I Believe in a Thing Called Love (Maurene Goo) | Goodreads | 4 stars
I thought Maurene Goo’s debut, Since You Asked, was a fairly entertaining and diverse book, so I was definitely looking forward to her new book that took on romance and K-Dramas (I’ve never seen any of them, but I think I should check at least one out now). I did end up enjoying this book, but the part I didn’t like as much was the main part of the book: the romance.
Protagonist Desi was a great character, even when she was going over the top with her K-Drama-inspired plan to catch the eye of the new boy. She had two best friends who I wouldn’t have minded getting to know even more. Her father was a great parent character. But I didn’t care about the romance all that much. The love interest was okay, but the more drama there was, the more I just wanted Desi to drop him and find someone else or just be alone for a while.
The romance didn’t ruin the book for me or anything and there were certainly some good and cute moments between them, but it’s a little disappointing when the main focus doesn’t totally work for you. That being said, I can’t wait to see what Goo writes next.
Fireworks (Katie Cotugno) | Goodreads | 3.5 stars
I enjoyed this book, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t spend the whole time waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The story was mainly about a friendship and how it was affected by two best friends working in a girl group (this is also a period piece, in a way, set in the ’90s and the heyday of girl and boy groups, but it felt like it could have taken place today much of the time). I didn’t like how we didn’t get to see the friendship working and being positive as much as we saw it struggling, breaking apart, coming back together, and struggling again. I spent much of the books stressed because I just wanted the girls to be friends again.
I also didn’t care about the romance as much because I wanted to focus on the friendship. It also was one of the many things that caused drama between the girls.
I wasn’t really happy with how the story and the friendship drama was resolved either. It might have been realistic, but I wanted more of a happy ending.
I know it sounds like I didn’t like this book at all, but if you look at the rating, you’ll see I did like it, I just wish it hadn’t left me so stressed out and worried about these poor girls. I just want characters to be happy!
Once and For All (Sarah Dessen) | Goodreads | 4 stars
Another Sarah Dessen book, another nice summer read. It hasn’t dethroned my favorite Dessen titles (hello, Lock and Key and probably The Truth About Forever although I still need to finally reread it!), but I still really liked it.
Like all good Dessen books, there’s a cute romance, great secondary characters, and a fascinating premise that acts as a backdrop for the protagonist and her life – her mother runs a wedding planning company. I’m not a big wedding person – I like them for getting to see family, but that’s about all, and whenever I even think about the possibility of having a wedding at some point in the next eight decades or whatever, it just sounds expensive and full of way too many decisions. This book doesn’t change my mind too much about my own hypothetical wedding, but it sure is entertaining to read about, especially with Louna, her mother and honorary uncle/her mother’s partner, and her love interest.
One of the biggest things that kept this book from being a real favorite was its inclusion of SPOILER(ISH) a school shooting. It was never shown – it happened to someone else in Louna’s life and she deals with the fallout, for the most part, but we knew that it happened early on from bits and pieces of information, and I spent much of the book dreading hearing about it. As a current substitute teacher who hopes to have a permanent job teaching someday, I definitely feel anxious when reading about school shootings, but ever more so when I don’t know it’s coming. This is why trigger warnings can be important, and I’ve been extremely fortunate enough to never have experienced gun violence of any kind.
The main drawback was the inclusion of this anxiety-triggering plot line, but otherwise, I really did enjoy this story. The romance was slow and had some unnecessary drama, but I loved seeing the normally funny scenes with Loona and her love interest. Another solid Dessen book.
The Hearts We Sold (Emily Lloyd-Jones) | Goodreads | 4 stars
I really enjoyed Emily Lloyd-Jones’s debut duology, Illusive, and have always considered it an underrated gem. With this new, quite inventive paranormal story, my opinion has not changed.
Just as she did with Illusive, Lloyd-Jones created a world that isn’t that drastically different than ours, but has one major twist. In this case, it’s the fact that there are demons among us who will give you an impossible wish in return for a body part, as little as a tooth or as much as a limb. No one really knows what they want with the limbs and it’s obvious that people are often judged for turning to demons, but people like the protagonist sometimes feel that they have no choice. Of course, things have to get more exciting for the protagonist, and they do – Dee gives her heart in exchange for money for school.
Of course, things escalate from there. I never found myself as enthralled with this world and the characters as I did with Illusive, but it was still pretty interesting, from learning more about the demons to understanding Dee as a person. There’s a great dose of diversity, among side characters and Dee herself, but it was never the focus and could probably have been stronger.
I’m glad that this book is starting to get Lloyd-Jones more attention, though, and I hope that it’ll mean good things for her future stories as well. I know I’ll be checking out whatever she writes next.