It’s cheesy, but like in a good way | Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, ApproximatelyBailey has just moved across the country to live with her dad. The fact that her online penpal lives in the same city had nothing to do with the decision. Well, almost nothing. She doesn’t even know for sure if Alex likes her and what if he ends up being a total creep anyway? That’s why she’s not telling him that she moved. She’ll scope out the situation, see if she can find him, and then if he’s normal it’ll be a big “surprise!” and they’ll ride off into the sunset. If only this annoying guy from work would leave her alone, she could really concentrate on finding Alex. But Porter seems intent on getting a rise from her every time they’re together and it’s becoming quite distracting.

TL;DR – This is a fun beach romance that has a surprising amount of depth. The predictability of the plot does not make the book any less enjoyable.

First off all, I had my doubts about this book. I mean, I kept hearing everyone else saying that they loved it, etc., but to me it sounded extremely predictable. Now, there’s a time and a place for predictability, especially in romance, but for some reason this just sounded like it might be really boring to me. Well, I was proved wrong. Yes, the book is extremely predictable. We know from the beginning that Porter is actually Alex. While that fact didn’t necessarily create tension within the book, I think it did make it so the reader had this really interesting view and opinion of Porter that Bailey did not initially share.

The plot, again, was super predictable, but I thought the overall tone was nice. It had a really good balance of lighter moments and also really heavy stuff. There were so many parts throughout the books that I just don’t think would have worked or be enjoyable in another story (especially a beachy YA romance), but somehow it all just really works in this book. I did wonder if Bailey was a little too “damaged” as a main character, though. Obviously authors want their characters to be flawed and have baggage, but there are times when I think too much has been added to a character. I feel like Bailey is right there on the edge of being too much.

The romance was nice but I felt that it progressed a little too quickly. I thought there’d be just a little more back and forth before they actually got together. I felt that Porter as a love interest was a little too mature and the overall relationship was a little too serious, but I still cared about both Porter and Bailey and their relationship. One thing I really liked is that after Bailey’s dad and Sergeant Mendoza warn her away from Porter, Bailey actually tells Porter about the conversation instead of just continuing to hurt his feelings. That never happens in YA books! I feel like characters are always keeping things and conversations to themselves when they don’t need to and it creates all of this unnecessary angst. Transparency is key!

Overall, I can’t quite put my finger on why this book was so enjoyable, just that it was. It’s a perfect read for the summer or any time that you wish it were summer, really. It also had a ton of old film references. I don’t have a ton of knowledge in that area myself, so a lot of the references went over my head, but if you are into that I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate


Best YA Books of 2017 | Provo Library Event

Every year the Provo Library puts on a “Best of…” event where they go over the best YA, Adult, and Children’s books from the previous year. Most years I just go for the YA session and I’ve usually already heard of most of the books that they mention. But every once in a while they talk about a book that I haven’t heard of and I’m intrigued. So I thought I’d mention a few of the books that caught my eye here.

Bull by David Elliott – This is a book written in verse that also has some visual elements. It’s a retelling of the myth of the Minotaur. I have always loved mythology in general and I’m intrigued by this premise.

Damsels by Leah Moore – More retellings! This one is a graphic novel and brings together many of our favorite fairy tale heroines. This is not your typical “damsel in distress” book.

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman I think somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that Vincent Van Gogh had a brother, but I wouldn’t have been able to come up with his name. This book sounds really interesting in exploring their relationship and how it may have influenced Vincent’s art. Also, this is from the same author who gave us Charles and Emma.

The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato – This book was very intriguing to me. It’s set in D.C. and I think has an American History element to it with maybe some magical realism?

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld – I have loved Scott Westerfeld ever since I read the “Uglies” series back when they were coming out when I was in junior high. This is a graphic novel and was described as being horror-ish. I’d like to read more graphic novels so I’m definitely interested in this one.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds – Okay, so I think this is another book that’s written in verse. It’s about a boy whose brother got shot and so now he’s trying to take out the guy who he thinks was the shooter. He’s on this elevator and on each floor a ghost gets on to talk to him? It sounds kind of trippy but also just really fascinating.

