Tea & Book Chat: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (The Fixer #1)

Personal Thoughts:  For my second read of 2017, I wanted to consume something quick paced and exciting so I landed on The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  I remember seeing a bunch of positive reviews from trusted blogger friends when it first debuted and I had been meaning to check it out ever since.  In recent reading years, I’ve noticed that I’m really interested in fictional politics.  I never thought I would be, but it’s always what I end up loving most about stories with any type of political element so when I read the synopsis of The Fixer and found out that it’s a political thriller, I was so in!

Plot Summary:  The Fixer is about a sixteen year old girl named Tess Kendrick who is forced to move from her grandfather’s ranch to Washington D.C. to live with her estranged older sister Ivy.  It turns out that Ivy has quite the reputation around Washington which she uses to secure Tess a spot at Harwicke Academy, a prestigious school attended by basically every rich politicians offspring.  Tess gets completely thrown into this new life that she never asked for but since she’s a bit outspoken she quickly acclimates and becomes her classmates go-to for fixing their issues, big or small.  She gets involved in investigating a potential conspiracy theory involving her classmates family and it’s not long until lie after lie surfaces.

Critique:  I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Fixer!  If I could give an initial warning, it would be that you’ll need to suspend all disbelief that a sixteen year old could be so instrumental in solving a national scandal (I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen, I’m just saying it’s a stretch that she had so much access to top politicians including the President and his wife).  Tess is a sarcastic and bossy character with a heart of gold.  She doesn’t take no for an answer and when the well-being of people she cares about is at risk, she’ll stop at nothing to help them.  The secondary characters in the story were also wonderful! I really enjoyed the possibility of a Tess / Asher romance without it actually happening.  It’s so rare to find a YA book without a romance plot and it was refreshing to have Tess be completely focused on solving the mystery at hand instead of fawning over a high school crush.  I also really loved Ivy’s chauffeur / bodyguard Bodie.  He was quite entertaining and his relationship with Tess was adorable from start to finish.  The pacing was incredibly quick and I felt like there was never a dull moment.  The last third of the book was impossible to put down and I was surprised several times by the outcomes. I cannot wait to read book 2!

Do I Recommend?: Yes! This fun political thriller will keep you entertained the whole way through.  Another plus is that it has short chapters (I always read quicker when that’s the case!).

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Personal Thoughts: I’ve told this story on my BookTube channel but I had been offered an ARC of The Female of the Species at BEA in 2016 and after seeing the awful cover, I put it down without a second glance.  Little did I know that The Female of the Species is pitched as a YA female version of Dexter, one of my favorite television shows ever (minus the horrible decline in the plot after season 4 and the worst series ending of all time) and it wasn’t until I got home to NY and started seeing rave reviews from trusted friends that I realized my huge mistake in letting this ARC go.  So you can bet that upon it’s release date, I headed over to my local B&N and picked up at copy! I loved this book hundreds of thousands of times more than I was ever expecting to (even with the Dexter comparison) and I love that Mindy McGinnis wrote this important story for a YA audience.

Plot Summary: Alex Craft’s older sister Anna is murdered three years prior to the events of The Female of the Species but the killer in her small town goes unpunished, by legal means anyway.  Alex, deeply affected by her sister’s murder takes justice into her own hands and avenges her sister’s death but is also not caught by local law enforcement.  Alex always stays away from her classmates until her senior year when she forges a friendship at work with Peekay, the Preacher’s Kid and her high school’s golden boy, Jack Fisher, shows a romantic interest in her.  The three end up at a party together where lots of alcohol and sexual abuse begin occurring and it trigger’s Alex’s dark side that she’s always kept hidden until now.

Critique: WOW. The Female of the Species is such an important story.  Mindy McGinnis covers rape-culture, drugs, underage drinking, feminism and so very much more.  The fact that this book was written for a YA audience speaks volumes about Mindy McGinnis and the lessons she’s trying to teach young women.  I was completely blown away by how these darker issues were handled and what a realistic portrayal Mindy was able to conjure up for this small town.  Each character was completely dynamic, believable and multi-layered.  The Female of the Species is narrated by each of the three aforementioned characters (Alex, Peekay and Jack) and each person brings an interesting perspective to the table.  Even the secondary characters like Branley were just written so perfectly.  Despite all of the darkness, there are some heartwarming moments involving the animals Alex and Peekay care for at their job, and the attitude Peekay’s parents have toward what they experienced as teenagers.  Despite being a Preacher, Peekay’s dad doesn’t turn a blind eye or forbade Peekay from partaking in any social events.  He and her mom both give her one of the memorable parent-daughter talks I’ve ever read.  Seriously, my heart was melting.  If you can handle a very gritty and real contemporary story that delves into important social issues, The Female of the Species is 100% worth the read but there are major triggers for anyone sensitive to abuse.

