much-needed feminist poetry: shine your icy crown review

Summary (from the publisher):

amanda lovelace, the bestselling & award-winning author of the “women are some kind of magic” poetry series, presents shine your icy crown, the second installment in her new feminist poetry series, “you are your own fairy tale.” this is a story about not letting society dictate the limits of your potential. it’s time to take back your power & realize that you don’t need a king in order to be a queen.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

It’s never a complete reading year without reading at least one poetry collection from amanda lovelace. I’m so grateful I was able to kick off my new year reading this month with the second & latest installment in her “you are your own fairy tale” feminist poetry series. shine your icy crown is its own fairytale, interweaving the story of a princess who doesn’t want to accept a crown from a prince, a big sister’s advice to a little sister, and pieces of wisdom & advice.

amanda lovelace’s poetry always comes at the right time for me. I always look forward to sitting down with a set of page tabs and making note of all the poems that I really relate with. The poems that spoke to me the most in this collection reflected women empowerment and doing things for one’s self. Given the timeliness of inaugurating our first female vice president here in the US, I especially loved the poems about female leadership. My favorite section of the book was this first section, which alternates between the ‘little sister’ having darker and honest thoughts about herself and the ‘big sister’ giving her corresponding advice. I loved the poems dealing with creating your own story, (female) friendship, and dealing with crushes, unrequited men, and partnership. There were some poems across the collection that I couldn’t personally relate to, but I always appreciate that amanda lovelace’s poetry is so representative of different female experiences. Read More »

MATURE YA READ ABOUT FRIENDSHIP: Our Year of Maybe Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I really enjoy YA contemporaries that focus more on friendship and family dynamics rather than romance (don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE a good YA romance). I really enjoyed Rachel Lynn Solomon’s You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone and her 2020 release, Today Tonight Tomorrow, was my favorite book of the year. As one of my new favorite authors, I knew I had to read the only book of hers I hadn’t yet read, Our Year of Maybe. I was gifted a copy of the recently released paperback editio, which looks so good on one of my contemporary bookshelves!

Back to the book, Our Year of Maybe follows forever best friends and neighbors, Sophie and Peter. While Peter & Sophie have always been super close, from always hanging out to putting on performances for their families as Sophie dances and Peter plays piano, their friendship goes to the next level when Sophie donates her kidney to Peter. Peter has a chronic kidney disease, but after a successful transplant from Sophie, he’s able to go back to school and live his life outside of the confines of his house and his parents’ strict rules. But as Peter makes new friends without Sophie and Sophie gets swept into dance team and picturing a new life for herself, the two have to deal with their feelings for another. 

I know that was a lot to unravel about the book, but in short, Sophie and Peter at a few points in their relationship have had more-than-friends feelings for one another, but the lines between genuine love for each other as friends vs. romantic feels get even more muddy after Sophie donates her kidney to Peter and Peter begins to form new relationships and discover a new life for himself. By the end of the book, Sophie and Peter are both such different people. I really liked seeing their transformation, especially for Sophie, who often adapted her social life and future plans for Peter’s sake. Read More »

THRILLER & GYMNASTICS-INSPIRED READS: YA Mini Reviews

I think half of my reading back in December was dedicated to YA books, including the three books included in today’s mini review round up. One of these books has definitely received so much hype since the authors is a YA thriller favorite, while I’d love to see more hype and love for the last 2 books in today’s reviews!

The Cousins by Karen McManus

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I was craving a YA book early on December and since it was the Bad on Paper Podcast book club pick for December, I decided to pick up Karen McManus’  The Cousins. I’ve only read Karen McManus’ smash hit, One of Us is Lying, back in 2018. It wasn’t my FAVORITE book in the world, but I definitely understood the hype and liked Karen McManus’ writing style. Another YA mystery, The Cousins follows Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story, three cousins whose family has been estranged ever since their grandmother disinherited their parents over twenty years ago. When the cousins receive a letter from their grandmother asking them to work for the family resort for the summer, the three soon find themselves heading to Cape Cod for the season and trying to figure out what went wrong all those years ago. 

The Cousins is such a great thriller to binge read in a day or so this winter. I ultimately read it in three sittings, but if it hadn’t been for final exam season, I so would’ve read it in one go! You know that I love reading YA books with ‘rich kid’ settings, and I really enjoyed getting into the extravagance of the Storys’ lives on a fictional Nantucket meets Martha Vineyard’s inspired island. Although their grandmother and their parents as teens did have pretty privileged lives (we get a few chapters told from the teenage perspective of Milly’s mom), Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah’s lives aren’t exactly as extravagant as their parents used to be. I feel like we got to explore Aubrey and Jonah’s backstories quite well and their own secrets, but I do wish we got some on Milly- the only reason I think why we maybe don’t is because we explore her mom’s story as a teen. I admit I often had to return to the family tree in the beginning of the book because I kept getting their parents/the four siblings confused, since all their names begin with A. I really didn’t know what to expect from the mystery and I did enjoy the way the plot unraveled. It wasn’t the most jaw-dropping ending, but I thought the twists were delivered well and I honestly wouldn’t have guessed the big reveals in the beginning of the book. Will The Cousins be a super memorable read for me? Maybe not, but nevertheless, there’s just something about Karen McManus’ writing style that is so easy to get hooked into that makes The Cousins a fun binge read on a cold day this season. 

Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Hannah Orenstein’s Head Over Heels, a gymnastics-inspired contemporary romance, is one my favorite reads of 2020 that left me craving another book about gymnastics. Enter Jennifer Iacopelli’s 2020 release, Break the Fall, a YA book following a fictional group of young women on the USA gymnastics team headed to the 2020 Olympics, until a scandal involving their coaches and one of their teammates threatens their future at the Games. 

Break the Fall tackles the very real reality surrounding sexual assault and other scandals in the competitive gymnastics world. While the main protagonist, Audrey, is not directly involved in the scandals, her teammates’ experiences are obviously very traumatic and affect the entire team’s mentality and relationships. The book well balances these serious discussions while also focusing on Audrey’s preparation for the Games – something she never thought she’d actually experience between the competition and the back injury that almost ended her career. There is a lot of details about the type of moves and gymnastic events Audrey and her teammates perform, and I found myself glued to every paragraph in fear that they would make a wrong move or in anticipation for their final score. The book was so well-written and again balanced the gymnastics scenes with the serious conversations and emotions going through Audrey’s head. There is a slight romance between Audrey and another Olympic hopeful snowboarder, Leo. While I think the story still would’ve been strong without it, their relationship allowed us to see another side of Audrey, especially as she prepares for a life without gymnastics after the Games. Read More »

December 2020 Mini Reviews: Contemporary Edition

I always try to write reviews within 1-3 days right after finishing the book, but winter break brain has gotten to me – I’m not necessarily feeling guilty about this because I minimized as much time as possible on my laptop over the holidays and ate up as many books as possible. Between blogging in chunks this month and reading so, so much, I have plenty of mini reviews ready to go, including today’s reviews focused on contemporary romance and adult contemporary.

I know I usually include only 3 books in my mini review round-ups, but I decided to go with 5 of my recent reads from December since some of my reviews are on the shorter side (with the exception of one where I ranted a bit longer than I first thought while drafting the review, oops).

Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I’ve been doing my best to keep up with as many new contemporary romances as possible in 2020, which led me to pick up Jane Igharo’s debut novel, Ties That Tether. Its cover immediately caught my attention one day while scrolling through bookstagram and I was equally intrigued by its synopsis. The novel follows Azere, a twenty-five year old Nigerian Canadian woman who has always been pressured by her family to only marry a Nigerian man. Azere’s mom is always setting her up on dates with Nigerian men, and feels even more pressured after promising her father before he died that she would marry a Nigerian man. Things get complicated for Azere when she meets Rafael, who is everything Azere wants in a guy…except he’s white. Things get even MORE complicated for Azere and Rafael when their one night stand turns into something a lot more complicated than they could have imagined.

