Review: Sunkissed by Jenny McLachlan


Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Release date: August 13, 2015
Format: eARC via Net Galley
ISBN: 1408856115
Pages: 302
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Kat can’t believe her family are sending her to Sweden for the summer. But without her friends, or even a phone signal, can Kat make it on her own?

In a land of saunas, nudity and summer sun, Kat soon realises she has nowhere to hide. It’s time to embrace who she really is, underneath what she’s been thinking people want her to be. Especially if she’s going to win the heart of mega fit Swede Leo! Can Kat find her inner strength and prove she’s got what it takes?

Kat soon finds that when you’re surrounded by phosphorescence and wonder it’s easy to sparkle. Or maybe that’s what happens when you fall in love . Or maybe you only shine when you’re true to yourself.


3 stars

I received an advanced copy of this novel from the publisher but all thoughts in this review are my own honest opinion.

This was my very first encounter with Jenny McLachlan’s writing. Sunkissed, from what I understand, is the third book in a 4-book companion series (think Stephanie Perkins, and her Anna, Lola and Isla series) that features one girl from a group of four friends in each book. These can be read as standalone novels, and I read Sunkissed without having read the two preceding books.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. When I first started reading, I had a lot of problems connecting with the writing and with Kat. She’s a 15 year old girl, so she came across as very juvenile at the beginning. Because it was narrated from her point of view, it made the writing feel very juvenile too and I almost felt like I was too old for the book. However, once I got used to the writing style and the pace, I started to let that go and enjoy the story.

I had issues with Kat for probably the first 100 pages. She was a bit bratty and whiny, and I just did not like her character. She was very obsessed with her hair and her nails and I just found her to be kind of off-putting. She did grow on me as the book progressed though and I thought she became more mature. But, at times, it also felt as though the author intentionally made Kat’s character very dislikable so that it would make her character development seem greater than it actually was. And that’s kind of a trope that I’m sick of seeing. Why not make your characters likeable from the very beginning?

I don’t think my opinion of Kat changed my feelings about the story though. It was a very fun and summery story, with a very unique setting. There were some parts of the plot that felt cliched. The plot reminded me a little of The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, and I kept having to distance myself from that book. There were definitely some things that I think needed some more development, and the last 50 or so pages felt very rushed. I wish I had gotten to enjoy and savour that last part of the book a little more. I also didn’t enjoy the romance aspect of the book – it felt like something I had read many times before. My first impression of the romance was that the author was trying too hard not to make it insta-lovey but it ended up being kind of insta-lovey anyway. Having said that, I did like how it ended, although it was probably a little bit unrealistic.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable read and I finished it in one sitting. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I was a little bit younger or still in high school. But I would still recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a fun, summer read that is set in a Swedish island location.


Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick


Publisher: Dial Books
Release date: June 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0803736991
Pages: 394
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The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?


5 stars

I absolutely loved this book. Both of Huntley Fitzpatrick’s books have been home runs for me.

If you’re looking for a book with a great summer romance, this is the one for you. It has a fabulous cast of characters and a really enjoyable plot. While it wasn’t the most unique and original plot I’ve ever read, it was very realistic and relatable… and I don’t think you can ask for more than that from a contemporary novel. I loved the way the story flowed. It was just so easy to read. The pace of the book was just right, not too slow and not too fast, which made it very comfortable to read. It did pick up in pace a little bit towards the end, and it became a real page-turner. I could not put it down. I really liked how the book ended, but I did want just one or two more chapters at the end to wrap up Sam and Jase’s story. But there is a companion novel coming out in mid-August and I guess we’ll be seeing more of them in that book.

loved the characters in the book. Samantha was so easy to relate to, and I loved her voice. She was funny and it was just a lot of fun reading from her perspective. I did find her family and friends to be quite pretentious (which I think was the point), and I felt uncomfortable for her, which is something Huntley Fitzpatrick does so well. Her writing makes me empathise with her characters, and I really feel whatever they feel. There wasn’t a lot of character development, but I don’t think Sam needed a lot of development anyway. She just needed to stand up for who she wanted to be, and she did that, which was enough for me. I loved Sam’s relationship with Jase. It didn’t feel insta-lovey to me, and they came together in such a natural way. At times, there was some awkwardness but that made their whole relationship feel so real. They were adorable together, and became one of my favourite YA contemporary couples.

Jase is perfect. I said this about Cass from What I Thought Was True, also by Huntley Fitzpatrick, but Jase is even more perfect than Cass. Jase is just the ultimate good guy and I love that he’s just a nice and caring person. He’s got a great temperament and he doesn’t do stupid things. Best of all, he’s just in love with being in love. He’s great at fixing things, great with all of his younger siblings, and he’s also an animal lover. His bedroom is a zoo, with all different types of animals in cages and tanks. I loved this quote from the scene when Sam first visits his room and realises she’s interested in him:

“Maybe Jase Garrett is some sort of snake charmer. That would explain the animals. I look around again. Oh God, there is a snake.”

