Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Book Review: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

 


Goodreads Overview:

While in Paris, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is awakened by a phone call in the dead of the night. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum, his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon and gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu sort through the bizarre riddles, they are stunned to discover a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci—clues visible for all to see and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Even more startling, the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion—a secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci—and he guarded a breathtaking historical secret. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle—while avoiding the faceless adversary who shadows their every move—the explosive, ancient truth will be lost forever.

Jacque's Review:

One of my bookish challenges every year is to read at least 3 of the books that have been on my TBR list the longest. This was one of the books that has been on my Goodreads list since September 7, 2010, so it finally made it to the top of the list. 

I honestly had no idea what this book was about until I started reading it. The theories and connections between Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Christianity, the Catholic church, and Da Vinci's works was absolutely brilliant. With Langdon, a Harvard professor, leading the discussion along with his colleague Sir Leigh Teabing, a British Royal Historian, the story flows like a history lesson. You can't help but question if there is any truth to the story. If so, why do the biblical stories paint a drastically different picture?

In addition to unraveling the mystery behind the Holy Grail, Langdon and Sophie Neveu must solve four murders to clear their own names. The closer they get to uncovering the truth, the more dangerous the mission becomes. They quickly realize they can't trust anyone.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and followed it up by watching the movie. Tom Hanks played Robert Langdon and did an amazing job of brining this book to life. The movie followed the book pretty closely and was highly entertaining. I don't always enjoy the movie after reading the book, but in this case, they did the book justice. Even if you aren't a reader, the movie is an action packed adventure with beautiful scenery. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Book Review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

  


Goodreads Overview:

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Jacque's Review:

This was one of the books assigned for my son's sophomore year summer reading. It is a thought provoking novel that is extremely relevant in today's society.  It highlights how two boys living in the same community and attending the same school are treated completely differently because of the color of their skin. Rashad is told from an early age to act and dress a certain way to avoid the injustices often inflicted on black males in our society. 

Quinn is a white student and a star basketball player. He isn't friends with Rashad, but he knows who he is because Rashad is good friends with English, another star player on the team. Quinn is treated like a celebrity in town because his father is a war hero that was killed in the line of duty. Everyone calls him the All American Boy, but what does that really mean?

After witnessing the brutal attack on Rashad by Paul, a white police officer, Quinn begins to question his own beliefs and ideas about racism. To compound the issue, he is friends with the Paul's younger brother and has always thought of Paul as a big brother or father figure. He wants to believe Paul, but he can't rationalize what he saw with the explanation he is receiving.  He knows he has to do something. Silence will only perpetuate the racism and inequality in this country. 

This is an exceptional book that everyone should read. The characters are very honest and realistic and I think everyone can benefit from the message that is shared. I watched an interview with the authors that was conducted by the Ohio Library Council and thoroughly enjoyed their dialog and backstory. They couldn't be any more different, but they connected while on a book tour together and have become great friends. They did an amazing job of sharing a harsh reality that has plagued our nation for far too long. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Book Review: In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren


GOOD READS SUMMARY: 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collide, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.


TEE"S REVIEW:

Are you ready for some Christmas Cheer? If so you need to pick up the new book In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren. This book will have you dreaming of snowy days and log cabins in the woods with the people you love.


The story uses two fairly common tropes to build its plot. The “ make a wish “, where you make a wish and end up in the past so you can hopefully fix or change things, and the “ Groundhog Day “ where you are in a constant loop of a certain time period. Lauren does an excellent job of combining the two.


Being from the South, having the typically shown snowy cold Christmas is as fiction as most of the books I read, so the setting in the book was wonderful to me, and the author described everything in detail, which gave me the feeling of being transplanted straight to Utah ( which was great because we are still having 90-degree weather where I am at ). I even told my husband we need to pack our bags this Holiday season and head for somewhere snowy !! The cozy log cabin, the snow, the tall trees, the big porch, it all just felt warm and fuzzy like you expect Christmas to feel.


The family dynamics were great in the book, and while yes, it was a romance, I felt it leaned a bit toward a family saga also. There were so many times you felt like the fly on the wall watching the family’s yearly traditions, their love for each other, their doubts, and their fights. The family felt real to me, they were not a perfect family, they had their flaws, yet even with flaws, they showed great respect and love for each other. Possibly my favorite relationship in the book was the main character Mae’s relationship with Benny. It was a close almost parental type relationship, where she often turned to him for advice, not wanting to tell her parent's certain things. It was a relationship a lot of us could have really used as we grew up.


