The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1) by Alisha Rai

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Book provided by Avon in exchange for an honest review.


This was my first book by Alisha Rai and wooooo boy, can she write romance! Don’t let this cute illustrated cover fool you. This book is packed full of racy and steamy scenes.

This book stars Rhiannon, a black woman who came from a poor family and has had to always work twice as hard to prove herself working in a male-dominated field (tech industry.) She is very career driven and smart. She also started her own dating app. While at a conference Rhi sees an old hookup. A hookup who ghosted her in the past. His name is Samson Lima and he’s a retired NFL football player who is currently the spokesperson for a rival dating app.

I think you can see where this is going. And while I knew the enemies-to-lovers thing was coming, I wasn’t expecting Rhi and Samson to reconnect so soon. This was actually a breath of fresh air for me, because sometimes that trope can drag out too long. It was fun reading about their dynamics in the workplace while being in the middle of their angst and sexual tension.

This book also touches on the topic of CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encelphalopathy, which is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes or others who have repetitive head trauma. We learn as part of Samson’s backstory that his uncle (also a former football player) passed away from CTE and he is very involved in CTE research. I’d never read a book that highlighted this condition and appreciated the author bringing awareness to it.

The lack of communication between Rhi and Samson was what ultimately didn’t bring this up to a full five stars to me. But I loved the story so much, and how strong and unapologetic Rhi is. Overall this was such a great book!

Trigger/content warnings: abusive relationship (gaslighting), sexual harassment.

fourstars


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Dragons & Tea Book Club: July Book Announcement!

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Hello, bookworms! Now that things have calmed down a bit after coming back from NYC (I attended BEA) I am getting back into my reading routine. I’m so excited to announce the next Dragons & Tea Book Club pick for July.


Our July book will be:

LOVE FROM A TO Z by S.K. Ali

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The Dates & Breakdown:

July 8th: Pages 1–68 “Zayneb Saturday March 9. Oddity: Unpredictable Creatures”

July 9th: Pages 69–134 “Adam Tuesday March 12. Marvel: Strangers”

July 10th: Pages 135–207 “Adam Sunday March 17. Marvel: Zayneb at the Perfect Place”

July 11th: Pages 208–276 “Zayneb Tuesday March 19. Oddity… And Marvel: Plotters”

July 12th: Pages 277–End

(Chapter titles & subtitles are included since the chapters aren’t numbered. I hope this is helpful if you are reading on an eReader or audio. Read the chapter that includes the mentioned section above for that day.)

Why we chose this book:

This book is a love story in the time of islamaphobia. It stars a Muslim girl and a boy who has multiple sclerosis. We think this is going to be such an important and powerful read, and we can’t wait to boost this ownvoices YA book!

Synopsis:

A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.


Don’t forget to join our Goodreads Group!

And we will also follow discussions/your reading journey on Twitter and Instagram using the (hashtag) #DragonsAndTeaBookClub!


See you then! ❤

🐉☕ Melanie: Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads
🐉☕ Amy: Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

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Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

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ARC provided by Berkley Romance in exchange for an honest review.


I really, really wanted to give this book a higher rating. It started as a 5-star read for me, then went down to four… but now I’m sitting at three. I was truly loving it up until the main character did some things that made me so uncomfortable and annoyed.

This book takes place in Columbus, Ohio. More specifically, it takes place in a little part of the city called German Village. I’m a local, so seeing my city represented meant so much to me. Winfrey makes a ton of references to real, local businesses such as The Book Loft (my most favorite indie book store PERIOD), Pistacia Vera, Schiller Park, and so much more. I was LIVING for these and I was so ready to make an aesthetic. Like, give me all the cozy German Village settings PLEASE.

We follow Annie, a grown-ass adult who has really high expectations about how she wants to meet a man. She grew up watching 90’s rom com movies with her mother (who has passed away) so they hold a special place in her heart. But she also has some pretty unrealistic expectations from people she dates, and she wants nothing more than to meet a man in a meet-cute fashion. And I know that all sounds a bit weird, but because this is a rom com about rom coms, I was loving it.

