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

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This book made me feel 100% Latina | Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno [ARC]

Don't Date Rosa SantosThe Santos women are cursed by the sea. Any man that they fall in love with will be claimed by the ocean. Rosa has grown up her entire life with this knowledge and has never really grappled with it until now. She’s about to pick which college she wants to go to when she meets Alex. He’s tall, has a beard, ocean tattoos, and…a boat. Rosa knows it’s a bad idea to fall for him, but how can she resist especially when she finds out that he bakes too?

TL;DR – This book will make you wish you had an abuela. The Cuban culture is so authentic throughout that it makes my heart hurt.

eBook | Hardcover

My ethnicity is a mixed bag. I’m a quarter white, half Chinese, and a quarter Hispanic. The grandparent I grew up closest to is my mom’s mother who was born and raised in Panama. Rosa’s abuela, Mimi, reminded me so much of my own grandmother. I could see her doing and saying so many of the things that Mimi did. There are more similarities as well that I’ll address later on. Seriously though, this book made me feel so much more Hispanic than I actually am. During and after reading I found myself gesturing at things to my husband with my lip/chin. I never do that!

First, I just want to say that I absolutely adored this book. It was so close to being a five star read for me! I thought Rosa was a really enjoyable character right off the bat and I loved her dynamic with all of the other characters. She was so interesting and really felt alive for me. I also loved the dynamic and tensions between Rosa, Mimi, and Liliana (Rosa’s mom). All three women were incredibly strong in different ways. I enjoyed that the author was able to portray that differing strength in women. Women can be strong, even if they’re not all strong in the same way.

Secondary characters were amazing! They all felt like they had depth to them and I felt they contributed to the story in an important way. I especially enjoyed Rosa’s best friend and the viejos. Please, I would follow their Instagram in a heartbeat!

The atmosphere of the book also felt so real. The weather was almost another character and I loved how that played into the slight magical/mystical thread throughout the book. It was all very fun. The weather also contributed to the raw emotions that came out at times. There are a few scenes throughout this book where the emotion is just so heavy. Despite that, this isn’t a heavy book and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a Summer read.

***Slight Spoiler Ahead***

This book hit me especially hard because my grandmother just passed away last month in a way that was similar to Mimi. It was kind of sudden and like Liliana, my mom was the one there performing CPR on her own mother until the paramedics arrived. There were some other similarities as well that I won’t go into. It just felt eerily similar to me. When Rosa was dealing with Mimi’s death, I felt it so hard. I saw myself in Rosa and parts of my mom in Liliana. The emotions felt so real and it’s obvious that the author has lost someone close to her. I still forget some days that my grandma isn’t around anymore. I hope, like Rosa, that I can one day make that pilgrimage back to my grandmother’s homeland. The sacrifices that she made to come to America amaze me every day and I would literally not be here without her. I love you, Llaya.

***Spoiler End***

Anyway…I highly, highly recommend this book. I appreciate the call for diversity in YA, but a lot of times I think it’s done poorly or in a way that’s inauthentic. That is NOT the case with this book. If you want to read diversity in YA, then this is the kind of thing you should be reading.

Overall Rating: 4.5
Language: Mild
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

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

 

BLOG TOUR: Who I Am with You by Robin Lee Hatcher [GIVEAWAY]

who i am with youWho I Am with You
by Robin Lee Hatcher
Release Date: December 11, 2018
Genres: Christian fiction, Romance

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N

SYNOPSIS: For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have broken their hearts, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am with You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

Who I Am with You is the first book in Robin’s new “A Legacy of Faith” series.

REVIEW: I’m always a little wary of Christian fiction because I think sometimes the religion aspect is too heavy handed. That being said, I thought Hatcher struck a great balance with this book. Obviously their faith is present, but the characters aren’t talking to God or reflecting on Christ every other paragraph.

Both Jessica and Ridley were enjoyable, sympathetic characters. They both start off the book a little angry because of things that had happened to them in their past and it was interesting to see the different ways that they dealt with that anger. Ridley chose to escape and turn to God, while Jessica chose to become more closed off and independent. The reader gets a chance to see both characters develop as they work towards forgiving those that have wronged them.

The plot is nothing crazy, but it helps us to get to know the characters and by the end, the reader really wants both Jessica and Ridley to be happy. Andrew’s sections were not quite as compelling to me, so I was glad that they were significantly shorter than the present day narrative. One thing I wished was that more of a connection was struck between Jessica and Andrew. I think it mentions her reading through his Bible once? They were going through some similar things I would have liked to have seen Jessica find more comfort and kinship in her great-grandfather.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It’s the first book in the series and it looks like the next book starts with Jessica handing off Andrew’s Bible to another relative. It will be interesting to see how Andrew’s story continues with this new family member.

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


Who I Am with You blog tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway!



robin lee hatcherABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com, Facebook: robinleehatcher, Twitter: @robinleehatcher and Instagram @robinleehatcher.


Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Cartoon Strips and Wedding Disasters | Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Save the Date

The Grant siblings are all about to be in the same place for the first time in what feels like forever and Charlie can’t wait. She loves her siblings and they’ll all be together for her older sister’s wedding. What could go wrong?

TL;DR – Wedding planning/shenanigans/disasters, comic strip characters come to life, and a random dog. If these things sound good to you, you will like this book.

I am a big fan of Morgan Matson in general and this was another solid showing. I loved the premise of the main character’s mom being a cartoonist with a strip based on the family. I grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Foxtrot, etc. and Grant Central Station felt really nostalgic to me. Another small thing I liked was the premise of the cartoon characters aging with the actual family members–I always did wonder how that was supposed to work with Foxtrot.

Charlie is a typical Matson main character. She’s a little quiet and wants to be helpful to other members of her family. I loved her devotion to her family, though. While I thought the drama this caused between her and her best friend was a bit unnecessary, I loved the FAMILY theme of this book.

There is a bit of a mystery hanging over the reader throughout the book. What exactly happened between Charlie’s brother and her mom? For the record, I do believe that Charlie’s mom was in the wrong here but…that’s just my opinion. There are so many fun little things throughout the book. I love the cameos of course, I love seeing the strips scattered throughout, I love the relationship between siblings, I love the little quirks that the characters have like the way JJ says “Scoff”. It feels like a real family.

The ending is…sad, but realistic and hopeful at the same time. I feel like the ending is much more realistic than a lot of other contemporary YA novels and I appreciated that. While this isn’t my favorite Matson novel, I would definitely still recommend it.

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

BLOG TOUR: The Geography of Lost Things by Jessica Brody [Giveaway]

The Geography of Lost ThingsThe Geography of Lost Things
by Jessica Brody
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Genres: Young Adult – Contemporary, Romance

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N|Book Depository

SYNOPSIS: In this romantic road trip story perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson, a teen girl discovers the value of ordinary objects while learning to forgive her absent father.

After Ali’s father passes away, he leaves his one and only prized possession—a 1968 Firebird convertible—to his daughter. But Ali doesn’t plan on keeping it. Not when it reminds her too much of all her father’s unfulfilled promises. So when she finds a buyer three hundred miles up the Pacific coast willing to pay enough money for the car to save her childhood home, Ali can’t wait to get going. Except Ali has no idea how to drive a stick shift. But guess who does?

Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Nico. And Nico has other plans.

He persuades Ali that instead of selling the car, they should “trade up” the items they collect on their trip to eventually reach the monetary amount Ali needs. Agreeing with Nico’s crazy plan, Ali sets off on a unique adventure that is unlike anything she ever could have expected.

And it’s through Ali’s travels, through the strangers she meets and the things that they value—and why they value them—that Ali eventually comes to understand her father and how his life may not have been as easy and carefree as she previously thought. Because just like the seemingly insignificant objects Ali collects, not everything is exactly as it appears.

REVIEW: If you’re looking for a nice road trip book, then this is for you. I, personally, LOVE road trip books and this one checked all of the boxes. It definitely makes me want to take a drive along the Western coastline of the US!

Ali and Nico were both likable characters and I thought the pacing of the book was really good. We didn’t have to spend too much time in the car with them, but were given just enough as a reader to feel like our characters were on a journey and not just appearing in different cities.

The plot of the book was good as well. I thought it created a really good atmosphere for Ali to grow and develop as a character. I thought the flashbacks were written well and didn’t detract from the pacing of what was supposed to be happening currently. I love the idea of trading up for things even if I think it’s a tad unrealistic.

Overall, I thought this book was great! My only issues really, involved Ali and Nico’s relationship. Specifically, I felt like the amount of time we spent in Ali’s head thinking about the demise of their relationship was too much. Either tell us what was in the freaking glove box already, or stop bringing it up! Other than that, though, this book was a good read–perfect for summer or maybe just when you wish it felt a little more summery.

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


The Geography of Lost Things blog tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway!



Jessica BrodyABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples, and electrical tape.

After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author.

Since then, Jessica has sold over twelve novels for teens, tweens, and adults including 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, The Karma Club, My Life Undecided, and the three books in the Unremembered trilogy, the first of which is currently in development as a major motion picture by the producers of The Vampire Academy, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, and Slumdog Millionaire. In 2016, she will release two new contemporary novels, A Week of Mondays (August) and Boys of Summer (April), and in 2017, her debut middle grade novel entitled, Addie Bell’s Shortcut to Growing Up, will hit bookstore shelves.

Jessica also writes books for the Descendants: “School of Secrets” series, based on the hit Disney Channel Original movie, Descendants!

Jessica’s books are published and translated in over twenty foreign countries. She currently splits her time between California and Colorado.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Instagram


Fantastic Flying Book Club 2

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

If I hear the term “swimcest” one more time… | Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally [ARC]

Coming Up for AirFor years, the only things that Maggie has thought about are swimming, school, and food. She doesn’t have time for boys if she wants to get into one of the top swimming colleges–she has to concentrate on shaving seconds off of her race times. After a disastrous college visit, however, Maggie begins to rethink her “no boys” policy. The last thing she wants is to get to college and be completely inexperienced in the boy department. But how is she supposed to make time for boys with her busy swimming schedule?

