Book Review: The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares

Description from the publisher: Riley and Alice, two sisters now in their twenties, and as fiercely different as they are loyal, have spent every summer at their parents’ modest beach house on New York’s Fire Island. Each year, they return to the house and community they have known since they were children—and to Paul, the boy next door. But this summer marks a season of change: budding love and sexual interest, an illness, and a deep secret force all three to confront the increasing complexities of their lives and friendships.

I’ve been hesitant to read each of the three books I’ve picked up by Ann Brashares because of the mixed reviews. But by the time I’ve finished each one, I can’t imagine not having read it. I think this book moved her onto my short list of Authors Whose Books I Will Read. I really, really enjoyed The Last Summer (of You and Me).  

It’s a fairly simple story with a slow-moving plot and focuses less on events and more on the thoughts, moments, and exchanges that impact relationships, sometimes forever. If you like a thought-provoking slow burn, you’ll like this one. It’s a love story centered on the love shared between three different people in three different ways; the love between sisters, the love between friends, and romantic love. And while I’m always a sucker for a romantic love story, by the end I honestly couldn’t tell you which of the three moved me the most. The writing is hypnotically beautiful. It’s just a really lovely read.

Beach Reads

One of my favorite parts of planning for a vacation has always been carefully selecting which books to read. In fact, when I look back on past trips, my affection for the books I read is intertwined with happy memories of the trip itself.

I spent the past week visiting the Outer Banks with my husband’s family and hoped to read six books while I was there, but only managed these four:

From the publisher: Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.
I’ve been reading glowing reviews for this book for months, but hesitated to pick it up because frankly, it’s not the kind of book I typically enjoy. But I was wrong. It was a really fun read and hard to put down. In fact, I found myself feeling a bit giddy when everyone decided to go for a swim or partake in an activity that I could excuse myself from to bask in the materialism and overall luxuriousness described in this book.

From the publisher: An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.

Just look at that title. What better book to bring on a beach vacation, am I right? Well, I was kind of right. The Vacationers was another book that I’ve read glowing reviews for that I thought was just kind of okay. Mostly I found myself wanting to visit Spain again and glad that my husband’s family is not as dramatic as the Post family. Because really, what is better to read while on vacation with family than something that makes you glad that the people you’re with are better than the ones you’re reading about? For that alone, I should send Emma Straub a thank you card.

In sum, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You is the story of a man who engages in a seven month affair and tries to fall back in love with his wife (and make her fall back in love with him) after his mistress ends the affair to marry another man.

This book was compared to Where’d You Go Bernadette, which I loved so so much, and was recommended as a perfect beach read, so I decided to give it a go. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. I honestly thought the protagonist, Richard, was kind of a tool and I find it hard to thoroughly enjoy books that are told from the perspective of a character I don’t like. I do agree that it was a pretty perfect beach read though, so there’s that.


From the publisher: This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.  Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 

Now this, THIS is my kind of book. I’m a sucker for any type of love story and really enjoy reading about time travel. I ADORED My Name is Memory, so I was really excited for The Here and Now, despite the not-so-glowing reviews. And I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, the plot had a few holes, and I probably should have expected the ending because (spoiler alert) Ann Brashares seems to be really opposed to happy endings, but overall I found myself captivated by this book. So much so that I read it all in one sitting. I’m really looking forward to the film adaptation of it (and really hoping for a sequel.)

Happy beach reading!

Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

As a self-proclaimed Rainbow Rowell fangirl (see what I did there?), I pretty much counted down the days until I could get my hands on Landline.

Description from the publisher:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened

I really, really love the writing of Rainbow Rowell. Really love it.  I enjoyed Attachments and fell head over heels for Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, (seriously, spoiler alert: if I like you even a little, you’re getting both books for Christmas this year) (you’re welcome!) So my expectations were sky-high for Landline. 

I’ll say right off the bat, I didn’t love it as much as E&P or Fangirl. But honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever loved another book as much as I loved those two (and I’ve read and loved a lot of books.) It’s still Rainbow Rowell, and therefore still an immensely enjoyable read with near-perfect dialogue and inspires all the feels.

My review will contain a few spoilers, so I’m going to advise that you read the book before you proceed with the rest of this post. And If you haven’t read any of her books, (I mean honestly, what are you even doing with your life?) I recommend reading Attachments, then Landline, then Eleanor & Park and finally, Fangirl. I’m sure many would argue that Eleanor & Park is her best (and being made into a movie with the screenplay by Rowell herself!), but frankly, you’re going to need a little pick me up after you finish it.

So! Onto my spoiler-ish review of Landline…

Read More »

Book Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

I’ve written before about my affection for the YouTube series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. When I heard there was going to be a book based on the series, I could hardly contain my “squee!”s. So needless to say, I was pretty excited to pick up The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet.

Description from the publisher:

Based on the Emmy Award–winning YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Twenty‑four‑year‑old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and still living at home along with her two sisters—beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into internet celebrities seemingly overnight.

When rich and handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck‑up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets—and for Lizzie’s viewers. But not everything happens on‑screen. Lucky for us, Lizzie has a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet takes readers deep inside Lizzie’s world and well beyond the confines of her camera—from the wedding where she first meets William Darcy to the local hangout of Carter’s bar, and much more. Lizzie’s private musings are filled with revealing details about the Bennet household, including her growing suspicions about her parents’ unstable financial situation, her sister’s budding relationship with Bing Lee, the perils of her unexpected fame, and her uncertainty over her future—and whom she wants to share it with.

Featuring plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new readers alike, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the web series phenomenon that captivated a generation and re-imagines the Pride and Prejudice story like never before.

I bought this book just before I spent a weekend at the beach so I could devour it while lounging around, and devour it I did. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the book. Would it just be filler? Would it be a re-adaptation of the web series? (Which would make it an adaptation of an adaptation of an original work. Whew.) I needn’t have feared. The book is as charming as the web series, and several parts made me laugh out loud. It adds enough to make the plot fresh and worth reading.  It also serves as a pretty stellar adaptation of Austen’s novel. I’m not sure if it could standalone without the reader viewing the web series, but honestly WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? Both are so fun!

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

I think this book cemented Jojo Moyes as an author whose books I will automatically add to my TBR list. While I do think that The Last Letter from Your Lover and Me Before You are probably better books, I still really enjoyed The Girl You Left Behind.

Let’s get into it.

Description from the publisher:

What happened to the girl you left behind?

In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most – whatever the cost.

The story of Sophie Lefevre is told first. It’s World War I. Sophie’s husband, Edouard, is a soldier, and she is living with her sister in a small village outside of Paris that has been occupied by the German army. Their situation is bleak, with most of the villagers’ possessions already confiscated by the Germans and food scarce. A new commandant has arrived and demands that Sophie use her inn to feed a small group of German soldiers. She agrees because she has to, but finds common ground with the commandant when he shows an interest in a portrait her husband painted of her before they married, and wishes to discuss art with her. Sophie does not return his affections, but is willing to view him as a person rather than simply as the enemy, which draws animosity from her fellow villagers.  Once word reaches Sophie that her husband has been sent to a reprisal camp, where he will almost certainly die, Sophie appeals to the commandant and lets him know she will do anything to save her husband, even give herself and give up her beloved portrait.

Suddenly, it’s 2006 the portrait is hanging in the home of Liv Halston.  It was a honeymoon gift from the husband she is still mourning, who died four years earlier and left her a house she can’t afford but is unwilling to part with because she sees it as a betrayal of his memory. She finally starts to truly move on when she meets Paul, ironically a professional art-theft investigator, who immediately recognizes her painting as one he has been hired to retrieve by the descendants of Edouard, who believe it was stolen by the German commandant and should be returned to their family. We learn what happened to Sophie through the investigations of Liv and Paul as they battle over who the rightful owner of the painting should be.

Jojo Moyes is a really good storyteller. She’s great at effectively juggling two story lines and time frames within one larger story. Just when I was completely sucked into Sophie’s story, she would switch and I found myself completely sucked into Liv’s story before long. I like that Moyes isn’t afraid to give her characters flaws or have tertiary characters dislike her protagonists. I like that there isn’t a simple right/wrong answer, and I found myself going back and forth in this book over what I thought the characters should do a lot. And while I thought this story could have easily been a good 50 pages shorter, it ended with a sweet, emotional surprise that made the dragged-out trial section worth it.

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to her latest, One Plus One(Only a hundred or so people ahead of me in library holds!)