This Raging Light

“Trust. What does it even mean? You hand somebody the knife to stab you with when you trust them. I know this much is true.”

 

Title: This Raging Light

Author: Estelle Laure

Series: Standalone

Publication: December 22nd 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Pages: 288

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Can the best thing happen at the worst time?

Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she’s about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend’s brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure’s soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

 

My Thoughts:

This book is not okay for two reasons. One: it made me feel all sorts of things I really didn’t want to feel on Christmas. Two: it was so beautiful it made my teeth ache and my heart hurt. Goodness… This Raging Light is one hell of a debut. Not only did it read like a carefully crafted piece of art, it also completely destroyed me inside. In all honesty, I have never read a debut book such as this – and I probably never will again. There is undoubtedly an astounding amount of skill in this novel, even in just the writing alone – not to mention the characters or the plot. But… you add all of these perfect elements together, and what do you get? A beautiful, heartbreaking, mind-blowing, soul sucking book all wrapped with a rainbow cover and a sparkly ass bow.

This Raging Light is, hands down, one of the best books I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding in my hands. I was unsure at first, the writing sort of put me off. But soon I got used to it, and as I got used to it I began to realize just how much of a gem I was holding. This book… guys, this book is everything I have ever wanting in a contemporary read. It should be illegal.  This Raging Light is the poignant and touching story of seventeen-year-old Lucille who becomes the sole caretaker for her younger sister Wren after their mother abandons them without a word. And trust me, you will need a Costco pack of tissues when you read this masterpiece.

Lucille is something else entirely. She is a role model even though she isn’t trying to be – but that’s what makes her so amazing. This entire book is driven by her want and her need to protect her sister and keep the two of them together. She is terrified of being torn apart by the system, and that is the only reason she doesn’t get help. She isn’t stubborn in the way of refusing charity, her friends help her out more than once and she doesn’t really complain – she simply thanks them too damn much. It was a breath of fresh air really. Not only is Lucille smart and completely selfless, she also isn’t afraid to admit her mistakes or realize when she has made them in the first place. She is totally comfortable being the bigger man, as it were. She isn’t perfect, that’s not what I mean by any of this. She has her flaws, some of which kind of screw up the story pretty royally for everyone else – but she is real, she is entirely human. I think the hardest part for me when reading this book was her relationship with Wren. It’s just so… ugh mixed with a lot of aww and oh no. They’re siblings, but Lucille is trying to fit into the role of mom while Wren is trying to grow up much too quickly to compensate. Reading this will tear you into itty-bitty pieces, mow them over, and then force feed them back down your throat while you enjoy it. Seriously.

The other characters in this book are just as vivid, if not more so. Laure has such an amazing way of writing, of describing things in a way that makes them completely 3D. Like, the way she talks about Digby… it’s almost physically impossible not to become one with Lucille and feel everything just as intensely as she does. You become best friends with Eden, you learn to love Eden’s family, and you want to take care of Wren. Each character pulls at something deep inside of you because of how carefully constructed they all are. It is simply mind blowing. I don’t really know what else to say about these guys. Each and every character is important in some way, even the ones barely glossed over eventually play an important role. Neighborhood people, I’m talking about you. You know who you are, bless your souls. The characters, everything about this book really, is painfully beautiful.

There is one scene I really need to talk about, well, more like share with you. It touched me, I have no idea how to describe it other than: it made me feel all the feels and it killed me with them. So yea. This book is told in the number of days without Lucille and Wren’s mother in play, and this scene takes place on day twenty-seven. Lucille goes to meet Eden to talk, and in a gut wrenching moment, she asks Eden if she thinks that their mother loves them. Eden takes a moment to deliberate, and then says with an air of finality: “It doesn’t matter if she loves you or not.” This requires some explanation, for which she employs the help of Virginia Woolf. “All feeling has an equivalent in action or is useless,” is what she tells Lucille – meaning, it doesn’t matter if their mother cares or is sorry if she doesn’t do anything to express those feelings. If their mother, despite how heartbroken and sad she might feel because of what she has done, can’t bring herself to show her face and help her children… well then, “you just tell me what the fuck difference it makes.”

