Showing posts with label 5 stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 5 stars. Show all posts

Friday, June 2, 2023

Book Review: Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 6, 2023
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Nora Goes Off Script
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Beach Rules:  Do take long walks on the sand. Do put an umbrella in every cocktail. Do NOT run into your first love. Sam's life is on track. She has the perfect doctor fiance, Jack (his strict routines are a good thing, really), a great job in Manhattan (unless they fire her), and is about to tour a wedding venue near her family's Long Island beach house. Everything should go to plan, yet the minute she arrives, Sam senses something is off. Wyatt is here. Her Wyatt. But there's no reason for a thirty-year-old engaged woman to feel panicked around the guy who broke her heart when she was seventeen. Right?Yet being back at this beach, hearing notes from Wyatt's guitar float across the night air from next door as if no time has passed--Sam's memories come flooding back: the feel of Wyatt's skin on hers, their nights in the treehouse, and the truth behind their split. Sam remembers who she used to be, and as Wyatt reenters her life their connection is as undeniable as it always was. She will have to make a choice."



Sam has it all figured out. She is engaged to Jack, a doctor, and they live in an organized apartment in Manhattan filled with muted grays and minimalist decor. It's in major contrast to her life at her family's beach house in Long Island, which is filled with artwork, driftwood, shell collections, and bright colors. Sam plans to take her buttoned-up fiance to Long Island to look at a possible wedding venue.  Returning here is difficult for Sam as not only is it the polar opposite of her life in New York, but it's also a side of herself that she hasn't shown Jack. It's the messy, carefree, sand between her toes side. It's also the spot of most major heartbreak- her childhood sweetheart Wyatt broke her heart at 17 and she hasn't seen him since. Wyatt and Sam were very close since childhood as he lived next door to her beach house, so this was more than your average breakup. She needed some major therapy just to get over him, so the thought of being near Wyatt this weekend is testing her quite a bit. Wyatt is in town for a music festival, as he is a singer/songwriter and surprisingly, her family is still very social with him. Cue the awkwardness! The more time Sam spends at the beach, the more she starts questioning her relationship with Jack, what she wants out of life, and how she lives her life in New York. Also, could she still have feelings for Wyatt this many years later? Annabel Monaghan's Same Time Next Summer is beach read perfection. Highly recommend!

I really enjoyed Sam from the start of
Same Time Next Summer and I adored her carefree life at the beach house. Monaghan nails the then/now narrative technique and shares with us what life was like as a teen at the beach house and the evolution of her relationship with Wyatt. I thought she did this brilliantly! I could see where the story was taking us, but Monaghan did the second-chance romance trope very well. She made it work seamlessly and it felt authentic. I was smitten!

Which leads me to Wyatt. I really adored him in
Same Time Next Summer. He is a complex character and I appreciated his backstory. I would have liked more of him, but the chapters we do get from his point of view were well done. His struggles felt very real and his difficulty to find his niche also felt very relatable. I was rooting for him and don't even get me started with his Florida surfer boy guitar-playing vibe. Swoon!

Monaghan depicts life at a family beach house so well in Same Time Next Summer. I felt like I was there at the beach with Sam, swimming in the ocean, feeling the breeze, climbing up to the treehouse, running through the dunes, and eating dinner on the patio. I adored it!
Same Time Next Summer has absolutely everything I love in a beach read and it is going down as one of my favorite books of the year. A grand slam of a summer book and one that should be in everyone's beach bag this summer! Fans of Every Summer After will want to pick up a copy of this book immediately! 

Are you a fan of Annabel Monaghan? Will you read
Same Time Next Summer when it comes out next week? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Book Review: Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 10, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.  They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart. Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without. For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart. When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.  Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever."


