Friday, December 29, 2017

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
After absolutely loving the audiobook version of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I knew I wanted to listen to Becky Albertalli's next book, The Upside of Unrequited, rather than just read it. Not sure what she has done to get such a great cast of narrators for her books, but I loved this one as well! Sometimes audiobook narrators can be terrible and completely ruin what would have otherwise been a great story, but once again this audiobook knocked it out of the park.

The Upside of Unrequited follows Molly and her twin sister Cassie, two girls raised by lesbian moms, who also happen to be a mixed-race couple. Cassie is also a lesbian. Molly considers herself to be the more unattractive twin, being uncomfortable with her weight and never having kissed a boy, while Cassie is gorgeous and can have almost any girl she wants. Throughout the story, Molly struggles with Cassie getting her first serious girlfriend and losing that closeness with her sister, while trying to find herself and work on romantic relationships of her own. Oh, and plan a wedding for her moms. 

I loved everything about this story. I really identified with Molly and her struggles with self image, and having family members beat her up over a "weight problem" since that has also happened to me. I loved the amount of diversity in this book, and that it was a big focus but not so much that it distracted from other elements of the story.  There was a point however where I almost stopped reading because I felt SO BAD for Molly. I just couldn't bear to keep reading about the terrible way that others treated her and what I thought was going to happen next in the story, but I pushed myself through and I'm glad I did! I am so happy with the way this story ended!

I also kind of hate myself for taking so long to realize that Molly and Cassie's cousin Abby is the same Abby from Simon! I know they're making a movie from Simon, but I really hope they make a movie about this one too! I also can't wait to get my hands on Becky Albertalli's newest book, Leah on the Offbeat!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Reading Resolutions

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and got lots of bookish presents! Now that the holiday is over, it's time to settle on some reading resolutions for 2018! This year I've learned a lot about my reading style and preferences, and what works and doesn't work for me. Going forward I want to make sure to implement some new strategies so I don't waste my time reading books I don't like or get wrapped up in too much at once. Here are my reading resolutions for 2018:
  • Don't have more than 3 books going at one time (One physical, one ebook, one audiobook)
  • Always have access to at least one of these (There have been too many times where I'm waiting somewhere and realize too late that I should have brought a book.)
  • Stop reading books I don't like (If I'm halfway through a book and hating it, stop! Odds are it's not going to get much better.)
  • Put some more focus on backlist books (Because my shelves are overflowing)
  • Stop unnecessary BookOutlet binges (Really, I spend too much money and usually don't even read the books...see previous resolution.)
I also have some resolutions to help me be a better blogger:
  • Spend more time on posts on the weekends and schedule them in advance
  • Explore more blogs and discover new ones to follow
  • Make more of an effort to comment back to readers
  • Learn more about photo staging
Do you have any reading resolutions for the new year? If so, what are they?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

This book has been on my radar for quite some time. The concept fascinated me: in a world where there is no more natural death, chosen individuals must basically act as grim reapers to ensure population control. Somehow, it took me this long to read it (even though it was released over a year ago), but I'm so glad I did!

Scythe by Neal Shusterman follows two teens, Citra and Rowan, as they are taken on as apprentices to a well-known Scythe. Scythes are tasked with killing (or gleaning) people now that natural death is extinct. They are immune to gleaning unless they choose to perform the act on themselves, and are bestowed many other privileges, inducing free groceries and exemption from standard laws, but most importantly the ability to grant a year-long immunity to anyone they choose. After a terrible event takes place, Citra and Rowan are split up in their apprenticeship, one being taken on by The Grand Dame of Death and the other by someone who very well may be a murderer in every sense that murder can exist in this world. And to make it worse, only one can be ordained as a Scythe, and he or she must kill the other.

