Tag Archives: contemporary summer fling

Summer Contemporary Fling – Winger by Andrew Smith

11861815Title:  Winger

Author: Andrew Smith

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn infographics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

Sam’s Review:

Winger is one of the few books out there that has such erratic story beats. One minute the book is hilarious and socially awkward, the next it’s making you facepalm, or causing you panic attacks. Sometimes these emotions are simultaneous. It’s what makes it both such a wonderfully, if sad read.

Ryan Dean West is such a memorable protagonist. He’s a loser who draws as a means to escape the realities of his private school life. However, he’s not as great a person as he sometimes pegs himself to be. Smith does an amazing job at highlighting bullying in this novel, but he presents it in two ways: Ryan Dean is bullied by the hot and popular guys of the rugby team, but he is equally a bully to those who he deems are lower than him on the loser scale. He plays victim but also bullies others, particularly friends, and doesn’t realize what’s wrong in the scenario. I liked that aspect because it made Ryan Dean’s character feel a lot more realistic and furthermore it reminds us that even victims of bullying can be bullies themselves.

And there’s something layered about this novel in the way it presents problems and resolves them. What I think I enjoyed most about Winger is that Ryan Dean behaved like an actual fourteen year old boy. I find sometimes in YA that boys are written with such maturity (usually because they are for-filling a love interest role) but here we have someone who is obsessed with wanting to be mature, and epically failing at it because his mind and body aren’t there yet. Some of the bodily humour was a bit much for me at times, but it weirdly still worked in the confines of the novel. Let’s be real though guys: at fourteen, penis was still a funny word and something ya worried about constantly.

And then there’s the ending, which I expected but didn’t at the same time. It’s gut wrenching, but on so many different levels. Something that has always made me uncomfortable in novels of bullying is levels of humiliation, as often it goes too far and is completely irreversible once it’s occurred. The amount of scarring it causes, it’s so gut wrenching and yet you question why bullying gets to those levels (meanwhile you simple wish it wouldn’t exist at all).

Ryan Dean West will always be one of those very memorable characters for me. He makes you feel angry, frustrated, but he’s so lovable and endearing at times. He’s the kind of flawed character that’s easy to see yourself in and wonder how or why things go wrong and for what reason. There’s a lot of humour and heart in Winger, but it’s death blow at the end of the story is really what will rock readers to the core and just why shit like that still happens, and why it needs to stop.

Summer Contemporary Fling – The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

22429350Title:  The Start of Me and You

Author: Emery Lord

Rating:  ★★★★ 1/2 / ★★★★★

Synopsis: Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics, The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Huge thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was my first Emery Lord book. I admit, I was afraid to tackle it given the high praise of Open Road Summer (which I own, but haven’t read yet). I was nervous to go into this considering how much a lot of my blogger friends love her books, but I’m glad I read this. The Start of Me and You, though it has a rocky start, ends on a satisfying note.

First off, I want to talk about Paige. I love the way she was written because unlike a lot of young adult novels, she felt and acted her age. Lord does this amazing job of making her voice and mannerisms so authenticate that when Paige behaves a certain way, it feels believable or right in the context of the situation. She’s nerdy, shy, a little reserved, and yet she wants to grow and become a stronger individual. She has aspirations for herself and her self-esteem, and she’s easy to cheer for because you see she wears her imperfections on her sleeve.

Paige faces the tragedy of her boyfriend dying in an accident, and she struggles to open her heart again. Enter Max, who by far might be one of the first YA love interests in awhile that I can say I rooted for. Max is darling, he’s hilarious, and capitalizes on his social awkwardness. In way, it makes him charming, darling and just plain funny. He has a lot of heart and like Paige struggles to put himself out there, but where he differs is that he’s more willing to make mistakes, get hurt, and learn from it. Lord provides both Paige and Max with a lot of depth, and what we have is a relationship that develops in a beautiful, organic way. There’s no insta-love, but you get this shy and awkward interaction between the two that feels very realistic.

Lord also does an amazing job of writing friendships. In a way it reminds me of reading a Robin Benway novel, where the protagonist has well developed friends who feel like real people and can be counted on. I thought Tessa and Kayleigh were adorable and I loved how much they cared for Paige and wanted her to grow as well. Heck, I even liked the way Paige’s family was portrayed, especially the relationship she has with her grandmother. I thought that was richly described and wonderfully touching. Not a lot of people can say they are super close to their grandparents, but Paige’s relationship with hers felt very strong, which is why I think it hurt all the more.

Like I said from the beginning, this is my first Emery Lord book and it definitely won’t be my last. I really enjoyed the level of depth that Lord carved into the relationships within the narrative and how everything felt neatly woven together. The book does have a difficult start and it might not capture the reader if you aren’t in the right mood to read a book like this. The Start of Me and You will tug at your heart-strings, and give you a story full of wonderful relationships and realistic characters.

