As fall has swept in already, I’ve been trying to keep busy by updating my personal library with all sorts of new books, organizing my bookshelves in a color-coordinated rainbow order, ordering a personal library stamp and affixing it on each novel on my shelf, and of course, reading every day and night. Some of these books have made me weep, scream, smile, and, well, feel all of the feels, both good and bad.
So, welcome back to Miranda’s Book Nook with even more of my latest book recommendations that’ll keep you company as 2020 winds down. I hope you find these books as engaging and comforting as I have. Happy reading!
Majesty by Katharine McGee
As you may recall from a previous post or my endless social posts, I was absolutely obsessed with American Royals. So much so, in fact, that I finished the chunker of a royalty YA novel in a single day. A couple hours, even. (Which, I’d like to report has occurred yet again with this follow-up.) After the first novel ended on such a freaking cliffhanger, I knew I needed to read the eventual sequel, like, immediately just to find out what happened and to make sure that my beloved ship of Connor and Bea were still motherf***ing endgame, or I was prepared to literally throw something. Sure, they may be from different stations in life, but that doesn’t matter because it’s love. They needed to be together, and I demand that courtesy as such a fan. We’ll get to that later.
The YA sequel picks up pretty much where we left off and takes us to the king’s (their dad’s) somber funeral. Then, we jump ahead a mere six months later as the royal family attempts to grieve slash move forward, and Bea attempts to figure out her next steps as the reigning queen. Since no one in the book even knew about my beloved ship (which, like, boo!), they kept trying to push Bea’s wedding to Teddy sooner, because god forbid we have an unmarried queen! Also, please god no, I need her not to do the “proper” thing and not shut the door on Connor and their love story, as he’s done nothing but support, love, and be there for his longterm love. Also, I was super ready to have some flipping words with Connor as the reader, because, dude, you need to get your girl, however, you need to. Not the queen, but his Bee. He needs to snap her out of this pretend world she’s attempting to go through the motions and woo her all over again, for them and their true love. And boy, he flipping better. Or, I swear. (Seriously, he’s just so precious and perfect, all this sh*t between the two of them is killing me! Bea, ugh, if you don’t marry him then I will!)
The book still features the same multiple stories, but I’m still primarily drawn to Bea’s perspective because that’s the one love story and journey that rang the most heartfelt, genuine, and long-lasting to me from the first book. However, ugh, Beatrice is acting so dumb. She’s the queen, like she shouldn’t have to get married and spoiler alert, she could change the rules of the game, because she’s in charge. I just want her to do something and follow her heart. Like, how can she govern a nation if she can’t follow her own desires? I’m pissed at both her and Connor by now. Thank gosh for our other perspectives and leading ladies to fill in on the true love department.
I literally couldn’t stop reading, as I was onto chapter six within about twenty minutes of starting this novel on pub day. I just couldn’t put it down until I found out what would happen next. I’m just so captivated, even if Bea doesn’t rightfully realize she wants and needs Connor in her life. So, the book continues and we see the other ladies too: Sam is embracing her role as The Spare since her love Teddy is still marrying her sister and so she starts partying more, her bestie Nina wants to move on from her breakup with Jeff, and Daphne still will do whatever it takes to marry Jeff and secure her family’s status. Sam gets her own love story this time around with her unexpected pairing with new character Marshall, but hey, that old fake dating trope always works! It’s beyond cute, and the same with Nina and Jeff’s pal Ethan. However, Bea and Teddy are a thing here. I just cannot deal because I’m such a hardcore Bea+Connor shipper and like, all their history and passion can’t just disappear overnight to me, at least. I just feel that their story just isn’t over and I just can’t move on.
So, the ending (beware of spoilers, but the book’s already been out for a hot minute, so likely you could’ve already read it for yourself). I am glad that Bea called off the wedding because she didn’t need to be married at 22 anyway just so she can be queen, but like, I’d be very happy if sometime in the future, she and Connor could somehow find their way back to each other because I can feel that their story isn’t concluded just yet. The whole book just felt like the author was trying to force Teddy on us by making Bea fall for him, but that wasn’t the book I wanted and yearned for, because Connor was everything to her. Also, she didn’t even like Teddy, and until she was like “well, better get to know my fiance because me leaving him killed my dad and we need a royal wedding,” and like no, that’s not a good enough reason for me. But, I guess American Royals was Bea’s big, shippable love story and Majesty is the place for Nina and Sam to be the stars and find love, which I enjoyed as well, but, like it was harder to enjoy because at the same time I saw my beloved Connor+Bea ship sinking hard and deep, which you can’t get over that so quickly. However, the writing was plenty captivating and there was tons of drama and intrigue that kept me reading.
My Therapist Says: Advice You Should Probably (Not) Follow by @MyTherapistSays*
This Instagram account is one of my favorite meme IG accounts out there because it’s so dang relatable. So, upon hearing the brains behind the account were writing a book, instantly, I knew it belonged on my TBR list. Initially, I was excited to read it as a follower of the @MyTherapistSays Instagram page, often liking memes about reality and anxious moments of life that we all go through.
From the get-go, the brand’s signature sense of humor and tone is on point with the book’s fun, humorous tone that you can immediately deduce from the title alone. The book is designed to provide advice about this crazy journey of life from the Insta-famous ladies and interjections from their real-life therapist. Seriously, I couldn’t stop laughing for the first half of this read, because everything is one hundred percent accurate. Underneath all the humor and jokes, there really are some lovely, deep messages and advice about how to live your best life. Each essay reads quite quick, and who knows, maybe this isn’t the type of read I shouldn’t have started at 11pm at night, because here we are midnight and eighty pages in. Well, we are how we are.
While I enjoyed this ARC, will I read this again? Meh, probably not. Not to say it wasn’t captivating for a self-help, advice book because it was. It had some good tips, and if you follow the girls on Instagram, then you’ll likely get their humor and tone too. For those of you who do follow them, you’ll also likely want to read this, whether you need their advice to help you cope or more often just for a laugh, because hey, life’s quite the dumpster fire now, we need any chance to laugh and feel joy. It’s definitely a book geared towards their followers and millennials like them (and me too). I would have loved an introduction upfront that introduced who’s writing this and their qualifications, but it dives straight into everything and assumes the reader already knows them. So, their existing followers is definitely the sole target audience. On that note, the IG page is notoriously run by a group of friends, but here, it’s written in the “I” tone, which is addressed at the end but not the beginning, which is a bit confusing. For me, as a reader, I was confused who’s viewpoint the essays were about throughout the book.
I thought this book would be like a collection of their IG, but it’s not. It’s the same commiserating tone, sure, but there’s no real way to improve yourself or no research to back up any of their claims. Which, it all comes out a bit preachy to me. However, I did think the language was funny and the designs/graphics/journal pages were cute, but that’s it. That being said, the goal-setting part was actually decent for self-growth and the anxiety checklist is helpful, but that’s about it. And I do appreciate the section on addressing insecurities, but nothing actually motivates me to attempt to better myself just from reading. The self-care lessons of this only really work if you’ve already done the work on yourself, but by no means should this be a starting point for self-improvement. Overall, it’s pretty negative and, like, just pointing out all you’re doing wrong without offering any real self-improvement messages.
Available: October 6
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss*
Even though it’s late summertime as of reading this galley or fall at the time of publishing this post, this romance book has me yearning for winter, hot chocolate, and cozy sweaters! By page one, I knew this was a book that was right up my alley. I mean: British setting, romance, and the holidays? Check check and check! Here, Kate and Matt have been old friends since childhood, and like, it’s clear they have to fall in love, right? But, the timing’s not quite right. Tired of her horrible dating luck, she (at the urging of her best friend) signs up for a matchmaking dating service, and hence the book’s title, she’ll go different blind dates before the holiday. The primary focus of the book is all about her bad dates and horrible dating luck, which, like, Kate, you are preaching to the choir on that one!
As I kept reading, it was already shaping up to be a fun, indulgent, and very cute holiday romance read. The concept is quite a good idea, however, the execution fell a bit, I don’t know, meh. It’s cute and all, but that’s pretty much it. And then, it is a super, super slow burn for the HEA in a romance. Like, I just wish the pace was quicker because it felt like some parts kept dragging on. It’s a predictably cute holiday romance and that’s the whole book basically. Nearly approaching the end of the story, after all her bad dating luck over and over again, it’s clear that best pal Matt is her only decent option even if they don’t know it yet. It all becomes painfully clear for the reader that they are meant to be, but the slow pace means we’re not there yet, and you are just hoping for some type of HEA to make all her troubles and heartache worth it, even if it is just self-worth and friendship. Besides, Matt is really the only decent option that could potentially give her love (Soz, Richard. You gave me such offputting and smarmy vibes any time you were on the page. Blech!), and that’s painfully clear. TBH, I was quite cynical going into this read and reading about these trash dating options and how predictable everything was, but I can’t deny that the ending made me smile because it was just so damn adorable.
Available: October 13
Fangirl, Vol. 1 by Rainbow Rowell, Sam Maggs*
For anyone that used to obsess over Rowell’s Fangirl back in the day, which, um, guilty, this manga adaptation is the perfect way to reinvent the novel. The graphic novel features all sorts of detailed pictures that really bring the story to life and tells the vivid story we all know well by now, and this way you can actually see these characters face to face and not just in your head!
In case this concept is all new to you, here’s a brief summary. The main character Cath is a huge Simon Snow fan, like the world, but she just can’t let go of the fandom and even is a popular fanfic writer. Now that she and her twin sister Wren are in college, she must decide if she’s ready to start living her own life, and if she does, will she leave the world of Simon Snow behind? She’s far outside her comfort zone now, as she meets all sorts of new people, including a moody roommate with an overly charming boyfriend, a writing professor who doesn’t like fanfiction, and a cutie-pie new writing partner.
This read is definitely for fans of the original novel and not newbies to the book. But that being said, it’s definitely fun to see Cath’s story and her fanfics with my own eyes and not just in my mind. It reads very quickly, and you can definitely finish this edition in a single setting slash day. It just fun and enjoyable! This Vol. 1 does end on such a cliffhanger, and I just want the next editions like now!
Available: October 13
Together, Apart by Erin A. Craig; Auriane Desombre; Erin Hahn; Bill Konigsberg; Rachael Lippincott; Brittney Morris; Sajni Patel; Natasha Preston; Jennifer Yen*
This was everything I’ve needed to stay sane and happy during lockdown. Nine acclaimed, witty, and popular YA authors did what they do best and wrote short stories starring diverse and complex teens facing the pandemic, lockdown, and adorable first love stories.
In short, each story was equally compelling and told a complete story with an interesting protagonist who learns that love always finds its way. The characters and storylines are all relatable, endearing, and engaging which make the story so much fun, authentic, and beyond precious that I just want more content and updates to each one!
There’s one about a cute pizza delivery boy who gives the new girl in town a free book and cake which like winning already; one where a girl is desperate to impress her crush on TikTok; two dog walkers getting closer; a new boy in town who can’t stop thinking about the girl next door; an enemies-to-lovers sitch from across apartment balconies; an unexpected romance that stems from a fortune reading and a take-out order; a flirty exchange begins over two balcony herb gardens, a roommate enemies-to-lovers journey; and a mask-making entrepreneur and her famous crush. There’s something for every romance fan, and it’s just absolutely adorable and heart-melting. They are all so freaking cute in their own way between the love stories and the HEAs, and I’m obsessed and just want more of each story. Like, for example, Erin Hahn’s story had me literally jumping up and down on my bed at the big, sweeping, and romantic as hell reveal and HEA, like, OMG, that’s so freaking cute!
