Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (#3) by Jenny Han

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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?

I’m so glad I finally continued with this series, and I’m so thankful to Netflix for making such good adaptations that made me want to carry on with reading the books. It doesn’t often happen that I prefer movies over books, but it did happen with the first To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before book. I just preferred the feel of it on the big screen.

I had mixed feelings about this whole trilogy, and it was by no means perfect, but I still enjoyed it all the same. My love for the Song-Covey family grew stronger with every book, and it certainly grew with the events in Always and Forever Lara Jean. I also found the few scenes with Chris and the other friends/friends of the family warmed my heart so much, especially a certain roadtrip the girls went on.

Is this how it goes?

I still questioned Peter throughout this whole book, and I never quite fell for his character the way I truly wanted to. I understand they are both young and make mistakes, and no relationship runs smooth one hundred percent of the time, but I do wish Peter acted differently in certain scenarios.

I think one of the major factors of my love for this story comes from my adoration of Lara Jean. I see so much of myself in her. Her love for baking, reading and her family is exactly how I am. She’s a hopeless romantic, just like me, and I can only hope I have even a fraction of her cute style and all-around creativity.

You fall in love, and nothing seems truly scary anymore, and life is one big possibility?

These books are not perfect, but they truly warm my heart on cold winters days, and once I picked them up I couldn’t easily put them down again. They’re cute and fluffy, but they do their thing really well. I know I’ll pick them up again, and I can definitely see the movies becoming frequent re-watches. It’ll be great to see this final chapter on the big screen!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Meet Cute by Various Authors

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Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors. 
Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants. 
This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to short story collections, because they can be so hit and miss. But this one didn’t let me down, and overall I enjoyed all of the stories in some capacity. In some ways the stories being so short (20-30 pages each) was good, because I didn’t have to spend too much time on those I didn’t like as much.

I really liked the concept of these books, with each short story being about two people meeting, and you have no idea where the relationship heads afterwards. It’s such a cute idea, and leaves a lot up to the imagination of the reader! A few of these were LGBTQIA+ and diverse in other ways, including race and a plus size character.

‘”What do you think the difference between wanting to be friends and wanting to be more than friends is?”

As with anthologies, this book included many different concepts that varied by author. This was so fun – we had a lot of contemporary, but also some magical realism and fantasy! I’m going to go through each one to give my opinions.

Siege Etiquette by Katie Cotungo ★★

This story was about two people meeting in the bathroom at a party and kind of hitting it off. Unfortunately it felt flat to me, had a weird writing style I wasn’t used to, and I really didn’t see the connection between the characters. A poor start!

Print Shop by Nina LaCour ★★★★★

Thankfully, the book greatly improved for me with Nina LaCour, who frankly will never let me down. I love the creative idea, with the main character working in a print shop and meeting one of her clients when her order went wrong. Very cute with great characters!

Hourglass by Ibi Zoboi ★★★

I don’t want to give this a bad rating but the fact I don’t remember anything that happened is really not a good sign? It definitely wasn’t all bad, featuring a girl who doesn’t want to go to prom and her friend who does. Great diversity with a cute ending, but unfortunately very forgettable.

Click by Katherine McGee ★★★★

This one featured an interesting futuristic concept where people meet via an app in which they are matched with others. It reminded me of the Black Mirror episode Hang the DJ, and I really enjoyed it. It had a unique concept that stood out for me, and sent out a good message!

The Intern by Sara Shepard ★★★

Another one which wasn’t bad as such but was just lacking. Of course this book includes many stories and it’s hard to stand out from the crowd, and this one blended in too much for me. It was very insta love, with a celebrity and intern who worked at a music shop.

Somewhere That’s Green by Meredith Russo ★★★★

This story included a transgender character and a character struggling with accepting her sexuality. They had great chemistry and an interesting story. I loved the different PsOV, and found the characters compelling and touching.

The Way We Love Here by Dhonielle Clayton ★★★★

The only fantasy story in this collection and that definitely made it memorable! I’m not usually one for stories like this, but I really enjoyed it. The two main characters are born on an island where everyone has soulmate bands that lessen as the date to meeting their soulmate gets closer. It was so touching and heartwarming with enough twists to keep me on my toes.

Oomph by Emery Lord ★★★★

I read a review on Goodreads that describes this story as a Hayley Kiyoko song, and I cannot describe it better. Two girls meet in an airport, and one overcomes her anxieties to connect with the other. Overall, a fluffy and cute read that worked.

