Books & Baking – What I Like About You

Hey, lovelies! Today on Books & Baking we will be talking about a 2020 release that I purchased specifically for this blog feature. The preorder incentive was a bookmark and (drumroll) a recipe card! So, obviously I couldn’t resist. I also used this recipe for my daughter’s birthday. I was planning to make cupcakes for her birthday anyway, so two birds, one stone and all that. This round of Books & Baking will focus on What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter.

Book: What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

Read my full review here!

This book was full of sweetness (get it? Because of the cupcakes?), but it also dealt with grief and the struggle of having an online identity that’s different from your in person one. I really enjoyed that this book was focused around book blogging. There were a few things I disagreed with, but overall I liked the main characters point of view on what it means to be a book blogger, and a well known one online. The only thing I didn’t like was the secret keeping trope, but I didn’t totally hate it in this instance. I understood why Halle didn’t want to share her online persona with someone she now knew in both worlds. Overall, I enjoyed this story and it’s characters.

“That’s the problem with words. In my head, words are magic. My thoughts are eloquent and fierce. On the page, words are music. In the clicks of my keyboard, in the scratches of pencil meeting paper. In the beauty of the eraser, of the backspace key. On the page, the words in my head sing and dance with the precision of diction and the intricacies of rhythm. Out loud? Words are the worst.” 

“It’s knowing the world might be a trash fire, but it’s less trash when there are people to help navigate the darkness. Friendship is messy. Hard. Infuriating. Awesome. Fragile. Durable. Impossible. Worth it. Always worth it.”

Baking: Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

Above is the wonderful recipe card that I got as my preorder incentive. I love books with food in them and this one was stuffed full of cupcakes and baking. It made me want to bake some cupcakes and eat them while I was reading. This recipe was pretty easy. Though, I’d never zested a lemon before, so that was interesting. The mixing everything together was the easy part, everything after putting them in the oven was hard.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I did wrong, but they did not come out how I expected them to at all. The cupcakes were basically ruined in my attempts to get them out of my pan. I never use the cupcake liners, but I think I should have. I also think I should have baked them a little bit longer, but I almost always overbake things and I didn’t want to do that with these. I also had issues with the frosting. It wasn’t very frosting like. I was expecting it to be thicker, like frostings I have made in the past. I’m not even sure if it was supposed to be thicker, but it definitely didn’t stay where I wanted it to. Despite all of these issues, they still tasted delicious. The combination of lemon in the cupcake and the raspberry in the frosting was weird but so delicious. So, they look terrible but they taste really good and the taste is all I really care about. Do these sound like something you would try? Leave a comment and let me know!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak

GoodReads Summary:
Ask anyone in Winship, Maine, and they’ll tell you the summer camp Quinn’s family owns is a magical place. Paper wishes hang from the ceiling. Blueberries grow in the dead of winter. According to local legend, a sea monster even lurks off the coast. Mostly, there’s just a feeling that something extraordinary could happen there.
Like Quinn falling in love with her best friend, Dylan.
After the accident, the magic drained from Quinn’s life. Now Dylan is gone, the camp is a lonely place, and Quinn knows it’s her fault.
But the new boy in town, Alexander, doesn’t see her as the monster she believes herself to be. As Quinn lets herself open up again, she begins to understand the truth about love, loss, and monsters—real and imagined.
Wild Blue WonderReview:
Wild Blue Wonder was a wonderful story about siblings and grief and learning how to move forward after the death of someone important. This story is told in the past as well as the present. In the past, Quinn talks about how and when she fell in love with Dylan. The only problem with this is that Dylan is her best friend, but he’s also her siblings’ best friend and they might be in love with him too. I thought the chapters told in the past were really interesting. They were told in a suspenseful way that also enlightened us on the characters, made me care about them even more. It really gave perspective on how much things have changed for the siblings in the present. In the present, Quinn and her brother and sister can barely look at one another. They fight all the time or just ignore each other. It made me really sad to see them this way after getting to see them together during camp the previous year. I really liked the progress that the three made toward the end of the book. While this story was primarily about Quinn and how she was working on moving forward after the death of her best friend, which she views as her fault, there were some really great moments with the three of them toward the end. As with any horrible situation, like a best friend dying, each sibling has their own issues that they’re holding onto about it. I really loved the conclusion of the story when the three come back together and finally talk and work through what each of them is feeling and why they’re hurting. I just loved the family dynamic. Along with Quinn’s brother and sister, she also lives with her parents and her grandmother. I loved Quinn’s relationship with her grandmother. She always just seems to know what Quinn needs to help her feel a little better. They rebuild one of her grandfather’s boats together and it really was a wonderful part of the story.
Overall, I just really enjoyed this book. It was sad and heartbreaking, but there was real character growth and I loved these characters so much that it made my heart so happy to see them all work through their bad stuff and try to move forward. I also really liked Quinn’s friends. They were supportive and did their best to stand by her and help hold her together. I also liked how this story was diverse and inclusive. Quinn’s older brother was gay and that was explored a bit in both the past and present timelines. I thought this was a great story and I would definitely recommend it.

