Book Review: I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

“I want you to remember that you are boundless.”

Sarah Kuhn, I Love You So Mochi

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Year: 2019
Page Count: 308
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement.

She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother disapproves, and when they get into an explosive fight, Kimi’s entire future seems on the verge of falling apart. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

When she arrives in Japan, she’s met with a culture both familiar and completely foreign to her. She loses herself in the city’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival — and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And what begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.

In I Love You So Mochi, author Sarah Kuhn has penned a delightfully sweet and irrepressibly funny novel that will make you squee at the cute, cringe at the awkward, and show that sometimes you have to lose yourself in something you love to find your Ultimate self.

This was such an adorable little contemporary, and I am happy that I got the chance to read it!

This book follows Kimi, who has always been obsessed with clothing. She loves making and designing her own clothes, much to her Japanese mother’s dismay. After Kimi has an intense fight with her mom, she decides to visit her parents in Japan over spring break in order to try to discover what her passion is. There, she meets Akira, a cute Japanese boy with dreams of being a doctor. Together, they decide they will spend spring break finding what Kimi is meant to do with her life.

What I Liked

I absolutely loved the Japanese setting in this book. I have never been to Japan, so being in this book almost felt like it transported me. The author did a great job at describing the scenery, the hustle and bustle, the tourist spots, and the food! I felt like I was right there with Kimi, experiencing new culture.

I think my favorite part of this book was the familial relationships Kimi built throughout the story. When Kimi first gets to Japan, her grandmother seems a bit stand-offish, and she accredits it to having not met her before. Kimi’s mom was cut off from her grandparents after she got married, and so tensions have always been very high within the family. Seeing Kimi navigate this relationship with her grandparents was very heart warming, and it was so much fun to see their relationship evolve. I also really liked Kimi’s relationship with her mother. As I mentioned before, Kimi initially traveled to Japan to get away from her mother after a fight. Even so, she does not reject her mom entirely and still continues to reach out. I loved reading the e-mails that Kimi sent to her mom. I think they not only developed Kimi as a character, but also did a great job at showing the complex dynamic she has with her mom.

Along with that, I just really liked Kimi as a character in general. She was fun, spunky, and just down to Earth! I really liked the fact that she was passionate about clothing. I love it when characters have very specific hobbies, because I think it is a great way to characterize. When I look back in the future, I think Kimi’s love for fashion is what I will remember most about this book.

What I Disliked

I wish I could write all positive things, but there was one really big drawback to this book for me, and that was the romance. While I liked Akira as a character, the romance was just too fast for me. Kimi is in Japan over spring break, so she is there for maybe a week? It just felt like a classic case of insta-like to me, and eventually insta-love. Along with that, I just felt like the romance was a bit unmemorable. While there were some cute moments, it just kind of felt like every other YA romance to me.

Along with that, while Akira was very sweet, he just felt unrealistic. I know that he is a smart, older guy who is applying to med school, but some of the things he said would just have never come out of the mouth of a teenage boy. It definitely reminded me that Akira was in fact just a character, and not a real person. I think that was another reason why I had a hard time with the romance.

You Should Read This Book If:
  • You like travel books
  • You enjoy complex family relationships
  • You like fun, quirky main characters
  • You are interested in Japanese culture

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

Book Review: There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Year: 2019
Page Count: 378 pages
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.

Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?

Somebody tell me why I let this book sit on my shelves for over a year when this was one of the cutest contemporaries I have ever read? I loved this book so much, and cannot wait to gush about it for this entire review.

If you didn’t read the synopsis, this book essentially follows Sweetie and Ashish. Ashish has just gotten his heart broken, and decides he needs to get back on his feet. Out of desperation, he asks his parents to find him an Indian-American girlfriend. His parents agree to help set him up with Sweetie, a rising track star. While Sweetie spends most of her time running, her parents tend to overlook her achievements because she is fat. After Sweetie gets wind that Ashish is looking for a girlfriend, Sweetie agrees to date him to prove to herself and to her parents that she is worthy of love, even though she is fat.

