July 2023 Reading Wrap-Up

Welcome, bookworms! I hope you’ve been having a great summer so far!

If you’d prefer to listen to this wrap-up, you can check out the two-part episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

I’d love to know what you’ve been reading or your thoughts on any of these books if you’ve read them. I invite you to hop over to my Instagram account where I have a July wrap-up post, and you can comment there.

My Thoughts about Modern Romance Books

Let me preface that I’m brand-new to reading romance and rom-com. I went into every book not knowing what to expect. All of the typical romance tropes were completely new to me. I experienced friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, fake dating/marriage, close proximity, insta-love, and second chance. I’m not sure how I feel about some of these tropes. I think I’ll have to read a few more books to really get a good idea on which tropes I like and don’t like. 

Overall, it was a pretty good reading month. Still no five-star book, but I had two that were very, very close. 

Now, being new to romance, I noticed some patterns as I was reading in this genre. It got pretty formulaic and predictable, which is a little bit of a turnoff for me. I was also surprised by the amount of foul language and spicy scenes there were. I had an idea that I would encounter these elements, but just the large amount surprised me. I don’t think I was looking for super clean, wholesome books, but some of the steamy scenes bordered on smut, if I’m being honest.

Also, many of these authors like to use the past/present plot for storytelling. Many of these reads were skipping between timelines. I didn’t have a problem with it, but I just noticed how many used this element in their stories. 

However, I did start getting annoyed by the same patterns that I kept seeing appear. And maybe this is how it is in the genre (I wouldn’t know), but I felt like these elements were really overdone.

  • The guy is much taller than the girl – check.
  • The girl is super short – check. 
  • The guy is overwhelmingly hot and attractive with beautiful hair and facial features and muscles – check
  • Token gay person, at least one gay friend or family member – check
  • The main female lead is super insecure and not emotionally intelligent – check

And here’s where I had a lot of problems with many of these books – these characters were so unaware of themselves. I felt like they all needed to see a therapist and work on some inner self-discovery. They were all so self-absorbed within their own insecurities, superficial thoughts, and feelings. No one knew how to communicate their feelings or behave in an adult relationship. Many of them came across as really immature and inexperienced in relationships. 

I don’t know, maybe I’m not the good demographic for these kinds of books. I’ve been with my husband for almost 20 years, know how to communicate my thoughts and feelings, act mature in a relationship, and am emotionally intelligent. I’ve done the inner work and continue to do the work so that I’m self-aware, unlike all of these characters. 

Honestly, by the time I finished the last book, I was done with this genre. I’ll say this has been my least favorite genre so far since exploring fiction new to me. I’m not giving up on it yet because there are some more authors and books that I want to check out, but I definitely need a break from modern romance books.

July Reading Wrap-Up

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Brief Review: This was my biggest disappointment of the month, maybe even so far this summer. I had really, really high hopes for this one. I really thought it was going to be a five-star read for me. This author is a hugely beloved author that everyone raves on and on about her romance books. This specific book had so much hype around it, and the plot sounded exactly like what I would love. It gave me When Harry Met Sally vibes, which is one of my favorite rom-coms. But this book felt so short of what I thought it would be. 

I’ll admit, this was my first friends to lovers book that I’ve read. But it was clear from the beginning that they had feelings for each other, but wouldn’t ever acknowledge them and kept hiding or ignoring their true feelings, which I found very annoying. Maybe this is how this trope plays out, and I’m just not used to it yet, but I was rolling my eyes the entire time. Maybe this trope is not for me. Now I know the characters are younger than me, I believe late 20s or early 30s, so millennials, and they are going to act a certain way – more immature about emotions and things. But at times, I just felt like screaming, “Grow up and just admit your true feelings to each other!” 

