180 Seconds by Jessica Park

**Fair Warning:  Rape is a topic discussed in the book with regards to the heroine. Although there are no graphic scenes or descriptions, it may be an issue for some. It shaped how the main heroine view herself which is integral to the story.

Published: 25 April 2017
Published by: Skyscape
Type: Stand-alone, no cliffhanger
AuthorJessica Park
Title: 180 Seconds
Get it here: Amazon
Read : 10 April 2020
Shelved : 11 April 2020
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.
One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.


** spoiler alert ** A story about being vulnerable to love and be loved, acceptance, forgiveness, and a lot of growing up going on.

The Characters.

Allison: had a tough life bouncing from one foster home to another. She finally got officially adapted at 16 years old, which by statistics is very rare. It wasn’t anyone fault, just circumstances, she is sure but due to this and even with loving adaptive parents like Simon (a gay couple), she learns to expect the worst in life or that she’s an unwanted child from the start. She decided early on that she is undeserving of love or friends.

Esben: is ‘positivity’ personified. He is a ‘influencer’ (uses social media) to spread positivity through online posts about everything that is “good” in the world today. He is smart, emphatic and thoughtful. It is through one of his social media experiments, the 180 seconds challenge, that he and Allison met. He helped her realize what she is missing out in the world, if she keeps putting up her walls…miss out on relationships and love.

“I know tons of people out there suck, I do. But mostly, Allison, people are good. They really are. And I am lucky enough to get to witness so much of that good.”

– Esben, 180 Seconds

Steffi: is Allison’s best friend and “sister”. Even though Steffi’s life is also bouncing from one foster home to another, she was never officially adapted and was forced to leave the system when she turned 18-years-old. Ironically, her determination to living the life she wanted, also translated well for her. She was independent and tough. She became a good role model for Allison and always lovely ‘pushed’ Allison to take chances. She is definitely a positive influence to Allison in the story.

Simon: adaptive parent who officially adapted Allison to take on his last name. The love that Simon has shown Allison is so endearing and heartfelt that you read it in each of his words. He is patient, kind and very supportive that he puts a lot of parents to shame. Their relationship grow over the course of the story that it’s been so long since I read anything similar to this.

Kelly: sister of Esben, who recruits Allison straight from the streets to join in the 180 seconds challenge. She handles his social media account. She has a very relationship with her brother that is so easy and truly speaks volumes on how they support each other. Her friendship with Allison also helped Allison see the beauty of trusting people. Kelly is a very loving and supporting character.

The Storyline.

There were a lot of heavy stuff going on but I am glad that there are NO CHEATING GOING ON.

Alison surely didn’t expect anything big in her life ever to happen till spilling ice coffee accident had Esben help clean it up. This triggers a snowball of effects that brought them together to do the 180 seconds challenge that later, made her started ‘feel’ things – for her family, friends and most especially Esben.

Some people expected that these two heroes will fall all over themselves but they don’t! They get into a whole lot of things before they even acknowledge their feelings for each other. From what I understood, they felt more of an instant connection versus infatuated with each other. The relationship that was forged led them to understand each other though showing Allison the beauty of people and the world. He tried to surround her with what she is missing out. It was so much more “meeting-of-the-minds” than pure attractions. It was helping Allison with her struggles and her apprehension to being vulnerable to the right people or to the people who care about her. The rest of her character development came from Allison…to decide to be a better version of herself.

I think there’s something between us, and I’m very afraid that I’m going to do the wrong thing again and send you running. And I don’t want that. If you’re going to go running anywhere, I’d prefer that you come running to me.”

― Jessica Park, 180 Seconds

Overall, I really enjoyed Jessica’s style of investing time in the development of her heroes. She gives them enough backstory to make the readers understand where things are coming from for them and makes us “feel” them. She makes us also think of what we can do to change our outlook in life.

I love each and every one of the characters in the story and how a whole online community following helped Allison and Esben in spreading good and joy. There are still a lot of good people. I laughed, cried and held in suspense in a lot of latter sections of the book but so worth it!

“I will be brave. I will be brave. I will be brave. I will keep going.”

