I LOVED this book and I definitely need to read Waiting for Tom Hanks!
I read a total of 14 books between June 14 & June 27 and there were so many great ones!
All of the books I mention in this video can be found and purchased on my storefront here.
I just wanted to pop in here really quick to say I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M HALFWAY THROUGH MY 30’S!
I swear, time has sped up like crazy since I had kids.
Speaking of the kiddos, they have been absolutely adorable all day today. Violet has been calling me her birthday girl and Roree has been orchestrating little surprises all day.
I’ve spent the day reading, organizing books, and working on projects. Basically, it has been a perfect birthday.
I have a birthday zoom call with family this evening as well.
I hope you are all having a great day, too!
BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Visit this link for ways you can help.
*= I am trying to make a more conscious effort to read books by authors of color. I know many others are as well. Moving forward, I will be annotating books by authors of color with an asterisk. Please let me know if I missed one or mislabeled one.
Physical Books: 2
*Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
I received this as an eARC from Netgalley. This is a contemporary romance about a woman whose mother-figure has passed away, leaving behind her 4 adoptive sons. Some of them want to close her knitting store, but one wants to keep it open and enlists the help of our heroine. The author, Kwana Jackson, also goes by KM Jackson, is a Black author. She has a big backlist of contemporary romance novels under the KM Jackson pen name that I definitely want to check out.
I think this book was just a case of bad timing and burn out for me. I found myself skimming pretty early on in this book because it felt like the story wasn’t moving forward at all. Scenes were lasting too long to keep my attention. It was actually pretty disappointing because I was really excited about this book! I don’t knit, but I crochet, and I liked hearing about yarn and knitting in Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series, however, I had to put this one down.
Becoming Mrs. Lockwood by LI Lynn
I talk more about this in my 7yo Picks my TBR video, but this was a book that Roree picked out for me. I think I heard this is a Twilight fanfiction, but it’s another one that reads like fanfiction, however, is extremely different than the original. It’s about a girl who is on vacation with her mom in Las Vegas, but hasn’t been able to see any sights since her mom is gambling all day and night. Since she is underage, she can’t go with her. All of that felt like a stretch to begin with, but then this super hot guy spots her from across the room and immediately is in love with her and takes her out to see Las Vegas. There is also an age gap in this, but it isn’t a good one. She’s a very immature 18 year old who is still in high school. This is mentioned when they first meet, yet he still pursues her. It just… rubbed me the wrong way. Like, how can this be instalove and still be a 500+ page contemporary romance. I DON’T UNDERSTAND!
Taming Her Mountain Man (Bear’s Tooth Mountain Man #1) by Cameron Hart
I read this for the Weekend Contemporaryathon, so I talk more about that in my Contemporaryathon Vlog. It’s about an adoptive girl that is running away from her shady adoptive parents to her estranged grandmother’s cabin in the mountains where she meets this older, loner mountain man who is running away from his past. This is a novella, so it’s obviously very instalovey. What put me off of it was the main character and the instalove wasn’t done well. She’s another one who is SO immature that I was weirded out by the age gap. I think I’ve found that I don’t mind age gaps as long as there isn’t a big difference in maturity levels.
Remind Me (Magnolia Sound #1) by Samantha Chase
This was a book I just randomly listened to off of Hoopla before I realized I have a limit on how many books I can read on that app. My library just got Hoopla, so I’m still learning. To be completely honest, I remember next to nothing about this book and the next one on this list.
If I remember correctly, it is a second chance romance about a girl who has moved away from a small town in North Carolina. She had a summer fling with her grandfather’s neighbor, but she moves away to NY to be a successful woman in tech (as they do in these types of romances). A hurricane is threatening the town and they are being asked to evacuate, but her grandfather is refusing to leave, so the hero stays with him.
I want to take a moment here to talk about this. I live in FL and have lived through many hurricanes. Some that were scary (Irma), some that fizzled out to be nothing but some wind and rain. Either way, living here my whole life has taught me that when there is a mandatory evacuation, you GTFO ASAP. Hurricanes can and have flattened entire communities.
Anyway, this book was just meh. I didn’t really care about the characters. There wasn’t a lot of chemistry. It was just ok.
The Royal Treatment (Alaskin Royal Family #1) by MaryJanice Davidson
I recently did a video talking about the books that got me through my Twilight hangover back in the day, and Mary Janice Davidson’s Undead series was on this list. When I came across this book on Audible Escape, I was curious to see how her contemporary romances would be.
And it was as I expected. Just meh. This is an alternative/futuristic reality in which Alaska is it’s own country or something weird like that. Anyway, they have a king there who is looking for a wife who would make a good princess for his son. He ends up setting up our main character with his son.
A couple of things were weird about this. First, the who Alaska thing seemed unnecessary, like, just make up a country like everyone else does. Second, she didn’t really do anything that I saw for the King to think she was so amazing. Something I did find interesting, was this was almost opposite of instalove. Both of them seemed pretty neutral about each other aside from sexual chemistry until the very end. I actually really appreciated that.
Also, the synopsis calls this book erotic. It’s not. If I did steam fans like Steph, I’d give this one 3 steam fans.
