GILMORE GIRLS MEETS GAP YEAR: The Marvelous Mirza Girls Review 

Summary (from the publisher):

91DHMxk5y5LTo cure her post–senior year slump, made worse by the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen is ready to follow her mom on a gap year trip to New Delhi, hoping India can lessen her grief and bring her voice back.

In the world’s most polluted city, Noreen soon meets kind, handsome Kabir, who introduces her to the wonders of this magical, complicated place. With Kabir’s help—plus Bollywood celebrities, fourteenth-century ruins, karaoke parties, and Sufi saints—Noreen begins to rediscover her joyful voice.

But when a family scandal erupts, Noreen and Kabir must face complicated questions in their own relationship: What does it mean to truly stand by someone—and what are the boundaries of love? 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

In a world where we are traveling less than we used to, I’ve been really attracted to books taking place in other countries than the US, which helped lead me to Sheba Karim’s The Marvelous Mirza Girls. A year after the loss of her aunt Sonia, Noreen decides to take a gap year in between high school and college and join her mother on a work trip to New Dehli for a few months. There, Noreen meets Kabir, who shows her various sites around New Dehli to help Noreen confront her grief and learn more about her culture. 

The Marvelous Mirza Girls has so many great elements that were all really well-balanced. Noreen is a writer and dreams of writing a TV show one day, but has struggled to write since the unexpected death of her aunt Sonia. The book starts off a year after Sonia’s death, and Noreen remains in deep grief. Her mother, Ruby, hopes that a change in location to New Delhi will help lift both their spirits and get Noreen back to writing. I’m usually hesitant about comparing books to TV shows, but The Marvelous Mirza Girls completely deserves the Gilmore Girls comparisons. Ruby and Noreen have such a relaxed, yet strong mother-daughter dynamic. They both easily agree to spending some of Noreen’s gap year in New Dehli together, they talk about dating and relationships with ease, and like Lorelai and Rory, they have a penchant for junk food. I also thought Noreen’s grief and emotions surrounding her aunt’s death were well developed. With each site Kabir takes Noreen to, she works through her grief and feels a closer connection to her aunt. The book also somewhat delves into Noreen’s relationship with her estranged father, making Noreen all the more grateful for her relationship with her mother. I loved the emphasis and inclusion of positive female relationships, especially between a mother and daughter. 

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Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry Review 

Summary (from the publisher):

8100TK7bG4LQuinn keeps lists of everything—from the days she’s ugly cried, to “Things That I Would Never Admit Out Loud” and all the boys she’d like to kiss. Her lists keep her sane. By writing her fears on paper, she never has to face them in real life. That is, until her journal goes missing . . .

Then an anonymous account posts one of her lists on Instagram for the whole school to see and blackmails her into facing seven of her greatest fears, or else her entire journal will go public. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust. Desperate, she teams up with Carter Bennett—the last known person to have her journal—in a race against time to track down the blackmailer.

Together, they journey through everything Quinn’s been too afraid to face, and along the way, Quinn finds the courage to be honest, to live in the moment, and to fall in love.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

If you’re looking for YA contemporary that mixes adorable YA romance with real themes, look no further than Joya Goffney’s Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry. The book follows high school senior, Quinn, a girl who just kept seem to tell the truth unless in it’s in her notebook. Quinn keeps lists about everything, from things she’d never admit out loud to everything that annoys her about one of her classmates, Carter. When someone gets a hold of the notebook and threatens to blackmail Quinn, like exposing her fake college acceptance and her help vandalizing a fellow classmate’s artwork, she has to team up with Carter to figure out who has the notebook. 

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I liked Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry’s balance between cute YA and serious themes surrounding race. The book has slight To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before vibes, between Quinn’s notebook/notes being stolen and having to team up with a guy she never would’ve imagined spending time with, let alone developing feelings for. Quinn identities as Black, and much of the book revolves around a really horrible incident with two friends involving racial stereotypes and the Quinn’s feeling that she isn’t “Black” enough based on the things people say about her. Quinn has tough conversations with her parents, new friends, and ex-friends about race, and the book provides a ton of perspective on prejudice and micro-aggressions. 

While I appreciated the book’s themes and I especially loved Quinn and Olivia’s friendship, I had trouble really getting into Quinn’s mindset. I think there was too much going with plot, between her relationship with her parents, their own relationship problems, her grandmother’s health, Carter, her crush on Matt, college, and friendships. It was almost hard to understand why she lied so much about what was going on in her life & her feelings. Although I liked having a glimpse into all of these elements of Quinn’s life, it was often difficult to keep track of characters and some of these factors felt surface-level, despite the book’s conversation surrounding race. 

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My 5 May Must-Reads TBR 

My May has been going super well so far & I have some really exciting things going on this week – I finished my clinical internship last week for my masters program, I just started a full-time job this week (!!), & have my graduation ceremonies for my masters and undergrad degree from 2020 on Friday. With all the new changes and celebrations happening this month, my reading life has been put a little on hold, but I’m hoping to dedicate some serious time to reading on weekends. As always, while I plan on reading more than the books outlined here, I wanted to share my top 5 must-read books for May, including 3 review copies on my to-review list for June. I won’t go into too many details on a few of the books below, since I’ve mentioned at least two of them in some recent blog posts

Anna K: Away (Anna K #2) by Jenny Lee – Anna K: Away is one of my current reads. I’ve been not-so patiently waiting for this sequel since last summer when I read Anna K. The sequel picks up during the summer of book #1’s conclusion, with Anna starting off in South Korea to hide away while her friends & fellow socialites pick up the pieces of their owns scandals & drama. If you love escapist reads, I cannot recommend this series enough. 

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry – If we get some nice sunny weather this weekend, I am committing to sitting outside & devouring Emily Henry’s People We Meet On Vacation. I’ve had my Book of the Month copy of this contemporary romance following two best friends, Poppy & Alex, whose relationship has been rocky for the past 2 years until Poppy convinces Alex to go on one last vacation with each other. Like Beach Read, this one screams perfect beach or poolside read. 

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CUTE & COZY READ: Twice Shy Review

tsSummary (from the publisher):

Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous—and it turns out he has very different vision for the property’s future.

Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.

My Rating: 4.5/Stars

My Thoughts:

Sarah Hogle’s You Deserve Each Other was one of funniest & best books I read in 2020, so I could not wait to pick up her 2021 release, Twice Shy. This contemporary romance follows Maybell, an events coordinator at a resort in Tennessee who hasn’t had the best luck in life when it comes to a family, romance, and even work – any of the events Maybell tries to plan at the hotel always gets shut down. One day at work, Maybell finds out that she has inherited her great aunt’s estate..only to arrive at the house to see its dismal conditions and to find out her aunt’s grumpy groundskeeper, Wesley, is the co-owner. 

Everyone knows that I love a cozy contemporary and Twice Shy completely fits that category. As suggested by the title of the book, both Maybell and Wesley are really shy people and often struggle to connect with others. Maybell is especially ‘stepped on’ by her mom and one of her co-workers, so she is need of a fresh start and has fond memories of the one summer she spent at the aunt’s estate. Wesley’s story is harder to crack open, but as Maybell and him grow closer repairing the house with another, the story surrounding his anxiety comes out more & more. Maybell is also often lost to her day-dreams or alternate reality, where she replays interactions inside a fictional coffee shop – the whole AU storyline was really unique & something I hadn’t read in a book before. Read More »

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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