20 Books I Plan to Read in 2020 (Mid-Year Update)

During my month-long blogging marathon back in 2020, I made a list of 20 books that I hoped to read in 2020 (check out that list here). Usually, I find that these lists aren’t too accurate regarding my reading the next year. However, I put a lot of thought into my list last December and created a list of books that I had been meaning to read for awhile and others that I was extremely excited to read once they were released this year.

Here’s my original list of 20 books:

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The Changes

Looking at this list, there were a few changes that needed to be made based on release dates.

  • For Sarah J. Maas, my original choice was the next book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, however, that book was pushed back to 2021 because of her first adult fantasy release. I’m not interested in reading her adult fantasy book, House of Earth and Blood, so I decided to substitute this with another sequel I was excited to read, Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.
  • For Morgan Matson, there is a book listed on Goodreads to release this year, but no information has been released since I discovered it in December. As a result, I am changing this book to another Morgan Matson book that I’ve been wanting to read for year, Second Chance Summer.
  • The Heart Principle has also been pushed back to 2021, so I will be substituting this with another adult romance. I was recently approved for In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren on NetGalley. Since I do plan to read this by the end of the year, I thought it would be a good substitution on my list.

The Progress

So far, I have read 8 out of 20 books. That is almost half, which is perfect, because we are about halfway through the year. I have plenty of time to read the remaining books, many of which I have already purchased.

The Disappointments

This year, most of the books that I have read were average (3 stars) to me. However, there were a couple books that I had high expectations for that just fell flat.

  • Moment of Truth by Kasie West

I was a little nervous going into Moment of Truth by Kasie West. It is the third book in the Love, Life, and the List series, which steadily went down hill with the second book. Overall, this book just wasn’t well-executed. The pacing was all over the place as was much of the plot. This book probably could have been more successful as a standalone, as all of the aspects that made a companion to the first two books were very loose and many times completely unnecessary.

Moment of Truth follows Hadley, an overachieving swimmer who is determined to figure out the identity of a masked classmate after the person interrupts an important swim meet.

  • The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

I really loved The Proposal by this author, which I read the year before, so I was very excited to read this book in the companion series. Like with Moment of Truth, this book just wasn’t well executed with a very repetitive plot and very inconsistent characters.

The Wedding Party follows enemies Maddie and Theo after they are both selected for a mutual friend’s wedding party.

The Favorites

While most of my year has been average, there are a few books that have really stuck out to me. I can see myself rereading these books in the future and recommending them to other readers.

  • The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

I put off reading this book for awhile because I just haven’t gotten as into Sarah Dessen’s most recent releases as I loved her older books, like Just Listen or Along for the Ride. However, I quickly connected with the main character in this novel which really emotionally invested me in this story. This book is more reminiscent of her older works, like The Truth About Forever, without seeming like it was copied and pasted, like with Saint Anything (even though I do still enjoy that book).

The Rest of the Story follows Emma Saylor who reconnects with the family of her mother, who passed away when she was younger, at the lake where they live.

  • Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

I read Alex, Approximately a long time ago, but never bought into the hype surrounding this contemporary author. However, as I read more and more of her books, she has definitely become an auto-buy author for me. Every novel that Jenn Bennett releases, her writing constantly improves. Chasing Lucky was no exception and I especially enjoyed her descriptions of the setting in this novel.

Chasing Lucky follows Josie, who returns to the town where she lived as a child and runs into an ex-best friend who just might turn out to be more.

What are my full thoughts on these books?

Books that I Have Read (if a book has a review, there will be a link to the review on the book’s title):

Any book marked with * was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange from an honest review.

Aurora Burning Review

Aurora Burning made me feel a little burned.

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff picks up where the first book in the Aurora Cycle left off. After uncovering the secrets of what’s really going on behind the GIA and being labeled intergalactic terrorists, the crew is racing against time, and Kal’s Syldrathi family who show up and want him back, no matter the cost.

When I read Aurora Rising, I was completely invested. Although Aurora Rising contained many similarities to other space books or movies, I really loved the characters and wanted more of their stories. While Aurora Burning started off strong for me, it started to fizzle out about halfway through and the problems. Many of the problems that other readers indicated that they had with the first story started to appear again, and this time, I found it not as easy to ignore them.

