This May End Badly by Samantha Markum

Summary:
Pranking mastermind Doe and her motley band of Weston girls are determined to win the century-long war against Winfield Academy before the clock ticks down on their senior year. But when their headmistress announces that The Weston School will merge with its rival the following year, their longtime feud spirals into chaos.
To protect the school that has been her safe haven since her parents’ divorce, Doe puts together a plan to prove once and for all that Winfield boys and Weston girls just don’t mix, starting with a direct hit at Three, Winfield’s boy king and her nemesis. In a desperate move to win, Doe strikes a bargain with Three’s cousin, Wells: If he fake dates her to get under Three’s skin, she’ll help him get back his rightful family heirloom from Three.
As the pranks escalate, so do her feelings for her fake boyfriend, and Doe spins lie after lie to keep up her end of the deal. But when a teacher long suspected of inappropriate behavior messes with a younger Weston girl, Doe has to decide what’s more important: winning a rivalry, or joining forces to protect something far more critical than a prank war legacy.
This May End Badly is a story about friendship, falling in love, and crossing pretty much every line presented to you—and how to atone when you do.

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I ended up reading this book via the finished audiobook instead of the eARC I was provided.
I think that This May End Badly was a fun and enjoyable YA contemporary. I liked the prank wars between the schools. I liked the romance between the main couple. I think the fake dating was silly but still made me smile. I liked the main character. Overall, I had a fun time listening to this book. It made me smile a few times. I was really engaged by the audiobook. But this wasn’t a new favorite or one that will likely stick with me.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Summary:
Eileen, newly single and about to turn eighty, would like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen. Then in bustling London, Eileen’s twentysomething, overachieving granddaughter Leena is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work.
Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen will live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will rest and take care of things in rural Yorkshire.
But trading places isn’t as easy as either of them expected. Will swapping lives help Eileen and Leena find themselves…and maybe even find love?

Review:
The Switch follows grandmother, Eileen, and granddaughter, Leena. The two are both at tumultuous places in their lives, so they switch places. Leena moves into her grandmother’s house in a small town. Eileen moves into Lena’s London apartment with roommates and all. Both struggle with the change but ultimately figure out something important. I listened to the audiobook and the two narrators did a great job with this story.
Leena is going through some stuff with her job and she’s still grieving the death of her sister. She takes time off from her job and takes over her grandmother’s duties around town, like driving some of the residents around town. She slows down from what she’s used to and gets to know the people in this small town.
Eileen is doing the opposite and she’s trying new things left and right. She’s signed up for online dating and she’s enjoying it. She has managed to change some things in the apartment building and befriended all the neighbors.
I enjoyed both stories individually, but I also really enjoyed them when they intertwined. I thought there was going to be a twist in the story that I really didn’t like, but the author managed to spin it in a way that I didn’t mind. I liked that they both got a happily ever after sort of ending.
Overall, I really liked this book and I will definitely be reading more from O’Leary.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

P.S. I Love You by Kasie West

Summary:
While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!
Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

Review:
I read P.S. I Like You at the recommendation of a friend for the 12 Challenge that went around social media in January. I hadn’t previously read anything by West and I will definitely be reading more by her in the future.
This book follows Lily, who loves music and playing the guitar, and writing songs. She writes one of her favorite song lyrics on a desk at school and a few days later notices that someone has continued the song. She’s surprised because she doesn’t know many people that know her favorite band. This leads to the pair passing notes back and forth, hidden under the desk they share in the same class, but during different periods.
I liked Lily. She comes from a big family and I really liked her family. I have lots of siblings, so I could really relate to her in this aspect. Having lots of siblings brings many challenges, but there’s also something great about coming from a big family. I really loved the different dynamics with the siblings and I loved all of the family antics.
Now, I will say that I absolutely predicted the identity of this mysterious person that she was passing notes with. But I’m very pleased to say that things didn’t play out how I anticipated. I was rolling my eyes at what I thought was going to happen with the romance, but I’m happy that West really surprised me.
Overall, I ended up really enjoying this book. I loved that the friendship between Lily and her best friend didn’t suffer because of the romance. I also loved the way that the romance played out despite the challenges set up for them. I will definitely be reading more books by West.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Muted by Tami Charles

