You Have a Match – Book Review

Title: You Have a Match
Author: Emma Lord
Published: January 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Goodreads

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Love it

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Synopsis:

A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she’ll never forget.

From the beloved author of Tweet Cute comes Emma Lord’s You Have a Match, a hilarious and heartfelt novel of romance, sisterhood, and friendship…

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer, injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front. But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister. When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents–especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself. The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because somethings, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

“If you learn to capture a feeling, it’ll always be louder than words” (chapter 37)

Thank you Emma Lord and Wednesday Books for an eARC of You Have a Match in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, my feelings really went back and forth on this one. Shortly after I finished it, Reese Witherspoon announced it for her book club and I thought to myself, “Am I missing something?” So I just set it aside for a while because I didn’t really know what I thought. But here I am–I’ve gone through my notes and tried to write up my thoughts in a cohesive way; here’s the good and the bad.

Abby is passionate about photography (I love to see it!) and her friends. She feels a little overlooked by her parents sometimes because of the two rugrats who claim the titles of her little siblings. But the one person who always made her feel seen and helped cultivate her love of photography, her grandfather, “Poppy,” has recently died and she’s trying to cope and grieve while still trying to live her life. Her two best friends are her lifelines, so when one of them, Leo, wants to learn about his biological family with a DNA test, she decides to do one too in solidarity. She was expecting Leo’s test to be the most informative, but somehow her’s took the spotlight when it revealed a fully biological sister that she’s never heard of. Cue Savvy, Instagram star and practically perfect in every way. Instead of just going to their parents about this discovery (why?) Abby and Savvy decided to sign up for camp together as a way to bond and try to figure out the mystery unraveling before them. Oh, and, SURPRISE! Abby’s best friend Leo, who she’s actually desperately in love with and trying to convince herself not to be–he’s going to camp, too!

Some things I loved: Abby learning to craft her love for photography and continue that special bond she shared with her Poppy; Abby and Savvy trying to figure out how to have a relationship with a sister you’ve never met; some of the side characters are sweet and funny, and I really wish we could’ve seen more of them. I believe I said this in another review of Lord’s books, but while I love her quirky, quick voice, I also don’t like when authors try to name drop everything currently popular (brands, celebrities, etc) to stay current because I know this will cause the book not to age well. However, Lord’s writing is also very engaging and sweet.

Here are some things that I had problems with. The Big Embarrassing Incident is what Abby dubbed as the reason she can’t be in love with Leo anymore. However, when it was finally revealed (which was way too long), it is pretty anti-climatic and fell pretty short of being a big deal. Their chemistry was also not expanded on much beyond Abby’s constant “does he like me” stream of consciousness and his pretty clear hints. When they do get together, I did feel that “aww” moment mostly because I also fell in love with my best friend, but if I didn’t relate as much, I might have been asking why they liked each other instead.

Abby’s best friend Connie wasn’t fleshed out very well and it seemed she was mostly used as a plot device to keep Abby and Leo away from each other. I honestly felt like the book would read the same without her. I also felt like Savvy wasn’t easy to connect with (I don’t really like influencers, so that could be it–though Lord doesn’t really paint them in a great light either), but I did like the contrast in her personality and Abby’s, especially as they tried to navigate that.

The explanation of what happened between Abby and Savvy’s parents and their best friends that caused them to give up Savvy, cut ties, and have Abby just over a year later was quite the information dump and I still felt confused. The whole book was working up to this big reveal and it just didn’t feel like something that would happen–or even if it did, why would Savvy’s adoptive parents not move away once they had cut ties? They’re basically setting their daughters up for finding each other and feeling betrayal toward their parents for keeping them in the dark about a pretty life changing event. Even as the book draws to a close, all the lying that has taken place, not only in Abby’s and Savvy’s lives, but also just in this one summer, everything seems to be tied up with a pretty bow with not a believable amount of resolution. Honestly, the reveal and somehow happily-ever-after conclusions were what I had the most problems with in this book. I also feel like it doesn’t have a good adoption rep, which makes me wonder if Lord had any commentary from people on this.

