Italy, Gelato, and Romance, oh my!

Let me just start by saying this book made me want to travel. End of story.

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The Regulars by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse on May 3nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Friendship, Romance, Travel, Family
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

★★★★☆

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Carolina, or Lina, isn’t having an easy life so far. Growing up fatherless, her mother and her share an irreparable bond. But when her mother suddenly gets diagnosed with pancreatic cancer with no hope for a long future, Lina’s life turns upside down.

So many questions swim through Lina’s head: What is she going to do now that her mother is gone? Who is her father? Why does her mom want her to go live in Italy? As her last request, Lina’s mom ships her off to Italy, to stay at a cemetery that is run by Lina’s mom’s friend Howard. Lina’s mom had never mentioned Howard before, but suddenly Lina’s grandmother says Howard is Lina’s father. This can’t be true, can it?

Following in her late mother’s footsteps, Lina begrudgingly takes on Florence, Italy. She wants to be swept off her feet by the magical city, but she can’t bring herself to want to stay. Howard is nice, yes, so are some friends that she meets, but she feels that her place is back home in the states. However, a lost journal of her mother’s winds up in her lap and she is forced to look at the city, Howard, and everything around her differently.

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This story is just so adorable, I love it. I plucked this book off of the shelf because of its cute, minimalist cover and two things one can’t not love: love and gelato. Although I wasn’t fortunate to visit Italy during my six months abroad, I knew that stepping foot into this little book would make me dream of going back.

After such a heavy and determined read of The Regulars, Welch brings me back to earth with her lighthearted voice and story. Perhaps lighthearted really isn’t the right word actually, Welch does have the power to make one crave gelato as they sob their eyes out. I actually had to stop myself from reading all the way to the end because I was crying so hard.

Though it took me a little while to fully feel absorbed by the story, once I was in, I was in. Lina became a young woman I could see myself in (although I won’t ever understand her hesitation to live in Italy. I mean, come on! It’s Italy!). Her mother passes, sending her into a totally understandable funk. Not only this but suddenly she is shipped off to a non-English speaking country to live with a man she’s never met and claims to be her long, lost father. Who wouldn’t be frightened of that life? She goes through the trials and tribulations of trusting the right and wrong people, finding out that there were many things she will never know about her mother and her time in Italy, and just who her father really is.

Of course there is a love triangle involved, every good story needs to have one:

He sat down next to me and I unwrapped the sandwich and took a bite. OF course I loved it. But it was nothing compared to how I felt about Ren.

And yes. I’d totally just compared the only guy I’d ever felt this way about to a ham sandwich (page 294).

If I had a nickel for every time I compared my boyfriend to food, I would be a healthier woman. But this isn’t just some silly way to compare her crush–Welch subtly takes her reader on a walking journey of Italy. We see the towns of Florence and Rome through Lina’s eyes and we are new to the strange, yet utterly magical world of Italy just like she is. We learn Italian words, mini history lessons regarding famous points of interests in the Florence streets, and of course how amazing real Italian food truly is. So instead of rehashing the age-old tale of “girl goes to live with an estranged father, meets a boy, falls in love, the end”, Welch spices things up by giving us a reason to want to follow Lina to Italy, eat gelato and fall in love as well.

Not only this but she gives us a reason to believe in love again. The love that Howard has for Lina’s mother is indescribable. Welch truly paints a beautifully broken relationship that hurts my heart just thinking about it.

He settled in, like he was about to tell a story he’d told a million times. “When I was twenty-five I met a woman who changed everything for me. She was bright and vibrant, and whenever I was with her I felt like I could do anything” (page 336).

I want someone to talk about me the way Howard talks about Lina’s mother–it makes me have faith in love and humanity again. It makes me want my parents, who are happily divorced and friends still, to tell me about their short-lived moment of true love. Welch breaks my heart by forcing me to know that even though things can work out for Lina because she’s still so young, sometimes love hurts like hell and it doesn’t work out, even in magical Italy.

“One day with Hadley was easily worth a lifetime in Italy” (page 344).

Love is difficult. It isn’t something that can easily be grasped by a gorgeous prince on a white horse. Sometimes we make mistakes in love and Lina learns this lesson the hard way. Her heart is broken by her mother’s death, by finding out deplorable things about her father, and by hurting someone she didn’t even realize she loved. But Howard says it perfectly: “A life without love is like a year without summer” (page 376). Regardless of how much it hurts, we all still pursue love constantly. From our parents to friends and finally to that special someone who may have been unseen at first, but now glows brightly every time we look at them.