Summary:
For seventeen-year-old Denver, music is everything. Writing, performing, and her ultimate goal: escaping her very small, very white hometown.
So Denver is more than ready on the day she and her best friends Dali and Shak sing their way into the orbit of the biggest R&B star in the world, Sean “Mercury” Ellis. Merc gives them everything: parties, perks, wild nights — plus hours and hours in the recording studio. Even the painful sacrifices and the lies the girls have to tell are all worth it.
Until they’re not.
Denver begins to realize that she’s trapped in Merc’s world, struggling to hold on to her own voice. As the dream turns into a nightmare, she must make a choice: lose her big break, or get broken.
Inspired by true events, Muted is a fearless exploration of the dark side of the music industry, the business of exploitation, how a girl’s dreams can be used against her — and what it takes to fight back.

Review:
Muted follows Denver and her two best friends as they dive headfirst into the music industry, trying to become the next popular singing group. This is a novel written in verse, so I chose the audiobook because I always enjoy novels in verse more via audio. This was a quick book to listen to even though the story wasn’t action-packed or anything. Things go from everything that these teens dreamed of to an absolute nightmare. I think Charles did an amazing job drawing out this story. It was incredibly obvious that Merc (the musician that Denver gets involved with to hopefully make their big break) is bad news to everyone except for Denver. It was like watching a car crash, but in slow motion, because you know something bad is going to happen, it’s just a matter of when and how. But the author did a good job keeping me interested in the journey of getting to that point and still surprising me when things are revealed and we learn how bad things really are.
I liked Denver and her friends. They were a bit naive, but I couldn’t help but root for them to reach their dreams anyway. I think the friendships were the best part of this book. I loved the relationship between Denver and Dali even though it was complicated and not always happy. Despite these friends making super poor choices, I was impressed by their drive to make their dreams come true. But I also wasn’t at all surprised when everything went wrong because these were, in fact, teen girls making very poor and dangerous choices.
Overall, I had a good time listening to this book. It was a wild ride and I was mildly horrified and, at the same time, not surprised to learn that this book was inspired by true events. This was a tough book, at times, but definitely, one that I recommend for audiobook listeners.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.  

The One True Me and You by Remi K. England

Summary:
Up and coming fanfic author Kaylee Beaumont is internally screaming at the chance to finally meet her fandom friends in real life and spend a weekend at GreatCon. She also has a side quest for the weekend:
Try out they/them pronouns to see how it feels
Wear more masculine-presenting cosplay
Kiss a girl for the first time
It’s… a lot, and Kay mostly wants to lie face down on the hotel floor. Especially when her hometown bully, Miss North Carolina, shows up in the very same hotel. But there’s this con-sponsored publishing contest, and the chance to meet her fandom idols… and then, there’s Teagan.
Pageant queen Teagan Miller (Miss Virginia) has her eye on the much-needed prize: the $25,000 scholarship awarded to the winner of the Miss Cosmic Teen USA pageant. She also has secrets:
She loves the dresses but hates the tiaras
She’s a giant nerd for everything GreatCon
She’s gay af
If Teagan can just keep herself wrapped up tight for one more weekend, she can claim the scholarship and go off to college out and proud. If she’s caught, she could lose everything she’s worked for. If her rival, Miss North Carolina, has anything to do with it, that’s exactly how it’ll go down.
When Teagan and Kay bump into one another the first night, sparks fly. Their connection is intense—as is their shared enemy. If they’re spotted, the safe space of the con will be shattered, and all their secrets will follow them home. The risks are great… but could the reward of embracing their true selves be worth it?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
The One True Me and You follows two queer characters, Teagan who is a lesbian but not out because she also competes in beauty pageants, and Kay who is non-binary. These two meet at a hotel that is hosting both a beauty pageant and a fandom convention. Teagan is secretly also very into the fandom of this convention. So she and Kay meet when she sneaks out of her room to see some of the convention. From there, their romance blossoms.
I really liked Teagan. She’s driven and thoughtful. She knows who she is and what she must do to reach her goals. I didn’t love how she was to her friend Jess, who is supposed to be one of her best friends, who she blew off most of the weekend to see Kay. But I really actually enjoyed the behind the scenes of beauty pageant stuff. I felt like we got enough backstory to know who she was a character even though we weren’t seeing her in her day-to-day life.
Kay, on the other hand, is still figuring themselves out. They are trying on they/them pronouns for the first time. They want to kiss a girl for the first time. And they feel that this fandom convention is the best place for that. Being a part of the fandom feels like a safe place for them and I can absolutely appreciate this. I enjoyed following Kay as they learned so much about themself.
I think there were some really great comments about things that are wrong with beauty pageants. I think it did a great job with that. But I felt like the book was clearly biased in favor of fandom. I think there were some real chances to talk about the ways that fandom can be harmful (the amount of times I see people sending death threats to strangers because of fandoms is gross). But being a part of this fan base is only really ever described as a happy and safe place when I think in reality that isn’t always the case.
Overall, I think this was a wonderful story about a girl who competes in pageants to promote charity and win some money for college. And about a person finding themselves in a place where they truly feel safe. I think this book will definitely be well-loved.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

Summary:
Med school dropout Lena is desperate for a job, any job, to help her parents, who are approaching bankruptcy after her father was injured and laid off nearly simultaneously. So when she is offered a position, against all odds, working for one of Boston’s most elite families, the illustrious and secretive Verdeaus, she knows she must accept it—no matter how bizarre the interview or how vague the job description.
By day, she is assistant to the family doctor and his charge, Jonathan, the sickly, poetic, drunken heir to the family empire, who is as difficult as his illness is mysterious. By night, Lena discovers the more sinister side of the family, as she works overtime at their lavish parties, helping to hide their self-destructive tendencies . . . and trying not to fall for Jonathan’s alluring sister, Audrey. But when she stumbles upon the knowledge that the Verdeau patriarch is the one responsible for the ruin of her own family, Lena vows to get revenge—a poison-filled quest that leads her further into this hedonistic world than she ever bargained for, forcing her to decide how much—and who—she’s willing to sacrifice for payback.
The perfect next read for fans of Mexican GothicTripping Arcadia is a page-turning and shocking tale with an unforgettable protagonist that explores family legacy and inheritance, the sacrifices we must make to get by in today’s world, and the intoxicating, dangerous power of wealth.

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The story follows Lena as she’s just arriving back in Boston. She took a break from medical school and went to work with her Aunt in Italy working with plants that have medicinal purposes. But she’s returned to help her parents who are having financial issues. This leads to Lena getting a job as a doctors assistant for a very wealthy family. Lena finds herself entirely too involved with the family, and that’s she’s in completely over her head. But when she realizes the connections between the family she’s employed by and the downfall of her own family, she decides to take things into her own hands and seek revenge.
I really liked Lena right from the start. You could tell that she was super smart and passionate about certain things (like the work with plants she was doing with her Aunt). Her sudden idea and decision to position the man that employed her seemed a little rash for what bwe were shown was an otherwise thoughtful character. Lena seemed to try to think things through before making reckless choices, but the choice to attempt to poison Martin was a snap decision that felt like it took hold of her rather than her actually making the decision. Aside from that, I liked Lena. I didn’t totally understand why she was so enamored by Audrey and Jonathan, as neither of them were very likable characters.
Overall, this was an absolutely wild ride and I really enjoyed it. While I didn’t like all of the characters, I liked Lena. The writing of this story was absolutely beautiful. Mayquist’s prose was lyrical and mysterious, with beautifully described settings. I will be looking forward to whatever work Mayquist writes in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

Summary:
Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.
But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner

Review:
In the Wild Light is an emotional story that follows Cash as he tries to find his place in the world. Cash and his best friend, Delaney, have been a dynamic duo for years. So, when Delaney makes a scientific discovery and she’s offered a spot at a prestigious school in Connecticut, she asks that Cash be considered for a place as well. They’re both accepted and Cash must make the difficult choice of whether to leave his sick grandfather and go off to school. Once at school, Cash faces obstacles that he’d never considered before. This was very much a slice of life story of a boy who is, for the most part, on his own for the very first time.
I liked Cash most of the time. It was easy to empathize with his feelings about leaving his grandparents and his feelings of inadequacy. He’s a kind and caring human being that I liked. His friendship with Delaney dominated this story. I didn’t always like Delaney. I don’t think she always treated him very nicely. Sometimes she treated him poorly in an attempt to tell him to get his shit together, but I think she absolutely could have been nicer about it sometimes. I really enjoyed seeing Cash flourish at his new school and I especially enjoyed seeing his new love for reading and writing poetry. It was a little funny to me at times because we’re reading the story from Cash’s point of view, so it’s all supposed to be his thoughts and feelings. Some of the writing where he’s talking about the setting and the new places he’s seeing are incredibly poetically and lyrically described, but he really struggled writing his own poetry. It made me chuckle a few times that his inner thoughts were so beautiful and full of imagery but that wasn’t always translated into the poetry he was attempting to write.
Overall, this was a beautiful story of a boy that’s doing new things, things that will be good for his future, and getting out of the small town he’s lived in his whole life. It’s a story of making new friendships and trying new things, even though those new things might be scary. Zentner has once again written a a beautiful and sad story that somehow leaves you feeling hopeful.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Float Plan by Trish Doller

