Review: Serious Moonlight – Jenn Bennett

Review: Serious Moonlight – Jenn BennettSerious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: April 16, 2019
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five-stars

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 most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

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.

Opening a book by Jenn Bennett immediately gives me a sense of joy. She has written some of my favorite books so it just feels like home when I get to read her words again. So to say I was beyond excited for Serious Moonlight is an understatement. I honestly remember Bennett announcing it and I immediately knew it was going to be another favorite. And let me tell you, she did not disappoint. It was EVERYTHING I love about a Jenn Bennett book and maybe a little bit more.

Serious Moonlight is the story of Birdie, an 18-year old that is trying to find her way. When Bridie’s mom died when she was 10 Birdie was sent to live with the overprotective grandparents she never knew. After her grandmother died 6 months ago, Birdie gains some independence and a job working the night shift at a hotel in downtown Seattle. When Birdie runs into someone she had a chance encounter with, her life ends up on a mystery filled path she never expected.

The thing that is a constant with a Jenn Bennett book is 1) the cute boy and 2) the chemistry the main character has with said cute boy. Jenn nailed this in Serious Moonlight. The first time Daniel was introduced I immediately swooned for him. He was everything Birdie needed in her life. He was the thing that brought out the best in her and vice versa. They played off of each other so well and I loved every minute of their relationship. Both of them had problems and fears and hang-ups which made them even more relatable

In the end, there wasn’t one thing I could complain about in Serious Moonlight. It was what Jenn Bennett does best and it shined. It is one of those rare 400+ page books that you may end up finishing in a sitting because it is that good. Make sure this one if on your radar!

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Review: Girls with Sharp Sticks – Suzanne Young

Review: Girls with Sharp Sticks – Suzanne YoungGirls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
Series: Girls with Sharp Sticks #1
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: March 19, 2019
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five-stars

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.

As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

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.

Since coming across The Program in 2013 I have been a fan of Suzanne Young and her books. There is something about the way she tells a story that sucked me in from the get go. I swear every time I need a new book by her I don’t think she can write any better than she has and yet she constantly proves me wrong. But I can confidentially tell you that Girls with Sharp Sticks is 100% her most brilliant masterpiece yet. When I tell you that I loved this book, I mean it more than I can accurately explain. It is just such a memorable reading experience you truly won’t be able to find the words to describe your feelings.

Girls with Sharp Sticks is about Mena, a girl that goes to a school where she is taught how to be the ‘perfect woman’. The girls are told how to dress, how to act, and how to behave in order to please the men in their lives. They are conditioned to behave and be ‘proper’ and to obey. But when strange things start happening Mena starts noticing how unusual the school is and how sheltered the girls actually are. With the help of a new friend from outside the school walls, Mena opens her eyes and sees what’s really going on at Innovations Academy and she isn’t going to let it continue. When all the girls ban together the men of Innovations learn what the tag line says: Some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

This book was hardcore! And epic! And amazing! And fantastic! And any other adjective you can think of to describe such an unexpectedly powerful book. I was completely creeped out and disgusted reading it. These men were so vile and gross and 100% taking advantage of these girls to suit their needs. I swear I wanted to punch them all in the face so many times. But these girls, Mena, Sydney, Annaliese, Marcella, Brynn and Valentine (not a name a few), were actually what these men feared. These women together held all the power. They were the ones that were able to stand up for themselves and say ‘no, enough is enough’, and I loved every minute of it.

I want to say so much about this story. I want to tell you every detail and small thing I loved. But I refuse to ruin this experience. I strongly feel this is a book that everyone should read and will love. It is so unexpected and brilliantly done. I really can’t say any more than that. If you have trusted my book judgement in the past then trust it now. I swear it is worth it!

Now bring on Girls with Razor Hearts!

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New to You (18): CJ Reviews Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Welcome to New to You!

This idea came along last year when I was supporting Lauren Miller’s newest book All Things New and I asked Kelsey to read and review Parallel, a book I have read more than once. I didn’t really get it going until December when I offered people the chance to sign up to read and review a book that has been a favorite of mine that they have never read. I got a great response and I’m happy to tell you (minus January) you will see a New to You post twice a month.

