Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ace of SpadesAce of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Black main characters and dark queer academia? Say less, this first chapter had me sold and I love the new cover art. Will be preordering this and putting it at the top of my tbr once it comes out.

I received a sample of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Lobizona (Wolves of No World, #1)Lobizona by Romina Garber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book just became one of my all-time favorites list. If you liked Labyrinth Lost, this will be right up your alley. We follow Manu, being hunted down by her father's family and by ICE. Her mother is an immigrant as well as Latinx, and so this does get very political at some points, and I love how Manu is right at the epicenter of it all trying to fight for her mom, her family, and for herself.

This book has the most luscious and vivid magical realism I've ever seen, with a lot of Argentinian folklore and cultural roots interspersed into every page. It's a lot about coming-of-age and finding yourself within a world who rejects you and also being stuck on the outside in between two worlds. I really appreciated the character development and the growth that Manu goes through from page 1 until the end, it was such a rollercoaster ride that made me laugh until my belly hurt and cry my eyes out. I don't even know how to put this into words, except to beg everyone to preorder it and read this when it comes out. If they doesn't incentive you enough, there are lesbians!!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay BuriedThe Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really tried to go into this book with an open mind, I really did. What this was pitched to be as, our main character, Dino (my gay roll of cinnamon son) broke up with his best friend of 15 years and she recently died so he's trying to unpack that emotionally. Of course, it's more complicated than that, because July, the ex best friend has risen from the dead and is back to haunt him in more ways than one. I really did enjoy Shaun David Hutchinson's other books, but there were a couple things in this one that I just couldn't get past.

First of all, Dino's ex best friend is flat out homophobic, from the first page to the last page and i'm sure that had to be a reason why Dino decided to cut her out of his life. She was at Rafi's (Dino's bf) house-party, and was talking to the theater geek friend group and she opens her mouth and says "what's the point of being gay if you don't do theather." Let me remind all of u, that she is a straight heterosexual women who previously referred to herself as "gay by proxy." She's constantly making out of her lane gay jokes, and she's truly the most ignorant bitch that I've been, seeing that it is 2019 and her long-time best friend is gay. I just wish she was more sensitive and knew how to shut her mouth. She visits the hospital to try to figure out what's wrong with her body, her being undead and all, and she starts an argument which a man who tried to commit suicide and his stomach was just pumped out. For two straight pages this girl asks him questions like "you're glad for this second chance right?" and when the patient says no she keeps on asking him "what's the point you wouldn't cut off your finger from your hand if you had a splinter." This book would have been a 4 star read for me, if not for this girl. Why I am so affected is because her perspective is 50% the author has alternating chapters from her first chapter which I really had the urge to skim.

On the other hand, I could gush how much I loved Dino and Rafi, and how much he grew and had an actual character development arc. His chapters were the only reason why I didn't dnf this in the first place. And I will admit that the writing was excellent Shaun knows his craft and how to complex characters that are flawed and unlikeable, there's a talented genius quality to his writing and even I can't deny that.

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Monday, April 13, 2020

Ghosted in L.A. Vol. 1Ghosted in L.A. Vol. 1 by Sina Grace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Graphic novels are usually a hit or miss for me. Here we follow the story of Daphne, who moves across the country to attend the same college as her boyfriend Ronnie. After suffering a blow to the heart, she founds herself lost and trying to find some comfort at twilight. She stumbles on this mysterious mansion, where she finds a group of ghosts that welcome her into their circle and let her live there.

The artwork is truly so gorgeous. I was astounded at the level of detail and how the color schemes affected/changed the moods of the story itself. I would highly reccomend buying yourself a physical copy because every single piece of artwork is so masterfully created that I had my jaw drop at certain points. Not only that, but there's a clear plotline and story happened here (to be continued) that really set us up for what Daphne's dealing with here. It didn't fall flat, I wasn't bored for one second or one page, because there were enough action scenes to keep me intrigued and curious.

