Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

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“Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” by Morgan Matson

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

Amy Curry is not looking forward to her summer. Her mother decided to move across the country and now it’s Amy’s responsibility to get their car from California to Connecticut. The only problem is, since her father died in a car accident, she isn’t ready to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger. An old family friend, he also has to make the cross-country trip – and has plenty of baggage of his own. The road home may be unfamiliar – especially with their friendship venturing into uncharted territory – but together, Amy and Roger will figure out how to map their way.”

So, my plans for this summer have included an epic detour of mostly rereading my favorite books and some new YA contemporary novels, so I thought that it would be the perfect time to pick up “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” by Morgan Matson.

Morgan Matson’s debut Ya book felt like a little slice of summer inside of a book. It was fun and adventurous, while also having a surprising weight to the storyline because of Amy’s newly chaotic and broken life, which was the result of her father’s passing. The travel aspects of this book were so great, and the details that went into the design of “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” was perfect; it felt like an adorable summer journal with all of the random receipts and pictures and fabulous playlists, and with how there were moments of personal revelation.

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I loved the fact that I read Morgan’s book right after “Love and Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch because of how both books made for fantastic travel “destinations,” and now I really want to take an adventure, whether it be driving across the country or backpacking through Europe. Fun adventures aside, the characters of “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” were also really great, and I enjoyed the fact that it centered around just Amy and Roger because of how short a period of time this book spanned.

I liked reading Amy’s perspective, and despite the terribly sad and heartbreaking circumstances which led up to her being forced to travel with Roger, I never felt like this book was too heavy or depressing. “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” definitely tugged on my heartstrings as Amy learned to feel alive again after feeling so horribly broken after her father’s tragic accident, but those sad moments never overshadowed the fact that this book was about adventure, doing things out of your comfort zone, and learning something new about yourself and the world and people who are around you. Amy had an enjoyable perspective to read from, and I liked the fact that her story added depth and weight to what could have been just a fluff contemporary. It was nice to see a character who experienced a lot of growth as an individual, even if it was a tiny bit over-reaching considering how little time “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” took place over. Amy was great, and I enjoyed how she and Roger got to know each other as they explored some of the hidden jems of the United States.

Roger was pretty adorable. He reminded me a little bit of Frank Porter from Morgan Matson’s book, “Since You’ve Been Gone,” and he ended up being a cute, good guy, with just a sprinkle of mystery surrounding him at the beginning of this book. I liked how he helped Amy come out from behind her protective walls, and they were pretty cute together. I did, however, feel like their romance developed a little too quickly for the short time period that “Amy and Roger”s Epic Detour” took place over, but since I had so much fun reading and learning about all of the amazing places that Amy and Roger went, I let it slide.

“Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” was a great summer read, and I’m so glad that I finally picked it up this summer. Morgan Matson is a great contemporary writer, and I think that she always finds a good balance sweet and sentimental with some good coming of age fun. “Since You’ve Been Gone” is still my favorite Morgan Matson book, but “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour” was still a really sweet and enjoyable read. There’s not much else I can say about “Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour,” other than recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, enjoyable coming of age story with some fabulous road mixes to pass the time. 😉

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Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

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“Love and Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Summer in Tuscany, Italy would be an adventure of a lifetime to most people, but Lina is not one of them. The magic of Italy is lost on Lina because her visit to the beautiful country is only to fulfill her mother’s dying wish for her to get to know her father.

Nothing is ideal or appealing about her trip to Italy, but when Lina is given her mother’s old journal, she discovers what a magical time her mother had had in the romantic country. Reading through her mother’s journal leads Lina on a whirlwind adventure to uncovering the beauty, art, and secrets that her own mother experienced over a decade ago. Each entry of the journal takes her somewhere new, and soon Lina finds herself lost to the magic of the Italian countryside, despite the pain and sorrow that had painted her life for the last year. But as she follows the trail her mother left for in the journal, Lina finds out earth shattering truths about the woman whose every secret she thought she knew, and she wonders how her mother could have kept those kinds of secrets from her. As the mystery of her mother’s past in Italy unfolds, Lina discovers the true reason behind why her mother had loved Italy despite leaving it, and through uncovering her mother’s past, Lina might just find her way forward.