There was so much to like in this book that I don’t even know where to begin! I absolutely loved both Sweetie and Ashish. This book is told in dual perspective, so we get both of their point of views on everything that is happening. Ashish is trying to cope with being heartbroken by his first love, and I think that the author did a fantastic job at portraying his emotions. The heartbreak consumes Ashish in the beginning of the novel, and even though he is interested in Sweetie, he has a hard time putting his ex-girlfriend in the past. I felt like this was an accurate portrayal of a high school heartbreak, and I liked that he didn’t immediately forget his ex-girlfriend the minute he met Sweetie. It definitely made the story feel less insta-lovey. Along with that, Ashish was just a total sweetheart. I was rooting for him and Sweetie throughout the entire course of the novel, and just wanted him to be happy.

As much as I loved Ashish, Sweetie was just the real star of the story for me. Seeing a fat girl as the main character in a YA novel was so heartwarming. Growing up with very strict Indian parents, she is constantly reminded that she doesn’t have society’s ideal body by her parents questioning her food choices, or making her run around in the back yard before she can eat. The conversations she has with her parents about her weight felt very realistic, to the point where I felt like I’d had very similar ones before. However, even though Sweetie was fat, I loved that the author didn’t make that her entire personality. Like I said before, Sweetie loves running, and is very passionate about it. I loved the fact that Sweetie was a runner, because Menon shows the reader that being fat is not equivalent to being lazy. Sweetie is a hard worker, and just unapologetically herself. It was so amazing to watch her grow through her insecurities and develop into who she was meant to be. However, this was a very realistic journey. Although Sweetie knows that she shouldn’t be ashamed of her body, there are moments of frustration and doubt. However, this brings about such a powerful message about body positivity and just loving ourselves.

Just like in the author’s other books, she also incorporates really cool Desi culture into this novel as well. Ashish and Sweetie visit places important to their culture, such as a Hindu temple, a color festival, and a visit to Ashish’s great aunt’s house. She also uses the story to show Indian family traditions, traditional Indian clothing, culture, etc. Along with that, she shows the conflict of Sweetie trying to please her traditional parents, but also trying to find a place in America. While she certainly identifies as an Indian girl, she also cannot ignore the fact that she is American, and has some American ideals as well. It was really eye opening to see this conflict, and is one that I have seen in Menon’s other books as well. Menon is an own voices writer, and it is evident that she draws from her own experiences. (However, I do want to mention I am not an own voices reviewer, so I am unsure if this is an accurate portrayal of an Indian-American experience!).

To sum up, read this book! Although it is a bit cheesy at times, there is so much to like and it has quickly made its way to my top books of the year list. This is definitely my favorite Sandhya Menon book to date, and will be a hard one for her to beat.

I would recommend this book if you are looking for:

  • diverse YA contemporary
  • fat main characters
  • wholesome friendships
  • complex family dynamics
  • high school romance

What did you think about the book? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The first woman president has to happen in my lifetime, or I’m going to light this entire planet on fire.

Maurene Goo, The Way You Make Me Feel

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Year: 2018
Page Count: 336
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

This book has been on my TBR forever, so I’m very happy I finally got around to reading it! While it wasn’t a new all-time favorite of mine, I still had a lot of fun with it!

The GoodReads synopsis doesn’t give much information, but essentially this follows Clara, who has never been afraid to speak the truth (AKA she’s a bitch). After nearly setting her high school on fire, her dad punishes her by making her work in his food truck over the summer with her nemesis, Rose.

Clara was a character that took quite a bit of time to warm up to. She was absolutely insufferable for the first 30% or so of the book. She was horrible to essentially every person she talks to, including her dad. I really didn’t think I was going to like the book very much because she was just a lot to handle. Obviously though, there was some serious character development by the end of the novel, and while Clara isn’t a new favorite character of mine, I was able to stand her enough to finish the book. I just felt like the author was trying to emphasize the fact that she is different from other girls, and made her a little too over the top and unrealistic in doing so.

While the romance wasn’t really my cup of tea (it felt a bit forced and I think Hamlet’s presence would have been even better as just a friend), this book did have great relationships in other places. Clara’s relationship with her father was very beautiful, and even made me emotional at times. While Clara had always taken her single father for granted, by the end she realizes how much he really does for her, and how he will always be there for her. I feel like we see a lot of single mother arcs in books, so reading a single father arc was a bit different. Clara’s mother is absent, and I think the author did a great job at portraying realistic feelings towards an absent parent. While Clara obviously loves her mother, she feels like she must beg for her attention.

