June Reading Wrap-Up

I always read more books during the summer time and June has proved to be no exception. This month, I not only tackled some books from my TBR, but also started picking up some more middle grade again which I really enjoyed. Here’s what I read (book reviews will be linked to book titles):

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes is an earlier Jenn Bennett book, where I tend to have some issues with the characters or plot, but I still overall enjoyed this book. Starry Eyes largely revolves around camping, which made it the perfect book to read in the summertime, especially with Jenn Bennett’s excellent descriptions of the outdoors.

Starry Eyes follows ex-best friends Zorie and Lennon, who are recruited to go on a camping trip with sort-of friends who later ditch them. In order to attend a stargazing party, Zorie must trust Lennon to lead her through the wilderness to their destination.

Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2)

I loved the first book in this series, Aurora Rising, but I had a lot of issues with this installment that echoed many of the issues other readers had with the first book. My biggest issue with this book was how repetitive much of the plot and dialogue was throughout the book, as well as the pacing, which really dragged in the middle.

Aurora Rising follows Tyler’s squad as they try to save the galaxy. However, their plans are interrupted when Kal’s relatives show up and try to get him back, no matter the cost.

Beach Read

I think I would have enjoyed Beach Read a little more if the marketing accurately reflected the book inside. While I expected Beach Read to be a light-hearted summer romance, it is a lot darker than I expected. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think anyone who expects a story similar to what I did will need to take away their expectations to full enjoy this book.

Beach Read follows January Jones, a romance writer, who spends the summer at her recently deceased father’s beach home in order to write her next novel. There, she encounters August, a college rival and literary fiction author, and creates a challenge where they will both write a novel in the other’s preferred genre.

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

Along for the Ride is one of my favorite Sarah Dessen books and it’s always fun to revisit this book again in the summer. The characters in this book are so well-developed and I have always related to the main character, Auden, which makes the book even more special for me.

Along for the Ride follows Auden, who spends the summer at her father’s house with his new wife and their baby. There, Auden meets Eli, who helps her experience everything she missed out on in her childhood.

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

Tools of Engagement is another average book that I read in June. I received this book as an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley, so my full review won’t be shared until closer to the release date in September. While there were some things in this book that I really enjoyed, like the main character’s growth, there were other’s that I didn’t enjoy, like some of the love interest’s behavior.

Tools of Engagement follows Bethany who steps aways from her family’s real estate business to flip her own house, much to her brother’s dismay. When their argument attracts a television producer, the siblings are featured on a television show and the only person on Bethany’s side is an ex-member of her brother’s crew.

  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Smile

Smile is the first graphic novel that I really remember seeing from my elementary years, although I never read it. I’ve read a few other graphic novel memoirs, and while this isn’t my favorite of the bunch, it was a quick read with a good message.

Smile follows Raina who needs extensive dental work after an accident just as she starts middle school. Raina’s braces greatly affect her self-confidence, but as she gets older, she learns what is really important.

  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Front Desk (Front Desk, #1)

I’ve heard a lot about this book, and since I was getting back into middle grade, I thought that I would pick it up. Front Desk is a great middle grade novel that is extremely relevant and doesn’t shy away from tough topics.

Front Desk follows Mia Tang after her family immigrates to the United States from China. Mia’s parents take a job working as hotel managers for a mean boss and Mia works at the front desk in order to help out her parents. Mia’s life grows even more complicated when parents hide immigrants in the unused hotel rooms and her mother discourages her dream of becoming a writer.

  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
From the Desk of Zoe Washington

I picked up this book because I after reading Front Desk, I wanted to read more middle grade books. This book appeared as a Kindle Daily Deal recently and the plot sounded interesting, so I couldn’t pass it up. Like Front Desk, this book is extremely relevant and doesn’t shy away from covering tough topics, which I enjoyed.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington follows Zoe, an aspiring baker, who receives a letter from her biological father on her twelfth birthday. Zoe secretly corresponds with her father, who is in prison for murder, and discovers that he may be innocent. As a result, Zoe searches for a way to prove her father’s innocence.

What was the best book that you read in June?

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Jessica Darling’s It List #2 Review

In Manda and Sara’s word, this book isn’t a Hot, but it’s not a Not either.

Jessica Darling’s It List #2: The (Totally Not) Guide to Friends, Foes, and Faux Friends by Megan McCafferty focuses on Jessica’s changing friendships during her first year of middle school. In this installment of the series, Jessica struggles to balance her old friends with her new friends which may lead to disastrous results.

Jessica Darling's It List 2: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes & Faux Friends

I read the first book in the It List series a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I think the first It List book contained all the successful elements of a middle grade novel: humor with a lot of heart. Jessica Darling was a laugh-out-loud protagonist and the book offered a lot of great advice to the target audience. For me, this installment of the series wasn’t as fun as the first novel, but it was still solid and offered encouragement to readers in a similar situation as Jessica.

Compared to the first book in this series, this book was off to a slow start. I enjoyed the first chapter, which was a summary of the first book, because I think it will help younger readers remember what the It List is and how it as affected Jessica’s relationships with those around her. However, I found the items on the new It-List introduced in this book not as exciting or as interesting as the first book. There are definitely less landmark events in this read, which makes the first half move slowly. That being said, the book definitely picks up and offers more of that laugh-out-loud humor that I enjoyed in the second half.

One of my favorite aspects of the It List books is how it offers practical advice to the target audience without being blatantly obvious. There are things that Jessica thinks and feels that brought me back to that time in my life where friendships were constantly growing, changing, or completely disappearing. I think a lot of readers, young and old, will relate to Jessica’s situation and I appreciated how the author conveyed that what the reader may be experiencing in this own life is completely real and normal.

While this book didn’t completely wow me like the first book in this series, it was still a solid read and I continue reading the next book in this series. I give this book three out of five stars.

Tier Ranking Series that I’ve Finished

Tier ranking posts and Youtube videos have been circulating around for awhile now, so I thought I would give it a shot at ranking all the series that I’ve finished. Tier ranking is where you take a certain category, like series you’ve finished, and rank them into different levels. I first saw tier-ranking books on Hannah at Clockwork Reads channel (see here), although tier-ranking has been popular on various social media sites before this video.

Disclaimer: Protect Your Privacy

Just as a note, I watched Peyton Reads video (see here) where she tier-ranked books by Sarah J. Maas and she gave some advice that I thought was worth sharing. While reading some fine print of tier ranking websites when in the process of creating an account, which makes you connect the website to your Twitter, she saw some questionable permissions, like blocking people that follow you or changing your Twitter settings. This is a little bit of a red flag, as Peyton noted, that they could go into your account and mess with settings completely unrelated to the purpose of the website.

While Peyton made a different Twitter to use to make an account, I just decided to make my own tier-ranking system using a document on my computer. If you want to participate in this trend, but think those permissions are a little fishy, I would recommend opting for the strategy that Peyton Reads used or making your own system using a program on your computer.

The Series

With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s move onto the ranking! After I scoured my read list on Goodreads, I discovered that I finished the following series:

What counts as a series?

I used the following criteria to determine whether or not I finished a series:

  • It can be a “typical” series or a companion series. A typical series may follow the same character or the same group of characters for all of the books in the series. Also, I will count companion series, where the books may follow a different character than in the first book, but also includes characters from the first book. I only counted companion series that were listed as series on Goodreads. In all, I have 26 different series that I will be sorting into my tiers.
  • It can be an ongoing series. This means, it is a series where I have read all of the current books in the main series. However, additional books may be added later on by the author. For example, the main series in A Court of Thorns and Roses is finished, but several books following different characters will be added on in the future. This means that when this series appears on the list, it only applies to the main trilogy that has currently been released.
  • It can be a duology. I’m not sure if duologies technically count as series. However, I haven’t read enough duologies to rank them aside from series, so they will be counted in this list.

How will I rank the series?

There are six tiers that I will use to rank the series that I’ve finished. Here’s my criteria for each tier:

  • All-Time Favorites: I thought about these books for a long time after reading them. I probably recommended these books to everyone I know and was crushed when they didn’t love them as much as I did.
  • Like, but not Love: These series were enjoyable or well-written, but there is just something that holds me back from making them an all-time favorite.
  • Fun, While it Lasted: These series may not be the most well written, however, I had a great time reading them. I may not pick up and reread them in the near future, but I will always have fond memories of these books.
  • Average: I don’t have strong feelings for this series either way. There are probably aspects that I really love about this series and others that I don’t really like (but don’t hate) either.
  • Why?: Maybe I liked the first book in this series, but it went downhill from there. As I continued this series, I kept asking, “Why?” in my head after certain plot points.
  • Did I Really Read This?: This is a series that I read. Whether it was a long time ago or it just didn’t capture my attention, there is little that I remember about this series outside the synopsis.

The Rankings

  • The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg (Fun While It Lasted)

I read The Lonely Hearts Club way back in high school. I read the first book in this series so many times that the spine looked dreadful and I could practically recite several sections. That being said, the second book was only okay. While I enjoyed reading about the same characters, it just wasn’t the same experience as the first book. Overall the books in this series were fun, especially for when I was in high school.

The Lonely Hearts Club follows Penny Lane Bloom who creates a pact with a few other girls in her grade to not date after her boyfriend cheats on her.

  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (Average)

There are so many books in this series and many of them are average. While I love The Princess Diaries movies, the book don’t have the same charm. These books were easy to read back then, but I found some of the books unnecessary. Also, the last book which was released years after the original, was only okay.

The Princess Diaries follows Mia Thermopolis, a geeky girl who discovers that she is the heir to Genovia.

  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (Did I Really Read This?)

I read this duology WAY back in high school. While I remember a few minor details, I can’t remember much of the story besides what is on the synopsis. I remember that these books were okay, but obviously that wasn’t enough for me to remember them.

13 Little Blue Envelopes follows Ginny who follows envelopes placed around Europe by her aunt who recently passed away.

  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkowski (All-Time Favorites)

I was so invested in this series when I read it near the beginning of my book blog. I wasn’t a huge fan of fantasy books at the time, so it was a big deal that I committed to this series and finished. To this day, I think the final book, The Winner’s Crime has some of the best war strategy that I’ve seen included in a young adult series.

The Winner’s Curse follows Kestrel, the daughter of a general, who is given two options: marry or join the army. Kestrel’s musical aspirations strikes a bond between her and a slave who plans to overthrow Kestrel’s father.

  • Divergent by Veronica Roth (Why?)

I actually loved the first Divergent book when I read it shortly after I finished The Hunger Games. The series, however, went downhill quickly for me in the second book. Insurgent was slow and confusing for me. And don’t even get me started on Allegiant. I found myself constantly asking, “Why?” to everything that was happening in the second and third books because they made no sense to me.

Divergent follows Tris Prior who must leave her family and choose one of the five factions in her world, each that abides by a different ideology.

  • Fraternize by Rachel Van Dyken (Did I Really Read This?)

This is a two book companion series that I picked up as a Kindle Daily deal. I could tell you that it centered around cheerleaders and football players but not much else. I do remember that I found these books only to be average.

Fraternize, the first book in the series, follows Emerson who finally made a professional cheerleading squad and is the only plus-size cheerleader on the team.

  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (Fun While it Lasted)

The Kiss Quotient is a companion series by Helen Hoang. For me, the first book was only average, but I really enjoyed the second book, The Bride Test. These books are definitely fun contemporary adult books, so it fits best in the fun while it lasted tier.

The Kiss Quotient was pitched as a gender-swapped Pretty Woman and also features a main character with autism. There is also a character with autism in The Bride Test and both are extremely well done as this is an own voices story.

  • Letters to the List by Brigid Kemmerer (Like, but not Love)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Letters to the Lost because I usually steer clear of drama-heavy contemporaries. I especially loved the second book in this companion series, More Than We Can Tell, which has Rev who is an incredibly well fleshed out character. While I do like this series, it is not one of my all-time favorites.

Letters to the Lost follows Juliet after someone responds to a letter that she left at her mother’s grace.

  • Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West (Why?)

I actually loved Love, Life, and the List… I just wish it was a stand alone rather than the first book in a contemporary series. I use series loosely with the books in “series” because they have less and less of a connection as the series goes on and I think each book would have been much stronger as a stand alone. This goes in the “Why?” tier because “Why are we forcing so many contemporary companion novels in young adult and adult fiction?”

While each book in this companion series has a vastly different plot, Love, Life, and the List follows Abby who creates a list of experiences that she wants to have in order to give her art more heart along with her best friend, Cooper, who she not-so-secretly loves.

  • Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer (Why?)
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Like, but not Love)

When I read Six of Crows, I really enjoyed it. The books in this duology have many twists and turns as well as my favorite trope, a ragtag teams of sort of heroes. While I liked this book, I can’t say that I became as invested in it as some of my all-time favorites.

Six of Crows follows a group of six outcasts who try to pull off a large heist in a fantasy world.

  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (Average)

The When Dimple Met Rishi series has been hit or miss for me. I really liked There’s something About Sweetie, but I found When Dimple Met Rishi average, and wasn’t as into 10 Things I Hate About Pinky. While I like the concepts of Sandhya Menon’s books, the execution isn’t always there for me.

When Dimple Met Rishi companions follows three Indian-American teens either in the same friend group or family. When Dimple Met Rishi follows Dimple who goes to a coding camp where she meets Rishi, who her parents want her to marry. There’s Something About Sweetie follows Sweetie, an athletic girl who faces scrutiny from her mother because she is plus-size. 10 Things I Hate About Pinky follows Pinky, an outspoken teenager who tries to please her parents by fake-dating a guy that she can’t stand.

  • The Folk of the Air by Holly Black (All-Time Favorites)

This is a series that I find myself constantly recommending to other people. The writing style in this book is amazing and each time I read a book in this series, I couldn’t put it down. If you like faeries, this is definitely a series that you need to check out.

The Folk of the Air series follows Jude, a human forced to live in a world of faeries after her parents are murdered. Although Jude despises the faeries, and the power that they hold over her, she will do anything to gain power in their courts.

  • Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg (Average)

Shelby Holmes is a middle grade mystery series. While both books are solid in terms of writing style and character development, sometimes the mystery aspect of the stories frustrated me, for either being too repetitive or being too difficult to solve based on the information given.

Shelby Holmes follows John Watson after her moves into a new neighborhood where he befriends aspiring sleuth Shelby Holmes and they solve mysteries together.

  • Love & Gelato (Average)

Like with many of the other series in this round, the Love & Gelato companion series is average. While I love the descriptions of scenery in these books, I’m always looking for a little more in terms of plot. Additionally, I don’t think these books even need to be a companion series.

Love & Gelato and Love & Luck follow two different girls (one who goes to Italy, the other to Ireland) and discover more about their families and themselves.

  • The Selection by Kiera Cass (Fun While It Lasted)

The Selection seems to be one of those series that a lot of people admit isn’t technically well-written, but it is still very fun to read. As someone who is a fan of the Bachelor franchise, this book was basically made for me because it has all of the ridiculous drama of the show with a loose dystopian element.

The Selection follows America Singer, a poor girl who is selected to compete for the prince’s heart. This book is currently in development to become a Netflix series.

  • Hundred Oaks by Miranda Kenneally (Average)

The Hundred Oaks series is hit-or-miss for me. While there are some books in this series that I absolutely love and other that I don’t like at all. As a result, that balances out to be average. Overall, these books are apart of fun and easy companion series to read.

The Hundred Oaks series follows students who live in the Hundred Oaks area, often times involved with a competitive sport. For example, Catching Jordan follows Jordan, the female quarterback for her school’s football team who must compete for her spot when a male quarterback moves into town.

  • The Superlatives by Jennifer Echols (Why?)

I bought The Superlatives series on a whim at Half Prince books because you could get the whole companion series for around $6. Unfortunately for me, these books were not my cup of tea, with the exception of the last book, Most Likely to Succeed, which was only average for me. Overall, this book series is riddled with unlikeable characters doing many, many unlikeable things. That is why it ended in my “Why?” category–many times while reading these books, I was asking myself that question about what was going on.

The Superlatives follows the dramatic aftermath when school superlatives are released for the senior class at a high school.

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses (All-Time Favorites)

If I read these books again, I’m not sure if I would love them as much as the first time around because I would probably look at them a little more critically. That being said, when I read this series for the first time, I was completely invested even in the most ridiculous parts (which there are many). I have a lot of nostalgia for this series which is why it made it’s way to to my all-time favorites.

A Court of Thorns and Roses follows Feyre Archeron, who kills a faerie disguised as a wolf. She is forced to go live in the faerie kingdom with the faerie’s master where dark secrets threaten to emerge.

  • Lewis Creek by Michelle Smith (Did I Really Read This?)
  • The Hunger Games (All-Time Favorites)

For The Hunger Games, I will just be referring to the original trilogy. Of course, this series is an all-time favorite. I don’t think I ever have been or will be invested in a trilogy like I was invested in The Hunger Games. Some people loved Twilight, some people loved Harry Potter, but I was always a Hunger Games girl. Was the last book not that great? Yes. But will I always have nostalgia for this series? Absolutely.

The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdeen who volunteers to take her sister’s place in a televised fight-to-the-death.

  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Like, but not Love)

I love To All the Boy I’ve Loved Before, but I didn’t get an invested in this series as I did my all-time favorites. However, I did like this book enough to visit the sandwich shop mentioned in the third book when I went on vacation to Williamsburg a few years ago!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean, who writes a love letter for each boy she has a crush on, after the letters are mailed out.

  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Fun While it Lasted)

The Anna and the French Kiss companion series is definitely a fun while it lasted series. Looking back, a lot of people see how problematic some of these stories were. However, when I was the same age as the characters in these books, I was completely hooked on this series, specifically with Lola and the Boy Next Door.

Anna and the French Kiss, the first book in this companion series, follows Anna who is shipped off to a boarding school in France.

  • Summer by Jenny Han (Fun While It Lasted)

The Summer trilogy is another fun while it lasted series. This series reads like a CW show. It has ridiculous drama and all the tropes that you hoped for at the time it was released. That being said, it’s a fun and easy series to speed through during summertime.

The Summer series by Jenny Han follows Belly during her summers at a beach house where she finds herself caught in a love triangle between two brothers that she grew up with.

  • The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (All-Time Favorites)

Like with the other series in my all-time favorites, I couldn’t stop thinking about this series after I read it and I recommended it everyone that I knew. I still love the characters in this series and I know if I read these books again, I would love them just as much.

The Lunar Chronicles follows Cinder, who is volunteered by her stepmother to take part in trials to solve a deadly plague. However, when Cinder starts to interact with the country’s prince, she uncovers some dark secrets about her past.

  • Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins (Why?)

It is so sad for me to place Rebel Belle in this category. But, I found myself asking “Why?” to a lot of the story after the first book. The first book in this series was strong for me, but it quickly went downhill. The last book was the worst, containing little plot, and the plot it did was riddled with tropes and plot twists that I don’t like.

Rebel Belle follows Harper, a Southern belle, who accidentally becomes a Paladin and must protect her worst enemy.

How would you rank series that you’ve read?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday Turns 10! (Favorite Books that I Read from 2011-2020)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is a freebie to celebrate Top Ten Tuesday’s ten year anniversary! I’ve been doing Top Ten Tuesday since I started my own blog, so it is cool to celebrate something that I’ve been with for so long.

For my post, I decided to list some of my favorite books from the past ten years. These dates do not necessarily reflect when the book was published, but when I read that particular book. Here are my choices:

  • 2011: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)

I read Lola and the Boy Next Door multiple times a year whenever I was in high school. I loved this book so much that I was so upset when I misplaced it that I went out and bought another copy, which I’ve never done before. I think one of the reasons that I loved this book was because of Cricket, the love interest. At the time in YA, very moody and brooding bad boys were the most prominent love interests, and Cricket is the complete opposite of that type of character.

  • 2012: Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
Bittersweet

Bittersweet was a very timely book for me, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. At the time, I was really getting into hockey (Let’s go Pens!), so it was fun to read about a sport that I was growing to love from an author that I already loved. This book also featured cupcake baking which was huge at the time, and since I avidly watched DC Cupcakes, that aspect of the story was also right up my alley.

  • 2013: Re-Reads of Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever

When I can’t remember a particular book that stood out to me at the end of my high school career, I can remember a particular author. I started reading Sarah Dessen’s books in middle school, but every year, I checked out each one of her books again. This is the year when I graduated high school and headed off for college, which made The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (which was released in 2013) a very relevant read to me. In fact, many of Sarah Dessen’s books feature girls during the summer after high school.

  • 2014: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)

When I read To All the Boys I Loved Before, I didn’t realize how big it would become. I loved Lara Jean’s character because, at the time, dystopian/fantasy books with the “strong female character trope” dominated the YA market, and while I liked those characters, I couldn’t necessarily relate to them. Meanwhile, Lara Jean was more girly and interested in the same activities as me. Little did I know back then, but I would eventually see this book turned to a movie and do a book merchandise haul for this series.

  • 2015: Re-Reads of Sarah Dessen
Along for the Ride

In 2015, I was in the middle of college and so focused on school that I did very little reading for fun. Little did I know at the end of this year, I would recommit to reading and make my book blog on WordPress, and at the beginning of 2016, I would start posting on it. During this time, when I was reading for fun, I was mostly re-reading some of my favorite books from high school.

  • 2016: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
The Unexpected Everything

This year was a great reading year for me. I only expected to read around 25 books, which I considered a stretch, but I ended up reading 66 books. One of my favorite books from this year was The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. I remember actually going to Target and buying this book, and then going straight home to read it. I hadn’t done this in a long time and it felt great to be reading books for fun more consistently again.

  • 2017: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)

This year was a huge year for me. In 2017, I graduated college and I read the most books that I had ever read in a year (107 books!). This is the year I really hit blogging hard and discovered a lot of new books that I really enjoyed. I even branched out and tried some genres that I typically didn’t read, like fantasy, which led me to the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. A Court of Mist and Fury is a huge book, but I really enjoyed it from start to finish. If you asked Brittany in 2013 if she ever thought she would read a book like this, she would probably say, “No.” I’m glad that in the past ten years, I have expanded my reading outside of contemporary, even though that still is my favorite genre.

  • 2018: Love, List, and the List by Kasie West
Love, Life, and the List (Love, Life, and the List, #1)

I had read a few Kasie West books in years before this, but I absolutely loved Love, Life, and the List and it still remains one of my favorite books by this author. I don’t usually sit and finish a book in one sitting anymore, but I didn’t put this one down until I finished it.

  • 2019: The Wicked King by Holly Black
The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)

Another fantasy book! The Wicked King is one of the most solid sequels that I have ever read. I remember as I read this that I appreciated Holly Black’s writing style so much, which isn’t something that I’ve necessarily focused on in the past. I remember just clicking on words in my Kindle to read the definitions because she picked such strong, descriptive words and I just wanted to know everything about the way she phrased certain sentences.

  • 2020: The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
The Rest of the Story

This year isn’t over yet, but one of my five star reads of the year so far is The Rest of the Story. I bought this book when it was released, but I never got around to it. Recently, I decided to pick it up and I wasn’t disappointed. It has so many of the elements that I enjoyed from books I read by this author in high school, which I hadn’t really seen in Dessen’s last few books. I related to the main character Saylor and loved the characters in this book so much that I didn’t want it to end.

What are some of your favorite books that you’ve read over the past ten years?

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Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett Review

I don’t know about starry eyes, but I do give this book three stars.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett follows Zorie, an overachieving planner who was stood up by her ex-friend Lennon at the homecoming dance the last year. This summer, Zorie expects an easy summer working as a receptionist at her family’s business and going on field trips with the astronomy club. However, Zorie carefully planned summer goes haywire when she is invited on a camping trip and ends up stuck with Lennon after she is ditched by the rest of the group.

Before this book, I have read three books by Jenn Bennet. First, I read Alex, Approximately which was only an average read for me. Then, I read Serious Moonlight which I seriously enjoyed. Then, this year, I read Catching Lucky which I absolutely loved. Over the course of these three books, Jenn Bennett’s writing just has constantly improved and now she is definitely an auto-buy contemporary author for me.

Of course, I had to check out one of the books that I skipped over in her line-up. Since it’s summer, I was immediately pulled in by the entire camping plot and I frequently enjoy the relationship dynamic suggested by the synopsis. That being said, Starry Eyes definitely falls in the middle of books by Jenn Bennet for me, just as it does in her progression of writing. While Starry Eyes does have some aspects reminiscent of aspects that I enjoyed in Serious Moonlight and Chasing Lucky, it also contains aspects that I wasn’t a huge fan of in Alex, Approximately.

Let’s start with what I really enjoyed. One aspect of Jenn Bennett’s books that she does really well is conveying the setting. The way she write captivating descriptions of a character’s surroundings really places a reader in the story. Since the setting of this story is extremely integral to the plot, it was necessary that it was executed well and Jenn Bennett definitely delivered in this area as usual. From her descriptions I was equally intrigued to go and see the places mentioned in the story as we all equally terrified of the threat of bears and mountain lions.

As for the romance, it was hit-or-miss for me. One aspect of Jenn Bennett’s characters that I loved is that she always slowly reveals the backstory, not only of the relationships between different characters, but of the characters individually as well. I think this brings a lot of depth and realness to the characters in her book. At the same time, Zorie and Lennon didn’t particularly grab me as a couple, and well they had some chemistry, I just couldn’t see what they had in common that really pulled them together. With a romance, you really have to click with it to be satisfying, and while Zorie and Lennon were okay, their relationship wasn’t particularly memorable for me.

As I mentioned earlier, there were some aspects in Starry Eyes that reminded me of Alex, Approximately that I didn’t like. Although I think Bennett did a good job of fleshing out the main two characters, I don’t think the relationships between other characters or other characters in general were as well fleshed out, which made them come across as caricatures. For example, all of the characters that Zorie and Lennon go camping with, as well as her father who plays a major role in the story, were so one-dimensional that there interactions came across as very unnatural. This really impacted the end of the story for me in particular where some of the conflicts between these characters were either unresolved or presented in a very unrealistic and overdramatic fashion that didn’t fit with the rest of the story.

Overall, Starry Eyes is a fun read that is perfect for the summer, especially if you’re in the mood to read a summer book not set at the beach. While it wasn’t my favorite book by this author, it was a fairly solid book that I enjoyed. I give this book three out of five stars.

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Summer Book Tag

Summer is now in full swing, so it is the perfect time to complete the summer book tag! I could not find the creator of this tag, but if you know who created it, please leave their blog in the comments so I can credit them. Here are my answers:

  • What book cover makes you think of summer?
Beach Read

How could this book cover not make me think of summer? The title has beach in all capital letters with two people reading books on beach towels. The cover is also bright yellow which makes me think of the sun. While this cover isn’t exactly accurate with what lies in the book, it is definitely reminiscent of the summertime.

  • What book brightened your day?
Starry Eyes

I read through Starry Eyes in one day. If you are looking for a summer book that isn’t beach, then this one will be perfect for you! This book takes place in state parks of California and made me want to go camping this summer.

  • Find a book with yellow on the cover.
The Unhoneymooners

This book takes place in the wintertime, but also in Hawaii, so it still seems very summery to me. It also has a very yellow background with a lot of different flowers on the front which remind me of the summertime.

  • What is your favorite summer beach read?
Along for the Ride

Sarah Dessen’s books have been a summer staple of mine since high school. Colby Beach is mentioned throughout her books, but this is one of the few that primarily takes place there. I feel like this prompt was leaning towards what books do you read at the beach, but for me, it makes me think of books that take place on a beach. Reading this book makes me want to go to the beach, even if most of the book doesn’t take place directly on the water.

  • What action book had you running for the ice cream man?
Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)

Aurora Rising was a slow-moving book for many people, but I was hooked the entire time. I don’t typically read books in this genre, but there were so many twists and turns that I couldn’t stop reading. The authors of this book definitely don’t do things just to please the audience and I was constantly surprised at what happened next.

  • Sunburn! What book has a bad/painful ending?
Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2)

This book has both a bad and painful ending. The characters in this book are in constant jeopardy and after the first book, you know these authors aren’t going to make it easy for them or the readers which I like. On the other hand, this book lands on a major cliff hanger which really annoyed me. Even though it is part of a series, this book didn’t really have much going on until the very end and it feels like I got cheated as a reader because I still think books in a series should have their own definite end.

  • What book gave you a happy feeling when it ended?
Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered, #3)

I think what made me happy about this book was the character growth in the main character, Bethany. She constantly felt pressure to be perfect and meet everyone else’s expectations, but in the end, she started to make choices based on what she wanted. I found myself very similar to Bethany in that regard, so relating to her story put a smile on m6 face.

  • What book cover reminds you of a sunset?
Four Days of You and Me

This book literally has every color of the perfect sunset. It also is about a relationship and how their high school years are winding down which makes me thinking of the sun setting on that chapter of their lives.

  • What book series do you hope to read this summer?
The Betrothed (The Betrothed, #1)

This is the first book in a new series by Kiera Cass. I bought this book when it was released, but haven’t read it yet. I am trying to get caught up on all the Kindle books that I have bought recently, so I hope to knock this one of the list this summer

What books do you hope to read by the end of the summer?

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Beach Read Review

Beach Read might be the perfect Beach Read, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect book.

Beach Read by Emily Henry follows January, a romance writer, who will spend her summer at her recently deceased father’s beach house to finish her latest novel. At the beach house, January runs into Gus, who she competed with in college and published a widely successful literary novel. After some tense interactions, January and Gus challenges each other to write a novel in the genre of the opposite person.

Beach Read

When I went into Beach Read, I went in with huge expectations. I saw the synopsis for Beach Read awhile and I was instantly intrigued by the premise despite my reservations for reading books about books. Beach Read wasn’t totally the type of read that I expected, which in some ways was a good thing, but in other ways, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Disclaimer

Before I start my review, I would like to disclose some triggering content in this book that you wouldn’t really expect based on the synopsis. When I heard about this book, I expected it to be much lighter than the actual story inside. While I appreciate the depth that the author sought to give these characters, some of content in this book may be difficult for some readers to read and I feel like this isn’t very clear in the book’s marketing, so it is important to disclose to anyone who is considering to read this novel. In Beach Read, the main characters research a suicide cult, which includes interviewing members who survived and family members of this who didn’t survive, as well as visiting the former site of the suicide cult. Additionally, one of the main characters in this book experienced significant trauma in their childhood as the result of a physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive parent. These are important topics to discuss within literature, but at the same time, I know that many readers will not expect this going into the story. If any of these topics may be triggering for you, I would recommend skipping this book.

Review

January and Gus was the typical enemies-to-lovers romance that you would see in other similar novels, so if you like this dynamic, then this could be a great book for you. January and Gus have a lot of witty banter, especially about their respective genres, which was fun and enjoyable to read. The backstories of these characters definitely took this novel in a darker direction that I expected, but I appreciated how the author really fleshed out these characters which I don’t always see in similar novels. That being said, this book does have the whole “I liked you, that’s why I was/am mean to you” attitude in it, so if you don’t like that, then this relationship may not be your favorite.

For me, like much of the novel, the relationship between January and Gus was hit-or-miss for me. Like I mentioned previously, I did enjoy the banter between January and Gus, especially the back-and-forth about their writing. That being said, many of their conversations were repeated over and over again, especially in the second half of the book, which made the story very repetitive and less interesting. I am also personally not a huge fan of some of the actions in their relationship of this book. While some of the misunderstandings in this book are understandable based on the personality of the characters, I feel like these misunderstandings aren’t always full addressed and covered up with something cute to make up for it (especially in the ending of the novel). In a romance, you want to believe the characters will last off the page, but for me, I never really got there with these two characters despite how much they confessed that it would happen.

I also have conflicting feelings towards the pacing of this book. For me, this book started off really strong. The first chapter had a particularly strong voice and the set-up of the novel was very well-developed. However, as the book stretched on, particularly in the second half, the story really slowed down for me. Like I mentioned earlier, there was some repetitiveness with the interactions between the characters and I found some of the scenes unnecessary. While I breezed through the first half of this book, the second half dragged on and I found myself just trying to get to the end of the story, which isn’t a good sign.

(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

There was also one particular scene in this book that bothered me. I don’t know if I am being overly sensitive, but as I was reading, it just didn’t sit right with me. Throughout the book, January goes with Gus to interview people who survived a suicide cult or family members of people who didn’t survive the cult. At one point in the story, January and Gus actually visit the site of the cult, which includes remnants of the burned buildings. January and Gus hike a little bit away from the cult where they have several very physically intimate moments. Even though January and Gus weren’t on the site of the cult when this happened, this event in the story made me feel very uncomfortable and I found it very inappropriate and unnecessary.

(SPOILERS FINISHED)

If you like an enemies-to-lover romance and enjoy books about books, then you will probably enjoy this book. If you are expecting a very sunny book that primarily takes place on the beach (there is barely any beach in this book, just fyi), then you probably won’t enjoy it. For me, there were some aspects of this book that I enjoyed and others that I really didn’t enjoy. Overall, this made Beach Read just an average read to me. I give this book three out of five stars.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Summer 2020 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books on my summer TBR. Here are my choices:

  • Beach Read by Emily Henry
Beach Read

Beach Read literally sounds like the perfect summer book, and after hearing some great reviews, I’m extremely interested in picking up this book ASAP. Since I probably won’t be going to the beach this summer, maybe I can vicariously live through the characters in this book.

Beach Read follows Augustus Everett, a literary author, and January Andrews, a romance author, after they meet at their neighboring beach houses. To get out of their writing slumps, Augustus decides to write a romance book and January decides to write a literary book, but they will need the other to show them the ropes.

  • Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Second Chance Summer

Second Chance Summer is a book that I’ve been meaning to read for years, but haven’t read yet. I’m crossing my fingers that this will be the summer that I actually read it. The only thing holding me back is that I know this book will be sad and I am not a huge fan of sad books.

Second Chance Summer follows Taylor who spends the summer at her family’s lake house after her father is diagnosed with cancer.

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

Tools of Engagement doesn’t release until September, but I received on ARC of this book on NetGalley, so I plan to read it in the summer before the release date. Almost everyone on my street is doing some sort of home improvement during this quarantine summer, so it seems very relevant to read now.

Tools of Engagement follows Bethany Castle who wants to step outside her design role in her family’s real estate business. However, her brother is reluctant to let Bethany flip her own house. When a television show hears about their feud, the siblings face off in a house flipping competition and the only person on Bethany’s side is Wes, a member of her brother’s construction crew.

  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Front Desk (Front Desk, #1)

I’ve been wanting to read more middle grade and I’ve been interested in this book since I saw the synopsis. Front Desk seems like a interesting story that will tackle difficult topics, which I’m always interested reading in a middle grade novel.

Front Desk follows Mia Tang, who manages the front desk at the hotel where she lives and her parents work. Mia’s parents also hide immigrants at the motel and will be in big trouble if they get caught. Meanwhile, Mia struggles with her dream of being a writer after her parents doubt her dream since English is not her first language.

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

I have become a huge fan of this author duo after reading their other two books this year. While the synopses of their books don’t usually grab my attention, I am always sucked into the story and I love the emotional impact that all of their stories have.

Time of Our Lives follows Juniper and Fitz who meet on a college tour, but have very different lives. Juniper wants to go far away from her huge family while Fitz wants to stay close to home to help his mother who has early on-set Alzheimer’s.

  • Jessica Darling’s It List #3 by Megan McCafferty
Jessica Darling's It List 3: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Stressing, Obsessing & Second-Guessing

I recently finished the second Jessica Darling’s It List book, which makes me want to read the third book in the series. Since this does take place during the school year, I can imagine reading this book closer to August.

In each Jessica Darling book, Jessica receives a list from her older sister Bethany to help her navigate the drama of middle school, however, the list doesn’t typically go according to plan. In this installment, Jessica stresses out over a crushability test at school and the upcoming dance.

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

I’ve actually already read Along for the Ride, but recently, I’ve been rereading my favorite Sarah Dessen books. Along for the Ride is such a fun summer book, so it would be perfect to read in the upcoming months.

Along for the Ride follows Auden after she visits her father who recently remarried and had Auden’s half-sister with his new wife. In the beach town where they live, Auden meets a group of longtime friends who introduce her to many activities she missed growing up since her mother treated her like a mini-adult.

  • Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Starry Eyes

I have loved the books by Jenn Bennett that I’ve read recently, but I still haven’t picked up Starry Eyes. This book sounds like a good summer read because it has to do with camping.

Starry Eyes follows Zorie and Lennon, who used to date, after they get lost together on a group camping trip.

  • Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Twenty Boy Summer

This is another book on my list that I have read before, but would like to read again this summer. My sister and I were talking about this book recently, which made me interested in reading it again.

Twenty Boy Summer follows Anna when she goes on vacation with her best friend Frankie after Frankie’s brother passed away unexpectedly. Frankie decides that both of the girls need to date a new guy every day for the best summer ever, but Anna is still dealing with the death of Frankie’s brother, who she secretly dated before he died.

What is on your summer TBR?

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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:

Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 1.30.44 PM.png

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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