Review: The First Date by Zara Stoneley

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the USA Today bestselling author of The Wedding Date!

Right place.
Right time.
Wrong guy …

After breaking up with her childhood sweetheart, clueless dater Rosie has found herself in a boyfriend-drought. So when she finally swipes right on a guy who seems interested, she can’t wait to meet up IRL.

Until she’s left standing alone. In a bar. Ghosted.

Enter Noah. Confident, funny … and a serial first dater. Offering to give Rosie a crash course in seduction, this could be just what she needs. Until her matchmaker turns out to be the best date she’s ever had – and Rosie wonders if she wants the fake dates to be the real ones after all …

A hilarious, heartwarming romantic comedy about what happens when the wrong guy turns up at the right time, perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Debbie Johnson.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The First Date publishes April 24, 2020. 

What I Liked

-So. Much. Banter! I loved it! Rosie and Noah had such a great give and take and I smiled so much when reading their conversations. I also really enjoyed their growing friendship. I thought they complemented each other well and I definitely shipped them.

-I liked Rosie’s relationship with her mother. As I expect in a Stoneley book, the mother was a little zany, but she wasn’t quite as crazy as she could have been. I liked that her character showed a lot of growth in the story, as well.

-I was in the mood for something light and cute and The First Date was exactly that. Was it predictable? Sure. But, that didn’t hinder any of my enjoyment of the story.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-Rosie has daddy issues for days. Which is fine, but I just felt like it was brought up way too much. Her comparing Noah to her father or recounting how awful her father can make her feel about herself was brought up repeatedly in every chapter. Sometimes it felt like it came out of nowhere and didn’t really fit in context. It was a little disappointing because I found some of her issues with her father very relatable, but I was pretty over it by the end of the story. I also don’t feel like she really got any satisfying resolution to it.

Overall

Overall, I enjoyed The First Date. I loved Rosie and Noah together so much, especially their banter. I wish the daddy issues weren’t quite so prevalent, but I did like how those issues highlighted Rosie’s mother’s growth. I’m looking forward to reading more from Stoneley in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.

The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.

But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.

When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually…make peace with who they are.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Where the Lost Wander will be published on April 28, 2020. 

While I used to read a lot of it, Historical Fiction hasn’t been my genre of choice for awhile. That made me a little hesitant going into Where the Lost Wander, but Amy Harmon’s beautiful writing definitely made me a fan again.

I may be dating myself here, but who remembers playing Oregon Trail as a kid? Where you cheered if your wagon made it across a river without capsizing or losing an oxen and you hoped the character named after you wouldn’t die from dysentery. It was a fun, supposedly educational game, but it wasn’t more than that. This book made those aspects of the game we laughed at feel real and horrifying. How easily sickness could spread through a group and kill multiple people. How if a wagon capsized while crossing water, everything a family owned could be lost. Harmon does an excellent job of painting a vivid picture of what life on the trail looked like.

That said, the story felt extremely slow paced, as it focused mostly on the day-to-day tasks on the trail or with a Native American tribe. Don’t get me wrong, I was deeply invested in the characters and their journey. Harmon’s writing is just as beautiful as it always is and that kept me reading. It just took me a little longer to read this book than I would expect for a book this size. The pace was slow and not a lot really happened for much of it, but I think it’s a testament to Harmon that those things didn’t really lessen my enjoyment of the story.

The story is told through dual POVs of Naomi and John and I thought it was used very effectively. I absolutely loved John. I found Naomi a little frustrating at times, but I did like her overall, as well as her family. I liked Chief Washakie and his friendship with John. And, of course, I really shipped the romance between John and Naomi. It wouldn’t be any Amy Harmon book without an epic romance and she definitely delivered.

Overall, I enjoyed Where the Lost Wander. Though it was a little slower paced than I like, I really loved the characters and the writing. I am impressed by how much research Harmon did for this book and how she really made the Oregon trail come alive. I definitely recommend this one to fans of Historical Fiction.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can…but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson, Marisa Kanter hilariously and poignantly explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.

Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

What I Like About You publishes on April 7, 2020. 

