2015 Recap and 2016 Goals

New Year 2015

When I set my goals for 2015 at the beginning of the year, I knew I had a lot to accomplish but I thought that the extra motivation would help me stay focused. My goals overall were more about trying new things and being more open to different types of books. And I can honestly say that I’ve read some books in 2015 that I would not have picked up on my own volition and I think I am a better reader for it. I just had no idea that becoming a book blogger was going to end up as a part-time job for me. I am so grateful to all of the authors and publishers and other media outlets that have allowed my blog to grow this past year and allowed me to grow as a reader.

So to recap how I did for my 2015 goals, I didn’t complete all of them but I think I did a fairly good job and I accomplished some extra things that a) distracted me and b) I never even knew existed. One lesson learned this year is that NetGalley approves most, if not all, of your review requests, so don’t request like 15 that are all being published in the same month (August & September were BIG NetGalley months for me, ha!). Another thing I learned this year is that if you have a blog where you review books, eventually authors and publishers will start contacting you asking you to review something for them. I was very honored to review a number of books for authors and publishers this past year and it was a great learning experience for me. Not only that but I read a lot of books I might not have heard of otherwise and I would have missed out on some great reads! So anyways, my original post about my 2015 goals you can find here. Below I’ll talk about how I did!

1. Read at least 20 different types of the books on the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist – This one I did manage to finish! I read over 20 of the checklist items, you can browse through the ones I used to check off on this list here.

2. Post at least 2 non-book review related posts per month – I think I did pretty darn good on this one, though I have to admit I was better about coming up with ideas at the beginning of the year. Some of my favorite posts from this goal include my post about Gretna Green, post on my annual Reading Retreat, and my Author Interview with Andrea Lochen who is such a sweetheart!! I did end up skipping multiple months on this goal because I just ran out of time but I’m glad I tried writing about different topics and expanding my knowledge on certain areas.

3. Participate in one book reading challenge (on an external site) per quarter – Did this one too! For Q1 I did the Bookish Bingo challenge, Q2 I participated in #ReadingMyLibrary, Q3 I participated in ARC August challenge, and Q4 I am currently doing the Bookish Bingo holiday edition!

4. Post at least two posts per month concerning various book memes – Oh gosh I only missed one on this!!! Ugh if I knew it would end up this way I would’ve just done that one so I could check this one off. Anyways the one I missed was my second October post, monkeys! As you can probably tell by my posts I tend to favor the Top Ten Tuesday posts, followed closely by Friday Finds and Waiting on Wednesday ends in third. If anyone has suggestions for fun book memes that they participate in I am open to new ones!

5. Read at least 5 books from Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime – I don’t think I ended up doing this at all, which is unfortunate but I have a lifetime (ha) still to read them so I’m sure it will happen someday!

6. Participate in Roof Beam Reader’s 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge – I ended up only reading 7 of the 12 in my pile for this challenge, but I am still really glad I participated since I read some books that I had on my book shelf for quite a while! You can see the books I read for this challenge here.

So overall I think I ended up accomplishing A LOT this year, though the things I accomplished didn’t end up all being things I had planned at the beginning of the year as my goals. I had no idea that I would get so involved in NetGalley and also in author/publisher requests, and while they definitely side-tracked me from my original goals, I think that I grew a lot as a reader and a blogger because of these events. Another thing that came into my life this year that I’m really enjoying is joining a book club! I’ve found some great reads so far through my library’s fiction book club and I’m looking forward to the books we’re reading in 2016! You can see the books we read this past year for the book club here.

