Book review: ‘What the Valley Knows’ by Heather Christie

 

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What the Valley Knows by Heather Christie.

Today I want to share with you my review of Heather Christie’s first book. I was lucky enough to be one of the chosen few, who were given a finished copy to read, in advance of publication, and I am so pleased that I was, as I really enjoyed it. Actually…

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I have to say that I loved this book. Actually I more than loved it.

 

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At first sight, it appears to be a sweet romance between high school sweethearts, and aimed at young adult readers. But this book is so much more. It has hidden depths. It is a beautiful ‘coming of age’ novel which draws you in from the very first page. It is the perfect blend of drama, suspense, and yes, romance. You’re gripping your seat one moment, whilst dissolving into puddles of emotion the next. Here is the book’s synopsis. I will give you mine below it.

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Synopsis:

“Millington Valley is a quintessential small Pennsylvania town: families go back generations. Football rules. Kids drink while adults look the other way. High school is a whirlwind of aspiration and rivalry, friendship and jealousy.

When smart and pretty Molly Hanover moves to town and attracts the attention of the football team’s hero, Wade Thornton – a nice guy with a bad drinking habit, longtime friendships are threatened and a popular cheerleader tries to turn the school against Molly.

The young couple’s future is shattered when Wade, drunk, wrecks his truck and Molly is thrown through the windshield.deer-head

She wakes from a coma to find her beauty marred and her memory full of holes. As she struggles to heal, she becomes sure that something terrible happened before the accident. And there is somebody in the valley who doesn’t want her to remember.’

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The book is written from multiple perspectives, as seen through the eyes of the main characters. This is expertly done, and allows the reader to fully experience the emotions of each character in the lead up to their worlds colliding.

Molly is a sweet only child. Her father died when she was a young girl, and her memories of him are bitter-sweet. She feels guilt as well as grief at his passing, because she blames herself somewhat for his death, for reasons that become clear later.

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Ann is Molly’s mother. She is finally finding her feet after years of fighting to pay bills and keep out of debt, after her husband’s shock death left them almost destitute. Now Ann has an opportunity for a fresh start in a new town, with a super job offer as a paralegal and a beautiful rental home that seems almost too-good-to-be-true. It apparently is…

Wade is the popular kid, and high school football star. His life is a dream. He has a huge bunch of friends, he can take his pick of all the pretty girls, and his future football career seems settled. Wade gets everything he wants, and it comes easy. But he is not happy. A little drink now and again, helps to ‘take the edge off’ and it’s okay, because Wade is in control of it…until he isn’t. When Molly walks into his life, he suddenly feels that he has finally found ‘the one’, someone who loves him for himself and not for his achievements.

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Unfortunately there are some people in town who want something from Ann and Molly that they just cannot give. These people have their own agenda’s and are hell-bent on getting what they want,to such a point that Ann and Molly’s lives are now in serious danger.

One night everything tragically changes, and Molly now has a huge decision to make.

If she reviled her secret, it’s going to cause so much pain to those she loves. If she doesn’t, then other people may be in danger. She meets up with Wade with the intention of sharing her burden, but before she has a chance, they are in a car accident, and Molly is in a coma….

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I love seeing how Christie writes with such  empathy, and draws the reader into the thought processes and feelings of her characters. I understood Molly, I understood Wade, and I understood Ann, and I could see all their differing points of view. The romance was so sweet and the mystery and intrigue kept me on tenterhooks while I stormed through the story.

I found myself constantly dipping in and out of the book through the day, while I was supposed to be busy doing other things, but I just HAD to find out what happened next. Luckily for me, the chapters were not too long, and I could pick up easily where I had left off. However, I wasn’t satisfied until I had turned the very last page!

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I just love it when I find a book that grips me like this. I really can’t wait to read more from Heather Christie, and I will be first in line to buy the next book that she has published. A super read, I wholeheartedly recommend it!

 What the Valley Knows will be published in January, but the author has a super preorder incentive campaign running right now. For more details, go HERE FOR DETAILS

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Summer Y.A. Contemporary Reading recommendations: ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Natasha Friend.

 

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Don’t you just love summer?

I love the long days and lazy evenings; kicking back in the backyard at the weekend with the grill fired up, retro songs on the turntable outside and a cool refreshing drink in my hand and a plate full of doughnuts beside me. This is what I call perfection! Of course it’s even better if there’s a book in my other hand too, but I try to be sociable.

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I always find that I turn to contemporary books in the summer. I like to be able to dip in and out of a read during these lazy days when quite often friends will drop by and linger, with us on the patio, or we will load up the car and head to the beach. My favorite reads for these days are YA contemporaries. They fill the gap in the days quite nicely and as a bonus, usually their dust jackets are a feast for the eyes too.