Also! There are openly queer characters here,which I deeply appreciated. The side characters were some of the most entertaining parts of the books for me personally, and I think the rest of the world will fall in love with this undead gang as much as I did.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Yes No Maybe SoYes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I went into this book with high expectations, after all its Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, two excellent authors who have written earlier books and this is their first ever collab. In this we follow two povs, Jaime Goldenberg, a Jewish boy who lives in the suburbs with this sister, mom, and grandmother. His mom works for a state councilmen, and his cousin is helping the Democrat candidate run for the special election. Then we introduce Maya, a Muslim girl whose parents have recently separated and it was a bombshell. This book was pitched to me as a romance between two inter-religious people, with 50/50 politics and love. Let’s just say I was immediately hooked.

My issues are many with this book. To start off, let’s address the representation. While I can’t directly speak to this as I am not Muslim, I did notice that Maya was the only Muslim character in the whole book (other than her parents). I just kind of found that odd because she did attend a mosque during Eid and we see that on page, however there is no mention of any Muslim friends or acquaintances she would inevitably have.

Another thing that ticked me off was the fact that Jaime, our blissfully ignorant white male, had bought and gave food to Maya four (4) times during Ramadan when he knew she was fasting. Maya had to keep on reminding him that she can’t consume that, and then she ended up being the one who apologized to HIM for “getting mad” that he kept on trying to give her food? Like that whole thing was really off, I understand that it happened this first time with the Goldfish and became an inside joke with them two, however I see no reason why then the authors went and made him look like a clown four more times.

That leads me to the romance, it was the most cliche and in my opinion, unrealistic thing. So we know that they are childhood friends that went to an after school camp together, their moms were best friends years ago, and they haven’t seen each other in about ten years. In fact, during their first chance encounter at Target, they didn’t even recognize each other. However, that storyline fell flat because the authors never developed that aspect of the story. This could have been so well done and used the childhood friends-to lover trope but instead it was the insta-love trope. For gods sake, they both said “I’m in love with you” before they even had their first kiss. Their whole “friendship” spans less than two months, and they were already making “i love you” declarations before they ever went on their first date (in fact we don’t see them go on a first real date in this book at all.) The plot was just super predictable in that aspect, boy meets girls, childhood best friends reconnect about ten years, they spend their whole summer together, and then they’re head over heels. They had no hardships to overcome weirdly, only a brief stint with Maya’s parents being hesitant about this relationship, to which they then relented almost immediately. Maya and Jaime both lied to eachother i’m pretty significant ways, but when they found out each others secrets they just brushed it off and never even had a real conversation about how hurt they were. Cut to them making out in the Target dressing rooms. Yeah.

Oh and not only that, but there was this whole storyline of Maya realizing the distance and loss with her best friend, her *only* friend Sara, who was a year older than her and moving to college. It was supposed to be their late summer together, but Maya barely days Sara because she worked over forty hours a week to be able to afford college. Cue to Maya whining for the whole summer about how abandoned she feels, etc. The whole was a yawn because we didn’t see any of their childhood backstory since the “Elmo” days. To me, they didn’t even seem that close to begin with because we didn’t get any flashbacks or backstory. So for the whole book, Maya has no female friend, her only “best” friend is Jaime. That just seems unrealistic to me.

A great reprieve and the only part of the book that I was really interested in was the politics, this was a special election, their candidate was a progressive in a very red zone. The 50% of the book about the politics surrounding them, was the best part in my opinion. Otherwise, I genuinely disliked all the characters with the exception of Maya, who made the book bearable enough to keep on trudging. If your looking to pick this book up, I would say save your time and instead read a similar yet stellar title like Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

EmberhawkEmberhawk by Jamie Foley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Kira refuses to marry a guy who was dumber than a sack of rocks. Of which there were plenty.”

So, I went into Emberhawk with no previous expectations. I was craving a unique YA fantasy, and in some ways this hit that sweet spot.

