Tag Archive | Romance

Review: Happy Place by Emily Henry

Happy Place Book Cover Happy Place
Emily Henry
Contemporary | Second Chance Romance
Berkley
April 25, 2023
Audiobook
400
Public Library
August 18 - 28, 2023

Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.

They broke up six months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.

Which is how they find themselves sharing the largest bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blue week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.

Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week… in front of those who know you best?

A couple who broke up months ago make a pact to pretend to still be together for their annual weeklong vacation with their best friends in this glittering and wise new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry.

Review

Okay, okay. This isn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t what I expected. Did I read the blurb before I started? No. Should I have? Probably. But I’ve loved every other Emily Henry book! I had no reason to think I wouldn’t love this one when I dove in sight unseen!

With that out of the way, let’s continue and talk about what I liked: Wyn and Harriet. Wyn was very sweet and Harriet very kind. They were both stellar characters, with Harriet having a little more character growth. I also really enjoyed the chapters that dove into their past and the start of their relationship. I preferred that to the present day chapters with the rift between them.

What I didn’t like so much was their friend group. For one, they kind of blended together in my head. They were each different, but they were all introduced so quickly that I couldn’t name them now, and while listening to the audiobook, I couldn’t keep them all straight. I also didn’t like the lack of communication between Wyn and Harriet. It’s one of my least favorite tropes, the characters who wouldn’t have a problem if they’d just freaking be honest and vulnerable with each other! 

All that said, I think if I had gone into this knowing it’s a second chance romance I would have liked it a lot more. I just wasn’t in the right headspace for this type of book though. 

Fans of Emily Henry: It’s good, but read the blurb first so you know what you’re getting into!

Review: Off the Map by Trish Doller

Off the Map Book Cover Off the Map
Beck Sisters #3
Trish Doller
Contemporary Romance
St. Martin's Griffin
March 7, 2023
E-ARC / Audiobook
272
NetGalley / Public Library
August 7 - 19, 2023

On the road to love, you don't need a GPS...  Carla Black’s life motto is “here for a good time, not for a long time.” She’s been travelling the world on her own in her vintage Jeep Wrangler for nearly a decade, stopping only long enough to replenish her adventure fund. She doesn’t do love and she doesn’t ever go home. Eamon Sullivan is a modern-day cartographer who creates digital maps. His work helps people find their way, but he’s the one who’s lost his sense of direction. He’s unhappy at work, recently dumped, and his one big dream is stalled out—literally. Fate throws them together when Carla arrives in Dublin for her best friend’s wedding and Eamon is tasked with picking her up from the airport. But what should be a simple drive across Ireland quickly becomes complicated with chemistry-filled detours, unexpected feelings, and a chance at love - if only they choose it.

Review

First of all – I grabbed this book when I first dove back into NetGalley and had zero restraint. I received an email with a few romance novels available and I requested them all. Even though I don’t particularly like this cover. (I think it’s the fact that her hair makes it look like it takes place in the 1920s or something, when it does not.) I do appreciate that the cover is actually a scene from the book. That’s not super common. 

With that out of the way, this book has a lot of heart. Carla has a lot of baggage (despite traveling with very little baggage! Haha) Her father, the only parent she has, is slowly fading away from her, losing his memory to dementia or Alzheimer’s (sorry, I can’t remember which.) He doesn’t want her to watch him suffer, so he tells her to keep traveling—which was their thing—and see as much of the world together as they could. He doesn’t want her to watch him waste away and forget her.

When Carla arrives in Ireland for her BFFs wedding, the grooms brother, Eamon, picks her up. And they almost immediately jump into bed, which is something I absolutely abhor in romance novels. Buuut they won me over in the end. What starts as a fling, becomes so much more once the pair get to know one another.

Eamon is Carla’s opposite. While she’s home, she works as a bartender saving all her money to travel the rest of the time. Eamon has a well paying desk job, and has never given himself the chance to travel, despite his desire to do so. Despite being so opposite, they connect. And experiencing that relationship build up was a joy. And, as with any good book, both of these characters have to face the things in their lives that are pulling them down and make some big choices.

Bonus points for all the descriptions of Ireland. That’s a location on my bucket list, for sure!

