Practically Ever After: A Review

Practically Ever After by Isabel BandeiraGrace Correa has always been the girl with a plan. She knows exactly what she’s going to study in college (at her first choice university, naturally), she picked the perfect extracurriculars to balance her love of dance and make her a more desirable applicant, she is popular and fashionable. Grace even has the perfect group of friends and the perfect girlfriend, Leia.

At the end of her senior year, Grace’s perfect life turns into a perfect mess. With responsibilities mounting, projects looming, and pressure on all sides she’s no longer sure how to balance everything while making it look effortless–or even if she’s balancing the right things.

When a fight with Leia goes too far it seems like breaking up is the obvious choice–especially since long distance college relationships never last. Except Grace is starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, life (and love) don’t always have to be perfectly planned in Practically Ever After (2019) by Isabel Bandeira.

Find it on Bookshop.

Practically Ever After is the final book in Bandeira’s contemporary Ever After trilogy which begins with Bookishly Ever After and Dramatically Ever After. Although the books are set sequentially each book follows a different character and all can be read as a standalone.

After playing a supporting role to both Phoebe and Em, Grace finally shares her story as she struggles to balance the perfect plan for her life with the person she thinks she wants to be in the future. As the title suggests, Grace is imminently practical with a no-nonsense outlook that forces her to think very hard about what pursuing her dreams can look like and the risks inherent to following her heart when a future with Leia (who is going to a different college) is uncertain.

Partially informed by the author’s own career path, Grace also tries to find a happy medium to balance her interest in dance and cheering with her professional aspiration to become an engineer as she maps out her college plans.

Grace and Leia are used to being a power couple among their friends and it’s an interesting contrast watching them try to figure out how to stay together instead of watching them get together over the course of the story.

Practically Ever After is a satisfying conclusion to a light, funny trilogy that celebrates friends, love, and big dreams in all of their forms. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre, Nothing by Annie Barrows, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roate, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes, Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen

Be sure to check out my exclusive interview with Isabel too!

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

Dramatically Ever After: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

cover art for Dramatically Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

Em Katsaros’s senior year is not quite what she imagined. Her boyfriend is dreamy and sweet. But he’s also five thousand miles away–and still not the best at English since he spent most of his semester in the US making out with Em instead of studying, which makes emailing and texting a challenge.

Then there’s the fact that Em’s dad just got laid off. With money tight and the future uncertain, Em has to hustle for scholarships if she wants to be able to afford to attend her first choice university and its amazing acting program.

Luckily, Em has the perfect plan. All she has to do is channel her scene-stealing acting skills for a speech competition. Making it to the national round of the US Youth Change Council competition means a week in Boston and the chance to win a national scholarship.There’s only one thing standing in her way: Kris Lambert–senior class president, total jerk, Em’s long-time nemesis, and unbelievably her fellow state representative for New Jersey.

Kris seems different once they get to Boston, but Em isn’t easily fooled. With so much on the line, Em is willing to do whatever it takes to secure her win–even if it means she’ll have to pretend to flirt with Kris to throw him off is his game. But as the final competition gets closer, Em starts to realize her strategy to foil Kris might have spectacularly backfired when Kris starts to give as good as he gets in Dramatically Ever After (2017) by Isabel Bandeira.

Find it on Bookshop.

Dramatically Ever After is the second book in Bandeira’s Ever After trilogy which begins with Em’s best friend Phoebe in Bookishly Ever After. Each book in the series functions as a standalone so they can be read independently.

As the title suggests, Em is a dramatic narrator who is always ready to add a little drama to her life whether it means pretending to flirt with Kris during their trip to Boston or over romanticizing her long-distance relationship that may have run its course. Em isn’t always the nicest or easiest heroine. She embraces those parts of her personality and has no patience for anyone who is unwilling to accept all of her on her own terms.

Kris and Em are great foils as both are incredibly aware of each other’s strategies to win the speech competition and determined to prove who’s the best once and for all. As a result Dramatically Ever After is filled with witty banter and aggressive flirting on both sides as Em and Kris start to realize they might have met their match in each other (and that it might not be a bad thing).

Dramatically Ever After brings readers back to Lambertfield and all of its wonderful characters while also expanding the world and giving readers a new perspective on everyone’s favorite drama queen. Romantic comedy style plots, writing that gets better with each installment, and swoons galore make this series a winner. Be sure to start it now so you’re ready when book three, Practically Ever After, hits shelves!

Possible Pairings: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre, Nothing by Annie Barrows, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roate, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti, Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

Be sure to check out my exclusive interview with Isabel too!

*A copy of this title was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2017*

Bookishly Ever After: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel BandeiraPhoebe Martins is an avid reader who always has a book nearby. She is content escaping her mundane high school reality in the fantasies of her books–especially a swoony paranormal romance. She has a small, close-knit group of friends, band, archery, and knitting. She doesn’t necessarily want more than that.

Then her best friend Em tries to play matchmaker between Phoebe and dreamy fellow band geek and drama nerd Dev. Phoebe isn’t sure how to feel about Dev potentially liking her or how to navigate her own maybe-crush on him.

