Monday, January 27, 2020

Book Review: Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

This was the Once Upon a Book Club's New Year's Eve selection. I had never purchased one of their boxes before and decided to give it a try. I absolutely LOVED the book and the concept of opening a present when I reached a certain page. The New Year's mini box contained an adorable bookish champagne glass that every book nerd would have loved. It says, "I like to party and by party I mean read books". It also came with a 40 book reading challenge, which I am thoroughly enjoying. 


There were two surprise gifts that readers got to open when they reached certain pages in the book, which coincided with the story. The first gift I have found to be useful, but the second gift was a complete stretch. I understood what they were trying to capture, but at this price point, the gift was such low quality that I can't imagine anyone would actually use it. I threw mine away and have been enjoying the rest of the items.

Goodreads Overview:

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

Jacque's Review:

After reading the book I do not feel like the overview paints a clear picture of this story. Yes...there was a tragic loss and some friction between Clara and Morgan. They were both grieving and trying to process the events that took place in their own way, which was not productive most of the time. They do have different personalities, but I did not feel like they were at complete odds. They both loved each other and simply did not know how to communicate and work together without Chris or Jenny in the picture. Morgan was simply trying to protect Clara from the painful truth, but honesty really would have been the best policy in this case. The secrets led to speculation that was incorrect and placed the resentment and hurt feelings on the victim instead of the source. Once everything is out in the open, they have far more respect for one another and the healing process can finally begin.

In addition to Clara and Morgan we are introduced to Jonah, who was Chris's best friend growing up. Morgan seemed to have feelings for him when they were younger, but once she discovered she was pregnant at the age of 17, her life was pretty much set. She will marry Chris and they will live happily-ever-after. That seemed to be the exactly how things played out until the beginning of the book. With another birthday rolling around Morgan is feeling empty. She doesn't have a career or anything outside of the home to keep her busy. Her life is caught in a rut of housework and taking care of her family. There is next to no spontaneity in her life. She wakes up at the same time every day, makes breakfast, and has a rotation of meals she prepares for dinner. Everything works like clockwork, but she is beginning to resent not finishing college and having a life of her own. Then she receives the call about the crash and her entire world is turned upside down. 

Clara doesn't know how to talk to her mother about the tragedy and turns to her friend, Miller, for support. I loved Miller!! Jonah is a teacher at Clara and Miller's school and suggests they work on a school project together. Miller wants to produce films when he grows up and Clara wants to become an actress, so it seems like a perfect fit. The only problem, Clara's father doesn't approve. He knew Miller's father growing up and assumes the apple didn't fall far from the tree, which couldn't be further from the truth in this case. Miller eventually proves himself to Morgan, even though Clara's actions put him at a serious disadvantage most of the book. 

Morgan and Jonah turn to each other for support as they uncover the painful truth of the events that led up to the crash. I enjoyed seeing how their relationship transitioned and progressed as they worked through their past feelings and the current situation they find themselves in. 

I have yet to go wrong with a Colleen Hoover book. This was a 5 star book that I will not soon forget. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Book review: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Book Summary 
As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

Flo's Review
I really enjoyed this one. Obviously, it's a cute love story and those are my jam. But there's so much more to it than that. I'll get back to the romance, but I want to discuss the setting first.

What a unique and interesting setting! I really enjoyed learning so much about NASA and space exploration back in the '60s. Either Phil Stamper is a space fan himself, or he did a great job with his research. (Or maybe both.) He did so well showing the reader what a truly exciting and magical time it was. But there was some darkness underneath the shiny surface, as with most things. And he showed us that darkness, too. Then, with that as his base, he showed us what modern society might do in the same situation, and the darkness underneath that. 

Okay, now back to the romance :). Cal, a fixer type personality, falls in love with Leon, a young man who is discovering himself, struggling a little bit, and finding his way. It's almost like a, "Go figure!" type situation. But I loved how Stamper both said and showed that it's not that anybody needs anybody else to fix them. I jotted down this quote from Cal's mom:

"Don't aim to fix people. Fixing seems so permanent, so absolute. Like there's no room for error. Aim to make things better."

Several of the characters in the book have probably been described as "broken," so this quote is a good way to describe many of the people Cal is close to, as well  as a beautiful summation of Cal's arc throughout the book.

The Gravity of Us publishes February 4, 2020 from Bloomsbury YA. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Book review: The Betrothed by Kiera Cass

Book Summary
When King Jameson declares his love for Lady Hollis Brite, Hollis is shocked—and thrilled. After all, she’s grown up at Keresken Castle, vying for the king’s attention alongside other daughters of the nobility. Capturing his heart is a dream come true.

But Hollis soon realizes that falling in love with a king and being crowned queen may not be the happily ever after she thought it would be. And when she meets a commoner with the mysterious power to see right into her heart, she finds that the future she really wants is one that she never thought to imagine.

Flo's Review
Ack, this is so hard! So much of what I want to say is straight spoilery! I'm going to need you all to read this as soon as it comes out so we can go ahead and dish about certain characters, and also about predictions for the next book or two. (I'm not sure if this will be a trilogy or duology?)

So let's see what I can say...

I stayed up past my bedtime to finish this. Once I hit a certain plot turn, I had to keep going. Like, I couldn't put the book down and just go to bed. Also, the action picked up and everything happened pretty fast so I was just flip, flip, flipping the pages.

It was comfortingly Kiera Cass. Kiera Cass is basically royalty in her own right. You know what type of book and story your'e going to be getting when you open one of her books and that's why you love her. This one did not disappoint. I expected a certain type of story, of read, and it was comfortingly what I got. Her stories are like that old, worn blanket you haven't used in a few months, but then you pull it back over you and go, "Ahhh....yes....this is nice."

America and Hollis aren't exactly alike, but...they'd be good friends. They'd definitely understand each other.

Cover love. I mean, seriously. Have you seen it? It's literally all gold and shiny!

The Betrothed publishes May 5th from HarperTeen.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Audiobook review: Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Book Summary
Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she'll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia's task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Flo's Review
Wow. This book was a lot of fun! I was a little worried about it going in because the audiobook is about 14 hours long. Usually I start to lose interest in audiobooks that surpass about 8 or 9 hours. I have to really be invested in order to make it through. 

Well, turns out I was really invested!

I hadn't closely read the summary when I started it, so when I realized it was going to have the "girl disguises herself as guy" trope, I was pretty into it. Then I read the summary and saw the Project Runway comparison. Oh, all the competition and scheming! There were definitely characters that I loved to hate in there, and it was easy to cheer for the underdog Maia. 

Then I got to the second part of the book that focuses on the journey around the three gowns. I liked that part even better than the first one! It was adventurous and magical and romantic -- and I was here for all of it. But definitely the romance. I'm such a sucker for it, and this one was really well done! 

The story didn't necessarily end in a cliffhanger, per se, but it did end in a place that makes me want to read Unleash the Dusk immediately! This was the kind of story that as soon as I finished, I wanted to talk about it with someone who had read it. Luckily, it's my book club read of the month, so I was able to do that. It made the whole experience even more enjoyable to be able to talk reaction and theory.

I thought I might like Spin the Dawn, but I was just so pleasantly surprised to have loved it as much as I did. I love when a book does that!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Book Review: Cause of Death by Patricia Cornwell

Goodreads Overview;

It is New Year's Eve, the last day of Virginia's bloodiest year since the Civil War. Dr. Kay Scarpetta plunges into the murky depths of a ship graveyard to recover the very human remains of Ted Eddings, an investigative reporter. What kind of story was Eddings chasing below the icy surface of the Elizabeth River? And why did Scarpetta receive a phone call from someone reporting the death before the police were notified? She soon discovers that Eddings' murder is merely the first layer of something much deeper --- a labyrinthine conspiracy that will put all of her criminal and forensic knowledge to the test like never before. For Scarpetta, the real challenge won't be cataloging the growing number of dead bodies, but preventing herself and those she loves from becoming the next victims.

Jacque's Review:

This is the 7th book in the Kay Scarpetta series. While all of the books involve independent cases that can be read and enjoyed on their own, I would recommend reading the series in order if you plan on reading more than just a few of them. The characters and their relationships with others in the series evolve from one book to the next. It would be rather confusing in that aspect if you decide to skip around. 

In this installment, Kay is investigating the murder of a reporter that worked relatively closely with her office. Her assistant medical examiner in another distract, who should be the one handling this case, had a death in the family and had to return to England for the funeral. He offered to let Kay stay at his house while he is gone, which she accepted. When people start prowling around his house, she begins to question her own safety and why her assistant is really out of town. 

Another member of her staff is impacted by the investigation and an unusual event takes place at her office. Someone really doesn't want the results of this investigation to get out. The closer Kay and her team get to the truth, the more dangerous things become.

Now that Kay's niece, Lucy, has graduated from the FBI Academy, she is an actual member of Benton Wesley's team. He is a profiler for the FBI and heads up a number of investigations in this series. Kay is one of his consultants and doesn't have a second thought about putting herself in danger, but she does not want Lucy on the front lines. Lucy is a computer genius, which should allow her to work behind the scenes, but that is not the role Lucy wants and Benton is not about to hold her back. She is a valuable member of his team and he takes full advantage of her skills in this book.

Overall, this was enjoyable murder mystery. There are currently 25 books in the series, so it is a daunting undertaking if you plan on reading the entire series. I have been reading these books since 2011. This isn't the type of series you have to continue reading for fear of forgetting some of the content, so I pick one up whenever I am looking for a good murder mystery. I enjoy the characters and both the police and medical aspects of the investigations. I do find it humorous to read about some of the technology now that these books are almost 25 years old. What was high tech and advanced back then is archaic now. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Book review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Book Summary
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Flo's Review
I loved, loved, loved Open Road Summer, and have been looking forward to jumping into another Emery Lord book since I read that one. The Start of Me and You did not disappoint! What a great story. There was so much to love about it. First, I loved the relationship Paige had with her best friends. Emery did a great job of showing us each of their personalities, as well as how the four of them fit together. It can be hard to establish such a close friendship as theirs through showing and not telling, but Emery hit the nail on the head. 

Next, Ryan Chase. He was adorable. I was so happy that he didn't end up being the obsession that was a actually a jerk. No, he was great. He did make a good friend to Paige, and he and Max were a good addition to Paige's friend group. 

The dynamic with Paige's parents was interesting. It's something that I've heard about happening, but I've never had the opportunity to experience it in any way. So it was definitely fascinating to read about it from the views of her parents and from Paige. I also loved Paige's relationship with her grandmother. The other supporting characters, like Paige's sister and Aaron's other friends, provided some good scenes and opportunities to show Paige's personal growth as well.

And finally, Max. I mean, do I really have to say anything about Max Watson?! Max. Max. Max. 😍
I have the sequel, The Map From Here To There, on deck and I cannot wait to spend Senior year with Paige and her friends.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Book Review: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Jacque's Review:

My husband rowed in high school and college and still rows as an adult. I tried it for a few years and could definitely relate to the grueling schedule and workouts involved, even at a lower level of competition. My husband read the adult version of this book and really enjoyed it, so my 14 year old son and I read this YA version as one of his choice books for school.

The story begins with Joe Rantz as an old man telling his story to Daniel James Brown, who decides he would like to write a book about Joe.  Joe tells him the story shouldn't be about him, but needs to be about "the boat." Brown is a little confused because he believes Joe is talking about the rowing shell or the crew, but he is actually referring to something that is almost beyond definition. "The boat" was a shared experience when 9 men came together to achieve greatness.

Rowing had a long history in the Ivy league where wealthy young men enjoyed competing in this prestigious sport. Joe was not as fortunate. He was poor and worked hard to attend the University of Washington where he hoped to earn an engineering degree and improve his quality of life.  He had enough money to pay for his first year of college, but needed to make the rowing team if he wanted any chance of having enough money to finish his degree. The team ended up consisting of mostly young men like him. They were strong, hard working, and determined to work through the pain to achieve a goal.

The story isn't just about rowing. It teaches a number of life lessons while sharing some of the many struggles that took place during the depression. The book also explores what it was like in Nazi Germany before and after the 1936 Olympics. Hitler put on a remarkable show for the general public, but what was going on behind the scenes was deplorable and ultimately lead to the start of the second world war.

This is a very motivational story that people of all ages can learn from. It is about overcoming obstacles, perseverance, and teamwork. These working class boys with no prior experience were able to achieve greatness by putting their teammates ahead of themselves. “What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew.”

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Queen's Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz

Book Summary
Caledon Holt is the Kingdom of Renovia's deadliest weapon. No one alive can best him in brawn or brains, which is why he's the Guild's most dangerous member and the Queen's one and only assassin. He's also bound to the Queen by an impossible vow--to find the missing Deian Scrolls, the fount of all magical history and knowledge, stolen years ago by a nefarious sect called the Aphrasians.

Shadow has been training all her life to follow in the footsteps of her mother and aunts--to become skilled enough to join the ranks of the Guild. Though magic has been forbidden since the Aphrasian uprising, Shadow has been learning to control her powers in secret, hoping that one day she'll become an assassin as feared and revered as Caledon Holt.

When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they're forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to Renovia. But as Cal and Shadow grow closer, they'll uncover a shocking web of lies and secrets that may destroy everything they hold dear. With war on the horizon and true love at risk, they'll stop at nothing to protect each other and their kingdom in this stunning first novel in the Queen's Secret series.

Flo's Review
This has been on my TBR for awhile, so I was super excited to win a copy from Bookish First. I thought it would make a good travel companion, so it came along with me over the holidays. 

Here's the was alright. Like, all of it. Was fine. But just fine.

The world and the world building I could tell was well thought out. But maybe almost too well thought out? I felt like I was constantly forgetting what place was where, and which people wanted what. I feel like if I was really focusing I could have gotten everything, but I wasn't in the mood to really focus. I just wanted to be entertained. Thankfully, and a strength of the book, is that even with me not fully understanding the political dynamics of the world, I could still enjoy the story.

The characters...were alright. Caledon is fine. Shadow is fine. They're fine together. But there was nothing about either one of them, or about them together, that really made them stand out for me. 

Same with the story. It was interesting. It was fine. Again, well thought out, but it just didn't stand out for me. 

Here's my question for you you think part of this could be because I'm having Fantasy Fatigue? (I just made that term up, but I'm meaning it here like I've read so many fantasy novels lately that they're all starting to blend together into one nondescript blob.) Like, maybe I would have had a stronger reaction to this story if I hadn't been on a such a fantasy kick lately. Maybe I've burned out.

What do you think?

The Queen's Assassin publishes February 2020 from Penguin Teen. Thank you again to Bookish First for the advance reader's copy.

Book Review: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Jacque's Review:

The Kranks' daughter, Blair, leaves for the Peace Corp. and for the first time ever, she will not be home for Christmas. Luther, an accountant, went through all of his receipts from the prior year and discovered exactly how much Christmas cost them last year...and what did they have to show for it? Why not spend half as much and enjoy a luxurious Caribbean cruise, since it is just the two of them this year?

It sounds like a great idea until word begins to spread. The neighbors are upset because their street likely will not win the decorating contest since one house will not have a giant Frosty on the roof. Various charities arrive and the Kranks have to tell them they are skipping Christmas this year. Friends are disappointed they will not be hosting their annual Christmas Eve Party. Coworkers can't believe they will not be at the office party. Even their pastor is disappointed to hear they will not be at the Christmas Eve service. 

Everywhere they go they are reminded of the frivolousness of the season and Luther is pleased with his decision. His wife, on the other hand, is tired of all of the grief and wants to give in to a few requests, but Luther stands firm. No Christmas this year!!

Everything is going reasonably well until they receive a call from Blair on Christmas Eve. She is in Miami  and will be home in a few hours to surprise them for Christmas. Of course, she is expecting a big holiday party, a tree, Frosty on the roof, and a wonderful Christmas meal. Will the Kranks be able to pull together a traditional Christmas in less than a day?

This was an entertaining and hilarious holiday story and definitely put the season into perspective. How much do people really spend on a holiday, which is supposed to be about celebrating the birth of Jesus? Is it really worth all of the time, energy and effort we put into it every year? It isn't about the money or the gifts. It is about the tradition and spending time with friends and family. The Kranks learn this lesson in a rather amusing way and I'm sure will not try Skipping Christmas ever again.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Book Review: Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

Jacque's Review:

Sweet Reckoning is the third and final book in the Sweet series. There is a fourth book, which is a companion novel told from Kaidan's POV, but this is the conclusion to the original story. 

The Nephilim are well aware of what their fathers, the Dukes/Demons, are capable of and are ready to risk their lives to rid the earth of them once and for all. Not all of the Dukes are evil, even though they must carry out their sinful work of spreading greed, lust, envy, substance abuse, etc. One of them in particular, Anna's father, has been helping to organize an alliance between some of the Neph. The other Dukes are beginning to suspect there is a traitor amongst them and begin monitoring him and all of their children very closely.

There were several twists and loop holes that were exploited in this book that greatly added to the overall enjoyment. All of the Neph still needed to be very careful, but we were able to see more of their true feelings and personalities in this book. I loved seeing the twins - Ginger and Marna, Blake, Kapano, Kaidan, and Anna all working together for good instead of evil. 

