New Adult/Adult, Romance

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young

Pages: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“At thirty-three-years old Evangeline Starling’s life in Chicago is missing that special something. And when she’s passed over for promotion at work, Evie realizes she needs to make a change. Some time away to regain perspective might be just the thing. In a burst of impulsivity, she plans a holiday in a quaint English village. The holiday package comes with a temporary position at Much Ado About Books, the bookstore located beneath her rental apartment. There’s no better dream vacation for the bookish Evie, a life-long Shakespeare lover.

Not only is Evie swept up in running the delightful store as soon as she arrives, she’s drawn into the lives, loves and drama of the friendly villagers. Including Roane Robson, the charismatic and sexy farmer who tempts Evie every day with his friendly flirtations. Evie is determined to keep him at bay because a holiday romance can only end in heartbreak, right? But Evie can’t deny their connection and longs to trust in her handsome farmer that their whirlwind romance could turn in to the forever kind of love.”

What Did I Think?

Much Ado About You was just the book I needed to read right when I did! I’m starting to get a little antsy with this quarantine business, but the little English adventure this book took me on was the perfect escape from the wildness of our reality!

The overall concept of this book was literally EVERYTHING. The English seaside setting was absolutely dreamy! Even though I have never been there, I felt like I had because of all the beautiful details Young incorporates through the novel. Much Ado also threw together two of my favorite things into a fun little package: adorable indie bookstores and Shakespeare! Honestly, I would have died and gone to heaven if I had the opportunity to run a bookstore like the one Evie had all to herself! While a good bit of the book was fluffy and cute, there were some very moving moments and important lessons to be learned, too, and I found those to be equally as compelling as the cutsie moments.

In all my years of reading, I have never found a character that I would consider my twin, but that totally changed when I met Evie Starling. Even though she is a little bit older than I am, I saw so much of myself in her character. Her love of animals, passion for reading, and inner strength that came out when she least expected it to completely resonated with me. I also really enjoyed her witty sense of humor and the wisdom she was always quick to share with those who needed to hear it most. As a whole, Evie is just one of those characters you can’t help but love, and I honestly wish there was a sequel to this book just so I could see where life takes her from here!

Moving on to the LOML, Roane Robson. Ughh… this dude had my heart the second I realized that his Great Dane was his BFF. I mean, come on. Nobody can resist a super adorable farmer with a love for all animals, can they? One of the things I loved most about Roane was that he was such a hard worker and didn’t take even the tiniest of things for granted. He was always so present and willing to stick his neck out for anyone who needed assistance, and his kindness toward those around him really went a long way for me. I also really liked the fact that he wasn’t protrayed as this perfectly maculine man, but rather as someone who was warm, inviting, and just had a good heart. It’s hard to pick a favorite character, but if I had to, I think it might just have to be Roane (err, okay, maybe Shadow the Great Dane comes first, but Roane is definitely a close second!).

I couldn’t possibly end this review without expressing my love for all of the fabulous supporting characters. Caro, Viola, and all of the pub-goers were so much fun to read about, and I loved their banter with one another. The inclusion of such a wide array of characters with different backgrounds and lifestyle added an extra layer of depth to this already jampacked story, and I would pay good money for this small English seaside tale to continue with a book (or 50) about each of these guys!

Much Ado About You is one of those contemporary reads that has the capability of melting even the coldest of hearts. The descriptions of its quaint and cozy seaside setting had me wishing I was there soaking it all in with Evie, Roane, and of course Shadow! The plot was nicely paced, and I really enjoyed that there was a good mix of humor and seriousness that permeated the story line at the most perfect of moments. If you’re looking for a romantic, Hallmark-esue tale sure to make you smile, Much Ado About You is the book for you!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’ve read almost every Shakespeare play in existence, dig cozy vibes and sickeningly sweet romance, and love a good English setting, Much Ado About You was MADE for you, my friends!

I would also recommend this book to Jenn Bennett, Mackenzie Lee, Rainbow Rowell, and Talia Hibbert.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

The Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody

Pages: 432

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Ryn has one unread text message on her phone. And it’s been there for almost a year.

She hasn’t tried to read it. She can’t. She won’t. Because that one message is the last thing her best friend ever said to her before she died.

But as Ryn finds herself trapped in the Denver International Airport on New Year’s Eve thanks to a never-ending blizzard on the one-year anniversary of her best friend’s death, fate literally runs into her.

And his name is Xander.

When the two accidentally swap phones, Ryn and Xander are thrust into the chaos of an unforgettable all-night adventure, filled with charming and mysterious strangers, a secret New Year’s Eve bash, and a possible Illuminati conspiracy hidden within the Denver airport. But as the bizarre night continues, all Ryn can think about is that one unread text message. It follows her wherever she goes, because Ryn can’t get her brilliantly wild and free-spirited best friend out of her head.

Ryn can’t move on.

But tonight, for the first time ever, she’s trying. And maybe that’s a start.

As moving as it is funny, The Chaos of Standing Still is a heartwarming story about the earth-shattering challenges life throws at us—and the unexpected strangers who help us along the way.”

What Did I Think?

I REALLY wanted to like this book… like, so bad. Unfortunately, it just didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had for it.

The overall concept of The Chaos of Standing Still was of the variety that I couldn’t imagine myself NOT liking, and this hypothesis held true. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t love unexpected detours, finding friends in the strangest of places, and characters that have a lot of growing to do? I haven’t spent much time in an airport, but I was happy to see that the Denver airport has all kinds of bells and whistles, considering that was the primary setting of the novel. I found that I really enjoyed the wintery blizzard, “finding love/friendship while stranded in the airport” concept Brody uses here as a whole. I also really enjoyed all of the different types of people Ryn encounters in her travels, as one would in an actual airport. I think this added a more realistic competent to a not-super-realistic, “insta-love” story line, though I did enjoy it, nonetheless! As a whole, I found the overall concept and plotline of the novel stands alone as being quite original and intriguing.

Moving right along to our protagonist, Kathryn “Ryn Ryn” Gilbert. From the very beginning of the novel, the animosity and bitterness stemming from her inability to fully grieve her friend’s death is palpable, and, as one would expect, unpleasant to the reader’s senses. HOWEVER, as Ryn’s story went on, I started to warm up to her, but it just wasn’t quite enough to actually feel invested in her journey/growth as a character as she learns to cope with the loss of her best friend. I tried (and epically failed) to put myself in her shoes with the hopes of trying to understand her motives and emotions on a more personal level, but I couldn’t quite manage it. This ended up being further exacerbated when Ryn was not super nice to Xander, even when he was bending over backwards to try and make her happy. On the flipside, I did find myself enjoying the “before” chapters where the reader sees more of Ryn’s personality and the beautiful friendship she had with Lottie. I think this made my sympathetic button work (FINALLY!), and also allowed me to appreciate the growth Ryn has undergone since the beginning of the novel by its end. I always find it difficult to enjoy a novel to its fullest when I’m not 100 percent supportive of the protagonist, and unfortunately, Ryn and I just couldn’t manage to mesh for the vast majority of the novel.

Xander ended up being one of the saving graces of The Chaos of Standing Still for me! Even though he had his own issues to work though, he still managed to find joy in something as ordinary as an airport. I loved his sense of humor that I firmly believe would make even the grumpiest of people crack a grin. Though there were moments where his immaturity became evident (understandable and relatable, given that he is a teenager himself!), his ability to lighten Ryn’s mood and bring a little piece of sunshine to the story kept me reading until the end.   

We’re all about honesty here, so I can’t sign off of this review without explaining a few of the reasons why this book didn’t tick off all of my boxes. The biggest issue I had with The Chaos of Standing Still was that there were so many loose ends that I felt needed tying up that just weren’t. There were so many moving parts in the novel (many of which I found rather clever/entertaining!), but they seemed to just abruptly ended with no further explanation as to why. The other large issue is that the setting is essentially completely stagnant: THEY NEVER LEFT THE AIRPORT! While maybe I should have been expecting this based on the synopsis, I thought for sure that at some point, they’d have to get out of the Denver airport. My issue with a stationary setting for 400+ pages is definitely a personal pet peeve, as it just didn’t work for my adventure/escape-seeking brain.

While The Chaos of Standing Still wasn’t my favorite read of all time, there were still aspects that motivated me to read this tale until the end. The misfit characters Brody incorporates into the story line were so much fun to read about, and there were even moments when I wanted to join in on their shenanigans. Xander had the patience of a saint, and I lived for the moments where his humor managed to bring a little joy to Ryn’s grief-stricken face. As always with these reviews, they are simply just my opinions, and just because I wasn’t in love with The Chaos of Standing Still doesn’t mean YOU won’t be!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you enjoy contemporary reads that center on a main character’s journey of coping with grief and learning to live again, The Chaos of Standing Still may just be your next great read!

I would also recommend this book to fans of Kasie West, Jenn Bennett, and Emery Lord.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welsh

Pages: 506

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: November 10, 2020

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Santorini felt like an island holding its breath. As if it were keeping in a secret…

Liv Varanakis doesn’t like to think about her father much, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight, leaving her with just a few painful memories of their shared love for the lost city of Atlantis. So when teenage Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father, who explains that National Geographic is supporting a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and asks if she will fly out to Greece and help—Liv is less than thrilled.

When she arrives in gorgeous Santorini, things are just as awkward as she’d imagined. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. Liv doesn’t want to get sucked back into her father’s world. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo, her father’s charismatic so-called protégé, to witness her struggle.

Even so, she can’t help but be charmed by everything Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the sun-drenched villages, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.”

What Did I Think?

Going into reading Love & Olives, I had previously read the other two books in the Love & Gelato series and thoroughly enjoyed them. Just like the first two, I thought Love & Olives was a super cute read, but there were a few things that made me like this read less than the other two.

Let’s jump into the overall concept of this book – a highlight for me! The tie-in to the Atlantis legend was so intriguing to me, and it was so fun watching Olive, Theo, and Nico hunt for this oh-so-mysterious underwater city. I cannot even imagine all the research that had to be done in order to make this part of the story so compelling, to huge props to Jenna Evans Welsh for all of her efforts on that front! As with the other two books in this series, I found the international travel aspect to be an absolute blast. I’ve never been to Greece, but because of this read, I have no choice but to add Santorini to my bucket list of places to visit! As a whole, I thought the overall concept of this book – girl travels to learn about why her father left through their shared love of Atlantis and come to term with who she is and where she wants to go in life – was portrayed clearly throughout the novel and, for the most part, kept me wanting to read more.

Olive/Liv/Kalamata is the main protagonist of the novel, and the primary reason why I don’t think I enjoyed Love & Olives as much as I was hoping to, unfortunately. At just 17 years old, Olive has gone through a lot and had to overcome some massive struggles. While I do sympathize and can relate to a lot of what Olive has to contend with, I was not always a huge fan of her “Debby Downer” attitude that remained consistent throughout most of the novel. In some scenarios, it made sense, but in others, it just made her seem very self-centered and immature. However, her character did have some redeeming qualities that made her not a complete bust for me. Her interest in art was so much fun to read about, and I lived for the moments where she would embrace this side of herself that she so clearly got from her dad. While I don’t think her character grew leaps and bounds, I thought she embodied the “coming-of-age” component of the novel very well, particularly when she was contemplating what to do about her boyfriend back home, where to go to college, and generally what’s important to her in life. As a whole, I don’t think I particularly enjoyed reading things from Olive’s perspective a lot of the time, but did find myself appreciating some of the smaller components of her character that I wish could have been highlighted more.

On to the reason why I read this book to the very end: Theo, the super adorable and endlessly optimistic Greek teen with no filter whatsoever! I became literally OBSESSED with Theo from the moment we meet him. His excited energy was absolutely contagious and radiated right of the page, and I couldn’t help but smile at all of his shenanigans! I don’t really understand filmmaking at all, but it was clear that Theo is meant to be a documentarian and is so passionate about creating quality content that is meaningful for the actors and viewers alike. He served as the ultimate foil to Olive’s nature, and it was so good to see him begin to rub off on her by the end of the book. Overall, I need a Theo in my life! Side note: I am still not #TeamKalameo because I just don’t think these two fit very well together. Though sometimes opposites do attract, I think this is a stretch.

Before putting a wrap on this review, I feel obligated to highlight some of the main issues I had with this read. This book was 500 pages and while I enjoyed many of the moving parts of the novel, I felt like there were so many that things got lost in the shuffle. Some rather large things (no spoilers!) were mentioned, but were never double-backed to and, in my opinion, they warranted further discussion.  I also found the wording in the first quarter of the novel to be very repetitive – descriptions were essentially given twice sometimes, and it was totally overkill and became distracting. While this is a work of fiction, I also had an issue with much of the plot being quite unrealistic. For example, Olive hasn’t seen or spoken to her father in like 9 years, and then all of the sudden, her mother puts her on a plane by herself to hang out with him for awhile unattended? I went with it, but there were so many things similar to this that made me not find this book super relatable or realistic.

Though I have some mixed feelings about Love & Olives, I have to give credit where it is due – THAT ENDING! The last 30ish pages were absolutely BEAUTIFUL and served as the most perfect conclusion to the book. I just wish the whole novel could have been like that! The plot was paced nicely, the overall concept was compelling, the setting was absolutely stunning and well-suited for the plot, and I had so much fun discovering Atlantis alongside the characters. Issues aside, Love & Olives was a solid read with qualities I believe many readers will find themselves enjoying.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

 If you read and enjoyed Jenna Evans Welsh’s Love & Gelato and Love & Luck, I highly recommend checking out the adventure she takes you on in Greece in Love & Olives.

I would also recommend this book to fans of Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss, any of Kasie West’s contemporary novels, and Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

Pages: 321

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.

What Did I Think?

Before sharing my thoughts on my favorite (and least favorite!) stories in this holiday-themed anthology, I want to share my individual ratings for each of the twelve stories with you, which average out to the whole anthology being a 3.91-star rating: 

  • Midnight by Rainbow Rowell: 4/5 stars
  • The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link: 1/5 stars
  • Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena: 4/5 stars
  • Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han: 5/5 stars
  • It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins: 5/5 stars
  • Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan: 5/5 stars
  • Krampuslauf by Holly Black: 3/5 stars
  • What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman: 4/5 stars
  • Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire: 4/5 stars
  • Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White: 5/5 stars
  • Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter: 4/5 stars
  • The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: 3/5 stars

I’ll be candid with you guys since we’re all friends here: I typically don’t read holiday/season-themed books. But, as weird as 2020 has been, I felt like reading something like My True Love Gave to Me would put me in the holiday spirit, and boy was I right! I always love Christmas time (there’s just something so magical to me about the season!), and many of these stories really captured the whimsicality and beauty of the holiday and its other wintery co-holidays for me.

My favorites of the bunch (as you can see from my ratings!) are Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me, It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown, Your Temporary Santa, and Welcome to Christmas, CA. The connecting factor among these pieces that made me enjoy them so much was that even though each of the main characters had their own trials and tribulations to contend with, they still managed to obtain joy from Christmas-y festivities and the people they met along the way. A true Christmas blessing –  you are never truly alone, even when you feel as though it’s just you against the world. I also thoroughly enjoyed the quirky writing styles each of the authors used in the tellings of their holiday tales!

Unfortunately, there were also a few stories in the anthology that just didn’t speak to me: The Lady and the Fox, Krampuslauf, and The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer. As a whole, I just didn’t get the holiday vibes I was craving. I appreciated the mystical/fantastical natures of the stories each of these writers was trying to convey, but they really just didn’t speak to me. I’m not even sure I would have been on board with these if they had just been published separately, either, unfortunately. Overall, these just didn’t mesh right with me, for one reason or another!

As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed My True Love Gave to Me. Every time there was a joke or reference to a holiday tradition I partake in myself or have heard of, I couldn’t help but grin. The joy, laughter, and moments of reflection these stories brought me made My True Love Gave to Me the perfect book to sink into for my final read of December!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re a total sucker for the holidays like I am and are looking for a light read to put you in the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s spirit, My True Love Gave to Me would be an excellent read for you!

I’d also recommend this book to anyone who loves a writer who contributed to this anthology. I have desperately missed Jenny Han’s writing (among others!), and was so happy to read just a few pages by her as I anxiously await her next release!

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately

Pages: 390

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

What Did I Think?

One of the things I always love about Jenn Bennett’s books are their unique overall concepts, and that of Alex, Approximately is no exception. I loved that while the setting was in California, there was a small town vibe to it that makes the reader feel like we’re locals. I’m a suckers for playlists, illustrations, and anything else that breaks up the chapters and tells us more about the characters, so seeing the messages between Alex and Bailey via the film fanatics website was so cool to see and even more fun to read. While there were some really heart wrenching moments in the book, they were balanced out well by the quirky characters and their witty senses of humor. I also really appreciated the fact that while Bailey and Porter don’t necessarily have a “traditional” upbringing, the family they do have in their lives are so supportive of each of them and always have their best interests at heart.

I loved our protagonist, Bailey, from the very first chapter. She avoids conflict at all costs (including moving all the way across the country to do just this), has a very distinct sense of humor, and isn’t afraid to get nerdy about all things film. She’s had to come to terms with some pretty traumatic events in her life thus far, but I love how this doesn’t hold her back from taking a chance on new things as she explores her new Cali home. While she starts out reserved and avoids the spotlight, I loved the moments where Bailey came out of her shell and lost her temper at people who tried to walk all over her. Though her character didn’t develop all that much, I think that moving to a different placing, getting her first real job, and finding her voice were realistic steps in her journey to become a more mature young adult, and I could see this change in her by the end.

Porter, our main man, really threw me for a loop. I really REALLY did not want to like him, especially after the little charade he pulled during Bailey’s training day at the museum. But eventually his natural charisma drew me in and I couldn’t help but like and respect him once I got to know a little more about him. I loved the fact that he was always eager to help his family, even when it was inconvenient for him to do so, and how proud he is of his sister’s surfing accomplishments. Like Bailey, he has had to deal with some hardship in life, but I loved the fact that he took those memories and used them as fuel rather than cow-tailing to his fears. Overall, as mad as I got at Porter, my anger never overshadowed how good of a guy he really is at heart!

While there is very little not to love about this book, I couldn’t give it a full five starts for a few reasons. The main reason is that the biggest spoiler on earth is literally on the back of this book in the synopsis: Porter is Alex. GEEZ! That literally took the mystery out of the whole thing, and I was really bummed about it. While the reader surmises pretty quickly that this the case, I wish we would have been left to figure it out on our own rather than being spoiled BY THE AUTHOR HERSELF. Another less upsetting issue I had with this book was that while I loved the fact that there were so many intricate details thrown in, by the end, I just felt like there were loose ends that still needed tying up. This is not to say that the ending wasn’t satisfying (it TOTALLY was), but some things just didn’t feel complete to me. However, don’t let these issues deter you from giving Alex, Approximately a chance because overall, it was a fantastic read!

Alex, Approximately was about as loaded of a contemporary romance as you’ll find, and I loved every moment of untangling all the little details! The characters had such unique backgrounds and personalities, and I enjoyed the fact that the connection that each of these characters have with their families remained at the forefront of the story. The plot was well-paced, and I found myself completely engaged in Bailey’s new Cali adventures from beginning to end. Alex, Approximately was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, funny and cringe-y, and just an overall blast to read.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Looking for a summery contemporary romance with a strong emphasis on family, friendship, and learning how to overcome your past and reshape your future, this book is for you!

If you’re like me (aka you’ve read her latest works before picking up this gem up) and enjoyed Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes and Serious Moonlight, I highly recommend you give Alex, Approximately a read!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Morgan Matson, Rainbow Rowell, Katie McGarry, and Sarah Dessen.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Pages: 440

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?”

What Did I Think?

I’ve read a good many of Sarah Dessen’s books, and they’re usually either a HUGE hit or a big miss for me. Her latest release, The Rest of the Story, falls into the latter category, and dare I say it, there’s a good chance it’s my favorite book of hers yet!

The overall concept of The Rest of the Story appears pretty simplistic at first glance, but is actually super intricate as you delve deeper into the book. I thought that having the lake have “two sides” was super unique and realistic, as I think there are high and lower-end parts of real recreational destinations. The rivalries between the two sides also nicely reflects Emma’s/Saylor’s internal battle of figuring out who exactly she wants to be, which was a really interesting touch that continued to pop up throughout the book in great ways. I really enjoyed that the reader sees both the points of view of locals and tourists, as their perspectives on things are totally different even though they are essentially in the exact same place. As a whole, I thought that while some components of the overall concept were pretty traditional for a summertime contemporary (i.e. the setting), the amount of detail that lay beneath the surface made this book something unlike those I’ve read in the past in the best ways imaginable.

I am so excited to talk to you about these characters because they were so much fun to read about! Let’s start with our main gal, Emma Saylor Payne. I don’t know why exactly this was, but I found myself drawn to her from the very first page. Like me, Emma/Saylor tends to organize and clean things when she gets overwhelmed or anxious (undiagnosed OCD friends, unite!), and also tries to stay out of the limelight in an attempt to please others and avoid conflict. I loved every moment of watching her character figure out who she wanted to be (Emma or Saylor? You’ll have to wait and see for yourself!) and how her time at North Lake seemed to change her for the better. As hard as it may be to believe, Emma/Saylor’s character developed more in 440 short pages than many of the characters I’ve read about in other books developed over four, 440-page books, and did so in a way that was realistic and believable. I had so much fun experiencing Emma/Saylor’s adventures at North Lake with her, as well as watching her learn more about her mother through her time with that side of her family.

While I wish we could have gotten to see more of Roo, I’ve got to take a second to rant about what an awesome catch this guy is! First of all, his nickname comes from his childhood love of kangaroos. How adorable is that? Other than that fun fact, I generally loved everything about Roo’s character. He’s naturally charismatic, hilarious, hardworking, understanding, ridiculously respectful of his elders (even when I totally think he should have opened a can of kick butt on a certain someone who was a total JERK to him for no reason) and deeply invested in the relationships he has with his family and friends. He’s just one of those people that everyone’s naturally drawn to, which I think is rare in a fictional character. I mean, usually you can find at least one flaw, but I literally could not when it came to Roo! Whenever his name would pop up, I was immediately excited to see what he was up to, and when he wasn’t around, I was wishing he was. He balances out Emma/Saylor so well, and I think they both learned a little something from each other: Roo to be more in-tune with how he feels about his dad not being around and to let loose a little bit and have some fun, and Emma to block out what everyone’s been telling her about her mother and instead do some digging on her own to fill in the gaps in her mom’s story. I love both Roo and Emma/Saylor separately, I love them together, I love them any way we get to have them because they are simply superbly written characters with so much depth to them!

If I had to pick just one, the standout of this entire book has to be the supporting characters, including but not limited to Bailey, Jack, Trinity, Gordon, Vincent, Taylor, April, and so many more. Each of them added so much fun to the story’s more serious moments. I literally lived for when the entire gang was together, having a good time! The fact that they took Emma/Saylor under their wing and included her in their summer fun (and work, as well!) was so sweet, and that they were able to recognize that her lack of visiting them in North Lake was not her doing but rather her father’s was really mature of them given their ages. If I had to pick one fictional family/friend group to be a part of (aside from a magical, fantastical one, of course!) it would be this one, hand’s down!

One of the things that hold me back from giving this book five stars is that I felt like there were some elements that were introduced at the beginning that weren’t fully explained by the end or that didn’t reappear until the very end after originally being mentioned. For example, the reader learns that Emma/Saylor likes to organize things when she gets anxious, as establishing in the opening chapter. However, it’s rare that this point is blatantly mentioned again until the very end. I think I would have just liked to have seen these moments a tad bit more developed. I also found a few aspects of the book to be pretty unrealistic, such as why Emma/Saylor’s dad would let her stay with her grandmother on her mom’s side when they don’t know each other at all and him thinking they are bad influences. While these are relatively small issues, they did impact the reading experience and left some things to be desired from my perspective.

The Rest of the Story had everything I always expect in a Sarah Dessen book and more: a strong focus on the family dynamic, a little dash of romance, a main character on the cusp of adulthood whose trying to embrace their new-found independence, and a beautiful summertime setting that is sure to bring a smile to every reader’s face. The pacing was well done with the exception of a few places that were a little too detailed for my liking, and the plot and characters were so compelling that I honestly wished the book was longer or that there was a second one! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of reading The Rest of the Story, and I think there’s something to be learned from and appreciated by anyone who gives it a chance.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you are looking for a summery, coming-of-age read that’s all about adjusting to change and embracing what’s to come, The Rest of the Story is the perfect read for you!

If Sarah Dessen’s other books are your jam, why haven’t you given this book a read yet? Just kidding, but I highly suggest bumping this book to the top of your ever-growing TBR!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Morgan Matson, Jessie Kirby, and Jenny Han’s sweet and summery contemporaries.

All the Recs, Bonus Content

If You Liked That, Try This: Contemporary Romance Edition

Hello, fellow booklovers! For today’s post, I’ve decided to suggest books similar to those you’ve already read and loved. Since we’re in the throes of summer, I decided to start this bonus content series off with a list of YA contemporary romances — my go-to genre for summer reading! Let’s jump right into this thing, y’all!

If you liked To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, try Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.

While this may seem like an out-there pick, I promise there’s a method to my madness! Eleanor & Park combines the elements of quirky and flawed characters we can’t help but love while also tackling the complicated topic of a person’s first time falling in love. Not only that, but both To All the Boys and Eleanor & Park do so in a realistic way as opposed to idealizing life and love like a lot of other YA contemporaries tend to do, making them that much more relatable to their audience.

If you liked Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, try Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welsh.

One of the parts of Anna and the French Kiss readers can’t help but love is the protagonist traveling abroad and finding themselves in a country that’s completely new to them. If you were one of these readers, Love & Gelato is going to be right up your alley. Both of these reads also have some pretty sweet romances, and while they weren’t all that realistic at times, I couldn’t help but ship these cute couples. If you’re looking for books that take you on international summer adventures right from the comfort of your own home, definitely check these two beauties out!

If you liked Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, try Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.

If you were a big fan of the playlists Matson included in Since You’ve Been Gone, you are sure to love the musical tie-ins in Just Listen. In addition to this obvious connection, both books highlight two teens who are trying to figure out who they are without the support of their best friends (who have basically become their sisters) behind them. If you’re looking for a similar read to Since You’ve Been Gone that gives you all the feels and has you rooting for the protagonist as they struggle to figure out who they are and become who they want to be, Just Listen might just be the perfect pick-me-up for you!

If you liked Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry, try The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia.

Nowhere But Here is one of those books that has it all: a unique concept, multi-dimensional characters that constantly surprise you, and a whole truckload of romance. If you’re looking for a book with similar features, The Lovely Reckless would be the perfect choice! Similar to Emily and Oz in Nowhere But Here, Frankie and Marco both have tough exteriors as a result of their negative past life experiences, but as they get to know one another, they manage to let their guards down just enough to begin healing. Oh, and did I mention that there’s street racing in The Lovely Reckless? Not exactly the same as the motorcycle club situation in Nowhere But Here, but if you’re an adrenaline junkie (or, like me, live vicariously through fictional characters as they do risky things you’ve never have the guts to do in real life) and are looking for a fix, The Lovely Reckless may do the trick!

If you liked Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines, try The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Until Friday Night and The Problem with Forever both have an element to them that’s rare in YA: the main character refuses to speak after experiencing a traumatic event. While the protagonists in these books come from different backgrounds, their journeys are similar in that they’re both trying to overcome the pasts that have held them back and move forward. While there are romantic interests in both books, the romances are placed on the back burner, which I appreciated because I found the characters’ individual journeys much more compelling than the relationships. If you’re looking for another book that places most of the focus on character development but still have romantic undertones, The Problem with Forever is a good option for you!

If you liked Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi, try Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett.

Awkward first encounters and undeniable connections the protagonists try to pretend don’t exist, but to no avail? Yeah, I’m a big fan, too! While Emergency Contact focuses mostly on communication via text between Penny and Sam and Serious Moonlight on in-person interactions, many of the things we all love about Emergency Contact also ring true in Serious Moonlight: witty characters that are fully aware of their quirks doing their best to adjust to their new-found independence, the characters’ willingness to dream big and go after what they want in life regardless of the struggles it takes to get there, and stunning writing that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

If you liked My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, try No Place Like Here by Christina June.

As you’ve seen from some of my other posts, My Life Next Door is one of my favorite contemporaries of all time. However, a good many of the elements I fell in love with can also be found in Christina June’s No Place Like Here. If you enjoyed the complex family dynamic in My Life Next Door as well as the sweet romance that blossoms from a strong friendship and mad respect for the other person, No Place Like Here is your cup of tea! I don’t have all that much to share about these because I want you to get to experience the awesomeness that are these two books for yourselves. Trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed with No Place Like Here, especially if you are a My Life Next Door mega-fan like I am!

If you liked The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren, try Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally.

Oddly enough, I was totally shocked that I enjoyed both The Last Thing You Said and Breathe, Annie, Breathe as much as I did, and for similar reasons. Both of these books tackle the tough topic of the protagonist losing someone they were close to unexpectedly, and the guilt they feel about being alive while their loved one is not. In both instances, the person lost was very young at their time of passing, making it that much more difficult for those living to overcome their grief and continue living like the person they lost would have wanted them to. If you liked the fact that the healing of the characters took precedent over the romance that bloomed in The Last Thing You Said, you should definitely give Breathe, Annie, Breathe a shot!

Well, there you have it, folks! I’ve always loved reading these types of posts and seeing what books other readers suggest. Do you have a favorite contemporary that didn’t make the list, or maybe you have an alternative rec for a book I’ve listed above? Let me know below! Until next week, lovelies! 🙂

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Amazon.com: Serious Moonlight (9781534425149): Bennett, Jenn: Books

Pages: 426

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: April 16, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Advanced Reader Copy

Goodreads Synopsis

“After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.”

What Did I Think?

This book had it all: a SUPER awkward first (err, second?) encounter, some unauthorized detective work, an octopus named Octavia, and a whole lotta pie-eatin’, and I LOVED IT!

I don’t now how she does it, but Jenn Bennett always manages keep readers on their toes when it comes to the overall concepts she constructs. Serious Moonlight was totally unlike any other contemporary I’ve ever read. While I don’t normally read mysteries or detective stories, I absolutely loved the main plot of this book, which centers around Birdie and Daniel becoming the modern-day versions of Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew as they try to learn more about a reclusive writer they think is staying at the hotel they work the overnight shift at. The majority of the book takes place in and around Seattle, WA (a place I’ve never been to before but felt like I had by the end of the book), and having Birdie take the ferry in and out of the city from the island she lives on was a super creative touch. I also really appreciate the fact that both Birdie and Daniel have such wonderful support systems standing behind them to provide guidance when they need it. Overall, I thought all of these tiny little details worked together to create a super intriguing concept that would appeal to a wide variety of readers.

I saw a lot of myself in Birdie’s character. She’s very connected to her family, and I love the bond she has with her late mother’s (frick frackin’ hilarious) best friend, Mona, who Birdie grew up living with. She also, like me, tends to sweat the small stuff. Throughout the book we see Birdie struggle to work through quite a few things, including her anxiety, another health condition she’s been avoiding dealing with, grief after losing family members, and trying to break out of her introverted shell. While I’m not a huge fan of mysteries myself, I had so much fun learning about Birdie’s love of reading about and solving mysteries. I found myself appreciating the fact that Birdie’s character didn’t have a whole lot of new development, but instead just became more in tune with and honed her true personality over the course of the novel. I will say that it took me a little while to connect with her because the concept of the novel was so complex and took a little bit to establish before the reader really gets to know her, but once I did I really enjoyed Birdie’s character!

As if this book couldn’t get any better, Serious Moonlight also has its own personal magician– Daniel! There was not one thing I didn’t love about his character. He’s sweet, funny, witty, charismatic, and overall, just a great guy. The fact that he has a man bun is also a nice touch, and likely means that yet another fictional character has better hair than I do (le sigh). After he and Birdie reconnect at the Carlisle Hotel (now as work buddies, yayy but AWKWARD!), he’s convinced that their meeting again was an act of fate, which irks Birdie to no end, as she really wants to just sweep the whole situation under a rug. However, I’m totally with Daniel on this one, because I think they balance each other out really well, and let’s face it: they were meant to be from the get-go. Daniel also gets bonus points from me because he knows and is invested in what Birdie is interested in and makes an effort to take her on adventures in Seattle that are geared toward those interests. I’m thinking of one outing in particular and really want to spoil it for you guys, but I’m gonna keep it to myself and let you enjoy the moment yourselves when you give Serious Moonlight a read!

I cannot sing the praises of Serious Moonlight enough! I found Bennett’s storytelling so compelling and the overall concept she created brilliantly unconventional. The pacing of was right on the money, and I enjoyed all the little plot twists that managed to sneak up on me when I least expected them. I couldn’t help but love and relate to all of the characters and their quirks, and I’m hard-pressed to find two people that suit one another better than Birdie and Daniel do. The romance that sparked between these two was constructed in a way that made it so realistic and believable, given all the awkwardness their past experience with one another brought to the table. I enjoyed every moment of reading Serious Moonlight, and I have a feeling it will go down in history as one of my favorite contemporary romances of all time!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Looking for a book with a truckload of mystery, romance, and some quirky, flawed characters you can’t help but love and relate to? Give Serious Moonlight a try. You won’t regret it, I promise!

If you’ve read Jenn Bennett’s other contemporaries (Starry Eyes and Alex, Approximately), I’m almost 100% sure you’ll fall in love with Serious Moonlight! I’d also recommend Serious Moonlight to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Kasie West, and Jenny Han.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines

Until Friday Night (A Field Party Book 1) by [Abbi Glines]

Pages: 337

Series: Field Party #1

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: August 25, 2015

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, way-too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god who led Lawton High to the state championships. But while West may be Big Man on Campus on the outside, on the inside he’s battling the grief that comes with watching his father slowly die of cancer.

Two years ago, Maggie Carleton’s life fell apart when her father murdered her mother. And after she told the police what happened, she stopped speaking and hasn’t spoken since. Even the move to Lawton, Alabama, couldn’t draw Maggie back out. So she stayed quiet, keeping her sorrow and her fractured heart hidden away.

As West’s pain becomes too much to handle, he knows he needs to talk to someone about his father—so in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he opens up to the one girl who he knows won’t tell anyone else.

West expected that talking about his dad would bring some relief, or at least a flood of emotions he couldn’t control. But he never expected the quiet new girl to reply, to reveal a pain even deeper than his own—or for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn’t ever let her go…”

What Did I Think?

Until Friday Night had the perfect blend of traditional contemporary romance and elements that were totally unique to this story. The small town feel of this book made me feel right at home, and given that I live in a little town myself, I could totally relate to the characters’ experiences in living in an area like Lawton — both the good and bad! While it’s not my favorite trope in the world, I enjoyed the whole “good girl meets bad boy” element that was established right from the get-go because it’s a pretty large misconception the reader gets to see unravel right before their eyes. One of the more unique parts of this book’s overall concept concerned Maggie and West’s backgrounds, even though they were super emotional to read about. I also really enjoyed that the chapters alternated between Maggie and West’s POVs, and that Glines ensured that the wording and dialogue stayed true to their characters while flip-flopping speakers.

Maggie’s characterization contained an element I’ve never seen before in YA– she refuses to speak after tragedy strikes her family, and she ends up moving in with her cousin, Brady, and his family to start a new life. Given the trauma she’s experienced, Maggie does her best to say out of the limelight and keeps to herself a lot. Overall, I have mad respect for Maggie, as even though she doesn’t talk, she still manages to strongly communicate her thoughts and feelings to those around her, and it’s clear that she’s so much braver than she looks and feels. By the end, it was so great to see her come out of her shell and to feel comfortable in her own skin and in the presence others. I also really appreciate Glines using Maggie’s character to make the point that a person being over-possessive in a relationship is a total no-go by having Maggie crack down on West when he oversteps.

Let’s talk a little more about West, shall we? His personality and coping mechanisms are the total opposite of Maggie’s– he’s super outgoing, kind of a jerk at times, and distracts himself from the issues he has going on at home by hanging out with people and participating in activities he would be far better off avoiding. The parts of West’s character I was drawn to the most were the way he loves and treats his teammates like family, and how the progression of his opening up to Maggie about his own struggles is done gradually and in a realistic way. The only big issue I really had with West is the way he talks about other girls with his teammates (while it makes the book more realistic because I’ve hear the whole “locker room dude talks” in real life before, I still found the comments totally unacceptable and feel like I need to make that clear in this review). He also had some Alpha-male tendencies, which I didn’t find appealing, but it wasn’t for Maggie, either, so these moments were very limited in number. I’ll be the first to admit that the bad should have outweighed the good in West’s character at times but by the end, I still couldn’t help but have a soft spot in my heart for him.

Until Friday Night was the perfect late summer, early fall read that had just about everything I was looking for. The plot was well-paced, and it was a quick read that had so much packed into 337 short pages. As you can probably tell, there were an awful lot of moving parts, but somehow they all worked together to form one cohesive story that was compelling, emotional, and uplifting all at the same time. If I had to pick one aspect that totally stole my heart, I would have to say that the character development was beautifully constructed for both Maggie and West, and watching their emotional bond with one another blossom as they each worked through their own issues was really special to watch. While there were some issues in this book I really couldn’t overlook, I can’t let them take away from the fact that I really enjoyed my time reading it!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: Given the VERY mature themes in this book (romance, violence, language, and some drinking/partying), I would NOT recommend this book to anyone under the age of 16/17! It’s all about the high school experience and beyond, and words are not minced, so definitely keep this in mind when deciding if you should pick it up or not.*

If you’ve read some of Abbi Glines’ other works and enjoyed the romantic and small town vibes, there’s a really good chance Until Friday Night will be your cup of tea!

Fans of Katie McGarry, Morgan Matson, Jenny Han, and Jenn Bennett would also fall in love with this book.

All the Recs, Bonus Content

8 Books Sure to Put You in the Summer Spirit

There’s nothing I find more relaxing than sitting in the sunshine with my nose in a good book. With summer quickly approaching, I couldn’t think of a better time than now to throw some summery book recommendations your way! Regardless of if you’re about to head out on an island getaway or just enjoying the warmer days from your own backyard, here are some books that are sure to make the perfect companion for your summer adventures!

1) Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Amazon.com: Moonglass (9781442416956): Kirby, Jessi: Books

I chose Moonglass for this list because it’s an emotional, raw, hit-you-in-the-feels contemporary with a stunning beach setting– a setting that provides so much comfort to our main character, Anna. While moving to the area was hard on her, I love that Anna starts to embrace her new home as she learns more about how important the area was to her mother, who she lost unexpectedly ten years earlier. While a super sweet romance was also blossoming in the background, I appreciated that the majority of the book focused on the importance of remaining connected to loved ones who have passed and rekindling relationships with those you’ve drifted away from. Overall, I really enjoyed all this book had to offer, and it just seems fitting that it be read in the summer months!

2) This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This Is What Happy Looks Like (This is What Happy Looks Like, #1)

Can we all just take a moment and appreciate how simple and sweet this cover it? In addition to the setting being a quaint little town in the summertime and the characters taking advantage of all the fun that comes along with the season, I specifically chose This Is What Happy Looks Like for this list because Smith’s writing is so captivating, poetic, and reads so beautifully. There’s just something about the fluidity of her words that blend in so well with the aspects of summer that are at the forefront of this book. In all honestly, I really can’t think of another book that better fits the description of “summer pick-me-up” than this gem!

3) The Beholder by Anna Bright

Amazon.com: The Beholder (9780062845429): Bright, Anna: Books

There’s something about loose fairytale retellings that draw me in during the summer months. The Beholder just might be my favorite to date, though, because it’s got a little bit of everything I look for to keep me enthralled in a fantasy: a strong female lead who, while understandably kind of a hot mess, always manages to find the strength to keep going, undertones of the Odyssey, and even a little romance thrown in. If you’re missing your weekly episodes of “The Bachelorette” while they’re in the off-season, this book may just be the perfect alternative to help you pass the time, as Selah is the star of her own version of the show, just in literary form and, well, ya know, there being a dash of magic thrown into the mix!

4) What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Amazon.com: What I Thought Was True (9780803739093): Fitzpatrick ...

I chose What I Thought Was True for this list because the overall theme of mending bridges is at the forefront. What better time than summer to take the opportunity to learn to forgive and rekindle a relationship with someone you were once close to? This is exactly what Gwen spends her summer doing on her homeland of Seashell Island, in addition to trying to figure out what she wants out of life after graduating from high school. A lot of big decisions are made in the summer, and this book would be the perfect read for high school and college seniors who are fixing to start new journeys of their own. Maybe they’ll even realize that they have some relationships mending to do themselves before they venture off to begin their new chapters of life!

5) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Amazon.com: An Ember in the Ashes (9781432850340): Tahir, Sabaa: Books

I’m not really sure why this book screams “summer” to me, but somehow I just can’t imagine reading this fantasy novel in any other season! Maybe it’s because in a lot of ways, this book is the total opposite of what I would use to describe summertime– pretty dark, cold, gloomy, and slightly depressing, at times. But, the adventures these characters set out on are super action-packed and suspenseful, so even if you can’t go on one of your own this summer, you’ll be able to escape from the real world for awhile when reading An Ember in the Ashes!

6) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever

I find that some of the most grand summertime adventures don’t have to take you someplace new. For some people, like Macy the Perfectionist, your not-so-fun but oh-so-important trials may take place right at home. I loved that this book was all about how taking advantage of new opportunities that are outside your comfort zone help you discover so many new things about yourself you never knew existed. It’s also a testament to how surrounding yourself with good people can help heal old wounds. The sweet romance that blossomed in this book was just the icing on the cake to make this one of my favorite summer reads to date!

7) Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone

While I could have picked literally any of Morgan Matson’s books for this list because she’s the QUEEN of summery contemporaries, I chose Since You’ve Been Gone because its premise is very different from those of her other books. This book has less emphasis on romance, and more on the importance of personal growth and independence from those we tend to use as a crutch to avoid challenging ourselves. I absolutely adored all of the summertime activities on the list Sloan left Emily to help push her out of her comfort zone and how Emily seemed to embrace the whole experience, even though I would have found quite a few of the activities listed terrifying myself! I was so engrossed in this compelling story that at times, I felt like I was accompanying Emily on her escapades, which was so much fun to experience! Overall, I just felt like all the working pieces of this book fit the mold of summer to a T, and I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to Emily’s journey of breaking out of her shell at a really critical time in her life.

8) Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welsh

Amazon.com: Love & Gelato (9781481432559): Welch, Jenna Evans: Books

Love and Gelato is the perfect summertime read, with is gorgeous Italian setting, whimsical descriptions of all the country has to offer, and the adorable bond that forms between Ren and Lina as they scramble to uncover a hidden secret about Lina’s family. This books stands out from other contemporaries in that it’s such a quick, fun, and enjoyable read and while it does have some emotional moments in it, the focus remains on all the good life has to offer! Not only will this book lift your spirits when you’re feeling down, but it will totally convince you to bite the bullet and take your own summer trip abroad!

I hope you all find this list helpful as we head into the summer months! What are some of your go-to summer reads? Let me know below!