“A Line in the Sand” by Teri Wilson | Book Review

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“When his Uncle Henry retires, Max Miller moves to Turtle Beach, North Carolina, to take over his aquarium and sea turtle hospital. Little does he know the business is struggling, and he’s being called in to captain a sinking ship.

After a recent heartbreak that left her feeling lost, Molly Prince is desperately trying to find her direction in life. That’s easier said than done when you’re distracted by a new puppy named Urusla and overbearing advice from parents who own the beachfront house you’re living in.

Max and Molly meet during a near-drowning incident and feel instant attraction, but their acquaintance is quickly put to the test when uptight Max decides an aquarium is no place for a mermaid and her puppy, with or without the lobster costume. His first day on the job is a disaster, and he realizes his rash decision cost the aquarium its heart and soul. The town points their justified anger towards him, and he almost caves, but there’s something about Molly’s attitude that puts his defenses back up. He sticks by his decision and tries to manage the financial mess in front of him without thinking about the blonde mermaid who happens to be his next door neighbor. When things start to look up thanks to a fundraising idea from Molly and the unique ability of her puppy to sniff out sea turtle nests, the pair realize they might have no choice other than working together. Will they be able to get along and save a business they both love, or has the sun set on their chance at both friendship and romance?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Sourcebooks Casablanca through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

I don’t often dive into the romance genre, pun intended, but “A Line in the Sand” spoke to my inner child. As a 90s baby and 2000s kid, I was obsessed with Aquamarine, H2O: Just Add Water, and Lisa Frank. Summers were reserved for waking up early and swimming in the pool for at least three hours. Needless to say Teri Wilson’s romance between a marine biologist and mermaid might as well have been plucked from the imaginations of millenials. 

There were side elements that gave this book potential as a nice summer read. The North Carolina island setting almost made me feel positive towards summer, which is a feat if you know me as the cold-loving November baby that I am. The snippets of the senior citizen activity agenda had me feeling exhausted; that lively group put my sedentary life on blast, and I’ll admit I felt shamed into being more busy. Ethel Banks, Opal Lewinsky, and Mavis Hubbard, known around town as “Charlie’s Angels,” were hilarious, always sticking their noses where they don’t belong and trying to move things along between a certain couple. My favorite part was learning about the day-to-day operations of the aquarium and sea turtle hospital. If the Angels are giving a tour with complimentary frozen Milky Way lattes anytime soon, count me in!

Unfortunately this is where the aquatic fun ends. Even though it was supposed to be the crowning jewel, the romance was a huge letdown. There was a muddle of tropes: several handfuls of enemies to lovers with a dash of fake dating and insta-love. I don’t mind tropes, but pick a lane if none of the scenarios are going to go far enough to be worth the time. Everything felt skin deep and not fleshed out enough to make me feel invested in Max and Molly’s relationship. I was left feeling “meh” which is probably why I felt irrationally irritated by the overuse of Ursula’s breed “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.” I know that breed is special to the author, but I think Ursula’s adorable face on the cover and the first or second mention of the full name is enough. I also didn’t love Molly as a character, although her love of The Great British Bake Off was a redeeming trait. She came off as petty and whiny at times which annoyed me as someone who’s more like Max, very serious and a little awkward in situations meant to be loose and fun.

I was much more invested in the last fourth of the book and flew through it so my rating is rounding out to three stars. This was not a new favorite, but perhaps it will work for readers more acquainted with the genre. I would recommend this book to romance fans but only those who genuinely enjoy an easy, fluffy read. Think of it as the literature version of a Hallmark movie, and you should be fine. Play an ocean ambience video for extra beachy vibes!

-> -> -> -> -> OUT ON AUGUST 2ND! <- <- <- <- <-

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Content Breakdown: 

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change in the final copy.

Alcohol: Rosé, Whisky, Wine, general mentions of alcohol, & one instance of being drunk

Language: Molly uses the term “lady bits” while referring to her mermaid tail.

Ethal, Mavis, & Opal wear sun hats to SandFest, two of which say “Cheers Beaches” & “Resting Beach Face.”

Ethel & Opal argue over a game of Scrabble because one of them wants to use “vayjayjay” as a word.

Steaminess: Ethel Banks remarks in chapter 5 that Max is “even more good-looking dry than he is wet,” referring to his appearance after nearly drowning at the dog beach. 

Max and Molly constantly admire and think about each other’s physical assets (i.e. Max’s abs & Molly in her clamshell bustier & mermaid tail). Their physical contact stays in the realm of hand holding, hugging, almost-kissing, & kissing.

Toxic Relationship: There are several mentions of Molly’s previous boyfriend who cheated on her.

Violence: Max has a complicated relationship with his Uncle Henry; in chapter 3, he’s upset & contemplates killing Henry for real, though it’s not a serious threat. 

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🌟 Find author Teri Wilson here:

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“Wretched Waterpark” by Kiersten White | Book Review

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“The Sinister-Winterbottoms are looking forward to a family summer, but their parents abruptly change the plans in the middle of the night. Twelve-year-old twins Alexander and Theodora and their older sister Wilhelmina are dropped off with Aunt Saffronia, now stranded at a strange house in the care of a relative they’ve never met for the next few months. It quickly becomes clear she has no experience with children so her suggestion to visit a waterpark is eagerly accepted . . . until the siblings arrive at the front gates and realize Fathoms of Fun is equally as strange as their new accommodations. There are coffins instead of inner tubes and mausoleums instead of cabanas; the waterslides are tongues jutting out of the mouths of gargoyles sitting atop a tall, dark tower. Alexander, Theo, and Wil try their best to enjoy the vacation they’ve been handed, but the kookiness is too much to ignore and leads them to a disturbing mystery: The waterpark owner disappeared inside the Cold, Unknowable Sea, otherwise known as the wave pool. When Wil goes missing following a lead, the twins are left to sleuth on their own. Will they be able to save their sister and the waterpark before it’s too late?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Random House Children’s Books through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

I grew up in the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” era so the cover of “Wretched Waterpark” was enough to grab me, but the synopsis pushed it over the top. Lemony Snicket’s famous series has been mentioned along with Scooby-Doo for marketing purposes, but allow me to enlighten you on something even more synonymous with the Sinister Summer series: the Addams Family.  *snap snap*  Aunt Saffronia is Morticia’s twin with pale skin, long hair, and a black dress that makes her appear as though she’s floating instead of walking. Fathoms of Fun is a dream, nay, nightmare for the lost souls in search of a resting place . . . pardon me, vacation spot. The mystery is simple and easy to solve for adult readers, but I’m not holding that against a book aimed at a middle grade audience. The macabre atmosphere and humor are immaculate, and the tease of book two has me jumping out of my skin in anticipation of the September sequel. My rating is five stars, and I’m urging you to walk, DON’T RUN, to pick up this book if the summer heat has you missing spooky season.

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Content Breakdown:

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.

Adoption: It is briefly mentioned that the oldest Sinister-Winterbottom sibling Wilhelmina is adopted.

Blood: There is a conversation about blood in chapters 12 & 13.

Dark Humor: The siblings have to sign paperwork before entering the waterpark, & it mentions drowning & lost souls.

Upset about the summer plans forced on her & her siblings, Theo says she’s “gonna walk into traffic now.” Alexander responds by offering to test out the sharpness of a knife on her hand. When Wilhelmina doesn’t respond in a responsible way, they wonder if texting her about getting matching tattoos or ingesting small doses of poison would get her attention. Later on the twins tell Wil a man offered them candy & a ride in his van, which receives the same distracted response.

Disappearance: The owner of Fathoms of Fun walked into the wave pool one day and never came back out; this occurred off-page but is described a few times. More missing persons are mentioned later on.

Spooky: If you’re trying to gauge how dark this book gets, especially for young readers, I would recommend you compare it to things like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” & Scooby-Doo but especially the Addams Family. That is the exact level of macabre atmosphere & humor the reader needs to be comfortable with. Expect a casual mention of coffins or a character with the surname “Widow” or a joke about death. If you’re curious about the direction of the series, the next book is about vampires.

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🌟 Find author Kiersten White here:

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“The Agathas” by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson | Book Review

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“Last summer Alice Ogilvie disappeared after her boyfriend Steve Anderson ended their relationship. Now she’s home, & it’s time to go back to high school. She tries to return to normal despite the curiosity surrounding her disappearance, but the mystery on everyone’s mind grows even bigger when Alice’s former best friend & Steve’s current girlfriend Brooke Donovan disappears.

Iris Adams has one goal & one goal only: get out of Castle Cove! She agrees to tutor Alice because it’s a paid job, but her pupil is too distracted by the latest news to get any work done. When a reward is offered by Brooke’s grandmother, Iris sees an opportunity to fund her trip & gives in to Alice’s desire to play detective.

When Brooke’s body is found, Steve is arrested based on convenient but flimsy evidence. Alice & Iris aren’t convinced of his guilt so they turn to the works of Agatha Christie to guide their investigation. Along the way they face personal demons, hard truths coming to light & threatening the integrity of their partnership. Are they truly prepared for the task at hand, or will the secrets of Castle Cove prove to be too dangerous for two amateur teen detectives?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Delacorte Press through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

“The Agathas” was inspired by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, & it’s not just lip service in the title. Her iconic characters Marple & Poirot are mentioned throughout, & several chapters begin with a quote from one of her many novels. If that’s not enough, there’s a special blurb about Agatha’s success, & I’m pretty sure Alice Ogilvie’s disappearance is a nod to her own 11-day disappearance. I was excited to get my hands on this book because Agatha is my favorite author; for that same reason I was terrified to start reading because the standard was set so high. The pace started slow, & the teenage tone of the dialogue took some getting used to. But just when I was starting to feel like this might not be my cup of tea, the mystery consumed me, & I flew through the last three quarters of the book. 

There are two points-of-view: Alice Ogilvie & Iris Adams. I’m not sure how the chapters were divided between authors Kathleen & Liz, but the writing is seamless; the story is cohesive from start to finish while both characters remain unique & easily distinguishable from the other. I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of mixed media: Alice & Iris’ “Murder Board,” news articles, social media comments, text conversations, & transcripts from local news, police interviews, & press conferences. Those pages made me feel even more immersed in the mystery, like I was an Agatha too. I correctly identified the murderer & motive around the halfway mark, but I’m the kind of bibliophile who theorizes as I read so I wasn’t bothered by a spoiled ending. What did bother me is how the reveal happened; the location made sense thanks to excellent foreshadowing, but the interaction was a little awkward in places.

Despite a few cons, this book was a top-down, sea air thrill ride so I’m rating it four stars. I do recommend it to Agatha Christie fans, but only those who also enjoy teen novels; otherwise you might find yourself more annoyed than amused by the language & mannerisms of the youths. The coastal California setting reminds me of the Big Little Lies TV show so picture that with a teenage cast. If the result intrigues you, preorder a copy of this murder mystery right now. The release date is May 3rd, 2022.

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Content Breakdown:

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.

Abuse: Iris’ dad is abusive, & it’s frequently discussed in her chapters. There are several mentions of the time he broke her wrist. He shows up a couple times, disobeying the restraining order; near the end of the book he barges into the Adams’ apartment & physically harms Iris & her mom. He is attacked in self-defense, first hit on the head & then pushed down a flight of stairs.

Alcohol, Cigarettes, & Drugs: There are several mentions of alcohol & being drunk, & the bar where Iris’ mom works is mentioned & visited a few times. There is one mention of Lucky Strikes cigarettes. There are mentions of pills & weed as well as being high. Two separate times, someone’s drink is drugged.

Blood: Some of the characters wear cheerleader costumes on Halloween that are covered in fake blood. There are a few instances when a character bleeds from a head wound.

Language:

Apesh*t

A*$ / A*$hole

B*d*ss

B*tch / B*ches / B*tchy

D*mn / D*mmit

Dumb*$$

F*ck / F*ckboy / F*cking / Middle finger

G*d

G*dd*mn

Good L*rd

H*ll / Holy H*ll

Holy sh*t / Sh*t / Sh*tless

J*sus / J*sus Chr*st

Merde (French word for sh*t)

These can also be considered crude: Crap, Frickin’, Mother-Sucker, & What the F ( I don’t know if those last two will be changed in the final book, but they obviously replace What the f*ck & Motherf*ck*r )

Sensual/Sexual: There are a few mentions of condoms. Alice is shown a video of another character getting intimate with a boy from their school. One character exchanged nude photos & sexual texts with multiple people, some of which are recovered & described.

Violence: After the discovery of a dead body, an autopsy is performed off-page & discussed on-page. Crime scene photos are looked at, & the body is described in gruesome detail more than once. There is one past & two present car crashes which lead to head trauma. There are a few attacks during which a character is hit on the head. When the murderer is revealed, the murder is described in detail.

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🌟 Find author Kathleen Glasgow:

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🌟 Find author Liz Lawson here:

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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