Escaping Me by Elizabeth Lee.

17854029Escaping, Book One

402 pages

Published July 3rd 2013

 

After catching her boyfriend stepping out on her, Whitney decides to spend the summer with her mum and sister in the country. Their easygoing, loving ways are so different from life with her rich father and socialite stepmother. Whitney can already begin to feel herself unwind.

When a tattooed stranger rescues her from an embarrassing heatstroke pass out, Whit’s mum is quick to suggest her daughter find this guy and find a way to thank him.

Cole doesn’t think a girl like Whitney could ever go for a guy like him, and is determined to keep her at a distance. But it isn’t long before they are succumbing to the sparks flying between them. They have a whole summer to be together – but maybe one summer isn’t enough.

 

Escaping Me was a very enjoyable read. The drama was never over the top, and the romance plodded along nicely. Plus, the country-style setting really worked for me.

I loved the fact that instead of Whitney’s mum freaking out about some tattooed crew-cut guy bringing her daughter home unconscious, she tells Whitney how ‘yummy’ he was, and suggests that she track him down.

I thought that the dialogue between characters was really engaging, and had me not wanting to put the book down. The characters themselves were great – I really liked them. Cole is definitely a ‘bad boy’ and Whitney is a sorority chick, so they have a nice little opposites attract thing going for them.

By the time I’d turned the last page, everything that stood in the way of their relationship had been resolved. And that’s always good.

This was a nice, light New Adult read. I’m keen to get into the next book, which is about Whitney’s younger sister.

My Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Rating: 3.98/5

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Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares.

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Book Four in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants Series.
384 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Delacorte Books

 

In this, the final summer of the sisterhood, the infamous four have their final adventures with the pants.

Tibby has managed to remain a virgin all this time, but finally she and Brian cross that line. Only now everything is different, and Tibby wishes she could take the whole thing back. She withdraws into herself, and puts their future together in jeopardy.

Lena starts to take notice of someone new – an amazing artist at her college named Leo. Carmen had predicted that as soon as Lena got over Kostos, she would see him again. Could there be anything to this prediction? And if she were faced with her first and only love, the one that got away, how would Lena respond?

College hasn’t been everything that Carmen expected. She discovered that she is terrible at making friends, feels invisible, and suffers from a terrible loneliness. She has one friend, Julia, an aspiring actress. Julia and Carmen are spending the summer in Vermont at a theatre camp. Carmen does set design and backstage stuff. But her plans of staying invisible get thrown out the window when she sort-of-accidentally auditions for a lead role and, against all odds, gets a callback.

Bridget and Eric have been dating since last summer. She often struggles with how different life is as a ‘girl with a boyfriend’, and how actions that would have been innocent before now seem wrong. Bee figures that she and Eric will do something together over the holidays, but is miffed when he makes plans of his own without even telling her. She signs up for an archeology dig in Turkey, and meets and older man there. She wonders, is it so wrong to be attracted to someone else? It’s not like you can just switch off your feelings…

 

Forever in Blue starts out a little slow and sad. Everyone’s separated and there’s an undercurrent of change that’s a bit depressing. Things in the book never reach the boiling point that they do in the second movie (which you probably already know is a mash up of books 2-4) – there’s a lot of fighting on screen! The girls don’t really fight so much in the book, but you can see the distance between them.

We see a different side of Lena in this book. She comes out of her shell a lot and has some break through moments. She matures, I guess. They all do, really. Each of the girls goes through something big but then instead of reverting back to their old ways, they do something about it. Relationships and attitudes change – for the better, I think.

It’s sad to see the end of the Sisterhood books (less sad now then when I first read Forever in Blue, because I know there’s another book – but when Sisterhood Everlasting didn’t exist, I was quite blue to see the end of the girls!). It’s like they become your own literary best friends, and suddenly they’re gone. But I know it’s for the best. I like the sureness of some things and the ambiguity of others.

Forever in Blue, a fitting ending to an (in my opinion) amazing series about friendship, love, and what it means to be a girl.

My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Rating: 3.77/5

Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares.

girlsinpants_coverfinal

Book Three in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants Series

338 pages

First Published January 25th 2005 by Delacorte Press

The sisterhood is back, along with their magical travelling pants. This summer is the eve of the rest of their lives. High school is over, and college awaits.

