ARC Review: The Knockout by Sajni Patel

5-stars
Overall Rating: 5 Stars
Title: The Knockout
Author: Sajni Patel
Format: ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis:
A rising star in Muay Thai figures out what (and who) is worth fighting for in this #ownvoices YA debut full of heart.

If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, exceling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse.

Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride–she’ll have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused for the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history–if she has the courage to go for it.

GOODREADS

Review

I’m absolutely in love with so many things about this book. The diversity (her best friend is Filipino!), the characters, the sweet romance, and the inspiring sports and STEM aspects.

I absolutely adored Kareena’s character. Even though she is so young, her confidence and self-awareness and perseverance is so inspiring, yet still believable for someone her age. She still has a lot to learn, but I appreciated how NOT annoying it was to be in her head. She didn’t always make perfect decisions, but it was refreshing to read about a teenager who understood her strength and intelligence, despite outside influences.

Amit is also not your typical hero. He’s a little nerdy, super-smart, seemingly the perfect Indian boy who is dealing with his own teenage struggles. Kareena and Amit are an unlikely pair, but they work so well together.

I also adore Kareena’s parents. They are such a strong support system and remind me so much of my own parents – willing to give up everything for her dreams.

This book is not only entertaining reading this as an adult, but I’m so excited to think about all the young people who will pick up this book and see things through Kareena’s eyes. I hope she inspires them as she has inspired me.


Butterfly Rating: 2 Stars

2-stars


Re-read Worthiness: Yes


Bookshelf Placement: Yes


Book Boyfriend Rating: 4 stars

4-stars

 

 

 

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

3-stars
Overall Rating: 3 Stars
Title: What You Wish For
Author: Katherine Center
Format: Audiobook provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis:
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.

When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

GOODREADS

Review

I have loved everything I’ve read by Katherine Center so far and while this book wasn’t my favorite of hers, I still enjoyed it for the most part.

There are definite trigger warnings in this book for the loss of a loved one, gun violence, abuse, and medical trauma.

All of those trigger warnings may make you think that this is going to be an incredibly emotional book… you’re right… however, it isn’t all doom and gloom. It tackles some serious subject matter, but the hope and joy in this book make a good balance.

I did find some of those parts a bit cheesy – and trust me, I can tolerate a fair amount of it – sometimes, considering the darker parts, I wondered if it was a little over the top.

Another criticism I found – which is fully just a “me” thing – are inaccuracies or things that just wouldn’t happen in a private school setting. Or if they did, it’d be a HUGE deal.

I have a better part of a decade’s experience with the administration/development (and parent) side of private schools and it was slightly irritating to read about how certain things were handled at the school that would not fly in real life.

It took me out of the story every time.

The most glaring was when the new Head of School claimed he was re-allocating funds that were raised for a new playground to build something completely different. I could NEVER imagine that happening. Parents would lose their ever-loving minds if they donated large sums of money to a capital campaign and the nonprofit organization suddenly changed their minds about what they were using the money for. I also highly doubt a Board of Directors would agree to that.

Is it even legal?

There were also little things like how the “quirky” teacher behaved in flashbacks and I kept imagining what kind of uproar it truly would’ve caused at faculty meetings – and how many complaints the Head of School and administration would get from other teachers. You’d be surprised at how upsetting those overly outgoing teachers are to the rest of the faculty. I think I would’ve been more impressed with this book if it had handled those nuances more accurately. It definitely would’ve been far more believable for me.

I really enjoyed the romance, though the hero’s “before and after” characteristics were so jarringly different that his character didn’t hold a lot of believability to me. In fact, I found both the main characters somewhat lacking. I loved the epilepsy rep, though I can’t speak to how well it was done. I did feel like the heroine’s quirks weren’t consistent. I can’t really put into words what it was exactly, but something felt off with both of these characters which has not been the case at all with other Katherine Center books I’ve read.

