CONTEMPORARY, CONTEMPORARY: February 2021 Mini Reviews

My reading in February reflected my usual reading habits: contemporary & contemporary romance with some non-fiction and Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Silver Flames mixed in. Today’s mini reviews from last month include a contemporary romance I’m always finding on recommendation lists, a New Years inspired read take took over everyone’s reading at the end of 2020, and a 2020 contemporary about South Korean beauty culture that has recently blown up on my book social media feeds.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Evvie Drake Starts Over was the perfectly quiet and cozy contemporary romance that I didn’t realize I needed until I was 200 pages in. I read this one over the course of some snow days in February. It’s sweetness and heartfelt ness made for the perfect companion while I snuggled up on the couch watching the snow fall. 

Evvie Drake Starts Over follows the title character, Evvie, who has recently lost her husband. Everyone in her small coastal Maine town constantly check in on her and how she’s handling her supposed grief, including her best friend, Andy. Andy encourages Evvie to rent out her house’s apartment to one of his college friends and a professional baseball player. Dean has recently ended his career after dealing with an athlete’s worst nightmare, the “yips. Despite intense physical training and mental support, he just can’t seem to pitch anymore. 

The book deals with heavier themes, but still felt light & warm at the same time. There’s loss and guilt, as Evvie is dealing with a different kind of grief when it comes to the death of her husband (warning for emotional abuse). Evvie’s marriage to her husband was completely not what it seemed on the outside, and even after his death, she is still combatting people’s interpretations of their relationship. There’s also an emphasis on mental health, between Evvie’s struggles and Dean’s inability to no longer play baseball. 

The story is really driven by Evvie and Dean’s personal journeys and their relationship, but it was complimented by their own friendship and family dynamics. There’s not a ton of romance scenes, but Evvie and Dean’s relationship felt so intimate. Their chemistry and comfort with one another is so instant. I loved how they could drift from light-hearted,easy-going conversations and then deep dive into Dean’s pitching sturggles, Evvie’s marriage, and their own relationship.

Overall, Evvie Drake Starts Over  was just such a soothing read that felt different from most of the contemporary romances I’ve read. There’s definitely more of a focus on the contemporary side of things that just worked perfectly in this one. 

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars

I feel like Sophie Cousens’ This Time Next Year was THE contemporary book everyone was getting their hands on near the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, thanks to its New Years-inspired premise. After a long wait on the library holds list, I recently got this one in my hands and devoured it in less than three days! I totally admit that I thought about holding this one off until next December near New Years because I love reading holiday books around said holiday, but This Time Next Year was the fluffy and charming read I needed. I’d say the book is half set between New Years and the rest of the year – somewhat picture Josie Silver’s One Day in December, but imagine just one year and flashbacks to New Years of the past.

Set on the outskirts of London, This Time Next Year follows Minnie and Quinn, who were both born minutes apart on New Years Day back in 1990. Ever since Quinn was born first and won a cash prize for being the first baby born in London that decade, Minnie has always felt like bad luck has followed her, especially each year on her birthday. Quinn and Minnie meet at a New Years Party on their mutual 30th birthday and can’t help but continue to run into each other as the year moves on (and maybe have actually run into each others’ paths during past New Years…). This Time Next Year’s premise and storytelling was done so well. I loved Quinn and Minnie’s instant chemistry. Their humor and adventures together just put such a smile on my face as I read. Everyone knows that I love a book featuring baking or cooking (not to mention one set in the UK), so it was really fun to read about Minnie’s pie business with her best friend, Leila…and yes, it took me the first few chapters to realize that Minnie makes savory pies typical in the UK vs. the sweet/dessert-like pies we’re used to here in the US. I loved seeing both Minnie and Quinn’s personal growth, which may have been a bit inspired by each other  and the subsequent strengthening of her relationship with their parents. Overall, This Time Next Year is such a fun and cute book to read both year-round or just in time for New Years.Read More »

BOOKS & HBO Max: February 2021 Wrap Up

February felt like the longest and shortest month ever – which I guess kind’ve makes sense since February is the shortest calendar month. This is was an intensely busy month for me grad school wise. Once I finish and submit a major assessment for my master’s in early March, grad life *should* get slightly more calm before I graduate in May. We also got a ton of snow where I live in the US – I actually don’t think location matters too much because everywhere in the US seems to have been slammed by snow over the past few weeks – which meant a few more remote work days and plenty of trips out to my car to clean off snow. 

