Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center is a book about starting over. Helen Carpenter is thirty-two years old and has been divorced for a year. She is just fine with how her life is going, thank you very much, but if she actually thinks about it, she really needs to take a break to try and put herself together again. Her much younger brother, younger by ten years, mentions off-hand about a wilderness survival course. Thinking that this is exactly what she needs, Helen decides to sign up and give it a try. Right when she’s getting ready to leave, her brother’s best friend, Jake, tells her that he is also coming on the trip and just so happens to need a ride. Great. This life-changing journey has turned into a cross-country trip with her younger brother’s annoying best friend. Not what she wanted at all.

The wilderness survival course that Helen has signed up for is three weeks long and puts her and a group of people smack dab in the remotest part of a mountain range in Wyoming. Her fellow survivalists are nothing like what she was expecting. Instead of the hippie folks and rugged back-packers she was envisioning, Helen finds herself at orientation with a group of college students all significantly younger than her and who are basically doing this course as a way to get college credit. The person in charge doesn’t even look like he’s out of high school, for goodness sake! Helen is clearly out of her element. This point is further emphasized when the instructor lays out a series of very strict rules. Helen is in way over her head.

In order to begin this course with a clean slate, she tells Jake to pretend like he doesn’t even know her. She wants to begin anew. This sort of backfires on her when Helen realizes that Jake has become the popular guy and also that no one else in her group really likes her that much. Such begins Helen’s road to rediscovery, a wilderness survival course that is nothing like she thought it would be with people she wasn’t expecting. With sore, blistery feet, a medical emergency, a summer blizzard, and love blooming on rocky trails, Happiness for Beginners is a breath of fresh air as Helen works to remake herself into the new person she wants to become.

This book is also available as an Overdrive eAudiobook, which is how I listened to this book.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landlineLandline is Rainbow Rowell’s second trip into adult relationships, following the release of Attachments. Having read two of her young adult books, I decided to give Landline a try, not knowing what I was getting myself into.

Landline begins by introducing readers to Georgie McCool. Georgie is a writer for a popular television sitcom. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Neal, and their two young daughters. On the outside, it looks like she has it all, but inside, Georgie knows that her marriage is in trouble. It’s not recent trouble, but something that seems to have been brewing under the surface for a long time.

Two days before she is supposed to leave with Neal and the kids to head to Omaha for Christmas, Georgie and her writing partner find themselves under a pile of work that has to be completed as soon as possible. As a result, she is unable to head to Omaha for Christmas, something she knows will anger Neal. He is upset, but instead of the family staying in Los Angeles with her, Neal packs up the kids and heads to Omaha anyway. This makes Georgie worry if she has finally done the one thing that will make her marriage break apart. Is her marriage broken? Has she ruined it?

Desperate to fix things, Georgie begins calling Neal. She never seems to be able to get a hold of him on his cell phone and her phone is always dead. Georgie digs a rotary phone out of her childhood bedroom’s closet and uses it to call Neal at his parents’ house. Their conversation is slightly off-kilter though and bothers Georgie. When she realizes why, she just can’t believe it. Georgie has found a way to talk to a past Neal. What she chooses to do with this will determine what happens in all of their lives.

This book is available in the following formats:

Girl Online: the first novel by Zoella by Zoe Sugg

girl onlineSitting at the reference desk affords me the best opportunities to figure out what the people who visit any of the three Davenport Public Libraries like to read. Reading selection catalogues is good for finding what reviewers think my patrons will like to read, but actually sitting at the desk and talking really gives me a solid idea about what our patrons want to see on the shelves.

My newest reference desk plug comes from a string of junior high and high school girls who, within the span of two to three days, all requested one book: Girl Online: the first novel by Zoella by Zoe Sugg. This book can be found in the young adult section and while that alone might throw some of you off and also send some of you wondering why there is a young adult review on this blog, let me tell you that while there are themes of first love and heartbreak and friendship within this book, there are also adult themes that I found resonated with me, even though I had to venture into teen land to find it. So let me tell you this: Instead of “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” maybe we should switch that handy motto to “Don’t judge a book by its call number”.

Girl Online: the first novel by Zoella by Zoe Sugg chronicles a short bit in the life of Penny, the girl behind the popular blog, GirlOnline, an anonymous blog that she runs online after she finds out that it is easier to share her real life and real feelings online than it is to face ridicule with everyone she knows in real life, or maybe a better way to word what she is doing online is to say that she is unsure whether or not others are feeling the same way as she is, so she posts her feelings and interactions only to be surprised that there are other people out there who feel the same way as she does. Penny, who is suffering from panic attacks after going through an accident with her parents, is supported through her online escapades and real life encounters by her best friend, Elliott, a gay boy struggling to get his parents to understand his homosexuality who lives right next to Penny and is able to knock on her wall with a secret code to let her know that he wants to come over and visit.

Well, Penny’s parents just happen to own a wedding planning business and, more specifically, a wedding dress store where they specialize in designing somewhat off-the-wall and different weddings. As the plot rolls on, Penny and her parents, Elliott included, are invited to New York to help plan a Downton Abbey themed wedding just around Christmas time. Could anything be more perfect?! Of course because this is a young adult novel!!! Once there, Penny meets Noah, a gorgeous, guitar-strumming, tall eighteen-year-old boy who just happens to be the grandson of the chef for the wedding. This. Is. Awesome. They travel around New York together and have picnics together on a roof top and just when you think they are going to be parted, Penny’s mom gets asked to design another party, which means they get to stay together for a whole other week! Sweet!! Penny and Noah fall in deep like, but alarm bells kept going off in my head because it seemed like Noah had a secret too. Can’t spoil everything for you. Read the book and let me know when your alarm bells start going off. Mine were right when they met. (And all the while, Penny is blogging about her encounters in New York, anonymously of course). Anyway, Penny comes home and THINGS BLOW UP! Not actual bombs and stuff, but metaphorical “her life is over because she’s a teenager and no one else will love her”. Sugg’s writing was so good in this part, I actually could not put the book down and read it all the way through breakfast.

The reason why I am blogging about this book is because it shows people just what happens when you put your life all over social media. The consequences, the interactions between your real and online life, and the inevitable collision between the two are what really makes Sugg’s writing shine in this novel. Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, is a vlogger, someone who, like bloggers, posts videos online to diary and document what is happening in their lives. Sugg does this through her YouTube channel. If you visit the about page on her YouTube channel, there are multiple links to her other various social media platforms. She is a social media QUEEN, winning awards and such for her presence online!