5 STAR READ: The Dead Romantics Review

Summary (from the publisher):

image001Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

My Thoughts:

I am typically not a paranormal romance or ghost book person. Frankly, even with its ghostly inspiration and synopsis, I wouldn’t even necessarily call The Dead Romantics a paranormal romance. Although it definitely borrows from contemporary romance themes (and yes, at the end of the day, could be called a contemporary romance), The Dead Romantics was a perfect contemporary novel. And yes, there is some romance, but it was so cleverly done & I LOVED how it connected back to the title. I’ve read Ashley Poston’s YA series, Once Upon a Con, (sidenote that there is a nod to The Princess & the Fangirl in The Dead Romantics), and I want so much more from her in the contemporary/contemporary romance space. I’m so happy that this book is getting even more deserved attention as Good Morning America’s Book Club pick for July! 

Honestly, I did not know much going into this one other than knowing it had a ghostwriter as a protagonist and I recommend going into this one knowing as little as possible. It made it even so much more interesting not knowing what to expect from the plot — I found myself guessing & anticipating if there would really be a real romance arc to the story. If you’re unlike me and need to know the basic premise of a book before jumping in, The Dead Romantics follows the ghostwriter of acclaimed romance writer Ann Nichols, Florence, who is struggling to write the romantic ending of Ann’s upcoming book after experiencing her own devastating heartbreak. Her new (immensely attractive) editor refuses to give her an extended deadline and Florence’s writing block continues when she experiences a devastating personal loss and must return home to her small South Carolina town, where her family runs a funeral home. This same town sent Florence running to NYC after graduation, after being bullied as a teen for being able to see ghosts… 

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IT’S SUMMER: June 2022 Wrap Up 

It’s officially summer and I am reading absolutely everything! I’m going to keep this intro short for the sake of getting into what I read, but just know after completing my first full year of teaching (!!), I am so looking forward to this season of reading and summer days! 

I read a total of 13 books this month and 2 novellas. 2 books were rereads, my audiobook of One Italian Summer (please read this month ASAP in general, but better yet, listen to the audiobook with Lauren Graham as the narrator!!) and Majesty before reading Rivals, the latest American Royals books. 

My FAVORITES of the month – it was hard to determine because the majority of the books I read in June were so good – include Every Summer After (not a total 5 star read for me, but I ate this one up on a beach day and def see the hype), I Kissed Shara Wheeler, The Hotel Nantucket, Rivals, and The Dead Romantics

I also really enjoyed Fake, By the Book, & Counterfeit, and after some reflection, felt medium on The No Show (it took almost three weeks to fully read this one, but the ending did surprise me – I’m finding that Beth O’Leary’s later books take a twist on the premise), Stuck with You (I’m going to read the third novella when it comes out as an ebook, but unfortunately haven’t really been loving this novella series), and True Biz (I still enjoyed and loved the ASL representation, but it didn’t wow me as much as expected from the hype).

By the Book (Meant to Be Mine #2) by Jasmine Guillory  | 4/5 Stars

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The Hotel Nantucket Review

81o-tI7QHDLSummary (from the publisher):After a tragic fire in 1922 that killed 19-year-old chambermaid, Grace Hadley, The Hotel Nantucket descended from a gilded age gem to a mediocre budget-friendly lodge to inevitably an abandoned eyesore — until it’s purchased and renovated top to bottom by London billionaire, Xavier Darling.  Xavier hires Nantucket sweetheart Lizbet Keaton as his general manager, and Lizbet, in turn, pulls together a charismatic, if inexperienced, staff who share the vision of turning the fate of the hotel around. They face challenges in getting along with one another (and with the guests), in overcoming the hotel’s bad reputation, and in surviving the (mostly) harmless shenanigans of Grace Hadley herself — who won’t stop haunting the hotel until her murder is acknowledged.

Filled with the emotional tension and multiple points of view that characterize Elin’s books (The Blue Bistro, Golden Girl) as well as an added touch of historical reality, Hotel Nantucket offers something for everyone in this summer drama for the ages.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I am a strong believer, albeit recent circa 2021, that it isn’t summer reading without at least 1 Elin Hilderbrand book. The Hotel Nantucket follows the grand reopening of The Hotel Nantucket by a London billionaire. The hotel has a troubled past, including the ghost of maid, Grace, but the owner is committed to the hotel being the best of the best and earning a 5 key review from elusive hotel review, Shelly Carpenter. Having recently broken up with her long-time partner, Lizbet is the manager of the hotel and tasked with hiring the staff to bring the hotel back to life & keep it running throughout the summer. 