So, do I recommend this book? Well, I plan to read books 1 and 2 in the series, so what does that tell you? 😉  

Review: The Confidant by Judy Corry

The Confidant Book Cover The Confidant
Eden Falls Academy #4
Judy Corry
YA Contemporary Romance
Cherry Blossom Romance
October 13, 2022
E-Book
478
Amazon
June 17 - July 11, 2023

I love Judy Corry’s books, but I was a little nervous going into this book because I knew it delved into the subject of religion. Typically, in my experience this means having religion shoved down my throat. However, Corry did a fabulous job of depicting a relationship between a believer and a new non-believer. In no way did she disrespect the views of anyone who did or did not believe in any religion. 

This was Hunter and Scarlett’s story, who we’ve met in the previous Eden Fall’s Academy books. Though we’ve met them, I never felt like we got to know them very well. They always seemed just a little bit apart from the others. (Note: I have not yet read book 3, but I’ll get around to it one of these days!) 

Scarlett is a true believer of The Fold, the religion she grew up in. Her father is even her pastor. Hunter was a believer as well, until something happened in his life within the past year that made him rethink his beliefs. Hunter hasn’t found the right time to tell Scarlett about his change of heart though. 

Scarlett’s dad is very protective of her and has forbid her from dating until she’s 18, which means she and Hunter, despite loving one another deeply, can’t be together. Not yet anyway. 

Once the truth comes out about Hunter’s change of faith though, can Scarlett still accept him? Can he still accept her, knowing what he knows about The Fold and her devotion to her religion? 

This is a wonderful story about tolerance, love, and there’s a little bit of suspense and danger thrown in for good measure. One of the best books in Judy Corry’s catalog. 

Review

I love Judy Corry’s books, but I was a little nervous going into this book because I knew it delved into the subject of religion. Typically, in my experience this means having religion shoved down my throat. However, Corry did a fabulous job of depicting a relationship between a believer and a new non-believer. In no way did she disrespect the views of anyone who did or did not believe in any religion. 

This was Hunter and Scarlett’s story, who we’ve met in the previous Eden Fall’s Academy books. Though we’ve met them, I never felt like we got to know them very well. They always seemed just a little bit apart from the others. (Note: I have not yet read book 3, but I’ll get around to it one of these days!) 

Scarlett is a true believer of The Fold, the religion she grew up in. Her father is even her pastor. Hunter was a believer as well, until something happened in his life within the past year that made him rethink his beliefs. Hunter hasn’t found the right time to tell Scarlett about his change of heart though. 

Scarlett’s dad is very protective of her and has forbid her from dating until she’s 18, which means she and Hunter, despite loving one another deeply, can’t be together. Not yet anyway. 

Once the truth comes out about Hunter’s change of faith though, can Scarlett still accept him? Can he still accept her, knowing what he knows about The Fold and her devotion to her religion? 

This is a wonderful story about tolerance, love, and there’s a little bit of suspense and danger thrown in for good measure. One of the best books in Judy Corry’s catalog. 

The Confidant by Judy Corry

Review: A Cowboy’s Wish Upon a Star by Caro Carson

A Cowboy’s Wish Upon a Star Book Cover A Cowboy’s Wish Upon a Star
Texas Rescue #5
Caro Carson
Contemporary / Western / Hollywood Romance
Harlequin
November 21, 2016
Paperback
224
Goodreads First Reads
June 7 - 17, 2023

From Hollywood… 

A cattle ranch is the perfect place for movie star Sophia Jackson to escape her scandalous past and the paparazzi hot on her trail. But foreman Travis Chalmers makes it clear who's running the ranch. When their constant clashing ignites unexpected attraction, Sophia takes on her greatest acting role: pretending she isn't falling for the sexy, domineering cowboy.

…to Motherhood 

Once Travis sweeps her into his arms at her sister's wedding, she knows the feeling's mutual. But a precious secret followed Sophia to Texas. And now a Hollywood hurricane is about to blow through Travis's peaceful Texas town. Is the mother-to-be ready to fight for her future and see her most passionate Christmas wish granted—she and Travis vowing to love each other forever?

Review

I’ll be real with you, I 100% thought this was going to be a quick romance with zero depth that made me roll my eyes every other page. 