Overall, Lord’s writing is engaging and fun enough to carry you through the book, but you’ll be left scratching your head on how everything was resolved. I’m not sure how it made Reese Witherspoon’s book club, to be honest.

Book Review/Blog Tour – Beautiful Facade

Title: Beautiful Facade
Author: Kathryn S Rose
Published: February 2021
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Rating: 2 stars
Cover:
 It’s okay

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Synopsis:

On the day that 16-year-old Winter Starling had her life and dreams shattered by a sexual assault, she meets Kai, a boy from her high school obsessed with music. They develop a deep friendship, which comes to an abrupt end when Kai unexpectedly has to leave. Winter has no idea why he went or any way to contact him.

Ten years pass, and Winter has constructed a new reality for herself. Now living in Melbourne, she has a successful career in advertising and is engaged to Liam King, a star player in Australian Rules Football. Winter has a perfect life.

During a night out, Winter runs into Kai, now the lead singer of ‘The Stonevilles.’ Winter and Kai rekindle their friendship, and to everyone around them, their attraction is evident. With Kai back in her life, Winter’s past threatens to ruin her relationship with Liam and everything she has worked to achieve. But can she risk losing Kai a second time?

Emotional and edgy, Beautiful Facade is about love, loss, healing, self-discovery, and the messy battle between one’s head and one’s heart.

Happy book birthday to Kathryn S Rose’s Beautiful Facade! Thank you Rose and Xpresso Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Pretty much right from the beginning of this story, you learn that 27-year-old Winter has officially faked it until she made it–working through trauma from a sexual assault in high school and somehow convincing her famous Australian footballer fiancé that she thrives in the spotlight, and working up the ranks in her great job. When a friend from her past shows up and brings back memories from high school–the good, the bad, the ugly–Winter’s mask starts cracking and she can’t seem to cover up the holes in her facade quick enough. Does she even want to anymore?

For me, the idea of this story was great, but the execution fell short. Kai is supposed to be this mysterious enigma who vanished in thin air with no explanation, but for me, he was pushy, unstable, and it’s strange how obsessive he is with Winter. The build up to solving the mystery of Kai ended with a quick, lackluster explanation. Actually, the last part of the book just felt like an information dump with very little satisfaction in discovering answers. The idea of Winter living out this beautiful facade wasn’t developed as well as it could have been, and most of the story was taken up by her conflicting feelings for her returned best friend. And the famous, gorgeous footballer? What a one-dimensional jerk.

While I struggled with the execution of the story, I did enjoy Rose’s writing style. It was fun reading a book about characters my age juggling work, relationships, trauma, healing, and somehow managing a social life. I will be interested to see what Rose comes up with next.

Goodreads / Amazon

About the Author

Kathryn S Rose is a mum, wife, reader, writer, traveller, and food enthusiast. Writing a book was always on her bucket list, and finally, with Beautiful Facade, it has come into fruition.

Kathryn is interested in the study of human behaviour and obtained a Bachelor of Social Science, with a focus on Community studies and Welfare Work.

Since completing her studies, she has worked in several jobs, which have enhanced her understanding of social issues, human development, relationships, and lifestyle. Some of these insights are reflected in her writing and give her inspiration.

Besides books, Kathryn has many other loves. She enjoys listening to live music, relaxing at the beach, embarking on random hiking adventures, and indulging in too much food and wine with family and friends.

When Kathryn and her family aren’t traipsing around the world, they can be found residing in Perth, Western Australia.

Website / Instagram

Giveaway

Tour-wide giveaway (INT):
$25 Amazon gift card

A Curse of Roses – Book Review

Title: A Curse of Roses
Author: Diana Pinguicha
Published: December 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy, LGBTQ
Goodreads

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.

There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic–her curse–has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse–if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the Kind of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?

With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.