I am not giving much detail on this review, as it would be so easy to give away the entire book, but I will say, I could easily see this as a Hallmark Christmas movie, it is funny, it is cute and cozy and it is magical. Be prepared though, the typical meet-cute is not in this story, it isn’t needed to be part of the story, but it doesn’t feel lacking at all. All I can really say is JUST READ IT…YOU WILL LOVE IT…

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Book review: LyricPop Picture Books

Flo's Review

I read two of the newest LyricPop picture books with my son -- We Got the Beat and These Boots Are Made for Walkin'. Reading these books together was fun for both of us because my son enjoyed the colorful, fun pictures and I enjoyed reading aloud to the tune of the songs...okay, maybe I was singing :). It was a fun experience for both of us to share together as the books bridge the old (the songs) with the new (the stories). 

Along with We Got the Beat and These Boots Are Made for Walkin', two additional LyricPop books publish on October 6th -- Respect and Move the Crowd. I'm also looking forward to the 2021 lineup, which includes:

  • (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay, song lyrics by Otis Redding & Steve Cropper: March 2, 2021
  • Humble and Kind, song lyrics by Lori McKenna: March 2, 2021
  • Where Is My Mind?, song lyrics by Black Francis: June 1, 2021
  • Dream Weaver, song lyrics by Gary Wright: June 1, 2021
  • 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy), song lyrics by Paul Simon: June 1, 2021
  • I Will Survive, song lyrics by Dino Fekaris and Frederick J. Perren: June 1, 2021

Thank you to Akashic Books for sending me advance readers' copies in exchange for my honest review.

Book Summaries

 WE GOT THE BEAT

Song lyrics by Charlotte Caffey
Illustrations by Kaitlyn Shea O'Conner
An exuberant celebration of dance and play in picture book form, based on Charlotte Caffey’s joyful classic made famous by the Go-Go’s.
We Got the Beat is a children’s picture book based on the hit song by the 1980s new wave group the Go-Go’s. Consisting of five members, the all-female band rocked the nation with their charisma and musical genius. Their hit song “We Got the Beat” spent three weeks at #2 on the Billboard 100 and became their signature song. Says the New York Times: the Go-Go’s “taught a new generation the power of the girl gang.”
With lyrics by Go-Go’s member Charlotte Caffey and illustrations by Kaitlyn Shea O’Connor, this picture book tells the story of what it is like to live life dancing to the beat, while enjoying friends, nature, and the fun that surrounds you. We Got the Beat will make both parents and children get their groove on and show off their best dance moves.

THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKIN'
Song lyrics by Lee Hazlewood
Illustrations by Rachel Moss
Lee Hazlewood’s tough-talkin’ hit song (popularized by Nancy Sinatra) is adapted into a playful children’s book about the inner life of a jealous cat.
These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ is an adorable story of friendship and family set against the backdrop of Lee Hazlewood’s iconic song. While there have been numerous recordings over the past several decades, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” was originally recorded by Nancy Sinatra and released in early 1966 to instant success. A #1 Billboard hit in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia that was nominated for three GRAMMYs, Hazlewood’s song continues to be embraced to this day.
With lyrics by Lee Hazlewood and illustrations by Rachel Moss, this captivating picture book tells the story of a boy and his extremely attached and very jealous cat who must adapt to the introduction of a new family member—a puppy. The funny story line and delightful images are sure to have the entire family curled up and laughing together, pets included!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Book Review: In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk


GOOD READS SUMMARY:

When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat, and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…


TEE'S REVIEW:

I usually love Rom/Com's and the easiness of reading them, but In Case You Missed It by Lyndsey Kelk fell a bit flat for me. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate it, but neither did I love it.

I think the main problem for me in the book was the min character Ros Reynolds. once again, I didn't hate her, I just thought she was wasting her time wanting to spend all her present time in the past by getting together with her ex-boyfriend Patrick who had dumped her when she left for a job in the US 3 years before. To be honest, I would spit on Patrick ( you know if I did that kind of gross thing, and I dont...yuck )He was a narcissistic knob who was selfish, and for some reason, most of the book spent was Ros trying to rekindle that relationship. There is even a hot broody bartender who clearly wants to hook up with her that she barely gives the time of day to!

