Review: The Getaway List by Emma Lord

The Getaway ListThe Getaway List by Emma Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Getaway List by Emma Lord released in January of 2024. I’ve been putting it off because after completing this, I have no more Emma Lord’s to read until 2025.

A sad day, indeed…

But that day has come. I started the audiobook this morning, because I just couldn’t resist anymore and sure enough, I binged it all in one day.

This story is unsurprisingly sweet and cute, full of heart-warming character moments and a #goals Found Family that I wanted to be a part of. I really enjoyed it!

In this story, we meet our MC, Riley, on the day she graduates from high school. She realizes that she’s been working so hard the past 4-years, trying to do everything her Mom wants, that she hasn’t had any time for herself.

She’s at a point when her classmates are moving on to their next steps, and she doesn’t even know what she wants her next steps to be. It hits her like a truck.

Riley also realizes she misses her best friend, Tom, who moved away years ago to New York City with his Mom, and she needs a chance to reconnect with him.

Being with Tom, before he moved, those are the last times she really remembers being able to be herself. She misses him and their easy connection.

Needing the freedom to explore options for what the future may have in store for her, Riley plans an impromptu trip to NYC. Sadly, her Mom doesn’t support her decision and the two get in a row. Her Mom tells her she can’t go.

But Riley’s 18-years old, it’s time she start making decisions for herself. Even though she’s not leaving under the best of circumstances, her mind is made up and off she goes.

The reunion between the two friends is a little uncertain at first. They haven’t seen one another in corporeal form in years. Nevertheless, before long, like true friends, it feels like they’ve never been apart.

After a few days, Riley is feeling more like herself than she has in a long, long time. She decides it would be best if she stay for the Summer. She and Tom have begun to check off items from their Getaway List, and it just feels fated.

There’s also something else brewing in Riley’s mind. What are these butterflies she’s getting in her stomach whenever she’s with Tom? This is a whole new feeling, one she just may now be ready to explore.

One of the things I love most about Emma Lord’s books is the journeys that the characters go on. Her books are very much Contemporary, with Romance being more of a subplot, which works for me.

I’m not a heavy Romance Reader and the books I enjoy the most with Romance in them, tend to focus a lot on other things going on in the protagonist’s lives other than Romance; such as family or career issues.

This book is truly about self-discovery for Riley. She’s lost herself in trying to make her Mom happy, and doing what she needs to do to be the good girl. She’s been doing what her Mom wants, but finally comes to a point where she recognizes she needs to start making decisions for herself.

She’s at that fantastic crossroads in life, just after high school, where all obligations of childhood are completed, and it’s time to start take the first steps into adulthood. The world is literally her oyster.

I liked her desire to reconnect with Tom, and I definitely understood her motivations for tracking him down. It was fun watching them reconnect and being along for the ride as their feelings for one another evolved.

My favorite part, however, was the Found Family that Lord created around Riley and Tom. They were both having difficulties with their Moms, and the added support they received from their friends was so needed.

There was a line in the book, I didn’t flag it, so don’t quote me, but it was something along the lines of, family isn’t who you share blood with, it’s who you’ll spill blood for. That hit in a special way with this book.

If those are the kind of vibes you enjoy in your Contemporary stories, you need to check this one out. It delivered all of that and more. The mix of funny, heart-warming moments, with more serious, quieter moments, was beautifully-executed, IMO.

Overall, I thought this was such a gratifying story. Lord wrapped everything up in a lovely little bow, and I walk away with a big smile on my face.

I’m so happy that I finally made time for this; that I finally caved and read the last Emma Lord book that I have left to read. Emma, I will see you in 2025!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. Clearly, Emma Lord is one of my go-to authors and I cannot wait to pick up more from her.

Her brand of sweet will never get old to me. I eat it up like ice cream with every available topping on it!!

