Here are 10 New Books That Should Be on Your Radar This Summer

Summer is just starting to arrive and my TBR’s only gotten longer. Whoopsies. But, I have managed to read 86 books this year so far (as of early May when I wrote this blog post). But, I feel like I’m just getting started for the year. After all, I still have the likes of People We Meet on Vacation by Emily HenryCirce by Madeline Miller, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, If This Gets Out by Cale Dietrich & Sophie Gonzales, and wayyy more left on my TBR book cart (yes, I indeed own a book cart for my TBR and it’s packed).

Out of all the upcoming releases I’ve been reading this spring/early summer in ARC form, there are some good ones that I’ve been obsessing over ever since I read those final pages. We even have three five-star reads on this list! So, without further ado, welcome back to Miranda’s Book Nook; apologies for the delay. But what can I say, I had books to finish first… Keep reading for even more 2021 book releases that I haven’t been able to get enough of that should definitely be on your radar this summer. Beach reads, anyone??

Gutter Girl by Kelly Anne Blount, Lynn Rush

I really enjoyed these authors’ collaboration on the teen hockey romance, In The Penalty Box and so, I was excited to check this new YA novel out.

Told in dual perspectives, we follow star football player Jace who writes fantasy romance stories, and outsider McKenna. Jace loves writing these fantastical romances with action, adventure, swordplay, and kissing yet no one knows he’s written one of the most popular stories on Scribbles (a fictional version of Wattpad). Certainly not his overbearing parents, the other kids at school, or his thousands of fans who read it online each week. When his teammate grabs his notebook and starts to read out a kissing scene, McKenna (who typically hates the spotlight) jumps in to save him and claims the notebook is hers. He convinces her to keep up this ruse and keep his secret for a price, and he’d do anything to keep this under wraps. As the duo starts to fall for one another, he knows he has to keep the biggest, darkest secret to himself: The main villain that his fans love to hate is based on goth girl McKenna before they got to know one another.

The action kicks off right away, and I’m immediately drawn into this story, and it’s fun and I like it. The characters are deep and complex, yet still tell a light, fun, enjoyable, and emotionally vulnerable YA story. It’s so cute and so precious, and I just want more to their story like right now.

Rating: Four Stars

Available:


One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I was beyond, beyond excited to receive an advanced galley of this book after I devoured her first book, Red, White & Royal Blue. My galley came in audio-form from MacMillian Audio, and I swear, I would have taken this ARC in literally any format if it meant I could read this one as soon as possible. So, yes, I’m so pumped to start listening to this one. And now that I’ve read it (well, listened), guys, my fellow RWRB obsessives: y’all are going to go nuts because it’s that good.

Here, we follow 23-year-old August who just moved to New York City as a way to prove to herself that magic and true love doesn’t exist, because after all, she’s a skeptic and a closet detective. One day she spots a gorgeous girl on the subway, on the Q train to be exact. This girl, Jane, is dazzling and mysterious who shows up to save August’s day when she needs it most. So, obviously August develops a little subway crush on the girl that makes every single day better, but soon she realizes that Jane is actually displaced in time from the ’70s, and August sets out to help her remember who she is and beat this curse/problem. It’s billed as a magical, sexy, and bighearted romance, which is definitely an accurate depiction. The language has humor in spades, like laugh-out-loud lines. August is described in a way that makes her an authentic and realistic main character, which makes me super into her story.

It feels unlike anything I’ve read before, including RWRB, but it’s still a fun sapphic New Adult romance with a sweeping romance sprinkled in. It’s fun, and I was so curious to keep reading to find out what would happen next. Plus, Jane+August are so flipping cute, like I couldn’t stop smiling for a minute while listening. This slow-burn romance is also a love letter to NYC and good friends, too. Plus, it has this fun mysterious element to take it out of the realm of *just* being a romance novel; it’s way more than that. If I had to categorize this book, I’d say it’s Veronica Mars meets time-travel meets sapphic romance, which seems like an odd combination yet it completely works, and I’m sold. The language is witty and funny, too, and I love, love, love it and yes, it totally lives up to all the hype it’s already been racking up.

As an audiobook, I found the story so immersive and compelling. The narrator puts you in August’s head and what she sees. She uses different voices to effortlessly capture all the different characters and their various personalities. It feels realistic, yet engaging and bubbly. Between the story and the narration, I just want to keep listening to this story to find out what would happen next. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in this story thanks to such compelling language and vibrant narration. Plus, there’s so much diverse representation that feels authentic and real, which is another win in this book’s column. Everything is brilliantly planned out, interconnected, and woven together in terms of the story organization. All in all, it feels so original and unlike anything I’ve read prior, which is a very good thing.

Also, I just have to say: 🚞 🌶 🚞, which, like, I know, right?!?!

Rating: Five Stars

Available:


Better Together by Christine Riccio

This book is pitched as Freaky Friday meets The Parent Trap, which immediately intrigued me. Then, I started this book and just couldn’t put it down. Told in alternating viewpoints between two sisters, there’s aspiring comic Jamie and ballerina Siri who live on opposite coasts and just meet for the first time thanks to meddling accomplices and a bit of magic. The two estranged sisters meet at a wellness retreat in Colorado, where they each discover that the sister they haven’t seen in 14 years is there, too. After a rocky time and grudges aplenty, they decide to switch places with a dash of glittery magic to meet the parent they barely knew.

This was such a fun read from the get-go, giving me similar vibes to You Have a Match by Emma Lord, yet it’s still very much its own thing. The author uses fun and authentic language that pulls me into both girls’ worlds. It’s just so light and fun, which makes it easy and quick to get sucked in and just keep reading.

Rating: Four Stars

Available:


Of Princes and Promises by Sandhya Menon

I’ve been a fan of this author’s previous works for just about a year now, and so, when I heard of this novel and the fairytale adaptation it was, I was intrigued.

In this contemporary retelling and twist on The Frog Prince, Caterina is the queen of St. Rosetta’s Academy who is determined to continue her reign after being dumped when her boyfriend Alaric cheated on her. Then, there’s the adorkable Rahul who’s harbored a crush on Caterina ever since they shared a dance at the school winter formal months ago when she was the most heartbroken. When Caterina finds out Alaric is taking some supermodel to a big gala, she needs a ringer on her harm. She enlists the clueless Rahul to be her fake date, and she’ll even dress him up to go with her. She uses a mysterious and magical hair gel that alters the wearer into whatever his heart desires, which for Rahul was RC who’s a charming and debonair guy. However, transformation comes with a price and the line between his two personas blur together as RC gains popularity in town.

Told in dual perspectives. it’s such a cute and fun YA romance novel. It’s definitely a quick read that’s so enjoyable and hard to put down.

Rating: Four Stars

Available:


Live Your Life by Amanda Kloots, Anna Kloots

After following Amanda Kloots’ and Nick Cordero’s heartwrenching coronavirus story and her inspiring positivity last year, I was very much interested in reading her memoir about the ordeal. She reflects on love, loss, and life with her husband, Broadway star Nick Cordero.

It’s the story of their life together and his fight against COVID-19. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt, and emotional story of her entire journey with Nick, from the first time they met, their wedding, the birth of their son Elvis, through COVID and her unimaginable loss. It’s such a poignant and honest first-person account that makes your heart break even more than it did while reading the news stories.

You can feel all her raw, vulnerable emotions from this period come through while reading. It’s a well-written and honest memoir to read that, yes, makes me tear up. With Kloots’ positive spirit, her memoir shares an unplugged look at this awful period along with her strength, support from loved ones, and it provides a tribute/lasting memory for Cordero to assist with her grief.

Rating: Five Stars

Available: June 15


Blush by Jamie Brenner

This was a compelling women’s fiction/general fiction read that I could hardly put down. This book is set at the Hollander Estates vineyard in Long Island. After years as a tourist destination and wedding venue, the Hollanders family fortune has dwindled and the threat of sale brings secrets and old wounds to life. This book, full of captivating language and complex characters, focuses on the women in the family throughout one summer: matriarch Vivian, daughter Leah, and granddaughter Sadie.

Each lady is searching for an escape from her current life, so they decide to start a book club together and re-read the old romance novels that Vivian’s own former book club had read so many years ago. It turns out reading these so-called trashy romances illuminate the life, love, and career (with the future of the vineyard) they wanted all along. In this story of love, family, and second chances, we get to see each of these three perspectives in a novel that is easy and quick to read, plus it’s engaging and intriguing that you don’t want to put it down.

Rating: Four Stars

Available: June 22


When Stars Collide by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This novel is like part women’s fiction, part romance, and part mystery/thriller, and odd combination in theory, yet it works here. Here, Thad Owens is the backup quarterback for the Chicago Stars team who has a low tolerance for divas, and especially Divas with a capital letter D. Olivia is an international opera star and a hugely driven Diva.

The two are paired for a national tour to promote a luxury watch brand, but obviously, they aren’t fans of one another. Along the journey, the trash talk, soul search, and deal with all sorts of dramatic, behind-the-scenes drama and threatening fans. Told in dual perspectives, it’s set up to be a fun, light forced-proximity and enemies-to-lovers romance with a twist. There’s a major mystery element that takes this book out of just a romance novel category and into something else. However, there are actually like three mysteries going on, which seems like a lot. Then, of course, you get that sweeping, grandiose, romantic ending to make this a read I could hardly put down.

Rating: Four Stars

Available: June 29


The Turnout by Megan Abbott

This book is described as a “revelatory and mesmerizing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio,” and now that I’ve finished, I concur that it’s a thrilling, intriguing piece of literary fiction. Sisters Dara and Marie grew up as ballerinas, under the tutelage of their professional dancer mother who owned a dance studio. After their parents tragically died, the two sisters took over the studio along with Dara’s husband Charlie. After a suspicious accident right before Nutcracker season, an interloper arrives to disrupt their delicate three-person balance.

This book is full of engaging language that draws me in right from page one. It’s so intriguing and thrilling. Then, once the interloper (contractor Derek) arrives in town, it adds a whole mysterious and cunning element. So, once you get into it, it’s hard to put down with its many, many bombshell twists and turns. Oh woah, it’s just so good yet so surprising.

Rating: Four Stars

Available:


The Betrayed by Kiera Cass

After I read The Betrothed earlier this lockdown, I admit I was unsure about the story and the ending because something just didn’t vibe with me as I read it. Yet, I was intrigued to learn about this sequel and figure out how things ended. I’m so glad I gave this series another chance because I did quite enjoy this action-packed novel.

Here, it picks up quite literally where Book 1 ended up with Hollis fleeing Coroa after her husband Silas’ death, where she’s been living with his mom, sister, surly cousin Etan who’s distrustful of her and all Coroans, aunt, and uncle in Isolte. While attempting to move forward with her life, a growing distrust in the Isoltean kingdom threatens the future of her new country and her old one. As tensions rise, she learns that the Eastoffe family could unseat the tyrannical Isoltean king and take over, but only with her help to stage a revolution among the people.

From the minute it started, exactly where we last left off, it is full of exciting language that pulls me back into this fantastical world. It’s a quick YA read and way more action-packed than the first book (to me, at least), which helped to keep my interest.

Rating: Four Stars

Available: July 6


Meant to Be: If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

I’ve been waiting for this book for over a year, and so, I’d like to offer a massive, massive, massive thank you to Disney Hyperion and NetGalley for this advanced galley. Even though, my Amazon preorder is already confirmed, oops.

Julie Murphy, who’s killed the YA game with her Dumplin, Puddin, and Pumpkin novelsis kicking off a new series, titled Meant to Be that’s a bunch of modern fairytale adaptations and romances with body-positive leads. One, I love seeing more diversity of any kind in romance. Two, Murphy is a master at authentically writing plus-size characters. Three, it’s a Disney fairytale retelling. All in all, this book has everything I want, and this is before I’ve started it! This book wasn’t meant for my March TBR considering its August release date, but within a day of my galley approval, I was rearranging the rest of the TBR to start this as soon as possible.

Then, I started it. And oh boy, it’s juicy, engaging, unputdownable just by the first couple of chapters! Here, Cindy’s just graduated with a degree in shoe design and trying to get her career off the ground. So, she takes a job working for her stepmother, the executive producer on the popular reality show “Before Midnight.” When a spot on the show opens at the last minute, Cindy volunteers hoping it could help jumpstart her fashion career or give her something to do while her classmates land high-fashion jobs. But being the only plus-size competitor on a dating competition show makes a big splash and her a body positivity icon. The only thing she didn’t expect was to find inspiration and love in this crazy process. What, who would have thought that huh?

