June 2020 Mini Reviews: Books I Should’ve Read A While Ago

Stay-at-home orders forced me to look around all the bookshelves in my house for books that I hadn’t yet read.  I have been buying more books lately and reading more e-books than normal thanks to Netgalley and Libby, but physical books will ALWAYS have my heart. My hunt for books led me to pick up books that I should’ve read a while ago, both in the sense that they’ve been on my TBR for a while and that they are extremely loved and well read.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

9781524763138Although I admit it wasn’t a TBR priority, Michelle Obama’s Becoming was always one of those books that I knew I would read one day. A few of my friends started reading it back in April, so I decided to join in by listening to the audiobook. I’m a sucker for almost any auto-biography or celebrity audiobook that is narrated by the author. Becoming definitely took me a while to listen to – at almost 20 hours in length, it took me over 6 weeks to get through it. This is also because I’m someone who has to be doing something while listening to audiobooks and even podcasts, most commonly when I’m walking or coloring. I also listened to a big chunk of this while unpacking from my college dorm room.

Audiobook listening strategies set aside, Becoming was just as good as everyone says it is! The book really provides Michelle Obama’s backstory before her husband was elected president of the United States. I really enjoyed listening to her time in college and when she first started working (which soon happened to include meeting Barack). It was so fascinating to learn that she never really wanted anything to do with politics and even after she finished serving as First Lady. Throughout, she includes many lessons and conversations surrounding race, education, work, family, and politics. It was interesting hearing about her time in the White House, although it did feel like more of the book dealt with her childhood and pre-First Lady days. I couldn’t help but love anytime she mentioned Lin Manuel-Miranda and her own love for Hamilton.Read More »

NEW ADULT FUN: The Play (Briar U #3) Review  

Summary (from the author): 

413eh7lf2nL._SY346_What I learned after last year’s distractions cost my hockey team our entire season? No more screwing up. No more screwing, period. As the new team captain, I need a new philosophy: hockey and school now, women later. Which means that I, Hunter Davenport, am officially going celibate…no matter how hard that makes things.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook that says I can’t be friends with a woman. And I won’t lie—my new classmate Demi Davis is one cool chick. Her smart mouth is hot as hell, and so is the rest of her, but the fact that she’s got a boyfriend eliminates the temptation to touch her.

Except three months into our friendship, Demi is single and looking for a rebound.

And she’s making a play for me.

Avoiding her is impossible. We’re paired up on a yearlong school project, but I’m confident I can resist her. We’d never work, anyway. Our backgrounds are too different, our goals aren’t aligned, and her parents hate my guts.

Hooking up is a very bad idea. Now I just have to convince my body—and my heart.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Elle Kennedy is my favorite new adult romance author. Her Off-Campus series stole my heart last summer, so I knew I needed to kick off my June with one of her Briar U books, The Play. Briar U is the spin-off series to Off-Campus. Both series follow romances between the women of the fictional Ivy League school, Briar University, and the college’s hockey players. The Play follows Hunter, who we’ve seen in both series, and a new female lead, Demi. As the newest hockey team captain and after years of being a playboy, Hunter decides to take himself out of the dating world in order to focus on his team. Hunter isn’t expecting anything from his psychology project partner, Demi, until a nasty break-up makes Hunter and Demi closer than they ever expected. 

The Play was everything I look for in my Elle Kennedy books: charming male leads, college life (partying included), hockey, romance, and smart,sarcastic female leads. I’ll admit that Hunter was never really my favorite male lead, especially after The Chase, but he really grew on me in this book. Having his perspective brought out a new side of him. There’s a little bit of talk about his  feelings for Summer, but his romantic focus in this book was really combatting his feelings for Demi while trying to stick with the commitment he made to himself. Demi and Hunter have such great chemistry from the very beginning, and while they had always been flirty with one another, it was fun seeing them move from friends into something more. 

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I don’t think Demi was my favorite Briar U/Off-Campus protagonist, but she grew on me. I believe Demi is the most diverse protagonist in all of the series, having a black father and Cuban mother, but there’s been a lot of discussion in reviews about the authenticity (or lack thereof) of her representation and a few stereotypes associated with her. While I did enjoy Demi’s intelligence and strength, I do agree with reviewers that her representation did need some further development. Read More »

FINISHING THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR: The Dazzling Heights & The Towering Sky Review

You probably know that diving into YA dystopian/series about rich teenagers has been part of my 2020 reading game. If you’re in need of a read to distract you from reality (although I do not want to ignore the fact that this is such an important time for us to be educating ourselves & diversifying our reading), I can’t help but recommend Katharine McGee’s The Thousandth Floor trilogy. Since I’ve already reviewed the first book, today I’ll be sharing my mini reviews for the final two books in the series, The Dazzling Heights and The Towering Sky.

