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Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I had been seeing this gorgeous cover everywhere, but knew nothing about the book itself when I picked up an ARC at the ALA Annual Conference. Shortly after, I heard Wilder Girls by Rory Power touted as a feminist "Lord of the Flies" retelling and was sold. In reality, it was so so much more than that.

Eighteen months ago, the Tox hit the Raxter School for Girls. Still without rescue and quarantined together, the faculty and students have no escape in sight, waiting for that rescue that had long ago been promised. As their bodies mutate and decay, and their friends die around them, the surviving girls must fight daily to make it in this wild new world. When Hetty's best friend Byatt goes missing amid the chaos, Hetty will stop at nothing to determine what happened to her friend, discovering some shocking truths about their reality on the island that she never expected.

Some parts of this book are descriptively gruesome when describing how the Tox had impacted different people. One girl got scales. One grew a second spine. One went blind in one eye and grew a second eyelid. The vivid descriptions made it so easy to imagine the Tox as a reality, immersing you in the story from the very beginning.

I loved how this was told from the POV of both Hetty and Byatt, letting the reader in on certain parts that only one girl or the other knew were happening. I also loved that this had queer representation. I honestly didn't get the Lord of the Flies retelling bit, if that's even what this was supposed to be, but it's been forever since I read that book and regardless this was amazing. 

Being completely honest, this may be the best book I've read all year. Hell, it may be one of the best books I've read EVER. It was unique, and beautiful, and horrific, and wonderful, and scary, and atmospheric all at once. I became so invested in these girls and this story that I was desperate for more when I hit the last page. I will sing the praises of this book for a long time to come. This is Rory Power's debut novel, and I cannot wait to see what she puts out next.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I received an ARC of this read at the ALA Annual Conference. Wilder Girls by Rory Power is out now!

Your Life is Mine by Nathan Ripley

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I really enjoyed Nathan Ripley's first book, Find You In The Dark, so I jumped at the chance to review this one. Your Life is Mine follows Blanche, the daughter of a cult leader who committed a mass shooting at a shopping mall when she was a child. 

Blanche has tried her whole life to escape the legacy her father left behind. From moving away from home and changing her name, to breaking all ties with her mother and her old life, Blanche seems to be doing a good job ignoring her past. But when her mom suddenly shows up to speak with her, then ends up dead just days later, Blanche can no longer avoid the past she fought so hard to disconnect herself from. Is the cult her father started back? Are people in danger? Is the tragic shooting that happened so long ago going to happen again?

Unfortunately, I didn't feel the same way about this book that I did about Find You In The Dark. It was not scary at all (whereas Find You in the Dark terrified me and left me with a super unsettling feeling). It really dragged and it felt like nothing happened for 98% of the book. It started off well but quickly I realized that it was going nowhere fast. I kept pushing through hoping something exciting would take place but it never did. I was expecting a twist that I never got. When I finally finished it, I was left disappointed and empty. 

Blanche was an annoying and self-centered character and I couldn't like her no matter how hard I tried. She was cold and unforgiving, which makes some sense given her past, but I couldn't care less whether or not she made it out of this story alive.

I'm very fascinated by cults, but I didn't get as much cult content as I was hoping for. And with mass shootings being front and center in our society right now, I feel like an author needs to tread lightly and do them correctly. I don't think he did. 

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Atria Books for an ARC of this read. Your Life is Mine by Nathan Ripley is out now!

Runaway Max by Brenna Yovanoff

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
With Stranger Things Season 3 having just been released (it was SO GOOD!) I've been snatching up all the ST books I could find! The first one I read was the YA fiction Runaway Max by Brenna Yovanoff. This story basically tells the entire plot of Season 2 from Max Mayfield's point of view. If you haven't watched Season 2, make sure to do so before reading this book!

Max is the new girl in town in Hawkins, Indiana. Sporty and a tomboy, she always fits in with the guys more than the girls, so when Dustin, Lucas, Mike, and Will start spying on her, she thinks she might have found her new group of friends. But the gang has a secret, and secrets are for party members only. Content only to eat lunch with her and invite her trick or treating, the group keeps leaving her out of secret meetings and Max is fed up. What are these boys hiding? Will they ever actually be her friends, or is she bound to wind up friendless in her new town?

In addition to Max navigating a new life in Hawkins, there are also a lot of family dynamics discussed in this book. From her abusive stepfather and timid mother, to her angry, off-the-rails stepbrother Billy, Max has it pretty rough at home. You got a tiny bit of this in the show, but this book really delved deeper into the things that Max has experienced outside of her interactions with the boys.

I did enjoy getting to know Max more as a character, since a lot about her was still an unknown while watching the show. This book was good, but was mostly just a written regurgitation of Season 2. As a huge ST fan, I liked it, since anything ST is good in my book. If you are just meh about the show, this definitely wouldn't give you anything new other than a bit more about Max's family dynamic. 

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
This book has a gorgeous cover and is about queer witches. Need I say more?? The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta follows Danny and The Grays: Hawthorn, Lelia, Rush, and June. The Grays are a group of witches who are trying to get their friend and fellow Gray Imogen back after she turns up with sea glass eyes and a completely zombified personality, and have summoned Danny to the town of Tempest, California to help them. Danny, unaware that she has any powers at all, quickly becomes enamored with these girls, stopping at nothing to learn her new role in the group as a finder, or "dowser," and help them save Imogen.

I really loved this book! It was so atmospheric and ethereal, and I felt myself right in the woods with these girls among the tall and regal redwood trees. I loved how the Grays were unashamedly themselves, regardless of what the rest of their school thought about them, and how they loved each other so fiercely. There was great diverse representation as well.

The plot was fantastic. There were so many things going on at once, but they all tied well into one another. This was almost like The Craft meets The Wicked Deep meets The Blair Witch Project. 

The only odd thing about this book was how it was told. There were so many different points of view, from Danny, to each of the Grays, to the trees, and the ravens, and more, both in flashbacks and present day. This was a little tricky to follow so you really had to pay attention to each chapter's header to make sure you knew who it was about. This didn't bother me, but I can see it being a turn off for some people.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to Candlewick Press for an advanced review copy of this read! The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta is out now!

My Infrared Sauna Experience

Lately it seems like there are all kinds of new health and wellness products and experiences popping up all over the place. One that intrigued me more than the others is the infrared sauna. After researching, I discovered that there was actually an infrared sauna salon near me, and with a fabulous offer for first timers, I had to give it a try!

Primarily, I was interested in hitting the sauna to lose weight. Being on the keto diet, any time I have too many carbs I immediately gain water weight. I was hoping that hanging out in the sauna a bit would rid me of any extra water weight that a little carb binge might have caused. After researching further, I learned that additionally, the infrared sauna can remove other toxins from your body, as well as assist with pain relief, muscle recovery, relaxation, and improved sleep.

These are different from traditional saunas. They are set to a lower temperature, but are actually more effective. The infrared rays heat your body whereas a traditional sauna heats the entire room. This allows the heat to penetrate more deeply, causing more sweat and heightened benefits.

In addition, the sauna near me offered chromotherapy, which is colored light therapy. In your sauna room, you were able to choose a lighting color, each which come with their own benefits. I always choose green, as it's the color for relaxation.

I have absolutely loved my experiences with the infrared sauna so far. The session is 40 minutes long, and after the first 10 minutes or so I am always sweating buckets! Good thing I bring some ice water in with me! During my sauna time, I either bring a book in to read, play on my phone, or just relax alone with my thoughts. It's a completely silent experience, which is a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

I've noticed that since going to the infrared sauna regularly, my skin has been clearer. I also feel very energized after leaving a session and sleep well that night. And I do lose water weight! Plus, 40 minutes of completely uninterrupted quiet time is an absolute blessing! Even though sessions are fairly expensive after my initial trial offer, I plan to try to go every other week or so.

Have you ever been to an infrared sauna? Would you try it? Sound off below!

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I cannot believe we are already halfway through 2019! Even though this is typically a BookTube tag, I wanted to take a stab at it for my blog. I thought this would be a good way to reflect on my reading year so far and take a look at the next 6 months! I've also linked to all my reviews in my answers so you can take a closer look at my opinions. I'd love to see if anyone else did this tag as well...if you did, please share a link in the comments!

1. Best Book You've Read So Far in 2019
I've had a few books that I REALLY enjoyed, so I don't think I can pick just one! I really loved Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (didn't everyone?!) and I finally got to read Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia and absolutely adored it. The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib deserves a mention here as well.

2. Best Sequel You've Read So Far in 2019
I'll be the first to admit that I'm the worst about starting series and never finishing them. That being said, I read the last book in the Amy Cole series, Amy Cole Has It All Figured Out by Elizabeth McGivern, and it was fantastic.

3. New Release You Haven't Read Yet, But Want To
I really want to get to The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman!

4. Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of 2019
Hands down, Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan. Girls of Paper and Fire was incredible and had the most dramatic cliff hanger at the end. I actually have an ARC of this one, but I'm trying to hold off until closer to publication to read it! I'm also super excited for The Toll by Neal Shusterman, which is the third book in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy!

5. Biggest Disappointment
Yikes. This one is going to have to be Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser. I really loved Not That I Could Tell, so I had high hopes for this one. It just didn't deliver and I ended up giving it 1 star.

6. Biggest Surprise
Verity by Colleen Hoover! I had previously steered clear of this author because I was wary of the "romance" label. I heard that this one was really creepy so I decided to give it a try and it ended up being a 5 star read for me!

7. Favorite New Author (Debut or New to You)
Christina Lauren! Just like with Colleen Hoover, I'd never read any of their books before this year because they were "romance" novels. After reading two Christina Lauren books, Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating and My Favorite Half-Night Stand, I'm absolutely in love!

8. Newest Fictional Crush
I'm working my way through the Game of Thrones books right now, so I'm going to have to say Jamie Lannister. Is that bad??

9. Newest Favorite Character
I really liked Eva-Kate Kelly from Fake Plastic Girl by Zara Lisbon! I'm a big fan of manic pixie dream girl characters and she definitely was one.

10. Book that Made You Cry
I tend to avoid overly emotional reads...I don't pick up books so they can make me sad. It's also pretty hard to make me cry in general. So I can't think of one for this category right now.

11. Book that Made You Happy
Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren was just the most adorable read that gave me all the warm fuzzies!

12. Favorite Book to Movie Adaptation You Saw This Year
So for all the ones I would use here, I haven't actually read the book-just seen the movie. Those would be Dumplin and A Simple Favor. I don't watch a ton of movies really!

13. Favorite Review You've Written This Year
How do I answer this? I like all of my reviews...I wrote them after all!

14. Most Beautiful Book You've Bought So Far This Year
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi is a stunning book!

15. What Books do you Need to Read by the End of This Year
HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. All of them. But literally, my TBR has like 500 books on it. #sorrynotsorry #bookbloggerproblems

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
After absolutely loving Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren, I knew I needed to pick up another one of their books. Enter My Favorite Half-Night Stand. 

In this story, Reid and Millie are best friends. When an opportunity for a fancy event requiring plus-ones arises, they immediately decide to go with each other. But then they end up sleeping together, and suddenly the chance to go to the event as just friends is out the window. When one of their other friends suggests a dating app for all of them to find dates, Millie and Reid are reluctant but go along with it. And when Reid matches with Catherine, Millie's secret profile, things get really complicated really fast.

This story was definitely cute! I loved the relationship dynamics, not just of Millie and Reid, but with all their other friends: Ed, Alex, and Chris. I also loved how they were all working in academia as professors and researchers. This book was interspersed with pseudo-multimedia in the form of dating app messages, online chat messages, and text messages which was a nice touch. I also really appreciated that this story addressed family dynamics, especially with a sick and elderly parent. This is a hard topic to address, and the authors did a good job of showing how difficult this can be.

I'm not generally a fan of "romance" and smut makes me squirm, but this book was very tame and the sexy bits were done well (and not too frequently!). 

I will say I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as Josh and Hazel because it was super predictable. It was very easy to tell what was going to happen so even though it was adorable, there were times where I just wanted to skip to the end since I knew how it would all play out. That being said, I did still really like this read and can't wait to pick up another Christina Lauren book. The Unhoneymooners is next on my list!

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've always enjoyed sci-fi, and to be honest I don't read enough of it. That's why I was so excited to try this one. Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler is a unique and unusual mashup of science fiction, adventure, mystery, animal rights, and a look into the human condition.

Lion Zorn is an em-tracker. He can sense empathy, which allows him to get a feel for the future. When this skill gets him a high-paying job with a major company, Lion finds himself immersed in a world of drugs and ecoterrorism. What is this new drug that is popping up making people free animals from cages and commune with them in the wild? Why is someone's taxidermied head hanging on the wall of his home? And how is all this connected to Arctic, the company Lion has been hired by?

This was such an amazing read! I was nervous at first because it was heavy from the beginning, as many sci-fi reads tend to be, and I was having a hard time grasping overall concepts for the first few chapters. I quickly got a hang of the writing style and figured things out though, and was completely enthralled with the plot and the world that Kolter has created. 

It addressed a lot of important topics in addition to having a fantastic plot. From animal rights and ecological issues, to how humans constantly find a new way to rebel and culture shifts, to the giving and taking of rights and melding of cultures, this book was a great look at how society advances and both the good and bad things that come with that advancement. I would definitely be pleased if there was a sequel to this read!

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks so much to St. Martin's Press for an advanced copy of this read! Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler is out now!