There are certainly redeeming parts, John the bartender clearly cares about Ros and you will find yourself rooting for him as you read, there are many funny parts, and many of her friends were more likable than she was to me. Probably my favorite characters were her parents. They were a bit wacky and had rekindled their relationship after becoming empty-nesters, and even have their vows re-done.

While In Case You Missed It really wasn't the best Rom/Com I have read, I mean I didn't feel the romance even started until I was 90 percent done with the book, it was a fun way to spend a lazy afternoon. It is a quick read. I have also heard many people say that Lyndsey Kelk is a fantastic writer, so I am not yet giving up on her. In fact, In Case You Missed It had some great reviews, so many people enjoyed it, so if you are wanting a bit of an escape from your daily drudgery, I would pick it up and at least give it a try. It may be the perfect book for you

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Book Review: A Perfect Paris Christmas by Mandy Baggot

 


GOOD READ SUMMARY
United in grief. Pushed apart by tragedy. 

Keeley Andrews knows more than anyone that you only live once. So when she receives an invitation to spend two weeks in Paris, all expenses paid, she jumps at the chance. 

Ethan Bouchard has had the worst eighteen months of his life. He's ready to give up on everything, including his hotel chain. So when he meets Keeley, it simply isn't the right time. 

As Keeley and Ethan continue to bump into each other on the romantic Parisian streets, they can't help but wonder whether this is fate telling them to let go of the past and leap into the future...


Tee's Review

August was one of those months that I struggled to read. Nothing  I read seemed to captured my attention or if I did manage to read, it took me forever to finish the book. Luckily I was gifted a copy of the recently released Christmas romance A Perfect Paris Christmas by Mandy Baggot from NetGalley. I love Hallmark Christmas movies, yes, all the gooey stupid and predictable storylines, so I knew reading this book would help me get out of my slump. And it did!


A  Perfect Paris Christmas was not the typical romance at all, it was actually deeper than most that I have read. The Mandy Baggot has done a great job at writing not only a romance book but one that could easily be read by fans of women’s fiction. 


There are actually several plots going on in the book, with quite a lot of secondary characters, but the book is well written and they do not get confusing or overwhelming, they flow perfectly with the story.  There is Rach, who is the main character's best friend and her travel partner to Paris. Silvie, who is the mom of the kidney donor, and Erica, who is my favorite, and who reminds us that we need to live each day, as we are not guaranteed the next one.


The main character is Keeley Andrews, she is a survivor of a car wreck that kills her sister Bea. We are told that Keeley was also near the point of losing her life but was given another chance with a kidney transplant. She is invited to Paris to meet the mother of the donor and while she is there she also meets Ethan, who himself is struggling with the recent loss of his best friend, while also fighting with the friend's family on how to run the hotels that they owned together. Ethan also has a great storyline with a homeless girl named Jeannie and her dog BoBo which quickly became one of my favorite parts of the book.


My favorite in any romance, reading or watching, is always the meet-cute, and the one between Keeley and Ethan did not disappoint, it is comical and even involves a penguin and a prank. It wasn’t a quick meet, it was well into the book and I was beginning to think we would not be getting one!


The author also did a great job describing the streets of Paris, from the carousel to the Christmas markets, to the interiors of the hotels and small courtyards. It transported you there and made the story even more magical because you pictured each scene very vividly along with the added bits from your own imagination.


When I started A Perfect Paris Christmas I was expecting the nice fluffy candy floss sweetness of most romance books, but the book offered me so much more than that. It was a heartfelt read about several different types of love, dealing with grief, in-depth family relationships, and very touching friendships. If you need an escape from your usual reading I would highly recommend this wonderfully written story.

 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Book Review: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

  


Jacque's Review:

Eat, Pray, Love is about Elizabeth Gilbert's personal journey after a bitter divorce. At the age of thirty she seemingly had it all. A husband, loving family, great job, and a beautiful home in New York. Everyone, including her husband, felt the logical progression was for them to start a family. Liz was not content and wanted the freedom to live and explore life on her own terms. She spent her evenings crying on the bathroom floor until she built up the courage to leave her husband. 

Once the divorce was finalized, she quit her job and spent a year traveling. She received an advance from her publisher to write this book and used the money to fund her yearlong trip to Italy, India, and Bali. In Rome she "studied the art of pleasure." She had always wanted to learn Italian, so she registered for classes and joined conversational groups to improve her skills. She also enjoyed the culture and indulged in the local food. She met some interesting people and shared some entertaining stories about her time in Italy.

Her next stop was India, where she spent several months at an ashram following the teachings of her guru. She spent a lot of time learning to meditate, which I couldn't even imagine. They spent hours a day meditating, chanting, and doing chores to earn their keep. While this destination did not appeal to me in the least, Liz did learn a considerable amount from a number of unique individuals while she was there. Richard from Texas gave her a lot of tough love and advise that she definitely needed to hear. She had been holding onto a lot of baggage from prior relationships that she needed to let go of if she was ever going to achieve happiness. She also met a poet that shared some meaningful insight and provided a means for her to let go of the feelings and attachments that were holding her back. 

Her final stop was Bali where she intended to meet up with a medicine man she met on a previous trip. The old man had invited her to come back and stay with his family, but when she arrived, he didn't remember her at first. He eventually put it all together and they spent hours a day sharing stories and enjoying each other's company. While in Bali, Liz makes a few friends and eventually attends a party where she meets someone. She told herself before the trip that this was going to be a year for just herself. She was not planning on having any romantic relationships, but a Brazilian man eventually stole her heart. 

Elizabeth comes full circle in this story, but it isn't a journey for everyone. I personally would have enjoyed a few months in Italy, but the rest of the trip wouldn't have been for me. Liz is far more spiritually dedicated than the vast majority of society. I enjoyed learning about the different cultures and felt her story could be very inspiring to people who may find themselves in a similar situation. Not everyone has the means to quit their job and spend a year traveling while they try to find themselves, but it was inspiring to see her take charge of her own life and find happiness.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Review: Witch's Pyre by Josephine Angelini

  


Goodreads Overview:

Lily Proctor has come a long way from the weak, sickly girl she used to be. She has gained power as a witch and a leader, found her way home, chosen to face battle again, and (after losing her first love and being betrayed by her new love) she has learned more about loss and grief than she ever wanted to know.

Thrust once again into a society different from anything they have ever seen, Lily and her coven are determined to find answers―to find a new path to victory, a way to defeat the monstrous Woven without resorting to nuclear weapons or becoming a tyrannical mass murderer like her alternate self, Lillian. But sometimes winning requires sacrifices . . . and when the only clear path to victory lies at Lillian's side, what price will Lily be willing to pay?

Jacque's Review:

Overall, I thought this was an entertaining series, but it wasn't nearly as good as Angelini's Starcrossed series. 

In this final installment, Lily and her coven discover a secret city on the west coast that none of the eastern cities knew existed. It is essentially a perfect society. There is no crime, everyone is wealthy, the city is pristine, and it appears that aging and illness have been completely eliminated. This may sound like a magical place to live, but perfection may cost more than Lily and her friends are willing to give up. 

Once Lily discovers the source of the city's power and wealth she is determined to defeat their leader. Lily and Lillian must gather a huge army and work together if they are going to have a prayer of a chance of victory. They know the odds are not in their favor, but the world as they know it could be in danger if they don't act.

The story is action packed and I enjoyed the magical elements contained throughout the series. I did find some of the concepts to be far fetched and difficult to relate to at times. For example, the fact that Lily could transport thousands of people in and out of danger at will. Yes...It was convenient for the story, but I prefer some amount of plausibility even within fantasy/fiction. 

Also...It seemed like the drama between Lily and Rowan went on for WAY too long. For two people who can use mindspeak to read each others thoughts, feelings, and emotions, you would have thought they could have gotten to the truth behind their dilemma a lot sooner than they did.

This was a 3 star series for me from start to finish. I was expecting a bit more from Angelini after reading her Starcrossed series which I gave 4 stars, 5 stars, 5 stars respectively. Helen, Lucas, and the rest of the characters in the Starcrossed series captivated my attention from start to finish. I simply couldn't get enough of that series. In this case, I was interested in the story and wanted to see how it ended, but I never felt compelled to stay up reading "just one more chapter."

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Book review: Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

 


Book Summary
When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

Flo's Review
If you're a Twihard, you're going to love this, of course.