That scene broke me, as well as many others. Overall, This Raging Light is one hell of a book that deserves the effort of hunting it down and blowing through it in a mad rush. It is a gorgeous metaphor of life and what to do when everything is torn away illustrated through a very unique voice that deserves to be known.

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My True Love Gave To Me

MyTrueLoveGaveToMe_animated_PS[4]

 

“Sweetheart, when you lose someone, you lose a little bit of yourself, too. And that missing piece? Sometimes you have to lose the rest of yourself to find it.”

Title: My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

Editor: Stephanie Perkins

Series: Standalone anthology

Publication: October 14th, 2014 by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 336

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

 

Summary from Goodreads:

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

My Thoughts:

Alright, so for this review I am going to do something a little bit different. I’m going to review each short story individually and then point out my favorite and least favorite of the bunch. So, shall we begin?

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell

I was unsure of this one when I started it – but by the end of the twenty or so pages, I was actually really enjoying it. This story is mainly about Mags and her friend (whom she has a crush on) Noel – he’s a dude. I know, it threw me off for a bit. Now, for this story, the one thing I really disliked is one thing that also added to the charm: the time skips. This short story jumps around from year to year and at different times. It starts off in 2014 just before midnight, and then leaps back to 2011, hop scotches its way up to 2012… you get the picture. I do have to give Rowell credit, though. Despite the trigger happy timeline, she managed to create characters that I was rooting for and invested in within a short amount of pages and minuscule scenes. Bravo. Also, MAGS AND NOEL ARE SO FREAKEN CUTE!

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link

This one wasn’t one of my favorites – but I still liked it. I felt as though it had a quirky, but distractedly unclear purpose/theme. I had no idea what the point of this story was, honestly, the ending totally ruined it for me. I thought this really had something going, I loved the dynamic between Fenny and Miranda – though it is a little bit weird that she meets him at eleven years of age and then is trying to get into his pants later in the story. I enjoyed the whole paranormal mystery aspect of Fenny and what/who he was – and I would have preferred for it to be left alone instead of screwed around with at the end. I don’t want to talk too much about it because it’s a spoiler, but ugh.

Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Pena

This one sort of surprised me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or not, but the more I kept reading the more I found myself enjoying what was going on. This one was actually sort of sad. Shy, our protagonist, is cat sitting over Christmas break in his boss’ apartment – but he doesn’t have any food. He’s starving. One morning, the girl form the floor above him comes down to ask if he can help her with the plumbing – and, low and behold, the gentle flirtation of apartment living begins. I liked the dynamic between Shy and Haley – they were adorable. She took care of him even though she didn’t need to and it sort of melted my heart into little pieces. As a whole, this story wasn’t one of my favorites – but it was still highly enjoyable.

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han

I enjoyed this one a lot. It was a little strange going into because all of a sudden we’re in the North Pole hanging out and watching a bunch of beautiful elves dance – but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Natalie was interesting, actually, the entire short story was interesting and I think that was the only thing that kept me reading it. I’m sort of sick of endless pining over someone you can never have – and that’s really what this short story is about. It was painful. I have to admit, though, the idea that Santa adopted a human girl and raised her made me think of one thing that’s already a huge Christmas thing – Elf. That’s right. In all honesty, this story felt sort of like a rip off of Elf, at least the whole idea of Santa + human baby = plot line. Short rant aside, the story was good – don’t get me wrong here. I just felt like it wasn’t all it could have been.

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins

This was probably my favorite one out of the entire anthology. Not only was it cute and cuddly with all the feels, it also was able to showcase deeper themes like the individual against the family and the meaning of Christmas within a short number of pages. Marigold and North… damn, I love them. I love, love, love, love them. They’re relationship is adorable, everything about them is adorable. I mean, come on, North completely disregards his job so that he can help Marigold clean her apartment in order to fit the Christmas tree she bought from him. I don’t really know how to explain it, but everything about this short story was perfection to me.