A lot happens in the first book and I enjoyed that the book gave a short recap of the events of the first novel in a fun way (a report by Magellan with colorful commentary). Like with Aurora Rising, I found the beginning the beginning to be interesting, especially as readers receive background on characters who aren’t as open, like Zila and Kal. In the first book, readers primarily look at the Aurora Legion, but in this book, we get to explore other groups in space and the complicated relationships that still exist even after a peace treaty was established. All of this information occurs within high-action situations or presented in a fun way (like Magellan’s report), so I didn’t feel like information was being dumped on me. However, at around the 50% mark, the story became more repetitive, and as a result, not as motivating or interesting to read.

In Aurora Burning, we are introduced to a few new characters, namely many people part of the Unbroken, the Syldrathi army who decimated its own people. However, these characters either weren’t well fleshed-out or echoed other characters that we’ve seen before in this series. In many reviews for the first book, many readers felt that many of the core characters too closely resembled each other and this remains true for other characters added to the novel. Saedii, Kal’s sister, is basically a blood-thirsty version of Cat. The Starslayer literally has a villain monologue where he practically spells out his ideology for readers. Maybe this characters will be fleshed out in the next book, similarly to how Zila and Kal’s story were expanded in this book. However, it does become frustrating when characters repeat the same lines over and over to reinforce their very one-dimensional personalities, which is particularly true of Saedii’s characters.

Another gripe that many readers had in the first book of this series is that scenes were too drawn out or very repetitive. This problem persists in Aurora Burning. I felt like some of the situations and conversations were repeated over and over again, just using slightly different words. By repeating this same scenes over and over again (especially the part where Aurora explores her powers), it made me extremely bored because it felt like the story line wasn’t progressing at all. Once I got to the halfway point, I had to put this book down for awhile (around two weeks) before I picked it up again because I just couldn’t get into the second half of this story.

There is another issue that I have complicated feelings towards in this book. One one hand, I appreciate how Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff do what is best for the story, even though it won’t appease readers. They will eliminate characters that maybe their audience loves, but it makes sense for where it occurs in the story. Characters that you may want to be in a romantic relationship won’t end up in that relationship because that’s not always realistic. At the same time, I think you need to give your audience something to root for in the story. For me personally, there wasn’t much for me to root for in this story. The good moments in this story were so few and far between that nothing was ever quite satisfying for me to read.

The final aspect of this book that irritated me was the ending. This book ends on a major cliff-hanger. Yes, this book is a part of a series and readers can expect another book. At the same time, Aurora Burning is its own book in the series and should have its own distinct beginning, middle, and end within the series. Like I mentioned earlier, the best way to describe this was simply unsatisfying.

Overall, this book was an average read for me. I really enjoyed the first half, but really struggled with the second half of this book. Although I do intend to continue this series, my expectations going into the next book will not be as high as my expectations for this one. I give Aurora Burning three stars.

What sequel has disappointed you recently?

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Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

t’s that time of year again… time for the mid-year book freak out tag! I’m actually not freaking out that much this year since I have already completed my book goal for 2020. However, I love completing this tag every year, so here are my answers (any book with a review will have the review linked to the book’s title):

  • Best Book I’ve Read so far in 2020
Always Never Yours

One of my first five star reads of the year was Always Never Yours Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Brocka. I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did because I usually don’t enjoy books centered on acting or school plays. However, I was hooked on this book from start to finish. I liked how the main character was very outgoing, which I don’t see much of in YA contemporary and was surprised how emotional some moments in the book were.

  • Best Sequel that I Have Read So Far

I haven’t read too many sequels in 2020, and the ones that I have read were only average for me.

  • New Release I Haven’t Read Yet, but Want to
Time of Our Lives

I bought Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Brocka when it was released, but haven’t read it yet. I love this author duo so I am excited to finally read this one. Time of Our Lives follows two students who meet on a college tour, one who wants to escape her large family and the other who wants to stay close to home to help his mother with early on-set Alzheimer’s.

  • Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of 2020
Instant Karma

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer is one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I loved the Lunar Chronicles and I am excited to see this author branch out into a new genre. In this book, the overachieving main character gets the ability to cast instant karma on those around her. However, when she tries to use her newfound powers on a slacker in her class, it backfires.