Do I Recommend?:  Yes! This is by no means an easy read in the sense that it deals with some HEAVY topics but I have no doubt you’ll fall in love with Alex’s morally grey character and her drive for justice in a society that’s otherwise apathetic to the things women experience.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1)

Personal Thoughts: I love all things Jack the Ripper! I’ve always found his case to be mysterious and intriguing so pretty much anytime a book wants to further explore the possibilities surrounding his murders, I count myself in.  Add to that a female main character pushing the boundaries of societal norms in Victorian London and I am even more enthused.

Plot Summary:  Audrey Rose is an atypical seventeen year old who’s the daughter of a lord, but is way more interested in solving crimes and performing autopsies as an apprentice to her uncle than she is in acting proper and finding a husband.  She assumes a faux male identity in the evening and sneaks to her uncle’s where she learns about anatomy and how to make incisions on corpses.  When Jack the Ripper starts wreaking havoc in London, she’s eager to help solve the case no matter how improper it may be but suddenly things seem to be hitting much closer to home than she expected.

Critique:  I thoroughly enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco.  Audrey is an intelligent protagonist and it’s a pleasure to read the story through her eyes.  The lengths she is willing to go to follow her passion and break free of societal norms is so refreshing.  She does display a certain amount of give and take in her interactions (never thinking her treatment is fair or not worth fighting for) and it makes her drive and tactics that much more plausible.  Then there’s Thomas Creswell who is undeniably awkward in a savant-like way and he’s also incredibly charming.  He and Audrey become close in their pursuit of Jack the Ripper and the romance between them is adorable.  Thomas never assumes she can’t do something because of her gender and he’s very supportive of her extracurricular activities.  Another thing I loved about Stalking Jack the Ripper is that despite taking place in the late 1800’s, the writing is very accessible.  There are certain nods to the time period that are slipped in, but it’s never a challenge to follow and the communication between characters reads crystal clear.  Be warned that if you’re a bit squeamish, all of the medical terms during the autopsies may get to you.

Do I Recommend?: Definitely! I really enjoyed this story despite being able to predict the ending and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Hunting Prince Dracula!

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Personal Thoughts:  After listening to an extensive number of reviews about Sally Thorne’s debut novel, The Hating Game, I knew it would be a book I would love.  I even heard several people compare the writing to that of Rainbow Rowell’s which caused me to move it up to the very top of my TBR.  While I did enjoy The Hating Game, it was lacking that special wow factor for me which makes me sad since I was so ready to love it and count it as a new favorite.  Maybe my expectations were just too high and I’ll forever be wary of anyone comparing anything to Rainbow Rowell.

Plot Summary: The Hating Game follows Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeton, executive assistants to the co-CEO’s of their newly combined companies.  And they hate each other.  So as if tensions between them weren’t running high enough, they’re informed that their company will be creating a new position directly above Lucy and Josh and they’re the top two contenders for the job (which translates to Lucy or Josh will become the other person’s boss).  But as we all know, there’s a very thin line between love and hate.

Critique: My favorite part of The Hating Game is all the witty banter between Lucy and Josh.  Josh is your typical stick in the mud kind of numbers guy.  He has a weekly schedule for which days of the week he wears which shirt, he’s ruthless toward coworkers who aren’t pulling their weight, and he wouldn’t dream of touching anything with sugar in it.  Meanwhile, Lucy is colorful and fun.  She’s a people person and she would rather work overtime killing herself and her social life than endure a confrontation with anyone no matter how much they’re walking all over her.  She comes from a humble background, her parents own a strawberry farm and she’s struggling with her new life in a big city.  I love hate to love relationships and this one is no exception but I was somehow just expecting more from it.  Both Josh and Lucy have more going on than meets that eye and as they finally start to open up to each other between feuds, a small flame starts burning brighter.  The Hating Game came enormously hyped and overall, I didn’t feel like it totally delivered.  It was a quick, fun and enjoyable read but it didn’t resonate with me the way it seems to have with so many others.  I can absolutely see The Hating Game being made into a rom-com and I would definitely go and see it once it hits theaters.