PS It’s Always Been You Part 1 by Lauren Blakely
I read this one for the Weekend Contemporaryathon and talk about it in that vlog. Let’s be real, I read this for Scott Eastwood’s narration… and it was pretty disappointing. The book and his narrating. He had a lot of awkward pauses. Anyway, the time it’s going to take me to tell you what this book is about is pretty much as long as it took me to listen to this audiobook. It’s about this daredevil, reality TV show guy who once hooked up with this girl who is some sort of historian, but ends up ditching her for his career, until one day they end up having to work together. And that’s it. That’s the whole story. The End.
Abducting Abby (Dragon Lords of Valdier #1) by SE Smith
I 100% do not remember reading this book at all. This is what happens when I go crazy adding audiobooks to my favorites in Hoopla (which I use as my TBR) because I got over-excited about having a new service.
This is a short, smutty, sci-fi romance that I picked up because… dragons. Abby creates and sells luxury artwork from her cabin in the mountains when one day an alien space ship crash lands in the woods near her and she ends up saving the guy inside not realizing that he’s a dragon shifter.
Now that I’m remembering the story, I did enjoy reading this one, it just wasn’t anything particularly special. I think I may actually move on in the series, though. If you like the whole fated mates thing, you’ll like this one. It’s no IPB, but it’s good for IPB hangovers. Averie – you should totes give this one a try!
Fire in His Blood (Fireblood Dragon #1) by Ruby Dixon
Ruby Dixon is the author of IPB, and I was super interested to see how her other books are. This series is a fated mates dragon shifter post-apocolyptic romance. It’s pretty long, I was expecting it to be short like IPB, but it’s not. And I feel like I would’ve liked it better if it was. It just got a little repetitive. I did like when there is a communication barrier between the hero and heroine in these types of books. Especially when the hero recognizes that she’s his mate, but she’s like WTF, dude, back off. And I especially, especially like when they respect consent despite the communication difference. I’m over here like, “IF AN ALIEN DRAGON SHIFTER WHO HAS INVADED OUR PLANET CAN UNDERSTAND CONSENT, WHY CAN’T YOU, BROCK?”
Racked and Stacked (Blacktop Cowboys #9) by Lorelei James
I read this for a secret TBR that I’m in the middle of right now because when I do secret TBRs it takes me years, so I’m not going to talk about this one too much. Just know it’s a cowboy romcom, enemies to lovers.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
This was an ARC I received from Netgalley. It’s Berkely’s first F/F published romance, which is awesome for the author. And I think this is OWN voices, but I’m not sure. I had super high expectations going into this one – I didn’t realize how high until the book didn’t meet them. It’s about a woman who works in the entertainment industry, I think she’s a director or producer, and her assistant. The media thinks that they are dating because of something that happens while paparazzi were around. This is a SUPER CRAZY INSANE slow burn. Like… the first kiss doesn’t even happen until 75% into this book. Don’t get me wrong, I adore slow burn. Mariana Zapata is my favorite contemporary romance author, but the burn was so slow in this one, it affected how I felt about the relationship. I started not caring after awhile whether they got together or not.
I can see how some of the scenes were supposed to be super full of tension, but I think because it took so long for the relationship to develop, I just wasn’t as invested.
Shy Girls Write It Better (Some Girls Do It #1) by May Sage
I read this one for Contemporaryathon and talk about it in the vlog. It’s about a woman who writes erotic romance and accidentally gives her hot boss a copy of one of her manuscripts instead of a report and instead of getting mad, he wants to give her real life BDSM experience because she writes it so badly.
Overall, this was pretty good for a short, smutty read. I don’t love the overly innocent, inexperienced heroine to begin with, so that definitely affected my rating. Also the fact that she’s supposed to be a super successful romance author and she knows she sucks at writing BDSM, but yet she continues to do it? I don’t know, something about that entire aspect of the premise was off to me and I think this book would’ve been better without it.
I did really like that the hero wasn’t your stereotypical alpha, though. That was refreshing.
Point of Retreat (Slammed #2) by Colleen Hoover
I read this book for Contemporaryathon. It’s the sequel to Slammed which is Colleen Hoover’s debut novel, a contemporary romance involving slam poets. Obviously it’s so much more than that, I mean, it’s Colleen Hoover. At first I wasn’t sure if this book was necessary before reading it, but Layken and Will’s story definitely wasn’t done.
*Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Renee Ahdieh is a Korean-American author and this book was a unique twist on Mulan. This book was as beautiful and badass as the cover.
I’ve always been partial to the story of Mulan, but I love how much more intricate this story was in comparison.
Our main character doesn’t magically have all sorts of powers and though she is a badass, it’s because of her quick-thinking bravery, and resilience, not any magical skill.
The writing was also one of my favorite things about this book. It was beautiful and fit so well with the story itself. I felt like I was experiencing everything our main character did, right beside her.
*The Marriage Game by Sara Desai
I received this ARC from Netgalley. I believe this is an OWN voices novel. It’s a fun enemies to lovers romance where our main character, Layla, moves home with her big family after a humiliating break up that essentially lost her her job. Her father sets her up, not only with the office above his restaurant, but also with some arranged marriage prospects (without her knowledge). Little does she know, he also rented out the space to Sam, CEO of a corporate downsizing company. Read my review here.
