Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper UK for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Our main characters are unlikely friends, Gabby is completely introverted whereas Ryan is a huge extrovert. But they are super close and the novel starts with them sleeping together at the end of their final year of high school before going back in time so the reader can find out the top ten moments of their friendship that lead to this moment.

This was fun if slightly disappointing. I’ve heard good things about Cotugno and how she’s one of the queens of contemporary YA, but this was just fine.

One thing I liked about this book is that the main character is bisexual and this is on page. She talks about her attraction to boys and girls, and if my memory serves me correctly she has relationships with both (I read this a while ago and my memory is hay I’m sorry). This isn’t something we find often in YA contemporary with an opposite sex main relationship.

The way the story was told was really interesting, it’s told from dual points of view and through 4 years of high school. I thought this was a cool different take on contemporary, but because this is only the top 10 moments of their friendship/relationship we only get to see those 10 moments and I would personally prefer seeing more, I would prefer seeing the day to day life as well as these moments.

I think this is what caused me to not connect with this novel in the way I would like to. The pacing is good because it is super fast to get through the 10 moments but that caused me to not really connect to the characters, like I didn’t have any emotional feelings towards the relationship and just didn’t really care. That isn’t to say I won’t try more of Cotugno’s work because it was fun to read and one of those books that you read when you’ve got a lot going on and you don’t need to pay a lot of attention to the plot.

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I Heart Hollywood by Lindsey Kelk

Content warnings: outing ultimatums, gay closeting

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as the first in the series, I felt like some of the characters were slightly off. Kelk’s writing was as humorous as ever, but something wasn’t quite right.

The title being I Heart Hollywood when Angela absolutely hated it was wildly confusing. I felt like because Angela just felt so awkward and uncomfortable and sad the entire time she was there diminished my enjoyment.

The biggest problem I had with this book was that a character is gay and in the closet, and Angela finds out and (I can’t quite remember it exactly as I read this a while ago) but there was some kind of ultimatum/forced outing kind of plot to it. I realise that this may be seen as a spoiler but stuff like this shouldn’t be as it’s something that can be harmful and we should be aware of this. I hope that Kelk is aware that this is something that isn’t ok, but this book was written some time ago so I’m not super angry about it. But I did not like it. And I feel a little less positively about the series. I do however still want to continue it.

I really felt for Alex in this novel as he was just in New York whilst his girlfriend was off on some work thing falling apart and being a general nuisance. I hope the next book has more Alex because I really like his character.

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I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk

Now as I’ve been away I’ve kind of fallen out of my way of reviewing so I apologise if it’s a bit clunky. I also read this way back in September so my memories are a bit hazy but I’m going to try.

CW for: cheating, slut shaming.

After Angela finds her boyfriend of X amount of years having sex with another woman at her best friends wedding, and they all knew about it, she makes a last minute decision and flies across the pond to New York. She has no return flight and limited funds but she ends up really finding her feet and a new best friend. And her love life is heating up too.

I love Lindsey Kelk’s writing. She’s so funny and her characters’ voices are always just so real for me. This is Jess’ favourite book so I’ve always had my eye on it and I finally got it from the library and whilst it wasn’t perfect I did really enjoy reading it.

In regards the slut shaming it’s not great. There’s often mentions of sleeping around not being great and that it’s something to be judged for but there’s also some really sex positive scenes. However, as much as I felt uncomfortable reading the slut shaming, I tried to remember that this came out in 2008 and SO much has changed with people’s attitudes to sex especially with the mainstreaming of hook up apps.

Now because I went to a signing I already knew who the end game was out of the semi love triangle that there was in this book. But I don’t think that ruined it for me because reading it you could just tell from Kelk’s tone who she wanted her character to be with.

It may read to you as questionable what the main character does in this book after having her heart broken by someone cheating on her but it happens in real life. You get treated like an idiot by a man who completely betrays you so you just want to get back at all man kind and date a couple guys at once. Obviously it’s not the best thing to do. But it’s understandable.

This kind of book is perfect for when you want a light read to just take your mind off of everything and I love that sometimes as I have a lot of stress in my life. Eventually I’ll get around to reading the whole series.

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The Lady of Royale Street by Thea De Salle – Everyone is back for a reprise but main romance is less than I hoped

Rain and Sol from The King of Bourbon Street are getting married (oops spoilers), and everyone is flying in to be there for the special day, but a week before the wedding the wedding planner dies after leaking all the wedding information. So income Theresa, Rain’s best friend, and Alex, Sol’s brother, to save the day, and maybe develop some feelings along the way.

