Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read by Emily Henry is held up again a matching pair of shorts. Soleil de Zwart

★★★★★

January Andrews shows up at her father’s old lake house ready to sit down and right her next great romance novel. But after the year she’s had, the last thing she is in the mood to do is write about love. Little does she know that he ex college rival, Augustus Everett owns the lake house right next to her, that is until she runs into his book display in the local bookstore. Augustus has been having writers block of his own, but in an entirely different genre, one more dark and gloomy than anything January has ever written.

The two strike up a truce and make a deal, the first to complete and sell their novel gets an endorsement from the other, but there’s a catch. They have to write in each other’s genre. January will take her stab at a dark gloomy piece of literature and Augustus will attempt a romance novel.


Beach Read by Emily Henry is an enemies to lovers story with every bit of intrigue and slice of romance you will need. The characters are both vibrant and dynamic, each with their own set of baggage and problems. As you read, you learn more about both characters and how they are actually a lot more similar than they thought and how they’ve dealt with similar losses. While this is a fun contemporary romance, it deals with a lot of deeper themes of loss, separation, and death, and ties it all together with fun plot points.

At some point the characters end up interviewing former cult members but also traveling to an outdoor theater and eating the most extravagant sounding ice cream.

I read this book in a day, finishing it in the deep end of the night. There were moments when my heart was racing and I definitely cried. This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. I felt very connected to the characters in their discussions of writing and their feelings of isolation.

If you’re in the mood for a fun contemporary romance but with a darker twist, this is one to check out!

The State of US by Shaun David Hutchinson

The State of Us by Shaun David Hutchinson is held up in front of an outdoor scene of palm fronds and wild grass. Soleil de Zwart

★★★★★

The State of US by Shaun David Hutchinson is about Dean Arnault and Dre Rosario and about their parents, who are both candidates running for President of the United States of America. But, one a Democrat, and the other is a Republican. At first Dean and Dre hate each other, coming from different political families in a partisan world they think the worst of each other. But as the story develops the two boys begin to fall for each other, hard, and they begin organizing ways to meet up and see each other. A third party candidate starts to stir up some trouble for both Dean and Dre’s parents, and the two of the get caught up in the mix.

The State of US contains: queer, asexual, demisexual, gay, and lesbian representation. 


As a Political Science student I was so excited to read another political romance, especially between the sons of Republican and Democrat candidates for President. At first I was cautious. I was afraid the story wouldn’t be an accurate representation of either political side, or that it would end up as a happy-go-luck story that brought everyone to the same side and wasn’t realistic. I was also afraid that my hopes were too high and the book wouldn’t live up to my expectations. 

But this story lived up and exceeded my expectations. I’m so happy and honored I received an ARC for review from Harper Collins Teen. This story meant a lot to me.

The story was an accurate representation of the political identities it presented and mirrored the current political landscape. There were many instances that called back to events that occurred throughout the last four years, between 2016 and 2020. While I do believe the story was told in more of a rose-colored lens than reality may present, I’m quite that the intention was to create a more hopeful picture for the future.

This love story was beautiful told and I devoured it within a day. I highlighted the entire book with moments I laughed and cried. Shaun David Hutchinson brought up a lot of meaningful conversations and I believe this story needs to be read. 

The State of US by Shaun David Hutchinson comes out on June 6. If you enjoy political romances or queer love stories, this is absolutely the book for you.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

★★★★★

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is an interview-based story focusing on the reclusive Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo. When Monique Grant, a relatively unknown magazine reporter, is requested to author the “tell all” exclusive on the life of Hollywood’s icon, no one is more shocked than Monique. Monique and Evelyn meet at Evelyn’s illustrious mansion and begin to unravel the many years of shocking tales and the scandalous seven marriages. The narrative slips into the past, in the point of view of Evelyn, growing up in a low-income house with an abusive father and how she escaped, made her way to Hollywood, and became a sensation.

Taylor Jenkins Reid discusses love and loss, weaving in stories of hard-won ambition and surprising friendships. As the narrative continues, the reader and Monique begin to understand why Evelyn chose Monique for her biography.

