May 2021 Release Round Up

I usually share an annual anticipated releases post & anticipated releases posts for YA and adult books each publishing season. I shared my most anticipated books for Spring 2021 YA and contemporary romance releases back in February, but there is such an amazing line-up of books from some of my favorite authors this month that I had to re-share some of my anticipated titles, as well as some new books that have popped up on my TBR over the past 2 months. I’m gearing up for summer reading & so many of these titles are on my library holds list already! 

Some of these books have just come out this week on May 4th (May the 4th be with you), so if you’re headed to the library or bookstore this weekend, definitely check them out. 

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter | Release Date: May 4 

I fortunately read a review copy of Better Than the Movies earlier this spring & it soon became one of my favorite YA books of the year! If you love classic movie rom-coms and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this is the book for you, as the main character teams up with her enemy to score her dream prom date. Add it on Goodreads

It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark | RD: May 4 

Georgia Clark’s It Had to Be You has blown up across my bookstagram over the past few week, especially from my fave author & IG follow, Hannah Orenstein. This book has been described as the perfect read for Love Actually fans. The book follows wedding planner Liv, whose just lost her husband…only to soon discover that he has left half of their business to his girlfriend. Add it on Goodreads

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson | RD: May 4

A new book from one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. Morgan Matson comes out with a new book every 2-3 years, so I’m always even more eager to pick up her latest release. Take Me Home Tonight takes on an entirely new setting for her books, NYC, as best friends Kat and Stevie spend 24 hours in the city. Add it on Goodreads

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A FAVORITE YA ROM-COM: Better than the Movies Review

Summary (from the publisher):

better-than-the-movies-9781534467620_hrPerpetual daydreamer Liz Buxbaum gave her heart to Michael a long time ago. But her cool, aloof forever crush never really saw her before he moved away. Now that he’s back in town, Liz will do whatever it takes to get on his radar—and maybe snag him as a prom date—even befriend Wes Bennet.

The annoyingly attractive next-door neighbor might seem like a prime candidate for romantic fantasies, but Wes has only been a pain in Liz’s butt since they were kids. Yet, somehow, Wes and Michael are hitting it off, which means Wes is Liz’s in.

But as Liz and Wes scheme to get Liz noticed by Michael so she can have her magical prom moment, the pair grow closer, and Liz is forced to reexamine everything she thought she knew about love—and rethink her own ideas of what Happily Ever After should look like.

 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

IMG_4157Everyone knows that I love rom-coms in book form, but I also love rom-coms in movie form, especially ones from the ‘80s and ‘90s, much like Liz in Lynn Painter’s YA contemporary, Better Than the Movies. I’ve really loved recognizing all the nods to popular rom-com films on the  cover! Better Than the Movies features some of my favorite tropes, like enemies-to-lovers, against senior prom season and Liz’s love for rom-coms. Liz teams up with her childhood enemy & next-door enemy, Wes, to help get her forever crush, Michael, as her prom date. As Wes and Liz spend time together to get Liz her prom moment, Liz finds herself actually enjoying spending time with Wes and begins to question if her beloved rom-coms gave her the right picture of a happily ever after ending after all. 

Better Than the Movies was such a fun and adorable take on enemies-to-lovers. I feel like prom used to be such a major setting for YA contemporaries a few years ago, and it was fun being back in that world for Liz’s quest for the perfect prom date. The book gave me slight To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before vibes, since Liz and Wes kind’ve fake date in order for Liz to spend more time with Michael, who’s recently moved back to town and has hit it off once again with Wes. Wes also slightly reminded me of Peter K between his humor and personality, but was actually a slightly more down-to-earth version of him. Liz and Wes’ relationship was really fun, and I loved their mini adventures and mishaps. The book definitely has those classic rom-com vibes because of the mishaps that occur again and again as Liz tries to get closer to Michael. 

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BEACH BAG READ: The Siren Review

the-siren-56Summary (from the publisher):

In the midst of a sizzling hot summer, some of Hollywood’s most notorious faces are assembled on the idyllic Caribbean island of St. Genesius to film The Siren, starring dangerously handsome megastar Cole Power playing opposite his ex-wife, Stella Rivers. The surefire blockbuster promises to entice audiences with its sultry storyline and intimately connected cast.

