If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

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ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

“If I was going to commit to someone, I wanted him to be worth the worry, worth the part of me I was going to give him.”

Wow, this truly read like a gift from above. Like, I’m actually bitter than I didn’t have a YA contemporary story like this when I was in high school; because this was perfection. The Taming of the Shrew/10 Things I Hate About You loose retelling, starring a popular mean girl and a nerdy gamer boy, where they go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show together? I mean, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in my adult life, too. I truly think this will be the best YA contemporary romance I’ve read all year, and these authors are now in a tier all on their own.

Cameron – A senior in high school who wants nothing more than to go to UPenn and to get a summer internship to work with her dad and finally have him be proud of her.

Andrew – Black, and has been friends with Cameron for a really long time, and they are running partners with each other.

Paige – A girl who goes to Cameron’s school, who for sure marches (and dances) to the beat of her own drum.

Brendan – Paige’s brother, who has kept to himself and his video games ever since Cameron called him a really horrible nickname that everyone at their school uses now.

And basically, Cameron is one of the most popular girls in school, and that nickname stuck because her word is law. She and her friend group are known for being rather ruthless, but Cameron is especially known for being completely unattainable and also a complete bitch. Yet, she has finally decided to make a move on Andrew, since she has been secretly crushing on him for over a year. But Cameron completely snaps at a girl who is foiling her moment of telling (and showing) Andre how much she likes him. After that, he can’t really see her the same way, so she vows to be nicer and prove to him that she can change her heartless ways. Yet sometimes, the person we need forgiveness from the most is ourselves.

But when starting the journey to become a nicer person, Cameron quickly realizes that the girl she was mean to is not going to make it easy for her, and she isn’t going to let her forget about the nickname she gave to her brother all those years ago. And friends, Brendan is my new favorite character in all YA literature.

But this is a book all about second chances and how it is never too late to be the person you want to be; just make sure you are becoming the person you truly want to be. And we definitely see Cameron learn this the hard way; from the having to take care of her mom, to the pressure and neglect her father shows her, to everyone in school thinking she’s a heartless bitch, while she is hiding everything that is going on in her life behind the scenes. I loved seeing Cameron’s journey, even if it was a bumpy road, and I just loved Cameron as a main character so damn much.

“The heart of every doubt and insecurity that’s ever weighed me down—that between the only two parents I have, nobody’s ever wanted me.”

Okay other random fangirl things that I adored: What do I talk about in all my reviews? My brother is my best friend in this entire world, and I love reading about strong sibling relationships, so Paige and Brendan really made me happy, especially since Paige constantly tries to be slick, but she truly was her brother’s wingman through and through, and that is so damn relatable. I also really liked how Cameron was older than Brendan. I feel like we never see stories where the girl is in grade higher than the guy, and I was here for it. The LA setting was so realistically and magnificently done. And lastly, I loved seeing all the imperfect family relationships. Cameron, Paige, and Brendan all have such different expectations on them; and all of them suck. I think this is just rep that isn’t really seen that much, especially in YA books, and I really appreciated how real it felt and the importance it played in the story.

“Katherine’s not the villain of the play. It’s the people trying to change her”

Overall, if you couldn’t tell, I just adored this. I immediately want to run to the store or my library and pick up their debut, Always Never Yours, because this book truly blew me and my expectations out of the water. And I fell so in love with these complex and realistic characters. Plus, you all know that I am always going to go completely heart-eyes over a video game playing soft boy, always. Oh, and unrelated, and this doesn’t impact my review whatsoever, but the authors are engaged to one another in real life, and that honestly makes me want to melt into a puddle of goo while finishing writing this review, because talk about partner goals.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and content warnings for side characters cheating, talk of cheating in the past, and emotional and verbally abusive parenting.

Buddy read with Kayla! ❤

 

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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

“That’s the point of luck: it happens when and where it happens.”

