Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman (Blackhearts #2)

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“Blacksouls” by Nicole Castroman

5 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“Nicole Castroman brings the dangerous pirate ports of the Caribbean to life in this vibrant sequel to Blackhearts—the reimagined origin story of history’s most infamous pirate, Blackbeard.

Edward “Teach” Drummond is setting sail to the Caribbean as first mate on the most celebrated merchant ship in the British fleet—until he rebels against his captain. Mutiny is a capital offense and Teach knows it could cost him his life, but he believes it worth the risk in order to save his crew from the attacking Spanish ships.

Sailing on the same blue waters, Anne barely avoids the Spanish attack, making it safely to Nassau. But lawless criminals, corrupt politics, and dangerous intentions fill the crowded streets of this Caribbean port. Soon, Anne discovers that the man entrusted to keep the peace is quite possibly the most treacherous of them all—and he just happens to hold Teach’s fate in his terrifying hands.

Life and death hang in the balance when Teach and Anne are given a dangerous mission. It’s a mission that will test their love, loyalty and devotion, forcing them down a path neither one could have ever imagined.”

“Blacksouls” is one of those books that the more time you spend thinking about it, the more you come to love and appreciate the story and its characters. I honestly think that this is in my top three favorite books of the year, and I cannot believe that it took me this long to write a review for it! I guess reading a bunch of duds this spring kind of took up the free time that I use to write reviews… 😦

Last year, “Blackhearts” was one of the best books of 2016, and I completely fell in love with Nicole’s characters and her storytelling style. I loved the fact that “Blackhearts” was a historical novel rather than an high-octane adventure story, and that it was centered on developing the characters and the dynamics between them, rather than the drama that was about the ensue. I love historical fiction and learning about times and new places that I do not know much about, and I love the feeling of taking away some new piece of knowledge or developing a new perspective due to something that I have learned while reading. That sensation of discovery and enjoyment was one of the reasons why I loved “Blackhearts” so much, because it was more than a pyro maniac’s dream; it was about relationships and the invisible cords that linked them all together, and how people and many of their choices were dictated by the time that they live in. That aspect of “Blackhearts” was depicted with such accuracy that I instantly became a fan of Nicole Castroman, and I so admire her skill as a writer and the accuracy of her research. With all that being said about “Blackhearts,” I do have to say that as dear to my heart as Castroman’s debut is to my heart, “Blacksouls” definitely showed how much Nicole has grown as an author over the past year, and let me tell you, this book was one killer of a ride.

After hearing the announcement that there would be a second book in Nicole’s retelling of Blackbeard’s life, I was, to be honest, a bit wary. I had loved the bitter sweet, tormenting ending of “Blackhearts” so much that I did not want a second book to ruin how I felt about the first. Seriously, readers, I should not have wasted my time worrying, because “Blacksouls” was so amazing and it exceeded all of my expectations!

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The second book of Ann and Teach’s story was dynamic, full of the perfect amount of drama and heartache, as well as tension and romance. “Blacksouls” was so well-balanced and wonderfully layered that it kind of blew me away; it was grittier and a bit more wild than “Blackhearts,” but I personally feel like that was the perfect match for how Ann and Teach’s story was unfolding. It was a truly magical experience to read a book that I instantly connected with, especially after a fairly disappointing spring for books!

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Nicole’s research skills were once again put to good use in “Blacksouls,” and I felt utterly transported to the time and place where Teach and Ann lived, fully experiencing the beauties and horrors of that era as their story unfolded before me. Nicole Castroman’s writing made the past come vividly back to life, and since I already have a weakness for well-written and well-researched historical fiction, it is no shocker that I fell more in love with this series and its characters because of how well-executed the historical aspects were!

Teach was (and is) the best pirate character that a reader and fangirl could ever ask for! (sorry, Jack!)

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He was equal parts swoony, wild, and determined, as well as good-hearted. Teach had been amazing in “Blackhearts” and I had completely fallen for him as a character, but underneath his strength, charm, and determination, Teach had felt like a boy during parts of the first book. In “Blacksouls,” however, Teach came in to his own, becoming a more quietly bold and strong young man. I loved seeing the character development that he experienced over the course of “Blacksouls,” especially since he and Ann were apart for half of this book. He was clever, charming, and intelligent in how determined he was to find Anne, which was pretty attractive, let me tell you. As much as I loved Ann and Teach together, though, I did like the fact that I could get to know each of them separately, and I liked seeing the friendship between Teach and John in action as they set sail together again.

