A YA FAVE & MORE: April 2021 Wrap Up

Another month, another wrap up. I’m actually *happily* surprised that I managed to still read 10 books this month – maybe I’ll finish my eleventh read before midnight?? – just because I had so much going on academic and career wise. As you’ll probably see below, my TV life definitely lacked but I’m much happier knowing that my reading goals are still on track. I’ve read 40 books in 2021 so far, putting me well on track to read at least 100 books this year. My spring semester and grad program ends next week, so I’m hoping having a break from grad student obligations frees up more time for reading. Two of my highlights in April were receiving a review copy of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This & buying a copy of the Book of the Month version of Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation. Definitely sitting outside in my backyard with these on a warm day in May! 

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The Midnight Library by Matt Haig | 4/5 Stars

The hype surrounding The Midnight Library pulled me into this book and while I understand why this book is so big because of its messages about living life, but I had trouble engaging with some of the plot points and writing styles. 

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter |(ARC)  4.5/5

I think Better Than the Movies is my favorite book of the month! This was such an adorable YA romance, following Liz’s mission to get her childhood crush to be her prom date with the help of her enemy.  I loved Liz’s love interest so much and the development of their relationship was just so charming. As a huge rom com fan, I loved all the nods to rom com movies within the story and on the book’s cover! Better Than the Movies comes out on May 4th. 

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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

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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 

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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.

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ALL THE UPCOMING BOOKS: April 2021 Recent TBR Additions

As promised in my March 2021 Recent TBR Additions, I’m back with another monthly TBR additions list!  Compared to March, I thought I hadn’t been adding as many books to my TBR this month, but as evidenced by this post, I’m still hitting the ‘add to shelf’ button on Goodreads pretty frequently.  I feel like I haven’t been reading as much as I did last month so far in April – I’ve been averaging about 2 books a week – but it makes me even more excited for May when I graduate from grad school and in theory, should have some more reading time as summer kicks in. 

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher – I’ve been in a big non-fiction mood lately. I usually try to read 1 nonfiction book a month, but I think I’m actually going to be reading multiple non-fiction reads or memoirs over April and May. Given my love for Star Wars over the past year,  I can’t believe I didn’t have Carrie Fisher’s memoir, The Princess Diarist, on my TBR sooner. This one will soon be moving off my TBR, since I just picked it up from the library on Saturday.

The Hunting Wives by May Cobb – I’ve been reaching for more contemporary meets mystery books lately, which led me to one of Book of the Month’s picks, The Hunting Wives. When Sophie’s family moves to Texas, she soon finds herself befriending a socialite, Margot, and her elite clique, The Hunting Wives.  The Hunting Wives comes out on May 18th. 

Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz – Compare any book to Below Deck and I’m there. This November 2021 release follows yacht stewardess Jo and her quest to finish a bucket list of thirty things before her birthday. Things get completed turned upside down when a family tragedy occurs and Jo finds her two nieces joining her for the summer, helping her finish her list. 

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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. 

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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