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Review: Dungeons & Drama by Kristy Boyce

Dungeons and DramaDungeons and Drama by Kristy Boyce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Dungeons and Drama is truly adorable. It made my nerd heart so happy and left me wanting more from this author!

This YA Romantic Comedy features a fake dating trope and lots of cute, fun and witty character moments.

In this story we follow Riley, a theater girl, who gets busted taking her Mom’s car without permission to go see a show in the city. With her best friend in tow, the girls take the risk, and sadly, don’t get away with it.

Riley gets grounded. She’s allowed no extracurriculars and as extra punishment, she has to start working at her Dad’s game store after school.

She’s barely ever set foot in the store and has no interest in games. All Riley cares about right now is getting the High School Spring Musical, currently canceled due to budgetary considerations, back on.

Her life is a mess without the possibility of the Musical. She can hardly think of anything else. Well, there’s a few other things she thinks about: her uncomfortable relationship with her Dad, her ex-boyfriend succeeding in all things theater and the fact that he’s driving her nuts.

A new co-worker at the store, cute and shy boy, Nathan, could be exactly what Riley needs. She convinces him to pretend they’re into one another. Her ex now thinks she’s moved on and the girl that Nathan likes is suddenly more interested in him, eaten up with jealousy because of Riley.

All is going to plan, until Riley realizes that flirting with Nathan is no longer much of an act. Have her plans gone too far? Is she falling for the D&D boy at the game store?

This book was so lovey. I read it in a day and got completely swept up in the story. I loved both Riley and Nathan. They were both incredibly earnest and naive, but in a way that felt natural to the story and works for the YA-genre.

I also enjoyed exploring Riley’s relationship with her Dad. As a child of divorce, who lives with her Mom, Riley has felt sort of abandoned by her Dad. He’s not a bad person, you can tell how me he loves her, but their communication at the start isn’t great.

I loved watching the time they spent together at the store have such an impact on the way they communicated with one another. I felt like that development was just as satisfying as the romantic portions of this story.

But yeah, the romance was pretty sweet. It was just so cute, I can’t think of another way to describe. I was crushing right along with Riley. Nathan is a pretty special guy.

I loved how he got Riley to join his D&D group; which was one of my favorite parts of this story. She ended up really enjoying it and was even able to channel some of her musical talents in her role as a bard.

I think as far as YA Rom-Com stories go, this has to be one of my faves. I feel like it was just really well executed. The character work was fantastic and I loved the messages and themes explored throughout.

I would definitely recommend this to any YA Contemporary Reader, particularly if you are a fan of RPGs, or the theater. This was a perfect blend of those things for me!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m really looking forward to reading more from Kristy Boyce.

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Review: Didn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Didn't See That ComingDidn’t See That Coming by Jesse Q. Sutanto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Didn’t See That Coming is a companion sequel to Jesse Q. Sutanto’s 2022-YA Rom-Com, Well, That Was Unexpected, a book I loved with my whole freaking heart.

It ended up being my favorite Romantic Comedy of that year, and in fact is probably my favorite ever. In fact, I stated in my review that I would fall on a sword for it. I stick by that.

I just want to get it out of the way early that I am a huge Jesse Q. Sutanto fan. If you frequently read my reviews, you probably know this already, and may even be sick of hearing me singing her praises.

Too bad, I say, because if she keeps cranking out wildly-enjoyable stories like this, those praises are going to continue raining down for a long time to come.

In this book we are following Kiki, who is the cousin of Sharlot, the leading lady from Well, That Was Unexpected. Kiki is attractive and popular, just your typical teen girl in Jakarta, except Kiki has a secret.

She’s a fabulous gamer, but no one in her real life really knows how good she actually is. After running into hugely sexist attitudes in the gamer community, Kiki changed her username to one where all of her teammates and opponents will think she’s one of them, a bro.

Playing anonymously has allowed her to just play, instead of having people treat her differently because she is a girl. She’s even made some good friends, in particular, one boy whose username is Sourdawg.

