ARC Review: What’s Not to Love

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Authors: Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

Genre: YA Contemporary

Release Date: 04.20.21

Publisher: Puffin

Source: E-ARC from Publisher via NetGalley

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

SYNOPSIS: “Since high school began, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed on almost everything. AP classes, the school paper, community service, it never ends. If Alison could avoid Ethan until graduation, she would. Except, naturally, for two over-achieving seniors with their sights on valedictorian and Harvard, they share all the same classes and extracurriculars. So when their school’s principal assigns them the task of co-planning a previous class’s ten-year reunion, with the promise of a recommendation for Harvard if they do, Ethan and Alison are willing to endure one more activity together if it means beating the other out of the lead.

But with all this extra time spent in each other’s company, their rivalry begins to feel closer to friendship. And as tension between them builds, Alison fights the growing realization that the only thing she wants more than winning…is Ethan.”

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Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka have done it again.

This author duo has been an absolute favorite of mine since I read their debut in 2018, and I always get so thrilled when their books release each year. So, I was already thrilled about their upcoming release, but my excitement doubled when I learned this is a rivals-to-lovers story! It’s one of my favorite tropes and I was looking forward to see how Wibbroka would do it…and oh my gosh. I couldn’t get enough of the competitive dynamic between Alison and Ethan. Their banter was witty, quick, and created an undeniable tension between them.

But, aside from the romance, there was so much else that I loved about this book. For starters, I love how Emily and Austin write perfectly flawed characters. While Alison was a bit judge-y to start, she was also someone who I could cheer for. Then don’t get me started on character development! I loved the journey Alison took throughout this story. I thought her personal growth was extremely well crafted.

I loved the imagery and sets in this book. I normally don’t consider the scenery in books in too much detail, but there are so many distinct locations that are stuck in my mind. I loved the chemistry in the kissing scenes, the coffee fueled late night studying aesthetic. I loved the school newspaper, Alison’s family, and the competition for valedictorian. This book was Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka at their best, and I truly cannot recommend it enough.

If you’re a fan of the rivals-to-lovers trope, banter, and amazing character development, then What’s Not to Love is the book for you. It releases April 20th 2021!

Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with an e-ARC.

ARC Review: Tell Me My Name

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Author: Amy Reed

Genre: YA Thriller

Release Date: 03.09.21

Publisher: Dial Books

Source: E-Arc via NetGalley

My Rating: 1/5 stars

SYNOPSIS: “On wealthy Commodore Island, Fern is watching and waiting–for summer, for college, for her childhood best friend to decide he loves her. Then Ivy Avila lands on the island like a falling star. When Ivy shines on her, Fern feels seen. When they’re together, Fern has purpose. She glimpses the secrets Ivy hides behind her fame, her fortune, the lavish parties she throws at her great glass house, and understands that Ivy hurts in ways Fern can’t fathom. And soon, it’s clear Ivy wants someone Fern can help her get. But as the two pull closer, Fern’s cozy life on Commodore unravels: drought descends, fires burn, and a reckless night spins out of control. Everything Fern thought she understood–about her home, herself, the boy she loved, about Ivy Avila–twists and bends into something new. And Fern won’t emerge the same person she was.”

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When I first read the synopsis for Tell Me My Name I was really excited to see a gender flipped Gatsby retelling! However, as seen by my one star rating, this book didn’t work for me as I hoped it would.

First, in being positive. The things I liked about this book:

  • At first I really enjoyed Fern being an unreliable narrator. It made the story very intriguing and unique.

The things that I disliked about this book:

  • As the story progressed it became impossible to distinguish between what was actually happening and was hallucinations.
  • The lyrical and metaphorical writing style didn’t work for me, and left me feeling disconnected from the story. I also felt a lack of connection to the characters, they all felt inauthentic and glamorized.
  • Vague connections for a retelling. I found it very hard to find connections between this story and Gatsby. I could locate some similarities, but it was very little considering that this is marketed as a retelling,
  • The ending was confusing. While I thought it was interesting, I was also confused and it felt cut short. I would have loved more explanation.

So, overall, this wasn’t the book for me. I had really high hopes going into it and I’m sad that I didn’t enjoy it more. I think there are probably readers out there who would enjoy this book, but that wasn’t me.

Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with an E-Arc via NetGalley!