I ended up reading 125 books during 2015, which was an increase over my last year’s number. And I hadn’t really set a number goal for 2015 since i didn’t think I could read more than I did last year but I ended up doing just that. I’ve summarized the number of books I read per month for not only 2015 but also 2014 & 2013, below is a depiction of the data:

Per month chart for end of year post

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And so on we move to 2016!! Very excited to embrace the coming New Year and continue on my reading journey. I’m going to be trying to consolidate some of my 2016 goals so that I’m more able to achieve them while also tying in requests from authors/publishers and my NetGalley reads. I am also hoping to expand my reach in 2016 in terms of Advanced Reader Copies and hopefully establish a couple contacts/relationships with some of the publishers that I like. Below is a summarized listing of what my goals are for 2016:

  1. PopSugar 2016 Reading Challenge – Read at least 20 books off this checklist. I really enjoyed doing this checklist for 2015 so I decided to participate again for 2016
  2. Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 – I heard a lot about this checklist this past year at the Book Riot Live conference and online and I’m excited to try this checklist this year!
  3. Penguin Random House Challenge Your Shelf: Books A-Z Challenge – This was technically a 2015 challenge but I liked the list so much that I’m going to use it for 2016 just for my own purposes. I’m going to try and read at least 10 books off this list.
  4. Participate in one shorter reading challenge per quarter. And since I’m a planner by nature I’ve already picked out which ones I plan to participate in:
    1. Quarter 1 – I’m currently participating in Bookish Bingo: Holiday edition which runs through end of February 2016 so this one will be my Quarter 1 reading challenge
    2. Quarter 2 – I’ve been wanting to participate in a Bout of Books challenge for a while now but the timing never lined up for me in 2015 so I am planning on definitely participating in the one in May 2016.
    3. Quarter 3 – I really liked participating in the ARC August challenge this past August and I am sure I will have a bunch of ARC’s on my schedule at that point so I am planning to participate again this year.
    4. Quarter 4 – I found this listing of the 24 Best Books About Witches to Get You in the Halloween Spirit and I noticed a lot of the books on the list were already in my TBR list so for Sept/Oct I am gong to work my way through this listing (this will be my own reading challenge hosted by my site).
  5. Other general goals that are less defined but are just overall goals I’d like to work on:
    1. Establishing contacts/relationships with publishers
    2. Continue to review ARC’s from authors
    3. Try doing some shorter reviews on books that I don’t necessarily have as much to say on. I’ve been having trouble keeping up with all the reviews I have to do and I’m hoping to write some shorter reviews this year for the books I’m just reading on my own
    4. Try to wrap up some of the series that I’m in the middle of, I feel like there are just so many and I lose track of the characters. I know its unreasonable but I almost wish authors would release a full series at the same time and be like “ok that’s it I’m not doing anymore.” I’ll start reading a series because the “finale” is out and then there’s somehow another sequel released and while excited it is also incredibly frustrating.

SO! That is everything. Gosh that was a lot of typing but that is my 2015 wrap up and my 2016 beginning. I will also be posting my WordPress summary in a separate post as well. And for anyone interested here is a link to my Goodreads summary for the year. I hope everyone had a successful 2015 and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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2015 Book #72 – Cottage in the Country by Linn B. Halton

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Title: A Cottage in the Country
Author: Linn B. Halton
Date finished: 7/15/15
Genre:  Romance (UK)
Publisher: HarperImpulse
Publication Date: July 16, 2015
Pages in book: 273
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

What do you do when your best friend has an affair with your husband of twenty-five years?
Well, you pack your bags, grab half of the equity in the house you’ve both lovingly restored and run away to an idyllic little cottage in the country.
Only, it’s not quite so idyllic when
1) Rustic charm sounds rather romantic, but the reality is something else …
2) The heavens decide to open on moving day and the rain just keeps on coming
Maddie Brooks grits her teeth and hires the highly recommended ‘man who can’, ex-soldier, Lewis Hart. As he rips out the very shabby, and decidedly not-so-chic kitchen, reality sets in. Not only is he the most abrupt person she’s ever met, but the man is a Neanderthal!
As the flood waters rise, and the village is cut off, everything that could possibly go wrong, does.
Hitting the big five-o is the final straw. No presents, family or friends—just infuriating Lewis, who can’t leave because the flood has now cut off his exit. How on earth is she going to get through this and put her life back together?
Can Maddie Brooks become that ‘fifty-and-fabulous’ woman of her dreams?

