A cute bisexual romance for fall: Never ever getting back together, by Sophie Gonzales

Sophie Gonzales’s latest YA romance

It’s no secret that I loved Sophie Gonzales’ previous books, Only mostly devastated, and Perfect on paper. With that in mind, I had high expectations for her latest YA romance novel, coming out in November this year! So when I saw it on Netgalley earlier this summer, I automatically requested it. (Before even reading the synopsis on the presentation page, which tends to happen with authors I know I’ll enjoy reading from!)

And, as always with this author, I was not disappointed.

The story so far

It’s been two years since Maya’s ex-boyfriend cheated on her, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country and he captured hearts as her charming younger brother. If the world only knew the real Jordy, the manipulative liar who broke Maya’s heart.

Skye Kaplan was always cautious with her heart until Jordy said all the right things and earned her trust. Now his face is all over the media and Skye is still wondering why he stopped calling.

When Maya and Skye are invited to star on the reality dating show Second-Chance Romance, they’re whisked away to a beautiful mansion—along with four more of Jordy’s exes— to compete for his affections while the whole world watches. Skye wonders if she and Jordy can recapture the spark she knows they had, but Maya has other plans: exposing Jordy and getting revenge. As they navigate the competition, Skye and Maya discover that their real happily ever after is nothing they could have scripted.

A light and cute contemporary tale

I loved this plot. A good revenge, lots of drama, quid pro quo in the beginning, enemies-to-friends-to-lovers… what’s not to love?

Sophie Gonzales has a talent for tactfully and emotionally writing the experiences of bisexual youth. That’s something many authors struggle to do, and that I deeply appreciate in her work.

The animosity between the main characters in the beginning was very entertaining, and I especially appreciated the development of the romance, which felt very natural (and appropriately awkward at times!). The alternating points of view helped to get to know both main characters in all their complexity (even in the “enemies” phase of enemies-to-lovers).

The main antagonist, Jordy, is probably the character I’ve hated the most all year so far. However, with the dual POV, I got attached pretty quickly to the two protagonists! Skye is an easy character to love, and her anger and heartbreak when she discovers Jordy’s duplicity were very touching. Maya’s cold determination, on the other hand, was refreshing to see and moved the plot forward at a steady rhythm. There was never a dull moment!

I do feel like it would have fit the story better to have them be one or two years older than they are here, if only because it would seem more believable for Jordy to have so many exes a couple of years later. (But that might simply be me being a bit disconnected from teenagers’ experiences!) Overall, that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story.

Is this novel for you?

This book is scheduled to come out on November 29, 2022, and it is definitely for you if you enjoy :

  • contemporary romances
  • enemies-to-lovers
  • Wlw stories
  • dating show settings

In conclusion : I strongly recommend this book – and will definitely get a paper copy for myself when I see it hit the shelves in my city!

Fireside favorites : 10 of my favorite 2020 reads

Welcome back to another Bookending Winter post! Today’s prompt is hosted by Lauren and Becky @ Northern Plunder.

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Prompt Explanation : Take a look back at your favorite reads of 2020. Hopefully these will make it to someone else’s TBR for them to pass the time whilst snuggled in with a hot coco next to the fire.

At the beginning of 2020, I set my Goodreads challenge to 52 books – one a week, I thought, was perfectly attainable, seeing as I used to read a lot more than that, and my current classes at the time weren’t that time-consuming. 52 books, I reasoned, was a perfectly adequate challenge, and one I’d surely be done with in September, at the latest.

That didn’t age well. I’ve been trying my best to get through my ARCs and finish the books I currently own, to maybe get to the 52 books goal, but it might very well not happen this year. Still, I’m trying to not be too bummed about this, and this prompt serves as a good reminder that, even if I didn’t read a ton of books this year, I still read a couple of really good ones!

So here’s – in random order – my 10 favorite books I’ve read so far in 2020.

Note : ⏳ are ARCs gotten through NetGalley or the publisher, 📚 are books I own or borrowed from my local library.

5 stars books

⏳ Better sleep, better you

I enjoyed reading this book a lot! It’s full of useful information on the science of sleep – why we do it, and what we’re doing wrong – and has a ton of advice adaptable for almost every situation so that its readers can improve their sleep habits. I learned a lot by reading this – definitely would recommend as a gift for a friend interested in science or how things work, or for your friend running every day on 5 hours of sleep and not understanding why they’re feeling like crap all the time!

