ARC Review: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Synopsis:

the gravity of us.jpgAs a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels–fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Bloomsbury YA at BookCon. 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 February 4, 2020.*

I honestly don’t even remember how this ARC ended up in my hands at BookCon but I’m glad it did. I was aware of Phil Stamper because of the whole Handbook for Mortals scandal but I didn’t know him for his writing. Turns out that’s probably because The Gravity of Us is his debut novel, and what a great book to jumpstart a career.

First, I truly wanted this book just based on the cover alone, but then I read the synopsis. The story follows Cal, a teen journalist/vlogger who’s father just got accepted to join NASA’s very highly publicized trip to Mars. This in it of itself would’ve been interesting but Stamper heightened the stakes by adding in StarWatch. What is StarWatch? I’m so glad you asked. It’s a reality show all about the astronauts and their families, including the kids who are known as Astrokids.

Because of the show, the astronauts and their families are celebs, which is cool except Cal doesn’t think his family is fit to be in the spotlight. Oh, and also, because of the show he won’t be able to do his internship with BuzzFeed like he planned. He’s also not supposed to continue his vlogs, but Cal decides that he won’t let StarWatch halt his career just as it’s about to take off (pun intended) and so he continues with his vlog anyways.

There’s just one (or two) problems. The more time he spends with NASA and the crew of StarWatch the more unsavory things Cal uncovers. And while he knows sharing this story would be great for his career the truth about StarWatch could hurt a lot of people, including Leon, another Astrokid who Cal has feelings for. In other words, things are pretty complicated and I loved it.

I’m not a big science person but Stamper did a great job of making all the space stuff interesting. Honestly, I found some of those points even more interesting than the drama with StarWatch, though the drama was quite good. Stamper definitely surprised me with the plot of this story. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but I love when I can’t predict the ending of a book and this story definitely kept me on my toes.

The surprising elements of the story could probably be contributed to how much was going on in this novel. Cal’s parents are going through a tough time in their marriage; when Cal leaves New York he has to leave his best friend/ex-girlfriend behind; Leon is dealing with depression; and there’s the StarWatch drama mixed in with the actual problems NASA is facing as they try to finally get to Mars. There was a lot happening in this book and yet I never felt lost or like it was too much.

And at the heart of this story was romance but also a lot of familial love as well. Though there were definitely some not so happy moments, overall I’d say this was a feel good read that made me smile and laugh and ultimately fall in love space and all the people working to get us there. Stamper also did a great job of handling Leon and Cal’s mom’s mental health. Honestly, I think my only complaint is that I would’ve liked a smidge more of the romance, but I always want a smidge more romance so I don’t fault this book too much for that.

If you haven’t already pre-ordered The Gravity of Us I highly recommend doing so. Besides this just being an awesome book, Stamper is hosting an epic pre-order campaign where you can get a signed book plate that’s been to space! How brilliant is that? Get yours before it’s too late and if you’ve been luck enough to already read The Gravity of Us let me know your thoughts below!

Highlight here (depression, anxiety, untimely death) for trigger warnings.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it, obviously!

Stars:

4 stars

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ARC Review: Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Synopsis:

frankly in loveFrank Li has two names. There’s Frank Li, his American name. Then there’s Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl–which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he’s forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don’t leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he’s found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he’s left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love—or himself—at all.

In this moving debut novel—featuring striking blue stained edges and beautiful original endpaper art by the author—David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

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 September 10, 2019.*

I would argue that Frankly in Love by David Yoon is the most highly anticipated YA release of this fall. Besides the fact that Yoon is married to NYT bestselling author Nicola Yoon, the book has been everywhere. And did you see the book trailer? If not, do yourself a favor and watch it here!

My point is, the hype for this book is off the charts and ultimately well deserved.

The premise of the book is one of my favorite tropes in the history of tropes. Frank Li is falling for a white girl, Brit Means, but his Korean parents only want him to date another Korean American person. Thankfully, Frank’s friend Joy Song fits the bill perfectly. Thus, they hatch a plan to pretend to date each other so that Frank can date Brit and Joy can continue to date her Chinese American boyfriend. Of course, nothing could possibly go wrong in this scenario.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, I totally know how this will end, this is so predictable, blah blah blah. Except, you’d be wrong. Because while Frankly in Love is being sold as a rom com, I hate to be the one to inform you that it goes way deeper than that. I’m talking almost-made-me-cry-on-the-train deeper than that. Yoon uses Frank’s love life as an entry point to discuss the nuances and difficulties that come with being the child of immigrants and he does so brilliantly.

Frank has to reconcile with the fact that his parents are racist, but also that they come from a completely different life than the one he lives. Frank struggles with being the kind of son his parents want him to be while also trying to figure out what being Korean American means to him. It’s a constant culture clash for Frank and while he disagrees with his parents on many things, he’s also can’t deny how much they’ve sacrificed for him and his older sister to have the lives they do.