I didn’t find Poppy that likable. I actually preferred Alex, but he was also pretty bland and boring. Honestly, the whole story was a bit boring. I know it’s a character-driven book, but I just wanted something to happen. We needed more action, more plot. Make it more interesting for the reader. I did like going back to the past to see what some of their summer vacations were like, but even then, not much happened, and I felt those were good chapters where we could’ve seen more action or plot happening. 

So being new to romance, I wasn’t sure what to expect, I guess I just thought it would offer more, get me really emotionally invested, and blow me out of the water, which it wasn’t even close to doing. I did enjoy the banter between Poppy and Alex…until I didn’t. After a while, it got exhausting. I like banter as much as the next person, until it’s overdone, which I felt like it was in this case. Give me some banter but not ALL banter. 

Also, we build up throughout the story to this big, dramatic event that caused the two of them not to talk to each other for a couple of years. But then (womp, womp) it was such a letdown and not dramatic at all. In fact, it really was stupid. 

There were also some obvious left-leaning messages, which I didn’t care for. They were pretty subtle and it didn’t feel like she was pushing an agenda, but I was still able to notice them. I don’t know if that’s the author or the editor or the publishing company, but they were present and it was annoying. 

So all in all, it was an okay experience. I’m honestly not sure if I want to read any more of her romance books. I’ve heard her YA Fantasy novels are pretty good, but I just don’t know if I can trust the community all the time. We shall see.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

Amazon Description: Everyone knows DAISY JONES & THE SIX, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity … until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

Brief Review: This was my second biggest disappointment of the month. Again, another book (and author) with so much hype around it, but I just wasn’t that impressed. The story was interesting, and once I fully got into it, it kept my interest, but it didn’t blow me out of the water like I was expecting it to. I was missing that “wow” factor. It seemed too cliche. 

First off, the whole book is in an interview style. Initially, this was the first book I picked up at the beginning of July, but I just couldn’t get into this style of writing, so I paused on it for a couple of weeks before I picked it back up again. I had to be in the right mindset to read it, which for me is strike number one. I like to be able to pick up a book at any time and be swept away by it, not have to get in a certain frame of mind to read it. 

Then, strike number two was the characters. There’s not one likable character in this entire story. They all have certain traits or personalities that I did not care for. It was hard to care about any of them because they were all so off putting. They made one terrible decision after another. They acted wild and crazy, like the stereotypical rock star does. Also, they all were drunks or drug addicts. The amount of drugs being used and talked about was astounding. I know this is the 1960s and 70s where drugs and alcohol were extremely prevalent, but this was an obscene amount being used. I don’t think Daisy was sober for the majority of the story. They definitely all have their own inner demons and baggage that they carry with them. 

Finally, strike three was the story itself. It was pretty boring. I wanted more to happen. There’s not a lot of action, too much showing the process of writing songs and behind the scenes. There is a love triangle between Daisy, Billy, and Camilla, his wife, which gives us a lot of conflict and tension, but even that was kinda boring and not much really happened. Overall, it was just an underwhelming story, but I did like how it all came together by the end and the little twist we got. 

I did appreciate TJR writing actual song lyrics for the book. That was a fun little treat at the back of the book. And, even though the writing was in this interview style, it made for a quick read, and I could vividly picture everything that happened and become fully immersed in the story with the characters. She brought all the characters to life. It really felt like this was a real band from the 1970s. In my head, I kept seeing this musical documentary play out. It reminded me of VH1’s Behind the Music series they used to air. 

I’ve also seen many reviewers say that the audio book is amazing. Maybe because I read a physical copy I missed out on something they apparently picked up on. I’ve seen so many people give this book four to five stars and I’m wondering if we read the same book. Maybe I need to go back and listen to the audio version. 

