Monday, November 23, 2020

#AmReading YA - Beyond the US Edition

It Only Happens in the Movies

Holly Bourne
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
From award-winning British author Holly Bourne comes a clever, deconstructed rom-com that proves that in real life “girl meets boy” doesn't always mean “happily ever after” . . . or does it? At turns funny, feminist, and achingly real, this read is perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Patrick Ness, and Julie Buxbaum.

Audrey is over romance. While dealing with her parents’ contentious divorce, a breakup of her own, and shifting friendship dynamics, she has every reason to feel cynical. But then she meets Harry, her fellow coworker at the local cinema. He’s brash, impulsive, and a major flirt. And even though Audrey tries to resist, she finds herself falling for his charms. But in this funny, insightful, and ultimately empowering novel, love—and life—isn’t what it’s like in the movies.
After watching the demise of her parents' marriage, and seeing her own relationship go up in flames, Audrey was just saying NO to romance. But then she started a new job, and he was so charming, and though she was warned multiple times about him, she went and fell for Harry. Now Audrey must decide if she made the right choice, trusting her heart over her head?

This was my first Holly Bourne experience, and I have to say, it was incredible. This book really had it all. It was funny, sweet, heart wrenching, and honest. I think I experienced just about every emotion on the spectrum, while also thinking how valuable a story like this would have been for teen-me. 

I felt so much for Audrey. Not only did she have to deal with her own teen drama, but she was expected to be responsible for her mother. Following her parents devastating divorce, Audrey's mother sort of fell apart. Her father was gone, her brother was away at university, and Audrey was left to pick up the pieces every time her mother had an episode. As if that wasn't enough, her boyfriend broke up with her, leaving Audrey thinking there was something wrong with her. Embarrassed, she pushed all her friends away, quit the things she loved, and retreated within herself. 

But she had her job, which was also her escape. There, she didn't have to worry about her mother or her ex, and she could freely banter with Harry. Though he was far from perfect, his friendship did help pull Audrey out of her funk. I was so glad she had those sweet and tender moments with him, and that she was able to enjoy a bit of levity with her other co-workers as well. 

As I mentioned, Audrey was quite cynical when it came to love. She decided to analyze the dangers of romantic films as part of her media studies class. I was treated to snippets of her project at the beginning of each chapter and loved the way the topic was worked into the story. These bit were often amusing and interesting, but also served as a way to Audrey to examine her own beliefs about love. 

Audrey's view changed from the fairytale version to a more realistic idea of love, romance, and relationships. Accepting the idea that love was a choice, it was hard work, and it could change over time. This story was also about loving yourself and not accepting less than you deserve. It was about understanding when you should put yourself and your needs first, and also, when you should maybe walk away for situations that are not healthy. 

A quick rundown of things I enjoyed: 

✅ Lots of great rom-com moments
✅ Supportive friendships
✅ Open and honest talks about sex
✅ Zombies
✅ Interesting analysis of romantic films
✅ A grand gesture
✅ Complicated family dynamics
✅ First love feels

I cried a little as I wrote this review for several different reasons, and for me, that's a sign of a great book. One that can make me feel so much days after I have finished it is a winner to me. Overall, I found this story entertaining and wonderfully relatable. My heart soared, my heart warmed, my heart broke, and in the end, I was overjoyed for Audrey.


Heiress Apparently

Diana Ma
Series: Daughters of the Dynasty, #1
Age/Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Amulet
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads
The first book in an epic and romantic YA series following the fictionalized descendants of the only officially recognized empress regent of China

Gemma Huang is a recent transplant to Los Angeles from Illinois, having abandoned plans for college to pursue a career in acting, much to the dismay of her parents. Now she’s living with three roommates in a two-bedroom hovel, auditioning for bit roles that hardly cover rent. Gemma’s big break comes when she’s asked to play a lead role in an update of M. Butterfly filming for the summer in Beijing. When she arrives, she’s stopped by paparazzi at the airport. She quickly realizes she may as well be the twin of one of the most notorious young socialites in Beijing. Thus kicks off a summer of revelations, in which Gemma uncovers a legacy her parents have spent their lives protecting her from—one her mother would conceal from her daughter at any cost.
Against her parent's wishes, Gemma elected to take a gap year to chase her dreams of an acting career. Her big break came via a starring role in a remake of M. Butterfly. The only problem was that filming would take place in Beijing, her very own forbidden city per her parents' orders. Mistaken identity brought her into contact with young Chinese socialite, who held the keys to Gemma's family secrets. 

