Review: We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon

We Can't Keep Meeting Like ThisWe Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

You’ve swept me off my feet again, Rachel Lynn Solomon. I see you and it’s like you see me too.

Quinn Berkowitz is the harpist for her parent’s wedding planning business.

Tarek Monsour is a cater-waiter, and aspiring baker, whose family’s catering business is frequently hired on by the Berkowitzs for events.

Over the years, the two have worked a lot of weddings together.

Somewhere along the way, Quinn became a skeptic of the whole love thing, while Tarek went completely in the other direction. He’s now over-the-top romantic; full of positivity with regards to love.

Last summer, Quinn became fed up with watching Tarek’s grand gestures to other girls. Perhaps she had secretly grown to like him more than she admitted.

When she called him out on it though, her ire seemed to ruin everything. He left for college and they didn’t talk for a year.

As summer returns, so too does Tarek, home from college and again working with his parents.

The first wedding Quinn sees him at is uncomfortable as heck, but this is a romantic comedy, so y’all know what’s coming.

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This is exactly as adorable as it sounds. Solomon always knows how to bring the cute, as well as relatable substance.

This book is full of incredible OCD rep, sex positivity and exploration of other issues a lot of young adults go through; like, what the heck do I want to do with the rest of my life?

Solomon is always able to handle serious topics well and seamlessly incorporates them into otherwise light-hearted narratives.

This is the YA Summer Romance that should be on everyone’s reading list. I highly, highly recommend it!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

Rachel Lynn Solomon is an autobuy author for me and I can’t wait to see what cutesy-creation she dreams up next!!!

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Review: Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw

Mina and the UndeadMina and the Undead by Amy McCaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up **

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Shortly after arriving in New Orleans, 17-year old, Mina, can already tell it will be a summer she’ll never forget.

She’s there to visit her estranged sister, Libby, who moved from their hometown, Whitby, in England, to New Orleans the prior year.

After their mother abandoned them, Mina and Libby went to live with their uninterested Aunt. When Libby left as well, Mina felt completely alone.

Mina is hoping that this summer with give the two of them a chance to talk about everything that’s happened and repair their relationship. After all, sisters are for life.

Their first stop is the Horror Mansion at which Libby works. The good news is, Libby has gotten Mina a chance to audition for a job there as well.

Fairly quickly after that, Mina is introduced to all of the people in her sister’s new life. Her girlfriend, Della, roommates, Jared and Lucas and her boss, Thandie.

At the conclusion of her audition for a position in the interactive walking tour of the Horror Mansion, Mina tries to find the girl she is supposed to hand her costume off to.

Mina discovers the girl’s very dead and mutilated body in the attic of the Mansion. She screams, chaos ensues.

When Libby becomes a suspect for that murder and others, Mina teams up with her new crush, Jared, to try to clear her sister’s name.

The two discover a dark underworld around them that ties to some of New Orleans oldest and scariest legends.

This was such a fun, nostalgic treat for my horror-loving heart! The vibe is campy, teenage horror, like Buffy, or The Lost Boys.

I live for that kind of story, as it takes me back to a time when life was simple, hair was big and vampires were real.

This story is full of classic horror tropes and 90s-pop culture. If you are looking for a light, easy, nostalgic read, I definitely recommend picking this one up.

While it’s not a perfect story, I think if you are in the right head space, it can be a hell of a good time. It certainly was for me!!

So, grab your butterfly clips, your VHS tapes, your wooden stakes and pick up a copy today.

I am really excited to see what Amy McCaw comes up with next! This is a super solid debut!!

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Review: Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood SongGhost Wood Song by Erica Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Mood. This book is a mood and I loved it!!

Shady Grove is a fiddle-playing high school girl, who has been struggling a bit since her father’s untimely death.

Her mother has since remarried and her step-dad, Jim, has a contentious relationship with Shady’s older brother, Jesse. This makes life at home far from peaceful.

Shady finds respite practicing her fiddle in the woods surrounding their trailer. At least for a while.

She’s also in a band with her best friends, Sarah and Orlando. While Shady enjoys playing with them, she really wants to play just bluegrass, the music she was raised on, but they have a different opinion; especially Sarah.

Making matters worse is the fact that Shady and Sarah were an almost couple. It never ended up happening and now it feels like there is a giant elephant in the room every time they are together.

When they compete in an open mic night and a boy in a rival band catches Shady’s eye, it seems like things may finally explode with Sarah.

