Review: Comeback by Lyn Ashwood and Rachel Rose

Title: Comeback: A K-Pop Novel
Authors: Lyn Ashwood & Rachel Rose
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Emery Jung is living his dream. Known by his stage name M, he is loved by millions of fans around the world as a member of the rising K-pop group NEON, but all fame comes with a cost, especially when one slip up can have viral consequences.

Alana Kim is trying to forget. After a tragic loss sends her spiraling, she escapes to her family in Korea, abandoning her love of music along the way. However, her plans are derailed when she literally runs into M, the famous K-pop idol.

When their paths collide, Emery and Alana must work together to prevent a scandal from ruining NEON’s success, sparking a journey of friendship, love, and healing. Unfortunately, fame and love aren’t easily compatible, especially in the world of K-pop.

Review:

This was the book I needed when I was a teenager. Filled with wonderful K-Pop goodness, Comeback is heartbreaking and heartwarming with just a dash of K-Drama cheesiness.

Right from the beginning, readers are pulled into the insanity that is the K-Pop industry. Ashwood & Rose do a phenomenal job of introducing Korean terms to readers who are less familiar with the industry. For me, it was like being welcomed home – the music shows, the live streaming, these authors knew the industry through and through and were sharing their love for idols and fans alike with this book!

NEON, GLO, HI5, Cocoa Pop, LilyRed, Music Now, I Can Cook – the groups, the shows, and the idols created for this book were so realistic. Honestly, it was impossible to tell the difference between this and real life. Group dynamics were fleshed out, relationships and mannerisms were spot on, and I loved every moment of it. The dialogue and reactions even added to the world building. I don’t know how to describe it, but I knew exactly what tone and manner some of the lines were delivered in based on past K-Pop variety shows and behind-the-scenes that I’ve watched in the past. Everything was spot on! I also loved that we got to see the world from an idol’s POV (Emery), and a fan/coordinators’ POV (Alana).

Character wise, I adored Emery and Alana – they both had their flaws and their issues and their suffering honestly broke my heart. I cried for this one, the feels just hit me, but I also smiled and laughed a lot at NEON’s antics and how cute Emery and Alana were. The book addresses the issue of mental health from multiple perspectives and brings together these two characters who can help each other work through them. Note “work through them”. I appreciate that their friendship with one another, and relationships with others help them open up about their issues, but didn’t necessarily present an immediate fix. Mental health isn’t something that can be fixed with an “We love you” and a “We’ll be there for you” mentality – it’s something that takes hard work and the will to change, and the authors put a lot of care into their journey towards being better.

Overall, the writing was great – the characters, the world building, the development of the story was so well done, and I enjoyed every second of it. I’ll admit, there is a bit of cheesiness in the dialogue and internal narrative that made me both cringe a bit and smile, but it wouldn’t be a book about K-Pop without it! Comeback was a super cute book that addressed a lot of heavy topics very well, and I would definitely recommend it for everyone, even if you’re not a K-Pop fan!

Also, I love that the authors came up with this idea on the way to a KARD concert – KARD is amazing, live and in general, and if you’re just jumping into K-Pop, definitely would recommend them.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.13/5

eARC obtained through Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow

Title: How to Make Friends with the Dark
Author: Kathleen Glasgow
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

Review:

Disclaimer: This book will rip you to shreds, tear your heart to pieces, and put it all back together again. Maybe. I’ll say it now – How to Make Friends with the Dark is one of the best portrayals of grief and regret I’ve ever encountered. Fantastically written, utterly heartbreaking, it will leave you sobbing, but you’ll enjoy it.

I have no words for how phenomenally this book was written. With every word, every action, every quiet moment in this book, you feel Tiger’s pain, grief, and heartbreak. Glasgow’s strong imagery and fantastic narration pulls you into the book and keeps you there, drifting in a world of grief that’s not your own, but you can’t help but be caught up in the moments of brokenness and emptiness Tiger has inside her. I honestly don’t know how to sell you on this book. Just that everyone should read it to understand grief – to prepare for it, to heal from it, to understand it. This book helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in my grief – it by no means healed it (this is not a book you should read if you want to be happy), but it was a stepping stone in my road to recovery from grief. Glasgow’s depiction of grief is just so realistic it’s dug its claws in me and I can’t seem to get them out. I don’t know if I want to. This book wins for my favourite so far of 2019. Of maybe all the books I’ve read in the past 10 years. It was that good.

