Friday, May 22, 2020

Book review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Book Summary
t is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined - every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Flo's Non-Spoilery Review
I am a HUGE Hunger Games fan. But when I heard the new book was going to focus on Snow, I had mixed feelings. Part of me was just excited to spend time in Panem again. The other part of me, which is not huge on villain tales, didn't know what to think. And it is ultimately that fact that made this a 4 star instead of a 5 star book for me. I have said again and again that I am not good at books where I don't like the main character, and Snow has always been and will always be unlikeable to me. But Suzanne did such a good job with him. His character development and growth was illustrated well and made complete sense. She still made him human, to where we might sympathize with him at some points, but then he shares a thought that reminds you, "Oh yeah -- this guy is horrible."

One of my fandom friends noted that reading this book was like going home again, and that is so true. This story is so connected to everything in the original trilogy -- we see how so many things, not just the Games, came to be. There is even a shoutout to Katniss! Suzanne does such a great job of building her characters. They are the type that you could do essays exploring the motivations, actions, etc. of so many of them: Snow, Sejanus, Dr. Gaul, Mr. and Mrs. Plinth. And like the original trilogy, I feel the that this is a book about which I will be engaging in many conversations about the many different aspects. All the deep questions that come from reading the original trilogy also come into play here, and perhaps even more.

I'm drying to talk about this! Let me know if you've read it so we can chat! (Just no spoilers in the comments!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Book Review: The Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Goodreads Summary:

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

Teri’s Review:

I picked up Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner for a summer reading challenge I am participating in. I have seen her books in the stores but just have never picked one up for some reason, and honestly, for the books listed in the month of May for the challenge, this sounded the most interesting, plus I thought it would be great to branch out with my reading a bit.

The book mostly centers around Daphne Berg, her ex-best friend Drue. Daphne is a 20-something overweight Instagram Influencer who becomes somewhat famous when a video of her lashing out at a guy at a bar goes viral. Daphne is fun, is insecure like we all are, especially when her weight is concerned, yet at times she is very accepting of herself and does a great job of putting herself out there on social media and faking it, even when the comments are hurtful. I do however think the writing with Daphne’s character is where I found the most fault in the book. I love the way Weiner celebrates Daphne’s weigh and how it is embraced, I think it is a great encouragement for a lot of readers, however, I also felt she focused on it a bit too much and almost made it what defined Daphne. I just felt that Daphne had so much to offer as a character.

Drue, Daphne’s ex-best friend is your typical spoilt rich bitch, she and Daphne haven’t spoken to each other since the bar fight, mostly because Drue had a large part in it. Drew has burned a lot of bridges with people and has very few friends. She walks back into Daphne’s life and Daphne gives her a second chance.

The first of the book was entertaining, it had a lot of back history between Daphne and Drue, and felt like your typical woman’s fiction or Chick Lit, but about halfway through she shook things up in the most unexpected way. As I said earlier I have never read Jennifer Weiner before so I am not sure if she normally twists so tightly in all er books, but this one moment, this place in the book that totally throws a whole new light on the story kept me reading all night wanting to see how it ended.

Big Summer is entertaining, surprising, funny, and well written and is the perfect book to throw in your bag for a quick read or to add to your list of summer beach reads.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Book Review: The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Good Reads Summary:

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body.

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. And then someone turns up dead.

Tee's Review:

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year between the beautiful and successful magazine owner Jules Keegan and the gorgeous TV star Will Slater. They are the couple you will love to hate, they have and fame, and they are getting married.

The main point, or so I thought, was a murder. It happens rather soon in the book...kinda...but not really. It isn't until the end that you know who is the murderer or even who the victim is. The book flips back and forth between the action of the guests finding out a body has been found, these chapters take up about two pages and the viewpoints of the five main characters, each getting chapters throughout the book to tell their history. It was a bit confusing to me at first. but I quickly got us to it.

The book centers around The Bride Jules who is worried about who wrote her a note telling her not to marry Will who is a cheat, and Wills her soon to be husband who has plenty of secrets. Along with them is Jule's sister Olivia, a bridesmaid who's secret has caused her a few mental issues such as cutting and not eating. Hannah, who is wife to Jule's best friend Charlie, they also have their own secrets that will intersect with the bride and groom. Best friend Johnno, who was at a posh private school with Will and the other groomsmen. He has had nothing but failure since leaving the school and holds secrets that both he and Will do not want to be known.