I’ll be honest, this is my least favourite of the series so far. I wasn’t drawn to either of the characters and I didn’t find their relationship particularly compelling. It’s not a bad book, but it’s not as good as the previous two.

TW for ableism. There was a few parts where Theresa is described as being “crazy” or a “lunatic” which just felt really unnecessary. Other words could’ve been used.

What really helped this book for me was because it focuses around Rain and Sol’s wedding we get to see all the previous characters, whom I adore. We got to see my faves get married and continue to be absolutely wild.

Like I said in my Sanctuary review I’m super sensitive to Scottish descended characters and Theresa was the opposite of what I like in Scottish characters. She just felt super cringey to me, and it felt like the author was just putting it in there constantly. And she used the wrong form of whiskey.

It was just as easy to read as the previous novels from it’s style and you can definitely get through it in one sitting if you’re so inclined. And whilst I definitely had my qualms with this one I still enjoyed it.

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The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Kasie West and was really excited to read a book by her.

Caymen works in her mothers doll shop and they are struggling pretty hard with money. In walks Xander who Caymen instantly knows is rich and she wants nothing to do with him. But Xander just wants to get to know Caymen.

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t hugely into this book. It felt very white. Like the characters had such white troubles. Which sounds like a weird complaint but all the problems just felt so over complicated and pointless. It was pretty predictable as well.

I did however like Xander, the love interest. He was a sweetie and it often felt like Caymen was being horrible to him just because he’s rich and like he can’t help that. I also enjoyed that a lot of the novel was set in the doll shop that Caymen’s mum owned. Though it did make the book slightly creepier than it needed to be.

The pacing was really good, I sped through the book. Apart from the problems I had with it I did enjoy reading it. I just wanted more from it.

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Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Thank you to netgalley and Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow when scheduling my posts I missed this one so I’m sorry if my review isn’t great because when I read this it was still May and now it’s September.

Alice buys her best friend, and crush, a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday and somehow it’s the winning ticket and Teddy comes into more money than you could even imagine. Then they have to navigate the new rich world they live in.

This kind of read just like any tv program where a young person comes into a lot of money. They go silly spending a lot of money, their friendship suffers, then they realise what they’ve done. And I’m sorry if you thank that’s a spoiler but I mean it’s the same story every time. The writing was good though, so I’d definitely be open to reading more stuff from Smith as I think she would be good with a less cliche story line.

There were 2 love interests in this book, though it wasn’t a love triangle it was just the main character trying to explore new people. Honest to god though Teddy was the worst guy ever, like honestly. He was just such a dick for the majority of the novel and I really struggled to feel sympathetic to Alice when her best friend was an arse and she knew it but continued to be upset by it. I get that they had a long history but my god I just wanted to slap that boy.

However I did feel like I read the book pretty quickly, so if you’re wanting a light read this might be the one for you. If you haven’t seen to many shows/films with a kid coming into a lot of money give it a shot because it was ok, but I’ve just seen it too many times.

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

When this book was announced I really wasn’t sure what I felt about it. I loved To All the Boys I Loved Before, then Ps I Still Love You wasn’t as good but I also thought it rounded the series out quite well and suddenly a third book gets announced and I was very conflicted. I really enjoy the characters that Jenny created with this series but I was worried what she was going to do with the third book. I was also terrified she was going to split up Lara Jean and Peter K.

Lara Jean is in her senior year of high school and her and Peter K. are solid but then applications for college start to happen and the anxiety of whether Lara Jean will get in to where she wants to go causes a lot of unwanted stress.

I liked this book more than the second book but it still wasn’t as good as the first. What I did like though was seeing characters I knew go through the stress of college applications because often in books you’re introduced to the characters as they’re going through it. I also liked that there was the possibility of Lara Jean and Peter not having that happily ever after at the same college. And I really liked how anxiety was portrayed differently with each character, some were obvious and some were more subtle but it was there and good to read.

Lara Jean was acting really weird with Kitty at times in the book, she was really quite sexist which I found quite out of character. She was trying to force Kitty into wearing a dress even though Kitty didn’t want to wear one and it made me uncomfortable to read.

There was a lot of Hamilton references which I absolutely adored but like I’ve said in a lot of reviews references can really date books.

Overall I would say this was a good addition to the series. As much as I enjoyed the series as a duology I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to dive back into the lives of the Song sisters.

