Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

*Last summer I made it my mission to read all 12 of Sarah Dessen’s books in a series I called Summer Sundays with Sarah. You can click HERE to see my full wrap up. I’m happy to say Dessen has released her 13th book this month, which I review below!

“But really, in a perfect wedding–or world– you wanted the best possible beginning. Start on a high note and, no matter what song follows, chances are just better that it will be music to your ears.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsLouna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Feelings: I think that Dessen made a lot of smart choices in this storyline. The way the story was structured was the best way to let us slowly understand Louna as her understanding of herself grew as well. Events in Louna’s past shaped her and impacted her at multiple points in the story, so it was great to go  back to those moments and see how it all came together. I also really appreciated that we saw multiple love stories going on and that they all came together in different ways. No couple had the same experience, so it was really refreshing.

Also refreshing? The wedding planning. This was so fun to read about and to see all the different kinds of brides and weddings.

Issues: Something I think all of Dessen’s books have in common is that they’re slow to get started. It always takes me a few chapters to really get hooked in and invested and that was true with this book. However, Dessen goes back and forth in time every other chapter, making it even trickier for me to catch on. It just took a little while, but I was into the rhythm before I made it to the halfway point.

Even though we had a lot of love stories all woven into one, the main storyline got jipped. I wish we’d gotten to see these two characters actually together for a lot longer than the last chapter.

Jilly felt like a useless character. She adds to the conflict at the end, but that’s seriously her only purpose. It just seemed like she was there because Louna needed a best friend.

Finally, I wish we’d gone a little deeper into the school shooting conflict. It seemed like she never got any kind of help. The only side of it that we got was what related to Ethan. I wonder how the story would have been if we’d chosen ONE major conflict for Louna to navigate through, rather than her juggling one in the past and one in the present, mostly unrelated.

Characters: Louna reminds me of a few other Dessen heroines, but she still has her own unique experiences. As the reader, I could totally understand why Louna was so guarded. I was able to empathize with her and root for her to heal. We were set up at the end to guess how her healing could continue, but I maybe would have loved a smidge more resolution for her.

I didn’t like Ambrose at first. I think it’s because I was limited to Louna’s point of view, so because she was annoyed by him in the beginning, I was, too. It really didn’t take long for my opinion of him to change, though. I think he really matured over the course of the summer that we spend with him. He not only starts to see Louna differently, but himself and his abilities, too. I like that this book wasn’t just about growth for Louna.

Louna’s mom and William were a really great set of parental figures. We haven’t seen a pair quite like these two in Dessen’s other books, so it was kind of a breath of fresh air. We didn’t see failure parents or rocky relationships between daughter and adults, which I liked. This was a modern family experience and I thought it was fresh and enjoyable to read.  These two parental characters kind of took the place of a big friend group, in my opinion. I’m glad Louna had a couple of friends and these parents, rather than a big group. That would have just been too much.

Connections: If you’ve read Dessen’s books before, then you know that they all exist in the same “world”. It’s our world, but we sometimes see characters from other books interact or go to the same places. These are some of the connections I made. I’m not listing out which books these references are from, though. If you’ve read Dessen’s books before, you’ll recognize them! Otherwise, they’ll mean nothing and you can skip them. Ha!

  • In this book, our characters talk about going to Bendo.
  • The wedding crew plans a wedding that takes place in Colby.
  • Louna sees a sign in Colby that reads, “WHO NEEDS TRAFFIC? RENT A BIKE FROM ABE’S!”
  • Bee says that she attended Defriese.
  • Louna and Ethan go for pie in the middle of the night at see a “dark-haired boy and his girlfriend, clearly regulars” and the girl was wearing a Clementine’s t-shirt (Eli and Auden). They recommend World of Waffles to Louna and Ethan.
  • Louna tells Ethan that when he goes to Lakeview, she’ll take him to Luna Blu for friend pickles. She also mentions an Angel statue made with bottle caps that spin when the wind blows.
  • Ben linked Louna to his Ume.com page.