I adored pretty much all of the characters in “Blacksouls”; I loved Teach and his fellow sailors, the young brother and sister that Ann sailed to Nassau with, and I loved to hate the villains of Ann and Teach’s story. Unfortunately, the only person I was not a huge fan of in this book was Ann herself, which surprised me because of how much I had liked her in “Blackhearts.” In “Blacksouls,” I had a hard time connecting with Ann, and I found her boldness and ferocity in certain situations to be a little unrealistic, feeling that her actions were sometimes foolish rather than brave, especially when the lives of others were at stake. I still liked Ann and Teach together when they had their reunion moment and they began to make plans together once more, but I really feel that Teach’s character development completely eclipsed that of Ann’s, which I am actually okay with. I would have loved to feel a bit more connected and attached to Ann like I had in “Blackhearts,” but me not being wholly on Ann’s side did not at all detract from my love for this book.

Ahhh, the romance. I still loved Ann and Teach as a couple, even if I was a bit more of a fan of him than her. It was wonderful seeing and experiencing the personalities of these two wonderful characters while they were apart, because I feel like I got to know both of them so much better that way. Them being separated for so long in this book also built the tension and made me more invested in their story and their situation as a whole. Nicole Castroman did such an amazing job of giving me as a reader just enough of their interactions to keep me reading and to be invested in their relationship, but not so much that it detracted from the rest of her book’s plot. I feel like the quote, “[his] parting was my pain,” basically describes this book and what it made me feel, especially when it came to the open ended ending!

Nicole was cruel once again with her ending, but I totally respect her because I AM HOOKED!

I do not want to spoil anything about “Blacksouls” for you, so I will just say that Nicole Castroman did an amazing job of creating another magical and well-developed book. I was held in suspense of what might happen to Teach, Ann, and the other characters in this book, and there was loads of adventure and drama, and piracy to boot! I adored seeing the characters grow and develop apart as well as together, and it was wonderful to see how complex and dynamic Nicole’s story and characters have become. I loved the adventure and intrigue that was woven throughout “Blacksouls,” and I appreciate the fact that this book did not wander away from the heart of this series’ story: the second installment to Nicole’s series still had the tug of war between the romance and relationships like the first book, but it was also more. More complex, more dynamic, and I honestly just wanted to read more. Here’s to hoping that there’s a third book coming out next year, because that cliffhanger will haunt me until I get another book!

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“Blacksouls” was a wonderful, adventurous, and refreshing read, and if you have any fondness for historical fiction, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and/or “Poldark,” I think that you would absolutely adore this fantastic series!

New ‘Heist Society’ Book by Ally Carter!

I have been waiting for this day for the past three years, and I am SO excited to announce that Ally Carter is finally coming out with another “Heist Society” book!

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I’m terribly depressed that it is just going to be a novella and only available in e-book, but honestly, I’ll take anything that I can get when it comes to the characters in Ally’s “Heist Society” series. My only wish is that her new novella doesn’t sign the end of this series, because I desperately need just one more full-length novel with Hale, Kat, and Gabrielle.

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Okay, on to the novella!

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“The Gift of the Magi” by Ally Carter

(Heist Society #4)

Release Date: November 15th

Format: e-book

Summary:

“Katarina Bishop is a thief. To many it wouldn’t matter that she now uses her considerable skills to resteal valuable works of art and return them to their rightful homes. She’s still a thief.

So that’s why Kat’s surprised when an Interpol agent comes to her one snowy evening, asking for her help.

The Magi Miracle Network was set to auction off a very rare, very valuable Fabergé egg two days before Christmas, but the egg’s been stolen and now the charity’s reputation—and their future—is on the line.

Kat’s family and Interpol might be on opposite sides of most jobs, but someone just stole Christmas.

Now it’s up to Kat and her crew to steal it back.”

I am super excited to read another book by Ally Carter, especially a Christmas themed story, and I just hope that this isn’t the last time we get to see these wonderful characters!

Happy reading to my fellow Ally Carter fans!

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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”!

Fangirl Friday #9…Around the World in YA

Around the World in YA

So, a little while ago a blogger I follow (The Candid Cover) did a post about reading around the world in YA, and I thought that it would be really fun to join the book tag and do that for this week’s fangirl friday! One day I want to officially do this book tag hard-core by planning a book for at least ever continent and a few countries in each of those continents (another blogger I follow did that and it was amazing, too), but for right now, I just decided to select few of my favorite books that have transported me to another place and taken me on fun adventures. Okay, here they are!

book 5 to 1(Futuristic India)

“5 to 1” by Holly Bodger was a really interesting book, and I loved that it took place in India.

