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”!

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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.

Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

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  “Off the Page” by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van leer

4 out of 5 stars.

Delilah is the luckiest girl in the world. After having fallen in love with a character from the fairy tale book, “Between the Lines,” Delilah is granted her wish and Prince Oliver is brought to life and into her world. Pulled straight from a fairy tale means that adjusting will be difficult, but both Delilah and Oliver are excited to start their new adventure together beyond the pages of a book.

As wonderful as the thought of a beloved character coming to life is, the truths of reality are much more difficult to accept. Adapting to his new life is challenging, and to make matters worse, the book Oliver was taken out of is trying to correct itself, which means that it wants him back. Fighting against the book, maybe even fate itself, Delilah, Oliver, and their fictional and not-so-fictional friends try to make one last go of getting their happily ever afters. But then tragedy strikes, and each of them wonders whether anyone can ever truly have a happy ending in reality, or if they must accept the bitter truth that such things can only happen in fiction?

There were three different perspectives in “Off the Page,” and I enjoyed each one of them. Edgar, Oliver, and Delilah were fairly cookie-cutter characters, and at times their voices seemed to blend together a bit. Despite that fact, however, I grew to enjoy their voices for what they were: narrators of a “fairy tale.” Most of the traditional fairy tales tended to have multiple characters who all seemed to have the same voice, and so that aspect of “Off the Page” didn’t really bother me once I had adjusted to the fact that they acted much younger than I am used to characters acting. This was not a survival story where sixteen-year-olds were fighting for their lives, this was a fairy tale with a twist about a couple of kids in high school. Once I had accepted that, I began to enjoy reading from the three different points of view.

Edgar, Oliver, and Delilah were all cute characters despite their sometimes immature actions. Delilah irritated me at times because she seemed to be the most selfish and thoughtless of these three perspectives with her expectations of how things should unfold. Delilah wanted situations to go her way, and I can’t fault her for that because we all do it at times, but I disliked that most of the time she didn’t consider other people’s feelings. Despite that, though, I ended up being okay with this character because she grew a lot as an individual in “Off the Page.” As long as a character turns their attitude around and grows as a person, then I’m fine with them starting out a little bit vain and juvenile; it’s when they don’t learn anything that I’m bothered with attitudes.

Edgar and Oliver were cute, if not a bit juvenile, but I grew to like their perspectives as the book went on and I thought that they were sweet characters. I had a difficult time at first connecting to Oliver and Edgar, but eventually I adjusted to the kind of book “Off the Page” was and could then fully enjoy these two boys. They both had their moments of selfishness and weakness, but they also had times of heroism, bravery, and hope in the face of what looked like insurmountable odds. They were darling and I liked them.

All three characters experienced forms of personal growth, and I liked how each of them learned to be more selfless and sacrifice what meant the most to themselves to help someone else. Hope, selflessness, and creativity were the underling themes of “Off the Page,” and I thought that Jodi and Samantha did a very good job of making their characters, and in turn, their readers think about how far those three items go in the real world. With them, we as individuals could do SO much in the world to improve it. In the end, I liked Edgar, Oliver, and Delilah and how they grew in their awareness of others besides themselves.

I think the hardest part about this book for me was getting through the first hundred and fifty pages. I went in with the understanding that it was going to be a super sweet and completely unrealistic story, but I was prepared. Somehow despite my preparation, I still found myself growing a little nauseous and/or irritated at times because of  the characters’ actions, and that initially made it hard for me to connect or get attached to the different people in “Off the Page.” Maybe it was because I hadn’t read the companion to this book, “Between the Lines,” but I had a hard time getting into this story and characters in the beginning. I was a little worried for the first third of this book, wondering off and on whether I had wasted my money on a pretty cover with a lackluster story, and I just was not invested in the story or characters.

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I kept reading despite this because I honestly did want to love “Off the Page,” and around page one-fifty, I got my wish! Once it got to that point things started to get interesting, the plot and character relationships from the first book started making sense, and I began to enjoy all of the characters perspectives. I was happy how either I or the book shifted a bit, and once I got to that point I started to really like “Off the Page” beyond its stunning map and gorgeous cover design.

Surprising to me in this book were the parts that made me choke up; I didn’t expect to almost cry in this book, but I teared up multiple times before I finished it. There are two very emotional parts that made my heart break for the characters involved in them, and I thought it was interesting how Jodie Picoult and Samantha van Leer decided to approach the topic of death in this book since it was so overly sweet. Bravo on their part for almost making me cry while reading what I had expected to be an excessively happy story.

There’s a plot in the previous book, “Between the Lines,” that involved Edgar’s mother Jessamyn rewriting her fairy tale book so that Oliver could get out and become a real person, and it instantly made me think the show “Once Upon a Time.” Now, let’s remember that “Between the Lines” came out two or three years ago, way before the Author in “Once Upon a Time” was ever mentioned. I’ll be honest, the way “Between the Lines” and “Off the Page” went down, I wondered if the TV show might have jacked that idea without people knowing it. It was just so darn similar in that someone (an author) rewrote a fairy tale to influence reality, and it felt like the show had taken that plot line or been inspired by “Between the Lines.” This was probably me going off of the theorizing deep end, but I just thought that the similarities between the plots of the book and show were kind of interesting!