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So this week I wanted to pull up a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed so far this summer. I’ve discovered some fabulous authors that are new to me and of course, some super characters to root for as they navigate their way through life. I hope you enjoy them too. Let me know if you’ve read them, and why not add a recommendation of your own too?

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Okay, so first up, today we have ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Natasha Friend  Published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

Here’s the official synopsis:

‘The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself…
DUMPED by her best friend Dani, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade “hanging out with different people.”
DESERTED by her mom, who’s in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt.
TRAPPED in a house with her dad, a new baby sister, and a stepmother young enough to wear her Delta Delta Delta sweatshirt with pride.
STUCK at a lunch table with Shawna the Eyebrow Plucker and Sarabeth the Irish Stepper because she has no one else to sit with.

But what if all isn’t lost? What if Anna’s mom didn’t exactly mean to leave her? What if Anna’s stepmother is cooler than she thought? What if the misfit lunch table isn’t such a bad fit after all? With help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.’

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 My take:

Don’t dismiss this book as the lighthearted synopsis suggests, it tackles some deep issues, but handles them delicately and empathically. While I would say that this book is aimed at a middle school audience, it is also a super good read for all ages above this.

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Our protagonist, Anna is thirteen, and has hung out with her best friend Dani since Kindergarten. Her life is safe and predictable, but then it isn’t. Out of the blue Dani no longer wants to hang out with Anna. She feels that they’ve grown apart. Dani wants to be more popular, and Anna is no longer cool enough. Okay, so Anna is confused and upset, but she thinks Dani may change her mind and come running back, if she gives her time. As we read this, we assume that the story is going to be cute and sweet, but it does get much darker as we read on.

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Anna’s parents have recently divorced, but within months, her father has remarried and his just -out-of-college new wife has given birth to a baby girl. Anna is struggling to cope with her new place in his world, and having to divide her time between his new house and her home with her mother. Unfortunately things go from bad to worse when Anna’s mother attempts suicide, and leaves her reeling, and with no other choice than to move in with her father and his new family, while her mother recovers. donut girl book 1

This book touches on many different issues throughout: Divorce, remarriage, the birth of a new sibling, depression, loss of friendship, and grief. It offered much more than I anticipated, and I thought that the author handled these issues well. Anyone over age thirteen will certainly have experienced at least one of these issues, and I’m sure they will relate.

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I empathized with Anna as she was pushed from pillar to post, but I enjoyed seeing her character grow through these pages.

I’d give this a solid four stars for a sweet, Ya read.

I hope this review has been helpful to you. I’ll be back later with another summer Y.A book recommendation.

 

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with love, Sally xxx

 

 

 

 

Y.A. New Releases: Non Spoiler Book Reviews

‘The Upside of Unrequited’ by Becky Albertal

‘The Hidden Memory of Objects’ by Danielle Mages Amato   and

‘Between Two Skies’ by Joanne O’Sullivan

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This month I received three book subscription boxes with Y.A. fiction new releases and I really enjoyed all three.

 

I’ll start with ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ by Becky Albertal and published by Balzer and Bray.

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Here’s the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love- she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness- except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolken superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

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QUOTE: ” I texted with Mina for four hours last night” she says as soon as we step outside. It tumbles out of her mouth like she’s been bursting to tell me.

“Wow”

“I know”

I feel Cassie looking at me, and I can tell she wants me to say something.Or ask something. Maybe it’s twin telepathy- I can just feel her excitement. It’s like it has a pulse.

Somehow, I don’t think this is about finding me a boy-friend….’

 

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So first of all I have to give this book five stars just for the amount of diversity it includes. It has everything!

I liked just about every character too, which is rare for me. I love that Molly is a crafter and enjoys to make beautiful things. I love that she is so sweet and untainted with her view of the world. I love her sister Cassie who seems more confident and worldly wise to Molly, yet who also has insecurities of her own. I love the guys, each different yet all loveable. Most of all I ADORE the grumpy grandma who has loud opinions of everything and everybody and doesn’t care who knows it; she made me laugh out loud! This is an amazing contemporary coming-of-age read, that has you laughing, crying and everything in-between, but most of all, you GET Molly. You are inside her head. You know how she feels and why. I have to give this book a solid 4 stars. My only critique is the cover design- yes really! It annoys me. It’s a beautiful blue but it the graphics just come across as having had zero effort in design. Sadly, if I had not received the book in a subscription box, I most likely would have walked right past it on the shelf because it doesn’t grab my interest at all. Please pick it up; it’s a super story.

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Next I’m moving on to ‘The Hidden Memory of Objects’ by Danielle Mages Amato and published by Balzer and Bray

The synopsis:

 

‘Megan Brown’s brother Tyler, is dead. But the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide- something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell- at fifteen; she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, Megan now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings- and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia- objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners- Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Danielle Mages Amato’s extraordinary debut is a story of how the things we leave behind continue to shape our memories and identities ling after we are gone.’

