First & Then by Emma Mills Review

This book wasn’t quite a touchdown for me.

First & Then by Emma Mills is a young adult contemporary book that follows Devon Tennyson who searches for some extracurriculars to boost her college applications, harbors a (not so secret) crush on her best friend Cas, and attempts to steer clear of her annoying freshman cousin, Foster.

First & Then

First & Then is the second book by Emma Mills that I have read, Famous in a Small Town was the first. In Famous in a Small Town, I was put off by the initial slow start. While I appreciated the emotional ending, for me, it felt like a lot of work for a little reward. As a result, it only ended as an average read for me. My experience with First & Then was fairly similar.

One of the aspects of this book that I enjoyed were the complexities of the relationships between the characters, specifically Devon and her cousin, Foster. I liked how their relationship grew and changed throughout the novel and how they influenced how each other grew and changed individually. While I do think some characters individually needed a little something extra to make them memorable, Emma Mills is always successful when creating meaningful and realistic relationships between characters.

One of the issues I had with this book was the pacing. While some people may not mind a lot of groundwork for emotional pay off at the end of the book, it isn’t my favorite style of pacing. This seems to be a trend in books by Emma Mills, and personally, it isn’t a structure that I enjoy but other readers may enjoy. Although the emotional impact the ending of her books has makes me want to boost my overall rating higher, when I look back, I don’t remember that same feeling that I had during the first half of the book.

Another aspect of this book that slightly annoyed me were several cliches that we see a lot of in young adult fiction. I thought this book would have been written in 2010 for all of the tropes that existed in this book. I got a big “not like other girls” vibe from Devon and I didn’t like how she talked about the freshmen girls. While every senior expresses their dislike for freshmen, she particularly focuses on the girls and states that they look like “prostitots” as they look young, but tie their shirts up and use a lot of makeup to feel older. This isn’t a passing joke, as she uses the term throughout the novel, even as she gets to know some of the girls. Devon is a huge Jane Austen fan, occasionally mentioning what Jane would think. This was also huge back in the day in YA, but for me, it really didn’t go with Devon’s personality. Plus, it led to that moment where the love interest reads a Jane Austen book to impress the lead, which is too overdone for me.

Overall, First & Then was an average book for me. While I liked the relationships between the characters, the characters themselves didn’t wow me. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

What I Read in 2019

Even though I am a little (read: A LOT) late on listing all of the books that I read last year, I always think it is fun to recap all of the books that I read in one year. Last year, I found myself in a bit of a reading slump, so I didn’t read as many books as I typically read in year. Additionally, I found myself not as invested in many of the books that I read in the last year. Fortunately for me, I’ve had a great start to the 2020 reading year and I hope it continues throughout February. Without further adieu, here are all the books that I read in 2019 (reviews will be linked to book titles):

 

What were your favorite books of 2020?

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory Review

I read this this book through for better and for worse.

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory is the third book in The Wedding Date series, a set of companion novels by Jasmine Guillory. This book follows Maddie, the main character of the best friend from the first novel, as she helps her friend prepare for her wedding. Unfortunately for Maddie, she strongly dislikes Theo, her friend’s coworker and another member of the wedding party.

I was interested in The Wedding Party after I ranked The Proposal, the second book in the series, as one of my favorite contemporary books two years ago. I had never read, and still have never read, the first book in the series, but it never hindered my reading experience because The Proposal stood well on its own. Unfortunately for me, The Wedding Party did not meet my expectations, and after awhile, annoyed me as well.

I can’t count this against the Wedding Party, but unlike with The Proposal, I would recommend reading The Wedding Date before this one. While The Proposal seemed far enough away from the original story, The Wedding Date heavily relies on characters from the first book. Since I knowingly went into this book, which is open about including the wedding of the first two characters, I can’t list this as a negative, only as a precaution for others who may be interested in this book, but not the first of the series.

For me, a huge reason that I didn’t connect with this book were the characters. I liked Maddie and Theo for the most part, but their actions at the end seemed so vastly different from the characters I watched grow throughout the book. Their actions appeared to be more for the sake of drama rather than consistent with their characters. Also, Alexa, the main character from The Wedding Date, was extremely annoying. In fact, it makes me hesitant to ever read the first book in the series. Plus, Alexa’s sister only seemed added in to be able to extend the series later, which after I finished this book, I found that she would be in fact the titular character in the next book of the series.