*The Fire Between High & Lo (Elements #2) by Brittainy C Cherry
My monthly Brittainy C Cherry novel. If you don’t know, I discovered BCC this year and fell in love with her books. I’ve been reading at least one of her backlist titles per month. She is a Black author, by the way.
This is a sunshine and grumpy, friends-to-lovers romance about two teenagers who have very rough home lives. Our hero’s mother is struggling with bad addiction which has trickled down to him and has been affecting him since he was a young child. Our heroine’s mother, though successful, is cold and disinterested. Though they come from completely different backgrounds, there is a lot they have in common that bring them together and they become really good friends.
This wasn’t my favorite BCC. That being said, It was still a really good, emotional story that I’ve come to expect from her. I think the main reason why I couldn’t give this 5 stars as I have literally every other BCC I’ve read, is because there is a lot of drug use and addiction in this novel and it’s just not my favorite thing to read about.
Mind Reader by Kirsty McManus
I read this book for Contemporaryathon and talk about it in my vlog as well. This is one of those novellas that I found for free on Kindle and downloaded because it sounded fun. The hero can see other people’s soul mates and knows when they will meet. Until he meets our heroine, a woman who works in the STEM field who thinks it’s all BS. Their paths cross and sparks fly.
This book is perfect for those who prefer a lot less steam. It’s very fade-to-black.
This book was a lot of fun to read. I had a lot of expectations going into this book, and I expected it to be pretty predictable, but it surprised me a few times. Though the beginning as a little rough, it starts from the hero’s POV and he was kind of douchey, but the book ended up being super sweet.
*The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
I believe this is OWN voices for the latinx rep. It’s a romantic comedy between a woman who has been left at the alter and the groom’s best man and brother. Because of this, it is a hate-to-love, but it’s so much more. The hero is dealing with issues of his own self worth in comparison to his brother (the ex-groom). The heroine is dealing with prejudice in the workplace.
I feel like this book is a little underrated. It’s not my favorite enemies to lovers, but I think it is a lot better than many of the reviews I’ve read for it were. There are a lot of complaints about the male narrator in the audiobooks and I agree, but it didn’t completely put me off of the book because of it.
I thought that the humor was really good, it was awkward in some areas, and the issues both of the characters were dealing with played out really well.
*Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love #2) by Alisha Rai
Alisha Rai is a South Asian American writer. This was a refreshingly diverse bodyguard romance with fantastic panic disorder rep. Katrina is an ex-model and divorcee to a very wealthy man, she also suffers from debilitating panic attacks, so when a couple in a coffee bar live tweet an interaction between herself and a man who approached her and it goes viral, she’s not only in danger, but it also triggers her anxiety. Her long-time bodyguard whisks her away from the spotlight and sparks fly.
I almost didn’t read this, but I’m so glad I didn’t listen to some of the sub-par reviews, because I really enjoyed this book. First of all, it’s a bodyguard romance and he’s been pining after her for a long time. There is also great anxiety rep.
I had to take away a star only because I felt like the build up of tension between these two characters was so good, but when they finally got together, I was a little let down and I couldn’t put my finger on why exactly.
*Desolate (Grace #1) by Autumn Grey
Autumn Grey has officially been added to my list of authors I need to read their entire backlists alongside Brittainy C Cherry, Mia Sheridan, and Sarina Bowen. Autumn doesn’t have as many books in her backlist as the others, so I’m going to have to pace myself.
I didn’t know what this book was about going into it for Contemporaryathon. I just saw the author’s name and picked it up. Autumn is a Black author, by the way. I recently read Fall Back Skyward by her after buying it from her at Shameless Book Con last year, and I fell in love with it.
This book is a forbidden new adult romance between a man who is planning on becoming a priest and a woman who is wrongfully considered the town whore. As soon as I realized the premise in this book, I was hooked. And the characters, oh my goodness, the characters and their chemistry were so potent. From the moment they met and how fascinated our hero is with the heroine, despite his dedication to God. How he can’t seem to tear himself away from her.
I will say, my only complaint is that this is a cliff hanger. It is part of a trilogy which is complete and I will be reading on in it. That and the hero started driving me crazy at the end because he wouldn’t make a freaking decision, but like I said, I loved this book.
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
I need to preface this by saying that I know Hannah Moskowitz has said some problematic things on Twitter recently. I haven’t seen them myself, I’ve only seen references, but I do want everyone to know that going into this novel.
With that being said, this book was such a great and refreshing representation of chronic illness in YA. I have Multiple Sclerosis and though none of the characters in this book have that exact illness, they do have their own and they do have similar experiences and thoughts.
The two meet at, I believe, an infusion center. Some place that many with chronic illnesses are very familiar with. And there is great chemistry and bonding and banter from the beginning. There were so many moments where I found myself nodding vigerously as they talked about healthy people vs. people with chronic illnesses. What it’s like to be surrounded by healthy people when you are not. Being limited and defined by your illness. Big topics that were well portrayed.
I definitely felt seen.
Grin and Beard It (Winston Brothers #2) by Penny Reid
I’m slowly but surely making my way through this series and so far I’ve been loving every second of it. Normally I’m not a big fan of the fame element in a romance novel, but it was a little easier to swallow with this book because it was the heroine who is famous. Our heroine is a comedic actress who gets rescued by our hero, a park ranger, in a small town where she is filming her upcoming movie.