Have you guys heard of these books? What were some of your favorite reads from 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Sense and Sensibility and Tea | Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge [ARC]


Okay, so I know I’ve been a little MIA for a couple of weeks, but we’ve had a lot going on lately. The main thing is that we moved! Just seven blocks away, but still. It was far enough. With the baby coming, we just needed a bigger apartment. So that’s what’s been taking my time lately–the packing, moving, and unpacking…it’s never-ending. But we’re just about done, so hopefully I’ll be back with more wonderful content soon! In the meantime, here’s a review for a book that I read (and enjoyed) last month.

Jane of Austin

Jane Woodward and her sisters had been doing pretty good for themselves after their father’s business scandal. They had found a nice location on Valencia Street with an attached apartment to open their dream tea shop. But when their landlord dies, his son (well, really his son’s wife) forces them out. After trying all of their contacts, the sisters are left with no choice but to move into their cousin’s guest house in Austin, Texas. As they struggle to find a new location for their tea shop, the sisters also have to adjust to a different pace of life.

TL;DR – Overall, a good Jane Austen retelling. I liked all the characters, but found Celia hard to read at times. This book also heavily features food which is a definite plus in my opinion.

First off, I have always loved the idea of books that come with recipes. Have I ever tried any of those recipes? No. But that’s beside the point. Books that center around food are wildly attractive to me. I love food and I love reading about good food even if it makes me jealous and hungry. That’s why having books with recipes is so genius. Not only can you read about the food, but you could (hypothetically) actually make it afterwards.

With three sisters, you might think that it would be hard to connect with all of them or to make them distinguishable. However, I thought the author did a great job of helping us to understand each of the sisters as individuals even though Jane was clearly the main character. I still felt like I connected with both Celia and Margot. I also thought Callum was a good character and I enjoyed his narrations as well as Jane’s.

Sometimes I like multiple POV books and sometimes I don’t. This time I think it worked, but wasn’t necessary–or at least, wasn’t necessary from Callum’s point of view. I didn’t mind it, but I thought that having Celia as a narrator might have made more sense? Of course, that may have made it so the book was more about the sister relationship than the romance, but would that have been so bad? There were just times when I felt like Celia was hard to figure out, so I wished that she got a chance to narrate.

Overall, the plot was pretty similar to the original Sense and Sensibility. I always love retellings and this one was as good as any. I will say that I thought the ending was a little abrupt and fairy tale-ish (especially the epilogue portion). Despite that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun, clean romance or anyone who enjoys Jane Austen retellings.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Blog posts to share | February 2018

YABookers discussed standalones vs series – Series are definitely a double-edged sword, in my opinion. I agree with pretty much everything they mention in their post here.

Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books talked about books she picked up on a whim and loved – I really liked this post because it encourages me to pick up random books too. You never know what hidden gems you might be missing out on!

Flavia @ Flavia the Bibliophile raved about The Greatest Showman (using lots of gifs) – Hi, yes, I agree that this is the best movie ever. I absolutely LOVED it and the soundtrack is AMAZING and interracial relationship representation is A+.

Courtney @ Buried in a Bookshelf gave some great recommendations for finding books for cheap – I’m always on the hunt for great book deals. The only thing I’ll add is that if you don’t mind eBooks, Amazon is a great place to find those and will often mark down popular eBooks to $1.99 or $2.99 for a limited time. Library book sales are really where it’s at though.

Analee @ Book Snacks discussed different family types in YA books and lists recommendations – This was a great post because sometimes I do feel like YA books have “invisible families”. It’s nice to know that there are books out there that feature both good and bad family dynamics.

Marty @ The Cursed Books listed 8 things that she wished non-readers would stop doing – The struggle is real you guys! Some people legitimately don’t understand the love of reading. While that’s okay, sometimes they still do things that get on every reader’s nerves. Let’s just take a collective deep breath.

Jamieson @ jamishelves gave some tips on how to get into audiobooks – I’ve read a few posts like this and always appreciate them because I do think that audiobooks are slightly underrated (especially in the YA community). But This was such a comprehensive overview to starting audiobooks with some recommendations at the end. A lot of posts like these don’t really talk in depth about how important the narrator/narration is, so I really appreciate that Jamieson really discussed that.

Krysta @ Pages Unbound discussed whether YA books are maturing too fast This post was so interesting to me because I grew up with YA books like The Giver, Hatchet, Ella Enchanted, My Side of the Mountain, etc. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve continued to read YA but haven’t really noticed that the YA books I’ve been reading have also aged with me. I think it’s really something to think about. YA today is definitely not the same content-wise as it was when I first started reading it.