This is my favorite Christina Lauren book since Roomies! I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too in love with Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating or My Favorite Half-Night Stand, but this felt like the famous duo was back and resecured that special place in my swoon-worthy romance heart. This was so funny, this was so heartwarming, and since I’m leaving in a few weeks for Hawaii, the setting was pretty perfect for me, too! This is a hate to love, enemies to lovers, fake dating romance that features two characters who are forced to be around each other because their siblings are marrying each other.

Olive Torres – Biracial (white and Mexican), twin of the bride, has been unlucky her entire life.

Ethan Thomas – Brother of the groom, and Olive’s archnemesis.

“I want to say something sassy, but the only coherent thought that comes to mind is how insulting it is that eyelashes like his were wasted on Satan’s Errand Boy, so I just give a perfunctory nod and turn down the hall.”

And these two had a very rocky, and very confusing, first meeting. But they are trying their best to put their differences aside for this wedding, even if they are antagonizing each other every single chance they get. But the wedding takes an unexpected turn when everyone gets sick from the seafood buffet that was served, except for Olive and Ethan, since neither of them ate from it.

Their siblings insist that they take their Hawaii honeymoon, instead of letting the trip go to waste! And they both decide to, because once they get to Maui, they won’t have to see each other except for sleeping. That is, until Olive’s boss and Ethan’s ex fiancé happen to be at the same resort, and they are forced to play the part of happy newlyweds, because Olive doesn’t want to get caught using their sibling’s honeymoon by the resort and be forced to pay for it out of their own pocket, and Ethan doesn’t want his ex to see him single. And honestly? It was just the perfect fake dating setup, let’s be real.

“The problem with lying about relationships is that humans are fickle, fickle creatures.”

And I truly believe the banter in this book is the best that these authors have ever crafted. It’s smart, witty, and truly hilarious. I also just loved Olive and Ethan as characters so much, and I easily shipped them together; maybe harder than any Christina Lauren characters. The setting was perfect, the plot was genius, and this was just an overall really easy book to escape into and love.

But I am very curious to see how plus-sized reviewers are going to feel about the representation in this book. This is not my lane, so please know that while reading this paragraph, but this book puts a huge emphasis on how Olive thinks Ethan fat-shamed and body-shamed her. She constantly talks about her body, her curves, her stress baking and eating, and how things look on her body, and even tears clothing that’s too small for her, while always kind of comparing herself to her thin twin sister. Like, I was 100% sure Olive was plus-sized through the entire start of this book, but then, once they arrive in Hawaii, it seems like the only big and curvy thing about her is her breasts, which are obviously perfect! And then, at the end of this book it starts feeling like she and her thin sister are identical in bodies, too, and she also gets compared to Selena Gomez. Like, I just didn’t understand. It was like they wanted to have a plus-sized main character, but they didn’t want to actually go there or hire any beta readers. Like, again, this isn’t my lane, and I’m obviously not saying that thin people can’t have body dysmorphia or just have unhealthy relationships with food and their bodies, but the way this read personally felt bad to me. I just honestly think this book could be really triggering because of the emphasis it has on Oliva’s relationship with food and her inner monologue about her thoughts about her body, while also painting a very hazy picture of her actual body.

Also, there is a very small conversation between Olive’s family members questioning if a family member is queer, and… it was really badly done. “Because lesbians use those strap-on things” and apparently have short haircuts. And I completely understand it was supposed to be funny because older generations “don’t get it” or whatever, but it wasn’t cute; it was offensive and poorly done. And the mom saying she wishes she was born a lesbian, like… gag me with any spoon you can find. Like, it was so minuscule, and I have no idea why it was even part of the book or why editors thought it was a good thing to keep included, but it just made me side eye and put a bad taste in my mouth.

