Great Reads

ARC REVIEW OUT TOMORROW – The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

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Publish Date:
5/1/19 
Author: 
Megan Miranda
Started: 3/18/19
Finished:
3/20/19
Pages:
336
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐️

Big thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster fory giving me a copy to read and review before pulication. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Review:

Littleport, Maine is like two separate towns: a vacation paradise for wealthy holidaymakers and a simple harbour community for the residents who serve them. Friendships between locals and visitors are unheard of – but that’s just what happened with Avery Greer and Sadie Loman.

Each summer for a decade the girls are inseparable – until Sadie is found dead. When the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother Parker, who blame her. Someone known more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name before the facts get twisted against her.

My Review:

I had high expectations for this but it just did not deliver for me. I really enjoyed some of Miranda’s past works. This for me was drawn out in all of the wrong ways. Although it’s regarding Avery’s friend, Sadie’s suicide, there was too much data about her  assumed suicide without any importance. The book was drawn out unnecessarily in the fact that so much of the chapters were going no where. I like a thriller that keeps me on the edge of my seat and this not that.

The saving grace to this novel was the “didn’t see that coming” moment. I was somewhat satisfied with the explanation of everything and was surprised but I still felt like it was a little out of left field and too unrealistic for me in a sense. On top of that issue, I felt like the book could have used one more chapter to talk more about all of the many characters involved besides just the couple it closed the door for. I know that some people will really like this and I encourage you to read it if you liked Miranda’s past works. I may step away from her for a little bit since this and her last were not favorites of mine.

Great Reads

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

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Publish Date: 3/12/19 
Author: 
Genki Kawamura
Started: 4/12/19
Finished:
4/15/19
Pages:
169
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

A big thanks to Flatiron Books for sending me a copy of this to review.

Goodreads Summary:

The international phenomenon that has sold over a million copies in Japan, If Cats Disappeared from the World is a funny, heartwarming, and profound meditation on the meaning of life.

The postman’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage to keep him company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can tackle his bucket list, the Devil appears to make him an offer: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, our narrator will get one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week…

With each object that disappears the postman reflects on the life he’s lived, his joys and regrets, and the people he’s loved and lost.

Genki Kawamura’s timeless tale is a moving story of loss and reconciliation, of one man’s journey to discover what really matters most in life.

My Review:

This book was originally written in Japanese and was a best seller over in Japan! It has recently been translated in English and it’s a great read. I was hooked from the very first page. This dark story reads quite light and although its topics and themes are important, the author did a great job keeping the book interesting and relateable.

The concept was so interesting. For one thing that our main character allows the devil to banish from the world, he gets one day of life. As things disappear from the world, our protagonist puts different aspects in his life in perspective. The life lessons learned are quite heart-warming. I felt like for such a short book, it was so powerful.

I found myself crying at the end of this short read. It really put life into perspective and allows the reader to think about how much we really take for granted in our life. I know many people who have reviewed this have had a hard time with the English translation but it was not the case for me. Do not let the language take away from the beautiful story of loss, love, forgiveness, and life!

Great Reads

Tiny Hot Dogs: A Memoir in Small Bites

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Publish Date:
 4/9/19 
Author: 
Mary Giuliani
Started: 4/11/19
Finished:
4/15/19
Pages:
256
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

A big thanks to Netgalley and Running Press  for sending me this copy to read for review purposes.

Goodreads Summary:

Mary’s utterly unremarkable childhood was everything she didn’t want: hailing from a deeply loving yet overprotective Italian family in an all-Jewish enclave on Long Island. All she wanted was to fit in (be Jewish) and become famous (specifically a cast member on Saturday Night Live). With an easy, natural storytelling sensibility, Mary shares her journey from a cosseted childhood home to the stage and finally to the party, accidentally landing what she now refers to as “the breakthrough role of a lifetime” catering to a glittery list of stars she once hoped to be part of herself.

Fresh, personal, and full of Mary’s humorous, self-deprecating, and can-do attitude against all odds, you’ll want to see where each shiny silver tray of hors d’oeuvres takes her next. You never know when the humble hot dog will be a crucial ingredient in the recipe for success, in building a business or simply making life more delicious.