River’s Review:

Last year I read Open Road Summer and was not impressed with it. I almost didn’t pick this book up, but I did. And I read half the first chapter and put it down. I wasn’t going to read it. Then I won a copy and Sammy added it to our Summer Contemporary Fling list sooooo I picked it back up.

And this book broke me. It was SO good (so much better than ORS in my opinion) and I just devoured it. I loved the friendships, I loved Paige’s voice, I LOOOOVED Max, and I love the family aspect too.

In this book Paige struggled with being The Girl Who’s Boyfriend Died. Two months into dating Aaron he dies in an accident and Paige is just left… floating in the wind. She’s torn between the fact that she wasn’t REALLY a huge part of his life (or his her) and how much she feels she should be grieving especially in comparison with his life long friends and family. Paige is terrified of drowning (how he died) and she struggles with PTSD as well. I thought this was interesting because Paige has this awful position of people feeling sorry for her and then herself questioning how much she should allow herself to feel sorry for herself. And she constantly asks herself if it’s okay to be happy. So she decides that this next year will be the year she gets back out there and she makes a plan (she’s a super realist and planner) to make the next year great.

And part of the plan is to date her super crush, Ryan Chase. Ryan used to be the golden boy but his longtime girlfriend breaks up with him over the summer and he basically falls down the social scale. Ryan is a cool guy tho, and he’s best friends with his cousin, Max. Paige randomly gets on Ryan’s radar and she befriend’s Max with the slight (but not like FULL) intention of getting closer to Ryan. Slowly Ryan and Max get pulled into Paige’s circle of friends and they all become really close. I LOVED this dynamic so much. I loved the girlfriend friendships and I loved the guy friend relationships. Each girl in the group has her own personality and while I enjoyed them, there were times I couldn’t keep them all totally straight. But other than that, the group was just so dynamic and I loved them.

Paige also has this amazing relationship with her grandmother and omg, that was such a bittersweet thing for me. I was SUPER close to my grandmother and when she died of cancer it was DEVASTATING for me. Paige’s grandma doesn’t have cancer, but she does have Alzheimer and lives in an assisted living center… much like my living grandmother at the moment. So that just made me cry like a million times and made this book so much personal for me.

I really loved Max and I loved his relationship with Paige. It was very much the perfect contemporary romance and I loved the growth of their friendship, the tension as they became something more, and the issues they faced with each other. It was just so emotional.

There were just SO many things in this book that really hit a lot of the right notes for me. I loved the family dynamic and how it was different but that the parents were present, I loved the sibling relationship and how it was there in the background. I loved the little side friendship that Tessa and Max had. I loved that Ryan and Paige became actual real friends. I loved that Paige and her friends seemed like actual real teens. And I even loved the down to earth teacher that pushed them and seemed like a real person.

This book was SO good and now I can’t wait for Lord’s next book!

Five Summer Contemporary Novels I Need to Read This Summer

It’s July and it officially feels like summer is here. I admit, I have so many books I want to read this summer, but what I love is how it puts me in a contemporary mood. I love reading contemporary middle grade and young adult during the summer months, especially out in my backyard or at the beach. I thought for today’s book chat I’d discuss five contemporary novels I have on my shelf that I NEED to read this summer. Note; I am mainly focusing on books I own and have my possesion, trust me there’s tons of summer contemporary books that haven’t released yet that I must get my hands on (Hello, Dumplin’!)


The Night We Said Yes
by Lauren Gibaldi

My co-blogger River absolutely ADORED this book when she read it early in the year (you can see her review for more details), so of course I had to get a copy of this. Well, actually, River got me a copy of this so I am eagerly waiting for an opportunity to take this book outside in my backyard with a glass of white wine and dig into it. River described the book to me as being fast-paced, romantic and apparently it’s big on music? I am so in.


Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend
by Katie Finn

I am still relatively new to Morgan Matson/Kate Finn. I’ve only read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and I absolutely adored it. I own both this book and Since You’ve Been Gone and feel like either pick would be worthy of a summer beach read. This one I got from my Library Shower last year (I’ve been married almost a year, omg) and I’m slowly working through all the books I got. This one looks like it has a lot of humour and little bit of trashiness that I think will make it a ton of fun to read.


Everything Leads to You
by Nina LaCour

I loveloveloveloveloved Hold Still by Nina LaCour when I read it last year. Heck, I even named it a a Fave of the Month when I had read it. Hold Still was such an emotionally raw and destructive novel in how it plays with your emotions and leaves you drained. I’ve heard that Everything Leads to You is by far LaCour’s best novel to date, and this would totes knock out my Read An LGBTQI novel for my Book Riot Reading Challenge. Score!