My rating: 1.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: (NOTE THERE ARE SPOILERS INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW) This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book based entirely on its cover” check box since I requested this book based on the cover. I thought it was a really pretty cover and it looked like it would be a cute, sweet story. This book is about a woman name Maddie who wants to start over following her husband and best friend’s betrayal. About to turn fifty, she isn’t sure what to do now that she is one her own for the first time in a very long time.
To be honest I was not a fan of this book. I grew up in a matriarchal family and the women are all very strong people and while very opinionated, they all know what they want and aren’t afraid to take risks. I juts could not at all connect with Maddie as a character. I found her to be very weak, she latches onto Lewis after they have sex and then Ryan comes and tells her he loves her and then she latches onto him. She said multiple times that she doesn’t want to be alone. She seems pretty much scared to be without a man in her life and that is sickening to me. No person should be that dependent on someone else. I understand in a relationship there ends up being some sort of dependency but a person should never be that scared to survive on their own. There were parts I just wanted to slap Maddie. And Ryan said he’s loved her for like 25 years but at the very end she’s just like “Oh he’ll get over it” after she was basically telling him she would marry him. How callous is that? That’s just about the most selfish thing I ever heard. And she kept talking about how she wanted Ryan to take care of her. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! For goodness sake. And she loved the cottage and had wanted to make a new start but she was going to sell it just because Ryan wanted her to? Seriously??
Other than all of the obvious issues I had with Maddie’s character, I also had a lot of trouble with the plot. I hated the “twist” in the story when she goes to Ryan’s. I felt it through the flow of the story off a lot and didn’t make sense with the story line. And the story just didn’t make sense to me. What was the point of it all? That she went back to Lewis and they decided to move in together even though they barely knew each other? I just didn’t understand.
While I couldn’t connect with this story, it might be something for middle-aged women who are going through or have gone through a divorce. There is a message in this book that there is hope for life after a divorce, no matter what your age. This might be able to give people hope in similar situations.
The bottom line: I didn’t particularly care for this book. The heroine of the story seemed weak and flat to me.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #70 – How To Marry a Royal Highlander by Vanessa Kelly

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Title: How To Marry a Royal Highlander
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Date finished: 7/11/15
Genre:  Historical romance
Publisher: Zebra
Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: #4 in the Renegade Royals series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

At sixteen, Alasdair Gilbride, heir to a Scottish earldom, fled the Highlands and an arranged betrothal. Ten years later, Alasdair must travel home to face his responsibilities. It’s a task that would be much easier without the distracting presence of the most enticing woman he’s ever met…
After one escapade too many, Eden Whitney has been snubbed by the ton. The solution: rusticating in the Scottish wilderness, miles from all temptation. Except, of course, for brawny, charming Alasdair. The man is so exasperating she’d likely kill him before they reach the border—if someone else weren’t trying to do just that. Now Eden and Alasdair are plunging into a scandalous affair with his life and her reputation at stake—and their hearts already irreparably lost…