The Dictionary of You and Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout ★★★★

Another really cute read, but set in a library. Yes, the perfect setting for bibliophiles to read a romance story set in. This story was so sweet and touching, and I loved the awkward but adorable characters.

The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love – Jocelyn Davis ★★★★★

This story was definitely one of my favourites, and followed a girl studying the statistic of whether she was going to see a guy she was attracted to on the subway. I loved it all. The concept, the characters (the classmates were super cute), the setting. So well executed!

259 Million Miles by Kass Morgan ★★★

This one focuses on two people interviewing to be sent off on a mission to mars, and end up being locked in a room for 24 hours as part of their interviews. I loved the concept, but the ending really let it down. I just didn’t feel enough hope for these guys to be honest.

Something Real by Julie Murphy ★★★

This story was cute, and had really good elements, but I also didn’t click with it as much as I’d have liked. It featured two girls competing for a date on a reality TV show, and ended up liking each other instead. It was definitely the funniest of the stories, but something felt so cliche about it and let it down a little.

Say Everything by Huntley Fitzpatrick ★★

I had such high hopes for this story because of how much I love My Life Next Door, but ugh, no. It focuses on a waitress going on a date with one of her customers, and then finds out she has a weird connection to him. This one just felt kind of creepy and sinister, and didn’t work for me in such a short format? It needed more explanation to work!

The Department of Dead Love by Nicola Yoon ★★★★★

I loved this one. Of course Nicola Yoon wouldn’t let me down! This story is set in a futuristic world where you can have your memories of someone erased, have relationships studied by experts etc. and that’s what our main character thinks he wants. It had such a cute twist and I adored the concept.

‘”Some people you want to get to know and some people you want to know you. I think that’s the difference.”’

So overall, such a mix of short stories, but only let down by a few. I’d love to go back and read my favourites sometime, and it’s definitely a book you can just pick up if you want a heartwarming read.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Lady Midnight (#1) by Cassandra Clare

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It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Clare never fails to astound me, and I honestly think she may have nabbed my top spot on my favourite authors list! To prove a point, I started this book on Friday and finished it on Tuesday. And I know there are many fans who would have been able to read much quicker than I did, but for me, 5 days is pretty damn quick.

There’s something so special about The Dark Artifices, and it makes me constantly realise how incredible Clare is to write numerous Shadowhunter series with different characters and yet have them stand so far apart from one another. The Infernal Devices, The Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices all have very special places in my heart, and for different reasons.

“These pictures are my heart.”

I loved The Mortal Instruments so much, but I could very clearly see that Clare was developing her writing. Now on the third series, her writing is better than ever and it made Lady Midnight amazing for me. I could love no one as much as Tessa, Will and Jem, but I became so attached to Emma, Julian and his family throughout this book. The children are so diverse and vibrant and I love them all for it.

This book was full of twists and turns, especially after the initial couple hundred pages. I do think this book took a while to adjust to because it’s quite far removed from the other series, but as soon as it got going, I loved the differences. I literally couldn’t put this book down!

Also I would definitely like to point out that you really need to read Clare’s other books before this series! Not only would this spoil a lot for you, the cameos of other characters mean everything to me. I loved them.

“And if my heart was a canvas, every square inch of it would be painted over with you.”

I cannot even explain how much I adore the cast of this series. Each character was so great in there own ways and I admire Clare endlessly for creating such a vast range of characters. I can’t finish this review without a quick mention of the diversity in this book. Not only do we have gay faeries (and my favourite warlock you know who I mean), and a new Latinx Mexican friend who I adored, but also A CHILD WITH AUTISM. Ahh I could scream with how much I just appreciate this? Ty is so well represented, so well described and I’m so overly happy he is part of this world.

And I didn’t mean to descend into full on fangirling, but I think I managed to explain how much I love this book.

★★★★★ 
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: My True Love Gave to Me – Various Authors

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On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me …This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories set during the festive period, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. The stories are filled with the magic of first love and the magic of the holidays.

As this book is full of little stories, I’m going to review them all separately! This was such a fun read and it was perfect for the festive season.

Almost Midnight by Rainbow Rowell – 5 out of 5 stars
Let’s start this on a high! I’ve read this short story before and it’s honestly brilliant, 26 pages flies by with this year-by-year tale. It’s so simple but focuses on the characters which I adored, the ability to build characters in such a short amount of time is incredible. Perfect for New Year, as it’s set on New Year’s Eve hence the title!

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link – 2 out of 5 stars
Honestly, this one really didn’t do it for me. The only real positive is that it did have a Christmassy feel, but otherwise it was downright confusing and a little weird. I’m all for a little weird, but I just didn’t know what was going on. At all.

Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Pena – 4 out of 5 stars
This story was so cute! I’m all for Christmas fantasy, but adorable festive contemporary romance is where its at. This story is one of Shy and the girl upstairs over Christmas, and it manages to not only be cute but be raw and honest and kind of beautiful in such a short amount of pages.

Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han – 4 out of 5 stars
This story was so overwhelmingly Christmassy! You can’t get much better than a story set in the North Pole for Christmas, surrounded by elves. I liked the protagonist, Natalie, who was the only human to ever live in the North Pole. It made such a unique story which was so fun to read!

It’s a Yuletide Miracle… by Stephanie Perkins – 5 out of 5 stars
Perkins does it again! I remember this from Summer Days and Summer Nights – if anyone can write an amazing short, it’s Perkins. This story was unique, with likeable characters and a beautiful backdrop. I would read a whole book about these two happily.

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan – 4 out of 5 stars
I always find levithan a little hit and miss, but I really enjoyed this story! It’s about a guy called Connor who asks his boyfriend to dress up as santa to keep Christmas magic alive for his little sister. It was a really cute contemporary with a cast of different characters who I enjoyed reading about, however I do feel like too many conversations with different characters were fitted into a very short story!

Krampuslauf by Holly Black – 3 out of 5 stars
I’m really not sure how to feel about this one. Build up a quirky contemporary with a group of friends and a New Year’s party on a trailer park, throw some drama in and then sprinkle it with magic. I think the magic was my main issue, because it just felt forced and like a last minute edition. It threw the story off kilter and threw me off too. Very weird.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman – 4 out of 5 stars
Contemporary romance definitely suits festive short stories better than contemporary and a weird mix of fantasy. I’m still holding out for a full on fantasy though? Anyway, Forman really brought out holiday cheer with carol singers and pie and a little twist with Hannukah which I loved! It’s the story of (surprise) Sophie Roth, a college student who isnt yet home for Christmas. Its about new discoveries and making mistakes, and although it wasn’t perfect, I damn well enjoyed it!

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire – 3.5 out of 5 stars
I can’t say I disliked this story, it was Christmassy enough and enjoyable. But I just found it strange and I felt so disconnected to the characters! It followed a guy who had to do community service for a church at Christmas, which was an interesting concept but it just wasn’t all there for me!

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten white – 5 out of 5 stars
Yes! I didn’t think I would find another story to match Stephanie Perkins, but this one sure did. It follows the story of a girl who lives in Christmas, CA and their Christmas traditions. It was heartwarming, heartbreaking and heartfelt. All in 40 pages.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter – 4 out of 5 stars
Another story, another Christmassy town ! I really enjoyed this one too, although it lacked the depth that made me love Welcome to Christmas, CA so much. Still a unique and heartwarming tale of a girl trying to escape her life and ends up finding a family of her own.

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – 2 out of 5 stars
This was so weird?? I don’t even know what was going on? I stand by the fact that fantasy doesn’t work as well as contemporary in these kinds of situations usually – world building just isn’t possible in 30 pages. I didn’t properly understand the world or the story, therefore I didn’t enjoy it. The pages were used to explain the town rather than the characters, and I related only to the protagonist. It didn’t feel Christmassy either! It did have a satisfying ending, however.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it was perfect to start the New Year with. Although the stories are very mixed, it’s great to give new authors a chance with books like this one. Sure, I didn’t enjoy a few but that’s bound to happen. And I loved a number of stories enough to rate this book highly! I’ll definitely be giving some of these a re-read next Christmas.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Songs About a Boy (#3) by Chris Russell

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Just as Charlie allows herself to succumb to Gabe’s charms, the explosive revelation about her mother’s death threatens to pull them apart. Meanwhile, a media circus has exploded around the future of Fire&Lights – when they announce a US tour to show the world that they are stronger than ever, Charlie gets the opportunity to accompany them. New York City, here she comes! But it’s not all fun and games. Charlie is still feeling all kinds of awkward around Gabe and knowing that her mother’s last days were in America touring with her band, Charlie uses the opportunity to uncover some more truths about her mother’s death.
As Fire&Lights try to win over the world again, and as Charlie and Gabriel uncover the true story that links their pasts, will Charlie finally be able to follow her heart?

I can’t believe the thought ever even crossed my mind to dismiss these books as cheesy, trashy fanfic. They are so much more than that. I picked this 400+ page book up on Sunday night, and I had finished it by Tuesday. For me, that’s absolutely insane. And I’ve not exactly been at home all that time – I’ve been looking after the flat, going out and going to uni. But this book just absolutely flew by for me, and whenever I had a spare minute I would pick it up and dive right in.