Final thoughts: It’s Sarah Dessen, so I’m going to read it and I’m going to like it. In terms of Dessen’s other books, this one was kind of on the same level as Saint Anything. I liked it, but there was a lot going on. I don’t know that all conflicts were justified in the end. If you like Sarah Dessen’s other books, then definitely pick this one up. If you’ve never read Dessen before, I wouldn’t suggest starting here. I always recommend reading her books in publication order.

Goodreads rating: 3.97/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.2/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God by Louise Rennison

First of all, can I just point out that if you’re new here, this book isn’t what you’re probably imagining it to be. Hear me out!

“Honestly, what planet do these people live on? And why isn’t it farther away?”

Synopsis from GoodreadsGeorgia Nicolson has started dating the Sex God (aka Robbie). So life should be perfect . . . except in Georgia’s life, nothing is ever perfect. Her cat, Angus (the size of a small Labrador), is terrorizing the neighborhood. Her sister, Libby (who is slightly mad), hides her pooey knickers at the bottom of Georgia’s bed. Then the Sex God breaks it off because she’s too young. It’s time for a plan. It’s time for a Red Herring. It’s time for Georgia to become a “heartless boy magnet!”

Feelings: Just like the first book in this series, I found the writing and Georgia’s voice to be the best part. It’s such an easy story to read; partly because it’s in diary format, but partly becauseI just want to stay with Georgia and find out more.

Issues: I started to actually dislike Georgia sometimes. She became more entitled in this story and started looking down her nose at and talking down to almost everyone. She’s not a very good friend to Jas, especially, always telling her to stop talking and complaining when she’s just being herself. That got old really quickly.

I felt like this book ended the same way as the first. We think Georgia’s finally getting her way and then BOOM…door slammed in her face. It just felt like same-old-same-old.

Characters: Georgia definitely shows her heartless side in this book. Not only does she string Dave the Laugh along (unfairly…he seems great), but poor Jas can’t catch a break from her “best friend”. I think Dave the Laugh is part of why I liked this book more than the first one. He’s a much better “love interest” character for Georgia than Robbie ever was. I’m rooting for you, Dave!

As immature as Georgia is (most of the time), she IS starting to grow up juuust a little bit. One of my favorite parts in this book is when she’s trying to decide between these two boys. Is it more important for a guy to make you laugh or for him to make you feel “jelloid”? One of life’s biggest questions, as we all know. Ha! I also like that we’re still going along for the journey that is Tennager-hood with Georgia. Like wearing knickers on your head. And trying ways to shrink body parts you wish were smaller.

 

Final thoughts: I’m hoping that the third book in this series is different from the first two. We’re just getting started, getting used to these characters and their everyday problems. So I hope that moving forward, it gets a little more unpredictable. I’ll definitely keep reading and again would recommend this book to anyway looking for a light-hearted easy read.

 

Other reviews for this series:

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging

Goodreads rating: 3.96/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

This is the first installment in my Summer with Georgia! Come back here every Sunday for the next 10 weeks to see my reviews of each book in this series.

“I can already feel myself getting fed up with boys and I haven’t had anything to do with them yet.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsIn this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones’s Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it’s “Fabbity fab fab!”

Feelings: British humor lovers, rejoice! I would say from the synopsis, the word “irreverent” certainly seems relevant, but I’m totally ok with it. It’s so on par with the mind of a teenage girl. This book is a quick read and one that I first read in college during my Maymester in Young Adult Literature. I’ve seen the movie adaptation, as well, which is a combination of the first two books in this series of 10.

Issues: She repeated a lot of the same phrases and worries, which felt like a broken record at times. It wasn’t THAT big of an issue, but if it continues into the other books, then it would be.

Robbie’s interest in Georgia totally came out of left field. It sets the next book up well, but seemed disjointed and convenient. They barely even came in contact with one another. It makes sense for Georgia to moon over him, as teenage girls commonly do, but their actual coming together probably wouldn’t have happened like that in the real world.

