June 21, 2018

Find You In The Dark by Nathan Ripley

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I read so many thrillers that for the most part, they don't freak me out anymore. This one did. This freaked me out so badly that when my husband went away for the weekend, I made him take this book with him so I couldn't read it while home alone. Find You In The Dark by Nathan Ripley is about a man fascinated with murders, and what happens when he gets in too deep.

Martin Reese is obsessed with murders. So obsessed, in fact, that his hobby is digging up the bodies of missing murder victims. Think of a Murderino on steriods. Using police files from a friend on the inside, he prides himself on being able to find the missing bodies that the cops could not, and after finding them he calls them in anonymously, simultaneously taunting the police and giving the families of the victims some closure. But one day Martin finds a recently deceased body in one of the graves he digs up, and he realizes that someone is onto him.

This book really gets you deep into the mind of a serial killer. It's almost a psychological profile of a killer in itself, mixed in with a mystery. All throughout the story I kept asking myself, "Could someone really be this twisted?" and the answer was always yes. Personally I've always been interested in the minds of serial killers and fascinated by murders, but I know many people are (otherwise the My Favorite Murder podcast wouldn't be so successful!). But this really does take it into uncharted territory.

The story is told from multiple points of view, but doesn't ever get confusing. Each of the characters is strongly developed and you really learn what makes them tick. The picture painted here is so clear that you can easily see yourself in the Reese residence, in Ellen's store, and in Keith's apartment. The overall ominous and creepy tone of the book was right up my alley and I was left with a very unsettling feeling. 

This book has been compared to Dexter (which I loved) and I definitely agree! It was a very slow burn book, though, which I'm never a huge fan of. There was also a little sexism in my opinion, and there were a few loose ends I would have liked to have seen tied up better.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Atria Mystery Bus for an advanced copy of this read! Find You In The Dark by Nathan Ripley was released this week, so be sure to pick up a copy!

June 13, 2018

Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering

"You have to be careful of girls that are too pretty, though. 
They hold a power that they never had to earn."

-Carola Lovering, Tell Me Lies


Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
With every great reading streak, you're bound to encounter a dud sooner rather than later, and this book was unfortunately that dud for me. Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering had so much promise, but just fell flat. This story follows two main characters, Lucy and Stephen. Lucy is perpetually stuck in Stephen's charismatic trap, even though he treats her terribly. Each of them have their own individual issues going on outside of each other, which makes the toxic relationship even worse, but the only real growth that happened in the book happened so late in the game that everything up to that point was like watching paint dry.

Normally I really enjoy character-driven stories, even if there isn't much plot, but this was such a drag! The story just chronicled their college years in dual narrative format, and all the story really focused on was each time Stephen ensnared Lucy only to begin treating her like crap fairly soon after.

I've been Lucy myself-the girl fully absorbed in a guy and completely ignoring how badly he treats her, listening to lie after lie, and believing that he will change. Observing this from the outside though, all I wanted to do was scream at Lucy to get a grip and leave the loser, even though personally I know it's not that easy.

The book also kept referencing one specific incident in the past that Lucy and Stephen both have ties to, but neither knows it. I honestly didn't see the point of this addition whatsoever. This could have been done so much better to turn this story into a somewhat-mystery. I liked all the side characters a lot, and I think stories about them would have been much more interesting than this. I especially loved Pippa, and was absolutely fascinated by CJ.

The only other redeeming quality I could find in this book was the abundance of Fleetwood Mac references. Lucy sure did have good taste in music. That and the fact that I really like the book cover.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks to Atria Books for an advanced e-copy of this book! Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering is out now, so if this sounds up your alley be sure to pick up a copy!

June 11, 2018

Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Not only did this book have a gorgeous cover, but this "CinderFella Story" has an outstanding plot as well. Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips follows two gay teens on a journey of love, loss, and beautiful music.

When Nate and Cameron meet at a club, it's practically love at first sight. Cameron's singing voice matches Nate's guitar style perfectly, and the vibe is instant. But then Nate finds out who Cameron actually is: the son of a famous record mogul, the same record mogul who might have been responsible for Nate's father's suicide. Nate runs for the hills and never wants to look back. But Cameron can't stop thinking about him, and wants to do everything he can to convince Nate that he isn't his father. 

When Nate shows up for a mysterious audition for a new up and coming singer (who just so happens to be Cameron), they are once again thrust together. Nate has to decide if he wants to follow his heart and his talent, or keep his distance and possibly miss out on the opportunity, and love, of a lifetime.

