ARC Review: With You Forever by Chloe Liese

Special thanks to the author for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: With You Forever (Bergman Brothers #4)
Publication date: 14 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)


Axel
Rooney Sullivan is sunshine incarnate. Warm, bright, always smiling, she’s everything I’m not and the last person I have any business desiring. Desperate to hide a hopeless attraction, I’ve done everything possible to keep my distance…until a charades game gone wrong brought that to a grinding halt. 

Since then, steering clear of Rooney has been impossible. In a matter of months, she’s kissed me speechless, commandeered my art career, and infiltrated not only my dreams but my home. The woman who was once avoidable has become the last thing I needed: temptingly within reach.
 
Rooney
Axel Bergman is a gorgeous grump who doesn’t have the time of day for me. Thankfully, I’ve kept my crush under wraps…well, until I kissed him. Charades got away from me, okay? It was an accident! I haven’t seen him since, which is for the best. My life is a mess, and the last thing I need is to embarrass myself further with the man who avoids me like that’s his job rather than painting modern masterpieces.
 
It seems the universe, however, has a different plan. When Axel and I unexpectedly find our paths—and problems—converging, a marriage of convenience proves the perfect solution. At least, until I’m facing my most serious problem yet: a once-loveless marriage of convenience that’s inconveniently become a love match, after all.

THIS BOOK IS OUT IN TWO DAYS!
PRE-ORDER NOW:

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ARC Review: The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron

Special thanks to Feiwel & Friends for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: The Magical Imperfect
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: 15 June 2021
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

Etan has stopped speaking since his mother left. His father and grandfather don’t know how to help him. His friends have given up on him.

When Etan is asked to deliver a grocery order to the outskirts of town, he realizes he’s at the home of Malia Agbayani, also known as the Creature. Malia stopped going to school when her acute eczema spread to her face, and the bullying became too much.

As the two become friends, other kids tease Etan for knowing the Creature. But he believes he might have a cure for Malia’s condition, if only he can convince his family and hers to believe it too. Even if it works, will these two outcasts find where they fit in?

BUY A COPY:

TL;DR: Ultimately, while I might not recommend this for its disability rep, I appreciated the historical context and the representation of cultures and the immigrant perspective This was very different from what I expected after reading the blurb but I was pleasantly surprised by the nostalgic vibes it gave me. This did read a bit on the younger side of MG for me but I do think that it would be suitable and enjoyable for MG readers across all ages, even older readers such as myself.

This was a very different middle-grade read compared to what I normally pick up in this genre. It’s historical fiction but also has aspects of magical realism that leant the story an even more whimsical atmosphere. It’s written in verse and though the prose is simple and without unnecessary flair, it was also evocative and I could easily picture the neighbourhood form in front of my eyes. The community was diverse and there was a sense of camaraderie between all the neighbours that made the pages feel full of warmth and joy.

While I expected a touching story about the friendship between two young misfits, and we got that, it also went beyond that and there were many elements to the plot and setting that I didn’t expect to find—from religious to historical and cultural, and I was see it in a MG. I was intrigued by the late 80s setting in San Francisco and by the historical event that occurred during the time period of the story. What I found most refreshing though was seeing the Filipino representation in a historical setting and I was pleasantly surprised to read about the immigrant journey to America from a different (non-Western) perspective! Etan’s Jewish and Maia’s Filipina cultural heritage also played important roles in their story and as I grew up in the Philippines, I found reading about Maia’s family—her Lola and the food!—was comforting and made me a little nostalgic, too.

I found the friendship between Maia and Etan to be very sweet and full of youthful optimism and joy. As their bond grows closer, Etan finds the strength in his own voice again. Maia also finds joy in being able to have someone her age who doesn’t see her as “The Creature” but can look beyond her eczema to the loving, precocious and vibrant little girl she is. I really loved her sass and confidence, as well as her connection to nature and the trees surrounding her home.

Another aspect that I thought was interesting was the representation of Maia and Etan’s disabilities—severe eczema and selective mutism, respectively. I’ve never read a book with these disabilities represented (whether it be adult, YA or MG) so I found it interesting to read about and have it be part of these characters. However, what disappointed me was the use of the magical healing clay as a “cure” for these disabilities to make Maia and Etan ‘normal happy kids’. It made it seem like people with disabilities are not ‘normal’ and that you need to look and act like others to be happy. Yes, Maia wasn’t 100% ‘cured’ but the message is still the same and it’s not one that I would want any person to read and believe that they’re less than because they have a disability or live with chronic illness. The topic of mental health was also explored a bit through Etan’s mother but I wish it was done in more depth as it impacted Etan and his family so greatly.

