ARC REVIEW // Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally

Four Days of You and Me almost gets four stars from me.

Four Days of You and Me is the first young adult contemporary book by Miranda Kenneally set outside of the Hundred Oaks series. Every year, aspiring writer Lulu, along with the rest of her class, attends a class field trip. During freshman year, the field trip sparks a relationship between Lulu and a fellow classmate, sports star Alex. Four Days of You and Me documents their changing relationship throughout their high school years.

Four Days of You and Me

I have read every book in the Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally, so I was excited to see her first book outside of the sports-themed books that she wrote in the past. For me, the Hundred Oaks series was hit-or-miss, but overall, each book was a quick and light-hearted contemporary. Four Days of You and Me was everything that I would expect from this author. Therefore, if you like Miranda Kenneally’s other books, then you would probably enjoy this book.

One aspect of this book that set it apart from Kenneally’s other books was the timeline. This book takes place on the same day throughout a four-year period, with flashbacks to other events that happened in the same year. Sometimes, timelines in books that frequently jump around can be unsuccessfully executed, which makes the book confusing to read. I think Kenneally did a nice job of jumping back and forth between different times without confusing the reading. Despite some problems I had with pacing towards the end (unrelated to the time jumping), I think the jumping to different periods of time actually made the book a quicker read and motivated me to continue the story.

That being said, the pacing in the last 20% of the book wasn’t my favorite. There were plot points introduced quickly into the end that could cause large rifts between the main characters or greatly impact their futures. When I expected the all is lost moment or some major area of conflict in the plot, it was resolved quickly with little impact on the story. In a sense, it was nice not to have a huge bomb dropped at the end of the book because throughout the story, you grow up with all the characters, and it leaves more of a bittersweet tone surrounding their last hurrah before graduation. At the same time, the problems weren’t as fleshed out as issues presented earlier in the book, so the ending felt slightly rushed.

Another aspect that I enjoyed were the characters. Since you see these characters from their freshman year, you get to see how they all grow, not just the main characters. I always wonder what happens to a character after the short time span we typically see in a novel, so it was cool to see how the characters in this novel literally grow up before your eyes. Getting more in-depth with all the characters also made the ending of the story emotional. Thinking about all the highlights of their high school career and then knowing that they will grow their separate ways will help readers in high school or people who graduated high school really connect with this story because they can themselves or their friends within the characters in this novel.

That being said, I did have some personal preferences that impacted my reading experience. Lulu, the main character, wants to write graphic novels. Throughout the book, we see her write the story, then she goes onto query agents and get more into the publishing process. For me, I don’t always mind when characters are writing a book, but for some reason, it always puts me off when such little details about the publishing industry are within a novel. To quote one of my favorite contestants from Survivor, Michaela Bradshaw, it’s like when a magician pulls a bunny out of a hat but they walk in with the bunny instead—it just takes away the magic of being fully immersed in a book, like the characters are real people, but now you are reminded that they are not.

Overall, Four Days of You and Me is a fun and easy to read contemporary book. While I did enjoy this book, there were some aspects that weren’t my favorite or could be improved. I give Four Days of You and Me three out of five stars.

What do you think of books that follow a non-linear timeline?

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Moment of Truth by Kasie West Review

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Moment of truth: This was not one of my favorite Kasie West books.

Moment of Truth by Kasie West follows Hadley Moore, an overachieving swimmer who vows to discover the true identity of a masked classmate who ruined her last race. Moment of Truth is the third book in the Love, Life, and the List companion series. While it isn’t necessary to read the previous two books, there will be some spoilers about past relationships in this book.

Moment of Truth

I was extremely excited when I first saw Love, Life, and the List would be a companion series. Love, Life, and the List ranks as one of my favorite Kasie West books. However, my doubts started with Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss as it was one of my most disappointing reads of last year and one of my least favorite Kasie West books. As a result, I went into Moment of Truth a little more hesitantly than usual for a book by this author.

