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 Henry, Circe 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
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
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
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
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
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 novels, is 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
Advance reader copies of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.