Book Review | French Kissing in New York by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

Title: French Kissing in New York
Author: Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2023
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Welcome to New York. . . . He’s been waiting for you.

Margot hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Zach, the dreamy American boy she met one magical night in Paris. In an instant, they fell head over heels in love and spent the perfect evening ensemble—sealed with a kiss and a promise: if the universe wants them to be together, fate will find a way.
Flash forward one year later: Margot has finished high school and is newly arrived in New York, ready to roll up her chef’s-coat sleeves in Manhattan’s bustling restaurant scene, celebrate her father’s upcoming wedding . . . and reconnect with Zach.
But a lot can happen in a year, and promises made in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower look different in the neon glow of the Big Apple. Margot spends the summer desperate to find Zach and enlists the help of Ben, the sweet line cook at her restaurant. Margot is convinced she found her soul mate that night in Paris . . . but what if the universe has a different plan?

Anything’s possible in New York City. Especially l’amour, American-style.” (Goodreads)

I enjoyed her book Kisses and Croissants but this latest one just missed the mark for me.

P.S. The Review will have some spoilers!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Margot who has recently moved to New York to live with her dad and take on the big city in the restaurant industry as well as find a guy she had one romantic night with in Paris. It was a super interesting premise and one that I was really fascinated by.

Margot is a very driven young woman. It doesn’t feel like no is in her vocabulary. I wouldn’t say that her attitude is well received by those around her because she can seem to come off as pretentious, one character even calls her this. It’s not bad to feel the way she does and want to chase her dreams with no brakes but sometimes she doesn’t see what is right in front of her. I feel like she wanted it all without realizing there would be consequences.

She isn’t the only character that I felt like rolling my eyes at often either. Cue the spoilers here! Ben, a love interest but also not the right one at the time, wants to help her find the guy she had met in Paris. I think this was nice of him to do but also why would he if he doesn’t even know her? I guess it is to spend time with her but kind of a weird way to go about it. Anyways, when she does end up finding the guy, Zach, she completely ditches Ben and still wants him to go to her dad’s wedding with her but also with Zach. Ben gets upset by this and also the fact that she found him but he should have figured it would be a possibility. I think that they were both kind of dumb in their feelings. End of the spoilers!

There is a lot of drama surrounding secrets and it just goes to show that secrets don’t make friends. The consequences for the secrets were also very brief so it kind of felt very lackluster.

Although I had a lot of issues with certain parts of the book, I still think that Ben and Margot had cute moments together. I was rooting for them from the beginning, even when they were being dumb about it. This book also made me very hungry with all of the food talk!

Overall, this was a mixed bag for me. I wish there would have been more I did like.

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Book Review: They’re Watching You by Chelsea Ichaso

Title: They’re Watching You
Author: Chelsea Ichaso
Genre: YA Contemporary / Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: January 3rd, 2023
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“When a secret society has you in their sights, it can lead to power, privilege… or death.
It’s been two weeks since Polly St. James went missing. The police, the headmistress of Torrey-Wells Academy, and even her parents have ruled her a runaway. But not Maren, her best friend and roommate. She knows Polly had a secret that she was about to share with Maren before she disappeared― something to do with the elite, ultra-rich crowd at Torrey-Wells.

Then Maren finds an envelope hidden among Polly’s things: an invitation to the Gamemaster’s Society. Do not tell anyone, it says. Maren is certain her classmates in the Society know the truth about what happened to Polly, though it’s no easy feat to join. Once Maren’s made it through the treacherous initiation, she discovers a world she never knew existed within her school, where Society members compete in high-stakes games for unheard-of rewards―Ivy League connections, privileges, favors.
But Maren’s been drawn into a different game: for every win, she’ll receive a clue about Polly. And as Maren keeps winning, she begins to see just how powerful the Society’s game is―bigger and deadlier than she ever imagined. They see, they know, they control. And they kill.” (Goodreads)

I’ve read this author’s last two books and have liked them. One was a bit better than the other but still engaging enough where I wanted to finish to see what the outcome would be. This was like the others. It’s a popcorn read. It’s good and enjoyable but it isn’t a wow and I think that was just due to not having enough development for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked it!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Maren, a student at an elite private school. She is in search of answers when it comes to her friend, and roommate, disappearing although people will say she ran away. I thought that she was a very loyal character and she would do anything for this friend, especially join a weird secret society. I can’t say I would do the same, haha.

