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.

Blogtober Book Review: When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

fullsizeoutput_3144

GoodReads Summary:
Almost everyone in the small town of Splendor, Ohio, was affected when the local steel mill exploded. If you weren’t a casualty of the accident yourself, chances are a loved one was. That’s the case for seventeen-year-old Franny, who, five years after the explosion, still has to stand by and do nothing as her brother lies in a coma.
In the wake of the tragedy, Franny found solace in a group of friends whose experiences mirrored her own. The group calls themselves The Ordinary, and they spend their free time investigating local ghost stories and legends, filming their exploits for their small following of YouTube fans. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it keeps them from dwelling on the sadness that surrounds them.
Until one evening, when the strange and dangerous thing they film isn’t fiction–it’s a bright light, something massive hurdling toward them from the sky. And when it crashes and the teens go to investigate…everything changes.
When the Sky Fell on SplendorReview:
I am officially a huge fan of Emily Henry’s books. I’ve read three of her books now, and one that she co-wrote with Brittany Cavallaro. When the Sky Fell on Splendor is a story that may or may not be about aliens, but it also might be about ghosts and I still really don’t even know. So, if you’ve read this, please let me know. We follow The Ordinary while they investigate small town things like ghost stories and legends. I loved this premise. The Ordinary’s are a weird found family. They’re 100% dysfunctional and not always in a good way. I think that’s what I liked most about them though. Franny and her brother have a complicated relationship. Their older brother is in a coma and their mother walked out on them. Their dad isn’t really a dad, just an adult that lives with them. So, they’ve been through some hard things. But the love they have for one another is so obvious. The rest of the gang has also each been through their own hardships. I’m not going to get into the details of each of them, but this is a found family for a reason. They’ve all had their share of grief, and that’s what keeps them together but not in a way where they talk about their past. They are a family that avoids, which was so relatable.
What I loved about this story was that I really had no idea what was going on most of the time. Something crashes nearby while The Ordinary’s are working on their next ghost story documentary for their YouTube channel. Obviously, they go to investigate. They encounter something weird and electrical and wake up with several missing hours. Things sort of just get weirder from here. There are some ghost story mysteries, but also maybe some alien intervention. There’s also a murderous neighbor that gave the story a thriller vibe. It really just kept me guessing and once I got to end and everything was revealed it was sad and wonderful.
Overall, I’m very excited to read the one last book by Emily Henry that I haven’t gotten to. I loved the characters. I loved how bizarre this story was. I loved the dysfunctional and hurting found family. There was such a heartwarming talk about grief and what it means to lose people, whether they die or just leave. I loved this book.

Quotes:

“How many billions of things had to happen just right to give me this ordinary life.”

“There were still pieces of us we so badly wished each other could see and yet couldn’t make ourselves ask for, and there was anger and resentment and it still all hurt, but right now, we were here, and if we stayed long enough, things might start to heal, even a little bit.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling

fullsizeoutput_3144

GoodReads Summary:
Hannah Walsh just wants a normal life. It’s her senior year, so she should be focusing on classes, hanging out with her best friend, and flirting with her new girlfriend, Morgan. But it turns out surviving a murderous Witch Hunter doesn’t exactly qualify as a summer vacation, and now the rest of the Hunters seem more intent on destroying her magic than ever.
When Hannah learns the Hunters have gone nationwide, armed with a serum capable of taking out entire covens at once, she’s desperate to help. Now, with witches across the country losing the most important thing they have—their power—Hannah could be their best shot at finally defeating the Hunters. After all, she’s one of the only witches to escape a Hunter with her magic intact.
Or so everyone believes. Because as good as she is at faking it, doing even the smallest bit of magic leaves her in agony. The only person who can bring her comfort, who can make her power flourish, is Morgan. But Morgan’s magic is on the line, too, and if Hannah can’t figure out how to save her—and the rest of the Witches—she’ll lose everything she’s ever known. And as the Hunters get dangerously close to their final target, will all the Witches in Salem be enough to stop an enemy determined to destroy magic for good?
This Coven Won't Break (These Witches Don't Burn, #2)Review:
My job opened back up when I found that my library had this audiobook. So, basically, I listened to it while I was working (which I’m not supposed to do) and listened to it in almost one shift.
I really enjoyed this book. Probably my favorite part about this book was all of the kissing. Morgan and Hannah’s relationship was the best. They were sweet and new, but also made progress to become a more serious relationship. I liked that their relationship also helped others see how the other witches can use their magic together.
Hannah was very brave. She feels a little responsible for what’s going on and she wants to be a part of the team of agents that are working to take the Hunters down. I really liked how Hannah’s grief over her father was present in the story. She lost her father which is part of her motivation to help, but she also let herself feel that grief. I liked that she ended up being a key part of taking down the Hunters. It was nice to see the adults listening to her ideas.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the first one better, but this one was still good. There was a diverse cast with different sexualities and a trans character. I loved the diversity. I loved, even more, the way the story concluded with the three different types of witches learning that they can use their magic together.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