Unfortunately, there couldn't be a happily-ever-after for everyone in the series. We did lose a couple of characters along the way, which was very sad. With the Neph's new found faith and understanding that they were no longer condemned to hell, the loss wasn't nearly as painful as it could have been. They all realized they would be reunited some day.  

In addition to Kai and Anna, a few other couples emerged out of the alliance. It was great to see the Neph free to finally make their own decisions and live their lives on their own terms. If you enjoy paranormal romance, I would definitely recommend this series. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

Book Summary
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It's easier--
It's safer--
It's better--
--for the other person.
She's got issues. She's got secrets. She's got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He's got a chronic illness Isabel's never heard of, something she can't even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who's a doctor.
He's gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It's complicated--
It's dangerous--
It's never felt better--
--to consider breaking that rule for him.

Flo's Summary
This was full of the adorableness I'd hoped it would be! I'm a sucker for a first love story and this one was so, so sweet. At the same time, I really appreciated the look into the lives of the sick kids. Every time I read an #ownvoices novel it really expands my worldview and understanding, and this one was no different. I am really, really glad Hannah decided to share this story in such a great way.

Sasha is the best kind of book boyfriend and I love the conversations between him and Isabel. It was interesting to see Isabel's relationships with her friends and how they evolved throughout the novel. This book had some good, thoughtful discourse which was fantastic. It didn't shy away from showing the reader the lows. But the sweet, beautiful moments were so sweet and beautiful. I closed the book with a huge smile on my face.

Thank you again to Entangled Teen for sending this along for my review.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Book review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Book Summary
Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Flo's Review
This is an interesting one, for sure. I went into this with a lot of conflicting emotions. I wanted to love it, of course, because it's greatly hyped. But I also knew that I might now, due to the fact that -- and this is not a spoiler because of the title -- the guy is a jerk. I'm never good with stories where the guys are jerks.

So now I've finished it, and .... I kind of liked it and kind of didn't. As I was listening to it, the only thing motivating me to go on was that it's my book club read and that I was curious what would happen, based on all the hype. It wasn't necessarily because I was invested in the story. I's got the whole political intrigue, Game of Thrones thing going on, and I don't think that's really my style. Plus, everyone in the story is just plain mean. I always want to be rooting for at least one person in the book, and I feel like the only character I liked and would want to hang out with was Oak. 

But on the flip side, I did the thing where I was getting close to the end of the audiobook and I finished reading the rest of the story in print because I wanted to see what would happen and I didn't want to wait until I was back in the car. I knew there would be a twist, I just didn't know what! 

So now I'm looking at The Wicked King, and I'm torn. On one hand, the relationship between Jude and Carden ... doesn't do it for me. Again, the mean thing. And let's her real, right now their relationship is built on them being jerks to each other. One the other hand, it seems like nearly everyone has liked TWK better than TCP. For that, I am willing to give it a try.

I think my conclusion is that I will continue on in the series, but just not right away. I need a break from all the meanness, and I have some other books I'd like to get to first. 

This book, and this series, is one with the range of opinions from "I loved it!" to "Ehh..." to "I was not a fan." Where do you stand? Let me know in the comments or on one of our social media accounts.

Book Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Jacque's Review:

This book has been on my TBR list since it was released back in May 2017. When I was at the library a couple of weeks ago, this was sitting prominently displayed on one of the shelves and I couldn't resist any longer. It was described as "The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars." While I haven't read Pretty Little Liars yet, I am very familiar with The Breakfast Club and loved the movie growing up.
I could definitely see the comparison with The Breakfast Club from the very beginning of the book. Five students, who seemingly couldn't be any more different from each other, end up in detention together because of something they claim is a mistake. The teacher found prohibited cell phones in their bags, which are not theirs, but he refuses to listen to them.

Simon is a smart kid who has always been sort of an outsider. When he starts an app that calls out all the indiscretions his fellow classmates have made, and identifies them by their initials, he is not only feared but hated by most of the students. 

Bronwyn is most likely going to be this year's valedictorian and has her sights set on Yale. 
Addy is the popular homecoming queen. 
Nate is on probation for dealing drugs.
Cooper is the star pitcher on the baseball team and could go pro right out of high school.

