ARC Review: Maybe This Time by Kasie West

Synopsis:

maybe this time.jpgOne year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

Told over the course of one year and following Sophie from event to event, this delightful novel from master of romantic comedy Kasie West shows how love can blossom in unexpected places.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book via #booksfortrade on Twitter. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on July 9, 2019.*

I’m a big Kasie West fan and have made it my mission to read every romance novel she writes, which is why I was so happy to snag an ARC of her latest novel.

Maybe This Time follows Sophie, a small town girl who desperately wants to move to the big city (New York). Over the course of the year we follow Sophie as her job working at a flower shop requires her to attend various events. Also attending those events are her best friend, Micah, who works for her dad’s catering company, and the new guy in town, Andrew Hart, who’s celebrity chef dad has taken Micah’s father under his wing.

After Andrew and Sophie have the opposite of a meet-cute, Sophie is totally over him, and Andrew isn’t exactly her biggest fan either. Thus begins one of my favorite tropes: hate-to-love. As the two are forced together again and again, Sophie begins to consider why Andrew gets under her skin. Sophie also has to confront her feelings about her parents and the small town that she loves but also can’t wait to leave.

Sophie is judgmental and headstrong, but she loves her little brother, Gunnar, and Micah fiercely. It was good to see Sophie be called out for her harsh treatment of some of the people in her life, but also recognize that there’s nothing wrong with wanting more for yourself than the life other’s think is right for you.

West did an excellent job of showing how nothing is ever just black and white. Our hopes and dreams are complicated. Love and friendship is complicated. Family is really complicated. And so while I loved the romance of this novel, I get why this was the first West romance cover with just the female protagonist on the cover. This wasn’t just a love story, this was about Sophie finding herself and understanding what she really wanted and then going after it.

I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a cute summer read that you won’t be able to put down. I certainly couldn’t stop reading until the very last page.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Review: Permanent Record by Mary Choi

Synopsis:

permanent record.jpgOn paper, college dropout Pablo Rind doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. His graveyard shift at a twenty-four-hour deli in Brooklyn is a struggle. Plus, he’s up to his eyeballs in credit card debt. Never mind the state of his student loans.

Pop juggernaut Leanna Smart has enough social media followers to populate whole continents. The brand is unstoppable. She graduated from child stardom to become an international icon and her adult life is a queasy blur of private planes, step-and-repeats, aspirational hotel rooms, and strangers screaming for her just to notice them.

When Leanna and Pablo meet at 5:00 a.m. at the bodega in the dead of winter it’s absurd to think they’d be A Thing. But as they discover who they are, who they want to be, and how to defy the deafening expectations of everyone else, Lee and Pab turn to each other. Which, of course, is when things get properly complicated.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on September 3, 2019.*

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a novel that felt like the New York City I know and love. I think a lot of books about NYC are centered around the rich areas and the Upper East Side but the world in which Pablo exists in is the one I know. The New York that makes you forget you live in a big city because you’re running into the same people in your neighborhood all the time. The city where you have to struggle sometimes and shake your head at how expensive everything is but know you’ll never leave.

The city where your homies are and you’re all struggling to make it, doing your side hustle along with your day job. That’s the city I know and Mary H. K. Choi displayed it perfectly. I’d love to listen to the audiobook when it comes out because I could practically hear the conversations in my head as I read. The slang was perfect and not forced. I felt like I was hanging out with my cousins and friends, not reading about fictional characters.

Similarly, Choi did a great of showing Pablo’s vision of the world in stark contrast to Leanna Smart, the pop star he falls for. Choi didn’t write some kind of epic romance between a boy in debt and the pop princess who rescues him with her money. She wrote a story that felt real. Pablo’s disassociation from his problems and growing debt was just as real as Leanna’s feelings about her lack of freedom and being trapped in what was very much a privileged life.

Nothing about this story felt forced or unrealistic, which is why I loved it so much. Choi gave us a love story while also keeping Pablo at the center because ultimately this was his story. This was about his mental health struggles and him carving out a future for himself with the help of his family and friends. Pablo was so relatable and it was great reading a story about a young adult who failed his own expectations for himself. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that looks so closely at the difficulty many students face when weighing attending their “dream school” that they think will determine their future against the actual cost of that dream.