Myyyy Edward is angsty! But it was still so cool to see events that I knew so well from the book and movie through his eyes. Two particular things I loved about it:

First, I loved learning more about the family and the dynamics between them. It was so sweet how much Edward loves Esme and respects Carlisle. I never thought of Emmett as a big teddy bear, but that's how he read and it was great. It was also interesting too see the strained relationship between Edward and Rosalie, which I kind of picked up on from Twilight, I guess, but not as much. 

This ties right into the second thing I loved about it, which was the end. It must have been so crazy for Stephenie to have to write that! I bet she never thought she'd need to show exactly how Alice plans and executes things. It was so crazy seeing her process for everything at the end. This was all new material because, of course, we only saw Bella's end in Twilight, so I really had fun reading about the Cullens' journey to the dance studio in Phoenix. Alice is simply amazing. You go, girl!

One thing that didn't quite line up was how Emmett and especially Jasper were able to stand being in the car with bloody Bella for so long. I know they were holding their breath and all, but still. Just because to go from that to the beginning of New Moon where Jasper looses it when Bella cuts her finger? But, like I said, I don't think Stephenie was planning to have to deal with all that, so it made sense the best it could.

Oh! Also, it was so interesting to see what Edward thought of Jacob and to hear Jacob's thoughts. Like, that's totally going to change come Eclipse. Lol. And I'd never even considered what kind of minds it would take to make Bella's. I was so intrigued to hear Edward try to figure out both Charlie's and Renee's thoughts. 

Midnight Sun was such fun, and I'm so so glad Stephenie finally published it for us! I am hearing different things about what she's working on next, but whatever it is, I already can't wait for it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Book Review: Bear Necessity by James Gould-Bourn

 


GOOD READS SUMMARY:
Danny’s life is falling apart. He’s become a single father to eleven-year-old Will—who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash a year earlier—and Danny has just been fired from his construction job. To make matters worse, he’s behind on the rent and his nasty landlord is threatening to break his legs if he doesn’t pay soon. Danny needs money, and fast.

After observing local street performers in a nearby park, Danny spends his last few dollars on a tattered panda costume, impulsively deciding to become a dancing bear. While performing one day, Danny spots his son in the park and chases off the older boys who are taunting him. Will opens up for the first time since his mother’s death, unaware that the man in the panda costume is his father. Afraid of disclosing his true identity, Danny comforts his son. But will Danny lose Will’s trust once he reveals who he is? And will he be able to dance his way out of debt, or be beaten up before he has a chance?

Filled with a colorful cast of characters, Bear Necessity is a refreshingly unpretentious and ultimately uplifting story of a father and son reconnecting in the most unlikely of circumstances.
 

TEE'S REVIEW
Bear Necessity is about a single father, Danny, who is struggling to connect with his son, Will, who hasn’t spoken since his mother died in a car wreck. Danny is struggling to make ends meet when he loses his job and decides to become a street performer with an old panda costume he was able to afford. While working in the park he saves Will from a group of boys who are tormenting him and Will opens up about everything to the panda-not Danny. They begin this relationship that Danny is conflicted about because on one hand he finally gets Will to open up but on the other, he knows this is a bad idea to take advantage of Will’s trust. 


This story was a very short read but even though it was small in pages it was BIG and fulfilling within those pages. The heartbreak of not knowing how to reach your child is one that many parents, single or not know and struggle with. 


I will say that there were a lot of parts that were too long or overly explained that didn’t need to be. I wish they would have left these details out and have more substance to the characters themselves. It was an interesting look into how everyone needs to move on from grief but not everyone takes the same path to do so-everyone heals differently. 


This is a great read filled with a lot of humor and then also a lot of sadness that almost brought a few tears to my eyes. There was a great balance where I enjoyed reading it but still got to experience some emotions without being completely drug down by sadness. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Book Review: Hex hall by Rachel Hawkins

  


Goodreads Overview:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Jacque's Review:

This was a free ebook that I downloaded quite some time ago. When I was on vacation, I finished the book I was reading and scrolled through my unread books and decided to read this one. It was a really cute story and I loved all of the characters. Most of the Prodigium grew up in magical families and were well aware of the history and dangers to their kind. Sophie grew up with her human mother and has never met her magical father. She has spoken to him on the phone, but she has lived a pretty normal life up until recently.

When her magic starts drawing unwanted attentions she is sent to a boarding school for Prodigium where she will stay until her 18th birthday. Hopefully she will learn to use her powers in a more controlled and discreet manner and come to understand her magical history. At first, Sophie considers it a prison sentence, but she soon meets some interesting students and quickly learns the real dangers this school can protect her from.  