Another reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped was the relationship. To me, there wasn’t a good balance between the physical and emotional aspects of the relationship. While I understand that the arrangement that Maddie and Theo makes attempts to take any feelings out of the mix, I would have appreciated a little more emotional impact than just a couple events at the end of the book to buy more into their relationship.

Finally, the pacing of this book really dragged on for me. The same events and conversations happened over and over and over again. By the end of the book, I was just reading to finish. Whenever I find myself in that situation, I know it’s not a book that I really enjoyed.

Overall, I was disappointed with The Wedding Date because I didn’t connect with it like the other book that I read by Jasmine Guillory. In The Proposal, the relationship seemed so real and natural, but everything in this book felt extremely forced. I give The Wedding Party two out of five stars.

January Wrap-Up

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After a rough reading year last year, I was worried my reading slump would carry over into the New Year. Thankfully, I was able to find a few books that I was really excited for to kick off the New Year. While I do not expect all these books to appear on my end of year favorites list, I enjoyed almost every book on this list. Here’s what I read:

  • Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Even though from the description it contained some elements that I thought I would enjoy, like a ragtag team of characters, I was initially put off by how I never finished Illuminae and the mixed reviews from people who loved Illuminae. Much to my surprise, I really enjoyed this book and look forward in continuing the series.

  • The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory (★ ★)

The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date, #3)

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory was one of my favorite contemporaries two years ago, so I put The Wedding Party on my TBR shortly after. Since The Wedding Party was nominated for a Goodreads choice award, it appeared as a Kindle Daily deal early this year. Unfortunately for me, The Wedding Party suffered from a lot of missed opportunities. While this book had a lot of potential, it missed the mark in several ways for me.

  • Tweet Cute by Emma Lord (★ ★ ★ ★)

Tweet Cute

Everyone is gushing about Tweet Cute, so as a fan of contemporaries, I immediately picked it up. I’m not someone who rushes out and buys a book, especially for authors that aren’t my auto-buys, but this sounded right up my alley. While I overall enjoyed Tweet Cute, some of the pacing (especially in the ending) was a little off for me.

  • First and Then by Emma Mills (★ ★ ★ )

First & Then

I have read one other book by Emma Mills, Famous in a Small Town, and my feelings towards that book are similar to how I feel about this book. For me, Emma Mills is an author with A LOT of set-up in the beginning of the book. While there’s always some emotional punch in the end, for me, it often feels like a lot of work to get to for the reward. While I think Emma Mills is a talented author, I think this style just isn’t my favorite.

 

What were your favorite January reads?

 

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Valentine’s Day Book Tag

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

As per tradition, I’ve decided to complete the Valentine’s Day Book Tag to round out my Blogentine’s Day line-up. This tag was created by CC’s Books. Here are my answers:

  • Stand Alone Book that You Love

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

I recently read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and really loved it. The first half of the book moved a little slowly for me, but the second half was absolutely amazing. I’m not much of a crier when it comes to books, but I cried multiple times while reading this book.

  • Dystopian Book You Love

Honestly, I have not read a dystopian in a really long time. I am afraid I do not have any dystopian books to love this Valentine’s Day. Let me know if there are any recent dystopian books that you loved in the comments!

  • A Book You Love that No One Else Talks About

Catwoman: Soulstealer (DC Icons, #3)

I read Catwoman: Soul Stealer at the tail end of 2018. Everyone talks about books by Sarah J. Maas, but this one definitely does not get as much love as Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses. This was actually one of my favorite books written by Sarah J. Maas and I wish more people talked about it so I could share my love for it!

  • Book Couple You Love

The Proposal

I absolutely loved Nikole and Carlos from The Proposal. Their relationship was very realistic which made me love it even more because I felt like I could find my own Carlos in real life. I really appreciated how healthy their relationship. They shared a mutual respect for each other and were able to follow their own passions while in a relationship which was refreshing for me to read.

  • Book that Other People Love, but You Haven’t Read Yet

Far from the Tree

I’ve seen a lot of love for Far from the Tree in reviews, but I have not read it yet. This book seems right up my alley and I do have it downloaded on my Kindle, so it’s just a matter of time before I fall in love with it too.

