Lacey Burke is a self professed musical geek, want to be composer, and walking sex ed factoid. Brought up by a mother who was pregnant at 16, Lacey has been given educational safe sex tips by her now nurse mother, since she achieved “that” age. Now, due to her frustration with the abstinence based sex education at her high school this virgin is giving safe sex tutorials in the rest room at lunch. All she wants to do is play music with her band and maybe get her first kiss out of the way!
I really enjoyed the contradiction between virginal and slightly naive Lacey with the girl who can spout facts about condom usage and how-to instructional’s. I can honestly say I learned something useful while reading this YA novel, all while enjoying a tale about a girl who has a crush on one of her best friends! The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me was a different kind of YA novel. Full of safe sex conversations, but also eye opening about how clueless this fictional school system was in how to speak to the teens of today.
I loved Lacey. She was a great main character surrounded by zany friends who were sexually active and different. She has two best friends, both of whom have hooked up with each other, but still remain best friends. Evita identifies on the ace spectrum and is President of their high school LGBTQIA group. Theo is their third, definitely hetero, and has a girlfriend that neither Evita or Lacey like. He’s an all around nice guy, but there are moments when he deserves a swift kick! When Lacey’s feelings for Theo change, the book also introduces Lacey’s own sexuality into the mix. For a girl who had never kissed a boy until Theo, she was very well informed and prepared.
I love stories where an underdog gets to fight for her beliefs and gets the chance to turn the tide towards something good and right. This novel pits Lacey and her friends against an aged school curriculum and at the same teaches young adults about safe sex, without it being a tutorial. I thought the author did a good job at avoiding a massive dump of information, and instead allowed Lacey’s advice to speak for itself.
The author also did a good job of introducing a diverse cast and making their interactions relatable and real. It seemed especially applicable to the world we live in today and I can only think this novel would have a broad appeal because of it. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard more mentions about this one? Hopefully, if it has been on your radar, my mention will push it to the top of your list!
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“I think the main reason why I didn’t give The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me a full four star rating is that I wasn’t 100% invested in the relationships. I did enjoy Lacey’s relationship with her mom (who is a nurse and SUPER open with her daughter, in a way that sometimes provides comic relief), but overall, the relationships weren’t super exceptional for me, and I was sort of wishing for less of the friends and dating drama.” Blossoms and Bullet Journals
“Overall, I loved the characters. They were entertaining, funny, and passionate. I loved the message the story was sharing. It’s one I really could have used in a book when I was young and learning. I loved all the parental support the kids had from their parents. I only wish this book had been longer. ” Classy x Book Reviews
Books have always brought Darcy Wells comfort. When Darcy’s mom’s compulsive shopping escalates Darcy imagines herself as one of her favorite heroines and only her best friend Marisol has helped her through all of her tough times. When Asher Fleet limps into the bookstore she’s working in, for the first time she wants to live and feel, but opening herself up to Asher will make her face the things she’s been hiding from her whole life.
This book made me feel so many different emotions. I was surprised by the fact that Darcy lived at home with a mother who was a hoarder. Her descriptions of what her home smelled like, cardboard and plastic, the goat tunnel her mom left as passageways for them to walk through… it was horrifyingly real. Darcy’s bedroom was the only space left untouched and her breath of relief when she entered her own room made you realize how much of a haven that room was both mentally and physically but her reality wasn’t confined to only that room.
Asher Fleet had a dream of going to Annapolis and flying until his car accident one evening left him a shattered leg, migraine’s and dizzy spells. When he starts hanging out in the bookstore where Darcy works they befriend each other and she see’s beyond his moodiness and she starts to imagine her life with him in it. Their romance was a very slow burn and I was swept into the sweetness of his courting her by mimicking one of the actions of a character from a favorite book. All book lovers will wish for their own acorn. You’ll understand after reading, I promise!
The Library of Lost Things won me over completely. It was original, had GREAT book quotes to start every chapter, and characters who were gritty, real, and had real life problems they needed to overcome. The romance may have been a slow burn but it was filled with emotion that went beyond the years of the characters falling in love. Truly, this one’s a gem. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
I received a free copy of the book through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!
Working for the local florist, Sophie knows she’ll be at all of the large events her small town will throw in the coming year. Her best friend’s family owns the local catering company and usually she and her BFF work them side by side. This year, their catering company has hired a celebrity chef to help them with a makeover. When Sophie meets that celebrity’s son Andrew she takes an instant dislike to him and isn’t looking forward to working with him over the next year. A year is a long time to carry that hate, will her feelings change?
Kasie West is one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. I know exactly what I’m going to get, how long it will take me to read it, and am almost guaranteed I’m going to like it. Maybe This Time didn’t veer from that winning format. Sophie was a small town girl with big town ambitions. Having grown up in a small town myself, I know the feelings of wanting to get out, and Kasie West capture’s those feelings very well. Sophie’s frustrations with trying to achieve her goals, her dissatisfaction with her family life, her bickering with her best friend, all felt so real. I really liked how meeting Andrew changed her. He had the experience of living in different places, including NYC, but maybe the things she was trying to get away from are the things she’d miss.
I liked Andrew a lot. A guy who has to move around from town to town with his celebrity dad, doesn’t get a lot of chances to make friends. I felt bad for him when Sophie shot him down from day one and anticipated that day when she’d give him a shot. Despite his GQ airs, he wanted the experiences and family that living in a small town gives you. He and Sophie actually were the perfect pair and I loved the moment when they figured that out themselves.
