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Sweet Summertime Reads: The Bookish Places We Would Go

Sweet Summertime Reads - Summer Beach Reads Feature

Welcome to our first post for Sweet Summertime Reads, a feature we’re co-hosting with Tara at Fiction Folio and Ginger at GReads! Ginger kicked us off yesterday with a trip to the beach and a giveaway of Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. (Go enter!) Today we’re taking you to two places we’ve both read about and are inspired to go visit now. What better time than summer, right?


I’m not going to lie. I wanted to pick up Sarah Strohmeyer’s How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True because it was set in a theme park. I know theme park vacations are not for everyone but for almost every summer since I turned 13 and until I was 21, my parents, sister, and I would spend about 10 glorious days in Walt Disney World. In August.

Yes, it was hot. Yes, it was sometimes crowded. But I kid you not: you can do a Walt Disney World vacation and still relax. These are most definitely my happiest summer memories.

How Zoe Made Her Dreams Come True Traveling to Theme Parks Walt Disney World

I think this is why I related so much to Zoe (mostly). Like me, she’s a character who has such a strong pull to a place. When she was little her mom used to take her to Storytown all the time: an amusement park where fairy tales came true. And now many summers later, she was working at the neighboring theme park called Fairyland Kingdom as Storytown decays nearby.

History plays a huge part in my pull to WDW. I love that I can go there and relive favorite moments from my childhood, but also make some new memories as an adult (and with my husband alongside me!) For however amount of days, I can act like a kid, escape reality, and give into pure fantasy. (It might seem monotonous to go to the same place over and over, but I swear it feels like a new experience every time.)

While Strohmeyer’s book certainly poked fun at “the Mouse” and Fairyland Kingdom held many similarities to the real park’s processes, I totally smiled the whole time I read it — thinking of those lovely vacations from before and all the ones I’ll have in the future.

Add How Zoe (Mostly) Made Her Dreams Come True to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon


Recently, I finished reading When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney, and I LOVED IT. Not only is the story really gripping, but it was filled with new sites that left me aching to visit them. For reasons I won’t dive into here, Danny visits Tokyo after his mother passes away. It’s a place his family has visited time and time again. He’s searching for answers and a new friend, Kana, becomes his tour guide.

Tokyo might be an unconventional choice for a summertime destination because often beaches and sunshine come to mind when I think about my trips, but I was so inspired by the scenes Whitney described I wanted to fly there immediately.

They visit a very special tea house his mother frequented often because it was known for its healing tea. Danny finds some peace in knowing he was able to sit at the same table as his mother, swap stories with Kana as his mom did, and was happy to get to know the woman who served his mother tea. It was such a peaceful experience to read about; I’ve never been to a tea house before, but I certainly had a vivid picture of the darker environment and somber atmosphere and wished I were there to sip tea with a friend.

A little known fact about myself? — I don’t really like sushi. I’ve tried several times and I haven’t acquired a taste for it yet. However, that being said, I definitely wanted to try it again when Danny visited his favorite outdoor sushi hut where he and his mom were known by name. My stomach rumbled as the food was described. Yum, yum.

And lastly, but maybe most importantly, there were Kana’s outrageous outfits. She was always wearing something Danny took note of because it was wild and colorful. In fact, I began searching Japanese street fashion after reading When You Were Here because I was so intrigued by the outfits Whitney imagined for Kana. Maybe if I visited Tokyo, I could experiment and let go of my rather boring and conservative wardrobe.

 Add When You Were Here to Goodreads | Purchase from Amazon

June 13, 2013 - 9:01 am

Summer Reading: Young Adult for Disney Fans - […] interns at a theme park in New Jersey that sounds very much like the Magic Kingdom so, of course, I wrote about Disney. (Melissa from Mouse on the Mind liked it so much she featured it in her Weekly […]

June 11, 2013 - 5:05 am

Weekly Round Up: June 11 | Mouse on the Mind - […] from This Happy Place Blog shared some Disney memories and a great summer book pick on  Rather Be […]

June 10, 2013 - 4:58 pm

Alexa Y. - I love this post so, so much! Seriously, you guys have named two of my favorite places in the world – Walt Disney World & Japan. I’ve been lucky enough to go to both in my lifetime, though I wouldn’t mind a return trip, particularly to Japan. I haven’t read either of the books that inspired your ideas for these trips though so… I may need to get on that!