This book was phenomenal, and may very well be one of my favorite reads of 2017. Even though it is fairly long (over 400 pages), I read it in less than 24 hours. It was very easy to follow and understand. The characters, especially Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie, were well developed and very easy to like. It was a little gory, but not terribly so. The whole time I was thinking to myself what name I would take if I were a Scythe (they all must be after someone who made a great impact on history, such as Marie Curie and Nelson Mandela), and which color my robes would be. One thing that really interested me was the concept of the Thunderhead, an all knowing cloud of information that governs the world. It reminds me of the Glow Cloud if anyone listens to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast!

I'm not sure how many books there will be in this series, but at least one more is coming out, and soon. Thunderhead releases on January 9th and I am preordering it as soon as I finish this blog post! I can't wait to jump right back into this world and see what happens next.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Cover Art Courtesy of  Goodreads
The thriller kick I've been on lately is going strong! This book sounded right up my alley so I knew I had to give it a try. Unfortunately it left something to be desired. The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel follows Lane, who moves back to Kansas to live with her grandparents after her mother's suicide. What she doesn't know about is all the family secrets lurking within the walls of Roanoke, her family's home for generations. While at first she truly feels at home, as she gets older she soon realizes she needs to run, only coming back years later after her cousin Allegra's disappearance.

A huge trigger warning for incest is necessary here, although that's not why I didn't really like this book. The first half was great, really building to what I thought would be an epic finish, but the ending left something to be desired and kind of just fell off the thrill wagon. While I liked Lane, I didn't particularly like Allegra, and I thought there was too much Tommy and not enough Cooper in the story. And I won't even get started on how twisted the grandparents are, because that's half the plot right there.

This was a quick read with easy to follow writing, told in present day and flashbacks with occasional snippets from other Roanoke Girls from years past mixed in. It wasn't great, but it definitely wasn't bad, and I'm still glad I read it even if it was a bit of a disappointment at the end.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

This book was sent to me by Blogging for Books for an honest review.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Cover Art Courtesy of St. Martin's Press
I've been reading so many good books lately, and this was no exception! Kristin Hannah is a very well known and phenomenal author so I jumped at the chance to read her newest release, The Great Alone. I do want to put in a trigger warning for PTSD and spousal abuse, because those topics are very prevalent in this story. It follows thirteen year old Leni Allbright and her parents, Cora and Ernt. When Ernt returns from being held captive in Vietnam, he has severe PTSD, often being unable to hold a job (or his temper), and he gets stir crazy very easily. The family soon finds out that one of Ernt's war buddies has left them his home and land...in Alaska. So off they go to start a new life for what Leni hopes is the last time. 

They soon come to realize that they are ill-prepared for the life that awaits them: danger around every corner, no power, and the threat of freezing or starvation being very real. But the Allbrights are survivors, so they do their best to adapt with the help of their new neighbors. As winter starts to set in; however, Ernt's temper gets worse, and he starts getting explosively angry and hurting Cora. Leni and her mom must figure out how to survive, not only the Alaskan winter, but also the danger now lurking in their own home.

This book was outright fantastic. Even though this was a longer read (the physical ARC was over 400 pages), I flew through it in less than 24 hours. The story was engaging, moving, and a little emotionally stressing. I loved Leni's character, especially how she loved books and used reading as a coping mechanism for what was going on around her. Seeing her grow up and fall in love, despite all the challenges she faced was an inspiration. The topics of spousal abuse and PTSD are difficult ones to swallow, but the more we acknowledge that these are real issues that need addressed, the better things will become. I'm glad that Leni was able to acknowledge these issues even as an adolescent and understand that what was happening was not okay.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah releases on February 6, 2018!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much for St. Martin's Press for sending me this ARC! This was a very highly anticipated release for me so I'm excited to have had the opportunity to read it early. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Glass Town by Steven Savile

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Have you ever picked up a book not really knowing what to expect, then were completely blown away? That was me with this book, and since it just came out I didn't have a lot to go on. I honestly didn't even know what genre to call it (and really still don't!) but I think that was part of what made this novel so good. Glass Town by Steven Savile combines urban fantasy, part thriller, part magical realism, and part old Hollywood glamour to create an engaging, unique plot with new and inventive concepts.

