Source: Library

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Replica Review

January 12, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

Replica ReviewReplica (Replica, #1) by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on October 4th 2016
Pages: 544
Source: Library
Also by this author: Before I Fall
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three-stars
Two girls, two stories, one epic novel
From Lauren Oliver, New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy, comes an epic, masterful novel that explores issues of individuality, identity, and humanity. Replica is a “flip book" that contains two narratives in one, and it is the first in a duology. Turn the book one way and read Lyra's story; turn the book over and upside down and read Gemma's story. The stories can be read separately, one after the other, or in alternating chapters. The two distinct parts of this astonishing novel combine to produce an unforgettable journey. Even the innovative book jacket mirrors and extends the reading experience.
Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape.
Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.
While the stories of Lyra and Gemma mirror each other, each contains breathtaking revelations critically important to the other story. Replica is an ambitious, thought-provoking masterwork.

I’m not a big Science Fiction reader, but I knew that I had to give Replica a try once I heard that it was a “flip book.” In this case, if you read the book from one side, you get one of the girl’s perspective. Then when you turn it over and flip it upside down, you get the other perspective. With this type of layout, you can really read it in the style that appeals to you. I personally read it by alternating between Gemma and Lyra every chapter, but that definitely requires a lot of flipping on your part. I liked doing it this way because the stories do start to come together at a certain point in the novel, and so I think it’s helpful to be able to see what each girl is thinking about these similar situations that they face. Though it wasn’t my favorite, I have to admit that Replica is still a unique and cool concept. I will likely read the next book in this duology just to see how things end up for Gemma and Lyra.

Gemma was easily my favorite character out of the two girls. I felt her to be much more relatable, and I’m sure that other teenagers who’ve also been through high school will probably think the same. She’s your pretty average awkward high schooler who is dealing with some awful and disgusting bullying due to her weight. Though this is a Science Fiction book, Gemma’s perspective does make this seem a lot closer to a contemporary novel, which is something that really stuck out to me about the story. Gemma was a consistently solid and memorable character as the book progressed. She was honestly the reason why I pushed through some of the more boring parts of the story.

On the other hand, Lyra was not as easy to warm up to as Gemma. This might be just me, but I had a difficult time with being able to truly cheer for this character. Yes, I realize that she’s had a tough life and I was totally able to sympathize with her, but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of her chapters were straight up boring. Her character was also very closed off and extremely brainwashed, which obviously isn’t her fault, but it still made it difficult for me to become invested in her. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but she wasn’t my favorite to say the least. Her chapters were typically shorter than Gemma’s, so they did go by relatively fast, I just wish the pace itself moved faster than it did.

There is quite a bit of romance in this book for both of these girls. As you can probably guess by now, I also enjoyed Gemma’s romance a lot more than I did Lyra’s. I felt like Gemma’s romance happened at a much more realistic and convincing pace. There was no insta-love, Gemma had little to no interest in Pete at the beginning of the novel, but she slowly warms up to him which I loved seeing. Pete also wasn’t your typical love interest, which I thought was refreshing. I have a soft stop for nerds, and Pete totally fits into that category easily. I wasn’t completely convinced by Lyra’s romance. I felt like it progressed WAY too quickly. Lyra has been taught for most of her existence that love isn’t a thing yet she’s suddenly able to almost automatically confess her love for someone that she barely even knows? It didn’t feel the least bit realistic to me.

I wouldn’t note this as being one of my favorites or anything, but it was still a decent book nonetheless. It took me a lot longer to read than it takes me to read most books. I think this was mostly due to the kind of slow start that happens in both of the perspectives. Once it got started though, the book did become a lot more intriguing to me. I doubt that this genre will ever become my thing, but I’m still happy that I read it in spite of this. This is my first Lauren Oliver and I don’t plan on it being the last one. I’m for sure going to pick up Before I Fall before the movie comes out in a couple of months! Anyway, I do recommend this, but only if you don’t mind books that have a slower pace at the beginning.

three-stars

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Salt to the Sea Review

January 4, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★

Salt to the Sea ReviewSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 393
Source: Library
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four-stars
Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.
Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

So this book has received nothing but rave reviews since it was released back in February. I’ll admit that I had some serious reservations about it since I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction books at all. Anyway, I knew that I had to give this one a chance since so many people have absolutely loved it. I’m happy to say that I found this to be a beautiful, touching, and heartbreaking book that continually moved me throughout the story. This wasn’t an easy read due to the heaviness of the topic, but Sepetys’s quick pace kept the book moving at all times. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend that you do. This is one that will stay with you long after finishing it.

This book faces on an epic tragedy that so many people know absolutely nothing about. Wilheim Gustoff was the biggest tragedy in maritime history, yes, it was even greater than the Titanic. It takes place towards the end of World War II. The ship belonged to the Germans and was bombed by a Soviet Union submarine when they were trying to evacuate all German citizens. The ship was extremely overcapacity at that point. In the end, there were over 9,000 people who died, about 5,000 of them being children. This is just a little bit of background on the story since it’s definitely not in most history books.

Salt to the Sea doesn’t just have one main character, it has four of them. I’d say we might get more chapters for a few of the characters over some of the others, but they are still all vital voices in the story nonetheless. Our four teenagers are Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred. Joana is a nurse who is doing everything she can to be reunited with her family. Florian is a mysterious boy who is filled with secrets about where he comes from. Emilia is a young Polish girl who left her homeland for safety and is still searching for that. Alfred is a young German sailor who is very blind to anything but “orders” from his “master” aka Hitler. Though the chapters are extremely short, I still felt like the voices were all strong and well developed. We never overstayed our welcome with these characters, we learned just enough information to become so invested in their fates and lives before suddenly the tragedy strikes and things will never be the same for them after that.

I don’t really want to spoil it, but I will say that there is some romance in the story. This is a tragedy so obviously that’s the main focus here, but it’s also nice to have a little bit of a bright spot in the midst of all the darkness surrounding the story. I will say that Florian is seriously such a swoony boy and I loved his character so much. Yes, he had his secrets, but he was also so kind and awesome. I really sympathized with a lot of his story. I will admit that Alfred is a boy who disgusted more and more as the book went on. Honestly though, that should be expected considering he’s a German boy right in the middle of when Hitler rose to power. Though you don’t like him, you also have to admit that he was well written and complicated.

All in all, this was a beautiful book that I truly enjoyed reading. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first, but I’m glad that I took a chance on it anyway. Salt to the Sea is filled with such memorable and touching characters with a heartbreaking and painful true story as well. Full warning, though you know what’s coming, be prepared to cry regardless. I try my best to stay clear of REALLY depressing books, but this one was worth the read for me. Even if you don’t like historical fiction, I suggest you read Salt to the Sea.

four-stars

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Talking as Fast as I Can Review

December 24, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Talking as Fast as I Can ReviewTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
Published by Ballantine Books on November 29th 2016
Pages: 224
Source: Library
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four-stars
In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.
In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).
In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.
Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).
Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

So I never really know how to review non-fiction books because I read so little of them. When I heard that this was coming out, I just knew that I had to read it. Lauren Graham is one of my favorite actresses and she’s starred in two of my all time favorite shows: Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. Anyway, I just had a feeling that all of her stories would be as hilarious and memorable as she seems to be. Trust me guys, she didn’t disappoint in the slightest. This was such a fantastic and quick read and I’m so happy that I got to read it. I highly recommend reading this if you’re a fan of Lauren Graham’s work. I suppose that you could read it if you don’t know much about her or her shows, but I wouldn’t personally recommend it since I think it would be much less enjoyable for you as a reader.

As mentioned, non-fiction books are honestly really difficult to review. I don’t have all that much to say about this since it’s obviously a very personal story and your enjoyment of it depends on how connected you feel to the author and these stories. I thought that it was extremely intriguing to learn more about Lauren Graham’s background and how she got her start. I knew very little about her childhood or really any of her personal life besides her partner. I loved the stories about her early life with her father and also about skipping kindergarten. I thought that was easily one of the funniest stories in the book. The book started off very strong and it didn’t let up throughout the story.

Some of the other best stories are about how she started her career. Lauren got her start in theatre because she wanted desperately to make it to Broadway. She didn’t have an easy ride to stardom, she worked ridiculously hard to get where she is today. I really enjoyed some of her stories about auditions and things like that. Each story was told in her hilarious and enjoyable tone. I know I keep saying this but this book was simply such a fun read filled with entertaining and witty stories.

I could keep going on and on about how lovely this was to read but I won’t bore you with all the details. As mentioned, Gilmore Girls is one of my all time favorite shows and so is Parenthood. Graham reflects on some fond memories that she has while filming both of them. She obviously focuses on Gilmore Girls more since this was a much longer amount of time. I especially loved it when she rewatched all of Gilmore Girls and she shared her thoughts on each season and explained some of what she remembers from the filming process. She also kept a journal when they filmed the revival and it was a lot of fun to learn what exactly what she was thinking every day. As a fan, it was so fascinating to learn what was happening behind the scenes. Like I said, this was basically everything that I asked for as a fan of this awesome, quirky, and hilarious actress.

four-stars

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What Light Review

December 15, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

What Light ReviewWhat Light by Jay Asher
Published by Razorbill on October 18th 2016
Pages: 251
Source: Library
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three-stars
From Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, comes a romance that will break your heart, but soon have you believing again. . . . Sierra's family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it's a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. 
Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.
By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb's past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.
What Light is a love story that's moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

Surprisingly, I honestly don’t have all that many thoughts about What Light. I’ve previously read one Jay Asher book, Thirteen Reasons Why, and that quickly became one of my favorite books after I first read it. This book simply isn’t one of my favorites. I believe that it’s a cute, light, and short contemporary read, but it’s truthfully not anything all that special. If you’re looking for a sweet contemporary and not something that will make you think deeply about the world like Thirteen Reasons Why, then I think that you’ll likely enjoy Jay Asher’s latest.

To tell you guys the truth, I didn’t feel like Sierra was that memorable of a protagonist. I actually had to look at the synopsis just to remember her name. She was a sweet teenage girl who I was able to relate to on some levels, but not enough that her character actually stuck with me long after I finished reading the book. I did respect that she was so sure about what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to fight for it, even with the people closest to her didn’t approve of it.

The love interest, Caleb, wasn’t particularly memorable or unique either. Though I will admit that I did remember his name without looking it up. Sierra has heard some pretty vicious rumors about Caleb’s past that continues to haunt him today. I was expecting it to be a lot worse than it actually was. Yes, it was sort of serious, but not really once you knew all of the context surrounding the incident. And once you also take into consideration the fact that the person involved in the incident has no bitterness towards him at all. I just felt like it was a little dramatic and unrealistic how the rumor would get blown out of proportion and continually change how people see him. My favorite part about Caleb was definitely how he bought Christmas trees to give to people in need. I thought that this was such a selfless and swoony thing to do and I really liked him for it.

So the romance between them was basically insta-love. The relationship just in general moved at a ridiculously fast pace since they only have a bit less than a month to get to know each other. As you can probably already tell, it wasn’t my favorite. I did think that it did portray some aspects of what it means to fall in love for the first time in an accurate way. Although I’m being pretty critical about it, I will say that I still found the romance to be rather adorable. I especially loved how they bonded over delivering the trees that Caleb buys for families who need it together. It was a sweet bonding moment that helped the relationship progress and grow in a realistic way.

Although I’ve been pretty open about the things that I wasn’t a fan of, there was certainly just as many things that I enjoyed. I loved that it took place on a Christmas tree farm. I thought that was a unique and cool setting, making this the perfect read around the Holiday’s. Though I thought that the book probably could have been a little longer for more character and plot development, I still liked that the length made it so you could devour it in a short amount of time. This was the lighthearted contemporary read that I really needed right now and I’m happy that I read it!

three-stars

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Beauty and the Mustache Review

