It’s a crazy, scary, fearful time we live in and sometimes it feels hard to move forward. One way I cope is obviously through reading, and um yea, I’ve been reading a lot. Like, one book every day or every other day. (Hey, it’s the only way to get through my 15+ TBR!) In between devouring the new Hunger Games book, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, (which I don’t dislike teen Snow, but I don’t exactly like him), about 12 more new ARCs (thanks a million, Netgalley!), and keeping up with my daily responsibilities, I’ve certainly found ways to stay busy. And now, I want to share that knowledge with all you, my lovely readers. And so, welcome back to Miranda’s Book Nook with a handful of my latest book recommendations that are perfect to keep you busy and engaged during this crazy, anxious, and uncertain time. I hope you pick ’em up and fall in love with these rich stories just as I have.
Times Like These by Laura Carter
It’s the story of four different yet close friends, almost like sisters: Hannah, Rosalie, Andrea, and Sofia. They are each at different points in their lives both professionally and personally, and the book does a good job of getting into each character’s mindset.
Each chapter is about a different girl and all are very descriptive in its language. There’s quite a bit of British slang/terms, which sure, makes sense considering the author and publisher, however, the characters are American, which makes these terms all the more confusing and feel out of place. Other than that, I couldn’t stop reading once I was in the depths of it. Sure each character has problems, but they are written with such vulnerability and emotions. Seeing this bond between the girls and the enduring power of friendship is heartwarming to read as these pals must figure out how they fit into each other’s different lives and if their bond is strong enough to survive their different and changing worlds.
Available: June 29
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
FIVE-STAR READ ALERT! OK, I don’t know if I can fit into words everything I thought about this book because it was refreshing, endearing, honest, authentic, sweeping, and fun. I couldn’t put it down and absolutely adored it, hence my rating. Before I started reading, I was initially intrigued about seeing a plus-size, body positive lead of a romance/women’s fiction book coupled with the setting of a dating TV show ala The Bachelor. All in all, it was set to perfectly align with my reading habits. And boy, did this book deliver.
The book followed plus-size fashion blogger Bea Schumacher, who becomes the new show lead of the hit Main Squeeze reality show after her tweets and blog post about the show’s lack of diversity goes viral. And after a major breakup that left her reeling, this is the perfect chance to get over that and up her brand all at once. While she claims she’s only here to promote better beauty messages and not to fall in love, things get complicated when she meets some dashing, charming suitors who may help her find the real-life HEA she didn’t know she was missing.
Think: The Bachelor with a lead who was body positive and proud, because hey that’s reality, darling. This book is funny and witty; equal parts empowering, glamorous, and indulgent. It’s very juicy, like I just kept exclaiming ‘OMG’ out loud, sorry not sorry; I’m so intrigued and hooked. Then, the “show” ending is bold yet confident, because hey, a woman doesn’t need a man and shouldn’t settle for anything. The actual book ending was absolutely precious and so darn cute, and besides, now I need a Bea+Asher follow-up like right now. This book should be required reading for any dating reality show producer, because this is what we want and need. The book’s language is so fun and relatable; I just wanted to keep reading and couldn’t put it down! It’s chock full of dramatic twists and turns, and I loved every page of it. The book is told through tweets, blogs, contracts, articles, scripts, Slack messages, and texts which help move the time frame along from episode-to-episode.
It’s for sure a five-star read from me because when I can’t put a book down and need to know more, it’s because I’m so invested and captivated by the storytelling. While the title is One to Watch, you know who is the real one to watch? Author Kate Stayman-London. If this book is any indication, then I can’t wait to see what future works she could deliver that are just as witty, unique, and fun.
Available: July 7
Hello, Again by Isabelle Broom
If you prefer a romance where everything ends neatly in a sugary sweet HEA, then this is not the book for you. It’s more of a women’s fiction novel with its ambiguous, open-ended conclusion. But that shouldn’t take away from this book’s merits, because everything about this feels authentic, realistic, and genuine. This book starts on the anniversary of Pepper’s sister’s death, which hits her and her mom hard every year. When her friend, local widow Josephine, asks her to come along on her European trip as a companion, it’s the perfect chance for Pepper to try something new and do something her sister always wanted. So, in a quite predictable yet adorable meet-cute, Pepper runs into the German-accented dreamboat Finn on her first day, and immediately he only has eyes for our colorfully dressed protagonist. She definitely believes in fate and true love at her core, and I can already tell it’ll be a fun holiday fling/romance from those early chapters.