Fame plays a big part in this, which I normally don’t like, but there was something about the dynamic between her outgoing, charisma mixed with his southern charm that I loved.
Beard Science (Winston Brothers #3) by Penny Reid
So far the first book is still my favorite, but this comes in close second. This is Cletus’s story, and he’s such a big weirdo I was wondering who he was going to end up with. It was NOT the heroine. Where Cletus is super smart and manipulative and quirky, our heroine is very polished and put together and naive. She has lived under her mother’s thumb working at a very successful bakery.
Nobody in town takes her seriously, especially Cletus, until she blackmails him and they are forced together. Soon, he realizes there is a lot more to this seemingly shallow woman.
I loved this book so much more than I thought I would, given the main character. I thought, when we were first introduced to her that she was going to get on my nerves, but honestly, her character growth and unexpected depth made me change my mind entirely.
And I’m such a fan of quirky heroes, so I loved Cletus, too.
Powertools: Collection 1 (Powertools 1 & 2) by Jayne Rylon
You guys. I never would’ve expected a super steamy reverse harem novel would be so high on my list, but here we are.
I talk a lot more about this book in my Contemporaryathon vlog, but in short, I loved this book because though it was ridiculous, there was a strong romance in both of the two short stories. I also was totally into the whole summer vibe of the first book and the immersive autumn vibes of the second book. Also, the hero in the second book is so swoony and I fell so hard for him.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Mackenzies & McBrides #1) by Jennifer Ashley
Yay! A historical romance I LOVED! I knew it was only a matter of time until I found one that hit the spot for me and it was absolutely this one.
This was a rec from a comment on one of my videos and they freaking nailed it.
This is a historical romance between a widow and a man with autism. Of course, back then, they just thought he was mad and threw him and everyone treated him so horribly because of it. Seriously, my heart absolutely broke. However, our heroine is the only one who truly understood him, or at least didn’t look down on him. I also absolutely loved her. Because she has her husband’s fortune, she doesn’t need to marry. In fact, men are lining up for her. She also isn’t a naive, innocent virgin. She knows what she wants and she goes after it. She’s smart and witty.
This was everything I am realizing I love in a romance novel.
*Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda
This freaking book.
So, I haven’t seen this musical yet, but I am such a huge fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the music – especially Jonathan Groff’s song, though, I’m biased because I’m obsessed with him. I’ve watched performances and interviews and I’m so excited about finally getting to see this on Disney Plus on July 3. I can’t contain myself.
I actually downloaded this audiobook when it went on sale a while ago, but I picked it up on a whim last week and finished it in a day because I became obsessed.
I loved seeing how this musical became the phenomenon it is. I loved hearing Lin’s thought process behind creating it. How he wanted to depict these historical figures in a modern, much more diverse way, using a genre of music that was not associated with Broadway at all. From the choreography to the costumes – it was absolutely fascinating.
I just… I need July 3 to be now.
Lover Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2) by Tessa Bailey
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one. So many people complained about how the hero was way to alpha for them and I kept thinking, “Well, jeez, if he’s too alpha for them, he’ll definitely be too alpha for me.” But, honestly? He wasn’t.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely alpha, but I adored his reasoning for it.
Anyway, this is a second chance romance between a married couple who have a ton of chemistry in bed, but have lost touch of each other in every other way. So, when our heroine has had enough, she decides to leave her husband.
But he is not having it. To him, she is his everything. It’s kind of the opposite of The Bromance Bookclub because he thinks everything is fine since the sex is still really good, but that’s not the case. I loved how this book really dove into love languages and how both people must understand the other’s language and support it.
And there was so much longing, it made my heart hurt. Yes, he was very alpha. He very much wanted to be the one who provided for his wife, however, I wasn’t bothered by it AT ALL.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
OMG this book was so sweet, I couldn’t handle it. It’s a whimsical fantasy that, if I had to explain it in one word, it would be charming.
It’s about a man in his forty’s who has led a very mediocre life thus far. He lives for his job, which is to evaluate orphanages for extraordinary children for a very corporate overlord of a company. He’s sent on a highly classified job to check out this orphanage for especially gifted, some think dangerous, children.
It’s very elementary school x-men.
And oh my goodness, the character growth and the relationships that are built, both familial, romantic, and platonic are all so strong and vibrant. This book absolutely lives up to the hype.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
This is another book that absolutely lived up to the hype. Though the title might lead you to believe that this is going to be a fun, light read, it’s really not. There is a lot of substance behind this book that the title and cover do not allude to.
Aside from a swoony romance and hilarious banter and writing, we are dealing with grief, with loss, with resentment … a lot of heavy topics woven between this romcom story about two writers who have challenged themselves to write each other’s genre, one literary fiction, one women’s fiction/romance.
The Edge #0.5-2 by CD Reiss
These are all short, but super intense military suspense romance novels. I feel that the prequel is required reading for this series because it sets up the relationship so solidly, that despite the craziness that this couple goes through in later books, you root hard for them. The couple meet in a war zone, one a surgeon who works for 8 days straight saving lives and one a psychiatrist who is trying to keep him standing and sane – along with all the other medics and soldiers. I felt like this book was so well researched and gorgeously written. CD Reiss is called the Shakespeare of Smut for a reason. The steamy scenes were just as intense as the rest of the book.