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan

First of all, some serious props are needed when due. Thank you David Levithan for writing an extremely cute and believable gay couple trying to preserve the magic of Christmas for younger kids. Just… thank you – it was absolutely perfect. I honestly don’t know what to say about this story – it wasn’t my favorite, but it could have been if I didn’t like others more. If I had to describe this story in one word, it would be: cute. Pretending to be Santa in order to keep a younger sibling believing is just plain adorable if you ask me.

Krampuslauf by Holly Black

This one was just plain weird, but I still liked it. Strange, huh? I don’t know what it was about this story, but it just didn’t sit right with me. I enjoyed reading it and watching a certain character get served a serious case of justice for being an ass – but on a scale of one to ten, it was sort of just meh. Though, on the bright side, it really made me want to go watch Krampus – YAY!

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman

This is the other story competing for the top favorite spot on my list. I can’t pick between this one and “It’s A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” – both of them rocked my fuzzy socks off. This one I could actually relate to a little more, though. Sophie, a Jewish freshman in college who is stranded for an extra week on campus because of expensive flights,  feels like a complete outsider. She decides to go caroling to take her mind off of things, and while she is out, she runs into Russel – a hilarious, food dare devil, sweet talker. These two hit it off and then Russel spends the rest of the night trying to make sure Sophie can have a real Hanukkah – cue the “awws”.

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire

First of all, that title. Holy bat crap robin that title made my crack up for a solid five minutes. I don’t know, it’s just hilarious – and it makes perfect sense once you read through the short story. As someone who struggles with titles and naming stuff, I applaud you Myra McEntire – you struck gold. As for the story itself, it is just as hilarious and intriguing as the title that caught my eye in the first place. This ends up actually being a really cute story about redemption turning into something just a little bit more. The characters were multidimensional, the premise hilarious though unoriginal, and the setting both superb and superfluous at the same time. A Christmas parent at a rodeo dinner experience venue where a multitude of chaos ensues? Count me in.

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White

Oh my goodness this story was adorable – and extremely close to home. I’ve driven through that area, hung out in Barstow, camped in Baker – yay for Southern California. I really loved this short story – every little thing about it was perfect and adorable and Christmassey. It was all about the true meaning of Christmas being the joy within oneself and spending time with family, and it hits you right in the feels – especially at the end there. The characters were well developed over a short period of time, and right from the get go I knew they were going to stomp all over my heart. Maria, our narrator/ protagonist has such a presence right from the first page – it was spectacular. Everything felt alive.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter

This one started off pretty strong and it captured my attention right from the get go – but it sort of fell downhill from there. I loved it, truly I did – but I was just extremely confused by the “climax” of the short story. One of my biggest pet peeves in short stories is when something suddenly happens without any prior hints having been dropped before the event. I don’t mean blindsided/plot twist sort of events, even those have foreshadowing we don’t realize until it happens – I mean just complete shifts without the subtlest of warnings. That happens here, and from that point on I was both disappointed and somewhat angry. It just didn’t do it for me. The whole premise was really interesting, I do have to point that out. I was really hoping it would go somewhere other than what actually happened, so yea, disappointed.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

This story… this story was my least favorite and I could barely bring myself to read it. Not only was it convoluted and confusing, the characters were practically impossible to connect with. I didn’t understand any of it, and for that reason I simply skimmed over the words without trying to discern the meaning. It was really upsetting, I wanted to like it – but more than anything, I wanted to know what was going on. It just went right over the top of my head without as much as a warning or a goodbye. It seemed very interesting, at least what I could get out of it did, but it was far too little and much too late.

So my favorites out of this anthology are:

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?

Welcome to Christmas, CA

Least favorite:

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer

 

Overall, I definitely recommend this anthology to anyone looking for a fun Christmas read. You don’t have to read it all in one go considering each story is a standalone and the only thing connecting them all is the spirit of the holidays. My True Love Gave To Me really is an amazing anthology and I am so grateful I got the chance to read and review it. My only problem was that almost every single story ending with someone kissing, but that was a minor annoyance that in no way affected how I feel about this book as a whole. I blew through this book yesterday like it was nobody’s business – I came down with something and feel like I got hit by a freight train, so all I did was read and sleep all day. So worth it, trust me, this book is so, so worth it.

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Waiting On Wednesday # 14

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted each week by Breaking the Spine and lets us spotlight a book that we are eagerly waiting to be released.