Three very different women arrive on set, each with her own motive. Stella, an infamously unstable actress, is struggling to reclaim the career she lost in the wake of multiple, very public breakdowns. Taylor, a fledgling producer, is anxious to work on a film she hopes will turn her career around after her last job ended in scandal. And Felicity, Stella’s mysterious new assistant, harbors designs of her own that threaten to upend everyone’s plans.

With a hurricane brewing offshore, each woman finds herself trapped on the island, united against a common enemy. But as deceptions come to light, misplaced trust may prove more perilous than the storm itself.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I’m soon going to share a ‘books to add to your beach bag’ post because I feel like I used that phrase for a few of my recent contemporary reads. The Siren will definitely be in that post for its Caribbean setting and addicting mystery. Following three female leads, the book takes place in June on the island film location for megastar Cole Powers’ latest movie, The Siren, directed by his son… and starring his ex-wife, Stella Rivers. Stella brings her new personal assistant, Felicity, along for filming, but Felicity has secret motives for getting so close to Stella and Cole. Producer Taylor begins to suspect that Stella and Felicity are keeping secrets, but she’s too focused on covering the scandal that ended her job at her father’s production company. A storm headed to the island threatens to tear the film and the women’s secrets apart. 

It’s either that mystery meets contemporary books are becoming more popular – I’m thinking of recent releases like Elle Cosimano’s Finlay Donovan Is Killing It or Mia P. Manansala’s  Aresenic and Adobo – or I’m figuring out that I’m really into this genre. It took me about the first hundred pages or so to really get into The Siren, but once Katherine St. John’s establishes Stella, Taylor, and Felicity’s backgrounds, I was hooked. I liked the mixed formatting of present day perspectives from the three female leads, news articles, and excerpts from Stella’s memoir. Trigger warning for sexual assault and drug abuse, as these two elements are unfortunately parts of each women’s relationship or history with the male film lead. Some of the story felt very relevant to the Me Too Movement and Hollywood, between Taylor’s work history and Stella’s past. The book has a slightly escapist feel, between its island and film settings, although Katherine St. John proves again and again that there’s a lot lurking under the glitz and glam… 

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A YA FAVE & MORE: April 2021 Wrap Up

Another month, another wrap up. I’m actually *happily* surprised that I managed to still read 10 books this month – maybe I’ll finish my eleventh read before midnight?? – just because I had so much going on academic and career wise. As you’ll probably see below, my TV life definitely lacked but I’m much happier knowing that my reading goals are still on track. I’ve read 40 books in 2021 so far, putting me well on track to read at least 100 books this year. My spring semester and grad program ends next week, so I’m hoping having a break from grad student obligations frees up more time for reading. Two of my highlights in April were receiving a review copy of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This & buying a copy of the Book of the Month version of Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation. Definitely sitting outside in my backyard with these on a warm day in May! 

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The Midnight Library by Matt Haig | 4/5 Stars

The hype surrounding The Midnight Library pulled me into this book and while I understand why this book is so big because of its messages about living life, but I had trouble engaging with some of the plot points and writing styles. 

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter |(ARC)  4.5/5

I think Better Than the Movies is my favorite book of the month! This was such an adorable YA romance, following Liz’s mission to get her childhood crush to be her prom date with the help of her enemy.  I loved Liz’s love interest so much and the development of their relationship was just so charming. As a huge rom com fan, I loved all the nods to rom com movies within the story and on the book’s cover! Better Than the Movies comes out on May 4th. 

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Last Year I Was Reading #1

Starting this Wednesday off with a question: How are you? There’s been so many positive things going on in my academic and personal life right now. For example, my in-person graduation ceremonies for my undergrad last year and my master’s degree are set for the same Friday in two and a half weeks! As I wrap up my master’s program, life has definitely been hectic and my reading and blogging lives have fallen a bit off the wayside in April. Life is SO different from last April (first full month of quarantine and being sent home from college early) vs. this April. I thought it’d be fun to take today to do the Last Year I Was Reading meme for the first time. Created by ReadingMaria, you take your current reads & compare it to the book you were reading last year at this time, considering the similarities or differences between them. 