She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

Based on Portuguese legend, this #ownvoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…

Happy book birthday to Diana Pinguicha’s A Curse of Roses! Thank you to Entangled Teen and Pinguicha for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Pinguicha writes a fantasy loosely inspired by Portuguese folklore with an own voices spin. Yzabel not only struggles with a magical curse that’s slowly killing her, she struggles with her faith, her role as future queen, and her sexuality in a time where people are rejected for anything apart from the norm. In her self-discovery journey to understand the blessings in her life, including her magic, she learns she has more people who are willing to support her than she ever could’ve imagined.

I was bothered by the pacing of the story, finding much of the middle dry. I also struggled to connect with the characters because anytime they started to show a flaw, someone swooped in and dismissed it as a flaw but a strength. Flawless characters aren’t very exciting. The most redeeming part of the plot was seeing Yzabel work through her frustrating self-hatred and religion-based self-harm, but it did seem to turn around very suddenly. Everything was fixed in the end because all you need is love. I found myself wishing for more depth to the characters and less of an obvious good guy vs bad guy type of story.

Book Review – The Bookworm Crush

Title: The Bookworm Crush
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Published: October 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Shy bookworm Amy McIntyre is about to compete for the chance to interview her favorite author, who hasn’t spoken to the press in years. The only way to win into step out of the shadows and into the spotlight, but that level of confidence has never come easy.

The solution? A competition coach. The problem? The best person for the job is the guy she’s secretly crushing on…local surfer celebrity Toff Nichols.

He’s a player. He’s a heartthrob. He makes her forget basic things, like how to breathe. How can she feel any confidence around him?

To her surprise, Toff agrees to help. And he’s an excellent teacher. Amy feels braver–maybe even brave enough to admit her feelings for him. When their late night practices become less about coaching and more about making out, Amy’s newfound confidence wavers.

But does Toff really like her or is this just another lesson?

Thank you Entangled Publishing and Lisa Brown Roberts for an eARC of The Bookworm Crush in exchange for an honest review. I’ve had this sitting on my kindle for a few months now because it was forgotten in the midst of wedding planning, but I actually picked it up as motivation to go to the gym (haha). I think this made me like it a little bit more than I would’ve otherwise because it helped distract me from the fact that I was sitting on a stationary bicycle, sweating my guts out.

I love that there is another book about book lovers for book lovers, and this one with an unconventional match: the surfer god. Amy and Toff’s friendship-to-lovers relationship is cute and flirty and fun. Unfortunately, we don’t go much beyond that. The characters had little glimpses of depth, but we never camped out there, it was mostly just mentioned in passing. The plot was a bit dry in parts, as well, making me wish for more meat to it. I’m still a little confused about why Amy asked Toff to help her with a book contest, but reading about them working together was enjoyable.

One thing I really struggled with is the overuse of pop culture and book references. Obviously some book references would be expected of a girl who spends her life between pages, especially books that are helpful for the plot or character development, but the titles were thrown about willy nilly, making me feel like the author just wanted to see how many book references she could cram in. I’m also really not a fan of frequent name dropping in pop culture references because I feel like it has the potential to age the book badly.

The writing was chunky and a little juvenile for a book with older teens with an active sex life. I have several sentences that I highlighted because they were awkward or just didn’t make sense (the editor in me–oops), but I eventually gave up. Since I was reading the eARC, I really hope more edits were made before the final print, but I was not able to connect enough to this book to have any desire to find out myself. Amy and Toff were a fun, surface level glance, but not engaging enough to think about them after the book is over.

Book Review – Irish Magic

Title: Irish Magic
Author: Susan B. James
Published: August 2019
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: It’s okay

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Synopsis:

She needs a hero. He needs a break.
A four-leaf clover, a leprechaun with a mission, and a matchmaker may have other plans for them.

What do you do when everything goes wrong?
Make a wish to a four-leaf clover, right?
There’s no other logical way out of it!

A bitter end to her engagement turned novelist Kate Carnahan’s hero into a snarky disaster. With a deadline looming, Kate’s willing to try anything to find a new hero even wishing on a four-leaf clover.

