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 How and the Why by Cynthia Hand

GoodReads Review:
A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.
Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…
Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.
But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.
Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.
The How and the WhyReview:
How do I put how much I loved this book into words? This story mostly follows Cass throughout her senior year. She’s a lover of theatre and is working on deciding where to college. She also is dealing with her mother being stuck in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant. She’s since turned eighteen and has become curious about her birth mother. No one could replace her parents, but it’s hard not to wonder about the woman who gave birth to her.
In between chapters, we get to read the letter’s that Cass’s birth mother wrote while pregnant. We learn about the relationship between her birth mother and father. I really loved these. It was fascinating to read about a pregnant sixteen-year-old that lived in a school for pregnant teens. Her experiences and thoughts were interesting but also snarky and entertaining. It was realistic and honest. I loved this aspect of the book.
I also loved that we’d read most of the letters by the time that Cass even finds out they exist. I really enjoyed the adoption topic and learning at the end that the author was adopted made it even better. It was clear that this was a really personal subject for her to write about and I loved every page.
There were wonderful friendships. Cass’s best friend, Nyla, was also adopted, but that’s not why their friends. I loved that they support one another and that their friendship was so realistic. They fought and argued, but always apologized and forgave. They were really a great part of this book. I also completely loved Bastien and didn’t pick up on his secret either. I shipped him and Cass so bad.
Overall, I thought this was an incredible book and I really hope others read and love it too. I haven’t seen many people talking about it and I hope that changes. I think it was realistically diverse (not in an obnoxious way). It was a heartbreaking but also heartwarming story. The ending also totally killed me. I think everyone should read this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

GoodReads Summary:
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)Review:
Get a Life, Chloe Brown is a book that I’ve seen all over twitter being raved about. So, when I saw it sitting on the new releases shelf, I had to pick it up. I’m glad that I did because shortly after I grabbed it the whole world closed down. I’ve been on a romance binge since all of the virus stuff started. I just want to read happy books. This book was perfect for that. As with most romance, there was conflict and unhappy parts, but I just enjoyed this story so damn much.
We follow Chloe Brown who has a chronic illness. I thought it was wonderful to have that representation because it’s not something I see very often. I mostly liked Chloe. She didn’t want to need help from anyone. She was strong despite the pain she felt every day. I also totally adored her sisters. I loved that they were included in this because sibling relationships are totally my jam. Chloe was stubborn but sensitive. Not that she ever let people see that sensitive side.
Enter the love interest, Red. I loved him too. He’s struggling to heal after a damaging relationship. He’s trying to get back into painting. But he keeps thinking that he needs to become who he was before his terrible relationship rather than letting himself become someone new. This was an interesting battle because everyone goes through periods of growth so I thought it was interesting that he didn’t see it that way and instead tried to find his old self.
These two were so good for one another. They pushed the boundaries of the other, they made each other better (even if the characters didn’t realize that’s what was going on.) I thought their conflicts were natural and well done as well as their resolutions.
Overall, I totally adored this book and I’m beyond excited for the next one in the series that will be coming out later this year. If you’re a romance lover, this is definitely a book you should pick up. You will not be disappointed.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Jackpot by Nic Stone

GoodReads Summary:
Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go, who after school and work races home to take care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she–with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan–can find the ticket holder who hasn’t claimed the prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite…or divide?
Nic Stone, the New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin and Odd One Out, creates two unforgettable characters in one hard-hitting story about class, money–both too little and too much–and how you make your own luck in the world.
JackpotReview:
I loved Stone’s other novel, Dear Martin, so I was excited to read Jackpot when I picked it up at Target. Sadly, I didn’t love it. I liked it well enough, but there were some things that I didn’t enjoy.
Overall, I just really didn’t like Rico. I understand what it’s like to be poor, but she just complained about it and made Zan out to be a bad guy because his parents have money. Sure he doesn’t really get what she’s going through, but there are lots of poor people that don’t automatically dislike people with money just because they have money. She was really judgmental and I just didn’t like her very much.
I did, however, totally adored her little brother. He was so happy all the time despite the fact that his family was poor. He always had a smile on, even when he was sick.
Zan was definitely a little savior-ish, but he had good intentions and that was clear. I liked him right up until the big reveal about the missing lottery ticket. That really made me mad.
I enjoyed reading this book while I was reading it, but there were some things I didn’t like. I did like the diversity in this book. I liked the overarching theme, but Rico annoyed me and so did the ending.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

