Thanks to PartnerS NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the digital ARC of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s See You Yesterday in exchange for an honest review. The book is out today!
I love a time loop story. Groundhog Day. Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. Russian Doll. And now? Rachel Lynn Solomon’s See You Yesterday takes its place among my favorites.
I’m regrettably late to Solomon’s work, but I’m so excited to read more—she excels at both YA and adult romance. In See You Yesterday, Solomon uses the time loop premise to explore exactly what a fresh start can mean.
Barrett Bloom has been convinced that college will be the best time in her life, a new beginning after the wretchedness of her high school experience. She’s entering college a loner whose best friend is her mother, but she’s determined that she’ll pursue a career in journalism, bond with her roommate, and generally just get her life together
Then, she finds out that her high school nemesis is her roommate, she blows her interview for the school newspaper, and she has a horrible experience in physics, a class she doesn’t even want to take. Add in a tragic ending to a sorority party, and Barrett has had a worse day than she could have imagined. She goes to bed, ready for a second chance.
And she wakes up in the same day.
Solomon makes great use of the pop culture references we all know as Barrett tries to figure out how to escape her loop. Eventually, she discovers that she’s not alone, that an uptight guy named Miles is looping with her. So they—grudgingly—join forces to figure out how to escape September 21.
I could not have loved this book more. Barrett is such a phenomenal character: she’s smart and somehow both optimistic AND cynical. She wants to believe that people are good, even though they’ve shown her, again and again, that they aren’t. As she and Miles try different ways of conquering the time loop (conducting research, doing good deeds, seeking vengeance, conducting more research), she starts to view both her past and her future through a new lens.
This is a brilliant novel that makes me even more eager to read absolutely everything Rachel Lynn Solomon has written. Do yourself a favor and pick up See You Yesterday right away!
Thanks to partners NetGalley and Berkley Romance for the digital ARC of Amy Lea’s Set on You in exchange for an honest review. The book is out today!
Amy Lea’s debut novel, Set on You, begins at the gym. Crystal Chen is a fitness influencer whose body positivity has earned her a huge instagram following, sponsorships, and a career as a physical trainer. She has good friends and loves her family, despite their concerns that her career isn’t stable.
Scott Ritchie enters her life with an act of theft. Yes, he steals her preferred squat rack at the gym. What begins with loathing slowly begins to change as Crystal admits first her attraction to Scott and then his other positive qualities. Since she’s coming out of a relationship with a man who betrayed her trust, however, she’s hesitant to start something new . . . particularly since Scott also just broke up with his girlfriend.
What I liked most about this one was the consideration of Crystal’s dedication to body positivity and her shifting understanding of what that phrase means to her and to her followers. She wants to be someone who is constantly confident and proud of her body, despite the dismissive and nasty comments she regularly receives. But is that constant confidence realistic? What is the best way to handle comments that tear her down?
Set on You will appeal to a variety of readers and is perfect for fans of enemies-to-lovers romances. It’s a fun, sweet, thought-provoking romance.
Thanks to partners NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital ARC of Ashley Schumacher’s Full Flight in exchange for an honest review. The book is out on February 22!
I absolutely loved Schumacher’s debut, Amelia Unabridged, sobbing my way through that gorgeous YA romance, so I was eager to read her second book, Full Flight. This one did not disappoint! This tale of young love and marching band set in small-town Texas made my heart happy.
Weston Ryan is an outcast in Enfield, set apart by his divorced parents, his leather jacket, and his disdain for everything but music. He’s also so, so lonely.
Anna James seems to be his opposite: she has a lot of friends, a close-knit family and protective parents, and an unrelentingly sunny personality represented by the Christmas socks she wears year-round. But really, she’s lonely too.
When Anna and Weston are assigned to play a duet in the marching band’s competition show, Anna is way outmatched. So, she asks Weston to help her learn the music, a simple question that ends up drawing them together and bridging their loneliness.
Schumacher has such a brilliant touch with characters: I could feel Weston’s reluctance to take a chance at trusting someone new, afraid that he might be left behind once again. And for Anna, keeping on that cheerful, overachieving mask has covered up years of never feeling as if she’s quite good enough. Their emotions are so real and so authentic—about each other, about the role of marching band in teenagers’ lives, about the power of music—that I just loved watching both characters work through their vulnerability to come to trust the other.
I actually hope that you haven’t read the synopsis of Full Flight yet because I think it gives away too much. I’ll just say that this is another book by Ashley Schumacher that I didn’t want to stop reading.
Thanks to partners NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the digital ARC of Sophie Sullivan’s How to Love Your Neighbor in exchange for an honest review. The book is out today!
Sophie Sullivan’s How to Love Your Neighbor is the sequel to Ten Rules for Faking It (check out my review here). That book was the story of Chris and Everly, and this new one focuses on Chris’s brother Noah Jansen who is trying to make a clean break from the toxicity of his father and his company. As part of his fresh start, Noah has bought a house that he loves . . . though it’s missing a pool. His plan? To buy the property next door, raze the house, and put in the pool. The only problem is that his neighbor doesn’t want to sell.
That neighbor is Grace Travis. She’s trying for a new beginning, too. Grace is almost done with design school, she’s almost made a break from her neglectful and manipulative mother, and she’s got a brand-new home that she inherited from the grandparents she never knew. This home, of course, is the one that Noah wants to buy.
This is a fun, sweet romance. It begins as enemies to lovers, though the “enemies” part doesn’t last long. Instead, Noah and Grace pretty quickly realize that they should be friends. Noah brings on Grace to help design his house, and as they start to know each other, they realize how much they have in common and the type of support they can offer each other.
While this one didn’t quite have the depth of Ten Rules for Faking It, I absolutely enjoyed watching Noah and Grace’s relationship develop, and I recommend How to Love Your Neighbor—and whatever Sullivan writes next—to romance fans.
Thanks to partners NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital ARC of Emma Lord's When You Get the Chance in exchange for an honest review. The book is out Tuesday, January 4!
When You Get the Chance is my second book by Emma Lord. (I loved You Have a Match and have Tweet Cute on my shelf to read ASAP.) Yes, she’s now an auto-read author for me.
This one focuses on Millie Cooper, a super-extroverted, self-described way-too-much actress who has big dreams of Broadway and has put in the work to make that a real possibility. After she learns that she’s gotten into an amazing pre-college program for her senior year, she’s ecstatic . . . until she shares the news with her dad and he’s decidedly NOT as ecstatic.
What ensues is Millie’s desperate attempt to actualize her dream into existence. First, she gets the help of her best friend and next door neighbor Teddy, an expert at geocaching and (as he says) human caching. Teddy does some research and, after the two delve into Millie’s dad’s LiveJournal from college (hello, the 90s!), begins unraveling the central secret of Millie’s life: her mother’s identity. When her dad was 20, Millie’s mother dropped her off with her dad, and that was the end of her mother’s involvement in her life. But Millie hopes that if she can find her birth mother, she’ll be on Team Millie and help convince her dad that moving across the country to this pre-college program is the right move.
The search for Millie’s mom leads to three likely candidates and the second part of Millie’s plan. She happens upon an internship with a Broadway management company where one potential mom candidate works. The only problem? Millie is vying for the internship with her nemesis: Oliver. Oliver is the manager of their fine arts school’s musical theater department, and he and Millie are *always* at odds with completely different visions for what the program should look like. So, when Georgie, the woman in charge of the internship, gives Millie and Oliver two weeks to compete and prove themselves before choosing a winner, it means that the mortal enemies have two weeks of forced collaboration, as well.
The setup is worthy of any Broadway musical, and references to shows—and especially Mamma Mia!—abound. For anyone who’s a fan of musicals, there are plenty of allusions here to feed your Broadway-loving soul. Sometimes, I have to work to get past premises like the “meeting-three-candidates-who-might-be-my-mom” kind of story, but when cast in the light of Broadway, I suspended my disbelief and just gave into the ride. Because Emma Lord has such a fabulous sense of character and because, in Millie, she created such an empathetic, realistic character, that ride is a great one. Though the plot here is so much fun, it’s watching Millie go through some pretty rough self-reflection that is the real strength of this book. Yes, there are beautiful friendships (seriously: this author REALLY understands friendship), some fun romance, and compellingly complex family dynamics (Millie’s relationships with her dad and her aunt Heather are strong anchors for the plot), but it’s Millie’s coming of age story that made me love this book so much.
Now, on to Tweet Cute.
Thanks to partners NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and St. Martin's Press for the digital ARC of Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich's If This Gets Out in exchange for an honest review. The book is out today!!