When it comes to the family dynamic in YA literature, we often see neglectful or detached family members, especially parents. In this book, mom takes insult after disrespect from Georgia and kind of moves on. Dad is kind of here and there; sometimes he calls her on it and other times, he seems to ignore it. I’m hoping that in the next few books, we’ll see some stronger parenting going on. But at the same time…that can be a realistic dynamic!

Characters: Georgia annoyed me at first, but it just takes a bit to get into her rhythm. Now, I can say that her voice is one of my favorites to read. She’s so freaking funny and the writing is so witty.  I love the way her mind goes back and forth between what’s happening and the future and going backward…SO like a middle school girl.

I liked Jas a lot more in the movie. I think that’s because we see Georgia and Jas almost equally in the film, whereas in the book we’re stuck in Georgia’s point of view, so when she’s annoyed with Jas, so are we. They’re an odd friend pair. Georgia is definitely the more dominant friend and Jas just goes along with her and takes her insults. I think now that Jas has a boyfriend, we may start to see her sticking up for herself more.

We really didn’t spend much time with other side characters in this book. They’re mentioned here and there, but I’m hoping for more of them in the next few books. I want more of the Ace gang!

Final thoughts: This book is really fun. Georgia is a total nutter and she keeps the reader on their toes! I’m looking forward to the next book and some (hopefully) more development. The first book is all pretty surface level, so fingers crossed we dig a little deeper. I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for a quick, light, and funny read.

Goodreads rating: 3.74/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 3.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Introducing Summer Sundays with Georgia

It’s almost summer time, friends! Here in Texas, that means a lot of staying indoors, if you’re pale and prone to burning, like me. I love reading during the summer. I’m a teacher, so I have much more free time during these months. Last summer, I read all 12 of Sarah Dessen’s books, posting reviews every Sunday. I called this my Summer Sundays with Sarah and I really enjoyed both reading and reviewing these books, one right after another.

This summer, I debated between a few authors and settled on reviewing a book series, instead. While I’m losing some alliteration steam, I’ve decided that this will be the summer of Georgia Nicolson – enter Summer Sundays with Georgia. I’ll be reading all 10 books in the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, starting with Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging.

I was first introduced to Georgia during college, believe it or not. I was assigned to read this first book during my Young Adult Literature class and instantly fell in love with her personality and her voice. Then I found out there was a movie adaptation, combining the first and second books. Watched it. Loved it. Have watched it many times since.

After reading the first book, I knew I wanted to continue the series, so I started collecting the books from Half Price Books. Every time I saw one, I’d pick it up. So I own the whole series, but haven’t read it yet! I’m really excited to take this summer journey with Georgia and the Ace Gang. Just like last summer, I’ll post reviews on Sundays, ending with a full series wrap up. Be sure to check back here every week!

Have you read this series? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

**The third book in this series came out TODAY! 

“My letters set me free. Or at least they’re supposed to.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsLara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her, these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Feelings: This book has had my eye for a while, but I have to be in the right reading mood for chick lit and high school love stories. I had a free Saturday and decided this book would fit the bill and BOY was I right! You guys, I read this book in a few hours, in basically one sitting. I was hooked in from the very beginning and was desperate to see how it would all unfold.

This story is not at all what I was expecting. I knew the basic premise, but I was thinking it would focus more on each of the boys who received letters, rather than zeroing in on two of them. But I found how different those two boys were was enough to keep me entertained.

Issues: The love triangle was annoying at times, but they have a tendency to be that way. Do we ever really enjoy love triangles? I certainly don’t. So the whole friend/boyfriend/like-a-brother thing went in circles a few times. But it wasn’t annoying enough for me to put the book down. Lara Jean was able to make a choice and run with it, so I was somewhat satisfied.