I absolutely plan on reading the rest of this series!
I recently read and loved Beach Read, which came out today! So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite quotes from the book.
Sometimes I just missed liking people.
What’s it like writing Hemingway circle-jerk fanfiction?
I’d had two sips of Pete’s latte, and it was three sips too many.
Mom’s first diagnosis taught me that love was an escapee rope, but it was her second diagnosis that taught me love could be a life vest when you were drowning.
But whether or not I was actually succeeding at this book, I was writing it. It came in painful ebbs and desperate flows, as if timed to the waves crashing somewhere behind that wall of fog.
He laughed. “You know, maybe the reason you haven’t been able to finish your book is that you keep asking what someone else wants to read instead of what you want to write.”
Speaking of fire, sometimes his eyes seemed to be reflecting it, even though there wasn’t any. The car was nearly pitch-black for God’s sake. His eyes should be allowed, physically or morally, to glint like that. His pupils were disrespectful to the laws of nature.
I always feel like she’s drowning in life. In a good way. Like it’s rushing up her nose, you know?
“I knew you in college, January.”
“The seems like the biggest in a series of vast exaggerations you’ve made tonight.”
“Fine, I knew of you.”
“That,” he said while I was eating, and pointed at a pathetically small carousel. “That looks like it would have a really hard time killing me.”
“You’re as small as you are ridiculous.”
“So not very?”
“Come on, Gus,” I bumped his arm. “You can do it. Be adorable.”
His eyes darted to where I’d bumped him, then back to my face, and he scowled.
“I think you misunderstood me. I said adorable.”
The hardest thing had turned out to be being angry with someone you couldn’t fight it out with.
How the hell were people in books always taking cold showers?
“You mother has been a lot of people in the twenty years I’ve known her, and I’ve had a chance to fall in love with every single one of them, Janie. That’s the key to marriage. You have to keep falling in love with every new version of each other, and it’s the best feeling in the whole world.”
“I just remembered what you said about the bookshelf,” he said in a gravelly voice. “You can’t even stop roasting me when I’m losing my mind over your body.”
We’d just had sex like the world was burning down around us, but if I ever got to kiss Gus again, I wanted it to be this version of him. The one who didn’t feel so weighted down by the world around him that he had to lean just to stay upright.
I can miss my dad and hate him at the same time.
Gus touched the side of my face. “I don’t need snowflakes.” He kissed me. “As long as I have January.”
This is how life feels too often. Like you’re doing everything you can to survive only to be sabotaged by something beyond your control, maybe even some darker part of yourself.
Sometimes it was your body. Your cells turning into poison and fighting against you. Or chronic pain sprouting up your neck and wrapping around the outsides of your scalp until it felt like fingernails sinking in your brain.
Last month I had Roree, my 7 year old, pick out five books from my bookshelves for me to read and the order I should read them.
It took me this long to actually finish them because I had a bunch of ARCs to read and a few readathons, but I finally did it!
And this was the result:
Book #1: Fall Back Skyward by Autumn Grey
Why She Picked It: She loved the girl on the front cover’s hair – she thought she looked like a mermaid.
What It’s About: This is a contemporary epic romance about a girl who moves in next door to two brothers who both fall for her, but from the beginning, her heart belongs to the quiet brother who happens to be deaf, as opposed to the charming, outgoing brother.
What I thought: I ADORED this book. Autumn Grey is definitely going to be an author I read more of. Much like Mia Sheridan and Brittainy C. Cherry, I’m determined to read her backlist.
This book was heartbreaking and swoony. I adored how it was told and how it jumped timelines. When you’re first introduced to the characters, it is right in the middle of their story. I love how I was immediately invested in these characters and when you do get to see how they met and how things progressed, it’s so satisfying, but also heartbreaking because you know how the story is going to end.
Or at least you think you do.
Contemporary books don’t tend to have a lot of epic romances, but man, this one did. I was so in love with this couple.
I can’t even tell you how many butterflies I had while reading this book and I’m so grateful that my daughter picked this one out for me to read. It truly makes me wonder how many great books are sitting on my shelf, just waiting to be read and continuously being looked over.
Rating: 5 Stars ★★★★★
Book #2: Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Why She Picked It: This faces out on my bookshelf and the cover drew her eye because of the metallic red on black.
What It’s About: This is a retelling of the Queen of Hearts’ origin story from Alice in Wonderland.
What I thought: Holy. Crap. Another amazing choice!
I’ve been reading Melissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and I read Renegades as well, and I really enjoyed both of them, but, in Renegades in particular, I found it to be a little immature and I think that is what I was expecting from this book.
I was wrong.
This book is such a book hangover cure for Caraval because of the whimsy and magic that has the ability to absolutely sweep you away.
I knew how this story would end. I mean, it’s a villain’s origin story, so the sense of foreboding I had while reading this was warring with how much I was rooting for the romance.
And the romance.
It was SO good. It felt so much like the romance in Caraval. Epic and effervescent. But combined with the tinge of darkness because of who our main character ultimately becomes.