The Hotel Nantucket is one of Elin’s best books. It is so, so well-written and it is so reminiscent of my all-time favorite book from her, The Blue Bistro. Yes, much inspiration comes from The Blue Bistro, given that they are a few characters from The Blue Bistro in The Hotel Nantucket, but also for the focus on the hotel & restaurant within. There are spoilers for The Blue Bistro in The Hotel Nantucket and while you absolutely don’t need to, I do recommend reading The Blue Bistro before The Hotel Nantucket. The hotel focus also reminded me of one of Elin’s earlier books, The Beach Club, which is mentioned in the book, along with its manager. 

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American Royalty Review

58986617Summary (from the publisher): Sexy, driven rapper Danielle “Duchess” Nelson is on the verge of signing a deal that’ll make her one of the richest women in hip hop. More importantly, it’ll grant her control over her life, something she’s craved for years. But an incident with a rising pop star has gone viral, unfairly putting her deal in jeopardy. Concerned about her image, she’s instructed to work on generating some positive publicity… or else.

A brilliant professor and reclusive royal, Prince Jameson prefers life out of the spotlight, only leaving his ivory tower to attend weddings or funerals. But with the Queen’s children involved in one scandal after another, and Parliament questioning the viability of the monarchy, the Queen is desperate. In a quest for good press, she puts Jameson in charge of a tribute concert in her late husband’s honor. Out of his depth, and resentful of being called to service, he takes the advice of a student. After all, what’s more appropriate for a royal concert than a performer named “Duchess”?

Too late, Jameson discovers the American rapper is popular, sexy, raunchy and not what the Queen wanted, although he’s having an entirely different reaction. Dani knows this is the good exposure she needs to cement her deal and it doesn’t hurt that the royal running things is fine as hell. Thrown together, they give in to the explosive attraction flaring between them. But as the glare of the limelight intensifies and outside forces try to interfere, will the Prince and Duchess be a fairy tale romance for the ages or a disaster of palatial proportions?

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

If you’re a fan of romance and royalty-inspired reads, then you definitely need to pick up Tracey Livesay’s upcoming release, American Royalty. The book follows American rapper, Dani, better known as Duchess, and Prince Jameson, who lives a rather quiet life for a royal as a philosophy professor. When the Queen decides the monarchy needs some good PR to continue to, you know, exist, she tasks Jameson to help plan a benefit concert in his beloved grandfather’s honor, which leads Dani to fly across the pond and spend some time with the brooding royal before the concert.

American Royalty was a fun & fast-paced hate-to-love romance. You probably know that I am always ready for any kind of royal-inspired read, so it was fun to get the behind-the-scenes look at Jameson’s life as a royal, but also how he was able to have a fairly normal life working as a professor. Dani’s perspective as a Black rapper and business woman – she owns a very successful skin care line & decides to perform at the concert as a good PR move in hopes of working with a bigger beauty company – was even more interesting, as Dani reflects on how much control she has over her image, as she is often sexualized and doesn’t have much control when it comes to her management. 

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REQUIRED SUMMER READ: Every Summer After Review

Summary (from the publisher):Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.

They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Carly Fortune’s Every Summer After is one of THE contemporary romances of 2022. This debut set across six summers in a Canadian lakeside town has everything a romance reader wants in a summer read: a friends-to-lovers/coming-of-age romance, family drama, a cute lake summer town, and so much more. The book alternates between Persephone, known as Percy, and Sam’s summers growing up in Barry’s Bay from age thirteen though the summer before college & the present. Percy and Sam have both lost someone very close to them, with Percy returning to Barry’s Bay for the first time in 12 years, ever since her split with Sam. 

I devoured Every Summer After over the course of a beach day last week. This book is the definition of everything you want in a summer romance. I know the book has gotten a few comparisons to some much-loved romances. I don’t necessarily see the comparisons to Emily Henry (she did blurb the book) other than maybe a summer-y setting like Beach Read or People We Meet on Vacation, but I think this book is the perfect cross between Christina Lauren’s much loved Love & Other Words and Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty (reminder that I need to reread this one before its Amazon adaptation!). I think I saw a bookstagrammer make this comparison as well, but picture Every Summer After as an adult version of The Summer I Turned Pretty.