The book follows their relationship across various cities and countries as they pursue a fast-paced relationship, the highs and the lows included. Finn is the perfect, sweet, admiring, and all-in love interest and while it’s charming, it feels a bit too perfect because there’s a big truth bomb on the horizon that’ll shake Pepper to her core. Once he reveals what’s going on, he immediately wants nothing to change and them to be okay, but it’s not just about them anymore, so that made me dislike him a tad, because I was starting to root for him.
So, obviously, there is some romance, but that part moves so quickly, and there’s a possibility that they won’t end up together by the time he drops his truth. Sure, he taught her to open up and be herself, but they do love each other and that’s all that should matter. Boo, that ending makes me sad because I wanted to invest in them together. Then, there’s an epilogue, but the two of them aren’t really addressed as the two of them, and like, I just want to know what happened to them. I mean, I hope hope hope that they found their way back to each other because his “first piece of love” title of her work may indicate that or if they both move on or if they never do. I just want more, more answers, more of the captivating story.
Available: July 9
A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee
Within a few pages, I can already tell this book is shaping up to be a sugary-sweet romance, and it didn’t let me down. One thing is that the book switches perspective between Landon and Aubrey abruptly at a new paragraph, which is confusing at first. Also, the timeline abruptly jumps in places, which this swap is too sudden and out of nowhere mid-chapter. But, all in all, it’s a fun and indulgent romance read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It gets juicy and dramatic, and I’m loving it!
In the book, Aubrey Choi is happy running her successful bakery Comfort Zone and doesn’t need dating to fill her days. She has her business and baked goods to keep her busy. Then, enter the gorgeous stranger Landon Kim. After a one-night-stand, maybe it’s time for Aubrey to reevaluate her priorities? Well, it turns Landon is a celebrity food critic and he published a scathing review of her bakery that may just ruin her business and the thoughtful memories of their night together. Once Landon realizes, ‘Oh crap, I just panned the girl I like’s business and the order I had was actually a custom cake for a child and not meant for me,’ he seeks a way to clean up his mess without mucking up his reputation. So, he offers her a spot on a new celeb cooking show that he’s producing. She agrees for the positive press, but soon the two of them are all alone in a California villa in wine country for three whole week. And yes, all that chemistry is certainly a recipe for something.
The two protagonists have such an undeniable chemistry that it made the read so engaging in this slow-burn, friends-to-lovers book. I couldn’t put this book down; It’s just an enjoyable, indulgent, and cute love story. The character of Aubrey is so raw and vulnerable, it’s real and makes it more appealing and authentic as a reader. It’s chock full of twists and turns, yet turns out to be pretty darn cute; absolutely precious. Then, when Landon has realized he’s been a total idiot at the end, it’s such a sweeping and swoon-worthy HEA. This story was so emotional, it just had my entire heart. All that raw, real emotion makes the HEA earned, justified, better, and cuter.
Since the book’s release, it was announced that actor Daniel Dae Kim will produce and star in a film adaptation. While we don’t have further details, now I really, really, really need to see him as Landon eating and choking on that PB, Chocolate, and Gummy Worm custom cake. I need that scene, and I will laugh.
Available: July 14
More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn
First off, I love a good British love interest, so this book got started on the right foot with all the slang. The book’s casual language feels authentic and relatable, even through its dual perspectives. Luke and Vada are cut from the same cloth and a perfect match in this slow burn, cute Young Adult romance.
Our two protagonists of this book are podcaster and shy songwriter Luke and ambitious music blogger Vada. Luke’s been living in the shadow of his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, his outgoing twin brother Cullen. But he has a major secret: he’s been big-time crushing on Vada and always finds a way to stalk her blog, and just yearns for a way to chat with her. Meanwhile, Vada’s the girl with the big dreams to get into an amazing college program for music journalism, manage her mom’s boyfriend’s local music venue/bar, and get a dream internship. Falling for Luke was certainly not part of her plan, but hey, we are where we are. They have so much in common and when Cullen releases a new track of his brother singing a love song about a mystery girl, maybe she wishes it was about her. And perhaps, Luke feels the same???