Rating: 5 stars ★★★★★
Book #3: Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
Why She Picked It: She liked the cover of it because it looked like “Tie dye.”
What It’s About: This is about a very old witch in a teenager’s body, who is sick of how dark her life has become and decides to hide away at a retreat for magical beings.
What I thought: The premise of this is so good. I loved the idea of a witch who has grown tired of the dark privilege her so-called friends have to the point where she escapes to this tree-hugging, everyone-pitches-in-and-earns-their-keep farm.
I hated the main character. She was so immature, yet was supposed to be something like a thousand years old! Yes, she was in a teenager’s body, but she threw tantrums and was rude and acted like a 13 year old brat.
I feel like this would’ve been so much better if it was new adult and she was in her early 20s, and, yes, being reluctant in a new lifestyle is fine, but acting like a brat – I just couldn’t handle it. And it makes me so mad because I love the title of this and I really do like this author, but I couldn’t handle the main character.
Rating: No rating. I DNF’d this book.
Book #4: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Why She Picked It: She thought the girl on the cover was beautiful and she liked the flowers. She also liked the metallic blue.
What It’s About: This is a twist on the story of Mulan.
What I thought: This book was as beautiful and badass as the cover.
I’ve always been partial to the story of Mulan, but I love how much more intricate this story was in comparison.
Our main character doesn’t magically have all sorts of powers and though she is a badass, it’s because of her quick-thinking bravery, and resilience, not any magical skill.
The writing was also one of my favorite things about this book. It was beautiful and fit so well with the story itself. I felt like I was experiencing everything our main character did, right beside her.
Rating: 5 stars ★★★★★
Book #5: Becoming Mrs. Lockwood by KI Lynn
Why She Picked It: She liked the purple spine and the guy on the cover “looked cool.”
What It’s About: A high school girl whose mom ditches her while they are on vacation in Las Vegas, so she meets this older, rich guy in her hotel lobby who takes her out to see the sights since her mom didn’t.
What I thought: How can a book simultaneously be insta-lovey and also 500 pages. I just don’t understand.
The other thing I didn’t understand was what the heck the hero saw in the heroine. He’s infatuated with her because he sees her across the room staring at her phone for a really long time and somehow she’s “not like other girls.”
On top of that, when he does talk to her, he finds out she’s 18, but still in high school, yet he pursues her anyway.
And, of course, she’s virginal and innocent, yet super inappropriately flirty for having just met an older man.
I just… I couldn’t do it. I could not do over 500 pages of this nonsense.
Rating: No rating, DNF.
Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.
A personal anecdote for you that, I swear, relates to this book: I work with a lot of ivy league graduates of the scholarly nature and our main character, Mary’s parents are so painfully, triggeringly, pin-point-perfectly depictive of those types of people.
I truly wondered if I would make it through this book with all the eye-twitching I had going on any time her parents spoke.
Mary’s parents have the uncanny ability to overcomplicate when communicating and they are in need of constant validation and awe with their usage of SAT words in normal conversation.
Honestly, that goes for everyone in Mary’s family. Including our narrator. I tolerated it because her voice makes total sense given her upbringing and obsession with classic novels.
The narrator honest-to-goodness threw in the word “erstwhile.” As soon as I read that, my eye started twitching because I have a vivid experience at work in which my boss’s boss tried to come at us with an email communication to the community using that word, and we (in the marketing/communications department) immediately vetoed it.
As I hit the 50% mark, I began to find Mary charming, funny, and observant, which made for a great reading experience and I fell more and more in love with her big, quirky family. Yes, even her parents whose arms must hurt from all the self back-patting.
I grew up in a big family (3 siblings, lots of cousins) and seeing it depicted in books and movies always warms my heart – especially when done well. It’s why I tear up watching Little Women and why I adored To All the Boys I Loved Before. This was no different.
I say the following with both praise and warning:
The writing style is very nobody-talks-like-that-but-we-love-to-see-it Dawson’s Creek meets SAT prep with a lot of Gilmore Girls, but with classic literature references instead of pop culture references. There is even a glossary of literature references made at the end of the book.
You know how there is a Rory Gilmore reading challenge? I totally could see a Mary Porter-Malcom reading challenge stemming from this book.
All that being said, I think this book is very self-aware. I believe (and hope) that it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, in which case, it is done incredibly well.
And now, I shall gush, because it’s what I do best:
I loved seeing how Mary’s world clashed with contemporary high school – how she interpreted everyday high school drama and how everyday high schoolers interpreted her.
The friend group in this was so, so refreshing. All three girls have such vivid personalities with little focus on looks, which I so appreciated. I seriously WISH I had friends like those in high school. I’m many, MANY years out of high school and I even wanted to hang out with them.
And who would I be if I didn’t talk about the romance in this book?
YA romances can be pretty predictable, but I’m going to be honest, this one wasn’t nearly as predictable as most YA novels I read. There were SO many sweet, swoony moments. The type of tiny moments that are significant simply because of the build-up.
The inclusion of Mary’s diary entries were not extra fluff. They directed the story in significant, but subtle ways. They weren’t boringly long, they were short and sweet, but packed a punch.