fullsizeoutput_3144

GoodReads Summary:
For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.
Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.
As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.
A Million JunesReview:
This book really surprised me. I actually almost unhauled it two different times. But I’ve since read Emily Henry’s adult romance novel and the novel she co-wrote with Brittany Cavallaro. So, I wasn’t quite ready to give up on A Million Junes. I am so glad I held myself back from unhauling because I gave this book five stars on GoodReads.
We follow June. She goes to the local carnival with her best friend, Hannah. This is when June see’s Saul Angert for the first time in three years. He left town with little explanation and now he’s back. June’s family has one rule, and it’s to stay away from the Angert family. No surprise here that she doesn’t. June finds that she’s sort of attracted to Saul. But Hannah has had a crush on him forever and June wants to respect Hannah’s feelings. I really appreciated this aspect of the story. The fact that June was so thoughtful of her best friend’s feelings really made me love their friendship. I also loved that even when she got Hannah’s okay to act on her feelings for Saul, June didn’t just blow Hannah off. I don’t love girls that blow of their friends once they get interested in a guy.
Now, for the romance. I really liked Saul and June together. I loved the forbidden aspect of their friendship. It definitely led to some funny parts of the story where the pair were trying to keep Saul’s identity a secret. I thought the things that they experienced, the losses that they had in common, were a beautiful part of this story. I also really enjoyed the two sharing their family stories and trying to get to the truth of the two versions.
Overall, this story was beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a story of grief and love and figuring out how to continue living after losing those close to you. I loved the magical aspects of the story. They were beautifully written and the magic was beyond fascinating. I am now a huge fan of Emily Henry and I’ve bought her other backlist titles. If you like magical realism and stories filled with emotion, this is the book for you.

Quotes:

“Letting go is not forgetting. It’s opening your eyes to the good that grew from the bad, the life that blooms from decay.”

“Grief is an unfillable hole in your body. It should be weightless, but it’s heavy. Should be cold, but it burns. Should, over time, close up, but instead it deepens.”

“When people pity you, it’s like they don’t realize that the exact same thing is coming for them. And then I feel embarrassed and uncomfortable and have to pity them, because, like, do you not realize that it’s always someone’s turn? You haven’t noticed everyone gets a few blows that seem so big you can’t survive them?”

“Maybe for some people, falling in love is an explosion, fireworks against a black sky and tremors rumbling through the earth. One blazing moment. For me, it’s been happening for months, as quietly as a seed sprouting. Love sneaked through me, spreading roots around my heart, until, in the blink of an eye, the green of it broke the dirt: hidden one moment, there the next.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

