Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

Book Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

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Goodreads Summary:

“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

Review:

So FREAKING Adorable. The title says it all. Love & Gelato. Gosh I want to go to Italy now. Maybe I will…

Anyways moving on… Love & Gelato. I can’t get over how adorable and heartbreaking [in a good way] it was. I just want to hug it and absorb all its wonderful energy. I think Korea is getting to me. LOL

So we start of the book with Lina. Something horrible happened and she is now moving to Italy where she meets many attractive guys, but Ren shows up and ahhhhh who needs a guy that’s hotter than him when he is the sweetest person ever? Am I biased? You bet I am!

Love & Gelato is more than just a fluffy YA contemporary book with romance. It deals with hard subjects like death of a loved one, first love, others past affecting your own, and how to navigate the world on your own. This book is not all sweet like gelato, it can be bitter like coffee as well. I will say the balance between the fluffy and the hard truth are perfectly balanced and you end up feeling with a sense of reassurance and happiness at the end of the book.

If you’re looking for something heavy yet delicious then look nor further. I assure you that you will like this book!

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Reviews, ya contemporary

Book Review: Outspoken by Lora Richardson

LoraRichardson_Outspoken_450x675

Goodreads Summary:

Penny Beck is a girl who says yes when she means no. She keeps to herself, follows the rules, and does what she’s told. After a disastrous experience with her boyfriend, she’s determined to change from the spineless person she’s always been into the strong woman she wants to become. All she needs is a little practice.

On a cross-country trip to check on her grandpa, she strives to become bolder and more outspoken with the strangers she meets. Penny’s plan is to practice saying and doing what she wants without worrying about what anyone else thinks.

Then she meets Archer, an introspective loner to whom she finds herself drawn. She realizes she does care what he thinks, very much. Will Penny be able to stick to her plan, or will she revert back to her people-pleasing ways?

Review:

Let me start with a PSA. If you start reading this book and you think it’s a little slow, please keep reading. That was my mistake the first two times I tried to read it. Once you’re past the first 20 pages, trust me, you will be hooked. Lora’s writing style gives off a Sarah Dessen vibe, so if you like Sarah Dessen, please pick up her books!

Outspoken is Lora’s debut novel. As you may have seen, earlier this month Liz reviewed Lora’s sophomore novel which she loved! If you want to check that out after this review please click here! (Also, Liz interviewed Lora so that is also something you’re not going to want to miss.)

Outspoken starts of with Penny, a yes girl so to speak. She can’t say no for the life of her, but after a life-changing moment she decides she will no longer say “yes” even if it disappoints those closest to her. Penny has always tried to lead a life where she can make everyone happy, but herself. At the beginning Penny may not be your favorite person, you may want to scream at her and tell her what the hell is she doing, but as you go on this journey with her she starts to grow into a person we start rooting for and hope she gets the happy ending she deserves.

I will keep this review short as to not to spoil you, but if you are looking for a coming of age story that will make you question your own life’s journey then you should read it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Disclaimer: I’d like to thank Lora Richardson for providing me with a copy of Outspoken. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

Reviews, ya contemporary, ya romance

ARC Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

One Paris Summer

GoodReads Summary:

Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren’t betrayal enough, he’s about to remarry, and they’re expected to play nice with his soon-to-be wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. Her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn’t support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris’s charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.

 My Review:

One Paris Summer is a delightful read full of teen angst, love, heartbreak, and revelations. Denise Grover Swank does a phenomenal job of show how tragedy and heartbreak can take a toll on a person; that when a person leaves you it has lasting effects on your life; that by forgiving them can you then move forward.

Sophie Brooks is forced to spend the summer before her Junior year in Paris. She is forced to live with her father who abandoned Sophie and her brother, Eric, in pursuit of his dream to restore an old Parisian church. She is forced to get to know a new step-mother, and, share a room with an evil step-sister, Camille. But as the summer progresses Sophie is faced with obstacles and has to decide if she can forgive the people who hurt her, and if she can make her dreams come true.

From the start of the novel, the teen angst and anger is at 200%. Sophie and Eric have a difficult time handling the abandonment of their father. They also have a difficult time understanding how their father can marry someone else so quickly, someone else they have never met. It doesn’t have that their father hasn’t talked to them in 10 months. Sophie stews on things in her mind and that gave me anxiety. But I can also related to who she is feeling. To have your whole word ripped apart is devastating and learning how to handle that is overwhelming. So while it did get annoying that Sophie stewed a lot, I understand and could move past it.

Her step-sister Camille on the other hand I wanted to punch in the face. She is rude and inconsiderate from the moment she meets Sophie. She is always trying to humiliate her in an attempt to get to go home- back to South Carolina. And it doesn’t help that she ropes her friends into this plot as well. However, there is a bright spot… or two bright spots as the book moves forward. Her brother, who has shown very little interest in her life, starts to take an active role in their Paris excursions. He stands up for when it is needed and can empathize with the hurt of their father.

The other bright spot is Matthieu. He opens her eyes to dreams she didn’t think possible. He is truly a great guy for her. However, as always, there are secrets and heartbreak. But as with any good YA Contemporary novel… it only lasts for a little while.

