Top Fifteen: Books on My Summer TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books on my summer tbr.

Can y’all believe that it’s already (officially) summer? (I can’t.) I love making these lists—they’re helpful in planning out what (and when) I’m going to review on the blog—but I had a hard time thinking of specific titles to read that weren’t arcs. I’ve included five titles that I will probably read, but I’m also okay switching out a particular title if I end up not ~feeling it. Okay? Okay.

NetGalley ARCs

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (a long overdue arc!)
Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Physical ARCs

We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar
Whose Story Is This?: Old Conflicts, New Chapters by Rebecca Solnit
Frankly in Love by Daivd Yoon
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Non-ARCs

The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Mayhem in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (YARC)
We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang (YARC)

Review: Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

Title: Technically, You Started It
Author: Lana Wood Johnson
Rating: ★★★★★
Summary: When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate. A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other. There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster…


I had high hopes for Technically, You Started It: an adorable pseudo meet-cute with mistaken identity? In a young adult novel told exclusively through text messages? Yes, please! I feel very, very lucky to have (literally) stumbled onto an arc, because it was the perfect backdrop to my train ride down to New York City. (The return-trip book, not so much.) It was so easy to fall into Haley and Martin’s developing relationship: to laugh at their jokes, smile at their obliviousness, cheer when they both finally admitted that what they were doing actually meant something—that the book fulfilled all of my expectations.

I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy reading a book of nothing but texts, if it would feel like something was missing, but the only real difference is how quickly I got through the book. Lana Wood Johnson does such a good job at developing the world in which Haley and Martin exist that I quickly grew accustomed to the format. I felt like I knew the two of them—their friends, their families, how they were spending their summers—that it was if I’d grabbed one of their phones and scrolled through their entire text history and not that Johnson had made the whole thing up.

While Martin initially texts Haley to ask a question about school, and Haley accidentally restarts their conversation a few days later, their infrequent and short threads quickly morph into daily, in-depth conversations. It’s so easy (for so many reasons) to be more open online, and Johnson takes advantage of this, allowing both Haley and Martin to connect without having to deal with the anxiety of an in-person meeting. (And even when Haley brings up that Martin is only continuing their correspondence because it’s just texting, he’s quick to shoot her down—because that isn’t the only reason, at least not for Martin, and at least not at that point in the story.)

The majority of the plot revolves around Haley thinking that she’s texting one Martin (“the good one”) while she’s really texting the other one (“the burrito clown”), and the fun is in how Haley’s torn between the connection she feels with Text Martin and the growing attraction she has to IRL Martin—who she doesn’t know are the same person. Martin figures this out pretty quickly, but Haley remains in the dark for the bulk of the novel, and it’s this in-between space where Johnson lets us live. Haley’s reluctance to ever meet Martin irl heightens the dramatic tension, but it also makes sense for her, and the text format never feels like a crutch Johnson uses just to keep her protagonists apart.

I’m sure that readers will judge Technically, You Started It by its cover, or its summary, or even its format, but they shouldn’t. The book is such a refreshing (and modern) look into how humans connect with one another, how much easier it is to talk to a screen but how gratifying it becomes when you let yourself truly be vulnerable with another person. This book made my soul happy, and it’s something I know I’ll return to when I need a pick-me-up.

Top Ten: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was my most anticipated releases publishing between July and December of 2019.

I am sure that this is bound to change as I hear about more new releases closer to their pub dates, but below are ten new books I’m very excited to read!

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory (Jul. 16)
The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz (Aug. 22)
Whose Story Is This?: Old Conflicts, New Chapters by Rebecca Solnit (Sep. 3)
Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan (Sep. 10)
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Sep. 10)

Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays by Leslie Jamison (Sep. 24)
10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston (Oct. 1)
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (Oct. 1)
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (Oct. 8)
The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (Nov. 5)

Month in Review: May 2019

Favorite Media

I read a couple of great books last month—The Unhoneymooners and Star-Crossed come to mind—but it was Avengers: Endgame that hit me the most. I remember watching all of the MCU movies that had been released by 2012 so that I could see The Avengers in theaters, and I’ve seen every MCU movie since. I knew going into Endgame that I was going to be emotional, but I legitimately cried multiple times and was pretty much a wreck for the rest of the day. It wasn’t a perfect film, but it was still exactly what I wanted.

Stuff I Added to My Queue

Arcs I picked up at BEA…

While at BEA, I also snagged an arc of The Magicians: Alice’s Story, a completed (and signed!) copy of Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, and added Rebel Girls—which I saw on the show floor but wasn’t able to take home.

ICYMI

  • Marie posted five reasons why she keeps writing book reviews
  • The cons (and pros) of tagging authors in negative reviews continues…
  • Chelsea listed 25 middle-grade books by black authors on Book Riot

What were YOU up to in May? Let me know!

Top Ten: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was unpopular bookish opinions.

Some things I love…

♥ I love interconnected stories where secondary and tertiary characters are named and potentially get their own narrative arc. I’m always like, “ooh, I know you!”
♥ I use Goodreads all the time, for so many different things, and I have yet to find a replacement. It’s my ride-or-die book site.
♥ My love for ebooks has steadily grown the more eARCs I read. It’s so easy to highlight and search, and being able to lounge in bed and literally only lift a finger to turn a page is amazing.