Summary:
Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has spent the last year foundering on land, shipwrecked by her grief and inability to move on. But when a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take, she impulsively sets off in their sailboat, intending to complete the planned voyage around the Caribbean that Ben had mapped out for them.
But after a treacherous night’s sail and a brush with an ocean tanker, she decides she can’t do it alone, and hires a professional sailor to help her get to Puerto Rico. Much like her, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned, and he can’t refuse her offer. Together they find a way to rebuild their lives and the possibility of new love.

Float Plan by Trish Doller

Review:
I didn’t really know much about Float Plan before going into it. I’d seen it a bunch online and assumed it was another romance novel, but it isn’t, not really.
At the start of this story, we’re following Anna who is deep in her grief over the loss of her fiancé. He committed suicide about a year before this story starts. She’s really struggling and, in an attempt, to move forward, she takes his boat, now hers, on the trip that they had planned to take together. But she soon realized that she’s not at all qualified to take this trip on her own. After a short trip, she puts out an ad for someone to help sail with her. This brings Keane into her life. Keane is dealing with his own struggles. He’s lost a leg and he’s trying to get back into his career in the boating world, but people won’t hire him anymore. The two set sail together and mostly follow the path that Anna’s fiancé had planned.
I enjoyed this book. Going into it, I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be a romance like I’d thought it was. But it was still a beautiful story about moving forward and finding love after loss. I think the author did an excellent job of showing Anna’s grief but also showing her moving forward and slowly being able to take her happiness into her own hands. I loved the way that Anna and Keane’s relationship developed. I think their slow friendship that eventually turned romantic was really well done. They took their time and didn’t rush anything.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I will definitely be reading more from Doller in the future. She did such a great job of showing the characters’ emotions and showing them grow and move on from the struggles of their past. I can absolutely see why so many people loved this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Fresh by Margot Wood

Summary:
A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experience–and missteps–of a girl’s freshman year of college
Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer–from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe.

Fresh by Margot Wood

Review:
I picked this one up at the Barnes and Noble 50% off hardcovers book sale under the influence of my friend Kelly. She recommended this for the 12 challenge that was going around Instagram and Twitter at the start of the year. All she said was it’s about a bisexual girl in her first year of college and I was immediately sold. Plus, when I saw it in the bookstore that book cover really just shines. It’s so simple and yet so stunning at the same time. I already can’t wait to take pictures of it.
Fresh follows Elliot, who is starting her first year of college. She’s from Ohio, but she’s going to Emerson College in Boston. As someone that grew up Boston adjacent, there are so many excellent Boston and Massachusetts references that had me laughing out loud. The thing about this book is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s told in first-person perspective and Elliot “talks” directly to the reader at times. I loved the way this story was told. I think it was incredibly engaging to be following Elliot as if she was sitting next to me, telling me about her experiences. Now, Elliot doesn’t always make the best choices. She’s incredibly flawed and I absolutely loved that about her. She’s bisexual and confident in her sexuality. The first half of the book is mostly (to use Elliot’s phrasing) Elliot being “horny on main.” The second half is Elliot taking the lessons she learned from her first semester of college and making better choices. She learns from her mistakes and doesn’t repeat them. I think that’s a big reason that she was a character I felt I could be invested in. She doesn’t just do stupid things over and over. She learns and makes a point to do better.
I absolutely loved all of the side characters, too. Lucy and Micah were excellent friends. I also loved Elliot’s RA, Rose. I think they made this story even better. Elliot really had amazing friends to support her and to tell her to pull her head out of her ass when she needed it.
Overall, I loved this book. I said earlier that it doesn’t take itself seriously. I think the author did a wonderful job of balancing that feeling while also covering some serious topics. There are conversations of sexual assault and slut-shaming. But it’s also a really sex-positive book. I feel like any words that I write cannot do this story justice. I will be recommending this book in the future very often.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord

Summary:
Nothing will get in the way of Millie Price’s dream to become a Broadway star. Not her lovable but super-introverted dad, who after raising Millie alone, doesn’t want to watch her leave home to pursue her dream. Not her pesky and ongoing drama club rival, Oliver, who is the very definition of Simmering Romantic Tension. And not the “Millie Moods,” the feelings of intense emotion that threaten to overwhelm, always at maddeningly inconvenient times. Millie needs an ally. And when a left-open browser brings Millie to her dad’s embarrassingly moody LiveJournal from 2003, Millie knows just what to do. She’s going to find her mom.
There’s Steph, a still-aspiring stage actress and receptionist at a talent agency. There’s Farrah, ethereal dance teacher who clearly doesn’t have the two left feet Millie has. And Beth, the chipper and sweet stage enthusiast with an equally exuberant fifteen-year-old daughter (A possible sister?! This is getting out of hand). But how can you find a new part of your life and expect it to fit into your old one, without leaving any marks? And why is it that when you go looking for the past, it somehow keeps bringing you back to what you’ve had all along?

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
When You Get the Chance follows Millie, a theatre kid, who is doing quite a few things. She’s looking for her mom (after narrowing it down to three possible women), trying to convince her dad to let her go to a super-selective theatre program that she’s been accepted to (except it’s across the country), and also, she’s falling in love.
I was not a theatre kid. They didn’t have any sort of drama program at my high school, so that aspect of this story went right over my head. Though I could totally feel the energy and excitement and passion that Millie had for acting from this book. My favorite part was the mom drama. I have to say that once you get past a certain point about the mystery moms, I absolutely guessed who Millie’s mom was before it was revealed. Growing up with a single dad, I really liked this aspect of the story. Millie’s family dynamic was an interesting one. I loved Millie’s dad and it was so clear that he loved her. He obviously did his best to raise her and love her and I loved that. But I also could understand Millie’s complicated emotions about her mom. I think this part was really well done. Because it’s not that Millie is unhappy with her dad and her aunt, but there’s nothing really that can replace the mom that birthed you, even if she gave you up.
Now, the romance. I was absolutely here for the rivals to friends to lover’s romance between Oliver and Millie. I think they were so fun to follow as they figured out what a great team they can be. I liked learning about the ways that they helped one another and didn’t even know it. I think their journey from grudging respect to friends to lovers was absolutely to die for. I devoured it.
Overall, this was a fun and easy to read story about Millie who is just trying to find herself (but what else are we going to do at age seventeen), and instead finds more of a mystery, love, and possibility. I think this will be a hit among YA readers, for sure.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.
Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.
And Sam picks up the phone.
In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

Book Cover

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
You’ve Reached Sam follows Julie during her senior year of high school. There are only a few months before graduation and she and her boyfriend, Sam, have made so many exciting plans for their future together. But then Sam dies suddenly in a car accident and Julie’s future has changed forever. But then things get a little weird and Julie calls Sam’s phone one day and he answers. So, instead of trying to move on and figure out what she’s going to do now, she spends all of her time on the phone talking to Sam.
I’ve seen basically nothing but rave reviews for this book, so I was pretty excited to read it and be emotionally destroyed by it. But that did happen for me and it’s absolutely because I think Julie was pretty terrible. The story opens with her getting rid of all of Sam’s things less than a week after he’s died. I just couldn’t reason that away in my mind. I wear a ring that belonged to my grandfather every single day and he died ten years ago. I totally understand that everyone grieves differently but that was just the first of many things that Julie did that just made me feel really disconnected from her. I couldn’t reason away her behavior or feel attached to her as a character. I will say that Julie really does the work to make up for her incredibly crappy behavior. She’s hurt most of her friends and it was really good to see her do the work to make it up to them. But my initial reaction to her just stuck with me.
I loved the concept of the story. I loved the idea that Julie was talking to Sam on the phone even though he was gone. I liked the cast of characters (except Julie). I think they absolutely made the story better and more enjoyable.
Overall, I liked this book but I didn’t love it. It’s entirely Julie’s fault that I didn’t love this book. She was kind of terrible for the beginning of this book and even though she really grew and had some great character development, I just never felt like I could really get invested in her. I can absolutely see why so many people love this book and I will definitely be recommending it in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: You’d Be Home Now by Kathleen Glasgow