Choi handles so many different topics in this novel, just like she did in Emergency Contact, and she handled them with the same level of care and nuance that made me love her debut. I can’t wait for everyone to read this book because there is so much to talk about. This is definitely one I can see myself rereading and getting something new out of it every time.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

5 stars

ARC Review: Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough

Synopsis:

amelia westlake was never here.jpgA fiercely funny, queer romantic comedy about two girls who can’t stand each other, but join forces in a grand feminist plan to expose harassment and inequality at their elite private school.

Harriet Price is the perfect student: smart, dutiful, over-achieving. Will Everhart is a troublemaker who’s never met an injustice she didn’t fight. When their swim coach’s inappropriate behavior is swept under the rug, the unlikely duo reluctantly team up to expose his misdeeds, pulling provocative pranks and creating the instantly legendary Amelia Westlake–an imaginary student who helps right the many wrongs of their privileged institution. But as tensions burn throughout their school–who is Amelia Westlake?–and between Harriet and Will, how long can they keep their secret? How far will they go to make a difference? And when will they realize they’re falling for each other?

Award-winning author Erin Gough’s Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is a funny, smart, and all-too-timely story of girls fighting back against power and privilege–and finding love while they’re at it.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and The Novl. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on May 21, 2019.*

In Amelia Westlake Was Never Here there is a hate-to-love story and girls teaming up to take down their problematic all-girls private school through pranks I wish I’d come up with when I was in school. This book was so hard to put down, which is why I didn’t. I loved it from start to finish and now I will work to convince you to pick it up because I know you will love it too.

The novel is told in alternating first person POVs of Will and Harriet. Will is the rebel with a lot of causes. She only has one real friend at school, Natasha, and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes is right…which is partially why she doesn’t have many friends. Harriet, on the other hand, has a group of friends and a girlfriend and is seen as the model student at her school. To Harriet her school is perfect. Sure, it may have some flaws but it’s not as problematic as Will thinks it is.

However, when Harriet tasks herself with making sure Will stays for her full time of detention after their teacher leaves the room, the two end up teaming up to draw a cartoon that calls out their gym teacher for his sexist behavior and thus the pseudonym Amelia Westlake is born. But after Natasha, the editor of the student newspaper, realizes Amelia isn’t real she scrapes Amelia’s cartoons. Thankfully, Will and Harriet aren’t easily deterred and decide to continue revealing the school’s issues through various pranks that are downright brilliant.

Together, the girls light the spark their classmates need to begin calling out the school’s problems, and as their voices get louder real change begins to happen. And the more Will and Harriet work together as Amelia the closer they become. If you love romance and books that are all about fighting the power, Amelia Westlake Was Never Here is perfect you! It’s a fun, quick read that also deals with very real issues. Definitely add this book to your TBR if you haven’t already.

Borrow or Buy: Buy!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Review: We Contain Multitudes by Sarah Henstra

Synopsis:

WCM_FinalCover.jpgAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I’ll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teens boys, told through the letters they write to one another.

Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship…and each other.
This rare and special novel celebrates love and life with engaging characters and stunning language, making it perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, and David Levithan.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and The Novl. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on May 14, 2019.*

I love epistolary novels and Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, so when I saw We Contain Multitudes comped to AADDTSOTU and that it was told in the form of the letters I was immediately sold. Thankfully, this novel did not disappoint.

My favorite thing about epistolary novels is that they dive pretty straight into the plot, because of course the author has to explain why the novel is being told this way and Sarah Henstra handled it perfectly. We began with Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky called Jonathan Hopkirk Little JO. If you thought JO was short for Jonathan you’d be mistaken. Instead it was short for Jerkoff, because that was how Kurl envisioned all sophomores, which JO was. The reason for their letter writing came through their English teacher, Ms. Khang. She started a project in which the students in her Grade Twelve Applied English class (Kurl) would write letters to the students in her sophomore English class (JO). I loved the concept and Kurl’s opening letter, so I was immediately hooked.

What I loved most about these pair of characters was how incredibly different they were but how they also had a number of similarities. JO was a gay student who was 100 percent out of the closest and wore what his sister’s BFF referred to as “Walt Whitman cosplay.” Unfortunately, this caused JO to be bullied in school by people whe called the “butcherboys” a term he pulled from a Whitman poem. In case it wasn’t clear, JO was a big fan of Whitman.