It was kind of hard to believe that some of those letters were written when she was in middle school. The language sounded older…and I would know, considering I teach middle school English.

I didn’t LOVE the ending; it was so abrupt! Boom – over. However, since the second book is already out, I know I can just grab it and move along with the story. If I’d read it before the sequel was out, it would have really annoyed me.

Characters: I was able to really connect with Lara Jean. I know a lot of people may not see themselves in her, but I have a lot in common with her – her personality, what she likes, how she acts around people, the way responsibility was thrust upon her. The relationship between the Song sisters was really fun, seeing how different they all were. They fight and argue, make up, and do it all over again. It came off as really realistic, which I appreciated.

Josh is a tricky character for me. I liked how he was basically part of the family and I can understand how his feelings were confused. Kitty may have been my favorite character in the book. She was so sure of herself and kind of in her own little world. By the end, though, you realize just how “in the know” she really is and how valuable she was to the plot. As for Margot, I was glad she was out of the country for the majority of the story. She needed to loosen up, even though I can understand the burden that she felt was on her shoulders and how she had to grow up a little bit faster. I didn’t really care for Peter at first because he just screamed douchebag, but by the end I could see that different side of him. I’m excited to see (hopefully) more development for him in the next book.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this book – more than I thought I would! I didn’t finish Han’s earlier book, The Summer I Turned Pretty, because the main character was too annoying for me. However, I’m glad I gave THIS series a chance because I’m excited to grab the next one! Hoping for some more character development and a more satisfying break between some of the characters.

Pick this up if you liked:

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Goodreads rating: 4.11/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.5/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

5 Books I Basically Consumed

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. I have a hundred things going on and when I finally have a minute to myself, my brain is SO not in a place to engage with words on a page. So I decided this week to reflect back on some books that sucked me in and that I finished in less than one day. Sometimes I’m able to do that simply because I have the time to spare, while others involve me burning the midnight oil with zero regrets. Here are 5 books that I read so quickly that I may as well have devoured them.

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

I think what connected for me so well with this book was how different it was from anything else I’d been reading at that time. This book’s main character, Tatum, is SO REAL that the storyline just flowed and I was deeply rooting for her. I just had to know how the conflict played out and whether or not it would all fall in place. Click HERE for my full review!

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

This was the last book I read in 2016 and I read it on the LAST day. I started it while I was alone at my parent’s house around 6 PM and was on the last page before midnight. I was SO hooked in by this premise and the gripping characters. This is a book that you should read about before diving in. The conflict and the world are both pretty complex, so it’s good to kind of know where it’s going. Click HERE for my full review! Girl power! The second book comes out this year and is titled One Dark Crown…I. Can’t. Wait.

My Lady Jane by C. Hand, B. Ashton, J. Meadows

This book is SO GREAT. The longer I sit here and think about it, the more I want to start back at page 1 and give it another go. Magical elements that make sense, a fun twist on a sad bit of history, and good use of parenthesis…oh my! Read my full review HERE! If you like the style and humor in The Princess Bride, then you’ll enjoy the way this story is told.

The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

I picked up this book at a time when none of the books on my shelf were calling to me. I couldn’t figure out what genre I was in the mood for. Did I want romance? Fantasy? Classics? I was coming up empty. So I went to the book store and was drawn in by this book’s cover. When I read the synopsis, it left me with a lot of questions…so it was perfect. All throughout this book, I wondered what the author would do with the ending. Would there be a magical cure-all happy ending? Or would it be sad and real? I was really satisfied with this story! My full review is HERE.

The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

When this book came out, I decided to re-read the previous two books. Since this was the last book in the trilogy, I wanted to be able to pick up on everything and really enjoy it. I was worried that reading 3 books in a row would burn me out, but it didn’t. This book energized me! The author pulled out all the stops and didn’t do anything the way I expected her to and I LOVED it. This may be one of my top favorite series ending books ever. That’s saying something! I downed it. Then I wanted to have my memory erased so I could do it all over again. My full review for this book is HERE.

