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

Other Reviews
Literary Dust
shelovestoread

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How to Get Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)

A question I get asked a lot is “How do you get free books?” What people typically mean is, “How do you get advanced reader copies?” If you’re unfamiliar with the term, advanced reader copies are uncorrected proofs of books that haven’t been released. There are physical ARCs, which typically look like the paperback version of the book, although a lot of the times the cover won’t be final, and there are digital, or electronic, ARCs, which come in the form of a file that can usually be read on a tablet or reading device, like a Kindle.

ARCs are typically sent out to the media to create buzz about the book that’s going to be released. Media includes everything from big name publications like Entertainment Weekly and The New York Times to bloggers and social media influencers, like myself. So how exactly do people like me (and you) get ARCs? Well, there are a few ways.

1. Someone will reach out to you

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If you have your contact info on your blog or in your bio, publicists or self-published authors may reach out to you and ask if you would like an ARC or finished copy of their book. This is definitely the easiest way to get an ARC, because obviously they want you to have one if they reached out to you. The only downside to this is figuring out how to say no to books you actually don’t want or wouldn’t read.

Sometimes it can be really exciting to be offered a free book. When I first started I said yes to everything and then I ended up with a lot of books I never read. That’s why if you have a blog, it’s a good idea to have a Review Policy page, where you explicitly say what kind of books you do and do not want to receive. You’ll probably still get requests for things you don’t want, and if that’s the case you can either politely decline or you are allowed to ignore emails. However, just make sure that if you do ignore someone’s emails you have no intention of ever trying to work with them. It’s hard to rebuild bridges once you burn them.

2. Request a physical ARC

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If there’s a book you’re really interested in, you can request an ARC of the book. Typically, the way to do this is to find out who’s publishing the book and look up their publicity contact information. For example, if I wanted to request an ARC of A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas I would go to Bloomsbury’s website and look up their publicity contact information, specifically for the children’s department since Maas is technically a YA author.

For most publishers, specifically the Big Five, there’s an email address you can write to. There’s a number of ways you could write out your email, but this is how I do it. For the subject line I write, “ARC Request for ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ by Sarah J. Maas.” Then my email would say:

Hello,

My name is Zakiya Jamal and I am very excited for the release of Sarah J. Maas’ newest novel, A Court of Frost and Starlight. I absolutely love all of Maas’ books, both in this series and the Throne of Glass series. I know my followers, just like myself, are already excited about Maas’ new novel and I would love a chance to read and review it early.

I review books on my blog, To Borrow or Buy, which gets about 1,500 views every month. I also post pictures of my favorite books and books I review on my Instagram account of the same name, which has over 3400 followers. If I receive an ARC of A Court of Frost and Starlight I would promote the book on all of my platforms, which not only include my blog and Instagram but also my Tumblr and Twitter.  Below please find my name, phone number, and mailing address. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Best,
Zakiya

You always want to include your mailing address in the email, because that just makes it easier for them to just send you the book right away rather than having to ask you for it. Typically, you won’t get a response to your email either way, but if they do decide to send you a copy they’ll just send it.

The most important thing you want to do in your email is make it clear why they should give you a book. My following isn’t incredibly big on any one of my platforms, but when combined I actually I have a reach of about 5,000 people, so I always include all my platforms when requesting a book. Make sure to always play to your strengths and if you have done ARC reviews before, especially if you’ve received books from that publisher before, make sure to indicate that as well.

Also, some publishers now do forms for requesting ARCs, rather than emails. For example, I’ve received a few ARCs through The Novl, which is Little, Brown for Young Readers’ social media page. They send out these forms in their newsletters, which come out about once a week, so make sure to sign up for their newsletter so you know when they’re looking for new reviewers.Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 10.23.39 PM.png

3. Request a Digital ARC

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There are two websites you can sign up for to get digital ARCs: NetGalley and Edelweiss. I’ve received ARCs on both. The best way to get ARCs through these sites is to sign up for their emails. Edelweiss sends out a weekly newsletter, which lets you know what new books have been added to the site and are available for request. NetGalley emails a bit more frequently, but you can adjust your email notifications for how you see fit. You can also always search both sites if you’re looking for a specific book to request.

I wouldn’t say getting a digital ARC is easier than getting a physical ARC, because it always depends on a lot of different factors, particularly how popular a book is. What I will say is there have been a few times when I received a dARC of a book after I couldn’t get a physical ARC. So it doesn’t hurt to try both, especially if it’s a book you really want.

4. Giveaways & Bookish Events

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Truthfully, I think I’ve gotten the most ARCs from going to bookish events. I got 10 ARCs from Book Con this year alone, and two more from attending the Brooklyn Book Festival. Additionally, I’ve also won a lot of ARCs from giveaways. In my experience, it pays to receive newsletters from publishers. I’ve won a number of ARCs just by reading literally every email publishers send me and entering almost every giveaway in them.

Additionally, Twitter is a great place for giveaways. Not only do publishers do giveaways regularly, but authors do them all the time. So do bloggers. If you’re willing to look for them, you’ll find there are lots of giveaways happening all the time and if you enter enough of them you’re bound to win some.

5. Books for Trade

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If you’re unfamiliar with Books for Trade (#booksfortrade), it’s a hashtag on Twitter in which people literally list what kind of books they’re in search of (ISO) and what books they’re willing to trade. Typically, it’s very hard to trade for an ARC if you aren’t also trading an ARC. There’s even a specific hashtag just for ARC trades (#arcsfortrade). However, it’s not impossible.

The biggest advice I can give for trading is just to triple check that the person is legit. I’ve traded multiple times and I haven’t had a problem because I always go to that person’s profile to check and see if they’ve done successful trades in the past. I also always ask the person to send me pics of the book before confirming an exchange. If you can make a legit trade, trading is a great way to get your hands on a book you really want.

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I believe that about covers it. If you have any other questions about how to get ARCs just let me know in the comments. I hope this helps, and that you get as many free books as your heart desires. Happy reading!

Book Review: So B. It

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Synopsis

She doesn’t know when her birthday is or who her father is. In fact, everything about Heidi and her mentally disabled mother’s past is a mystery. When a strange word in her mother’s vocabulary begins to haunt her, Heidi sets out on a cross-country journey in search of the secrets of her past.

Far away from home, pieces of her puzzling history come together. But it isn’t until she learns to accept not knowing that Heidi truly arrives.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

Full disclosure, I’m currently studying at The New School and Sarah Weeks, the author of this book, is my professor. That being said, I really enjoyed this book.

Prior to taking Sarah’s class, I was aware of this book but I don’t think I ever read it, or if I did, I don’t remember it. The story follows Heidi, who lives with her mother, So B. It, and their neighbor, Bernie. Heidi’s mother is mentally disabled and can only say a few words, but one day she says a new word, “Soof,” and Heidi can’t get it out of her head.

Soon after, she finds an old photo of her mother, who’s pregnant with Heidi at the time, and a bunch of others at a Christmas party. Heidi notices the name of the place where the party is taking place and decides she most go there to finally get some answers about where she and her mother came from. If you’re wondering how a young girl could make such an incredible journey, it’s all because of her luck.

Heidi is just lucky. No one knows why, that’s just how it is. Using her “power” she’s able to get money from slot machines to pay for her necessities and just happens to know the right people to follow onto the bus so she doesn’t look suspicious. Through her journey Heidi learns more than she ever bargained for and afterwards, her life is never the same.

What I loved about this book was Heidi’s little family with her mom and Bernie. While her mother suffers from an unnamed illness, Bernie suffers from agoraphobia, which means she can’t leave the house. This is another reason why Heidi has to be so independent; there are a lot of things she just has to do on her own. But I loved how even though this isn’t a “traditional family” you could still see all the love in it. While this story definitely broke my heart in some ways, I still laughed and my heart felt full while reading. That being said, I’m very happy Sarah’s writing a sequel because I want to know what happens next for Heidi.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but I’m not sure I would read it again. This is a story I think every one should read, but for the sake of my emotions, I don’t think I could read it twice.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow

Stars:

4 stars

Favorite Line:

“You can’t miss what you don’t remember ever having.”

10 Books I Did Not Finish (DNF) (Guest Post)

*This is a guest post written by Kattiah RichardsonIf you would like to do a guest post for To Borrow or Buy, please email me at toborroworbuy@gmail.com*

Hello Bookdragons and Bibliophiles….Wait, this isn’t my blog…. Ah! I am super ecstatic to be writing a guest blog post for one blogger I have read before I even made mine. *gasps and fangirls* When this opportunity arose, I jumped onto it let me tell you. Zakiya is so kind and sweet, and if y’all haven’t followed her yet, do so now. Anyway, my top 10 book DNFs.

