YA DEBUT & MORE CONTEMPORARY READS: January Mini Reviews

It’s no surprise that contemporary marked the ending of my 2019 reading and the start of my 2020 reading!

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

44281034Phil Stamper’s YA debut novel, The Gravity of Us, was the first 2020 release and first completed book in my new reading year. The book’s unique premise really caught my attention back at Book Expo 2019. The Gravity of Us is narrated by Cal, a Brooklyn-based social media star whose life is upended when his dad is chosen for NASA’s mission to Mars. Cal’s family moves to Texas and lives with this other astronauts’ families, which includes the quiet and attractive Leon. Cal deals with a reality TV show about the space mission, his future living under his dad’s dream, and his mutual attraction to Leon.

The premise of The Gravity of Us really delivered. The whole NASA/Mars mission was very well-done and as somewhat unexpected, the setting was very different than other YA contemporary books. I really liked when Phil Stamper delved into some NASA or space history facts, as Cal’s neighborhood in Texas is a replica of the 1960s and 70s astro-family communities. Much of this has to do with StarWatch, a reality TV show tracking the mission and the lives of the astronauts and their families. I’m still not sure how I feel about the reality TV element. On the one hand, it added another layer of tension, as Cal sees right through the reality show, but on the other hand, it added a lot of unnecessary tension. While I loved reading about the NASA narrative, there was a lot in the StarWatch vs. NASA battle that was hard to follow. The other main element that I unfortunately was not the biggest fan of was Leon and Cal’s chemistry. Cal admires Leon from afar in the beginning, it’s hinted by Leon’s sister that Leon finds Cal attractive too, and all of a sudden, they’re flirting and then they’re somewhat dating??

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Overall, I enjoyed the premise of The Gravity of Us and its space-centric plot that actually had a lot of family development, as Cal and his parents contend with their different dreams and aspirations for their family. Yet, I was not a fan of the book’s writing style and romantic relationship development.

The Gravity of Us comes out on February 4, 2020.

This review is based on an advance uncorrected proof. By no means did receiving this review copy affect my thoughts or opinions.

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

megjoIn honor of the new Little Women film, I dove back into the world of one of my favorite classics with Virginia Kantra’s Meg & Jo. Meg & Jo is a modern retelling of the classic, following Jo’s life living as a struggling professional writer and successful food blogger in New York City and Meg’s life being married and raising two children while feeling like she must take care of anything and everything. When the March sisters’ mother becomes ill over the holidays, the four March girls return home for the holidays. Having read this book in December, I loved Meg and Jo’s holiday spirit. This is the perfect kind of holiday reads for readers who may not be looking for books that scream Christmas, but still involve a festive atmospheric or stories where the backdrop is Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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CALLING ALL SPORTS FICTION FANS: Throw Like a Girl Review

ThrowLikeAGirlSummary (from the publisher): Friday Night Lights meets Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything in this contemporary debut where swoonworthy romance meets underdog sports story.

When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she’ll have to convince their coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched… Every. Single. Day. 

Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with amazing hair and a foolproof plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he’ll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the Spring. But it will take more than the perfect spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland’s halls, and behind that charming smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all. 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

One of the best ways to get a book on to my TBR, let alone in my bookish heart, is having a blurb that combines two or more of my favorite fangirl things. I was sold on Sarah Henning’s upcoming release, Throw Like a Girl, immediately after reading its Friday Night Lights – one of my all-time favorite TV shows- meets Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything– one of my favorite authors- inspired blurb. After throwing an ill-advised punch during the last softball game of the season, Liv’s plans for her senior year change. Losing her scholarship to her private school, her boyfriend, and teammates almost all at once, Liv transfers to the rival public school and must show the softball coach that she is a true team player. The solution? Join the football team as the back-up quarterback.  

Throw Like a Girl is one of those contemporary books that you just fall so easily into. The book definitely hit the Friday Night Lights and The Unexpected Everything vibes, as Liv turns to football when her school and athletic lives are completely upended. It’s such a fun story with all the drama that somewhat stereotypically comes with being the only girl on the football team. Not to mention that Liv’s ex-boyfriend is on the team and she soon finds herself having feelings for the star quarterback, Grey. This book didn’t really surprise me or throw any curveballs- gotta have at least one softball pun, right?-, but it was definitely a very enjoyable story. 

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A Heart So Fierce & Broken and A Curse So Dark & Lonely Double Review

Given the love for Brigid Kemmerer’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and the anticipation for the sequel, A Heart So Dark and Lonely, I decided to dive into the series during the summer. I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of A Heart So Fierce and Broken at Book Expo 2019, so I was able to binge read the first two books in the Cursebreakers series ahead of the second installment’s January 7, 2020, release.

cusesoA Curse So Dark and Lonely Summary (from the publisher):

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin. 