My rating: 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit” check box since I can not think of anything more amazing than going to Scotland (or Ireland) and touring the old castles there. You can even stay at some of them, they have been converted into like hotels. Can you think of anything more awesome for a vacation? Staying in a freaking CASTLE?!
So this book was about Eden Whitney, twin to Evelyn Whitney who I believe was the heroine in book #3 in the Renegade Royals series. Eden is tired of sitting around waiting for her Prince Charming so she decides she’s going to make some moves and see if she can find him on her own. Unfortunately she does this by making out with one of the ton’s well-known rogues and even worse she gets caught by the ton’s worst gossiping matron. This recipe for disaster leads to her being shunned by the ton and having to go somewhere for the winter until some of the scandal dies down. Luckily her twin’s husband’s best friend owns a castle in Scotland that he’s finally returning to after 10 years of running away from his duties to his family.
While overall I did like the plot line of this story and I didn’t 100% know who the bad guy was going to be at the end (though I did suspect quite a bit), I did have a couple small issues. The part where the hero (Alasdair Gilbride) decides that he wants Eden for his wife (the first time he realizes it I mean) happened so quickly that I think I missed it, I even went back looking through trying to figure out when he all of a sudden decided this. And Eden seemed a little slow to catch on that she actually liked Alasdair. But Alasdair’s crazy family (while somewhat annoying for their extreme persistence) was actually really entertaining and kept me on the edge of my seat trying to find out what awful thing they were going to do next. I also thought that Edie’s mother was a very interesting character, I was continually alternating being annoyed with her and admiring her throughout the book. While it did become frustrating at times that no one was listening to the “younger folk” (Alasdair, Eden, and Donella) its definitely realistic that something like that would happen during the time period in which the book was set, when arranged marriages were prevalent. The conversations between the family members though was quite well done, there was evident tension but it was not at all stilted or awkward and did not feel rehearsed.
I loved the descriptions of Scotland since I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland/Ireland and look at the castles and just the general landscape. I’ve heard nothing but how beautiful it is and all the pictures I see online just make me want to go so much more!
The bottom line: I thought this was a very good book, definitely a great read if you are a historical romance fan! I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #67 – The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

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Title: The Royal We
Author: Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Date finished: 7/3/15
Genre:  Fiction, Romance-ish, Drama
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Pages in book: 452
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.
Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.
Which is how she gets into trouble.
Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

My rating: 4 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book based on a true story” check box since the authors loosely based this book around Prince William and Kate Middleton’s romance. Obviously this book is a work of fiction and in no way portrays what happened during WIlliam and Kate’s courtship (at least I hope Kate and Harry didn’t “snog” each other as the British so endearingly term it) but the main idea is based on their unlikely courtship and eventual marriage. Its a true Cinderella story, having the Prince of England fall in love with you. What little girl doesn’t want to be a princess? But what every little girl doesn’t consider (and what this book expertly depicts) are the hardships that come attached to being affianced to someone directly in the line to ascend to the throne. The lack of privacy, the demands to be perfect at all times, the hateful gossip columnists and he way your friends all suddenly want something from you.
Bex Porter is just a normal girl from Iowa. She lucked out and was able to do a semester abroad in one of the places she’s loved since she was a little girl, England. And when it turns out Prince Nicholas is actually living on the same floor as her, she reacts differently from how I would expect most to react, she doesn’t seem to care much at all. She acts as if he is any old person, which I think is one of the reasons that Nick was attracted to Bex in the first place. They fight their feelings at first, because Nick is already in a relationship and also because Bex is hooking up with another guy on the floor. But Nick and Bex form an unlikely friendship that continues to develop as simply that at first, a deep friendship. Before they know it though, they are quite deeply in love with each other.
Relationships with this much strain put on them are bound to have their ups and downs. I think this book was a great depiction of the characters as they should be, humans that have feelings and emotions and who make mistakes (sometimes a lot of them). There were some very heart-wrenching parts of the book and some parts that made me down-right mad (Bex tends to let people walk on her quite a bt in the book, she gives up in fights WAY before I would be willing to let things go) but through out the book I felt deeply connected to the characters and what was happening with them. I laughed, I cried, I shouted, I cheered. This was a great feels book and the emotions just held me hostage there at the end. While at a few points I did find the book to be a bit wordy, I thought the wordy parts were worth it and some of them were even downright poetic
The bottom line: I thought this was a great book, if a tiny bit wordy for me. Most of the wordy parts were worth it though, I would recommend!
Favorite quotes:
Bex: “My dad and I once had a fight because I refuse to put ketchup on my hot dogs.” Nick: “That’s possibly the most American sentence I ever heard.”
“I remember understanding what a brutal thing it is to be the bearer of truly bad news – to break off a piece of that misery and hand it to other people, one by one, and then have to comfort them; to put their grief on your shoulders on top of all your own; to be the calm one in the face of their shock and tears.”
“I don’t want you to think I”m holding something over you. I’m not. This isn’t a favor. This is just love.”