I am super excited though that the weather seems to be warming up, and it’s staying light out for longer at night. Going for walks and runs after school and getting fresh air to such a big stress reliever for me, so I’m really looking forward to spring weather. As you can probably tell below, the biggest stress reliever for me in February was reading and watching TV & movies. I was definitely on more of a reading kick early on in the month, but I totally admit my HBO Max subscription got to me and I leaned into TV and movies way more than usual. 

I’ve so far read 8 books in February, which I’m pretty content with considering my school schedule and that I’m currently reading a certain 700+ page fantasy read. I have reviews coming or already published for all of the books below, so I’ll just be sharing my star ratings. 

Love in English by Maria E. Andreu (ARC) | 4/5 Stars

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes | 4.5/5 

Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman | 4/5

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (ARC) | 4/5 

Read More »

Spring 2021 Most Anticipated Releases: YA Edition

Spring time often has so much to look forward to for me: warm weather, summertime prep, and new books! Spring and fall often compete as the best seasons for new YA releases, especially when it comes to YA contemporaries. Today I’ll be featuring the YA books I’m most looking forward to coming out this March, April, and May. 

There are a few repeats on this list from my Most Anticipated YA Books of 2021 guide – I tend to have more spring releases on my annual guide each December because we usually know more about spring releases than fall books – but I did add some more titles since then, thanks to  friends’ recommendations and fellow bloggers’ anticipated lists. 

It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story by Lauren Morrill | RD: March 9 | Add it on Goodreads

Combine YA contemporary with pizza and I’m already there (with a slice or two of pizza near by). Lauren Morrill’s It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story sounds like it is going to be so cute and fun – sixteen year old Beck starts working in the pizza parlor she was born in 16 years ago and while reluctant to start the job thanks to her local celebrity fame, finds herself way more at home at Hot n’ Crusty than she’d like to admit. 

Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau | RD: April 6 | Add it on Goodreads

Since travel is still a no-go for most of us right now, the next best way to picture an adventure abroad is by reading about one of course. I’ll personally be escaping to Paris through Kisses and Croissants, as Mia spends her summer at an elite ballet training program and discovers the city with a cute French boy in tow. I think having a croissant or two by my side will be necessary as I read. 

What’s Not to Love by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka | RD: April 20 | Add it on Goodreads

I’m super excited to see Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s take on the enemies-to-lovers trope in What’s Not to Love. The book follows high school senior rivals, Allison & Ethan, as they compete to plan a ten year reunion, in hopes of getting a Harvard recommendation letter from their principal.

Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock | RD: April 20 | Add it on Goodreads

I don’t read too many anthologies or short story collections, but I am beyond excited for Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town. Her The Smell of Other People’s Houses is one of the most beautiful and well-written books I’ve ever read, and I expect nothing less from the book connecting the stories of young people from small towns in Alaska and the American West. Read More »

ANTICIPATED BOOKS & LIBRARY READS: February 2021 Book Haul

My February book haul basically resulted from book shopping, book mail, and library holds all from the past week. I’m in the heat of my spring semester right now and how do I deal with stress? Buy books and put more books on hold from the library!

This month, I bought 2 of my most anticipated releases of the year (of course included below) and went on a mini library book spree before the snow storm last week. I am currently reading a certain 700+ page beast and despite a busy week at my internship and grad school requirements…. I’ll probably still (hopefully) have it finished by the end of next weekend, then will be returning to the library books on this list.