This weeks Waiting On Wednesday is Zero Day by Jan Gangsei!

Publication: January 12th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary from Goodreads:

Eight years ago, Addie Webster was the victim of the most notorious kidnapping case of the decade. Addie vanished—and her high-profile parents were forced to move on.

Mark Webster is now president of the United States, fighting to keep the oval office after a tumultuous first term. Then, the unthinkable happens: the president’s daughter resurfaces. Addie is brought back into her family’s fold, but who is this sixteen-year-old girl with a quiet, burning intelligence now living in the White House? There are those in the president’s political circle who find her timely return suspicious.

When the NSA approaches Darrow Fergusson, Addie’s childhood best friend and the son of the president’s chief of staff, he doesn’t know what to think. How could this slip of a girl be a threat to national security? But at the risk of having his own secrets exposed by the powerful government agency, Darrow agrees to spy on Addie.

It soon becomes apparent that Addie is much more than the traumatized victim of a sick political fringe group. Addie has come with a mission. Will she choose to complete it? And what will happen if she does?

This book sounds like the Salt and every other spy/White House movie’s love child. And, I CAN’T WAIT TO READ IT! It sounds so action packed, so high stakes – I honestly cannot wait for whatever emotional turmoil will follow reading this book. I feel the need to start humming the Mission Impossible theme song as I type this just because I can.  You can expect me to be all over this beautiful thing as soon as it comes out.

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Teaser Tuesday # 14

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading

This weeks Teaser Tuesday is for My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins!

“You’re a kaleidoscope, you change every time I look away.”
― Rainbow Rowell

“He says presents aren’t important, but I think they are – not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say I understand you.”
― David Levithan

“But people don’t need to remember how it felt to be happy and safe in the past. They need to have hope that they can get there again in the future.”
― Kiersten White

“Shame leads to secrets, and secrets lead to lies, and lies ruin everything.”
― Stephanie Perkins

“Sweetheart, when you lose someone, you lose a little bit of yourself, too. And that missing piece? Sometimes you have to lose the rest of yourself to find it.”
― Ally Carter

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Not If I See You First

 

“Every night I get to add a gold star if I earn it. Tonight’s makes eighty-one gold stars. Eighty-one consecutive days without crying.”

Title: Not If I See You First

Author: Eric Lindstrom

Series: Standalone

Publication: December 1st 2015 by Poppy

Pages: 320

Source: Author signing at ALA Annual

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

 

The Rules:

  1. Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.
  2. Don’t touch me without asking or warning me. I can’t see it coming, I will always be surprised , and I will probably hurt you.
  3. Don’t touch my cane or any of my stuff. I need everything to be exactly where I left it. Obviously.
  4. Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me.
  5. Don’t talk extra loud to me. I’m not deaf. You’d be surprised how often this happens. And if you’re not surprised, you ought to be.
  6. Don’t talk to people I’m with like they’re my handlers. And yes, this also happens all the time.
  7. Don’t speak for me, either. Not to anyone, not even your own friends or your kids. Remember, you’re not my handler.
  8. Don’t treat me like I’m stupid or a child. Blind doesn’t mean brain damaged, so don’t speak slowly or use small words. Do I really have to explain this?
  9. Don’t enter or leave my area without saying so. Otherwise, I won’t even know if you’re there. It’s just common courtesy.
  10. Don’t make sounds to help or guide me. It’s just silly and rude, and believe me, you’ll be the one who looks stupid and ends up embarrassed, not me.
  11. Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.

Rule # Infinity. There are NO second chances. Violate my trust and I’ll never trust you again. Betrayal is unforgivable.

 

My Thoughts:

This book is the epitome of all the right feels in all the right places. Honestly, Not If I See You First is an absolutely amazing read that will both rock your socks off and gut punch you all at the same time. In this unforgettable debut, Eric Lindstrom has crafted something that has tethered itself deep into my veins –  the very roots of everything I am. I don’t know how to describe what this book did to me. At first I thought it was just meh, but as soon as I started to think about it I realized just how much I was connecting to each and every tiny detail this book had to offer.

Not If I See You First is a story of navigating heartbreak and redemption. It is a story of love, friendship, loss, and inner turmoil. It was breathtaking. I think I fell in love with Parker, our protagonist, from the very fist page – and by the end of the prologue I was complexly hooked and unable to put it down. I read through more than half of the book on Saturday alone and I finished it early Sunday morning. Guys… I read through the book basically for the duration of Reed Family Christmas – that once a year event that makes my heart hurt and my head go pitter patter – wait, did I put that in the right order? Who cares, you get the picture. I think I sat with my nose in this book for the entire night save for the gift exchange and when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer – I thought my Nana was going to take the book from me and make me socialize (the horror).

Parker Grant. Oh my goodness, Parker Grant is the perfect, most astounding, unlikable lovable character in existence. She is complex, complicated, crazy, and…. I was trying to come up with six C words like her soda ( C-6), but nope. She has become one of my favorite characters of all time, not just because I can relate with the fact that she can’t see (Reminder, I am legally blind in one eye). Parker is a very interesting character, and like I said, she isn’t really likable – but I love her for it. She’s a bitch really; a brutally honest bitch that can’t tell when you flinch so she doesn’t care – and I respect that. Of course she is still kind/tender-hearted and all that jazz, but it isn’t a main part of her character. If anything, her usual lack of empathy is a huge part of her character development throughout the course of the book. Now, Parker has her reasons, and her rules, for the way she acts. She had her heart broken in the eighth grade – and I mean broken: ripped out of her chest, stomped on, and crushed by someone she whole-heartedly loved. Or so she thinks – more on that later. But, because of what happened (which I’m not going to describe) she has virtually shut every person out except for a select few, and I don’t blame her one bit. Parker has a razor sharp wit and she isn’t afraid to use it on anyone that crosses her path, which makes for some extremely entertaining encounters. She is a lot of things really – witty, hilarious, stubborn, untouchable, broken inside – but above all, she is a fighter. I think that was part of what I identified with most, how much she fought just to be normal when she and what was going on around her was everything but. That big break down she finally has? Yup, I’ve done that, in public, in the middle of the freaken quad too. It’s nice to know you’re not alone.

As for the other characters in this book, holy guacamole I need me some of them. Sarah, Molly, Faith… ugh, ultimate squad goals right there folks. I have my own squad, rest assured, and I love them all to pieces – but Parker’s squad is literary gold. Each and every supporting character in this book is well rounded, complex, and a necessary component to the story itself. I always hate it characters are there just to be there – but that is not the case here. These guys are key players in every way, shape, and form possible. Considering that friendship is a huge part of this book, they sort of needed to be essential players – and Lindstrom killed it, knocked it out of the park, and any other euphemism you can come up with meaning he kicked its ass into last week in such a way that it enjoyed the trip.

Considering pretty much the entire conflict in this book is centered around Parker’s broken heart, I might as well talk about the romance – or the lack thereof. This book doesn’t need the romance to keep it afloat, if anything, I think it would have weighed it down with its unnecessary tropes. There is still faint hints of romance, don’t get me wrong or anything, but it’s so minuscule that it might as well have never existed at all. This book is entirely about Parker and her relationships with others, but it mostly focused on her internal healing after everything she’s been through. The faint hints of romance with Scott and Jason is something that helps her along the way. It isn’t overly cheesy, or overly anything really – it’s just right and the only way it should have been. Mr. Lindstrom deserves a round of applause for that folks. There is this one part that makes me squeal, and it’s where I am assuming the title comes from. Scott, he’s the main man squeeze here, has been friends with Parker since forever basically. After she went blind, instead of saying goodbye – they now have this thing where when one of them says “I’ll see you later”, the other responds with “Not if I see you first.” And, ugh, the feels. That’s all I have to say about that.

Not If I See You First shares an amazing message about the path of healing: the first step towards healing begins with yourself. Nothing about this book is contrived, each and every tiny little aspect on the pages are balanced and illustrated in such a way as to bring about the closest form of perfection possible. This book is satisfying in all the ways a good book should be. If there is one thing to add to your last minute Christmas wish list, this is definitely it.

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