The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner

Travel inspiration!

Three friends, each on the brink of a quarter-life crisis, make a pact to quit their high pressure New York City media jobs and leave behind their friends, boyfriends, and everything familiar to embark on a year-long backpacking adventure around the world in The Lost Girls.

I really want to travel a bunch, so I’ve been trying to read travel memoirs. This is the first one that I’ve tried and read all of the way through. (I tried Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There and A Year in the World by Frances Mayes, but I wasn’t wild about either of them.) I really liked the personalities of the three girls. Each chapter switches between the three different perspectives of the girls. When I think of traveling, my first continent on the list is always Europe. This book completely avoided Europe, and I found it to be fascinating and inspiring. It opened me up to a wide variety of places that I would not have thought to travel to. I liked the book because it felt like a story. I’ll admit that some parts become a bit dull, but they eventually pick up again. I really liked the first half of the book especially. I would recommend this book if you want travel inspiration as well as a good story.

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Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Another wonderful Sarah Dessen book!

Sydney has always felt invisible. She’s grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world. Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last. 


This was a really good book and a fast read. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters, and I enjoyed the storyline. I thought that the main character Sydney was quite relatable, and the supporting characters were well rounded and unique. 

To be honest, I haven’t especially enjoyed Sarah Dessen’s recent novels, but this one kept me reading. I wouldn’t say that it’s hands-down amazing, but it is a good book. My favorites will always be The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride (with Just Listen making the top three). 

I love that Dessen creates well-rounded characters with girls who face real life problems. I also like that there are strong and original supporting characters and the whole entire story doesn’t revolve around a boy. 

8. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Such a good summer read.

The book focuses on three generations of women in a crazy family. They all come together at their summer home in Maine.

The novel is from the perspective of four women–one from each generation, plus an in-law. I really enjoyed “getting to know” the whole Kelleher family, learning of all of their drama. The characters are all very well developed, and the storyline has depth. I just got caught up in their lives and I didn’t want to leave.

I’ve really enjoyed J. Courtney Sullivan. She’s a good writer and has compelling story lines. Here’s my review for Commencement.

I definitely recommend it!

P.S. Yay, I’m on schedule for my 12 Books a Year! I’m really glad that I made this my New Year’s Resolution!

6. The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek

So disappointed.

This novel is about two half sisters who inherit a cottage in the Hamptons from their late aunt. They bond over the summer, fall in love, and search for a missing painting, possibly by Jackson Pollock.

This book looked like it could be the perfect summer read. And let me tell you, the cover art looked oh so appealing. Yes, I totally judge books by their covers.

The book ended up dimly trying too hard. It tried to show not tell and be clever and breezy. Yet the next “plot twist” always seemed so completely obvious. I felt like the characters were very flat and cliched. Noting special or memorable. Am I being too harsh?

I did enjoy the end of the story where everyone lives happily ever after. Sort of.

Not worth it. I’m sorry.

 

P.S. Yes, I know it’s August, and I’ve finally finished my sixth book of the year. But, you’ll be glad to know that two more reviews will be on their way quite soon! I’m almost caught up!

5. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

A good and different perspective on the world.

This novel is from the perspective of a dog named Enzo. His master is Denny who is a semi-professional car racer. Enzo loves Denny and is along for the ride of Denny’s many milestones and adventures as Denny is a driver, husband, and father.

I love the idea of this novel. The perspective of a dog provides a different way of looking at the world. There is a deep dedication and love for his master and family. There is numerous intelligence and great yearning for an opposable thumb.

Enzo is very lovable, and you end up always rooting for Denny.

It’s worth a read if you love animals. Also, if you are a race car enthusiast, there are plenty of metaphors that relate to life.

I’d say it’s worth it.

(Update on the 12 Books, 1 Year thing. Yeah, I know I’m behind. But I’m reading a lot more and trying to catch up!)

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien

I loved it at first…

This book is a mystery about a man who recently lost a political election, so he and his wife take some time to go to a secluded cabin. Then, she disappears. The question is, what happened to her? Did she leave because the marriage was falling apart? Did he kill her? Or, were they in on it together and they both eventually escaped to Canada?

The first forty pages of the novel were really good. I was really fascinated, as O’Brien laid out the facts/backgrounds of the characters. The novel is told from the objective point of view of the detective, so it provides hypotheses of what could have happened throughout the novel.

Sadly, the rest of the book was very slow and tedious. Is it the husband or not?

It’s not really worth reading, in my opinion.

 

SPOILER!!!!!!!!

 

 

The worst part of the novel is that it never gives an answer. After reading all 300-400 pages, you don’t know what happened to the wife. GRRRRR.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I actually kinda like it.