Maybe This Time got the formula right. A simple premise that we can all apply to our own lives. We don’t have to look too far to find happiness. It may be right in front of us the whole time.
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“Overall, this was a cute contemporary that I really enjoyed. I flew through this book and although it’s not my favorite Kasie West, I would still definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for something short and sweet.” Page Procrastinators
“Maybe This Time is a cute summer read that takes place over the course of nine different events. I loved both the main characters as well as the side characters, and the theme of family adds more meaning to the book. I would definitely recommend this one, or any of Kasie West’s books, to those looking for the perfect contemporary.” The Candid Cover
When Sophie’s parents head off to her sister’s to help with a difficult birth, she’s supposed to go off to her Nonna’s to spend the holidays with her extended family. What she really wants is to spend the time alone with her boyfriend Griffin. When she overhears him speaking to a friend about their possible breakup she’s devastated and arrives at her Nonna’s hoping for a distraction from her heartbreak. What she doesn’t realize is that her family would take her mind off her ex by setting her up on 10 blind dates. This novel is a tribute to large families who are slightly crazy but have huge hearts….and I loved it!
Through the telling of these 10 dates, we learn the personalities of her family members. The dates themselves are funny, crazy, kooky and heartwarming, as is Sophie’s connection to the people who sent her on them. I laughed at their antics and relished the telling of each date.
Sophie, her cousin’s Charlie and Olivia, and the boy next door Wes were all best friends until two years ago. There are hurt feelings on both sides and through these 10 dates they reconnect and realize how much they all mean to each other. Their friendship is the kind a person always hopes to earn and I was totally jealous of their history and of their futures with each other.
If you are looking for a book where you can laugh and also be touched by the emotion in the characters you are reading- 10 Blind Dates is the book you need to pick up. I think it’s a departure from Ashley’s Elston’s normal genre as it is a true YA contemporary novel with a hint of romance, yet the emotions run deep. This is a novel I’ll read again when I need a laugh and pick me up! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!
I’m excited to be included in this tour of Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace Granger. After reading the synopsis, I was intrigued, and I bet I won’t be the only one!
This is no love story; in fact, it’s not even really a “like” story. In Candace Ganger’s sophomore novel, SIX GOODBYES WE NEVER SAID (Wednesday Books; September 24, 2019), two teens meet after tragically losing their parents and learn about love, loss, and letting go. Deftly tackling issues of mental health and grief, Ganger’s #OwnVoices novel brings vibrant characters to life as they figure out how to say goodbye to the people they love the most.
Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.
Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects. Full of tender, funny, and downright heartbreaking moments, Ganger’s second novel will have you cheering and crying all on the same page.
Don’t miss out on this YA powerhouse standalone!
“Guess who’s getting ready to come home and take you to Ivy Springs? That’s right, Ima. It’s happening. It’s finally happening. Don’t tell Nell. I want to surprise her.”
Speaker Call Back Delete
Email Draft (Unsent)
I’m holding my breath
Until you’re standing in front of me Because we’ve danced this song
So many times before
And I no longer trust You’ll do what you
Just in case,
I’ll count the hexagons.
Nell is a dingy yoga mat; the sweaty barrier between total chill status and my shit reality (aka, my annoying stepmom and ru iner of all moments) (trust me on this).
“JJ and Kam aren’t going to believe how much you’ve grown since the funeral,” she says on our longass 794mile drive from Albany, Georgia, to Ivy Springs, Indiana. She taptaptapsher long, pointed fingernails against the steering wheel to the beat of what ever imaginary song she’s playing in her head. Probably some thing disco or hair band. The radio is silent, always silent, when we ride together, but the second she speaks with that highpitched nasally voice I loathe, I regret this necessity. I concentrate harder on the objects we pass so I can properly pinch my toes between them.
Tap my nose. Tap my nose. Tap my nose.
Tap my nose. Tap my nose.
Tap my nose.
Click my tongue. Click my tongue. Click my tongue.
Click my tongue. Click my tongue.
Click my tongue.
Flick my thumbnail. Flick my thumbnail.
Flick my thumbnail.
Flick my thumbnail. Flick my thumbnail.
Flick my thumbnail.
I continue with my sequence the length of the drive. Nell hates it, but I hate when she wears fingerless gloves in the summer, so we’re even. Without my boringass stepbrother, Christian, to be my talk block—the dull cushion of conversation between Nell and me—(he left two days ago on a death star/plane to see his dad in NYC), the “spacious” SUV feels like I’ve been placed at a dinner table in a vast canyon and right across from me is literally the onlywoman I don’t want to meet for dinner. Like, why can’t I eat with the Queen of England or Oprah? I’m bound by my father’s love for Nell, or whatever, but now he’s gone, and I’m climbing the hell out of the canyon before she wants to talk about how big my naturally tousled hair is (a perfect mess), period cycles (semiregular, FYI), sexually transmitted diseases (don’t have a single one, thanks), or worse—my feelings (happily buried!). Ugh. GTFO.
The failing engine’s hum, where the metal scrapes and churns with a whir, competes with Nell’s increased tapping. I’ve missed too many objects, my toes rapidly pinching and releasing, to make up for what’s been lost. But it’s too late. My mind shifts automatically to a neon sign flashing warning! There’s always a consequence to messing up the sequence. Always.
Counting is to time what the final voicemail Dad left is to the sound of my heart cracking open; a message I can’t listen to. It’ll become entombed in history, in me. My finger lingers over my phone and quickly retreats, knowing there’s nothing he could’ve said to make this pain less. Nothing can make him less gone.