I was wrong.

Sophia is a Hollywood A-List actress who fell in with a bad boy rockstar who’s trashed her reputation. In order to avoid more scandal, she’s agreed to lock herself up at a Texas cattle ranch.

Enter Travis, the ranch’s foreman, who wants nothing less than to “babysit” this city girl. Except, from the moment he lay eyes on her, he’s enchanted. He sees below the facade she wears, but knows nothing can happen between them.

What Travis doesn’t know, and Sophia won’t admit even to herself, is that she’s pregnant, and her isolation is also to keep her pregnancy a secret until she gives birth and gives the baby up for adoption. 

Despite a rocky start, these two find a connection. But can it last with Sophia’s big secret looming between them? 

This was such a charming story. It wasn’t too country/cowboy western, and it wasn’t too Hollywood. It was really just the story of two people. Absolutely recommend this one to fans of the romance genre.  

REVIEW: Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr

Shelter Mountain Book Cover Shelter Mountain
Virgin River
Robyn Carr
Romance
Mira Books
April 24, 2007
Audiobook
400
Public Library
January 30 - February 7, 2023

For the second time in a year a woman arrives in the small town of Virgin River trying to escape the past.

John “Preacher” Middleton is about to close the bar when a young woman and her three-year-old son come in out of a wet October night. A marine who has seen his share of pain, Preacher knows a crisis when he sees one—the woman is covered in bruises. He wants to protect them, and he wants to punish whoever did this to her, but he knows immediately that this inclination to protect is something much more. Paige Lassiter has stirred up emotions in this gentle giant of a man—emotions that he has never allowed himself to feel.

But when Paige’s ex-husband turns up in Virgin River, Preacher knows his own future hangs in the balance. And if there’s one thing in the marines’ motto of Semper Fidelis—always faithful—has taught him, it’s that some things are worth fighting for.

My Review

I started reading these books because of the Netflix series. I adore the Netflix series! Unfortunately, I do not adore this book series and I think this will be the last one I read. 

Shelter Mountain is the second book in the Virgin River series, which the Netflix series is based on. 

Shelter Mountain is the story of John (whom we know from book 1 as Preacher) and Paige. When Paige shows up at the bar Preacher runs with his pal Jack searching for an inn with a room for the night for her and her young son, she completely shakes Preacher’s world.

I like Preacher. And I think that’s in large part because of how he’s portrayed on the TV series. He looks like a tough guy, but he’s a softie at heart. His immediate connection with Paige’s son (I think they aged him up in the TV show, he seems much younger in the book, though I don’t recall them specifying his age) is absolutely heartwarming.

Paige meanwhile acts as I would expect a woman running from an abusive ex would act. She has her defenses up, but over time we see her realize how good a man Preacher is, and it was nice to watch that relationship grow at her pace. It was weird to me how Paige really seemed to have no clue how computers and the Internet work. A quick Google search tells me the book was published in 2007 and the Internet was definitely around long enough that even if Paige’s husband banned her from using it, she would’ve had experience before she met him. It was just odd to me.

As for the setting, the book mostly takes place at the bar where Paige stays. It’s a small town in the middle of nowhere, and as a city-suburbs girl, I do enjoy the quiet, slower pace of life portrayed in the Virgin River series and others like it.

So, why the 3 star rating? Honestly… I was kind of bored. There were no surprises. There were also too many parallels to book 1. I did like this book better than the first in the series, mostly because of the characters, but the book wasn’t unputdownable for me. I know that there are plenty of readers who adore this book, and I’m glad it exists for you. As for me, I’ll be moving onto books that are more to my liking.

REVIEW: Welcome to Serenity by Sherryl Woods

Welcome to Serenity Book Cover Welcome to Serenity
The Sweet Magnolias
Sherryl Woods
Romance
MIRA
November 25, 2007
Audiobook
408 / 14 Hours
Public Library
January 13, 2023 - January 22, 2023

When Jeanette Brioche helped launch The Corner Spa in Serenity, South Carolina, she found a whole lot more than professional satisfaction. She discovered the deep and loyal friendships that had been missing from her life. But even the Sweet Magnolias can’t mend the terrible rift between Jeanette and her family or persuade her that the holidays are anything more than a season of misery.