GoodReads Summary:
When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.
August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.
The Wicker King by K. AncrumReview:
The Wicker King was incredible and I’m not really sure how to explain why I feel that way. The writing was the first thing that caught my attention that I liked. It wasn’t quite a stream of consciousness but sort of reminded me of that style. I really liked the writing style. It made the story really easy to devour. This was not an easy story to read. We follow August’s perspective as his best friend, Jack, lets his hallucinations get worse and worse. At first, the story seemed like a fun not quite fantastical story where the two boys were going to quest for whatever it was Jack’s other world needed to be saved. But as things got more serious it was clear that the pair were in over their heads, even if they didn’t want to admit it. Both come from not great home lives. August’s mom has depression and he takes care of her more than she does him. Jack’s parents are basically nonexistent. Both Jack and August are basically just doing the best they can.
Despite their struggles, it was really hard not to like both of them. The relationship they share is clearly incredibly special to them both even though it isn’t always a super healthy relationship. I also really enjoyed the side characters (the twins were my favorite). All of the side characters added something important to the story and I liked them all.
Overall, this story blew me away. This review is short and that is intentional because there isn’t a whole lot I can say without spoiling things. I especially liked the color formatting that was done as the story and the character’s progress. I definitely will be reading all of Ancrum’s books in the future.

Quotes:

“If you drop the weight you are carrying, it is okay. You can build yourself back up out of the pieces.”

“Where we are, there is light.” The wind blew hard from the east and the trees rustled their branches. “From where I’m standing… it is warm enough.”

“You deserve to heal and grow, too. You deserve to have someone to talk to about your problem; you deserve unconditional support; you deserve care and safety and all the things you need to thrive. Just because you may not have them doesn’t mean you don’t deserve them.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

GoodReads Summary:
An outcast teenage lesbian witch finds her coven hidden amongst the popular girls in her school, and performs some seriously badass magic in the process.
Skulking near the bottom of West High’s social pyramid, Sideways Pike lurks under the bleachers doing magic tricks for Coke bottles. As a witch, lesbian, and lifelong outsider, she’s had a hard time making friends. But when the three most popular girls pay her $40 to cast a spell at their Halloween party, Sideways gets swept into a new clique. The unholy trinity are dangerous angels, sugar-coated rattlesnakes, and now–unbelievably–Sideways’ best friends.
Together, the four bond to form a ferocious and powerful coven. They plan parties, cast curses on dudebros, try to find Sideways a girlfriend, and elude the fundamentalist witch hunters hellbent on stealing their magic. But for Sideways, the hardest part is the whole ‘having friends’ thing. Who knew that balancing human interaction with supernatural peril could be so complicated?
Rich with the urgency of feral youth, The Scapegracers explores growing up and complex female friendship with all the rage of a teenage girl. It subverts the trope of competitive mean girls and instead portrays a mercilessly supportive clique of diverse and vivid characters. It is an atmospheric, voice-driven novel of the occult, and the first of a three-book series.
The Scapegracers (Scapegracers, #1)Review:
This is a review that if I could, I would love to just write ‘I loved this book’ a hundred million times. I bought this book because I saw two people that I follow on Twitter that just would not stop talking about how much they loved it. Then I read the synopsis and made it as far as ‘teenage lesbian witch’ and knew I had to have it. I am so happy with my decision because this series (which I didn’t know it was a series until the end of the book, but it’s totally okay because I loved it so much that I’m ecstatic to have two more books to look forward to) might just become one of my new all-time favorites. The story was full of teens that are stuffed full of emotions and trying to figure out who they are. I loved everything about this book.
We follow Sideways while she’s setting up a spell that she’s been paid to perform at the first Halloween party of the season. When things get weird at the party because of her spell she finds herself in with the three most popular girls in the school, Yates, Daisy, and Jing. The three become a foursome after they pull in Sideways. They want to figure out what happened, but they also want to learn how to use magic like Sideways does. While I loved everything about this story, from the magic to the things they do with said magic, and the plot, the characters, and their developing friendships were absolutely the best part of the story. The way that Sideways changes her perception of these girls as well as herself after she gets to know them better was wonderful. I also liked that this was a diverse group of friends. They live in a small town, but they’re still diverse in several ways. There was also a really great discussion about sexuality and some characters not really being ready to share their identities. But what I liked most was that these weren’t nice girls. They are girls that are filled with anger and fire. They are teenage girls who talk about how they aren’t supposed to be powerful and they find a way to change that. I really loved all of these characters.
Overall, I think more people need to read this so they can love it as much as I do. I loved that it was full of angry teen girls wanting to make something change. They want power but also happiness. I loved that they fought for what they wanted. I loved that they loved who they were and one another. I also loved the magic. It wasn’t based on a specific magic spell, but with intent. There were words spoken, but it was about feelings and following what felt right and I really liked that. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Please go read it.

