Thursday, December 31, 2020

Book Review: You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson


Goodreads Overview:

Liz Lighty has always believed she's too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it's okay -- Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz's plans come crashing down . . . until she's reminded of her school's scholarship for prom king and queen. There's nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she's willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She's smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

Jacque's Review:

I chose this book because Reese Witherspoon selected it for her first YA book club selection. I love Reese, but I don't read a lot of adult books besides mysteries and thrillers, so her adult book club selections never really appealed to me. Her first YA selection on the other hand was AWESOME.

Liz Lighty is valedictorian material. Book Nerds aren't typically in the running for prom queen, but at her school it isn't all about looks and popularity. Grades and charity work are also part of the equation. These categories may get her into the competition, but she is really going to have to up her game if she is going to win the popular vote. 

She has never considered herself popular. She is a minority and doesn't come from a wealthy family. She doesn't have the fancy clothes and works a part-time job to help save money for college. She never would have considered running for prom queen if the ultimate prize weren't a college scholarship, which she desperately needs to attend Pennington College and fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.

Liz makes the initial cut, but she has a lot of work to do if she is going to be crowned queen. She does a lot of soul searching and realizes what is really important to her. She is true to herself and allows her personality to shine throughout the process. Once she stops hiding the truth and trying to be someone she isn't, everything begins to change for her. 

This was a highly entertaining and inspiring book. High school can be hard for anyone, but for those who don't fit the cookie cutter mold, it can be especially difficult. Liz did not allow anything to hold her back and used her differences to her advantage. Her small town may not have been ready to embrace these radical ideas, but it was time for a change.

I absolutely loved Reese's first YA book selection and look forward to reading the others.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Book Review: Love, Almost by Haley Doyle

Goodreads Summary:

Chloe is deliriously in love for the very first time. But when Jack, her boyfriend of five months, is killed in a tragic accident, she is left reeling. Their relationship was amazing – but it never really had the chance to get started. Grieving but determined, Chloe decides to live life for the both of them and makes her way through the list of things they’d planned to do together – this time on her own.

Tee's Review:

Falling in love quickly, Chloe and Jack are together just a short five months before a tragic accident takes Jacks' life and Chloe is left to grieve him without the understanding of the people around her understanding. If there is one thing I know about grieving it is that no two people grieve a like, and this is what is baffling to the people around Chloe. How could she be having so much grief for a person she barely knew.  The dynamic of this was interesting, especially on Jack's parents' part, who barely knew Chloe and certainly had no idea how close she and Jack were.

Love Almost is a heartbreaker of a read, so be sure to have tissue handy. I was prepared for sadness but not to the extent I actually felt it. Chloe's grief is raw and honest and if you have ever felt the hard loss of a loved one, it could be a trigger for someone. You travel with her on a journey of what could have been, how she imagines things would have been if Jack were still there,  and then you watch as she realizes hope and that her life isn't over just because Jack's is and that it is ok for her to move on and live her life.

Love Almost is a great read, but I would not necessarily call it a true romance, to me, it felt more like a book of struggles, recovery, and change. It is a quick read, that is if you can read through the tears you shed while you read. If you are a fan of PS I Love You or just tearjerkers in general this book is a must-read. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Book Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D Richards

Goodreads Summary:

When Mira flies home to spend Christmas with her mother in Pittsburgh, a record-breaking blizzard results in a canceled layover. Desperate to get to her grief-ridden mother in the wake of a family death, Mira hitches a ride with a group of friendly college kids who were on her initial flight.

As the drive progresses and weather conditions become more treacherous, Mira realizes that the four other passengers she's stuck in the car with don't actually know one another.

Soon, they're not just dealing with heavy snowfall and ice-slick roads, but the fact that somebody will stop at nothing to ensure their trip ends in a deadly disaster

Tee's Review:

Imagine wanting to get home so badly that you are willing to do almost anything to get there.  This is the decision that high school student Mia makes as she realizes she is stranded in the Philly airport. All planes have been grounded due to an approaching blizzard and she will not make it home to spend Christmas with her mother who needs her.

Coming home from San Diego, where she lives with her father and attends a prestigious art high school, she is stuck in Philly. On the plane, she set next to college school Harper and they hit it off, Harper also not wanting to be stuck in the airport rents the last SUV in the rental stall and invites Mia to ride with her and her three friends, they will drop Mia off where she needs to go and all will be well. What can go wrong right?