Even though I didn’t end up loving it as much as I thought I would, it was still a quick, engaging and easy read. I loved the diversity and the historical context and in the future I’d be interested in seeing what else Baron has written.

Have you read The Magical Imperfect or is it on your TBR?

Blog Tour Review: Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall

Hello, friends! It’s my stop on The Book Terminal Tours blog tour for Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall. Special thanks to Atheneum Books for Young Readers for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: Kind of Sort of Fine
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: 22 June 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Coming of Age

Panda rating:


Senior year changes everything for two teens in this poignant, funny coming-of-age story that looks at what happens when the image everyone has of us no longer matches who we really are.

Senior year of high school is full of changes.

For Hayley Mills, these changes aren’t exactly welcome. All she wants is for everyone to forget about her very public breakdown and remember her as the overachiever she once was—and who she’s determined to be again. But it’s difficult to be seen as a go-getter when she’s forced into TV Production class with all the slackers like Lewis Holbrook.

For Lewis, though, this is going to be his year. After a summer spent binging 80s movies, he’s ready to upgrade from the role of self-described fat, funny sidekick to leading man of his own life—including getting the girl. The only thing standing in his way is, well, himself.

When the two are partnered up in class, neither is particularly thrilled. But then they start making mini documentaries about their classmates’ hidden talents, and suddenly Hayley is getting attention for something other than her breakdown, and Lewis isn’t just a background character anymore. It seems like they’re both finally getting what they want—except what happens when who you’ve become isn’t who you really are?

BUY IT NOW:

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Blog Tour Review: The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk.
Special thanks to Netgalley and Little Brown Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner below to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: The Other Side of Perfect
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Publication Date: 11 May 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Panda Rating:

(actual 4.5 pandas)

Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. 

After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for. 

But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else? 

Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice. 

CW/TW: the protagonist is dealing with a lot of anger and some depression, various experiences of racism, bullying

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Mini-Break Time!

Hello, friends! How are we all doing? I hope everyone is continuing to stay safe and healthy no matter where you are in the world. ❤️

I’ve been mentioning for a few weeks now that I might take a mini-break and I think the time has come! I’ve been a little swamped with work lately (even only working three days a week) but I’ve also been struggling to come up with the mental capacity to actively engage for a while now, and I feel guilty about it but I think my brain is just really tired? Aside from my lack of engagement, I’ve also been struggling to write half-decent reviews and I feel like everything I’ve come out with has been a rambling mess! I think what I’m hoping for with this break is to really just find my groove again with all things blogging because I feel off-kilter! 😂

I’ll still be posting blog tours and ARC reviews and I’m planning to focus more on engaging during this break, so you’ll hopefully find me popping by your posts now and again!

It’s kinda funny because I had a quick look at when I took my mini-break last year and it was basically at the same time as now. I don’t know what it is about this particular month that has me regularly feeling in need of a break—maybe it’s just my way of gearing up for the rest of the year? 🤷🏻‍♀️ Who knows! As of right now, I don’t really have a timeline for my break. I’m going to at least give myself 1-2 weeks and see how I feel after that! Perhaps this will also be the perfect time for me to finally work on the revamp of my blog that I had planned for earlier this year? 🙈 SO many plans, SO little time… (kidding, I’m just a really great procrastinator! 😔)

On that note…

stay safe, healthy and happy! 🐼

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen

I’m so excited to be back with a blog tour with Xpresso Tours for Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner above to check out the other bloggers on tour!
Also, don’t forget to enter the GIVEWAY (US/CAN) at the end of my post!

Goodreads: Breathing Underwater
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publish Date: 31 March 2021
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Olivia is on the road trip of her dreams, with her trusty camera and her big sister Ruth by her side. Three years ago, before their family moved from California to Tennessee, Olivia and Ruth buried a time capsule on their favorite beach. Now, they’re taking an RV back across the country to uncover the memories they left behind. But Ruth’s depression has been getting worse, so Olivia has created a plan to help her remember how life used to be: a makeshift scavenger hunt across the country, like pirates hunting for treasure, taking pictures and making memories along the way.

All she wants is to take the picture that makes her sister smile. But what if things can never go back to how they used to be? What if they never find the treasure they’re seeking? Through all the questions, loving her sister, not changing her, is all Olivia can do—and maybe it’s enough.