The other relationship I enjoyed reading about was Clara and Rose. I felt like the shift from enemies to friends was gradual and believable. A lot of this book focused on their friendship, which was a lot of fun! Rose totally changes Clara’s perspective on life, and it really shows how important it is to have good friends you can rely on.

Another part of this story that I loved was the setting. This book takes place in L.A., and you can tell that the city is near and dear to the author’s heart. Somebody described this book as being a “love letter to Los Angeles,” and I couldn’t agree more. While I’ve never been, the story definitely transported me there, and showed there is so much more to the city than the tourist destinations. But this city is home to Clara and her father, and has been there for them when her mother hasn’t.

I feel like where the book was a lacking a bit was the plot. This is a very short novel (it took me 5 hours to read), but I just didn’t care that much about what was happening. I was much more invested in the relationships and the character development than the story itself. Clara and Rose are working on a food truck together, and then decide to enter it into the L.A. food truck contest. While I did like the food truck setting, the stakes of the contest just didn’t feel super high to me. I felt like it seemed a bit rushed and the author could have added more tension. Because of this, I just feel like the novel might be a bit forgettable.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you:

  • Enjoy character driven stories
  • Like food truck stories
  • Like strong friendships in books
  • Enjoy reading about single/absent parents
  • Are looking for a book that takes place in L.A.

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

E-ARC Review: The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

Sometimes you gotta burn your fingers to enjoy the s’more.

Graci Kim, The Last Fallen Star

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Page Count: 336
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Riley Oh can’t wait to see her sister get initiated into the Gom clan, a powerful lineage of Korean healing witches their family has belonged to for generations. Her sister, Hattie, will earn her Gi bracelet and finally be able to cast spells without adult supervision. Although Riley is desperate to follow in her sister’s footsteps when she herself turns thirteen, she’s a saram–a person without magic. Riley was adopted, and despite having memorized every healing spell she’s ever heard, she often feels like the odd one out in her family and the gifted community.

Then Hattie gets an idea: what if the two of them could cast a spell that would allow Riley to share Hattie’s magic? Their sleuthing reveals a promising incantation in the family’s old spell book, and the sisters decide to perform it at Hattie’s initiation ceremony. If it works, no one will ever treat Riley as an outsider again. It’s a perfect plan!

Until it isn’t. When the sisters attempt to violate the laws of the Godrealm, Hattie’s life ends up hanging in the balance, and to save her Riley has to fulfill an impossible task: find the last fallen star. But what even is the star, and how can she find it?

As Riley embarks on her search, she finds herself meeting fantastic creatures and collaborating with her worst enemies. And when she uncovers secrets that challenge everything she has been taught to believe, Riley must decide what it means to be a witch, what it means to be family, and what it really means to belong.

*Note: This post does include affiliate links. I may receive a small commission for any purchases made using the links.

First and foremost, I would like to thank Disney Publishing for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! This does not in any way impact my rating of the book.

There was just so much to love in this story. There were great family dynamics, great friendships, fascinating mythology, and a plot twist I did not see coming at all!

This book follows Riley Oh, who was adopted as an infant into a family of witches. Riley longs to fit in with the rest of her family, and her sister, Hattie, agrees to help her out. After finding a spell that would give Riley magic, the sisters attempt to perform it. However, as a newer witch, the spell overworks Hattie, leading to her death. The only way that Hattie can be saved is if Riley finds “the last fallen star,” an ancient artifact that contains magic.

To start off with what I loved, there was so much Korean mythology in this. I was familiar with some of the terms since I read Wicked Fox by Kat Cho, but a lot of it was new to me as well. Even though it could definitely be overwhelming at times, there is a glossary in the back to help the reader out if needed. The mythology really transported the reader into this magical world the author had created, even if I wish there would have been a bit more world building incorporated.

I think what really shined during this book were the characters. There was not a single character that I disliked or found annoying. Riley, the main protagonist, was a joy to read about. As a 12 year old girl, Riley just wants to fit in with her family of witches. I felt like she read quite realistically for a mature 12 year old, but still didn’t read too young to the point that it was annoying. Along with that, I loved her relationship with Hattie. The sister dynamic in this book was so heart-warming. It definitely gave me Anna/Elsa vibes.