First of all, I was a little confused at the start. Was this book Moment of Truth or Heroes, Hearts, and Heath Hall? Both titles appeared on Goodreads and an online retailer close to release date. After reading Moment of Truth, I believe the chosen title is the most appropriate. This book strays far away from the first two novels. They are only loosely connected and the parts that are, for me, were forced and tried too hard. I think this book would have been much more successful separate from the companion series so those ties were not as forced.

As for the book itself, the beginning is slow. The masked classmate is extremely secretive and our main character is apparently very intelligent and successful. However, for the first quarter of the book, her only plan is to approach classmates to see if they will tell her the classmate’s identity. Even after several classmates refuse, Hadley still uses the same strategy. It was incredibly frustrating to read the same conversations and plot points over and over without any progress.

Then, readers are presented with a side plot. Hadley’s brother, who died before she was born, often takes priority over events in her life. Hadley struggles with jealously towards her brother and resentment towards her parents for consistently choosing him over her. For me, this was the most interesting aspect of the plot and had the potential to provide a little more depth than typically present in Kasie West’s books. However, I found this aspect presented a little too all over the place in the book and resolved WAY too quickly at the end. Overall, this book struggled with inconsistent pacing and repetition and this aspect of the book was no exception.

As for other aspects of the book: the friendship, the romance, and the “mystery”, they were either too generic to remember or not well fleshed out to meet my expectations. When I think about my favorite Kasie West books, P.S. I Like You, Love, Life, and the List, and The Fill-In Boyfriend, they all contained more memorable characters, interesting plots, and consistent story lines. While I typically breeze through books by this author, I struggled to finish Moment of Truth. I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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ARC REVIEW// The Honey Don't List by Christina Lauren

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I’m somewhat committed to Christina Lauren’s newest novel.

The Honey Don’t List, the latest novel by popular author duo Christina Lauren, follows Carey Douglas, the assistant to a couple famous for their home remodeling show. Unfortunately for Carey, her bosses aren’t getting along despite their upcoming book on their rock-solid marriage. To ensure the book’s success, as well as their upcoming new show, Carey is forced to accompany the feuding couple on their book tour with the couple’s other annoying, but cute, assistant.

The Honey-Don't List

This was the fourth Christina Lauren book that I’ve read. Going into this book, I didn’t set my expectations too high. While I find myself interested in the synopses of Christina Lauren’s books, the execution always falls flat for me. While The Honey Don’t List didn’t knock my socks off, I overall enjoyed this story and thought it was one of the better plotted books of this author duo.

Like many other books by Christina Lauren, I was initially interested in this book because of the plot. There are many HGTV power couples (Joanna and Chip Gaines), and divorced couples (Christina and Tarek), who captivate viewers every week. Additionally, there’s an air of distrust with some design shows for their shoddy work, staging, and quick remodels. Unlike some of Christina Lauren’s other books where I found the execution of the premise fell flat, this book delivered what it promised. All of these behind-the-scenes aspects that people who watch home improvement shows wonder about are featured in this book.

Additionally, I enjoyed how this book was paced compared to some of Christina Lauren’s other books. I read The Unhoneymooners earlier this year and found the plot to be all over the place. While I do think the ending of this book comes across as a little too melodramatic, I think the final article included in the book justifies its purpose. I could have done without the police reports throughout the book, but I did enjoy how article on the couple, as well as social media, were incorporated throughout the story.

Another aspect that I enjoyed about this book were the relationships, more so the relationships between Carey and her bosses rather than the romantic relationship. Carey’s first job was working at a store owned by the Tripps, and while they provided many opportunities in her life, they also took many opportunities away from her. Additionally, I liked seeing the dynamic between Melissa and Rusty Tripp, especially on camera versus off camera. As for the romance, it was pretty standard. While I liked James as a character, the relationship in this book isn’t especially memorable or the most interesting dynamic presented in the story.

While I overall enjoyed The Honey Don’t List, I didn’t have a particularly strong connection to any aspect of the story and it lacked something extra to make it stand out from other similar books. The best way I could describe this book is formulaic. This book presents all the necessary elements to make a coherent and easy read. On the other hand, in a romance, there’s a large focus on the main character and the relationship that they develop with the male lead. Unfortunately for me, this was not the most interesting aspect of the book. In fact, this book may have been more successful with Melissa and Rusty as the main characters as they were more dynamic characters than the narrators who only watch the action take place rather than taking an active role in the story.

