Book Review: In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Goodreads: In a Holidaze
Publisher: Gallery Books
Published: 06 October 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

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Friday Favourites: Romances

Welcome back to another Friday Favourites, dear friends! Last year this weekly meme was hosted by the wonderful Kibby @ Something of the Book! However, this year Kibby has passed the torch on to Lorraine @ Geeky Galaxy. This week’s topic is: favourite romances.

Well it certainly is the week for romance, isn’t it? I’m actually having a hard time choosing my favourite romances because if you haven’t noticed, I’m a sucker for the stuff and go through my fair share every year (of romance books, not actual romances lol). So how am I meant to pick out my favourites and keep it to a Top 5 list?! It’s a tough one… But after some thought here are five romances that I will always recommend:

Pride and Prejudice will forever and always be my favourite and I cannot recommend it enough. After reading it I’d also recommend immediately watching one of the two adaptations, both of which are amazing but I’m partial to the 2005 version because Matthew Macfadyen (don’t @ me)!

Give me any book set in Alaska and I’m guaranteed to fall in love with it. Hah, kidding. Maybe. Don’t ask me why but I have a low-key thing for Alaska so that was already a bonus for The Simple Wild. However, throw in some great characters, real growth and a simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking storyline and well, I’m sold. I became so invested in Calla and Jonah’s relationship. Jonah had me swooning big time!

I love the diversity that Hoang brings to romance–not only in having Asian MCs but also in writing about characters on the spectrum. It’s refreshing to read romances with characters who look like you and who come from cultural backgrounds similar to yours. The Bride Test has a mix of unique characters, an interesting plot and a good dose of steam, too.

I loved Josh and Lucy, but Josh was the shining star for me in The Hating Game. I loved his character so much. It might not be for readers who don’t like angst because well, this one was seriously full of it, but oh it was so, so much fun!

If you want a romcom with wonderfully fun characters who’re sure to give you a good laugh, then look no further than Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating! I love CLo and would recommend them to anyone but Josh and Hazel have a special place in my heart. I have a huge girl crush on Hazel — she’s such a fun-loving character and so full of life! Their chemistry is perfection and I love their love 😍

That’s it for my favourite romances! What are some of your favourites that you think I should read ASAP? I’m always on the lookout for recs!

#TopTenTuesday: Autobuy Authors

It’s that time of the week again, friends! We’re back with another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s prompt is: autobuy authors. I tried to diversify my list a little bit instead of repeating authors and books that I’ve already mentioned on here countless times, but you can’t avoid the inevitable because these authors are my all time faves, so they’re bound to make an appearance! It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to just recall all the authors I’d auto buy, so I had to do a little bit of rummaging around my memory (it’s really that bad) and came up with this list. Yay!

Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is a master of crafting words into incredibly bizarre and delightfully magical worlds within our actual world. I’m always left in awe of his stories. They’re dark, funny, did I mention bizarre, and oddly touching. When I read Neverwhere for the first time a few years ago there was no looking back. He’s been an autobuy since! I’ve really enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read including American Gods, The Graveyard Book, and The Ocean At the End of the Lane, to name a few!

Taylor Jenkins Reid. So I’ve only read two of TJR’s books: Maybe In Another Life and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Both took my feelings and ripped them to shreds and I loved every minute of it! These reads are so emotionally packed and I’ve found elements of relatability in both of them, which obviously made it more impactful.

Jodi Picoult. I’ve loved Jodi Picoult since I first discovered her in high school. I think my first book by her was The Pact and it just wowed me with the writing style and the storylines. Since I read most of her books in high school, I don’t think I fully appreciated the complexity of her characters and their situations. I’d definitely love to re-read my favorites at some point!

Robin Sloan. Sloan’s books are so odd, intriguing, and full of quirky loveable characters that worm their way into your heart! Sourdough is probably one of my all time favorite books — no joke. It just makes me feel warm and so happy. Mr. Penumbra’s was also such a fun-tastic adventure with BOOKS and who wouldn’t love that?! I wish it were easier to get my hands on more of his books!