That being said, I can’t totally dismiss the cheese or the trash. Because honestly, it does have those elements. It’s a bit like looking back on High School Musical. You can’t believe how cheesy it is, but you would watch it with your girlfriends any day of the week. It’s unrealistic, dramatic and far fetched. But goshdarnit, it is good.

This is for sure a complete guilty-pleasure read, but I can’t deny that it’s very well written. Every single character in this book holds their place and has a lot of depth, and that’s just so hard to do! To be able to build such individuality into so many people – especially the band, the management team and even Melissa’s family – is so impressive.

Being 19, I’m definitely way out of the target audience for this series. But the 13 year old inside me couldn’t put this down, and made me reminiscent of the simpler way I used to read. It’s perfect nostalgia for those years, of loving the sweet teenage relationships and band obsessions.

Unfortunately, I can’t put enough emphasis on the far-fetched concept of this book. Charlie is a 16 year old girl flying around the world photographing a band, with little to no equipment or professional photography training. As I’m studying photography at uni, this was a little hard to get out of my mind. No one around me would even dare to dream of having an opportunity like this, and most of those people are already starting their professional careers.

Overall, I would definitely say go for these books! Just make sure you clear your mind beforehand, and understand that this is going to be a drama-filled, unrealistic but wonderful rollercoaster. Sit back and enjoy the ride!

★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

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The stunning sequel to Gayle Forman’s international best seller, If I Stay – Now a major film starring Chloe Grace Moretz. If you had a second chance at first love …would you take it? It’s been three years since Adam’s love saved Mia after the accident that annihilated life as she knew it …and three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever. Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Julliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other. Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, powerful prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Sure, I enjoyed this book. I’d go as far to say I liked it. But loved it? Eh. Unfortunately, this book felt so flat and unoriginal to me. I actually really liked the concept of If I Stay, just because it’s not very often we’ll see a book written from the perspective of a ghost girl. But I felt like I’d read Where She Went way too many times before.

“But I’d do it again. I know that now. I’d make that promise a thousand times over and lose her a thousand times over to have heard her play last night or to see her in the morning sunlight.”

I really liked reading this from Adam’s perspective – it shook the series up and really worked. But I have to say, I had some problems with both characters. I didn’t appreciate how Mia treated him and I didn’t appreciate Adam’s attitude to most things, to be honest. I know we’re all flawed, but if so then this should have been more realistic overall and less like a fairytale. I felt flickers of emotion and warmth towards the couple, and I am happy with how it ended, but in the end I could have probably put this book down and never picked it back up again. It was predictable, and I just didn’t feel invested in the story.

“Or even without that. Just to know that she’s somewhere out there. Alive.”

Having said all this, I did enjoy reading this book. It’s quick to read and heartfelt from both characters. I did connect and feel emotion for them in parts, but overall I just felt…mediocre.

★★★
2.5 stars

-Beth

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Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Everybody has to make choices.
Some might break you.
For seventeen-year-old Mia, surrounded by a wonderful family, friends and a gorgeous boyfriend decisions might seem tough, but they’re all about a future full of music and love, a future that’s brimming with hope.
But life can change in an instant.
A cold February morning . . . a snowy road . . . and suddenly all of Mia’s choices are gone. Except one.
As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.

This book has been on my shelf for way too long, and I’m glad I finally picked it up. I actually really enjoyed this book, I found it so easy to read and ended up getting through it in a few short days.

“And that’s just it, isn’t it? That’s how we manage to survive the loss.”

I’ve never read a book quite like If I Stay. It switches between the MC being in a coma and ghost-like state, and flashbacks of how her life was before the accident. I actually really enjoyed the flashbacks, and it made the pages speed by! I found this book quite comforting in a way, and the flashbacks made me feel so close to Mia, her family and her friends.

The only criticism I have is that she didn’t seem very real? I know, I know, she is literally a ghost. But it wasn’t that that bothered me. I just found her dialogue/thoughts really strange for her age sometimes, especially in the flashbacks when she was still a child. I can’t remember an exact example, but one piece seemed so odd that I actually read it out to my boyfriend. Staying on this theme, the book was so cheesy that it came out with some really weird fantasies – including Mia playing her boyfriend like a cello, and even going as far to run her cello bow over his body. If anything, this made me feel so embarrassed and awkward?

“Because love, it never dies, it never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang on to it.”

But my complaints are only small. I did enjoy this book, it just wasn’t perfect for me!

★★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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