In August 2019, Taylor Swift released her seventh studio album, Lover, and I'm still not over it. The whole collection is a work of art. It's mastery. It's my favorite of her albums to date. When I heard Lover, I knew instantly that I had to do a YA book match-up for it. Four months later, and I think I've got it right. Let me know below if you agree!
I Forgot That You Existed
I Think He Knows
Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince
Death by a Thousand Cuts
Soon You'll Get Better
You Need to Calm Down
It's Nice to Have a Friend
I finished Layoverland! It was a cute, one-sitting read, and I'm so glad I picked it up last week. Well worth the read, and I think I'll make it my first non-arc review of 2020! (And possibly 2019 as well. Wow, I need to review more books that I own).
In other news, I've completely become a candle person. I especially love my Rose and Adder Nightwash candle from Owlcrate's Call Down the Hawk box, but I'm also into White Barn and Yankee Candle. I love creating that cozy atmosphere while I work, and it's much subtler than any air freshener. I'm thinking about doing a round-up of bookish candle companies that I plan to order from, what do you think?
Happy Tuesday, all!
Hi y'all! I'm part of Inkyard Press's influencer/blog tour team, so I'm coming to you today with a review for Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith, one of their Winter 2020 novels. Thank you to Inkyard for sharing an egalley with me, and know that this has not affected my review.
Slay meets Eliza and Her Monsters in Eric Smith’s Don't Read the Comments, an #ownvoices story in which two teen gamers find their virtual worlds—and blossoming romance—invaded by the real-world issues of trolling and doxing in the gaming community.
Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.
Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…
And she isn’t going down without a fight.
Gamers are sure to feel at home in this contemporary, but even if you’ve never held a joystick, Don’t Read the Comments is for you. This novel tackles the struggles of existing as young public figures and creators in an incredibly sensitive and caring way. I felt so strongly for Divya and Aaron throughout, and I commend Smith for creating a romantic yet realistic idea of their worlds.
My favorite part of Don’t Read the Comments is the characters. I liked the dual-perspective used, and I enjoyed getting to know Aaron and Divya as they met each other in Reclaim the Sun. Both struggled with family issues and the ways in which gaming and technology impacted their lives, and Smith portrayed them incredibly sympathetically. I don’t even think I had a favorite among them, which is unusual for me.
I liked reading about Divya’s goal to put her mom through college with gaming, and her determination in the face of the trolls is inspiring. Her story is all about the dangers of modern-day celebrity, especially for young adults seeking to exist positively in online spaces where doxxing, real-world harassment, and racism are the norm for those who want to tear them down. I can’t speak to whether or not Divya’s experience is true to the gaming community because I’m not a gamer, but I will say that I was truly scared for her at times.
Aaron has a different issue: his mom wants him to become a doctor like her, but he just wants to write games and pursue his passion for development. He doesn’t want to let down his mom, but he also wants the freedom to choose his career. It was super rewarding to watch Aaron navigate this relationship while learning more about the darker side of gaming and indie game development.
The romance was totally adorable. Divya and Aaron have great chemistry, and despite the fact that their relationship is mostly online, we never miss out on any characterization. I especially liked the scenes where they gamed together in Reclaim the Sun, conquering planets and sharing resources. Those were moments in which I felt their happiness shine through the page, and I loved how their connection to the game allowed them to escape “real life” for a bit and just get to know each other.
Overall, Don’t Read the Comments is a cute yet thought-provoking novel about online communities, and the balance of danger and opportunity they provide. I recommend this book for anyone who needs an afternoon away with two very special characters. 4/5 stars.
Hi all! Sandhya Menon's next book, Of Curses and Kisses, is out next month! Yay! I and many other bloggers/booktubers on her street team are participating on the blog tour for the book, featuring reviews, Q&A's, movie castings, and many other creative posts. The tour runs from February 4th through the 25th, so I'm posting here a schedule for the tour in advance so that come February, you'll know exactly where to go! I've linked to these bloggers' homepages, so you'll have a chance to check them out right now. Booktuber's links go to their landing pages as well. Enjoy!
*tour header by Rameela (@stars.brite on Instagram)*
Insert long. long. long. list of things I've done today! Including a very spontaneous purchase at a local indie and getting posts scheduled three weeks out!
I had a bit of a shopping trip this afternoon, and when I saw a local bookstore I used to frequent, I knew I had to pop in. Layoverland by Gabby Noone, one of my most anticipated January releases, came out today and I wanted it in my hands immediately. It's been compared to The Good Place, and the chapter sampler I read indicates that's true! I can't wait to start reading. I also picked up Wicked Fox, which has been on my list for a while. I usually keep a reminder list of books I'd like to buy, and when I'm book shopping I'm either so overcome by want that I can't stop myself (like with Layoverland), or I pick a book that's been on my list for a long time that I find myself still wanting (as is with Wicked Fox).