Reid’s plot allows the reader to slip seamlessly into Evelyn’s past, then come back to the present, learning simultaneously about Monique and Evelyn’s lives. Within the text, Reid is able to craft complex characters, convincing you that this faux-biography is about a real Hollywood sensation, and you just never knew about her. Reid’s characters are complicated and filled with life, her protagonists are built with morally-grey hearts, questionable motives, but their depth make them more human than most fictional constructions. Reid explains this herself within the voice of Evelyn Hugo, “It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.” While Evelyn says this of others, it can also be seen as her speaking of herself, her drive and motivations to get to where she wants to go. 

As the story unfolds, the formatting of the book gives light to news and magazine excerpts within the biography of Evelyn Hugo that rests inside The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, these contain headlines and dates of publication, with scandalous tidbits imagined by gossip columns or celebrity magazines. Many of these titles also contain information between sections of the text, how a situation was perceived by the other world versus how Evelyn Hugo tells her tale, or heartbreaking news you hadn’t expected before turning the page. Another interesting observation is looking at the evolution of magazines and news corporations covering Evelyn Hugo as her story unfolds, they begin with small town newspapers and evolve into the worldwide trending Now This.

The interview-style format of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo lends itself well to its audiobook format, with three voice actors working in tandem to bring the voices of Evelyn, Monique, and the other characters to life. 

Evelyn Hugo is a powerful woman, who knew what she wanted and went out and got it. Her story tells us that fame, money, and success won’t bring you everything you desire, Evelyn’s successes and failures bring with them their own unique struggles. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo may sound like it’s about the rich and famous, complaining about their lives and in pursuit of more accolades, but in reality, it’s the story of a girl from Hell’s Kitchen, New York who did everything she could to escape her life and get what she wanted, while dealing with the harsh realities of stardom and the people it brings into your life. 

I give The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, five stars. 

Reid’s most recent novel, Daisy Jones & The Six, came out in 2019 and is currently being adapted into a web-based miniseries, produced by Reese Witherspoon. Sam Claflin has recently been announced to play the main male-lead Billy Dunne. 

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

★★★★★

Tweet Cute is about Pepper, who moved with her mom to New York after her mom separated (amicably) from her dad. She’s been trying to blend in at the elite high school for the past 3 years, but she’s regarded as more of a study robot by her classmates. Pepper’s family own a fast-food burger chain and being the Gen Z-er that she is she often has to help them with their social media campaigns, primarily by posting memes on their official Twitter. But Pepper is more interested in baking and running her baking blog with her sister. Jack’s family run a small deli in New York, they’re known for their Kitchen Sink Macarons and grilled cheeses. Pepper and Jack end up in a twitter war between their parent’s business twitter accounts, and their story becomes viral.

I went into this book thinking it sounded cute and like a light rom-com. I was both right and wrong, in the best ways. It was cute and a rom-com but it also dealt with things such as parental pressures, familial problems, and loss. I was surprised in so many ways and read this book in a 24 hour period. I forced myself to sleep at 2am, so I would be able to continue enjoying it in the morning.

It was a little bit of a slow start, I wasn’t sure what was going on in the first few pages, but then it all started clicking into place. I understood there was a distance between the mother and Pepper’s sisters, there was something there that was waiting to be uncovered. Then we switched to Jack’s POV and I felt a little thrown off, but it was coming together, he also dealt with family expectations but in a different way. And slowly the larger plot came together.

The twitter war wasn’t what I had expected, it was better. And the moment that the ship name “Pepperjack” appeared made me cackle with joy.
I am so grateful I was able to read this book in advance, it has given me strength to tackle the new school year. And now I have a few months to rave about it to my friends before I make them read it in January 2020.

The Avant-Guards by Usdin, Hayes, & Nalty

★★★★★

I LOVED this graphic novel! I ate it up sometime in the middle of the night, in one sitting. I love the diversity presented in this story in the ethnicities of the characters as well as the characters’ personalities.

