Beach Reads + Contemporary Romance: July Review Roundup #1 

You likely know that summer is my biggest reading season, in part that if I’m spending the day in the pool or on the beach, I have a book (or two) with me, & that I am fortunate enough to enjoy some extra time off in the summer as a teacher. I’m definitely doing the most amount of reading than I have ever done before in the summer, averaging anywhere between 4-6 books a week. I mentioned in my 10+ book mini review round up back in June that because I’m reading so much, I haven’t been necessarily writing full reviews for every single book I read & I’ve been enjoying the shorter length mini review format where I maybe don’t write as much in my traditional mini review posts and share more books that I’ve read. I have a few full length reviews planned for the next few weeks, but I definitely have a feeling I’ll be sharing another similar round-up in July! Today I’ll be sharing mini reviews forYA and adult contemporary books (including some romances of course) & a few beach reads from Elin Hilderbrand. 

The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall – I LOVED The Secret Bridesmaid. This British contemporary following a woman whose hired by brides to be a bridesmaid/undercover wedding planner and is recommended to serve in a royal wedding for a diva of a bride was SO good. It was the perfect blend of self-growth, relationship development (including friendship & romance), and having such a fun story. If you’re a fan of books with some sort of wedding storyline, check this one out! My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane – My local county library branch is closed for at least the first half of July, so I’ve been visiting another local branch and I’ve loved getting to find books that my local library doesn’t have, including so many books from Mhairi McFarlane! She’s a go-to British contemporary romance author from some of my most trusted book rec sources, so I started with what feels like her most recommended book, If I Never Met You. The book uses the fake dating trope, as lawyer Laurie agrees to fake date her co-worker after her long-time boyfriend and also fellow colleague breaks up with her. I liked that the book begins with Laurie’s relationship with her ex and we see the break-up happen and unravel instead of jumping right into the fake-dating. This was overall a fun read and I’m looking forward to checking out more of her books. My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Heart & Seoul by Jen Federick – I was running on the reading rush that was Axie Oh’s upcoming XOXO (review coming to the blog on Monday!) That made me want to read another book set in South Korea, leading me to Jen Frederick’s Heart & Seoul. This contemporary romance (although I think it does read more as a women’s fiction/contemporary drama) follows Hara, a Korean adoptee who decides to go to Seoul for the first time to learn more about her birth parents. I liked that the book balanced so many elements and wasn’t all about the romance or Hara’s adoption/birth story. The book puts way more focus on family than the romance, although I did like the relationship. I’ve read a few books with Korea as the setting, but this book gave such an interesting perspective on the lifestyle and customs there. I was kind’ve mixed on the ending, in the sense that I thought it would’ve been a unique ending for a contemporary romance while also wanting MORE and I was happy to find out that there will be a book #2, Soulmates, in January 2022. My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand – I’m on a slight & unexpected mission to read as many Elin Hilderbrand book as possible this year. Elin was recently interviewed on Bad on Paper Podcast, and Silver Girl came up in their conversation. I was a bit hesitant going into this one because I wasn’t super intrigued by the synopsis, as the book follows Meredith’s downfall due to her husband’s Ponzi scheme and hiding from the media with her former best friend in Nantucket for the summer. However, I became so much more addicted to this story than expected, having actually loved the focus on friendship and how the story intertwined the past & present. My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

Read More »

A FAV SUMMER READ & MORE: June 2021 Mini Reviews

Let me just put out a disclaimer and pull the behinds-the-scenes of being a book blogger by sharing that I have been GREAT at reading books over the past few weeks, but AWFUL about writing reviews right after I read them. 

I blame this personal trend on that I have been reading so much lately and instead of pausing after I finish a book to write my thoughts, I instead pick up another book. Again, great for reading life, not so much blogging life, although I’ve been turning to full length reviews lately more than I feel like I’ve had in a long time. I don’t necessarily feel like I must share reviews on every single book I read, but I have been reading some really great books lately and I feel like it could be so random in a wrap up or favorites post and be like “I loved this book as you know”…. when I’ve barely mentioned it on the blog. I want to have a few more mini review posts shared over the next two weeks, but today’s mini reviews feature a contemporary romance I LOVED, and a YA contemporary & memoir I liked but ultimately felt mixed about upon review reflection. 

Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Libby Hubscher’s Meet Me in Paradise is one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read all year! It is a little lighter on the romance side, but I just loved everything about this book, from the setting to the self growth to the focus on sisterhood. I figured Meet Me in Paradise would be emotional based on its synopsis, as sisters Marin & Sadie lost their famed journalist mother at a young age, and while Sadie has taken off around the world as a photographer, Marin has always stayed close to home, living in their childhood home. While I figured this book would deal with loss, there was a twist I didn’t see coming (& that I don’t really want to spoil) that gave this book even more depth. I read Meet Me in Paradise on my first beach/pool weekend of the summer and highly recommend picking this one up for summer mood reading this season. 

This isn’t the spoiler, but Sadie convinces Marin to go on vacation together and after a series of mishaps, Marin finds herself spending a ton of time with the resort owner of the island and learning a ton about herself through their experiences. The book’s setting was just so atmospheric, as Marin and Luca explore the (fictional) tropical island of Saba – I can’t help but admit I also loved the sound of the all-exclusive resort cottage Marin resides in. The story also alternates between Marin and another outside narrator, and I loved the way the perspectives tie together in the end. Definitely have your tissues ready, but Meet Me in Paradise was ultimately the perfect blend of contemporary and romance. 

Read More »

A MEMOIR FAVE AND HYPED CONTEMPORARY ROMANCES: April 2021 Mini Reviews Round 2

Keeping up with my normal reading schedule during some pretty busy weeks as I wrap up my last semester of grad school (!!!) often means more mini reviews vs full length or featured review posts. I have been reading some really great May 2021 releases lately, so expect a few full length reviews for new releases in the next few weeks. In the meantime, today I’ll be sharing mini reviews on 2 contemporary romances from two popular favorites and one of my new-to-me favorite memoirs. 

Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon 

My Rating: 3.75/5 Stars

mbu

This week, I finally got to one of my most anticipated romances for 2020, Lily Menon’s Make Up Break Up. You may be able to tell from the last name of the author, but Lily Menon is also known as Sandhya Menon, aka the author of some of my favorite YA contemporaries like 10 Things I Hate About Pinky and There’s Something About Sweetie. As I mention some of Sandhya Menon’s YA books, I just realized that Make Up Break Up has a slight When Dimple Met Rishi feel (no arranged relationship/set-up by parents) with its tech/app setting. Lily Menon’s first contemporary romance follows Annika, a young tech developer who needs funding her app, Make Up, designed to help couples communicate through relationship problems and predict their future together based on their personalities and communication style. She runs the app with her best friend, June. Her biggest competitor in a pitch war? Hudson Craft of the complete opposite app, Break Up, which helps couples end things with one another via automated messages. 

Make Up Break Up was a fun & mostly light-hearted read, but it overall felt somewhat surface-level. I don’t want to necessarily compare Sandhya Menon’s YA books to her first adult book, but her YA books feel like they almost capture more depth and emotion compared to Make Up Break Up. The book delivered on its synopsis – enemies-to-lovers in the app development world – but I wanted more from the story. Don’t get me wrong, I ate this one up over two days. Once I got settled into Lily Menon’s writing style, I was invested in Annika and June’s app and need to get out of debt to keep Make Up running. I ultimately enjoyed the tech plot and even Annika’s relationship with her father more than I was invested in the romance. While everyone knows that I don’’t necessarily mind a predictable story or set-up, I saw everything coming about Annika and Hudson’s relationship, especially the reasoning behind Break Up. I also thought it was weird that there’s constant mentioning of Annika and Hudson’s past together that doesn’t explained until the very end of the book. Overall, I am ultimately glad that I picked up Make Up Break Up to see Lily Menon’s first take in the contemporary romance world because I love her work in the Dimpleverse companion series, and I’m interested to see what else she may write within this genre. 

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

61X66Nf+C3L

The Glass Castle is one of those must-read memoirs for any non-fiction fan, so when a few of my students began reading it this month, I decided to join along with them and was hooked. This memoir follows the childhood of Jeannette Walls, who, along with her three siblings, lived throughout the Southwest in such poor conditions, eventually ending up in a West Virgina mining tall. This book is super dark, often featuring scenes involving sexual abuse, alcohol, and child abuse or neglect. Although The Glass Castle is filled with heavy and dark subject matter, I was absolutely swept up by Jeannette Wall’s writing style. Her writing is so honest and to-the-point, and the book’s short chapters made me feel like I flying through even faster than I likely already was. This book left me thinking so much about Jeannette’s family – there is certainly no denying that her parents made horrible decisions for their family, but the juxtaposition between their way of life and Jeannette’s love for her family is extremely-thought provoking.

Read More »

TRAVEL MEETS BRITISH CONTEMPORARIES: April 2021 Mini Reviews 

Everyone knows that contemporary is my forever reading mood, but it seems like contemporary is going to be the theme of reading especially in April. Today, I’ll be sharing thoughts on a few books I finished up in late March and kicked off my reading with in April, including books about a month-long adventure in Italy, a very popular book with a library filled with alternate realities, and a much-loved British contemporary. 

Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Due to the lack of travel IRL right now, I’ve recently been reaching for books set in other countries – and apparently books set in Italy! I loved Lori Nielsen Spiegelman’s The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany back in January, and I had been craving another light and fluffy read in that setting ever since. One of my favorite authors and Instagram-book-recommenders, Emily Henry, posted about Jennifer Probst’s Our Italian Summer this year and I was instantly hooked in its synopsis. Told from the perspective of three generations of women from the same family, Our Italian Summer follows grandmother Sophia’s request that her daughter, Francesca, and granddaughter, Allegra, spend a month in Italy together learning about their culture and more importantly, trying to fix Francesca and Allegra’s dynamic. 

This book instantly transported me to Italy and made me want to travel there even more. The descriptions of all the places the Ferrari women visit were so detailed and fully immersed me into the country – I especially now want to visit Rome and Capri… not to mention eat ALL the bread and pasta. I liked the focus on relationship development and growth, as Francesca and Allegra try to reconcile their issues between Francesca’s workaholic tendencies and Allegra’s recent rule (& slightly law)-breaking habits. While Francesca was often in the wrong, there were definitely times when I wanted Sophia to stand up more to Allegra about the way she treated her mother .There’s also some romance, as Francesca and their tour guide bond and Allegra spends time with a cute Irish companion. If you loved the first season of RomComPods, you’ll especially love Francesca’s relationship with the tour guide. This didn’t affect my review of the book necessarily, but I thought there was a slightly weird emphasis on looks, or how certain characters, including Francesca and the male love interests, were described as ‘average’ or ‘not traditionally beautiful’. Overall, Our Italian Summer was such a light-hearted read exploring mother-daughter dynamics that makes me want to book a flight to Italy for a month ASAP!

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Midnight Library has been absolutely EVERYWHERE since its release last September. It’s a Good Morning America Book Club pick, Goodreads Choice Awards Winner for Best Fiction, and was recently the Bad on Paper Podcast book club pick for March. There is a trigger warning for suicide, as the book begins with Nora’s decision to end her life. After Nora ends her life, she soon finds herself in an alternate reality in the form of a library, in which she can choose any book that then transports her to lives she could’ve lived if she had made different decisions about her relationships, career, and so much more. 

The Midnight Library is definitely a heavier read, given Nora’s decision to end her life and her depression. The book really adopts this what-if mentality, as Nora gets to experience so many different lives with both good and bad results.There is such a wide variety of Nora’s lives, from being a scientific researcher to pub-owner to swimming champion and so much more. Like many readers, my heart broke the most during Nora’s last book. The story is definitely dark and depressing, but does transition to a much more hopeful message about life and making the most out our lives in both the best and worst circumstances. I definitely see why so many readers have loved this one given its messages about life, but I personally wasn’t super in love. I had a hard time getting into the writing style and following the explanations about the library at times between Nora and the librarian. I wish this book had inspired me or resonated with me as much as other readers, but I overall felt like it was an enjoyable read that ultimately might not stick with me for too long. 

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

After loving Beth O’Leary’s The Switch and highly anticipating The Road Trip, I had to dive into her first book, The Flatshare. This book has circulated throughout so many contemporary/contemporary romance recommendations over the past few years that I finally had to check it out. After a difficult break up (trigger warning for emotional abuse), book editor Tiffy is in need of a new and cheap living arrangement. She soon finds herself, sharing a flat with a nurse, Leon, with a unique living situation: since Leon works at night and Tiffy works during the day, they’ll never see each other…which makes it easier to share the flat’s 1 bed. However, Leon and Tiffy’s notes for another about cleaning the flat and food in the fridge soon turns into them learning much more about one other than they could have ever expected.

The Flatshare was a light read that I overall really enjoyed, but incorporated heavier themes than I had expected when I first picked up the book. Tiffy has had an on-and-off again relationship that has finally been put to an end, but she begins to realize that she suffered from emotional abuse throughout their time together and struggles with that as she begins to start talking to other guys…and when said ex keeps on popping up. Meanwhile, Leon is trying to balance life an overnight nurse, his relationship with his girlfriend, and most importantly, helping his brother out as much as he can for a crime he didn’t commit. Tiffy’s relationship with her ex and Leon’s commitment to helping his brother added a complex layer to the story that was very interesting to explore. As Tiffy and Leon leave notes for each other around the flat, they begin to learn about this issues and help each out. The book by no means is all dark: Tiffy is a book editor, with her biggest client as a super knitter who seems to always need Tiffy as a model for some humor-infused book events. Tiffy and Leon’s notes were often sweet and funny, and it was so much fun seeing their relationship transfer from post-its to in-person. I also laughed out so many times over Tiffy’s best friend, Rachel, and her remarks on romance and relationships.  I definitely recommend The Flatshare for readers looking for a blend of light-hearted contemporary and more serious situations. 

image

Have you read Our Italian Summer, The Midnight Library, or The Flatshare? What did you think about them? Are they on your TBR? Share in the comments

A MARCH MUST-READ & MORE CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: March 2021 Mini Reviews Round 2

Another March Monday, another round of mini reviews from this month’s reads! I got a slight taste of my upcoming spring break this weekend, having eaten up two books – one is featuring in this round of mini reviews, while another will be getting the full review treatment in early April. I’m really looking forward to having time off next week to dive into as many books as possible. Today I’ll be sharing reviews for a recent release that is SO worth the read and two books from a much-loved contemporary romance companion series. 

Float Plan by Trish Doller

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

I forget exactly how I first found out about Float Plan, but I do remember a comparison to Bravo’s Below Deck (aka my current favorite reality TV show) made me add Float Plan to my TBR immediately. While I understand where the sailing comparison from Below Deck came from, Float Plan is definitely a much more heavy read than drunken mega yacht shenanigans. This contemporary follows Anna, a twenty-five year old woman who is understandably reeling from the death of her fiancé by suicide almost a year later. All Anna has left of Ben is his sailboat and the sailing trip from Fort Lauderdale to Puerto Rico he had planned for them. After a first rocky night at sea & on land, Anna hires Keane, an attractive Irish sailor who is also contending with a future he didn’t plan. 

I think Float Plan is considered to be a contemporary/women’s fiction book, which I understand, but there is some slight contemporary romance. There’s a romance scene or two,  but I think the balance between contemporary and romance was PERFECT in this book since Anna and Keane are both dealing with loss in different ways. Although I did get tripped up on the sailing terminology from time to time, Float Plan is the type of book you will not be able to put down. I loved traveling from place to place with Anna and Keane and seeing their relationship grow stronger with each stop. The sailing and travel both quenched and made my wanderlust grow even more. I really want to explore Europe once travel is back, but this book really made me interested in island hopping in the Caribbean too! I was nervous that their relationship was going to fall into some romance tropes (aka some sort of unexpected or big conflict that dramatically threatens to tear them apart), but I was so happy with the course of their relationship. As someone who consumes so many romance books, it made their romance & relationship feel super refreshing – and how could I not love an Irish male lead with a fun sense of humor &  big heart anyway? Overall, Float Plan is a contemporary/contemporary romance not to sleep on this spring & summer. Fans of Emily Henry’s Beach Read will especially enjoy this one, between some of the heaviness, personal growth, and relationship development. Read More »

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 »

NON-FICTION FAVE & CONTEMPORARY READS: January 2021 Mini Reviews

Another mini review round-up, another example of me finally remembering to share mini reviews from December 2020 and a few reads from January 2021. I know I shared my reading goals last week, but I think one of my blogging goals for this year should be for me to write my mini reviews as soon as I finish a book I read! Today’s reviews feature my last read and one of my favorites books of 2020, a adult contemporary meets thriller that I really enjoyed, and a YA contemporary that had sat on my TBR for way too long.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

December can often to turn into a reading month where you try to catch up on some of the books you were meaning to read over the year (and maybe avoided for whatever reason) and some fluffier reads. I don’t know if that makes sense, but in short, I didn’t expect my last read of 2020 to be one of my favorite books of the year, especially a larger non-fiction reader about therapy.

Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone had been on my TBR radar since its 2019 release, but so many signs this December pointed me to it. Lori Gottlieb was a recent guest on the Girls Gotta Eat podcast, and one of my favorite authors, Hannah Orensetin, included the book on her favorite books of 2020 instagram stories. And let’s be honest, we could all probably use some therapy thanks to 2020. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is about scenarios Lori Gottlieb has encountered as a therapist and her own experience going to therapy. Each of her ‘patients’ – due to ethical concerns of course, their identities and exact stories were changed and the scenarios were adapted and based on her experiences with multiple patients – stayed with me for different reasons. I also loved following Lori’s own life and experience with therapy, as she dives deep into her personal journey and her really unique experience having a career shift from entertainment & TV to med school to psychotherapy. No matter what kind of reader you are, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a book I encourage EVERYONE to read. 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 »

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 »