The wedding takes place on a remote Irish island that is perfect for, maybe not a wedding but definitely a murder and mystery. Caves, tall cliffs that fall to the wild ocean, bogs that you can sink in, and very little cell service are all intensified by an approaching storm. It gives a good creepy feel to the story.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie or any other who-done-it, The Guest List will certainly keep you guessing until the end with all the twists and turns

Friday, April 3, 2020

Book Review: The Towering Sky by Katharine McGee

Jacque's Review:

This is the third and final book in The Thousandth Floor series. This book picks up a summer after where we left off at the end of the prior book. Our cast of characters have returned from Dubai to the 1000 story tower in New York. Leda received some shocking news in Dubai and spiraled out of control for a while, but she has returned from rehab and is hopeful she can put her past behind her.

Leda, Rylin, Watt, and Avery soon discover their secrets may have spread further than they thought. They need to find out who else may know and how much the police have already discovered.

Avery spent her summer after Dubai at Oxford University in Scotland. She needed to get away from Atlas to clear her head. She meets a boy named Max and they begin a relationship. He will never be able to replace Atlas, but he is a good distraction. When Avery returns to New York, Max decides to do a study abroad program in New York so they can still be together. Max is far from the type of boy anyone would expect Avery to select. He is very down to earth and a bit ordinary in just about every way.

Rylin and Cord continue their on again off again relationship. I think Rylin overthinks everything and sets unrealistic expectations for Cord.  I was happy with how things turned out for them, but it seemed like there was a lot of unnecessary drama that could have been avoided.

Watt and Leda were both in the hot seat the majority of this book. Leda has a gap in her memory and doesn't know if she may be guilty of more than she is aware. Watt is afraid his secret about Nadia could get out and his hopes of getting into MIT could be shattered. Not only would his lifelong dream come to an end, but if Nadia is discovered, it is a criminal offence and he could be sent to jail.

Calliope is the one character that doesn't really have any drama associated with her this time around. She and her mom have settled in New York and are out of the conning business. The issue is Calliope is playing a character that is nothing like her real personality. She is afraid she will be stuck in this goody two shoes lifestyle for the rest of her life, or at least until she is off to college and out of her new step-father's house. In addition, her new step-sister is an absolute nightmare.

The police are closing in on everyone and all of their secrets are about to go public until the unthinkable happens.  

I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I will leave it at that. 

This was a very entertaining series with some great characters. I was shocked to see who stepped up in the end and how all of their problems were resolved. I hope there is eventually some sort of a short story or novella to show us how everything panned out after the end of the book.  One aspect was left hanging in the balance, but we can all sort of fill in the blanks for our own happily ever after....but a short story would be the icing on the cake.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Book Review: 8th Confession by James Patterson

Jacque's Review:

8th Confession is the eighth book in the Women's Murder Club series.  This time around Lindsay and her partner Rich Conklin are investigating the murders of several very wealthy individuals. The unusual part is that Clare, the chief medical examiner, can't find any cause of death. They are all healthy and in the prime of their lives. There are no marks on them, no signs of a struggle, and nothing comes up in their lab work. Lindsay and Rich have virtually nothing to go on until one of their colleagues finds a possible connection to some cold cases that he has been working.

Cindy, the crime reporter for the local newspaper, is working on a story involving a homeless man known as Bagman Jesus. He is found brutally murdered at the beginning of the book and she is determined to find out who he is and give him the attention and respect he deserves. Cases involving the homeless are usually overlooked because nobody cares enough to stand up for them, but from the stories she is hearing, he is a celebrity withing the homeless community. The more she uncovers about Bagman, the more she realizes she may be in way over her head.

Yuki, the prosecutor, gives her concluding statement in what should be a slam dunk case. The victim survived the attack and told the police who the perpetrator was, but now there is reasonable doubt and the jury can't come to a decision. In addition, after all of her relationship drama in the prior book, Yuki seems to have finally found a respectable boyfriend. He is a doctor at the local hospital, but just like in the courtroom, it seems like Yuki just can't catch a break. 

