I ate so much toast while reading this book | The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

The Rest of the StoryEmma Saylor has never really spent time with her mom’s family (except for that one Summer when she was four, but she doesn’t really remember that). But when all other options fall through, Emma finds herself heading to Calvander’s–the motel on the lake that her mom’s family owns and operates. As she arrives and the Summer progresses, Emma (or Saylor as her mom’s family calls her) finds out things she never knew about her mother and herself.

TL;DR – Another great Summer read from Sarah Dessen. It doesn’t blow your socks off, but it’s comfortable and the new setting of the lake is fun and I can’t wait to see what else she does with it in the future.

Purchase: Kindle | Hardcover

While this book isn’t going to break into my top five Sarah Dessen books, I still found it enjoyable. Saylor (or Emma) is a likable character even if she’s quite similar to past Dessen protagonists. She battles with identity in the form of her name throughout the book (reminiscent of McLean in What Happened to Goodbye) but I’ll refer to her just as Saylor throughout the rest of the review. I liked the cast of secondary characters even if some felt mildly superfluous (Taylor, April, and Vincent). I might be wrong, but I think this is our first Dessen protagonist who has a large extended family? That we get to see anyway. And I liked that dynamic. I’m someone who comes from large extended families on both sides, so I enjoyed seeing the cousin interactions. I didn’t always love Bailey (she’s pretty self-centered) and we don’t see a ton of Jack, but I loved Trinity. I thought she was a really fun and dynamic character and I would have loved more interactions between her and Saylor. I also thought Gordon was extremely precious and I wanted more of her as well.

As for the characters on the Emma side of things, her friends Bridget and Ryan, again, seemed mildly superfluous. I love that Dessen’s characters usually have strong female friendships, but this time that was mostly shown through the cousins instead of Saylor’s school friends. Tracy was nice enough and I like that she didn’t try to insert herself into things. Nana rocked. I thought she was going to be stuffy and annoying, but she’s actually the best. Saylor’s dad however…I had such a hard time with him for 95% of the book. I never felt like I totally understood his perspective and some of his actions completely enraged me. That being said, I still felt like he was a good guy and I was glad that Saylor had a good father in her life.

I’m realizing now that this is like three paragraphs on characters when I usually just do one, but there were a ton of characters and this book was seriously character driven. Anyway, here we go: Roo. I liked Roo as a person–I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love how almost all of Dessen’s romantic leads are GOOD GUYS. Like seriously, just nice boys. So from that perspective, I really liked Roo and I liked that Roo and Saylor had history. However, I don’t feel like we got to see Roo and Saylor spend much time with each other. In contrast, in The Truth About Forever (my ultimate Sarah Dessen fave), Macy and Wes spend a TON of time together and the reader gets to see it. But because of how busy Roo always was among the other things that Saylor was dealing with, they didn’t spend that much time together. So while I still bought their relationship, I didn’t feel super invested in it.

Lastly, I’ll just go over a few minor things that bugged or didn’t make sense. There was a lot of reflecting and introspection in this book. Like, Saylor would be out on the porch reflecting on an experience she’d had earlier with Mimi or something. But like…why not just write the scene? Why have it be a flashback? With all of the reflecting and such, the timeline seemed really screwy. I would be reading and think that an entire week had passed only to find out that it had been like…two days. Another thing is that I don’t understand why Calvander’s is so short staffed? I mean, it’s the Summer so it seems like they’d have at least two seasonal hires (which they’ve had in the past). I think maybe that should have been explained. Even if Mimi was just like, “Oh, we couldn’t get anybody this year!” Something like that. Another random thing is that I felt really confused by the Sergeant. Like, why did he even “exist” as a character? We literally never see anything from him but that dang toaster! Anyway, I just found him to be very confusing. The last thing is that I was EXTREMELY disappointed in the number of cameos in this book. I know that none of our previous characters have visited the lake before, but that doesn’t mean they can’t visit it now!

In the end, I still really enjoyed this book even if it’s not quite a top five for me. It’s still a solid Dessen book and I really enjoyed the new setting that she’s created with the lake. I’m excited to see what she does with it in the future. Definitely would recommend!

