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 »

Favorite Books of 2020: YA Edition

I tend to try and decide what YA book was truly my #1 favorite out of the year, and it was no less easy to do so in 2020. 2020 was truly a fantastic year of YA contemporary. I really didn’t embrace fantasy in 2020, so it makes sense that nearly, if not all, of the books on this list are indeed contemporary. This might be more of a sentiment to share in one of my final 2020 wrap-ups, but 2020 (to say the least) was a year about embracing what you love as much as you can and for me, this was contemporary books!

I think this year’s favorites are truly books that have unique premises that also nail everything else I look for in my YA reads, mostly self-growth, relationships, family, and a good romance or two. My YA this year was also really about solidifying some authors as my favorite authors with their new releases and also introducing myself to some new-to-me authors that have also become auto-read authors too!

Favorite YA Books of 2020

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Thinking about Emma Lord’s Tweet Cute makes me want to make a grilled cheese and pan of monster cookies and then lay under a blanket and reread it! Tweet Cute is the first book on this list of many with the enemies-to-lovers trope that I absolutely loved – even though the leads, Pepper and Jack, were more rivals than enemies (if that makes sense) in my eyes because I truly just sensed the chemistry between them and little to no animosity. The family restaurant inspired premise and rivalry was executed so,so well.

More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn

Like many of the books here, More Than Maybe was honestly just a perfect read. It’s either hit or miss for me when it comes to YA books with such a music-inspired premise, but Erin Hahn’s writing also knocks this sub-genre in YA out of the park for me. I literally immediately starting reread You’d Be Mine after finishing More Than Maybe and I loved it even more this second time around. More Than Maybe was both so light and swoon-worthy while also tackling future ambitions and complicated family dynamics.

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

What I Like About You is the perfect love letter to book blogging and the YA community. I read What I Like about You honestly during the worst part of my personal life this year and it just bought me so much joy. Its romance was so fluffy and cute, and the book also delves into Halle’s friendship, family, and her relationship with Judaism. The book overall just captures so much of how I feel as a reader and blogger. While I got my blogging start in college vs. Halle getting her start in I believe high school, her feelings about blogging and reading bought me back to my teenage bookish self and my current blogger (and still reader) self. Also, make sure you have a cupcake close by as you read this one!

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

Speaking of books where you might have to a baked treat or five close by while reading, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow made me want to eat its food & desserts right off the page. Following a girl whose dream is to run her family’s Cuban-inspired Miami bakery but is instead sent to England for the summer, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow was this perfect blend of coziness while also tackling grief and self growth. I’m so happy so many readers are just loving this one and it totally deserves to be a Reese’s Book Club pick.Read More »

2021 Most Anticipated Releases: YA Edition

The time has finally come for my annual anticipated releases posts! As the year comes to a close, this is prime time for favorite lists and anticipated releases posts, but I ALWAYS end up forgetting a few books or find out some more upcoming releases right after my list goes live. Fortunately, I write seasonal anticipated releases, so if there’s a book you thought I’d include here, odds are it’s probably not on my radar just yet. 

Today, I’ll be focusing on my most anticipated young-adult books slated to release in 2021. I’ve searched through round-ups, Goodreads, bookstgram, fellow bloggers’ lists, and bookish Twitter for this list. I’m so excited that some of my all-time YA favorite contemporary authors and some new-to-me favorites from 2020 are coming out with new books this year. However, as we all especially know after 2020 pushed so many release dates back, I do want to include a small disclaimer that some of these books’ release dates may change. 

Most Anticipated YA Releases 

You Have a Match by Emma Lord | Release Date: January 12 

Honestly, I don’t know anyone who DIDN’T fall in love with Emma Lord’s debut, Tweet Cute, last year. You Have a Match just might top my love for Tweet Cute because it screams so many things that I love in my books & in life in general: sisterhood, romance, summer camp, and a slightly Parent Trap inspired synopsis?? Add it on Goodreads

The Project by Courtney Summers | RD: February 2

I said that I would read more of Courtney Summers’ books after really enjoying Sadie two years ago… which hasn’t happened just yet, but at least now I have The Project to look forward to! I love Courtney Summers’ writing style, and I think her writing will bring something super unique to this book about a girl whose determine to figure out the true intentions of a cult that her sister joined years ago. Add it on Goodreads 

Anna K: Away (Anna K #2) by Jenny Lee | Release Date: April 27

Anna K: A Love Story swept me away this summer for its modern-day Anna Karenina re-telling. It was all just so glamorous and mature, not to mention that it’s ending left me craving MORE. I might just have to reread book #1 before picking up Anna K: Away, which takes place during the summer after book #1’s ending. Add it on GoodreadsRead More »

LOVE & WANDERLUST: Love & Olives Review

Summary (From the publisher):Liv Varanakis doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of her father, which makes sense—he fled to Greece when she was only eight. What Liv does remember, though, is their shared love for Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. So when Liv suddenly receives a postcard from her father explaining that National Geographic is funding a documentary about his theories on Atlantis—and will she fly out to Greece and help?—Liv jumps at the opportunity.

But when she arrives to gorgeous Santorini, things are a little…awkward. There are so many questions, so many emotions that flood to the surface after seeing her father for the first time in years. And yet Liv doesn’t want their past to get in the way of a possible reconciliation. She also definitely doesn’t want Theo—her father’s charismatic so-called “protégé”—to witness her struggle.

And that means diving into all that Santorini has to offer—the beautiful sunsets, the turquoise water, the hidden caves, and the delicious cuisine. But not everything on the Greek island is as perfect as it seems. Because as Liv slowly begins to discover, her father may not have invited her to Greece for Atlantis, but for something much more important.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars 

My Thoughts: 

When I think of ‘classic’ YA contemporaries from the past 5 years, Jenna Evans Welch’s Love & Gelato is a book that instantly comes to my mind. I read the first books in this travel-inspired series, Love & Gelato (takes place in Italy) and Love & Luck (takes place in Ireland) back in 2018, and had been eagerly anticipating this third installment ever since. Set in Santorini, Greece, Love & Olives follows Liv’s unexpected summer trip to spend two weeks with her estranged father, Nico, to help film a documentary series about Atlantis. Liv hasn’t seen her dad in nearly ten years and doesn’t even know where to begin with all of her questions & feelings surrounding why he left her in the US all those years ago. Her dad’s  teenage film assistant, Theo, helps Liv navigate these feelings, while the two try to calm the chemistry between them.

In a world where I am not traveling at all (I haven’t even left the state I live in since February), Love & Olives made my already existing wanderlust soar to new heights. Santorini is absolutely on my travel bucket-list. Love & Olives made me want to book a trip as soon as possible. The book sent me to YouTube to watch some Santorini and Oia travel vlogs. In the meantime, I might finally reread The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, thanks to that series’ Greek setting, and maybe rewatch Mamma Mia. As a sidenote, I didn’t really see the Mamma Mia comparison in Love & Olives too much, since Liv obviously knows who her dad is, but I guess she is simarly combatting emotions and trying to figure out her father’s motives for not being part of her life for so long. 

Love & Olives is definitely a longer YA contemporary read, clocking in around 500 pages. Many of you likely know that I don’t mind longer YA contemporaries over 350 pages, but I did feel like Love & Olives could have been shorter. The first 200 pages definitely did fly by, with Liv receiving her father’s invitation to Greece and actually getting there, but the story dragged in the middle as Liv and Theo help Nico get the documentary series off the ground. There are a ton of scenes and conversations between Liv & Theo, which I did enjoy because we do get to see the chemistry between them build, but I wanted more plot or action. Theo isn’t necessarily a new fictional crush of mine and I wouldn’t say him and Liv are my new YA power couple, but I didn’t mind their relationship. I was definitely more focused on the father-daughter dynamic …and actually how Liv was going to deal with her relationship with Dax (aka her real boyfriend at home). I think that relationship needed to be resolved before Theo really came into the picture. Read More »

A BOOKISH HOLIDAY YA CONTEMPORARY: Recommended For You Review

Summary (from the publisher):

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before meets You’ve Got Mail in this charming and hilarious rom-com following two teen booksellers whose rivalry is taken to the next level as they compete for the top bookseller bonus.

Shoshanna Greenberg loves working at Once Upon, her favorite local bookstore. And with her moms fighting at home and her beloved car teetering on the brink of death, the store has become a welcome escape.

When her boss announces a holiday bonus to the person who sells the most books, Shoshanna sees an opportunity to at least fix her car, if none of her other problems. The only person standing in her way? New hire Jake Kaplan.

Jake is an affront to everything Shoshanna stands for. He doesn’t even read! But somehow his sales start to rival hers. Jake may be cute (really cute), and he may be an eligible Jewish single (hard to find south of Atlanta), but he’s also the enemy, and Shoshanna is ready to take him down.

But as the competition intensifies, Jake and Shoshanna grow closer and realize they might be more on the same page than either expects…

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

My Thoughts: 

Everyone knows that I’m crave bookish YA books, which made Laura Silverman’s Recommended For You one of my most anticipated releases this fall… not to mention that it takes place during one of my favorite times of the year, the holiday season! Shoshanna Greenberg is spending her winter break at her favorite place in the world, Once Upon, the local bookstore where she works. When her boss announces that the employee who sells the most books will receive a holiday bonus, Shoshanna is ready to up her book recommendation game even more so she can finally fix up her beloved car. What’s preventing her from doing so is Once Upon’s newest employee, Jake, both for that fact that he doesn’t even read and his charm. 

Recommended For You is one of the cutest enemies-to-lovers books that I’ve ever read!  It had such a fantastic atmosphere, between the holiday season and the bookstore & mall. The book takes place over the week leading up to Christimas, with Shoshanna’s family wrapping up their Hanukkah celebrations and Shoshanna working every day leading up to Christmas. Although I haven’t worked in a mall, I have worked in retail and Laura Silverman perfectly summarized the chaos surrounding last minute holiday shopping. Shoshanna’s best friends also work in the mall, and I loved their food court hang outs.

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Fall 2020 Most Anticipated YA Releases

The time has come for my favorite most anticipated releases season of the year. I always find fall release season so exciting because my all-time favorite books of the year often come out in September, October & November. As always, I am still clinging on to these final weeks of summer. It’s interesting this year especially because normally this would be my first week back to school as an undergraduate, but this college graduate is now home and taking most of her graduate courses remotely while student teaching. But don’t worry, I’ll be breaking out the pumpkin spice coffee soon. 

Today I’ll be sharing my most anticipated young adult releases of the fall, in order of their release date. Next week, I’ll be sharing my most anticipated adult releases for the fall. I decided to separate my YA anticipated releases from my new adult and adult ones just because there were so many exciting releases out in 2020. 

Majesty (American Royals #2) by Katherine McGee | Release Date: September 1

I am so excited that my most anticipated YA release of the fall comes out on the first fall Tuesday! I’ve basically needed Majesty in my life since I first read its predecessor, American Royals, last summer. If you’re someone who loves contemporary royalty books, you need to read this YA series about the American monarch ASAP. 

Recommended for You by Laura Silverman | RD: September 1

I’m sort’ve cheating with Recommended For You personally because I was very fortunate to have read an ARC earlier in August – my review is coming to the blog in 2 weeks! I recommend saving Recommended For You for the latter half of the fall as we get closer to the holiday season, as the book takes place at a bookstore during the holiday season as Shoshanna and Jake compete to sell the most amount of books.Read More »

Summer Reading Recommendations: The YA Edition

Instead of doing one mega summer reading recommendations post, I wanted to spread the summer reading love around and do recommendations in stages. While last week I shared summer reading recs based on what I read in 2019, today I’ll be talking about all the YA books that are perfect summertime reads. 

When I think of YA summer reads, my mind instantly goes to Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door. My Life Next Door was THE hot book of 2014/2015, especially on BookTube. In honor of this post, I actually reread My Life Next Door during my beach and pool days this week! It wasn’t as amazing as I remembered it to be – it definitely moved down from a 5 star to a 4 star read because it really didn’t provide solutions to the book’s conflicts – it still is a really great atmospheric summer read, as it takes place in a Connecticut beach town. I never read the companion novel, The Boy Most Likely To, so I actually might give it a read this summer! 

