Tag Archives: contemporary

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

I read pretty much exclusively fiction, but even so, a good majority of the books I read are for research purposes, with the aim of informing and improving my writing. I might pick up a book that I think would be a good comp title, reread a book to study an author’s voice or methods for conjuring a specific mood, or even read a new release just to stay in touch with current literary trends. All this is why I basically abandoned reading fantasy last year—I just had a lot of books to read for research, the majority of them great, but none of them fantasy.

So it was for research purposes that Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies came onto my radar. I was considering including a character with agoraphobia in my new “Beauty and the Beast and aliens” WIP, so I wanted to get a sense of how this condition is tackled in fiction, especially in YA fiction. Gornall herself drew on her own experience and struggles in writing this book, and it shows—there is nothing in this book that is not raw and authentic. I read it in less than twenty-four hours—simply could not put it down. The MC is absolutely compelling, a character you can’t help but root for as she deals with OCD, anxiety, and agoraphobia, all while building a relationship with the handsome, awkward boy next door who sees past her mental health struggles. Voice is everything in this book, and Gornall lets us stay tapped into the MC’s thoughts like we’re a neuron in her brain. She’s flawed, funny, likable, and, above all, real. You can see how she comes to have the thought patterns she does—I found this fascinating, especially because I recognized some of my own unhealthy thought patterns taken to the next level by the MC. It really gave me pause and helped me examine my own head space.

You might be wondering if a book spent pretty much entirely in the MC’s house would grow stale, but nothing here is boring. In fact, this is one of those rare reads where I finished it and felt that sad, lonely ache, where you just want to go back to page one and start the story over again. Suffice it to say that this is a five star read.

I also want to briefly laud the author’s treatment of the MC’s relationship with her mother. I adore realistic parents in YA, and the relationship here was just perfect—nothing forced or scripted.

In the end, I did make the decision that an agoraphobic character isn’t the right fit for my book. Anxiety or OCD might make an appearance, not sure yet, but definitely not agoraphobia. And I am so happy to have been able to read this book to make an informed decision about that. I will absolutely be picking up future works by this author, and I recommend Under Rose-Tainted Skies for… everyone! Everyone should read this book! Right now!

ARC: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Serious Moonlight debuts April 16th.

You know when you see a perfect cover, and you think to yourself, well, the book can’t possibly live up to THAT, could it? They’re compensating for something, right? Well, banish those fears—Serious Moonlight is a cozy contemporary that pairs an adorable romance with memorable characters and a Pacific Northwest setting. In my opinion, this book is exactly what new adult should be: kids post-high school taking their first steps into “adulting,” with sex present, but not in an erotic way. It has a YA contemporary voice, but the MCs are just a tad bit older. I also truly appreciated how Bennett placed her characters in a non-school setting. I’ve heard so many calls from people in publishing asking for manuscripts featuring MCs navigating college, and I’m just… not really interested in that?

The pitch is that the MC, Birdie, hooked up with a cute guy in his car, then totally freaked out and literally ran away from him. She’s doing her best to forget all this… but then said cute guy, Daniel, happens to work at her new job. Gotta be fate, right? But both Birdie and Daniel are going to have to work through a lot of things before they can get their happily ever after. Oh, and there’s a “mystery” in the book as well… I use quotes here because the mystery aspect really isn’t that big of a focus; we’re all just here for the developing romance between Birdie and Daniel. It’s cute, they’re cute, the setting’s cute, everything’s cute, cute, cute! Love it.

All this isn’t to say that the book is perfect. Daniel is a bit too much of a “nice guy” for my taste; he treats Birdie like gold at every opportunity, giving her all possible outs from their relationship. That didn’t come across as caring to me so much as unsexy; I was hoping he’d grow a spine. But Daniel did grow on me in time, especially as he plans one awesome date after the next. The one with a Clue focus? (Trying not to give anything away.) I was Googling if anything like that existed in my area. (Unfortunately looks like I’d have to travel to Boston, so… meh.) There was also some cringey, wooden dialogue—I could have done without the “skedaddling” scene. But these are just small quibbles; the setting, the characters, the “found family” aspect, the pitch-perfect new adult feel all added up to a thoroughly enjoyable read, so I will definitely be checking out Bennett’s other books.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya and all that! In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a couple weeks ago I went on a quest for some Irish-themed reads. The Call almost made the cut, but I couldn’t stomach taking on another series at the moment, so that’s how I ended up with Love & Luck!

If you’re in the mood for a quick, cute St. Patrick’s Day read, look no further! Love & Luck is an adorable read that will transport you to the Emerald Isle. Readers follow Addie, who is in Ireland with her large, boisterous family for her aunt’s wedding. Fresh out of a relationship, Addie has a secret™ that is eating her up inside. She’ll need to spill the beans eventually, but is working on first coming to terms with how her relationship ended. Her moral support through all this? A guidebook called Ireland for the Heartbroken, which has Addie soon gallivanting across Ireland with her older brother and his Internet best friend.

This is one of the only road trip book I’ve truly enjoyed; most of the other ones that I’ve read didn’t feel entirely cohesive. But with the guidebook framework, everything comes together into a whimsical package, aided by the fast pace and authentic-feeling characters. The Maeve/female empowerment stuff did read a little bit cringey and forced to me, but this is a small aspect of the book only, so not much to worry about.

I’d say this is an excellent read for anyone who enjoyed Morgan Matson’s Save the Date. There are a lot of similarities (in the best way possible), from the older brothers-younger sister relationships to the romantic themes. (And the obvious wedding common thread.) Another pretty obvious comp is 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, which has a larger European focus… But you guys have heard me harping on about Johnson lately, so I’ll leave it at that. 😉 And if you do read this book and love it, Love & Luck has a sister novel called Love & Gelato, featuring Addie’s best friend Lina in, you guessed it, Italy. So hopefully I’ll be picking that up sometime, since this was such a cute book.

Tell Me Everything by Sarah Enni

I’ve been a loyal listener of Sarah Enni’s First Draft podcast since 2014, so I was psyched to pick up a copy of her debut novel. Tell Me Everything follows Ivy, a sophomore photography nerd who’s been struggling with growing distance between her and her BFF Harold. To take her mind off her absent, over-scheduled friend, Ivy becomes engrossed with the new app VEIL, which allows users to view Instagram-style anonymous pictures local to a five-mile radius. The book follows Ivy as she attempts to uncover the secrets of the students at her school posting on VEIL.

It’s a cute, short book that I read in less than twenty-four hours. I really enjoyed the local art scene focus, and I feel that there’s a missed opportunity here for the book to include some photographs and illustrations to color the narrative, like in a Ransom Riggs book. Yet the book isn’t without its flaws; it felt plotless for a good portion of the book, like we were being treated to individual scenes that made up some sort of abstract whole. The voice, too, is a bit younger than I usually read. (More a preference thing than an actual detractor.) You know how a lot of readers (rightly) complain that a good portion of YA isn’t really YA anymore, but really just New Adult, repackaged with “eighteen-year-olds” and pretty YA covers? This isn’t that; it reads young, and Enni was clearly purposeful in the decision to make Ivy and Harold sophomores instead of upperclassmen.

I’ll admit that the tone of the book was a bit off to me. There is a lot of quirk for quirk’s sake, almost reminiscent of Katy t3h PeNgU1n oF d00m. That combined with an especially cringy (cringey?) scene between Ivy and Harold that read like progressive buzzword mad libs had me not exactly racing for the end of the book, but still edging toward eager-to-be-done territory.

***SPOILER INCOMING***

I did also feel like some questions briefly raised throughout the book weren’t explored deeply enough. In this book, online anonymity and an unmoderated user base butt heads with “safe spaces” and helicopter parents. There is a kind of resolution to this conflict in terms of the VEIL app, but not a satisfying one in my opinion, and what resolution Enni offers us doesn’t do much to address the very real debates that society is currently having about social media platforms. VEIL is deleted in the end, but let’s face it, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t about to delete Facebook, nor Jack Dorsey Twitter, so what exact lesson are we supposed to take from Tell Me Everything into the real world?

So some good, some bad. Tell Me Everything was a pleasant, quick read for a Sunday afternoon, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it for older YA readers, though a younger, less picky crowd might have some fun here.


Just a real quick reminder that Chapter Four of The Gold in the Dark will be posting this Sunday at 11 AM EST! All right, that’s all, folks. ❤