 

A Curse So Dark and Lonely Thoughts

 My Rating: 4/5 Stars

A Curse So Dark and Lonely reminded me of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses, with the major exceptions being its slightly urban fantasy twist and overall a simplified fantasy setting. It took me the first one hundred pages or so to fully get into this book. Much of this had to do with the fact that despite her princess of Disi act (such a funny take on D.C.), it took Harper a lot of time to adjust and understand the world of Emberfall.

Like many readers, I really appreciated that Harper had cerebral palsy, something that we do not see a lot in YA. Having cerebral palsy by no means affected her strong personality and charisma, but it did prevent her physically in some situations. This is an element, or at least having characters with different or similar health conditions, that would be cool across many other fantasies and YA books.  

I found myself truly invested in the book in its last two hundred pages, with Harper and Rhen’s chemistry increasing and the stakes getting higher. However, despite that Brigid Kemmerer has said that the book does not feature a love triangle, it did feel like there was a love triangle to me, or at least hints of one. Even though some readers are over the love triangle trope, it’s been a while since I’ve read it and I enjoyed at least considering the chemistry between certain characters.

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MAX WATSON LOVE: The Map from Here to There Review ft. The Start of Me & You Reread Thoughts

42972032._UY630_SR1200,630_Summary (from the publisher): 

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.

 

 My Rating: 4/5 Stars

 My Thoughts:

9781619639386Emery Lord’s The Map from Here to There, the sequel to The Start of Me and You, was on my TBR since it was first ever announced. Why? Because Max Watson is one of my fictional boyfriends and I needed our reunion ASAP. Fictional crush set aside, I was really excited for this sequel because I’ve really enjoyed all of Emery Lord’s books- The Names They Gave Us still holds the #1 place though- and The Start of Me and You was one of my favorite contemporary reads of 2017.  The Start of Me and You follows high school senior Paige’s junior year, determined to make a year of new memories and experiences after the death of her boyfriend a year prior. 

Since there was a two year gap between me reading the book- I was fortunate enough to grab a copy of The Map from Here to There at Book Expo and read it in July-, I wanted to binge-reread The Start of Me and You and then read the sequel.

The Start of Me and You Reread Thoughts:

  • So where do I sign up to get an Alcott’s (Oakhurst’s coffee shop and bookstore) in
    my town? It makes for the perfect setting, especially for Max and Paige’s reading hangouts.
  • Max Watson for sure is still on my fictional bf list
  • While Max and Paige’s relationship is definitely the relationship of (most) focus, I forgot how much this book is about Paige’s friendship with her three best friends
  • There are so many great moments and quotes about books and reading! For example:

Max thought hard, his eyes moving away from me. He blinked and then returned his gaze to mine. ‘Like you had been drowning, and the book was air.’

I was quiet, caught in the surreal moment of having my feelings described so exactly. That was how it felt to me, to live in other worlds—books or TV—like breathing became second nature again with their safety” (222).Read More »

ROMANCE READS & A HYPED FANTASY ENDING: December 2019 Mini Reviews

Romance, especially sports romance, has been the name of most of my reading game in December. I also took a brief break in the romance and contemporary-ness by picking up one of the most anticipated YA fantasy conclusions this month as well.

One Day in December by Josie Silver

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

One Day in December is one of my new favorite holiday reads. I absolutely devoured this book over one weekend in December and highly recommend binge-reading it over your holiday break. One day in December, Laurie falls in love at first sight with a man at bus stop, only never to see him again… until the next Christmas when Laurie’s best friend, Sarah, introduces her to her new boyfriend, Jack.

The book is narrated from Laurie’s third person perspective with a few chapters from Jack’s third person perspective and is told over the course of ten years. I really liked the book’s storytelling, as Josie Silver showed the most important or integral parts in all of the relationships. I also just genuinely enjoyed Josie Silver’s writing style, loving each character’s humor and the balance between plot and getting to know the characters. Each character really evolves and grows up from beginning to end. I really loved being able to follow along with each of their journeys. I wasn’t sure within the first few chapters if I was going to like it or not, but I soon fell into Laurie and Sarah’s friendship and humor. Despite the yes, major fact, that they are in love with the same guy, Sarah and Laurie have such a great female friendship. The whole falling in love with the same guy, not to mention the guy from the bus stop, trope may not be too realistic, but it really worked for this story. You begin to forget that that’s not only how Laurie first “met” Jack, but also Laurie’s feelings for Jack get lost as she begins to explore new relationships and opportunities.

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Although One Day in December wasn’t all Christmas all the time, I still appreciated its holiday spirit. Many of the major events in the book happen during the holiday season, and most of the Christmas scenes were very atmospheric.

I look forward to picking up Josie Silver’s new release in March 2020, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

71tcAuFKRcLMy craving for adult romance latest led me to one of the latest releases of 2019, The Bromance Book Club. The Bromance Book Club follows professional baseball star Gavin’s attempt to save his marriage. His teammates’ strategy? Use romance novels and the relationship development within them as inspiration in getting his wife back.