Do I Recommend?: I do! I seem to be the black sheep when it comes to The Hating Game so if you enjoy contemporary romances I would recommend checking it out!

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Kristin

Spines With Wines: Windwitch by Susan Dennard + February Book of the Month

This month Cassie and I met to discuss Windwitch by Susan Dennard for the Spines With Wines book club!  It was a really fun one because we had opposite opinions on a lot of the story so you’ll get both points of view. You can view the full video below:

February Book Club Pick

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Personal Thoughts:  After finishing and loving P.S. I Like You by Kasie West, I decided I was on a contemporary kick and jumped right into one of my most anticipated of 2017.  Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse is a book that I got an ARC of at BEA and I’d been meaning to read it before it’s March release date so I could review it here on the blog.  What initially peaked my interest in Seven Days of You is the fact that it’s set in Tokyo.  I love all things Japan so my heart felt ready to dive in and run around Tokyo in my head while ignoring the Nor’easter weather conditions here in NYC.

Plot Summary:  Seven Days of You is the story of a girl named Sophia who has only one week left in Tokyo.  She’s lived there with her mother and her sister for more combined years than any other location and she’s not ready to leave her best friends, her school and everything familiar in her life behind and head to New Jersey right before she begins her senior year of high school.  As Sophia is getting ready to leave, Jamie, the boy she’s harbored a huge grudge against for the past couple of years, arrives back in Tokyo and their relationship dynamic begins to change when he helps her pick up the pieces of everything falling apart around her.  But despite the change of heart, Sophia and Jamie are dealing with an impending deadline of Sophia’s inevitable departure.

Critique:  I’m sad to say that Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse did not live up to my expectations.  My initial interest in the Tokyo setting ended up being the only thing that kept me going throughout the whole story.  I loved anytime the characters would meet up at a tourist destination in Tokyo, would go to karaoke, or would indulge in Japanese snacks.  It was really fun to pick out some favorites and wish I were there eating with them!  There was also a mention in the beginning of the book that reminded me of one of my favorite manga series (Nana by Ai Yazawa) so I was very hyped.  Unfortunately, my love of the book ended there.  I didn’t completely dislike the book but none of the characters were very memorable, and I struggled with the plot.  Sophia and her friends Mika and David are immature.  David treats Sophia horribly yet she spends a good portion of the story harboring a crush on him anyway.  I really disliked the way the situation between the three of them was handled from beginning to end.  Then there’s the love interest Jamie who seemed like such a good guy.  He’s way too good for everything that Sophia puts him through and it was sad to see him hang around her.  Mika seemed like she had potential to be an interesting character but it was difficult to ever fully understand her or the motivation behind her actions and David is just awful.  Another thing I found strange is that Japanese words would be in italics the first time they were used.  I’m unsure if this is because I read an ARC version or if it was an intentional way to show readers that an object is Japanese.  I’ll be very curious to see if that’s the same in the finished version.  One thing I did like is that each chapter has a countdown in the chapter header showing us how many more days, hours, minutes and seconds Sophia has left before she leaves Tokyo.  Seven Days of You is an enjoyable read for the Japanese references but it’s not something I would re-read and I know the story isn’t one that will stick with me.

Do I Recommend?: Sadly, I can’t say that I do. If you love Japan and Japanese culture, you might find it worth the read just for the references but don’t expect much out of the story or characters.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Personal Thoughts:  After a challenging December / beginning of January, I’d been feeling a bit slumpy.  As much as I wanted to get lost in complex fantasy worlds, my brain was just not having it.  I kept feeling distracted while reading and it was making me so sad.  So over the three day weekend, I asked my husband if he would mind if we cancelled our Monday plans so I could spend time reading a cute contemporary book and reinvigorate myself so I could feel excited about reading again.  P.S. I Like You by Kasie West TOTALLY did the trick.  I had been wanting to read this book since it came out last year and I’d heard nothing but good things so I decided this would be The Book.  I ended up reading the majority of the book in one day and I finished the day after on my commute to work (I got to work during one of the most exciting parts and I literally spent the entire day wishing I could get back to reading!).

Plot Summary:  P.S. I Like You is the story of an alternative girl named Lily who finds solace from her crazy family life in mostly unheard of bands.  She dabbles in song writing but hasn’t found enough confidence to share her songs with anyone just yet.  Lily is also terrible at and terribly uninterested in her high school chemistry class.  One day out of boredom, she writes a song lyric on her desk and when she comes in the next day, she finds that the lyric has been finished!  Once Lily and her mysterious chemistry crush run out of desk space, they begin writing notes to each other and leaving them underneath their desk for each other to find.  The letters easily become the highlight of Lily’s days but as her suspect list shrinks, she realizes she just may have been sharing her deepest darkest secrets with her sworn enemy.

Critique:  P.S. I Like You by Kasie West is exactly the fluffy contemporary story I was looking for.  While it’s VERY easy to figure out who Lily is conversing with, it doesn’t take away from the excitement of the letters.  Watching the relationship between Lily and her boy develop via the written word is such a contrast to their real life interactions and I love a good hate-to-love romance (it’s one of my favorite tropes when done well!).   You’ll also be pulled into the story by Lily’s adorable family.  Lily is one of four kids living with both her parents so alone time is hard to come by in her household.  Lily takes her responsibilities as an older sister very seriously, often putting her younger brothers before her social life.  Aside from the romance (which let’s be honest, that’s what we’re all here for in a Kasie West book), it’s a pleasure to see Lily’s emotional character arc throughout the novel.  Overall, P.S. I Like You is a feel good love story that’ll have you craving another scene with Lily and the mystery man!

Do I Recommend?: Yes! If you enjoy reading fluffy feel-good contemporaries, this book is for you!

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Personal Thoughts:  Okay, so it’s taken me a really long time to properly gather my thoughts for my review of This is Our Story by Ashley Elston and it’s for good reason.  This is Our Story was one of my favorite books I read in 2016 and I wanted to write a rave review that could do this story justice.  Since this is my personal thoughts section, I’m going to start by talking a little bit about the cover (which I’ve also talked about numerous times on my BookTube channel- PS I’m so happy so many of you have read and loved this book since I started pushing it down your throats!).  Obviously the majestic white porcelain deer head against a cerulean blue background appeals to my aesthetic so I was initially drawn in by this cover.  Then I read the synopsis and discovered even more brilliance behind the cover design.  You see, This is Our Story is about a girl on a mission to identify Grant’s killer and serve him justice.  Grant is a boy who goes hunting in the woods with his 4 best friends but unfortunately, he doesn’t make it out alive.  The cover depicts five shadows (representing each of the boys who went hunting that morning with the deer head positioned over who we can only assume is Grant- the hunted.  As if this weren’t clever enough, the letters “his” in “this” and “story” in “story” are a darker shade of grey than the rest of the title because while this is the story of Kate solving the case, it’s also Grant’s or his story.  Another reason I was drawn into this story is because it’s about a group of boy best friends dubbed the River Point boys living in a small town revolving around a mystery so there were some initial Raven Boys vibes for me. So much love for this book<3

Plot Summary: I began describing the plot above but I’ll reiterate it here.  This is Our Story follows a girl named Kate who works as an intern for her local DA.  She becomes involved in a case surrounding her new classmates who’ve been transferred out of their private school after a tragic event.  The five River Point boys, all from the town’s wealthiest families, are longtime best friends who are known for their wild parties.  One morning after an out of control event of theirs, the boys head into the woods to hunt, only one of them doesn’t make it out alive and none of the surviving boys are talking.  As Kate delves deeper into the case, she begins to uncover secrets and truths she never expected to find.  And as she begins to close in on Grant’s killer, her life and the lives of others are suddenly at risk.

This is Our Story 2

CritiqueThis is Our Story is one of the most well crafted young adult thriller novels I’ve ever read.  Because the story is told from the perspective of a girl working for the DA’s office, we’re given all of the evidence in the case as it’s discovered.  If you read closely and pay attention to even the most minor clues, you’ll have the opportunity to solve the case.  While many readers appreciate the element of surprise while reading thrillers (and trust me, there’s a very high chance that you won’t be able to pick out the killer), I have never felt more satisfied in being able to predict a portion of the outcome.  Elston makes you feel as though you’re a detective working to solve the case so the advances the reader makes feel incredibly gratifying.  It’s enjoyable to spend the vast duration of the story in our main character Kate’s head.  She’s a driven young woman and despite potential fallout from her personal involvement in the case, she’s hellbent on exacting justice.  While Kate is definitely a smart cookie, she does make some very questionable decisions which adds to the believability that she’s a high school student.  Kate’s perspective is interlaced with our killer’s brief thoughts every couple of chapters.  While reading, it was initially very difficult to distinguish one River Point boy from another which I had originally thought was a flaw in the story until I read on and realized that this is exactly what Elston wanted.  The boy’s lawyer advises them to be seen as a group to avoid a single person being charged and they do a great job of portraying themselves as a collective group as opposed to individual people.   I’m not going to get into my detailed thoughts about each boy because the reader must discover their traits as the story progresses.  I’ve heard some criticism regarding the pacing of the story in that it tends to be a bit slow in the middle, but I would have to disagree.  The characters are strong enough to keep the reader invested during those seemingly slower moments and each page is building toward the big payoff ending that Elston so flawlessly delivers.  P.S. The last thing I want to say is that I adore Kate’s best friend Reagan and her brilliant Halloween costume designs!

Do I Recommend?: Pretty obviously yes!  As I said, This is Our Story is one of my favorite young adult thrillers ever written and INSTANTLY purchased Elston’s other books upon finishing.  She is without a doubt an auto-buy author for me after reading this book.

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Kristin

Tea & Book Chat: Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson & Robin Wasserman

I realize I will have to format this review a bit differently, otherwise it would go on forever! I’m not going to be giving a synopsis for each of the short stories but I will give you a brief glimpse of my feelings for each.  Overall, I didn’t love this as much as I was hoping to.  Everyone on the internet seems to the think that it is extremely important to read these stories before starting Lady Midnight and while there were a couple of plot points that are definitely important, I didn’t really think it added much to the story overall.  Although I am curious if my opinion will change after I read Lady Midnight so stay tuned!  I like the overall story arc (SPOILERS FOR THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES AHEAD SO BEWARE): and that it follows Simon during his time at the Shadowhunter Academy leading up to his Ascension.  Like most short story collections, there were some that were great and others that were okay.  If I can give you one piece of advice, it’s to avoid the Goodreads synopses for each story because they basically tell you exactly what you’ll be reading.  Here’s my breakdown:

Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #1) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

This story serves as an introduction to the Academy and Simon’s new life training to be a Shadowhunter.  I was a bit disappointed with this first story because while I felt that there was some foundation laid, it was a bit boring overall.  Upon finishing, I found myself hoping that the next 600 pages in this book would be more action-packed.

The Lost Herondale (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #2) by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

This second tale held a lot of promise for me because of the title alone (I love those Herondales)!  This one ended up being a bit heartbreaking. It’s a prime example of the Shadowhunter motto of “the law is hard, but it is the law.”  I liked this one overall, especially Catarina Loss’s portion but it was not my favorite of the bunch.

The Whitechapel Fiend (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #3) Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

I definitely liked the stories that Maureen Johnson co-wrote more than any of the other co-author’s works.  This story actually is my favorite for several reasons.  1) We get another Infernal Devices tale which just warms my heart and 2) it involved Jack the Ripper! I’ve read the first two books in Maureen Johnson’s Jack the Ripper series as well and I love that she got to revisit the famous murderer and come up with yet another outcome of the story.  I’m assuming this was fun for her to co-write since she already had done so much research on the backstory.

Nothing But Shadows (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #4) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

Again, this story was okay.  I didn’t feel that it added much to the Shadowhunter mythos despite the Will Herondale cameo.  It focused primarily on Will’s son and how he met his parabati.  I imagine this was included since Cassandra Clare seems to be exploring parabati more in depth than she did in the original series.  I do love the concept and I’m glad this relationship will play a bigger part in Lady Midnight but I didn’t really need this story.  I also enjoyed Simon’s character development as he decides what type of Shadowhunter he wants to be.

The Evil We Love (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #5) by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

This story also seemed unnecessary to me.  I enjoyed the present day antics between Isabelle and Simon but the history of Valentine’s circle was something I enjoyed reading about less than I had expected.  I suppose I wouldn’t mind reading Jocelyn’s take on everything since her perspective changed much earlier than other Circle members, but I didn’t find that Robert’s tale made me feel any type of sympathy toward him for the way he treated Alec.