June 7, 2013 - 9:01 am

The Big Kids' Table: Summer is the Word (in Fiction) - […] The weather has been so August-like in NYC, the AC is up and running like crazy at work, and our Sweet Summertime Reads series has kicked off again so I’m in the summer mode + that means SUMMER […]

June 6, 2013 - 11:26 am

Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) - Ok so Estelle we talked a little a few days about about my as-yet non-existent Disney adventures. I want some Disney adventures. I haven’t read this book but perhaps I might enjoy it as a lighter read? Also, that guy on the front is like Donnie Wahlberg from NKOTB days just as sure as I’m sitting here in my favorite paisly-print chair right now. TRUTH. I think I’ve discussed this before with people. I can’t get over that hair and shirt.

Also, Magan, I just finished When You Were Here and oh my goodness gracious, such a wonderful book. I’ve never really wanted to visit Japan before necessarily, but after that book – I’d totally go. Whitney had such a nice and gentle way of writing it that the culture and setting didn’t overwhelm me even though sometimes that particular place can be overwhelming because it is just so unapologetic and bright and wonderful. Also, we should talk about sushi because you can actually eat sushi that isn’t raw, which is what I do and I PROMISE there is a sushi for everyone. *smiles*

Love this, ladies. LOVE IT.

June 6, 2013 - 11:23 am

Candice @ The Grown-Up YA - Great destinations! I haven’t been to Disney since high school. I’d LOVE to go back as an adult! Zoe was such a cute book that made me reminisce about our own childhood memories at Disney! Haven’t read When You Were Here, but it looks so good! Love that you picked this as your destination!

June 5, 2013 - 5:19 am

Laura @ the Booksmartie - I love this post! Like…so much :) I would love to spend my summers in a theme park -that’s such an awesome idea! My parents always took me and my brother hiking -which was…umm…not always fun :) Then again, I turned to like and appreciate it when I grew older! As for Tokyo – I’d leave behind every sunny beach if I could go visit that city at one point in my life. I’m pretty sure it’d be one of the most interesting places to go in the world!!

June 4, 2013 - 3:04 pm

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - Yayyyyy WDW!! You know I love it!!! I’m interested in reading Zoe, purely for the fact that it’s in a theme park! :)

June 4, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Rachel - I give your family kudos, Estelle, for going to Disney in August. I went in July a few years ago as a graduation present and I definitely suffered in the heat. Disney has the same meaning to me that it does to you. Growing up I went there once or twice a year and to me it truly was the most magical place on earth.

I also liked what you picked, Magan! I’ve been hearing so much about that book lately and it’s interesting to see the culture behind the story.

June 4, 2013 - 1:34 pm

Morgan - I followed Estelle’s tweet about how different the two locations are; lo and behold they are my two FAVORITE destinations! Adding both to GR now. Magan, the fashions in Tokyo are amazing!

June 4, 2013 - 12:31 pm

Tink - Just found your blog thru the Disney Food Blog..I love Disney and reading, perfect! Even better, that Zoe book sounds great, definitely going to have to check it out!

June 4, 2013 - 10:39 am

Tara - Estelle, I love that pic of you when you were a kid–so cute! Magan, I love your not-typical destination and can’t wait to read that book!

June 4, 2013 - 8:40 am

Ginger @ GReads! - I love that you both chose “out of the box” summer destinations & paired it with a book. Estelle, I know how close Disney is to you & it’s always fun to see your pictures from previous trips. Magan, this book is coming up soon on my TBR list – you’ve definitely made me more excited for it!

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Estelle: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja MillayThe Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay ( twitter )
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (in paperback)
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 448
Target audience: Mature young adult/adult
Keywords: recovery, trauma, high school seniors
Format read: ARC from NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: The Sea of Tranquility connects two people who are living in their own voids of loneliness: Nastya, a girl who escapes to her aunt’s house and a new high school just to blend it and get through the day without being asked about her past and Josh, an emancipated high school senior who, by terrible twists of fate, has been left to fend for himself. When Nastya and Josh form an unexpected and unconventional friendship, the two are forced to remember and deal in ways they have avoided for a long time.

Katja Millay is a very talented, thorough writer. You can tell she has taken great lengths to fully understand the depths of her two characters, and even does this without jipping the secondary characters either (Drew and his mom are awesome).

