Holy cow, it’s almost autumn already?? Where has the time gone so quickly? Like, holy crap. Speedy indoor summer, ugh. Well, I’ve kept busy by reading, reading, and oh yea, more reading. I mean, is anyone surprised? And these books are sure to keep you all busy as you stay home and socially distanced from others.
So, welcome back to Miranda’s Book Nook with more of my latest book recommendations that’ll keep you company all autumn long. I hope you find these books as engaging, fun, and comforting as I have.
Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan
The second I first learned that Kevin Kwan was coming out with his first new book since the worldwide phenomenon that is the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, I was stoked. Here, we get a brand-new tale of a young woman torn between two men: her influential WASPy fiancé and George Zao, the man her family’s tried to keep away from her since she was a teenager. Y’all, let me just say that this book was so indulging and deliciously decadent that I just couldn’t put it down and had to devour it in a single setting. Sorry not sorry, it’s so juicy, dramatic, and engaging.
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
Yes, I used to be a Twihard, and yes, I read this new Twilight book within days of its initial publication release. Duh. I mean, was that ever a question? If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that fandom never really goes away (thanks Hunger Games, Jonas Brothers, and One Direction); it just lays dormant for a bit — and can come back with a vengeance, just as strong as ever.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Stephenie Meyer went back and rewrote the first book in her bestselling saga from Edward’s angsty teen boy slash vampire perspective. After the first draft was leaked and posted online years back, now, she’s finally finished it and it is here! So, what’s it about? It’s the same time frame, plot points, and characters first seen in Twilight, just flipped around and told from Edward’s side aka the lion’s instead of the lamb’s. This companion novel takes on a darker side as vampire Edward attempts to stay away from Bella or if he’s meant to kill her and drink her blood rather than fall in love. It’s definitely a lot darker and angstier than the original, and I definitely was intrigued by this darker version.
Reading this book seriously felt like I was back in middle school, in the heyday of my Twilight obsession, staying up way too late each night just to finish another chapter. Because, that’s been me for the week it first was out. Now, it’s nearly 700 pages, which like what a chunker, and I could barely hold it, LOL. But, it’s so much fun to go back to this beloved franchise and see it from a different perspective. I liked that it was Edward’s, one because he was the other main character besides Bella, and two because as a mind reader, that means we also get to see the viewpoints of the other Cullens (and their backgrounds!) and Forks students. That part was super fun. Plus, Edward had some zingers, like when he retorts “no blood, no foul” about himself in response to a question about being hurt. Literally made me chuckle out loud.
CLUELESS: A Totally Classic Picture Book by G.M. Berrow, Illustrated by Heather Burns
Yes, you read that correctly. Amy Heckerling’s totally tubular, iconic ’90s cult classic has been reworked into a children’s picture book, and I’m totally buggin’ out about it. Like, obviously the movie is a classic that I can still quote every line and then I had to see the original musical years back because I love this 90s-style world so much. A book about it, like yes, please! The book, out just in time for the movie’s 25th anniversary, reimagines the Bronson Alcott students as pint-sized fashionistas living their best lives in elementary school. This is an awesome way to share your love of this tubular flick with your little ones and introduce them to a good teen movie.
This illustrated children’s book features all the classic nostalgia, Easter eggs, characters, fashion-forward ensembles, but all kid-friendly, obviously. Here, we follow precious tots Cher and Dionne who meet newbie Tai at Bronson Alcott Elementary. Tai, much like her film counterpart, is a fan of skateboarding and baggy clothes. Cher and Dionne are determined to help make their new bestie fit in with the stylish Beverly Hills crowd as these popular kiddos try to tell her how to dress or what hobbies she should like. But in the end, they realize that everyone’s different and that what makes them so flipping awesome!
We have Cher’s classic home, the same like way-classic language from the film, her computer program to match outfits (which I’m still waiting on IRL, plaid matching outfits (!!), all her rad friends, epic fashion looks that are exactly as we remember from the movie, and a sweet story about fitting in, standing out, and friendship. Just the romances are missing, after all, it is a book for kids. It’s precious and you’d like totally be missing out if this wasn’t added to any young kiddo’s reading list. Missing this picture book? OMG, as if! Thanks to a physical advance copy, courtesy of Hachette Book Group, I’ll definitely be reading this to my young cousins every time I see them. Sorry, but they need to be educated about the iconic world that is Clueless.
Available: September 1
Image Courtesy: Clueless TM & © 2020 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe*
First off, nearly every single Netgalley review for this new YA novel gives it either four or five stars (out of five), which to me indicates that it has to be something special. And after reading the first few pages alone, I can confirm it most definitely is. After only a couple pages, I desperately want and need to keep reading because the narrator Henri’s point of view is just so relatable, authentic, engaging, and completely captivating.
This diverse teen romance (yes, this is what we need more of in the genre!!) is whip-smart, fun, and relatable for many readers. Henri “Halti” is a NYC native, the first-generation son of Haitian immigrants, and who is the epitome of a charming, well-liked teenage boy. He’s smart, a good kid, an entrepreneurial dog walker. He started his own part-time dog walking site/brand as a way to help pay for college tuition for next year, and his eyes are set on Columbia University. At first, he doesn’t notice Corinne Troy as anything but the hyper-smart, annoying girl from school. She’s sort of his school rival as they push one another’s buttons. She’s a very Type A student and seems perfect to him. After she moves into his building on the Upper West Side and her mom hires Halti to walk her new pooch Palm Tree, she soon discovers his scheme and blackmails him to help her become popular with their school peers (and seem less intense about academics) in exchange for her silence about the truth of his business. (Side note: I love Corinne, hahaha she’s a gem and quite a fun character!)
It’s a quick, fun YA read that I have a hard time setting down because it’s just so enjoyable, even so early in the book. Philippe’s tone of voice for Henri is so witty and genuine, which makes this book even more captivating. There’s such a precious, innocent slow burn romance that’s perfectly timed with the book’s pace which was absolutely adorable and I can’t stop smiling, it’s that cute. By the ending, Henri did a stupid, stupid, dumb thing because he was so desperate to get into Columbia, and it made me so so pissed. But, in the end, that’s a good thing for this book because I could feel his emotions and it made me feel things as any good novel should. In the end, wow, it’s so raw and vulnerable, but then the epilogue delivers the cute HEA we all craved and that made me Smile.
Available: September 8
The Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant*
This was a sugary-sweet romance, and honestly, that’s really all I could say. It’s wholesome and pleasant, but sometimes you just need that. Here, pastry chef Bri hails from a small town in Kansas and she’s ever the romantic, willing to wait however long it takes for her own HEA and prince to show up. In contrast, gruff travel writer Gerard is anything but, and a past relationship has made him jaded to the ideas of love. He’s assigned to cover the bakery where she works, which has gone viral thanks to a love lock wall in the backyard, the owners’ matchmaking schemes, a European theme, and a “cute blonde who works there.” And by the first page, I’m already dreaming of macarons.
It’s clearly set up to be a cutesy, wholesome opposites-attract trope, and it doesn’t get off to the best start for this reader. It’s told in back and forth perspectives and it’s a super slowww slow-burn and enemies-to-lovers romance with banter. Like OMG, them quoting Pride and Prejudice to each other in French is so adorable and funny. It’s fun, sweet, and cute. That’s about it. Then, it gets very emotionally charged by the end with a reveal about her parents and a big bombshell, however, all that feels like an at-the-buzzer revelation that could have been teased or started earlier.
The writing is good and captivating, but there’s no extra oomph to make this book shine, and it ends up as another cutesy baking romance story. Then, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger that’s barely addressed in the next section or from the other point of view and it feels abrupt and catches you off guard because there are so many lingering questions left as a new time frame, event, or something is revealed. Then, the ending gets super religious, which almost comes out of left field because religious beliefs and God-talk wasn’t even addressed until the tail end. It caught me off guard because religion wasn’t really mentioned as a guiding factor at any point beforehand. Then, the end of the book didn’t address her final actions before they got their HEA, and to me, it feels like part of their, and her, journey is incomplete as individuals and as a pair.
Available: October 13
The Transatlantic Book Club by Felicity Hayes-McCoy*
First off, the Irish setting gives me so much wanderlust and the bookish storyline makes me happy! In this multicultural Irish family fictional story, the story follows communities across both a small Irish town and an American town chock full of Irish immigrants.
It starts off with Cassie, who moves back to Ireland to be with her grandma after her grandfather passes away, and soon after that, the duo heads to this small US town where her Gran Pat had once visited her cousin as a teen. Once back in Ireland after the trip, Cassie takes a part-time job at the local library, which like, yay, I love bookish themes in my novels! Immediately, there are several narrators between Cassie, Pat, librarian Hannah and her mom Mary, all of whom can be a bit difficult to discern who’s who with so much happening all at once; The novel’s very ambitious in that way. Plus, in the beginning, several chapters are purely exposition and intros, and it’s very, very slow to get into the main story. The main idea is that Cassie sets up a transatlantic book club for the both the towns of Lissberg and Resolve, where they’ll chat weekly, at one time, via Skype about a book, or just a social call. This book features so much descriptive language that plays out like a movie in my head, but having too many points of view is making things difficult to keep track of, along with barely any transition between flashbacks and the present-day setting. That part feels abrupt and confusing as a reader. However, something clearly happened in the past and I’m very curious to find out what. There’s not a ton of action throughout and it wasn’t easy to get into. I wanted to love it so badly because books and travel are my weakness, however, I just couldn’t get into this one, unfortunately. It was fine, but nothing more than that.
Available: November 10
Pretending by Holly Bourne*
OK, this latest ARC! I loved it, now I don’t think it’s five-star worthy because one, that’d hard to achieve and two, it’s something I’d go to reread actively. But, I did thoroughly enjoy this women’s fiction (which should just be fiction in general, but I digress) novel. From page one, narrator April is snarky, relatable, witty, and I just love this tone and language. It’s so relatable and fun that I just want to keep reading. Then, it’s set in London, which is my ultimate guilty pleasure as an Anglophile, so yay, score one. I’m like super into this novel from so early on, mainly because April feels so honest and real. She’s vulnerable and genuine, making a stellar protagonist and I’m so invested in her journey and story.
Now, April, at the beginning, hasn’t exactly had the best luck with men (join the club, girl, join the club), and she’d fed up with that shit. So, she’s after revenge on any guy that’s hurt any girl and made them worthless. She sets out to make a new dating profile and date (or catfish) men as Gretel, the girl in her head that she thinks men want and is the complete opposite of the real her. This way she can break their hearts like they so often do to her. She matches with Joshua, who just seems so endearing and sweet, like I keep saying ‘aww precious’ about everything he does, that, and their first date is super cute, except that she’s pretending to be someone else. But, this experiment is helping the real her because April is becoming more confident and not overanalyzing every little detail, but of course, she starts to see they are quite compatible even though she’s admitted that he’s not good-looking, not bad-looking, and not a good kisser, like eesh. DM conversations help show the passage of time and recount different days and dates to move things along. It’s just so vulnerable and open, which makes everything feel so real and raw. Josh is so endearing yet a bit clueless, so I’m not sure if they really have this connection and he’s The Guy because he is falling for the fake her and he’s super clingy.
All in all, this book is witty and captivating, and I can’t put it down; I have to keep reading. I loved this read because I get it, everything April feels, and it’s real, authentic, yet still frothy, light, and fun that keeps you turning the pages. So many women’s fiction nowadays revolve around a man or romance, and getting a man to fall in love with a girl, her needing or wanting love. And it’s refreshing to see that this book isn’t that because love and relationships are real, raw, and messy, just like life really is. I just want more content, and have so many lingering questions about where her story goes from here. There’s an epilogue that is quite ambiguous, so you can’t help but wonder who is that man at the end she speaks of, like is it Josh or someone else? I have so many questions left and I just want to know and keep reading more!
Also, the book definitely needs a trigger warning as April discusses and deals with her past sexual assault. But, I think it’s brave that she’s acknowledging and searching for a way to move forward, but it could definitely be triggering depending on your past.
Available: November 17
*Advance reader copies of several of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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