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

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?

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

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.

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 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. 

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!

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):

Happy reading!

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

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

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!

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? 

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?

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!

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I read We Were Liars about two years ago, and at the time I wasn't really sure how I felt about it. I do remember really loving how it was written and loving the plot twist, but being insanely confused along the way. When Genuine Fraud came out, I knew I wanted to pick it up to get more of that twisted, mind-bending writing that E. Lockhart has become known for. Luckily for me, this was one of the books that Barnes and Noble had signed copies of for Black Friday, so I added this to my haul without hesitation.

Genuine Fraud is about a girl named Jule who becomes borderline obsessed with her friend Imogen. The story is written backwards, so you actually start with the end and end with the beginning, with the exception of one final chapter. As you read, you start to piece together things that were difficult to understand at the beginning. Nothing in this story is really definitive. What you think you know, you don't, and one sentence here or there can send everything you thought you knew spiraling out of control. 

Who is Jule? What is her background? Is she a spy? And what's her deal with Imogen? Is someone chasing her? All these are questions you will ask yourself throughout the book, and you'll only get answers if you read very closely. Although this is a very quick and short read, you really have to pay attention or you can miss details that will put everything in perspective for you.

It's honestly hard to do a review on this book without giving anything away. I did really enjoy it. I loved Jule's character, and all the thrilling drama and mystery in the plot. It was a little difficult to grasp the concept that everything was happening in reverse, but I adjusted to that pretty quickly. There were a few minor characters that I didn't like, such as Brooke and Forrest, but I can see why they were necessary to the building of the plot.

If you like twists, constantly asking questions, and trying to guess for yourself what is happening, then this book is definitely for you. There are lies, chases, and secrets. Murder and manipulation. It is not a book for people who want the whole story handed to them without having to do any thinking of their own. After really enjoying this book, I think I'm going to have to reread We Were Liars just to stay in the mystery mindset.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I've heard so much praise for Marieke Nijkamp and her book This Is Where It Ends, although I haven't read it. I might in the future, but as a Virginia Tech graduate, stories of school shootings just sit wrongly with me. Before I Let Go however, was my opportunity to discover what this author was all about, through a safer (to me) story line. This story does chronicle depression and suicide, so I wanted to note this in case this is not a safe story line for some.

Before I Let Go follows Corey, a former Alaska native who has moved to Canada for school. As she prepares to return to her former home to visit her best friend Kyra, she receives the startling news that Kyra has committed suicide. Heartbroken and confused, Corey decides to keep her plans intact, returning to Lost Creek to try to get answers about Kyra's mysterious death and attend her memorial. But upon arriving, Corey discovers that things are not quite right. She doesn't know her town anymore, or the people in it. And worst of all, she doesn't understand why they suddenly idolized Kyra, a previous outcast due to her mental illness and outbursts. 

When Corey starts asking questions, the townspeople turn on her, claiming that she doesn't understand and that she abandoned Kyra in her time of need. As Corey pieces together what happened, she comes to realize that Kyra became a tool for the townspeople as they forced her to prophesize the future through her depressive painting episodes. Kyra fell more and more into herself as they exploited her illness, ultimately giving in to her depression and trying to escape, but the people of Lost Creek would not let her. Corey tries to bring the truth to light, but the townspeople make an attempt on her life and try to chase her away. All that Corey has left of Kyra are some possessions she left hidden for Corey to find. 

This book was a mental rollercoaster, that's for sure. Told through letters, first person POV, and even script format, the emotion is raw and real. The plot itself was  a little empty, but I think that was the point. It wanted to hone in on feelings versus actions.  I will say the different formats of writing were confusing and difficult to piece together. I think it was also a little too drawn out, this took me a lot longer to read than I was expecting, and although that is common for heavy books, it was not THAT heavy that I needed over 10 days to read it.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Fire for access to an advanced digital copy of this book! Before I Let Go releases on January 2nd, 2018!

Author Spotlight: Adriana Mather

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
I hadn't heard much about this author until I was offered the chance to review her newest book. Upon researching, I discovered that her subject matter seemed right up my alley. If you've heard of Adriana Mather, you know that she wrote the fantastic YA novel How to Hang a Witch. Her new book, Haunting the Deep, was also just released. Since I obviously couldn't read the second without reading the first, I had to pick up a copy of How to Hang a Witch so I could jump right into the world of Samantha Mather, her main character (and yes, their last names are the same!).

How to Hang a Witch follows Samantha Mather, a high school girl who moves to Salem with her stepmother when her father falls into a coma. Sam is immediately an outcast, due to being related to Cotton Mather, one of the main players in the Salem Witch Trials. When strange things start happening and people start dying, Samantha seems to be the one at fault, and the Decendants (relatives of the original accused and hanged witches) are quick to pin the blame on her. But everyone soon realizes that Sam might not be the cause, and in fact may be the only one able to help put a stop to the disastrous events occurring in Salem. Throw in a cute next door neighbor, a handsome ghost that only Sam can see, and some mean high school girls and you have the making of the perfect paranormal YA novel.

Cover Art Courtesy of Goodreads
Haunting the Deep picks up with Samantha about six months after the dramatic ending of the first novel. Her father has woken up, and she has found some unlikely friendships. Everyone has moved on from the scary events, or so it seems, until one day at breakfast Samantha spots another ghost. As the Spring Fling theme of the Titanic is announced, more strange things begin occurring, as items begin being left for Sam and her father, and she becomes transported to the Titanic in her dreams. Is it a coincidence, or the makings of something more sinister? Using her newfound allies, Sam and her friends must work to save the spirits lost on the Titanic, and Sam herself, from meeting the same repeated fate of the cursed ocean liner.

Both of these books were fantastic. I loved Samantha's character, and the Descendants as well. I thought the plot was definitely realistic, and wasn't too paranormal to be believable. They were both quick reads that kept me engaged the entire time. My only issue with both books was that I was able to predict the villain a little earlier than I would have liked. I was satisfied with both endings, however less than satisfied with Sam's choice of love interest. I think these are both great paranormal YA reads and would 100% recommend them!

Overall Rating (for both books): 4 out of 5 Stars

Thanks to Blogging for Books for the copy of Haunting the Deep to review! All opinions are 100% my own.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Busted by Gina Ciocca

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

Reading Slump (and a DNF Review)

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

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

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

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

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by April Genevieve Tucholke

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

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

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

October 2017 TBR

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

Goodbye, Good Girl by Renee Blossom

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

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

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

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

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

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

September 2017 Wrap Up

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

Author Spotlight: M. Verano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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