book review, coming of age, contemporary, netgalley, romance, Young Adult

Five Ways to Fall Out of Love | ARC Review

My Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Title: Five Ways to Fall Out of Love

Author: Emily Martin

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 3/16/21

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Categories: Romance, Young Adult, New Adult, Contemporary

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…

Aubrey Cash learned the hard way not to rely on love. After all, Webster Casey, the new boy next door she’d been falling for all summer, stood her up at homecoming in front of everyone with no explanation. Proving her theory that love never lasts seems easy when she’s faced with parents whose marriage is falling apart and a best friend who thinks every boy she dates is “the one.” But when sparks fly with a boy who turns out to be Webster’s cousin, and then Webster himself becomes her lab partner for the rest of senior year, Aubrey finds her theory—and her commitment to stay single—put to the test.

As she navigates the breakdown of her family, the consequences her cynicism has on her relationship with her best friend, and her own confusing but undeniable feelings for Webster, Aubrey has to ask herself: What really happened the night Webster stood her up? And if there are five ways to fall out of love…could there perhaps be even more ways to fall back in?

  • Oh the drama of misunderstandings! This whole book is about miscommunication. Webster and Aubrey’s friendship falls apart because of a misunderstanding. It takes them a whole year to even discuss what really happened, but honestly they would’ve stayed enemies if Webster’s cousin Holland didn’t say something about it. I thought the drama was realistic. I can think of a lot of moments in my teen years when misunderstandings and miscommunication or lack of communication turned into some drama.
  • Aubrey’s parents have been fighting for years but it’s coming to the point where it is unbearable and they are separating. It’s no wonder Aubrey is so wary about love and very unsure what it means to be in love. Aubrey is cynical and she uses a scientific theory to gauge love.
  • My favorite thing about this book is Reese, Aubrey’s best friend. Their love for each other is apparent and Reese helps Aubrey loosen up. She made the story fun because the two of them together is comfortable, just like it should be with a bestie.
  • Triggers: divorce
  • I usually don’t mind love triangles but the one in this story made me cringe because Aubrey is basically into Webster and his cousin, Holland who is just a nice guy. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Poor Holland, he totally deserved better. It was just messy and so could’ve been handled better.
  • Webster is bi-sexual but for some reason the way Aubrey discusses this with him left me feeling uncomfortable. Aubrey tries to bring up college and how their relationship could change if he meets a guy. I mean…I guess she wasn’t worried about him meeting another girl…but a guy is problematic? It was awkward.
  • Some mature content: the characters do some sexual exploration like fondling and even masturbation, which is very realistic. I’m glad it didn’t shy away from that.

This book is more like a 2.5 star read for me but I did read this in one night, so it did keep my interest but mostly because I wanted to see if Aubrey’s character would grow. If you are more of a cynic about love or tend to lean that way, you may enjoy this one. I think I’m pretty cynical as an adult haha, but in my romance novels, I want it to be pretty hopeful and optimistic. I appreciate this story being realistic though but in the end it was just an okay story for me.

💙 ~ Yolanda

Blog tour, book review, bookish, coming of age, contemporary, E-book, romance, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR | How to Build a Heart by. Maria Padian

Welcome to the blog tour for How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian!

My rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: How to Build a Heart

Author: Maria Padian

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 352

Publication Date: 1/28/21

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Categories: Young Adult, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Family, Friendship, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

One young woman’s journey to find her place in the world as the carefully separated strands of her life — family, money, school, and love — begin to overlap and tangle.  

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

  • Izzy is going through a lot as a teenager. She lost her dad, her best friend is in a rough situation at home, her mom is working as hard as she can to make ends meet, she meets a boy and her family has a chance to have their own home through Habitat for Humanity. We see Izzy navigate life, making a mess of things by lying and just trying to cope and find her way.
  • I learned a lot about Habitat for Humanity and how someone earns their own home through reading this book. I always thought the organization was amazing, but I didn’t know about earning hours and such, so that was eye opening.
  • Izzy is bi-racial, half white, half Puerto Rican, but takes after her white father the most. In the story she deals with certain situations like racism within her own family, from her Crawford’s side.
  • Izzy isn’t perfect but I give her credit for trying in the end to sort of make it right.
  • My favorite part of this book is when her cousin Mark comes into the picture because Izzy desperately needs that connection to her father’s side. When Roz, her best friend, reaches out to her cousin for her – it helps her deal with some questions she had about her Crawford’s side. Mark helps her open up and calls her out on running away from her problems and lying. I also love Izzy’s mom who is a good person (she helps protect Roz as best she can), and works so hard for her family.
  • Izzy’s relationship with her best friend Roz was just not okay to me. They were tight in the beginning, best friends, and then Izzy goes for the guy Roz likes and doesn’t even bother mentioning any of it to Roz. Izzy comes off opportunistic to me because she doesn’t even mention running into Sam at all…I’d tell my “best friend”. I know she’s a teenager and she’s making mistakes, but I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t even just mention it…it really felt like Izzy was throwing Roz away for a new set of friends and life. Roz has her issues though and one of them being she almost physically hurts Izzy in anger. Obviously Roz needs a lot of help because of her the scars of her upbringing and it was awesome to see some people in the end help her out. I think what bothered me was that Izzy was about to just end their friendship and here was Mark and Betts willing to help Roz and they barely knew her.