Also (at least until February 6), I have posts scheduled and ready to go! I think adhering to my 2-3 times a week post schedule is most helpful because it means I can spread things out and plan into the future. Last April, I started using calendars to schedule these posts, and I think I shared one or two here. Let me know if you'd like to see more of my behind-the-scenes!
Thank you to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.
Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.
All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.
As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
Tweet Cute is an adorable, modern enemies-to-lovers romance that’s sure to hook any contemporary reader. Its charming, tropey storyline and classic plot full of heart had me from the very first page. I loved the Twitter war, the anonymous chat app, and all the little things about watching Jack and Pepper fall in love.
Jack and Pepper were such well-developed characters who complemented each other perfectly. Pepper is an over-achieving superstar, with top grades and extracurriculars… but is also funny, down to earth, and loves desserts. Jack helps run his family deli in between swim practices and self-pity over his “golden child” twin brother. These two had the wittiest conversations and text chats, while also feuding on Twitter via corporate accounts for their family businesses. Their chemistry was amazing. Pepper and Jack knew each other so well, even when they were just starting to become friends. I’m honestly so jealous of their relationship and ability to cut to the core of what was bothering the other person. The way they connected is so innately realistic as well, showing the joy of finally getting to know someone you’ve been around for years.
All of the characters made this novel shine, but I especially loved Pepper. I think she’s the most relatable character to me in some aspects, and I had so much sympathy for her plights. She struggled to balance her school life, baking blog, and friends with her mother’s demands, and I constantly hoped that she would find balance. Once she lets down her guard she starts to enjoy her senior year more, make some new friends, and realize there’s more to life than working, I saw her light up on the page. I also appreciate her struggle to keep her family together and being a go-between for her mom and sister who no longer speak. That takes a toll on her energy and is a source of frustration throughout the novel.
The plot is equally adorable. Tweet Cute is a modern “You’ve Got Mail,” with Jack and Pepper acting as rivals while falling in love over a chat app. Their antics were so amusing, and I had so much fun watching them up the ante on their feud. Of course, the emotional and familial components to the story tie in perfectly, with neither Jack nor Pepper missing out on their fair share of family drama. Luckily, they find each other—though they don’t find that out until much later. The tension between Pepper and Jack wondering who the person on the other end of the app is while simultaneously but unknowingly growing close in person drew me in. I wanted them to figure it out from all the dropped hints, but I also thought it fun to read about them (especially Pepper) wondering who it was.
The Twitter war, however, is my favorite plot point. It’s the hook of the novel, giving insight into the difference between running a small business and a big corporation, and the families behind both. Pepper and Jack go to bat for their restaurants armed with memes and witticisms, and their over-the-top challenges got a laugh out of me, keeping me on my toes! The combination of this humor and the romance gripped me throughout the novel.
Lastly, Pepper and her sister Paige connect over a baking blog they run, and seriously, with all the food talk, Tweet Cute made me so hungry! From Grandma’s Grilled Cheese to Monster Cake and Kitchen Sink Macaroons, I *need* a recipe book stat! I love books that connect to real world fun, but in this one I hope hard copies contain recipes, because I think this needs to be an interactive activity!
My one bug is that I think some of the cultural references will date Tweet Cute quickly. Two, five, seven years from now, will we be interacting with media culture in the same ways Tweet Cute expects readers to understand? It’s a very specifically timed novel, and time will tell whether these quirks and specific late 2010’s in-jokes will age well. However, this is such a subjective issue that I decided not to let it affect my overall rating.
Tweet Cute earned 5 stars from me because of its sharp ideas and originality. This has to be one of the cutest new romances I’ve read in a while, and you should check it out!
Hi all! So excited to be on the Blog Tour for Spellhacker by M.K. England, an electric sophomore novel that you need on your TBR. Visit the rest of the tour here, and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the page!
The Book and its Author
In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource.Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.
Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.
But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.
M.K. England is an author and YA librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls rural Virginia home. When they’re not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the gaming table, digging in the garden, or feeding their video game addiction. They love Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in their presence. You’ll regret it.
THE DISASTERS is their debut novel. Follow them at www.mkengland.com.
The stakes are high in this action-packed novel about a group of friends trying to save their home—and possibly the world. I loved Spellhacker’s group cast and magnetic tension in combination with the magical world it introduces.
Cast: Diz, Remi, Ania, Jaesin.
Diz: Kind of a jerk to her friends at all times, but England wrote her narration so sympathetically at all times that I couldn’t help but feel constantly sorry for her. Communication! It’s important! Especially with the friends you don’t want to leave!
Remi: Totally adorable. I just love them. Remi works with maz naturally as a spellweaver, and I loved the scenes where they got to make spells and use maz because I truly felt like I was right there, watching it come to life.
