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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

Let’s Pretend we Never Met [a book review of sorts]

[Yeegads!! I started this post on June 13…Like, almost two months ago! I didn’t realize I hadn’t finished it. Totally a cheat post for Blogust. HAHAH!]

Let’s Pretend We Never Met
by Melissa Walker

If it were up to Mattie Markham, there would be a law that said your family wasn’t allowed to move in the middle of the school year. After all, sixth grade is hard enough without wondering if you’ll be able to make new friends or worrying that the kids in Pennsylvania won’t like your North Carolina accent.

But when Mattie meets her next-door neighbor and classmate, she begins to think maybe she was silly to fear being the “new girl.” Agnes is like no one Mattie has ever met—she’s curious, hilarious, smart, and makes up the best games. If winter break is anything to go by, the rest of the school year should be a breeze.

Only it isn’t, because when vacation ends and school starts, Mattie realizes something: At school Agnes is known as the weird girl who no one likes. All Mattie wants is to fit in (okay, and maybe be a little popular too), but is that worth ending her friendship with Agnes? (goodreads.com)

First things first:

  1. I work at a bookstore. We sell this book.
  2. I know the author. We met because of my (now defunct) book blog.
  3. I am unable to be passionate or excited about anything that I do not actually love. No poker face.

Second things second:

  1. In the mid-80s I read a book titled Thirteen by Candice F. Ransom. That book had me in tears almost from the second chapter. I still own that book. It’s about being a kid and friendships changing as you start to get older (10 – 13 years) and how sometimes your best friend from childhood might suddenly have different interests from you as you grow up. That story has stuck with me all these years. I had to find a copy of the book because I lost mine as I got older. It’s one of those stories that clicks with you on such a personal level that you keep it in your heart forever.
  2. I have loved Melissa Walker’s novels since the first one I ever read – Violet on the Runway back in 2008. Melissa was the first author I met through my blog. She left a comment on my review and I felt like I’d won the lottery. Imagine! An AUTHOR who noticed something *I* wrote. It was amazing. Turns out she’s a wonderful person with whom I enjoyed chatting and whatnot over the years. I have bought every novel she’s ever written. I love her writing. So. Much. It’s almost as though she is able to write exactly what I feel, and think, and get that all on the page. She writes people, teens especially, so well. So realistically. (Realistic?) I have met her. I am not super close BFFs with her, but we talk on social media. I think she’s an amazing woman. But this has nothing to do with how much I love her novels. There are some I love more than others, but ultimately she just happens to be an author who writes stories that I fall in love with. Much like Sarah Addison Allen in adult fiction – and I have never exchanged any sort of anything with that author.
  3. THIS: 

 

[and now, almost two months later…]

I loved this book. Seriously, I did. By page 174 I was in tears. There is so much emotion in this story. Emotion that I know I felt when I was 12. Emotion you will be familiar with. Melissa Walker has an uncanny way of putting on the page what you think in your head. In the two months since I read the book, I have hand-sold almost all of the copies we got in the store. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction, so I am more than happy to grab a copy of this book and tell young readers about it when they are looking for something without magic, or fantastic beasts, or fantasy. Thing is, like with Ginny Moon, I get goosebumps when I talk about Let’s Pretend We Never Met. I have said to a couple of young customers that MW can write out what you will find yourself thinking/feeling that you never express out loud. So far that seems to have interested them. I hope they felt I told the truth!

It’s hard being a pre-teen, (or a child, or a teen. You get it.) It’s scary, and difficult when you have to change something drastic at that age – going to a new school, leaving your friends behind. Worrying that because you aren’t there, with your friends, at all times, they will forget you. That you’re left out of everything. That you’re no longer a friend they hold dear. No more BFFs. That’s not a feeling or worry just held for pre-teens. It happens all the time. And Melissa Walker captures that feeling, that anxiety and sadness, so well.

The struggle of wanting to be friends with someone you think is amazing, but also not wanting to be friends with someone everyone else doesn’t like, so you don’t seem like a loser, or un-cool. That struggle, too, is so well portrayed in this story.

Every book I have read by this author has managed to put words to feelings I have had throughout my life. Growing up, being grown-up. She gets it. She gets what it feels like to grow up and manages to write amazing characters who bring real life to life in their stories. That sounds weird, but it’s the only way I can think to express it.

I loved this book. I have read a bunch of other stuff between this novel and now, and nothing else has captured me the way this story has. I now have my second favourite book of the year, after Ginny Moon. Wonder what book will round off the top three?