I’m quite conflicted, because I feel like there were a number of things that were well done, and then others not so much. We follow our main characters, Kira and Ryon who are living in this dangerous world full of magic on the brink of war. Kira is setting her traps and catches Ryon on her property stealing her families chickens. So of course she doesn’t hesitate to shoot him in the shoulder, thinking he’s a trace cat, and then no surprise insta-love follows.

Without delving too much into this, the romance really didn’t click with me, specifically because of one scene where Ryon forced himself on her without consent and then spent about 10 pages justifying it. After that, all out their romantic interactions and flirtations left a sour taste in my mouth.

For me the highlight of this book was Kira. It was a delight seeing this complex complicated (often confusing) world that was against her. She’s a feminist badass, without the author trying too hard to make that obvious. The only thing that stuck out like a sore thumb to me, was that because of her situation and family we see virtually no other females interacting with her? Like for example she has two brothers, but I wanted to know more about her everyday—where she went to school, what type of friends she had,etc.

If I’m being honest, I struggled for more than half the book to understand how exactly the magic system works. Yes, there was a lot of infodumping from the author as it’s to be expected with the introduction to a high fantasy series. However, I wish some things were explained more clearly earlier on; that way I feel like I would have gotten an overall more enjoyable experience. That being said, I will definitely keep my eye out of the sequel and put it high up on my tbr because this book was an intriguing start.

3.5/5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Again, but BetterAgain, but Better by Christine Riccio
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The more I sit here and think back on what this book actually was, the more I realize it was just wish-fulfillment fanfiction that showed a true lack of range and maturity in the writing. In this book, we a follow our main character, Shane, who goes on a study-abroad semester for a writing program in London. There, she falls head over heels for her mysterious brooding flatmate, Pilot Penn. She is constantly writing in her blog, whose name is FrenchWatermelon19, and our MC is from New Jersey, she has a big Italian family, she's an aspiring author, etc. (sound familiar anyone??) The whole book is set throughout the span of 4 months, and the author has a kind of time-travely do over which seemed like a lazy cop-out to me. If you didn't like how the story ended the first time around, just do better? Don't make us read through hundreds of pages of the "again" part. Contrary to the title, no it wasn't better. I would have loved for it to just ended with her leaving her London apartment because her study program had ended at the University.

I just couldn't get on board with the writing style, and the second half of the book felt so unnecessary and repetitive. There was nothing original about the last 150ish pages, I was completely bored out of my mind although at that point I thought I was too far along to DNF it. I could have done without reading her daily diary entries, her weekly blog posts. Like we GET it Shane, you are being painted as some quirky writer who suffers from mild "social anxiety" (I'm putting this in quotations because I really didn't think that representation was up to par, but that's another essay.)

Don't even get me started on the hinted at subtle acephobia/arophobia. We are meant to feel pity and empathy over the fact that Shane's never had a boyfriend, she's never kissed a boy, and she feels like there's something so wrong with her. In the first chapter, she's on the airplane complaining about how she's 21 and never found love and how pathetic she thinks that is. I was super uncomfortable with the way that was portrayed in such a self-loathing type of way that I had to put the book down a couple of times to not loose my cool.

The only realistic thing that I appreciated was the parental pressure that came to head when her parents visited her in London, and found out she wasn't doing any pre-med classes. That whole scene more than halfway through was the most action we've gotten in the whole book up to that point. Yes, I think it was excellent to discuss parental pressure and parental expectations that are played on young 20 year olds, and for what I commend the author. So, if you follow this author on Youtube and are in a bookstore and find this book for sale for $5, let me spare you 4 hours of your life, and tell you that I would not reccomend for you to read it.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

What is sensitivity reading?
This is when you hire a reader to read specific scenes (or the whole manuscript) who pick up on small micro-aggressions or problematic plot aspects in your novel. They can inform you on how your representation is compared to their experience, and it’s a very important aspect in the conversation about non-harmful, good representation diverse literature. 

