Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer

Untethered by Julie Lawson TimmerAre families made up of the people we’re related to by blood or the people that we choose to be with? Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer shines a light on this issue by highlighting both “first families” and “blended families” along with the unspoken rules that come with being a guardian, but not a biological parent.

When Charlotte’s husband dies, she quickly realizes that she doesn’t have custody of her beloved stepdaughter, Allie. Charlotte and Allie have always had a good relationship, but it’s thrown for a loop without the connecting link of Bradley. As they grieve, they must face the emergence of Allie’s flaky biological mother and Allie begins to act out for the first time in her life. The only person keeping Allie balanced is Morgan, the young girl she tutors. When Morgan faces trouble, Charlotte and Allie are brought together to help her on a wild journey.

UntetheredWhile reading I noticed that there are long stretches of monologue, especially from Charlotte, which was a bit unusual compared to other books I’ve read lately. Although the story was both touching and thought provoking, I would have liked to feel a stronger sense of urgency. Don’t get me wrong though, I enjoyed this book.

Overall, Untethered is a well-written story about the family we’re born into and the family we choose.

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Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

Results May Vary by Bethany ChaseWhat would you do if everything you based your life on turned out to be a lie? This is the struggle that Caroline goes through in Results May Vary by Bethany Chase.

For Caroline Hammond, almost everything has gone according to plan including a beautiful home in Massachusetts, marrying her high school sweetheart, and working at an art museum. That is, until she discovers that her husband has been having an affair with a man. This forces her to reconsider everything she had once believed to be true and she must decide whether to save her marriage or move forward on her own. The story discusses the idea of what people hide about themselves, even from the ones they love most.

Besides the complex relationships, I really appreciated the rich descriptions of the scenic Massachusetts countryside setting so I may just have to book a trip out there.

On the other hand, there were times when I felt that the dialogue was a little bit forced and overly dramatic, but I liked the characters and the flow of their relationships.

Results May VaryBlurbs from letters were at the beginning of each chapter, which was a nice thoughtful touch. Results May Vary has a light tone, perfect for summer, and was a quick read for me.

A few of the quotes that stood out to me include:

“Before we were married, people used to regularly mistake us for siblings on a regular basis. I used to like it. Now, even my own face was a reminder of his betrayal.” 

“How silly of me to have thought that I’d reached the border of my heartbreak; just look how much more room there was out here.”

“The cruelty of living could steal your breaths sometimes,”

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls by Emma ClineI’ve been eyeing the debut novel from Emma Cline, The Girls, for a while now. Striking is the first word that comes to my mind when describing this story. It’s powerful and intense with a surprising amount of insight into what it means to be a girl.

As a young teen living in northern California during the 1960’s, Evie Boyd wants to be accepted and noticed. When she sees a group of carefree girls who embody everything that she wants to be, she’s absolutely captivated.

Evie’s not only drawn to the group, but becomes nearly obsessed with one of the leaders, Suzanne, for her wild spirit. She quickly plunges into their group, which turns out to be a cult. Readers are brought along many of the dark moments that Evie goes through and what led some of the members to commit horrendous crimes.

The GirlsMy copy of this book was filled with sticky notes because so many quotes struck me. Here are my favorites:

“I looked up because of the laughter, and kept looking because of the girls.”

“All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you – the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.”

“Girls were good at coloring in the disappointing blank spots.”

“Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love.” 

“Later I would see this: how impersonal and grasping our love was, pinging around the universe, hoping for a host to give form to our wishes.”

“That was part of being a girl – you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get.”

“I’d always been aware of Peter, in the way I liked any older boy at that age, their mere existence demanding attention.”

I hope you all enjoy The Girls! I really recommend it.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the SunI really enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain so I was excited to get my hands on her latest book, Circling the Sun. I liked this book, but unfortunately I wasn’t as drawn into the story as I had hoped to be. It was good and I wanted to see how it turned out, but I didn’t feel like I couldn’t put it down.

The book is based on the real life of Beryl Markham, a record-setting pilot. Beryl is a strong character, very alive and brave, and one who wants freedom more than anything else. As a young English girl growing up in colonial Kenya, she faced wild animals regularly, but she used fear to motivate her rather than hold her back. Beryl is a character that is easy to admire.

Along with Beryl’s character I was fascinated to read about life in Africa during the 1920’s. McLain did a great job of creating this wild colorful scenery filled with lions, horses, and other animals.

Throughout the story I had a hard time understanding how each character’s lives could change so often. From romantic partners to careers to houses, each character seemed to be bouncing all around with no sense of stability. As a person that doesn’t always welcome change, this was very strange to read about. Some sections were also a bit slow for me and at times I had a tough time keeping track of the many characters involved.

Circling the Sun is definitely an interesting and well-written story worth a read!

Beloved Book Settings: Scotland

Edinburgh CastleOne reason why fictional stories are so powerful is because they transport the reader to another place or time. I have found myself drawn to books set in certain locations over and over again, the settings coming alive in my head. One of my very favorite fictional book settings is Scotland.

Some of the books that have brought the countryside of Scotland alive for me have been:

  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  • At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
  • The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The wild greenery and the rolling hills of the countryside hold a certain draw for me. Maybe it’s the sense of adventure that comes with wide-open spaces, like a scene in Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings. Maybe it’s the rocky coastal beaches and windswept seashores that pull me in. It could also be the Scottish characters. A lively bunch the scots are, a proud and generous people. I also really enjoy reading the phrases of Gaelic mixed in with heavily accented English.

I was lucky enough to travel to Edinburgh last year, where I fell in love with cobble stone streets of the old town lined with pipers and pubs. Now that I’ve seen a piece of Scotland for myself, I can feel these stories even more vividly than before.

Whatever the reason, when I read a book description that is set in Scotland, I am much more likely to pick the book up and take it home with me.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest ClineWhat does it mean when you’re flight’s delayed? This past weekend it meant that I had more time to read! With the extra time, I was able to dive into Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a sci-fi novel set in the year 2044.

USA Today describes the story pretty perfectly:

“Enchanting…Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.” – USA Today

In this story, Earth has plummeted into decay and Cline paints a horrifying picture through his “stacks”, trailers that are stacked up on top of each other and are only stabilized by weak metal pipe structures.

People escape this harsh reality through Oasis, a virtual world where people can be whoever, or whatever, they want. The creator of Oasis, James Halliday, has passed away and left behind the challenge of a lifetime. Whoever can solve his highly complex scavenger hunt filled with puzzles, video game challenges, and 80’s pop culture trivia, will win Halliday’s fortune and control of Oasis. Wade Watts, an anti-social teenager, finds himself catapulted into fame when he finds the first piece of Halliday’s puzzle.

As someone who is not very savvy in video game jargon, I thought Cline did a pretty good job of keeping technical descriptions straightforward. Despite a few scenes where my mind wandered in the face of ultra-detailed descriptions, I was able to keep up for the most part.

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi books, but I enjoyed Ready Player One. The story was interesting, the dialogue was entertaining and the topics were relatable. Cline brought depth to the story by touching on issues that the world is dealing with today, including global warming, pollution, monopoly power, and the risks that technology presents to overpower our lives so much so that we forget to live in reality.