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Reviews, Just Add Water (Or Salt, Whichever You Prefer): A Spree of Threes

Jenn Bennett - Alex, Approximately
Expected publication: April 4, 2017 by Simon Pulse
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Find on: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads
Rating: 4/5 (!!!!)

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent half of her junior year falling for a sensitive film geek she only knows online as “Alex.” Two coasts separate them until she moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist trap, the oddball Cavern Palace Museum. Or that she’s being tormented daily by Porter Roth, a smart-alecky yet irritatingly hot museum security guard. But when Porter and Bailey are locked in the museum overnight, Bailey is forced to choose whether she should cling to a dreamy fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex. Approximately.
Bailey "Mink" Rydell (which is such a great nickname with an even greater story to it) is a prime-time movie buff. She has a spunky Lana Turner-esque 'do and she's moving to California with her father, hoping to someday meet her online buddy, Alex, at a movie screening of North by Northwest. Soon, she gets a job at a local museum and falls into place with a plethora of lovely people, including a girl named Grace and a surfer boy who she immediately clashes with Porter Roth. He's very much similar to Alex, but he couldn't possibly be Alex. Hmm.

Still, there's a lot to love about Porter. I'm not a hater (actually, I am), don't get me wrong. As I've said numerous times YA Contemporary is my favorite genre, Porter is worthy of our love. He's into pastries and he walks her home at night, talks about his feelings, etc. Very chivalrous, but his temper is wild. He's literally Ronnie from Jersey Shore. He tried to re-break his best friend's bad knee over a scooter. #Cheesus

And personally, I think all fathers are lax, and Bailey’s father was no different. He's actually pretty fantastic and very involved in her personal life. But the fact, he's perfectly okay with her pursuing an online relationship with a boy she's never met and/or seen before, despite their one shared interest, is too weird for me. He's like, "So you're looking forward to meeting that guy, right?" And I'm like, "So you're OKAY with that?"

By 60/65%, this book hits the ultimate honeymooner stage, "Your lips taste like honey and magic and seasalt and do you wanna meet my parents? Let's meet my parents together! My parents love you! I'm sorry I laughed at that misogynistic joke. It was a sneeze, I SWEAR! But I'll watch an Audrey Hepburn movie with you, so we’re in love again kisskisskiss."

(...) A hundred shivers scatter over the surface of my skin. Who can concentrate on jellyfish when I'm getting all this hand action? (Who knew this kind of hand action could be so exciting?)
I'm *slightly* disappointed the author didn't try and pursue the Davy/Porter side-storyline more seriously. For those interested, find my review on GR. For those not, Davy is such a sad, lost soul and as his best friend, it should've been Porter's job to help him out.  

The plot-twist was so Hannah Montana-esque, it’d be impossible to take it seriously. It's a classic account of teen drama, and it's resolved before the book ends. The Catfish YAs (in this case, it's an "accidental" version) always have that one brief GASP! moment, then all is well again.

Contrary to most of my review, this book is the epitome of young romance and it's bound to be enjoyed by everyone, so hopefully you're not as coldhearted as me. The amount of pastries (moon muffins! sugar cookies!) mentioned was unhealthy. And luckily, their relationship manages to succeed through every non-serious hurtle, and according the ending, they managed to last through the summer. Yay?

Marissa Meyer - Heartless
Published: November 8, 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
Genres: Fantasy, Retellings, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 453
Find on: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads
Rating: 3.5/5

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

This was why she enjoyed baking. A good dessert could make her feel like she'd created joy at the tips of her fingers. Suddenly, the people around the table were no longer strangers. They were friends and confidantes, and she was sharing with them her magic.
Disclaimer: Don't read this book if your heart is delicate (aka: me), or if you're almost always craving sweet delicacies. It will ruin you. You know how the music community has trust issues with Lorde and Frank Ocean? Marissa Meyer is the reason the YA community has trust issues.

Catherine likes baking, but get this, she's great at it. She and her maid, Mary Ann, aspire to run a bakery in their town of Hearts one day. However, she's well-to-do and the townspeople are awfully misogynistic. (You'll hate Jack Knaves by the end. Mark my words.) Also, her mother wants to have her married off to someone of higher status and being a queen has never appealed to Catherine. Yawn.

While at a royal ball, Catherine's mother outfits her in a gorgeous red dress to appeal to the king, who is old and un-courageous and loves food. I mean, we can't blame the guy. There, The Joker arrives and consumes the crowd with magic tricks and hat-stealings and his golden eyes. Oooh. Is it hot in here?

Long story short, this book is cruel and it's also an Alice in Wonderland / Queen of Hearts retelling, so you may predict what happens next. I love/hated Jest. He was a little too wild for me, but Catherine didn't deserve good things either. She didn't appreciate them. She was such a goddamn damsel-in-distress. I was amazed how she was continuously busted for being Jest, but she was never jailed along with him. Bookish logic, I suppose.

Also, their romance was so overdramatic, at times. We understand y'all love each other, but calm down.
"You're not going to scream, are you?"

She didn't bother trying to hide her terror when she met his gaze.

Frowning, Jest ducked his face closer and released her hand, so he could instead grasp her elbow. "You're not going to faint, are you?"

Marissa Meyer is great with this world building. Tea parties, hat shops, pastry baking, festivals, and she mixes in animals and insects like in Wonderland and it just works. The ending did bother me because it's so rushed and it could've been handled better. It's very similar to the ending of Anne & Henry in annoyance standards. I also loved her parents, which may be an unpopular view. The mothers, who are always so involved and matronly and demanding, always remind me of mine. Also, her mother got her in with royalty, so I see no problem with their parenting. I heard people wanted Marissa to continue this, or she was planning on do so, anyway, but I hope she leaves it as is. It's appropriate as a standalone and it's memorable, at that.

Laura Silverman - Girl Out of Water
Expected publication: May 2, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Find on: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads
Rating: 4/5

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

Anise Sawyer, which is a name I ADORE, is a surfer straight outta Santa Cruz with an amazing group of friends and an especially handsome, almost-love, Eric. But when Anise’s Aunt Jackie gets in a serious car accident and is left practically immobilized, and unable to care for her children, Anise and her father swoop in to help, much to Anise’s dismay as they’re headed into dreary Nebraska for the rest of the summer to help out while all her best friends are reveling in their last summer days before they head their separate ways.

• GOSH, the locations. Laura Silverman is definitely an author who knows how to the brunt of a location, both Nebraska and California.

But our friends are still planted at a table, chowing down on hot dogs slathered in pineapple chunks and hot sauce, fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinaigrette, and my personal favorite, watermelon and papaya fruit salad mixed with cayenne and crushed sugar.
(seriously tho)

• I think the Great Debate of 2017 is gonna be Eric vs. Lincoln. (view spoiler) #SorryNotSorry
• The family bits. (The twins are so adorable && the moments between Aunt Jackie and her children are so heartwarming.)
• The relationship between Anise and her father. Oh my goodness, it’s so GENUINE. They talk things out and he’s ready to pop off on her, given the situation. Literally, I haven’t adored a YA parent this much since The Mother from ANNA.
• The friends are all sorts of amazing, especially Tess. ALWAYS Tess. Can she be my best friend, instead?
• A pretty darn cute f/f romance.
• And plentifuls of diversity. (Tess is Samoan, Lincoln’s father is Vietnamese.)
• Anise is such a cool MC and I wish I could relate to her more. She’s a natural born athlete. Can surf, can skateboard, can easily pick up a sport, is very much a surfer girl, and she speaks unconsciously and curses a lot, which I do relate to.

And yet I don’t want to fuel his already fired-up ego, so I tease, “Dimple or deformity?”

As soon as the words leave my lips, the blood drains from my face. Holy fuck. I just said deformity to the guy with one arm. I am officially the most awful – no, most cruel – human being on the planet. “Oh–fuck…I mean, shit…I mean, sorry…” I stumble for an apology, but before I can form a string of coherent words, Lincoln smiles at me, like really smiles, like he’s genuinely entertained and not at all offended by my repulsive comment.
• Anise seems like the type of friend to forget about her friends when she gets nicer things and/or meets cooler people. If she never returned to California (Eric was going to wait for her!), I’m convinced she would’ve moved on without them.
• Maybe it’s just me, but Emery’s reason for her “depression” had me unbelievably annoyed. I thought she was upset about something serious, and I was legitimately concerned for a second, but she was upset over being the last-resort invite to a sleepover and she spent 8 weeks, brooding over it. Goddamn, get some ice cream and get over it.
• Lincoln is inconsiderate. Pass it on.
• WHO would let a nine-year old skateboard, anyway?
• The only thing I found weird about Anise and her father’s relationship (but this applies to all YA parental relationships, surely), was the fact he was so okay with her dating life.

Really, every plotline and subplot and minor issue was resolved, albeit not perfectly but realistically. I don’t think I have a problem with any of the serious aspects of the books, and it truly is an enjoyable, likeable book, especially for a debut, so I’m sure people will gravitate toward this read, undoubtedly.


  1. I just finished reading Alex Approximately-- and I think I've outgrown YA Contemporary Romance. I feel like I should have LOVED it, because I think a few years ago I would have?? But right now I'm like MEH. It's SO long and we know right away that Porter is Alex. I knew when Davy banged on the car hood and Porter pulled him away. So yeah, waiting 400 pages for dense-ass Bailey to realize it got a tad old. Also, those sexy times were awkward! ("He does the thing to me that I usually do to myself." Really?? That's the best way of phrasing that Miss Bennett?? It felt off to me). I did love the Davy story though-- except when Porter's roid rage kicked in (LOL Ronnie from Jersey Shore). I wish that would have been more of a focus.

    Heartless- I LOVED IT!! I really hope she doesn't do more with it because it's good as is. Also, OMG I don't need to read more books that make me hungry for foods I can't make!!

    Girl Out of Water-- Sounds AWESOME. I definitely want to try it (even though I just said I don't like YA Contemp Romance anymore LOL). And I have a 9 year old son who has been messing around with skateboarding since last summer-- so I guess I'm the type of parent who would let a 9 year old skateboard LOLOLOL.

    Great reviews. Sorry for this book of a comment :)

  2. Alex Approximately was SO tiring, though I liked a few bits of it because I haven't read Anatomical yet. I mean, I loved the beginning of AA. but lately, I love the honeymoon stage of YA Contemporaries, but when they start "officially" dating and making-out everywhere and fighting 24/7, which is basically all of them, I lose touch with them, too tbh.

    Heartless was so sad and all those pastries omg. Now, I'm craving them again. I hope Marissa Meyer leaves it as is because it was (given) a perfect ending.

    Omg, it seriously is, it's so beachy and fun and I even teared up. Plus, Eric is SOOOO charming. I truly adored him. Oops, sorry, hahaha.


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