Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Books I Read in July & August

Summer reading is upon us! This summer feels a little different than most because of lockdown, but no matter - it's not like we need a specific season to read, right?

One Month Forever by Kate J. Blake
The conclusion to Ricardo and Angie's story. I really liked how it resolved. They have to reconfigure their relationship to be something they both flourish in, which took some time, but they were able to do. I don't have a whole lot to say about this one because, for me, it was a quick, happy read that wrapped up the story, but I did enjoy it. There is a small part of me that thinks all three of the One Month books could have been combined into one, but that's just me.

Spoiler Alert: My favorite scene is when Ricardo tries to sneakly give Angie a new car by getting her dad to offer it to her. She gets upset because she already had a discussion with him about buying her unnecessary gifts. Then he tries to propose to her and she wants nothing to do with it. I loved it when she pointed out that he didn't have the ring on him because that wasn't how he wanted to propose and he was basically grasping at straws to keep her from getting upset. It wasn't that the two of them didn't want to be together forever, it was that Ricardo was going about the situation all wrong. I found this scene to really show Angie's growth. Ricardo isn't in her life because she needs him there, he's there because she wants him there, but she's strong enough to walk away if he fails to grow with her (no matter how badly it would hurt).
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
This was one of my Book of the Month choices, which I chose because I was intrigued by the premise of getting a behind the scenes look of a dating show. I'm not a huge Bachelor(ette) fan, but I have watched a few seasons with friends, and thanks to social media I can usually figure out what's going on.

I really liked Bea's character and the fact that she challenges the norm of dating show contestants. I think that's a really prevalent issue, especially when compared to the Bachelor franchise because pretty much everyone looks the same on that show, and it simply isn't what normal people look like.  

To be honest, this book was a little slow for me. I felt like I was reading for hours, but I was only 50 pages further than when I started. A lot of this had to do with the blog posts and email chains that broke up the book. I really wish they were used to show more than what they did. One of the most frustrating things for viewers is when the boys act differently at the house then they do with the Bachelorette, which causes her to think the boy is amazing but the rest of the world knows he's terrible. I wish that's what those extra bits showed us, instead of rehashing what readers already get to see from Bea's point of view.

Also, something really weird about my version of the book was that one of the pages had a ton of mistakes on it. I have no idea if this is a random mistake or it was in all of the book editions, but when Bea is at her house and there's a transcript of her parents being interviewed by the producers, there were so many mistakes that I couldn't even figure out what it was supposed to say. I got the gist, but it was so bizarre to see so many mistakes only on one page.
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
Gymnasts fascinate me. Two of my best friends were gymnasts and as someone who could never properly complete a cartwheel, I am just awed by the ability of gymnasts. That alone made me excited for this novel, but I also watched "Athlete A" a little while ago so I was ready to get mad at coaches and cheer for the athletes. 

I'm obsessed with Avery and Ryan. I liked how they both very clearly liked each other, but were like, "We're co-coaches, we can't" and then continued to find themselves kissing. I just thought it was cute how it was more the question of "when", instead of "if."

Obviously, I hated Dmitri. And I got very upset when Ryan was more focused on the chance to work with a great coach instead of listening to one of his past athletes who didn't agree with his teachings. As frustrating as it was, I kind of liked that Ryan had to see Dmitri's gym/coaching style for himself before admitting Avery was right. Because Ryan was such a good guy, that this instance showed that he wasn't perfect, that he could get distracted by the idea of someone and what they could do to further his own career, and made him more realistic. Especially after seeing how guilty he was for sending Jasmine to the Doctor who ended up being a pedophile, you don't fully understand how he doesn't listen to Avery's concerns about Dmitri. But I personally think that's life. You hear someone did something terrible and immediately hate them, but when someone you idolize is accused of something bad you want to make excuses because you don't want to have to rebuild them in your mind.

I liked how this book covered very serious topics without being too graphic and including some lighthearted storylines that exemplify that people are more than their bad experiences.
Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
I struggled to relate to Megan. The flirt who loves having a boyfriend is so far from who I am that half the time I was rolling my eyes and wondering how she was surprised there relationships didn't work out. And it's not that there's anything wrong with that personality - I know and love girls with this personality - but it's not me. Owen on the other hand I was like, "Okay, yup. I get you." However, I was able to sympathize with Megan. It was sad that she felt like an outsider in her own family, and that she got cheated on twice, the first time involving her best friend. 