Speaking of the epilepsy rep, I fully empathize with how the main character felt about her illness. It is a constant storm cloud that looms over her head and plays a part in every decision she makes. It refocused her future and how her mind works on a minute-to-minute basis. The constant, “is this an episode,” worry was so relatable to me.

I have Multiple Sclerosis, so I know what it is like to carry around your illness with you everywhere you go, whether you’re having a flare-up or not. I both love and hate reading about it in books.

As always in Katherine Center books, I did love the ending. I love how she wraps things up in a pretty bow. And OMG if I could rate only her essay about reading for joy at the end, I’d give it all the stars in the universe, it was so validating and so good!


Audiobook Performance: 5 stars

5-stars
The audiobook reader for this was REALLY good!


Butterfly Rating: 1 Star

1-star


Re-read Worthiness: No


Bookshelf Placement: Maybe


Book Boyfriend Rating: 2 stars

2-stars

 

 

 

ARC Review: A Change In Tide by Freya Barker

4-stars
Overall Rating: 4 Stars
Title: A Change in Tide
Author: Freya Barker
Series: Northern Lights #1
Format: Audiobook ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis:
What impact would it have when everything suddenly faded to black?

For Mia, a crowded subway ride changes her entire life. Retreating to the wilderness helps her cope with a world that is suddenly too loud, too turbulent.
Her existence safely contained to the small cottage on the lake, she is unprepared for the neighbor that moves across the bay

A career-ending injury has Jared permanently benched. His reputation as The Enforcer won’t survive the unanticipated responsibilities awaiting him.
Away from the public eye, he adjust to his new reality, under the quiet observation of the intriguing hermit on the other side of the water.

GOODREADS

Review

First of all, the audiobook for this was really, really good. The narrators are new-to-me, but I really liked them. The male narrator had such a nice, deep voice.

While I feel like this story was longer than it needed to be, I did really like it. I especially appreciated that the main character was a midwife who supported the hero’s sister throughout her “4th trimester.” It’s obvious the author has experience with all the nuances that come along with breastfeeding and all the attachment parenting things that I went through as a new mom. I had so many flashbacks to when my girls were newborns reading this book – it even made me nostalgic for those days as hard as they were!

I love this take on the hockey player trope. While it plays a big part in the story, especially toward the end, it’s different since Jared is retired due to an injury.

While I don’t have agoraphobia, the representation of the anxiety part of her disorder was done really well.

I loved how Jared took care of his sister and how well the heroine fit into their little family.

The journalist was incredibly annoying and seemed a bit over the top.

This book definitely made me wish I had a nice, secluded lake house across from a famous hockey player! Lol!


Audiobook Performance: 5 stars

5-stars


Butterfly Rating: 2 Stars

2-stars


Re-read Worthiness: Nah


Bookshelf Placement: No


Book Boyfriend Rating: 4 stars

4-stars

 

 

 

ARC Review: Not Like the Movies (Waiting for Tom Hanks #2) by Kerry Winfrey⁣

5-stars
Overall Rating: 5 Stars
Title: Not Like the Movies
Author: Kerry Winfrey⁣
Series: Waiting for Tom Hanks #2
Format: ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: 7/7/20

Synopsis:
What happens when your life is a rom-com…but you don’t even believe in true love?

Chloe Sanderson is an optimist, and not because her life is easy. As the sole caregiver for her father, who has early onset Alzheimer’s, she’s pretty much responsible for everything. She has no time—or interest—in getting swept up in some dazzling romance. Not like her best friend Annie, who literally wrote a rom-com that’s about to premiere in theaters across America…and happens to be inspired by Chloe and Nick Velez, Chloe’s cute but no-nonsense boss.

As the buzz for the movie grows, Chloe reads one too many listicles about why Nick is the perfect man, and now she can’t see him as anything but Reason #2: The Scruffy-Bearded Hunk Who’s Always There When You Need Him. But unlike the romance Annie has written for them, Chloe isn’t so sure her own story will end in a Happily Ever After.