I look out the window to where my dreary eyed reflection stares blankly back at me; Nell glides over the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic, violently overcorrecting just before we would have been hit by a semi. The sound of his horn echoes through the high topped Tennessee mountains. Three thousand two hundred eighty seven people die in car accidents every day. I Googled it. After I Googled it, I looked at pictures. And after I looked at pictures I went through the sequence. Car accident. Fatalities. My legs smashed up to my chest. Nell crushed into the hood.
“Sorry,” she says; her voice rattles. “Make sure Ray’s okay back there.”
I turn to investigate the vase shaped metal urn surrounded by layers of sloppily folded sheets (Nell did that) and one perfectly situated hexagon quilt (that’s all me). The sun’s gleam hits U.S. Marine Corp just so, and I’m reminded again that he’s gone.
“It’s fine,” I say, refusing to call that pile of ashes “Dad,” or “he.” The urn arrived several days ago in a twenty four hour priority package. Nell saying, “No reason to waste time getting him home,” and I was like, “What’s that?” and she was all “Your dad, silly,” and I was like, “Huh?” and she asked me if I wanted a banana kale protein shake after she “got him situated.” A big hell no. I immediately dove into a Ziploc ration of Lucky Charms marshmallows to dull the pain of conversing with someone so exhausting.
After he was transported in ice from Afghanistan to Dover, after they sorted and processed his things, after he was cre mated, after the police and state troopers closed down the streets to honor him as we drove him through, after we had the memorial service, after we were handed the folded flag with a bullet shell casing tucked inside, after they spoke of his medals, and after Christian and I sat in disbelief beneath a weep ing willow tree for three hours, Nell finally decided the ashes should go to his hometown in Indiana, after all. I didn’t think she’d cave, but after one talk with my grandma, JJ, she did. If anyone could turn a donkey into a unicorn, it’s JJ (or so she says). And so, it was decided—Dad, I mean It, was going home a unicorn.
“Let’s stop for some grub,” Nell says, wideeyed. “Hungry?” “Grub,” rhymes with “nub,” which she is. “No.”
“Let’s at least stretch our legs. Still a few hours to go.” “Fine. But no travel yoga this time.”
She pulls off to a rest area a few miles ahead, exiting the car. I crack a window and wait while she hikes a leg to the top of the trunk, bending forward with an “oh, that’s tight.” After, she says, “Going to the potty. BRB.”
I flash a thumbsup and slink deep into the warmth of my seat, hiding from the stare of perverts and families. My foot kicks my bag on the floor mat, knocking my prescription bottle to its side. Dr. Rose, my therapist in Ft. Hood, said sometimes starting over is the only way to stop looking back. But what about when the past is all you have left of someone?
My gaze pushes forward to the vending machines. Dad and I stopped at this very place on our way to Indiana without basic Nell. He’d grab a cold can of Coke and toss me a bag of trail mix to sort into piles. If I close my eyes, it almost feels like he’s here—not a pile of ashes buckled tight into the backseat. We’d play a game of Would You Rather to see who could come up with the worst/most messed up scenarios (I usually won).
Would you rather wear Nell’s unwashed yoga pants every day for a month?Or call an urn full of ashes “Dad”? Sometimes, he’d presort the trail mix, leaving me the best parts (the candy coated chocolate). I am one of a kind Magic, Dad would say. But he was, too. A unicorn, I think. Definitely not a donkey. The more I think on it, maybe JJ could turn Nell into a unicorn, too, but no magic is that strong.
In today’s forecast, sunshine early morning will give way to late day thunder storms. I love the smell of rain. It’s the aroma of being alive.
August Moon and the Paper Hearts—the band my parents opened for—advise we speak kindly to strangers through song. I’d like to think that’s what my parents would’ve said, too. I can still see my mother’s chestnut eyes soft as she hums. From the tired bones in her feet after long shifts at the glassmaking factory (after the band split apart), to the graying curls that sprang into action when the beat hit her ears, she’s frozen in time; a whimsical ballerina, twirling inside a glass globe to a tune only she and I can hear.
“Let the music move your soul,” she’d tell me. “Let it carry you into the clouds, my darling.”
She’d grab my hand, hers papered by the rough gloves she was required to wear during her shifts, guiding me by the glittering moon dust, while Dad watched on from the old twill rocker, threads carved around his boxy frame. Our feet stepped along invisible squares against the floor, round and round, until the world vanished beneath us. We floated.
“You got that boy spoiled, Momma,” Dad would tell her. “Don’t you know it,” she’d reply, pulling me closer.
That was when the universe built itself around the three of us; vibrant wildflowers, dipped in my mother’s favorite verb: “love.” I wish I could remember the smell of her better. I wish I could remember what Dad would say. When I lose my breath in the thick of human oceans and panic, I wish harder.
My second set of parents, Stella and Thomas, are kind to me. Stella’s eyes remind me of my mother’s—two infinity pools, giving the illusion of boundless compassion—while Thomas’s laugh is an eerily mirrored version of my father’s. Sometimes, when Thomas finds himself amused, I catch myself thinking Dad is here. I can almost see him holding his bass guitar, doubled over from a joke he’d heard.
My sister, Faith, hasn’t settled into this family yet, even after a year of fostering. She cries, punches her bed pillow—sometimes Stella; sometimes Thomas. Her wailing is incessant, scratchy, and raw. Sometimes I sit outside her door and silently cry with her. When you’re taken from your birth parents, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your new, adoptive, or temporary, foster parents are. They can be every warm hug you’ve needed, but if you’re holding tight to the feeling of being home, you may find com fort in the cold, dark night instead. I did at first. After all the months with us, Faith is realizing the Brickmans are her home now, but she’s still fighting to stay warm on her own, hoping her parents would somehow return.