Why should you hire me?
I’ve read hundreds of young adult novels critically, in which I’ve seen one of my many identities represented. I’ve written hundreds of review for published and unpublished works of writing. I’m also a teenager with firsthand experience of what’s it’s like to be one. 

What can I sensitivity read for?:
-bisexual and sapphic representation
-nonbinary identities 
-chronic illness
-bipolar II
-eating disorders

The Pricing: 
For a full manuscript between 50,000k and 100,000k words it will be $1 per 1K word. If you are on a tighter time frame then 3 weeks from the 50% deposit, the price will also adjust depending.

What genres will I accept?
In general I will accept middle grade, young adult, or new adult. 
Favorite genres: 
Things that will get a no from me: horror and erotica 

Does this seem interesting to you? My contact email is: I will reply within 48 hours to your inquiry. The full page report will be provided within 3 weeks of time. 

The Last Summer of the Garrett GirlsThe Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

tw: aromisia (unchallenged), bi character gets outed, homophobia (challenged), and biphobia (challenged)
cw: car accident/crash

At first glance, this book sounded like it was exactly in my wheelhouse. It's a contemp. YA book that follows 4 sisters during a summer that changes everything. They own a family run indie bookstore (which I adored that bookseller element and it's told through 4 alternating POVs.)

All the characters were flawed in their own way some of the girls are unlikable characters and aren't afraid to admit it. I adore sister-sister relationships that are real & raw & messy. Des is the oldest, & feels the biggest responsibility and burden (oh boy could I relate to her the most.) She's the very glue that holds her family together because their grandmother got injured, and years before became their sole guardian after their parents died in a car accident.

We have Bea, who is the driven ambitious one.
We have Kat, who is the wild theater kid.
We have Vi, who is the quiet bookish nerd who writes fan-fiction.

Just to quickly cover the aromisic part of the book, Vi uses the phrases such as: "It's only as friends...The truth is, she doesn't want to be just friends. She wants more."[direct quote.] Which if you've ever followed me anywhere, I've talked in depth about this is extremely harmful to readers like me.

The really bizarre thing about this above is that Des was really aro-coded and ace-coded to me. Like at one point, she admits that she's a virgin and "is not interested in sex or being in a relationship." I feel like this is a truly missed opportunity, and it's not really an excuse that Des wouldn't know the label because this is set in a modern contemporary setting and its prime time for on-page aroace to be clear: Spotswood wouldn't have to change Des' character at all just attach this label to her in an authentic way.

Vi is a very vocal lesbian, she reads all the Nina LaCour books and has been out to her family (which is cool!) Her love interest is Mexican-American, & she does get outted in a newspaper through a newspaper through a gossip column, which is just something to know (and the reporter does get rightfully fired.) There are multiple people who cheating in this story but one of them is another sister's bi LI, who cheats with his ex the second he comes back to town. I've heard from my fellow bi pals and believe it myself that this is in fact a harmful stereotype, so just a heads up.

One thing that I could really appreciate the author doing was PTSD rep and anxiety rep, although both are rarely mentioned and kind of skimmed over on the surface level. I wish there was some more scenes of two individual characters dealing with these struggles and mental illnesses, that would have really enhanced the book in an enriching way.

Other than that, there seems to be a real lack of communication b/e the sister for most of the book. For a majority of the summer, all of them get suddenly really out of character and keep huge secrets to themselves. Although I did genuinely enjoy multiple aspects of every girls individual story. I sometimes felt like the multiple POVs really blend together and be bland. That majority of the book was about each girls romantic relationships (& the all the drama that comes with that) excluding Des. Yet at the end, I was still more thirsty for the intricate sisterhood ties that bond these girls together.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Before I Let GoBefore I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

cw: bipolar disorder, suicide, death, grief, mental illness disregard by some characters

First of all, let's take a moment to acknowledge that our MC is asexual, and that her friend is pansexual (clear on-page labels), which made me tear up multiple times while reading it. Recently I made a Twitter thread about how platonic best friendships are my absolute favorite things to see, and the friendship between Corey and Kyra was an example of this. The only thing was, it felt like the diversity here was being shoved into the characters and their lives, instead of it organically growing and being shown blatantly on page. There was also a pro medication and therapy for mental illnesses that was happening on page, which I could appreciate. Now onto the thing that I didn't particularly enjoy here.

