August TBR: Books to Read in August

I did shockingly well on my July TBR and finished all the books but 1! I am quite proud of myself, and it definitely motivated me to keep up with doing monthly TBRs. It is a great way to have a set checklist for myself, and I love looking back to see what all I have read or still need to get to.

August is going to be a busy month for me, with multiple weddings, birthday celebrations, and school starting. I also would like to squeeze in a few books that were on my summer reading list before my classes start up again!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

This is the book that is a repeat from July, just because I really want to get around to it. While I enjoyed the first two books in the Harry Potter series, I’ve heard that this book or Goblet of Fire are the ones that will turn you into super fans, so I want to read this before I completely forget what happened in the first two books. This is my first time ever reading Harry Potter (and I’ve never seen the movies), so this is my first time being exposed to the story!

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

To continue with the theme of wanting to complete series, I really would like to get to The Kingdom of Copper before the summer is over. I absolutely adored The City of Brass– it has probably been one of my favorite fantasy books this year! This second book is definitely a long one, but I loved the writing and the characters so much in book 1 I think I could potentially fly through this, despite its length.

Everything That Burns by Gita Trelease

To prep for this long awaited sequel, I re-read Enchantee a few months ago, just to make sure the story would be fresh in my mind before I head into book two! This is a duology that reimagines a fantastical version of the French Revolution. Book 1 was a lot of fun, even though it was a bit slow paced. Even so, this world is so much fun to be in that I am highly anticipating book 2 and hope to get to it in August!

1984 by George Orwell

I have owned a copy of 1984 for 3 years, and have said if I don’t read it by the end of 2021, it is going to be time to unhaul it. I have been trying to get through my classics collection, and I really want to prioritize this one because it is short, and all my classmates have raved about it. I have tried to read it in the past but couldn’t get through the first chapter, so hopefully this time I will either finish it or put it down for good.

An Emotion of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi

I really enjoy Tahereh Mafi’s writing, and loved her other contemporary, A Very Large Expanse of Sea. This book takes place in 2003, and follows Shadi, a Muslim girl who chooses to wear a hijab. Islamophobic crime rates are increasing, her brother is dead, her father is dying, and Shadi feels absolutely helpless. This sounds like it is going to be an emotional read, but also one that is very important and necessary.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

These next few books are some fun summer reads I really want to finish before fall starts, so I don’t feel like I have to wait until next summer to read them. I honestly don’t know much about this book, but my friend read it recently and absolutely adored it. I know this takes place in Italy, I believe in the Italian countryside? She also said it is going to make me hungry for gelato, so I’m here for it!

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

I have never read a Tessa Bailey book before, but this is the first one that really caught my eye. This is a small town romance, following a city girl who is determined to spend the summer proving to her father and a handsome stranger that she is more than a spoiled city slicker. I heard this has the grumpy/sunshine trope, which is one of my favorites! The reviews are also stellar, so I am excited to see if this lives up to the hype.

The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert

I honestly have no idea what this book is about, and put a hold on it for my library because I like the cover, and the title sounded cute. But I know this is a romance with a supernatural twist, and one that I believe involves ghosts. This just sounds like a fun time, and looks like a great summer read.

Let me know which books you are hoping to read in August in the comments below!

The SOUR Book Tag

Like pretty much everyone on the Internet, I have been listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s album nonstop all summer. When I saw this tag over at Tree and Bree’s, I knew I had to do it. To see their answers, click here!

Rules:

  • List the rules.
  • Show some love to the one who tagged you.
  • Mention the creator (Ashmita @ the Fictional Journal) and link it back to the original post.
  • Nominate as many people you want and notify them by commenting on their posts.
  • Name a song that you have been listening to on repeat.
  • Have fun!

π”Ήβ„π•Œπ•‹π”Έπ•ƒ: a book with a lot of teenage angst

This book has so much teenage angst, and is a perfect summer read!

𝕋ℝ𝔸𝕀𝕋𝕆ℝ: a book that broke your heart, but you still keep going back to

I cried both the first and second time I read this book, yet still claim it to be one of my favorite books of all time. This series just has such a special place in my heart, and I will always go back to it!