Annie wants to be a screen writer, and she spends her days in German Village at a coffee shop called Nick’s (which I think it based off of Stauf’s, maybe?) But you’re not going to have many film making opportunities in Ohio. However, she currently lives in her old Victorian home with her uncle, Don, and she doesn’t want to leave the house or Don behind.

One day a movie production company moves into German Village and soon Annie lands herself a position as the assistant to the director of the film. The film is a rom com and it stars a famous, hot actor named Drew. Of course, this book being a quintessential rom com, Annie bumps into Drew while on set and spills coffee on him.

Boom. Instant meet cute.

The rest of the book is a lot of back and forth banter between Annie and Drew. Their encounters are funny and cute, and I was constantly rooting for them. I also adored Annie’s friend, Chloe, who was your typical honest/silly/always-there-for-you-BFF.

The thing is: I really did love all the rom com references. While I know that would be annoying to some readers, I knew all the cheesy rom com moments were necessary. And I knew where the story was going. But, because I knew where the story was going, I kept feeling a sense of dread that Annie was going to do a very stupid thing.

Y’all. She does something so stupid, so cringey, so goddamn awful I just want to hide under a rock due to all the secondhand embarrassment. And when that stupid thing is done, and a certain other character feels hurt, she has the audacity to play the victim.

Another thing that I was discussing with my buddy read group was how the author felt the need to bring up, several times, how rom coms lack diversity. And yet… she didn’t include any diversity at all. I really don’t understand the point of her bringing up that topic at all? Why even mention it if you aren’t going to do something about it? Why not have a marginalized main character*? She included one minor character who was POC but their soul purpose was to teach Annie a lesson so that was kinda weird. (*I should note the reason I’m even bringing up why there should’ve been a main POC character was because the film in the book is about an interracial couple and Chloe even mentions how whitewashed rom coms are.)

So while I did love the other cute, cheesy rom com moments and I absolutely adored the setting, I was just disappointed with how the last 1/4 played out. I mean, I enjoyed the very, very end, and I am looking forward to reading Chloe’s story next. But I hope the next installment won’t try so hard to make such bold statements about diversity and then not do anything about it on the page.

But I do still recommend this book if you’re a rom com lover, and I do think you’ll be rooting for Annie and Drew!

threestarsBuddy read with Melanie, Alexa, & Madalyn!

 


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The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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Book provided by Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.


Confession: This was my first ever Christina Lauren book, and I can promise it won’t be my last. This was truly the perfect beachy/poolside read and I will recommend it to everyone.

The Unhoneymooners is a contemporary adult romantic comedy that starts out with a wedding. Ami and Olive are twins, but all her life Olive has felt like the “unlucky twin.” Ami is getting married, and Olive is helping her sister with all the final arrangements. But during the reception everyone comes down with food poisoning from eating from the seafood buffet. Everyone… except Olive and the best man, Ethan. Ethan is also the groom’s brother, but he and Olive hate each other.

Not wanting the non-refundable honeymoon in Maui to go to waste, Ami encourages Olive and Ethan to pose as the married couple and take their honeymoon. Olive reluctantly agrees, thinking she can go to relax and avoid Ethan completely.

Of course, this being a romantic comedy… they can’t avoid each other because they’re stuck in the same suite. Things get hilarious from there as they start to bump into people they know from Minnesota, and Olive and Ethan have to put on a show to make everyone believe they are actually married.

If you know me then I love enemies-to-lovers romances. Top it off with a fake dating/fake marriage trope and you’ve got my attention. I was audibly laughing out loud during the majority of this book. I loved the love/hate relationship between Olive and Ethan and it was so much fun to watch their tension grow into a more romantic way.

And let’s not forget the Hawaiian setting, which is making me miss the beach something fierce.