Pushed into working on the town’s much-loved annual Christmas festival, Jeanette teams up with the sexy new town manager. Tom McDonald may be the only person in Serenity who’s less enthused about family and the holidays than she is.

But with tree decorations going up on the town square and a bit of romance in the air, Jeanette and Tom take a fresh look at the past and a hopeful look into the future. Together they discover that this just may be a season of miracles after all.

My Review

Welcome to Serenity is the fourth book in The Sweet Magnolias series and the first to center around someone other than one of the three Sweet Magnolias, Maddie, Dana Sue, and Helen.

This book, surprisingly (to me anyway!), is also a Christmas book. (I really wish I hadn’t continued to delay my library hold until after Christmastime! haha)

Jeanette, who runs the spa at The Corner Spa (the spa and fitness center The Sweet Magnolias launched in book 1) is talked into representing The Corner Spa on the council for the city’s annual Christmas celebration. Unfortunately for Jeannete, because she despises Christmastime.

Meanwhile, Tom, the new city manager, is also forced onto the council by the mayor. If we thought Jeanette hated Christmas, she’s got nothing on Tom, who is a regular Scrooge!

Overall this was a cute story. It’s a typical HEA romance. What I didn’t like so much was how quickly Tom fell for Jeanette. He went from “that woman was rude to me!” to “I can’t get her out of my bed, I must convince her to date me!” If you can look past that (I did) you’ll find a pleasant sweet romance.

Both Jeanette and Tom had valid reasons for hating Christmas, and learning about and watching them overcome their pasts was enjoyable.

As a bonus, we get to know Mary Vaughn a little better. In the previous books she’s very much been painted as a villain, but now we get to see her from an outsider’s – Jeanette’s – viewpoint. And what Jeanette sees is a woman who just needs a friend. I really appreciated the friendship that developed between the two women, and I hope that if I continue with this series we will get to see more of that.

I’ve probably said it in my previous reviews, but I’ll say it again. The Sweet Magnolias books are very different from the Netflix TV Series (especially after book 1!) so if you’ve already watched the show, brace yourself for the differences in the books.

REVIEW: Not The Witch You Wed by April Asher

Review: Not The Witch You Wed by April Asher Book Cover Review: Not The Witch You Wed by April Asher
Supernatural Singles #1
April Asher
Paranormal Romance, RomCom
St. Martin's Griffin
February 2, 2022
Audiobook
341 Pages / 12 hours, 15 minutes
Public Library
December 29, 2022 - January 12, 2023

A fake relationship between a magic-less witch and a wolf shifter turns to more in the start of a bewitching new paranormal rom-com series. Magic-less witch Violet Maxwell wants nothing to do with alpha wolf shifter Lincoln Thorne―the man who broke her fragile, teenage heart. But when the two of them are forced by arcane Supernatural Laws to find mates, Violet and Lincoln agree to fake-date their way to a fake-mating in order to conjure themselves some time. The joke’s on them. When old feelings make a reappearance―along with Violet’s magic―they both realize there’s nothing fake about their feelings. But there are old secrets and looming threats that could snatch away their happily ever after, again. One thing’s for sure: magic doesn’t make dating and love any easier. In Not the Witch You Wed, April Asher brings all the hilarity and sweet, sexy moments you love in a romantic-comedy―plus a fun dose of magic―to this spell-binding new series about being sexy, single, and supernatural in New York City.

My Review

Not The Witch You Wed is the first book in the Supernatural Singles series.

This light paranormal romance is the story of Violet, the eldest triplet in a magical triad… except, Violet doesn’t have any magic. Or does she? When she runs into her old flame, Lincoln, the man who broke her heart years ago when they were in high school, suddenly Violet’s nonexistent magic makes an appearance. And as if that isn’t stressful enough, Violet is informed that, as the eldest of the magical triad, she must find a mate and commit to a witch bond. SOON.

Meanwhile, Lincoln, the alpha of his werewolf pack, is trying to break down the alpha system within the shifter society he hates. But in the meantime, he’s getting closer and closer to his own due date to take a mate.

Lincoln doesn’t want a mate, and neither does Violet, but what they both need is to buy time. What better way than to pretend they’re courting one another?