Last year I was reading….

youll-miss-me-when-im-gone-9781481497749_hrAt the end of April in 2020, I read You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon. This was the first book I read by Rachel Lynn Solomon, who has become one of my all-time favorite authors. The book follows twin sisters, Adina and Tovah. They decide to take a genetic test to see if they test positive for Huntington’s Disease, which has wrecked their mother’s health over their high school careers. While one twin tests negative, the other tests positive. This book explores the twins’ complicated relationship, their family’s faith & Judaism, and their personal growth. I loved the plot and story, but I could not stand one of the main characters. 

I am currently reading….

I’m currently reading two books: Educated by Tara Westover and Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle. Educated was highly recommended to by my students and colleagues, since my students are currently completing a memoir unit. It feels weird saying I’m LOVING this book because there’s some heavy and at times gruesome material, but I find Tara Westover’s upbringing in a conservative Mormon household, in which her parents didn’t let her go to public school until she went to college, so fascinating. If you’re a fan of The Glass Castle, I highly recommend checking this one out.

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A MUST READ ROMANCE: The Intimacy Experiment Review

Summary (from the publisher):

9780593101629_p0_v3_s600x595Naomi Grant has built her life around going against the grain. After the sex-positive start-up she cofounded becomes an international sensation, she wants to extend her educational platform to live lecturing. Unfortunately, despite her long list of qualifications, higher ed won’t hire her.

Ethan Cohen has recently received two honors: LA Mag named him one of the city’s hottest bachelors and he became rabbi of his own synagogue. Taking a gamble in an effort to attract more millennials to the faith, the executive board hired Ethan because of his nontraditional background. Unfortunately, his shul is low on both funds and congregants. The board gives him three months to turn things around or else they’ll close the doors of his synagogue for good.

Naomi and Ethan join forces to host a buzzy seminar series on Modern Intimacy, the perfect solution to their problems–until they discover a new one–their growing attraction to each other. They’ve built the syllabus for love’s latest experiment, but neither of them expected they’d be the ones putting it to the test.

 
 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Last week, I was in such a bad reading mood. I had so much going on school-wise and other things to get done on my to-list, and when I did have a free time, I found myself blowing through Sex and the City season 4 for my re-watch. I want to blame it on my mind being in other places, but I wasn’t super into the contemporary and non-fiction books I had picked up for the week. This all being said, I couldn’t wait to dive into a book I KNEW I was going to enjoy on Friday, Rosie Danan’s The Intimacy Experiment. This contemporary romance as the PERFECT pick-me-up I needed and I highly recommend adding it to your must-read romance pile this summer… and yes, I know we still have a few days left in April but once the calendar turns to May this weekend, I’m in full-on summer mode. 

The Intimacy Experiment is the second book in The Roommate companion series. As far as my research has led me aka Goodreads and Rosie Danan’s Instagram, The Intimacy Experiment and The Roommate are the only two books planned right now, but The Intimacy Experiment made me crave another – maybe following Molly and one of her love interests from the synagogue’s events?? I read The Roommate towards the end of 2020 after seeing so much love for it and understood what all the hype was about. I’d say I enjoyed The Roommate, but I LOVED The Intimacy Experiment. The Intimacy Experiment follows one of female leads from book #1, Naomi, a former sex worker now turned co-CEO of a popular sex education company and hopeful academic, wanting to share her social psychology and sex expertise. At a conference, Naomi meets Ethan, a young rabbi who is looking to get more young congregants into his synagogue and asks Naomi to run a series on modern intimacy. As the two grow closer while working on the seminar series, they think through their stances on relationships, religion (both Ethan & Naomi identify as Jewish), and their feelings for one another. 