Mia agrees to the ride, even though her gut feeling is screaming not to. As the trip takes off and they travel further along the road, they take an unexpected route through the mountains to avoid the storm, instead, they run straight into it. Not only are the roads icy and treacherous, but strange things start happening in the car, things are missing, and no one is confessing to the crimes. Mia learns that none of the passengers in the car knew each other as she thought, and each one of them seems to be hiding something and are a bit shady.

Five Total Strangers has more twists and turns in it than the icy roads that the car is traveling. You are pulled in with the suspense and it holds you there as you try to figure out what is happening. It is a quick read, you won’t want to put it down, you want to continue reading so you can get to the end. 

The author does a great job of giving you a sense of dread. That is the best way I can describe how I felt as I read through the book. I dreaded what may or may not happen, and there were so many things that could have happened in the course of the book. This is a great read for a snowy winter's day when you are stuck in the house. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: Love Song For Skeptics by Christina Pishiris

 Goodreads Summary:

Zoë Frixos gets the whole love song thing. Truly, she does. As an editor at a major music magazine in London, it's part of her job description. But love? Let's just say Zoë's been a bit off-beat in that department. After falling hard for her best friend, Simon, at thirteen and missing every chance to tell him how she felt before he left town, Zoë came to one grand conclusion: Love stinks.

Twenty years later, Simon is returning to London, newly single and as charming as ever, and Zoë vows to take her second chance. But Zoë's got other problems now: In order to save her magazine from closure, she has to land the biggest interview of her career with a notoriously elusive rock idol. There's just one problem: Nick, the arrogant publicist who seems determined to stop the story and ruin Zoë's life.

With her brother's big(ish) fat(ish) Greek wedding on the horizon, Zoë begins to wonder if her first love is the right love. In the wake of a life-changing choice, Zoë must decide if she's right to be skeptical about love, or if it's time to change her tune...

Tee's Review:

Zoe has a job many people would consider perfect, she is an editor of reSound, a music publication. She spends her time hanging around concerts and interviewing musicians, but the magazine is in a slump and she needs to find something to revive the magazine and up the readership, or she and the rest of her crew will lose their jobs.

In walks Nick Jones, the arrogant PR man to the extremely popular Boy Band Hands Down. Zoe has already had a run-in with their lead singer and it did not end well, and she feels that having a pop-sounding boyband will ruin the credibility of the magazine. What she really wants is an interview with the reclusive singer Marcie Tyler, who has been her musical idol for years, and has just seemed to drop out of the music scene.  This one interview would be a live saver for the magazine and Nick is the person who can possibly make this happen, unfortunately, he wants her to interview Hands Down and put them on the cover.

But Nick isn’t Zoe’s only problem, there is also Simon, her childhood friend who moved back to American when they were teenagers. Zoe has always had a mad crush on Simon, and they have kept in touch over the years. Now in their 30’s he is divorced and moving back to London, and Zoe is hoping that their time has finally come.

Being a music blogger, I really enjoyed Love Songs For Skeptics and was surprised that this was Christina Pishiris' debut book. It is a heartwarming story, that centers around music. The characters are relatable, though you may find yourself not liking all of them. I find that the best books you can read are books that make you feel, and I certainly felt Zoe’s frustration on many things. Each chapter, which is not overly long, long chapters are a BIG pet peeve of mine, is titled with a name of a song that fits with the action going on in the chapter, and also makes a heck of a playlist!

Love Song For Skeptics provides the reader with humor, two hot guys, interesting side stories, and the hard choices that come with life. There is plenty in the book to keep anyone entertained, especially if you are a music fan or love rom-coms.

** This book was provided to me for review from Sourcebook **

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Book Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs


Goodreads Overview:

The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.

Jacque's Review:

The original overview for this book implies this is the final book in a trilogy. The story picks up pretty much where the previous book left off. Miss. Peregrine and the other Ymbrynes have been captured by Wights along with some of the peculiar children.  Jacob, Emma, and a few others who managed to escape must now rescue them before life as they know it is lost forever. Without Ymbrynes to manage the loops, peculiars are not safe from their enemies. In addition, if they remain outside of a loop for too long, they will begin to age. Most of the peculiars were friends of Jacob's grandfather, but still look like children because of the loop's ability to freeze time. They are immortal as long as they remain inside of a loop. Even a couple of consecutive days in the "real world" could cause them to age and die.