This book was so wonderful! From all the musical references to the adorable yet cautiously real love story, it was everything I want in a contemporary. But what I loved the most about this book was that it didn't make a big deal out of the fact that the two main characters were gay. There was no pandering or playing it up, it was just normal, which is how our society should view gay relationships. This was so much more than a love story as well, and dealt with some tough topics and difficult family dynamics, making it all around a fantastic read.

My biggest complaint was that I thought it ended rather abruptly. I wanted to know more about what happened!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thank you so much to Viking for an advanced copy of this adorable read! Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips releases TOMORROW, June 12th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

June 7, 2018

Royals by Rachel Hawkins

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
In the aftermath of the Royal Wedding, I was looking to bridge the gap between that and my visit to England in a few weeks. Enter Royals by Rachel Hawkins. I figured this would be the perfect title to feed my royal need, and I was right.

Royals follows Daisy, whose sister Ellie just got engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Suddenly Daisy is thrust into the world of the royals, from going shooting to fancy balls, and she doesn't know what to do. Miles, a friend and steward of the royals, is assigned to help Daisy learn the ropes. There is drama, and plenty of it, as Daisy tries to figure out who she wants to be in this new world, and what rules she must follow versus which ones she is happy to break.

Daisy was feisty and sarcastic and I just loved her! Her jokes and comebacks are something to aspire to. As much as it was easy to dislike Ellie, I fully understood her struggle to fit into her new family and be the perfect princess that everyone expects. I would have liked to have seen more of Alex, but I just adored the "Royal Wreckers!" The romance aspect of this book was cute, although not the main focus which I really appreciated. Just looking at the tagline on the cover, you think this book will primarily be about a love interest, but it was so much more than that. I also loved that there were some LGBT+ aspects in this story as well, and the descriptive scenes of the Scottish countryside were beautiful. 

Ignoring things like the fact that there is no Crown Prince of Scotland/separate Scottish monarchy, this book was adorable. It was fluffy and light, and I think this could be a great book to get someone out of a reading slump! It definitely wasn't life changing, or something I would probably even pick up again, but for what it was I enjoyed the few hours I spent reading it. A solid, decent, 3 star read.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

June 5, 2018

The Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
When I saw this book takes place on a cruise ship, I knew it would make for a fantastic summer read. The Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando follows Natalie, who has embarked on a cruise with some close friends and family for her seventeenth birthday "Sail-A-Bration".

Natalie has been having a hard time, as her boyfriend has recently passed away, and her friends and family hope that this cruise is just the thing she needs to let loose. On the first day of the cruise, Natalie meets a charismatic boy who might be just the person to help her move on. But when he mysteriously disappears and there are rumors of someone going overboard, Natalie becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to him.

This book was quite the ride! There were so many twists along the way, and it was virtually impossible to predict anything. Even when there were reveals, they were so outlandish it was hard to get on board (get it...cruise story-on board??) with them even though they were true. The best word to describe this book would definitely be surprising. It's definitely not a scary thriller, more of a psychological, twisty one.

I loved Natalie as a character, but really disliked her friends. They were rude, judgmental, and really pushy, not seeming to care that Natalie was still deeply impacted by the tragedy she experienced. There are a ton of Hitchcock references, which I quite enjoyed, especially as they paralleled the story itself so well. This story is also interspersed with cruise newsletters and documents to let the reader know what is happening on board each day. While not really necessary, I thought it was a nice touch that made you feel more immersed in the atmosphere of the book. Having been on multiple cruises myself, I can say that the overall cruise setting was very authentically written.

As much as I really enjoyed this read, and do appreciate its entertainment value, I have to take a star off for being extremely unrealistic in the plot department.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Bloomsbury for an advanced copy of this mysterious summer read! The Opposite of Here by Tara Altebrando releases TODAY, June 7th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

May 30, 2018

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan by Gia Cribbs

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've lamented my problem with YA thrillers many times on this blog...they're always too predictable. This one, however, completely surpassed my expectations and turned out to be one of the best books I've read so far this year. The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan by Gia Cribbs has everything you want in a YA thriller...it's realistic, the characters are relatable, the plot isn't too simple OR too confusing, and the twists and turns around every corner completely take you by surprise.

This story follows high school senior Sloane Sullivan. A member of the witness protection program, or WITSEC, Sloane is constantly having to change her identity and move all over the country accompanied by her assigned US Marshal, Mark. After witnessing a violent crime, Sloane had no choice but to enter WITSEC, but now as she approaches her eighteenth birthday, she is excited to finally get out and begin a life that truly belongs to her. But when Sloane lands at her final high school and an old friend from her past is now a student there, she has to fight even harder than ever to ensure her identity, and her chance at WITSEC freedom, aren't compromised.

