Amanda Reads: The Summer List

You know those books that grip you and won’t let go until you finish? For me, The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan was one of those books. (Full disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review).  The Summer List comes out June 26th, 2018, but is available now for pre-order.

When I saw this book’s synopsis, about the rekindling of a childhood friendship gone awry at the start of college, I couldn’t help but think of my own childhood friendship that needed some rekindling. When I requested the book, though, I wasn’t expecting to be so thoroughly gripped by the story. The story begins with Laura and Casey, estranged friends, reuniting. They find themselves following along with a scavenger hunt list like the ones Casey’s mother, Alex, made for them (and their classmates) when they were younger.
The Summer List Amy Mason Doan
There’s a sense of melancholy as the book unfolds, digging from both past and present in alternating sections in order to slowly pull together the pieces of the story. The mystery of why the girls, so close in the past, became estranged really kept me reading. As we learn more and more about the characters and their experiences, the picture slowly comes together in a beautiful but often sad way. There’s a third strand to this weaved narrative that isn’t clear at first, sustaining a sense of mystery about the unknown narrator. At times, I found this stand frustrating, but it all came together in due time.

I was blown away at the craft of this narrative, how the pieces fit together by the end. Laura, Casey, and Alex are compelling, realistic characters with flaws and passions all their own. I finished the book in a puddle of tears, but the best kind of book-related tears. I highly recommend this book–it’s a fantastic read that touches on some deep issues and the complexities of life.

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Amanda Reads: A Dash of Love

Happy day before Valentine’s Day, internet people! This year, I had the pleasure of reading of Valentine’s Themed romance novel, Liz Isaacson’s A Dash Of Love. (Full disclosure: I received an advanced reader copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review).

Dash of Love coverYou may have heard that Hallmark now has its own publishing division, producing books in the same spirit as the movies some of us have been watching for years. A Dash of Love is one of those books. It’s based on the Hallmark Channel Original movie of the same name. I was interested in reading it not only because I’ve never read a Valentine’s Day themed book, but also I’m a sucker for books that have cupcakes on the cover, and as you can see, this one definitely delivers in that area. Plus, I love a good cheesy Hallmark movie every now and again and I wanted to see if it translated to the page.

I have mixed feelings about whether it did. It was interesting being inside the minds of characters when I’m used to seeing them on screen. I enjoyed getting a better sense of character motivations, and the choice to alternate perspectives between the two protagonists of our love story certainly added a different feel. In spite of these tweaks, they did in fact drink hot chocolate and have a near-miss kiss. For those reasons, it both did and didn’t feel like watching a Hallmark movie.

There were some deliciously cheesy lines, such as my personal favorite (post hot chocolate because of course): “While the hot chocolate had been delicious, the real treat had been him.” The epilogue even includes a proposal, because of course. In that way, the book definitely fulfilled exactly what I wanted it to, providing a light-hearted, sweet love story.

One thing I’m still pondering is that while there was definitely a character development arc for the male main character, I’m not entirely sure whether the female protagonist really had that much growth. At the end, she has her own restaurant, but one that her now fiance bought with his money. She got back her reputation… because he talked to some people he knew. I would’ve liked to see more agency in the main character rather than having outside forces act on her the whole time. I’m all for a kiss (and even a proposal) at the end, but I also like to see a little bit more depth in the main character’s arc.

In all, I’d say definitely pick this one up if you’re interested in a lighthearted book about people who love food falling in love with one another.