Simon ends up dying during detention and the remaining four students are now being accused of murder, but they all insist they are innocent. Unfortunately, Simon had something on all of them and planned on outing them in his next post. The police think this is motive for murder and continue questioning everyone, hoping they will crack. Their lives spiral out of control as their secrets are revealed, but they are no closer to solving the murder and are continuously under scrutiny. 

This was an excellent murder mystery. I guessed who the murderer was, but I had no idea how everything was accomplished or who else was involved. I really enjoyed the characters and seeing how these teens worked together to solve the murder when the police refused to look beyond what was obvious. They took it upon themselves to clear their names when nobody else would even give them the benefit of the doubt. 

I love murder mysteries, but there aren't too many that I have come across that are YA. I have a 14-year-old son who wouldn't like most of the YA books that I read because they appeal more to female readers. I feel like this is a great option for young boys and is something he would definitely enjoy. It is told from each of the four main characters' points of view, so the reader can see and feel how the events are impacting each of them individually. I really talked it up to my son while I was reading it, so I hope he will give it a try for his next choice book. There are so many secrets that are constantly revealed and the high school drama was never ending. I can't imagine he wouldn't get hooked.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Book Review: They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire

Jacque's Review:

At the start of the book we are introduced to Kenzie Summerall, who is your typical over achiever.  She is a member of the Latin club and is hoping to win a state Latin competition that could earn her a scholarship to the college of her dreams. She is not one of the popular girls and certainly doesn't consider herself prom queen material, so she is shocked when her name appeared on the annual "hottie list" at school.

For the past thirty years at Vienna High, the junior class boys have voted on the top ten hottest girls in their class.  Appearing on the list instantly catapulted Kenzie to the top of the social circles.  She is now being invited to parties and boys she never would have even considered to be in her league were asking her out.

The girls on the list form a sorority of sorts when they start having near death experiences.  When the first member on the list dies from an accident, they think it must be an unfortunate coincidence.  When the second girl dies, they believe they are cursed. Kenzie doesn't believe there is a curse, but instead thinks there is a serial killer who is taking advantage of this annual tradition.  Being number five on the list, she realizes she must work quickly to solve this mystery or they could all fall victim.

This was an entertaining YA murder mystery.  I never would have guessed why the "hottie list" was first established and what its role was in the larger scope of the story.  This book doesn't appear to have a sequel, but I felt like the author left a great opening to potentially continue the story with a few of the more prominent characters.

Overall, I liked the story, but it wasn't a sit on the edge of your seat type of thriller. I enjoyed all of the Latin quotes and how Roxanne tied in some ancient Roman history. I also felt like Kenzie's character grew tremendously over the course of the novel. She was very weak and timid in the beginning, but she really took charge and acted with remarkable bravery to help save and protect herself and the people she loves in the end. I also admired the fact that the author brought to light the fact that Levi, a new boy at the school the previous spring, was dyslexic. Everything anyone seemed to know about him was based on speculation and gossip, but Kenzie gave him a chance. He had a rough childhood and is trying to turn things around. As easy as it was for some of the students to blame him for the accidents because of his reputation, and the fact that he always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Kenzie didn't buy it and even sought his help in solving the murders. These two are polar opposites, but they made a great team and a perfect couple.   

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Book Review: Get Even by Gretchen McNeil

Jacque's Review:

Everyone knows the school bullies, mean girls, and in the case of this book, a psycho teacher, who make life at school a living hell. Don't Get Mad, DGM, is tired of their antics and decides to take matters into their own hands and "Get Even." The book takes place at an elite prep school where the administration has let bullying get out of hand. The Principal even set up his own group of enforcers known as the Maine Men, who only perpetuate the problem. 

The four girls in DGM, Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot all have their own secrets and decided to join the group for very different reasons. They appear to have nothing in common, but as the story unfolds, we can see how their lives are entwined and can tell they are forming genuine friendships despite their differences.

When the target of one of DGM's recent pranks is found dead, with one of DGM's calling cards in his bloody hand, the girls realize they are in trouble. Nobody is going to believe they weren't involved. The school's administration, along with the Maine Men, set out on a witch hunt to find the members of DGM and bring them to justice. The girls decide  they need to solve this murder before they take the fall.

This was a very entertaining murder mystery, but I had no idea this would have a "to be continued" type of ending.  With a few chapters remaining, I was sure we were going to get to the bottom of everything, but we were left just as clueless as ever.  I figured Get Dirty, the next book in the series, would be a companion novel, but it is actually a continuation of this same story.  

