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 »

Contemporary Romance Mini Reviews: November 2020 Edition

I’ve read some literary fiction and YA books in between, but the fall has once again been all about contemporary romance for me. Two of the books below are wedding-centric, while the third is a much anticipated sequel in one of my favorite contemporary romance series. 

Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu

My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars 

My currently adult contemporary and contemporary romance mood met my love for books featuring weddings recently with Diksha Basu’s Destination Wedding. Tina’s family and her best friend are spending a week in India for her cousin’s wedding. I wouldn’t say there’s a central conflict or plot to the book, but the novel explores so much about Tina and co.’s relationships with other people and to India. Despite its fascinating and sometimes luxurious setting, Destination Wedding is more of a quiet read, focused on character development and self-discovery. I know this might not be every reader’s cup of tea, but I personally really enjoyed it!

You may know that I’ve been super wary of any Crazy Rich Asians comparisons lately because the past few books that I’ve read with the CRA comparison just haven’t held up. Destination Wedding is by far the first book I would recommend to anyone looking to have those Crazy Rich Asians feels once again. Destination Wedding obviously takes place in a different culture, and I admit that is slightly less glamorous than CRA, but the book provides a look at poverty in India. The writing style between the two were so similar, between the satire and comedy (there were so many funny moments and funny one-lines from Tina’s dad, Mr. Das), and the third person perspective. The sections of each chapter are usually dedicated to one character, but will pull away for a brief paragraph or two about a side character there. 

I don’t think I necessarily had a favorite character, but there were never any chapters that I wanted to rush through because I didn’t like the character of focus. I feel like I did want more from Tina and her romantic’s endeavors, but I loved being able to explore her relationship with her heritage and her parents. I also feel like the novel gave such an inside look at India – the book mostly takes place in New Dehli. There was so much I never knew about the culture and traditions there, and honestly, the poverty and pollution.  If you’re someone who craves character-driven books and doesn’t mind a more literary fiction-type reader, I definitely recommend checking Destination Wedding out.  Read More »

MY NEW FAVORITE V.E. SCHWAB BOOK? : The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue Review

Summary (from the publisher):

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

 

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Thanks to V.E. Schwab’s hints on social media over the past few years about The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, I had been highly anticipating this book for what feels like forever (okay, maybe not to Addie LaRue herself). In short, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is so much more than ‘a girl makes a deal with the devil to live for forever.’ This book absolutely smashed my expectations. It honestly just might be my new favorite V.E. Schwab book – I seriously cannot believe I’m saying this, given my love for Vicious!

After making a deal three hundred years ago in which Addie gets to live forever, in exchange for everyone she ever meets forgetting her, Addie is living in present day New York City. She’s used to being able to being able to sneak away, until upon a second trip to a bookstore, a young man, Henry, remembers her from her first visit. The rules surrounding Addie and memory were  so intricate. It was equally fascinating and frustrating to learn about, since Addie has to overcome so many obstacles to try to live and it can all be taken way from her in any moment. You feel her heart-break at every moment of genuine connection and every time someone forgets who she is.Read More »

A 2020 YA FAVORITE: Chasing Lucky Review

Summary (from the publisher): 

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

If there was only one book I was going to fall head-over-heels in love with in 2020, it was Jenn Bennett’s Chasing Lucky. How could I not fall in love with a book by one of my all-time favorite authors that takes place in the summer on the East Coast AND whose main character’s family owns a bookstore AND develops feelings for her ex-best friend? I was fortunate enough to have read an early copy of Chasing Lucky back in February, with the book originally being slated to come out in May, but its release date was pushed to November during the height of the pandemic. I’m so happy that everyone can read the book that stole my heart earlier in this year now – I’m already planning to dive into my finished copy!

There is SO much to explore about Chasing Lucky, but let’s start with the one element guaranteed to please all readers: THE BOOKSTORE! Chasing Lucky begins with Josie and her mom’s move back to their New England hometown in Rhode Island to run the family bookstore, Siren’s Book Nook. Since the town, Beauty, is set right on the water, Siren’s Book Nook’s takes on a nautical theme, but is just as cozy as you would expect from a Jenn Bennett book. I’m also ready to be best friends with Josie’s cousin, Evie, who spends her breaks at the bookstore reading paperback romances. Josie is also a photographer at heart, and the bookstore’s backroom doubles as her dark room. While the plot doesn’t directly involve the bookstore, I really loved having this setting and atmosphere. 

Speaking of atmosphere, the overall setting of Chasing Lucky that is Beauty makes me want to take a trip up to New England ASAP! Told over Josie’s summer, Chasing Lucky transports readers to the best season of the year to this small, coastal town. I loved Josie’s trips to the town’s nautical-themed coffee ship and the days spent near on the water. 