How to Build a Heart is a journey of a teenage girl trying to find her bi-racial identity, deal with the loss of her father, searching for her place in the community, and also finding family and love. If you like stories that have romance, family and coming of age themes, you will definitely enjoy this one. In the end, we are all as imperfect as Izzy but we try to do the best we can.

💕 ~ Yolanda


Children’s Book Council: “Hot Off the Press: February 2020”

Latinos in Publishing: “January 2020 Latinx Releases”

Kirkus Reviews: “11 Early Books We Love”

Kirkus Reviews: “16 Books We Can’t Wait For in 2020”

“A Pretty In Pink story about grief, family, class, and first love.”


“This is not a polemic about racism but an exploration of what identity means… The force of Padian’s storytelling, the pain of watching Izzy’s worlds collide, moved me to tears more than once.”

Portland Press Herald

“Padian creates a world that the reader can easily dive into. Anyone who’s ever been a self-conscious teen will see themselves in Izzy.”

Book Riot

“A balance of vivid description and witty, discerning storytelling [gives] a refreshing zeal to Izzy’s first-person narrative… Padian’s How to Build a Heart encourages us to embrace our authentic selves by letting go, not only of secrets, but of the desire to hide parts of ourselves in hopes that others will accept us.”

Cleaver Magazine

“A sensitively rendered story, but also a fun read, brisk and engaging… Padian’s book demonstrates the importance of home as a source of support and identity for teens.”


“Complex, heartrending, and beautifully explored, How to Build a Heart is a deeply poignant read that is not only deep enough to move you, but wonderfully engaging and quirky.”

The Young Folks

How to Build A Heart is, at its core, a contemporary romance. But it also strives to be more than that. It’s a story of family, friendship, and the bonds that get us through… The novel is simple, sweet, and bursting with hope.”

The Fandom

“A potent coming-of-age story about the courage often required for pulling together multiple threads of a life to create an authentic self.”


“Padian’s latest book delivers an enjoyable story about how Izzy eventually finds her place in her ever-changing world… This book effectively captured the chaos that can sometimes come with being a young adult.”

The Daily Free Press (Boston University Student Paper)

“Padian shows again and again that a story is always more complicated and more ordinary than it seems.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Padian masterfully portrays the internal struggles Izzy goes through in her Catholic faith… An absolutely enthralling depiction of family and self-discovery.”

Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Padian creates a compelling world with relatable characters and deals with serious issues without feeling heavy-handed…An excellent classroom or book discussion starter. Hand this to readers who are ready to tackle these issues with a lighter touch.”

School Library Journal

“Padian takes a familiar theme—a girl hiding her background from others—and makes it fresh with her protagonist, Izzy Crawford… The characters around her are well-defined and support Izzy and the plot well. Throughout the novel, Izzy’s strength, candor, and humanity shine through.”


book review, coming of age, contemporary, E-book, romance

Maybe This Time | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Maybe This Time

Author: Kasie West

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 368

Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

Told over the course of one year and following Sophie from event to event, this delightful novel from master of romantic comedy Kasie West shows how love can blossom in unexpected places. 

  • It’s so refreshing to read a contemporary ya book after reading so much fantasy ones. I enjoyed all the elements in this book: enemies to lovers, small town girl wants to go to the big city, complicated family, and a tight best friend relationship.
  • Sophie and Andrew’s moments together span over a year. They are basically together in scenes when they work a big even in town. Sophie works as an assistant events planner and Andrew helps his chef dad with his website. They don’t get a long at first and I liked the bickering between them.
  • Sophie and her best friend Micah have a fun relationship! Thank goodness for Micah to help Sophie lighten up, especially when it comes to Andrew. They have their struggles but I love that their bond is hard to break.
  • Sophie’s broken family is due to her dad leaving their family. But Sophie wants to eventually leave too, but she doesn’t know how those plans will pan out. She questions herself: she doesn’t know if she’s skilled or talented enough to make it in design school.
  • I’m not sure that anything really resolves between Andrew’s dad and Sophie, but I guess it doesn’t matter, because Andrew finally stands up to him. Still, I just didn’t understand what his problem was with her.
  • The story is spaced out over the year – for example there was a wedding event, and then a fall festival and in between these events Andrew and Sophie never hung out. So there would be a month they haven’t seen each other and I thought that was interesting.

