What’s new this month

I’m so excited for this month’s books! I tend to gravitate towards contemporary stories in the summer and I will have plenty to choose from:

303128605/2 – Always & Forever, Lara Jean – by Jenny Han

Lara Jean is a senior now, and she has her wonderful boyfriend Peter and her dad is getting remarried–which means Margot is coming home for the summer! But it’s Lara Jean’s turn to make the tough decisions Margot faced: where to go to college, and what that means for her relationship with Peter. I love these sister relationships and I’m ready for one more story with Lara Jean! These are fun, light-hearted summer reads with gorgeous covers.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


278302875/9 – It Started with Goodbye – by Christina June

This debut’s gorgeous cover grabbed me months ago and I’m so excited to dive into this modern-day Cinderella retelling. Tatum Elsea is stuck in her grandmother’s house for the summer after being falsely accused of a crime. Between community service and her secret graphic arts job she’s keeping busy–and then she finds out she isn’t the only one in the house with secrets. I’m so intrigued by the hint of romance and what her “step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother” is going to do for her!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

 


314492275/9 – Ramona Blue – by Julie Murphy

This book has received a lot of attention due to a somewhat confusing synopsis. Ramona Blue is described as one of only two out lesbians in her small town. The town is recovering from Hurricane Katrina, her younger sister is pregnant, and Ramona picks up a lot of responsibilities around the house thanks to her parents’ issues. Then her childhood best friend Freddie returns, and they start swimming together–and then Ramona might have feelings for him. The description has changed a few times, but I think the intent is for a girl who thought she was a lesbian to discover she is bisexual, which can be polarizing.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


233080875/16 – Flame in the Mist – by Renee Ahdieh

My fantasy pick for this month! Pitched as a Mulan-inspired story of Mariko, a girl pledged in an arranged marriage for her family, only to be attacked on her way to her betrothed. Disguised as a boy, she infiltrates the ranks of the Black Clan hired to assassinate her, and uncovers a lengthy history secrets and murders. I have not had a girl-impersonating-a-boy story in so long, and I’m so curious how this one will go and what Mariko will do to set herself free!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


300389065/16 – The Names They Gave Us – by Emery Lord

Emery Lord, my feminist giver of life advice, finally has a new book out! Lucy has the rug pulled out from under her this summer. Her mother’s cancer reappears, her boyfriend wants to take a break, and instead of working at the Christian Bible camp she is assigned to a camp for “troubled” kids. She attempts to be positive about all these changes, but she can’t fully stifle her questions and doubts; and when family secrets come to light she will have to decide how to handle her relationships and her future. Her books always make me laugh and cry and I’m sure this will be no different!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


284585985/30 – When Dimple Met Rishi – by Sandhya Menon

Another debut! An arranged marriage between two Indian-American teens with both of their POVs. Dimple and Rishi have completely different ideas about romance and relationships, but when they both show interest in the same web-developer summer program their parents think it might be a good match. This sounds so cute! Their opposing views, natural attraction that was possibly influenced by their parents without Dimple’s knowledge–this sounds like the perfect rom-com setup and I’m sure I’ll devour this with a big smile!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What to read again:

Reading the previous books in a series a second time lets you soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—I find it makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This is such a cute series about Lara Jean, the middle of three sisters, and their struggles to navigate sibling and romantic relationships. When Lara Jean’s secret love letters to her crushes all get mailed out at the same time, she has to deal with all the boys’ questions and what this means for her current (fake) relationship with Peter. I enjoyed the second book much more than the first, (see both of my reviews here and here) but overall this is a great series and I’m looking forward to Lara Jean’s farewell!
30312860

P.S. I Still Love You

20698530by Jenny Han
YA Contemporary
3 of 5 stars
Book 2 of a duology

I wasn’t especially impressed by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before but I am so glad I decided to read this sequel! Lara Jean was a bit too passive for my taste in the last book – even when she found out who sent out her private letters, she wasn’t even that mad about it. Her emotions felt muted, and the characters around her felt flat and muted too. Not so in this story!

Lara Jean and Peter are together for real, and as she navigates her first high school relationship she reminds everyone reading this what high school is like. So many firsts, so many social dangers and triumphs, and the feeling that everything you’re experiencing is vitally important but is also something you’re not likely to care about so much when you’re older. Lara Jean is both more introspective and takes a more active role, and her sisters and friends are more vivid as well. Everyone has grown and I enjoyed this story much more thanks to that.

I also enjoyed the more feminist take on relationships in this novel. In the previous one, I was frustrated that because Lara Jean’s best friend Chris dated a lot of guys and had already had sex, she was slut-shamed by everyone. Even Lara Jean doesn’t fully approve of her. This time around everything is presented more fairly, in a way that every girl needs to see. Women are in charge of their bodies, and what’s right for some people isn’t right for others. If a sexy picture or video of a couple goes up online, the guy is congratulated and the girl is shamed – and this is a double standard that needs to change.