Have I ever told you that I’m a fiend when it comes to anything Italian? I find nearly everything about that country to be charming and interesting, so whenever an opportunity arises to read a book that takes place in the beautiful country, I am ready to dive right in! I have yet to experience a true Italian vacation, but for now reading about the stunning landscape and charming people and culture will have to do until I can experience it for myself.

I adored “Love and Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch because it felt like I got to visit Tuscany and like I had the opportunity to explore the stunning city of Florence. Jenna Evans Welch’s descriptions of the Italian countryside were amazing and made the story and region of Italy it took place in come alive, and this book felt like the closest alternative to an Italian summer to actually traveling there myself. Let’s just say it was magical imagining the beauty of the rolling hills and stunning landscape that Lina, the main character, got to wake up to each morning.

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Oh, yeah, and did I mention Florence yet? I might have swooned over the descriptive writing that Jenna used when telling her readers about the beautiful and historic city of Florence. Jenna Evans Welch painted such a stunningly clear Florence for me that I could see and feel the city all around me, and I loved how this book truly gave me the travel bug, especially when she described the Duomo.

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It felt like I got a tiny history and architecture lesson from reading “Love and Gelato,” which I absolutely adored, and after reading this book, I want to experience the city of Florence and all of Tuscany for myself!

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“Love and Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch is the best contemporary book that I have read for travel; it felt like I got a private tour of Italy while also reading a heartwarming story about a girl healing from loss and discovering who she is. Alright, enough about the amazing travel aspects of “Love and Gelato,” because there was so much more to Jenna’s book than just stunning scenery!

I have been on a YA contemporary reading craze lately. After having read quite a few heavy/serious fantasy novels, I felt this need to find as many sweet, summery reads as I could, and “Love and Gelato” was the first one that I got my hands on, thanks to my sister loaning her copy to me. Needless to say, I loved this book so much, from its beautiful descriptions, heartwarming story, and sweet summertime feeling, that I bought myself a copy!

YA contemporary is usually not my preferred genre, but some truly fantastic authors have persuaded me to give it a chance, and books within this the contemporary genre have slowly found their way onto my bookshelf. I love fairly serious and thought-provoking books or characters that are impacting and linger long after I have put them down, but sometimes I just need a little sweetness in life that gives me a safe escape from my troubles, and “Love and Gelato” was exactly that. This book was the perfectly light and heartwarming journey that a summer afternoon requires, but it was also more, and I feel like I am shorting Jenna Evans Welch by saying that it was just a fluffy summer read. “Love and Gelato” was sweetness itself, but it also had an unexpected depth to it at times that was the result of Jenna having her protagonist dealing with the loss of her mother. “Love and Gelato” made me feel happy and lighthearted with the beauty of the Italian countryside, but there were also moments when it made my heart ache and tears come to my eyes, especially during the last twenty or thirty pages. I really appreciated the ease in which Jenna Evans Welch pulled me into the story that she was telling, and by how she caused me as a reader to feel emotionally connect to her characters.

Lina was a likeable contemporary protagonist, and my heart hurt for her and the loss that she was dealing with because of her mother’s passing. The way that Jenna Evans Welch wrote this book and her main character made me enjoy Lina’s journey, and I liked the fact that Lina did not pull the universe-is-against-me card; I don’t personally like the fact that she was traipsing around a foreign all alone for a few days without any knowledge of the language or culture, but I never got annoyed with Lina, either. I got why she did not want to be in Italy, and Jenna Evans Welch handled the situation of loss well within her contemporary novel.

There was, unfortunately, insta-love between Lina and a young man who she meets in Italy, and that was truly the only thing that I rolled my eyes at while reading “Love and Gelato.” That and the fact that Lina did not know what gelato was.

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Fortunately, though, the insta-love and the severely lacking knowledge of delicious food did not ruin the story of “Love and Gelato “for me. Lina’s journey was cute and heartwarming, if a little quick for my taste, and I just wish that this book had taken place over a longer period of time, because personal growth comes with time. Lina’s story was sweet, but it only took a few days in Italy for her to discover who she was and to come to the point where she could begin to heal from the loss of her mother. It was still a great and heartwarming coming of age story, but I just wish it hadn’t happened so fast for this book’s protagonist, especially since I wanted to see Lina get to know Howard more.