When Kiki’s parents make her transfer schools to an elite private school, her world is flipped upside down. Once the popular girl with a horde of IRL friends, Kiki is now at the bottom of the pecking order.

The school’s golden boy even singles her out, gives her the atrocious nickname of Crazy Kiki and ends up harassing her every day. It’s terrible. Kiki can’t believe that the other kids just sit back and let this little despot control them all.

She ends up turning to her now normal interactions with Sourdawg for comfort during this difficult transition period. Then the unexpected happens. As it turns out, Sourdawg, who she thought lived in an entirely different country, actually lives in Jakarta and goes to her new school!

But who is he? And what will he do when he finds out that Kiki is Kiki, a girl! He’s opened up to her, thinking she was just a bro. It’s too late for her to come clean, she’s in too deep. He’ll hate her. This throws Kiki into a tailspin, as over the months, she’s fallen for him hard.

I really enjoyed my time with this story. It had actually been so long since I first read the synopsis, I had forgotten that it was a companion novel. I was very happy to be with Kiki again, because I thought she was so dynamic and fun in Well, That Was Unexpected.

I listened to the audio and highly recommend that format. The narration was very well done and brought Kiki to life for me. I felt like I was listening to her tell me her story.

Additionally, this ended up being a lot more than a light and fluffy Rom-Com. It surprised me the level of thoughtful substance Sutanto brought to the page.

I would love to hear Sutanto talk about her inspiration and process for this one. As I feel like this story, as far as the gaming elements, the sexism experienced as a female player, really came from the heart. I’m left wondering how much of her own experiences she channeled into this.

Sutanto’s signature humor and style were still here on full display, but it also tackled some fairly serious topics. I feel like Kiki’s story, read at the right time, by the right Reader, could hit real hard.

Overall, I found this to be a super cute, engaging story of a girl trying to find stability and her place in an entirely new landscape. The romance was well paced and I’m so happy with the ultimate outcome.

I’d love to see another companion novel in this series. The setting of Jakarta is fun and I love just this entire group of characters. I definitely think there are more stories to tell among this group of young people!

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Review: The Last Girls Standing by Jennifer Dugan

The Last Girls StandingThe Last Girls Standing by Jennifer Dugan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Past Meg: If you say ‘summer camp massacre’ in a book synopsis, I am going to read it. 100%, no further info necessary.

Current Meg: I should’ve gotten further info…

All jokes aside, this is a solid YA Contemporary story focusing on trauma recovery and featuring a Sapphic Romance. Unfortunately, I went into this expecting a Psychological Thriller with a Teen Slasher Twist.

In this story we follow Sloan and Cherry, girlfriends who are the sole survivors of a massacre at a summer camp. Both girls were counselors.

In the aftermath, Sloan, who remembers no tangible details, has been struggling to put the event behind her. She feels like the black spots in her memory are haunting her and she doesn’t feel like she can move on until she has answers.

Her girlfriend, Cherry, the only person Sloan feels understands what she’s been through, tries to be supportive. She also tries to make Sloan feel safe, but for her part, Cherry is ready to move on. They survived. They need to continue living instead of reliving the past.

As Sloan continues her search for answers, Cherry is right at her side, but after new evidence is revealed, Sloan begins to question just how well she knows Cherry.

The girls only met a few short days before the trauma that ultimately bound them together. Seeing things from a new perspective, Sloan fears that Cherry may have actually been involved in the massacre.

Will Sloan be able to figure out the truth before it’s too late, or will Cherry end up being the last girl standing?

This book has a lot of strengths. I did appreciate the story that Dugan created here and I think if you go into it with the right mindset, you could really, really enjoy it.

Sadly, for me, I saved this for Spooky Season, thinking it was more of a Psychological Thriller than an intimate examination of trauma recovery. That may be on me, but a little bit could be blamed on the marketing, IMO.

I did like Dugan’s writing. Also, the relationship between Sloan and Cherry felt very real, especially their bond based on their shared trauma. Even though it started quite slow, I was interested in learning more about the characters.

The slow pace continues for the most part, although it does pick up a bit in the later half. The narrative also focuses much more heavily on emotion than action, so be aware of that. Although, for the most part, well executed, it was not what I was expecting, nor in the mood for and I believe my experience was impacted because of that.

I think for Readers who enjoy YA Contemporary stories that focus on trauma and mental health, this could work well. I think a lot of Readers will be intrigued about the mystery surrounding Sloan’s missing memories and the truth of what happened at the camp that day.

I will say that the ending was fantastic. The final chapter was my favorite chapter by far. I wish it could have had that level of dark intensity throughout.

Thank you to the publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, for providing me with a copy to read and review. While this wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, I know a lot of Readers out there will enjoy this one!

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Review: Going Bicoastal by Dahlia Adler

Going BicoastalGoing Bicoastal by Dahlia Adler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Going Bicoastal is the must-read Queer YA Contemporary Romance of the summer! It made me giddy. I loved it!

That may seem like a bold proclamation, but I mean it from the depths of my soul. I absolutely adored it, from the first chapter to the last.

In this story, our main character is Natalya, a bi Jewish girl, who lives with her Dad, a mathematics Professor in NYC. Her estranged Mom works in advertising and lives in L.A.

With summer approaching, Natalya needs to make a big decision. Her Mom wants her to go to L.A. to live with her for the summer.

They’ve barely spoken in years and going to stay with her Mom, means leaving everything she knows and loves behind; including her Dad and the red-headed girl she’s been crushing on.

Natalya can see the other side too though. It could be a chance to repair her relationship with her Mom. Does she want that? And the opportunity to explore new interests and opportunities; to get out of her comfort zone.

It’s such an important choice. How will she ever be able to make it? She has a tough time making regular impact choices on a regular day…

She can’t choose. So then, in the best use of the Sliding Doors plot device since, well, Sliding Doors, we the Reader, get to watch both choices playing out parallel to one another via alternating chapters.

We see Tal in NYC, breaking out of her shell, talking to the girl, taking on new interests and potentially healing things with her Mom through a long-distance option.

We see Nat in L.A., living with her Mom for the first time in years, working at her Mom’s business, meeting an interesting boy who also is working as an intern at her Mom’s office, and befriending others in the L.A. Queer and Foodie communities.

Natalya’s learning so much about herself and the plethora of new experiences are helping her understand what she may want for herself in the future.

Y’all, Adler absolutely crushed the construction of this story. While it may sound confusing, it is so seamless, it makes perfect sense as it’s unfolding.

I never found myself scratching my head or feeling like I was missing something. It’s easy in the moment to just coast along with Natalya on her journey.

It’s also fun developing opinions on which situation you would prefer. I was Team NYC from the start, and pretty much stayed that way throughout, although the LA scene definitely grew on me due to the all the delicious sounding food and super friendly people.

The writing is engaging and keeps you wanting to know more. I desperately wanted to know what was going to ultimately happen. As I got closer to the end, I wondered how Adler was going to be able to wrap it up.

I loved the ending. It was such a great choice in my opinion. I feel like this might not be for everyone, but I fully support the direction Adler went with it. My heart fills with joy even thinking about it.

Honestly, I appreciated so much how unapologetically sweet and hopeful this story is. Everyone deserves a happy ending, and I think everyone can find one here.

I definitely recommend this to YA Romance Readers, or anyone looking for a fun and unique Queer story. Be prepared to smile.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. 10-out-of-10 recommend!

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Review: The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway

The Renaissance of Gwen HathawayThe Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway is a charming-YA Contemporary Romantic Comedy set at a Renaissance Faire.

If that description sounds even slightly alluring to you, you need to pick this up posthaste.