I cannot sing this book's praises enough! Every time I thought I had something figured out, I was wrong and completely blown away by the actual reveal. Interspersed throughout are flashbacks to the event that landed Sloane in WITSEC in the first place, culminating in the final realization she thought she had forgotten all these years. The characters were all fantastic. I loved Sloane and really admire her for all that she had to go through as a child and a teen. Jason was an outstanding character, and I loved Mark as her protector. I love that Sloane picked her names from characters in books or movies (because this is totally something I would do). 

This story has mobsters and mystery, and some amazingly dirty and hilarious Harry Potter pick up lines! What's not to love?

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Gia Cribbs who reached out asking if I wanted to review her book and providing an advanced copy! This is Gia's first novel, so be sure to check it out! The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is out NOW, so go grab your copy to be completely immersed in this fantastic thriller!

May 29, 2018

To the Moon and Back by Karen Kingsbury

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've mentioned on this blog before that hard hitting contemporaries really get to me. And man, does this book fall into that category. To the Moon and Back by Karen Kingsbury is about Brady and Jenna, who had parents killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. Having met only once at the memorial site for the attack, the two went their separate ways, but Brady has been desperate to find Jenna once again. Years later, enter Ashley Baxter Blake, who meets Brady at the memorial site and believes she can help him locate Jenna.

Turns out this is actually part of a series of sorts, all following members of the Baxter family. While it is not necessary to have read these others in order to understand this book, I did want to mention that.

It was easy to relate to the characters in this story, having been the same age during the Oklahoma City bombing. I don't see a lot of books with characters my age so I really enjoyed that aspect. The story is told from three different points of view, but never once got confusing. I appreciated the strong message of working through a tragedy and finding the silver lining and themes of survival. It was sweetly romantic and magical, tugging at your heartstrings all the way.

While this definitely crossed off the hard hitting check box for me, it was more religious than I would have liked. Nothing against Christian fiction by any means, but it's not really my cup of tea, and this book came off as preachy on more than one occasion. I didn't know it had religious intonations going into it, but if you are a fan of Christian fiction be sure to check this one out!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Howard Books/Simon and Schuster for sending me an early copy of this read! To the Moon and Back by Karen Kingsbury is out today, March 29th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

May 25, 2018

Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind by Elizabeth McGivern


Synopsis



Amy Cole is a stay-at-home mum and a woman on the edge. After a very public breakdown and failed suicide attempt, Amy finds herself trying to make it through her everyday life as a high-functioning zombie.

Elle De Bruyn is a force of nature ready to shake Amy back to life whether she likes it or not.

After a fortuitous meeting, the two embark on a journey together which will change them both and help them find out exactly what they’re capable of when rock bottom is just the beginning.

My Review

I've been in need of a good laugh, and this book really did deliver! Despite needing trigger warnings for miscarriages, suicide and depression, this book had me rolling with laughter. Amy is such an authentic character, always second guessing herself and making a fool of herself around strangers, but in a real way rather than an "oh I'm clumsy and socially awkward but that adds to my adorkable charm" way. Throughout the story, she and Elle come up with half-cocked schemes to try to turn Amy's life around, always resulting in hilarity. Though their intentions are always the best, their methods are not always conventional, ending in results such as Amy dripping hot wax all over her husband or getting her face sat on by someone in a sauna.

While I'm not a mom, I feel like moms could easily relate to the chaos caused by Amy's two boys, Arthur and Adam, and to the cult of "perfect moms" dead set on telling others how they should parent their children.

Even though this dealt with some difficult subjects, I felt that it was done in an appropriate manner. While the book as a whole is humorous and entertaining, these tough subjects were not made light of in any way.

This book also included an excerpt from the next in the series, Amy Cole is Zen as F*ck, so that means more Amy and Elle...hooray! Can't wait to dive in to more of this uproarious chaos!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

About the Author

Picture credited to Jess Lowe
Elizabeth McGivern is a former journalist turned hostage-in-her-own-home surrounded by three men and a horrible dog named Dougal.

In an effort to keep her sanity she decided to write a parenting blog after the birth of her first son so she can pinpoint the exact moment she failed as a mother.

In an unexpected turn of events, the blog helped her to find a voice and connect with parents in similar situations; namely those who were struggling with mental health issues and parenting. It was because of this encouragement – and wanting to avoid her children as much as possible – her debut novel, Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind, was born.

Elizabeth lives in Northern Ireland although wishes she could relocate to Iceland on a daily basis. To witness her regular failings as a parent you can find her on www.mayhemandbeyond.com.

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Thanks so much to Rachel's Random Resources and Pernickety Publishing for access to this hilarious read! Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind by Elizabeth McGivern is out today, March 25th, so be sure to pick up your copy via Amazon or Amazon UK!

May 22, 2018

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler


“Taste, Chef said, is all about balance. The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter. Now your tongue is coded. A certain connoisseurship of taste, a mark of how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet.” 

Stephanie DanlerSweetbitter



Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
With all the hype surrounding the show Sweetbitter on STARZ, I knew I had to pick up the book and see what it was all about before even trying an episode. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler is a coming-of-age story about Tess, a 22-year-old girl who moves to New York City on a whim and finds herself wrapped up in the restaurant world. 

After a haphazard interview, Tess is invited to train at one of the city's best restaurants, and here she learns about the inner workings of the restaurant business and the secrets of its employees. She becomes enamored with her coworker Jake, and develops a reverent but fearful attitude toward another coworker, Simone. But Simone and Jake have an odd relationship, and Tess can't figure it out. Day by day she gets in deeper with the drugs and alcohol that come with the job. Despite being warned about Jake, Tess takes her chances and learns more about herself in the process than she ever thought possible.

I absolutely adored this story. It's very atmospheric and character driven, and not much happens outside of Tess getting to know her coworkers and learning more about her job. I identified so much with Tess...naive and willing to learn, but stronger and smarter than everyone thinks she is. I thought Simone was a fantastic character, and her cynicism just dripped off the pages. I was not a huge fan of Jake but he was definitely a necessary aspect of this story. Danler's writing flows and dances across the page, taking you with it and smothering you in Tess's new world.

The reviews on Goodreads are pretty harsh for this read, but if something draws me in by the synopsis I usually give it a shot no matter what the reviews say. In this case, I'm definitely glad I did. This book is best for those who love character-driven, coming-of-age stories, so if you're looking for an action-packed read this is probably not for you. I read this book lazily, as I liked being wrapped up inside the walls of the restaurant with it's workers. True to it's subject matter, reading this book was like enjoying a good glass of wine...wanting to drink it all but forcing yourself to savor it and consume it slowly because you want to fully appreciate it and don't want it to end.

I've only watched one episode of the Sweetbitter show so far, but I'm enjoying it, and will definitely have to do a comparison review once it's done. 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

May 17, 2018

The Accidental Bad Girl by Maxine Kaplan

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Books with fun and bright covers always catch my attention, so obviously as soon as I saw this book I was drawn to it! The Accidental Bad Girl by Maxine Kaplan follows teenage Kendall who, after getting caught with her best friend's ex and ruining her reputation, is dead set on finishing high school and not having to face her classmates anymore. Part of this plan includes YATS, a semester-long science program that will get her away from school and give her the experience of a lifetime. But when Kendall accidentally falls into the wrong crowd and YATS is on the line, she has to decide who she really is: a good girl or a bad girl? I will put a trigger warning on this book for drug use and rape.

I enjoyed this fun read! I really liked Kendall's character, and seeing her struggle through some tough moral dilemmas was pretty relatable. Plus she was a total badass! I loved the stance this book took on feminism, slut shaming, and rape culture, as these are some pretty relevant topics today. I thought Simone was a fantastic minor character and loved seeing her bond with and support Kendall. The villains in this book were great, not unrealistically evil for their age, and played into the storyline well.

There was a small mystery to solve in this book as well, and I was definitely thrown by the reveal! This is big for me, since I can usually figure out the answer in mystery/thriller reads pretty early on.

One thing I did notice was that this was listed as ages 14 and up on the ARC, but I definitely think there are some themes in this book that are too mature for that age. 16-17 and up would be more appropriate in my mind, as this book did get pretty dark at times. There was also a little of the oblivious parent trope here, but it definitely got better as the book progressed.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Amulet Books for an arc of this fun read! The Accidental Bad Girl by Maxine Kaplan is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy! 

May 15, 2018

What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This was definitely a unique and interesting read. Told in 100 chapters with 100 words each, What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee is a breath of fresh air in a sea of similarity. Small and mighty, this story, although short, packs a powerful punch. I do want to place a trigger warning on this book for rape and suicide before I jump into the review.

This story follows Will, a teenage boy who loves to walk. After his father's suicide, he started walking and hasn't stopped since. He walks to work through problems, to think about things, and to observe. He walks to his job at Dollar Only, and he walks to deliver presents to friends and neighbors. Will is very observant, and this story reveals his thoughts about things ranging from his boss to his family to the little boy down the street that waits for butterflies. When his childhood friend Playa is raped, Will walks to work though his feelings, deciding to deliver presents to her every day to cheer her up, and he walks to think though his father's suicide. Throughout the story, Will is also set on replicating his father's perfect cornbread recipe, but learns at the end that it was never really about the cornbread at all.

I really like the way this story was told, because although it was a short and fast read, the message of positive thinking was powerful and important. Will is such a kind character, always thinking of others. Considering everything Will has been through, I admire his positivity and his desire to cheer up those around him. I love the way that Will references music and song lyrics (especially Bowie!), and how he holds fast and true to the sayings his father left him with, no matter how cliché they may be.

Reading this, I felt an overwhelming desire to be more positive, to look on the bright side, and to appreciate everything around me. Will could have easily sunken into himself, but he instead focused on observing the beauty and people around him and appreciating them any way he knew how.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing for sending me a finished copy of this read! What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee releases TODAY, May 15th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

May 7, 2018

Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
The amount of wilderness-related books I've read over the last few months is astounding, but they've all been fantastic! Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon did not disappoint. I was lucky enough to meet her at NoVa TEEN Book Festival, and she was so sweet in person! 

This story follows Priscilla "Rilla" Skidmore, a rebel teen sent off to live in Yosimite National Park with her park ranger sister Thea to try to straighten her life out. Once there, she bonds with a group of climbers who help her assimilate into Yosimite life. Rilla falls in love with climbing and makes it her personal mission to climb a famous route in Yosimite called The Nose, to prove to both herself and everyone else that she is more than just a nobody from West Virginia.

I adored Rilla as a character and related to her on so many levels, the biggest of which was her uncertainty. She really wanted to be a climber, but she was scared and lacked confidence in herself, even after she had proven that she could do it. She kept comparing herself to seasoned climbers even though she was doing a fantastic job for a "gumby." Seeing her come into her own through climbing left me feeling proud of her even though she had some moral tumbles along the way. I loved the side characters as well, like Walker, Petra, and Caroline, and thought they all brought something unique to the story.

Not a lot actually happened in this book, but for me that was fine. It was more a telling of Rilla's personal journey than a rough and tumble adventure tale, and the few intense scenes ended quickly and without any real trouble. I liked that there was a climbing glossary in the back, in case any terms weren't explained well enough in the story (which for the most part, they were). I do think there were some loose ends that didn't get wrapped up, and I was left with a few unanswered questions. Overall this was an enjoyable, inspiring read that made me want to get outside more and test my own physical and emotional boundaries.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Amulet Books for an advanced copy of this inspiring read! Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon releases tomorrow, May 8th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

April 30, 2018

The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel is a literary fiction read that follows a cast of characters at Llamalo, a utopian summer camp out in the Rocky Mountains. Rebecca, a social-conscious college student, has been shipped off to be a counselor instead of getting to work on her family's paper. David, a seventeen year old nobody, has been coming to Llamalo for years, and hopes to move there permanently when he turns eighteen. Caleb, leader of the camp, is trying to maintain order and make everyone feel the same way he does about Llamalo and what it stands for. Don and Donnie, father and son duo and original owners of the land, are struggling with what their ranch has become and how to do something about it. 

This books is told through the points of view of all these characters. It takes place throughout the Eighties (as flashbacks) and Nineties (as present day) through the Reagan and Bush eras. The flashbacks take the reader back to times like when David and Rebecca were kids, and when Caleb first discovered Llamalo, helping the reader to understand why things are they way they are at present in the story. 

The Optimistic Decade was very atmospheric and character driven. Not a lot happens, but in this book that works well. I felt transported right into Llamalo, with its hot sun, gorgeous views, and minimalist lifestyle. I really loved both Rebecca and David as characters, and getting to see them each grow individually, as well as build their relationship with one another. I also loved a lot of the minor characters, including Suze and Georgia.

It covers a lot of challenging and thoughtful topics, including idealism, flawed leadership, and political activism. The characters in the story think a lot about whether or not their actions make a difference, and there are many eye opening moments for each of them. The writing was beautiful and the novel was well constructed. Overall I really enjoyed this novel, but I was left still wanting something more when it was all said and done.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Algonquin Books for sending me an advanced copy of this perfect summer read! The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel releases TOMORROW, May 1st, so be sure to pick up a copy!

April 24, 2018

The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
When this appeared in my mailbox, I was immediately captivated. The cover is gorgeous and just drips with magic and intrigue. Reading the synopsis got me even more interested. The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose is a historical fiction intertwined with magic. Taking place after the first Wold War, the story follows Delphine Dupressi, descendant of La Lune, a famous witch and courtesan. After regaining her sight, Delphine can see people's secrets, and she has turned her gift into an almost parlor trick, painting "shadow portraits" for people on commission and at parties. After a shadow portrait goes wrong, Delphine flees New York and returns to her home in France. Here she hopes to find healing, but instead finds herself knee deep in the hunt for the writings of Nicolas Flamel.

It turns out this is actually the third in the Daughters of La Lune series, although it's said that each novel can stand on its own. I found this to be true, at least for this installment, and thought there was plenty of description and explanation that allowed this to be consumed independently of the other two books. I haven't read the other two, but now I'm so interested in the La Lune descendants that I might have to!

The writing in this novel was captivating and beautiful, transporting you right into postwar France and New York. I don't typically like historical fiction, as I simply find them boring, but the magic element completely eliminated that here.

I adored the cast of characters in this story. Delphine was strong but very human in her insecurities. Emma Calve was an outstanding side character, reminding me so much of Carlotta from Phantom of the Opera. I really enjoyed that so many famous individuals from the same era were characters, including Pablo Picasso himself. I thought the plot was good, although a little slow in the middle. 

Interspersed in the book are excerpts from Delphine's Book of Hours, where she has chronicled all her time spent with her former lover Mathieu. These were nice to read but I didn't really find them necessary overall until the last few entries. 

For the most part, the book really lived up to the beauty of the cover. With great writing, strongly developed characters, and a decent plot, I really did enjoy this read.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Atria Books for sending me a copy of this beautiful read! The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose is available now in paperback, so be sure to pick up a copy!

April 22, 2018

Can Dreams Come True? by Krysten Lindsay Hager


Cute YA contemporaries are always easy, enjoyable reads for me. They take me back to an easier time in my life with full force nostalgia. Can Dreams Come True? by Krysten Lindsay Hager did exactly that and more. 


Official Synopsis

Cecily has always had a huge crush on singer Andrew Holiday and she wants to be an actress, so she tags along when her friend auditions for his new video. However, the director isn’t looking for an actress, but rather the girl next door—and so is Andrew. Cecily gets a part in the video and all of Andrew’s attention on the set. Her friend begins to see red and Cecily’s boyfriend is seeing green—as in major jealousy. 

A misunderstanding leaves Cecily and her boyfriend on the outs and Andrew hopes to pick up the pieces as he’s looking for someone more stable in his life than the models he’s dated. Soon Cecily begins to realize Andrew understands her more than her small-town boyfriend—but can her perfect love match really be her favorite rock star?

My Review

I really enjoyed this read! First, I really liked that it didn't have the typical absent parent trope that so many YA contemporaries are famous for...Cecily's parents were very involved and very protective of her. The characters were all incredibly relatable, taking me back to my own high school years comprised of best friends, backstabbers, and boyfriend stealers. I do think Cecily was a little naive compared to some of her friends, but I think a lot of that has to do with this being a clean teen novel vs having anything risque or inappropriate in it. Even though Cecily finds herself falling in love with a pop star, this was done in a realistic way. 

I also appreciate that this is going to be a series! Most YA contemporaries are stand alone novels, which is okay, but sometimes I just want more of a character or storyline. I can't wait to see what happens with Cecily and Andrew in the future! This was cute and fluffy and good as an escape from everyday adult life. I thought it was a little simple for an adult reader, but would be great for middle schoolers and younger high schoolers. It also ended pretty suddenly, but that doesn't bother me as much here as it normally would since I know there is more to come in another book.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


About the Author

Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends...Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2) and Dating the It Guy. True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book and the Dayton Book Expo Bestseller Award for childen/teens. Competing with the Star is a Readers' Favorite Book Award Finalist. 

Krysten's work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times, Springfield News-Sun, Grand Blanc View, Dayton Daily News and on the talk show Living Dayton.

Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Amazon

Can Dreams Come True? by Krysten Lindsay Hager is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy. Thanks so much to Clean Reads and Neverland Blog Tours for a digital copy of this adorable read.

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April 16, 2018

The Elizas by Sara Shepard

Cover Art Courtesy of Atria Books
As a Pretty Little Liars superfan, I'm always drawn to Sara Shepard's books. The mystery and intrigue in all her plotlines always have me hooked, and her new adult thriller The Elizas was no different. I want to put a trigger warning for mental illness and suicide on this book before I jump into the review.

When Eliza Fontaine is pulled from a pool, her parents and doctors think it's a suicide attempt after an evening of drinking too much. She does have a history of them, after all, both evenings of excessive drinking and suicide attempts. But Eliza swears someone pushed her in. When no one takes her seriously, Eliza decides to investigate her case herself, set on proving that this was not a suicide attempt. But other things are happening to Eliza as well. She's zoning out, not remembering major life details, and acting erratic. Her first novel is set to be published soon, but when her family finds out about it and reads the story, they plead Eliza to stop the publication. But why?