Read More »

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea & Tomorrow Review & Inspired Recipe

Summary (from the publisher): For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.

A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

After having absolutely loved Laura Taylor Namey’s debut, The Library of Lost Things, in 2019, I could not wait to get my hands on her sophomore YA novel, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow. Everyone knows that a love a book about books & bookstores, which were both at the heart of The Library of Lost Things, and everyone also knows that I love books that have anything to do with baking, which is at the heart of A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow! Suffering from the loss of her grandmother, not to mention being dumped by her longtime boyfriend and having a falling out with her best friend, Lila needs a breathe from life in Miami and helping run her family’s Cuban American bakery… at least that’s what Lila’s family believes. Much to Lila’s dismay, Lila’s family sends her to England for the summer to live with her aunt and family and try to regroup after losing so much. At first, Lila wants nothing to do with Winchester, but with the help of a tea-delivering, charming friend, she begins to find herself – or a new version of a herself- once again. 

I read A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow in less than 24 hours with the biggest smile on my face. I knew I was likely to swoon over this book, but I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with it! Before I jump into the book itself, I have to take a moment to swoon over the cover! I love the pink and green color scheme so, so much, and the illustrated characters are just how I would imagine Lila and Orion! I also love how Lila’s red flip flops, Orion’s gray cardigan, and some Cuban inspired treats make there way on to the cover as well. I honestly just want to transport myself into this scene! 

Lila is one of my favorite YA protagonists of 2020. Her character and storyline just feel so authentic. While a few of us would jump at the chance to spend the summer in England, Lila really wants nothing to do with the trip and would do anything to go back home to Miami and run the family bakery with her best friend & sister, Pilar. It does take the first few chapters for Lila to begin to embrace life in England, thanks to Orion and being able to lend a hand in her aunt’s inn by helping out with the daily baking. Orion and Lila’s friendship is a huge part of the book, and their development was done so well. Although they have chemistry from the start, I really loved that friendship was the basis of their relationship and how they helped each other out along the way. I also just genuinely loved the side characters both in Miami and Winchester. Read More »

A POTENTIAL FAVORITE ROMANCE AUTHOR?: Party of Two Review

Summary (from the publisher):

Dating is the last thing on Olivia Monroe’s mind when she moves to LA to start her own law firm. But when she meets a gorgeous man at a hotel bar and they spend the entire night flirting, she discovers too late that he is none other than hotshot junior senator Max Powell. Olivia has zero interest in dating a politician, but when a cake arrives at her office with the cutest message, she can’t resist–it is chocolate cake, after all.

Party of Two follows Olivia, a lawyer who’s just relocated from NYC to LA to run her own law firm with her best friend, and Max, a California senator who spends his time between LA and DC. When Olivia first meets Max, she has no idea that he’s a politician, let alone one of the most eligible and attractive bachelors in DC. Olivia soon figures out who Max is and has to think about if she wants to date a politician, while Max considers what it would be like to finally have a partner. As Olivia and Max spend more time together, both have to consider what it means to put their relationship in the spotlight. I know, I know, some readers might want nothing to do with politics in their reads at that moment, but Party of Two doesn’t have political conversations every other second and it doesn’t feature an election, which was really refreshing because I feel like any contemporary book I read involving politics tends to take place during an election year. Read More »

Olivia is surprised to find that Max is sweet, funny, and noble–not just some privileged white politician she assumed him to be. Because of Max’s high-profile job, they start seeing each other secretly, which leads to clandestine dates and silly disguises. But when they finally go public, the intense media scrutiny means people are now digging up her rocky past and criticizing her job, even her suitability as a trophy girlfriend. Olivia knows what she has with Max is something special, but is it strong enough to survive the heat of the spotlight?

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

2020 has been the year of contemporary romance for me, which means that I finally had to pick up a Jasmine Guillory book! I went with Party of Two, the fifth book in The Wedding Date companion series. It was so unlike me to pick up a latter installment in a companion series, but I was really intrigued by the synopsis and heard rave reviews from other bloggers. I’m so glad I went with Party of Two because it is now one of my favorite contemporary romances of the year. My weeks are busy between internship, grad classes, and job duties but I still managed to read this one under 3 days. Okay, some homework and TV watching may have been set aside but it was SO worth it! 

Party of Two follows Olivia, a lawyer who’s just relocated from NYC to LA to run her own law firm with her best friend, and Max, a California senator who spends his time between LA and DC. When Olivia first meets Max, she has no idea that he’s a politician, let alone one of the most eligible and attractive bachelors in DC. Olivia soon figures out who Max is and has to think about if she wants to date a politician, while Max considers what it would be like to finally have a partner. As Olivia and Max spend more time together, both have to consider what it means to put their relationship in the spotlight. I know, I know, some readers might want nothing to do with politics in their reads at that moment, but Party of Two doesn’t have political conversations every other second and it doesn’t feature an election, which was really refreshing because I feel like any contemporary book I read involving politics tends to take place during an election year. Read More »

HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE: Head Over Heels Review

Summary (from the publisher): The past seven years have been hard on Avery Abrams: After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a
disastrous performance ended her athletic career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri.