Percy Fraser's parents bought a cottage by the lake in Ontario and at thirteen years old, her first summer there, she meets her next door neighbors, the Floreks.  The Floreks own a restaurant in town and the two Florek brothers, Charlie and Sam, live at Barry's Bay year round.  Percy and Sam are the same age and hit it off immediately.  They become best friends and Percy looks forward to seeing Sam every summer.  As the years progress, Percy and Sam start to have romantic feelings for one another and for awhile, Percy thought it might last forever. They spend many glorious summers together watching scary movies, reading Percy's latest short story, swimming in the lake, helping Sam study, working at the family restaurant, and more. Their time together is so special to both of them, but as college approaches, things fall apart.  Fast forward many years later and Sam and Charlie's mother has died and Charlie called Percy with the hope that she would attend the funeral and return to Barry's Bay as she hasn't been back in years.  Obviously something happened between Sam and Percy, and slowly Fortune teases us with flashbacks back to that one fateful summer.  Meanwhile in present day, Percy must face her past at Barry's Bay and her first love, Sam.  Carley Fortune's Every Summer After is a brilliant debut that tugged on my heartstrings. It has everything I could want in a summertime read--a beautiful lakeside setting, a friends-to-something more romance, and flashbacks to incredible summers over the years.

I really enjoyed Percy from the start of Every Summer After.  I immediately felt her connection to Sam, but loved that they formed a strong friendship first.  I appreciated that she was a complex person with her own dreams, anxieties, and strong feelings.  She is trying to find her way socially when she meets Sam and as the years go on, he provides her with a strong friendship to lean on, vice versa.  The school year separates them for sometime, but they always have summer to fall back on. I absolutely loved how Fortune told the story though flashbacks and that helped me piece together what exactly happened to between Percy and Sam. Presently, Percy hasn't been back to Barry's Bay or talked to Sam in twelve years.  Their friendship was previously so tight, it's almost unimaginable that this could have happened, but slowly Fortune provides us with all the details.

Sam is such a swoon-worthy protagonist. I really enjoyed him in Every Summer After. He has dealt with his own trauma, as his dad unexpectedly died before he met Percy.  He is also a multi-faceted character and I loved how was a genuinely good guy.  It was an absolute treat to watch their friendship bloom as he is such a good guy, how could you not root for him? He has so many dreams that pertain to him becoming a doctor, and I really enjoyed how Percy supported him just as he supported her dream of becoming a writer. They were the perfect couple, until things fell apart and it broke my heart. Nonetheless, I adored Sam and I loved his relationship with his older brother, Charlie, too. Charlie, is also a gem of a character whom I really adored. Fortune did an expert job creating "real" characters that I truly got attached to.

If you love summertime stories filled with a lot of heart, a gorgeous setting, and a romance that will make you swoon, look no further. Every Summer After is a hit and I think it will be one of the best beach reads of the summer.  It was like stepping into an adult version of Jenny Han's Summer series or an adult Sarah Dessen novel. I adored it!

So, is Every Summer After on your TBR list? Let me know what you think in the comments below. 


Friday, July 2, 2021

Book Review: Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Pub. Date: June 1, 2021
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "On a perfect June day, Vivian Howe, author of thirteen beach novels and mother of three nearly grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while jogging near her home on Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she's assigned to a Person named Martha, who allows Vivi to watch what happens below for one last summer. Vivi also is granted three “nudges” to change the outcome of events on earth, and with her daughter Willa on her third miscarriage, Carson partying until all hours, and Leo currently “off again” with his high-maintenance girlfriend, she’ll have to think carefully where to use them.  From the Beyond, Vivi watches “The Chief” Ed Kapenash investigate her death, but her greatest worry is her final book, which contains a secret from her own youth that could be disastrous for her reputation. But when hidden truths come to light, Vivi’s family will have to sort out their past and present mistakes—with or without a nudge of help from above—while Vivi finally lets them grow without her.  With all of Elin’s trademark beach scenes, mouth-watering meals, and picture-perfect homes, plus a heartfelt message—the people we lose never really leave us—Golden Girl is a beach book unlike any other."


Vivian (Vivi) Howe is a successful novelist  living on the idyllic island of Nantucket. She's divorced and has three grown children. Does this sound familiar...dare I say a little autobiographical? While on a morning run on a gorgeous day in June, she gets hit by a car and dies immediately upon impact.  Her son's best friend is the first person to discover her on the side of the road.  Obviously her sudden death is devastating to not only her children, but to her best friend, her ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, and to the island of Nantucket.  All of her children still feel like they need her in their lives and question how they will go on with her love, support, and guidance.  Plus, there's the more pressing issue of who hit Vivi and then left her there? Meanwhile, Vivi enters the "Beyond" and is assigned a person, Martha, to guide her.  She gets one last summer to watch her family and friends and even more exciting she gets three nudges to help guide her family. Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand at first glance may seem like a dark beach read, but ultimately it's a hopeful one that made me laugh, cry, and had me glued to the pages all while enjoying the beautiful setting of Nantucket.