This book is half Eliza plot, and half excerpts from Eliza's novel, The Dots, so this almost seems like two stories in one. The Dots follows Dot, a young girl plagued with seizures, and her aunt Dorothy. When The Dots starts to turn dark, Eliza begins to uncover some of that missing information in her life that may connect the fictional Dot and Eliza herself more than she initially thought.

This may be one of the hardest book reviews I've ever had to write, simply because the book was such a trip! Also, the way the two plots paralleled it's hard to say too much without spoiling anything. There are a lot of WAIT WHAT moments, in both the Eliza and Dot storylines. It read very quickly, as you bounce between The Dots excerpts and Eliza's own narrative. I absolutely adored Eliza as a character. Her penchant for the morbid and curious reminded me a lot of myself. Her chaotic thoughts were so well written that it was impossible not to get into Eliza's head and feel the same panic and paranoia she experienced.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Atria Books for a digital ARC of this great book! The Elizas by Sara Shepard releases TOMORROW, April 17th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

April 11, 2018

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I never turn down adult thrillers, so I jumped at this book as soon as I saw it. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is an adult psychological thriller that follows a mom after her daughter disappears, as she tries to simultaneously move on and figure out the events of that fateful day.

Ellie Mack disappears at age fifteen without a trace, and shortly afterwards, her family falls apart and her parents divorce. Now ten years later, her mother Laurel is still trying to come to terms with what happened but maintain a life of her own. One day while out in town, Laurel meets Floyd, a gentleman about her age. The two of them hit it off, eventually becoming a couple. When Laurel meets Poppy, Floyd's young daughter, the similarities she sees between Poppy and her missing daughter Ellie are uncanny. But the coincidences and connections don't stop there. Do Poppy and Floyd have something to do with Ellie's disappearance?

Even for a thriller, I read this extraordinarily fast. The plot pacing is perfect and you continue to get just enough key information to keep you trekking through without losing steam. The story is told in multiple points of view so you get a lot of insight into each character's thought process, and I thought the characters were well developed for the most part. Without spoiling anything, I will say that some things that happen in this book are pretty disturbing, but I think that is true for most thrillers. 

It was predictable and easy to figure out, but I think it was supposed to be, since it was more of a gradual release of fairly obvious information versus a big surprise reveal of whodunit. That being said, it was still very enjoyable, and there was a small surprise at the end even still. I've never read any other books by Lisa Jewell, so I don't know if all her thrillers are written like this or not. I do have to note that as someone who is typically let down by the ending of books, I was surprisingly happy with the ending to this! I loved the story itself a lot, and really enjoyed that the way you learn a ton of information explicitly through the story is different from your average thriller. 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Atria Books for an ARC of this great thriller. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell releases on April 17th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

April 9, 2018

Relative Strangers by Paula Garner

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've mentioned before how I love hard-hitting YA contemporaries, and stories that deal with deeper issues than just the standard "teenage drama." Relative Strangers by Paula Garner was definitely one of those. This story follows Jules, an 18 year old girl who discovers she lived in foster care when she was a baby after looking for old photos for the yearbook.

When Jules' alcoholic mother fell off the wagon, Jules went to live with the Margolis family. For almost 2 years, they cared for her and raised her, even hoping to potentially adopt her, until her mother got her back. When Jules discovers this, she seeks out the family, looking to thank them for what they had done for her. First she discovers her foster brother Luke, who is sweet and attractive and clearly missed Jules this whole time. Then she meets the family, who always hoped they would be able to connect with Jules again. But the closer she gets with her old foster family, the more difficult things get between Jules and her mom. And things between Luke and Jules reach a breaking point when confusion about their relationship comes to a head. This story is all about loss, forgiveness, and deciding what really matters.

I loved all the characters in this story, which is good since it's so character driven! Jules was determined and didn't let her life circumstances get her down. And I'm going to for sure try some of her fantastic Ramen recipes! Leila and Gab were great best friends, and I loved Eli and his passions (writing, obituaries, and his rats). While at first I didn't like Jules' mom, I did start to feel for her and understand where she was coming from as the story progressed, ultimately really appreciating her character by the end. I thought the ending was good closure and left everything in a place that felt right. Overall I was very satisfied.

What did bother me was the relationship between Luke and Jules. How she felt about him really rubbed me the wrong way, and I didn't like that all her friends made it seem completely normal that she fell in love with someone who was once her foster brother. I thought this story would have been just as strong without that semi-incestual relationship thrown in. The dynamics between Jules and her mother, foster brother (as just a brother), foster parents, and friends would have been enough to drive the emotion home. This is the only reason I took off a star.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

A huge thanks to Candlewick Press for an ARC of this great read! Relative Strangers by Paula Garner releases TOMORROW, April 10, so be sure to pick up a copy!

