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The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I finally got to dive into this super-hyped Christina Lauren read! And it did in fact live up to that hype. 

At the beginning of The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, Olive's twin sister Ami is getting married. But when everyone gets food poisoning at the wedding, Ami and her new husband Dane have to figure out what to do with the honeymoon trip that Ami won for them. Luckily, Olive avoided the food poisoning, as she was allergic and didn't eat the fish that was served, so it appears that she'll get to enjoy this fancy trip. The groom's brother Ethan also didn't partake of the buffet, and in order to fool the hotel and go on the trip, they have to pretend to be Ami and Dane, aka husband and wife. The only problem? Olive and Ethan completely despise each other.

This was so cute! I mean of course it was, it's a Christina Lauren book. But I really enjoyed this one. I loved the enemies to lovers trope used here. I saw a lot of myself in Olive and her insecurities, and loved Ethan and Ami as characters as well. I thought it was great that Olive was a science nerd and wore shirts with physics puns on them. I really enjoyed seeing Olive and Ami's big, boisterous, and supportive family and how they all rallied around the two sisters when things went south. I was grinning or laughing out loud for probably 85% of the book, and the banter between these Olive and Ethan was second to none. I could see this making such a good movie!

I'm so excited to continue to experience Christina Lauren's rom coms, and will probably pick up Roomies next. They also have a new book, Twice in a Blue Moon, coming out this fall!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Be sure to check out my reviews of some of Christina Lauren's other books, Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating and My Favorite Half-Night Stand as well!

Things to Keep You Occupied During a Storm (We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund)

Storms can suck. We're trapped inside. Sometimes the power goes off. Cabin fever starts to build and you don't know what to do with yourself. In We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund, three teens have experienced firsthand the devastation a storm can bring and how hard it is to overcome.  

In an effort to curb that cabin fever, here's a list of 10 things to keep yourself occupied during a storm:

1) Read! Of course, my favorite pastime would be first. Use this time stuck inside to pick up a book you've been meaning to get to and read your heart out. Bonus: this can be done by candlelight even if the power goes out!

2) Netflix binge. Yes, power is required for this one. If you're lucky enough to still have your lights, curl up under a blanket, make a big bowl of popcorn, and 

3) Pick up a craft project. Love to knit? Still working on that watercolor painting? Pick up your favorite project and let the calming nature of doing something creative put your mind at ease.

4) Clean up your room. Sorry, it's boring I know! But there's no better feeling than having a freshly cleaned room. Get it out of the way while you're stuck inside so you can really enjoy the good weather once the storm has passed.

5) Tell ghost stories. I will never grow out of telling ghost stories! There's something about gathering around in a circle when the power goes out and telling stories by candlelight that really sends chills up your spine!

6) Cuddle your pets. Animals sense atmospheric pressure changes and can be really freaked out when storms roll around! Give them some extra cuddles during the storm to put both them and yourself at ease.

7) Relax to some music. Take the mood lighting of flickering candles and add some of your favorite tunes to the mix, creating a relaxing oasis for you to ride out the storm in.

8) Play board or card games. Gather up your friends, family, roommates, whoever is around and get to some good old fashioned competition! Whether you're throwing down cards in Uno or snatching up properties in Monopoly, playing games is sure to make the time go by quickly. 

9) Talk to one another. This, like others, only works if you have other people around, but how often do we sit down with one another and actually talk? Ask them how they are, what's been happening in their lives. Take this opportunity to get to know each other. And even if it's family and you think you know them pretty well, I guarantee they have stories you haven't heard yet!

10) Stay safe. This last one isn't as fun as it is seriously important. Storms can be extremely dangerous and destructive, and if you've got a tornado, hurricane, or even just a thunderstorm heading your way, your first priority should be your safety. Pay attention to weather broadcasts and take any advice given by professionals regarding seeking shelter or evacuation.

About We Speak in Storms

Cover Art Courtesy of Penguin Teen
A powerful and haunting debut novel about friendship, acceptance, and learning to let go as the balance between the living and the dead is upended, perfect for fans of We Were Liars.
It's been more than 50 years since a tornado tore through a drive-in movie theater in tiny Mercer, Illinois, leaving dozens of teens -- a whole generation of Mercerites -- dead in its wake. So when another tornado touches down in the exact same spot on the anniversary of this small-town tragedy, the town is shaken. For Brenna Ortiz, Joshua Calloway, and Callie Keller, the apprehension is more than just a feeling. Though they seem to share nothing more than a struggle to belong, the teens' paths continue to intersect, bringing them together when they least expect it, and perhaps, when they need it most. Both the living and the dead have secrets and unresolved problems, but they may be able to find peace and move forward--if only they work together. 
A beautifully told, haunting yet hopeful novel about pushing past the pain, facing the world, and finding yourself.