― Allison , 180 Seconds

Meet Jessica Park

Jessica Park is the author of 180 SECONDS, CLEAR, The Left Drowning Series (LEFT DROWNING and RESTLESS WATERS), the New York Times bestselling FLAT-OUT LOVE (& the companion novella FLAT-OUT MATT), FLAT-OUT CELESTE, and RELATIVELY FAMOUS. grew up in the Boston area and attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. After spending four years in the frigid north, including suffering through one memorable Halloween blizzard, Jessica hightailed it back to the east coast. She now lives in New Hampshire (relatively balmy) with her husband, son, bananas dogs named Fritzy and Finn, and a selfish cat. She spends an obscene amount of time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is able to focus on other things, she writes. When not writing, Jessica indulges her healthy obsessions with Facebook and complicated coffee beverages.

Connect with Jessica
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park

Published: 22 May 2014
Published by: Flat Finn, Inc.
AuthorJessica Park
SeriesFlat Out Love Book 2
Read : 9 April 2020
Shelved : 7 April 2020
Get it here: Amazon
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.

But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.

Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.

Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.

Whether you were charmed by Celeste in Flat-Out Love or are meeting her for the first time, this book is a joyous celebration of differences, about battling private wars that rage in our heads and in our hearts, and—very much so— this is a story about first love. 


“You are who you are. Don’t be ashamed of yourself. At all. Surround yourself with people who cheer you on.”

― Jessica Park, Flat-Out Celeste

** spoiler alert ** 
In Book 2, this series starts out a few years after Julie and Matt gave their relationship a go. It may not be a fully Matt-Julie book but it rounds out it out to a good finale for everyone.

Celeste Watkins.
Celeste, an outbound senior school, is a gifted student and is deciding which Ivy League is she going to go to, as is expected from everyone. In the last few months before school ended, an unexpected referral to a tertiary school by a mentor/teacher changed everything for her. It made her decide on what is expected of her versus what she would want to be.

Justin is a quirky college student agent assigned to “woo” Celeste into giving this tertiary school a go and did as much as reaching out and making deals with Celeste. He is full of personality that is rarely seen in men but most likely it’s so ‘him’, even before meeting Celeste in-person. I love how he thinks, rambles on, and is just so ‘Justin’. I have yet to remember a character like him. He is patient, kind, cunning (with the messages and remarks), and is able to handle emotions to keep up with Celeste. He’s her own cheering squad which is so endearing.

“You don’t want to miss out on people. If you assume everyone is out to get you, then you’re going to shut them down before they have a chance to prove you wrong.”

― Jessica Park, Flat-Out Celeste

The Verdict.
At first, I was purely at a loss on what happened to Matt and Julie. It was horrors to be reading along and realizing that both are NOT together! It was confusing and heartbreaking at the same time since I felt the pain of Julie and Matt. It was painful to read how miserable Matt is and how Celeste was coping with the ended relationship of her brother while maintaining to be friends with Julie, who helped her so much.

Sidenote: Matt and Julie come into some part of the book but it is all based on the side of Celeste. Their story pushes through the “ever-after” – from where things go after a few months hooked up to years after and seeing how it all shaped each other. It takes a realistic approach at what happens when what we thought is a “happily-ever-after”, isn’t all that’s cracked up to be. The writer does a good job of comparing the past and where will it end up for both of them. I’m glad that Celeste had a hand on how Julie and Matt take things. I think what happened to them makes them better-developed characters in the end.

With the confusion and heartache, I kept rushing through the book to numb the pain of that loss while navigating through the budding relationship between Celeste and Justin. I’m excited to be reading how smart and playful (and scattered brain) Justin is…it’s cute and hilarious all at the same time.

Their emails and text messages were cute and hilarious at times. I really enjoyed the conversations between Justin and Celeste… a pure joy to witness the exchanges and thoughts of both. I still love the messaging style of the book compared to the status update of the previous 2 books.

“I’m not going to drown in what I can’t change.”

― Jessica Park, Flat-Out Celeste

There are definite similarities between Celeste and Matt views relationships. Don’t get me started but both are wrong and it frustrates me to think that they are their own worst enemies on this. Their shared coping mechanisms (Flat Finn) is endearing but does not them cope well with others and life.

It comes to a point of having to “survive” their own mistakes to be able to grow and discover that their ultimate “soulmates” is right in front of them. Kudos to Celeste (and Justin) and Matt (and Julie)!!!

Spoiler: Matt does right by Julie in the end, all due to Celeste’s wonderfully beautiful scheming.