“You can never know someone’s pain or happiness until you’ve stepped inside their shoes,” my mother would say.
“What if their shoes don’t fit?” I’d ask. “If our lives are too different?”
“Find a connection; something similar enough that all the differences bounce off the table completely, like Ping Pong balls. If we look past things that divide us, humanity will find a way to shine through.”
No one should step inside my shoes unless they’re prepared to understand the kind of grief that’s whole body and constant. It’s quiet but deep. The same way Earth orbits the sun every hour of every day of every year, I miss my parents, and Faith misses hers.
Stella and Thomas try. They’ve searched our shoe collection. They’ve tried them on. And, just as Cinderella found her magic fit, they’ve managed to find a pair that fits in some way. Of the hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care, they placed an inquiry about me, they went through the classes and orientation for me, they did the home study for me—they adopted me. Same for Faith, however different our circumstances.
It makes no matter that Stella and Thomas couldn’t conceive naturally. The foster and adoption process stole chunks of time they’ll never retrieve, for a “special needs” boy—due to my age, “minority group,” and “emotional trauma”—long past diapers and bottles and baby powder–scented snuggles. It was financially and emotionally draining for all of us involved, with no guarantee I would welcome them or they could love me the way my parents did. I didn’t embrace them at first. I quite liked my previous foster family but they felt me only temporary. The Brick mans embraced me without hesitation, with a permanent kind of promise. It’s the same kindness my parents would endorse. They gave me a home, a family, and a place I belong. And so, to every stranger along my path, I will be kind, too. Even—especially—the ones who’d prefer I didn’t.
“Those are the souls who need compassion most,” Mom would say. “The ones broken by the world, angry and afraid of trust ing. You must remind them that they are not alone. Nothing can be lost in trying. Remember that always, my darling.”
As I hear Faith shouting into her comforter again, I wonder how many have failed to try on her shoes through the near dozen foster homes she’s been in.
I hear you,Faith. I am you.
I think all this before my preplanned path to Baked & Caffeinated—the coffee and bakeshop at which I’ve been em ployed a mere six days—with August Moon streaming through
my earbuds. Today is my first scheduled shift, and if you could feel my heart beat, you’d assume it was about to burst (it very well may). Though Ivy Springs maintains a compact three mile radius, it’s my first time walking alone. For most, it’s a relaxing walk. But, as my father would often tell me, I am not most people. The mere thought of the journey had me curled in a ball on my twin mattress for at least an hour. Beneath the covers, I gave my best, most inspiring pep talk about how, despite those voices tell ing me I can’t do it, I can and I will and I’ll be glorious.
Mom would always lift the blankets off the bed and sit next to me. “This, too, shall pass, my darling.”
“And if it doesn’t?” I’d say with quivering lips.
“It will. You are my corpse flower,” Mom told me. “The largest, rarest flower in the whole world. Blooming takes many arduous seasons, but it is worth the wait.”
The longer she’s gone, the more I understand the layers she peeled off of me. With each one, my shine radiated a little more. Mom and Dad never saw my fears in black and white; people aren’t made so simply. We’re straddling a blur of gray.
The downtown café is fairly new to this small blip of town. Serving variations of roasted coffee beans, espresso concoctions, and freshly baked confectionaries you can smell for miles, Baked & Caffeinated is one of the few places people my age come. With school out for summer, the position of highly regarded cashier is a way to blend in slightly more than I stand out. When the manager, Liam “Big Foot” Thompson—college student and “organic medicinal specialist” (whatever that means)—barely glanced at the application I spent two long hours filling in, I’m not sure what prompted him to hire me on the spot, but there it was: an opportunity to slide into a new pair of shoes.
“Hard work reveals who people really are,” Dad would tell me. “When the going gets tough, some hide and others rise.”
I will rise, Dad.
One glance at the clock and I see no matter how I rush, the seconds tick by faster than I can keep up. I’m dressed in freshly ironed slacks, an ebony polo buttoned two thirds of the way up (I was told this is appropriate), snazzy checkered suspenders, and the taupe fedora—feather and all—I can not live without.
“I’m off,” I tell Stella.
She sits at the kitchen table, a list of recipe ingredients in hand, peering over the bridge of her reading glasses. She pulls a ceramic coffee mug to her lips and sips her coffee with a slurp. It dribbles to the paper. “Ah, damn it!”
I step back, my hands gripping my suspenders as if they’re bungee cords.
“Sorry,” she says, standing. She squares her shoulders with mine and drives her stare through me. “I hope you have the best time.” She pulls me near—an attempt at a hug that’s strangled by her awkward, coffee saturated positioning. “If you feel over whelmed, take a deep breath, excuse yourself to the bathroom if necessary, and you can always, always call me. K?”
I hesitate, fear squirming between us.
She tips my chin up so my eyes fall straight into hers. Her eyes swallow me up in a bubble of safety, little lines spiderwebbing out from the corner creases that cling to my distress, fishing fear out of me, casting it somewhere else entirely. It’s a trick Mom used to do, too.
“You’re going to do great,” she reassures. “Promise.”
I nod, finally, and she releases me from her grip to deal with the coffee puddle. I watch her for a whole minute before she urges me out the door. I’m supposed to work on my time management. I lose time when my brain is knotted with worry. But how do you untangle something you can’t even see?