The way that this was originally marketed to me was as a thriller/mystery, and when you throw in that genre label I have certain expectations. I don't think it knew what it really was: supernatural mystery? Paranormal contemporary? As much as I had adored Nijkamp's debut: This is Where it Ends, my high expectations weren't really met with this book. I want to be on the edge of my seat, sweating trying to puzzle things together. In this story, I didn't feel any of those feelings that I want to while reading a quality thriller. Instead I found myself slowly trudging through the story, yawning during it, and considering DNFing it because nothing was happening for hundreds of pages of slow buildup.

Just want to clarify before I get to this part, that I am an ownvoices ace and aro reviewer. So this is yet another narrative where asexuality and aromanticism are equated. I feel like sometimes all you need to do for basic research about this distinction is just use google. By that you would figure out that the MC is rejecting her best friends romantic love to her because she's aro (or strongly aro-coded) not because she's ace. So maybe it's bold of me to say this, but at the time I was really hurt by the fact that there was clear aro erasure, which is why my rating is as low as it is.

Corey herself was very bland and underdeveloped as a character. I wish we could have gotten more growth and a different perspective after this whirlwind of a journey happened. If you asked me who Corey really was, her likes and dislikes, things about her family, I couldn't really tell you much. Unfortunately, she's written as a one dimensional character which really turns me off from these types of books.

Honestly, the ending was unsatisfactory and there was just no closure. I was still extremely confused about what had happened to Kyra, and felt like I was in a fever dream while reading. Oh well, maybe someday I'll have a dream at night to imaginatively create an alternative narrative that would be better than my waste of time that I spent on these 350 pages.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Beauty That RemainsThe Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven’t had a book that truly blew me away this much since the beginning of this year, and I haven’t been promoting a 2018 release as hard as this one. It’s impossible to describe the well of deep love that runs through me for this book. We follow three grief stricken teens, which just tore a raw wound into my heart to see them in such deep pain trying to cope with their big loss of the death of a close one.

We have Shay, who runs an indie music blog and was an ex-band manager, and recently lost her twin sister to leukemia. There’s Autumn, an adopted Korean bookworm, who just lost her life-long best friend to a tragic car accident. Then there’s Logan, a gay guy who played bass and was a lead singer, whose ex-boyfriend had an overdose. The one thing that brings these lost souls together is the power of music.

The plot itself is slow moving, there’s not really much that’s happening. It’s more a character based journey through life, which was the perfect thing that I needed at that moment (also the reason that I;m in a huge book hangover.) If you appreciate a raw and authentically real writing style, run don’t walk to the bookstore the day it’s released.

I’ve been saying this for the past couple of years, but we are in sore need of more realistic and diverse teen characters like the ones we have here. Woodfolk has a way with words, is a natural storyteller, because her writing seems to flow effortlessly and she absolutely nailed it with the three different POVs. So much can go wrong with multiple narrator, it’s a risky move to make and rarely well done in my experience, but I can praise Woodfolk for perfection with this, to the moon and back always. (Which is the highest praise from a moonchild like me.)

What I could really appreciate is that there wasn’t a tragic moment/accident that happened on page; this book didn’t focus on the thing itself. It shows the after-math of this life-changing tragedy among those people who are the closest.