The premise of this story is so cringe to me. Our main character doesn’t want to go to college inexperienced, so she turns to her best guy friend to help her get some “experience”. I feel so awkward just typing that sentence. And they kept using this term “swimcest” to describe two people on the same swim team dating…so cringe. For the record, it’s not the worst thing in the world to go to college without having kissed someone–I would know. (P.S. I turned out fine. I’m even married now! Funny how that happens). That’s kind of my main issue with this book I guess… I feel like it promotes an incorrect message that everyone going into their freshman year of college has had sex. This is so far from the truth! Do we really want teenage girls reading this book to feel defective if they haven’t had much experience with boys? Or feel pressured to get some kind of experience before college? That’s definitely NOT the message I’d want my daughters to receive. Every girl is on her own time table and that’s OKAY.

With all that in mind, I really think it’s about time that I cut this series loose. Looking at my Goodreads, I’ve realized that I haven’t given any of these books over three stars. Yikes. I think the only reason I keep reading these books is because I like finding the easter eggs–but that’s definitely not a good enough reason to keep reading.

But anyway, on to the actual book. I thought Maggie was completely immature in almost all of her interactions with other people. Perhaps I shouldn’t judge her so harshly since she’s only in high school, but I found myself rolling my eyes at her. A lot. Levi was a weird character who was nice enough, but didn’t have a ton of depth in my opinion. And then I guess there were other characters? But they were seriously so inconsequential that I can’t remember any of them.

The plot was completely predictable and had a ton of manufactured drama. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book. I wouldn’t recommend this series. While I appreciate seeing female main characters in prominent sports roles, that doesn’t outweigh all of the negatives that have accumulated from each of the books throughout the years.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy

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

I never went to summer camp, but now I wish I had | Trusting You and Other Lies by Nicole Williams [ARC]

Trusting You and Other LiesPhoenix doesn’t trust her parents anymore. Ever since she found the foreclosure notice on her father’s desk, she knows that the only people she can rely on are herself and her little brother Harry. That’s what makes this summer so unbearable. Instead of spending her last summer before senior year at the beach with her friends, Phoenix is going to be in the middle of nowhere Arizona at a family summer camp. Even though she’s trying to look at the silver lining (she won’t run into her cheating ex-boyfriend and working as a counselor will help her to save up for a car) Phoenix is counting down the days before she can get back home and away from her family.

Man, this book seriously packs all the summer feels. Even though our main character is pretty down on it, it makes summer camp seem like the most fun thing. Hiking, river rafting, and rock climbing? Sign me up. For real. Overall, I thought the setting of this book was fantastic though some things didn’t really make sense to me. For example, the campers are supposed to come in and out in 2 or 4 week cycles. But then that’s never mentioned again for the rest of the book. I know that Phoenix and her family are there for the whole summer along with the rest of the camp staff, but shouldn’t there have been a scene or two where new campers are arriving or old campers are leaving? Another thing is that it feels like this book would have made more sense if the characters were a little older, just as far as the summer camp setting goes. Is Ben really just employing teenagers to be camp counselors to adults? It just seems like it would make more sense for the counselors to be in their 20s. But anyway, that’s such a nit-picky thing that it doesn’t matter.

Phoenix was a pretty likable main character. I thought her relationship with Harry was great (I always love the big sister/little brother relationships in YA). Her relationship with her parents was obviously strained and there were times when I really didn’t like how she spoke to them. She doesn’t trust them anymore because they “lied” to her, but that’s not really something that’s majorly explored. The only thing I can figure is that they didn’t tell her that they were having financial trouble. She keeps saying how they haven’t really been parents for the last two years, but what else happened that kept them from acting like parents? Also, at the beginning of the book, Phoenix’s mom gets mad that Phoenix didn’t tell her that she’d been thinking about going to Northwestern. Phoenix protests that it wasn’t a lie, she just didn’t tell her everything. But that’s the entire basis of why Phoenix is mad at her parents in the first place and is why she gets mad at Callum later in the book. So yeah…even though I liked Phoenix, there were several times when she was completely contradictory. Another instance is when she’s telling Harry that once somebody lies to her, they lose her trust forever. But then she turns around and is upset that Callum won’t give her another chance even though she lied to him about the permission slip?

Despite my issues with Phoenix’s character, I still liked her and the book as a whole. Callum was a nice enough love interest and seemed like a real person. I wish we’d gotten to go more in-depth with his character, though. It seems like there was really a lot more there that could have been explored. My favorite character was probably Harry. It was awesome to see him come out of his shell and develop throughout the book.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a fairly light summer read. If you like books set in a summer camp, then this is definitely for you.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate. Two characters talk about sexual history, but nothing explicit is described.

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