I’m immediately drawn into this world, just as I was in Murphy’s previous books, and it’s just so fun and makes me want to keep reading and find out what would happen next. As time goes on, it gets cheesy cute that gives me butterflies, and I swear I feel my heart turning all swoony as the feelings between Cindy and the suitor Henry grow and develop. This read was so hard for me to put down because I just didn’t want it to end! Initially, I wasn’t sure if this was a 4 or 5-star situation, but after finishing it, I think it’s definitely a five-star romance read and I’ll definitely be reading this one again when I have the chance. Murphy has delivered her next series post-Dumplin, and I’m pleased to report that whenever the rest of this series drops, I’ll be first in line to order a copy. And if Cindy+Henry pop up and still has their HEA, all the better.

Rating: Five Stars

Available:


Advance reader copies of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Get Ready: 2021 is Here With These 8 New Book Releases

Have you already set your reading goals, found a challenge, or made a tracking spreadsheet to chart your bookish endeavors for the new year? I just made mine last weekend too! After completing around 140+ books for the entire year, I’ve decided to up the ante for 2021. I made a Google Doc spreadsheet, where I’ve listed out all the books on my TBR with its title, author, pub date, whether it’s an ARC or a purchased copy, and my rating. Then, I have additional tabs for books to buy and any reading challenge prompts to partake in. And of course, I’ve set a goal book amount that seems totally obtainable to my bookish soul. Now that I’m ready to roll on my bookish challenge for 2021, I want to help y’all finish yours.

We already got a peek at some of my latest 2021 reads already on here, and guess what? That’s not even half of it! Welcome back to Miranda’s Book Nook as I share some of the 2021 book titles I can’t get enough of and which ones should be on your radar in this new year. Happy reading!

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

I read this upcoming read in an audiobook format, and GAH, it was so cute and the audio format just totally immersed me in the characters. This audiobook, narrated by Pete Cross, is so entertaining and I’m obsessed by the first chapter alone. This book reminds me of Red, White & Royal Blue meets Ashley Polston’s geeky fangirl slash cosplay YA romances, and that’s what has my heart before I even started. It’s described as Project Runway meets Comic-Con to make an epic queer love story, and that is one thousand percent an accurate description.

Here, we follow Raffy who has a passion for fashion and design and yearns to make his mark at this big cosplay competition to help jumpstart his future in the business. In the present timeline, his main competition is his ex-boyfriend Luca. As seen in different flashback chapters, they were the perfect team until Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s perfectionism imploded everything. Back to the present, they are forced to team up once more on the most impressive cosplay comp yet, juggling unresolved romantic feelings, self-doubt, and working to build their most ambitious build yet. This book is chock full of funny, witty, and relatable language that reads as so authentic and engaging. This language is just so witty and rich, and I’m obsessed. Then, the narrator really nails each emotion and tone of every character. This audio version brings listeners the perfect way to envision every scene and feel every single emotion and vulnerability. The narrator brings so much personality to each character’s dialogue to differentiate and sells everything to me. Each character is so distinctive, rich, complex, and dynamic, and this audio version truly shows that. We jump back and forth between the present day competition and different flashbacks to demonstrate these boys’ journey to the current timeline. This couple, boy, are they absolutely adorable! Even from the beginning where they were hiding their relationship because Luca’s not out or the beginning of their feelings and craft sessions, or even openly pining present day at the competition, just, GAH, precious. These two just have such a precious banter and are just so dang cute, like totally squeal-worthy. This book’s pacing feels just right and authentic, which keeps me engaged and wanting to read more.

Available: January 5


A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Here, Linh and Bao are both Vietnamese American teens who’ll fall in love amidst their families longstanding feud and competing pho restaurants. Bao is described as a quite average, yet handsome teen, whilst Linh, well, she’s quite the firecracker and an aspiring artist. To me, this already feels quite When Dimple Met Rishi-esque.

The teens both work part-time in the parents’ neighboring pho restaurants, who are age-old competitors of one another. So much so, in fact, that these two are barred from speaking ever since the age of 5 or so. A chance encounter, aka a moment of chivalry, brings these two together and despite their and their families’ best efforts, there are sparks amuck. It sounded like such an engaging premise and a fun YA read based on the summary, plus it is always lovely to see diversity in the genre more. It’s told in back-and-forth dual viewpoints as their slow-burn love story develops. It was a fine read, just fine, especially after its lengthy exposition. In my opinion, Bao’s sides were far more captivating and engaging to follow. He seemed to be a more fully formed character with more quippy, witty lines. It was definitely more of a challenge for me to get interested and invested in, but once further details about a family secret and history develop, there’s such a compelling storytelling aspect that I just demanded to know what was to happen next.

Available: February 9


Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

This women’s fiction novel was captivating and compelling for a one-sitting read. Here, Grace has just completed her doctorate in astronomy and heads to Vegas to celebrate with her friends. She’s the typical high achieving, good girl who always follows the rules.

Yet, one night in Vegas and she drunkenly marries a woman whose name she doesn’t even know and who leaves bright and early the next morning. That all happens in the first chapter, so most of the book she’s dealing with grad school burnout, a rough job market, and parental expectations. To avoid all that, she flees her home in Portland to live in New York City for the summer with her stranger wife, Yuki, a late-night DJ, who discusses all things mythological and supernatural on air. Of course, this period brings them closer, enough to fall in love, but summer can’t last forever and so she’ll flee again in order to discover her own inner truths and desires. This book is full of authentic language that leaves me so curious to find out what happens next. However, this book is quite slow to start with a lot of exposition up top, but once you get like five chapters in, you finally want to start rooting for these complex characters, who are trying to figure out their own journeys.

Available: February 23


Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

This book already had my attention from the jump. Just by reading the summary, we know it’s a romantic novel, set in Paris, starring an American ballet student and a charming French boy, and it’s ideal for fans of American Royals and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Well, that’s like 100 percent my brand, so welcome, dear book, to my TBR shelf right now.

To start, it’s a book about an aspiring ballerina living in Paris for the first time, plus with an adorable love story peppered in. What isn’t there to love, because I’m like obsessed already. It reminds me of Bunheads by Sophie Flack in a way, as it shows a BTS look at the real, authentic life of a ballerina-in-training who wants an apprentice contract so badly and is willing to sacrifice everything to get it. Here, Mia is an aspiring ballerina from New York, about to spend her summer in Paris training at an exclusive ballet intensive summer program. Soon, she discovers there’s more to the city when she meets a charming French boy Louis in an adorable meet-cute moment. He wants to be her tour guide as he takes her on all sorts of adventures in the city together. In a first-person account, we see Mia’s a dreamer who works her butt off to dance and wants this as a career so badly. As a former dancer, I can totally understand that, it’s part of what makes her such a relatable narrator and character. The book is chock full of rich language that makes me feel like I’m there too, right there with these characters. Her relationship with Louis gets complicated due to his father being her ballet instructor and mentor, plus she’s battling with roommate Audrey to be the best in the class and earn the main role in the end-of-program production of Swan Lake, and she’s desperate to meet her great-aunt and discover if a story from her grandma about an ancestor and the artist Degas is true because that’s part of her reason for dancing. There’s so much going on, and it’s just so interesting and fun. This one-sitting read makes me want to be in France right now so badly and have my own journey like Mia’s. Also, OMG, that HEA and epilogue was darn adorable and precious. It’s a super cute YA romance book for fans of dance, Paris, and love stories.

Available: April 6


Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

Becky Albertalli is like YA royalty, and upon hearing her new book would be published by one of my new favorite YA imprints, Balzer + Bray, I’m getting super excited to actually read this. Plus, the summary sounds so intriguing and fun on its own! Also, because as a former theater kid and current theater nerd slash fangirl, this plot seemed right up my alley.

Here, best friends Kate and Anderson do literally everything together, even share communal crushes that don’t go anywhere. But when they both have huge, deep crushes on their theatre camp friend Matt, who just so happens to be new in school, everything goes crazy. Like, think Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List because we get sort of a similar situation. From the prologue, I was already so intrigued and desperate to find out the whole story. It’s full of relatable and authentic language and characters that I’m so into it. This quick, one-sitting read is so easy to get sucked into from seeing Kate’s confidence grow, watching things with her brother’s best friend Noah blossom, and seeing her relationship with Anderson evolve as they all get older. It’s so much fun, and so cute for a YA novel, and like, eep, I definitely, actually, audibly squealed at one part. Bravo, Ms. Albertalli, you’ve done it again.