In this story we follow 17-year old, Maddie Hathaway, who has traveled and worked the Faire circuit with her parents her whole life. Maddie doesn’t attend regular school and has had only one really close friend.

A lot has changed over the last year for Maddie though. Her good friend and their family have left the circuit, so they are forced into long-distance friendship. The most devastating change though is that Maddie’s Mom has passed away, leaving her and her Dad to travel the circuit alone.

It’s understandably left a huge hole in their lives and while they are still close, they have a more difficult time connecting without Mom around.

When we meet Maddie, they are just getting to the final stop of the season, a place in Oklahoma that was her Mom’s favorite. This seems fitting as the one-year anniversary of her passing is going to happen while they are there.

Unfortunately, the property is under new management and a lot has changed.

Being back at this place and seeing the changes sends Maddie for a bit of loop. She is struggling and feels alone. Her Dad keeps himself busy with work and Faire friends, so it gives Maddie a lot of time to just be in her own head. Sometimes that is not a comfortable place to be.

Then we meet Arthur. A jovial and fun-loving bard, son to the new owners, who sets his sights on Maddie, christens her Gwen, as in Guinevere, and then refuses to leave her alone, no matter how much Maddie tries to shut him down.

We are talking the teen grumpy-sunshine set-up of my dreams. Once Arthur and Maddie meet, I was unable to look away. They are just so cute.

I loved how wholesome this story felt. I generally wouldn’t use that word, but I don’t know, it just seems to fit here. It was such a great examination of IRL-issues, while also bringing such warm humor and charm.

The setting of the Faire is so well done. I love how the Faire shapes the action. It’s not just stated as the backdrop to sell copies, it actually is an integral part of the story.

I feel like a lot of Readers will be able to connect with this one. As an exploration of grief and confidence issues, I can’t give it higher marks. I also liked the way Maddie’s character grew over the course of the story.

As Maddie was able to let down her walls, the world opened for her in such a positive way. I know this is a standalone, but I would love more of this story and these characters.

Maddie is at such an important point in her life, the end of high school, and I would love to see what choices she makes for herself in the future.

Initially, I gave this one 4.5-stars, but the more I have sat with the story, thought about it, talked about it, recommended it to people, the more in love with it I am.

I laughed, I cried, I became so invested in Maddie’s life and outcome; how could I not bump this up to 5-stars?

If you love witty banter and humor, paired with the honest exploration of real-world issues, you have to check this out; particularly if you a fan of Renaissance Faires. Additionally, I think this could be a great story for parents and teens to read together. I think it could open up some great dialogue.

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

This is the first novel I have read from Ashley Shumacher and I am definitely excited to read more of their work in the future!

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Review: Funeral Songs for Dying Girls by Cherie Dimaline

Funeral Songs for Dying GirlsFuneral Songs for Dying Girls by Cherie Dimaline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls is equal parts heartbreakingly-beautiful and chest-constricting in its uncomfortableness. This isn’t an easy read and won’t be for everyone.

I read this in 2-days and was genuinely moved by it.

This novel is told via the 1st-person perspective of a girl named Winifred. It’s the summer she turns 16 and Winifred christens it the Summer of Humiliations.

Winifred is at a difficult period in her life. Her mother passed away when she was born, so Winifred has never had a lot of strong female influence in her life. The only adult female she’s had a genuine connection with was her Aunt, her mother’s sister, who has recently passed on.

Not only was this a loss of the only sort of motherly influence she has had, but it was also the loss of the only connection she had to her Mom’s family and the MΓ©tis community. It’s a big loss and she definitely feels it.

Upsetting her world further is the news that the crematorium that her Father works at may be shutting down, his job outsourced. If this happens, Winifred and her Dad will be forced to move from the only home she has ever known.

They live in an apartment on the cemetery grounds, close to her Mother’s grave. Even the idea of having to move on from this space causes a great deal of anxiety for Winifred, and for her Dad.

When Winifred’s comings-and-goings around the graveyard mistakenly get labeled as hauntings however, Winifred sees this as a potential saving grace. A local ghost tour is interested in the hauntings and may add the cemetery to their stops list because of them.

If they do, this could mean additional income and a possibility that the crematorium could remain open. They would be able to stay in their house. Winifred needs to develop a plan to coax this possibility along.

After Winifred befriends an actual ghost in the graveyard though, her outlook on everything slowly begins to shift.

The ghost is a teen girl, Phil, who died tragically in a ravine next to the cemetery decades before. Through the telling of her story, Winifred’s eyes are opened to the greater world around her. She starts to see and consider things she never did before.

Through Phil’s short life, Winifred is inadvertently introduced to the rest of hers. There’s a great big world out there, what is Winifred’s place in it?

First of all, the writing in this book is breathtaking, in such a raw, sort of aggressive way. I’m not sure I can quite convey what I mean by this, but basically, in the beginning, Winifred is in a really tough spot in her life. The way she views the world, and tells her story, is jaded and harsh.

Not a lot is going her way. She’s an outcast at school, ridiculed by her peers for being strange. They call her Wednesday Addams and generally give her a hard time.

She has her Dad, who provides for her and obviously loves her, but he is emotionally unavailable. He’s stuck in his grief from the loss of his wife and that has unfortunately put up a bit of a wall between him and his daughter.

Winifred has her dog, Mrs. Dingleberry, who she loves so much and her best friend, Jack. Unfortunately, as her and Jack have gotten older their relationship has changed and gotten complicated. Then an event on her 16th-birthday ends up fracturing it further, so she is feeling more alone than ever.

At first, she seemed so abrasive to me. I wondered if I would be able to connect with her, but the further I got into the story, the more I learned about her and I cared more and more. Learning about her family and about her wants, it sucks you in.

Phil’s story is even more heartbreaking than Winifred’s and the way it is slowly revealed, oh man, so impactful. The final section of Phil’s story, I cried. I cried for Phil and for all the young people who have similar experiences to hers. Lost souls who will never find a way home.

Overall, I think this is a powerful story for those who can stomach it. It’s not an easy read. It’s not fast-paced, or plot heavy, this is very much a character examination and a moving portrait of growing up, discovering your identity and learning to love yourself and others.

I was so impressed with Dimaline’s writing and her ability to pour emotion and culture into the story in an unflinching and unapologetic way. It’s dark, but ultimately left me full of hope. I am very satisfied with the way it wrapped-up.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tundra Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I was moved by this and I hope it gets into the hands of Readers who appreciate it.

I think for the people this resonates with, it will be a very memorable reading experience indeed.

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Review: Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

GrownGrown by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enchanted Jones is a 17-year old high school student with dreams of becoming a singer. Even though Enchanted is one of five children and on her high school swim team, she often feels like an outsider, even when surrounded by people.

Enchanted and her family moved and she entered her school when she was a little older, so she doesn’t have the same well-established friend group that a lot of her peers have. She does have one very close friend, Gabby.

In fact, it’s Gabby who pushes Enchanted to audition for a singing competition show. Enchanted has to trick her Mom to get to the audition, but she pulls it off and gets her try-out. She can’t miss this opportunity.

Unfortunately, her nerves get the best of her in the moment and she doesn’t do as well as she had hoped. Even though she didn’t secure a spot in the competition, she did catch the eye of a very successful R&B artist, Korey Fields.

Things move very quickly from that point for Enchanted. Korey offers her free singing lessons, she’s invited to his studio and eventually to tour with him. It takes a lot to convince her parents this is a good thing for her, but after promises from the label, they agree to let her go.

Fast forward, Enchanted waking up covered in blood. Korey is dead. Enchanted has no memory of the night before. Police are knocking at the door. All signs point to Enchanted as the killer, but how could this possibly happen? What would have lead to this horrible conclusion?

This story was arranged and told so well by Jackson. You know at the very beginning the bloody scene I have described above. The rest of the book takes you back through the events leading up to Korey’s death.

I definitely had an idea of the difficult content contained in this book, but I completely underestimated how powerful it would be. Every time I read a Tiffany D. Jackson book I think, this one is her best work and Grown is no exception. I freaking loved this.

Jackson has such a talent for creating well-rounded, relatable, likable characters that you would fight for. Enchanted goes through it in this book and I felt like I was there with her.

Some of the scenes depicted in this novel are very hard to read. It’s emotional, horrifying and shocking to consider that these types of situations happen to young women and girls all the time. Behind closed doors, you never know what is really going on.

I enjoyed how Jackson included some mixed media of outsider’s reactions to Enchanted’s situation, from the very beginning, when her peers were first learning of her involvement with Korey, all the way through the exposure of the crime. Some of the ideas vented were fairly typical of what you would read online if a story like this actually broke.

It was a good reminder to check yourself before you make too many assumptions. I also feel like that added to the very real vibe of this story.

This was actually my last published Tiffany D. Jackson novel that I had left to read. I am so glad that I finally made the time for this one. I can’t believe I put it off for so long.

I actually Buddy Read this with my fabulous niece, Alyssa and we had a good time discussing it. There’s definitely a lot of food for thought within this story.

Jackson never holds back and this story benefited from that fact. I was moved by the Author’s Note, how Jackson mentioned that when she was teen, she too dated older men. You can tell that this was a topic that she truly felt was worthy of discussion.

And it is not just the age difference, of course, or Korey’s reprehensible treatment of Enchanted. It’s an entire system that allows this type of thing to happen and then doubts, judges and ultimately silences young women’s stories/voices.

I would definitely recommend this book. Best read with friends, as you’re definitely going to want to talk about it!!

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Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord

Begin AgainBegin Again by Emma Lord
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Emma Lord and I have a special relationship. It’s like she sees me, she gets me, she channels what interests me into her stories. Every time I pick up one of her books, my heart is filled to the brim with love.

Okay, I’m not delusional. I know we don’t actually have a special relationship, but I definitely connect with her stories in a remarkable way; one that stands out to me amongst the many books I read.

For her latest release, Begin Again, I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the synopsis. I don’t really care what it is about, if her name is on the cover, I’m picking it up.

I went into this blind and was absolutely delighted with how this story began to unfold. Something completely wild happens in our protagonist’s life right off the bat. I was shocked and laughed, is this what this book is about?

This story follows Andie, who is navigating her first year post-high school. After spending her first semester at a local community college, remaining at home with her grandmothers, Andie has recently transferred to the college of her dreams.

Blue Ridge State is 2-hours from Andie’s home and once she is there, she quickly realizes that she is on her own for the very first time. Honestly, the wide-open freedom is jarring and a bit overwhelming.

Andie is a girl who always has a plan and right from the start her plans for her time at Blue Ridge don’t go as she anticipated. Her long-term boyfriend, Connor, who attended Blue Ridge first semester actually transferred to Andie’s old community college to surprise her.

She transferred to Blue Ridge with the hopes of surprising him. Huge whoopsie!

That enormous flub really sets the stage for Andie’s first term. She’s sort of thrown for a loop, but she isn’t someone who gives in easily. She slowly starts to build her own life; establish her independence.

Andie finds a group of friends, passions to pursue and a boy who is super kind and shares her interests. Blue Ridge is beginning to feel like home.

Life isn’t always smooth sailing though, as we all know and before too long the stress-monster is rearing his ugly head.

Connor is trying to maintain his presence in Andie’s life and she has mixed feelings about the status of their relationship. Then some startling secrets are revealed and of course, there’s some family drama happening that Andie can no longer ignore.

It’s a lot for her to try to navigate successfully. She’s sort of torn between the person she was and the person she has the potential to become. I became super invested in Andie’s life and all the issues swirling around her.

This story is set in that pivotal time of life when you are transitioning from high school, living with your family, to adulthood, living on your own. It’s that sweet spot where the building blocks of your future really begin to solidify.

Andie had some trauma in her family. She lost her mother when she was younger and her father skipped out a bit after that. It was a very impactful experience in her life.

As you would expect, Andie brings that into college with her. Her relationship with her father is still strained, even though he is making an effort, she’s not entirely sure she’s ready to forgive him just yet.

I love how Lord’s stories always include the complexity of family life. Families are just that, they’re complicated. Even the ones that appear perfect, there’s always something there; some issue or issues that can be explored.

Andie being on her own for the first time was also so compelling. She was on quite a journey of self-discovery, even if she was the last one to realize it.

Emma Lord brings so much love to her stories. You can tell she writes with care. She cares about her characters and how the issues are presented. While the stories overall have a feel-good tone, there are always deeper meanings and connections to be made.

I connected particularly well with this story. I’m not entirely sure what it was, but I developed such empathy for Andie. Additionally, the friend group, the found family feel, really touched me and the ending was completely satisfying.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

While I figured I would love this story, I had no idea how much I would LOVE this story. I cannot wait to see what Emma Lord gifts us with next!!

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Review: Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno

Summer of SaltSummer of Salt by Katrina Leno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently picked up Summer of Salt as Book #13 for my TBR-Haul Project. Checking ’em off feels good!

I originally hauled this book in December 2018, receiving it as a Christmas gift from my partner. Since then, even though I have read other works from Katrina Leno and really enjoyed them, I never picked this one up.

When I saw this was an option for my next selection for my project, I was so excited. I was looking forward to heading into Leno’s backlist for this magical YA Contemporary novel.

From the synopsis, I felt like it would be a perfect, cozy November read and boy, was it ever!

Summer of Salt follows Georgina Fernweh and her twin sister, Mary. The girls live on a little island called By-the-Sea, with their mother, who owns an Inn.

Even though the island is tiny, it has some very special features. The one that draws the most attention is the fact that a mysterious, one-0f-a-kind bird, who the locals have dubbed Annabella, makes their shores her annual summer destination.

Whilst there, Annabella nests solo for a couple of months before moving on. Her residence on island brings many, many birders to the island as well. These birdheads are intrigued by Annabella. They want to see her, study her, just be near her.

She’s rare, she’s beautiful, she’s the Margot Robbie of birds.

Like Annabella herself, the birdheads return year after year, most of them staying at the Fernweh Inn. The Fernweh family is tied to this by more than the tourists though, they share an unexpected link to Annabella as well.

When something happens that disrupts this annual tradition, the island is thrown off it’s normal course. Things get dark, the rain starts and many truths are revealed.

I adored every aspect of this book. From the very first chapter the atmosphere that Leno created was exactly what I was looking for. I could taste the salt and the magic. I fell in love with the characters and the rich traditions of the island.

Honestly, Summer of Salt is one of the most beautiful stories that I have ever read. This one hit me hard. IYKYK.

I love how Leno blended whimsy with darker subject matter. It was the perfect ratio. I felt so connected to these characters and everything they were going through as they navigated their last summer on island before college.

The magical realism elements were incredibly well done too; engaging and easy to understand. There’s actually a number of different topics explored within this and I found it sort of surprising how well they all worked together.

Sometimes it will seem like a book doesn’t know what kind of story it is trying to be when so many things are meshed together, but that was absolutely not the case here. It was really beautifully constructed.

As a person who lives on a small island, 30-miles out to sea, I can also attest to the fact that Leno nailed these New England island vibes. I was definitely relating to it.

You can probably tell, this story touched my heart. I will remember this magical and eye-opening story for a long time to come. 10-out-of-10 recommend!

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