GOODREADS

Review

⁣⁣Finally, an illustrated cover that matches the story!⁣

This book is just as adorable as the cover. It’s a hilarious romcom about a barista named Chloe who is dealing with a lot: her best friend wrote a screenplay that is becoming a popular movie about the romance between her and her boss… except, her and her boss aren’t even in a relationship, which makes things awkward, but is also a bit forshadowing.⁣

There was so much to love in this adorable novel. Chloe doesn’t have it easy, her mother and brother have abandoned her to take care of her father with Alzheimer’s completely on her own, she’s trying to get through business school, and she’s working full time. However, she somehow holds onto her constant optimism by a thread even though the hits keep coming.⁣

The banter between Chloe and her boss, Nick, is so on point. I laughed out loud and highlighted so many lines while reading this one.⁣

Chloe and Annie’s friendship is total friendship goals and I absolutely MUST read Annie’s story, if only to get more of these two characters.⁣

The only downside about this book is that Chloe’s character became a little frustrating toward the end. Her reasons for refusing to be in a relationship with Nick just didn’t make sense to me, but Nick’s character alone was enough to make up for that. He’s the quiet, seemingly grumpy, but secretly sweet hero that I absolutely love.⁣


Butterfly Rating: 2 Stars

2-stars


Re-read Worthiness: Maybe

I might check out the audiobook after I read Waiting for Tom Hanks!


Bookshelf Placement: Yes!

This cover is gorgeous!


Book Boyfriend Rating: 3 stars

3-stars

 

 

 

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

4-stars
Overall Rating: 4 Stars
Title: The Marriage Game
Author: Sara Desai
Format: ARC Received in Exchange for an Honest Review from Netgalley

Synopsis:
A high stakes wager pits an aspiring entrepreneur against a ruthless CEO in this sexy romantic comedy.

After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. He would do anything to see her smile again. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business and creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a man. She doesn’t know he’s arranged a series of blind dates until the first one comes knocking on her door…

As CEO of a corporate downsizing company Sam Mehta is more used to conflict than calm. In search of a quiet new office, he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he’s forced to share his space with the owner’s beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

GOODREADS

Review

I smiled a lot while I read this book.

This novel is full of heartwarming family dynamics between quirky characters. I loved Layla’s relationship with her huge family, particularly all her aunties, her mother, and especially her father.

I did wonder, though, why she didn’t have a stronger reaction to what happened in the beginning of the book with her father. As someone who is very close to my parents (and someone who has dropped everything to sit with my parents in the hospital for days on several occasions), it almost seemed like it was an afterthought to her, which rubbed me the wrong way a bit. Especially considering how close she is with her family. I would have loved to see that big family rally around him and one another in support as my big family tends to do in similar situations.

Aside from that, I think this is such a fun/funny hate-to-love romance particularly for people who like to see the strong attraction between the love interests despite their frustrations with each other.

For me, I tend to prefer this trope when the couple is so busy loathing the other person, they barely notice their attraction and hardly realize how much passionate frustration and passionate lust have in common. This is why I can’t say that this book is my favorite of the trope, but I can say I expect it will be for many who like to see the chemistry between enemies much more blatantly on page.

If you’re looking for an OWN voices, match-making, enemies-to-lovers romance filled with banter and big families, with just enough drama and angst, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book.


Butterfly Rating: 2 Stars

2-stars


Re-read Worthiness: Maybe


Bookshelf Placement: Maybe

I do love the cover of this!


Book Boyfriend Rating: 3 stars

3-stars

 

 

 

ARC Review: Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

3-stars
Overall Rating: 3 Stars
Title: Something to Talk About
Author: Meryl Wilsner
Format: ARC provided by Netgalley in Exchange for an Honest Review

Synopsis:
A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.

Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time–threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.

As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.

With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?