Don’t Fail Me Now
by Una LaMarche

Una LaMarche is another author whose books I’ve heard tons about and never read. While this book isn’t out yet, Razorbill Canada provided me with an ARC that I can definitely enjoy, as it releases at the end of August. This book looks at family relationships and features a POC protagonist, and it’s a road trip story about two girls who want to meet their biological father that they have in common. Sounds like a great family and friendship story. I’m in!


Life After Theft
by Aprilynne Pike

I have read a few of Aprilynne Pike’s novels, mostly her paranormal stuff, but actually bought this book when it released and never got to it. This book deals with karma, fitting in, and tough decisions. Plus it’s a sort of retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, one of the few classic novels that I outright LOVE to pieces. I feel like it’s time to check this one out, and while the reviews are mixed, I’m curious to see what I will think of it.

And there you have it! These are five contemporary reads I’d like to get to before the summer is done. A lot of these are books I’ve owned for awhile, but I mean I own so much contemporary it’s nuts (I mean I have Anatomy of Misfit, Open Road Summer, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, all still sitting and waiting to be read. I stink!).

What are five contemporary novels you’d like to get to this summer? Also I feel like we need River’s Picks. I think she’d have some very different choices than I would. 🙂

Summer Contemporary Fling – Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

20757521Title:  Love and Other Unknown Variables

Author: Shannon Lee Alexander

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.

The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.

By the time he learns she’s ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).

Copies were provided by Entangled Teen during the INSPIRE! Book Fair 2014.

River’s Review:

I loved that this was a cancer book that… wasn’t about cancer. One thing that I hate about cancer books is how they try SO HARD to show how brave the sick person is as they go through treatment and then usually (but sometimes not) don’t get better. I often don’t read cancer books because I’ve already been there with too many family members and I’ve already experience first hand how treatment can be more of a curse than cure. So when I started to read this book I was a little apprehensive. And I was so shocked that we didn’t even learn about Charlotte’s cancer until almost half way through the book.

This is a story about a boy named Charlie who loves to solve problems. And then he meets a girl who he can’t solve. Charlotte is new in town and she’s befriended Charlie’s younger sister, Becca. I LOVED the friendship between Charlotte and Becca and the dynamic between the three of them. Becca doesn’t do friends, she has sever social anxiety and this is her friend real friend in about 14 years. Everyone in the family tip-toes around this, and it does make it difficult for Charlie to deal with his crush on Charlotte. I loved that he was so respectful of his sister’s “I was here first” friendship-claim over Charlotte and that he didn’t want to ruin their friendship.

I wasn’t really into the whole ‘prank the teacher’ thing and was a little upset that Charlie and his friends were willing to risk themselves so much. I was glad that later on Charlie had a different perspective on what he was doing and realized how wrong he was. I know that he was trying to help Charlotte, but I just felt so bad for Ms. Finch.

Another relationship I loved was between Mrs. Dunwitty and Charlie. She was such a great character and really helped Charlie grow. All of their interactions cracked me up and I was really happy that Charlie grew to care about the cranky old woman.

I guess what I really enjoyed the most about this book was how honest the relationships were. They were complicated and sometimes best friends fought and other times they realized they were much closer than they thought. Charlie and Charlotte were so nice together and I loved that it didn’t spiral off into them doing stupid things just because she was dying. I loved how they shared good and bad together, and how honest Charlie’s feelings were from the moment he met her.

Overall this was a really nice book with a lot of meaningful, funny, and sad moments mixed together with an authentic voice and realistic characters.

Sam’s Review:

First off, I admit: I’m not the biggest romance fan. A romance has to work exceptionally hard for me to enjoy it and generally in young adult it’s something I struggle with. This book however? I bought the romance, if only because Alexander does an amazing job of having Charlie and Charlotte get to know each other. Despite each other’s issues, you get this large sense how and why they work as a couple.

And while Love and Other Unknown Variables is a cancer story, it doesn’t feel like that of The Fault in Our Stars. Every aspect of how cancer exists in the story is subtle, it’s not in your face. In fact, it takes the author more than half the book to let on that Charlotte has cancer, even though small bread crumbs up to the reveal are dropped. I liked that about this story, because it focused on this idea that people who have cancer want a sense of normality and can have it to an extent. My mother suffers from the same kind of cancer that Charlotte has in the story, so I found my connection to her even stronger as I read on.

I loved the way Alexander develops relationships for her characters. Regardless of whether they are good or bad, you get a sense that the characters are connected. A lot of the secondary characters such as Mrs. Dunwitty, Becca, Ms. Finch, all get well-developed in the narrative and feel as fleshed out as Charlie and Charlotte.

I was grateful that the author went the route to create a more subtle story where the teens don’t go off to do wild and insane things on the account of someone having cancer. It’s genuinely funny, and very rich with emotion. I highly recommend this book, especially to fans who might be the biggest romance fans.

