Second Chance Sunday – Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Today’s Second Chance Sunday is brought to you by Trish Doller and her amazing debut Something Like Normal. Before I post the review let me tell you one thing: I read this book originally on Netgalley but loved it so much I went out and bought a copy just so I would have it always. You’ve been warned.

something

 

Title: Something Like Normal[Amazon]
Author: Trish Doller[website]
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Purchased/Hardcover
Stars: 5 out of 5

Publisher Description:
When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

My Thoughts:
Amazing!!!! Simply put this book was amazing! The story is told in such a way that it dragged me immediately. I wanted to be friends with Harper, hang out with Travis’ mom and date Travis. I wanted to be right in the middle of the action and at times I felt like I was.

Basically Something Like Normal is about Travis, an active Marine home on leave from Afghanistan for a month, and the adjustments he has to make to life back in the states. Before joining the Marines Travis was not the best of kids. He smoked pot, butted heads with his father over his lack of love for football, and had a girlfriend that was no good for him. Now back and bogged down with nightmares and guilt, Travis has to put the pieces of his life together. His once happy parents are anything but and his girlfriend is now with the last person Travis expected. Unsure where he stands in all of it or how to fit in Travis runs into the one person that could get to him. He runs into Harper, his first kiss and the girl he destroyed. Harper has the potential to make nothing the same for him again or to make him feel something like normal.

What I really liked the most about this book is the fact that it is told entirely from Travis’ point of view. I had read a military book previously that was told from the prospective of the female character and what happens while he was away. With Something Like Normal I got a look at what I really wanted to know, what happens when you come back, even if it is for a short period of time. Travis gave me that glimpse into what it is like to have everything feel off kilter and not to know which end is up. And it was done with humor and heartache and uncertainty. It is difficult to get the voice right for a guy. If you go too crass you can make the character come across as sounding, for lack of a better word, douchey. But Doller managed to make Travis sound genuine and loveable. No wonder Harper couldn’t stay away. I don’t think I could either. He kind of had a way about him that could just melt your heart.

Really, it is very rare that I will willingly give up sleep to finish a book in a full day, but this one I did and I don’t regret one minute of lost sleep. Doller’s debut novel is wonderfully done and should be praised. This one is definitely a keeper and I look forward to reading more from her in the future. Oh and how do I get a Travis of my own?! ♥

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The Colors of Love, er um, Pink and Red

Well if you are anything like me, you loathe Valentine’s Day. Well not loathe, that is too strong a word, maybe mildly dislike. All the over priced flowers and candy and dinners. The little chubby cupid decorations all over the place and an abundance of hearts. To me it used to be a day I would wear black in protest. Bust as time has passed and I have evolved so has my Valentine’s Day style. Now instead of following a lot of the world’s population, I use the colors of love, pink and red in my own way.

Pink/Red

pinkbag

Stripes, riding boots, skinny jeans and a pink bag?! Um yes please! I am insane about mixing these pieces together. If stripes aren’t for you, substitute a button down shirt or a turtle neck sweater.

redbag

This is my, “I wish I had a ton of money” side talking. I mean come on, a Gucci bag and Christian Louboutin heels? Yeah like I could afford that. But doesn’t it look so pretty together? I figure this is my blog, I can fantasize if I want.

pinkshoe

I love mixing mint, navy and bright pink together. It is an unexpected color combination that I think works. If the pink of this shoe is too bright, think about a blush colored shoe for the same effect. And I don’t have to say anything about the bag. If you read you know how I feel about Michael and his Hamilton tote.

So, how do you wear the colors of love, red and pink?

Also today is the last day to enter the Giveaway for a Miranda Kenneally pre-order. Get your entries in by 11:59pm EST. Winner emailed on Monday February 11th.

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Review: Level 2 – Lenore Appelhans

level2

Title: Level 2 (The Memory Chronicles)[Amazon]
Author: Lenore Appelhans[website]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Dystopian Fantasy
Source/Type: Purchased/Hardcore
Stars: 5 of 5

Publisher Description:
Felicia Ward is dead. Trapped in a stark white afterlife limbo, she spends endless days replaying memories, of her family, friends, boyfriend … and of the guy who broke her heart. The guy who has just broken into Level 2 to find her.

Felicia learns that a rebellion is brewing, and it seems she is the key. Suspended between heaven and earth, she must make a choice. Between two worlds, two lives and two loves.