Vivi is such an interesting character in Golden Girl and I couldn't help but wonder if part of her life's experiences come from Elin's.  There are many similarities between the two characters, which is intriguing in and of itself.  Once Vivi is in the Beyond, she watches things play out down below and in turn, finds out secrets about her children, about her ex-husband, and she is worried some of her own secrets might come out after the publication of her last novel.  You see Vivi's last novel is based on her own life experiences and has a pretty big secret in it that stems back to high school. If a particular person from her past reads the novel, her secrets may become unearthed and Vivi isn't sure she is ready for that, especially since she isn't there to do any damage control.  However, she does have these three nudges to help her loved ones avoid any disasters. Also, I love how Hilderbrand has us get to know Vivi through flashbacks; it was all so well done and tugged on my heartstrings.

Vivi watches from the Beyond as her children deal with her untimely death as well as the hit-and-run investigation in Golden Girl.  First there's her oldest Willa, who is the most responsible and is married to her high school sweetheart.  She works at the Nantucket Historical Society and has her life planned out. The only thing she doesn't have is a baby. She has had multiple miscarriages and finds herself pregnant again. Then there's wild-child Carson who is the polar opposite of Willa. She works as head bartender at a popular restaurant on Nantucket and dabbles in drugs, partakes in reckless behavior, and to top it off, she's having an affair with a married man.  Obviously, this concerns Vivi. Her youngest child, Leo, just graduated high school and is off to college in the fall. Vivi learns many secrets about him while watching over him. Then there's her ex-husband, JP, who has decided that the woman he left Vivi for isn't a good fit after all.  Vivi's death throws him for a loop.  Who will she use her nudges on? Thankfully, Vivi has been assigned to Martha in the Beyond and she guide her through this.

Even though the premise of Golden Girl seems a bit dismal, I can promise you it isn't. There's still all the things we have come to love in Hilderbrand's novels. There's descriptions of Nantucket, the restaurants, the cocktails, the beaches, and of course, the family drama.  Hilderbrand's characters feel real and her portrayal of the after-life is also well done. I really loved it actually. Hilderbrand explains at the end of her novel that the early loss of her father as well as her breast cancer journey inspired this novel and I think many people can relate to the themes....the idea that someone may be watching over us, nudging us in the right direction, or helping us to avoid a disaster.  Elin's cancer diagnosis obviously impacted her life and you can see threads of it in Golden Girl. This is something I can relate to as I have dealt with my own cancer diagnosis. If something threatens your life, you start to really question how you are living and you start to think about things you didn't before and that's what Golden Girl accomplishes. I know many people complained it was dark, but I think those people have the immense privilege of living in a world of unicorns and rainbows. That's not life, at least not for most of us.  Essentially, Hilderbrand gives us something to think about in Golden Girl. What would life look like without you? Do we ever lose the people we love?  I, for one, certainly appreciated the important themes of love, loss, and grief. In fact, I hope the after-life is exactly like Hilderbrand's green room in the Beyond.

Needless to say, I loved Golden Girl. I could see how Hilderbrand was hoping this would be her last novel, but it appears we can expect a few more from her.  Golden Girl and 28 Summers are my absolute favorite of her novels. I can't imagine that she can top these two, but if anyone can do it, she can.

Have you read Golden Girl? Are you a fan of Hilderbrand? Let me know in the comments below. 


Friday, June 4, 2021

Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date:  June 1, 2021
Publisher: Ballantine
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Malibu: August 1983. It's the day of Nina Riva's annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over--especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.  The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud--because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he's been inseparable since birth.  Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can't stop thinking about promised she'll be there.  And Kit has a couple secrets of her own--including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.  By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family's generations will all come bubbling to the surface.Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind."