Differently, Kurl was a football player until he recently walked off the team. He was known around school for getting into fights and having to retake classes. For the most part, Kurl kept to himself and he was a hard person to read. Thankfully, through letters Kurl began to open up to JO and vice versa, sparking a friendship that gradually grew into something more.

However, while the two grew closer they were both still dealing with issues both at home and at school. Henstra did an excellent job of tackling a variety of heavy topics, including domestic abuse, homophobia, bullying, PTSD, and more. They way in which Henstra weaved this story together through Kurl and JO’s retelling of events, sometimes having one start the story and the other finish it, was brilliant.

My only critique, and I’m not sure I’d even say this really is one, is you have to kind of give yourself over to the story and not question it too much. There were moments when I found myself wondering how realistic it was that Kurl or JO would take a moment out of what they were doing to pen a letter to the other, especially when things became very high stakes in the present. However, I was able to push past those questions because the book was just too good for me to care much about the logistics of it all.

Thus, overall, I’d say this is a must-read novel. I absolutely loved it and would personally like to chuck it in the face of everyone I know while I yelled, “Read this book immediately, or else!” In sum, buy this book.

Borrow or Buy: See above.

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Synopsis:

the bride test.jpgKhai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Berkley Romance via Edelweiss+. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on May 7, 2019.*

I loved The Kiss Quotient so when I learned Helen Hoang had another book coming I knew I needed it. Thus, I was incredibly excited when my request for the eARC was accepted and though I didn’t love The Bride Test as much as The Kiss Quotient I still really enjoyed it.

The Bride Test follows Khai, an autistic man who believes he can never fall in love, and Esme, a Vietnamese immigrant who’s come to America to try to woo Khai and convince him to marry her. For Esme, she believes Khai is the key to starting a new and better life for her family in America and she’ll do whatever it takes to make him interested, and it’ll take a lot.

I absolutely loved this concept. Khai’s mother literally told Khai Esme was coming to live with him and by the end of the summer he had to decide to either marry her or send her back to Vietnam. Just like that. Honestly, his mom was hilarious and I loved her. I also thought it was interesting that because autism wasn’t something Esme was familiar with she didn’t fully understand Khai’s “disorder” and didn’t even see it as one. She just thought he was different, but accepted him as he was, which is how it should be.

Their chemistry was amazing and I loved the constant missteps they took with each other until they found their rhythm. They’re vastly different, but also worked so well together and I definitely swooned a number of times while reading. The romance made my heart race and then groan in frustration every time Khai convinced himself it wasn’t real. I think that was my biggest gripe with this novel. Every time Khai denied having feelings for Esme I wanted to throw my book (Kindle) across the room, but I also understood this was a big issue for him.

Besides the romance, I really liked how this book tackled family, immigration, and the different ways people grief. I’m not autistic but like Khai I’ve definitely been accused of not handling someone’s death the right way, and to see how well Khai’s mom and his brother, Quan, helped Khai and others understand Khai’s emotions was really nice to see.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I wanted a little more from the ending because the epilogue seemed a bit rushed to me and I felt like I missed something. Otherwise though, I definitely recommend reading this book and I can’t wait to read whatever Hoang writes next.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

the unhoneymooners 2Synopsis:

Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion . . . she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is . . . Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Gallery Books via NetGalley. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on May 14, 2019.*

I didn’t think I’d ever love a Christina Lauren book more than I loved Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating but The Unhoneymooners came pretty damn close.

I love a good hate-to-love story so I was already pretty onboard with this book when I read the synopsis. The novel follows Olive who believes she’s cursed with bad luck. While her twin sister, Ami, has a knack for winning things, Olive has always gotten the short end of the stick, until Ami’s wedding. At the reception, everyone gets food poisoning except Olive, who’s allergic to shellfish, and Ethan, Ami’s new brother-in-law, who avoids buffets at all costs. Thus, Ami enlists Olive to take her place on her honeymoon and Ami’s husband, Dane, enlists Ethan to take his and the pair are off, though they both agree they hate each other, to which I say, “Sure Jan.”

Naturally, the pair start their vacation on a rocky start but when Olive runs into her new boss at the hotel and tells him she’s there with her “new husband” Ethan and Olive have to place nice to keep up the charade, and then continue playing nice when they then run into Ethan’s ex, until suddenly they’re not playing anymore.

I loved these two. Their easy banter was hilarious and I loved how they messed with each other, especially when they called each other the wrong names. Their chemistry was there even when they “hated” each other and it was so fun seeing them figure out what was so obvious. Additionally, I loved that their romance wasn’t the major plot of this book. Besides a terrible misunderstanding, there was another major factor involved in why Ethan and Olive didn’t get together and when that’s revealed it not only affects Ethan and Olive but their siblings as well.

I read this book while on vacation and I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t sleep until I finished it because I needed to know how it would end, and it was totally worth the lost sleep. It was amazing to see Olive grow as a person and also stick to her guns even when it seemed like everything and everyone was working against her. I also loved that Ami and Olive were Mexican and came from this big family filled with cousins because I could totally relate. Their family made this book even more enjoyable and I loved how they went to the end of the Earth and back again for each other.

Overall, I highly recommend picking this book up when it comes out. It’s definitely one of, if not the best Christina Lauren book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read almost all of them!). I’ve already reread this book and I’m sure I’ll do so again before it’s released. It’s a must read!

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Review: The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

the princess and the fangirl.jpgSynopsis:

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Quirk Books. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on April 2, 2019.*

Prior to receiving this ARC, I hadn’t read Geekerella though I’d heard loads of good things about it. Thanks to my library, I was able to get the audiobook and got through it pretty quickly and then dived right into The Princess and the Fangirl. Thus, you’ll have to forgive me if I can’t help but to compare the two novels.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Princess and the Fangirl. Full disclosure, I somehow got it in my head that this was a Princess and the Frog retelling and not a Prince and the Pauper retelling. Thankfully, that was cleared up pretty quickly once I started reading. Once I got past the idea that the romance wouldn’t happen between the two main characters, I was able to settle more into the book and I was pretty into it.

The novel follows Jessica “Jess” Stone who we met in Geekerella. Jess was the actress who played Princess Amara and while Darien, who played Federation Prince Carmindor, was a fanboy through and through who wanted nothing more than to play the character, Jess wanted nothing less. She didn’t get the hype of fandom and mostly only saw the dark side of it, which consisted of people harassing her online and in public. Unfortunately, this is something most women, especially women of color, face in the sci-fi/fantasy world and I was happy to see Ashley Poston address that in this book.

On the flip side, the other main character with a POV was Imogen “Monster” Lovelace who lived for fandom. The spear header of the “Save Amara” campaign, Imogen was thrilled when she got the opportunity to impersonate Jess on a panel and speak her mind about why Amara should be saved in the next Starfield movie. Though Jess was naturally furious, an unexpected situation led Jess to suggest they switch places again and Imogen jumped at the opportunity, hoping that as Jess she could get Amara in the sequel film, even if it wasn’t what Jess wanted.

The Princess and the Fangirl was filled with the same kind of fandom love that I absolutely adored in Geekerella, and it was great to see my favorite characters from the first book again as well as to meet new characters who I found to be hilarious. That said, I definitely didn’t love this book as much as Geekerella and I think that mainly boils down to the fact that in this book there were two different romances instead of just the one and I think because of that split time with each ship, I didn’t particularly care for either one of them.

The hate-to-love kind of romance that blossomed between Imogen and Jess’ assistant, Ethan, confused me quite a bit because the “hate” that started the relationship felt pretty forced to me. I just didn’t really understand where Ethan’s animosity towards Imogen came from, especially since he seemed to think Jess was a little mean to Imogen in the beginning. Still, I couldn’t help but swoon over some of their moments together and eventually I got over my issues about how it started and just focused on what it became.

I can’t say the same for Jess’ romance. While they had a number of cute scenes together, even the climatic moment at the end didn’t have me screaming, “Ugh yes finally!” It was more just like, “That was cute,” which honestly isn’t bad. It’s just when I think about Darien and Ella I immediately want to read Geekerella all over again because I love them and their journey so much, and I just didn’t make that same connection to either of the ships in The Princess and the Fangirl.

Even so, I really did enjoy this novel. Along with the awesome critiques Poston made about how fandom treats women, I also loved that she touched on how artists are often mistreated as well, with people not wanting to pay them for their art. Poston made a lot of strong points with this novel that weren’t at all heavy handed and still kept the fun times rolling until the very end.

In sum, I highly recommend picking up The Princess and the Fangirl when it hit shelves. If you loved Geekerella I think you owe it to yourself to see what happens next.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. It’s cute, but I probably wouldn’t reread.

Stars:

3 stars

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