  • Biggest Disappointment
Moment of Truth (Love, Life, and the List, #3)

My biggest disappointment hands down was Moment of Truth by Kasie West. I typically love the contemporary books by this author, but this book missed the mark quite a few times. Nothing in this book was fully developed and the pacing was completely off. As a result, nothing about this book was particularly satisfying to read. In fact, this book inspired me to tier rank books by Kasie West (see my post here) after two disappointing reads by this author in a row.

  • Biggest Surprise
The Rest of the Story

I was surprised how much I enjoyed The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen. I put this off for awhile because I haven’t been extremely impressed with some of Dessen’s recent works. However, I became quickly invested in Emma Saylor’s story and didn’t want this book to end. This book really reminded me of her all-time classic books, like The Truth About Forever, which I really enjoyed.

  • Favorite New Author
Chasing Lucky

This author isn’t new to me, but is a new favorite author. Over the years, I have occasionally picked up a book by Jenn Bennett. Initially, I didn’t get the hype over this author because my reading experience with Alex, Approximately was only average. Since then, and especially this year after reading Chasing Lucky, she is a new favorite contemporary author that I can’t wait to read more of in the future. I really enjoy her writing style, particularly her descriptions of different places.

  • Newest Fictional Crush
Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2)

I don’t really have a fictional crush, but one character that I appreciated more after seeing them in a relationship was Kal from Aurora Burning. A lot of people really shipped Kal and Aurora after the first book, but I didn’t really get the hype. After learning more about him in Aurora Burning, I have a greater appreciation for his character. Although I am still not crazy about “the pull,” in this book and others with similar concepts, I really appreciate how much he cared about Aurora and the person in general that he chose to be despite his upbringing,

  • Newest Favorite Character
Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered, #3)

One character that I really enjoyed was Bethany’s character in Tools of Engagement (to be released in September). Bethany’s character—pretty, put together, and “perfect”—is often villainized in other romance type books. However, I liked that the author explored this character a little bit deeper to find out why she acted that way. I really related to how Bethany felt like people expected her to be put together and perfect all the time and how hard it is to change your way of thinking from that, which made me enjoy this book for a separate reason from the romance (which was okay, but not my favorite).

  • Book that Made You Cry
The Rest of the Story

I don’t like to do repeats, but I definitely cried when I read The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen. I related a lot to the main character, Emma Saylor, in many different ways so it made her story that more emotional for me.

  • Book that Made You Happy
Four Days of You and Me

Four Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally made me happy. This was her first book outside of the Hundred Oaks series (see my ranking of the books in the Hundred Oaks series here), but like the books in that series, it was a fun, quick, and easy read.

  • Favorite Book to Movie Adaptation You Saw this Year

The only new book to movie adaptation that I watched was P.S. I Still Like You. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of this adaptation, especially compared to the first move. I didn’t like many of the changes from the book, thought the pacing was weird, and there wasn’t enough John Ambrose!

  • Favorite Review You’ve Written This Year
Moment of Truth (Love, Life, and the List, #3)

I liked my review of Moment of Truth because I felt like I was able to accurately articulate my frustrations towards this book. Plus, this review did spark a few conversations in the comments and I really enjoyed interacting with other people in the book community.

  • Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year
Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2)

I am going to use Aurora Burning again for this one. I absolutely love the artwork featured on the covers of this series and this book is no exception. I think the artwork always well reflects the characters, and as I mentioned earlier, Kal has really grown on me so I don’t mind seeing him on the cover.

  • Books I Need to Read by the End of This Year
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0)

I started A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, but I haven’t finished it yet. I definitely need to finish this book by the end of the year because I know if I drag out reading a book, then I typically won’t finish it.

What are your favorite books of the year so far? What are your most anticipated reads for the end of the year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Added to My TBR… and Forgotten Why

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books I’ve added to my TBR… and forgotten why.

  • How to Speak Boy by by Tiana Smith
How to Speak Boy

I remember seeing the cover for this book, but I can’t remember anything about the description that made me add it to my TBR. According to Goodreads, this book follows Quinn and Grayson, rivals on the debate team who somehow end up exchanging note anonymously. Looking at this description, I can now see why I added to my TBR in the first place: it contains a lot of tropes that I typically enjoy. Now that I remember why this book is on my TBR, I might have to check it out in the future!