Not only does Glasgow address grief, but she also looks at the foster care system. She gives a peek into a world that isn’t made for the fainthearted. A world of abuse, negligence, self-harm, addiction, and broken homes. I’m glad she doesn’t delve too deeply into this world, as the book is heartbreaking enough, but she does enough to make readers wonder if we could doing more for the kids who are trapped in the system, whether by choice or by circumstance.

Honestly, I don’t know what else to say. This is a fantastically written book about a really hard subject. How to Make Friends with the Dark is a book that will stay with you loooong after you’ve put it down.

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Pacing: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.26/5

eARC received via Indigo Books & Music via NetGalley.

Review: We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Title: We Hunt the Flame [Sands of Arawiya #1]
Author: Hafsah Faizal
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
GoodReads

Synopsis:

People lived because she killed.
People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.

Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a richly detailed world inspired by ancient Arabia, We Hunt the Flame is a gripping debut of discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands.

Review:

We Hunt the Flame wasn’t at all what I expected. It was a mystical adventure through a dessert island abandoned by the beings who created it, with deep, rich world building that brought to life a world slightly grey – deprived of the magic that once saturated the air and ran through people’s veins. Honestly, I came for the gender swap, but stayed for the ancient Arabian inspired landscape and the friendships forged throughout this book.

Zafira is such a strong female character. Introduced as the Hunter, she’s the only person who can navigate through the Arz – forest that shifts and grows over time, and has magic in it that can confuse even the best navigators. To her village, the Hunter is their saviour. At the time where the Arz is growing and the land is cold, Zafira provides for her village pelts and meat. Her character grows so much throughout this story, and she learns to be comfortable and badass as herself, not just as a woman masquerading as a man.

There is one point in the book where she loses someone important to her, and the death affects her for all of 3.5 seconds and haunts her every 50 pages or so, and that person is all but forgotten by the end. The story takes place over about two weeks to a month. I lost a close friend around the same age and it’s been three years and I still think about them every couple days. I get that she was busy saving the world and stuff, but like where’s the gut-wrenching heartbreak, and the tears, and grief. This is the one thing about this book that just didn’t like. Just because a girl is strong doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel. I hate when protagonists are badasses and therefore aren’t allowed to breakdown and hurt. That’s not a realistic expectation to put on people, no matter their age. Pain is pain, and people (everyone) should be allowed to wallow in it, process it, and then move on. That’s the healthy way at least… /rant over/.

Nasir is compassionate and that is seen as his biggest weakness. I love that the author created this character for the same reasons I hate that she decided that Zafira just had to get over it – compassion, empathy, and love are all a part of being human. Nasir’s biggest battle is his wish to throw his feelings out the window and be the strong, emotionless person his father expects him to be. I liked seeing that struggle because of how relevant it is in today’s culture. The idea that men need to fulfill a certain level of authority without showing weakness. That was Nasir. And his compassion didn’t make him any less badass, which is such an important message.

I’m not even going to touch on the secondary characters here or else this whole review will be pages long. I loved the characters as a whole – their friendship and camaraderie make this book enjoyable. Faizal brings her characters to life and makes you feel for them, makes your heart break for them. This story was phenomenal – the magic, the world building, the wonderful prose – and I’m super excited to read the sequel!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.89/5

eARC received via Indigo Books & Music via NetGalley.

Review: Maybe This Time by Kasie West

Title: Maybe This Time
Author: Kasie West
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
GoodReads

Synopsis:

One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

Told over the course of one year and following Sophie from event to event, this delightful novel from master of romantic comedy Kasie West shows how love can blossom in unexpected places.

