Mini Review: How to Be a Moonflower

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It’s no secret here at Your Book Friend that I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. I just haven’t felt much like reading lately, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here. 

Yet, I did recently finish at least one book. How to be a Moonflower by Katie Daisy isn’t a book I would ever have picked out for myself. I received it as a gift from a friend who, unlike me, often stays up past 9pm. 

It’s a collection of illustrations with quotes and tips for how to embrace the various phases of nighttime. The hardcover book is in full color, every page a piece of art. Beauitful artistic renderings of the night, a time which I, a chronic morning person, usually spend sleeping. 

I decided to read slash admire a few pages of this book each night before bed, to settle in to the would-be darkness. This time of year, I am often in bed before it’s truly dark, and this book being a love letter to nighttime made me realize I kind of miss that darkness. A little bit. I’ll take that back once it’s winter and getting dark at 4pm, I’m sure. 

How to be a Moonflower is more of a visual experience than a reading one, though I did appreciate some of the quotes and recipes. Every page is stunningly beautiful and the light musings intersperced with the images were very soothing. 

My only complaint with this book is that some of the pages are a bit difficult to read due to the combination of colors from the artwork and the handwritten style of the text.

In all, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book of love letters to the phases of night. Will I plant a night garden? Probably not. But will I flip through this book at bed time to help me settle in to the night? Most likely. 

If you enjoy illustrations and/or the night, this might be a nice book for you to keep on your bedside or coffee table, whichever you like. I’m certainly glad it wound up in my life and am even considering buying another book by the same author/illustrator. 

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You Need to Read this Friends-to-Lovers Roadtrip Romance

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If you’ve read even a handful of my other book reviews, you probably know that friends-to-lovers romances are my genre kryptonite. I can’t resist the longterm friendship, mutual pining, and the slow shift from friends to something more. There’s just something about that solid foundation of knowing and caring for one another that gets me every time.

(Full disclosure: This post uses affiliate links. I received a complimentary digital review copy of this book via NetGalley and Random House Children’s / Delacourt Press in exchange for my honest review.)

The latest installment in Amanda reading all the friends to lovers books she comes across was Kasie West’s Places We’ve Never Been, which I received as a digital ARC via NetGalley.

We begin our story with Norah, who is excited about a road trip her family is taking with her mom’s best friend, Olivia, and her three children. Norah grew up with Skyler, who was her very best friend until the family moved from California to Ohio and they lost touch over time. She assumes their reunion will be all hugs and inside jokes, so she’s shocked when Skyler is cold and distant.

Three weeks on a road trip, sharing an RV with a best friend turned apparent enemy? What could possibly go wrong?

From here, we see Norah struggle with her hurt and confusion as she tries to understand why Skyler appears less than thrilled at their reunion. There’s also the fact that it’s clear the parents — and Norah’s brother — are keeping some kind of secret about the reason for this sudden reunion.

What I Liked

Oh, YA friends to lovers romance, I’ll never quit you. I love that this story takes place as Norah is preparing for a big change in her life. She’s applying to college, excited to study video game design and bring her way of seeing the world to life.

Though the friends-to-lovers arc is a driving force in the story, the big moment we’re leading up to isn’t just a kiss. It’s also Norah’s admissions interview with the Dean of a small college she’s hoping to attend. I like when the stakes in a love story go above and beyond the relationship, when there’s something else the characters have to navigate together or on their own.

Similarly, I enjoyed the tension around why the moms suddenly needed this three week road trip without their husbands. Though I more or less figured out what was going on long before the big reveal, I liked seeing the kids try to figure it out, and there were a few surprises in the mix that kept up the suspense.

I stayed up well past my bedtime reading this one, shocking my husband when he got home at 11:30pm to find me awake. The plot is compelling and easy to follow, grabbing me so that I had to find out why Skyler was avoiding Norah, what the moms were hiding, and whether it was the same secret as the one Norah’s brother seems to be keeping.

The road trip element is also a good time, with travel experiences forming a nice backdrop for the characters’ interactions with one another. There are good opportunities for natural tension and drama inherent in this setup that I felt West used effectively throughout.

What I Didn’t Like

I tore through this one so quickly, it’s hard to say what exactly I didn’t like about it since clearly I enjoyed the experience.

There were a few unresolved questions for me that I wish we’d gotten clarity on, particularly relating to Skyler’s relationship with his father and with his art.

There’s also a mild love triangle-esque toss-in element that I didn’t feel was really necessary, and it came off a bit creepy at times.

Overall, Places I’ve Never Been is a delightful look at the complexities of friendship, family, and falling in love. It’s a coming of age novel as much as it is a love story, and seeing Norah and Skyler accept who they are and the ways that they’ve changed and grown was quite possibly the best part of the book.

I recommend Places I’ve Never Been to fans of the friends-to-lovers trope, road trip narratives, and video games, as well as those who enjoy a coming of age story about high schoolers preparing to enter the next phase of their lives.

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