This was another fast paced murder mystery with a lot of relationship drama mixed in. It seems like Lindsay may finally marry her longtime boyfriend Joe. She has been on the fence because of an attraction between her and Rich, but hopefully she has finally put those feelings aside once and for all. Cindy definitely helped her decision making by seemingly taking Rich off the market.  While working on the Bagman Jesus case together, Rich and Cindy developed a bit of a relationship that I hope will continue. They seem more suited than Rich and Lindsay and will ease some of the tension between the two of them as the series progresses.

Overall, this was another great addition to the series and I look forward to seeing what is in store next for the members of the Women's Murder Club.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Book review: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

Book Summary
Just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That’s why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying.

We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him—his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets.

We were not planning on what happened next.

We swear.

From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make—or break—the people we call “celebrities.”

Flo's Review
So this book was published in 2016 and I've been wanting to read it since then. People have been telling me about it since then. I mean, a YA book about boy bands? Should be the perfect combination of my happy places.

So quarantine seemed like a good time to pull this out and take the plunge. It was...not what I thought it would be. I was expecting a fun, tongue-in-cheek, humorous look at fangirls. But that's not what I got from this one. 

The story started out really as a commentary about fangirls. I related to A LOT of the scenarios and character traits talked about here. But I didn't find it was done in a fun way. The tone of the main character who was relating the story was way too....snarky? I thought this part could have been like, "Ha, ha, we know fangirls are crazy in a fun way, and let's laugh at them/ourselves." But even though the main character shared some true emotion and perfectly described some of the feeling that comes with being a fangirl, I didn't find she did it a a fun way. Which, I think is a shame. It so could have been fun.

Then we got to Part II and the twist -- which I definitely was not expecting! What even is happening with this book?! 

I will say this, though: I kept turning the pages. It was like a train wreck I couldn't look away from. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I think that's what this book was supposed to be. And it worked. I kept going, and I didn't look up until it was the end of the book and I was done with it. 

So, am I glad I read it? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Well, it was quite the ride. Would I recommend other boy band fangirls to read it? Nah.

A funny thing about this book: I read a review where the reviewer was a One Direction fangirl and commented that the boy band in this book was obviously based off 1D. But as a fangirl of New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and on and on -- it could have been based off any one of them. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Book Review: Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Goodreads Overview:

When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.

Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…

Jacque's Review:

Scavenge the Stars was the book selected for OwlCrate's January YA box. Below is a photo of everything that came in the January box. I am using the Hobbit banner to display my OwlCrate pins, I have already burned the entire candle while reading, and have definitely been enjoying the Crooked Kingdom socks and Harry Potter mug. I haven't had a chance to use the little mirrored pill box yet, which was inspired by Nevernight, but I think it will come in handy when traveling. 

Scavenge the Stars is a gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo.  I am not familiar with the original story, but after reading this book, I am interested in reading it to see where the stories overlap.

At the beginning of the story we are introduced to Amaya, who has been working on a debtor ship for 7 years and has almost worked off her family's debt. She is excited to be reunited with her mother and will be released just in time to surprise her on her birthday. As she is planning her departure, she rescues a man (Boon) who was drowning. The captain isn't happy about it because he is nothing more than another mouth to feed, but Amaya is intrigued by him. They both manage to escape the ship and discover they have a common enemy. Boon prepares Amaya to return to Moray, where she grew up, to impersonate a Countess and lure in the son of the man they both want to take down. Cayo has a bit of a reputation as a party boy, but he has actually changed his ways. He is nothing like Amaya expected and they begin to develop a friendship.

Cayo is caught in a difficult situation. His sister is ill and needs an expensive medicine or there is virtually no hope for survival. He has grown up in a wealthy merchant family, but for some unknown reason they have fallen on hard times and can't afford the medicine. He searches out the Countess in hopes of playing her to get the medicine. The Countess is nothing like he imagined and he decides he can't go through this his plan. He will have to find another way to get the money.

This was a very entertaining story. I absolutely loved seeing how Cayo and Amaya worked through their layers of deception and are now working together to achieve their goals. They now have a better understanding of the truth and know who the true enemies are. Things ended a little shaky for them, but I am hopeful they can forgive each other and start over now that everything is in the open. They seemed to have a genuine connection that I can only hope will continue to flourish throughout the series.    