Book Review: Influence

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Authors: Sara Shepard & Lilia Buckingham

Genre: YA Thriller

Release Date: 01.05.21

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Source: Purchased

My Rating: 3/5 stars

SYNOPSIS: “After a video she makes goes viral, everyone knows Delilah Rollins. And now that she’s in LA, Delilah’s standing on the edge of something incredible. Everything is going to change. She has no idea how much.

Jasmine Walters-Diaz grew up in the spotlight. A child star turned media darling, the posts of her in her classic Lulu C. rainbow skirt practically break the Internet. But if the world knew who Jasmine really was, her perfect life? Canceled.

Fiona Jacobs is so funny–the kind of girl for whom a crowd parts–no wonder she’s always smiling! But on the inside? The girl’s a hot mess. And when someone comes out of the shadows with a secret from her past, it’s one that won’t just embarrass Fiona: it will ruin her.

Who wouldn’t want to be Scarlet Leigh? Just look at her Instagram. Scarlet isn’t just styled to perfection: she is perfection. Scarlet has a gorgeous, famous boyfriend named Jack and there’s a whole fanbase about their ship. To everyone watching online, their lives seem perfect . . . but are they really? The sun is hot in California . . . and someone’s going to get burned.”

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If this book was one thing, it was fun. It kept my attention easily and was really fast to read. I’m always attracted to books that spill the dark side of influencers, which is why I knew I had to read this. While I did enjoy this story, I also struggled with the plot and the twists.

Things that I liked about this:

  • The portrayal of social media compared to real life. I enjoyed seeing the dramatic comparison of what these influencers looked like on screen, compared to who they were off.
  • The dark side of social media! I’m always here for all the dark secrets, black mail, private relationships, and shocks. This book had tons of them, which kept me fully engaged with the reading.
  • Some of the characters. I thought a few of them, especially Jasmine, were really enjoyable!
  • Mental health representation. While I cannot speak to how accurate this representation was, I was happy to see OCD represented in this story.

Things that I disliked about this:

  • Some of the twists were just…yikes. So, while I did enjoy some of the plot twists, the combination of different dramatic reveals didn’t make sense. I’m not going to get more into it that this, as to avoid spoilers, but it just did not make sense at all.
  • The explanations were underwhelming. As the story winded down and everything was getting explained, many of the explanations were painfully underwhelming.

Have you read Influence? Is it on your tbr? Let’s chat! ☕

ARC Review: A Better Bad Idea

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Author: Laurie Devore

Genre: YA Thriller

Release Date: 03.16.21

Publisher: Imprint

Source: E-Arc via Author

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

SYNOPSIS: “Evelyn Peters is desperate. Desperate for a way out of McNair Falls, the dying southern town that’s held her captive since the day she was born. Desperate to protect her little sister from her mother’s terrifying and abusive boyfriend. And desperate to connect with anyone, even fallen golden boy Ashton Harper, longtime boyfriend of the girl Evelyn can never stop thinking about ― beautiful, volatile, tragically dead Reid Brewer.

Until a single night sends Evelyn and Ashton on a collision course that starts something neither of them can stop. With one struck match, their whole world goes up in flames. The only thing left to do is run―but leaving McNair Falls isn’t as easy as just putting distance between here and there and some secrets refuse to stay left behind.

A reckoning is coming . . . and not everyone is getting out alive.”

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I didn’t know a lot before going into A Better Bad Idea, and I think that’s the best possible way to experience it.

This dark, slow burn thriller was perfectly bitter and rage filled. I can’t emphasize enough how the pitch line, ” End of the F World meets Sadie” captures this story perfectly. It’s an addicting story of a small town, two hurt girls, and a fire that burns inside them.

I really adored the characters and plot of this one. Evelyn and Reid. All of the characters were wild messes in their own regard, and oh my goshhh. It added so much angst and darkness. I loved how this story was told through Evelyn and Reid and how their voices were so unique and corrupt. These characters aren’t happy, likeable and friendly. They have screwed up morals, secrets, and perceive the world in a way I’ve never read about before.

The plot of this matched the characters… meaning it was dark, gripping, and a bit messed up too. It’s an addicting thrill ride that immerses the reader and refuses to give them up.

So, to say the least, I really enjoyed this book. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes characters with messed up morals, thrillers, and the dark.

