Open Road Summer

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Country singers make up a good portion of the music industry, with superstars like Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley having been around for over 10 years. Others, like Taylor Swift, started when they were young. American author Emery Lord’s novel Open Road Summer tells the story of a teenage country singer’s summer tour, but in a different kind of way.

Seventeen-year-olds Reagan O’Neill and Delilah Montgomery have been best friends since Reagan moved to Nashville from Chicago several years ago. To millions of people, Delilah is know as Lilah Montgomery, superstar country singer and songwriter. To Reagan though, she’s just Dee, a normal teenage girl trying to navigate her life and fame.

The two of them are traveling cross country on Dee’s summer tour. For Reagan, it’s the chance to distance herself from her old ways of drinking and partying that landed her into legal troubles. But when an unexpected photo leak puts Dee’s reputation in jeopardy, the publicity team invites former singer Matt Finch onto the tour as an opening act. While Reagan was hoping to spend the summer with Dee, she finds herself drawn to Matt’s nonjudgmentalism and perspective of family.

I liked Reagan’s character the most. She is a resilient, no-nonsense girl who knows what she wants and is determined to protect herself from the negative influences of her past and anything that could hurt her in the future. Dee, in contrast, complements Reagan with her calm and friendly demeanor.

Lord wrote about the side of fame that not all people think about: the limits. Dee constantly expresses her desire to be able to do normal activities without being followed around, but accepts that it comes with living her dream. It sheds a light on what the affect of fame can have on someone, especially when the person is only a teenager and has their whole life ahead of them.

The aspect of friendship also serves as an important part of the plot. It makes you think about all these famous celebrities- we know their name, their face and what they’ve done, but what are they truly like? Who are their childhood friends that knew them before they made it big? There’s a whole story behind the famous faces that we see everyday. Emery Lord does a good job at telling that kind of story.

When We Collided

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According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, more than 43 million adults in the United States are affected by mental illness every year.  With mental health being a common issue, it’s all the more important to highlight it through forms of media, including novels.

Emery Lord’s When We Collided takes place in the summertime in Verona Cove, California. Vivian “Vivi” Alexander and her mother have moved to the town for the season. Vivi, an outgoing and somewhat random teenage girl, takes an immediate interest in the town and its residents, landing a job at the local pottery store. It’s there she meets lifelong resident Jonah Daniels, a teenager who’s been struggling to keep his family together after the death of his father and his mother’s subsequent withdrawal from the real world. Vivi charms Jonah’s youngest sister and eventually becomes a friend to his four other siblings. Jonah, in turn, is drawn to Vivi because of her unfazed attitude toward his family life and her fearless demeanor. However, there’s a reason why Vivi is the way she is, a secret she doesn’t want in the open.

Honestly, I found Jonah’s character more realistic than Vivi. Her speech patterns and thought process were difficult to read because they felt all over the place. I understand that it’s the way her character was supposed to be, but it was just not my style. Jonah, on the other hand, was easier to understand, running his father’s restaurant in the shadow of his death and experiencing the incredible amount of stress that goes with providing for a family. I found that I related to Jonah better.

I did find the plot fairly predictable and didn’t really care for the love story aspect, but appreciate Lord incorporating mental illness as a major plot device. Her novel is an example of something that needs to continue to be out there.


Everything Leads to You

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Visiting Los Angeles, California has always been on my to-do list, but living 3,000 miles away and flights being very expensive can make that goal challenging. However, there’s plenty of ways to experience it through different mediums, this novel being one of them.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour takes place in the Los Angeles area. The protagonist, Emi Price, is an eighteen-year-old native who works to help dress sets for a major movie studio, picking out furniture and other pieces to place. The story picks up when Emi has just graduated from high school and is looking forward to the summer; her older brother has left her his apartment to stay in while he travels and she has her job to focus on. At the estate sale of deceased celebrity Clyde Jones, Emi finds an old Patsy Cline record, and in the record sleeve, a secret letter addressed to an unknown woman. With the help of her best friend Charlotte, Emi follows the letter to Clyde’s family secret that spans several generations and leads them to some of Los Angeles’s diverse neighborhoods. Emi also gets the ultimate chance to design all the sets for a feature film and discover more about herself in the process.

Being a huge movie buff, I liked reading about what goes into making a movie. Most people just see the finished product, not realizing that hundreds of people are involved in the actual process. When I was eighteen, I got the chance to be an extra in a low budget film shot near my hometown. It was unpaid, but it was amazing to be able to be part of a production, seeing all the cameras, lighting, the multiple takes, working with the director and the other people on set. It actually took the filmmakers two years to get the film from the writing stages to being released in theatres. Emi describes the jobs that most of the people have and how each role is essential in the film-making process.

LaCour combined the premise of movie making with a love story about two girls. I appreciated the diversity, as it made me realize that I haven’t read a lot of novels with gay or lesbian protagonists. The story’s themes also emphasize how movies are a kind of illusion, we see them and are captivated by them, but sometimes forget that they’re not real. I look forward to reading some of LaCour’s other work.

