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Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School Edition

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme 

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic: 
My favorite YA novels with a school setting


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda | Becky Albertalli
Tell Me Three Things | Julie Buxbaum
Eleanor & Park | Rainbow Rowell
Pushing the Limits | Katie McGarry
A List of Cages | Robin Roe
The Sea of Tranquility | Katja Millay
Sloppy Firsts | Megan McCafferty
P.S. I Like You | Kasie West
Slammed | Colleen Hoover
Letters to the Lost | Brigid Kemmerer

Do you have a favorite back to school memory or tradition?
  

The Sunday Post #69


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's a chance to share news - a post to recap the past week on your blog, 
showcase books and things we have received, and share news about what is
coming up on your blog in the week ahead. You can find the info here:


  • Back with three posts this week after only managing one last week. #crushingit

  • I've spent much of the weekend convincing myself that I don't need the leopard print ankle boots I saw online. I'm weakening, though...

  • Still chugging along on the stack of ARCs that are coming due and feeling pretty pleased with my progress. 

  • Am I the only one not caught up in solar eclipse fever??


Tuesday, August 15
Top Ten Tuesday:
Recommendations for Those Who Love Stand-Alones

Thursday, August 17
Short Take Reviews:
Until Friday Night and Under the Lights by Abbi Glines

Friday, August 18
Review + Excerpt:
Wish You Were Here by Renee Carlino

       
    

WHAT I READ IN THE LAST WEEK:
After the Game (The Field Party #3) - Abbi Glines
Nash (audiobook re-read) - Jay Crownover

WHAT I'M CURRENTLY READING
Ready to Run (I Do, I Don't #1) - Lauren Layne

PHYSICAL BOOKS:
  

Wish You Were Here - Renee Carlino
Trust - Kylie Scott

I'm desperate to have a physical copy of Kylie Scott's Trust with the original cover. I thought I'd found one through a seller in Barnes & Noble's Marketplace but when the package arrived a few days ago... it was the new cover. *sigh* 

KINDLE BOOKS:
    
   
Deception So Deadly - Clara Kensie
Mr. Everything - Emily Bishop
Finding Passion - Tiffani Lynn



How was your week? Any new books? Any news to share? 
You know I want to hear about it! :)

Wish You Were Here by Renée Carlino: Review + Excerpt



Charlotte has spent her twenties adrift, searching for a spark to jump-start her life and give her a sense of purpose. She’s had as many jobs as she’s had bad relationships, and now she’s feeling especially lost in her less-than-glamorous gig at a pie-and-fry joint in Los Angeles, where the uniforms are bad and the tips are even worse.

Then she collides—literally—with Adam, an intriguing, handsome, and mysterious painter. Their serendipitous meeting on the street turns into a whirlwind one-night stand that has Charlotte feeling enchanted by Adam’s spontaneity and joy for life. There’s promise in both his words and actions, but in the harsh light of morning, Adam’s tune changes, leaving Charlotte to wonder if her notorious bad luck with men is really just her own bad judgment.

Months later, a new relationship with Seth, a charming baseball player, is turning into something more meaningful, but Charlotte’s still having trouble moving past her one enthralling night with Adam. Why? When she searches for answers, she finds the situation with Adam is far more complicated than she ever imagined. Faced with the decision to write a new story with Seth or finish the one started with Adam, Charlotte embarks on a life-altering journey, one that takes her across the world and back again, bringing a lifetime’s worth of pain, joy, and wisdom.  

AMAZON | B&N | iBooks


M Y    T H O U G H T S

Renée Carlino has become one of those rare authors that I know I'm going to read whatever she writes - and be emotionally impacted by it. She has a gift for writing stories that I slip into seamlessly and become fully immersed in the lives of characters that feel like they could be my friends, my sisters, my family. Wish You Were Here was no exception.

You know when you're looking at someone and you can't help but smile at how oblivious they are to their own charm? That's what was happening to me, and it was making me feel... happy. Euphoric. Something indescribable. It was like we already knew each other, like we hed met in a previous life. Memories that didn't exist began exploding in my mind like fireworks.

Charlotte is coasting through life with a series of failed careers and failed relationships behind her. A chance meeting with Adam leads to a one-night stand and an intense connection. However, the morning after brings another side of Adam and Charlotte is left questioning how all they shared the previous night could have vanished so quickly. Six months later Charlotte is still shaken by her encounter with Adam and even a tentative new relationship with a seemingly great guy cannot shake her conviction that her story with Adam is still unfinished.

When I opened the door, he was standing on the other side with his shoulders slumped. He looked dejected. He raised his gaze from the floor to my eyes. "Hi," he said, his voice low.
"What's wrong? You were excited about donuts thirty seconds ago."
"I'm still excited about donuts. I just got sad thinking that this night will eventually have to end." 