(The snake is called Voldemort by the way, which is just perfect). Jase also has the most adorable siblings. He’s the third of 8 kids and all of his siblings were fun and wonderful to read about. His 4 year old brother, George, is a genius who just spits out facts about the world and reads National Geographic Kids. George was probably my favourite of all of the Garretts (besides Jase). Patsy, the baby, is always being breast-fed and her first word was ‘boob’. I found myself wanting to be a part of all the chaos and fun.

There were some characters who I wasn’t sure about, and Tim was one of them. I did not like him at all at the beginning of the book but he grew on me. I don’t think we saw enough of him for me to completely change my mind about him. I feel like there was this gap in the middle that we didn’t see, where his character just developed really quickly. But the new companion novel, The Boy Most Likely To, is about Tim so I guess we’ll see a lot more of him and how he develops further.

I’m mostly just excited to read more about Sam and Jase.

Review: What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick


Publisher: Dial Books
Release date: April 15, 2014
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0803739095
Pages: 407
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Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge, and she hails from a family of housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries this will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape what happened—or the island—her past explodes into her present, redefining the boundaries of her life. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.


5 stars

I really loved this book – a lot more than I actually expected to. This was my first Huntley Fitzpatrick novel, even though I’ve owned her debut novel, My Life Next Door, for a while now. I decided to pick up What I Thought Was True first because a companion to My Life Next Door is coming out in mid-August and I wanted to marathon them. But after reading this book, I might have to jump right in to My Life Next Door.

What I Thought Was True is a beautiful summer read about second chances and first love. It also contains strong family elements, which I loved and thought elevated the story really beautifully. At times I even enjoyed the family aspect of it more than the romance. This novel is more of a mature YA contemporary, in terms of the story and themes, as well as the writing. The writing style is quite sophisticated and didn’t sound juvenile at all. It flowed beautifully and I just ate it up. This is definitely a more slow-paced book. A lot of the first half of the book was focused on Gwen’s past and setting up the story so it did take a while for the book to really take off. There isn’t a lot that happens in the book but everything that does happen is heart-warming and emotional. I actually really enjoyed the slower pace of this book and thought it was one of its charms.

Aside from being emotional and hauntingly beautiful, this story also has some hilarious moments. Gwen’s mother is obsessed with romance novels and mentions them around the house all the time. The elderly woman who Gwen works for as a caretaker asks Gwen to read steamy romance novels aloud to her and her group of friends. Hilarity ensues. And Gwen herself was really sarcastic and funny.

Gwen was definitely a great main character. She’s a strong character who stands up for herself and for the people she loves, and I just really admired her strength. Cass, her love interest, was perfect. It’s so great to be able to read about a guy who is just really really nice. He was polite and romantic, and I loved the two of them together. I also liked all of the members of Gwen’s family. They were just such a close and loving family, even though they weren’t by any means perfect. I was so invested in all of the characters and their stories. I felt happy when they were happy and I hurt for them when they were hurt. And I think that’s the mark of a really great author.

Review: Between Us and the Moon by Rebecca Maizel


Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0062327615
Pages: 384
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Ever since Sarah was born, she’s lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Scarlett. A budding astronomer, Sarah’s days are devoted to math club and the boy she’s loved since kindergarten, Tucker. Her nights are spent observing the vast universe through her Stargazer 5020.

Then Tucker breaks Sarah’s heart, and she goes to Cape Cod for the summer with her family, ready for something big in her life to change. She doesn’t want to live in the shadows anymore. She wants to be someone who shines. Someone like Scarlett.

She doesn’t expect to meet Andrew. Gorgeous college boy Andrew. Andrew pulls Sarah out from behind her telescope. He sees the girl she wants to be.

For Sarah, it’s a summer of firsts. A summer of blazing comets and shooting stars. Before she knows what’s happened, one little lie has transformed into something real. And by the end of August, she might have to choose between falling in love and finding herself.


35 stars

This is a coming-of-age story about self-identity and self-discovery and I felt like there wasn’t enough character development in the book. When I reached the end of the book, I still wasn’t completely sure exactly what Sarah had figured out about herself, and I couldn’t see a clear journey from the start to finish. I thought that Sarah seemed a little bit juvenile in her thoughts, but her actions were very mature. At some parts of the book, the story felt a little bit pretentious, but that probably could have been because Sarah was pretending to be someone who she wasn’t. Overall, I just wasn’t in love with Sarah and it made it a bit difficult to really fall in love with her story.