When I closed this book (figuratively speaking because I read the eARC for this), I felt exactly how I hope to feel every time I open one… a little giddy, a little nostalgic, and a lot satisfied.
I love the cover!
The entire Pucked series by Helena Hunting.
I kept saying that I’ve been wanting to reread this whole series – and I finally did! This time around I realized how much more I liked Book 6 than before! Book 5 is still my all-time favorite, but Book 6 is up there with Book 1 and Book 5 now!
Fire In His Blood by Ruby Dixon
This is a dragon shifter, post-apocalyptic fantasy romance by the author of Ice Planet Barbarians. I like IPB better so far, but this one has a lot of potential.
1 secret book!
Jock Row (Jock Hard #1) by Sara Ney
The main character in this book was SO annoying and I could not stand it. She gets kicked out of a frat party for basically being super annoying and holier than thou. I don’t think you are supposed to agree with the frat guys who kick her out, but I certainly did. It’s a romance between her and the athlete who has to guard her from coming back into the party. She was the worst and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I DNFd it. I don’t see myself picking this up again.
January (Calendar Girls #1) by Audrey Carlan
This is about a girl who becomes an escort to make enough money to save her father from gambling debt. The main character was the “not like other girls” girl and I couldn’t handle how judgey she was. The hero is ok, but his character wasn’t well developed.
Hard Hitter (Brooklyn Bruisers #2) by Sarina Bowen
This is a contemporary hockey romance. This was fine. I didn’t find the hero very likable, even though I tend to like grumpy heroes and the heroine was pretty forgettable. Coming off of the high of Brooklynaire, not much could compare, though, so I can’t fault it for that. I really do like this series so far and plan on continuing.
The Loner’s Lady by Jessa Kane
I read this short novella for Smutathon. This is about a girl who is pretending to be her best friend’s girlfriend, but she ends up falling for his dad instead. This just was a little too extra for me. I felt like everything was rushed and ridiculous. Granted, that’s kind of the nature of this type of book, but Katee Robert has already proved to me it can be done well. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a good example of that.
I Dare You by Ilsa Madden-Mills
I read this for Smutathon because it was a short audiobook I found on Audible Escape. This book was fine, but not very memorable. It actually has a cute premise, it’s a new adult sports romance about a girl who develops a relationship with someone who text her from an unknown number.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
This is a thriller following the story of a woman whose sister had gone missing years ago and present-day disappearances that are affecting her. I feel weird rating this highly only because it’s so graphic and gruesome and entirely messed up. But I could not stop reading this book. I really need to read more thrillers.
Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
This was an adorable friends-to-lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers YA Contemporary romance that involves camping and forced togetherness. I talk more about this in my Spring Break Wrap Up.
Pipe Dreams (Brooklyn Bruisers #3) by Sarina Bowen
This is the same hockey romance series as Pipe Dreams. I actually read this series out of order, I read the first book first, but then I skipped ahead to Brooklynaire, and ended up going back to this one. I didn’t mind that, though, mostly because this book takes place during the same timeline as Brooklynaire, but you get a different perspective. This one is a second-chance romance that was a little hard to swallow, in my opinon, which is why I took away a star.
Cherish Hard (Hard Hitters #1) by Nalini Singh
This is a second chance contemporary romance that had a really great meetcute and such a good book boyfriend. I talk more about this in my Spring Break Wrap Up.
Inappropriate by Vi Keeland
This is a story about a woman whose vacation video gets leaked to her boss, which gets her fired. It’s obviously not fair at all, so in a drunken rage she sends a hate-email to her boss’s boss. And so begins our story. I read this one completely on a whim. I saw in it my wish list for Audible Escape, and decided to give it a shot. I’ve never loved anything by this author, but I’ve never strongly disliked anything either. This one I definitely liked more than other books I’ve read by her, but it wasn’t quite 5 stars. What I did really enjoy was that there was much more to this book than you would expect given the premise. It was more emotional than I anticipated.
The Happy Ever After Playlist (The Friend Zone #2) by Abby Jimenez
This takes place in the same world as The Friend Zone, only this time we are following the friend of the heroine in that book. I don’t really want to say more because I feel like it is spoilery to The Friend Zone, just know there is a rockstar element in this book. I think I am one of the only people who really liked The Friend Zone. I completely understand the issues many readers had with the ending of that book, but I still really, really liked it. In fact, I liked The Friend Zone more than this one (I gave that one 5 stars). I’m not going to lie, I thought I was going to adore this book and though I really liked it, I didn’t love it.
Theirs for the Night (The Thalanian Dynasty #1) by Katee Robert
This is an MMF romance about a girl who goes out to a club with her friend on her birthday and ends up going home with two guys – who happen to be a prince and his bodyguard. This was the group read for Smutathon. As usual, I think Katee Robert does such a great job with super steamy, short romances. I really like this one, though maybe not as much as I liked Your Dad Will Do. I think i’m going to enjoy the rest of this series a little bit more than I liked this one.
Better When It Hurts (Stripped #2) by Skye Warren
I decided to read this book for Smutathon because it was on Audible Escape and super short. It’s a gritty stripper romance. I’ve been wanting to read more Skye Warren books, and though this wasn’t my favorite, I definitely want to read more of her books.
