Beach Read by Emily Henry

GoodReads Summary:
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
Beach ReadReview:
This new release has been hyped all over the internet. I was interested immediately from the synopsis. A book about a writer that’s stuck? Count me in.
We follow January, a romance writer who has learned some things about her parents that have shaken her idea of happily ever after. She’s moved into a beach house that she didn’t know her father owned so she can pack it up and sell it. This is a hugely emotional thing for her, but at the same time, she’s supposed to be writing her next book by the end of the summer. The only problem with this is that she hasn’t even started and when she tries, she has no ideas. Things get interesting when she realizes who her neighbor is.
Augustus Everett is a fellow writer, one that January actually went to college with. I really liked him from the start. It was immediately clear that these two had certain assumptions about one another that weren’t really true. So, Gus and January make a deal where Gus will spend the summer writing a romance novel and January will write literary fiction. I loved that this became sort of cathartic for January. She used this new challenge to try to work through all of the things she has going on in her life. I just really enjoyed the writing aspects of the story. I also totally loved the flirtation that was included for some of the writing parts. Also, as a part of their deal, the two adventured together. Friday nights they would go somewhere that Gus had previously planned for book research and January would take Gus on field trips that one might find in a romance novel. I loved these because they were both so different. So, Fridays they’d deal with some really heavy stuff and Saturdays they would go to the carnival or something. It was an interesting contrast; the darkness of what Gus was researching with the fun date-like adventures that January planned.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book just as much as everyone else. It was fun and made me laugh, but it also had some great serious and thoughtful moments. I found myself easily invested in the characters and their relationships. I will definitely be reading Emily Henry’s next adult romance.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

GoodReads Summary:
Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.
She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.
Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.
The Simple Wild (Wild, #1)Review:
I have heard nothing but praise for this book. I did not find myself disappointed. I really enjoyed The Simple Wild.
We’re following Calla as she finds out that her father, Wren, who she hasn’t spoken to since she was a child, has cancer. She has to opportunity to go to Alaska to see him and spend time with him before it’s too late. I really liked this aspect of the book. It brought up interesting ideas of what Calla owes to her father (who was not much of a father to her) and what she owes to herself. I really liked that she wasn’t guilted to coerced into visiting Alaska, she made the choice to go. I really loved how Calla’s family supported her. She has her mother and her step-father, Simon, back in Toronto. Simon is a therapist and I really liked how he helped Calla work through her thoughts and emotions when she was struggling with them. He always knew exactly how to help her. I loved the way that by the end of the story, Calla had three parents.
Now, the romance. Jonah was a big jerk when he first met Calla. He loved Wren and he didn’t know Calla at all, but he judged her unfairly. I really loved following him as he learned how wrong he was. I loved the pranks they pulled on one another and Calla’s anxiety when she thought she may have gone too far. I really enjoyed how Jonah pushed her to do things she was afraid of and to spend more quality time with her father.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There were great family dynamics and even though there were some sad parts, I really loved them. The romance was wonderful. They were snarky and full of the banter that is my favorite. I’m very excited to read the second book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

GoodReads Summary:
Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.
A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.
The Starless SeaReview:
I feel like I start all of my reviews for books that I really love the same way. And I’m going to do it again. I don’t know what to say about The Starless Sea. It was such an incredible story and I just don’t know how to convert my love and emotions into words. So, if you take one thing from this review, it’s that I loved this book and every single thing about it. It might have just become my new favorite book, definitely a favorite, but maybe even the number one favorite.
The Starless Sea follows Zachary Ezra Rawlins when he finds a door as a boy. He’s fascinated by the door, but for some reason, he doesn’t open it. When he realizes his mistake the next day and goes back to try to open the door, it’s no longer there. The story goes forward many years, and Zachary finds a mysterious book in the library. Little does he know; this is his key to finding another door (sort of). This book tells stories of the Starless Sea (an underground world that few find their way to. It’s home to stories, with many different moving parts which we get to learn all about.) After he’s read the book several times, he starts to do some research to try and figure out if he can find out more about what the book really is. It leads him down a rabbit hole of secret societies and many, many questions. I had so many questions throughout the story, and that’s something that usually drives me crazy because not many authors can slowly give the answers I want quick enough for me, but Morgenstern did it wonderfully. Just as I was getting frustrated with being so confused, I’d get a few pieces to the puzzle. This book was a story for all of the people out there that wished to escape into a world of stories. I dreamed of finding a place like the Starless Sea so many times when I was younger. I mostly liked Zachary. I liked that though he was so interested in finding the hidden world he missed out on when he first found the door, he was still skeptical. He asked questions and only sometimes let himself get pushed into stuff he wasn’t sure about. I loved all of the characters that Zachary met along the way. Dorian and Max were so different, but both made the story better.
I have to talk about the writing. It was nothing short of stunning on every single page. While we’re following Zachary, we also get other stories in between chapters. We learn about a pirate who is in love with a girl. We learn about Simon and Elenore who fall in love out of time. We get several fairytale-like stories that were beautiful and thought-provoking. But the best part was that every single one of these stories was relevant and added so much to the overall plotline. I loved how we didn’t know this, but while reading and putting the pieces together and thinks started clicking, that ‘aha!’ moment was fabulous. I loved how connected this story was. It was a beautiful way to learn the history of the characters (in a roundabout way).
Overall, I loved literally every single thing about The Starless Sea. It was pure perfection. I think I said it already, but this book may have bumped all other books out of their places for favorites. I loved all of the characters. I loved the in-between stories and how they were related to the rest of the story. The way the author managed to weave all of the stories and characters together I am blown away by the beauty of this story. It very quickly found its way into my heart and it will not be leaving any time soon. Please read this beautiful, stunning masterpiece so you can love it as much as I do.

