ARC Review: Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

Bethany Castle gets a new lease on love.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey follows Bethany Castle, who wants move away from her staging role in her family’s real estate business by flipping her own house. However, Bethany’s brother has little faith in Bethany’s construction ability. When a reality television show gets wind of their argument, the two participate in a house flipping competition. Unfortunately for Bethany, there’s only one person on her side: Wes Daniels, an annoying (but cute) member of her brother’s crew.

Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered, #3)

I didn’t know much of what to expect when I read Tools of Engagement. I know Tessa Bailey is a popular romance author, but I hadn’t read any of her books previously. Although I wasn’t completely sold on all aspects of this book, there were some elements that I really enjoyed.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the main character, Bethany. In many other similar books, Bethany would play the villain as she is pretty and put together all the time. However, I appreciated that Tessa Bailey put her in the focus of this story because readers can see her character more in depth. Bethany struggles with anxiety and the need to be perfect, no matter what. Throughout the novel, Bethany grows significantly by showing more confidence in herself and expressing how she feels to her family and friends who put high expectations on her. I think many readers will relate to Bethany and appreciate her character growth throughout the plot in the book.

As for Bethany’s love interest, Wes, I have mixed feelings. For me, there were aspects about his character that I liked and other that I did not like. Let’s start with what I enjoyed. One of the conflicts in the relationship between Bethany and Wes is the age difference between the two characters (Bethany is 7 years older than Wes who is 23). I appreciate that this book featured a couple with an appropriate age difference as this isn’t typically shown in books. I also appreciated reading about his relationship with his niece, who he takes care of so her mom can get the helps she needs. I thought their relationship was cute and the level of the responsibility that Wes took in this book did make him see more mature.

At the same time, there were some aspects of his character that I just didn’t prefer. Wes can be very possessive with Bethany regarding other males that literally never have even met her. For example, Wes goes to find a crew to work on Bethany’s home remodel. He refuses to get any young men on the crew because he doesn’t want them to flirt with Bethany and instead opts for much older men who struggle to work longer hours on the job site. This isn’t appropriate behavior, whether he is in a relationship with Bethany or not (which he wasn’t when this part of the story occurred). All I know is if I was a 30-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man was acting that way towards me, it wouldn’t be attractive. Also, if I heard about his cowboy hat or read about him calling Bethany “darlin'” one more time, I wouldn’t be able to take it.

As for the construction aspect of the plot, it isn’t too heavily involved in that area. While we have some of the demo and see some of the ending, this aspect of the story was slightly disappointing. Yes, this is a romance, so I did expect that to occupy most of the space, so on that front, it was successful. At the same time, a big chunk of the story is Bethany being more independent, specifically through flipping her own house, so I wish I could have seen a little more of that. I think the most unsatisfying part of this whole novel for me was the ending of the competition because it was very rushed and executed in an unsatisfying way, which is all I can really say without giving any major spoilers.

Also, as a disclaimer this is the third book in the companion series. I haven’t read the first two books in this series, although I’m familiar with their storylines. That being said, not reading the first two books didn’t really hinder my reading experience. I thought the Just Us League, which was probably formed in an earlier book, as well as the background of the family business were described enough that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything from the story.

Overall, Tools of Engagement is a fun romance that was a quick and easy to read. I recommend this book to fans of this companion series as well as any one who enjoys an “enemies” to lover romance. I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord Review

Sometimes you just need a cheese-y romance.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord is the author’s debut contemporary romance novel about two high school students who fall in love after a viral Twitter war. Pepper is an overachiever who tweets memes for Big League Burger, her mom’s fast food chain restaurant. Meanwhile, Jack tweets for Girl Cheesing, his grandma’s bakery. When Big Tweet CuteLeague Burger steals the recipe for Girl Cheesing’s popular grilled cheese, an online battle ensues.

I never typically pay full price for books. I either wait for a Kindle deal or check out my local library for new releases, especially from authors that I don’t know. However, I heard a lot of hype for Tweet Cute and it sounded right up my alley, so I decided to purchase it soon after the release date. While I did enjoy Tweet Cute, there were a few aspects of the book that prevented me from rating it five stars.

My favorite aspect of this book was that it featured one of my favorite tropes: enemies to lovers. The banter between Pepper and Jack kept me turning the pages. I love how their relationship grew realistically throughout the book. Plus, it was nice to see both of their points of views as both were well developed characters individually. In dual perspectives, it is hard to make both perspectives interesting, but in this book, I enjoyed experiencing the story from both Pepper and Jack’s point of views.