Mick Riva's dream is to become a famous singer. At this point in the story, Mick is just your average guy though, not the huge celebrity he will become later. The moment he cast his eye on June at the beach in the 50s, he knew he had to marry her.  June's parents were hesitant, but June was head over heels in love with Mick. She loved everything about him--his bravado, his charisma, and his good looks. He was going somewhere and June wanted to come along.  Except things weren't easy for Mick and June after their honeymoon phase and once Mick makes it big, it's even harder.  Mick, a perpetual womanizer, can't say no to any female fan and consequently, his marriage with June is volatile at times.  That doesn't stop them from having three children and adopting one as well.  Fast forward to the Riva siblings as adults living in Malibu. There's Nina, the eldest and most responsible. Not only is she a successful surf model, she also takes over the role of the mother to the Rivas after June's passing. There's Jay, a professional surfer, and Hud who takes most of his epic surf photos.  Lastly, there's Kit, the baby of the family, and quite possible the best surfer in the family too.  At the end of each summer, the Rivas host an incredible party at Nina's beach house and celebrities flock to it.  This year it's going to be the party to end all parties....quite literally.  Taylor Jenkins Reid's Malibu Rising is such an evocative tale that I was obsessed with. 

In Malibu Rising the chapters alternate between the Riva siblings in the 1980s before the party and the past with a focus on Mick and June's relationship as well as the Riva children's childhood.  Reid does this so very well. I don't know how she manages it, but she somehow she develops all these characters so very well to the point where I was really invested despite their many tragic flaws.  For example, Mick is not a nice guy.  He is a dead-beat dad and eventually he leaves his kids to fend for themselves. He is the typical self-absorbed celebrity, but I found him so very entertaining.  June's story broke my heart, because she wanted to escape her life and the restaurant her family was strapped to, but in the end, she she ended up back at the very place she was avoiding. Mick let her down again and again, and she allowed it.  My heart broke, because she was so tormented at times and dealt with raising children on her own, her alcoholism, and continuous heartbreak.  

The Riva siblings are simply the best in Malibu Rising. Don't get me wrong, they aren't perfect, but they are so entertaining and real.  Reid did an amazing job creating an interesting family dynamic.  Since the Riva kids often had to fend for themselves, so this made them very close with one another. I enjoyed each and every one of them, but especially Nina. Nina's story is also sad at times, because she had to sacrifice so much to take care of her younger siblings. On the night of the party, she has a lot to deal with including her husband attending despite his public infidelity.  Nina is also withholding a secret during the party, but she isn't the only Riva to do so.  Many of the secrets will come to a head during their bash and let's just say, I was here for it.

Reid creates such a believable story, characters, and setting in Malibu Rising. Not only did I feel like I was back in the 80s, she made Malibu come to life. It was as if Malibu was its own character at times. The surf culture, the surfers, the beaches, the cliffs, and the canyons were all were so very vivid.

Guys, I don't know what else to say without giving too much away, but Taylor Jenkins Reid hits it out of the park with Malibu Rising. She went from writing very good contemporary fiction to writing outstanding historical fiction. I don't know how she brings the time period to life so well (and not just one time period but the 50s and the 80s), but she does it and does it beautifully.  Reid is now right up there with some of my favorite historical writers. If you are looking for an "unputdownable" beach read for the summer, look no further.  I am sure Malibu Rising will be a bestseller in no time and this book is going on a special spot on my bookshelf.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Book Review: 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 16, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When Mallory Blessing's son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he's not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It's the late spring of 2020 and Jake's wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.  There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?  Flash back to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother's bachelor party. Cooper's friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere -- through marriage, children, and Ursula's stratospheric political rise -- until Mallory learns she's dying.  Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love."

Mallory Blessing has just inherited a beach cottage on the gorgeous island of Nantucket.  The year is 1993 and she decides to make this cottage her home.  Her brother, Cooper, decides her cottage would be the perfect spot for his bachelor party.  So, for the weekend Cooper brings along their childhood friend, Fray, and his college buddy, Jake McCloud.  Mallory has her high school friend and Fray's ex-girlfriend, Leland, coming for the weekend, so needless to say, this should be interesting.  After a lot of drama unfolds with her brother leaving to go back home, Mallory finds herself spending the weekend alone with Jake.  They hit it off and it isn't just some sort of fleeting connection, it was a memorable time between the two of them so much so that they decide to have a "same time next year" sort of relationship despite what the future may hold.  As the years go by, so many things bring them together and so many things try to tear them apart, but their love for each other remains constant.  28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand was such a unforgettable beach read and my favorite of her novels to date.

