Wednesday, August 28, 2019

There you go making my heart beat again: ON THE CORNER OF LOVE AND HATE.

On the Corner of Love and Hate (Hopeless Romantics, #1)On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emma Peroni works in the Community Development Office (CDO) in the small town of Hope Lake. She works with her childhood friend Cooper Campbell-Endicott, who is now running for office as mayor of Hope Lake. Cooper has a political pedigree; his mother is governor. He's the beloved golden boy of Hope Lake. But he also has a playboy reputation, and his opponent, Kirby, is capitalizing on it. If Cooper loses, Kirby will set back all the progress of the CDO in Hope Lake. So the current mayor--who just happens to be Emma's father--devises a plan. Emma will manage Cooper's campaign, and he will pretend to settle down with a former girlfriend. Emma and Cooper haven't gotten along since college, but the more time they spend together now, the more feelings get stirred up: anger, resentment, and... lust.

So I think it does a disservice to bill this book as a Christina Lauren-type romance, as I went in expecting a certain type of story and it just didn't deliver. I believe if I just read it as a romance, I might have enjoyed it more. And, please note, that a 3-star review isn't bad (!), I just didn't 4-star love love it.

The book is set up with the "love/hate" premise. We have hard-working Emma, who is scared of commitment and letting down her guard. Meanwhile, Cooper needs to buckle down and get serious about everything in his life. Emma holds a long-standing grudge against Cooper, but, of course, oh there are feelings, right? The problem is that things get repetitive: so much fighting about his bad behavior and then her thinking over and over about her feelings. (Of course she doesn't have feelings for Cooper, she hates him, etc.). We all know they are going to show some spark together, but good grief, it takes forever.

"He might have been the single most irritating person in the world to me, but still, I could appreciate his appearance."

Also, while I liked that there were political things woven into this novel, my goodness, I've never seen such drama over a mayoral race in my life. Is this a small town thing, or something? I have lived in small towns. The attention and drama focused on this race felt like a senatorial campaign and there was little explanation why Cooper's opponent was so bad, except that he was, indeed, really bad and would ruin the whole town, so this portion felt very two-dimensional. (Oh and if Emma called her father "Mayor Dad" one more time, I was going to scream.)

Still, this is a cute read. There are some really fun scenes with Emma's friends--she, Nick, Henry, and Cooper have been pals since they were kids. There is wit and humor throughout the book. I could certainly identify with Emma, being a closed off workaholic myself! The small town vibe in this book is really adorable--Hope Lake practically flies off the page, and it's a very atmospheric setting.

And, let's be honest: a love/hate dynamic is enjoyable. We pick up a romance knowing exactly what we are getting into. Cooper was a bit irritating at times, but it still boils down that I'm a total sucker for a sappy love story and the chosen two getting together. I was rooting for these two, and I liked the end of the book. This was a sweet, funny read overall. 3 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Gallery Books and Netgalley in return for an honest review (thank you!).

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Monday, August 26, 2019

There's nothing like finding gold: THE SILENT PATIENT.

The Silent PatientThe Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alicia Berenson is a well-known painter married to a famous photographer, Gabriel. They have a picture-perfect life, so-to-speak. But all that changes when Gabriel returns home from work one evening and Alicia shoots him five times. Then she goes silent, refusing to speak. Her silence makes her case even more famous, causing intense public speculation. Her paintings become coveted objects. Alicia, meanwhile, is sent to the Grove, a secluded psychiatric forensic unit, for treatment. There, Theo Faber, a psychotherapist, gains a job primarily just to work with Alicia, determined to be the one to help her speak again. But he becomes consumed with her case--something that may put his own health and safety into jeopardy.

This is a book that I read solely based on the recommendations of Goodreads and #bookstagram friends. It was quite hyped, and sometimes I shy away from all the hype, ha. I really did enjoy it, though I probably always feel a little let down by the crazily hyped books. It's just my nature. That being said, I do think this is a really good read and extremely captivating.

It's incredibly bizarre and puzzling--told via excerpts from Alicia's journal (pre-murder) and then Theo's viewpoints. We are left to wonder if, indeed, Alicia is truly crazy. The fact that she shot her husband, Gabriel, isn't really up for debate. But why? What led this talented artist to kill, and so violently? Reading her journal, we ponder, is she mentally ill? Is what she's telling us even really happening? Some of the narratives may or may not contradict each other, and the result is a fast-paced, twisty tale that keeps you guessing the entire time. I was sucked into both Alicia and Theo's minds. One of the best things about this book is that you may not always like Theo or Alicia, but you'll want to know about them. You'll find yourself completely engaged in their story--a sign of a good read, if you ask me.