Purchased Books

A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns & Roses #4) by Sarah J. Maas – Between the details above and the fact that I am a huge Sarah J. Maas fan, it’s likely no surprise that I bought A Court of Silver Flames. I have a not-so great track record with ordering SJM books online (in short, they either come 2 weeks after the release or they just don’t come at all…), so I ran to Barnes & Noble on Saturday after a few snowy days. I sort’ve wish I went to the bookstore before we got snowy weather on Thursday and Friday to make sure I got one of the B&N exclusive editions, but I fortunately still managed to grab one of the last copies there! As per usual, I like the A Court of Silver Flames cover better in-person than I did seeing the cover online – I also love the orange hardback for some reason? Probably because I’m so in love with A Court of Silver Flames right now, I’m somewhat tempted to add the new hardback and resigned copies of the original ACOTAR series to my bookshelf. 

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon – I have a really big assessment due for my grad program in early March, and I’m going to treat myself once it is turned in by reading one of my most anticipated romances of 2021, Rachel Lynn Solomon’s The Ex Talk. I devoured Rachel Lynn Solomon’s books in 2020 and as one of my favorite authors, I have my own copies of all her books. I’ve been reading such rave reviews from my book blogging friends and trusted book rec sources about this romance following two exes who co-host a public radio show. 

Review Books/Sent to Me

The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim – I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of Sheba Karim’s upcoming The Marvelous Mirza Girls. I won’t be reviewing this one on the blog until May (the book comes out on May 18), but I’m really excited to dive into this book following a mother and daughter’s gap year trip to New Dehili. 

Library Books

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens – I typically don’t wait long for library holds, even when it comes to super popular books like This Time Next Year. I had this one on hold from the library in early December. However, I think since the book semi-revolves around New Years Eve, a ton of readers also wanted to read this one around the holidays and my library has a 3-day quarantine period for returned books.  I just got my hands-on this romance following Quinn and Minnie, both born on New Years Day in the same year, over one year of their lives…and I had it devoured three days later! 

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper – I’ll be continuing my goal of reading at least 1 non-fiction book every 1-2 months this March with Megan Phelps-Roper’s Unfollow. Based on some of the non-fiction books I read in 2020, I really enjoy non-fiction books about people exploring their past experiences with religion. 

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez – Whenever I’m stressed IRL, contemporary romance (or a big SJM book apparently) is my go-to way to relax. I’m so excited to dive into one of the most-well read romance series of the past two years with The Friend Zone. 

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le – A Pho Love story was an unexpected pick from the library. I went to pick up the other books and saw this anticipated YA 2021 release on display. Everyone knows that enemies-to-lovers has been the name of my reading game for at least a year, and this one follows two high school protagonists whose families own competing pho restaurants. 

What books did you haul in February? Have you read any of the books that I mentioned? Share in the comments! 

Spring 2021 Most Anticipated Releases: Contemporary Romance

Over the past few weeks, I might’ve spent just as much time adding books to my TBR as I did actually reading the books on my TBR! I’ve recently been going on mini TBR-adding sprees, thanks to book recommendations on Instagram stories and more 2021 anticipated releases lists. In case you were wondering, authors Emily Henry and Hannah Orenstein are two of my go-to IG book recommendation sources. I had a decent amount of spring contemporary romances on 2021 Most Anticipated Releases: Contemporary Romance Edition list – I’ll be sharing some of the same titles today – but I honestly might’ve added double the amount of spring romances on my TBR since then. Today, I’ll be featuring the romances I’m most looking forward to coming out this March, April, and May. My YA Spring 2021 Anticipated Releases guide will be coming out next week!

Accidentally Engaged by Farah HeronRelease Date: March 2 | Add it on Goodreads 

Match-making is one of my favorite romance tropes, which led me to Farah Heron’s Accidentally Engaged, following Reena’s parents’ attempt to match her with an eligible Muslim bachelor. The book seems like it’s going to have so many other elements that I love in a good romance, including a fake engagement, a sweet love interest (with a British accent??)and tons of cooking & bread making. 

Float Plan by Trish DollerRD: March 2 | Add it on Goodreads 

Below Deck has become one of my favorite guilty pleasures over the past year, so I’m ready for any romance that takes place while sailing. Float Plan follows Anna, who has recently lost her fiancé and after a rough night at sea, hires a professional sailor to help her during her voyage.

The Dating Plan by Sarah DesaiRD: March 16 | Add it on Goodreads 

I really enjoyed Sarah Desai’s The Marriage Game because it was one of the funniest rom-coms I’ve ever read and the match-making premise was done so well. My love for that book alone makes me excited to pick up The Dating Plan. The book follows one of the main characters from The Marriage Game, Daisy. The synopsis sounds like a mix of match-making and a potential marriage of convenience. 

Second Chance Impressions by Sally Thorne | RD: April 13 | Add it on Goodreads 

Like many readers, I LOVED Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, but felt pretty meh about 99 Percent Mine. I have high hopes that Second Chance Impressions will bring back some The Hating Game feels because it sounds like it has slight enemies-to-lovers vibes – Ruthie works at a retirement center and the son of the retirement center’s property developer comes on as a personal assistant to two of the most eccentric residents. 

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle | RD: April 6 | Add it on Goodreads

Sarah Hogle wrote my all-time favorite contemporary romance, You Deserve Each Other, which means that I need more of her work immediately!  Twice Shy has been described in early reviews as the sweetest romance – a hopeless romantic inherits a house in the Smokies from her great aunt and must share it with the grouchy and gorgeous grounds-keeper. Read More »

Top Five Wednesday: Favorite Book Covers on my TBR

I don’t often write entire blog posts dedicated to book covers, but I couldn’t help but love this week’s Top Five Wednesday theme. I wouldn’t say I’m a reader who judges a book by its over…. but I do admit that a beautiful book cover sometimes distracts me from other books on my TBR. I’ve really been loving the illustrated book cover theme over the past few years, especially when it comes to contemporary romances. 

Today’s Top Five Wednesday is all about the top 5 books on our TBR that are especially screaming for our attention because of their covers. 

Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey – I will absolutely be reading this YA You’ve Got Mail inspired contemporary just for that synopsis alone, but I distinctly remember running to add Last Chance Books to my TBR just because its cover screamed bookishness. The books on the cover remind me so much of the Penguin Drop Caps. 

It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian – As mentioned above, I can’t help but love illustrated covers for contemporary romances like It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake. I’m also currently in a bit of a winter rut – I’m so sick of the snow and am counting down to my first beach weekend this year – so this cover screams to my current warm weather need.

What’s Not to Love by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka – This might just be my favorite Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka cover yet because I love the purple color scheme and bookshelves in the background. My absolute favorite element of the entire cover is that their other other YA books are featuring on the shelves – I can spot Time of Our Lives and If I’m Being Honest easily, and I think the female model may be holding Always Never Yours?Read More »

Always and Forever, Lara Jean Film Review


There’s a very likely possibility that Always and Forever, Lara Jean film reviews are blowing up your blog feed this Monday morning, but the final Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series is worth all the love and more. Always and Forever, Lara Jean hit Netflix this past Friday, February 12th, and this blogger put it on as soon as she got home from work on Friday afternoon. You might know that Always & Forever, Lara Jean is my favorite book in the TATBILB trilogy, meaning that I had highly and somewhat nervously anticipating this third film. I really love the Netflix adaptations of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You because they truly capture the heart of the books. I’m so happy to say that Always and Forever, Lara Jean met my expectations and more. **Warning that within this review, there are spoilers for both the film and book. 

