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

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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.

Over the weekend, I watched the film adaptation with my sister. It’s likely no surprise that I tend to be someone who likes the book more than the movie in general, but this feeling was especially true when it came to The Glass Castle adaptation. The movie got the tone of the book so wrong, I wasn’t a super fan of the almost exclusive focus on the relationship between Jeanette and her father, and I really didn’t understand why certain scenes or aspects of the book were included vs. ones that weren’t. In short, PLEASE pick up this book, but pass on the movie.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang 

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

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In my quest to read as many popular contemporary romances as possible in 2021, I recently read Helen Hoang’s much loved The Kiss Quotient. This was the Goodreads Choice Awards Winner for Romance in 2018. Many of my bookish friends have loved the more recent companion novel, The Bride Test, and are looking forward to the third book in this series this August, The Heart Principle. My favorite aspect of The Kiss Quotient was its autism representation. The female lead, Stella, has autism, and is often afraid about people finding out, especially men that she dates. I really loved Stella as a lead, especially for her kick-butt career in economics. The author’s note at the end of the book mentioned her desire to give the book a gender-swapped Pretty Woman spin, and it was so refreshing to see Stella just own her career and her success while also still learning how to boost her self-confidence. 

The book deserves the hype and praise for having such a strong female lead and for its representation, but I think based on reading through my fellow readers’ reviews that so many people enjoyed this one back in 2018 because the romance (and maybe the romance scenes included) felt so different and ground-breaking then, but now in 2021, I personally wasn’t a fan of the romance. I really didn’t like Michael as a lead. I did love the scenes with his family and Stella, as Michael is very close with his family and very connected with his Vietnamese heritage. Although his role in Stella’s plan is teaching her how to be in a relationship, I thought he was forceful at times and didn’t really let Stella make her own decisions. Overall, I  understand why The Kiss Quotient gets such hype and praise because Stella is such a great female lead and I loved her character growth, but this book wasn’t my whole cup of tea. 

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What have you been reading lately? Do you have any non-fiction or contemporary romance recommendations for me? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Share in the comments!

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