Okay, I know those last two paragraphs seem bad, and they are, I’m not making light of them whatsoever! But I will say that if you took those two elements out, this is a really good book. Like, the best I’ve read from Christina Lauren in years. It was laugh out loud funny, it was romantic and swoon worthy, and I really shipped this enemies to lovers dynamic. I never wanted to leave Olive, Ethan, or Hawaii, and I think this is just going to be the ultimate beach read of 2019.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of cheating (not the main characters), A LOT of talk about food and bodies that I think could be potentially triggering, and the brief but questionable conversation about sexuality that I mentioned above.

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by Helen Hoang

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“It felt too big. At the same time, it didn’t feel like enough.”

The Bride Test is the most anticipated sophomore novel from Helen Hoang, AKA: the goddess who we do not deserve and who gifted us The Kiss Quotient! And this book is following a couple of characters who we originally met in that debut! I didn’t love this installment as much as I did The Kiss Quotient, but I still think that this book is a treasure and that Helen Hoang is a gift to the world.

And like The Kiss Quotient, this is an ownvoices novel, Helen is Vietnamese and is Autistic. And one of my favorite things about this book is seeing the difference of Stella, from The Kiss Quotient, and the main character of this book’s Autism. I think people just like to group marginalized people together and act like their experiences are all the same, and this author does such a wonderful job at truly showing the Autism spectrum and how vast it truly is. This book has a completely different Autistic main character, because everyone’s experiences are different, and I truly loved it more than I have words to express in this review.

Khai Vietnamese, Autistic, Michael’s cousin from The Kiss Quotient, living in California, and completely happy being on his own, especially after losing someone very close to him when he was younger. Even though that loss has made him think that he is incapable of love.

Esme – Biracial (Vietnamese and white), living in Vietnam as a cleaning woman, when Khai’s mom travels there to try to see if she can find a woman who would be compatible with her son. And Esme accepts because she is a single mom, living in poverty with her own mother and grandmother, and she thinks this is an opportunity to give them and herself a better life. Khai’s mother promises her a summer in California, where she can see if she can make Khai fall in love with her and marry her, but if not, she will return back to her family.

But with this set up, the power imbalance always is at the forefront. I always was questioning Esme and her feelings, because she has so much at stake. Also, Esme doesn’t tell Khai about her daughter for far too long, and that also felt extremely bad to me. And it’s always hard for me to root for a romance that is founded on a power imbalance and then also have it harboring such a big secret, especially after the two individuals are choosing to have sex. Now, I will say that the author does such an amazing job at putting consent at the forefront of this story constantly, yet I still could never find my footing on this shaking ground. And because of this, I can’t give this more than four stars.

I will say that, besides always putting consent at the forefront, this story has a lot of other amazing elements. Like, just seeing Esme in a foreign country, doing whatever it takes to make a better life for her loved ones, and seeing her getting the education of her dreams, I am soft and so happy. My favorite part of this book was easily the acknowledgements, where Helen really shares about her personal life and her mother’s personal experience being an immigrant and coming to American in search of a better life. I shed so many tears at how beautiful and powerful these final words were, and it truly was the cherry on an already amazing ice cream sundae.

Also, much like The Kiss Quotient, the family in this book is everything. Quan plays such a major roll in this story, and honestly was the shining light for me. And I am counting the days until we get his book next!

But this is a story about loss and love, yet also healing and becoming the person you want to be, no matter the circumstances. We get to see both Khai and Esme dealing with their own traumas, and healing separately, but we also get to see them building something really beautiful together; a future where they can be accepted and happy. And seeing them realize they were worthy of that love and acceptance all along? So damn beautiful.

“My heart works in a different way, but it’s yours.”

Overall, I just love being in Helen Hoang’s world. From the important elements and themes, to the beautiful diversity and inclusion, to some of the steamiest and most romantic scenes ever, these books are just really easy to fall in love with. I hope she never stops writing, and I hope Berkley signs her for five more books after these five, because she is a gift to the world.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for depiction of grief, talk of loss of a loved one, abandonment, and some talk of one’s body/body issues that I think could potentially be a little triggering,

Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt & Julianna at Paper Blots! ❤

 

When Summer Ends by Jessica Pennington

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ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

“Why did we have to meet the summer before I move away?”