  • No Judgements by Meg Cabot
No Judgements (Little Bridge Island #1)

I know that this is an adult book by Meg Cabot, but since I am not a huge fan of her adult books, I am surprised to see this one on my list. No Judgements takes place on a small island after a huge storm who tries to rescue pet on the island and somehow falls in love. Meg Cabot’s adult books tend to be extremely overdramatic which isn’t my favorite and I can just tell from the description that this character seems like many of the other characters that I didn’t enjoy from other adult novels that I’ve read by her.

  • Fan the Flame by Anna Priemaza
Fan the Fame

Once again, I remember the cover, but not what the book is about. Fan tells me this is probably about a fandom, which I don’t typically like to read in books, so I’m not sure why I would have added this to my TBR. After researching this book again, like I expected, it is about a fandom. This book follows Lainey who wants to expose someone’s hate rants that she caught on camera at a convention. This seems to have a lot of tropes that I probably wouldn’t enjoy, so I’m probably going to take it off of my TBR.

  • Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill
Within These Lines

With some of the titles above, at least the names sounded familiar. Nothing about this book sounds familiar to me, so I am unsure how it landed on my Goodreads TBR. This looks like it is a historical romance set in American after Pearl Harbor when a couple is split up after the boy, who is a Japanese immigrant, is forced into an internment camp. Reading the description, this book does sound a little bit familiar and a whole lot interesting. I rarely read historical fiction, but if I am in the mood to read historical fiction, then this sounds like a good one to pick up.

  • Comics Will Break You Heart by Faith Erin Hicks
Comics Will Break Your Heart

Just like with the fandom book above, books about comics aren’t particularly interesting to me, so I’m not sure why I added this one to my TBR. This book follows Miriam, a girl who is poor because her grandfather gave away the rights to a popular comic that he helped create. Tensions rise when the grandson of the man who took control of the comics comes to town and Miriam starts to like him. Even though I love a good enemies-to-lovers romance, I just get the vibes that this will be very overdramatic and and go towards younger YA, which tends not to be my favorite. While I am sure someone would enjoy this book if they picked it up, I can’t personally see myself picking it up in the future.

  • That’s Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm
That's Not What I Heard

On this list, I can vaguely remember the plot of this book, which makes me question why I added it to my TBR. This book is all about rumors spiraling out of control after a couple allegedly breaks up. This definitely seems to lean towards younger YA with a lot of the ridiculous drama that goes on at that time combined with an overflow of misunderstandings. This is a book that I could see being appreciated by the target audience, but as someone who is much older, it might get really annoying. I just can’t see myself picking this book up in the future.

  • Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy
Now a Major Motion Picture

From the title, I can guess this has to do with a movie. Like with some other books on this list, I don’t typically like when something like this (in this case, movies) are the focus of a book, so it’s kind of on me to be confused why I put this on my TBR. This book follows a girl who goes to Ireland to see her grandmother’s books turn into a movie adaptation. Even though I’m not a fan of books about movies, I do really love books about Ireland and this does sound interesting to me. Maybe I will have to pick this up in the future!

  • Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre
Honor Among Thieves (The Honors, #1)

This sounds like it is in the fantasy or sci-fi realm, which I don’t typically read, so I’m excited to read the synopsis again to see what motivated me to add it to my TBR. This book follows Zara who joins a team created by aliens set to explore the universe. Out of all the books on this list, I literally have to no idea why I added this book to my TBR (at the time). This sounds nothing like I was reading when I added this to my TBR. Now that I’ve read Aurora Rising, which contains aliens and exploring the galaxy, and enjoyed it, this does sound a little more interesting. Still, I have no idea how this ended up on my TBR in the first place.

  • A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen
A Taxonomy of Love

I have read another book by this author, so that could be why I added this book to my TBR. However, I don’t remember anything about the synopsis. This book follows two friends who could potentially fall in love as they get older.

What books have you added to your TBR and forgotten why?

