This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry

Summary:
A girl walks into a bar… then onto a stage, and up to the mic.
Sixteen-year-old Izzy is used to keeping her thoughts to herself—in school, where her boyfriend does the talking for her, and at home, where it’s impossible to compete with her older siblings and high-powered parents—but when she accidentally walks into a stand-up comedy club and performs, the experience is surprisingly cathartic. After the show, she meets Mo, an aspiring comic who’s everything Izzy’s not: bold, confident, comfortable in her skin. Mo invites Izzy to join her group of friends and introduces her to the Chicago open mic scene.
The only problem? Her new friends are college students—and Izzy tells them she’s one, too. Now Izzy, the dutiful daughter and model student, is sneaking out to perform stand-up with her comedy friends, and she can hardly remember all the lies she’s telling to keep her two lives separate.
Her controlling boyfriend is getting suspicious, and her former best friend knows there’s something going on. But Izzy loves comedy and this newfound freedom. As her two parallel lives collide—in the most hilarious of ways—Izzy must choose to either hide what she really wants and who she really is or, finally, truly stand up for herself.

This Will Be Funny Someday

Review:
This Will be Funny Someday is a story that follows Isabel, the youngest child (an unexpected pregnancy for her parents), feels like a pig among a family of puppies, always trying to keep up and never succeeding. She has learned to keep her thoughts to herself, never speaking up. So, this pattern follows with her boyfriend, Alex. He is controlling and abusive, though Isabel hasn’t realized that yet. But when she worries that she’ll get in trouble if he sees her, she sneaks into what she thinks is a restaurant. Isabel has hearing issues. It’s not her ears, but some sort of auditory processing disorder. So, she manages to find her way into a loud club and can’t understand what is being said. Little does she know, she just signed herself up to perform as a stand-up comedian. On stage, she becomes Izzy V. She finds a place where she can use her voice.
Izzy meets Mo and some of Mo’s friends. Mo brings Izzy into the stand-up comedy world. I loved all of the parts of this story that had Mo and their friends in it. They were funny because they’re all teaching Izzy about comedy and how to write good jokes. But they’re a diverse group so, they also talk about the struggles of stand-up comedy as a person of color or as someone queer. These are topics Izzy wouldn’t generally have thought of, as she comes from a place of privilege. I thought it was a really great part of the story. Izzy is in a place in her life where she is learning who she is and what kind of person she wants to be. So, learning about the experiences of others is an important thing for her. She doesn’t always act the right way or say the right thing, but I think that was realistic. I didn’t love that she lied about her age, but I think that whole situation was handled well when the truth finally came out.
Now, Isabel’s relationship with her boyfriend was not a good one. It wasn’t completely clear from the beginning, but the more we saw of their relationship the more obvious it was that it wasn’t a healthy one. My favorite thing about this book was that when Izzy started wanting to speak up. Through her stand-up routine, she gains confidence. She starts to believe that the things she has to say matter. So, she starts using her voice in other areas of her life. Like her friendships and at school.
I think this book does so many things all in one story, but it did them all really well. There are some really tough topics (most obvious is the toxic relationship, but there are also discussions of racism and discrimination). I thought that all of these tough topics were discussed thoughtfully and with care. But take that with a grain of salt, as I am not a part of any of those represented in these conversations (aside from queer and female). I love all of Henry’s work so far and I am very eager to see what she will write next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Summary:
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.

All the Bad Apples

Review:
Honestly, I don’t even know how to start this review. I read this book in January and it has not left my brain for a single day since then. I’m going to do my best to explain how this book made me feel but I’m apologizing in advance if this is mostly nonsensical.
All the Bad Apples follows Deena. Deena is the youngest of three sisters, Mandy and Rachel practically raised Deena, but in different ways. Rachel was the one Deena lived with and she made sure Deena went to school, had clothes that fit, fed her and helped with homework. Rachel was the responsible one and Mandy was the fun one. So, no big surprise that Mandy is the favorite. Well, Deena comes out accidentally to her father on her birthday. When Deena goes running to Mandy for comfort, Mandy enlightens Deena about the family curse. Only days later, Mandy disappears. It’s thought that she’s jumped or fallen off a cliff. But Deena doesn’t believe that Mandy is really gone. So, Deena set’s off to find Mandy and break this family curse.
This is where the story really starts. The reader is left with so many questions in those first few chapters. Questions about Mandy, the curse, and how Deena might find her. But as Deena travels, she starts finding letters. In these letters is the family history. The book alternates between following Deena and sharing the family history. I think the combination of these two was so well done. I stayed up reading this way past when I should have gone to sleep because I kept coming to a stopping point at the start of a new bit of family history and I just couldn’t stop reading. Along the way, Deena finds people to accompany her on her journey. Her best friend (who is black and bisexual), a relative that Deena didn’t know existed, and a random girl that the three found in a bar that ends up being connected to the whole story. The way this author connected the characters was so fascinating. I loved learning about why these specific characters had come together for this journey. While these three follow Mandy’s letters they learn of a horrible and devastating history. Deena’s female ancestors were treated horrifically and Deena is determined to break the family curse. She refuses to be another bad apple that’s left to rot on the ground.
Overall, I am obsessed with this book. It was written beautifully. I think Fowley-Doyle did such an amazing job weaving the past with the present in this story. I also really appreciate that this book covers some really tough topics, but it does it so well. It does it in a way that shows the horror, but also in a thoughtful way. It wasn’t for shock value or anything, it mattered to this story. I think this is a feminist masterpiece. It covers everything from being queer to getting safe and legal abortions. It was mysterious and gothic, mythological and all too real. It’s an emotional ride about soul searching and learning to speak up for yourself. I cannot say enough good things about this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Castle School by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

GoodReads Summary:
When Moira Dreyfuss’s parents announce that they’re sending her to boarding school, Moira isn’t fooled. She knows her parents are punishing her; she’s been too much trouble since her best friend Nathan died―and for a while before that. At the Castle School, isolated from the rest of the world, Moira will be expected to pour her heart out to the headmaster, Dr. Prince. But she isn’t interested in getting over Nathan’s death, or befriending her fellow students.
On her first night there, Moira hears distant music. On her second, she discovers the lock on her window is broken. On her third, she and her roommate venture outside…and learn that they’re not so isolated after all. There’s another, very different, Castle School nearby―this one filled with boys whose parents sent them away, too.
Moira knows something isn’t right about the Castle School―about either of them. But uncovering the truth behind the schools’ secrets may force Moira to confront why she was sent away in the first place.
The Castle School (for Troubled Girls)Review:
The Castle School is a book that I was provided via NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I think this book was so thoughtfully written. I don’t personally have experience with most of the mental illnesses that are highlighted. This book talks about depression, self-harm, grief, eating disorders, alcoholism, OCD, selective mutism, drug addiction, and others. So, if any of these are triggers for you, maybe skip this one, but I think the author did an incredible job of thoughtfully talking about these topics.
The story follows Moira as she’s dealing with the loss of her best friend Nathan. Nathan was diagnosed with cancer and died. Since then, she sneaks out at night to visit his grave, she skips school, but the final straw for Moira’s mother was the tattoo. She’s sent to The Castle School, which is a school for troubled girls where the schooling is different and Dr. Prince is there for one on one therapy sessions. Moira is full of grief that she won’t let out. I really enjoyed her growth and development in this story. She fights when she first gets to the school, thinking that she has no need to be there. But as she grows and makes friends, she opens up a bit. I couldn’t help but believe all of Moira’s wild theories about the two Dr. Prince’s one she discovers the second Castle School (for boys). I liked her and I could really sympathize with her.
I also liked the side characters. They were all unique and interesting. I really liked that we got little background stories for some of the characters. A few got their own chapters that were about when it was decided that they would be going to The Castle School. I thought they were really interesting to read and it gave us more information about the side characters.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I think it talked about a lot of really important topics in a thoughtful way. I think this was a really great story about young girls that struggle. I really liked the friendships and the relationships that developed. I definitely thought it was going to be a bit of a mystery because of how Moria was telling the story, but I’m not disappointed that it wasn’t. This is a book I’ll definitely be recommending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumacher

Summary:
Sparks fly between two teens as they grapple with grief, love, and the future in this unforgettable debut novel sure to entice fans of Jandy Nelson and Jennifer E. Smith
Eighteen-year-old Amelia Griffin is obsessed with the famous Orman Chronicles, written by the young and reclusive prodigy N. E. Endsley. They’re the books that brought her and her best friend Jenna together after Amelia’s father left and her family imploded. So when Amelia and Jenna get the opportunity to attend a book festival with Endsley in attendance, Amelia is ecstatic. It’s the perfect way to start off their last summer before college.
In a heartbeat, everything goes horribly wrong. When Jenna gets a chance to meet the author and Amelia doesn’t, the two have a blowout fight like they’ve never experienced. And before Amelia has a chance to mend things, Jenna is killed in a freak car accident. Grief-stricken, and without her best friend to guide her, Amelia questions everything she had planned for the future.
When a mysterious, rare edition of the Orman Chronicles arrives, Amelia is convinced that it somehow came from Jenna. Tracking the book to an obscure but enchanting bookstore in Michigan, Amelia is shocked to find herself face-to-face with the enigmatic and handsome N. E. Endsley himself, the reason for Amelia’s and Jenna’s fight and perhaps the clue to what Jenna wanted to tell her all along.
Ashley Schumacher’s devastating and beautiful debut, Amelia Unabridged, is about finding hope and strength within yourself, and maybe, just maybe, falling in love while you do it.
Amelia Unabridged by Ashley SchumacherReview:
Amelia Unabridged is a beautiful story about how to continue living after the death of someone you love. Thanks, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
I read this story in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down. The story follows Amelia. She’s just graduated from high school. She and her best friend are supposed to meet their favorite author at a book festival. But when the author backs out of the event Amelia is devastated. Endsley wrote the Orman Chronicles and Amelia found these books when everything in her life was falling apart. Books save people sometimes (we all know that) and that’s what Endsley’s books did for Amelia. They also brought her and her best friend, Jenna, together. But Jenna meets Endsley before he backs out of his event and Amelia is furious. The two part, because Jenna is traveling to Ireland for the summer, on less than perfect terms. But Jenna dies in a car accident while in Ireland and Amelia is lost. But then she gets the 101st special edition of one of Endsley’s books (when there were only supposed to be 100 made). Amelia sees this as a sign from her best friend. So, she travels to Val’s, the bookstore in Michigan where the book was mailed from. This is where the story starts to get interesting. Shortly after arriving, Amelia runs into N.E. Endsley. All Amelia wants is to know what Jenna said to him that day at the book festival. But the two develop a relationship, they bond over their grief, and learn more about one another. Together they work through what they’re struggling with and I thought it was beautiful.
So, I do have to say that I think Amelia falling in love with her all-time favorite author was a little corny, but I still really enjoyed this book. Both Amelia and Nolan Endsley are grieving the loss of the people that were closest to them. They also both feel as if the deaths were their fault, or at the very least that they could have prevented them. I really liked how Nolan was shown as a real person. I think all too often people treat authors as other, which Amelia absolutely did toward the beginning of the book. But it was nice to see Amelia stop and realize that Nolan was more than the author of her favorite book series. He’s a person that’s really struggling.
Overall, I think this was a beautiful story about grief and how to work through it, about new friendships and old ones, about following your dreams even if that means you stray from the path you’re ‘supposed’ to be on. I definitely recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper

GoodReads Summary:
The author of The Gravity of Us crafts another heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding the people who become your home–perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli
Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.
From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?
As Far as You'll Take MeReview:
I was given an eARC from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. As Far As You’ll Take Me follows Marty as he moves to London, lies to his parents, makes not so great choices, and finds a place where he really feels like he could be happy.
Marty has told his parents he got accepted for a spot in a music school so that they would let him travel to and stay in London for the summer. The truth is that he bombed his audition and didn’t get accepted. But he has a plan to go anyway and get a job. He plays the oboe and is hopeful that he will be able to find a job so that he doesn’t have to move back to the mid-west to his hometown filled with people that don’t approve of a big part of who Marty is, his sexuality. So, Marty stays with his cousin Shane and meets Shane’s friends. Marty immediately feels at home in London and gets swept up in the excitement of trying new things and seeing the sights of London. He also gets swept away by Pierce.
Pierce is where the problems start. Marty is excited to have his first boyfriend, but this leads to Marty dropping most of his other priorities. I really didn’t like the romance, but that was sort of the point. It wasn’t a good relationship. This was a story centered on Marty as he tries new things, makes mistakes, learns from those mistakes, and grows so that he will try do the right thing in the future. I think Marty’s growth was natural and really well done. He does, understandably, dumb things. But when he realizes his mistakes he makes the needed apologies and asks for help.
I think this is an important story. It’s about a young man that’s discovering who he is, what he wants, and how to get there. He doesn’t always make good choices, which is the reality for many people in their formative years. I do want to specifically mention that Marty struggles with food and body image. So, at one point he’s barely eating so that he can lose weight quickly. It was very unhealthy and he knew it, but I wanted to mention it because I know that can be a triggering topic for some.
Overall, I didn’t like this as much as Stamper’s first novel, but I still enjoyed it. It’s a great story for young adults learning how to make their way in the world. I think many people will really adore this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Project by Courtney Summers

GoodReads Summary:
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.
When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.
The ProjectReview:
Thank you, NetGalley and the publishers for providing me this eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Project is one of my anticipated release for 2021. Summer’s books have been hit or miss for me, but the premise of this one had me very intrigued.
The way this story was told was very interesting. There are a few different points of view that tell the story. The first is Bea, told in the third person, as her younger sister (Lo) is born. Then it flashes forward twelve years, still in Bea’s perspective, then forward again six more years, where the story changes to a first-person narrative, but now it’s Lo telling the story. This was a little bit confusing at first. The change from this person to first was abrupt and the jumps forward in time left me wondering who the story was following now and what had happened in the last six years. As the story went on, I ended up really enjoying the fact that the story was told this way. It continued to go back and forth between Lo’s present perspective and Bea’s perspective in the past. The way their stories ended up so similar, with one big difference, was absolutely fascinating.
I think both Bea and Lo were such compelling characters. Lo has so much anger in her but still ends up on a similar path as Bea. Bea on the other hand was filled with gratitude that led her to her downfall.
Overall, I don’t know that I would say I liked this book. It was an absolutely riveting story. One that I had to read in one sitting, staying up way past when I should have gone to bed of course. But it was filled with things that made me uncomfortable. There are relationships with large age differences, not that this itself is bad, but the dynamics of the two relationships were gross (as was the intention, I think). I went into this book unsure what to expect and ended up sucked into the story and left with one question: What the fuck?

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

Summary:
Justin A. Reynolds, author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best friend is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again.
Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again.
He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident.
But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever.
Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?
Early Departures by Justin A. ReynoldsReview:
Early Departures is a 2020 release that I didn’t hear about until later in the year. If I’d heard about it earlier, it definitely would have been one of my most anticipated releases. I loved Reynolds’ debut, Opposite of Always. So, I hoped that Early Departures would delight and destroy me as much as that book did. I was not wrong. Reynolds manages to make me fall in love with the characters, to become so invested in them, and then kill them. But this is a contemporary novel with a science fiction twist, so he brings them back to life. In this book, the story follows Jamal. Jamal has dealt with some hardships in his life. His parents died and he lives with his older sister (who is very pregnant). He has a girlfriend, Autumn, who is one of my favorite characters in the book (alongside Jamal’s sister.) We meet Q very early on in the book. But we slowly learn exactly what happened that ended Jamal and Q’s friendship. We also get tidbits from Jamal and Q’s old YouTube videos. I liked this because it gave us a bit of insight into how their friendship was before their falling out.
Jamal is kind of a little shit. But in a sort of understandable way. I think I liked Autumn so much because she never failed to call Jamal out when he was being a shit. Jamal is still dealing with the death of both his parents and he doesn’t really deal with it very well. He blames Q for their death, but never communicates that. He’s a young man that doesn’t know how to share his feeling. He’s also definitely a bit selfish. But he had great character growth. He realized that his actions were wrong and forgiveness helps everyone. I didn’t always like him, but I was always invested in his story.
I listened to the audiobook and it was fantastically narrated. The narrators (I think there were two) really brought this story to life and I highly recommend the audio for anyone that wants to read this book. This was a heartbreaking story about love, friendship, and loss. It’s about forgiveness and grief and it’s beautifully written. I will say that I definitely cried quite a few times while listening to this story, so prepare yourself for this one. It was one of my favorite reads of 2020.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