We begin with two broken people, and piece by piece, come to discover why they are the way they are. Why does Nastya run all hours of the night? Why is she okay with dressing like an emo whore? Why does Josh find such solace in woodworking? And why does everyone at school treat him so differently? It’s rather unlikely that these two characters would find much in common but somehow they do, even if it takes a little work to get there. And then a little more work after that.

Nothing comes easy in The Sea of Tranquility. For me, it took three false starts before I could get into the flow, and even then, I found myself working through the book very slowly. Until there was this beautiful, delicious bubble of Josh and Nastya forming this languid bond of domesticity that I could not get enough of. A certain aspect of Nastya’s character really helped create this intimate chemistry between the two, and I so loved what they did for one another.

Unfortunately, the story veered off track into more of a dramatic realm when more and more tragedy piled up on the character’s plates, as well as a happenstance moment that occurs all too perfectly later in the book. Even Nastya’s voice didn’t always fit her dark thoughts or her actions, and felt a bit romanticized. Don’t get me wrong — Millay created an intriguing story with interesting characters but there was just so much jammed on the page that it had me questioning its believability instead of feeling more for the characters.

Still there is something about this title that is so addicting. Whether it’s how kind of great Josh is or Nastya’s playful but steady friendship with their shared best friend, Drew. Then there’s the mystery (what event led to Nastya’s current behavior), which leads to the ultimate question: can two people who have faced such hardships overcome and begin again?

It’s a rocky road from start to finish, but I’m ultimately glad The Sea of Tranquility put Millay on my radar.

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Sidenote: I believe this book is being marketed as “new adult” for more mature themes (drugs, sexuality, violence) but I am more confused by this designation than I was before. All the main characters in this novel are seniors in high school, and I’ve read various books where there has been equal amount of drugs, sexuality, and violence. (Daisy Whitney’s The Mockingbirds for example.) So what makes this story in particular NA exactly?

June 12, 2013 - 7:09 am

Kelly - I thought NA was supposed to encompass the period after high school; university, first real job, etc?

I’m super curious about this one because I want to know what happened to Nastya, but I’m also a little apprehensive about the building tragedies that push the believability of the story to a breaking point. I’m definitely going to give this a shot some day, but I’ll try to keep in mind that it might go slowly!

June 10, 2013 - 9:51 am

molly @ wrapped up in books - I’ve seen a lot of interest in this book and never really realized what it was about. I am also often confused by what people apply the “new adult” label too. I feel like it means different things to different people!

June 4, 2013 - 6:36 am

Lori - Great review, Estelle. I really enjoyed this one, but I completely understand your thoughts. It was a slow story and it did get a bit dramatic toward the end. I’m happy you still enjoyed it some.

June 3, 2013 - 4:54 pm

Alexa Y. - This book was a very interesting read for me! I did like it, but not as much as I imagined I would. I’m not sure if it’s because I wasn’t particularly fond of the characters or able to connect with them, or if it has something to do with the story and its ending. Whatever it is, it’s undeniable that in spite of that thing, I did like Millay’s writing.

June 3, 2013 - 2:12 pm

Nikki @ The Paper Sea - This one has been on my to-read list since it was first released in hardback, and everyone of my friends loved it. I should probably get around to it at some point as it sounds right up my street. Sometimes I wish stories like this would tone down on the drama and tragedy — I think sometimes too much just feels like too much and makes everything a little less realistic.

(As for New Adult? I can hardly keep up either!)

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Estelle’s Shelve It (Friday Edition): 5/31/2013

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

I CANNOT believe that tomorrow is June 1. Where oh where is this year going?

Hope you guys are keeping cool and gearing up for a fun weekend! It’s been so fun meeting book bloggers who are here in NYC for BEA. Like a complete whirlwind of a week actually. I’ll be so sad to see everyone go:(Before I chat about some of the books I received during BEA events in the past few days (eee! I am excited about them), I did want to highlight a few others I’ve been hoarding first. Hence my v-log featuring new glasses and one of my favorite dresses.

Enjoy this Shelve It!!

(I hope my AC is not too loud.)

For review:

New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (releases 9/10/2013)
Skinny Bitch in Love by Kim Barnouin (releases 6/4/2013)
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil


The Star Attraction by Alison Sweeney


(Thanks to Cassie from Books with Cass!)

Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy
Beautiful Ruins by Jessica Walter
How Zoe Made Her Dreams Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer

On the blog this week:

Review: cowboys and romance in Big Sky Summer by Linda Lael Miller
Review: the reality of reality TV in You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle
Review: bad girl, good guy in Dare You To by Katie McGarry
Memorial Day: two books you must read soon.

(Psst. I answered questions from Cassie of Books with Cass + Tara from Hobbitsies! Thanks ladies!)

Have a brilliant weekend!! Thanks for stopping in!

June 3, 2013 - 4:53 pm

Alexa Y. - I absolutely ADORE your dress, for one thing. And yay for new books! <3 Plus, you are totally adorable.

June 3, 2013 - 10:37 am

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - So so glad to have met you this weekend!!! :)

June 2, 2013 - 1:59 pm

Paige - I’m so jealous of Criminal I read her first book which I’m pretty sure was Being Friends With Boys and I loved it! I hope you enjoy everything you got this week :)


May 31, 2013 - 7:55 pm

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - Whoops, hit post before I was done :). I keep hearing great things about Beautiful Ruins, but the cover doesn’t excite me. Maybe the shiny version is better? Regardless, I look forward to hearing what you think, and all about BEA too!!!

May 31, 2013 - 7:53 pm

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - Your new glasses are super cute!

May 31, 2013 - 5:10 pm

Tara @ Hobbitsies - Your glasses are super cute! And I had a lot of fun hanging out with you the other night – we should definitely see a show together next time I’m in the city! In the meantime, I’ve got my tickets to the Newsies tomorrow night :)

May 31, 2013 - 12:26 pm

Bookworm1858 - Cute dress! I can’t believe it’s almost June either-then it will be almost June 30 and that’s halfway through 2013, one of the fastest years ever in my memory.

May 31, 2013 - 9:50 am

Daphne - yeah, so, thanks for adding to my TBR. :)

May 31, 2013 - 9:49 am

Jess @ Gone with the Words - Love the glasses!! I really like that style, and they look good on you. :) I just went and added New Money to my GR wishlist and am totally going to see about reading Criminal soon! 😀 HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!

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Estelle: Big Sky Summer by Linda Lael Miller

Big Sky Summer by Linda Lael MillerBig Sky Summer by Linda Lael Miller ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 5/28/2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 320
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: country music, children, cowboys
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Casey is a well-known country music artist who has traveled all over the world, and Walker continues the family tradition of working rodeos. For years and years, Casey and Walker have kept the secret that her two teenager kids are actually his. But as Walker watches the kids grow up, he realizes he wants to be a part of their lives as “Dad” and not “uncle.” He’s also still in love with Casey. Can the two move on for the past and make a relationship work? Will their kids ever forgive them for the lies?

You had me at cowboy.

Walker is a hat-tippin, horse-riding gentlemen with a soft spot for country star, Casey Alder, and her two fantastic kids. Two kids that are his, evidence of two passionate nights with a woman he has been forced to love from afar. Kind of crazy isn’t it? Despite Casey’s popularity, the tabloids and the gossip columnists have not uncovered the fact that her kids were not product of test-tube pregnancies. But as they grow older, the resemblance becomes more evident, and Casey and Walker believe they finally have to tell their kids the truth.

I love that Casey and Walker have a history that spans the years when they were young and on the cusp of success. While I wish that Miller concentrated on their earlier moments together instead of informing readers in bits and pieces, this really amped up the tension between the two. THEY CANNOT KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF ONE ANOTHER.

Casey’s resolution to all the lies and craziness is marriage. Telling the kids the truth and then getting hitched to Walker. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that jump in her decision making process. It seems hard enough to deal with a daughter who is very hurt and it felt the the decision was more about appeasing her fans and the public then her kids. But it also forces them Casey and Walker to share a bed. So there is that. (Although it is NOT cool to not tell your partner that the condom broke. I don’t care how old you are or what the circumstances.)

Despite that hiccup, I was really impressed with Miller’s dialogue. It’s often the case with romance novels that everything starts to blend together and I thought she did a nice job of bringing humor and affection to the story. It’s also interesting to see what happens to two characters who made certain choices when they were young, and watch them wrestle with those choices years later — not necessarily regretting them but certainly figuring out where they could have done better.

