Title: It’s Not Summer Without You
Author: Jenny Han
Performer: Jessica Almasy
Length: 6 hr, 45 min
Series: Summer, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Recorded Books
Review: I was not quite as enamored with this book as I was with the first one, but it was still a great read. Han captures the feelings of grief, angst, heartbreak, regret, and guilt so so well. As with many trilogies, the second book hits the peak of conflict, so there really is no resolution at the end. I imagine the feelings of resolution will come in the third and final book, and I am really hoping that Belly chooses the brother that I feel is better suited for her.
I certainly experienced some feelings of frustration while reading this book. The characters are so young and impulsive that sometimes I just wanted to shake the selfishness right out of them. I think though that Han’s depiction of how the characters react to tragedy is realistic. It is hard to know exactly how you will cope with something until it happens to you, and sometimes in our hurt we push away the people that matter most and make rash decisions.
That said, I am really looking forward to the final book!
Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author: Jenny Han
Performer: Jessica Almasy
Length: 7 hr
Series: Summer, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books
Review: There is a lot of hype right now surrounding Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series due to the delightful Netflix movie adaptation that was released last year (if you haven’t seen it already, go watch it immediately!). I will probably get to that book series eventually, but her Summer trilogy has been on my “To Read” list for years, so I finally decided to check it out.
Jenny Han’s writing has a way of transporting me back in time. I literally felt 15 years old again as I was listening. The angst and anguish of first love and the end of childhood innocence was conveyed so incredibly well. It made me wish desperately that I had had a summer home in my youth. Seriously who doesn’t long for carefree days filled with waves and sun and ice cream! As someone who had many unrequited crushes in my youth, I could also completely sympathize with Belly’s longing to be noticed by the object of her affection.
Although this book is part of a trilogy, I almost wish it was a standalone. The ending of the book was very sweet, but I could sense that there was going to be a lot of heartache in the next book (which I of course checked out immediately upon finishing this one). Just like Belly, I did not want the summer to end!
They selected a great reader for this series. Her voice sounds age appropriate, and she infuses the story with a lot of emotion with the inflection and tone of her voice.
Title: Lovely War
Author: Julie Berry
Page Count: 480
Publishing Date/Publisher: March 5, 2019 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Review: In the past I have enjoyed both books relating to Greek mythology and World War I/II. Never before have a read a book that combines both themes. It is an interesting concept, and I gave the book an extra half star in my rating for originality.
There were parts of the story I really enjoyed, however, there were also parts that I felt fell short of my expectations. This story is meant to be a sweeping romance, intertwining three sets of lovers, but I did not feel swept away by any of the couples. It is a very sweet story, and I greatly enjoyed the historical aspects. The two mortal lovers are struggling through a very dark point in history, World War I. This is a less common setting than the more commonly discussed World War II.
Trench warfare is truly heinous, and I think the author did a good job of depicting how wretched and traumatizing fighting in this war was. I was less of a fan of the insta-love that sprang up between the two mortal couples. I know that war has a tendency to heighten emotion, but the complete and utter devotion that the couples felt towards each other upon meeting was a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around.
I was not at all a fan of how the author incorporated the mythological aspect of the Greek gods into the story. To be honest, it didn’t really seem as well constructed as the rest of the story, and it did not really add much to the plot other than an introduction of the mortal characters. I think the story would have read equally well if this portion of the story had been eliminated entirely.
In the end, I can safely say that I liked the story but did not love it.
Author: Alexa Martin
Page Count: 320
Series: Playbook, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 23, 2019 by Berkley
Review: This was one of those books that teetered between a 3 and 4 star rating for me. The story is very cute, and there were certain aspects that I thought were worthy of note, but there were also a few places it fell short for me.
The main character, Poppy, was great and I loved how down to earth she was. However, I personally did not think that there was enough build up leading to her rekindled romance with TK. He did not have to work very hard to be back in her life, and the attraction between them seemed mostly sexual. I would have loved to see them connect on a deeper level beyond their shared child. I did, however, really like that TK idolized her post-pregnancy body. This really spoke to me, because I have struggled with accepting the permanent changes in my body post-pregnancy, and it made me feel good to see stretch marks, saggy boobs, and a few extra pounds portrayed as desirable and beautiful.
I also don’t think that the author ever really provided an explanation as to how TK missed out on the news regarding Poppy’s pregnancy. It is implied that this was a machination of his meddling mother, but it was not explained how she got to his text messages before he did. And who was the girl that answered his phone? I suppose we may never know.
This is actually the second book in a series, and I like how the author incorporated characters and storylines from her first book into this one. From early on, it seemed pretty obvious that her next book will focus on a romance between two supporting characters, Maxwell and Brynn, and I think that will be fun.
It should also be noted that the author spent 8 years as an NFL wife, so I assume that her depiction of what life is like for the wives and girlfriends of players is pretty accurate.
Title: Only a Breath Apart
Author: Katie McGarry
Page Count: 368
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 22, 2019 by Tor Teen
Review: This was a very sweet love story that tackled the very difficult topic of abuse. Both Scarlett and Jesse have been victimized by a parent, causing deep and lasting trauma.
At times this was a painful read, because it really shows how devastating and self-perpetuating the cycle of abuse can be. Sadly, it is not uncommon for a victim of abuse to blame themselves, and many are trapped in a toxic relationship because of fear, love, finances, and/or a misplaced belief that the abuser can change.
This story also demonstrates that there are different types of abuse, and that emotional/psychological abuse can be equally as damaging as physical abuse.
Scarlett and Jesse show that it is possible to heal, and that reaching out to people we trust can help us transcend a dangerous situation. There are many other important lessons to be found in this story and I think that makes it is a great reading recommendation for teens.
Title: Fallen Heir
Author: Erin Watt
Page Count: 300
Series: The Royals, Book 4
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 28, 2017 by Timeout LLC
Review: It is hard for me to rate this book, because I LOVED the first three books in the Royals series, but not so much this one. This book focuses on a different Royal brother than the first three, and I was disappointed with how it turned out. Easton was perhaps my favorite of the Royal brothers, so I was very much enthused when I found out he would be getting his own book, but the writing of this particular book seemed to take a turn for the worst. Perhaps this is because the authors have published so many books in such a short amount of time, but this one felt kind of like an add-on, and it didn’t really add anything special to the series. The way it ended, I assume there will be a Book Five. I will probably read it, but I am far less excited for it than I was for this one.
Title: Wild Crush
Author: Simone Elkeles
Page Count: 304
Series: Wild Cards, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 22, 2015 by NLA Digital LLC
Review: This book is far from Elkeles best. It was a quick read, and it had it’s entertaining moments, but it was not delicious (which is the quality I’m looking for in a teen romance). If you are looking for a guilty pleasure read, her Perfect Chemistry trilogy is far better. I also enjoyed her Leaving Paradise duology. I don’t recommend diving into the realm of Elkeles with this book, because it might taint your opinion of her books in general. I say give the other books a try first and then circle back to this one if you feel like it.