When a book lover hears “DNF,” some gasp and scream at the horror of those letters, while others shrug it off because it’s a part of the reading experience. If you don’t agree with the second kind of reader, let me tell you one of my greatest pieces of advice: Life’s too short to struggle through a book you hate just so you don’t have to put it down. There are too many good books in the world to read one that is not your type of book. This thinking brought me to my blog post today…

1. Red Queen Series by Victoria Aveyard

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This book just did not do it for me at all. I found the characters irritating, the story familiar, the pacing slow, and there was a love triangle I was just not here for. I know many people love this series and as much as it is disheartening to say and hear, I will be getting rid of it and have no plans to read this in the future.

2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Ah, this book…. I couldn’t handle it. I was not a fan of the characters or the writing. I think I might have tried to pick it up again if it were not for James Dashner’s writing. I did not enjoy his writing for reasons still unknown to myself. I am willing to possibly try this again, but only if my life depended on it. It doesn’t, so I won’t be picking this up again any time soon.

3. The Finisher by David Baldacci

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I could not stand this book. I got to page 57 (I still have my bookmark in it for some reason) and I could not deal with the author’s writing, style, or word choice. Also, the characters seemed flat and one dimensional. The premise was not my cup of tea. Overall, younger Kattiah could not pick a book correctly.

4. How to Meet Boys by Catherine Clark

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If you know anything about me, you know I love contemporaries as long as they are developed well and not a morally wrong concept. My mistake picking this up. I knew the friend would be attracted to her best friend’s ex, but as the story progressed, it didn’t stop. I thought it would be a situation where she would explain herself and swear off boys or whatever, not sneak behind her best friend’s back like a coward. Why would you do that?

5. Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

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This book. I can’t.  First of all, the writing is terrible. Secondly, the characters are terrible to each other. I had to force myself to read this book. Not good. .000001/10 recommended. Enough said.

6. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

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The Fifth Wave, book one in this series, was great! I really loved it. Then I got this one, started it, and wanted to cry. It was terrible. It definitely has a case of middle book syndrome. I couldn’t even finish it even though the last book was supposedly epic. I’m sad the relationship between me and this book did not work out, but you live, let go, and learn!

7. Where She Went by Gayle Forman

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I tried really hard (twice) to read this book, but I could not do it. It was worse that any word to describe bad. Times ten. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first book, If I Stay, but I thought the sequel might be worthwhile. Haha, no. The characters changed. It was much moodier. It was terrible. DNF!

8. I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson

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This was my first DNF book and so I cannot remember, specifically, why I stopping reading, but I do remember not clicking with the main character.

9. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

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Not. A. Fan. To be honest, I did not really give it a shot, but I just didn’t like it. It seemed too millennial for me. Some love it, I did not.

Book Ten: Hoot Carl Hiaasen

10. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

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Ah, don’t shoot me! I know this is a beloved book by many and that it clearly won an award. I, however, did not like it. At. All. I thought the writing was bad and the beginning didn’t suck me in like I had hoped. I am sorry to say, but this book is not a personal favorite.

If you are still reading then you have been here through all of my minor hate on these books, but these are my personal opinions as we are all entitled to our own. PLEASE follow this blog and like this if you liked it and if you want to see more of my writing head over to my blog here! You can also follow Zakiya’s bookstagram here and mine here! Thank you so much for reading. Bye!!


Do you live in NYC or NYC-adjacent? Follow YA Book Events NYC on Twitter to stay up to date on all the bookish events happening around the city!

Book Review: Warcross

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Synopsis:

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

I am a big fan of Marie Lu so it broke my heart that I missed the opportunity to get an ARC of her newest novel, Warcross, at BookCon. However, the wait was totally worth it and now I’m kind of glad I didn’t get to read it early because I NEED THE SEQUEL YESTERDAY!

Okay, so this is going to be a brief, vague review because I don’t want to spoil anything or give anything away. Here’s what you need to know, besides the fact that you absolutely must read this book immediately. The protagonist is Emika and the story is told solely from her point of view and this is the first story Lu has done in this style and I absolutely loved it.

At the start of the novel, Emika is struggling. She’s broker than broke and unfortunately her one shot at getting the money she needed to pay her rent slips right through her fingers. Because of this, she ends up attempting to do a very risky hack during the opening ceremony of the international Warcross championships. Warcross is this crazy virtual game that pretty much every one in the world plays using these glasses with what’s called Neurolink. Essentially, the glasses let you escape the real world and enter the world of Warcross.

Emika’s hack goes awry, however, and she ends up revealing herself to the world. But instead of getting arrested (again), Warcross creator Hideo decides to hire her to try to find Zero, a hacker that’s threatening the game. Next thing she knows she’s on one of the international teams competing in the Warcross games while on the hunt for Zero, who she soon realizes is more dangerous than she first thought.

