Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola (Honey and Spice) Recommended: YES!! For fake dating gone right, for gestures both grand and minute that matter equally as much, for characters who confront hard truths about themselves and challenge others to do the same, for excellent frienships, and yes, romance too
This is one of the few books this year — maybe the only book this year? — that I finished and feel like it was EASILY a five-star read, smashing through and getting all the way to the top. Loved it. 😍
Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. As an expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell,” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show on the brink.
They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before, and a player like Malakai won’t be the one to change that, no matter how charming he is or how electric their connection feels. But surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate, late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions. Is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?
So many of the women in this book sound like excellent people to be friends with and I wish I knew where to find folks like them. Making friends as an adult is weird, y’all. I think the female friendships in this book were very well done and I adored them. Yes, some of them come about because of a man, and they do talk about their men, but damn if it wasn’t so much more than that. It felt empowering and hilarious and vulnerable all at once.
Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo! Expected Release: September 27, 2022
Why wait on this one?
SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE! The stories of people reconnecting after years apart and finding that their love still holds true just makes me swoon and cry happy tears every time. I want Dunni and Obinna to fall in love all over again… while I watch. 😅
I also love stories of women making hard decisions to go after what they truly want in life. Dunni certainly seems to be doing that, abandoning the fiance approved by her parents in hopes of a chance to see where things go with Obinna. 🥰
I’ve read and/or added several other books by Jane Igharo to my list, and I generally really enjoy them. Part of it is learning about Nigerian culture through the characters, but I also find that her approaches to love stories don’t shy away from painful truths, giving her love stories some realistic pain with the love.
Dunni hasn’t seen her high school boyfriend, Obinna, since she left Nigeria to attend college in America. Before their devastating separation, they vowed to find their way back to each other one day.
Twelve years later, and their vow is a thing of the past. Dunni works as a geneticist in Seattle and is engaged to a man she doesn’t love but one her parents approve of. Her future is laid out for her, and everything is going according to plan until she returns to Nigeria for a friend’s wedding and runs into Obinna. The shy, awkward boy she loved as a teenager is now a sophisticated, confident man. Things have changed, but there’s still an undeniable connection between them.
As they rediscover each other, their days filled with desire and passion, Dunni is reminded of the beautiful future she once planned with Obinna. But when devastating secrets are revealed and the reckless actions of their past bring new challenges, she’s left questioning everything, including if the love that consumed her as a teenager is still worth holding on to.
Recommended: eh For ok characters who are sometimes inconsistent, and an ok plot that moves really quickly, and an overall ok read
She’s got his back. Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker. He’s got her heart. Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid. They’ve got a secret. When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it. What could possibly go wrong??? Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.
This is definitely not my favorite Katherin Center book. It was a lot of small things that built up and brought this one down for me. If it was only one or two things I probably could have gotten over them, but so many all together just bombed it. This one was solidly ok. I read it in two days, but that’s because it was very simple and easy to read rather than that I was so compelled by it. 🤷♀️
The first issue that hit me was how much I disliked the overall character voice and style of writing. It’s narrated as though it’s a story being told to the reader by the main character, complete with statements like “I’ll save you the trouble of reading it and summarize for you” when, well, I’m never going to read those documents because they don’t actually exist and I don’t know, it just irked me.
Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Seoulmates by Susan Lee! Expected Release: September 20, 2022
Why wait on this one?
I’ll basically read any book with a premise of a k-pop star dating a Regular Ol Person. This very specific niche of celebrity trope has absolutely stolen my heart, and I’m really hoping that’s what will happen with Hannah Cho in this book too. ^.^
This one blends a few approaches I’ve seen in other books. The MC isn’t interested in/aware of k-pop (Hart & Seoul by Kristen Burnham), and has a former best friend who became a k-pop star and is now returning home (Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho). Did I mention I enjoyed both of those other books? 😁 In my mind, there’s no way to not enjoy them being combined then with their own new style!
The best revenge is a life well-lived, right? It sounds like that’s exactly what Hannah is poised to do when her friends and boyfriend are all into k-pop and essentially ditch Hannah. First of all, shallow. Second of all, her falling in love (you know, probably) with a BFF-turned-idol is delightfully karmic. 😄
Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out—the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with their friends.
But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do—he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs.
But someone who does know K-dramas—so well that he’s actually starring in one—is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs…that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them.
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare Recommended: sure For people who read and enjoyed it when younger, for people who haven’t read much paranormal ya fantasy yet but enjoy it, for people who are under 23 years old and/or remember vividly what it’s like to be fifteen
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…
When I first read this series years ago as a much younger me, it was easily my favorite new series and style and author, et cetera. Now… not so much. I still enjoyed it, but boy is it a bit shaded for me now. Here’s why.
Due to knowing how some key elements of the plot resolve, there are moments in this first book that were both better and worse to me for knowing how the play out. Some were reassuring, and some were unimpressive. I’ll get into spoiler talk below, but overall the re-read experience was kind of win-lose with how it impacted key scenes.
Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles Recommended: sure For a story that’s equal parts funny and heartfelt, for a truly lovable main character, for lessons learned that made me want to fist pump for breaking the archetypes with the straight truth
Del has had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. Though he quickly realizes he’s inadvertently signed himself up for a Purity Pledge. His best friend, Qwan, doesn’t believe anyone is worth this long of a long game. But Del’s not about to lose his dream girl.
And that’s where fellow pledger Jameer comes in. He can put in the good word, but with other boys circling Kiera like sharks, Del needs to make his move now. However, with all his plotting and scheming, Del never really stops to think: What does Kiera want? No matter, though—once he gets the girl, he’s sure all will sort itself out. Right?
The easiest way I can review this is to say I’ll definitely be seeking out more of Lamar Giles’ books!
I’ve seen in my reading data lately that I read WAY more books by women than by men. And most of the time, the character perspective I’m reading from is a woman as well. This is for me a rarity in that it’s a book by a guy and from a guy’s perspective. A STRAIGHT guy, no less – even rarer for me. 😂 This might seem unimportant, but it was honestly so interesting to see a situation through a male lens rather than female. The voice was so different, and there were a lot of thoughts and decisions that I would never have even considered, that I do attest at least in part to it being from a man (well.. boy) and not a woman. It was a fascinating change from my usual, and really entertaining (and maybe even informative??)
Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club by Roselle Lim! Expected Release: August 16, 2022
Why wait on this one?
Romance and meet-cutes are all well and good, but I do love something about matchmaking. It seems lovely to have someone who gets to know you so well they can recommend someone to you whom you might want to spend your life with. Sophie is taking a swing at being exactly that, even if she technically doesn’t have her degree in it. Side note: there are schools on matchmaking?
It’s all men in their 70s who are getting match-made, and I have really high hopes for that. I love love at all points in life, but I worry this could end up being treated in a really trite or cruelly comical way. Roselle, please do it justice!
This is prime to be sweet and tender and heartbreaking and make me cry a lot of different kinds of tears.
Newly minted professional matchmaker Sophie Go has returned to Toronto, her hometown, after spending three years in Shanghai. Her job is made quite difficult, however, when she is revealed as a fraud—she never actually graduated from matchmaking school. In a competitive market like Toronto, no one wants to take a chance on an inexperienced and unaccredited matchmaker, and soon Sophie becomes an outcast.
In dire search of clients, Sophie stumbles upon a secret club within her condo complex: the Old Ducks, seven septuagenarian Chinese bachelors who never found love. Somehow, she convinces them to hire her, but her matchmaking skills are put to the test as she learns the depths of loneliness, heartbreak, and love by attempting to make the hardest matches of her life.
Recommended: sure! For a romance that is all the right things a person would want, for a HUGE amount of dirty thoughts and actions, for a story that just makes you feel good
Lizzy “Overachiever” Chung, Esq. has her life mapped out neatly: * Become a lawyer. Check. * Join a prestigious law firm. Check. * Make partner. In progress.
If all goes to plan, she will check off that last box in a couple years, make her parents proud, and live a successful, fulfilled life in L.A. What was not in her plans was passing out from a panic attack during a pivotal moment in her career. A few deep breaths and a four hour drive later, Lizzy is in Weldon for three weeks to shed the burnout and figure out what went wrong. And what better place to recharge than the small California town where she spent her childhood summers with her best friend, Jack Park.