If you like a mega-country setting or are a fan of the television show, Nashville, I’d say you best pick this one up. Though I warn you, the country tunes will be two-stepping in your head for sure.

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September 5, 2013 - 9:00 am

Big Sky Wedding by Linda Lael Miller (Romance Review) - […] Big Sky Wedding by Linda Lael Miller  ( web | tweet ) Publication Date: August 27, 2013 Publisher: Harlequin Pages: 384 Target audience: Adult Keywords: life changes, ranch, romance, baggage Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!) Other book I reviewed by Linda Lael Miller: Big Sky Summer […]

June 3, 2013 - 4:44 pm

Alexa Y. - This basically sounds like the perfect romance novel to read during the summer. I mean, come on COWBOYS. It doesn’t get much more attractive than that 😉

May 31, 2013 - 8:32 am

Daphne - i read the first book in this series & loved it & actually have the others but haven’t gotten to them yet. this looks really cute, though i’m kind of confused why they have TWO kids together and they’re still not trying to make it work. one i can understand. but anyway, i will definitely get to this one eventually. :)

May 30, 2013 - 2:40 pm

Molli - Well, it just so happens that I LOVE both country music AND cowboys. It’s been awhile since I read many adult contemporary romances, but I’m definitely looking to get back into reading a few more. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one, or another one by the author, since you seemed to enjoy it, and loved the dialogue. Nice review, Estelle!

May 30, 2013 - 10:08 am

Natalie @ Books, etc. - I soooo want to read this! It’s about cowboys and country music, TWO OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS!!!! Great review, Estelle :)

Review: The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines”

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Magan: You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

Book Cover For You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle {website | twitter}
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 368
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: documentary, realistic fiction, strained friendships, teenage reality movie
Format read: ARC received via Edelweiss from the publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary: At 16, Justine, Rory, Felix, Kiera, and Nate are soon to begin filming another documentary. Beginning when they were 6, a film crew followed them around for a few months to document their lives. They’ve followed up every five years and plan to continue doing so until they’re 21. Oh, how things have changed since they were 11. Justine thinks she’s already lived through the best part of her life and she’s going to let down viewers.

Have you ever misjudged a book? Maybe just thought it would tell a different story than what you read? When I began reading You Look Different in Real Life, I expected something a bit more light-hearted that I would breeze through. I stopped reading book summaries a few months ago because I felt like they were spoiling so much for me, but in this particular case, I think maybe the cover eludes to a different story. (Thoughts?) But I digress… — WOW! — am I so glad I was so misguided. What I read — what Jennifer Castle wrote — is absolutely phenomenal.

In a nutshell, You Look Different in Real Life is deep, engaging, so meaty and full of story — there’s past and present stories that makes everything flow effortlessly. I laughed, I cried. I couldn’t put it down.

Justine, the main character, is uncertain of who she is. When she was six years old, she partook in a documentary film with four other six-year-olds (Rory, Nate, Felix, and Kiera) that followed them throughout the course of a few months. When they turned eleven, the film crew popped back into their lives to begin filming again. At sixteen, Justine is expecting a phone call. She knows they’ll return because the intent was to follow them until they turned 21. She’s hesitant of their return because at 6 and 11, she was somewhat the standout kid — she was quirky and full of personality. She won the hearts of thousands. At 16, she feels she’s digressed because she peaked at 11. Justine now feels like she’s lost herself — she has no hobbies and no particular talents. Everyone who loved her in the previous films will be disappointed with who she’s become.

To make matters more interesting, Justine, Rory, Nate, Kiera, and Felix aren’t really a close group of friends. They’ve all, in multiple ways, hurt one another. Rory is Justine’s ex-best friend; she’s odd and blatantly honest. Justine has things she wants to say to Rory, genuinely, but is afraid that they will come off as being timed for the film. Nate has made the biggest turnaround of the group; he used to be a misfit who got teased endlessly, but now he’s a popular jock. Justine resents him because she thinks (but doesn’t know the details of the exact encounter) he did something to Felix, her present day best friend. Felix wants to be a star; he’s always felt overshadowed and wants to have a bigger role in the next film. And lastly, there’s Kiera. She and Justine orbit in different worlds and don’t particularly get along. Kiera is friends with Nate and she’s pretty/popular.