"There's so much pain everywhere, and we just close our eyes to it. The truth is we're all scared. We're terrified of each other. I'm terrified of myself--and of my mother in me. Is her madness in my blood? Is it?"

I stayed up late to finish this one, as I absolutely had to know what happened. There are several twists and turns, and, as I mentioned, it keeps you guessing. The perspective in this book is unique, and I really welcomed how different it felt. It's a consuming, shocking read that basically absorbs you and as different parts of the story are revealed, it grows more and more intense.

Overall, this is a really excellent psychological thriller. It's nearly impossible to put down. It is different, with damaged characters that will draw you in from the start. 4+ stars!

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Friday, August 23, 2019

So many wild and crazy nights together: NEVER LOOK BACK.

Never Look BackNever Look Back by Alison Gaylin

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

For Quentin Garrison, his podcast, entitled Closure, is truly about just that--closure. It centers on a series of murders in the 1970s committed by teens Gabriel LeRoy and April Cooper. The victims included Quentin's mother's little sister and his grandmother. As a result, Quentin has spent most of his life raised by a neglectful, drug addict mom. For Robin Diamond, a columnist, the podcast causes only confusion. When Quentin contacts her about it, asking specifically about April Cooper and tying her to Robin's own mother, Robin is bewildered. But the more she delves into the murders, the more she starts to wonder. Then there's a terrible home invasion at her parent's house, killing her father and leaving her mom unconscious. What exactly happened back in the '70s--and, now, in the home invasion?

This was an excellent thriller that had me hooked from the first page. It's dark, gritty, and utterly mesmerizing. When I started it, I was thinking to myself, not another podcast mystery, but little did I know... this book is totally addictive and brings in the podcast element in a seamless, fresh way.

It's told from the perspective of several of our main characters--particularly Robin and Quentin. We also get excerpts from a school assignment of April's when she was fifteen: letters to her future child. These slowly reveal what happened during the killings, and they are told in a spot-on voice of a fifteen-year-old girl. The way everything is woven together is perfect: I found myself completely captivated and read basically the last half of the book in one breathless setting, staying up past my bedtime to finish it.

We learn that both Gabriel and April died in a fire at the site of their last attempted murder. So when Quentin receives a tip claiming that April Cooper is still alive, it changes everything, including the focus of his podcast. When he starts to believe that Robin's mother is April, things get even more interesting. I loved the suspense--constantly wondering if April was alive and if she was, who she could be. And then, there's the aspect of was April "good" or "bad" during the killings. So many people blamed her for the deaths of their loved ones, and nothing is black or white in this book.

Even Quentin. Since his past is strongly affected by the murders, we find ourselves wondering if we can trust him, too. Quentin's grandfather basically gave up raising his daughter, Kate--Quentin's mother--after the death of his wife and young daughter. As such, Quentin's own mother wasn't much of a parent to him. Quentin's own bitterness and anger shines through--a strong theme in the book. Can we rely on someone so angry, we wonder? I felt for him, and his devoted husband and loving best friend and podcast partner. So many of the characters are intense, and each is so well-crafted and unique. Each flew off the page.

This is often a dark book, and there are many scenes of violence. But, for me, it was the emotional scenes that were the toughest to read. There are many touching moments, too, and I found myself attached to several of the characters. Reading young April's letters was quite a feat. Gaylin is such an excellent writer, and she just pulls you into the story so effortlessly--you feel as if you are there with her characters. Throw in some great twists and turns and this is an excellent and suspenseful novel.

The ending was a tough one, but I get it. Overall, I really enjoyed this dark psychological thriller. I am just loving Gaylin's recent books and need to go back and read some of her previous works (there's a little Brenna Spector shoutout in this one for those of you who are fans). Definitely recommend! 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from William Morrow and Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Till you rant and you rave: THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU.

The Last Time I Saw YouThe Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Dr. Kate English's glamorous life comes to a screeching halt when her mother, Lily, dies--brutally murdered in her own home. At the funeral, Kate reunites with her close college friend, Blaire Barrington, whom she hasn't seen in fifteen years, since the two had a falling out. But Kate's grief and shock get even worse when she receives a text, "You think you're sad now, just wait. By the time I'm finished with you, you'll wish you had been buried today." Soon she finds herself threatened, wondering if she's being watched and targeted in her own home. She asks Blaire to help look into her mother's death. But Blaire's aggressive questions alienate Kate's friends, and all the while, Kate feels increasingly afraid for her own life. Who killed Lily, and are they coming for Kate next?

