With my new work normal finally settling in, I’ve also been able to get a new reading schedule in place so I continue to read for fun daily or weekly, because the last year, it bummed me out that I had zero time to actually read my overflowing TBR. Now, that the latter half of 2021 is fast approaching, I’ve been able to make a sizable dent in my ARC reading list on NetGalley — many of which have become Instant Must-Reads to share with you all.
So, without further ado, welcome back to another installment of Miranda’s Book Nook because I have even more 2021 book recommendations for you! These reads I just couldn’t get enough of and, subsequently, be on your bookish radar later this year. Happy reading!
The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo
I thoroughly enjoyed this women’s fiction slash romance novel, so much so that I barely wanted to put it down between reading sessions! Here, Hannah travels to Lagos, Nigeria for the funeral of the father she only met once briefly. In this fish-out-of-water tale, she meets her long-lost and extravagant family for the first time, a new love interest, and even unearthed new parts about herself and her culture/identity she didn’t know was missing. The book follows the chaotic days leading up to the funeral as she is accepted by some members of her new family and scorned by others, learns about this other side of herself and her father’s culture, and unexpectedly falls for a local man during the few days she’s in town.
This Berkley book intrigued me from the summary and author Jane Igharo’s previous bestselling novel, so I was so excited to try this out. As I read, I discovered the story is told through multiple points of view, including Hannah and her various siblings. The chapters are quick and engaging that pulled me in from Chapter One. The language’s compelling, the perspectives’ intriguing, and the characters are authentic yet complex.
It was super difficult to stop reading this read, which ended up being a sweet romance mixed with an endearing coming-of-age type of story. And while, yes, there’s a romance here, this story was more than just a romance which is why I gravitated towards it so much. It’s also a family tale, a story of identity and finding yourself, too. It was a very good, engaging, and compelling read. Would definitely recommend.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: October 12
The Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella
Honestly, I requested this ARC on a whim the moment I saw the author was Sophie Kinsella without even reading the synopsis because that was, like, an instant-read for me. Then, once I started, I just couldn’t stop because it was so captivating and fun as a novel and as a women’s fiction novel specifically.
Here, it’s been two years since Effie’s parents divorced which has completely destroyed her idea of a happy, perfect family and relationship. Since then, she’s been estranged from her dad, in a feud with his much-younger girlfriend Krista, and learned her childhood estate has been sold. When Krista hosts a “house-cooling” party before they hand over the keys, Effie is left off the guest list, leaving her fuming. At first, she isn’t bothered about skipping the festivities until she remembers a childhood treasure is left at the house that she wants, and so she plans to sneak in during the party, grab her trinkets, and get out sight-unseen. But, as she does, she catches her siblings and dads in their hidden secrets and figures out all aren’t as she suspected. Then, there’s her ex and first love, Joe. While he broke her heart years ago, he’s finagled an invitation to the gathering, and when she sees him, it’s honestly as if nothing has changed.
This book, honestly, feels different from her other straight-up romance books, as this is more about familial drama and individual growth. Despite its differences, Kinsella stays true to her style and delivers compelling language that has me hooked and curious from the jump. So much so that I really didn’t want to put this book down and ended up devouring it in a single sitting. This book reads quickly and the hijinks of hiding/not getting caught juxtaposed with the vulnerable, heartfelt family dynamics and adorable first love/second chance trope makes a completely unputdownable novel. Plus, that epilogue was so darn adorable and precious that I’m still smiling just thinking about it.
I don’t often give out 5/5 stars, but this book earned it because it’s so well-written and captivating, and I just loved it. Truly devoured it. Like, wow, there aren’t a ton of books like this one, and, yeah, I just wanted to root for the whole family so much. Each character is so authentic, realistic, and vulnerable like real-life people. Bravo, Bravo.
Rating: Five Stars
Available: October 12
All the Feels by Olivia Dade
For anyone who is a fan of Spoiler Alert or spicy romance novels in general, you are sure to enjoy this novel. Written as a follow-up to Marcus and April’s story, now it’s Alex’s turn. Alex, Marcus’ friend from God of the Gates who also enjoys writing fanfiction, knows his star is failing after a recent arrest and public altercation becomes tabloid fodder. While he’s needed to finish filming the show, the showrunners hire a minder to watch out for him. So, they enlist one of their cousins: Lauren. Lauren is a former ER therapist between jobs, trying to figure out her next step. And she does need the cash, so she agrees to help out her cousin and watch over this incredibly good-looking superstar. But, the more she gets to know him and spend time with him, the more she realizes there’s more to him than meets the eye.
After devouring Spoiler Alert, I was instantly excited about this one, and boy, did it deliver! Told in dual perspectives, the language just drew me in and captivated me until the very last page of the epilogue. Yes, there is some ~spice~ here, and it does get, um, ahem, hot, so fair warning if that’s not your thing or is, no judgment either way. Plus, that ending was beyond adorable yet still felt completely justified.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: October 26
A Certain Appeal by Vanessa King
I’m a sucker for a good Pride & Prejudice retelling, and that’s what drew me to this read. Imagine: Austen’s classic story in a contemporary setting at a burlesque club in New York City because that’s what we get here/
After a stinging betrayal at work, Liz Bennet found a fresh start in NYC as an assistant slash burlesque club “stage kitten” at night. The prospect of love isn’t on her radar right now until Mr. William Darcy struts into her club one night. They look eyes before he refers to her as merely “tolerable.” Oh, how I’ve heard this tale before… She plans to write him off until her bestie Jane ends up falling for his, Charles Bingley, and they are continuously thrown together into the same orbit more often than she’d like. And, true to fashion, with time, she soon discovers her prejudices slipping as she gets to know the real Darcy.