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

This book was a ticking time bomb | Happy Messy Scary Love by Leah Konen [ARC]

Happy Messy Scary LoveOlivia loves horror movies and wants to be a horror screenwriter one day. Unfortunately, she sabotaged herself when she was applying for a prestigious NYU screenwriting summer program so now she’s left with nothing to do over the summer except hang out at her family’s cabin. At least she has her Reddit pen pal to keep her company. She thinks that’s the plan until her mom surprises her with a summer job at a ziplining company knowing full well that Olivia is TERRIFIED of heights. Not only that, but now her Reddit pen pal wants to swap photos. And the summer is only beginning.

TL;DR – So many lies that were easily avoidable and are just not going to end well for anyone involved.

I’m just going to start by saying that I felt like I was too old for this book. There were so many times when I was face palming at Olivia’s poor choices. Now, part of the problem is that this is a book so you KNOW certain things are going to happen. Ordinarily, I might not have had much of a problem with Olivia sending a picture of her friend Katie to Elm, but since this is a book you know that she and Elm WILL meet in real life and that Katie WILL also show up at some point. The same applies to other decisions made throughout the book.

The characters were just okay for me. I didn’t find Olivia to be a super sympathetic main character (perhaps because of all of her poor choices) and Jake wasn’t really a compelling love interest. Their relationship would have been a lot more fun if Jake knew that Olivia was Carrie from the beginning, but then of course we wouldn’t have had a story. Olivia’s parents/aunt were kind of non-characters? I mean, they were there and every once in a while would play a role, but honestly they could’ve been any nondescript adult character. Same with the other employees at the ziplining company–they could’ve all just been “generic summer camp employees”. Katie at times was a really great and supportive friend for Olivia, but then at other times she was TERRIBLE. I wasn’t convinced by their friendship–they both seemed pretty selfish and I don’t actually see how their friendship works.

The plot wasn’t wholly original, like I said, there were many things that you KNEW were going to happen. So while this book was still a ticking time bomb (waiting for all of Olivia’s lies to catch up with her) the book still lacked suspense. You KNOW that Jake is going to find out everything and waiting for the “when” isn’t super suspenseful. One thing I didn’t like is that there was no acknowledgement of how Jake might feel being torn between two girls (Carrie and Olivia). Even though the reader knows they’re the same person, he doesn’t, so I feel like that should have played into it more. Like, he should have had more conflict hanging out with Olivia or he should have been pulling away from Carrie or something like that. Also, it’s ridiculous that Olivia based many of her screenplay characters on her coworkers and then sent it to Jake expecting him not to recognize anyone? Like, come on.

Overall, this book was just pretty meh for me. It took me a lot longer to get through it than it should have. I liked the setting and the overall premise was fine, but don’t be expecting any surprises, because there are none.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

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

You get a gang, YOU get a gang, EVERYBODY GETS A GANG!!! | King of Fools by Amanda Foody [ARC]

King of FoolsEnne and Levi are in trouble after the Shadow Game has ended. Not only did they kill two of the most influential people in New Reynes, but they still have to deal with Vianca’s omertas. With an election coming up, Vianca has some things that she needs them to do. When Levi is approached by her estranged son, Harrison, and given a counter-offer, he will have some tough decisions to make including whether or not to let Enne know what’s going on. Meanwhile, Enne is out for revenge and she wants it in blood. As the election gets closer, the stakes keep getting higher.

TL;DR – While this book contains much intrigue and action, most of the “why” was unclear.

Hardcover | ebook

I had a really hard time getting into this book in the beginning. I just felt like the story took a while to get going and I couldn’t remember why I liked any of the characters from the first book. They all seemed annoying and there were plot points that were confusing to me. Vianca wants Levi and Enne to set up profitable gangs…why? I mean, I know she takes money from them, but was that the only reason? And then I’m not sure about Harrison’s deal either. Why does he need to know who the next don is? It’s all just kind of confusing.