"Only days ago, Kate had been mulling over what to get her mother for Christmas. She couldn't have known that instead of choosing a gift, she'd be picking out a casket."

This was a creepy enough thriller, but boy, it was chock full of a cast of unlikable characters. It was impossible to find much sympathy for Kate, despite her grief over her mother. She was an irrational, annoying, wealthy woman and a terrible mother to her young daughter, whom she foisted on the nanny every chance she got. Blaire had few redeeming qualities; same with Kate's philandering husband, Simon. It seemed like poor Lily was probably the best in the bunch, but she was dead.

The writing in this one was tough for me. A lot of simplistic words and style, which was filled with much telling, but little showing. Stop telling me how everyone feels and let it all unfold naturally. This was coupled with a ton of very short, fake red herrings that kept getting thrown in every few chapters. I'm all for a red herring, but let it fully play out. Instead, it would be tossed in and then almost immediately ruled out, leaving you with the equivalent of literary whiplash.

There were also a lot of pretty major "coincidences" that left me feeling a bit dubious. Seriously, this is really happening? Many of the plot points were rather predictable, though there were a couple of good twists. It was a creepy read, though seemed oddly simple (I can't think of another way to describe it), and it did keep me reading.

Overall, not my favorite read, and doesn't motivate me to read the previous Liv Constantine book that much. My notes say "good enough," which is probably the best description I can come up with. I kept reading, but I didn't love it. 2.5 stars.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

Out here it's like I'm someone else: SUMMER OF '69.

Summer of '69Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every year Kate Levin and her family spend the summer on Nantucket with Kate's mother, Exalta. But this summer is different. Kate's eldest, Blair, 24, is now married to a MIT professor named Angus Whalen and they're expecting their first baby in August. As such, Blair won't be on Nantucket this summer. Middle sister, Kirby, is a junior in college and spending the summer on Martha's Vineyard. Her only son, Tiger, recently deployed to Vietnam, which has left Kate feeling completely panicked and lost. Only her youngest, thirteen-year-old, Jessie, makes the trip. But without her siblings, Jessie feels overlooked and ignored. It's the historic summer of '69--and Levin family will have some memorable experiences of their own, too.

I just love Elin Hilderbrand's books and this was a really fun one. It didn't feel that much like "historical fiction," despite the 1969 setting, but it was fascinating to get a glimpse of how the late 1960s affected the family and their decisions--especially the females. The time period affects each woman, even Jessie, in their own way. Mom Kate was a tough one to love, at times, ignoring her poor daughter and moaning about Tiger and her own past. But, man, Hilderbrand just comes up with the best family dynamics. She sets an amazing scene, aided by her beloved Nantucket, and before you know it, you are there with her characters, immersed in their drama and daily lives.

For me, the star of this one was young Jessie. I loved how much of the book revolved around her--the points of view vary, but we hear from her a lot, and I couldn't help but love the kid. Nothing like growing up with a slightly absent mom, domineering grandmother, and a bunch of way older siblings, one of whom is at war. She was a breath of fresh air, and of course, Hilderbrand wrote from a teenage point of view perfectly. She gives all Kate's daughters their own unique voice, and it's amazing how each character stands out easily as distinct from one another.

This is not "simply" a tale of a family over a summer, it's captivating and engaging look at a family shaped by historical and domestic circumstances. I certainly enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it. I usually shy away from historical fiction, but I found it quite interesting--great characters and family dynamics as always from our summer novel queen. 4 stars.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

And I don't need to be rescued: THE MURDER LIST.

The Murder List: A Novel of SuspenseThe Murder List: A Novel of Suspense by Hank Phillippi Ryan

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Law student Rachel North has a coveted summer internship in the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office with Assistant District Attorney Martha Gardiner. This is great, except Martha just happens to be Rachel's husband's arch nemesis. Jack, a defense attorney, hates to lose, and it seems like Martha is the only one who can beat him. Jack is on the murder list, a special group of attorneys who represent accused murderers who can't pay for their defense. Once Rachel's internship is over, she'll pass the bar and join in a partnership with Jack, defending those who need them most.

"'Plus we've planned the whole thing. We're gonna be partners. You'll get me on the murder list. And we're a team.'"

