Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Author: Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #3
Reviewer: Marlou

Summary

Lara Jean is having the best senior year.

And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I saw everything in this book coming. Did I mind that? Nah. Did Han write it well enough that I still kept reading? I finished it didn’t I 😉 
Since the book was so predictable I did enjoy it less and there was a lot of drama going on and I couldn’t keep up. The book was a cute read though, but it’s not like I’m ever going to reread it. 
Favorite quote:

“Never say no when you really want to say yes.”

That’s some good life advice right there provided by none other than the infamous flirt, Stormy. So, I liked this book, I didn’t love it but that’s fine. I wasn’t even expecting to like the Contemporary gener enough to read three books in one go. Solid three stars for the last book in the trilogy.

“Kitty’s always saying how origin stories are important.
At college, when people ask us how we met, how will we answer them? The short story is, we grew up together. But that’s more Josh’s and my story. High school sweet-hearts? That’s Peter and Gen’s story. So what’s ours, then?
I suppose I’ll say it all started with a love letter.”

Books in this series

To All the Boys That I Loved Before (#1), P.S. I Still Love You (#2), Always and Forever, Lara Jean (#3)

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

P.S. I Still Love You

Author: Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #2
Reviewer: Marlou

Summary

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The review of this book is gonna be a little shorter… I was bored through most of the book, half forgot what they were talking about and got frustrated that they were fighting over nothing. And yet, I still liked the book. Funny how that goes. 
Favorite quote:

“So I take Peter’s hand; I put it on my heart. I tell him, “You have to take good care of this, because it’s yours.”

*insert squealing fangirl* This is so terribly cute, it gives me major heart eyes.
This book was not as good as the first one, but still enjoyable in the end. Solid three stars.

Books in this series

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (#1), P.S. I Still Love you (#2), Always and Forever, Lara Jean (#3)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han
Series: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #1
Reviewer: Marlou

Summary

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“If love is like a possession, maybe my letter are like my exorcisms.”

This book was so terribly cute! I picked it up because I loved the movie and two of my friends kept telling me how great the books are. This book is actually the first ever contemporary book I’ve read. I can’t say that I liked it any less without magic, violence and/or dragons. It was just different than what I’m used to. Sometimes you just gotta go a little outside the (hat)box right?
So I loved this quote:

My letters are for when I don’t want to be in love anymore. They’re for good-bye. Because after I write in my letter, I’m not longer consumed by my all-consuming love…My letters set me free. Or at least they’re supposed to.

Why? Because it reminded me of advice I was given a couple years back; ‘Write your emotions down so you can deal with them better.’ It never worked for me, because I’d rather be writing about magic than about my feelings (or I would write down stabby stab stab and that wasn’t the way to go either), but for Lara Jean it worked. Of course things got a little complicated when her inner thoughts were out in the world, but hey, she managed to put her thoughts into words and I’m having difficulty with that even as I write this review. 
All in all a lovely book and I give it a solid four stars.

Books in this series

P.S. I Still Love You (Book 2), Always and Forever, Lara Jean (Book 3)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Author: Raindow Rowell
Reviewer: Inopinion

Content Warnings

Mental Health, Bi-polar, Alcoholism, relationships, social anxiety

Summary

Cather Avery and her twin sister Wren have arrived at The University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL). Their perspectives couldn’t be more different. Wren is charging into the co-ed culture with a roommate in a different dorm and her sights set on parties! Cath is struggling. Not only is this the first time that her sister isn’t her roommate, but that her sister doesn’t seem to want to be her sister anymore. Gripped by social anxiety, she hides in her room focused on the one thing that still makes sense: fanfiction.

Despite her deepest desires to hermit her way through, her roommate Reagan and Reagan’s boyfriend – or at least one of her boyfriends- Levi prod her into a routine. One thing leads to another and Cath finds herself with a writing partner, Nick, who helps to pull her into original storytelling, and Levi walking her home. It’s all settling into a confused, but reliable situation.

Things go downhill and they go fast. Not only is her sister partying too much, but her father is falling apart. A manic phase swamps his careful balancing act as he tries to self-manage his bipolar condition. Luckily for Cath, she has friends she can rely on… and some she just might kiss.

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One, if you’ve ever read fanfiction, you know the joy of extending your time in a world. Two, if you’ve ever written fanfiction, you will undoubtedly relate to Cath. She is you. You are her. She has fans that number in the thousands (some of us are lucky to have a handful, but they’re still precious), and she’s dedicated to pleasing them. Just this aspect of the story is so endearing and legitimately honest that I can now stop explaining why I love and write fanfiction and just hand over a copy of this book!

