7 Late 2021 Books I’ve Been Obsessing Over

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.

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 for 2021 With These 8 Hot New Winter Book Releases

With the dumpster fire that is 2020 almost in our rearview mirror, it brings all the hope and promise of a new year. One reason I love a new year is thinking of all the new books that will be released that I can read! Ahh, sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

I’ve started on my 2021 TBR list a bit early (thanks a million, NetGalley!), and I can already tell my little personal library is going to be overflowing with new titles this upcoming winter. Settle in for another installment of Miranda’s Book Nook as I share some of the 2021 book titles coming out this winter and just I can’t get enough. Happy reading, y’all!

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

It’s time to start off with a five-star read, y’all! After the adorable cheesy teen romance that was Tweet Cute, I’m already looking forward to Lord’s follow-up novel. Oh, and this one is set at a SLEEPAWAY CAMP. Instant interest from me. (#CampGirl 4 Life!) Like, I loved all the camp activities and friendships (Savvy, Mickey, Finn, and Leo know there’s nothing like camp besties, and now I just wanna call my BW sisters!) because it reminded me of my best days as a BW girl and how those days at camp with my fellow camp sisters were some of my all-time favorite memories.

Okay, to be quite honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book at first because I thought the author’s first book, Tweet Cute, was just alright and not *totally* my type of read. But, now I can’t imagine not having read You Have a Match, and in a way, it’s made me feel closer to my grandfather, who’s my own version of the character Poppy. And after every single page, it’s clear this book rightfully deserves this five-star rating and a coveted place on my must-buy TBR list once it’s published. Here, we follow 16-year-old Abby, who in a bet with best friend Connie, takes a DNA test to find out her ancestries along with their other best pal, Leo. This book brings an engaging point of view that feels both authentic and current for a teen girl with really fun and relatable language. So, the DNA test revealed that Abby has a secret full sister, Savannah, an 18-year-old Instagram star. The two are polar opposites to their cores, but want to get to know each other. To figure things out and get to know each other, Savvy invites her new sister to attend the camp where she’ll be a junior counselor. It’s seriously like a modern-day version of The Parent Trap, and I’m here for it.

Then, there’s also a precious slow-burn romance between Abby and her best friend and neighbor, Leo. At the opening of the book, she’s still mortified about her almost-kiss with him months ago because it turned out, he didn’t feel the same and she was crushed. Then, it turns out, he’s working in the kitchen at the same camp and seems very excited they’ll be spending the time together, like in a certain eyes-twinkling, heart-fluttering way?? But because boys are stupid, Leo makes my head spin as it’s evident he does like her but is either pretending or hiding it really well, and gah, I don’t know what’s going on here. Then, also at camp, we meet Finn, the bad-boy camper Abby’s age who has a Hot Boy Name, so love triangle, here we go.

This book is just so much fun and I actually cannot put it down, staying up way too late in two nights just to finish it. Then, we get so much juicy drama and a big family secret that overshadows romance for a bit, and things escalate that make me actually want to ship Abby and Leo at screaming and squealing levels, because that definitely happened. Things get super heartwrenching, and gut-punching emotional that I’m legitimately in tears when it’s revealed all their grandfather did for the girls. It actually makes tear up because Poppy really resonates with me to my core about my late grandfather. I just want to say that books typically do not make me cry, but this 100 percent did because of Poppy and my own life. But enough about me, back to this read. That ending was absolutely precious and so darn cute that my cheeks still hurt from smiling so much. Like, Leo’s big monologue at the end had me literally squealing at 2 in the morning over its sheer adorableness! I wasn’t sure about Leo as a love interest and a book boyfriend to start, but by the end, we got to see inside his heart and he won me over and proved to be good enough for Abby. So, I approve. And gah, that epilogue was so damn cute.

Overall, I’m not quite sure how to put this book into words. It’s more than a teen romance, more than a summer camp adventure, more than a familial drama, more than a story of friendship and sisterhood, more than a comedy, and more than a deep emotional novel. It’s a book in a class all its own and had me captivated until I read that very last word on the final page. Seriously, it’s totally worth those five stars because now I have to buy and I just can’t imagine a world where I haven’t read this, and it also made me feel closer to my grandfather who’s passed away, my own Poppy, which I needed now more than ever. Like, with all that, this has to be five stars and I have to buy it once it’s released this January, I have to.

Available: January 5


Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Here was another YA romance that I was looking forward to prior to reading, and boy, did this read deliver! I mean, I still can’t stop smiling now that I reached the ending. The book follows Tessa, a diverse romance writer whose family just moved to Long Beach with her parents, and her older brother who has disabilities. One day, just after the move, her brother Miles intends to prank their neighbor, but when she has to clean up the mess, she meets the dorky, not fashion-savvy Sam wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and it turns out they’ll both be starting at the same art school, and he cooks! (Which, side note, I want those lavender donuts he made for her SO SO SO bad. My stomach is growling right now.) So, it’s clear he’s the dream guy right, because he cooks, huh? Hm, or am I projecting a bit? Oh, well.

It’s such a fun and engaging YA novel that I enjoyed and really got sucked into. I also loved all the YA callouts to classic works from the genre, such as TATBILB, The Hate U Give, and mentioning Sarah Dessen as a queen, like yes, I love my bookish references! Then, there’s the ridiculously handsome Nico in her writing class that is exactly how she pictured her latest manuscript’s love interest. So, love triangle trope time, please! She starts school and with all the anxiety of being the new kid, not knowing anyone, and not feeling like she’s a good enough writer, as the deadlines for her novel writing class pile up, it’s a terrible time for writer’s block, but of course that happens and leaves her feeling like a fraud. Her best friend Caroline, back in Sacramento, helps Tessa devise a plan to get her groove back by having her experience her first love and get a boyfriend, so she can get back to writing her romances.

This book is shaping up to one super cute slow-burn romance, and I’m digging it. We definitely get a fun love triangle, and as she gets closer to the previously unavailable Nico, Sam gets a little makeover moment where Tessa sees him in a whole new light. She and Sam just have such an effortless connection, while Nico is more of a suave, smooth operator who flirts with her, so obviously I’m team Sam, bad Hawaiian shirts, zip-off cargo shorts, and all. After a few introductory chapters, the plot finally picks up and moves faster. Like once I’m into this book, I’m so obsessed and just can’t stop reading until I finish it thanks to its captivating, authentic language. The real romance at the end is just so cute and dear, sweet Sam is just so pure and precious. I mean that homemade ice cream, I swooned. Then, yes there’s a HEA, because of course, but what I loved was that it was more than a romantic love HEA, but also her own self-love and growth, her becoming the best writer she can be, and ahhhh, then she makes her own grand gesture which was just so adorable. But that ending, gah I just wanted more!! The cover’s cute and dreamy, and I love how the ending was more about her self-love and confidence, finding her own voice.

Available: January 5


Love Songs for Skeptics by Christina Pishiris

When I first requested this NetGalley ARC, I suppose I hadn’t thought too much of it, and thought it’d be just a fun, indulgent, and a bit basic for a romance read. But, it definitely wasn’t and I surprised myself with how into this book I was, to like can’t-put-it-down until the wee hours of the morning, it was that surprising, fun, humorous, engaging, cute, and enjoyable.

Here, Zoë is a music journalist and editor for a struggling music magazine in London, which, my surprise over its British setting and UK slang already nudged this read up one star. Hence the title and her bad luck in the dating department, she doesn’t quite believe in love, especially after she fell in her love with her bestie and neighbor Simon in her teen years, but didn’t get a chance to share her feelings before he left the country.

Ever since that moment, she’s definitely bitter towards the whole concept of love, however, one day in the present storyline, some twenty years later, Simon has officially moved back to London, newly divorced, handsome and charming and ever, and it seems he may have some feelings for our girl Zoë? Between this new relationship on the horizon, Simon’s once-famous ex-girlfriend popping up in their lives, a cocky music publicist blackmailing and flirting with Zoë, and her brother’s upcoming big Greek wedding; man, there’s a lot happening at once. (I would just like to point out that Zoë first describes Nick as “sexy AF,” so obviously there’s gotta be something there to that potential romance story.) Despite all this happening in the story, I still enjoyed this read. It was fun, relatable, engaging, made me laugh and cringe, and also want to scream out ‘what the heck is happening??,’ much like dating IRL. And seriously, boys like Simon are why I have trust issues and they just do my f***ing head in, geez! There are so many funny, relatable quips that keep me wanting to read more. I just got so wrapped up and invested in this story, so captivated by all the characters and the drama.

This book had a compelling and relatable point of view. We also get plenty of tropes between two love triangles, enemies to lovers, and falling in love at a wedding. It was just so hard for me to put it down because I just wanted to continue it until I finished this fun romp of a romance book. It’s all good fun, until about a hundred pages from the end where things unexpectedly get super heavy and dramatic, adding turns that were anything but predictable, but I was captivated by everything. It’s also clever how the chapter names are all applicable song titles, which make sense in a full-circle moment at the end. It’s not just a romantic love story, but a self-love story as Zoë figures who she is and what she really wants. Like, she may be a skeptic when it comes to love, but within an hourlong scene, she’ll have two men dropping L-bombs at her. Then, by the end, things it super soapy and messy, but it was plain, good fun. In her HEA, once she figures out her own desires, we do get that grandiose, sweeping romantic moment that was so darn cute, I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s more than a romance book and that’s what I was drawn to about this read. Also, she and Nick definitely have so much freaking chemistry and banter that I love to see in a romance and it is so dang amusing as a reader. In the end, it was just so entertaining and fun to read.

Available: January 19


Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon

In this steamy romance novel set in LA, Annika and Hudson (which, hello Hot Boy Name alert) are work rivals after they both develop dating-centric apps, and just by that core detail, it’s evident we’re about to get a delicious enemies to lovers romance here. Menon’s novel features witty language and smart female protagonists, which like yes, please! So, Annika is the CEO of her app “Make Up,” which specializes in helping couples stay together, while Hudson is the CEO of his already-more-successful app “Break Up,” which hires terminators to break up with your partner on your behalf. With her business on the verge of failing, Annika’s last hope is to win a pitch competition for a major influx of capital. Which, surprise, he needs that money to continue growing his firm. Also, it turns out these rivals already met, when they spent the week at a conference the year prior, hanging out and hooking up. The plot thickens as she believes Hudson stole and tweaked her app idea after the Vegas conference, and then rented the office down the hall from hers on purpose to drive her out of business.

In the workplace, the pair starts to play silly pranks on one another, but you can’t ignore how freaking flirty this dude is to Annika, like come on, this boy’s got a massive crush and then, on the flip side, she can’t stop thinking about that night in Vegas. It turns out Hudson’s just a good guy that likes the girl and less of an enemy, which like, it’s so predictably cute. He’s basically a lost puppy dog following her around, just blindly in love. And this book is Annika attempting to catch up to him.

The book’s slow-burn and banter are paced exactly right that’s teasing, but still intriguing that you want to keep reading. Speaking of their love story, man, Annika and Hudson have so much fiery chemistry and that massive spark, even when she goes on another date, it’s clear what these two have together. That spark’s on fire and it’s electric. It might be predictable in terms of plot and tropes, but I loved it all the same, in part to these dynamic characters. It’s a quick, all-consuming, can’t-put-it-down romance read that I finished in one sitting.

Towards the end, this book does get super emotional and vulnerable, and full of heart. But in the end, I don’t know why, but I was literally laughing out loud at the real reasons they both made their apps. But yeah, that was such an engaging, witty romance that I definitely, very much enjoyed. The HEA was just adorable, but I just wanted more. A flash-forward, an epilogue, something more.

Available: February 2


Love in English by Maria E. Andreu

First off, Balzer + Bray is fast becoming one of my favorite new publishing imprints for telling witty, compelling, and diverse YA stories about complex teen protagonists with adorable first love tales, so I’m already excited about this read from the get-go.

Here, Ana and her mom just moved to the US from Argentina to join her dad who had already gotten settles. The book picks up on the 16-year-old’s first day of school, and she’s nervous and homesick. Ana is a poet who just hasn’t found the right words in English since immigrating. Immediately, we meet Harrison, a cute boy from her math class who’s like “Netflix series cute,” she’s smitten because of his dashing looks, and of course, he’s in a band. Also, he needs a math tutor and she excels in math, so it’s a perfect fit. Then, she meets Neo from Cyprus in her ESL class. who also knows very little English, even less than she does, and he’s mysterious but slowly they bond over first-time viewings of classic American teen movies and New York City. So, it’s clear there’s a love triangle brewing.

This book is slow to start, but I just want to know more because it does have such an intriguing point of view that we seldom think about as native-born Americans. Ana’s inner thoughts about the English language are amusing and relatable because English is a weird, funny, and complicated language. It’s neat how the author used repeating pound signs in the middle of sentences to show what Ana’s perspective is like and how she knows some words but not all the words we often say in a conversation. As Ana gets to know both boys, she and Neo are just so pure and beyond precious, like it’s adorable. Now, things may get lost in translation with him, but they have a lot in common. This book is not just her love story with a boy or two, but her love story with America, trying new things, and embracing a new culture. It’s absolutely precious and adorable.

Available: February 2


Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce

NetGalley didn’t have a summary for this book listed when I first requested this ARC, and I didn’t need one to know I had to read this. The title is Hot British Boyfriend, which, like, that’s easily one of my all-time favorite types of love interests, so, um, yes, please. Being such a massive Anglophile and a fan of British love interests, this book immediately had my attention.

