A FAV SUMMER READ & MORE: June 2021 Mini Reviews

Let me just put out a disclaimer and pull the behinds-the-scenes of being a book blogger by sharing that I have been GREAT at reading books over the past few weeks, but AWFUL about writing reviews right after I read them. 

I blame this personal trend on that I have been reading so much lately and instead of pausing after I finish a book to write my thoughts, I instead pick up another book. Again, great for reading life, not so much blogging life, although I’ve been turning to full length reviews lately more than I feel like I’ve had in a long time. I don’t necessarily feel like I must share reviews on every single book I read, but I have been reading some really great books lately and I feel like it could be so random in a wrap up or favorites post and be like “I loved this book as you know”…. when I’ve barely mentioned it on the blog. I want to have a few more mini review posts shared over the next two weeks, but today’s mini reviews feature a contemporary romance I LOVED, and a YA contemporary & memoir I liked but ultimately felt mixed about upon review reflection. 

Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Libby Hubscher’s Meet Me in Paradise is one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read all year! It is a little lighter on the romance side, but I just loved everything about this book, from the setting to the self growth to the focus on sisterhood. I figured Meet Me in Paradise would be emotional based on its synopsis, as sisters Marin & Sadie lost their famed journalist mother at a young age, and while Sadie has taken off around the world as a photographer, Marin has always stayed close to home, living in their childhood home. While I figured this book would deal with loss, there was a twist I didn’t see coming (& that I don’t really want to spoil) that gave this book even more depth. I read Meet Me in Paradise on my first beach/pool weekend of the summer and highly recommend picking this one up for summer mood reading this season. 

This isn’t the spoiler, but Sadie convinces Marin to go on vacation together and after a series of mishaps, Marin finds herself spending a ton of time with the resort owner of the island and learning a ton about herself through their experiences. The book’s setting was just so atmospheric, as Marin and Luca explore the (fictional) tropical island of Saba – I can’t help but admit I also loved the sound of the all-exclusive resort cottage Marin resides in. The story also alternates between Marin and another outside narrator, and I loved the way the perspectives tie together in the end. Definitely have your tissues ready, but Meet Me in Paradise was ultimately the perfect blend of contemporary and romance. 

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HIGHLY ANTICIPATED SUMMER READ: Malibu Rising Review

91+feQBCK2LSummary (from the publisher): Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over–especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud–because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own–including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Malibu Rising is one of THE books of June, if not THE book of summer. I feel like I mentally grouped so many big contemporary June 1st releases together – including but not limited to Zakiya Dalia Harris’ The Other Black Girl, Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop, and  Elin Hilderbrand’s Golden Girl because June 1st was THAT big of a new release day. At the time of writing this post, I’ve read The Other Black Girl and still have to read One Last Stop and Golden Girl, but out of the four, I was most anticipating Malibu Rising

I’ve now read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books, & I do plan on sharing a fun TJR ranking post later this summer. I was semi-inspired to do so after listening to Friends to Lovers Podcast’s TJR ranking episode recorded pre-Malibu Rising. They reminded me that I still needed to read Maybe This Time, which I read before about a week before diving into Malibu Rising. Controversial opinion that I’ll probably dive into in my rankings posts, but I prefer TJR’s contemporary romances to her latest releases, which don’t necessarily have a genre but tend to fall into historical fiction, including Malibu Rising. I feel like TJR’s latest three books are definitely distinct from her contemporary romance, but having read Malibu Rising and Maybe This Time so close together, I do see some of her old writing style come in – which don’t get me wrong, I love. 

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ALASKAN ROMANCE: Wild at Heart & Forever Wild Reviews

Wild at Heart Summary (from the publisher):

51P0h7k0zmLCalla Fletcher returns to Toronto a different person, struggling to find direction and still very much in love with the rugged bush pilot she left behind. When Jonah arrives on her doorstep with a proposition she can’t dismiss, she takes the leap and rushes back to Alaska to begin their exciting future together.

But Calla soon learns that even the best intentions can lead to broken promises, and that compromise comes with a hefty price—a log cabin in interior rural Alaska that feels as isolating as the western tundra.

With Jonah gone more than he’s home, one neighbor who insists on transforming her into a true Alaskan, and another who seems more likely to shoot her than come to her aid, Calla grapples with forging her own path. In a world with roaming wildlife that has her constantly watching over her shoulder and harsh conditions that stretch far beyond the cold, dark, winter months, just stepping outside her front door can be daunting.

This is not the future Calla had in mind, leaving her to fear that perhaps she is doomed to follow in her mother’s fleeing footsteps after all.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

K.A. Tucker’s Wild at Heart WAS one of those books that always seemed to fall on those ‘books I still need to read on my TBR’ type posts. My county library recently added it to their ebook collection via Libby (if you like ebooks, I highly recommend seeing if your library provides this platform), and I found myself in the mood for a light & breezy contemporary romance. The sequel to The Simple Wild (my review is linked), the book picks up with Calla’s decision to move to Alaska permanently.

I definitely recommend picking up The Simple Wild before picking this one up (this series is the PERFECT kind of binge read), but the sequel is really a story of its own as Calla tries to figure out her place in Alaska. Despite having about a two year reading break in between the two books, it took me no time at all to get re-familiarized with the characters & storyline (and yes, Calla’s stepfather, Simon, is still my favorite). More secondary characters are added in this sequel that I did ultimately love, however, I will admit that there were a few moments where someone was mentioned & it took me a few seconds to remember who they exactly were. I loved the Roy storyline, and sorry Jonah, but Calla’s friendship with this cranky neighbor is my favorite relationship in the series. It was a tad reminiscent of Calla’s relationship with her father in book #1. The setting of The Simple Wild books is my favorite part – while I honestly am way too much of a beach/warm weather person & could never imagine living in Alaska, K.A. Tucker’s descriptions of the setting made me want to visit.

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Best Books I Read: Spring 2021 Edition

I’ve been mentioning here & there that I’d be sharing a round-up of the best books I read this spring, & the time has finally come for me to share. 

You probably know that I tend to read most of my books for the year during the summer since I have time off from school & work. This will hold true for this summer (I’ve already read 7 books in June), but I read the most amount of books I ever read during spring this year. I read 37 books in total between March, April, & May. I really think it had something to do with being on a screen all day from school & work and just wanting to come home and take my eyes off my laptop AND of course reading so many amazing books. 

It may sound strange for non-readers but I’ve really embracing reading books I am 95% sure I am going to enjoy/love this year or books that I am genuinely excited to read especially this year. I’ve always been this type of reader but I am making a more conscious effort to read books that I cannot wait to pick up up vs. ones that I picked up because ‘everyone is reading them/hype.’ Since I’ve reviewed nearly every book on this list, I will be keeping my thoughts super brief & will link to the reviews. 

You Have a Match by Emma Lord – Another favorite from Emma Lord! You Have a Match met my love for The Parent Trap & more. I’m also SUPER excited for her 2022 Mamma Mia-inspired release, When You Get the Chance. Read my You Have a Match review

The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim – A really mature & diverse YA that I’m hoping more readers, who especially love travel-inspired books & Gilmore Girls will pick up, The Marvelous Mirza Girls was such a fresh take on self-growth & grief. Read my The Marvelous Mirza Girls review 

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter – If you need something like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, you absolutely need to pick up Better Than the Movies. Think YA rom-com meets classic rom-com films meets friends-to-lovers. Read my Better Than the Movies review 

The Switch by Beth O’Leary – I’m probably one of the most late people to hop on the Beth O’Leary train, but The Switch made her one of my auto-read authors. I’m looking forward to reading The Road Trip this summer! 

Float Plan by Trish Doller – Float Plan was the perfect light meets heavy read, as Anna and Keane partner up to complete the sailing trip Anna’s fiancé had planned before his death. 

Kisses & Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau – I’m always read for a cute YA contemporary, like Kisses & Croissants .. & I’ll also always take a book that fulfills some of my wander lust, as this book takes place at ballet training program in Paris. Read my Kisses & Croissants review 

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A MORGAN MATSON FAVE: Take Me Home Tonight Review

71B40ODmXcLSummary (from the publisher): 

Two girls. One night. Zero phones.

Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?

Well. Kind of a lot?

They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.

Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.

That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

I haven’t met a Morgan Matson book that I haven’t LOVED, including her latest release, Take Me Home Tonight. I am a huge fan of her work, so I should premise here that I am likely to fall in love with any of her books. Her writing style just pulls me in – it’s has this detailed just binge-able quality with unique plots that grab my attention again & again. 

Like Morgan’s other books, the book is set in the fictional Stanwich, CT, as best friends Stevie and Kat decide to go into New York City by themselves for the night while waiting for the cast list for their high school’s King Lear production. Stevie’s dad cancels their birthday dinner plans at an exclusive restaurant, so Kat convinces her to still take the reservation while having ulterior motives: go see their theatre department lead teacher’s own play to maybe influence his casting decisions for the show. A series of mishaps early in the night leads to getting locked out an apartment with their stuff inside, taking care of the world’s cutest Pomeranian, a broken cell phone, and Kat & Stevie left figuring out what they each want for their future and friendship.  

Before I really dive into my review, I just wanted to include a sidetone that Morgan Matson still has some of the best covers in the YA contemporary game. Although Take Me Home Tonight isn’t my favorite cover – Morgan Matson’s books usually have models/real people on them whereas Take Me Home Tonight has this 3D object-like quality-, I do like that the illustrator got Kat & Stevie’s outfits to the exact detail (and of course included Brad). It might seem a little odd to people who haven’t read the book, but I LOVE the full cover image of Brad/Pomeranian on the back. I borrowed Take Me Home Tonight from my library so I wasn’t able to see it in a full detail, but I also love how the backside of Morgan Matson’s cover jackets are also illustrated. 

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An Emotion of Great Delight Review

81yS1ku0WWLSummary (from the publisher):

It’s 2003, several months since the US officially declared war on Iraq, and the American political world has evolved. Tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise, FBI agents are infiltrating local mosques, and the Muslim community is harassed and targeted more than ever. Shadi, who wears hijab, keeps her head down.

She’s too busy drowning in her own troubles to find the time to deal with bigots.

Shadi is named for joy, but she’s haunted by sorrow. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of her heart—

It’s broken.

Shadi tries to navigate her crumbling world by soldiering through, saying nothing. She devours her own pain, each day retreating farther and farther inside herself until finally, one day, everything changes.

She explodes.

An Emotion of Great Delight is a searing look into the world of a single Muslim family in the wake of 9/11. It’s about a child of immigrants forging a blurry identity, falling in love, and finding hope—in the midst of a modern war.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I read Tahereh Mafi’s first YA contemporary, A Very Large Expanse of Sea, back in 2018, and was recently fortunate enough to dive back into her second & latest YA contemporary release, An Emotion of Great Delight. Fans of the former book & readers who enjoy hard-hitting YA releases will especially enjoy An Emotion of Great Delight. I wish I could think of better word than ‘enjoy,’ as this book has some super dark and somber moment surrounding grief, loss, and harassment. 

Set two years after 9/11, Muslim American teen, Shadi, experiences both verbal and physical harassment nearly every day as the Muslim community becomes a larger target in the US. Shadi is grappling with so much loss, between the death of her brother a year prior, her father’s health issues, her mother who is deeply depressed, her sister who she feels like she cannot talk to, and her best friend who mysteriously dropped her a few months ago. The only person Shadi can remotely hold a conversation with is said former ex-best friend’s brother, Ali, who should be off limits, but helps Shadi in her darkest moments. 

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A FAVORITE YA FROM FAV. AUTHOR:We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This Review

Summary (from the publisher):

WCKMLTQuinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response.

Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman.

Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher.

Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

IMG_4183

Rachel Lynn Solomon is one of my auto-read/auto-love authors because I’ve loved every single one of her books, YA and adult contemporary alike. Her 2020 YA release, Today Tonight Tomorrow, was my favorite YA book last year & her 2021 adult contemporary release, The Ex Talk, will be making many appearances on my favorite books of 2021 lists. You might know that I am a huge fan of books that involve some sort of wedding premise, so take one of my favorite authors and a book with a protagonist whose family owns a wedding planning business, and you had me sold on Rachel Lynn Solomon’s 2021 YA release, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This.

Quinn’s family owns a Seattle-based wedding planning business, Borrowed + Blue, often working alongside Tarek Mansour’s family-owned catering company. There are a few reasons why Quinn doesn’t want to be playing her harp at various ceremonies and helping plan weddings alongside her parents and sister. One, the family dream isn’t necessarily her dream & two, Quinn can’t help but think of the email she sent to Tarek at the end of the summer confessing her feelings for him…aka, the email Tarek also never replied to. When Tarek is home for the summer working & Quinn is forced to help plan the business’ biggest wedding yet, her and Tarek are forced to work figure out their feelings. 

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This had all of the hallmarks of what I love in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s books. Her books just feel so mature, often having thoughtful reflections and conversations surrounding sex, identity and religion. As with all of her other books, Quinn is Jewish and there are some conversations surrounding her relationship with Judaism, especially as her engaged sister, Asher, begins to adopt new religious customs with her fiancé. Tarek is Muslim, and I really liked a particularly conversation him and Quinn on a date about their relationships with religion. The book also has mental health representation, as Quinn has OCD and another character in the book (no spoiler) has clinical depression. I’ve never seen OCD like Quinn’s depicted in a book before and it taught me aspects of OCD that I hadn’t realized before. 

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5 STAR CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: Second First Impressions Review

Summary (from the publisher):
71nBJym9arLRuthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Sally Thorne is the author of one of the arguably most popular contemporary romances, The Hating Game. I remember seeing it in one of Sarah J. Maas’s email newsletters after she had LOVED it. I thus read it back in 2016, but don’t necessarily have strong memories, especially since I’ve developed into & grown as a contemporary romance reader since. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of her second book, 99 Percent Mine – I had trouble settling to the plot & dialogue – so I 100% admit that I was nervous going into Second First Impressions. I thought this book would be my make-or-break deal with Sally Thorne and I am so, SO happy to report that I not only LOVED Second First Impressions, but it is one of my favorite books of 2021! 

Second First Impressions follows twenty-five year old, Ruthie, who is in charge of a retirement village for the old & wealthy where she’s worked at for the past 6 years while her boss is on vacation. Ruthie can’t imagine her life without Providence, since she doesn’t haven’t the best relationship with her reverend father & mother based on mistakes she made as a teenager. Aside from the residents, her only company is Mel, a temp who’s been hired to help out Ruthie with admin but is much more invested in getting Ruthie back in the dating world. 

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