Thank you Jenna Evans Welch for providing me with a story that melts my heart, just like gelato on a warm day.

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The Love that Split Me

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welcome to a book that is the epitome of the saying “never judge a book by its cover.” henry’s tale, what i expected to be a cliched, young adult love story, spins the storyline 180 degrees and forces the reader to turn every page, absorbing every word in order to clarify every painstaking detail henry provides.

i was not expecting more than half of what this book provides. every chapter brings a new twist, a new tiny blip in the plot that, though small to the readers, has major impact on the characters and what is happening between natalie and beau.

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The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry
Published by Razorbill on January 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Heritage, Fantasy
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

★★★★☆

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natalie’s summer is running out. she has graduated high school and is ready to start her new, uninterrupted life at Brown. after changing the past year, she is eager to get away from the small town, Union, she calls home and everyone who inhabits it. however, grandmother returns, stopping natalie in her planned-out tracks.

born to a young, native american woman who wanted her daughter to have a better life outside of the reservation she lived on, natalie’s mother gives her up. natalie seems to have a normal life with her adopted family, but when she begins hallucinating in her sleep, seeing things she knows shouldn’t be there, and must go through intensive therapy in order to remove these images from her young brain, the reader realizes that natalie isn’t a normal teen. suddenly, the summer before her life is supposed to change, one of the main hallucinations to visit natalie over the years shows up again, three years after disappearing for what natalie thought was good. grandmother, natalie’s nickname for the old, weathered native american woman who resides in the rocking chair in the corner, informs her simply she has three months to save him.

what if there are two different Unions? what if there were two different versions of her best friend megan? ex-boyfriend matt? popular girl the reader loves to hate, rachel? everyone has a double in this overlapping dimension of union except for natalie and a strange boy, beau, who resides in the “other union.”

from there, the reader is bounced along on this tumultuous journey where natalie uncovers the secrets of union, beau, and herself.

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“I missed you,” she heard herself call to him–though was it possible to miss someone you didn’t know? (page 390).

honestly, this book would have gotten 5 out of 5 stars if i weren’t so biased about happy endings. naturally, i will strive to never give anything away, however the story does not end in the traditional sense of “happily ever after” which most of the time sends me over the edge. why can’t one small thing, as small as a book of 400 pages can be, end in happiness? is that too much to ask emily henry? now, this is certainly me being biased and a child because the ending does completely coincide with the entire over-arching plot. henry expertly adds in details of the native american people featured. there are creation stories and many other moments full of natalie’s heritage that i haven’t seen in any other young adult read. much like rainbow rowell’s book, Carry On, featuring the unorthodox two gay main characters, henry crosses the threshold of having an “ethnic main character” and creates a storyline unlike any other.

weaving her knowledge of native american tribes and stories, henry casts natalie as an adopted daughter with a troubled past. henry uses creation stories, as told by grandmother to natalie over the years, as clues for natalie to figure out what really is happening to her and her town. i’m not sure where henry obtained all of this information, or if it is correct to any specific tribe, but i can say that it surely is convincing. i was not expecting the creation stories and the journey they would take me on when purchasing this book.

of course there are romantic moments in the story, it isn’t all drama all the time. beau resides in the “other union” and their love seems not to be forbidden, but more impossible. their meeting is by chance, in a time where they both are unaware that there are other people who can jump through time and space. natalie only recently discovered her powers upon meeting beau, whereas beau has been jumping (for lack of a better word) since he was a young boy. but how are two people allowed to be together when they don’t live in the same world? without sounding like the 2006 hit movie, The Lake House starring sandra bullock and keanu reeves, henry creates an impossible world and has it actually make sense.

I don’t believe in love at first sight but maybe this is as close as it gets: seeing someone, a person you have no business loveing, on a football field one night and thinking, I want you to be mine and I want to be yours (page 183).

they can’t contact each other because cell phones can’t connect between realms. obviously even in this fictional world we are still having cell problems. as the summer continues and beau and natalie get nearer to their Closing, a time where they can no longer jump between dimensions, they begin to lose control of their powers. natalie is torn into different times without commanding it and beau can’t get into natalie’s world when he absolutely needs to. however, when the two are together, it really is magical. henry’s depiction of young and urgent love is spot on when it comes to these two.