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The King of Bourbon Street by Thea de Salle

Arianna Barrington needs to get away from her mother after a sex tape leaks of her, so she flies with her brother to New Orleans where she meets Sol DuMont, hotel mogul. Sol is still getting over the loss of his dad, the breakdown of his marriage and his complete lack of interest in life. The pair instantly click and begin a wild affair.

As a chubby girl this book meant so much to me. The MC is fat and I’ve read a fair few romance books in my life but this was such a breath of fresh air and it didn’t make me feel like an absolute mess who could never get a man because I’m not thin enough. And to add to that the love interest is a bi male, and it’s not just like a stated fact either, he references his past relationships with men and flirts with other guys a lot. You don’t read a lot of bi men in books. I think the biggest thing that I loved was just how casual everything was, from Arianna’s weight to Sol’s sexuality. Arianna is fat and it’s not made out to be a bad thing, it’s not made out that she’s beautiful despite being fat. She’s beautiful and she’s fat, it felt quite empowering for me to read.

Now there was insta-love in this, however when you’re reading it you kind of forget about the concept of time and just fall so into the story and Rain and Sol’s relationship. There was a couple of times where I did roll my eyes at how fast they seemed to be moving but the characters themselves were aware of how fast their lives were moving and weren’t acting like what they had was normal.

Any book is better if it includes dogs and this was extra good because it has a corgi and corgis are some of the cutest funniest dogs out there. Corgis are high up on my list of dogs I want to own so reading this made me so happy whenever there was a scene with the dog.

There is an age gap in this book, and if that makes you uncomfortable don’t read it. However consent is very important, and Sol is very aware how much more experience he has compared to Rain and tries very hard to make sure that he isn’t don’t anything to lead her into something she might not be into.

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Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Our MC is on the verge of divorce from her husband after he gets to the end of his tether with her putting her job before family and so he goes to visit his family for Christmas leaving her there. She finds a phone that magically allows her to speak to her husband in the past before they were married with kids and this helps her think about where she wants her life to go.

I felt like I couldn’t really relate to the characters because I’ve never been married and they were much older than me. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but at times it felt like I didn’t really get their motives because I’ve never been in any situations like it.

I absolutely adored the idea of this one phone being a gateway into your past. And that whilst in the past it was him who had made a mess and was thinking about what he wanted from the relationship, in the present she was trying to work through her own feelings and how she’d made every thing fall apart. It was like a really nice magical way of having someone think about why they got together with their significant other in the first place.

I did have a few problems with the discourse in this book because at times it did feel like the husband was mad at her for wanting to excel in her job. I completely understand that he wanted her to be around more for the kids because that’s important but it did feel like he was giving her an ultimatum. Like you either need to stop being so involved in work or I leave you. Like why couldn’t he just tell her she really needs to balance everything better. I would’ve liked to get to know present husband more than we did because to me he came off as a bit of a chauvinist compared to the past version of himself who read like an absolute sweetheart. There was a bit of a disjoint.

As with all previous Rowell books I’ve read the writing style was really easy to follow and I read this pretty quickly. Though at times I did find it a little on the slow side.

Overall I feel like the idea was really interesting and the execution was ok for the most part but it could’ve done with a bit more fleshing out in some areas and less in others.

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The Romantics by Leah Konen

Thank you to netgalley and Amulet Books for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In The Romantics we follow Love who has messed up by letting a marriage end in divorce because he thought they would be fine and wouldn’t drift apart. So to try and make things right she wants to help the couple’s son fall in love with the right person.

This book is told from the perspective of Love which I found to be a really interesting premise. Her voice was quite funny and she was her own character that I got to know and love. I liked that even though she is a godly/spiritual entity she had her own wants, wishes and regrets.

All the characters were pretty likeable; Gael was an absolute sweetheart and my heart went out to him so much through all the mess his parents had left. And his parents just didn’t really seem to care about how upset their divorce had left him. His little sister was adorable. The only person I wasn’t a huge fan of was Cara, Gael’s love interest for a lot of the novel, something about her was just off to me, she felt a bit fickle.

This was a really easy book for me to read, the pacing was just right and it read really easily. So if you want a funny YA romance novel that you can read in a short space of time and get quite wrapped up in then I would say that this one is right up your street.

One thing that I have to point out is that there were a lot of current references, which I enjoyed whilst reading as I love stuff like that because it feels more lifelike because I relate in a way, but this could date the book quite a lot. Like whilst I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a YA classic just because it’s not got the hype, but that could hold it back from being read a few years from now because people don’t understand the references, especially teens who constantly have new fads and language.

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