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I Kissed Shara Wheeler Review

71oaN1tNxpLSummary (from the publisher):Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Like the rest of the universe, although I LOVED Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, & Royal Blue, I wasn’t a big fan of One Last Stop. That being said, while I went into her first YA novel, I Kissed Shara Wheeler, with some hesitancy, I am SO glad I read this book because I loved it SO Much. 

I Kissed Shara Wheeler reminded me of why I love YA. The book felt like such a nod to some classic novels (I think there is a part dig part acknowledgment to John Green’s work, oops), but while still being fresh & current to YA today. The book follows Chloe Green, who is competing for valedictorian with golden girl, Shara Wheeler,  at their private Christian high school. Chloe has always been one of the odd ones out at her high school, between rebelling against the school’s dress code & ideas, for having two moms, and being bisexual. And once again, Shara Wheeler threatens to steal the spotlight from Chloe when she disappears after prom night. Shara left pink envelopes hidden around the school and town for Chloe, Smith, Shara’s quarterback boyfriend, and Rory, the boy next-door, forcing the three to team up and figure out where Shara went. Read More »

SUMMER 2022 MUST READ: Counterfeit Review

Summary (from the publisher): Money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy a decent fake.

81tWLMeYcXLAva Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home–she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.

Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business–someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.

Swift, surprising, and sharply comic, Counterfeit is a stylish and feminist caper with a strong point of view and an axe to grind. Peering behind the curtain of the upscale designer storefronts and the Chinese factories where luxury goods are produced, Kirstin Chen interrogates the myth of the model minority through two unforgettable women determined to demand more from life.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I was reading Kirstin Chen’s Counterfeit and just as I was about to finish this addicting read, it was announced as Reese’s Book Club pick for June. I’m so excited that this one is going to get even more attention because Counterfeit totally deserves the hype. 

Counterfeit is mostly told from the perspective of Ava, Stanford grad and recent stay at-home mom who is feeling pretty down on her domestic life as her husband takes on a more demanding job. Ava is feeling lonely, until she crosses path again from one of her college roommates, Winnie, who went back home to China after getting caught in a SAT scandal during their freshmen year. Winnie is doing pretty well for herself, coordinating between American luxury handbag companies and Chinese factories, and gets Ava involved in her work..which Ava soon realizes is a counterfeit handbag business: Winnie & her shoppers buy luxury bags, sell them on eBay, and return state-of-the-art counterfeits back to the store. 

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A MUST READ YA: Tokyo Dreaming Review

81bWp+uGcELSummary (from the publisher):
When Japanese-American Izumi Tanaka learned her father was the Crown Prince of Japan, she became a princess overnight. Now, she’s overcome conniving cousins, salacious press, and an imperial scandal to finally find a place she belongs. She has a perfect bodyguard turned boyfriend. Her stinky dog, Tamagotchi, is living with her in Tokyo. Her parents have even rekindled their college romance and are engaged. A royal wedding is on the horizon! Izumi’s life is a Tokyo dream come true.

 

Only…

Her parents’ engagement hits a brick wall. The Imperial Household Council refuses to approve the marriage citing concerns about Izumi and her mother’s lack of pedigree. And on top of it all, her bodyguard turned boyfriend makes a shocking decision about their relationship. At the threat of everything falling apart, Izumi vows to do whatever it takes to help win over the council. Which means upping her newly acquired princess game.

But at what cost? Izumi will do anything to help her parents achieve their happily ever after, but what if playing the perfect princess means sacrificing her own? Will she find a way to forge her own path and follow her heart?

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Fun fact about me: one of my first ever YA series was Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series – I think I got through the first few books in fourth or fifth grade until the books got a little too mature for me at the time. I feel like I haven’t read anything like it until reading Emiko Jean Tokyo Ever After, following high school senior Izumi, who finds out after discovering a love poem to her mother that the biological father she’s never knew is the Crown Prince of Japan. If you love Katharine McGee’s American Royals series, then you must read Tokyo Ever After & its recently released sequel, Tokyo Dreaming. Spoiler alert that this review will contain minor spoilers for Tokyo Ever After, aka this is your sign to pick up that book if you haven’t already. 

