Breaking the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli

So things have changed a little since the last time I posted. I hope to get back to some of my normal posting soon (like updating my 1980 challenge, which is a lot easier to complete these days than say my 40-for-40 challenge), but I finished my first book in nearly two months, so I thought I should post while I’m still feeling it. I hope you and yours are well and you’re making it through this crazy quarantine time. Some days are better than others, which is probably always true, but these days there’s not much else to think about (except for…*gestures wildly at everything*).

46028668._SY475_I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Iacopelli’s writing for nearly a decade as she was one of my favorite fanfic writers for one of my early 2010s guilty pleasure shows that doesn’t really hold up in the later half of the decade for a lot of reasons. She’s written novels before, but when I heard that she was finally writing a gymnastics novel, I was SO IN. I immediately requested it on Libby.

I was all set to read it on the plane either to Paris or from Paris. However, on the way to Paris, I spent more time trying to sleep without touching things and on the way home, I was just really anxious to land back in the US with the world falling apart around me. I started it once I got home and began my quarantine a few days before everyone else in the City, but the library loan ran out before I could finish it. That’s not a knock on Iacopelli’s writing; I couldn’t really concentrate on anything in the early days of our stay-at-home order. Immediately, I put in back on hold and six weeks later, it became available this weekend. In the last couple of days, I finished devouring this novel, and I’m kinda mad it’s over.

Breaking the Fall follows one elite gymnast on the cusp of the 2020 Olympics, when scandal rocks the national team (shades of 2016). Audrey Lee is kind of an Aly Raisman type, who is the anchor of the team and the captain without trying, who shocks everyone who isn’t paying attention with her success. Nothing is easy when everything you know has been taken from you and yet, you’re still expected to go out there and achieve your dream. Plus, there’s a cute boy who likes you. I flew through the second half of this book after dinner, and even though you’re pretty sure how it’s all going to go down, I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

It was the perfect balm for a world gone topsy-turvy, giving just enough gymnastics to keep me happy, while really delving into what sports, friendship, and positivity can do for you, in a non-cheesy way. I loved it.

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick

5644891I added this book to my TBR list after Meg Cabot mentioned her essay in it. I was a voracious reader as a child and still have fond memories of many of the books I devoured during that time. I was excited to read about those book by other people who enjoyed them as I did.

However, it turns out that with the exception of Meg Cabot’s essay and about three others, I hadn’t read any of the other “teen classics” mentioned herein. I guess my devotion to “Sweet Valley Twins,” “Sleepover Friends” and “The Fabulous Five” series limited my other reading possibilities. I really did enjoy Meg’s essay about Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret as well as the author’s essay about Little House in the Big Woods. I was happy to see the inclusion It’s Not The End of the World, but it’s “extra credit” write up left a lot to be desired.

I ended up skimming most of this book since the essays assume episodic knowledge of the book being discussed. Since I’m not a serial re-reader of anything, much less novels I read as a child, it was hard to follow most of the essays, even those about books I had read. Disappointing.

I also gave up on page 5 of Hating Valentine’s Day. Just knew it wasn’t going to be a book I would enjoy. I’m really trying to read all the Red Dress Ink books, but that one just wasn’t going to cut it for me.

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

9461872Outing myself as a big geek, but in the Lois & Clark fandom, there’s a term called WHAM which stands for “Wistful, Heartwrenching, Agonizing Moment” and is defined as “When something Really Bad happens.” I had read somewhere in the press leading up to the release of a FIFTH book that there was a WHAM about halfway through Sisterhood Everlasting, but that was wrong.

It happens around page 50. And from then on, it just sort of settles on your heart.

Usually I don’t give a fuck about spoilers because books aren’t like TV shows and no one’s going to read them in the order that you do, but in this particular case, I’m going to try to be vague because it really is worth the WHAM.