My favorite scenes balanced the delicate line of grief-stricken pain and loving nostalgic memories. Some the scenes had nothing to do with that, it was just a bunch of teens going to a concert of their favorite band, or a new romantic relationship blooming, or the support of the closest best friends. I kept on imagining these characters as real people in my city, because I cared and truly deeply connected to every one of them. And that my friends, is the highest praise that I can give for a book. 10,000/10 stars

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own**

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Girl Made of StarsGirl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

TW: rape, sexual assault

In the author’s note at the end of the book, Blake said something like “I hope this is the book you need. This was the book that I needed to write.” And for me, that’s so true, this book is beautiful piece of art that has insightful commentary on the rape culture in relation to our current political moment. But more than that, it’s the story of first love, teenage friendships, and getting comfterable with your sexuality.

So well done, this book blows open a raw hole, it was so intense that I was a loudly sobbing puddle for most the book, and at points had to take a break because it was hurting my brain in the best way. Be warned that this book will absolutely wreck your soul, and then provide you with that valuable sliver of hope that you’ll cling to after you close the last page.

My favorite characters (more like ICONIC Queens) were Hannah and Mara. They both banded together and truly supported each other as survivors in the best way that both of them needed. The way their interactions played out on page was just a testament to the emotional maturity that these teen girls had.

Also, I was over the moon to see that there was on-page nonbinary/genderqueer rep (MC’s best friend); and our MC herself was bisexual and there is an on page f/f relationship. Even though none of that was the focus, it meant the world to me to see myself represented directly as an enby. I definitely especially shed some tears for this.

Ashley Blake has a knack for writing realistic teens and their interaction. They text, call eachother and I dialogue is something that I could imagine saying to my friends. Nothing about the entangled emotions of humans is black and white, thing are always messy and complicated, which makes any story more compelling. Let this be known that this was an entirely character-based plotline there’s not much action, more deep explorations of society and flawed people.

Unlike many other books that this deal with this heavy topic, this one was unique as in that the alleged rapist is our MC’s twin brother, Oscr and most of the book Mara has to deal with the aftermath and fallout. Not only her, but all their friends and social circles, and really the rest of the school have to “pick sides” on who to believe and who to blame, which was a constant delicate but tough situation everyone had to deal with.

Mara as a character is one of the strongest people I’ve ever read. Yeah, she fell apart and had some big breakdowns when her personal life got too triggering. She’s also the lead editor of the Feminist Magazine, and I found the need to pick it up because the articles sounded so awesome. In the end I was so proud of her choices, and felt like she was one of my best friends. This book does that; makes you feel all the feels. And it’s worth it, you won’t regret picking this one up this May.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own**

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Surprise MeSurprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you're familiar with Kinsella book at all, you know exactly what you're getting into. Complicated family/marriage dynamics, what it means to be an adult, "adulting" as we millennials call it. So in that sense, this book wasn't a surprise, but that was fine with me.

We follow the typical suburban family, in the middle of fizzures and racks that are happening in Sylvie and Dan's marriage. They have two twin daughter, and well-to-do life with well paying jobs. But something's off, in their dynamic and it's not what you would expect. I got engrossed in this, the way you do when you're watching a tv show. In fact, this could be describes as a classic "chic-lit" (I hate that term, but you know what I mean). If this is the vibe you like, you would most definitely enjoy this.

My only "minor" issues is that the characters of Sylvie and her dear mommy were so irritating. Sometimes I just wanted to scream in rage and throw the book across the room. It' different from the other Kinsella books, in the sense that it felt more absurd and serious, and whilst there was some laugh-out-loud moments, it was more decidedly mature out of the books that I've read from her, which is a step up in my humble opinion.

But if I imagine myself in a couple months of time, this novel is simply very forgettable.It was like fluffy cotton candy, perfect if you're in that right mood at the time, however it comes in one ear and out the other.

One bizzare thing, a weird type of motivation to why they were trying to surprise eachother, is that a doctor said that they have good health and are going to live over 100 years that they'd be married for 70+ years. This was the driving force throughout the book, and I just found it odd that it was blown out of proportion and made such a big deal.

**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own**

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