Quotes:

“I used to underline passages in my English books, because certain lines crawled off the page, because those lines were magic and they meant something on a cosmic scale.”

“I guess my point is that teenage girls aren’t supposed to be powerful, you know? Everybody hates teenage girls. They hate our bodies and hate us if we want to change them. They hate the things we’re supposed to like but hate it when we like other things even more because that means we’re ruining their things. Were somehow this great corrupting influence, even though we’ve barely got legal agency of our own. But the three of us the four of us, counting you were powerful.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Book Review: Horrid by Katrina Leno

fullsizeoutput_3144GoodReads Summary:
Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.
As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….
Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?
HorridReview:
Horrid was one of my most anticipated releases for the spooky season. I’m really upset to say that I was very disappointed with this book. This book was another that was completely ruined by the ending. I am going to have a bit of a spoiler rant after the last paragraph. I will clearly label when I start with spoiler complaints.
So, this story follows Jane and her mother Ruth as they move from Los Angeles to the middle of nowhere Maine. This is a huge adjustment for Jane. But she’s also dealing with the grief of losing her father. This grief is a huge part of the story and I really appreciated that. It wasn’t just her father is gone, but it really talked about what that meant for Jane. Her father was the one that could help her calm her rage. Now that he’s gone, she’s fallen back into old coping mechanisms: eating pages out of books. This aspect of her character was weird but I sort of understood it on a comfort level. I liked Jane. I felt bad for her, but I liked her. I didn’t like how she clearly knew something was wrong with North Manor (where she and her mother had just moved into) but she wasn’t willing to ask for any real answers about it. It felt obvious that something was wrong and everyone in town knew it. I liked Jane’s relationship with her mother, Ruth. She was obviously closer to her father, but the love between Jane and Ruth is clear and I appreciated that they were doing their best to be there for one another.
I also really liked the new friends that Jane made. She meets Alana and Susie at school. The three become fast friends. I liked them well enough, but the relationships weren’t too deep. I also like Jane’s friendship with her new boss at the coffee shop/book store, Will (who is also Susie’s older brother). They bond over books and coffee and I liked them even though it wasn’t a very developed relationship.
Overall, I enjoyed most of this book. I really liked the spooky aspects, the possibility of a ghost in North Manor. I thought the suspense and the mystery were interesting (though a little obvious). I didn’t love how oblivious Jane was being. She knew there was something wrong in her house and she never pushed when she asked questions and that really bothered me. The ending is what killed my enjoyment of the book. Without spoilers, the book ended at the climax of the story. We’re finally getting all the answers we’ve been searching for the whole story and then we’re still left with so many questions because of the players that were present in the final pages. I’m just really mad about how the story ended and that anger makes it really hard for me to say I liked this book. I felt similarly about Wilder Girls by Rory Power, so if you liked that book, you might like this one. This book has a pretty decent rating on GoodReads, so don’t let this deter you from picking up this book. But if you don’t like unsatisfying endings, this book might not be for you. Now, I’m going to get to spoilers about the ending in the next paragraph.
The spoilers are starting now. The final pages have Jane letting someone die, which is essentially murder, at the guidance of her sister ghost. But it’s never really clear whether the ghost is real or not. The ghost was pretty convincing, but there were hints here and there that made the reader think that there might never have been a ghost and it all could have been Jane. What I’m mad about is that we never got any sort of answers. The book literally ends in the climax of the story. Someone dies and the story just ends. The synopsis says “Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?” and the way that the synopsis is written makes it seem like we will find out whether it is one of those three things, but we don’t. We don’t find out what really happened or what happened in the aftermath and I’m very annoyed by this. I’m just angry and sad because I had really high hopes for enjoying this book. Okay, rage complaining is over. Thanks for reading!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day Three: Books & Baking – Tweet Cute

fullsizeoutput_3141

Hiii, lovelies! I’m back again for another Books & Baking post! This is another that  baked and photographed forever ago. It was actually right around when everything closed in the U.S. due to Covid. So, like everyone else in the world, did a lot of baking. For this installment of Books & Baking, I attempted one of the bizarre and wildly appealing recipes from Tweet Cute by Emma Lord. I also want to thank the wonderful Jen from Novels and Notions for allowing me to use the photo below. I read this book as an eARC so I didn’t have a copy to take pictures with, but Jen is a good friend of mine and I adore her photos. So, visit her Instagram to see more lovely pictures like the one below!