After reading all nine, it’s like, ugh why couldn’t that have been my quarantine? Lol, I’m so single over here. But, hey, I’ll settle for getting sucked in and reading about these quarantine love stories rather than wishing for one of my own. Probably a lot easier to manage my expectations if I’m reading about someone else’s experiences than dreaming of that in mine. Also, a lot of these characters’ parents are essential workers, so this short story collection is a nice shoutout to the true heroes of the pandemic. Woohoo, three cheers!!
Available: October 20
Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer*
Okay y’all, this was one of the absolute cutest YA romance reads that I’ve picked up in a while, and wow, now that I finished it, I just can’t stop smiling because that was beyond adorable! Here, Quint and Prudence are biology lab partners sophomore year, and she’s been so annoyed with him over his lateness and unwillingness to contribute to their final project (or any assignment all year, really). So, initially, I’m thinking we’re about to get a delish enemies-to-lovers teen novel right here. And boy, did this book deliver on that front!
Quint is cocky, relaxed, and very attractive, so it’s evident he’ll be her love interest, and bingo! But, it’s a slow-burn love story that makes you savor every single early flirtatious moment. Plus, after a nasty bump on her head at karaoke night, Prudence now has some magical, mystical power to enact karma on random people, both good and bad. She can magically give off “instant karma” when people do something as an immediate reaction, like if someone litters, talks rudely about her twin brother, or helps take care of wounded sea animals. All in all, everything about this makes for an absolutely precious YA book that’s so easy to get sucked in and just keep reading. The book takes place during summer break as she’s determined to get Quint to help redo their science project for a better grade, and he only agrees if she’ll volunteer at his mom’s marine life rescue center for a few weeks and actually split the project work with him, since she hadn’t all year long. Then, all this karmic justice gives her such a power trip, juxtaposed with spending more time with Quint at the center to teach her about his world and other perspectives in this book.
It’s a quick, easy, and fun YA romance read about the power of fate. The romance part is quite the slow burn, where you wonder if either of them will actually make a move, but in a cutesy teen love story way that’s sweet and endearing. Then, that ending was like beyond f***ing cute, and like awww, my heart is most definitely melting from that HEA. So sweet.
Available: November 3
The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson*
Unfortunately, this book missed the mark for me as an absolute favorite, which is a shame because based on the summary, it felt like one that was right up my romance-loving alley. In this novel, Bree moves to a small town in Virginia to pursue a career as an actress with a local theater company in her grandma’s hometown. There, she meets Chip during a show while she was having a wardrobe malfunction. She ran off the stage to fix it, where she stumbled into his arms and he heroically duck-taped her costume in place for the remainder of the show. He’s already saved her within a few minutes, so obviously she becomes infatuated with him.
Her BFF is Cassie from The Dating Charade, the author’s previous work, which is always fun to see old characters return after their HEAs and see they’ve still got them. After the show, she gets pissed that a truck is tailgating her, and follows her home. Naturally, she gets road rage only to discover that the driver is her new neighbor, and it’s construction worker Chip, as in the dude she just met at the show that saved the day. The book is told in back and forth perspectives between and Bree and Chip, who’s just come back to town and is desperate to build his new business and finish his home renovation quickly. The two spend most of the book at odds as his renovation interferes with her house and life, and so they play juvenile pranks on each other. Then, these two definitely warm to each other after expressing similar types of grief they are both dealing with. This book is super slow to start and hard to get into, and as much as I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t find my interest in it, and it didn’t seem as if our two protagonists had any real interest, spark, or chemistry. So, it just fell flat in my eyes. This book was okay, nothing more and nothing less. It’s a sweet, wholesome slow-burn romance, so if that’s your thing, this book is perfect for you.
Available: November 10
Truth, Lies, and Second Dates by MaryJanice Davidson*
No summary, book cover, or book title could have prepared me for this read because I didn’t see any of this story coming. And I loved that. It wasn’t too predictable that made me yawn, but kept me on my toes to desperately find out what happens next. This book is a mystery slash romance that follows commercial pilot Ava Capp, who reveals that her best friend Danielle was brutally murdered a decade ago, and became one the of biggest cold cases back in her hometown in Minnesota.
In the present, Danielle’s twin brother and Ava’s former crush, Dennis, is on her flight back to MN with his (distant) cousin-slash-girlfriend. He asks her if she’s going to Danielle’s memorial service, which she doesn’t want to but goes anyway. After a crazy day, she and Dennis go out on the town where she meets Tom. Dennis disappears for the night, and later, she and Tom get cozy and share an intimate makeout sesh, naturally. Turns out, the next day there was an incident at the funeral home, so she and Dennis are called in to check out the scene. And who’s there but TOM, our new leading man, who’s a whip-smart medical examiner and has taken an interest in Danielle’s cold case and solving her murder. (Only thing that gave me pause from this book was that Tom has a niece who repeatedly calls him “Uncle Tom” which like IDK if that was the best way to go with naming characters, but that just struck me as odd.) This book is told in back-and-forth perspectives, which were a little jumpy because we didn’t see Tom’s point of view until after 13 chapters of Ava’s, so it felt a bit jumpy, and I wish it was less abrupt and made more sense chronologically.
I really liked this read because it wasn’t too tropey or predictable for a romance. But, that romance was quite cute as they try to, albeit terribly, hide their feelings. Once there’s a relationship, it’s pretty lukewarm on the hot-and-steamy scale, well, until the buzzer and the final chapters. There’s a few deep makeout moments, but nothing too smutty until the very end. It’s a very intriguing mystery novel and a cute romance that was fun to dive into as well. By the end, obviously, the murder was resolved in a way I didn’t see coming but maybe that’s because I just didn’t remember the person who did it from the earlier chapters. By the end, I just couldn’t put this read down and was desperately waiting to find out what actually happened.
Available: December 15
A Spy in the Struggle by Aya de León*
This was a compelling read that I couldn’t put down and just had to find out what happened next. Here, Yolanda Vance is a junior attorney in Manhattan for a big, fancy corporate law firm, which was under investigation for security fraud, according to the FBI. Instead of shredding papers as her boss asks, she keeps them and becomes a whistleblower for justice. We definitely stan a woman who’s unwilling to throw away her hard-earned career because some man told her to go down with a sinking ship!
She then joins the FBI as a backup plan because she needs a job after she’s blackballed from corporate law for not shredding the papers. This book’s tone is very clear and engaging which gives me all the information about the protagonist yet still makes me need to keep reading. I love Yolanda as a protagonist because she’s strong as hell, like YASSS! Yolanda is just so strong and fierce, which I love to see. It’s so endearing and I just want to keep reading and find out all the action and drama. Back to the story, she’s sent on an undercover mission with a black extremist activist group in California. The book also has a few other perspectives, including a mystery agent who was taken off this case and thinks Yolanda’s not the right fit to take over, plus cop Rodriguez who finds a black woman dead after an OD. These two other viewpoints are a bit much and didn’t add much to the overall story, you honestly could have just had Yolanda’s side and the book would be just fine. But this SA sends redacted emails, which I just want to know all the juicy details.
Outside of all that, Yolanda meets college professor Olujimi aka Jimmy, and the two start flirting, and soon enough, love blinds her to her real job and purpose here. As she spends more time with the organization and Jimmy during the height of the BLM movement, she soon begins to question her values and career, her legality here and ethics, when she realizes she’s on the wrong side of what she wants to be. Also, Jimmy. Let’s talk about him for a bit. He’s so sweeping and romantic, but I can’t tell if it’s a ‘too good to be true’ thing or if he’s completely innocent in all this, I would have loved more backstory and insight into him. Overall, this read was so compelling and full of emotions, that wow, I thoroughly enjoyed that.
Available: December 29
*Advance reader copies of several of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.