Summary:
For all of Emory’s life she’s been told who she is. In town she’s the rich one–the great-great-granddaughter of the mill’s founder. At school she’s hot Maddie Ward’s younger sister. And at home, she’s the good one, her stoner older brother Joey’s babysitter. Everything was turned on its head, though, when she and Joey were in the car accident that killed Candy MontClaire. The car accident that revealed just how bad Joey’s drug habit was.
Four months later, Emmy’s junior year is starting, Joey is home from rehab, and the entire town of Mill Haven is still reeling from the accident. Everyone’s telling Emmy who she is, but so much has changed, how can she be the same person? Or was she ever that person at all?
Mill Haven wants everyone to live one story, but Emmy’s beginning to see that people are more than they appear. Her brother, who might not be cured, the popular guy who lives next door, and most of all, many ghostie addicts who haunt the edges of the town. People spend so much time telling her who she is–it might be time to decide for herself.
Inspired by the American classic Our Town, You’d Be Home Now is Kathleen Glasgow’s glorious modern story of a town and the secret lives people live there. And the story of a girl, figuring out life in all its pain and beauty and struggle and joy.

Book Cover

Review:
You’d Be Home Now is following Emory, who is in a violent car crash after leaving a party. She injures her leg, but in the car with her was her brother, who was overdosing on drugs, his best friend, and a girl that Emory was trying to help get home. After the accident, Emory’s brother, Joey, is sent to rehab, the driver is sent to a juvenile hall, and the girl died. We follow Emory as she recovers over the summer and lives in a quieter than normal house, hooking up with the boy next door in the pool house.
This is a very slow and steady story. It all takes place over the summer and the first few months of the next school year. We get to know Emory while she’s recovering over the summer and then we get to know how things are changing once the new school year starts. We’re told rather than shown these changes because we didn’t even get to see what Emory’s life was like before. But I think Glasgow did a good job of showing how all the changes feel for Emory. I liked seeing how she adapted to these changes and the things and people that encouraged Emory herself to grow and change.
Overall, this was a really tough and hard-hitting story about a girl who loves her brother so much but can do nothing for him while he struggles with addiction and recovery. I could really sympathize with what Emory was feeling but also what Joey was going through. Teenagers can be really cruel and going back to high school after everything they’ve been through would be incredibly hard, but to add trying to stay sober on top of that? No thanks. I would absolutely recommend Glasgow’s newest release for any readers that like hard-hitting contemporary books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Day Sixteen: 16 Books I’d Gift to Contemporary Readers

Hi, lovelies! I’m back for the final installment of my genre-specific recommendations to gift to your fellow book lovers. I’ve chosen contemporary for today’s genre, but that’s sort of in a broad sense because it’s going to be both mystery/thrillers and realistic fiction. I had plenty of realistic fiction to recommend, but I read a lot of popular mystery/thrillers so I don’t have many underrated recommendations for that genre. Let’s start with the few mystery/thrillers that I do have for this list.

YA Mystery/Thrillers

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Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass
“Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare. His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.” But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are—and taking this place down.”

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I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan
“In her small town, seventeen year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago, she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again.At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way.When another little girl goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers, with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much is she willing to reveal about herself in order to uncover the truth? Dee’s about to find out what’s really at stake in unraveling the mystery of the little girls who vanished.”

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All The Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’
When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true. And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.”

YA Realistic Fiction

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The Year They Fell by David Kreizman
“Josie, Jack, Archie, Harrison, and Dayana were inseparable as preschoolers. But that was before high school, before parties and football and getting into the right college. Now, as senior year approaches, they’re basically strangers to each other. Until they’re pulled back together when their parents die in a plane crash. These former friends are suddenly on their own. And they’re the only people who can really understand how that feels. To survive, the group must face the issues that drove them apart, reveal secrets they’ve kept since childhood, and discover who they’re meant to be. And in the face of public scrutiny, they’ll confront mysteries their parents left behind—betrayals that threaten to break the friendships apart again. A new family is forged in this heartbreaking, funny, and surprising book from award-winning storyteller David Kreizman. It’s a deeply felt, complex journey into adulthood, exploring issues of grief, sexual assault, racism, and trauma.”