Discussion: Thoughts on YA Novellas and Short Stories

I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years where YA authors are putting out lots of novellas and short stories to accompany their series. Examples:

throne of glass novellas

The selection novellas

Please tell me, WHO ASKED FOR THESE??? I already have a hard enough time reading all of the books in a series, but now I have to read all of these novellas and short stories too? I know that I don’t HAVE to read them–nobody’s forcing me. But it feels like if the author’s putting it out there, then maybe I’m supposed to get additional information about characters or events from these stories.

However, I’ve found that a lot of times reading the extra material does not help or change my viewpoints about characters or events. If the events in the short story or novella were so important, then the author should have included that information in the book/series to begin with. To be completely honest–and I don’t really like feeling this way–it feels to me like these short stories and novellas are published purely to make more money by milking an idea that’s working for all that it’s worth. And that just leaves a bad taste in my mouth where that author is concerned. I feel like I, as a reader, am being taken advantage of.

kim kardashian money gif

So my position is that these little “extras” are unnecessary and just create added stress as a reader (not to mention cost, because libraries don’t often carry these–you actually have to buy them). Let’s think about one of the greatest series that has ever been: Harry Potter. If she wanted to, J.K. Rowling could 100% write a million more stories about day-to-day life at Hogwarts featuring a variety of characters. But she hasn’t. Sure, she’s fleshed out the world and made movies, etc. but she hasn’t done anything else with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and their time at Hogwarts. If she wanted to, I know for a fact that people would pay for that. So why hasn’t she chosen to do that while many lesser known and less popular authors with smaller fandoms have?

At the end of the day, I’m just sitting here pleading for authors to give me the whole story in one or two books (three max). I don’t have time to read four, five, eight book series anymore and I certainly don’t have time to read 50-100 page novellas and short stories.

What are your opinions on YA short stories and novellas? Are you a fan? Why do you think authors write them? Let me know in the comments!

Sibling rivalry is brought to a whole new level | Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark CrownsThree queens are born, but only one can survive. Every generation, triplet queens are forced to fight to the death. Whoever survives reigns as the new queen. Arsinoe, Mirabella, and Katherine have known this their whole lives. Unfortunately, both Arsinoe and Katherine are still working to master the gifts that the goddess has given them. Everybody knows that Mirabella is going to end up queen, but Arsinoe, Katherine, and the families that fostered them aren’t willing to go down without a fight.

TL;DR – Great main characters and plot, but the world building could use a little work/additional explanation. Also, get ready to be overloaded by secondary characters.

This book had been sitting on my shelf forever it seems. I finally got around to reading it, and immediately after I finished I made my husband go to Barnes & Noble to pick up the second book. I didn’t really think that I’d like it as much as I did–I think I might have heard a couple of negative reviews about it.

The first thing I noticed is that Blake did a really good job making all three queens likable. I didn’t necessarily have a favorite and I was really torn about which queen I wanted to end up winning. I think it could have been really easy to paint one queen as the hero and the other two as villains, but the whole premise of the book means their relationships and decisions are so complicated. I love how each sister has her own conflicting desires. It really makes you wonder how previous queens felt and reacted.

The overall plot was great and I really liked how politics played so strongly into the story line. I’m really intrigued to see how this series ends and I appreciate that the author is taking her time. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this book had ended with one of the sisters killing another, but it seems like that kind of thing won’t happen until later books. I will say, though, that the ending was very unexpected for me and was part of why I was so eager to get my hands on the second book.

The world building is the only part that I find a little weak. This is a very complicated world and it’s not fully explained. We’re not really given any history or background for how this place came to be or who/why the goddess is, etc. Why triplets? Why don’t queens reign longer? Who reigns while the triplets are growing up? How does the queen know what gifts the babies have? Why do people live in groups based on ability? Is it possible for a poisoner to be born to elementals? What would happen to them? Just so many questions.

My last little issue is that there were SO MANY secondary characters. Seriously. I only started to figure out who everyone was after about 2/3 or 3/4 of the book. Other than that, though, I really enjoyed this book and am also enjoying the second book so far. I would definitely recommend.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate (a couple of scenes, no explicit descriptions)

A definitive and completely subjective ranking of all Sarah Dessen books

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Seeing as how Sarah Dessen is literally the queen of YA Contemporary Romance, I though I’d rank her books to celebrate the holiday. I’ll admit, this was a bit more work than I thought it would be, I literally just binged half of her books. But I think that makes me uniquely qualified to make this list. Keep in mind these are all my opinions.

