Tag: Young Adult

Buddy Review: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Posted December 11, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Buddy Review: Once and For All by Sarah DessenOnce and for All by Sarah Dessen
Published by Penguin, Viking Books for Young Readers on June 6, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Point of View: First Person
Pages: 358
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Add It: Goodreads
four-stars

As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen's thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

You guys, before we jump into our monthly buddy review of Once and For All by Sarah Dessen, please join me in wishing one of my favorite book pimps, Ames, a very happy birthday as today is her special day!!

I hope you have a brilliant day because you’re a brilliant friend and deserve all the brilliant things in the world. Big hugs from California and don’t freeze too much in that Canadian madness that is winter. Love you long time, Ames!

Here’s some birthday Bana for you sweets!

Now…on to the review.

Louna Barrett is working the summer before her first year of college for her mother’s wedding planning business. She’s busy preparing for events and spending as much time with her high school friend Jilly before she’s off to another city for school. She is in no way looking for any kind of romantic entanglements, even though Jilly keeps trying to get her to put herself out there. Louna had an amazing boyfriend but that relationship ended in tragedy. But when Louna meets Ambrose at a wedding, will she be ready to open herself up to new possibilities?

Ames: All right Wena, what did you think of Once and For All.

Rowena: I enjoyed this one. I thought it was a good one to read after coming back from a long Sarah Dessen hiatus. I enjoyed getting to know Louna and while Ambrose was a bit much at times (all of that girl juggling), I still really liked him as a character. I thought he was good for Louna too. The bet was fun and meant to get them both out of their comfort zone, not meant to hurt anyone at all so I was okay with it.

What did you think?

Ames: I had mixed reactions to this. First of all, its been a looooong time since I read Sarah Dessen. Like maybe 3 or 4 years. But having starting this book, I felt like Louna was a ‘typical’ SD heroine – and by the end of the book she really is. However, I liked the world Sarah created for us, with Louna’s wedding planning mom and all that went along with it. I really enjoyed that. And Ambrose was a fun character. I love that he rescued a dog and I agree, the girl juggling was a bit much but he was a great guy underneath it all.

My main complaint comes with the relationship between Ambrose and Louna. Yes they had a bet (that was fun, I liked that) but I honestly didn’t feel any sparks between them. I didn’t see the way Ambrose acted towards her as a guy who was interested. So when the big reveal came at the end? I was like “WTH, for reals?” So I think if there had been a bit more there, I would have believed it more. Also, the way she freaked out? That was over the top for me.

Rowena: Yes, I agree about how interesting the world of wedding planning was and I thought Dessen captured that part of the book really well and you’re definitely right about Louna being a typical Sarah Dessen heroine because I felt the same way about her character. I remember thinking while I was reading the book, “Here we go, another Sarah Dessen heroine that is going to annoy the snot out of me” but in the end, I liked her so it was all good for me. I did think that the whole Ben thing was pretty dumb. Like, really, really dumb.

Other than that though, I could feel the vibes from Ambrose for Louna…or maybe my romance-loving heart pictured it all there because I wanted them to get together? *shrugs* Either way, I still enjoyed this one. Was there anything else that you didn’t care for?

Ames: Seriously, if I hadn’t read the blurb and realized Ambrose was supposed to be the love interest, I wouldn’t have expected it. I felt like William telling Louna that Ambrose was into her even made me realize he was…I honestly didn’t see it before William said something. AND what made Louna different to Ambrose from all the other girls? What made her someone he wanted to commit to instead of just enjoying all the beginning parts of a relationship…I wanted more in regards to that relationship. However, I didn’t hate the book.

I thought Crawford, Jilly’s younger brother, was super cute. The way he called out Jilly for not wanting to spend time with Ben and Louna had me cracking up.

I’m giving Once and For All a 3.75 out of 5. What about you?

Rowena: I thought Ambrose was taken with Louna from the very beginning. I could see his interest in her when she walked right up to him at his Mom’s wedding and dragged him away from that girl he was talking to. He wasn’t used to girls being mad at him, well girls that weren’t related to him so I bought his interest and crush on her from the jump. I think because the entire book is from Louna’s POV, it’s harder to get what Ambrose feels and what he thought. I would have liked Ambrose’s POV.

