Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez


The Happy Ever After Playlist was another beach read chosen by my mom. When she finished reading it, she handed it to me and said, “Wow, I actually really liked that one!”

For fun, I looked it up on Goodreads, only to find out that it’s actually a sequel. But at the end of the book, Jimenez said that she wrote this one first. Regardless, I don’t think you need to read the first one at all to enjoy this one!

This was such a fun read. Under each chapter title is a song to go with the aesthetic of the chapter. I was so excited to find a number of some of my favorite songs included in the playlists. I ended up listening to most of the songs on Spotify when I started each chapter. Turns out, there’s an actual playlist for this book, so I definitely recommend checking it out!

Sloan’s fiance died two years ago, and on the anniversary of his death, she almost runs over a dog named Tucker. She takes the dog in and learns that his owner is a musician currently on tour in Australia. The chapters alternate in POV between Sloan and Jason as they get to know each other and fall in love pretty quickly.

This is pretty much everything you could want in a rom-com: dogs, drama, flirting, chemistry, music, and complete with some classic rom-com tropes later down the road.

The dialogue was hilarious, the chemistry between Sloan and Jason was certainly there, and I loved the whole playlist idea. The second half was a little more dramatic than I usually like, but I enjoyed reading this book until the end.

VERDICT: 📚📚📚📚📚

Review: In Five Years by Rebecca Serle


I only have a couple of weeks left of my summer break, and while I’m excited to start my second year of grad school (even if it’s only 50% in person) it means I’ll have less time to read and review books in my free time. So I’m trying to get as much reading in as possible, though I’m planning on continuing my Harry Potter re-read this fall!

Let me start out by saying that In Five Years isn’t my usual genre. In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m usually a YA fantasy type of reader.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads in case you’re interested:

“Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.”

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. Rebecca Serle’s writing is good, and the beginning sucked me into the story. I thought Dannie was an interesting, flawed character. And I thought the theme of not letting your panned idea of life getting in the way of your actual life was good.

But the second half is where the story began to become too melodramatic for me. A lot of the events just didn’t really make sense. The story becomes more focused on friendship, which I liked, but it didn’t really align with the beginning of the book. I don’t want to give too much away, but the ending felt like Serle saying “I’m trying to put as many plot twists as possible to make my ending not predictable.” But to me, it felt cliche and like a cop-out. This book had the potential to deal with the themes and Dannie’s problems in a profound way, but the Hallmark movie ending took away what could’ve been a much more powerful message. 

VERDICT: 📚📚📚/5


I could handle Bella’s cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t expecting a cancer story, but I thought Serle handled it with care despite the fact that it also felt like killing off Bella was the only way to make her plot work.

The fact that the apartment ended up being an apartment that Bella got for Dannie was weird, especially because she got the apartment for Dannie before Bella knew she was dying…? And before Dannie broke up with David?

The whole backstory of Bella’s mother telling Dannie that she knew they were destined to be best friends so she enrolled Bella in Dannie’s school was so weird and unnecessary. 

Having Dannie’s little brother die and then having Bella die was a little much, like somehow the brother’s death was supposed to foreshadow Bella’s.

And, of course, having Dannie and Aaron’s relationship actually be a weird one-time stand brought on by grief from Bella’s death…yikes. That didn’t sit right with me at all. 

Finally, the very end. Oh boy. With some suspended disbelief, I could deal with everything else. But the fact that Dannie feels weird about getting with Aaron because of Bella, but then gets together with Bella’s oncologist…That was such a cheap ending. And unfortunately, the ending of a book is what sticks with you.

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

I adored the first couple of chapters. The way Schwab sets up this alternate reality world, and sucks you in by flashing forward, is brilliant. 

Here’s a synopsis: Victor and Eli start out as college roommates. As seniors, Eli comes up with an idea of working on EO’s for his thesis. EO stands for ExtraOrdinary, a kind of fabled superhero that might or might not exist. This leads both Victor and Eli down very dark, disturbing, dare I say “vicious” and “villainous” paths.

On Goodreads, the world is described as “a gritty comic-book-style world,” which is completely accurate. Schwab’s worldbuilding is one of her strengths; even Lockland University is very grounded, and feels very concrete and interesting. 

I really enjoyed Victor’s love for blackout poetry. It just made him that much more interesting, especially since he always used his parents’ books. And my favorite characters are, of course, Sydney and Mitch. 

The book isn’t linear; it jumps back in forth in time, from 10 years ago to Victor and Eli in college to ten years in the future, after Victor breaks out of jail. In the beginning, this time jump felt clunky, and I was annoyed with it because it was a bit of a chore. However, it did start to flow better and work better about halfway through the book.

My biggest issue with the book was Eli’s character. Victor’s downwards descent was believable, from the many hints we get in the beginning that he has a darkness lurking in him. But Eli’s is a little too sudden, and we don’t really get a build up to him becoming a mass-murderer. I think his faith and “chosen by God” storyline was a little too…on the nose? It was a little too something. I feel like I wanted more depth to him.

There also is definitely a heavy trigger warning attached to this book, for suicide, death, violence…I almost stopped reading it near the beginning because, for a while, the whole book focuses heavily on near-death experiences, and it was a little too heavy, even for me, who enjoys dark storylines. But this is a book about villains, after all, or “anti-heroes.” 

Overall, the writing, worldbuilding, and the frame of the beginning and ending of the book were well done, and I enjoyed the story as a whole. I think the sequel has a lot of potential.

VERDICT: 4 stars 


Review: Shadow and Bone; Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo


I’ve dedicated this past week to reading the first two books in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and hopefully I can get the last book from the library next week!

I read the Six of Crows Duology last year and I absolutely loved it, so I was looking forward to reading the first books in Bardugo’s Grishaverse.

I seem to agree with everyone else (at least on Goodreads) that the second book in the trilogy is better than the first. I was surprised to find that the first book relied on some tropes, the most prevalent of which is the love triangle. However, I thought that Shadow and Bone did a great job when it came to worldbuilding and introducing the Grisha’s powers. 

The second book’s plot is much more intricate than the first. It honestly reminds me of The Hunger Games. Politics come into play, and Alina starts to become a powerful symbol of hope. I enjoyed the new characters that were introduced, but I felt like Mal’s character wasn’t as strong as he was in the first book. However, Bardugo’s keen sense of humor comes out more in the second book.

Minor spoilers below:

One of the biggest issues I have with the two books is the way that male characters interact with Alina, which, unfortunately, only gets worse in Siege and Storm. Multiple male characters touch and kiss Alina without her consent, and the way the Darkling interacts with her makes me sick. In Siege and Storm, no one respects that Alina and Mal are in a relationship, and she gets kissed and even gets marriage proposals. I understood all of this happens for plot reasons, but here Alina is, in a different love triangle than in the first book, and she even enjoys the attention from Nikolai.

I feel like I say this in every review, but despite my issues with the books, I did enjoy reading them. I love the Grishaverse and I’m interested to see where the third book goes. I just can’t help comparing this series to the Six of Crows Duology. It’s interesting to see how much Bardugo’s writing has evolved.

Shadow and Bone: 3 out of 5 books

Siege and Storm: 4 out of 5 stars