Although it has some classic contemporary romance lightness and humor, Ties That Tether is definitely one of the more serious contemporary romances I’ve read for its discussions surrounding race, ethnicity, and culture. I haven’t read a contemporary romance that deals with a conflict like the pressure Azere feels from her family to marry a man from her culture. The book goes beyond who Azere should marry, as Azere has felt she has never been able to embrace both of her cultures as a Nigerian AND Canadian woman. 

What I ultimately wasn’t didn’t like about Ties That Tether was the romance. I was never really super in love with Rafael, and I didn’t think the few chapters from his perspective were necessary. Although they added some mystery, I think his big reveals would’ve still be impactful strictly coming from Azere’s perspective. I really thought at one point that Azere was perhaps going to realize that Rafael wasn’t the guy for her. I never really felt any deep chemistry between them, which could’ve resulted from the fact that they both have something to hide. I wish Azere would have been honest with him earlier about how her family feels about who she should marry. I also wasn’t super in love with the love triangle, as Azere’s mom keeps pressuring her to date a guy from her past… and he keeps just randomly showing up??

I enjoyed the book mostly for Azere’s personal growth and as much as she killed me for her stubborness, seeing how Azere and mom would resolve their conflict. I know a few readers have been mixed on revealing this spoiler, so I’ll stay vague, but there’s an added layer to Azere and Rafael’s relationship that I personally haven’t read too much in contemporary romances. An addition to their relationship (trying to be as non-spoilery as possible) puts so much pressure on their progress and causes more anger from Azere’s mom. Although Ties That Tether isn’t my new favorite contemporary romance, I enjoyed it because the novel tackles a few themes and plot elements I personally haven’t encountered  too much in other contemporary romances.

A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jenny Holiday’s A Princess for Christmas is the perfect holiday book for readers who love Hallmark Christmas movies or even some of Netflix’s cheesy Christmas movies. The book’s synopsis is literally a play on what’d you expect in one of those films, and the book does have a few references to Hallmark movies. Leo, a cab driver living in NYC doing his best to make ends meet and raise his little sister, gives an unexpected cab ride to the princess of Eldovia, Marie. Marie is in the city on royal business, but soon finds herself trying to spend any free opportunity with Leo and his sister, Gabby, until she decides to invite them back to Eldovia for the holidays. 

A Princess for Christmas was the quintessential, fluffy holiday read I was craving. Is it the best book I ever read? Not exactly. But was it better than most cheesy Christmas movies I could’ve watched instead? Absolutely! A Princess for Christmas was just so atmospheric. Like my recent Dash & Lily watch on Netflix, it made me so nostalgic for holiday-time NYC, like the scene where Leo and Marie goes ice skating in what I believe was Rockefeller Center. The Eldovia setting was also the holiday away of many of your dreams (picture any royal town in a Hallmark or Netflix movie), with Leo and Gabby staying in Marie’s palace in the snow. I knew A Princess for Christmas was a romance, but due to its fluffiness, I didn’t expect the romance scenes to be that STEAMY. Overall, A Princess for Christmas was the cute & festive holiday read that you may be crave during winter. Read More »

HOLIDAY CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Summary (from the publisher): 

Vivian Forest has been out of the country a grand total of one time, so when she gets the chance to tag along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a royal family member, she can’t refuse. She’s excited to spend the holidays taking in the magnificent British sights, but what she doesn’t expect is to become instantly attracted to a certain private secretary, his charming accent, and unyielding formality.

Malcolm Hudson has worked for the Queen for years and has never given a personal, private tour—until now. He is intrigued by Vivian the moment he meets her and finds himself making excuses just to spend time with her. When flirtatious banter turns into a kiss under the mistletoe, things snowball into a full-on fling.

Despite a ticking timer on their holiday romance, they are completely fine with ending their short, steamy affair come New Year’s Day. . .or are they?

 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

You might know that I read The Wedding Date companion series way out of order. I started with the latest release & book #5, Party of Two, then went back to beginning and read book #1, The Wedding Date. Then, I skipped book #2, The Proposal (for now), and then jumped to book #3 and #4, The Wedding Party and Royal Holiday.  I can say that Jasmine Guillory’s storytelling gets stronger with each installment. I enjoyed The Wedding Date and The Wedding Party, but they just felt like they were missing something. I absolutely loved Party of Two and consider that to be my favorite in the series, but Royal Holiday was such a strong installment and is now a go-to holiday romance recommendation! 

Royal Holiday follows Maddie’s mom, Vivian, who joins her daughter on a Christmas work trip to England. Maddie, who appears in The Wedding Date and is the female lead in The Wedding Party, is styling the Duchess of England –  you better believe I had the IRL royals pictured in my head- for the holiday and has her mom accompany her on the trip. Vivian instantly has chemistry with Malcom, the private secretary of the Queen, and the two spend the holiday getting to know one another. With a new job on the line at home in California for Vivian and Malcom busy working for the royals, the two know this relationship can’t possibly work out, but dread the end of the time together. 

Based on friends’ reviews on Goodreads, I actually think I’m in the unpopular opinion category based on how much I enjoyed Royal Holiday! Royal Holiday is definitely a quiet read and doesn’t have a ton of action, but to me, it’s such a quintessential, cozy holiday read. I loved the England and royal setting, as Maddie and Vivian stay at one of the royals’ country estates. There’s scones, tea, horse-back riding, nights sitting by the fireplace, aka everything you could possibly want in a Christmas -themed read. Blame it on my current extreme wanderlust, but I also loved when the book transitioned to London. I loved escaping into holiday London and watching fireworks over the Thames. I’m someone who tends to like quiet and more character-driven reads, as long as I connect to the writing style, and I thought Royal Holiday was well-written. I loved Vivian’s charm, and her and Malcom’s flirting was so fun to read. Read More »

LOVE & WANDERLUST: Love & Olives Review

Summary (From the publisher):Liv Varanakis doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of her father, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight. What Liv does remember, though, is their shared love for Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. So when Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father explaining that National Geographic is funding a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and will she fly out to Greece and help?—Liv jumps at the opportunity.

But when she arrives to gorgeous Santorini, things are a little…awkward. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. And yet Liv doesn’t want their past to get in the way of a possible reconciliation. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo—her father’s charismatic so-called “protégé”—to witness her struggle.

And that means diving into all that Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the hidden caves, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars 

My Thoughts: 

When I think of ‘classic’ YA contemporaries from the past 5 years, Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato is a book that instantly comes to my mind. I read the first books in this travel-inspired series, Love & Gelato (takes place in Italy) and Love & Luck (takes place in Ireland) back in 2018, and had been eagerly anticipating this third installment ever since. Set in Santorini, Greece, Love & Olives follows Liv’s unexpected summer trip to spend two weeks with her estranged father, Nico, to help film a documentary series about Atlantis. Liv hasn’t seen her dad in nearly ten years and doesn’t even know where to begin with all of her questions & feelings surrounding why he left her in the US all those years ago. Her dad’s  teenage film assistant, Theo, helps Liv navigate these feelings, while the two try to calm the chemistry between them.

In a world where I am not traveling at all (I haven’t even left the state I live in since February), Love & Olives made my already existing wanderlust soar to new heights. Santorini is absolutely on my travel bucket-list. Love & Olives made me want to book a trip as soon as possible. The book sent me to YouTube to watch some Santorini and Oia travel vlogs. In the meantime, I might finally reread The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, thanks to that series’ Greek setting, and maybe rewatch Mamma Mia. As a sidenote, I didn’t really see the Mamma Mia comparison in Love & Olives too much, since Liv obviously knows who her dad is, but I guess she is simarly combatting emotions and trying to figure out her father’s motives for not being part of her life for so long. 

Love & Olives is definitely a longer YA contemporary read, clocking in around 500 pages. Many of you likely know that I don’t mind longer YA contemporaries over 350 pages, but I did feel like Love & Olives could have been shorter. The first 200 pages definitely did fly by, with Liv receiving her father’s invitation to Greece and actually getting there, but the story dragged in the middle as Liv and Theo help Nico get the documentary series off the ground. There are a ton of scenes and conversations between Liv & Theo, which I did enjoy because we do get to see the chemistry between them build, but I wanted more plot or action. Theo isn’t necessarily a new fictional crush of mine and I wouldn’t say him and Liv are my new YA power couple, but I didn’t mind their relationship. I was definitely more focused on the father-daughter dynamic …and actually how Liv was going to deal with her relationship with Dax (aka her real boyfriend at home). I think that relationship needed to be resolved before Theo really came into the picture. Read More »

FAVORITE MEMOIR & 2 ROMANCES: December 2020 Mini Reviews

With my 2020 favorites posts and 2021 anticipated lists on the way, I’m trying to share some mini reviews early on this month. These three mini reviews include one of my all-time new favorite non-fiction books – I think it’s my favorite non-fiction read of 2020- as well as two contemporary romances, of course. There are also a few quarter star ratings in these reviews because I felt so strangely indecisive about giving a full or half star ratings. 

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Bess Kalb’s Nobody Will Tell You This But Me is one of the best books I’ve read in 2020. I admit that I am still somewhat of a newbie non-fiction & memoir reader, but I can safely say that Nobody Will Tell You This But Me is one of the best non-fiction books I’ll ever read. It’s the kind of book that will make you laugh and cry at the same time, and make you call (or long to talk to) the most important female figure in your life. 

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me is written by Bess Kalb, but is told from the perspective of Bess’ grandmother, Bobby. Bobby shares the story of the four generation of women in Bess’ family, specifically exploring Bobby’s relationship with her mother, her daughter (Bess’ mom), and Bess. The book alternates between Bobby’s narrative telling, Bobby’s voicemails to Bess while she was still alive, and conversations between Bess and Bobby. Bobby’s humor and wise words are filled throughout. Nobody Will Tell You This But Me is not just Bess’ love letter to her grandmother, but also a story of strong, smart women who are bonded together for their love for another. The section about Bobby and Bess was extra special and made my heart shatter. Bess’ love for her grandmother are evident throughout, and Bobby’s love for her granddaughter is found in both the little & big moments.

At not even 200 pages, Nobody Will Tell You This But Meis the perfect read to consume in one sitting.  I’m super tempted to reread Nobody Will Tell You This But Me on audio and buy a copy for everyone I know. Read More »

MY NEW FAVORITE HOLIDAY ROMANCE: In a Holidaze Review

Summary (from the publisher):

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

When Christina Lauren announced that they would be coming out with a HOLIDAY romance earlier this year, the contemporary romance & holiday fangirl that I am ran to add it to my TBR. I know readers are divided on CLO’s newer releases (the division seems to be around their books published pre-2019 vs. during 2019), but I have personally loved their newer releases, The Unhoneymooners, Twice in a Blue Moon, and The Honey-Don’t List all included. In a Holidaze seems to be another CLo release that readers either LOVED or felt meh about, but I’m so, so happy to report that I absolutely loved this one! I plan on doing a ‘ranking my favorite CLo books’ post one day (I still need to read a bit more of their backlist), but just know In a Holidaze is for sure in my top five favorites. 

In a Holidaze is a holiday romance, following Mae and her family’s annual vacation to a family friends’ cabin in Utah for the week leading up to Christmas. The week at the cabin is always Mae’s favorite time of the year, with her immediate family coming together to hang out with her parents’ college friends and their families. Mae’s favorite week of the year soon becomes her least favorite when she drunkenly makes out with the son of her mom’s best friend, Theo, while harboring feelings for Theo’s older brother, Andrew. On top of all that, Andrew and Theo’s parents share at the end of the trip that they plan on selling the cabin. On the way to the airport, Mae finds herself wishing for her to figure out what make her happy and after a freak accident, she finds herself transported back in time to the beginning of the trip.