The other relationship I loved was Riley’s relationship with Emmett. It is strictly platonic in this book, although I could maybe see it budding into a romance in the future ones. Emmett is grieving his mother in this novel, and I think his feelings of grief felt very realistic and valid. Even though she died many years ago, he is still processing going through his teenage years without a mom, and the anger he feels with that.

While there was a lot to enjoy in this book, I did feel like the pacing was a bit off. This book relies a lot on the “quest” trope, which really isn’t my favorite. A lot of the book felt like Riley and Emmett were going on senseless missions, and I struggled to see how one thing led to the next. While this was a really cool way to introduce a lot of mythology and mythical creatures, it did leave me a bit bored at times. Even though this is a fairly short book, it did take me quite a bit of time to get through because I struggled just sitting down and reading large chunks at a time. By the last 25% or so, the pacing did improve, making for a fabulous ending.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you like:

  • Books about sisters
  • Detailed, in-depth mythology
  • The quest trope
  • Slow burn fantasies
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

The Last Fallen Star is out now, so be sure to pick up your copy by clicking here!

Book Review: Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce

Publication Year: 2021
Publisher: HarperTeen
Page Count: 336
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

After a horrifying public rejection by her crush, Ellie Nichols does what any girl would do: she flees the country. To be more precise, she joins her high school’s study abroad trip to England. While most of her classmates are there to take honors courses and pad their college applications, Ellie is on a quest to rebuild her reputation and self-confidence. And nothing is more of a confidence booster than getting a hot British boyfriend.

When Ellie meets Will, a gorgeous and charming Brit, she vows to avoid making the same mistakes as she did with the last guy she liked. Which is why she strikes up a bargain with Dev, an overachieving classmate who she’s never clicked with, but who does seem to know a lot about the things Will is interested in—if he helps her win over her crush, then she’ll help him win over his.

But even as Ellie embarks on a whirlwind romance, one that takes her on adventures to some of England’s most beautiful places, she still needs to figure out if this is actually the answer to all her problems…and whether the perfect boyfriend is actually the perfect boy for her.

I must say, this book definitely started out strong! The opening scene was very funny, and I was fully expecting to love it afterwards. However, the charm only lasted for a few chapters, and I very quickly grew to tire of the book.

Like the synopsis says, this follows Ellie, who participates in her high school’s study abroad program to England. After a mortifying, public rejection from her crush, she decides to bounce back and sets out to find a hot British boyfriend. Thus, enters Will, who is everything that Ellie dreams of. He is charming, hot, and definitely British. However, after lying to impress her new boyfriend, Ellie finds that she can’t really be herself around him, the way she can be in front of her new friends.

The biggest let-down in the book for me was Ellie herself. I have no words to describe her, rather than she was just annoying. The entire book, she was only capable of thinking and talking about boys. If she wasn’t thinking about Andrew, she was thinking about Will. If she wasn’t thinking about Will, she was thinking about Dev. If there was a scene where Will wasn’t present, she spent the entire time thinking about Will. Liking boys was Ellie’s entire personality trait. The only other ounce of character we see from her is when she is gardening. Ellie has a quirky hobby of building “fairy gardens,” and like to build fairy villages using plants and other knick-knacks. This was interesting, as it is a hobby I haven’t read about before. However, it definitely fell to the back-burner because when this hobby was mentioned, it was almost always followed with thinking about what Will or Dev would think about it.

Another reason this book wasn’t my favorite is because Will deserved better! I felt like the author was trying to make him out to be a not-so-great guy, but he really was! I don’t want to spoil anything, but there were many times when Ellie treated him horribly, and he always forgave her almost instantly. His only character flaw was that he was often busy working, and it cut into their time sometimes. Even when that happened, he always apologized and tried to make it up to Ellie as best he could. Ellie honestly didn’t deserve him, and it was painful seeing the way she treated him.

Also, one of my biggest pet-peeves is when authors use fandoms to characterize their characters. It feels like such a cop-out to me. And there is one character in this book who essentially all we know is that he likes Harry Potter. Characters like that just annoy me to no end.