Well, this was quite the clever suspense novel, which weaves together two intersecting stories from various time periods. We learn about Rachel's present, interning with Martha, and then her past: her days at the statehouse--when six years ago--she supervised interns of her own. That's when she worked for Senate President Tom Rafferty. These two time periods are far more connected than we'd think--linked together by Jack and Martha as well, both of whom hate each other deeply.

"Two sides. And me in the middle. But why did Gardiner bring me here?"

We hear from Rachel, Jack, and Martha across these differing time periods and vantage points. I won't reveal more, but it's a very intriguing tale. I enjoyed how the two timelines intersected, bringing us a dark story of law, politics, and justice. What is right, what is wrong, and who exactly--if any--of our crew can we truly trust?

There were a few places where I found my eyes glazing over a bit and skimming the pages: a lot of pontificating about law and mostly Jack haranguing Rachel about his hatred of Martha and then Martha rambling about her thoughts about law and hating Jack. That was a bit much for me. But when the book focused on the action (and lies!), it was great. Very crafty and when it finally dawned on me what was going on, I was all in.

Overall, I certainly enjoyed my first book by Hank Phillippi Ryan. It was interesting, smart, different, and a fun tale of intertwining time periods. The characters were a bit too wordy for me at times, but the story made up for it in its surprising twists and turns. 3.75 stars, rounded up here.

I received a free ARC of The Murder List from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. It is available everywhere on 8/20/2019.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Your insistence is tugging at the best of me: THE NANNY.

The NannyThe Nanny by Gilly Macmillan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

After the death of her husband, Jocelyn "Jo" must return home with her ten-year-old daughter, Ruby. His death has left her in financial trouble, and she has no choice but to head back to Lake Hall, the aristocratic home she shared with her parents when growing up. It's a far cry from California where she lived with Chris and Ruby, escaping a stifling childhood with her mother. Jo's happiest childhood memories involve her nanny, Hannah, but Hannah disappeared suddenly one summer when Jo was seven. Her mother blamed Jo, and the two never repaired their relationship. Back now, thirty years later, Jo must deal with her mother and their fractured relationship. And when she and Ruby find a skull in the lake behind the house, she begins to wonder exactly what happened to Hannah. Jo isn't sure of anything anymore, or who she can trust, even her own memories.

"I'll never be able to change this place, but if we stay here long enough, I'm afraid it will change my daughter and me."

I've loved Gilly Macmillan and her books since I won one of them in a Librarything giveaway a few years ago. She's an excellent writer, and I quite enjoy how different each book is from the next. This one was very different and quite unexpected. It's told from a variety of alternating viewpoints--the primary ones being Jocelyn and her mother, Virginia, but we even get a local policeman and a mysterious woman dating back to the 1970s. I liked the way Macmillan wove all of of these perspectives together. At first, it seemed really easy to trust everyone, and then quickly, you realize that you can't be sure if you can believe either Jo or her mother.

I don't want to go too far or reveal too much, because it's probably better to let most of the plot reveal itself organically, but it's definitely easy to say that much of the book is a little befuddling (in a good way). I found myself drawn to Ruby, the young girl, and oddly, Virginia, despite her history as a pretty terrible parent. Jo frustrated me, with her somewhat naive nature. She would trust some things at face value, yet not others, and I wanted to shake her at points.

There are definitely some convoluted plot points in this one--there's quite a saga with the Holt legacy. I didn't really question it while I was reading, but after, I find myself wondering if it was all necessary. Still, I loved reading about the slightly faded grandeur of Lake Hall--it's just not something you get in America, and it's fun to picture when you read these type of novels. Macmillan does an excellent job of portraying her characters and the setting.

I definitely was caught up in the plot. I thought I had it figured out for a while, then I realized I didn't, and then the ending was a little crazy. I'm still not a 100% sure about it, but I appreciate Macmillan for embracing it. Overall, I enjoyed the varying viewpoints and the slightly fusty, aristocratic setting. I was interested in the characters and wondering what happened with Hannah. A few things seemed a little far-fetched, hence my 3.5-star rating, but still a good read.

I received a copy of this book from William Morrow and LibraryThing in return for an honest review.

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Friday, August 09, 2019

And the battle lines are clearly drawn: THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY.

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been in such a YA mood lately and determined to work on my self-imposed #readwhatyouown challenge, so I picked up this one, the first in a trilogy.

I couldn't help but compare this book to Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before series, but Belly (yes, they call this poor girl Belly) is no Lara Jean.

This is a rather predictable yet fun book as Belly returns to the beach house where she spends each summer with her Mom; her Mom's best friend Susannah; and Susannah's two sons, teenage Conrad and Jeremiah. This summer, Belly is fifteen and growing up--and it seems like everything is changing.

