Book Review

Book Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary fiction
Length: 373 pages
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.

Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past.

GUT WRENCHING.

Well this was amazing. What a story. For a shorter novel, I was heavily invested in everyone’s lives and found this story raw. A great smorgasbord of religion, growing up, family, friendships, and being who you want to be.

Dill. Oh my sweet Dill. I loved his character. This poor guy got the short end of stick he never wanted. The way his character grew to the end of the book had me wanting to clap. I think I even fist-pumped once because I was so happy listening to him stand up for himself. Dill found his way through depression and grief to stand on his own and make decisions for his future that would be beneficial.

Lydia was the sassy best friend that brought another great angle to the story. She lived a bit more affluent life with pathways that she chose for herself and parents that cared for her. Lydia had another great character change over the book too. She was emotional and brave in being open to Dill. Being the friend he needed throughout the book. Even when they had conflicts, they were able to have productive talks that furthered my love for this book.

Travis was someone you wanted to root for and as relatable as Lydia and Dill were too. He was incredibly courageous and I love that he was his own person. Wearing a dragon necklace, carrying a staff, and loving a book series with his soul. And he never felt sorry for himself. Travis stood up to his demons (aka. Dad) and I just loved his character.

Watching these three really grow and change over senior year was tumultuous at best. The insane highs and lows kept me on a roller coaster of emotions. I felt the weight of this novel and story more times than once.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary fiction
  • Language: some throughout
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: physical, guns, murder, see Trigger Warnings for more
  • Trigger Warnings: murder, child abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, a parent convicted of possession of child pornography, suicide, suicide ideation, grief and depression

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 365 pages
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: December 10th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us comes a poignant novel about family, first love, grief, and betrayal that will touch the hearts of both mothers and daughters.

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

COHO WRECKS MY SOUL AGAIN.

I mean, is this a surprise to anyone? This is why I LOVE her books and can’t help but read them in hours because I must know that at some point all the crap subsides and I get my happy ending.

What’s better even and different from a lot of books is that the endings are yes, “happy,” but I feel more so, optimistic. A lot of drama and true human pain reins through Regretting You. It’s not meant to have some super fluffy, run off into the sunset ending. It’s meant to show the strength of a soul and the power it takes to move on when the hand you’ve been dealt is less than ideal.

I connected the most with Morgan. Being a mother myself it was so hard watching her try to shield Clara from the pain and also try to stand on her own two feet. Morgan wanted more from her life than being at home, but it took that home to give her something more. I loved her perseverance (even when she ran away from confrontation). Morgan gave into her wants and was a little bit selfish, in that, finally do something for yourself, kinda way.

Clara on the other hand, annoyed me at times. Don’t get me wrong, I loved her character too, but ooooo boy did she make some poor choices and have an awful attitude. The more I thought about this though, the more I understood Hoover’s intentions. This is a 16/17 year-old dealing with what might be the most traumatic thing she ever goes through and she’s in HIGH SCHOOL. I can’t imagine how hard that would be and I would probably have a lousy attitude for a bit myself. Now, I still am not happy with some of her choices, but I feel that’s my mom voice talking so I’m going to let it be.

My sweet Miller was such a great addition. The poor guy was stuck in the middle of more crap than I would have ever dealt with and did it so dang gracefully. I loved his tender nature and the strength of his own decisions. Miller is such a sweet cinnamon roll and I could gush about him all day.

I love the raw nature of this book and the traumatic instances it chose to dive deeper into. This is a tough subject to write a book about and I appreciated the way it was done. Was it hard to read at times? YEP. But that’s sometimes what makes the book even more fantastic.

Overall audience notes:

  • New adult contemporary + romance
  • Language: some throughout
  • Romance: Kisses, make-outs with clothing removed, a few love scenes that are light/mild detailed
  • Violence: car wreck
  • Trigger warnings: loss of a loved one, cheating spouse/significant other

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Contemporary fiction + romance
Length: 352 pages
Author: Abbi Waxman
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

I CAN RELATE.