What the film crew expects to find is the complete opposite of the reality they stumble upon. So much so that they have to intervene and begin to manipulate situations to get these very hesitant-to-interact teenagers together. What really makes the story feel like a fresh breath of air are the many, many details put into aspects of who these kids are/were. Everything feels completely believable and realistic. We aren’t always given all of the details upfront, but I trusted Castle would carefully lead us to the end of the rainbow where all the answers awaited. There’s not a moment I felt like she, Castle, was providing unsubstantial information; each sentence was flooded with supportive details and full of character-building. Every progression in the story felt natural and made so much sense.

But maybe my most favorite aspect was how well-rounded everything felt. Castle set the scene and created a whole picture throughout the book by including a barrage of family and friendship moments. With all the transitions, growth, uncertainty. I find it impressive that a story based on the “reality” of five teenagers being filmed and documented could ironically feel so flawless and full of life; maybe because reality TV has conditioned me to believe only 5% of what’s being aired, I assumed Castle’s story would take the same over-the-top approach since it tackled a familiar situation. But I just couldn’t have been more wrong.

You Look Different in Real Life turned out to be one of the happiest surprises of 2013 for me!

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May 31, 2013 - 12:28 pm

Bookworm1858 - I think I would have preferred the more light hearted story hinted at by the synopsis. I was looking for more of a beach read. Still I thought the way things came together in the city was very absorbing-it just took too long to reach that point.

May 30, 2013 - 3:13 pm

Andrea @Cozy Up With A Good Read - Wow, I would not have gotten this story from looking at the cover. The cover definitely has a different feel to it, I haven’t heard of this one but it sounds like such a unique concept and I’m glad to hear that the author was able to pull it off. This one is definitely going on my list! Thanks for the review!!

May 29, 2013 - 2:23 pm

Alexa Y. - Clearly, I MUST read this book. I was already intrigued by the concept, but now I’m extra excited after seeing your review. I love it when an author is able to craft real, believable characters — and put them in believable situations! I certainly will have this book on my radar now.

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Estelle: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Dare You To by Katie McGarryDare You To by Katie McGarry ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 462
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: family secrets, baseball, new school, romance
Format read: Paperback ARC from Harlequin Teen (Thanks!)

Summary: Ryan and Beth couldn’t be anymore different. While Ryan is maintaining focus on the pro-baseball career he has worked toward forever, Beth is trying to protect her mother from bad habits and abusive boyfriends. One night changes everything for Beth and suddenly she is living with her estranged uncle and going to a new school. Ryan and his friends revitalize an old dare that Ryan can get Beth on a date in a public place, but the competition takes a turn as he gets to know Beth more…

Truth? When I read Pushing the Limits last year, totally transfixed in a train car (I didn’t even care that I was standing for my 45-minute commute), I was not a huge fan of Beth. I don’t even remember caring about her so much because I was all ECHONOAHECHONOAH but Katie McGarry’s great storytelling has brought me back to this cast of characters and their world.

And I am so very glad about that.

Right away, I am going to tell you three things: 1) There are no pet names. 2) Dare You To immediately feels more down-to-earth than PtL because instead of having two characters with extreme situations, we have Beth dealing with the extreme and Ryan wrestling with relatable issues, more familiar to readers. 3) It is better than book one. (And sexier too.)

Beth and Ryan’s “friendship” has some very humble beginnings at Taco Bell, where his friends have forced him to get her number. This skater girl has a tough attitude and does not make it easy for him at all, and he’s totally challenged by her. He’s a baseball player! He lives to play games! Of course, he never thinks he’s going to get a second chance after an unfortunate family situation lands Beth in the home of her estranged uncle and his unfriendly wife. New school, familiar faces from the past, and no more late nights with Noah and Isaiah.

I can’t blame Beth for being as angry and detached as she is. For years she has been taking care of her mom, even though she is always siding with her abusive boyfriend. Her dad never wanted her, and her uncle, the only person she truly trusted to take care of her, left and never came back. Now that Scott is back in her life, she will let him forget that she is no longer the little girl who loved ribbons but a big girl who doesn’t take orders from anyone. Needless to say, they clash a ton.

