Sunday, November 19, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Let me start this review by saying that I've never really been sure where I stand on John Green. I only read two of his books prior to reading this one, one of which I loved and one I hated. Looking for Alaska was fantastic, with interesting characters and a plot that drew you in, while The Fault in Our Stars was dull and sad, with unlikable characters and a pretty predictable ending. Because I was 50/50 on this author, and everyone seems to rave about him, I decided to give his newest book a try. Turtles All the Way Down follows Aza, a sixteen-year-old with anxiety and mental problems, who gets wrapped up in a disappearance and a love story all at once.

When the millionaire father of her old friend Davis goes missing, Aza and her best friend Daisy decide to investigate, more for the reward than for anything else. Little did Aza know, she would not only get the reward money, but gain a pseudo-boyfriend in the process. Unfortunately for Aza, she has a mental disorder that leaves her obsessed with germs, perpetually afraid of contracting a disease. This proves to be a burden on Davis, and Daisy, and relationships become strained as Aza reaches a breaking point where she has to determine whether or not she will spend her life letting her anxiety control her.

This story also includes an overprotective mother, a car named Harold, and a tuatara that will inherit millions, which is a lizard-like creature I didn't even know existed until I read this book.

Unfortunately, this story didn't sway me on John Green one way or the other. This book was just average to me, not great but not terrible. The plot left something to be desired and I was unsatisfied with the ending, although I loved the complexity of Aza's character. At some point I guess I'll have to tackle another book by John Green and see where that takes me. If you have any recommendations let me know!

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Busted by Gina Ciocca

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I love a good YA contemporary. They're fun, quick reads with relatable characters and relevant plots. Busted by Gina Ciocca was no exception. Busted follows Marisa, a high school student who catches her best friend's boyfriend cheating. But once word gets around as to what she's done, she accidentally goes from an everyday student to Marisa, cheater buster and sleuth extraordinaire.

When Marisa's old frenemy Kendall solicits Marisa's help in catching a cheater of her own, drama brews as Marisa starts to fall for TJ, the boy Kendall wants her to track. Trouble brews when Kendall discovers that TJ feels the same about Marisa, and sets out to ruin her by exposing her private eye secret. But Kendall doesn't know that Marisa may know a secret about her as well. All this coupled with some additional academic drama makes for a quality contemporary and a really fun read. How far is Marisa willing to go to expose the real truth, and who is she willing to take down with her?

This was a fast-paced story that I devoured quickly. There were never lulls in the plot, and I thought all the characters added something to the story. It also really made me want a leather bracelet like the ones TJ makes! The cover for this book is absolutely gorgeous, but I think it is a little misleading. An image from Marisa's website might have been a better, more fitting option. 

When I read books about high schoolers, I always wonder why everyone has oblivious parents who can't spot an obvious lie. I know when I was in high school, my parents were always ON IT when it came to knowing whether or not I was telling the truth. Aside from a few unrealistic scenes, I really enjoyed this read and think it would be a great choice for any fan of YA contemporary!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Busted by Gina Ciocca hits shelves this coming January, so be sure to pre-order a copy! Thanks so much to SOURCEBOOKS Fire for granting me early digital access to this fantastic read!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
When this came up as a Book of the Month choice for October, I read the synopsis and immediately knew this would be my pick. Not only did the cover look beautiful, but the plot seemed full of fantasy and wonder, something we all need a little more of in our lives. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang follows Weylyn Grey, a boy of the wilderness, and those he leaves an impression on throughout his life. These include Mary, a girl who once ran away with him to live with wolves, and Lydia, his foster sister when he was brought back into civilization, in addition to a small-town mayor who hired him to handle a problem plaguing the town, and his supervisor at a logging company who witnessed some very unique characteristics in Weylyn.

Weylyn has never fit in with society. He has always felt more comfortable in the company of animals. Even though he tried to fit in numerous times, he always retreated back to the comfort of nature, whether that be living with a wolf pack, sleeping amongst a colony of bees, or befriending what appears to be a magical horned pig named Merlin. Throughout the story, readers come to discover that Weylyn is more than meets the eye, with some magical abilities that connect with his love of nature, but that could also destroy him and those he loves.