 

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QUOTE:

‘As I spun the dial on the lock, the overpowering smell of flowers made my stomach turn, and I felt another headache coming on. The lights overhead seemed to get brighter and brighter, and I struggled to see Tyler’s locker combination on the little slip of paper the Vice Principal had  given me. Just as I opened the door, a group of guys pushed past me to get to their lockers.

One of them was Tyler…’

I’m a great crime/ mystery lover so this book was of immediate interest to me. I also love anything with spiritual undertones too, so I knew I’d love this story on both counts and I wasn’t disappointed. We have so many thrilling elements in this book that keep the story moving forward, yet we also have time to see the characters change and grow too.

First and foremost, Megan is grieving. She is shell-shocked and stunned. Her brother may have committed suicide, he may have had a drug problem, and she had no idea that he was going through anything at all. He was the popular kid. He was thoughtful, kind, talented and basically everything that Megan aspired to be. What went wrong?

Her parents are also grieving and each trying to cope in their own way- so this leaves Megan pretty much alone. As she struggles to come to terms with her brothers death, she turns to two friends for help, and between them, they try to unravel Tyler’s last weeks of life.

As Megan picks up her brother’s belongings from his school locker she finds herself jolted into his memories, experiencing them from his point of view. This unnerves her badly but she is so determined to solve the mystery of her brother’s death, she is willing to do whatever it takes to discover exactly why her brother was in a deserted building in the middle of the night, alone.

I felt so sorry for Megan as she tried to absorb so many shocks so soon. Her brother died, she misses him, her parents aren’t coping well, and she has tapped into a psychic talent that she had never experienced before. But this girl is kick-ass! She takes it all on the chin and picks herself up after every punch and tries again- she will not be beaten by this!

I think I enjoyed this book the most. It’s another contemporary, but it also has elements of mystery and mysticism too. It covered so many bases for me. The pacing was good, the characters were very human and understandably flawed, and Megan’s character was admirable and courageous in face of all the elements against her. Another four star read. Possibly a 4.5 if we can split hairs.

 

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Finally, last but not least is ‘Between Two Skies’ by Joanne O’sullivan and published by Candlewick Press.

The synopsis:

‘Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; wise beloved Mamers; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that comes only when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s.

And then the storm comes. And everything changes.

Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru- a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart.

This novel asked compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But perhaps, above all, this is a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.’

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QUOTE: “You have to quit moping” says Chase one afternoon while he’s driving me home. “Look, when I got kicked out of the best music school in the country, I felt like a huge disappointment to everyone in my life. But it’s temporary. Something else is coming for you. Right now, You’re in what we call a fremata in music. A long pause. You have to hold that note for a while longer. But then you go on to the rest of the composition. Just wait it out.” …

 

Oh gosh, where to start with this one… We have all heard about Hurricane Katarina and the devastation that it incurred in its wake, but have we ever really thought past the news stories and concerned ourselves with the lives and futures of the people who lived through it? This story focuses on one girls life and future and how it is wiped out in seconds.

For many of us, we want to live bigger lives and often try to accomplish this by leaving our hometowns for college and not looking back; but what if you were completely content with your life? Evangeline is smart and has what it takes to lead a big life in a big City but has no interest in leaving her hometown. Her parents are encouraging her to think about college, but she wants to spend her life following in her father’s footsteps, fishing, and living life by the water. Her mother runs a diner in town with a reputation for good food that is second to none, and life is gentle but good.

Hurricane Katarina arrives and suddenly it not only wipes out the whole town, taking with it her family’s home and income; but it also threatens to destroy relationships too.

Evangeline’s family have to leave the state and stay with relatives, trying to build up their lives again in a new place with nothing but the clothes on their back. Missing friends, a new romance and people around her, crumbling under the pressure, have Evangeline knocked from pillar to post as she tries so hard to take control of her life once again.

This was beautifully written and I was drawn into the book at the first page. I was actually annoyed at my household interruptions while reading because I so wanted to read this in one sitting!

I think O’Sullivan handled every aspect of this girl’s story with great empathy and compassion, which made me feel a little guilty for not thinking deeper at the repercussions that this kind of natural disaster brings. Evangeline grows up overnight, and has to plot a new future for herself but she does it admirably, finding anchors in new friends and adapting to the ‘new normal’ around her. Her resilience is amazing, yet when she falters, we are there with her, wanting to hold her hand and reassure her that she will get through this.

This book is bittersweet, no doubt about it. You will be forced to face things you would rather not, but I think you will be a better person for reading it. I’m giving this five stars. It’s a haunting read. It will linger.

 

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I hope you find these reviews helpful and that you pick one of these books up. Even if you are not a big fan of contemporary fiction, or don’t normally read young adult books, please give them a try.