Carmen picks up a job working as a sort of companion for Valia – Lena’s recently widowed grandmother. Unbeknownst to her, Valia is miserable and crabby and a downright nightmare to be around. Lena’s father dragged Valia to the states after her husband died, but she wants nothing more than to go back to Greece. On one of their trips to the hospital, Carmen meets Win – a cute guy who volunteers there. Unfortunately, he keeps ‘catching’ Carmen in moments of random acts of kindness. But if she lets him see the real her – the quick-tempered, feisty version of herself – will he still be interested?

Lena is all set to go to art school in the fall, but when her conservative father walks into her drawing class and sees the live model – that is, the nude, live model – he freaks out and tells Lena that he will no longer be paying for her to go to an art school. Under the wing of her art teacher, Lena sets out to create an amazing portfolio that will score her a scholarship to the school of her dreams.

Tibby is uncomfortable with all the change that is going on. Brian further complicates things when he asks Tibby to be his date to the senior dance. Suddenly they are no longer just friends, but something much more. The problem is that Tibby isn’t really sure what she wants or if she even likes this new development.

Bridget is going to be coaching at a soccer camp much like the one she attended two summers ago. She knows her old pal Diana is going to be there and expects the summer to be a total blast. What she doesn’t know (but would if she read any of the information they sent her) is that Eric will also be there. Bee decides that this is okay, she is different now and vows not to lose herself again. She can handle this – the two of them will be friends – nothing more. Still, the heart wants what the heart wants…

 

Out of the first three books, I think that Girls in Pants is my favourite. I love that Bee gets a second chance to do the right thing with Eric, and that Carmen finally gets to have a cute little romance. On that note, it’s nice that Brian and Tibby finally get somewhere, as well! And on a kind of opposite note, I really liked that Lena wasn’t plagued so much by her feelings for Kostos. It’s touched on a little bit, but her main focus is on her future.

I feel that I should mention Ann Brashares writing again. The books are all written in third person, which really works. Somehow you seem to be closer to each girl than if it were written in first person. I think that if it were written that way, it would feel too disjointed and confusing because the story does jump around from each girl quite quickly. The chapters don’t have numbers and the characters seem to get a couple of pages each before it moves onto the next person. I like the way that this is done. In multiple POV books where characters get a whole chapter each, there’re often little cliffhangers and so I spend the first part of the next chapter begrudging the fact that I have to read about the second character when I just want to know what’s going on with that first person. Then, of course, I’ll get into that chapter and want to know about the second character while I’m next reading about the first. I kind of hate/love that feeling (but mainly hate). I guess it makes you want to read more, but I like the style in the Sisterhood books better.

There’s a lot of hope and happiness in this novel. Growth and second chances and future-induced trepidation. There doesn’t feel like a lot of drama, which is nice after the second book (which seemed to have a lot of it!). I can almost feel the sunshine emanating from the pages.

Girls in Pants is a lovely edition to the series. Highly recommended.

My Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Rating: 3.80/5

The Second Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares.

9781740519021 (1)Book Two in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants Series.

373 pages

Published April 22nd 2003 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

For their second summer in possession of the pants, things are a little different. Lena, Carmen and Bridget all plan to stay in Bethesda and earn money. Meanwhile, Tibby is heading off to a filmmaking course in Virginia.

But just as the summer is beginning, Bee discovers letters from her grandmother. Letters she’s never seen before. She decides to leave for Alabama to visit her grandmother and maybe find a way to be closer to her mother. Once there, she hides behind her new appearance and pretends to be someone else so that she learn things without being too close.

Lena is trying to get over her lost love. She works at a clothing store and tortures herself for the decisions she made regarding Kostos. As the summer progresses, Lena learns that her own mother could have a lot of helpful insight, if she would only share it with her daughter. And is it possible that Lena could get another shot at love?

Carmen is having mother troubles. There’s a new boyfriend on the scene, and as far as she is concerned, her mother is acting completely inappropriately for a woman her age. Carmen can’t focus properly on her own love life – namely, several dates with the fetching Porter – because she’s putting all her energy into being disgusted with her mum’s relationship.