Quotes:

“Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.”

“But the world is strange and endings are not truly endings no matter how the stars might wish it so.”

“Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words on the pages become so precious that they feel like part of your own history because they are. It’s nice to finally have someone read stories I know so intimately.”

“Be brave,’ she says. ‘Be bold. Be loud. Never change for anyone but yourself. Any soul worth their star-stuff will take the whole package as is and however it grows. Don’t waste your time on anyone who doesn’t believe you when you tell them how you feel.”

“For a while I was looking for a person but I didn’t find them and after that I was looking for myself. Now that I’ve found me I’m back to exploring, which is what I was doing in the first place before I was doing anything else and I think I was supposed to be exploring all along.”

“Once, very long ago, Time fell in love with Fate. This, as you might imagine, proved problematic. Their romance disrupted the flow of time. It tangled the strings of fortune into knots. The stars watched from the heavens nervously, worrying what might occur. What might happen to the days and nights were time to suffer a broken heart? What catastrophes might result if the same fate awaited Fate itself?”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

GoodReads Summary:
When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.
On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.
Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians, #1)Review:
I’ve been trying to read this book for so long. So, on Mother’s Day, I brought it into the bathtub with me and settled in to get far enough into the story that I would either be interested or finally dnf it for good. I managed to read 200 or so pages in the bathtub. I could not focus on anything else for the rest of the day until I had time to pick it up again. This book was addicting.
We follow many characters. Nick and Rachel are the centers of the story as Nick comes from an unimaginably wealthy family and he’s bringing Rachel to meet them in Singapore. He’s never brought a girl to meet the family, so this is significant. This stirs up so much drama within the family because where Rachel’s family comes from matters to the Young family (way more than it should.) We also follow several other members of the family. I liked Rachel and Nick, but most of the rest of the characters were very shallow, in all senses of the word. There were also some characters that I just thought really could have been left out (read: Eddie). I see why they were left in (read: to show how horrible money can make some people). But I could have done without that.
By the end of this book, I really had no idea what to think. The title says it all. These characters are crazy rich, but they’re also just plain crazy. Their views and opinions were horrible. The privilege of money has done so much.
Overall, I really don’t have the words to explain my feelings about this book. I’m already reading the second book and definitely like it better. Nick’s family in this book are so horrible it was entertaining, but also made me very mad. I was also really unsatisfied with the ending. There were issues between Rachel and Nick that were left completely unresolved and I didn’t care for that.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

GoodReads Summary:
If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?
When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.
Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend…
If I Never Met YouReview:
This author is new to me. This is only the second book I’ve read by Mhairi McFarlane, but I enjoyed all I’ve read so far. This is the author’s newest release and I enjoyed it so much. I think I prefer this one over the other that I’ve read. Mostly because this has tropes that I adore (read: fake dating and ‘there’s only one bed’).
One of the things I love about Mhairi’s books is that while they are technically a romance, there’s so much more to the story than that. The romance seems to take a back seat to the character development. Laurie has just been broken up with by her partner of more than ten years, the man she thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with. I can only imagine how she felt, but the author does a really good job of showing the emotional effect of this breakup. Laurie doesn’t let this break her. She lets herself mourn and then decides that she’s going to do something about it. At first, her goal is to win her ex back (which was a little annoying because he sucks.) But she eventually realizes that he isn’t worth the gum stuck to the bottom of her shoe. Enter Jamie. He’s the stereotypical womanizer (or is he??) and they get trapped in an elevator together. They come up with a fake dating plan that is supposed to benefit them both. And hilarity ensues. They pose for Instagram and go on fake dates, but end up creating a really wonderful friendship. I really liked their friendship. It was well developed and seemed to develop naturally rather than being insta-love.
The friendships in this story were also wonderful. That’s something that this story has in common with the other book by this author that I read. The main character is learning about herself but has an excellent support system in her friendships.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was fun and heartwarming, but also deep and thoughtful. I will definitely be reading more by this author.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