About The Thousandth Floor:

IMG_4341A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

The Dazzling Heights (The Thousandth Floor #2)

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

{E412C39E-9870-4F64-BD9C-D65C35ACAE49}Img100After finally getting on the hype train for Katharine McGee’s The Thousandth Floor in March, I knew I had to get my hands on the sequel, The Dazzling Heights. The Thousandth Floor is the dystopian meets Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars series you didn’t know you needed. 

This series overall, but The Dazzling Heights in particular, is like ‘reading candy’; once you eat one piece you can’t get enough! I devoured The Dazzling Heights in two sittings, having been immediately drawn back in the world of Avery, Leda, and co. living in their glamorous and elite world – with plenty of deadly secrets in tow. The Dazzling Heights picks up a few months after the ending of The Thousandth Floor, with Avery, Leda, Watt, and Rylin keeping plenty of secrets and blackmail between them. The Dazzling Heights also introduces a new perspective, Calliope, who immediately knows upon her arrival who her next con will be.Read More »

SUMMER MUST-READ: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Summary (from the publisher):

48079190._UY2048_SS2048_Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

 

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Beach Read has deservedly found it way into nearly every corner of the book blogging community.  So many of my bookish friends have loved this contemporary romance, myself included!

Since there have been a ton of Beach Read reviews floating around the book blogosphere, I’ve decided to forgo my usual review style to explain why you need to actually pick up this must-read beach read of summer 2020.

It’s much more complex than the title & official synopsis suggests. Beach Read does meet its synopsis: Augustus, a literary fiction writer, and January, a romance writer, are both in writing ruts and decide to challenge each other by writing a book in the other’s genre. But Beach Read goes beyond this competition.

I don’t want to include too many spoilers, but both January and Gus have experienced some hardship and loss. After the death of her father, January is left with his beach house in Michigan. January is struggling to cope with his death, his hidden past, and the manuscript of her latest romance novel that is due to the publisher by the end of the summer. January decides to spend the summer at the beach, packing up the house and writing her novel. Early on in the story, it’s revealed that January’s grumpy neighbor is none other than Augustus, a best-selling literary fiction author AND January’s college rival.

There’s a ton of exploration into the two main characters’ past, loss, and their college history. As Gus and January move from enemies to lovers (you really don’t believe that the synopsis says no one falls in love, right?), the two reveal more about their family and relationship history. Somewhat unrelated and a bit random I admit, Gus is also doing a lot of research on cults for his book. The two spend a few of their literary fiction research nights on that subject and interviewing people with heavy histories of their own.

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While there is heaviness and depth, there is plenty of humor. I wouldn’t say that Beach Read is a rom-com (sidenote that I agree with the growing sentiment that publishing is using ‘rom-com’ too much to describe contemporary romances), but Gus and January have such incredible chemistry that leads to a lot of laugh and a few jokes at the other’s expense (in the most light-heartedly way possible).Read More »

MUST READ NOVELLA: Love at First Fight Review 

Summary (from the publisher): 

love-at-first-fight-9781534482524_lgFrom New York Times bestselling author Sandhya Menon comes a delightful enovella sequel to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie, about a Valentine’s Day group date gone hilariously, disastrously awry. Ashish Patel has never considered himself a hopeless romantic. But now that he’s found his other half, Sweetie Nair, there’s nothing he wants more than to celebrate love in all its forms. So when Valentine’s Day rolls around and he hears about a romance-themed escape room, he knows it’s the perfect opportunity to bring together Sweetie along with his newly engaged brother and sister-in-law-to-be, Rishi Patel and Dimple Shah. On their way to the escape room, the group runs into Pinky Kumar and Samir Jha—both friends to Ashish but nemeses to each other. Despite Pinky’s kneejerk reaction to the cheesy theme (which gets her a high-five from Dimple), the two of them agree to join the group. The escape room is as insufferably saccharine as Pinky feared, but even she is surprised when she and Samir actually…work well together. Samir embodies everything Pinky despises—following rules, having no fun, consuming single-use plastics. Getting along with someone like him—a shiny Volvo when she’s so used to junkers—sends Pinky into a tailspin. Sparks are definitely flying, but it’s unclear if that’s a good thing. Could this be love at first fight?

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Sometimes I question the purpose of novellas … but that’s never the case when it comes to Sandhya Menon. After loving the first When Dimple Met Rishi/Dimpleverse novella, As Kismet Would Have It, I knew I had to read Love at First Fight. 

Let me take some time to explain the Dimpleverse. The Dimpleverse is composed of When Dimple Met Rishi, There’s Something About Sweetie, and 10 Things I Hate About Pinky, and the two novellas. I do recommend reading As Kismet Would Have It AFTER reading There’s Something About Sweetie, but BEFORE Love at First Fight. Sandhya Menon has also stated that you do not need to read Love at First Fight before reading 10 Things I Hate About Pinky. However, I did read the novella before reading the upcoming book, which comes out on July 21, 2020. I really wanted to revisit the Dimpleverse, and yes, I also wanted to read everything in chronological order. 

Ultimately, I do not think you have to read the novellas to fully understand the Dimpleverse, but I do recommend reading them. They’re such cute compliments to the books and offer a where-are-they-now glimpse at the characters since their books. Both As Kismet Would Have It and Love at First Fight are currently available for free on rivetedlit.com. 

Love at First Fight takes places on a Valentine’s Day couples date, in which Rishi & Dimple and Sweetie & Ashish decide to go to a romance-themed escape room. Along the way, they meet us with friends and polar opposites, Samir & Pinky, who are NOT a couple – Pinky makes that clear to everyone and anyone. 

I really loved getting to check in with Dimple & Rishi and Sweetie & Ashish. Dimple & Rishi are just so classic, and I love how they’ve really stayed true to themselves since their book. Rishi is ever the romantic, while Dimple still disputes a lot of stereotypes surrounding relationships. I’m interested to see if there’s any talk about marriage in 10 Things I Hate About Pinky. Maybe Sweetie’s name is some form of foreshadowing, but Ashish and Sweetie are just so sweet! I think I enjoyed their chapter working together to find clues the most. 

And last, but not least, Pinky and Samir’s dynamic sets up for their book. As much as Sam and Pinky clash about nearly everything, there’s no denying that they have feelings for one another. Like Dimple, Pinky is such a headstrong character, but even within the novella, we get to experience her softer side. I think their book is going to explore much about Sam’s family life and why Pinky puts on such a hard exterior. I also hope there’s some sort of reference to their escape-room photo. 

Overall, Love at First Fight was such a cute compliment to the Dimpleverse and will makes readers even more excited to get their hands on 10 Things I Hate About Pinky -and reread the first two companion books! 

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Have you read Love at First Fight? Have you read any books in the Dimpleverse? Is 10 Things I Hate about Pinky on your TBR? Share in the comments! 

WAS IT WORTH THE HYPE? : Where the Crawdads Sing Review

Summary (from the publisher):wherec

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

 

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

The hype for Where the Crawdads Sing finally got me.

Two of my friends had recently read Where the Crawdads Sing and told me I absolutely had to read it. One of them definitely got me by allowing me to borrow her copy. Since the library has been closed and I’m lacking in the physical books department, I took her up on her offer. Previously, Where the Crawdads Sing never really interested me. I had seen it on nearly every best-sellers and recommendations list since 2018. But there was something about the synopsis that never grabbed my attention. Some of my friends on Goodreads had mixed reviews, while I had also recently listened to an episode of Bad on Paper, where co-host Becca (who typically has reading tastes similar to me) said she did not understand the hype for it while co-host Grace loved it. Although I didn’t LOVE it like so many other readers, I did really enjoy Where the Crawdads Sing and do understand the hype. In short, this book has such a sad story, but there’s still this sense of hope and optimis that makes you hold out for the characters and want to know more.Read More »

WHY DIDN’T I READ THIS SOONER: Well Met Review

71mbWCWSjILSummary (from the publisher): All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Well Met had been on my TBR for forever and a half. Almost all of my blogging friends have loved this contemporary romance about a woman who finds herself wrapped up in small town life and its annual summer-long Renaissance Fair. I always wanted to pick up Well Met, so I don’t know what prevented me from picking it up before this May.. okay, maybe blame it on my irrational fear of running out of contemporary romances on my TBR. I finally bought my own copy back in March and after officially finishing all of my undergrad work, I treated myself and started reading! I ate up Well Met over one weekend and it quickly became of my favorite reads of 2020!

As soon as I began the first chapter of Well Met, I fell in love. After a bad breakup and needing to help her older sister after a bad car accident, Emily is in Willow Creek for the summer, which means volunteering with her niece to participate in the town’s Renn Faire. Emily finds herself enjoying the experience way more than expected… that is except for Simon, the fair’s organizer who seems to perpetually have a clipboard up his butt. But when Emily and Simon are in their faire chracters, Emily a tavern wench and Simon a pirate, their flirting game is on and blending the lines in their relationships as enemies vs. something more.

I personally fell in love with Simon because he gave me major Ben Wyatt vibes (aka my fictional boyfriend/husband from Parks & Recreation), thanks to his appearance, organization and adorable nerdiness. While Emily is our main focus, we learn why it’s so hard for Simon to break out of his hard demeanor and why the faire means so much to him. I liked how we’re able to get to know him without having his perspective, since I liked Emily’s first person narrative so much.

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AUSTEN LOVE: The Jane Austen Society Review

Summary (from the publisher):
image002Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people–a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others–could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

 

 My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars 

 My Thoughts:

 The Jane Austen Society caught my eye for its comparisons to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – a book and Netflix movie so many of my book blogging friends have loved. Taking place in the village Jane Austen spent her last years in, the novel follows a group of people who are all struggling with loss and turn to Jane Austen’s novels for comfort. An eclectic mix of people who could not be more different, – a doctor and a movie star included – they band together to preserve Jane Austen’s last home.

The Jane Austen Society is a really cozy read that will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction meets women’s fiction type novels, although the book is set after World War II. Readers who love Jane Austen nearly as much as these characters will also eat this one up. The book follows at least eight different main characters, but Natalie Jenner provides an intimate perspective for each of them. All of the characters have experienced loss and tragedy in their own way. The novel is really about them growing through each other’s support and community. I think I preferred certain characters to others – I honestly could have a book all about Dr. Gray and Adeline and their relationship.

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SUMMERTIME READ: On Ocean Boulevard Review

MAMSummary (from the publisher):

It’s been sixteen years since Caretta “Cara” Rutledge has returned home to the
beautiful shores of Charleston, South Carolina. Over those years, she has weathered the tides of deaths and births, struggles and joys. And now, as Cara prepares for her second wedding, her life is about to change yet again.

Meanwhile, the rest of the storied Rutledge family is also in flux. Cara’s niece Linnea returns to Sullivan’s Island to begin a new career and an unexpected relationship. Linnea’s parents, having survived bankruptcy, pin their hopes and futures on the construction of a new home on Ocean Boulevard. But as excitement over the house and wedding builds, a devastating illness strikes the family and brings plans to a screeching halt. It is under these trying circumstances that the Rutledge family must come together yet again to discover the enduring strength in love, tradition, and legacy from mother to daughter to granddaughter.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

 On Ocean Boulevard immediately made my way on to my TBR for its summer contemporary-sounding synopsis. I often see Mary Alice Monroe pop up on a lot of women’s fiction summer reading lists, so I knew it was time to give this author a try. Upon reading it, I didn’t realize that On Ocean Boulevard is a sequel to Mary Alice Monroe’s Beach House series. However, this did not prevent me from absolutely enjoying this book!

Mary Alice Monroe effortlessly brings her readers back to Sullivan’s Island and Charleston, South Carolina. As someone who hasn’t read her books before, I felt that she thoroughly explained the characters’ background and past, making me feel like I didn’t have to read the previous Beach House novels in order to understand and enjoy this one. Readers re–enter the island with Cara’s niece, Linnea, who has returned after losing her job and breaking up with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Cara is trying to prepare for her second wedding while balancing her work life with raising her young daughter…and also questioning if she wants a big wedding in the first place.

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FAN FAVORITE ROM-COM: Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating Review

joshhazelSummary (from the publisher): Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

 

 My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

My Thoughts:

In my quest to read all the contemporary romance, I had to pick up Christina Lauren’s fan favorite, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. I started reading Christina Lauren last year and started with their newer titles, so I’ve been doing some backtracking to their older ones. I’ve read 6 books of theirs so far! Some of my book blogging friends haven’t been super in love with Christina Lauren’s books published after Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating and claim that this book is the author duo’s best. It’s so much pressure for me to have to choose my favorite, but I’ll admit that Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is definitely a new favorite Christina Lauren read of mine!

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating is one of the best friends-turned-lovers romances I’ve ever read. Josh was Hazel’s TA and biggest crush in college, and she reconnects with him seven years later at a barbecue. Hazel is insistent on becoming Josh’s best friend and getting him back into the dating pool after a bad break-up. The two set each other up on a series on double dates, but have more fun with each other than with the people they set each other up with.

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This book honestly feels like it could be so easily turned into a movie without any changes. You immediately fall in love with Hazel and Josh from the start. Hazel just might be one of the most perfect romance leads I’ve ever read. She’s funny and quirky, and honestly makes for the perfect third grade teacher. I haven’t read too many books with a teacher as a protagonist and I loved it! Hazel’s best friend (who also happens to be Josh’s sister and brother-in-law). There are a lot of books with protagonists who think they’re less than perfect, but Hazel completely owns and carries herself out with confidence. My only ‘complaint’ is that as much as she is confident, she often says that she ‘undateable.’Read More »