While I enjoyed this book more than some of Christina Lauren’s other books, I still wasn’t in love with it as I wanted to be after reading. I give this book three out of five stars.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren follows Olive, a cynical woman who feels overshadowed by her more successful sister. On her twin sister’s wedding day, all of the guests became violently ill after a bad buffet, except Olive and her arch nemesis, Ethan. When Olive’s sister convinces her to take the newlyweds’ free honeymoon with Ethan, Olive is less than thrilled. However, she must soon rely on Ethan during the trip when she encounters her new boss who believes she is married to Ethan.

The Unhoneymooners

I’ve read two other books by the author duo Christina Lauren, Roomies and Hating You/Dating You. For me, both were average reads that lacked a certain spark that would make me really love them. Christina Lauren is a well-loved author duo, and since I heard great reviews and the plot sounded interesting, I decided to pick this one up. While I liked some aspects of The Unhoneymooners more than their other books, it still sits as an average read for me.

The Unhoneymooners is pitched as an enemies to lovers romance which is one of my favorite tropes in romance books. Like some other reviews that I read, The Unhoneymooners is more of a watered down version of this trope. While I appreciated the fun banter between the characters, the misconceptions in their “hate” part of their relationship is solved fairly early on (about halfway through the book). Although Olive and Ethan’s relationship was cute, it isn’t anything remarkable.

One trope that I didn’t enjoy, however, was twins dating siblings. As a twin myself, I have had countless people over the years ask if my sister and I will date twins and we’ll get married on the same day. Since Olive’s sister married Ethan’s brother, they are sister and brother-in-laws. While they aren’t blood related, there are so many jokes about them “switching sisters.” These jokes aren’t necessarily condoned by characters in the book, but they are often written off like the character “didn’t mean it that way.” I’m not sure if other readers will really be bothered by this trope or comments, but because I am a twin, they hindered my reading experience. (P.S. If you have any recommendations with a realistic, strong bond between twins, please leave it in the comments!)

One of the aspects of this book that I really enjoyed was Olive’s family. While sometimes overbearing, you really sensed how much each person cared for each other. They mostly appear in the beginning and ends of the story, but they were definitely a highlight for me.

I think my biggest problem was this book was the “plot twist” concerning Olive and her sister. Olive learns something major troubling news from Ethan about her sister’s relationship. However, she eventually pushes the information aside and doesn’t get involved until the situation involves her directly. Like Olive, I am a twin. If I heard the news that Olive heard about her sister’s relationship, I would be on the phone with my sister in seconds. Instead, Olive seems more concerned about how it could potentially impact her relationship with Ethan. Although the information Olive discovers is hurtful, I could personally never imagine withholding that information that she learns and it really rubbed me the wrong way and dampened the end of the book for me.

Overall, The Unhoneymooners is an average romance. While it was an easy read that had its fun moments, there were some aspects that affected my reading experience negatively. I give this book three out of five stars.

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?

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord Review

Sometimes you just need a cheese-y romance.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord is the author’s debut contemporary romance novel about two high school students who fall in love after a viral Twitter war. Pepper is an overachiever who tweets memes for Big League Burger, her mom’s fast food chain restaurant. Meanwhile, Jack tweets for Girl Cheesing, his grandma’s bakery. When Big Tweet CuteLeague Burger steals the recipe for Girl Cheesing’s popular grilled cheese, an online battle ensues.

I never typically pay full price for books. I either wait for a Kindle deal or check out my local library for new releases, especially from authors that I don’t know. However, I heard a lot of hype for Tweet Cute and it sounded right up my alley, so I decided to purchase it soon after the release date. While I did enjoy Tweet Cute, there were a few aspects of the book that prevented me from rating it five stars.

My favorite aspect of this book was that it featured one of my favorite tropes: enemies to lovers. The banter between Pepper and Jack kept me turning the pages. I love how their relationship grew realistically throughout the book. Plus, it was nice to see both of their points of views as both were well developed characters individually. In dual perspectives, it is hard to make both perspectives interesting, but in this book, I enjoyed experiencing the story from both Pepper and Jack’s point of views.