π”»β„π•€π•π”Όβ„β€™π•Š 𝕃𝕀ℂ𝔼ℕℂ𝔼: a book that helped you grow/ become who you are today

This is the series that got me into reading, and I will be forever thankful for that!

πŸ™ π•Šπ•‹π”Όβ„™ π”½π•†β„π•Žπ”Έβ„π”», πŸ› π•Šπ•‹π”Όβ„™π•Š 𝔹𝔸ℂ𝕂: a book which was slow paced, but so addictive that you just couldn’t stop reading it

Pacing wise, this was definitely on the slower side, but I had so much fun reading it I couldn’t put it down. I loved the world, the characters, the political intrigue… everything was so well done!

𝔻𝔼𝕁𝔸 π•π•Œ: a book that makes you nostalgic

I feel like it is cheating to use repeats, but both The Hunger Games and The Infernal Devices make me super nostalgic! The Hunger Games is what introduced me to the YA genre and reading in general, while The Infernal Devices introduced me to my favorite genre, fantasy.

𝔾𝕆𝕆𝔻 𝟜 π•Œ: a book you almost dnf-ed but it became your favorite

I wouldn’t say I almost DNF’d this, but I definitely was having a hard time getting into it. But by the end, I was totally invested in the world and the characters! I’ll definitely be picking up book 2 soon.

π”Όβ„•π•†π•Œπ”Ύβ„ 𝔽𝕆ℝ π•π•†π•Œ: a book that lived up to your incredibly high expectations.

I was expecting this to become my favorite book of the year, and it totally did. I love this book with all my heart and might even consider it my new favorite book of all time.

ℍ𝔸ℙℙ𝕀𝔼ℝ: a book/series which cause a book hangover

After reading The Wicked King, I didn’t pick up another book for a month because I needed time to digest the ending. It was the most shocked/angry I’ve ever been at a book in my life.

π•π”Όπ”Έπ•ƒπ•†π•Œπ•Šπ•, π•π”Όπ”Έπ•ƒπ•†π•Œπ•Šπ•: a world you would sell your books to be a part of

A United States with a woman president? Give it to me.

𝔽𝔸𝕍𝕆ℝ𝕀𝕋𝔼 ℂℝ𝕀𝕄𝔼: a favorite series, but a really disappointing last book

I have a really hard time finishing series, especially longer ones. While I know this isn’t the final book of the series, I did find myself a bit disappointed in A Reaper at the Gates, which is the third book in the Ember in the Ashes series. I am still wanting to read the conclusion to the series, but I had such a hard time getting through that third book.

ℍ𝕆ℙ𝔼 π•Œβ„ 𝕆𝕂: a book that healed you/ your comfort book

This is the first YA book that I’ve read with a plus-sized main character, and I just felt so seen by Sweetie. It is a book that I look back on with such great memories, and it definitely played a part in my self love journey.

I don’t think I will tag anyone specifically, but if you think this tag looks fun (and it is), consider yourself tagged! And feel free to link me in your post because I would love to read your answers. Happy reading!

Book Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 416
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

If Bao Nguyen had to describe himself, he’d say he was a rock. Steady and strong, but not particularly interesting. His grades are average, his social status unremarkable. He works at his parents’ pho restaurant, and even there, he is his parents’ fifth favorite employee. Not ideal.

If Linh Mai had to describe herself, she’d say she was a firecracker. Stable when unlit, but full of potential for joy and fire. She loves art and dreams pursuing a career in it. The only problem? Her parents rely on her in ways they’re not willing to admit, including working practically full-time at her family’s pho restaurant.

For years, the Mais and the Nguyens have been at odds, having owned competing, neighboring pho restaurants. Bao and Linh, who’ve avoided each other for most of their lives, both suspect that the feud stems from feelings much deeper than friendly competition.

But then a chance encounter brings Linh and Bao in the same vicinity despite their best efforts and sparks fly, leading them both to wonder what took so long for them to connect. But then, of course, they immediately remember.

Can Linh and Bao find love in the midst of feuding families and complicated histories?