Swank’s summer through Paris is wonderful. Not only do we see Sophie’s character arc and growth, but we see secondary character’s growth as well, showing that everyone at any age can learn new things about themselves and others. Acceptance is the big theme throughout the book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Zonderkidz-Books for the chance to read this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my review in anyway.

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ARC Review: Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Invincible Summer

GoodReads Summary:

Four friends. Twenty years. One unexpected journey.

Eva, Benedict, Sylvie and Lucien graduate in 1998, into a world on the brink of the new millennium. Hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien and keen to shrug off the socialist politics of her childhood, Eva breaks away to work at a big bank. Benedict, a budding scientist who’s pined for Eva for years, stays on to do a physics PhD, and siblings Sylvie and Lucien pursue more freewheeling existences–she as an aspiring artist and he as a club promoter and professional partier. But as their dizzying twenties become their thirties, the once close-knit friends, now scattered and struggling to navigate thwarted dreams, lost jobs and broken hearts, find themselves drawn together once again in stunning and unexpected ways. Breathtaking in scope, this is sure to be the book of the summer.

My Review:

Invincible Summer takes place over a 20 year period. Each chapter is a glimpse into Eva, Benedict, Lucien, and Sylvie’s every day lives. When I first read the synopsis for Invincible  Summer it sounded in curious. I have been friends wit people I went to college with, going on 11 years now (whoa!) so a story about their lives felt like the right thing to read. It can be difficult to keep in touch with people, life drives you in different directions. Their growth over the novel mostly felt like small hills, but by the end it is clear that they have grown up, that the events that take place in their lives affected their life trajectory.

I had a difficult time  connecting with the characters. I’m not sure if it was because of the location- London- or the language usage- not American slag- or the fact that this really took place during a time period when I was really only a child. As a twentysomething myself, I understand lost dreams, heartbreak (maybe not so much haha), change, world image, and ultimately happiness. These things change over the course of one’s life and can change one’s life as well. So while I did have a difficult time connecting with the character’s, the themes behind them I could understand. These things change over the course of one’s life and can change one’s life as well.

I will say that these character’s felt very selfish, self-centered, and it was difficult to watch them make choices… maybe that is the point. Not every decision is the right decision. Taking the easy way out can result in unintended consequences. Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, to fight for what you want. And what you want you can’t always have or aren’t meant to have.

It’s funny, when I started writing this (and it took several days to gather my thoughts) I had intended to give this novel a 2 out 5 stars. But while writing this review, I finally understood the purpose to the book. So while I may not have connected to the characters directly, their stories are engaging, the themes are responsive, the final product is meant to understand- not move mountains.

Rating: 4 out 5

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the opportunity to read and review this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my review.

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ARC Review: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves

GoodReads Summary:

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

My Review:

So I know this isn’t a YA novel, but when I read the synopsis I knew I had to have this book. Once I got it, back in February, I put off reading it. I think subconsciously, I wasn’t ready for the heartbreak and loss this book would bring… and it brought it hard and fast.

From the summary, you already know Emma had a husband who died. She eventually moved on, fell in love, and is engaged when news  comes that Jesse, her husband, is alive. It’s quite a shock. And that is really what this novel is about- how to come to terms with your past and your future, recognizing the person you have become. 

Moving through the novel, we experience Emma’s first true love, Jesse. Their relationship is a whirlwind romance. They are high school sweethearts, attend the same college, travel around the world together. You can see that their love could be a forever kind of love. But there comes a moment when Emma questions her future- kids, settling down, etc. And she is not sure of Jesse’s opinion. But in the end it doesn’t matter because he “dies”.

Emma eventually moved back to her home town and is able to move on with her life. Then she meets Sam Kemp. He is her second chance at love and she takes it. They have built a wonder life together, so when Emma gets the call that Jesse is alive, she is thrown for a loop. She now has the opportunity to go back to her travel life with hr first love. But when Jesse does officially come back, it’s different, he’s different, they are different.

When Jesse comes back into the picture, it broke my heart to see Sam believe that Emma would go straight back into her old life, forgetting about him. But Sam was gracious enough to understand that Emma needed sometime to work through her feelings and he gave her that (please go listen to Crash and Burn by Savage Garden– this is Sam and Emma’s song). And I got so mad at Jesse for assuming Emma would drop everything to be back with him, that he thought she shouldn’t have moved on with her life. He was very selfish and didn’t help Emma’s confusion.

Taylor Jenkins Reid does a wonderful job at showing the turmoil a person goes through when they lose someone they love. The book is fast paced, moving through Emma’s life quickly but also showing the most important parts of it. And the transition, that weird gray part of a person’s life right after tragedy strikes, is the most compelling piece of the novel. Reid hits the nail on the head of how the body and mind handles death and destruction. Her words are like a complicated musical, moving from moment to moment, heartache to heartache (please start singing Pat Benatar- love is a battlefield). These in between chapters flow and sway, a slow blooming crescendo to a new life, a new person.

The novel also shows that while tragedy and death do happen, you can move on, you can love again. Heartbreak is not forever.