Review:

I can usually binge a Kasie West contemporary in one sitting. There’s something about her books that often feel like a palette cleanse for me – if I’ve read too much of a heavier genre, like fantasy for example, then a light easy YA contemporary is the perfect thing to get me out of my slump. However, it didn’t work with Maybe This Time.

The premise is promising – the story is told across nine events during which the character spends time with her best friend, Micah, and newest pain in the butt, Andrew. Sophie works at the flower shop and works the major events alongside her best friend’s family’s catering company. Sophie aspires to be a New York fashion designer though, not a flower arranger in a small town. She wants more. And I think that is perfectly fine. Everyone around her though? Not so much.

Her best friend Micah is judgemental, rude, and keeps pushing Sophie to do things that she doesn’t want to do??? Idk. It was a weird best friend dynamic imo. Andrew belittles her at every turn, her mom keeps trying to tell her dreams are unrealistic, and no one but Sophie seems to stand up for Sophie, and yet everyone judges her for it?? Like this guy yells at her for being stupid cause she did something small and annoying to offend him (BY ACCIDENT might I add) and she’s ready to have at him, but everyone is like CHILL SOPHIE. When Andrew’s dad treats him like trash, Sophie stands up for him, but then Andrew gets mad at her?? I don’t know, this is not a message I was really comfortable with, and the reasoning for everything later on really did not work for me. This was an ARC though, so they may change the story a bit to make it fit the end better, but the end just didn’t fit the build up from the rest of the story. There was just a bit of dissonance between event six to event nine.

Sidebar comment – I LOVE the section transitions – they’re beautiful, entertaining, and are a great addition to the book and Sophie’s character.

All in all, this book left me feeling super meh and blah. Definitely my least favourite of West’s contemporaries.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 1/5
World Building: 2/5
Pacing: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Overall: 1/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.78/5

ARC received through Indigo Books and Music in exchange for an honest review.

Review: My Life As Kelsey by Victoria Anders

Title: My Life As Kelsey
Author: Victoria Anders
Publication Date: May 1, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Work, rinse, repeat. That’s my summer in three words. Nothing amusing about working at an amusement park—until Stone Maverick Avery walks in with his designer sunglasses and rock star attitude. He’s totally out of my league. Oh, did I forget to mention, I’m not allowed to date?

My mom, who’s afraid I’ll end up an unwed, single teen mom like her, keeps me on lockdown from friends and boys. She insists my priorities be SATs and finishing top of my class.

As summer ends and 11th grade begins, I must say goodbye to my little bit of freedom. And goodbye to any chance of seeing Stone again.

But then it happens. That tragic event that redefines my life and turns it from monotonous existence to roller coaster journey: finding first love, learning the truth about my father, and discovering a different side of my mother. Twists and turns that teach me about all the facets of love.

In the end, will these lessons allow me to live a life of no regret or will I let my past pull me under?

My name is Kelsey. And this is my life.

Review:

My Life as Kelsey is very much a teen book. At the heart of it, Kelsey is trying to live her life. There aren’t any fantastical creatures, no harrowing adventures, just a girl doing her best.

Right from the start, you could tell Kelsey was a good person. She had her hangups (particularly her mother’s restrictions on her life), but she was kind, caring, and generally a nice person to spend time with. Throughout the book, she reacted in ways that were so realistic, it was hard to find anything that truly bothered me about her. She was a genuine character who had genuine reactions and I appreciated that immensely.

I really like the secondary characters too. Adam was super kind and loving, and Kelsey was honestly so lucky to have him. Stone was a super considerate and loving person, aware of his flaws and brokeness in a way that won me over. The characters and the writing honestly made this book so easy to read and settle into – I loved it!

The only reason I took away a star from my rating was the tragic event mentioned in the synopsis. It was indeed tragic, but Kelsey’s reaction and the reaction of those around her didn’t feel fully explored. If you’re looking for a book on “tragedy,” this one didn’t really touch me. As great as everything else was, this was the one thing that felt more like a plot device than a life-changing moment.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. If you’re looking for characters who are real with themselves, honest about their feelings, and open to love while caring for others, this is the book to read.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.11/5

eARC received via Victora Anders via Reedsy Discovery

Tour and Excerpt: Fake It Till You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen

Welcome to the Fake It Till You Break It tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!