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A MEMOIR FAVE AND HYPED CONTEMPORARY ROMANCES: April 2021 Mini Reviews Round 2

Keeping up with my normal reading schedule during some pretty busy weeks as I wrap up my last semester of grad school (!!!) often means more mini reviews vs full length or featured review posts. I have been reading some really great May 2021 releases lately, so expect a few full length reviews for new releases in the next few weeks. In the meantime, today I’ll be sharing mini reviews on 2 contemporary romances from two popular favorites and one of my new-to-me favorite memoirs. 

Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon 

My Rating: 3.75/5 Stars

mbu

This week, I finally got to one of my most anticipated romances for 2020, Lily Menon’s Make Up Break Up. You may be able to tell from the last name of the author, but Lily Menon is also known as Sandhya Menon, aka the author of some of my favorite YA contemporaries like 10 Things I Hate About Pinky and There’s Something About Sweetie. As I mention some of Sandhya Menon’s YA books, I just realized that Make Up Break Up has a slight When Dimple Met Rishi feel (no arranged relationship/set-up by parents) with its tech/app setting. Lily Menon’s first contemporary romance follows Annika, a young tech developer who needs funding her app, Make Up, designed to help couples communicate through relationship problems and predict their future together based on their personalities and communication style. She runs the app with her best friend, June. Her biggest competitor in a pitch war? Hudson Craft of the complete opposite app, Break Up, which helps couples end things with one another via automated messages. 

Make Up Break Up was a fun & mostly light-hearted read, but it overall felt somewhat surface-level. I don’t want to necessarily compare Sandhya Menon’s YA books to her first adult book, but her YA books feel like they almost capture more depth and emotion compared to Make Up Break Up. The book delivered on its synopsis – enemies-to-lovers in the app development world – but I wanted more from the story. Don’t get me wrong, I ate this one up over two days. Once I got settled into Lily Menon’s writing style, I was invested in Annika and June’s app and need to get out of debt to keep Make Up running. I ultimately enjoyed the tech plot and even Annika’s relationship with her father more than I was invested in the romance. While everyone knows that I don’’t necessarily mind a predictable story or set-up, I saw everything coming about Annika and Hudson’s relationship, especially the reasoning behind Break Up. I also thought it was weird that there’s constant mentioning of Annika and Hudson’s past together that doesn’t explained until the very end of the book. Overall, I am ultimately glad that I picked up Make Up Break Up to see Lily Menon’s first take in the contemporary romance world because I love her work in the Dimpleverse companion series, and I’m interested to see what else she may write within this genre. 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

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The Glass Castle is one of those must-read memoirs for any non-fiction fan, so when a few of my students began reading it this month, I decided to join along with them and was hooked. This memoir follows the childhood of Jeannette Walls, who, along with her three siblings, lived throughout the Southwest in such poor conditions, eventually ending up in a West Virgina mining tall. This book is super dark, often featuring scenes involving sexual abuse, alcohol, and child abuse or neglect. Although The Glass Castle is filled with heavy and dark subject matter, I was absolutely swept up by Jeannette Wall’s writing style. Her writing is so honest and to-the-point, and the book’s short chapters made me feel like I flying through even faster than I likely already was. This book left me thinking so much about Jeannette’s family – there is certainly no denying that her parents made horrible decisions for their family, but the juxtaposition between their way of life and Jeannette’s love for her family is extremely-thought provoking.

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ALL THE UPCOMING BOOKS: April 2021 Recent TBR Additions

As promised in my March 2021 Recent TBR Additions, I’m back with another monthly TBR additions list!  Compared to March, I thought I hadn’t been adding as many books to my TBR this month, but as evidenced by this post, I’m still hitting the ‘add to shelf’ button on Goodreads pretty frequently.  I feel like I haven’t been reading as much as I did last month so far in April – I’ve been averaging about 2 books a week – but it makes me even more excited for May when I graduate from grad school and in theory, should have some more reading time as summer kicks in. 

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher – I’ve been in a big non-fiction mood lately. I usually try to read 1 nonfiction book a month, but I think I’m actually going to be reading multiple non-fiction reads or memoirs over April and May. Given my love for Star Wars over the past year,  I can’t believe I didn’t have Carrie Fisher’s memoir, The Princess Diarist, on my TBR sooner. This one will soon be moving off my TBR, since I just picked it up from the library on Saturday.

