Book Review: Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

“Just because you’re telling a good story, doesn’t mean it’s the right story. And I think that it’s really important to tell the right story.”

Dahlia Adler, Cool for the Summer

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Year: 2021
Page count: 272
Format: Physical Book
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

Lara’s had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He’s tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he’s talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe…flirting, even? No, wait, he’s definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara’s wanted out of life.

Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.

Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she’s finally got the guy, why can’t she stop thinking about the girl?

I have heard really mixed things about this, so I had no idea what to anticipate going into this. While it wasn’t an all time favorite, it was a quick summer read that also had some serious notes in it.

Like the synopsis says, this follows Lara, who has a seemingly perfect life. She is popular at school, has a great group of friends, and the perfect boyfriend who also happens to be the star quarterback. Even so, Lara can’t get Jasmine out of her head, a girl who she spent the whole summer with. Now, Jasmine has transferred to Lara’s high school with no warning, and Lara can’t get her out of her head.

To start off with positives, I think this book really touched on some great topics. We have Lara, who has always assumed she was straight, until she met Jasmine. This book shows that the journey to discovering your sexuality is not the same for everyone. While Lara still doesn’t have a label for herself, some of her friends have known they have been bisexual since grade school. It shows the reader that no everyone’s journey is the same, and that’s okay.

Along with that, this book was just a lot of fun. Even though it does read like it’s written for a younger audience (which it is), it was still fun to read about high school parties and homecoming dances. It read really quickly, and I finished it in about 2 sittings.

That being said, there was quite a bit in this book that I didn’t like, starting with the characters. While Lara was the most developed character in the story (which makes sense, as she’s the protagonist), I still felt like I didn’t really know much about her. The author describes the summer as a time where Lara really discovered who she was without her high school friends, but I didn’t really understand who that was. I felt like her only character traits were loving reading and writing (which I feel like is a cop-out, because most people who read books also like reading and writing), and stuck in a love triangle. I feel like the reader was supposed to believe she went through this incredible transformation, but I just didn’t see it.

Along with that, I found both the love interests to be almost like stock characters, especially Chase. Chase is the star football player who all the girls are pining over. He is in the running for homecoming king, and has a bunch of college scholarships lined up. We have all read about this character before, so I didn’t find him to be super memorable. Along with that, Lara had been crushing on Chase for years, and his interest in her felt too sudden to be realistic. She had been trying to date him since middle school, and suddenly she chops her hair and he decides to make her his girlfriend.

While Jasmine was a bit more developed, I still felt like I knew nothing about her. She is the character that is untouchable- she always looks flawless, her style is immaculate, and everyone wants to be her. This is another character everyone has read about. I wish the author would have given her a bit more characterization, because I still felt like I knew nothing about her by the end.

Along with that, this book relied very heavily on the “miscommunication trope,” which is probably my most hated. This entire book could have been avoided by having one conversation at the beginning of the novel. It just made my reading experience frustrating.

I also read a review that mentioned they felt like the author was trying to fulfill a “minority checklist,” which I didn’t notice while reading, but looking back can recognize. You can read Cosette’s review here if you want to learn more about that.

I feel like that review was a bit mean, because I really didn’t hate this book. It was a fun YA romance, and I do think it would make for a super cute Netflix rom-com! I would definitely read from this author in the future.

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

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!

Books to Read this Summer!

Hot girl summer? We don’t know her. Instead, how about we catch up on our summer reading? I know I sure have to!

There are so many books I am hoping to get to this summer, while I have the mental capacity to before school starts again in the fall. My actual list consists of over 20 books, but here are a few I am very excited about!

I also want to mention that I began a page where I made a list of diverse reading recommendations. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out where to begin when it comes to diversifying your reading, and I wish I would have had a similar list when I began reading more! You can find it here.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

What are some books on your summer reading list? Let me know in the comments below!

YA Contemporary Book Recommendations

I read a lot of YA contemporary, especially considering the fact I am not its target audience. But it is just so much fun that I can’t help myself! That being said, sometimes I feel like it is hard to find great YA contemporaries. Some are too cheesy, some don’t have enough of a plot, and some are just too immature. So today, I will be writing about my favorite YA contemporaries!

I also want to mention that I began a page where I made a list of diverse reading recommendations. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out where to begin when it comes to diversifying your reading, and I wish I would have had a similar list when I began reading more! You can find it here.

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

This was a recent read for me, and one of the absolute cutest books I’ve ever read. This is the companion novel to When Dimple Met Rishi, although you don’t have to read them in order. This follows Sweetie, who has constantly been told by her parents that she is not good enough because she is fat. Meanwhile, Rishi has just gotten his heart broken and is trying to get back into the dating field. Both Rishi and Sweetie have something to prove, and so they team up and decide to begin dating, despite not really having feelings for one another. This was the cutest book ever, and had such great messages about fatphobia. There was also great Indian-American representation in this (as well as Menon’s other books!)

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee

This book follows Skye, a plus-sized, bisexual, Korean-American teenager. After auditioning for the singing and dancing portion of a K-Pop competition, Skye’s mom urges her to drop out of the dancing portion because girls her size should “not be dancers.” However, Skye continues to practice, working hard to fulfill her dream of becoming the next K-Pop star. I absolutely loved Skye as a character, and the representation in this book was also wonderful!

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

I love all of Tiffany D. Jackson’s books, but this one is by far my favorite! This follows Enchanted, a rising R&B star. After becoming noticed by the 26 year old uber-famous Korey Fields, he takes Enchanted under his wing, claiming he will help her become successful. Instead, Enchanted finds herself trapped under Korey’s influence. After a night gone wrong, Enchanted wakes up with a dead Korey Fields, and everyone claims she killed him, even though she has no memory of the night before. There are quite a few triggers in this book to be aware of, but it was so addicting and had me sobbing by the end. I would highly recommend this.

Clap WHen yOu Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Like Tiffany D. Jackson, I love all of Elizabeth Acevedo’s books, but this one is my personal favorite. This follows two sisters who don’t know about one another, one in NYC and one in The Dominican Republic. After their father dies in a tragic plane crash, they discover that their father has been living a double life. This is a book written in verse, but don’t be intimidated by that! Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing is so easy to devour and is actually what got me into poetry in the first place.

Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest

This was such a cute read, and one that has stuck with me long after reading it! This follows Evie Jones, a rising actress in LA. However, after a betrayal from her “best friend,” Evie gets blacklisted by all Hollywood producers. The only person who can save her career? Her grandmother, film legend Evelyn Conaway. After traveling to NYC to get her grandmother to help, Evie panics when she realizes she is missing, just days before a huge awards ceremony. I loved the familial relationships in this book, and the Hollywood/NYC aspect of this book was so fun! There is also a super adorable romance.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

This is a super interesting story, focusing on 3 siblings who have been adopted by different families at birth. Grace, decides she wants to find her birth mother after giving up her own child for adoption. Instead, she finds Maya, who has never felt like she fits in with her new family, and Joaquin, who has been in and out of the foster system his entire life. It was so amazing seeing these 3 siblings team up trying to find their birth mom, and how all three of them had such unique stories. This was such a quick read, but also a very important one that left me very emotional.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Tahereh Mafi is the author of the Shatter Me series, and I believe this is her first contemporary (she has another coming out soon!). This book takes place a year after 9/11, and follows Shirin, a 16 year old Muslim girl. This book essentially follows Shirin’s journey as she deals with Islamophobia. There was also a cute romance in this book!

Kisses and Croissants by Anne-SophiE Jouhanneau

The last book on this list was definitely one of the cutest books I’ve read this year! This follows Mia, who is an American studying at a prestigious ballet school in Paris over the summer. Mia doesn’t have time for distractions, and vows to dedicate all her time to ballet. But that becomes very difficult after meeting Louis, who happens to be the son of her dance instructor. I thought the romance was so cute, and really encapsulated first love so well. Even so, my favorite part of this book was the dancing element. I love ballet and it was so cool reading a book where it was centered! I also loved the descriptions of Paris, and really felt transported there.

Let me know what your favorite YA contemporaries are in the comments below!! I am always looking for new recommendations!

The Folklore Book Tag

The past few months, I have been completely obsessed with Taylor Swift. I have no idea where the obsession came from, but she is literally the only artist I have listened to since Christmas. I did the Lover Book Tag a few months ago, and decided to find a book tag dedicated to one of my favorite albums, Folklore. There are so many songs on Folklore so this will probably be a long post, so let’s get into it!

I found this tag over at Golden Books Girl, so be sure to check out her post here.

I also want to mention that I began a page where I made a list of diverse reading recommendations. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out where to begin when it comes to diversifying your reading, and I wish I would have had a similar list when I began reading more! You can find it here.

The Questions

The 1: A Book You Grew Out Of

While I loved Shatter Me the first time I read it, after continuing on with the series I have just come to realize that it is… forgettable. Even though I gave this 5/5 stars, I feel like Juliette is a really annoying character and the love triangle was poorly done. I have gotten to book 4 in the series, but probably won’t be continuing.

Cardigan: A Book You Keep Coming Back To

This is the first fantasy series that I have ever fallen in love with, and after re-reading book 1 last month, I am happy to say that it holds up as an all time favorite. It was so comforting to be back at The London Institute with my favorite characters.

The Last Great American Dynasty: A Book Where Everything Goes Wrong (in the Best Way)

This was a tough one, but I feel like so much went wrong in The Lunar Chronicles? Which made the ending even more satisfying and fun!

Exile: An Ending you Didn’t Like (Or a Ship that Sank)

Majesty was without a doubt the worst ending to a series I have ever read. I adored book 1 and gave it 5 stars, so giving its sequel 1 star was definitely shocking to me. I felt like the author bit off more than she could chew in the first book so just scrambled together an ending that was the easiest to pull off.

My Tears Ricochet: A Book That Broke Your Heart

This book didn’t necessarily break my heart, but it definitely had me sobbing by the end, which hardly ever happens to me while reading!

Mirrorball: A Book that Speaks to Your Soul

The book I am currently reading actually has been speaking to my soul. The main character in this book is plus-sized, and the author is using this to talk about fat-phobia in the society that we live in. There is so much to relate to here, and just makes me feel seen.

Seven: Characters You Want to Take Home and Protect

I know this is cheating since I already mentioned this book, but all the characters from TID. Will, Jem, and Tessa have my heart!! These characters are so well developed and I just love them.

August: Summer Love

While this isn’t my favorite book of all time, it fits this prompt perfectly! This is a food truck romance that takes place on Maui, so it is fun, flirty, and sunny! There is also a Filipino-American MC, so there’s some great representation as well.

This is Me Trying: Mental Illness Rep

I really need to get better at reading mental illness representation, but a few books I thought of were Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai (anxiety), Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (OCD), The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (depression), and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (depression).

Illicit Affairs: Forbidden Romance

This is an adult contemporary that follows a Nigerian woman who had sworn to marry a Nigerian man after moving to Canada. However, she finds herself falling for a while man, and has to choose between her heart and her family. I really enjoyed this read and its more realistic approach to the “forbidden romance” trope.

Invisible String: Soulmates

So, I read The Song of Achilles for the first time this year and it totally destroyed me. Patroclus and Achilles are the definition of soulmates and you cannot convince me otherwise.

Mad Woman: Vengeful Woman

Well, I’m currently about 70 pages into Fable and the titular character definitely seems quite vengeful!

Epiphany: A Loss You’re Not Over

Honestly, I can’t really think of anything for this prompt. I guess I have suddenly forgotten every character death I have ever read? The only one that comes to mind is Rue from The Hunger Games, which I haven’t read in years. However, if I remember right, it was still a tear jerker.

Betty: Love Triangle, F/F Romance

I can’t think of anything that covers both of these prompts, and I hate the love triangle trope. But a f/f romance I enjoyed was Soraya and The Div from Girl, Serpent, Thorn. If you like monster girlfriends, this is a great book for you!

Peace: Found Family

I honestly haven’t read so many books with the found family trope, which is unfortunate because it is one I really do enjoy. However, the first book that came to mind was The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. This book is the perfect serotonin boost, and features a large cast of characters who you learn to love by the end.

Hoax: A Character that Fooled You

Obviously I don’t want to spoil anything, but I think The Wicked King had one of the most shocking plot twists I have ever read. I remember literally throwing my book across the room because Cardan certainly did something that threw me for a loop.

And that concludes this tag! I’m not going to tag anyone in particular, but my fellow Swifties are more than welcomed to join (and tag me in your answers so I can see!).

Drop your favorite Folklore song in the chat! My favorites are “Cardigan” (basic, I know), “Seven”, and “This is Me Trying”.

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!

Oops… Another Book Haul

Remember when I claimed I was going to reach a 0 TBR this year? Yeah, me neither! Apparently, I am absolutely unable to stop buying books, and so I have another haul for you guys. This is getting dangerous, because I have literally 0 space on my shelves at the moment.

I also want to mention that I began a page where I made a list of diverse reading recommendations. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out where to begin when it comes to diversifying your reading, and I wish I would have had a similar list when I began reading more! You can find it here.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

I read Serious Moonlight a couple weeks ago and really liked it, so I decided to pick up Starry Eyes when I found it for a really good price on vacation! This is a YA contemporary following to best friends-turned best enemies who get stuck in the Californian woods together after a camping trip gone wrong. This seems like a lot of fun, and I don’t think I’ve read a contemporary set in the woods before. This sounds like the perfect summer read!

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

This book has been on my radar for ages, so when I saw a brand new hardcover at the bookstore for only $4, I had to buy it. I have been really into pirates lately, and this is a book following a crew made up of female pirates. I don’t know much else about it, but that premise just sounds like so much fun.

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

Speaking of pirates, this is another pirate inspired story I picked up recently! After reading Daughter of the Pirate King in just 30 hours, I knew I needed to pick up the sequel ASAP. I loved Tricia Levenseller’s writing in book 1, and I am so excited to see what this book has in store for Alosa!

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

Do I have any idea what this book is about? Absolutely not. But the cover is stunning, and I believe it is inspired by medieval India, so that’s really all I need to know.

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is one of my all time favorite authors, so I needed to pick up her only book that I haven’t read yet. This is a mystery thriller following Claudia, whose best friend has disappeared. However, no one seems to really notice but her. As she continues to dig deeper, no one seems to remember seeing Monday except her. Tiffany D. Jackson writes the most amazing thrillers, and I’m pretty sure they are inspired by really criminal cases (at least, I know Grown and Allegedly were).

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

Horror isn’t usually my genre, but I found this book so intriguing that I just had to pick it up. This is a fairy tale following Iris, whose sister has recently gone missing. However, after trying to solve the mystery, she realizes that her sister had been keeping a huge secret from her. I’ve heard this is really creepy, and the author said she took some inspiration from Midsommar. All in all, this just sounds very interesting.

They Went LEft by Monica HEsse

This book has been on my radar for quite some time, so I had to purchase it when I saw it for such a great deal. This is a YA historical fiction novel that takes place in Germany in 1945. It follows a girl who has just been liberated from a Nazi concentration camp. When they were splitting up the prisoners, she was told to go to the right, while the rest of her family was told to go to the left. Now, she is on a mission to find her missing relatives. This has stellar reviews, and I’m sure it will break my heart.

The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank

To keep up with the theme of World War II, I decided to pick this book up. It is on my list of books to read in 2021, especially since my husband and I are trying to plan a trip to Amsterdam soon. I haven’t read this book since middle school, and know it is going to have a huge effect on me.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

For some reason, I have really been in the mood for classics lately, although I haven’t actually picked one up in awhile. But this is one that I have been wanting to read for awhile, simply out of my love for the musical. I know this story like the back of my hand, so I am excited to get a fresh perspective of it from the original novel.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by OScar WIlde

This is the other classic I purchased recently, since I saw a great deal for a beautiful edition on e-Bay. I’d be lying if I said I knew what this is about, but I have read Wilde’s writing in the past and really enjoyed it. Plus, he is just a fascinating man, so I am excited to dive into this.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I will never forgive the publishers for this cover change. But I finally gave into the hype of this series and purchased the first book. I honestly have no clue what to expect, because I haven’t loved SJM’s writing in the past. But I am will to give it another try! Bring on the faerie smut, I guess?

A Dark and Hollow Star by AShley Shuttleworth

Once again, I have fallen victim to a book with a beautiful cover. I have absolutely no idea what this book is about, but it is thick and beautiful and about faeries, so I obviously had to buy it.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This is another book that was on my list to read before 2022. I have read some of Jemisin’s writing in the past, but have yet to read any of her novels. I have heard so many great things about this series, so I obviously have to give it a try for myself. There is no doubt that Jemisin is an incredible writer, although I am a bit nervous this fantasy might be a bit too dense for my taste (like a lot of adult fantasies tend to be).

Well, I sure hope that I am done buying books for awhile. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought!

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!