I received an e-Arc of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

Book Review: Watch Over Me

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Author: Nina LaCour

Genre: YA Contemporary

Release Date: 09.15.20

Publisher: Dutton Books

Source: E-ARC via NetGally & Audiobook via Library

My Rating: 3/5 stars

SYNOPSIS: “Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the Northern California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.”

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This wasn’t a bad book, but I don’t think it was the one for me.

Watch Over Me is an emotionally powerful story about Mila, a teenage girl haunted by the demons of her past after moving to a remote farm. The farm is a refuge, but it’s also haunted by trauma.

This was book was deeply emotional and made me cry quite a few times, to be honest. Nina LaCour has a beautiful writing style, unlike anything I’ve read before. This was my first book by this author, but it won’t be my last. I’m looking forward to exploring more of her published titles after seeing how fantastic her writing truly is.

That being said, the writing was probably my favorite aspect of this story. It was lush, emotional, and perfectly captured the haunted atmosphere of the story. It was chilling without being terrifying, and that struck the perfect balance.

The reason I gave this book a three star rating was because I struggled to connect to the story. I don’t know if it was because of format (I half read it through an ebook and half audio book) or if it was the story. But either way, I didn’t emotionally connect to the characters in a way that kept me gripped into the story. It was enjoyable, but not something I was invested in. That being said, I do want to read more from this author in the future because of how beautiful her writing is, and I’m looking forward to that very much!

Although this book wasn’t for me, I’d still recommend it to anyone who likes emotional stories with some demons. I feel like a lot of people could really really love this book, and if it sounds interesting to you, than I’d highly suggest giving it a chance!

ARC Review: Flamefall

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Author: Rosaria Munda

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 03.23.21

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Source: E-ARC Via NetGalley

My Rating: 5/5 stars

SYNOPSIS: *This synopsis contains spoilers for Fireborne*

After fleeing the revolution and settling into the craggy cliffs of New Pythos, the Dragonlords are eager to punish their usurpers–and reclaim their city. Their first order of business was destroying the Callipolan food supply. Now they’re coming for the Dragonriders.

Annie is Callipolis’s new Firstrider, and while her goal has always been to protect the people, being the government’s enforcer has turned her into public enemy number one.

Lee struggles to find his place after killing kin to prove himself to a leader who betrayed him. He can support Annie and the other Guardians . . . or join the radicals who look to topple the new regime.

Griff, a lowborn dragonrider who serves New Pythos, knows he has no future. And now that Julia, the Firstrider who had protected him, is dead, he is called on to sacrifice everything for the lords that oppress his people–or to forge a new path with the Callipolan Firstrider seeking his help.

With famine tearing Callipolis apart and the Pythians determined to take back what they lost, it will be up to Annie, Lee, and Griff to decide what to fight for–and who to love.

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Now THAT is how you write a sequel. In case you missed it, Fireborne was one of my favorite reads of 2019 and remains one of my all time favorite books to this day. I have so much love for this trilogy. So, it should be not surprise that Flamefall was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021.

And wow. Oh my gosh, wow. I feel like my heart has been torn apart and put back together, From the first page, I was instantly sucked back into this incredible story… I loved how this sequel expanded on the first book. First of all, the addition of a new character POV, Griff, was fantastic. I enjoyed seeing the world continue to expand through his perspective in New Pythos. Then, of course I loved all the characters who have been around. Lee and Annie continue to have my heart and watching them grow through this book was incredible. Their individual personalities and beliefs contribute so much to this story, and I love it.

The author continues to have an incredible cast of well developed side characters in this sequel as well, which was an aspect I enjoyed in the first book. The expansion on Crissa and Power was lovely and of courseeeee. I couldn’t get enough of Duck! I love that cinnamon roll boy.

The plot in this was gripping. I think the direction that this trilogy is taking is very interesting and I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the third book! I’m already counting down the days until the final book of this trilogy releases, and I’m excited for it and terrified. This trilogy has easily secured a spot on my list of favorites and I cannot get enough of it. I’d highly recommend this trilogy to anyone and everyone who likes dragons, political intrigue, and complicated relationships. This sequel is incredible and I’m so excited for you all to be able to read it soon!

Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me an E-Arc in exchange for an honest review!

Blog Tour & Review: When We Were Infinite

Author: Kelly Loy Gilbert

Genre: YA Contemporary

Release Date: 03.09.21

Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source: Publisher

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS: “All Beth wants is for her tight-knit circle of friends — Grace Nakamura, Brandon Lin, Sunny Chen, and Jason Tsou — to stay together. With her family splintered and her future a question mark, these friends are all she has — even if she sometimes wonders if she truly fits in with them. Besides, she’s certain she’ll never be able to tell Jason how she really feels about him, so friendship will have to be enough.

