Monday, May 7, 2018

April 2018 Reads // Romance + Netgalley Picks

It's BOOK DAY! :) I read a looot of books last month, so let's get right to it! :)

Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin by Mariana Zapata

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

This story follows Gaby who's recently been dumped, is living with her parents, and doesn't know what to do next with her life. When her twin brother asks her to come on tour with their band to sell merch, she jumps at the chance to make a little cash and buy time until she has to decide what she's doing next. While on tour she meets the other band they are touring with, and things get a lot more complicated when she falls for their lead singer.

I wasn't sure if I would love this, because I'm not super into the "rock and roll" plot... but let's be real, I'm not super into sports based romance plots either. So it really doesn't matter! LOL. BUT I quite liked this one. I thought that it was fun to read something where the characters were in such a unique situation. (being on tour together) I liked that unlike Lukov, this one wasn't an enemies to lovers type of book. (not that I dislike that, just that I didn't want the books to be too similar). I liked Gaby's relationship with her brother and their friends, Zapata's female characters are so forward and crass.. it cracks me up. But that's definitely not me. I liked Gaby and Sacha's relationship. I like that the characters in Zapata's books don't really do instalove. It's so nice that they get to know each other quite a bit before they end up together. I thought this one was a little bit steamier than Lukov, fyi. I'm on a romance kick, and on a Zapata kick, so stay tuned. heheh

Yankee's New England Adventures: Over 400 Essential Things to See and Do by Editors of Yankee Magazine (Edited by Eric D. Lehman)*

5 Stars - I recommend if you are looking for a diverse travel guide to New England.

A book of things to do and see in the New England states.

This visually stunning New England travel guide by Yankee Magazine is exactly what you need to plan your trip to New England. Or if you are a New Englander, it is the perfect resource for planning many-a weekend trip to come. This book has wonderful photos that will make any travel-lover swoon. I love that the guide is broken up by state, and gives a little overview of each state before diving into things to do, see, and eat. It features specific cities, and specific areas that should not be missed. For bigger cities, it also contains a quick guide to food within the metro. Lastly, it includes a list of festivals within each state, listed month-by-month. Overall this is a great, thorough yet pared down guide to New England. I highly recommend if you live in the area or are planning a getaway anytime soon! -Available 5/11 for purchase!-

Act Like It by Lucy Parker 

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

When Lainie, an actress in London's West End, finds out that her play is not doing well... and a certain actor's bad reputation may have something to do with it... their agents suggest that they date to sell more tickets. What starts out as a grumpy agreement just might turn into something more.

Two disclaimers: 1) I think I read too many romance books in a row, 2) I'm having an awfully difficult time rating these books... Overall I really liked this book. Lainie and Troy were both interesting, and quite different from one another. I thought that Lainie had a lot of pluck, but wasn't as crass as some other female romance characters I've read recently. It was a good balance for me. :) I liked that they were stage actors, I found that a fun setting to read. I also really like the "fake dating to real dating" trope. My biggest complaint is just that it was marketed on Kindle as "Title: a slow burn romance"... but it's not very slow burn. A little bit, sure. But it doesn't take the whole book for them to get together. So I was a little mislead by that. Otherwise I really enjoyed it! I would definitely consider reading more of her books and more from this series.

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker*

3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy contemporary thrillers or mysteries.

This book follows Cass, as she returns home after being missing for 3 years. Her sister Emma disappeared at the same time, and now Cass's only goal is to find her sister. Told via an unreliable narrator this story will have you questioning what is true, what is not, and what actually happened to Emma and Cass.

I know I say this a lot, but I am not much for thrillers or mysteries. I find them a little bit boring sometimes, and I often find myself guessing "who did it" or the twists and turns in the plot. I read this in a day, so it is definitely compelling, but I found myself getting a little bored around 66%. Then by the time the rising action popped up... I was just kind of ready for the story to be over. I didn't find Cass to be that unreliable of a narrator... and I didn't really care where Emma was/what happened with her story by the time I got to the end. I enjoyed it enough, again, it just may not be my genre. If you like thrillers, you would probably enjoy this book, it's just not my cup of tea.

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

4 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy survival style plots and won't mind a bit of romance.

When 30-something Anna is offered a summer tutoring job in the Maldives she jumps at the chance. 16 year old TJ, just recovering from cancer, is not so excited to spend the summer away from his friends catching up on school work. When Anna and TJ's pilot has a heart attack, their sea plane crashes in the Indian Ocean. The two make it to an uninhabited island and must use their everything they have to survive, and hopefully be rescued. After years on the island, TJ isn't a kid anymore, and years becomes a long time to spend with someone without knowing them better.

I will fully admit that the shock factor of the plot made me want to read this book. When I found it for $1 at a used bookstore on our AR road trip, I had to pick read it soon! This book did not disappoint me. This book is told in alternating perspectives, which I found really interesting. There were some patches of time that were skipped over, and others that were very detailed, which felt representative of being stuck on an island for years. The entire first part of the plot centers around survival and living on the island. I was really interested in how they would make all of the details of life work without any supplies. From the more mundane (but necessary) things like collecting water, to riding out horrible storms, jelly fish wounds, and hemorrhagic fevers, I was very entertained. Then as their relationship developed I was really intrigued to watch them grow and change through their extreme new reality. It was crazy to me that the kept the teacher/student relationship for so long before feeling more like equals. Overall I think the romance worked. It's a little shocking, but not in a bad way. The only part that bugged me was (highlight for SPOILER) at some point they are trying to kill a shark that is keeping them from fishing and these dolphins come to the rescue AND help them pull the shark onto the shore. I could have lived with helping him get out of the water and away from the shark... but... I dunno. I mean I realize they had to kill it to be able to eat.. but... I dunno. Also related to the ending... did TJ *really* need time to "grow up" in Chicago without her. Did a few months of learning to drive, and getting his GED really matter? He could have done those things while he was with her if it was really that important. But I digress. Overall I really enjoyed this one!

Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures. Living the Danish Way*

3 Stars - I recommend if you are looking for a book that is more about someone trying out hygge in her own life than it is about hygge itself.

This book follows the author Charlotte Abrahams as she explores the concept of hygge in her own life. It is part memoir, part how-to, part Danish design resource, part philosophical discussion of happiness.

I struggled with reading, synthesizing, and reviewing this book. I love hygge, and so I was very excited to read this book. Once I started reading, I quickly realized that this is more of a memoir than it is a book about hygge. It was still interesting, but definitely not marketed correctly (at least as an ARC). Part of why this took me so long to read is that it really hops back and forth between subjects. As mentioned above it is part memoir, part how-to hygge, part Danish design resource, and part philosophical discussion of happiness. It was a little bit hard to "get into" as it switched around so frequently as to the topic and style of writing. I am not interested in design in the way that this book approaches those sections. I'm not particularly interested in the movements, specific chairs, where to get them, etc. I did, however, appreciate her tips on how to set up a hyggelig room. The sections on design were much too long for my taste.There is also a part where she talks about her struggles with dieting and eating which I felt were a little bit of a tangent. On the one hand it is good to draw from personal experience, and I see what she is saying. On the other it felt different. As I expected this to be more of a how-to type of book, or an explanation of hygge, it felt very very personal to me. Abrahams shares a lot of personal details related to her divorces, blended family living, family feuding, etc. It was a lot to take in, and while it explained why she turned to hygge and her journey through it... it felt like a surprise to me. There was also a rather long bit about the philosophy of happiness that eventually tied in to Denmark's rank as the happiest country in the world, but it took too long to get there. This is coming from someone who loves to learn and research, and took notes on the entire book. From time to time I really enjoyed Abraham's writing voice, the dry British humor is always something that I really enjoy. Toward the end of this book there were more sections that were both practical and actionable - which is how I prefer my non-fiction, so I really enjoyed that part. I think if you are interested in a multi-layered memoir/how-to/design/happiness book, go ahead and check it out. If you are looking for a book on hygge, I wouldn't recommend this one. If I hadn't been reviewing it I might have just skipped some sections. Lastly, I appreciated that she brought up that hygge is something that people of privilege enjoy. I agree with what she is saying, and am glad that she addressed it, but it was quite a short section and I felt a little un-thoughtfully (maybe just succinctly?) worded.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

3 - 3.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary YA.

Jessie has just lost her mother, and she thinks her life can't get worse. It can. Her father decides to re-marry and uproot her from Chicago to L.A. When she arrives in L.A. her world is completely different. She lives in a mansion, goes to a private school, and no longer fits in. When she gets an email from the anonymous "SN" she quickly forms an attachment to him. When SN feels like her only friend, she'll want to meet him more than ever. But is he more comfortable on the other end of the screen?

This book reminded me a lot of Simon Vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda. Emails from a secret admirer, she wants to meet him, he doesn't want to meet... etc. I think because I read Simon so recently I was a little let down by this one. It wasn't bad at all, but it felt really similar, and I really adored Simon. I thought that Jessie and SN's conversations were really cute and funny, but I wanted a little bit more of them! I felt like Jessie ended up having some friends and I didn't completely get her relationships with them, and I guess I didn't feel like I understood her personality very well either. Maybe it is because of the grief and life changes she is dealing with? I'm not quite sure. Overall this book was very cute, and a fun, quick read... but I wanted just a little more from it. After writing my review, I saw another review of this book... and she was totally right... there's a lot of girl-on-girl hate in this book. Some of it is directed toward the main character, some of it from her. It's a lot, and it's nice to see the opposite in fiction, so I hope to read more books where female characters lift each other up in the future!

Nowhere Else But Here by Rachel Cotton*

3 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary YA. The blurb is a little misleading, it's not very mysterious.

When Rose's schoolmate Theo goes missing, the entire school and town are searching for him. When Theo shows up on Roses's front porch one night asking for help, Rose can't turn him away. What is his secret and why is he asking for her help? When Theo is discovered by Rose's parents the two must figure out how to deal with the fallout and have a real relationship.

I was really intrigued by the blurb for this book, it sounded so mysterious and gripping. I was a little disappointed to find out that that part of the plot is only about 35% of the book. The rest of the plot centers around Jessie and Theo's relationship. If it had been marketed as a YA contemporary I think it would have been given a different rating, but I was just a little too thrown off. I think this is a good debut novel, it was cute and the characters were well fleshed-out, and I overall liked it... but I think the blurb was just a little misleading. I also think there were bits where they tell you that something happened, rather than "showing" it. Which is never my favorite.

Rescuing the Receiver by Rachel Goodman*

3.5 - 4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance. Think a Hallmark movie (cheesy) with some steamy moments.

Chris Lalonde is Denver's most famous receiver for the Blizzards. When he is caught doping with performance enhancing drugs, the Blizzard's owner sentences Lalonde to time volunteering at Rescue Granted, a dog shelter for difficult cases. Little does Lalonde know, he can't sweet talk his way through the volunteer process. The owner Hazel Grant isn't about to let him half-ass his volunteer sentence. The shelter is dangerously low on funds, maybe Lalonde is just what she needs to save her shelter.

I didn't know what to expect with this book, but it was really cute. It reminded me a lot of a Hallmark movie, but bumped up to something rated R. I thought that the plot was cute, and the dogs were adorable. I liked Hazel and Lalonde's relationship and that they played off of one another so well. I appreciated that this book wasn't just about the romance, it was also about each of their careers and family lives too. There was a wee bit much of football in it for me, but that's probably just because I don't really care for football. haha There is one book before this, but it's not imperative to read it first. I recommend if you like fluffy and a little steamy romantic comedies. -Available 6/11 for purchase-

Chasing Spring by R.S. Grey

3 Stars - I recommend if you like contemporary fiction that focuses on troubled pasts and messy family drama.

After Lilah's mother died, she moved to Austin to live with her aunt. Now that her aunt has taken a new job abroad, Lilah must move back to Blackwater, TX with her father. What's more is her ex-best friend Chase will be living with her and her dad. His dad has taken up drinking again. Chase and Lilah haven't spoken in two years. Will living together help them repair their relationship, or tear them apart?

This book was very quick to read, the chapters were super short, so I read it in between bits of The Hate U Give. I wanted to love this book, but I didn't. It was a little bit slow, and I found Chase and Lilah to be a little bit young for me. I don't know why, I read a decent chunk of YA, but Lilah was just SO angsty. I think because you don't know what happened with their past and mothers right away, but as the story goes, it really makes it harder to identify with their angst. Most of the time I just wanted them to communicate. LOL. It also wasn't very romantic, which I had expected. Overall, it was a quick and interesting read, but not one of my favorites. I definitely preferred The Beau and The Belle of the two I have read from Grey so far. :)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary fiction that focuses on tough and timely issues, and features diversity in characters.

This book follows Starr who leads two lives: one in her black neighborhood with friends and family, and another at her private high school where she is one of the only non-white students in attendance. When Starr leaves a party with her friend Khalil and they are pulled over, Khalil is shot by a police officer. Starr must deal with her double identity, current issues, guilt and blame, and normal teen issues as the story and the investigation into Kahlil's murder continue.

I had heard so many good things about this book, and FINALLY on the 3rd time checking it out, I was able to get it read. I love that this is an own voices book, and a stunning debut novel for Angie Thomas. I appreciate seeing more diversity in authors, characters, and plots -- especially in YA books. I loved how seamlessly Thomas writes from each of Starr's "worlds," how she gives so much depth to her character. My biggest complaint was just that the chapters were SO long. It's not a secret that I like shorter chapters more, and I find them more motivating to keep reading, but some of these were 30+ pages in length. Other than that though, I thought that this book was fantastically and vividly written, and tenderly deals with such a timely and devastating topic from multiple vantage points.

Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

Evie is a successful Hollywood agent who is married to her job. Carter is also a Hollywood agent, hoping to break into features. When they are set up to meet at a Halloween party, the two of them are interested but hesitant. When their companies merge, and they're competing for a job, things move way past complicated.

I had heard good things about Christina Lauren's books. They're meant to be quite funny and romantic. I didn't really know what to expect, but right away I liked their writing style! While it is a fun and fluffy read, the way it is written is quite smart. I loved having the chapters swap perspective back and forth. The Carter chapters were funny, I loved his relationship with MC. Bromances are the best. I found this to be a really modern take on dating, and I loved it. It felt real, fresh, and funny. I highly recommend this one if you enjoy romance, and if you love smart characters. There is a lot of lady power in this one, and Carter is adorable.

There you have it, tons and tons of books! If you want to see my spring & summer reading bucket list, check that out too! :)

Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books tomorrow. :) 

What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley!

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