I’m a big fan of author collaborations—I almost always really like them. (I’m not sure why, but maybe, just as in my life, collaborating pushes authors to be better?) Since I was already a fan of both Sophie Gonzales, author of Perfect on Paper, and Cale Dietrich, author of The Love Interest, requesting If This Gets Out seemed like a good choice. I was so, so right.
At the center of If This Gets Out is a boy band, Saturday, made up of four kids who met at a summer camp, threw together a fun performance for the end-of-camp concert, and have never looked back. The four teenagers—Ruben, a classically trained singer who grew up on Broadway; Zach, a fan of punk and emo who is painfully shy; Angel, an outgoing, fun-loving partier; and Jon, a Type A, conservative heart throb whose dad manages the group—have remained close friends and have enjoyed their meteoric success, even as they strain against the roles in which they’ve been cast. Their carefully curated image presents all of them as straight (Ruben is not) and each of them somehow playing against type. Angel’s role, for example, is the sweet, conservative, shy boy, which he is *definitely* not.
The story centers on Ruben and Zach and is told in their alternating points of view. Though all four are friends, Ruben and Zach are best friends, so Ruben has kept his attraction to Zach a secret. And then something happens that makes Ruben think Zach may return his feelings. Their relationship changes, at first bringing tension to the group and highlighting the tight control their management wields over their lives, and then causing each of them to understand new things about themselves.
I loved so much about this book. First, it is propulsive: I had a hard time putting it down. The romance at its heart is lovely, and I appreciated the way Gonzales and Dietrich worked through its complications, both early on—when Zach is exploring his understanding of his sexuality—and later, when Ruben and Zach are contending with what they each need from the other. Dietrich and Gonzales create fully realized characters here who are dealing with fame but also with their relationships with their parents and friendships and all the drama that happens with teenagers.
I also enjoyed the consideration of the boy band phenomenon. While I’m no student of the music industry, and boy bands aren’t really a part of my current listening, I was a HUGE fan of New Kids on the Block back in the day. So much of the novel here rang true, from the desperate need to have one type of boy for each fan to the denial that fans can handle the truths that all four band members want to share with their public. (I will say that the way the book employs social media certainly adds an angle that would not have been possible in the early NKOTB days!)
If This Gets Out will work for so many readers, and I would definitely be in for further collaborations between Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich (though I do plan to explore the rest of their individual backlists regardless!). This fabulous YA novel is emotional and thought provoking and sweet. I absolutely loved it.
Thanks to partners NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and St. Martin's Press for the digital ARC of Estelle Laure’s Remember Me in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published on March 22!
I was really intrigued by the premise of Estelle Laure’s Remember Me: I got total Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind vibes, and I absolutely love that movie.
The book starts when Blue Owens wakes up one day with the sense that her world doesn’t make sense. She goes through her normal morning routine and, in the course of getting ready for school, finds a note that says “Meet me on the Little Blue Bus, 7:45 5/19/32.” She has no idea what it means.
Everyone is acting weird—her grandmother, her best friend Turtle and her partner Jack, even her art teacher Mrs. Duran—and Blue becomes convinced that the reason will reveal itself on that bus. And she’s right.
Here’s where things get spoilery, so proceed with caution. (This part is in the synopsis, but I wish I hadn’t known.)
Blue gets on that bus and meets Adam Mendoza, and it quickly becomes clear that they know each other. Ultimately, Blue figures out that she’s had her memories erased, including her memories of Adam. Now, she just has to figure out why.
The book comes in at only 272 pages, and it’s ambitious, mixing romance and sci fi and mystery. For me, the mystery parts were the strongest. I was intrigued by just what caused Blue to have her memories erased. While I didn’t think the book quite lived up to its ambitions, I did enjoy it, and I was rooting for Blue the whole time. I just think it needed to be a bit longer to fully realize its potential.
Thanks to partners NetGalley and St Martin's Press for the digital ARC of Tracey Garvis Graves’s Heard It in a Love Song in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published on November 9!
In Tracey Garvis Graves’s Heard It in a Love Song is a lovely tribute to second chances.
Layla and Josh are recovering from failed marriages. Layla left her ex after years of mental games, financial conflict, and adultery. Josh and his wife have separated because they’ve just grown in different directions, united only in their love for their young daughter.
The two meet when Josh is doing the daily school drop-off at Layla’s school, where she’s the music teacher. She took the job out of necessity, after the realities of her marriage made her dream of being a musician an unsustainable choice.