While I did enjoy the pictures that drive the plot of this stories, I did not feel like this book was as fast paced and as engaging as the previous two. There were a lot of detailed descriptions of the setting, which is dreary and bleak most of the time. The lengthy battles were overdone and often caused me to lose interest. I did enjoy the premise behind the Library of Souls and how Jacob's ability made him the "librarian". I was happy with how everything played out and felt like there was a definitive ending to the series. The struggles the peculiar have endured for years appeared to be behind them and we are left with as close to a happily ever after as I thought we could get. But now there are 3 more books in the series!!!

It looks like the next book is set in America instead of England and the peculiars are going to give life in Jacob's world a try. I'm not sure I am up for an additional 3 books, but the 4th book is actually getting pretty good review and is averaging over 4 stars on Goodreads. I think I will take a break from the series, but will probably give the fourth book a try just to see how things play out. I do enjoy the characters and if the story line has a faster pace, I will likely enjoy it more than I did book 3.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Book Review: The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis

Goodreads Summary: 

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City's creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine's Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel.

Tee's Review:

I have always been fascinated with the Chelsea Hotel, there is so much history there from musicians and poets who lived there to the death of Nancy Spungen supposedly by her boyfriend Sid Vicious.

The new book Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis deals with the iconic hotel in the ’50s when Maxine Mead, an actress, and Hazel Riley, a playwright meet up again at the hotel. They had met on a USO tour during WWII. McCarthyism was at its height in the entertainment industry during the ’50s and it finds its way into Fiona and Maxine’s life.

I loved the characters in Chelsea Girls, Maxine and Hazel are both authentic and relatable as were most of the characters in the story. The glamour of New York and the theater is written beautifully, as well as the entirety of the hotel, which seems like just another character in the story.

This historical novel makes me wish even more, that I could have experienced the iconic Chelsea in its prime, but it also gave me a glimpse into a period of history I know very little about. Chelsea Hotel is a must-read if you like historical novels or New York.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Book Review: Mrs Claus and The Santaland Slayings by Liz Ireland

Goodreads Summary:

t's the first Christmas in Santaland for April Claus--but it may also be her last unless she can uncover a villain with a killer Christmas wish. . .

Love is full of surprises--though few compare to realizing that you're marrying the real-life Santa. April Claus dearly loves her new husband, Nick, but adjusting to life in the North Pole is not all sugarplums and candy canes. Especially when a cantankerous elf named Giblet Hollyberry is killed--felled by a black widow spider in his stocking--shortly after publicly arguing with Nick.

Christmastown is hardly a hotbed of crime, aside from mishaps caused by too much eggnog, but April disagrees with Constable Crinkle's verdict of accidental death. As April sets out to find the culprit, it'll mean putting the future of Christmas on the line--and hoping her own name isn't on a lethal naughty list 

Tee's Review

For all those that thought Santa wasn’t real…think again. He is alive and well, living in Christmastown in a big castle with his family and his new wife April.  April and Nick, that is the present Santa’s name, have been married for three months, and she is still getting used to her role and duties as Mrs. Claus when the unthinkable happens. 


Someone has murdered one of Santa’s elves. Yes, there are elves in this book, it is about Santa, so you’d expect a few elves right? There are also talking reindeer, some who are still playing games, and moving talking snowmen, some hundreds of years old, because it never gets above freezing in Christmasland.

To everyone's horror, an old snowman is also murdered. How do you murder a snowman you ask? Well….use your imagination.  And who do you think Jake Frost, no not Jack, but Jake, Jack is a distant relation, the detective is thinking murdered the two? Santa himself. So April sets out on her own mission to clear her husband's name.

Mrs. Claus and The Santaland Slayings is cute, quirky, and fun. The world-building was great, I felt like I was walking through the board game Candyland on a snowy day, the description was colorful and festive, and yep cold, it is the North Pole after all. There were a lot of characters, and sometimes that seemed to slow me down, trying to figure out which elf was which with their names like Jingles, Juniper, etc… but for the most part, the story was a fast easy read. 

The mystery is well thought out, and has several twists and turns as April questions the people of Christmastown, and gets some of their darkest secrets out in the open. Yep. Even Christmastown seems to have a dark side. The characters range from grieving widows to clumsy reindeer and they all have entertaining factors to them. 

If you are looking for a Christmas book with a bit of fantasy and some murder thrown in, who would have thought you could have all three in one book, then grab your cocoa or eggnog, pull a warm fuzzy blanket around you, and open Mrs. Claus and The Santaland Slayings, it brings on the Christmas magic in a new magical murderous way.