Shady hardly has time to focus on that however, when something much more serious happens.

Her brother, Jesse, gets arrested; accused of murder.

Shady recognizes her brother has a temper and he admittedly, hasn’t been in the best place mentally as of late, but she also knows he could never do this.

Remembering the stories her father used to tell her, how he could channel spirits by playing his fiddle, Shady decides there’s only one thing for her to do.

She needs to find her Dad’s old fiddle and raise the spirit of the person Jesse is said to have killed. That way she can ask him what happened to him and use that knowledge to help free Jesse. Sounds fairly simple, right?

This novel has so many elements that I traditionally love.

There’s the storyline featuring music and musicians, a murder, a haunted old farmhouse, long-buried family secrets, a beautifully-constructed love triangle for our bi-girl protagonist and a haunting, gritty setting.

Tie all of this together with Erica Waters exceptional writing, how could I not absolutely love this story?

I was drawn in from the very start. Some of her descriptions of music, what it is like playing music, the way it can overtake your body; gahhhhhh, it was so well done.

The murder mystery was interesting and just added another level to an already intriguing tale.

Additionally, I loved how Waters weaved in the lore surrounding Shady’s family and their obviously haunted property. Shady’s Aunt Ena was one of my favorite characters.

Then there’s the overriding grief that permeates this entire story. It’s morose, it’s lyrical, it’s so many wonderful things.

I do recognize this story will not be for everyone, but for me and my tastes, it was close to perfection. I would respectfully and lovingly refer to this as a type of Hillbilly Noir. It’s enchanting and I can’t get enough of it.

I cannot wait to check out more of this author’s work! If I love any of it half as much as this one, I will be a happy girl.

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Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Every Last FearEvery Last Fear by Alex Finlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Matt Pine’s older brother, Danny, is serving a life sentence for allegedly killing his high school sweetheart, Charlotte.

After his trial, a True Crime Documentary was released claiming Danny was wrongfully convicted. Many viewers seemed to agree; think Making a Murderer.

Matt remembers something about the night of Charlotte’s death that no one else knows. Because of this, he thinks Danny may actually have done it, or at least been involved.

Their parents, unsurprisingly, fully believe in Danny’s innocence. In fact, their father, has never quite given up the search for information that will free his oldest son. The whole situation with Danny had caused quite a bit of strife within the family.

When the Pine family decides a getaway to Mexico is just what they need to reconnect, Matt, currently at school in NYC, is the only one who doesn’t get to go.

Arriving home after a late night partying, Matt receives the terrible news that his family, Mom, Dad, younger sister and brother, are all dead.

He can’t believe the news. Apparently, the authorities in Mexico seem to think their deaths were accidental; due to a gas leak.

The individuals Matt speaks to in the FBI don’t seem to be so sure however. Matt is sent to Mexico to recover the bodies and it is there that he starts to suspect something much more sinister may be at play.

That feeling doesn’t disappear when he returns to his hometown for the family funeral.

Matt, along with an intrepid FBI agent, begin an investigation into what actually happened to the Pine family; discovering past crimes may be linked to their deaths.

This was interesting. A fast-paced and solid story.

Initially, I was feeling like we were getting too many perspectives, as we followed, Matt, his Dad, Mom, younger sister and the FBI agent, Sarah.

But as the story started to weave together, I began to see why all of those perspectives were actually necessary. Each contributed to puzzle and what a puzzle it was!

This was smart, twisted and tense. Some aspects were more predictable than others, but overall, I really enjoyed how it played out.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m happy that I finally gave this one a shot!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond (MSW #53) by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran

Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond (Murder She Wrote Book 53)Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Following a Literary Conference in Bethesda, Maryland, Jessica decides to travel further South to visit with her dear friend, Dolores, in South Carolina.

Dolores has recently married her third husband, Willis Nickens, a wealthy businessman. Jess is eager to meet him.

After Jessica reaches the Nickens’ South Carolina home, she discovers she isn’t the couple’s only current house guest.

There’s staff, of course, as well as Willis’ son-in-law, adorable niece and business partner. Through observing Willis’ interactions with these other guests, Jessica quickly determines Dolores’ new husband is a bit of a jerk.

He seems to bully everyone he comes into contact with. Lording his money and power over them. When Jessica discovers his body, facedown in the koi pond, on her early morning run, she immediately suspects foul play.

The local law enforcement doesn’t seemed as convinced, however, and they brush off her initial attempts at assistance. Clearly, Jessica’s reputation did not proceed her.