As far as characters go, again, in the beginning I found everyone annoying. Over time, Enne grew on me–I think the same thing happened for me in the first book too. I really liked who she ended up being, but I don’t think her developmental arc made a ton of sense. I wasn’t super convinced. I don’t like Levi very much at all and I can’t quite put my finger on why. I don’t really buy him and Enne together, so that might be part of it. Neither character gives a convincing reason why they want to be together. Their relationship has no base, no foundation. What do they even like about each other aside from looks? I’m just not a fan of their relationship. There are a ton of secondary characters too who are all fine. I thought character diversity was done pretty well and authentically.

Overall, this book was just LONG and kind of confusing to me. Plot points and character reactions didn’t always seem logical. There were also all these excerpts from the legends of the North Side scattered throughout and I couldn’t see how they related to the story at all. The ending was intriguing and confusing and while it does make me want to read the third book, I’ll probably feel the same way about it as I do this one.

Overall Rating: 3.5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

 

Apparently, I’m a Seattle snob | Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett [ARC]

Serious MoonlightBirdie and Daniel had possibly the most awkward first encounter of all time (they had sex and then Birdie ran away). Birdie would have been fine to never think about the experience again, except that Daniel is working at the hotel where she just got her first job. Determined to push past their initial encounter, Birdie and Daniel embark on a journey to solve a local mystery.

TL;DR – Not as good as Alex, Appoximately.

eBook | Hardcover

My first problem with this book is the cover. It’s great that they were able to get a model with long hair for Daniel, but where is Birdie’s flower? That’s such a key part of her character and I don’t feel like it would have been that hard to include that in the cover, but whatever. I mean, they’re eating pie, Birdie has a book…how did they miss the flower???

Some of you might remember that I LOVED Alex, Approximately so I was fully prepared to love this book too. Unfortunately, it seemed a little too reminiscent of Alex, Approximately and wasn’t as enjoyable to me. Obviously there were some different plot points, but it was the same formula of “sheltered and somehow damaged girl meets extremely charismatic and attractive boy, boy pursues reluctant girl, girl discovers boy is also damaged, girl and boy get together”. It just felt too the same to me.

Then we get to the setting. I was born and raised in a suburb near Seattle and I just felt like this was a very tourist portrayal of the city. I mean, I guess maybe people who live in the city proper are different? But I don’t think so and I found it detracted from the book for me. I mean, Daniel calls Safeco Field “The Safe”. Literally nobody calls it that. Okay, I googled it and apparently some news stories have called it that, but I have never heard a local call it that. Literally never. Besides, it’s T-Mobile Park now so that “nickname” is already dated. There’s also a line where Birdie mentions that a Fremont Troll sized weight is lifted off her back or something. What. Who thinks stuff like that? It’s literally only in there to namedrop another Seattle landmark. And the weather is mentioned by Birdie way too often. Growing up, I would never think about the weather. If it’s raining, I’d grab my jacket and that was it. I never dwelt on the fact that it was raining in June or whatever. I hardly even noticed if the sky was overcast. Locals also never talk about the “Seattle freeze”. So there we go. Apparently I’m a Seattle snob or whatever. Don’t @ me.

Besides those things, I thought the side characters were okay. I liked Mona, Birdie’s grandpa, and Joseph, but we never really get time to know much about any of them. I thought the setting of the diner was good too (every pie sounded AMAZING). I didn’t love Birdie as a character, however. She complained about her grandmother A LOT and never seemed to really think about why her grandmother was so overprotective–she just kind of complained about it. I also never understood why she was so resistant to learning about and dealing with her narcolepsy? I guess maybe I didn’t realize that there was a stigma around it. Daniel was okay as a character if a little too perfect.

Daniel and Birdie’s relationship wasn’t super compelling to me. There was just too much angst (created by Birdie). It was so obvious the entire book that Daniel was SUPER into her, but Birdie was really hesitant and kind of held back the entire time. Even after she and Daniel “got together” and his mom had told Birdie that he was super into her, she was still really paranoid and doubtful. It just made Birdie not make much sense to me as a character.