Everyone should read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5

I received this ARC from Washington Square Press and Edelweiss. Receiving this ARC for free doesn’t sway my review.

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Reviews, Special Review

ARC Review: Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil

Goodreads Summary:

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real.

Three years after a series of terrorist attacks flooded the US with a lethal plague, society has changed radically.

Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats.

She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.

Recoil is the first book in a Young Adult dystopian romance trilogy, and makes great reading for lovers of Rick Yancey (The Fifth Wave), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), and Veronica Roth (Divergent).

My Review:

Recoil is the most recent work by Joanne Macgregor. It takes place in modern day United States, three years after a terrorist attack used biological chemicals to unleash a plague. The story is very realistic dystopian fiction. It’s full of elements that terrorist attacks cause- hyper-awareness of foreign residents, larger defense industry, mass media reporting on threats, politician comments about terrorists.

Jinxy starts out naive, playing a game that eventually leads to recruitment with the military. She takes the words of the media, politicians, and her unit commander Sarge for face value- believes they have the people’s best interests at heart. At 16, it makes sense that she would trust those older than her. It isn’t until Jinxy meets Quinn that she starts to question her missions, especially when he finds out she is a sniper. Jinxy understands why she needs to shoot the infected rats, but when she is required to shoot other animals, and eventually is given more classified missions, she has a difficult time, trying to reconcile herself and her values with the values of her unit and the military. Macgregor does an excellent job of showing Jinxy’s progression from being naive to doubting herself and her missions to taking matters into her own hands, making her own educated decisions.

Quinn is a fascinating character. He is also super hot with an Irish accent (swoon). He does what is required of him, but also has his own secrets that are kept from Jinxy. He helps Jinxy open her eyes and understand that her missions are not what she is being told. There is a strong attraction between them, but her missions separate them- pit on against the other. I will say I had a difficult time with the start  of their relationship. It just sort of happens and I couldn’t figure out what drew them to each other. But by the end Macgregor had me rooting for their relationship. And the way the book ends, I just need to know what happens next.

There is a quote in the book- “We’ve repatriated hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of foreign residents, refugees, and workers. We’ve insulated ourselves, sealed our boarders against immigrants and imports and competition… And as a nation we’ve channeled billions into a defense industry that was sitting idle after the last wars fizzled out.” It is scary how closely it describes our current country. We have a presidential candidate who wants to build a wall on the US/Mexican boarder to keep illegal immigrants out; we have alienated anyone who looks middle eastern and have grouped all those who practice Islam into the terrorist stereo type. This novel is so realistic I can see something like this possibly happening.

If you enjoy dystopian settings, this is a great start to a fascinating realistic series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank Joanne Macgregor for providing me with an ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

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Reviews, YA Fantasy

Book Review: The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

GoodReads Summary:

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Review:

The Wrath and The Dawn is a retelling of Scheherazade and One Thousand and One Nights. Renee Ahdeih’s story is colorful, imaginative, and full of magic. This is the first story I have ever read that has a back story belonging to anything Arabic. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, given that retellings of fairy-tales I read are from Europe- Cinderella, Snow White, Little Mermaid, etc. And I am so glad I wasn’t sure of my response, it made the story even better than I could have imagined.

The relationship between Shazi and Khalid is one of mystery, of twists and turns. Shazi is a stubborn girl with her own thoughts and ideas, not afraid to voice them or of the consequences. Khalid is a stoic figure, presenting a different image to the audience than one purported to his kingdom. The feelings these two have is something people dream of. And they are a perfect combination when working together.

As my first adventure in Arabic stories, my heart thoroughly enjoyed the emotional roller coaster Ahdeih led me on. Go read this novel, you won’t regret it.

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After Contemporary Conversations I did not want to read anymore contemporary, and that is a big deal as you all know my grand love for YA Contemporary Fiction. I decided to read this much raved re-telling as a way to distance myself from my much loved genre just enough so I could read it again. And now commences the unedited, not holding back, fangirling review that I hope you will identify with and laugh right along with me at my ridiculous outcry about my feels.

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Oh My Gosh. I CANNOT BREATHE. WHAT THE HECK JUST HAPPENED.

*wheezes into paper bag*

My heart cannot take the ending. WHY DID IT HAVE TO END LIKE THAT. HIS HEART. ITS BROKEN. I CANNOT TAKE IT.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about the beginning. My gosh was that not dramatic and full of everything I wanted and more. We have Shazi’s hatred fueling her ill decision of avenging her best friend by killing THE CALIPH, or in other words, THE FREAKING KING. That alone has you on the edge of your seat as the first night unfolds, and low and behold she lives to breathe another day.

The Wrath and The Dawn is a story full of action that the majority of time is driven by powerful emotions. We get to see Love, Hatred, and Happiness at its shinning moment, where the emotions are so pure they drive the characters to new heights. I feel like I’m preaching for some reason, but let me tell you that you will not be disappointed by The Wrath and The Dawn if you haven’t already read it. It will play with the strings of your heart into the utmost haunting and heart wrenching melody that will have you in a puddle of feels for days.

Have I intrigued you enough? Go read it! I will not spoil thee!
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Rating: 5 out of 5