I devoured Head Over Heels in less than a day! It was the perfect amount of contemporary-ness with serious discussions and topics (more on that below), with such a unique setting. The book does light-heartedly call out fans like me, but gymnastics is one of my favorite sports to watch during the Olympics, so it was so fascinating to get an inside look at the sport. I admit that I didn’t really understand some of the moves or gymnastics, but it didn’t really distract me from the plot (and it actually led me to discover gymnastics Tik Tok). I loved Avery as a protagonist, especially since we really get to see her character transform from start to end. I thought the romance was well balanced between everything involving Hallie and getting ready for the Olympic Trials, as well as Avery’s own journey dealing with her past and figuring out her next steps. Read More »

Now, reeling from a breakup with her football star boyfriend, Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations. Despite her misgivings and worries about the memories it will evoke, Avery agrees. Back in the gym, she’s surprised to find sparks flying with Ryan. But when a shocking scandal in the gymnastics world breaks, it has shattering effects not only for the sport but also for Avery and her old friend Jasmine.

 

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

My Thoughts:

After absolutely loving Playing with Matches this summer and enjoying Love at First Like last year, I was so excited to read her 2020 release, Head Over Heels. I can’t believe I held off until reading this one until October, but I’m so glad I saved it! I was craving a contemporary read last weekend, and thankfully had this one waiting for me on my shelf. All the puns intended, I am head over heels in love with this book! 

If you were a fan of the Netflix documentary, Athlete A, and enjoy contemporary books as much as I do, Head Over Heels is an absolute must read. The book follows Avery Adams, an elite gymnast whose career ended seven years ago after an injury at the Olympic Trials. After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Avery decides to leave California and move back home to Massachusetts, aka the home of her crushed childhood and teenage dreams. When Avery is asked to coach an Olympic hopeful, she finds herself falling for the fellow coach and more importantly, discovering her purpose and how maybe gymnastics can be part of her life once again. 

I devoured Head Over Heels in less than a day! It was the perfect amount of contemporary-ness with serious discussions and topics (more on that below), with such a unique setting. The book does light-heartedly call out fans like me, but gymnastics is one of my favorite sports to watch during the Olympics, so it was so fascinating to get an inside look at the sport. I admit that I didn’t really understand some of the moves or gymnastics, but it didn’t really distract me from the plot (and it actually led me to discover gymnastics Tik Tok). I loved Avery as a protagonist, especially since we really get to see her character transform from start to end. I thought the romance was well balanced between everything involving Hallie and getting ready for the Olympic Trials, as well as Avery’s own journey dealing with her past and figuring out her next steps. Read More »

A SEQUEL I LOVED: Well Played Review

Summary (from the publisher): Stacey is jolted when two of her two best friends get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Jen DeLuca’s Renaissance Faire inspired contemporary romance, Well Met, is one of my favorite reads of 2020, so I could not wait to get my hands on the sequel companion novel, Well Played. Never have I ever been to a Renaissance Faire, but that hasn’t stopped me from falling in love with these two books! You don’t necessarily need to read Well Played before reading Well Met, but I highly suggest that you do, #1 because Well Met is such a fantastic contemporary romance and features one of my favorite fictional boyfriends, Simon (he gives me MAJOR Ben Wyatt vibes). But more importantly, the sequel does contain spoilers for Well Met, i.e. the relationship progress or status of Emily & Simon. Reading Well Met gives you a more rich and fun understanding of the Ren Faire world, since Emily is new to it herself in the first book, while Well Played’s main protagonist, Stacey, is a seasoned tavern witch. 

Well Played follows Emily’s best friend, Stacey. A longtime tavern witch and Ren Faire volunteer, Stacey looks forward to the faire every year, not just because it’s one of her few favorite parts of still living in the town she grew up in, but also to reunite with her summer fling, Dex. Dex is a member of renaissance band, the Dueling Kilts, managed by Dex’s cousin, Daniel. On a whim after the faire ends for the year, Emily emails Dex to share her thoughts on their ‘relationship,’ and receives a way more tender and emotional email back then she could have ever expected. As Stacey and Dex email throughout the year and form a relationship, it never crosses Stacey’s mind that the person behind the email might not be Dex after all…Read More »

FEMINISM, HISTORICAL FICTION, & POLITICS: October YA Mini Reviews

This mini review roundup focused on three YA books I’ve picked up over the last few weeks hopefully has something for everyone: a contemporary read about a girl ready to start a feminist revolution in her medieval-themed workplace, a historical fiction read about an aftermath we rarely see in YA, and an all too timely read featuring politics and the environment. 