This was a fun, lighthearted read that makes you want to appreciate the beauty and wonder all around you in nature. The characters were easy to identify with, although sometimes the constant flipping back and forth from one point of view to another made it difficult to understand who was talking. I enjoyed the magical elements in the book but at times they just didn't make sense, and a lot of things were left unanswered. It also took longer to get through this book than I would have liked. Overall the story was great, but I think the execution left something to be desired.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Sunday, November 12, 2017

David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Ever since I was a little girl I was fascinated with David Bowie, and I was beyond distraught when he passed away. From the movie Labyrinth, to Ziggy Stardust, I was enthralled with this man who could morph and mold himself into almost anything, and be insanely attractive while doing so. David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones, is the story of Bowie and how he came to be this magical man.

I love biographies, but they are often a lot to slog through, this being no exception to that rule. A thick and detailed biography, this gathered bits and pieces of information in the form of hundreds of quotes from those who worked with Bowie. These included puppeteers from Labyrinth, fashion designers, fellow recording artists, directors, journalists, and more. And of course, there were some choice stories and quotes from Bowie himself. Unlike many biographies that seem so much like reference books, this was written in a way that felt more like a story, even though it was broken up into so many quotes.

While I already knew a lot about Bowie, I learned even more through this biography. Bowie was a much more reserved man that I realized, often getting embarrassed about things and occasionally drawing into himself. But above all that, he was kind, creative, intelligent, and thoughtful. He went on daily walks through Chinatown and spent hours in art museums. More than anything, I was shocked to learn that he was not a fan of his Jareth costume, which has become so iconic over the years (for more reasons than one, if you know what I mean!). I loved getting into the artist's head to see what made him tick and learn more about his rationale behind his crazy stage persona.

The best, albeit saddest, part of this book was the last chapter, with interviews from loved ones after Bowie's passing. Here you see the true impact of this man on the lives of others, and how much they were shaken by the loss of this icon and friend. Overall this was a fantastic, although long, read. I highly recommend it for anyone fascinated with David Bowie and the wonderful aura that surrounded him.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review, but all opinions are honest and are my own.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Cover Art Courtesy of St. Martin's Press
This book has been on my radar for a while. The kind folks at St. Martin's Press sent me a copy when they learned I was a big fan of thrillers, and I wanted to get through Halloween before I tackled it. I can see now why they were so excited to send this to me, I couldn't put it down! The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is a thriller that follows Vanessa and Nellie and the love interest Richard, and the complicated web weaved between them. I devoured this book in a few hours, and I can tell it will be a story I think about for a long time.

Like the back of the book says, everything you think you know about this book is wrong. And it's a sweet slap in the face when you actually learn the truth, because you never will have seen it coming. The characters were fantastic: Vanessa, the haggard and jilted ex-wife obsessed with her replacement, Nellie, the bright-eyed and hopeful teacher excited to marry the man of her dreams, and Richard, the seemingly perfect man with a dark and manipulative personality. Throw in a few other characters and you have a network of obsession and deception, wrought with mystery and intrigue, that makes for the perfect thriller.

I don't want to give anything away and spoil it for you if you intend to read it (and you should!), but I do want to add a disclaimer regarding abusive relationships and stalking. If this is a triggering topic for you, you might want to stay away from this novel.

Overall, I thought the plot and the characters were fantastic. It had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn't stop reading until I found out what happened. I was VERY satisfied with the ending, but I still had a few lasting questions (like what is the deal with Maureen??). I've seen that there are already plans for this to be made into a movie, which of course I will have to see! If you are a fan of Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, be sure to pick this up because it will be right up your alley.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Wife Between Us hits shelves on January 9, 2018, so be sure to place your preorder now or pick up a copy when it comes out! Thanks to St. Martin's Press for sending me what has already become one of the best books I've read this year!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Reading Slump (and a DNF Review)

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
As you can probably tell from the lack of posts, I've been in a terrible reading slump lately. While I'm not quite positive what started it, I'm pretty sure it was The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken (more on that later). I just didn't feel like picking up any books, and none of the books on my TBR appealed to me. For the last 3 weeks or so (or basically since I got back from my honeymoon), I just didn't read. I didn't even have a desire to wander aimlessly around Barnes & Noble like I usually do...weird right?!

The whole time, I felt terrible about it. I kept thinking that I was neglecting my shelves and this blog, but I think honestly you need some time away from something you love to make you appreciate it more when you go back to it. I finally got the urge to read again, and devoured an absolutely fantastic book that I will be reviewing on here next. And now that that book is finished, I can't wait to jump right into another. 