This was different from what I expected, but in a good way, as it had a lot more substance than I anticipated. Here are five things I really enjoyed as I read HEIRESS APPARENTLY:
  1. Gemma was a great character. I was so excited to her, when she won her role, and I was really proud of the way she grew over the course of the story. She also had a great voice and view of things, and I enjoyed her narration. 
  2. Visiting Beijing was fantastic! Getting to China is a bucket list item for me (and really far out of reach), and therefore, I was delighted to take a trip there with Gemma. Ma helped me take in the sights, sounds, and flavors of Beijing, and I really reveled in it. 
  3. The book had substance. I love a fun book, but I like there to be some depth too. I thought it was brilliant to use the making of the film as a way to challenge Asian stereotypes. Ma also worked in some of the issues faced by the people of China, as well as some of their history.
  4. The romance was wonderful. I loved who Ma selected as Gemma's partner. He was deceptively sweet, and I thought he brought out the best in her. He encouraged her often and supported her, when she needed him most.  
  5. Loved the delicious family drama. I liked the movie stuff, seeing Beijing, and the meet cute, but the story really started picking up for me as it delved into Gemma's family's past. I was so curious to dig up those secrets and thought it all played out in a great way. 
Overall: A solid start to a new series I look forward to continuing. 


**ARCs received in exchange for honest reviews.

Do you have a bucket list destination?
Let us know in the comments!

20 comments:

  1. France and Hawaii are the two places on my bucket list. I love the sound of both books and I am glad you had a wonderful experience with them.

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    1. I have been to France (only Paris), but never Hawaii. I hope you get to both some day

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  2. Holly Bourne is an author I've been meaning to try, but just haven't gotten to yet. I like the sound of Just Like In The Movies a lot.
    Ooh Heiress Apparently sounds very juicy! I love a good family drama and I'm curious about this cute romance.

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    1. Same. I was excited to see her getting a US release. I know there are people who will be frustrated with it a bit. I am surprised I wasn't. I just found it moving and impactful. I liked it.

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  3. Both sound great. I've heard awesome things about Holly Bourne. Love a book set outside the U.S.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I read a lot of English authors, so England not so unusual for me, but a book set in China is. That that was cool.

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  4. I think that Heiress Apparently will be in one of my book boxes so I can't wait to compare notes Sam!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it. I found a lot of things I enjoyed in the book

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  5. It Only Happens In the Movies sounds like one I’d enjoy. And your list of things you enjoyed ticked a lot of my boxes. My library has a hard copy on order and I’m officially on the wait list. :)

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    1. Yeah! If you read it, we need to talk. There are some things that happen, which I really should have been mad about, but for some reason, I wasn't.

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  6. Heiress Apparently sounds really fun - I'm all for drama, and I'm glad to hear it's a little deeper, too!

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    1. It was fun, and the drama wasn't too OTT either.

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  7. Both of these books sound really good. It Only Happens in the Movies sounds like a really special book. I love it when a book can really make me feel things.

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    1. I have to admit, I am surprised I liked Movies as much as I did given some of the events in the book. The message was so good though.

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  8. Great reviews. I’ve heard of Holly Bourne, I feel like she is one of those UK authors everyone hears about and yet I’ve not read any of her books. I own some of them and still haven’t read them! I think you might have convinced me to give her a chance, though. Heiress Apparently sounds like a fun book. I think that would be the perfect escape, switch off and enjoy read yet you say it has substance too! I’ll be adding that to the old TBR.

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    1. I have always wanted to read Bourne, but all her books were UK only. I was excited to get a US release, and I was not disappointed at all.

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  9. Both are on my TBR, glad you liked them so I know to leave them there!

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