I adored Crawford and the rest of Jilly’s family. It would have been nice to get more from them as I thought they were more interesting than Louna’s family but all in all, I can’t complain. I enjoyed it all so I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

Final Grade

Ames: 3.75 out of 5
Rowena: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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Throwback Thursday: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Posted September 6, 2018 by Rowena in Features, Reviews | 4 Comments

Each week, I’ll be writing a review for an oldie but goodie that I’ve read through again to see if these books are holding up for me. I’m a different person than I was when I read these books, older and wiser (at least I hope) so I’m curious to see if books that I used to love can stand the test of time.

Throwback Thursday: Just Listen by Sarah DessenJust Listen by Sarah Dessen
Published by Penguin, Viking Books for Young Readers on April 6, 2006
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Point of View: First Person
Pages: 371
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Add It: Goodreads
four-stars

Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything" — at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store.

This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.

Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

This story follows Annabelle Greene as she makes her way back to school after a summer spent being away from everyone and anyone from school. Including her ex-best friend Sophie. Now she’s back at school and has to face everyone that she hasn’t seen in months and she also has to deal with the fact that nobody likes her anymore.

Annabelle’s life is anything but simple. She’s got family issues she’s dealing with and she’s got to deal with the fact that she has no friends at school anymore except for the kid who’s got anger issues, Owen Armstrong. Annabelle is known for playing popular girls on commercials who have it all together but her real life is anything but. She’s the youngest of three girls and she couldn’t be any more different from her sisters. Her older sister Kristen is the loud and outspoken sister while her sister Whitney is more reserved. Annabelle has the kind of personality where she can fade into the background without too much effort. She’s just there. She’s nice and friendly. She doesn’t do well with confrontation so she goes out of her way to avoid fights.

When her best friend Sophie gets mad at her, instead of trying to make things right or explain herself, she just lets Sophie be pissed off and she kind of caves into herself. She hides from everyone and it’s not until Owen Armstrong comes along and changes her slowly but surely that things start to look up for Annabelle.

Owen good for Annabelle. From his radio show to the cd’s that he made for her and just everything about him was good for her…until she messes things up and chases him away.

The thing about Sarah Dessen is she writes characters and conflict really well. Her stories stand out for me because every single one of her books feels real. I can see these kinds of things happening and in some cases, I have seen these things happen. The characters in her books suffer from the same things that I remember suffering from in high school and all I want is to give them a little nudge in the right direction. I love her characters and even though Annabelle drove me up the wall sometimes, I never once disliked her. She felt like a little sister to me and I just adored the hell out of her.

But what really made this book for me was Owen. Man but I loved that boy. I thought he was such a great character and wonderful addition to an already fantastic story. His radio station never failed to bring a smile to my face and I just adored him to pieces.

The bond that formed between Annabelle and Owen was too cute for words and while this is not my favorite Sarah Dessen book, it’s one of them and Owen was a huge part of that.

Buy the Book

AMAZON || BARNES AND NOBLE || GOOGLE BOOKS || KOBO || THE RIPPED BODICE

Final Grade

4 out of 5

four-stars

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Review: The Accidentals by Sarina Bowen

Posted August 14, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 8 Comments

Review: The Accidentals by Sarina BowenThe Accidentals by Sarina Bowen
Published by Indie Published, Tuxbury Publishing LLC on July 10, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Point of View: First Person
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Add It: Goodreads
four-stars

A YA novel from USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.

Never ask a question unless you’re sure you want the truth.

I’ve been listening to my father sing for my whole life. I carry him in my pocket on my mp3 player. It’s just that we’ve never met face to face.

My mother would never tell me how I came to be, or why my rock star father and I have never met. I thought it was her only secret. I was wrong.

When she dies, he finally appears. Suddenly I have a first class ticket into my father’s exclusive world. A world I don’t want any part of – not at this cost.

Only three things keep me going: my a cappella singing group, a swoony blue-eyed boy named Jake, and the burning questions in my soul.


There’s a secret shame that comes from being an unwanted child. It drags me down, and puts distance between me and the boy I love.

My father is the only one alive who knows my history. I need the truth, even if it scares me.