I was also loving Olive’s family, and how much they all support each other and are always there for each other. I’m not going to get into spoilers, but Olive has trouble with employment, and her family was there to help her. Even if her family isn’t in the book a lot, I really loved their dynamics.

However, what made me not rate this an entire 5 stars is how a certain issue was handled between Olive and two male characters. I was really aggravated how Olive was treated in such a flippant way. This is 2019 and when a woman says she’s uncomfortable from a man’s sexual advances, you damn well better listen to her and take her seriously.

Overall this is such a swoon worthy book and I could not stop myself from laughing during the witty, sarcastic exchanges between Olive and Ethan. They are an OTP in my heart and I hope we can see them again in future books!

fourstars

Buddy read with Heather & Jen!


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Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

41150487ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Synopsis:

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


If there’s one book that’s going to stick with me for years to come, it is Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I had no idea how much this book was going to make me smile, swoon, and cheer for every single character I came across. I’m not even exaggerating when I say these characters feel like actual, real people, and if you’re like me who is just… really unhappy with the way US politics has been going… then you’re probably going to want these characters to be real, too.

Firstly, I want to mention that this book is new adult (not YA!) So, yes, there are some steamy scenes! Most fade to black, but, nonetheless, still steamy!

So this book stars Alex Claremont-Diaz, a bisexual, 21-year-old, Mexican-American who is the First Son of the United States. His mother, Ellen Claremont, is the first woman president, and she’s coming up for reelection in 2020. You see, in this alternate reality, a woman president took office after President Obama. And, y’all, this book cannot come at a better time when all I want is to keep that hope alive that things here will eventually… get better?

And then there’s Henry, the Prince of Wales. Henry is gay but has not come out due to the pressure and expectations from the crown. Henry has two siblings: an older brother and younger sister. He’s such a soft guy, and he feels so much weight upon him to fulfill his royal obligations. But Henry’s also suffering from anxiety and depression after his father passed away, and his mother has been absent since his father’s death.

This story has my favorite trope of all time: enemies-to-lovers! Alex, the POTUS, and their entourage fly to England for a royal wedding (Henry’s brother’s.) Alex has met Henry before, and always felt like Henry came off as a jerk. So after a bit of arguing, Alex and Henry accidentally destroy the royal wedding cake, and the two families go into full recovery-mode in order to get the negative press off their backs.

Which then leads into… the fake-friendship trope! Now Alex and Henry have to pretend to be BFFs in front of the press so they can clear the air especially since President Claremont is running for reelection and she cannot have this international-wedding-catastrophe in the spotlight.

I’m sure you can guess what happens from here… but once they become fake friends, a real friendship blooms as the FSOTUS and Prince get to know each other. A romance then ensues, and soon they’re trying their best to keep everything a secret.

I really had the best time reading this book. Alex is so sarcastic, witty, and has the best one-liners I’ve ever read. He’s also full of so much heart and he cares so much about his family and his background. His grandparents are Mexican immigrants, and I cannot help but relate so hard to how Alex struggles with his identity of being half Mexican and white (I’m half Thai/white); how sometimes we aren’t sure which box we fit into. I also felt such a deep emotional attachment to Henry as he wanted nothing more than to fulfill his royal obligations, but at the same time struggles with the thought of putting himself and his happiness first.

The romance in this book is top notch, and I would give my soul for a sequel. I not only fell in love with Alex and Henry, but the other diverse cast made this story so amazing. I love June, Nora, Bea, Pez, Tarah, and the POTUS (Ellen) so, so much. Like I said, I truly wish these characters were real people!

Okay, I’m done gushing about this adorable, swoon-worthy book. I sincerely hope you’ll pick this up; not only for the romance, but for the witty banter, hilarious characters, found families, close friendships, and glimmers of hope.

However, there is a lot of talk about US (and royal) politics in this book, so if that’s not your jam, then you may not love it. But even so, all the talks of politics throughout the book does have a purpose and makes sense as the story progresses (I know I’m being vague, but you’ll see what I mean if you read it!)