This was a super quick and enjoyable read. It was refreshing to read a YA contemporary romance since it’s been awhile for me! It was nice to see Sophie grow as a person and I loved her hate to love relationship with Andrew. I look forward to reading more from this author.

💘 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, E-book, Young Adult

Parachutes | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: Parachutes

Author: Kelly Yang

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 496

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, Sexual Assault, Racism, Classism

They’re called parachutes: teenagers dropped off to live in private homes and study in the US while their wealthy parents remain in Asia. Claire Wang never thought she’d be one of them, until her parents pluck her from her privileged life in Shanghai and enroll her at a high school in California. Suddenly she finds herself living in a stranger’s house, with no one to tell her what to do for the first time in her life. She soon embraces her newfound freedom, especially when the hottest and most eligible parachute, Jay, asks her out.

Dani De La Cruz, Claire’s new host sister, couldn’t be less thrilled that her mom rented out a room to Claire. An academic and debate-team star, Dani is determined to earn her way into Yale, even if it means competing with privileged kids who are buying their way to the top. When her debate coach starts working with her privately, Dani’s game plan veers unexpectedly off course.

Desperately trying to avoid each other under the same roof, Dani and Claire find themselves on a collision course, intertwining in deeper and more complicated ways, as they grapple with life-altering experiences. Award-winning author Kelly Yang weaves together an unforgettable modern immigrant story about love, trauma, family, corruption, and the power of speaking out.

  • I was really clueless about this term of parachute kids. This book was a learning experience for me on the whole subject of Chinese kids coming to American to live with host families to go to school here. I used to work in a college library and many of my student workers were female Chinese students, but graduate students, so they did their high school years in China. I do remember them telling me about how hard they studied and the pressures they had to deal with.
  • The wealth disparity in this story shows such a big gap between the kind of wealth Claire (parachute kid) has and Dani, her Filipina roommate, lacks. Dani’s mom is a cleaning maid and Dani herself works part-time as one too. They are Claire’s host family because they need the money. Claire is basically filthy rich by most people’s standard – but not rich enough to have their own private jet kind of rich.
  • Sexual Assault is a BIG theme in this book and a major trigger so please be aware of that. There is a situation with Dani’s debate coach, and then Claire experiences one with her boyfriend but throughout the whole story the boys and men (minus Zach) were really trash. There are some events that happen that help the two girls bond, but for a good time in the book, they aren’t very close.
  • The girls learn to find their voices to tell their truths and that’s the inspirational part of the book.
  • Triggers: rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, grooming, cheating, stalking
  • I understand Dani and Claire barely know each other and it stays that way throughout most of the book. I was hoping for a little more connection between them but then again, Claire does make friends with the other Parachutes.
  • I wasn’t feeling the Zach romance storyline – I didn’t think it was needed. Also, I think I got it that Claire and her friends were super rich, there was a lot of brand names and labels being dropped. Those parts definitely reminded me of Crazy Rich Asians.

This book was eye-opening to me because of the parachute kids in American schools. I have no experience with that, so it was good to learn. There are a lot of important issues covered in this book, especially when it comes to racism, classism and sexual assault. Though both Claire and Dani experience some traumatizing moments in this book, I liked that the ending was hopeful as they found their voices and told their truths. Overall, an important story to read about two different girls, who are strong in their own ways.


Blog tour, Book Excerpt, book review, coming of age, contemporary, netgalley, romance, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR | The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Welcome to the blog tour for The Code for Love and Heartbreak by. Jillian Cantor!

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak

Author: Jillian Cantor

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: 10/6/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Links: Harlequin  | Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Walmart | Google | iBooks | Kobo

Categories: Jane Austen Emma Retelling, Coding, Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, Dating App

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

In this contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born.

George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other, and Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Attention: took some time to get into story

World Building: high school romance

Writing Style: easy to read

Bringing the Heat: none

Crazy in Love: very slow love story

Creativity: I thought it was cool the story featured the Coding Club

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: parent health scare, bullying

My Takeaway: Sometimes you have to stop coding and get out there and have a little fun!

