Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid (ARC Review)

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid shows a woman with golden skin in front of a vivid yellow background. The blurb says: "Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.  But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.  At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever."

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Ballantine Books
Page Count
: 352
Release Date: August 30, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: misogyny, sexism, ageism, loss of a loved one, mention of racism, alcoholism and injuries

Carrie Soto Is Back is my new favorite Taylor Jenkins Reid book. Honestly, this came as a complete surprise to me, but I was riveted from start to finish. I just couldn’t put it down. I never realized how much Spanish I actually understood or how much information I retained from watching tennis a lot when I was a kid, but this book was an utter delight – although I think it will work for people without any knowledge about the sport just as well.

Carrie Soto doesn’t start out as the most likable person, especially if you might harbor some resentment from Malibu Rising still, but she is a force to be reckoned with. She made tennis her entire life and when she decides to return from retirement, she is faced with relentless ageism, misogyny, sexism and just straight hostility. She never played the sport to make friends, she played it to be great and it swiftly became clear to me that there was no way I wouldn’t root for her to succeed once more.
Told from a first person POV for the most part, sprinkled with transcripts of news articles or sports commentators, you don’t just get to see the Carrie Soto the world thought they knew, but also the lonely and vulnerable person behind the tough facade. TJR just has a gift of creating very flawed characters, which you end up falling in love with regardless. They learn from their mistakes, they grow and you want nothing more for them than to get what they truly need.

While the story spans over decades, it never felt rushed or difficult to follow. We get training montages and certain scenes that make us understand what an incredible tennis player Carrie is, but I think most people will show up for the relationships she manages to cultivate over the course of the novel. Carrie has enemies and frenemies, but ultimately a very limited amount of people who really matter in her life. She was blessed with a wonderful love interest, but more importantly, there is a beautiful exploration of a father-daughter-relationship in Carrie Soto Is Back. Javier Soto is a legend in his own right and they weren’t always on the best terms, he sometimes messed up as a father, but he was there when it counted. Those two really were the heart of the story.

I don’t think this review does justice to just how invested I was in Carrie Soto’s life and success, which doesn’t necessarily look like what you would expect it to. My heart was thundering in my chest at every game she played. I was worried for her mental and physical health, while I also believed that she could do anything she set her mind to. I wanted her to open her heart to love, yet never relent to the people who told her she needed to be softer, kinder or more gracious. I wanted her to prove the entire world wrong and she. did. not. disappoint. I’m so grateful to have been on this journey with her.

Maria Sharapova celebrates her win by screaming and pumping her fists

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Fantastic and riveting!

P.S.: Yes, there are references to the likes of Daisy Jones and the Rivas. I just love the interconnectedness of these books.


Previous TJR reviews of mine:


Do you plan on reading TJRs latest tale? Are you ready to dive into the world of competitive tennis? Let’s chat!

July 2022 Wrap-Up

July has come and gone and now we’re in my birthday month, which isn’t something I particularly celebrate, but still always feel the need to mention. Most of July, I was in a massive reading slump. All the books I did end up finishing (we’re going to ignore that I technically read the last pages of one of them on August 1), I read towards the final days of the month. It’s not a big haul, but here is what I read:

  • Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn by Matthew Mercer/Hannah Rose/James J. Haeck (5 stars)
    True to my Critical Role obsession, I couldn’t resist getting this book to further delve into the world of Exandria. It was an early birthday present from my parents, but I have like zero restraint and immediately checked it out instead of waiting. If you aren’t necessarily interested in running your own D&D campaign in Tal’Dorei, this is still a great tool for worldbuilding in my eyes.
  • Walking Gentry Home by Alora Young (5 stars)
  • Before Takeoff by Adi Alsaid (3 stars)

Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn  Walking Gentry Home: A Memoir of My Foremothers in Verse  Before Takeoff

As per usual, click on the covers to get re-directed to Goodreads, where you are always welcome to add me as a reading buddy! OR find me on Storygraph, where I have become more active this year. My own reviews you’re able to find by clicking on the titles in the list above, if there are posts for them.

Surprisingly enough, I’m still doing well on my reading challenge. I’m two books ahead in order to reach my goal in terms of number of books. The challenge that I’m not doing so well on is the one for pages read. I’m more or less 1K pages behind, but weirdly I’m not worried about it. There’s still lots of books I want to read this year and some of them are quite chunky.
As for August, I don’t really have a plan or reading schedule, but I did get approved for an ARC for Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid, so that’s on the menu for sure.

Two graphs showing the progress on my reading challenges. One is for the number of books I want to read in 2022, where I'm currently at 28 out of 45 books read (62% complete). The other one is for pages read with a goal of 15000 pages and 7886 read at the moment (53% complete).

July wasn’t any less busy for me than June, if I’m being honest it was maybe even more busy. Part of it has to do with me taking on more hours at work until the end of the year, which didn’t seem like much of a change at first, but has turned out to have more of an effect on my energy levels than predicted. Still, I’m working on creating routines for myself to rest, relax and still get things done that I want to do.