…and some that I don’t.

✖️I hate getting books as gifts. What if I’ve read it and didn’t like it? Or haven’t read it and don’t want to? Just get me a gift card instead.
✖️I know I should be supporting authors more, but buying a book new doesn’t really seem all that worth it when I’m probably only going to read it once. Plus, there has never been anything that I’ve been so desperate to read that I couldn’t wait to get from my library.
✖️Even when they’re free, tote bags are often terrible. They’re never the right size and hardly ever have extra pockets.
✖️If there is one thing that will almost always make me dislike a story, it’s dual narration, especially when the character names are used as chapter headings. Please just don’t.
✖️I may love true crime, but I just can’t get into mysteries and thrillers. I could literally read the same basic story and in one instance my brain is soaking up all the gory details and in the other it’s like “lol nope.”
✖️Physical arcs are great for Instagram, but once I’ve read them or the book’s been published, I unhaul them. They don’t seem like “real” books to me, and I don’t want them interfiled on my shelf.
✖️I don’t consider books sacred, like at all. I dog-ear pages, I underline, I crack spines, I read in the bathtub, and, at work, when there’s absolutely nothing more to be done, I throw them right in the recycle bin.

Review: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Title: Fix Her Up
Author: Tessa Bailey
Rating: ★★★½
Summary: Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. With a four-phase plan, Georgie’s determined to make herself into a Woman of the World… whatever that means. If people think she’s having a steamy love affair with resident sports-star and tabloid favorite Travis Ford, maybe they’ll acknowledge that she’s not just the youngest Castle sibling who paints faces for a living. Sidelined by an injury, Travis is flipping houses to keep busy, but he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. When Georgie proposes her wild scheme, he agrees. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman—and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her…


Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via NetGalley.

Fix Her Up is a study in contrasts. On one hand, the cover and summary promise a cute contemporary romance featuring a fake relationship and the good ‘ole “my older brother’s best friend” hurdle. On the other, this is probably the most explicitly sexual book I think I’ve ever read.

And I couldn’t tell with which side I took the most issue.

Was it the cutesy, over-the-top plot? 🤷‍♀️ Like, there’s rom-com sweet and then there’s made-for-TV sweet. Everything in Fix Her Up feels just slightly off, as if the story can’t quite stand up on its own—but, perhaps, sandwiching everything around sex means it never has to. With a few minor exceptions, I pretty much loved the book until the very end. (spoiler

Travis proposes to Georgie live on television after they’ve broken up because Things Were Kept Secret and OH YEAH she also wants a huge family and he doesn’t want kids. Someone needs to explain to me how a month-long relationship can enable this kind of self-actualization because damn. Like, this book literally ends in a marriage proposal. It felt like a slow-speed car crash instead.

←spoiler) I could over-look how every relationship besides that of Travis and Georgie lacked depth and authenticity. I could ignore the compressed time-frame and “oh, so we’re going there” plot points. I could even turn a blind eye to how Bailey very clearly sets up the protagonists of book two in the “wait, this is already a series?” series. (Give me three guesses and I can probably name the stars of books three through five, too.)

What I cannot get over—still, after five days, have not been able to get over—is the pornographic play-by-play on top of all of that saccharine sweetness. As if there happened to be a scene in your favorite Hallmark movie where that cute Chris Evans knockoff said “soon as we get on that couch tomorrow, I’m going to ride you straight through the credits” while he was (absolutely, no question) fingering the love interest.

(Like, y’all. I cannot, with a straight face, read some of the dialogue in this book!)

While I can objectively understand how Bailey moves her story from point A to point B, it also kind of feels like the plot was there only to set-up all of the sex. Like, on what kind of emotional journey can Travis and Georgie go where her giving him a blow-job in the high school dugout feels the most resonant? Is it after she rekindles his love for baseball? And it starts raining? And this blow-job is wish-fulfillment for her thirteen-year-old self? Let’s go with that.

Is Fix Her Up a good contemporary romance? Sure! It’s sickly sweet! It punched me right in the feels! It made me giggle and squee because Travis and Georgie are so goddamn cute and I wanted more of the story!

Does it also have good sex scenes? Yes! They are certainly explicit but also fun and felt like a natural—albeit heightened—extension of the characters and their relationship to one another.

BUT—and it’s a big but—do those same scenes work with the story Tessa Bailey was trying to tell? 😬 One part of me wanted the romance more than anything—the furtive glances, the blushing, the repartee and innuendo—and would have been just fine with the fade-to-black on which that kind of story thrives. And then the other went along for the x-rated ride, shaking my head at the absolutely absurd and unnecessary plot, speed-reading because who tf cares about Georgie’s financial independence?

I could never reconcile the two.

Top Ten: Contemporary Romances

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was books from my favorite genre.

I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary romances lately, and it’s been absolutely lovely. (I can’t wait to prioritize more of them going forward!) Below are some of my favorites.

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Lip Lock by Susanna Carr
Miss You by Kate Eberlen
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot
The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
♥ Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke
Still Thinking of You by Adele Parks
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren