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: 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

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

Review: Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties by Camille Pagán

Title: Woman Last Seen In Her Thirties
Author: Camille Pagan
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: Feb 27, 2018
GoodReads

Synopsis:

At fifty-three, Maggie Harris has a good marriage and two mostly happy children. Perpetually anxious, she’s also accumulated a list of semi-reasonable fears: falling air conditioners, the IRS, identity theft, skydiving, and airbag recalls. But never once did Maggie worry that her husband of nearly thirty years would leave her.

On the day Adam walks out the door, everything that makes Maggie secure goes with him. Only then does she realize that while she’s been busy caring for everyone else, she’s become invisible to the world—and to herself.

Maggie cautiously begins to rebuild her life with a trip to Rome, a new career, and even a rebound romance. But when a fresh crisis strikes and an uncertain future looms, she must decide: How much will she risk to remain the woman she’s just become?

Review:

Woman Last Seen In Her Thirties is a fresh reminder that just because something is comfortable, it doesn’t mean it’s right for you. We meet Maggie at a time of change – her husband has left her and she’s single and alone for the first time in a long time. How do you pick yourself back up after something like that? It’s so easy to become complacent and put your identity in the things that are important to you (your husband, your children), but sometimes you need to make sure that you’re taken care of too.

It’s an age old story of reinvention, love, friendship, and the fact that being in the right place at the right time can change everything. Travel, find love, do what makes you happy – now that I’m saying that, maybe this book is just right for the new year since it’s the time of reevaluation and inspiration!

While the story was well written, and the characters were relatable enough, there was just something missing for me in the book. Maybe it’s the way it all fell into place so easily at the end there, or maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t fully invest myself in the characters and their troubles. Either way, I found myself leaving this book with a sense of meh-ness instead of awe, or joy. I would say this is a great read if you’re looking for something kind of quick and light (ish). But, if you don’t want to be bogged down by someone else’s troubles, this book probably isn’t for you.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
World Building: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Pacing: 2/5
Overall: 2/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.78/5

eARC obtained via Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

Title: All Your Perfects
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: New Adult/Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: July 17, 2018
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

Review:

I love Colleen Hoover’s books because they’re all so real. She manages to nail every emotion, action, and moment so perfectly that her books hit you right in the feels every single time.

This book moves back and forth between the “Now” and “Then”. “Now” tells us the story of Quinn and Graham in present day and the struggles they’re experiencing in their marriage. “Then” brings us back into time to about 10 years prior and walks us through the couple’s relationship at the beginning.

All Your Perfects opens up dialogue around societal expectations, and how even the most mundane and traditional questions can hurt people. I was watching Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23, and one of the characters was pretending to be in a wheelchair during thanksgiving. As they went around the table, everyone was saying they were thankful for their family, their friends, yams, and this girl suddenly snapped and asked why people weren’t thankful for their legs and their ability to walk. All Your Perfects raises a similar question. What do we take for granted on a daily basis? Why are the struggles we face only up for conversation behind closed doors? And why is it taboo to be open about the obstacles we face?

This novel addresses everyday, human struggles, and how much work and effort is needed to sustain a relationship with another human being for the the rest of your life. It’s so easy to say you’ll make a commitment to another person, but executing that commitment in both the good and bad times is so hard. As much as we try to be, we are not always perfect.

I read this book three months ago, and just thinking about it again has me in tears, and I just can’t. When I get my physical copy in the next few days, I’m doing a reread, because it was just that good. If you’re picking up this book, get ready for a love story that will change hearts, mend marriages, and affect the way you see love. Honestly the best book of the year, hands down.

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 5/5
Overall: ALL THE STARS.
GoodReads Rating: 4.46/5

Book Depository Buy Link

eARC obtained via Simon and Schuster Canada and Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.