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ARC REVIEW // 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon follows two side-characters from the When Dimple Met Rishi companion series, Priyanka “Pinky” Kumar, an outspoken and rebellious teenager girl, and Samir Jha, a conservative and homeschooled boy. After her parents wrongly accuse her of a fire at their summer home, Pinky wants to prove to her parents that she is responsible and can make good choices. When Pinky discovers that Samir’s summer internship fell through, she offers him a room at the house and a future internship with her lawyer mother if he pretends to date her.

10 Things I Hate About Pinky (Dimple and Rishi, #3)

Sandhya Menon’s books have been all over the board for me. When Dimple Met Rishi was an average read for me, I loved There’s Something About Sweetie, but really did not care for From Twinkle, With Love (which is not part of the companion series). For me, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky was a mix of all the elements that readers have seen in Sandhya Menon’s books. As a result, there were some aspects of this book that I really enjoyed, but others that I didn’t enjoy as much.

The main character, Pinky, reminds me a lot of Twinkle from From Twinkle, With Love. Like Twinkle, Pinky is firm in her beliefs and will fight for what she wants. However, like Twinkle, I didn’t really mesh with Pinky’s character as she quickly jumps to conclusions and often starts arguments just to start arguments. While I appreciate that the author gave Pinky characteristics that made her act like an actual teenager, Pinky’s constant outbursts caused many situations and conversations to happen repeatedly throughout the book, which irritated me as a reader. That being said, Pinky’s personality makes this book come across as younger YA to me and I think readers in the target age range for this book would relate more to Pinky than I did while reading.

As for Pinky’s love interest, Samir, I liked him but found him to be too similar to Sandhya Menon’s other male leads. I think Sandhya Menon does a great job of differentiating her female leads by giving them their own dreams and aspirations, but often times, the male characters end up acting very similar, even if they don’t start that way. From the other books in this companion series, I always saw Samir as a little more awkward and not as traditionally charming. In this book, I found that he acted a lot like how I remembered Rishi in When Dimple Met Rishi. Samir is very confident and easily navigates Pinky’s complicated family relationships. In this book, it is mentioned quite a few times about how muscular and preppy he is, however, I never got that impression in earlier books. While I did appreciate Samir’s backstory and how that affected his life, the rest of his character seemed to blur with Menon’s other male leads.

As for the story itself, there were also some aspects that I enjoyed and some aspects that I didn’t enjoy. My favorite aspect of this book was the relationship between Pinky and her mom. While I do think there conflict was resolved too quickly at the end of the book (and I spotted the resolution from a mile away), their relationship was so authentic and I think many people will relate to their relationship.

Like I mentioned above, there were some conflicts in this novel that were too quickly resolved for my liking. Something explosive would happen at the end of a chapter, just to be resolved with a quick apology on the next few pages. This happened in multiple plots in the story from Pinky and Samir’s relationship, several instances with Dolly’s cousin, and the efforts to save the butterfly garden.

While I did appreciate the family relationships showcased in this book, there were some overall problems with pacing and character consistencies that held me back from fully enjoying this read. I found myself putting down this book and taking long breaks before picking it up and again, which means that this book didn’t fully captivate me. That being said, I still plan to check out more books by this author (I’ve recently added some of her to-be-released books on my Goodreads), but this book personally wasn’t my favorite. I give 10 Things I Hate About Pinky 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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June TBR

Hello, summer!

As someone who loves the summertime and reading, June begins my favorite time of the year. Not only do I have more time to read, but it’s the perfect time to read my favorite genre: contemporary. Here’s what I plan to read in the first month of summer (books marked with an * were sent to me via NetGalley from the publisher):

  • Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey *
Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered, #3)

Tools of Engagement doesn’t release until September, but I looked to read books that I’m approved for on NetGalley pretty quickly. Plus, Tools of Engagement is a fun, romance read which is perfect for the summer time. This is the third book in a companion series and I have not read the first two books. That being said, I have already started this book and not reading the first two books hasn’t negatively impacted my reading experience.

Tools of Engagement follows Bethany Castle who is typically responsible for staging the homes that her family’s real estate business flips. However, Bethany is determined to flip a house on her own, despite her brother’s protests. When a television crew catches wind of the family feud, Bethany’s insecurities of doing her own flip, and her complicated relationship with a former member of her brother’s crew, are put in the spotlight.

  • Time of Our Lives by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Brocka
Time of Our Lives

This book has been on my TBR since is released in May, I just haven’t gotten around to read it yet. However, June will be the month! I am a big fan of this author duo and I’m excited to read their latest release.

Time of Our Lives follows Juniper and Fitz, who are both touring colleges. While Juniper wants to go to college far away from her large family, Fitz wants to stay close to his mom who has early on-set Alzheimer’s.

  • A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0)

As a former Hunger Games super fan, it isn’t surprising that I am so excited to read this book. I actually started it in May, but put it down, so I could finish Aurora Burning last month. As a contemporary girl who loves fun, upbeat stories, I can only take so many life and death stakes at a time. That being said, I ended off May with several contemporary stories, so I’m ready to jump back into this one.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows President Snow before he was President Snow as he mentors a girl in the tenth annual Hunger Games.

What books do you plan to read in June?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Summer Vibes

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books that give off summer vibes. Summer books are my favorite books because, more often than not, they are my favorite genre: contemporary. Here are some books that I love that are set during the summer:

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

I haven’t been the biggest fan of Sarah Dessen’s latest releases, however, I did enjoy her most recent release, The Rest of the Story. This book takes place on a lake during the summer which is divided into halves, one side where the locals live and the other side for the rich tourists who infiltrate the lake every year. I like how this book takes place on the lake, rather than the beach, like many other “summer” books.

The Rest of the Story follows Emma Saylor, who reconnects with the family connected to her mother, who died five years ago, at the lake where her mother grew up.

  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
The Unexpected Everything

This book is long, but if you are a fan of Morgan Matson, then you’ll like this book. This book has all the elements of summer fun: a job, friends, and a summer romance.

The Unexpected Everything follows Andi whose summer internship follows through after her politician father becomes involved in a scandal. As a result, Andi must walk dogs for the summer, but she just might meet a cute boy along the way.

  • Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West
Love, Life, and the List (Love, Life, and the List, #1)

Love, Life, and the List is one of my favorite Kasie West books. I wouldn’t say this book necessarily screams summer to me, but it does take place during the summer months. If you like art and motocross, then you might want to check out this one.

In Love, Life, and the List, Abby is denied for an art show after she is told that her art lacks experience and perspective. As a result, Abby makes a list of ten things to experience that will her improve her art along with her best friend, and long-time crush, Cooper.

  • Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian
Stay Sweet

Stay Sweet was an unexpected favorite for me last summer. This book primarily takes place at an ice cream stand that has for generations been run by women, but the status quo is shaken up when a boy comes in and tries to run the show.

Stay Sweet follows Amelia, who works at the ice cream stand, and tries to keep it afloat after the owner dies unexpectedly. However, she butts heads with Grady, the owner’s nephew, who comes in and tries to take over the stand.

  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever

Sarah Dessen loves to write about summer and I love to read and reread her books that take place during this time. The Truth About Forever is from the time period when Sarah Dessen’s books were my absolute favorites, and in my opinion, during her best writing period so far.

The Truth About Forever follows Macy after her father passes away and her boyfriends goes to summer camp, leaving her alone at a boring library desk job. Then, Macy meets Wish catering, a company full of lively and kids new friends who help break her out of her shell.

  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Along for the Ride

Another Sarah Dessen book! Along for the Ride is another one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books that takes place during the summer. While this isn’t in my top three books by this author, it is definitely in my top five. If you love close and realistic friend groups, this is a book you might want to check out.

Along for the Ride follows Auden, who spends the summer with her father, his new wife, and their new baby. Since Auden was always treated like a little adult, she never had the typical high school experience. As a result, her new friends try to introduce her to everything that she missed.

  • Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Since You've Been Gone

Since You’ve Been Gone was the second book by Morgan Matson that I read and it still remains one of my favorites. If you like summer bucket lists, this would be a great book for you to read.

Since You’ve Been Gone follows Emily, a shy high school student, who is sent a list of tasks to complete by her best friend who disappeared unexpectedly.