I also watched the TV series on Amazon, and I really enjoyed it. They did change some things as Hollywood does, but I still had a good time. It was done really well and I definitely recommend watching it. But again, it’s your stereotypical rock band/rock star angst and behavior. Though they did cut way down on the drug scenes and use in the show compared to the book. Also, they recorded an entire album for the series. I’ve been listening to it nonstop on Spotify. It’s SO good!! I think that’s the best part of the series – the music. There are so many good songs. However, I wish they kept the original titles of the songs as they were written in the book.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

Brief Review: Overall, this was an okay read. At first, I wasn’t sure about it, but it got better the further I got into it, but it definitely had a lot of problems. This was my first enemies to lovers romance book, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it. 

But right off the bat, I hated the main character, Olive. She was extremely cynical (about love and life), grumpy, pessimistic, judgmental, and annoying. She was insufferable at the beginning and I’ll almost DNF’d this book because I couldn’t stand her. But I forced myself to push through to see if it would get better and it did for a little bit. 

So right from the start, we know Olive and Ethan hate each other but the reasoning why is so stupid. To me, Olive seemed very insecure, especially about her body, struggled with some internal demons, and lacked self-esteem and self-worth. But instead of recognizing it within herself and working on it, she lacked that self-awareness and projected her insecurities onto others, especially Ethan. She was very off putting, and I could see why Ethan didn’t like her initially. I was hoping at some point, she would redeem herself, which she did a little and became a tiny bit more tolerable, but I still never liked her from start to finish. There was even a point, around the middle, that I didn’t want her to get her HEA. I felt like Ethan deserved better than Olive because she was just a mess that really needed to do some self-exploration and discovery. 

Everything that happened in Hawaii was predictable, and I felt like I’d seen these situations play out again and again in the typical rom-com fashion. The story itself was a cliche and nothing ground-breaking. There were definitely some cheesy and corny moments. But I’ll admit, it was pretty humorous throughout the whole book, and I found myself laughing out loud quite a few times, which made the book more enjoyable. I was surprised by how funny this book is. 

One of my biggest grievances was the overtly feminist (Leftist) tone it had. Now, I’m all about girl power and female empowerment, but I’m definitely not a feminist. There’s no need for man-bashing. I could definitely tell that the authors or editors or publisher (or all three) have some jaded bitterness toward men because it slaps you in the face for the entire story. Another reason that I almost DNF’d this book. There is a lot of man-bashing and criticizing men for just being men, but yet, the main man in the story wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just being a guy, just like the main female lead was just being a girl, and yet, he wasn’t woman-bashing or criticizing her. Like I said, Olive’s perception of her world is darkly tinted and she only sees the worst in things and people, which got tedious and exhausting. She was an exhausting character, and by the end, I was just done with the book. I was ready for it to be over. There was a lot of miscommunication and assumptions being made, which frustrated me to no end. 

Also, because this is an enemy to lovers, you know Olive and Ethan are going to get together, but it all felt so rushed and some parts didn’t make sense. They go from hating each other to falling for each other without a lot of build up and it didn’t feel authentic. And then the ending, again, felt rushed but was also so different from the majority of the book. Once they got back from Maui, the whole story changed and it felt like whiplash. 

Honestly, I was so turned off by this story, that 1) I don’t know if I’ll read another Christina Lauren book, and 2) I’m still not sure if I like the enemies to lovers trope or not. It may just be this book that I didn’t like and not necessarily the trope. Or, it could be the trope. I will have to read another one or two more books like this to find out. 

I say read this at your own risk.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here or the box set here.

GR Description: Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is go back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires her, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

Brief Review: Overall, this was a really sweet, heartwarming coming-of-age story that touched on loss and grief. However, it took me quite a while to fully get invested in the story. The first 50-60% were pretty slow-pacing, and I contemplated DNFing it a few times. But I really wanted to give it a chance. I’m glad that I did because it did pick up pace and got more interesting. 

Lina is a likable main character. She’s not bratty or angsty, as you can get in some teen stories. She’s just really lost and confused and in mourning from losing her mom. I could especially relate to her. I love my mom to cancer at 16. Not only is that age such a confusing, tender age in your life, but then to throw a life-changing event like the passing of a parent on top of it, it makes things even more difficult, complicated, and disorienting. Then for Lina, throw on top of all that a brand new country that she’s flying to where she doesn’t speak the language and meeting a guy that’s supposed to be her dad who hasn’t been in her life at all. So I had a lot of sympathy and empathy for her. She was going through it! 