So, it can best be described as Pride & Prejudice mixed with found family and the world of burlesque, which takes a classic and spins it on its head. For a retelling, it does feel original and fresh. There have been plenty of Austenian adaptations, but none have been exactly like this one. It’s a fairly quick read, chock full of engaging language and more representative/diverse characters, oh, and spice. Yes, plenty of spice.
Rating: Three Stars
Available: November 2
The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea
Knowing how much I’ve enjoyed other Berkley romances and the premise of this one, I was instantly excited about this one from the start. And my thoughts continued to live up to that hype after I finished it, too.
Here, we follow Willa, who was a successful Ohio-based blogger with a loving fiance until she caught him cheating on her with her very best friend. Now, she works as a dress-up princess for children’s birthday parties but dreams of starting over somewhere new and escaping her life. But to do so, she needs money. Randomly, she meets Maisie who needs to hire a last-minute replacement bridesmaid is willing to shell out big bucks for that to open, and since Willa needs the money, it seems like a simple enough gig. Willa is thrust into Maisie’s high-energy world of wedding planning into the path of the best man: the handsome and successful doctor Liam, who has sort of has a not-so-nice history with when she meets up at Maisie’s engagement party.
OK, so, this book! Author Kerry Rea writes such engaging storytelling that puts you right into the moment and in her head with first-person narration in this fun, indulgent rom-com. TBH, it’s such a quick type of read that I don’t want to put down at all thanks to its witty language and fun premise. Towards the end, there is a big surprise twist that showcases the vulnerability and authenticity of the characters, which I liked to see. And, of course, that HEA was beyond precious and had me grinning so darn wide. Also, just want to put it out there: Liam is the perfect book boyfriend candidate, calling it now.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: November 9
If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich
This book has been on my “To Read Upon Its Release” TBR list after reading a summary and seeing a cover photo via Instagram, and so the moment I saw this ARC available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to request an early copy because everything about this story intrigued me so much. Besides, as a massive boy band fan, I was super excited about this concept and a behind-the-scenes look at what that recording and touring lifestyle is really like.
Here, 18-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two of the four members of the hit boy band, Saturday, which is one of the biggest acts in America. Onstage, the four boys are teen heartbreakers, and offstage they are just four normal best friends. However, cracks are starting to form under the pressures of fame. Ruben even confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by their management’s pressure to stay in the closet. During a whirlwind European trip, while dealing with a busy schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach rely on each other more and more as their close friendship soon evolves into romance. Though the guys decide they are ready to tell their fans and live freely, they realize that their management will never support the plan. They question how to hold on tight to what they have when the entire world seemingly wants to come between them.
I would describe this book as Red, White & Royal Blue meets One Direction, which means it’s pretty darn close to perfect for my interests. Co-authors Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich, who are masters of their craft, have created such a compelling narrative that’s chock full of engaging language that draws me in from the very first page. Told in dual points-of-view, readers have the chance to get inside the mindsets of both leading men, who are equally vulnerable and authentic. Plus, they as a couple are 1000% precious and adorable, and I ship them. Facts are facts. It’s a fun read that takes place BTS of their European tour. I’d categorize this book more as New Adult than a true-form Young Adult because there’s a tad bit of *spicy* content here, which I was totally on board with. It’s a quick read, and both the characters together and the book are just so darn cute. In terms of tropes, we’ve got friends-to-lovers and secret love, so what could go wrong?
By the end of this book, I wanted to make one thing clear: I officially stan Saturday and Zach+Ruben as a couple. This novel is completely and wholeheartedly precious and squeal-worthy. It was so difficult to put down this book because I just needed to know what would happen next.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: December 7
Smile and Look Pretty by Amanda Pellegrino
I was instantly intrigued by this book, because like many other employees in the workforce, I have survived life as an underpaid assistant and intern, and I was so curious to see how this book would tackle such a complicated and seldomly spoken about topic. And this author did so seamlessly and authentically in a way that still told a compelling story. This book was described as a 9 to 5 for the Instagram generation, which instantly intrigued me because I understand where they’re coming from all too well.
Here, we follow four best friends (Cate, Lauren, Max, and Olivia) who all have had enough of their grueling assistant gigs in the entertainment industry and dealing with their powerful bosses taking advantage of their labor and desire to get ahead in their careers. These four overworked and underpaid assistants realize that, like the assistants who came before them, know they have to pay their dues to get to the top yet they are continually passed over for promotions and fed up with the work environment’s toxicity and reach their collective breaking points. So, they start a secret and anonymous blog where they can share their assistant woes and experience. The blog’s a hit, and soon more and more assistants start sharing their stories too, which launches them into viral fame.
Told via multiple perspectives, you get an in-depth look at how each girl got to this decision to chronicle their Me Too-era work experiences via the blog in a poignant and authentic way. After a slow start, the book ramps up into a compelling, relatable, and unputdownable read, chock-full of captivating language.
Rating: Four Stars
Available: December 28
Advance reader copies of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.