But as for the book that started my reading slump, I was so insanely disappointed. I had been looking forward to The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding for MONTHS, and bought it the day it came out. But I could not for the life of me get through this book. It could be for a few reasons: 1) It was a middle grade novel, which is definitely not my style. I only bought it because the plot seemed up my alley, it had been hyped a ton, and the cover was gorgeous. 2) The characters were just plain boring. And annoying. And because of this I just couldn't get myself invested in the story. And 3) The plot was extremely slow. After the first few chapters, it almost came to a halt. I kept picking up this book to try to get through it, but could only read a page or two at a time before I got bored and went to do something else. Finally I just gave up about 2/3 in, which is really a shame since it takes a lot for me to DNF a book. But in a way, I'm glad I didn't make myself finish it, because I believe this is supposed to be the start of a series, and I don't want to force myself into another series that I'm not invested in.

So that's where I've been all this time, doing everything imaginable EXCEPT reading! But I'm back now with an exciting TBR pile and and a rejuvenated thirst for the written word. Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
The spooky reviews just keep on rolling in! I've had Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake on my TBR for SO long, and like some of my previous spooky reads I decided this needed to be a priority this Halloween season. First off, the text of this book is printed in burgundy ink, which is SO awesome and unique. It was dark enough to still be easy to read, but that different element really stood out to me.

This story follows Cas, a ghosthunter who in his father's footsteps dedicates his life to killing those who are already dead. This is how he meets Anna, a murderous ghost who has a passion for brutally killing anyone who sets foot inside her house. But Cas notices right away that Anna is different, almost human in her emotions, so he sets out to free her spirit from whatever curse is turning her evil. Throughout the story Cas also opens himself up to friendship, something he has never done, and he and his newfound posse band together to not only save Anna, but also themselves.

I really enjoyed this story, and am excited to read the next one, Girl of Nightmares. I thought all the characters were well developed and likable, and the story itself was very fast moving. You can tell that Blake did a lot of research on different types of witchcraft as well. I did think it was a little overly gruesome for YA, but the morbid side in me appreciated this. I did knock off a star because some plot points just didn't connect for me, but overall it was still a pretty great Halloween read!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Monday, October 23, 2017

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I have been meaning to read this book for so long, and this Halloween season I finally made it a priority to pick up this collection of stories! Slasher Girls and Monster Boys is an anthology of 14 scary short stories written by well-known YA authors and compiled by April Genevieve Tucholke. I don't read a lot of short story anthologies, but I should, since they are perfect for pausing and coming back to. Whenever I had to take a break, it was easy to find a place to do so.

I really thought this book was all over the place. Some stories were fantastic, while others were just bland. I especially liked In The Forest Dark and Deep by Carrie Ryan, Emmeline by Cat Winters, and Hide-And-Seek by Megan Shepherd. Sleepless by Jay Kristoff is disturbing, in a perverted way, as is The Birds of Azalea Street by Nova Ren Suma. The rest were unfortunately not that memorable. Other authors that contributed to this anthology are: Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, Danielle Paige, April Genevieve Tucholke (who also compiled these stories), Jonathan Maberry, Stefan Bachmann, McCormick Templeman, AG Howard, and Kendare Blake.

I will say that some of the elements in a few of these stories are a little sexual for the lower age of YA readers, and that this book borders more on older YA/New Adult. The stories aren't really gruesome and many are more psychological than actually scary. I was hoping for nightmares, but was sorely disappointed, but then again I am 27 (so a little older than the target audience). I really do admire many of the authors that contributed, but I have to say that short stories (at least scary ones) just might not be their thing.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
My lovely blog readers, I'm back! Sorry for the hiatus, but I had my wedding and honeymoon to celebrate! Lucky for you, I read some fantastic books while I was away that I will be posting reviews for in the coming week. The first of these is Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. I actually started reading this as a free digital sampler on my flight home from the honeymoon, and loved it so much I bought the physical copy in the airport during my layover to finish during the second leg of the flight. 

This book follows Samantha, a teenage girl who loves her life, her popular friends, and her boyfriend. She has everything she wants, but a tragic accident forces Sam to face reality and acknowledge the fact that she hasn't been the nicest person in the past in order to finally find peace. You see, Sam is killed in a car accident, but she is forced to relive her last day over and over again until she can make things right.

I really enjoyed this book. It was fast moving and a very quick read. I loved Sam's character, and her friends Ally, Lindsey, and Elody as well. I thought the character development was great and so was the plot, and I loved all the details (I actually ordered a large hazelnut coffee with no sugar and extra cream with a sesame bagel from Dunkin Donuts this morning, if you get my reference!). I really enjoyed seeing how Sam relived her last day over and over, changing into a different person every day. I was a little disappointed with the ending and it was somewhat predictable, hence knocking off a star.