Pale Kings and Princes (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #6) by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

This one didn’t do much for me.  I liked the twist at the end and the look into the lives of Helen Blackthorn’s parents, but I didn’t think it was enough to warrant an entire story.

Bitter of Tongue (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #7) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

My favorite part of this story was getting to see more about Andrew Blackthorn.  He played a small but majorly significant role in City of Heavenly Fire and I’ve definitely been curious about his fate.  My heart hurts for him and I really hope that Lady Midnight could offer some type of resolution for his situation.  He is truly awesome.  Again, didn’t add much overall, but I did enjoy this one at least!

The Fiery Trial (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #8) by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

This one is another favorite of the bunch which I’m sure you can guess judging by the co-writer!  I think this is the most important story within the whole novella collection because it addresses the ending of City of Heavenly Fire and it sets up the Lady Midnight protagonists (Emma and Julian) as parabati.  I think Simon’s revelations during the ceremony are going to play a huge role in the Dark Artifices series and I love the outcome of his and Clary’s meeting with Magnus Bane.  This story made me so happy!

Born to Endless Night (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #9) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

This story is completely outlandish.  Obviously I love seeing more Magnus and Alec and oh the feels because they are perfect but nope, this just came out of left field. Why? WHY?!

Angels Twice Descending (Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy #10) by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

This is the only story that I read the Goodreads synopsis for and boy am I upset that I made that choice!  Once I knew the premise and exactly what was going to happen minus the actual character names I knew exactly what would be happening to who.  It was still sad and it broke my heart but I found this to be quite predictable.

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Tea & Book Chat: Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein

Personal Thoughts:  After reading Caraval and Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy, I was really craving a solid contemporary read.  I tend to like switching up genres often so after so much time in other worlds, I felt ready to revisit our own.  I had remembered that Alexa and Rachel both enjoyed reading Shuffle, Repeat and so I plucked it from my shelf and settled in for a cute fluffy romance.  Shuffle, Repeat delivered exactly what I was craving and it has since become one of my favorite contemporary YA novels in existence.  Fun fact: Jen Klein is a writer for Grey’s Anatomy– which is a show many people love but I could only handle watching the first episode of because medical procedures do not sit well with me.  It makes no sense because give me a gory show like Dexter where people are murdered and I’m fine but start operating on someone in my television and my body will begin to involuntarily shake with aversion.

Plot Summary: June is a senior in high school with no license and no plan to learn to drive.  Her mother and she move into a new house, close to her mom’s best friend who just so happens to be the mother of Oliver, your typical all-American high school football playing jock.  The mom’s arrange a carpool for Oliver to pick June up and drive her each morning only they quickly realize they have opposite outlooks on likes, completely different tastes in music and they clash on just about everything imaginable.  The pair decide to make their mornings more bearable by entering into a bet; each time one of them is able to provide sufficient evidence that high school doesn’t matter (June) or is a pivotal time in your life (Oliver), they’re able to add a song to the morning playlist.  Then they shuffle and repeat.

Critique: Shuffle, Repeat is a wonderfully crafted slow burn romance.  The pitch accurately compares it to When Harry Met Sally because of the opposites attract factor.  In the beginning of the novel, both June and Oliver are dating other people and neither feels jealousy toward the other which I absolutely adore.  Love rooted in friendship is a recipe for success in my opinion so to watch these two characters with such opposing viewpoints find common ground and form a bond of friendship before any romance is on the table is so satisfying and believable.  Another aspect of the book that I really appreciated is that (for the most part) people aren’t confined to a single social group.  Sure, everyone has their immediate group of friends but it’s not unusual for some people to bounce between groups.  Everything about all of the characters (both main and side) felt very organic and real.  One of June’s best friends is gay and another is bisexual and it’s never treated as out of the ordinary or as a coming out story.  They just are who they are, no questions asked.  Klein also explores both June and Oliver’s relationships with their parents which I love to read about because family is such a focal point of youth that can often be overlooked in YA.  Lastly, the polar viewpoints on the importance of high school were so interesting to read about.  It really got me to think about my own experience compared to where I am now, how the past has shaped me and my own mindset throughout it all.

Do I Recommend?: Yes indeed! If you enjoy contemporary romances like Anna and the French Kiss or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before I would definitely suggest checking this one out!

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