Given my particular history with the nature of the event, I almost put the book down and sent it back to Amazon. I’ve lived through the aftermath, more than once and had no inclination to relive that period in my life. So I put it down for a couple of days and tonight, I just picked it up again. I had to know how it ended for the Sisterhood girls. I read for three hours, straight through, just needing to know how it turned out.

The girls are all now 30, just like me. And even though I’m not an actress or a painter or whatever, I could see pieces of myself in them, just like always. I cried more than once and I still feel a little teary-eyed in the aftermath. I want to call my girls, the ones that have babies and dissertations and dogs and jobs, but we still find time to exchange 27 emails about finding a place for dinner two weeks ago.

So many books about women, the genre I read almost exclusively, has one character with a likeable flaw and a plucky best friend who tells them they are awesome or whatever and that flaw turns out to be a strength and the guy comes by with flowers and everyone lives happily ever after. I loved and hated this book because real friendship, especially after college, isn’t like that. We all get busy with those babies and husbands and jobs and lives and it can be really easy to just let go or send the annual Christmas card with a bland update about vacations and first steps and promotions. I guess it just reminded me that even when I feel lonely, I’m so lucky to have my girls, who send me coupons for things that I need to save money on and with whom I can have massive discussions on Twitter about the latest gossip while we’re all at work (totally on a break, of course!).

Life hits you with a WHAM every once in a while, and it’s easy to get stuck in that place where it never feels like it’s going to be normal again. But I think if you’ve got your girls that you know you *can* call, even if you don’t always, the boys and the babies and jobs, the rest of it, it all works out, usually in the weirdest, most perfect way.

I’m glad I finished the book. Read it on those days that you want to cry, but don’t want to let yourself and blame the book. I didn’t know I needed the closure with these girls, but I’m glad I got it. Yay for the Sisterhood, wherever you find them!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling

136251It was long. It was overly descriptive. The forced romance between several couples was a bit unnecessary. She killed off many too many characters, sometimes seemingly just because she could. There was an epilogue set 19 years after the final chapter that did absolutely nothing to advance the plot or the lives of the characters.

But I’m glad I read it.

I got into the Harry Potter universe later than most, but I liked the journey. The last three books were the worst of the series, mostly because her editors refused to cut the damn things down to a manageable level. I skimmed most of book six and now about half of book seven. I’m not as big a fan as I was when I first started reading these books three years ago. It was a good series, but not sad it’s over. Just a good universe to delve into and then come back, move on from.

I’ll be immersing myself back in Bill Clinton’s autobiography as I travel across the country. I hope to finish it before his next book comes out.

Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

82783My soul sister, Sharon, sent me this book for my 24th birthday. I promptly put it on the shelf to read “someday.” Now that I’ve finished it, I wish there had been a note on it, much like Elizabeth’s mum’s notes, telling me to “READ THIS!!! OVER HERE!!!”

This book was a delightful read that made me nostalgic for the early days of high school. You didn’t have to worry about college or test scores, but you started like like boys and could actually go places on dates with them. The entire book is told in a series of letters, either from real people or imaginary “associations” that help present some of Elizabeth’s thoughts and feelings that she doesn’t share with her family or friends.

The letters between Elizabeth and her stranger-turned-best-friend Christina reminded me so much of the notebooks that my friends and I used to write in while in high school. We would trade the spiral bound notebooks back and forth between classes, writing notes about our lives instead of taking notes about our schoolwork. It was a little time capsule of our lives right in the moment. We talked about the boys we liked, our parents that we didn’t like, who was gossiping about who and all the usual teenage things. But we also talked about our hopes and dreams for the future, even though we had no idea where we’d end up or how we’d get there.

I loved this little trip back to high school. It brought back a lot of memories of how your friends change and you change, but you can’t see it because you’re you. And I realized that perhaps I wasn’t the only one in the world who had had a crush on a guy and had my crush fall in love with my best friend. I know it was over ten years ago – but it still made me feel better.