Find it on Goodreads here.

⏳ Happily Ever After & Everything In Between

This is the cutest and most relatable thing I have read in a very long time, and every single one of the pages seemed like a situation taken out of my own life. I laughed so much out loud reading this that my partner came over my side of the living room to check if I was okay (and if I needed snacks).

It was my first book from this author, but I’m planning on checking out her other works too!

Find it on Goodreads here.

⏳ Surrender your sons

This was… wow. Just wow. You can check out my review here on Goodreads – I wrote it right after reading and I honestly couldn’t say it better right now. Excellent novel and amazing author, 10/10 would recommend.

⏳ Perfect on paper

I was really excited to see what Sophie Gonzales was going to give us next, and she did not disappoint! You can read my full review on the blog – I wrote an entire post about it, it’s just so good – but if you’re just looking for the short version : this is an excellent queer YA contemporary, and you should definitely read it as soon as it comes out.

Find it on Goodreads here.

Related post : check out my review of Perfect on Paper, by Sophie Gonzales

📚 The starless sea

I’ve been trying to write a review of this book for months now, but nothing I can write renders it justice. While this author’s previous novel didn’t work for me at all, this one was so poetic and beautiful that it went into my favorites in January and stayed there the whole year long. I’m planning on re-reading it in the second half of December, if I get stuck on my current TBR and need a break in the form of the most beautiful prose I’ve read so far in 2020!

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Leviathan wakes

I read the first three books of the The Expanse series, and rated them all 5 stars, so I’m only citing the first one here or they would take way too much space in this list. I love the narration, the different points of view, the intrigue and the space battles – everything fits neatly into place and it’s extremely entertaining!

If you like politics and spaceship, this is the book you need to pick up for the holidays. I’m waiting for next weekend to get into book 4, and I’m really excited to see what happens next!

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 The way of kings

One of my first Sanderson books, and I must admit – this one put him immediately on the list of authors I’ll automatically give a chance to, whatever the subject of his next book may be. It had been a while since I’d read such a long and good novel, and even longer since I’d started a really challenging series – I’m planning on reading more from him next year, maybe make it a small reading challenge?

Find it on Goodreads here.

4 stars books

📚 Skyward

Another Sanderson book! I rated this one 4 stars instead of 5, mostly because I do agree with some other reviewers in the sense that, even though this book was really good, it felt more like a prelude to a bigger novel than an actual first installment in a series. Still, I can’t fault the quality of the writing, and the characters were easy to love and well developed.

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Maybe you should talk to someone

A non-fiction book! I love anything and everything psychology-related, so this book by a therapist about her job and her experiences with therapy sounded right up my alley. I really enjoyed reading this, even if it felt a bit longer than it should be in the end. It’s not as informative as I thought it’d be from reading reviews about it, but the experiences described in this book are very touching and complex.

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Aurora Rising

2020 was a pretty good year for my sci-fi loving heart! Aurora rising was a fun and easy book to read, filled with humor and nice plot twists. I liked the ending a lot, and my preorder of Aurora burning couldn’t come to my local bookseller soon enough!

Find it on Goodreads here.

What are your favorite 2020 reads ? Did you read and review any of these ones? Let me know in the comments! (And link your reviews if you did, so I can go read them!)

NetGalley TBR – November 2020

Good afternoon!

Today’s post is inspired by Alexa’s NetGalley Update series, which you can go check out on her blog, Writing the universe (and don’t hesitate to follow her blog if you haven’t subscribed yet!).

These past few months, I’ve done my best to improve my NetGalley ratio, which was at a low 65 at some point this year (yeah, I know, that’s pretty bad… I might have requested a bit more books than I could actually read…).

It’s now gone up to 78%, and I’m doing everything everything I can to get it all the way up to the recommended 80% – I feel like I’d be pretty happy if I could get it to 85, but then again, since I’m not a US-based reviewer, it won’t drastically augment the number of books that are available for me, so I’m not stressing too much about it.

Related posts : The eternal frustration of an international book blogger, by @insidemylibrarymind, My story with ARCs as an international book blogger, by Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane books

My NetGalley “to read” and “to review” shelves have now been almost fully emptied, but I do still have some books I’d like to get around to reading and reviewing sometime before the end of the year :

  • Slingshot, by Mercedes Helnwein – I got an invitation to get this e-ARC in my email a while ago, and almost didn’t see it at all – it had slipped in my spam folder by accident. Fortunately, I managed to find it before the publication date!
  • Men who hate women, by Laura Bates – I read a book on this exact topic from a Québécois author last year, and I’m supposed to be taking a class on it next semester, so I thought it might be useful for me to read this one!
  • The truth and other hidden things, by Lea Geller – this just sounded fun and full of drama – exactly what I’ll need once my finals are done in mid-December!
  • Viral BS : Medical myths and why we fall for them, by Seema Yasmin – I felt like this was going to be particularly interesting considering the year we’ve just had, so my expectations are pretty high for this one!

I think I’ll prioritize them by their publication dates – the last one on the list here is due for January 2021, and it’s the earliest one here so far, which means I’ve got all the time I need to read and review them all before I end up with late ARCs.

I did wish for a lot of new ones, but I’m not holding out any hope of actually getting them, since most of them were highly anticipated YA novels for which I’m sure a lot of other people made wishes.

One thing that would be pretty useful, though, would be if NetGalley could add a “wished for” tab in the library section, so we could see those books in the same way we can see the pending requests – I’ve wasted time more than once opening a ton of NetGalley tabs to check out interesting books, only to realize that I’d been here earlier in the month / year and already wished for those…

There’s been a lot of change in my life recently, and lots of added stress, so I’m not sure how fast I’ll be able to check these books off my list, but I’m genuinely excited to read them all, so we’ll see how it goes over the month of December!

Perfect on Paper, by Sophie Gonzales

Perfect on paper is author Sophie Gonzales’s third novel, coming out in March 2021 – and if you like queer romances, YA contemporaries or just love YA romance in general, then you should definitely add this gem to your TBR.

Synopsis

Darcy Phillips:
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes—for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89—out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service—that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach—at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?

What I liked

I had high hopes for this story, and… they were all met. And then some. Oh boy.

The themes Sophie Gonzales approaches in this book hit extremely close to home, and, as was the case with her previous novel, Only Mostly Devastated, were written in a very thoughtful, delicate way that left me unable to put it down until I had read it entirely.

The story touches on themes of internalized biphobia, LGBT+ relationships, parental conflict, lying… Expressions of emotions and feelings are on point (I might have cried, more than once) and the book is full of all the complicated relationships and drama that are so characteristic of high school experiences. The romance is also super sweet, which is always a great point.

Darcy and Brooke… the unrequited love trope is something I’m very partial towards – if it’s done well, it can be so much fun for the readers, and this one is done perfectly. I also loved the relationship between the main character and her transgender sister, and the way all of the characters were fully fleshed out and each had their own journeys throughout the course of the story. These characters aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, (and downright questionable choices, looking at you Darcy) but they try to learn from them and do better – and that makes them all the more likeable and attaching for me.

What other people didn’t like

Some people have mentioned the common plot points with the show Sex Education (the secret locker and giving advice to other students part) but, as with OMD, since I haven’t watched that show, I didn’t have any sense of déjà-vu. (Additionally, as the author said in a tweet recently, this book was mostly written by the time Sex Ed came out – it’s not plagiarism in any way!)

As an additional note : some reviewers have mentioned that this story was “unexpectedly mature” and “not appropriate for YA”. I won’t elaborate too much on that here, because it would honestly deserve an entire post, but I’ll tell you this : the most mature thing in this book is a kiss, and I think we know exactly what this person had in mind when they made this critic.

LGBT representation is not inherently “mature”. Our existences aren’t “mature”, they just are. Leave queer kids alone. Stop policing queer books.

Conclusion

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is absolutely a five stars book for me, and I would definitely recommend it to YA romance readers, and contemporary YA readers in general. Sophie Gonzales is now firmly on my list of authors I’ll read every book of, and I’m so excited to see what she writes next!

Related posts : Only Mostly Devastated, by Sophie Gonzales

Two contemporary YA novels

I’ve been away for a while now – exam week has taken its toll on me and I haven’t been able to do much of anything lately other than studying and stressing about my midterms.

I do, however, have some days of rest now, which I’ll use to get back on track here and read the ARCs I still have on NetGalley because I probably should get around to doing that asap

So to celebrate coming back to the blog, here are two short reviews of contemporary YA books ! I had planned this post for February 14th – you can see how my posting schedule has been delayed!