While this wasn’t my favorite book, I must say that I loved the way the author described Europe. While the descriptions of England did fall a bit flat, the descriptions of Venice were amazing. Her writing definitely transported me there, and made me want to visit Venice so bad!

It is also worth mentioning I am not the target audience for this book. I am 21, and I would say this definitely falls on the younger end of the YA spectrum (maybe 13-15 years old). If I would have read it during those ages, chances are I would have like it a lot more.

If you have read this book, let me know what you thought about it in the comments below!

Book Review: First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

“This was what happiness felt like. No, wait, even more specifically: this was what a family felt like.”

Alisha Rai, First Comes Like

Publisher: Avon
Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 432
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 stars

Blurb (From Goodreads):

Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.

There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.

The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…

When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?

This is the third (and final?) installment of the Modern Love series by Alisha Rai. While I really enjoyed The Right Swipe, I found Girl Gone Viral fell a bit flat for me. This one fell somewhere right in between!

This follows beauty influencer Jia, who has been making YouTube videos since she was a teenager. After Bollywood star Dev slides into her DMs, she falls for him hard, without actually meeting him. After going to a party to surprise her online beau, she is heartbroken to find out he doesn’t recognize her, and she had been cat-fished by a stranger using Dev’s account. However, the paparazzi photograph the entire ordeal, and soon dating rumors spark. In order to save face, Dev and Jia decide to begin fake dating to hide the fact she had been cat-fished.

There were lot’s of things that I liked about this book! First off, I loved the fact that Jia was a hijabi heroine. I believe this is the first romance novel I’ve read with a hijabi heroine. Alisha Rai’s books always have outstanding representation, and this book was no exception. Dev is also from India, and has moved to America to film a new TV show. There is some conversation about American’s perspective of India, and how so many Americans don’t even consider non-western countries as significant.

Another aspect of this book that I found very interesting was Jia’s desire to wait for having sex until marriage. This is something I have never read in a romance novel before, and I loved it. Dev was totally on board with waiting as well, and never pressure Jia into anything. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this book just approached sex in such a realistic way. There were mentions of using protection, how sex plays into Jia’s religion, and how it can be uncomfortable at first. This is probably what stuck out to me the most, because there are so many books where the story revolves around unrealistic sex. This book definitely revolves around Jia and Dev’s relationship, and how religion and culture plays into it.

I did think that Dev and Jia’s relationship was very cute, even if it was a bit unrealistic. They both moved very quickly, but the pace of their relationship did make sense because of the cultures Jia and Dev belonged to. Even so, the whole thing just felt a little bit too good to be true, making the stakes not extremely high.

Along with that, I also loved seeing Jia’s relationships with her sisters. Jia is the youngest of 5 sisters, and they were just so much fun to read about. Their banter back and fourth felt very realistic, and it was great seeing them ready to defend Jia and kick Dev’s ass if needed. If Alisha Rai does end up continuing this series, I would love to see a love story about Jia’s twin sister. Not only that, but Jia also has an amazing found family with her roommates, who are the heroines of the previous two books. It was a lot of fun to see where their relationships were heading.

While I wish I could say only positive things about this book, I did find it to be a bit boring. The synopsis pitches this as a fake dating story, but the fake dating only lasts a very short amount of time. In fact, it really doesn’t play into the story at all because the characters are essentially real dating by the time the second date rolls around. It also just felt like it took awhile for anything to actually happen. Most of the action took place in the last 25% of the book, and even then, it just felt a bit slow.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you are looking for:

  • Diverse characters
  • A hijabi heroine
  • A not-so-steamy romance
  • Marriage for convenience trope

But I would skip if you are looking for:

  • Fake dating
  • Fast paced and action packed romance

Let me know what you thought of this book in the comments below!

To read my review for The Right Swipe, click here.
To read my review for Girl Gone Viral, click here.

Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publication Year: 2017
Publisher: Katharine Tegen Books
Page Count: 390
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5 stars!!

Blurb (From GoodReads):

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary? 

This book has officially made Tiffany D. Jackson my new favorite author. And considering the fact this was her debut novel? Absolutely stunning!