So I resented that Belly supposedly only deserved attention because she was now "pretty," though thankfully another boy comes on the scene who appreciates her for more than her looks. Still, I must admit, I was caught up in the book's drama, and this was pretty much the diversion and break from thrillers that I as seeking. And it definitely made me yearn for the beach. I won't lie, I'll probably check out the second book in the series out of curiosity, despite my complaints. 2.5/3 stars.

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

He knows that you were just chasing a dream: THE TURN OF THE KEY.

The Turn of the KeyThe Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rowan Caine feels like her life is at a bit of a dead end when she finds the advertisement: it's for a live-in nanny, and the pay is amazing. Rowan has a background in nannying and working with children, so she submits her CV and crosses her fingers. Still, she can't believe her luck when she interviews at the gorgeous Heatherbrae House in Scotland. It's isolated, but beautiful. And then she gets the job caring for four seemingly lovely children: Rhiannon, 14; Maddie, 8; Ellie, 5; and Petra, eighteen months. But the position isn't all it cracked up to be. The children are nothing like the sweet kids they appeared when she interviewed. The entire house is a smart home, controlled by a home management app, and it seems to go haywire constantly. The parents leave nearly the moment she arrives. And it really seems like the rumors of ghosts and a haunted house that drove away the past four nannies are true. We know Rowan is writing about all of this from prison--jailed for the death of one of the children. She claims she's innocent. What really happened at Heatherbrae House?

This was a very intriguing, eerie thriller, made all the more creepy by reading it alone in a cabin in the woods with no one beside me but my dog. Perhaps choosing this read for my short getaway was a mistake? Ha, I actually liked getting a little spooked by this Gothic mystery. It was an enjoyable slow-burning read that kept me hooked.

As mentioned, the entire book is told in letter form--albeit mostly one long letter--as Rowan sits in Scottish prison, trying to convince a Mr. Wrexham to take up her case. She's innocent, she says, and here is her story. And quite a story it is. From the moment Rowan arrives at the Elincourt's beautiful home, Heatherbrae House, it seems like things go wrong--she hasn't memorized the 300-page "manual" required to watch the girls, the "smart" house is out of control, and the children are absolute terrors.

"I guess it comes down to this in the end. I am the nanny in the Elincourt case, Mr. Wrexham. And I didn't kill that child."

But the more we hear from Rowan, we learn she may not be completely guilt-free in all of this, as perhaps there is more to her story than meets the eye. It all unfurls easily in Ware's deft hands. It may take a while to get to some of the major twists and turns, but there's plenty of little bits of creepiness along the way. Rowan is sure she's being haunted, and it's quite fun to try to figure out what exactly is happening. Ghosts? The smart house gone awry? While Rowan isn't always the easiest character to root for, I still sympathized with her (I wouldn't want to be left with four combative children) and yet I found myself getting attached to the kids anyway (clearly they didn't choose to be left behind by their rich and distracted parents).

"I need you to understand why I did what I did."

Overall, this one is a fun, eerie read. I enjoyed the combination of creepy Gothic plus smart home craziness. I also couldn't always foresee what was coming up next, which I appreciated. It's engaging and surprising, despite our limited cast of characters. 4 stars.

I received a copy of this novel from Gallery/Scout Press and Edelweiss in return for a honest review.

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Monday, August 05, 2019

You know I'll always love you: THE PERFECT WIFE.

The Perfect WifeThe Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Abbie wakes up confused about who she is and how she got there. The man next to her claims to be her husband, Tim, who runs a famous technology startup. Abbie learns she's an artist, wife, and mom. Tim tells her she had an accident several years ago and now Tim has used technology to help her recover.

I won't go into a lot of detail about this one, but it totally took me by surprise! I don't want to spoil it, but it's riveting!! I was hooked from the beginning! It's so fascinating and makes you really think about technology and humanity. Abbie's character is really interesting, and there's a great mystery that keeps you clued to the pages. Plus, there's some wonderful insight and thoughts about autism, sexism in the technology sector, and so much more.

Definitely recommend this fascinating thriller! 4+ stars.

I received a copy of this book from Random House/Ballantine and Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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Saturday, August 03, 2019

But it could all come flooding back: THE REST OF THE STORY.