I liked how her relationship with Owen played out as well. They started off without pretense because he had a girlfriend and she wanted to date his friend. It allowed them to bypass the awkwardness a little bit and really get to know each other. Of course, that led to more and more feelings that eventually made things complicated between the two of them, but they were able to figure it all out pretty gracefully. In a lot of books I read, the couple breaks up over some type of miscommunication, but that didn't happen in this novel. Sure, Megan and Owen fight and don't talk for a little while, but once they commit themselves to each other they're in it 100%. There's even a moment when you think a rumor is going to mess with them, but Owen clears everything up quickly.

The one thing I did notice was that Owen tells Megan he broke up with his girlfriend directly after they kiss in his room, but at the open mic, he's late because he was face timing her. That's never really explained, so I don't know if it's just a continuity error in the plot, or if there was another reason he was facetiming his ex.    
Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco
The only thing I didn't like about this novel was that it was the last one in the series. I'm so sad to say goodbye to the Ripper series, but I already have Kingdom of the Wicked preordered and I'm excited about that.

In this novel, Audrey Rose and Thomas are rehunting Jack the Ripper while also fighting for their future together. After discovering that her brother wasn't the Ripper, but instead his partner, Audrey Rose finds herself digging through Nathaniel's journals for hints about who was the true mastermind behind so many deaths. While Thomas reads through the journals quickly and methodically, Audrey Rose struggles to read her brother's descriptions of the horrendous deeds he was a part of. Their search leads them out of New York City and into Chicago where things get even crazier for the duo. They reconnect with a friend they met in Romania and spend time admiring the world fair, but murders continue. After Thomas and her Uncle are poisoned, Audrey Rose figures out who the killer is and, as independent as ever, decides to confront him alone. The decision nearly gets her killed, but this is Audrey Rose we're talking about. Even with a limp, the girl is able to fight with the best of them. Of course, it was helpful that Thomas designed her cane to hold a secret dagger. 

Throughout this whole investigation, Audrey and Thomas are also struggling to regain their future. During what should have been their wedding, a woman informed the church that she was Thomas' true intended and if he didn't marry her, he and his sister would lose everything. Even though Thomas knows his father made the betrothal promise with a signed piece of paper leftover in Thomas' bedroom, he feels helpless. His refusal of marriage means that his father will out his sister and her girlfriend. Meanwhile, Audrey Rose refuses to become a mistress out of fear for what that would do to her cousin's reputation. They know that they want each other and even though they don't care what happens to them, they don't want to take their loved ones out with them. Thankfully, Audrey Rose's grandmother has connections that Thomas' father could only dream of, who doesn't mind helping them out.

I love the Ripper series, not only because Audrey Rose and Thomas are amazing, but because I also learn quite a bit about life in the late 19th century. Maniscalco does a lot of research for her novels and is able to weave that knowledge into an incredible story. It interesting to read about two characters who are outliers of their day, but still have to abide by societal rules to some degree.
Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Boyfriend dumps you after you quit school to help him through Law school? Sister gets in a car crash that leaves her immobile and unable to care for her teenage daughter for a few months? The simple solution would be to move in with your sister while she heals and you figure out your next steps. Get in, do your job, get out. Easy. Or so Emily thought.

I loved this. A summer Renaissance Faire that brings the whole town together. Amazing. But I also loved that this novel brought you behind the scenes to who is actually apart of things like this. While plenty of people volunteer because they enjoy the fun of the faire. Emily and Simon, although they also enjoy the faire, are mostly there because they have to be. Since her niece is underage, Emily is forced to volunteer as her guardian. Simon's older brother started the faire and ever since he lost his battle with cancer, it's been up to Simon to keep it going in his memory. But when Emily, the newcomer in town, is able to look at Simon without knowing his brother, she notices that Simon takes on more than he needs to when it comes to the faire. Simon doesn't really know how to handle Emily and ends up being seemingly cruel to her. Of course, this leads to a great "enemies to lovers" storyline. However, when it gets harder to differentiate between their faire personas and their true identities, their relationship crumbles until Simon learns to delegate responsibilities.

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