One aspect of this book that wasn’t my favorite was the pacing. When I thought the book was reaching the breaking point, I was only at the 60% mark on my Kindle. At that point, I feared the book would drag on, and for me, it slightly did. The beginning of the book was fast paced with a constant back and forth between Pepper and Jack. In the ending, there were many rehashed conversations and some unnecessary drama that could have easily been cut without affecting the story. Towards the end, I found myself waiting for the actual end of the story because I felt like I reached the story’s “darkest moment” so many times before it actually happened.

Overall, Tweet Cute is a fun and enjoyable story that I think a lot of readers with enjoy, even if they aren’t a huge fan of contemporary books. That being said, the pacing at the end was a little off which negatively affected my reading experience. I give this book four out of five stars.

My Year in Books (Goodreads Stats 2019)

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One of my favorite end of the year wrap-ups is looking at my year in review on Goodreads. I enjoy seeing a summary of my reading and looking at statistics that Goodreads tracked for me. Here’s what my year in reading looked like for 2019:

  • I read 10,215 pages across 32 books.

This year I read less than past years (last year I read 52 books and the year before I read 107), so I’m surprised that I read over 10,000 pages!

  • My shortest book read was As Kismet Would Have it by Sandhya Menon at 53 pages.

This book was a short story about Dimple and Rishi from Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi. This was the only short story I read that wasn’t part of a collection, so it makes sense that this is my shortest read.

  • My longest book read was On the Come Up by Angie Thomas at 452 pages.

Wow! I read On the Come Up on my Kindle and I didn’t realize it was so long. If I had to guess, I would have said Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid would have been my longest read because it took me forever to read, but it is actually around 100 pages less than On the Come Up.

  • The most popular book that I read was Holes by Louis Sachar. 982,790 people also read Holes.

I am not surprised that Holes is my most popular book for this year. Holes is a staple in many classrooms in my country and it is a childhood favorite of many people, so it is a book that a lot of people read in a year.

  • My least popular book was Internet Famous by Danika Stone. 518 people also read Internet Famous.

Internet Famous was one of my most disappointing reads of the year (for my complete list, check out my post here). I don’t think this book was really hyped up, so I understand why it isn’t as popular as other books that I read this year.

  • My average rating for 2019 was 3.8 stars.

This actually surprises me. I didn’t read as many books as I usually do this year, and many of them I don’t find completely memorable. However, there were a few that I absolutely loved and rated very highly, so maybe those pulled the average higher.

  • Out of the books that I read, the book with the highest rating on Goodreads is The Wicked King by Holly Black with an average rating of 4.50 stars. 

I am not surprised with this one. The Wicked King is considered the favorite in The Folk of the Air series by many readers, myself included. This book actually ranked as one of my overall favorite books of the year. For the complete list, check out my annual Brittany Awards here.

  • My first review of the year was Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills.

I’m terrible about posting reviews to Goodreads, but luckily, NetGalley automatically posts my reviews to Goodreads. I read Famous in a Small Town as an eARC and it was my first book by this author. While I ended up enjoying Famous in a Small town, it started off really slow for me.

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Blogmas Day #29: End of the Year Book Tag

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Since it is the end of the year, I thought it would be the perfect time to finish the end of the year book tag. Here are my answers:

 

  • Best book/series that you read in 2019 

Every year, I hold my annual Brittany Awards where I select my favorite books of the year across several categories. To see my overall favorites, click the link here.

  • Authors that you’ve recently found and would like to read more of in the new year

One new-to-me author was Ashley Elston, who wrote 10 Blind Dates. I love romantic comedies and 10 Blind Dates was perfect to read around Christmas. If Ashley Elston releases another book, I would definitely be interested in reading it. See my review here.

  • Most anticipated book turned movie?

I am excited for the sequel to All the Boys I’ve Loved Before! I thought they did such a great job with adapting the first book that I can’t wait to see what they do with the next book!

  • What’s on your TBR for 2020? (Top 5 will suffice if its an extremely long list!)

Recently, I posted about 20 books that I hoped to read in 2020. For the full list, check out my post here. That being said, I am excited to read Instant Karma, a new contemporary by Marissa Meyer. I am a huge fan of the Lunar Chronicles, so I am excited to see what Marissa Meyer does in a different genre.

  • How many books do you hope to read in 2020?

I hope to read 25 books! This is half of my 2019 goal, but I want to put less pressure on myself and also create time to try new activities.

  • Will you participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge (or any others)?

I always participate in the Goodreads challenge. I also tried (and won!) NaNoWriMo last year, so I hope to complete that challenge again.

  • Any New Year’s Resolutions? (bookish and otherwise)!

This year, I want to finish the book that I am currently writing and start the first draft of another book.

Blogmas Day #21: The Brittany Awards Part Three (Young Adult)

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For the past two Saturdays, I have held my annual Brittany Awards where I name the top books that I have read this year in several categories. Today, I will list my top young adult books of the year. This is my most read category of the year, and as a result, the most competitive. Here are my top four favorite young adult books:

  • Maybe This Time by Kasie West

Maybe This Time

I read three new-to-me Kasie West books in 2019 and Maybe This Time was definitely my favorite. I loved the holiday aspects of the novel and enjoyed the characters. I can see myself rereading this many times in the future, like many other Kasie West books that I enjoyed.

  • The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air, #2)

I read the second and third book in the Folk of the Air series and the second ranks as my favorite. There were so many twists and turns in The Wicked King and I finally found myself enjoying the characters in this series. Second books in series usually suffer a slump, but this book is an exception.

  • Serious Moonlight by Jean Bennett

Serious Moonlight

I read Alex, Approximately when it first debuted and I was disappointed. I didn’t expect to pick up another Jenn Bennett book, but this one sounded cute and I’m all for trying to read another book by an author that didn’t work for me the first time if the plot sounds interesting. I’m glad that I did because I really enjoyed Serious Moonlight and it makes me want to pick up more books by Jenn Bennett in 2020.

  • There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

There's Something About Sweetie (Dimple and Rishi, #2)

Sandhya Menon’s books have been hit-or-miss for me. There’s Something About Sweetie has definitely been my favorite book by this author! I thought this was a cute contemporary book, which is right up my alley.

 

What have been your favorite contemporary books in 2019?

 

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Blogmas Day #20: The Christmas Joy Book Tag

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On the twentieth day of Christmas, a book reviewer gave to me… the Christmas Joy Book Tag!

  • Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta's Academy, #1)

I really enjoyed There’s Something About Sweetie in 2019, so I’m excited for Sandhya Menon’s next book to be released in March 2020, Of Curses and Kisses. This book is the first in a fairytale retelling series and takes places at an international boarding school. In Of Curses and Kisses, the story retells Beauty and the Beast.

  • Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author can you not help but want to sing about?

Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones and the Six was one of the most unique books that I read this year due to its interesting format, which is a series of interviews of band members. I rated this book as five stars and recommended it to several friends.

  • Gingerbread Houses: What book or series has wonderful world building?

10 Blind Dates

While this book takes place in the real world, it does a nice job describing each date as well as describing Christmas in the south. As someone who lives in the cold North, it was interesting to read about different traditions and experiences that take place in a different part of the country.

  • A Christmas Carol: Favorite classic or one that you want to read

Peter Pan

One of the units that I teach in school is in Peter Pan. It is always a fun unit because students are excited that they get to read their first “big book” in school.

 

  • Christmas Sweets: What book would you love to receive for Christmas

This year, I have no books on my wish list! I do not have any physical space for books, so I would rather receive an Amazon gift card in order to purchase books on my Kindle.

 

  • Candles in the Window: What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling

Maybe This Time

Kasie West’s books always make me feel warm and fuzzy and one of her latest books did not disappoint this year! Maybe This Time is one of my new Kasie West’s favorites. With an emphasis on holidays throughout the year, it is the perfect book to pick up right before Christmas!

 

  • Christmas Trees & Decorations: What are some of your favorite book covers?

Snow in Love (Point Paperbacks)

I always love covers with Kasie West’s name tied on them. I love the pajamas in front of a fireplace. It is so warm and cozy for Christmas!

  • Christmas Joy: What are some of your favorite things about Christmas and/or some of your favorite Christmas memories?

Person Baking Cookies on Tray

One of my favorite traditions is baking cookies with my sister and grandma on Christmas Eve!

 

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Blogmas Day #19: New to Me Authors in 2019

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Every year, I like to branch out and read new authors to find new favorites. This year was no exception. Here are five authors that were new-to-me this year, the books that I read by them, and if I plan to pick up more books by this author in the future:

  • Taylor Jenkins Reid 

Daisy Jones & The Six

Taylor Jenkins Reid has always been on my TBR, but I finally picked up one of her books after seeing rave reviews for Daisy Jones and the Six. It took me a little bit to get into my first book by this author, but I ended up really enjoying this story and rated it five stars. I will definitely pick up more books by this author in the future!

  • Rachel Hollis

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be

Non-fiction isn’t my preferred genre, however, I picked up this book after seeing it everywhere. This book was okay, and I started the second book by this author, but I didn’t finish it time before I needed to return it to the library. The second book by this author isn’t necessarily high on my TBR, but I may pick it up to read by the pool next summer.

  • Helen Hoang

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)

I read The Kiss Quotient after hearing rave reviews online, but I didn’t love it as much as everyone else. When The Bride Test came up, it sounded more interesting to me than the first book, so I gave it a shot. I ended up loving The Bride Test much more than The Kiss Quotient and I look forward to reading the next book by this author in 2020.

  • Courtney Summers

Sadie

I read Sadie after seeing rave reviews online. Sadie was an average read for me, although I thought the premise was interesting. I may be interested in reading another book by this author if it sounded interesting, but I’m not a huge mystery/thriller reader, so it probably wouldn’t be at the top of my TBR.

  • Jen Klein

Shuffle, Repeat

I read Shuffle, Repeat because I found it as a Kindle Daily Deal and the premise sounded cute because it reminded me of P.S. I Like you by Kasie West and aspects of Just Listen by Sarah Dessen. However, this book fell extremely flat for me because the main character criticized other people for being judgmental while simultaneously being the most judgmental character in the novel. I may pick up another book by this author in the future, but only if I find the premise interesting and see positive reviews beforehand.

 

What authors were new to you this year?

 

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Blogmas Day #18: Unpopular Opinions Bok Tag 2019

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One of my favorite book tags is the unpopular opinions book tag. Every year, I complete this book tag during Blogmas to share some of my new unpopular book opinions on books that I read over the course of the past year. This tag was originally created by The Book Archer on Youtube (see the original video here). I know that not everyone shares some of my unpopular opinions, so if you feel different, that’s okay! Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and here is a list of my new unpopular opinions:

  • A popular book or series that you didn’t like

Louisiana's Way Home

I have tried to read several of Kate DiCamillo’s books, but I just can’t get into her writing style. I finished Louisiana’s Way Home, but I was annoyed by some overly quirky characters and some loose ends that I felt were never wrapped up well enough for my liking.

  • A popular book or series everyone hates, but you love

The Fill-In Boyfriend

A lot of people don’t like The Fill-In Boyfriend and consider it one of their least favorite Kasie West books. A common gripe lies in the main character, who many readers cite as shallow and snobby. However, I find that I really like books about shallow and snobby main characters because often times they grow less self-centered as the books goes on, however, I can see how that may be off-putting to other readers.

  • A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you DID NOT want them to end up with or an OTP that you don’t like

Shuffle, Repeat

I think it’s pretty clear who the characters are meant to end up with in this book, I just really struggled with liking the female main character in this book. She criticized everyone in high school for being extremely judgmental, but she was actually the most judgmental in the book, especially toward the male main character where she frequently questioned his intelligence and made some offensive remarks, in my opinion.

  • A popular book genre that you don’t reach for

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be

I never read non-fiction, but picked this book up in 2019 because you couldn’t go into a store or on Instagram without seeing this book. This book was an easy read, but I don’t think it really inspired me like this type of book should.

  • A popular or beloved character that you do not like

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal

I really dislike Greg as a character in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, especially in this spin-off of Rowley’s diary which released this year. Greg completely took over Rowley’s story and treats him like absolute dirt which is a relationship that should not be something presented for the target audience to laugh at.

  • A  popular author that you can’t seem to get into

Famous in a Small Town

While I ended up enjoying Famous in a Small Town, I gave it four stars, it took me FOREVER to get into reading. The only reason I gave it four stars because I thought the end wrapped up in an amazing way. For me, this book was a lot of reading for a small reward. I have other books by this author, but I keep putting them aside because I’m afraid of a different experience where I may read and read, but not get the reward as I did in this book.

  • A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing

Internet Famous

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t mind a shallow or snobby character. However, what I do mind, is when a shallow and snobby character never grows and continues to get whatever I want. The main character in Internet Famous was one of the rudest and most self-centered characters that I’ve ever read in YA and is the main reason, among several others, that this was my only one star books of the year. From bad-mouthing teachers trying to maintain security of a school building to demanding to receive credit for a project that followed 0 of the guidelines and putting down her mother for her work opportunity, this character was insufferable. Even worse, she never changed and ended up getting everything she wanted. I think this book sent a terrible message to readers in the target audience.