It’s true that nothing has the potential to hurt so much as loving someone, but nothing heals like it either (page 235).

ouch, henry makes me want to cry with their such young and naive, but totally Gryffindor-like hearts. even though it certainly isn’t possible–crossing into dimensions and time traveling simply through a push and pull in one’s abdomen–beau and natalie are striking characters and my inner fangirl demands that they find a way to be together. cleverly enough, though the title was the first thing that swayed me towards buying this book, and assuming that i knew what it would be about, the title is quite accurate for what the story holds. we want a happy ending for natalie and beau, so in a way, their own creation story that could be featured in this book like the others slightly fantastical stories told. the title “the love that split the world” sounds like its own creation story, as if grandmother herself speaks directly to us when she tells this story.

if you are interested in a young adult book that is out of the box and far from ordinary, pick up henry’s The Love that Split the World. you will be blown away by her intelligence in a field some forget exist. she executes a perfect creation story of two young people, not only forced into the odd, but inevitable world of “growing up” but also the strange, parallel dimensions henry creates. natalie and beau’s struggle to fix their two worlds that are colliding ever so quickly into each other is palpable and you will fall in love with these two star-crossed lovers.

thank you emily henry for such a beautifully crafted edition to the teen reading section. i hope many other readers were as surprised as me by this small, earth-changing book.

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To All The Books I’ve Loved Before

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so of course i’ve heard of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and of course i was intrigued but honestly, i didn’t pick it up right away because i was hesitant. is this a book i would prefer in ebook format (and therefore cheaper)? am i really going to enjoy this or does it sound cliched to me? these questions always had me passing the book up for something else. it still sits, i believe, in my amazon kindle wish list, where it will stay until i clean that out.

all that hesitation aside, simply put, i adored this book. i seriously got a Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell vibe from Han’s writing and the characterization of lara jean. she’s timid, but loves her family deeply, doesn’t really seem bothered by boys because of her “letter solution” however there’s always one that can break that cycle. disclaimer: there is nothing wrong with putting off a Fangirl vibe–in fact, that’s amazing because i love that book too.

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers reprinted on January 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family, Teen
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 5 out of 5

 

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lara jean has a full family: two sisters (one older, and one younger) and their caring, single father. lara jean’s older sister, margot is leaving for university in scotland and decides to break up with her long time boyfriend, and family friend, josh. what margot doesn’t know is that her little sister has always had a crush on josh. instead of saying or doing anything about this crush, lara jean added another love letter to her collection of five. these aren’t love letters she’s received, but instead letters she’s written to the past loves of her life. once she seals that envelope, her feelings can dissipate and she can move on.

but then her letters somehow get sent to all five of her loves. what is lara jean to do with the most popular guy in school, peter, receives a letter from her and, the dreadful moment, when josh wants to talk about his?

follow lara jean try to cover up the letter fiasco while she finds out truly what loves is about.

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where do i even begin with my adoration for this book? as i said, i was hesitant in the beginning. i was really hoping that this wouldn’t end in a cliche and it TOTALLY DIDN’T. i am not going to give anything away (or at least try not to) but seriously, i was totally surprised. simply put, the book does not end wrapped up in a tight, neat bow and, in some way, it does not end in the traditional sense of “happily ever after.” han sets up her story perfect for the sequel, which i do still need to read, and in my edition gives a very cliff-hanger-y clip of P.S. I still Love You and it tormented me.

Why is it so hard to say no to him? Is this what it’s like to be in love with somebody? (page 286).

lara jean is like many average heroines we are reading these days. she is the middle child and isn’t the good or the bad one either. her older sister, margot seems like a handful but i suppose she had to be because their mother passed; kitty, on the other hand, is the youngest and therefore the rowdiest. lara jean simply rests in the middle–she reads books, bakes for her family, but also isn’t as goody-two-shoes like margot and doesn’t really know how to do all the housework.

she, like many young women, has had many loves. that one boy at summer camp in grade school, an old guy friend that seemed cute during middle school but isn’t anymore, etc. however, lara jean is too timid to act on these boys and han sets up the kicker that she actually loves josh–margot’s long time boyfriend. in the beginning, you wouldn’t even guess that that’s where this is going, but when she provides that tidbit of information, you know that the rest of the story is going to be rocky.