Our girl, as Hilderbrand affectionally refers to Mallory, is such a memorable character. She's an English teacher on the island of Nantucket sort of living everyone's dream life.  Books, sunshine, good friends, a great job where people adore her.......what more could you want?  After her weekend with Jake, they vow to get together every Labor Day weekend no matter what and it becomes a time that both characters truly savor. They don't contact each other during the year unless they happen to see each other back home or at a wedding.  This lack of communication truly makes each character pine for that long weekend on Nantucket filled with take-out, old movies, star-gazing and memories that holds them over till next time.  Except as life goes on, it inevitably gets complicated.  Mallory starts seeing someone on the island; plus, there's Ursula, Jake's longtime (at one point on-again-off-again) girlfriend.  There's heartbreak, good times, deaths in the family, career moves, children, and more that crop up over the years, but it doesn't stop Mallory or Jake from their annual rendezvous.  

Jake might be one of my favorite characters of all time in 28 Summers. Even though I should really dislike him at times (Hello! This story features adultery!), I just don't have the heart to, because he is such a good guy overall.  Even though I wanted him to make different decisions at certain points of the story, I still understood where he was coming from.  His love of books, the beach, and music, were all so endearing.  His life gets complicated once things get serious with Ursula, but through it all, I was still rooting for him and at times swooning.

What I loved about 28 Summers was the fact that it wasn't just about a once-a-year romance. Sure, there's still the requisite beach read events like, lobster dinners, cocktails, sunsets, and ocean breezes, but this book was about so much more.  Mallory's relationship with her family was so well done and her experiences parenting her son truly tugged on my heartstrings.  I think any parent can relate to her sentiments about not wanting to let go once your child gets older and holding onto all the memories from childhood.  I also truly loved what Hilderbrand did before each chapter. She really set the stage by reminding us what we were "talking" about each year by giving us some keywords or headlines at the start of each chapter. This was a nice touch and really made me feel nostalgic.

28 Summers is my favorite of Hilderbrand's novels. It tugged on my heartstrings and if you love her novels or a heartfelt beach read, you won't be disappointed. If you pick up a "beach read" this summer, let it be this one.

Do you like Elin Hilderbrand's novels? Have you read this one or is it on your TBR list?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Book Review: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Pages: 400
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: June 4, 2019
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.  Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.  When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.  Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.  For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?"

Emma Saylor hasn't lived an easy life by any means despite the fact that she lives in a nice house in a good neighborhood and has many friends.  She lost her mother to addiction and her father has been busy with his career as a dentist.  Also, her Nana has helped raise her, but Emma still suffers from anxiety.  Her father has remarried and is planning on taking a honeymoon this summer.  Emma is ok with this as she will be staying at her best friend's house. But things happen and plans change and now Emma finds herself with no place to go during her dad's honeymoon.  Her Nana suggests she stay with her mother's family who lives in a resort town by North Lake.  Emma hasn't been back there since she was four years old, so this would give her an opportunity to reconnect with family, but it's, well, awkward.  Her mother's family run a motel by the lake and she has a ton of cousins, but she hasn't connected with them in years.  So, Emma agrees to go, because she doesn't want to be the reason her father can't go on a honeymoon. While she is there, Emma learns more about her past, her mother, and finds herself loving a family she never knew she had.  Sarah Dessen's The Rest of the Story tackles that one important summer in a teenager's life. It's going down as one of my favorite Dessen novels.

Emma Saylor is a memorable character and one that I think many people can relate to in The Rest of the Story.  My heart went out to her as she had a lot to deal with regarding her mother and addiction.  Even though she lives in an expensive neighborhood and in a luxurious house, she still has problems that haunt her. When she is uprooted from her cushy life to North Lake, which is a working-class neighborhood, I thought she would struggle. But she takes to family life and working at the motel easily. Once acclimated she really blossomed. I could appreciate Emma's experience as an only child and then having the opportunity to spend time with a larger extended family. I think Dessen captured the dynamics of that very well and the fact that Emma had to be reacquainted with many people from her childhood.

