I have loved my start to the summer, in thanks to beach days, pool days, and all the books I’ve read so far. June was definitely my best reading month so far, in terms of both quality and quantity. I think I’ve set a personal record when it comes to annual reading & summer reading in 2021, having read 74 books so far in 2021 and 19 books (18 books + 1 novella) in June – I’m hoping to get to a total of 20 books in June/75 books for the year so far by the end of today. I have reviews or mini reviews either published or coming for nearly all of the books below, so I’ll just be sharing my star ratings for them then transitioning into what I watched and wrote this month.
It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark | 4.5/5
A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin | 4/5
An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi | 4/5
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala |
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid | 4/5
Finally Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano | 4.5/5
The time has finally come for the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag. A few of my blogging friends shared this book tag dedicated to sharing some of your favorite reads and reading plans for the rest of the year, since we’re at the halfway point for the year. If you want a tiny taste of how my reading has changed over my blogging years, check out my mid-year freak out tags for 2020, 2019, & 2017.
Best Book You’ve Read So Far in 2021: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon & People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
It’s probably no surprise that 1) I have more than one favorite book and 2) that they’re both contemporary romances. The Ex Talk is definitely one of my favorite enemies-to-lovers books, and I cannot get over the humor and coziness in Poppy and Alex’s relationship in People We Meet on Vacation
Some other favorites I had to share because I have no self-control as usual:
Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson, Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon, & Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter
Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far: Another tie because I just can’t choose 1! If we’re talking literal sequel (aka book #2) and contemporary romance world, it’s The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan. If we’re talking new book in a multi-book series, it’s obviously A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas… I also can’t help but mention Anna K: Away by Jenny Lee
New Release You Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To: Indeciveness/multi-book options always rules, including:
The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary , One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston, It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story by Lauren Morrill, & God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney
It’s no secret that summer is my favorite reading season, as I spend a ton of time reading on the beach & while floating in the pool. This summer reading recommendations list is based on books that I’ve read so far this year and books that I read during summer 2020. I’ve also tried to avoid books I might’ve recommended in past summer recommendation posts – last year, I shared some must read YA books for summertime & then books based on what I read in 2019. In my opinion, here’s what makes a good summer/ beach/pool read:
An ‘un-put-downable’ read – a plot/story that makes you want to stay in your pool float and keep reading
Usually on the lighter and fun side, typically a contemporary (romance) book
Since you’ve likely seen me talk about these books before, I’m going to keep my summaries/why you should read these books on the shorter side — aka just read them.
You Have a Match by Emma Lord – If you’re nostalgic for summer camp or find yourself watching The Parent Trap on repeat on rainy summer days, pick this YA contemporary about two sisters who find out they’re even sisters through a DNA test & then go to the same summer camp up.
Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl – Have a Little Faith in Me is such an underrated YA summer camp read that contains so many elements that I love in a contemporary read – the lead protagonist goes to a Christian summer camp to win back her boyfriend only to soon become her cabin’s sex educator and falling for her best friend. I’m so exited to read Sonia Hartl’s contemporary romance debut, Heartbreak for Hire, this summer!
Beach Read by Emily Henry – Please don’t roll your eyes at this rec, but how could I 1) not recommend Emily Henry’s amazing adult contemporary romance and 2) not recommend a book that is literally called ‘Beach Read’ in general? I know so many of my fellow contemporary romance readers have already read this one, but this is another reminder to not hesitate picking this book following two rival writers with beach houses next to each other up…unlike me who has been overwhelmed with other books and hasn’t yet picked up Emily Henry’s latest amazing contemporary romance, People We Meet on Vacation.
I admitted in my mini reviews round up last week that I’ve been not-so great at sharing mini reviews or full reviews for every book I’ve read. I don’t necessarily hold myself to reviewing every single book on the blog – I obviously review books that I receive for review from publishers and I really like writing full reviews or even minis for books that I’ve loved or have a ton of thoughts about – but I’ve read so many good books over the past few weeks that I want to recommend!
I’ve also been reading so much more than I have all year (I’m a teacher and have been truly enjoying the summer time off and diving into ALL the books), so I’m definitely reading way more than I am writing, but I’m hoping to even the playing field as my part time work and last grad class winds down and get back into the swing of blogging. Without further ado, today I am sharing some thoughts & star rating on a few books that I’ve read over the past few weeks.
It Had To Be You by Georgia Clark –It Had To Be You was one of my most anticipated spring releases, following Liv’s wedding planning business after her husband unexpectedly passes and leaves half of their company to his secret girlfriend. The book is told in the fashion of Love, Actually, following Liv, Savannah, and other people they work with in the wedding world. I thought this book was so cute, the wedding premise was super well done, and it made me want to go to NYC ASAP – there are so many actual places that the characters frequent throughout. My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Finally Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano – Finlay Donovan is Killing It is hands-down one of the best books that I read in June, following a romance author who is mistakenly as a contract killer with the story unraveling from there. Its mix of mystery, suspense, humor, and contemporary-like story kept me hooked the entire time and I am SO excited to see where this series goes! My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Arsenic & Adobo by Mia P. Manansala – I haven’t read a cozy mystery like Arsenic & Adobo before. It took me the first few chapters to settle in, but soon found myself so engaged in the storyline and the who-dunnit ness of the story. I recently read Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Dial A for Aunties & I think fans of that book will enjoy Arsenic & Adobo – think more mystery and less hijinks than Dial A for Aunties. So looking forward to the second book, Homicide and Halo-Halo. My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I’ve been on a mini mission to read all the books from some popular authors, Christina Lauren & Taylor Jenkins Reid both included. Maybe in Another Life as the only book pre Malibu Rising (which I’ve also now read) from TJR that I haven’t read, following Hannah and the two lives she could have lead depending on if she does or does not go home for the night with her ex-boyfriend. I was always hesitant to pick up Maybe in Another Life because of the two storylines, but I actually liked it way more than I had expected. Definitely a great beach read for the summer. My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Shipped by Angie Hockman – Shipped is one of the most unique & cutest workplace enemies to lovers that I’ve read! The book follows Henley and Graeme, who are both competing for a digital marketing position at a cruise line and both join a cruise to the Galapagos to create original pitches. I liked the focus on romance, family, and the plot surrounding how Henley and women are unfairly treated in their workplace. The book’s commentary on ecotourism and sustainability was made this book a standout. My Rating: 4.5/Stars
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.
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.
Summary (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
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.
Calla 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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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—
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.
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
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.