Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

TLTILI was lucky enough to read an ARC of Riley Sager’s latest book, The Last Time I Lied, in March, and it exceeded my expectations in every single way. It’s a taut, well-paced thriller with a compelling main character and layers upon layers of mystery and suspense. If you’re looking for a chilling beach read, look no further — and definitely check out Sager’s first book, Final Girls, while you’re at it.

Not sure what this book is about? You can find a short synopsis here!

What I Liked: One of the things that initially drew me to this book was its setting. In many ways, Camp Nightingale reminded me of the summer camp I worked at six years ago. While I only spent one summer there, it was a memorable experience, and it really did feel like its own little world, much like Nightingale. Sager includes specific details that will resonate with readers who have spent time at a summer camp — the peculiar scent of a wood cabin, the way the sky looks in the early morning hours, before anyone else is awake, how it feels to glide across the surface a lake on a canoe, peering down into its depths… And I have to say, the descriptions of the food served in the dining hall were TOO REAL. 😂 Not to mention the campers/staff behaving badly. Smoking, drinking, and shower sex, oh my! I can neither confirm nor deny that all of these things happened at my summer camp… But you’re welcome to guess. 😜

The setup of this story might sound familiar — the main character is drawn back to a place from her past where something truly terrible occurred — but it’s full of tension, and the twists and turns will leave you dizzy and wondering what just happened! Emma is clearly still haunted by the disappearance of her three friends fifteen years ago, and she isn’t the only one. Sager introduces plenty of characters who have been touched by the tragedy — and who may all still be suspects. I found Emma to be a very likeable, sympathetic main character, and her desire to find out the truth is like a real, living thing, growing more desperate and wild as the book nears its conclusion.

What impressed me most about this book was the fact that I could never have guessed how it all ends. Every suspicion I had led to another, and another, and another… and then I was blindsided. And blindsided again. 😱 By the time you put this book down, you’ll be questioning everything you’ve read and thinking about all of the clues you never knew were there.

What I Disliked: I can’t think of much that I disliked. I do hope that, in the finished version of the book (which I plan on picking up soon), the chapters are more clearly separated. While there was an effort to let the reader know when a flashback was occurring, the structure was sometimes confusing, and I think page breaks will be an immense help. Story-wise, I did feel like the events at the end of book happened very, very quickly, and some things seemed to happen almost too conveniently. But I also felt that the ending was earned and extremely satisfying.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: July 3rd

About the Author: Riley Sager
More Books by This Author:
Final Girls

**Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

May Wrap-Up

This month has flown by! I can’t believe tomorrow’s the first day of June. I kept busy with book club shenanigans (check out Between Two Shelves!) and fun birthday adventures. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to touch and feed and make lots of heart-eyes at a baby sloth named Vivien. JUST LOOK AT HER. 😍

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But anyway… I read five books this month, and boy, did I give a lot of five-star reviews! 🤗

Here are my ratings for this month’s reads:

  • A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas   ⭐️⭐️
  • The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Circe by Madeline Miller   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

NOTE: I did not review Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone since 1) it’s a re-read, and 2) I’m planning to write something about all seven books after I’ve concluded my re-read of the series — probably at the end of the summer. I also did not review Circe, mostly because I loved it so much that I couldn’t figure out how to translate my feelings into actual words. So, consider this a very, very short review: PLEASE READ IT RIGHT NOW, OKAY? ❤️

Did I read everything on my May TBR?
Nope!

Did I read anything not on my May TBR?
I actually stuck to my TBR this month, which might be a first for me…? 😂

What were my favorite reads of the month?
My absolute favorite read of the month — and definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year — was Circe. But it was a great month for five-star reads! I enjoyed nearly everything I read.

What were my least favorite reads of the month?
Without a doubt, A Court of Frost and Starlight was my biggest disappointment this month. 😐 I had such high hopes for it, but alas… It just wasn’t the book for me.

What were some of your favorite reads in May? What are you looking forward to reading in June?