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Next up for New to You CJ from Sarcasm and Lemons. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous when I assigned this book to her. It is heartbreaking and a gorgeous story, but the subject matter is a hard sell. Honestly I have never recommend Forbidden to anyone because it isn’t a book that you can tell someone to read, they have to want to read it because it is high disturbing. But when CJ was the only one that selected it as an option, my warning included) I knew she was the right person. Let’s see what she had to say about a book that tore me to pieces:

New to You (18): CJ Reviews Forbidden by Tabitha SuzumaForbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: June 28, 2011
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three-stars

Perfect for readers who enjoyed Flowers in the Attic, this is a heartbreaking and shocking novel about siblings Lochan and Maya, their tumultuous home life, and the clandestine, and taboo, relationship they form to get through it.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As de facto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: A love this devastating has no happy ending.

Family Dysfunction is an Understatement

If I had to reduce my thoughts to a sentence, I think it would mostly be facial expressions. FORBIDDEN is a slow burning, heart wrenching book. There’s something a little old fashioned about the writing, something a bit V.C. Andrews or Nancy Drew, and it’s difficult to place it in any particular time. Entering it is almost entering another world. Even the characters speak with a poetic gravity. But all this gives a timelessness to the story of two hapless lovers, who happen to be brother and sister.

It’s no easy read. I found myself alternately hand-wringing and squirming and placing my hand to my heart throughout. You can’t help but sympathize with Lochan and Maya’s impossible situation, even as a very deep part of you feels nauseated by a relationship you’ve been programmed to revile. It’s a complicated story with no easy moral statements, no clear answers, and although the slow pacing made for some languorous skimming at times, the relationship between Maya and Lochan–and its startling conclusion–left me deeply mired in thought. It’s a book worth talking about.

Romeo and Juliet Had it Good

Our story opens on the Whitley family. Just from the set-up, you know this is going to be a Family Drama. The mother never wanted children and is scarcely at home; most of her time is spent playing cougar with her boyfriend. The father has gone to Australia and never calls. Teens Lochan and Maya are forced to play siblings and parents both to delinquent Kit, hyperactive Tiffin, and sweet naive little Willa. I often found myself raging at their mother, but also knowing that she’s the kind of person who would never take responsibility–which made me rage more, and also feel quite protective of the characters.

In this environment, it’s no wonder the result is a strange relationship between Lochan and Maya. I’m not sure if Suzuma meant to write it as a pure, sweet love; perhaps because of my background, I read it as unhealthily co-dependent. There’s an aspect of Heathcliff and Cathy in it. They cling to each other, fiercely enmeshed in their own world, isolated from others by fear and choice, parentified by the lack of an adult figure. They are everything to each other. I found it a little shocking how quickly they grow used to the idea of their romantic relationship–I would have expected some more hesitancy initially. But perhaps that’s part of the tragedy. It was a strange feeling, finding myself sometimes rooting for them, sometimes sickened, sometimes horrified and overwhelmed by the pathos of their abnormality. It made me want to do research, which is always a good sign that a book has made me think. I think the ending really underscored the tragedy of it all: in this world, their romance is abomination. Should it be? Was it a phase? Was there another way? Are we supposed to support them or assume they need therapy?

The best part of the book was its portrayal of depression and anxiety. I’ve rarely read such a thorough, accurate description as Lochan’s. He suffers from extreme social anxiety, to the point of having intense panic attacks at school when forced to speak to anyone. He also experiences soul-crushing depression, tinged with hopelessness and marked by the occasional outbursts of temper and self-harm. His POV chapters are electric and claustrophobic with the feeling of being trapped and beset on all sides. By contrast, I thought Maya was a bit fluffy. She’s the one who immediately accepts their relationship, sees it as them against the world. Her personality seems less distinct. Lochan was her whole world, and I couldn’t help but feeling the horror of that, and knowing it wouldn’t end well.

That Ending Though

Whatever you think of the sibling relationship, you’d have no soul if the ending didn’t give you pause. I admit, I didn’t see it coming. Not because it didn’t make sense, but because the last few chapters are so frenetic and fraught after a period of seeming contentment that it comes as a slap in the face. I was left with so many questions, for myself and the world. How could such an attraction like this occur? Was it the neglect of their circumstances? Would they have grown out of it? Is it wrong for society to see it as wrong if it’s two consenting parties? Am I wrong for being disturbed? Despite my hangups with the pacing and tone, I’m glad I read FORBIDDEN. It’s always good to be thrust out of your comfort zone and to question everything you’ve accepted as true. I have a feeling I’ll think of this one for a long time.

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Thanks CJ for signing up for New to You. I promise, you are right, you will think about this book for a long time. I read it in 2011 and I still find myself thinking about it.

Have you ever read anything with a disturbing subject matter? How do you feel about recommending it?