You Have a Match by Emma Lord

GoodReads Summary:
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
You Have a MatchReview:
I got You Have a Match as an eARC thanks to NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I read Emma Lord’s debut novel, Tweet Cute, also as an ARC. I really loved that one, which is why I hit the request button as fast as I could when I saw You Have a Match. The story follows Abby. She and her two best friends, Connie and Leo, take a 23&me DNA test because Leo is adopted and he’s curious about his history. A part of him was hoping to potentially find family members. Connie and Abby take the test with him to be supportive. When the results come in, Abby is the one that finds a new family member. A full blood sister, meaning they have the same parents, and Savannah (Savvy) has already sent a message to Abby. The two meet and put some pieces together about the fact that their parents (Abby’s parents and Savvy’s adoptive parents). They concoct a plan to go to the same summer camp to figure out what’s going on with their parents.
I didn’t always like Abby, but I really appreciated her as a character. She had some real growth. She reminded me a lot of myself. She’s a ‘don’t make waves’ kind of person. So, instead of telling her parents, she doesn’t need all of the tutoring and extra help they’re making her go to, she just goes. She doesn’t want to rock the boat and that’s the story of my life. She has a lot of feelings that she doesn’t let out, which is never good. It causes lots of hijinks between Abby and Savvy (read: Finn is my favorite instigator).
Savvy is an Instagram influencer. I wish we’d gotten some of this story from Savvy’s point of view. I think that would have been the only thing that would have made this story better. I think it would have been nice to hear how she was feeling about everything and then later how things went with her parents. I liked Savvy. She puts on this image for the internet and that sort of makes her feel like she needs to put on the same image all the time. It was really interesting to see her talk to Abby and share things with one another. I loved seeing Savvy open up and be vulnerable with Abby. The two really had a rocky start, but they worked through it and I loved the sisterly moments they had. Also, Savvy is a lesbian (I don’t remember if it was specifically stated, but she has a girlfriend in this book.)
Overall, I loved all of the characters. I don’t want to make this too long and go over each of them. But I loved Abby and Connie’s relationship. It was realistic, filled with conflict, and a great resolution. I loved Savvy’s best friend Mickey and her food competition with Leo. I loved Finn and how much of an instigator he was, for it only to come out that he was going through some shit. I loved this book. It was filled with diverse characters that I couldn’t help but feel the things that they were feeling. There was family drama and heartwarming resolutions. There was summer camp hilarity. I just had a great time reading this story.

Quotes:

“Poppy had this thing he always said when we were out with our cameras. He’d show me how different lenses captured different perspectives, and how no two photos of the same thing were ever alike, simply because of the person taking them. If you learn to capture a feeling, he told me, it’ll always be louder than words.”

“We are best friends. And being someone’s best friend comes with a responsibility, a lifetime of secrets and promises and shared moments, that were made with a certain understanding. A contract of sorts. This is the person you are to me; these are the things I feel safe to tell you because of it.”

“Brave. It’s a word I’m still getting used to, after a lifetime of ducking from my problems. But maybe I’m growing into it, in my own way. A little less running and a little more talking. A little less wondering and a little more found.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Closer to Nowhere by Ellen Hopkins

Summary:
For the most part, Hannah’s life is just how she wants it. She has two supportive parents, she’s popular at school, and she’s been killing it at gymnastics. But when her cousin Cal moves in with her family, everything changes. Cal tells half-truths and tall tales, pranks Hannah constantly, and seems to be the reason her parents are fighting more and more. Nothing is how it used to be. She knows that Cal went through a lot after his mom died and she is trying to be patient, but most days Hannah just wishes Cal never moved in.
For his part, Cal is trying his hardest to fit in, but not everyone is as appreciative of his unique sense of humor and storytelling gifts as he is. Humor and stories might be his defense mechanism, but if Cal doesn’t let his walls down soon, he might push away the very people who are trying their best to love him.
Told in verse from the alternating perspectives of Hannah and Cal, this is a story of two cousins who are more alike than they realize and the family they both want to save.
Closer to NowhereReview:
Hopkins has been a long-time favorite author of mine. So, when I heard that her newest novel was going to be a middle-grade story written in verse, I was very excited. Closer to Nowhere follows two cousins, Hannah and Cal. Cal’s mom died and his dad is in prison, so he’s moved in with his aunt and uncle, and his cousin, Hannah. At it’s heart, this is a story about two kids that are learning how their words and actions effect the people around them.
Cal has had a hard childhood. With an abusive father and the death of his mother, he struggles with PTSD. We see this in many examples of Cal ‘running away’ and walking around the neighborhood for hours, screaming when he’s unable to work through his anger or other emotions. He also is just a kid that likes to play jokes. He pulls all kinds of pranks that are objectively hilarious, but Hannah disagrees. I didn’t come from an abusive home, but I do have family history of substance abuse, so I thought this topic of Cal’s dad’s addiction was discussed thoughtfully and how his addiction effected Cal was also really well done, in my opinion.
Hannah has had a relatively happy childhood. She lives in a nice home with both her mom and dad. Both her parents do all they can to support her by showing up to all of her sporting events. But when Cal moves into her house, things start to change. I think it was interesting to see how Hannah’s life changed after Cal moved in and how Hannah dealt with those changes (read: not well, at first). Hannah has lived a privileged life and she wishes things could go back to how they were before Cal moved in. But Hannah slowly learns about the things that Cal has had to deal with. The more she learns about his past, the more she tries to be more understanding. I really liked this aspect of Hannah’s story. She still wishes that things hadn’t changed with her parents, but she starts to realize that none of those changes are Cal’s fault.
I think telling this story with both Cal and Hannah’s points of view was an excellent idea. We get both first-person perspectives from them and the perspective of another. It was thought-provoking to see how two characters experienced the same events in different ways.
Overall, I loved this book. I truly hope that we will get more middle-grade stories from Hopkins. She did a really great job talking about addiction, PTSD and other mental health topics, death, homelessness, marital problems, alcoholism, and blended families in an accessible way for middle school age children. I highly recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin

GoodReads Summary:
Anyone can ask the Red Court for a favor…but every request comes at a cost. And once the deed is done, you’re forever in their debt.
Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.
Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.
But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?
These Vengeful HeartsReview:
Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an eARC of These Vengeful Hearts in exchange for an honest review. This story follows Ember Williams on a quest for revenge. She attends Heller High (called Hell High by the students), where instead of popular students ‘ruling’ the school, there is a ‘secret’ society (secret is in quotes because many of the students know it exists and have asked for favors, but other truly believe it to be a myth which seemed a little far-fetched after seeing some of the things that the Red Court did) that runs Hell High. The Red Court (sort of based on Alice and Wonderland) is led by the Queen of Hearts and everything is done through playing cards. This society is full of only female members that, at the synopsis accurately put it, deal out favors and social ruin in equal measure. Ember has been trying to become a member of the Red Court since she started high school. She wants revenge, to dismantle the Red Court forever. Two years ago, her sister, April, was in an accident orchestrated by the Red Court that left her paralyzed. Since then, Ember was plotted to join the society and ruin it.
The story starts right before Ember gets invited to be a member of the Red Court. I thought this was a great way to get to know Ember a bit before she joined. I mention that because one of my favorite things about this book was the way Ember changed and developed throughout the story. After joining the Red Court and completing her first mission, she realized two things: that this take down wasn’t going to be easy and that she actually kind of liked the manipulation she was tasked to complete. Things definitely got a little muddy, morally speaking, for Ember as this story progressed, which in my opinion was the best part of the story. Ember was an interesting character. She finds herself in over her head, lying to all of those she’s closest to, and crushing on someone she was specifically warned to stay away from. I loved it all.
Overall, this book was fast paced, suspenseful, and full of drama and secrets. I liked Ember. I liked her best friend Gideon (who is gay). I liked Embers partner in the Red Court, Amber (who is also gay). I liked how the relationships developed. It was exactly what I wanted it to be when I read ‘secret society in high school’ in the synopsis. Also, with that ending I’m really hoping there will be a sequel or companion story.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

GoodReads Summary:
Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment.
In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.
How to Walk AwayReview:
How to Walk Away was a beautiful story. Margaret has a fear of flying. So, her boyfriend surprising her with a plane ride shortly before he was supposed to test for his pilot’s license is like her worst nightmare. She agrees to the ride despite her fears. He proposes while flying, but instead of a happy celebration they had planned, the plane crashes as they’re trying to land.
This story focuses on Margaret’s time in the hospital after the plane crash as she’s recovering. Everything she had planned for her life has changed. I can’t speak to the accuracy of what Margaret goes through as I’ve never been through a traumatic life altering event like her. But as an outside observer all of the things Margaret was thinking and feeling seemed realistic. She has ups and downs, feels good some days and despairs others. I think the writing was well done and really made me feel what Margaret was feeling.
I didn’t expect this to turn into a romance, but I’m not mad about it. I really liked that this story continued after her time in the hospital. We learned about the plan she had for herself, but then we got to watch her figure out what to do next, to think about what she really wants from her life. I liked seeing her get as better as she was going to get and doing what she needed to do to create a new plan for her future.
Overall, I enjoyed this story was more than I thought I was going to. It was a beautiful story about finding a new path, and maybe finding love on that path. I will definitely be reading more books by Center.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

GoodReads Summary:
Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.
There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .
This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.
Charming as a VerbReview:
Charming as a Verb is Philippe’s 2020 release and after The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, I was eagerly anticipating it. Charming as a Verb follows Henri as he’s going through his senior year of highs school. He’s applying to colleges and working to save money for said college. He is a dog walker for a reputable company, but what his customers don’t know is that he’s the only employee of this ‘reputable company.’ I think this was an interesting aspect to his character. He didn’t create this fake company to scam people, he did it because he’s a teenager that needs to make money and the people in older generations (that really love their dogs) tend to trust bigger companies. He’s good at his job and great with the dogs. There was also another thing I really liked that Henri explained. His ‘Smile’ that he uses very specifically. I think this was so interesting. It sort of reminds me of my own customer service voice. I worked in retail for many years and my coworkers would sometimes comment on how I’d talk like a completely different person when using my customer service voice. Henri uses his Smile to make people feel comfortable, to see him as a nice young boy that can be trusted. I liked Henri. He’s a high school boy, so he made some mistakes, some he learned from and tried to do better. I liked the conversations surrounding Henri being a black teen going to a private school. I liked seeing him talk with his parents about these things and eventually talks with his friends about how he and his family don’t have the money like many of his friends and classmates do. I liked that while he didn’t want to talk about it, he did, eventually. Henri really showed growth throughout the story and I really liked him.
I liked Corinne even more. She’s a super smart girl that lives in the same building as Henri. She finds out about his dog walking scheme and blackmails him into helping her become better at socializing. I liked Corinne because she was a confident young woman and she knew what she needed to do to grow. I really liked that she didn’t let the blackmail go on very long. Her friendship with Henri developed slowly and naturally and I really enjoyed following them as they went from classmates to friends to a romantic relationship.
I think this was a wonderful contemporary YA novel that will really resonate with many young readers. I liked the diverse characters and all of the conversations they have. I will definitely be reading Philippe’s future books.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry

GoodReads Summary:
Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.
Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.
That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.
Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.
The Love That Split the WorldReview:
The Love That Split the World was my last Emily Henry book and I was not disappointed at all. I didn’t realize this was going to be as much of a romance as it was, but I still really loved it. The story follows Nat as she’s trying to figure out who needs to be saved. Natalie has seen Grandmother for most of her life. She sees her late at night and no one really believes that Grandmother is real. Nat tries a certain therapy to stop seeing Grandmother and it works, until one night, Nat sees Grandmother and she tells Nat that there are only three months to save him. Nat has to figure out who Grandmother is talking about. I really liked Nat. She was adopted and her biological mother is an Indigenous woman from a reservation in another state. So, not belonging and trying to figure out who she really is had been a bit part of Nat’s life so far. I really liked this aspect of the story. Nat’s journey to figure things out about herself was one of the best parts of the book. I also really loved all of the stories we got to hear about that Grandmother told her. I really loved all of the Indigenous cultures that was included. I can’t speak to the representation, but as an outside opinion, I thought the stories were beautiful and beautifully written.
Enter Beau. I feel like I only really liked Beau because most of the other people in Nat’s life sucked. Especially her ex-boyfriend. Beau was kind and had some issues, but he was there when Nat needed him and he could understand a bit of what Natalie was dealing with what Grandmother was trying to tell her.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t mind that it was mostly a romance. I loved how much it reminded me of my own high school experience. I liked the characters. But most of all I loved the twists and turns of the story. It was beautifully written and Emily Henry has solidified a place as one of my favorite authors.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Love, Jacaranda by Alex Flinn