Overall, I just didn’t find this book, the characters, the subplots, or the setting as enjoyable as Alex, Approximately. I probably shouldn’t be comparing the two, but I can’t stop myself. I will say, this was a very sex positive book portraying teens practicing safe sex and consent, so it’s got that going for it. I haven’t read Starry Eyes yet, but I’m a little more hesitant to pick it up now.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

True Crime + LA + Libraries = Heart Eyes | The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library BookOn April 28, 1986 there was a huge fire at the LA Public Library. While this was obviously a big deal, the news got lost as Chernobyl happened the same day. When Susan Orlean moved to LA with her husband and son, she discovered this largely untold story and started doing some investigating. This book details the history of the LA Public Library, the fire itself, and the arson investigation that took place afterwards. Woven throughout that narrative is Orlean’s love letter to libraries themselves.

TL;DR – Orlean seamlessly intertwines several narratives. LA history, arson investigations, and the day-to-day of public libraries are all presented as equally fascinating.

eBook | Hardcover

First, let me say for anyone thinking about purchasing this book, it is GORGEOUS. Definitely bookstagrammable. However, if you decide to get the hardcover on Amazon (link above) just be warned that it does come with that “Reese’s book club” stamp (eye roll) which is not removable. If you would like an unmarred copy, I’d suggest getting a copy in person and B&N or something.

On to my review. My love affair with non-fiction continues! My husband helped me to discover recently that I’ve really been enjoying non-fiction books written by journalists (see Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and recently Kirk Wallace Johnson). Susan Orlean was a journalist for the New York Times before writing this book so she fits right in my wheelhouse. Plus libraries, so it was always going to be a slam dunk.

This story is actually so fascinating, but the parts I loved most about this book were the descriptions of the day-to-day life of the library. At the very beginning when she’s writing about the library opening for the day, I legitimately got chills. I loved seeing all the different departments from her perspective and I could definitely relate to some of the stories.

I also really liked how she opened each chapter with some catalog listings that fit what the chapter was going to be about. I just thought it was a really nice touch and I liked guessing what kind of stuff was going to be in each chapter.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. If you love libraries, read this book. If you love true crime, read this book. If you love LA, read this book.

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

Def thought this was the last book in the series (it’s not) | Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard [ARC]

Note: This is the third book in The Witchlands series and may contain spoilers for the first two books.

BloodwitchI’m not going to write a summary for this book. I tried and just couldn’t do it so I’ll just get into the review. To address the title, when I picked this book up, I was under the impression that the series was just a trilogy. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that there are actually going to be two more books AFTER this one. My plan to binge the entire series was frustrated, but I’m not too mad at it. I’ve really loved this series much more than I thought I would, so I’m happy.

Something I really love about this series is that it’s diverse without trying too hard or feeling like it’s trying to check every box. It does a good job of not being overly obvious and I think that’s the ultimate goal when people are asking for diverse characters and books. Referring to a character’s skin color or sexuality every other chapter almost creates this otherness about them. Specific traits for them are being singled out and consciously brought to our attention. I don’t want an author to tell me about how a character’s diverse, I want them to show me.

The characters in this series are all pretty much equally enjoyable for me. I’ve been surprised at how sympathetic a character Vivia has become. I really liked the sections from her POV and the struggle she’s having to be the leader that her father wants her to be while also reconciling who she actually is and her family’s history of mental illness. I knew from the beginning of this series that I would really enjoy Prince Leopold as a character, so I was THRILLED when he made a reappearance. It was really great to get to know Aeduan a little more in this book and I love him and Iseult together. Safi and Iseult continue to be utterly delightful and I absolutely love that their relationship continues to feel so strong when they haven’t even been together for two books. They’re constantly thinking about each other and ultimately, I think their goal throughout these books is just to get back with each other.

This book really moves the overall plot of the series forward. We’ve kind of thought that the plot was one thing this whole time, but later in the book, we start to realize that there is much more going on. Some hints have been dropped along the way throughout the series, but now we’re seeing bit and pieces of the larger plot start to form. Now, maybe I would know some of this stuff if I’d read Sightwitch? But as I’ve stated in an earlier post, I don’t believe in these supplemental short stories and novellas and prequels. So I’m just going to continue on and see where that takes me. One last minor plot point that I thought was interesting is how Safi and Iseult always seem to be in danger at the same time. Why is that? Because they’re the Cahr Awen? I just really hope that gets explained in a later book.

While I absolutely loved this book, I do have some questions:

  • Iseult says that animals don’t have threads, but mountain bats and sea foxes do. Why is that?
  • I wish we had some kind of background or explanation as to why everyone hates Nomatsis. Maybe in a future book?
  • I feel like deceit is an emotion or something that Iseult should be able to see in someone’s threads.
  • Why do some people have Threadsiblings and others don’t?

I have a couple other questions too, but they’re kind of spoilery, so I won’t ask them here.

Overall, this was a great third installment. I hear fans of the series had to wait a REALLY long time for the third book, so I’ll just be over hear hoping the fourth book gets here a little quicker than the third. If you haven’t already started this series, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.

eBook | Hardcover

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: An ARC of this book was sent to the library where I work.

A book in which our MC makes many questionable decisions | You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook [ARC]

You Owe Me a MurderConnor broke Kim’s heart and for that, he deserves to die. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but he really, really sucks and now Kim is facing two weeks in London with him and his new girlfriend. And their flight is delayed. Luckily, Kim makes a new friend at the airport and they’re able to commiserate over their shared misfortunes. Nicki jokingly suggests that the perfect crime would be for her to kill Connor and for Kim to kill Nicki’s mom–nothing to connect either of them to the crimes. While under the influence of (stolen) alcohol, Kim agrees that it’s a genius plan and then promptly forgets about it. At least, until Connor ends up under a train and it’s looking like it might not have been an accident.

TL;DR – The plot is so…far-fetched and our protag is just kind of annoying and questionable the entire time.

There are so many things I want to say about this book, but I really don’t want to give any spoilers! Let’s just say that Kim is kind of annoying pretty much the whole time. She’s pining after this guy and is so worried about how other people think of her. It’s crazy to me that her parents pretty much made her go on this trip after she and Connor broke up. Like…how insensitive! Honestly, I think the only character in this book who is remotely palatable is Alex and he’s one of those “too good to be true” love interests. His relationship with Kim comes pretty much out of nowhere. He gives a small explanation as to why he’s interested in her, but really, it’s completely crazy and I’m not buying it.

Other characters are completely flat and underdeveloped. Connor has cochlear implants, which I guess shows that people with disabilities can be jerks too? It was a super random detail that felt like forced diversity. Emily (Kim’s “best friend”) is essentially a non-character. Basically, Kim just thinks about her from time-to-time and then at the end Emily sends her this clutch letter with a message that Kim literally could have gotten from a fortune cookie or billboard. The other students on the trip are also non-characters and are nearly indistinguishable from each other. And then Kim’s parents are just…???

The plot is so weird. What is the point of this London trip? I don’t actually understand it. And after like…four days Kim is doing laundry which does NOT make sense to me. She’s walking around the city like she’s been there for months instead of days and Tasha lets these teenagers (!!!) go and do pretty much whatever they want in the city. And that’s not even talking about the main premise of this book. Kim makes so many questionable decisions just starting in the airport when she decides it’s a good idea to help Nicki steal some vodka. She seems like a smart girl, so like…what? Her actions and how the author clearly wants to portray her to the reader as an intelligent, mature teenage girl never match up throughout the entire book. Kim just keeps lying about everything for pretty much no reason and I was basically tearing my hair out the entire book. And then there’s Nicki. What does she even do for money? She has all these connections and can somehow stalk Kim without any additional information. I don’t even think she gets her last name? Unrealistic.

Lastly, the ending is complete bogus. There are a million ways this book could have ended and I feel like it ends in the one way that makes zero sense. It’s too clean and nobody really faces any consequences. Kim ends up going home and is thinking about this huge lesson that she’s learned and I just want to shake her and yell, “That’s not the right lesson you moron!”

Anyway, I was extremely disappointed by this book. I wanted it to be a little more cat and mouse and a lot less annoying main character. It’s almost to the point where I’m wondering if Kim is this obtuse on purpose. Like, is there a deeper level here that I’m missing? At the end of the day, this book (mostly Kim) was not for me.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: An ARC was provided to the library that I work at.