 

What new releases have you read recently? Which do you recommend?

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Welcome to Soak Sunday week three…

Welcome to the third week of my #soaksunday.aqua-bath-girl-alone

 

Since we were talking about contemporary YA books yesterday, I decided to feature this  book by Chelsea Sedoti. The book is called ‘The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett’. The synopsis reads:

 

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Hawthorn wasn’t trying to insert himself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment-, which means the time for speculation is now.

 

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance. A theory way too absurd to take seriously…at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her- or did he?

 

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This seems like a cute read, and perfect for curing my book hangover from ‘The Black Prism’ which I finally finished yesterday (oh wow you need to read Brent Weeks’ work)

 

 

 

 

So for this week’s feature, I used all Lush products. I started with a few lines of ‘Bubbly’ then crushed up yuzi and cocoa bubble bar, added some Refresher shower jelly and topped it off with a Cyanide Pill from Lush kitchen in the U.K. They ship worldwide and take pay pal.

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It was delicious, and yes I remembered to heat up the water first this week, lol!

The cyanide pill fizzes SO LOUD. It all smelt so citrusy and fresh.

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My skin feels so soft now.

 

The ambience was provided by my Belle Leaky Candle (sorry can’t add link as they seem to have disappeared)

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Bookmark is by the amazing Ribonitachocolat Etsy Store.

 

I’m all set up to start the week now. I feel fresh and cozy. I’m going to make a pot of chamomile tea and pop upstairs to watch my lovely husband while he lays the floor in my new ‘Library’ room. I’m so excited. All the walls are painted, the floor will be finished tonight and then I just need him to pop some new baseboards on and we will be ready to move in all my bookcases. I truly can’t wait!

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Books, Cups & Candles

 

What are your favorite bath products?

Have a lovely day,

Lots of love

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Sally xx

Contemporary Fiction, Love it or loathe it?

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I have to admit I’m not sure which side of the fence I sit on with this genre. I tend to lean where the wind blows depending much upon my mood on the day. The truth is that at heart I’m a thriller, horror, and fantasy novel kinda gal, so a contemporary has to be really good to seduce me.

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However, I am an absolute sucker for the cover designs on contemporaries, and I’m ashamed to admit that often the pretty cover is the only reason I’ll one up. #sosuperficial All the gorgeous pastel colors, the pretty fonts, the beautiful bare book itself, all are so delicious to a book lover.

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The first young adult contemporary that I read was ‘Eleanor & Park’ by Rainbow Rowell. I really enjoyed it. Set back in the style-absent eighties, two very different and awkward teens share the same school bus each day. The thing that they both have in common is that neither feel that they ‘fit in’ with their peers. Yet both Eleanor and Park deal with their exclusion from the popular groups, with a quiet dignity and grace, choosing to embrace their differences (and in Eleanor’s case, exaggerate them). An unlikely friendship begins, and we follow it to wherever it may lead, observing how their contrasting home lives have affected and molded their characters. We watch with baited breath as they move through some truly difficult times and deal with them with such maturity, despite the heartbreak and daily pressure of school.

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I was seriously impressed with this book, and so, my interest in contemporaries grew and I began to buy more.

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I also love a good series and after hearing so much about the novels in the ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ companion set, I decided that I had to read them. Goodness I was not disappointed. I mean for a start a private school in Paris was the setting for the first book. What’s not to like? Stephanie Perkins authors these three books. After ‘Anna’, we have “Lola and the boy Next Door’ which is set in San Francisco, but hey that’s a pretty cool setting too. And finally ‘Lola and the Happy Ever After’ which is my personal favorite (and moves back in Paris). Again I felt that there was some superb character development by Perkins, and lots of angst too. I almost started biting my nails.

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I have read many young adult contemporaries in between and I’m sure you may find one of your own favorites in the picture below. Some focus on life altering events such as terminal illnesses, divorce and moving house; others follow the milestones of people we can all relate to in some way or another.

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Last week I read ‘Fangirl’ which is another Rainbow Rowell favorite. I’d initially tried reading it directly after ‘Eleanor & Park’ but found I couldn’t concentrate so I put decided to put it down for a time. Picking it back up almost a year later, I dived right into it and thoroughly enjoyed the read, and when finished, I immediately ordered ‘Carry On’! So sometimes it is worth waiting a while if a particular book doesn’t grab you first time around.

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I’m always going to be that horror, thriller, fantasy book lover, but after absorbing some of the more heavy scary/crime/ world building details in these (often epic) reads, I now like to treat the book hangover with something lighter and contemporaries seem to be the perfect antidote.

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How do you feel about contemporary novels? Which is your favorite? Which would you recommend?

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Even gorgeous without their dust jackets!

Have a super Saturday. I’ll be back tomorrow with my third #soaksunday

 

Take care,

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Love Sally xx