Then Beth witnesses a private act of violence in Jason’s home, and the whole group is shaken. Beth and her friends make a pact to do whatever it takes to protect Jason, no matter the sacrifice. But when even their fierce loyalty isn’t enough to stop Jason from making a life-altering choice, Beth must decide how far she’s willing to go for him—and how much of herself she’s willing to give up.”

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Today I’m so excited to be participating in the When We Were Infinite blog tour! This story wrecked me emotionally and kept me up reading until 3am. It was that addicting and heartbreaking. I was so completely absorbed in these characters and their hurt that I had to see the story to the end, all in one sitting. The raw emotions and difficult topics of this book left me an emotional wreck and wishing I could reach into the story and hug them all.

So, first, this is not an easy read. This is not a fluffy romance to make you swoon. It is an emotionally gripping, powerhouse of a book that was written incredibly. It’s a difficult read, but one that is also so important. After finishing When We Were Infinite I felt completely overwhelmed with emotions (and tears). The emotions in this book were powerful beyond what I can explain. The writing and story weave these feelings together masterfully. I truly think it would be impossible to get through this book without crying.

A few of the things that I really loved in this story were the characters, discussion of college, and depiction of emotions. The main friend group felt like a strong found family, which I adored. Their weekly traditions and life together seemed so warm and welcoming. Their bond was beautifully written and it felt incredibly authentic. Within this friend group, there was a heavy discussion of college and planning for the future. As a high school senior, myself, I loved this honest conversation. Seeing Beth’s fears and the conversations about colleges with her friends made me feel less alone in my worries. I thought the written depiction of these fears and how they can impact you was brilliant, emotional, and achingly honest.

This was just…wow. An incredible and emotional story that I’ll be thinking about for a long time. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes emotional reads, found families, and crying their eyes out.

With that being said, before reading this book I greatly encourage you to review the content warnings (seen below) before reading. It is an incredible novel that deals with difficult topics, which I’ve listed below for your consideration.

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CONTENT WARNINGS: abuse, racism, mental health struggles, panic attacks, and attempted suicide.

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About The Author

Kelly Loy Gilbert believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is the author of Conviction, a William C. Morris Award finalist, and Picture Us in the Light, and lives in the SF Bay Area. She would be thrilled to hear from you on Twitter @KellyLoyGilbert or at KellyLoyGilbert.com.

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Thank you so much to the publisher for including me on the book tour for such an incredible and emotional story! When We Were Infinite hits the shelves on March 9th and I highly recommend grabbing a copy (along with a box of tissues).

Book Review: These Violent Delights

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Author: Chloe Gong

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 11.17.20

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Source: Purchased

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis: “The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.”

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I’ve gone back and forth on what to rate These Violent Delights about a hundred times.

In case you missed it, These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong took the bookstagram world by storm when it released in November 2020. It felt like my entire feed was readers praising this story, five star review after five star review. Of course, that meant I had to grab my own copy and get reading as soon as possible.

Now, here’s where my mixed feelings begin. I absolutely loved the story… however, I struggled with the writing.

The concept of this book was incredible. I loved the gang rivalry, 1920’s Shanghai setting, and mysterious monster lurking in the shadows. The plot itself was fascinating and well executed!

My biggest struggle with These Violent Delights was the writing. I found it to be too dense at times, and difficult to work through. Reading this book took over two weeks (which is unusual for me) and I would find myself loosing focus and skimming the long descriptive paragraphs, rather than reading. This was particularly true towards the beginning, so much so that I almost decided to give up reading it.

Things got significantly better with the writing towards the end; the ending (no spoilers) picked up, along with the writing, to complete the book with a thrilling end. I mean, it was an incredible way to wrap up this story that has me set on picking up Our Violent Ends as soon as it releases.

Overall, I’m feeling very conflicted on how to rate this! I loved the story, but the writing made the story difficult to get into and difficult to be absorbed in. I had very high expectations for this book and I’m still upset that this book didn’t match the hype to me. I think that when the second book in this series releases I’ll be giving it a chance (because I am very much invested in the plot) and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll love it even more than this one.