So as she’s settling into her life, she meets Ren, and they instantly get along and become friends. I enjoyed experiencing Italy as they ventured around the different cities. Lina also does some things with her dad, which also lets us see different parts of Italy. I also liked that her dad works at an American war cemetery. It was a unique twist on the setting. 

However, I had a really hard time with the insta-love because Lina arrives in Italy, meets Ren, and like a week later, she’s fallen in love with him. She barely knew him, and they didn’t spend that much time together. Plus, in the first part of the book, she was completely interested in another guy, Thomas, and she and Ren were just friends. And Ren had a girlfriend. But then of course, her feelings change as they go through certain situations together. It just didn’t feel realistic to me, and there weren’t enough moments of them together to convince me that they could fall so quickly for each other. So this is not only insta-love but also friends to lovers. But there weren’t any spicy scenes. It’s all clean. I mean, it’s a YA book!  

I know this was adapted into a movie, but it’s on Netflix, which we don’t subscribe to, so I wasn’t able to watch it. But if I could, I would’ve. I do wonder what the movie did with the story. 

I know a lot of people like this book, but it was just okay for me. I did buy the entire trilogy but the other two books have different characters. I’m not sure if any of the books relate to each other, so I have two more in this series to read. I’m hoping they are a little better than this one. I think my biggest problem was not a lot happened and it was kinda boring for most of it. I would say the last ¾ of the book is where my interest was piqued and I read through it quicker. It took me a while to get through this book because I just didn’t care that much about it.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (and Mrs. Harris Goes to New York) by Paul Gallico

My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Mrs. Harris is a salt-of-the-earth London charlady who cheerfully cleans the houses of the rich. One day, while tidying Lady Dant’s wardrobe, she comes across the most beautiful thing she has ever seen in her life—a Dior dress. In all the years of her drab and humble existence, she’s never seen anything as magical as the dress before her and she’s never wanted anything so badly. Determined to make her dream come true, Mrs. Harris scrimps and saves until one day, after three long, uncomplaining years, she finally has enough money to go to Paris.

When she arrives at the House of Dior, Mrs. Harris has little idea of how her life is about to be turned upside down and how many other lives she will transform forever. Always kind, always cheery, and always winsome, the indomitable Mrs. Harris takes Paris by storm and learns one of life’s greatest lessons along the way.

This treasure from the 1950s reintroduces the irrepressible Mrs. Harris, part charlady, part fairy godmother, whose adventures take her from her humble London roots to the heights of glamour.

Brief Review: I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s so sweet and charming. Mrs. Harris has become one of my favorite literary characters of all-time. She is so cute and kind and helpful. She just has such a good heart and a sweet soul. She wants the best for everyone, and is willing to help anyone. She is so selfless and keeps such a cheery disposition that is very contagious; she’s hopelessly optimistic, which was really refreshing to read. I found myself smiling from ear to ear most of this book. I wanted her to be my cleaning lady. 

It is two books in one. In the first book, she goes to Paris to find herself a Dior dress. Then in the second book, she goes to New York to help a neighbor boy who is being abused by his foster parents find his long-lost father. I enjoyed the first book a lot more than the second, but they were both entertaining novels. Both are pretty short as well. 

These are books written back in the 1960s, and they do read a little older, but they aren’t difficult to read. I would say the only difficult part was how British it was. I didn’t understand all the terms and references since I’m American, and Mrs. Harris speaks in a cockney accent, which is spelled that way and was a little hard to figure out what she was saying at times. 