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The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand
“Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…
Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her. But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for. Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.”

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Golden Boys Beware by Hannah Capin
“Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target. They picked the wrong girl. Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.”

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Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum
“Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing. Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope. Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?”

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Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry
“Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica.
A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?”

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How the Light Gets In by Katy Upperman
“Since her sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan has basically given up. Her grades have plummeted, she’s quit her swim team, and she barely recognizes the people her parents have become. When she returns to her aunt’s run-down coastal Victorian one year after Chloe’s death, Callie resigns herself to a summer of guilt and home renovations. She doesn’t expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or by Tucker Morgan, a local boy brimming with sunshine. But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams, unanswered questions, and eerie phenomenon that have her convinced she’s being haunted. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?”

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Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley
“Nate never imagined that he would be attacked by his best friend, Cam. Now, Nate is being called to deliver a sworn statement that will get Cam convicted. The problem is, the real story isn’t that easy or convenient—just like Nate and Cam’s friendship. Cam challenged Nate on every level from the day the boys met. He pushed him to break the rules, to dream, and to accept himself. But Nate—armed with a fierce moral code and conflicted by his own beliefs—started to push back. With each push, Nate and Cam moved closer to each other—but also spiraled closer to their breaking points.”

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No Place Like Here by Christina June
“Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She’s just spent a year at boarding school and can’t wait to get home. But when Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down. The cherry on top? Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” not even Ash’s habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope. With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad’s marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.”

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The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake
“The Larkin family isn’t just lucky—they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer. But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life. Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece—the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lying hidden in a watery grave for over a century. She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes—and the bridges she builds along the way—may be the start of something like survival.”

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We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund
“It’s been more than 50 years since a tornado tore through a drive-in movie theater in tiny Mercer, Illinois, leaving dozens of teens — a whole generation of Mercerites — dead in its wake. So when another tornado touches down in the exact same spot on the anniversary of this small-town tragedy, the town is shaken. For Brenna Ortiz, Joshua Calloway, and Callie Keller, the apprehension is more than just a feeling. Though they seem to share nothing more than a struggle to belong, the teens’ paths continue to intersect, bringing them together when they least expect it, and perhaps, when they need it most. Both the living and the dead have secrets and unresolved problems, but they may be able to find peace and move forward–if only they work together. A beautifully told, haunting yet hopeful novel about pushing past the pain, facing the world, and finding yourself.”

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The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason
“On one terrible night, 17-year-old Harley Langston’s life changes forever. At a party she discovers her younger sister, Audrey, hooking up with her boyfriend, Mike—and she abandons them both in a rage. When Mike drunkenly attempts to drive Audrey home, he crashes and Audrey ends up in a coma. Now Harley is left with guilt, grief, pain and the undeniable truth that her ex-boyfriend (who is relatively unscathed) has a drinking problem. So it’s a surprise that she finds herself reconnecting with Raf, a neighbor and childhood friend who’s recently out of rehab and still wrestling with his own demons. At first Harley doesn’t want to get too close to him. But as Audrey awakens and slowly recovers, Raf starts to show Harley a path forward that she never would have believed possible—one guided by honesty, forgiveness, and redemption.”

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All Our Broken Pieces by L.D. Crichton
“Lennon Davis doesn’t believe in much, but she does believe in the security of the number five. If she flicks the bedroom light switch five times, maybe her new L.A. school won’t suck. But that doesn’t feel right, so she flicks the switch again. And again. Ten more flicks of the switch and maybe her new stepfamily will accept her. Twenty-five more flicks and maybe she won’t cause any more of her loved ones to die. Fifty times more and then she can finally go to sleep.
Kyler Benton witnesses this pattern of lights from the safety of his treehouse in the yard next door. It is only there, hidden from the unwanted stares of his peers, that Kyler can fill his notebooks with lyrics that reveal the true scars of the boy behind the oversized hoodies and caustic humor. But Kyler finds that descriptions of blonde hair, sad eyes, and tapping fingers are beginning to fill the pages of his notebooks. Lennon, the lonely girl next door his father has warned him about, infiltrates his mind. Even though he has enough to deal with without Lennon’s rumored tragic past in his life, Kyler can’t help but want to know the truth about his new muse.”