This was a fun summer read and I recommend it for both high school students and anyone wanting a vibrant refresher on what it’s like to be 16.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, P.S. I Still Love You is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan – One crazy night in NYC with recently-single Nick and his “girlfriend for 5 minutes” Norah that he meets at his band’s gig. The two high school seniors race around the city looking for their favorite band’s secret show, but end up wondering if they’ve found love instead.
  • Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – Lina’s mother dies of cancer, and she’s sent to Florence, Italy to fulfill her mother’s last wish: get to know the father she just found out about 2 weeks ago. Lina is grieving and angry, but when her father’s neighbor provides her mother’s journal about her time in Italy, Lina can’t help but wonder why her mother sent her there. Add charming neighbor boy Ren to the equation, and Lina finds herself getting to know her mother all over again–and maybe falling in love. See my review here.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Another tale of high school first love that is incredibly bittersweet and vividly captures all the ups and downs through the eyes of both Eleanor and Park. See my review here.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – A similar coming-of-age story with a college freshman experiencing first love as she’s on her own for the first time. Her twin sister Wren decided she wanted some space, and Cath is cast adrift to find herself before she sinks.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – The nostalgia is on every page of this introspective and humorous story of quiet high school freshman Charlie as he makes friends with seniors Sam and Patrick. See my review here.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – This classic novel contains one of the best-known and loved romances in literature. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy can’t imagine a single thing they have in common–unless it’s their dislike. But circumstances change, and Elizabeth learns the danger of relying on first impressions. See my review here.

What’s new this month

These are some books I’m excited about this May. Here’s a little bit about each of them:

ACOTAR5/5 – A Court of Thorns and Roses – by Sarah J. Maas

She pitched this as a re-imagined Beauty and the Beast/East of the Sun, West of the Moon/Tam Lin and I was sold immediately. I’m expecting all things Maas at an even more polished level: a badass heroine, conflicted men/fairies, magic, betrayal, destiny and more! Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale, and I’m excited to see what she does with it. This is set to be a high fantasy trilogy, releasing simultaneously with her Throne of Glass series.

More info here: Goodreads and Amazon


Wrath and the Dawn5/12 – The Wrath and the Dawn – by Renee Ahdieh

The Thousand and One Nights is one of my favorite myths and I’m always intrigued by a retelling of the woman who won the brutal king’s heart with stories. Little is made of Scheherazade falling in love with the king, but in this version Shazi struggles with the knowledge that she might come to love the man responsible for so many girls’ deaths, including some of her friends. This already has a sequel slated for 2016.

More info here: Goodreads and Amazon


PS I still love you5/26 – P.S. I Still Love You – by Jenny Han

I admit, I didn’t think much of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but I partly feel this is due to bad marketing. This is listed as YA but it felt very middle-grade to me in terms of character and plot (see my review here). Now that I have some idea of what to expect, I am curious to see how the dualogy ends and I think it will make a good poolside read this summer. The one redeeming quality it has (aside from the cover art) is a non-white protagonist, but this aspect is barely touched on in the first book so I’m not sure if it will be more prevalent in this one.

More info here: Goodreads and Amazon

Backlist Bonus: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

15749186by Jenny Han
YA Contemporary
2 of 5 stars
Book 1 of a duology

This is a cute premise, and certain parts felt very Boy Meets World to me, but overall it’s probably not worth the time if you have a long to-read list. The characters are flat and the plot barely involves the letters, or much of anything else, unfortunately. It has a middle grade voice trying to convince you Lara Jean is 16 and not 11. It’s obvious from page 30 who sent the letters, but Lara Jean literally never wonders how they got out there, and is nonchalant about how it screwed with her life once she does find out at the very end. Actually, she never sticks up for herself, come to think of it.

There’s so much to work with here, and I feel like the author barely scratched the surface of it. Lara Jean is half-Korean in a white school. She could have had actual relationships with her older and younger sister. She could have a real friendship with her only female “friend” Chris (who is portrayed as a “slut,” so I’m not sure how they stayed friends for long since they have little in common, but that’s a separate issue).

If you pretend Lara Jean is younger, this could be a good summer read for a day or two. Since there is one sequel planned I will probably check it out this summer just to see if Lara Jean or any of the other characters experience a significant character arc. I have a feeling I’ll be less disappointed now that I know what to expect (i.e. a middle-grade novel, not YA). I happen to love the cover art for both books, for whatever that’s worth.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Junior is an aspiring cartoonist trying to navigate his life as an awkward nerd living with his impoverished family on the Spokane Indian Reservation, and his decision to attend the nearest white school to better his life.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – An emotional and vivid tale of two teenagers over one school year as they meet, fall in love, and fight to make it last.
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – Hadley Sullivan meets Oliver (a Brit) on her flight to England for her father’s second wedding to a woman she’s never met. The story follows twenty-four hours in Hadley’s life that might change her future.
  • Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan – Told through dual narration, Nick and Norah meet at a chance concert and spend a crazy twenty-four hours together in New York City trying to find their favorite band’s secret show, and falling in love along the way.

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