This is the moment I realize I don’t love him, that I haven’t for a while. That maybe I never did. Because he’s right there for the taking: I could kiss him again; I could make him mine. But I don’t want him (page 283).

every character in han’s repertoire can stand on their own. she craftily creates the characters to have enough stability to be isolated from the main story–even have their own offshoot–but not too much that they are taking away from lara jean’s journey through love. this is quite difficult to accomplish and i certainly applaud han for doing so.

i think everyone who loves a little slice of forbidden love and romance, but enjoys family reads as well should read this book. it seriously made me bawl my eyes out at like 10:30PM while my boyfriend was asleep next to me. i haven’t cried that hard from a book in such a long time that i am astounded that han was able to do it. i have completely and utterly fallen in love with peter and lara and kitty and all the characters that hold significance in han’s story. it is just so good i can’t even stand it.

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The End of the Summer Before Forever

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here’s a review that is actually on-time! melissa chamber’s new summer teen romance was just released yesterday so here is my review for it; i hope you enjoy.

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The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers
Published by Entangled: digiTeen on August 22nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 274
Version: Digital Advanced Reader Copy
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

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chloe drives herself, and of course her almost famous best friend jenna, to florida from her home in tennessee in order to live with her dad and his new finance for the summer. oh and her new almost step brother landon who turns out to be super hot.

while trying to understand her parents divorce and both of her parents dating other people now, chloe begins to see something in landon besides a bother. jenna decides chloe needs a summer bucket list that will end all summer bucket lists forever; this list will include things that are totally out of chloe’s comfort zone, but when landon wants to help out with the list, chloe comes around.

landon and chloe have their own challenges to face separately, but what if they decide they want to face them together? how would landon’s mom and chloe’s dad feel about how they aren’t feeling brotherly or sisterly at all–quite the opposite in fact. follow their journey as they try desperately to overcome these challenges of pain, family, and of course love.

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okay sooo i ended up falling in love with this novel. i started on shaky ground, since i read this after reading Kisses on a Paper Airplane. that novella left such a bad taste in my mouth that it transferred over, i think, into the beginning of this book. i was super hesitant while reading it, especially with the whole slight incestual relationship plot line that takes me back to shakespearean studies, but overall, to put it simply, i enjoyed this book!

i think those that enjoy fun, easygoing, but also suspenseful novel for the beach or end of summer shenanigans, will love chambers’ The Summer Before Forever. this book, though it didn’t really keep me guessing in the sense that i couldn’t figure out that the two characters could end up together in the end, but instead, they each developed their own, real-life problems that needed to be sorted out that i wasn’t expecting. most of the time, books that fit into this genre of young adult contemporary romance end in a cliche, the characters are too perfect, and everything reads like a poorly written copy of a nicholas sparks book/movie. however chambers’ story differs from that. chambers’ creates main characters, chloe, landon, and jenna, that bounce off of each other and complement each other in fantastic ways. landon, well every woman needs a landon in her life. he is sensitive, sweet, and caring, but also gorgeous–he’s definitely a reason to keep reading.

She looks up at me, and I catch her focusing on my dimple. I forget that thing’s there until I see a girl notice it (location 1581 on kindle).

though he, too, has a problem that is holding him back that i’m sure effects many other people that could be reading this book.

I stand and start counting them out. I’m somewhere around seven or eight when a kid behind me starts yelling at another kid, and I lose count, the numbers dissolving away in my brain. My face is hot, and I think beads of sweat are forming on my forehead (location 1253 on kindle).

and then there’s the main protagonist chloe. chloe is super intriguing to me because while she can come off as a cliche–the shy timid mouse compared to her slightly famous and super outgoing best friend jenna–she also has real moments too. chloe has problems at home with her dad and her parents divorce: this is a real life situation that impacts many of us. chloe is learning how to adapt to this new life that has been placed before her and everyone can relate to this whether it be because of a divorce, moving to a new town, losing someone, or anything.

Fear courses through my body as my stomach wrenches itself into knots. I’m basically a ragdoll in this dickhead’s arms. He could take me under that dock over there and rip off my clothes (location 364 on kindle).

i would say, slight disclaimer, that if you are looking for a good “bucket list” themed summer romance read, i would direct you to Since You’ve Been Gone by morgan matson. this one i felt captivated the whole summer bucket list theme much better than The Summer Before Forever did. i felt as if jenna’s bucket list was simply added to the plot to keep it going–now this worked out well for chambers because i did still enjoy the book and had a great time with the characters.

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