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!!!

View all my reviews

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!

View all my reviews

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!!

View all my reviews

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!

View all my reviews

Review: 10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston

10 Truths and a Dare10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With 10 Truths and a Dare, Ashely Elston returns the Reader to the loving, yet chaotic, Messina family. You may recall them from Elston’s 2019-release, 10 Blind Dates.

In this installment, we follow Olivia, one of the cousins, at the very end of her Senior year in high school. In fact, there is just a week to go until graduation.

Olivia has always taken school very seriously, so it is no surprise to anyone that she will be graduating second in her class.

As Salutatorian, she will be giving the welcome speech at the graduation ceremony. It’s kind of a big deal.

What does come as a surprise to Olivia, is the email she receives from the school, saying her off-campus PE teacher never filled out the paperwork needed to show she completed her golf class.

Meaning, without that course officially completed, she is a half-credit short of the credits she will need to graduate!

Olivia cannot believe it. There has to be a mistake. Everything she has worked so hard for can all be taken away from her because of golf!?

She needs to get in touch with her PE teacher, Coach Cantu, in order to clear this up. Otherwise, she will never be able to enjoy all the graduation parties she has to attend this week.

After talking with the coach, it’s clear, she needs extra credit and the only way to get it, is by helping him with the 4-day golf tournament occurring that week.

Olivia needs to hide all of this from her parents, who are luckily out of town, but her Mom tracks her like a police dog. She literally has a tracking app on her phone.

Making matters worse, her Mom knows her graduation party schedule and is really excited for it. How can Olivia possibly be in two places at once?

She’s going to have to call in reinforcements. The other members of the Fab Four, her cousins, Charlie and Sophie, as well as their other best friend, Sophie’s boyfriend, Wes, agree to help and get Olivia through the week.

As with 10 Blind Dates, this story is full of wacky hijinks, romance, humor and touching family moments.

I laughed, cried and felt a whole host of emotions in between. I adored the dynamic of the Fab Four. They really go all in to help Olivia through, what turns out to be, the most difficult week of her life.

The narrative is so fast-paced. I completed it in under 24-hours. Once I started, I could not put it down. I had to know the conclusion.

While this story focused more on the Fab Four, and less on the extended family members, I didn’t mind that at all. The other family was still there around the periphery, bringing that classic Messina family chaos that I grew to love in the first book.

I hope Elston writes more books following this family. Could there be a book for Charlie in the works?

I highly recommend this, or any other book by Ashley Elston, actually. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. Also, be sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity to provide my thoughts and opinion.

View all my reviews

Review: Love & Olives (Love & Gelato #3) by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Olives (Love & Gelato, #3)Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jenna Evans Welch has done it again. I absolutely loved my time spent reading Love & Olives.

This brought back the tone, humor, heart and gut-punching familial relationships of Love & Gelato. I’m so happy.

Liv Varanakis is surprised when she receives a postcard from her father asking her to travel to Greece to stay with him. He needs her help with a mystery project; something involving the lost city of Atlantis.

Honestly, Liv has been trying to forget her Dad. She has had little, to no, contact with him since he left when she was only 8-years old.

He returned to his native-country, Greece, and her and her mom were forced to make ends meet without him. It wasn’t always easy, but her mom has since remarried and she even has a half-brother now, who she adores.

She has to go though. Her Mom is making her go. It’ll be fine. Even though she has to miss her boyfriend’s Senior Trip; it’ll be fine.

Arriving on the beautiful island of Santorini, Liv’s nerves begin to get the best of her. She has no idea what to expect. Will she and her Dad even get along?

Things get off to a bit of a rocky start when a strange boy shows up in her Dad’s place to pick her up from the airport. Should she even trust this person?

He claims his name is Theo and that he works for her father. It’s like something out of a movie. She’s pretty sure she shouldn’t just go with him. She’s seen, Taken.

This story is an absolute delight. The Reader gets to follow along as Liv and her father try to repair their broken relationship. She gets to live in his book shop, with Theo, and their relationship blossoms as well.

Central to the story is the mystery of the lost city of Atlantis and the documentary film her father is making on the subject. Liv, an artist, is put in charge filming, a task she excels at.

The story is told through Liv’s perspective and it is full of humor. She has such a sarcastic, honest view of the events; it’s hilarious to read.

I loved the interactions between characters and how Welch incorporated some heavier topics throughout. Liv really grows over the course of the story. Watching her relationship with her father change, as she learns more about him, and about herself, was really lovely.

I have read some reviews where people commented on the length of the story; that it is too long. It is long, over 500-pages for a YA Contemporary, but looking back on it, I cannot think of one scene that I would have removed.