Title: Fake It Till You Break It
Author: Jenn P. Nguyen
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: May 28, 2019
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together.

After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve have had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time—and then they’ll be free.

The only problem is, maybe Jake and Mia don’t hate each other as much as they once thought…

Excerpt:

She planted her foot firmly on my chest and pushed me back down.

“You can’t leave yet. They’re still home.”

“Well, what are we going to do until then?”

“It is Sunday . . .”

There was a small smile on her lips as her fingertips tapped together like Mr.  Burns from The Simpsons. My forehead scrunched together as her smile grew even wider. What the hell was she— It finally clicked when she leaned back to open her nightstand and pulled out a couple of those Korean face-mask thingies that made you look like a ghost.

“No. No. NO.”

“Yes. Yes. YES.”

Her hand smoothed them all out on the bedspread like a colorful pack of cards.

“Now which one do you want? I have moisturizing ones with aloe and cucumber. Some collagen wrinkle-free ones. Or even this one with a picture of a baby’s foot. I don’t really know what it does since all the words are in Korean, but I assume it’s something good. Look how soft and glowing that baby’s toes are!”

Picking up her feet, I shoved her off of my lap, and she flopped backward with a squeal. I grabbed the baby-foot mask from the bed and pointed it at her like a sword.

“I’m not doing this.”

Her eyes widened innocently.

“What? It’s not like it’s your first time.”

“One. Time,” I nearly growled.

“And we swore that we would never talk about it again.”

“And now it’s about to be two times that we will never talk about again. Come on, pretty boy. You have to keep up your looks if you’re going to be dating me. By the way . . .”

She knelt and faced me. Her elbows braced against my shoulder as she leaned forward and gave me a quick peck on the cheek.

“For future reference, that’s what a kiss on the cheek is supposed to be.”

Not sure why, but the kiss took me by surprise. I stared at Mia for a moment before finally pushing her away.

“Fine, you win. I’ll do it if it means you’ll stop kissing me.”

I ripped open a package before slapping the mask on my face. The strip on my nose wiggled as I sighed. Mia let out an identical sigh and poked at the moist edges around my chin to smooth them out.

“Ah, we’ve only been dating a few hours, and the magic is already gone.”

About the Author:

Jenn Nguyen fell in love with books in third grade and spent the rest of her school years reading through lunchtime and giving up recess to organize the school library. She has a degree in business administration from the University of New Orleans and still lives in the city with her husband. Jenn spends her days reading, dreaming up YA romances, and binge watching Korean dramas all in the name of ‘research’.

Giveaway:
Enter for a chance to win a print copy of Fake It Till You Break It!
Tour hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Romance Fiction
Publication Date: Jun 13, 2017
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for creating “complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.

Review:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is definitely worthy of all the hype that it’s received. In a story about perspectives, love, and sacrifices told in an autobiographical form, Taylor Jenkins Reid paints a masterful story that will leave you questioning your own perspectives and biases.

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s greatest skill is writing beautiful, real, and honest characters. In every book I’ve ready by her, it’s her characters that always win me over; they always make me feel. Even though we don’t spend as much time with Monique as we do with Evelyn Hugo, I still felt a connection to her and had a stake in her life. That being said, Evelyn Hugo’s life was fully fleshed out – every minute detail on display. Why did she have seven husbands? Who really was the love of her life? The whole book really is necessary to give an accurate answer to those questions, and I love that Reid make every chapter, every scene, every word count.

Another fantastic aspect of the story is the world building. It was rich with details on the studios, the sets, the competition for roles, and the need to always save face, no matter the consequences. So many aspects of this world were problematic – the misogyny, the patriarchy, the idea that women were only pretty things. I think the worst thing about it is that so much of that is still true today. We are getting better, there’s no doubt about it, but after so much time we’re leagues behind where we should be.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a fantastic story. There are so many layers and intricacies in Hugo’s love life that you can’t help but just sit back and enjoy the ride, because even though there is a lot of heartbreak in this story, it truly is enjoyable to read.

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.30/5