Second Chance Sunday – I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler

Second Chance Sunday – I’m Not Her by Janet GurtlerI'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Published: 2011
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"For the first time in my life, I didn't feel envy..." Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that's okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. But, the smiles of her picture perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn't hold it together, who will? Janet Gurtler tests the bonds of sisterhood in this moving debut that readers of Jodi Picoult and Sarah Dessen will savor.

Okay, I’m going to admit to the thing you should never admit to. I waited to read this book because of the cover. I know right? I did the cliche thing and judged a book by its cover. Well shame on me because I’m Not Her was a story that should be read immediately and should be read often. The cover says nothing about the amazingness in the pages and the heartbreaking story of a family having to deal with something no family should have to be put through. This book made me smile and cry and smile again.

I’m Not Her is about Tess, an invisible freshman to her uber popular big sister Kristina. Kristina is everything Tess isn’t. She’s popular, she’s the start of the volleyball team, she’s lusted after by boys. She is the all around package. Tess on the other hand is an artist, has one friend, and wants to be in the National Honor Society. Kristina seems to have it all and then the unthinkable happens; she is diagnosed with cancer and Tess’s world does a complete 180. All of a sudden she is no longer invisible. The popular kids want to be around her. She is invited to parties. She has “friends”. And while things look to looking up at school, everything Tess knows is falling apart. Her family is hanging on by a thread, her sister is deteriorating right in front of her eyes and all of Tess’s dreams are vanishing with every trip to the hospital. All Tess wants is for her sister to get well and things to go back to normal. She wants people to realize she isn’t her sister and has her own dreams.

Can I just tell you Tess really got to me! She was by far the strongest person in this book. She was the only one that was holding her family together. I mean I can’t imagine what a parent would feel if they found out their seemingly perfectly healthy daughter had cancer, but Tess and Kristina’s parents just completely checked out. They didn’t check out on Kristina per say. They took her to her appointments and were by her side, but they weren’t really there. They ignored Tess except when they needed her and never listened to anything Tess, Kristina or even the doctors were saying. Tess was the only one that was emotionally supportive to her sister and it wasn’t in a way that was in your face. Actually it seemed to Tess that she couldn’t do anything right where Kristina was concerned, but I got the complete opposite out of it because Tess was the one that Kristina trusted. She was the one that she leaned on and unleashed her anger. She relied on her sister and Tess was there every step of the way, her dream be damned.

This book was really a powerful and moving story about family relationships and what happens when the unthinkable is brought in. It’s a story of loss and strength and survival. It isn’t a story about cancer, but a story about dealing with cancer and how it effects the lives of the people that don’t have it. It is a book that I’m glad I read and won’t soon forget.

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Second Chance Sunday – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Second Chance Sunday – Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsMockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #3
Published by Scholastic Press
Published: August 24, 2010
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My name is Katniss Everdeen.Why am I not dead?I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

What to say about Mockingjay? Mockingjay was completely different than the other two but just as fantastic.

In Mockingjay, you learn what was truly going on in Catching Fire and how it was all set in motion by the Head Gamemaker to stage a rebellion by the people of District 13, the long assumed dead district. District 12 has been destroyed, Katniss and her family and friends, including Gale, are now living underground in 13 with Finnick, Beetee and a whole new cast of characters. Peeta is a prisoner of the Capitol and President Snow and Katniss’s world is completely upside down. Her emotions are all over the place. She feels guilty for what she has put people through, she feels hatred for what Snow has put her and everyone else through, angry at what the people of 13 expect her to do(including her mentor Haymitch) and she feels complete agony over the fact that Peeta isn’t there with her through anything.

Slowly she begins to gain her strength and make the decisions that set her apart from everyone else in the other two books and the strong Katniss we all know and adore arrives. but she arrives not without consequences. Her life is even more peril then it was in the other parts of the story and it is from two opposing forces: one that will stab you in the front and one that will stab you in the back. And while all this is going on, Peeta now seems to hate her since Snow turned him on the one thing he said he would always love.

There are so many twists and turns you have no idea who to trust and what side is the side you should be rooting for to conquer all.

In the end, Mockingjay will rip your heart out into tiny pieces and leave you in tears at parts. The things that Katniss has to survive yet again are just unbearable. The change of her best friend, the loss of the Peeta she has come to rely on, the death of Prim, her world completely changing for her. And through all that, she comes out on top. She may be a little more broken then when the series started, but like she was once told, they had all been changed forever.

The Hunger Games series is one of the best I have ever read. Everyone needs to pick these books up.