  • Thrill Ride by Rachel Hawthorne
Thrill Ride

I read and reread this book many times throughout high school. I’ve read a few books that take place at amusement parks, but this remains one of my favorites. If you want a different setting for summer besides the beach, this could be a book to add to your reading list.

Thrill Ride follows Megan who takes a job at a Cedar Point-like amusement park, much to her boyfriend’s disappointment.

  • The Boyfriend League by Rachel Hawthorne
The Boyfriend League

Another summer book by Rachel Hawthorne that is a fun and easy book to read is The Boyfriend League by Rachel Hawthorne. This book is all about baseball and would the perfect book for someone looking for a summer sports-themed read.

The Boyfriend League follows Dani after she convinces her parents to house one of the baseball players for the local baseball league during the summer in order to get a boyfriend.

  • The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids has beautiful writing and descriptions of the summer time, which makes it perfect to include on this list. I have read a few books by Sarah Ockler, but this one is by far my favorite.

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids follows Elyse, a former singer who lost her voice in a boating accident. To get some space from her musical sisters, she decides to spend the summer with a friend where she has the opportunity to compete in a sailing competition.

What are your favorite summer books?

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May Reading Wrap-Up

This month, my reading took a little detour that I didn’t expect, but it was a good detour. After finally reading The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen in April, I wanted to read some of my favorite books by this author. I started the month by reading two books that I have re-read countless times at this point, followed by the second book in a middle grade series that I found when cleaning out the books in my closet.

Afterward, I started to tackle some of my recently acquired books that were recently released. I started The Betrothed, but haven’t finished it yet because the second book in the Aurora Cycle was grabbing my attention more. Then, the newest Hunger Games book came out and, of course, I had to start that one as well.

Here are some of my thoughts on what I read this month:

  • This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
This Lullaby

This Lullaby is one of my top three books by Sarah Dessen, and at this point, I’ve probably read it at least ten times. It’s always comforting to read a book that you love and you know how it ends. I particularly like this book by Sarah Dessen because the main character has a very unique personality in comparison to the main characters of her other books. Dexter also has a very dynamic personality, which makes him a very likable love interest.

  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever

Like This Lullaby, The Truth About Forever is in my top three Sarah Dessen books and I’ve read it at least ten times. This book never gets old for me and I connect with the message in this story every time. This is some of Sarah Dessen’s most solid writing with a memorable cast of characters. Overall, this is a solid book that’s perfect to read during the summer.

  • Jessica Darling’s It List #2 by Megan McCafferty
Jessica Darling's It List 2: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes & Faux Friends

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first book in this series because it lacked a lot of the same laugh-out-loud humor. However, this book did pick up in the second half and it extremely relatable to readers of the same age as the main character and people who have had the same experiences in middle school. Overall, I think this book has a solid message for the target audience.

What was the best book that you read in May?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Memorable Opening Lines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is opening lines. I’m not someone who typically remembers first lines of a book, so I don’t have ten that really stick out to me. As a result, here are four opening lines from books that I remember, for better or worse:

Conrad Richter: The Light in the Forest (Paperback); 2004 Edition ...

The boy was fifteen.

Conrad Richter, A Light in the Forest

I remember this quote distinctly because it was the first line in a book that I didn’t enjoy that we read in eighth grade and somehow I knew that I wouldn’t like it from the first line. When someone asks me about a first line that I remember, I always think of this one because it takes me back to how I felt when I read this book in eighth grade.

Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

This is a quote that I remember, with a much more positive association from the first one on my list. I read Pride in Prejudice (also in eighth grade for a classical book report) and since then have read numerous retellings of this story that always play on this quote in some way.

Romeo and Juliet

Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene…

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

In some schools, students memorize The Gettysburg Address. In my school, every ninth grader memorized the prologue of Romeo and Juliet and had to say it in front of the entire class. To this day, I can still quote the entire prologue to this play. As awful as reciting to the entire class sounds, I actually really enjoyed reading this play in school since I was chosen to read as Juliet in class.

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

There is one mirror in my house. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair.

Veronica Roth, Divergent

I couldn’t quote this line directly, but somehow years later, I still remember this opening scene from Divergent.