18798983 The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh book(Historical/fantastical Saudi Arabia)

“The Wrath and the Dawn” took me on such an amazing journey, and I keep falling more and more in love with Renée’s book the more I read it and the longer I own it.

cress by marissa meyer book(Futuristic Africa and Beijing)

I loved the African desert in this book. For some odd reason I found it extremely fun and adventurous despite how deadly it was for the characters. I also adored Cress and Thorne together, so that’s one of the reasons why I loved the setting so much.

23399192 Rook by Sharon Cameron book(Futuristic France and England)

“Rook” by Sharon Cameron became one of my favorite books after I got a chance to read it earlier this year. I fell in love with Cameron’s writing style, the setting, and oh my, did I ever fall in love with René Hasard. Yeah, he was a Parisian heart stealer and I adored ever minute of “Rook.”

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer(France)
Also taking place in the gorgeous streets of Paris was Katie Alender’s book, “Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer.”Don’t judge me, but I really enjoyed this book. Alender’s descriptions of Paris were AMAZING and I felt like I got just a little taste of the City of Lights.
ally carter Heist Society book(England, Italy, and France)
The “Heist Society” series by Ally Carter is one of my absolute favorite series! I love Ally’s crazy cast of characters, the “Ocean’s Eleven” vibe that the books have, and that Kat and the gang get to travel around the world. These characters have been all over the world, and it has been so fun to join them on their travels.
the infernal devices(Victorian era England)
Yeah, I succumbed to the lure of “The Infernal Devices.” It’s a wonderful and wretchedly painful trilogy that I can never get enough of. I love the setting and the characters. Nuff said.
16182308 a cold legacy megan shepherd(Victorian era Scotland)
Yippeeee!! I friggin’ love Scotland and Megan Shepherd did such a good job transporting me to the beautiful and fiercely eerie manor of von Stein and the Scottish highlands.
 
the golden braid melanie dickerson 598dea8044bbd7c48c6e382f91c82d7f big book(Medieval Germany)
I really liked “The Golden Braid” and was so happy to find another retelling of my favorite fairy tale that was done well.
Valkyrie Rising (Valkyrie, #1)
(Norway)
“Valkrie Rising” by Ingrid Paulson was a really fun book because not a lot of stories take place in Norway, and it was so much fun learning about the country and some of its folklore.
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Alright, there you have it! My list of some of my favorite books shows that I haven’t traveled around much, but I have certainly enjoyed the adventures I was able to go on thanks to these wonderful stories. So, where was your favorite place that you got to read about or travel to?
Thanks for joining me, and happy Friday!!

Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae

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“Wish You Were Italian” by Kristin Rae

3 out of 5 stars.

Pippa has always wanted to travel to Italia and experience the culture and explore the sights, but when her parents decide to send her ship her off to an art school for the summer, Italy doesn’t sound quite so appealing. Who wants to spend their entire summer vacation in Italy stuck in a stuffy classroom learning about art instead of seeing and experiencing it for real? Pippa’s outlook on her summer is gloomy at best until she comes up with a plan.

Pippa decides that life is too short to waste in a classroom when she could be out and about, exploring one of the most beautiful countries (in her opinion) on earth. On her adventurous, albeit rebellious, journey, Pippa meets many different characters along the way, some of whom befriend her. From historic Rome to beautiful Cinque Terre, “Wish You Were Italian” takes a reader on this teenage girl’s whirlwind journey of self discovery where unexpected friendships and romance await her.

I’m sad to say that I greatly disliked the main female character, Pippa, in this book and I thought that she was really foolish. One of the reasons why I was not a fan was how she handled different situations she was put in or got herself into. Yes, I’m sorry, Pippa, that you’re stuck in Italy and have to learn about art; it is your parents’ passion and not your own, so I get that. I also get that you want to exploring everything around you instead of being closed up in a classroom. But did you really need to ditch school, run off without telling your parents, and start hanging out with complete strangers in a foreign country? Oh, and Pippa also traveled from Rome up the cost to Cinque Terre with a girl, Chiara, who she had just met. Did I mention that she did so without the slightest hesitation? Have you ever heard of human-trafficing or serial killers, Pippa? I know those are dark thoughts, but honestly, you are a girl ALL ALONE in a foreign country, and you decide to tag along with a person you’ve know for about twenty-four hours?  I find that to be a bit stupid, but whatever. I know that at some point in most of our lives we dream about doing something adventurous, but that did not seem like a safe or smart thing to do. Granted, this is a fictional book, but still… Okay, now that I’ve stated the reasons why I found Pippa annoying, let’s talk about the things I that I did like about “Wish You Were Italian.”