Outside of the fandom culture, this book is one huge mirror being placed in front of every reader and challenging them not to find someone in this story to relate to. Are you anxious? Do you avoid new people? Do you or your family ride the waves of mania or depression that come with a bi-polar condition? Have you been abandoned? Betrayed? Cheated on? Have you been led-on and let-down? Have your ethics been challenged? Have you been angry at something that you have no justification to be angry about? This book has something for you without actually venturing into obvious trigger territory (but you know yourselves best).

And let’s not forget the romance aspect of this book (which is as much a plot as the fanfiction) and all of it’s swoony ups and downs. Cath is such a romance-novice you’ll certainly see yourself in her whether it was you at 10, 15, or 35. I can’t heap enough praise on the respect on display as the romance blossoms.

Now, one criticism I’ve read and discussed with fellow readers (this was a bookclub pick, after all) was that the ending was too open. I may not agree with this, but it’s a point for readers to know going in. The conclusion may not satisfy readers that want everything wrapped up and assurances on what happens next. It certainly leaves several things on the table. There’s no doubt that while not abrupt, you’re left with a lot of ‘what-ifs’ at the end of this story. In my perspective, and I have no idea if this was the intention, but what this book gives is a launching pad for fanfiction. What better gift in a book about fandoms?

Captain Marvel: Liberation Run by Tess Sharpe

Captain Marvel: Liberation run

Author: Tess Sharpe
Reviewer: Renee

Content warnings

Imprisonment, suggested sexual assault, execution of parents in front of kids

Summary

Carol Danvers–Captain Marvel–narrowly stops a spacecraft from crashing. Its pilot Rhi is a young Inhuman woman from a group who left for a life among the stars. Instead they were imprisoned on a planet where an enslaved Inhuman brings her owner great power and influence. Horrified by the account, Carol gathers a team–including Ant-Man, Mantis, and Amadeus Cho–and they set out to free Rhi’s people.

Find this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Talk about an empowering novel! Carol (aka Captain Marvel) is on leave when an alien spacecraft appears through a rip in space and heads straight for a crash landing. She stops the craft and tosses it in the river to deal with the flames. When a girl appears through the hatch asking “Did I find you? Are you her?” Carol has no idea what she’s talking about. She decides to oversee the survivor’s treatment and takes her to their headquarters.

There she learns the girl’s name, Rhi, and her story. Rhi was part of the Inhuman group that left New Attila for a new world where they could live by their beliefs. However, they stumbled upon a planet where men fear women with powers and they either killed or imprisoned the Inhumans. The girls with power were locked away and brainwashed into believing their only worth was to whichever male they were given. Rhi said the girls always reminded each other that they were strong so they couldn’t be brainwashed, but she had to go back to save them.

Carol is horrified by what she hears and agrees to help Rhi. She recruits Mantis, Ant-man, and Amadeus Cho to take Rhi back and liberate her family. Their focus is rescuing Rhi’s brother (Zeke), Zeke’s girlfriend (Atela, who’s pregnant), and Rhi’s girlfriend (Umbra). Rhi also wants to save all the Inhuman girls from the Maiden Houses. They form a plan on the way and immediately run into trouble upon arriving near the planet. Luckily, a last-minute call made by Carol is answered and help arrives from a friend. They survive to adjust their plan, but their plans never go as planned.

Rhi is a great character who, despite the odds, always rises. They try so hard to “put her in her place” but she always fights back, from stealing the president’s ship to hiding her real power from them. She’s focused on saving just the Inhuman girls and her brother, but she’s presented with new information and questions if it’ll be enough with the entire culture of the planet suppressing all women. She also struggles seeing somebody like Carol, a powerful woman with powers, openly use her powers and lead others, including men.

Carol struggles when they reach the planet and her ability to fly is taken because of a suppression weapon on the planet. She’s grounded for the mission so she has to improvise. Ant-man can’t use his powers for long, and Amadeus can’t change into Brawn. This changes how they can execute their plans.

It was inspiring how the girls fought against the brainwashing and how they looked out for each other, especially the younger ones who didn’t remember arriving on the planet. They all lost so much. The parents who weren’t willing to separate from their daughters were murdered, while they all watched. They could have blamed Rhi for bringing them to the planet (she’s the one who found it), but they don’t. Rhi blames herself for everything, but she learns to accept what has happened and make things better in the future.

The banter between the characters was fun and helped between the action and tense scenes. I enjoyed the team and how they interacted with each other. They trusted when others called them out (especially pointing out how Carol likes to rush in but doing so would jeopardize their ability to sneak into each section and free their targets).

There are so many valuable lessons in this book. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Captain Marvel.

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

Tell Me How You Really Feel

Author: Aminah Mae Safi
Reviewer: Renee

Summary

Sana Khan is a cheerleader and a straight A student. She’s the classic (somewhat obnoxious) overachiever determined to win.