For me, every detail was needed in order to become as attached to Liv and her story as I did. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Ultimately, I am so glad I picked this up. I didn’t have the greatest experience with Love & Luck, but I knew what Welch was capable of because of Love & Gelato.

I actually think this story is my favorite out of the three. Liv is my favorite protagonist, combined with the Atlantis lore and the documentary aspect, makes this a near perfect book for me.

As one of my favorite BookTubers always says, 10 out of 10, recommend! Let Greece sweep you away!

View all my reviews

Review: You Have a Match by Emma Lord

You Have a MatchYou Have a Match by Emma Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

You Have a Match is exactly what I have come to expect from Emma Lord.

A light, fun, heart-warming, Contemporary story that fills you with hope and positive energy.

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to support her friend, Leo. He’s adopted and wants to know more about where he came from.

Unfortunately, while Leo doesn’t discover much, Abby sure does. A secret sister!

Not a half sister, a full blown, we have the same parents sister. Basically, her entire life has been a lie. She can’t believe it. How could her parents keep something like that from her?

As it turns out, this sister is not much older than Abby and lives nearby. It also turns out she is a bona fide Instagram celebrity, with perfect hair, skin and the lifestyle to match. Great.

The girls first meeting, while not a total failure, doesn’t get them any closer to getting to the bottom of the mystery of their parents choices.

Even though she has to lie to her parents in order to do so, Abby agrees to attend a summer camp Savvy will be working at as a Junior Counselor, so that they will have more time to figure everything out.

The camp is located on an island and on her ferry ride there, Abby stumbles upon her best friend, and uncomfortable love interest, Leo.

Abby knew he went to a summer camp every year, but she had no idea it was THIS summer camp! It turns out Leo will be on the staff as well this summer, and he and Savvy have actually been friends for years.

This book is absolutely adorable. From the very first chapter, I was hooked right in to Lord’s writing. She has such a smooth, easy-to-read style. It makes her stories completely engaging!

There is a lot of drama in this one. She does manage to bring some important topics to her books, even though, overall, the feeling is light and fluffy.

As you can tell from the synopsis, as well as what I have written above, this story explores family relationships; what makes someone family, different types of family constructs, etc.

Abby is also struggling with grief due to the loss of her Poppy, and I liked how Lord handled that. Somehow, she has the ability to keep things light-hearted even while tackling these heavier topics.

The summer camp vibes were very fun as well. It gave the teen characters a little more freedom to engage with one another, than they would have had in a more traditional setting.

Plus, who doesn’t love summer camp!?

Overall, I had a great time reading this story. I will continue to pick it up anything Emma Lord writes. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to share my opinion.

View all my reviews

Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

Cracked Up to BeCracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars**

Cracked Up to Be was originally published in 2008.

Early in 2020, it was reissued with a beautiful new cover matching Sadie. I fell for it like a Publisher’s Dream.

This novel follows Parker Fadley, who was once the perfect it-girl at her local high school. She has recently taken a huge swan dive from grace.

You can tell through Parker’s musings that there was a triggering incident in Parker’s which caused her sudden personality and behavioral changes.

Once cheerleading captain, she now watches from the sidelines as her frenemy, Becky, takes the reins.

Becky is also now dating Parker’s ex-boyfriend, Chris, even though Parker insists he is still in love with her.

A new boy, Jake, is definitely interested in Parker, although she doesn’t understand why. She’s certainly not giving him heavy encouragement.

Currently on academic probation, she is just taking one day at a time. She really wants to graduate and if she gets caught doing anything unseemly, she most likely won’t.

We follow Parker through the day to day, but also get flashbacks to the mysterious party that may have led to her downfall.

I got to say, I was intrigued by this.

I really wanted to know what Parker’s secret was.

Once I found out, however, I wish I hadn’t.

I don’t think I have ever instantly detested a character more.

There was also a whole plot line involving a dog that I definitely could have done without. After I was done, the more I sat with it and thought about it, the more I hated it.

I ultimately decided on a 2.5-star rating because for 3/4 of the book, I was really interested, but yeah, in the end I felt nothing but disdain for Parker.

Moving on.

View all my reviews

Review: The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

The Initial Insult (The Initial Insult, #1)The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Tress Montor and Felicity Turnado were best friends when they were younger. Not anymore.

Now in high school, Tress has an ax to grind with Felicity. She wants some answers to a long-standing mystery and she believes Felicity has them.

When the girls where in the fourth grade, Tress’s parents disappeared late one night while driving Felicity home from their house.

Felicity was found bruised and bleeding at the side of the road, but the Montors were never seen again.