When Dimple Met Rishi meets Ugly Delicious in this funny, smart romantic comedy, in which two Vietnamese-American teens fall in love and must navigate their newfound relationship amid their families’ age-old feud about their competing, neighboring restaurants.

I’ve heard really mixed reviews about this book, which follows two Vietnamese-American teenagers whose parents own competing restaurants. While it wasn’t a new all time favorite of mine, I still really liked many aspects of this book!

This book follows Linh and Bao, who have been raised knowing their families hate each other. They have never interacted with one another except once when they were children. Even though they go to the same school, they have always made sure to stay clear of each other, in case word somehow gets back to their parents. However, after Bao sees Linh crying outside her families restaurant, the two realize their families are hiding secrets, and realize maybe they aren’t so different from one another.

This is told in dual perspective, which I think had the potential to work really well. It was super cool to see both Linh and Bao’s side of the story, because it gave the reader a better grasp of what was going on. We got to see both family’s perspectives, which I think was necessary for this book to work. Along with that, I liked that the author gave both Linh and Bao hobbies and specific passions. Linh is an artist and loves to paint, while Bao wants to be a writer. It was nice to have each character care about something outside each other, and how they are planning to navigate their futures outside of high school.

However, I think both characters had a very similar voice. Because I was listening to the audiobook, I was able to keep track of who was saying what in the moment, but if I look back to remember certain scenes, I have a hard time recalling whose perspective it was from.

As for the plot, this is definitely a Romeo and Juliet retelling, although I am not sure if it was marketed as one. I liked the romance in this a lot! It was definitely on the slower side, which is good because both Linh and Bao were raised to hate one another, so the transition from enemies to lovers felt gradual to me. However, the plot just kind of seemed to drag. Looking back, I can think of a few scenes that definitely could have been cut, or at least shortened to try to move the plot along. I felt like there were many instances where Bao and Linh were shown trying to hide their relationship from their parents, but the author clearly got the point across and didn’t need to emphasize it so much. I also feel like the author was trying to cover a lot things in one novel, such as the romance, the family feud, high school drama, racism, the history of Vietnamese immigrants, messy family dynamics, and Linh and Bao’s passions. It was just a lot, and I feel like some of it could have been cut or put into the author’s next book.

The place this book really got to shine was with the Vietnamese culture! Like I mentioned, the author tells stories about the Vietnamese refugees who fled after the fall of Saigon. She didn’t sugar coat anything, and explained how dangerous and heart breaking fleeing was, with some people not making it out alive, and others leaving behind their entire family. Along with that, the author describes various Vietnamese dishes so vividly, it definitely made me wish I was eating them as well! I think having this story set in a restaurant was a great idea, because it was the perfect opportunity to dive into Vietnamese cuisine, and the culture behind it.

Along with that, as someone who has worked in a restaurant for 7 years, I loved the way the author described it. She does a great job at encompassing the panic of being overwhelmed on a busy night, dealing with rude customers, and coping with being short staffed. It all just felt really relatable and I enjoyed reading about this aspect!

All in all, I thought this book was very cute and fun, even if it was a little bit long. I know the author has a companion novel coming out next year following Linh’s sister, and I will probably be picking that up as well.

If you liked this book review, you can check out my other reviews here.

Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

WWW Wednesday: 7.21.2021

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, all you have to do is simply answer the 3 W’s.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow- I read A Song Below Water last year, and honestly didn’t enjoy it all that much. I requested this ARC without knowing it was the sequel. This picks up right where book 1 left off, and so far it is okay, but I don’t think it will be a new favorite.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett- After reading and enjoying Serious Moonlight a few months ago, I decided to pick up pretty much all of Jenn Bennett’s books because I need more contemporary on my shelves. I have heard really great things about Starry Eyes, and so far I really like it! It follows a group of teenagers going on a summer camping trip, and is a perfect summer read so far.

Emma by Jane Austen- There are a few classics I wanted to get to before school starts up again, Emma being one of them. I have never seen the movie, so this story is brand new to me. I am making my way through this slowly, but am enjoying it so far!

WHAT HAVE YOU RECENTLY FINISHED?

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le- I’ve seen really mixed things about this book, but I really liked it! This is very reminiscent of Meet Cute, following the children of two rival restaurants. The Vietnamese culture in this novel was definitely what stood out the most. I do think it did drag on a bit, though.