It is a lovely ending to such a beloved trilogy! 

“And you have me. Sometimes you need someone else to believe in you, to carry you, until you can do that yourself. Let me carry you. You’re almost there. Damn it, Celeste, you’re almost there. God, please, you have me, and I want you.” He stopped walking back and forth and put both of his hands over his heart. “I want you so much.”

― Jessica Park, Flat-Out Celeste

Meet Jessica Park

Jessica Park is the author of 180 SECONDS, CLEAR, The Left Drowning Series (LEFT DROWNING and RESTLESS WATERS), the New York Times bestselling FLAT-OUT LOVE (& the companion novella FLAT-OUT MATT), FLAT-OUT CELESTE, and RELATIVELY FAMOUS. grew up in the Boston area and attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. After spending four years in the frigid north, including suffering through one memorable Halloween blizzard, Jessica hightailed it back to the east coast. She now lives in New Hampshire (relatively balmy) with her husband, son, bananas dogs named Fritzy and Finn, and a selfish cat. She spends an obscene amount of time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is able to focus on other things, she writes. When not writing, Jessica indulges her healthy obsessions with Facebook and complicated coffee beverages.

Connect with Jessica
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

Relatively Famous by Jessica Park

Published on: 22 June 2010
Type: Stand-alone, no cliffhanger
AuthorJessica Park
Read: 8 April 2020
Shelved: 9 April 2020
Get it Amazon
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

Meet Dani McKinley: A typical teen whose world is rocked when she finds out that her father is a famous Hollywood Action star. Now meet Mark Ocean: A self-serving actor with a floundering career who sees that a daughter is just what he needs to reinvent himself as a family man and get back on track. When the two decide to spend the summer together, they must not only wrangle their own love lives, but try to figure out who they really are to themselves and to each other.
Now armed with credit cards, club memberships, and a new wardrobe, Dani learns that what Mark has in wealth, he sorely lacks in parenting skills. Trying to show Mark that parenting is about more than loading her up with Prada bags and taking her to movie premieres is challenging enough, but she’s also got her hands full with her new friends. Oh, and the boys… Dani meets Jason, a gorgeous young personal trainer who is easy on the eyes and wildly flirtatious. But is this smug hottie the one for her? Or will she ignore her friends eye-rolling and go for the goofy but sweet surfer?
While juggling her own complicated love life, Dani tries to set her father up with someone less likely to appear on a VH1 reality show, and someone more… well, normal. And age-appropriate. And dressed in anything but a thong bikini. But whether Mark is able to heal old wounds and move forward with anything more than a meaningless fling remains to be seen.
Can Dani fit in with this new, fast-moving California crowd without losing herself? With the world at her fingertips and hot boys now after her, staying grounded gets tough. And can Mark drop his egocentric approach to life and learn to appreciate how truly wonderful his daughter is? As driven as he is to get that A-list acting role, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if it means using his daughter. Or is he…? Mark and Dani’s relationship hits a few highs, but the question becomes whether the lows are too much. 


Dani is a young ‘grounded’ and sensible girl who is raised by her mother and her boyfriend, Alan in Michigan.
One day, on the way to school, Dani discovers that her biological father is alive and is non-other than the very famous movie star, Mark Ocean, who Dani found lame as an actor due to the crazy stories he portrayed in the movies. It didn’t help that her dad reached out and invited her to stay with him in Hollywood to get to know each other better. There, she gets to know more about her father and the life he leads which is full of glitz and glamour but also the other side of being famous.

Mark Ocean recently learned that he’s a father with a stagnant career in playing predictable roles. He needs to revamp his image and show the world that he’s an actor to be taken seriously. When he unexpectedly found out of Dani’s existence and that he’s the father, he found his answer. He needed a more family-oriented and wholesome image to be able to land a role that he’s been eyeing for so long. Solution: an instant-family man to show the world on how he’s grown up and ready for more mature roles. He uses his daughter’s stay to reinvent himself as a way to get into the movie that he’s auditioning for. It didn’t hurt also that Dani became friends with the director’s daughter in the process.

This is a coming-out age book that also is a father-daughter bonding experience. The writing is easy to follow and the plot is simple to comprehend. The characters are all relatable since Park since it’s not a new concept. Nothing really new on the type of story so it’s was a good enough read and I do appreciate stories like these after a roller-coaster ride of emotions in Park’s Flat Out trilogy previously read.

Both the main characters, Mark and Dani, had a lot to learn with regards to their new relationship as a family. They find out what the other needs and later protects each other from creepy guys and “unfitted” partners.

Dani’s character was thought out carefully and developed well in each of the experiences that Park shared with us. Dani got to experience the summer romance that most people her age goes through with two people, Nathan (the chill-out and warm surfer dude) and Jason (the dangerously handsome and popular). The courting of the two boys and the living experience with her father were real eye-openers to Dani and what the real world is like being the daughter of a famous actor – the good, the bad and even the ugly. I’m glad that even if there were the usual “mean/fake crowds” around Dani, she still had a good friend to lean on back home, Sam, and in Hollywood, Kayla. She grows into her own identity with the joy and pain of being young.

I wished Park talked a bit more about Mark more. I would have wanted more time to better connect with him and how he grew into a more worthy partner. There wasn’t much discussion of his career and impact compared to when he started to date local ‘grounded’ florist Olivia but I guess since the writer centered her focus on Dani and how her appearance changed everything and everyone in her surroundings for better.
I gushed over Olivia and Mark…they were like teenagers in getting to know each other and over their date. It’s cute and makes me root for Olivia’s naivety and shunning the spotlight/fame that truly made Mark realize that she’s a keeper.

All in all, a good feel-good book that is relatable at some accounts since some of the very lavish things going on Hollywood is beyond what I can fathom also.


Meet Jessica Park

Jessica Park is the author of 180 SECONDS, CLEAR, The Left Drowning Series (LEFT DROWNING and RESTLESS WATERS), the New York Times bestselling FLAT-OUT LOVE (& the companion novella FLAT-OUT MATT), FLAT-OUT CELESTE, and RELATIVELY FAMOUS. grew up in the Boston area and attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. After spending four years in the frigid north, including suffering through one memorable Halloween blizzard, Jessica hightailed it back to the east coast. She now lives in New Hampshire (relatively balmy) with her husband, son, bananas dogs named Fritzy and Finn, and a selfish cat. She spends an obscene amount of time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is able to focus on other things, she writes. When not writing, Jessica indulges her healthy obsessions with Facebook and complicated coffee beverages.

Connect with Jessica
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

Flat Out Love (Book 1) and Flat Out Matt (Book 1.5) by Jessica Park

Published: 11 April 2011
Type: Series
Series: Flat Out Love
AuthorJessica Park
SeriesFlat Out Love and Flat Out Matt
Read : 6 April 2020
Shelved : 7 April 2020
Rating for Flat Out Love: 3 out of 5 stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Get Flat Out Love: Amazon

Rating for Flat Out Matt: 4 out of 5 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get Flat Out Matt : Amazon


Flat Out Love

It’s not what you know – or when you see – that matters. It’s about a journey.

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie’s off-campus housing falls through, her mother’s old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side … and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there’s that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That’s because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie’s suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that … well … doesn’t quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

Flat-Out Love comes complete with emails, Facebook status updates, and instant messages. 


If you can’t stop thinking about someone’s update, that’s called “status cling.”

** spoiler alert **

The Characters
Julie is surely an interesting character. I enjoyed her wit and helping the family out as best as she can. She has her own unique personality that infuse new life in the Watkin’s family.
She comes into the family of the Watkins family with so much hope and new outlook as a boarder. She made the family realize how they can move on and face their family’s new dynamics.
I really felt heavy in a lot of sections of the book but with Julie in it, it felt like a ray of sunshine is slowly creeping in that later gets bigger and bigger. Julie is what I would consider “courageous”.

“He just wasn’t the guy, you know? I want the guy. The everything guy. Not the dumb Prince Charming, nauseatingly-perfect everything guy. That’s pathetic. I want the flaws-and-all everything guy.”

― JulieFlat-Out Love


Matt Matt is a whole new character type in my head…I can’t seem to place him in a single category and I love how multifaceted he is. He is torn between being Finn and being true to himself since Julie entered their lives and finding Finn on Facebook.

Matt: “At least I’m not a font nerd.”
Julie: “A what?”
Matt: “You know. People who love fonts. There are people who go to a movie and get agitated because, while the movie is supposed to be set in 1962, the restaurant awning shown in the background of some scene is printed in Arras Bold, which wasn’t invented until 1991, so clearly the producers of the movie are insane and should be beheaded.”

 Matt, Flat-Out Love

Celeste is one of my favorites since she seems to be oozing out with random thoughts and personalities. She’s smart and kind. She misses her brother indeed.
Celeste is a character of her own but I love how smart and resilient she is in her own way. She may come out as a brat but a surviving and coping one is what I can see. She’s far from being a brat as what the reader reads on.

Erin and Robert Watkins are surely a unique couple…not much can be said about them since the story revolved around Julie, Matt, Finn, and Celeste more. I do appreciate how giving the couple is with taking in Julie as part of their family and in doing so, they do start to heal and “move on” to accept the truth on what happened to their family and to Finn.

The Verdict.
The concept and plot is fairly new for me. It’s unique in its own category.  I enjoyed the status updates on each chapter start and it really set the mood on that particular chapter. The book cover is also uniquely cool. It didn’t make sense to me till after reading the book but really…very cool.

I am very frustrated with Matt and how he handled the whole thing – with leading Julie on blindly to Finn, with allowing his parents to act how they are (by being irresponsible and leaving it to Matt) , etc. The only rewarding thing I believe Matt is handling somewhat well is taking care of Celeste and making sure that the house is decent shape.

The writing can be a bit slow for me but there were a few good moments that really kicked in quick. I enjoyed the connection that Matt and Julie go through in their own way and still talking about Finn. It was eerie but after everything, it made sense.

I was pleasantly surprised with the innovative twist in the end, regarding the family secret. I do enjoy the concept. I had such an “a-ha” moment when the puzzle clicked in the end.


Flat Out Matt

*Please note: This is not a full retelling of Flat-Out Love, but rather a companion piece with select FOL chapters, and it is meant for readers who know the story very well.*

You saw geeky, damaged, lovable Matt Watkins through Julie’s eyes in FLAT-OUT LOVE. Now go deeper into Matt’s world in this FLAT-OUT MATT novella. Live his side of the story, break when his heart breaks, and fall for the unlikely hero all over again.

Take an emotional skydive for two prequel chapters and seven FLAT-OUT LOVE chapters retold from his perspective, and then land with a brand-new steamy finale chapter from Julie.

Author’s Note: Two chapters, The Sleepover and Keep Going, contain more mature content than Flat-Out Love (Keep Going, in particular), and were written based on reader demand. They wouldn’t have fit in well with the original Flat-Out Love, but given that this is a fan-driven companion piece, I think they work. While the content here is upped a bit, the scenes are tastefully done. (So, you know sorry to those who wanted lewd and graphic.) 


“How you find love means nothing. It’s what you do with it when you see it that does.” And when Julie looked at Matt, she unquestionably saw love.

― Julie, Flat-Out Matt

The Verdict.
The writing is simple but spotlights on Matt’s character in the book. This short story is based on Matt’s point of view, which is rare since most of the books offered in the market now focuses on the heroine’s side. The book doesn’t recount everything that happened in the first book’s chapters but only selected ones. I appreciate this so I do not need to avoid skipping pages. The ones that is written are the important ones and even before Julie came into the picture and gives us a glimpse of Finn actively present in the Watkin’s home. I liked how things ended for Julie and Matt in this book. The ending of the book was nice and really “settles” the previous book.

“I did it, Finn. I did it. I was ready to jump, and now she’s jumping with me.”

― Matt, Flat-Out Matt

I’m excited to read the part 2 of the story. 


Meet Jessica Park

Jessica Park is the author of 180 SECONDS, CLEAR, The Left Drowning Series (LEFT DROWNING and RESTLESS WATERS), the New York Times bestselling FLAT-OUT LOVE (& the companion novella FLAT-OUT MATT), FLAT-OUT CELESTE, and RELATIVELY FAMOUS. grew up in the Boston area and attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. After spending four years in the frigid north, including suffering through one memorable Halloween blizzard, Jessica hightailed it back to the east coast. She now lives in New Hampshire (relatively balmy) with her husband, son, bananas dogs named Fritzy and Finn, and a selfish cat. She spends an obscene amount of time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is able to focus on other things, she writes. When not writing, Jessica indulges her healthy obsessions with Facebook and complicated coffee beverages.

Connect with Jessica
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads