Never Saw You Coming Review

51g-kPXZvBL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Summary (from the publisher):Raised by conservative parents, 18-year-old Meg Hennessey just found out her entire childhood was a lie. Instead of taking a gap year before college to find herself, she ends up traveling north to meet what’s left of the family she never knew existed.
While there, she meets Micah Allen, a former pastor’s kid whose dad ended up in prison, leaving Micah with his own complicated relationship about the church. The clock is ticking on Pastor Allen’s probation hearing and Micah, now 19, feels the pressure to forgive – even when he can’t possibly forget.
As Meg and Micah grow closer, they are confronted with the heavy flutterings of first love and all the complications it brings. Together, they must navigate the sometimes-painful process of cutting ties with childhood beliefs as they build toward something truer and straight from the heart.
In Erin Hahn’s Never Saw You Coming, sometimes it takes a leap of faith to find yourself.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars 

My Thoughts:

I FINALLY picked up one of my most anticipated YA books of 2021 last week with Erin Hahn’s Never Saw You Coming — and yes, totally my fault for not picking this one up sooner since I ordered it around its September release. I’m a huge fan of Erin Hahn’s first two books, You’d Be Mine and More Than Maybe, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this YA novel following Vada’s best friend, Meg, (Vada is the female lead in More Than Maybe) who is reeling after finding out that her dad isn’t her biological father after all and decides to change her gap year plans by going to Northern Michigan to connect with her biological father’s family. While there, Meg connects with Micah, who is dealing with his own family struggles as his former pastor father has been in prison for the past few years. 

I just also wanted to note before diving into my thoughts that I did reread More Than Maybe before reading Never Saw You Coming, partly because I love that book SO much and that I did want to re-familiarize myself with that world before picking up this book. I don’t necessarily think that you have to read More Than Maybe before picking up Never Saw You Coming, but much of the plot & ending of More Than Maybe is spoiled in the book.

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2022 Most Anticipated Releases: YA Edition

As I’ve been writing & researching for my 2022 most anticipated releases, I have been really enjoying scouring Goodreads, Instagram, and book blogs to gain some insight on the Young Adult books coming out in 2022. Although contemporary romance has become my favorite genre over the years – I shared my most anticipated 2022 contemporary romance & adult fiction releases on Monday-, I am still often in the mood for a good YA contemporary (or royal-inspired read or historical fiction or fantasy). SO many of my favorite YA authors are coming out with new books in 2022! 

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord | RD: January 4

I have basically been anticipating Emma Lord’s 2022 YA release, When You Get the Chance, since it was announced – I’m SO excited for this Mamma Mia meets Broadway inspired read!

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys | RD:February 1st

I am a huge fan of Ruta Sepetys’ YA historical fiction books, as they are always so well-written and extremely well-researched and often center around a neglected or forgotten about part of history. I Must Betray You is set in 1989 Romania, following a teen who is forced by the secret police to provide the dictatorship with information about everyone & everything he knows and loves.  

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DID THIS MEET THE HYPE?: The Inheritance Games Review

51Gv-CkrYOL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Summary (from the publisher): Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

A ton of books have well-deservedly gotten so much hype and praise through Tik Tok this year, & I’d argue that Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Inheritance Games was one of the top YA books (if not the #1 book) to get so much love & attention. I was kind’ve mixed on reading The Inheritance Games because it had been described as an escape room type book which made me not-so interested in, but something finally made me give in. & I’m so glad I did because The Inheritance Games is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year!

I’ve read Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Debutantes duology, another really addicting series, and definitely recommend checking out that mystery series if you’ve already read book #2, The Hawthorne Legacy, & you’re waiting for Inheritance Games book #3). The Inheritance Games definitely fits into the YA mystery category with a ton of suspense & a touch of romance (hello love triangle).The book follows Avery Kylie Grambs, who has had a ton of misfortune in her life, but her life completely changes when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne leaves nearly his entire estate to Avery, much to the Hawthorne family’s dismay. Avery has never met Tobias Hawthorne, and there’s another catch to the inheritance: she has to live in the sprawling, secret passage & puzzle-filled Hawthorne mansion with his four grandsons and other family members for one year before getting the estate. Avery and the Hawthornes all want to know why Avery inherited the fortune and not themselves, so the book mainly follows Avery stepping to her new role as Hawthorne and heiress and searching the mansion for clues.Read More »

THEATRE MEETS ENEMIES TO LOVERS: As If on Cue Review

Summary (from the publisher):Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first ever student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on.

But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win.

Except Natalie and Reid.

Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them…

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

After falling head over heels from Marisa Kanter’s debut in 2020, What I Like About You (featuring a book blogger & bookish baker), I had to get my hands on her upcoming sophomore novel, As If on Cue.

This YA novel takes on one of my all-time favorite tropes, enemies-to-lovers, set against a high school musical that needs to go well in order to save Natalie’s drama club and Reid’s school band. Natalie and Reid have been rivals since their middle school days, competing for clarinet first chair and Natalie’s music instructor of a dad’s attention. After a prank gone wrong in middle school, Natalie and Reid’s high school rivalry escalates even further when their high schools’ arts budget is cut, with Natalie losing the drama club… but more than enough funds still allocated for Reid’s award-winning band, led by Natalie’s dad. When a prank goes too far once again, Natalie and Reid are forced to convert Natalie’s play into a musical and create a production that will convince the school board to bring back money for the arts. 

As If on Cue was a fun enemies-to-lovers that felt really unique for its musical premise. I love a good enemies-to-lovers featuring school rivals (hello Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Today Tonight Tomorrow) and As If on Cue reminded me why I love this trope so much through Marisa Kanter’s storytelling. The book transitions between Reid and Natalie’s current prank war and being forced to run the school musical together, while going back to their middle school years and the prank that cemented their rivalry for good. I love revisiting their past while seeing them working through their issues and coming together in the present (with a few bumps down the road of course).

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ENEMIES YA CONTEMPORARY : It All Comes Back to You Review  

Summary (from the publisher):

56304328After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.

Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.

When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

You might know that I haven’t been reaching for YA as frequently this year as I have in the past, BUT the YA books I have read this year have been super fantastic reads, including Farah Naz Rishi’s It All Comes Back to You. This is one of the strongest YA books I’ve read in 2021, following former couple Deen and Kiran as they watch their brother and sister respectively get engaged to one another. Deen has never explained why he ghosted Kiran three years ago around the time Kiran’s mother was diagnosed with ALS and his family unexpectedly moved from Philadelphia to New Jersey. Three years later, Kiran’s sister, Amira, and Deen’s brother, Faisal, are now engaged and Kiran is willing to do nearly anything to break the couple apart by figuring out Faisal’s hidden past, much to Deen’s dismay. My reading pace has definitely developed over the past two years, but I binged It All Comes Back to You in about two sittings because I couldn’t put it down! 

It All Comes Back to You is split between Kiran and Deen’s present day perspectives, their texts from their relationship three years before, and their chats from an online game they both play together (unbeknownst to them due to their nicknames/usernames). I think it’s easy to put It All Comes Back to You in the enemies-to-lovers category (or lovers-to-enemies-back-to-something-else category) because Deen and Kiran still have chemistry years later, but this book doesn’t scream romance and I mean that in the best way possible because I loved the direction of the story! Without being too spoilery, I loved the ending of the book for not focusing on the romance. Kiran and Deen’s progression throughout the book felt right – I do think the reveal about Faisal’s past was a tad predictable, but the conclusion made up for it. Throughout, Kiran is really about trying to figure out what went wrong with her & Deen years ago (and yes, maybe getting some revenge through figuring out the secret him & Faisal are hiding from her sister), while Deen wants to earn back Kiran’s trust while protecting his brother.

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MUST-READ YA FT. KOREA & ROMANCE: XOXO Review

Summary (from the publisher):

81Kz+Kr3LRLCello prodigy Jenny has one goal: to get into a prestigious music conservatory. When she meets mysterious, handsome Jaewoo in her uncle’s Los Angeles karaoke bar, it’s clear he’s the kind of boy who would uproot her careful plans. But in a moment of spontaneity, she allows him to pull her out of her comfort zone for one unforgettable night of adventure…before he disappears without a word.

Three months later, when Jenny and her mother arrive in South Korea to take care of her ailing grandmother, she’s shocked to discover that Jaewoo is a student at the same elite arts academy where she’s enrolled for the semester. And he’s not just any student. He’s a member of one of the biggest K-pop bands in the world—and he’s strictly forbidden from dating.

When a relationship means throwing Jenny’s life off the path she’s spent years mapping out, she’ll have to decide once and for all just how much she’s willing to risk for love.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

My Thoughts:

Nearly any book that I read cover to cover while floating around my pool IN one afternoon is a fantastic book for me – and if this scenario seems oddly specific, the book I am talking about is Axie Oh’s YA contemporary, XOXO! This YA contemporary following Jenny’s semester abroad at a performing arts school in Seoul, South Korea, and yes, falling in love a K pop star along the way, completely grabbed my attention as I floated around the pool on a hot afternoon. I would not go inside until I had this book completed – if you’re looking for a cute read to read in less than four hours, this is the book for you. 