  • A Book with Red on the Cover

Things We Know by Heart

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby has red and hearts on the cover. Since this is The Valentine’s Day book tag, I think I should get some bonus points. That aside, this book really wasn’t my favorite and I think it pushed some boundaries that made me slightly uncomfortable. See my full review here.

  • A Book with Pink on the Cover

From Twinkle, with Love

From Twinkle, with Love has some pink spread across the cover. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very in love with this book due to the questionable actions of the main character. See my full review here.

  • You were given a box of chocolate. Which book boyfriend/girlfriend gave it to you?

The Proposal

I don’t like including duplicates on book tags, but I would say Carlos Ibarra from The Proposal. He’s definitely my new book crush and would love to receive chocolate from him.

  • You are single on Valentine’s Day. What book do you read? What movie do you watch? What TV show do you watch?

Project Runway All Stars is one of my favorite shows. It airs on Wednesday nights, but I always watch it on Thursdays, so I will be watching it tonight!

  • You are in a book store. All of a sudden you get shot with an arrow by cupid. What new release will you love?

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss

I think the new release I would love if Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West. I have been anticipating this book and absolutely love all of Kasie West’s books.

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The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory Review

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This adult romance was a home run!

The Proposal

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory follows Nikole, who is unexpectedly proposed to by her actor boyfriend at a baseball game. When she rejects his proposal and faces wrath from the media, pediatrician Carlos Ibarra comes to her rescue. While both believe that they are not in the position for a relationship, they start to develop feelings for each other.

I have not read The Wedding Date, which is the first novel in this companion series, but was looking for a cute contemporary to read and saw this in my library’s e-book collection. I didn’t remember hearing great reviews for The Wedding Date, but decided to give The Proposal a shot anyway. I am so glad that I gave this book a chance because I ended up really enjoying it!

For me, the best part of this book were the two main characters, Nikole and Carlos. For an adult romance book, I found them to be more developed than other main characters in this genre that I’ve read in the past. Both have their own passions, outlook on relationships, and past experiences that affect their actions in this book. Nikole, who feels discouraged about her writing and independence, focuses on herself by taking self-defense classes and focuses her writing on what she loves. On the other hand, Carlos is passionate about taking care of his family, but also learns that he needs to take care of himself as well.

Another high point of this book was the relationship. It’s difficult to find an extremely healthy relationship in books nowadays where both members of the relationship hold an equal amount of power and share mutual respect. I found the relationship between Nikole and Carlos to check all of those boxes. On top of that, I found their relationship to be very genuine and real. Aside from how they met, I felt like I could have my own story like Nikole and Carlos which made me love them even more.

Overall, I found very little problems with this book. However, it is a long book and I know some people may be bored because it is so realistic. I give this book five out of five stars.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Couples in Books

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is favorite couples in books. Over the years, I have come to adore so many couples in books. Since it is Blogentine’s Day on my blog, it is the perfect time to share them! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series of all time and contains one of my favorite couples of all time. While I did love each couple in this series, the one that loved the most was Cress and Thorne. Out of all the main characters, I related to Cress the most. Plus, Thorne is just like Flynn Rider from Tangled, so it’s impossible not to love him. I also enjoyed seeing how they impacted each other as characters and grew throughout the two final books in the series.

  • Feyre and Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)

While books by Sarah J. Maas are typically hit or miss for me, I generally enjoy the characters in her books. I specifically enjoyed the character growth that Feyre and Rhysand experienced in A Court of Mist and Fury and slowly watching them turn into a couple. Despite my feelings of meh towards book three and the novella, I still love reading about their relationship and can’t wait to see little snapshots of their future in other books set in the same world.

  • Nikole and Carlos from The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

The Proposal

I think Nikole and Carlos have the most real and healthy relationship on this list which was so incredibly refreshing to read. Nikole and Carlos are like normal, everyday people which made me believe that I could experience the same love that they feel towards each other. They are so respectful of each other’s passions, feelings, and thoughts. Their love story just made me so happy and I can’t wait to see them appear in The Wedding Party (the next book in this companion series) to see what happens to them.

  • Kestrel and Arin from The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)

I haven’t read this series in a long time. However, I remember being so invested in Kestrel and Arin’s relationship. Even though it was pretty dramatic for my tastes, I was sucked in and I couldn’t put down this series until I knew what happened to them.