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New to You (12): Lindsay Reviews The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler {+ a giveaway}

Welcome to New to You!

This idea came along last year when I was supporting Lauren Miller’s newest book All Things New and I asked Kelsey to read and review Parallel, a book I have read more than once. I didn’t really get it going until December when I offered people the chance to sign up to read and review a book that has been a favorite of mine that they have never read. I got a great response and I’m happy to tell you (minus January) you will see a New to You post twice a month.

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Next up for New to You is Lindsay, @bookiecrumbles on Twitter. Linds is going to be sharing her thoughts on The Summer of Chasing Mermaids. I don’t know about you but I originally was terrified to read this one because the concept sounds odd, but Sarah blew me away and in the end it is now a favorite book of mine. Let’s see what Linds thought!

New to You (12): Lindsay Reviews The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler {+ a giveaway}The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: June 7, 2016
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five-stars

From the bestselling author of Twenty Boy Summer comes a “compelling and original” (Kirkus Reviews) novel about a talented singer that loses her ability to speak after a tragic accident, leading her to a postcard-perfect seaside town to find romance.

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: an ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother, Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly suppresses her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them…

I had no idea what to expect from this book when Andi asked me to read it. I didn’t even read the synopsis before starting it, I trusted Andi that much. I did read another of Ockler’s books, Twenty Boy Summer, and loved it, so I suspected I would enjoy this one quite a bit as well…. And I did! I was pleasantly surprised that it was based on The Little Mermaid, especially since that is my favorite Disney movie. The similarities to the original source material, and the deviations that Ockler made were excellent, and provided a truly great reading experience.

First of all, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is an excellent summer read, and I’m glad Andi had me read it in June. I loved the writing and the prose throughout the book, both were absolutely gorgeous. Elyse’s writing style and poems were amazing, and one of my favorite parts of the story.

I truly enjoyed reading about Elyse’s journey to find herself again. The contrast Ockler showed in losing one’s physical and metaphorical voice was fantastic, and I loved how she compared the two of them. One of my other favorite aspects of the story was the slow burn romance with Christian. He was a complicated love interest, and I liked reading about his family and issues aside from the race. Speaking of his family, Sebastian was awesome! Such a fun (non-annoying) little brother. The relationship between the brothers was one of my favorite things in the entire story.

Ockler does an excellent job exploration a variety of relationships: parental, sibling, extended family, friendships, and romantic. They are all interesting and complicated in their own way, especially Elyse’s relationship with Kirby. I liked how their relationship evolved throughout the story. I also enjoyed Elyse’s new friendship with Vanessa. Both Kirby and Vanessa challenged Elyse in ways that she needed (even if one instance annoyed me…).

Underneath the overlying story of Elyse’s journey is the discussion of mermaids themselves, which was interesting and provided great background for many aspects of the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, thanks Andi for having me read it!

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 5, 2018. It is US ONLY!

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Thanks Lindsay for signing up for New to You! So happy you enjoyed your second Sarah Ockler book!

My The Summer of Chasing Mermaids review.

Have you read The Summer of Chasing Mermaids yet?

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Book Five: The Program Readalong {+ a giveaway}

Welcome to the fifth book check in for my Readalong of The Program series! Hopefully by now you have finished reading The Adjustment and are now ready to see how it all ends tomorrow in The Complication. It has been a privilege to do this readalong with you. If you were rereading or a new fan, I hope you enjoyed the journey.

For today’s last and final check-in for the readalong I’m going to let Suzanne close it out with a video she left on her author Facebook page. Because let’s face it, no one can put into words what a series means better than the person that put their heart and soul into the story:

I have been lucky enough to get to know Suzanne because of this series, these books and I will forever be grateful for them because of that. And as someone that has read The Complication, she nailed it, it is a love letter to her readers. Every word on the pages is for us and I’m thankful for it.

Thank you, Suzanne!

Giveaway for a signed copy of The Adjustment ends at 11:59pm EST on April 29, 2018. It is US ONLY!

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Reading Schedule

The Program: March 17-March 25
Post/Giveaway Day for The Program: March 26
The Treatment: March 25 – April 1
Post/Giveaway Day for The Treatment: April 2
The Remedy: April 1 – April 8
Post/Giveaway Day for The Remedy: April 9
The Epidemic: April 8 – April 15
Post/Giveaway Day for The Epidemic: April 16
The Adjustment: April 15 – April 22
Post/Giveaway Day for The Adjustment: April 23

Now tell me, what did you think of The Adjustment? Are you prepared for The Complication?

 

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