Book Reviews

Review: Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson is the ultimate summer author. Fast, fun reads with characters that draw you in; her books are perfect for reading in an afternoon while laying on the beach or in your backyard. They are meant to be read stand alone but typically take place in the same little town and past characters can pop up in minor roles.

In Save the Date, it’s Charlie Grant’s last summer at home before she goes off to college and it’s going to be a blast. All her older siblings are flying in for their sister’s wedding. Her mother’s popular comic strip, that’s actually based on the Grant family, is also coming to an end and will coincide with the wedding. Charlie’s devotion to her family makes her determined that the weekend goes perfectly.

Until mix up after mix up happens because of the wedding planner, one brother brings home a nightmare of a girlfriend, another brother won’t speak to anyone but her, and the alarm system decides it needs an exorcism. Also, there’s a boy. Isn’t there always? He’s responsible and smart and is able to problem solve like a champion. Which turns out to be a highly necessary skill over the course of the next three days.

Morgan Matson always bring a good story to the table. This one showcases one of the best family dynamics I’ve read about in a long time. I haven’t disliked a book by her yet. If you need something light, heartwarming, and funny, Save the Date is for you.

The Lost Boy

The Lost Boy, 10.

Jamie pulled his jersey over his head and hung it up in his locker. Young men were all around, being loud in the way teenage boys are. Laughter echoed off the walls, yet he remained silent. Jamie was never one to willingly make conversation with anyone, and he wasn’t about to start now. These were his teammates, and nothing else.

Farther down the row of lockers was number twenty three, Jamie realized. He hadn’t forgotten that Dan made it through; he just hadn’t resigned himself to the fact yet. He had seen his brother two other times, and both had been on the ice. He played well, Jamie had to admit that, but he still wished he wasn’t there. It was going to take a lot of effort to accept his position on the team.

“Want a ride?”

Jamie looked up from the book he was looking at, finding himself face to face with the Jeep he almost walked into. His stepdad’s face peered from the drivers’ side window.

“I’m on my way home from work; I thought we’d ride together.”

Jamie sighed, and gripped the door handle. He sat down, and pulled the seat belt tightly around him. He wore it religiously ever since the accident. “Thank you,” he said quietly.

John looked at the boy, now a young man, and then turned to face the front window. He pulled cautiously into traffic.

xxx

“Why did you come for me?”

John looked up, surprised; he hadn’t heard anyone come down the stone steps. “What?”

“After practice, why did you come for me?”

“Why do you ask?”

Jamie shrugged.

“Honestly?”

“Yeah.”

“I was curious. I wanted to know how it went. I didn’t think you had an interest in hockey anymore.”

Jamie continued to look at him in silence.

“When O’dell called asking for permission, and later telling me that you were actually playing, I almost fell over. I wasn’t expecting you to play again.”

“Did you not think I’d be any good?”

“You know that’s not what I thought.”

“Then why else would you be surprised?”

“You stopped playing. I really didn’t think you’d play again after…”
Jamie waited a couple of beats. He’d known this was coming. They’d avoided it for too long.

“You didn’t think I’d play again after my surgery. You thought I’d be too messed up for that.”

“I did.”

Jamie sighed, and sat down next to John. “I didn’t think I would, either.”

“Jay, I never really apologized for that night- ”

“Don’t. I don’t want to get into it.”

“We should, though. A lot happened that night that I’m not proud of; a lot has happened since then that I’m not proud of. Everything’s changed. I want to make things better.”

Jamie thought about that. “Why did Stanley move in with us? And his kids?”

“He’s my brother. He was having trouble, and I wanted to help him out. I didn’t think they would be here this long.”

“He doesn’t like me much.”

John chose not to answer, continuing to stare out at the frozen water.

“It went well.”

John looked up, then. “What?”

“Practice. It went well.”

He smiled. “Tell me more.”

Book Reviews

Review: Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to read through what’s on my Kindle but I keep getting sidetracked by the Readers Also Enjoyed section of Goodreads. Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca is of the latter, and its the kind of book I went mad for trying to get a hold of. Since it was published in 2015 I thought I might have it in my vault of ebooks already, but in the end I made the purchase on Amazon.

Kelsey and David met in Newport one summer while her family was vacationing at her uncle’s cabin and David’s family came out to help out his grandfather, who lived next door. Fast becoming friends, they learned David and his father would be moving to the little town in Connecticut Kelsey was from. Miscommunications and the hurt David unknowingly caused her left Kelsey reeling after two years of friendship, and when her dad took a job out of state, she jumped at the chance to start over. Reinventing herself completely, she was ready for senior year. But then David walked back into Kelsey’s life, and the world she cultivated for herself got turned upside down.

Told from a back and forth viewing of past and present Kelsey, we watch her friendship with David grow and change and in the end, all is right in their world. Unfortunately for this book, it was 321 pages of cat and mouse with genuinely bad decisions all around. Kelsey and David didn’t really grow at all in their four years of high school and their friends were underdeveloped and underutilized. This was a very frustrating read where I felt nothing but annoyance*

*I did, however, really enjoy the descriptions of Newport and its Cliff Walk as I went to school in Rhode Island and am familiar with the places mentioned.

Book Reviews

Review: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Tim Mason is a fuck up. This was well established in Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door. In its companion piece, The Boy Most Likely To, we follow Tim as he tries for redemption.

The story opens with an ultimatum and the offer of a scotch. Thankfully, newly sober Tim Mason only accepts the former, and we swiftly move into his escape from his clinical home life and into the arms of the loving and chaotic Garrett family. Living above their garage, there’s no judgement from the people who have welcomed Tim into their lives (expect, perhaps from the oldest Garrett sister, Alice). They accept his sarcasm and charm, and later, the biggest surprise of all.

I felt the twinge of needing something more from My Life Next Door and found it in The Boy Most Likely To. Huntley Fitzpatrick has a way of making you fall in love with her characters. Tim Mason is reckless, charming, and a bit of a mess. A lot of a mess. But he has 50-odd days sober and is trying to turn it around for himself. I like that he realizes he needs to do better or he could go down a road he won’t be able to come back from. He tries for his GED and continues with his job at the Garrett family’s hardware store. He doesn’t find solace in the bottom of a bottle or any illegal substance when he runs into his biggest drama yet. He steps up and does what his family wanted him to do all along – he becomes a man.

Book Reviews

Review: Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

In my adult years, I’ve read in voracious spurts. I met a group of friends online who loved to read, and it rekindled my own love. Previously, I hadn’t picked up a book besides the newest Harry Potter in years. Recently I have gone through another dead period, reading only a handful of books a year for about three years or so. And then I picked up Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff.

Brenna Yovanoff is one of my favorite authors for dipping into the slightly strange edge of young adult books. She has only written a few books, but all are worth a read. Published in 2016, Places No One Knows is my favorite book of hers to date and what brought me out of my most recent no-book-funk.

Waverly Camdenmar is the robotic best friend of the most power hungry girl in high school. Her existence up until now has been to do everything exactly right in order to secure a perfect existence in the universe, and at night she runs to feel everything and nothing. When she finds herself in Marshall Holt’s bedroom the first night, her orderly world is turned upside down as a boy she never felt anything for flips the on switch to  her human side. She’s curious about his desire to turn himself into nothing, and when she keeps dreaming herself into his life at night he realizes he still wants more than a few hours of her time. He begins to want more for himself, too.

I cheered for these characters as they went about their daily struggles for perfection and to do better. When they reached their truest potentials, I was happy for them. This was definitely a book I will reread at one point.

Book Reviews

Review: Meet Me at the River by Nina de Gramont

I was drawn in by the cover art for Meet Me at the River by Nina de Gramont. I should’ve known then I would only find it to be okay. It’s cliched to say not to judge a book by its cover, but the statement is right, in a way. I was attracted by beautiful artwork and the fact that it popped up under Readers Also Enjoyed on Goodreads.com when I finished reading my last book.

Meet Me at the River tells the story of two step siblings, Tressa Earnshaw and Luke Kingsbury, who love each other. When Luke dies, Tressa has to learn to live again. While navigating her senior year of high school in the mountain town her mother has moved them back to, she comes to terms with her survivors guilt over her boyfriend’s death, as well as a blossoming relationship with two unexpected allies, and a fear of leaving the place that holds all her best memories.

This is a radical story, but de Gramont weaves it neatly in a back and forth narrative style between Tessa and Luke, telling their past, present, and future. It’s poetic in its own way, but as I felt no connection the characters and felt the story dragged on, it’s only three stars from me.

Book Reviews

Review: If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

Hauntingly beautiful is the perfect way of describing Laura Nowlin’s If He Had Been With Me. The young adult novel was published on April 2nd, 2013 and I have read it several times since then. Picking it off the shelf makes me feel warm inside, like I am visiting old friends, despite the emotions I feel towards the end. It is a story that has stayed with me for years, and I imagine it will continue to do so for a very long time.

I feel for Autumn and Finny, the main characters. Their lives, their hopes and desires, and their character flaws all resonate with me in some way that has reached inside and taken hold. I’m fairly detached in personality, but I cried at the end, and felt real anger towards decisions made. The story is from Autumn’s point of view, but I firmly believe that Finn’s is just as important and wish it could be explored in greater detail. I ache to know more even though their stories are long over.

Autumn and Finn are life long friends who grow apart as they grow up, each still loving the other in their own way despite cold distance at times. During their senior year of high school, the ice begins to thaw between them, and the summer before college, they realize how much they love each other. On August 8th, that all changes forever.

I like all kinds of books, although my preferences do typically tend towards paranormal and urban fantasy. Neil Gaiman is my favorite author. However, when asked for a recommendation by someone, If He Had Been With Me is my typical answer. And that’s the highest praise I can give.