  • Kaz and Inej from Six of Crows  by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Kaz and Inej have such a great relationship that is so different than many others in the YA sphere. I like how Kaz and Inej both influenced each other, but never completely changed each other. They were able to live with the other thinking very differently from themselves, but also worked so well together.

  • Annabel and Owen from Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Image result for just listen book

Just Listen is my favorite YA book, so it’s no surprise I loved Annabel and Owen. Sarah Dessen has a knack for making me love characters that I would probably not in real life. Owen’s music snobbery would definitely annoy me in real life, but he has so much dimension in this book that I can’t help but like him.

  • Selina and Luke from Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

Catwoman: Soulstealer (DC Icons, #3)

I was surprised by how much I loved this book. This Sarah J. Maas book isn’t one of her most hyped, but besides A Court of Mist and Fury it is definitely my favorite. Selina and Luke have so many layers to their characters and I was rooting for them the entire novel.

  • Remy and Dexter from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

This Lullaby

Remy and Dexter and two characters that I would relate to in real life or ever imagine together, but Sarah Dessen makes it work. Remy is very cold and rigid and Dexter is the complete opposite. He’s also a musician, and if you’ve read a post on my blog before, that’s not my favorite thing to see in books. That being said, I think Remy and Dexter end up balancing each other perfectly and help each other grow as people and in relationships. Plus, that silverware scene is one of my favorite cute YA scenes of all time.

  • Abby and Cooper from Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Love, Life, and the List

I love Kasie West books and think they contain couples straight out of your favorite teen movie. Abby and Cooper just stand out to me much more than the others. Cooper, to me, had a little more personality than some of West’s other love interests. Plus, it was interesting to read the friends-to-lovers trope which I don’t typically pick up or enjoy. Honestly, I was so invested in their relationship that I could not put this book down.

  • Macy and Wes from The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever

Macy and Wes are just the perfect couple… there’s nothing else to say! (Except sa-woon!)

 

Who are your favorite couples from books?

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The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck Review

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It’s no secret that I found this book to be an average read.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner follows SThe Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeckarah Hollenbeck, who recently became a Christian. However, Sarah fears she will not be accepted into the Christian community due to her past as a steamy romance author, especially since her publisher is demanding a new bestselling book. On top of that, Sarah develops feelings for the pastor at the new church she attends.

I was interested in reading this book after seeing the synopsis. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck definitely did not sound like any other Christian fiction book that I have read in the past. After reading this book, there were several aspects that I really enjoyed and several aspects that I feel needed to be improved upon in order to make it more successful.

For me, one of the best aspects of this book was the main character. Sarah Hollenbeck struggles with very real and difficult emotions and situations that sometimes are shied away from in other Christian fiction. Additionally, Sarah is someone who recently became a Christian, so readers can see where her faith starts and grows throughout the novel, which I do not see as often in Christian fiction. I think Sarah is very relatable and I appreciate how she doesn’t stray from topics that may be considered taboo for the genre. On the other hand, there were topics in this novel that I wished were a little more fleshed out.

That being said, the story itself was lacking for me. I found the first half of the novel more solid than the second half. The second half of the novel was a little too all over the place. I didn’t like the random plot with the girl from college or the media aspect of the second part of the novel as I felt it took a lot away from Sarah’s character growth. Additionally, the relationship aspect of the novel moved a little fast for me. I also didn’t find the relationship to be anything that stood out among others for me.

Overall, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck was an average read for me. While I can see myself picking up more books from this author in the future, I hope that some aspects I found a little underwhelming could be improved upon in the next book. I give this book three out of five stars.

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E-Book Haul February 2018

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There’s nothing I love more than adding a new book to my Kindle library.

Recently, I have noticed that I’ve been preferring to read books on my Kindle than reading a physical copy. If you asked me if that would be the case when I started this blog a couple years ago, I would have never believed you! However, I feel like I move a little faster and I am more motivated to read books when I can see how much percent I have read. I also really enjoy looking at the definition of words, taking notes, and highlighting important sentences which I did not do with my physical copies.

As a result, I’ve purchased a handful of e-books over the past two months. Here are my most recent purchases (any book with a review will be linked to the book’s title):

Snow in Love

I purchased this short story collection around Christmas because I was looking for some cute Christmas reads and I am a huge fan of Kasie West. Overall, I found this collection to be a little more enjoyable than other short story collections that I have read. However, most of the stories were still only average for me with Kasie West’s story as the major stand-out.

