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: 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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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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Review: The Last Namsara (Iskari #1) by Kristen Ciccarelli

The Last Namsara (Iskari, #1)The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Asha has been raised on the lore of her kingdom of Firgaard. In it’s heart, it’s a lore of duality.

The stories of the Namsara, the bringer of love and light, and their opposite, the Iskari, the harbinger of death and destruction.

To her people, Asha is the Iskari.

A fierce warrior and slayer of dragons, Asha is treated more as a weapon, than a daughter by her father, the King.

Asha is lonely and feels helpless to control her fate.

She’s engaged to be married to a ruthless commandant in her father’s forces. She feels no love for this man and would do anything to escape that commitment.

When her father offers her a chance of gaining her freedom, she takes it. All she has to do is kill the First Dragon, Kozu. A dragon to whom she is inextricably linked.

Enter her fiancΓ©’s handsome slave, who shows Asha a kindness like she has never known, and you have the perfect mix for disaster.

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. I have owned this book for years and hadn’t really heard any buzz about it.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the fluidity and engaging nature of this narrative.

I was hooked from the very first chapters, falling in love with Asha and her dark, tumultuous life.

In addition to my connection with Asha, I found the side characters and lore of the entire world to be extremely interesting. I loved how Ciccarelli included entire sections dedicated to telling the old stories that Asha had learned in her childhood.

The Last Namsara has romance, action, political intrigue, family drama and more than a few jaw-dropping reveals. In other words, it has everything necessary to keep you fully engaged throughout.

I haven’t read a lot of Dragon Fantasy, but to me, this was incredibly well told. The world felt complete. I could picture it all.

Overall, I was just so impressed with this and tickled pink that I happen to already own the entire trilogy.

I am hoping to start the next novel, The Caged Queen, soon. I cannot wait to return to this world and find out more about this intriguing cast of characters!!

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Review: Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores #3) by Danielle L. Jensen

Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores, #3)Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gilded Serpent is the third installment in Danielle L. Jensen’s Dark Shores series.

Coming in at just under 600-pages, Jensen definitely packed in a lot of information, action and startling revelations.

With this series, if you aren’t aware, you can read the first two books in any order. Meaning you can read either Dark Shores, or Dark Skies first, followed by the other.

I personally read them in publication order and would recommend that to others.

I felt like Dark Shores established the setting and functionality of the world perfectly. After reading that one, I had a strong hold on the type of series this was going to turn out to be.

It’s one that channels all the brutality of Ancient Rome, mixed with a fair amount of magic and heavy doses of political intrigue. Also, let’s not forget the sweet romance.

In Dark Shores, the action centers around Teriana and Marcus. In Dark Skies, we follow Lydia and Killian.

Gilded Serpent follows all four of these characters as their storylines begin to merge more and more.

Through the first two books, I became quite attached to all four of these main characters. Because of that, my excitement level for this release was heightened even more.

As I have mentioned in my previous reviews for this series, including the prequel, Tarnished Empire, I love this series and think it is incredibly underrated. All YA Fantasy lovers need to check this one out!

I did rate this book slightly lower than the first two books, mainly because it wasn’t as easy for me to follow, or stay as fully engaged with this one.

I think the length started to get to me, as well as the sheer volume of information that Jensen packed into this one. Also, I did have some issues at the beginning remembering what had happened at the conclusion of the first two books.

While I recognize that as a ‘me’ problem, I also feel an author including slight, subtle recaps is always helpful. I didn’t feel a lot of that here.

Regardless of that fact, however, I still really enjoyed my time reading this novel. The world continues to be built out. It’s dangerous, complex and full of compelling people, creatures and history.

I am really looking forward to the next book in this series. I am planning to do myself a favor and binge read the first three again prior to picking it up.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Teen, for making my dreams come true and providing me with a copy to read and review.

I truly appreciate it and will be singing this series praises for a long time to come!!!

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Review: She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

She's Too Pretty to BurnShe’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Veronica and Nico are best friends. They’re both artists; she’s a photographer, while he is into edgy performance art.

As the summer days draw on, a girl enters their orbit, who will throw them both off course and away from one another.

Her name is Mick. She’s quiet, serious and shy; a swimmer, who works as a life guard. She’s also Veronica’s dream girl.

Mick’s strained relationship with her mother forces her to seek sanctuary outside of her home. She finds it with Veronica first, and then secretly with Nico.

When Nico’s artistic pursuits get riskier, both girls find themselves in over their heads. Events begin to spiral out of control.

No one knows who they can trust. It’s full on friendship chaos!

Described as being inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, I definitely enjoyed the art scene aspects of this novel. Particularly, Nico’s brand of subversive street art.

While the themes made this feel like a subtle, modern interpretation of Dorian Gray, I feel like Readers anticipating more of a retelling, may be disappointed.

I definitely recognized opposing philosophies for Veronica and Nico; art for art’s sake, versus art for a purpose.

I also enjoyed how Heard framed the societal reaction to art in this narrative; capturing the idea that beauty and youth, through the viral photo of Mick, are of the utmost importance.

Regardless of any immoral actions taken by Mick, her beauty was what mattered.

These were interesting characters. While the beginning took a while to take off, by the end, this narrative was wild as heck! It certainly went places I didn’t expect.

Overall, I think this is a good story. I feel like if you can connect in anyway to the art scene portion of this book, you’ll enjoy it, as I did.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it!

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Review: Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

Lost in the Never WoodsLost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Five years ago, Wendy Darling and her two brothers, Michael and John, went missing in the local woods.

Six months later, Wendy was found. She had no memory of her time away, or the fate of her little brothers.

After she returns, the police question her pretty hard, not sure how much of her story they can believe. Perhaps she knows more than she is letting on.

Now in her Senior year of high school, Wendy is working at a hospital and trying to move on with her life, although she is still plagued with thoughts of her brothers.

When children start disappearing again, in ways similar to Wendy and her brothers, all eyes look to her for answers.

She feels no closer to knowing what really happened all those years ago, but something is definitely going on, as the boy she thought lived only in her stories becomes real.

Peter Pan. He is real and he is pleading with Wendy for her help finding his shadow; the villain of this tale.

Lost in the Never Woods was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

The first 10% seemed really promising and the last 10% gave me a conclusion that felt satisfying. However, everything in between was a giant slog.

The tone was quite melancholy and morose. The pace was incredibly slow, the relationships forced and the magical elements felt bland. Not what I was hoping for.

The writing style itself was good. It had a pleasing flow and you can tell that Thomas put a lot of thought into the real world issues discussed; grief, guilt, PTSD, those aspects were well done.

Overall, it just wasn’t what I was hoping for and I never felt connected. With this being said, there is a Reader for every book and vice versa.

So, don’t take my word for it. If the synopsis sounds interesting to you, give it a go. It could end up being your new favorite book!

I will definitely pick up more work from this author in the future. I already own Cemetery Boys and am really excited to get to that one!

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