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Book Review: Hot Six by Janet Evanovich

Jacque's Review:

This is the sixth book in the Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie works for her cousin Vinnie as a bounty hunter, but is more luck than skill. This time around Ranger is wanted for questioning in the murder of a known arms dealer, but has gone missing. He is out on bail and Vinnie wants Stephanie to find him, but she knows there is no way anyone will find Ranger if he doesn't want to be found. She turns the job down and lets her enemy, Joyce Barnhardt, work the hopeless case. 

Ranger does make several appearances and Stephanie helps him try to uncover the truth behind the murder, which he says he was not involved in. She is being tailed by a couple of thugs who have been hired to locate Ranger for a different kind of questioning than the police are interested in, but Stephanie manages to dodge them in a number of humorous ways.

Stephanie also has some additional car trouble in this book, which is an ongoing joke in the series. She can't seem to keep a half way decent car without something happening to it. Fire, bomb, etc. She always ends up driving the family's old Buick, which is an indestructible tank. In addition, trouble is brewing at her parents house and Grandma Mazur decides to live with Stephanie for a while. She wants her independence and even starts taking driving lessons, looks for her own apartment, and tries to get a job. Things become a bit crowded at the apartment and Stephanie can't get any sleep. 

Joe Morelli is Stephanie's long time on-and-off love interest that dates back to elementary school. It appears things are heating up and may eventually become more serious in the future, but Ranger is still a mystery that I think Stephanie is still interested in exploring. I'm sure she would like the stability and a family with Joe, but there is definitely some undeniable attraction between her and Ranger that I'm sure will continue in the series.

Overall, this was another great murder mystery. As always, there were a number of laughs and I was hooked from the very beginning. It was a very quick read that I flew through in only a few days. If you are looking for a light and entertaining mystery series, I have really enjoyed this one so far. It is nothing like some of the more dark and detailed crime series such as the Kay Scarpetta or even the Women's Murder Club books, which I also enjoy reading.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Book Review: Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil

Goodreads Overview:

The members of Don’t Get Mad (DGM) aren’t just mad anymore . . . they’re afraid. And with Margot in a coma and Bree stuck in juvie, it’s up to Olivia and Kitty to try to catch their deadly tormentor. But just as the girls are about to go on the offensive, Ed the Head reveals a shocking secret that turns all their theories upside down. The killer could be anyone, and this time he—or she—is out for more than just revenge.

The girls desperately try to discover the killer’s identity as their personal lives are falling apart: Donté is pulling away from Kitty and seems to be hiding a secret of his own, Bree is under house arrest, and Olivia’s mother is on an emotional downward spiral. The killer is closing in, the threats are becoming more personal, and when the police refuse to listen, the girls have no choice but to confront their anonymous friend . . . or die trying.

Jacque's Review:

I have read several murder mystery series and they are usually independent stories.  You could pick up any book in the series and follow the mystery from beginning to end without any difficulty. That certainly is not the case with this series.  Get Dirty is a continuation of the story that began in Get Even. We were left completely hanging at the end of the first book with multiple dead bodies, no suspect, and a main character on the brink of death. 

This book picks up pretty much where Get Even left off. Bree is in juvie/house arrest and Margot is in a coma for most of the book. With the loss of Bree and Margot's skill sets, Olivia and Kitty decide to recruit some additional DGM members to help solve the cases. Nobody knows who to trust and it appears the school and the police don't want to look any further than pinning the murders on the members of DGM. They just don't know who the members of DGM are. Their only hope is to solve the murders before the evidence stacking up against them becomes insurmountable.

I really enjoyed the characters and the story, but I didn't feel like it gave readers a realistic opportunity to solve the mystery. There were some crazy revelations at the end that pulled everything together, but I honestly can't think of many clues along the way that I should have picked up on that would have shed much light on the situation. 

Overall, I gave both books 4 stars and was entertained by the story, but it would have been better if it had been condensed into one book. Some of the events in the second book were a bit far fetched and in my opinion could have been eliminated. In contrast, the first book had me sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation.  I stayed up late to read the final few chapters because I simply HAD to know who the perpetrator was. This could have been a 5 star mystery if everything had concluded there. As it was, I felt like the additional time invested in reading a second book to solve one mystery was a bit more than I had originally bargained for and detracted from the overall enjoyment of the story.