Trigger/content warnings: Homophobia, talks of cancer, death of a parent, outing, anxiety, depression, talks of drug use, talks of past sexual assault.

fivestars

Buddy read with Heather & Kristin!


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A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert

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Read in February for the Dragons & Tea Book Club!


Goodreads Synopsis:

She’s the town pariah. He doesn’t give a damn.

In Ruth Kabbah’s world, comic books are king, silence is golden, and human contact is a pesky distraction. She doesn’t like people, which works out just fine, because the people in this small town don’t like her. The exception to that rule? Evan Miller, her way-too-charming next-door neighbour…

Ex-military man Evan is all tattooed muscle on the outside—and a big, cuddly teddy bear beneath. He’s used to coaxing prickly people from their shells, but he’s never met a woman quite like Ruth. Blunt, sarcastic, and secretly sad, she’s his exact opposite. She’s also his deepest desire.

Soon, Evan’s steady patience and smouldering smiles are melting Ruth’s reserve. But when small-town gossip from her past begins to poison her future, she’s forced to make a choice. Should she trust Evan completely? Or is her heart safest alone?

Please be aware: this book contains mentions of intimate partner violence that could trigger certain audiences.

I had never heard of Talia Hibbert before, but the second I found out she’s a romance writer who is always boosting body positivity and consent, I WAS THERE FOR IT. Now I want to own every single book by her. Please, if you want to support an independent, ownvoices author, pick up her books! I truly think you’ll be in for a real treat.

This book follows Ruth, a black, plus sized woman who creates web comics and prefers to stay home and keeps to herself. She lives in a small town called Ravenswood, where she’s been labeled a “pariah” and rumors about her are constantly flying. But she’s just trying to move on from her past where she was involved in an abusive relationship. Ruth is also autistic and she tends to not trust new people. She is only close to her sister and mother, but that all starts to change when Evan moves in next door.

Evan is white, ex-military, and he’s very soft spoken and incredibly loyal. He also has a past where he was hurt, and he’s just trying to move on. He’s kind and constantly giving to others. He notices Ruth and slowly befriends her. After he sees Ruth’s horrible diet and learning her cooking skills are… nonexistent… he starts cooking her food every day and brings it over. AND OMG MY HEART.

There’s nothing I love more than two people connecting over food, and I just loved how understanding and patient Evan was with Ruth. He never pressured her to confront him about her past, and once their relationship evolved, there was always so much consent and body positivity.

What I really loved about Ruth was that she was so fiercely loyal to her family, and she knew how to stand up for herself. But she also completely shuts down when any mention of her ex was brought up, because she was always so focused on guilt and blaming herself for the abuse. This topic is brought up a lot, but Talia Hibbert really does such a tasteful job at addressing it. Ruth’s anxiety is also so relatable, and I just know so many people are going to understand and just GET her character. Also? Her favorite attire is pajamas and that is such a mood.

Please use caution going into this book if you are a survivor of abuse. And there are triggers for anxiety, slut shaming, and ableism language toward autism. But I seriously can’t recommend this book enough if you are looking for a good book in the romance genre. Trust me, I don’t read a ton of romance (where there is a whole lotta steam!) but this one was so incredibly well written and you will fly right through it!

fivestars


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This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Sloane isn’t expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida—especially not a group of friends so intense, so in love, so all-consuming. Yet that’s exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane’s ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins’ late mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility of tracking it down, a journey that takes her across state lines—and ever deeper into the twins’ lives.

Filled with intense and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romantic developments, and sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.


At the recommendation by my friend Julie, I knew I had to pick This Adventure Ends as my first Emma Mills book. I’m so glad I did!

This is one of those coming-of-age YA books that feels like a blanket enveloping you. It is mostly character driven, but driven by some of the best characters I’ve ever read. I truly loved Sloane and her group of friends. I even loved the adults, which I know can be hit or miss sometimes when reading YA.

So this book stars Sloane, a high school student who moves from New York to Florida. Her father is a famous author (very a la Nicholas Sparks) but he’s fallen into a career slump. Her parents’ marriage also isn’t doing so well. But then Sloane befriends twins Vera and Gabe, Remy, Aubrey, Bree, and let’s not forget my favorite… Frank (a bisexual mixed-race student!)

Early on we learn that Vera and Gabe’s mother passed away, but she was a very famous painter whose paintings are highly sought after. But through a fluke accident, the one painting Gabe truly wanted to keep got sold. Sloane becomes determined to find that painting. Not so much because she’s slowly developed feelings for Gabe, but because she knew how much he was hurting and she thought this could be the one small thing to set things right.

However, looking for the painting isn’t the main focus of this book. We get to watch Sloane’s relationship evolve with Remy, who is helping her track down the painting. We also see her friendship bloom with Vera, and it is, hands down, one of my favorite platonic ships of all time. I also loved her dynamic with Frank, who is basically the king of hosting parties. Seriously, the friendship was so outstanding, it truly made me feel like I was part of the group.

But this book also highlights struggles the parents go through, such as marriage strains, career roadblocks, and just day-to-day life. I really loved Sloane’s dad, Mike, who found refuge and inspiration in a teen show (and writing fan fic). I also really loved how he confided his work in Sloane.

I also loved how Sloane was written. She was complex, and oftentimes her personality really reflected my own at that age. I was moody, sarcastic, and knew when to deflect to make light of a situation. I really really got her. And Vera? OMG. Vera gets the BFF Award of the Year. I loved her colorful personality so much, and it was an extra bonus she had another ‘life’ as a famous social media star. Of course, I loved Gabe, who is serious and broody and mysterious most of the time. I wanted to learn so much more about him!

So what did I not like? Well, I actually wasn’t too keen on the fan fic parts, and I also didn’t really like how Vera and Gabe’s stepmom was portrayed as the “bad guy.” I don’t know, maybe I’m just tired of the “young beautiful woman marries an older guy and gets pregnant so she must be the bad guy” trope. Like, I totally get being a teenager and finding out your new step mom is super young would feel weird, but I think her character could’ve just been written better.

I still really loved this book, and I honestly cannot wait to read more by Emma Mills!

fourstars

Buddy read with Jen!


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A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

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Goodreads Synopsis:

When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that.

Through welcome and unwelcome distractions, she just keeps running, to the destination that awaits her. There, she’ll finally face what lies behind her—the miles and love and loss…and what is to come.


If I could recommend one book to read this year, it would be this. I loved it so so much, and it will stick with me for a very long time.

Things start out a little vague but slowly picks up as we begin to learn so many things about Annabelle and her past. Due to a very traumatic experience, Annabelle decides to pursue a daunting task: running cross country from Seattle, Washington to Washington, DC. It is a five-month journey with her running from town to town, with her grandfather following her in an RV, and she meets many supporters along the way. But the reason isn’t instantaneously clear to us, the reader. All we know is that she is doing this out of many emotions: grief, guilt, remorse, and with the hope to heal.

I don’t usually gravitate toward books where, from just reading the description, sounds like a “journeying” story. But oh my god, I am so glad I did. This is so much more than journeying from point A to point B. You see, we also learn that Annabelle is trying so hard to move on from the pain created by a nameless individual called The Taker, and as she continues, mile after mile, she slowly begins to shed the feelings of guilt. She wants to make a change. She has to do something.

I also want to mention that it is addressed in the book that the type of long distance running Annabelle is doing isn’t recommended. It puts way too much stress on your body, no matter how well trained you are at long distance running. So, while it may not be truly realistic, it is mentioned several times she doesn’t push herself to run too long, and she gets lots of food/drinks via local supporters and her grandfather in their RV. Plus, her brother and friends are just THE BEST, and they plan out safe routes for her and arrange any sort of accommodations she needs.