GoodReads Summary:
Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.
As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.
With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.
The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)Review:
After a long week of my husband being away at a wedding and taking care of my daughter without him, I was due for some much-needed self-care. So, I picked up The Bride Test and settled into a glorious bubble bath.
While I didn’t love this book as much as I loved The Kiss Quotient, I still really enjoyed it. I liked that Khai, while super-hot, wasn’t your usual male love interest. Nothing about this book was the usual. Khai was annoying at times. I just wanted to shake him. But I think that also made me like him even more.
I felt the same about Esme. At times, mostly in the beginning, I just wanted to shake her. But by the end of the book, I adored her. I really enjoyed how she made a plan to stay in the States that didn’t have to do with Khai. She was going to earn her way and not depend on a man to get the things she wanted. I just loved it. I loved how smart she was and her enthusiasm to just enjoy her time in America.
I really loved the way these two eventually came together. I loved that this wasn’t your typical romance. It still followed the same formula for the most part but the characters and the story was unique and I really enjoyed it. I think any romance lover would enjoy this fun story with a diverse cast of characters.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

GoodReads Summary:
With her daughter to care for and her Abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.
With the Fire on HighReview:
I love Elizabeth Acevedo. I adore The Poet X and I was so excited to see what she was going to do next. With the Fire on High was different from her first novel in the sense that it’s written like a traditional novel. Though, there were these cute recipes that I will definitely be attempting when I get the chance.
In With the Fire on High, we follow the main character Emoni as she navigates the world that is being a teen mother who is about to graduate high school. She’s trying to figure out what the best path for her and her family is all. I really like Emoni. She was a hard worker that didn’t really complain about things she couldn’t change. She did her best to cover it all, being a mother to her daughter, co-parenting, graduating, and working. I really liked her strong values and work ethic. She values family and I absolutely adored her relationship with her grandmother. I thought the challenge of co-parenting was an interesting one, but Emoni doesn’t let anyone push her around. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and I really respected that trait in her.
This story was a more character-driven story with less focus on the plot. We get to know Emoni and what her struggles are. I thought this was a really quick read. I think it talks about a lot of really important topics and it does so really well. I also enjoyed the cooking aspect of the story. All the smells and tastes were sounded so delicious and it added a little something special. I definitely will be recommending this one.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Birds, The Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh

GoodReads Summary:
Seventeen-year-old Lacey Burke is the last person on the planet who should be doling out sex advice. For starters, she’s never even kissed anyone, and she hates breaking the rules. Up until now, she’s been a straight-A music geek that no one even notices. All she cares about is jamming out with her best friends, Theo and Evita.
But then everything changes.
When Lacey sees first-hand how much damage the abstinence-only sex-ed curriculum of her school can do, she decides to take a stand and starts doling out wisdom and contraception to anyone who seeks her out in the girls’ restroom. But things with Theo become complicated quickly, and Lacey is soon not just keeping everyone else’s secrets, but hers as well.
The Birds, The Bees, and You and MeReview:
This new release had me hooked from the cover. Then I read what it was about. After that, I found out that the author was going to be at the NoVaTeen Book Festival that I’m going to (or probably have already been to by the time this review posts.)
I wish this book had been available to me when I was in high school. I grew up in a single parent household. My dad raised me. Now, he did his best to be everything I needed but sex was not something either of us w comfortable talking about. So, we just didn’t. I learned from books and my friends. I would have loved this book even more than I do now have I been able to read it when I really needed it in my younger years.
Our main character, Lacey is so fierce and passionate about getting the facts out there and making people move away. Her mom has taught her all the right things and she feels that it’s her responsibility to share those things with her classmates. I thought she was a great main character. Even though she didn’t have the experience she had the knowledge and she didn’t hesitate to share that knowledge with everyone and anyone that wanted it. She advocated for all the right things. She spends this book learning while also pushing the limits and standing up for what she knows is right. I really enjoyed her learning to love being a doula and all things nursing.
Then there’s her best friend, Evita, who is on the ace spectrum and isn’t afraid to share what she knows and feels. She is the president of the LGBTQIA group at their school. She was sassy and unapologetic about who she is. She spoke her mind and I really liked her. She called people on their shit, stood up for what she believed in, and stood by her friends.
Theo was honestly my least favorite of the trio. He spent the first half of the book with a girlfriend that no one liked. I did like how he was used as a tool to explain certain things and ideas within the story. Plain and simple, he was a great guy. Considerate and kind and attentive to his friends but I just preferred the girls.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. My only complaint would be that in the beginning of the story the sex-positive stuff was a little heavy-handed and clunky. There was a lot of “my mom taught me” again and again. But as the story progressed it got much better. Really only the first few chapters had a bit of info dumping with the sex conversations.
Overall, I loved the characters. They were entertaining, funny, and passionate. I loved the message the story was sharing. It’s one I really could have used in a book when I was young and learning. I loved all the parental support the kids had from their parents. I only wish this book had been longer. I would have loved to spend more time getting to know these characters and being in their world. I can’t wait to see what this author comes out with next.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.