I loved how this story is much more than a woman who wants an expensive designer gown. It’s about the lives she touches in both London and Paris, and then what that dress means and represents to her. Firstly, I loved seeing a woman in her sixties chasing her dreams. She works very, very hard to save up for her dream dress. It takes almost three years to do so. She sacrifices a lot, but you see her determination and persistence, which eventually pays off. I also loved the messaging that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams, no matter how old you are. 

And even though they were simple stories, there were unpredictable twists and turns, which were nice surprises. The prose was rich and descriptive, which really immersed me into the stories. 

I did watch the movie on Amazon. Now from a book to screen adaptation, I would give it two stars. They changed so much from the book, specifically the ending, which ruined it for me. They took out what was the heart of the story, but I think you would’ve only gotten that had you read the book. But if you haven’t read the book and just want a feel-good, sweet, heartwarming chick flick, I would give it four stars. It was enjoyable and the actors did a great job. 

Definitely recommend the book. If you’re going to watch the movie, do it first and then read the book, and you’ll get a better story the second time around from the novel.

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

Brief Review: I adored this book. It was really good. I loved the summer vibes that I got from it. I really felt like I was in Canada by the lake. I wish I had grown up going to a cottage by the lake every summer. It definitely felt like a childhood that you dream about. This novel definitely felt like an escape from real life every time I picked it up. 

I also really, really enjoyed the 80s and 90s pop culture references. It was the perfect amount of nostalgia, which I appreciated as someone being older and grew up in that time period. It was very addictive to read. It has a then/now plot, and I found myself wanting to read more of the past than the present because I just loved it so much. 

But what I enjoyed the most was the close relationship and chemistry between Percy and Sam. I loved seeing them meet for the first time and then watching their friendship evolve as they grew up and went through puberty and their teenage years. They really were a perfect fit together, and I loved how they interacted with each other and their overall dynamic together. However, they both had some growing up to do, especially Percy. There were some bad decisions made where she had to learn her lesson. I appreciated that the grown up version was able to see her mistakes and try to rectify them. Again, it was all about communication, and we finally got that at the end. 

I would say this is both a friends to lovers story and a second chance love story. I enjoyed both of them. 

I also liked the side characters. Sam has a brother, Charlie, he was a bit obnoxious but offered some humor. Their mom was very cool and caring. Then Percy has a sassy best friend, who is a little annoying but fun. I felt all the characters were relatable. 

The writing style was easy to read and easy to get fully immersed into the story. There are some language and spicy scenes, but it wasn’t as bad as some other books that I read. 

I was really close to giving this five stars but the ending really turned me off, as well as the spice and language. I had an idea of what happened a few chapters before the big reveal, but it was disappointing that it took that turn. But I still recommend it. 

I also have Meet Me at the Lake, which I thought was a sequel, but it’s not. I started reading it but then time got away from me, so now I’ve paused on it and will have to come back to it at another time. But definitely excited to read it.

The Summer of Broken Rules by K. L. Walther

My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Meredith Fox has been going to Martha’s Vineyard for the summer as long as she can remember. But this summer is the first one back since the death of Meredith’s sister. It will all be overwhelming, but even more since the entire extended family will be together for her cousin’s big wedding.

Unfortunately, Meredith’s longtime boyfriend unexpectedly dumped her two weeks before the wedding, leaving her dateless. Luckily, she has the perfect distraction. Her family has a tradition of playing the ultimate game of Assassin every summer, and this year it will take place during the week of wedding festivities.

But her target just happens to be a very cute groomsman. She’s determined to not let herself get distracted, not let herself be lost in another doomed relationship. But as the week progresses, she can’t help falling for him, which may cost her not only the game, but also her heart.

Brief Review: This book made me swoon. This was my first YA Romance, and I just adored it. It’s pretty clean – not much foul language and very PG-related spicy scenes. However, the two main characters are 18 and 19, so I would consider this more New Adult than YA because they both have already graduated from high school. 