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon – Althought it doesn’t come out until July 28th, you better adjust your summer reading plans now to include Rachel Lynn Solomon’s upcoming novel, Today Tonight Tomorrow. Taking place on the last day of senior year, enemies Rowan and Neil must pair together to win their senior class game. This book’s swoony romance and adventure provides for a fun way to fulfill some wanderlust this summer. 

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett – I am a firm believer that all of Jenn Bennett’s YA contemporaries make for perfect summer reads, but Starry Eyes especially does so! The book follows best friends turned enemies Zorie and Lennon’s group camping trip gone wrong. 

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll – One book that I always wish got more love is Jen Doll’s Unclaimed Baggage – how can its adorable cover NOT grab your attention! I actually read Unclaimed Baggage on vacation two summers ago. It is such a unique summer contemporary, following three teens and unlikely friends working at a lost luggage store for the summer.Read More »

ALL THE BOOKS PLEASE: Most Anticipated 2019 Non-Contemporary Releases

If you thought 2018 was filled with ALL the amazing new books (which it was), think again. 2019  is truly going to be an awesome year for YA book releases. Many of my all-time favorite authors are coming out with such exciting titles (helloooo Rainbow Rowell), so this reader definitely needs to be saving all of her bookstore gift cards from Christmas.

While this list does not include every single book I’m anticipating in 2019 (because your fingers would hate me from all of that scrolling and I’ve already recapped my most anticipated contemporary releases), today I’m going to be discussing the non- contemporary books I absolutely cannot wait to grace my bookshelves.

The Wicked King (The Folk of Air #2) by Holly Black (January 8) I’ve cheated a little bit with The Wicked King, considering that I was fortunate enough to read an ARC in 2018. But let me tell you, I am so ready to reread this The Cruel Prince sequel already because it impressed me that much. And yes, I’ll be crying until The Queen of Nothing.

The Winter of the Witch (Winternight #3) by Katherine Arden (January 8)  I needed this book in October after I unexpectedly devoured The Girl in the Tower in less than two days. I’m really not ready for the Winternight trilogy to end, but I am ready to see what Katherine Arden has in store for Vasya and co.

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CONTEMPORARY ME: 19 Most Anticipated 2019 Contemporary Releases

This fangirl truly cannot get over ALL the amazing contemporary books set to release in 2019. Many of my favorite authors and contemporary queens are coming out with new books, so you better believe that I’m already trying to figure out where to put another bookshelf in my bedroom.

I will just be focusing on the 19 contemporary books I can’t wait for- and don’t worry, there’s even more contemporary books I’ll scream about this year. Like always, I’ll be sharing my most anticipated books by season as well, like Winter 2019. Next week I’ll be sharing my most anticipated ‘non-contemporary’ books of 2019—because again, my bookshelves will be crying (of happiness) over the new books that will soon grace them.

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YA LIFE & MUSE OF NIGHTMARES: Morristown Book Festival

Books and bookish events ALWAYS go hand in hand.

On Saturday I attended the Morristown Book Festival with Emily from @emily_reads_everything. This year, the festival hosted a variety of authors, including some of my favorite YA authors.

After a quick bite to eat in Morristown (one can never go wrong with Panera macaroni and cheese), Emily and I made our way to the main square. The Morristown Book Festival is a bit smaller than some other well known festivals, like YALLFest, so there aren’t any publishers’ booths. It’s mostly composed of a few book-for-sale tents, food trucks, and hand-on activities for young kids. In the “YA Loft” of a local church, we caught the end of the Rebels, Romantics and Everything In Between Panel with Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, and Kass Morgan, where they were discussing how long it takes them to write a book.

Soon after, the YA Life As We Know It Panel began with Emily X.R. Pan, Ibi Zoboi, and Jennifer E. Smith. Everyone can guess that this contemporary reads girl was super excited for this panel, especially since Jennifer E. Smith is one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. I had also read all the books that these authors were promoting at the festival, including The Astonishing Color of After, Pride, and Windfall.

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