As an introvert extraordinaire, I could connect to quite a bit of what Nina was feeling throughout this book. That was probably my favorite part. The rest? Not as big of a fan.

I found it hard to read because I didn’t feel like there was an actual plot. Things were happening to Nina, but that was it. Nothing really moved forward. I did see a welcome change in Nina going from inflexible and unwilling to change to someone who was learning to adapt to the craziness of the universe and life in general. I did wholly appreciate this. I liked seeing this character arc.

The romance? Eh. I thought we were getting a cute story, but I felt it was allllll physical. They went on barely a date or two then sleeping together, to breaking up and I just shrugged my shoulders. I never felt an emotional connection to them and it made me not care either way what happened. It then got super cheesy at the end which only made it worse.

I also struggled with the third person point of view. I think I would have liked it more being only in Nina’s mind. The concept change to random characters was annoying and pointless. And there were so many random tangent paragraphs that I found myself often scanning.

This was a lackluster contemporary that I know I have an unpopular opinion about, but hey, can’t love them all.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary fiction + romance
  • Language: a little
  • Romance: kisses, a few fade to black scenes
  • Trigger warnings: anxiety, loss of a parent

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: Waiting for Tom Hanks (Waiting for Tom Hanks #1) by Kerry Winfrey

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary romance/Chick-lit
Length: 259 pages
Author: Kerry Winfrey
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 11th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Can a romcom-obssessed romantic finally experience the meet-cute she always dreamed of or will reality never compare to fiction, in this charming debut adult novel from Kerry Winfrey.

Annie Cassidy dreams of being the next Nora Ephron. She spends her days writing screenplays, rewatching Sleepless in Seattle, and waiting for her movie-perfect meet-cute. If she could just find her own Tom Hanks—a man who’s sweet, sensitive, and possibly owns a houseboat—her problems would disappear and her life would be perfect. But Tom Hanks is nowhere in sight.

When a movie starts filming in her neighborhood and Annie gets a job on set, it seems like a sign. Then Annie meets the lead actor, Drew Danforth, a cocky prankster who couldn’t be less like Tom Hanks if he tried. Their meet-cute is more of a meet-fail, but soon Annie finds herself sharing some classic rom-com moments with Drew. Her Tom Hanks can’t be an actor who’s leaving town in a matter of days…can he?

DID I JUST READ A HALLMARK MOVIE?

Yes, I’m pretty sure I did. This book was everything you expect when you choose to sit and watch a Hallmark movie (which I know we all do sometimes).

This was really cute. I was into the romance between Annie and Drew. They had some great banter and I could feel their chemistry with each other. Things felt like they developed at a good speed (even though it was only over a two week span, remember: Hallmark-esque).

I adored the side characters. She had a great friend who was truly their for her and helped Annie get out of her shell. Annie’s Uncle Don was fun too. He showed a lot of unconditional love and had some tender moments. They were both sweet and had enough pages in the story for me to feel connected with them too.

As someone who hasn’t seen any Tom Hanks rom-coms (don’t @ me), this was a bit heavy in the analogies to these movies. IT WOULDN’T END. I got tired of the crazy repetitiveness of her talking about romantic comedies. I get it, Annie is obsessed. This influenced her ideas and decisions so much that I would get frustrated that she couldn’t see past her rose-colored glasses. There were waaaay too many metaphors.

This is quick and charming. That’s its best feature. If you’re looking for something that has some witty banter and a cleaner romance this would be a good pick. I wish it was a bit longer so we got some more depth from the characters, but it’s fine! This was still a nice read.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: some strong language
  • Romance: some kisses, one love scene that has no details (literally says: “we had great sex last night” but that’s it for details – it’s very clean for a romance)
  • Trigger warnings: discussion of death of parents

Instagram || Goodreads