I read a lot of murder mysteries and don't think I have ever run into a book or series in which the crime wasn't solved by the end of the book. I can only imagine how stressful that would have been to readers who finished this book shortly after it was released. They would have had an agonizing wait for the next book to be released and no clue if the crime they had just invested their time in would ever be solved, until the description for the next book was released.

I have a few other books that I need to read first, but I have already requested a copy of Get Dirty  from the library. I desperately want to know who is behind the events that have taken place before I forget all of the details and clues that have been uncovered so far.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Review: Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

Jacque's Review:

Perfect Couple is the second book in the Superlatives series.  In the first installment, Biggest Flirts, we were introduced to Tia and two of her best friends, Harper and Kaye.  At the beginning of their senior year, the class voted and everyone was awarded a title...most athletic, most likely to succeed, etc. Harper and Brody were voted "Perfect Couple that Never Was."

Harper is the yearbook photographer and is a bit of a free spirit.  She likes to dress in retro clothing and is very creative and artistic. Brody is the star quarterback. Why the senior class voted them the perfect couple is beyond them, but it peeks their curiosity and they start hanging out. They soon discover they have great chemistry and quite a bit in common. Perhaps their classmates were right after all and they really are the perfect couple! Of course, it isn't that easy. There are a number of situations they must work through if they are going to achieve their happily-ever-after.

This is another really cute story with all of the wonderful characters we were introduced to in Biggest Flirts. We get to see how Tia and Will are doing now that they are officially a couple. We also have a chance to learn more about many of the secondary characters such as Sawyer, Noah, Quinn, and Kaye.  There is quite a bit of high school drama and the book brings up a number of topics that are relevant to teens today. With the constant peer pressure at school, it isn't always easy to be yourself. This book allows teens to explore and consider how they would act or react in various situations.  Some characters handle situations appropriately while others do not.

This was a light, entertaining, and fast read.  I can't wait to read the next installment, which appears to focus on Kaye and her superlative partner, who were voted Most Likely to Succeed.  They have been a couple for the past few years, but don't really seem to gel in my opinion.  I am really hoping she will see the light and start dating another character in the series.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Book Review: The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

Jacque's Review:

There is so much drama going on in this book that you can't even imagine. While it has been a while since I read the first book in the series, I did not have any difficulty jumping back into this futuristic world. Everyone's secrets were pretty much revealed in the first book and now all of our main characters have something on someone and nobody is happy.  They are all scheming and plotting and trying to get the upper hand, but someone unexpected is watching and may know more than they think about their lives on the upper floors.

How high up you live in the tower is directly proportional to your financial status. Rylin and Watt are from the lower floors, but have worked their way up the ladder socially. Rylin received a scholarship to attend the prestigious upper floor private school Avery, Leda, and Cord attend while Watt's computer skills helped him integrate into this elite circle. Rylin hopes to patch up her relationship with Cord, but he may never be able to trust her again.  

Watt and his quantum computer, Nadia, are probably my favorite characters in the book. (I'm considering Nadia a character since she has quite the personality.) I feel like his intentions are good and he simply got caught in a bad situation. As events unfolded and certain characters began working together, I felt like he and Nadia may just be the answer to many of their problems. 

Calliope is a disposable character in my opinion.  I don't really care for her or what she and her mother have been doing for years. I wish she would just move onto her next target, but it doesn't appear that will be happening anytime soon. She has been living a lie for so long that I don't think anyone will ever be able to trust her.

I actually like Avery and Atlas and feel bad for them and their situation. Unless they plan on leaving their ritzy high profile lives, I don't see any way things could work out for them. Avery needs to see life for what it is and move on. Atlas seems to have seen the light, but Avery is still in denial.

Leda is the one character that really evolved in this installment. I couldn't stand her for the majority of the book, but she really turned a new leaf towards the end and was a completely different person. She was no longer the self centered ____ she has been for the majority of the series and was actually a civilized human being. I found myself rooting for her, but I'm not sure she will ever be able to overcome her past.

The ending was unbelievable and something I never would have seen coming. I have no idea who is behind the events that unfolded and I can't wait to read the last book in this series to find out.  I read the Thousandth floor as soon as it was released and got hit with the one year wait between books. I ended up waiting until the entire series had been published before picking up book two to avoid this agonizing situation once again. Now I can jump right into the final book to see how everything unfolds.