My Thoughts:
Since ARCs of this book started floating around I was dying to get my hands on this one. Every single person that read it seemed to have nothing but good things to say. All I heard everywhere was how fantastic it was and that made me nervous the closer it go to release date. I was scared that it may have ended up being in that category of just okay because of the all the hype I read. But I can very, very, very happily report that Level 2 isn’t all hype. It is a story, a great story, about love, loss and deciding when is the right time to move on when what matters most to you is gone.

Level 2 is about Felicia, a girl that has died too soon and is stuck somewhere between living and being a drone. She is trapped on what is known as Level 2 and only has her memories to help her get by. All the people around her are and even Felicia herself are content to watch endless memories on loop. That is until an anomaly happens and Julian, a guy from Felicia’s past arrives and nothing is the same. Suddenly Felicia has to decide which side she is on and if she wants to give up her memories of her happiest moments with Neil, her boyfriend left behind, in order to fight with Julian.

The book is told entirely from Felicia’s point of view which I liked because it let the reader get into her head and find out what kind of person her really is and decide if they wanted to root for her, which you will. It also allowed the reader to see why Felicia was so torn between Julian, who I ♥ by the way and Neil, who was great but kind of dull. I was able to understand her motivations in everything she did and why she fought to get her friend back and why she needed Neil so badly.  Felicia was definitely, excuse the pun since she is dead, a lost soul that was desperately trying to find herself and she needed Neil and Julian really to do that in both life and the afterlife and that came across the page perfectly.

Really. Appelhans wrote a thought provoking story with likeable characters and action to boot that didn’t seem inappropriate or muddled at all. She used memories to explain the back story but did it in a way that seemed new and different and not the tired old use of flashbacks that we have become accustomed to. This story was fresh and exciting and definitely worth the hype. Level 3 anyone?!?

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A February Summer

There is nothing I love more then a fun pair of shorts or a nice pair of jeans in the summer. Whether the shorts be a bright solid or a print of the jeans be an ankle pant of a boyfriend cut. Summer is the time to get out there and how off those legs. Below I have made a collage of summer bottoms that I love and chose three to style into complete looks. Some of the stuff is pricey and I got ever afford it, but this is my version of paper dolls so anything goes. What do you like to pair your summer bottoms with?

Summer Bottoms
Bottoms from: Gap, Old Navy, J. Crew, Target(click on the picture for links)
Casual Cool
This is the perfect put together look for running errands, lunch with your girlfriends or even a trip to the book store(if you can find one these days). The boyfriend cut of these jeans is casual enough that you can wear them all day and be comfortable. The button down shirt adds a bit of polish to the look with the shoes, bracelets and shades pulling it all together. Um, how awesome is the Rebecca Minkoff M.A.C. Mini?!? LOVE!
Cool Summer Nights
As much as we hate it it sometimes gets chilly at night in the summer. When it does I admit that I get a tad excited. Why you ask? Because of my favorite silhouettes is shorts and a long sleeve shirt. I don’t know what it is but I love how casual yet put together is looks. Here I have taken a gorgeous pair of royal blue shorts and paired it with a casual gray sweatshirt. Because the sweatshirt doesn’t have a hood it can be passed off as almost a sweater and just about anything can be worn under it, a plaid button down, a tee shirt, a tank top. It is extremely versatile and goes well with these embellished flat sandals and mint cross body bag.
 
Nautical

You’ve heard it time and time again, I’m obsessed with most things nautical. My friends tell me I aspire to be a member of the captain’s club, a group we have invented in our heads of very preppy people. And I’m not going to lie, I would love to be a member of the group. And what says Captain’s Club more then Sperry’s, Tory Birch and anchors? Um yeah, not much. Basically this is my dream outfit for a nice summer night of boating with say, Nomar Garciaparra.

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Discussion: Reunited – Hilary Weisman Graham

reunitedTitle: Reunited[Amazon]
Author: Hilary Weisman Graham[website]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Purchased/Hardcore
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:
1 Concert
2000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.

Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.

But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?

Discussion:
Michelle
: Road trip!!!!

Let me kick it off by saying this was one of the more realistic road trip books out there.  Not a lot of kitchy tourist stops or Americana to be had like some others in the genre.  I enjoyed that it was more of a right of passage and a bonding experience.  That the three (completely opposite) girls who drifted from BFFs to strangers came back together for a post-graduation last hurray felt real to me.  Not only that but the circumstances that brought them all to this place and time made perfect sense.