Helen Hoang. Hoang has only put out two books (The Bride Test and The Kiss Quotient) so far but I’ve loved both of them dearly! I love the diversity of her romances. They’re awkward, funny, sweet, (so) steamy, and have left me feeling light-hearted after each read. I am also eagerly looking forward to reading about QUAN in her next book, The Heart Principle. She describes it as: “kind of a cross between a gender-swapped Sabrina and Say Anything” … I MEAN C’MON. All the 😍 emojis.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. I’m a little embarrassed to mention this but I’ve only ever read anything by both authors that they’ve written together. So that’s The Illuminae Files and Aurora Rising. It’s not that I don’t want to read what they’ve written separately, there are just SO MANY books and so few waking+non-working hours! But I will buy anything these two write together. They are the ultimate dynamic writing duo and slay me with their stories and characters!

V.E. Schwab. After finishing ADSOM I immediately knew it’d be one of my all-time favorite series and Schwab immediately jumped onto my auto buy authors list. I loved the writing, storyline and characters. The magic really came to life! I’ve since read and loved her Monsters of Verity and Villains series.

Christina Lauren. It’s as simple as I love CLo and pretty much everything that I’ve read from them! Josh and Hazel‘s Guide to Not Dating is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite romances. This duo never fail to make me laugh, swoon, squeal, and generally have the most fun reading experience with their books. I’m so looking forward to reading Twice In A Blue Moon when it comes out!

Jane Harper. I discovered Harper this year after reading The Dry and there was just no looking back. Her writing is just stunning. It’s so deeply atmospheric, reading her stories takes you straight into the punishing dry heat of the Australian outback. Although her books are classified as thrillers, I’d say they’re more mystery, but they kept me guessing right up to the end.

Brian K. Vaughan. He’s the writer of my all time favorite graphic novel series, Saga. I’ve mentioned this one countless times already on my blog but it’s seriously so freaking good. Anytime someone asks me for graphic novel recs, Saga is the first one I mention. He’s also written Paper Girls, which I enjoyed!

Who are your auto buy authors? If you’ve done a TTT this week, leave your link in the comments and let’s chat auto buy authors!

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren – #BookReview

Goodreads: Autoboyography
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, LGBTQ+, Contemporary, Romance

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah. But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity. It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

I’ve seen a lot about Autoboyography everywhere; it’s been mentioned as a favorite on many lists and has received a lot of praise. I’ve loved much of what Christina Lauren has written and this was no exception. Although I have to admit that I didn’t initially love it as much as I thought I would; perhaps because I didn’t connect to the characters as much at the start and I sometimes found their attitudes/actions frustrating (hello, Autumn!). But the more I think about the book now, the more I really appreciate Tanner’s and Sebastian’s story and realize just how much I enjoyed it.

“Oh, man,” Autumn mumbles from beside me. “His smile makes me stupid.” Her words are a dim echo of my own thoughts: His smile ruins me.

This is a coming-of-age love story, but it wasn’t all the butterflies, rainbows and good/easy things that normally feature in CLo’s novels, and that really made it more authentic and believable. Tanner is a bi-sexual high school senior who was out of the closet when his family lived in California, but had to “go back in” when they relocated to heavily Mormon Utah during his sophomore year. No one in town knows he’s queer, not even his best and closest friend Autumn, and it’s been easy to hide until Sebastian walks into his life. Tanner was easily my favorite character. He was immature at times and made some questionable (and typically high school) decisions, but he was also a cinnamon roll who has so much love to give. The support of his parents lent him an air of maturity and he understood consequences. By far my favorite part of the book was his parents and their support for him. Their completely transparent relationship with each other was so enviable and absolute #familygoals. It brought so much comfort and happiness to the story and clearly played a very big role in making Tanner who he is.

“I don’t actually care if you break my heart, Sebastian. I went into this knowing it could happen and I gave it to you anyway. But I don’t want you to break your own. You have so much space in your heart for your church, but does it have space for you?”

