Nice Try, Jane Sinner: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“The past doesn’t exist. It’s just a story we tell ourselves. And stories change each time you tell them.”

“If you don’t like what you’ve written, write something else.”

cover art for Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne OelkeJane Sinner is tired of pity and talking about what happened. She isn’t surprised at her expulsion from high school or her lack of plans for the future. She’s just surprised that anyone else is shocked.

In an effort to appease her parents and possibly get something right Jane agrees to attend a high school completion program at Elbow River Community College. She only has one condition: she gets to move out. Affordable housing appears in the form of a student-run reality show along the lines of Big Brother. Jane jumps at the chance to join the cast of House of Orange, live within her limited means, and compete to win a car (used, but whatever it’s still a car).

Stepping away from her conservative, religious parents and forgetting about what happened is exactly what Jane needs to start over. On campus she can reinvent herself as Sinner–the cynical and ultra-competitive version of herself that comes through in House of Orange edits–even if the HOOcaps (House of Orange production team) might be watching Jane’s every move and real life is becoming uncomfortable hard to separate from the game.

When House of Orange goes from low-rent web series to a local community tv sensation, Jane is forced to consider how far she’s willing to go to win. And how much she has to prove to herself and the world (or viewers of substandard reality tv anyway) in Nice Try, Jane Sinner (2018) by Lianne Oelke.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is Oelke’s debut novel. The book is written as Jane’s journal complete with dialog popped out as if it were a screenplay. This format allows Jane’s snappy comebacks and other banter between characters to really stand out.

Jane’s misadventures, like her narration, are sardonic and ridiculous in the best ways as she balances competing on the show and using everything she learns in Intro to Psychology to destroy her opponents with her high school completion work and maybe, just maybe, making some new friends. Jane has no allusions about herself or the nature of the show–it’s the worst and she might not be much better as she chases the win.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is simultaneously contemplative and literally laugh-out-loud funny. A must-read for readers looking for a laugh and fans of reality shows (or anyone who likes to complain about those unsatisfying reality show outcomes).

Possible Pairings: Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, American Panda by Gloria Chao, Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi, The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandyha Menon, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration at BookExpo 2017*


Always and Forever, Lara Jean: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and  P. S. I Still Love You. As such there are major spoilers for both preceding books in this review.*

“There’s so much to be excited about, if you let yourself be.”

It feels like everything is changing for Lara Jean the spring of her senior year in high school. She and Peter K. are still together but she is waiting for those much-anticipated college acceptance letters. Margot seems farther away than ever in Scotland especially as their father announces his plans to remarry. Kitty, the youngest Song girl, is ecstatic about the wedding and seems to be growing up all too quickly.

Lara Jean knows exactly how she wants the rest of her senior year and college to go. But even with all of her careful planning it seems like Lara Jean will still have to face some unexpected decisions and opportunities in Always and Forever, Lara Jean (2017) by Jenny Han.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the unexpected third book in Han’s Lara Jean trilogy which began with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and  P. S. I Still Love You. Han wrote this book in secret as a surprise for her readers who are fans of this series and these characters.

This final installment starts near Easter as Lara Jean is anxiously waiting to hear back from colleges and trying to plan what will come next for her own future as well as her future with Peter. Surprise college decisions and other changes prove that even the best laid plans can be changed and, more importantly, your future is your own to shape.

Lara Jean remains a sweet and thoughtful narrator here facing some universal dilemmas particularly when she realizes her dreams about college are not going to resemble her reality. Lara Jean has always had an excellent support system with her family, friends, and Peter but it’s especially nice to see Lara Jean making her own decisions here even if sometimes they are scary choices. Throughout this quiet novel Lara Jean demonstrates her signature blend of resilience and optimism.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the perfect conclusion for this series and these characters. A memorable and satisfying send off for fans of this much loved series.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle

Don’t forget to check out all of my buttons inspired by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before & P. S. I Still Love You

When Dimple Met Rishi: A Review

cover art for When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya MenonWhat happens if you meet the exact right person for you at the exactly wrong time?