There's little I can say plot-wise without giving away much of the story and it's best to experience Wish You Were Here without too much information - just let the story unfold. So instead let's talk characters. Carlino did her usual magic and created a main character so flawed and so human and it was impossible not to feel her uncertainty and lack of direction. Admittedly, the two main male characters at times fell into the too-good-to-be-true category but I loved them both so much that I couldn't hold it against them (or Carlino). Every interaction was filled with such heart and emotion and humor, often making me smile through tears. There were times when I was frustrated with Charlotte, wondering if she was being deliberately obtuse, but watching as she changed and truly came into her own made it all worthwhile. Yes, it could be argued that there is insta-love (or at least an insta-connection), but it was impossible not to fall under the romantic spell that Carlino cast. I was swept away by the sparks that were flying, by the grand gestures, by the quiet moments. Somehow, Carlino took the trope, added her signature mixture of realism and emotion, and made it work.

As long as there is love in this world, we will be a part of it.

Wish You Were Here puts a spotlight on not only romantic relationships but those with friends and family as well. As the story progresses, it was satisfying to see Charlotte's relationships with her best friend, her parents and her brother change and evolve as she herself changed.  Her relationship with her brother was a real highlight and their banter rang so true. Anyone with a sibling will understand and appreciate the love-hate relationship, the rivalry, the inside jokes, and the way the relationship (hopefully) evolves into something even stronger and deeper in adulthood.

Love is a wordless secret; it's an inside joke. Only the two of you have to understand it.

Wish You Were Here is about having the courage to choose love no matter what the cost. It's about soul mates and second chances. It's about growing up, finding direction, and living in the moment. Ultimately, Wish You Were Here is the perfect novel for those who are in love with love. 

“You’re making love sound tragic,” I said.

“No”—he shook his head—“I wouldn’t want it any other way. Tell me about us. What do we like to do?”

“Paint and sail and eat and drink. Just simple things.”

“Don’t forget about sex,” he said.

“Yeah, lots of sex. Before the children were born we were practically naked every second of the day.”

“I like that.”

“When they got older, we’d sneak away for weekends and leave them at my mom’s.”

“What are they like? Our children.”

“Happy. That’s all we wished for. We put our love first and it just spilled over into them and now they’re happy.”

Tears sprang from my eyes and ran down my cheeks. Isn’t that what we all hope for when it comes to our children?

His tone suddenly changed. “That’s beautiful, Charlotte.” It was like he was waking up from the dream. I didn’t want to go back to reality yet, but I knew these fantasies were just to help Adam get his mind off things. “I can imagine a long life with you,” he said.

“I can imagine what a great wife you’d be."

I pulled my hand out of his. “The story is about you and me.” He didn’t say anything; he just nodded and then continued to stare out the window. I bent and kissed the top of his head again, and whispered, “It’s about us. Don’t take that away from me.”

    

Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of contemporary women's novels and new adult fiction. Her books have been featured in national publications, including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Latina magazine, and Publisher's Weekly. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she's not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate. Learn more at www.reneecarlino.com
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Short Take Reviews: Until Friday Night and Under the Lights by Abbi Glines


Until Friday Night (The Field Party #1) by Abbi Glines

Read: July 2016
GoodReads | Amazon

SYNOPSIS
To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, way-too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god who led Lawton High to the state championships. But while West may be Big Man on Campus on the outside, on the inside he's battling the grief that comes with watching his father slowly die of cancer.

Two years ago, Maggie Carleton's life fell apart when her father murdered her mother. And after she told the police what happened, she stopped speaking and hasn't spoken since. Even the move to Lawton, Alabama couldn't draw Maggie back out. So she stayed quiet, keeping her sorrow and her fractured heart hidden away.

As Wests's pain becomes too much to handle, he knows he needs to talk to someone about his father - so in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he opens up to the one girl who he knows won't tell anyone else.

West expected that talking about his dad would bring some relief, or at least a flood of emotions he couldn't control. But he never expected the quiet new girl to reply, to reveal a pain even deeper than his own - or for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn't ever let her go.

MY THOUGHTS
Abbi's books have a kind of simplistic ease to them that I usually appreciate. I won't call them guilty pleasures (because I refuse to feel guilty about anything I read) but when I want some good brain candy, Abbi is my go-to author. While I had some pretty serious issues with the male characters in this start to The Field Party series, it was still an enjoyable read filled with the typical Abbi Glines style: fast story line, quick-moving relationships, and plenty of angst and drama. 

Maggie was living with her aunt and uncle after a traumatic incident and was happy to fade into the background both at home and at school. West was drowning in grief while watching his father slowly succumb to cancer and keeping it all from his friends. In Maggie, West saw someone who understood his grief and they began a friendship that quickly developed into something more. Despite my issues with West's behavior, it was easy to be drawn in by the connection between he and Maggie and want to see them both heal and find a way to move past the grief and pain holding them back.