Blog Tour & GIVEAWAY: We Are the Wildcats by Siobhan Vivia

Poignant, timely and thrillingWe Are the Wildcats is the perfect read for all of us who are ready to bite back.”
— Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’

We are the Wildcats is a tour-de-force. By the novel’s end, I was devastated to leave these characters behind. This is a powerful story that will stay with you long after the last page is turned." 
—Morgan Matson, author of the New York Times bestseller Save the Date

Tomorrow, the Wildcat varsity field hockey squad will play the first game of their new season. But at tonight’s team sleepover, the girls are all about forging the bonds of trust, loyalty, and friendship necessary to win.

Everything hinges on the midnight initiation ceremony—a beloved tradition and the only facet of being a Wildcat that the girls control. Until now.

Coach—a handsome former college player revered and feared in equal measure—changes the plan and spins his team on a new adventure. One where they take a rival team’s mascot for a joyride, crash a party in their pajamas, break into the high school for the perfect picture.

But as the girls slip out of their comfort zone, so do some long-held secrets. And just how far they’re willing to go for their team takes them all—especially Coach—by surprise.

Siobhan Vivian is the author of the young adult novel We Are the Wildcats, as well as Stay SweetThe Last Boy and Girl in the WorldThe ListNot That Kind of Girl, Same DifferenceA Little Friendly Advice, and the Burn for Burn trilogy, cowritten with Jenny Han. A former editor for Alloy Entertainment, she received her MFA in creative writing at the New School. She teaches creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Visit her at

I adored The Last Boy and Girl in the World and am ecstatic that I get to give away a copy of Siobhan's latest! I do have to make this U.S. only (shipping, ya know?). Enter via the Rafflecopter, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Happy book birthday to Harley in the Sky!

Happiest of birthdays to Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman! Let us know if you pick up a copy!

Book Summary
Harley Milano has dreamed of being a trapeze artist for as long as she can remember. With parents who run a famous circus in Las Vegas, she spends almost every night in the big top watching their lead aerialist perform, wishing with all her soul that she could be up there herself one day.

After a huge fight with her parents, who continue to insist she go to school instead, Harley leaves home, betrays her family and joins the rival traveling circus Maison du Mystère. There, she is thrust into a world that is both brutal and beautiful, where she learns the value of hard work, passion and collaboration. But at the same time, Harley must come to terms with the truth of her family and her past—and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Book Review: One of Us is Next by Karen McManus

Jacque's Review:

Simon is gone, but the drama and bullying associated with his gossip app is still alive and well at Bayview High. This time around, there is a text group set up by "unknown" that is challenging students to a game of truth or dare. The first student selected is Phoebe, who decides to ignore the message, until a horrible truth is shared with the school. 

From then on, everyone seems to be taking the dares, which in comparison are rather tame. Things begin to spiral out of control when a student dies in an "accident" and another viscous truth is shared.

Bronwyn's sister Maeve is once again the ring leader in the investigation. She is working with an interesting group of characters that are both new and old. The Bayview Four (Nate, Addy, Cooper, and Bronwyn) are involved and offer their experience and expertise, but they are secondary characters this time around.

Maeve best friend/ex-boyfriend, Knox, witnesses the accident that killed a student, but he can't remember any of the details. He doesn't believe things really happened the way some of the other witnesses described the events, which is corroborated by some of the findings Nate discovers at the scene. They just don't have any solid proof, a motive, or a suspect.

Maeve and Knox recruit unknown's first victim, Phoebe, to their investigative team. In addition, Maeve's new crush, Luis, gets sucked into things when a shady characters shows up at his parent's restaurant. Luis is Cooper's best friend and the catcher on the baseball team in One of Us Is Lying. Addy and Phoebe both work at the restaurant and Knox and Maeve spend a lot of time hanging out there, so the five of them naturally come together to start solving this potential murder and to put an end to unknown's viscous game.

This was a very entertaining murder mystery. I sort of guessed one of the characters that was involved, but I never would have guessed the primary person behind the events or why this individual was interested in perpetuating Simon's legacy. I never imagined there would be a sequel to One of Us Is Lying, but this was a great addition to the series. I loved all of the new characters and enjoyed seeing how the Bayview Four have been doing since the conclusion of the first book. I was originally thinking this was going to be a companion novel, but it definitely needs to be read after One of Us Is Lying to fully appreciate everything that is taking place. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta

Book Summary

(Only she doesn't know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey . . . until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents' fantastical stories-like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they've come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it . . .