The Hunting Wives by May Cobb – I’ve been reaching for more contemporary meets mystery books lately, which led me to one of Book of the Month’s picks, The Hunting Wives. When Sophie’s family moves to Texas, she soon finds herself befriending a socialite, Margot, and her elite clique, The Hunting Wives.  The Hunting Wives comes out on May 18th. 

Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz – Compare any book to Below Deck and I’m there. This November 2021 release follows yacht stewardess Jo and her quest to finish a bucket list of thirty things before her birthday. Things get completed turned upside down when a family tragedy occurs and Jo finds her two nieces joining her for the summer, helping her finish her list. 

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ONE OF MY FAVE 2021 YA BOOKS: Kate in Waiting Review

kaSummary (from the publisher):
Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.

But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off script. Matt Olsson is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.

Turns out, communal crushes aren’t so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

IMG_3782Over the years, I’ve enjoyed Becky Albertalli’s books. I think the only one I haven’t yet read is her co-written novel with Aisha Saeed, Yes No Maybe So, and her book, The Upside of Unrequited, is one of my FAVORITE YA contemporaries. There was just something about her upcoming book’s synopsis, Kate in Waiting, that made me instantly add it to my TBR. The book follows Kate, a high school junior with a love for theatre, and her best friend’s crush on the same guy from the summer camp. Kate and Andy have had communal and often unrequited crushes on the same guys throughout their friendship and are ready to leave their crush on Matt behind at camp… until Matt transfers to their school. Suddenly the two are left to discover if either of their feelings for Matt are unrequited after all, as they all work on the school musical together. 

I was fortunate enough to begin my 2021 reading with Kate in Waiting back in January. I really enjoyed jumping back into Becky Albertalli’s writing style and this new fictional high school world. Kate was such a fun protagonist. While the book is about her friendships with Andy & their squads and figuring out her relationship with Matt, the book is also super about her self-growth, as she begins to find herself outside of her friendship with Andy. Don’t get me wrong, Kate and Andy have such a solid and fun friendship, but their mutual feelings for Matt definitely strains their relationship. Kate often contemplates how she is to respect Andy’s feelings while dealing with her own emotions and spending some one-on-one time with Matt for the play. Maybe I’m biased because I genuinely loved Kate, but I thought Andy wasn’t so respectful of Kate’s own feelings. Becky Albertalli’s books always feature diversity surrounding religion (Kate is a Jewish female lead), sexuality and gender, and coming out was another element to the love triangle that made Kate and Andy’s boundaries for one another difficult. 

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A 2021 HIDDEN GEM: The Love Proof Review

54304106Summary (from the publisher): Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.

When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities.

Spanning decades, The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.

 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

My Thoughts: 

I had a feeling Madeline Henry’s The Love Proof would be one of my hidden gems of the year based off reviews, but I didn’t realize just how hooked I would be by this contemporary romance following a physics prodigy at a Yale University. I started The Love Proof on Saturday morning and even after spending some time during the day doing school work, exercising, and some Sex & the City rewatching, I made time to keep reading and had it finished right before I went to bed that night. At just under 300 pages, The Love Proof spans over decades, beginning with Yale freshmen Sophie and Jake’s meet-cute in their Intro to Psychology course. Jake has dealt with some tough circumstances leading up to the point of getting into Yale, while Sophie has been a science and news sensation for her brilliant understanding of physics. As Sophie and Jake get wrapped up in their relationship over the time during undergrad, Sophie finds herself losing her passion for finding answers about time and physics, but unexpected circumstances inspire Sophie to chase after those questions. 

The Love Proof was one of the most unique contemporary books I’ve ever read. I have never taken physics in my life, but you don’t even need a basic understanding of the subject to deep dive into Sophie and Jake’s relationship. The book alternates between their third-person perspectives from their undergrad days at Yale through their adult lives. I think the book begins somewhere in the 2010s, and I liked getting small peeks at the future between the mentions of how tech and life has evolved during Jake and Sophie’s adulthood. 

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