Namesake by Adrienne Young- Can we talk about this cover? I am obsessed. This is the sequel to Fable, which I unfortunately liked more than its sequel. This was just a really slow paced book. The plot was essentially seeing who could obtain the most power, and I just didn’t care that much. There were also so many characters who all just kind of blended together in my head.

WHAT WILL YOU READ NEXT?

What a great question! I have no idea what I’ll be reading next, but here are some possibilities.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto- My friend read this recently and loved it, so I requested a hold from my local library! I believe this is a murder mystery romcom, where the main character has to ask her aunts to help her hide a body. The blurb says this book dives into Chinese-Indonesian culture, which sounds super interesting as well!

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo- This has literally been on my TBR since it came out, and is on my must-read list for summer. This is an enemies-to-lovers Little Mermaid retelling, which is all I needed to know before picking it up.

Let me know what you’re reading in the comments below!

Enemies-to-Lovers Book Recommendations

Enemies-to-lovers is definitely one of the most popular tropes in fiction, and definitely one of my favorites! So today, I have compiled a list of my favorite books that feature the enemies-to-lovers trope, across all different genres.

Leave me your favorite enemies-to-lovers book recommendations in the comments below, because I am always looking for more to add to my list!

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

When I think of my favorite enemies-to-lovers story, this is definitely the first book that comes to my mind! This follows Naomi, who has the perfect fiancΓ©, Nick. The problem is, she can’t stand him. They are constantly fighting, on each others nerves, and Nick never defends Naomi in front of his mom. Both Nick and Naomi want to break off the wedding, but Nick’s mom has already placed a huge down payment on it, and whoever calls it off has to pay it. So, Naomi is on a mission to find Nick’s breaking point. This was an absolutely perfect romance. I thought the idea of having enemies-to-lovers within an engagement was a super unique idea. Even though it sounds like it wouldn’t work, it totally did, and this quickly became one of my favorite books.

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

While I am gushing about Sarah Hogle, I have to mention her newest book as well! This is more of an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers book, which I loved so much. This follows Maybell, whose Great-Aunt Violet has just passed away. Maybell is told that she is inheriting Violet’s estate in the Smoky Mountains, so she quits her job on the spot, determined to use this estate to help jumpstart her dreams. However, she is very thrown off when she gets there and finds Wesley, a groundskeeper who has been given joint-inheritance. Maybell and Wesley have very different ideas of what to do with the house, and find themselves butting heads with one another over everything. Mental health and anxiety were a huge part of this book, which I haven’t read much of in romance novels. It gave this book the perfect substance that it needed, making it the perfect blend of cute and serious.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

If you are looking for a high fantasy novel with a great enemies-to-lovers romance, this is the one for you! This book follows Alosa, who has purposely been captured by her enemies to find the map that will lead to the sea’s greatest treasure. The only one standing in her way? Riden, the first mate who has been tasked with making sure Alosa stays out of trouble. This is a classic instance of “do I want to kill you or kiss you?” and it was so well done! Riden was such a gem of a character, and probably one of my favorite love interests ever. I read this book in literally a day, so I would highly recommend picking this up!

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

This is a perfect blend of enemies-to-lovers and second chance romance! This book follows Rhiannon, who has just set up her own dating app meant to protect girls from predatory men. Rhiannon has even used her own app to meet Samson, a pro football player who she fell for, hard. That is, until he ghosted her with no warning. Rhiannon has tried to forget about Samson, but that proves to be difficult after he partners up with Rhiannon’s rival dating app. Alisha Rai is an author who always writes romance novels with such diverse characters. I’ve read all three books in the “Modern Love” series, and this has definitely been my favorite!

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

This is a great enemies-to-lovers/ opposites attract romance! This book follows Emily, who has just relocated to a small town that is known only for the giant renaissance faire they hold each year. Emily is reluctant to join the faire, but decides to participate after her niece needs a chaperone. Emily has a bunch of great ideas, but each one is squashed by Simon, who is determined to keep the faire the exact same year after year. Emily feels like Simon is constantly belittling her, but once they are in character, their chemistry is undeniable. This was such a dreamy romance and I thought the setting at a renaissance faire was such a cool idea!