Summer Contemporary Fling GIVEAWAY!

Summer Contemporary Fling is River and I’s excuse for wonderful contemporary reads. We enjoy them during the summer time (well, really we love ’em all the time). But lets be real: you’ve been following the event for the first part of the month and wondering, “YO! Where’s mah giveaway?” Well, here’s it is!

Here’s your chance to win any one of these books featured in the event. The winner will be able to choose one of the following books as their prize. This giveaway is International providing the Book Depository ships to your country! Giveaway closes on July, 29th. Enjoy and good luck!



Summer Contemporary Fling – 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

22836575Title: 99 Days

Author: Katie Cotugno

Rating:  ★★ / ★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

Huge thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I… did not like this book. I found it incredibly frustrating and almost put it down a couple of times. I did like how it tackled double standards though, and for that I gave it two stars.

Molly Barlow is a selfish girl who keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. I HATED how every time she would do something that she KNEW was wrong she’d always brush it off as ‘I couldn’t help myself’ or ‘I couldn’t stop myself’. Uh, yes, you can. Nobody was FORCING you, EVER.

This book is about a girl who broke her boyfriend’s heart by sleeping with his brother. Molly was dating Patrick forEVER, but when they broke up (the DAY they broke up, wtf) she slept with his older brother. And then kept it a secret for a year until Molly’s mother (who’s a best selling novelist) wrote a book using Molly’s secret (wtf at her mom!) and then did an interview for People Magazine (again WTF!!! I’d be SO PISSED if that was my mom). Everyone in town found out about it and Molly ran away to boarding school. When she comes back for the summer she’s ostracized and slut shamed for what she did.

And that’s where I got super annoyed. I don’t understand how sleeping with Gabe, the older brother, ONCE = being a dirty whore. I could have understood that reaction a bit more (not agreed with, but understood) if she’d been sleeping with him for THE ENTIRE YEAR while still dating Patrick, but it was ONE time and they were BROKEN UP. So yes, I can see how the family would be hurt (Molly has been very close with the two brothers and their sister), and the brother’s pissed off, but I don’t know why the entire fucking TOWN decided that she was a dirty slut.

I also didn’t care for any of the characters. Tess and Imogen were really good friends and I felt so bad for them both when Molly kept treating them like crap and in the end really hurt Tess. I was a bit upset with Imogen at first when Molly came back to town, but when we find out what kind of stuff Imogen had been dealing with and how Molly had just dropped her, then I felt bad for her.

I really disliked Patrick and Gabe. They were both douhebags and while I did like that Gabe was willing to take a chance and befriend Molly at the beginning of the summer, and how he kept trying to include her, I didn’t really care for either brother and in the end when we find out more about why they both were going after her, well, that was just really shitty of them both. And ugh, Patrick pissed me off so much. And as much as everyone wants to point at Molly for being a cheater, she technically wasn’t until much later in the book. And she wasn’t the only one.

Like I said though, I did applaud this book for challenging the double standard. So often the female in the relationship is condemned and shunned for cheating and the male’s involvement is shrugged off as ‘well, men!’. Gabe often pointed out that it took the two of them to do what they’d done, and same goes for Patrick later on in the book. I did cheer for Molly when she addressed the issue, but it was hard to cheer for her beyond much else.

Overall I just didn’t connect with anyone in this book, and while I usually enjoy messy stories where ugly pretty people get their just deserts, I never really found anyone who I felt got what they deserved, and I hated not having anyone to cheer for at all in this entire book.

Sam’s Review:

While a lot of the reviews say this book will either be a love or hate affair, I found myself somewhat indifferent. I adored Cotugno’s debut, How to Love, so of course 99 Days shot up to be an anticipated read. I don’t think this book is bad, but it’s quite middling and somewhat problematic.

I really didn’t enjoy how Molly being a cheater automatically made her “slut” in the eyes of everyone in the community. It seemed a little ridiculous at times, and I mean I can’t blame her feeling like a “slut” if that’s how people are portraying her, but it gets to be a little suffocating at times. I had a hard time with Molly, because sometimes I found I was able to empathize with her, especially when she was trying to make her life more positive, but she repeatedly makes the same mistake over and over again, and it takes her so long to learn from those mistakes, and that can be frustrating for a reader who wants to cheer her on.

Molly is selfish, and her lack of regret is problematic for me. Especially in how she hurts both Tess and Imogen, and yet her character and personality — it felt very real to me in the way that Cotugno knows how to flesh out her characters. Some people, like Molly, just don’t get it, and I think there are parts of that novel where Cotugno is trying to portray this idea that not everyone figures stuff out or sometimes even tries. They aren’t good people, but when I think of where Molly comes from, having her dirty laundry aired in her mother’s best-selling novel, I sort of see why she behaves like she’s stuck.