With all that said, I urge you not to go into Frankly in Love expecting a romance novel. That’s not what this is. Yes there is a romance, and it is really great, don’t get me wrong. But this book also deals with heavy topics and it will certainly surprise you, but for me, those surprises worked in the best way. I truly could not put this book down and I loved it from beginning to end. That is why I highly recommend picking up Frankly in Love when it goes on sale.

Highlight this space (parental death, cancer) for trigger warnings!

Borrow or Buy: Buy it, duh!

Stars:

5 stars

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ARC Review: Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

Synopsis:

twice in a blue moon.jpgSam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

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 October 22, 2019.*

I went into this novel not really knowing much because at this point if Christina Lauren wrote it I’m going to read it. Period. So I was intrigued to find that we were beginning in the past and that it would not be an alternating past and present type of situation but a lot of past and then a jump to the present. This wasn’t a format I expected but I was into it and it made sense for the plot.

The story is told solely in Tate Jones’ POV. She is the daughter of a big movie star, but when she was a kid her mom left her father and they moved back to her mother’s hometown where they kept Tate’s true identity a secret. Thus, Tate grew up out of the spotlight but she also had to keep this major secret from pretty much everyone in her life.

Enter Sam Brandis. While on vacation in London with her grandmother Tate meets Sam and it’s basically love at first sight. And as one is wont to do when they’re in love (or so I’ve heard) Tate bared her soul to Sam, which included telling him her the truth about her identity. Unfortunately, Sam, along with his grandfather, then left London and Tate’s secret was leaked to the tabloids.

Fast forward to the present and now Tate is a well known actress in her own right. Her relationship with her absentee father is strained at best but Tate is hoping that by working on a movie together that’ll bring them closer. However, what Tate wasn’t expecting was to run into Sam on the set of the film. Now Tate is stuck on location with her father and the guy who sold her secret. What’s a girl to do? Fake it until you make it, amirite?

I really loved this story because it wasn’t black and white. What Sam did to Tate was wrong but it launched her career in a way. Additionally, he of course had his reasons. Whether or not those reasons were valid…well I’ll let you read the book and decide for yourself. The more important question is whether or not Tate is able to forgive him and then trust him.

Obviously, the book dealt a lot with forgiveness and trust, but this wasn’t just through Sam and Tate but also with Tate and her father, which I found really interesting. I also loved learning Sam’s backstory and the movie that Tate was working on was just as interesting as Tate’s own story. The film dealt with racial prejudice and it was really well done. Honestly, I wish it was a real movie. I’d watch it.

But anyway, my point is I enjoyed this book. I wanted a bit more from the ending because it didn’t feel totally resolved to me, but otherwise it was a great read.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. I actually don’t think I’d reread this one, unfortunately.

Stars:

4 stars

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Blog Tour Review: Say You Still Love Me by K. A. Tucker

Synopsis:

say-you-still-love-me-9781501133442_hr.jpgLife is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway.

On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day.

Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group, and coincidentally the first love of her life.

The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counselors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name.

Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is still alive and strong, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Review

*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book via Atria 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 August 6, 2019.*

I’m so excited to be a part of the blog tour for K. A. Tucker’s upcoming novel, Say You Still Love Me. Full disclosure, I hadn’t read a novel by Tucker prior to this book but the synopsis sounded so good and I love romance so I figured why not and I was not disappointed.

This novel jumps between the present when our protagonist Piper is dealing with sexism at her father’s office and the past were Piper is a counselor at a summer camp for the first time. At both stages of Piper’s life she runs into Kyle Miller, a man who’s the opposite of who her father would believe is a good match for her. The difference? In the present, Kyle pretends he doesn’t remember Piper and in the past they were each others first love.

Thus, while in the past we see Kyle and Piper fall in love and then fall apart, in the present we see them try to find their way back to each other and man did they pull at my heartstrings. It’s so easy to question how two people who are obviously meant to be together struggle to get together but I felt for both Kyle and Piper. Their issues were real and valid, and trying to untangle the mystery of their past kept me turning page after page. I truly couldn’t put this book down and finished it in a day.

The romance was steamy with a dash of smut, but what Tucker almost effortlessly pulled off was the twist at the end. I was totally unprepared to discover what happened during that summer at camp and the unfortunate outcome of it all. Yes this story is about Kyle and Piper but I like how Tucker made this into a bigger story, encompassing Kyle and Piper’s friends from camp as well.

Overall, this was a great read for me. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Tucker’s books in the future. Make sure to grab your copy when the book goes on sale on August 6 and/or enter to win a copy here!

More About the Author

k. a. tucker.jpg

Photo Credit: Christa Hogan, Storeybook Studios

K.A. Tucker writes captivating stories with an edge. She is the bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series and the novels He Will Be My RuinUntil It FadesKeep Her Safe, and The Simple Wild. She currently resides in a quaint town outside Toronto with her husband and two beautiful girls.

Borrow or Buy: Buy for the cover alone honestly (though the inside is just as wonderful, obviously).

Stars:

4 stars

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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 H. K. 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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