Howard, Lina’s long-lost father and the reason she came to Italy, was such a good, charming, and endearing character. I wish that there had more of him because he brought so much to this book. Jenna Evans Welch did such an amazing job writing Howard, and his character honestly brought tears to my eyes while reading the end of this book. Lots of tears. Multiple times.

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Howard’s story was so interesting as well as sad, and I loved how much he cared for Lina and wanted to get to know her. I’ve definitely come to the point in my life where I fall for the adult characters and am on their side instead of the rebellious teenager’s. And let me tell you, the other side looks pretty good. 😉

Overall, “Love and Gelato” was a sweet, heartwarming summer read. I enjoyed reading Jenna’s amazing descriptions of Tuscany and learning about the city of Florence, and I hope to someday have a stamp in my passport that says,”Italy,” on it. Welch’s writing style in “Love and Gelato” was easy to read while being extremely impacting, and I enjoyed the whole experience of reading this book, from its characters to its stunning setting. If you want to read a good story or just catch the travel bug, you have to read “Love and Gelato”!

The Sweet Trilogy by Wendy Higgins (Sweet Trilogy #1-3)

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“Sweet Evil”–4 out of 5 stars. “Sweet Peril”–4 out of 5 stars. “Sweet Reckoning”–3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Anna Whitt is a good girl to the core. She’s responsible, a good student, respectful, and a great friend. Addictions to substances, however, have always been a struggle for her, and resisting their dark lure has not been easy to resist all these years.

Despite the fact that dark desires aren’t uncommon among the human population, being able to see other peoples’ guardian angels and their emotional auras is definitely a little out of the scope of an average teenagers abilities, and ever since she was a little girl, Anna has known that “different” was just a small part of who she is. Anna’s adoptive mother has always been there for her, helping her when she struggled with her unique gifts, but despite her mother’s dedication, Anna has always felt that there was something more to who she was than just being special.

Years of wondering what had made her able to know and see things that others couldn’t come to an end when a very attractive and very bad drummer named Kaidan Rowe swaggers into her life, giving her the answer, as unexpected as it is, that she has been seeking for: she is a Nephilim. Anna now knows what she is, but there is so much more to who she is, and even Kaidan is stumped as to why this seemingly unsuspecting teenage girl is so different from the other Nephilim he knows. With a change in heart, Kai begins to help Anna in her search for answers to questions as old as time, and the more times he spends with her, the more Kai wonders if there is something more to life than just surviving it.

During their journey to discovering how to take down the Dukes and stop their reign of destruction on the earth, Kaidan, Anna, and their friends find that there is always hope even in the darkest hours of their lives. And with that hope, they rediscover who they are and that second chances do exist. But facing up against the Dukes in their most dangerous encounter yet, Anna and Kai’s group of reformed Nephilim wonder if they will live to see that second chance…

Last September I was low on books and school was a bit stressful, so upon the suggestion of my older sister, I borrowed her copies of Wendy Higgins’s “The Sweet Trilogy” to take a breather and walk away from the work and anxiety of college for a little bit. I had expected to enjoy Wendy’s books, but dang, they were really interesting and fun to read, and I ended up loving this trilogy and the characters in it!

Anna had a really sweet and good voice, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. I hate it when sometimes I’m reading a book and I love the style of writing, the secondary characters, and the plot, but I don’t care for the protagonist’s voice, which ends up stopping me from loving the book. Those are the times when I beg for third person rather than first person perspectives, but I was so happy while reading the “The Sweet Trilogy,” because Anna was such a kind person with a pleasant voice that endeared her and these books to me. It was refreshing to have a female character who wasn’t overly wild or rebellious, and I appreciated that fact because it made Wendy’s books stand out from the other paranormal and contemporary novels that have flooded the YA market the past few years. I also loved seeing Anna go from a sophomore in high school to being college age, and it was great seeing her growth as an individual and determination to do what was right in the face of great obstacles. Anna was the kind person who lived by the motto “kill them with kindness,” and it was nice to have a character female who was strong, as well as kind and compassionate towards others. And in the tradition of most great stories, the bad ass heroine had an equally amazing hero to stand by her side.