When Summer Ends is a really cute read that is going to be absolutely perfect for summer this year. This is a tale about two people learning who they are, and who they want to be, while also supporting one another, and maybe even falling for each other, too! But they also have to decide if this is just going to be a summer fling, because both of their lives are going to change drastically in three months! This was heartwarming and truly smile-inducing, and I think is really going to make an amazing beach read during the warmer temperatures!

Aiden – Starting pitcher for the varsity baseball team, but his true passion is drawing. He has felt an immense amount of pressure to live up to everyone else’s baseball expectations, but after a playing accident, instead of spending the summer away at baseball camp, he is going to be working at this dad’s company, River Depot. Which becomes extremely popular with tourists ever summer.

Olivia – Lives with her aunt, who just received an amazing job opportunity in Arizona, which means this could very well be the last summer in Michigan for her. Her estranged mother agrees to stay with her, while she tries to enjoy the summer working at none other than River Depot with Aiden.

And these two young adults quickly realize that they need to make the best out of these next three months of summer, because once it is over their senior years of high school will change everything.

My only real complaints are that the problems in this book really never felt like problems. They for sure felt like the set up of problems, but things always seemed to resolve quickly, and I never really felt scared about what was going to happen. And this is totally fine and valid, just not something that I completely enjoy reading. Also (and this kind of goes with what I just said), I just really didn’t love the storyline with Olivia’s mother, which was for sure such a big part of this story.

I will also say that I thought there was going to be hearing and visual disability rep in this book, which there was, but it was only temporary visual and hearing disabilities. So, I also felt a little down about that, but I didn’t have it impact my rating or anything like that. But please be warned if you are going into this also looking forward to reading about that representation.

But I loved the main characters, I loved seeing them rely on one another, I loved seeing them grow as people singularly, but also grow together, and I loved every scene with the two of them! I especially loved the Michigan setting, because there are few things more beautiful that Michigan’s lakes in the summer time, and it really made me feel like I was back home. Overall, I do recommend this one! And I can’t wait to pick up the author’s debut, Love Songs & Other Lies, very soon!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and Content Warning for abandonment, neglect, and underage drinking.

Buddy Read with Felicia, Mir, & TBR & Beyond! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

 

The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen

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“A story of a Nemesis and a Villain with no chance at a happy ending.”

Francesca Rossi thought she had her life already figured out, even though she was only nineteen, and regardless of what kind of life she has ever wanted for herself. Her father is very powerful and has built an empire in Chicago, even if he deals with and in some very dark things. And Francesca’s hand in marriage is going to be connection to another powerful family one day. And it appears that the day is coming very quickly.

Angelo Bandini is the boy that Francesca has grown up with, and now he is the man that she believes she will share her life with. He is safe, he is dependable, and he has been a constant in her life for as long as she can remember, even if he has never given her a real kiss before.

Wolfe Keaton is a very powerful senator, and he and his lifelong vendetta is about to ruin everything at a masquerade party that they are all attending. Especially since Francesca stole one of the notes that are passed down from the women in her family, but they are supposed to be kept locked away in a chest for their wedding day. And those notes are supposed to completely predict and/or alter your fate.

And the note that Francesca pulled the night of the masquerade said that she was going to be kissed by the love of her life. Which she completely assumes will mean that Angelo is finally going to give her the kiss she has dreamed of her entire life. But Wolfe and his grudge have very different plans in mind. And all the angst ensues, along with a promise of marriage.

“But, my darling, that’s the difference between me and your father. I never pretended to deserve you. I simply took you.”