A lot of the characters, including Maren, are very surface level. They don’t go deep, although they have some deep backstory for their whys. I wish that there had been more development for them so that I could connect on a deeper level and feel something more. This could also be said for secret society and backstory of the school etc. It just needed more for me to fully understand the plot. There is also a bit of romance but it feels very instant and I wasn’t convinced.

The plot was engaging though. I was curious from the beginning and there are a lot of secrets and betrayal that happen while she investigates. I wasn’t expecting any of the plot twists which was nice!

Overall, this was a good book and I did like it. I just wish it would have been longer and had more development. I think it could have easily been a 4-5 star read.

Arc Review: Nine Liars (Truly Devious #5) by Maureen Johnson

Title: Nine Liars (Truly Devious #5)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA Contemporary / Mystery
Publication Date: December 27th, 2022
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.
Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.
The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.
Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.” (Goodreads)

To say this one hurts to write would be an understatement. I’m just not convinced that these were the same characters and this fits into the Truly Devious series. After loving the other books I am just utterly disappointed.

The book is told through dual timelines and multiple point-of-views. The present time point-of-view comes from Stevie Bell who is off on another mystery once again, although it takes quite a bit to get there. I can’t say that I was invested in the story until around the 60% mark and even then the ending was just not it. I’m actually very upset about it lol. I think that this book tried to do too much and because of that the mystery wasn’t as exciting because nothing really happens with it until too close to the ending and even then it is so lackluster! It just doesn’t feel like the same series.

I felt more irritated with these characters than I ever have before. I hadn’t once had a problem with David or Stevie, but they were both kind of selfish and it wasn’t a vibe. All I have to say about David is that he was fine, a bit bland, but then we get to the ending and he is a dillweed. I don’t like him and I never will. Stevie was too caught up in her relationship to care about her future and when she wasn’t obsessing about that she was on the case for the mystery and lying to her friends. I can see the correlation between her friend group and the nine so I guess at least there was that. 🤷‍♀️

I also felt like this book was trying to be more upper YA and it made the book have a different vibe. I think this point correlates with Stevie’s relationship having more page time and it’s also associated with the friend group the nine. Sex is mentioned quite a lot and it just wasn’t my cup of tea, especially when I am here for a mystery.

Overall, it was okay at times but honestly ended up not being a book I liked. I’m going to be disappointed for quite some time…

Audiobook Review: The Lies We Tell by Katie Zhao

Title: The Lies We Tell
Author: Katie Zhao
Genre: Ya Contemporary / Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: November 15th, 2022
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Rating: ⭐⭐

“Anna Xu moving out of her parent’s home and into the dorms across town as she starts freshman year at the local, prestigious Brookings University. But her parents and their struggling Chinese bakery, Sweetea, aren’t far from campus or from mind, either.
At Brookings, Anna wants to keep up her stellar academic performance and to investigate the unsolved campus murder of her childhood babysitter. While there she also finds a familiar face – her middle-school rival, Chris Lu. The Lus also happen to be the Xu family’s business rivals since they opened Sunny’s, a trendy new bakery on Sweetea’s block. Chris is cute but still someone to be wary of – until a vandal hits Sunny’s and Anna matches the racist tag with a clue from her investigation.
Anna grew up in this town, but more and more she feels like maybe she isn’t fully at home here — or maybe it’s that there are people here who think she doesn’t belong. When a very specific threat is made to Anna, she seeks out help from the only person she can. Anna and Chris team up to find out who is stalking her and take on a dangerous search into the hate crimes happening around campus. Can they root out the ugly history and take on the current threat?” (Goodreads)

I read this author’s other YA Mystery / Thriller and thought it was pretty good so I figured why not give her next one a try. Unfortunately, it was a bit disappointing.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Anna. She has just started college and it is the same one that a babysitter she had growing up was murdered at. This was definitely an interesting premise and one that I wanted to know more about. I don’t think that Anna is a bad character. She has goals and is looking for friendship. It’s very typical of any person. It’s just outside of that and the mystery there didn’t feel to be much to her. Not even the things listed were very developed.

The other characters were very bland and were just there to move to the plot again. I didn’t care or connect with any of them which is always a real shame. Some were disliked more than others but explaining can lead to spoilers so I will leave it at that.