This was my second favorite book of the month. It was so, so close to five stars, but I had to knock it down a little because there were some scenes that felt a little disjointed, rushed, and juvenile to me. But otherwise, I really enjoyed myself. In fact, I couldn’t put this down once I started it. I think I finished it in two, maybe three, days. It was just so cute and a nice palette cleanser from a previous heavy month of mystery and thrillers. It was exactly what I needed at the time. 

Two things that really stood out to me were the setting and summer vibes it gave me, and the family element with the wedding and the tradition of the Assassin game they play. 

I absolutely loved the setting in the New England area. I’ve never been there, but after reading this book, it felt like I had been. I loved the descriptions of the area where they stayed with the little cabins, and then it described the town and its surroundings. It definitely gave me summer vibes and summer vacation. 

Then, I really, really enjoyed reading about this family coming together for a wedding. At first, there were a lot of people introduced and it was a little difficult to keep everyone straight, but then, I remembered who was who and who was related to who. It was fun to see the interactions and get that close-knit family feeling. I loved it. There were even really good friends of the main character there. It just felt very cozy and family-oriented.

I also enjoyed the Assassin game that they played. I’d never heard of that game but it was a fun part of the story. And the reason behind why they played it was touching – in memory of Meredith’s sister who unexpectedly died, which was sweet. You definitely felt the family keeping her memory alive during the whole wedding week. She was there in spirit with them. She was almost like a character who wasn’t there. I liked how it touched on loss and grief. 

As for the romance, it was a bit insta-love and not quite believable or realistic to me. Some of the dialogue at times was a little cringe. But, I enjoyed the banter between Wit and Meredith. They had good chemistry together, and it was fun seeing them get to know each other. The ending was a bit predictable but it was still good. 

Definitely recommend for a fun, sweet, and heartwarming beach read.

The Beach Trap by Ali Brady

My GR Rating: 4-4.5
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: When twelve-year-olds Kat Steiner and Blake O’Neill meet at Camp Chickawah, they have an instant connection. But everything falls apart when they learn they’re not just best friends—they’re also half-sisters. Confused and betrayed, their friendship instantly crumbles.

Fifteen years later when their father dies suddenly, Kat and Blake discover he’s left them a joint inheritance: the family beach house in Destin, Florida. The two sisters are instantly at odds. Blake, who has recently been demoted from regular nanny to dog nanny, wants to sell the house, while social media influencer Kat is desperate to keep the place where she had so many happy childhood memories.

Kat and Blake reluctantly join forces to renovate the dilapidated house with the understanding that Kat will try to buy Blake out at the end of the summer. The women clash as Blake’s renovation plans conflict with Kat’s creative vision, and each sister finds herself drawn into a summer romance. As the weeks pass, the two women realize the most difficult project they face this summer will be coming to grips with their shared past, and learning how to become sisters.

Brief Review: This story was my favorite of the month. This book was so close to five stars, but I had to knock it down due to a lot of foul language and a couple pretty graphic spicy scenes. 

It’s funny, in my TBR episode at the beginning of the month, I predicted that this could be the underdog read of the month, and it absolutely was! This was my favorite read of July, which was really unexpected. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve read it and I’m still thinking about it. Honestly, if I had the time, I would read it again. It was so good! 

At first, I wasn’t sure about it. I really liked Blake from the start. She was the most likable character for me. She’s down-to-earth, intelligent, witty, resourceful, kind and caring. She looks after her grandfather, who is now in a nursing home suffering from Alzteimer’s. She seemed like someone I could be friends with. 

Her sister, on the other hand, Kat, I really, really disliked her at first. She was shallow, superficial, fake, snobby, and just arrogant. But then over the course of the story, she starts to recognize and become aware of her flaws, and she actually starts to question her behavior. She begins to question her past and her parents. Then she actively tries to change and become a better person. It was so refreshing to read about a character with a desire to change instead of wanting the people around them to change to fit their perception. 

