ARC Book 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 Book 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 Book 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 Book 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 Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty

91giDZnnoyL.jpgSynopsis:

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe..

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Harper Voyager. 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 was released today.*

Note: There will be spoilers from The City of Brass in this review.

When I first started this novel I wasn’t sure if I was ready to get back into this world. There was a lot going on here. There were different tribes of djinn, the shafit, old histories and secrets, and now three different points of view instead of just the two that were in the first book, not to mention the five year time jump. In sum, I was a bit overwhelmed and I was nervous that all the world building would leave me confused and frustrated. Thankfully, that was not the case.

I don’t know how Chakraborty does it, but even when I had questions I was still deeply enthralled in this novel. I needed to know what would happen next with Nahiri, Ali, and Dara and how their lives would come crashing back together once again. And boy was it a fun ride when they finally did. Can you say messy? But anyway.

At the start of the novel, the three main characters were separated and all dealing with their own issues. Nahiri was now married to Prince Muntadhir and had fully grown into her role as the Banu Nahida, healing many but still under the control of the king, Ghassan. Ali, the banished prince, was able to make a life for himself outside of Daevabad only to be dragged back to the city due to a ploy by his mother’s family. And then there was Dara. Brought back from the dead (again) he found himself working with Nahiri’s presumed dead mother, Manizheh, who planned to overthrow Ghassan and return Daevabad to Nahid rule, no matter the cost.

Each of the main characters were working towards what they believed was the good of Daevabad and it was so interesting to see how they all fell short in some ways and also clashed. There was a lot of animosity between the characters as well as the tribes they belonged to and honestly, I still don’t know if they can all ever really find peace amongst each other.

What I can say is this story didn’t pull back any punches. There were twists! There was murder! There were love connections that I pray come to fruition in the last book! It ended on a magnificent cliff hanger! There was a lot going on, but I was invested and the story and the characters, and more often than not when I did have questions they were answered.

In sum, while the world building can definitely feel like a lot at points, if you pay attention you get it, and once you do you’ll find yourself immersed in a world that you’ll find difficult to pull yourself out of. Trust me, I stayed up until 4 a.m. reading this book. I know.

Buy or Borrow: Buy!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Review: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Synopsis

serious moonlight.jpgMystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free digital advanced reader’s copy of this book from Simon and Schuster UK. 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 16 in the U.S. and May 16 in the UK.*

I became a fan of Jenn Bennett when I read Alex, Approximately and absolutely fell in love with her writing. The way Bennett writes romance and handles various different issues from mental health to familial conflict with a gentle touch, I can never get sick of her writing and that remained true with Serious Moonlight.

At first I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fall into this book like I had with her other books because I wasn’t connecting with the main character, Birdie, but that changed pretty quickly. The novel begins with Birdie getting ready for her first day—night, actually—of work at a hotel. This is Birdie’s first real job, because her grandmother, who recently passed away, was incredibly strict. Birdie has lived a pretty sheltered life since her mother died when she was 10 and she went to live with her grandparents on an island near Seattle. However, Birdie is ready to put herself out there…kind of.

She may have gotten a little excited the first time she discovered freedom when she was looking for a job a little while before where the novel begins. It was then that she met Daniel Aoki at the Moonlight Diner. Instantly attracted to him and feeling daring, she ended up losing her virginity to him in the back of his car. Naturally, as soon as it was over Birdie freaked out and she ran, determined to never see him again. That was until she realized the guy driving the van during her shift at the hotel was Daniel himself. Awkward.

Though Birdie wanted to do everything but talk about that night or even interact with Daniel at all, Daniel had different plans. Knowing that Birdie was obsessed with mysteries he enlists her to help him solve a mystery at the hotel. Unable to resist, Birdie agreed to be partners with Daniel and sleuthing ensued. Together, they looked for clues about a mysterious guest at the hotel and along the way Birdie was forced to confront her feelings for Daniel and what they did in the back of his car.

Thankfully, Birdie had the help of her Aunt Mona, who wasn’t really her aunt but her mom’s best friend, and her Grandpa to help her figure out the mystery as well as her relationship, or lack thereof, with Daniel. Still, figuring out what she wanted was one thing, but actually doing something about it was something totally different.

Besides the adorable romance in this novel and the mystery, I was fascinated by Birdie’s struggles with undiagnosed narcolepsy. I can’t remember ever reading a book about someone, particularly a teen, struggling with narcolepsy and I thought Bennett handled it perfectly. In addition, Bennett also discussed mental health issues in a way that I would love to see more of. I won’t go into it because spoilers, but I really liked how everything was discussed between the characters.

All in all, this was another win for Bennett in my book. She has yet to disappoint me and at this point I doubt she ever will. Make sure to pick this book up when it’s released.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it, obviously!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Book Review: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

Synopsis:

if i'm being honestCameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: b*tch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school–she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her brutal honesty. But when she slips up in front of her crush, Andrew, any affection he may have had for her quickly fades. To win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Shakespeare’s infamous shrew, Katherine. If she makes amends with everyone she’s ever wronged, Andrew will have to take notice. Thus, Cameron begins her apology tour with Brendan, the guy whose social life she single-handedly destroyed. At first, Brendan isn’t so quick to forgive, but slowly he warms to her when they connect over a computer game he’s developing. To Cameron’s amazement, she actually enjoys hanging out with Brendan; he appreciates her honesty in a way Andrew never did, and she’s left wondering: maybe you shouldn’t have to compromise who you are for the kind of love you deserve.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Penguin Teen. 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 23, 2019.*

I hadn’t read Always Never Yours before I heard about this book, but you better believe I will now. I already got a copy of it from the library, because I loved these authors writing so much and I’m desperate for more.

If I’m Being Honest is a Taming of the Shrew retelling done right, not that I ever read the William Shakespeare play, nor will I after the vibes I was getting about it in this book. If I’m Being Honest follows Cameron Bright, a high school senior who’s crush, Andrew, just called her a bitch. Ouch! But Cameron’s not the quitting type and she’s going to do what it takes to make Andrew realize she’s not a bitch, she’s just honest. Cameron starts by trying to apologize to Paige, the girl she was brutally honest with in front of Andrew and the cause of this whole mess, at least in Cameron eyes.

There’s just one problem. Paige can see right through Cameron’s nice girl act, which means Cameron has to step up her game and that means befriending Paige’s younger brother, Brendan, or as Cameron called him “Barfy Brendan,” a nickname of her own creation that has been detrimental to his social life for years. However, Brendan’s not at all interested in whatever it is Cameron has to say and it’ll take a lot of work to convince Brendan she’s genuinely trying to help and right her wrongs.

As Cameron works on getting Brendan to let her fix her mistakes, she ends up righting a number of other wrongs she’s made, including helping her one and only ex get back with the girlfriend he cheated on with Cameron. While Cameron begins to adjust her ideas of what’s being honest and what’s being cruel, her determination to not be a bitch becomes less about Andrew and more about being her best self.

This book contained a great romance that made me swoon, a number of laughs, and dealt with some real issues, mainly the verbal abuse Cameron’s father doled out on her and her mother. My only problem with this novel was the resolution between Cameron and her mother. While Cameron’s dad was consistently absent from Cameron’s life physically, her mother was absent mentally, as she was focused more on getting Cameron’s dad attention than having a steady job to pay the bills. I thought the explanation for why she was the way she was didn’t really make sense, but I’m willing to overlook it because overall I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down and stayed up past 4 a.m. to finish it. I highly recommend reading this is if you’re looking for a quick romance filled with heart.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

4 stars