What are some books that you flew through? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton

“I’ve spent so much time in the last few years trying to be perfect…and independent. And in the end, a rough draft and my friends made the difference.”

london-belongs-to-me

Synopsis from GoodreadsYour flight is now boarding! Join Alex Sinclair for a life-changing, trans-Atlantic journey. London Belongs to Me is a coming-of-age story about friendship, following your dreams, and learning when to let go … and when to hang on.

Meet Alex, a recent college graduate from Tallahassee, Florida in love with London, pop culture, and comic cons. It’s not easy being twenty-one-years-old, and Alex has never been the most popular girl. She’s an outsider, a geeky fangirl … with dreams of becoming a playwright in a city she’s loved from afar, but never visited. Fleeing America after a devastating betrayal, she believes London is where she’ll be understood, where she belongs. But Alex’s past of panic attacks and broken relationships is hard to escape. When her demons team up with a jealous rival determined to destroy her new British life, Alex begins to question everything: her life-long dream, her new friends, and whether London is where she truly belongs.

Feelings: I connected with this book on so many levels and have a lot in common with our main character, Alex. The panic attacks, the self doubt, the love of all things theatre and fandoms, a tour guide job, an obsession with London…Alex is me and I am her. I was so happy to see the way Alex and her anxiety were portrayed. It was a comfort to feel like I wasn’t the only one.

One of my favorite things about this story was the sightseeing we get to do vicariously through Alex. We get to travel to a few famous theatres and landmarks throughout the city and she teaches us some new (to Americans) slang. It was a fun adventure!

Issues: The author kept referring to characters by their hair color. This wouldn’t usually bother me, but it happened a LOT. “The blonde one”…”the brunette one”…it just got old. Which is odd, because at other points the writing is crazy descriptive. Almost too descriptive.

It thought it was interesting that there was so much GIRL POWER with Alex’s plays and at the same time, a major beef between Alex and Olivia throughout the book. As a result of this tiff, we saw a lot of struggle for Alex and we watched as she tried to navigate this conflict, leading to some strong character development. However, I wish there’d been some stronger resolution that fit with this empowering-each-other theme in the book.

Characters: I’ve already raved about Alex, but I’ll just also add that she’s a very real character. Sometimes I get annoyed with characters make stupid choices because why couldn’t they have done something else, but it was different with this book. She was so relatable that when she goofed up, I was going…yep…I totally get that. It just worked for me.

This book was SO friendship-centric and I loved every second of it. Lucy and Freddie were a strong cast of the classic “friend group” we find in young and new adult literature. They had so much in common, but were wholly unique at the same time. Each friend had their own specific voice and I loved that they disagreed with each other! They had their own minds and called each other out on their stupidity. Even when the love interest entered the scene, we kept up with the friendship at the heart of the story. I really appreciated that. I do wish they’d been developed a teeny bit more. At times, it felt like they were just there to impact the protagonist, rather than have their own journeys. It was like they went back and forth between being dynamic and static characters, ending up as the latter. But ultimately, I loved their trio friendship and was jealous multiple times.

Uh, yes…I’d like to order one Mark, please. Talk about a swoon-worthy love interest. He was an imperfect character, sure, but again with the realness. The way that he really SAW Alex was refreshing and I liked the way the author handled the friendship dynamic. And then there’s Harry. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a companion novel that focuses on his journey from where this book ends up. I think that character has a lot of potential and I’d like to see it fleshed out. I’m rooting for him. For all of them, really.

Final thoughts: This book isn’t perfect, but it was really fun and I ate it up and it’s the type of story I’ll be forcing my friends to read just so we can discuss it. If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety or panic attacks, this book is a refreshing depiction of what it’s like to live with constant worry. You’ll finish the book feeling like you can do anything. What’s not to love about that??

Pick this up if you liked:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Goodreads rating: 4.02/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.5/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn