Review: Wish You Were Italian – Kristin Rae

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Title: Wish you Were Italian [Amazon]
Author: Kristin Rae [website]
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Netgalley/Digital ARC
Stars: 3 of 5

Publisher Description:
Pippa is in Italy for the summer and, despite her parents’ wishes, she has no intention of just studying the local art! She has a list of things of her own to do: from swimming in the Mediterranean Sea to getting a makeover – and falling for an Italian boy! As Pippa explores the dramatic ruins of Rome and Pompeii, she is swept into her own drama with two guys: an irresistible local she knows is nothing but trouble and a cute American archaeology student . . . Will she find her true love?

My Thoughts:
I learned three very important things while reading Wish You Were Italian

1) I want to go to Italy.
2) I want to go to Italy and give gelato a second chance.
3) I want to go to Italy and give gelato a second chance while meeting an adorable boy.

Do you see the theme? Basically what this cute book did was make me really want to go to Italy. So thanks for that Kristin Rae. I’ll send you my travel bill. 🙂

Wish You Were Italian is a book about Pippa, a seventeen year old girl sent to Italy for the summer to attend an art program she has no interest in. So when Pippa gets to Italy she makes a rash decision. She decides she isn’t going to spend her summer in a stuffy art program. She is in Italy and on her own and she is going to enjoy the country for herself. With her camera and journal, that her BFF Morgan gave her with some instructions, Pippa is in for the summer of her life and a summer she will never forget.

I liked Pippa for the most part. There were things I wasn’t crazy about with her, but I understood where she was coming from in terms of both Darren and Bruno. But all in all she was really enjoyable. She spent a lot of her life not feeling like anyone listened to her so this was her summer to do what she wanted and not worry about being tied down. I liked that a lot about her. I mean I didn’t find it 100% realistic that anyone would actually get away with what she did, but I was okay with it because it wasn’t that farfetched that the whole plot wasn’t believable. And I also really liked Darren and the role he played in the story and how he was woven in. That was a highlight for me. Bruno on the other hand I could have done without. He was really sleazy and full of himself. Too much for my liking.

Although I found the last 15% of the book a little rushed I did really enjoy this story. It was just a fun, quick read that made my wanderlust a little worse and a little better. Fair warning, you will want food after reading this one. I’m talking to you pizza and pasta and ice cream.

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First Loves Blog Tour

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I was asked by the lovely people at Bloomsbury if I wanted to join the First Loves Blog Tour which celebrates 5 incredible authors and their 2014 book releases. Basically the answer was duh and so you have today’s post. I was able to ask all 5 lovely ladies one question for them to answer. After spending some time thinking about it and reading up on each book I started to think about travel and how everyone loves to travel or has a vacation spot they love. And from this line of thinking I came up with my question for this authors:

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About The Chapel Wars:
Sixteen-year-old Holly wants to remember her Grandpa forever, but she’d rather forget what he left her in his will: his wedding chapel on the Las Vegas strip. Whatever happened to gold watches, savings bonds, or some normal inheritance?

And then there’s Grandpa’s letter. Not only is Holly running the business with her recently divorced parents, but she needs to make some serious money—fast. Grandpa also insists Holly reach out to Dax, the grandson of her family’s mortal enemy and owner of the cheesy chapel next door. No matter how cute Dax is, Holly needs to stay focused: on her group of guy friends, her disjointed family, work, school and… Dax. No wait, not Dax.

Holly’s chapel represents everything she’s ever loved in her past. Dax might be everything she could ever love in the future. But as for right now, there’s a wedding chapel to save.

hawaiiANSWER: HAWAII. My dad was born in Honolulu, and my parents visit at least twice a year. I always thought it was weird they went there instead of exploring the world, but I went there to do some book research/relax last summer. We took a helicopter tour of Kauai and I thought, yeah. This is it. All I need is Hawaii.
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About Open Road Summer:
After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

?????????????????????????????????????????????ANSWER: The UK! My dad’s from England, and a lot of our family is still there. So, I’d get to see them more often and eat fish and chips, heavy on the vinegar. I could watch soccer at White Hart Lane, drink great beer, prowl book shops, take in the impossible greenness of The Cotswolds, stand on the coastline at the Cliffs of Dover. Plus, ya know, there’s so much literary tourism in the UK 😉

My REVIEW

 

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About Wish You Were Italian:
Pippa has always wanted to go to Italy … but not by herself. And certainly not to sit in art school the entire summer learning about dead guys’ paintings. When she steps off the plane in Rome, she realizes that traveling solo gives her the freedom to do whatever she wants. So it’s arrivederci, boring art program and ciao, hot Italian guys!

Charming, daring, and romantic, Bruno is just the Italian Pippa’s looking for—except she keeps running into cute American archeology student Darren everywhere she goes. Pippa may be determined to fall in love with an Italian guy … but the electricity she feels with Darren says her heart might have other plans. Can Pippa figure out her feelings before her parents discover she left the program and—even worse—she loses her chance at love?

italyANSWER: The Cinque Terre, Italy. Surprise! My love for this portion of the Italian Riviera is why I chose it as the setting of Wish You Were Italian. The views of crystal blue water from cliff side trails are unlike any I’ve seen, the food is fresh and full of local flavors, the atmosphere is calming. It’s a dream to rent an apartment in one of the villages for a month or so to write, paint, hike, and most importantly, eat gelato twice a day.

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About Searching for Sky:
Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all.

phillyANSWER: I know how my character Sky in Searching for Sky would answer this question. She would return to Island, of course, which is the small deserted island in the South Pacific where she grew up, before she was rescued and taken back to California. She would want to go back there because it feels safe for her and it feels like home, unlike our modern world which is scary and filled with things she doesn’t understand. Like Sky, I always tend to like the feeling of “home” rather than the feeling of vacation, and I think the best trips are ones when I get to spend time with family. For that reason, I would say Philadelphia, which is where I grew up and where much of my family still lives. If we’re talking about purely relaxing, though, I would say the beach – any beach, anywhere. There’s nothing better than lying on the beach reading a great book!

 

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About Fool Me Twice:
Mackenzie and Landon were the perfect couple . . . until he dumped her and broke her heart. Fast-forward a year and they’re back where they first met—Serenity Ranch and Spa, where they are once again working together for the summer. Talk about awkward.

Then, Landon takes a nasty fall and gets amnesia. Suddenly, he’s stuck in the past—literally. His most recent memory is of last summer, when he and Mack were still together, so now he’s calling her pet names and hanging all over her. It’s the perfect chance for revenge. The plan is simple: keep Landon at arm’s length, manipulate him so he’s the one falling love, and then BAM, dump him. There’s just one problem: Mack can’t fall for Landon all over again.

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ANSWER: This answer would be SO EASY if I was not a parent-I absolutely love and adore Las Vegas and try to go as often as I can. But since I have a young daughter, I’d have to go with a family location-we take her to California once a year. Her excitement caliand enthusiasm makes everything that much more fun! Even just riding in the shuttle from the parking lots to the airport is exciting to her.

 

 

Special thanks to all 5 of these authors for taking the time to answer my question and Bloomsbury for asking and putting this together.

*Images found on Google and Goodreads and do not belong to me.

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Review: Bright Before Sunrise – Tiffany Schmidt

Review: Bright Before Sunrise – Tiffany SchmidtBright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Published: February 18th 2014
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five-stars

When Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, "miserable" doesn't even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother's first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real... until she breaks up with him.

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she's really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She's determined to change his mind, and when they're stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Well if I didn’t love Tiffany Schmidt before I do now after reading Bright Before Sunrise. Seriously, is there a way to give more than 5 out of 5 stars??? Because really, this book deserves it if there is. It was clever and fun and honest. It truly was a pleasure to read every word and I hated that it ended so soon because it was fantastic!

Bright Before Sunrise is the story of Brighton and Jonah(love the names by the way!), two teenagers that have nothing in common except they go to the same school. Brighton is peppy and into school spirit, at least on the outside, while Jonah is angry at a lot of things, especially having to more to a new house and school in the second half of his senior year. When circumstances force these two to spend a night together things go from bad to worse, from up to down, from hate to the possibility of love. For two people that thought they had nothing in common, in the course of one night, realize there is more to the other than they ever thought and find out there may just be more to themselves as well.

Do you know what I loved about this book, well besides that fact that it was written by Tiffany Schmidt? I loved that we got two totally different voices from totally different characters. I know, I know, there are a ton of books out there that have dual POVs, I haven’t been living under a rock. I’ve read a bunch myself. But what I liked the best about it is Bright Before Sunrise is although it is a book written by one author it could have easily been two based on the characters(if that makes any sense). Basically Schmidt gave us a wide range of her writing prowess by making Jonah and Brighton so opposite each other that they may have been on different scales. And the fun part about it, they were both putting on a front which then made them more a like then you could imagine.

The other great part of this book was the chemistry between Brighton and Jonah even when Jonah was being surly to her and she was putting on her happy face. Beneath their initial reactions to each other there was a connection even in their differences. You could feel the draw they had to each other leap off the pages even when they were trying to pretend it wasn’t there. Between the banter and the confusion of what they really felt, there was a deep connection that was shown seamlessly in their actions. Was Jonah a jerk and Bright fake at times? Absolutely. But for some inexplicable reason they had each other’s backs no matter what. Watching these two change from the beginning of the book to the end was really a great thing to see unfold.

I know, this review probably doesn’t make a lick of sense, but I had so many feels(all amazing) about this story that it is hard to get my thoughts and emotions down on paper. It was flawlessly written, had strong characters with a great story, and had some nice moments of teenage uncertainty mixed in. Basically all you need to know is that Bright Before Sunrise is a must read so get on that!

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Tiffany is doing a different kind of blog tour for this book and I’ve participated on my newly formed Tumblr account. Check out it out here! And follow me if you feel like it. I’m still new to it, but I’m getting there.

 

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The Dish: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

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Title:
Where the Stars Still Shine [Amazon]
Author: Trish Doller [website]
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Contemporary
Source/Type: Netgalley/Digital ARC
Reviewed by: Andi & Michelle

Publisher Description:
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Discussion:
Andi: I am so flipping excited that we got a chance to read this super early. I was completely enamored with Doller’s first book Something Like Normal so I’ve been chomping at the bit for this one. And can I just tell you in love. Callie and Alex. Alex and Callie. Um, did I mention Alex?!?! HA. I love that Doller doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff, you know?

Michelle:  I gotta say, she does get right to it in a story.  There isn’t any light and fluffy build up to some of the harder-hitting subject matter.  I’m not quite as far along in the story as you but the fact that Callie is so quick to give herself to Alex (heck any boy) shows just how broken she is.  I’m super interested to see how her relationships with men develop and how the different dynamics play out.  She has romance (sorta) with the boys and then is so reserved and scared with any adult male like her father.

As for the Alex scenario, I have two words…. Bad.Boy.

A: Boy is sex on legs. I mean YUM-MY! He has the swagger and the looks and the man whore thing, but you can tell her is really really caring and has a huge heart(without giving too much away since I’m not sure where you are in the story). He is totally sexy and I don’t blame Callie for having some of that. HA

But you’re right, she is so completely broken with no self worth at all. She is a jumble of emotions that she doesn’t know what to do with and is too scared to take them out on anyone and deals with them one way and one way only. Her mother destroyed her and Callie feels guilty for even thinking that when it really is the truth. And my heart goes out to poor Greg too. He is so caught in the middle of wanting to be a dad but not knowing what to do, treading lightly afraid to lose his daughter again. Honestly I don’t know what I would do in his position.

M:  I’m going to give up the ghost and just say that there isn’t any way we’re going to be able to have this discussion without including spoilers.  So if you’re reading and you don’t want to be spoiled it’s probably best not to move any further into the conversation.

Callie was definitely the strongest and most interesting character of the lot.  She had a depth that I felt the rest lacked. The cousin was fun and a good pick me up from the heavier tone of the abuse and kidnapping scenario.  Alex was definitely the eye candy and there was some attempt to give him more emotional depth but I didn’t feel like it got to the right point even with the story about his mother.  The mother was totally cliche and the father was just vanilla.  All this to say I think there could have been a bit more to the kidnapping and reconnection to her family part of the story.  It all felt pretty surface level and it definitely wrapped up fast.

A: I get what you’re saying to an extent. Callie was definitely the strongest character but I thought the rest of the characters were strong in the roles they were meant for. Callie’s dad was actually one of the characters that I liked the most because he didn’t know his place in her life and how to juggle a child he knew as a little girl that was now an adult with the life he had come to live. The cousin was the throw away character for me. She was too much right off the bat, but again she had her place that was important to Callie. The mother was a very very troubled person and I was psyched when she finally did the right thing by her daughter.

But what I liked the most was watching Callie’s walls come down slowly whether it was Alex that helped bring them down, her dad or even the cousin. That was the biggest and brightest part and I found that to be a pretty slow progression on a short book that wrapped up quickly. I really found myself falling in love with the whole story from start to finish. I thought it was strong and emotional and I got where all sides were coming from, you know?

M: Yes, I agree that I got where all sides were coming from but I think my issue is with the slow progression that wrapped up so quickly in the end.  I would have liked another 50 pages to allow for the build up and culmination to be paced more evenly.  I wanted to see more out of the relationship that Callie and Alex were building and definitely more out of how his own family life related to how hers was changing.  There was a lot to build off of there that I think got bypassed.

I’m right there with you on the annoying cousin.  She was just a bit too over the top for me.  If she were just a little more muted in her personality there could have been a great BFF vibe between she and Callie.  I mean, it was there in  a small way but it could have been outstanding had she stopped twirling her hair and snapping her gum, you know?

Thankfully, Doller definitely has it in the romance department.  She creates characters that have awesome chemistry. I loved me some Alex and enjoyed seeing how he and Callie interacted. It made perfect sense to me that Callie had no respect for herself and pretty much jumped into bed with him so quickly.  Particularly given the fact that she had a horrible female role model and was raised in the environment she was. It was interesting to see how her lack of trust played into that.

A: Doller is the queen of a good romance. But I also like how she tackles the real issues from the start. She didn’t shy away from what Callie had happened to her. She showed how it affected her in a way that made sense, at least to me anyway. Like you, I do think the book could have been longer, but I like what she did tackle and how things were mostly resolved. We got to see the most about Callie in the way that she dealt with Alex right from the start. That said a lot about the character of Callie and her background and how Alex responded to her said a lot about him.

Let’s discuss the step-mother. What did you think of her role in this story? I got where she was coming from but I didn’t get the feeling that she thought about what Callie had been through and where her husband was coming from. I found her to be somewhat harsh.

M: I understood where she was coming from too but I actually thought she was pretty reasonable overall.  How many women with two young children would be comfortable with a strange teenager in her house?  Especially one that has had the past that Callie has had?  Not many that I can think of.  But, she was supportive of her husband and ultimately supportive of Callie. The harsh parts made sense to me and I like that they were in “private” between the step-mother and Callie’s dad.  I also felt like the drama with the small child while Callie was babysitting seemed pretty real too.  As a mother she was just freaking out when her child got injured and lashed out.  In the end, I do think she was pretty supportive of Callie and after awhile she did calm down and embrace her as part of the family.

I feel like we should be talking more about the Alex and his mom story but it felt kind of meh for me.  What about you?

A: It wasn’t my favorite part of the story. That much I can admit. It just kind of seemed random. But with that said I got what its purpose was in the long run. It was used to give Alex some depth and a past of sorts, something he was running from, much like Callie, but it did seem like a throw away part of the book. It didn’t take away from my love of it, but it almost wasn’t needed in the way that it was used. There could have been some other way for Alex to have something emotional in his past. Some other reason for him to stick around and do what he was doing and not living his own life. And the part with Alex’s father was a little awkward and never really touched on much. Did he beat him or not? I was kind of a little confused about that small aspect.

But again, all of that didn’t take away from what I truly loved about the book and that was the emotional depth. When I was reading I could feel what Callie was feeling and that’s important to me in a great book.

M: Exactly, it was an unnecessary sub-plot to give Alex relatability to Callie.  I think it could have worked better if we got a glimpse of it earlier in the story and if the part with the father was excluded entirely would have made it more understandable. But, like you, I can’t help wondering if there was some other way to create that bond between he and Callie.  I must admit, too, that I was a bit disappointed that he was alluded to as a bad boy and really he didn’t ever do anything bad.  This “reason” for his badness was anti-climatic.  I did appreciate his love for his mom though, that was super-sweet.

A: That was really sweet. And I loved seeing him with his nephews. That totally got my heart pitter pattering. I think the world needs more of those kind of boys in it. HA.

M: Couldn’t agree more.  Doller does this exceptionally well too. She gets how to create chemistry between two characters be it romantic or platonic. This is one of the reasons that I don’t have a problem picking up her books and reading it without even knowing what it’s about!

A: And really, what more is there to say than that! 🙂

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Review: Where the Stars Still Shine – Trish Doller

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Title: Where the Stars Still Shine* [Amazon]
Author: Trish Doller [website]
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre:  Contemporary
Source/Type: Netgalley/Digital Copy
Stars: 5 of 5

Publisher Description:
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

My Thoughts:
Loved, loved, loved this book! It was everything I was hoping for and more. It had fun, it had serious issues, it had a great romance, it had a cute boy. It was so clearly a Trish Doller book that I was swooning from page one.

Where the Stars Still Shine, is the story of Callie, a girl that was taken by her mother when she was just a small child. She has been on the run, going from place to place, for as long as she can remember. Callie hasn’t gone to school in years, hasn’t had a stable home life and has been eating out of vending machines while carrying around a secret of her own. But when life finally catches up with Callie and her mom, Callie suddenly finds herself back in Florida with her dad who she thought didn’t want her and with a family that is thrilled to have her back. Now Callie must find her place among these familiar strangers and make peace with her past and her future. And with a hot sponging boy sparking her interest it’s possible she may just be able to do that.

One of the things I love most about Doller’s writing is her ability to jump right into the heavy stuff. Some writer’s will toe the line with the issues or the emotional aspects, but Doller doesn’t seem to do that. She told us what life on the run was like for Callie and how damaged she was by some of the stuff that happened to her. Things weren’t sunshine and roses after she was taken like you see in a Lifetime movie.  There was real depth and hurt and psychological damage there.  And the way that Callie chose to deal with the things that had happened to her showed all the more how damaged she was. Instead of telling someone or talking about it Callie used sex as her means of coping and I 100% understood her reaction and why she did what she did.

The other thing Ms. Doller does amazingly is creating a cute boy. She has the ability to bring an amazingly swoonworthy boy to life with just a few words. She did it with Travis in Something Like Normal and has done it again with Alex in Where the Stars Still Shine. Alex was everything that Callie needed and she was everything he needed. Both hiding for life and their past, they leaned on each other and learned to trust and love and have faith in people and the world in general. It really was truly remarkable to see the two of them interact. Don’t get me wrong, the baggage was there, but something about the two of them together could make you forget and just enjoy the love fest. Was their story perfect? Not by any means. But it was really a great relationship that unfolded and that made it perfect for me.

Like any book there were things I wasn’t crazy about 100%, but that didn’t really matter to me. That was just the small stuff. In the long run it didn’t mean anything. Where the Stars Still Shine was an amazing book and it was real and that is all that is important. Doller did what Doller does best and created a story that will stay with you long after you are done and I thank her for that and think you will too.

*discussion post  with Michelle from Galleysmith will appear in the future.

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