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.

Majesty by Katharine McGee

GoodReads Summary:
Is America ready for its first queen?
Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it can leave you breathless. Princess Beatrice was born with it. Princess Samantha was born with less. Some, like Nina Gonzalez, are pulled into it. And a few will claw their way in. Ahem, we’re looking at you Daphne Deighton.
As America adjusts to the idea of a queen on the throne, Beatrice grapples with everything she lost when she gained the ultimate crown. Samantha is busy living up to her “party princess” persona…and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace–and Prince Jefferson–at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne’s carefully laid “marry Prince Jefferson” plans.
A new reign has begun…
Majesty (American Royals, #2)Review:
Majesty wasn’t as dramatic as the first book, but I still enjoyed it. This story follows several characters as their lives change after the events in book one.
Beatrice is now the Queen of America. She faces unexpected hurdles and also finds some happy surprises. There are challenges to being the first Queen, certain people are purposefully getting in her way and undermining her. It takes her a while, but she finally stands up and stops letting others tell her what she should or shouldn’t be doing. I really liked seeing Beatrice figure out how to be the Queen she wanted, to be what her father would have wanted her to be. I also really liked seeing Beatrice fall in love. I was really happy about how Beatrice and Teddy’s relationship developed. I enjoyed seeing them become better friends and then gain stronger feelings. I also like how everything happened with the wedding (I won’t say more because of spoilers).
Now Samantha is my favorite. She ends up fake dating a guy that’s actually mostly acceptable for her to date. It starts with both Samantha and Marshall fake dating to make their ex’s jealous, but somewhere in there, they realize that they like one another and they don’t want to pretend anymore. This was my favorite romance. Marshall is a part of the nobility, but he is also black. I liked that this was addressed. It’s acknowledged that slavery still existed, but I think there should have been more to this part of the conversation. I liked Samantha and Marshall’s relationship but I wanted more of it.
The author did Nina dirty. I understand why her storyline was like this. Nina has wanted to get out of the spotlight. She wanted to get back to her regular college life and stay out of the tabloids. That’s one of the big reasons that she and Jefferson broke up. But her chapters were boring and her break up with Jefferson really affected her friendship with Samantha and that was upsetting. Some of the best parts of Nina’s story were her adventures with Samantha. I was just bored with her story this time.
Daphne is still terrible. She’s still trying to win Jefferson back. But she also still shows these moments where it’s clear she just doesn’t want to do any of this anymore. There’s so much pressure from her mom. When she regains a friend from the past, I really thought things were going to change with her, but they didn’t. I just think she could have ended better and that didn’t happen. Daphne is just painted as a villain with no growth.
Overall, this was an entertaining read with some parts that I liked and others that I didn’t. I’ve read that this is the final book and I’m very unhappy about that. The ending of this book was not a strong series ending. Too many things were left open, leaving the reader thinking that more will be coming.

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.

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.

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.

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

GoodReads Summary:
When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.
Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?
Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the WorldReview:
Ivy Aberdeen’s life made me very sad. She’s the middle child (as was I) and her family loses their entire house after a tornado comes through town, leaving a path of destruction. On top of this, Ivy’s mom just had twins. One baby is a lot of work, but two? Two new babies don’t leave much time for other kids. Ivy feels neglected. At times, she even feels like her family would be better if she weren’t in it. I felt so bad for her. She just wanted more attention from her parents, to feel like she was loved. This made me so sad for Ivy. But even more so was the struggle with Ivy’s sister, Layla. Ivy thinks her sister will hate her for liking girls because she overheard Layla and her best friend, Gigi, fighting when Gigi came out to Layla.
This was such an important story for young girls that might be feeling the same way. I would be so happy to have been able to read something like this when I was younger. Ivy’s working through her feelings. She’s realized she has a crush on a girl, her first crush. I loved Ivy’s friendship with June. June just wanted a friend and Ivy really needed a friend too. I thought they were really good for one another.
Overall, this was a heartbreaking story. But it was one of self-discovery and love. The Aberdeen family is going through a really tough time, but I loved the way the story concluded. Ivy’s family showed how much they loved her and that she was a very important member of the family. I don’t want to say that I enjoyed this book, because it was really sad for most of it, but it’s a story that needs to be out in the world.

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.