This story follows main character Josh Raines as he attempts to piece together a decades-long family obsession. After his grandfather passes away and leaves him a note detailing some of the family history, Josh has to figure out what really happened so long ago and if there's a chance of making it right. You see, Josh's great-grandfather's girlfriend Eleanor Raines mysteriously disappeared, and he believed that a prominent family in town, the Lockwoods, had something to do with it. Throw in an extraordinary feat by a magician and you're left with Glass Town, a realm trapped in time and space, hidden away from the outside world, where Eleanor has been trapped all these years. Josh soon discovers Glass Town and the truth about what happened, but can he outsmart the still-present Lockwoods and make right the mistakes made that caused the men in his family to obsess for so long?

Glass Town really did surprise me in the best of ways. The characters were beautifully written, and the concepts were so unique. It was very refreshing to see that there are still some really good new ideas in fiction out there! It was creepy with a touch of romance, a fair amount of murder, and a lot of magic. The plot was surprisingly easy to understand as well, considering how elaborate the idea behind Glass Town is. I have to mention that the cover is gorgeous as well! I only really had 2 small issues with this book. First, it was a little bit slow and dragged in some places. And second, there were some really graphic and gruesome sex scenes (if you can call it sex since a ghost/monster is involved!) that seemed a little much to me. Otherwise, this is a really unique read that puts some great new twists on the old concepts of magic and corruption. I could see this being an absolutely fantastic movie!


Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for sending me a copy to review!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book of the Month Overview

Today I wanted to share with you guys something that I absolutely love, my Book of the Month subscription. I'm sure you've seen in my posts that various books were BOTM picks for different months. Since a lot of people are unfamiliar with this subscription, I wanted to explain it in a little bit more detail! Book of the Month is a monthly book subscription that allows you to either choose one (or more) books from a set of predetermined picks, or skip the month if none of the books interest you. You can pay monthly (which is what I do) or pay for a longer subscription up front, and you can cancel at any time. The subscription covers one book per month, and you can add additional titles for $9.99. Shipping is always free, which is fantastic, and it's super fast as well! 

While the books are primarily adult fiction, they occasionally throw in a YA title, a biography/memoir, or a nonfiction option. They also frequently offer exclusive titles. For example, this month, BOTM was offering three different books that don't release to the public until January. All the books in the monthly offerings are hardcover new releases and have a special BOTM logo on the cover and spine. Sometimes they even include little extras, like luggage tags, wine glass cozies, or stickers, and each book comes with a bookmark.

What I really love about this subscription is that it introduces me to books and authors that I normally wouldn't have picked up on my own. While I do read adult fiction, I tend to gravitate towards the YA section in the bookstore, often missing out on good adult reads. Thanks to BOTM I've read some FANTASTIC adult books this year. I always look forward to the first of the month when I can log in, see the new picks, and make my selection.

Some of my favorite Book of the Month picks have included:
  • Final Girls by Riley Sager
  • The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
  • Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
  • The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
This post is not at all sponsored, I just really wanted to share with you guys a bookish service that I as a reader absolutely love and couldn't live without. I just subscribed to a few more bookish boxes and can't wait to review them here in the new year.

Remember, you can cancel at any time so it's the perfect opportunity to try the service and get a new release cheaper than listing price, with no strings attached! To check out Book of the Month, you can visit their site here (warning, referral link ahead): https://www.mybotm.com/dk7pla8kfjn61or

Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Like I mentioned before, I'm trying hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year, and that means more Christmas-y reads. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a hot minute, and I finally prioritized it for this holiday season. My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of twelve holiday themed short stories, written by some of the most popular YA authors and edited by Stephanie Perkins.

The cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous, as are the title page drawings to go along with every short story. It's a quick read, and perfect for the busy holiday season, since you can read one story at a time and put it down and come back to it easily. All the stories were very clearly written in the style of each author, and I think it would have been easy to tell whose was whose for the most part, even without being told. I liked that overall, these stories weren't stereotypical Christmas love stories, and they encompassed a diverse cast of main characters.