While there, Emma Saylor is reunited with Roo, one of her friends from childhood.  Roo's father was also good friends with Emma's mother, so there was that history too. I absolutely loved their relationship.  I loved the back story, the friendship, and how it evolved and how good Roo is. So often in YA lit, we encounter bad guys or guys who are jerks. It's so nice to come across Roo who is a down to Earth good guy.  He is definitely swoon-worthy in The Rest of the Story.

The dynamics of North Lake and Lake North (the richer resort town) are also well done. It think every lake or beach community has this type of hierarchy and Dessen captures it very well. I enjoyed Emma going on the many adventures by the lake with her cousins and friends.  It was the perfect summertime setting.

There's something that Dessen does very well that no other YA author that I have come across can do. She captures the easy summertime life as a teenager; she lets the story evolve organically. It's not that a whole lot happened in the first half of the book, but she develops the characters to the point where I feel like I know them and could be friends with them. The Rest of the Story is a quiet story that truly resonates and it's going down as not only one of my favorite books of the summer, but also one of my favorite Sarah Dessen novels and if you know me that is saying a lot.

Can we all agree that Sarah Dessen can do no wrong? If you want a summertime read that is memorable, heartwarming and real, pick up The Rest of the Story this summer.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Review: The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan

Pages: 400
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date:  July 11, 2017
Publisher: Dial
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Love and Other Foreign Words
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "lake effect | n. The effect of any lake, especially the Great Lakes, in modifying the weather in nearby areas."  It’s the summer after his senior year, and driven, focused Briggs Henry is ready to leave behind his ex-girlfriend, his comically aggressive grandmother, and his parents’ money troubles for Lake Michigan and its miles of sandy beaches. He’s lined up a summer job working as a personal assistant and living in a gorgeous Victorian on the water—exactly the kind of house Briggs plans to buy his parents once he’s a multi-millionaire. But when he arrives, his boss, the eccentric Mrs. Bosic, tells him to get dressed for her funeral. Uh . . . It’s the first of many funerals they’ll attend this summer—to hilarious and eye-opening effect. Add to this a new set of friends-cum-enemies-cum-friends-again, and Abigail, the mysterious girl next door on whom Briggs’s charms repeatedly fail, and “the lake effect” is beginning to take on a whole new meaning."

Briggs Henry is a real catch.  He is a good student, college-bound, good-looking and comes from a caring family. He works a part-time job, plays on sports teams, and helps his grandmother out whenever he can. He's the picture perfect kid.  He gets a job for the summer helping out an elderly Serbian woman who has a big Victorian house on Lake Michigan.  Perfect job, right? He gets to help her out all summer while enjoying the lake lifestyle. This is coming at a good time for Briggs, because lately his life has been super stressful. His parents put a lot of pressure on him and his girlfriend recently dumped him, so a summer at the lake sounds perfect. His new employer, Mrs. B, is a no nonsense type of old lady who has him doing a variety of chores as well as escorting him to all of her appointments and funerals.  While living on the lake, he meets his next door neighbor, Abigail, who challenges him in every way.  Erin McCahan's The Lake Effect is summer reading at its best.

I really, really liked Briggs from the start in The Lake Effect.  His home life had me a little anxious though. All of the forced optimism, the motivational quotes spewed by his father, and the "failure isn't an option" mantra made more than a little nervous. I felt like Briggs needed a real parent with authentic discussions that are meaningful and less pressure from his father.  I could easily see why Briggs had a nervous stomach.  

The other secondary characters were outstanding.  His Grandmother Ruth, although not perfect by any means, had me cracking up.  I liked his relationship with his grandmother and like Briggs, I wanted her to let down her walls a bit too. I also adored his relationship with Mrs. B. It's rare that YA literature depicts a relationship between a teenager and an elderly person so well. I can't say enough about it; it was perfect, it was memorable, it was profound, and it shows that friendship comes in all shapes, sizes, and ages. 

The setting of The Lake Effect was also well done. I have never vacationed on a lake before, but I am a huge beach bum, so I could appreciate the laid-back vibes, the boating, the appeal of the water, the summertime activities, etc.  McCahan's descriptions had me wanting to plan my own vacation on Lake Michigan.