What I Liked

-There is a lot of book community nerdiness in this and I liked it. It’s always fun to read a book about a book blogger.

-I enjoyed reading about Jewish culture. Though Halle is Jewish, she wasn’t really raised with religion, so when she lives with her grandfather who is religious, we get to learn right along with her about traditions and etc. I haven’t read a lot of books that include this, so it helps set it apart a bit from other similar books.

-I loved Halle’s little brother, Ollie. He was wise beyond his years and was always there for Halle. He deserved a little better from her, though, to be honest.

-I liked Le Crew. Though some members of the group weren’t always my cup of tea, I liked their friendship.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-Halle’s parents are famous documentary filmmakers. A little is spoken about the super important topics they cover, but more is said about how they are chasing an Oscar. They came across really shallow to me. I didn’t really respect them.

-One of my biggest pet peeves in books is when all the drama could be resolved with one, honest conversation. I got very, very frustrated with Halle. I can understand being caught off guard the first time she met Nash, but then months go by and their relationship progresses, and it turned more into an uncomfortable catfishing situation. Her brother was the only one who knew the truth of the situation and he continually tried to talk her into telling the truth and she would just get mad at him and storm away to go pout. She was often a hard character to like.

-There’s a lot of YA Book Twitter drama that goes on and it reminded me of why I mostly avoid Twitter. The YA Book Community can be great, but it can also be incredibly toxic and judgmental and promotes “cancel culture”. To be fair, though, the Twitter community in general can be that way. One situation in this story is that the author of a book that means a lot to Halle disses the movie being made about her book saying it’s not just for teens. Halle plans on seeing the movie anyways because it meant a lot to her grandmother (who worked on the book), but she lets other people make her feel guilty about it and it sways her opinion to join the boycott. For a book that celebrates the YA book culture, I just wish that the characters would’ve come across a little better than they did.

Overall

Overall, What I Like About You wasn’t really for me. I almost DNF-ed it several times, but I decided to keep going and did enjoy some parts of it. When needless lying is basically the whole plot, though, I just can’t get behind it. However, this book is obviously a celebration of YA literature and I am well over the age of the target audience, so some of the things that bothered me may not bother them.

Overall Rating (Out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Imagine Me (Shatter Me #6) by Tahereh Mafi

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The explosive finale to the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Shatter Me series.

Juliette Ferrars.

Ella Sommers.

Which is the truth and which is the lie?

Now that Ella knows who Juliette is and what she was created for, things have only become more complicated. As she struggles to understand the past that haunts her and looks to a future more uncertain than ever, the lines between right and wrong—between Ella and Juliette—blur. And with old enemies looming, her destiny may not be her own to control.

The day of reckoning for the Reestablishment is coming. But she may not get to choose what side she fights on.

Sigh. What a let down. Despite not being very impressed with the last couple books, I was really hoping for a great finale. Something to make this continuation of the original series worth it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. *Beware some mild spoilers here on out*

I have to say that I immediately set out on the wrong foot with this book when I realized that the chapters were being divided between Juliette’s and Kenji’s POVs instead of Juliette’s and Warner’s. Warner remains the only consistently good thing about this series, so I was upset that we only got a couple of chapters from him at the end (more on that later). After the first few chapters, I kind of got over it, though. Based on the novellas from Kenji’s POV, I was expecting all of his chapters to be about his feelings and blossoming romance, but thankfully they weren’t that bad. Unfortunately, though, just not a lot happened in either his or Juliette’s chapters. It was a pretty boring story, to be honest.

So, let’s talk about Juliette. She spent most of this book crazy, though it wasn’t really her fault. Her all-powerful sister was messing with her mind in the beginning. Then she gets captured and gets experimented on. When it’s finally time to be “rescued” it’s Warner that brings her back…by going to second base. Seriously. With all hell breaking out around them, they make out topless and that’s enough for Juliette to remember who she is. *Sigh*

So, now let’s talk about Warner. He spent about the first half of the book just being sad and angry about Juliette being gone and not really talking. But once he finally starts to engage, he was the Warner I loved again.

“Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because I’m thinking about all the people I’d like to murder.” – Aaron Warner.