Available: April 20


The Happiest Girl in the World by Alena Dillon

This was a poignant, sharp, witty, and well-written fictional look at the world of competitive and elite gymnastics. Here, Sera is training to be an Olympic gymnast in part to her work ethic and skills, but also to appease her mom Charlene, who’s hungry for her daughter to have the glory she never got.

When Sera hears the USA Gymnastics team doctor is reported to the authorities about his so-called treatments, laced with abuse, she denies anything happened as a way to salvage her chance at success and all she’s dreamed of. This book has such compelling language that really draws me in from the prologue and makes me just want to learn more. This book is Sera’s truth in a firsthand look at the world of elite gymnastics and truly eye-opening if you’re on the outside. The book also switches to her mom’s perspective too and shows off her sacrifices and side of this journey. The writing is so sharp, witty, compelling, and well-written.

Available: April 20


The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

I’m always down for a good bookish tale and a UK setting, so I was intrigued by this right away. Here, Thea is on the precipice of change when she’s fired and her husband leaves her. She then discovers her long-lost ancestor has left her a house in Scotland and an expansive book collection. So, she leaves Sussex for the coastal Scottish town. There she meets and butts heads with the gruff bookshop owner Edward.

The book is chock full of relatable characters and language, plus very descriptive wording that helps sell the second-chance story. The book has quite long chapters and is quite slow to start and dive into the action. It’s a fine read, but the ending is absolutely very, very, very cute and I cannot deny that.

Available: May 4


A Special Place for Women by Laura Hankin

After I thoroughly enjoyed the witty and insightful Happy and You Know It by this author, I instantly knew I wanted to read her next book. Here, it’s set in an exclusive women’s-only social club in Manhattan that’s presumably focused on smashing the glass ceiling, however, the secretive members are caught up in a dark business that no one outside the group knows.

Enter down-on-her-luck journalist Jillian, who needs a big scoop to pivot her career after getting laid off. So, after meeting the group’s head at her friend Raf’s restaurant, she decides she wants to write an expose of the club from the inside. It turns out she also has a vested personal interest in taking this group down, and the more she learns, it turns out there are more consequences for speaking out against these insanely influential and powerful women. This book has such descriptive language and relatable contemporary characters. Like, it’s just so juicy with plenty of secrets as the book chronicles Jillian experiencing this club with fresh eyes as a newbie. Then, holy heck, what a freaking bombshell! I didn’t see any of that coming, and like OMG! These bombshells were so unique, and nothing was truly predictable or tropey aside from her romantic relationship drama, but that was mostly a side plotline. Wow, just so engaging and enthralling.

Available: May 11


Advance reader copies of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

6 Books That Have Given Me All the Feels This Month

As the summer’s gone on and on and we’re still hunkered down at home, I’ve spent most of my time buying books, scouting new books, reading more books, and even building a new bookshelf to house my new additions. With each new book I’ve completed, I’ve fallen deeper into each story’s world and the emotional complexities of each story and character.

So, welcome back to Miranda’s Book Nook with some more of my latest book recommendations. I hope you find these books as engaging, fun, and comforting as I have.

Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman*

This five-hour audiobook was honestly like a free therapy session about your friendships, and a much-needed one. The authors and narrators, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, bring the conversational tone of their “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast to the audio recording of their memoir and self-help book. Sow and Friedman get everything right about the importance of meaningful friendships, shine theory, the complicated friend web, and the stretch. It makes you want to reach out or give your friends a hug because friends are truly some of our most important relationships we’ll ever have.

As an audiobook, it doesn’t sound like a traditional book on tape, but rather, these ladies use their podcast experience in a way that feels relatable and authentic. Sow and Friedman read the book themselves, with the subjects they interviewed in the book reading their research or anecdotes that make it feel more reliable and genuine. It totally sounds like a podcast, which makes it super easy and engaging to keep listening, with easy to digest, bite-sized chapters. 

The story starts at a point where their friendship has stalled after years together and working as a team, and how they both wanted to work on it. It’s proof that all friendships may need repair, but if it is worth it, then you work on it, Certain sections, okay fine, the whole dang book, hits deeply to your core about emotional topics, especially hearing about ending toxic friendships. We’ve all ended friendships that didn’t provide what we needed, and it makes you think if that decision was made too hasty or if this could have been a big, meaningful friendship if we tried harder, and all that thinking is making me emotional because I get it.

