THEATRE MEETS ENEMIES TO LOVERS: As If on Cue Review

Summary (from the publisher):Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first ever student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on.

But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win.

Except Natalie and Reid.

Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them…

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

After falling head over heels from Marisa Kanter’s debut in 2020, What I Like About You (featuring a book blogger & bookish baker), I had to get my hands on her upcoming sophomore novel, As If on Cue.

This YA novel takes on one of my all-time favorite tropes, enemies-to-lovers, set against a high school musical that needs to go well in order to save Natalie’s drama club and Reid’s school band. Natalie and Reid have been rivals since their middle school days, competing for clarinet first chair and Natalie’s music instructor of a dad’s attention. After a prank gone wrong in middle school, Natalie and Reid’s high school rivalry escalates even further when their high schools’ arts budget is cut, with Natalie losing the drama club… but more than enough funds still allocated for Reid’s award-winning band, led by Natalie’s dad. When a prank goes too far once again, Natalie and Reid are forced to convert Natalie’s play into a musical and create a production that will convince the school board to bring back money for the arts. 

As If on Cue was a fun enemies-to-lovers that felt really unique for its musical premise. I love a good enemies-to-lovers featuring school rivals (hello Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Today Tonight Tomorrow) and As If on Cue reminded me why I love this trope so much through Marisa Kanter’s storytelling. The book transitions between Reid and Natalie’s current prank war and being forced to run the school musical together, while going back to their middle school years and the prank that cemented their rivalry for good. I love revisiting their past while seeing them working through their issues and coming together in the present (with a few bumps down the road of course).

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End of Summer Recap Book Tag: 2021 Edition

It’s no secret that one of the many reasons that I love summer is that I accomplish most of my reading for the year between June, July, & August. That was again definitely the case when it came to come summer 2021, having read the most amount of books I’ve ever read in the summer, let alone 3 months, at 65 books. At this point in the month this summer, I’d be at about 14-15 books already read while I’m ‘only’ at six books so far for September since I’ve been back to teaching full-time. I did the End of Summer Recap Book Tag for the first time in 2020 & I enjoyed doing this tag so much that I decided to bring it back this year (and yes, more books mean more difficult choices about some of the books below!). 

The End of Summer Recap Book Tag was created by Faith of You Are What You Read

What book can you not stop thinking about?

I absolutely loved one of my last reads of the summer, Suleika Jaouad’s memoir, Between Two Kingdoms. I totally believe that I read this memoir following Suleika’s cancer diagnosis & treatment beginning in her earlier twenties and the road trip she takes to meet the many people she met & who wrote to her while she was receiving treatment at just the right time. Her writing style was so impactful & addicting, and I want more & more people to keep picking the book up. 

What genre did you read the most?

Contemporary, specifically with a fair mix of contemporary romances, beach/Elin Hilderbrand reads, and a few YA contemporaries. 

I read 5 non-fiction books, meeting my reading goal of reading 1-2 nonfiction books a month, and a whooping 2 fantasy books with my rereads of Carry On & Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell. 

Which book surprised you the most?

You know those books that you don’t realize how much you love until after you’re done reading it? I definitely had this feeling with Elle Cosimano’s comedy meets mystery, Finlay Donovan is Killing It. I am SO looking forward to the sequel in 2022!

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ENEMIES YA CONTEMPORARY : It All Comes Back to You Review  

Summary (from the publisher):

56304328After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.

Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.

When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

You might know that I haven’t been reaching for YA as frequently this year as I have in the past, BUT the YA books I have read this year have been super fantastic reads, including Farah Naz Rishi’s It All Comes Back to You. This is one of the strongest YA books I’ve read in 2021, following former couple Deen and Kiran as they watch their brother and sister respectively get engaged to one another. Deen has never explained why he ghosted Kiran three years ago around the time Kiran’s mother was diagnosed with ALS and his family unexpectedly moved from Philadelphia to New Jersey. Three years later, Kiran’s sister, Amira, and Deen’s brother, Faisal, are now engaged and Kiran is willing to do nearly anything to break the couple apart by figuring out Faisal’s hidden past, much to Deen’s dismay. My reading pace has definitely developed over the past two years, but I binged It All Comes Back to You in about two sittings because I couldn’t put it down! 

It All Comes Back to You is split between Kiran and Deen’s present day perspectives, their texts from their relationship three years before, and their chats from an online game they both play together (unbeknownst to them due to their nicknames/usernames). I think it’s easy to put It All Comes Back to You in the enemies-to-lovers category (or lovers-to-enemies-back-to-something-else category) because Deen and Kiran still have chemistry years later, but this book doesn’t scream romance and I mean that in the best way possible because I loved the direction of the story! Without being too spoilery, I loved the ending of the book for not focusing on the romance. Kiran and Deen’s progression throughout the book felt right – I do think the reveal about Faisal’s past was a tad predictable, but the conclusion made up for it. Throughout, Kiran is really about trying to figure out what went wrong with her & Deen years ago (and yes, maybe getting some revenge through figuring out the secret him & Faisal are hiding from her sister), while Deen wants to earn back Kiran’s trust while protecting his brother.

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My Summer 2021 Favorite Books  

September definitely counts as summer in my mind when it comes to the season – yes, I’m still trying to get in as much pool time as possible between work & on the weekends – but June, July, & August count as summer when it comes to my reading life. I’ve mentioned in my monthly wrap-ups, but summer 2021 was the most amount of books I’ve ever read in 1 summer (and honestly probably 1 season) at a total of 65 books (yes, at least 2 of these were novellas but I’m counting these as books for now before I do my annual stats in a few months). Having read 65 books, it’s no surprise that it was really difficult to narrow it down to my absolute faves, so I decided to share my favorites and then narrow it down to my top 5 favorite books of summer. 

Top 5 Summer 2021 Favorites: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams, Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad, The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand, & The Guncle by Steve Rowley

What are your favorite books of summer 2021? Have you read any of my favorites here? Share in the comments!

CONTEMPORARY & ELIN HILDERBRAND READS: August & September Mini Reviews 

One last semi-August mini review round up! Today, I’m going to be sharing mini reviews a few more books that I read towards the end of August and the first few of my September reads. This is my first week at work and while I am really excited about my job (I’m teaching middle school English) & like being back in a work routine, I am definitely going to miss my summer days spent reading, especially since I know that I won’t be reading as much in September as I did in August. As was the theme of my summer reading, today I have a few contemporary fiction reads and yes, 4 Elin Hilderbrand books, to recap. 

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams – Seven Days in June is THE romance book that has taken over my bookish feeds over the past few months. I knew the book featured two Black protagonists, but I didn’t know much else going into it. A few book recommendation sources have recommended this one if you’re in a book hangover after reading Robinne Lee’s The Idea of You, and while I think fans of that book will still enjoy Seven Days in June, Seven Days in June has much more serious and darker tone (and doesn’t have the whole older woman dating a younger celebrity synopsis). Seven Days in June follows two famous Black authors, Eva & Shane, who are both connected by their past in high school (warnings for drug and alcohol abuse and self harm). I really liked Tia William’s writing style and the writing plot lines surround Eva and Shane’s careers. Eva also has an autoimmune disorder that largely affects her lifestyle, which was overall something I haven’t read in a book before. My Rating: 4/5 Stars 

The Rehearsals by Annette Christie – Everyone knows that I’m up for any book about weddings, which led me to Annette Christie’s debut, The Rehearsals. This contemporary read follows college sweethearts Megan and Tom & their disastrous rehearsal dinner before their wedding. After a mega fight, Megan and Tom wake up on the morning of their wedding, only to become stuck in a Groundhog Day-type loop where they repeat the day of the rehearsal dinner again. The time-loop premise totally worked for me in this one, having loved exploring the what-ifs in Tom and Megan’s relationship and their relationship development through the repeated days. I totally admit that I have a love-hate relationship with the ending. I wanted more closure but also I sometimes like a what’s next kind of ending (trying to avoid spoilers). My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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FAVORITE MEMOIR: Between Two Kingdoms

91R97HtjQ7LSummary (from the publisher): In the summer after graduating from college, Suleika Jaouad was preparing, as they say in commencement speeches, to enter “the real world”. She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The real world she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.

It started with an itch—first on her feet, then up her legs, like a thousand invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Jaouad flew home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times.

When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after three and a half years of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. She had spent the past 1,500 days in desperate pursuit of one goal—to survive. And now that she’d done so, she realized that she had no idea how to live.

How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked—with her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt—on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital: a teenage girl in Florida also recovering from cancer; a teacher in California grieving the death of her son; a death-row inmate in Texas who’d spent his own years confined to a room. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives. Between Two Kingdoms is a profound chronicle of survivorship and a fierce, tender, and inspiring exploration of what it means to begin again.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

As a growing nonfiction and memoir reader, Suleika Jaouad’s memoir, Between Two Kingdoms, had been on my radar and I finally added it to my TBR after reading a glowing review in Book Page a few weeks ago. I picked up a copy somewhat randomly one weekend and I’m really convinced that I read this book at the absolute right time. The book is told in two parts, the first following Suleika Jaouad’s leukemia diagnosis in her early twenties, when she had just recently graduated from Princeton and was starting her first full time job and relationship in Paris. The book then details her diagnosis and treatment, her relationship with her boyfriend and family, her column for The New York Times based on being a young adult with cancer,  and her life overall throughout. The second half of the book then transitions into Suleika’s recovery, in which she decided to complete a 1,500 mile road trip with her dog visiting the many people she had connected with over her treatment. 

I connected to Suleika Jaouad’s story so much and her messages surrounding life and relationships because I am now 23 and just beginning my career, which again was when Jaouad was diagnosed with cancer. I think this book is excellent for all readers of ages and different experiences, but I definitely want my fellow recent college graduates to read this one, as she has so many relatable and really eye-opening messages surrounding being in your twenties and careers and relationships, obviously through a very unique and honestly somber perspective as she grapples with a life-threatening disease in her twenties. 

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22 BOOK READING MONTH: August 2021 Wrap Up

In the words of Taylor Swift, this August “slipped away into a moment in time” so quickly! We’ve had some ‘meh’ summer weather where I live this month, so some days blurred together, but I definitely took advantage of the few sunny and not super humid days to run to the beach with a good book.

I read 22 books in August. I’ll include a bigger snapshot of my summer reading in my favorites post, but I’ve read the most amount of books over the summer than I ever have before! My favorite books this month (in no particular order) were The Guncle, Between Two Kingdoms, The Matchmaker, & The Beach Club.

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory | 4.5/5 Stars

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand | 4/5

The Guncle by Steven Rowley | 5/5 

To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne | 4/5 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston | 3/5 

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle | 3.5/5 

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