What are your five sentences – The Rest of the Story!

Image result for the rest of the story sarah dessen

Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Harper Collins

I had forgotten how much I enjoy a good Sarah Dessen novel. Once you start reading and get immersed in a Sarah Dessen book, you feel like you are being enveloped in a big hug. It all feels so familiar, yet Dessen still manages to make every book different.

Reading Dessen is like taking a summer holiday in your favourite location. She writes about summer so beautifully. Summer always feels like it is full of possibilities – no matter what age you are, but particularly when you are a teenager. I do think Dessen has captured this feeling in The Rest of the Story.

Once I was immersed in this book, I really started to enjoy it. To begin with, I felt a little lost with the book, but once I began to get my head around all the characters, I couldn’t put the book down. I hope that Sarah Dessen writes another book with these characters because I felt like we only touched on their lives and I would like to know more about Bailey, Trinity, Jack, Mimi, Oxford and so on.

The book centres around seventeen-year-old Emma, who is being sent off to stay with her mother’s family for three weeks while her father honeymoons with his new wife.  When we are introduced to Emma we learn that she has anxiety problems, most likely stemming from the fact that her mother was an addict who died of an overdose and that her father has anxiety issues of his own arising from his relationship with Emma’s mother. This is where I thought the storyline was flawed. I know Emma wanted her father to go off and enjoy his honeymoon with his new wife, but I would imagine this would have been a somewhat stressful situation (going to live with family members who you haven’t seen in thirteen years and barely remember) and her anxiety would have been in peak overdrive. Dessen does then begin to introduce a slew of characters, so I guess Emma (like the reader) is so overwhelmed by all the characters that she doesn’t have time to be too anxious about her situation.

Emma finds herself immersed in her mother’s world. Her mother told her stories of the lake and Emma remembers that the stories always made her feel safe and happy, but she doesn’t remember actual specifics. Emma’s mother’s family runs an inexpensive motel on the working-class side of the lake named North Lake. The other side of the lake is called Lake North and belongs to the wealthy tourists – even the teenagers who work on Lake North are rich and privileged. Emma’s father worked as a sailing instructor at Lake North and this is how he met Emma’s mother.

Emma, herself, has led a life of opportunity and advantages and despite losing her mother to a drug overdose has never really had to struggle in life. Her father’s family obviously has money and Emma has never had to think much about money. Suddenly Emma finds herself in a world where everyone thinks about money, their jobs and paying bills. Despite her differences with her mother’s family, Emma finds a place working and socialising with her quirky and unpredictable cousins and their friends. She is starting to understand her place in her mother’s family and she is learning more of her mother’s story and in turn, her story.

Her sense of belonging though is suddenly interrupted when her father arrives with his new wife and his mother and Emma is expected to go stay in the ritzy resort on the other side of the lake. Emma’s world is once again turned upside down and she worries that the story she was only beginning to understand will be lost to her again.

I enjoyed this book, but I wanted more. I felt like I only started to get to know the characters and their stories when the book finished. I also felt like there were lots of stories I didn’t get to know. I wanted to learn more about Mimi, Oxford, Celeste, Jack, Taylor, Trinity, Gordon and so on. I wanted to know more about Roo and Emma. I also felt there was a whole story about Waverley (Emma’s mother) and Chris (Roo’s father) that was barely touched on – so much was left unanswered. There is a part of me that hopes Dessen will revisit these characters again, in maybe ten years. I would love to know what became of them all and I would like to immerse myself in their world once again.

“Well, you need to start asking people their five sentences…the basic idea is that since you meet a ton of people at the beginning of every summer, everyone has to condense their bio down to the main ideas. Thus, five sentences.

I love this idea of five sentences. Five sentences to describe yourself.

Born and bred here at North Lake. High school senior this fall. Work multiple jobs. Want to go to journalism school. Allergic to shellfish.

“Wow,” I said. “I didn’t see that shellfish part coming.”

“An element of surprise and oddity is crucial with this,” he told me.

What are your five sentences?? Remember you need a combination of facts, intrigue, as well as being random and memorable.

Jumpshot Photography of Woman in White and Yellow Dress Near Body of Water

 

Lovely War – not so lovely!

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Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking

I’d seen a lot of reviews for this book before I read it and I thought it would be a perfect read for me – an impressive mix of mythology, historical fiction and romance. I have to admit, though, that the majority of the book left me cold, it wasn’t until the last third that I became interested. Once again, I find myself at odds with most reviewers who loved the book. I liked this book, but I didn’t find it captivated me like I think a book of this magnitude should do.  I found it slightly dull, particularly the interaction of the characters with each other. I thought Berry’s writing lacked humour and it was all so so.

I do applaud Berry for her meticulously researched book that spans two wars and two worlds. The majority of the action revolves around four young people finding love, experiencing loss and discovering themselves during World War I, but the principal story is set during World War II – a romantic triangle between three Greek Gods: Aphrodite, the goddess of love; her husband, Hephaestus, the god of fire and Ares, the god of war.

I will admit that Berry manages to weave these two storylines together magnificently. She is quite a competent writer, but it lacks humour, charm and that something that makes you want to keep on reading and for the story to never end. Personally, I found the book quite tedious at times and there were many times that I consider not actually finishing the book. To be quite honest, I couldn’t wait for the book to end!

I did read from many reviewers that they were amused and delighted by the Immortals’ snarky comments and constant competition with one another. Though I was left bored and I didn’t find the storyline amusing.

Berry begins her story in a Manhattan hotel on the eve of World War II, Aphrodite and Ares have been caught together by Hephaestus – Aphrodite’s husband and Ares’ brother. Hephaestus gives Aphrodite a chance to explain herself and so she begins to weave an elaborate tale of mortal love during wartime.

Moving between the present and the past, the goddess’ narrative centres on Aubrey, an African-American musician, Colette, a Belgian singer; Hazel, a naïve British pianist; and her beau, James, a hopeful architect who are all brought together by fate during the First World War.

The resulting story told by Berry is visually beautiful and historically accurate. By having an African-American character, Berry can highlight the racism that occurred during this time and this gives the book a point of difference.

So what kept me reading besides my stubbornness to finish. Berry does write beautifully. Her sharp eye for detail is quite compelling. I found myself lost in her writing of places such as London and Paris. She captures the beauty and makes you wish it was you walking the cobblestone streets of Paris. She also depicted the French front remarkably well – the nightmare that those young soldiers went through and she makes you wonder how so many of them were able to come home to a relatively normal life after all that they had experienced and witnessed.

The first casualty of war is the truth.

The characters are beautifully written and quite authentic, but I didn’t find that they kept my attention. I found the conversations between the characters quite mind-numbing and I wanted more. I wanted to feel their vibrancy, their youth, their humour and their originality. I also wanted to be enchanted by the Gods, particularly Aphrodite. I did like the take that Berry took on Hades, God of the Dead and the Underworld; I thought that she showed an interesting side to this god and his story was one that did have me quite interested.

Many have said that this is an unforgettable romance, I disagree. The writing of the places is beautiful – Berry has a way of transporting you to another place and this is a gift, but I didn’t find the characters memorable and I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters. I read that this novel will make you laugh, cry and swoon, but I didn’t feel any of these emotions when reading Lovely War.

But in saying all of that, this is one book that I will keep because it is so sumptuously beautiful.

Heart, Love, Romance, Valentine, Harmony