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 »

CONTEMPORARY ROUNDUP: August 2019 Mini Reviews

August was filled with all the contemporary books (as per usual for this book nerd), focusing on a mix of new books, backlist titles, and upcoming 2019 releases.

Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

My Rating: 3.5/5

download (2)After loving K.A. Tucker’s The Simple Wild back in May, I immediately put her August 2019 release, Say You Still Love Me, on my TBR. Twenty-nine year old Piper works as a VP at her family’s multibillion-dollar release estate development firm, constantly proving her worth in a male-dominated workplace and contending with her ex-finance, another VP. Things at work become crazier for Piper when she runs into her first love from summer camp, Kyle, who apparently doesn’t even remember her name or why he never contacted her again after camp ended.

Say You Still Love Me flips between Piper’s present and her past as a summer camp counselor with Kyle. While I enjoyed this one, I wouldn’t say it brought anything new to the table. Unexpectedly running into your first love after years apart seems to be an increasingly popular trope in the new adult romance world. It’s really not my cup as a reader. I also didn’t see the chemistry between Kyle and Piper both when they were at camp and when they first reunite in the present. The summer camp provided a fun atmosphere to the story, but I was more invested in Piper’s friendships and her day-to-day over the romance. Like The Simple Wild, my favorite parts of Say You Still Love Me were the family dynamics and Piper’s career. Piper has to deal with the pressure and expectations that come with one day taking over the family business (that is if her father ever retires), while coming to terms with the secrets her parents have hidden from her since working at the summer camp. Despite the pressure, she still dominates the workplace. Through Piper, K.A. Tucker packs in great female empowerment.

You’d Be Mine by Erin Hanh

My Rating: 4/5

36146624Erin Hanh’s You’d Be Mine was on my “I have to absolutely read this book in 2019” TBR. You’d Be Mine follows country musicians Clay Coolidge and Annie Mathers on their US summer tour. Despite its seemingly fun setting, You’d Be Mine is the darkest YA contemporary I have read in a while. Both characters deal with the loss of loved ones, as well as drug and alcohol addiction. Clay struggles with drinking after losing someone close to him, while Annie grown up around drugs and alcohol and has lost both of her superstar parents to suicide. Even though its less than 300 pages, it took me some time to adjust to You’d Be Mine. The dual perspective is an ever-present narrative in YA books,. While having both Clay and Annie’s perspectives allows us to get to know both of them, I found myself more invested in Annie’s storyline because she was simply more like-able than Clay.

When it comes to my reading tastes, I have come to the conclusion that I am not the biggest fan of music YA. I don’t mind music-centered stories, but I don’t find myself connecting to them as much as other reader. I find myself skimming, if not completely over, the songs. However, I did want to read You’d Be Mine because I am a country music fan. I really enjoyed the real-life references to country music, such as the CMT Awards and Johnny Cash and June Carter. I liked Annie and Clay’s chemistry together on stage, but I definitely enjoyed their time out of the spotlight more. I recommend You’d Be Mine for fans of Emery Lord’s Open Road Summer, but with the expectation that this book deals with  darker themes similar to Taylor Jenkin Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six.

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

33275690If you’ve been following my TBR posts, you’ll know that I was both excited and intimidated to read Emma Mills’ Foolish Hearts. This was the last published book of hers I still had to read. Part of my holding off was due to my need to save books by my go-to contemporary authors for mood reads, part also that I was nervous I wouldn’t enjoy this one like so many others. Foolish Hearts is definitely the most loved Emma Mills book, and I’m happy to report that it is now my new favorite book of hers. The book follows Claudia’s happenings after she overhears her school’s it-couple break up at a party. She is forced to work on her school production of Much Ado About Nothing with one of that couple, Iris, along with a very cute and very goofy guy.

I always enjoy reading Emma Mills’ books because of the dialogue and the great relationship dynamics. Her characters and friendships just feel so real. Claudia’s sarcasm and humor is quite similar to my own, which made for an even more relatable read. While she may not believe she is the most confident, she is unafraid to be herself around the tough Iris and the cutie and crush that is Gideon. She’s probably my favorite Emma Mills’ protagonist. From boy bands to online gaming, I really enjoyed the nods to various fandoms. There’s just so much to explore, from friendship to family to romance to class differences. I’ve found that not a lot happens plot wise in Emma Mills’ books, but they make for such great quiet reads. By the end, Claudia really grows as a character in the way she thinks about herself and the relationships she develops with her old and new friends.

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The First Books I Reviewed

I absolutely love reading old blog posts. Going through posts that I wrote back in 2017, my first year of blogging, just shows how much I’ve grown as a reader and writer since then. I reviewed the following books from  March through May 2017, the first three months of Fangirl Fury. Many of these reviews were written when I didn’t have a blogging routine or post schedule. I remember after waking up a few mornings freshman year writing a post then posting it right then and there. I completely admit that going some of these early reviews has been a heart-warmingly cringe-worthy experience. Where are the photos? Why did I love that shade of pink so much? newfireborder

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (reviewed March 2017) – I’ve grown to share my thoughts and reviews on books that I didn’t love or like so much, but I am glad that my first book review was a book I truly loved. I’m still trying to figure out where the photo in this review went – I may have stripped my heart string lights from my dorm room wall and set them up a picnic table outside for a very first bookstagram.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (reviewed March 2017) – I feel very validated in knowing that Vicious is one of the first books that I screamed about across the Internet because this book deserves all the screams and feels. Is anyone surprised that I proclaimed my love for Mitch and his chocolate milk drinking habits? Not only was Vicious one of my first book reviews, but it was my first V.E. Schwab book.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (reviewed reread April 2017) – I reread A Court of Thorns and Roses then in anticipation for A Court of Wings and Ruin’s release. Upon this reread, I noticed more of The Beauty and the Beast elements and more importantly, that Tamlin really wasn’t a nice guy (before first reading ACOMAF, guess who originally wasn’t a Rhysand fan, ha ha ha…..)

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (reviewed April 2017)- Okay, I love how I took of a photo of this book in its naked glory. But why on a bench in front of my college library?? I don’t even want to think about how I must have positioned myself to take this photo??

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