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #66 – The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

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Title: The Daylight Marriage
Author: Heidi Pitlor
Date finished: 6/30/15
Genre:  Fiction, Thriller/Suspense
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Pages in book: 245
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

She still had time before work. She could go food shopping. She could fold the kids’ laundry and get the car washed and return some library books. Or Hannah could do something else. She could do something that she had never done–drive to a part of town where she had never been, pretend to be someone that she was not.
Hannah was tall and graceful, naturally pretty, spirited and impulsive, the upper-class young woman who picked, of all men, Lovell–the introverted climate scientist who thought he could change the world if he could just get everyone to listen to reason. After a magical honeymoon, they settled in the suburbs to raise their two children.
But over the years, Lovell and Hannah’s conversations have become charged with resentments and unspoken desires. She has become withdrawn. His work affords him a convenient distraction. And then, after one explosive argument, Hannah vanishes.
For the first time, Lovell is forced to examine the trajectory of his marriage through the lens of memory. As he tries to piece together what happened to his wife–and to their life together–readers follow Hannah on that single day when a hasty decision proves irrevocable.
With haunting intensity, a seamless balance of wit and heartbreak, and the emotional acuity that author Heidi Pitlor brings to every page, The Daylight Marriage mines the dark and delicate nature of a marriage.

My rating: 2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book with bad reviews” check box since there are a number of bad reviews on Amazon, 17% of reviews were for 2 stars and 15% of the reviews were only for 1 star. The one I think I agreed with the most is this one, which touched on many issues I had with the book. I think that the Amazon reviewer hit the nail on the head when they said that it felt “like an unfinished manuscript.” There were just so many holes in the story and so many things that did not make sense and could not be pieced together. It felt like the story had started to develop and then it was over and the reader is left feeling as if there are so many questions left unanswered or even unasked.
Lovell’s relationship with his daughter in the book really bothered me. She was afraid of him the whole book pretty much and the whole time Lovell is trying to convince her that he wasn’t really acting that badly the last night that Hannah was home and then all of a sudden at the end of the book he remembers things the way Janine has been describing them? That didn’t make any sense. And what caused his sudden revelation? And honestly that girl needed a lot more discipline. She was fifteen and she offered to be a surrogate for her gay next door neighbors. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That is an unhealthy relationship, and they let her get drunk at their party and Lovell is having Ethan stay at a party where two dudes are making out and grinding on a dance floor. Ethan is NINE. TAKE HIM HOME.
That’s really all I want to say about the book. I could go on for awhile I think but I will just leave it here at “this book was not my cup of tea.”
The bottom line: I wasn’t a fan of this book. There just wasn’t much about it that appealed to me, it left me fieeling both unfinished and unsettled.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #64 – Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith

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Title: Whiskey & Charlie
Author: Annabel Smith
Date finished: 6/27/15
Genre:  Fiction
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Pages in book: 317
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

A captivating debut novel of brothers who have drifted apart and the accident that will determine their future, by an unforgettable new voice in fiction.
Whiskey and Charlie might have come from the same family, but they’d tell you two completely different stories about growing up. Whiskey is everything Charlie is not – bold, daring, carefree – and Charlie blames his twin brother for always stealing the limelight, always getting everything, always pushing Charlie back. By the time the twins reach adulthood, they are barely even speaking to each other.
When they were just boys, the secret language they whispered back and forth over their crackly walkie-talkies connected them, in a way. The two-way alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta) became their code, their lifeline. But as the brothers grew up, they grew apart.
When Charlie hears that Whiskey has been in a terrible accident and has slipped into a coma, Charlie can’t make sense of it. Who is he without Whiskey? As days and weeks slip by and the chances of Whiskey recovering grow ever more slim, Charlie is forced to consider that he may never get to say all the things he wants to say. A compelling and unforgettable novel about rivalry and redemption, Whiskey & Charlie is perfect for anyone whose family has ever been less than picture-perfect.