Along my walk down the potholed sidewalk, my eyes care fully plot each step to not catch on a divot. The last time, I nearly broke my arm, the exact spot ridiculing me as I pounce over it with the light footed pirouette of a cat. I’m so proud of this move, distracted by my obvious victory against that mean concrete hole, I run straight into someone.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I stammer.
“Dude,” a boy says with a heavy grunt. “Watch it.”
I’m hesitant to make eye contact, but I do—Stella and Thomas have encouraged it—alarm bells blaring. The boy’s eyes are narrow, brows furrowed. I replay last night’s news headline in my mind—teen shoots former classmate at graduation party—and fold as far down as my small frame will allow.
He rips his earbuds out, his face softening only slightly. I try to walk by, he blocks me. I move to the other side. He stands in my way here, too.
“Excuse me,” I say.
“You should watch where you’re going. It’s a small town with shitty sidewalks.”
“Yes,” I stutter. “I will, thank you for the advice.”
He presses his earbuds back into place and allows me to pass with the wave of his hand.
“Have a wonderful day,” I tell him. My voice shakes, my feet moving faster than before.
Mom would say, “Chin up, eyes forward, not back,” so I re peat this to myself, pretending she’s here to ricochet these interactions into outer space. I’m still learning how to be my own hero. My deepest darkest fear is, maybe I never will.
I stand outside the bakeshop and stare up at the illustrated coffee mug on the sign. My reluctance holds me in the center of this busier than normal sidewalk. I remind myself I’m okay. The crowds won’t harm me. I can breathe through it and the day will go on. It can and it will, because it has to. As the sweat accumulates beneath my hat, I think of Mom telling me “now or never,” and open the door. The bell attached to the door rings as I breeze through.
“You’re so late,” Mr. Thompson says after I wind through the line of customers bunched near the counter. “I thought we said ten.”
A quick glance at the time—ten seventeen—and my chin sinks into my chest. “Apologies. We did agree on that time.” Dad used to say, “The only good excuse is none at all,” so I swallow the ones rising into my throat and try to ignore the gnawing feeling in my gut that makes me want to lock myself inside the bath room to escape all the noise and people and smells and sounds. My sensory dashboard is on overload. I imagine a little robot in a white coat frantically working to calm each circuit board before it fries. Poor fellow. His work is thankless and sometimes a complete and utter failure. I do my best to help by inhaling another deep breath, exhaling through my mouth as Mr. Thompson guides me to the space behind the counter where I’m to stand. I fumble in the small space, as another employee, a girl in a long flowy dress covered by an apron, welcomes me with a wide grin.
“Hey, newb,” she says. “I’m Violet.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Dew.” I keep a generous distance to not make her uncomfortable, but she moves in close enough to notice how well I’ve brushed my teeth (well enough, I hope).
“You have a really great aura. It’s bluecentric with electric swirls of pink. Very neon, man.”
I respect her need for close proximity and we stand almost nose to nose. “Interesting. What does that mean?”
Her eyes widen as if she’s swallowing every centimeter of mine. “You’re highly sensitive, intuitive, and have strong morals. Like, you’re honest to a fault and can’t seem to deviate from it, even if it’d serve you better to keep your mouth shut. I know, because I’m a total Purple. I can read your palms if you want.”
I slip them into my pockets. “Perhaps later, after I’ve grown accustomed to the process and routines here.”
She smiles and allows me the space to breathe again as Mr. Thompson waves me to a short stack of papers I’m to fill out. “When you’re finished with these, I’ll have Violet show you how to brew espresso shots for lattes.”
I nod. “Sir—”
He stops me with a snicker. “Please—my dad is sir because he’s a dinosaur. I’m Big Foot.”
My eyes confusedly scan the perimeter of this man who is neither big nor seems to have larger than average feet. Perhaps that’s the irony. I decide I like it. “Mr. Foot,” I begin; he stops me again to remind me it’s BigFoot, “I don’t have a driver’s license yet, only a permit. My birthday is in a few weeks, though I’m not interested in driving a motor vehicle at this time. I also have some allergies that may restrict my duties outside of handling the register. I forgot to mention it when I applied.”
He lays a hand on my shoulder. “I read the notes on the application. I have a little bro with some pretty gnarly allergies. We specialize in nut free, dairy free shit. It’s my duty to represent the underrepresented, you know?”
I nod, relieved.
“If you’re not comfortable with any part, I’ll make sure the others know to step in. Wear gloves. Wash your hands. Take your meds,” he pauses, looks me over, “you got meds, right?”
I nod again.
“I got you, bro. Let me know if you have a flare up from anything, ’cause I’ve got EpiPens and all that jazz.”
My posture relaxes a bit.
“It’ll be all right. Come get me after V trains you on the espresso shots.”
I nod again, folding my hands in front of me.
Local boy freezes in the middle of summer—tonight at 10.
“So, listen,” Violet says, drawing me closer. “My best friend, Birdie, went through major crappage this past year, and I’ve learned how to be a better friend because of it. Apparently she didn’t feel like she could trust me with her most important secrets, so I totally reevaluated my life choices and decided, with a cleanse, to start anew.”
“Good for you.” I stop to wonder why she’s telling me, a perfect stranger, this.
“Point is, I know we just met, but as this new, improved me, I’m good at reading people. And it looks like you could use a little encouragement.”
She pulls a notebook from the cubby beneath the register, the words on the front flap, Book of Silver Linings, catching the gleam of the fluorescent lights. I watch her fingers flip and fumble to a specific page. “Confidence grows when we step out of our com fort zone and do something different.” Her mouth hangs open, half smiling, as if she’s waiting for my reaction.