Can Violet forgive Lincoln for breaking her heart all those years ago? Will Lincoln ever be able to tell her what really happened back then? And can they each succeed in doing so without falling in love with one another?

This was a slow start for me. I read book 2, Not Your Ex’s Hexes first and that one grabbed me from the get go. This one, because it has a little more world building (that I promise helps make book 2 make more sense!), took a little more time to get going. But once it was going, I did enjoy it quite a bit. It’s a cute, light, sexy, romance that doesn’t take itself seriously and sometimes that’s just what we need in our lives, amiright?

REVIEW: Not Your Ex’s Hexes by April Asher

Not Your Ex's Hexes Book Cover Not Your Ex's Hexes
Supernatural Singles #2
April Asher
Paranormal Romance, RomCom
St. Martin's Griffin
February 7, 2023
Ebook ARC
352
NetGalley
November 14, 2022 - December 27, 2022

In April Asher’s next Supernatural Singles novel, Not Your Ex's Hexes, a one-night-stand between a willful witch and a broody half-demon conjures an adventure that wouldn’t be complete without several magical mishaps. For her entire life, Rose Maxwell trained to become the next Prima on the Supernatural Council. Now that she’s stepped down, it’s time for this witch to focus on herself. And not think about her impulsive one-night stand with Damian Adams, a half-Demon Veterinarian who she can’t get out of her head. Neither of them is looking for a relationship. But when Rose is sentenced to community service at Damian’s animal sanctuary it becomes impossible for them to ignore their sparking attraction. A friends-with-benefits, no feelings, no strings arrangement works perfectly for them both. After a sequence of dead-end jobs, it’s not until Rose tangos with two snarly demons that she thinks she’s finally found her path. However, this puts Damian back on the periphery of a world he thought he left behind. He doesn’t approve of Rose becoming a Hunter, but if there's one thing he's learned about the stubborn witch, it was telling her not to do something was one sure-fire way to make sure she did. Working—and sleeping—together awakens feelings Damian never knew he had...and shouldn't have. Because thanks to his ex's hex, if he falls in love, he'll not only lose his heart—but his humanity.

My Review

What a cute story! The book is far sexier than the cover implies.

Rose is a witch who has just stepped down from being next in line to be Prima (head witch) not to mention just got out of a REALLY bad relationship. She’s not looking for anything permanent in her life, just some sexy fun.

Enter veterinarian Damian, a demon with a hex from his witchy ex who, like Rose, has no intention of starting anything serious.

What starts as friends with benefits soon turns into more. But can Rose and Damian defeat Damian’s hex?

Very cute book. Filled with all kinds of witchy puns and catch phrases (“Hex me!” and referring to your girls as “Bwitches” among other things.) I’ve already checked the audiobook of book 1 from the library to read Rose’s sister Violet’s story.

Special thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for a complimentary ARC in exchange for my honest review!

REVIEW: Spies, Lies, and Allies by Lisa Brown Roberts






Spies, Lies, and Allies Book Cover




Spies, Lies, and Allies





Lisa Brown Roberts





YA Contemporary Romance




Entangled Teen




E-ARC



Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.

My boss is running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting––in a good way. But I can’t even think about him like that because fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.

As if that’s not enough, an anonymous informant with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad’s company on social media...and I’m afraid it's working.

Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.

My Review

Omigosh! This was such a fun book!

A word of warning: This book is chalk full (CORRECT PHRASE?) of nerdy Star Wars references and IT. IS. AWESOME!

All Laurel wants is to be close to her dad again. He’s a workaholic, so she thinks, what a better way to spend time with him than as a summer intern at his company? If nothing else they’ll have an hour long ride in the car to bond and maybe a chance to spend lunch together. After begging and begging, her dad finally gives in. But there’s a condition. Laurel will be an  assistant to the interns, and she will be spying on them. Because all of the interns are competing for a crazy awesome scholarship.

But as the daughter of the boss, Laurel feels like a fraud. She doesnt fit in with the other interns. And as soon as the rules are laid out, she wonders how she will survive the summer. The worst rule of all, no fraternizing with the interns or they will lose their chance at the scholarship. Enter NAME. He’s cute and Laurel begins to fall for him, after disliking him for a while.