He is absolutely the only reason I continued with this series and, as I said earlier, was the only consistently good thing in the whole series.

So what about the rest of the characters? Who cares? Mafi certainly doesn’t. The epilogue was about one of the most pointless two chapters I’ve ever read. It’s supposed to be Juliette and Warner’s wedding day, but we don’t actually see a wedding. Other than finding out it’s been two weeks since they took down the Reestablishment, there’s not really much said about what happens now or the fates of the rest of the cast. Adam makes a small appearance, but we don’t find out what happened to him before or where he will go from here. Kenji’s relationship that he pined over for two novellas wasn’t given any more mention. A couple characters showed up to talk about a burst pipe and bring a puppy for Juliette and Warner to hold. I mean really? THIS is the ending of the series the author always envisioned?

Overall, Imagine Me, was a complete letdown. Other than the love I will forever have for Warner, continuing this series felt like a waste to me. I know I’m going to be in the minority with this opinion, so if you enjoyed the last couple books, maybe you’ll enjoy this one too.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: He Started It by Samantha Downing

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

(NOTE: Updated Release Date) He Started It publishes July 28, 2020. 

Ever since reading Samantha Downing’s debut, My Lovely Wife, I have been looking forward to her next book. I have to say that He Started It wasn’t really at all what I was expecting. But that’s ok, because I found it completely addicting.

Siblings Beth, Eddie, and Portia, along with Beth’s husband Felix and Eddie’s wife Krista, have to replicate a cross-country road trip they took when they were kids in order to receive their inheritance from their grandfather. As they progress in the present, we learn what happened on the original trip, which was a little messed up, to say the least. Along the way, lies are told and secrets are revealed and you’re never quite sure who you can trust.

If you want to feel better about your own relationship with your siblings, this is the book to read. Beth, Eddie, and Portia have very dysfunctional relationships. They are constantly lying to each other and paranoid about being lied to. They shift alliances at a drop of a hat and definitely kept me guessing. While there are some small shocks and surprises, the story really revolved around the Morgan family and how that road trip in their youth affected all of their lives in different ways. The writing was super addicting and I ignored a lot of things I was supposed to be doing so I could keep reading it.

Overall, I really enjoyed He Started It. While it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was still a compelling, addicting story that kept me guessing the whole way through. I loved the writing. My only real complaint was that I was a little underwhelmed with the ending. However, the rest of the book was enough to make up for it and I’m really looking forward to reading more from Samantha Downing in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History by Andy Greene

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The untold stories behind The Office, one of the most iconic television shows of the twenty-first century, told by its creators, writers, and actors

When did you last hang out with Jim, Pam, Dwight, Michael, and the rest of Dunder Mifflin? It might have been back in 2013, when the series finale aired . . . or it might have been last night, when you watched three episodes in a row. But either way, fifteen years after the show first aired, it’s more popular than ever, and fans have only one problem–what to watch, or read, next.

Fortunately, Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene has that answer. In his brand-new oral history, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, Greene will take readers behind the scenes of their favorite moments and characters. Greene gives us the true inside story behind the entire show, from its origins on the BBC through its impressive nine-season run in America, with in-depth research and exclusive interviews. Fans will get the inside scoop on key episodes from “The Dundies” to “Threat Level Midnight” and “Goodbye, Michael,” including behind-the-scenes details like the battle to keep it on the air when NBC wanted to pull the plug after just six episodes and the failed attempt to bring in James Gandolfini as the new boss after Steve Carell left, spotlighting the incredible, genre-redefining show created by the family-like team, who together took a quirky British import with dicey prospects and turned it into a primetime giant with true historical and cultural significance.

Hilarious, heartwarming, and revelatory, The Office gives fans and pop culture buffs a front-row seat to the phenomenal sequence of events that launched The Office into wild popularity, changing the face of television and how we all see our office lives for decades to come.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History will be available March 24, 2020. 

The Office is one of my all time favorite tv shows. I can’t even tell you how many times I have binged it (though I often skip those last two dumpster fire seasons after Steve Carell left). When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. I was hoping for lots of behind the scenes trivia and maybe some juicy scandal, but it wasn’t quite what I expected.