Eventually, they come around to her side of things. Willis was in fact murdered. Their number one suspect: Dolores.

Jessica knows Dolores could never commit murder. Thus, she is forced to begin an investigation of her own, to clear her friend’s name and help to capture the real killer.

Killing in a Koi Pond was an absolute delight. Although the 53rd-installment of this beloved series, it’s the first penned by veteran Cozy author, Terrie Farley Moran.

She did a fantastic job channeling the original tone of the series. I really hope she continues on!!

This story held to the classic format, read quickly and will definitely keep Cozy fans engaged.

There were a couple of moments where the narrative fell into a bit of a lull, but overall, a real treat!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This is the 37th-book in this series that I have read. I am huge fan and will keep on coming back for more as long as they are published!

Reviewer’s Note: If you are new to this series, you can jump in anywhere, you do not need to read them in order. Especially if you have ever watched the television program and have that background on Jessica’s character.

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Review: A Chorus Rises (A Song Below Water #2) by Bethany C. Morrow

A Chorus Rises (A Song Below Water, #2)A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After the explosive conclusion to A Song Below Water, teen influencer, Naema Bradshaw finds herself for the first time vilified in the public eye.

As an Eloko, a magical being beloved by all, Naema has been treated as a quasi-celebrity in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, for her entire life.

Now pegged as the mean girl who outed classmate, Tavia, as a Siren, Naema is getting dragged in social media channels where she has always been respected and adored.

Once a movie releases purporting to tell the true story behind Tavia, her sister, Effie, and the event known as The Awakening, Naema only sees hostility towards her increase.

Growing more and more frustrated with her current situation and the fact that no one seems to understand her side, Naema decides to leave town.

Heading South, Naema goes to stay with extended family that she never sees. This trip is actually her first time leaving Portland and the bubble she has created there for herself.

Greeted at the airport by her cousin Courtney, Naema can tell immediately from his reaction to her, that life is going to be very different outside of Portland.

Her family couldn’t care less about her Eloko status. She’ll be treated just like everyone else; loved and cherished, but for herself, not for her Elokoness.

It is once she is separated from all the noise in Portland, that Naema is finally able to channel the connection to her ancestors and discover the true power of her voice.

This story was interesting and a tough one to rate. I really had to consider it once I was done.

We only get Naema’s perspective in this book, whereas the first book followed both Tavia and Effie.

This one does incorporate a lot of mixed media, however, and I always enjoy that. It makes the overall story feel more realistic in my opinion.

The bulk of the story focuses on Naema coming into her own. We really get to deep dive into her world.

While there is still an underlining examination of privilege, race, social media and the experience of black women in America, I didn’t feel that coming through quite as strongly in this volume as in the first. It’s definitely still here, it’s just overshadowed a bit by Naema’s day-to-day.

As far as Naema goes. I really enjoyed her perspective a lot. She is snarky, strong-willed, stubborn and funny. I loved her interactions with Courtney and the rest of her family.

I can see why some people may be put off by her, she can seem a bit of a princess at times, however, I think she feels real.

She is a product of her environment, but once removed from Portland, she was able to grow and evolve as a character, which we love to see.

I think Morrow created an important and timely story with both of these books. I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys YA Contemporary stories with Fantastical elements that tackle real life issues.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I will definitely be picking up future work from this author!

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Review: A Song Below Water (A Song Below Water #1) by Bethany C. Morrow

A Song Below Water (A Song Below Water, #1)A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Tavia is a Siren living in present-day, Portland, Oregon. Due to fear and discrimination against Sirens, Tavia is forced to hide her nature from those outside her home.

Navigating the world repressing her true-self presents a lot of challenges for her. It can be frustrating and often feels like the world is closing in on her.

Tavia’s best friend, Effie, was taken in by Tavia’s parents after suffering through some tough times.

Since then, the girls have come to rely upon one another. It’s them against world for the most part; at least it feels that way.

While Effie is not a Siren, there is definitely something magical about her. As she gets older, she begins to notice she is changing and she may not be able to hide much longer.

Effie works as a mermaid at a local Renaissance Fair, incorporating the lore of that job into her personality and thus, blending the lines between fantasy and reality.

When a murder trial making the national spotlight turns out to have a Siren as a victim, Siren’s existence is now a hot button issue.

Tavia listens as those around her discuss the case and the Siren’s fate and rights. From there we watch as the debates, opinions and stakes heat up.