The two sisters couldn’t have been more different, and in the beginning, they hated each other. They were kinda cruel to one another, but then slowly, we started peeling away the hurt and confusing emotions and began to understand each of their pasts that shaped them into who they are today. I was able to understand how they both came to be the adults that they are, so then seeing them change was so much more rewarding. 

This was an emotional rollercoaster of feelings. It was sad, angry, hopeful, cringey, happy, funny – so many emotions. I went on quite the ride. 

Not only was the family drama entertaining, but each woman had a love interest. So to see their romance connections evolve and grow was a lot of fun too. I enjoyed both of the guys but Noah was definitely my favorite. 

Also, I loved how beachy this beach read was. It takes place in Florida, for the most part, and it felt like I was there. I could almost smell the salt water air and hear the seagulls circling overhead. It really made me want to take a vacation. I wished I was at the beach! 

This was a quick read for me. I think I finished it in just a few days. Overall, it’s such a cute, sweet, fun summer story. It was entertaining, emotional, and had a satisfying ending. I really wanted more. I don’t think there’s a sequel coming out, but I wish there was. I want more of Blake and Kat! 

Definitely recommend this one, but just be aware that there’s a lot of cursing and a couple of very spicy scenes.

Graphic Novels

My GR Ratings: 4 (for both novels)
Buy on Amazon – Book One here and Book Two here.

I also read two graphic novels. It was actually a middle grade paranormal duology – Surfside Girls by Kim Dwinell. Book one was called The Secret of Danger Point. Book two was called The Mystery at the Old Rancho. I gave them both four stars. They were really sweet, cute quick reads. I read them both in probably less than an hour. Definitely more on the juvenile side and would be a perfect summer read for kids. But it was still enjoyable as an adult. 

In this story, we follow two middle grade girls, Samantha (Sam) and her best friend, Jade. They are enjoying their Cali summer, talking about boys, going surfing, going to the movies. Then, during one of their surfing adventures, they find a secret underwater cave and swim underneath and come out on the other side where they see ghosts. These specters need their help, which starts this big investigative case to solve a local mystery. 

It was fun to get to know these two girls and watch them gather clues and solve the mysteries. Both of the books have a mystery to solve. I’ve never read a Nancy Drew book but many reviewers said it was like a modern-day beachy Nancy Drew. Both girls were tolerable, which I wasn’t sure about at first because young kids can be annoying. But they had cute, bubbly personalities and were pretty intelligent for their age. They were a bit boy-crazy, but that’s to be expected during those pubescent years. I also liked the addition to the mystery of the supernatural. It gave it another level of fun but also a little spooky and eerie. 

I liked book one a little bit more than book two, but really enjoyed both of them. The illustrations are beautiful. I loved the colors and style of the artwork. Again, like I did with Enola Holmes graphic novels, I just took my time reading them (and smelling them) because they were so pretty. I wish there were more underwater/water/swimming/surfing scenes, but otherwise, it was a good time. 

These books have also been made into a live action TV series on Apple+. I watched the first episode, but it was what I expected – way too juvenile for an adult to watch. It had that Disney/Nickelodeon kid show feel, without the laugh track. It was really corny and cheesy. I won’t be continuing watching that series. But I could it being fun for kids to watch. They would probably find more enjoyment out of it than adults. 

As for the books, definitely recommend for a quick beach vibe read. I absolutely got all the feels for summer while reading these two novels. Perfect for summertime!

Final Thoughts

So if you listened to my TBR episode at the beginning of the month, I chose 10 books to be in my Pile of Possibilities (not including the graphic novels). So I read eight of those books. The two that I didn’t get to were One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle and Shipped by Angie Hockman. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough time in the month. 

So those will go into my Leftovers List, and I have decided to start choosing from this list in the months that I want to choose a random book to add to my monthly mix. I found a random picker generator online, and already picked one from my list for September. August has already been planned, so starting in the fall, I will start getting through my Leftovers List because I still want to read all of those books that I just didn’t have the time to read.

Until next time, my book friends, happy reading!

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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