I knew going into the film, based on the trailer and the changes between book and movie in the first two films, that there were going to be a few changes in detail. I think some of the biggest changes between book and film result from the fact that the film series takes place in the Pacific Northwest, while the books take place in Virginia. Instead of UVA, Peter and Lara Jean both have their hearts set on Stanford, with Lara Jean being swayed by another California school and New York University vs. William & Mary and UNC. I actually thought Lara Jean’s interest in NYU made so much sense because she really enjoys being in the city during the senior trip (even though I love having UNC in the books as a nod to Jenny Han’s own alma mater). 

Despite the change in setting, I really liked that Peter and Lara Jean’s trajectory stays the same. I didn’t like the slight bump in Lara Jean telling him the truth about Stanford, but it overall didn’t affect the plot too much. I sort’ve wish their big fight happened like it did in the book vs. taking place at prom, but I am happy with what stayed true to the book too much to get too upset. I was so, so happy that Peter’s memory about his and Lara Jean’s real meet cute stayed in the movie (and I LOVED the cameo involved). 

One somewhat general change I really liked about the movies is that there were so many added details within the trips, specifically the Coveys’ trip to Korea and Lara Jean’s senior trip to NYC. I sort’ve wish the film would’ve went more into the summertime when the Coveys actually go to Korea and even included senior week at the beach, but I LOVED getting to go around Korea with the Coveys. I liked that Dr.Covey and Trina joined the girls on the trip. I especially thought the padlock scene at Seoul Tower with the girls and their dad felt so right for the film, since it paid a nod to their mother and the impending addition of Trina to the family. 

Regarding the NYC trip, while I was somewhat disappointed that we didn’t see Lara Jean and Peter running around the city together like in the books (I really wanted him to surprise her with Levain cookies), I loved the added details. Specifically, it was actually really fun to see Lara Jean run around the city with her girlfriends, Gen and Chris. Chris actually makes more appearances in the book than I remembered the first time around, but I loved how she really took on a more of a main character vs. supporting role in the film.

When it came to the Covey sisters, I do wish we got to see a bit more Margot, even though I like how the film treated her adjustment to Trina. Kitty made me laugh and smile the most as always. I did appreciate how they made her a tad more mature with her first ‘boyfriend’ – fingers-crossed that one day will get a spinoff series following the youngest Covey! Although I had plenty of feels throughout, the one scene where I did actually cry was when Kitty admits how much she’ll really miss Lara Jean when she goes to college. The wedding was just like how I imagined it my head, from the backyard wedding to Kitty’s tux to Lara Jean and Peter’s scene.  

Just like the book, Always & Forever, Lara Jean has the perfect balance of Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter, her family, her friendships, and most importantly, making the transformation from high school Lara Jean to college ready, young adult Lara Jean. The ending was so hopeful and perfect to Lara Jean’s future, with a touch of bittersweetness. While I’m sad to see this film trilogy come to an end, I’ll always & forever be grateful to have seen one of my all-time favorite series come to life on screen. 

Have you watched Always and Forever, Lara Jean? What did you think? What’s your favorite TATBILB film or book? Share in the comments! 

Popular Goodreads Romances I Haven’t Read: Romance TBR

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this week has been Romance Week on Goodreads, where they shared a ton of romance recommendations. My favorite post of theirs this week was the 52 Most Popular Romances of the Past 3 Years. You may know that one of my 2021 reading goals is to catch up on popular contemporary romances, and this list definitely helped me figure out which books people have been reading and what I still need to read. I will put out a disclaimer to say that I know Goodreads generates most of their popular books list based on what users have been reading – I was happy to see that they did share an indie romance list curated by author Talia Hibbert. I have shared romance books that are on my TBR in a few posts

I’m glad to say that I’ve read 13 out of the 20 books I put on my contemporary romance TBR last March. I also did read 2 out of the 5 books I shared in a Top Five Wednesday about romance books back in September – 2 out of 3 that I haven’t yet read are actually on the Goodreads’ list, so I won’t be formally talking about them in this post (The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang at #2 and The Happily Ever After Playlist at #41). 