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

This book follows Pepper, whose family owns a massive chain restaurant, Big League Burger, whose popularity is growing all over the country. Meanwhile, Jack is fed up because Pepper’s restaurant has stolen a grilled cheese recipe that has been in his family for ages. After Jack tweets about Big League Burger stealing their recipe, Pepper responds, using Big League Burger’s account, and the interaction goes viral. Now, Jack and Pepper are in an intense Twitter battle, and neither one of them are going to give up. This was such a cute, fluffy, cheesy romance that I flew through. It will definitely put a smile on your face!

Let me know your favorite enemies-to-lovers books in the comments below!

Book Review: Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 302
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.

Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.

After reading and loving Sarah Hogle’s debut novel, You Deserve Each Other, I knew I had to pick up her newest book. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

In case you didn’t read the synopsis, this book follows Maybell, who has been working at the same hotel for years as a housekeeper. Maybell wants to be an event coordinator, but her ideas are constantly rejected by her boss, who seems determined to not let Maybell get ahead. After being told her Great-Aunt Violet has passed away and Maybell has inherited her Smoky Mountain estate, she quits her job on the spot and decides to use Violet’s inheritance to jumpstart her dreams. However, this proves to be difficult when Maybell realizes that she has joint-inheritance with Wesley, Violet’s groundskeeper and caretaker. Wesley has a very different version of the future of the estate, and his grumpy attitude just makes everything worst.

Sarah Hogle is the queen of writing quirky female characters. Most of the time when characters are quirky, I find them annoying. But somehow, she just makes them come off as charming. I won’t lie, I had my moments where I was a bit annoyed with Maybell, but by the end I absolutely loved her and her big personality. Maybell is a dreamer, and is always finding herself stuck in daydreams. Initially, this really threw me off, but as the book progressed I found them to be funny. Her personality is the complete opposite of Wesley’s, who is laid back and quiet. The characters don’t seem like they should work together, but the opposites attract trope was done beautifully here. It was so much fun to watch Maybell slowly piece together who Wesley was, and realize he is actually perfect for her. Wesley was so sweet, and the way he treated Maybell gave me literal butterflies.

As for the not-so-likable characters, we have Gemma, who takes the cake for my least favorite character in a romance ever. Gemma was so unlikable and selfish that I found it to be a bit unbelievable at times, but she served as a central point to the plot so I understood why the author wrote her that way. I am happy that Maybell got her closure with her, and thought that scene was very well done.

As for the romance itself, this was definitely a slow burn. I found the first half of the book to be quite slow, and was honestly setting myself up to be disappointed. But friends, the wait was definitely worth it. The enemies to friends did not feel forced at all, as Maybell slowly began to get Wesley to open up to her, and how she in turn opened up to him. This built a solid foundation for the romance to happen. Along with that, Sarah Hogle used this foundation to talk about the stigma of men losing their virginity at a young age, which was a subject I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a romance book before. I thought this was a really nice touch, and I liked how she normalized the anxiety that can come with sex.

While the romance was so cute, the real star of this book was the conversations surrounding mental health, particularly in men. Maybell experiences panic attacks for the first time in the course of this story, and the author describes how these episodes are different for everyone. Some people may show physical symptoms, while others may hide behind a façade of calmness. Wesley shares a lot about his mental health with Maybell, and we get to see how it directly affects their relationship. This makes up a big plot of the book, as the couple tries to navigate how they can best help one another when anxiety arises. Reading about a male main character with anxiety was so refreshing, because there is such a stigma that men are not allowed to seek help with their mental health.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book, even if I did like You Deserve Each Other better (which, is not a surprise because I LOVE that book.) It was the perfect blend of cute romance with great banter, but also commentary on mental health.

For a full list of my book reviews, click here!

What did you think of this book? Let me know in the comments below!

Reading Recommendation: Books to Bring on Vacation

Hello, bookish friends!

I recently just got back from a trip to the beach, and got some amazing books read! So, today I have compiled a list of some books that I think would be great to read on vacation, whether it’s to the beach, the city, the mountains… anywhere!