April 6, 2018

The Wicked + The Divine Series by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I posted this on my Twitter, but I've been in a reading slump lately and have turned to comics and graphic novels in an attempt to overcome it. One series I've picked up recently is The Wicked + The Divine created by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. I've heard a lot of hype about this series and have been intrigued for a while, and now that I've read a couple of volumes I can totally see why!

Even though I have only read the first two collected volumes (The Faust Act and Fandemonium) I can tell this is a series I will continue to enjoy (and as such have bought more of the series to get around to ASAP). The Wicked + The Divine is all about twelve gods (including Lucifer, Baphomet, Amaterasu, and more) who come to earth every 90 years incarnated as humans. But they're not just any humans, they become pop stars. They are both fanatically loved and deeply hated, but in two years or less they die.

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Again, I can only speak to the first two volumes, and I can't say too much without spoiling anything, but I absolutely love the characters so far. Lucifer is phenomenal, with an attitude and swag I can only aspire to have. Laura's loyalty is fierce and unwavering. Baal is just plain hot. I loved seeing the personalities of all the different gods. One thing to note is that there are a LOT of characters, which can sometimes get a little confusing. It does get easier the more you read since you start to see the same characters over and over again and they all get more developed storylines. 

There's a mystery element that begins in the first story, so in addition to learning about the gods and the history of their incarnations, you also get to try to figure out a little whodunnit along the way. I love that there's both internal and external dialogue. And the artwork is just GORGEOUS. It's colorful and vivid and everything I want in a comic. The panels were easy to follow and the font was completely legible. I really like the simplicity of the covers, and the way the chosen images describe just enough about the volume without putting everything out there right on the front. The covers also gradually darken from white through the various shades of gray from volume to volume.

I'll be sure to post continued reviews of this series as I make my way through the various collected volumes. There are 6 currently, with a 7th set to come out this fall.

The Faust Act (Volume 1) Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Fandemonium (Volume 2) Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

April 2, 2018

Now A Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I don't even know where to begin with this book, simply because it was just THAT GOOD. Now A Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy is technically a contemporary, but the plot centers around a fantasy novel becoming a film. Iris Thorne's grandmother is famous for writing a series of high-fantasy novels called Elementia. Now, Elementia is being made into a film, and Iris and her father aren't too pleased. See, Elementia is what tore their family apart, after a crazed fan tried to kidnap Iris's little brother Ryder.

When Iris and her brother end up visiting the film set in Ireland, Iris would love nothing more for the film to fail. She doesn't want her family's life to be in the public eye, and she knows that no matter what happens with this film, blockbuster or bust, that's going to happen. In her eyes, the only way to stop this is for the film to never make it to the cutting room floor. But the longer Iris sticks around, the more she gets to know the cast and crew (and one cute Irish boy in particular), and her opinion of the movie, and Elementia in general, starts to shift.

Throw in a terrible relationship with her father, the feeling of being the sole person responsible for her little brother, and the desire to pursue a passion that terrifies her, and you have an outstanding coming of age story. But it doesn't stop there. The world of Elementia is fantastic, and you get to see a lot of that in this story as well through film dialogue and snippets from the books themselves.

I just can't rave about this book enough. The contemporary aspect was spot on, but it was blended so well with the fantasy world it centered around that it was made even better. I loved every character in this story (except for Iris's father...but you're supposed to dislike him). Iris was headstrong and determined, but she had a fear inside her that a lot of us can relate to. Ryder was such a cute kid, even though he threw tantrums a lot, he had a good heart and was incredibly brave after all he had been through. Eamon was a big bag of sugar concealed in an Irishman's body, and Shoshanna and Julian were great minor characters as well. Cate was the role model that all teenage girls need, pushing and motivating while standing back and letting people figure out things for themselves.

This book also tackled so many issues in a way that was far from preachy. It was definitely big on feminism, since the Elementia books themselves were focused heavily on a powerful female protagonist. It covered sexism, racism, and sexual orientation discrimination in the film industry. It also revealed the dark side of fandoms, and how being obsessed with a fictional world can sometimes cause people to do extreme and scary things.

Personally, I loved that how in the author's note we discover that the Elementia series actually does exist, and that it was Cori McCarthy's own feminist response to Tolkien. Personally I would love to get to read the actual Elementia stories that were the focus of this novel. This was pretty long (around 400 pages), which is unusual for a contemporary, but I flew through it and honestly wish it had been even longer. This is definitely going on my list of favorite books of 2018, and actually, maybe ever.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me a copy of this phenomenal read. Now A Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy releases TOMORROW so be sure to pick it up and see for yourself just how wonderful this story is.