Sarina Bowen has been a staple on my go to authors for great contemporary romances as well as New Adult romances. Now she’s trying her hand at Young Adult stories and The Accidentals is her first shot out of that particular gate. I’m happy to report that Sarina Bowen continues to shine in whatever writing endeavor she undertakes because I really enjoyed The Accidentals.

Rachel’s father in one of the most popular country singers in the country and she knows every single song he’s ever released, she knows so many little tidbits about him but she’s never met him in real life until her mother dies and she is given over to his care. After years and years from watching her father from afar, she’s thrown into his world while she is grieving her dead mother and she’s floundering. The only thing holding her above water is her acceptance letter to the private school that her mother attended when she was her age. She has been looking forward to going to this school for years and now that she’s finally able to go, she’s hoping for a fresh start that will help her move on from the hurt and the awkwardness of getting to know the one person that should have been in your life the whole time.

This book is told in first person, from Rachel’s perspective and being inside her head wasn’t always easy. She’s going through some really personal things and my heart hurt for her at every turn in the beginning.

There was a lot to like in this book. Seeing Rachel grow into who she was meant to be was pretty great and seeing her find her way in a new place, surrounded by new people both at school and at home was neat too because it really showed how resilient she was. She wasn’t perfect in that I did find myself frustrated with her from time to time but in the end, when it mattered, I really liked her character and who she was.

Sarina Bowen introduced us to a great cast of characters that really made this story pop just that much more. From Haze to Jake to Henry and just everyone that we meet in this book brought something to the story and I was glad to have met them all. There was an interesting mix of characters and that was cool.

As an L.A. native who lives so very close to Manhattan Beach, it was great to see a setting so close to home and picture everything so perfectly in my mind. Sarina Bowen’s efforts with this one really paid off because I enjoyed this one from beginning to end. I definitely recommend.

Final Grade

4 out of 5

four-stars

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Review: The Kissing Booth

Posted July 24, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 4 Comments

The Kissing Booth (2018)
Starring: Joey King, Jacob Elordi, Joel Courtney
Director: Vince Marcello
Release Date: 11 May 2018
Rating: TV-14
Run Time: 1:45
Movie Type: Comedy, Romance

When Elle Evans (Joey King), a pretty, late-bloomer who’s never-been-kissed, decides to run a kissing booth at her high school’s Spring Carnival, she unexpectedly finds herself locking lips with her secret crush- the ultimate bad boy, Noah Flynn (Jacob Elordi). Sparks fly, but there’s one little problem: Noah just happens to be the brother of her best friend, Lee, (Joel Courtney) and is absolutely off limits according to the rules of their friendship pact. Elle’s life is turned upside down when she realizes that she must ultimately make a choice: follow the rules or follow her heart. Based on Beth Reekle’s self-published coming-of-age novel that became an international sensation, THE KISSING BOOTH is a Netflix Film, written and directed by Vince Marcello.

I’m always all about the books to movies to when I heard this movie was coming out and it was based on the book by Beth Reekles, I was in. I haven’t been too disappointed in the stuff Netflix has been coming out with so I had high hopes that this movie was going to be decent.

This movie is about Elle Evans and her pact with her best friend Lee Flynn. Elle and Lee have been best friends for forever and they have rules that keep their friendship on track. One of those rules is that Lee’s older brother Noah is off limits. Noah is stupid hot and he’s a bit of a jackass so Elle hasn’t had trouble keeping that rule…until the start of junior year and things start to change between them. Elle struggles with her feelings for Noah and keeping it from Lee, but she can’t seem to help herself. Noah is a lot more than she was expecting and her connection to him is inescapable.

So over the course of the movie, Elle and Noah get closer and closer but Elle makes Noah keep their relationship a secret from everyone, including Lee. You know, just until she can tell Lee about them because he needs to hear about it from her. They’re best friends and this is something that can only come from her. Only, she never tells Lee and her secret becomes bigger and bigger until there’s no way out without hurting everyone.

I did enjoy the movie, for the most part, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and a Mom or whatever but I thought Lee and Elle were assholes to Noah. They treated Noah like he wasn’t a real person with real feelings and I hated that he suffered the most for something that Elle was just as much to blame, if not more since Noah wanted Elle to come clean from the start. That scene at the dance where Noah declares himself in front of everyone? I wanted to junk punch Lee for being a little shit since he had a girlfriend and didn’t like Elle that way so what did it matter that she fell in love with his brother? Their pact was a pact between children. Lee was an asshole for not being happy for them and I want to smack the shit out of Elle for bowing to Lee’s pressure.