My rating: 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book set during Christmas” check box since most of the story happens in the space between Thanksgiving and just after New Years. Charlie was close with his brother Whiskey when they were younger but now as adults they barely speak to each other. When Whiskey is involved in a freak accident though and ends up badly injured and in a coma, Charlie wants nothing more than to have more time to make amends with his brother. What follows is a combination of Charlie’s memories from his childhood with Whiskey, stories from Whiskey and Charlie interacting as adults leading up to before Whiskey’s accident, and the agonizing progress of Whiskey’s path to recovery.
One of the things I really liked about this book was the use of the NATO phonetic alphabet and its part in how the story was told. Charlie and Whiskey were given walkie-talkies as children and one of their neighbors taught them the NATO phonetic alphabet. That’s actually why Whiskey is called as such and is not called William by anyone but his mother, even though that is his real name. Anyways, each chapter represented one letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet and the story in that chapter was always somehow connected to the word representing that letter in the alphabet. The Bravo chapter was about their pet dog whose name was Bravo, the India chapter was about a job that Charlie and Whiskey worked on together in India, and so forth. I thought that was an interesting and different way to tell the story. That being said, telling the story in this way caused there to be a bit of jumping around between time frames to tie to whatever letter that chapter was for. The flow of the story wasn’t always easy for me to follow. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book but I did notice the issues I was having.
Overall I thought this was a great story. Grief and guilt and forgiveness are major themes in this book and we take an in-depth look at Charlie’s insecurities with the many people in his life. Charlie’s character was a bit frustrating for me because he really did act like he was better than a lot of people in the story, like his feelings were always more important than someone else’s. Other than that though I think this was a good book.
The bottom line: While the subject matter can feel a bit heavy at times, I thought that this was a very true depiction of a family traveling through stages of grief. I would recommend this book.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #62 – I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

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Title: I’ll Meet You There
Author: Heather Demetrios
Date finished: 6/20/15
Genre:  Young adult – romance-ish, coming of age tale
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Pages in book: 379
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom–that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.
What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise–a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

My rating: 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2015 checklist under the “a book at the bottom of your to-read list” check box since it wasn’t even really on my to-read list to begin with. I saw this book in a BookPage publication earlier this year and while I thought it sounded interesting, I didnt add it to my TBR list at the time since the list is already just so overwhelmingly long. I did one of those calculator things and it was going ot take me like 15 years to read all the books on my current to-read list. And since I add more books to the list every week than I read and take off the list every week, its pretty much never going to end! But when I saw it at the Terryville Public Library a couple weeks ago I was on a YA rampage (I checked out 5 new YA fiction books that day) I decided to give it a try. And boy am I glad I did because it was excellent.
The main male character of the story was a Marine who was recently injured in combat and is home on leave while he recovers. Josh has always been a bad-boy and a ladies man in Creek View and even though he returns injured from the war, the town doesn’t really expect him to be any different. And Skylar is a straight-edge girl who is set on escaping this small ho-dunk town and plans to go to San Francisco for college in the fall. But these two can’t seem to stay away from each other and over the summer what used to be a casual friendship turns into something more.
Reading this book was an important experience for me. My husband is a Marine and spent some time overseas in Afghanistan, and while thankfully he came back uninjured physically, there are a lot of mental ramifications for experiencing what soldiers have to go through in a war. There were many times during the book during Josh’s point of view when I heard the parts in my husband’s voice, and (while I’ve never experienced what they experience personally and therefore can’t say this with certainty) I think the author did an outstanding job of capturing what it feels like when a soldier all of a sudden isn’t a soldier anymore. Transitioning back into civilian life is difficult and for some impossible. This book was moving and touching and talked about some extremely relevant topics. I think it was a great book and something everyone should read.
The bottom line: I thought this was a great book, I’m not sure if it meant more to me because I’m connected to a Marine but the characters in this story really moved me. I would definitely recommend this book.

Link to author website
Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page