I absolutely have to watch this movie now to see if it lives up to the book. This is the first Lauren Oliver book I've read, but I now have tons more on my TBR!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October 2017 TBR

Halloween season is finally here, which means it's extra important to pick up some spooky reads! This month is interesting, because I'm getting married in 5 days (!!!) and will be on my honeymoon, so I'll have more time than usual to curl up with a book (only this time it will be on the beach instead of on my couch!). Here's what I'm planning to tackle this month:
  • Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke
  • Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
  • The Merciless II by Danielle Vega
  • Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalo
  • A Midsummer Night's Scream by RL Stine
  • Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
  • Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
Do you have any more spooky recommendations for me? I'm down for spooky books all year round of course, but October is just the perfect time!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Goodbye, Good Girl by Renee Blossom

Thanks Renee for my signed copy!
I love contemporaries, especially ones with a character I can identify with, and this book was no exception. Goodbye, Good Girl by Renee Blossom follows Kandace, a girl on a quest to both mentally find herself and physically find her father. Along the way she discovers an adventure she never thought she would be part of, and found everything she was looking for in the process. 

I absolutely ADORED this book. It had so many unique elements: coming of age mixed with travel mixed with family drama mixed with a little raunchiness mixed with a thriller. I loved Autumn/Kandace's character and identified so much with her myself. Constantly struggling to make things work and letting other people dictate her life, I loved seeing her grow and change as the story went on, with her ultimately getting to the point where she determined her own future. I also think April was a great friend for her, and wish I had an April in my life myself! Who knew a chance encounter at a bus stop could lead to a friendship like that?

My only complaint was the Kyle story line, it really seemed kind of pointless after the first few chapters, and I think he was an unnecessary addition to the story. Overall I really really enjoyed this book and am so glad I had the chance to read it! This is Blossom's first novel, and I'm so excited to see what else is in store from this author.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Goodbye, Good Girl by Renee Blossom releases TODAY so be sure to pick it up!

Thanks so much to Renee, Netgalley, and Revolve for both a digital ARC and a signed copy.

Monday, October 2, 2017

September 2017 Wrap Up

So September was a very good book month! I read a good mix of both older and new/upcoming books, totaling 7 books for the month of September. Here are my reads and how I rated them!
Reviews for all of these books have already been completed and posted, so be sure to check them out if you're interested in more detail!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Author Spotlight: M. Verano

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
Here's the first of hopefully many author spotlight posts! Upon reading two books of his, I had to go a little more in depth on the mystery and books surrounding author M. Verano.

I've read 2 of Verano's 3 Diary of a Haunting books, the first one Diary of a Haunting, and the upcoming third one Book of Shadows. These books are definitely not for the faint of heart, and you really need to love thrillers to even pick them up (how about those creepy covers huh?). The premise behind these novels is that they are diaries detailing horrific paranormal events, the first following a family that lives in what seems to be a possessed house and the third following a group who engages with a demonic book. I really enjoy horror/thrillers, so I was immediately drawn to these books.

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
The first, the original Diary of a Haunting, was pretty good. Paige, her brother, and her mother recently moved into an old house and things start to go wrong, and fast. The ending of this book was a crazy twist, and overall earned a 4 star rating from me.

The third, Book of Shadows, followed 4 teenagers, Melanie, Caleb, Lara, and Lucas, as they entangle their beginner practices of witchcraft with a powerful demonic Book of Shadows and all hell breaks loose. This was definitely not as good as the first. I didn't connect with the characters as much, and the writing left something to be desired, so I only gave it 3 stars.

The second book, Possession, is still on my radar to read!

Cover art courtesy of Goodreads
That leaves the author, the mysterious M. Verano, who is supposedly a professor of history and a purveyor of the paranormal at the University of Idaho. But Verano is also a character in his own books...so are they fiction or nonfiction? Obviously fiction, but then who is the author? From the beginning I knew M. Verano had to be a pen name, and after a little digging I found I was right. M. Verano is actually Amy Ross, and it doesn't appear that she's released anything other than these 3 books. Not sure how I feel about the whole pen name bit, because although I love the mystery surrounding it, I always end up disappointed when I find out who the real author is.

Have you read any of the Diary of a Haunting books, and what did you think?

Thanks so much to Edelweiss+ and Simon Pulse for the advanced digital copy of Book of Shadows! Book of Shadows was recently released on September 19th!