Book Beat quick takes on The Kiss Quotient! Save the Date! Sweet Black Waves and lots more!

How is it June already? This year is flying by, but you should definitely make time for a lot of great books dropping next week. I’ve got a few quick takes on contemporary stand-alone books, series starters, and a few series enders so feel free to binge!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Pitch: A can’t-miss adult romance between a brainy girl and the gorgeous expert she hires to teach her about sex

Story: “A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…”

Quick take: I loved this Pretty Woman re-telling with swapped genders. With fully-fleshed out characters, intense emotions and swoony moments, it’s a great contemporary romance. I’ve never read characters like Stella and Michael and bonus points for featuring POC, high functioning autism, STEM girls, a guy not afraid of a brainy girl, tons of delicious foods, K dramas and lots more. Loved it!

Available: June 5

Bonus: There’s still time to pre-order a signed copy through The Ripped Bodice.

 

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Pitch: The cover pretty much says it all for this book about family and a crazy wedding

Story: “Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.”

Quick take: There’s tons of humor and heart as Charlie fights to keep everything together. This story isn’t just about the wedding where anything that can go wrong, does go (hilariously) wrong. After all the crazy, Charlie learns to see people for who they really are and not how she’s idealized them.

Available: June 5

Bonus: All first printing copies will be signed and both Barnes and Noble and Target will have a special editions with bonus content. If you preorder a copy, you can also receive a cute notebook and stickers. Click here for details!

 

Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez

Pitch: The start of a big, romantic, epic medieval fantasy trilogy with magic, star-crossed lovers and arranged marriages across kingdoms

Story: “Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.”

Quick take: The hero of this story is Branwen so it’s a bit of a spoiler to know that this is based on the legend of Tristan and Isolde. Just concentrate on fierce, loving, earnest and confused Branwen as she’s forever caught between duty and doing what’s right. I really enjoyed this book, but I wish I didn’t know what it was based on since that’s part of the big twist.

Available: June 5

 

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Pitch: A tough and funny YA contemporary with a great message about finding hope and fighting apathy and knee-jerk insecurities

Story: “Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he’s so enormous – 6’6” and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother’s suicide.

There’s no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there’s only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he’s in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS–Cliff feels like he’s part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn’t as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they’ve completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.“

Quick take: I totally didn’t expect this book. It’s funny. It’s sharp. It’s sad. It’s tough. And it’s hopeful. There are a bazillion trigger warnings here (bullying, cyberbullying, drugs, suicide, death, homophobia, religious zealots), but the point is to find ways to deal and push past the worst parts. Cliff is such a funny bundle of insecurities that you can’t help but root for him.

Available: June 5

 

City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Pitch: Explosive, page-turning and a lot of good fun, this is the follow-up to the fantasy Royal Bastards

Story: “Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend Zell and best friend, Princess Lyriana.

So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city’s prestigious University.

Then, Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate, a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she’s suggesting is impossible… and treasonous.

But Tilla can’t, won’t, let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire Mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.”

Quick take: The first book was a road adventure and this one is about a conspiracy as the setting moves to the capital where all is not well. We learn more about the magic in the world, the political history and more exploration on what is the “right” side since neither option looks particularly good

Available: June 5

 

Whisper of the Tide by Sarah Tolcser

Pitch: The conclusion to Song of the Current, a fantasy about a girl gifted by the sea as families battle for control of the kingdom

Story: “Caro Oresteia spent her life waiting to be called by the river god, as those in her family had been for generations. But when she’s swept away on an adventure to save the Akhaian royal prince, Markos, her destiny is sealed by the sea god instead.

For now, Caro is landlocked, helping Markos reclaim his throne after nearly his entire family was assassinated in a political coup. Without any financial or military support, Markos is desperate for allies, and Caro has fought off more than one attempt on his life. When a powerful Archon offers his army in exchange for Markos’s marriage to his daughter, Caro must choose: Her love for Markos, or the fate of Akhaia? And more importantly: How much is she willing to risk to defy the sea god’s wishes and chart her own course?

With shipwrecks, lost treasure, old and new enemies, dark magic, and breathtaking romance, Sarah Tolcser weaves another epic story about chasing your fate.”

Quick take: Even better than the first book! All the characters are multi-faceted and some familiar faces get a new path. Caro is feisty and that has consequences with everyone, but she learns and evolves. There’s a bit of romance, high seas adventure and a lot of (possible) back-stabbing. This is a satisfying conclusion, though there are a couple of openings ripe for future companion books.

Available: June 5

 

Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

Pitch: The conclusion to Flame in the Mist, a mash-up of Mulan and a ninja origin story set in Feudal Japan

Story: “The highly anticipated sequel to Flame in the Mist—an addictive, sumptuous finale that will leave readers breathless from the bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn.

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.

Quick take: It feels great to return to this fantastical, beautiful world. (You definitely need to read Flame in the Mist before you read this one.) The book feels more heavy-handed than her other books. I enjoyed the characters, the lush setting and the swoons, but this part of the story isn’t as strong as the first half.

Available: June 5

Bonus: If you pre-order and submit your proof here, Penguin Teen will send you a paperback copy of The Flame in the Mist and a signed book plate.

 

Thanks to Berkeley (The Kiss Quotient), Simon & Schuster (Save the Date), Macmillan (Sweet Black Waves), Disney (Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, City of Bastards), Bloomsbury (Whisper of the Tide) and Penguin Teen (Smoke in the Sun) for providing the books for review. Want more details on my impression of these and other books? Check out my ratings and full reviews at Goodreads.

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