Unfortunately, despite all this, I just didn't love it. While I did adore a few of the stories (specifically the ones by Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Forman, Stephanie Perkins, and Matt de la Peña), the rest left me disappointed. To only really enjoy four out of twelve stories is a let down, and the waste of a book sadly. I also thought that all the better stories were put towards the beginning, so working your way through the rest of the book and the not as good stories was difficult. 

That being said, I still want to give its companion, Summer Days and Summer Nights, a shot, since the authors are different (except for Stephanie Perkins, whose story in this one is supposed to be a continuation of the one I loved in My True Love Gave to Me...eeep!). Maybe those stories will grab me more than most of these did!

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've been so into thrillers lately that I had to snag this as my December Book of the Month pick. Just the title and cover alone made this book have the creep factor that I'm always looking for. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor follows Eddie and his friends, both in 1986 and in 2016. As children, the group of friends witnesses a gruesome act that could only be pinned on "The Chalk Man." Now, years later, the group gets a mysterious message, a note and a piece of chalk each, and one of them turns up dead. Is The Chalk Man back and trying to tell them something? Are they in danger? Or were they wrong about everything all along? Now they must figure it out, or another one of them could end up dead.

This book is told in a format alternating from present day to flashbacks by the main character Eddie. One interesting thing about this book is that you think all along that who the murderer is is obvious, until the end that is. The flashbacks were easy to understand, and I liked all the characters, but I still unfortunately had some issues with this book.

First, it really wasn't that THRILLING for a thriller. Normally I can't put these types of books down, but this one just didn't grab me like that. Also, there is an unnecessary dog death in this story, and things like this always turn me off of a book, no matter how good it may be. It was also confusing when it came to who is related to who and why people are suddenly reappearing in Eddie's life. Who the murderer was was not as exciting as I had hoped, although the last few pages blew me away!

I feel bad for not loving this book, really I do, especially since others on Goodreads are just raving about it. But when it comes down to it I think there are much better thrillers out there. Luckily it wasn't too long, so even though I wasn't obsessed with the story I was able to get through it fairly quickly. I think this might be a good read for someone just getting into thrillers who isn't sure about the genre yet, as it is definitely on the milder side in my opinion. You win some, you lose some I guess, so hopefully my next read will hit it out of the park!

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Thursday, December 7, 2017

No-one Ever Has Sex on Christmas Day by Tracy Bloom

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
It's no secret to those that know me well that I'm not a huge fan of Christmas, and I never have been. This year, however, that sentiment has shifted. Maybe it's because I just got married, or maybe I've finally grown out of my grinchly ways. Regardless, this Christmas I'm actually excited about Christmas, not just the overall season. I wanted to make sure there were a few Christmas reads on my TBR this year, to fully make the most of my newfound holly jolly-ness.

No-one Ever Has Sex on Christmas Day is written Love Actually style, honing in on a few families and groups of friends that share connections with one another in some way, shape, or form. Main characters include married couples Katy and Ben, and Allison and Matthew, along with a wide variety of friends and family. I didn't realize until halfway through this book that it is actually part of a series, but that's a good sign because that means it functions great as a stand-alone as well.

Katy and Ben are all settled in for their perfect Christmas when things start to go awry. First Katy's mom demands to attend, then Katy's work life gets turned upside down by an unexpected job offer. Allison and Matthew are expecting their fourth baby, but their well-balanced life could get thrown off by a romance gone wrong. Similarly to Love Actually, the characters all end up together at an office Christmas party, then again at a school Nativity event. At the end of the day, despite all the chaos surrounding them, the group comes to realize that all you need is love.