Other than that, the movie has cute moments and funny moments but it’s a movie for a younger audience because a lot of the drama in this movie is so extra. I think I ruined Brenna’s movie experience because I kept complaining about what assholes everyone was…still, the movie itself was decent and I hated certain things but not the entire movie.

Movie Trailer

My Rating

3.25 out of 5

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Review: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Posted July 20, 2018 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny HanP.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #2
Also in this series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Published by Simon & Schuster, Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 26, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Point of View: First Person
Pages: 337
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Add It: Goodreads
four-half-stars

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter. She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever. When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

P.S. I Still Love You is the second book in Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series and it really keeps the party going. I started this book immediately after my re-read of the first book for my buddy review with Ames. I couldn’t help myself. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters yet. Mostly, I wasn’t ready to let go of Peter Kavinsky and Kitty Song Covey. Lara Jean really grows on me in this book and I just love the way that she’s growing up.

In this book, Lara Jean and Peter become a real couple and things are looking up for them. Lara Jean is just as into Peter as Peter is into her. When a video of Peter and Lara Jean making out surfaces online, Lara Jean is thrown into the spotlight, a spotlight she never wanted and wasn’t prepared for. Lara Jean was used to spending her nights in, baking whatever caught her fancy and taking care of her Dad and little sister while her older sister was away at college. She loved to read and lose herself in books but then Peter came along and brought her out of her bubble and seeing her try to navigate this new normal with Peter made for a sweet read.

There is much to like about this book. I adored Peter’s efforts to try to protect Lara Jean from the video stuff. I adored seeing him build his own bond with Lara Jean’s younger sister Kitty and I really, really just adored him. His birthday gift for Kitty was the cutest thing ever! His declaration to Lara Jean at the end? Gah, so cute!

There’s a lot going on in this book. There’s Peter’s continued friendship with that little shit Genevieve and then there’s Lara Jean’s budding friendship with John Ambrose McClaren. Her intern job at Bellevue Retirement Home and her friendship with Stormy. There’s also the video and then Lara Jean getting the middle school gang back together again and their game that Lara Jean is determined to win. This wasn’t the easiest book to read but the ending was a lot better than the first book’s ending and we got to finally read the letter that Lara Jean started to Peter in the first book. That was an awesome letter. Lara Jean is a really gifted letter writer. I love her inquisitive personality.

Peter Kavinsky is my book boyfriend of the week. I adored him in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and even though there were plenty of times that I wanted to junk punch him in this book, in the end, his love for Lara Jean was too sweet and I just loved him to pieces.

“I say, “In the contract we said we wouldn’t break each other’s hearts. What if we do it again?”

Fiercely he says, “What if we do? If we’re so guarded, it’s not going to be anything. Let’s do it fucking for real, Lara Jean. Let’s go all in. No more contract. No more safety net. You can break my heart. Do whatever you want with it.”

This was such a sweet scene because it was the night that Lara Jean and Peter became real and gah, first love in all of its glory was written in the pages of this book and I was here for it all.

I’ve mentioned this quite a few times since I’m super excited about this but the movie adaptation of this book comes out next month on Netflix. I have been a huge fan of the Netflix original tv shows and movies that I have watched before so I’m hopeful that this movie will be fantastic.

Here’s the boy that is playing Peter Kavinsky. He is such a great Peter and Brenna is a huge fan of his on Fosters so I’m hopeful that he’ll bring Peter to life wonderfully.

This book packed a huge punch and had me all in my feels through it all. John Ambrose was a great addition to this story and even though I loved him, my heart was truly and completely Peter’s. I really like how different Peter and Lara Jean are and I really like that that works for them. Peter’s personality is so in your face and Lara Jean is more reserved but together, together they were magic and I loved them. What a great book, I thoroughly recommend.

Final Grade

4.75 out of 5

Buy the Book

AMAZON || BARNES & NOBLE || KOBO || GOOGLE BOOKS

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series

four-half-stars

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