Charlie is a transfer student to Georgia O’Keefe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she’s a former basketball star who has stepped away from the sport. Liv, a drama student with basketball aspirations coaxes Charlie to join her newly formed ragtag team as the school’s first basketball team.

The representation in this story is so important and is just one story among many more that is diversifying the shelves of readers and reviewers. It felt real. I have read other graphic novels in which the characters feel more like characters in a story rather than real people dealing with real things.

I love the connections that grow throughout the story arc. Although I would’ve loved for it to be longer, I think the length plays very well with where the story left off. It left off with the suspense and want for more issues in the future. And as always I appreciate the cover images in the back of the novel, beautiful work!

The beginnings of romance in this story make me giddy and excited. I’m so ready to read volume two. I have only positive feed back for this lovely story and I look forward to reading more work from author Carly Usdin and artist Noah Hayes in the future.

Again, But Better by Christine Riccio

★★★★★

Two copies of Again, but Better lie against a blue pillow // Soleil de Zwart

One of my favorite books of the year, and in my top five contemporaries of all time. 

I started reading Again, but Better on March 26th and finished it on March 29th at 2am in the morning. 

And that was after I had been in a real reading slump, barely being able to pick up a book, much less binge reading more than 200 pages into the early hours of the morning. 

I’m wrote this review so late because I was afraid of not being able to convey how much I loved this book. But I’m going to try anyway, because the release is tomorrow and I’m going to Christine Riccio’s book signing on Wednesday. 

I read a fair amount of contemporaries and have connected with many of them, but never like this one (besides for Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, review below). The character of Shane feels so close to me, I feel enveloped in her thoughts and choices. This book feels so close and personal because it’s my worst fears and hopes and dreams and possibilities all wrapped into one story. 

I never saw “Part 2” coming. I didn’t even guess where the story was going until I got to that page and screamed in my bed, at approximately 10pm. I didn’t stop reading after that. I had to know. This was also the first time in a long time when I read a book and did not guess the twist or the ending. I enjoy guessing what happens next and being right. But also, sometimes I get annoyed that some books or movies feel so predictable to me, I wish they would surprise me more. This book did surprise me. In the best way possible. 

As I said I’m going to the signing on Wednesday, I pre-ordered the Barnes and Noble exclusive signed edition. But it won’t get here until this weekend, which means I’ll buy a second copy at the signing on Wednesday. Which I should be more annoyed about… but also I’ll be re-reading the finished copy and I’ll want to mark up my own copy. I’m so excited. 

This book is my perfect cup of lavender earl gray tea. It’s the contemporary I’ve been waiting for. Thank you Christine for writing it. I’ve been watching Christine’s booktube videos on her channel: polandbananasBOOKS for years now. And I’ve watched every one of her “Writing Vlog” videos. They’ve inspired me that one day I can also get my stories out there, her persistence has inspired me on many levels. I’m so grateful that’s she’s also very open about her struggle with anxiety. Did I mention how excited I am for the signing on Wednesday?

Check out my vlog seeing Christine at her book signing in Portland: Booktubers in Portland feat. Jaded Reader

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

★★★★★

I was so honored to be placed on the street team for this book and the following books (TWO MORE BOOKS, BECAUSE ITS A TRILOGY NOW). 

I sped through this book, the world building is so in-depth, you can feel your surroundings and know the history of it. The world building isn’t cataloged and explained through it, but is woven throughout the story, with little excerpts of history books, explanations by characters, and dialogue.

I feel for these characters and am so glad that Nicki Pau Preto is taking her time with the story development and with character arcs. These characters have a journey to go on and it’s not rushed.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the following books and to be on this journey!

Here is an excerpt of the sequel Heart of Flames!

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

The paperback of Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu lies against a fuzzy blanket, surrounded by string lights.
The paperback of Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu lies against a fuzzy blanket, surrounded by string lights. // Soleil de Zwart

★★★★★

I love these boys so much, it’s difficult to put into words. But since I have been nonstop messaging my reading friends about this comic series, I’m going to move it to my blog (so that I can still have reading friends).