On the other hand we have Sebastian, who comes from and was raised in a hardcore LDS home. He struggles with his identity and thinks that by denying who he is, it’ll make him acceptable and different from other queer people. He loves and continues to turn to the faith that he was raised in, but he’s confused with how to reconcile that with what he feels for Tanner; especially when to him it feels completely right, even when everyone and everything he loves and knows tells him otherwise. As I was reading Sebastian’s struggles and vehement denials of being queer, my heart really broke for him. I want to say so much more, but I also don’t want to give any more away. I will say: read it!

I know there are probably many young teenagers/young adults and maybe even adults who struggle with reconciling their faith with how they identify, and it made me sad to think that we still live in a world where you can expect to be ostracized or abandoned if you choose to be yourself, no matter who that is. Although I can’t speak to the experiences in this book, I believe that CLo did a great job in researching and writing about such a sensitive and complex topic. I think a lot of people will really be able to connect with their stories, especially (maybe) Sebastians’ struggles of coming out, and they’ll find comfort in knowing they’re not alone; that others are struggling, scared and don’t know what to do because they don’t want to lose everything and everyone they love just because of who they are.

“But missing him every day for the rest of my life was still easier than the fight Sebastian had: to stuff himself inside a box every morning and tuck that box inside his heart and pray that his heart kept beating around the obstacle. Every day I could go to class as exactly the person I am, and meet new people, and come outside later for some fresh air and Frisbee. Every day I would be grateful that no one who matters to me questions whether I am too masculine, too feminine, too open, too closed. Every day I would be grateful for what I have, and that I can be who I am without judgment. So every day I would fight for Sebastian, and people in the same boat, who don’t have what I do, who struggle to find themselves in a world that tells them white and straight and narrow gets first pick in the schoolyard game of life.”

Christina Lauren does it again! They really know how to write stories that are not only enjoyable, but cover important issues and make you think and feel all the feels. I’m really glad that I finally read this.

Have you read Autoboyography? What did you think about it?
Let me know in the comments and let’s have a little chat 🙂

May 2019 Monthly Wrap Up!

Friends, May is over and the only thing going through my mind is: how is it possible?! I have no idea where the days went in May. It was ridiculously busy at work and I took that week off for my best friends and my birthday. I can’t believe my birthday has come and gone already too and I’m another year older. I feel like this year is just flying by… Despite the work struggles and feeling more restless than ever this month, May was actually a pretty good month overall. For some reason I feel like I didn’t read much but when I checked on Goodreads, I saw I read 12 books. I also read one webcomic, but since it’s only the first season of the comic, I won’t officially add it to my tally. Here’s what I read by order of date:

The majority of these were e-books and I managed to read and review 4 ARCs. I’m honestly so behind on my NetGalley reads, and I feel so guilty about it, but I’m hoping to make up for it in June. I really need to get better organized because my head has been so all over the place lately, it’s a miracle I manage to get anything done at all! May was also AAPI month and I attempted to read more books by Asian authors; however, being a mood reader, I only managed to get three books in by AAPI authors. It did make me realize that although I do have quite a few books by Asian authors on my shelf, I tend to read the latest releases and other popular books because of FOMO. I need to make more of a conscious effort to read these other books, so I will be working on that throughout the rest of the year!

Of the books I read, I think Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren was my favorite. While I only had two five star reads this month, the majority were 4.5 stars, so it made it quite difficult to choose, but Josh and Hazel was the lighthearted romantic comedy that I didn’t know I needed. These characters really lifted my mood and made me feel giddy with happiness and hope, and I know I won’t be forgetting them anytime soon! Thank you CLo for writing stories that sucker punch me in the feels and for writing characters that make me laugh uncontrollably!

As with May, there are quite a few books I’m looking forward to adding to my shelves in June. But all I’ll be doing until I manage to cut down my highly unmanageable giant of a TBR list by a lot. I’ll be posting about the books I’m most excited for, plus a list of all the books that I’ve acquired this month in the coming days!