But a clover wish is a heart wish. Everyone knows that! When part leprechaun, Bradley Flynn, is charged with finding Kate’s true love for her, he calls on Essie O’Callaghan, the Hereditary Matchmaker of Cluhalaugh who happens to have a mission of her own.

Dr. Michael Walshe had a ring in his pocket when he walked in on his girlfriend sleeping with her costar. He wants no part of Essie’s plan to find him a wife.

Fate – or something more leprechaun shaped – has Kate and the doctor bumping into each other wherever they go in Ireland. Will Kate realize that Michael could be far more to her than the cure to her writer’s block?

Thank you to Susan B. James, Soul Mate Publishing, and Xpresso Book Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I love stories that take place in the beautiful island of Ireland, and I was excited for a magical element through some leprechaun lore. Two people who are down in their luck somehow end up running into each other every turn they make on their individual vacations. Both have experienced a series of hurtful experiences that make them both lackluster toward the idea of new love, but with the help of a very friendly leprechaun who isn’t allowed to use his magic, they might just learn to embrace the wonderful unknowns of a new relationship.

While there was so much potential for a truly magical story, it just needed a ton of work. Much of the dialogue was awkward, transitions were missing, and changes in emotions weren’t followed well. I wish there had been more fact checking–one part in particular that stuck with me was the fact that the characters said Nintendo doesn’t exist anymore and they played Mario Kart on an Xbox. I texted my fiancé immediately when I read this, and he started laughing. I’m guessing James is hoping her audience doesn’t play video games?

For being a predominantly romance-driven book, I found the scenes where the sexual tensions build to be lacking. The sex was extremely fast and there is even a part where one character believes the only reason she could be so sexually attracted to the other character is because she’s been possessed by a random ghost that made an appearance a page or so ago.

I found myself wanting to read more about what’s at stake for each of the characters, or even understand more of the half-baked side romance stories. Kate is the character who gets the most background in this area, but I wanted more from the others instead of reading Kate go through the same exact internal struggle every few hours. I think the reason I am being so critical is because I see so much potential for this story, I just wish it could’ve gone through several more edits before it arrived here.

Book Review – Rebound Boyfriend

Title: Rebound Boyfriend (Varsity Girlfriends #3)
Author: Daphne James Huff
Published: April 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 2 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

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Synopsis:

I am 100%, completely, totally over Jeremiah.

After all, he’s the one who dumped me.
For my best friend.
Via text message.
Two days before Christmas.

So I did what any self-respecting head cheerleader would do: I started dating his teammate. Who’s great. Really.

But now Jeremiah keeps looking at me like he misses holding me just as much as I miss being in his arms. And we’ve been paired up for the most important history project of my entire life.

Can my heart survive this? Or should I hope for another shot with the only boy I’ve ever loved?

Rebound Boyfriend is a sweet second chance sports romance you’ll swoon over instantly. It’s the third book in the Varsity Girlfriends series.

“Everyone who knew how to make things better had left me. This was all on me to figure out” (chapter 26)

Thank you Kayla Tirrell and the Varsity Girlfriends team for a free copy in return for an honest review.

This story left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn’t find any of the characters to be engaging or redeeming, except for possibly parts with Jeremiah. I tried not to go into this story with any time of YA cheerleader stereotypes, but this story stuck pretty close to the script. All of the girls were whiny and superficial. Sammi just wasn’t very likable, which made it hard to empathize with her while she’s dealing with heartache.

Things that made me frustrated: Sammi’s best friend was extremely manipulative. There’s a line between trying to help your friend get over their ex and forcing them to do things to make that happen, and Staci for sure crosses that line completely. I also didn’t like Sammi’s relationship with Ryan–or really Ryan at all. He was annoying and I couldn’t make sense of anything he did. Sammi’s decision to train him to be a good boyfriend was a really half-assed plot device and wasn’t fleshed out well at all. And finally, the reveal of why Jeremiah broke up with Sammi, even though he was clearly not over her, was extremely anti-climatic and pretty silly.

I did very much enjoy some of the scenes between Sammi and Jeremiah, specifically when they were working on their history project. The chemistry between them was fun to read.