It’s a quick, fun, and engaging read that you can polish off in a single setting. It’s a sugary-sweet, slow-burn romance that I couldn’t put down. By the end, it’s so darn cute and very enjoyable to read. Just like her first book, You’d Be Mine, author Erin Hahn perfectly melds the music world with teen romance for such an adorable YA read. Awww. But, I definitely think I preferred this book over You’d Be Mine. Everything just felt so authentic and genuine.
Available: July 21
The Switch by Beth O’Leary
This was a super-sweet, comforting novel for such a weird, strange, and scary time in this world. It focuses on the two Eileens, a grandmother and a granddaughter and their special bond. During a time where each woman is at during this crossroads in their life, both need a break and plan to swap lives and cities, just like the movie The Holiday. Before the swap, the book moves very slowly and every action is long and drawn out with each chapter feeling way too long. But soon enough, the pacing quickens and I got wrapped up in the storyline.
We follow overachiever Leena Cotton who takes a two-month sabbatical at her grandma Eileen’s cozy cottage in Yorkshire after she blows a massive presentation at work. Meanwhile, her 80-year-old grandma is looking for a second chance at love after her husband left her. Since there are more options in London, her granddaughter suggests a switch. While Eileen wines and dines across London and experiences casual dating, Leena heads off to the country to look after her grandmother’s local neighborhood projects and her cottage.
So, my issues with Leena start almost instantly. How can Leena be so insistent to help Betsy with her abusive S.O., yet she’ll believe her cheating boyfriend over her beloved grandma?? Like, no girl, you need to cut him loose: he doesn’t deserve you. Thank god for the ending, phew.
Eileen’s parts read as far more engaging, she’s so vibrant and fun, and I loved it. Plus, there’s not really a conflict for most of the book, things sort of just happened. Leena wasn’t exactly my favorite protagonist because she didn’t exactly know who she was or saw that nothing wrong with her always-working life or cheating boyfriend. Eileen’s spirit, free and kind, was much more engaging and interesting. Also, Rachel Brosnahan is slated to star in the film adaptation and IDK, but like, surely she’ll be Leena, which isn’t as an interesting part, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see how that’ll shake out. But, in the end, it was an adorable, comforting read.
Available: August 18
Far From Normal by Becky Wallace
It’s the story of a new intern at a posh Chicago sports marketing agency, and a classic fish-out-of-water tale. Maddie is the typical YA protagonist of a normal, All-American, awkward girl but she’s very driven to succeed and follow her passions.
The book uses captivating language, that you really feel for Maddie’s point of view and it’s easy to get sucked in. Soon, intern Maddie is tasked with managing Italian, bad boy soccer star Gabe’s social media, a guy who she’s already had an embarrassing (for her) yet flirty exchange with days prior. He’s the bad boy and it’s up to her to keep him on the straight and narrow path. As we go on, fellow intern Mara is the vindictive office nemesis, which I’m not a fan of this storyline because women need to champion other women. (How in the heck can we shatter glass ceilings if we are too busy fighting and being catty and petty for one seat at the preexisting table?? No, we should be working together to make more space.) So, that characterization irked me.
Overall, I couldn’t stop reading this fun, slow-burn YA romance between a regular girl and a superstar yet misunderstood athlete. Then, once Gabe starts to open up because he honestly likes her, you can see his walls tumble down and his raw, real self emerges just like any ordinary crush, and that’s the love interest I want to root for. It’s a quick read that you get so wrapped up in that you cannot put it down! By the ending, the story is very raw and vulnerable for Maddie, who realizes she can blaze her own trail and not follow anyone else’s.
I was hesitant to read based on the summary, but I took a chance on this book, which completely won me over with its authentic language, sweeping romance, and the vulnerable moment at the end where she’s forged her own path ahead without knowing the end result.
Available: September 22
In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren
A Groundhog’s Day-type holiday romance from the skilled romance mind of Christina Lauren that’s set in a cozy mountain cabin? Call me intrigued immediately. As I started to read, the background on the characters is unclear and just dives right into the story now. It starts with Mae, who visits a Park City, Utah cabin with her family and longtime family friends. So, immediately a love triangle starts when Mae kisses Theo, while she’s had a longtime crush on his brother Andrew. (Reader’s Note: Initially, the book lacked a clear character backstory, because it seemed like both Theo and Andrew were her cousins. Can confirm that they are not.) After a super embarrassing night and morning (I was legit cringing for her, eesh) and then a massive surprise threatens to change everything.