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Second Chance Sunday – Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Second Chance Sunday – Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #2
Published by Scholastic Press
Published: September 1st 2009
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Sparks are igniting.
Flames are spreading.
And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Catching Fire was absolutely amazing. If I could give it 6 stars I would! Poor Katniss just can’t catch a break. She survives the first Hunger Games which is barbaric at best and is then sent home to resume a “normal” life. only her life is anything but normal. She is tormented by her thoughts and memories, by the nights she lived in the arena with little hope of survival for both her and the boy that had become so important to her. And to top it all off everyone she knows and loves is put into danger because of a choice she made that at the time wasn’t a big deal, but ended up being seen as a major act of defiance for a government that was trying to control its people with a very short leash. She does everything in her power to try to make things right but what she slowly realizes is that it’s too late. She has no say anymore in what will unfold because it has already been decided. She will enter the Hunger Games one more time and she will enter with 23 other victors including her love Peeta.

It’s a story about what you really can survive when your back is against the wall and what becomes important to a person that has everything on the line. Lives are lost, friendships severed, secrets explode. You can feel everything Katniss feels, see everything she sees and understand all the decisions she makes. The end will leave you gaping in shock as you try to piece together exactly what was happening and who was behind it all.

Peeta and Katniss broke my heart in this book as they tried so very hard to keep the other alive even if it meant the loss of their own life.

A definite must read. This book will stay with me for a long long time.


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Second Chance Sunday – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Second Chance Sunday – The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Published by Scholastic Inc.
Published: September 14th 2008
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In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games," a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

So I must admit, I really tried to rebel and not read this book like I did with Twilight(and will continue to do), but after the 7th person told me to read it and someone voted for Peeta on the book boyfriend list I created I caved. I bought it on my NOOK for a markdown price and I was thrilled. In my head, I’m thinking why pay full price for a book that I have no interest in. Truth is, I would have paid 100 times what I did for the first one it was that good! I am completely, totally, 100% a fan of The Hunger Games.

I thought the names were going to bother me because they were so unusual, but they didn’t and that’s because the characters were so unusual. It is very rare to find such an amazing heroine like Katniss. She is strong and smart and quick with a rare charm that most don’t notice. She is what little girls should dream about being. She is a survivor and that is in her blood. And then there is Peeta. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Basically says what he feels and what he is thinking. He is the weaker of the two yet when put together these two are unstoppable…well mostly. Obstacle after obstacle finds both of them and they deal with them not like the 16-year-old’s they are, but like adults aged well beyond their years.

I was on the edge of my seat the whole entire time I was reading yet I couldn’t seem to stop. I didn’t want to put it down. As I said at one point, The Hunger Games is the reality show from hell, but definitely worth the price of admission. Everyone needs to read this book and don’t be stubborn like me.


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Discussion Second Chance Sunday – My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Like we did for a handful of other books Michelle(Galleysmith) and I also discussed My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. As you can tell we had vastly different star ratings but both enjoyed the book all the same.


myTitle: My Life Next Door [Amazon]
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick [website]
Genre:  Contemporary
Publisher: Dial
Source/Type: Purchase/Hardcover
Stars: 5 out of 5 me, 3 out of 5 Michelle

Publisher Description:
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

M: Ok, so I’m seriously never having that many kids!  Can you imagine?  Egads!!  I mean, I adored how close they were and how they were so protective of their family, but I just can’t imagine how difficult it is to maintain those relationships.  Seriously, Jase is the prime example — he’s the strong stable influence who is the caretaker (the surrogate father really) and doesn’t have much opportunity to be who he really wants to be.  BUT, this also makes him so super appealing because he cares so deeply.

A: I think the fact that Jase was such a strong parental unit for all of those kids is what endeared me to him. Those kids needed structure and sadly he was the only one that was really able to provide it and that shouldn’t have been his job. He should have been getting into trouble with Samantha and not having to deal with his parents decisions. Just the thought of dealing with 8 kids made me feel physically ill! NO THANK YOU!

M:  In that way I had to suspend a bit of reality.  I just couldn’t see how two parents would actively continue to have that many kids when they knew they had to rely on one of them to take care of the others.  I mean, big families are fantastic and I do think there is something to be said for teamwork but I kind of related to Samantha’s mom in the “this may not be the most responsible choice” department.  Sure, she was a total judgemental bitch and went about it the wrong way but was she 100% wrong about the fact that maybe Jase’s parents bit off more than they could chew?

A: Oh, I agree 100% there! The one and only time I agreed with Samantha’s mom was with her thoughts on the Garrett’s, having all those kids. But man did that woman suck! As irresponsible as the Garrett’s were, they were WAY BETTER parents than Samantha’s mother. ARGH I hated that woman! Everything she did just got on my nerves. She was so overbearing and abrupt. And it was so obvious she hated children, hers included!

M: Ha, so true!  She was definitely not built for kids.