Ania: Techwitch. Rich. Mom friend. I fell so hard. She’s the one to take care of Diz, saving her in the very first scene, but also a powerful force if she’s angry.
Jaesin: I wish we got to see more of him! As Diz says, he has the most “mundie skills,” which means cooking and fighting, but he’s also fiercely protective and fun.
All of the characters are so well-rounded and wonderfully characterized! They are wonderful additions to the YA heist book canon, and I wish the book had been a little bit longer so I could have spent more time with all of them. I also wonder if switching POV’s would have been beneficial to the reading experience? We spend the whole book with Diz, and a lot of the emotions start to become repetitive as she spends most of the book in the same headspace, which can be articulated in a limited number of ways. I’d love to see what the others made of their situations, and how that would have impacted the storytelling. England is a great writer, so this definitely could have added to the book’s quality.
As much as I loved reading about the gang’s hijinx in Kyrkarta, my favorite part of Spellhacker was learning about the world. As explained in the blurb, magic (maz) is a commodity used by many citizens, but its availability is limited since the plague. I love an evil corporation, like we see in The Last Dragonslayer, one of my favorite books, and Spellhacker definitely takes us there with Maz Management. This bureaucratic realism adds a layer of ironic humor to the action.
Maz itself is an intriguing concept as well. Different strains glow different colors, and description throughout helps the reader visualize how Remi and Anya manipulate coils of it to create spells, including fun ones like playful animal replicas and dangerous ones such as firebombs. The glossary at the front of the book explains the different categories, and I found that helpful to refer back to. I liked the well-defined limits of the system, which showed the difference between the specifically digital abilities such as Diz’s hacking, and the magical abilities like Remi’s spell weaving.
Overall, I’d give Spellhacker 4/5 stars and encourage y’all to read it ASAP!
How are y'all? I feel like I haven't posted one of these in months, even though my trip out to Porter Square Books was just one week ago. This week I am reading Jane Anonymous, which was kindly sent to me by Wednesday Books, and The Phantom Tollbooth for a children's literature class I'm taking. I'm so glad to be returning to this old favorite, and you're sure to see it pop up on my bookstagram soon when I get my own copy! Later, I plan to finally start reading One of Us is Next and Just Breathe, so I can't wait until I have some free time.
That's my reading life... in other news... nothing. I'm trying to rid myself of stress by eating healthy, exercising, and drinking lots of water. Hopefully this will lead to better sleep and a balanced life! I walked on a treadmill today for half an hour, and I hope to be able to do so every day. Everyone who knows me was shocked when they found out, because I'm not usually an active person... but there's hope yet for me!
What are some of your self-improvement plans?
I'm back today on the Blog Tour for Every Other Weekend by Abigail Johnson, a new novel out this week from Harlequin Teen! Check out the other tour stops here, and stop by my Instagram to see the bookstagram tour and its participants! At the bottom of this page, after my review are my favorite quotes and a great giveaway for you to enter as well.
The Book and its Author
Adam Moynihan’s life used to be awesome. Straight As, close friends and a home life so perfect that it could have been a TV show straight out of the 50s. Then his oldest brother died. Now his fun-loving mom cries constantly, he and his remaining brother can’t talk without fighting, and the father he always admired proved himself a coward by moving out when they needed him most.
Jolene Timber’s life is nothing like the movies she loves—not the happy ones anyway. As an aspiring director, she should know, because she’s been reimagining her life as a film ever since she was a kid. With her divorced parents at each other’s throats and using her as a pawn, no amount of mental reediting will give her the love she’s starving for.
Forced to spend every other weekend in the same apartment building, the boy who thinks forgiveness makes him weak and the girl who thinks love is for fools begin an unlikely friendship. The weekends he dreaded and she endured soon become the best part of their lives. But when one’s life begins to mend while the other’s spirals out of control, they realize that falling in love while surrounded by its demise means nothing is ever guaranteed.
Abigail was born in Pennsylvania. When she was twelve, her family traded in snowstorms for year round summers, and moved to Arizona. Abigail chronicled the entire cross-country road trip (in a purple spiral bound notebook that she still has)and has been writing ever since. She became a tetraplegic after breaking her neck in a car accident when she was seventeen, but hasn’t let that stop her from bodysurfing in Mexico, writing and directing a high school production ofCinderella, and becoming a published author.
Review and Favorite Quotes
Every Other Weekend is a romantic coming-of-age story about split families, loss, and two teens learning to love and be loved. However, the length of the book and execution of several of the plot lines irked me, which has unfortunately lowered my rating.
I want to pause here and say that although I had my difficulties with Every Other Weekend, I am rating it 3/5 stars and saying, “it’s not you, it’s me.” I believe there’s a book for everyone, and this could be yours, so give it a chance!
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of bookshop.org and I will earn a small commission if you click the above link and make a purchase.