I really enjoyed this book. I'm a huge fan of Love Actually so when I heard this book described that way I knew I would like it. That being said, it was almost TOO similar, even referencing the movie once or twice in the story itself, so that's where I'm knocking off a star. I would have liked to have seen more unique ideas, but overall this was a fun and fast Christmas read that really puts you in the spirit of the season. The characters were great, and the message was heart-warming and relevant, and I'm so glad I gave this book a chance!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks to Netgalley for digital access to this fun seasonal read!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas/Holiday TBR

I can't believe we're already into December and so close to the end of another year! I love this time of year, because it's so cozy and I feel like the rush of regular daily tasks slows down a bit. It's the perfect time of year to curl up in front of a roaring fire and tackle some good reads. I've complied my TBR for the holiday season and wanted to share it with you guys. While there aren't a ton of Christmas-themed books on here, they're all books I'm very excited about.
  • My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins: YES I KNOW this book came out forever ago and I still haven't gotten around to it. This time I will, I promise!
  • No-one Ever Has Sex on Christmas Day by Tracy Bloom: This was described as similar to Love Actually, so as a huge fan of that movie I'm going to give it a go!
  • The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor: This was my Book of the Month pick for December. I'm loving the thriller genre right now so I had to jump right into this one.
  • Artemis by Andy Weir: This was last month's BOTM pick but I haven't gotten around to it yet. If it's anything like The Martian I'm going to love it.
  • A Simplified Life by Emily Ley: As a planner girl, I love anything by Emily Ley. Going into the new year with a more simplified vision might be just what I need!
I'm sure I'll end up reading more than just these, but this is my starting point. I've already started two of these so I'm not worried about completing this list. What is on your TBR list for the holiday season? 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Being Honest With Myself

There comes a time when for most people, your reading style and preferences change. You start to like what you previously enjoyed less and less, and find yourself gravitating towards reads you might have never given a second glance to before. You find former favorite genres frustrating, and gain new appreciation for ones you previously thought boring. For me that time is now.

After DNF-ing my 5th or 6th high fantasy YA this year (An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson), I'm slowly being more honest with myself that this genre is just not for me anymore. I don't get the enjoyment I once did from discovering completely new worlds. Instead, I now find this difficult to follow and too time consuming to grasp, often leading me to misunderstand the plot simply because there is too much other information I need to comprehend.  While this will sadly leave many books and series on my shelves unfinished, I'm learning that I would much rather spend my time reading things I enjoy vs trying to fight through books I really don't want to be reading. In the long run, this will benefit me more and make me a happier reader.

Will I come back to high fantasy in the future? Maybe, who knows. Maybe I'll reach a point in my life where that elaborate escape is necessary and I take comfort in new worlds and ideas. But for now, it's not needed. In its place, I'm really loving adult mysteries and thrillers. I still have my love for YA contemporaries and literary fiction. Even low fantasy will continue to be a regular read for me. I just need to stay away from the high fantasy hype for a while, and if this genre and I are meant to be, it will find me again some day.

What is a genre you have grown away from? What has replaced it for you?

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Garden of Dead Thoughts by Natasha A. Salnikova

Cover Art Courtesy of the Author
When Natasha reached out to me and asked if I would read her latest work, I jumped at the chance after seeing the plot of this novel. The Garden of Dead Thoughts follows manipulative Margo, a beautiful woman set on living a luxurious and wealthy life, who will stop at nothing to achieve it. Even if that something is murder.

Jilted in the will of her first lover, Margo vows to be more cautious and calculating with her next, using her beauty as a trap to lure in the perfect man. As she schemes and calculates, settling on her next husband/victim Michael, she starts to learn that people are not always as easy to manipulate as they seem, and that she's not the only one hiding ulterior motives. Soon, Margo finds herself in a game of cat and mouse where it appears that only one individual can come out on top. But can combining their unusual skills and forming an alliance help both parties achieve what they set out to accomplish? 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was written in 3 points of view: Margo, Michael, and a third POV that combines both of them. There is a lot of deception, and there are a lot of murders. I loved Margo's character and thought she was developed fantastically. And the plot twist is something like I've never seen! It came totally out of left field and I loved not being able to guess the ending for once. This was a fast read that I devoured in just a few hours. My biggest complaint is that I feel like it was edited carelessly, as I found more errors than I like to see in a finished book.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks Natasha for honoring me with the chance to read your work!