The format of the book is mostly excerpts from interviews from people involved with the show – ranging anywhere from cast and crew to Scranton Chamber of Commerce employees. The author did a lot of interviews with these people, but he also utilized other published interviews, quotes from dvd commentary, etc. to fill things in. The quotes are arranged in a way that almost feels like a conversation, but there were often times where it was just quote after quote basically saying the same thing (i.e. everyone commenting on what a hard worker Steve Carell is or how Greg Daniels [the man responsible for adapting The Office from the UK] was the best). It didn’t always work for me and there were a few times where I skimmed through it. Most of the quotes were also from writers, producers, or less central cast members, so I wasn’t always hearing from the people I wanted to the most.

Here are a few things I learned that stood out to me:

  • I’ve heard it said numerous times that the Chili’s Manager in The Dundies episode that bans Pam from the restaurant for being drunk was an actual Chili’s manager, but that’s not true. He was an actor. They weren’t even filming in an actual Chili’s, they had just worked with the restaurant chain to bring in fixtures, etc.
  • Instead of the big dance number at Jim and Pam’s wedding, the original script had Roy riding in on a white horse to try to stop the wedding. Then Dwight takes the horse to Niagara Falls and it was going to fall down them. Greg Daniels was apparently the only one who liked this idea and there were a lot of fights about it before the idea was finally scrapped.
  • Supposedly, Steve Carell wanted his contract to be renewed after the seventh season, but there was change in leadership at the network that wasn’t a big fan of the show and they didn’t try to make any deals about paying him more money, so he left.
  • There was a big debate about whether to make Andy or Dwight manager in season 8 and most people wanted Dwight, but the network wanted Andy because he was a bigger star at the time, thanks to The Hangover movies.
  • James Spader basically took the job because he was broke.
  • The network really wanted a spin-off and they wanted Parks and Rec to be that spin-off, but the creators wanted it to be it’s own show and casting Rashida Jones as a different character ensured the shows couldn’t be related and kind of came across as a “screw you” to the network. There was also talk of doing a family-centered spin-off and everyone was annoyed when Modern Family came out using their mockumentary style.
  • Most of the cast and crew considered Steve Carell leaving the end of the show. (I 100% agree with this.)
  • There was a plan to kind of reboot the show in season ten with a new cast and that’s why “New Jim and Dwight” were brought on, but then they decided to end after season 9 because the network wanted to work on developing new shows and the writers were pretty burned out.

Overall, there were enjoyable things in the book, but I wouldn’t consider it a “must read” for The Office fans. While there was definitely a sense of all the the cast and crew being family and loving the show, there was also a whole lot of negativity and blame coming across and it kind of made me like the show less instead of more. It will still be one of my go-to binge shows, though.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sharp Objects meets My Lovely Wife in this tightly drawn debut that peels back the layers of the most complicated of mother-daughter relationships…

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she’s forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling…

And she’s waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Darling Rose Gold publishes March 17, 2020. 

Well, this was underwhelming. I’ve seen so many great review for Darling Rose Gold and I was so hyped to read it, but it ended up falling far short of my expectations.

The story is told through alternate POVs from Patty in the present and Rose Gold in the past. I have to say I found Patty’s chapters much more interesting. I felt like Rose Gold’s were all backstory and really seemed to drag. It covers her life during the years her mother was in prison and I thought it could have been shortened. There were some important things that came back in to play later, but so much of it was just needless detail and I found myself pretty bored. In Patty’s chapters I felt like the story was at least moving forward.

Both characters were kind of crazy and unapologetically awful, which was kind of fun. I was actually hoping for for them to act even more devious than they did, though. I felt that the story followed a very cliched path and anybody who has read this genre before will be able to see what’s going to happen from miles away.

Overall, Darling Rose Gold was not really for me. There was some fun characterization, but for the most part it was really predictable and seemed to drag a lot. I didn’t find out until after I was done reading that this story is apparently very heavily inspired by the real life case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard and her mother Dee Dee. I had never heard of the case before, but looked it up and there are a lot of similarities (like, a lot) with this book. While this book wasn’t for me, I have seen a lot of other really great reviews, so it may still be worth checking out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars