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The Summer My Life Began

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A great summer beach read filled with sunshine, cooking, and—of course—romance!

Elizabeth Margaret--better known as Em--has always known what her life would contain: an internship at her father's firm, a degree from Harvard, and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is, it's not what she wants. So when she gets the opportunity to get away and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em learns that her family has some pretty significant secrets. And then there's Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can't resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels that for the first time ever, she is really living life on her own terms.

250 pages, Paperback

First published May 10, 2012

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About the author

Shannon Greenland

23 books466 followers
Shannon Greenland is the award-winning and best-selling author of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult books. She grew up in Tennessee where she dreaded all things reading and writing. She didn’t even read her first book for enjoyment until she was twenty-five. After that, she was hooked! When she’s not writing, she's usually traveling or hanging out with a rogue armadillo that frequents her backyard.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 215 reviews
Profile Image for Limonessa.
300 reviews507 followers
March 17, 2012
You might have noticed that I shelved this in my 3-neurons-involved shelf (and please note, it is not a shelf with a derogatory purpose, it's just dedicated to vanilla, fluffy, light reads I seem to enjoy so much when I feel overcome by... well, life). Most books that end up in that shelf are books I actually liked. That being said, you barely need 2 neurons for this book. Actually, make that 1.
And I'm quite disappointed to be honest, because the idea wasn't bad at all.

Margaret Elizabeth belongs to a well-off, pseudo-aristocratic family (imagine Gilmore girls' grandparents) one of those who strive for elitism, the life paths of their children set in stone, with no choice whatsoever. She is meant to go to Harvard in the fall, become a lawyer and work in the family's firm.
When she receives and invitation from a mysterious aunt asking her to spend some time on the Outer Banks where she runs a B&B, she decides to take advantage of the good opportunity for her to relax and recharge her batteries before college.
Life on the island is nothing like the life she's used to: from her sweet aunt Tilly to her cute cousin Frederick, from the eccentric cook Domino to the magnetic and brooding Cade. As she gets settled and adjusts to the island's rhythm, she starts discovering clues as to the reasons why her aunt has never been mentioned before by her family... which might be more life-changing than what she bargained for.

So...a tropical getaway island? Soft sand and sunny days? A hot surfer guy with some secrets? Sign me up, please, I'm all ears. Then why did it go so wrong?
This book has no depth whatsoever, unfortunately. There's no depth in the characters, who ended up being pretty two-dimensional, and never got developed enough up to the point that some of them come out being cardboard caricatures (the grandmother? the mother? the sister?).
But most of all, and this is the biggest problem of this book, there's no depth in the writing.
There's a lot of telling, and very little showing.
A whirlwind of actions, places and scenes one after the other, they sounded almost like theatre stage directions in some points. It was all too fast, leaving me no time to appreciate the characters, the emotions, even the scenery.
Furthermore, the big ending revelation(s) that we discover at 94%, I guessed them around the 20% mark. A tad predictable? Everything is just too perfect, works out too well, at the right moment.I know this is fiction but it's gotta be believable.

The general impression is that this book could have been as good as Wanderlove, if only the writing and the characterization had been taken to a more... "experienced" level. I think this author has still a lot to learn.

Also seen on The Nocturnal Library.
Profile Image for Jasprit.
527 reviews747 followers
May 10, 2012
The disappointing and/or abandoned reviews that I read before picking up this book should have been the biggest hint that maybe I should avoid this book. But I decided to give it a shot who knew maybe I would end up liking it?

Elizabeth Margaret or “Em” has her life planned out for her; she is a perfect student who will do an internship at her father’s law firm over the summer and then go to Harvard to study law. She does everything she is told by her parents and grandmother, but Em is given the chance to change all this when she receives a letter from an Aunt Tilly, an aunt that she didn’t even know existed until she received her letter. Her aunt wants her to spend the summer with her before she goes off to college. Em’s mother and grandmother you can say aren’t too happy about this letter out of the blue, they don’t want Em to go, Em has no clue why, but they come to a compromise, Em can stay a month at Aunt Tilly’s and then has to finish off the rest of the summer break at her dad’s law firm.

Em’s time at Aunt Tilly’s you can say is an invigorating experience for her; she can do things she’s been hiding from her parents for years like cook (Em’s mum used to shout at her if she ever saw her trying to help their housekeeper prepare a meal in the kitchen). She doesn’t have to feel as if she has to be careful about what she wants to say, she basically has the most care free and easy time of her life.

The reason this book didn’t work for me was because of a couple of issues; firstly the book took ages to get down to the nitty gritty of things. It’s like everyone was dancing around the issue of why Aunt Tilly and Em’s mum and grandmother didn’t speak to one another, every time we got close to discovering the truth Aunt Tilly would just brush the issue aside or would be like we don’t have time for this. I got to the point when I wanted to pull my hair out; it just felt like they were faffing around too much.

Em was also meant to be an intelligent individual, she was going to Harvard to study law, but so many times she came across as a bit clueless and immature, like she knew in the pit of her stomach that she had feelings for Cade but she still decided to go out with Jeremy because her parents may approve. And then she needed other people like Cade or her Aunt to tell her things before she clicked and realised they maybe on to something here. I wanted to say come on girl think for yourself sometimes and have a bit of spontaneity. Also I can’t deal with books which have an unexpected turn of events, but then everything’s hunky dory straight away. With this book I felt that things got resolved way too quickly for my liking.

I really thought that The Summer My Life Began would be a great summery feel good book to start off with in preparation for the summer, but unfortunately I couldn’t be more wrong. Hopefully this book will work out a lot better for other readers than it did for me.

Thank you NetGalley and Penguin Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

This review and more can also be found on my blog: The Readers Den
Profile Image for Janina.
214 reviews527 followers
May 4, 2012
Let me get one thing out of the way: I love summer books. They are my favourite go-to when I need an uplifting story that features the sea, beaches, sand on one’s skin, sun and maybe a nice summer romance.
Now, there are certain types of summer books that are not particularly deep, but that does not necessarily keep me from enjoying them. This book, though, barely even scratched the surface, and combined with a rather lacklustre writing style, it didn’t really do anything for me.

I am not saying that the basic ingredients for a great read aren’t present here. We have the Ivy League bound main character, preparing to follow her father’s steps in his law firm, but secretly dreaming of becoming a chef. We have the never heard of aunt running a beautiful little B&B in the Outer Banks inviting her to spend the summer. We have family secrets and crushing expectations. We have the gorgeous surfer guy with a tragic past. We even have tons of delicious food!
But although the characters undoubtedly had potential, I never felt anything for them. They were there, they were okay, but I did not care for them. They remained pale throughout the whole novel, and lacked depth and authenticity. Come to think of it, the only thing that really convinced me in this book was the setting. Beautiful beaches, laidback atmosphere, the glittering blue sea and exotic flowers. The Outer Banks are definitely a place I could see myself visiting one day.

There are simply books that are too light and breezy, conflicts that are solved too easily and characters that are too forgiving. Sadly, all three things can be found in The Summer My Life Began. The conflict is there, the difficult family relationships are there, too – heck, we even have a secret that would shake up the most well-functioning family. Yet, conflicts are solved in a matter of a few pages, or dealt with only superficially and the main character is able to forgive something after a one night’s sleep that I would never have been able to forgive as easily as her.

Last but not least, the romance. Call me superficial, but in books like these, the romance does play the most important part for me. I want to be wowed, I want to swoon a little, I want to fall in love alongside the heroine. Well, this did not happen. Just like all the other aspects of this book, the romance was rather colourless and not particularly thrilling. There is the hint of a love triangle, but that gets resolved pretty quickly.

All in all, there isn’t really anything wrong with this book, it is just nothing special. I do not regret reading it – it was a quick read – but I wouldn’t have missed out on anything had I skipped it either.

Thanks a lot to Penguin and Netgalley for the review copy.
Profile Image for rameau.
553 reviews187 followers
April 18, 2012
Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes-lite was the first thing to came to my mind when I opened this book. Both books are about a young girl just graduating and getting a surprising invitation in mail. For Ginny it was her dead aunt inviting her to London with 13 little blue envelopes that were supposed to guide her through an adventure. For Em, Elizabeth Margaret, it's a postcard from an aunt she didn't know she had to come and spend the summer with her on an island.

Both girls accept the challenges, but that's where the similarities end. Sort of.

Where Ginny leaves her family behind without so much as a thorough discussion or a proper goodbye in the very beginning of her book, Em's journey starts later, much later. She discusses things over with her family and spends a night out with her friends conveniently infodumping her whole life history along the way. The title of the book is The Summer My Life Began and I'm reading this thinking:

When will the story begin?

Around 10% mark, if I remember correctly. Em arrives on the island and has to quickly readjust to a very different style of living. She's been pushed and prodded to achieve as much as possible as quickly as possible for so long that sitting at an airport waiting for her ride for two hours is a small shock.

Then of course we meet the other half of her family and assorted friends, and are knock down with another set of infodumps. Subtlety isn't Greenland's strong point. She offers information we don't need when we don't need it and manages miss the natural feel of introductions. With most books I've read, it's the first half that's been polished over and over until it's as smooth as it can be while the second half suffers.

This isn't the case here.

I somehow ploughed through the awkward first half and the sleep inducing middle (I was yawning, okay), and landed on a pretty good and somewhat flowing text in the end. Of course at this point, I'd stopped underlining things that would normally annoy me in a book with a smooth beginning, so I might be in an exceptionally forgiving mood. Another reason for my indulgence might be the restricted appearance of Gwenny. As much as I appreciated the fact that Em's family wasn't just forgotten, it felt like Em's tight relationship with her sister did get in the way of the story progression. For example, Gwenny calls and asks Em to tell her everything that's happened before there's been a chance for anything to happen. She arrived, that's it.

Em finds a romance and a passion on the island, but I'm still sceptical. Technically both are written well, but I'm just not feeling it. That's a huge issue for me with this book, the emotional disconnect.

Looking back, Greenland appears to have done better job at subtly shifting Em's characterisation from a stiff, repressed good girl into a normal, lively teen, but that doesn't change the clunky writing in the beginning. More than once I had to stop to think whether or not a word or an expression was something that person would use. I'm not an authority on how English speakers talk, but to me the neither the dialogue nor Em's internal musings sounded authentic.

Also, I've seen this book touted as a mystery, it isn't. Remember what I said about Greenland's subtlety? She pretty much gives away the twist to both "mysteries" as soon as they're introduced to the reader. Only interesting question remains, how are they revealed? I'd say Greenland did a decent job, but unfortunately it wasn't enough for me.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
Shelved as 'lost-interest'
March 17, 2012
Available now for EVERYONE on NG.
Profile Image for Lauren.
489 reviews1,638 followers
June 24, 2017
Check out my book blog for more reviews!

The only reason why I was able to get this before it came out was because it was available for everyone on NetGalley, which is always nice. I was very excited to get started on my very first Review For Publisher (kind of)!

The Summer My Life Began is the cute, summer-y contemporary romance you’d expect it to be from the title & cover.
I liked it, but it was way too predictable. I’m not usually that person who knows at the beginning of a Law and Order episode who the killer was and what the murder weapon was, so it felt weird to already know what was going to happen. Towards the end, it gets a lot better though, when the whole family secret Em so desperately wanted to find out about, gets out. I did not expect that! (Well, I did, maybe a little.)

I quite liked Elizabeth Margaret, or Em—she is one of those rare characters that have passion & ambition, and that’s one thing that I absolutely love in books. The only characters I didn’t like were Em’s parents and grandmother. They were so strict, and they didn’t treat her like an equal at all. She wasn’t even allowed to do the things she likes most, like cooking. I totally understand that she wanted to leave. While reading the book, I kept wishing for her to choose for herself, instead of listening to her mother and grandmother all the time. I swear, if I were her, I would’ve given them the finger much, much sooner.

I loved all the other characters—Cade, Frederick, Domino, Gwenny, Tilly… I can’t even tell you which one I liked more, because they were all such good characters.

I could totally feel the atmosphere of a warm summer day, which is good. I also liked how the author described things, but you’ll be able to read one of those parts in the excerpt I put under my review. ^-^
The whole book reminded me an awful lot of Sarah Dessen’s Last Chance. This one was better though, in my opinion.

Overall, The Summer My Life Began is a cute read for a day at the beach, but not one of those spectacular books that you will remember for a long time. Don’t get me wrong though—I think it’s totally worth reading. (It’s just one of those love-or-hate books. You either love it, or hate it.)
Profile Image for Katy.
611 reviews333 followers
March 11, 2012
2.5 stars - I didn't like this book at first, but it ended up growing on me. The book has a lot of potential because the story is obviously there. I just wish it wasn't so surface deep.

The book started out really dull. Here you have Em in a rich, stuck up family that has high expectations of her. But a lot of it was just surface deep, and you don't really get more than just that. And I felt there were a bunch of senseless, useless scenes that just dragged out the beginning when it should have been used to talk more about Em's situation with her family.

It did pick up a bit once she moved out to the bed and breakfast, but again, things happen rather quickly, and you start to get into a scene, and the book has moved on. I have no problems with fast paced books, and I'm glad the story didn't drag out, but I felt like I was reading a lot of words that didn't really tell us much.

Overall the book is pretty cliche, but Greenland threw in a few surprises - they didn't blow me out of the water but I found the book to be a tad bit more interesting. I wanted to connect more with the characters. I'm not suggesting make the book longer, but maybe add some scenes that will build a better relationship between the reader and the book and delete the useless ones.
Profile Image for Hilda.
200 reviews143 followers
July 2, 2014
Elizabeth Margaret, or simply called Em, is a girl with passion in cooking. However, the option of telling her uptight and prestigious family that she wants to pursue a career in cooking is off-limits. Her family would be furious, and Em doesn't want to hurt her family's feeling. Being a chef is not even possible in her wildest imagination.

This is her last summer holiday before she goes to Harvard and follows her father’s path as a lawyer, when a letter from her aunt arrives. Em doesn’t even know that she has an aunt until she receives the letter. She is invited by her aunt Matilda to spend her summer in Outer Banks. The more Em thinks about it, the more she wants to accept this invitation. This is her only chance of freedom. The moment when finally, her life begins.

The Summer My Life Began could be a much better book with more polishing. I judged most books I read by the first chapter. The first chapter plays a lot in my judgment whether to keep reading or shuffle the book to somewhere in my To-Be-Read pile. Sadly, this book falls on the latter. When I finished reading the first chapter, I got the impression that most part of this book will be about telling, not showing. I felt like I was overloaded with too much information regarding Em’s feeling. I would like to have more sides of Em’s shown in the following chapters, not thrown out in the first chapter. It made me think that I’ve known every bits and pieces about her already.

Fortunately, the writing is much improved throughout the story. There are also enough puzzles and magnetism of beautiful setting of an island out in the Atlantic Ocean that made me eager to read what happens next. Em and Cade’s relationship is also very adorable. There are some surprises that I didn’t see coming and they add to positive points of this book. I think The Summer My Life Began will appeal to fans of younger YA. If I were younger, I know that I would fall in love more with this story and the message behind

We drove under the beautiful archway of bright red flowers growing on thick green vines that I had seen on the Pepper House’s website. We circled around a stone fountain with four carved goats spouting water from their mouths. Cade stopped the van in front of a Mediterranean-style whitewashed stone house covered in more beautiful red flowers.

He turned the key and silence filled the cab.

“Here we are,” he said, flinging open his door and getting out of the van.

I sat for a moment and smiled. Here I am.

Read other reviews in my blog! :)
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Profile Image for Jaime Arkin.
1,422 reviews1,325 followers
September 29, 2014
The Summer My Life Began Em has spent her life trying to match the perfection that her parents and grandmother expect of her. She’s graduated as valedictorian, she’s going to spend the summer working for her father’s law firm and then she’s off to college to pursue a career that they have picked out for her.
Still it never seems like enough.
Then upon her graduation, she receives a letter from an Aunt she’s never heard of, offering to the chance to come spend the summer in the Outer Banks at her Bed and Breakfast and she convinces her parents that it’s the one and only time she’ll get to relax before the rest of her life begins and they finally agree.Upon her arrival, Cade makes a less than stellar first impression and there seem to be secrets her Aunt is keeping from her, but she’s determined to enjoy herself. That includes working with the chef, spending spare time cooking and baking and enjoying herself in an atmosphere that she wishes she could pursue for real.
Along the way, she gets to know the residents of her Aunt’s life and finds out not only some secrets about herself, but uncovers the person she really wants to be. I can’t tell you much more without giving away some of those secrets so that’s all I’m saying!
I really enjoyed this story! Like I said, it was the perfect end of summer read for me. It wasn’t too heavy, even though it deals with some heavy topics. Greenland does a great job of presenting it all in a light and realistic way. Plus, I now want to make a trip to the Outer Banks and spend some time on the beaches! It sounds amazing!
I enjoyed all the different characters we are introduced to and yes, Cade was lovely! I couldn’t help but fall for him. This was a quick read for me, the characters were all likable… well, except for the ones who weren’t supposed to be, and the writing was well done.
I think the only thing I really wanted that I didn’t get was a final confrontation. It kind of just petered out at the end … you’ll get what I mean when you read this. If you’re looking for something with a summery feel, with a little bit of drama definitely give this one a read. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
I picked this one up at BEA and I’m glad I made the stop! This review can be found on my blog, Fic Fare
Profile Image for Stephanie A..
2,321 reviews64 followers
January 14, 2015
It was very timely to read this the day after coming back from a B&B myself, which may or may not be responsible for why I enjoyed this more than anticipated. Although my stay was in the opposite season and on a lake rather than the ocean, I loved reading about the house, its history and current staff, the small town, the beachfront, her wonderful aunt, and her prodigal cooking skills being put to excellent use as a sous-chef in the B&B's kitchen.

It might have been an even better story without boys, but Cade got pretty tolerable by the end so even that worked. It would help to think of him as sensitive and brooding from the start, rather than "sexy loser." The surprises were certainly minimal -- I was most disappointed that teens today apparently don't know what the phrase "got in trouble" used to mean for a girl -- but sometimes, those are exactly the sort of stories you want to read.
Profile Image for April.
2,101 reviews950 followers
October 14, 2012
I read The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland on the bus ride to BEA and I have to say, it is a great read while traveling or a beach book. I found it to be absorbing, but not to require a whole lot from me on my end, except a bit of attention. To further define what I mean, a travel or beach read, to me, is a light book that entertains you while making the ride pass by rather quickly. It’s not exactly a life changer of a book.
Read the rest of my review here
Profile Image for Aysha.
158 reviews
April 25, 2015
Profile Image for Dayla.
2,067 reviews201 followers
July 12, 2017
Well, that was a quick read! While I did enjoy this, I also found some issues that were a little hard to ignore. The romance was OK, just slightly confusing since the two characters barely talked enough to even form an attraction, or at least it felt like it came out of nowhere. The protagonist sounded like a much older character than seventeen, though I know that she was raised to be "proper", so I guess that could explain why.

The characters seemed to lack dimension and everything read really, really quickly--which probably explains the shortness of the novel. But I'm oddly okay with this? I think I just enjoyed this novel for what it was--light and fluffy summer read.

I did enjoy the second half of the book though, even though everything ended up being wrapped up like a present for the reader.

Overall, did I enjoy this? Yes, though I had to stop and giggle at points. Would I recommend this? Sure! This wasn't a perfect read, but it was fun for what it was. Definitely a light and fluffy summer read.

Happy reading!
Profile Image for Sylwia.
33 reviews3 followers
May 29, 2018
Oh, this is definitely one of the most cliche books I’ve ever read, but who doesn’t love a bit of cliche chic lit from time to time, eh?

Knowing this book is set during summer, I read it during my holidays finding myself comparing my own to the main characters!

During her holidays, Em visits her aunt who lives by the sea and owns a B&B. As you can imagine, Em meets a boy who she finds herself falling for. But as in any good Chic Lit, the romance isn’t all smooth sailing (hehe, see what I did there?) Em and her holiday romance have their own complications and to make matters worse, Em finds out that her family has been keeping very significant secrets.

This book is an extremely fast read and a perfect read for the summer holidays!
Profile Image for McKenzi.
671 reviews24 followers
March 16, 2017
This book was literally a train wreck. It had so much potential but the writing was just horrible. Nothing was described but told. The storyline jumped around and just never made sense.
Profile Image for Emily Elizabeth.
478 reviews766 followers
May 13, 2012
As seen on Ed and Em's Reviews!

4/5 Stars!

The Summer My Life Began is a fast, light read that's perfect for a day of relaxing in the summer sun!

Elizabeth Margaret, or Em as she's referred to in most of the story, and her sister are born into a world of prestige. As they grow, they must learn to meet their family's expectations: perfect grades, ivy league education and a high-standing job like a lawyer or a doctor. All Em wants is to be a chef and get away from the high stress of her family's expectations. So she decides to go to an aunt's Bed and Breakfast. She's never heard of this aunt, but receives an invite as a high school graduation present.

The way that Em's life is depicted really annoyed me, but based on television shows, movies and other books, the way she grew up seems normal for a upper class citizen. For me, it was hard to believe and actually a bit frightening. My parents want me to be the best I can be, but they want me to do what I want to do. To see someone's parents so prejudice to people who aren't rich, or careers that aren't high end, is very unnerving to me. I wanted Em to immediately get out of that house and find her own way.

As soon as Em makes her way to her aunt's home in North Carolina, I wanted to visit my own family there. The way Ms. Greenland writes the scenery really makes you want to go to the Outer Banks. And eat a lot of food. Reading Em's descriptions of the food she's cooking made me literally drool. I'll admit to having to have food around as I read this one. That's how delicious the meals sounded! Ms. Greenland has a way with descriptions!

I had a few issues with this book, but overall, I enjoyed it. There are a lot of cheesy aspects in this book. Rich girl falls for the poor, mysterious boy. It's almost insta-love. He knows the real secret about her and this causes drama. Much of the drama is needless. Em's voice is a bit younger than I picture for a legal adult. She doesn't always seem like someone who just graduated as a valedictorian. It's not a very unique character set-up or plot, but the author really makes it her own.

I don't know how, but the twist in this book really blew me away. I think it was my favorite part of the book - besides the romance. I mean, I'm a total romance junkie. And the romance in this story is very realistic and sweet. I love Cade. He's a great guy. The word that comes to mind when I think of him is actually "summer" because not only does Em meet him in the summertime, but he himself almost embodies it. Cade is a good match for a character like Em. Em is sweet, but she lets people rule her life and that bugged me. She's a sweet girl who didn't deserve to be controlled, but loved for being her own person.

This book is a very light read. Perfect for sitting out in the sun and relaxing. It's got its own drama, sure, but it isn't drama that is going to make you need tissues. That's why it's so good for summer! It's refreshing to read something so carefree after the dark books that I've been reading lately! The Summer My Life Began is a recommended book for all-age teens who need an easy summer read!

I received a free e-copy of this novel for a blog tour in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,251 reviews187 followers
April 22, 2012

I don't tend to pick up and read this type of book but the synopsis had me intrigued so I requested a copy and was accepted and I am very happy to say that I really enjoyed The Summer My Life Began.

The main protagonist, Elizabeth Margaret, or Em as she likes to be called, lives with her Mother, Father and younger sister Gwyneth.  Her parents have extremely high expectations of both of their daughters and have their lives mapped out for them, ivy league education, doctor or lawyer as career and marry into a prestigious family.  Both girls also have to suffer through the weekly stuffy family meals with their Grandmother.
Everything changes one day when Em receives a postcard from an aunt Matilda she had never heard of, inviting her to Pepper House B&B for the summer.

From the moment I started The Summer My Life Began I could not did not want put it down.  Everything about it pulled me in, the characters, the writing, the scenery and then the twist in the story that I wasn't expecting.  I loved how Em became a different person with having the freedom to do what she wanted and it was nice to see her relax and enjoy life without the fear of retribution off her parents for doing something that was beneath her, like cooking and helping Beth cleaning.  The meals that Em makes sound amazing, and even though I am a very fussy eater I would defiantly give some of them a try.

I admire the relationships Em has with others.  She has a very close relationship with her sister which was one thing I loved and you could see how they were there for each other and helped each other out.  But I also enjoyed watching the relationships develop between the new people that she meets.  How she doesn't know her aunt but soon they have a very good relationship, as too with Frederick her cousin and Cade ♥.  I dislike the way her parents treated both Em and Gwyneth, but if they hadn't been so strict then Em wouldn't have felt the need to go away for the summer and have her life changed.

I love the area around Pepper House, the scenery, the laid back life and attitude of the people living there and how they are so open and friendly.  It sounds like the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and I would jump at the chance if it was offered to me.

The Summer My Life Began was a great read and I will definitely be getting hold of more books by Shannon Greenland.
Profile Image for Sandra .
1,717 reviews308 followers
April 22, 2012
From the blurb:

Elizabeth Margaret — better known as Em — has always known what life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is that it’s not what she wants. When she gets the opportunity to get away from it all and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em pursues her secret dream of being a chef, and she also learns that her family has kept some significant secrets from her, too. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels she is living on her own terms for the first time.

Imagine you're 17, on the verge of graduating from high school, and your whole life is planned out for you - follow in your father's footsteps by attending Harvard, getting a law degree, joining his firm, marrying an appropriate boy and producing the requisite 2.5 children. Imagine that's not the life you envision for yourself, but you're stuck - afraid to speak your mind because your pretentious, cold-hearted mother, emotionally distant father and snobbish, grand-standing grandmother have forgotten that you're your own person and have since your birth tried to mold you into what they think is the perfect daughter. You've been bullied your whole life into thinking that you will only be loved if you live up to their expectations of you.

Imagine you're receiving a card for graduation from an aunt you've never heard of, inviting you to spend the summer with her in the Outer Banks, NC, offering you the chance to get away and get a glimpse at a different kind of life.

Such is the situation with which this book opens. Em feels trapped and, with shaking knees, she makes a stand and fights for getting to spend some time with her aunt before joining the grown-up world. Once she arrives on the island, she really starts to question her pre-determined future.

What I liked most about this book was the gradual growth of the heroine, and her perseverance. She waffled a bit when it came to making a love connection, and she certainly fit the bill of a 17 yo girl, what with her two steps forward, one step back, and curiosity when she realizes that there's a big family secret that's been hidden away for, well, 17 years.

The author paints a realistic picture of a young girl at the edge of adulthood, struggling with what she wants for herself and what her parents expect of her, one who's finding the strength to choose her life for herself.

An enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Nina.
430 reviews77 followers
May 5, 2012
Originally posted on NinaReads.com.

You know how certain books just scream “Take me to the beach with you!!”? The Summer My Life Began is one of those. I love serious books as much as anyone, but some times I really just want something light and fun, something that lets me escape everything for a couple of hours, and this book did exactly that.

I felt like the first chapters of Elizabeth Margaret being around her family and explaining about their ridiculously high standards of living, and even higher expectations of her, could have been a little better developed. I would have loved to see more examples of this, instead of just being told about it, but it does set up a nice contrast to the rest of the story.

It is when Em arrives at her aunt’s resort on Outer Banks that things start happening, and from here on out I absolutely loved the story. Em really comes into her own here, away from her family, and complete with a new (less pretentious) nickname and a new wardrobe she is finally able to let loose and enjoy herself without worrying about what’s considered “proper”. But despite her new found freedom, there is the internship at her father’s law firm that she’s supposed to get back to in only a month, and after that the law school her parents picked out for her.