The book is narrated by Jenny, a rising cellist who spends an unforgettable night with a cute guy, Jaewoo, in her hometown of LA….only to never hear from him again. Three months later, Jenny and her mom move temporarily to South Korea to help take care of her grandmother, and Jenny enrolls in a prestigious performing arts high school there.. only to discover on the first day that not only is Jaewoo one of her classmates, but he’s also one of the members of a rising K-pop group. While improving her cello playing skills, forming friendships, and falling in love with a new city, Jenny and Jaewoo begin to develop a relationship while trying to avoid the spotlight and the strict expectations he must follow as part of the K-pop group.  

Something (aka everything) about XOXO grabbed me from the get-go. The book was so well-balanced between Jenny’s family life, her friendships, discovering Seoul, her dream to study music and keep performing in college, and of course, her romance with Jaewoo. I admit that I was a bit hesitant going into this one because of the slight K-pop premise since I’m not a K-pop fan, but you totally don’t need to know too much about K-pop to enjoy this one (even though you’ll probably catch some inspired references that I likely missed). 

XOXO doesn’t immediately jump into South Korea, but I though the transition from Jenny & Jaewoo’s first night together & Jenny’s life in LA to Seoul was really well done and added to Jenny’s character growth. I loved all the friendships she made there, along with the growth in her relationships with her mother & grandmother. The book reminded me of Abigail Hing Wen’s Loveboat, Taipei and even Jenny Lee’s Anna K:Away, likely because of the setting and performing arts school. 

Overall, XOXO is a YA contemporary release not to miss this summer! If you love books set in other countries and a cute romance that well balances so many other elements, check this one out!

XOXO comes out on July 13th, 2021. 

This review is based on an advance reader’s edition provided by the publisher. By no means did receiving this ARC affect my thoughts & opinions.

Is XOXO on your TBR? What YA books have you been loving lately? Have you read any books by Axie Oh? Share in the comments! 

FAMILY & LOVE YA: Indestructible Object Review

Summary (from the publisher):

81CxOVihawLFor the past two years, Lee has been laser-focused on two things: her job as a sound tech at a local coffee shop and her podcast “Artists in Love,” which she cohosts with her boyfriend Vincent.

Until he breaks up with her on the air right after graduation.

When their unexpected split, the loss of her job, and her parent’s announcement that they’re separating coincide, Lee’s plans, her art, and her life are thrown into turmoil. Searching for a new purpose, Lee recruits her old friend Max and new friend Risa to produce a podcast called “Objects of Destruction,” where they investigate whether love actually exists at all.

But the deeper they get into the love stories around them, the more Lee realizes that she’s the one who’s been holding love at arm’s length. And when she starts to fall for Risa, she finds she’ll have to be more honest with herself and the people in her life to create a new love story of her own.

Funny, romantic, and heartfelt, this is a story about secrets, lies, friendship, found family, an expired passport, a hidden VHS tape, fried pickles, the weird and wild city of Memphis, and, most of all, love.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

As much as I love my YA contemporary books where romance is the focus, I really enjoy YA contemporaries that are much more about character growth and family,  including Mary McCoy’s recent release, Indestructible Object. Also, important sidetone that I am obsessed with this book’s cover, especially the color scheme. The book takes place in Memphis, and I love all the nods on the cover to places in the story. 

Of course, Indestructible Object does have something to do with love and romance. Just having graduated from high school, Lee’s life feels like it’s falling apart- her parents are finally separating (and despite having relationship problems for quite some time, they actually seem to be leaving each other this time..) and to top it all off, Lee’s boyfriend has just broken up with her on their podcast about art & love. After snooping through some of her parents’ things, Lee teams up with a family friend, Max, and a new friend, Risa, to figure out what happened with her parent’s relationship to cause their split and unravels so much about Lee’s own life that she wasn’t expecting. 

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A MORGAN MATSON FAVE: Take Me Home Tonight Review

71B40ODmXcLSummary (from the publisher): 

Two girls. One night. Zero phones.

Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?

Well. Kind of a lot?

They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.

Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.

That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

I haven’t met a Morgan Matson book that I haven’t LOVED, including her latest release, Take Me Home Tonight. I am a huge fan of her work, so I should premise here that I am likely to fall in love with any of her books. Her writing style just pulls me in – it’s has this detailed just binge-able quality with unique plots that grab my attention again & again. 

Like Morgan’s other books, the book is set in the fictional Stanwich, CT, as best friends Stevie and Kat decide to go into New York City by themselves for the night while waiting for the cast list for their high school’s King Lear production. Stevie’s dad cancels their birthday dinner plans at an exclusive restaurant, so Kat convinces her to still take the reservation while having ulterior motives: go see their theatre department lead teacher’s own play to maybe influence his casting decisions for the show. A series of mishaps early in the night leads to getting locked out an apartment with their stuff inside, taking care of the world’s cutest Pomeranian, a broken cell phone, and Kat & Stevie left figuring out what they each want for their future and friendship.  

Before I really dive into my review, I just wanted to include a sidetone that Morgan Matson still has some of the best covers in the YA contemporary game. Although Take Me Home Tonight isn’t my favorite cover – Morgan Matson’s books usually have models/real people on them whereas Take Me Home Tonight has this 3D object-like quality-, I do like that the illustrator got Kat & Stevie’s outfits to the exact detail (and of course included Brad). It might seem a little odd to people who haven’t read the book, but I LOVE the full cover image of Brad/Pomeranian on the back. I borrowed Take Me Home Tonight from my library so I wasn’t able to see it in a full detail, but I also love how the backside of Morgan Matson’s cover jackets are also illustrated. 

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An Emotion of Great Delight Review

81yS1ku0WWLSummary (from the publisher):

It’s 2003, several months since the US officially declared war on Iraq, and the American political world has evolved. Tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise, FBI agents are infiltrating local mosques, and the Muslim community is harassed and targeted more than ever. Shadi, who wears hijab, keeps her head down.

She’s too busy drowning in her own troubles to find the time to deal with bigots.

Shadi is named for joy, but she’s haunted by sorrow. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of her heart—

It’s broken.

Shadi tries to navigate her crumbling world by soldiering through, saying nothing. She devours her own pain, each day retreating farther and farther inside herself until finally, one day, everything changes.

She explodes.

An Emotion of Great Delight is a searing look into the world of a single Muslim family in the wake of 9/11. It’s about a child of immigrants forging a blurry identity, falling in love, and finding hope—in the midst of a modern war.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I read Tahereh Mafi’s first YA contemporary, A Very Large Expanse of Sea, back in 2018, and was recently fortunate enough to dive back into her second & latest YA contemporary release, An Emotion of Great Delight. Fans of the former book & readers who enjoy hard-hitting YA releases will especially enjoy An Emotion of Great Delight. I wish I could think of better word than ‘enjoy,’ as this book has some super dark and somber moment surrounding grief, loss, and harassment. 

Set two years after 9/11, Muslim American teen, Shadi, experiences both verbal and physical harassment nearly every day as the Muslim community becomes a larger target in the US. Shadi is grappling with so much loss, between the death of her brother a year prior, her father’s health issues, her mother who is deeply depressed, her sister who she feels like she cannot talk to, and her best friend who mysteriously dropped her a few months ago. The only person Shadi can remotely hold a conversation with is said former ex-best friend’s brother, Ali, who should be off limits, but helps Shadi in her darkest moments. 

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A FAVORITE YA FROM FAV. AUTHOR:We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This Review

Summary (from the publisher):

WCKMLTQuinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response.

Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman.

Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher.

Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

IMG_4183

Rachel Lynn Solomon is one of my auto-read/auto-love authors because I’ve loved every single one of her books, YA and adult contemporary alike. Her 2020 YA release, Today Tonight Tomorrow, was my favorite YA book last year & her 2021 adult contemporary release, The Ex Talk, will be making many appearances on my favorite books of 2021 lists. You might know that I am a huge fan of books that involve some sort of wedding premise, so take one of my favorite authors and a book with a protagonist whose family owns a wedding planning business, and you had me sold on Rachel Lynn Solomon’s 2021 YA release, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This.

Quinn’s family owns a Seattle-based wedding planning business, Borrowed + Blue, often working alongside Tarek Mansour’s family-owned catering company. There are a few reasons why Quinn doesn’t want to be playing her harp at various ceremonies and helping plan weddings alongside her parents and sister. One, the family dream isn’t necessarily her dream & two, Quinn can’t help but think of the email she sent to Tarek at the end of the summer confessing her feelings for him…aka, the email Tarek also never replied to. When Tarek is home for the summer working & Quinn is forced to help plan the business’ biggest wedding yet, her and Tarek are forced to work figure out their feelings. 

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This had all of the hallmarks of what I love in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s books. Her books just feel so mature, often having thoughtful reflections and conversations surrounding sex, identity and religion. As with all of her other books, Quinn is Jewish and there are some conversations surrounding her relationship with Judaism, especially as her engaged sister, Asher, begins to adopt new religious customs with her fiancé. Tarek is Muslim, and I really liked a particularly conversation him and Quinn on a date about their relationships with religion. The book also has mental health representation, as Quinn has OCD and another character in the book (no spoiler) has clinical depression. I’ve never seen OCD like Quinn’s depicted in a book before and it taught me aspects of OCD that I hadn’t realized before. 

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