Tibby makes some new friends in Virginia. But they are the kind of people she would have been impressed with pre-Bailey. Are they really worthy of her time and attention? She’s aware of what Bailey would think, but she hides from that knowledge.

All the while, the pants circulate and work their magic, helping the girls to learn lessons in heartbreak, grace, second chances, grief and acceptance of change.

 

This summer, all the girls go through a kind of crisis or sea change. They each need to grow to move forward. There’s more conflict than in the first book. At times, the bad choices they make are hard to read through. But despite the lows, there is ultimately hope.

Once again, random moments and feelings from your own experiences seem to be reflected on the page. It’s probably why I feel so attached to these books.

The ending is tragic but the final pages are beautiful, I think, in that way that you want to cry but you’re not exactly sure why.

The writing is great, as are the characters. They stay true to their roots. Also, they probably act even more like real teenagers. With the hormones and emotions and reactions to things and all that stuff!

There’s a lot more to do with family relationships in The Second Summer of the Sisterhood – mostly mother/daughter. There’s the whole thing with Carmen’s mother falling in love, as well as a pretty important role that Lena’s mother plays, and of course, we learn some more tragic truths about Bridget’s mother.

This is a worthy follow up to the original.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads Rating: 3.74/5

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares.


0553494791.01._PA20,10,10,10_BO20,255,255,255_SCLZZZZZZZ_SL280_Book One in
The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series.

294 pages

First Published September 11, 2001

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants is about four best friends who discover a magical pair of pants (which isn’t as stupid as it sounds, I promise) just as they are about to spend their first summer apart.

Carmen is half Puerto Rican, and will be spending the summer with her dad – the most time they will have spent together since her parents divorced. She thinks it will just be the two of them, but he has a surprise for her – a live-in fiancé complete with two teenage kids.

Bee is going to Mexico for a soccer camp. There, she meets Eric, a gorgeous coach – older and completely off limits.

Beautiful Lena is visiting her grandparents in Greece with her sister Effie. Lena’s scheming grandmother hopes that she will get together with Kostos, a future Oxford student who is home to help out his ailing grandfather. But of course, Lena has no such plans.

And Tibby. Sarcastic, clever Tibby is staying home. Her summer alone stretches out in front of her, with just a job at Wallman’s to keep her occupied. She’s into filming, and plans to work on a documentary as well. When she meets Bailey, a sassy twelve year old with leukaemia, she finds a sort of kindred spirit in her, and her summer turns into something completely different.

 

The first book in one of my all time favourite series. It’s hard to say whether I love this book because it’s simply a great book or because there’s a lot of nostalgia involved. Probably a bit of both. I was about fourteen when I first read it, and I suppose that’s long enough ago to form an evocative attachment to something. The thing is, there are moments that resonate so deeply within me. Like I have felt that exact same way and the words describe moments from my life so perfectly. Perhaps it’s just a really good story about what being and feeling like a girl is all about?

I love the way that the whole ‘magic’ thing is never contested or even discussed. Yes, these pants somehow fit us all perfectly. Are we going to deliberate over this and question our entire existence because of it? No. They just accept it.

The book is slightly different to the movie; mainly with Lena and the way her relationship with Kostos was shown. But there are other little differences too. My point being that if you have only seen the movie than you should read this. Likewise, if you’ve only read the book and maybe don’t like movies that are verbatim in plot and dialogue, than you should watch it.

Ann Brashares writing is lovely. It’s matter of fact, and honest, and sometimes flowery – but not in an unapproachable way. She just has a way of looking at things that are real and beautiful. A similar author would be Melina Marchetta – although I would say she is even more brutally honest than Ann Brashares (something about her writing cuts right to the bone, you know what I mean?).

I’ve read some people’s views on the stuff these young girls get up to. I mean, they’re not quite sixteen and they are off in different countries, doing amazing things. On the way back from Greece (possible spoiler, but I’ll keep it vague), Lena jets off to a different country altogether on her own. Carmen also does a bit of running around. On the one hand, I can see where these people are coming from. But on the other, I’m thinking that fifteen/sixteen year olds can pretty much do whatever they set their minds to – especially in this day and age. My own sister lived overseas with a host family for a year when she fifteen/sixteen, and that was before this book had even been released. So, I guess I would have to disagree with the notion that their experiences are unrealistic (albeit slightly irresponsible, in that sometimes they do these things without letting their parents know – but hey, they’re fifteen!).