Dimple Shah wants to go to Stanford, focus on coding, and start her career. She would like to go to Insomnia Con this summer before she starts college to participate in the coding competition and possibly meet her idol Jenny Lindt.

Dimple isn’t interested in clothes, contacts, or makeup. She definitely doesn’t want a relationship or an “Ideal Indian Husband”–not right now and possibly not ever. When her parents agree to pay for Dimple to attend Insomnia Con, it feels like maybe they’re both finally understanding who Dimple is and embracing her dreams and ambitions.

Then again, maybe not.

Rishi Patel knows that it’s up to him to follow tradition and respect his parents’ wishes. It’s possible that Rishi isn’t passionate about engineering or MIT but he knows he should stick to the responsible and safe choice.

Rishi is a romantic but he also wants a solid partnership in the future. He trusts his parents when they try to set up an arranged marriage with the daughter of family friends. It should be simple. Rishi can even meet her at Insomnia Con and woo her. It will be perfect.

Or will it?

Dimple and Rishi figure each other out pretty quickly. They have nothing in common. They want different things. But they also make each other laugh and might be able to help each other be their best selves–if they can just give each other a chance–in When Dimple Met Rishi (2017) by Sandhya Menon.

When Dimple Met Rishi is Menon’s debut novel.

Menon’s writing is filled with evocative descriptions of San Francisco over the course of the three weeks Dimple and Rishi spend there for Insomnia Con. Dimple and Rishi’s relationship plays out against this backdrop of coding and competition along with a few side plots involving Dimple’s roommate Cecelia and Rishi’s younger brother Ashish.

When Dimple Met Rishi is a sweet romantic comedy with a lighthearted premise but it doesn’t stop there. Dimple and Rishi are both first generation Indian-Americans (their parents immigrated from India) and they are dealing with it in different ways. Dimple rails against traditions and values that seem determined to relegate women to successful marriages and not much else; she wants to make her own way in the world and she isn’t sure it matters if that goes against her parents’ expectations. Rishi revels in being part of such an old and amazing culture; he places so much value on traditions that he’s willing to sacrifice his own dreams because of them.

Although Dimple and Rishi are both eighteen they read young and feel like authentic teens facing big changes as summer ends and college approaches. Slow pacing toward the middle and some contrivances near the end of the book do little to diminish this enjoyable story. When Dimple Met Rishi is a thoughtful, clever read. A satisfying story about two teens who manage to find a lot to appreciate (including themselves) once they find each other. Highly recommended and guaranteed to leave readers smiling.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, In a Perfect World by Trish Doller, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Say You’ll Remember Me by Katie McGarry, Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes, Lucky in Love by Kasie West, Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff


Giant Days, Volume 1: A Comic (Chick Lit Wednesday) Review

Giant Days, Volume 1 by John Allison, Lissa Tremain, and Whitney CogarDaisy Wooton has been homeschooled for her entire life. Her worldview as she starts college verges on painfully naive and dangerously sweet.

Ester De Groot is a statuesque consumptive who continues to conjure unprecedented levels of drama at university thanks to her personal drama bubble.

Susan Ptolemy is a no-nonsense young woman at college to learn and move on to better things. If she happens to save Daisy and Esther from themselves (several times) along the way, so be it.

Susan, Esther, and Daisy are unlikely friends but somehow work remarkably well together as roommates during their first term as college freshman. All three are hoping for a fresh start at university where Daisy is eager to finally find herself (whoever that may be), Esther is looking for love (in all of the wrong places–as usual), and Susan is hoping to leave her past behind (especially McGraw who, unfortunately, shows up on campus soon after the start of term.

With drama, friendship, romance, and pesky classes vying for their attention, Susan, Esther and Daisy are sure to have an exciting first semester in Giant Days, Volume 1 (2015) by John Allison, Lissa Treiman (illustrator), Whitney Cogar (colors).

Volume 1 is a bind-up of the first four issues of the popular comic Giant Days.

Susan’s pragmatic attitude and tough-talking feminism temper the near-absurdity in various points of the plot particularly in relation to Esther. Readers who have survived college will find a lot of familiar moments here from overwhelming classes to freshman plague. And even some familiar faces (two of my closest college friends could be Susan and Esther).

Readers looking forward to that experience will find a thoughtful, humorous, and highly entertaining preview of things to come.

Giant Days is funny, smart, and delightfully entertaining. Highly recommended.


Breaker: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Breaker by Kat EllisNaomi doesn’t want to board at Killdeer Academy but she can’t stay with her grandparents now that her grandmother has so much to do taking care of Naomi’s grandfather as his Alzheimer’s progresses.

Kyle hopes to be able to remake himself at Killdeer Academy with a new last name and a determination to forget all about his serial killer father. His mother’s decision that Kyle should board is a surprise. But he’s dealt with worse.

Kyle expects to have a completely blank slate at the Academy. The only problem is that he recognizes Naomi immediately. She was the daughter of his father’s last victim. Kyle wants to stay away from Naomi but he isn’t sure how to ignore when she seems to actually want to be his friend–and maybe even more. When people start dying on campus both Naomi and Kyle will have to confront their pasts to stop the murders in Breaker (2016) by Kat Ellis.

The book alternates first person narration between Kyle and Naomi which makes both protagonists well-rounded. While other characters factor into the story in crucial ways, they remain decidedly secondary to Kyle and Naomi and are consequently somewhat less developed. Excerpts from ephemera related to Kyle’s father further complicate the story.

In a departure from her debut mystery fantasy, Blackfin Sky, Ellis delivers a much darker story here. Kyle is haunted by his father’s legacy as a serial killer, terrified that the stigma will cling to him forever and the thought that he could have turned out like his father. Naomi saw her mother’s murder and has spent the intervening years doing her best to not think about her mother at all to avoid the pain of that traumatic loss.

Kyle and Naomi are a completely unlikely pair but their chemistry in Breaker, not to mention their draw to each other is undeniable in this fast-paced thriller that is sure to appeal to fans of the genre. Breaker is a creepy and atmospheric story filled with choice details that bring Killdeer Academy to life in all of its eerie and dilapidated glory.

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, With Malice by Eileen Cook, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

You can also read my interview with Kat about Breaker!

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*


Lost in Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*Lost in Love is the second book in Colasanti’s City Love trilogy which begins with City Love. This review contains major spoilers for the first book.*

Lost in Love by Susane ColasantiSadie thought Austin was her soulmate and that her summer before college was going to be filled with the epic love she’d always dreamed of. When Sadie finds out that Austin has been lying to her, she isn’t sure how to reconcile her dream guy with the flawed one trying so hard to make amends and win her back.

Darcy planned to spend her first summer in New York City exploring and having lots of drama-free boy adventures. Summer Fun Darcy is just getting the hang of things when Darcy’s ex shows up in New York to win her back. One grand gesture can say a lot. But can one flight really make up for weeks of heartbreak?

Rosanna never expected to find love when she moved to New York for college–especially not with an amazing guy who is wealthy like D. Now that things are getting serious with D, Rosanna has to decide how much she’s willing to reveal about her past before they move forward.

After a month together in the city they all love Sadie, Darcy and Rosanna know they’re lucky to have found each other as roommates and friends. They’ll need each other more than ever as they try to figure out what comes next in Lost in Love (2016) by Susane Colasanti.

Lost in Love is the second book in Colasanti’s City Love trilogy which begins with City Love.

Each girl is at a crossroad in Lost in Love and forced to make some hard decisions about who they want to be (and sometimes who they want to be with) as the series moves forward.

Still reeling from news about Austin’s secret marriage, Sadie has to pull herself together after their breakup and her subsequent depression. Sadie is honest with herself and readers about how hard it is to move forward and she is willing to put in the work to get to her next, best self–no easy feat with Austin badgering her for a second chance.

