Review: Daphne James Huff’s This Summer at the Lake

Daphne James Huff’s This Summer at the Lake is told in third-person POV as we follow our two main characters, Logan and Cassie. They are both spending their summer before college in a small Montana town. Logan’s only goal is for this summer to fly by so he can head off to college in New York. Cassie’s only goal for the summer is to have one last hurrah before she heads off to the college of her parents’ choosing. Yet, one eventful night pulls them both together and intertwines their lives in more ways than one.

spoiler free: I want to start off with what I liked about this book. For one, I really liked the author’s writing style. Personally, I have some difficulty with third-person POVs. It just feels more natural for me to read first-person as it allows me to feel as though I’m really connected to the character(s). However, Daphne James Huff wrote a very compelling third-person POV. I felt connected to the characters the entire time and genuinely invested in their development.

The author also weaved the mystery throughout the book quite nicely. There was foreshadowing from the very first chapter and this alone kept my interest throughout the story. It added an extra layer of interest to your typical YA contemporary love story.

With that being said, I do not recommend This Summer at the Lake for a multitude of reasons. My biggest qualm with this story is a plot-spoiler, so I’ll go in depth in the spoiler-section. Without spoiling it, there was an action taken by the main “hero” character, Logan, that was unforgivable (in my opinion). Honestly, it was unforgivable because the male love interest made this decision and he was supposed to love the female love interest, Cassie. I tend to have higher expectations for people to do the right thing when it potentially affects someone they love. Regardless, a normal human being shouldn’t have made the decision that Logan made. I know this is a very abstract critique, but it is hard to explain without spoiling it. Just know this plot point is a trigger warning and I did not like the way the author wrote it or the way the characters reacted to it.

Further, it was difficult for me to read through Logan’s character because he was so judgemental. This would have been ok if his character had developed throughout the story. Nope. He was judgmental in the beginning and judgemental at the end. He felt static, and this made his viewpoint less enjoyable to read.

Overall, I had to give this one 1/5. The issues I had with the book just made it impossible to enjoy on the whole and I can’t in good confidence recommend it to y’all. Even though there were elements there that I liked (it had the potential to be a very cute YA), it fell flat for me.

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This Summer at the Lake is a young adult contemporary, and it was published in January of 2019.

get more info: visit Daphne James Huff’s website; find the book on Amazon

spoilers ahead: So my main gripe with this book is the plot point surrounding the final party/climax of the novel when Spencer “slips something” into Cassie’s drink, which she doesn’t realize. Logan, instead of being a normal human being and a) stopping him b) telling Cassie c) preventing her from being harmed? drugged? d) all of the above… he instead thinks “let her deal with the consequences herself” (?????). Even though he eventually goes back to the party and confronts Spencer, he still ends up thinking he “Wanted to save her. Even when she had betrayed him. Why?” Perhaps because any decent human being would want to prevent someone from being drugged? Although, the worst line of all was “I was still so mad, and so drunk, I thought you deserved it.”

Yeah, sorry. No one – ever – deserves to be drugged and/or sexually assaulted. I almost couldn’t force myself to continue reading at this point, but followed through to see if the author could potentially fix this situation. Nope. This toxic victim blaming (even though Logan expressed regret/remorse/went back to try and save her) was horrible to read. Cassie pretty much instantly forgives him without a second thought. Like, she literately doesn’t care.

I can’t condone this type of behavior in anyone – and I certainly don’t want to see it in my romance novels.

To make matters worse, there was the entire situation regarding her father’s lawsuit/potential sexual assault on his female workers. This was not handled well. There was a lot of victim blaming and overall lack of responsibility on behalf of Cassie’s dad. I have no idea why the author thought it would be ok to bring up such a sensitive, important topic and then refuse to hold any of her characters accountable for this? It seemed like there was no resolution/finality on this issue either.

Overall, I think there are many, many other YA contemporaries out there that I would recommend instead. I think the author got it wrong here, and the actions of the characters were irredeemable.

Let me know if you all read this one or have any YA contemporaries that you’d like to recommend!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. Netgalley and the publisher were kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Christine Riccio’s Again, But Better

I just want to give a huge thank you to Netgalley, Wednesday Books, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me an advanced copy of Again, but Better in exchange for my honest review. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I have been following the author, Christine Riccio’s, writing journey via her YouTube channel, so this book has been on my radar for quite some time now. I’m so happy to be writing this review!

I finished Again, but Better in about two days. I knew going in that I held some biases. (I’ve been a subscriber to the author’s YouTube channel for awhile, so I went into it wanting to love it.) After flying through it, I tried to take a few days to gather my thoughts. So, without further ado…

Again, but Better is a coming-of-age young adult contemporary. We follow our main character, Shane, as she embarks on her “second chance.” She is disappointed in her college experience (no friends, no experiences, no boys) and she’s tired of being the person her parents want her to be, instead of who she really is. So, she wants to go abroad and do it (college) again, but better.

spoiler free: First, I want to talk about some of the things I loved about Again, but Better. I thought the cover art and the title of the book were absolutely perfect. After reading the book, I have an even better appreciation for how well they tie into the story.

I loved that this story had an original “twist” that set it apart from other contemporaries. At first, I thought Again, but Better was going to be very, very similar to Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss. While the two books certainly share similarities and exist within the same genre, Again, but Better stands apart. It had a “magical” element that really brought the book a uniqueness in its second half.

I also loved the overall message and theme of the book – doing it “again, but better.” I don’t want to go into more detail without spoiling it. (See spoilers below if you want to hear my full thoughts).