*spoiler alert*

I was pretty surprised at how easily she was convinced to cover-up the accident.  I get that she had a political career and I also think it fit her personality, to an extent, but it felt way over the top and forced.  That guy who was the campaign manager was a bit of a charicature of the evil foe.  I might have found mom’s keeping the big bad a secret if he’d been a bit more appealing and manipulative than he was.  All we saw was this guy who was a good double talker, I never quite latched on to what it was about it (outside of his political prowess) that appealed to the mother.  Heck, I didn’t even see the reasoning that she was simply lonely.  Had that element, or something to that effect, had been built in I think I would have been more understanding of mom’s desire to cover this big bad up.  Not only that but virtually blackmail her daughter to keep it a secret as well.

A: That actually didn’t surprise me at all. Right from the start the mother was completely all about herself, appearances and her career. She wanted her children to be perfect so she would seem perfect. The vacuuming was a key part of that for me. Honestly I thought she was bi-polar at some points since she acted so manically with Samantha and so controlling. I’ve seen a parent like that through a friend of mine so I honestly wasn’t surprised at all. I was surprised by the Garretts’ reaction to the news. As much as I loved this book, and I did love it to pieces, I thought their reaction was very anti-climactic.

What did you think about that? And while we are on the anti-climactic portion of this ride, what did you think about the whole Nan thing? Personally I thought she sucked, but that’s just me.

M: So true, the Garrett’s reaction and ultimate acceptance was convenient.  I can’t imagine many would be so easy going about something so devastating to their family.  It was great for the romance between Jase and Samantha but that too seemed a bit unbelievable.  What teen boy (no matter how swoon-worthy) is going to chase after a girl who kept such a secret?  a secret that has such a huge impact on the lives of his family.  It actually seemed a bit out of character for Jase to be all about Sam in that case as opposed to more concerned for his family, particularly given his role as primary care-taker.

As for Nan, I thought she was unnecessary.  She didn’t hurt the story but I didn’t feel like she was all that essential. Particularly given the fact that there was plenty of conflict in the story (Sam’s relationship with her mom, the accident with Jase’s father, her secret romance, etc).  If anything it would have been nice for her to have some support somewhere.  Someone she could go to for support.

To that end what about Samantha’s sister?  Thoughts on her role in the whole thing?

A: The sister was another character that I hated. She was so selfish and didn’t think of anyone but herself. She just took off for the summer and lived her life while leaving Samantha in a house with a blatantly crazy mother! I just didn’t think it was fair of her. I also didn’t get that she cared one iota about her sister. She basically was all about getting some from her boyfriend and the drama she could create in her head. She brushed off everything Samantha said and that bothered me.

But really all of this was secondary to me for the most part. Even the accident. I have to admit the reason I loved the book so much, the writing aside, was the romance. The way it unfolded seemed so completely real and innocent and exactly like a teenage first love story should go. I just ate every single part of Jase and Samantha up. From their first date, to their first kiss, to their first fight. Add in a friendship with Tim and I was hooked. What did you think about all of that?

M:  I don’t know, I kind of got the sister a little bit.  She’d already experienced the crazy and finally had her out.  She didn’t give a crap about how people felt about her behavior anymore and was willing to get herself out of the situation.  I suspect Samantha might have done some of the same given the opportunity.  Having said that, I do think the sister could have removed herself from the situation and still been more supportive of Samantha’s predicaments.  At the very least she could have been a sounding board or given advice on how she handled the crazy.

Ahhhh, yes the romance.  That really was the best part of the book.  I did find myself wondering how he was suddenly so interested in her, particularly given the fact that he’d known for some time that she’d been watching his family.  However, that issue is easily overlooked because they were so sweet with each other.  I was glad that there were some bumpy times too.  If it were too sticky sweet that would have turned me off.

Oh, Tim! Timmy, Tim, Tim.  He may well be one of my most favorite characters in the book.  His relentless pursuit of Jase’s sister was such great comic relief from the drama.  I’d actually be interested to see a companion book based on him.  His character progression was definitely the deepest given his addictions and wrong-turns in life.  I found myself looking forward to seeing how he was doing when he popped up.  The fact that he ended up being a better friend to Samantha (and by extension becoming a good friend of Jase) than his sister was a great development in the story.

A: I loved the comedic timing of Tim! It added an extra element to the book that just made the whole story better. Bringing him into the fold and using his drug problem at different parts of the story was spot on. I loved the progression of this character and the message that it gave that not everything is so hopeless. All you need is someone to believe in you and give you a chance. You know?

M: I do!  Overall, I thought the book had a message of hope.  Samantha’s desire to be part of something larger than herself and to feel a sense of belonging was finally fulfilled with Jase and his family.  She also learned that doing the right thing despite the consequences is always the best course of action.

*original post HERE

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