Drenched in allegory, A Song Below Water includes lush, lyrical storytelling and is nuanced enough to provide a lasting impact.

Tavia and Effie’s relationship is beautiful to read. Their unconditional support for one another, set against a backdrop of a world that doesn’t guarantee them social justice. It was quite moving.

This novel is particularly relevant to the climate of the United States over the last few years. I love YA Contemporary stories that provide such social commentary.

The fact that this one mixed in fantastical elements with black girl magic made it that much more enjoyable.

The sequel to this novel, following different perspectives is now available. I am currently reading it and actually enjoying it even more.

I cannot wait to see what magic Morrow creates next!!

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Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Story by James Luceno

Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One StoryCatalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Story by James Luceno
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Catalyst: A Rogue One Story, while admittedly not my favorite, was still a good story. I can appreciate all the fine details it adds to the larger picture.

It’s probably my fault for picking this up directly after, Dark Disciple, which I absolutely loved!!!

This is a prequel novel to the Rogue One film.

Basically it follows Orson Krennic, part of Chancellor Palpatine’s Death Star Project, along with brilliant scientist, Galen Erso and his family.

This had a lot more technical details and political maneuverings than character work and drama, but as I said, it was still good.

I’m glad I read it as it provides a solid backdrop for the events of Rogue One, an immediate prequel to A New Hope; probably only necessary, or interesting, to hardcore fans.

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Review: The Phantom Menace (Star Wars Novelizations, #1) by Terry Brooks

The Phantom Menace (Star Wars: Novelizations, #1)The Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

This is a fantastic novelization of one of my go-to flicks, The Phantom Menace. Terry Brooks did a phenomenal job bringing the action and political intrigue to the page!

Admittedly, I am slightly obsessed with the movie The Phantom Menace. Poke fun at me if you must.

I’ve watched the movie a zillion times, so I figured I should probably check out the novelization.

It was only then that I discovered it was adapted into book form by the renowned Fantasy author, Terry Brooks!?

If you’ve seen the movie, there will be no great surprises here, but as with most book/movie combos, you can find a lot more additional information in the book.

I feel like the book allows more space to build out some of my favorite characters in the entire universe, like Anakin and Qui-Gon.

I think if you are a fan of Star Wars, this is definitely worth a read; consider it supplemental to the movie.

I am definitely going to pick up the other novelizations in this prequel trilogy. Attack of the Clones was written by R.A. Salvatore, so I am actually really looking forward to starting that one soon!

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Review: The Ivies by Alexa Donne

The IviesThe Ivies by Alexa Donne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avery, Emma, Olivia, Margot and Sierra are collectively known as The Ivies. They’re also lowkey feared by their peers at the prestigious Claflin Academy.

This tight group of five all have the same goal: acceptance into an ivy league school.

Knowing the ins-and-outs of college admissions, the girls have agreed to all apply ED to different Ivies.

Their reasoning is, if they all apply to separate schools they won’t be competing directly against one another and therefore, will up their chances of acceptance.

Avery Montfort, the Regina George of the group, has claimed Harvard as hers.

On Early Decision day, it is revealed that Emma had secretly applied to Harvard and gotten accepted. While normally this would be cause for celebration, Avery did not get in and thus, blames Emma.

Enraged, Avery confronts Emma at a party and the two girls get into a fight. Ultimately, storming off to separate corners.

Olivia, our main character, watches the drama unfold from the sidelines. She secretly applied to Harvard as well, and got in, but there is no way she is telling Avery that!

The following morning, Emma is found dead. Olivia is shocked. Could Avery have possibly been angry enough to kill their friend over a college admission?

In the high-stakes world of cut-throat academics, it’s definitely possible. Olivia begins to doubt her place within the Ivies. It seems the other girls have been doing a lot of things behind her back.

When it becomes clear the police may flub it up, Olivia decides to team up with her cute co-editor of the school paper, Ethan, and investigate Emma’s death herself.

With a boarding school setting, loads of rich people drama and solid amateur sleuthing, The Ivies pairs some of my favorite tropes together into a red herring-filled, satirical romp through upper-class teenage lives.

It’s pure mean girl chaos at its best!

While it did start out a little slow for me, once Emma’s body is found, everything heats up quite nicely.

From there, the pace is steady and twisty until the over-the-top conclusion! I definitely recommend this to anyone who loves rich teen drama.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crown Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I had a lot of fun with this one and appreciate the opportunity!

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