Frankly, I hate both the male love interests, which shouldn’t be surprising because I hated the one in How to Love. But again, for me, I hate Gabe and Patrick because it comes from the fact that they feel real, like real people I wouldn’t like even in real life. Gabe is just full of himself and a tool, while Patrick is a firecracker who just can’t see beyond himself. And that’s just it, these characters are selfish, mean, but they are people you may have encountered in your lives. I applaud Cotugno’s writing because I’ve always enjoyed the fact that her characters can be appalling and problematic, but they are real people who just happen to be unlike-able.

And here’s the thing, yes cheating is a taboo subject, but it does happen, and it shouldn’t be the end of someone’s world because they’ve done it. I think what frustrates me at times is this idea that when someone is a cheater, they are always a cheater, and I don’t think that’s entirely true. People make mistakes, they are human, it’s what you learn from the experience. It may take Molly the entire story to learn from her mistakes and even fix some of her relationships, but she’s still a young person learning to be someone. It’s why even when I was angry and frustrated with her, I could still empathize. I’ve met people like her in my life, and yes they are imperfect — but aren’t we all?

At the end of the day, 99 Days is a frustrating read, but I appreciate the kinds of lessons that Cotugno was trying to infuse into the story about some people never getting it. The ending works so perfectly because Molly is called out once more, and yet she knows she’s leaving for college and she gets that chance to potentially have a fresh start. Sometimes you have to let people learn the hard way, which is what I got from this novel. I still would recommend How to Love over this novel any day, but I admit I did want more from 99 Days and I just didn’t get it in the end.

Summer Contemporary Fling – Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

15826648Title: Where the Stars Still Shine

Author: Trish Doller

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

River’s Review:

I think this book was slightly over-hyped for me. While I did enjoy it, there were things that I didn’t really like and other parts that were just okay.

As most of you know, I am a HUGE fan of Robin Benway and her most recent book, Emmy & Oliver is a fav of mine (porb in my top 10 for 2015). So I was a little worried that I was going to compare this book to that book and kinda braced myself for it. I was really worried that I was going to feel like E&O was a rip-off of this. Thankfully I DID NOT. They are two totally different books with a similar concept (child abducted by a parent and stolen away for years only to be found and returned “home”). And this made me happy. (Even though I vastly preferred E&O)

In this book Callie KNOWS that her mother has basically stolen her. She twists Callie’s image of her father, and forces Callie to run around the country with her as they move from place to place whenever Callie’s mother feels like it. We aren’t sure until a bit later why her mother is doing this (she has borderline personality disorder and doesn’t take care of herself properly) and I just felt so bad for Callie. She loves her mother, but she doesn’t love the life they lead. Callie doesn’t go to school and spends her days wandering around whatever town they’re in: she goes to the library, walks the streets, hooks up with guys, hangs out at the laundromat. She’s not happy, but she does want to keep her mom happy.

One night while moving to a new state they get pulled over by the police and everything falls apart. Callie’s father, Greg, is called in from Florida and he takes her back to her childhood home, to a family she knows nothing about. And it’s not just any family, it’s a huge Greek family who wants to spend time with her. But she isn’t interested in them.

I loved the family aspect of this book. I loved how hard Greg tried to be her father and how he just didn’t know what to do with her. Callie did not try though, but that was to be expected. She’d left her mother and the only life she’d ever known and was just expected to participate and be the daughter and granddaughter and best friend that everyone had always imagined she would be. She’s cold and mean at times and I liked that she always realized when she was being that way and tried to make amends.

The romance was just… meh for me. It happened way too quickly and while I don’t mind sex in YA, this was very messy and complicated sex. I did like that, but at the same time I wish that Callie’s relationship with Alex wasn’t founded on sex. I didn’t like the way that they met and were instantly drawn to each other. It wasn’t instalove, but attraction, and I get it, but I didn’t really like it. Callie has always used sex as a way to escape and she’s always felt dirty afterwards. She’s also dealing with some trauma caused by an old boyfriend of her mother’s. So when I say that the sex is complicated, it is. And while I liked Alex and what he brought to the table in terms of helping Callie deal, I really didn’t like that they’d rush onto his boat during her freaking LUNCH BREAK FROM WORK to do it. Like come on.

I thought that the topic of child abuse (of the sexual nature) was an interesting one and I was so happy when Callie finally started to talk about her abuse. I wish that she would have talked to her father about it, but I can see how that would be difficult. I guess I would have loved it if she’d spoken to her step-mother about it and had a bonding moment. I did like that she finally confronted her mother about it and her mother’s true colors shone brightly. I know that the mother needed help, and that she wasn’t willing to help herself, but I wish that Callie would have come to the conclusion that she deserved better much sooner.