GOODREADS

Review

This was a pretty highly anticipated release for me, and to be completely honest, I was a little disappointed.

Perhaps it has something to do with the writing style, which seemed a little choppy to me. Or the fact that the slow burn romance was a little TOO slow (something I never thought I’d say) I mean, we didn’t even get a kiss until more than 80% of the way through the book. The chemistry between these two characters built extremely slowly and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t supposed to be the case. I think there was meant to be a lot of tension between these two characters, but instead it just seemed like stilted interactions.

I always appreciate a love interest who comes off as a little standoff-ish, but really they have a heart of gold, and I think that was supposed to be Jo. I almost wish this book was entirely told in Emma’s perspective so that Jo was less mechanical and more mysterious.

All that being said, I had so much appreciation for this book. We need more F/F romances, contemporary and otherwise. I appreciate an excruciatingly slow burn, though perhaps not quite this slow. I love the diversity and how this book brought to light some very timely issues that we have in the entertainment industry.

I think there were some really great elements within this book, though it may not have been my favorite execution of it. I absolutely can see a lot of people enjoying this one, even if I didn’t love it.


Butterfly Rating: 3 Stars

3-stars


Re-read Worthiness: Nah


Bookshelf Placement: Nah


Book Girlfriend Rating: 3 stars

3-stars

 

 

 

ARC Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

5-stars
Overall Rating: 5 Stars
Title: Beach Read
Author: Emily Henry
Format: ARC received in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley, hardcover purchased from Book of the Month.
Release Date: May 19, 2020

Synopsis:
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

GOODREADS

Review

There are two key indicators that I loved this book:
1. I unconsciously disobeyed the laws of a pandemic and found myself constantly touching my face – pressing my hand over my mouth to hold in gasps of surprise and sighs of happiness.

2. I sat staring blankly at the pages after certain scenes, trying to pinpoint what exactly it was making the butterflies swarm in my belly.

Beach Read, I feel, will be my new recommendation for people who like Women’s Fiction and find they want to get into romance. To me, I think this book could easily be categorized as both.

The “deep dive into everyday, angsty life” aspect felt very Women’s Fiction-y, but the romance was one of the strongest elements of this story… and it helps that it was done really well.

Also… the humor in this had me snorting out loud so many times. The one-liners in this book were on point. I had to keep a pen with me anytime I picked up this book so that I could underline my favorite parts.

Let’s talk about the romance because I realized a few things.

This book had two key elements that many of my favorite romance novels have: pining and longing. Extra points for when one of the love interests has no idea those two things are going on.

This. This is exactly how I want to feel when I read a romance novel. I want to feel giddy and excited and hopeful. I also like feeling as though I went through something to get there. That I earned it.

Beach Read was all of those things. The hype surrounding this book is well deserved.


Butterfly Rating: 4 Stars

4-stars


Re-read Worthiness: Yes!


Bookshelf Placement: Yes!


Book Boyfriend Rating: 4 stars

4-stars

 

 

 

ARC Review: By the Book by Amanda Sellet

5-stars
Overall Rating: 5 Stars
Title: By the Book
Author: Amanda Sellet
Format: eARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis:
As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs.

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.

 

GOODREADS

Review

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.


Butterfly Rating: 4 Stars

4-stars


Re-read Worthiness: Maybe


Bookshelf Placement: Yes

I love the cover!


Book Boyfriend Rating: 5 stars

5-stars

 

 

 

ARC Review: Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club #2) by Lyssa Kay Adams *NEW FAVORITE*

5-stars
Overall Rating: 5 Stars
Title: Undercover Bromance
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
Series: Bromance Book Club #2
Format: ARC provided by Netgalley in Exchange for an Honest Review

Synopsis:
Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction.

Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef.

Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club.

Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assists Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart… even though she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.

GOODREADS

Review

I don’t often laugh out loud while reading books, certainly not nearly as much as I did while reading this book.

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