“That helps. Thank you.”
“No problem. I think you’ll be okay, Dew—what’s your last name?”
“Brickman now, was Diaz.”
“I think you’ll be okay Dew Was Diaz Brickman.” With a wink, she packs the notebook away. “So you’re gonna be a sophomore or . . . ?”
“Only here for the summer, then off to precollege; a year of exploratory learning.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Caramel School of Massage and Healing Arts, about forty minutes from here so I can go home when I want. Do you know what you’re doing after high school?”
The question strikes me as abrupt. I’ve thought about the future, but not in the context of who I’ll be in it. “Undecided.” “I was, too. Don’t stress too much. It’s only the rest of your life.” She laughs, but it’s glaringly obvious it’s not a joke.
I turn to the stack of papers, still unsure of which boxes to check, which address to write, what emergency contacts to state. My initial reaction is my old Indianapolis address, Plum Street, and my parents’ cell numbers, which I’ve memorized. I have to stop myself and carefully think what is true today—a Pearl Street address in Ivy Springs, and numbers that belong to Stella and Thomas. It’s a habit I wish I didn’t have to break.
As I neatly write my answers, I look up to see a man reminiscent of my father, dressed in desert camouflaged pants and a tan fitted T shirt. He orders a large coffee, black, no sugar. I have a penchant for details. They’re the difference between knowing someone in 2D or 4D. Violet pumps the fresh java from a carafe while the man slides inside a booth near the entrance. The large window lets the sun seep in, coating him in a sunshine glaze; almost angelic. Perhaps it’s my dad inside my bones, mov ing my feet—he never passed a service member without thanking them for their service—but I find myself standing at the foot of this man’s table.
“Thank you for your service,” I say dutifully.
“Thank you,” he says with a warm smile. “I appreciate that.”
“Well, I appreciate you appreciating me, so I suppose we’re at an impasse of gratitude.” I grin, my hands tucked behind my back to fidget with reckless abandon.
He chuckles as his phone rings. “I’m sorry, but I have to take this.”
“Have a great rest of your day,” I say. “And thank you again.”
“No, thank you—” He stops himself with a palm over the phone speaker. “We could go on forever.”
Violet brings a steaming cup to the table. “This cup signifies my gratitude. Plus, you have a really great aura.”
“Thank you,” he tells her before his attention returns to his call.
The crowd has thinned out and I slink back behind the counter without incident. Violet joins me moments later. I study the way the man holds himself, strong and steady. I wonder who he’s leaving, or coming home to. I wonder where he’s been and where he calls home. I don’t mean to eavesdrop. But his dutiful brawn, his voice, his presence, they almost resound in our small space.
“Sir,” he says, shuffling in his seat. “I hadn’t intended to—yes, sir. I understand.”
A sudden, hard silence falls like a gavel, cutting his booth into before andafter: the pleasantries before the call, and his tightened jaw after. He holds the phone steady in the air, parallel to his ear, before clutching it inside his fist. All the color fades from his face. I want to look away, I should look away. But one moment he’s a floating warrior, levitating through fields of all he protects; the next he’s human, weighted by a sharp blow of some one’s brandished words, and I can’t.
“I know that look,” Violet whispers. “Heartbreak.”
She says it like she knows the term well. I refrain from spill ing how deeply I understand its etymology, my focus still attached to this man—a mere stranger I feel strangely connected to—if only because my story has had a few chapters that didn’t end so well.
He dials a new number. His face contorts into different expressions, shaking the tightness loose to find some kind of smile. “Smiling tricks the mind and body into thinking you aren’t
in pain,” Stella taught me. As he forces his lips to upturn, mine do the same.
He clears his throat. “I just wanted to say . . . I . . . I love you. I wish I could stop time, you know? Of course you know. It’s always about the time, isn’t it, baby? We need to talk later. . . . Let me know when you and JJ are back from the farmer’s mar ket. I love you. . . . So much . . . Talk soon.”
Violet sighs. “Man. I feel for him. And whoever that message is for.”
I quietly decide I’ll do my best to unearth his buried treasures in the event there is an answer among them—one I’ve been searching for since everything in my own life changed.
“We all have things buried so deep, it would take a dedicated search team to pull them to the surface,” my counselor told me once. She said it after my parents died, when I first learned of the Brickmans’ interest in fostering me. It was a time when I only felt the pieces of me that went missing. This man is missing some thing, too.
As the clock moves forward, I feel that pull of time passing. Like oars dropped in the ocean, I scramble to grab ahold. But, losing time doesn’t change what’s happened.
In tonight’s top headlines, new Ivy Springs resident and soon-to-be high school sophomore Andrew Brickman finds something he hadn’t intended during his first shift at Baked & Caffeinated: the crushing realization his parents aren’t coming back.
About the Author: Candace Ganger is the author of Six Goodbyes We Never Said and The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash as well as a contributing writer for HelloGiggles and obsessive marathoner. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. She lives in Ohio with her family.
Raised by her single mother, seventeen year old Rachel has never met her father. Although she’s a big fan of his music. When her mother dies, leaving her to the foster care system, her father Frederick gains custody until she turns eighteen and goes away to school an adult. Rachel now has the chance to find out what happened between her parents and get to know her father and share her love for music.
Besides music, Rachel and her father have a lack of good communication in common. For the majority of the novel I was waiting for the big reveal over why he’d abandoned Rachel for eighteen years. This transgression has shaped who Rachel has become as an adult woman and the fact that she didn’t force that issue was so frustrating for me. She also hid that she was a singer songwriter. I’d think that would be the first thing a young girl would say to her father musician. However, the impact of when she revealed that piece of herself to her father really impacted the story well and propelled their relationship forward so I’ll forgive the author for my impatience! LOL
The second part of this novel was a love story with two possible love interests. #1- Rachel leaves a childhood friend, Haze, behind when she goes with her father. Haze has a rather rough background and I think Rachel has been the only good thing in his life. However, his feelings for Rachel are stronger than hers for him. At times he comes off as aggressive, trying to push her into a relationship that she’s not ready for. #2- Before she goes off to boarding school she’s assigned a pen pal, Jake. They get to know each other through texts and emails first, and then when she gets to school they strike up a friendship that quickly turns into something more. The contrasts between her two love interests seem to reflect the place she is in her life at that time. Kind of sad for Haze, but she leaves her rough upbringing behind when she meets her father and goes off to prep school.
I was more interested in the story between Rachel and her father than I was the romance. Not too surprising since I am way beyond school age, but the reasons for her abandonment and building that relationship was a lot more interesting. BUT, the story fell short of giving me what I wanted in the conclusion. Yes, she is now a part of her father’s life, she has a solid boyfriend and their future looks bright, but I still feel like Rachel didn’t get what she needed and was still searching for something more from her father. So, I liked this book, but it didn’t sweep me away. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“The Accidentals is a masterpiece of feelings. It was also a different kind of romance, because the main story wasn’t about the romance – it was about family and loss. And it was also about finding what had seemed lost forever.” (Un)Conventional Bookworms
Starting off right where To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before ends, Lara Jean decides she wants to be a real girlfriend to her fake boyfriend Peter Kavinsky. Writing another letter, Lara Jean delivers it in person to Peter and finds him at home. They have a sweet reunion and their relationship is now cemented in reality. That doesn’t mean all of the drama has ended! Peter still talks to he ex, Genevieve, on a regular basis.
Admittedly, I read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Love You back to back and may be getting a few details between the two books mixed up, so please forgive me if I do!
P. S. I Love You’s Lara Jean is not quite as relaxed as the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Lara Jean. Peter is her first boyfriend and dealing with a boyfriend who won’t let go of his ex starts to undermine her self confidence and those doubts make her sound a bit whiny. In the first novel I wanted to crack Peter over the head for his obtuseness, and in this novel I switched over to wanting Lara Jean to stop being so whiny!
There are two key conflicts in this novel. The continued resolution of who shot the hot tub video, and another of Lara Jean’s past love’s responding to her letter. Peter’s response to who shot the hot tub video made me swing back into the “this guy’s a jerk, just let him go already” team. I was riding the edge already because he’s a bit cocky, but his defense of Lara Jean arrives a little late. When John Ambrose shows up, he seems like a white night in comparison to Peter. That contrast made me sit up and take interest in a novel that had started to feel a little flat.
Kitty, again, steals the show. That kid had such sass, she was great fun to read. I also really liked Lara Jean’s interactions at the senior living center, and in particular her conversations with Stormy. A resident of that community who could give Kitty a run for her money in sass and fun. The USO party Lara Jean threw with John Ambrose’s help only made me like him more and I wondered why Lara Jean had such a problem picking her leading man. In my eyes he was definitely the better pick!
Again, this series totally reminded me of the insecurities of my own youth. I never had two guys fighting over me, but that is a fantasy that all girls and women have that despite it being stereotypical always adds a nice tension to a story. In this case it was definitely needed. I haven’t yet read the third and final novel in this series, but have it on my TBR and I know I’ll get to it sooner rather than later. I am invested in reading Lara Jean’s story and want to see her mature and grow into the awesome woman she’s on her way to becoming.
Explicit Ranking: I’d give this novel a 3 out of 5 based not on Lara Jean’s own actions, but on conversations about sex. The hot tub video and how her peers reacted differently to both Peter and Lara Jean is a conversation starter in how women are perceived if they’ve had sex versus men. I think this is a great lesson learned early and appreciate how it was displayed in this novel, even if I didn’t like every reaction.
Piper Calloway works as her father’s right hand as an executive in his real estate development firm. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she has fought for the approval of her father and the other executives in a mostly male world. When she see’s her girlhood crush, Kyle, working at the front desk of her building as a security guard all of her life’s ambitions get pushed aside and memories of her first love takes over. Will this be her second chance at love?
I have enjoyed K.A. Tucker’s books in the past and while Say You Still Love Me isn’t my favorite of hers it’s still an interesting and kind of different style of romance. Piper and Kyle’s story was told through a series of flashbacks to when they fell in love while camp counselor’s over a summer when they were teenagers. The innocence and fun of that story contrasted well with the more adult version of their re-connection. The minor problem for me was that I was much more interested in them when they were teenage camp counselors than I was with them as adults.
Piper’s mom wanted her to have the experience she did as a “normal” girl at camp. Normal meaning middle class I guess. Rather than being a fish out of water because of her moneyed background, Piper actually fit right in, made friends and caught the eye of the rather rebellious and tattooed teenage Kyle. While her personality was pretty consistent from teen Piper to adult Piper, Kyle did a 180º. He was flirtatious, fun and kind of a mystery as a teenager, but adult security guard Kyle? Not as much fun….