I 100% admit that I was also hesitant going into In a Holidaze because I’m usually not a fan of the time loop plot trope, but it totally worked for me in this book! It wasn’t repeated as much as I thought it would be, and even when Mae began a new loop, I love how CLo just jumped ahead to where we left off the first time. Read More »

MOST ANTICIPATED ROMANCE OF 2020: Crazy Stupid Bromance Review

Summary (from the publisher): Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.

Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush. 

Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars 

My Thoughts: 

I hold a few contemporary romance series close to my heart, but Lyssa Kay Adam’s The Bromance Book Club is one of my all-time favorites, if not my favorite. I’m going to wait & see if the fourth book coming out in June 2021 cements it as one of my favorites. I love, loved The Bromance Book Club, and Undercover Bromance was such a strong sequel that embraces the book’s feminist themes. The third book in the series, Crazy Stupid Bromance, picks up Undercover Bromance’s conversation surrounding workplace sexual abuse and harassment. 

I don’t want to be too spoilery, but this third installment follows Noah and Alexis, whose cat-inspired cafe has become a meeting place for sexual and domestic abuse survivors. Noah and Alexis are best friends, and Noah has been there for Alexis throughout her story coming out to the public over the past year and half. As the two and their friends prepare for an upcoming wedding, Alexis finds out that she has a half sister and a whole family she never knew. 

Crazy Stupid Bromance fully embraces the friends-to-lovers trope, and Lyssa Kay Adams completely nailed it. I think what helped us as readers is that we do get to know both Noah and Alexis in book #2, Undercover Bromance. We’ve already established them as characters and friends as they enter this something-more stage. Don’t get me wrong, the two still undergo a ton of character growth in this installment, as Alexis meets her father’s family and has to help them in a way she didn’t expect. Meanwhile, while trying to approach his feelings for Alexis, Noah is grappling with the loss of his dad years ago and how that’s impacted his view of his family and relationships ever since. When it came to Noah and Alexis as a couple, their chemistry is just so instantaneous and natural. Their friendship was the perfect foundation for this new relationship, and there was no sense of them rushing into it. Read More »

2 YA Reads & A Much-Loved Thriller: Recent Mini Reviews

I recently realized that I had a few mini reviews saved from October. At think at one point, I was going to do a thriller mini review round up…but then I never ended up reading that many thrillers over the past two weeks. The following mini reviews include a new YA thriller, an adult thriller from a much loved author, and a YA contemporary series sequel.

Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett 

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars 

As soon as I read the synopsis for Jennifer Moffett’s Those Who Prey, it instantly became the next to-read book on my TBR. Everyone knows I love a YA contemporary taking place in college, but Those Who Prey takes the setting to an extreme, as college freshman Emily finds herself recruited into the Kingdom, a cult thinly veiled as a religious group for students. When Emily is sent on a mission trip to Italy, she begins to unravel The Kingdom’s dark past and purpose.

Those Who Prey had such a strong start. Each part of the book begins with newspaper articles or interviews with people close to Emily or other members of the Kingdom, then transitions into Emily’s first person perspective. It was interesting, yet obviously creepy and sad, to see how Emily was introduced into the Kingdom and how her whole mindset about college changed so quickly. However, the first half of the book was much stronger than the second half, in which Emily is in Italy and with the help of her new counselor, begins to see what the Kingdom isn’t really wasn’t seems to be. The whole mystery and its dark past felt really rushed. I feel like I still don’t have a full grasp on what exactly happened. I wanted more development from the other side characters and in general, just more answers. Given the interview excerpts, I expected a much darker ending. I did appreciate Jennifer Moffett’s author’s note at the end, in which she explains the prevalence of campus cults, especially during the book’s setting of the 90s. I think if you’re someone who likes fictional books about cults – I admit that I’ve only read a handful of books with a similar synopsis and the only one I’ve super enjoyed is Megan MacLean Weir’s The Book of Essie – you still might enjoy this one for its story, although I think the plot and characters needed more development. 

This review is based on an unsolicited advance reviewer copy provided by the publisher. By no means receiving this ARC affect my thoughts & opinions. Read More »