GoodReads Summary:
Jacaranda Abbott has always tried to keep her mouth shut. As a foster kid, she’s learned the hard way that the less she talks about her mother and why she’s in jail, the better. But when a video of Jacaranda singing goes viral, a mysterious benefactor offers her a life-changing opportunity—a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school to study musical theater. Eager to start over somewhere new, Jacaranda leaps at the chance. She pours her heart out in emails to the benefactor she’s never met.
Suddenly she’s swept up in a world of privilege where the competition is fierce and the talent is next level. As Jacaranda—Jackie to her new friends—tries to find her place, a charming boy from this world of wealth catches her eye. She begins to fall for him, but can he accept her for who she really is?
Love, JacarandaReview:
Love, Jacaranda was sent to me by the author as an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I love most of Flinn’s contemporary novels. This one was pretty good, but not a favorite. I’m a sucker for boarding school stories. It’s a topic that will always catch my interest. But I didn’t love the way this story was told. I think it was interesting. This story is told via emails. We follow Jacaranda as she’s given a full ride by an anonymous benefactor to a well-known musical school. This story is told via the emails she sends to this anonymous benefactor. That in itself was sort of weird to me. I probably would have sent a few emails full of gratitude for the opportunity they had allowed me, but Jacaranda’s emails turned into almost a diary-like sort of thing. She never gets a response, but it’s obvious that someone is reading them because her contact person, Vanessa, always calls her after any important questions or concerning comments. So, this felt sort of weird for me because this is a teenage girl treating emails to what we’re supposed to assume is a grown man, like her own personal diary. Despite my issue with this aspect, I did enjoy the story. I liked reading how much Jacaranda was enjoying her new classes. I liked seeing her make new friends and experience new things. She’s a girl that’s struggled most of her life. Her mother is in jail, and in the past hasn’t dated the best people. So, when her life changes the way it does, she feels like she shouldn’t reveal her past. This sort of made me sad, but I liked it when Jacaranda made friends with another scholarship kid who knew who she really was. I liked that there was someone she could be honest with.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I didn’t love the ending, but I thought things were sufficiently wrapped up. I definitely had my issues with this story, but I still had a good time reading it.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

GoodReads Summary:
April May and the Carls are back in the much-anticipated sequel to Hank Green’s #1 New York Times bestselling debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.
The Carls disappeared the same way they appeared, in an instant. While they were on Earth, they caused confusion and destruction without ever lifting a finger. Well, that’s not exactly true. Part of their maelstrom was the sudden viral fame and untimely death of April May: a young woman who stumbled into Carl’s path, giving them their name, becoming their advocate, and putting herself in the middle of an avalanche of conspiracy theories.
Months later, the world is as confused as ever. Andy has picked up April’s mantle of fame, speaking at conferences and online about the world post-Carl; Maya, ravaged by grief, begins to follow a string of mysteries that she is convinced will lead her to April; and Miranda infiltrates a new scientific operation . . . one that might have repercussions beyond anyone’s comprehension.
As they each get further down their own paths, a series of clues arrive—mysterious books that seem to predict the future and control the actions of their readers; unexplained internet outages; and more—which seem to suggest April may be very much alive. In the midst of the gang’s possible reunion is a growing force, something that wants to capture our consciousness and even control our reality.
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is the bold and brilliant follow-up to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. It’s a fast-paced adventure that is also a biting social commentary, asking hard, urgent questions. How will we live online? What powers over our lives are we giving away for free? Who has the right to change the world forever? And how do we find comfort in an increasingly isolated world?
A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (The Carls, #2)Review:
I loved everything about this book. If you didn’t see me scream about my love for the first book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, go ahead and do that now. I think this story is incredibly relevant to the world we live in today. What I really liked about this book was that unlike the first book we didn’t just hear the story from April May. The story starts off and we don’t even hear from April May until at least 50 pages into the book. We get a bit of an update on each of the major players from the first book and they tell us what’s been going on in the world since the ending of book one. I really liked this because I felt like I got to know them better, outside of their role in April May’s life. I also think it made April May into a more likable character because we see them grieving her. I think unlikable characters that have friends who love them will make them more likable.
I really don’t know what else to say for this review because so much happens in the story and I don’t like to talk details in my reviews. But, like I said earlier, this story is so relevant to the world we live in. I loved each of the characters and each of their journeys. I loved that they all learned something important about themselves. I loved that they all grew tremendously. I think Hank created such an incredible story with characters that so easily gained my love. I absolutely cannot wait to see what he writes next.

Quotes:

“You will always struggle with not feeling productive until you accept that your own joy can be something you produce. It is not the only thing you will make, nor should it be, but it is something valuable and beautiful.”

“We all want to be in the room where it happens, we want to be part of the things that matter to us, but no two people have the exact same collection of things that matter. Nowadays, I don’t so much want to be in the room where it happens, but I do really want to help other people choose the right rooms, and help them realize that they really are a part of things that matter. Because when we feel like none of the rooms we are in matter, that’s when we’re really lost.”

“At some point, we have to realize that the places where we share information are not services we use, they are places where we live…this platform should not be something that a few billionaires have complete control over.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.