 Rachel Recht is a wannabe director who’s obsessed with movies and ready to make her own masterpiece. As she’s casting her senior film project, she knows she’s found the perfect lead – Sana.

 There’s only one problem. Rachel hates Sana. Rachel was the first girl Sana ever asked out, but Rachel thought it was a cruel prank and has detested Sana ever since.

 Told in alternative viewpoints and inspired by classic romantic comedies, this engaging and edgy YA novel follows two strong willed young women falling for each other despite themselves.

View this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It took me a few chapters to really get into this book but I ended up enjoying it. Rachel is on a scholarship and aiming to go to college in NYC for film. I related to her personality, but I also got really annoyed with her (probably says more about me than her!) She’s very focused on her goal and expects others to see things her way.

 Sana is the definition of the perfect student, cheerleader, daughter, everything. She struggles with keeping her mask in place all the time in order to make everybody else happy. Her grandparents are disappointed in her mother and place their expectations on her instead. She’s always known what she’s wanted to do after high school, but now she’s questioning if it’s what she really wants.

 When Sana and Rachel first met, Sana asked Rachel out on a date. Rachel thought it was all a joke since she was the new kid on scholarship and there was no way somebody as perfect as Sana would be into her. Fast forward to senior year and Rachel is carrying all the filming equipment back to the office when it looks like she’s going to fall and Sana tries to help. Except the very expensive camera breaks and the film professor declares they have to work together to finish the movie. Things don’t go so well at first, but as they start spending more time together, they start seeing past their initial impressions of each other.

 Rachel starts seeing through Sana’s mask while Sana has increasing difficulty dealing with her family’s expectations. They start trusting each other, slowly at first. I enjoyed watching them go from hating each other based on their initial impressions to thinking they may not have judged the other well to realizing they have feelings for each other. Things get complicated when Rachel has to change her film against Sana’s recommendations and things escalate for both of them at that point.

 There was one character who showed up when needed but wasn’t really around for most of the book. It was kind of weird to me that he would just be there when one of them needed him. I was definitely hooked by the end and needed to know what happened with Rachel and Sana: their post-graduation plans and with each other. I recommend this book to anybody who likes contemporary, enemies to lovers, and not quite slow burn but more like slow realization and acceptance.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan

Hot Dog Girl

Author: Jennifer Dugan
Reviewer: Renee

Summary

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

  • She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
  • Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
  • Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
  • And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

View this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was so fun! I loved the ending and a few scenes near the end were just so perfect. Lou has a hard time accepting that the Magic Castle Playland, an amusement park that has always been there, is closing after this summer. It was there when she and her father needed to get away after her mother left. It’s been her summer job. It’s the one fun place in their town. She wouldn’t even mind wearing the hot dog costume again if it meant the park stayed open. She tries to come up with a plan to save the park, while everybody tries to convince her it’s time to say goodbye.

On top of the park closing, she has a major crush on Nick, a Diving Pirate, who also works at the park. He’s currently in a relationship with the girl who plays the princess so things are a little complicated, but she’s not willing to let that stop her. She’s also trying to set up her best friend, Seeley, so she can get over her breakup with her last girlfriend. It’s a lot for one person to keep track of so it’s no surprise that things don’t always go according to plan.

While explaining her latest plan to get Nick to notice her, he almost overhears everything. Luckily Seeley has her back, for a while. Seeley doesn’t think this latest plan is a good idea and tells Lou that it will backfire. Lou is determined to have the perfect summer and that includes being in a relationship with the boy she’s been crushing on, getting Seeley over her breakup, and saving the park. She’ll do whatever it takes…until it all goes wrong and she can end up losing everything.

I didn’t always buy into Lou’s schemes, but I really enjoyed the journey with the characters. They are all figuring out what they want since they’re almost out of school. There was one character that I felt deserved a little more attention based on her role early on, but overall I loved this book. I read the ending a few times because it was so perfect.

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins

Her Royal Highness

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: Royals #2
Reviewer: Renee

Summary

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairytale . . . or is it?

View this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is easily one of the best contemporary stories I’ve ever read! It has a perfect ending that stays with you. I loved reading about Millie and Flora’s relationship – from hating each other to maybe, kind of having feelings for each other. Millie is in a boarding school in Scotland because she loves Scotland and she needs some space from things at home. After insulting her roommate within seconds of being together, she finds out her roommate is Flora, the princess of Scotland. Oops.

Flora tries to get kicked out since she doesn’t want to be there and Millie ends up in trouble with her even though she is just trying to focus on school. The two argue a lot and try to stay away from each other but they have to work together for the Challenge, a yearly competition at the school. This year, instead of working in groups, everybody is partnered with their roommate. During the Challenge, Flora loses their packs and the two end up stranded. Millie was really looking forward to this event and is angry with Flora for getting her in trouble, again. However, while they are alone and without resources, they end up actually talking to each other and it looks like they could start to tolerate each other a little bit.