Filled with action, romance, and twists that kept me up late reading because I COULDN’T PUT THIS BOOK DOWN, Warcross is one of my favorite books by Lu (The Midnight Star is still my all-time fave). I can’t wait to see what happens next in this incredible world she’s created and there’s so much more I want to know about these characters. If you haven’t picked up Warcross yet, I highly recommend you pick it up ASAP and then come back here so we can discuss that ending.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it immediately!

Stars:

5 stars

Favorite Line:

“Everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact.”

Other Reviews
The Book Smugglers
Twirling Pages
Nose Graze


Do you live in NYC or NYC-adjacent? Follow YA Book Events NYC on Twitter to stay up to date on all the bookish events happening around the city!

Stephanie Perkins Is Coming to NYC! (YA Book Events 9/25-10/1)

Unfortunately, there’s not too many events happening this week. You can see the full list of this week’s events below and make sure to follow YA Book Events NYC on Twitter to keep up to date with everything happening around the city. Also, use the hashtag #YABENYC to let us know about any bookish events you attend.

Tuesday, September 26

FG Young Readers Book Group at Greenlight Bookstore (5:30 p.m.)

The group will be discussing The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.

Wednesday, September 27

PLG Young Readers Book Group at Greenlight Bookstore (5:30 p.m.)

The group will be discussing The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks.

Stephanie Perkins at McNally Jackson Books (6:30 p.m.)

Perkins will be discussing her new book, There’s Someone Inside Your House.

Creative Conversations: Tracey Baptiste and Ibi Zoboi at The Langston Hughes House (7-9 p.m.)

Baptiste and Zoboi will be discovering their books Rise of the Jumbies and American Street. Tickets are $30 and include a copy of Rise of the Jumbies.

Sunday, October 1

SCBWI presents Back 2 Back: Paulette Bogan & Annie Won at Books Are Magic (1 – 2 p.m.)

Authors and illustrators are introduced to those new to the field.

Fantastic Teen Reads at Books of Wonder (4-6 p.m.)

Featuring Ryan Graudin (Invictus) and Zoraida Cordova (Labyrinth Lost).


Did we miss an event? Let us know by emailing us @yabookeventsnyc@gmail.com!

Book Review: When It’s Real

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Synopsis:

Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths.

There’s nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star’s got Grammy Awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he’s settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary.

Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley’s image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She’ll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little.

Because when ordinary rules no longer apply, there’s no telling what your heart will do…

Purchase From:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Review

I haven’t read The Royals series by Erin Watt, but I’d seen When It’s Real floating around Instagram for a while so when I was browsing the Strand, I impulsively decided to buy a copy, book buying ban be damned. Thankfully, it was totally worth the buy because I absolutely could not put it down and when I finished it I reread it again. Yeah, it’s that good.

The story is told in the alternating POVs of Oakley and Vaughn, beginning with Oakley. As is unfortunately the case with a lot child stars, Oakley has now become known more for his outrageous parties and the revolving door of women entering his bedroom than his music. It’s been a few years since he released his last album and his manager informs him that the only way he’ll be able to work with the best producer in the biz is to change his image.

What better way to do that than to date an average nice girl? Enter Vaughn. Her elder sister just happens to work at the management company that reps Oakley and when Oakley’s manager sees a pic of Vaughn, he believes she’s the perfect girl for the job. There’s only one problem, she has a boyfriend. And also, she doesn’t want to do it.

But Vaughn is then made a offer she can’t, in good conscience, refuse. Thus begins her fake relationship with Oakley. Typically, it takes a lot for be to behind a fake relationship story. There has to be a good enough reason for it, and in this case I thought there was.

What I loved about this fake relationship story was although I figured Vaughn and Oakley would end up together this didn’t feel like an insta-love story to me. You actually get to see Oakley and Vaughn slowly realize there’s more to each other than the other realized. Additionally, I liked that this wasn’t really a love triangle kind of story either. I won’t spoil it, but I’d be surprised if you find yourself rooting for Vaughn’s boyfriend.

Overall, I really enjoyed everything about this story. Vaughn was super relatable and I loved her family. Oakley was totally swoonworthy and the steamy scenes were perfect. Also, the plot was really well done and I loved how this story ended because it did surprise me a little bit. So if you haven’t read this book yet I highly recommend picking it up.

Borrow or Buy: Buy it!

Stars:

5 stars

Favorite Line:

“The good ones put your character to the flame and burn away all the rest of the shit until you come out a better you. She’s one of the good ones.”

Other Reviews
Aestas Book Blog
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