Words in Deep Blue

Words in Deep Blue

First Lines: I open my eyes at midnight to the sound of the ocean and my brother’s breathing. It’s been ten months since Cal drowned, but the dreams still escape.

I’ve read one or two books by Cath Crowley before, so I sort of knew how the writing style would be here. The other book(s) I read had a lot of depth and a lot of realism. From the book jacket, I knew this was going to be similar in that way.

Once upon a time, Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie were best friends. They did everything together. But then Rachel’s family moved to the sea and the two fell out, leaving Henry stuck in his life at his family’s used bookstore–never knowing that Rachel left him a note in his favorite book. Now Rachel’s back, reluctantly working with Henry at the bookstore while grieving for her brother. She’s searching for meaning and advice in the words people have left behind in books. But maybe she’ll learn how to live life again, with the help of a friend…

This ended up being mostly what I thought it would be: a sweet story of old friends finding each other again amid some pretty awful tragedies. It’s bittersweet.

Rachel’s brother Cal died about 10 months ago and she’s still far from over it. She can’t feel much else except her grief, which is why she gets sent back to her old hometown, where she’s going to live with her aunt and try to make a fresh start. Henry’s girlfriend Amy has just broken up with him and almost immediately moves on with someone else, while Henry has to watch. Both are heartbroken in their own ways and it’s going to take leaning on each other to start to recover.

What’s kind of cool about this is the bookstore setting. Henry’s family owns a secondhand bookshop that also has a Letters Library in it, where people are encouraged to leave notes in the margins and letters within the pages. It’s a fun little idea, even if the type of book nerd I am really dislikes writing in books. But it’s definitely what helps drive this plot, as the characters frequently leave or find things in the books.

Oh, and the story’s set in Australia. That’s also pretty cool, though I definitely had to consciously think about the seasons being flipped. I think they talk about summer in January and that was startling for a second until I remembered.

The characters have their low points and their high points, but I really just liked that they were able to fail with each other and learn and become better for it. Rachel and Henry are just two young, broken people with the world ahead of them, if only they can see it. It’s sweet with a good message.

Starry Eyes

Starry Eyes

First Lines: Spontaneity is overrated. Movies and television shows would like us to believe that life is better for partygoers who dare to jump into pools with their clothes on. But behind the scenes, it’s all carefully scripted. The water is the right temperature. Lighting and angles are carefully considered. Dialogue is memorized. And that’s why it looks so appealing–because someone carefully planned it all.

I really enjoy Jenn Bennett’s books, but for some reason this one slipped past me. Like, I normally get hold of them pretty soon after they come out. But I didn’t hear anything about this one until it was already out for a year or two. Still, it looked like fun.

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends Lennon and Zorie have become friends-turned-enemies. They have perfected avoiding each other, despite the fact that they live across the street from each other. It also doesn’t help that their families are the modern equivalent of the Capulets and Montagues. But when a group camping trip goes incredibly wrong, Lennon and Zorie are left stranded, alone, in the woods. With no one but each other for company, they are forced to hash out some of their issues while trying to make it to safety. But fighting off the elements and each other makes it less likely they’ll make it to safety in one piece. The longer they stay together, the more the secrets and hidden feelings rise to the surface. But can their rekindled friendship survive in the real world, or only under the magic of twinkling stars?

 I really love Jenn Bennett. This story was cute and real and funny and touching. It was everything I enjoy from her.

Lennon and Zorie used to be best friends, until they tried dating and something went terribly wrong. Now they’re enemies, but Zorie doesn’t actually want to hate Lennon. She just doesn’t know how to be around the guy who broke her heart. Both of them are sweet in their own ways (Lennon has a dark sense of humor but a heart of gold) and they both have their quirks. I loved the quirks the most.

It’s the kind of premise that seems simple–and it is–but that allows the characters to really shine. Zorie’s friend has arranged a glamping trip that Lennon also happens to be invited on, setting off most of the chain of events in this story. When they get stranded, Lennon and Zorie have to spend a lot of time together finding their way home. It’s simple but cute.

And the love story was just adorable. They’re a good pair and you can really see how they fit together. I like it when I find characters who do genuinely fit together, have chemistry. But as usual with Bennett, there are more subplots than just the romance, subplots that feel real and matter. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a lot Zorie’s dealing with at the moment, more than just the stuff with Lennon.

Oh, and before I forget, due to some of the content (like how some characters work at an adult toy store) and plain-speaking nature of Lennon, this book probably isn’t “appropriate” for younger tweens and teens. For as much as I enjoyed it, there’s no way I’m recommending it to my students, who are 14. Just throwing that out there.

This was a sweet read and I can’t wait to see more from Bennett.

When He Was Wicked (Bridgertons, #6)

When He Was Wicked (Bridgertons, #6)

First Lines: In every life there is a turning point. A moment so tremendous, so sharp and clear that one feels as if one’s been hit in the chest, all the breath knocked out, and one knows, absolutely knows without the merest hint of a shadow of a doubt that one’s life will never be the same. For Michael Stirling, that moment came the first time he laid eyes on Francesca Bridgerton.

As many of you who have been following me know, I have really enjoyed the Bridgerton series. But this book was the one I was probably least looking forward to for the simple reason that I didn’t really know anything about Francesca. She’s just not really in any of the other books, so I didn’t know what to expect.

Michael Stirling, a rake with a long line of heartbroken women in his wake, loves the chase as women flock to him. But never once has he actually fallen for anyone. That changes when he meets Francesca Bridgerton. He falls so hard and so fast at first sight that he knows this is the woman for him. Unfortunately, he’s meeting Francesca as they celebrate her upcoming wedding in thirty-six hours–to his cousin. But now, Michael is the earl and Francesca is free, though she still views Michael as nothing more than her friend and confidante. Michael doesn’t want to express his love for her and ruin things between them…until one night when she innocently steps into his arms and passion takes over between them…

I rather liked this one, which was a little surprising given how little we’ve seen of Francesca so far in the series.

Francesca married at 20, only to become a widow two years later. Broken, she tries to rely on her husband’s cousin-and-best-friend Michael, who also happens to be the new Earl of Kilmartin. However, Michael has been in love with Francesca for years, since the moment he first laid eyes on her. And being around her while grieving for his cousin is too much. He travels to India for a few years, thinking perhaps that when he returns, he’ll be over Francesca. He’s not.

I thought the darkness in this story due to their joint grief and the conflicted feelings they have toward each other really brought something special to this book. It gave it depth and it made them feel more like real people. I liked seeing them struggle and find each other. It meant more because of the struggle.

I also really liked both of them as characters. Francesca has always felt somewhat separate from her family, which she both likes and hates. But she loves them and they support her, of course. She’s strong and independent and she’s got a good sense of humor. Michael is a charmer, able to flirt with anything that moves. But he’s utterly devoted to Francesca and he’s a bit of a hero. They’re good together.

It was a tad confusing at first, but this story takes place at literally the same time as the previous two books. Once I figured that out, I was good, but it did throw me at first.

While this wasn’t my favorite book in this series, it’s probably top 3.

To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgertons, #5)

To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgertons, #5)

First Lines: It was ironic, really, that it had happened on such a sunny day.

Ok, guys, I’m working on coming back here! My summer has been full of projects and time with my beau and my family (along with my 30th birthday!), so I’ve felt like my time devoted to this blog has been very limited, but I’m going to try to sneak some reviews in here. Sorry for being gone so long! I thought I’d kick off my return with a Bridgerton novel, since most of us are eagerly awaiting season 2 on Netflix…even if that’s still a long way off.

When Sir Phillip began corresponding with his dead wife’s distant spinster cousin, he viewed it as a chance to maybe find a new stepmother for his children. Probably some comely, timid woman who would care for the children and stay out of his way. But Eloise Bridgerton is nothing like he expected. Beautiful, vivacious, and opinionated, it’s all Sir Phillip can do to get her to stop talking. Eloise couldn’t possibly marry a man she hasn’t even met…except maybe she could. Based on their letters, she thought Phillip charming and perhaps the best match she could hope for at her age. But he’s moody and ill-tempered, not at all like he presented himself in his letters. Not to mention he never said a word about having children. Still, Eloise has never met a challenge too big to tackle, especially when she finds herself falling bit by bit for the man with darkness in his past.

I was very surprised while reading this one to connect with Eloise as much as I did. I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised, considering the personal similarities I have with her, but I was not expecting it.

In the previous book, we heard all about Eloise running off in the dead of night to meet Sir Phillip. Now, we get to see what happened. Eloise is as spirited as ever, a complete change to Sir Phillip’s last wife–and definitely not what he was expecting from a spinster willing to marry him. The two of them were interesting characters. They both have darkness in their pasts, especially Phillip, which I think helped them connect. Phillip isn’t my favorite male lead in this series, but I do like him.

The plot moves in a pretty logical way. Eloise is completely out of her depth coming to Phillip’s house–and discovering that he has kids that he’d neglected to mention in his letters. Phillip and Eloise have an adjustment period where they have to get to know each other. For example, Phillip’s definition of “happiness” looks very different from Eloise’s. So understanding each other took time. And it felt very real, the progression of their relationship.

And we get to see all the Bridgerton brothers again in perhaps one of their most touching cameos in the series thus far and I melted over these boys all over again. Two of them in particular stole my heart again.

It’s a good addition to this series. I was happy with this one.

Chasing Lucky

Chasing Lucky

First Lines: There’s a long-held belief in my family that all the Saint-Martin women are romantically cursed. Unlucky in love, doomed to end up miserable and alone. Supposedly, one of my early New England ancestors angered a neighbor–big surprise–who then paid the wise woman in the village to curse us. All of us.

Jenn Bennett is one of those writers that I’m getting a really good feel for. When she comes out with a new book, I know exactly what I’m getting: a cute YA romance with deeper themes to it with flawed characters just trying to do their best. That’s what I was expecting from this.

Josie Saint-Martin, budding photographer, has spent her teenage years bouncing around from city to city every few months with her single mother. When they return to their hometown after years away to run the family bookstore, Josie knows this is just temporary. She dreams of going to the West Coast and she has a plan of getting there. What she doesn’t plan on is running into Lucky Karras–the town rebel, outsider, and Josie’s former best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with Josie. But after a disastrous pool party and an even worse act of revenge that lands Josie in Big Trouble, she’s surprised when Lucky takes the fall for her. Determined to understand why Lucky helped her, she soon learns that both of them have changed, that the Lucky she knew as a child has changed some, but he’s still there…and this time, he makes her heart race.

This ended up being exactly what I was hoping it would be: the cute characters, the cuter romance, and the many subplots that add to the overall story.

Lucky and Josie are interesting characters, especially given that they have a history together. When Josie returns to town after being away five years (and their friendship ending on somewhat negative terms), it’s no wonder she and Lucky walk on eggshells around each other. There’s a lot of misunderstandings between them. But as they warm up, they each have a great sense of humor and a willingness to see how the other one has changed. It keeps the story moving. And it was heartwarming.

Almost more than Josie and Lucky’s subplot (main plot??) is Josie’s family drama. There is a LOT of tension in that family and that definitely kept the story moving as well. There were a lot of land mines in their past that she needed to avoid. Again, this definitely kept the story moving, though sometimes it was like, “Oh my gosh, can we just deal with this like adults?” Because honestly, sometimes the adults were worse than the teenagers about dealing with drama. (And isn’t that true to real life sometimes?)

This was a sweet story. I really enjoyed the characters. It’s easy reading and it was fun.

Hearts Made For Breaking

Hearts Made for Breaking

First Lines: Yesterday, my heart was “broken,” which is why today I’m sitting on a glossy but practical daybed with hidden drawers for extra storage. The mattress is firm, the spread is a bright floral pattern, and the throw pillows are wide and comfortable. Yep–IKEA on a Saturday morning. That’s me.

I’m a sucker for love stories. If there’s a moderately interesting plot idea there, I’ll probably read it. I think this comes from the side of my brain that is really fascinated by sociology/psychology, but I will also admit to just really loving the emotions in these stories. I’ve read one of Klein’s other books and this one sounded kind of fun, so I wanted to check it out.

Lark has a foolproof plan for dating in high school: date the guy briefly, let him down gently, stay friends, move on. No hurt feelings. Her BFFs Cooper and Kate think Lark keeps guys at a distance to avoid being hurt–and feeling real love. They challenge her to change up her system, to stay in a relationship long enough for either her or the boy to fall in love. Accepting the dare, Lark sets her sights on the new boy, Ardy, who has been labeled as “undateable.” Lark is curious about him…and then intrigued the more she gets to know him. Before Lark knows it, she might be in love with him–but whose heart will be broken?

So let’s be real, I knew going into this exactly what it was going to be: a simple love story that wasn’t going to win any awards but would probably still be pretty cute.

And that’s pretty much what it was.

Lark has “dated” a lot of guys–or at least she’s made out with them. She always keeps it casual and then finds ways for the guy to break up with her. Voila, no one has a broken heart. But her friends are tired of seeing her do this over and over, so they tell her she needs to find a different kind of guy, date for 3 months, and then have an Epic Breakup. Enter the “Undatable” Ardy Tate.

Ardy is definitely the heart of this story, despite the fact that Lark and her friends spend so much time kind of doubting/trashing him. I thought Ardy was just incredibly sweet and honest and yeah, a little weird, but that made him cute and quirky. The way Lark shines when she’s with him just helps to highlight how awesome he is.

Lark, on the other hand, takes a little getting used to. She spends so much time putting up a perfect façade that very few people every really get to know her. And she’s kind of manipulative, the way she’s dealt with guys before. And she tends to be pretty self-centered, not caring how her words or actions could hurt someone else. But Ardy seems to have had a big effect on her and by the middle of the book, I started to like her more.

There are some good messages in this, which I appreciated and liked. The most obvious of which is that you shouldn’t judge someone before you get to know them, as every judged Ardy based on a few stupid rumors.

The story itself was pretty entertaining. The beginning did take some time to really get going, but by the time I was about halfway through the book, I was reading for long stretches at a time to see how it all continued to play out. I like when that happens.

It’s a pretty average teenage love story, but if that’s your jam, this can be a fun read.