One aspect of this book that wasn’t my favorite was the pacing. When I thought the book was reaching the breaking point, I was only at the 60% mark on my Kindle. At that point, I feared the book would drag on, and for me, it slightly did. The beginning of the book was fast paced with a constant back and forth between Pepper and Jack. In the ending, there were many rehashed conversations and some unnecessary drama that could have easily been cut without affecting the story. Towards the end, I found myself waiting for the actual end of the story because I felt like I reached the story’s “darkest moment” so many times before it actually happened.

Overall, Tweet Cute is a fun and enjoyable story that I think a lot of readers with enjoy, even if they aren’t a huge fan of contemporary books. That being said, the pacing at the end was a little off which negatively affected my reading experience. I give this book four out of five stars.

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.

Blogmas Day #30: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston Review

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The main character may be given 10 blind dates, but I would give this book ten out of ten stars!

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston follows Sophie during her school’s winter break. When her parents leave to help her pregnant sister, Sophie seizes the opportunity to cozy up to her boyfriend. When she unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, Sophie flees to her grandmother’s house where her extended family gathers for Christmas. To help Sophie get over Griffin, her family sets her up on 10 blind dates until New Year’s.

This book sounded right up my alley because it is a cute contemporary that takes place during Christmas. I purchased this book for my Kindle at full price, which I rarely do for new-to-me authors. Consequently, I went into this book with high expectations. Fortunately, I really enjoyed this book and I can see myself reading it again in the future, most likely before the movie version is released on Netflix.

I am a huge fan of romantic comedies, so I am happy to see resurgence of these books in the young adult market. 10 Blind Dates definitely lives up to the “comedy” in romantic comedy. Some of the dates that Sophie’s relatives set her up on are hilarious: from a live nativity to a disastrous drive-in. I found myself laughing out loud during several scenes, which I rarely do when reading.

Another aspect of this book that I really enjoyed was Sophie’s family. It was nice to see a supportive and caring family in a young adult book, which is sometimes rare to find. While it can seem like a lot of characters are thrown in at once, they all have some key characteristics to differentiate each member of the family. I especially enjoyed Sophie’s relationship with her cousins and how it changed as they got older.

Overall, 10 Blind Dates is a fun young adult contemporary that is perfect for Christmas or New Year’s. If you are looking for a quick and easy read to finish before the ball drops, this book would be a solid choice. I give 10 Blind Dates five out of five stars.

 

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Blogmas Day #8: Let It Snow Movie Review

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Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Miracle was tImage result for let it snow movie posterhe first book that I ever reviewed on my blog back in January 2019 (see my review here), so it makes it incredibly special to review the movie almost four years later. When I heard that Netflix released a movie for the book, I was excited because I was impressed with another young adult book-to-movie adaption, To All the Boys I’ve Love Before. While I don’t consider Let It Snow one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time, it is a cute holiday movie that will please many viewers.

For those unfamiliar with the book, Let It Snow focuses on three short stories about characters in a small town on Christmas Eve. While all of the stories are individual, but connect at the end, the movie takes a different approach where it bounces back and forth between each story line. Even though I hadn’t read this book in quite some time, I still was able to find several very noticeable differences between the book and the movie. While I wasn’t too bothered by these changes and think viewers who haven’t read the book may still find this movie enjoyable, do not expect a very faithful adaption for two of the three original stories if you read the book first.

Personally, I enjoyed the John Green story line adaptation the best. That being said, I think the movie was well-casted and acted by each member of the cast. I think this movie also brought in a good theme with the Jeb story line, which was my least favorite story line in the book. While I enjoyed the cast of the movie, there were several scenes that dragged by slowly for me. The first time I watched this movie, I took several breaks while watching because the pacing slows down. When I watched the movie again with my sister, she felt the same way. When you think the movie has to end soon, there are still forty minutes left.

Overall, Let It Snow is a cute, holiday movie. I think Netflix used core elements of the story that will make the movie enjoyable for readers of the book or people who have not read the book. I give this movie three out of five stars.

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