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Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition (Part One)

In December, my blog will reach its five year anniversary. Since I started my blog back in 2015, I’ve only done one slight redesign, where I slightly changed the colors and added a few pictures to the homepage. Now, five years later, those pictures are outdated as well as the theme.

With the current state of the world, a lot of people are doing home improvement projects that they never had the time to do otherwise. For me, I decided to do my renovations online by sprucing up my blog.

This is what my blog looked like pre-makeover. At the top, there is a polaroid banner with pictures of me throughout the yea, followed by my blog name. I have a primary menu bar that is pink with a plain teal background. On the side, I have a search bar as a widget because the Sela theme did not have a search bar at the top. Underneath, there is an old picture of me with a short introduction.

Not only are these pictures of me outdated, but the bright colors are no longer my style. Additionally, when I started making my blog, I used PicMonkey to make the Polaroids. Then, I had to switch over to Canva after PicMonkey was no longer free. This made the Polaroids different sizes with different fonts and pictures, which I didn’t like.

In the first image, you can see that each blog post started with a polaroid picture that classified what kind of post it was. At the end of each post, I included my signature as well as images that linked to my social media. This ending for each post was particularly difficult when WordPress switched over to the block style, as my images would not go next to each other. This made the ending of my blog posts extremely long, which I did not like.

What do I want my blog to look like?

This is the first question that I asked myself. I knew that I wanted my blog to look more like my current style. While I didn’t want a completely neutral block, I wanted more muted colors than before. I also wanted my blog to mimic my current style.

During Christmas, I received an iPad as a gift. I’ve been playing around with the ProCreate app since Christmas and I knew that I wanted to incorporate some of my own designs. After I looked on TikTok for ProCreate Inspiration, I found a tutorial on how to make a marble pattern, which I could potentially use as a background or other artwork for my blog.

Here is some artwork that I created for my blog using Canva. I put my marble image in the back and then layered the text using different colors.

Next, I used Canva, an online design website, to enhance the images by adding text. I also created a star pattern that I could possibly use in some capacity on my blog.

What WordPress theme should I use?

I have used the Sela theme ever since I started my blog, but I no longer wanted the bulky color block for my primary menu on the homepage. I tested out themes over and over with my marble background, but I just didn’t like any of them. Luckily, WordPress had the try and customize feature so I could test what my blog looked like before I applied to the actual page.

Eventually, I found Nucleare which is a free theme on WordPress.

Why did I like the Nucleare theme?

  • You can justify the background to one side. This helps your text in your right menu still be visible, as the menu background is transparent.
  • It has a search bar at the top right. I have always like search bar to be at the top, which wasn’t in my current theme, where I had to add a widget instead.
The marble background made the text too difficult to read.

As you can see, the background tiles, which I don’t like because my image doesn’t smoothly duplicate and you can see the tiles. Also, the side menu is transparent and it makes it difficult to see the text in the menu.

I decided to switch it up. Maybe my star design could be the background and my marble design could be the accent instead.

The star background, justified to the left, added an extra touch without making the text difficult to read.

I liked how the star image looked justified to the right of the background, so I decided to keep it.

Next, I wanted to change the text. I struggled to scroll through the texts available, for some reason the bar wouldn’t appear on me the side to scroll. But, it was all okay because I knew immediately that Lobster Two looked like the funky font that I wanted.

Decluttering the Sidebar

With my base all set, now I needed to focus on cleaning up my sidebar. On my original sidebar, I had a search feature. Since the Nucleare theme already has a search bar at the top, I deleted it.

Next, I needed to update my picture. My old picture was from my sophomore year of college, a few months before I started my blog. I found a more recent picture of myself and used a frame on Canva to crop it into a circle. I added the stars on top from my background to carry on the theme. Instead, I have the category drop down in its place.

My new bio picture on my home page with my star theme

Moving on, I removed my bio from underneath my picture to clear up the space. In its place, I decided to put social media icons that link to my social media accounts.

Like on my old home page, I kept my currently reading widget from Goodreads as well as my Instagram widget, current posts, and subscription box. I’m still debating whether or not to keep the Instagram widget.

My new side bar

Now what?

With my homepage completely updated, it was time to update the pages in my main sidebar. Stay tuned for next week to see the updated pages!

When was the last time that you updated the appearance of your blog?