BUY NOW: Amazon (US) | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

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Blog Tour Review: Silence Is a Sense by Layla AlAmmar

Special thanks to Algonquin Books for inviting me to be on the blog tour and for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Silence Is a Sense
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Release Date: 16 March 2021
Genre: Literary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

A young woman sits in her apartment in an unnamed English city, absorbed in watching the small dramas of her assorted neighbors through their windows across the way. Traumatized into muteness after a long, devastating trip from war-torn Syria to the UK, she believes that she wants to sink deeper into isolation, moving between memories of her absent boyfriend and family and her homeland, dreams, and reality. At the same time, she begins writing for a magazine under the pseudonym “the Voiceless,” trying to explain the refugee experience without sensationalizing it—or revealing anything about herself.

Gradually, as the boundaries of her world expand—as she ventures to the neighborhood corner store, to a gathering at a nearby mosque, and to the bookstore and laundromat, and as an anti-Muslim hate crime shatters the members of a nearby mosque—she has to make a choice: Will she remain a voiceless observer, or become an active participant in her own life and in a community that, despite her best efforts, is quickly becoming her own?

TL;DR: March 15 marked ten years since the start of the Syrian war. Millions of people have been become refugees and internally displaced and hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives. These are numbers that are so LARGE that it’s impossible to comprehend. What is it like for people to literally watch their nation crumble right before their eyes? To have to choose between leaving and living or staying and (very possibly) dying? As stated in an interview, through this book, AlAmmar set out to ‘dispel the abstractions’ of the literal crumbling of a nation and to ground the magnitude of such devastation and loss through a personal narrative and she does an INCREDIBLE job. Poetically written, thought-provoking and emotionally explosive, this isn’t an easy read at all but my gosh is it absolutely worth it! This will undoubtedly be one of the most impactful books I read in 2021 and I highly recommend it.

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Book Review: Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Goodreads: Take A Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2)
Publisher: Avon
Published: 23 June 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Yes. Yes. YAAAAAS to this book!!! Oh my lordy lordy. MY FEELS. The swooning. I just… THE FEELS! If you love the fake dating trope, witty banter that will have you simultaneously swooning and cracking up, smart AF badass bisexual heroines, super soft hopeless romantic heroes, crackling chemistry and intensely steamy scenes: don’t sleep on this one. Talia Hibbert really brings it all with this romance I’m so here for it!

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Book Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Goodreads: The Switch
Publisher: Quercus
Published: 16 April 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Maybe it’s time for The Switch…


Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

It took me a while to get around to it but I’m so glad that I finally picked up The Switch. I buddy read this with Leslie @ Books Are The New Black and it was so much fun! It made me wonder why I didn’t do buddy reads more when it’s so great to have someone to gush and whine to while reading 😂 We both tried to pace ourselves but we ended up devouring this book because it was so easy and mostly enjoyable to read! Don’t forget to check out Leslie’s review! This has, without a doubt, cemented O’Leary in my auto-buy and favourite authors list because she definitely knows how to write those feel-good heartwarming stories that leave you wanting more. 🥰

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ARC Review: Ever After Always by Chloe Liese

Special thanks to Chloe Liese for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

🥳 Happy Book Birthday to Ever After Always! 🥳

Ever After Always (Bergman Brothers #3)
Publication date: 12 January 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)


Buckle up for an emotional journey of hijinks, heartache, and a hot slow-burn in this marriage-in-crisis romance about going the distance to make love last.

Aiden
I’ve spent twelve years loving Freya Bergman and twelve lifetimes won’t be enough to give her everything she deserves. She’s my passionate, tender-hearted wife, my best friend, and all I want is to make her happy. But the one thing that will make her happiest is the one thing I’m not sure I can give her: a baby. With the pressure of providing and planning for a family, my anxiety’s at an all-time high, and I find myself pulling away, terrified to tell my wife how I’m struggling. But when Freya kicks me out, I realize that pulling back has turned into pushing too far. Now it’s the fight of a lifetime to save our marriage.

Freya
I love my cautious, hard-working husband. He’s my partner and best friend, the person I know I can count on most. Until one day I realize the man I married is nowhere to be found. Now Aiden is quiet and withdrawn, and as the months wear on, the pain of our growing distance becomes too much.  As if weathering marriage counseling wasn’t enough, we’re thrown together for an island getaway to celebrate my parents’ many years of perfect marriage while ours is on the brink of collapse. Despite my meddling siblings and a week in each other’s constant company, this trip somehow gets us working through the trouble in paradise. I just can’t help worrying, when we leave paradise and return to the real world, will trouble find us again?

GET YOUR COPY: Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK)

Continue reading “ARC Review: Ever After Always by Chloe Liese”