Here’s a progress report on my summer plans:

  • I’m really, really bad at roller skating, but I have every intention of keeping at it. I honestly need to make more time for it, but doing it all by myself is just a bit boring at times.
  • My D&D session with my cousins is fast approaching, but I still have loads to prepare. I think I’m building it up in my head a bit more than necessary, but oh well, fingers crossed it’s just going to be fun in the end.
  • I binged Brandon Sanderson’s 2020 lectures on creative writing (which you can find here) and have now started outlining a standalone Fantasy novel I plan to write over the course of the rest of the year. I don’t really want to talk about specifics yet, maybe once I’m farther down the line. I’ve just kept thinking about Soulswift and D&D and how much I love Fantasy adventures. We’ll see if I can finally stick with something again. Here’s my main character (based on a D&D character I created for myself).

A girl with pointy ears, light blue skin, almost white hair with faint traces of pink in a lilac dress looking off into the distance, holding a book tight to her chest.

MOST POPULAR POSTS OF JULY 2022

I know these lists look really similar every month, but I was actually surprised by how many reviews made it into the top 5 posts of July list!

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Book Review)
    (originally posted December 2021)
    There’s something ironic about me refusing to promote the book and movie ever since I learned about the author’s past (which I hadn’t mentioned in my review, because I didn’t know about it) and now the post is taking off regardless?
  2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab (Book Review)
    (originally posted in December 2020)
    It’s my most consistently visited post, I think.
  3. Are Chris Evans and I compatible (readers)?
    (originally posted July 2021)
    I’m assuming it has to do with the recent release of The Gray Man?
  4. The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston (ARC Review)
    (originally posted May 2022)
    It makes me beyond happy to see this post be so popular. It’s one of my most favorite reads of the year so far!
  5. Should YOU Read “The Atlas Six”? (What I learned from my reread!)
    (originally posted March 2022)
    Still going strong with my love for the Atlas Six!

MY FAVORITES OF THE MONTH

It’s still Critical Role. I don’t know why you would expect it to be anything else, because it consumes almost all my waking thoughts. I wish I could have been at SDCC 2022, just to soak up the energy in the room with them.

ELSEWHERE ON THE BLOGOSPHERE

Again, due to me being so busy, I was really bad at keeping up with what everyone else was doing. I hope to be able to take some more time for that this month.

MY OTHER POSTS

TV SHOW/MOVIE RELATED

VARIOUS TAGS AND POSTS

TRAILER POSTS


I wish you all a great start into the month of August! My birthday is tomorrow, so I have high hopes that we’re all going to have a good time. 

Before Takeoff by Adi Alsaid (ARC Review)

The cover for Adi Alsaid's Before Takeoff shows the silhouette of a young boy and girl looking out an airport window. The ground seems made of snow and the ceiling made of sand. The blurb reads: "James and Michelle find themselves in the Atlanta airport on a layover. They couldn't be more different, but seemingly interminable delays draw them both to a mysterious flashing green light--and each other.  Where James is passive, Michelle is anything but. And she quickly discovers that the flashing green light is actually... a button. Which she presses. Which may or may not unwittingly break the rules of the universe--at least as those rules apply to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.  Before they can figure up from down, strange, impossible things start happening: snowstorms form inside the B terminal; jungles sprout up in the C terminal; and earthquakes split the ground apart in between. And no matter how hard they try, it seems no one can find a way in or out of the airport. James and Michelle team up to find their families and either escape the airport, or put an end to its chaos--before it's too late."

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count
: 336
Release Date: June 7, 2022

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: racism, physical altercations, death

When I first heard about Adi Alsaid’s Before Takeoff, which was described as a sort of YA The Sun Is Also a Star meets Jumanji, I was immediately intrigued by the premise. I’m sad to say that I don’t think the execution was really for me. 

Told from an omniscient POV, I found myself mostly confused by the tone of the novel. On the one hand, you have typical banter and musings about life’s meaning only a teen could express with full angst while awkwardly flirting with their counterpart – which is totally fitting since this is a YA story. The narration underlines that with a lot of humor, sprinkled with knowledge that only the reader will be privy to, while the characters are none the wiser. However, on the other hand, the story got a lot darker and weirder than I expected, with much more permanent consequences. That, in a way, made it feel much bigger than YA and possibly more suitable for older teens on the cusp of adulthood. Ultimately, this tonal inconsistency didn’t fit the narration style in my mind.

In addition to that, I thought we’d mostly focus on James and Michelle, but we also learned about so many side characters, that I eventually found hard to keep track of. Same with the layout of the actual airport and its different gates and climates. While they added to the big picture, showing that this scenario was so much grander than the two kids, it simultaneously didn’t allow for enough depth to get attached to certain characters.

Having said all that, the world building was still something else. There was a certain randomness to it that kept my heart racing with anxiety and worry, but also glee at what might happen next. It’s a micro study of human behavior in the strangest of circumstances, and while it only scratched the surface of what makes us good and terrible as a species, it really delivered on some insightful and profound moments.

Lastly, I don’t think this book will be for everyone. Personally, I was just mad at some points (mixed with some sad), but also very confused. It’s a wild ride, that’s for sure! If you feel like it might be the right story for you – go for it! Just, please, don’t read it at an airport. Read it somewhere safe at home!

a plane taking off into a bright orange sky

Fazit: 3/5 stars! Interesting but also wildly confusing and darker than expected.


Do you think Before Takeoff might be the book for you? Do you have strange airport stories? Let’s chat!