Back to the Most Popular Romances on Goodreads, I’ve read 25 out of the 52 books over the past few years. I also read 7 out of the top 10 most popular romances! While I won’t be adding all 27 of the other books on to my TBR, today I’ll be talking about some of the books I do plan on reading in the near future. The number after each book I list is its ranking on the Goodreads most popular list. 

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout (#12) – From Blood and Ash has been highly recommended to me by one of my bookish friends IRL and so many people from the book blog community. I didn’t read much fantasy in 2020, so I’m excited to dive into this series – I’m probably going to hold off on reading until at least March when I’ll likely be in my post A Court of Silver Flames reading slump. 

The Friend Zone by Abbi Jimenz (#21) – I totally admit that I was previously more interested in reading the second book in The Friend Zone series, The Happily Ever After Playlist, because I’ve read so many rave reviews for that book, but I’m actually really intrigued by the synopsis upon this second time checking it out – the main character faces a medical procedure that would make it impossible for her to have children while developing feelings for a guy who would love to have a big family. Read More »

Valentine’s Day Book Recs Based on My Recent Reads

I know not everyone celebrates or even wants to think about Valentine’s Day, regardless if you have a significant other or not. I’ll personally be spending this Valentine’s Day weekend seeing a few close friends, working on some big grad school assignments, and then binge-watching as many movies as I can. You all know I’ll be for sure watching Always and Forever, Lara Jean this weekend, and I recently subscribed to HBO Max and I want to watch ALL the movies on there (sidenote that I’ve been really impressed by HBO Max so much so that I may share a post in in the near future about what I watched and what I want to watch so far??).

Whether or not you’re spending Valentine’s this weekend – I guess I’m sort’ve celebrating Galentine’s Day since I’ll be seeing one of my best girl friends – we could all use a cozy contemporary or romance book this time of year. In the past, I’ve shared Galentine’s Day and contemporary & romance recs posts based on all the books I’ve read overall, but I’ll be focusing today’s Valentine’s Day recs on some more recent reads of mine from 2021 so far and the end of 2020.

Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon – If you love a book that explores the feelings of friends who have more-than-friends feels for one another, Our Year of Maybe is the PERFECT read. The book follows best friends Sophie and Peter and the evolution of their relationship & lives after Sophie donates one of her kidneys to Peter.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver – If you need a good cry this weekend, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is the way to go. This actually might be my favorite book that alternates between the present and alternate reality, as the main character grieves over the death of her fiancé IRL but her life with him continues in her dreams.Read More »

Always & Forever, Lara Jean Reread Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Always & Forever, Lara Jean will always & forever put the biggest smile on my face.

I feel like I’ve been saying I’ve been wanting to reread my favorite book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series forever… which is kind’ve true because this was my first time rereading the book since I first read it in 2017! I totally blame, but am also super grateful for the trailer drop of the Always and Forever, Lara Jean Netflix adaptation for finally motivating me to pick it up. I could tell from the trailer that there are definitely going to be some changes from the book & film, which I figured based on how the movies have differed from the books – for example, the movies take place in the Pacific Northwest and not Virginia, which will be a major factor in Lara Jean’s college decisions. However, despite the changes, I feel that the films do really capture the hearts of the books, and I can’t wait to see Always & Forever, Lara Jean on screen. 

One of the reasons why I absolutely love this book is because I relate so much to Lara Jean’s feels leaving high school.  I even felt some of the same emotions during my first two years of college – leaving home for the first time, starting new friendships, and trying to figure out how to maintain relationships at the same time. I slightly forgot that much of Lara Jean’s worrying about the future has to do with Peter, but there is a balance between their romance and Lara Jean’s college decisions and love for her family.Read More »