Available: Now


The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Okay, I’ve been waiting for this book for what seems like forever, or however long since Cocks and Morgan first announced they were writing a sequel. Their first regal read, The Royal We, tells the story of Rebecca (Bex) and her royal love Prince Nicholas (Nick) and ends with a private wedding ceremony the night before the big day and a royal pain of a paparazzi threatening to expose Bex’s past with her new hubby’s little brother. So, already, you know there’s A LOT going on.

This book picks up weeks after their less-than-perfect big day as Nick and Bex are away in Scotland on a self-imposed exile to ride out the scandal. However, when a family crisis forces the newly minted Duke and Duchess back to London, the temporary solutions to their marriage issues threaten to come unglued as they face real shit together and individually.  Okay, summary over and it’s time for my thoughts. First, I swear, If Nick and Bex didn’t end up happy together by the end, I was going to actually kick off. Like Nick made my list of Top Book BFs, so he better not muck that up and make me regret that decision. Then, I kept reading and OH THANK THE HEAVENS, I can breathe. And how he was really, truly there for her when she needed him most after suffering a miscarriage. I knew, I always liked him. Also, my favorite character is hands-down the Queen Mum Marta. I love her as she’s just chilling in the palace, tweeting and clapping back anonymously, and thirsting after celebrities on TV. She’s the best. And then Queen Eleanor once she wakes from her stroke, like that b*tch is feisty and strong, and yasss, I love to see it.

Overall, everything is so juicy yet full of raw, vulnerable emotions. That, and it’s just so fun to get lost in, which I did for the full day that I read and finished it the first time. Then, the ending and epilogue, it’ the absolute perfect conclusion to Nick and Bex’s story. I mean, I’d love a full series for selfish reasons, but that’s because I’ve fallen for Nick and Bex as characters and don’t want to leave their world just yet. Seriously, I just want to find out what’s next for the family and if Georgie and Maggie grow up as besties, have more siblings, or move to Iowa. I’d love any more content that they’d give us, but if not, I feel completely satisfied and content but the ending we got in THA.

Available: Now


Here to Stay by Adriana Herrera*

Here’s a fun, indulgent, slow-burn romance read that follows protagonist Julia as she moves to a new city for her boyfriend and a dream job. Soon after the big move, the boyfriend dumps her, and then her dream job is in jeopardy of being cut by management. To figure out the company’s next steps, management hires consultant Rocco Quinn to suss out the essentialness of the company programs. And side note, that name. I mean, Rocco Quinn? Individually, they are both quite “hot guy” names, and like this dude has two of them, so he must be like mega-hot, for sure.

Rocco and Julia have a bit of back and forth banter, and naturally, he’s gorgeous to look at, so things get flirty in true romance book fashion. Julia’s tasked with showing him around the nonprofit program she runs to illustrate that they should keep it going. However, since his job is likely to cut it, she’s poised to dislike him. This is made even more difficult because she fancies the pants off him, and vice versa. With back and forth perspectives, readers see both sides of the story and how they both feel this strong connection and pull even though they shouldn’t, and we get a delish enemies to lovers trope. (It’s my favorite!) Rocco has a promotion on the line, which could help his family and so he must figure out if Julia’s a distraction getting in his way or if she’s The One. It’s a fun romance read, sure, and it’s sort of a slow burn because they are terrible at hiding their flirtation and it picks up steam very fast along the way. Then, what was supposed to be a fling with a shelf life soon gets complicated because they both catch feels in this predictable romance novel. Yet, it was very sweeping and indulgent. That ending was so damn cute, I can’t ignore that. Gotta love a sweet, adorable HEA where everything works out.

Available: August 25


Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella*

We’ve got a five-star read, y’all! In this lighthearted, fun novel, we follow protagonist Ava as she prepares for an Italian writing retreat to finish writing a book following a disastrous string of bad dates and relationships. She’s going there to strictly focus, however, all that goes out the window as soon as “Dutch” saunters into the retreat.

This book has such an engaging tone and perspective that keeps me reading into the wee hours, because she’s such a relatable lead and I need to find out what happens next. During her anonymous (no personal information given) romance writing retreat, Ava as “Aria” is so taken with this “Dutch” guy who isn’t good at writing or his words but is willing to learn. They can’t reveal any personal details about their real lives, yet these two keep flirting and it’s getting precious. It’s a cute, steamy, fun, and indulgent holiday romance, that’s so fun and enjoyable to read that I finished in a single setting.

Aria and Dutch have such an undeniable pull and connection, which makes for a sweeping romance. The holiday part only lasts for the beginning, and most of the story sees them attempt to bring their holiday fling back to their vastly different real-world lives in London — dogs, jobs, exes, family, and all. Outside the retreat bubble, Ava and Matt (his real name) try to meld their lives and figure out if their vacation love is enough to last. The rose-colored glasses of their holiday romance wears off quickly, but neither of them want to split because they believe they are meant to be and this is real, despite being polar opposites in nearly every sense. Together, they’ve managed to expand each other’s views, and that’s real love: That you can accept that what you think isn’t the end-all-be-all that you think it might be, but rather that they could try something new and still accept one another. It’s like more than just a romance between Ava and Matt, but as they make each other better as individuals and it’s just cute as hell. But side note, I nearly screamed out of sadness if anything tragic was about to happen to precious pooch Harold at the end. That was the most emotionally traumatizing part.

It’s not an easy love story, because, hey, life isn’t easy, and I think that’s why I loved it so much. It’s honest, vulnerable, and authentic. It’s funny, witty, romantic, emotional, and heartfelt. So many emotions in one book and that’s why I fell hard for this book. Wow, just incredible. It’s not just a happy, sugary-sweet romance, but we see raw emotions and growth from both sides, and that’s what makes it special. I didn’t want the story to end, I wanted more and just to see where else their love story and journey goes whether together or apart, well, hopefully together, because that ending was precious. This book gives me all the inspiration to write more, finish more, and move past my own seemingly crippling case of writer’s block, so double win.

Available: October 27


Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao*

This was an adorable and fun YA romantic fiction read. Here, Chloe is home from college over the holidays and hires a fake boyfriend to impress her folks, and oh, I can tell we’re going to get a delicious fake dating trope. Oh, how I do love them in romances.  Both her and Drew (her hired fake BF for the weekend) have notable points of view that are both interesting and sharp to follow. The two couldn’t be more different, yet somehow, opposites attract and they end up seeing each other for real and not just as hired, naturally. Then, their text conversations are like typical YA-level cute. When real Drew and Chloe start dating, it’s precious, although there’s that classic secret dating trope. Sure, they have a cute love story by the end, but the real love is Chloe accepting, loving, and owning herself first. It’s cute and great to see an in-depth look at Chinese-American culture, especially for potentially unfamiliar readers. It’s always interesting to learn about other cultures, and this was an intricate immersion into seeing that.

Available: November 10


Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch*

Many YA fans will instantly recognize the author’s name, her now-famous book title style, and cover illustrations, and she’s back with another heartfelt story. This one takes us all the way to Santorini, Greece. I was obviously intrigued by the cover alone: After all, I am a massive fan of Mamma Mia and dream of traveling to Greece. Then, with its 500-page length, that was definitely daunting at the start. But, it was such a quick read full of adventure, romance, and heart.

Here, Olive AKA Liv is sent to Greece for the summer to reconnect with her estranged father and help him with a mysterious project. Instead of her dad, Greek teen Theo is there to pick her up. Even though she has a boyfriend back home in the US, these two have such chemistry and banter that I smell a love triangle brewing. Also, the book is partially set in a bookstore, so it already had a small piece of my heart by the earlier chapters alone. It’s a precious and cute YA read, and that’s just about it. Though the title says “love,” it’s more about the love of family, self-love, and acceptance. But, it’s giving me all of the wanderlust feels and like I just want to go to Greece now, like right now. (Ugh lockdown, boo.)

The intro of each chapter focuses on a different item from her list of “things her dad left behind” a brief flashback of the time before he split. And honestly, that sort of loses the flow between each present-day chapter and all its action. Then, in the last 100 pages or so, you see her open up and be vulnerable, as well as how this list actually makes sense, so just give this book time because it’ll get to that enjoyable stage, eventually.

Available: November 10


*Advance reader copies of several of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.