Unbreak My Heart

Unbreak my Heart
by Melissa Walker

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart? (goodreads.com)

Melissa Walker is the only author who could get me to love a book about a girl getting over a boy.

That being said, Unbreak my Heart really isn’t all about a girl getting over a boy. It’s about a girl dealing with the loss of a best friend, other friends and a boy she had a crush on. It’s about a 16-year old girl dealing with some very real issues that 16-year old girls can deal with.

Unbreak my Heart is technically a book I would never read in a million years. It’s not the kind of contemporary fiction that I enjoy. I like my contemporary fiction to involve some sort of mental illness, mental institution or disorder. 😉 I don’t like to read books about teens with friend issues or boy issues.

Therefore, as much as I was anticipating a new novel from Melissa, I was also very, very worried that I wouldn’t like it. The thought of that happening was crushing me.

So I tried to read this with an open mind. I would focus on the character building and dialogue (which I always, always adore in Melissa Walker’s stories) and not get too hung up over the fact that Clem obviously did something “bad” that caused grief between her, her best friend and a boy.

I didn’t have to worry too much about the plot because I pretty much fell in love with Clem and her sister Olivia (one of the best 10-year old siblings in novels EVER) from the start of the story. I also loved Clem’s parents and how functional and real the entire group felt to me. Parents with a sense of humour, yet at the same time can be annoyingly parent-y. The Williams family is possible one of my favourite portrayals of a family in a novel ever. They aren’t perfect, but they are written in such a way that you just feel like everything about them is real.

Girl falls for boy. Yet another plot line I tend to avoid. Yet another plot line in the book I surprisingly enjoyed. It’s amazing how much I can like a blossoming relationship when I can see it blossom and strengthen. As Clem spends more time with James and gets to know him, I can feel myself wanting to spend more time with James and wanting to know more about him. It’s such a great feeling to relive 16=year old summer crush feelings. There were many a moment while reading this book that I felt nostalgic for my summer crush and how I’d spend so much time on the dock at our trailer on Lake Champlain, looking down the lake to see if I could see his fluorescent shorts out on the lawn  (hey, it was 1988 -1993. Don’t judge) so I could suddenly grab my bike, dog or sister and say I was going for a walk, just to pass by. heh

Unbreak my Heart made me feel 16 again. It’s an age I never really wanted to go back to, but the entire sense of being 16, in the summer, dealing with friend and boy crap was just so tangible in this novel. My summers with my family at our trailer were an escape from school and all that other stuff. We weren’t nearly as connected as 16-year olds today are, but I would have been without phone, computer, internet for 3 months. I got where Clem was coming from and I understood where she was going.

Melissa Walker is excellent at capturing the Real and putting it down in words. I need to remind myself never to worry about the subject she’s writing about because we’re 6 books in and I have loved each and every one of them. I need to stop this foolishness of worrying about the subject of the story because it’s never been an issue once I start that first page. 😉

Cover Reveal! Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

I want to start this off by saying I am not a Contemporary Fiction fan pretty much 98% of the time. Melissa Walker’s books have managed to sneak in that 2% and I have never been disappointed by one – even if I thought it was going to be a mushy, gushy romance.

Let’s not forget that the woman herself is just a fantastic person and one of the many reasons I am thankful for this blog. Without it I would not have gotten to know her.

So, I am biased, pretty much because I love everything about her (in a non-creepy, restraining order needed, kind of way). Of course when Melissa asked if anyone wanted to help share in the cover reveal for her newest book (coming in May 2012), I was all, ME! ME! PICK ME!

Here you have it folks! The lovely cover for Unbreak My Heart. You can visit Melissa’s blog for a larger image. I’m too OCD about fancying up the cover art that I couldn’t bring myself to just post the cover without all the other hoopla I do.

Here’s the summary:

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’s heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and heads into summer with zero social life. Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but just floating away sounds pretty good right now. Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer, and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to. (from the catalogue, as emailed to me by Melissa!)

One of the cool things about Melissa’s YA novels is that they always become more than you think they’ll be. I fall in love with her characters and their real, raw personalities. I fall in love with the flow of the stories and the many different pieces of life that just sort of happen but people don’t always note. She captures life as it happens in real time and somehow makes something you might consider mundane so much more enchanting.

Am I looking forward to Unbreak My Heart even though it looks to be about romance and is most definitely a contemporary novel?

You bet your bippy I am.

Happy Cover Reveal Day!

Small Town Sinners

Small Town Sinners
by Melissa Walker

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver’s license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church’s annual haunted house of sin, Lacey’s junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn’t know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion. (goodreads.com)

I feel like I have been waiting for this book forever. I am not someone who likes contemporary YA novels. I prefer to read stories about paranormal whatnots and serial killers and mental institutions and paranormals… you get the idea. Melissa Walker is probably the only YA author who has consistently made me love normal people stories. Her Violet series captured my attention, why? I don’t know. But I loved and shared my love of that series with the world. I lent the books to coworkers for their daughters, I hand sold the books to people in the YA sections of bookstores. I adored them.

When Melissa published Lovestruck Summer I was nervous. I don’t like romance stories whether they be adult or YA. I didn’t think I would like it at all but I bought it because the one thing that stuck with me from the Violet books was how wonderful the characters were. I was honestly surprised with how much I enjoyed Lovestruck Summer and happy that I took the chance on it despite it not being a genre I would have read otherwise.

Cut to Small Town Sinners – just knowing there was a new Melissa Walker book on the horizon made me giddy, then I read what it was about and knew I was going to want to devour it in one sitting.

That happened today. My order came in from Book Depository and I put aside everything else I was doing, reading, internetting and just sat and read from 11:30 – 1:30. I then opened my laptop back up and sent Melissa an email that started:

FIVE BILLION STARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously! This book is so… thought provoking? Passionate? Raw? Real? Just, brilliant, really.

Books about religion are not my cup of tea unless they are presented in such a way that is not preachy, but thoughtful. I didn’t grow up with such a strict religious background. My family and town were pretty liberal Catholics. Though I was sheltered from a lot, just because it wasn’t happening around us, nothing was ever taboo. (Well, except for, like, killing people and stuff. You know the really bad things.) However growing up in Catholic schools pretty much meant I knew nothing about other religions. Had I known then, as a child and teen, that there were places that put on things like Hell Houses or were that unforgiving about all sorts of acts, I think I would have thought it was all a myth to scare children into behaving. Even now I find it so unbelievable. I have had my own battles with faith and what I believe throughout my life and well, this book is excellent at portraying what people, especially teens, can go through to try and figure out who they are and what they believe.

Melissa Walker writes such fantastic characters that are real and likeable and relatable. She’s sort of the YA Sarah Addison Allen in that way (I always love her characters!) I read her books FOR the characters and this book just happened to have a very interesting subject for a plot and it was riveting.

This is the type of book that makes me want to hold discussions with various people about why and what they believe and if they truly believe in this Hell House creation and why people always seem to think their religion is better than the other when it seems pretty obvious it all stems from the same place. I just don’t get that. But this isn’t about me, it’s about how this book made me think about all of that and want to explore it more and yet… it’s not really about religion at all. It’s about people and growth and friendships and trying to figure out what the right thing to do it. The right answer.

Would be nice if life came with a standard set of answers, wouldn’t it? But it doesn’t, so this coming of age novel is just wonderful in its exploration of that. Family, friends and faith, three things that don’t always work well together and yet Lacey tries her best to weave them all together around her.

I am so very happy I read this novel and I am so very thankful to Melissa for writing it. This is certainly a YA novel that is a must read for all.

Cover Reveal! Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Well! Many of you may have seen this on Melissa’s blog already, but we were going to do a reveal on the same day she posted her own Cover Story for her latest book, Small Town Sinners.

Since the cover was leaked early, Melissa posted about it on her website and did the BIG REVEAL! (Cover Story to follow.)

My own personal schedule did not allow me to update my blog when I wanted to, so I’m jumping on the OMG! SO EXCITED!!! bandwagon right now for this cover. I love it. I love the summary:

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver’s license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church’s annual haunted house of sin, Lacey’s junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn’t know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion.

And I love everything ever written by Melissa Walker! Therefore I was emailing her as soon as I saw her blog post asking for bloggers to help reveal her cover. Gotta love the stalking that can happen the second a Google Reader updates!

Do you know what I DON’T love? That this book is due in JULY 2o11! Argh! I misread one of the blog posts and thought it was coming out in January. July is so NOT January! I am impatient! I HATE waiting for things! ARGH!

I am super excited for the release of Small Town Sinners and I adore that cover. I wouldn’t be quite so gushy about it if I didn’t. I love anything that even HINTS at Snow White. Heh.

Mark your calendars, folks, July 2011 this book will hit the shelves! And stay tuned to Melissa’s blog this coming week for her own personal Cover Story blog!