GoodReads Summary:
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.
When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.
What You Wish ForReview:
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I’ve heard great things about Katherine Center’s books so when I saw this one up on NetGalley I thought I’d give it a try.
I absolutely adored this book. I love books about people that love books. So, following an elementary school library in her quest to try and save her school. She tries to make her library a safe place for the children and teach them to love reading. I just loved that. But when beloved principal and founder, Max, dies, someone new is brought in to replace him, someone that Sam knows already. But she doesn’t know this new version of him. He’s trying to change everything she loves about her school, the place she’s made her home. And she’s not going to let that happen. I loved the community aspect of this book. The town comes together because they care because they love where they live. They come up with fun and funny things to make Duncan do and I loved it.
Duncan is a man with a past, but Sam is missing the part of his past that has caused such a big change in him. So, until she learns his history, she’s determined to make him leave the school. But when she learns of the trauma, he’s experienced she decides to help him become his old self. I loved his story. He’s a man that’s been through some serious things and it shows. But once he starts opening up, he starts to heal.
I really loved that this was more than a romance novel. There was romance in the best way. Two people that made one another better, that helped heal one another. Their relationship was full of conflict but was handled so well and so sweet. I absolutely adored this book and I will be reading more of this author’s work.

Quotes:

“I took him to the library. Where else? My beautiful, magical, beloved library…home of a million other lives. Home of comfort, and distraction, and getting lost—in the very best way.”

“It was the best way I knew how to turn them into readers: to catch those little sparks when they happened and turn them into flames.”

“I wasn’t a stranger to grieving, to the way it drowned you but didn’t kill you—only keep you submerged for so long you forgot what air and sunshine even felt like. I knew that grief set its own timeline, and that the only way out was through.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

GoodReads Summary:
After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.
Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.
As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.
Us Against You (Beartown, #2)Review:
This book is the sequel to Beartown, read my review for the first book here. I absolutely adored Beartown so when I saw there was a second one I knew I had to read it. It wasn’t as good as the first, but it was still very good. I only cried once as opposed to the several times I cried during the first book. Us Against You is just as important of a read as the first one, if not more. This book talks about many important and hard-hitting topics that are often talked around instead of about.

“Because sometimes hating one another is so easy it seems incomprehensible that we ever do anything else.”

There are many characters featured in these pages. Many from the first book and a few new ones. Theres no way for me to mention them all. Each character plays an important part in the story, whether they have positive or negative effects on the others. I think the mass number of players in Us Against You are a vital part of the messages that Backman is trying to get across.

“The truth about most people is as simple as it is unbearable: we rarely want what is best for everyone; we mostly want what’s best for ourselves.”

The book talks about so many things, but the most prevalent theme is violence. Violence is present in any society, in every person, but it takes action and hatred for violence to come to pass. I think it did an incredible job talking about all the different ways that people can become violent, that they can become full of hatred, that they can overcome these feelings. Another important topic discussed is family. There are several families we come to know and learn about. They’re all different, all going through their own problems. But in the face of real trauma and loss, they put aside their differences and feelings toward one another and help in whatever ways they can. I thought this story told of a really strong community brought together because of a shared love of hockey. With this shared love, they fight and cheer alongside one another despite personal issues. I really think Backman wrote an incredible story filled with so many important issues from surviving rape, sexuality, alcoholism, loss of a loved one, bullying, and surviving.

“Grief is a wild animal that drags us so far out into the darkness that we can’t imagine ever getting home again.”

The only complaint I have about Us Against You is that it’s kind of a long book to get through. It’s almost 500 pages filled with descriptions and explanations. There is a fair bit of telling, alongside the showing the story does have. It’s also filled with so many tough topics that it was harder to sit and binge read. The writing style is part of this, though I found myself enjoying the writing style. The author foreshadows, telling of things to come before they happen, while giving us hints of things that may happen in between and then actually telling us what happened. I thought this was a really creative way to tell the story and I think it added just that much more to the story. I definitely think Us Against You wouldn’t have been the same book had it been written differently.

“When guys are scared of the dark, they’re scared of ghosts and monsters, but when girls are scared of the dark, they’re scared of guys.”

Overall, I loved this book. There were a few parts that dragged, but I loved it anyway. It’s full of characters we love and characters we love to hate. We talk about hard hitting topics instead of shying away from them. It’ll make you laugh right before it breaks your heart. I definitely recommend these books to anyone that enjoyed reading about hard-hitting topics.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.