Darcy thought she had put heartbreak behind her but she doesn’t quite know what it means when her ex-boyfriend flies all the way to New York to try and win her back. This plot thread takes an interesting turn and adds a bit of mystery to the story as Darcy and readers try to figure out if there are ulterior motives at play.

Rosanna, meanwhile, is trying to reconcile her dwindling funds in New York with the lavish lifestyle her boyfriend has to offer. Still haunted by her past in Chicago, Rosanna is suspicious of anyone offering her genuine friendship (or something more) when she still feels so broken. Most of Rosanna’s arc focuses on her struggles with honesty and balancing who she is with who she wants to become in her new home. While the decision again leaves some things uncertain for book three, her final resolution here is empowering.

Colasanti delivers another fast-paced, summery diversion with New York City as a vibrant backdrop in this story that alternates third person point of view between Sadie, Darcy, and Rosanna. With romance, adventure and a lot of self-discovery, Lost in Love is another excellent City Love installment that will leave fans satisfied but eager for the conclusion of this contemporary trilogy.

Possible Pairings:The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Golden by Jessi Kirby, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*


When We Collided: A Review

When We Collided by Emery LordVivi falls in love with Verona Cove almost immediately. It is a small, painfully quaint town that seems to be brimming over with possibility. The perfect place for her painter mother to find inspiration this summer. The perfect place for Vivi to regroup after her painful departure from Seattle months ago. With a job in the pottery shop, breakfast at the diner each morning, and the perfect view of the ocean when she throws one of her pills away, Vivi is sure that this summer is going to be just perfect.

Jonah has been struggling. His father’s death is still a gaping, ragged hole of grief. His mother is falling apart–lost in depression that might be grief or might be clinical. He and his older siblings have been trying to keep the family together and mind their three younger siblings. But Jonah is starting to cave under the responsibilities and obligations.

Vivi and Jonah never expected to meet, much less fall in love. Over the course of one tumultuous summer they will do that and more. Together Vivi and Jonah might have all of the pieces to heal themselves. But after learning how to be together, they might also have to learn how to survive apart in When We Collided (2016) by Emery Lord.

When We Collided is Lord’s third novel.

This novel is narrated by Vivi and Jonah in alternating first-person chapters as they each tell their own stories and the story of their growing relationship. Vivi is coming to terns with her diagnosis with bipolar disorder (and the aftermath of her last manic episode) while trying to have a quiet summer with her mother. Jonah is still shattered by his father’s premature death and the sudden responsibilities he has had to take on as a result.

While Lord once again offers readers a sweet romantic plot, it is misleading to call this book a romance. Instead When We Collided is more the story of two people who meet at the right time–exactly when they need each other and when they can help each other the most.

Lord does a great job making Vivi’s life with bipolar disorder realistic and authentic. She is much more than her diagnosis. Her narration is frenetic and vibrant and makes it painfully clear when things begin to slip. While the trope of avoiding medication is tiresome, it’s handled decently in When We Collided and does end with Vivi committed to treatment and agreeing to discuss options more fully with her doctor before making and sudden decisions.

(There’s also a side-plot with Vivi looking for her father which is messy, poorly explained, and could have done with more research and development.)

By contrast, Jonah is easily the more grounded of the two and readily lets himself get swept up in Vivi’s whirlwind. His life is a nice contrast to Vivi’s and underscores that everyone has something they are working through and moving toward.

When We Collided doesn’t end neatly. Vivi and Jonah’s story is messy and complicated and open-ended. Neither character knows what will come next, and neither do readers. The only thing that’s clear for these two incredibly strong teens is that they are better for know each other and, no matter what comes next, they are going to be okay. Lord delivers another compelling and engrossing novel here. Recommended for fans and readers looking for romantic stories with complex characters and realistic portrayals of mental illness.

Possible Pairings: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Wild Awake by Hillary T. Smith, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*