I fell for Kaidan Rowe. Wendy Higgins did such a great job of writing this character, how the awful world he’d lived in had shaped him into a person who could be very, very bad, but who also had immense depth and potential to do good. Anna was the one person who came into his life and expected nothing of him, and she gave him the tool he needed to turn his life around: love. I liked him in “Sweet Evil” a lot, but it was “Sweet Peril” that made me really love both Kaidan and Anna as individuals, as well as a couple.

“Sweet Peril” was the book where I got to see how much both of them had changed and how they had become stronger because of the things they went through, and I loved their unwavering determination to keep traveling down a better path for themselves. Kaidan  made my heart hurt throughout this trilogy, because for most of it, he was prone to pushing away the people he loved due to the environment that he had been born into and the life he had lived. Whenever Kaidan had a moment of revealing his heart, Wendy did such an amazing job of writing a character who had not let anyone get close to him in a long time and was just beginning to feel again. It was surprisingly emotional to read about, and I may or may not have been drowning in my own feels during the moments when the walls that Kai had built around his heart started to crumble.

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I adored Kaidan, and I think that his journey was really beautiful.

Another thing that I loved about this trilogy was that, although its characters were amazing and interesting, they weren’t the only things that kept me reading these books. I really appreciated the fact that I enjoyed a little bit of everything that made up the “Sweet” books, including the dynamic that Wendy Higgins’s paranormal/supernatural aspects created. I found Wendy’s take on the Nephilim to be quite interesting, and I felt like she did a good job of laying it out well for her readers, which added a lot to the story this trilogy tells.

I guess at times you could say that Wendy Higgins’s books were pretty content heavy because of the issues presented in them, but I didn’t necessarily find these books overly heavy or despairing due to how well Wendy dealt with different situations. The various Dukes and their children represented the deadly, and not-so-deadly, sins that we all know exist in the world; this trilogy was brutal at times because the children of the Dukes all struggled with a specific vice more than the humans, and they had to take that predisposed sin and perfect it to use against mankind. Anna’s proverbial thorn in the flesh was substance abuse and Kaidan’s was lust, and they both struggled and fought to overcome their issues while not being murdered by the Dukes for failing to fulfill their “purpose” as Nephilim. It was interesting, as well as heartbreaking, to watch Anna and Kai’s journey, and I really appreciated that Wendy did not shy away from or attempt to sugar coat the heavy issues within her books. Wendy Higgins dealt with the issues her characters encountered and participated in really well, and she did not pass over them as if they, in some forms, were acceptable. Despite how heavy some of the content was, I never felt like Wendy Higgins’s books got gross or seedy, because at no point did she ever hail the destructive tendencies, nor she did not dwell on them more than was necessary to make me as a reader understand what was going on.

Anna’s struggle with addiction felt real the way Wendy wrote it, and her learning to overcome her addictions and fears made for a very compelling story. During these books, Anna had to pretend that she was serving her purpose as a Nephilim, influencing humans to give into their addictions in order to keep the Dukes from discovering that she had her own plans concerning the Dukes’ children. Despite participating in that kind of dark life, Anna was strong enough to be true to herself and to not give into things just because it was  easier than fighting against her own addictions. I admired Anna and thought that her evolution in this series was really great. I really enjoyed this trilogy as a whole, and I loved watching Anna and Kaidan grow individually and as a couple, but I definitely played the favorite card with two of the books in Wendy’s series.

“Sweet Evil” was a great start to Wendy’s “The Sweet Trilogy,” but my favorite of the first three books was definitely “Sweet Peril.” I loved seeing how Anna began to change and grow as a person, and it was admirable how she stepped up to the plate in order to stop the Dukes from terrorizing her Nephilim friends and her family. As much as it hurt me as a reader, I also really liked that Kai and Anna were apart for a little while between the end of “Sweet Evil” and for most of “Sweet Peril.” I liked that there was a fair amount of distance between them geographically and emotionally because it gave them the chance to grow as individuals, so that when they got back together, they were stronger than before due to what they had endured while apart. Another reason why I really loved “Sweet Peril” was that there were a lot more interactions between the secondary characters like Ginger, Marna, Anna’s mom, Jay, and a couple of other Nephilim in it, and all of them added a lot to the story.