Andi: That’s a very good point. There was no stopping at the world’s biggest ball of twine, or seeing a massive ball of lint or some dead celeb’s grave stones. It was basically a story about three girls figuring out who they are and where they belong while holding on to something from their past, something that was completely pure and innocent before adolescence screwed everything up. But I have to admit I couldn’t shake the comparison to that Britney Spears’ movie Crossroads.

M:  Totally!  Thankfully there wasn’t that really annoying Britney Spears character though.  Speaking of which who was your favorite?  I found Alice to be just a tad bit too annoying.  Her desperation for the threesome to reconnect and for the trip to go smoothly was just slightly overbearing.  I get it, I do, and it wasn’t completely off-putting.  Her behavior did fit her personality in that anal retentive and needy way but it still felt way too desperate given the amount of time the girls had been separated from their childhood friendship.

In looking at the three I would say that Tiernan was my absolute fav.  Her attitude had me laughing and rooting for her.  The underlying vulnerability gave her that rootability that I enjoy in a character.

A: Tiernan was my favorite too. She was the one with spunk and had a spark about her that made her likable. Alice I didn’t find believable at all and Summer just seemed to vapid for me. And I hated that she kept talking to that jerk of a boyfriend. She wasn’t a strong girl at all. Now Tiernan, she was the one that stood up for herself and she had the best attitude. And some of her one liners were priceless. You could tell she acted “cool” and that being there didn’t mean anything to her, but I think it meant the most to her by far.

M:  That’s interesting because even though I wasn’t a huge Summer fan either I do think she was the character that developed most throughout the story.  She went from being the whiney popular girl who thought the other two were beneath her to being someone who was finally able to put herself on the same level as her peers.  In doing so she also got a backbone and gave the loser boyfriend the boot.

Alice being the doormat seemed to stay pretty stationary throughout the story.  She had her moment of strength at the end but even that felt slightly weak to me.  Like she was being forced into it so that she could have her “moment” of change like Summer and Tiernan did.

A: Yeah, Alice didn’t grow or do anything as a character for me at all. To me she was the girl that would raise her hand at the end of class when the teacher asked if anyone had questions and would say they needed homework. She was too much of a goody goody and I felt she judged her friends and never once loosened up and enjoyed herself with them. Actually to be honest she really got on my nerves and had to have been the most annoying teenager ever!

M:  HA!  Didn’t you just loathe those nerds?!  So, the roadtrip…

First, I’ll say that it made me think of you a little bit because the boy band was reminiscent of NKOTB and I know how you love you some of the boys!  The fact that they were road tripping to catch their farewell concert was inspired.  As reasons go this one was a good choice.  It, as we’ve mentioned, was a trip that was filled with pretty realistic events.  They met some quirky people, made some romantic connections, and ultimately found parts of themselves that they’d been long denying.  All without visiting the world’s largest ball of twine.

What I *really* appreciated was the fact that Tiernan’s mom showed up.  That even though her daughter left on the trip without telling her she didn’t just wave it off and leave fixing their problems for when she got home.  She chased her down and gave her crap.  I liked that a lot.

A: Me love NKOTB? What gave you that idea?! Could it be the four concerts I’ve gone to recently, the Danny Wood pin in my office or the New Kids hoodie I’m rocking in my Twitter profile pic?! HA

But seriously I totally agree with you. The reason for the road trip was so cute and innocent. It was something you don’t usually see in books. It kept the trip kind of cool and fun without it being a cliche mess of a road trip.

And I agree about Tiernan’s mom. In most books the parents just don’t seem to care about their children and they just let them runamuck, but I loved that Tiernan’s mom physically went after her and talked to her. Do I think it is believable that she would just be okay with the road trip after one chat with her daughter, not really, but it was a nice change of pace for her to go after her.

What did bother me though was the band part at the end. That was just way too out there for it really even happen! The chances of that are so slim that it took away some of the believability that had been building.

M:  Yea the believability scale of that ending was way more than I would expect not just the contest but the very end where it got wrapped up with a little bow.  That would NEVER happen.

Having said that I did enjoy this book.  It was a nice piece of fun and and certainly a quick entertaining read.  Definitely one to pick up after reading something more intense or dark.

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