trickier than it looks. And obviously finding a steady is out . . . no matter how good Oliver (Jeremy’s cousin) smells. But with the help of her sister, she’ll get it done. Somehow.

 

 

 

My Review:  This book oozes heart.  This book should be required reading for every woman, man and teen on the planet.  This book is about valuing genuine friendships in a day of Facebook and blogging.  It also poses an interesting question.  Where do we draw the line between our online lives and our real ones?  Are they both real?

Ali Ahn did such a wonderful job of being Mallory.  Mallory is a bit clueless in the beginning of this book.  If you like your books with a good character arc then this is the book for you.  Mallory goes from care-free girlfriend to a girl who knows what really matters and appreciates the people that truly count.  This book is also about letting go of the people and things that aren’t good for you.  Mallory learns quickly that some people are not what they appear to be.  That some people are only out to have things their own way and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process.

Mallory’s mom tells her not to give her “pieces” away.  Mallory thinks she’s only telling her not to have sex.  I think it was more than that.  Perhaps better advice than her mom meant it to be.  I think we all give little pieces of ourselves to every single relationship we ever have.  I think that if there is a memory then we’ve given a piece of ourselves.  We should pay attention to the pieces we give out.  We should make sure that we don’t give them too freely whether it’s in friendship or in love.  Make sure the person that you’re giving the piece to truly deserves it.  Your time is valuable and you should use it wisely.

The rest of the characters in the book are well rounded and their stories are complete.  I really enjoyed this book.  It’s short and I finished it in a weekend.  I recommend it.

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PicsArt_1375992730999PG  This audiobook is safe to listen in front of children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try these other books:

 

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