I thought this graphic novel looked cute so I got a hold of it from Libby (the app that lets you borrow e-books from your state library system). I didn’t have very high expectations. First off, I know nothing about hockey — correction I knew nothing about hockey. Second, I hadn’t heard very much about this book so I wasn’t sure how to feel about it going in.

When I opened those first pages on my tablet, oh was I in for a journey. This first collection covers Bitty’s first two years in college and first two years on the hockey team. Bitty’s real name is actually Eric Bittle, but hockey nicknames function in a way that his name is Bitty for the entirety of the series.

THIS SERIES! As I said earlier, I love these boys so much, with everything in my heart and soul. Ngozi Ukazu just makes them come alive on the page and the art style just matches them all so well. I wish I had my own squad of hockey bros. The story is so simple but dynamic, these characters feel real, there are minute mundane things going on and bigger picture events and it’s just so good.

The webcomic is available online: https://checkpleasecomic.com

I recently bought the book because I want to support the author/illustrator and I immediately re-read it, in physical form. The panels are much larger on the physical page and it’s so satisfying to read it physically.

Now I’m going to go disappear to read it for a third time!

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

★ ★ ★

I’ve been reading this book on and off for a few months, and it has taken me just about as long to figure out how I feel about it.

First off, I would like to praise Nadine for all of the research she put into this book, because it definitely has a lot of historical accuracy. Aside from that, it’s good to remember that this is a historical fiction retelling with a fantasy twist of the Romanov story.

I have been studying Russian for the past year and have had a fascination with Russian culture, the Russian language, and the family of the Romanovs. But that fascination does not make me an expert in any of these topics, my review of this book is based off my own knowledge and opinions, none of which are concrete facts.

***** SPOILERS *****

I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, up until the halfway point, where the fantasy elements weren’t too prevalent in the story and it was all based on the historical events. But after Nastya used the “ajnin” spell it began to unravel a bit. While I do believe this book managed to combine the history with the fantasy of spellmasters and spellink, I would have enjoyed the story without magic. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the concept of spellmasters and the ink and how that all combined with the already existing storylines and characters. However, I think the energy spent on making the magic believable could have been better spent on character development and plot. How Nastya and Alexei managed to escape the firing squad and certain death, with a simple spell… That is reaching a little far for me. Clearly, if Nastya had used the spell sooner she might have been able to save her whole family, but she didn’t know any better — which is understandable. But the spells in this story don’t seem to have a clear set of rules in their own magic system.

While Dochkin later says that he cannot create a spell to go back in time to save their whole family, there are spells that will pause death and make them into ethereal ghosts?

I just think that the story would have been better off without the magic elements thrown into the middle of it.

Meanwhile the relationship between Zash and Nastya is a whole sticky situation. Something I will go into further depth with in my Booktube review coming soon.

On a last note, I really did appreciate the attention to Russian history and the inclusion of Russian phrases and words into this book. I did not appreciate the lack of warning to the eye trauma towards the end of the book. That would have sent me into an anxiety spiral, if I hadn’t seen it coming.

Fence Vol. #1 by C. S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad

★★★★

Something you should know about me is, I absolutely love fencing. LOVE fencing! One of the reasons I chose my university is because they have a fencing team. And although I wasn’t able to dedicate to being on the team full-time, at the beginning of the year I enjoy spending time on the team.
So naturally, I loved this graphic novel! I’ve been wanting to read it for months and the other day I was in the bookstore and just thought, today is the day! I read it in one sitting, because it’s so gosh darn short!
I can’t go into depth about the characterizations or much of the plot because the story is so short and there are three more installments in the series. I really look forward to reading more about the characters and getting to know the story.
So far I’m really enjoying the art style and the way the story is being set up, but I just really wish the chapters and volumes were longer. I believe that the third volume is the last in the series, which really disappoints me because I feel like there is so much that can be told in a fencing story.
I’ll have to wait until the next installment to see!