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

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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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Review: Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales

Never Ever Getting Back TogetherNever Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My confession of the day is that I have never watched a full episode of either The Bachelor, or The Bachelorette.

Of course I have watched clips and understand the general idea, I’m not a savage. I also recognize it is an absolute sensation and many people love it.

After having so much fun with this book, I think I may need to binge some!

The set-up of Never Ever Getting Back Together feels very ode’ to The Bachelor and frankly I was living for it.

We follow rich, related-to-royalty, arguably-charming playboy, Jordy, getting his own reality television show, Second-Chance Romance.

For the show, ex-girlfriends of Jordy’s will be living together in a mansion, interacting with him and each other, participating in challenges and generally biding for his attention. Week-by-week, Jordy sends one girl packing, until the time comes for his final selection.

Maya dated Jordy two-years ago and the break-up was rough. He cheated on her for months before ultimately calling it quits suddenly when she called him out on his behavior.

Skye dated Jordy directly after Maya. In fact, Maya’s reputation precedes her. Jordy warned Skye how jealous and crazy Maya got after he broke up with her.

Skye can’t believe Maya is joining the show too. Isn’t she like a security risk or something?

When Maya learns Skye, the girl who stole Jordy from her, is going to be participating on the show as well, she’s furious. This girl knowingly dated Jordy behind her back for months. Who does that? Filthy liars, that’s who.

Arriving at the mansion the two girls learn an even more horrible truth, they’re being forced to room together. They’re quite literally bunk-mates.

They try to muscle through it, they might even be contractually-obligated to, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Along with four other girls, Maya and Skye start to settle into their new normal and compete for the ultimate prize: Jordy.

Maya’s no fool though. She knows Jordy too well to fall for any of this smoke in mirrors. Jordy hasn’t changed and that’s fine by her. Maya isn’t dreaming of becoming Jordy’s one-true love, she’s dreaming of revenge.

I had a lot of fun with this. Particularly the set-up, it was adorable. The narrative alternates between Skye and Maya, beginning a little before they even agree to be on the show.

The backdrop of the mansion, filming the reality show, it was great. I felt like I was getting a real glimpse behind the scenes of an actual show. It felt very realistic.

I also liked the mix of personalities that the contestants had. They all had their own motivations for being there and few of those actually revolved around Jordy, or love.

Skye and Maya’s interactions, as they got to know one another, as they battled and then began to drop their defenses; I thought that was really well done too.

My only slight issues with this story would be that I feel like it may have worked better if the story was actually written as New Adult, or Adult. It could have gone farther in the exploration of the relationships.

Also, I didn’t feel the chemistry between the characters. I didn’t find the romance that ultimately transpires believable.

These are tiny critiques though and both of these things are simply my personal opinion. Overall, this book is adorable as heck and I really enjoyed following the concept through to the end.

I was lucky enough to listen to an audio copy and definitely recommend that medium. The narrators did an incredible job bringing this story to life.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I am absolutely looking forward to more from Sophie Gonzales!!


Never Ever Getting Back Together
releases next Tuesday, November 29th. Preorder your copy now. You don’t want to miss out. Get it while it’s hot!!

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Review: Spells for Lost Things by Jenna Evans Welch

Spells for Lost ThingsSpells for Lost Things by Jenna Evans Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Willow dreams of traveling the world. Her first big move would be a study aboard program in France for her entire Senior year, but her Mom puts a big kibosh on that idea before it even gets off the ground.

Feeling confused by her mother’s detached nature, Willow is further surprised when her Mom tells her they need to leave immediately to travel to Salem, Massachusetts, to settle the estate of an Aunt that Willow has never even heard of. Her mother had a sister!?

Yeah, Willow had no clue. Her Mom doesn’t talk a lot about her early life, but this is pushing it even for her.

Not really having an option in the matter, Willow goes along for the journey. In a way it’s what she wants, to travel. She’s intrigued by the quirky little town they discover and the people, even quirkier.

Mason has been in and out of the Boston foster care system for a while. Some placements have been okay, some have been bad, but his end goal has always remained the same. He needs to get back to his Mom. They belong together.

Mason was removed from his mother’s care because she is an addict, who has been unable to care for him. Now he is getting ready to go into a new placement. It’s a little different this time, as the woman, Emma, was once best friends with his Mom.

Emma lives with her husband and their four daughters in Salem, Massachusetts.

They’re both new in town, strangers to everyone, but when their paths randomly cross one night under the bright New England stars, it seems like Willow and Mason were fated to know one another.

The two become fast friends as he helps her try to solve a mystery involving her mother’s family. All the while she’s helping him with his own life without even realizing it.

Y’all, this book left me speechless. It’s definitely a slow burn, but man, did it creep up on me with a vengeance. The last few chapters held so many moments that brought tears to my eyes, choked me up, left me gasping with the beauty of it all.

I have read all of Jenna Evans Welch’s other novels and have enjoyed them all, giving both Love & Gelato and Love & Olives 5-stars, but this book has a power behind it that none of those had.

Those are great books, but this is a special book. It’s a heavy hitter that has the ability to open hearts and minds to perspectives that may not have been considered before. That’s some serious stuff.

Both Willow and Mason are on the cusp of adulthood and both have visions of what they want their futures to be like. Unfortunately, both of them are struggling with unresolved family issues that could put a serious damper on their abilities to thrive.

I loved how they came together at the right time and were able to both gain insight from one another that helped them with their own path.

Although their circumstances are completely different, I think they found unlikely allies with one another and that was something they both desperately needed.

In addition to the hard-hitting Contemporary story, I loved just the overall feel of this book. Due to the setting, which plays such a role in this story, it really has a great, cozy Autumn vibe.

If you are looking for an atmospheric Autumnal read, but maybe aren’t a fan of Horror, or spooky stories, this could be a great fit for you. You’ll want to grab a hot beverage, some tissues and a cozy sweater as you get swept away by this engaging tale of love, magic, family and friendship.

I definitely 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.

I cannot wait to see what Jenna Evans Welch gives us next!!

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Review: Well, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Well, That Was UnexpectedWell, That Was Unexpected by Jesse Q. Sutanto
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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After Sharlot Citra’s mother walks in on her clumsily exploring her sexuality, her mother freaks out. Things are going to change around here!

After George Clooney Tanuwijaya’s father walks in on him clumsily exploring his sexuality, his father freaks out. Things are going to change around here!

For Sharlot, this change includes leaving her life in California behind, getting dragged onto an international flight, and flying to her mother’s native Indonesia where they will remain for the rest of the Summer.

For George, the change isn’t quite as shocking to the system. As a member of one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in Indonesia, George isn’t going anywhere, but he will have his family meddling a lot more into his social life.

Unbeknownst to both teens, Sharlot’s mom and George’s dad have begun quests to find appropriate romantic partners for their children. They cannot sit by and let their teens deviant behaviors progress any further.

Thus, they do what any good parent would do and they both begin cat-fishing potential love interests via social media.

And that’s how Sharlot and George ultimately end up on the most uncomfortable date ever, in one of the most beautiful coffee shops ever, struggling to live up to whatever ridiculous things their parents invented about them.

For example, Sharlot’s fake hobbies include cooking strong bone broth and hopefully one day being a good wife, while George’s hobbies include math and someday taking over the family empire.

As the teens are forced to continue the charade for a number of different reasons, they begin to get to know one other on their own terms.

Will they like what they find? And if so, how will they ever clear the air about the truth behind their meeting in the first place? What other terrible things could go wrong?!

With these two families, literally anything and everything.

Y’all, I loved this with my whole heart and soul. I was so invested in these characters. Sharlot and George have to be two of my favorite characters ever.

Well, That Was Unexpected got unexpectedly under my skin. While the humor kept me giggling throughout, certain emotional aspects got me deep in my feels. It was everything I wanted and more.

I knew going into this that Sutanto’s sense of humor meshes really well with my own. I love how realistically she writes her characters thoughts, which are always so darn on point and witty.

This story is told via alternating perspectives from Sharlot and George. It was so fun seeing both of their sides to this unbelievable situation they found themselves in. I also liked being able to see both of their thoughts involving the evolution of their feelings towards one another.

100% satisfying start-to-finish!!

This is definitely my favorite Romantic Comedy of the year and in fact, is one of my favorites ever.

I would fall on a sword for it. I would shout from a rooftop for it. I would fly to Jakarta to defend its honor…and might as well get some delicious coffee whilst I’m there… πŸ˜‹β˜•οΈ

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me a copy to read and review.

I am a Jesse Q. Sutanto stan and this novel is the perfect example as to why. I can’t wait to pick up whatever she serves up next!!

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