But The Lake Effect is so much more than your usual beach read. Not only did it have me laughing out loud (the most a book has made me laugh in years!), it had me thinking a lot about life and just going with the flow.  That's exactly what Brigg's summer at the lake requires of him.

The The Lake Effect is a smart and quirky read that I think fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Emery Lord will appreciate the most.  I loved the characters, the witty dialogue, the laugh-out-loud humor, the sarcasm, the gorgeous setting, and the book's overall message. The Lake Effect is one of my favorite books of the year and a beach read that shouldn't be missed this summer.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Atria
Source: Publisher for review
Other Novels By Author:  Maybe in Another Life 
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.  Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.  Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth."

Evelyn Hugo, famous Hollywood starlet, hasn't granted a private interview in years. She's getting up there in age and her days gracing the big screen are over.  She used to rub elbows with the best Hollywood had to offer in the 60s, but no one truly knows who she really is. That is until one day she decides to contact Monique Grant, an average journalist, and offer her a once in a lifetime opportunity in that she would share her life's story with her. Through her sharing and divulging of secrets with Monique, readers learn about Evelyn's difficult childhood in Hell's Kitchen, her move to Hollywood, her rise to fame, her Oscar win, and the juicy details of her seven marriages. More importantly, Evelyn has told many lies during her lifetime and wants to come clean.  But the bigger question is the fact that she could have granted this story to any reporter, but requested Monique. Why Monique? And what kind of dark secrets is Evelyn hiding? Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a bit different than her other novels, but I say that in the best way possible. It's definitely one of my favorite books of the year.

Evelyn Hugo is literally right off the pages of People Magazine, a classic Hollywood film and all things juicy like a Hollywood tell-all.  Reid developed her so well and so vividly that I kept forgetting that she isn't actually real.  She felt so real. Seriously! Reid's characterization is so, so good in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.  But I digress.

Evelyn is a complex character. Her challenging childhood made me instantly want to root for her as well as her bumpy rise to fame. I will admit she made some really crappy choices.  She doesn't feel remorseful for some of her choices though; she totally owns it.  I appreciate that in a protagonist.  I wish I could sum up Evelyn in more detail, but I can't without giving away too much.  But know she's a blend of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.  She's so much more than just a classic Hollywood actress; I thoroughly enjoyed unraveling her story slowly and pealing back each and every complex layer.

Which leads me to Monique, the aspiring journalist. She is working at a magazine and dealing with her own life-altering issues when Evelyn enters her life in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.  She is pretty much a nobody in the journalism world, but Evelyn seeks out the magazine she works at and specifically requests Monique for the story.  This is what kept me flipping the pages. I just had to know why Evelyn would pick Monique and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to figure out Evelyn's motives.

The way that Reid tells the tale of Evelyn in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is brilliant. I loved the conversations between Monique and Evelyn and how she would slowly share details of her life.  Chapters was broken down and highlighted by her various marriages and I felt like I was sitting there with Evelyn getting all the juicy details.

If you love Old Hollywood or simply put--- if you love a story that's told very well, then check out The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo this summer. This is the best that summer reading has to offer and if you love a juicy tale that has historical details, romance, dark secrets, and heartbreak, this is a book for you. I bet many people, like myself, will be falling in love with Evelyn this summer.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Pages: 400
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Out of the Easy
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war. As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. Yet not all promises can be kept. Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope."

The year is 1945 and many refugees are hoping to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that will evacuate them from the advancing Soviets.  Readers meet four characters all desperate for one thing: freedom.  There's Joana, a Lithuanian nurse, who helps so many people along the way, but harbors a dark secret.  Florian, a German, but he doesn't let the others truly know who he is.  There's also Emilia, a young Polish teenager, who is in her last month of pregnancy and Alfred, a Nazi sailor, who is deeply troubled.  Emilia, Florian, Joana, and many other refugees must make the freezing cold trek across Prussia with the hopes to board the ship Wilhelm Gustloff.  But things don't come easy for these four very different people and they all must face many hardships.  Ruta Sepetys' Salt to the Sea is one of the best books I've read in a long time.  It broke my heart over and over again, but it is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

Sepetys switches the points of view between all four characters expertly; however, I felt the best connection with Joana. I admired her skills as a nurse and her moxie.  Emilia's situation is also heartbreaking. I couldn't imagine being pregnant as a refugee during WWII.  She has so much to face on her own and has been through so much since her parents sent her to East Prussia to work on a farm.  Her difficult situation tugged on my heartstrings.  I knew Florian was hiding some kind of secret and Sepetys did a great job slowly letting his secret unfold as he became more and more comfortable with Joana and the rest of the refugees.  My least favorite character was Alfred, the Nazi soldier, but I think it was smart for Sepetys to share his point of view as it gives us a more well-balanced novel. Alfred is deeply troubled and readers mostly get to know him through the letters he writes to his girlfriend back home. All in all, the characters are really well developed (even the secondary characters) in Salt to the Sea despite the fact that the narration is shared between all four.

Let's talk about how Salt to the Sea gutted me. Seriously. How on Earth did I not know about the Wilhelm Gustloff tragedy? Why isn't it talked about more? I was completely blown away and I'm so thankful to Sepetys for bringing this to my attention.  To remember is to honor and that is essentially what Sepetys is doing here.  The time period of WWII has always been very fascinating to me and Sepetys brings to life this tragedy so well that I won't easily forget this novel.  

Salt to the Sea is really powerful; it's an important novel and one that will make you think.  It wasn't easy to read in certain parts, because it was so heart-wrenching, but I think that is what make it so unforgettable. It's mind-boggling that this tragedy occurred and that people's lives were cut short from this senseless tragedy. I thank Ruta Sepetys a million times over for writing Salt to the Sea and I know that I, for one, will not forget what happened to the many children and refugees aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Pages: 416
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: Throne of Glass (Glass #1), 
Crown of Midnight (Glass #2) and Heir of Fire (Glass #3)
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.  As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it... or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!"
In the past, Feyre's family had money and a gorgeous home, but her father lost all of their fortune.  Now they are stuck in a rundown cottage and Feyre's entire family relies on her to hunt for their food.  They are barely getting by and Feyre's sisters nor her father help out much. During one hunting trip, she kills a large wolf (that was actually fae) and consequently, a beastly creature breaks into her family's cottage demanding to know who killed the wolf.  As payment for killing the wolf, the beast-like creature takes Fayre to the land of faeries and she can never return home again.  She finds out that this beastly creature can shift into a more human form; in fact, he is downright gorgeous. His name is Tamlin and he is a powerful faerie with an interesting past.  Feyre learns to adjust to her new luxurious home and as she gets to know Tamlin, she discovers that perhaps she has strong feelings for him. Maybe he isn't just the beastly and violent creature that he can shape-shift into.  But there's many secrets about Tamlin that Feyre doesn't know; plus, there's an evil faerie that lurks in their dangerous world with her eye on him.  A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is one of the most entertaining books I've read in quite sometime.

My love for Feyre was definitely fickle. I admired the fact that she could take care of her family, hunt, set up traps, and ultimately, be a bad-ass heroine, but boy, did she make some dumb decisions. I kept saying to myself, "Don't do it, Feyre. Don't do it!" as I was reading it, but she just couldn't help herself.  Nonetheless, that didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying A Court of Thorns and Roses. Despite her willful ways, I loved Feyre's bravery, even if it did place her in some dangerous situations time and time again.

Enter Tamlin. Whoa.  Somehow Sarah J. Maas made faeries hot. I had no idea this was possible. Well played, Maas. I really loved the characater of Tamlin. He's a powerful faerie, but there's so much more to him than that. He's a good guy deep down, which Feyre slowly discovers. Also, I love that this story was somewhat a retelling of Beauty and the Beast--one of my favorites! 

So, onto the romance. Whoa, again. A Court of Thorns and Roses is definitely for older young adult readers. Some reviewers said this novel fits the "New Adult" genre and maybe they are right, because some sections of this book were downright steamy.  I am not complaining though. It was done very well.

Lastly, Maas knows how to provide adventure and suspense better than many of the other young adult authors out there. I haven't been so stuck to the edge of my seat while reading a novel since The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner.  So, needless to say, Maas knows how to bring the adventure and the edge-of-your-seat thrills.

Guys, don't be stupid like I was and wait to start  A Court of Thorns and Roses. If you love fantasy, romance, and an exciting adventure, you must check out this book immediately. I know I am very excited for the sequel due out this May.  

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