My Review:

I enjoyed this read way more than I thought I would. I have seen Mary’s guest appearances on multiple cooking shows throughout the years. She’s hilarious. I was glad to read this memoir. Her stories were quick to read but enjoyable. I loved reading her celebrity awe-struck stories. It’s a great reminder that even our celebrities can become smitten with celebrities themselves.

Yes, it is super short and yes, the stories she recalls are small tidbits of her life but they’re funny. None of the short stories are super important and most of them are stories in good fun but I really did enjoy it anyway. 

Also, as a food blogger, I loved the multiple recipes thrown in throughout the book. There are a few I want to try. Mary makes average picky eater foods and makes them into interesting adult-like appetizers. Reading some of these were super interesting.

Any food-lover will enjoy reading Mary’s short tidbits of her life. I suggest this for a very light yet funny read!

Great Recipes

Air-fried Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Chicken

I love my air fryer! It gives me all the crispness I want without any of the fatty oils and calories! I’m so happy to have found this kitchen god.

We eat chicken a ton. I feel like I needed something new in my life and this did it for me. This can easily be made for Weight Watchers based on your own preferences. Find the bacon that you love that it most point friendly! I am posting the recipe that I used for just one chicken breast. You can double the recipe if you are cooking for you and someone else! This recipe is easy enough to adjust for however many people you are serving.

Air-Fried Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Chicken

Serves 1 breast

Ingredients

  1. One chicken breast
  2. Olive oil spray or oil spray of choice
  3. Two pieces of cooked bacon (or Canadian bacon)
  4. One Laughing Cow spreadable cheese wedge (your choice on flavor)
  5. Everything but the Bagel Seasoning
  6. Two tablespoons of panko breadcrumbs
  7. One egg
    Continue reading “Air-fried Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Chicken”
Great Reads

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Publish Date:
 3/5/19 
Author: 
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Started: 4/7/19
Finished:
4/11/19
Pages:
368
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

A big thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine Books for sending me this copy to read for review purposes. It was a blast!

Goodreads Summary:

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

My Review:

I read this as a buddy read for the month of April. I however finished long before needing to of course!

I was afraid that I wasn’t going to like this because it was so character driven and the format is odd in that it is written like an interview. I ended up really enjoying it anyway! This is just what I needed as a palatte refresher and to be transformed right into the 1970’s! Being a huge classic rock fan really helped me enjoy this and it may not be as interesting for someone who doesn’t enjoy the time period. I enjoyed the references such as the Whisky A GoGo, Dylan, Joplin, etc.

I started to get a tiny bit bored within the pages but not for long. I ended up giving it a four because I wanted more of the characters and less of the recording studio! Some things began to get repetitive such as the song-writing struggles or the over abundant drug usage. The characters were all extremely dynamic and were all important to the story which I loved. It’s actually pretty ironic that the characters are all so important as they mostly all feel so unimportant.

I loved Karen as a character even when I disagreed with her. Camila was hard for me to understand. I wish I had half of the patiance and understanding she has for Billy and the other bandmates. Daisy herself was annoying for me but I was always interested in her. I think a good book does just that! It gives you a character that can be pretty unlikable yet it makes you feel for the character anyway.

This was my first Reid book and I will be going back for more. I have her ever-popular The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo which I’ll be grabbing sooner rather than later!

Great Recipes

Copycat Lettuce Wraps

Does anyone else ever go through a bunch of recipes when they’re looking for something specific that they want to make? If I want something specific, I’ll look through available recipes and end up pulling a little bit of something from each recipe I find and make my own. Most of the time it works out fantastically, like this particular recipe I altered from a bunch of sources.

Here you have my recipe for a copycat recipe of P.F. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I LOVE these lettuce wraps. I HATE chain restaurants. There’s just something about them that I don’t like. I hate the thought of pre-packaged or half homemade food. I know many chains claim they make everything in house now and that may be true but I still would rather go to a family-owned or a even a restaurant with just a handful of locationss. I still find myself going to some chains depending on who I am dining with and sometimes just for the ease of it. PF Chang’s is one chain restaurant that I can tolereate, especially since I love their lettuce wraps (like the rest of America).

Here’s my altered recipe made from a hodgepodge of different recipes floating around. I hope you enjoy!

CopyCat Lettuce Wraps

Serves 2-3 as a main meal

Ingredients

  1. One pound of ground turkey (you can use ground chicken to be more like the regular recipe but I like turkey better)
  2. Olive oil spray or oil spray of choice
  3. One small white or yellow onion diced
  4. 8 oz of mushrooms chopped (you can use any mushroom you prefer. I’ve used baby bellas but shiitake would be awesome!)
  5. Four tablespoons of Hoison Sauce
  6. Two tablespoons of reduced sodium soy sauce
  7. One tablespoon of rice vinegar
  8. One tablespoon of chili garlic sauce
  9. One teaspoon of fresh ginger grated
  10. 3 cloves of garlic chopped
  11. One can (8 oz) of water chestnuts diced
  12. Iceberg lettuce for serving

Continue reading “Copycat Lettuce Wraps”

Great Reads

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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Publish Date: 1/24/19 
Author: 
Lucy Foley
Started: 4/2/19
Finished:
4/6/19
Pages:
394
Rating:
⭐⭐

Hey guys! I don’t want you to think that I’ve  been slacking! I’ve read quite a few books recently but so many have been advanced reader copies! The reviews have been written but won’t be published until closer to the publication date so that you don’t forget about all these great book opportunities coming soon! Be on the lookout for The Unhoneymooners which has been my favorite that is to be published later this month!

Goodreads Summary:

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

My Review:

I was so excited that this was the book that my soroity book club chose. This was our February choice and Harper Collins couldn’t fufill it until later in March because it was back-ordered.  I had such high expectations due to the quick pupularity but it fell really short for me.

First, this read more like character studies for me. I’m not a huge fan (as we know) of character-driven plots and I felt like so much of the book was just me finiding all about characters and their past lives. I knew that it would all be important and understanding the character dynamics was important but I had a hard time getting into it because of it. I have seen many comparisons to Agatha Christie. I didn’t really get that but that could be because I haven’t read Christie in a long time but I wasn’t getting those vibes.

It’s really hard for me to put into words what I am feeling without giving too much away. First I want to say, not all of the characters are necessary and Foley really missed the mark on making those characters an importance other than to leave the reader more confused and guessing the mystery.

There is an “important” component thrown into the end of the story that is also unnecessary and random. I felt like it was an afterthough and could have added so much more to the story if it had been developed more.

Ocerall, there are awesome parts to the story that could have added so mmore depth but Foley just did’t make them an importance. There is so much potential that wasn’t played out correctly in my opinion.

One of my friends that I read this with figured out the entire story within the first 10% of the book. I’m not sure how she did it but she called absolutely EVERYTHING which is a problem for me. I want a twist and although I didn’t get as much as she did, the twist isn’t too twisty obviously in this one. The climax was just kind of anti-climatic for me if that’s possible and there was so much fluff in the story that I felt uninterested very quickly. The beginning was the best part where so much was built upon before falling short.

This one was just not for me and I wish that it was. There was so much potential that I’m honestly so disappointed.

I’m still super thankful for having this sent to me to read. I always appreciate HarperCollins gesture. I’ll be donating it soon so I hope someone loves it!

As my group continues to discuss this book this month, I may add some more thoughts but that’s all I have for now. Just a flop for me!

Great Reads

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Publish Date: 05/09/17 
Author:
Gail Honeyman
Started: 2
/28/19
Finished:
3/4/19
Pages:
383
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

“There are so many books in the world – how do you tell them all apart? How do you know which one will match your tastes and interests? That’s why I just pick the first book I see. There’s no point in trying to choose. The covers are of very little help, because they always say only good things, and I’ve found out to my cost that they’re rarely accurate. ‘Exhilarating’ ‘Dazzling’ ‘Hilarious’. No.”

Goodreads Summary:
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

My Review:

I hosted an earlier giveaway for this book and then decided to host a buddy read via Instagram. As a host, I decided to read it all in its entirity before the first half was due so that I could try and help guide questions anyone had. I’m glad that I finally got around to EOICF because it’s been talked about so much for the last few years. I felt like I was missing out on the read that everyone else had already read. I was a little disappointed, not because I didn’t like it because I did. However, I think its been hyped so much that I was looking for something magical. It wasn’t bad at all like I said but not what I was necessarily expecting.

I went into the book blind which I think helped. I feel like if the synopsis was more detailed about what it was truly about, I may not have been inclined to read it. This is a very character-driven book and although I know some of us really like that, I am more in favor of books that are plot-driven. Had I known that it would be all about Eleanor just being socially awkward I may have declined to read it.

Eleanor is different to say the least. She is a child of habit right down to her food choices. She’s also extremely socially awkward and definitely missed learning social cues in her spotty education. She also doesn’t have a filter. At first all of these attributes were rubbing me the wrong way but as I read on, Eleanor’s behaviors were understandable and in all honesty, sad. Her mental health is shakey which makes sense as you read on. Although I found the book entertaining, I also felt like it was a good look into some mental health struggles and I really felt for her. I cringed in so many areas of the book in which she did something as if it was so normal and I couldn’t help but to feel for her. But even with my sympathy, I have to remember that Eleanor just wouldn’t care! She’s actually a strong woman and her quirks are her defense mechanism I believe for all that she’s gone through which is delivered in bits and pieces throughout the novel.

The book has the most dry humor (in a good way) which is something different for me to enjoy. I know they say that UK humor is definitely way more dry than US and I can see that in this novel alone.

Although I really enjoyed it, I had a hard time with the ammount of information being withheld. I knew Eleanor had some intense trauma in her life but I wanted to know the details of it. I don’t know if that’s because I wanted to make excuses for her behaviors or just part of nosy human nature. The withholding of information sometimes made it hard to feel sympathy for Eleanor because I knew there was a reasoning behind her behaviors but knew very little of the specific details besides “Mummy” being horrific and a fire that she was involved in as a child. Also as mentioned before, I am plot-driven so I wanted to know more about the details behind Eleanor’s beheaviors more than just the behaviors themselves. The plot was also a little too predictable for me but this novel is driven by characters and really not much of a plot. I usually don’t like character driven books but this is one of those exceptions for me although I had more plot questions answered and that it was a bit more complex in some areas.

I absolutely adored her growing relationship with Raymond and loved that he pushed her out of her comfort zone without even realizing he was doing so. Her lack of social skills is definetly obvious to Raymond but I think it goes to show that he is even unaware of what extent that really goes to. He is so good for her and I love that Eleanor finally experiences all she does with Raymond even when she is extremely uncomfortable or when she agrees to do things simply out of curiosity or for practice for her current “project”. 

I found myself cringing, laughing, and even almost crying for Eleanor in this and even though it was a slow start and a unique read for me, it hit all of the boxes on what a great book should do.

I suggest reading it and thoroughly giving it a chance. I know so many people give up before really understanding Eleanor and I think that understanding her is a necessity to enjoy or at least appreciate her and her story.

Great Reads

March Wrap-Up and April TBR

I read some really enjoyable books this month. Some books surprised me being better than what I was anticipating and some didn’t necessarily live up to my expectations. ARCS can be funny like that because there aren’t a ton of people to ask about or see what they felt like when reading. All in all, I’m happy with my reading month.

I finished:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – This was a buddy read that I hosted. The review will be posted after our finally discussion this week.

Come Find Me – Review found HERE

Moloka’i – Review found HERE

The Silent Patient – Review found HERE

The Unhoneymooners – Look for a review closer to May 14th publication date!

The Last House Guest – Look for a review closer to May 2nd publication date!

You’d Be Mine – Review found HERE

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill – Look for this review closer to July 9th publication date! P.S – . LOVED IT!

 

I’ll be participating in a book bingo. The objective is to make bingo obviously. The squares are filled with different genres or different objectives such as “reading a book with a flower on the cover”. This challenge will start at the end of April for me so some of these books will be read after April 22nd for a specific reason. The challenge ends a month after in May. I’ve been putting some books to the side that will work for a bingo box and I’m excited to participate.

I’d like to read:

A Painted House – I started this at the end of March but it is a month long buddy read that I am completing with Books2Blocks  and others. We are reading chunks but I’m sure I’m going to finish it in its entirity soon.

Blood Echo – I’ve heard great things about Blood Echo and it’s being published on the fifth of this month. It’ll be my first read for the month to hopefully get it done before the publication date. I also didn’t read the first in this series so I hope that it works out okay! The summary sounds UH-MA-ZING.

And Then There Were None – I was assigned this in my eighth grade lit class. I legit remember NOTHING about it but I do remember I loved it. Should I count this as a reread?

The Hunting Party – This is part of my sorority’s book club. It was our February pick but the books were on back order for a long time so it’s been pushed for this month being that we finally got them in on March 27th! Gee! Talk about a back order.

