The Charmed List by Julie Abe #YA #RomCom and Paradise Girls by Sandy Gingras #WomensFiction #bookreviews

The Charmed List by Julie Abe

After spending most of high school as the quiet girl, Ellie Kobata is ready to take some risks and have a life-changing summer, starting with her Anti-Wallflower List—thirteen items she’s going to check off one by one. She’s looking forward to riding rollercoasters, making her art Instagram public (maybe), and going on an epic road-trip with her best friend Lia.

But when number four on Ellie’s list goes horribly wrong—revenge on Jack Yasuda—she’s certain her summer has gone from charmed to cursed. Instead of a road trip with Lia, Ellie finds herself stuck in a car with Jack driving to a magical convention. But as Ellie and Jack travel down the coast of California, number thirteen on her list—fall in love—may be happening without her realizing it.

In The Charmed List, Julie Abe sweeps readers away to a secret magical world, complete with cupcakes and tea with added sparks of joy, and an enchanted cottage where you can dance under the stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

The Charmed List by Julie Abe is a sweet and magical enemy-to-lovers romantic comedy for the young adult reader (and those of us who are still young at heart).

Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):

The cover is cartoony and screams young love and romantic comedy. The blurb confirms this impression and adds the promise of magic, which initially attracted me to this book. I love magic, and it always intrigues me when it’s mixed with genres other than fantasy.

Actual Reading Experience:

This is a charming enemy-to-lovers story perfect for even the youngest YA reader and possibly older MG readers. It’s very innocent, and I loved that about it. The main characters – Ellie and Jack – are both relatable and will worm their way into your heart from the get-go. It is told in first-person narration through Ellie, so the reader gets to know Jack and the support characters through her eyes, giving them the added dimension of her feelings and the reasons for them. It also enables the story to go relatively fast and the flow to happen naturally. The magic system is simple charm magic but comes with magical conventions, magical resting houses, and even magical villages. I enjoyed the magic, found it fun to imagine, and loved its simplicity. The charmed list (of the title) is a bucket list of sorts for Ellie, who feels like a wallflower and wants to change that by taking on different challenges – like conquering the roller coaster that traumatized her as a kid. This list brings her so much more than she ever expected, some of it good and some not so good, but all of it helps her grow into the young adult she is to become.

To Read or Not to Read:

If you love a magical story of friendship and romance, The Charmed List will surely bring on all the heartwarming inspiration you could ever hope for.

Paradise Girls by Sandy Gingras

Sandy Gingras’s Paradise Girls features a broken engagement. A ruined vacation in paradise. One adorable little girl. The perfect recipe for the chance of a lifetime…

Mary Valley is in a funk. She’s a writer for home magazines, but she’s lost touch with what home means. Her life seems meaningless. The last house she wrote about was a gazillion-dollar mansion with a moat! Plus, she’s estranged from her daughter, CC and granddaughter, Larkin and mired in a dead-end relationship with her boss.

Daniel is a man adrift since his son Timmy was killed in Afghanistan. He’s living on a houseboat in Florida with Timmy’s three-legged dog, Tripod and taking tourists out on fishing charters. But his life is on the edge. He’s painting his houseboat black, and he can’t stop thinking about “getting lost at sea.”

When Mary’s boss tells her he’s spending Christmas with his ex, she books a trip with her family to The Low Key Inn, a hotel on the edge of the Everglades. But things go wrong from the get-go. CC bails out of the vacation, and Mary is stuck with an unhappy Larkin. The hotel is dated and down-on-its-luck, and perhaps its owner is a witch. Then Mary meets Daniel, casts a hook into his head and wrecks his boat.

This is the story of how wounded people can help each other heal, how lost people can help each other find their way home. How life can become a love story…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

Paradise Girls by Sandy Gringas was a lovely story that brought a tear to my eye more than once and pulled at my heartstrings the whole way through.

Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):

The cover is my favorite kind of cover – a beach scene. This one has a woman and child walking to the beach, which tells me this story is about family. The blurb tells of different states of transition ending with the word “healing,” which says emotional and heartwarming. This isn’t the kind of story I’m usually drawn to, and I admit the cover was what called to me.

Actual Reading Experience:

At its core, Paradise Girls reflects the many life-defining ways that grief impacts us – a teen daughter loses her father, a father loses his young adult son, wives lose their husbands, and a husband/father loses his whole family. The different relationships can change the way grief looks in each of us. I loved those reflections and how they took shape as the story progressed. It’s touching, heartwarming, and ultimately authentic, drawing a tear or two from me. The characters can be hard to get to know, but that’s because each is protecting that part of themselves that still feels the pain of loss. Once I realized why I didn’t like the characters, I grew to accept them for who they had become. I loved the growth shown in each of them as the story progresses. I particularly enjoyed that it is not a story with a neat and tidy ending where everyone finds their happily ever after. It is a happy and satisfying ending but in a more realistic manner rather than the storybook ending.

To Read or Not to Read:

If you enjoy heartfelt stories that make you reflect and love the joy pets and children bring to life, Paradise Girls is a read you will be glad you picked up.

10 Replies to “The Charmed List by Julie Abe #YA #RomCom and Paradise Girls by Sandy Gingras #WomensFiction #bookreviews”

  1. Both are wonderful reviews. I do like the sound of The Charmed List, as I like just a little bit of magic sometimes, and I love that it’s very innocent too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Charmed List sounds adorable – love the voice in the description, but I don’t know if I could do Paradise Girls. I’m on board with the setting, but I’d have to prepare myself for the sadness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Charmed List is so adorable. And Paradise Girls isn’t too much of a tear jerker but I felt for each of the characters. Grief is such a hard place to be in.

      Liked by 1 person

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