I know that I am giving “Off the Page” the same number of stars as Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses” even though Sarah’s was epic and it blew my mind; there were a couple of things that I didn’t love in it that kept me from giving it a five star rating. With “Off the Page,” however, I graded it on a different scale. This book was on the cute chick lit scale whereas Sarah J. Mass’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses” was graded on the epic fantasy scale. “Off the Page” accomplished what it was attempting to do for readers, it had an inventive and sweet premise, and it ended up being a well-written and cute story. Personally, that equals a really good, sweet chick lit book to me, and it was a fairy tale story on top of it. One blogger who liked this book said that it was “puke inducing cute,” and that’s exactly what this book was born to do. It was meant to be overly sweet and unrealistic with a few moments that made you cry, and I feel that “Off the Page” deserves a four star grade because it accomplished its goal. Not a lot of authors or book can say that for themselves, so I commend the authors on creating such an adorable fairy tale and picture perfect story.

Overall, “Off the Page” was a really sweet story that was endearing for its humorous moments and its tearful truths. It had moments of true and sincere depth, and I loved those pieces of this book. I think that young readers as well as older ones will fall in love with this book. If you love fairy tales and happily ever afters, then “Off the Page” is the book for you!

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

A while ago I had heard that Cynthia Hand (one of my favorite authors) was coming out with a new book and that it was going to be a standalone. 

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Some people like standalones, some people don’t. I, however, am cool with both, but I do love the fact that I won’t have to wait another two or three years before the story wraps itself up. Oh, and I am also glad to announce that said novel now has a cover.

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As happy as I am that the cover came out for this book, I am a little perturbed that I have to wait until February before  I can actually get a copy of “The Last Time We Say Goodbye.” Alright, enough talking/writing, here’s the cover…

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“The Last Time We Say Goodbye” by Cynthia Hand

Release Date: February 10, 2015

Publishing House: HarperTeen

Format: Hardcover 400 pages

Goodreads Summary:

There’s death all around us.
We just don’t pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

the lost girl by Sangu Mandanna

“The Lost Girl” by Sangu Mandanna

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Eva is illegal. She is an Echo of another’s loved one; she can be destroyed, unraveled just because of what her creation stands for: a replacement. Eva is an Echo, a being created out of the DNA of another human. Families that are afraid to lose loved ones, and are rich enough, have Echos created. DNA of that loved one is taken and an Echo of them woven, and if that human is ever to die before their time, the replica is put in their place. No longer does anyone have to endure the loss of a most beloved daughter, son, mother, father, or grandparent. Everything is great except for the fact that Echos are illegal, and severe punishment for the Echo as well as its owners are in place. But as long as no one finds out…

Eva knows what she is, that if anyone knew who or what she is that it could mean the end of her and her “family.” She has been raised by people assigned to watch over her, teach her how to be like her original. Despite what she is, Eva’s protectors love her and she loves them. Their job is to teach her all that her original  is learning; she is given her originals diaries to know what has happened in the girl’s life; she learns her mannerisms, her habits, Eva knows everything about the girl. But Eva wants to be more than just a replacement, she want to be more than an Echo: she wants to be Eva.

All her hopes and dreams, though, are shattered when her original dies in a tragic car accident in India. Before she knows it everything has changed, and now her life is in danger. As Eva assumes her original’s life, she finds many things out about herself, and about her existence. Will she ever have a chance to live her own life, love those she chooses to love, or will she be forever fated to live as an emulation of something real? Can this lost girl ever be found?

“The Lost Girl” by Sangu Mandanna was a new concept to me being a spin-off of “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. I have not read “Frankenstein” so I don’t know whether “The Lost Girl” does it justice or not, but I really enjoyed this story.  I thought Eva was an interesting character, and I didn’t mind at all reading about her and being in her head unlike certain female characters (Triss and Katnis Everdeen). The whole concept of the book is interesting in itself. I mean who would you be, and what would you do if you were in Eva’s shoes? She cannot exert her own freewill, she could be killed at any moment not because of what she did but what she is, and even if she would allow herself to fall in love, she wouldn’t be allowed to stay with him. Overall, her life kind of stinks.

I also found Eva’s family and her relationship with them to be really cute and I liked the scenes they were in; Sean was an interesting person, too. I really enjoyed him as a character and hope that he is in the next book  if Sangu Mandanna writes a conclusion. Another thing I really enjoyed was Eva’s original’s family. They at first were hesitant to get super close to Eva, but after a while the little boy and girl and Eva all became very close, and that was just darling. Overall, I think that Sangu Mandanna created a very enjoyable book for science fiction lovers, as well as fantasy lovers.