So she turns to the heroines in all of her favorite books, of course, for advice on how to overhaul her wardrobe, flirt, and generally be awesome.

But it turns out fictional romances don’t always translate well to reality. If Phoebe wants her own happy ending, she might have to figure out the answer herself in Bookishly Ever After (2016) by Isabel Bandeira.

Find it on Bookshop.

Bookishly Ever After is the first book in Bandeira’s contemporary Ever After trilogy.

Bookishly Ever After is narrated by Phoebe and includes her “notes” on passages from her favorite novels complete with excerpts and Phoebe’s own underlining and commentary.

Phoebe is a realistic sixteen-year-old who is refreshingly content with her life, friends, and family at the start of the novel. Although Phoebe spends a lot of the story figuring out how to deal with Dev, she remains self-actualized and very aware that her own happiness and fulfillment comes first. She is bookish and fun without being overly precocious–in other words Phoebe sounds and acts her age which isn’t always as common as it should be.

Set over the course of several months in the school year, Phoebe and Dev have a slow courtship as they circle each other and as Phoebe tries to make sense of her own conflicted feelings. Fictional crushes were always enough for her before so the prospect of a real crush–not to mention actual dating–initially feels overwhelming.

Phoebe’s friends are all supportive and memorable with distinct personalities that Bandeira conveys expertly through brief descriptions and asides. Em initially comes across as overbearing but through Phoebe’s eyes readers soon understand the strength and importance of their friendship. It’s also great to see all of the characters have a variety of interests and refuse to be classified as any one thing.

Bookishly Ever After is a fun romance with authentic characters and delightful dialogue. This sweet story is sure to leave readers smiling. Recommended for bookish readers looking for a bubbly new contemporary.

Possible Pairings: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre, Nothing by Annie Barrows, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Royals by Rachel Hawkins, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roate, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti, Recommended for You by Laura Silverman, Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

You can also check out my interview with Isabel.

*A copy of this title was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2016*

Never Never: A Review

Never Never by Brianna R. ShrumJames Hook is a boy who is desperate to grow up.

It is only in his sleep, and the brief moments when he forgets himself, that James indulges his childish dreams of captaining the fierce pirate ship The Spanish Main.The rest of the time, James eagerly looks forward to the day he will be a man and all of the new responsibilities it will involve.

When he meets a strange boy named Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, James wonders if perhaps he should spend more time as a child. So strong is Peter’s pull that James agrees to go with Peter to Neverland–at least until the end of his holiday when he will return to London and his future at Eton.

Neverland is not what James imagined, filled with all manner of strange and horrible things from the dreams of other Lost Boys. Worse, Peter refuses to bring James home.

Disillusioned and alone, James Hook soon grows up. He knows who he might have been in London, but when that path is lost to him, he chooses to make himself into the feared pirate captain of his dreams–the pirate who might be able to exact revenge against the Pan in Never Never (2015) by Brianna Shrum.

Never Never is Shrum’s first novel. It is also a standalone retelling of Peter Pan that begins with Hook’s arrival in Neverland as a Lost Boy.

The thing to remember about Peter Pan, in any form, is that the story is incredibly problematic when viewed through a modern lens. Peter is as vicious as he is careless. Tiger Lily and her tribe make no sense in the context of Neverland being used to meet the whims of both Peter and Barrie. The Indians in Neverland are also portrayed badly with tired and often inaccurate stereotypes about Indians. The issues surrounding Wendy are numerous as well although less relevant in the context of this novel.

The most interesting part of Never Never is, unsurprisingly, Hook himself. The interplay between who Hook is for most of the story (a good young man dealt a very bad hand) and who he chooses to present to Neverland (a villainous pirate) is an interesting one. This duality also leads to some thoughtful meditations on what it means when childhood fantasies are too gruesome–or too grim–to survive into adulthood. The idea of Hook getting older in Neverland without any of the inherent growth and development is also an interesting one. Although James Hook becomes a man called Captain Hook by the end of the novel, he is still very much an angry boy looking for his own version of justice.

Never Never is very character driven with most of the novel being very introspective as James makes sense of various catastrophes and slights. This focus works well set against the dreamlike and often sinister Neverland that Shrum has created. It also makes the pacing of the novel quite slow.

Tiger Lily is always a troublesome part of Peter Pan. That is especially true in Never Never where she is the girl who has James Hook’s heart despite belonging to Peter Pan. The awkward love triangle is made worse by the fact that Tiger Lily remains little more than an exotic temptress. She is further diminished by her complete lack of agency throughout the novel as she is constantly reacting to either James or Peter. (Even Tiger Lily’s choice to grow up is predicated on making herself closer to James’ age.)

While Never Never is a promising debut, it fails to add anything new to the world of Peter Pan instead sticking very close to the source material despite being written from Hook’s perspective. Being a story about a villain, it’s easy to guess how Never Never will end. Given the amount of time readers spend with Captain James Hook it is also easy to guess that this ending will be largely unsatisfying for many readers.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, Wendy Darling: Stars by Colleen Oakes, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, Everland by Wendy Spinale