I actually really enjoyed this story so much. I loved the angst, I loved the romance, and I really ended up loving the characters. But the first sex scene in this is honestly one of the most sus things I’ve ever read in my life. Francesca was truly being so stupid, and the lie she told to make a point? It truly took a year off my life. Also, Wolfe not understanding the basic concept of birth control, while pretending he did, took an extra year off my life.

But besides these two things? I honestly loved this and completely recommend. Especially if you like a good alpha dude, because Wolfe is literally the epitome of that. I had a blast while reading this, and was so pleasantly surprised to finish and realize that it was a standalone, too. If you’re looking for some sexy dirty talk, a whole lot of angst, and a little romance, then I completely recommend this one.

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Content and trigger warnings for use of the term sp*rit animal, some weird discourse about food and dieting, talk of loss of a loved one, domestic abuse and talk of cheating (not involving the main characters), murder, attempted murder, grey area cheating, and a very unpleasant virgin sex scene.

Buddy Read with Myonna & Riley! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

 

Vicious (Sinners of Saint #1) by L.J. Shen

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“I met Baron Spencer and he became my nightmare.”

Okay, you were all 100% correct. Vicious is totally the human equivalent of Cardan Greenbriar and I immediately want to reread this book this very second. Like, the first scene in his room, where he is sitting on the bed? I was waiting for my good dude to sprout a tail, honest to God. But yeah, this was an amazingly sexy read, and I enjoyed every single second of it. I can’t wait to continue on with the rest of this series.

Basically, this is very much an enemies to lovers story. And Vicious is a bigger bully than Cardan in every way, so if that is not your thing, I might skip this read. But if that is your thing? Oh Lord, please pick this up immediately. Seriously, I think L.J. Shen made a fan for life from this book alone.

This is a book told in flashbacks from present day to events that happened ten years ago that lead both main characters to where they are now. Vicious believes that Emilia overheard a conversation about a secret that he has been keeping forever. Emilia continues to be sweet, caring, and curious, and Vicious believes he has to remind her who has the power in every aspect of their lives.

That is, until Emilia is forced to leave LA forever, and goes to NY to pursue her dreams while trying to forget her tormentor. Yet, ten years later, things aren’t going great for Emilia; she just lost her job, she was just mugged, money is now extra tight, and she is also taking care of her chronically ill sister. Then one night, while she is working a night shift at a bar, the boy who has haunted her dreams walks in and gives her an offer that she is unable to refuse.

“I see you successfully graduated from a bully to a tyrant in the span of a decade.”

She then is forced to work under her bully, doing any and everything to keep him pleased. And we get to see them both struggle with their feelings for one another and decide if it is worth it to just get the other one out of their system. Emilia isn’t willing to fall for her tormentor, and Vicious won’t allow himself to have feelings for the one girl who is off limits for him. And the chemistry is honestly off the charts.

Friends, I’m just going to say it; the sex in this book is 11/10. Seriously, I immediately had to take a cold shower after, because the angst almost killed me during this reading experience. Like, the sexual tension in this is so damn extreme and some of the best I’ve read in a very long while. It feels like the slowest burn of all time, even though I don’t think I’d necessarily classify it as a slow burn. I don’t know, it’s a really weird reading experience, but so damn gratifying. The dirty talk was expertly done, too, and totally leg crossing inducing if you get what I’m saying.

“Vicious was vicious. It was too bad that my hate for him was dipped in a thin shell of something that felt like love.”

Overall, I just loved this completely. I will say that if you don’t like possessive partners then you probably wont like Vicious, but if you do enjoy that kind of thing then I completely implore you to pick this one up immediately, because I thought the trope was really well done. Like, I recommend this with every fiber of my being if you like hate to love romances. And all my friends promise me that Ruckus is even better, so I cannot wait to continue on with this series!

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Content and trigger warnings for extreme bullying, talk of past child abuse, talk of chronic illness, talk of cancer, loss of a loved one, drug use, underage drinking, physical abuse, and extreme invasion of privacy.

Buddy Read with Riley! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!