Daisy Jones & the Six – Again another book that’s been sitting on my shelf that I’m embarrassd to say I didn’t read before publication date.

The Girls at 17 Swann Street – I  had been seeing this everywhere and a bookstagram friend sent me her already read ARC of it. I’m excited to read it!

The Island of Sea Woman – I’ve been meaning to get to this and I finally hope to even though I’m late to the party still. This will satisfy my Women’s Fiction Bingo Box.

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea – I’ve been dying to read this. I purchased a copy in March and then realized that I had already had a Kindle copy. I cannot wait to get into this. This will satisfy my Memoir Box for Book Bingo.

One of Us Is Lying – Yes, I know, how far behind can I be? I’ve heard nothing but AMAZING things and I do have the sequel to this. I’ll be reading this to satisfy my Multiple POV Bingo Box.

The Old Man’s Request – This is a short little novella I got from the publisher that should be easy to finish quite quickly. It sounds intriguing and very different. It will be my Bingo Box for Set in a Different Time Period.

On the Come Up – I really enjoyed The Hate U Give and at first I was thinking that this might not be for me based on the synopsis but everyone was giving it such rave reviews that I caved and bought it. Angie Thomas may just have that spark that I need to check out for a second time! This will be for my Fierce Female Bingo Box.

This is way beyond what I usually schedule to read during the month and there is NO WAY I’ll finish it but I have high hopes with a Spring Break in the month. I’m hoping that I can get a good reading month in and get all of these done. I’m also hoping that I can start many of these Bingo books right around the start and finish rather quickly so I can fill up the rest of the boxes in May.  This challenge should be awesome.

Great Reads

ARC REVIEW OUT ON TUESDAY – You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn

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Publish Date: 4/2/19
Author:
Erin Hahn
Started:
3/20/19
Finished:
3/23/19
Pages:
304
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Review:

Annie Mathers is America’s sweetheart and heir to a country music legacy full of all the things her Gran warned her about. Superstar Clay Coolidge is most definitely going to end up one of those things.

But unfortunately for Clay, if he can’t convince Annie to join his summer tour, his music label is going to drop him. That’s what happens when your bad boy image turns into bad boy reality. Annie has been avoiding the spotlight after her parents’ tragic death, except on her skyrocketing YouTube channel. Clay’s label wants to land Annie, and Clay has to make it happen.

Swayed by Clay’s undeniable charm and good looks, Annie and her band agree to join the tour. From the start fans want them to be more than just tour mates, and Annie and Clay can’t help but wonder if the fans are right. But if there’s one part of fame Annie wants nothing to do with, it’s a high-profile relationship. She had a front row seat to her parents’ volatile marriage and isn’t interested in repeating history. If only she could convince her heart that Clay, with his painful past and head over heels inducing tenor, isn’t worth the risk.

My Review:

This is a total YA version of A Star is Born for me. There are some major differences such as Clay’s obligation to help Annie become big but it definitely has all the vibes. Major alcoholic rockstar bringing underrated new popstar to limelight. I found myself humming “Shallow” the entire time and getting it stuck in my head for nights on end all over again.

It’s a really good thing that I love and appreciate country music. As this book centers around the country music industry, there are a ton of references to music and not always country that a younger reader may get lost with if they don’t know who they are. June and Johnny, Reba, Dolly’s Jolene, and even my favorite Creedance Clearwater Revival are mentioned and as an adult, I loved it but as this is written for YA, this may be something that gets in the way of their love for the book. This book may need to be read by a teen with love for country or just some music knowledge. Am I that adult that is underestimating this current generation? I don’t know but being a teacher in Philadelphia may be hindering my faith in musical choices of this generation lol.

I loved following Clay and Annie’s story. They both have flaws but are super likable characters. I was rooting for them both the entire time. I absolutely loved their changes and how dynamic both of them were. Annie is so inspirational and definitely a prime example of a person who does not have to let their past and traumas define them. Her maturity level is amazing and I loved watching her blossom into her own person even when she is super conscious of not being comared to her parents.

I definitely reccomend this book. I enjoyed every second of it and it was an awesome refresher. It dealt with some pretty heavy expereinces for a Young Adult novel but was very realistic. It’s something I feel like more mature young adults could really enjoy.