Soon after her mess of things and a horrific car accident, Mae enters a Groundhog’s Day-type of situation where she gets to relive the whole trip to the cabin and get it right. I don’t know, I don’t get the same vibe and interest as I did while reading The Honey Don’t List, meh there seems to be a lot happening and it’s unclear if it is a dream or she’s in a coma or something else. Everything seems so odd and out of context, but I can’t help but be so curious as to see what happens. The 300+ pages don’t feel so long because you get so entrenched in the story and just can’t put it down.
With every injury and wrong turn, Mae gets a fresh chance to relive it and get things right. Eventually, she learns that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing and to stay true to herself as her reboots buck tradition and allow her to be her true self. In this new alternate timeline, her flirtmance with longtime crush Andrew is so cute, but like I just want to know more details about this time travel situation. Seriously, Andrew and Mae falling is having me believe in soulmates and fate and aww, it’s just precious. Their relationship (and book) starts off slowly and then, whew, things ramp up hot, hot, hot. (I mean, that closet scene, ahem.) Oh wow, I’m so darn hooked and I cannot stop reading, I just need to finish the story and get resolution about so many things.
I thought this book would end up predictably with the actual reality being the car crash inspiring her to change her life, but no, her final re-done chance was real because she was true to herself, and ahhh that HEA. I loved that super-duper cute happily ever after, awww it’s everything. All in all, it was such a cute holiday romance read.
Available: October 6
This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens
This book follows Quinn and Minnie, who meet on New Year’s Day in London, which also happens to be both their birthdays. It turns out while he’s always been lucky, she’s been unlucky, which her family attributes to having their lucky name choice (Quinn) stolen by a baby boy who was born on the same day at the same hospital. The story is told through flashbacks on different New Year’s Eves and New Year’s Days, and somehow Quinn and Minnie always ended up at the same place at the same time; as well as a present-day timeline that chronicles how things go since they officially met in 2019.
It’s such an engaging and fun story, I just want to know what’ll happen next. It’s an easy romance read to get wrapped up in, and I couldn’t put it down and ended up devouring it in one sitting. It even reads quickly for 400+ pages. In the book, it’s all about how fate kept entangling their lives from the beginning, so love seems inevitable. OK, it’s pretty darn cute from beginning to end. It’s just fun, sweet, and cute. Then, the ending is giving me all sorts of sweeping *zings* and feels that I could actually feel fluttering in my belly.
Available: October 15
Heiress Apparently (Daughters of the Dynasty) by Diana Ma
Another five-star read, coming at ya! This was such an unexpected yet thoroughly enjoyable YA read. It’s sort of Crazy Rich Asians meets American Royals, when American aspiring actress Gemma Huang books her first acting gig as the lead in an upcoming rom-com movie. The film, shooting on location in Beijing, is Gemma’s first experience in China and almost instantly, she’s mistaken for big-time influencer and heiress Alyssa Chua. Turns out, there’s more to the story and family secrets galore because Alyssa is her actually cousin and they are both descendants of royalty.
At first, we meet Gemma, who’s busy with auditions for toothpaste commercials and bit parts in a movie as the ex-girlfriend, and doing anything it takes to pay her rent and follow her dreams. She meets a gorgeous Asian-American boy and their romance was like cheesy cute, except he’s totally jealous of her immediate success in the field. (Buh-bye!) Her parents immigrated from China before she was born and haven’t gone back nor allowed her to visit, which adds a curious bit of mystery for Gemma’s backstory and the plot. This book reads quickly with its relatable tone and language. It’s a coming-home story and one of pursuing her dreams. Once Gemma meets her doppelganger cousin, she begins to discover a long-held family secret. This book is so intriguing, and if a full series is actually coming, then I CANNOT WAIT!
Of course, what YA contemporary book wouldn’t be complete with a sweeping romance? Enter Eric Liu, a college graduate who literally rescues Gemma from hoards of screaming fans, and also the grandson of her grandpa’s political rival. The book is full of drama, secrets, dreams coming true, and it’s so captivating and engaging. It’s a meaningful story about a family’s (and specifically that of sisters) bond in this coming-of-age and coming into one’s own story. It’s more than just a YA story, it is so rich and wow, I loved it. Every single page, chapter, and character. Now, where can I get some of Mimi’s fashion collection IRL???
Available: December 1
Advance reader copies of each book were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.