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

This was one of the books I read on my vacation, and it was obviously perfect! This is a friends-to-lovers opposites attract romance following Alex and Poppy, who have been best friends since college. Each year, they plan an elaborate “summer trip,” where they try to travel to a new place in the cheapest way possible. However, two years ago Alex and Poppy had a falling out, and the summer trip hasn’t happened since then, but Poppy is determined to make it happen this year. This was the cutest romance I’ve ever read. It gave me literal butterflies because the characters were so much fun and just meant to be together!

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

I have gushed about this book quite a bit on my blog, but that is because it is just so much fun! This is an enemies-to-lovers romance, following Olive and Ethan. After being the only two people to not become sick at a wedding, Ethan and Olive have the opportunity to take the non-refundable honeymoon to Hawaii. However, they have to pretend like they have just gotten married, and therefore madly in love. This was such a cute romance and I’ve actually read it twice already! This is a perfect book if you are looking for a relaxing beach or pool read.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This is the newest release by Taylor Jenkins Reid, the author of Daisy Jones & the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This book follows the four Riva siblings in Malibu, who are all known for surfing. Every year, the oldest sister, Nina, throws a legendary party. But this year, it leaves Nina’s mansion in flames. I read a lot of reviews that said they were disappointed by this book, but I really loved it, even if not as much as some of TJR’s other books. I loved the family dynamics, I love the way TJR writes characters, and I loved the historical fiction and Malibu setting. This is a perfect summer read that you can take anywhere!

Cool For The Summer by Dahlia Adler

This is a perfect book to bring on vacation, because it is super short, super quick, and super cute! This follows Lara, who has been crushing on the school football star since… forever. Now, he is finally noticing her, which is everything Lara has ever wanted! Except, Lara met Jasmine over summer break, and can’t get her out of her head. Even worst, Jasmine has transferred to Lara’s school with no warning whatsoever. Now, Lara has to decide if she wants to be with the guy who she’s always loved, or the girl she can’t stop thinking about. I read this book in literally two days because it is such a short read, but a really important one too. Getting to watch Lara’s journey was really great and dealt with some issues I know a lot of high schoolers deal with.

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

I… love this book so much! This follows Evie, who has just watched her parents marriage crumble. After she finds out, she decides the true love doesn’t exist. That is, until Evie begins seeing visions of how a couple’s relationship begins and ends. In her journey to discover how this power came to be, Evie ends up a a family-owned dance studio, where she discovers she has a knack for dancing. And with that, she meets X, her charming dance partner. I loved reading about Evie. While this was a super cute book, it also had moments that will definitely pull at your heart strings, and an ending I did not see coming. This is a perfect book to bring on vacation if you want something with a little more substance, but will still make you smile.

Let me know what your favorite vacation reads are in the comments below!

Mid-Year Reading Stats

Hello bookish friends!

A few weeks ago I participated in the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag (which you can find here) where I talked about some of my favorite and least favorite books of the year so far. Today, I’m going to zoom out a bit and focus on the stats of my year so far!

I use a Google Sheets template designed by Brock Roberts. It has been so useful to me in both 2020 and 2021!

Total Books Read

My GoodReads goal this year was to read 100 books, which I was pretty certain I would surpass early. As of now, I have read 85 books, so hopefully I will complete 100 in July! I don’t think I will increase my goal, just because I don’t want to be stressed, especially when fall semester starts up.

Genre

I feel like genre wise, my year has been pretty standard. Fantasy (29 books) and contemporary (26 books) definitely make up most of my reading, so this didn’t come as too much of a surprise. However, I definitely have read more historical fiction (10 books) than I thought!

Format

Last year my reading was split about 50% audiobooks and 50% physical books. I think my audio reading is definitely down because I’ve been listening to a lot more music lately rather than books. I am actually surprised at how many e-books I’ve read. Most of those are ARCs or graphic novels I obtained from the library.

Length

This isn’t a huge surprise to me, because I am pretty terrified of big books. I also read a lot of YA books, which I think tend to be shorter. My biggest book this year was definitely Winter by Marissa Meyer, which was over 800 pages. I don’t think I’ll read a bigger book than that in the second half of the year.