Now, she’s slowly finding her love of playing, singing, and performing again, finding her confidence again, just when she’s meeting Josh.
This is a lovely, patient romance, and Graves develops Layla and Josh vividly as individuals and friends before their romance truly emerges. It’s a fabulous choice, one that makes each character vivid and that lets the reader understand the way they’ll work together before it happens.
The novel alternates between Layla’s and Josh’s points of view, and that structure works well to let us see their different perspectives on life, love, and friendship, and to watch as their perspectives begin to move toward the other’s.
Thanks to partners NetGalley, Putnam Books, and @lovearctually for the digital ARC of Vanessa King’s A Certain Appeal in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published on November 2!
I love retellings of Jane Austen novels, so when I saw that there was a Pride and Prejudice retelling coming, set in the world of New York burlesque shows, I was so excited!
Vanessa King’s A Certain Appeal met all of my expectations. Liz Bennet (called Bennet by her friends) is stage kitten at Meryton, a burlesque venue where she works with her best friends, including Jane (here, he’s her best friend and roommate and a singer in the burlesque). The performers find out that Meryton is up for sale and have high hopes that one of their own can buy it . . . with the help of a kind man named Charles. But some people are more skeptical than supportive, including Charles’s best friend Will Darcy.
Just the premise demonstrates the creativity with which King takes the building blocks of Austen’s novel and shifts them—just a bit—to our contemporary world and this setting, in particular. She ramps up the steam and the chemistry between Bennet and Darcy and modifies the subplot with Wickham to suit the modern situation, too.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the burlesque element, but I absolutely loved it. Every moment of the burlesque is a celebration of individual women, of their joy in their bodies, and of their power over their own sexiness. There’s tons of banter, too, which I also enjoyed, and then King deepens that element, too, showing how banter can be both inviting and standoffish.
Bennet herself is clever and confident, but she’s also still recovering from a betrayal related to her work as a designer. She sees, in the changes at Meryton, a chance to recapture her passion for her career, but she’s also fragile in a way that’s masked by her onstage presence and her quick wittedness.
Will Darcy is completely fabulous, and I loved the secondary characters so much (the relationship between Jane and Charles is just dreamy). Fans of Pride and Prejudice will love this, but I’d also recommend Vanessa King’s A Certain Appeal to anyone who just loves a good, super-steamy romance.
Thanks to partners NetGalley and Forever for the digital ARC of Sajni Patel’s First Love, Take Two in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published on September 21!
I absolutely loved Sajni Patel’s The Trouble with Hating You, so when I saw her new book, First Love, Take Two was available, I requested it immediately! This is a great follow-up, a steamy, second-chance romance that builds on the first book’s events but doesn’t rely on them. (I think you could read this one even if you haven’t read book one.)
Here, Preeti Patel is trying to embrace an arranged marriage with Yuvan. He checks all the right boxes: he’s part of her conservative, Indian community, and his parents are close with hers. He’s successful, as is she, and this seems like the perfect match. But she has absolutely no chemistry with him.
Preeti has been the subject of gossip before, six years ago when she had an interracial relationship with Daniel Thompson. When her father’s sisters found out that she was dating outside the culture and the race—Daniel is Black—they set the full force of community shaming upon her and her family. Daniel’s parents were no more accepting of her, and so Preeti broke off their relationship.
Since then, Preeti has built a successful career as a doctor—she’s almost done with her residency—has taken care of her parents, and has made every effort to fly under the radar of the gossip mongers. All of that has kept Daniel from the forefront of her mind and heart . . . until her friends and his sister conspire to throw them together once more.
This book does a great job dealing with a number of serious issues: anxiety and racism and touch aversion and, above all, both the blessing and curse of being part of a close-knit community. As a doctor, Preeti deals with heartbreak—miscarriage, death, and the expectations of her patients’ families—and more and more, she’s feeling overwhelmed by expectations both at work and in her personal life.
Watching Preeti and Daniel work through their relationship to support each other is fantastic: this is such a wonderful, second-chance romance, filled with a deep backstory and nuanced characters. As always in a romance series, I love seeing Liya and Jay from book one, and I have high hopes that there will be at least one more book involving Liya and Preeti’s friend group.
First Love, Take Two is a worthy, steamy, beautiful follow-up to The Trouble with Hating You.
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.