I liked how Em had some tough decisions to make, but that she never got whiny about it – this girl just weighs her choices and goes with it. She also wasn’t afraid to turn to her aunt Tilly, Domino the cook or even phone calls with her sister Gwenny when she needed advice or just someone to talk to, but everything is still her own choice in the end.

The summer romance was absolutely perfect. And I don’t mean that there was never anything wrong, but that there was always that feeling of “ohmygosh these two are sooo good together”, even when they were fighting. Cade is a very complex character, and has a lot of personal issues to deal with, but he is always sweet to Em, and shows so much compassion for everyone in his life. And despite the secrets in his past, he is a genuinely good guy.

I really enjoyed The Summer My Life Began; the romance, the friendships and the family drama, but most of all that vacation-feeling that I desperately needed to read about now that I’m still three months of work away from my own summer vacation. My only regret is that I read this at the DMV – not exactly the best place for a summer romance;)
Profile Image for Katja.
339 reviews2 followers
July 2, 2014
Em ist eigentlich die Traumvorstellung ihrer Eltern, sie ist Klassenbeste und soll nach dem Abschluss Jura studieren und in die Kanzlei des Vaters einsteigen, nur leider achten die Eltern nicht darauf, was Em selber will. Also sie eine Einladung zur ihrer Tante auf eine Insel bekommt, kann sie nicht widerstehen und lernt dort kenne, was es heisst, sich selbst für etwas zu entscheiden...

Also zuerst hat mich das Cover angesprochen, es sieht so nach Sommer, Sonne und Freiheit aus, passt auch sehr gut zum Thema des Buches.

In Em verliebt man sich sofort, sie ist eben das typische Mädchen, dass den Eltern alles recht machen will, aber irgendwie immer unter deren Erwartungen bleibt. Trotzdem versucht sie, sich ihren eigenen Weg zu schaffen, kann sich aber zu Hause nicht wiklich entfalten, das schafft sie erst bei ihrer Tante.

Bei Cade, der in Ems Leben noch eine Rolle spielen wird, ist das etwas anders, man ist sich anfangs nicht sicher, was man von ihm halten soll, man wird erst mit der Zeit mit ihm warm. Aber wenn man ihn dann mal etwas besser kennst, dann ist er eigentlich die passende Besetzung für eine Sommerflirt.

Der Verlauf des Buches ist jetzt nichts neues, aber die Umgebung ist schön verpackt und die Geschichte passt in sie hinein. Es ist so ein typisches Sommer-Wöhlfühl-Buch, dass man am Strand liest und sich freut, dass man mich Em auf die Reise gehen darf.

Der Schreibstil von Shannon Greenland, die mit diesem Buch ihr Debüt in deutscher Umsetzung gibt, ist flüssig und liest sich sehr gut und auch leicht. Man kann der Handlung gut folgen und findet sich auch schnell in die Geschichte, weil der Einstieg es einem wirklich leicht macht.

Das Buch ist für Mädchen ab 14 Jahren geeignet und die Einordnung passt auch sehr gut, weil es eine typische Geschichte rund ums Erwachsen werden und die erste grosse Liebe ist. Etwas ältere Leserinnen (zu denen ich mit 24 Jahren auch gehöre) sollten nicht mit neuen innovativen Ideen rechnen, aber man findet wirklich ein schönes Wohlfühlbuch für den Sommer.

Ein Mädchen auf dem Weg zum Erwachsen werden und Ferien auf einer schönen Inseln, was fehlt da noch zu einem schönen Sommer? Na gut, das Flirten kommt auch dazu, aber auch das Thema der Selbstbestimmung spielt eine Rolle. Ein tolles Sommerbuch für Mädchen ab 14, die im Sommer eine leichte Lektüre lesen wollen.
Profile Image for Shannon.
199 reviews88 followers
May 7, 2012
I will admit when I first started the book I thought there was no way I was going to really be able to connect with Elizabeth Margaret. For starters, her name is “Elizabeth Margaret.” I don’t mean to sound rude but if that was my name I feel sure I would not actually expect people to say all of that every time they spoke to me. It turns out, it wasn’t really her that insisted on the use of her full name but her parents. As a matter of fact, I realized that most of the things that made me feel so disconnected from her weren’t really her at all.

As the story progresses we really get to see a girl finding out who she is and what she wants away from the overbearing watchful eyes of her mother and grandmother. I found myself being excited for Em every time she did something her mother would not approve of. I am not generally into the whole rebellion for rebellions sake thing, but I kept hoping Em would do just that. Instead she mostly acted like a responsible young lady who happens to make mistakes every now and then. I ended up really liking Em and hoping that she would decide to live her life for herself and not for her mother and grandmother.

I also expected the book to be a bit fluffy and boy centric, perhaps it is the cover that gave me that impression. Instead, I really found this to be about family and I quite liked that. While I am blessed to have a mother as wonderful and supportive as I do, I still know what it is like trying to find out what you really want in life and not just what your parents want for you.

I would be lying if I said there was no romance though, in fact Cade is a FABULOUS love interest. I had worries of a stereotypical love triangle but they were unnecessary. That issue worked out in a good way that actually served to teach Em a bit more about herself and her need to please others.

There were a few other secrets in the book and I liked that element of mystery. I have to admit that I thought I had things figured out a few times but I turned out to be wrong! The reveals were emotional and perfect, I could not imagine it done any better. If you are looking for a stand alone story to enjoy on a nice sunny day, pick The Summer My Life Began. You won’t regret it!

BOTTOM LINE: I loved it!
Profile Image for Touloulou.
297 reviews19 followers
October 7, 2012

I wanted to like this book, since it had an amazing setting (the Outter Banks islands) and talked about food, which I always enjoy in a book, but the characters were shallow, I couldn't care less about the love story and the happy ending was just too much. At least it was fun to read in the summer.

Je m'attendais à une lecture de midinette parfaite pour l'été : le livre se passe sur l'ile d'Outter Banks qui a l'air paradisiaque, où l'héroine passe l'été au B&B de sa tante. Surprise, la nourriture joue un rôle important dans ce livre, car Em adore cuisiner et la gourmande que je suis a beaucoup apprécié cela. Enfin, pas de ya sans romance, et j'attendais du beau garçon qui sent l'iode et le sable chaud.
Ben dommage, car si au début tout allait bien (principalement grace aux descriptions de l'île qui font rêver), très vite je me suis ennuyée :
- les personnages sont creux
- la romance ne m'a pas fait du tout rêver (cf le premier argument)
- les réactions familiales étaient pour le moins tirées par les cheveux (j'ai du mal à croire que n'importe quels parents se comportent comme ceux d'Em). Il y a tout un fromage qui est fait parce que la mère d'Em apprend qu'elle est allée sur une plage topless (sans être topless elle-même). Bon, je sais que les américains sont un peu psychotiques sur le sujet de la nudité, mais de là à ce qu'elle ait peur que sa mère l'oblige à revenir illico à la maison...
- l'héroine est quand même bouchée, car elle passe son temps à se dire "oh on me dit que j'ai de grands talents, c'est vrai maintenant qu'on le dit, je m'en rends compte", et atteint le pompon avec la phrase finale : "he was right - I was amazing"... sans doute que si son blond de surfeur ne le lui avait pas dit, elle se serait sentie misérable toute sa vie... bonjour l'indépendance et la self-esteem...
- le happy end final a été la goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase, alors que j'avais l'impression que ce roman montrerait que c'est en persistant malgré les échecs qu'on y arrive, l'héroine se retrouve par miracle avec tous ses soucis envolés et est tellement acceptée partout qu'elle a du mal à choisir. Ben voyons.

Bon au final, j'ai aimé car c'était distrayant pour l'été, mais franchement, j'oublierai ce livre bientôt et je trouverai mieux...
Profile Image for Jen Halligan.
494 reviews249 followers
May 3, 2012
Originally posted on A Book and a Latte:

The Summer My Life Began is such a fun read! It’s a wonderful story about self-discovery, being true to yourself, and family. This is the perfect book to read by the pool or on the beach, or if you just need a vacation.

Elizabeth Margaret is living out the plan her parents laid out for her ever since she can remember. She secretly wants to be a chef, but her parents disapprove. When she’s invited to spend the summer in the Outer Banks with an aunt she’s never met, she jumps at the opportunity. She’s relieved for the chance to escape, to take a break from the pressure, and to enjoy one last summer before attending Harvard and eventually becoming a lawyer for her father’s firm. She had no idea that one summer on an island could turn her life upside down.

On the island, Em (her nickname) meets the family she never knew she had – her Aunt Tilly, and her cousin Frederick. She instantly feels at ease with them, but she’s confused about why she was kept from them. Aunt Tilly is a carefree spirit and the complete opposite of her sister, Em’s mother. She also meets Cade, the “sexy loser” surfer boy that she can’t help but feel drawn to…

I really liked Greenland’s descriptions of the island, the town, the Pepper Bed & Breakfast, and not to mention all the food! This story seriously made me fall in love with the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’ve never been, but it’s now on my must-visit list. The food descriptions were amazing and I wish recipes were included in the story, or that I had taken better notes. I’m not much of a cook myself, but I do appreciate yummy food! I do think the ending wrapped up a little too neatly, but I ate it up.

The Summer My Life Began has all the makings for a great summer read – a great setting, romance, and family secrets – so add it to your to-read list for summer!

Check out Shannon Greenland's guest post - a recipe and a chance to win an ebook copy of the book for yourself!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,772 reviews102 followers
April 28, 2012
Given the title and cover, this seemed like a cute summer read so even though it is not officially summer yet, I wanted to give this a shot. I was able to read through it in only a few sittings one day due to the brevity.

However I wasn't really able to connect with the characters, which ultimately hindered my enjoyment. Main character Elizabeth Margaret has always done what is expected of her and is prepared for an internship before going to Harvard and then becoming a lawyer like her father. She would rather be a chef and try new things instead of accepting the life mapped out for her by her grandmother and parents. But she wasn't going to try that until she receives an offer from an aunt she never knew she had to visit for the summer.

Elizabeth Margaret or Em as she prefers to be called was pretty bland. She complained about how controlling her parents were but she didn't seem willing to give up her cushy life to pursue something else; the idea never even occurred to her until she visits her aunt. I did like her sister but since sis stays home, there wasn't very much of her. The other characters are cartoonish caricatures in the case of the grandmother and parents, so much so that they didn't seem like real people or just on the quirky side in the case of Em's aunt Tilly. There is also a romantic interest who was not to my taste. None of them received sufficient development in my opinion; I can't care about a character who is just flat.

As for plot, for the most part, the book just goes along until Em uncovers the big family secret that I had kind of already guessed at and reacts very predictably. This happens pretty close to the end and could have caused an emotional impact except that I didn't feel anything for the characters and it was all pretty abrupt.