I love that this was not an instalove story. The romance was backseat to the plot, but still a big part. It’s a story of love, father/daughter relationships, and just growing up. Really the best part was all the Star Wars mentions though. So funny.

This is definitely a teen romance I recommend for all YA contemporary fans.


Quotes

(Believe it or not, I scaled back on the number of quotes I had highlighted. This book is hilarious and awesome!)

“So, what am I doing for the Empire this summer? Plotting the destruction of peaceful planets like Alderaan?” I thought a Star Wars joke might be a fun way to start our first morning as coworkers, but Dad Vader doesn’t look amused.
“I’m not the enemy, Laurel,” Dad snaps. “Also, I’m your boss, so watch it.”

It’s cliché, crushing on the quarterback, but I think it’s a high school requirement, like taking U.S. History.

 

“Oh,” Dad says. “I almost forgot. Laurel, please introduce yourself.” Way to make me feel like chopped liver, Dad Vader. I’ll remember this when the Rebels storm the Death Star.

I wish I was like Rey in The Force Awakens, brave and tough. Or Princess Leia, snarky and brilliant. But right now, I feel like a young Anakin Skywalker, when no one thought he was capable of piloting his own Podracer, let alone winning a race.

Trish is finished so I take her place, relieved to be interacting with an inanimate object. I expect her to leave as my cappuccino brews, but she doesn’t. She watches me like a hawk stalking a baby rabbit. I hope she kills me fast.

“Clever I am. Surprised she will be.”
“Dad, you’re not Yoda. How many times do we have to go over this?”

We stare at each other. It’s not one of those Hollywood omigod-we’re-going-to-kiss moments. Instead it’s awkward and uncomfortable. I glance around, noticing we’re the last ones on the rooftop. How did that happen?

“Number one: introduction.” He glances up and grins. “We did that on the first day, in case you forgot. I even got your name right, unlike some interns.”
I roll my eyes and try not to reward him with a smile. He can sense victory, though, because his grin deepens in a way I’ve never seen. Wait—does he have two dimples? This is completely unfair.


Apology

I was supposed to partake in a blog tour for this amazing book. It was read in time, I even had the review written up the day I finished it…. but I didn’t schedule ahead of time, and then I got the flu. I’m a month late getting this posted and I feel really guilty for that, but hopefully the author, publisher, and blog coordinators understand that sometimes crap happens and it is what it is. Sorry. 🙁

 

REVIEW: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen






Along for the Ride Book Cover




Along for the Ride





Sarah Dessen





YA Contemporary Romance




Viking Books for Young Readers




June 16, 2009




Hardcover




383




Half Price Books




Beat The Backlist 2018




January 1 - 12, 2018



It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend.

In her signature pitch-perfect style, Sarah Dessen explores the hearts of two lonely people learning to connect.

Review

This was a challenging book to get into. All of the characters were pretty awful and it was hard to care about them. But then something magical happened. Somewhere at around the halfway point this book became difficult to put down. Suddenly I started to see little changes in the heroine, Auden, and I started to care what happened.

On the surface this is a book about a girl who spends the summer between high school and college with her dad and step-mom at their house in a little beach town. She finds friends and romance. But it’s actually much deeper.

Let’s talk about Auden. She’s the youngest of two children and because her parents “needed” her to be quiet and good as a child, she was. She never had a real childhood. She never had close friends, the color pink was frowned upon, and boys were a distraction to her studies — useless.

So when Auden moves in with her dad and step-mother, Heidi, for the summer, she’s dreading having to be around her perky pink-clad step-mother, Heidi. Not to mention the fact that her new baby half-sister NEVER. STOPS. CRYING.

When her parents were fighting, before the divorce, Auden stopped sleeping at night, instead she spent her nights hanging out at an all night diner. Now in the new beach town, she must find new ways to fill her nights. Soon after her arrival, she connects with the mysterious Eli. A friendship blossoms and, upon learning of Auden’s lack of a childhood, he’s determined to give her as many of those experiences as he can before she starts college in the fall.

On the surface, this is a book where not a lot happens. There’s a lot of repetition with the nightly activities between Auden and Eli, plus her job at Heidi’s store, but as Eli takes her on her quest, and things at home become shaky, Auden begins to change.

