“The Star Shack”—A Book Review

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If you’re looking for a super quick, mindless summer beach read, The Star Shack by Lila Castle is the book for you.

Pete and Annabelle have been coming to Gingerbread beach (a beach where it rains 95% of the time) with their families since they were kids and have been inseparable since the ripe young age of 12.

The summer before their senior year in high school, things have gone terribly wrong. Pete can put up with the fact that Annabelle is a Yankee’s fan (he’s a Boston Red Sox fan all the way), but the fact that she’s totally obsessed with Astrology and “the stars aligning” is just too much for him to stomach. He just can’t move beyond Annabelle’s New Agey freak stuff any longer.

To get back at Pete, and prove to him that there is a science to reading the stars (after all, it’s been used for centuries) she dares him to open up a business with her, reading the signs for tourist to help them find their “perfect love match” based on their astrological signs. She knows that Pete absolutely cannot refuse a dare.

The book takes place over the course of one summer, told in alternating narratives. It was a quick read, and was mildly entertaining. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone, I didn’t hate it. I give this teen novel two out of five stars.

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“Second Chance Summer”—A Book Review

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Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson is one of those summer reads that sticks with you for many years to come.

Taylor has never felt “extraordinary,” growing up with a brilliant, scholarly older brother and an adorable younger sister who excels at dance. The one thing Taylor is good at? Running away when the world becomes too difficult to handle.

But this summer, she can’t escape.

Receiving the terrible news that her dad only has a few months left to live, her parents decide to spend one last summer together as a family in the lake house they haven’t been to since Taylor was twelve. That was the year her friendship with Lucy dissolved and she made a mess of things with a boy, Henry Crosby.

Stuck in close quarters with her family, having her childhood best friend live just across the lake, and having Henry live next door, Taylor has nowhere to run. She has no other option but to put on her big girl panties and confront life head on. Most importantly, she finally has to face the fact that her father is sick, and each breath he takes only takes him that much closer to leaving her behind.

“The thing is that people only get hurt—really hurt—when they’re trying to play it safe. That’s when people get injured, when they pull back at the last second because they’re scared. They hurt themselves and other people.”

I highly recommend this heartbreakingly beautiful coming-of-age novel that reminds us about love, hope, and the importance of family and second chances.

Five out of Five stars!

“My Life Next Door”—A Book Review

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My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick is a great novel to enjoy any time of the year, regardless of its summertime setting.

Samantha Reed’s life is perfect…or at least it should be. Her life has basically been mapped out for her since birth. With rich, High Society, grandparents and mother, Samantha has always had the best of the best: the perfect modest wardrobe, attendance at the best private schools, and weekly dinners at the country club.

But perfect isn’t always as good as it seems. Samantha’s father left when she and her older sister, Tracy, were very young, and her politician mother is a bit OCD. Everything always has to be perfect. There is no room for error in Samantha and Tracy’s lives. Smoothies for breakfast, Cardigans for dress, homework completed exactly on time (if not early). Oh, and the carpet must be vacuumed in perfect rows, like, five times a day.

And the Reeds do NOT associate with the next door neighbors, the Garretts. But Samantha has a secret: she has been watching the Garretts with fascination for years from her rooftop balcony perch. With eight children, the Garretts’ household is completely chaotic, loud, messy, and wild. And Samantha is simply entranced.

Then, one fateful summer night, Jase, one of the oldest Garrett boys, climbs the terrace to Samantha’s window and changes everything. Samantha and Jase quickly embark on a whirlwind romance that with have your heart thumping and your breath catching.

The Garrett family quickly welcomes Samantha as one of their own, and she can’t get enough of the pandemonium. Each of the Garrett children captures Sam’s heart, and she finds herself voluntarily babysitting for the family any chance she can.

Throughout the summer, Samantha comes to the realization that no matter how hard we would like to believe they are, our parents aren’t always right. While her mother sneers at the size and behavior of the Garrett family, Samantha continually witnesses the unyielding love and passion, in spite of the financial hardships having such a big family causes.

And of course, just how it always goes, right when everything in life seems to be perfect, the bottom falls out, turning Sam’s life upside down in the worst possible way. Samantha must make the difficult decision of choosing which family to protect: her own or the Garretts’, who have basically become like her own family.  

 

Tantalizing quotes to enjoy:

“I’m not sure I can pull off being friends with someone whose clothes I want to rip off. Oh God. Did I actually just think that? I steal another look at Jase in his jeans. Yes. Yes, I did.”

No, because of instinct. You can tell who to trust. People can, just like animals. We don’t listen as well as they do, always, but it’s still there. That prickling feeling when something’s not right. That calm feeling when it is.” His voice is low and husky in the darkness.

“Jase?”

“Mmm-hmm?” He lifts up on one elbow, his face barely visible in the twilight.

“You have to kiss me,” I find myself saying.

“Yeah.” He leans closer. “I do.” –My Life Next Door.