Flo's Review
This has been on my TBR for a few months now and I'm glad I had the chance to get to it. What a fun journey! The action kicked off immediately and the pace didn't slow down once. The story that Sayantani has created, pulling from Indian folktales and stories is unique and fascinating. I've never read anything like it and quite enjoyed myself. Kiran is a great character through which to see this story and this other world. Her observations and funny and sharp. I just saw that book 3 is coming out in about a month, so I may go ahead and read book 2, Game of Stars, so I'm ready for it. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Book review: Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Book Summary
All's faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Flo's Review
This book was just what I needed today. I had an entire day of waiting rooms (doctor's office, car place) and it was so nice to just be able to transport away to the Faire. I have been going to the Florida Renaissance Festival every year for the past I-don't-know-how-many years, and it's always a favorite event in our friend group. Jen DeLuca did an amazing job of taking everything you encounter at a ren fair and translating it onto the page. I could so easily see my fair as I reading, and I can't wait to go this upcoming weekend.

Simon and Emily share similar life experiences (not exactly the same, but related) and personality traits that make them so good for each other and a good couple. I loved the whole tension behind, "Are these feelings us, as Faire actors, or us, as real people?" I finished the book in a day (I love it when that happens!) so needless to say this was a breeze to read and unputdownable for sure! 

Stacey's story is next, and I'm already looking forward to returning to the Faire. Huzzah!

P.S. Please, Jen, make the third book about Mitch!!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Book review: Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

Book Summary
When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island's wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn't quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori "Grey" Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that's for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it's making its way toward the cities. With her family's life--and the lives of all of Lunar Island's citizens--on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy's most dangerous corners--and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

Flo's Review
Sometimes I like going into books blind. Meaning, I don't read the summary or anything. I just hear the book is good and so I start reading it. 

This is how I started to read Give the Dark My Love. I was really intrigued at first. I rememberer telling someone that there were many different parts to the story and that I knew they would come together in the end somehow, but I didn't know how. I was fully enthralled and engaged.

Then, the dark. I mean, I should have expected this, right?! It's called GIVE THE DARK MY LOVE. But I guess I just wasn't prepared for how dark it got? In a weird flip of the usual script, I actually liked the first half of the book better than the second. 

A few minor details also threw me off: the POVs switch between Nedra and Gray, but just as the story needs them to -- not in an "every other chapter" format. It seemed jarring, almost, to be reading chapters upon chapters of Nedra and then go to Gray for like one scene, and then back to Nedra. Some of Gray's chapters didn't really seem was almost like maybe someone thought, "We haven't heard from Gray in awhile...lets stick a Gray chapter here, just because." Also, one aspect of how Gray reacted to something toward the end seemed unrealistic to me.

I can absolutely say that the book delivered on what it promised through the summary, title, and look. Nedra's descent into darkness is believable, gradual, and really well done. I just maybe wish I'd known this was the direction the book was taking before I jumped in. I'd have been better prepared and handled it better, I think.

Give the Dark My Love is the first in a duology. The second book, Bid My Soul Farewell, is out. Has anyone read it? Wanna give me something thoughts on it?

Book review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Book Summary
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Flo's Review
I wanted to read this novel in preparation for watching the movie on Netflix later this month. HA HA HA. I am so not prepared. How am I going to watch this, like with my eyes?!!? I'm getting worked up just thinking about it! (Somebody hold me!!)

Okay, this one didn't grab me right away, but as I kept reading what really struck me was being inside Finch's mind. I cannot even imagine the depths, the conversations, Jennifer had to go through to understand and share his thoughts so clearly. They felt so real. He was such a real character. Getting into his mind like that was good to see, because of the insight it gave into mental illness, but it was also incredibly hard. It will be interesting to see how Finch is portrayed on-screen because so much of how we understand him in this book is through not what he says or does, but how he feels. 

Every time one of the chsracters was all, "That's just what he does," my heart cracked a little bit more. You can see how the extremity of the internal struggle can go unnoticed by those closest, and that's scary. 

Being a girl made up largely of wanderlust, I loved the ideas of the wanderings and the adventures that Finch and Violet had around Indiana. Finding the unique, creative, off-the-beaten-path, less noticed things in your immediate vicinity can make the world and your existence seem bigger than it first appears. I like that idea. I know Florida has some crazy things (Dave Barry wrote a whole book about it). I really enjoyed seeing them for Indiana, whether they were fictional or not.

Overall, this quiet, beautiful book is so important. I learned from it, and I love when I can say that about something I read for fun. I recommend this book to anyone close to teenagers, and actually, I think anyone, period, can get something out of it. 

Seriously about this movie though...send tissues?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Book review: Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Note: This is the second book in a duology. Proceed with caution if you haven't yet read the first book, Spin the Dawn. (Here is our review.)

Book Summary
The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

YA fantasy readers will love the sizzling forbidden romance, mystery, and intrigue of UNRAVEL THE DUSK.

Flo's Review 
Spin the Dawn ended on enough of a cliffhanger that I was like, "I need the next book immediately!" Luckily, I was able to secure an e-ARC so I could do just that. 

Unravel the Dusk has a different feel than Spin the Dawn. The stories are definitely related, and it was an easy flow from the first into the second, but the two stories were also quite distinct in their tone and execution. In the first book, Maia is discovering her true self though various trials. In the second, she is fighting to stay this girl she discovered. Unravel the Dusk gave us more time with a few characters from the first book -- I really enjoyed that. Ammi was one. Another was one of the other tailors from the initial competition. And Lady Sarnai. What a character! I could write a whole separate review on what we discovered about her in this book.

The romance, which was one of my favorite parts of the first book, was present in this one -- but different. Instead of taking center stage, it was one of several important threads making up Maia's story. Their relationship was constancy instead of discovery. It evolved as both Edan and Maia changed, but it changed in a way that fit them. The strong foundation they built in the first book served them well in this one.

If you've read Spin the Dawn, I think you will enjoy seeing how the story and the characters develop and eventually end up in Unravel the Dusk. It publishes July 3rd. 

Thank you to Random House Children's Book for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Book Review: The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Jacque's Review:

I subscribed to OwlCrate at the end of November and my first shipment was the December "Tales of Trickery" box, which included the following:

I have been using the book sleeve just about every day to carry my print books in my purse and the pencils have been useful for the coloring pages in my Always Fully Booked planner.  The candle is a very nice winter cinnamon/spice scent, which I have been lighting every night when I read before bed. Even the ear muffs have come in handy while walking the dog this winter. Overall, I was very happy with my first OwlCrate delivery.

The book is autographed and included an author letter. I'm not so sure about the hand warmer, but I will give it a try the next time it is really cold out. It has been relatively mild this winter in Ohio, so I haven't had an opportunity to use it yet.

I have had several of Kiersten White's books on my TBR list, but this is the first one I have actually read, thanks to OwlCrate. My goal is to complete every OwlCrate book in the month it is intended to be read or I will have to suspend my subscription until I catch up. I loved receiving this bookish delivery and all the little surprises it contained, so I definitely don't plan on falling behind.

This is a retelling of the legend of King Arthur and Camelot. I wasn't very familiar with the folklore, but I absolutely loved this story. Guinevere is the daughter of Merlin and is sent to Camelot to marry King Arthur. There isn't much of a romance in this installment since it is an arranged marriage concocted by Merlin to help protect Arthur and Camelot from a magical attack. 

We learn about Camelot and are introduced to a character referred to as "The Patchwork Night," who has been a sensation in the jousting arena. He wears a mask, so nobody knows who he is. He is an exceptional fighter and it is clearly trying to become one of Arthur's Knights. Even Arthur is caught up in all of the excitement, but Guinevere thinks he may be the threat she was sent to protect Arthur from. I was shocked to find out who the Patchwork Night is and the role this character plays in this series.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next book in the series. This installment contained a lot of character introduction, world & relationship building. We didn't really know how everyone fit into the story until the very end, so the pacing was slower than I anticipate the next book will be. There was a ton of action towards the end of this book, which is where I'm hoping things will pick back up. I'm also hoping we will see more of Merlin and get a better understanding of the secrets he has been keeping from Guinevere.