  • This was a super quick read and I could recognize it as Jane Austen’s Emma retelling right away, since Emma’s name is kept the same and the other characters as well.
  • Emma is fairly independent as her dad is always at work. Her mom had passed away and her older sister moved away for college, so a lot of the times, Emma is without family. She spends a lot of her time excelling at school and more importantly, coding. Emma doesn’t like social interaction much, she’s a homebody who likes to stay home and chill.
  • George is a good friend to Emma, and yes they get into some high school drama with the matchmaking app they create for the coding club – but I knew they’d end up to together…because it followed the original Emma story. Are there sparks? Not really? But it’s a friendship that grows into something more, something safe and perfect for Emma. His declaration was really sweet.
  • I’m glad the coding, STEM kids got the spotlight in this book. Coding is awesome and creative, just in a different way – but the little parts that come together to make the app was interesting to see step by step. They had to tweak it a few times to make sure it worked right.
  • Personally, I like a little angst in my rom-coms. I thought this was cute, not a little of angst, some drama yes, but it was slow to get into. I was bored at some parts.
  • It’s a retelling so yes, it was definitely predictable but I was still intrigued to see how the author carried out the story.
  • This is a perfect romance for teens. It’s pretty G rated and has that innocence of a first love.

I think this story showed us Emma’s naiveté in the world of dating because she has no real experience with it. Yet she still had the strong desire to succeed at creating a winning matchmaking app! Creating this app gave Emma the courage to go out and try new things, like go to a dance, make new friends…and even fall in love. Overall, I think this was a cute but predictable retelling of a Jane Austen classic.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Jillian Cantor is the author of award-winning and bestselling novels for adults and teens, including In Another Time, The Hours Count, Margot, and The Lost Letter, which was a USA Today bestseller. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantor lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

Twitter | Facebook | IG | Goodreads

Book Excerpt:


 I’ve always loved numbers a whole lot more than I love people. For one thing, I can make numbers behave any way I want them to. No arguments, no questions. I write a line of code, and my computer performs a specific and very regulated task. Numbers don’t play games or hide behind some nuance I’ve missed. I write an equation, then formulate a definitive and absolutely correct answer. 

And maybe most importantly, numbers never leave me. I tell this to Izzy as she’s sitting on her suitcase, trying to force it closed, having just packed the last of her closet before leaving for her freshman year at UCLA, which is exactly 2,764 miles from our house in Highbury, New Jersey. A number which seems insurmountable, and which makes me think that after this day, Izzy’s last one at home until Christmas break, we’ll be more like two strangers floating across a continent from one another than sisters.

 “Numbers,” I say to Izzy now, “are much better than people.”

 “You’re such a nerd, Em,” Izzy says, but she stops what she’s doing and squeezes my arm affectionately, before finally getting the suitcase to zip. She’s a nerd, too, but not for numbers like me—for books. Izzy is running 2,764 miles away from New Jersey to read, to major in English at UCLA. Which is ridiculous, given she could’ve done the same at Rutgers, or the College of New Jersey, or almost any one of the other sixty-two colleges in our state, any of which would’ve been within driving distance so we could’ve seen each other on weekends. Izzy says she’s going to California for the sunshine, but Dad and I both know the real reason is that her boyfriend, John, decided to go to UCLA to study film. Izzy chose John over me, and that part stings the most. 

“I can’t believe you’re actually going,” I say, and not for the first time. I’ve been saying this to Izzy all summer, hoping she might change her mind. But now that her suitcase is zipped, it feels like she’s really leaving, and my eyes start to well up. I do love numbers more than people. Most people.

 Izzy and I are only seventeen months apart, and our mom died when we were both toddlers. Dad works a lot, and Izzy and I have barely been apart for more than a night in as long as I can remember, much less months.

 She stops messing with her suitcase now, walks over to where I’m sitting on her bed and puts her arm around me. I lean my head on her shoulder, and breathe in the comforting scent of her strawberry shampoo, one last time. “I’m going to miss you, too, Em,” she says. “But you’re going to have a great senior year.” She says it emphatically, her voice filled with enthusiasm that I don’t believe or even understand. 

“You really could stay,” I say. “You got into two colleges in New Jersey.” This has been my argument to her all summer. I keep thinking if I say it enough she really will change her mind. But even as I say it, I know it’s probably too late for her to change anything for fall semester now, no matter how much I might want her to. And she just looks back at me with worry all over her face. 

“Em, you know I can’t.” 

“Can’t or won’t?” I wipe my nose with the back of my hand, pulling away from her. 

She leaves me on her bed, and goes back to her suitcase. She shifts it around, props it upright and then looks back at me. “You know what you need?” she says, breathing hard from managing the weight of her entire life, crammed inside this giant suitcase. “To get out there this year. Be more social. Get some friends. Maybe even a boyfriend.”

 “A boyfriend?” I half laugh, half sniffle at the ridiculousness of it. 