I know I am being rather vague but I don’t want to give any hints of spoilers, because I think this book will be so much more impactful if you jump right into it. But it does deal with a lot of heavy themes such as toxic masculinity, especially how much women have to be so cautious when we are nice to someone or fear we are giving mixed signals. And also the importance of taking someone’s pleas for help seriously. Y’all, my copy of this book is so heavily tabbed because I could not relate to it more! So many times me and my friends went through similar experiences in high school (and this was back in the early 2000’s) and just seeing Annabelle go through the same things made me so angry and exhausted. It just makes me so sad this is something we still have to deal with today.

Alright, I know I wasn’t extremely detailed in my review but if I could recommend any book to read RIGHT NOW it would be this. Yes, the topics are heavy, but I promise you it is so worth it. It is a story about healing and how running not only helped heal Annabelle, but also brought a whole community, a whole nation, together.

Read further for minor spoilers and trigger warnings:

And, honestly… in light of some recent tragic news in the US in association with gun violence… I just feel this book is so important now more than ever.

Trigger warnings: Unwanted touching, stalking, gun violence, murder, PTSD.

fivestars

Buddy read with Sophie!


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Blog Tour: In Another Life by C.C. Hunter

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ARC provided by Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review.

Title: In Another Life

Author: C.C. Hunter

Pages: 352

Genre: YA Contemporary, Mystery

Publication Date: March 26, 2019

Goodreads Synopsis:

Chloe was three years old when she became Chloe Holden, but her adoption didn’t scar her, and she’s had a great life. Now, fourteen years later, her loving parents’ marriage has fallen apart and her mom has moved them to Joyful, Texas. Starting twelfth grade as the new kid at school, everything Chloe loved about her life is gone. And feelings of déjà vu from her early childhood start haunting her.

When Chloe meets Cash Colton she feels drawn to him, as though they’re kindred spirits. Until Cash tells her the real reason he sought her out: Chloe looks exactly like the daughter his foster parents lost years ago, and he’s determined to figure out the truth.

As Chloe and Cash delve deeper into her adoption, the more things don’t add up, and the more strange things start happening. Why is Chloe’s adoption a secret that people would kill for?

This was my first time reading a book by C.C. Hunter and I am definitely intrigued and would love to read more! I am always drawn to mysteries, but sometimes YA mysteries can be a hit or miss for me. However, I really did enjoy this book so much, and although I had a few issues with some of the characters, I really think fans of young romance mixed with a hard-hitting mystery would enjoy this book.

This book follows two POVs: Chloe and Cash. Chloe has a strained relationship with both of her adoptive parents. Her father had an affair and is dating someone new, while her mother is a cancer survivor struggling with depression.

Then there’s Cash, a “mysterious” and “tough” character who enters Chloe’s life when he suspects she might be someone else. Cash is also a foster child living with a married couple, the Fullers. Chloe and Cash’s worlds come together when Cash recognizes Chloe in a missing person’s age progression photo. He thinks she may be the Fuller’s missing child.

This story had a lot going on from the get-go: Chloe and Cash have an insta-love budding romance, Chloe is her mom’s caretaker, Chloe is constantly fighting with her father, Cash has a strained relationship with his foster parents, and then there’s the big mystery of who exactly is Chloe Holden?

While this book starts off feeling more like a contemporary, it quickly turned into a mystery as pieces of the adoption and kidnapping came into play. I also really appreciated how such hard-hitting topics were woven into this story. Cash has an extremely tragic past, and even though he’s with a wonderful foster family, he feels immense guilt for being there.

I think what made me lower my rating a bit on this book was how much Chloe had to act like the adult and caretaker for everyone. Not only was she still struggling with her parent’s divorce and her father’s infidelity, but she also became the sole caretaker for her mother during her cancer treatments. And while I completely understand depression is horrible, I was so mad at her mother for how she treated Chloe. Her mother clearly needed professional help but kept piling her anger toward her ex-husband on to her child. I just… felt really, really uncomfortable reading those scenes.