About the Author

Natalie Lund (natalielund.com) is a former middle and high school teacher. A graduate of Purdue University's MFA program, she taught introductory composition and creative writing there, and also served as the fiction editor of The Sycamore Review. Natalie lives in Chicago with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter @nmlund.

Have you ever been affected by a major storm? How do you pass the time during storms?

Thanks so much to Penguin Teen for a finished copy of We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund. This thrilling read is out now, and you can purchase it here!

Naturally Tan by Tan France

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
And with this book, my 5 star streak has sadly been broken. I absolutely adore Netflix's Queer Eye. I was a little young for the original version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but this reboot has completely won my heart. When I saw Tan was putting out a book, I had to get my hands on it. Naturally Tan by Tan France is his memoir, going through his childhood, working odd jobs, meeting his husband, getting into fashion, starting his own company, and finally landing the role on Queer Eye.

This was a fun read, and definitely screamed Tan! It was peppered with some amazing illustrations by his husband, Rob France, which I thought added a great touch. There were also little PSAs about fashion, dating advice, and even a face mask recipe! It was very interesting reading about his struggles, not only with his race, but also with his sexuality. My heart broke for him multiple times throughout the book, as his personal experiences really were an eye opener. It really felt like you were just sitting down and having a casual conversation with Tan versus reading a book. I've heard the audiobook is fantastic, and even has interviews with Antoni (swoon!) in it as well!

One big complaint with this read was that it really jumped around a lot. I felt like certain sections were cut really short, while others were unnecessarily drawn out, and the flow of everything wasn't as smooth or linear as I would have liked. Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that at times it felt extremely judgy. For example, in this book Tan comes for bangs, and comes for them HARD. Bangs are my signature look, but seeing them raked across the coals so hard kind of hurt. Yes, not everyone can pull them off, but I feel like I can! He also came for long hair (another one of my own traits!) among other things, and it just felt very contradictory to the Queer Eye message of loving yourself and being authentically you.

This was a solid 3-star read. Some good parts, some bad parts, and overall very middle of the road. 

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for a finished copy of this read! Naturally Tan by Tan France is out now!

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've slowly been dipping my toe in the romance genre. I don't think I'll ever embrace full-fledged smut, but I've really been enjoying books in the same vein as Christina Lauren's standalone reads. When I saw this book as a BOTM choice, I decided to grab it, and I'm very glad I did! Well Met by Jen DeLuca is a contemporary romance centered around a renaissance faire, and it was so fun from start to finish.

When Emily moves to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland to help her sister and niece after an accident, she has no idea what she is in for. After being roped into participating in the local renaissance faire, she starts making friends and really connecting with the residents of her temporary home...except for one. Simon is mean, nasty, and condescending. He takes the faire way too seriously, making Emily feel bad about everything she does. But when he puts on his pirate costume each weekend, a new Simon comes out, and maybe Emily had her initial opinion of him all wrong. Could there be something more there, and could Willow Creek be more than just a temporary stop for her after all?

I loved this for so many reasons! We go to a renaissance faire every fall in Maryland (which is actually the big faire they reference in the story!) and my dress is blue, just like Emily's. This had the enemies to lovers trope which I really enjoy, but it had some great side plots as well. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions and was really rooting for Emily's happiness. I really enjoyed all the minor characters in this book as well, and loved seeing the supportive cast that Emily had around her (even though her sister did annoy me a little bit). This was a very fast read, and I devoured it in just a few hours. There were a few raunchy scenes, but nothing offensively explicit, and they were far from the focus of the book. 

This was Jen DeLuca's first novel, but I will definitely be picking up anything else she puts out. Plus, she is originally from Richmond, VA which is where I'm based! This was an adorable book, and the perfect story to round out a great summer of reading.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

The Nobodies by Liza Palmer

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
With each book I pick up, I am so terrified of breaking my 5 star streak, but I haven't been let down yet! As far as this one, a book hasn't spoken to me on this much of a personal level in a long time! The Nobodies by Liza Palmer is the perfect story of a thirty-life crisis, and as I am quickly approaching 30 myself (only a few months to go!), I really identified with the main character Joan and the subject of impostor syndrome.

Joan feels like her life is at a dead end. After being laid off from her job, having her writing dreams crushed, and having to move back in with her parents, she has no idea which way is up or how to get herself out of this hole. When she lands a job at tech start up Bloom as a junior copywriter, she resigns herself to the fact that her life as a true journalist is over. But then again, the perfect career-making story might just be right under her nose.

I just loved every single character in this book! I would absolutely want to be friends with Joan, Hani, Thornton, and Elise. The irony of the trendy tech startup was not lost on me. The romance element in the story was perfect, just the right amount, and added to the story in the best way. I really identified with Joan's career struggles, as I myself have been laid off from a job in the past, and took my next job for a paycheck rather than a calling. I loved all the realistic differences between millenials and gen z, and this book made me laugh on more than one occasion. 