Red, white and royal blue, by Casey McQuiston

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I picked up this book at the library because everybody was talking about it, and I was not disappointed ! It’s fun, light, and as I am a hopeless romantic, I absolutely loved it. 

Alex and Henry’s relationship, from enemies to lovers, is a good example of one of my favorite tropes, and well executed enough to make it a very good romance novel. It’s got nice LGBT representation, super cute banter, an amazing sibling relationship, and it’s filled with easy-to-love characters. 

This story also has some idealized fictional American politics, which might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed escaping for a few hours in a reality where everything was fluffy and worked out well in the end. 

One of my favorite quotes (which may or may not be from one of the book’s sex scenes, but honestly it’s such a mood I just couldn’t let it go) :

“Awesome, fuckin’ love doing things out of spite,” he says without a hint of sarcasm. 

What a mood

These witches don’t burn, by Isabel Sterling

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m a hoe for a nice magic system. This one isn’t the exception to the rule. I really appreciated the way the magical elements were mixed in with the contemporary ones of teen girls’ lives – going to parties, working part-time somewhere, dating… and trying to figure out if an evil witch is trying to take over your town. 

It has really good LGBT+ representation (yes, there’s a theme to the books I’ve been reading lately) and the plot twists at the end surprised me a lot. I enjoyed reading this so much that the second book made my list of 2020 new releases I’m excited about

Did you read any good books in February ? Do you have any recommendations to share ?

ARC review : Tweet Cute, by Emma Lord

I know, I know, I’m super late in posting this review. I’ve been trying to adapt to my new university schedule and I thought I had everything under control, but this post was supposed to be up a week ago, in time for the publication of the book… and it clearly wasn’t. But hey, better late than never, right ?

Tweet Cute is author Emma Lord’s debut novel, a contemporary YA rom-com filled to the brim with cuteness, lovable characters, and a ton of food references. It’s everything I was looking for in a book at the end of 2019, and I was absolutely delighted to get to read an ARC of it through NetGalley.

Synopsis

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.

What I liked

Finally, a novel where teens using social media actually act like teens using social media ! The cultural references used by Jack and Pepper make the twitter war much more realistic than lots of supposedly “teen” characters in other YA novels, whose only references are their Hogwarts houses and how much they love Lady Gaga – we get it, Harry Potter is very popular, but it’s clearly not representative of everything that teens have an interest in !

The main characters, Pepper and Jack, were what really sold me on this book from the first couple of pages in. Their characterization is well done and they come off as believable teenagers, and the alternating POV helps the readers understand their actions and their behaviours, outside of what they think of each other.

The way they talk about their challenges and struggles is extremely relatable, and the author doesn’t hesitate to tackle the subject of unhealthy competition between students and the academic pressure to get into a good college, be the best of your class, and the effects it has on teenagers’ mindsets.

What I didn’t like

One of the plot points described in the longer synopsis available on Goodreads mentions an anonymous text-chat app that Jack built – and as much as this could have been an interesting way to connect the two characters, I felt like it was a bit too underdeveloped, and could have been cut out of the story without losing much in terms of character development. For me, this specific part would have had its place in a story without the twitter war, but the two in the same narrative felt a bit too heavy in drama.

A thing I would have liked to see more of was Pepper and Jack’s respective parents. Without giving away any spoilers, they obviously play a big role in their children’s lives, and in the reasons for the “twitter war” that starts everything, and I would have loved to have a bit more insight into their motivations and their stories.

Conclusion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall, I had a really good time reading this book, and I would recommend it to YA contemporary readers without hesitation : it’s fun, lighthearted, and the romance is terribly cute but also realistic enough to be believable. 

Did you get a copy of this book, or did you add it to your 2020 TBR ? Did you write and post a review of it on your blog ? Feel free to link it in the comments so I can check it out !

ARC review : Only mostly devastated, by Sophie Gonzales

Finally, I’m writing this review I’ve been meaning to write for the past two weeks !

I’ll be honest and say that I asked for an e-ARC of this book without actually thinking I’d get one, and then… I did. I truly didn’t expect it, so I immediately downloaded it and read it in the subway on my way to and from class (really fast, because I just couldn’t put it down !).

Only mostly devastated is a fun, LGBTQ+ themed, YA contemporary romance with a 2020 release date, written by author Sophie Gonzales.

Synopsis

When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted—and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

It’s time to admit something to you : I’ve never watched grease, ever.

So when this book was described as “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless, inspired by Grease.”, as someone who hasn’t read or watched any of those references, I wasn’t expecting anything from it, because – well, because I just didn’t know what to expect. And I think that actually helped me enjoy this book more than some other reviewers who tended to compare it a lot to those references.

What I liked

Fair warning : the next paragraphs have some spoilers. If you don’t want to see them, feel free to skip until the end of the section.

For a YA romance novel, I thought this book tackled some heavy themes, and it hit me pretty hard. For example – Ollie has to stay in that new city to help a sick relative, and the themes of illness and grief are talked about in detail in a few chapters. This hit really close to home for me : this past year, one of my closest friends passed away after a long illness – the very same one that affects Ollie’s relative in the book, and a few months later, I lost my grandfather of sudden illness.

The character’s feelings and expressions of emotion in the book resonated with me a lot, and I had to take a few breaks at some points. This quote, specifically, felt so real to me that I had to stop and cry for some time before I could start again.

I lost it in the hallway. I pressed my back against the wall and sank to the floor, crying as quietly as I could. I didn’t want to be here in this house knowing [character name] would never be in it again. It was her house. We came here when we visited her. It’d been her house my whole life. This wasn’t right. None of it was right.

That quote echoes exactly my own feelings about grief, and about my personal losses, and I thought the author had managed an extremely just portrayal of what you can go through in that kind of situation.

The themes of fat-shaming and homophobia were also talked about in this book, and I really appreciated it.

What I didn’t like

I felt like some of the character’s relationships could have been developed a bit more – like Lara and Ollie, and Will and his friends. I also had some trouble getting over my initial dislike of Will on behalf of Ollie, even when the main character himself started getting over it.

Conclusion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall, this was a good book for me. I really liked reading it, even if it wasn’t as lighthearted and fun as I expected it to be, based on the cover and the description. I’d still recommend it to readers of YA contemporary books without hesitation !

That’s it for today !

Family Trust, by Kathy Wang

I finally had the time to read Family Trust, by Kathy Wan, during the #AGameOfBooksathon readathon !

I’ve been seeing that book everywhere for such a log time now, and to be honest, now that I’ve read it, I’m a little disappointed. I almost didn’t want to write a review, because so many people had a good opinion of it and I felt like it just didn’t live up to the hype. Some reviewers recommended it to readers who liked Crazy rich Asians, (which I loved, and reviewed here) and most of the reviews I saw before getting it myself were really positive, so I had great expectations.

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Synopsis

Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For years, Stanley has claimed that he’s worth a small fortune. But the time is now coming when the details of his estate will finally be revealed, and Stanley’s family is nervous.

What I liked

Kathy Wang’s writing is really good, and easy to read, which is probably why this book didn’t end up in my DNF pile – I never had a moment when I didn’t understand what was going on, or who was who (which happens way too much in some books, to be honest). The pace of the story was also good, with enough action to keep the reader alert and interested, but not too much so they don’t have to .

The characters were all interesting in their own way, even though I didn’t always understand their motives for acting like they did. I loved how the author kept switching between each character’s point of view, so we could see how the others saw them, and themselves, and their opinions on the other’s stories. Each character had something new to bring to the story, and it all worked really well  as a whole.

What I didn’t like

The characters were interesting on their own, but I didn’t really feel that much engaged in their individual stories – the parts where they interacted together in me “main plot” was very interesting, but whenever those main characters were on their own, it wasn’t quite as captivating. It felt a bit underwhelming, and even though the idea of the story was really good – a dying man holding on to his secrets while his family members desperately try to secure their inheritance – I felt like it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

I also wish we had gotten to see more of Mary’s story (Stanley’s new wife, now caring for a rich old man while her own family tries to get a part of the inheritance too) – I felt like her character was a bit underdeveloped compared to the others, when her story seemed so interesting to read about !

Conclusion

I was expecting to be blown away by this story, but instead, I was left with a vague feeling of unfinished business – unsatisfying, even if the writing was very good. This book isn’t bad at all – it just didn’t work for me. It’s definitely worth reading, if you enjoy complex stories and realistic family dynamics 🙂

Overall, I think this is a 3/5 stars for me, but don’t let that stop you from trying it and make your own opinion ! (And if you do read and review it, feel free to link your review in the comments, I’d love to see what you thought about it !)