Quotes:

“My mother used to tell me that sometimes when a woman’s in darkness, she doesn’t need a goddamn flashlight. She needs another woman to stand in the dark by her side.”

“I could sell some of them — get a good chuck of change. But these were Grandpa’s. In my mind, these are Grandpa’s. All around us, this is my grief. And my grief fills the entire barn.”

“I chisel with frigid, numb hands. I scoop out crevices and corners, work over this spot and that spot again and again, dig out this disease that’s infecting everything. It’s the only way to begin.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund

GoodReads Summary:
High school senior Keely Collins takes on firsts, lasts, and everything in between in this sweet, sex-positive rom-com for fans of Meg Cabot and Jenny Han.
It seemed like a good plan at first.
When the only other virgin in her group of friends loses it at Keely’s own eighteenth birthday party, she’s inspired to take things into her own hands. She wants to have that experience too (well, not exactly like that–but with someone she trusts and actually likes), so she’s going to need to find the guy, and fast. Problem is, she’s known all the boys in her small high school forever, and it’s kinda hard to be into a guy when you watched him eat crayons in kindergarten.
So she can’t believe her luck when she meets a ridiculously hot new guy named Dean. Not only does he look like he’s fallen out of a classic movie poster, but he drives a motorcycle, flirts with ease, and might actually be into her.
But Dean’s already in college, and Keely is convinced he’ll drop her if he finds out how inexperienced she is. That’s when she talks herself into a new plan: her lifelong best friend, Andrew, would never hurt or betray her, and he’s clearly been with enough girls that he can show her the ropes before she goes all the way with Dean. Of course, the plan only works if Andrew and Keely stay friends–just friends–so things are about to get complicated.
The Best Laid PlansReview:
I liked this book at first. I thought it would be a fun story about a girl falling in love with her best friend. It was that. But there were quite a few things I didn’t like that really affected my enjoyment of the story.
First of all, there was something about the way Keely felt about being a virgin that I really didn’t like. I understand that some teenagers actually feel this way, but this is supposed to be a super sex-positive book and I just wish that Keely’s choice to lose her virginity had been more of an empowerment thing rather than her wanting to do it because of peer pressure. This sort of set an icky tone to the story right from the start.
Then there are the high school boys in this book. Keely and Andrew have been friends their whole lives, so Keely tags along with the guys and is treated as ‘one of the guys.’ This was fine because I was also totally one of the guys in high school, but these guys were horrible. The way they degraded the girls they went to school with and it wasn’t challenged. It just didn’t sit well with me.
Overall, I really wanted to like this book. But there were just too many things that rubbed me the wrong way. I liked the concept, but the execution was not for me.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton

GoodReads Summary:
Working as a wench ― i.e. waitress ― at a cheesy medieval-themed restaurant in the Chicago suburbs, Kit Sweetly dreams of being a knight like her brother. She has the moves, is capable on a horse, and desperately needs the raise that comes with knighthood, so she can help her mom pay the mortgage and hold a spot at her dream college.
Company policy allows only guys to be knights. So when Kit takes her brother’s place and reveals her identity at the end of the show, she rockets into internet fame and a whole lot of trouble with the management. But the Girl Knight won’t go down without a fight. As other wenches join her quest, a protest forms. In a joust before Castle executives, they’ll prove that gender restrictions should stay medieval―if they don’t get fired first.
Moxie meets A Knight’s Tale as Kit Sweetly slays sexism, bad bosses, and bad luck to become a knight at a medieval-themed restaurant.
The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit SweetlyReview:
This book was so much fun. The story follows Kit Sweetly in her quest to become a knight at her local Ren Faire. I loved this premise. Kit isn’t allowed to be a knight because only cis men are allowed to be knights according to company policy. I really loved how passionate she was about wanting to be a knight. She breaks a few rules and eventually comes up with a plan to get her and a few friends on horses for one of the daily shows. But as with any plan, things go wrong. I didn’t love that Kit kept certain things hidden from her friends. I thought their anger was completely justified, even though I did still feel bad for Kit. I also really liked Kit’s mom and brother. I loved that Kit and Chris were close with one another, but also with their mom. I loved the family dynamic.
I think one of the best parts of the book was the casual diversity. There was a trans character, a nonbinary (they/them pronouns) character, and a queer character. These characters and a few others are a part of Kit’s group that is trying to change the unfair company policy regarding who is allowed to play a knight at the Faire. I say casual diversity because these characters weren’t treated any other way than what they should be. They were just a part of the world, just like in the real world.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a small romance too, but I honestly would have preferred to learn more about her best friend’s romance than hers. Though I did still like the romance, because it’s friends to lovers and that’s one of my favorites. I loved the setting of the Ren Faire and I loved the storyline of girls fighting for their chance to be the knight in shining armor. I also really loved the history of powerful female knights that was included. I definitely think more people should be talking about this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

GoodReads Summary:
As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.
Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.
Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.
The Gravity of UsReview:
I made the best decision ever and chose to listen to the audiobook for this story. The audiobook was incredible. There is one narrator that tells most of the story. These are the parts of Cal’s story. But there are also some interludes where we get bits and pieces of the TV show that surrounds NASA and this is narrated by several different people. It was so well done and I enjoyed it so much.
I really liked Cal. He knew what he wanted from life and he was doing his best to go get it. But also, he’s still a teenager so he has to listen to his parents. I really liked how passionate he was about being a reporter. He has a large following and pushes the limits of his life to continue giving his loyal followers content.
I also really liked how Cal’s views changed after moving. He was desperate to move back to Brooklyn as soon as he moved. But the longer he was there the more he made friends and ended up liking his new home. I think what it comes down to is Cal really showed growth. He made great new relationships (though he neglected his old one which I didn’t like.) He also eventually took the time to understand his parents more and I loved this aspect. Cal resented his dad a little for uprooting the family, but once Cal realized how important being an astronaut was to his dad, he tried to understand and be more supportive.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved Cal. There were great new friendships. I loved the romance. The boys were sweet and I loved how they communicated. There was also anxiety and depression representation. I really liked this story and I will definitely be reading more by this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

GoodReads Summary:
Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the “wrong” side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.
One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the girls are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.
Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And now it’s up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more.
The Weight of the Stars is the new LGBT young adult romance from K. Ancrum, written with the same style of short, micro-fiction chapters and immediacy that garnered acclaim for her debut, The Wicker King.
The Weight of the StarsReview:
The Weight of the Stars was such a wonderful story. I really adored the characters the most. We follow Ryann Bird as she tries to collect another friend into her circle of “delinquent friends.” Alexandria is the new girl at school, but more so she’s the daughter of an astronaut that caused quite a stir when she set off into space. Ryann and Alexandria grudgingly become friends because Ryann doesn’t give Alexandria much choice otherwise. They spend their nights on Alexandria’s roof trying to catch radio signals from her mom.
I loved this story. It was full of love and immediate acceptance. Ryann and her friends were just a great group. They’re all a little weird in the best ways. They’re also a really diverse group ranging from Ryann, who is Black and also the legal guardian to her brother James and James’s baby, to Ahmed who had two dads and a
mom that are all currently together. I really enjoyed these friends. They were funny and caring and all a bit odd.
The only thing I didn’t like was the chapter titles, but that’s only because I didn’t understand them. They seemed like they were supposed to specify something but I wasn’t quite sure if it was supposed to be how much time had passed since the end of the last chapter or not.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. The characters were absolutely the best part. Their antics were hilarious, occasionally illegal, and they just loved one another so purely.

Quotes:

“We’re all made of the same stuff. Even if you arrange it in different ways or make puzzles of it.”

“Diversity is a flower that blooms with greater beauty and greater strength each time it is cross-pollinated.”

“They don’t want the danger, and the darkness and loneliness,” Alexandria interrupted softly. “They want the heat and the light, but they don’t want the radiation.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

GoodReads Summary:
Today, she hates him.
It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.
Tonight, she puts up with him.
When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.
As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.
Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him.
Today Tonight TomorrowReview:
Why is it so much harder to talk about books that you really loved compared to books that you didn’t? Well, that’s the struggle I’m having here.
Today Tonight Tomorrow follows Rowan during the last day of her senior year. The story opens with an introduction of her rival, Neil (aka McNightmare). There’s just something about rivals to lovers that is so great. Rowan goes to school for her final day of high school. She’s waiting on the news of whether she has won valedictorian or if Neil has won. Valedictorian is her last competition with Neil. It’s the last thing she can win. When she loses, she realizes there is one more competition for them: Howl. Howl is a game that combines assassin with a scavenger hunt. After she overhears some of her classmates plotting to target her and Neil (and saying some really hurtful shit related to her being Jewish) she decides to get Neil to team up with her and take the win from him at the last minute.
I really loved that this book took place over one day. I am fascinated by Solomon’s ability to write such a heartfelt and wonderful story that was only one day of these characters lives. In the beginning of the story, we really get a feel from Rowan’s perspective how fierce this rivalry is. But as the night goes on, Rowan realizes how little she actually knows about Neil. Over their high school career, Rowan has made a lot of assumptions about Neil without ever really getting to know him. So, they manage to get to know one another better while seeing the sights of Seattle. This includes dinner with Rowan’s family, meeting Neil’s mom, and seeing his room (in which he has a very specific romance novel!!) They share intimate details and I loved seeing them really develop a friendship. Rowan realizes that their rivalry might not be what she thought it was. I just really loved how naturally their friendship grew. The conflicts that got in their way were interesting and I liked that they were relatable issues. Rowan was scared and she let that get in the way. But she made amends and I ship this relationship so hard.
I also enjoyed Rowan’s friends. They were straight shooters that didn’t just let Rowan get away with her crappy behavior. I liked that they let her deal with how her actions were making them feel, while also letting her know that they still love her.
Overall, I just loved this book. Rowan just wanted to succeed, but she also learned from what those around her were telling her and tried to do better. She was imperfect, but did her best to work on the issues her loved once were addressing with her. I also really enjoyed going from thinking of Neil as someone that Rowan needs to completely obliterate to friendship to more. It was so well done and I just loved them. The last thing I want to mention is that both Neil and Rowan are Jewish. This comes up at a few different points in the story and I really enjoyed the moments surrounding those traditions that were included. While it was a really fun story, it also covered more serious topics like Rowan worrying about leaving Seattle and her future. Rowan also fights the good romance fight, constantly standing up for why it’s a valid form of literature (which it obviously is and this shouldn’t even be a debate anymore). I loved all of these things about this book.

Quotes:

“Neil McNair has become my alarm clock, if alarm clocks had
freckles and knew all your insecurities.”

“You wrote a fucking book. Do you know how many people
wish they could do that, or how many people talk about doing it
and never do?”

“Maybe that’s the definition of nostalgia: getting sappy about things that are supposed to be insignificant.”

“The love that I wanted so desperately: this isn’t what I thought it would feel like. It’s made me dizzy and it’s grounded me. It’s made me laugh when nothing is funny. It shimmers and it sparks, but it can be comfortable, too, a sleepy smile and a soft touch and a quiet, steady breath. Of course this boy—my rival, my alarm clock, my unexpected ally—is at the center of it. And somehow, it’s even better than I imagined.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

GoodReads Summary:
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
You Should See Me in a CrownReview:
I loved literally every single thing about this book. I’d not previously heard of it until it blew up all over social media, so thanks for that, Twitter.
You Should See Me in a Crown follows Liz as she’s about to graduate and go off to college. She’s waiting on scholarship news, but when she finds out that she didn’t get the scholarship she was hoping for and really needed, she has to come up with another plan. Her alternate plan ends up leading her into running for prom queen in hopes of winning the prize of a scholarship that comes along with the title of Queen. Liz is not the kind of girl you would assume to be running for prom queen and I think that’s what makes this storyline so good. Liz isn’t the kind of girl that would do this without motivation, so getting to see all of the ridiculous things she needs to do in order to stay in the running for prom queen from her point of view. The outside perspective of the inner workings of running for prom was honestly just fascinating. I also just genuinely liked Liz. I liked her romance with the new girl. I loved her family, her brother and her grandparents. I loved her friend group full of oddballs.
I just loved everything about this book. There’s no other way to explain it. I loved Liz. I loved her flaws and the growth we got to see. I loved then conclusion of the story and how all of her goals played out. I loved it all.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