Jack Park didn’t expect to see Lizzy back in Weldon, but now he’s got three weeks to spend with the girl of his dreams. Except she doesn’t know of his decades-long crush on her–and he intends to keep it that way. She’s a high-powered attorney who lives in L.A. and he’s a bookkeeper at his family’s brewery who never left his hometown. He can’t risk their friendship on a long shot. Can he? When Lizzy decides that the local bookstore needs a little revamp, of course, Jack is going to help her bring it back to life. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to ignore there might be more than just friendship among the dusty shelves and books…
Recommended: sure For a character who goes truly off the rails and has some GENUINE work to fix, for some really satisfying moments of rage, love, forgiveness… all of the emotions!, for side characters who matter
Violet Covington pens Dear Sweetie, the most popular advice column in the state of North Carolina. She has an answer for how to politely handle any difficult situation…until she discovers her husband, Sam, has been cheating on her. Furious and out of sensible solutions, Violet leaves her filter at the door and turns to her column to air her own frustrations. The new, brutally honest Dear Sweetie goes viral, sending more shock waves through Violet’s life. When she burns Sam’s belongings in a front-yard, late-night bonfire, a smoking-hot firefighter named Dez shows up to douse the flames, and an unexpected fling quickly shows potential to become something longer lasting.
A lot of people want to see the old polished Violet return—including her boss, who finds her unpredictability hard to manage, and Sam, who’s begging for another chance. But Dez appreciates Violet just the way she is—in fact, he can’t get enough of her. The right answers don’t come easily when Violet finds herself at her own personal crossroads. But maybe, by getting real, Violet can write her own happy ending.
This is one of those books where I struggled with the initial meeting setup because of how extremely creepy it would be if the MC wasn’t attracted to the romantic interest. Think of it: someone who provides a service to your house — let’s say, an Uber driver, or delivery person, or a frickin plumber — comes and does that service as requested. THEN a day later, they show back up to your house uninvited. Y’all, I would not be opening that door and would be calling their company to report some extremely not OK behaviour. Maybe that’s my own trust issues, but daaaang does that seem just CREEPY to me. But as often happens, because he’s attractive, it’s fine. 🙄
Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Long Story Short by Serena Kaylor! Expected Release: July 26, 2022
Why wait on this one?
Wow am I a sucker for people doing that thing where they make a list of experiences to turn their life around, or change direction, or prove a point. Turns out my own love of lists translates into feeling kinship with characters who embrace them as well. xD
SHAKESPEARE CAMP! HELLO MY LANGUAGE LOVER SIDE! I am desperately hoping for old timey insults that make me cackle, and moody pining in Middle English, and the joy of acting and the fun that can be had with costumes and stage kisses. 🥰
I grew up in New England, so it being set in Connecticut will feel like a familiar comfort to me. The water, the green, the fresh air. The swanky preppy boat shoe boys (I assume). Not like that was my life, but the stereotype, right? xD I digress. I like the setting. 😁
Growing up homeschooled in Berkeley, California, Beatrice Quinn is a statistical genius who has dreamed her whole life of discovering new mathematical challenges at a school like Oxford University. She always thought the hardest part would be getting in, not convincing her parents to let her go. But while math has always made sense to Beatrice, making friends is a problem she hasn’t been able to solve, so her parents are worried about sending her halfway across the world. The compromise: the Connecticut Shakespearean Summer Academy and a detailed list of teenage milestones to check off. She has six weeks to show her parents she can pull off the role of “normal” teenager and won’t spend the rest of her life hiding in a library.
Unfortunately, hearts and hormones don’t follow any rules, and there is no equation for teenage interactions. When she’s adopted by a group of eclectic theater kids, and immediately makes an enemy of the popular—and, annoyingly gorgeous—British son of the camp founders, she realizes that relationships are trickier than calculus. With her future on the line, this girl genius stumbles through illicit parties, double dog dares, and more than your fair share of Shakespeare. But before the final curtain falls, will Beatrice realize that there’s more to life than she can find in the pages of a book?