December 6, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★

Beauty and the Mustache ReviewBeauty and the Mustache (Knitting in the City, #4; Winston Brothers, #0.5) by Penny Reid
Published by Cipher-Naught on August 24th 2014
Pages: 376
Source: Library
Also by this author: Beard Science (Winston Brothers, #3)
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three-stars
There are three things you need to know about Ashley Winston: 1) She has six brothers and they all have beards, 2) She is a reader, and 3) She knows how to knit.
Former beauty queen, Ashley Winston’s preferred coping strategy is escapism. She escaped her Tennessee small town, loathsome father, and six brothers eight years ago. Now she escapes life daily via her Amazon kindle one-click addiction. However, when a family tragedy forces her to return home, Ashley can’t escape the notice of Drew Runous— local Game Warden, reclusive mountain man, bear wrestler, philosopher, and everyone’s favorite guy. Drew’s irksome philosophizing in particular makes Ashley want to run for the skyscrapers, especially since he can’t seem to keep his exasperating opinions— or his soulful poetry, steadfast support, and delightful hands— to himself. Pretty soon the girl who wanted nothing more than the escape of the big city finds she’s lost her heart in small town Tennessee.
This is a full-length novel, can be read as a standalone, and is the fourth book in the 'Knitting in the City' series.

So I’ve never read a book by Penny Reid before, but I’ve heard that her books are seriously hilarious and charming. I wasn’t quite sure where to start, but I decided to start with this one since it sets up the Winston Brothers series. I discovered that this was a fascinating story filled with fantastic and memorable supporting characters. I also thought the romance was really well done. I now definitely understand why Penny Reid is one of the first names people bring up when they mention authors of romantic comedy stories. Though this probably wasn’t my personal favorite in this genre, but I can still understand why people enjoy this author so much and I look forward to reading her other books in the future.

Ashley Winston is a hilarious and fabulous heroine. From the first page, she was just full of personality. She was ridiculously witty with pretty much every comment that she made, and I loved that about her. Ashley is a fun and generally lighthearted character. Though I will admit that I felt like she was a bit on the stuck up side when it comes to her brothers. In the end though, this didn’t end up bothering me too much because her attitude thankfully wasn’t like this throughout the entire story. She was also a strong character and we got to see a more serious side to her as we watched her accept the fact that her beloved mother is dying. I thought she was a great and compelling heroine as a whole.

So our hero is Drew. I thought Drew was extremely amazing and all kinds of swoony. From his first appearance, he continued to shake up Ashley’s world entirely. He was constantly surprising and complicated, which I really enjoyed seeing. He wasn’t a simple character, there were still so many layers to him that Ashley slowly began to uncover. I think one of my favorite things about Drew was how much he obviously cared about Ashley’s brothers and her mom. He was so supportive and comforting to each of them and I loved learning more about his compassion and kindness. Though I thought his character was absolutely awesome, I honestly longed for even more details about his history. I know that the author wanted to focus more on Ashley’s family, but it would been nice to see more of the specifics details about his family and past instead of a basic overview. I just wanted to see even more depth to his character.

Drew and Ashley made a good couple, though they definitely took awhile to get to that place. I thought that Reid was right to make the relationship between them to develop at a reasonably slow pace. They were both dealing with their grief and so neither of them wanted to push anything, though the tension was clear from basically their first interaction. I’m always a fan of the couple forming sort of a friendship or bond before they get into a serious relationship. I think it ultimately makes things more realistic when it’s written this way. So there actually weren’t many sex scenes between them and the ones they did had were rather on the short side. I was honestly expecting it be a bit steamier than it was.

Beauty and the Mustache was a funny and sweet romantic comedy that I’m happy that I read. I honestly adored all six of Ashley’s brothers and I can’t wait to read their stories in the spin-off series that revolves around each of them. Though I thought the characters were very endearing, funny, and filled with charm, there still seemed to be something missing for me. I felt like the plot was very interesting and I related a lot to the grief and loss that the characters felt. I guess maybe my standards in general for romantic comedies might still be set a little too high thanks to Emma Chase’s Sustained, but I just wasn’t completely feeling this one.

three-stars

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Do You Want to Start a Scandal Review

December 5, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Do You Want to Start a Scandal ReviewDo You Want to Start a Scandal (Spindle Cove, #5) by Tessa Dare
Published by Avon on September 27th 2016
Pages: 272
Source: Library
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four-stars
On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.•Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?•Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?•Perhaps the butler did it.
All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.
But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.
Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

So I’ve never read a historical romance before. I’ve tried reading a few of them, but I just haven’t been able to get into them for whatever reason. I’m a fan of basically all types of romances, so it’s weird that historical hasn’t seemed to be my thing. I decided to give Tessa Dare a shot since she’s one of the most popular authors in the genre. I started with the fifth book in the series, which may have not been smart since characters from previous books appear in this one, but I was able to catch up for the most part. I settled on this one just because it’s her most recent book and the concept seemed like my cup of tea. Anyway, I’m happy that I read this one because it actually worked for me! I’m still not sure if I’m going to love ALL books in this genre, but this is definitely a good start.

One of the best parts of the story was easily the MC Charlotte. She was just full of sass and didn’t take crap from anybody. She reminds me a lot of Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. She’s not the type of person to simply sit on the sidelines and watch the men do all the work. She’s the girl who gets right in there and does whatever she can. I loved her attitude and her personality in general. It was all extremely refreshing to see and I certainly won’t mind this genre if more heroines have this kind of spirit. She’s also very perceptive from the start. Her romance with Piers begins due to both of them being in the library when two lovers come in and so the pair is forced to hide together. After the lovers leave, a little boy declares to everybody that he heard noises coming from there and everyone assumes it was Piers and Charlotte. So Charlotte does a little Nancy Drew work to get to the bottom of who it actually was so she won’t be forced to marry Piers. This wasn’t a huge part of the plot, but I liked it because it showed us yet another endearing and awesome side to our heroine.

Piers is definitely one swoony dude. I was afraid that he might be too possessive and typical alpha male. However, he wasn’t exactly that. He had a cold and closed off way about him, but he was much more than just that. Once Charlotte got him to open up, she realized that he was quite the kind and caring man. Yes, he’s serious about his work and doesn’t want any distractions from it, but he also can’t help falling for Charlotte from the first time he meets her. He also had such a romantic and sweet side to him which his girl easily brought out of him. He said some ridiculously hot things at times that sort of bordered on being corny, but were still meaningful coming from him.

Piers and Charlotte made a beautiful and strong couple. As mentioned, they are basically forced into marriage when they are caught together since this is obviously a huge scandal since they aren’t married. Piers surprisingly wants to marry Charlotte for reasons that are completely unknown to her at the time. She’s very much concerned about taking extraordinary spy measures to finding out who the lovers are, but Piers could really care less about discovering who it is. The real focus is on their relationship and not the mystery part, though I liked that as well. In the end, Piers and Charlotte made a good team because Piers allowed them to be one. What I mean by that is they are partners, he doesn’t have total control over everything. The romance was also steamier than I was expecting it to be.

This was a refreshing and surprising read for me. If you aren’t sure what to make of historical romances, you should definitely read this book. In my opinion, it represents pretty much the opposite of what I was expecting a historical romance novel to represent. It was truly a beautiful and compelling love story that managed to hold my attention from the first page. I certainly plan on reading more books by Tessa Dare as soon as possible!

four-stars

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Bad Feminist Review

October 30, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Bad Feminist ReviewBad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Published by Harper Perennial on August 5th 2014
Pages: 320
Source: Library
Also by this author: Difficult Women
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four-stars
Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

I honestly don’t read a lot of non-fiction books or essay collections. However, I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gay since I read one of her fiction short stories on Rookie Mag years ago. I’ve wanted to read Bad Feminist for awhile, but just now got around to finally reading it. I’m glad that I did because it’s definitely a worthwhile read. Truthfully, I was surprised by how many negative reviews of this book that I read. In my opinion, Gay has done her research on these topics and isn’t afraid to share what she really thinks about pop culture, racism, gender, sexuality, and other topics. Though I know that you might always agree with what she had to say, but I personally was still able to respect her opinions regardless.

I’m not entirely sure how to review this book since it consists of various essays that sorted depending on the topic. While I found most of the essays to be engaging, there were certainly some standouts as well. One of my favorites was “The Trouble with Prince Charming, or He Who Trespassed Against Us.” She talks about how the “princes” in fairy tales and literature are extremely problematic at times. She first talks about Disney princes like Eric from Little Mermaid, Prince Charming from Snow White, and even the Beast from Beauty and the Beast. She makes the point that the female characters have to make some kind of sacrifice in order to be with that prince. Gay then looks at more modern literature like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, where both love interests are super possessive and the heroine has to give up a part of herself in able to be with him. It’s definitely a fascinating and truthful take on how popular culture can seriously damage our views on love.

As I stated before, not everyone is going to agree with the TV shows and movies that Gay criticizes. When she’s talking about race, she criticizes ridiculously popular movies like The Help, Django Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, and Tyler Perry’s movies. I’m not going to lie, I personally was a fan of The Help, but I still believe that Gay’s analysis of it was well thought out, and honestly something that I sadly hadn’t considered before. She also analyzes Orange is the New Black, which is a show that I love. Gay wasn’t totally impressed with the first season, and I do agree that it acknowledges that it’s diverse a little too often. But I feel like it was a lot more fleshed out in the following seasons where Piper wasn’t the primary focus. It is a sad truth that the white characters seem to have more of a sexuality than everyone else, with the exception of a few characters.

I could go on and on about each essay written by Roxane Gay, but I’ll just leave it at that. I think that she’s an awesome author and I can’t wait to read more of her works, both fiction and nonfiction. Is this a perfect collection? No, not really, but that isn’t really the point. The point is that this is an honest and compelling work about modern feminism and what exactly it means to different women. This book might not be for everyone, but it’s still an entertaining and well written book that I’m happy that I finally got around to reading.

four-stars

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The Hating Game Review

October 28, 2016 Reviews 0 ★★★★

The Hating Game ReviewThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on August 9th 2016
Pages: 384
Source: Library
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four-stars
Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.
Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.2) A person’s undoing3) Joshua Templeman
Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual.
Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.
If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.
Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

The Hating Game is a book that my Goodreads friends seemed to be loving, so I decided to just jump right in and read it. From the first page, I was completely hooked on Joshua and Lucy’s story. Though I should have most definitely been doing my homework and not reading, I simply was unable to put this book down. Anyway, I’m glad that I read this book! I’ve always been a fan of the hate-to-love trope and I’ve never seen a book that absolutely nailed it better than this one did. This is a hilarious, charming, witty, and compelling debut novel that you don’t want to miss out on.

Lucy is seriously my girl! I loved her personality from the beginning. She has such a fiery attitude and I love that she’s never afraid to speak her mind. She basically embodies the whole “though she may be little, she is fierce” quote. Because as the author points out quite frequently, she’s a very small woman in stature, so she makes up for it by having a larger than life personality. I thought her pranks and games with Joshua were laugh out loud hilarious at times. Lucy is just such an intelligent and awesome character. It’s hard to fully explain what’s so great about her, you just have to read it to fully comprehend it all.

Joshua is a character who I do have some conflicting thoughts about. On one hand, I can’t deny the fact that he’s unbelievably swoony. Some of the seemingly little things that he does for Lucy were ridiculously adorable to me for whatever reason. I think this is mostly from the general tension that builds up from the love-hate relationship that they have, but I’ll expand on that in a bit. My conflicting thoughts about Joshua comes from his possessive side. I’m not a fan of alpha males, and I feel like Joshua doesn’t exactly meet the description of one. However, I didn’t like how jealous he got all the time of other guys interacting with Lucy, even when they hated each other. At a point, his jealously and protective nature became a little concerning to me. I still think he’s a solid and swoony book boyfriend, just not my favorite because of that reason.

The romance was easily my favorite part, besides Lucy herself. As mentioned earlier, I haven’t seen the hate-to-love trope done any better than it is with The Hating Game. The tension that’s slowly built up between them is tremendous in every possible way. Even when they supposedly can’t stand each other, you can feel the chemistry between them practically radiating off of each page. It’s one of those incredible and rare romances that you have to read, it’s hard to put it into accurate words. If you’re a fan of this trope and enjoy slow burn romances where they do everything they can to fight their attraction but are naturally unable to, you’ll likely enjoy this story. There aren’t many sex scenes, but trust me when I say that the few included are amazingly well done and just the right amount of steamy!

All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book. From the first page, I could tell that this was something special. While I’m not sure how realistic some of the parts about the publishing house that Joshua and Lucy work at actually is, that isn’t the point. The point is that this is an entertaining and fun read. It’s hard to believe that this is only this author’s debut novel. I can’t to read whatever she writes next! This was a fast paced book that I was able to read in just a matter of hours. Though it’s not a perfect book, it’s still an interesting and unique one.

four-stars

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The Season Review

September 29, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

The Season ReviewThe Season by Jonah Lisa Dyer, Stephen Dyer
Published by Viking Children's on July 12th 2016
Pages: 326
Source: Library
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three-stars
She can score a goal, do sixty box jumps in a row, bench press a hundred and fifty pounds…but can she learn to curtsey?
Megan McKnight is a soccer star with Olympic dreams, but she’s not a girly girl. So when her Southern belle mother secretly enters her in the 2016 Dallas debutante season, she’s furious—and has no idea what she’s in for. When Megan’s attitude gets her on probation with the mother hen of the debs, she’s got a month to prove she can ballroom dance, display impeccable manners, and curtsey like a proper Texas lady or she’ll get the boot and disgrace her family. The perk of being a debutante, of course, is going to parties, and it’s at one of these lavish affairs where Megan gets swept off her feet by the debonair and down-to-earth Hank Waterhouse. If only she didn’t have to contend with a backstabbing blonde and her handsome but surly billionaire boyfriend, Megan thinks, being a deb might not be so bad after all. But that’s before she humiliates herself in front of a room full of ten-year-olds, becomes embroiled in a media-frenzy scandal, and gets punched in the face by another girl.
The season has officially begun…but the drama is just getting started.

I was instantly fascinated by the description of this book, so I’m glad that I was able to borrow this from Overdrive. I thought The Season was really adorable and fast paced. Honestly, I didn’t even realize this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling until after I’d already read it and looked at what some of my friends thought on Goodreads. I must admit that I’ve never actually read Pride and Prejudice, but I do know the general plot of it. I’m mentioning this because I think that this will likely appeal to fans of P+P. It appealed to me because of the cover and cute sounding summary. Though I did have some issues with it, I still thought it was an enjoyable read.

Megan was definitely the highlight of the book! She’s so hilarious, and I love how she was never the least bit hesitant to speak her mind. This book is confusing: it’s labeled as YA but Megan isn’t a teenager. She and her twin sister are both 20 years old and in college. I do understand why it’s classified as YA and not NA since Megan is honestly pretty at times. But there’s also some mature-ish content that happens, but it’s all fade to black. That being said, I still enjoyed Megan’s personality throughout the book. She also really grew as a person as the book progressed. She starts out as a tomboy soccer player but evolves into a true lady who totally fits in among the other debutantes.

Like I said, Megan was one of the most memorable parts of The Season. The other characters are interesting, though some are obviously more likable than others. For one, I really liked Julia, who is Megan’s twin. She has such a different personality from Megan, they are basically like night and day. While Megan is into soccer and is a tomboy, Julia is a lot more of a girly girl and fits in more with the debutante lifestyle. The relationship between Megan and Julia was such a strong one. I’m always a fan of books that have sibling bonds, so this was great! As I mentioned, there are some characters that I didn’t like as much. There’s a mean debutante girl who we obviously weren’t supposed to like from the start, but I kind of wish there was some development there. Was there more to her than just being a stuck up rich girl who hated Megan? I get that the author didn’t want to explore her character, but that’s something I personally would have liked to see.

The romance was probably the weakest part of the book, in my opinion. If you can’t stand love triangles, pass on this one! I’m going to spoil the details about this romance, so only read it if you REALLY want to know more about the love triangle specifics. View Spoiler » I felt like Andrew and Megan’s relationship developed WAY too quickly. She hates him for most of the book, so they actually only have a handful of interactions throughout the story. However, he says near the end that he LOVES her. Wait, what? How can you love her when you’ve barely spoken? That’s way too much insta-love for my personal taste.