Years Published

While last year I really tried to focus on reading new releases, this year I’m really trying to focus on books that have been on my shelves for years, which have mostly been released in 2019 or 2020! I am also very surprised at the lack of classics on this list. I thought I read more than I actually did!

Book Acquisitions

Like I said, I am trying to focus on books on my shelf, so those are mostly purchased (22) or gifts (7). All my audiobooks and e-books come from the library, so this chart looks about how I expected it to!

Star Rating

Last year I had so many 2-3 star reads, so this year I really wanted to focus on reading books that I genuinely thought I would like, and not reading something just because everyone else was. That definitely shows in this chart, because a majority of my books are above a 3.5! I also have a bunch of 4.5 and 5 star reads, which I love. (And no 1 stars!)

Age Group

This is pretty much identical to last years chart, but I am a bit surprised because I feel like I have been reading more adult books lately! Perhaps in the second half of the year it will show more.

Location

This is a chart I find especially interesting! The way I do this is I mark either where the book takes place, or if there is no evident location, where the author is from. Obviously, a majority of the books I read take place in the U.S. or are by U.S. authors, because that is where I’m from. In the second half of the year I am hoping to read more Asian literature, because the lack of Asia on this map is significant.

Diversity

This year one of my goals was to have 50% of my reads be own voices. Right now, about 60% of the books I’ve read have been, so I am pleased that I am surpassing my original goal!

Series vs. Standalone

My weakness is picking up series, reading the first book, and never touching the rest of the series ever again. I think one of my 2022 goals is going to be to only pick up the first book in a series if I think I will continue it, because this year alone I have started 15 new series, and I still have some from last year I want to continue with as well.

So, those are my stats for this year so far! I am excited to come back to this post in January and see how (or if) things have changed.

Book Review: I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Publication Year: 2019
Page Count: 272
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coastβ€”two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

Filled with roadside hijinks, heart-stirring romance, and a few broken rules, Kristina Forest’s I Wanna Be Where You Are is a YA debut perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.

There was so much to like about this book! Even though I did prefer Kristina Forest’s sophomore novel over her debut, there was no doubt that this was a heart warming read, and one that I devoured in just a few days.

To give a brief synopsis, this follows Chloe, who has always had a passion for ballet. After her dream school is holding auditions, Chloe knows she has to go, even though her mom has strictly forbidden it. So, Chloe devises a plan to audition while her mom is out of town, even if it means driving two hundred miles. However, after the annoying neighbor Eli catches wind of Chloe’s plan, he blackmails her into taking him with her so he can visit his dad while Chloe is auditioning. And of course, nothing goes as plan, leaving Eli and Chloe on a wild road-trip adventure.

To start with the characters, I did really enjoy reading about Chloe! While I did find her a little bit passive and forgettable, I did really like the passion that she had for dance. Chloe lives for ballet, and you can tell the author had a similar experience at one time. I also liked that Chloe was a Black ballerina, because the author was able to go into detail about why some casting agencies don’t cast Black ballerinas, and how ballet in general caters to white dancers. These were very important conversations to have, and really emphasized the diversity that we need to see in the arts. However, besides ballet, I can’t really tell you much about Chloe. I didn’t find her annoying, but I also wish the author would have given her a few more character quirks that would have helped her better stand out.

As for Eli, I kind of felt the same way about him. Eli was a closed book for most of the novel, so I had a hard time trying to get a feel for his character. However, I definitely think it was cool that we got to know more and more about Eli as Chloe did, but I just found him to be a bit… annoying. He just acted a bit immature at times and I knew if I was on a road trip with him I would not have been able to handle him. Maybe that’s what the author was going for, but it just really tainted the relationship for me. This is also directed at a younger audience than myself, so perhaps that had something to do with it as well.

Because I didn’t love Eli, I didn’t really connect with the romance in this book. This is definitely an enemies-to-lovers story, and I did see the foundation for the hatred between Chloe and Eli. While they grew up as best friends, there was an incident that split them apart, and the two hadn’t talked to each other for many years. I felt like this aspect was believable, and understood why Chloe disliked Eli so much, besides him being annoying on the road trip. I also felt like the shift to lovers was gradual, as the two spent more time together. It felt believable and didn’t feel forced.

The other part of this book I didn’t adore was the plot. I have read some amazing books that follow dance this year, so I was a bit disappointed this one didn’t hold up as well. I loved the parts of the novel that surrounded dance, but it only took up a small portion. The rest was just… a bit boring. And this could once again be because I am not the books intended audience, but I just wasn’t feeling the plot. I found myself wanting to focus on the dancing aspect of the book, and not the road trip itself.

Even so, this was a very quick read, so I do not in any way regret picking this up! I think it really does come down to the fact that I think I am (unfortunately) growing out of YA contemporary. I think I would have loved this in high school, but as a 21 year old I just wasn’t vibing with it as much.

What did you think about this book? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

Publisher: Penguin Teen
Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 304
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. They have insatiable appetites yet never gain weight. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful, and inexplicably dangerous.

But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time–something her two famously glamourous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her though. As they brush against the supernatural they realize that the story they’ve been told about their past is unraveling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.

I was initially drawn to this book for 2 reasons. First off, that cover. It perfectly encapsulates the aesthetic of this book. It is beautiful yet creepy at the same time. The second reason being that the author said she was inspired by the movie Midsommar, which is a horror movie I have a weird fascination with. The vibes were definitely similar to Midsommar, and there was a plot point that reminded me of the film as well. I think if you liked that movie, you will also like this book!

If you haven’t read the synopsis, this follows Iris Hollow, who had famously disappeared with her two older sisters as a child. When they were returned to their parents one month later, strange things began to happen to them. Their baby teeth grew back in, their hair turned white, and they had an insatiable appetite. Now, Iris’s older sister Grey has disappeared once again, potentially by the same person who took them as children.

As a character, I did really enjoy Iris. She is kind and passionate, unlike her sisters who use their beauty to get whatever they want in the world. Iris would do anything for her older sisters, because the three of them have an indescribable bond. They are able to sense one another’s presence, if one of them gets hurt, or if one of them is in danger. Reading about the sisters was definitely a highlight of the book for me. The author did a great job at describing them as a singular unit, yet also giving them three distinct personalities. While Iris is sweet and sensitive, Vivi, the middle sister, is a badass rockstar. She puts on a hard exterior, but would really do anything for her sisters. Meanwhile, Grey is a supermodel and designer known for her other-worldly designs. She has the world at her fingertips, using her beauty to get whatever she wants. The three sisters lived such different lives, yet never failed to come back together when they needed each other the most.

Another highlight of this book for me was the writing. Krystal Sutherland used a lot of sensory details, and it really created a magical aesthetic to the book. She was constantly describing smells, sights, and the atmospheres of the places the characters visited. It created a truly atmospheric read, one that was magical yet disturbing at the same time. I did find that some phrases seemed to be overused (for example: ‘the smell of death’ or ‘rot and decay’), which was a bit noticeable in such a small book. Even so, the writing was overall beautiful.

I can’t go into the plot much without giving anything away, but I will say that you should be ready for a wild ride! There are so much more to the sisters than one could ever imagine. The ending was absolutely insane, as the author slowly begins to reveal answers to all the questions the reader is asking throughout the entire novel. There were also some plot points and details that will definitely give you the heebie-jeebies, but in the best way possible. I truly didn’t guess anything that would happen, and everything came as such a surprise to me.

The one critique I had with this book was the weird romance the author threw in. Initially, I found it very refreshing that there was no romance in this book, because that’s not something you see a lot in YA. But towards the very end, there was this really weird, out-of-character moment between two characters that really just didn’t make any sense. It literally came out of left field and left me so confused, because neither character had shown any interest in each other until the moment they kissed. I wish the author wouldn’t have forced the romance, and let Iris focus on her sisters rather than a love interest.

All in all, you should read this book if:

  • You want a short book you can devour in a day
  • Like dark and unsettling stories
  • Books with little romance
  • Atmospheric, spooky reads
  • Books with sisters

What did you think of House of Hollow? Let me know what you think in the comments below!