But I really did love Cash so much. He was trying so hard to do the right thing, and I really liked how his and Chloe’s relationship bloomed. And I really felt for Chloe. I couldn’t even imagine being in her position, let alone finding out I might possibly be a kidnapped child? Like, how would I even begin to process that information?

I really enjoyed how the mystery played out and I was second-guessing a lot of things until the very end. And I found the ending soooo satisfying!

Trigger/content warnings: Cancer, divorce, infidelity, kidnapping, child abuse, depression.


About the author:

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C.C. HUNTER is a pseudonym for award-winning romance author Christie Craig. She is lives in Tomball, Texas, where she’s at work on her next novel.


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You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno

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ARC provided by The NOVL in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Synopsis:

Magpie Lewis started writing in her yellow notebook the day her family self-destructed. That was the night Eryn, Magpie’s sister, skipped town and left her to fend for herself. That was the night of Brandon Phipp’s party.

Now, Magpie is called a slut whenever she walks down the hallways of her high school, her former best friend won’t speak to her, and she spends her lunch period with a group of misfits who’ve all been socially exiled like she has. And so, feeling trapped and forgotten, Magpie retreats to her notebook, dreaming up a place called Near.

Near is perfect–somewhere where her father never cheated, her mother never drank, and Magpie’s own life never derailed so suddenly. She imagines Near so completely, so fully, that she writes it into existence, right in her own backyard. It’s a place where she can have anything she wants…even revenge.

Wow, I truly didn’t think I was going to love this book so much. This was my first novel by Katrina Leno and I now want to real ALL her books, please!

This book was so quiet as it built up to one of the most satisfying endings I’ve ever read. And while You Must Not Miss is marketed as a contemporary, I’d like to say it very much has magical realism and subtle thriller elements. Because as we see the things that happen in Near? My heart was racing, and I was also living for all those spooky vibes!

This book is about Margaret (aka “Magpie” according to her family), a high school sophomore who had a major falling out with her best friend, Allison. Her parents are also going through a separation, which has triggered her mother’s alcoholism again. To make matters worse, Magpie caught her father cheating, and she keeps reliving that horrible moment of walking in on him naked.

But Magpie is also harboring another traumatic experience, one so bad she can’t even talk about. So she starts writing a fictional world called Near. This world is perfect; her parents are together, her sister hasn’t abandoned her — her life isn’t in shambles.

And then one day, when she’s feeling so overwhelmed, she notices a door. A door that leads her to Near. Her fictional world became real and she learns she can use it to get anything she wants.

From here things take a much darker turn, but I was LIVING for these scenes. I love how one moment I’m getting The Wayward Children vibes (secret doors!), and the next I’m feeling thoroughly creeped out (people in Near kept winking at Magpie. I don’t know why but that always gave me goosebumps.) I’m not saying this book is horror at all, but I loved how subtly everything built up to the point where I was rooting on Magpie to unleash her revenge.

I also want to gush about the bisexual rep (there is a bisexual male student), and there is a trans boy (my favorite character ever). What I loved is that nobody made a big deal about these characters being who they are. There are no hurtful comments or misuse of gender pronouns by other characters, which is so refreshing! I also loved Magpie’s group of friends so much.

This book also addresses so many hard-hitting themes, such as toxic masculinity, rape culture, victim blaming, feelings of deep-rooted guilt, and reclaiming our bodies. It also heavily revolves around adultery and alcoholism. Please use caution if those are major triggers for you. I know there were a few instances where I had to set the book down due to some of these topics.

I truly hope you pick up this book come April 23rd. I read it in just a few sittings and I cannot stop thinking about it. I would not be opposed to a sequel because that ending really left me wanting more!

Trigger warnings: Sexual assault and rape, abuse from a parent, parental infidelity, divorce, alcoholism, underage drinking, slut shaming, abandonment.

Buddy read with Madalyn! ❤

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