The Bromance Book Club’s unique premise absolutely delivered! The book really has all the elements, from friendship, family, sports, humor, marriage, raising kids, and sisterhood. Lyssa Kay Adams balances all of these elements in this new favorite rom-com of mine. There are definitely some steamy moments, but the book is really about Gaving rebuilding his relationship with Thea, and Thea learning to find the love and happiness in her marriage again. I think I really am a fan of the third person perspective, with this book alternating between Gavin and Thea’s perspectives. I also loved their relationships with the people in their own lives, with Del and Mack for Gavin and Liv for Thea.

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ROMANCE  & CONTEMPORARY LOVE: Fall Mini Reviews

Monthly mini reviews are hit or miss for me, depending on the amount of books I read and if I have enough thoughts & feels to dedicate entire reviews for them. I read the following three books- a new adult romance from my favorite NA author, an adult romance from a much loved writing duo, and a debut contemporary- in October and November 2019.

The Chase (Briar U #1) by Elle Kennedy 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Ever since I read the last book in the Off-Campus series back in May, I have been highly looking forward to starting Elle Kennedy’s spin-off series, Briar U. The series follows new and old characters involved in new relationships in the (hot) hockey playing world that is the fictional Briar University. The Chase follows Summer, the sister of Dean (the male lead in The Score), as she transfers to Briar U after being kicked out of her Ivy league school after a freaky sorority party accident. When she’s not welcome into Briar U’s chapter, Summer finds herself living with three of the Briar U hockey players, including the tattoo-covered, quiet, artistic and video-game designer Colin, otherwise known as Fitz.

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I was so excited when I found out The Chase’s male lead was Fitz because he was one of my favorite secondary characters in Off-Campus. Summer and Fitz definitely have a slow burn romance, as the two spend the majority of the book not being together. I wish their relationship had progressed sooner, in that nothing really happens in the book until their relationship really begins to bloom. However, I loved getting to follow the characters and their everyday. Much of Summer’s everyday follows her life as a fashion major, dealing with a creepy professor, and the struggles that come with her learning disability. Elle Kennedy incorporates a lot of mature themes with #MeToo vibes. Set in his senior year, Fitz finds himself competing for a full time position at a big video game company.

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READING MY MOST ANTICIPATED 2019 SERIES FINALE: The Toll Review

Ever since I devoured Neal Shusterman’s Scythe and Thunderhead back in February 2018, I had been waiting to eat up the final book in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, The Toll. Since the book came out in early November, aka finals prep and paper writing season in this English and Communications major’s world, I thought I would wait until Thanksgiving break to read it. That being said, I only waited one week after its release to pick it up and definitely avoided a research paper or four while reading this 625 page beast.

Although I will be an absolute paper writing machine during the last week of classes, I have no regret reading The Toll over 6 days- I honestly would’ve finished it sooner if it hadn’t been for school- because it was such a satisfying series finale!517PsnK17hL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_

My review format is going to be different for The Toll. For the sake of spoilers, I will not be providing a summary of the book, and I will be splitting my thoughts into non-spoilers and spoilers sections. The first book, Scythe, follows teenagers Citra and Rowan who live in a world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery, no natural death. Scythes are the only individuals who can end life and must do so to control the size of the population. When Citra and Rowan are chosen as apprentices to the same scythe, neither wants the role, but they soon find themselves entangled in the politics and inner workings of the scythedom.

 

My Rating: 5/5

My Non-Spoiler Thoughts:

 I had such a great reading experience with The Toll. Even at its 625 pages, I ate it up so quickly. I really enjoyed being transported back into the world, finding that I had to read at least fifty pages per sitting. There are so many different narratives and perspectives in The Toll. While I admit that I preferred some over others, I still enjoyed them all and couldn’t get over the connections to one another. All 3 books in the series are definitely the type that call for having a notebook on hand to note plot happenings or details and see how they play out later. I’m 50-50 for my predictions coming out correctly for the series.

The main reason why I had been screaming for The Toll for almost two years was Thunderhead’s cliffhanger ending. Much of the theorizing and predicting about The Toll has to do with when the story would actually start, and when and even if we would be reunited with our original two main characters. There are even more characters and narratives involved in The Toll, which I ended up really enjoyed because it expanded the world even more.  I wasn’t expecting too much more of that with the finale, but there’s so much exploration with the Tonists and the founding scythes. I really liked the exploration of the former, especially since this followed Faraday and Munira. Along with being reunited with the first two book’s casts, we are also introduced to a variety of new characters within each plot thread. That being said, there was a lot less Citra/Anastasia and Rowan than I expected.

I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with how much the Thunderhead has to do with the main plot of the novel. Call me dark, but I really liked exploring the scythedom element more so than the Thunderhead and technology. Like my Thunderhead feels, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Thunderhead’s iterations or exceprts before some chapters. I definitely preferred excepts from the scythe journals and statements and interpretations about the Toll and the Tonists. I really wish the Thunderhead actually hadn’t been so involved in the main plot at all. I know some readers will argue that of course the Thunderhead helps the main characters against the scythedom out a lot.

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