Tiffany D. Jackson’s debut novel, Allegedly, follows Mary, a Black teenager who at age nine was “allegedly” accused of killing a white infant. After weeks of questioning and interviews, detectives could not get any information out of Mary, leaving the media to assume that she was guilty, and soon a jury followed suit. Now, Mary is 16 years old, and finds herself pregnant. Knowing she will never be allowed to keep her baby while she is convicted of murdering an infant, she ensues on a journey to prove her innocence. It is also worth noting this story is based on a real murder case that took place in Maine, where a 10 year old was charged with manslaughter after an infant she was babysitting died in her care.

This book will capture its reader from the very first page, using different mediums including interviews, articles, police reports, and book excerpts to tell this story. Tiffany D. Jackson jumps right into the action, by opening up with an “Excerpt from Babies Killing Babies: Profiles of Preteen and Teen Murderers.” Using this multi-media approach in this novel, the reader is able to see Mary’s cases from two perspectives: her own, and the media. The media portrays her as being “born bad, plain and simple,” with protestors claiming she “deserves to rot in jail for the rest of her life.” However, Mary opens up to the reader claiming her innocence. This gives the reader a well-rounded understanding of the case, and everything that Mary has been through in just a short 16 years. The reader longs to believe Mary’s story, because they grow to care about her throughout the course of the novel, even if the facts point otherwise.

While the media portrays Mary as a dangerous baby murderer, Tiffany D. Jackson does a fantastic job of developing her beyond this, showing the reader that Mary just longs to be a normal teenager. While passing a group of high schoolers playing basketball, she thinks about the fact that “There are no social workers hating them, roommates trying to kill them, or parole officers looking for any excuse to throw them back into baby jail. And they don’t have to worry about having a baby at sixteen.” This helps the reader see a deeper part of Mary that outsiders can’t see. Even though she has a tough exterior, she longs for normalcy, something she will never have because she has become infamous in her town. 

While Mary is a very complex character, her relationship with her mother is even more complicated. After Mary’s arrest, her mother puts up a facade of a perfect church-goer, trying to protect her image. Mary is aware of this, telling the reader that “”Momma is all about appearances.” Mary’s mother visits her every other Sunday, and everyone tells her that she should be thankful, since she doesn’t deserve parental love. Yet even so, something about the relationship just feels so off, and it becomes more and more evident as the novel goes on. Along with that, Tiffany D. Jackson uses Mary’s mother to show readers what affects mental health can have on people and their loved ones. Throughout the novel, Mary often mentions that her mother takes many “pills,” and that if she doesn’t she has “a day.” On these days, the author describes what are known to most as panic/anxiety attacks, which ultimately has a major effect on both Mary, her mother, and both of their futures.

Tiffany D. Jackson also uses this novel to explore race relations in America, and how Black Americans are treated much differently than white Americans in the media. While describing a protest demanding justice to the deceased newborn, passerbys state “ There would never be this type of outcry if the baby was black. Period. You’ve never seen white families storming the steps of city hall demanding justice for a little black baby. They’re pushing the death penalty and don’t even realize executing this little girl is no different than murdering that baby.” Tiffany D. Jackson is explaining to readers that the media often tends to criminalize Black Americans, while not giving Black victims the justice they deserve. This goes hand-in-hand with cases in the media today, such as the Breonna Taylor and George Floyd cases, where the white police officers are constantly being defended or excused despite the fact they have taken an innocent life. The author uses this book to take a character who the readers have learned to care about, and inserts this commentary in a way that everyone can understand.

To sum up, this book is perfect for readers who love fast paced mystery thrillers, fictional stories with political commentary, and well developed characters. Tiffany D. Jackson is a master at storytelling, fictionalizing this real case and adding to the stakes, creating a page turner of a novel. 

E-ARC Review: Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Year: 2021
Page Count: 320
Format: e-book
Rating: 4.5 stars

Blurb (From GoodReads):

Seventeen-year-old Mia, an American girl at an elite summer ballet program, has six weeks to achieve her dreams: to snag an audition with one of the world’s best ballet companies. But there’s more to Paris than ballet—especially when a charming French boy, Louis, wants to be her tour guide—and the pair discover the city has a few mysteries up its sleeve.

In the vein of romances like Love and Gelato, this is the perfect summer adventure for anyone looking to get swept away in the City of Love.

First and foremost, thank you to Delacorte Press for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! This has no impact on my rating of the book.

I won’t lie, I was a bit hesitant going into this book because YA contemporary has been really hit or miss for me lately. However, I am so happy that I was able to dive into this adorable travel romance, because it reminded me why I love YA contemporaries so much.

Like the synopsis says, this book follows Mia, an American studying at the most prestigious ballet school in Paris. At the end of her time at the school, she will be performing in Swan Lake, where agents will be in the audience, giving her the opportunity to audition at her dream schools. She knows ballet needs to be her only focus, but she can’t help but become swept away by Louis, who happens to be the son of her extremely strict instructor.

While I have heard mixed opinions, I felt Mia to be a very well-developed character. She devotes most of her time to ballet, but still finds ways to live life and explore Paris. Mia definitely places her self-worth in how well she performs, and I found that to be very relatable. Even though she knows she won’t let down her family or friends by messing up a step here or there, she knows she won’t be able to live with herself, which drives her to practice more and more. Her’s was a very fun perspective to read from, and the perfect story teller for this book. Another thing I appreciated about Mia is that she wasn’t going to let any man stand in the way of her dreams. Even though she has the opportunity to audition for Paris ballet schools, her heart is set on NYC, despite her boyfriend being in Paris. I liked that she wasn’t willing to drop everything just to be with him.

While I don’t think the love interest, Louis, was as well-developed, he was still so charming. He didn’t feel like a cut-out of other love interests in YA novels, because he did make mistakes and wasn’t a “too good to be true” guy. I also found their relationship to be a bit unpredictable, which I liked! Usually, I can predict the end of YA romances almost immediately, but this book kept me on my toes. There was a plot twist I sincerely didn’t see coming, which kept the book moving.

I also loved the ballet aspect of this book. I don’t know if the author is a ballet dancer herself, but if she isn’t, she certainly did her research. Even though I know nothing about ballet, she discussed it in a way that I felt like I understood, and could picture Mia and her friends dancing. I also liked that she emphasized how physical dancing is. I was in theatre growing up, and people don’t realize how much work goes into a show, because they make it look so easy. This book really shows the time and physical energy that goes into perfecting a performance. One description that really stuck out to me was when Mia was describing ballerina’s feet, and how most ballerina’s avoid wearing sandals because their feet are so beat-up from dancing. It really shows how hard people in the arts work.

There was also a mystery aspect to this book, which, in all honestly, I didn’t care about too much. However, it didn’t take up too much plot time and we got to meet some really fun characters (Mia’s aunts) through it. The author also used the mystery to take Mia all throughout Paris, which was so much fun. The author described Paris in such a vivid and magical way, that I felt like I could imagine that I was there too. This was a perfect travel novel to read during the pandemic, because Paris in itself almost felt like a character in the novel. Also, the way the author describes the Parisian croissants literally had my mouth watering.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you:

  • Like travel novels
  • Like driven characters
  • Like dancing

Kisses and Croissants is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Book Review: A Cuban Girls Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

Publication Year: 2020
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 320
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 stars

Blurb (From GoodReads):

For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.

Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.

A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.

I really thought I was going to love this book. I had heard such good things about it, it is a Reese Witherspoon YA Book Club pick (which I usually love), and it sounded like a fun travel novel! While there were some aspects I loved, unfortunately this book did fall a tad flat for me.

To start off with what I liked, I really liked the Cuban culture in this book! I haven’t really read many books including Cuban heritage, so I learned a lot in that aspect, especially in terms of Cuban food. I loved the fact that Lila was a chef. This was what a big portion of the book was about. The author so vividly described the Cuban food Lila was making, to the point I felt like I could almost taste it. It honestly made me want to look up Cuban recipes so I could try them myself!

Along with that, I really liked the exploration of grief in this novel. Lila is dealing with the loss of her Abuela, who was her best friend. I felt like Lila’s reactions and feelings were very realistic, and I liked that the author included it in the story. Lila’s Abuela was the one who taught her how to cook, which was also a very cool element because it made the cooking even more heartfelt.

I also want to mention that I thought it was so cool that this is a novel that takes place in England that doesn’t take place in London! I have never read a book that takes place in Winchester before, and it really made me want to visit the English country side and smaller cities! It definitely was a different feel from the other English novels I have read before.

I wish I could leave a review with all positive comments, because I definitely understand why this story is loved by so many people. It is cute and fun but also has some more serious themes throughout. However, I just did not mesh with Lila as a narrator. I don’t know if it was just me, but it annoyed me to no end that she spent nearly half the book complaining she was in England. Goodness, what I wouldn’t do to be in England right now! I am not sure if it annoyed me so much because I haven’t been able to travel, but it just immediately turned me off from the character. Lila has a really strong connection with her home city, Miami, and I don’t have that connection with my city so maybe that is why I could not emphasize. But I had a hard time caring about Lila because I was just so annoyed.

Along with that, I just did not care about her relationship with Orion at all. I must say, this author had some beautiful romantic scenes interspersed throughout the book. While they were swoony, I felt like they could be about any couple and it wouldn’t have made a difference. I think part of the reason I didn’t care so much is because the stakes just didn’t feel very high. Of course, this doesn’t make any sense because Lila lives in the States and Orion lives in England, so there were potential problems. However, I guessed how the story would end about 60% of the way through so it didn’t really leave many surprises for me.

I do believe that I am starting to outgrow YA contemporary, so that may be where my not-so-great feelings about this book come from. I think this book definitely read as younger, so it just didn’t make me feel as much in my 20s.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you like:

  • Learning about new cultures
  • Travel novels
  • Books exploring grief
  • Books that give similar vibes as Anna and the French Kiss

What were your opinions on this book? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Book Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Year: 2020
Page Count: 336
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3.5 stars

Blurb (From Goodreads):

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

After procrastinating picking this book up for months now, I am happy I can finally say that I have read it! One less book to read on my shelves 😉

If you read the synopsis, you’ll know this book follows Princess Soraya, who has poison running through her veins, and is therefore cursed to kill whomever she touches. However, one day her brother tells her of a captured div, who may be able to tell her the secrets of lifting her curse.

One of my biggest pet peeves in books is when the synopsis makes the reader believe the book is going to be about one thing, but is actually about something entirely different. That is how I felt with this book. The short summary I gave you takes place is probably the first 75-100 pages, and then takes a complete left turn.

For positives, I do have to say that this book was very action packed, making for a fairly quick read. There weren’t many moments where I found myself bored (although I felt the ending was a tad drawn out), so I finished this in about 3 or 4 days. I also loved the Persian folklore this book included. Persian culture is not something I am very familiar with, so this book was a breathe of fresh air in that aspect. I loved all the mythical creatures, and learning more about the magic in this world. You can tell the author was very well educated in that aspect, because it was very detailed. I would actually love to read another book set in this universe, because I just really liked the world building.

Along with that, I really liked the relationships Soraya had with her family members, particularly her sister-in-law Laleh. Laleh and Soraya were like sisters growing up, but drifted apart as she became older and more aware of her curse. This was a complex dynamic and I thought it felt realistic, because everyone knows the feeling of drifting away from their childhood best friend.

I wish I could say only good things about this book, but there were some things that fell flat for me, particularly Soraya as a main character. The synopsis says that Soraya is going through a huge internal struggle about whether she is a princess or a monster, but I felt like that was hardly present in the book. It is told in 3rd person, so I felt like we didn’t get a lot of internalization of Soraya, and it was hard to tell what she was feeling. We didn’t see much reasoning behind her decisions, and it felt like we were being told the story, rather than seeing it through Soraya’s perspective. Along with that, some of the decisions she made were just… very questionable. They felt a bit unrealistic and because of that I just couldn’t really connect with her as a character.

Along with that, while the plot started out really strong, about 70% of the way in I just started to feel a bit lost. I felt like the author was trying to do a lot in just 1 book, and think she either needed to expand it into a duology or cut it down for a standalone. I found myself wanting the story to return to the original plot of the girl with the poisonous touch, but that wasn’t the direction it took. I think this was the biggest downfall for me.

All in all, would I recommend this book? I would say yes, if you love:

  • standalone fantasies (little commitment!)
  • monster girlfriends
  • queer fantastical romances
  • mythology/folklore

But no, if you:

  • like character driven stories
  • are only reading this for the girl with the poisonous touch because it reminds you of Shatter Me

What did you all think of this book? I would love to chat in the comments below!