Let’s talk about the side characters for a second. They were great and awful and a big part of what makes Auden who she is. Her mother is a strong, independent, and powerful woman — very women’s rights and down with the patriarchy. Her dad is a failed writer. Her brother is a free spirit who has spent the last two years mooching off their parents backpacking through Europe.

Her mom comes across as cold-hearted and just mean. She seems to expect Auden to be a carbon copy of herself. Her dad is awful. He’s so selfish and ignorant.

But the people Auden meets in the beach town are amazing.

My main takeaway themes from this book are:

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover — there is far more to a person than what you see on the surface.

People can change — Every person close to Auden in this book showed signs of changing for the better. Even the most unredeemable characters take steps toward redemption.

Coming of Age — A huge theme in this book was Auden realizing who she is without her parents. When she separates herself from them and follows what feels is right in her own heart, who is she really? Is she a carbon copy of her mother? Or as selfish as her dad?

This review is getting WAY too long. For a book I really could have cared less about in the beginning, I’m shocked at how much I enjoyed this.

So, I’ll say my tiny bit of negatives and end this.

  1. The beginning dragged and a critical scene that was referenced multiple times later is glossed over so quickly that it either should have been cut or described.
  1. Very early on her dad and step-mom’s baby is called her stepsister. Grr! She’s her half-sister! Half and Step are VERY different things!!!
  2. I’d liked to have seen more romantic bits with Eli. Personal preference.

Even with those couple negatives, this is still a solid 4 star book for me. The second half was so enjoyable I nearly forgot how bored I was during the first half. I’ll definitely be reading more Sarah Dessen in the future.


Quotes

I was such a smart kid, I should have figured out that the only way to really get my parents’ attention was to disappoint them or fail. But by the time I realized that, succeeding was already a habit too ingrained to break.

There is really nothing more intimidating than approaching a group of girls who have already made up their minds about you. It’s like walking a plank, no way to go but down.

Since I had no rain jacket, I had to borrow one from Heidi, who offered me three colors: bright pink, light pink, and, in her words, “dusty pink,” whatever that meant. I picked the light one, yet still felt positively radioactive as I walked down the gray, wet sidewalk, boldly contrasting with everything about me.

“Who says you have to be either smart or pretty, into girly stuff or sports? Life shouldn’t be about the either/or. We are capable of more than that, you know?”

“Look. I just…”
But no words followed. I just let this hang there, open-ended, waiting for him to jump in, finish it, do the hard part for me. It was my dad’s signature trick, and now I understood why. It was so much easier than having to say what you didn’t want to aloud.

I’d thought I knew so much when I’d arrived here, the smartest girl in the room. But I’d been wrong.


My (Writing) Life

I was going to be GOOD this week and post LOTS of my outstanding reviews. But then I didn’t. I did however get a LOT of my reviews posted at vendors, reviews that are already on the blog and Goodreads, and also submitted to NetGalley. There’s still a ways to go before I’m caught up, but I feel less stressed.

What else… I’m still slogging through reading Animal Farm, but I’m motivated to finish now because next up is going to be The Mummy by Anne Rice. I’ve got the sequel on my old phone from Penguin First Reads to read and I want to refresh my memory by re-reading The Mummy. It’s been a good decade since I first read it!

I’m making slow progress on SOMETHING I’M GOOD AT but that’s mostly right now because I decided to change the book from past tense to present. I usually hate present tense, but it’s starting to grow on me and I think it’ll really help with this particular series of books. (Three books planned at the moment, but I may expand. Who knows!)

I’m 100% certain I will not be posting any other reviews this weekend. It’s the Super Bowl weekend, which I could care less about, but the Super Bowl happens to be in my city this year and I happen to work at a hotel. It’s going to be a full house folks! (Best part of the Super Bowl being in town? One of my good friends demanding that anyone with any info on Justin Timberlake’s whereabouts contact her IMMEDIATELY!) But yeah, I’m working crazy long hours (just like last weekend!) and will be basically dead come Sunday night.

(Psst! Still looking for people who may be interested in reading and reviewing – or even doing a release day blast for – PEACE IN FLAMES my upper YA contemporary romance! Shoot me a message or leave a comment on the post.)