Review: LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

LLWhen I request ARCs, I always assume that I’m never going to be approved. (I’m very much an assume-the-worst-so-you-are-never-disappointed kind of person, which can be both good and bad. 😅) I definitely never expected to be approved for Jay Kristoff’s latest book, LIFEL1K3. But reader, when I was, I screamed a little. No joke. 😱❤️ Having heard tons of hype about this book, I was ready to drop everything and leap right into it. Part of me was afraid I would be disappointed. (I’m still having lots of ACOFAS feels, okay?) But this book blew my mind again and again and again. If you’re a sci-fi fan, get ready for an intense — and I mean edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding, skin-tingling — ride.

Not sure what this book is about? You can find a short synopsis here!

What I Liked:

  • This book is described as: “It’s Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max meets X-Men, with a little bit of Blade Runner cheering from the sidelines.” And I have to say, that’s completely accurate. I would also add that there are hints of Pinocchio and Anastasia, too. And DEFINITELY a whole bunch of Westworld vibes. Basically, this book is a sci-fi dream that will overload your brain in the best possible way.
  • The characters in this book are BAD. ASS. Especially Eve and Lemon Fresh. (Seriously, I can’t tell you how much I love Lemon. Let’s just say that I could wax poetic about her. 😁🍋) Each character was distinct and memorable, and I found myself feeling attached to all of them — even Preacher, and he’s a real piece of work.
  • I’m crazy about the world that Kristoff has created. It’s a post-nuclear fallout version of the United States, and while some places sound familiar — like the Grande Ol’ Yousay, Kalifornya, Zona, and NeoMex — they resemble an entirely different world. I liked the inclusion of rival corporations BioMaas Incorporated and Daedalus Technologies, and how both are approaching innovation from different directions — the former focusing on biological development and enhancement, and the latter forging ahead with advanced forms of tech, like machina and logika.
  • I was totally blown away by the twists and turns in this book. While I had my suspicions about some things, and I was able to predict one or two plot developments, the ending in particular left me stunned. Without revealing any spoilers, it will, without a doubt, leave you eager for the next installment in this series, because WOWWWWWWW. I did not see it coming. 😵
  • While I’ve read the Illuminae Files series, which Kristoff co-wrote with Amie Kaufman, this is the first solo Kristoff book I’ve read. (I own Nevernight and Godsgrave but have yet to read them. Story of my life, guys.) His writing is fascinating, and honestly a joy to read. He completely inhabits this world, incorporating the lingo and terminology with enviable ease.

What I Disliked:

  • I don’t think there was anything I really disliked. I will say that I didn’t feel as strongly about Ezekiel as I did about Eve and Lemon — or even Cricket or Kaiser. I wouldn’t necessarily call him bland, but he’s… less interesting to me? For a lifelike, it’s clear that he’s unique, and that he sets himself apart from the others. But he mostly seemed like a cookie-cutter, cute-boy love interest. 😟

I absolutely loved this book. It was a wild ride from start to finish, and I think it’s very well-written. Even if you’ve read the synopsis and thought to yourself, “Wow, this sounds familiar,” or, “This sounds like a story I’ve already read,” I encourage you to at least give it a shot. It might surprise you! For me, at least, it was a really entertaining sci-fi adventure that pays homage to many post-apocalyptic/AI/robot stories that have come before it.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: May 29th

About the Author: Jay Kristoff
Other Books by This Author:
Stormdancer
Kinslayer
Endsinger
Nevernight
Godsgrave
Darkdawn
Illuminae
(co-written with Amie Kaufman)
Gemina
(co-written with Amie Kaufman)
Obsidio
(co-written with Amie Kaufman)

**Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

TWYMMFAs the weather gets warmer, I’ve noticed that I’m in the mood to read more YA contemporaries. Maybe it’s the sunshine, my daydreams of driving to the beach, or just that indescribable summer feeling… ☀️🌊 Whatever it is, it’s got me eager for cute, romantic reads. And it turns out that Maurene Goo’s latest book, The Way You Make Me Feel, was exactly what I needed! 😃

Not sure what this book is about? You can find a short synopsis here! And FYI: There are a few small spoilers in this review.