But here we go, this is how I would rank her books from least favorite to most favorite. I’ve included the order and year in which the books were published as well. Titles link to Goodreads. (Note: I’m not including her short story on the list.)

Sarah Dessen covers
For the record, I liked the old covers better, but no one asked me.

13) That Summer (1st book, published 1996) – This is the only one of Dessen’s books where the main character is not involved in some kind of romantic relationship, but that’s not why I’ve ranked it so low. I like the characters and the overall themes, but it’s a lot more telling than showing. It’s really apparent that this is Dessen’s first book and it comes off as more the main character telling us a story rather than living the events with her.

12) The Moon & More (11th book, published 2013) – Emaline isn’t my favorite character and this is the first time that Dessen has essentially given us a love triangle. On top of that, I don’t really like Luke or Theo. I mean, I think I could have liked Luke, but we don’t end up seeing that much of him. I did really like Emaline’s relationship with her brother, Benji, though.

11) Keeping the Moon (3rd book, published 1999) – Colie might be my least favorite Dessen protag. I feel like she comes off as immature and her relationship with Norman didn’t actually feel very organic. I did, however, like the message of self-confidence and self-worth, etc.

10) What Happened to Goodbye (10th book, published 2011) – While I love Luna Blu as a location, the rest of the story feels a little more…vague. McLean was an okay character for me even though I did really like her relationship with her dad.

9) Someone Like You (2nd book, published 1998) – Scarlett and Halley are ultimate friendship goals. I absolutely LOVE their relationship. Again, though, because this is only Dessen’s second novel, it doesn’t read as smoothly and doesn’t feel as absorbing as her later books. But I did also enjoy how Halley and her mom come to some kind of resolution in the end.

8) Dreamland (4th book, published 2000) – This book is absolutely heartbreaking. I was too young the first time I read this book and didn’t really understand all of the implications, but rereading it last week just destroyed me. I don’t have experience being in an abusive relationship and haven’t read very many books dealing with that, but I feel like I understand Caitlin. While I don’t always agree with her decisions, they make sense to me.

7) Along for the Ride (9th book, published 2009) – I just like Auden so much. Her parents are both infuriating, but I really like how Auden is with her step-mother and half-sister. The scenes where Auden is bonding with her sister are so precious. I also like how Auden and Eli’s relationship develops over time. Also, this book features my fave Dessen location OF ALL TIME: The Washroom (the pie laundromat).

6) Once and For All (13th book, published 2017) – I loved Louna’s mom and William and the wedding planning element made this book really fun. While I know some people really don’t like Louna or Ambrose, they felt really reminiscent of Remy and Dexter to me, so I actually did end up liking them.

5) Lock & Key (8th book, published 2008) – Ruby and Cora’s relationship is one of my favorites. Dessen has a lot of sister relationships throughout her books, but I feel like this one was the most tender. I also like that Nate was probably the most in-depth love interest that we’ve had.

4) Just Listen (7th book, published 2006) – Again, I was too young the first time I read this book, so I feel like I just understand more now. As a “difficult” middle child myself, I feel like I relate in some ways to Whitney. I know this story is about Annabel, but I felt like this story was more about Whitney as a secondary character than any of Dessen’s other books have been about secondary characters.

3) Saint Anything (12th book, published 2015) – The Chathams. I feel like that’s really all I need to say. They’re such a great family and I love seeing Sydney with them. I also like how Sydney realistically works through her feelings about her brother and what he’s done.

2) This Lullaby (5th book, published 2002) – Remy is one of my favorite Dessen protags. She’s feisty and smart and loyal and jaded. I think this book is really where Dessen hits her stride. And how can you not love Dexter?

1) The Truth About Forever (6th book, published 2004) – I have read and reread this book so many times over the years. It’s really become a comfort object to me for some reason. Macy and Wes and the whole Wish Catering crew just feel so real to me. I love every scene where they’re catering and rushing to resolve emergencies. Watching Macy’s family finally trying to heal after everything that’s happened is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

Do you agree with my rankings? What is your most and least favorite Sarah Dessen book? Let me know in the comments!