  • 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

99 Percent Mine

I pre-ordered this book which is huge for me since I rarely pre-order books. However, I created a list this year of books I was really looking forward to reading and wanted to make a priority. I don’t typically read books when they are first released and I find myself sometimes sad if I really like a book after the hype has died down. While I did not enjoy 99 Percent Mine nearly as much as The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, it was still an okay read for me.

  • A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

This was another book on my pre-order list! I’m a big fan of Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary books, so I wanted to pick this book up especially because it falls in a different genre. Currently, I’m about a third of the way through this book and it just isn’t meeting my expectations. I hope that this will be one that picks up more in the second half of the book, since it is apparently the start of a series.

  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

This Adventure Ends

I saw this book as a Kindle monthly deal in January and decided to pick it up after reading Famous in a Small Town by the same author. Emma Mills has been constantly recommended recently for fans of contemporary. Famous in a Small Town was slow for me in the beginning, but I really enjoyed the ending. While I am not completely sold for her being an auto-buy contemporary author for me, I still want to check out some of her other works. This one interested me because there are twins in this book. As a twin myself, I don’t typically enjoy books that include twins because I feel like twins are constantly portrayed at odds and as complete opposites which may represent some twins, but it definitely does not represent my relationship with my twin. As a result, I’m interested to see this book’s take on twins.

  • Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss

Kasie West is an auto-buy author for me so I definitely pre-ordered her February release. I am so excited to dive into this book! Even though the “famous” trope isn’t my favorite in young adult books, I’m hoping this one can sway my opinion.

 

What book have you hauled recently? 

 

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If You Love This, Then You’ll Love That

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Let’s talk about love… for books!

I’ve discovered a lot of books that I enjoy through book recommendation videos. Since it’s Blogentine’s on my blog, I decided to share some of my favorite recommendations. Here are some of my choices:

If you loved The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, then you’ll love Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

The Hating GameDating You / Hating You

The Hating Game and Dating You/Hating You offers very similar plots: two colleagues compete for one sole position within their company and develop romantic feelings for each other in the process. Both are fun, light-hearted books perfect for fans of love-hate relationships.

 

If you loved The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, then you’ll love 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)99 Days

The Summer I Turned Pretty and 99 Days have a lot in common. Both take place in the summer. Additionally, both feature main characters caught in a love triangle between two brothers. While not my most highly rated books, these two books are easy-to-read books during the summertime. If you’re a fan of the CW-like drama in The Summer I Turned Pretty, then you’ll love the drama in 99 Days.

 

If you loved Save the Date my Morgan Matson, then you’ll love Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

Save the DateFamous in a Small Town

Save the Date and Famous in a Small Town aren’t exactly similar plot-wise. Save the Date follows the main character during her sibling’s wedding weekend. Meanwhile, Famous in a Small Town follows a girl who attempts to recruit a famous country singer for a competition to help her band participate in the Rose Bowl parade. While different in plot, they are similar in messages. Both Save the Date and Famous in a small town are coming of age stories where the protagonist realizes their family, friends, and town are not as idyllic as they appear. If you appreciated this message in Save the Date, you will appreciate it in Famous in a Small Town too.

 

If you loved Let it Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson, then you’ll love Snow in Love by Kasie West, Melissa de la Cruz, Aimee Friedman, and Nic Stone

Let it SnowSnow in Love

While there are several YA winter anthologies, I think Let It Snow and Snow in Love are the most comparable. In both of these anthologies, I generally liked the majority of the stories. Since there are fewer authors, the stories also get to be a bit longer. While the stories don’t intersect in Snow in Love like they do in Let it Snow, they both are strictly contemporary collections that have a more cohesive feel compared to the My True Love Gave to Me short story collection.

 

If you loved A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, then you’ll love The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)

A Court of Thorns and Roses and The Cruel Prince are two of the biggest faerie books currently on the market. Although their writing styles and world drastically differ, they have several common elements that if you enjoyed ACOTAR, then you will like The Cruel Prince too. Both ACOTAR and The Cruel Prince feature complicated love interests. Additionally, both feature complicated political relationships. As a result, if you like these aspects of ACOTAR, you might enjoy The Cruel Prince too.

What are your if you love this, then you’ll love that recommendations?