How was your reading month? What was your favorite read?
Come drop me a comment below 🙂

Book Review: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

Goodreads: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit, New Adult, Humour
Rating: ★★★★★

Just friends. Just friends. JUST FRIENDS. If they repeat it enough, maybe it’ll be true . . . Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take – and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and taste for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter and tendency to say exactly the wrong thing will. Their loss. Not everyone can handle a Hazel.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college. From the first night they met – when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes – to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them . . . right?

Oh, this book… Was there anything that I didn’t love about this book?! The only regret I have is not picking this up sooner! This was a super fun, super cute, and super sexy read. To be honest, the sexy bits actually kind read a bit like “soft-core porn” but the chemistry between Josh and Hazel was absolutely fire! It was honestly so good. 😂 The friends-to-lovers trope is one of my all time favorites and this book did not fail to deliver! All the main characters were extremely lovable—from Hazel and Josh, Emily and David, and even side characters like Hazel’s mum, and Umma. To be honest, when I picked this up last night, not only had I forgotten what this book was about, but I had zero clue that Josh was Korean-American. It was such a pleasant surprise!

“The way Emily describes it: when I meet someone I love, I become an octopus and wind my tentacles around their heart, tighter and tighter until they can’t deny they love me just the same.” 

Hazel was the brightest, quirkiest, funniest and most genuine character I’ve read in a long time. Her chapters had me constantly laughing out loud and exclaiming in shock (the good kind) at all the hilariously awkward things that she’d think, say and do. Her manic energy was so infectious! She recognized just how out there she is, but she made no excuses and no exceptions for anyone. Yes, she had her insecurities, mostly related to her personality, but she was also fiercely confident in herself and enviably comfortable in her own skin. Hazel was honestly just the best and Josh was honestly the perfect complement to her character. He was sweet, calm, thoughtful and extremely loyal, but not a pushover in any way. I loved the vulnerability of his character, and how he was the one who accepted and openly admitted to his feelings.

Josh and Hazel’s relationship was definitely an adventure and I shipped them so hard from the start of their very awkward and hilarious encounters. Their friendship was so genuine. It was clear they truly enjoyed each other’s company and were really appreciative of each other; plus, you could see that their chemistry was insane! As I mentioned above, and I’ll say it again now, this one has quite a few pretty steamy sexy scenes! So if you’re not into that, this might not be for you.

“Your face is fine.” She pushes up to stand and holds out a hand. I let her help me up, and she pats my chest. “But how’s your heart?”

The relationships between the family members was also so wonderful. Hazel and her mum had the quirkiest and most open relationship. It’s the kind of relationship that I always wished to have with my own mum, and I’m lucky that I do have that to an extent, though not as wildly open as theirs. Although her mum only made minor appearances, you could tell that their relationship was the feel-good, supportive and comforting kind. I also really appreciated how Christina Lauren integrated Josh’s Korean heritage in the storyline, and made it an important part of his character. His relationship with Umma was sweet, and I loved how he really embraced the Korean traditions—such as how his parents would move in with him once they got older. As an Asian, I get that cultural obligation/expectation, so I thought it just added to the authenticity of his character and their story.

Perhaps the only point that had me feeling a bit iffy was how this book ended–with a key development between Josh and Hazel that was a little bit… Disappointing? I can’t say what it is without spoiling it for others who haven’t read this, so this is going to be intentionally vague. It’s not that I’m a stickler for the “traditional” way of doing things, but I just wondered if it was really necessary for that to happen between the two of them, when readers probably could’ve predicted it would eventually happen anyway. That said, while this obviously wasn’t an unexpected HEA, it didn’t make me love their story any less. CLo strikes again with their brilliant writing, characters and storylines. They really know how to write characters that you feel so invested in, and who also feel like real friends by the end. They also really know how to make me feel all the feels. I think they’ve basically spoiled me for relationships IRL (but hey, book boyfriends are always better anyway, right?)! 😉 I’m so excited to read The Unhoneymooners now. Give me all the CLo!

Are you a CLo fan? Have you read Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating or is it on your TBR? What did you think of it?