But the issue I just couldn't overlook? West and his friends are all disgustingly sexist. These high school seniors are revered as football gods and they certainly use their status. They talk about girls as objects to be used and treat them that way, too. They hooked up with anything in a skirt and then trash-talked the girls for being easy. WTH?! (Naturally the virginal Maggie was exempt from this kind of treatment. Every guy fawned over her and generally acted like cavemen whenever she was around, and every girl was mean to her.)

Until Friday Night was full of tropes but, even while I was rolling my eyes at some atrocious behavior, I was totally hooked. I loved Maggie's aunt and uncle, there were some moving moments between West and his parents, and for the most part this was just plain fun.

3.5/5 STARS
  
Under the Lights (The Field Party #2) by Abbi Glines

Read: July 2017
GoodReads | Amazon

SYNOPSIS
Willa can't erase the bad decisions of her past that led her down the path she's on now. But she can fight for forgiveness from her family. And she can protect herself by refusing to let anyone else get close to her.

High school quarterback and town golden boy Brady used to be the best of friends with Willa - she even had a crush on him when they were kids. But that's all changed now: her life choices have made her a different person from the girl he used to know.

Gunner used to be friends with Willa and Brady, too. He too is larger than life and a high school football star - not to mention that his family basically owns the town of Lawton. He loves his life, and doesn't care about anyone except himself. But Willa is the exception - and he understands the girl she's become in a way no one else can.

As secrets come to light and hearts are broken, these former childhood friends must face the truth about growing up and falling in love... even if it means losing each other forever.

MY THOUGHTS
Willa returned to the town of Lawton after several years away. With references to a terrible incident, which resulted in Willa spending time in a detention center, Willa's mother has now sent her back to Lawton to live with her beloved grandmother. There she encounters her childhood friends, Brady and Gunner, but the years of playing in the tree house are long gone and instead new relationships are formed and tested.

Willa was bogged down with guilt over a tragic accident that culminated in the loss of her best friend and her being sent to a correctional facility. Her grandmother was determined to keep her on the straight and narrow and that included keeping her somewhat isolated - doing schoolwork online at home instead of attending the high school. She also warned Willa against rekindling her old friendships with Gunner and Brady. It was obvious her grandmother meant well, but she was hard on Willa and it bothered me that she never once asked Willa about the events that brought her there. She simply believed the worst and never questioned it. And Willa, feeling so guilty already, accepted it as her just punishment. She was a mature girl who was desperate to make her grandmother proud and prove herself. It went a long way in making her a likable character. 

Unfortunately Gunner was a repeat of the misogynistic jerks that Glines introduced in Until Friday Night. He was privileged, ill-tempered, and self-absorbed. A lousy father and family drama worthy of a soap opera was used to excuse his behavior. Brady, supposedly the "good guy" of the bunch, pursued Willa while continuing to use another girl for sex. He was well aware he was using her but he sometimes felt bad about it, so that excused his behavior.

As with the first book in the series, I was drawn into the story and kept turning the pages despite being beyond annoyed by the blatant sexism. I liked Willa, lapped up the juicy family secrets, and was pulling for some serious redemption. If you love high school/family drama, and can overlook some obnoxious stereotyping, this makes for a pretty fun read.

3.25/5 STARS

Have you read The Field Party series?

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations for Those Who Love Stand-Alone Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme 

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic: 
Recommendations for Those Who Love Stand-Alone Novels

Is it just me or does it seem the book world has become a vast landscape of duologies, trilogies and series? Stand-alone's are now a rare breed. And while I sometimes enjoy getting fully immersed in a great series, I don't always want the commitment. There are times when I just want to pick up a good book, enjoy it, and be done with it. That's it. No sequels, no companion books, no novellas - just a story contained within One. Single. Book. What a concept! So here are my recommendations for those who love stand-alone's. (And yes, there are more then ten... I'm badass like that.)

YOUNG ADULT STAND-ALONES
Letters to the Lost | Brigid Kemmerer
Tell Me Three Things | Julie Buxbaum
P.S. I Like You | Kasie West
The Way I Used to Be | Amber Smith

NEW ADULT STAND-ALONES
The Moment of Letting Go | J.A. Redmerski
Third Degree | Julie Cross
Goodnight, Nic | Marley Jacobs
Something Like Normal | Trish Doller
November 9 | Colleen Hoover

ROMANCE STAND-ALONES
Wish You Were Here | Renee Carlino
One True Loves | Taylor Jenkins Reid
Until It Fades | K.A. Tucker
The Story of Us | Dani Atkins
Before We Were Strangers | Renee Carlino


Do you prefer series or stand-alones?