3 star, YA

ARC Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord

As usual, Andie Rose has a plan: Transfer from community college to the hyper competitive Blue Ridge State, major in psychology, and maintain her lifelong goal of becoming an iconic self-help figure despite the nerves that have recently thrown her for a loop. All it will take is ruthless organization, hard work, and her trademark unrelenting enthusiasm to pull it all together.

But the moment Andie arrives, the rest of her plans go off the rails. Her rocky relationship with her boyfriend Connor only gets more complicated when she discovers he transferred out of Blue Ridge to her community college. Her roommate Shay needs a major, and despite Andie’s impressive track record of being The Fixer, she’s stumped on how to help. And Milo, her coffee-guzzling grump of an R.A. with seafoam green eyes, is somehow disrupting all her ideas about love and relationships one sleep-deprived wisecrack at a time.

But sometimes, when all your plans are in rubble at your feet, you find out what you’re made of. And when Andie starts to find the power of her voice as the anonymous Squire on the school’s legendary pirate radio station–the same one her mom founded, years before she passed away–Andie learns that not all the best laid plans are necessarily the right ones.

Filled with a friend group that feels like family, an empowering journey of finding your own way, and a Just Kiss Already! romance, Begin Again is an unforgettable novel of love and starting again.



Overall Recommendation:

As college stories go with a coming-of-age trope, Begin Again made itself unique with its fun, personable characters that feel like your friends and an intriguing ribbon hunt organized for freshmans in their second term only. It made me reminiscent of my own college days (though with not quite so much drama). I thought the themes and message were great, but the pacing sometimes was a little slow to the point it became a struggle to push to the end. Otherwise, a solid book by Emma Lord although not what I consider her finest.

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3 star, YA

Review: Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson

Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.

Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.

The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.

Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.



Overall Recommendation:

Nine Liars continues to demonstrate the beauty of a stand-alone mystery in this series following amateur detective Stevie Bell. A bit of fun sightseeing in London plus a cast of 9 adults who are all suspect of the mysterious deaths among their own group makes for an entertaining read. Slow at times but it picks up in places that propel me to continue. A solid mystery concept but with a subpar romance at the heart.

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3.5 star, YA

ARC Review: A Thousand Heartbeats by Kiera Cass

“Love has a sound. It sounds like a thousand heartbeats happening at the same time.”

Princess Annika has lived a life of comfort—but no amount of luxuries can change the fact that her life isn’t her own to control. The king, once her loving father, has gone cold, and Annika will soon be forced into a loveless marriage for political gain.

Miles away, small comforts are few and far between for Lennox. He has devoted his life to the Dahrainian army, hoping to one day help them reclaim the throne that was stolen from them. For Lennox, the idea of love is merely a distraction—nothing will stand in the way of fighting for his people.

But when love, against all odds, finds them both, they are bound by its call. They can’t possibly be together—but the irresistible thrum of a thousand heartbeats won’t let them stay apart. 

Kiera Cass brings her signature sparkling romance to this beautiful story of star-crossed lovers and long-held secrets.



Overall Recommendation:

A Thousand Heartbeats presents itself as a grand romance and it truly does deliver in that aspect, although I personally believe the enemies-to-lovers trope was too rushed to fully satisfy the perfect angst that was set in the beginning. The fantasy half was subpar with very little originality besides the entangled history between the characters’ two kingdoms. If you come at this as a romance with some fantasy, I guarantee this will be a fun read. If you want more of a fantasy, be warned this will probably not meet your expectations.

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