These are my recommendations for those readers in your life that love realistic or hard-hitting fiction, or mystery/thrillers. I added these to this list because these are all books that I absolutely loved. I also never see anyone talk about them, so please buy them for your loved ones and spread the word of these wonderful stories.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

Summary:
Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.
Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. She lost all her friends. Her boyfriend dumped her. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.
But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

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Review:
I’m a part of the blog tour for You Can Go Your Own Way. So, thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for this advanced copy to read and review honestly.
This was a fun story full of love and nods to the city of Philadelphia. I’m from New England and I’ve never been to Philly, but Smith’s love for the city definitely shone through. I could, however, absolutely related to the weather problems that the characters had to deal with in the story. Adam and Whitney get ‘trapped’ in Adam’s family arcade during a blizzard. The thing with the weather though is that they had warning, they all knew the snow was coming. I’m not sure what the snow is usually like in PA, but in New England, if there’s a risk of a blizzard, everything is shut down. From what it sounded like, they don’t do a super great job clearing and salting the roads. So, one would assume that they would close everything down as well (which eventually happened, but way too late to be realistic in my experience).
Despite my personal issues with the weather, I liked both Adam and Whitney as individuals. They both have things that they’re dealing with and needing to work through. For Adam, he’s still grieving his father but he also really needs to learn to move on and let things go. He’s letting himself get stuck in the past and unable to look toward the future. Whitney is a people pleaser, specifically her father. She craves his attention and the only way she thinks she can get it is by working for his business (a rival to Adam’s family arcade.) But running the social media and worrying about her father’s business is negatively affecting the rest of her life. Her friends are really not great. Her boyfriend breaks up with her. Adam and Whitney are connected by their past. They’re childhood friends that drifted when they got to high school.
The synopsis was a little misleading since I thought the whole book was going to be the day/night they were trapped in the arcade, but there’s so much more to the story than that. I really enjoyed the book. I think Whitney and Adam were interesting and well-developed characters. I liked them as individuals and how they came back together to be friends again and then more than that. I loved the setting. I especially liked the bits we got to see of the business’s social media interactions with one another. They were really funny at times. I definitely think this will be a hit for fans of YA contemporary books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

Summary:
Two girls. One night. Zero phones.
Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?
Well. Kind of a lot?
They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.
Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future.
That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.

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Review:
Matson’s books have been really hit or miss for me. I totally loved Save the Date, but some of her other books were just average for me. I liked Take Me Home Tonight more than average, but less than Save the Date. I had one big issue with this book and it was the weird timeline with Teri. The story follows Kat and Stevie when they say they’re sleeping over their friend Teri’s house, but instead they go off to New York City for a best friend adventure. We follow both Kat and Stevie because, of course, nothing goes as planned and they get separated. But we also follow Teri here and there. And Teri’s storyline was just completely bizarre. I would have loved this book had it not had Teri’s weird story branch.
Now, I did really enjoy both Stevie and Kat’s parts of the story. The two go off into the city together, but Kat has ulterior motives for going to the city. This news causes a huge fight between the two. Then Stevie’s phone breaks and the two get separated accidentally and there’s lots of incorrect assumptions. So, instead of a fun best friend adventure in the city, the two both end up having their own adventures.
I really liked Stevie’s storyline. I come from a blended family and I have half and step siblings, so I really enjoyed following Stevie as she finally takes the time to get to know her new (ish) step-siblings. She ends up having a really great night with them. I just loved the growth of the family relationships. It was wholesome as hell.
Kat had a more romantic plot line. She faces a lot of disappointment regarding the ulterior motives that she came to New York for in the first place. Nothing is going as planned and its one major disappointment after another. Her idol turns out to be a jerk and her best friend seemingly leaves her stranded in the city. But she meets a cute boy that swoops in and saves her night.
Overall, I did enjoy this book. But the Teri plotline totally came out of nowhere and it completely took me out of the story. I would have preferred it just have been about Stevie and Kat. I loved the friendship struggles and family issues being resolved. Most of all, I loved following the pair as they really learning more about themselves.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.