House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J Mass
This is SJM’s first adult fantasy novel – it’s full of pretty much every type of fantasy creatures including angels and faeries. I talk more about this in my Spring Break Wrap Up.
Brooklynaire (Brooklyn #1, Brooklyn Bruisers #4) by Sarina Bowen
I have no idea what series this book belongs to because it takes place in the same world as Brooklyn Bruisers and in some places it is listed as part of that series and others it is listed as the Brooklyn Series. Either way it can be read as a standalone. It follows the story of a quirky millionaire who owns an Apple-like tech company and a hockey team. It’s a friends-to-lovers workplace romance with so much longing and swoon, I can’t even. I’m so in love with the hero in this book and how much he pines after the heroine without her ever knowing.
By the Book by Amanda Sellet
This was an ARC from Netgalley. It’s a YA contemporary romance about a girl who reads a lot of classic and historical novels and creates a scoundrel survival guide for the girls at her school based on the books she’s read. It was super cute, but written in a very particular way that may not appeal to everyone – review to come!
Your Dad Will Do (A Touch of Taboo #1) by Katee Robert
This was a highly anticipated read for me ever since I saw that Katee Robert was planning to release it and it lived up to what I hoped for it. This is a super short, super smutty, super taboo romance about a girl whose fiance cheats on her, so in revenge she sleeps with his dad. A lot of people say this one lacks plot, but they still really liked it, and I don’t disagree, but I also didn’t mind. I had so much fun reading this one and it made me fall even more in love with Katee Robert.
The Butterfly Project by Emma Scott
This book was recommended to me by a subscriber friend, Taseen, in the comments of one of my videos and I feel like you guys know me so well, because I loved this freaking book. I did not realize that this is about a character I loved from the Full Tilt duet. She’s a tattoo artist who is trying to publish a graphic novel that is very personal to her and when she gets rejected she almost leaves New York, but ultimately ends up staying when she’s able to become roommates with our hero. They have an adorable meet cute and omggg the hero in this book. He’s one of those characters who is such a good person who is put in bad situations. Both of our characters are dealing with guilt from their pasts, but slowly healing together. I’m kind of obsessed with him, he’s one of my favorite book boyfriends.
Wolfsong (Green Creek #1) by TJ Klune
I knew I was going to love this book, but I didn’t know how hard I would swoon. For some reason, I don’t know why I expected that this book wouldn’t be as romance heavy as it was. I think maybe because it’s about werewolves and I figured it’d be more about that than the romance and while the world was well-developed, the characters were well-developed, and the plot was interesting, the romance was also extremely strong. I feel like a lot of the time you’re sacrificing one thing for another, but it truly felt like this book didn’t lag behind in any of those things. Even the writing was excellent.
But honestly, it was the swoon in this book that tipped me over the edge. My heart hurt in the best and worst ways while reading this book and I can’t get enough.
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
I was a little scared going into this book for the same reason why I wanted to read it in the first place.
You see, the main character, Adam, has Multiple Sclerosis. While I always appreciate representation of this particular chronic illness – the fact that I have it, too, is a little scary to read about.
I wasn’t so much worried that it would be misrepresented – after all this disease varies greatly from person to person – it’s more that knowing everything that COULD happen to me always terrifies me.
So, let’s start off with that.
I loved Adam’s character, first of all. Of all the characters in the story, I liked him the most. Despite going through a lot of tough things, he has a very calming personality. He’s a great balance to our heroine, Zayneb.
His experience with MS was pretty different than mine, even though we both had Optic Neuritis. I can’t say that it was an inaccurate representation because I don’t know enough about the different ways it presents itself, but he had blurry vision whereas for me (and for most of the accounts I’ve heard) it’s more eye pain and flashing lights/broken glass vision.
He did get a steroid infusion and I wish side effects were addressed. It was also strange that there was no talk of long term treatment, especially for someone his age. And HOW he kept it a secret from his parents, I have no idea considering all the medical procedures necessary to diagnose.
It seemed very secondary to what the novel was about and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
As far as the book itself, the story, and Zayneb… I enjoyed it. The romance was sweet, but I found reading Zayneb’s story so frustrating and hard to read. Especially knowing that the hate she endures is very real. I understand why she is such an angry character, but that doesn’t mean it was easy to read. I think her aunt, Adam, and her friends were a nice balance to her character.
One of the things I loved the most about this was the meetcute. Adam and Zayneb meet in the airport and they happen to have the same unique journal. I always love a good meetcute!
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
Whew! I almost forgot to post this today, but we’re here! Let’s do this!
I kind of feel like this already is a band name, it sounds so band name-y. I feel like this would be a rock band.
If I make a girl band, I’d call us The Beautiful Liars. Just sayin.
I want a really terrible band to be called The Best Thing. Oh, irony.
This would be my favorite ever. I’m picturing a 98 Degrees type of boyband – a bunch of buff guys that all used to be football players that decided to form a boyband.
This is 100% an Evanescence cover band.
K-pop band with, like, 20 members.
This is a heavy metal band that seriously thinks they are vampires. They drink blood on stage.
This would be the only singer-songwriter duo that actually stays in love and stays together.
I only picture a heavy metal band with a bunch of buff red-headed dudes wearing kilts.
The next Billie Eilish.