GoodReads Summary:
It starts before you can even remember: You learn the rules for being a girl. . .
Marin has always been good at navigating these unspoken guidelines. A star student and editor of the school paper, she dreams of getting into Brown University. Marin’s future seems bright―and her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. Beckett, is always quick to admire her writing and talk books with her.
But when “Bex” takes things too far and comes on to Marin, she’s shocked and horrified. Had she somehow led him on? Was it her fault?
When Marin works up the courage to tell the administration what happened, no one believes her. She’s forced to face Bex in class every day. Except now, he has an ax to grind.
But Marin isn’t about to back down. She uses the school newspaper to fight back and she starts a feminist book club at school. She finds allies in the most unexpected people, like “slutty” Gray Kendall, who she’d always dismissed as just another lacrosse bro. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and write her own rules.
Rules for Being a GirlReview:
I’ve put off this review for at least two weeks because I don’t know how to put my love for this book into words. I’m going to try but I still feel like I’m not going to do it justice.
This story takes place in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, which I didn’t know, but fucking loved. I grew up in Massachusetts so the second I found this out I was so here for the story. I listened to the audiobook and my only complaint about it was that there weren’t any Boston accents in the adults. I have friends that grew up in Bridgewater and the surrounding areas and they and their parents definitely have Boston accents. But that was a small thing that didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story.
The story follows Marin who is in her last year of high school and she’s getting ready to go off to college. She’s interviewing with Brown University and is expecting nothing other than being accepted. But then her favorite teacher kisses her and her life starts to change. She starts to really see and want to speak out about how girls are treated at her school. She goes to a private school. So, everyone wears uniforms. But only the girls are ever singled out for uniform violations. This really hit home for me because this was an issue at my school too, but we didn’t wear uniforms. It was only ever girls getting in trouble when the boys were also in violation. This is just one small example, but Marin starts to open her eyes and actually react to these things rather than just accepting them as the status quo. I really loved this change in Marin. She’s standing up against things that are wrong, but things that most people just let happen. Marin takes her thoughts to the school newspaper once she’s gone to the school officials and they (surprise) did nothing. I thought Marin’s writing was wonderful and inspiring and her pieces in the paper were some of my favorite parts of this book. Marin really finds her voice and I really loved her. I also really loved the family dynamics. Her parents were great and so supportive. Marin also has a grandmother that is declining that she visits often. The things Marin’s grandmother imparts on her were also some of my favorite parts.
There is a romance still in this story. I didn’t feel like that romance took away from the story at all. Marin was going through some shit and Gray was there for her in ways that she needed. He has all of these things that people think about him, but he shows Marin who he really is. I really liked their friendship and eventual relationship.
Overall, this book was easily a new all-time favorite. I loved literally everything about it. Though Marin’s best friend was a trash bag most of the book, and I knew exactly why the whole time. But I was very happy when they reconciled and started working together. I also loved that there wasn’t a happy, everything was fixed, ending. The ending was good and solid. But all of the problems weren’t magically fixed. I definitely think this is an important story. It talks about all of these ‘rules’ that girls grow up learning. But it also talks about race and other important topics.

Quotes:

“Remember, girl: It’s the best time in the history of the world to be you. You can do anything! You can do everything! You can be whatever you want to be!
Just as long as you follow the rules.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

GoodReads Summary:
The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.
At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.
Final DraftReview:
I’m going to be honest here. I almost DNF’d this book. Laila, the main character, was pretty unlikeable at first. I think that’s because I am also someone who really enjoys writing. But she seems to take it a bit too far. Writing seems to almost be problematic for her. She doesn’t do much other than writing and occasionally see her friends outside of school. But I pushed through because it’s a short book and I was reading it for the weekend edition of the ContemporaryAThon.
We follow Laila as she’s dealing with a new creative writing teacher. Her last teacher is out sick for the rest of the year and he was the only person she’d ever shared her writing with. And as I mentioned above, Laila’s sort of obsessive about her writing. So, getting a new teacher (mind you, she’s an award-winning author) really rocked her world. The best part about this book was the character development of Laila. Dr. Nazarenko’s feedback really pushes Laila to get outside of her comfort zone and experience new things to make her writing better. I liked this, but she went too far at times (which she realized and dialed back, but also, she’s a teenager and from my experience, I always took things a step too far.) I really loved Laila’s exploration of sex and attraction. It was really well discussed and things like this just aren’t in enough books. She identifies herself as pansexual and kisses both guys and girls on her journey to experience more things. She also gets drunk and even does molly once. I also really liked that we got to see bits and pieces of her writing as she developed. It was interesting to see how these new things were changing her writing.
Overall, I ended up really enjoying this book. I really related to Laila in the sense of being on the outside (because we put ourselves there) and then getting outside of our box to try new things. I didn’t really write much in high school, but I was a huge book nerd like Laila. I also really appreciated the exploration of her sexuality because it’s something I’m going through right now. I definitely think this is a book that’s going to stick with me.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

GoodReads Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
The Hate U GiveReview:
The Hate U Give made me cry and then laugh and then cry again. I waited to read this because I knew it was going to be an emotional story. I loved every minute. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator did an incredible job bringing Starr to life. I’m going to keep this review a bit short because I just loved this book.
Starr was faced with so many hard choices. Should she speak out or keep quiet? Should she fight for justice or try to keep her anonymity? I really liked how she made her choices and how much thought she put into them. I just really liked Starr.
Overall, this is such an important story. I could not stop listening. The grief was so real. I cried so many times. This story is something that happens all too often and this story will definitely be considered a classic in however many years makes a book a classic.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

GoodReads Summary:
Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can… but in the real world, it’s more complicated. In this debut novel Marisa Kanter explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.
There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.
He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…
Except who she really is.
Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.
That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.
Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.
If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.
What I Like About YouReview:
The cupcakes were what sold me on this book. I love a book that has delicious treats and What I Like About You was full of cupcakes. This was a sweet and entertaining YA story. Halle and her brother move in with her grandfather for Halle’s senior year of high school while her parents are off filming another documentary. Her grandmother has recently died and they’re all learning how to deal with the loss. At the same time, she’s working on her college applications. Part of that is coming up with new things for her blog. She runs a book blog where she talks about books and also bakes bookish cupcakes. She’s most excited about the possibility of doing a cover reveal for a well-known author that is one of her favorite authors. She wants to work in the publishing industry, like her grandmother, and her first step to that is her blog and college. On her blog and her blog-related social media, Halle goes by the name Kels because she wanted to make a name for herself outside of what her grandmother was known for.
So, when Halle meets her online best friend, Nash, in her new town she doesn’t know how to tell him that she is Kels. This is one of my least favorite tropes, keeping secrets or miscommunication. But I sort of understood why Halle didn’t tell Nash who she was. I definitely think it could have been handled better, but I could see where she was coming from.
Overall, this book was good. There were good family dynamics. Halle’s brother was bisexual. Her friend group was interesting and I liked that they showed they were Halle’s friend and not just Nash’s when the truth came out about her being Kels. I also liked the conversations about religion. Many of the characters are Jewish. Halle and her brother are, but they missed out on a lot while moving around with their parents. So, they learn new things and traditions about their religion. They learn from their friends and from their grandfather. I liked that none of the characters had the same relationship with religion. Much like in real life, they each took something different from their beliefs. This is definitely a story I’ll be recommending, and I have a books & baking post planned for the future!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