I adore all of the characters. Sometimes they are selfish, occasionally they may even act like little brats, but that’s what humans do. Plus, they always redeem themselves afterwards. And of course, I already mentioned how relatable they are.

To me, this book (and it’s sequels) are like chicken soup, or hot chocolate, or whatever it is you have when you want to feel safe or calmed, or just better. They are my literary comfort food. I’ve just got to come back for more every couple of years!

This is a marvellous story about friendship and family and love and loss. Highly recommended.

 

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork.

0-545-05474-5312 pages

Published March 1st 2009 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear–part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify–and he’s always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm’s mailroom in order to experience “the real world.” There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.

He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file — a picture of a girl with half a face — that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

Marcelo doesn’t want to work at the firm in the real world, but his father Arturo makes a deal with him. He wants Marcelo to go to a normal high school for his senior year, but Marcelo wants to go to his special school. Arturo says that if Marcelo tries really hard to fit into the real world at the firm over the summer, then he can pick which school he’ll attend. Also, once Arturo has his mind set on something, he pretty much gets his own way.
You can’t help but love Marcelo. Throughout the novel, you watch him grow and learn things about the world. You can kind of feel the sharks circling at the law firm and you just want to protect him from them. But the thing is, after a while you realise that he is more than capable of standing up for himself. All the characters are great, actually.
Marcelo in the Real World is fascinating, thought provoking, funny, heartbreaking and well written. It’s a much smarter read than a lot of the young adult stuff out there.
My rating: 4/5
Goodreads rating: 4.02/5

A Man for the Summer by Ruby Laska.

16147126

166 pages
Published November 4th 2012

Book Blurb: Dentist Junior Atkinson left her tiny home town to see if she would fit in better in the big city. She definitely didn’t. Now she’s back, living in the house she grew up in, friendly with every citizen of the two-stoplight town. Things couldn’t be more wonderful. Well, maybe if her patients paid her regularly. If there was an eligible man in a fifty-mile radius. If she hadn’t just been told that a medical condition meant she had only a few more fertile months despite her tender age of twenty-eight. Junior barely has time to digest this news when she finds hunky travel writer Griff Ross in her chair with a hell of a toothache.

Note: It’s just occurred to me that A Man for the Summer is probably the type of book that’s best read when you don’t know too much about it. The above blurb is accurate, but it also focuses on stuff that is hardly mentioned in the novel – like Junior’s travelling to the big city. I’ve written a more involved and accurate blurb, but don’t read it if you think it might spoil your reading experience! This is only a short book, so maybe it’s nice to just go in kind of blind, if you know what I mean.

My Revised Blurb: Griff Ross has a hell of a toothache, and manages to get an emergency appointment with Junior Atkinson. While the drugged Griff seems to be sleeping, Junior and her assistant (also her aunt) are discussing the fact that Junior’s doctor has just told her that she only has a few months left of fertility. The aunt suggests that if she wants a baby, she should just go for it with the hunky travelling writer. This big-city man is much more ideal of a sperm donor (really, that’s all he would be) than any of the guys in her small town – and soon he’ll be gone, out of Junior’s life forever. Unfortunately, Griff overhears the women talking – only he mistakes their meaning. He thinks that Junior is a dying virgin, just wanting to have sex before she dies.

Another Note: I was going to write even more, but I’ve changed my mind – I will not spoil it!

So like I said, A Man for the Summer is very short (it’s also quite sweet). It’s a cute little romance about what happens when opposites attract and you come to a fork in the road and your life takes a different turn, etc.

That stuff in the original blurb about Junior moving to the big smoke was only briefly mentioned once or twice. It’s really only about the initial romance between a city boy and a small town girl.

I liked Griff and Junior. Sometimes I thought that their once-very-strong opinions were adapting too quickly, but on second thoughts, I decided that I didn’t mind so much.

I would suggest you read this if you are looking for an in-between kind of novel. It’s a quick and easy romance to act as a bridge between heavier books. At least, that’s what I used it as, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

My rating: 3/5

Goodreads rating: 3/5