Overall: I feel largely indifferent to the writing and characterizations. Instead of a cute sweet book, I feel like I ended up with something aspiring to be deeper but failing.
Profile Image for Iffath.
184 reviews
May 13, 2012
This was an instant request on Netgalley when I first saw it, because hello?! SUMMER. But unfortunately I didn't really fall in love with it.

The Summer My Life Began had a good concept, but I felt like the story wasn't executed very well and consequently, it fell a little flat for me. There was a lot of potential to be a really fun summer read, and I really wish it had fulfilled that, rather than being the clichéd, wannabe-mystery I thought it was.

I was a bit torn on Em. I could relate to her passion for cooking because I LOVE cooking but that was it really. Her relationship with her parents didn't work as well as I would've liked it to, and I think she came across really spoilt at times. I mean, there was a small bit of me that was all "You have EVERYTHING, but you're unhappy and I want to give you a big hug." but most of me was like "You have EVERYTHING, why are you acting like such a brat?" And I think there was one line about her sister that she must have said about five times throughout the novel and it just really annoyed me for some reason. The other characters didn't really stand out to me either, although Frederick sounded like somebody I might like to know and Beth seemed quite sweet.

It was nearly a did-not-finish, but I did want to know what happened at the end, so I carried on. Predictable, (a bit) repetitive and frankly quite dull in places, The Summer My Life Began is in the minority of summer books I didn't enjoy. I've seen lots of bloggers give it three stars and above on Goodreads though, so you might want to check out some more reviews to decide whether or not you want to read this.

"Across the room, the front door to the Pepper House opened and in stumbled a couple, both tall and lanky with bright red hair. "The honeymooners," Frederick whispered."
Profile Image for Amber (Books of Amber).
580 reviews682 followers
March 31, 2012
Wasn't a fan of this at all. It was so boring, and writing was very wooden with lots of telling instead of showing.


I really liked the sound of The Summer My Life Began when I looked up the premise on GoodReads. I'm really into contemporary novels right now, and I love summer books so I was really looking forward to reading it and I was so, so happy when I saw it was available on NetGalley. Unfortunately, the poor writing style and the wooden characters meant that the book didn't live up to my expectations.

My main issue with this book is the writing style. There is a lot of telling instead of showing and lots of "I did this, and then twenty minutes later I did that." I couldn't get into the book and I found myself becoming very bored very quickly.

The characters weren't appealing either. Elizabeth Margaret (or Em) didn't have much of a personality. I knew she liked cooking, but that's about it. The secondary characters are all pretty plain, especially the love interest who is meant to be a broken, tortured soul. There's also a contrived love triangle in the beginning, and this annoyed me. Why does every book nowadays have a love triangle?

The author does throw a twist in, and it could have been good if I hadn't been able to tell what it was from the first chapter. It wasn't surprising for me, and so it didn't draw me in like it could have.

I can't recommend this book to people, because it was just so boring. I have read a lot of mixed things about it, so definitely check out some other reviews before deciding. You might like it! I just couldn't get past the wooden writing, dialogue and characters.
Profile Image for Rachel Wu.
41 reviews27 followers
September 3, 2014
I was asked to review this book as part of a JKS Communications Blog Tour. I am so happy that I got on this tour, because if I had not, I would have never have read this amazing book. Normally I tend to stay in my comfort zone of reading young adult paranormal romances. Once in a while I will venture out of that comfort zone and read something else.

The Summer My Life Began was a giant leap out my comfort zone since it is a young adult contemporary romance. For some reason I have avoided this section of the young adult genre because I always felt that contemporary romances couldn’t captivate my interest like a paranormal romance or a urban fantasy. The Summer My Life Began not only captivated my interest, but it completely swept me off my feet.

What I loved most about this book was how Shannon Greenland has an amazing way of writing that makes you feel completely immersed in the story. I honestly felt like a movie was playing before my eyes, and not a sappy romantic comedy, but an adorable coming of age romance. If this book was made into a real movie, I would probably be the first in line to get tickets.

If you are looking for a great summer romance story then this is the book you need to get. You honestly won’t be able to put it down. I highly recommend it!!

The Summer My Life Began is available May 10, 2012 and is available on the kindle or nook and in paperback.
Profile Image for A Canadian Girl.
471 reviews107 followers
April 20, 2012
When I got The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland, I wanted a nice, fluffy read. I didn’t think my expectations were high – and yet I was still left disappointed.

Although the writing isn’t bad, if I could use one word to describe everything about The Summer My Life Began, it would be “blah.” Since a one word review isn’t going to cut it, here’s why The Summer My Life Began wasn’t my ideal beach read:

- The main character barely goes through any adversity. It’s obvious that Em is going to end up happy at the end of the novel, but couldn’t she have some obstacles thrown in her way? She’s got a great life at the beginning of the book, and when she goes to her aunt’s bed-and-breakfast, it gets even more perfect because now she doesn’t have to hide her culinary skills and has a hot guy fall for her. There’s so little opportunity for her character to grow!
- The secondary characters are way too stereotypical and have no depth. You’ve got the prim and proper grandma, the bubbly younger sister who can get away with things, the surfer boy who looks like a loser but isn’t, etc.
- The romance lacked chemistry.
- There was barely any drama. Em got over the big family secret in, like, two seconds. If she can’t bother to make a big fuss about it, why the hell should I care?!
7 reviews
April 2, 2018
I read this book when I was in Florida on vacation, and it made me want to escape to their North Carolina town. I love seeing characters develop and find their true identities. I kept turning the pages, and didn't want to stop. After reading this book, summer can't come soon enough!
Profile Image for Victoria Potter.
44 reviews
July 19, 2013
Fantastic summer read! Read this in four hours and I could not believe the plot twists! A must read for any contemporary summer read lovers.
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