4.5 star, YA

ARC Review: Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan

A reserved Bangladeshi teenager has twenty-eight days to make the biggest decision of her life after agreeing to fake date her school’s resident bad boy.
How do you make one month last a lifetime?

Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?

**Counting Down with You comes out May 4, 2021**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

I will first say that I do not know too much about Bangladeshi people and culture except the stories I hear from a good friend of mine in grad school. What I do know is that with every culture, there are hardships and this resonated with me in so many ways. Counting Down with You was the emotional rollercoaster romance story centred around a protagonist I could root for and empathize with at the same time in her struggles to fight for herself. This own-voices story was everything I didn’t know I needed in 2021, and I am ecstatic to have found it.

Karina, nicknamed by her family as Myra, has just waved her parents off for a 1-month stay with relatives in their home country of Bangladesh. While they are gone, she finds the sudden freedom from the harsh restrictions her parents have placed on her with regards to school and social life. Normally, she had a curfew to be back from school – yes, not a night-out curfew but to come home directly from school unless she was in the Pre-Med Society meeting. Even tutoring was frowned upon unless it was for something related to STEM. So English, you can kiss that goodbye. As is already obvious, Karina struggled with the sciences and maths while English was her true passion. The premise of this story draws Karina into the path of bad-boy Ace whom she has to tutor in English at the request of her favourite teacher.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan”

Review: Her Backup Boyfriend by Ashlee Mallory

Series: The Sorensen Family #1

her backup boyfriend -ashlee malloryOne little white lie leads to more than she planned…

Straight-laced lawyer Kate Matthews always plays by the rules. But when her ex gets engaged and a big promotion is on the line at work, she blurts out that she has a new boyfriend. And now that she’s proved she “has a life” outside of work, everything is perfect. Except for one teeny little detail—there is no boyfriend. And now Kate’s liable for her little white lie…

Dominic Sorensen is hot, charming, and very definitely not Kate’s type. But not only does Dominic want to help Kate renovate her home, he’s also willing to play “boyfriend.” All he wants in return is a little pro bono work for his sister. Now instead of Mr. Right, Kate has a delectable Mr. Fix-It-Right—and some unbelievable sexual chemistry. And if falling for Dominic is a breach of contract, Kate is guilty as charged…


3.5 Drink Me Potions

I admit, the fake boyfriend trope fascinates me. It’s like, if you act it enough, you just start to believe in these feelings and situations. And I find it kind of cute that people can come to care for each other in this way.

In this story, Kate has suffered from watching her ex get engaged with someone else in her law firm. Struggling from heartache and also the pressures of becoming someone by making a junior partner in her work, she’s one stressed out character.

However, the plot isn’t all seriousness. It gets balanced out by the hilarious antics with her new Mr. Fix-It, Dominic, who also happens to be her neighbour’s nephew. Together, they hatch out a plan to get their families and work off their back about their love lives in order to get what they want.

But you know, as with these books, what they want eventually gets blurred and questioned.

It was a quick and easy read. I think what I loved the most was the Sorensen family. The Sunday dinners that were described really made me think about how family is very important, no matter our age. It shouldn’t be something that’s only done to pacify the parents. And Dominic being willing to bring Kate into that wonderful family dynamic showed her what she was missing from her childhood. Becoming someone important and “good enough” isn’t the most essential thing life.

All in all, it was a fun read and I got what I wanted from it, though it may not be as memorable.

Overall Recommendation:
Her Backup Boyfriend was a sweet and charming novel on the essentials of family and love. Kate is consumed with work, trying to be “good enough” in the eyes of her ex’s family as she’s not cut from the same rich cloth. Meanwhile, she meets someone who challenges those wants, who puts family first. Seeing the loving Sorensen family welcome her into their group made her question what she truly wanted in life. It was a nice read and perfect for a quiet summer afternoon.


Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

the fill-in boyfriend -kasie westWhen Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend— two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party — three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

4.5 Drink Me Potions

The synopsis makes this story sound like it’s some light, fluff piece, but it’s so much more than that. The Fill-In Boyfriend follows Gia Montgomery, a girl whose life seems as normal as it gets. Popular, president of student council, has some close girlfriends and a family that hasn’t been torn apart by divorce. Everything looks perfect on the outside. That all started to change with the fill-in boyfriend (aka FIB) who is rather insightful.

Breaking from Perfection
With the arrival of the lies starting at prom, Gia’s life starts to unravel into imperfection. I love how it explores the family dysfunction in a way that’s different from other stories. Sure, her parents and brother get along fine with each other, but maybe, that’s the problem. When things don’t get resolved in order to maintain peace and have the appearance of perfection, you start to hide emotions deep inside and only work with surface emotions in every relationship. Who knew that not getting punished enough for something could cause just as many problems in a family? It also prevented Gia from being able to talk to her parents when her life was falling apart. Too emotional, right? And that would require admitting that something in her life wasn’t working just perfectly.

Outgrowing friendships
There was just so much emotion in Gia’s story. With a frenemy that was out to get her, it was awesome to have someone to hate. Sometimes, I find stories like to give redemption to those that may initially seem awful. Not this one. I absolutely can’t stand her friend who is so hell-bent on destroying Gia’s close friendships. And all for a reason that is rather lame. Although the story concludes without the neatly wrapped up ending, I was a little sad that there wasn’t as much closure with her friends. There was hope, but I guess the message is that sometimes, you outgrow even lifelong friends who may become different people as the years go by.

Finding out who you are
Besides family and friends, this story touches so much on Gia’s journey into opening up to people and finding out who she wanted to be. I love character development and this story focused so much on this gradual change that was working its way through her. By the end of it, she had grown so much that it literally brought tears to my eyes. My favourite advice was something the fill-in boyfriend’s mother had told Gia when her world started to fall apart. She was asking about how to truly gain life lessons and find herself when nothing terrible has happened to her. This is the wisest thing I’ve heard yet to answer such a question.

“We rarely find depth by looking inside of ourselves for it. Depth is found in what we can learn from the people and things around us. Everyone, everything, has a story. When you learn those stories, you learn experiences that fill you up, that expand your understanding. You add layers to your soul.”

Love, of course
Speaking of tears, The Fill-In Boyfriend definitely had a lot of romantic chemistry going on there. He brought so much insight into Gia’s life, that even though they were only going to spend just two nights together, it was hard to get him out of her life and mind. I’m so glad that there was this simmering attraction between them that was so tangible, I almost felt like I could reach out and touch it. It wasn’t only the attraction that was enjoyable, but also their witty banter that was hilarious to read. The path to romance doesn’t always have to have constant staring and romantic lines, but it may very well lie in a deep-rooted friendship. The ups and downs to their relationship was beautifully written. Falling for someone for real while pretending to only be each others’ dates definitely complicates things.

Although Kasie West’s On the Fence wasn’t as huge of a favourite with me, The Fill-In Boyfriend has quickly shown me that this author has so much to offer in YA literature. This is a beautiful story of finding who you are in the imperfections while falling for the very person who challenges all those cracks in your life and learning to let go of emotions. A definite must-read.

Overall Recommendation:
The Fill-In Boyfriend is so much more than its synopsis limits it to be. It’s a remarkably well-written story about finding love in the unexpected, seeing the beauty in life’s imperfections and staying strong when your world starts to crumble from the lies in your past catching up to you. This is Gia’s journey in finding herself, and all I can say is that it’s heart-warming and almost brought me to tears as it is so relateable in so many ways. I highly recommend this book to anyone to read. It’s way more than just fluff.