The reason why I didn’t full out love this one is because I had some issues with the characterization. Again, perhaps my bias is showing because I have been following Christine Riccio for quite some time, but I had a difficult time separating the author from the main character. There were a lot of similarities between the two. Some I could overlook, but others were so glaringly obvious (Shane’s blog name etc.) that I found it did pull me out of the story a little. I hardly ever read something and find I am reading the author instead of the main character/narrator. Here, it was a bit more blurry. But, perhaps people who don’t follow the author as closely may not have this problem.

Also, some of the characters didn’t feel as “full” to me. There were several secondary characters, but they felt out of place in the story. I just didn’t feel very connected to them. I was easily the most invested in Shane and then Pilot. But, even Pilot I felt I didn’t know on a deep emotional level. I felt like I had only really gotten to see the surface of his character. For me to go full on swoon for a couple, I have to be able to see them connect on a deeper level and that was missing a bit here for me.

Overall, I give Again, but Better a 4/5. I really did like this one, but there were some minor issues for me that held me back from full on loving it. Overall, though, it was a great coming-of-age story. It’s set abroad, which is exciting in and of itself.  The twist here truly made the book for me.

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Again, but Better is Christine Riccio’s debut novel. It’s a young adult contemporary, and it releases on May 9, 2019. It’s available for pre-order now.

get more info: Visit Christine Riccio’s website; Visit Christine Riccio’s YouTube channel; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find the book on Amazon

spoilers ahead: So my favorite part of Again, but Better was the overall theme. At first, I thought the title tied in to Shane “doing it (college) again, but better” as she set off to study abroad. However, once I got to the twist I thought ohhh so now she’s actually doing it (her study abroad experience) again, but better. While the second time around Shane made some changes and things ended up better, she lost sight of herself and some of her personal goals. I loved how she was unable to give up at this point and the “magic” was gone. For me, this is where I related to the book the most. Instead of magic-ing herself back/forward in time and giving up – Shane was forced to try and “do it again, but better” in the present, without any magic. She ended up changing her perspective, attitude, and work ethic. She ended up with better and stronger friendships, a strong job outlook, and eventually – love. So, I loved the three “doing it again” instances. I loved the message that it’s never too late to try and “do it again, but better.” You may not have magic, but you don’t need it. You just need to be brave enough to make a change.

Again, I just wish that Shane felt a little more separate from the author. Shane’s book references, favorite bands/songs, career goals, blog name – it all felt like it was the author. (And it, in fact, kind is the author.) It wasn’t a huge issue for me, I just wish that Shane felt like she could stand apart from the author. The blog name was really when I just had to side-eye a bit. We already know Christine is the author! Perhaps if the blog name was the only nod, it would have been a nice reference. But packed in among all of other other similarities – it just felt too much.

I also wish that I had seen a bit more of Pilot. I felt like I knew him on the surface (his general likes and dislikes, his career goals), but I didn’t know him emotionally. His parents divorce was briefly mentioned in the second half, but I felt like I didn’t really get a deep emotional connection from that conversation. Also, Babe, Atticus, and Sahra – I just needed more from them. I know the book only has so much space, but they felt so two-dimensional. I honestly think that Sahra’s character could have been eliminated entirely and the story wouldn’t have changed very much.

Overall, though I really did like Again, but Better. I’m recommending it to y’all that love and enjoy coming-of-age stories and YA contemporaries. It’s a fun read and the twist really made the story for me.

Let me know what y’all think of this one when you read it!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. Netgalley and the publisher were kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: M.F. Lorson’s Stage Kiss

StageKiss.jpgHi y’all! I’m back with a YA contemporary review. Before I dive in, I just want to say thank you to both Netgalley and M.F. Lorson for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

So Stage Kiss is a YA romantic comedy with a vibe straight from the 2000s. This book reminded me of one of my favorite movies, She’s All That, so I was hooked from just hearing the premise alone. Erin, our main character, is in the running for Homecoming Queen, and her life is picture perfect…until it’s not. After catching her boyfriend with her best friend – Erin is out of a boyfriend, best friend, and a homecoming date. Feeling the pressure, Erin enlists the help of fellow quirky theatre member, Peter, to ensure she’s the one with the crown. Romantic comedy ensues.

spoiler free review: I enjoyed this sweet teen romance. For me, it brought me right back to high school with references to AIM, vhs, homecoming court, football games, and romcom references. Perhaps my favorite part of this story, though, was Erin’s dynamic arc. She felt very multifaceted and it was fun to watch her grow as a character. If you’re looking for throw-back romcom, look no further than M. F. Lorson’s Stage Kiss.

I gave this one a 3/5 stars. I had fun with this one and enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a lighthearted YA book, this one is for you! There were some minor things that held this one back a little for me (see spoiler’s section), but overall, I recommend Stage Kiss.

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get more info: Visit M.F. Lorson’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Facebook; find Stage Kiss on Amazon

Stage Kiss is a young adult contemporary, and it was published in January 2018.

spoiler’s ahead: One thing that held me back from rating this one a bit higher (even though I did have fun reading it) is that I just wanted a little bit more of the romance. The romance between Erin and Peter felt very secondary to Erin’s character progression, which sometimes can be fine. However, for me, I just really needed more chemistry between the two for the ending to truly be “swoonworthy.”

Also, while I enjoyed the back story of Erin’s sister and Erin’s fears about driving, this felt a little flat to me. I felt like I wanted to see more of this arc. I don’t think Erin ever fully explained to Peter why she was afraid to drive/the situation involving her sister. For me, I just wanted this thread to be a little more fleshed out. While I really enjoyed the pacing, I really wish this book was a bit longer so I could have these arcs feel a little more “full.”

Overall though I loved Erin’s character. At first I was worried we were going to go the superficial popular girl route – but we were far from it. Erin is a complex character and it was fun to read her evolution.

Let me know if you try this one out! I am excited to read more from Lorson in the future.

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. Netgalley and the author were kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.