The main message that I took away from the book was that you should be yourself because there are people who will love you for who you are (and the things that you love are what make you you). But I thought Sarah’s actions in the book weren’t very consistent with this message. She keeps up her lies all the way until the end of the book, and while I understand that it’s scary to admit to people that you’ve been lying to them, I felt like this was just completely incongruous with her discovery that people love the scientist in her and love her for who she really is. I also wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending – it felt a little bit rushed to me – but I can see other readers loving the way it ended.

Let’s talk about some of the characters. I’ve already mentioned that I didn’t connect with Sarah, but I really really liked Andrew. I thought he was sweet and charming and just the perfect love interest. I definitely was not a fan of Tucker. We don’t get to learn a lot about him, but he really annoyed me. His actions, to me, also seemed a little bit out of his character, based on the little that we do get to know about him. (To be honest, I’m just kind of sick of the YA trope where the protagonist has a bad break-up, or is burned by an ex, but they find someone new who is more perfect and helps them get over their issues.) I also didn’t like Sarah’s family. They were controlling and seemed to be very absent from her life, and I don’t feel like that was properly resolved in the book.

This has been a bit of a rambly review. I should have collected my thoughts before I wrote this… but overall, I enjoyed the relationship between Sarah and Andrew but I did think the overall message of the book was a bit weak. It lacked a bit of character development and there were a couple of things that I didn’t think were completely resolved. I would still recommend this to anyone who is looking for a summer romance read, and I know lots of other reviewers who thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Review: The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi


Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: June 16, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 0062302191
Pages: 304
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Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life.

But Matt – the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town – was never part of that plan. And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own – to relive the night that brought them together – Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future.

In alternating then and now chapters, debut author Lauren Gibaldi crafts a charming, romantic story of first loves, lifelong friendships, uncovered secrets, and, ultimately, finding out how to be brave.


3 stars

This debut novel by Lauren Gibaldi is a short and fun contemporary read. I thought it was a good debut novel that reminded me of writing by Sarah Dessen and Jennifer E. Smith. However, I thought The Night We Said Yes lacked the depth and emotional quality that Dessen and Smith incorporate into their novels. It wasn’t as sophisticated but if you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced read, I would definitely recommend this.

This book contains alternating chapters of ‘then’ and ‘now’, which I’m not always a fan of. Lauren Gibaldi did a great job at integrating the dual timelines so that it read as one story rather than two separate story lines. My problem with the alternating timelines was that some aspects of the story felt very repetitive, especially because Matt and Ella are trying to recreate a night that happened a year ago. Things that happened in the past would be alluded to or described in a ‘now’ chapter, and then described again in the following ‘then’ chapter. Because of this, I would have preferred just one single timeline, which would also allow for deeper exploration into the story and the characters.

I didn’t feel a deep connection to any of the characters. I liked Matt but wasn’t in love with him like I normally am with YA male love interests. I felt like we never got a good sense of who the characters were. I liked Ella but I didn’t always love her voice. I also felt like there could have been more character development. I felt as though all of her character development came in random bursts of sudden self-realizations. I would have definitely liked the novel more if we got to see her character gradually developing. The alternating timelines also made it difficult to see her character develop.

Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience. I finished it in one sitting and I appreciated how relatable the book was.

Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

the-summer-of-chasing-mermaids-9781481401272_hrPublisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: June 2, 2015
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 1481401270
Pages: 368
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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 stows 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. . .


45 stars

This is my favourite Sarah Ockler novel that I have read so far. It’s a beautiful story about finding yourself and finding ways to express yourself even when you’re not allowed to.

This story is a retelling of the Little Mermaid. It was a very well thought out story, that is deep and moving, as well as fun and romantic. A great, fast-paced summer YA read, with a great coming of age message. This book really focuses on the different kinds of relationships we have with others. It explores family, friendship and love, and the positive and negative sides of these relationships.

I really liked the romance between Christian and Elyse. I thought it developed in such a real and believable way, and I just loved the two of them together. I really liked Christian as a character – he was just so easy to fall in love with. I did feel that he was portrayed a little bit inconsistently throughout the book. He’s described as a player who sees multiple girls at the same time and can’t even remember their names. At the same time, he’s portrayed as a sweet and sensitive boy. There were times when I felt like they were two different people. Other than that, I loved all of the characters in this book. They were all unique and funny, especially little Sebastian who spends each of his summers chasing mermaids and wanting to be a mermaid.

As in all of Sarah Ockler’s books, the writing is fantastic. Elyse’s voice was so clear and easy to read throughout the whole book. One criticism that I did have was that the lip reading was a little bit unrealistic (although it was necessary for the story to work). The fact that all the characters in the book were so good at lip reading whole sentences was a little bit mind blowing. But other than these little unrealistic aspects and inconsistencies, I thought the book was stellar. Definitely one to take with you to the beach!