What I Liked: This book is both adorable and heartwarming, and I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. (Despite my sudden desire to read more of them, YA contemporaries can be somewhat hit-or-miss for me.) Clara is a fantastic protagonist, and she’s just like Hamlet describes her — hard on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside. 😊 Her cynicism and stubbornness might be off-putting to some readers, but she’s also hilarious. Like most teenagers, she makes bad decisions and screws up big time. But she also learns a lot about herself and figures out what — and who — matters most to her. I liked Rose for many of the same reasons. While she and Clara are very different, both have their own struggles, and both are trying to figure stuff out. Both girls learn that there’s much more to one another than they first assumed, and this realization helps to strengthen their friendship.

It’s not a huge part of the book, but we learn that Rose struggles with anxiety. And the way she describes it is so spot-on — at least for me.

“Sometimes, I can’t… live in the moment. I’m always thinking of what-ifs and the terrible things people could be thinking about me… I always think everyone’s mad at me. All the time. And it’s like, I don’t really care? But I do. It’s hard to explain.”

“You mean, like your parents?” I asked.

She shook her head. “No. I mean, yeah, of course I worry about what they think. But literally everyone. Like a stranger on the street. If I say something dumb to a barista, it bothers me for weeks. If someone doesn’t respond to a text or email right away, I’m convinced I did something wrong. I feel as if my brain’s trolling me.”

“Your brain is a jerk.”

She laughed, the sound filled with relief. “It is.”

While Rose doesn’t say much else about it, this moment felt so important to me. It gives the reader insight into Rose’s personality — and why she is the way she is — and it acknowledges just how hard it can be to deal with anxiety.

Hamlet really is a Labrador — enthusiastic, warm, a little intense, and quick to love. That last one sort of threw me for a loop, because I’m not typically a fan of insta-love stories. But that’s the thing about Hamlet. He’s crazy about Clara and he just can’t hide it. He really does wear his heart on his sleeve, and I actually found that endearing rather than annoying. And they are just SO CUTE together. Like when they’re swimming in Rose’s pool together. SWOOOOON. ❤️

Hamlet kept one hand supporting my back. My bare back. “You good?” he asked.

I nodded. “Yeah.” Then I touched his hip underwater, grazing it gently with my fingers. His eyes met mine, and this time his smile was slow.

THAT HIP TOUCH. THAT SLOW SMILE. Hamlet is totally, 100% book boyfriend material.

I also really liked Clara’s relationship with her dad (and her mom!) and how it changes over the course of the story. It was realistic, and there was a good balance between their usual banter and more serious moments. This book is very diverse, and I can see it resonating with both teens and adults. And the food trucks! Goo really killed it with the delicious descriptions. Picanha and lombo grilled churrasco-style, kimchi-and-cheese-stuffed pastels, toothpick lamb with Sichuan peppers, shaved ice, carnitas tacos, naengmyeon… My mouth is watering just typing this. 🤤

What I Disliked: Not much. It seemed a little weird that Clara’s dad wasn’t angrier with her about using his credit card to buy a one-way plane ticket. But she was with her mom, she was safe, and there really wasn’t anything he could do about it after it was done… So I kind-of-sort-of understand not making it a bigger deal. Besides that, part of me wanted Clara to confront her mom about not telling her that Tulum was more of a work thing than a mother-daughter vacation thing. Also, while she was in Tulum, Clara was allowed to get super drunk and grown adults posted videos of her online without her consent? (And I think she had taken her shirt off by then, since she had jumped in a pool and was soaking wet. 😳) WHAT?! And all her mom says is, “I got an earful from Adrian this morning.” That’s… hard to believe. And possibly illegal?

Overall, this book was a delight, and I think it’s perfect for summer! If you’re looking for a story with more serious, poignant moments, perhaps look elsewhere. But this would be a great poolside read, or even just a sitting-on-your-porch-and-soaking-up-some-sun read. It’s definitely one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read lately! 😄

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Maurene Goo
Other Books by This Author:
I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Since You Asked…

**Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are excerpted from the final release — not the ARC!

Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

ACOFASI’ve enjoyed Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, so when she announced that she was writing a novella that takes place after the third book and bridges the gap between that first trilogy and the next series of books, I was like 😱❤️! I bought a copy the day it came out, and I couldn’t wait to jump in. But it ended up being a difficult read for me… and it was hard to write this review.

Before reading any further, please keep in mind that there are spoilers ahead. If you have not read any of the A Court of Thorns and Roses books, these spoilers are pretty massive. And if you haven’t read this novella, these spoilers will reveal specific details about the story, as well as what the next series will be about.

**LAST SPOILER WARNING!**

I didn’t really get into this novella until the halfway point, and up until then, I felt bored. Like, really bored. 🙁 This novella is 229 pages, so I didn’t think it would take me long to finish it. But what should have taken me one or two days to read ended up taking me twice as long. And here’s why: I didn’t care about what was happening.

Trust me, I hate to say that. This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I was excited to be back in this world, with these characters, and I couldn’t wait to see how this novella would set up the next series of books. But while I enjoyed a few parts of this story, I was left feeling very disappointed.

Here are my thoughts, both good and bad:

  • There was no plot. Nothing really propelled the story forward, and while we were given hints of things that may come to pass in future books, nothing happens in this novella. Nothing consequential, that is.
  • Many of the chapters felt disconnected, sort of like vignettes that could have been expanded into separate short stories. (I actually wouldn’t have minded a book of short stories, not unlike Marissa Meyer’s Stars Above.) And the narrative shifts felt weird to me. I couldn’t figure out why Feyre and Rhysand’s chapters were written in first-person while everyone else’s were written in third-person.
  • What kept me reading were the enjoyable moments, like Rhys, Azriel, and Cassian’s snowball fight, Feyre’s decision to open her own art studio, and Cassian and Feyre’s drunken attempts to decorate for the Winter Solstice.
  • But I feel like those were few and far between… 😐🤷🏻‍♀️
  • I get it. Feyre and Rhys are very attracted to one another. But I didn’t need near-constant reassurance of this, and I definitely didn’t need that weird sex scene in the cabin. (She puts an image of their future child into his head, and then he immediately climaxes. Uh… What? 😬) While I am totally, 100% in favor of sex-positive books, this scene was poorly written and completely unnecessary. Maybe I’m just over Feyre and Rhys at this point. I didn’t even know that was possible, but here we are…
  • Also, Rhys verbally kicking Tamlin while he’s down? (Seriously, waaay down.) Not cool. He doesn’t have to like him. I don’t even like him! After everything that Tamlin has done to both Rhys and Feyre, it makes sense that they’re never going to be BFFs. But an alliance with Tamlin would be politically advantageous, especially considering the unrest in other parts of Prythian. Maybe don’t be a giant dick and then “apologize” by magically slicing and cooking some meat for the guy. Oh, wait, I’m sorry, “male.” On that note…
  • “Gentlemales.” REALLY? 🙄
  • Some of the writing is just bad. There are certain words and phrases that are repeated so often that they become distracting, and some of the descriptions were just too much.
  • I’ll just come right out and say it: I do not care about Nesta. And the fact that the next series of books is apparently going to focus on her — and Cassian — is… frustrating. I was fine with her after A Court of Wings and Ruin. She was never going to be my favorite character, but I didn’t despise her. This novella changed that. She is horribly mean to everyone, even Feyre, who is paying her rent — and giving her a monthly stipend on top of that. I realize she’s been through a lot. They all have. That doesn’t give her the right to act like a vicious, spoiled child. When we get a sneak peek of her upcoming story, it’s been nearly a YEAR since the events that take place in the novella, and she’s still being the absolute worst. Even if she undergoes the world’s most remarkable character development, I just… I love this series, but I cannot tell you how uninterested I am in Nesta-centric books. 😒

I originally gave this novella three stars, but after seriously considering my issues with it, I’ve dropped it down to two. This installment felt unnecessary, and it’s honestly left me wondering if I’ll continue reading this series when the next book comes out. I expected much more from this novella — and from Maas.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Here are my ratings for the other books in this series:

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • A Court of Mist and Fury   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Sarah J. Maas
Other Books by This Author:
A Court of Thorns and Roses
A Court of Mist and Fury
A Court of Wings and Ruin
Throne of Glass
Crown of Midnight
Heir of Fire
Queen of Shadows
Empire of Storms
Tower of Dawn
Kingdom of Ash

April Wrap-Up

Even though I took a short break from blogging this month (and I’m still on a bookstagram hiatus), that didn’t keep me from reading! 😃 I did manage to slow my pace and read fewer books this month. I know most people have the opposite goal — to read as many books as they can! But I liked taking my time with each book, and I’m happy I gave myself some space to enjoy them without worrying about taking photos or posting new content. ❤️ Everyone needs a break now and then!

Here are my ratings for this month’s reads:

Click on each title to read my review! 😊
*You can read more about why I chose not to rate these books here. It was mostly due to a nostalgic bias.

Did I read everything on my April TBR?
Nope! But I didn’t really expect to.

Did I read anything not on my April TBR?
Yes! Emergency Contact and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Volumes 1, 2 & 3 were not on my April TBR.

What were my favorite reads of the month?
My two favorite reads of this month were Strange the Dreamer and The Song of Achilles.

What were my least favorite reads of the month?
I was disappointed by both Emergency Contact and Leah on the Offbeat. They were books that — for me, at least — didn’t seem to live up to their hype. 🙁

What were your favorite reads this month? Let me know!

Review: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

LOTOI’m sure we’ve all been there. We’re excited for a book, we pre-order it, and we drop everything and read it as soon as it arrives on our doorstep. This is exactly what happened with me and Becky Albertalli’s latest book, Leah on the Offbeat. After reading her first book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in February, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this sequel. But while I did enjoy some parts of this book, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down. 🙁

If you’re not sure what this book is about, you can find a short synopsis here. But SPOILER WARNING! The events of this book take place after the events of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and it contains several references to Albertalli’s other book, The Upside of Unrequited. Also, it’s very difficult to discuss this book without revealing some pretty big spoilers, so yes, there are definitely spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk! 😬

What I Liked:

  • Becky Albertalli has such a distinct writing style. It’s hard for me to describe. She embodies her characters with such ease, and while there’s plenty of humor and self-reflection, there are also little moments of profound realization. For example: “Imagine going about your day knowing someone’s carrying you in their mind. That has to be the best part of being in love — the feeling of having a home in someone else’s brain.” WOW WOW WOW OKAY. 😍 Here I am, just reading about Leah’s thoughts on Simon and Bram, and now my heart feels like a melted popsicle. It’s moments like these that make Albertalli’s writing so special.
  • This book has some fantastic representation. Leah is bi (and she’s a fat main character who likes how she looks and doesn’t give a shit about losing weight/diet culture/etc., which is FANTASTIC — I want more of this in YA books), Simon is gay, Abby’s friend’s friend is non-binary… And Albertalli’s inclusivity never feels forced, which is exactly how it should be. I was also pleased when Morgan was called out for her racist comment. It’s a tense and surprising moment that eventually pushes her to realize that there’s more to being an ally than just identifying as one.
  • There were some very cute moments in this book, particularly between Simon and Leah and Simon and Bram. Like, watching-a-baby-panda-roll-down-a-snow-covered-hill levels of cute. ❤️

What I Disliked:

  • I was hoping to see Leah undergo some serious character development by the end of the book, but I was left somewhat disappointed. I’ll admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of her in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I can appreciate her stubbornness, as well as her fear of being left out or left behind. (Because yep, that was definitely high-school me. 😅) But she was often downright mean, especially to her mother. And I guess what always bothered me was her awareness of it. At several points, she says she’s being an asshole. And yet she never stops. If you know that what you’re saying and how you’re acting is hurting other people, why keep doing it? I think the only thing that really changes about Leah by the end of the book is that she begins to let things be imperfect — or “embrace the suck,” as her mom says. But I wanted to see more.
  • I had some big problems with Nick’s behavior after Abby broke up with him. As he repeatedly points out, he was dumped two weeks before prom, and soon they’ll all be graduating and heading off to college. But his coping mechanisms — getting drunk, making snide comments at dinner on prom night, making out with Taylor right in front of Abby — are seriously the worst. 😑 And I honestly can’t recall any other character calling him out on it. I get it, man. You’re hurt, and it sucks. But wow… I guess the most surprising thing for me is that Leah, who didn’t hesitate to call Morgan on her racist bullshit, didn’t call Nick on his hurtful and selfish bullshit.
  • I think that Leah and Abby had some adorable moments, but I just didn’t feel invested in their relationship. 😟 I’m still trying to figure out why. I know a lot of fans were eager to see Leah and Abby end up together, but for me, something just felt… off. Or rushed. A stronger overall plot may have helped with this. (See below.)
  • While both Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited had clear stories and motivations, I felt a little lost in this book. It’s almost time for everyone to graduate, and they’re all choosing which colleges they’ll attend, but… What was the big conflict? I feel like I’m missing something that should be really obvious. It felt more like a coming-of-age, slice-of-life novel than a novel with a complete, traditional story arc. I just found myself wishing for something more than just, “High school is almost over! Everything is changing!”
  • The ending felt very abrupt. We go from Leah and Abby holding hands at prom to Leah writing an email to Simon months later, in September. We don’t get to see how anything is handled or resolved with Nick, Garrett, or even Morgan. (She and Leah were interrupted, so Leah never actually said everything was okay or that she forgave her.) The only sort of closure we get is the revelation that Nick and Taylor are now dating, and so are Garrett and Morgan. It felt too convenient, like, “Oh! Our whole friend group found love with other people in our friend group!” 🙄 Everyone’s paired up now, with the exception of Anna. This, too, felt rushed and a little sloppy.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. But for me, it just didn’t live up to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, or even The Upside of Unrequited. That being said, I still think fans of Albertalli — and contemporary YA readers interested in a cute, diverse read — should check it out. It’s definitely worth a read! And I’ve read plenty of five-star reviews, so this just may not be the book for me.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Becky Albertalli
Other Books by This Author:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
The Upside of Unrequited
What If It’s Us (co-written with Adam Silvera)

I’m Back! // April Mini-Reviews

I’m currently taking a break from bookstagram, and I took a short break from blogging, too. But I’m back with some mini-reviews! 😄 And I’ll have my April Wrap-Up posted on Monday. Click on each title below to read a short synopsis.

StrangeStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
This book was like a vivid, sumptuous dream. (Which is fitting, I suppose. 😉) Taylor’s writing is nothing short of incredible, and I am head-over-heels in love with the world she has created. This book ends on such a bittersweet — and heart-wrenching — scene. I was WRECKED. I can’t wait for the next (and final!) book in this duology, Muse of Nightmares. October is so far away! 😭
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. ChoiEC
Having heard so many good things about this book, I was surprisingly disappointed. 🙁 While it did have some enjoyable parts, Penny was an unlikable protagonist to the extreme (judgmental, self-righteous, and, at times, downright mean), I didn’t really feel a strong romantic vibe between her and Sam, and several big issues were either hastily resolved or just left completely unresolved. I feel that this book will resonate with some, but it took me a while to get into it, and I never felt truly invested in the characters or the story.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

CSCCCardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Vol. 1, 2 & 3 by CLAMP
I was so excited for this new arc in a manga series I grew up reading! ❤️ (I also watched the dubbed version of the anime, but it’s best to pretend that never happened… It was SO BAD, guys. 😂) The artwork is lovely — perhaps a little softer than in the previous arcs, although I have yet to re-read those. The new mystery is very intriguing, and I’m eager to see what happens next. I do wish, however, that each volume were a little longer.
I don’t think I can fairly rate these, mostly due to some pretty intense nostalgia-induced bias. But if you’re interested in checking them out, you can find them for a good price here! (The omnibus editions of the previous arcs are also super pretty.)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerTSOA
This book lived up to all of my expectations, and it may have made me cry several times. (And I rarely cry while reading.) Miller’s writing is simply stunning; it flows like honeyed wine. Overall, it’s a fantastic interpretation of Homer’s The Iliad, as well as a moving tale of love and loss. ❤️ Have I mentioned that the ending broke me? B R O K E   M E. My poor heart! 😭
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Leave a comment and let me know!

Review: Relative Strangers by Paula Garner // GIVEAWAY!

RSAfter reading some early reviews of Paula Garner’s new book, Relative Strangers, I was intrigued, to say the least. I’m sometimes skeptical of YA contemporaries because I’ve encountered so many that seem to tell the same, formulaic story, complete with the same clichéd lessons and realizations. That sounds a little harsh, but feeling like you’re reading the same book over and over can get old real quick. I was hoping that this book would be a different, refreshing read, and luckily, I was right! 😊

Here’s a synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Jules has always wished for a close-knit family. She never knew her father, and her ex-addict mother has always seemed more interested in artistic endeavors than in bonding with her only daughter. Jules’ life and future look as flat and unchanging as her small Illinois town. Then a simple quest to find a baby picture for the senior yearbook leads to an earth-shattering discovery: for most of the first two years of her life, Jules lived in foster care.

Reeling from feelings of betrayal and with only the flimsiest of clues, Jules sets out to learn the truth about her past. What she finds is a wonderful family who loved her as their own and hoped to adopt her — including a now-adult foster brother who is overjoyed to see his sister again. But as her feelings for him spiral into a devastating, catastrophic crush — and the divide between Jules and her mother widens — Jules finds herself on the brink of losing everything.

What I Liked:

  • This book starts off really strong. I was immediately hooked!
  • The story feels messy (in a good way!) and real. Although I couldn’t exactly relate to Jules’ situation, I was eager to see where her search for answers led and how it might change her.
  • I really liked most of the characters, and I appreciate the fact that none of them are perfect. Jules, in particular, is described so well that I almost expected to bump into her on the street.
  • There is an honesty to Garner’s writing that made me even more invested. She never avoids difficult situations, and the narrative has profound emotional depth.
  • As someone who’s occasionally frustrated by YA contemporaries that seem too clichéd, predictable, or one-dimensional, Relative Strangers was a nice change of pace. It challenges readers to go on a very personal journey with the main character, and it never feels stale or already-done-before.

What I Disliked:

  • I’m still not sure how I feel about Luke and the whole romance subplot. 🤔 Yes, he’s her former foster brother, and they’re not biologically related. But it still feels… weird? And it all seemed to happen really fast, sort of bordering on “insta-love.”
  • While I liked Jules, I did question some of her choices. This isn’t me saying she can never screw up — she’s a teenager. She’s going to do some questionable things. But there were times where I couldn’t stop thinking, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! 😬
  • I do think that this book would benefit from more of a balance between emotion and action. It’s important to know how characters are feeling, but we also need more than just that.

If you love YA contemporaries — especially coming-of-age stories — I would definitely recommend giving this book a shot! It’s a unique story, the writing is excellent, and the characters are interesting and memorable. Garner has crafted a complex, heartfelt tale of family, friendship, and finding yourself. ❤️

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author: Paula Garner
Other Books by This Author:
Phantom Limbs

**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Want to win a copy of Relative Strangers? You’re in luck! Read below to find out how you can enter the giveaway. (Please note that this giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada only.) This giveaway will end at 10 AM EST on Wednesday, April 18th. A winner will be randomly selected and contacted later that day.
HOW TO ENTER:
All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post and tell me a book you’ve read recently that you loved! That’s it! 😄

Be sure to visit the other blogs participating in the Relative Strangers blog tour!
April 9th: Cracking the Cover
April 10th: Chelsea Palmer Book Reviews, Recommendations & Hauls
April 12: YA Bibliophile
April 13th: Swoony Boys

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

LALAfter reading Love & Gelato, I was really excited to read about Addie and her adventures in Jenna Evans Welch’s follow-up, Love & Luck. This book takes place in Ireland, and although Addie assumes her trip will be brief, she ends up on a road trip that not only inspires her to explore some of Ireland’s most famous sites, but also a lingering heartache that has followed her all summer. 🍀❤️

Want to read a full synopsis? Click here! And I’ve tried to keep this review spoiler-free, but there may be a few small spoilers here and there. You’ve been warned… 😁

What I Liked:

  • I think Addie’s story is relatable, even if you haven’t been in her exact situation. (I’m not going to talk about this very much since it would spoil an important reveal later in the book.) She’s a girl who feels like she made the wrong choices, and she carries that embarrassment and shame very close, fearful of letting anyone else in.
  • While the guidebook narrator’s somewhat-simpering tone was occasionally irksome, I think it was a unique addition to this book. If you’ve read Love & Gelato, you’ll know that it contains excerpts from the main character, Lina’s, late mother, Hadley. The guidebook in Love & Luck serves a similar purpose, as it takes Addie on her own journey and forces her to confront and think about her heartbreak.
  • I can never resist a good road trip story, especially one that takes place somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. And some of the travel-related hijinks were entertaining, albeit a little predictable at times. 🚘
  • This book seems to attempt to make up for the clichéd “insta-love” of Love & Gelato. (Addie even, at times, seems a little jealous or resentful of Lina’s sudden transition from single girl to I’M-IN-LOVE girl.) I appreciated the emotional connection Addie made with Rowan more than anything else.

What I Disliked:

  • I know I just said that Addie’s story is relatable, but I had a very difficult time warming up to her as a character. Her fights with her brother, Ian, went on and on and on, to the point where they were just obnoxious. 😑 Both of them spent way too much time being sulky and immature, and yes, I know they’re just teenagers, but COME ON. Doesn’t it get exhausting? I was only reading about it, and I felt exhausted!
  • Something about this book just didn’t grab me in the same way that Love & Gelato did. 🙁 Maybe it was the constant fighting, or the clichéd set-up of, “Oh, Addie’s just going to one road trip stop with us, and that’s it! OH, NO, WAIT, SHE MISSED HER FLIGHT!” Some parts of this book felt more forced, and that made it hard for me to really become invested in the story.
  • I’m not going to reveal Addie’s secret, but I will say that I was… disappointed with the way it was handled. The reader is led to believe that’s it’s a Big Deal, and it most definitely is. But then it’s handled quickly and over with, just like that. It felt like a lot of build-up for a too-easy conclusion. And again, they’re teenagers, I totally get it. But Ian’s initial behavior re: the secret incident pissed me off. Instead of focusing on what his sister is going through, he often makes it all about himself. Luckily, his tune changes as the book goes on, but those initial chapters did not make me care about him. 🙄 (There may have been moments where I wished that Rowan would just kick him out of the car and leave him behind…)

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Love & Gelato, but I think this is still a good, quick spring or summer read, especially if you’re into road trip stories and YA contemporary romance. (It’s also worth checking out if you want to see more of Lina and Ren post-Love & Gelato.)

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: May 8th

About the Author: Jenna Evans Welch
More Books by This Author:
Love & Gelato

**Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.