I ended up caring a lot about the character that Wendy Higgins had written in “The Sweet Trilogy,” and their journey together in these books was heart-wrenching at times, but it also beautiful. I loved how this trilogy managed to be extremely entertaining while still being full of emotional and spiritual depth, and I thought that Wendy did a great job of showing the grittiness of the darkness that is in the world and balancing it with the power and truth that love and hope possess. I would not recommend the “The Sweet Trilogy” to people looking for a light read, but I think that if you’re up for a trying and emotional journey and you like books about angels, then Wendy’s trilogy could be a great read for you.

P.S. Keep your eyes out for a separate review of “Sweet Temptation,” which is a companion novel to the “The Sweet Trilogy” that is from Kai’s perspective. It is also my favorite of the “Sweet” books.

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C Stevens

“The Lies About Truth” by Courtney C. Stevens

Publishing House: HarperTeen

Release Date: November 3rd, 2015

Quality of Writing: 4 out of 5 stars.

How much I enjoyed it: 3 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Sadie Kingston, is a girl living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can’t move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent’s brother, Max.

As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she’s unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him — even if Max is able to look at her scars and not shy away. But when the truth about the accident and subsequent events comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or if she’ll always be trapped in the past.”

Thank you, HarperTeen, for hosting the giveaway on goodreads and for sending me an ARC of this book. In no way has this influenced my review.

“The Lies About Truth” was a pretty good contemporary book. It had a lot of depth to it because of the issues that Courtney C. Stevens dealt with, and I thought that the character were well-written. I can see why people like “The Lies About Truth,” because it was a very good book, but it just did not click for me.

There are a lot of moments in my life when I wonder what’s wrong with me and why I don’t like something that seems, from all appearances, so good? I felt that way about this book because, even though it was well-written and had a great, emotional story, I just did not connect with the characters or the story. I could appreciate it and the journey that the heroine and her friends went on, but I did not fall in love with the heart of the story. I feel like whenever I read a novel by Katie McGarry, I am completely emotionally invested in the story she tells and the characters she writes; her books capture my heart, and that’s all there is too it. Sadly, I didn’t get that feeling of being emotionally drawn into the story or invested in the characters, despite their tumultuous circumstances and really wanting to connect with them. “The Lies About Truth” had a great story and well-developed characters for the genre, but for some odd and frustrating reason, I could not get into Sadie’s story.

Sadie was a great contemporary fiction heroine; she had secrets and had been through a lot, but she was not the kind of female character who grated on my nerves because of her more depressive inner thoughts. I was okay with her perspective because it was understandable considering what she had been through, and I did honestly want to see her break free of her fears and past hurts. I also thought that the emails between Max and her were very cute, and I liked that the two of them, who had been the most effected by the crash, were able to lean on one another and accept each other when they needed it most. I thought that Courtney Stevens did a good job of writing Sadie and the journey to self-acceptance that her character experience; it really was a lovely evolution, even though I did not feel super invested in this book.

Maxwell was also a good character, and the relationship that existed between him and Sadie because of the crash that took his brother’s life. One of the things that I loved seeing about both him and Sadie was how they accepted the “new” versions of each other, and where others might have seen flaws, they just saw a friend and someone who could understood them. I think that most people can relate, in one way or another, to the feeling that comes with finding a person who may or may not know every thought in your head, but they still understand you. While reading “The Lies About Truth,” I felt like Max and Sadie had that, which warmed my heart towards this book’s story and characters a bit more; I still didn’t feel attached or all that invested in the story, but I definitely appreciated that aspect of the it.

Overall, I thought that “The Lies About Truth” was a very good contemporary read. It was mature but clean, and I thought that Courtney C. Stevens handled the issues of self-image and self-acceptance quite well, despite not being that attached to her characters. This book was a bit predictable at times because the issues it dealt with are so commonly used now in young adult fiction, but isn’t that why we read certain contemporary novels, because we know how it will go and that it will end happily? “The Lies About Truth” was a good book, even though it was not necessarily my favorite contemporary story.