Size Doesn’t Matter (108): That Summer; A Most Extraordinary Pursuit; By Your Side

Size Doesn’t Matter (108): That Summer; A Most Extraordinary Pursuit; By Your SideThat Summer by Sarah Dessen
Published by Viking Juvenile on April 6, 2006
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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two-stars

For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She's nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister—the always perfect Ashley—is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley's reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.

Blergh. I’ve read a couple of Sarah Dessen books with varying results, but I was super not impressed with That Summer. I devised the mission of reading through her backlist in order (skipping Dreamland because there’s no way in hell I’m reading that depressing book again) because Gaby swears they’re best that way and connected. That Summer just reads so much like early YA from the 1990s when it was still basically a children’s book and teen books were only just becoming a thing.

Haven’s fifteen, and she’s coming of age in That Summer sort of. I mean, she’s already lost a lot of her childish beliefs in the people and world around her, but she’s held on to the memories of one perfect summer where her whole family was happy, all tied to the best of her sister’s boyfriends, Sumner Lee. Predictably, there turns out to be more to the story than that. Literally, this is basically all that happens in That Summer. That’s the whole of Haven’s evolution. She comes to understand her sister’s marriage to a boring dude because she learns that her ex wasn’t the guy she thought he was.

Haven just felt so bland and unformed, which I guess could be intentional since she’s not sure who she is yet but it was still boring. I basically knew exactly what the book would do from chapter one, and it unfolded precisely as I anticipated. Also, there’s so little dialog in this book. It’s just half-page long chunks of narration for 190 pages. WHY.

That Summer‘s not horrendous, and maybe it was a revelation back in 1996, but now it’s a simpler version of a million other books. I’d say this one’s for Dessen completists only.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (108): That Summer; A Most Extraordinary Pursuit; By Your SideA Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray
Narrator: Nicola Barber
Length: 11 hrs, 10 mins
Series: Emmeline Truelove #1
Published by Penguin Audio on October 4, 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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three-stars

Known for her original plots, deft characterization, and lyrical voice, Juliana Gray presents an extraordinary novel of an uncommon pursuit…

February, 1906. As the personal secretary of the recently departed Duke of Olympia—and a woman of scrupulous character—Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove never expected her duties to involve steaming through the Mediterranean on a private yacht, under the prodigal eye of one Lord Silverton, the most charmingly corrupt bachelor in London. But here they are, improperly bound on a quest to find the duke’s enigmatic heir, current whereabouts unknown.

An expert on anachronisms, Maximilian Haywood was last seen at an archaeological dig on the island of Crete. And from the moment Truelove and Silverton disembark, they are met with incidents of a suspicious nature: a ransacked flat, a murdered government employee, an assassination attempt. As they travel from port to port on Max’s trail, piecing together the strange events of the days before his disappearance, Truelove will discover the folly of her misconceptions—about the whims of the heart, the motives of men, and the nature of time itself…

Oh man, this book was completely bananaballs, and I definitely enjoyed the shit out of it, despite a fair number of qualms.

This book is so hard to explain honestly. The heroine, Emmeline Truelove, worked as a secretary to the Duke of Olympia until his recent, shocking death. His heir Max Haywood has gone missing, so the widowed Duchess sends Emmeline and flirty flirt Lord Silverton on a mission to find him. This is the part that makes perfect sense.

However, there are also segments between chapters that are excerpts from a version of the minotaur myth, written by Haywood. Then there’s the fact that Emmeline’s visited regularly by the ghost/hallucination/idk of the late Queen Victoria and her late father. The Queen’s visits are hilarious, as she imparts her wisdom in grand fashion and comments on Emmeline’s romantic life. On top of that, there’s this whole other paranormal plot line that is just barely coming out at the end. View Spoiler »

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit was vastly entertaining, and I’m totally into the ship. Silverton and Truelove annoy the hell out of each other, and I am all about that. I do not, however, love the way Gray closed out their relationship in this book, but oh well. It’s fun. I was not, however, remotely invested in the actual plot arc. The snippets of the myth irritated me, and I just do not give a shit.

Basically, you should read this if hate to love romance and visitations by Queen Victoria sound so much like your jam that you are willing to go along on this somewhat bumpy, ludicrous ride. I will assuredly be reading the sequel. (Note: I made up my own series title because there wasn’t one anywhere.)

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Size Doesn’t Matter (108): That Summer; A Most Extraordinary Pursuit; By Your SideBy Your Side by Kasie West
Published by HarperTeen on January 31, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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three-stars

In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Kasie West fan, but I had mixed feelings about P.S. I Like You, and I find myself in the same position here. By Your Side is pretty good, but it lacked the powerful voice and intense shippiness of her other novels.

Obviously, the trapped-in-a-library together foundation for romance had the likelihood of being shippy perfection. I expected way more of the book to actually be set in the library, but it is kind of cool and daring how Autumn and Dax don’t fall in love over the course of the weekend in the library. They start opening up to each other and becoming friends, but they still don’t really know each other or how to integrate their lives and be friends irl.

And, actually, I think that the “love triangle” works really well. It’s not a super triangley triangle imo, but she does have to make a choice between her long-time crush, Jeff, and Dax. What really works here is that Jeff is a good guy, a fact that’s acknowledged by everyone, including Dax. He is, however, the wrong guy for Autumn to be dating because his daredevil, spontaneous nature triggers her anxiety. The tension of not wanting to turn away from Jeff (who she’s not officially dating) while he’s recuperating from a car crash is pretty well-handled, but it does add some melodrama, especially in the figure of his Autumn-hating best friend Dallin (wtf kind of a name is Dallin?).

Unsurprisingly, I also liked the inclusion of Autumn’s anxiety. While not the strongest mental health book out there, I do really like the fact that she’s on medication and grateful for it and that the whole book is about how she doesn’t need to be ashamed of that. By Your Side is all about Autumn learning to let people in and to set boundaries so that she can take better care of her mental health.

The romance, while sweet, doesn’t achieve the banter of West’s other novels. I also think the romance itself is rushed. They move from emotion to emotion unexpectedly and some scenes just felt off. View Spoiler » Worse, I don’t feel like I know anything about Dax, aside from his shitty childhood. He’s supposedly into reading, but the only thing he ever read was Hamlet, which he said was “long” and did not manage to finish. The secondary characters are even flatter; Jeff and Dallin are made up of one characteristic. Her bestie Lisa shows up from time to time so she can tell Autumn that she accepts her choices.

Though I did fly through this one like I did the rest, I feel like the character development wasn’t really on point, which detracted from the good stuff for me.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (108): That Summer; A Most Extraordinary Pursuit; By Your Side”

  1. I have yet to read anything Dessen or West. Definitely sounds like I won’t be bothering with That Summer though. I saw Gabby’s list forever ago about the proper order and was determined to do it that way whenever I did get around to reading them… but maybe just start with the second one. lol

    • Christina Franke says:

      That Summer was soooooo bland. It came out before YA was really a thing, and it reads like that. It’s not bad, but there’s just so much better stuff now than then.

      West has some great stuff. This one was not my favorite. *shrugs*

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