The Rest of the StoryThe Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Emma Saylor's mom, Waverly, died when Emma was 10 after a troubled history with drugs and alcohol. Now it's just Emma and her dad. Life is safe and comfortable, and Emma likes it that way. But now Emma's dad is getting remarried, and Emma needs a place to stay this summer. So she suddenly finds herself shipped off to stay with her mother's family--whom she hasn't seen since she was a kid. They live at North Lake, where her mom grew up, and now Emma gets to meet (well re-meet) her grandmother, aunt, and a whole host of cousins she doesn't even remember. She also sees the divisions between working class North Lake and adjacent Lake North, where her dad spent his summers. As Emma spends more time in North Lake, she feels divided as well. In North Lake, she becomes Saylor--what her mom always called her. She has her cousins and she meets Roo, who was her friend when she was little. He and his late dad have a deep history with her mom. But in wealthier Lake North--and with her dad--she's rigid, predictable Emma. Who is she really? And which side will win out at the end of the summer?

This was just a good, refreshing read, you know? I found it to be touching and poignant. Emma is a likeable character and the oft told tale of a kid finding her way doesn't seem stale in Dessen's hands. The supporting cast is great--I loved Emma's cousins, and Emma and Roo are so great. There's wit and humor infused throughout this book. Scenes with an ice cream truck, for instance, will stick with you! It's so nice to read a book about meaningful family dynamics and relationships (especially one where the families aren't murdering each other, which is often my genre of choice, ha).

"The past was always present, in its way, and you can't help but remember. Even if you can't remember at all."

What I enjoyed about this one is that you just find yourself smiling as you read. Dessen is a wonderful writer--I don't think that comes as a surprise to anyone--and Emma and the other characters come alive from the pages. Emma has a lot to deal with: her late mom, meeting what is basically a new family, and the usual teen "stuff," but there's still plenty of fun here too. Her grandmother runs a motel by the lake, and there's never a dull moment. But, Dessen also deals with the serious moments with a touching grace. There are some good messages about family, as well as class and status. It's wonderful watching Emma learn more about her past--and herself--as she gets to know her mom's family and forge new friendships.

"But all my life I'd felt more like an observer than an active participant. Beside the wheel, not behind. It was safer there, but could be lonely too, or so I was now realizing."

Overall, this is just a lovely read. It's funny, sweet, and will make you smile. Emma is a great character, and it's impossible not to get caught up in her journey. Plus, with the lake setting, it's a perfect summer read! 4+ stars.

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Thursday, August 01, 2019

I think I need to lay low for awhile: THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL.

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

Nina Hill has her life just how she wants it: a job at a bookstore, an apartment with a reading nook and her cat Phil, and her days scheduled around her organized planner. But her neatly designed life gets a big shock when the father she never knew suddenly dies, giving Nina newfound knowledge of a host of brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Add on to that a crush on her trivia nemesis, Tom, and Nina's careful life is a mess.

I've been wanting to read this for a while, as it sounded totally up my alley, and it so was. It's a major ode to books and bookworms. I felt such an affinity to Nina, and I found the book to be witty and sweet. When I first started it, I was worried it might be a little too cute (the writing style is quirky and different), but Nina and the writing quickly grew on me.

There's so much to love and identify with in this one--about books and bookstores, trivia, family, love, and it deftly handles anxiety and introversion. I'm sure so many readers will find parts of themselves in Nina. I know I did.

"As an only child of a single mother, Nina's natural state was solitude. Growing up, she saw other people with fathers and brothers and sisters, and it looked like fun, but generally, she thought she was better of without a crowd."

I absolutely adored how Nina's finding her new family changed her--it was touching and funny. The cast of characters we meet is hilarious and yet poignant at times. Because Nina's (now late) father was older, she has brothers and sisters of a variety of ages, as well as a charming gay nephew. But watching her come out of her shell, meeting these people, is really lovely. (And brave.)

"Nina worried she liked being alone too much; it was the only time she ever fully relaxed. People were... exhausting. They made her anxious."

Honestly, I loved Nina. The way she interacted with the kids in the various book groups she ran at the bookstore. The way she handled falling for Tom. The way she loved her cat. The realistic way she presented her anxiety. The fact that she was introverted but friendly and kind. (Imagine that? Introverts can be fun, not just evil curmudgeons.) Her deep love of books and her desire to help other people love books, too. I could go on and on.

While you can see how some of this story will play out, it doesn't make it any less fun to read. It's really sweet, funny, and enjoyable. I totally fell for Nina and found it so easy to get caught up in her story and her life. This book was very touching, and I totally teared up at the end, which is rare for me. Definitely recommend this one. 4+ stars.

I received a copy of this novel from Berkley Publishing and Netgalley in return for an honest review. Thank you!

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