GoodReads Summary:
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Clap When You LandReview:
I’m forever a fan of Elizabeth Acevedo. So, when I saw her newest release, Clap When You Land, available as an audiobook I threw my TBR right out the window and listened to it all day. I love Acevedo’s audiobooks because she narrates them. Clap When You Land is her second novel written in verse. Though unlike The Poet X, this story follows two perspectives, two sisters that don’t know the other exists. But when their father dies in a plane crash, both their lives change.
I was blown away by this story. We follow Camino who lived in the Dominican Republic. Her father spends the summers with her, working in New York City for the rest of the year. He sends money back so that she can go to the best private school available. Her life is small but full of love. Her mother died when she was young which she struggles with but she has others that care for and about her. The aunt she lives with loves her and teaches her all of the spiritual things she knows. I loved this aspect of the story because it’s a part of Camino’s culture that I didn’t know anything about. I also loved Camino’s best friend, who was extremely pregnant and constantly worrying about the kind of future she was going to be able to provide for her child. When Camino finds out that her father had another daughter and wife in New York City, her world is turned upside down. She questions everything she ever knew about her father. She harshly judges her sister from the little she knows about her.
Yahaira is taken out of class and informed that her father’s plane had crashed. She spends the first few days caring for her mother who is practically catatonic. I liked that Yahaira has this relationship with her mom, but it’s clear that she idolized her father for most of her life, right up until she found the marriage certificate that stated her father was married to another woman in the Dominican Republic. Once we learn that Yahaira knows about Camino’s mother I assumed that she knew about Camino too. I loved Yahaira’s girlfriend. Yahaira is a lesbian dating a girl that loves to garden on her balcony. They fell into the childhood friends to lover’s trope and I loved every minute of their familiarity.
When the girls find out about one another, contact is inevitable. The hardest part about this for me was Yahaira’s mother insisting that Yahaira was not going to the Dominican Republic and she would certainly not have anything to do with her father’s other daughter. But of course, teenagers do whatever they want. So, Yahaira messages her sister and even video chats with her before sneaking off to the Dominican Republic so that she can be there when what’s left of her father’s body was returned to where he grew up. The girls first meeting and the few days after were awkward for both of them. Neither sure how to be a sister. I absolutely adored their meeting and Camino showing Yahaira around her home. I loved everything about the ending of this book.
Overall, this story was an incredible tale about two girls that lost a father but managed to gain a sister. Two girls with wildly different upbringings came together to deal with the hardest thing most children ever have to go through. This was a heartbreaking story full of extraordinary relationships, diverse and well-developed characters. The writing was beautiful, as was the narration by the two women that brought this audiobook to life. I cannot recommend this book enough.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park

GoodReads Summary:
Nate Jae-Woo Kim wants to be rich. When one of his classmates offers Nate a ridiculous amount of money to commit grade fraud, he knows that taking the windfall would help support his prideful Korean family, but is compromising his integrity worth it?
Luck comes in the form of Kate Anderson, Nate’s colleague at the zombie-themed escape room where he works. She approaches Nate with a plan: a local tech company is hosting a weekend-long survivalist competition with a huge cash prize. It could solve all of Nate’s problems, and Kate needs the money too.
If the two of them team up, Nate has a true shot at winning the grand prize. But the real challenge? Making through the weekend with his heart intact…
The Perfect EscapeReview:
This was such a fun book. I’m a sucker for fun zombie stories and this was all that and more. We’re following Nate and Kate as they are both dealing with their senior years of high school and the struggles that come with that. On top of this, Nate goes to a private school on scholarship and another student is trying to bribe him into getting bad grades. While Kate’s dad is incredibly wealthy, but Kate’s home life is anything but good. I really liked the contrast between these two characters. I thought it was really interesting to show how money does not equal happiness. I liked the different family dynamics. Nate has two parents that really love one another and a younger sister that’s constantly in his stuff. Kate’s mom died years ago and her dad hasn’t been a dad to her since then. He’s always away on business but also manages to still know all of her business. I thought it was interesting that though their situations were different they both felt a bit suffocated in their lives.
I also totally loved the survivalist competition. I loved Nate and Kate as a team. I really liked how they complimented on another. They were also both realistic characters. Kate always worrying about her sweaty hands and Nate was an awkward teenage boy with a crush on a girl.
Overall, I had fun with this one. This would be a good book for spooky season because of the realistic zombies. I liked the characters. I was happy with the ending. I’d definitely recommend this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Mall by Megan McCafferty

GoodReads Summary:
The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans…
Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall.
The MallReview:
I was excited when NetGalley approved me for this book (in exchange for an honest review of course). I’m a 90’s kid, so I thought I was really going to love this book, but I very sadly did not. It was hard for me to place what exactly I didn’t like about this book. I read it fairly quickly. It was an easy book to binge. I loved the mystery of the treasure. I also loved Cassie’s journey of figuring herself out. But there was just something I didn’t love about this book.
After reading some GoodReads reviews, I figured it out. Many others had the same problem that I did. Apparently, this book was written in cooperation with an entertainment company. So, it’s not clear if the concept of this book came from them or if the book was mostly written by them. As the reviews on GoodReads said, this story was missing heart. And that was my problem. I don’t know how to explain what that means to me. But I just didn’t love this story. It was a fun read, but mostly forgettable. I didn’t hate it by any means, I just didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.