Review – A Million Junes by Emily Henry


A Million Junes

By Emily Henry

SummaryFor as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.

Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.


As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

Source: I received a hardcover as part of my Book of the Month Club subscription

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I heard great things about A Million Junes, but it sat on my TBR shelf for quite some time. I picked it up to complete a category in the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge (book with a month in the title), but I didn’t have high expectations. I didn’t enjoy The Love That Split The World and magical realism is hit or miss for me. I have my go to authors for it and I definitely have to be in the mood, but I was so disappointed by her other book that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this one. I almost didn’t choose it for my BotM Club pick, but the reviews were so great that I knew I should try it out.

A Million Junes was dazzling. 

I enjoyed the story so much and immediately grew to care about all of the characters. I enjoyed the legends about the O’Donnells and the family feud with the Angerts. I wanted to unravel the mystery for June, especially as she found herself constantly around Saul Angert and realized maybe it wasn’t as simple as she thought.

I felt like the author really captured a wonderful story about growing up, falling in love, family, friendship, and letting go of the past all in one magical story. I loved that the magical elements were there, but not overpowering. It was just a taste of the supernatural in an otherwise regular world. It was brilliantly executed and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I cannot gush about it enough. I felt completely immersed in the book from page one and I couldn’t wait to see how it all unfolded.

I highly recommend A Million Junes. It was so much better than I’d expected! It actually makes me want to reread The Love That Split the World because maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for it at the time? I’m not sure. But I preferred the actual plot in A Million Junes, too.

 Star 5


Review – The Grownup by Gillian Flynn


The Grownup 

By Gillian Flynn

SummaryA canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the “psychic” visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it.

“The Grownup,” originally appeared as “What Do You Do?” in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology.

Source: I received a hardcover from the Book of the Month Club for signing on.

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The Grownup was a very short story, but it hooked me from the very first page. It was immediately a tad disturbing, but it was compelling and weird in typical Gillian Flynn fashion. 

I loved the protagonist, who was completely unapologetic and manipulative. I loved the plot. I loved the twists and the ambiguous ending. From start to finish, I felt like it was exactly what I wanted having picked up a Gillian Flynn story. Of course, I wished it was longer, but for a short story, I was satisfied.

I definitely recommend The Grownup. I read it in a matter of hours, if that, and it was pretty horrifying/thought provoking. 

Star 4

Review – The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich


The Love Interest

By Cale Dietrich

SummaryThere is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both. 

Source: I purchased a hardcover as part of the Book of the Month Club

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It’s kind of difficult to rate The Love Interest. It was awful and made zero sense, but it did an amazing job at making fun of tired YA tropes and if that was the point, then it was kind of awesome.

Basically, The Love Interest was a dystopian novel in which a secret organization takes kids and makes them into Love Interests. Every important person will have one, but in order to ensure he or she chooses the spy, they create a Bad and a Nice in order to appeal to the person. Whoever she doesn’t pick will die. It’s outrageous and makes no sense, but I’ve read enough awful YA to be entertained by the premise. In The Love Interest, Caden started to fall for the wrong person: the Bad guy. Which was also kind of awesome because it’s about time the idiot heroine who keeps bouncing between two guys loses both, right?

Caden narrated the story and he didn’t believe he was really Nice, but played his part in order to not die. He was kind of bland and awful, as was nearly all of the dialogue, but the book makes fun of so much wrong in YA, I can’t help but wonder if it was all on purpose. 

I’m not really sure if I read a brilliant parody of every YA dystopian novel ever or another awful addition to that pile, so I gave the book three stars because it’s either really good or really bad and I shot for the middle. 

Star 3

Review – The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

The Impossible Fortress

By Jason Rekulak

Summary: A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.
Do you remember your first love?
The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.
The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

 Source: Book of the Month Club pick 

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The Impossible Fortress promised an amazing YA journey through 1980’s nerd and pop culture that I couldn’t pass up. I love the 80’s and it sounded like it would be right up there with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which was a huge favorite of mine that I’ve recommended many times. 

I was incredibly disappointed by The Impossible Fortress.

At first, the boys were trying to come up with ways to get their hands on the new Playboy issue with Vanna White which was a great plot device because it was the 80s, they were young, and it was a big deal at the time. They came up with pretty elaborate schemes and finally settled on one crazy one that worked out well for Will. Will was a programmer and creator of video games using code and discovered a girl hanging out at the store where the Playboys were sold who also shared the same interest. So he came up with a way to give himself a reason for hanging out with her to work on this video game contest in context with the heist for the Playboys. He used the scheme as an excuse was because she was kind of fat and his friends were making fun of him and her for the short interaction they witnessed and Will didn’t want to just admit he thought she was cool or shared a similar interest. 

The boys seemed a bit over the top about getting their hands on the Playboy and women in general, but part of the problem was that the characters were all pretty flat, so there wasn’t anything else about them that we knew. Had the author done a better job creating well rounded characters, it would’ve shown that, while obsessed with naked chicks, they were still actual people with other interests and personalities. I even feel like the book missed out on friendship dynamics that would’ve made the group more realistic and easier to love.

For the majority of the book, Will grew as a character as he began spending a lot of his time learning code and developing a friendship with Mary and even her standoffish dad who owned the store. He wasn’t as interested in the antics of his friends because he had a goal and was working towards it with someone who shared the same passion. It was a great transformation… until he completely undid all of that great character growth by being an awful friend and lashing out after being rejected. 

All of the obsession with Playboy and girls was totally fine and even relatively normal for the time frame, so I wasn’t even bothered by it. The fat shaming and offhand comments the guys made about Mary were also things I could deal with and not really get upset about because Will was growing as a character despite it and it was a thing back then. But then Will was a completely awful person by lashing out, allowing damage to property and people, all because he was rejected by Mary. And, while he did realize he was being a jerk, the book didn’t do enough, in my opinion, to really talk about the fact that he didn’t have a good excuse to lash out. There wasn’t really a lesson learned by anyone in regards to women and since the book was published recently, I think the whole “it was the 80s” excuse didn’t work anymore. The whole end just made it seem like Will messed up, but also there was a twist and Mary was pretty messed up, and everything was fine. There was this whole “boys will be boys” kind of attitude that rubbed me the wrong way and made me a bit uncomfortable. This book was pretty much awful when it comes to showing a healthy attitude towards women and by the last page, I was just kind of disgusted by everyone. 

There could’ve been a number of ways the Playboy magazine heist could’ve blown up in Will’s face and I knew it was inevitable, but the way it all went down was just disappointing and ruined a story that I was mostly enjoying. Mary shouldn’t have needed a reason to turn Will down (yes, this apparently needed to be explained) and Will shouldn’t have lashed out in a very awful way and if those things happened anyway, then there should be some sort of lesson everyone learned as a result. And since there wasn’t, at that point, I could no longer shrug it away and say “but it was the 80s” anymore.

Star 2

Review – Marlena by Julie Buntin



By Julie Buntin

SummaryAn electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena’s orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts—first drink, first cigarette, first kiss—while Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.

Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin’s Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

Source: BOTM Club pick

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Marlena was a well written and haunting story about Cat, a 30 something with a drinking problem and a past. The book mainly took place in the past where Cat was 15 and drawn to her neighbor, Marlena, who was troubled and addicting. Marlena was like the movie Thirteen with a tragic ending. 

The book was full of great passages throughout that truly capture Cat’s feelings and the chaotic and hypnotic person that was Marlena. I could relate in many ways because I was pretty much a good kid who got good grades and was often drawn to the troublemaking and carefree girls when I was Cat’s age. Fortunately, I never got quite so deep, but Cat’s POV was one I recognized to some degree. 

With that being said, I’m a bit surprised by the sheer number of overwhelmingly positive reviews. Marlena was very tough to get into and it lost me multiple times. I felt like there was a lot more telling instead of showing, even though the words came together in a way that I could appreciate, I felt very disconnected. Even Cat, who was a character I could identify with, felt just out my grasp as a character. Everyone was distant and I never really connected with or cared about them. Perhaps the constant shift from present and past and back again was to blame for some of the disjointed feelings, but I think the book was written in a more passive way than it should’ve been in order to fully capture the way Marlena impacted Cat as a person. 

Marlena was good, but it fell short of my expectations. It wasn’t as gritty as I wanted it to be. As much as I enjoyed the more passive character in the beginning, I felt like the book needed to be more in-my-face in order to truly tell the story well. Cat was immersed in Marlena’s lifestyle, but the writing made her still seem removed from it. 

Star 3