  • A popular series that you have no interest in reading

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #1)

Shadow and Bone had a resurgence in the YA community since the Netflix series was announced. I’ve borrowed this book from my library a couple times, but never ended up reading it. This plot of this series doesn’t sound as interesting to me as Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo’s other series set in the same world. Additionally, I’ve heard mixed reviews about this series and indications that it contains a lot of my least favorite tropes that were very present in YA literature around the time it was published.

  • The saying goes “The book is always better than the movie,” but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer more than the book?

Let it Snow

Let It Snow was okay for me and so was the movie, however I ended up enjoying the John Green story in this book much more in the movie than the book itself. I’m not a huge John Green fan, but I thought his section of the movie was wonderfully casted and I always wanted the movie to cut back to his story line.

What are some of your recent unpopular opinions?

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Blogmas Day #17: Top Ten Tuesday // Winter TBR

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books on my Winter TBR. I haven’t been reading a large amount of books recently and I don’t expect to see a huge spike during the winter season because of other business in my life. As a result, I only have four books that I really want to finish this winter. Here are my choices:

  • 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

10 Blind Dates

I started 10 Blind Dates and hope to finish it before the end of the month, since the book takes place during Christmas and New Year’s. So far, I have really enjoyed it and can see it becoming one of my favorite contemporary books of the year.

  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda #1)

I have already started this book, however, I’m not finished with it yet. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, so I’m determined to knock it out while I’m home for winter break. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda tells the story of an Origami Yoda that lives on a middle school boy’s hand and gives advice to other students which turns out to always be spot-on.

  • American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda

I started American Panda months ago… and never finished. Hopefully over winter break, I can wrap up some books that I started awhile ago. American Panda follows a girl named Mei who goes off to college, but wants to deviate from her Taiwanese parents’ plans.

  • Moment of Truth by Kasie West

Moment of Truth

Kasie West’s new book comes out at the beginning of March, so of course I will be reading that the moment it is released. Kasie West is one of my favorite YA authors, so I’m excited to read her next book, which followers a swimmer determined to uncover the identity of a masked boy crashes her swim meet.

 

What books are on your Winter TBR?

 

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Blogmas Day #16: Most Read Authors of 2019

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Last year, I reflected on the end of the year by seeing which authors I read the most in a year. Typically, If I read more than one book by the same author in one year, I really like their work. Other times, I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book I read, but still wanted to check out more from the author. For each author, I will discuss what books I read. Here are some of my most read authors this year:

  • Kasie West (6 books)

Maybe This Time

For Kasie West, most of the books on my list we’re re-reads. I ran into a big of a reading slump this year. Kasie West’s book are always easy and fun to read, so I thought they would be the perfect books to get my reading on track. Three of West’s books that were new-to-me this year were Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss, Let it Snow (short story anthology), and Maybe This Time. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss, I did enjoy the other two works. Maybe This Time is actually one of my favorite Kasie West books now. My re-reads were The Fill-In Boyfriend, P.S. I Like You, and Love, Life, and the List, all of which are three of my favorites by West.

  • Holly Black (2 books)

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3)

This year, I finished the Folk of the Air series by starting the year with The Wicked King and January and finishing the series with The Queen of Nothing in December. This is an overall satisfying series with The Wicked King ranked as my favorite book. This is a great series to pick up if you’re a fan of books with faeries.

  • Sally Thorne (2 books)

99 Percent Mine

I really enjoyed Sally Thorne’s first book The Hating Game, which is why I re-read it this year when I found myself in a reading slump. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy her second book 99 Percent Mine nearly as much as her first and consider it one of my most disappointing reads of the year. I could not connect to the story or characters in 99 Percent Mine compared to The Hating Game.

  • Helen Hoang (2 books)

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2)

I first read The Kiss Quotient in January after hearing rave reviews online. Unfortunately, The Kiss Quotient was only an average read for me. Despite only an okay experience with my first Helen Hoang book, I chose to pick up her second book because the plot sounded more interesting to me. I’m glad that I did because I enjoyed The Bride Test significantly more than The Kiss Quotient and I am excited to pick up her next book which follows another character from these novels in the new year.

  • Sandhya Menon (2 books)

There's Something About Sweetie (Dimple and Rishi, #2)

I have had a hit-or-miss experience with Sandhya Menon’s books. I liked When Dimple Met Rishi, but did not like From Twinkle, With Love. There’s Something About Sweetie actually sounded the most interesting to me out of all of her books, so I was excited when I was approved on NetGalley for an ARC. There’s Something About Sweetie is definitely my favorite book by Sandhya Menon to date. I also enjoyed As Kismet Would Have It, a short story following Dimple and Rishi, that Menon released.

 

What are your most read authors this year?

 

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