Overall this wasn’t a bad book, and there are plenty of people out there who are IN LOVE with it, but it wasn’t 100% for me. I loved the setting, the family dynamics, and how Callie began to work through her troubles. But the romance was dead in the water and pulled my rating down a bit.

Sam’s Review:

I feel like I am going to echoing a lot of what my co-blogger said in this review. I’ve never read Trish Doller, but she is hugely popular with some of my friends that I trust, so it I was book I grabbed also immaculately when it released back in 2013. While I loved the majority of the story, I think this book might have been over-hyped for me and the romance was something I was looking forward to and admittedly, it didn’t work for me.

I actually really enjoyed Callie as a heroine for the most part. Her voice was easy to fall into, her story of being stolen and living her life feeling like a no one — it really broke my heart. When she is forced to go live with a father whom she hasn’t seen in several years, you can’t blame her for a lack of excitement. I loved her blended family though, as you could see how hard Greg and Phoebe were always trying, always wanting her to feel like Callie matters. Part of me wanted to smack her because she has it so good, and yet I understand why at first she was so desperate to pull away — Callie doesn’t know any better. Still, she is loved by these people, and quite unconditionally.

When the book revolved around Callie’s family, her past and her self-identity, that was when the book and I truly connected. I wanted to know more about her upbringing, her unfortunate molestation, and when you put all the pieces together, it’s no wonder why she struggles to have self-worth. She at first doesn’t want to improve her life, and it’s no wonder why her initial relationship with Alex is sex-based. However, Alex didn’t work for me one bit.

For the most part he felt like a very flat love interest. Callie’s cousin Kat makes him out to be this super sleazy, somewhat suspicious guy, but he doesn’t have much of a personality to speak of, and what is there just wasn’t my type. I think what bothered me is how long he allowed the relationship to purely be sex based, and how he didn’t seem to understand when Callie didn’t want to do something. I mean, I love the idea of how messy their relationship is (Alex is related to Phoebe soooo that isn’t good for a starts!), but it’s founded and grounded on sex, and Callie spends so much of the novel using sex to validate her self worth to this guy and while I am sure this happens, it made me cringe at times because Alex didn’t have a lot of personality to work with. Eventually Alex gets better and wants to help Callie, but their relationship for the majority of the book is make-outs, sex, lather, rinse, repeat. I need more than this, admittedly. I just wish I had a connection to him because I feel like I should have been able to root for him and Callie, but instead I felt this weird suspicion about him that just never allowed me to connect.

I also didn’t like how Callie’s abuse was ignored for good chunk in the middle of the book. It seems so important in the beginning and in the ending, but there’s moments where you almost feel like it should be impacting her more than it’s portrayed? I feel like if someone is suffering from sexual abuse, that it would be something constant, always there, lingering, and it wouldn’t make relationships of any kind simple. I think how Doller concludes the novel and resolves what happens to Callie is exceptionally done, and I loved the ending, especially when Callie confronts the person who stole a large part of her self-worth. The resolution was completely worth getting to.

I think Where the Stars Still Shine is a very enjoyable contemporary read from start to finish> Even though I had some problems with it, when the book focused on Callie and her family, I was completely hooked. Doller’s writing is so beautiful and thoughtful, and I am definitely going to check her other books out. I think if I had gone into this one blind without the hype, I might of had a different perspective, but overall I found it to be a good page-turner in the end.

Summer Contemporary Fling – Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

23492282Title: Nowhere But Here

Author: Katie McGarry

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she’s curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn’t mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They’re the good guys. They protect people. They’re…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club’s most respected member—is in town, he’s gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it’s his shot at his dream. What he doesn’t count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

Huge thank you to Harlequin Teen and Edelweiss for this ARC!


Sam’s Review:

I am generally a big fan of Katie McGarry’s romance novels — in fact she one of the few romance authors that I enjoy. Part of what I love about McGarry’s writing is that she captures teens very well, especially those coming from rougher situations, be it broken families, abuse, and violent life styles, and does it with a lot of honesty.

While that exists in the first instalment of her new Thunder Road series, I admit, I struggled a lot with Nowhere But Here. I found the book got off to a very rocky start and it had a hard time picking up its stride, even towards the middle. Normally I am quite the fan of McGarry’s female protagonists, and generally I find I often struggle with her male ones (though they usually in the end win me over). This was not the case with Emily or Oz, sadly.

I didn’t find either protagonist easy to connect with, and I found myself annoyed by their behaviours and mannerisms. While I found Emily got better later on in the story, I never ended up liking Oz. In fact, the majority of the novel I just despised him, and for the life of me I couldn’t see what Emily saw in him. Even when both characters redeemed themselves in the story it was still too late for me. I just didn’t enjoy the romance between them at all.

And yet, what kept me going was the story itself. When the novel was looking at Emily and Oz’s family issues, it was so fascinating and interesting. While a lot of it is nothing new, once again Katie McGarry does this fantastic job of making you feel empathy for those in a rough situation, and learning about Eli, Olivia, Razor, the gang, you get a sense of family, as well as a sense of fear. They don’t know how to function without each other, and as much as I didn’t like Emily or Oz, I found that when the novel focused on family aspects, it was the parts that would win me over.

Nowhere But Here is not a bad novel at all, and I think it will find it’s audience with ease. For me, I just had a hard time with the main characters and the romance, and yet I still found enjoyment with other aspects in the overall story. The book really does get off to a rocky start, but I am interested to see where she goes in book two, since y’know, Razor, is the protagonist this time. Even though I felt disappointed by this book, I am still willing to give the sequel a shot.

Summer Contemporary Fling – Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

23305614Title: Finding Audrey

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

Huge thank you to Delacorte Books for Young Readers/Doubleday Canada and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

THIS BOOK WAS SO CUTE! And quite hilarious. I was actually sitting there smiling and laughing out loud quite a few times! I read this in less than a day and actually finished it while my husband was sleeping (and had to keep my laughing inside, so hard!!!).

For some reason I thought this book took place in NYC and was about Audrey getting lost and having to overcome her anxiety while her brother searched for her. YEAH IDK WHERE THAT PLOT CAME FROM but I was quite surprised (and pleased!) that it took place in England! Thankfully I have enough British friends and have watched enough BBC that I didn’t have any trouble with some of the British English and culture things.

So I really loved the family in this book. I loved how over-the-top the mom was, how the dad was so clueless in such a sweet way, how Frank was so different than his mother thought, and how just down right ridiculous the little brother, Felix, was (he was also my favorite character. POCKET PAPER!)

I also really enjoyed the exploration of Audrey’s anxiety and how everyone handled it. I liked how her doctor was thoughtful and caring but tough at the same time. How it was referred to as an illness and the different perceptions that those around her had about what an anxiety illness is. I liked how Linus learned what to say and not say and how he was wrong and then right and helpful. How he learned and changed his perception. And I really liked that we never actually found out what happened at Audrey’s school. Because really, what triggered her illness doesn’t matter. It was not her fault and she had every right to keep that to herself.

As my co-blogger, who is a gamer, mentions in her review, the aspect of gaming in this book was well done. I’m not a gamer and I don’t really understand it the way that gamers do, but I’ve always been on the side that it is just a hobby and not your life and that it should be done in moderation. I don’t think gaming is bad, but I do think that Frank was in a little too deep. I think his mom was WAY too extreme but could also understand why she thought the way she did. I LOVED that every time she’d try to make Frank do something she didn’t think he could do he was brilliant at it. And that outside of her obsession with his “gaming addiction” she didn’t really know key things about him; like being on the cross-country team or getting A’s in his classes. I loved that she learned these things about him and that in the end gaming became a positive thing. But I also liked that Frank found outside interests that he also probably wouldn’t have if he’d stayed parked in front of the computer all the time.

Over all this book was just so well done and I think everyone should check it out! It very much a quick Summer Contemporary Fling!

Sam’s Review: 

I confess, I haven’t read a Sophie Kinsella book in years. I thought Shopaholic was cute for awhile, and some of her stand-alones were hit and miss with me. Then I read the synopsis for Finding Audrey, and I knew I needed to read this book. It focuses on an anxiety disorder, something I have a close relationship with being a recovering sufferer myself, and wow, Kinsella does an amazing job.

Finding Audrey is hilarious as it is touching. I found Audrey as a heroine to be quite loveable, sweet, struggling to come out of her shell. She was easy to empathize with, someone I could relate to in a lot of ways. She feels powerless over her anxiety, yet she wants to feel normal, and it’s something she must fight through every day. I loved the level of sensitivity that Kinsella puts forth in the story, she by no means makes anything easy for Audrey, from her overprotective, nutjobby mother, to her very-lost-all-the-time dad, to her attention hogging brother. Audrey has a lot to fight for in the story, and for ali the tougher moments in her life, it’s balanced by a great sense of humour.

I actually snortgiggled a few times through this book. Audrey’s mother is just completely insane, but we all know one like her. Frank was also a barrel of laughs with his sarcasm and “gaming addiction.” To be honest, I loved how Kinsella handled gaming, changing it from a negative to a positive. The documentary bits had some great moments as well, both charming and sweet. The ending had me in stitches, and I loved Audrey’s resolve by the end. There was something so bittersweet in how the story transforms considering the book is less than three hundred pages. I also have to comment on Linus — I actually really enjoyed him as a romantic interest, and I loved the level of patience he had for Audrey. That’s such a rare thing to find in a partner, especially when their loved one suffers from a mental illness.

I adored Finding Audrey. It was sweet, fluffy, and the way Kinsella handles Audrey’s illness was fantastically done. It felt genuine, not forced, which I feel is so important to make a story like this work. If you haven’t been reading Sophie Kinsella, this may be the one that might bring you back. I know it did for me.

Summer Contemporary Fling – The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

Title: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids22840182

Author:  Sarah Ockler

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

Huge thank you to Simon Pulse and Edelweiss for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I fell in love with Sarah Ockler’s writing when I blew through #Scandal last year, and was SO excited when I got approved for this! I was a little worried that #Scandal might have been a one-hit-wonder for me (I wasn’t the biggest fan of Twenty Boy Summer, another one of Ockler’s books) but nope! This book was so good and I flew through it in less than two days.

The little mermaid retelling aside (but let me just say that I loved all of TLM references!) this was a solid book about finding you voice. Almost everyone in this book is oppressed somehow. Elyse literally cannot speak because of an accident that damaged her vocal chords. Christian is oppressed by his father. Sebastian is shoved into a box and nobody will listen to him. Lemon is outside of the norm. Even the fathers can’t speak due to their pride. I loved that there WERE characters that could speak though. Vanessa was loud and outspoken, her mother killed me when she took a stand for Sebastian, and Kirby is always talking, about everything and everyone. In one sense Kirby is everyone’s voice.

Elyse is from the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. I know very little about these Caribbean islands and their culture, but I never once felt that Ockler was making things up. And she’s an author I trust to do her research. I enjoyed how Elyse was familiar with the USA, but at the same time had her difficulties with the culture and customs. Since I don’t know how different her homeland is, it’s hard for me to judge, but I felt that her situation was very realistic. People often commented about how she was so withdrawn from everyone and not only was she dealing with the loss of her voice, the trouble with her sister, but she was also living in a new country. Her behavior seemed legit.

I loved all of the characters in this. Kirby and Vanessa were perfect friends. Christian was swoony and sweet and sexy. Sebastian stole my heart. Lemon was so unique and quirky. And Elyse was so smart and insightful. I’ve never read a book where the MC literally cannot speak, and it was very interesting to see the ways she communicated. Sure we were in her head, but dialogue is huge for me!

There were so many times this book made me smile too. I was just reading along, smiling and it hit me that there aren’t THAT many books that make me ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY SMILE. And I loved it.

This book is just… perfect. It hits all the right notes and addresses a lot of issues in the current world and in current YA. It’s the perfect blend of diverse and swoony and touches on a lot of subjects that I really feel are important to open up dialogues about. And I hope that this book will get people talking.

Sam’s Review:

Oh my goodness, if this is what reading a Sarah Ockler book is like, sign me up for more. Yes, this is my first Sarah Ockler book, and I can honestly say without a doubt that I am going to be diving into her back cataloguing this summer. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is the perfect beach read. I realize it’s silly to say that since this is a book about mermaids, beaches and summer, but honestly, there was something so relaxing about this novel. It might also be because it’s based off of The Little Mermaid, a tale near and dear to my heart, that I gravitated to this book with such ease.

Elyse is a brilliant heroine, and I absolutely adored her character. She’s clever, curious, and a lot smarter than she initially lets on. This book focuses on the theme of finding your inner voice and having the courage to speak up. Elyse spends a lot of the novel trying to find herself and her strength, though she’s quite unsure of herself throughout the story. This overlaying message that Ockler puts in the novel is very thought provoking throughout. Heck, I generally don’t like playboy characters, but I admittedly adored Christian, if only because his curiosity sometimes borderlined on nosey, and yet there are so many parts of the story where he means so well.

My favourite character, interestingly enough was Kirby. She’s one of those overprotective friends who wants what’s best for everyone yet doesn’t realize that it’s not always the best approach to have when dealing with people. The more I read the book, the more I loved a lot of the secondary characters, which doesn’t always happen with me, but everyone in the story is quite lovable or interesting. It made for a real page turner.

Plus, I want to share the fact that I loved Ockler’s Acknowledgements that were at the back of the book. I loved who this story was for, why she wrote it, and who she in way wanted to represent. Furthermore, I loved her depictions of Trinidad and Tobago, and I felt like when she was description the islands that I felt like I was truly there. Also, can I also just say how much I loved Elyse and Christian’s romance? Because it was totally believable and adorable and I loved it so much.

Let’s be honest here, this book is very emotional to read and it’s the kind of emotions that are hard to hide in public (I was reading this book at a bus station, yeaaaah). Still, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is just one of those stories that is not only emotionally gripping, but it keeps you guessing in unexpected ways. Plus the ending completely wrecked me, and I mean that. It just destroyed me emotionally. I highly recommend this book, not only as a fantastic summer read, but just one that will keep you thinking even after it’s over.