Famous In Love – Rebecca Serle

I can’t say I expected to enjoy this book all that much. I watched maybe the first and second episodes of the TV show with Bella Thorne and it felt so melodramatic that I gave up on it. It’s not that the book version isn’t like that, but it just seems to work so much better than on TV. Oftentimes, I disagree. I mean, I did quite enjoy the first four books in The Vampire Diaries series, and Pretty Little Liars as well, but the characters on screen had so much chemistry and added something extra to the story that I was happy to make the switch from book to screen and stick to it.

But Rebecca Serle’s writing drew me in instantly. It’s as though she remembers perfectly what it’s like to be a teenager and have dreams and hopes and be confused and a little innocent and need guidance but also want to become our own person. Ouf, it’s a lot, yes, but most of those things, I actually still feel even as I’m about to turn 24. Some things are just universal and Rebecca Serle seems to have understood that quite well. It’s very easy to connect with Paige Townsen because she’s so ‘‘alive,’’ full of life and I genuinely wanted to see her succeed. I was rooting for her in her professional career and personal life throughout the story.

There are a lot of emotions in this story, so yes, it can definitely get melodramatic, but on paper at least it seemed like a genuine type of drama. It didn’t feel forced. It can get a lot at times, for sure, seeing that there is quite an intense love triangle present here, but hey my guilty pleasure-seeking side actually enjoyed it. Anyone who knows The Vampire Diaries knows how complicated the love triangle gets—and yet, you just can’t help but get sucked in because part of you knows what’s going to happen, eventually, so you kind of just wait patiently for the right characters to figure out that despite everything they should be together and stop at nothing to pursue their connection. This is how I feel with Rebecca Serle’s series. It’s full of clichés, but I can’t help but love it.   

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the free copy in exchange for an honest review! 

Satisfaction Guaranteed – Karelia Stetz-Waters

Selena and Cade. I have a lot of love in my heart for these two young women. These two imperfect human beings who are oh-so-different, and yet oh-so-meant-to-meet. And what an interesting first meeting they have—at Cade’s aunt’s funeral, where Selena pours her heart out in front of everyone. I knew right then and there that impulsive and emotional Selena and reserved and controlled Cade would have quite a few intriguing moments together.

This is a slow-burn. It’s a book that is meant to be enjoyed slowly, with a few cups of tea (and biscuits, can’t forget those). This is a good thing, because it makes Selena and Cade’s relationship seem to progress naturally and without rush. Even if they only have a month together, and a month is definitely not enough to know everything about someone, it is enough to get a feel of who they are and whether they bring out the best in us. What is beautiful is that Selena and Cade’s differences and shortcomings complement each other.

While I found their relationship to feel natural and progress in a realistic and effective way, I did not necessarily find the storyline itself and some of the characters and scenes to be all that realistic. Sometimes, it felt like the author wrote some characters or scenes or dialogs for humour purposes, than because it made perfect sense to the story or was the right element to include. For example, everyone fawning over Selena was a bit over-the-top, as was Cade’s entire family and the whole Alex business. I’m not saying that these elements could not exist in real life, just that all of them combined in one story was a lot.

The best thing about this story is Selena and Cade’s relationship, which is good because this is a contemporary romance so that’s pretty much the most important element of all, so if you are looking for a cute lesbian romance, you are knocking at the right door and do not hesitate to jump right in (don’t forget the tea and biscuits, though!)

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

Midnight Sun – Trish Cook

This was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t necessarily ‘‘excited’’ to read it, because it seemed dreadfully similar to EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, and even somewhat similar to FIVE FEET APART, both of which I read and really enjoyed but aren’t exactly dying to reread.

Yes, there are similar themes being explored, but MIDNIGHT SUN is its own story, not a copycat, and I had a pretty good time with it. Yes, Katie Price is allergic to the sun; however she can certainly go outside during non-sunny periods of time. Basically, she and Edward Cullen would really get along.

Unfortunately, most things happen during daylight—high school, general teen stuff: going to the mall, getting ice scream, etc. Yet, Katie cannot do these things, so she hasn’t had much of a life so far. Everything changes when she and her long-time crush Charlie Reed meet and have a pretty instant connection. Of course, this is cliché YA stuff, so I completely understand if you’re currently rolling your eyes. On the other hand, it is sweet and truthfully, Katie Price deserves some excitement in her life.

Now, she and Charlie hang out but she finds it hard to tell him the truth about her condition. She lies about a few things to a few people, which I certainly didn’t approve of and could see imploding a mile away. So, yes, some elements turned me off, yet the truth is that this book reads really, really well. The writing is elegant and concise without being apathetic and the author focuses on few but memorable characters. I truly felt like everyone had a personality and I completely agree that Charlie Reed is one of the sweetest love interests. He reminded me of the love interest in the first book of THE GALLAGHER GIRLS series.

Once again, MIDNIGHT SUN contains cliché elements, but it breathes of life and that alone should make it worth being picked up I believe.  

Sister of the Bollywood Bride – Nandini Bajpai

Allow me to take a few seconds to admire the beauty of the cover. Doesn’t it simply scream ‘‘READ ME, I’M WORTH IT!’’

In some cases, the cover completely represents the main character, Mini. Mini is full of life, energy, passion. She has a lot to think about and prepare to make her sister Vinnie’s unexpected wedding as magical as possible. She’s a little all over the place, and stressed, which can definitely be felt through the narration, but she is doing her best and I, for one, am proud of Mini for taking on such responsibilities.

That’s the thing with Mini. The way she acts and reacts can be very immature, but then you see her sacrifice her own time to find solutions to problems just so her sister can be happy and have a wedding she can remember for a long time. As immature as she can be, there is also a lot of good in Mini and she’s on the right track to become an accomplished and responsible young woman.

It’s quite fast-paced, as you may have already guessed based on my description of Mini. The story itself pretty much demands fast-pacing. Sometimes I did wish it slowed down more, in order to enjoy some moments, especially those that concern Mini, her love interest and her aunt. One thing about this novel is that, as charming as it can be, and as interesting an idea as it explores, it’s not 100% realistic. Maybe 30% of it is.

Even its imperfections—particularly those that concern the wedding—are quite far-fetched. But the love interest is the most unrealistic element of all. His and Mini’s relationship is entertaining for sure, and one I would not have necessarily removed from the storyline, but I felt like it fed off of what the author felt was every teenage girl’s dream. You know: gorgeous, rich, insta-love and more. But hey, it’s a story and can be enjoyed for what it is without reading too much into it. All that to say that if you prefer your YA contemporary stories to be at least 50% realistic, maybe skip this one. If not, have at it!

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Squad Goals – Erica J. Kendrick

Magic’s family members are all a bunch of athletes… and she’s not. She’d like dearly to be able to follow in her mom, sister and grandma’s footsteps and become a kickass cheerleader, but alas she falls more than she claps. Yet she isn’t one to quit, and this summer she’s aiming high: become a HoneyBee cheerleader and prove to everyone, most important her family and herself, that she hasn’t skipped the athlete gene.

Sometimes, as a reader, I was unsure if she was doing all of this to make her family proud or if she really had an actual passion and deep interest for dancing and cheering people up. Her family’s opinion obviously means the world to her and she certainly does not want to disappoint them. Regardless, it’s good to try things that we’re not necessarily automatically good at, and Magic is certainly here to prove that hard work and dedication, with time, show beautiful results. Slow and steady wins the race, right? She’s not one to quit after the first or second or third failed attempt at a cheer move.

Although, Magic is doing more than just try to achieve a dream of joining her school’s cheer squad, which her family shares. She’s also dealing with friendship drama—navigating between her best friend and new friends—, a new crush that totally seems out of her league, bullying from the other participants at the cheer camp and her own insecurities. Luckily, Magic is not alone to deal with all of this and she can count on her grandma’s ‘‘magic’’ pom-poms to give her strength, courage and remind her of her goals whenever she loses sight of them.

I think this is a cute and well-executed story. It has a lot of expected elements in a middle grade story, as you may have noticed already, but it is nonetheless an enjoyable read that one can finish in a quiet afternoon. I enjoyed spending time with Magic and doing my best to cheer her on from the sidelines. I’m also just generally entertained by stories involving sports. I do admit that I’m conflicted about whether it’s a good idea to feature the idea of ‘‘getting even’’ in such a story, as opposed to exploring the concept of ‘‘turning the other cheek’’ or ‘‘responding to hate with kindness.’’ As seen in the story, responding to embarrassment and humiliation with more embarrassment and humiliation leads to more embarrassment and humiliation, yet I’m not sure that Magic herself understood that. Overall, though, this was a relatively solid debut novel and I hope for more in the future from this author.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

Made in Korea – Sarah Suk

Love the colours.

Let me just start by saying that I would have loved to have gone to Valerie and Wes’s high school, which is so delightfully pro-entrepreneurship. At their high school, students are encouraged to start and promote their own businesses, with approval from appropriate staff members and an assigned mentor of course. Valerie shares a Korean beauty business with her cousin Charlie, and so far, they are running the school. Everyone loves their products, including me to be honest.

But Wes, the new kid, is starting a beauty business of his own, which proves to be quite exciting for their high school population, so much so that Valerie’s sales are quickly dwindling. Yet Valerie can’t afford to lose customers because she has a very specific goal she is trying to accomplish and she won’t allow anything or anyone to make her lose sight of her goal. Wes, too, has a plan for the money he is quickly accumulating, and soon enough, the two of them become fierce competitors. Enemies, even, depending on who you’re asking.  

This would make for a good Netflix movie. No doubt about that. It’s fast, it’s focused, it’s developed in a coherent way and, most important of all, it’s quite cute and romantic at times. There are some cheesy scenes, like being stuck in a room with your crush or seeing them through an empty book spot at the library that made me feel like the author could have been more unique. However, overall, I had an enjoyable time with Valerie and Wes. If you are the type to become completely enraged by miscommunication, you might want to keep this book a mystery forever. Otherwise, have fun!

Thank you Simon & Schuster for the free copy in exchange for an honest review. MADE IN KOREA will be out on May 18th, 2021!