Kristin Rae has a gift for descriptions. Her writing painted such beautiful and clear descriptions of Italy that I felt like I was there. Sometimes when I read a book and I don’t like the main character, I can’t enjoy the descriptions of the world or setting. But with “Wish You Were Italian,” the descriptions of Italy completely overshadowed the fact that I wasn’t a fan of Pippa. It was gorgeous, stunning, and lifelike the way Kristin wrote about the country, and I loved every moment of this Italian setting.

Another aspect of “Wish You Were Italian” that made up for the more than lacking Pippa, was the side characters. Chiara was cool in an intense Italian kind of way, and I did like how Kristin Rae dispersed a little of the Italian language in this book. I felt like I could hear their accents, and it really made me want to learn the language. I also thought that the American boy that Pippa met was sweet.

Overall, “Wish You Were Italian” was a cute, light summer read that was surprisingly enjoyable. If you want to take a trip to Italy for a small fee of $9.99, this is the book to buy!

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

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“The Statistical Probability of  Love at First Sight” by Jennifer E. Smith.

4 out of 5 stars.

Seconds. Minutes. Hours. One choice. All of these things can change your future and the future of your world. Every moment matters and Hadley Sullivan comes to know this all too well in “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.” A different choice here and there would have meant that she would now be on her way to England, about to witness one of the worst things to ever happen in the history of her life: her father’s wedding.

To some a wedding would seem to be a small (or large), joyous occasion, but to Hadley it means the world to her, at least the end of the world as she knows it. You see, it has been touch and go between Hadley and her father for quite a while now, especially since they were so close; the whole divorce thing definitely messed up her previously happy family. One summer trip to England was all it took to tip Hadley’s world upside down, and now she is going to be forced to witness her own father marrying a woman whom she had never even met! Ha! That will be just grand.

To top it all off (because of a few seemingly inconsequential choices) Hadley has missed her flight by mere minutes (four to be exact), and has to wait around the airport for another flight, which doesn’t seem all that appealing to Hadley. Three hours can seem like a few seconds to some people and like an eternity to others. Hadley would peg herself as belonging to the latter group, and she dreads the moment she will have to step from the airplane onto British soil. For Hadley it will mean the beginning of the end for the only family unit she has ever known to be solely her’s, the last proverbial nail in the coffin so to speak. But little does Hadley know that despite this bitter ending that there might just be an even sweeter beginning that awaits her arrival.

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“The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” by Jennifer E. Smith was…cute, sweet, funny, endearing, and heartwarming. My older sister (once again) recommended this book to me and it did not disappoint. I am not a huge fan of chick lit, but because my sister and I have pretty similar taste in books I gave it a shot, and look at me now! “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” was a very enjoyable read and I was really surprised that I didn’t get bored with it; half of the novel is in a plane of all places, and then Hadley goes on to her dad’s wedding. You think it would be boring but I never was while reading this book! This wonderful read totally changed my attitude towards chick lit. I’m still not a huge follower of chick lit, but I am now much more willing to at least try those kinds of books out, and I won’t write them off just because of the genre they are placed in. And sometimes it can really pay off.

“The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” deals with quite a few very difficult topics, but I think they were all handled fairly well. I had fun with this book and I was even a little teary-eyed at times, which says a lot about a book in my opinion. I also really liked the guy, Oliver, in it, and despite the fact that “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” spans over only twenty-four hours, I felt connected to his character and thought he was a cute, nice person to read about.

Despite the fact that the characters got really attached to each other so quickly, I thought Hadley’s and Oliver’s relationship was sweet, and I think they were cute together. I didn’t ever feel like it was a forced romance. “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight” is a great read whether you are at a park, on a plane, or you just need something nice and fluffy to read. No muss, no fuss with this one. It is a quick, enjoyable read for young adults (it is supper clean and there is no language, which I totally respect). A great read! Loved it!

 

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