“If you keep busy, you won’t even notice I’m gone.” She speaks quickly, excitedly. There’s nothing Izzy likes more than a good plan, but this sounds terrible to me. “Christmas will be here before you know it—” she’s still talking “—then next year, you’ll be off to college, too.”

 Maybe that would be true for her, if I were the one leaving, and if she were staying here. If I were the older one, leaving for California first, Izzy would stay here, spend the year with John and barely even notice my absence. Which is what I guess she’s about to do at UCLA. But I’ve always needed Izzy much more than she’s needed me. 

“I hate being social. And I don’t want a boyfriend,” I say. “And anyway, you know what the boys are like at our high school. No thanks.” Mostly, they’re intimidated by me and my penchant for math, and I find their intimidation so annoying that I can barely even stand to have a conversation with them, much less a date. And the few that aren’t? Well, the one that isn’t—George—is my equal and co-president of coding club. He also happens to be John’s younger brother. We’re something like friends, George and I. Or maybe not, because we don’t really hang out outside of family stuff, school or coding club, and I guess in a way we’re supposed to be rivals. One of us will for certain be valedictorian of our class this year. The other will be salutatorian. And knowing George, he’s going to be more than a little bit annoyed when he’s staring at my back during graduation. 

“You love numbers so much and you’re so good at coding,” Izzy says now with a flip of her blond curls over her shoulder. She wheels the suitcase toward her bedroom door and stops and looks back at me. “You could always code yourself a boyfriend.” She shrugs, then laughs a little, trying to make this moment lighter. 

I don’t even crack a smile. “That’s a really ridiculous thing to say,” I tell her. “Thank God you’re going to be an English major.”

 But later, after it all fell apart, I would blame her. I’d say that it was all Izzy’s fault, that she started the unraveling of everything with her one stupid offhand comment on the morning that she left me.

Excerpted from The Code For Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor Copyright © Jillian Cantor. Published by Inkyard Press.

Blog tour, book review, coming of age, contemporary, romance, Young Adult

BLOG TOUR | Smash It! by. Francina Simone

Welcome to the blog tour for SMASH IT! by. Francina Simone.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Smash It!

Author: Francina Simone

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 269

Publication Date: 9/22/20

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Buy Book Here: Amazon | B & N | IndieBound | Books-A-Million | AppleBooks | GooglePlay

Categories: Coming of Age, Romance, Drama Club, Theater, Identity, Sex, Body Image, Family, Friendship

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why, God, why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me. 

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned? 

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”  

A lot, apparently.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Let’s break it down:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Orlando, Florida

Writing Style: raw and relatable

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: love triangle…sorta…

Creativity: It’s an Othello retelling, which I don’t remember much of – but I love how we get Liv who’s basically in a Desdemona situation

Mood: drama…and let’s talk about sex  

Triggers: cheating, negative body image, insecurity

My Takeaway: F#ck it lists are great! As long as you don’t take it too far.

  • I liked being in Liv’s thoughts because we get to see her insecurities. Being a teen is all about insecurities! She’s best friends with two guy, one of which she is in love with – but maybe in honesty she’s attracted to both. Confusing? Can’t pick a lane? Yeah maybe, but she’s trying something new – it’s a year of saying YES to things that make her scared, or like she says…a year of F#ck Its. She writes a f#ck it list, and it leads her to so many new experiences. She’s a teen, making mistakes – and oh so relatable.
  • There is a lot of sex talk in this story – and not adults talking, teens talking and honestly I can’t say that my friends and I talked that honest about sex in high school. I WISH. It was the 90’s and we had songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex”…which was awesome, but I only talked about it when I went to college and let me tell you, it was a relief to have friends you can talk to about sex.
  • Lennox and Jackie become Liv’s first female friends! Liv grows a lot when she opens herself up to more experiences like auditioning for Othello and hanging out with the drama kids. I totally loved Lennox’s vibe – she wasn’t ashamed of her love of sex. But I thought it was cool that it was okay to be like Liv too – unsure about sex and not into something casual.
  • Diversity abounds in this book – we have POC characters, and bisexual representation. Now Liv isn’t someone exposed to much it seems – she’s shocked about Lennox’s sexual freedom, embarrassed at Jackie’s loudness at being black and proud (Jackie is from Atlanta). Mind you Liv is black but her mom taught her to basically be quiet about it. Her new black friends help her to embrace her body image and identity.
  • This story touches so many topics about identity, body image, race, cheating, sex, love, friendship and family.
  • I love how real the characters are. It’s the first book I’ve read from this author, but now I’m curious to read more. It had me laughing out loud at many parts because I felt like the characters were so relatable!
  • If you don’t like love triangles, this book may put you off. It’s not a “love” triangle, per se, she knows who she loves but it’s complicated. I thought the guys were fun, but at times I did want her to stand up for herself when she tried to shine within their little trio. I think the mistakes come when Liv is trying to figure out love, lust, like, etc…and it’s okay that she’s confused.
  • Liv’s problems become messy when certain events take place…I was happy with the conclusion, but this won’t work for some people. I would have equally happy if she ended up with no guy and just happy she had new girlfriends!

Smash It! is an engaging, drama-filled, coming of age story of a girl named Liv caught between trying to find her identity, loving herself – imperfections and all, and opening herself up to new experiences. Liv makes some mistakes along the way but with a new outlook on life and some new friends, she finds the strength to own up to it. This one got me cackling out loud and reminded me how we always make mistakes in life, we just better recognize it and fix it when they do happen.

💕 ~ Yolanda

About the Author:

Francina Simone believes in one thing: authenticity. She writes YA stories full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood. Her craft focuses on stories about girls throwing caution to the wind to discover exactly who they are and what it means to love. Francina is also known for her BookTube channel, where she discusses controversial topics in books.

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | YouTube

book review, contemporary, romance, Young Adult

ARC Review | A Love Hate Thing

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: A Love Hate Thing

Author: Whitney D. Grandison

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: January 7, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

When they’re stuck under one roof, the house may not be big enough for their hate…or their love.

When Tyson Trice finds himself tossed into the wealthy coastal community of Pacific Hills, he’s ready for the questions, the stares and the feeling of not belonging. Not that he cares. After recovering from being shot and surviving the rough streets of Lindenwood, he doesn’t care about anyone or anything, much less how the rest of his life will play out.

Golden girl Nandy Smith has spent most of her life building the pristine image that it takes to fit in when it comes to her hometown Pacific Hills where image is everything. After learning that her parents are taking in a troubled teen boy, Nandy fears her summer plans, as well as her reputation, will go up in flames. 

Now with Trice living under the same roof, the wall between their bedrooms feels as thin as the line between love and hate. Beneath the angst, their growing attraction won’t be denied. Through time, Trice brings Nandy out of her shell, and Nandy attempts to melt the ice that’s taken Trice’s heart and being. Only, with the ever-present pull back to the Lindenwood streets, it’ll be a wonder if Trice makes it through this summer at all.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

Nandy is the most popular girl in town and she’s preparing for her big cotillion debut when a boy name Trice comes to live with her and her family. Trice is from a rougher neighborhood, one that Nandy and the rest of her crew looks down upon. Trice has pretty much lost everything and now lives in an affluent town where he stands out like a sore thumb. Will Nandy keep her cool when Trice threatens to throw her off her game? Think of The O.C. or Laguna Beach, because A Love Hate Thing is drama-filled.

  • Trice’s story is emotional and I felt for him. How do you go from having your whole family killed to moving to a rich neighborhood and having a completely new life? I liked the glimpse we get of his Lindenwood life. Trice as a character is a cool kid, it doesn’t seem like much phases him about the lifestyle in Pacific Hills. He is a very interesting character – he is smart and has a talent for writing yet the dark side of his Lindenwood past haunts him.
  • The difference between Pacific Hills and Lindenwood is magnified in this story. Nothing in Nandy’s perfect life in Pacific Hills comes close to being anything as significant as what Trice has had to go through. The author did a good job with depicting the two different towns and how Nandy and Trice represented their neighborhoods. Nandy is the queen of her group and Trice comes in reminding her sometimes appearances does not matter at all.
  • The Smiths are good people with big hearts. I’m glad Trice had someone to take him in even though Nandy was so inhospitable at first. As for his past in Lindenwood, I’m glad Prophet set him straight about making most of his second chance in life.
  • Personally, for me – this story had too much Pacific Hills drama. I felt like Trice’s story was so strong, but when it came to Nandy and her friends I had to skip a lot of it because it seemed so trivial. It was like night and day in the book and though Trice’s story drew me in – Nandy’s turned me off.
  • Nandy is so unwelcoming towards Trice in the beginning. Can we say two-faced? She’s miss popular, queen of Pacific Hills, and supposedly so nice to everyone…except Trice, because he cramped her style? 🙄 When she finally realized she’s being a Queen B towards Trice and decides to be nice to him – I was so over it.
  • The enemies to lovers trope in this story was a love hate thing. But Nandy has a boyfriend and it’s a relationship for status basically so I was not feeling her and Trice getting together.
  • Triggers/Warnings: Violence, and lots of cursing in this book- but it’s real-talk especially when Trice is around his boys in Lindenwood.

