Book Review: Made in Korea by Sarah Suk – K-Beauty and K-Pop Come Head-to-Head in this Delightful Rivals-to-Lovers YA Rom-Com

Blurb:

There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.

Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity—one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover…

What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.

Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school—all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for.

But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.

I was provided an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reading Made in Korea felt like a balm to the soul. There is something so satisfying about reading a romantic contemporary that just hits all the good spots: great storytelling, a rivals-to-lovers romance that I absolutely adored and rooted for, a cast of characters that were all flawed yet earnestly human, and nestled in between a tender story about ambition, identity, and acceptance from family.

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Book Review: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado – A Heartfelt and Fun Coming-of-Age about Friendship, Fatness, and Falling in Love

Blurb:

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

Cuddle's review:

Charlie Vega is such a lovable heroine to follow for all 352 pages of her journey, and I was left wanting a sequel (or more!), just to see how she’s doing. Throughout her story, she struggles with her single mother’s obsession with dieting and being thin, following the passing of her father. Fortunately, she has her best friend Amelia, but that comes with the caveat that she seems to be perfect and that she comes second to Amelia all the time, including a couple especially heartbreaking moments. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega centers around her trying to navigate the dating world and friendships in high school, and approaching prom.

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Book Review: Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve – An Affirming and Personal Debut about Coming Out and Coming into the Person You Were Meant to Be

Between Perf
Blurb:

Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self? 

When I finished Between Perfect and Real in one sitting, I think I just held this book to my chest and whispered to myself: this book is going to save lives. What a stunning, earnest, and affirming book Between Perfect and Real is. I loved this book whole-heartedly, and it is a fantastic addition to young adult trans literature that speaks to its vulnerable yet powerful personal truth.

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Book Review: Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong – An Explosive, Terrifying and Satisfying Conclusion to the Dark Romantic Story of Roma and Juliette

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong
Blurb:

NOTE: The blurb below contains spoilers to These Violent Delights.

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.

I was provided an early copy of the book by the author. This has not influenced my opinions of the book. This book review is based on the early copy, and may differ from the final version.

When I was a few chapters away from finishing Our Violent Ends, I swear, and I say this without hyperbole: I think my feelings actually shut down. I was stressed, I was so tense that I had to get up and pace while reading, and I was literally sweating. By the end, I was a numb and absolutely wrecked mess – but I was also, funnily, a satisfied mess.

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Book Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao – An Evocative and Vulnerable Story about Grief, Connection, and Moving On

Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

I was provided an uncorrected bound manuscript from the author. My honest opinions in this book review reflect this version and may be different to the final version of the book.

It’s been two months since I finished You’ve Reached Sam, and it’s a book that has stayed with me since. I think about this book almost every other day. You’ve Reached Sam is a story that confronts grief in its most intense and most painful. And yet, though I was a sobbing, snotty mess by the end of the book, its tender and genuine portrayal of love in its most pure form was also unexpectedly healing.

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