I do think the ending was a little rushed, and I still had a some questions, but it wasn't bad enough for me to take off a star. I have no idea if there is a sequel planned for this, but if there was I would definitely read it!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

A big thanks to Flatiron Books for an ARC of this read! The Nobodies by Liza Palmer is out September 10th, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

I have been on a ROLL with 5 star reads lately and I am not complaining one bit! After reading House of Salt and Sorrows, I felt like I immediately needed to jump into another sea-themed read so I grabbed my ARC of Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford. I honestly had no idea this would be another hit for me, but it absolutely was.

Nor and Zadie are twins. Raised in the ocean village of Varenia, the girls have been prepped their whole lives for the choosing ceremony, where the most beautiful girl will be selected to go to the mainland and wed the prince. Since Nor has a tiny scar, she has already counted herself out of the running, assuming her twin Zadie will be selected, even though she wants nothing more than to venture to the mainland. When Zadie is in fact selected, but is subsequently injured putting her beauty in jeopardy, Nor volunteers to go in her place. But things on the mainland aren't what Nor believed, and the more she learns, the more she becomes determined to risk her life to save her people.

This book was just so engaging and interesting, I couldn't put it down. I loved Nor and Zadie's relationship, and related to the constant scrutiny from their mother. There was action, politics, family drama, and forbidden love...all the ingredients for a great story. I really liked the concept of the pink pearls and blood coral, although when you think about it this world is kind of terrifying! 

I was also really happy with the ending of this read. It appears that the book was sold as a standalone, but Goodreads is now showing a second book in the series, Kingdom of Sea and Stone, set to come out in 2020! I could see how the ending was meant for a standalone read with the option for a second book. I was satisfied but still left wanting more, and if that sequel does become a reality, I will definitely be picking it up!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I received an ARC of this read at the ALA Annual Conference. Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Ruthorford is out now, so be sure to pick up a copy!

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
From the time I started hearing rumblings about this book, I knew I had to have it. When the theme for the August OwlCrate box was released, I crossed my fingers. I hoped this would be this month's book, restraining myself from running out and buying a copy. AND IT WAS. 

Ignoring the rest of my TBR, I dove in the night I received this book, and was captured from the very first page. House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig is a new twist on the 12 Dancing Princesses story, and is a beautifully atmospheric read that is hard to put down.

Annaleigh's family is cursed by the gods, or so people say. Her sisters keep dying, and of the 12 original Thaumas sisters, the 8 remaining girls all fear they are next. But with each death, Annaleigh's suspicions rise, and when she starts having gruesome visions, she becomes determined that the deaths weren't accidental. Pairing up with a handsome stranger, she fights to uncover the truth. But when everyone seems to be keeping secrets, who and what can you actually believe?

Reading this book was like stepping into an ominously beautiful fairy tale, and I flew through it. I just couldn't get enough. It was atmospheric and engaging, mysterious and powerful, and even a little bit (ok, sometimes more than a little bit!) creepy. I loved all the characters (and their gorgeous names!), and the setting that Craig created with Highmoor, the seaside manor, completely sucked me in. I kept trying to anticipate what would happen next, but each new twist and turn took me by surprise. And this was honestly the most satisfying ending I've read in a long, long time.

This one will definitely end up in my top 5 favorite books of the year, I already know it. 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Graphic Novel Mash-Up Review #1

I have just been blowing through graphic novels lately. Since these stories are usually shorter and more simple than traditional novels, I thought I would start doing mash-up reviews of a few graphic novels at a time! 

I adore graphic novels and comics, but the downside is that I read them so quickly I always have to ask myself if it's worth the $15-20 to buy them. My answer is always yes though! I feel like it's so important to read comics and graphic novels physically vs digitally to really get to enjoy the artwork. Are you a comic/graphic novel fan? What are some of your favorites? 

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang: This graphic novel has been around for a while. The story follows Anda, a girl who gets a little too involved with a game on the internet. But maybe the internet can teach important life lessons, too. I had high hopes for this one. That cover though! But unfortunately I didn't really connect with it as much as I had hoped. The art style is cute, but the story itself was a little simpler than I would have liked. 
3 out of 5 Stars

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Heavy Vinyl Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva: Girl gangs, unite! When Chris gets hired at her local record store, she has no idea she's getting involved with WAY more than just music sales. What she does know is that the girls she works with couldn't possibly be cooler. This story had great f+f rep and a strong female empowerment message. I love a good record store, so this was right up my alley. I do think it was missing something, and too much of this volume was spent setting up the story vs legitimate action, which made me knock off a star.
4 out of 5 Stars

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Giant Days Vol. 1 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Whitney Cogar: This is about three college girls: Susan, Esther, and Daisy. I just adore Esther's gothic little heart! I read a tie-in novel to this franchise a while back and didn't really enjoy it, but I really loved this comic. I was so amused by the messes they got themselves into and am excited to dive into the rest of the volumes of this one (volume 11 is currently available for preorder!). I might even reread that novel now that I know more about the characters! 
5 out of 5 Stars