Archer Cross is an attractive warlock that immediately catches Sophie's attention, but his girlfriend is the beautiful and snobbish ringleader of a coven of witches named Elodie. When Sophie refuses to join the coven, Elodie takes her anger out on Sophie in a variety of ways. The two spar back and forth through a number of magical pranks.

The most interesting part of this book was the mystery behind who was viciously attacking students on campus. The school is protected by magical wards, so it is assumed it has to be another student or staff member. All signs pointed to Sophie's roommate, the only vampire attending the school. She is deemed guilty until proven innocent, so Sophie sets out to prove who is really behind the attacks. 

I was shocked by several of the twists at the end of this book. There were several characters that were not what they seemed and Sophie is left contemplating leaving the magical world forever. I don't think she will actually go through with it, so I look forward to reading the next book in the series to see what will happen next.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Book Review: Garden of Thorns and Light by Shylah Addante


Book Summary
When Amethyst Faye was six years old, she was almost stolen by a monster in the woods on the same night her mother mysteriously disappeared. Ten years, a half dozen psychiatrists, and a slew of diagnoses haven’t made things any better; she is still plagued by nightmares, ridiculed at school, and misunderstood by everyone from her teachers to her counselor to her father. And lately she’s been sprouting thick green thorns out of her skin.

When the paranoia doesn’t end, and the treatment options run out, she’s faced with a choice between inpatient treatment or spending the summer with a grandmother she hasn’t heard from in a decade.

Summer at Gran’s in Morgan Springs wins out, just barely, and only because a backwater town sounds marginally more interesting than a mental institution. Amethyst draws the attention of Ben, the boy of her dreams, and Absynth, the creature from her nightmares. Although neither of them is what she expected, Amethyst realizes both Ben and Absynth are exactly what she needs to heal her heart and harness the fairy magic she’s inherited.

Unfortunately for Amethyst, trying to walk both paths could get her killed, but having to choose between them is far worse.

Flo's Review
First things first: #coverlove! Look at the luscious green and all the colors!

I've found myself back in the world of faeries with Garden of Thorns and Light. The interesting thing about faeries is seeing the different interpretations and iterations. The fae in this story were unlike any I had encountered before, and so it was interesting to learn their lore. Introducing much of the backstory through the book Amethyst got from Gran instead of a big info dump at the beginning of the story was also a good idea. It took a little bit to get to what felt like the magical heart of the story, but once we were there, the story took off. I wanted to scream at Amethyst way too much for the decisions she made, even though I understood why she made them. I found myself flying through the last few chapters of the book as I eagerly hoped everything would work out.

I would have loved to learn more about Ben's family and their experience, but it would make sense for that to come in the (hopefully!) second book. I've got two favorite parts of this story. First, I love the way the real world meets the fantasy world. They dance together, circle each other, but are still two distinct places -- the garden and the forest, in particular. And secondly, Ben. Because, Ben.


Garden of Thorns and Light publishes September 15th from Month9Books. I received an advance readers copy in exchange for my honest review.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Book Review: My Life For Yours by Vanessa Carnevale



GOODREADS SUMMARY:
Paige and Nick are happy. They have a beautiful home, a loving family and, most importantly, they would do anything for each other. Now, they are having a baby and it feels like all their dreams are coming true.

But joy turns to despair when they discover that Paige has a rare, life-threatening heart condition and they lose their longed-for child. Heartbroken, the couple must accept the reality that they may not become parents after all.

Just as they begin to come to terms with their loss, Paige unexpectedly falls pregnant again. Paige’s heart is still weak, and to carry the baby to term puts them both at risk. The couple now faces an impossible decision: Paige’s life or the life of their unborn child?

If Paige keeps the baby, she could lose her life and destroy the man she loves. If Nick tries to stop her, he may lose them both forever. It’s the most important decision they have ever had to make – and time is running out.

My Life for Yours is a heartbreaking, gripping, and emotional story about love, loss, and an impossible choice, perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Kelly Rimmer, and Kate Hewitt. 

TEE"S REVIEW:
My Life For Yours is separated into three parts. The first part of the book deals with Paige and Nick and their joy over having a baby. You get to know each of them...Nick a Pediatric surgeon, and Paige who works in an assisted living/ nursing home. You also get to meet Paige's family, her mother, and father, who are loving and have been married forever and still in love, her brother Ryan, who lives away, and her sister Caitlin, that is in Paige's eyes living the perfect life with two kids and a husband, a house and a country home they are renovating. Paige and Nick are excited they are having a baby, it is something they have both wanted and planned for. The author takes you through their lives as they get ready for its arrival, from planning a nursery to arriving at the hospital. Only once it happens, it doesn't go well and Paige loses the baby, that they named Max, and also finds out she has heart failure.
Part two is one of those sections that will rip at your feelings. It is the two of them trying to navigate the death of their son, and get life back to normal if it can ever be that way again. And as much as Paige wants a baby, she has been told that now is not the time because of her heart, it could kill her or the baby, or even both. But she does find herself pregnant and it comes down to them having to choose between lives. Part three goes from there and tells of her pregnancy.
I don't want to say anything more than that, but the entire book is told in two POV's.. Paige's and Nick's. There is much conflict and you might find you need to grab a tissue or two. This is a very emotionally charged book, that will make you think, and wonder if you could hold up in the same situation. It deals with the heartbreak of losing a child, of choices that feel impossible to make, and of dreams the parents and families have.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Exclusive Excerpt: Lobizona by Romina Garber


We are so excited to be sharing an exclusive excerpt of Lobizona as part of the blog tour! Find it below the page break.


Book Summary
Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who's on the run from her father's Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu's protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious "Z" emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobiz√≥n, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

Read an exclusive excerpt from Lobizona after the page break.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Book Review: Starlight Nights by Stacey Kade


Goodreads Overview:

At twenty-three, Calista Beckett is trying to overcome her early fame and fortune. The former savior of the world on Starlight is now a freshman at college--miles away from L.A. and her former existence. She sees it as her start to a new life, a normal life, one where she won't make the same mistakes she made before--a brush with heroin addiction and losing her freedom to her controlling mother, thanks to a court order.

Eric Stone played her older brother, Byron, on Starlight. But she's been in love with him pretty much since they kissed--her first kiss--while auditioning. When Eric shows up on campus out of the blue asking her to return to California for a role, Calista's struck immediately by two things: first, in spite of everything that's happened, she still feels something dangerous for him, and second, she's absolutely determined not to let him ruin her life again.

Only Eric's not giving up so easily.

Jacque's Review:

Starlight Nights is a companion novel to Stacey's 738 Days.  You don't need to read 738 Days to appreciate this story, but there is some overlap of the characters and the timeline is several years in the future. I loved seeing how Chase and Amanda are doing now, but they are definitely secondary characters this time around.

Calista's mother is her manager and has been using her as the family's primary revenue source for as long as Calista can remember. Now that her career has been derailed, she is taking a much needed break from the spotlight and trying to be a normal college student. Unfortunately, she is the biggest thing to hit her small school in the middle of nowhere and doesn't exactly fit in. 

Eric's father is a famous producer, so Eric is viewed as the privileged son who can get away with anything. He has made some mistakes, but he is trying to turn his life around and is putting all of his own money into starting a production company of his own. He wants to prove himself, but his father is determined to sabotage everything he does.

Eric buys the rights to a book that Calista loved when they were working on Starlight Nights together. He will stop at nothing to get her to star in it with him to capitalize on their existing fan base, but that isn't his only motivation. He feels guilty about how things ended between them and is determined to help her get her life back on track. 

Eric and Calista have a long and complicated history together, but they both still have feelings for each other. It takes them a while to regain the trust and friendship they once had and to see what the real problems have always been in their relationship. They need to take control of their own lives if they are ever going to be happy.

This was a highly entertaining romance. The content is adult compared to Stacey's Ghost and the Goth or Project Paper Doll series, which is great for us older readers, but I wouldn't recommend it for younger teens. I have a 15 year old that I still try to keep him in the PG13 range, which this book definitely exceeds. I can only imagine the expression on my son's face if he read a few of the scenes, LOL.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Book Review: The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea



GOOD READS SUMMARY:
A chilling murder in a prestigious prep school is at the heart of this riveting new novel from acclaimed author Charlie Donlea, featuring forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore and her psychologist partner, Lane Phillips.