After that, Tress loses her life as she knew it. With no parents, and no one else to claim her, she is forced to live with her drunken grandfather at what the locals call the ‘white trash zoo’.

There are animals that Tress helps to feed and care for. A zebra, an ostrich, an alligator, a panther, among other things. Life is hard.

Tress is not cared for as a child should be and becomes a social pariah at school. Literally abandoned by the entire town, she has no one to advocate for her.

Felicity feels guilty for all that has happened to Tress. Part of her wants to comfort and care for her ex-best friend, but she doesn’t dare. What would people think?

Felicity keeps her true thoughts tucked deep inside her, like she’s been taught, all whilst exuding that Queen Bee attitude that everyone expects.

She’s rich, beautiful, popular and has a secret way to suppress her negative thoughts.

Tress has had enough of it all, so she develops a plan to get the answers she seeks.

It involves a crowded costume party at a deserted house, a coal chute, a lot of bricks and mortar. Felicity is going to talk, one way or another. Tress has nothing to lose.

Alternating between Tress and Felicity’s perspectives, this novel follows the girl’s friendship from the start, to the present, and through various stages in between.

Both girls keep a lot of things to themselves. There is anger, guilt and plenty of low self esteem to go around.

This story is extremely heavy. There is a ton of baggage between these two girls. Even when they aren’t the ones doing things to one another, they are there to bear witness.

They’ve been intertwined in one another’s lives for a long time. As a reader, you can feel the weight of that history. It’s almost tangible.

I found this entire storyline unique and completely engaging. Once I started reading, I could not put this down.

It’s just so well written. I know that this story will not be for everyone, but I think the people who are going to enjoy it, are REALLY going to enjoy it.

McGinnis was not afraid to go dark and stay there. There is not one moment of lightness in this novel and I was here for it.

I cannot believe how this one ended up. The final few scenes, my word.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I really, really enjoyed this and cannot wait to see how this duology turns out!!!

View all my reviews

Review: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

The Black KidsThe Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ashley Bennett is a Senior in high school. The year is 1992 and she lives in a posh L.A. neighborhood with her parents.

Attending a private school, Ashley has had a somewhat sheltered existence.

Her parents do everything they can to provide their girls with a less stressful upbringing than they had, which I think is something a lot of parents do.

But even her parents admit, for reasons you learn as the novel progresses, they may have sheltered them a little too much.

At her school, Ashley is one of only a handful of black kids in attendance. Regardless of the numbers, all of her friends are white.

Ashley doesn’t find it odd that she is the only black girl in her friend group. It has always been that way and even when her closest friends make racist comments, she shrugs it off. It’s just how it goes.

Her comfy existence is shaken, however, after a young black man, Rodney King, is beaten nearly to death by LAPD officers and the subsequent trial of those involved.

Even though there is video evidence of the heinous acts of violence, the policemen are acquitted and the city erupts in anger. Protests and riots sweep the city and the topic of race is on everyone’s lips.

Ashley’s sister, Jo, becomes involved in the protests and her Uncle’s store is threatened by looters. It becomes unsafe to leave the house and the smell of smoke and char lingers in the air.

These events force Ashley to examine her life and her position as a black woman in a way she never has before. She starts to learn more about her family and what it means to be black in America.

This book was a ride for me. I feel like my attachment to it evolved along with the story itself.

It was a difficult one for me to rate, as I was torn almost the entire way through about how I felt about it.

On the one hand, the content, real-world issues and personal growth, were A++, 5-stars. This story is extremely topical and definitely packs a punch.

On the other hand, there’s the style in which it is told. That is what was rough for me. The stream of consciousness narrative is always very hard for me to get into. It just does not vibe for me at all.

If I were rating this book based solely on that, I would have given it 3-stars. I decided on a 4-star rating as it is a fair way for me to express my overall experience with the story; style versus substance be damned.

Please note, my personal preference for not liking stream of consciousness narrative is in no way a reflection on this author. She is clearly very talented and I am sure she chose the format she felt best to tell Ashley’s experiences.

I loved the story behind the style. Does that make sense?

Additionally, I thought using a historical event to frame this discussion was such a smart choice. It made the whole story feel very real.

I was in the 8th-grade at the time the officers were originally acquitted and although I lived on the opposite-side of the country, the impact was felt like a shock wave. I have never read a fictionalized story framed around that time and really appreciated that context.

I also appreciated Ashley’s growth as a character. She truly transformed from start to finish and by the end, I was attached her.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this novel. It’s a hard-hitting Contemporary that everyone should read.

A huge thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I look forward to reading more from Christina Hammonds Reed in the future!

View all my reviews