I liked this book, but sadly didn’t love it. I’m glad that I read it because Megan was such a hilarious and memorable character. The situations that she found herself in were totally cringe worthy at times, but it was great. My biggest complaint was definitely the lack of development with some of the supporting characters. I also wasn’t a fan of the romance at all. I think the author might have been trying a bit too hard for the romance to be exactly like Pride and Prejudice, but I feel like that wasn’t necessary. Anyway, I recommend this if you’re looking for something funny and fast paced.

three-stars

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The Scorpio Races Review

August 24, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★★

The Scorpio Races ReviewThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic Press on October 18th 2011
Pages: 409
Source: Library
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five-stars
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

So I haven’t read very many Maggie Stiefvater books in the past, only The Raven Boys, though I do planning on eventually reading the rest of that series. Anyway, I figured I should try this one out since it’s her only standalone, and I’m really glad that I did. Immediately, readers get sucked into this phenomenal world that she’s created in the mysterious island of Thisby. Puck and Sean are both such incredible characters and I loved being inside their heads. Besides that, there is also intense action that keeps you on the edge, adorable little brothers, a bakery, and super cool Americans. I hope that you’ve read this already since I feel like most YA readers already have, but if not, it’s definitely a must read! I totally understand the hype behind it all now.

Puck is a pretty badass heroine to say the least. Her parents both died, so she lives alone with her older brother and younger brother. Her older brother Gabe is slowly drifting away from her and Finn, and is now wanting to leave Thisby. On top of all that, Puck is on the verge of losing her house due to not being able to make payments on it. She feels like she has no choice but to enter the Scorpio Races, which no woman has ever done. Naturally, the response is not a positive one, and she doesn’t exactly help herself when she uses her longtime horse instead of a capall uisce, which is a deadly water horse. So the odds are stacked against her, but I love how passionate and determined she is. She doesn’t let absolutely anything get in her way, and I have nothing but respect for her.

On the other side of things, we have Sean, who is such an amazing book boyfriend from the start. He’s won the Scorpio Races four years in a row with his longtime fierce horse, and he also takes care of the horses in the stables. The thing about Sean is that he’s incredibly quiet, and I love that about him! You know that when he has something to say, it’s clearly important since he never opens up all that frequently. He isn’t all that swoony necessarily, he doesn’t deliver any big lines to win Puck over or anything, but he’s a real teenage boy. Meaning, he is just amazing by fully being himself, and that’s what wins both the readers and Puck over in the end.

My favorite part of the romance was how subtle it was. It wasn’t even close to being the main focus, the characters and their personal growth throughout the novel is, but I loved it anyway. There were very few sweet kisses shared between them, and that’s what makes them all the more special and precious. Sean and Puck don’t even interact for several chapters, so the buildup is extremely slow but also real. I love that nothing was ever rushed in their relationship. I don’t even know what all to say, it just all couldn’t have been written any better!

The action had me on the edge of my seat the whole book. Seriously, I was literally so nervous for both Sean and Puck’s safety. Those capall uisce would actually eat anything in their path, so it made me nervous for them and pretty much any other character that we were introduced to. So the thing that I wasn’t expecting was how little the actual Scorpio Races plays in the plot. Most of the book is just a lead up to it, and then the end is the race itself. Another thing that I was expecting based on the description that it was like The Hunger Games, only one person survived it, but that’s actually not how it is. Yes, it’s a super dangerous thing and a lot of people do die from it, but there are survivors as well. I was probably the only person who thought this, but whatever, I’m glad that it wasn’t actually like that!

From the first page, this book manages to intrigue you. Puck and Sean are both so well written, I wanted to be friends with them both. Not to mention some of the fabulous supporting characters, like Gabe and Finn, Puck’s brothers. I really loved some of the people on Thisby too, like some eccentric sisters who always tell Puck how it is. I loved George Holly, who is an American that is buying horses and becomes good friends with Sean. The point is, this book couldn’t have been any better. It’s filled with such intensity and emotions. What more could you really want out of a book?

five-stars

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