Tokyo Dreaming picks up a few months after the events of Tokyo Ever After, as Izumi plans to begin her post high school life in Japan, with a lot of pressure to attend college there. What makes this decision a little less scary is her father’s proposal to her mother…until the imperial council decides that her scholarly, American mother is an unstable wife for the crown prince. Between her parents’ dilemma & her boyfriend’s unexpected decision regarding their relationship, Izumi decides it’s time to step up and act as the princess that the people expect her to be, in order to win over the council about her parents’ engagement. 

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Recent Reads I’ve Loved: May/June 2022

I love being in a reading groove in which I seriously LOVE everything that I’ve been picking up. I know that may seem obvious, but as someone who reads quite a bit, it gets a bit tricker to find that book that makes me say LOVEEE like some of these do.I read the following books in the last week of May or so, but I loved most of them so much that I knew I wanted to capture my thoughts on the blog & hopefully convince you to pick them up! 

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub – If there’s one Emma Straub book that everyone should pick up, it’s her latest, This Time Tomorrow. This is the type of book where don’t get me wrong, I loved it in the moment & while reading, but didn’t realize how much I LOVED it until I finished it and had time to think about for the next few days. This Time Tomorrow follows Alice, whose life as a forty year old living in NYC is ‘okay’ – she likes her job and her boyfriend enough (even if she doesn’t want to marry him), she gets to see her best friend fairly often, and her father is still alive despite the mysterious illness he’s combatting. On her fortieth birthday, Alice is transported back to her sixteenth birthday to 1996 NYC, a time especially when her famous writer of a dad is still healthy and alive. This Time Tomorrow was so, so perfect. I loved the time-traveling storyline as it wasn’t too sci-fy or intricate to understand, I loved the NYC setting, and the focus on relationships, especially between Alice and her best friend, and most of all, Alice and her father. P.S. that Bad on Paper Podcast did an episode with Emma Straub about her book & her career path as an author and owner (!!) of Books Are Magic. My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Cover Story by Susan Rigetti – Cover Story is a perfect example of a book that I read from cover to cover in 1 night. This books has been everywhere, thanks to its comparisons to an Anna Delvey like story. The book’s writing style almost reminded me of a 2000s/early 2010s version of a YA contemporary, as the book is mostly told from Lora’s diary entries re-capping her days at Elle & working with Cat. Lora is extremely naive and hopeful, which definitely helps Cat’s agenda. What makes this book so, SO worth reading, however, is its ending. I’m still thinking about two weeks after finishing the book. I’m so glad it was chosen as the Bad on Paper book club pick of the month because I can’t wait to listen to Becca and Olivia’s thoughts on the ending (P.S. can you tell BOP is my favorite podcast?).  My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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June 2022 Anticipated Releases

It goes without saying that there are SO many good books coming out in June, especially in my favorite genre, contemporary romance!

Meant to Be Mine by Hannah Orenstein | Release Date: June 7

Meant to Be Mine is the type of book where I will be running to the bookstore on release day to grab a copy, since Hannah Orenstein has become one of my all-time favorite authors, between Head Over Heels & Playing with Matches. Meant to Be Mine follows a young woman whose grandmother predicted the day each woman in their family would meet the love of their life. Add It on Goodreads

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan | RD: June 7

I feel like the Hollywood/TV setting has been getting more attention in contemporary romance latelty, & Nora Goes Off Script is no exception. This book has been pitched as Evie Dark Starts Over meets Beach Read, as TV writer, recently divorced & mother of two Nora’s script gets picked up to become a film, with one of Hollywood’s most attractive male leads in two. Add It on Goodreads

The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand | RD: June 14

Last year was truly my summer of reading Elin Hilderbrand, so I’m highly looking forward to reading her latest, The Hotel Nantucket, which apparently has The Blue Bistro vibes (aka one of my top 3 Elin Hilderbrand books). Add It on Goodreads

How to Fake It in Hollywood by Ava Wilder | RD: June 14

How to Fake It in Hollywood has been pitched to me as much more heavier read than its illustrated cover makes readers perceive. How to Fake It in Hollywood follows a Hollywood starlet up for career changing role and a PR stunt in which she fake dates a former A lister.I recently read Elissa Sussman’s Funny You Should Ask and I’m looking forward to this book with a similar setting. Add It on Goodreads

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