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly is such a fantastic 2020 young adult release! If you love Jen DeLuca’s contemporary romance, Well Met, and want some ren-inspired YA, this book is for you! Kit works as a waitress, or serving wench, at a medieval-themed dinner-and-show restaurant (think Medieval Times), but longs to become one of the Castle’s Knights, like her older brother. The Knights perform every night, but due to the corporate policy, only men can be Knights. When Kit not-so secretly takes her brother’s place one night, the video of her performance goes viral and Kit and her fellow employees team up to shake things up at the Castle.

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly’s setting alone makes it such a unique read. Jamie Pacton really nailed the setting and its atmosphere. From the performances to Kit’s wench uniform, this story was so detailed and makes readers feel like they are at the Castle themselves. The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly has such fantastic commentary about gender and gender roles, as Kit trys to otherthrow her company’s sexist policies. There was a lot of diverse gender and sexuality representation, and it didn’t feel forced at all. The book also features Kit’s budding romance with her best friend and fellow co-worker, Jett, and her family’s struggle to pay bills and afford college. I find that college, or books with seniors who are about to go to college, feels unrealistic at times in YA books, but I think the author had an honest depiction surrounding Kit being or not being able to afford to go to a four-year school right away. WhileThe Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly is overall a fun and really enjoyable read, it had such great & mature discussions surrounding gender, feminism, and growing pains, romance and college planning included. 

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Monica Hesse is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. Her latest release, They Went Left, was instantly added to my TBR as soon as I learned about it this past spring. I admit that while I still really enjoy historical fiction and now really think about it can be incorporated into the classroom, I am more critical about the genre now after finishing my major in English and minor in Holocaust Studies.

Set in 1945 Germany, They Went Left follows eighteen year old Zofia Lederman, who has recently been liberated from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp and heads home to reunite with her younger brother, Abek. Zofia knows that no other member of her family has survived the war, and she is on a quest to find her brother. After coming home to discover that there’s nothing left and Abek has not returned, she goes to a displaced person camp to find her brother. Through her book, Monica Hesse gets at the really important fact that Holocaust survivors’ struggle didn’t end as soon as the war ended and when camps were liberated. In her author’s note at the end, she acknowledges that Zofia’s story was based on the many stories of victims and survivors and their time living in displaced person camps after the war. Zofia is extremely focused on finding her brother, but she also has to think about how and where she is to reclaim her life after having lost everything. What I thought was especially interesting about the book is that Zofia’s memory is understandably very unreliable after her experience, so she struggles to distinguish between what really happened and what hasn’t – which makes it even hard to remember what her last memory of Abek actually was. Like other readers, I wanted more mystery and honestly a more complicated story, but I thought its ending somewhat made-up for its mystery. The book definitely nailed its purpose, but perhaps not its full potential. Nevertheless, like Monica Hesse’s other books, They Went Left is an equally heart-breaking and important read. 

Running by Natalia Sylvester 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I feel like YA contemporary books featuring a parent in a political campaign or who works in politics is such a niche genre but it definitely exists. If you’re like me and you enjoy this sub-genre, I highly recommend The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne, and even My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. These recommendations now include Running by Natalia Sylvester.

I forget how Natalia Sylvester’s Running made its way on to my TBR, but I’m so glad it did. As we get closer and closer to the election next month, I’m thinking we’ll see this book find its way on to more YA contemporary book recommendation lists. Running follows Mari, a Cuban American teen, whose father is a Florida senator and is running to be the democratic candidate for the presidential election. As the election and environmental issues creep more into Mari’s life at school, Mari finds herself actually learning about what her father’s campaign stands for – and figuring out her own beliefs.  

Regardless if the election was this year or not, Running felt like a super timely novel. Mari and her friends are really concerned about how their environment is changing. They live in the Miami area in Florida, which in the book is experiencing flooding and a contaminated water crisis (that I believe was based on real events in 2018). I really enjoyed Running because it focuses on Mari and her relationship with her parents and her friendships – i.e. there’s no romance. Everyone knows I love romance in YA, but it felt so refreshing to not have in there and honestly, I think it would’ve felt forced if it was! I think it would’ve been super interesting if Mari’s dad was the Democratic candidate, but his campaign is just about getting the Democratic nomination. Nevertheless, this book is really about Mari finding her voice and realizing she can be an advocate for change, regardless of who her family is and what they stand for in politics. 

What YA books have you read lately? Have you read any of the ones I reviewed? Share in the comments!