As for the plot, it was boring. I had hoped that it would pick up but it felt lackluster all of the way through. The real mystery solving, or dramatic moments, don’t happen until well after 50% and even then I feel like things could have been explained a bit better.

I will say that the book does have important topics that surround the Asian Community, especially when it comes to hatred and violence towards them. The execution for everything else was just poor.

Overall, it was okay but didn’t work for me.

Audiobook Review: Dark Room Etiquette by Robin Roe

Title: Dark Room Etiquette
Author: Robin Roe
Genre: YA Thriller / Contemporary / Mental Health
Publication Date: October 11th, 2022
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sixteen-year-old Sayers Wayte has everything—until he’s kidnapped by a man who tells him the privileged life he’s been living is based on a lie.

Trapped in a windowless room, without knowing why he’s been taken or how long the man plans to keep him shut away, Sayers faces a terrifying new reality. To survive, he must forget the world he once knew, and play the part his abductor has created for him.
But as time passes, the line between fact and fiction starts to blur, and Sayers begins to wonder if he can escape . . . before he loses himself.” (Goodreads)

This is the second book I have read where a teen is kidnapped. Both have had very different ways of dealing it. This one includes the aftermath of what happens to someone once their “normal” has completely shattered and are left with figuring out what to do now that they can’t go back. I would say that the content warnings would include physical abuse, death, suicide, and kidnapping.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Sayers Wayte. He has everything he could ever ask for and parents that are absent. He isn’t the most popular kid in school but money does talk and it can make him very unlikeable among his peers. All of this is mentioned in the beginning and builds up in anticipation of the inevitable. I will say that the first 25% is on the slower side as the plot and character development builds but it does get better. You just need to stick through it!

When it came to the kidnapping, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Kidnappings happen for different reasons and so when it is revealed I was very much surprised with why it happened. Everything that happens to Sayers in this incident is sad and tragic. He loses himself in the midst of trying to stay on the good side of the kidnapper but it doesn’t always go as planned. There is abuse and there is anger laced in the actions. I usually tend to listen to audiobooks while doing housework and there would be times I had to stop and just take in what was happening at that moment. It’s also interesting to note that the kidnapper was better in some ways than one of his parents. It’s weird but it does play into Sayers recovery and understanding of what truly happened to him. Stockholm syndrome is definitely present.

Some characters do have more development than others but that is understandable when it feels like two are more present than others. I did like seeing how things changed between him and friends pre-kidnapping and post. It isn’t easy being gone while life moves on without you. He does make two friends in the process and I liked seeing how they played out.

The plot was very surprising and I could never guess what would happen next. There are a lot of great plot twists that keep you on your toes as you try to understand and unravel what is going on with Sayers.

Overall, this was a great read. It was surprising and the audiobook was well done. The narrator did a good job at differentiating the voices of characters which made it easy to know when who was talking. If you like YA Thrillers I would definitely give this one a try.

Arc Review: House of Yesterday by Deeba Zargarpur

Title: House of Yesterday
Author: Deeba Zargarpur
Genre: YA Contemporary / Paranormal
Publication Date: November 29th, 2022
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary audiobook to review! All opinions are my own.

“Struggling to deal with the pain of her parents’ impending divorce, fifteen-year-old Sara is facing a world of unknowns and uncertainties. Unfortunately, the one person she could always lean on when things got hard, her beloved Bibi Jan, has become a mere echo of the grandmother she once was. And so Sara retreats into the family business, hoping a summer working on her mom’s latest home renovation project will provide a distraction from her fracturing world.
But the house holds more than plaster and stone. It holds secrets that have her clinging desperately to the memories of her old life. Secrets that only her Bibi Jan could have untangled. Secrets Sara is powerless to ignore as the dark truths of her family’s history rise in ghostly apparitions — and with it, the realization that as much as she wants to hold onto her old life, nothing will ever be the same.
Told in lush, sweeping prose, this story of secrets, summer, and family sacrifice will chill you to the bone as the house that wraps Sara in warmth of her past becomes the one thing she cannot escape…” (Goodreads)

This was a unique read and one with a powerful message that many will be able to relate to. The audiobook was nicely done and I enjoyed listening to the narrator.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Sara. Her story isn’t the only one we are following though. There are flashbacks from her families life and they are very interesting! They can also be on the darker side as well. I haven’t read many inter-generational books but I enjoyed learning more about Sara’s family past and what it means for her future.

Sara is very strong willed and it can put her in dangerous situation, and does, as well having her come off as selfish in a way. I think that all of her feelings are valid though. Her parents are going through a divorce and it isn’t easy on her or seeing her mother have to deal with the aftermath. It is very messy and when you add in her father being in a new relationship it just takes it to a whole other level. I have not personally had to deal with divorce parents but my husband has and I’ve had to see him deal with it when we were younger as well as trying to play it safe when figuring out holidays etc. It is a lot of work and can definitely be stressful and hard.

Her grandmother is a key part of the story and the key to unraveling the mystery that surrounds her family. I could understand trying to find answers and hitting a brick road when the person you need to talk to the most is struggling with the decline of their mind. I have seen it happen with my own grandmother and it is heartbreaking to watch.

There is so much to unpack from this story and it feels like I have only touched the surface.

Overall, this was worth the listen. I liked the narrator and the beautiful story that unfolded even if it was sad. I do think that there was some hope sprinkled in, especially at the end.

Arc Review: The Secrets We Keep by Cassie Gustafson

Title: The Secrets We Keep
Author: Cassie Gustafson
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: November 8th, 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“High school freshman Emma Clark harbors a secret—a secret so vile it could implode her whole world, a secret she’s managed to keep hidden away. . . Until the day her best friend, Hannah, accuses Emma’s father of a heinous crime.
Following her father’s arrest, and torn between loyalty to Hannah and to her family, Emma is devastated to learn she must testify against Hannah’s word in order to keep her family together. As Emma wrestles with this impossible decision, her fractured past begins to resurface piece by painful piece—causing the line to blur between her present-day reality and the dark fairytales she writes to survive, all of which threaten to expose Emma’s long-buried truths.” (Goodreads)

Content Warning Via Author: Sexual assault, verbal abuse, gaslighting of a minor or minors, suicidal ideation and self-harm, bullying and victim-shaming.

The book is told from one point-of-view but through different formats and they all come from Emma. There is a present tense, her fairy tale writing, and the memories that she tries to keep away from the surface. All of it eventually becoming too much to bear. But what is the big secret that she is hiding and why is her friend a part of it as well?

Emma is a bright young girl who seems to enjoy school, especially a club that she is involved in with her friend. The only friend she has made since moving. I can understand all too well not having very many friends. It can make you feel isolated. I did wonder if it was by choice due to what has happened to her or if because she was new no one had any interest. Emma is definitely struggling with the reality of things when her father is first arrested and even throughout the book she is torn between loyalty to her friend and family. I can’t imagine being in that situation. It also makes it harder when your family hasn’t always been kind to you and the love you do get from them isn’t the love that you need or want.

For the most part, the other characters in the book are minor but there are those, like her father and friend, who may not have a lot of development but have big plotlines.

The book can be very hard to stomach because of the nature of the plot but it is filled with topics that are very important to talk about with youth. Due to the content listed above, this book won’t be for everyone. I do think that the topics are handled well and it definitely makes your heartache knowing that things like this do happen. It’s just sad.

There is a lot of suspense building up the ending and the big reveal of all of the things that Emma has been holding onto. I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was but it also plays into the reality of things. We don’t always see what is right under our nose and sometimes there are those who choose to ignore it, both parties are written into this book. It’s just tragic all around.

Overall, this was a great book and one I would recommend if you can get through the content warnings.

Audiobook Review: A Year to the Day by Robin Benway

Title: A Year to the Day
Author: Robin Benway
Genre: YA Contemporary / Mental Health
Publication Date: June 21st, 2022
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐

“It’s been a year—a year of missing Nina. A year of milestones—holidays, birthdays, everything without her.
Leo feels like she should remember what happened that night. But all she knows is that she left the party and got into a car with Nina and Nina’s boyfriend, East.
East, who once promised Nina he’d watch out for her younger sister. East, who has been trying to keep that promise every day since. But East won’t give Leo the one thing she wants—the one thing she needs. He won’t tell her anything about the accident. He won’t talk about that night at all.
As the days tumble one into the next, Leo’s story comes together while her world falls apart. The only constant is the one person who can help her bear the enormous weight of her love for Nina—and East might be carrying too heavy a load of his own.” (Goodreads)

I’ve only read one book by this author and I did really like it so I wanted to give her latest book a chance. Unfortunately, it was one of those “It’s me, not you” situations.

The book is told from the point-of-view of Leo. The timeline starts a year before the accident and goes backwards until we get to the day of the accident. This was the thing that I disliked the most which kind of just ruins the book even if I liked the characters. It was a bit confusing and I felt like it made everything a bit lackluster as well.

I did understand Leo’s grief and felt for her on that front. Grief isn’t an easy thing to deal with and she tries her best to get through it even when life is still moving around her. I do wish we would have had more moments between the sisters because I think it would have made the bond feel stronger but we only get a scene with them prior to the accident.

Overall, it was okay but the timeline just didn’t work for me.

Audiobook Review: Someday We’ll Find It by Jennifer Wilson

Title: Someday We’ll Find It
Author: Jennifer Wilson
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: April 26th, 2022
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐

“Seventeen-year-old Bliss Walker has been stuck in a home that doesn’t feel like hers for six years. Ever since Mama dropped her off and never came back.
Then, the summer before her senior year of high school, two things happen: Mama returns out of the blue, and Bliss meets Blake, a boy who listens like everything she has to say is worth hearing.
It should be a dream come true. But as the summer spins on, Bliss finds herself facing a painful choice: between the life she’s always longed for, and the world she’s starting to make for herself.” (Goodreads)

I really wanted to read this one because of the cover. I can’t say I even remembered what it was about before starting it. There are certain things that I liked about this book, it shows the messy side of family and relationships, but all of the characters were just straight up trash to the main character Bliss.

The book is told from one perspective and it comes from Bliss. She is trying to figure out what is next for her once high school ends and also where she belongs since her mother dumped her on her aunt’s doorstep and hasn’t been back since. Even though there are certain things about Bliss I didn’t like, I can see why she stuck around for so long with her boyfriend and wanting to see the best in others. Honestly, there really isn’t much good in any of the characters, save for her uncle and maybe the new love interest but the way they handled their attraction was a strike.

As I previously mentioned twice, the side characters were crap (pretty much every one). They treated Bliss like a doormat and walked all over her, even her family wasn’t too kind. I get that everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows but this was just too much for one girl to take. I’m surprised she didn’t just break down and cry at some point.

The plot is filled with a lot of drama whether it be from her boyfriend or family. There is also the love interest (mentioned above) that causes issues in her current relationship but at least gives her some happiness.

Overall, this was okay but just wasn’t my cup of tea. I did think that the narrator did a good job though.

Arc Review: The Epic Story of Every Living Things by Deb Caletti

Title: The Epic Story of Every Living Things
Author: Deb Caletti
Genre: YA Contemporary / Coming of Age
Publication Date: September 13th, 2022
Publisher: Labyrinth Road
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Harper Proulx has lived her whole life with unanswered questions about her anonymous sperm donor father. She’s convinced that without knowing him, she can’t know herself. When a chance Instagram post connects Harper to a half sibling, that connection yields many more and ultimately leads Harper to uncover her father’s identity.

So, fresh from a painful breakup and still reeling with anxiety that reached a lifetime high during the pandemic, Harper joins her newfound half siblings on a voyage to Hawaii to face their father. The events of that summer, and the man they discover—a charismatic deep-sea diver obsessed with solving the mystery of a fragile sunken shipwreck—will force Harper to face some even bigger questions: Who is she? Is she her DNA, her experiences, her successes, her failures? Is she the things she loves—or the things she hates? Who she is in dark times? Who she might become after them?” (Goodreads)

This was a unique read when it came to the topics that it dealt with. I can’t say I have ever read a book about a sperm donor. It’s a good topic for a coming of age story and it really helps to connect the characters that find themselves related to one another in an unexpected way.

The book follows one point-of-view and it comes from Harper. Although, there are journal entries at the beginning of the chapters that connect the past to the present. It’s fun to have little details like this that keep you interested.

Harper is a girl who wants to know more about who she is. Growing up with a single parent has left her with a lot of questions. I can understand being curious. It’s always something that is in the back of our mind with a lot of things in our lives. She goes through a lot of discovery and I’m glad that her mother let her do the summer trip. Harper wasn’t always kind to her mother, but at least by the end she understands her a little bit more.

There are times that it felt like the book lulled and didn’t fully keep my attention. I think it was more me than the book.

Overall, this was a good read. I liked reading about a topic I hadn’t before and the growth that Harper has throughout the plot.