Sadly, this book wasn’t for me. I loved getting to know Trice and see his character grow while dealing with the changes in his life, but I did not connect to Nandy at all. I skimmed a lot of the book after I was forty percent in because I thought a lot of the high school drama was so silly compared to what Trice was going through. I’m pretty sure there will be many people that would enjoy this book, but for me it fell a little flat.

book review, coming of age, contemporary, Young Adult

Book Review | The Sound of Drowning

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Sound of Drowning

Author: Katherine Fleet

Format: Hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 377

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Grief

Meredith Hall has a secret. Every night she takes the ferry to meet Ben, her best friend and first love. Though their relationship must remain a secret, they’ve been given a second chance, and Mer’s determined to make it work. She lost Ben once before and discovered the awful reality: she doesn’t know how to be happy without him…

Until Wyatt washes ashore―a brash new guy with a Texas twang and a personality bigger than his home state. He makes her feel reckless, excited, and alive in ways that cut through her perpetual gloom. The deeper they delve into each other’s pasts, the more Wyatt’s charms become impossible to ignore.

But a storm is brewing in the Outer Banks. When it hits, Mer finds her heart tearing in half and her carefully constructed reality slipping back into the surf. As she discovers that even the most deeply buried secrets have a way of surfacing, she’ll have to learn that nothing is forever―especially second chances.

Wow – so this was an unexpected read. Why did I borrow it? I’m a sucker for pretty fonts and graphics. Like…I’m that person who can go to those font store sites and scroll through font bundles and by ones on sale because I NEED that font…(for what, I don’t know…). I have like 500+ fonts on my computer! 🤣 Off tangent, I know…but the cover of this book is SO me.

Meredith has a dilemma, she’s in love with one guy and meets another guy who awakens things in her and sees her for who she is and likes her regardless. But she has a lot of secrets going on. Something happens in her past that has broken her, can Mer come back from the grips of the darkness trying to drown her?

  • This is not your typical YA romance story. I thought it was because of the cover and blurb. But no, no, no, it has romance but it’s more than that. There is a twist in this story that surprised me.
  • There are some deep issues going on in this book. Grief, forgiveness, and just learning cope and to move on. But what kind of stood out to me is the strained relationship between Mer and her mom. I related to Mer a lot, especially with her mom because I never thought any of my parents understood me when I was a teen. I remember that horrible feeling of disappointing them. But as a mom now, I also understand the scene when her mom actually tries to explain how she feels. Ugh…it kind of gutted me. The misunderstandings between parents and their own children can become such big issues.
  • Wyatt, the guy Mer meets is such a charming, funny character – he really comes to life in this story.
  • Mer is going through so much with no one to really turn to. She put all her life into one boy, Ben. Like I said, thinking about when I was a teen…I remember that feeling of thinking one boy was everything to me and how devastating it would be to lose that person. As an adult reading this, I was like her mom lecturing her about being too young and in love. Ahhh! I was just like, I am Mer and her mom…have I come full circle? My kids aren’t even teens yet! 🤣
  • This is an emotional read, it made me cry because some parts triggered me. It is a journey into a girl’s depression after some really tough events in her life.
  • Meredith is not a likable character but I totally understand her. She’s seventeen and went through some stuff but we don’t KNOW what until later. She’s cynical (but I am too, life does that to you sometimes haha), she’s a loner…but there is a reason, you just have to be interested in as to why and keep on reading. At times she comes off selfish but she’s young, she also has low self-esteem and trouble making friends before she dates Ben. So there are things happening that lead up to where she is at mentally.
  • Triggers: grief, depression, attempted suicide
  • Then ending is a surprise twist, so there is a few chapters mentioning secret about Meredith’s past that isn’t revealed until later in the book. I did at some points wish the secret would just be revealed…like come on! But this story required some patience and it keep me reading for sure.

I enjoyed this story and finished it in one sitting because it was atmospheric with the Outerbanks setting of North Carolina. I also needed to know what Mer’s secret was. I also really loved Wyatt, he infused some humor into this story and that surprise ending did its job to make me say…whoa. This book is emotional, there is grief, there is pain, but there is hope for a second chance at happiness also.

book review, contemporary, romance, Young Adult

Book Review | Rules We’re Meant To Break

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Rules We’re Meant to Break

Author: Natalie Williamson

Format: Hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 293

Categories: Romance, Young Adult, Contemporary, Family

Rule #1: Don’t get attached.

Amber lives by strict rules to survive her mother’s love life: Always keep your eyes on the horizon and never get close to anyone connected to Mom’s boyfriends.

But after they move in with Kevin, the latest of her mom’s “soul mates,” the rules become increasingly difficult to follow. Kevin’s daughter, Cammie, keeps acting like Amber’s friend, even though she’s definitely not. And Jordan—star basketball player, hottest boy in school, and Cammie’s best friend—keeps showing up at the most inconvenient moments.