In Case You Missed It

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Viral videos and photos are a well-known entity in the world of the web. Recordings of people doing funny things, a chance encounter, and so on. It can be as cute as the dog whose owner dressed up as Gumby, or as outrageous as the cat mesmerized by his owner’s camera.

But there’s a dark side to viral items. Information stolen by hackers that can be accessed by people all around the world, such as the DNC emails from the 2016 election cycle or celebrity’s private pictures. What if all of your personal information was stolen? Not meaning your credit card information or social security number, but text messages, emails and your electronic journal. This is the focus of the Sarah Darer Littman’s novel In Case You Missed It.

Sammy Wallach is looking forward to finishing out her junior year on a high note: acing her AP exams, landing a date to the prom and planning for her future. That all changes when hackers target her father’s company files, and also access her family’s personal online cloud. They then post the stolen information online for the world to see, all of the Wallach family’s emails, text messages and Sammy’s journal.

Littman presented an interesting take on something that’s in just about everybody’s lives. Most of us have social media accounts, but we get to pick and choose what we share online. Sammy has to deal with the repercussions of having her private thoughts posted for anyone to read, with no control over how many people can see it.

This novel is about more than just hacked information though. Sammy and her family are forced to confront each other about the secrets that their emails reveal about their family. Littman emphasizes the importance of face-to-face communication and the effect it has on family dynamic.

I definitely recommend this book, as it takes on a prevalent topic and illustrates the importance of having real-life relationships with people instead of just with electronic devices.

One Paris Summer

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Paris is a popular setting for numerous novels. Not surprising, since it has an extraordinary history and incomparable beauty.

One Paris Summer, by American author Denise Grover Swank, is told in first-person narrative by main character Sophie Brooks. A sixteen-year-old Charleston, South Carolina native, she is sent to live in Paris for the summer with her father and his new wife. Along with her older brother Eric, Sophie begrudgingly goes with low expectations.  It doesn’t help that her new stepsister Camille is not welcoming, nor is Eric’s friend Dane who has tagged along for the first half of the trip.

Sophie finds solace in playing piano. When she’s offered the opportunity to audition for a major Paris school, she finds herself having to choose between her life in Charleston and the offer of a  dream music education.

Although I enjoyed the book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss. Both novels employ a teenage girl protagonist who is sent to live in Paris. There are some differences. Anna is sent alone to attend foreign high school, whereas Sophie goes to spend the summer there. Each of the girls has their main interest- Anna being movies and Sophie being music. But both of them end up meeting a boy whom they initially don’t want to be with, but then they do, and so on. Honestly, I felt like this novel was almost a spinoff of Perkins’ book, or even part of the same series. I felt like it lacked originality and was predictable.

Swank’s novel did have some good elements. Sophie’s relationship with her older brother is a major plot point and made for some good interactions, as are her attempts to reconnect with her estranged father. I also enjoyed reading about Sophie’s first time on the Eiffel Tower, and the mesmerizing feeling the view had on her.

Overall, I recommend this novel to those who enjoy reading stories that take place in Paris.


Happy New Year and 100th Post

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Happy New Year! It’s technically three weeks into the new year, but we are still in January.

This is the 100th post on this blog, originally started about five years ago combining my hobbies of writing and reading. I was a college junior at the time, and now I live in Washington, D.C. and am working out in the real world.

Although I have a Kindle, I still do read actual books as well. There’s something about the feel of a real book in your hands that a Kindle can’t always suffice to. Most libraries now offer an option to borrow ebooks digitally. It’s nice to see libraries are catering to the times.

Anyway, I want to thank everyone for reading my blog. I will continue to post on here as often as I can.

Edge of Black

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This book is part of the Dr. Samantha Owens series, written by J.T. Ellison. Last summer, I reviewed What Lies Behind, the latest in the series. Wanting to read the rest, I backtracked to the second novel.

In Edge of Black, Sam has just arrived in D.C. and is teaching forensic science at George Washington University. She is enjoying a fresh start in a new city with her new boyfriend and new house. However, when a foreign toxic substance is released in to the Washington metro system and sickens hundreds, Sam soon finds herself pulled into a national security investigation. With the help of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and her homicide detective friend Darren Fletcher, Sam follows the trail of the villain, not knowing what might happen next.

I really like how Ellison’s main character is a medical examiner, a change from the usual protagonists of detectives and lawyers. Sam’s medical perspective creates an interesting angle with investigating the crime, particularly with examining the victims’ bodies. I myself can’t imagine doing a job like that, but I admire those who do. I also appreciate that Ellison did her research for the scientific terms that are used in the novel.

Living in the same city as Sam, it was easy to picture the places she went to during her research. The plot was decent, but I felt like it was a bit more predictable than What Lies Behind. Even so, I do recommend this novel to people who want to read about crime investigations from a different point of view.

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