YA DEBUT & MORE CONTEMPORARY READS: January Mini Reviews

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

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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I Should Have Read that Book Tag

The I Should Have Read That Book Tag has been on my book-tag to-do list for quite a while. I love this tag because I have a love for talking about the books I haven’t read– and don’t even get me started on the ones that I have read. I’m not too ashamed of admitting what books I haven’t yet picked up yet or ones that I really have no intention of reading. The ‘I should have read that book’ tag was created by Beth of Books Nest. 

A book that a certain friend is always telling you to read 

 So many of my book blogging friends have told me that it’s finally time for me to pick up Natasha Ngan’s Girls Made of Paper and Fire

A book that’s been on your TBR forever and yet you still haven’t picked it up

I haven’t been afraid to admit that there are a few books on my TBR that have sat there for a while (hello Magnus Chase), but one that I haven’t mentioned before is Jeff Zenter’s The Serpent King. According to Goodreads, I’ve had this book on my TBR since June 2017 when I picked up a physical copy at Book Con. This book seems to be everyone’s Jeff Zenter fave and has definitely caught my interest for having a character who is a fashion blogger.

A book in a series you’ve started, but haven’t gotten round to finishing yet

I’m currently not in the middle of reading a book in a series, but one book I would like to read somewhat soon is Marissa Meyer’s Supernova, the final book in the Renegades trilogy. I’m usually someone who loves to binge-read series or read the books as close together as possible, but I didn’t find myself wanting to jump right away in Supernova after finishing Archenemies last month. I plan on checking Supernova out from the library the next time I’m home from college.

 A classic you’ve always liked the sound of, but never actually read

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club has been on my TBR for at least two years. If I pick up a classic anytime soon, it has to be this one.

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2020 5 Star Predictions: 2020 Releases Edition

One of my new favorite ways to ring in the bookish year is by choosing new releases that I believe will earn 5 stars upon reading them. In 2019, I was pretty accurate about the books that I predicted would be 5 star reads, and even the books that didn’t get a full 5 stars were mostly pretty close.

We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian

Release Date: March 31

We Are the Wildcats is currently my most anticipated contemporary release of the year! I loved everything about Siobhan Vivian’s previous release, Stay Sweet. The book is told over 24 hours, following a high field hockey team’s sleepover/initiation.

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

Release Date: May 5

I haven’t met a Jenn Bennett that I haven’t LOVED, so I’m sure Chasing Lucky will be no exception. I always love the character growth, relationships, and maturity in her books. Chasing Lucky also takes place in New England at a family-run BOOKSTORE.

House of Earth & Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Release Date: March 3

Sarah J.Maas is another favorite author of mine whose books I haven’t ever not loved. I’m so excited for her to enter the adult fantasy world with Crescent City. I’d read this book regardless of its synopsis, but I’m so intrigued by this one. I’m also excited to see SJM take on a contemporary fantasy setting, although Fae will of course be involved.

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CALLING ALL SPORTS FICTION FANS: Throw Like a Girl Review

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

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

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

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

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

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

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My Most Disappointing Reads & DNFs 2019

When you read 100+ books in one year, you’re unfortunately bound to have some disappointments and books unfinished like this fangirl did. As much as my 2019 was filled with so many great reads (see my 30+ book favorites wrap-up), I had some books that I did not enjoy as much as I had hoped and didn’t enjoy enough to finish. This post is split between my most disappointing books of 2019 and the books that I did-not-finish (DNF).

I will say that just because a book made my disappointing books and DNFs lists does not mean that I didn’t enjoy them at all or that other readers of course wouldn’t enjoy them way more than I did.

Most Disappointing Reads

When Summer Ends by Jessica Pennington

When Summer Ends is the type of book that I should’ve really DNF’ed. Everyone knows that I love reading summer contemporaries during the summer, and I was really looking forward to reading one of Jessica Pennington’s books. That being said, I really pushed myself to stick with this book and honestly ended up skimming through the last one hundred pages or so to find out the ending. The book is told through two perspectives, Aidan and Olivia.  I unfortunately did not find myself invested in either character and the general plot.

The Queen of Nothing (Folk of Air #3) by Holly Black

Andddd here come the books that will get the most screams from my fellow readers. I admit that I was never the biggest fan of The Cruel Prince and never really understood the hype around it… until I read and absolutely loved The Wicked King! I had such high expectations for The Queen of Nothing. But by the first 100 page mark in QoN, I had no idea where the story was going and it stayed that way throughout the rest of the book. So much of the story was built around the Cardan vs. Madoc conflict and I really didn’t understand much of what was going on. Even with the one steamy scene, Cardan and Jude’s chemistry just felt so off.

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

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

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

Fall in love, break the curse.

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

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

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

 

A Curse So Dark and Lonely Thoughts

 My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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MEET THE BOOKS: 2020 Reading Goals

My main reading goal of 2020 is no different from any bookish fangirl’s: read ALL the amazing books as possible!

My 2020 reading goals primarily revolve around the amount of books that I want to read and specific books that I want to pick up in the new year. I really want my 2020 reading to really focus on specific titles I have been wanting to pick up and titles I have selected for review, but also be as stress-free as possible.

I love the premise and creativity behind yearly reading challenges – maybe one year I’ll actually complete POPSUGAR’s annual challenge– but I find that I don’t like adapting my TBR and picking up certain books at a specific time to mark off a check box.

Read at least 60 books

My 2020 reading challenge of 60 books is lower than my normal reading goal. For example, in 2019, I set my reading challenge on Goodreads to 70 books, knowing that I personally wanted to reach 100 books. While I successfully reached my goal at 127 books, it might seem weird that I don’t set my challenge to a higher amount. With my college graduation ahead in May, I really don’t know what life is going to look like in 2020, hence I don’t know what my free time aka reading time will be this year. Reading will always be a part of my life for sure, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to have months where I can get to 15 books a month. Although I’ve proven that I am able to read a lot during super busy periods of life, I don’t want to set a “high” number because I don’t want to put pressure on myself to read.

Read more new adult and adult fiction

Although I read more YA books than not, I started picking up more and more new adult and adult fiction titles between May and the end of the year. Specifically, I found myself reaching for contemporary and contemporary romance titles. Since so many of the new adult and adult books that I picked up earned 5 stars, I really want to continue to pick up more of the same type of books. I’d love to read more books from the authors that I did read and find new-to-me authors and books. My favorite sub-genre within new adult and adult contemporary romance was sports romance.

Some 2019 favorites were:

The Books

I feel like I’ve gotten better and better about re-reading each year. I’ve discovered that challenging myself to reread specific books does not work, having done so in both 2018 and 2019 and failing to reread most of the books on those reread TBRs. Much of my rereading in 2020 is focusing on rereading books in anticipation for the next book in the series.

Reread The Royal We for The Heir Affair

Royal-inspired reads has become one of my favorite contemporary subgenres over the past few years. One of the reads that inspired my love for this ‘genre’ back in 2015 was Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan’s The Royal We. The Royal We follows an American college student studying abroad in England who happens to fall in love with the crown prince. It was announced in 2019 that there would be a book #2, The Heir Affair, coming out on June 16, 2020. Since I absolutely loved the first book and haven’t read it since 2015, I’m in definite need of a reread before summertime.I know a lot of people will be checking out both books from the library, so the sooner I check The Royal We out for my reread, the sooner I’ll have it. Unless I break out my holiday Barnes & Noble gift cards…

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