Millie quickly develops a crush on Flora but knows it could never happen. Flora is a princess, rich, and not exactly the nicest person. Millie is only there because she earned a scholarship. Flora is used to getting her way all the time and doesn’t have the same appreciation of the simple things that Millie does.

I love Flora’s personality. She seems hard and distant, but she has to be because people are always watching and waiting for her to screw up. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Flora keeps saying she doesn’t hate Millie and Millie responds that all Flora has done is judge her. Flora clarifies she’s just stating facts and that doesn’t mean she hates Millie. Millie decides to let it go.

It’s a fun, enjoyable read. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like or wish was different. I loved the different personalities of the characters.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Crier’s War

Author: Nina Varela
Series: Crier’s War #1
Reviewer: Renee

Summary

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

View this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 4,5 out of 5 stars

I received an arc of this book at BookCon 2019. It was the one thing I needed out of BookCon and I stood in line for as long as I needed and it was definitely worth the wait! If you like super slow burn (it hurt!) with enemies to lovers in a sci-fi world, this book is for you. 

The Automae are human-like robots (they have skin and organs) who basically rule the world. There was a war and they won so now the humans have to follow the Automae rules or they die. The humans are struggling to survive. There are different factions within the Automae – some hate humans and want them all gone, others think they can learn from humans and they should co-exist.

 Ayla has spent most of her life seeking revenge for her family, who were murdered by Automae. She finally gets a position at the House of the Sovereign where she plans to kill his daughter, Crier, to make him suffer as she did. One night, Crier is in danger and instead of killing her, Ayla saves her life. Crier decides to make Ayla her handmaiden. Ayla uses this position to feed the resistance information. She was taken in by the resistance leader when she escaped and has been working with them since.

 Crier wants to be more involved with decisions and is working very hard to earn a place on the council. She believes humans and Automae can live together peacefully. She often speaks up when she has an idea but this is looked down upon from her father. She starts questioning her father’s motives when she’s betrothed to Scyre Kinok, who believes all humans should be killed and new Automae-only cities should be built. Kinok doesn’t have the resources to do this, but Crier’s father does. So the two make a deal, and leave Crier and her opinions out of it. She doesn’t understand why her father, who claims to value human’s ways, would work with Kinok.

 After making Ayla her handmaiden, Crier begins to open up to her about her desires. Ayla is suspicious and continues to listen for information to help the resistance. The two reach an uneasy alliance as they realize they both don’t trust Kinok and think he’s up to something. Crier can’t stop thinking about Ayla and does her best to protect her, but that isn’t always enough. Ayla always seems to be around when Crier’s alarm goes off so her father and Kinok intervene. Crier defends Ayla and her father uses this as proof Crier can’t make her own decisions. Ayla hasn’t forgotten about her goal of killing Crier, but Crier unknowingly gives her information that would be very helpful to the resistance. Ayla just has to find a way around Kinok’s defenses to get the proof the resistance needs.

 There’s so much going on but it’s revealed slowly so I never felt lost or like there was too much going on. The world grows the more you read and the characters motives change as they learn more along with the reader. The ending is satisfying on one level, but also painful. It wraps up this part of the story well, but I really need the next book to find out what they decide (several options are opened to the characters near the end).

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Romanov

Author: Nadine Brandes
Reviewer: Marlou

Summary

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them… and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her. . .

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

View this book on Goodreads.

Review

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“No amount of age, pride, or maturity could stop me from loving my papa with the heart of a little girl.”

I hate to say this, but I did not like this book… This book sounded so interesting and I have heard great things about the author, but this was not the book for me. It could be that I’m just not one for historical fiction as I see that others absolutely love this book. I promised an honest review so here it is.

So we already know the Romanov family is going to die, it wouldn’t be historically correct if they all lived through this story, but their deaths didn’t impact me at all. By the time they died, I was already bored out of my mind and was only finishing this book because people had been raving about it.

This book is way too slow for my taste. The buildup to their deaths takes so freaking long. And when we get to the fiction part of this historical fiction book, I can’t say I was impressed with any of it. The magic wasn’t magnificent, it was rather dull, and then at the end suddenly the impossible is possible and ugh no just no.

I guess I can see the appeal of this book. The book is focused on the Romanov family (duh), but mostly on the family dynamics. All the characters are rather flat and uninteresting, but the family as a whole makes things interesting.

I gave this book 2 stars because it’s still well-written and I can see that the author did her research, but I really did not enjoy this book and I say that with a heavy heart.