My Best Everything

Today, thanks to NetGalley and the Great Southern Ice Event of 2015 (hopefully, the only ice event of the year), I bring you yet another post on a recent read. That book is My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp and is due to be released on March 3rd.

I finished reading My Best Everything at about 10:30 this morning, and I’ve been thinking about it since then. After a few hours, I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. It’s certainly an interesting read, but parts of it really bugged me. The entire scheme cooked up by the main characters seems thoroughly implausible to me, and the ending, while somewhat satisfying, was kind of anti-climactic. I expected a bigger fallout, especially considering exactly what our protagonists were involved in.

On a positive note, though, My Best Everything wasn’t at all the love story I was anticipating. It went much deeper than that. This book–which needs a better title, by the way–gave me a story that did touch on first loves, but it also delved into things like self-control, looking to the future, escaping one’s past, and making hard–and sometimes dangerous–choices to achieve one’s goals.

All Lulu can think about is getting out of her small town. She doesn’t want to be one of those girls who stays in Dale, Virginia, and never leaves. Lulu’s plans to go to college in San Diego, however, have just hit a major snag. Her father, a traveling businessman, has just lost all of Lulu’s college money. It looks like Lulu may have to stay in Dale after all.

Or will she? When a moonshine still is sent to the junkyard where Lulu works, Lulu and her friends cook up an insane–and totally illegal–money-making scheme. What if they make and sell moonshine this summer? How hard could it be?

Well, as it turns out, there’s more to making moonshine than Lulu, Roni, and Bucky thought, so they turn to Mason, a troubled young man whose family has a long history as shiners in Dale. Lulu is intrigued by Mason, his past, and his vast knowledge of moonshine, but she’s also drawn to the man he’s trying so desperately to become.

Even as she and her friends are getting more caught up in making moonshine, Lulu worries that her great plan could ultimately be Mason’s downfall. Can he, with all of his personal demons, handle what they’re doing? Can Lulu? And can their fledgling relationship survive all of the pressures to come? Lulu is still focused on leaving Dale forever, but what will that mean for Mason? Is she ready to say good-bye to this young man who has quickly become so important to her?

This summer, changes are on the way for Lulu, Mason, and their friends. Nothing will end up quite like they expect, and their moonshining venture will impact everything they thought about themselves and their plans for the future.

Will Lulu make it to San Diego? Will she stay with Mason? What will become of their business as moonshiners? Can a small group of kids really make something like this work? Or will all of their efforts blow up in their faces? Read My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp to find out.

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Maybe I’m alone in my sheltered little world, but I find the very thought of successful teenage moonshiners to be something of a stretch. In this book, though, the characters not only became moonshiners, but they also became pretty good at it. Yes, sometimes things didn’t go according to plan, and things didn’t quite end up like they’d hoped, but they really made a go of it. It was impressive…and disturbing.

Also, aside from the impact on the characters’ personal lives and relationships with others, there weren’t really any consequences for their highly illegal activities. I think that’s what bothered me the most about this book. The authorities weren’t even a real presence in the book, and some of the characters didn’t acknowledge being found out as a legitimate threat. I guess the rule-follower in me expected some sort of punishment for their actions, and, even though I would have likely rooted for the characters to escape the long arm of the law, I did want that arm to be present. Quite the conundrum.

I did like the way My Best Everything was written. Almost from the beginning, we know that the book is essentially a letter to Mason. But what kind of letter? Is Lulu telling him goodbye? Is she writing him a love letter? Is she simply trying to explain why things happened as they did? The reader never really knows, and that’s part of what I enjoyed about this book. Lulu lets us know that things didn’t happen the way she wanted them to, and, even at the end, we still don’t know what the future ultimately holds for her and Mason. It’s up to the reader to fill in those blanks.

For those who are considering purchasing this book for their libraries, I would urge some caution. My Best Everything is not a book I’d recommend to middle grade readers. In fact, I doubt I’d give this book to anyone under age sixteen. There are some complicated, adult situations–and loads of illegal activities–so this is definitely a book for older, more mature teen readers. Do with that what you will.

If you’re interested in learning more about My Best Everything and author Sarah Tomp, check out the author’s website, Twitter, and Goodreads. Enjoy!

Living Violet

I don’t know about you, but it’s rare for me to find supernatural books for teens that deviate from the standard middle-class, thin, perfect, white-girl heroine.  Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but my latest read, an ARC I received recently, found it’s way to me, and it provided a somewhat refreshing change from the typical paranormal romance.  The girl in Living Violet, the first book in The Cambion Chronicles by Jaime Reed, is a tough, no-nonsense, biracial girl who is careful with her heart and won’t give it away easily to anyone.  At least, not yet…

Samara is not like most of the girls around her. She respects her parents (most of the time, anyway), she’s a loyal friend, she expects people to accept her just as she is, she’s a hard worker…and she isn’t drooling over Caleb, the mysterious guy with the violet eyes who works with her at Buncha Books. Caleb’s not even all that hot, but he can’t keep the women off of him. Samara gets that his eyes may be kind of cool, but girls don’t usually go stark-raving mad because a guy has pretty eyes. What is it about him? And why has he suddenly decided that chasing Samara, the one girl who can resist him, is a great idea?

Soon, Samara’s curiosity gets the best of her, and she and Caleb strike up an unlikely friendship.  Samara is driven by her need to know more about the enigma that is Caleb…particularly why the girls he “cavorts” with tend to end up in the hospital with heart failure.  As Caleb slowly reveals his secrets to Samara, she is both repulsed and intrigued. 

Samara wants to know more about Caleb’s “condition” and how she can possibly help him fight the demon within.  Will she be able to help him without losing herself?  When someone from Caleb’s past enters the picture and threatens everything and everyone Samara holds dear, will Samara and Caleb, who are just figuring out their feelings for each other, be strong enough to fight something determined to tear them apart?  Read Living Violet, the first book in Jaime Reed’s Cambion Chronicles, to find out!

Living Violet is a nice first book in what promises to be an interesting series.  This was a fairly quick read that will appeal to females, especially those who don’t really feel represented in standard YA paranormal fiction.  A biracial girl living in the South has very different experiences than, say, a pasty white girl who moves to Washington.  (This is coming from a pasty white girl who lives in the South.)  

Since I received an uncorrected proof of this book, there were some glaring grammatical errors that distracted me a bit, but I’m sure those have been corrected for the final printing.  All in all, though, I liked this book, and I would recommend it to any high school or young adult library collection.

Living Violet is currently available wherever books are sold, and the sequel, Burning Emerald (a spectacular title givin the way the first book ended), is set for a June 2012 release.  If you’d like more information about The Cambion Chronicles or author Jaime Reed, visit http://jreedwriteordie.blogspot.com/.

Mercy Creek

So, I just finished reading Mercy Creek by Matt Matthews–which is good since I’ll be meeting the author tomorrow night.  (He lives just a few miles away from me, so a bunch of librarians and teachers are joining him for dinner and a discussion of his book.)  Should be interesting…

Mercy Creek takes place in a sleepy Virginia town where things haven’t changed much in the last fifty years or so.  The same families live in the same houses, attend the same churches, and hold onto the same old grudges and secrets.  Sixteen-year-old Isaac has lived in this town his entire life.  His father is the local Presbyterian minister, his mother recently passed away, his girlfriend is drifting away from him, and his summer is filled with working at a hardware store instead of playing baseball with this friends.  The only bright spot that Isaac can see is the $5,000 reward being offered to whoever can find who’s responsible for a recent string of vandalism.  That money would go a long way to making Isaac a little happier.  But can he find out what’s going on…without risking his neck?

As Isaac begins digging for information, he comes across some unexpected secrets in his small town.  Prejudices that no one wants to admit to.  Atrocities that the whole town has turned a blind eye to for decades.  Isaac keeps searching for answers amid all of the secrecy, and he finds something he didn’t expect.  Himself.  His hunt for the truth forces him to grow into the person he wants to be instead of the one he’s been since his mother died.  He also finds a friend in someone who knows more about what’s going on in this town than he’s saying.  Can Isaac find the truth before someone gets hurt?  And can he learn to accept the changes around him, including those within his own life?  Read Mercy Creek by Matt Matthews to find out.

I’ll admit to you, dear readers, that it took me a while to get into this book.  It seemed to jump around a lot at the beginning.  (Of course, I was reading an uncorrected proof of the book, so those issues may have been fixed in editing.  I hope so.)  As I kept reading, however, the story grew more interesting, especially since Isaac’s town has a lot in common with the small town I grew up in (and still live in).  Prejudices run deep, and they’re often passed on to the younger generations.  It’s nice to read a book that exposes those prejudices for what they are–complete and total ignorance–while not being too preachy (which is odd since the author of this book is actually a preacher).

I look forward to meeting Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, tomorrow night.  I’ll post a recap of that meeting in the comments, so stay tuned!