This novel is considered “The Great American Novel”. It is from the perspective of Nick Carraway, who lives in West Egg on Long Island in the 1920s. He is the neighbor of Jay Gatsby, who is a mysterious, rich, self-made man. Gatsby is in love with Daisy Buchanan (Nick’s cousin), and his primary goal is to win Daisy over. The novel explores the life of the rich and powerful from a third party perspective.

It’s difficult to create a synopsis of the novel because there are so many complex ideas addressed. I just gave a general idea of what the story is about. One of my favorite things about the novel is that while it addresses complex ideas, it is written simply enough that it is not difficult to understand. There is not too much deciphering to be done. I will admit that if you are thinking about other things while reading the book, it is easy to drift off and not comprehend what you’ve just read. Focus, and the story will be clear.

I’ve also always loved reading/watching things that address the upper class. I enjoyed reading Anna Godberson’s The Luxe series, I loved watching Gossip Girl, I enjoy Downton Abbey, and I used to be obsessed with the world of fashion. While the novel doesn’t really glamorize the upper class, I just enjoy the setting.

I also liked the novel for the points it makes. I think it is very true that money doesn’t make happiness. I also think that the relationships that are explored are interesting. Daisy has always loved Gatsby, but she can’t truthfully say that she never loved Tom. ETC. (I don’t want to give too much away.)

I did see the movie before I read the book. I hate doing that, but it ended up happening. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest it, but I did think that it helped me visualize what was happening, as I read. Use it as a supplement, if you must! But, really read the book. It’s good!

 

4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Not what I expected.

The novel is from two different perspectives—Eleanor and Park. They’re two high school student in the 80’s. Eleanor is new to Park’s high school. She’s a bit different and awkward, chubby and self conscious. Park is just a quiet Asian kid. They end up sitting together on the bus, and eventually a romance buds.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I picked up this novel, but it definitely wasn’t what I read.

The book follows a first romance as it takes baby steps. First, there’s the question of attraction. Then, there’s admitting the attraction. Then they find they have common interests and start talking to each other, etc. each step is a baby step and viewed from each perspective. It really is adorable and quite relatable.

But the book has a bit more weight to it. Eleanor comes from a messed up family. Her mother is with an asshole, to put it lightly, and she is new to the school because he had kicked her out if the house for the past year. Yeah, really messed up.

It’s interesting read, but it may not be for everyone.

(And, yeah, I guess I technically read two books in March, but this gives me some time to study for AP exams in April, haha!) (Also, I can’t believe I’ve already read four books this year. This is normally the time when I never was my own books. Let me just say, if you make time for reading you can find time to reading.

3. Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

I loved this book!

The novel centers around four women who have gone to the all-women’s college, Smith College. April, Bree, Celia, and Sally are all very different and unlikely friends, but with their close living quarters they become nearly inseparable. The story is told, in present day, almost half a decade since they graduated from college. Each chapter is from the perspective of one of the girlS, and the reader learns how their friendship formed through flashbacks to their college days.

I thought that this book was relatable, funny, and full of love. This book is a fast read. It’s about friendship with a sprinkling of feminism. There is a lot of soul to the book, and you can’t help but feel as if you’re the fifth friend in their friendship.

I couldn’t put this book down. The characters were so realistic and perfectly imperfect. Each of the girls offered a different perspective on a situation.

Also, the flashbacks to their college says made me excited for my own college experiences. The book definitely gives an insiders view to am all women’s college, something that I can’t imagine experience.

I guess the third time really is the charm. This is the third book I’ve read this year; I’m trying to read a book a month (January: Paper Towns by John Green and February: Just One Day by Gayle Forman)

I highly recommend this book!

2. Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Disappointed.

This is the companion novel to Just One Day, which is from the perspective from of Willem. The novel begins when Willem wakes up from the hospital, and it shares the adventures of his yearlong search for his Lulu.

If you haven’t read the first one, I would definitely suggest doing that first. (By the way, I loved the first novel, and I did a review here.) If none of this makes sense, basically wanted happened is that two teenagers bumped into each other in Europe and ended up spending one day together in Paris. They make a real connection, but circumstances cause them to end up on two different continents. This novel picks up from that point but from the male perspective.

As I mentioned, I loved the first book, and I couldn’t put it down. So, I was eager to read this one, especially after not having such a great experience with the last book I read. But, I was disappointed. I was not very interested in hearing Willem’s story. It seemed that a lot of the year was a waste of time to share, and it did not capture my interest. The ending was good, but I ended up skimming after awhile because I didn’t have much motivation to finish the book.

Maybe I’ll have better luck next month? Third time’s the charm?

P.S. If you didn’t know, I’ve made a goal for myself to read one book a month. This is the second book I’ve read so far. My January book was John Green’s novel Paper Towns, and you can read my review here.