Amber has reasons for every one of her rules, and following them is the only way to protect her heart when her mom inevitably moves on. But as she spends more time with Kevin, his daughter, and especially Jordan, she starts to wonder if the rules might be worth breaking this time.

My daughter saw this book at the library and chose it for me because it had a pink heart on the cover. I indulged her and borrowed it, yes she’s only 2 1/2 years old…haha, how could I say no? And yes her favorite color is PINK. 💞 I figured I needed a YA contemporary book since I’ve been reading a LOT of dark fantasy books lately. But I do love this cover.

Rules We’re Meant to Break has a slow and sweet romance but the romance is not the only focus of the story. Amber and her mother’s relationship is the main problem in this book, and because of it Amber created a set of rules to protect herself against her mom’s poor dating habits. But now it may be time to break those rules.

  • This is a quick and light contemporary novel. Though it dealt with some relationship problems with Amber and her mom, it never got heavy on the topics. Which was perfect for what I needed right now.
  • Amber’s dog Buffy is adorable and I like how Amber wants to study Behavioral science when she goes to college.
  • The romance was slow and super sweet which was cute. Amber and Jordan’s relationship grew steadily and in the end they get a happily ever after.
  • I liked seeing Amber and Cammie (her mom’s boyfriend’s daughter) relationship grow from awkwardness to friends. I’m glad Amber started to let people in even if she was afraid of getting hurt.
  • I wished Amber talked to her mom about how she felt about all the dating and bringing men into Amber’s life. I get her mom’s life is her own, but Amber was affected too and that sucked. The only time they mentioned anything of it was when her mom found the “rules” accidentally.
  • The characters in this book were kind of bland.
  • And the rules…I mean I get why Amber wrote them, to cope with all the changes she had to deal with each time her mom changed boyfriends but I didn’t even remember any of the rules except the not being nice to mom’s boyfriend rule. Because she was pretty distant with Kevin, rightfully so, but he was trying his best without knowing about Amber’s feelings.

This was a very quick read and for the most part I liked it. The story gave some insight on how a teen would feel with a parent who is dating or how blended families work, awkwardly at times. There was just enough drama that was pretty much resolved with just a little communication between everyone and the romance was super cute. Overall it’s a pretty good debut novel.

book review, coming of age, contemporary, romance, Young Adult

Book Review | Happy Messy Scary Love

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Happy Messy Scary Love

Author: Leah Konen

Format: Hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 267

Categories: Romance, Coming of Age, Young Adult, Contemporary

As everyone at her Brooklyn high school announces their summer adventures, Olivia harbors a dirty secret: Her plan is to binge-watch horror movies and chat with her online friend, Elm. Olivia and Elm have never shared personal details, apart from their ages and the fact that Elm’s aunt is a low-budget horror filmmaker. Then Elm pushes Olivia to share her identity and sends her a selfie of his own. Olivia is shocked by how cute he is! In a moment of panic, assuming she and Elm will never meet in real life, she sends a photo of her gorgeous friend Katie. But things are about to get even more complicated when Olivia’s parents send her to the Catskills, and she runs into the one person she never thought she would see. This sweet and funny summertime romance is perfect for fans of Love and Gelato and The Unexpected Everything.

Happy Messy Scary Love is a cute, light-hearted, young adult romance about a horror movie fan named Olivia who unexpectedly meets her online friend and fellow horror lover, Elm. Instead in real life his name is Jake. There’s a bit of unintentional catfishing going on and yeah, all Olivia needed to do was come clean, but….well, we all have fears right?

Olivia pretty much has a good life, attends an amazing school in Brooklyn, and has cool friends. The only problem she has really is deciding what to do after she didn’t get into NYU. I did relate to her when she didn’t believe in herself enough to start writing the horror movie screenplay she’s been dying to write. When everyone around her seem so focused and ambitious, she flounders and feels like a loser, which is harsh – but haven’t we all been there? Especially in our teen years? Eventually, Olivia learns a few things about being brave at her new summer job and along with Jakes help, starts to believe in herself again.

The romance between Jake and Olivia is cute, and clearly built on lies – but I was rooting for the situation to have a happy ending. It’s rare you see a couple in a book bonding over horror movies, but I enjoyed that and thought it was refreshing! I’m too afraid to watch horror movies, but I grew up in the 80’s and was forced to watch horror movies because of my older male cousins. And even though I hated it, my favorite was Poltergeist. 👻 I know horror movies have come a long way since then!

This book clocks in at under 300 pages, so I got through it in one night. Overall, I thought it was a quick, cute and fun story, suited for horror movie fans and non-fans as well.