Review: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Title: Such a Fun Age
Author: Kiley Reid
Publication Date: Jan 7, 2020
Genre: Adult Contemporary
GoodReads

Synopsis:
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” the complicated reality of being a grown up, and the consequences of doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Review:

Such a Fun Age maintains a perfect balance between fun, compelling, and uncomfortable as you jump into a novel with real and flawed characters.

This story takes place in today’s world of influencers, imposter syndrome, and the question of “how on earth do we deal with the subject of race!?” Alternating between Emira and Alix’s POV, you really get to see how mindset, motivation, and personality really influence someone’s actions and how it’s received by others.

It’s interesting to see not only Alix’s perspective of a situation, but how her actions and insecurities lead to her end of sorts. And I was also surprised how the author wrote Alix’s friend group and the dynamic of it. Such a Fun Age examines the subject of race, class, and privilege from so many different angles that it really paints a diverse picture of how social pressures and media can impact one’s actions and decision-making processes.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how aspects of Emira’s life were presented. Emira is introduced as someone with insecurities and a general lack of direction that I know many millennials face after university. While the rest of her friends seem to have their lives together, Emira remains unsure of what to do with her life. Her scenes with Briar always stole my heart and I loved those scenes the most from the book.

Speaking of Briar – it’s amazing how every secondary character had a moment to shine and you got to see a bit of how they came into their biases and some of their character flaws/quirks that affected how they walked through life. Such a Fun Age has such a fantastically developed cast of characters. And knowing their motivations almost made everything worse because I was able to understand why they were doing/saying what they were. It made me uncomfortable because I knew it was wrong, but also because the trajectory of their story made their actions make sense.

Such a Fun Age is such a relevant read for today’s world, and delivers the message that no matter who you are your biases and experiences will affect how you approach a situation and the actions you take. Is there a remedy for that? I don’t know. This book doesn’t really present a solution so much as it presents us with the problem brief. I’m sure Reid has a lot more up her sleeve in terms of this subject and more. This is such a phenomenonal and important debut book from her and I’m excited to see what she has for us next!

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5
GoodReads Rating: 4.06/5

ARC obtained via Penguin Random House Canada 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

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: 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.

Review: She Regrets Nothing by Andrea Dunlop

Title: She Regrets Nothing
Author: Andrea Dunlop
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
GoodReads

Synopsis:

In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

Review:

I don’t think I have ever been so disappointed by a book. I have DNF’d books before, not because they were like this one, but because I knew I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy them. One day, I’ll get back to a lot of those books and I know they’ll be good.

This one though… Oh man. She Regrets Nothing made me regret requesting it on NetGalley. When I read the synopsis, I was getting a lot of Gossip Girl vibes, and yet I don’t think anyone in Gossip Girl was as entitled, selfish, and hypocritical as Laila. And that’s saying something, because the GG Upper East Side was fierce.

Laila is the perfect example of how wealth, or even aspiring to inherit wealth, can corrupt one’s character. While we begin the book sympathizing with Laila’s situation, that sympathy quickly dissipates as we see how she begins to treat people once she sees money.

There is gold digger and then there is Laila. She hopes to take New York by storm, and ride on the coattail of her rich and famous cousins. She gets into the good clubs, meets billionaires, and betrays basically everyone who is ever nice to her. Her cousins – Liberty, Nora, and Leo – take Laila under their wing. Nora and Leo let Laila live with them for free, Liberty gives Laila a job, and yet Laila remains the most ungrateful ingrate on earth. She continues to claw for more.

However, this is where the hypocrisy comes in – she faults the men that she meets for doing the exact same thing she is – trying to rise above their station and all that, and she looks down upon them from a high seat that no one ever gave her, and no one really thinks she deserves. Now this plot line goes on for about 80% of the book, and all I could do was sit there utterly exasperated by her. I stick by the rule of not quoting ARCs, but I’m fairly sure at least some of the quotes I have saved up are in the final version, and none of them make her look like a good person at all.

Then there’s the family scandal – no only is that plot line a stub as short as the TTC’s Sheppard line, but it’s not even acknowledged by the older people in the book until about 95% through the book. I was waiting for this huge revelation and I got nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Which leads me to the regret. I spent weeks trying to get through this book because I knew that I wasn’t turned off from it because of my mood, but because of Laila and her terrible character. In the end, I only liked Liberty and Reece, but at the same time, they were barely developed as characters and that drove me bonkers.

As a whole, I was left unimpressed by this book, not just for the terrible MC, but for the lack of plot, the poor execution, and the feeling of what-the-hell I was left with when I turned the last page. Definitely not a satisfying read for me.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Writing: 2/5
World Building: 4/5
Pacing: 1/5
Overall: 1/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.65/5

eARC obtained via Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.