Meanwhile, Ryan is about to start the most important baseball season of his life, hoping the next step will be the pros. But when he advances in a writing contest and starts to think about college, he wonders if his parents have really had his best interest at heart all of these years. Not only that, but they have been fighting a ton since his brother left home.  The perfect picture his parents try to paint for the community is not exactly the truth.

It’s a little too perfect that Beth’s Uncle Scott is an ex-professional player and just happens to live near Ryan and his family. If Ryan agrees to show Beth the ropes at school (or pretends to because god knows she doesn’t want his help) maybe Scott will have an in with his future? Beth and Ryan’s relationship has a ton of tension right from the get-go because she is so impossibly stubborn, and he does not lose (as he reminds us many times in the book). He will show his friends he can get a date with her, and he will get baseball too. Evil plan, check!

It’s safe to say that you realize what happens here. Walls come down a little bit, a game turns into something real, and even more conflict ensues. Ryan is sort of a literary dream guy; he can be incredibly cheesy at times but he is really protective and also so respectful of women. Beth is a little harder to like, just because she won’t let anything good happen to her but despite that I was still rooting for her to find some semblance of happiness (even if it came at a cost).

While Ryan and Beth’s circumstances are like night and day, McGarry does a fantastic job of depicting just how difficult it is when parents have control over us. Their power is so intimidating (even if they seem weak) and sometimes we feel utterly defenseless when it comes to going against their wishes or accepting they are just who they are. Ryan and Beth both have to make decisions to be their own person, and get on their own path — for the betterment of their own lives.

McGarry has written another engaging, addicting volume in this series. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished. The chemistry is hot, the issues are real, and there is a whole lot of suspense. I love how Beth could call Ryan out on his crap, and I loved how he was able to show her “the home” she’s never really had before. I dare you not to finish it in one sitting.

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June 4, 2014 - 1:30 pm

Magan: Take Me On by Katie McGarry, Magan - […] Me On by Katie McGarry (twitter | website) Previously Reviewed: Pushing the Limits // Dare You To // Crash Into You Publication Date: May 27, 2014 Publisher: Harlequin TEEN Pages: 544 Target […]

August 13, 2013 - 12:43 pm

Sweet Summertime Reads: The Yearbook, Magan - […] Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch: Goodreads | Amazon Dare You To by Katie McGarry: Goodreads | Amazon | Estelle’s Review […]

June 3, 2013 - 9:34 pm

Kelly - I’ve been putting this one off because a) 400+ pages?! and b) I just don’t know how it can live up to PtL. BUT you are one of several bloggers who have promised me that this story is better, so I think I’m just going to have to put on my big girl panties and get this read!

May 31, 2013 - 1:49 pm

tabithasbookblog - I finished this one in one sitting as well! it was so good, and I loved Ryan and Beth’s chemistry! This one was better than the first, and I can’t wait to see how the next book plays out. (:

May 30, 2013 - 3:36 pm

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - Estelle! I loved Pushing the Limits more than Dare You To. I still loved this book, but PtL was just, I don’t know. Love love love for me.

Haha, yes Ryan is always telling us he doesn’t lose, which didn’t get a little frustrating. But I still loved this book. Katie McGarry writes my kind of books :)

May 30, 2013 - 2:32 pm

Bookworm1858 - I definitely agree that this book is better than PTL-I loved Beth and Ryan’s stories and he brought the swoon hard for me.

May 29, 2013 - 7:54 pm

Molli - Glad you liked this one, Estelle! I didn’t, but I really do want to maybe snag it from the library to give it another try at some point. I loved PTL SO much that it seems wrong I didn’t love DYT. Maybe if I read it again, I’ll be more into it. :)

May 29, 2013 - 2:03 pm

Alexa Y. - Oh, your review is PERFECTION. It explains perfectly how I felt about Ryan and Beth and Ryan-and-Beth. It’s such a good book! I’m still swooning thinking about Ryan. Just saying.

May 29, 2013 - 12:45 am

Suzy Soule - Sounds like a must read to me–can I skip book one, do you think?

May 28, 2013 - 3:35 pm

Rachel - Well, now I have to read this book. There’s something about your review that makes it sound so addicting. I know I tried it earlier and couldn’t get into it, but I don’t think I was in the right mindset at the time.

May 28, 2013 - 9:35 am

Cassie - This is up next for me and I must read it before Rules of Summer comes to my Kindle! SUPER EXCITED since I know how much you loved it 😀

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