I did enjoy the emotional punch of their re-connection but didn’t buy into a fantasy romance with a high powered executive woman and a building security guard. Well, at least a security guard that wasn’t part of an ex elite military squad who would swoop in and rescue his damsel in distress. This just wasn’t that type of romance. So, it became a little vanilla for me. Huh. I’m a little surprised, but I have to go with that statement.
Since this was both a YA Contemporary and an adult Contemporary Romance built into one book, I’m going to give it two scores. The YA Contemporary novel gets a 4.5 and the Contemporary romance a 3.5, which rounds this one out to a four. A good solid book, but didn’t hit it out of the park for me.
I received a free copy of this ARC through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest! ❤️❤️❤️❣️
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“This has been quite a negative review, but I obviously liked the book if I gave it 4 stars. I fell in love with teenage Piper and Kyle. I loved their innocence and sweetness, I just wasn’t a fan of their adult selves. It’s as simple as that.” Sapphic Library
“Overall, I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief for this book. I know romances are sometimes over the top, but I prefer ones that are more grounded in reality. I didn’t think this book had a whole lot going for it outside the romance and since that didn’t cut it for me, it didn’t have a lot to offer.” The Paperback Princess
Lara Jean’s sixteenth year is full of many changes. One of three girls, her home life gets shaken up when her older sister Margot goes off to college in Scotland, breaking up with her boyfriend Josh, the boy next door. Normally sitting on the outside of the drama between her classmates, she finds herself in the center of attention when popular guy Peter approaches her about a letter she wrote and was mailed to him a few years ago. When she looks for her stash of letters she realizes that every letter she’s ever written to a boy she’s loved has been mailed out. Including one to her sister’s boyfriend Josh.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has such a cute premise and Lara Jean was the funny, sweet heroine who could pull off all of the hijinks that ensue from having her private feelings shared with the boys who were never supposed to know about them. I really enjoyed how different each character was and how Lara Jean’s interaction with them showed a different side to her personality.
JOSH- the boy next door and Lara Jean’s close friend. It was this relationship that showed her youthfulness the most. He was trying to deal with her sister’s break-up and keeping the Song family in his life. This letter kind of threw a wrench in things.
PETER- the popular boy at school who just broke up with his long time girlfriend Gen. I liked how his interactions were a little more mature than Lara Jean’s but thought he was a bit cocky and didn’t really feel like he was a great love interest for her.
KITTY- by far my favorite character in the series. She is only 10, but outsmarts everyone around her, is wily, and a master manipulator. Lara Jean tries to be the authority figure but really, Kitty’s in charge.
This was a fun sweet ya contemporary. It reminded me of when life was so innocent. On the scale of 1 to 5 on the explicit scale this was a 3. There was talk of sex and how girls are viewed vs boys if they do have sex. I thought it was handled really well. Lara Jean is pretty innocent and her POV about the topic seemed pretty true to life. It’s definitely a topic that needs to be discussed in YA novels.
If you’re looking for a quick summer book, and this one has slipped past you give it a try! Fair warning though, it ends on a cliffhanger and you’ll immediately be reaching for the second novel in the series.
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“..To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before read like real life. Despite such a preposterous premise, the details felt so authentic. I adored the little bits about every day life. Making sandwiches, bake sales, where you go before school, riding the bus. The way even small moments feel so huge when you’re young.” Never Not Reading
Ava Diaz needs saving. She just doesn’t know it yet. Just like she doesn’t know a thing about the boy she sits next to on the first day of senior year. He thinks she’s a brat. She thinks he’s entitled. Maybe first impressions don’t always last… Because Connor Ledger’s about to save her. He just doesn’t know why.
When Connor starts at his new school and gets seated next to Ava in Psych class he immediately wants to get to know her. Unfortunately, Ava’s checked out. Her mother’s home from Afghanistan with a severe injury and Ava is trying to hold it all together. She doesn’t have time to care anymore about friends, boys, or any social niceties. Connor breaks through her barriers and becomes the person she doesn’t want to need, but needs too much.
Connor is struggling to keep all of his own responsibilities in line. Moving to this new school with the purpose of getting noticed by college scouts is his father’s main concern. He’s not too thrilled with Connor’s infatuation with Ava, and when he hears about all of her problems? His son doesn’t have the time for a girl with all of that baggage.
Heartache and Hope had an interesting premise and two main characters who had really interesting, conflicting back stories. I was curious to see how all of their drama would fit into a high school setting. Ava’s situation with a mother who has PTSD was so adult and yet her love story with Connor was kind of youthful it provided an interesting contrast in her character. Connor was also struggling with adult decisions about his future that when he acted out as a normal teenager it was a little jarring. I had to remind myself that this is actually a YA novel.
I can’t say I was riveted to every page in this novel, but it did have moments that captured my interest and kept me reading. If I’d known it ended in a cliffhanger I don’t think I’d have picked it up at all because now I’ve been left a little dissatisfied. Luckily I don’t have to wait very long for the next novel because it comes out only three weeks after the first novel. This bait and switch seems to be a kind of new way to entrap readers to continue on with the series and gains the author a couple extra bucks. However, in this case I’m not sure if I will remember these two characters and give them four or five more hours of my valuable reading time. ❤️❤️❤️❣️
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“At the end of Heartache and Hope, readers will absolutely be emotionally drained because while the hope is still hanging on in the final pages of book one, the heartache seems far more overreaching and far more tangible…” Fairest of All Book Reviews
“This book packs that punch. Connor has been through something awful, Ava is pretty much living her own personal nightmare, but somehow they manage to find peace within each other. There’s something so beautiful and powerful about that.” Romance Book Binge