Inside the walls of Indiana's elite Westmont Preparatory High School, expectations run high, and rules are strictly enforced. But in the woods beyond the manicured campus and playing fields sits an abandoned boarding house that is infamous among Westmont's students as a late-night hangout. Here, only one rule applies: don't let your candle go out--unless you want the Man in the Mirror to find you. . . .

One year ago, two students were killed there in a grisly slaughter. The case has since become the focus of a hit podcast, The Suicide House. Though a teacher was convicted of the murders, mysteries and questions remain. The most urgent among them is why so many students who survived that horrific night have returned to the boarding house--to kill themselves.

Rory, an expert in reconstructing cold cases, is working on The Suicide House podcast with Lane, recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. But the more they learn about the troubled students, the chillingly stoic culprit, and a dangerous game gone tragically wrong, the more convinced they become that something sinister is still happening. Inside Westmont Prep, the game hasn't ended. It thrives on secrecy and silence. And for its players, there may be no way to win--or to survive. 

TEES REVIEW:

I have always been drawn to a book that is set in an elite prep school, and even more so if there happens to be a mystery surrounding the school. Suicide House gave me everything I expected from it along with secret societies, murder, gossip, and more.

The story takes place on the campus of the elite private school in Indiana called Westmore Prep, where a podcast decides to focus on a past murder of two students who were killed in an abandoned boarding house that students used as a hangout. The podcast, titled Suicide House tackles why students that were there that night go back to the scene and commit suicide.

I enjoyed the story but found out later the main characters is in a book before this one, and Suicide House is the second in the series, While I think that the book stood on its own very well, I would have liked to have read the other one first, maybe to just get insight on the characters that were investigating the crime. The story itself had plenty of suspenseful moments and was a well-written mystery. I really enjoyed the author giving us glimpses of the killer bu their journal entries that were included in the story, that along with the blogging and podcasts gave the story a real feeling of being on a campus in which these things would really be happening in today's world.

I did struggle with a few things in the book, mostly that there were a lot of mysteries or stories, and POVs going on at once, and at times I had to re=read to comprehend parts of it, especially when I first started reading the book. The book does move at a bit slower pace than most books I read so that helped me out a bit also. I had time to think about things without getting totally lost.

All in all Suicide House is a great book and most mystery readers will enjoy it. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Book Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu


Goodreads Overview:

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

Jacque's Review:

I have had a number of Marie Lu's books on my TBR list for a long time, but this is the first of her books that I have actually read. As it mentions in the overview, this is her first historical fiction novel. I really enjoyed learning about Mozart and his older sister, who was very talented in her own right. I also wasn't aware of the fragile state of Mozart's health from a young age, which was probably fairly common back in those days. The amount of traveling the children had to do, and the fact that their family's livelihood eventually rested upon their shoulders, is more than any child at that age should have to bear. 

To escape the pressure of their daily lives and to pass the time while they traveled, the Mozart children enjoyed sharing stories about a magical kingdom they thought only existed in their imagination. Nannerl used the world to help perpetuate her hopes of being remembered forever. She begins to notice that events from their stories are beginning to overlap in the real world. Hyacinth, the magical being from their imaginary world, appears to both children and makes a deal with Nannerl she can't refuse. 

Hyacinth reminded me of Morpheus from A.G. Howard's Splintered series. He could be extremely charming, but there was always something sneaky about his motives. Nannerl eventually discovers her bargain with Hyacinth may cost her more than she is willing to give up. She needs to find a way to save the Kingdom and those she loves before it is too late.

The Kingdom of Back was the March Owlcrate selection. Below is a photo of everything that came in the box. Photo credit to Hello Subscription.  I loved this special edition of the book with the silver edges. I also really enjoyed the Owlcrate themed socks and speaker. I did see some reviews from subscribers who said their speaker didn't work, but I haven't had any difficulties. For a small portable speaker I think the sound quality is really good, but I have only used it to listen to audio books. I'm sure it doesn't have the same sound quality as my Bose speakers, but it does a great job for audio books. It was very easy to link up to my phone and is a really cute design with the owl face.

Overall, I really enjoyed the box and the book was another excellent choice that I might not have picked up if it weren't for Owlcrate. I have enjoyed all of the books I have received from them so far and look forward to reading their April book, Bone Criers Moon, which is still in my TBR pile. Flo was shocked that this is the first Marie Lu book that I have read, so I guess I need to bump some of her other books up the TBR list as well to see what I have been missing. So many books....so little time :)