IMG_9284

Book: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Read my full review here!

I loved this book. It was funny and cheesy (hah!) and so heartwarming. It follows two teens who manage the social media for their parents. These two are as opposite as opposite can be. But they form an unlikely friendship that turns into more. Things get interesting when they both find out the other is behind the social media (which has turned into a viral Twitter rivalry) of their families business. I loved the family aspects of this story. There were good and bad moments, but the end really solidified my love for the story.

“It’s weird, how you have no idea how far you’ve come until suddenly you can’t find the way back.”

“But sometimes even shouting into a void feels better than just staring into it.”

“Do you ever feel like someone just took something from you?” Yes, I want to say. Sometimes it feels like it’s been four years of this place taking and taking, and I’m all out of pieces to give—like I don’t even know the shape of myself anymore.”

“A stolen day. The kind of day that ends too fast but stays with you much longer.”

“These are the things that tether me, the things I’ve always been and just assumed would always be. What she’s saying right now feels a lot like permission to leave it behind, and it scares me every bit as much as it relieves me.”

“I can see it too. That I don’t belong here. That even after all this time and everything I’ve done, the things I’ve pressed and organized and pushed into myself to fit into this place, home is still somewhere a thousand miles away. Farther than that, even. Because that version of home doesn’t exist anymore.”

Baking: Monster Cake 

Find the full recipe on Emma Lord’s website here! (Seriously, read this. It’s hilarious.)

IMG_2317

I chose to make Monster Cake from this book because, as I said at the beginning of this post, I chose to bake when the world started to close down and I was craving something super sweet. This definitely was that.

“But no matter what else happens, this one thing my mom has always had a weakness for–Monster Cake. A perilous invention from childhood, the day Paige and Mom and I decided to test the limits of our rinky-dink oven with a combination of Funfetti cake mixed with brownie batter, cookie dough, Oreos, Reese’s Cups, and Rolos. The result was so simultaneously hideous and delicious that my mom fashioned googly eyes on it out of frosting, and thus, Monster Cake was born.”

Ingredients

A box of Funfetti cake mix (plus the ingredients the box says you need)

A box of chocolate brownie mix (plus the ingredients the box says you need)

Edible cookie dough (or cookie dough you make without eggs)

A tub of vanilla frosting

A bag of Rolos

A bag of Reese’s

A box of Oreos

Googly eyes

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the brownie batter and cake batter in two separate bowls, and set aside. Chop your ingredients. This does not by any means need to be precise (Emma laid out 16 Rolos, chopped 12 Oreos into fourths, and chopped eight Reese’s Cups into fourths.) Divide your candy in half. Mix the first half in the brownie mix, and the second half in the cake mix. Grease baking dish. Put globs of the cake and the brownie mix into the pans. Then take a fork and swirl it around. You want the brownie and the cake batter to be mostly separate. Stick it in the oven for 20 minutes. Pull the Monster Cake out of the oven, and add globs of edible cookie dough on top of it. Stick it back in the oven for another ten minutes. Remove and let cool. Add googly eyes and squiggly mouth as it pleases you.

IMG_2322

This is just as horrifying and just as delicious as it sounds. I made the mistake of overbaking mine. I gave it five more minutes too many times, but it was still delicious. It was way too sweet for my husband, but perfect for me. I had so much fun with the utter ridiculousness of making this also. This would be super fun to make in a few years once my child is a bit older. Does this sound like something you would attempt? Let me know in the comments.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Books & Baking – What I Like About You

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

Book: What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter

Read my full review here!

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

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

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

Baking: Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak

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

Quotes:

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

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Best Laid Plans by Cameron Lund

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

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

Quotes:

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

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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

Quotes:

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

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

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

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

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.