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!

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!

Walking Gentry Home by Alora Young (ARC Review)

The cover for the book "Walking Gentry Home: A Memoir of My Foremothers in Verse" by Alora Young shows the profile of a young Black woman with only parts of her features in focus. The rest is blurry, disappearing and fusing with a light green and peach background. The blurb for the books says "Walking Gentry Home tells the story of Alora Young's ancestors, from the unnamed women forgotten by the historical record but brought to life through Young's imagination; to Amy, the first of Young's foremothers to arrive in Tennessee, buried in an unmarked grave, unlike the white man who enslaved her and fathered her child; through Young's great-grandmother Gentry, unhappily married at fourteen; to her own mother, the teenage beauty queen rejected by her white neighbors; down to Young in the present day as she leaves childhood behind and becomes a young woman. The lives of these girls and women come together to form a unique American epic in verse, one that speaks of generational curses, coming of age, homes and small towns, fleeting loves and lasting consequences, and the brutal and ever-present legacy of slavery in our nation's psyche. Each poem is a story in verse, and together they form a heart-wrenching and inspiring family saga of girls and women connected through blood and history.  Informed by archival research, the last will and testament of an enslaver, formal interviews, family lore, and even a DNA test, Walking Gentry Home gives voice to those too often muted in America: Black girls and women."

PublisherA button to add a book to the platform "The Storygraph"A button that says "Add book to Goodreads": Hogarth
Page Count
: 240
Release Date: August 2, 2022

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

CW: slavery, racism, rape, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, teen marriage, loss of loved ones

Walking Gentry Home by Alora Young is a book, or should I say memoir, told in verse. That in itself is something you don’t come across every day, never mind find a review for on my blog. I will be the first to admit that I’m no expert on the matter, so I want to clarify that these thoughts I’m trying to compile are mostly based on what the writing made me feel – and that was a lot.

I’ve tried to learn a bit about my family’s history, but there’s many gaps and missing pieces, so I was impressed by what Alora Young uncovered and managed to bring to life on the page. Not only did she find a way to give a voice to generations that came before her, but she did so with few and yet impacting words. Her verses faced harsh realities of generational pain and trauma, but also let the light of mother- and womanhood shine through. As we followed key moments in Young’s maternal ancestry, I felt the connection and ties grow beneath each one of them and me as a reader. Sometimes it was as if we read from their perspectives, sometimes it was told from Alora Young‘s POV and other times it almost felt like a collective consciousness.

I know this is quite the brief review, but I thought Walking Gentry Home was masterfully done. I felt the emotional tether throughout, even if I got mixed up with the timeline sometimes. All of it seems not just rooted in Young’s personal family history, but that of Black history in America in general. Often thought-provoking and unflinchingly honest, it is sure to linger in your mind.

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Wonderful and impacting family history!


Do you often read entire books told in verse? Did Walking Gentry Home grab your interest? Let’s talk!

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (Book Review)

Publisher: Amulet Books
Page Count
: 310

First of all, huge shout out to my cousin, because she technically bought this book back when she visited me in Canada. Because she went off on a world tour (making her sound like a rock star and being totally fine with it), she didn’t want to bring it along and left it with me instead. Due to my inability to not buy books during my stay abroad, I was able to ship it back to Austria with my other stuff, where I finally had the time to dive into this epic tale. Long story short, this read was sponsored by my lovely cousin – thank you!

To begin with, this book was laugh out loud funny! And sometimes that is exactly what you need in life. I am not saying it doesn’t have numerous kick-ass action sequences and even some thought provoking conversations, but I am sure that whenever I will think back about The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, I will think about its amazing humor.

I went into this book knowing very little about the plot. I was aware that there was some Chinese folklore and mythology involved, but I would be lying if I told you I knew much about that either. All I did know with a certainty was that a lot of my friends and mutuals in the book community loved reading it and had a blast. I am always wary of diving into books where the hype is real (which explains why I often read them with quite the delay to everyone else), but I am all the more happy when the hype was completely justified.

Everything was very witty and straightforward from start to finish. You were either on board with Genie’s hilariously charming but also angry voice or you weren’t and I was definitely there for all of that. The characters in general all stood out with their own personality traits, with Quentin and Genie’s interactions being weird and awkward while simultaneously amazing. (Again, I laughed out loud a lot!)

Finally, I really enjoyed seeing some parental involvement (still far too rare in YA for my taste), getting a better look at Genie’s cultural background and experiencing some real struggle to balance her demon-hunting with life/love/friendship/school/extracurriculars, because let’s face it, some book heroes just make it seem way too easy.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Can’t wait to see where future installments will lead!

Have you read The Epic Crush of Genie Lo? Did you like it? Would you want to pick it up if you haven’t read it yet?