And boy, was this quick YA read just as adorable as I could have imagined. Here, Ellie is new to DC after she and her mom just moved to town. The high schooler has an extremely embarrassing, viral moment at a party and her only way to escape that memory for the duration of her senior year is to take the last-minute, open slot on the school’s study abroad trip to England.

As a reader, it is super easy to get insider Ellie’s head and feel deeply for what she’s going through. Now that she’s England-bound, Ellie is dreaming of finding her own British prince charming, which like join the club, girl. Once she arrives at the Manor where the class is studying, she has a meet-cute moment with Dev from her school and he helps her unload her massive suitcases and carry them up the four flights of stairs, and lets her into his inner group of best mates. Then, she meets Will at a flea market in town, and he’s sophisticated, charming, British, and they hit it off and he gets pretty flirty with her. Like, Will is so charming that IDK how, but I really want a British boyfriend now, lol sorry not sorry. So, her friendship with Dev is complicated as she enlists him to tutor her to impress Will, but he doesn’t approve of this snotty boy. It turns out Ellie’s pretending to be a lot of different things to impress Will rather than embrace all her quirks and dorky interests that make her happy. One day, she stumbles upon Dev playing Quidditch and she realizes there’s more to him than just studying, so we get a slow-burn romance with the two of them and a love triangle between the three of them. With the love triangle, both boys like her, however, Dev is the only guy who sees and understands all of her, which makes him too pure for this world.

This read is very captivating and downright adorable, it’s absolutely precious, and I cannot stop smiling. In addition to love, she’s made some very good friends here and had excellent travel adventures, and now I feel all the wanderlust and miss London so freaking much. By the end, once Ellie stops thinking about what she thinks she wants, she realizes what she actually wants and needs, in terms of love, friendships, and her plans. It’s so cute! Also, where do I sign up to get a Hot British Boyfriend now, because I really want one?

Available: February 9


The Night We Met by Zoë Folbigg

This was a sweet, vulnerable, and emotional women’s fiction novel. Set in England, we start in the present when 43-year-old Olivia is in the hospital, on hospice, where she has cancer. While she knows she’s dying, her husband Daniel refuses to give up hope and isn’t ready to lose his wife. Time’s running out for his fashion designer wife and he has been frantically working to find a solution that’ll save her. Knowing she doesn’t have much time left, she asks her journalist hubby to write down their love story so he can tell their two daughters when she’s gone. So, based on that alone, this book starts off super heavy but definitely captivating.

Most of this read is told in flashbacks as we see the story of how they met. In the past, over the course of several years, Daniel kept seeing her around while traveling post-graduation in Australia and New Zealand, when she was in college in London, when he visited her in Milan when she went back home. Over and over again, he was mesmerized every time he saw her in a bunch of near-meetings. We also see Daniel starting off his career after Australia and NZ, plus years earlier when Olivia first got sick and started her treatment. This book features such rich language that plays out like a movie in my head and I can totally see their story unfold. However, all the back-and-forth between 2017, 1996, and 1998 is really abrupt, and it should have been in chronological order rather than just jumping around.

In the book, Daniel was always captivated by this elusive, wild creature that she was and in the present has a deep fear of losing her and will do anything to make sure he doesn’t. The book is written in the third person, but it’s primarily Daniel’s point of view, however, occasionally it switches to Olivia’s or her friend Mimi’s, which comes almost out of nowhere and a bit choppy. Even though it’s a really slow-burn love story, you can tell Daniel always just had eyes for Olivia. Even though, predictably, it ends tragically, the epilogue aims to put a meaningful, optimistic spin on this unexplainably sad moment and show how they’ll always love Olivia as they move forward because she accomplished so much she loved in her short life.

Available: February 11


All Girls by Emily Layden

This is an honest coming-of-age story, full of captivating and descriptive language. This novel is set in the middle-of-nowhere Connecticut at an elite, all-girls boarding school called Atwater. The book starts on the opening day and continues throughout the year, all the way up until graduation and covering all of the school’s important traditions.

Starting on the first day at the school, a former student’s rape allegation starts to get media traction, and it seems like the school is covering things up to save the reputation of a beloved, accomplished teacher by discrediting this alum. The book follows a group of girls starting the school year, from freshman to seniors, and each of their different perspectives and backgrounds as they try to find out the truth that their school’s been hiding for years. We follow various girls from different classes, cliques, who all have different coming-of-age journeys. There, we start with the student newspaper as they try to figure out what happened and how the administration is handling everything. Then, one student hacks into the school newspaper and Instagram pages to post these anti-assault messages that the school tried to censor. Which, like, boo to that school. It’s a captivating mystery trying to deduce what happened and how each girl can relate the alum’s story to their own life and how big of an issue assault and rape is as young women.

Available: February 16


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